Personal Blogs Preserve and Shake Our World

Filed as Guides on August 18, 2008 11:01 am

Talking, talking. Spinning a web of words, pale walls of dreams, between myself and all I see.
John Gardner, Grendel

We spend a lot of time on the talking about the steps you need to take to convert your blog into a business and run it as one. Rarely do we pay attention to the personal blogger, the ones inspired to share their day-to-day adventures and thoughts with the world. Personal bloggers are important, very important, and they often get little respect.

Blogging started from online journals, diaries with stories from our life shared with others. They evolved to include comments, conversations with others about shared life experiences and memories, learning as we go along our shared paths.

With the push towards turning blogs into businesses, is there still room for the personal blogger, the diary blogger, the journaling writer? The blogger who doesn’t want to make money but wants to tell their story?

I think there is and I hope there will always be.

Not Every Blog Has To Pay for Itself

Not every blog has to pay for itself. Personally, when I see a personal blog with ads on it, I wonder why they are really blogging. Is it for the sharing or the money? The moment you put ads on your blog, it’s about the money.

I have watched how blog ads change personal bloggers. They start watching the numbers, monitoring the stats, counting the pennies, playing with content to encourage all of the numbers to go up and up, bidding on their chances for chart topping Digg and Technorati posts – often forgetting why they started this blog in the first place: fun.

The excuse I hear over and over is that their blogs have to pay for themselves. Huh? With so many free blogging choices like and Google’s Blogger, there is no cost involved. These blogs are “free” as in don’t cost anything but your time. Does every hobby have to make money and pay for itself?

Personal Bloggers Focus on Expression and Sharing Their Wisdom

I love reading personal blogs, learning about other people’s lives. I love digging into the world of the online journaling blogger, getting to know about what goes on in their heads, about how they see the world from their perspective, about how they live in their area, the problems they confront that are unfamiliar and different from my experiences – I want to learn more about the world and one of the best ways to learn is by reading personal blogs.

Some of the best and most gifted written words I’ve found were discovered on personal blogs. Without the restrictions and limitations associated with SEO, generating income, blog branding, and the business of blogging, they let their hair down and out of their minds come moments of inspiration and poetry.

These aren’t professional writers, though some might be or aspire to be. They are just folks who want to share their thoughts and get them “on paper” and out of their heads. They are people who want other people to understand them better, to listen, to care, and maybe to say “Hi, I’m alive” and share themselves with others.

Here are some snippets of such magic I found prowling around on WordPress.com recently.

It’s a Yucky, Icky World Out There by Writing at Naptime speaks straight from the heart, summarizing up the feeling that many of us feel when overwhelmed with all the yuk out there.

I don’t like the world, right at this particular minute. Everything that’s gross and violent and scary is getting worse, and everything that’s supposed to be safe isn’t. Aside from the whole “poisoning ourselves with every single thing in our over-produced and over-consuming country,” the lead stories today include a decapitation on a bus, a video-taped torture death, and a preacher killing his wife and freezing her body. (Sorry, no links. I can’t bear it – I didn’t read any of those stories. The headlines were enough.) I was going to let all of that go, but, a blogger I found tag surfing at WordPress, whose kids have developmental differences, went to the library and burst into tears when storytime made her feel that she can’t even do normal things with her kids. Cried in the library.

Dude, that’s not okay. Some days, this is not a nice place to exist.

That “place” is in your head. The amount of negative media that bombards us daily often puts us in that bad place where we feel there is no way out and no answers. There are answers, as this blogger reminds us. You just have to look away from the ugly from time to time to find the joy the news doesn’t cover.

Then there are those posts that trigger memories, often unexpected, helping you examine them in a new light. In Where Were You When… by Cat O’ Nine Tales (and then some…), she decided to create a chronological review of history answering the question of “Where were you when…” each of these major world changing events happened.

Apollo 11 Landing: THAT I remember! I was 5 1/2, and since it was summer and there was no school, we kids were allowed to stay up late to see Neil Armstrong take his first step. We had our color console set in the living room, but since the video from the moon was black and white anyway, Dad set up in my bedroom the little b/w portable set we had bought for our camping trip the month before. I remember it was about 10:30 at night when Armstrong finally appeared–two hours past my bedtime. I was sleepy, but aware that this was important, and I have never forgotten it.

