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Do You Ever Feel Like a Stranger on Your Own Blog?

It’s a strange conundrum that is part of the blogging equation. The more popular and succcessful your blog becomes - something you’ve been working towards for long enough - the more you can start to feel detached or estranged form your own blog.

Some of the triggers might be:

  • The number of your readers growing week by week
  • Positive feedback from readers on the difference your words make
  • A format, style and voice that works for you and connects with others
  • A thriving conversation around your blog
  • 100s of pages of quality content on your site

How could these positives possibly lead to negative emotions?  Surely they’re the things that bloggers strive after and crave for?

Some of the reactions I’ve felt or noticed in others might be:

  • Heightened expectations: the  numbers can scare you.  How on earth can you write something that will be interesting and engaging for 100s, 1,000s or tens of thousands of people?
  • Puzzlement: the positive feedback is fantastic, but can also be puzzling.   (Speaking for myself here.)  What on earth did I write that made that connection?  Are they talking about someone else?  How on earth could I do it again?
  • Resistance: finding a format that works might generate frustration, boredom or resistance (especially if you’re a natural resister).  Lots of people enjoy the format you’ve got… which means it must be time to do something different
  • Originality: you might fear that you’re going to run out of things to say, and that you’ll eventually just be recycling things you’ve already written
  • Time and Energy: handling a lot of comments and conversation is time consuming and can be energy draining.  Depending on how this fits with your bigger sense of purpose you might feel it’s just not worth the input any more.

we built this city on...by Darwin Bell on Flickr

I can see some of these reactions might be to do with fear of success (which would be a whole other post story).

But I think it’s more to do with the life cycle of a blog… which in turn got me wondering if there were natural peaks (and troughs), and points beyond which blogs (and bloggers) might just run out of steam.

Although I would encourage others - and myself - to stick with their blogging, to be tenacious… there must also be points when it just is the right thing to do to let  your blog go.

That would be the last resort of course, which in turn got me thinking about the tactics you’d use to get yourself past the dips that (inevitably) occur when you’re in something for the long haul.

1. Accept that things change, including you.  Don’t be surprised if the way your blog started no longer reflects where you’re at.  Look for ways to bring them closer together again.

2. Keep the foundation as you. However much you might try to connect with readers, write for your readers, produce content of interest to others… if you are not directly connected to the material you’ll lose interest and enthusiasm for the project

3. Check in with your purpose, whether that’s your life purpose, business purpose or creative purpose.  Does your blog still reflect your purpose?  Could you re-align your blogging so it was?  (If not… well that might be one of the signs that it’s time to walk away)

4. Reduce your focus.  Go back to the tried and tested techniques of writing for one person, rather than 1000s of people you’re trying to please.  Don’t scare yourself thinking about the impossibility of dreaming up content for another 500 posts, or writing for another 2 years.  Brainstorm what you can write in the next month.

5. Build in review points Identify points in the diary when you’ll check in with yourself.   This also saves you blogging on for ever without stopping to think why.

6. Experiment Playing with some different approaches  might be enough to reawaken your enthusiasm and help you to reconnect with your own blog.  You can experiment with frequency, format, and topics - after all, it is your blog.

7.  Tell your readers If you’re going to make some big changes you’ll want to talk your readers through it.  You might also find that talking through some of your own feelings, whether tiredness, demotivation or ennui is enough to find your voice again, help you connect with your readers… and feel back at home on your own blog.

I’m feeling my way here as this isn’t something I’ve either experienced (other than in fleeting moments) or worked my way through.

If you’ve got direct experience of approaches that worked for you please do chip in below.

Linked Articles:

10 Blogger Best Practices: What Guides You as You Extend Your Reach? by Liz Strauss at Successful Blog

What Do You Do With a Blog? by Barbara Swafford at Blogging Without a Blog

Photo Credit: we built this city on… by Darwin Bell on flickr

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Comments

  1. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Joanna,
    I would not say that I feel like a stranger on my own blog, but the word “puzzlement” describes one of my feelings towards my blog very well. “Are they talking about somebody else?” - Oh well. But I am still - can you say that? - positively puzzled.
    One thing I might add: Go to your “about” page and read it slowly. Does it still describe what your blog is all about? If not: Do you like the changes you made? if yes: Change your about page. (I think I have to do that - note to self) Have you got the feeling that you lost your way and should come back to your about page? Then try and do that.

