Blogging? Grow a thick skin

It’s harder than you think.

You set out with the best of intentions, open up WordPress or Blogger (or Medium) and create a blog. You decide on a theme, a background, a cover image, a niche (maybe) and a name et voila, it’s ready for your shaking fingers and tremors of excitement as you see your baby take shape.

Fumbling, you knock the keys together in random succession and churn out what you think is wonderful writing. For, after all, it’s the sweat of your brow and the voice of your heart. Surely, that’s worth something?

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Hit the Publish button and wait. A while goes by and a notification pops up. Someone likes it. Holy moly! Someone read the post you put up. They actually clicked ‘Like’. A few more minutes pass and that orange glow lights up the corner of your screen once again. A comment this time! Woo hoo!

And so it begins.

You get sucked into the vortex of likes and comments, shares and retweets, agreements and opposition. After a flurry of average posts, you hit the jackpot and churn out a post with viral capabilities. You watch in awe as the view counter climbs steadily, the Facebook likes spiral out of control and comments keep coming in droves. For a bit, you’re on a high and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

After that, there’s a lull. You don’t know what’s happened but it’s almost as if you cannot write anymore. Your writing spirit feels drained and whatever you write seems mediocre and will never quite hit the ‘viral’ domain again.

So what should you do?

Take a deep breath, a few steps back, take a break and look long and hard at the primary question: Why do you blog?

If you answer, ‘for myself’, then that’s only half the truth. If it really were only for yourself, you wouldn’t be blogging. You’d be writing in a personal diary. Yes, that’s the truth, the whole of it.

If you answer, ‘to give expression to my thoughts’, that too is not the entire truth. Yes, we write to express ourselves but we do it to be heard.

If you answer, ‘to generate healthy debate’, you’re only going to be partly satisfied, because, let’s face it, there is no such thing as absolutely healthy debate in the online world. Opinions fly thick and fast here, people find it more comfortable to tear you down from behind a computer or mobile screen and everyone’s a critic.

If you answer, ‘a bit of everything’ and that includes each of the points above, then the only thing left to do is grow a thick skin. By thick, I mean buffalo hide or bark-of-a-tree thick. Face it, your posts will not always be read by every single person you admire or visit in the big, virtual world. Some of them don’t have time to visit you while others may visit but not like it enough to leave a comment.

So, why should you blog? Really? It’s far easier to throw in the towel, quit blogging and find something else to do that will be infinitely more satisfying.

The answer to that, and it probably is the only truth that matters, is that blogging helps you grow. All the praise, the brickbats, the comments or lack of them, the virality or virtual invisibility of your posts- they all teach you something. It is that blogging is exactly like real life. Some things do well, other things don’t.

Instead of worrying about what didn’t work, focus on what did. Tweak that, nurture the creative streak, make it work for you.

Finally, blog with a layer of grit and determination. It should be the first thing you grow as a writer- an extra layer of skin that can effectively let the praise and the brickbats skim off the surface without penetrating too deeply.

Because, in that, lies our power of acceptance and the truth- we’re all in this together.

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48 thoughts on “Blogging? Grow a thick skin

  1. Blog because you want to know what people think about your writing, you want to express your opinion or simply want to share your writing with other people. Reasons may be many. What I feel is it helps you to grow.

  2. I haven’t needed a thick skin so far, as I am as non-confrontational on my blog, as I am in the “real world”; but I see what you mean.

    I started blogging to document my reading life, but this has become so much more. I think I continue to blog because of all of the above things you mentioned, and the wonderful feeling of community, as like you rightly said – We are in this together. πŸ™‚

  3. You offer interesting perspective and it’s a huge medium for the real and the individual to come out. It’s been a learning curve for me and initially wrote for myself, but it’s space that helped me expand with short stories, poems and what’s not. Blogging is power for me:)

  4. True, that. You really DO need a thick skin to be a blogger. Need to take everything impersonally. Be extremely focused… kind of like how the horses pulling those carts on our Indian streets have those covers on the sides of their eyes. (There must be a name for it, I just don’t know what!)
    I’m currently trying hard to grow that thick skin. πŸ˜›
    – Chicky @ http://www.mysteriouskaddu.com

  5. A very nice post Shailaja:-)Few years back, I started blogging to get rid of my dark phase as a proper career was setting in .I was so torn apart that my family started feeling helpless as they did not know how to support me .But now it’s a different story…

  6. Oh yes, thick skin helps! Definitely. And this becomes even more helpful when you are convinced about the kind of things you want to blog about and how you want to express/write. Ultimately, it comes down to who you understand who you are at a certain point in life and where you want to go next – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. If you can use this blogging thing as part of that journey, it becomes more meaningful, otherwise it is just a chore or a baggage.

