How to #Profit from Blogging (And Lose Your Soul in the Process)

I am a humble 15, 488 words into my NaNoWriMo novel on this day in the month of November. Even though I’m probably a little bit behind, and my writing has degenerated into something more non-fiction than fiction, I’m completely and utterly okay with it. The reason for this cool self-assured response? I am writing for me, myself, and I. I don’t plan to take my writing public or even share it with anyone else. After years of forcing my brain to write for practical reasons, it has been fun to engage with the written word with no pressures or expectations from the outside world.

Similarly, I don’t expect that this blog will ever become the next ‘big thing’. I write as a daily practice, to explore my world verbally and to share these reflections with interested parties.

There are some people, however, who start blogging with the explicit purpose of drawing attention to themselves or to their product. Occasionally this writing takes the form of a purposeful self-experiment; for example, in my November 6th blog post I talked about Jia Jiang and his “100 Days of Rejection Therapy”, which was meant to desensitize him to the negative feelings of failure and allow him to grow from these experiences. I completely respect the venerable work of Jia Jiang and regard this form of blogging as an outcropping of personal growth and reflexive insight into one’s own life.

Self-experiments which I find myself less impressed by are those which immediately go viral and yet offer little of substance to the world. My first example is the blog called “Granny is my Wingman” in which the attractive, 26-year-old Kayli Stollak pairs up with her 75-year-old grandmother to go out on double-dates. The duo then blogs about their romantic (mis)adventures and relationship advice – a blog which was quickly picked up and turned into a book, an aborted television series, and appearances on the Today show (Daily Mail Reporter, October 2013).

By her own admission, Kayli set out specifically to create a blog that would be popularized and picked up by the media (originally as part of a class assignment) (Crocker, October 2013). The Daily Beast’s Women in the World website notes that “Kayli Stollak has mastered her generation’s formula for creative success: start a blog that vaguely encapsulates the plight of all college-educated, urban Millennials; add a clever twist; and watch the publicity—and offers from Hollywood—flood in” (Crocker, October 2013). The feel-good aspect of going to the assistance of family in the travails of love and dating has attracted wide attention – even wealth and fame – for Kayli. But my question is this: does such an artificially produced conduit of thought have any staying power in the long run? Or is it merely a two-second show for a restless public?

Another example (perhaps more shocking and less heart-warming) is the blog “A Penniless Girl, Bad Dates & Plenty of Oysters” by 24-year-old Toronto actress Erin Wotherspoon. This self-absorbed Millennial also capitalizes on a clever twist in the dating world; she blogs about her experiences ‘serial dating’ men so that she can eat at 48 different overpriced Toronto restaurants (Bielski, November 2013). Unfortunately, she talks about her dates in hugely unflattering terms, noting that she has to put up with tedious conversations and regrettable experiences (Bielski, November 2013).

Despite the negative press around Erin’s blog – some are calling her a female con-artist and have nicknamed her the ‘dinner witch’ – she has managed to gain the public’s momentarily undivided attention (Bielski, November 2013). These two examples, one positive and the other negative, both illustrate how blogs about personal self-experiments can be a big hit with the public.

Yet in the author’s attempts to win over the minds and hearts of their audience, they lose something essential in translation. I jokingly refer to this as ‘their soul’ in the title of this post, but I think it amounts to the same thing – in making their lives public via their blogs, they are offering up a false representation of themselves, tailored to the needs of a transitory and demanding public. By catering to this need, these women may change in ways that they couldn’t have expected at the outset of their journeys.

Consequently, I propose that caution should be taken when an author sets out to write for the purposes of pleasing the outside world. Always, always, always, the self should be first and foremost in writing. Otherwise, the resultant writing will be fragile, inauthentic, and liable to break or disappear at the first sign of pressure.

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