Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blogging and ego.

This post is not going to have any pictures. I don't think. 

So for a few months now, I've been going to a couple of Buddhist book groups. I love them. And, while Ross was away in the jungle, I shook off all my skepticism about books labeled with Oprah Book Club stickers, and bought a copy of Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. I love it, too.

This is a tough post to write because my comfort zone with Austin Eavesdropper pretty much stays in the nightlife/food/fashion realm, and sometimes, I truss up these local recommendations with stories about my life. But for the most part, this blog is a party dress and my real life is much less fabulous. If my life were wearing shoes, they would probably be Tevas.

But anyway, these books and book groups have been making me thinking about an issue that I wonder if other bloggers experience.  So I'm bringing it to this very public forum. And that is: blogging and ego.

Let's be honest. First of all, Austin Eavesdropper is great, but it ain't no Gawker. I am grateful to those of you who read, stop by, bookmark this page, all of it. And if I exert some effort, I can probably grow it. All I'm saying is, in terms of ego, I know it's not the biggest, baddest blog in the world. So let's not pretend Austin Eavesdropper is this cumbersome mantle of fame, because it's not.

What it is, however, is my favorite hobby. It's the only hobby I've ever stuck with for years at a time. It's an avenue to complex, interesting people who read and comment on this site, it's an inquiry into the creative currency of this town, and it's free tickets to shows. All things I don't want to give up.

Here's one thing I do want to give up. Ego.

Or at least, give up some of it. I recognize that checking one's blog stats, keeping track of your RT's on Twitter, and all other manner of measuring your social media effectiveness is, on the one hand, pragmatic. If you want to build a community. And I think I do.

But hitting refresh on Twitter constantly, just to see how many people have RT'd my shit, is not only ego-stroking, it's embarrassing. I don't like that feeling. Whenever it gets this way, I tend to unplug from all social media platforms for a few days, to experience the joys of real life. I'll be taking a pleasant walk, stand-up paddling, making dinner with my husband, calling my mom and dad, shopping at the Farmer's Market and all the other healthy things people who aren't obsessed with social media do, when out of nowhere - BAM - it hits.

"You should be Tweeting this." 

"Where is your camera? Where is your damn camera?? You have to blog this."

"Wait - should you check in? You have Gowalla (I think)...maybe other people are here? Should you make a recommendation?"

--And a thousand more anxious voices that rise up in a single moment. Reminding me that I haven't been "participating" properly.

Last night, while eating with Ross, I confessed all this. Oh, he knows. He's the one I used to cry to in the early days of this blog, when no one was reading (even him), and my feelings got all hurt.

I explained to Ross that while he was gone, I had an epiphany of sorts that I didn't need to blog, ever again. I mean, I'm still going to, but no longer did I need it to be my identity, that thing I thought of first thing in the morning, the reference point to which I connect all lived experience because it would make a good blog post. And, that felt like a step.

"So, it's a good thing," he said.

"Yes," I said. "It's a huge relief."

But.  Fellow bloggers, can you relate to this?

My ego, my sneaky, sneaky ego, thinks differently. It's saying: "you give up blogging, you give up anything, and you're less interesting.

You're less Tolly.

You're less you."

I tend to get emotional when I talk about things like this.  And Ross, seeing it on my face last night, took my hand and said:

"You can do whatever you want. It's about doing things for the right reasons. Do you want to blog because it makes you feel like a badass, or do you want to blog because the people you talk about are badasses?"

Ok, so he didn't say those exact words.  He's much more eloquent than I am. But that was the gist of it anyway.

I started this blog because my love was exploding outward. Three years ago, I was an excited little puppy, happy to reunited with pretty, perfect Austin, after a stint on the west coast. Each day, I wanted to log online and shriek: "did you guys hear about this place? And that person? And, and--! I'm so thrilled to be here!!"

All blogs start out so pure.

And then, when we get an audience, bloggers have a choice: to spread the love or horde it. Checking my stats all the time falls into the latter category, the hording category. Bye, I'm done with that.

