Today is the first birthday of Harper’s Valley. My first “shout into the void” of the blogosphere was July 27, 2012.
As these milestones are wont to be, it seems like an opportunity to look back with the benefit of some, albeit limited, hindsight.
Of what am I proud?
What opportunities to improve have presented themselves?
Have I learned anything about other people through the experience?
And what, if anything, have I learned about myself?
Should there be a year #2?
Let’s look at the numbers. I have created 193 posts; too few to my mind. As of this writing, there have been 19,064 views and 1900 comments. I offer my sincere thanks to everyone who stopped by with special thanks to those that took the time to comment. I really appreciate it.
There are a few postings of which I am proud. I wrote a post last August about Poll Workers which I like. A post last September about the events of our lives that are shared memories was well received. A post called “Some Photos Are More Evocative Than Others” was a milestone for me. It was my first attempt to write something truly personal and went to a level of self-disclosure that is definitely outside my comfort zone. Desert SssssSafari is a post from last fall that I was pleased with. I think I succeeded in making it funny. Additionally, a couple of readers who know me in the real world told me it sounded like me. I took that as a compliment. I wrote a post on National Coming Out Day called “Why Can’t These People Just Keep it to Themselves“. I was pleased with it and several people commented favorably and shared it on other social media.
A couple of times in the past year I went about a month between posts. The reasons why that happened are interesting to me. I am not sure I was aware of the cause/effect at the time but, in both cases, the gaps come after I received some pretty harsh feedback. There are two opportunities to improve for me in this. First: I need to make sure I follow through on the commitment I made to myself to post regularly. Second: I need to develop a thicker skin in evaluating the feedback of others. Critique is valuable. Disagreement and debate that come from a place of mutual respect are worthwhile. I need to ‘get over’ the idea that criticism offered in an aggressive, harsh manner must be accurate.
When I started this “adventure in hubris” a year ago I wrote;
The challenge of creating content that is clear, articulate, and engaging, if not altogether enjoyable, will force me to spend more time in my ‘right brain’. At the same time, learning to use the tools and technology of this medium will be a growth opportunity and will keep the ‘left brain’ fully engaged.
I have been generally pleased by the outcomes on both.
One of the greatest strengths and most debilitating weaknesses of internet communication is anonymity. I hope this format will make it both easier and more necessary to communicate candidly and openly. I see this as a two-stage process. First, capture whatever squirrelly thoughts are lurking behind my eyes and give them voice; essentially converting soliloquy into monologue. Secondly, to make that voice compelling enough to generate reader response; converting monologue into dialog.
Results here are mixed. I need to challenge myself to be more candid. This blog will never be a “let me show you my wounds” exercise but readers will get to know me better if I focus less on writing about researched factoids related to whatever has captured my attention. I need to a strike better balance.
The first page I created a year ago asked three questions:
Do I have the insight? Are my musing, gripes and passions interesting enough to engage anyone outside the boundaries of my own brain?
The jury is still out on this but I’ve come to realize it always will be. Some posts will interest others. Some posts will only interest me. Both have value. And if a post interests none of us? Well, there is always the delete button.
Do I have the skills? Are my communication skills up to the task of sharing my thoughts effectively and engagingly?
I think I am moving in the right direction. With practice, skill development and continuing to see so many good examples in the writing of others, I’ll improve as a communicator.
Do I have the courage to be honest. I’m the best judge here but this is a classic example of the saying; “perception is reality”. It doesn’t matter how honest I am if it feels false to the reader.
This continues to be the area of greatest challenge for me. I am still too cautious and it is still far too easy to internalize negative feedback when I receive it.
I have met some terrific people, some in the blogosphere and some in the real world. I appreciate the opportunity of getting to know you. A few people I knew in the real world are also active in the blogosphere. I had hoped I might get to know them better through this. That has not happened which is a disappointment. But who knows what the future will bring.
And I’ve encountered a few people with whom I did not ‘click’. That’s OK. I am not BFFs with every person I’ve ever met in the real world either.
So, at the end of year #1, I am feeling OK about Harper’s Valley. Were I grading it, I would give it a C+. It’s not what I hope it may be but I feel good about it often enough to sign up for another year. I’ll need some new pictures of Harper.