Whatever, Whenever, Where Ever

Thirty years ago, my friends and I took an overnight camping trip. About twenty of us hiked from a roadside trailhead to the top of a smallish mountain in the Shenandoahs—the Virginia and West Virginia section of the Appalachian Mountains. Some of us wore metal-framed hiking backpacks, tent and sleeping bag lashed to the outside. Others shouldered the small canvas JanSport backpacks that children wore to school. Those people carried their sleeping bag dangling from their hand. All of us brought alcohol. As we wrapped up our party night around the campfire, everyone pleasantly buzzed, my girlfriend announced that we would zip our sleeping bags together to sleep.

I first noticed my bubble in college. My campus included a housing section for upperclassmen. A series of small, four-roomed brick houses arranged around a courtyard. This area was called “the Courts.” My court housed four of us, two seniors, two juniors. Directly across the lawn was a court with six sophomore women. We hung out together all the time. They became like sisters, except when we hooked up, which was frequent, but quickly forgotten. For the first time ever, I had a friend who wasn’t a guy.

Girls are touchy (gender stereotyping, sorry), more so than guys, and suddenly I had friends who liked being close to me. They sat inches away, they rested their hand on my shoulder, they touched my wrist when we talked, they hugged. When they invaded my bubble, it made my skin hurt. Or at least this is the way I interpreted the sensation at the time. It took me another twelve years to understand why.

On my camping trip, being zipped into a small, confining bag with another person in my sleeping space made uneasy—it upset my stomach. After suffering for an hour, I got up to go to the bathroom. Out of the tent, in the autumn chill, the solitude of the silent, starlit forest comforted me. I wandered away from the circle of tents, then fearing I was still too close and people would hear me, I wandered away some more. When I finished up, I headed back to where I thought I left my tent. After a couple of minutes, I adjusted my course, and then again, and then doubled back. That’s when I realized I was lost on the top of a mountain in forty-five-degree weather wearing nothing but a t-shirt and boxers.

Quietly at first, I called for help. Whispering really, I called my girlfriend’s name. As the minutes passed and my fear grew, I called louder and louder. I wouldn’t say I was shouting, but certainly projecting my voice. “Help! Can anybody hear me?” After a small eternity, calling out, wondering how I might stay alive all night in the woods, my brother shouted out “Jeff, shut up!”

The next day, was awful. As we hiked back to the cars, periodically someone would call out in a thin, wavering voice: “Help, can anybody hear me?”

This is exactly how I feel when I blog. Shouting into the night—people hear me, but they don’t respond. When I post a story, hundreds of people (well, two hundred people) drop by my webpage over the next couple of days, I assume to read, but really, I have no idea. They leave as silently as they arrive. “Possibly,” you might suggest, “this is because you tell long, pointless stories before diving into your main topic. They probably get bored and drift away.” Hmm. Harsh, but point taken.

Some read, I know they do, because on the rare occasion I’m out in public, someone will mention a blog post. “Hey Jeff, I read on your blog the other day…”

“You read my blog?”

“Oh, all the time.”

But from my lonely spot in the woods, I feel completely unread. Or at least mostly read. After three days or so, a story I posted will typically have maybe a dozen likes and conversation threads with three or four other bloggers. What do the other one hundred eighty-eight people who drop by my page do? I’m my mind, they read a paragraph, roll their eyes and hit the back button. Sometimes on WordPress I’ll click into someone’s post that has one hundred and forty-three likes. I wonder how that’s even possible. Some of these posts are exquisitely written, but many (most) are simply diary entries.

One of Eli’s favorite phrases is “that sounds like a you-problem.” He says it in a good-natured way that nicely lets me know that I’m talking about something unimportant to him. “Oh man, the bird feeder is out of seed.”

“Well, that sounds like a you-problem.”

This blog-insecurity is clearly a me-problem. No one is obligated to leave breadcrumbs proving they were here. Getting likes isn’t why I started blogging, and spending a few hours writing an essay remains one of my favorite activities in life. The online response should be meaningless to me. Plus, two hundred people dropping by my webpage is actually quite a feat. If half of them read any of my post, then I’m getting read.

