My dad reads my blog (hi, Dad) and he is probably feeling a bit awkward right now. Not to worry Pa, this is a discussion of biology.
When I first started blogging, I had grandiose visions of my little blog expanding like that canned spray foam some people use to fill cracks around their windows. Whoosh, and watch the magic! I figured I would plug away at it, be myself as much as I possible, and the blogiverse would soon glisten with opportunity. I started thinking about all the book deals I could line up. I envisioned the fancy upgrades I could install in my wee dollhouse kitchen. For the record, a dishwasher is first on the list, in hot pink block letters.
A huge part of the reason for my irrational optimism was the apparent mushrooming success of the super-bloggers like Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman. I’ve already written about my disillusionment with PW and her brand, so I’m not going there specifically today. The sites with all the clout really do present unrealistic expectations about what can happen to a fledgling blogger.
The way I see it, bloggers are like sperm. Not in an icky way, but really, they are. Any high school biology teacher will tell you that there are millions upon millions of sperm launched into action with each, um, incident. How many bloggers are there out there? Yeah.
Sperm are pretty single-minded in terms of future plans. Just like bloggers, those little swimmers are going to fight, thrash, and (in some cases) pray their way to the end goal. Each of those wee fellas is headed to the party, reaching for the stars: in his mind, he’s gonna be somebody! Never mind the abysmal odds, the fact that only one, at best, out of those massing millions is going to succeed and fertilize the egg. Would any of those little cells make the journey if he didn’t think he could be the winner of the race? Not freaking likely.
Bloggers are the same way. There are countless blogs out there, and I’d bet the whisk attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer (don’t worry, it’s plain silver) that an alarming number of those writers think they’re going to hit the big time. The “blooming unexpectedly just by being yourself” story is marketed so voraciously that the belief that success is right there. Like those poor, foolish sperm swimming relentlessly for the egg, we think that it could be us if we try hard enough, if we wiggle ourselves faster than the competition, post cuter photos of our kids, or if our grandma’s recipe for pound cake is better than anyone else’s, we will be the next big thing.
Now, not all of those spermatozoa have the abilities needed to make their marks on the world. A fair number are clueless, ill-equipped and swimming in the wrong direction, or constantly turning left like those guys who drive cars in circles for a living. Some have useless tails that look like lightning bolts and some are content to sit around, watch the show, and hum “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Bloggers are similarly diverse. For every person out there posting to the internet with some grip on grammar, spelling and homophones, there seem to be seventeen who don’t get it or don’t care. Others post every once in a while, and abandon their sites when the shiny wears off. Not everyone wants to make it to the final scene. It’s called survival of the fittest, and that’s okay.
The ones who are determined, though, they are going to make it. The internet will provide the rocket fuel for their propulsion to fame and fortune. These folks see the big name bloggers and imagine themselves there. Like the sperm, they can’t see the scores of others with the same plan; they are lit brilliantly from within by the hope that they could be the next Ree Drummond, the next Heather Armstrong, the next person holding a book signing and wearing out Sharpie after Sharpie. Sperm don’t think about the competition because it’s too discouraging and neither do bloggers. We like our ignorance.
I don’t blame people for nurturing their little dreams. I have some too, and they are a lovely form of escape from real life. There is a serious disconnect, though, between what is possible, maybe, if all the stars align and the groundhog doesn’t see his shadow and all the lights are green with no blue-haired jaywalkers, and what is likely to happen. Chances are, I’m going to keep teaching English and art up here in Canada, a few people, plus my dad, are going to read my stuff, and I’ll keep staying up way too late on school nights to write about weird things. I’m plenty odd, but the odds themselves are laughably out of my favour.
Who perpetuates the myth of the millionaire blogger? Largely, the companies who monetize blogs and generate paltry revenue for the writers are to blame.
How many bloggers earn enough to quit their day jobs and stay home with their
laptops children? How many bloggers make even enough to buy the bigger bag of dog food? I suppose I can comment cynically about blog revenue because I’m not currently monetized and I am spending money to put milage on my Macbook and send my posts out into the world, but the false hopes of so many little bloggers are being stoked by companies who stand to make a great deal of money off folks who are working their hearts out, swimming away and hoping The Food Network finally calls this week.
The added pressure of advertising revenues creates further competition between bloggers. Imagine those poor sperm, who already have enough to worry about, having to stop and duke it out on their way to the goal. People become hypocrites and represent themselves falsely to tack a few more quarters onto their paychecks. Marlboro Woman just posted a piece that perfectly displays the hypocrisy of some bloggers who are desperate to make some money: she caught a woman both condemning and promoting a satirical book. It’s not an uncommon event, sadly.
Meanwhile, the ad companies have burgeoning numbers of bloggers waiting to be granted the right to display corporate advertising. For bloggers, it’s a race that can’t be won. The corporations behind it all win daily, though, and they win big.
The other big culprits, and to my mind the more dangerous, are the celebrity bloggers. Read the comments sections on those writers’ sites: no negative statements survive the heavy cull of the moderation teams, and the bloggers appear to have legions of swarming fans with no dissenters. It’s a blatant manipulation of the facts, but it is what it is. New bloggers, like me (until recently) and so many others, flock to the superbloggers, eager to catch just a whiff of success, the scent our own “egg” if you will, that encourages the current crazy, scrambling blog system. It also makes the big bloggers look bigger and more appealing, but has very little benefit to the hopefuls.
I think I finally have my head on straight about my future as a blogger. I’m going to keep swimming, because there is the faintest glimmer of a reflection of a shadow of a tiny hope that things could work out for me. The main reason I’m going to keep my little spotted dog blog puffing along, though, is that I’m a writer; I like writing, and blogging adds to my life.
Thanks for reading. You can’t stop picturing millions of thrashing little swimmers now, can you?
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