…or should I say Melissa Wiley? : )
It was very interesting for me to read Lissa’s answers to my questions, for I learned even more about the wonderful workings of her mind and spirit. And learning that her super-power is “enthusiasm” explains a lot. We met in 2003 or 2004 when she visited my booth at a small homeschooling conference. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the encounter as I was new to shows and they were all rather a blur to introverted-me early on. But we stayed in touch through her blog, especially because of her super-power and the generosity with which she has wields it to spread the word about my offerings.
I spent a few years really hoping she and her family might move back to Virginia so I could be adopted by them, but I am adjusting to reality quite well now and will just keep in touch in all the wonderful ways you will find listed at the end of this post!
It looks like you started your blog in January of 2005? Do you remember what inspired you to begin and how it felt then?
Yes, actually I remember the exact moment! I had recently created my first author website. It was a pretty basic affair but I had sections that were aimed at answering questions from readers, and I was already thinking in the direction of how often I might want to update that page with new Q&As. Then one day I was at Julie Bogart’s Brave Writer website and she had started a blog. She asked readers to share links to their own homeschooling blogs. And I thought, YES! I should have a blog! And about half an hour later, I had one. I knew Home Ed Magazine was using Typepad for their blog, so I just hopped over to Typepad and signed right up. I loved the fun of setting it up, arranging the sidebars, all of that.
I found that blogging really worked for me–it’s a good match for the way I think and work. I had so many ideas and resources I wanted to share, and a quick blog post was the perfect outlet for that. And then, too, it offered a place to collect our family stories. I loved (still love) the flexibility of the platform, and the way it allows you to interact with readers.
How did the reading and the writing of blogs used to fit in your days? Has this changed over the years?
When I started, I had a series of novels under contract and a house full of little kids. I had only three hours a day set aside for writing, so when I went to work, I had to make a quick transition from mom to writer. I found that blogging was the perfect vehicle for this transition. I could write about my kids for 20 minutes, and that got me into writer mode so I could settle down to my work.
My work rhythms have changed a great deal over the years, what with new babies, kids growing up, my husband’s work schedule, other paying gigs crowding into my fiction-writing time—lots of things. For a few years when my youngest was a baby, I would get up early with him and curl up with the laptop balancing on the arm of the couch. I would read blogs while I nursed the baby back to sleep and then write a post of my own before the other kids woke up. That was a great rhythm for me. I headed into the day feeling like I’d already accomplished something. And I was able to chronicle our family adventures and all the funny things the kids said, getting it down before the busyness of the day crowded it out of my mind.
In the past year or two, my blogging rhythm has faltered a bit. I have six hours of writing time each day now that my kids are older. I try to reserve the final hour for blogging. But I find that my brain is kind of done by then. I’m bursting with post ideas in the morning, when I’m busy with other things. By nightfall, I’m tapped out. On many nights, I wind up sketching instead. I’m trying to learn to draw, and I put a high priority on carving out a few minutes to practice each day, but often I’ll find myself having to choose. Sketch or post? But I really miss posting daily, and my whole family relies on the blog as an archive. So I need to find a way to recapture my old rhythms.
Do you have an easy relationship with comments (numbers of/responding to), stats and such?
Nowadays I seldom check my stats at all, except occasionally to see what incoming links have brought readers to my site. I’m perpetually amused by the search terms that bring a lot of traffic: some of my biggies are “What happened to Nan on Lark Rise to Candleford?” and “how to mess with your wife’s head.” (The latter is thanks to a post I wrote about a trick Scott played on me once.)
I do still watch my comments closely and thrill to every single one. I try to respond to them as often as I can. These days it is mostly friends and longtime readers (who have become dear friends through the blog) who chime in here and there–those comments are golden to me! I miss the days when we were all so chatty in the comboxes, but I’m aware that I myself comment a lot less on others’ blogs nowadays—mostly because I do a lot of my reading on my phone, and I absolutely hate typing anything of substance on the phone. When I open my laptop, I’m (supposed to be) there to work, and I have to resist the temptation to hop around and chat like in the old days. But I miss that discourse tremendously.
I do notice that when I share my blog posts on FB, more people will comment there than on the actual blog. I think that’s because it’s a platform specifically built for that kind of interactivity. You see when someone has commented on a thread you’re participating in. You can have immediate conversation, versus going back to a blog over and over to see if anyone has said something new.
In blogging’s “golden days”, there was little competition for our attention…perhaps some forums, as far as I can recall. How many other places on the web now vie for your attention (please name them, if you’d like) and how do you value them in comparison to blogs?
