“Authentic” simply means genuine, real, not phony or copied. It is a word that has, unfortunately, become a cliched “buzz word” and, along the way, one of my least favorite. Oprah tells us to live our “authentic life,” and other pop psychologists tell us to go out and look for our “authentic self.” (I wasn’t even aware that my “authentic self” was missing.)
So when I saw the headline, I nearly closed the browser window without reading the post. But I’m glad I resisted that urge. The Authentic Blogging Manifesto by Maria Gajewski at Never the Same River Twice was worth reading.
Gajewski took a full month off blogging. She did not plan her blogging exile, but found herself having an “an existential blogging crisis” from which she emerged with new resolve. She describes how she became a “Stumbleupon Slave,” driven to blog solely for the purpose of generating traffic to her site. But as so many other bloggers have also learned, readers who found her site via the various social media outlets were merely engaging in the “equivalent of internet channel surfing.” Brief spikes in the number of visitors to her site on a particular day did not translate into a core contingent of loyal readers.
After her sabbatical, Gajewski resumed blogging, buoyed by her acceptance of the fact that “blogging malaise” can only be overcome systematically, over time, by changing one’s outlook and approach.”’
Her four-point plan is:
- Step 1: Stop Pretending That I Know Everything
- Step 2: Talk to People Who Know More Than Me
- Step 3: Share What I Learn With People Who Know Less Than Me
- Step 4: Put My Energy Into Communication, Not Traffic
Gajewski has even drafted a “Mission Statement” for herself:
Blogging is an activity done by people for other people. Blogging is a form of communication. From now on, I will blog for humans, not for search engines or social media websites. This may or may not result in any type of monetary compensation, but money will never be my primary motivation in blogging. I will market my blog by communicating with people who may share my interests.
- Balance is Important: Bloggers can become obsessed with one or more aspects of the task and lose perspective.
- Write For People: It seems self-evident, but Rowse reminds bloggers to “keep your reader firmly in mind as you write and aim to write something meaningful (both to them and you) that really communicates to them and enhances their lives in some way. It’s a pretty simple tip and one that we all know – yet it is amazing how many of us become distracted from this truth and need to be reminded of what it’s all about.”In fact, the Daily Writing Tips article actually lists reason number four as “Your writing will improve.” Above, I paraphrased the rationale offered in the explanatory text rather than setting forth the subheading verbatim because, as phrased, it merely restates, but does not advance the argument.
In actuality, the topic is not new. It is simply cloaked in different terminology. Writers are continuously in search of — and write about — context, balance, focus, and making the best use of every spare moment. Writers are constantly revising their goals, contemplating new projects, and, hopefully, experimenting by employing new techniques, delving into different genres, etc.
But as with any other endeavor, in order to become a better writer, you should engage in an ongoing evaluation of your accomplishments to date and why you did or did not achieve the goals you set for yourself at the outset. And if, like Gajewski, you find yourself in the midst of an “an existential blogging [or writing] crisis,” a break may be the most effective way to work through it.
For me, “writing authentically” means writing honestly and with integrity. When I first began blogging in 2005, I found the single-most difficult aspect to be the unpredictability of my reading audience. It is literally impossible to know who will happen to find my site among the sixty-five million or so other blogs online. Unlike my professional endeavors in which I write for a specific audience and gauge my efforts accordingly, blogging has led to some fascinating exchanges with my readers. I have learned a great deal from the feedback received. Writing for “everyman” is challenging and, over the years, has helped me understand and fine tune my own “voice,” my unique perspective on the topics about which I write. Bluntly, nothing else succeeds.
I also tend, unlike so many other bloggers, not to write about the mundane details of my life. I have written articles about events and people that have shaped my life, influenced and educated me, and posted family photos, but I do not share many details about my day-to-day life. Yes, time is a consideration. I rarely have time during the workweek to write, so that is an important consideration. But more critically, I do not believe anyone would find discussions about the ongoing minutiae of my life the least bit interesting. I would much rather read — and write about — more important matters.
So my blogging “Mission Statement” is pretty straight-forward:
Blogging is about communicating ideas and building online relationships, but, more importantly, relaxation and stress-relief. When it is no longer fun, I will discontinue my blogging activities. I will continue to write for the people who are kind enough to stop by my site and read what I have written there because I have neither the time nor inclination — not to mention skill — to write deliberately for search engines or social media websites. I do not earn my daily living by blogging. I “market” my blog by communicating with people who share my interests and endeavor to refrain from boring them with the drab, unimportant details of my daily existence. Rather, I will write abut life’s larger issues, including the art of writing, in a forthright, veracious manner.
What does “writing authentically” or “authentic writing” mean to you? Have you ever experienced “an existential blogging [or writing] crisis” and, if so, how did you work through it? Or did you? What is your writing/blogging “Mission Statement?”