This is a novel approach to memory lane blogging and makes me think back to what I was doing when all these things occurred. Don’t you?

In Living Peacefully With Children, this blogger shares her thoughts on a children’s book, Curious George, she once thought was a horrible book for children until rereading it again with her children and finding a new perspective:

Unrealistic expectations of children abound in our society. Children aren’t allowed to be children. Instead, they are expected to be miniature versions of adults without any rights. Sucks to be a kid, doesn’t it? When they inevitably fail at impossible tasks, parents punish. Only, punishments don’t work, so the parents really only work to create a chasm in their relationship with hurt and angry feelings.

If a two year old is left in a room with cookie dough and told not to eat the cookie dough, aren’t you just setting the child up for failure? Two year olds do not have good impulse control. My husband is 31 years old. If I left him in a room with cookie dough, I can guarantee that there would be some sampling going on. Why have the expectation that the two year old won’t eat cookie dough? The child is being a child. Punishment isn’t going to change that fact. Wouldn’t it be better to recognize what is developmentally appropriate for the child? Work with the child rather than doing to the child. If it is not okay for the cookie dough to be eaten, why not put it up? Don’t place the child in a position that they shouldn’t be in.

How often we set ourselves and others up to fail – even with our blogs – and the games we play with expectations and assumptions. This is a great insight that applies to a wide spectrum of situations. I found myself thinking about it through the day, considering her points from my perspective, a sign of a well written blog post.

I was interested to find “I’m from the Government. I’m here to help.” by Jesse White is on WordPress.com. He is a laywer and state representative from Pennsylvania and blogs about his campaign, policies, politics, and more in a very personable fashion. While I don’t read many political blogs, he touched me with his commentary on an ad campaign recently on the subject of “spin” – using words in a way that makes them sound more important than they really are.

There was something about this ad that made me think for a little while, and not just about how wildly inaccurate it is, although that was certainly a major concern. There was something about the tag line- “More Government spending means less dollars in your pocket!”

Was it the fact that he unnecessarily capitalized the word “government”? The fact that “less dollars” doesn’t really sound like proper grammar? The exclamation point inserted at the end for no apparent reason? No, there’s something else here.

I have a feeling that this is the beginning of an onslaught of “ten word” attack ads, which basically give a slogan that sounds swell but lacks any real substance to back up the sentiment. This is similar to the phenomenon of the “ten word answer”.

He cites and showcases a clip from the television show, The West Wing, that featured a debate during the re-election campaign where the president realizes that his opponent has given the “ten word answer” to a solution and calls him on it, asking his opposition what the next ten words are. Ten word answers always sound wonderful, but unless you have the next ten words to back up the first, nothing from nothing is still nothing.

This made me think about how we use our blog post titles to lure in visitors, as we should, but how many use them to make false promises. Get rich quick schemes, blog to success, instant traffic, and all kinds of snake oil salesmen promises that the blog content doesn’t follow through on.

You never know where a valuable lesson can be learned, even from a politician’s blog. :D

On Hairballs in my Coffee…, I found Decisions made: Emotional Storm, Broken Heart, a tale of woe too familiar. A family member chooses to make horrible choices, including causing the suffering of the dogs she poorly maintained. After rescuing the dogs and the relative over and over again, the blogger learns a valuable lesson:

Breaks my heart, sometimes I wonder if that’s not a big part of the reason she lives the way she does. I wonder could she actually be putting her own life in jeopardy to manipulate me. To get pity, play the martyr, the poor me bit. If that is the case she truly needs counseling.

No, I am not so arrogant as to think that she can not live without me. I know that she can, frankly I wish she would live her life rather than trying to suck the joy out of mine.

I’ve been through his crap so many times with this person, yet it still gets to me. I don’t think she will ever find peace in this life. Ironically it’s because she chooses not to.

Realization: she must not want peace in this life. All this time I’ve been playing into her havoc. Trying to make things better for her. 48 years of hell, one crisis after another. One personal war after another. Always fighting through trying to make things better, when she has chosen to live in a war zone. When there is no war she creates on. When there is no crisis she creates one. That’s a big part of what happened with her dogs.

Refusal to make decisions, to take care of them so people will be drawn into her “poor me I can’t take care of my dogs” come do it for me.