    A very good post, Shailaja. Can’t say that I agree with every individual point you make but I concur with the spirit in which you have written this post and also the overall idea and question you want us to ponder upon.

    1. Yes, my personal spiritual journey is always at the forefront when it comes to anything and more so in the realm of blogging or writing. Even the book is coming from a place where I feel that the story needs to be said. Making things pleasant for ourselves can be so easy or so challenging, right, Beloo?

      Thank you so much for your sincere comment and I appreciate your difference of opinion. As always <3

  7. I have been asking this question to myself so many times esp on mommy blog. While primary purpose is to document our life with litt one. but am I right in sharing his pics? I hv taken care that there is nothing about the pics taht people can misue but still

    1. Oh yes, I understand the trouble there, Meena. It is the exact reason I have stopped sharing pictures of my daughter, especially of her face and close-up shots, on my blogs. The world is a scary place and we can do everything we can to protect our kids to the best of our ability.

  8. Blogging is a world of its own.. and just like a society we live in.. blogging is such and most of the time it works on the idea of you scratch my back I will scratch yours..

    I started and no one use to visit as only a few people knew about the blog . But it meant a lot when they read what I wrote and as time went on.. many started to visit.

    Some good people also made relationships with me. . Calling me son brother friend etc etc .. as we do in our society too.. but then soon these people found new son’s or brothers :). ..

    I use to feel bad but now I have a skin thicker than a rhino.. so now at this stage after 5 years or so I do say I blog because I love to write and put my views out there in public.. maybe to irk others ha ha ha ha..

    People like in our society who are good will always appreciate or tell you off.. try to make you see other views .. and they are the ones who matter .. rest are like what can I say …

    Yes I love the comments that come and yes I am greedy and would love more ..but you can’t have all the world .. can you πŸ™‚

    I use to watch how many hits etc etc but not anymore. . Because I have become practical now.. and I am sure 5 years of anything will one make practical and see the truth that is out there..

    Blogging world is full of people who write one thing but practise completely different..:)..I only pray that I am not of them…

    Wowo I written a article here now..He he he he

    1. Ah I understand the angst and the possible disillusionment that comes with blogging without comments, Bikramjit. I’ve been there and to be honest, it can be quite challenging. I remember doing NaBloPoMo in November 2013 and getting maybe 2 comments per post, if that. The thrill that someone was reading was such a high! After that, it became easier to write. Yes, some continued to read and comment. Others stopped. Then you go back full circle and start working on your content strategy which also involves promotion now. It keeps evolving, I think πŸ™‚ And yes, you’ve said most of it in your comment as well πŸ™‚

  9. Very good post Shailaja. And very relevant to all us. At some point, we all need to stop and take stock of why we do what we do. Otherwise one just cant go on. We really need to develop thick hides for us to survive.

  10. When you blog after a gap, I have noticed, the readers go down. I have also noticed that all posts do not get the same kind of attention. We have been lucky here with BAR, Writetribe and other blog hops. Sometimes, I do wonder, would we have got the feedback if we were a lone ranger trying to get people to read our posts. But any feedback is appreciated whole heartedly. Thankfully, not much negative comments on my blog yet.

    1. All post won’t get the same kind of attention, despite your promotional tactics being the same. It helps to study the stats page on WordPress and figure out what it is that brings people back to your blog and work from there. Yes, blog hops help raise your visibility significantly and so do thoughtful comments left on other’s blogs. Of course, you will get some trolls and people who are mean for the sake of it but that’s going with the flow πŸ™‚

  11. I totally loved this post and it is a post that I can keep coming back for inspiration. I have been blogging for just 2.5 years but the skin is thick and I know it should get thicker. I do not get negative comments cos I think people don’t want to share things that hurt but yes, sometimes there are no comments and that doesn’t worry me. Stats or comments is not the final destination. Infact nothing is a final destination. I want my blog to be a place where people come to read things that they can read later as well, show to friends or talk about with others. I write to be heard what I express. I write to learn, be a better writer and improve the way I think. I blog cos I want to keep meeting people like you from whom I have so many things to learn. I blog cos it makes me complete πŸ™‚
    What a wonderful post Shailaja! As you can see, I cannot stop writing πŸ˜€

    1. Ha ha ha, you’re cute, Parul <3

      Yes, those are all wonderfully frank reasons to blog. The more we let go of the attachment to the outcome, the better our relationship with the product. Whether it's personal connections or our blogs, the same principle applies, I find πŸ™‚ Very pleased that we connected with each other, as you know πŸ™‚

  12. Interesting post Shailaja.For me blogging is a way to expand my knowledge and air my views,hoping that I will be able to help someone.It has enabled me to know many fantastic persons-you are the latest :).

