You know the feeling. Options, choices, opportunities — too many sometimes. I felt it when we first came back from our Peace Corps years. Laundry detergents at the supermarket were the worst, as any RPCV will tell you. Laundry detergents, dog foods, cars, … it can feel overwhelming. How many choices does one need, really?
And now I’m feeling it again. I’m back, as I announced last month (here), but where do I go from here?
I’ve broken down some of the options facing me.
1. How often shall I post? I’ve been doing weekly posts for a few years now. I have enough material to increase that to twice weekly posts, but there’s just something about twice a week that holds me back. I don’t even have lunch with my friends more than once a month, never mind twice a week.
I KNOW the blogging gurus all say that three times a week is ideal for building our numbers. And, I know that a few of the blogs I subscribe to have been increasing to multiple times per week lately. I’m curious why that is; what do your numbers say?
Maybe I’m just an old crone. (I’d like to meet a young crone.) What’s your take on frequency? If it’s just me, I’ll reconsider. Maybe.
2. When shall I post?
DAY of the week: I chose Wednesday in the very beginning because it was NOT Monday. Everyone was posting on Monday and I just thought, how many blogs can one poor reader cover in a day? Since then, I’ve discovered that one does not have to read it on the day it posts. One (ahem, I) can wait until a more convenient time. I do that all the time now. So, is there something magical about Mondays? Shall I join the horde and change my day? Does it matter?
TIME of the day: I’ve always scheduled my posts to go live at 5 AM (New York time) and I have no idea why. But, I noticed that when I went to change the time for a recent post, I balked. I like familiar and about then I needed all the familiar I could find. Do I still? I don’t think this really matters; it’s going to be 5 AM somewhere in the world whenever the post airs. But, I just thought I’d ask.
3. What shall I post?
Kazakhstan? It’s in the news more and more. Interesting things are happening over there. Yet, I tend to keep those topics to my FB Author Page. I’m not sure why. Would you like to read more about Kazakhstan?
Deleted Scenes? I’ve got enough deleted scenes from my book to take me into July, posting weekly (hence my thought of posting twice a week). But, now that I’m considering an eBook of these Deleted Scenes, I’m not so compelled to post them. Still, there are three scenes that I love — the Sheep’s Head, the Besik, and “my most embarrassing moment” — that are scheduled to go live over the next two months. The rest can wait for the book. Unless you convince me otherwise.
Cultural differences in our own backyard? I enjoyed writing those posts on different parenting styles: breast feeding six year olds and free-range parents.
And there are others I’d like to write about. It seems I come across a new one every week. The vaccination debate was big a few weeks back, and there’s the perennial “pick ’em up vs. let ’em cry it out” controversy that reemerges with every generation, it seems. But mine is not a blog on parenting styles.
So, then I ask myself, what is my blog about? And I realize, I’m not sure.
I used to say, “cultural differences, defined broadly.” But I wonder if the more broadly I define culture, the less meaning it holds.
I began this blog in 2012 with the same mission I had in writing my book:
To encourage a more curious approach to cultural difference; to introduce a more relational, humane desire to reach across those boundaries of difference and make a new connection.
I still want to be the catalyst that helps people do that. But, if this is not a message that grabs readers by the lapels and says, “read me next. Then tell your friends,” then perhaps I need to find a new message.
So I turn to you, my subscribers, my readers. What is it that keeps you reading this blog? What holds your interest here now?
I love writing these blogs; I love the idea that they help me connect with a broad collection of people, most of whom I’ll never meet but with whom I still connect. That is powerful.
Assem put it succinctly when I was in Kazakhstan. “You Americans ask ‘why’ an awful lot,” she said to me one day, just after I’d asked, “Why … ?”
I’m asking “why” again, this time through a brief Survey Monkey (here).
Please take a few moments and let me know why you read
And So It Goes Janet Unleashed. Only six questions and you’ve already seen most of the them.
As always, I encourage your comments below. But this week, I’m also hoping you’ll click that link and fill out the very short Survey Monkey questionnaire. [Inquiring minds want to know.]
How about you? How do you make decisions when you’re at a crossroad?
