Yesterday I marked five years of blogging at Felice Mi Fa.
(A glimpse into my brain: I was convinced the anniversary was today. Then I saw yesterday a tweet that it has been five years since the great Tim Russert died. I remembered that he died the same day I started this blog because I started it just before I left for Novafeltria and Tom called me while I was at the airport to tell me Tim Russert had died, mostly because he knew I’d be so distraught that it would distract me from my nervousness about going away for five weeks. So it turns out my blogiversary was yesterday. Pass out the party hats anyway!)
I have changed so much since that first post on a nifty polka-dot blogspot template. Some of the following lessons are about blogging, some about life, and most fall somewhere in between. I’ll be curious to hear if you agree or disagree with my observations!
You can’t please everyone
Honestly, I wasn’t committed to starting this blog until I happened upon the perfect name for it. I was going to Italy, and I was covering a role in an Italian opera in which my character sang the line “Felice Mi Fa” (which means “it makes me happy”) and my last name is Felice! A perfect match. Once I came up with the name I knew I had to start the blog.
As my family and my opera friends followed my travels, it was a perfect, clever fit. Something funny happened, when I got back from Italy in the late summer of 2008: I found myself blogging about things other than singing. Over time I morphed into what some might call a “faith blogger” (more on that in #2), and suddenly none of my readers knew what the title meant or how it was pronounced.
I do not let this keep me up at night. Forgive me?
My voice is just fine
I should admit that a lot of this confidence came from external validation: friends telling me that I had the much-sought skill of being funny in writing, readers commenting from afar on their appreciation for the way I tell a particular story. That positive feedback gave me the gumption to keep writing, and to keep trying new things.
The first time I wrote about faith on this blog I apologized for it. Can you imagine? I really had no idea that I had any call to write about spirituality. It took about a year for me to own it, and to accept that I might be getting to an age where I had a smidgen of wisdom to share.
But I didn’t want to stop writing about music, or auditioning, or politics, or life in the crazy wonderful city I have adopted as my second home. My only “brand” is myself, and I don’t have it in me to carve myself up into tiny pieces to make a more marketable blog.
Don’t worry about numbers
This is a skill I developed first in working in ministry. I can’t tell you how many time I’ve seen earnest youth ministers near tears because only three teenagers showed up to venerate relics or pray 100 decades of the rosary. (NB: I am not speaking disdainfully of either of these things!) What you learn quickly is that even though there are only a few people willing to step into your little world, those are often people who are not being served anywhere else. So enjoy the three kids who want to venerate relics, and enjoy.
That thick skin has served me well in the wild world of blog stats. WordPress doesn’t make it any easier, always referring to the day one of my posts went viral as my “best day”, as if the quality of my days solely hinged on blog stats. I try not to worry too much about it, and to just keep writing what works for me.
Discretion ain’t so bad
I’m a natural extrovert, so my journey of sharing began with being a constant over-sharer, hoping that by making sure everyone knew everything about every one of my problems they would be validated and thus easier to conquer. Some people start life not willing to share anything and gradually open up, but I started willing to share everything and have spent my life trying to scale back a little bit.
Putting things on the internet has a little more permanence than blabbing about my stomach issues to the person next to me in line at the post office (unless of course they tweet about it), and writing about personal issues has made me more conscious of what I want to share and what I want to keep private. I have come to believe that keeping some things private is essential to maintaining my identity outside of the blogosphere. That said….
An internet presence is not shameful
When I was in graduate school I joined LiveJournal and started a blog over there. Pretty quickly I connected with kindred spirits and became, for lack of a better term, “internet friends”. I was SO ASHAMED of this. I felt terribly nerdy, like I was violating the social order. When I would meet up with them after “meeting on the internet” I always tried to find a way to make it sound like we’d met some other way.
What a difference a few years (and the presence of Twitter) makes. Now we all have “internet friends”. Hi friends!
I don’t do gimmicks
Partly this is because I’m just not good at them. I mean, look at this post. “7 things I’ve learned about blogging!” should be a search engine dream, but anyone who arrives here after reading the title is going to discover this is not helpful at all to an aspiring blogger. It’s just me talking about me (see #2). Sometimes I feel bad for the people whose searches for “I want to be treated like a princess” etc takes them to my anti-princess screed that remains one of my most popular posts.
Additionally, I often find them a little cheesy, and a distraction from what I see as my main task of writing content that interests both me and you. A few months ago I decided to start posting every Saturday a reflection on the lectionary readings for that weekend. In my head I called in “Scripture Saturdays”. I started thinking about how to promote it: a link-up? A hashtag? a badge? The more I thought about these things, the more I realized I didn’t really like any of those ideas. Rather than trying to “make Scripture Saturdays a thing” I put my energy into writing the posts.
…unless the gimmick works for me.
Sure, doing a retrospective of my favorite blog posts from the past five years all next week sounds a bit gimmicky, but I have a play next Thursday, an opera role to learn, and I have a lot of work to do on the little iBooks I’m writing. So I’m going to clear my schedule by “recycling” work.
Those of you who have blogs or an “internet presence” what would you add to this list of lessons learned?
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!