There once was a time when I kept things to myself. I wrote short stories and poems in a journal that I kept hidden from the rest of the world. It sat in my underwear drawer between the thongs I never wore and the granny panties I couldn’t live without. In it I’d write nothing of note, nothing scandalous and nothing hyper-intellectual.
For years I filled these lined pages with the usual crackpot observations, foul-mouthed sarcasm and melodramatic longing. Self-serving dribble if you ask me, sometimes cleverly articulated, oftentimes not.
From my 8th grade diary: Life already feels like a traffic jam, just ridin the ass of the person in front.
Then one day (five years ago) I started blogging.
At the time I all but ignored advances in technology, including social media, smart phones and online banking. Hell, I still considered books on tape to be blasphemous. But like many 20-something curmudgeons, I
warmed to learned to tolerate social media. Peer pressured into joining Facebook in 2008, I denounced it quickly as a mindless fad, a time suck for people who spent too much time nosing around other people’s business. I uploaded an image of two greasy chicken wings and saved it as my profile pic.
My real friends already know what I look like. Na-na-na-bo-bo.
The first few times I left a comment on somebody’s page, I signed it with my name.
You look cute in this picture. – Heidi Kurpiela
Then someone told me I should join Twitter. So I joined Twitter. True to form, I let the account sit inactive for years.
Yet I continued to blog, sending post after post into the interwebbing abyss, wondering if anyone other than my mother and best friend read my overwrought blather. Much like the journals in my underwear drawer, the blog became a kind of confession box. I drew the curtain closed and laid my sins on the line. If a post garnered a comment from a stranger, I’d hang my head in embarrassment. Who told ’em I was blogging? This is the Internet for criminy’s sake. Not the 11 o’clock news.
A little part of me, the part that likes to hide in the recesses of my repressed writer’s ego, was flattered by the feedback. I am, after all, a journalist. My words go public for a living. Sharing stories with strangers is the thrill of the game – that and access to unusual people and places.
But I was still uncomfortable in my blogger’s skin; so uncomfortable that I refused to call this thing a blog. I called it a Lance, not realizing that one day I’d leave my cozy post as a staff writer at a newspaper and courageously tread the ruthless waters of free LANCING.
Like a crusty old hippie I was determined to attract blog readership without the help of the Internet. Oh the conceit! Trying to get people to read stories ONLINE without promoting them ONLINE is like leading a horse to water in the desert.
Case in point:
One weekend in 2008, I attended a writer’s conference in Boulder, Colorado. I was dining at a restaurant alone with my computer when I stupidly scribbled my blog’s URL on a napkin and passed it to two gossipy girls in the booth behind me.
Hey guys, if you’re ever looking for something to read check out my site.
They shot me an annoyed look, tossed my napkin on a dirty plate and returned to gossiping.
Thanks, said one girl. The other girl just grimaced.
I gave up on grass roots marketing and turned to social media shortly thereafter. Sharing the address to your blog, unsolicited, with a stranger is awkward and humiliating. Trust me.
With the help of some Internet-savvy friends and family, I allowed my blog to grow up. I switched from Blogger to Word Press, purchased a real domain name, redesigned the site and embraced Facebook like a long lost frenemy. (Please Like the Lance on FB!)
I wrote guest posts for other bloggers, exchanged emails with companies regarding advertising and sponsored links. I netted a few photography gigs, a public reading opportunity and some lucrative freelance assignments.
Still I’m a total neophyte.
My Twitter account remains mostly inactive, save for the few times Joe has hacked my account and pretended to Tweet as me. I still use a flip phone with no data plan and I’ve yet to find anything Pinteresting about Instagram.
Despite my new love affair with social media, I still struggle with blogging. Why? Because there will always be a part of me that thinks no one cares. That is, until I get a meaningful comment. Or until I write something cathartic. Or until I make someone laugh. Or cry. Or cringe. Or all of the above.
Then I’m all like, blogging is the best! How can I do this for a living? Is Twitter the answer? Fine. Teach me how to write in 140 characters or less. I could use a little restraint.