The Hidden Perils of Blogging

22 Aug

As aspiring authors, we’re encouraged to have a web presence. One easy way to do this is to join a group blog, like the Gem State Writers. Blogging allows writers to participate in an online community, to build an audience, and to make friends in the industry.

Most newbie bloggers are aware of the obvious dangers. They know not to offend the audience with controversial topics like politics or religion. They’re careful not to criticize other writers’ work. They’ve heard about cyber-stalkers and flame wars, but – since they’re not blogging with any malicious intent- they assume it won’t happen to them. Probably their biggest fear is that they’ll run out of subject matter.

No one ever talks about the intangible dangers of blogging, the problems that arise when a reader derives an interpretation that’s vastly different than the author’s intent.

After asking several friends why they’ve abandoned blogging, I’m convinced these perils exist:

Everyone thinks you’re writing about them. No matter how factual and impersonal your blog posts are, there will always be somebody who thinks you’re secretly writing about them. This might be your dearest friend or someone who doesn’t even know your email address.  Whether they silently nurse a grudge or publicly recruit a gang to attack you, the result is basically the same.  It’s a distraction from your writing.

“Write what you know” is considered showing off.  It’s only natural to blog repeatedly about the things you’ve had success with.  You might see this as sharing useful information with your reader, and your blog statistics might back up that claim. Still, some of your readers will see it as bragging. You can’t win this game. Don’t even try.

You risk being seen as a hypocrite. If you’re chronicling the writer’s journey, you probably blog about problems you’ve encountered and tips on how to solve them. Again, your intent is to share a moment of insight in the hope that your reader will benefit from your experience.  That doesn’t mean that you’re perfect, or that you always successfully follow your own advice.

Your reader, on the other hand, may think that you’re setting yourself up as an expert. Any time–past, present, or future– you deviate from what you’ve set down in print, you open yourself to accusations of hypocrisy.

The real danger is that these types of attacks will stifle your creativity. If you get to the point where you can no longer write for fear of the onslaught, it’s probably time to get out of the blogging business.

I would love to hear your experience and advice on this topic. Have you ever encountered any of these hidden perils of blogging? If so, how did you handle it? If not, do you take blogs at face value, or do you try to read between the lines? Do you think bloggers should be held accountable for always doing everything exactly as they recommend in their blogs?





Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Blogs, Idaho, writing


Tags: ,

42 responses to “The Hidden Perils of Blogging

  1. johannaharness

    August 22, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    When I read this, I think of the way negativity halts our progress in so many areas of our lives. We can hear so much, “don’t do this” or “what will people think?” advice that we end up afraid to do anything.

    The more we succeed with our goals, the more we end up in the spotlight and the more people will talk–both good and bad. Trying to control what people say and think is like trying to control the weather.

    Perhaps we feel more in control if we retreat, but the real empowerment is accepting that some days the weather is great and sometimes not and you’re going out there anyway.

    • B. E. Berger

      August 22, 2011 at 9:31 AM

      So true. The writer (and other creatives) have enough to deal with, just managing their own inner critics. The less we can pay attention to these nasty voices, both in and outside our own heads, the better chance we have to express ourselves and plow new ground. In my experience.

      • Clarissa Southwick

        August 22, 2011 at 1:46 PM

        Thanks for the comment, B.E. There are so many distractions, both internal and external. I guess the only solution is to stay focused on our WIPS.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 22, 2011 at 1:44 PM

      What a great perspective, Johanna. I’d never thought about “the weather” of blogging, but it is an apt analogy. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    August 22, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Thank you for posting this, Clarissa! The worst-case scenarios always hover and putting oneself out on the internet creates vulnerability. Of course, this same venue allows us, as Johanna has eloquently blogged, to reach kindred souls whose presence supports and strengthens our efforts.

    The best blogs, in my opinion, offer each reader a chance to see themselves, for good or ill. This is why I so appreciate the direct, well-researched content that you always post. Shouldn’t everything one reads offer the opportunity for self-reflection? And though people should be accountable for what they say and do, that hardly applies to the well-intentioned suggestions of virtual colleagues in every setting. If it does, then I’ve a dire confession.

    I’ve blogged on a certain time management technique that’s allowed me to increase productivity. HOWEVER, I have not followed my own suggestions for the past six weeks and my to-do list has grown. I suppose that makes me a hypocrite to some. I disagree. Living authentically means you reflect upon what people offer to you and upon what you think, say and do. It’s a constant adaptation, not a static system. And now – it’s back to the to-do list for me. 😉

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 22, 2011 at 1:49 PM

      Liz, Yes, I agree, it’s one thing to know what to do and another to put that knowledge in action every single day. We’re all just striving to manage our time as best we can. Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Janis McCurry

    August 22, 2011 at 6:47 AM

    I had to laugh at your first point, i.e., “think you are talking about them.” It’s our tendency to see the worst in ourselves that propels that notion and actually, has very little to do with the blogger! I am so often my own worst enemy.

