Wednesday, December 10, 2014

THE JOY OF BLOGGING – A Virtual Person of the World

PART I  of two parts
 
ILLUSTRATION: kingdesignllc.com

About ten years ago I ran into an old schoolmate who told me how much he
was enjoying blogging. “Great!” I replied, not wanting to reveal my ignorance. Nonetheless, he explained briefly how it worked and that it allowed him an international forum for his best thinking and writing. He said it was easy; I
wasn’t so sure.

But the idea of blogging simmered in the stew of my ambitions. Then, a few years ago, I found myself on the verge of having my first book* published. One of the first questions I knowingly asked my publisher was, “Should I start a blog?” And they agreed that was a great idea.

The strategy, they told me—apparently the rapidly changing indie publishing industry’s new model of how to market a book—was to build, well before our release date, an online following for the kind of content featured in my book, and then pitch the release not just to the nebulous universe of Amazon and Barnes & Noble shoppers, but to my own, pre-vetted, captive audience.

So, a few years back, I started One Man’s Wonder. It was as easy as my friend had said it was; I used Google’s Blogger** platform, which provided me a number of predesigned formats and simple, intuitive tools to customize them to my tastes. And—unbelievably then as now—it was free.

        If it was good, I got comments from 
        readers, making it not just my soapbox, 
        but a lively forum.

The blog, along with my faithful empire-building efforts on Facebook and Twitter, delivered more or less as everyone had hoped. Sure enough, I gained followers who became fans who became buyers of my book. But I also got to connect with kindred spirits who simply share my love of Nature and my appetite for the spiritual nutrients it provides—some of whom were also working on their own books.


A few of these more-famous-than-I new friends, at least partly because of their familiarity with my work through the blog, were kind enough to endorse my book—which has made a huge difference in gaining it interest and credibility.

But One Man’s Wonder’s connection with my book soon became secondary, for blogging came to be a joy in its own right. I got to write about things I ponder all the time and that I love to share. If it was good, I got comments from readers, making it not just my soapbox, but a lively forum. I was grateful, too, for the occasional push-back, which helped me to examine both my thinking and my style.

MYSTICAL MINGLING
It was thrilling to count—in Blogger’s rudimentary analytics feature—the number of visitors I was getting every day, which operating systems and browsers they were using, the keywords they entered to find me, and in which countries they logged in.

I remember those first weeks when I was checking my page views every hour or two, hoping to break double figures for that day. Then, gradually, with the help of my growing followings on Facebook and Twitter, my daily readership grew to the hundreds and, on a good day, the thousands.

Even as I close in on 200,000 all-time page views, I realize these numbers mean little by themselves. Still, it’s been an amazing experience tracking them, watching them grow, and trying to imagine people in, say, China gazing down at the exact same screen view I was seeing—my writing, my photos, my thoughts and feelings.

    Connecting with someone across repressive 
    political or cultural barriers, like fishing 
    for giants in a deep, dark pool, borders on
    the mystical.

But the truest rewards of all have been the wonderful comments I get in person from readers, many of them “lurkers,” followers who never comment online, or who do so anonymously. Ranging from “Oh, I love the photos you share!” to “Such-and-such a post inspired me to get my kids off their little screens and outdoors for some real connection,” this feedback reminds me that my audience is far wider and more interested than the number of comments would suggest.

Visitors to One Man's Wonder have logged on from 75 countries.

Especially fascinating is the international following I seem to have built. At first I was blown away by noticing an occasional page view from Canada, Mexico or somewhere in Europe. But the list has grown, now comprising 75 countries from Argentina to Vietnam.

Connecting with someone on the other side of the world—often across repressive political or cultural barriers—is more than just gratifying; like fishing for the denizens of a deep, dark pool, it borders on the mystical.
(to be continued)

* UNDER THE WILD GINGER - A Simple Guide to the Wisdom of Wonder. You can order custom-dedicated, signed copies directly from the author at a special discount for the holidays—just $9.95. Just send Jeff an email: jeff@willius.com

** There are many other free blogging platforms, including WordPress, Typepad, Moveable Type and Tumbler, some of which have far more sophisticated features, but I’ve found Blogger’s intuitive design features—not requiring any knowledge of HTML programming—suit my needs very well.


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