I wonder how often we create crossroads in our lives when they’re not really there? I notice this at home when my wife agonises interminably over things, wanting to get them right for everyone, and then complains about not achieving any of them, whilst I simply plod on with what heeds doing in the order that is either most convenient at the time, or most pressing, and get a lit of them done. That’s not to say I do a vast amount, simply that I’m not frustrated by what I don’t do.
Always trying to decide what’s right for everyone else can be overdoing the consideration factor. Sometimes it’s best just to do your own thing, and let those who are genuinely interested take an interest. Nobody’s going to make the world perfect, but at least this way you know that those who follow you do so because they really want to read what you write.
So write about what you want to write about, when you want to do so. If this covers a wide spread and you find it better to divide the subjects into categories, then do that, and label them accordingly. Then you could have a multi-threaded blog, with different themes that you address when the urge takes you. Thus one week it might be Kazakhstan; the next week chicken rearing styles; then back to Kazakhstan, and on to cultural differences between Polynesian or Malaysian breast feeding customs compared to those in the New England states. Whatever takes your fancy.
Whatever you choose, I for one, will still be reading regularly.
Ian, do you mean to say that when you left Africa, you didn’t feel a tad overwhelmed by all the choices available to you at the local supermarket? It can’t just be an American thing that offers consumers 15 different laundry detergents. Can it? I’d love to hear, some time, how it was leaving Africa behind. Thanks for the nod of support. It means much.
Yes I’m often confused by supermarkets, but more because they seem reluctant to haggle over the prices like they do in African markets than because of the infinite choice. Walk through any African market and you will find choice that defies belief, it’s just the style of glitz and packaging that differs and is so intimidating in a western supermarket supermarket.
Maybe one day I will offer you a guest post on the subject.
I agree with Ian above. I think you should write what interests you. It seems like all of the things you mention cover culture and cultural differences in some sense. Personally, I like blogs that are wide-ranging, so I’d like to read about Kazakhstan one week and breastfeeding or childrearing another week.
As far as how often–well, I can only manage to post once a week. There are some bloggers who post daily, sometimes multiple posts in one day, and frankly, I can’t keep up with them, and I end up not reading a good many of their posts. So do whatever seems to work best for you. My two cents. 🙂
Thanks, Merril. I’ve taken quite a few blogging workshops and I keep hearing how my blog “has to” be about something that folks identify with me, and something that offers them something new. It’s that tangible “something” I’m trying to get my finger on. I’ve also been “taught” (not very well, it would appear) that “cultural difference” is not going to pull people in. I’ve pretty much been ignoring that as it’s the topic that energizes me. But still, I thought I’d check it out with my subscribers. Thanks for weighing in.
Merril expressed my thoughts exactly, ” I like blogs that are wide-ranging, so I’d like to read about Kazakhstan one week and breastfeeding or childrearing another week.” I follow some blogs that focus almost entirely on grief or child-hood trauma, but I read these posts because the writing is excellent, not because I necessarily like the repetitive theme.
As a writer, my thoughts are wide-ranging, and my blog post themes reflect that. Best advice: “To thine own self be true.” No need to fit any mold, Janet.
As to frequency: I post twice weekly and my readers are used to that. However, if I want to make serious progress on my memoir, I may have to cut back to once weekly. Two is my maximum.
And finally, a word about length: I’m trying to keep postings to 500 words or less. I haven’t seen or done any research on this, but I’ll tell you I won’t read a 1000-word blog post unless I am in the mood for a treatise.
Interesting rumination today, Janet. (Yes, thank you for keeping CommentLuv, now that I know what it is – ha!)
“To thine own self be true” was the quote one of my year books posted beneath my picture. It’s been with me a long time. Thanks for the reminder. Now that you know about CommentLuv, I hope you’ll add it to your blog. 🙂
You pose some interesting questions. In a nutshell, I enjoy your blog just as it is–eclectic, informative and entertaining. You speak from the heart in your own unique and humorous way about a wide variety of topics exploring current issues as well as the impact cultural differences has on us all. My mantra for teaching or speaking, “Fill your head and be yourself” fits perfectly with what you are doing. So keep doing what you are doing . It’s working. Regarding number of times to blog, I’m sticking to 1-2 times /week. Post length: I’d love to stick to 500 words but am way off that mark and need to work on that. If a post is interesting and has some valuable takeaways, I do not care how long it is. But i agree with Marian–too long is too much for our already busy days. Now, I’ll head on over to fill out your survey!
