I am a hobby blogger.
By this I mean that my purposes in maintaining this blog are exclusively connected to enjoyment, interest and personal imperatives; that I explicitly do not make money (or any of its derivatives) from this blog, and do not seek to; and that I do not adopt, or try to adopt, a professional approach to blogging.
By not-professional or amateur, I hasten to add, I don't mean not-ethical. I hold myself to the same ethical standards here as I do in every other area of my life, including my actual professional life. I am no more likely to write irresponsibly, dishonestly or libellously here than I am in a workplace document (which is to say, not at all, or so I hope). My name may be partial here and tied to a pseudonym (ZucchiniBikini), but it is my online identity and I would no sooner trash it than I would my full legal persona.
No, what I mean by non-professional is that, for me, blogging is an avocation, not a job. It holds the same place in my life that trainspotting does for my friend the rail enthusiast (by day, a senior public servant), or embroidery does for my friend the needleworker (who is, by day, a corporate lawyer). It means that I choose to what extent I concern myself with things like stats, SEO, and audience building (the answer is usually patchily, and sometimes not at all) based on little more than whimsy. It means that the ways in which blogging is important to me - because it brings me pleasure, because it satisfies a need to express views and thoughts, because it creates an enduring record of my family's life, because it lets me engage with communities of thought in many areas but especially about books - are not amenable to being constrained to rules of successful blogging as it's currently defined.
Sometimes it can be a bit strange, being a dedicated hobbyist in what is a professionalising sphere. Blog conferences and meet-ups are mostly about branding and brand relationships and building your blog and its readership; they are also about nuts and bolts stuff, writing, and telling stories, which are awesome things, but the underlying drive is about building numbers for possible monetisation, and that creates a certain ... I don't know ... tenor in the conversations. I see myself as a fish, not quite *out* of water, but gasping in a very shallow pool sometimes. I feel a little as I imagine that volunteers on archeological digs must feel - so enthused, even rhapsodical, about the story that underlies the bones, but confused and bewildered by the professional constructs of archeological discipline that go around it.
Because what I'm looking for, when I go to blog events, is only one thing really - connection. I'm not looking for PD for my microbusiness, and I'm not even really looking for ways to "improve" my blog or grow it. I want my blog to be what it is, and to grow and change as I do, but I don't want - I *actively* don't want - to systematise it, theme it, constrain its content or scheduling, or build networks with it. My blog isn't beautiful and it doesn't pop. Not caring to change these things makes me weird at the moment in the personal / parenting blogging arena (although not so much in the other blogging world I overlap - lots of book bloggers are avowedly non-professionalised).
It's not that I think that professionalising is bad (or good) - it is just not what I want to do, and I feel very sure about that. I think there's still a worthwhile place for hobbyists like me in the blogosphere - I think there are readers who want to read the amateur just as there are writers who choose to write that way. I also think hobbyists, particularly politically engaged ones (not me so much, although sometimes) can speak truth to power sometimes, and act as agents of disruption, in the subjects they choose and the ways they engage them. It's not that professional bloggers can't do these things - plenty of the great ones do - but hobbyists have the luxury of never having to think twice about the financial implications of posting unpopular or controversial things ... or even just boring things, frankly.
But it's true, at the same time, that I feel a bit like the odd one out these days, as a long-term hobbyist in a fast-professionalising sphere.
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