On blogging and the rules that feel like rules but aren’t really

Perhaps three or four of the ten of you who read this blog with any degree of regularity will understand when I say I miss the good ol’ days of blogging, you know, back when we traded awards and buttons and memes and participated in weekly carnivals. Maybe my inner cynic is showing but blogging seemed funner then, easier somehow. There were no rules or best practices to follow and certainly no blog experts or or consultants or books or conferences or lists of ranks (yes, there really are all of those things in abundance).

We all just blogged our blogs apart from any blogger guilt.

Blogger guilt? Yes, it’s real, at least for this blogger, and yes, you’re right, it’s dumb. But like most guilt it isn’t something I necessarily choose. Rather, somewhere, at some point, I learned the rules, such as they are, and now I find it difficult to escape their tyranny. What rules, you ask? Well, to begin with, it’s links everyone is after, thus branding oneself and building a tribe of followers who aid in the promotion of that brand become critical in order to generate the much sought after linkage and resulting traffic. Branding involves developing your content niche in addition to the advantageous and deliberate use of social media to promote your site.

In that same pursuit of links and traffic there is an unspoken quid pro quo: someone likes and comments and retweets and you respond in kind. Eventually we are all liking and linking and retweeting the same stuff but that doesn’t really matter, at least not in the jockeying for social media attention.

In terms of content, a quick survey will indicate the successful and popular blogger either writes the kinds of posts that are a cross between an op-ed and a doctoral thesis or she will craft posts full of beautiful imagery and heavily emotive language expressed in a succession of one sentence paragraphs.

Or she will be funny.

And, if you’re counting, that’s three strikes against this particular blogger (me).

Additionally, today’s popular blogger is helped if she has someone or a set of someones with which she disagrees. To that end, she herself must hold her convictions firmly and without equivocation, thus being fully prepared to defend her position stridently and passionately. There is no room for wondering or waffling because, well, there are other bloggers also looking for someone to disagree with and chances are it might be you. When the critics come, it’s a no holds barred kind of game so it’s best to be ready or be careful.

Ok, ok, so maybe there aren’t really a set of blogger rules and perhaps I’m engaging in a fair amount of snark. Exaggeration aside, please hear me clearly: there is nothing wrong with any or all of the above pursuits, excepting, obviously, the excessive employment of disagreement and criticism. Some of you are actively building your brand for the advancement of the kingdom and I applaud your efforts. May the Lord grant you great blogging influence so that you may declare to many the excellencies of His goodness and grace.

When it comes to me, however, I am not this sort of blogger. And, dumb or not, I feel strangely guilty about that.

I say it’s a strange guilt because, hello, blogging is a hobby and, as I just admitted, there aren’t really any rules. Many of the rules that feel like rules are not rules at all. For example, there is nothing inherently rule-keeping or rule-breaking about commenting (or not) on someone’s post or only blogging once in a blue moon or writing about nothing but real life wholly apart from a single opinion or footnote or quote. Also, I don’t have to chime in on every blogger brouhaha nor express an opinion on the hype and hysteria sweeping the internet on a given day.

There are no rules. I am free. I can write what I write and you can read if you want.

I know this truth seems painfully, blatantly obvious to nearly all of you still reading (anyone? anyone?). Obvious, yes, of course it is, but it is nonetheless profoundly freeing to me. There are no rules by which I must perform or else. I will write what I write when I feel like writing it. Doing so may not score me many links or increase my traffic or build my tribe but I will know the freedom and joy of doing something I love for the sole purpose of loving it.

My corner of the blogging world is small indeed, my traffic nearly negligible, my writing ordinary and undisciplined at best. These things, while true, matter little, really, if I am true to my aim here at the blog: to write because I enjoy it and because I have something I want to say: Jesus saved me and I love Him and I want you to love Him too.

Like me, do you miss the good ol’ days of blogging? What do you miss the most? Do you agree with my list of unspoken blogging rules that aren’t really rules but sometimes feel like rules? Any other rule breakers out there? What helps you maintain a sense of freedom and joy in your blogging?


