Blogging. Flogging. What’s the Diff?

This morning a reader, “urbanruralwitness,” left the saddest comment on my post My Cup Runneth Over.

“At least more than 1 person looks at your blog,” he or she wrote. “Unlike me. Let me ask: Was it tough to start this blog? How did other people notice you? My blog is now a bud. A dead rotting bud.

“A dead rotting bud!”! Poetic! And, like so much great poetry, it makes you want to kill yourself.

My response to urbanrural was:

“Yes, sometimes up to THREE people a day read my blog.

“Blogging is the most brutal thing since … flogging. My Actual Honest Opinion is that if you’re blogging in the hopes of attracting a readership beyond your family and friends (and even then), forget it. There are 120 million blogs out there. How in the world is any one blogger—who isn’t a corporate blog, who isn’t already famous, who isn’t a freak expert in some tiny little informational niche—supposed to rise above that solid wall of noise?”

I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately, because I’ve been e-chatting with the president of the San Diego Christian Writer’s Guild about maybe teaching a class at this year’s SDWG conference (which I attended last year and wrote about in Humbled by Beginning Writers, doncha know) on the how’s and why’s of blogging.

The “How” part I can do: Wake up. Caffeinate. Write blog post. Hit “Publish” button. Try not to obsess over your viewer stats. Fail at that. Don’t know what I’d talk about for the rest of the forty-five minutes, but that would do the job.

It’s the “Why” part of blogging where I get a little lost.

Because you love to write? Meaning you appreciate and even relish the craft of writing? Then why start a blog, where you have to produce so much writing you can’t possibly properly attend to each piece?

Because you want to be famous? Please. Talk about your one needle in 120 million haystacks.

Because … you love to type?

If you keep a blog, tell us why. Love writing? Hope to become famous—or to at least gather some folk around your soapbox? What gets you writing and publishing the content on your blog? What inspires you to blog? Do tell! At the very least it’ll help me with that class. Thanks!

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is co-founder of The NALT Christians Project and founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here). His blog is here. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://lindacassidylewis.wordpress.com Linda

    A writer friend of mine has this quote on her blog: “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” -Flannery O’Conner

    That's why I write … and why I blog. I don't blog long essays. I usually just write about some aspect of my work-in-progress, something that's on my mind. But every sentence I form helps me learn to write better, so I don't consider it wasted time … even if only a few people read it.

  • http://skerrib.blogspot.com skerrib

    Blogging gives an outlet to the voices in my head.

  • http://sharpiron.org Christian Beyer

    I blog because although I'm too lazy to keep a journal, write in a diary or send letters, I find that my thoughts are much clearer once I've put them down on (virtual) paper. I've never understood how people have had the discipline to write well when supposedly no one else will ever read what they've written. In fact, I think most of the authors of well written diaries have always harbored the hope that others will someday be interested in their thoughts.

    I also blog because it's a great way for me to exchange ideas with people who I would otherwise never come into contact with, especially those who's lives and thoughts are much different than my own. The more this happens the less 'definite' I am about things I once was so damn sure of. Blogging is a great learning tool.

  • http://significana.com/ Signifier

    Ooooh! I like that quote. I write to understand my own thinking. I enjoy writing. I hope that someone out there reads what I write and(this is one of those moments when I am understanding it as I write it) is encouraged or challenged by it. As I write that, I also realize that I really want a reader to take pleasure in what I have written. I do enjoy it when the stats are up, but I would prefer a small loyal readership to a bunch of hits generated by the right tags.

  • http://www.ipandora.net matthew

    I enjoy writing as a vent for my ideas.

    I forget good ideas too quickly and ipandora.net serves as a handy place to keep all my ideas for taking over the world. Kinda.

  • http://megaloi.blogspot.com Redlefty (Michael)

    I had never heard of the quote Linda mentioned, but that's just about exactly what I was going to say!

    Heck… if other people are already thinking what I am… and I have to write out my stuff just to know I think it… only to find others are already ahead of me…

    Hmm. Maybe I'll get back to you on why I blog.

    It's also a way for my friends and family to get a small glimpse of how I've changed. It's better in small doses. My journey's been too turbulent to show up at Christmas and lay crazy theology on 'em.

  • http://minoritythinker.blogspot.com Shannon

    I often feel like my blog is a dead rotting bud, too, though I still nurse some dreams of it becoming a flowering tree that provides for my family. (Dream on, I know.)

    What does keep me blogging is comments from the few readers I have that show me I am making them think. I love to generate discussion.

  • http://emphaticasterisk.com Lindsey

    Now, John, must you always be so difficult? While it is a one in 120 million chance that a blog will become a huge raging success, it doesn't take much work to network enough to reach SOME people. I blog about religious tolerance and the need to show God's love (not condemnation) to people, especially homosexuals. And while I've never had millions of people read my posts and changed the world, I have had a few posts reach a couple thousand people, and every once in a while I click on a link in my stats and I see someone talking about how my humble little blog has been a candle in the darkness for them.

