Blogging can be a very rewarding thing. It can give someone a channel to express themselves and share their opinions with the world; it can open the door to a network of people with similar passions and interests, along with some great conversations; and it’s the perfect way to learn from those around you and refine your writing skills.
But it’s not an easy hobby and it can take a lot of effort. Having to come up with ideas for new posts on a regular basis, keeping up with reading the articles published by other bloggers and fitting it all in while dealing with adult responsibilities can hit the motivation hard. And then there’s the dreaded writers’ block: when you stare at a blank page for what seems like hours, knowing that you really need to have something ready for the following day but not having a clue what to write.
I count myself extremely lucky that I don’t often suffer from these things. I’ve been blogging for over five years now (with Later Levels going for almost two of them) and don’t see that stopping. My day-job is all about best-practice, analysing data and writing processes, so writing gives me a positive creative outlet. And when I’m not sure what to write about, I dip into a stash of post suggestions I save for a rainy day and which I add to whenever inspiration for a new article subject strikes.
There is something I do find difficult though, and it’s going to sound pretty weird considering the nature of blogging: it’s the social aspect of blogging that’s the most challenging for me. I’ve been thinking about writing on this subject for a while now and it’s a lovely Sunshine Blogger Award from the BeardedGamer82 Gaming Blog that has finally given me the push to do it. After all, what sort of writer uses a public platform like WordPress and then admits they find the social side of it the hardest?
Ted Hewett (@rg_ted) October 27, 2017
Well, this one for sure because I totally suck at it. I’m not a naturally social person: I can be quite happy with my own company or that of just a few family and close friends. I can go an entire day without having any contact and not get stressed out by it or feel lonely. That’s not to say I dislike the companionship of others; I just prefer small groups to large ones, and after interacting I need to retreat into my corner in order to let my ‘social meter’ fill back up so it’s ready for use again the following day.
Blogging is the opposite of this. Visit any website or read any book which claims to give advice on how to do it properly and the one thing they all agree on is that it’s about interaction. You need to be willing to open yourself up to meeting new people and instigating conversation with them. The community aspect of the activity is indeed one of the best things about it and the group I’ve found here is one of the nicest and most supportive I could wish to be a member of.
Sadly though, I still find it difficult when faced with a large group. If I’m in a chat with a handful of others, then I’m usually fine and can follow and join in with the discussion. But get to more than five people or so and the anxiety about saying the wrong thing starts to creep in, leaving me unable to keep up with the conversation. Social media is a minefield that I frequently prefer not to navigate, and I admire those bloggers who can just jump straight and get involved without any hesitation.
Is it weird then that I continue blogging despite its social nature? Probably, but I’ve found it’s the perfect way to push myself outside of my comfort zone; and doing that that sometimes be the only way to overcome something and make a change. The hobby has taught me a lot about myself and my anxieties over the years, and Later Levels is now something that reminds me it’s not healthy to always retreat into my shell. It’s no fun holding back all the time even if it is far less scary.
The benefit of blogging has been noticeable in my work life too. Although I wouldn’t say it’s yet the most pleasurable of experiences, I’m able to attend overnight conferences away from home and even network when I need to – a word that would have brought me out in a cold sweat previously. The fact I’m to represent SpecialEffect by volunteering on their stand at events, meeting attendees and talking to them about the charity’s work, is an achievement which shouldn’t be underestimated.
I’ve come to realise that I’m never going to be someone who’s completely at ease in social situations, or who’s always active in conversations. But that’s ok because I know I can do it now. Sometimes you just need to bite back your fears and show them who’s boss by doing the very thing that scares you.
This post is dedicated to the BeardedGamer82 Gaming Blog, who very kindly nominated Later Levels for the Sunshine Blogger Award in August. Thank you to him for giving me the opportunity to tell this story.