There’s a popular video game called Portal, a virtual world of puzzles, mind-benders, and a robotic voice that constantly chips away at your self esteem. Sounds like a blast! There are promises of cake, yes even in a video game, and when you get to the point in the game where you think you’ve done it, you’ve won, the snide robotic voice says: there is no cake. And then you’re pushed along into another new realm of the game. Enter sad horns – wah-waaaaaaah…
That’s kind of the point, isn’t it? There is no cake. You’re running through life’s maze like a lab rat, but there’s no bonus “cake hatch” opening from the ether to hand you a scrumptious slice of Red Velvet. Would be nice, though. I feel like that’s sort of how it is with blogging. There really is no ultimate end-point to it, you’re basically living out a virtual life for others to observe and interact with. And short of a total internet zombie apocalypse meltdown, we in our bloggy worlds will continue to spin along our axis, posting observations about the world at large. That really is the pure mindset behind blogging, an open diary to the universe and all the random souls we are thankful for reading these messages. It’s why I’m sure bloggers continue to do it, knowing there is no end point. There is no cake, but we’re okay with that.
We’re entering into fall and I realized I’ve been “The Magpie” for two years now. I originally started this blog in the summer of 2009. I’d have sung a song, worn a funny hat and lit some candles back in July, to celebrate the Magpie’s second birthday, but I’m just another overworked, overstressed bad mom who totally forgot her little blog’s birthday (sorry, Birdy). Maybe it’s adding insult to injury by titling this post “There is No Cake,” given the birthday snub, but I felt like it’s almost better to celebrate something that continues to move forward, versus the signpost milestones. I was talking with other bloggers recently, which can be a therapeutic thing, and we traded tales of writing posts at 1 or 2 in the morning, or in my case, draining my brain, writing several at a time and getting them lined up for the weeks that I know will be too hectic to write. But the message gets out there, whatever idea or inspiration, demanding to be heard, like some disturbing inner voice in one’s head. Or maybe that’s a sign of psychosis. I think at the heart of every blog is a storyteller and a need to leave a footprint in the sand. That’s where blogging is good, when it provides its own personal therapy and unlocks a new understanding of the way we approach each day. The best stories are the ones that continue, without a pat “happily ever after.”
The pop culture that surrounds blogging is what can potentially doom itself, creating so much of a marketing presence that it eclipses the blog itself, and it becomes more product than personal journal. I was updating this blog’s presskit recently, something that had been so overdue, I’m ashamed to say how overdue it was, and I hadn’t really looked at the blog’s numbers in a long time. While pleasantly surprised, I still remember when I first started checking the Magpie’s “stats,” poring over every visitor, wondering if it was someone I knew, how they came to find the blog, and doing everything except the most crucial thing, which is writing a post. I often dislike that I need to have a press kit, that it's vital to track the number of visitors or wonder if I should be flying off to a blogging conference where all they want to talk about is SEO and social media. I do the bare minimum in terms of marketing. Unless I have to, I don’t pay attention to stats. I won’t go to a blogging conference because I don’t think they improve a blog, they just produce more content streams that are sales-driven. I use Twitter, not just for sending post links, but because I genuinely enjoy chatting with people I’ve met, and it makes you feel a little more connected, especially for someone who works from home in a quiet house.
If there was any advice I could share with someone who is wanting to start a blog, or someone who has one but is concerned about readership – forget the rules. Blogs are reflections of ourselves, the daily lives we inhabit, no matter how mundane they may seem, and the best ones are written honestly, willing to share the good days as well as the bad ones. Bloggers often say the meaning of humility is to read the first post they ever wrote. It’s likely wooden, nervous and devoid of personality, the written equivalent of stage fright. But that’s the nice thing about blogging, you can post as often or as little as you like, but the more often you write, the more developed the posts become. They ultimately take on a life of their own and inherit aspects of your personality. This is why we blog. There is no “the end,” there is no cake. We blog to bring life to a living, breathing journal, and with every new post, we share some of ourselves with the world and leave a little footprint in the sand. So it's totally OK about the "no cake" thing.
Jaunty Fine Print: illustration by Denise Sakaki