I always feel like blogging on New Year’s Eve

December 31, 2022 @ 4:15 pm | Filed under: , , ,

Updated to add: I made a quick and (in keeping with the topic) totally unedited audio recording of this post, if you’d prefer to listen. I just used the voice notes app on my phone, and to close up some longish pauses, I selected the “skip silences” option, which has pros and cons. It’s good enough for now.

 

Am I doing the math right? It’s about to be 2023, and I started my blog in Jan. 2005—so: it’s about to turn 18? Holy cats.

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflection about this blog and all the other places I’ve engaged in online discourse. I’m holding most of that reflection close to the vest for now, but what I can say is that my line of thought this past year has been heavily focused on the way this blog used to support my writing life, and the ways my pattern has shifted over the years.

One thing I’ve been keenly aware of is that navigating multiple platforms—necessary at times, for good reasons—has often left me feeling scattered, digitally speaking, unsure what to put where. My Patreon (in addition to paying off the hefty medical bills of 2017) was meant to cover the overhead costs of Bonny Glen. In practice, though, I found myself constantly waffling over what to post where. Here or there or social or where?

During the pandemic years, the decision fatigue—bane of my existence—has had a dampening effect on my writing process overall. I’ve begun, and left in drafts, dozens, possibly hundreds of posts. Blog, Patreon, newsletter, Medium, Instagram. As my old Astoria landlord used to say: It’s too much! It’s too much!

Another major factor in diminished blogging was the end of Feedburner’s posts-by-email function. Some of you will remember when I tried a substitute, with unfortunate (ad-icky) results. Absent that feature, and with social networks playing algorithm games with us all the time, readers have to actually go to a blog to see if there’s a new post. A few readers still use an aggregator, like Feedly, but not many. (I do have extremely high hopes for Reader, though—a new offering from Readwise, which became my favorite platform of 2022.)

Substack has perks as a platform, but—like Patreon—much of its content lives behind a paywall, and as a reader I thoroughly grok the impossibility of paying for individual subscriptions to a whole bunch of Substacks. Medium, at least, offers access to all paywalled posts for about the same monthly cost as a single Substack sub. But getting any kind of visibility on Medium is a whole nother challenge, a boring one.

And it’s all—aha, here I’m getting to the heart of it—work. It takes time. A lot, lot, lot of time. But this blog was never intended to steal time from writing my books—it was meant to support my work. I’ve written often about the role it has played in my reading/writing/thinking/mothering life, and that’s part of the more recent reflections I’m holding close for now.

What I will say is this:

Over the past several years, I’ve experimented with half a dozen strategies for refocusing my blog habits. Nothing succeeded at beating back the scatter factor. So in September, I tried something new. I put my Patreon on pause and dialed back on all forms of posting. No newsletter, not much action here on the blog, very little social media activity. I needed the break.

But privately, I was trying to restore the practice of daily blog-style writing—capturing my thoughts about what I was reading, watching, experiencing. And now, with lots of things bubbling behind the scenes, I’m ready to return to posting. But posting within some self-imposed parameters.

1. Since work and family responsibilities tend to come in intense waves, keeping to a regular posting schedule has been difficult-to-impossible for me. For that reason, and to mitigate the scatter factor, I’m keeping my Patreon on pause indefinitely. I’ll miss the egg money, but right now it’s more important that my blog is a delicious respite from work rather than another kind of job.

2. I’m not going to bother with affiliate links anymore either. I switched from Amazon to Bookshop.org a while ago, but (much as I love Bookshop) that creates even more work. (Amazon’s tools are faster, basically.) I may leave affiliate portal links in my sidebar, but I’m not going to take the extra time to grab specific book links any more.

3. Photos: another form of busywork. What I’ve been doing this past year is just entering loosely related keywords into my WordPress media library and choosing one of the old pics that pops up. I may also take advantage of Readwise’s lovely quote graphics because they require only a quick tap.

4. Similarly, I’m not going to bother much with design. My WordPress has a built-in analysis feature that loves to scold me for using too many words/too few keywords/too few subheadings/too few images/too complex a vocabulary. To which I say: Pffffttthhhht! See, what I’ve learned is: subheadings make a piece of writing feel like an essay or article, not an old-school chatty blog post, not an even-older-school letter from a friend. And essays and articles, while a form of writing I love to read and sometimes write, are not what I’m turning up in this space for. I need a place for shoes-off, hair-down writing. Warty writing, even.