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..One Evening at the Movies: Berlinale 2009

  2. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    In August, I made a huge change on my blog, going from a self-exploratory rambling diary of sorts to the professional blog that I have now. The results were huge, going from obscurity to guest posting on blogs like Zen Habits. It’s been a scary ride and several times I’ve been ready to chuck it all in.

    Why? Because to reach my ultimate goal seems like a whole lot of work and I’m not that into working hard. And because of those expectations that I self-impose like “If more people read me then they’re going to expect me to change their lives for real!”

    I actually had a thought of abandoning it all the other day, but then looked at it and realized it was false fear, so turned and strode right past it without acknowledging it.

    Woo hoo to audacious tenacity!

  3. Ulla Hennig
    Twitter: ullahe
    says:

    Alex,
    thanks for keeping up your blog! I think you are doing a great job. Even if I have scarce time I take the time to read your blog posts. Cheers to audacious tenacity!

    Ulla Hennigs last blog post..One Evening at the Movies: Berlinale 2009

  4. Karen Swim
    Twitter: karenswim
    says:

    Wow, Joanna, yes, yes, and yes. I have spun through many of these sometimes fleetingly, and sometimes for a longer period. From my own experience, tenacity has been the antidote. Blogging is like any relationship - it hits peaks and valleys. If you run away right after the honeymoon, you miss out on truly building a relationship . Just as enduring challenges can deepen the bond in relationships, I believe it does the same in blogging. By sticking to it even when you are not feeling over the moon in love, you reach a deeper level with your blog. And yes, change is part of it. Humans are dynamic, we are always exploring, growing, changing. As bloggers we’re changing but so are our readers. I cannot wait for your book Joanna. You have produced so many printable posts that it will be nice to have the real book instead of my own creation. :-)

    Karen Swims last blog post..Love and Basketball

  5. David Atkinson says:

    Joanna,

    As a newbie to blogging I can so relate to this post but with applying audacious tenacity I am now learning to walk past fear it self.

    David Atkinsons last blog post..If You Ask Me…

  6. Brad Shorr says:

    Joanna, another brilliant post … tenacity must be your specialty. Focus and experimentation have always been key for me. One area where I think I could do better, an area you handle well, is walking readers through changes. People are quite willing to go along with you if they know what you’re trying to accomplish. I guess that goes back to respect - respecting your readers and them having the opportunity to respect you.

    Brad Shorrs last blog post..How Important Are Subscriptions for Business Blogs?

  7. Debbie Yost says:

    Now I’m depressed. 100′s? 1,000′s? I can’t get 50′s. I’ve tried a lot of the things you’ve suggested and still I stay stagnant. My last giveaway netted one entry. I want to flourish, but I guess I just don’t have the time and know how to get things going. There are days/weeks where I think I should just quit, but I can’t. What if I gave up too soon? It’s times like that when I do a lot of soul searching of what I want out of my blog and why I want to blog. Some of my reasons for blogging have changed over the last year, I’m sure, but I think the core one remains the same: to give me an outlet. For that reason alone I’ll probably continue to blog. But I still hope more readers come.

    Debbie Yosts last blog post..Potpourri - Down syndrome style

  8. --Deb says:

    GREAT post, Joanna. I have to say, though, that I’ve never felt disconnected from my blog(s), either. It’s an interesting side-effect of this form of communication, though … you’re shouting into the wind, and never know quite what people are getting from it. And when you hear their interpretations (shouted back through the wind), you sometimes can’t help but wonder, “What blog where they reading?”

    Hey, it’s all part of the fun…

    -Debs last blog post..Spinning Words 3–The Spinning

  9. Kathryn says:

    Really excellent points here. One of my blogs has gone through many transitions over time as I’ve tried to figure out how to make it line up with where I’m at as a writer. Each big change was linked to one of the things that you mentioned here (usually ‘resistance’) and was accompanied by loss of traffic to the site. I think implementing some of the tips you’ve provided here for transitioning in a better manner would’ve allowed the blog to grow while still reflecting what I really wanted it to be. Definitely something I want to work on in the future.