    Excellent blog on educating us on potential issues. Thanks.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 22, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      Hi Janis, I suppose it is a natural instinct to interpret the world through our own experience. But, as a blogger, I sometimes feel I’m not allowed to blog about those topics everyone is discussing. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  4. JRedmerski

    August 22, 2011 at 7:47 AM

    It might be difficult for some (and those are the ones that probably shouldn’t be blogging, because they are too sensitive), but the best thing to do is WHATEVER YOU WANT TO DO. If you like blogging about what you know, then do it. If you enjoy helping others by giving advice, then give advice. It might sound cliche’, but don’t worry about what anyone else thinks because no matter what you do, there will ALWAYS be someone you’ll unintentionally offend, and someone else that simply doesn’t like the way you smell.

    However, over the past couple of years trolling writer’s web sites and blogs, I’ve noticed there are quite a lot of people out there that are blogging only because they believe they have to, to get anywhere in the literary world. It shows. There are so many writer’s who have quite literally taken every piece of ‘writer’s advice’ to heart and are doing everything suggested. This includes ‘gaining a web presence’ and ‘BLOGGING’. But not everyone was cut out for blogging and you might be surprised at how many writer’s absolutely loathe it, but continue to do it because they think they have to. The fact remains, changing times or not, you don’t have to blog or even have a Twitter or Facebook account to become a successful writer. You just have to write a damn good book and find an awesome agent. People have been doing it for years. Sure, for many, having a web presence has helped greatly, but in the end, no matter how many followers you have on Twitter, or how many devoted readers your always-up-to-date blog has, if you don’t have a great book, none of that ‘presence’ is going to do you much good.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 22, 2011 at 6:12 PM

      So much wisdom in your comment, JRedmerski. I don’t think you can go wrong with a great book and a great agent. Once you’ve got that, the rest is not worth stressing over. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  5. Peggy Staggs

    August 22, 2011 at 8:05 AM

    Great blog, Clarissa, very thought provoking. This has nothing to do with how sensitive you are and everything to do with personal responsibility. The internet is wonderful and horrible at the same time. With the press of a key you can see the view from the Hubble telescope or order pizza. All from the comfort of your living room, in your underwear, with no one watching. That anonymity makes it easy to click on a website and say anything you want, be as thoughtless as you want, or cruel as you want, without personal responsibility. I think those same people are very sad with their own lives. Why else would they be hateful to a total stranger or someone who thinks they’re a friend? I remember something my dad used to say to me, something that still makes me stop and think. “How would you like it if they did it to you?”

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:41 AM

      Ah, the Golden Rule. . .still golden even online. Thanks for the comment, Peggy.

  6. MKHutchins

    August 22, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    Great post. Maybe I’m self-conscious, but I’ve accused myself of showing off. I don’t have a lot to my name right now, and when I was writing weekly posts on writing, I felt like…who wants to listen to me? Great writing blogs, like this one, already existed. Eventually, I found something fun that worked for me (I do a writing post the first Wednesday of the week, and on the remaining Wednesdays, match a book with a boardgame that I think people who enjoy reading/playing one will enjoy the other). I think confidence and enjoyment in blogging can wash away most of the negatives. Or maybe I’m just lucky enough not to have run into anyone contrary yet. 🙂

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:45 AM

      Hi MK, Yes, I think it’s very hard for an introvert to blog without feeling like it’s showing off. Your blog schedule sounds perfect. I think I’ll go look at it right now. . . Thanks for being such a loyal follower.

  7. maryvine

    August 22, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    I read a blog post because I think I might learn something-about writing anyway. I think that to live up to all we put in our blogs, would make us a perfect human being and none of us in this world are. To this point, I don’t think I’ve been judging wheter a person is worthy to post or not. Personally, I want to read about what you know or have learned and if I can use it, I will. If not, I won’t. Thanks for posting this, Clarissa!

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:47 AM

      Hi Mary, I always learn from your blogs too. I’m so lucky to belong to a group where everyone brings a different type of expertise to their posts. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Judith Keim

    August 22, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    I find some blogs are very useful as long as they give me insight into the blogger and/or insight into the writing world. I’m a member of several groups so that within the past year, requests to visit a blog have become too numerous to handle. And lately I’ve found myself becoming very choosy about which blogs for which I will interrupt my writing… So while they are useful to a point, I don’t think blogs are neccessarily the best vehicles for getting your name out there…

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:49 AM

      Hi Judy, I would love to see someone in this group blog about which are the best vehicles for name recognition. Lately, I’ve been focused on my WIP, or I would research marketing more myself. Thanks for the comment.