My long-term goal is to flip my thinking. I already know the necessary steps required to improve my stats: pick a topic for the blog and then stay on topic; set a schedule, stop rambling. But I don’t want to do any of these things. I just want to write whatever and whenever I want. I’ve got an awesome hobby, I know this. I can take it with me where ever I go: vacation, a coffee shop, the dentist office while my kids get checkups, in the front seat of my pickup while Eli mountain bikes with friends. I create something tangible and artistic. It exercises my brain. I enjoy doing it. If that isn’t enough, this really is a me-problem.

I’ll get there one day. I’m improving at a slow, slow pace. But in the meantime, when I call out lost, alone in the woods, can I maybe get a thumbs up?

Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

52 thoughts on “Whatever, Whenever, Where Ever

  1. I totally hear you on this… and on the goal and the journey. And how awful when someone shouts ‘shut up’! Blogging’s a tough calling, really. But you do it with honesty, originality, style, and sincerity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I love your crazy camping story and metaphor for needing and wanting to be heard. It’s your blog, so make it anything you want. Sometimes blogging is a lonely plight, but then there are those bonus days when the world chimes in. Either way, breathe freely. What you have to say matters.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was just discussing “views” with a blogging buddy of mine. What does that stat even mean? Do my views count in the total? I don’t know the answers, too lazy to look for them.

    The most important thing is that you enjoy the writing. You get to share your stories without someone yelling “Shut up.” and WordPress has a fantastic community of supportive people to “socialize” with.
    It’s definitely a YOU thing, but it’s not a “problem”😉

    Like

    • Yes, you’re right, No one on wordpress is ever going to tell me to shut up. It’s really an amazing community. And no one knows it’s here (except a million bloggers – but I don’t believe there are that many really blogging. I run into the same people liking and commenting all the time on completely unrelated blogs.)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love Eli’s saying “sounds like a you problem.” That sounds like something my 13-year-old nephew would say! Oh, and this definitely ISN’T a you problem… it’s a blogger/writer problem. Oh, and consider this comment my breadcrumb being dropped: I was here, I read, I enjoyed, I left a breadcrumb.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is a great hobby, and I enjoyed this story. I wondered darkly what you meant about bubble, that kept me hooked. Match your dark styles perhaps to your dark reader types. Plenty of us out here (in the dark).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m certain that blogging is a hobby that most can’t understand. I don’t really talk about my blog because it seems so odd that this is how I spend my time. And then I feel like I’m hiding a really huge part of my life, which is ironic because on my blog I wear my secrets on my sleeve (or emblazoned on my chest).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m convinced there are readers whose empathy as writers causes them to like and comment on all of the posts on the blogs they follow (me), and then there are those who enjoy reading the posts just as much but don’t bother liking or commenting because…they’re quiet, shy, clueless, or just out of words at that moment. People are quirky.

    Just keep writing, Jeff. Please.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m one of those people who tend to comment on most of the blogs I read, possibly that’s why I wish others would do the same. but then I pop over to Laurie’s Meditation in Motion blog and see that she has 30 comments to respond to and it works as a reality check. I typically go browsing a couple of times a week where I look for good writing and possibly new blogs to follow. I usually comment on these posts too and I wonder what these people think when someone shows up comments and disappears. That rarely happens to me.

      Like

  7. I’m an infrequent, irregular and erratic blogger. For every word I write on my own blog, I write at least ten in the comment sections of other bloggers. I think that’s the beauty of WordPress: you are free to make use of it in a way that suits you. I refuse to set myself blogging goals as that would be a sure fire way of converting a relaxing pleasure into a grinding chore.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think you once told me that commenting was a difficult process for you due to your autism. For that fact, I appreciate your comments all the more. Pluse people on the ‘outside’ like me and you often have more interesting things to say about a topic. I’ve never been able to moderate my expectations for my blog. I assume it’s an offshoot of OCD and while I can intelligently say ‘don’t go down that road’ I go anyway like that girl in the horror movie who keeps walking into a dark room.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In any given day, I probably write more words than I speak. In social situations, apart from not being able to understand the unwritten rules regarding turn taking and not being able to read nonverbal clues such as body language, it take some time to “translate” spoken words into a form I can comprehend.

