Friday, June 01, 2007

Talking About An Evolution

The BlogRhet meme is like a meme gone military. Instead of trickling through the blogosphere, meandering from one blog to another in the traditional manner of memes, or even exploding exponentially like the Thinking Blogger meme did a few months ago, it has been deployed from central headquarters and it’s blasting through entire swathes of the blogosphere, taking no prisoners.

And it has elicited some fascinating stories about the evolution of style. Lawyer Mama describes herself as comfortable enough now, after almost a year of blogging, to pull back some of the layers of herself, while Mad Hatter confesses to being just a little bit gun-shy – she’s become a more cautious blogger, careful not to give offence. Many others have talked about the evolution of blogging from a private online diary to a communal enterprise.

So it is with a sinking feeling that I turn to this meme, realizing that my experience of writing this blog has remained almost entirely static over the 50-odd weeks I’ve been doing it. I have always been a blurter, compelled to reveal way too much about myself even to audiences far less sympathetic than the momosphere, and to this day I’m still not especially good at covering my butt. I started this blog shortly after discovering Her Bad Mother and Sunshine Scribe (my first two commenters), and a quick glance at my archives will reveal that I established my habit of commenting-on-comments very early on, including a back-and-forth exchange with Marla during my first week of blogging in which she actually returned to respond to my comment on her comment. It’s always been about the back-and-forth for me (though I don’t think that means that I place less value on the writing aspect).

So instead of answering the interview questions one by one (because, as you know, I think I’m too good to do anything in the straightforward, usual way), I think I’ll answer them all at once.

The Evolution of a Blogger

Then: My posts served the purpose of staking out the territory of my blog. Blogger didn’t offer labels back then, but each post introduced a topic or theme I considered integral to what my blog would be: one post about the Pie, one about the Bub, one on mommy-politics, one embarrassing story from my teenage years. I probably overestimated how much I would have to say about the cultural politics of motherhood, but otherwise I was carving out a niche that I have occupied ever since.
Now: I continue to write about my children, my experience of motherhood, and my torturous high-school years, but I also throw in posts about bubbles, toast, my period, the seven deadly sins, Victorian fashions, and caramel apples. This is not exactly new territory for me, however. When I handed in a journaling assignment in grade seven, my teacher wrote that I had a tendency to focus excessively on trivia (a criticism I rebutted in my next entry, a passionate defence of trivia as the very stuff of life).

Then: My motive for blogging was to be read by the funny, articulate, dazzling women of the blogosphere.
Now: My motive for blogging is to be read by the funny, articulate, dazzling women of the blogosphere.

Then: Commenting functioned as currency. It was like free advertising space, right there at the end of every post. I could click my way through the blogosphere, scattering a trail of crumbs wherever I went, hoping that somebody would follow them back home to my blog. (And I put a lot of effort into those crumbs – they had to look all casual and crumbly-like, but really they were laced with as much chocolatey goodness as I could manage without looking like I was trying too hard.)
Now: Commenting functions as courtesy. This week I left a few comments at brand-new (to me) blogs, ones I had stumbled upon by picking up their temptingly chocolatey crumb-comments at Mom-NOS’s place. (I love her blog. Is it wrong, though, that every time I click over there I sing, "Come on, Mominos! Everybody let’s go!"?) It has been a long while since the last time I went out of my way to visit someone new. Usually these days, I visit my regulars, follow up on comments others leave here, and when I comment it is because there's something I want to say, some encouragement or support I want to offer.

Then: I signed up for SiteMeter (after realizing that’s how you find out about all the crazy Google searches), then struggled to limit the number of times I checked my blog throughout the day, hoping to reach a point where my own visits would constitute less than half the total daily traffic.
Now: I check my stats twice a day, no longer bothering to calculate how many of them are me. My traffic has risen steadily, with the biggest bumps coming after these two posts. (Both were about the dark side – of blogging as well as parenting – and don’t think that I haven’t been tempted to mine my life for whatever darkness I can dredge up, hoping to duplicate the formula.) My Technorati rating has plunged since the links to those posts have dropped off the radar, but I only pay attention to Technorati on a bad day. On a good day, the only stat that matters to me is the number of comments, because that’s the one that has least to do with my insecurity and most to do with the enjoyment of blogging.

