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Just another blog post about blogging (and ducks)

Posted on November 22, 2011

I had an editor once who liked to talk about ducks a lot. About how their effortless glide across a pond concealed a whole lot of hard work, churning and strain underneath. That, he told me, is what writing should be like. Good writing.

Readers, he said, do not want to know about how difficult it was to organise a particular interview. They do not want to know how long it took you to find a park, or how you arrived flustered and red-faced only to discover that your interviewee was still in the shower.

What they want, he continued (at length), is a simple, beautifully written profile piece. About the heart of the story – not about you.

I spoke to a very good blogger today, who said something similar about blogging. “I write my blog every day as though it’s the first day that every reader will visit it,” she said. “What do I want them to see?”

Blogging can be hard work. Of that there is no doubt. There’s a lot to consider, a lot going on in the background. Decisions to be made about X, Y and Z. All very important stuff.

But probably not for readers. Who just want to admire the sunshine on your glossy feathers as you sail across the smooth surface of the blogosphere. What shines your particular set of feathers will be different to the blog next door – it might be humour or pathos or advice or raw passion or stunning images or mouth-watering craft.

The churning? Not so much.

53 Comments

  1. Janine @ Shambolic Living

    I do worry sometimes that my personal blogging is very self-indulgent, yet sometimes those posts seem to get the biggest reaction. Possibly because people relate their own experiences to them. However, I do hesitate to do too many “blogging about blogging” posts because I know a lot of my readers aren’t bloggers and they tend to skip those ones.But that could be said about any topic I choose to blog about, book reviews don’t suit those who aren’t big readers, the photographs don’t appeal to those who aren’t into photography etc.

  2. Toni

    Very true. The thing that I struggle with would be writing like its the first time people are reading. Sometimes I write as if im talking to a bunch of my close friends. Whoops.

  3. Kylah (@IntrepidMonkeys)

    Love it. Such a great analogy to remember to think of WIFM from the reader’s (i.e. our blog customer’s) perspective 🙂

  4. Seana- Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel

    Another look at this via the rewind and I am laughing at myself… I am a needy blogger as I want people to realise and appreciate the work that goes into posts. Just like when I cook for the family, I want appreciation… why do I waste my time with these futile hopes!

  5. Renee at Mummy, Wife, Me

    Great analogy. I always write as though it is the first time a reader visits my blog and then wonder if people get bored reading the same old thing. I am going to give myself a pat on the back now 🙂

  6. Jodi Gibson

    Mmmmmm I remember this one. I think with blogging the reader does want to know the story behind the person. At least I do! But I may be weird.

  7. Cassandra

    There is definitely an argument against over-sharers… like the people who have to document every, single, mouthful, their, toddler, eats (rubs in their hair, drops on the dog, or smears on grandpa)…. However, I am really just as turned off by people that never ever post anything remotely “real”…. my perfect life with my perfect family, my floor is always clean, and I didn’t just have to crop an enormous pile of washing waiting to be folded out of that photo….

    If I want perfect lives, I go to hollywood. Blogs are supposed to be written by real people, and imperfect human ones at that. By all means, edit the struggle. But I much prefer the legs on my ducks than not! Although that could just be me 🙂

  8. Rhonda

    I love the idea of writing each post as if it’s the first time the reader will be visiting your blog.

  9. Lisa Jay

    Kate Pickle took the words right out of my mouth on this one

  10. MummyK

    Once blogging becomes that desperate paddling, I’ll stop. I don’t write on my blog when I don’t feel like it, I have a writing job for those moments 🙂

  11. tinsenpup

    I suspect there’s a lot of quacking, flapping and flying feathers going on around my blog. I’m still working out how the damned pond works.

  12. Jackie

    Such a timely post for me to read today.
    Ordinarily I’d agree wholeheartedly, but not today.
    I’ve had a reader accuse me of copying. It has upset me incredibly.
    I work entirely hard on my posts, and I do it to inspire my readers. No pay (although I’ve tried unsuccessfully to cover costs involved) and no glory.
    Today I want to let her know just how hard I work, and that I have no reason to copy.
    Now I’m really in a conundrum after reading this post though.