        These are not issues when it comes to blogging. I can take whatever time is necessary to “translate” an article, take whatever time necessary to consider it and then take whatever time is needed to compose a comment.

        The best part of writing is that it puts me on a more even playing filed with most people. All those communication clues that accompany conversation such as body language, intonation etc are no more available to a neurotypical writer than they are for a neurodivergent writer. It’s not perfect as I often fail to pick up on sarcasm and irony for example.

        And yes I agree that contributions by people whose differences from the “norm” are pathologised are devalued instead of being seen as offering a different, and often fascinating, perspective.

        Like Dewy elsewhere in these comments, I blog because I enjoy it. It matters little whether I have one view or a hundred, whether I have no followers or a thousand. Perhaps because as an undiagnosed autistic for 60 years, and have experienced put downs and my contributions being devalued for most of my life that I don’t feel any pressure to live up to blogging “conventions”. Having said that, it does feel good to receive likes on a post or on a comment 🙂

        One final point. I have kept my identity somewhat anonymous, although there’s enough information available should anyone wish to discover it. As far as I’m aware, no one that I personally know, apart from my daughter, know about my blog, let alone read it. The wife knows that I blog, but, as she says, she respects my privacy. I’m not sure I would be so comfortable about sharing some of my thoughts if those nearest and dearest to me had access to them.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You may have identified one of my biggest problem with blogging. I my mind, It’s not really an open page. I feel a tacit pact with followers where I need to follow certain conventions already established. One of the things I worry about is that I’ll post too frequently and people will feel obligated to read, get sick of feeling the obligation and disappear. I’m like this. When I meet a new blogger, I look at their feed. If they post too frequently I won’t follow. Yet another me-problem.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s your choice to follow or not! I don’t add anyone’s feed. Or get notified by email. I read the blogs in my reader. It gives me a chance to pick and choose the ones I read. I have a few I read all the time and thus have established a connection. Took me awhile to be comfortable with what my blog is all about.

        Like

  8. There are so many things about my blog that I hate. I hate that I cornered myself on topic. I hate that my parents follow it so I really have to caution what I say if I don’t want something brought up at the holiday dinner table or hashed out on the phone at a later time. I hate that my posts can be so hot or cold on topic – some even bore me before I hit post. You should trust that people are coming to your blog because you are a good writer and have a way to get your point across – like the metaphor here when you were lost in the woods. You have a talent, Jeff. I know I am always excited to see what you have to say and how you will say it. I am your faithful reader!

    Liked by 4 people

    • My father once asked me about my blog. He browsed it and didn’t understand why there was just a paragraph of each story visible. He didn’t click on anything and eventually asked me what the point is. Once I explained it to him, I’m not sure if he ever read anything after that. One thing I have going for me is everything I’d ever want to hide from someone is in my book. My father has read it, several people at work have read it, I suspect some of the board officers have and I even mention it on my resume. I have no secrets (well, very few) so I don’t feel like I need to moderate myself. I think you have a lot to say on a lot of interesting topics. I honestly think you should start over. You could bring along your ‘regulars’ by emailing them the url. I’m sure you would benefit from being able to write freely.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was actually thinking about the whole process yesterday – how to start over again without leaving a trail to my current blog, or really, vice versa. We’ll see. I think I would like to start over too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Having written an anonymous blog which I stopped because I thought it was too personal, I think the hardest part is to avoid the desire to mention it on your current blog. I think it would be best to make a clean break. Just stop one and start the other. If nothing else, you’ll freak everyone out that something horrible happened to you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I, like Jeff, started over on blogging – from my retirement blog to my conversations blog. I find it confusing because some people follow one while some follow the other. I think reblogging messed things up more.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Yes, that’s why I suggest a clean break. Just invite the people you think would be interested in the new content. The whole crowd starts chanting: Do It! Do It! Do it!

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    • No, we have a king bed and there’s probably two full feet between me an my wife. She likes her space too. I still have trouble when I’m sitting on the couch and one of my kids sits right next to me. Probably with a lot of therapy I could get over this, but but everyone in my family is used to it now, so what’s the point.

