How do you make a living from something you enjoy without compromising your creativity? How do you find a balance between being creative and authentic while at the same time staying productive and reaching an audience? These are the questions I’ve been pondering on recently as I’ve resurrected my blog and started writing more regularly.
When I started blogging about 2 years ago, it was mainly as a project to keep myself busy between finishing my PhD and figuring out my next career move. I also wanted to learn some new skills, like how to build a website, use social media and write within a non-academic context.
For me the blog was a side project and possibly something that could be used as a writing portfolio. Although I told myself not to worry too much about the reach of my work and gaining followers, of course I wanted people to read my posts and engage with them. Very quickly I realised, social media engagement is a full time job and constantly coming up with new and original ideas for blog posts can be tricky if I was trying to maintain a weekly posting schedule.
I blogged infrequently on and off over the last couple of years and lately I’ve found myself in a more productive writing mood thanks to not having a full-time job. With the luxury of time, I realised the less I worried about target audiences, posting frequency and the reader’s take away from posts, the more I was writing about things I genuinely enjoy. In turn those posts also reached an audience, albeit a very modest audience.
The difficulty I face as a blogger is remaining authentic and original while trying to grow an audience. First of all, I don’t have a clue who my audience is. My blog is mainly based on personal experiences with the odd bit of history and feminism thrown in. I guess I’m a human writing for other humans to share some of the burdens of our confused existence.
Whenever I thought too much about how a post could be useful to the reader, I would end up with something that resembles a more generic ‘How to be happy in 10 steps’ post. But the truth is, I don’t know how to be happy in 10 steps, I’m not an authority to give advice. I’d rather just share my messy experiences and hope that people find solace in the fact that there’s somebody else out there whose life isn’t perfect either. At least those are the posts I enjoy reading the most.
There are things I love writing about which I know won’t find a big audience but I write them regardless. Some of my posts on historical topics for example might only appeal to a niche audience but I enjoy doing the research on those pieces and am also inspired by the people I write about. Equally, my little poetic, stream of consciousness ramblings might not be to everybody’s taste but they allow me to train a different writing skill set.
Yet, I do watch my stats and get disappointed when a post isn’t getting any reach or engagement on social media. I’m not sure how to solve this conundrum. Especially since I’m contemplating my options of making writing a job. I worry about maintaining a level of creativity and authenticity when the pressure is on not only to produce content on a regular basis but also content that reaches a bigger audience.
For now I’m trying to follow my gut and only write about things I really want to write about and post when I have something to say rather than posting for the sake of maintaining a schedule. While I enjoy some aspects of social media like connecting with people whose work I enjoy, I also find it draining to keep up with the constant communication and the fixation on reach, likes, retweets and shares.
Maybe disconnecting for a while and focussing on the work of artists, writers and creatives I admire to get inspiration might be a good idea. The constant virtual chatter can be distracting at times and I feel like I need to preserve my energy to figure out what kind of writer I want to be. I guess for me the key to being creative is to create something that makes me happy first instead of worrying about how it’s perceived by others.