Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blogging About Blogging

My friend Mouse has a saying: "Blogging About Blogging Is Like Self-Sustained Solo Snogging."

It's catchy, it's true, and it's his nice Midwestern boy way of saying something that I would probably say in a much dirtier albeit less alliterative fashion. But I won't, for your sake dear reader. I am PG-13 because I CARE about you all and your delicate eyes!

Anyway, I mentioned about a week ago, that there were some changes taking place in my life, and this blog is no exception. Don't worry, I'm not threatening blog retirement or a reduction in blog posts like those fakers Pollo Crujiente and Judia Verde. But, my non-consumerist year is almost over, and that makes it very likely that the blog will slightly shift in focus.

If you've been reading since the beginning, or if you've combed the archives, you can see that the blog has already changed a lot since I started writing in October. Back then, I was still a novice greenie, muddling my way through. It's a little hard for me to believe, but a mere nine months ago, I was still eating mostly frozen and pre-packaged meals. I was using tampons and paper towels, and I always, always drove to work. I drank a couple cans of Diet Coke a day, and I was terrified to freeze my buns. I was still figuring things out, trying to negotiate my way, and my blog reflected that, consisting mostly of personal stories.

I've changed a lot since then. By this, I don't mean that I'm perfect, or that I've made all the changes I want to make. I still am dragging my feet on the composting. I want to learn how to can jam and pasta sauce. And of course, I fall off the wagon from time to time, and I make mistakes. I'll get lazy one morning and drive to work. Or I'll succumb to a can of Dr. Pepper. But the difference is, now that can of Dr. Pepper is an aberration as opposed to a regular indulgence. So while I have a long way to go, I have a better sense of who I am, of where I am, and of where I want to go. And as I've dealt with these personal struggles, I've become aware of how societal, corporate and governmental structures make my green journey easier or harder. I've grown much more interested in making changes on a macro level, as opposed to just focusing on the micro. Thus, the blog has shifted so that now, it's not 100% personal stories, but is more 60% personal, 40% big picture. And, I think that's a good balance. It might tilt a little more big picture in the future, but I still fully intend to keep the personal journey stories in here too.

Now, I very firmly believe that this is not just my blog, but that it belongs, in a way, to my readers as well. So, I want to ask you all, what kind of posts do you like to read? What do you wish I'd focus more on? What do you enjoy that I already do focus on?

The second thing that might change is the monthly challenge thang. I have already received complaints from certain Chiles and Beans that the abbreviations are annoying. I know, it's a silly little format. It happened by accident, and then I stuck to it. But I have no problem changing. 

Except, I'm kind of wondering about the monthly challenges themselves. The challenges are personal challenges, not group challenges, and I did that, for a multitude of reasons, but I've kept them personal challenges mostly because I don't like telling y'all what to do. And while I think that's a good principle to have in general, it's starting to feel a little silly. More and more, when I take on a monthly challenge, I get people commenting saying, "Cool! Count me in!!" and I'm like, "Great, love to have you play along!" but ... I don't keep track of who's participating, I don't do check-ins, I don't have a cute doo-dad for you to add to your blog. Do people want me to host group challenges? I kinda feel like Crunchy and Chile have cornered the market on this, but again, I'm willing to host challenges if that's what more people would like.

And if you wouldn't like to participate in challenges, do you like the monthly challenge format in general? Do you want to continue to see me set challenges for myself every month? I admit, I personally have learned a lot from the challenges (though I am starting to slowly run out of ideas) but I want to know how much it adds to your blog experience.

Is there anything I haven't covered? Anyone want to comment on the crappy layout? (I know, I have terrible visual design skills. I've recruited a friend to help me with the layout, but the re-design will probably take a while.) People think the blog is too text heavy? People want shorter posts? Longer posts? I would love your input. Obviously, I'm not going to be able to please everybody, but do know, I will take all your comments, compliments, and critiques into consideration as we move forward together. 

Lastly, I just want to say thanks so much to all my readers and commenters. I am a better blogger, writer, and person because of you all. You guys rock!

