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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

If Blogging Were Mothering...

You may have noticed a few posts around here lately about trying to organize myself better, carve out more space to do the research and writing I really want to do, be a better mother. In the juggling of balls that is every mother's life, there will always be the need to reevaluate priorities and renegotiate boundaries. That is simply what it means to be a mother. When our infants are waking up around the clock for feedings, we trim back other obligations to devote the time to them; when our preschoolers stop napping, we find other ways to sneak in time for child-free tasks; when our older kids start needing rides to practice sessions and games, we rearrange our errands schedule. I do not mean to suggest that mothering is about never looking out for oneself. Instead what I mean to say is that mothering is a process of constant negotiation: we consider not just our needs but also those of our family, and we make choices that best balance those (sometimes competing) needs.

So today's topic is the blogging version of the age-old mothering question: how do you balance your needs as a writer and reader of blogs with those of your own readers? Or whose efforts at doing that do you most admire? Because we all know that for the vast majority of us, reading and writing and commenting and responding to comments are only a teensy tinsy fraction of our days. We have "real" jobs -- as parents, teachers, writers, accountants, ad execs, and many other things -- and real families. Our blogging families, our commenters and readers, are vital and important, but they are not our entire lives.

So how do you find a balance? How much time do you spend in Bloggyworld every day? Divided up how? Do you read just a few blogs and feel close to all their authors? Read hundreds and never care if they respond back to you personally? What do you hope for or expect in return for comments you leave on others' blogs?

I've posted a little survey of three questions in my sidebar (please answer all three), but I'd love input -- and encourage conversation -- here in the comments too. What are your personal guidelines for blogging?


All Adither said...

Always a conundrum. I try to sneak it in in bits and pieces throughout the day. I often think: if only I could write fiction this way. But I can't.

That's one thing I love about blogging and reading blogs is that it can be done quickly here and there.

bejewell said...

Hi there, I'm so glad you posted this!! It's really keeping in line with my post over the weekend and with your comment to that post, which I really appreciated and should already have responded to. Sorry.

To answer your questions, I have a short attention span, so I tend to click around a lot. I also vary what I do from blogging session to blogging session. I have my favorites, yours included, which are all bookmarked (I don't use a reader) and sometimes I will just go down the list. Other times I'll just start with whatever comments I got on my latest post in an effort to give back and maybe discover something new.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm generally bad about leaving comments. I looooove to read everything but I don't usually leave a comment unless (a) I have something funny or interesting to say, in my own very humble opinion or (b) I feel like I should comment because the blogger has commented on The Bean more than once and I haven't reciprocated or (c) I have a desperate, momentary need to get somebody's attention.

I wish I had time to comment more, or even read more, because I just LOVE it! Since I've discovered the blogosphere it's like a whole new world has opened up to me. But, like you, I don't have 5 hours to spend lost in Blogland. I have a toddler, a day job, and a need for sleep. So that limits me a lot. Unfortunately.

I don't know what I expect in return for a comment, I guess it depends on the comment AND the blog. If it's a big blog that gets a lot of traffic, I don't expect a response at all (but I have been surprised a few times -- Crash Test Mommy has responded to each of my comments through email, which I find spectacular). If it's a smaller blog I usually check previous posts to see how they deal with comments - many, like me (usually,except for this weekend's anomaly), will post a comment of their own to respond, and I have a lot of fun going back to see what they had to say. (Alias Mother is one of these - she is hilarious.)

I've never really thought about the fluid nature of the community, but that is definitely true. I guess my "community" varies daily, depending on what I'm doing at the time. I wish I could give you a more solid answer than that, but alas, I can't.

Thanks again so much for the feedback... I so appreciate your comment and the opportunity to keep the dialogue going!

lattemommy said...

My commitment to the blogosphere waxes and wanes on a regular basis (like you haven't noticed, right?). Most days I read blogs, but it's not unusual for my reader to pile up ridiculously. There are probably 5 or 6 blogs that I read religiously, every day.

I often comment when I read a blog, but usually only if I have something to contribute to the conversation. The only time I leave "me too" type comments is when I want my good friends to know I've been around, so that they don't think I've been ignoring their blog. (However, some days I don't even have time for those comments. But those people know I still love them, right? :))

I never expect a reply to a comment. However, I do enjoy when I get one, particularly if it continues the conversation in a way. I never expect anyone who gets a comment from me to reciprocate with a visit to my blog. There are too many blogs out there, and nobody can read them all.

I'm not out here to be the most popular chick in the school. I'm just here to read, enjoy, commisserate, and (some days) not feel so alone. Anything else is gravy.

auds at barking mad said...

