…it’s my blog that struggles

My star is falling, dropping fast into the sea.

People stopped reading my blog—not all of them, but many. Fewer now than six months ago. And fewer then than before. Way fewer. I turned them away. I offended. Or I turned them off.  Maybe I’m dull. Yes, hopefully I’m dull and not offensive. Tonight, I spent an hour writing about the performance appraisal self-evaluation I completed today at work. I took a break, grabbed an alcohol-free Guinness from the fridge. When I came back to my laptop, Eli and I discussed my beer. “Well, it looks like a beer.”

“Does it need alcohol to count as beer?” He looked it up. “An important part of the process is fermentation. Do they ferment alcohol-free beer?” I picked up my laptop and reread the stuff about my performance appraisal. I deleted the whole thing and started over. Yup, at a minimum, I’m dull.

Another blogger told me this reader attrition would happen. “WordPress is dying. The Boy says it’s outdated.” I like it when bloggers have clever euphemisms for their family members. The Boy. When I started blogging it never occurred to me to rename my family. Maybe I can run a find and replace on my entire blog. First, I need to think up some cool names. When she was a toddler, I called Sophie “the girl with the messy hair.”

The Boy says that people don’t want to waste ten minutes reading someone else’s thoughts. An eight second video is more appealing. Susan and Eli lie on the family room carpet watching TikToks. They cackle. “Hey dad, you gotta watch this one.” I try. I can’t really hear, I can’t make out what’s happening on the tiny screen. I’m old, inside and out. The Boy would use me as an example. “See? Even the blogger is outdated.”

I watch other’s stats. I can’t help myself. I think to myself He posted two hours after me, and he has comments already. Maybe WordPress is healthy, and it’s my blog that struggles.

I joined a writers’ group this month. As requested, I sent in a piece for others to critique, and I downloaded their submissions to review. The story I submitted is, I think, one of my best. As a baseline, I wanted to see what they had to say about something good. Here’s some feedback I received: Just starting out writing for an audience is tough and can be overwhelming. Great, it took me ten years of consistent and focused writing to move up to beginner.

I emailed an author yesterday.

Hi Sarah,

I’m writing to talk about the moon, but first, let me tell you how much I’m enjoying “The Lost Apothecary.” Fantastic plot, great characters, excellent writing. I’ve been struggling with reading since the beginning of the pandemic, and it’s a rare and happy occasion when I become fully immersed in a book. Your book has done it for me.

The moon: The night Eliza and Nella spend outside gathering beetles, you describe a sliver of moon near the horizon. That’s fine, but the moon would be setting rather than rising as you go on to describe. This is a topic I’ve fretted about my entire adult life and even wrote an essay in response to a mistake Dean Koontz made in one of his books. https://jefftcann.com/2017/08/04/moon-phases/

It makes me think: What the f*ck is my problem? I’m sitting here licking my wounds from the gobs of criticism I received in the writers’ group. The beginner comment was the hardest to swallow, but dozens of other comments stung almost as much. I’m trying to analyze my motivation for sending the email. To be right? To win? To have a real author read my essay? In my house, we try to practice Wise Speech.

The Buddha described wise speech as speaking only what is true and what is helpful. –Tara Brach

Was it true? Sure. Was it helpful? Not remotely. She can’t go back and change it like a blog post. Did she care? I have no idea. Her only response was I’m thrilled you liked the book. It’s like I was trying to hurt her for my own gain.

Within my blog, I wear my sins on my sleeve. The whole point of the blog is introspection. It’s even the tag line—a blog of introspection. Maybe there’s too much self-flagellation over my transgressions. If I repeatedly remind readers I’m a dick, is it a surprise they go elsewhere?

As a washed-up recreational athlete, I understand that most people don’t know for months or years that they’ve already physically peaked. What initially looks like a slump becomes chronic. It continues and deepens until it’s undeniable, the best days have passed. This is where I am with the WordPress community. It’s shrinking and I’ve become tired of trying to rebuild it.