    So why do I write? For that one person, for the one person who may stumble across my blog and find hope. For the handful of regular readers who I've challenged, argued with, and watched grow. Because I don't know how NOT to write, and blogging keeps me in the routine.

    But mostly just because I care. Blogging to get famous is more or less useless- but blogging because you care is infinitely useful.

  • http://www.1truebeliever.wordpress.com wickle

    Mostly, I do it because the world really needs to hear from me.

    I mean, there can't be more than 2 million or so people with the same opinion I do about everything, right?

    Mostly, it's because I'm trying to spare my wife having to listen to me rant all the time.

    I've wondered … you know that addage about an infinite number of monkeys banging away at typewriters and coming up with "Hamlet"? Does that mean that, theoretically, some blog post is going to wind up being "Hamlet"? Sometimes I feel like a monkey typing.

    "Monkey Typing" … that could be a good mixed drink. Since I don't drink alcohol, I'm not sure what it should be. Maybe iced tea mixed with Hawaiian Punch and … (checking the refrigerator) … cran-apple and milk?

    Maybe not …

    What was I saying?

  • http://danielgurtner.com daniel

    blogging is also a good way to get more exposure on the web and be "picked up" by search engines, especially if you're not very famous yet…

  • http://namesake.wordpress.com Dale

    Let’s be honest: I write because it makes me feel good about myself. I’m half-decent at it, and it makes me happy when people (even a few) read my stuff and tell me they like it. Its an ego thing – at least partially.

    Beyond that, there’s that whole thing about producing something of value to leave a mark on the world as we pass through. Kind of like having babies, but slightly less painful.

    Really, though, it’s kind of a six-degrees of separation thing. Only a few people will really write for the masses. Not many of us, though, can influence many people, but all of us can influence some. God gave me some moderate writing skills. If a few people a day will read what I write (insert here: eat what I bake, hear what I say, buy what I make, etc.), then I’m influencing the few I can. Somehow, that makes the world go around. It’s a productive vs. consumptive mentality, I guess.

  • Mark Lattimore

    Hmmm. As someone who hasn’t posted to his own blog in some time, this is a timely and cogent question. Writing, in general, is great therapy. I (like many, maybe even most people) have a lot of baggage to sort through, some good, some bad, some simply baffling. Writing is a tool that lassos all those seemingly disjointed thoughts in my attention deficient mind and organizes them in a way that they ultimately and most importantly, consciously, make sense. I am able to go from an an inexpressible understanding of something to a more developed (and usually somewhat altered) expressible understanding.

    That’s writing, but why blogging? Why publish my own mental exercises for all to see? Why not simply amass countless Word files on my hard drive? I may have to write about this to get it straight in my head, but for now I think it has something to do with the fact that we, willingly or not, define ourselves in part by the impact we have on others and blogging and commenting is a (flawed) way to measure that impact. Or maybe it’s simply the fact that “confession is good for the soul” — we somehow need others to know what’s going on in our heads. Perhaps blogging aids personal growth and builds confidence in that it once we hit “publish” we are more or less committed to what we have written and are prepared to “face the music,” as it were. Maybe it’s ego — there’s something personally satisfying about knowing that your words are out there and that you are poised for your “15 seconds of fame” (everything moves faster in cyberspace). It could be that blogging is just an excuse to string together a series of cliches and call the piece original. Truth be told, the reason I blog is probably a combination of all of these and so much more. Maybe I’ll write about it some time. Great question, John!

  • http://inkstainedpaws.blogspot.com Casey Oliver

    I blog because I care about what I’m saying. Because someday, someone else will care- and they’ll want to read it. Because when I blog, it allows me to think, and organize my thoughts, vent if I care to. It’s so much easier to have all the blogs in one place- instead of a million little journals scattered around my room.

    I am improving my typing skills while I am blogging. Not to mention my computer skills if I decide to change my layout. (Which I have.)

    Not to mention the story ideas, quotes, lyrics, and other tiny pieces that end up littering my post. It’s just as creative as sitting down and writing longhanded. Except, saving more trees. And ink.

  • Stuart

    I think there should be a follow on question to those of us who have no inclination to blog, which is "why do you read blogs?"

    For me, it gives the voices inside my head something to think about!

  • ruralurbanwitness

    Wow.

    Never did I imagine that one day, I would be a blog subject.

    Maybe now finally somone will read my blogs.

    ( Thanks John. )

  • ruralurbanwitness

    I'm a guy by the way.

  • ruralurbanwitness

    Now I have something to brag about.

  • Dan Harrell

    John,

    I write to prove that I can, and that in my conceit I think someone else will care a whit about what I think and say.

    So far, mixed results :)

  • ruralurbanwitness

    I feel sort of dumb.

    I only noticed the blog now.

    I've been here all day.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Man, I’ll tell you what: I just can’t believe the quality of these answers. (Except for Skerrib’s, of course, which, as always with her, is just scary. Though I CAN, actually, wholly recommend her blog.)