    Kathryns last blog post..A Writer’s Weekends

  10. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Ulla, I think ‘positive puzzlement’ is a great expression - I know exactly what you mean and I think it captures the feeling very well. Your suggestion about working on the about page is a very good one - especially the point about looking at both ways. Either adapt the blog to your purpose, or recognise that the words you found to describe your purpose need to be changed. Thanks Ulla.

    Alex, when I read your post today on not being frightenened of your dreams I had to smile at how much we were on the same wavelength. I do think part of what I’m describing here is a reaction to the things we’re hoping for and dreaming of starting to happen. It’s a mixture of that positive puzzlement Ulla describes and a kick in of fear - blimey, can I really pull this off?

    I think it’s perfect that you’re not that into working hard. You can learn and then teach how to get what you want without working too hard ;-)

    By the way, and I’m sure you know this, get totally rid of the idea that you’re changing anybody’s life. Other people are the only people who can change their own lives. You can put out positive ideas, thoughts, suggestions, things you’ve learned… but people won’t change unless they want to, and only when they’re goood and ready.

    I’m also glad you stuck with your blog, and thanks for ‘audacious tenacity’ which seems to be resonating with people round here!

  11. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Karen I like the way you’ve described blogging as a relationship. It is - partly with those who read (and most definitely with those who comment) but also with that inner part of ourselves we’re sharing in some way or another on a blog. I suppose part of the reaction I’ve described here is when that self feels over-exposed (and afraid), or maybe that it’s not getting the chance to say what it really wants to say.

    The book should be out by Easter, fingers crossed. I’ll be in touch as soon as I need help in working out what to do with it when it’s ready!

    David I pitched this at mid-term blogging blues, but I can see how it works for new bloggers too, who need to keep going past the ‘what on earth am I doing here?’ feelings, and fears. Glad you found it useful

    M

  12. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Brad I’m not sure about my speciality - more something I need to teach myself (which I tend to do by blogging it). Sharing what you’re up to or where you want to go with your readers definitely makes it easier - it maintains the relationship with them (respect, as you say) and gives them the choice whether they want to go with you or not. But it also helps you to get clear on what you want to do and why. And to tap back into your honest, authentic voice… if that’s what’s been missing. I don’t mean that yours is, just that whenever I share some of my fears or gremlins here I always feel more at home again!

    Debbie , please don’t be depressed! Where you get to at the end is the important bit - you write to have an outlet. To grow the blog you probably need to do things off the blog like commenting, linking, tweeting, and social media networking - things you probably don’t have time for since spending time with your family is probably a whole lot more important. My guess is that you might get more readers if you focused more on the general lessons and reflections and shared less of the immediately personal to your family - but I’m not sure you’d want to do that, given your purpose is to share and express what’s going on with your family. Hope that helps.

    -Deb thanks for reminding me that positive puzzlement can be fun ;-)

    Kathryn thanks for those reflections. I think it probably is possible to make the transitions work so you keep your readers with you… or allow some to go in the knowledge that where you go next will help you reach other people. But at the end of the day I think we need to focus on our purpose and intention more than the readers. If I felt I needed to do things differently in order to align with my purpose it wouldn’t really matter if I went back down to zero and started again. It’s the purpose and intention for me, each and every time. (Much as I love you all of course!)

  13. Tumblemoose says:

    Hi Joanna,

    Thanks for vocalizing what I’ve been kind of struggling with recently. Sometimes it feels like the thought processes and emotions that go with blogging are singularly my own. There is a certain level of comfort in knowing that I am not unique in this regard.

    I admit that there are times when I am puzzled about a post. It just takes off when I don’t expect it to. Conversely, there are times when I write a post that I’m certain is going to win me a Pulitzer or Grammy or Tony or SOMETHING an I’ll get like, two comments (ho-hum).

    So the bottom line here is that I shall tenaciously continue to do what I do and accept the ups and downs for what they are.

    Cheers

    George

    Tumblemooses last blog post..Who reads your writing?

  14. Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome says:

    @Joanna
    That’s what I realized yesterday in a conversation with James from Men with Pens - I’m only providing tools and they choose to change if they want to.