Author: Lisa Spence

Wife, mother, Bible teacher, bibliophile, occasional blogger

40 thoughts on “On blogging and the rules that feel like rules but aren’t really”

      1. I used to deliberately skew the results with my answers. I was as silly as Lydia Bennet as a teenager. Middle age has tamed me, but only a little. 🙂

  1. Yep, I miss a lot of the old days of blogging. And I have another more personal reason for the change in my blogging that I won’t put here on a public forum. I’m struggling with how to deal with it.

  2. I’m with Staci, missing the memes. When I first began blogging, it felt like a bunch of friends chit chatting over the fence in the midst of our busy days, encouraging each other, laughing with each other, etc. Now, it’s become so serious. I am ashamed at thinking right now how I have bought into that tendency. I want it to be fun!

    This is exactly the post I needed to read today, Lisa.

    1. I agree with your depiction of those early years of blogging: chatting, encouraging, laughing, conversing. I miss it! It is so very serious these days and more narrowly focused. Let’s bring back the fun! 🙂

    2. “When I first began blogging, it felt like a bunch of friends chit chatting over the fence in the midst of our busy days, encouraging each other, laughing with each other, etc.”

      Kim, YES! And I long for that again.

      Lisa, thanks for sharing so much of what I’m feeling. Blogging rules, real or imagined, can be so constraining sometimes.

  3. The second providential post I have read this morning! I have been thinking a lot about blogging lately. Wondering once again if I should give it up since I rarely have time to write anything original. I think of things all the time that I would like to write about. I make notes and jot down ideas but never follow through. Of course, if I really wanted to write I would make the time, wouldn’t I? I struggle with comparing myself either favorably or unfavorably with others. I think these things and then put the thoughts aside and move on to the things I MUST do.

    Lisa, you are an inspiring prime example of someone who is a wonderful writer and does it out of calling and conviction regardless of your stats. I commend you for that and encourage you to keep pressing on. I am blessed by your faithfulness.

    Oh, and I miss the memes too.

  4. This was a breath of fresh air, Lisa. I’ve bought into the pressure of trying to be deep/profound/whatever for the sake of fitting into whatever fitting in means. I’ve also felt constrained from discussing certain subjects because I’m worried about what other people think, to my shame.

    Here’s to freedom from unspoken blogging rules that have no power and freedom to write as unto the Lord even if no one else reads it!

    BTW, every JA quiz I took pegged me as Elinor Dashwood. 🙂

  5. Love this. I have seen the blogging world make a slight shift, but I guess I’ve never felt compelled to conform with it to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter to me how it shifts. I used to blog a lot more frequently (almost daily) but I discovered that it mattered just as much to me to be able to make connections in the comments, and I couldn’t do that AND keep up with daily writing. So I opted to write less and connect more. I never find quite the perfect balance, but that’s okay. 🙂

    I always enjoy when you post, but I never *expect* it. Just keep doing what you do when you want to do it. I’m out here reading you!

  6. I, too, can identify with this. Sometimes I get the germ of an idea but don’t have time to develop it into a 500 word post (the magic number, I’ve read, to keep people engaged)–so I leave the idea unwritten. Other times, I start developing an idea but find it turning into thousands and thousands of words–so many that I’m splitting the story into dozens of posts. But then, can one really have a blog series a dozen posts long? How do I make sure my readers don’t get bored? So I post one a week for a dozen weeks and eventually peter off, having lost interest in the topic I was trying to keep my readers interested in.

    Overall, though, I blog what I wish when I wish. Sometimes I have readers, sometimes I don’t. But that’s not what I’m blogging for *really*, so it’s okay.