24 comments:

Burbanmom said...

I love your personal stories, Arduous! The global stuff is good, don't get me wrong, but seeing how other individuals deal with the day-to-day is simply more amusing! :-)

And format be damned, it's the content that counts!

knutty knitter said...

dear Arduous I like you just the way you are and if you feel like changing that's ok too. I'm just getting into this blog thingy and its fun :)

viv in nz

JAM said...

Arduous, I think your format is just fine. And I like your blog a lot. I was one of those who said I'd do a challenge with you before I realized yours were more solo ones, but I quickly fell off the wagon anyway. Now that I know how you do it more, I think it's great that you do solo challenges since most of yours are pretty intense and you set a great example and get us thinking but are not something we can all do as much, and like you say, we're too busy peeing on our plants and giving up our addictions... I love your personal stuff and how you're living your life - one thing I really felt about No Impact Man after he finished his year was it all became big picture and there isn't much about what we can do ourselves, and I think a lot of people (including me) miss that aspect of it. So keep on however works for you - but don't let the blog lose it's arduousness!!!

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm with burbanmom - I like the personal stories. Sometimes they help remind me how far I have yet to go, and other times how far I've come, but they always remind me that we just individual humans on an amazing journey; that none of us are perfect or should try to be; but at the same time, one personal really can make a difference.

Congrats on getting to the end of your one year!

Bobbi said...

I'm fairly new to your blog, but I love your personal stories and you're so damned funny! Whatever you decide to do, I'm be right here ready to read!

Beany said...

I too love the personal stories! Yes I know macro this and macro that, but honestly they don't interest me as much for some reason. I don't read the blogs that focus excessively on large picture topics. I still think that a blog is a window into getting to know a person well and that's why I read them. Punditry can be a bit of a snooze fest for me (I'm not talking about your posts - just in general).

I don't mind the wordiness of your posts. I usually save it to savor it when I need a break. And since your writing is very enjoyable, its always a tasty treat.

Joyce said...

I love your blog! It just makes my day when you post. You sure don't need to change anything to keep this reader!

Fix said...

change? who needs change? i even like the plain layout and goofy abbreviations. i could see why you'd want to chill on the challenges, though. that seems like a lot of balls to keep in the air. it's a lot harder when the rules aren't there anymore and you have to make them up as you go along - that will be challenge enough, I imagine. everyone will love your funny take on the day-to-day challenges just as much.

and i'm into theory, just for the record. no need to change that, as far as i'm concerned. we need more single female voices out there. (you can add the "brown" if you want)

megan

Bugs and Brooms said...

I agree with all of the other comments! I think your personal stories help all of us see where we are, where we should be going, and what we have accomplished so far.

I am fairly new to the blogging world so I didn't read, for instance, No Impact Mans first year of blogging. That is unfortunate for me since I am sure I would have enjoyed it. His blog is still great but I like it more when he writes about his personal experiences as opposed to the bigger picture (I loved his recent post about the argument he had with his dad - I had a similar argument with my mom the weekend before). So, at least for me, the personal writings do more for me. But whatever you do, I will keep reading! And I don't care about group challenges (there are already a ton of them) or graphic design - pretty blogs can be intimidating - content is much more important.

Green Bean said...

I love you just the way you are!!

I wouldn't change the format. It's so, well, arduous.

Unlike the other folks, I like the global stuff as much as the personal stuff. After doing this for a while, personal environmentalism becomes less of a cornerstone and we feel (or at least I do) that we need to do more, expand beyond our personal arena. You reach a point when you are living about as lightly as you can without turning to hairshirt enivronmentalism (which is not me, and I suspect, not you). Personally, I say keep a mix of both. Write what you care about. That is the conclusion I came to after faking my exit. I write what I want to write about and hope the rest of you enjoy it.

I like the personal challenges, even the abbreviations (they're so you and I assume cool and single and LA).

Never change who you are but grow as you have been and we'll keep on reading.

CAE said...

I don't think I've ever read a bad post here, but I do tend to prefer the more personal stuff. Keep up the good work!

