The purpose of any experiment is to gather information to discover something unknown. The whole process starts by asking a question. Of course, me being me, I didn’t have just one question; I had a dozen. I considered each one and realized that they all boiled down to the same basic principle: Could I write a blog without publicly making a fool of myself? I was leery about conducting this experiment, but decided I would try writing a blog just for the summer. Knowing I had a predetermined expiration date with the option to bail at any moment was the safety net that convinced me to proceed with “The Great Summer Blog Experiment.”
Once I had my hypothesis, I began preparing for the experiment. The first thing I needed was a title; one that would capture the essence of what I would be writing about. I brainstormed and believed I had finally come up with a winner. My first choice was a winner all right, because when I attempted to register that title, someone else was already using it. Six months of creative deliberation down the drain with the click of a mouse. That, alone, would have been enough to derail me from this experiment had it not been for a few friends who talked me in off the ledge. They rated my second, third and fourth place titles then sent me back to the drawing board to think of more. Good Humored is a much better fit than any of the contenders on my original list.
With the title secured, the next step was to set up the web page for the blog. I am a reluctant user of technology and am easily intimidated by it. I learn quickly, but am always afraid I will make some irreversible mistake. Perhaps this fear stems from growing up with a father who, whenever something stopped working, said, “What button did you push? You had to push something you weren’t supposed to for this to happen!” No amount of explanation would convince my dad that I had not been fiddling with the computer. To keep my technophobia in check, I decided it would be best to tackle the technical aspects of setting up the blog’s web page in baby steps. Every time I felt overwhelmed, like when I didn’t know what the hell a widget was or how to insert an image into a post, I walked away and gave myself time. I always came back, researched my questions and eventually figured out how to use the features I wanted. Although, I still don’t completely understand how an RSS subscription works. I guess it’s good to keep a little mystery in my life.
By mid June I was ready to conduct the experiment. It was time to sit down and start writing since that was the actual purpose of the blog. I had spent so much time focusing on the preliminary parts of this experiment that I hadn’t thought at all about writing. That’s when the next wave of anxiety struck. Questions and self-doubt plagued my fledgling experiment. What would I write about? How often should I write? And, my recurring theme, what if no one reads the blog and I make a public fool of myself? Some might argue that if no one is reading the blog, I am technically not making a public fool of myself; I would just be making a private fool of myself. Regardless of the public versus private humiliation distinction, this was an experiment and I had to try. Sometimes experiments are successful and sometimes they are not, but they always teach you something you didn’t know.
So, instead of focusing on my worries, I focused on enjoying the process of writing. Then I did something very unlike me; I stopped worrying about topics for the blog. I decided to be very Zen-like in my approach and hoped the universe would provide me with topics. I refused to create situations just to gather fodder for the blog. I decided to keep my eyes open for situations that presented themselves to me. Voila! A bear meandered across the road on our vacation providing me with an ending and an image for “Bear in Mind.” Then, a hearse pulled into a McDonald’s inspiring “Death at the Drive-Thru.”
Some stories seemed to write themselves while others took longer and required more effort. I agonized over word choice and obsessed over proofreading. I taught myself to walk away from a story. If it sucks at midnight, it will still suck in the morning and it can be fixed then, after a good night’s sleep. As summer progressed and I wrote each week, I learned that patience really isn’t a virtue; it’s a necessity, especially patience with myself.
Blogging is really a two-way street; requiring a writer and readers. I could write as much as I wanted and proofread until my eyes glazed over, but without someone to read the posts, this would be a solitary and unsatisfying experiment. The first time I clicked the publish button I wondered who would read my posts. I sent out an e-mail explaining “The Great Summer Blog Experiment” and asked my friends and family to participate by reading the first two posts. They willingly became my first readers. Many of them subscribed to the blog, suggested ideas and offered to send me on dangerous outings under the assumption that if something made me angry, embarrassed or frightened, it would make for a good story. In short, they offered me more encouragement and support than I could have ever expected.
Initially, I had 30 subscribers. My math skills are notoriously bad, but even I was able to calculate that by the end of the 12 week experiment, if all my subscribers continued to read the post every week, I’d have 360 views. If I could reach that number by the end of the summer, I wouldn’t feel like I had humiliated myself. As it turned out, I had 360 views by the end of June! To say I was stunned at that response would be a gross understatement.
My first readers began sharing the blog with their friends through e-mail and on Facebook. People who had never met me found the blog. I’m grateful to the readers who took time from their busy lives to read my stories, leave a comment or click the “like” button. I’ve had readers from France, Italy, Australia and Britain. My stories have been to some places that I haven’t. It’s amazing to think about. By the end of August, I had 1,600 views – more than 4 times my original goal. They couldn’t all be from my mother-in-law returning to the site to re-read the stories.
Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer and the official end date for “The Great Summer Blog Experiment.” The experiment is over and I discovered that I had more fun writing this blog than I ever imagined I would. I loved sharing the stories with you and reading your comments. Now it’s time to reflect back on my hypothesis, the question I tried to answer with this experiment. Could I write a blog without publicly making a fool of myself? I’d say, based on the data collected, the answer is yes; apparently I can. But, how can I use all of this newly learned information? I gave that question serious consideration and have come to a conclusion. The hot weather of summer gives us all permission to slow down the pace of our lives, relax and enjoy ourselves. As the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, our lives become hectic. I won’t have time to write every week and you may not have as much time to read. Fun and relaxation are harder to come by when we’re busy, but I think it is important to invite fun into our lives year-round. So, as long as I am having fun writing Good Humored and you’re willing to keep reading it, why should we stop?