  9. Judi L. Romaine

    August 22, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Thanks for discussing blogging – something I find seductive and mysterious. Having had blogs for six years, I have yet to discover the power of reaching the reader audience that might be possible. Most of the blogs I visit and my own attract writers almost exclusively – which is fine except we all want to expand our markets. My problem with many author’s blogs is if they are used to promote ourselves, they are sooooo not interesting – my own included. Now topics, like this one, is always a draw for me. Otherwise, I stay away from giveaway blogs and any that give excerpts – I can get those easily on Amazon – any ideas on drawing readers? I’ve tried doing giveaways of books myself and find it brings skimpy returns.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:57 AM

      Thanks for pointing out some of other problems writers face in blogging, Judi.

      It’s true. If you blog about writing, you’re only going to get writers to your blog. I have seen some writers successfully do blogs on their other hobbies and attract readers that way. But it’s hard to find that niche. As for giveaways, I do love to win free books, but it can be awkward if you win and then don’t like the book.

      Do any of the GS writers want to take up this topic?

  10. monarisk

    August 22, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    Good post, Clarissa. I have deleted a couple of posts after writing them because I thought someone may get offended and think it was directed at a particular person or group. In general I don’t care if people thinks I am bragging about my books. The whole purpose of blogging is to promote your books, right?

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 5:58 AM

      Mona, I’ve read your blogposts, and I can’t imagine who would be offended by them. And it’s probably not bragging when the books are good. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  11. Kathy Bennett

    August 22, 2011 at 12:56 PM

    This is a very interesting topic. I write my blog much like I did when I working as a Los Angeles Police Officer and had to write newsletters or e-mail blasts to the community. I learned early on in that venue that I had to be true to myself and my voice. I compose my writing blog the same way.

    Prior to publishing my book, blog readers visited because I was usually talking about some aspect of crime or stupid things people do. Now, I struggle to marry both my ‘police’ interested blog readers and my ‘book’ interested readers. I’m sure there are a few who are strictly police fans and others who may just like my book – but I suspect most are a combo of both.

    Just like I did when I worked for the LAPD, I DO find I censor myself sometimes because there are some topics or ideas I have that are just too ‘hot button’ to print. The funny thing is, that when I left the department I thought I’d be free to say whatever I wanted. Oh well…

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 6:00 AM

      Your blog sounds fascinating, Kathy. I think I’ll just pop over there and have a look. Thanks for commenting.

  12. anita clenney

    August 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    I haven’t been blogging that long. I’m part of two group blogs, and while I haven’t encountered any problems with offending someone or online wars, I find the danger in blogging for me is that it takes so much time. It gets so overwhelming to keep up not just the blogs you write but the ones you want to follow; especially for a time management deficient writer like myself. 🙂

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 6:13 AM

      Congratulations on your recent national bestseller achievement, Anita! I agree, blogging can take up a lot of time, especially for those who are published and on bookstores. Personally, I think it’s the #1 complaint I hear from bloggers. Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  13. Phyllis Humphrey

    August 22, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    Good blog! I read the ones that promise some help. My own have drawn few – to none – comments. However, as of today, ‘m doing serious blogging: a series of six weekly posts on the fascinating things I learned about the Titanic while writing my novel COLD APRIL. I’m trying to keep them factual, not promotional. But I hope readers don’t think I consider myself a Titanic expert. I’m just a “buff” because my grandfather came over on the New York, the ship Titanic almost colllided with on its maiden voyage.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 6:14 AM

      I love blogs that focus on historical facts. I will be sure to check out your Titanic blogs. Thanks for commenting, Phyllis.

  14. Shea Berkley

    August 22, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Great post, Clarissa!

    I have no advice or insight into blogging. The process terrifies me, though I’m forced to do it. I just ramble. Seems to entertain most and those it doesn’t, I don’t worry about. I can’t. I’ve got too much other stuff cramming my brain to worry about the haters in this world.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      Great philosophy, Shea. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  15. Kris

    August 22, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Interesting blog! I’ve not had any negative comments, but I’ve heard of others who have. Like Anita, the only pitfall or peril to blogging is the time it takes to do. I use my blog to discuss what I teach at writing workshops as well as chronicle my own writing journey. I usually have less than 10 comments per post, but have almost 200 followers.

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 4:19 PM

      Yes, the time required seems to be a common problem. It’s great that you have the workshop background to draw from. Thanks for commenting, Kris. 🙂

  16. Florence Fois

    August 22, 2011 at 4:37 PM

    Clarrisa, have you ever felt someone walking in your head? Your post today resonates so much of what I have been thinking.