    But really, these are awesome. Truly impressive. So rich, and honest, and good-natured.

    Who ARE you people??

  • Christine

    why do i blog?? many reasons. I think clearer when it is coming out than when it stays in, maybe it can help someone some day, I am sick of hiding so much throughout my life that it feels like I might actually be clearing out the closet, I love to wite, I have an interesting life (if I do say so myself)……the list goes on. Maybe I am just conceited enough to think that people might actually care. I dunno, it would probably be more of a release than anything else, like I am getting it all out and leaving space in my head for other stuff to come to light.

  • http://thesobertimes.blogspot.com Christine

    or maybe I am only writing all of that so you guysgo to mine and make me feel special LOL

  • http://thewriterbythewindow.blogspot.com elijah

    I blog because writing is my avenue of expression, my way of releasing my thoughts nothing more nothing less. Don’t let other people shape you from the figure God first made. God Bless. n_n

  • http://inkstainedpaws.blogspot.com Casey Oliver

    definately recommend skerrib’s blog too. She’s just awesome. So is John, but you already know that… cause you’re here.

    John, we are the same people we were this morning, yesterday, and last post. Just seconds, minutes, hours, days older, smarter and interesting. Actually…. My bad. We’re strangers that stole your regular commenteers and took their place. Run for your life. Mwahahaha.

  • http://minoritythinker.blogspot.com Shannon

    Ruralurbanwitness, put your blog link into your comments so we can find your blog and read it!

  • vampiricme

    hey! urbanrural is my friend, and we've been Battle Blogging here. No worries, john. we sometimes battle like, how many comments you got, and the cooler blog.. but no one wins. urbanrural has a (what can you call it.) may be a splash of good humor, and most of his blogs made me laugh because they are so different. but did i mention that we comment to one another, and we have our own world? i guess urbanrural wants to have a change, you know. To me, getting comments from other people is sooo nothing. Because, well, i know that no one reads my blogs except urbanrural. and i'm fine with it. See, he's so happy to be the subject of a blog…
    :)

    see yah later.

    thanks, john. for helping my friend. :)

  • vampiricme

    anyway, check out the guy's glee. He brags THIS to me. and i was like, "Huh?" but i guess my curiosity leads here, and was so surprised to see what you've done!!!

  • altonwoods

    Why do I blog? The most fascinating thing to me about people is what lies underneath their sometimes superficial facade. I used to enjoy talk radio because of the un-edited opinions expressed there, it's somehow validating or affirming to hear someone else thinks out of the box like you do! (similarly, there's also a lot of nut cases doing both) I see blogging as a way for people to have conversations about things that matter to them, things that don't (or shouldn't) just come up everyday among their peer's. I enjoy having my opinions challenged, and being exposed to other peoples perspectives.

  • ruralurbanwitness

    ruralurbanwitness.wordpress.com

    of just click on my name.

  • http://www.steppingintothelight.net Diane L. Harris

    To be honest, I'm at a loss as to why I blog exactly. As a blogger, I know I'm pretty much defying the old adage about a tree falling in the woods with no witnesses.

    I started my blog to promote my book, "Stepping into the Light (You're a Christian, what now?)". However, whether it's ADD or laziness, I quickly abandoned book promotion for more of the blog.

    As often as I think I should give it up, I have to admit it gives me pleasure. I seem to be developing a faith that if I keep sharing my thoughts long enough, eventually they will be worth sharing–which may be devastating considering there still may be no witnesses.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Rural: Clicking on your name does nothing.

    Two questions: How old are you, and is English your first language?

  • ruralurbanwitness

    I see.

    ruralurbanwitnesss.wordpress.com

    12 years old,

    and, no.

    It just sounds like it is.

    (best in english)

  • vampiricme

    did i mention not to show off???

  • delicate flower

    I blog for a number of reasons. I started out trying to 'practice' my voice because I want to write a book. The blog is anonymous due to the nature of what I write- and the kind of job I hold, so step cautiously.. I write honestly about sex and menopause and all the the other things we as women and as men ( well… not the menopause) experience in life. I write about parenting, caregiving, mistake-making and on and on. Most of my family and many of my friends are unaware of my blog. The blogging satisfies me in many ways. When I can express something well it gives me a huge high.. when I have a day with lots of 'hits' I'm pleased.. And, when one person comments to indicate that they don't feel so alone or that they can agree with what I feel.. then I feel that I'm accomplishing a part of what I set out to do…

    As to the Monkey Typing punch… I'd add either coconut milk or pureed bananas to your concoction.. if you want to attract monkeys… in my humble opinion.

  • http://luke-ten27.blogspot.com Daniel

    For me, I typically blog in order to become extra-double-super famous and make millions of dollars just from the Google ad hits as I accumulate hundreds of millions of hits per hour on my uber-cool blog.

    And maybe, just maybe, if I lightened up a little bit in some of my posts like in the above paragraph, I too might experience somewhat higher traffic volume.

    But it's always great to see believers out there who CAN show a sense of humor far better than I seem to be able to. :-)