My husband has never read my blog. Not once. Not. A. Single. Post.
In his defense, he hates the computer, and generally sees it as a huge time-sucker that exists purely to frustrate him whenever he tries to look up the price of used fishing boats for sale within a 65-mile radius. If he needs to launch a computer search for any item, he simply slaps a Post-It note in front of me with said item scrawled down and a directive to “Find this for me.” Otherwise, he avoids my office, and all related technology, like the Nordstrom Semi-Annual Sale.
On the other hand, living in a small town, where everybody knows everything about everyone, he’s come to the realization that a.) I have something called a “blog,” and b.) it apparently talks a lot about him. He came home last night and declared, “Today I ran into another 3 people who read that blog thing you do, and they think it’s hilarious that I’m afraid of spiders. What the hell are you telling people, woman??” Since it was becoming obvious to him that people around town knew more about him that he did, he decided it was time to learn a little bit about that “blog thing I do.” I promised to give him the short version, and “for God’s sake, stop talking” if his eyes started to glass over. And so the lesson began.
A “blog,” I explained, “is simply a personal journal on the computer, that other people can read.” “Like a diary?” he asked. “Yes.” “But diaries are for 12-year-olds. And they’re private. You’re 56. And you want people to read it?”
“Well,” I replied, “I’m not writing ‘Mrs. Kenny Claflin’ over and over in my little book, with little pink hearts in the margins. It’s not that kind of diary. More like personal anecdotes that hopefully people find funny. My blog is entertaining. But there are blogs on cooking, travel, parenting, and even fishing.” NOW I had his attention. “So even guys do this?” he asked, skeptically. I assured him that some of the most successful bloggers today are men, but I could tell that that portion of the lesson would have to wait until after the second margarita.
Then he looked over and dropped The Big Question. “So how do you know if you’re any good?”
“Most bloggers check their stats,” I told him. “We look at things like number of subscribers, page views, total comments, Facebook page ‘Likes,’ Twitter followers, or how often a post is shared or retweeted.”
“Okay,” he replied, “I don’t know half of what you just said, and I’m pretty sure if I ever use the word ‘retweet’ on the job site, I’ll never work in construction again, but statistics are meaningless unless you compare them to other statistics. So how do you do that?”
We sat down in front of my computer and I fired up a few of my favorite blogs. “See this one? She’s great. She’s got 1200 Facebook ‘Likes.'” “How many do you have?” he asked. “Right now, 5000 or so.” “What does that mean?” “It means I’m doing good,” I smiled, “Until you see this one. She’s got 10,00 ‘Likes.’ Now I suck.”
Then I showed him a Twitter account. “See, she’s got 2300 followers. I have 4500. So I’m feeling pretty good. Until I see this one. She’s got 15,000. And before you ask, that means I suck.” “Wow,” he said slowly, “this blogging thing is kind of brutal. Why do you do this?” I thought about that for a moment and replied, “Because the words have to go somewhere. The stories are inside my head, and my blog gives them a place to go.”
As I struggled to explain exactly why I spend untold hours in front of the computer, between work, family obligations, and social commitments with people who are actually standing in the same room (as opposed to a Facebook page), I replied, “It’s a connection. Writing can be a very isolating. Blogging gets you involved with other people. Maybe they’re readers who stop you at Safeway or send a comment to say they love your work, or they’re other bloggers who understand your passion, the highs and lows, the glory days of great posts, and the days it’s clear you’re a total hack and should become a middle-aged cocktail waitress at the local Elk’s Club. It’s not only about the writing. You’re sharing energy.” “Okay,” he said, “I think I’m getting it.”
So as I closed the computer (vowing to limit my stat checking to once daily), I assured Kenny that although I freely and unabashedly share stories about our personal life with my readers, it was all fun and the truly humiliating tales were at my expense, not his. In fact, I added, his character was becoming quite a hero, having committed before God and a dozen of our closest friends and family to stay beside me forever, despite my embarrassingly steady stream of epic fails.
“Well,” he said, “I’m still not entirely sure about this blogging thing, but I know you love it, and everyone in town” (that would be you, Mom) “seems to think you’re good at it, so I’ll just keep providing material, I guess, right?”