5. How to let people know there’s something new! Last year I planned to round up posts in a monthly newsletter. This required both a) posts and b) sending a monthly newsletter. I did not much of either. What I think I’ll try instead is just sending a newsletter whenever I have three or four posts to share. No fixed schedule. You can sign up for my newsletter here, if you’d like.

6. And finally, as for posts themselves—the heart of this endeavor. There again, no pressures, no expectations. Just thinking out loud about what I’m reading and doing, as of old—but without any of the busywork that has often made it feel like a job. (Sending a quick newsletter isn’t arduous if it’s just to say—like Tonia Peckover or Three Ravenshere’s something new I wrote.)

So that’s what I’m thinking about my digital writing life as 2022 rolls to a close.

This year, I stopped wearing a Fitbit because I was weary of feeling like I hadn’t taken “enough” steps yet. I stopped caring about streaks in everything except Duolingo. (I’m learning Welsh, and I’ve been obsessed for [checks notes] 112 days.) I think I’ve logged barely half of my year’s reading at Goodreads—another intensely busyworky site, if you care about certain fiddly details. I’m sick of metrics. I keep thinking about that bit in A Ring of Endless Light where Vicky’s younger sister, Suzy, is more or less volunteering at a bait shop (something like that), and she comes home every day and flops into a chair with melodramatic fatigue, and the rest of the family is like, well if it’s so exhausting, why are you doing this totally voluntary thing? How about you just…don’t?

Here’s to walking away from the bait shop, friends, if that’s what you feel like doing. Here’s to a year of rest and restoration for all of us. Here’s to reading what you feel like reading, and deleting what you feel like deleting, and writing like your best friend is going to college on the other side of the country in 1989.

In the course of writing this post, I’ve thought of about six other things I want to write about. Which is, of course, the reason I blog in the first place.


    Related Posts


Comments

56 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Jennifer McGonigle says:

    I loved hearing from you and have missed you but yes, it’s all a lot.

  2. Stephanie says:

    I hear you! And it is nice to hear you again. I’ve been away from my blog for even longer but have been playing around with how to engage with it again too. Some things are shifting in my life and I am hoping that creates an opening for more writing (and picture taking…)

  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    Oh wow, comments! Already! I jumped back in to upload a (somewhat rough) audio version—I really want to improve accessibility this year—and discovered visits from friends! Thanks, my dears. I’ve missed ALL our blogs.

    • Jackie Reeve says:

      My blog is woefully neglected. I never quite took the time to figure out what it could/should be after I left teaching, and especially after we moved cross country. I’ve also been thinking of how to re-energize it for 2023. Honestly my biggest roadblock was when Picasa shut down, and I couldn’t get my head around any new photo managing/editing programs as simple for me to use. I like the recycling idea!

  4. Melissa Wiley says:

    LOL and now my Gravatar is broken?

    • tanita says:

      Happy Newness…
      Oh, I am SO, so, so with you. This was all supposed to be fun and part of what fed us, and now… Let’s not even discuss other forms of social media. So. Much. Work. (Glares fiercely at Mastodon.) I don’t know what I’m doing anymore either but I’m keeping my blog, too. At least it’s still mine. I actually have experimented with an audio component a tiny bit – I may do that more often.

      • Melissa Wiley says:

        I always love dipping into your blog—so much nourishment there. I always feel bad that I can’t comment there. (WordPress thinks I’m a robot? but only on your site?)

        What are you using for audio? I’ve tinkered with a few things, but again, work.

  5. Bobbie Herron says:

    Brilliant Melissa! You have inspired me to add an audio version to my posts, so lovely to hear your inflection while I read along. I’m working on an audio version of a 230 page book, this is a good way to start! Happy New Year, dear PCC sister ❤️♥️

  6. Anna Rose Johnson says:

    Yay for a new post! I definitely check my favorite blogs regularly for new content without prompting from social media or other methods, and I’m sure others do the same, so I recommend just going for it! I’ve finally gotten back into blogging a bit and maintaining a newsletter for the first time, excited to see how it goes.

  7. Lori says:

    I miss the old days of our homeschool blog round ups! It was like visiting with a group of friends, instead of what ‘blogging’ turned into. I’m crazy happy every time you blog

  8. tonia says:

    I like this a lot, Melissa. I am feeling a resistance to metrics as well. (And I love that Ring of Endless Light quote! Perfection.) I set up an RSS feed in MailChimp that just sends my blogposts as an email if people have subscribed to receive them that way. It works perfectly for me. I would so like to get back to blogging if I could find a way to fit it into my schedule with school right now. I am afraid to start because I know my tendency to begin strong and then fizzle out. 🙂 But hope springs eternal over here!