  13. Penny

    The duck analogy is so right. My background in events taught me that. On the surface its lipstick and champagne, but as soon as you step back of house, you’re running your arse off.

    With blogging though, I never fill like I’m running my arse off..I just love it so much. Writing, reading, looking for images of Pat Rafter in his undies to use on a post….what’s NOT to love?

  14. Cath

    While I won’t claim I write for other bloggers, I do still have that little extra audience I have to consider – otherwise my Mum picks me up on every grammatical error I make (thanks Mum)! (Gee I even had to think that exclamation mark through, and I’m sure she doesn’t read the Fibro.)

    Blogging is not effortless, life is not effortless, but I really do think it’s best to “be your best self” as much as possible in a public forum… especially as a business blogger.

    I won’t read narky or whingey blogs… In real life, I have cut out negative people in my life, the same with blogs. I just don’t have a enough energy to spend it on negativity.

    A great post, and obviously (from all the comments) one that hit the spot.

  15. Emily

    Great post. I agree for the most part, but I also think there’s a happy balance to be had. Readers like the smooth, glossy surface, but in blogworld they also like that you’re human enough to make the occasional mistake. And not edit it out the next day.

    And sometimes, just sometimes, those smooth, glossy surfaces just flow in the first instance! (But, if you’re like me, you can’t accept that and re-read it five times anyway. Just in case.)

  16. alison@thisbloominglife

    Just what the doctor ordered, I always go quiet when things are less than perfect or hard. The thought of agonising over a post when there is so much else to be done is more than I can cope with. Which I’m sure means I will never make millions (ha ha) and be termed a ‘sucessful blogger’.

  17. Seana Smith

    Cripes… just read this when I needed to have a ‘whew! moment as I have slaved for hours over photos for a guest post!!

    It all depends on the blog type doesn’t it… but overall, yes, absolutely, readers (and I am one of them) like to be entertained and informed and for to appear effortless.

    I decided to stick to mainly factual info on my blog – Sydney with kids, weekends away and travel… so not very personal at all, and I get hardly any comments but lots of people do read. Not many bloggers, i think, but that’s OK as I can see why not – it’s a factual blog for the general public.

    But can I just say here… I hope the posts read well and seem effortless but they are SO NOT!! Info, photos and especially video takes ages and ages to do!!

  18. Vicky

    draft, rewrite, delete, draft, rewrite… wtf?

    Good god, I never do that. I usually get seized by the urge to dump the contents of my head down, and then press publish…

    If I drafted, rewrote, deleted etc I would never have anything to read. If someone reads what I have written and it resonates with them, bonus. I guess its because I write for myself… kind of a record of the ups and downs of what’s going on in my world. Sometimes I may be inspired by someone, and feel the need to write about it.

    The minute I’m agonising about what I’m going to write about, and who my audience is… well I think that will be the time that I say goodbye.

    But that’s me, and everyone blogs for different reasons.

  19. Kelly Exeter

    I think what this post (and all the comments) suggests is that when many people start blogging, most of the comments they get are from fellow bloggers. Which can suggest to them that all their readers are bloggers. But this is not necessarily true and really, your *ideal* audience is not ONLY fellow bloggers.

    So instead, if you choose to just write what you want to write (in which case you will be writing about things you REALLY care about), and write in an engaging “effortless” way (which will be easier because you are writing about things you REALLY care about), you might not get a lot of comments in the early days, but you will be connecting with a far wider audience.

    Short story is … too many bloggers live and die by how many comments they get but comments do *not* reflect the size of your audience or even *who* your audience is. And too many bloggers write hoping to catch the attention of the ‘big name’ bloggers in the hope they will get a comment from the big name bloggers. Which again is just silly – because instead of writing for yourself, you are writing for like 3 people.