      Like

      • It’s so interesting how different people are. Unless it’s midsummer and already way too hot, I’m at the other end of that spectrum. If there are two feet between me and my person at night then there’s much more emotional space between us too. Arguments or other ungood feelings. I love being all wrapped up in hugs (I need to have my own breathing space/unused air so directly face to face doesn’t work, but face to shoulder is fine). I don’t know how big a king bed is but mine’s 140cm (~4’6″) and there’s room left over at the edges 🙂

        Awesome that you both function in a similar way 🙂 Don’t change a running system as they say

        Like

  9. Well that’s something I like about your blog is that you’re transparent about what it, and the interactions, mean to you. So it doesn’t feel like I’m ‘shouting into the void’ when I comment. Sure you’ve noticed you’re mostly the only one who really ever comments on my blog, I hope you don’t feel obligated to although I do appreciate it. I know I’ve got other readers, family and friends back home but we tend to chat about the things throughout the week on other mediums. As you know I’m quite private and prefer to keep it close but otherwise but so few people ever actually request to read it, and fewer keep reading for a while. But here’s my breadcrumb, hope you’ll continue blogging as you have 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NO, I don’t feel obligate to comment. I really enjoy forming a relationship through correspondence. It’s really the best way I communicate and the friendships feel real to me. I really can’t (won’t?) call someone up to chat with the exception of my father. I know it annoys my brothers how silent I am. It’s really very painful.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I relate to this so much, in that the friendships feel real to me too (also includes an additional social media app in my case). Also agreed on the more personal types of writing, it’s generally more compelling I think. Thanks for reading & commenting. Hope you & fam have a good week.

        Like

    • Said another way, some posts are made to be read and simply enjoyed like poetry. I write these now and again where I try to use vivid imagery and clever word choice. I usually don’t get comments on these posts except the rare “great post” which I love. But other posts, opinion, introspection, journaling, IMO require or at least deserve commenting. I sort of feel like what’s the point of reading if it doesn’t inspire some sort of ongoing communication.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. The “requirements” that go along with commenting can be intimidating to someone who is not a blogger themselves. I have a few friends who have emailed me that they liked a post of mine but won’t comment or like on the post because of giving away privacy. Once you have a blog, you can like through your blog and you’ve already given away your privacy because you want people to discover your blog. At least that’s my way of thinking.

    If you follow a blog and don’t know what you’re doing you end up getting a million emails each day about blog posts. That’s annoying, speaking from experience. It took me a long time to figure out how to unsubscribe from the emails but still follow the blog through WordPress.
    Then, there’s the added complication involved in following a blog from someone other than a WordPresser. I can read the blog of a Blogspot friend through my WordPress reader, but I can’t comment unless I exit WordPress and use my search engine to go to their blog. Too much work if I’m just scrolling and reading. Maybe this happens to some of your followers.

    I lost your blog for a bit. I was worried that you hadn’t posted for a while since you weren’t showing up on my feed so I went to your blog through the search engine and was prompted with a follow button. Hmm. How did I unfollow you? Unless you kicked me off?

    You’ve posted a couple times on this topic, so it’s something you’ve given a lot of thought to. From the length of my comment, maybe you can tell I have, also.
    By the way. Sometimes I read a blog and decide to ponder it before I comment, so I move on but never get back to it. In the future, due to your post, I will at least hit like before I go ponder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I checked, I’m still following you. I dunno, maybe I really ticked you off with a recent post and you dropped me. There’s this one guy who has to refollow my blog pretty much every time I post something. I think wordpress can conflict with other running programs. You’re right, I have posted about this before. If I could wave a magic wand, this neediness would be something I’d erase. It would be interesting to see what life is like without needing external validation.

      Like

    • If I may intrude here, the only blogs I stop following are those that have been inactive for over a year, yet every so often WordPress, all by itself, unfollows blogs that I have been following. I have no idea why. With prolific bloggers their absence is obvious, but with less prolific writers it may not be until I see a comment from them or they come up in the reader when they appear in one of the tags I follow.