Janet, I feel and share your, uhm, LACK OF FOCUS
Even my fingers are unfocused. I have no idea how that previous bit flew off unfinished. It’s a metaphor, I think. I shall ditto what Kathy already said so well. As for when, I don’t give a fig when anyone posts. I don’t know who posts which day, and would not notice if they missed a day or a week. Time of day? Who looks? Personally, I’d be thrilled if people cut back to once a month! That’s about how much time I have to read, and once a month would be a treat, probably more likely to be actually read with full attention.
Does that help?
It does, Sharon. Thanks.
Janet — In my experience, people what’s hard to come by, or what’s perceived as hard to come by. Years ago when I stopped posting twice-weekly to once weekly (Tuesdays With Laurie), my subscribed readership doubled!
Laurie, that is so SO good to hear. I’d been told that THREE TIMES a WEEK was the goal. I remember trying that early on and there was no way I could sustain that. Then, I heard that twice as week was twice as good as once a week. BUT, to hear that your numbers doubled when you cut back to once a week is heartwarming. I love it when statistics support my gut hunch. Thank you very much.
Ian, I love this visual, “they seem reluctant to haggle over the prices” I could just picture you trying! Thanks for the image. A guest post would be fun, but I’m waiting for that memoir of your growing up years. Eagerly.
That one is very much a WIP, Janet, and so far I’ve only just got to school – the mission school outside Lusaka where I began and where I learned to read and write. That was before I learned English, so I have to translate the memories as well as write the words. I’m aiming to get finished by Christmas, but then I have a novel in final editing and two other memoirs, one about the forest tribes and the other about the Iranian jail, which are also WIPs.
To delay matters further, I have just gone back to water engineering, having recently been consulted about ways of saving and restoring an eleventh century fish breeding pond that is under threat. So I’ve dusted the cobwebs from my mind and am finding it rather fun to be useful again playing mud pies in a pond.
I’ll warn you when the early years are ready, and I’ll know who to ask if I need a beta reader. 🙂
I look forward to that with eagerness, Ian.
Let the reason you blog be your guide, Janet. My family life blog was for personal enjoyment, building a web-presence, and do-it-yourself therapy. I posted whatever & whenever I wanted. The more often I posted, the more readers tuned in. With my author blog, I started out with daily, shorter posts to build my audience, backing off to two or three times a week. I’m not married to that schedule anymore, and it shows in my stats, but I’ve been otherwise occupied, and now view my blog as a place for readers who want to read more instead of a magnet to draw readers in. And… eeny, meeny, miney, mo is a perfectly legitimate system if you feel lucky!
Thanks Cynthia. Always good to have you here.
Shirley Hershey Showalter
Janet, I fed your survey monkey some bananas. 🙂
I agree with the advice to keep experimenting with your blog. No workshop advice matters if it takes away enjoyment from the process and the product. My own blog has evolved from a memoir focus to a book launch and book tour focus to its current form of Magical Memoir Moments. It will probably change again in a year or two.
The one thing I have tried to do is make my writing projects apart from the blog relate to the blog so that I can keep learning along with my readers.
Sojourner Truth liked to tell her audiences, “Like you, I came here tonight to hear what I have to say.” I’ve always loved that line.
Hi Shirley. Thanks for feeding the monkey; he’s been a bit thin.
Like Sojourner Truth’s speaking (great quote, btw), I find that I discover what I want to say during the process, not before. So it has been with this blog. That was fine the first year, when I had no readers. But now, three years later, I felt a certain responsibility to at least check in, as I started to veer off into a different direction. Hence the survey. I’m looking forward to “massaging my data” next week. In the meantime, I’m just moving forward, one week at a time. Well, I actually have the next four blogs already done.
I’ve followed your blog through three iterations, not often commenting and not always reading, but aware and curious about what you had to say.
It appears I’m writing a new blog post here, so I’ll stop. Thanks for checking in. Always good to have you.