    Late last year, before I even realised there was this huge thriving blogging community in Australia, I started a little blog called I love pretty things. A year on, I hardly get any comments on my posts but I have 1000 email subscribers and over 4500 pageviews a month along with 1900 followers on facebook. All this was done very organically and ‘accidentally’ because I had no idea what I was doing other than I was just writing about a topic that I love. I suspect if I was starting the same blog now, I would do it quite differently … but not necessarily better. Which is a shame. Sometimes ‘knowledge’ is not power 🙂

  20. workingwomensus

    I agree wholeheartedly. There was a blog I loved to read, then they started blogging about how everyone else was doing it wrong. That sort of thing is so high school. I love the idea of writing as if it’s the first time someone is reading your blog. Great advice for a newbie like me.

  21. Kelly Exeter

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  22. Kelly Exeter

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. katepickle

    I think this is a great way to explain the whole ‘you only blog the happy bits’ argument that is often thrown up. Of course making it look effortless doesn’t always mean making your life look perfect all the time, it’s about making those imperfect times still seem beautiful in their own way.

  24. Jayne

    Very wise words there. I do like blog posts that are raw and honest-but without slipping into “oh noes poor me” as well. Whining and rants can be done in an entertaining way. I loathe fawning over blog posts just as much.
    To me personally, nothing is more boring than blogs that present the shiny ‘perfection’ of the blogger’s life; conversely too much whinging is a definite turn off.

    Very thought provoking post, thanks 🙂

  25. Veronica @ Mixed Gems

    What a deceptively deep and thought-provoking post. I read it once plus comments then had to read it again. I didn’t initially get from it what many commenters did that our readers don’t necessarily want us to talk about blogging but I guess that’s what you were alluding to in writing about the stuff under the surface, the process. I still feel fairly wet behind the ears as a blogger. I’ve been writing as if most of my readers were other bloggers because I always thought they were, based on comments and twitter engagement. But you’ve reminded me there’s a whole hidden side with possibly readers who never comment and are not bloggers. My blog is small so I never thought of that. Maybe I’d find them if I spent more time on my Facebook page. I’ve been pondering what I want to write about on my blog lately, whether I need a specific re-direction, and you’ve added to my stream of thoughts on the topic. Thank you.

  26. Christina @ Hair Romance

    This has really struck a chord for me. I find writing the hardest part of blogging. I never struggle for ideas but I prefer talking to writing.
    It’s important to think about your last post being the first impression a new reader gets.

  27. Cat

    I wasn’t too sure what you meant initially A (sleep deprivation is eating my intelligence I’m sure or maybe it’s all the feeding!) but with your comment back to Zoey I must say I agree. I think all good writing or engaging blog posts (not the same thing!) is authentic and sheesh if I could be arsed being any other way in a space that is purely mine to express myself anyway! I don’t mind a bit of background info about things to give context in my own or other people’s posts but too much is well, yawn worthy & will have me flicking to another page or blog. Thought provoking! X

  28. Annabel Candy, Successful Blogging

    Love this idea. It reminds me of my ballet teacher who said ballet is all about making what’s hard look easy – as compared to gymnastics which is about making what’s hard look even harder.

    Guess we bloggers are more like ballerinas:) Or ducks! Quack quack:)

  29. Dorothy Krajewski

    And yet, I get heaps more traffic and comments when I blog about blogging. Does that mean that the rest of my writing isn’t as interesting? A point to ponder….

  30. edenland

    Adore this post.

    Blogging as if it’s the first time people come to your site? I’ve been saying that for years. Naomi from Seven Cherubs wrote recently about bloggers being cannibals, a lot of the time we are. Hearing a snippet or getting an idea from somebody else, then building on it and making it our own.

    I think what makes a really good blog – an extraordinary one, even … is having original thoughts and ideas. Your blog is interesting and original Al – because you are.

    Blogs are extensions of self. They evolve as the blog writer evolves. I find it fascinating.

  31. Mrs Woog

    Personally I feel that blogging forums are a better place to talk about the good, bad and ugly side of blogging. I try to assume that not all people who read my blog are bloggers (hi Mum!)

    Great post Alison.

  32. Easy Peasy Kids

    This Mama Duck likes to blog about duckilngs (children) yet I get more responses when I blog about being Mama Duck. Nx

  33. Diminishing Lucy

    So true.

    But I do fall foul to labouring the meta blog posts on occasion.