  13. Like Vidya, I have blogged for months perhaps a year without any commnt. Actually I didn’t want a comment. I only shared the URL with just 10 people. I only wanted them to read. I had no clue what blogging was. πŸ™‚ When I got my first external comment, I felt intruded upon. I was that naive.

    Slowly, I opened myself to an external world of bloggers. How lovely that was! I have had my share of controversies and tiffs too. They hurt when they unfolded. But they taught me a precious lot.

    I love comments, more so because of the experiences shared. I don’t mind dissent. Really! My only contention being that it be voiced decently.

    Blogging to me is just like real life. You meet some good people and some not-so-good ones. You need a thick skin to get through life as well. πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, for the most part, I have met the good folks online. As for the not-so-good ones, well, like you said, you find those in reality too. Also, I have started letting go of the emotional attachment to comments and likes and shares. It’s tough, mind you, especially when blogging is such a symbiotic process. I, for one, would want people to come over, read and share my posts only if it really touches them. I mean, obviously, from time to time I am going to spin a yarn which nobody likes , so kinder to ignore me on those days πŸ˜›

  14. Right on all counts! Honestly, never gave a thought to why I blog – but it’s definitely not just for me. I think that in my case, the blog then the magazine, both just happened. A fab post – makes one feel confident that others are asking and answering the same questions.

    1. I always love it when a passion and a profession merge so seamlessly. It just shows that you doing exactly what you ought to be doing. How many people can say that, I mean, really?

      Oh I ask these questions often. Stick around, you’ll get bored of me soon enough πŸ˜‰

      1. My profession doesn’t really merge with my passion…Coding and writing are poles apart -(oh, both involve typing though.) Thinking a little deeper…Blogging gives me a break…refreshes me – but at times, it begins to haunt me too. Especially when I can’t post for a week…I start wondering if my visitors will forget my blog. About getting bored – Friendship is like wine – the older it gets, the headier it becomes.

  15. I truly believe this! I love getting comments, but at the same time, I can’t let one negative comment faze me! I seem to be very lucky in not getting many of those though!

    1. I am lucky too, for the most part, where comments on the blog are concerned. In closed conversations or on social media, I have been burnt, so I tread warily now. I used to wonder endlessly about putting up status updates that may offend people. Then I figured hey, it’s my status and my belief, so I shouldn’t really worry too much. I still think, though, before expressing my views too openly. That’s the non-confrontational me speaking πŸ™‚

  16. Have you been reading my mind all these days? I don’t even call myself a blogger but yes since I have a blog in my name I am a blogger. I have just started ( it has been 1 and half years), none of the posts has gone viral, none of them has attracted brickbats till now and I get all the comments from my blogger friends. Yet every 2 months I get into the zone ‘What is it that I am doing?’

    1. Yes, I have special powers, don’t you know? πŸ˜‰ I think if you blog regularly, you can safely call yourself a blogger. My first and only post that went viral was in February this year, 7.5 years after I began to blog. Has never been repeated after that. I now blog as a way to keep learning and grooming my technique.

  17. Agree with you completely. Blogging has been a great teacher. Every aspect of it, every phase of it has given great learnings! I am so glad that I found blogging and that it has become a passion for me.

  18. Shailu, I’d have a whole different answer every year to the why do you blog question. Now I’ve reached a plateau πŸ˜‰

    I did blog for myself for several years before a single comment came in. It is an amazing world out there, where some people don’t even dream of reciprocating, yet will pass judgment on someone for the very thing they’ve cultivated into a habit. Now if we worry about who’s saying what, life will come to a standstill.

    In that sense, I started out with a rather thick skin…which turns into an armor on occasion. Yet, it never killed my softness.

    So what happened to your header here?

    Hugs. I love the way you wrote this post.

    1. You are a force to be reckoned with in the land of blogging and otherwise too and I love you for it <3 Yes, I remember the pre-comment days pretty well too and remember the savouring of that emotion very well!

      As for people, nothing they say affects me too much now, especially the brickbats. I like the way you spoke about turning it into an armour. Yes, people will always criticise, right? I mean, that comes easily to them. Motives are always misunderstood and you can't make everyone happy. Must stop trying to.

      As for the header, no idea. Maybe I need to adjust the image size. Thanks. Will check it out
      Hugs <3

  19. I don’t know why from the past few months I have stopped blogging. I mostly just read other people’s blog and drool over their talent and wordsmithery πŸ˜‰
    Trying to understand if the reason for this is hidden somewhere within this post of yours πŸ™‚

    1. You’re probably creating a treasure trove of ideas and writing to keep you warm in the winter months. Just you wait, it’s all going to burst out of you when you least expect it πŸ˜€ And when it does, savour the feeling. It’s heady an gorgeous!

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