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I like your personal stories, they help us out just as much, if not more than focusing on more "global" issues. We see how you, a "regular" person deal with the challenges you face, and I can't speak for everyone else, but I love your blog, where has come from, what it is now, and I'm glad I finally got brave enough to comment (even though I embarrass myself from time to time with my obliviousness).

Challenges are great, I personally like them as I feel like they are a kick in the pants to do something and that you have people out there that expect you to follow through. However, I understand they take a lot of time and effort. So, that one is up to you!

Chile said...

I agree with Burbanmom on the day-to-day dealing with life stuff, but I'm prejudiced because that's how I am. If you're feeling the pull to macro-level change, then your blog should reflect that. Yes, you have readers and community, but it's your blog and therefore must reflect your focus. If we hate it, we'll just leave.

JUST KIDDING!

On the challenges, again, if you like doing them for yourself, do it. You don't have to play challenge host - just continue as you have been. Or, if they are no longer working for you personally, drop 'em.

I got hooked on doing the group ones through Crunchy and then saw something unique I could offer as a challenge myself. And I enjoyed it and learned a lot from what the participants had to say. It also has been interesting to have a focus for the month. I tend to take on too much change at once and the challenges help rein me in to a doable level.

Regarding format, once again Burbanmom said it best. Content's far more important, plus I don't see anything wrong with your layout anyway!

Mouse said...

More articles about solo snogging!

I kid.


I'd like to see you write your personal responses to popular / reviled articles that run the bloggosphere gamut.

Melissa said...

I think you've got a great mix going here...like green bean said, there does come a time when we realize we need more than just personal stuff, but at the same time I think those personal stories provide a valuable context for the bigger picture stuff. I like a challenge every now and then, but for the most part it's not something I get super into. But I have a feeling I'm in the minority on that. Glad you're not going anywhere!

Stephanie said...

I haven't been reading your blog for a terribly long time, so I'm a little confused by your monthly challenge format. For your armchair activism one, especially, you didn't seem to talk about it so much as did it (which is possibly the point of the challenge, but I'd also like to hear a wrap-up at the end of the month ;)). I'm a huge fan of personal stories because they make environmental issues more inviting to the casual reader (me). But the big picture is also important. So I do think the way you have it all set up is a good one, quite honestly. Why change too much when what you're doing is working?

Dasha said...

Like other above me, I like the current format and I like the personal stuff. I like the global stuff you write too, but let's not get too preachy, ok? There are a lot, A LOT, of really preachy globally focused environmental blogs out there. I don't read them. I read yours! Because you have good balance! (there's that word again)

I'd enjoy monthly challenges, I think. Part of what I enjoy about your blog is that its more urban, and as a 250 sq ft apartment dweller, many challenges on many blogs do not apply to me. I mean, I can't grow a significant amount of anything (I do grow herbs and chili peppers) and I already don't drive (or, you know, have a license. or car. or anyone to teach me to drive since no one I know has a car.), etc. If you are looking for ideas, conserving water would be a good one. I suck at that. A lot.

In summary, keep it as is, more or less. I wouldn't object to a layout change though, as long as it stays "simple" whatever that means.

EcoGeoFemme said...

While I enjoy every post you write, I like your personal posts best. Your blog seems to have become much, much more popular recently (I'm not so involved with the green living blogosphere as a whole (the academic blogosphere is about as much as I can handle), so I'm not sure if an event made that happen or if it's just the natural momemtum of a well written blog), which is awesome and I can see how that might pull you toward more global posts. But I've been reading your blog since the beginning and what kept me coming back was your personality which shows best through your personal posts.

I also really like your monthly challenges partly because they are funny and partly because they give focus to the blog. I'd love to see you continue them, but I can understand that it might be increasingly difficult. Maybe you could do them every other month? or less?