Has my writing eroded? Am I telling boring stories? Is this the overall trend at WordPress? I don’t want to dwell on the why. I‘m not going to stop writing and blogging. My best strategy is to be thankful for the audience I’ve got. And if my writing needs help, I’m sure the writers’ group will let me know.

Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

48 thoughts on “…it’s my blog that struggles

  1. Mr. Cann,

    I have been subscribed to your blog for a long time. Though I don’t get to read as often as I’d like, I do enjoy your musings and outlook on life. You mentioned you’d continue blogging, to my delight, but I’d like to encourage you that your voice is heard. And enjoyed. And welcomed.

    You have an eager supporter in me, sir.

    Peace to you!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I haven’t been writing for weeks now. So I am hiding from WordPress altogether. It’s all about me.

    I like your writing. Thoughts, anyone’s thoughts, are interesting because they’re not mine. And if the writing is good, I get the feeling behind the thoughts.

    I cannot imagine reading anything with the level of attention it would take to notice that a moon is rising instead of setting. Does it take away from your enjoyment of reading?

    Liked by 2 people

    • When I’m reading at my reading level, which really isn’t all that high, I read slowly with great comprehension. I started noticing the moon thing when my kids were little and all the books have pictures that include the moon. Now, whenever a moon shows up in anything but real life (movies, video games, books) I I can’t help but notice if things are wrong. My family makes fun of me. One of them will point to the moon in the sky and say “Is that moon accurate?”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Don’t be too hard on yourself, Jeff. My numbers have been waning too. It’s a real challenge to sustain a blog. I’ve been doing mine for 4 1/2 years and it’s feeling stale. You’ve been at it longer. Btw, I would read “The girl with the messy hair.” Catchy.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Jeff, I’ve been inconsistent on WordPress this year so I haven’t read all your posts but when I am “back” I look for yours and always enjoy them. I like your writing because it’s engaging but also human. I wouldn’t be to concerned with comments from your writers group – those places are hot beds of insecurity and ego which doesn’t make it the best place to place your own ego if you’re feeling a bit tender. We create our world with our mindset and no, that’s not just positive tap – I have found it to be very true, and I’m repeatedly c Re eating peoblma for myself. Put it this way, you can tell yourself your star is falling or you can tell yourself that it is time to create a new sky to shine in. And keep writing and reading and connecting. It is daunting to consider the other platforms and forms if media with which we compete for peoples attention. But many of those stars are actually on the decline in popularity too. Humans have always been done to falling for the latest fashion but they come back to classics. You’re a classic Jeff. Just ride out the lull and keep writing. My two cents worth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • What you say is true, and it would be helpful to keep it in mind. Re: the writing group, I’m encouraging myself to stick with it a while to see if I get advice. At first, I was pretty bummed about the criticism, but then I decided that’s the whole point. If everyone said ‘oh this is great’ I wouldn’t benefit at all (except of course my ego).

      Liked by 2 people

      • True, ‘dat. About feedback. On the rare occasions I’ve actually solicited comments, I’ve tried to be specific about what I’m after/hoping for. And of course what I just wrote demonstrates one of the weaknesses of blogging generally, and sharing one’s doubts in particular… Advice is cheap and usually useless.
        BTW, I enjoy most of your writing, I admire the structure and pacing, and read less often than I’d like. So there.
        -Bruce (Father of The Boy)

        Liked by 1 person

        • When I first started blogging (and well maybe to this day) I got frustrated on how people commented on the content but not the writing, because in my mind the content is secondary. (of course I do the same thing). Thank you for your BTW note. When writing, I wasn’t consciously looking for compliments, but I got a ton, and that’s left me in a really good (albeit slightly embarrassed) mood.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. The ultimate question is, I think, why you write. For yourself? For your readers? To process? To hone? To decompress? It should ultimately be enjoyable. If you love what you’ve written, someone else out here also loves it. The numbers can’t possibly be the only driving force (aren’t a bunch of them weird bots? I can never tell when I get a new subscriber).. You are courageous to even join a writer’s group, and haters gonna hate.
    I like reading what you write. Don’t stop.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Who else COULD let me know about alcohol-free Guinness whilst grumbling about the decline of WordPress?
    Looking on the bright side, Elon has just reduced your choice-set by one anyway.
    Maybe you’d have done better writing a marketing strategy than joining that writers’ group. That mob sounds like a pack of vrarking mangy, envious, expat Aussie crows. Look for a crowd that says ‘Hello’ in a friendly voice.
    Kind regards
    DD

