What parents want (in a blog post)

beautiful_lawn

Well, I’ve been at this now for about four months (blogging, not parenting). Phew. My initial mission statement included a pledge to be true to myself and write about things that remind me of who I am – both inside and outside of parenthood. Consequently I have written recently on the subject of (my take on) religion, ‘spirituality’ and alternative living arrangements, but these have been triggered initially by my experiences as a mother. Now, I know I’m still a newbie, so my readership is relatively low, but I’m starting to wonder about blogging within a niche. Its nice, its great to be a part of this great big ‘exclusive’ club, but its also really difficult finding anything new to say which isn’t really, properly personal (and therefore of not much interest to a big group of strangers who have a massive pool of similar blogs to choose from). Or its just same old same old: tantrums, weeing accidents, food fights, the deconstruction of the English language (eg, JJ’s hilarious rendering of ‘radioater’ – the device you go to for a bit of news and music when its a bit chilly outside).

I’ve been reading a fair few blog posts myself and finding that most of what I’m looking at is parent-related simply because I pick and choose from within this pool I find myself floating in. I’m having trouble extracting myself from my identity as a mother – as I said before, even my non-child related posts tend to end up being child related – I can’t help myself!

What my reading is teaching me though, is what other people (mostly parents) respond to. Top of the Tots100 right now: Edspire – the blog of a mother who lost one of her babies to SIDS. I’m sure this is very well written and heartfelt and a lot of people like a tearjerker, personally I’m more of a comedy than a tragedy kind of person. The Frugal Family always seems to do very well up there too and its an inspired idea to find yourself a niche within a niche – like GeekMummy too for that matter. There’s also a lot of parenting blogs which are written by people who are very crafty (as in “into a nice bit of crochet”, not “keen to devise an evil plan for world domination”), an example of which being Tea is the Answer. This kind of blog can be beautiful, generally very well designed, with lush, wonderfully arty photographs of craft projects and soft-focus poppets. Gorgeous, but just a little bit too humbling for someone who can barely sew on a button.

I have to admit that I tend to fight against reading the most popular blogs, favouring the little guy, the newbie, other people like me who might be struggling for a bit of recognition – a connection which those big, loud, successful bloggers probably don’t have time to attend to (too busy rushing off to the MAD Awards, or thanking the 6000 people who entered their ever-popular linky, no doubt).

At this point I have to hold my hand up and admit to my one reader (hi mum!) that I am a world class sufferer of GIGS (Grass is Greener Syndrome) and therefore, its probably wise for me to avoid looking at other people’s beautifully manicured lawns (bit like an alcoholic avoiding the pub).

But no, that’s not fair because the blogs I really love reading are brilliant in their own right – The Secret Divorcee (bit like reading the next installment in an engrossing novel), Listen, Watch, Read, Share  (another blog I admire for not trying to crowbar itself into a niche – lots of interesting thoughts, ideas and media reviews),  and my latest favourite, Raising Edgar (brilliantly hilarious take on all those old subjects related to the early stages of parenthood that you thought you could never return to again [and anyone (or two in this case) who would riff on a Coen Brothers movie (hopefully intentionally!) is alright in my book]). Interestingly my new blogging friend Cleopatra has just re-named and re-defined her parenting blog Cleopatra Says to hop out of the niche with Trying to Live Naturally – now focussing on her quest to reduce the old carbon footprint whilst living what sounds like an idyllic lifestyle in rural Spain.

Anyway one day maybe I’ll get to read someone else’s post genuinely giving me and mine the thumbs up and that would be a good day.

13 thoughts on “What parents want (in a blog post)

  1. I hear a bit of sadness/despondency creeping into your post, which is sad because you are such a lovely writer. It seems like you are maybe having some doubts about your posts and your post content and perhaps wondering about the purpose of your blog? I set up Cleopatra Says as a quick way of having an online voice and to be able to respond to other peoples’ blog posts that I enjoyed reading. I loved it and loved finding my online voice, however I quickly realised that although I loved writing, I wasn’t writing about the things that I’m passionate about. I was writing about lots of different random things within a living in Spain-natural living-food and drink-parenting-political-controversy type range, which is too broader a domain for me. Some bloggers are extremely talented in being able to do this, to comment on all sorts of things and to have thoughtful insights and perspectives – that is not me however, as much as I enjoyed it! So it didn’t take me long to figure out that I needed to concentrate more on things that I am doing in my life, goals we have set ourselves and ultimately to have a blog that documents these things, which for me is more fun and a bit easier to do, because it’s just talking about the stuff we are already doing in our lives or things that we want to do. I think parenting blogs are tough – there are so many of them and it is really easy for even the best and interesting blogs to get lost in what is quite a saturated field.I do think there is a reason why people tend to blog in niche themes, as I’ve just discovered for myself, it is easier because your source of inspiration/ideas is quite readily available and more focused and I think in general that readers are quite attracted to blogs that have a theme, I know I am. Parenting blogs that I like for example like the Adventures of Fanny P. http://missfannyp.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/poppy-seeds/ She essentially is just talking about life with her two boys and husband, living in Italy. Sometimes her posts are a few hundred words of snippets of conversations but her story telling style is so engaging, different, funny and witty that it makes the subject of her stories even more interesting, I think. When I was a journalist (I know you are journalistically trained too) and used to submit a story, we were always asked what our angle was. Maybe we could apply this to our blogs. What is our angle, what is our theme? If someone told me they were writing a blog about modern parenting and someone else said they were writing a blog about modern parenting and how it turns most normal people into to idiots with various examples of this, I think I would find the latter more attractive because it has a specific focus.
    Maybe this is why maybe you are suffering from GIGS (I like that, I’ve never seen it like that before!) because you have some doubts/frustrations with blogging and maybe want a fresh angle and you feel you are not representing yourself how you want to? There’s certainly nothing wrong with freshening up a blog, having a spring clean and a bit of a redesign, WordPress certainly makes it easy enough to do. Anyhow, I am no blogging expert. But more importantly, I am saying all of this out of kindness and good faith because I felt some sadness in your post and thought I would offer some (many!) thoughts. I hope you take these as that.
    PS, I don’t mind if you don’t publish this comment, as it really is more of a message to you than perhaps a public comment, but I don’t mind either way.x