    1. Blogging what I wish when I wish, yes and amen. And I say go for the long posts! As I remarked on another site, long form blogging is alive and well in my neck of the woods 🙂

  7. I love this, Lisa. For so long now I’ve wanted to write a post that said, “I don’t want to know what you’re reading. Don’t try to sell me stuff I don’t want. And I don’t care what you wore on Wednesday.” But that wouldn’t be nice, would it? 😉 I just like blog posts that are well-written, heart-felt, and tell a good story. (Oh, and I love a meme every now and then too.)

    Ashleigh Ferguson Baker recently started a Facebook group for people who like Simple Stories (it’s called Simple Stories) that you can find here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/simplestories/. She started it in response to her post here: http://ashleighbaker.net/2013/05/tell-me-a-story-an-invitation-to-old-fashioned-blogging/. Thought you might be interested.

    1. Oh, I cracked up at your post idea, mainly because I’ve often thought the same thing! 🙂

      Thanks for the Simple Stories link. I’m for sure interested and I’ll head that way to check it out.

  8. Oh Lisa. I wish I could hug you right now. Your grace-seasoned words are sure and steady and loaded with holy-spirit conviction. And for this immature blogger and mature legalistic, this post was balm to my soul. Thank you for your simple boldness and your willingness to lead to freedom by example. I pray The Lord would grant me the same joy and freedom from the silly blogging rules hat so frequently bind me in chains of legalism and guilt. You, Lisa, are an example worthy of reading and certainly of following toward kingdom-building purposes. Thank you!

  9. Yes, I too struggle with guilt for not following the blogging rules. I went to a conference last year with great expectations of bringing home blog inspiration. Instead, I came home with rules, rules, and more rules! As a result, I haven’t blogged as much feeling that I’m wasting my time because I use blogger and not wordpress (so I’m trying to switch it over and getting way overwhelmed with the techy side of it all and just may not do it!), I don’t regularly post so I must be losing people of interest, I don’t tweet enough to tout my blog posts, my Facebook leads aren’t engaging enough to draw a reader in, and I certainly don’t have enough followers…according to the rules. Ugh.

    So, I’m praying about what God would have me do with this. It is difficult to shut out the rules that scream when I occasionally read another blogger’s post. I’ve even cut back on doing that due to the comparison trap.

    For now, I’m writing when I’m lead by Him or prompted by Five Minute Friday (if it pertains)…it’s not regular and it’s not up to the standards the blog pros have scattered about. But, I am coming to terms with it all, hopefully in a healthy way.

    Thanks for writing this today. I find it encouraging to know I’m not alone. : )

    1. You are NOT alone! May the Lord grant you freedom and inspiration in your writing life and may He help you see what among all those directives encourages and what discourages. I hope we can both rediscover the joy of writing for that very reason: the joy!

  10. Well, I’m coming in late on this post. And I probably entered late as a blogger too, so I don’t think I was ever a part of the good ol’ days. And yet, I know exactly what you mean. I try to stay out of the popularity contest. The aforementioned, unspoken rules that you noticed are like the middle schooler’s anxiety to make sure they have enough clothes from Hollister or American Eagle. If we wear the right “clothes” people might think we are cool. That is such a turn off for me, and I have found that I prefer the blogs that don’t get caught up in the hype, per se. Just comes off as desperate noise.
    Nowadays it seems like bloggers are trying to establish the rules of successful blogging. Sure, there is common sense and wisdom needed. But I think it gets arrogant when we start calling the shots. So, keep writing, Lisa, because you have good things to say.
    You are not a brand!

  11. I mentioned missing the “old-fashioned” blogging just recently too. I get what you’re saying about the unspoken rules…I feel the pressure! Blogging for me used to be fun and friendly and “friendship” making with people you had things in common with, now it somehow feels full of pressure. Which really is just probably coming from me comparing myself with others. But I do miss those silly memes, for sure!

  12. Lisa, as many blogs as I subscribe to, yours is one of the few where I read EVERY post (even if I’m late catching up on them like tonight). 🙂 I love your grace filled transparency & how you help us to see the Gospel in our every day lives. You’re a blessing!

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