So, where do we go from here? I'm not sure. I don't have any tips. All I know is, if you're a blogger, and you struggle with that nasty ego drive that makes you feel insecure because not enough people are reading your blog, or they are, and you're nervous about how to keep them, the four lines of this poem really helped me:

"Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things
and such erroneous views will disappear by themselves."

That's from a poem we're reading in my Buddhist book group. It's called "Xinxinming," or, "Trust in Mind." I have no idea what it means. Or rather, I only have kind of an idea of what some of it means.

But I find those lines very comforting. Especially for this whole blogging business.

22 comments:

Cathy Benavides said...

It's like you are speaking straight to me! I know exactly how you feel. It seems like my identity is totally wrapped up in my online persona- my blog, Twitter, my FB pics from the last BATHH, etc. Sometimes I just want to say to hell with it and that I just need to focus on my "real" life. But then I remember that all of this social media/online hoopla has introduced me to some of the most amazing/imspring people I know, and those people are bringing out the best in me. So you go on with your fabulous self- just remember that you are just as fabulous IRL as you are online :)

grechen said...

i feel you - especially since my blog(s) are my business, i constantly need to make sure that what i'm saying is relevant to my community, so i'm always checking RT's on twitter, etc. but i've given up on letting it make me nervous or anxious. when i did that (sometimes i still do), i lost focus and my blogs suffered for it.

people read your blog because they like YOU and they're interested in what YOU have to say. until you change, that will not change.

i am going to print out that poem and make a million copies so i can see it constantly :)
thank you for that.

Anna Gonzalez said...

Over AFW, I found myself thinking, "Why does it make me feel so good to have RTs and ppl checking out things I produce? Am I THAT egotistical?" I've been searching for a deeper answer, and was terrified to think about how good my ego felt. I don't want to be that person either. So then why do I (and you and others like us) do it?
I believe sharing information is a form of activism, but not everything I share is THAT insightful or helpful.
But I do enjoy creating content in all forms, and turning around and sharing it with others. I do it to share the amazing feelings I have. Can I make you feel something today? Can I capture these moments and share them like you were there?
I like the idea of truly looking at your intentions and staying true to yourself.
If people respond, then it's a by product of you sharing your true self, and you shouldn't be ashamed to feel proud (but yeah, do be honest with yourself and keep your ego in check - ha!).
Here's a quote I recently came across that made me think I should keep going:
‎"Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly." - Kafka
Great post! Thanks for SHARING!

tony said...

My blog died off more or less out of a feeling of self-importance ever time I wrote something up. I find myself writing something and would think, "Who cares?"

That was the hurdle that I had to get over (and still am working on), but the person that you should care most about when writing is yourself. Everyone else is just gravy.

Your blog's nice because it's not simply about you, but about your obsession with your city, which is great. I only wish I could be obsessed with Naples. Creativity and a purpose are what makes a blog great, not how many other people appreciate it.

Detach yourself from stat-tracking and worrying more about blog comments or re-tweets and enjoy the motivation of the post.

skrapnel.com said...

Oh, sunshine, you are so beautiful. We are riding the same thoughts this week. My facebook status this morning was about he people are not valuable because of having lots of money or because someone thinks they're sexy--or in this case, because you have lots of readers. You are valuable because you are a beautiful light on this planet.

Ultimately it's about 2 things: intentions and value.

Are you blogging because you need something to feel valuable or complete? Are your intentions to get mad followers? Or do you blog out of someplace pure? Do you blog because you want people to see you as 'good' 'smart' 'witty'? Do you check in because you want people to know that you eat at nice places? Do you tweet because you want people to think you're funny or spiritual or complicated or simple?