Then: I passionately yearned for a Perfect Post award. It was the grown-up equivalent of getting the academic achievement plaque in grade eight (and unless you’re new around here, you know the insatiable greed I felt about that). When Mommy-off-the-Record awarded me one in only my second month of blogging, my glee considerably outstripped what I felt when, say, I defended my Ph.D. dissertation.
Now: I give myself stern talking-to’s about not caring about awards, remembering that I’ve already gotten my fair share, realizing it’s really all about community and not about winning … and then I am overcome with glee when I discover that Miscellaneous-Mum has nominated Good Audience/Bad Audience for this month’s awards. (And! – breaking news – Pundit Mom nominated me too, for my Biography of Period. That's proof, I think, that my grade-seven teacher was wrong about the value of trivia. Thanks, you guys!)

Then: I was aware of my potential audience but also defensive, fending off potential criticisms. In my first post, about weaning the Pie, I threw in a little back-off-haters disclaimer, "And yes," I wrote, after claiming that the Pie was weaning herself, "I know that Babies Under a Year Old Do Not Self-Wean, and all nursing problems can be solved with sufficient quantities of fenugreek/blessed thistle/gentian violet and the assistance of Dr. Jack Newman."
Now: I no longer expect to find the lactation police lurking in the bushes, ready to jump out at me if I don’t continue breastfeeding well into toddlerhood. My audience has changed from "them" to "you." It was a long time before I could end my posts with a question without a little thrill of panic. What if nobody answered? I trust my audience now to answer when I call, to accept my darkest confessions without judgment, and to give me a much-needed slap about the head when I mention my lax habits with regard to thank-you notes.

Then: My paragraphs were 15-20 lines long.
Now: My paragraphs are about ten lines long. Or shorter.

Then: I used words like schadenfreude, fenugreek, and preternatural.
Now: I use words like tautological, unconscionable, and extemporaneous, but also haters, meme, and asshat. (Actually, I don’t use the word asshat. But I like to talk about it anyway.) I don’t believe my style is influenced by my sense of audience, but it is undoubtedly influenced by the blogs I read, both in terms of the stylistic experimentation they encourage (the Monday missions, for example) and their jaunty casualness. Blogging has allowed me to recover from years of academic writing, to the point that I can add commas to compound predicates with impunity, use intentional sentence fragments with alarming frequency, and employ the words "you" and "your" to mean not only my readers but people in general. Do I owe you guys a thank-you for that, or an apology?

Now for the tags (feeling like It in a game where there are all-too-few players still on the field, and they’re fleeing madly): Jenifer, Sage, and Mary (Owlhaven). How has your blogging evolved? (For the real questions, check out the link to BlogRhet at the top. Otherwise, feel free to make it up as you go along. That’s what I did.)


nomotherearth said...

Since you were my very first commenter, I have you to thank that my blog evolved at all. So - THANK YOU!

I return to your blog time and again, because I'm never quite sure what I'm going to get. I love that.

Kyla said...

Ahhh, I loved this. Even though this meme is popping up all over, I am thoroughly enjoying everyone's responses. I wasn't around for everyone's beginnings and it is nice to hear about them from the blogger's perspective.

Bon said...

i knew i wanted to read what you had to say on this. thanks for being game in spite of the fact that we're all a leetle meme-weary. :)

like you, i started from the assumption that there were haters out there, that the politics of mothering were as vitriolic here as everywhere else in my world...but no. not at all, or very seldom. how wonderful and bizarre.

you know, i don't see you saying asshat. but i like the idea. perhaps a youtube clip - "Bub & Pie swears in internet-ese"...oh, the fame!

Mad Hatter said...

I still like the metaphor you used once about being the curate in your own little country parish. "Give me some'o'dat ole time religion," that's what I say.

Jenifer said...

Oh Oh Oh.
I will try to do you justice oh wise one!

slouching mom said...

You are one of the brightest people I have "met" in a long time.

Bravo; this response is fantastic.

And this?