    Hope you have a wonderful New Year’s Day. Always glad to see any posts from you. Do what makes you feel the most rested and happily productive. <3

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I’m so resistant to metrics I’m not even going to count how many black-eyed peas I eat tonight!

      Your MailChimp solution is elegant. I could work out something like that in Flodesk, probably.

      Re starting strong & fizzling out—you’ll get a kick out of my friend Chri’s quip that I shared in today’s post. (Gasp, two posts in a row!)

  9. JoVE says:

    I love this. I’ve been thinking a lot about aggregators not least because of whatever is going on in the bird site. So having a new recommendation for that is also helpful.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Reader is new (and I do wish Readwise had given it a more distinctive name, but maybe they were going for a Google Reader nostalgia vibe?) and I’ve only barely begun to add my favorite blogs to it, a couple at a time—but I’m liking it a lot so far. And it plays so beautifully with Readwise, of course. There’s a browser extension that lets you highlight passages & if you want, you can send them to Readwise where they’ll surface as quotes in your Daily Review. I was already in love with the way Readwise reminds me of passages I highlighted in Kindle ages ago, and this extra feature is brilliant.

  10. Katie says:

    Diolch yn fawr iawn for the audio… (my Welsh is rusty!)
    I actually saw your post in Feedly!
    I like your simplification vibe and I might try to do the same to my already very small world.
    I will read what I want to!

  11. Anna Maria Boland says:

    I love this post, all of it. I’ve had so many thoughts on blogging lately and I’ve just read a solution to it all. Thank you for sharing this. You’ve reminded me of what it’s all about and how I like it the most.

    Happy New Year!

  12. Anne Marie says:

    Hello darling. I think of every time I drive down 64, and other times as well.

    Have you tried Post? (Because you need to try more platforms.) I like it. It’s pretty and people can tip you.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Sending you buckets of hugs, Anne Marie. I think of you so often and I don’t even have the highway nudge!

      I’m on Post, but I think I’ve only posted there once? I’ve been sort of waiting to see where the kidlit community migrates…it seems scattered so far. Post has a lot going for it, but I still bump into the perpetual issue of what to put where. On places like Post, Medium, Mastodon, I feel like I’m writing for an audience, not chatting with friends. This conversation is making me realize that’s the key, for me—blogs and LJ felt like friend conversations. I mean, not always; the comboxes certainly had their heated moments—but even those were more like friend fights than, well, any debate I’ve ever had on, say, FB.

      I think I just got really tired of wearing company manners all the time. Which is much more necessary on big social platforms where a lot of the people reading you don’t know you.

      But it’s good to know you’re liking Post. I’ve spent less time there than on Mastodon. Maybe I’ll warm to the vibe?

  13. Penelope says:

    Lovely to have a post, Lissa. I am as old-fashioned as ever: I still click on bookmarked favorite blogs to check for new posts. *shrug* that’s what I do to follow along on IG too! I don’t use the app to browse for new content, nor do I rely on feeds and email notifications and whatnot; I bookmark ‘my’ people, and check in on the web … I miss the old days of the blogging world, but several lovely folks do still write …. I tend to post mostly about what books I’ve read, since the era of Lesson-Notes is past *sigh* given that the ‘baby’ is rising 21 (sweet bibbity babbity, how did *that* happen!?) …

    Happy New Year! Looking forward to reading along as you write

  14. Karen Edmisten says:

    I’m so with you on the scatteredness of posting and the million half-written posts that I want to share with old friends. My blog is mainly Poetry Friday posts now (and that does feel old-school and friendly) but there are so many other things I think of writing about. Lovely to see this post pop up! Xo

  15. Melissa says:

    Happy New Year, Melissa! Chiming in simply to say that I, too, am glad to see you blogging again.

  16. Melanie Bettinelli says:

    Oh goody! How lovely to find a new post here!

    After almost a year of no blogging I’ve been thinking along similar lines: cutting photos and formatting and all the things that make blogging feel like WORK and just getting back to writing. We shall see. I miss it, but somehow it still feels so much Harder than it used to. Shouldn’t the days of babies and toddlers and little ones have been the harder times? I expected that this season would be a flourishing of writing but somehow it hasn’t been. But here’s to more blogging in the new year. For both of us. Hope springs eternal.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      It’s so odd, right? Those years were packed so full, but we had seemingly a lot more time to write. Of course, it helped that a lot of the time we were writing about the babies and toddlers and little ones. As they got older, and as more and more social networks took hold, I had to keep reassessing privacy boundaries.