Like you, I blog because I love Austin and I love writing. It's a tool for me to connect with people. And it would be cool if I one day made money from it. But I started writing for myself. If it makes people laugh or feel like they've connected with someone else, then that's cool--but ultimately, it's my form of artistic expression. If my readership dropped, I would probably panic, but then realize that my value is not defined by the number of readers I have. My value, your value and everyone else's value is intrinsic because we are all beautiful beings on this planet.

Also, I acknowledge that twitter, facebook and blogging are tools of my trade. And just as a shoe maker or a farmer needs his/her tools, I need mine. So understanding that they are tools, and nothing more, keeps it in check.

Does that make sense?

XX
Chris apollo

Heather Howell said...

I've sort of taken a break from blogging because A) I'm less than inspired, B) I don't want it turning solely into a "Heather's moving to Austin" blog and C) an evil girl I've tried ridding from my life totally blog stalks me and I find it annoying. I know what you mean about being sort of addicted to social media. I find myself checking both Twitter and Facebook WAY too much. And I can actually hear a baby chipmunk get killed in the forest when I lose a follower.

I think the most important thing to remember is that your blog is yours and nobody elses. Blog about what you want to blog about and not what you think people want to read about. I find myself getting all messed up when I try to think about what I should blog about instead of what I want to blog about. Sort of forget that you even have an audience for a bit. This can be hard because you may find yourself feeling like you are blogging for nothing then but just remember, you blog for you and nobody else. Maybe it will help with being able to let go of some of that ego.

I would be totally disappointed if you quit blogging, especially since I'm two weeks away from moving to Austin but understand if that's what you gotta do. Keep that adorable chin up, girl.

eeg said...

Tolly, this is such a good and thoughtful post. Thank you for sharing it. Nothing like some Eckhart Tolle to make you think, huh? That is a great book, even if Oprah did recommend it.

Blogging is weird, because you have to have SOME ego to do it. It is hard to keep ego in check and maintain the confidence it takes to make your work public. But confidence is a good thing! I sometimes wish I could borrow some of yours. :) The fact you take time to think about all this means you've already got it in check. You know the difference...confidence lets you enjoy and share your enthusiasm. Ego makes you anxious about it.

Your love for this city is so shiny and genuine that it makes me want to read what you have to say even if it's something I know very little about (fashion, for instance. What IS that?). Keep up the good work, my internet friend!

michael said...

I think Tony put it best:
"Detach yourself from stat-tracking and worrying more about blog comments or re-tweets and enjoy the motivation of the post."

I stopped checking stats about 2 years into driving myself crazy, and now just write to write about that thing that I love so much..music.

Your ego is going to have a field day with these comments though

Anonymous said...

Ah, that's a great quote. I know it from a translation titled the Hsinhsinming.

I could make a career out of finding, reading through, and meditating on the various translations of that document. Would doing so get in the way of living its message? That document also warns away from grasping after various things and discriminating about various experiences, doesn't it? Being attracted toward or repelled by the power of the ego would also be something to maintain an awareness of. Experiencing and acknowledging the ego and keeping an objective view of one's own ego: can it be done?

The questions just keep coming.

So I haven't commented a while and it seems an especially appropriate post in which to kindly point out (in a ego-neutral way [not that there's anything wrong with having an ego]):

"...but it ain't go Gawker," should probably be
"...but it ain't no Gawker" and "...this while blogging business," should be this "...this whole blogging business"

I always love looking at this blog so you should do whatever your heart tells you to do.

Your anonymous copy-editing pal

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Cathy - I know, that's the lovely, quirky thing about social media. Used properly, your relationships can start online, then move OFFLINE. And honestly, that's when blogging feels *the best* to me.

And PS, you're pretty fabulous IRL, too.

@Grechen - You are most welcome. It's an oddly delightful snippet of that poem! My book group teacher advised up to memorize part of the poem, so, I think that's going to be my part.

Also, good for you on not letting stats make you nervous or anxious. It takes cultivation of all the other aspects of your life to keep your social media energies in check, I think. Personally, I love being married to a person who doesn't Tweet, doesn't blog, hardly Facebook updates...it's so nice!! Even though I adore social media, it really is calming to be with a person who's sort of disconnected from all that.