    J. Redmerski … I agree with your comments in triplicate! Clarissa, your post dramatically demonstrates how frustrating it becomes if you try to please all of the people all of the time. I applaud both of you for being so spot on in the nuances of the blog. I started my blog because I love to write and wanted to find other people who shared my feeilngs. Even the name I chose was taken from a journal I kept through college … Ramblings. It is who I am … that young woman who wanted to realize her childhood dream and put it down three times before making the decision to become a full time writer and it is as vibrant today as she was when the original journal was written.

    So people will think you are bragging or talking about them or as is my incurable habit … talking too much. It has taken a great deal of learning through trial and error, but after almost two years of blogging, I have come to a crossroad. Like Dorothy I will let what is the right thing to do point the right direction to take at this crossroad. I enjoy it and I love the wonderful writers I have met because of it. Writing is a solitary and oft lonely journey and when we can connect with those who have the same passion we should not worry about what people might think.

    I thank you for bringing this out into the light where so many need to see … like our first attempt to write a novel or our first crude attempt to do a short story … writers write and everyone else talks. Writers read to learn and they learn even more from not writing well until they know better.

    Good post and good site. See you around the Yahoo Loop 🙂

    • Clarissa Southwick

      August 24, 2011 at 4:21 PM

      Florence, I love how you look at this, as a progression where one gains skills and knowledge. Thanks for commenting.

  17. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    August 22, 2011 at 7:46 PM

    I loved reading the comments for this particular post. I started blogging because my publisher advised me to do so. I didn’t think I could blog. I did. And I look forward to not only writing the blog once a week, but I enjoy reading the comments as well. My book isn’t published yet and my following is very slim, but I only started several months back. But you have to start somewhere! I’ll see what happens after my book is out, but I enjoy interfacing with others – though right now they’re all fellow writers because I have no readers. We are pushed to blog, twitter, facebook, etc… and one has to select which social media platforms fit best with their writing and personality. However, bottom line, if the writing is bad, having a website and blogging and such won’t do a darn thing.

  18. lynn mapp

    August 22, 2011 at 9:03 PM

    Clarrisa, writing a blog…
    Wow. Okay. Isn’t everything always about ME? Isn’t ME the center of the universe? Doesn’t everyone, even those who don’t know ME, think about ME? That’s the problem. It’s hard to believe that ME isn’t to end all for everyone. ME needs to get over Me. Enough said.

  19. Jacquie Rogers

    August 23, 2011 at 12:27 AM

    I’m an abyssmal failure at blogging. I can never think of anything to write that hasn’t already been written 496 bazillion times, and I don’t want to post plain old promo. So I joined Unusual Historicals and write one article a month, and I formed Romancing The West where I host a different western writer every week, and I only post once a week announcing the contest winner and posting links that interested me during the week, which only takes a few minutes. I give myself a week every couple months. Also, guest blogging is way, way more fun than writing on my own blog.

    And yes, I did have a person think I was writing about her once. Luckily, I could actually prove that it the good example of a bad example was actually me. Yes, I do feel weird about tooting my own horn, but if I want to sell books, it has to be done. Yes, I’ve lost many, many chapters because I stared at a blank blog screen waiting for some words to jump up there. They don’t.

    Thanks for an excellent post!

  20. Patsy

    August 23, 2011 at 7:02 AM

    Jacquie – I totally agree! I have a problem finding anything interesting to write about. I try to keep it light and short – but even writing a short post is hard. I work full time which limits my writing time as well. A real dilemma.

  21. Regina Richards

    August 23, 2011 at 7:03 AM

    Whether it’s playing basketball or sending healthy sack lunches to school with your child, success of any type attracts both fans and detractors. I try to consider the source and keep going. Otherwise I’d be paralyzed and do nothing. Good post.

  22. Donna Cummings

    August 23, 2011 at 7:24 AM

    Interesting post, Clarissa! I started blogging a couple years ago, and was surprised to find out how much I enjoyed it. I like having someplace to express my thoughts about writing, and my posts usually come about because of something I’m working through during revisions or while drafting a WIP. It always delights me when blog readers comment how the things I discuss resonate with them.

    It does take time, but I find it enjoyable. If I didn’t, I don’t think I could keep up with the twice-weekly schedule I’ve set for myself. If it were just another chore (like housework!), you can bet I’d find something else to do instead!

  23. W. Lynn

    August 24, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    I enjoyed the post. If I continually worried about what someone thought or how they would react when they read my blog I would never write anything. Some days it’s hard enough just crafting the next story. I censor myself enough in the real world.


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