And I put a lot of effort into those crumbs – they had to look all casual and crumbly-like, but really they were laced with as much chocolatey goodness as I could manage without looking like I was trying too hard.

Spot on. And incredibly honest.

jen said...

you know, every time you use the word tautological i get the grins.

Christine said...

I'm with SM--very honest about the commenting aspect of it all. And i get that.

And the idea that your audience/commentors went from "them" to "you" is very interesting. That happened very quickly for me, and it is amazing.

Lawyer Mama said...

This was great! You also pointed me to a post of yours I hadn't read before (on popularity) and I wanted to jump right in to the comment conversation that's been over for some time.

And you really touched on why I think I was so cautious when I first began blogging. I came from mommy boards as well. And the cat fights there are stunning in ferocity. I didn't want to drag that into my *home* on the internet. I hadn't thought about it before, but now I'm convinced that's how I started with the attitude I did.

Kit said...

I love your analogy of comments as chocolatey crumbs.

I feel the same - comments on my blog are whole chocolate biscuits, that keep me enthused and writing to get more chocolate fixes. At the beginning I was also commenting in the hope that a few people would follow the trail and share their cookies with me too.

Girl con Queso said...

I love this. And I love to use the word tautological. And I would love to sit with you and have coffee and just hear you think outloud anyday.

Blog Antagonist said...

I enjoyed reading your meme. I've experienced a lot of similar thoughts and my blog has undergone a similar evolution.

I enjoyed your period piece, but then, I enjoy all your pieces.

Pieces said...

I love your description of leaving comments laced with chocolatey goodness. If I wasn't so lazy about commenting on the one BILLION blogs I read, maybe more people would follow me home.

cinnamon gurl said...

Wow, that's really cool that your Blog Ambition post -- the first post of yours I ever read and commented on -- was one that generated new traffic. I always figured you must have been extremely well established and one of the Big Bloggers.

Great post again! So much to love... the crumbs and chocolatey goodness, the blurter admission, the perspective. Love it!

Suz said...

My blog has had a very different evolution, mainly because I started writing as an infertile blogger and adopted all of that community's conventions, styles, and topics of that community. I blogged for therapy and for comfort. The knowledge that I wasn't the only one going through it, that there were others out there was crucial during those years.

I always thought that I would stop blogging once the twins were here and I did, for about three months.

However, I found that there were still things that I wanted to say, that being a mother brought its own moments and its own questions. Although I decided to keep blogging, I've missed the infertile community. I guess that I'm still on the edge of the mommy bloggers. Sometimes it feels like the right place and sometimes it doesn't. It seems that I'm still trying to find just where I belong, which is pretty much how I feel right now as mother, so maybe my blog is just as it needs to be, after all.

ewe are here said...

This is great, really great. It is fascinating to see how peoples' approaches to blogging change over time.

While I like all your 'now and thens', I like your comment on how your blog 'sounds' now, i.e., a little less academic. Your blog has always been spectacularly well-written and I've always enjoyed your posts. I think my 'now and then' when it comes to blog style hasn't changed much; my goal has always been to keep it sounding like everyday me, not academic/lawyer me. My academic papers were always much more formal (for obvious reasons), but I've always preferred 'plain english' in my own writing.

Mary G said...

I have yet to find a shaky comma anywhere in anything you write. And I love it all. This is really fascinating.
I love it all, but I think what I love most is your devastating honesty.

Gunfighter said...


What about dazzling, funny, intelligent men of the blogosphere?

My feelings have been hurt!

... and I thought Canadians were nice people!


bubandpie said...

Oops. What I really meant was the dazzling, funny, intelligent women and Denguy and Gunfighter of the blogosphere.

Her Bad Mother said...

What does asshat mean, anyway?

I love how you've evolved, sister. (And I sing - or think - Come on. Momanos!, too)

Bobita~ said...

Your blog is like candy for me. Chocolate candy.

Thanks for leaving those little chocolate covered crumbs in the blogosphere so that I might find you.

Momish said...

Your evolution has lifted the blogging world to a new level.

I can't imagine you ever sitting by your computer worried about NOT receiving any awards!! That boggles me!