Travelling this summer forced me to step away from the Internet. It severely limited my ability to blog or process pictures or edit video or promote myself or anything beyond a little bit of blog reading and some playing on Instagram when the connection was strong enough.
I knew it was a good thing because before we went I was worry wondering whether if I disappeared for three weeks all my hard work in making my blog into something I’m really proud of would vanish in a puff of smoke, and that’s a sign of getting perilously close to the point where the blog, and more importantly the stat counter, is running me rather than me running the blog.
And of course when I got back my stats had taken a hit and I took a good jump down the Tots100, but not by as much as perhaps I had feared. But more importantly, I was quite relaxed about it, because much as I love my Tots ranking, it’s not my measure of success.
I think we are by nature and by nurture programmed to strive for success. The conditioning of early childhood tells us to do our best and tells us what best would be; first in the running race, an A in your exams (or probably an A********* by now!), but I think it’s an inherent quality too, after all, who knows a child who wants to learn to ride a bike badly, or learn ballet so they can give it up age 12 without ever going near a stage, or play football, but only to back garden standards? They want to be brilliant; to ride until they run out of road, to dance across the world or play football for the team of their dreams, though whether ability can keep up with ambition is a different question.
The difference between the two though is clear even from those examples; the external motivation is competitive and success can only come where someone else does not succeed – there can only be one winner of the running race, there are only so many As to go round – but the internal motivation is entirely a creature of self – to be able to ride my bike really well doesn’t mean that no one else can ride their bike, in fact, if we let the analogy go galloping off into the night, it’s actually friendlier if someone else can also ride their bike really well, it means we can go exploring together.
So what does that mean for us as adults and as bloggers?
Well I’ll get to blogging in a minute but first I want to talk about knitting. Because success in knitting is really easy to identify; it means the jumper/socks/hat/blanket fit. It’s the right size, it’s the size you intended to make, it doesn’t have any mistakes in it that you would notice from the back of a galloping horse and you have absolutely and definitely not started knitting the back to the sweater, done some decreases for waist shaping and then inexplicably knit on, increasing gently as you work the sleeve cap on the top to make a weird third sleeve/back hybrid that will never block into any of the shapes you actually need to make an item of knitwear for a human.
Success in knitting is tangible but it’s also personal. It’s never a success because it’s better than your best friend Annie’s jumper. Even if she used the same pattern and even the same colour of the same yarn, the two aren’t comparable because they are handmade and because they were handmade for different people. You might be the technically better knitter, and hers might be riddled with dropped stitches and “creative lacework additions” but if yours drowns her it’s not a success as a jumper for her, no matter how beautiful your stitchwork.
And I think the same is true and should be true in blogging. Our blogs are handmade. We might have specialist help when we need it but the vision and somewhere between most and all of the words and pictures are our own, and that means that, like jumpers, they’re not ever truly comparable, nor can you subject them to a linear measure.
Given enough time and a decent internet connection it would be easy to significantly boost your stats, to play the right game with the right platforms to whoosh you up the ranking systems, but it’s an empty exercise.
True success in blogging has to be determined by a standard that’s personal to you, not by an imposed standard. You aren’t a success in blogging because you do X many more collaborative posts than the next person, or get above Y position in the Tots100 or even win Z award, they all come because your blog already is whatever you decide is success; a side effect, not the definition.
And that means that we’re not in competition with each other.
I don’t want to turn my stat counter off and I am very proud of things like my Tots score, whatever it may happen to be at any one time, they are actual numbers on a page that tell me that more people read than just my family and the occasional colleague (hi guys!). My measure of success though is when I can see that a post has resonated with someone, or sparked a discussion, or made someone laugh or just feel less alone – and there’s no finite capacity for that. Success, but on terms where everyone can be successful, that sounds like a pretty good result to me.