Perhaps the state of my house is a better answer to this question vs. a written one. *lol*

Because I spend time writing, outside of the blogosphere, I don't get as much time as I would like, devote to my blog and others I enjoy. I'm not able to comment on every post I read, as much as I would like to.

I do have several bloggers I made a concerted effort to read and comment every single day. I feel like there's a kinship there and I'd like to nurture it. That's part of why I love "networking" aspect of blogging. Not only are you given a chance to grow as a writer, but to build friendships through not only your love of writing, but other things that connect us - parenthood, frustration, elation, commiseration...you get where I'm going. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it is a reciprocal thing.

As far as other women who I admire who I think are trying to attain some sort of balance, one of them is Foolery. Just from my own limited observations, she has a real rapport with her readers and those she reads - well from what I've seen. I've grown to really enjoy her back and forth banter via her comments and those she leaves on other blogs. Not only that, she makes a concerted effort to not just leave a typical comment - you know the kind I'm talking about...

"cute kid, great photo"

"Ha ha ha , so amusing, you're hysterical"


Not that any of those comments are not genuine. It's just that after a while, I'm sure you and others sense a trend and it's kind of like those who leave "serial comments" similar to those I've mentioned above don't take the time to connect to those who write the blogs they read. And maybe that's how they themselves reconcile the balance issue between their own lives and that of the blogosphere.

And I'm certainly not saying that any of my regular commenters/readers don't make a genuine effort to leave a thought-filled comment, rather than just a few adjectives. But Foolery reaches into the words of your post and addresses those, personally and with thought.

I'd really love to be able to figure out how to balance this all. My own needs as a writer are very intermingled with how I write on my blog, yet they aren't. Does that make sense? Sometimes I hold back on my blog, which leaves me feeling like I'm not being genuine with my readers...like I'm cheating them out of the real me. And perhaps that shows in the comments I leave others. Although lately, my comments on others work are some of my BEST WORK! Go figure.

Of course, like so many others, there are times when we get ourselves caught up in a cycle of "ok so she left me a comment so I have to go and leave her a comment" and it's hard to break that cycle because you don't want to hurt any feelings. And I would be dishonest if I said that occasionally my feelings didn't get a little tweaked by not getting a reciprocal comment. But I have grown to understand that it's not neccesarily a judgement on my writing if I don't get a return comment on something I've written. It's sometimes just the way things are.

And you're right MT, our readers and commenters are not our whole lives. But I do feel like, given the time and opportunity to leave a decent comment (and how do I say this without sounding so vain and condescending?) that in a small way I'm helping build the network that fuels the unique bond we all share.

Did any of that make sense?

I don't know if I have any personal guidelines for blogging. It's kind of a give and take situation. It's not too unlike having a book published. You want your book to be read, purchased and well thought of. You want the adulation of critics and readers alike that usually materializes in the form of a hefty advance and royalties - much the same way a blogger wants loads of comments and praise and to be featured on others blogrolls.

The hard part is not letting the fact that you don't rake in huge royalties/comments and spots on coveted bestseller lists/blogrolls affect your own perception of yourself as a writer.

It's all about balance. And I'd love to know how some women who have found success in both the blogging and publishing world, find that balance. I'd love to learn just a little from them.

Great post MT. Sorry for the novel of a comment. It touched on something inside me that I've been trying to articulate for some time and your post sparked my need to write this all out.

I'm going to come back often to this to see how others answer it. Maybe I'll learn something.

MultiplesMommy said...

Helllllooooooooo! Are you there?? How apropos that you posted this today about balance, seeing as you've been ignorning my phone calls for days (sob, sob) and I'm your REAL LIVE family. (Your father and mother cry in the night because you are gone...)

It's clear from the way I come and go on your blog that I have not managed to achieve bloggy balance myself. Husband will tell you that I have gotten involved in WAY too many things lately, which has taken up my blogging time as well as my family time and free time and even sleeping time (I've been up working since 4:30 am 'cause I just had too much to do to sleep!) I tend to blog while I eat breakfast or lunch--hey, I'm sitting anyway, might as well multi-task! When you figure out the magic balance formula, let me know. And in the meantime, CALL ME so we can plan our vacation! :-)

D Austin said...

I have a few blogs I read occasionally. About early morning OR late night, when the children are asleep, once a day. I am relieved to discover the blogging world, but it CAN be addicting (or my personality is such), so although it inspires, motivates and cheers me to have a forum for writing, it is also something I try to carefully manage: like Toberlone chocolate or World of Warcraft use. Oh, yeah, I need to finish my dishes.

