“If I knew then what I know now…”
That’s one of those annoying phrases we hear entirely too often. Unfortunately, once in a while, it actually applies quite well. Like today, as I mark the ninth birthday of this blog.
Some people enter into a project with a strong, solid plan that takes nearly everything into account. Their plans are so detailed and thorough that not only is there a potential “Plan B,” but also a “C,” “D” and “E,” just in case. Others start a project with a little bit of a plan, but are afraid to plan too far ahead for fear of being locked into something that can’t work. And then there are those who just jump in feet first with no idea of what they’re going to do.
I was in the middle in 2004 when I began my blogging adventure. I wanted to churn out some Andy Rooney-like pieces on an occasional basis — maybe once a week or so — and amuse the masses. I wasn’t sure that anyone would ever find them, but I planned to write as if someone would.
Some bloggers are so doggedly determined to “express themselves” that they go overboard with self-importance: they aren’t interested in what anyone else has to say and don’t care whether their readers like what’s written or not. These are people who probably shouldn’t be blogging.
I never had the guts not to care whether people liked what I wrote. I wanted everyone to enjoy it. I didn’t expect everyone to agree with everything I say, but I at least wanted people to find something here worth reading.
But looking back, from nine years to the date that I published my first post, I think about that little phrase that begins, “If I knew then what I know now….”
What I wish I’d have known then, what I wish I’d have done a better job of creating and cultivating for all of these nine years, was a stronger sense of community. Because I think successful blogs have community in common, no matter how else success is actually measured.
People need to feel like they are welcome to walk in the front door and stay a while. And that they’re welcome to not only listen, but speak right up and join the conversation. I knew community was important back then, which is why I started things like the Saturday Six and the Sunday Seven, to give people a real reason to interact in a fun, non-threatening way, hoping they’d then interact with the “heavy” topics, too.
But it’s only been in the past couple of years that the importance of community — the true importance — really started becoming clear.
If I can’t build a place where people not only want to interact, but actually do, why would I blog? I could just pick up a little notebook and scribble down thoughts that only I’d ever see. And I’d be doing the internet a favor by saving data space.
I’ve got a band of regular readers, some of whom have been reading for a long time. I don’t always know why they keep coming back, but I’m glad that they do. And I’m glad that they’ve found a sense of community here.
More than that, I’m grateful that they’ve helped build it.
Because let’s face it: a blogger can walk in with a big plan to build community, but if his readers don’t grab a virtual hammer and start building it alongside the blogger, community can’t truly happen.
So I thank you for reading, and I thank you for being part of the community here at my site. Happy 9th birthday to us all!
Before you go, I have to ask a couple of questions. If you’re normally a lurker, please step out of the shadows just this once. If you’re a regular commenter, then you already know how to do your stuff!
How long have you been reading this blog and how did you find it the first time?