We all have relationships in our lives that drag us down. I just recently saw Vincent, a play developed and performed by Leonard Nimoy about Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo. The story is told by Theo at a public “memorial” to Vincent where he shares the story of his brother’s life through the many letters and postcards the two shared. Theo’s entire life was dedicated to taking care of his brother through his various obsessions, mood swings, bad decisions, and illnesses. This never-ending torture from a tortured soul cost Theo his health and sanity as he struggled to help his brother through his many adventures. Theo died six months after his brother killed himself, unable to cope with the loss, burned out by putting so much energy into helping his brother, he forgot to take care of himself first.

Reading these words, I’m reminded of all the similar decisions I’ve made in my life to stand by the side of someone determined to take themselves and everyone around them into the black hole they were digging. There has to come a time when you realize that this is their choice, not yours. As I read that post, I reminded myself of those dark days and reaffirmed how I would not go down that path again.

In Give Me a Break…or Beer? by m o n S t a C h a, she says:

Five pairs of shoes in one week. I’m just trying to fill the emptiness in my heart with materials, and I guess that isn’t too much. I’ve been working too hard, and rest too little. Really need to buy something to channel the stress.

Haven’t we all been there? We know the actions we are taking are wrong, but we keep doing them. Spending money on things we don’t need, staying with relationships that hurt us, working a job that bores and depletes our energies…by spelling it out the blogger might learn from what she reads. More importantly, if you see yourself in their blog writing, the reader can learn and change their behavior accordingly.

A different kind of low by Diabetes and Me (and maybe you) rang bells for me. Threatened with diabetes, I had to make some serious lifestyle choices, too. I have to tell you, I think many times a day that I wish I didn’t have to live this way, but the steps I take today will prevent problems in the future. Self-control and denial is a hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Still, what I wouldn’t give to go back to the time when I could eat anything and do anything I wanted, like this blogger, and not suffer the consequences.

I wasn’t a very good diabetic today. I almost pretended like I didn’t have diabetes today, and yet it was with me all along. I had McDonald’s burritos for breakfast. That’s not so bad, but I had three. I really should only have one. I was very active all morning long, so I rationalized the activity would counteract the overeating. Of course, that’s just bullshit, but there it is.

…The second piece of good news about today is accountability. I am taking full responsibility for my behavior today and making plans to avoid this in the future. My birthday was my “nondiabetes” day and that was good enough.

As mentioned in other posts, I have diabetes. I have it 24/7/365, not 365-2.

He’s so right. When you are faced with a life threatening illness, it is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Not minus two days just because you want to pretend this isn’t your life. I needed that reminder, so thank you!

What Personal Blogs Do For the Web and History

When I get the chance, I dig into my family’s genealogy, uncovering what tidbits of history they’ve left exposed as they migrated across the world. Living in Israel for a long time, I was privilege to be exposed to the amazing museums and archeological sites that gave me a better idea of how my ancestors may have lived and worked through the ages. The Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem opened my eyes to a way of life historians, anthropologists, and archeologists rarely understood until the discovery of the scrolls.

When I present programs on blog content and personal blogging, I tell my audience that today’s personal blogs are the future’s Dead Sea Scrolls. Unlike me, digging through what court records and tiny scraps of paper that survived fires, storms, floods, and human neglect to find a tiny piece of my family’s puzzle, personal blogs will give the researchers of the future a glimpse into how we really lived, what we thought, our interests, our passions, our pleasures, our agonies.

While political and world events might be of interest, the day-to-day living will be of great interest. How did they eat? What did they eat? Why did they eat that? Why did they move from here to there? How did they raise their children? How did they teach their children? What were the relationships among family members? What were their homes like? How did they heat them, cool them, and handle disposal? What was transportation like? What kinds of work was available, why, and how did they work? What were their religions like? How did they worship? Why did they do the things they did when they did them?

There are so many things I would love to sit down and ask many of my ancestors lost to time. With today’s technology, future historians and genealogists will have it easy – to a point. We are generating so much content, they will have too much to sift through rather than too little.

Are you preserving your thoughts, memories, and life with a personal blog? Why? Do you think about how your blog influences others and changes their perspective? Who are you blogging for?