Oh, and off topic, but - I think NewtoATX is a *neat* site. Smart concept, solid design, good tips, You're doing this business this right.

@Anna - Hello friend! First of all, I LOVE that Kafka quote. Oh. So very much.

Secondly...yes. Sharing IS a form of activism! You did an awesome job during AFW, too. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said: "I like the idea of truly looking at your intentions, and staying true to yourself." I have found that when it comes to this blogging stuff, it is ALL about intention.

@Tony - Pardon me for finding it a little shocking you aren't obsessed with Naples! That booming metropolis by the sea?

You are smart and wise, as always. What's funny is, when people behave in creative ways, unfettered from others' expectations (both real and imagined), they often end up producing the coolest shit. I think that's what pretty much got the Beat Poets going in the '50s, anyway.

Looking forward to the wedding next month, dollface. :)

@Skrapnel/Chris Apollo - Hi! Chris! What's so intriguing about your comment is that you bring me back to value, and the funny way human beings measure it...for example. 15 years ago, we didn't even have the internet! Which is important to remember. This sense of valuable/valueless-ness on the internet is - of course - man made. And it's a shame when we forget we are, as you say, a beautiful light, first and foremost.

I said it this morning on Twitter and I'll say it again: Preach, brother friend!

@Heather - I popped on over to your blog a few minutes ago, but also, I wanted to say that I can't believe you'll be here in 2 weeks. :) Exciting!

@Eeg - Hi Emily! I love, love, Ghnocci No Plan, by the way. But, as to what you are saying: Thank you for your kind words. I just want to copy and paste these two sentences and, like Grechen, print them out and paste them somewhere very visible (like my mirror):

"confidence lets you enjoy and share your enthusiasm. Ego makes you anxious about it."

TRUTH.

@Michael - Yes. That Tony. He's too good, isn't he?

The posts that are written for pure enjoyment are the absolute best. As opposed to those that elicit that, "oh, I hope other people like this..." feeling. I HATE blogging that way.

Dude, where is your music blog, btw? I'd like to read.

@Anonymous - Oh friend! You are back!!!!

Man, can I just go ahead and hire you to be my for-real copy editor? I NEED YOUR EYES. I went and made your two suggested changes, spot-on as usual!

Also, I had no idea you were into zen/chan Buddhism. We are taking this poem bit by bit, but basically, the whole concept of ridding your mind of duality - the central tenet of that poem, in a way - is both incredibly liberating, and really, really hard to put into practice. Do you feel the same? Like this line...

"Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One."

**WTF,** that is so difficult. But, a beautiful, wonderful goal. To just create this huge spaciousness.

Eh...longest blog comment ever

Austin Eavesdropper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Megan said...

Tolly...

To echo the sentiment of skrapnel, you are a beautiful light on this planet. Thank you for everything you share. xo

Christi said...

Wow. I echo everyone above to say thank you. I am starting out and find it difficult to not weigh the value scale for every single post I write. Your candid thoughts on the whole process and the added element of self awareness is refreshing in this community that can sometimes be two dimensional.

Ross said...

Dear wife, I really like your post about ego. I especially liked the parts about me. Maybe I'll retweet it or something.

Smooches!

Beth H said...

Great post, Tolly! very thoughtful & thought-provoking. i definitely ponder these sorts of things, too. when i don't get as many blog comments as I'd like & i start wondering "is anyone reading this at all?! why am i even writing this & spending so much time on it?!" i try to remind myself of this: i'm blogging to share cool stuff with others, but also blogging as a journal. i'm creating a snapshot of this time in my life. it's an awesome archive of cool stuff in Austin, creative people i've met, art that i'm making, etc. & it will be so awesome to have that archive to look back at someday. btw, if you're interested in this blog-as-archive idea, check out http://www.craftypod.com/the-archive-along-archive/ for some cool ideas, like making zines from your blog content!

