Film critic David Edelstein made some pretty interesting comments about the Oscars this year. Most interesting was that Edelstein said that he knew Natalie Portman would win the Oscar. What Edelstein basically insinuated is that Portman, like Christian Bale and many other actors and actresses, are starting to act, seemingly, specifically so they can win the Oscar. Throughout Black Swan, for example, Edelstein says that you never forget that you are watching Natalie Portman act. You never forget how much weight she lost for the part. You never disappear into the story. In other words, Edeslstein is hypothesizing that actors are acting for the rewards, not because they find acting rewarding.
The Blog Rewards Program
It’s easy to fall into a similar trap in the blogosphere. You start out thinking, “Good grief, if I could just get 1 comment on a post telling me that what I’m saying is worthwhile, I’d be happy.” The gift of sharing your thoughts is enough to make you smile. But eventually, you start noticing that really powerful blog posts get the blogger certain things. You maybe get noticed by a really influential person. Maybe you get asked to write a book. Maybe you get retweeted so much that Twitter breaks. Suddenly, blogging as a craft, as an opportunity, doesn’t mean as much.
Are you blogging for rewards instead of for the love of it?
Have you noticed any of the following patterns developing?
• You think of a topic that would be helpful to your readers, but you don’t feel it’ll get a lot of attention, so you opt not to write it
• You scrap a lot of posts you write because you don’t feel like they’ll get retweeted much
• You write about topics you don’t know a whole lot about because they’re getting a lot of attention
• You get depressed about a post if it doesn’t get a whole lot of attention, even if the comments that you get are great
If these thought processes are running through your mind, you are paradoxically headed for less success, not more.
Rewards are not the answer
Just like acting, really good blogging hides the muppet strings, if you will. Readers will forget that you are in this competitive marketplace, that you are trying to do this that and the other thing. They just know that you are a good, reliable resource who gives them information that helps make THEM better.
If you start blogging to get more attention or whatever else you consider a potential reward, you will be dismayed at the results you’ll start to see. Here is a small taste of what can happen in this scenario.
• Your readers will quickly realize that they are no longer your priority
• Your readers will also realize that as a resource, your information is playing second fiddle to tools that get you noticed
• You will never be content (and that’s only a partially intended play on words). A post that does well will just make you want to write a post that does better.
• Positive feedback from your community will diminish in meaning as you become more hungry for your rewards
• You’ll put so much pressure on yourself that blogging will no longer be rewarding on any level and you’ll burn out
There is just one reward to shoot for
As a blogger, you have a job. That is to be a valuable resource for your community, and even for the community at large. If people are asking you questions about a topic and they are expecting you to write about it, you have an obligation to do so, even if you know that the topic is not the kind of thing that gets a lot of attention.
Here’s something that will really mess with your head. The more you blog for your community, the more rewards you will collect, and the less you will care about those random achievements. When it’s about your community, their happiness, their comments about how helpful you are, are all you need.
Which way do you want to go?
So what will it be? Will you, like our modern actors today, put aside your art and blatantly shoot for the gold statue? Or will you keep the spotlight on the community of people who read your blog and who depend on you for good, solid information? Which path are you on right now?
Let’s talk about it.
Image by Claudio Jule. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/kwod