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndromes last blog post..Don’t run away from your dreams

  15. Debbie Yost says:

    Joanna,
    Thanks, that does help. I do try to do some social networking, but it does take time and I am limited to when I can do it. I’ve considered looking into Kristi (?), stumble, and digg. I just haven’t had time yet to study up on them. You make some valid points about what to write about and I will give that a lot of thought and consideration. I agree, I’m not sure if that’s where I want to go at the moment with the blog, but it is something to think about. The nature of my blog is in many ways a mommy blog and there is a lot of competion out there. I am trying to find that special something that will set me apart. I just haven’t found it yet.

    And, don’t worry, I don’t stay depressed for long. :)

    Debbie Yosts last blog post..Potpourri - Down syndrome style

  16. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Joanna!

    People are complex beings. Communities are even more complex. Two features of communities that seem to explain their behaviour are the way that they are adaptive and emergent.

    A blog is the point of contact a blogger has with an online community. It is reasonable that the growth and survival of the blog should depend on the behaviour of the community that’s associated with the blog. Of course, the blog is also facilitator (blogger) dependent - almost totally. This is what makes the blog so different from a non-digital community, for such a community may well continue its activities in the absence of this would-be facilitator.

    A blog can adapt, only if the blogger is responsive to the blog’s community. It won’t happen otherwise.

    Emergence can also happen through the community and this is the innovative part of blogging. The blog will not adopt innovation given to it from one or more of its community members unless the blogger is likewise responsive to these gifts. The blogger can also contribute innovation, but must always be aware of the community if the emergence is to maintain and promote growth at least in some part of the community without assisting atrophe to occur in another.

    In much the same way as in Darwinism :-) , the evolution of a blog, in order to survive, takes place in small shifts. Emergence brings about the ways and means to shift. The blog becomes adaptive when the blogger recognises this emergence and moves with it, plays with it and permits the community to grow with it. If the blogger does not do this the blog can become extinct.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allans last blog post..Silent Visitors

  17. Jannie Funster says:

    I was just over at Brad’s Word Sell blog and saw this post’s title via Comment Luv. It intrigued me, so here I am!

    I feel I have been going through some blog “uncertainty” for the past couple of weeks, centered around some of the points above you brought up and reading this post, as Tumblemoose, I am relieved I am not the only one going through these worries and wonderings. I guess it’s just a natural progression as one’s blog grows.

    This article so did not disappoint my expectations. The 7 Wways to Reconnect have already eased my mind, just reading them.

    Thank you!

    Your site is in my Bookmarks now.

    Jannie Funsters last blog post..Armani Condom Heart — Inappropriate?

  18. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    George, well I was taking a bit of a punt on this one, but I hoped that if anyone was feeling like this that it would resonate. It’s not something that I’ve read that much about - maybe people don’t like to admit to less than positive feelings about their blogs. Maybe that’s how we end up thinking our feelings and reactions are singularly our own. I know what you mean about not being able to guage reactions - it’s a constant learning process isn’t it?! All the best as you keep tenaciously doing what you do so well

    Alex, yes, that’s it. Sounds like an important and valuable conversation - great stuffDebbie, on the up side I’d say it’s valuable to keep on taking stock and checking in with your purpose. It’ll help you to find the ‘it’ you’re after ;-)

  19. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Ken thank you, that’s very interesting - thoughts I’ll need to come back to. I see what you mean about the community dimension - after a while it moves beyond blogger and empty void of the internet (!), blogger and readers, to a different dynamic which is between blogger and community. I was struck by what you said about the role of the blogger as facilitator and things happening without the facilitator. Every so often I’ve noticed a feeling which is a bit like ‘okay, here are the keys, I’m out of here for a while, you guys get on with it!’. Which in part makes me realise a) I may at some point want to stop playing that facilitation role and b) if the community moves too far from where you as blogger are at… well I guess that’s the point you might wish to set up a new camp somewhere else and write to and from your own purpose. Does that make sense?

  20. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Jannie, hello. Isn’t Comment Luv wonderful? It took me straight back to your site too - that was also an irresistible headline.

    I’m glad the post provided some reassurance and food for thought as you move through your own reflections.

    Hope to see you again soon

  21. Robert Hruzek says:

    Having morphed the Middle Zone from random thoughts to storytelling with a purpose, I understand the transformation you’re talkin’ about. And, there are mornings I wonder if I can carry on, too. But the truth is, I can’t give it up; writing is too important to who I am now.