McMommy said...

you know...it's funny that you wrote this because it's something I've been thinking about recently.

For awhile there, I was spending lots of my free time commenting on other blogs. But then life got in the way. And what can I say...my kids and my husband will always be my first priority.

So lately, I've become a lurker again....I do lots of reading of other blogs, but hardly comment. It's enjoyable and freeing to me to actually just sit back and read the blogs without feeling the necessity to HAVE to comment.

I love writing for my blog. And I'm honored and appreciative that people come back to read it everyday. But I don't want to get swallowed into that "u comment I follow" mentality...that's just a mental breakdown waiting to happen, you know?

Cocoa said...

With all the things I have to do each day beside just being a mom - blogging, homeschool, farming, sewing, etc - I HAVE to stick to a schedule and hope I can most everything done in the allotted time.

For blogging in particular I have folders in my Goggle Reader for family blogs that I read once a week, blogs I read everyday (you're one!), and other blogs that I like to scan every few days. I try to leave comments but sometimes I just can't think of anything worthwhile that's not just the standard "cute", "so funny", etc. I'd rather not say anything at all. I do try to remember to comment back or reply in an e-mail when someone comments. I always enjoy when another blogger took the time to reply to something I've said.

As far as writing - well, you've seen my blog - I'm not much of a writer at all. It takes a lot of energy just for me to come up with something and even more to expound on it. I do have a notebook where I write down ideas etc. I love that Blogger now lets you schedule when a post will be published. That has been a huge time saver for me. I try to dedicate only one morning a week to creating posts. Darren Rowse at Problogger wrote an article about what he calls batch processing. There are some good ideas there.

Twenty Four At Heart said...

I read a lot of blogs on my reader and if a blogger responds in their comment section chances are I never see their response. I love to hear from people when I leave comments, but I don't expect it. With my blog, I do try to respond by email to readers comments. I am a new blogger and I want them to know how much I appreciate them taking the time to comment. I have a pretty high readership for just starting out, but not that many people comment still so I like to encourage them with a response. When they comment it reminds me that I am not just blogging to myself! Also, I think I have the nicest readers and so I really do enjoy hearing from them AND responding ... I feel like we get to know each other a little bit and that is rewarding. I have set a goal for myself to try and comment more on other blogs - because if I enjoy the feedback so much, I am sure other writers do too! Great post today!

LceeL said...

"the juggling of balls" ... isn't that part of how you got to Mothers in the first place?

And yes, I'm going to apologize NOW, just in case you're curious.

Ms Picket To You said...

ahh, balance. had my tarot cards read recently is this balance card was the number one supremo important card. figures.

i do bits and pieces of reading and commenting throughout the day. i feel connected and invested in a few blogs and bloggers and some have become friends, like real non-virtual friends. i wrote for myself at about the same time every day (oddly enough, the cocktail hour -s) and the kids generally make themselves busy then so it works.

still, i do sometimes feel guilty about hogging the screen, or having to say, what? what didya say? because i was caught up reading something online. but then again, this is one of the few things i love to do that is just about me (not about my kids, my husband, etc etc) and i figure it's a better use of my time then say getting a daily massage. though that would be nice too.

thanks for making me think about it.

K8spade said...

I've written a few posts about how I don't understand how people do it. Meaning, how bloggers -- more specifically, parent bloggers -- balance their lives. I have a very hard time with it, as is evidenced by the 576 feeds clogging my reader.

I don't post enough, and I don't comment enough (in my opinion), so I don't have (enough?) readers. I'm trying to make a real effort to remedy all of the above, even if it means writing short posts and skipping through some of the feeds.

San Diego Momma said...

Lately, I've noticed more and more bloggers choose to stop posting because it's so time-consuming. And with each blog closure, I re-evaluate my own schedule.

I've got to admit that I don't have much of a balance. For blogging, and commenting, and twittering, I often ignore my family...and in fact, my daughters are currently parked in front of the TV as I write this comment.

So...it's consumed much of my time (probably 3 hours a day) and the sad thing is (in the interest of keeping it real), that I don't want to stop. I love the creative expression afforded by my blog and the community I've found through blogging. I think overall, it makes me a happier person and keeps me connected to another self outside of my mom self.

BUT, maybe I'm in denial.

I DO need to find a better balance though...I find I scramble for time to compose a post (as today's post will testify to) and often post nonsense just to keep blogging on a regular basis. I just don't have enough mental energy sometimes to do it all.