    • I didn’t mean to sound sad or despondent about it. I think the main thing you touch upon here is the one unavoidable fact that the parenting niche in blogging is very much a ‘comfort zone’ but it does make you feel like a very small fish in a very big pond! I want to write about things that just occur to me (and a lot of that is parent-related) so maybe I’ll just keep going like this for a while! I think I just read a few other parenting blogs which are clearly written by people who aren’t trained writers and not even trying to be ‘writers’ as such, just putting out a stream of consciousness which of course is very open and honest and all that, but I feel like I’m trying to do something quite different – write about things that interest me, but at the same time, make the writing itself stand out and impress and that’s when I feel like I am sinking under the masses of very ordinary, unexciting prose from a billion other parents who want to share (and may be doing better with readership because they might be a little more tech-savvy, have better graphics or more full on with their social networking). I guess that’s where my innate laziness takes over – if I really wanted to get noticed I guess I’d be working on it every day. But babies are tiring!! Thanks for taking the time to send such a long in-depth comment!! I’m still enjoying your posts. X

  2. Hi,
    Thanks for the mention! My stats are miniscule! but I don’t really mind. I used to worry about this, along the very same lines you have outlined above. Now I live for my comments page and sometimes forget to look at the stats (today I’ve got a grand total of 0 so far). I like to see what interesting things people have said – including when I’ve been on their page.

    To me there are two most important things about blogging. I have been able to connect with people and discuss things important to me – got them off my chest and been encouraged and sometimes had a new perspective.

    The other thing is I love to write and was in a rut before, scared sometimes even to put one word on paper in case it wasn’t the write one.. But writing quickly on my blog and pushing ideas back and forth in the comments means that I am rediscovering my love of writing and getting into the flow when I get back to my “private” writing.

    I always look forward to your posts, btw, and like it when I see a new one in my reader.

  3. Thanks Denise! It is great to have an outlet for writing – as I said above in my reply to Cleopatra, I think I am just beginning to realise that its the writing itself (style) which is as important to me as the content and that’s not the case with so many other parenting blogs – I think that often some clever, arty graphics and fonts seem to be stealing the limelight! I guess I didn’t realise up to now how much it means to me that people who value well-written prose should notice and appreciate my writing. (I don’t really do any ‘private’ writing personally. Its very gratifying to hear people like you (who clearly like to read real literature) find my writing interesting and enjoyable so thank you ever so much!! I hope I can continue to improve, interest and entertain! X

  4. Hi,
    I’ve just come across your blog through the Brit Mums #MBPW and thought I’d reach out and say hi. I know how you fe about lack of stats and wondering who your readers are & how some of these blogs acquire the most amazing stats ever; but it really does build up over time, if you just concentrate on ploughing on, enjoying what you write & being honest.
    All the best
    Lucy xxx

    • Thanks Lucy! Sometimes you think people might be reading and just not finding the time to comment – I know I do that – we’re all busy parents and sometimes at the end of the day its hard enough finding the time to concentrate on your own post, let alone anyone else’s, so it says a lot when someone does actually find the time! Thanks for the advice too – I know, I know, my blog is very young! X

  5. Hey, an interesting post to read. I’ve been blogging for coming up to two years and I go through phases of feeling like I fit in with the parenting niche and phases when I feel I don’t – or that I don’t want to. Ultimately, your blog is your blog, do what you want with it, make it unique and a great read and you will find your readership. Connect with the people you genuinely want to connect with, support them and they in turn will support you. It may take a while, but if you’re in it for the long-haul it will be worth it to do it that way and know you’ve created something that brings you joy and something that you are proud of.

    • Thanks Luci! I feel a bit constrained by wanting to have an audience and knowing that my primary audience is other parents (who are obviously mostly going to want to read posts connected to parenting) and wanting to express myself on a variety of subjects but not knowing how to find a wider audience. I’m sure this will come with time!

  6. Don’t assume that parents necessarily want to just read parenting stuff, I know I don’t – and you clearly don’t, so that’s two of us for starters! Best way to find a wider audience is to connect with bloggers writing about the stuff you want to read or blog about, then it builds from there. Good luck, I’m looking forward to seeing your blog – and audience – grow now I’ve discovered it.

  7. This is a great post, and if it makes you feel better I can’t sew buttons on either. I tend to avoid the super popular blogs too, they aren’t going to miss one extra reader are they!

    • Yay! Although I appreciate that as an anonymous blogger you need to network a bit more and bit harder to get an audience – joining in the linkys – I notice you do this a lot and I wish I could find the motivation to do so too because it would be nice to reach a wider readership. I always link to my FB page though so i know that I’ll get at least a few readers (who already know me) in the door. Thanks for following my blog! X

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