Why do people blog? I don’t know why people blog. I know why I blog.

I want people to read what I write and have a reaction. The audience is fundamental to me. If there is no audience, I am just keeping a journal. And the purpose of the journal would be what? I have no idea. For my children to read while they’re finishing the tuna casserole the neighbor lady brought over after my funeral?

They can read the comics or the steady stream of heartfelt Facebook sympathy posts. They sure won’t have to scrounge around to find my journal because it’s right here online, available to them and anyone else who cares to read it in real time. You want? You got.

I can’t grow much, says the person who has managed to kill one adorable little orchid and is on the path of exterminating its big sister within the space of the last two weeks, both gifts from very nice people with green thumbs who expected more from me and whom I will never tell. I will do what Lucy would do and buy a new goldfish to replace the one I killed by washing its bowl with dish soap. No one will ever be the wiser. If I have enough notice, there will be gorgeous orchids in my house. Just call first.

So in my mind, if a blog isn’t growing, if there aren’t new followers and new likes pretty steadily, then you’re just dealing the same tired deck of cards to the same yawning readers post after post after post. If you can’t break out of friends and family as your only audience, you are pretty much writing an online Christmas letter. That’s okay if that’s why you’re blogging – as a way to stay in contact with friends and family. But if you’re blogging to be a writer and to say something interesting or important, you need to engage strangers.

That’s the astonishing thing about blogging and its great reward — the reactions of strangers, people whom I’ve never met and never will. When someone in another city or another country connects with me just on the basis of words, my words, words I wrote on this page. My, my, that is very fine.

So I’m happy with the growth of my blog. It certainly outstrips my orchids and then some. But it has taken work. A lot of writing which has been good for engaging readers and really good for pushing myself to think about things in a different way, try new techniques, take chances. Not everything has been a work of art but I’m pretty proud of a couple of pieces that came about because of regular, pretty much daily blogging. Getting exposure from Freshly Pressed was a huge boost but the growth has really come in small daily doses. More followers generate more followers. That’s how it seems to work.

I’ll never have thousands and thousands of followers but I do have a thousand. That’s astonishing to me as a blogger who puddled around with fewer than 50 followers for a couple of years.

But now it’s time for the next big step in the playing with strangers game. Speaking to them. Yes, actually wearing a cute outfit, standing on a stage, and reading an essay to a live, breathing, probably coffee-drinking, looking at their phones, eying the line for the restroom room full of people. It’s happening. I got an email this morning, telling me that one of my pieces is a finalist for the We Still Blog Award from the Type A Parent folks and that I’m invited to come read the piece at their September conference in Atlanta in a couple of weeks.

I played around with the idea of not going. It’s nice to be nominated as they say, no reason to spend all that money just to travel to Atlanta and hang around with hundreds of other bloggers except it occurred to me that #1: I might learn something; and #2: It’s scary which means I need to do it.

Besides, like my dad would always say about his Ben Franklin store, “if it’s not growing, it’s dying.” Got to do new, bigger, harder, scarier.

That’s the name of the blogging game, I think – never standing still.


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