(What were your questions?)

Oh yes. I read 5-6 blogs daily. Most of them are mommy bloggers (but mommy bloggers who DON'T always talk about mothering). For the blogs I read often, I feel an affinity with the authors. I try to leave regular comments b/c I want them to know I admire their writing. I like it when I hear back from the blogger in any way (usually I like to know they read me too because then I feel like it's a two-way relationship, but this isn't a dealbreaker for me. Plenty of people I read don't know who the heck I am).

Better peel the kids off the couch now...

Kimmylyn said...

When I first started blogging i was reading anything and everything.. but then I realized that I found a style blog that I liked and kept those as my favorites..lately it has been hard to stop by even my fav (ahem urs because of the summertime and just never being home) I typically reply via email on any comment left on my blog.. but again..when time allows.

Tara R. said...

Cool idea... the results were interesting to see. I've been trying to get a more sensible prespective on my blog lately and take it so seriously. I'm just glad that I'm not the only one reading it.

I like being able to repond to comments inside the comment, but will also follow and add a comment to the commenters blog.

atypeamommy said...

I'm very new to this world. A friend of mine sent me to your blog, so I thought I would say 'hello.' I enjoy your writing, but I'm probably not able to respond effectively to these questions. I am still not sure how you all even find time to write, much less comment!!

BusyDad said...

Oh MommyTime, you don't even want to know the science I apply to the process of commenting/visiting other blogs. Let's just say it involves Excel spreadsheets and weighted formulas. I ain't even kidding. I do this because I have hardly any time to devote to commenting/reading blogs so I have to make the little time I do have as efficient as possible. Go ahead say it... BD you are SUCH a nerd!

Melanie said...

I have no balance! As a newbie, this is something I'm struggling with. All the advice on growing an audience stresses content over quantity, but also consistency.

Sometimes I'm stressed over what to post, how to make it appealing, interesting and entertaining. I know I need to work on my writing skills but if I waited to post until I had something profound to say, there would be cricket sounds coming from my blog.

I love comments, and I love that I have a few "regulars." I try to respond to people as personally as I can because I so appreciate the time they took to leave me a few words. I try to leave comments often too. Sometimes just a "hey there!" but often something a little deeper. This is by far my longest ever!

I do most of my posting and reading in the wee hours (like now, it's 12:24am) so as not to ignore my "wife and mom" responsibilities too much. But there are days like yesterday where we spent the whole day in PJ's and I bounced on and off the computer in between other things.

I definitely think I'll get back into a schedule once school starts again.

Stacy (mama-om) said...

I love blogging for its immediacy, for being able to have lots of my own material to expand and riff on, and for making connections with other people.

But there comes a point when I feel my computer use is detracting from the quality of my time with my kids and husband. While I like to think I will just check "one thing," I can end up spending a lot of time online!

I try to respond to most comments, either by leaving comments or by replying in email (but this is a HUGE pain in blogger). I am not a fan of commenting in my own comments, maybe because I just don't have that large of a readership yet.

Just recently, it took me over a week to respond to comments and I chose to tell myself that that was "okay."

Nice topic!

Jen said...

I guess I'm still pretty new to the whole blogging thing, so I don't have a ton of commenters. I try to respond to comments by visiting the other person's blog. I guess I feel like if they took the time to comment then I would like to reciprocate, but as McMommy stated, it may turn into a mental breakdown trying to "keep up". Even though I only have a modest amount of comments, I am having a hard time with it. This is definitely an interesting topic and I've enjoyed reading everyone else's take on it.

MommyTime said...

I want you all to know how much I appreciate all this great and detailed feedback. When the poll closes, I'm going to have a follow up post that tries to draw some conclusions about people's preferences. One thing I have to say now though: THANK YOU to the so many of you who said that you don't expect a comment/visit in return for every single comment. I felt like I was going to lose my mind trying to do that. It's interesting knowing what works for you -- and look out for your names in the follow-up post next week!

mommypie said...

I'm SO bad at this. There are so many blogs I love (like YOURS!) and seem to never have the time to visit any more.

And when I blog/twitter/read when my daughter's awake, I feel overwhelming guilt for not playing with her.

The time I spend with the blogging community has become my much needed ME time. My ONLY Me time, really.

So, I stay up until 2 a.m., trying to get caught up. Which isn't healthy, either.

Or I squeeze some time in at work. Which I'm doing now. Which probably isn't the best idea.

It IS a conundrum.

foolery said...

"How do you balance your needs as a writer and reader of blogs with those of your own readers?"

One word answer:



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