I learned some interesting things last week during the Ultimate Blog Party, both about myself and the world of blogging. One of the most interesting to me is the fact that some people hoard followers like many people I've encountered hoard Facebook friends.
It seems like there's a big competition to get as many followers as possible, regardless of whether said followers actually read your blog. I got quite a few comments from people who were blog hopping saying nothing but "hi from the UBP, I'm your newest follower, I'd appreciate a follow back." Some of these people aren't even following (or if they are, they did it in some way that's invisible to me--is there a way to know if someone subscribed to one of your feeds in a way other than Google Friend Connect?) One person really did follow but removed herself a day later after I made a return trip to her blog but didn't follow her. Well, I have a confession to make: Google Friend Connect means nothing to me. I used it a little at the beginning, but I didn't really like the layout. Now if I build up a rapport with other writer-bloggers (meaning we both make several visits to each other) I'll eventually add them to my "Fellow Writers" blogroll, which best helps me keep track of when they post something new. The other blogs I check regularly I just have bookmarks to. If I start reading a larger number of non-writing-related blogs I might eventually have to start using some sort of feed burner, but I haven't felt the need so far. I joined some blogs just for giveaways a while back, and to be honest, I don't even know what I'm supposedly "following" anymore. Which, I suppose, means I could follow people just as a favor, but mostly I don't see a point. This isn't to say I don't like connecting with people, and if people joined my blog out of a genuine interest they are MORE than welcome here. But I just find it interesting how followers and following blogs seems to be a status symbol for many out in the blogging community.
Now, I guess some people with really commercial blogs might want those followers for something to do with sponsors and money, but that's also not me. Don't get me wrong, I would love for this blog to start earning me revenue--I did sign up for Google AdSense, after all, not that anybody ever clicks on my ads. At the rate I'm going, I'll get a $100 check once every 6 years or so. (Yowza, I'm rich!) I also signed up for Amazon Associates at the beginning and that probably had a better shot of earning me income considering that 1) my blog is book related and 2) I have plenty of friends and family who would have gotten to Amazon through me when they needed to buy stuff. However, Colorado passed some weird tax law not long after I signed up, causing Amazon to drop all Colorado Associates. Since that time I've decided that while it would be nice to make money from my blog, I'm not going to put the time and effort required into getting it to that point, because frankly, I'd rather be writing.
This has mainly made me stop and think about what I'm blogging for. And the biggest benefit I've received from blogging is that it helps me hold myself accountable with my writing. Scroll back up to the top of the page, if you would, and take a look at the very first item in my right sidebar. The blue number with the pale green background. Yup, that's the number of consecutive days that I've spent writing fiction in some form or another. Some days I've written thousands of words, many others it was all I could do to write 150 or 200 sleep-deprived words before dragging myself off to bed; some days it's just editing and rewriting, and yet other times it's research, but it's always directly related to a piece of fiction.
I long wanted to get into the habit of writing every day, but years went by without my pulling together the self-discipline to do so. But then something happened last year around about September: I was really enthused about the novel I was working on and I wanted to work on it every day. After I hit 30 consecutive days, I thought it would be fun to put a counter on my blog to keep track of how long I could go without stopping, kind of like the "Days Without Accident" counters at construction sites. And as more time went by, I found I really didn't want that thing to reset to zero. And I still don't. Telling the world (even this tiny corner of it) what kind of progress I'm making has been a great motivator for me, and has really helped me become a more disciplined--and therefore more productive and better--writer. Some days are better than others, of course, but I've managed not to stop. And that has been a tremendous accomplishment.
Connecting with people has been a great benefit as well. It's nice to get encouragement from others, whether it's a "congratulations" when I accomplish something or a "you can do it" when I express frustration. And I don't blog exclusively about writing. It goes back and forth, but I try to maintain about a 50/50 ratio between writing-related posts and posts about my wonderful son (or life in general.) I enjoy posting about things my son has done and the projects we do together. Being a stay-at-home-parent can be isolating (especially in my neighborhood, which we unfortunately failed to move out of) so I like being able to show my son off, share both proud and frustrating parenting moments, and connect with others on that score.
Since I've noticed that I'm different from most of the bloggers at the UBP, will I do it again next year? Probably. But I'll likely limit myself to looking for other writers and returning the visits of those who came to visit me. Although in another year or two, I hope to have a prize to give away that would interest other parents (the blog hosting the party is called 5 Minutes for MOM, after all): I'm hoping that soon hubby and I can get our children's Christmas book published, and a children's book would be something that would draw parental interest. (Only one person answered my question and said in her comment that she would like to win a scifi anthology, and that person also happens to be a real-world friend of mine.)
In conclusion, if you became a follower from the Ultimate Blog Party, please don't think I don't appreciate you. If you're actually reading this it means you came back for another look, something I suspect the follower-hoarders don't do. I will be trying to keep up with many of the people I connected with through the party, though I will likely be sporatic because, as I said before, writing takes priority in my limited free time. But please don't get offended if I don't follow your blog--that's just not the way I read blogs.