    On the other hand, I do try to find ways to keep things interesting. The WILF projects are one way, Blogapalooza is another. My newly-minted “Sidewalk Series” is yet another. These are the things that keep it challenging for me. Hopefully my readers will follow along…

    Robert Hruzeks last blog post..Outstanding in Your Field

  22. Carla says:

    As a new blogger (less than a year) those fears come up in me quite often. Every time I check my RSS stats or get positive feedback I get timid. Since I started blogging, so much has changed from the layout, colors, to the overall content and my writing style. I can see more changes coming over the next few months and I have to be ready for that.

    Carlas last blog post..Save water, time and money in your yards

  23. Ken Allan says:

    Kia ora Joanna

    What you’ve said makes perfect sense to me. But I’d suggest that “things happening without the facilitator” should be changed to “things not happening without the facilitator”. Without the blogger, things cease to happen very quickly on a blog. But then, that’s the lot of a writer on the Net these days. Compare ‘George Orwell’, Mark Twain, William Wordsworth, or Robert Frost with the lot of a blogger. Begs the question, doesn’t it?

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Ken Allans last blog post..Silent Visitors

  24. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Robert I recognise that feeling - wondering about carrying on (for ever) but also knowing you can’t give it up! I love the way you keep mixing things up at the Zone. It does keep us all engaged.

    Carla aren’t we strange creatures, that success makes us timid. I know just what you mean. I think your blog looks great just now but I also understand the itch to keep on changing, developing and improving. I seem to be on a new theme every six months or so here…

    Ken okay, so I won’t hand over the keys for a wee while yet ;-)

  25. wilson says:

    No, I didn’t have this experience before (Or, maybe I should have it once it a while, Joanna?) By the way, there’s some values I learned from the blogging is “You should write your blogposts with wholeheartedly, and accept all the critics/comments with open minded! ”

    wilsons last blog post..Your Body Type Determine Your Healthy Condition

  26. Miguel Wickert says:

    Joanna,

    First, I love the new site design. As you know, I’m also a Thesis user! One of the best investments made as a blogger. :)
    Second, interesting point about feeling like a stranger on your own blog. The command to refocus never grows old because the distractions are constant. Holding ones purpose in mind is an effective way to help get us back on tract. You insight and words are inspiring, uplifting and empowering! Thanks! :)

    -Mig

    Miguel Wickerts last blog post..22 Word Challenge: Ignite Your Blogging

  27. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    wilson, that is sound advice, my friend, if kind of challenging to apply!

    Miguel, thanks - Thesis is beautiful isn’t it? The command to refocus is the one I need to keep on applying, over and over, and is the one I would probably most suggest to others too. Especially when coupled with powerful, inspiring purpose or intention. Thanks for your feedback - much appreciated

  28. jan_geronimo says:

    I have a feeling a good number of my readers really like me. And it’s okay. But sometimes I think - do they really love what I write about or they care to comment because they like me? I don’t know if that goes under the positive puzzlement thing.

    When I was just starting out and had no readers I’d twiddle my thumbs and worry a lot. And when they do come, and they leave comments, here I am shooting myself in the foot by saying these things.

    Sometimes, it’s not the trolls we should watch out for. The enemy just might be within. I’m just hoping it’s not that, but just benign traces of self-doubt.

    jan_geronimos last blog post..A Tale of Three Cracked Ribs and One Little Rascal

  29. Joanna
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    says:

    Well Jan, a little bit of self-doubt is okay… so long as it doesn’t get out of hand :-) Learning how to learn from comments and feedback is a big part of blogging, and probably one we don’t pay enough attention to. It’s not just the time factor, but our own reactions and questions about why people say what they do, including the good stuff, like you say. Though if people are ‘just’ leaving comments because they like you… I wouldn’t worry about it too much. They can only have come to like you because they’ve learned something about you that they connect with, because you’ve allowed them to do that through your words.

  30. jan geronimo says:

    I’d be taking away that lovely insight. Thanks, Joanna.

    jan geronimos last blog post..A Tale of Three Cracked Ribs and One Little Rascal

  31. [...] times though when it’s hard.  Awkward.  Perhaps you feel like you’ve become a stranger on your own blog.  Or that there’s nothing more  you can add to the words that pour out into the [...]

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