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  1. By waz posted on August 18, 2008 at 12:41 pm
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    ;)

    thanks…it’s nice to see that not all of them so-called ‘pro-bloggers’ hate personal bloggers!

    Reply

  2. By Barney posted on August 18, 2008 at 3:04 pm
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    Spot on, Lorelle. I love diaries and personal notebooks – they are often more revealing of life in past or more recent times than the ‘official’ histories. They give insights into the lives of ‘ordinary’ people. I love personal blogs – non-monetized, written for the hell of it or to express pain, joy, love and life.

    Reply

  3. By Karen Braswell posted on August 18, 2008 at 5:01 pm
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    This is a beautiful, thought-evoking, post. I’m speechless.

    Reply

  4. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on August 18, 2008 at 11:09 pm
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    @ Karen Braswell:

    Thank you.

    Personal blogs are important to me, as that is what I started – well, sort of. When I started “blogging” before blogging had a name, our site featured a combination of personal stories about preparing to take our life on the road combined with technical articles on travel and photography and life on the road. It continues that way today – sharing our expertise with our life on the road stories.

    In fact, I will soon be sharing the “draft” of our book of our life on the road via that blog – bringing up the level of storytelling.

    I love personal blogs and have learned so much – I didn’t have room to share all the brilliance I’ve found over the years. I have NEVER dissed personal blogs. Sure, I’ve whined at the time wasters that flood the web, but that’s true of business blogs just as much as personal blogs. :D

    Stay tuned for more on the subject of personal blogs as I believe there is a huge audience of people who want to know how to share their passions with the world around them without all the hype over income, SEO – turning their blogs into businesses. And I’ll also cover how to turn your personal blog into a business, but step-by-step over time as not to change how you blog or why, but how to bring in a little money in addition to keep it “personal” on your blog.

    Interested?

    Want more?

    Reply

  5. By Rob posted on August 19, 2008 at 4:42 am
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    Lorelle, thanks so much for this post. I’ve been trying to improve my blog in many ways, and most of the ideas have come from posts on professional blog sites. But I was getting the vibes that I should be aiming at quitting my day job to make a living by doing my blog. Not only was that simply not going to happen, it was not anything I was even aspiring to. I blog to share good clean humor with those who want it and to share some things about our lives for those who are interested. Thank you for helping bloggers like me not feel like the dregs of the blogosphere! :-)

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  6. By Karen Braswell posted on August 19, 2008 at 5:17 am
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    @ Lorelle: Certainly, I want more! And I’ll definitely stay tuned. Honestly, I’m rather new to blogging, and I don’t know a whole lot about business or personal blogs, but I know I felt a connection with the writers yesterday, when I was reading the examples you provided. Their posts reminded me of why I started writing in the first place, and it had nothing to do with SEO and traffic count.

    You say you didn’t have room to share all the brilliance you’ve found over the years, but I think the choices you made were excellent, especially the first post. I loved the way it began, “I don’t like the world, right at this particular minute.” Who hasn’t felt that way, at one time or another? I felt like I was curled up with a good book, instead of sitting at my desk on the computer.

    You’ve definitely displayed personal blogs in a new light for me. I’m looking forward to hearing (actually, reading) what else you have to say!

    Reply

  7. By Tibi Puiu posted on August 20, 2008 at 2:58 pm
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    Lorelle, again, this is some fabulous writing. As always, very inspiring. Thank you!

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  8. By monstacha posted on August 27, 2008 at 1:34 am
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    Awe-inspiring entry!

    I personally think that personal blogs are a good record of our past, present and for future read. When we read back our past entries, we learned from the mistakes and become better persons.

    It’s not only a way to tell the world ‘Hey I’m still alive’..It’s much more than that.

    :)

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  9. By myraine posted on October 7, 2008 at 12:17 am
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    I think personal blogs may serve as reference for future internet users.

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  10. By Donna posted on January 3, 2009 at 12:44 am
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    I’m the author of the diabetes blog you quoted and wanted to take a minute to thank you for letting others know about the wacky nature of the disease and its management. I saw the linkback here and was pleased to see someone else gets it. And I, too, thank you for not ‘hating’ personal blogs. I’ve learned a lot about diabetes from others who have it, some good, some bad. How cool to see it quoted here.

    Reply

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