    Liked by 2 people

    • Elon Musk did me no favors. I bailed on twitter a couple of years ago. I could never figure out the point. I likened it to shouting into the wind. I admit to a bit of schadenfreude. I think he’s just about the most obnoxious human alive. I love the AF beers that I’ve found that taste like *real* beer. The Guinness might be a new Fave. It looks and tastes exactly like the real thing (I think, my last Guinness was seven years ago),

      Liked by 3 people

  7. “Girl with the messy hair” accurate moons and never join a writers group. These are my takeaways to today. I enjoy your writing and the thought you put into and the personal nature of what you have to write.

    Enjoy the conversation, a smaller group of commenters is better than a massive swathe of likers, see making up words is the joy of blogging.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you Neil. BTW, a long ago conversation we had about the Dream Syndicate came to mind a few days ago. I only know the first two albums (which I know really well) I decided to start digging in and learning about more of their catalogue. Love Ghost Stories. Loving the Sinner is a new favorite.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jeff, Jeff, Jeff… (can you hear the sigh in my voice?😂) Quit looking at the numbers!
    Your writing is as enjoyable as ever. WordPress bloggers and people in general are tuning out. There has been too too much crap everywhere and people are burnt out.
    My blog has always been small with a loyal following. With the months long breaks I take here and there, I’m lucky to have any followers, but the wait for me.
    From all the other comments, it looks like you have the same.

    QUIT LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS!😂

    Liked by 4 people

  9. Dear Jeff,
    I’m sorry you feel so hurt and rather pessimistic about your blog. I love the honesty with which you write. I love almost ‘being’ part of your family. The way you talk about your family is endearing and makes me feel like I know them all personally. I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and I never get fed up with the stories going on with you. I have an excellent picture in my head of your circumstances and history because you write so well. Right from the beginning, I appreciated and could connect with you over all those usually hidden or somewhat taboo topics we’ve both had in common.

    If it’s any consolation, it’s not just you. I’ve noticed many of my regular readers dropping off my radar in the last few weeks. I have, admittedly, gained a few new valuable readers lately. I follow far more blogs than I have time for and am always playing catch-up. I’m also part of a small writing group, but I have noticed that my skills have dropped off, and I’ve been unable to produce writing to the required standard. Actually, I’m meant to be in the middle of the class right now, but I called in sick because I’m full of self-doubt about my abilities. I’m considering dropping out of the rest of the course. I’m not great at getting negative feedback or critique, either. It doesn’t do much for your confidence.

    Keep going, Jeff. Your faithful readers still appreciate you. I know I do. I do owe you an apology, though; I’ve missed commenting on your crows post. That’s purely about me and not your writing. I’m pushing myself harder than I’ve currently got the energy for. However, your post this morning was the first one I read as I opened WP and felt this was the one I really wanted to reply to try and reassure you that you are still thought of fondly and you’re still doing a great job. Take care, Jeff … all the best … Ellie x

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve received so many encouraging comments today. This seems to happen annually, I get down about my blog and then people come out of the woodwork to bolster me. The thing that’s different this time is I think I’m going to accept it. In the past, I’ve gone out on WP looking for interesting writers and then crossing my fingers that we clicked. That’s how we got together, I figured anyone reading Stacey’s blog is probably someone I want to know. And while connecting with you was a good thing, I’m tired of the effort. My success rate is really low. One blogger today said he thought that in time people will realize that all the other distractions are a waste of time and come flowing back to blogs. That would really prove the Boy wrong. Thank you for your encouragement today.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Transitions, are like seasons, they come and go. I haven’t blogged in some time now, but I still enjoy reading the others. Right now, we are in flux, Facebook is dying, TikTok is worthless for content of any quality. After the shake out, I think those that went for the greener grass, Will appreciate the quality and friendliness of bloggers.