      As for likes, there doesn’t seem to be any established conventions for when it’s appropriate. It seems that many reserve likes for posts or comments they agree with. I reserve liking to those posts that I think are interesting, thought provoking or cause me to stop and ponder, regardless of whether or not I agree with the content.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I recently read a blog post by a guy who had 30,000 or so followers. He wrote that he’s been advocating to wordpress to drop the like button. He feels it make people (like me) nuts, and he thinks that too many people out there are just clicking like to hopefully increase their own readership. I see this frequently. Someone will like a post but my stats tell me no one read it. THAT I don’t understand.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Several years ago I came across a discussion of how WordPress counts view, visits etc, and I don’t think that any definitive conclusions were drawn.

        Many had concluded that those who visited a blog via the WordPress reader weren’t included in the statistics. I suspect there might be some truth in that. There’s one of my posts that wordpress tells me no one had visited, yet my daughter saw fit to mention how much she appreciated the article. Go figure…

        And how come some of my posts have had multiple views but no visitors? I think WordPress statistics are a mystery wrapped up in an enigma.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Long time reader, first time commenting. I don’t typically comment or “like ” any of the blogs I follow (I’m not a blogger myself).

    Why? I’m not reading to create a relationship or find a community. I value privacy with my online presence. Crafting interesting comments requires mental energy (vs the generic Great Job! comments). Sorry if that is unsatisfying! I read because I genuinely enjoy your writing and perspective. Like when I read a good book, I have no desire to have a conversation with the author. I guess that makes me the weirdo…

    Liked by 2 people

    • No, I think that make you normal. Often after I read a book I stalk the author’s email address on google and send them a message. I think it creeps them out. I respect your desire to read and not relate. I think it’s good for me to get that message sometimes. I didn’t get into blogging to make friends but then I found it strangely addicting. Thank you for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Still reading over here!
    I think it’s a bit like the social media “like” buttons. It’s a like a weird adrenaline hit. Likewise when you see page visits.
    I’ve always preferred when I don’t know the people reading my stuff in real life, but inevitably, there are people who read that I forget about. But that’s writing, right? It takes courage to say what you want to say and open yourself to criticism (or praise?). That’s what I tell myself anyway, and then I give myself a pat on my insecure back to say that hey, at least I was courageous today. And it’s therapeutic, even if no one’s reading. It forces me to write better, because I imagine someone is actually reading.
    It may be a you-problem, but it’s certainly not exclusive to you…
    Also, what happened then? Did you find your way back to your tent? Were you not as far off as you thought you were?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Yours is the second post today that I’ve read by an author feeling insecure about their blog’s worth/visiblity/purpose. And both of you are in my favorites category. I think those of us who write are often overly self-critical, ambivalent about wanting more attention but still craving it, generally pretty complicated folks.

    I tend to comment on those blogs that make me think. I don’t feel obligated to comment, or hit the little star button, but I tend to do it because I am particular about whose blogs I read. And given the craziness of my life recently due to my husband’s health problems I am curating my blog reading harder than ever.

    On the issue of stats– my blog count never includes anyone who follows outside of WordPress through email. I’ve tried to find out why, to no avail. That’s made me a little bit crazy wondering how many people there really are reading my blog. It’s a small group in any event, but the relationships have been a godsend in this year of COVID and cancer.

    I appreciate your blog, and your honesty!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It drives me nuts that I worry about it. But in my defense, things were really tanking there over the past month or so. But then everyone came out for this post and showed me they care, and now I’m a little embarrassed. I’m a little out of touch with what’s going on with your husband. I wonder if you stopped showing up in my reader. I’ll need to check that I’m still following. A couple of other comments on this post talk about wordpress unfollowing people randomly.

      Like

  14. Jeff…the story is the best way to get your point across. I think you have to hook people in with the story. Then you can slip in the message. Some people stop reading after the story. I write posts in much the same way. Many people comment about only the story I told and completely ignore the message. Or maybe it’s just easier to comment on the story than the message. Or maybe by the time they finish the story part of the post, they stop reading. I don’t want to do what it takes to get more readers. I am not interested in self-promotion and I want to write about what interests me at the time. I think you do too. Don’t change, Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

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