Okay, a thing about me is I loooove new things. In a way it’s astonishing I’ve stuck with blogging for over ten years—I delight in change and get really energized by getting to dive into some new area of knowledge and figure it all out. Whenever a new social platform comes around, I get a surge of exhilaration. I try practically everything! Most of them, I abandon after a bit—a platform has to have a lot going for it for me to stick around. I’m active on Twitter and Facebook, though I have specific frustrations with each of them. I love Instagram—more as a viewer than a user, though. I don’t take enough shareworthy pictures to post one every day. But I follow people who make me want to DO stuff: to paint, draw, write, go for a walk, send a letter. It’s a great catalyst for creative action, for me.
Right now I’m active daily on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Weekly(ish) on Tumblr, Google+, and now Periscope (which has fast become a favorite). Once or twice a month I’ll go to Pinterest. I use Feedly to read blogs, and that’s a daily thing, more or less—a 20-30 minute binge early in the morning before I get out of bed.
I also use Slack for one-on-one conversation throughout the day—mostly with my husband and one or two very close friends. Two websites I work for also use it for team communication, so that’s become a hugely important platform for me.
I still adore the look of Listography but never remember to open it up!
I used to participate in a whole bunch of yahoogroups and forums, but now the only non-social-network community space I frequent is your beautiful Wisteria and Sunshine.
But here’s the thing: all these platforms are ways for me to keep in touch with other people. I go to FB, Instagram, Twitter, etc to see what others are saying. My own blog remains a vitally important part of my life. All these other platforms are streaming—the posts rush past you and get lost. A blog is a repository, a storehouse. Even if I write a post on FB, if it’s anything worth saving I repeat it on my blog. That’s the only place I’ll be able to find it again. My blog is my history. I can’t do without it.
When I contemplate whether or not I would continue blogging if I didn’t have my businesses to consider, I come back to the fact that I live (mostly from choice) a quiet, not-very-social life. On the internet, I’m able to find the kindred spirits that are harder to find in “real life”and find some connection with like-minded folk. How do you think your own way of connecting and being in the world influences your blogging?
I think I was made for sharing neat stuff. Scott and I have a joke about my superpower being enthusiasm. For me, full enjoyment of a thing (book, game, app, article, website) comes only when I get to talk about it with other people. I think that’s why I took to blogging so readily, and why I’ve stuck with it for so long—it’s been a place I can always jump to to say “Ooh look at this awesome thing I found.” I’m a magpie, a curator. I think all my internet spaces reflect that urge–I share links all over the place.
It seems to me that Here in the Bonny Glen is very much a family-oriented blog with glimpses of your home-life and learning, the sharing of resources and beloved books. Do you think your blog would be very different if you weren’t an author?
Yes, I think it would be even chattier and franker. The one real restriction I have ever felt on my freedom to blog with abandon is the knowledge that some of my readers are approaching the site from a professional context. It’s hard sometimes to find that balance—like, if I talk about homeschooling too much will teachers and school parents feel alienated? If I talk about my books and author events too much, will my regular readers feel like I’m trying to sell stuff to them? I’ve struggled with that balance for as long as I’ve been blogging. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been better to keep these two halves of myself in separate worlds online—but the reality is, I can’t untwine them. My author self IS my mom self IS my book junkie self and so on. If I’d tried to keep things compartmentalized, they would have been artificial. My life is a jumble and therefore so is my blog.
I’ve always loved your blog posts about blogging (is this meta-blogging?). Rereading this one http://melissawiley.com/blog/2014/09/03/blogging-freehand/ a year on, I wonder if you’d like to share your thoughts on whether this still feels true for you? Blog first, blog fresh?
Oh, I really dropped the ball on that resolution. I wish I could hold on to it! I do long to return to my old, original rhythm—a short, quick, unpolished post at the start of my work day. When I try to analyze why that doesn’t happen, I know it’s because I start out by visiting all these other platforms first. It’s a bad habit. But discourse is happening in those venues. It’s natural that I want to get my talking-to-other-people in before I settle down to work. The trouble is, as the net has widened—containing a multitude of platforms and friends—it’s easy to lose the better part of an hour in the wink of an eye. Then the jolt of panic: I should be working! And hastily all tabs are closed, including Bonny Glen. I miss the days when it had a priority placement on my schedule.
The funny part, of course, is that it’s right there waiting for me, all the time. I love my blog and am perpetually resolving to give it pride of place on the schedule once again. Just as soon as I pop on to Feedly to see what everyone else is up to…
Lissa’s Periscopes thus far
A favorite post of mine