As I write this, the wind is howling outside our Airbnb in Italy. We are in a town south of Naples called Castellemarre di Stabia and the wind has been gusting for over twenty-four hours. The furniture on the terrace was overturned, the plants knocked over, pots broken. A new weather system is moving in.
Telling you, dear reader, about what is happening here and now, helps me write. I don’t know why, it just does. Gets things started, I guess. Probably a common error among amateur writers, which is what I am.
But I’ve found in the last few years that I enjoy writing. I’ve written a few articles for a small personal finance magazine (like this one) and now I have this blog. Maybe someday I will find there is a book inside of me. Maybe this is practice for that. But right now blogging is the most important writing I do and I have to admit, I take it kind of seriously (which is probably another rookie mistake – taking yourself too seriously).
Here is another confession: I know I’m doing this all wrong. This is not how travel blogs are supposed to read or be organized. This is how not to write a travel blog.
The “good” blogs are actively engaged in social media, “optimize” their SEO, write blogs with titles like “Top 10 Things to do in Naples!” and “How to Travel the World and be Happy and Rich Forever!” I bet those bloggers actually make real money on their affiliate links. Buggers.
Part of me wonders if I could do that. In fact, on the advice of a good friend we just bought ownership of “bigfamilysmallworld.com” so that we can transfer out of the somewhat clunky “big-family-small-world.com”. In the process I got Googling things like, “how to create a successful blog”, and “how to monetize your blog”. I will admit that it’s tempting, but here’s the thing: I’m kind of attached to a few things that will likely undermine any aspirations for “success”.
- I want to write about things that interest me, not about things that are designed to drive traffic to our site. “Good” bloggers know the secret sauce that drives Google users their way and it often dictates their content. I, on the other hand, write about arriving at airports a day early and losing $100 to con artists in Poland. Nobody searches for that.
- The blogging experts say to avoid the personal stuff. Problem is, I think that is the most valuable thing I have to offer – stories about our real experiences, reflections, and mistakes. Does the Internet need another post on Top 5 Restaurants in Timbuktu? I want my kids to enjoy reading what I’ve written 30 years from now.
- “Good” bloggers get free stuff. It is a badge of honour to be sent merchandise for free just because you have thousands of followers. Better yet, free travel and accommodation. When it starts influencing content, you can smell those blogs a virtual mile away. Yuck. No thanks.
- To be a successful blogger you have to spend hours “engaging” with the social media community. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter . . . make sure you follow, subscribe, like, comment, etc. etc. Do it for your blog’s success, regardless of how you feel about their content. Problem is, I don’t actually enjoy spending 2 – 3 hours a day on social media. I would rather play with the kids or read a book.
When I sit down to write, I’m not trying to “grow my influence” or attract sponsors or sell anything. I’m writing because I feel driven to do it by a thought, event, or place. I will admit that part of me might enjoy the external validation that “blog success” might bring, but not at the price of writing posts that my heart’s not in. I get that a lot of bloggers are putting food on the table with their efforts and that’s cool, it’s just not why I’m blogging.
Here’s why I am blogging:
- To document our travels because I know the memories will fade.
- To work through and clarify my own thoughts on this crazy metamorphosis that is happening from doctor to . . . who knows what (writer??).
- For the sheer joy of writing!
And finally, there is this: there is very little point in writing unless there are readers. I never knew how much gratitude I would feel for all the people who take time from their day to read what I have written. Yes, that means you. It feels like a gift. Thank you.
Over time I’m sure this site will change and grow, but if years from now I am the best unsuccessful blogger you know, that’s a win in my books.