I like the length of your posts, especially because you allow the whole post to be exported to an RSS feed. I can read the whole post in bloglines at work, where I don't like to open lots of different blogs. I'll often tag the post so I can comment on it when I get home in the evening, but lately by the time I get home there are so many comments that my thought has already been expressed! A sign of a good blog, I'd say. :)

No matter what you do, your blog should be fun for you to write. We'll keep reading.

arduous said...

Thanks to everyone for their comments, suggestions, etc!!

Burbs, don't worry. I hear you on the personal stories. They won't ever go away from this blog!

Viv, it is fun isn't it! Glad you're getting into it.

Jam, yeah, I've read a lot of commenters at No Impact Man's site telling him that they prefer the personal stories. I actually love his "big picture" posts, but there has to be a balance, and I think for a while there, he wasn't balancing it out enough. I'm going to try and keep a good balance (though actually, weirdly enough, July is ALL personal and no big picture posts.)

Heather, not quite there! 18 days left. Yes I am counting.

Bobbi, thanks!

Beany, I think you're quite right. That's part of the reason I love blogs too: the window into someone's life.

Joyce, aw, thank you.

Megan, yeah, honestly the monthly changes are getting draining. It IS many, many balls in the air, especially because I'm usually taking on other people's group challenges in addition to my own. It might become every other month type thing instead of a monthly thing. We'll see.

Bugs and Brooms, pretty blogs ARE intimidating. Like YOURS, you pretty blog owner you!! ;)

Thanks GB, CAE & Jennifer! And Jennifer, you're not oblivious. That vegan thing just made me laugh yesterday! :)

Chile, thanks, I appreciate your comment. I do try to write for everyone, but you are right, I am getting pulled in a macro direction at times, and I do want my blog to reflect that. Doesn't mean I'll stop talking about my public transit adventures or what not, though!

Mouse, good idea. I used to do that a little more and mostly stopped. But it's definitely something I could do more of.

Thanks Melissa! Not going anywhere!!

Stephanie, you're right. There are some challenges I talk about more than others. For example, I think I barely talked about the June Giving Challenge. It kind of depends on the nature of the challenge, how into it I get, and how much I have to say about it. Some challenges I have a lot to say about: like the PT challenge. Others, like Armchair Activism, not so much. But you're right. I should do a wrap up at the end of each month at least, and I have been negligent of that from time to time. Kind of a consequence of having too many balls in the air!

Dasha, you are right. I do my darndest to stay away from the preachy, but if you ever feel like I'm getting a little preachy, feel free to let me know and I'll try and dial it down. I agree with you about the urban living thing. There aren't that many bloggers who address that kind of thing, and I think it's important!

Thanks EGM. I agree that my personality does come through more with the personal posts. It's a little easier to be funny when I'm talking about my shoes than when I'm talking about health care. :)

Melinda said...

Late I am, but weighing in anyway. I like the personal challenges, because they bring out the interesting personal stories. And it also makes me reflect on my own lifestyle, and I learn as you learn. I also, like GB, enjoy reading about the bigger topics you discuss.

I think you should go down the path that your arduous self leads you down.

Mad Hatter said...

Like EGF said, everyone else has already said what I was going to say. But I'll go ahead and cast my vote for the personal stories too. I like the big picture ones too, but it's the personal stories that really make it real for me, if that makes any sense.

Grad Green said...

I love the format. I like the personal stories. I like the personal challenges. I don't think you have to officially host a challenge to encourage people to change. Reading about your challenge adventures has been an inspiration :)

arduous said...

Melinda, late but better than never! Thanks for your comments. :)

MH, that does make sense. And I think that's why the personal stories will always be a big part of this blog.

GG, thanks! Always glad to inspire.

Natalie said...

I love your personal stories. I think your voice comes through very clearly in them. You're a talented writer. You have the enviable ability to be self-mocking without being self-deprecating. And, you can be hilarious in those personal stories.

But truth be told, I like the big stuff better. Sometimes I can tell you're just digesting something someone else has written. Often, though, you have your own twist on things and persuasive arguments to make.

So, do I want to hear about Arduous in London? YES! Do I want to know what you're learning about and how you feel about said subjects? YES, YES, YES!!