    Hang in there, you never know when something you write, my cause others to rethink, or even bring a smile to their face. Something we need more of, at this time in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Ron. I’ve always been a fan of essays and opinion (that’s where I start with the news). Ever thing is a cycle. I have no doubt blogs will be back in vogue. The kids will start writing them and think they invented them. I’ll still be here.

      Like

  11. Maybe you’re going to the wrong writer’s group. You’re a good writer, but if you’re listening to advice from others who “know it all” that’s not healthy. Writing shouldn’t be a competition. You should write because you enjoy it and maybe to purge your soul. End of sermon. (5 cents, please 😊) Be the Light!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, possibly. I was a bit shocked at the negativity of some of the feedback. But… #1 this one meets during the day which is perfect for me cuz I can’t see anything when driving at night and #2 it’s all critique which is what I am looking for. We’ll see how it goes.

      Like

  12. Well this sounds like a terrible time. I know a lot of the time we post and then we’ve already internally resolved whatever issue we wrote about. Hope thats the case for you on this one. Mostly just commenting to say I’m still here sometimes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just writing about the issue usually gives me clarity. It’s really feelings I’ve been experiencing for 10 years. I think what’s new is I don’t plan to actively fight it this time. Gonna go all zen. See what happens. I’m glad you’re still around Cara.

      Like

  13. Hi Jeff, having recently come across your blog I would say you are one of the writers who I take time out to read their longer pieces. I wouldn’t get too phased about the writing group. It took me over ten years to find one that fitted. Sometimes it can be a personality thing. No matter how long we have been writing there are still days when our writing feels like the worst ever written. Just throw on a punk LP, get out the air guitar and let it roll. Tomorrow’s another day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, longer pieces… would *I* read my blog? There are a few longer blogs I read without feeling any obligation. Hopefully mine would be one of those. I walk to work almost everyday listening to a very punk spotify mix. Sometimes I play air guitar. Not too many writing groups here. I hope this works out for me, but if not, there’s always online.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I, for one, love your blog with its introspection and general perspectives on life. I love your family, that you share with us how they tease you. Your topics are slices of everyday living that are interesting and fun to read about because of their obscure commonality. I think you’re an excellent writer, especially when you’re brutally honest, even if it might make you look… different. (Different is good, in my opinion.)

    As for that new writing group, remember: some writers criticize others in order to make themselves feel adequate. Take it all with a large grain of salt, especially until you see whether they possess any writing skill of their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rebecca, i read this right before going to the writers’ group and your comments were quite fortifying. It went reasonably well, good enough to go back anyway. Thank you for all this.

      Like

  15. I continue to enjoy your blog immensely, Jeff! I think part of your appeal is your willingness to be vulnerable, and to examine certain doubts longer than some would before blinking. It always turns up something interesting. : )

    Liked by 1 person

  16. A couple of months back, going through that ‘more connection!’ process you refer to, I found a blog/magazine soliciting writing. So I sent through a link to what I consider one of the better Lonely Keyboards/Vinyl Connection pieces, noticing a blend of hope and anxiety as I pressed send.

    Like

    • A couple of days later I received a very brief response explaining, as if to a child, that what they wanted was PUBLISHED pieces, not BLOG articles. They thanked me for alerting them to the ambiguous invitation at their BLOG, which they assured me they have now corrected.
      I did compose a two word response (seven letters in all) but did not press send.

      PS. The Boy enjoyed this post.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL. Neat that the Boy would take the time to read a blog post. My kids wouldn’t. Two books and nine years of blogging. I don’t think Eli has read a single thing. I recently wrote a letter to the editor at our newspaper about something going on within the school district. I wanted Eli to ‘bless it’ since his teachers would undoubtedly read it. No interest. He just said go ahead and send it.

        Liked by 1 person

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