First things first: If you’re a new reader or subscriber, welcome! Whatever it was about yesterday’s post that intrigued you, I hope to offer more of that in the future. And do please continue to comment with feedback, suggestions, and (constructive) criticism.
A good RLF (ahem. Real Life Friend) of mine who subscribes to this blog gave me some incredibly valuable feedback yesterday regarding my post, “Why Don’t Intellectuals Go To The Rodeo?”. He observed that my writing style (my “blog-voice,” if you will) was much more removed in that post than usual; that this detachment may have contributed to the sense of judgment that some readers felt.
As my hip urban friends would say: “Truth.” *
Compared to previous “lengthy sociological” posts, my discussion about the rodeo was far more journalistic. I place at least some of the blame for the stylistic change on having just re-read David Foster Wallace’s essay about the Illinois State Fair. Unfortunately, that essay is one of the few where Foster Wallace loses his compassion halfway through—and it works against him. Detachment is useful on occasion, but I wasn’t expecting my experiment to be featured on the WordPress home page.
Ironically, back in the infant days of my blogging career, I almost titled The Orchard “Blogging for Dialogue” because I was passionate about the importance of storytelling—in sharing life-stories—in the pursuit of understanding and sympathy across cultural differences. This idea emerged out of womanist theory, farming on a former Virginia plantation, and, well, my life.
The discussion in the comments section was a valuable reminder that detachment must be balanced with compassion and storytelling. It was only when I took the time to share my own background that the post took on the angle I originally intended it to. Some of my favorite comments came from readers who shared their own stories—rural or urban, lovers or haters of the rodeo.
In a weirdly serendipitous coincidence, I ran across an article from Stepcase Lifehack while entrenched in moderating comments called “31 Proven Ways to Get More Comments on Your Blog.” The #1 thing on their list?
“Take a Stand. – Most bloggers wallow in moral cowardice because they fear backlash. Take some time to outline your beliefs on an issue that matters to you and publish your thoughts. …Readers love watching to see if you’ll lose your cool in the comments of a post.”
I guess I asked for it. Luckily, when it comes to comments, I take my mother’s (typically Southern) advice: “kill ‘em with kindness.” I also take her (typically feminist) advice: “learn how to say no.” So, when I chose to reject a few offensive or aggressive comments, I took the time to email them personally and have a dialogue that way. I highly recommended this strategy, for the record.
But hey, for all this touchy-feely business, bloggers also have to have some snark (of which I have plenty …I think. At least, in real life).
I’ve tried to maintain a fairly tricky balance on this blog—the balance between Real Things and Non-Essential Hobbies (or, as I think of them, “Pretty Things”). I’ll be honest: I enjoy posting about Pretty Things. It’s less risky. When it comes to watercolors and fountain pens, the worst I can do is bore an uninterested reader.
But with Real Things—well. That’s a different game.
Other important lessons:
- Cover all your bases.
- Walk the line between snark and sensitivity.
- Maintain Mutual Respect (for both readers and for yourself).
* Does anyone know if this is a TV reference? This past year, everyone at my college suddenly started saying in response to everything, and I was clearly left out of the loop.