ChrisNAustin said...

Ah the eternal internal consternations of an artist. Finding something you love to do that creates an ideal, or even just fun for now world for yourself, opening doors that would otherwise never be seen is a true rarity. Hammer the pedal to the floor on this deal. You create an environment people want to share in. It’s no different than opening a gallery, diner or a club (except the income ). Feedback and interest is a tool to guide you in your effort to better bring happiness to others while doing what you love. It's your enthusiasm that's intoxicating. It wouldn't matter what you did, done with the same spirit would inevitably draw as much interest.

Hipstercrite said...

I've wanted to write something similar recently but couldn't find the words. You did an excellent job. I think we can all relate.

michael said...

Tolly, Sonic Itch Music

Greg said...

This is a great post Tolly for a number of reasons. First, it speaks to us bloggers! LOL! You knew this post would generate a lot of comments or maybe just your ego did (teasing).

This is something I struggled with when my friend Maurica encouraged me to write about something other than music. She wanted to know my personal thoughts and feelings. That was intimidating for me, much like you related in the beginning of your piece.

I thought, WHY would anyone CARE what I have to say? I mean reading about live music in Austin, who WOULDN'T want to read about that right? But the musings of Greg Ackerman? Silly. Or so I thought.

Anna Gonzalez said it best when she mentioned it's "your intention" in your writing that is important. If you're proud of that, good for you. You SHOULD BE.

If you make someone smile, laugh, cry, just FEEL something when they read your work, then you achieved the first objective of a writer, to touch his/her audience.

In Austin, I think we keep each other's ego in check. Or at least I hope we do. :)
p.s. Here's that first post I referred to above:
http://gregackerman.blogspot.com/2010/01/first-step.html

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Megan - Love you, friend.

@Christi - Thank you! I'm glad they were helpful. I have to admit, I hesitated just a *bit* before hitting "publish" - don't usually get this personal. :)

@Ross - You're silly

@Beth - I LOVE the making zines idea out of your old blog...would love to have a scrapbook of sorts someday to look back on! That's such a great way to view one's blog, as a snapshot of these years.

@ChrisNAustin - I think you give me a little too much credit! But all the same, you are the best cheerleader. :) Thank you for consistently dropping by and making me feel good about myself. I wish you had a blog or Twitter or something where I could high-five you back!

@Hipstercrite - Hey you. Thank you. It's not easy to put words to this kind of thing, but you in particular plumb your own feelings so eloquently. So, I decided to channel my inner Hipstercrite and bang this one out.

@Michael - ...yes?

@Greg - First of all, I love your Greg Ackerman blog. And secondly, I think you're right, we do keep our egos here in check in Austin - everyone is so mutually supportive, and naturally curious about other people's art.

And, thanks again for your guest post today, yo. :)

Trevor said...

Hi Tolly,

You might want to read this post from one of my favorite Buddhist blogs, Sweep the Dust Push the Dirt.

http://zendirtzendust.com/2010/08/22/a-personal-reflection-on-mindful-blogging-and-the-ego/

When I started writing my blog, The Big Old Oak Tree, it was pretty exciting to see the number of subscribers increase, ad I always liked it when people left comments. Now, I'm starting to get free books (about Buddhism) from publishers, asking me if I would like to review them. (I've not been able to score the new translation of the Shobogenzo from Shambhala Publications, however, which sucks b/c I would really like a copy and they cost $150, which I can't really afford right now.)

I'm not sure if I would say that it strokes my ego, but it does feel good. Kind of like if you complete some hard project, and then someone says, "Hey! Great job on that! You really nailed it!" I think that's ok.

Over all, though, I would just say that I like writing it, and folks like reading it, and it gives me a format for thinking about Zen practice, so it all works out pretty good. :)

Anastasia said...

I think you're bad ass and that you blog about the bad assiest town ever. I'm glad you came to the realization that you don't *need* to blog, but thanks for sticking around anyway.