    And equally, I don’t mind reading a blog about blogging, sometimes.

    Each to their own – and isn’t that the beauty of blogging. If we get bored, ever, swim away…

  34. therhythmmethod

    I’ve just come back for more. Loving Marion’s comment about the rubber ducks.

  35. therhythmmethod

    So true. I think where the ducks come unstuck is their genre: personal blogging. It seems to be the go-to reason for over-sharing. If its a personal blog, one can talk about ANYTHING, even how hard it is to blog.
    Your blog is by far and away the best Aussie blog I read, and was the very reason I got out of bed this morning with a smile on my face. So thank you. And can’t wait to see your reno.

  36. Hot Cross Mum

    Interesting analogy – it does seem though that bloggers often feel the need to explain their raison d’etre. Think I prefer the ducks!

  37. joeh

    Very good point, I have to think if i am following it or not.
    It’s hard to not show the effort when you paddle without webbed feet.

    Cranky Old Man

  38. Marion Williams-Bennett

    This is so so true! I love it when people read and comment on my posts, but often wonder if they realize that it took me seven drafts and climbing a stone wall of creativity to get to that final place?

    Love that picture, too…do you remember there was a ship that was carrying all these rubber ducks and it sank. The rubber ducks got “set free” in the ocean, and the tide took them and sent them all over the world. Which is just like your blog, your ideas!

  39. Mama of 2 boys

    Ooo I like this Allison. Very interesting spin on blogging. It kind of ties together some thoughts I was having just yesterday, about how my blog would be perceived. I throw alot of things in there and they’re all things I know I want to look back on. But I have noticed it becoming more of one thing than the other lately. And that is fine by me too. Really, I’m just glad when my stories/ramblings strike a chord with someone… anyone! xo

  40. River

    Sometimes the story behind the story is better than the story.

    I love all those little sunglasses wearing rubber duckies!!

  41. Mum on the Run

    I agree.
    As a chronic overthinker, my blog seems to be the only space that I don’t overthink…yet!!
    🙂

  42. Zoey @ Good Googs

    I see what you mean! I agree! Sometimes it’s far better to ignore everything else and run your own race and not get stuck on being so insular. But I do think there’s a place for it as long as it doesn’t take over.

  43. My Mummy Daze

    Good food for thought. Awesome analogy.

    I’ve only written 2 posts about blogging. Both were very real and honest though. A lot of my audience are fellow bloggers so both pieces were relevant. Each time I was tempted to preface the post with a note that it contained content unique to the blogosphere because I still have a lot of readers who don’t write blogs. I decided against it though.

  44. allison tait

    Thanks Zoey – I agree that honesty is an essential part of blogging. Honesty and intimacy. When I talk about shine, I’m talking about that which makes each blogger special and makes them stand out. If we get too bogged down in the hard work and business of blogging, our posts reflect it. And if people are serious about the business of blogging, they need readers from outside their corner of the blogosphere. Just my thoughts, anyway.

  45. Zoey @ Good Googs

    I guess it depends on if your readers are other bloggers. I see how blogging about blogging could be tiresome for non-bloggers. But I also think that blogging is about being honest, not just presenting the shiny stuff.

  46. MultipleMum

    And you glide so effortlessly oh wise one x

  47. Mrs Catch

    Well said. I love the duck analogy.

  48. Jodi @ The Scribble Den

    As with everything in life, but I must say, freak that I am, I love to know the story behind the story so to speak. 🙂

  49. Maxabella

    Oh, I don’t know. It seems the topic is often the hard slog of blogging and everyone seems to lap that shit up… anyway.

    BTW, I am on dial up, DIAL UP and still I feel compelled to comment on your post. It’s only taken about 2 hours. That’s my dedication to all your hard slogging, effortless writing. x

  50. ClaireyHewitt

    So true. And so much more interesting to read the good stuff.

  51. Giving Back Girl

    So true Alison, they want to know the wit and whimsy is not written, deleted, edited, deleted, then rewritten, they just want spontaneous without knowing about the fuss (sigh), as if.

  52. Ms Styling You

    I know who that little blogging duck is … and she’s spot on.

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