When I started blogging The 52 Seductions, I was completely blown away by the sense of community I found. Yes, I loved seeing the reader stats go up and up, but they were nothing compared to the amazing people I met online, who held my hand when I needed it, laughed at me when I was being ridiculous and trusted me with their own, personal stories.
I remember the day I wrote about our failed attempt at ‘stair sex’, someone (who I really hope is reading this) messaged me on Twitter to basically say, ‘You idiot, here’s how it’s done.’ I loved that. It was like stumbling into a room full of the best kind of people.
But then it all got a bit weird. I got picked up by an agent, and started putting a pitch together for a publisher. At the time I only had 100 followers on Twitter; my blog was a couple of months old. Everyone told me that I needed to get more followers, urgently. I hated that, but I knew it was probably true.
My list grew. It’s never been huge; I never go out seeking random new followers, unlike those scary authors who auto-DM you and seem to exhale fumes of desperation. This is partly because, if you write about sex, you can’t predict who will welcome you and who will disapprove. You can’t just follow strangers. They take offence more often than you’d think. (Still now, by the way, I bet you that my follow-back ratio is way lower than your average bear’s).
But I also felt – still do – that I didn’t care about playing a numbers game. I wanted to build solid relationships instead. Even so, by the time my book came out, I regularly got told off. Someone messaged me to complain that I never retweeted his tweets like everyone else did. I blocked him; it’s one of the few times I’ve ever done that. Someone else told me off for becoming a ‘brand’. Lots of people messaged me to ask why I wasn’t sharing their blog posts. It made me feel tense and tired. I just couldn’t keep up with reading everyone’s everything. It wasn’t humanly possible.
After The 52 Seductions came out, I felt a bit lost. This all-consuming project was over. I’d loved it a lot and hated it a bit (it was exhausting), and now I missed it. I didn’t know what to write about next. I didn’t want to start pretending to be an ‘expert’, because I think that’s bollocks, frankly. I wanted to carry on being an enthusiatic amateur.
But despite that, I found my writing becoming more and more generic. I was bored. I felt exposed and inhibited; my friends and family were now following my every word. Nobody wants to have sex with their parents watching.
Oh, and I was pregant by then, too. With antenatal depression, high blood pressure, asthma and seemingly eternal nausea, you won’t be surpised to hear that we didn’t spend much time getting jiggy. As my book came out in each successive country and I was interviewed by journalists, I felt utterly ashamed that I was back in a dry spell.
Look anyway, that’s enough of me whining. I have an exciting new project on the go now (discernment.co.uk) but I still love writing about the stuff I wrote about in The 52 Seductions, and I still love the wonderful people who made it so much fun. I want to spend more time talking about sex and love and everyday life between normal people, with love-handles and bristly legs and glorious incompetence. I also have an ever-expanding loathing of the stupidity of the numbers-above-quality blogging game. I am so, so through with that.
So, I’ve hatched a plan.
From now on, I’m going to blog to subscribers only. Don’t worry, I won’t be charging anything (and I never will, either). But I will be banning family members. Sorry, family. Much as I love you, your attention is making it hard for me to write.
What I’m looking for is a sense of community again. New friends are most welcome, but I’m seeking actual friends rather than people who have stumbled over my site accidentally after searching ‘animal sex’ (I get several of those every day; ditto ‘What is the perfect vagina?’). I just cannot bring myself to care about blog hits generated by those searches.
I want to create a safe space where we can talk about stuff without feeling exposed, where we can confide in each other and have a laugh. I’ll still be using this site as a base for all the things I’m doing (and don’t worry guest-posters, I won’t be taking anything down), but I’d like to try a different model – something more authentic – and I hope you’ll join me.
A little word on funding: I hope you’ll forgive me for adding the occasional click-though affiliate link to my newsletter. Blogging actually costs me a fair amount of money (not to mention the time), and I’d appreciate your forebearance on that issue. I promise to only ever feature thinks I like, and never to hide links as editorial. You are totally at liberty to ignore them. For me, I’d rather use that model than asking for a donation as some bloggers do; that makes me uncomfortable as a reader because I can’t afford to pay, whereas I can comfortably ignore advertising for things I don’t want.
This is a leap of faith for me, but it feels right. Actually, it feels like a relief.
If you’ve found me a bit dull lately: I have too and I’m sorry. I hope you’ll give me another try. I’m calling my newsletter bettymail: to join, click on the orange newsletter tab on the left of your screen. I’ll send out an email once a fortnight; the first one will land on Friday 23rd August. I guess I’d better get on with writing it, eh?
I’m going to leave you with a final thought from the awesome Amanda Palmer, who says it way better than I could:
Thank you. I see you.
I pinched the lovely image accompanying this post from the blog messynessychic.com – click here to see the whole set.