      But still. We still have buckets to say. I just lost the habit somewhere along the line.

  17. Carole says:

    Digital platforms have changed the task of writing into the imperative to become fluent in so much techy stuff – I’m amazed at how you’ve kept up and learned all those different interfaces. As always it’s lovely to “hear from you.” I wonder if you’ve seen Anne Helen Peterson’s (possibly behind a paywall at Substack) essay on the gamification of our lives – your Fitbit annoyance makes me think you’d enjoy it. (https://open.substack.com/pub/annehelen/p/how-did-we-get-so-obsessed-with-streaks?r=1ergo&utm_medium=ios&utm_campaign=post)

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      I did see that! Maybe some excerpts on her IG? Was that the one where she talked about the MIL visiting and having to suddenly leave the room in the midst of a family gathering because she had a very short window for double XP. Which: I totally get how that could happen. When I was moving up in the leagues I practically gave myself carpal tunnel syndrome. Now it feels a lot less urgent.

  18. Maria Rioux says:

    Lovely to hear from you! Also thought I’d mention that I gave your books to my granddaughter, Elena. She loved them.
    God bless you and yours!

  19. Leslie P says:

    Long time homeschool mom
    and reader of your blog / newsletter. Glad to hear from you again. So glad you’re scaling back. I started Duolingo as well (day 91) and find I spend (and want to spend) less and less on social media. But I do enjoy reading blogs. Thank you for all you do.

  20. Mackenzie Chester says:

    Love this post and I’m glad to be getting letters from you in my inbox. You have been an inspiration to me, Melissa.

  21. Teresa Lynn says:

    You don’t know me, but just last night I was googling you because I’ve missed your posts so much and wondered if you went somewhere I just didn’t know about. So happy you’ve decided to go back to writing what you like and letting go of the “work.” (It’s what your readers want to read, too!)

  22. Cahleen says:

    You wrote all of the things I’ve been thinking but didn’t know I needed to put into words! The Fitbit, tracking my reading, following this or that influencer to learn about all of the things I should be doing but haven’t been—it’s all too heavy. I want to just do whatever the hell I want. I want a year of lightness and fun and very very few obligations.

  23. Mary Lee Hahn says:

    Greetings from A Year of Reading (which is now A(nother) Year of Reading because we switched to WordPress when a decade and a half of posts tangled up our Blogger blog past the point of repair!

    I just posted our 16th Blogiversary post with a trip down memory lane from that first year of blogging for us, 2006, when blogging was new. We love remembering that time you invented the term “Kidlitosphere!” And we are now in the same place you are, wondering what IS a blog these days and what will our blog be now that we’re not who we were (at all) 16 years ago.

    Here’s to more conversations and more regular posting (you’re rocking it so far, us…not so much)!

    –Mary Lee (and Franki)

  24. Kortney says:

    Three cheers for new blog posts and long comment threads and feed readers!

    I’ve got it in mind to blog through these Homeschooling High School topics this year….https://sites.google.com/site/hshscarnival/suggested-topics. We will see.

    Peace keep you in this new year.

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Oh wow, Kortney! First of all: SO GOOD to see you (we’re overdue for a park meet-up—but not in this weather!). And second: thanks for linking to that. I’m going to enjoy exploring it. I see some familiar names from the very blog-times I’ve been talking about.

  25. Carla says:

    Loved hearing your voice, sweet cousin!
    “Here’s to walking away from the bait shop, friends, if that’s what you feel like doing!” Yes, yes, yes!

  26. Ann Boyd says:

    Hi there! I started following you when we were homeschooling our kids. They’re in high school now, but I still love reading your thoughts about life and about writing! You’re starting to make me feel like dusting off my blog again.

    But mostly I wanted to pop on here and say — thanks for the audio version! I always find audio helpful in keeping me focused on reading, and I was less worried about losing my place in reading while I took a bite of my lunch. 🙂

    • Melissa Wiley says:

      Ann, how lovely to hear from you! I’m so glad you found your way back over here & I do hope you dust off your blog! I also appreciate the feedback about the audio recordings. I feel a bit self-conscious doing them, but I really want to live out a commitment to accessibility. So it’s wonderful to know people are finding them useful.