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When it Feels Like Nobody is Reading Your Blog

Talking-To-YourselfI was chatting with two friends last week – one of them is a blogger and the other was considering starting a blog.

My blogging friend was dispensing a few words of wisdom on how to start out (the usually kind of beginner blogging tips) when he said something out of the blue which made me take note because of the wisdom of it.

He said:

“In the early days you’ll feel like you’re talking to yourself (actually in the very beginning you probably are) – but don’t give up because it’s a feeling that will subside. The key is to keep blogging through that awkward beginning because if you do you’ll find people will begin to find you and the memory of talking to yourself will be a distant memory.”

I really appreciated my friend’s words. They reminded me a lot of my own beginnings in blogging when I felt quite foolish about pouring out what was on my mind for everyone (and nobody) to read).

His words also reminded me of another time in my life where I felt like I was talking to an empty room.

Warning – Tangent Ahead (it’s been a while since we had a tangent hasn’t it!)

In my previous life, before I was a blogger, I was a minister of a middle sized suburban church (I still do this work in a part time voluntary capacity in a small emerging experimental church).

Part of my work in this church that I really enjoyed was preaching. I loved preparing for and delivering sermons (in fact I find the process very similar to putting together blog posts).

My workflow for preparing a sermon went something like this (it took a week or more to go through the full process):

  • Pick a Topic (or be given one by the senior minister).
  • Begin Brainstorming ideas/angles/points
  • Research the Topic (bible study, reading the opinion of others, surfing the web/forums/sermon resource sites)
  • Putting together some main points

Empty-PewsAt this point I would jot my main points (usually 5 or so) down on a piece of paper and leave my office to go and find a quiet empty room (quite often the main chapel of the church). Once in that empty echoing room I would do something that felt quite awkward the first time I did it – I would begin to preach.

With my main points before me I would begin to speak them out – playing with how the words sounded – adding stories, illustrations and ideas as they came to mind.

For me the researching/brainstorming process of the first 4 steps outlined above was a fairly dry process. I gathered information – but it wasn’t until I began to actually do it that the real magic happened. While it felt a little weird at first to start talking out loud in a big empty room it was actually a valuable practice.

As I would preach to the empty pews and as my word echoed around the room I found that I learned so much about the topic I was exploring and how to deliver it. I also learned a lot about preaching. New ideas would come, I’d try different ways of expressing it and slowly the final version of the sermon would begin to form – to the point that when I got up in the same room on Sunday to deliver the final version it would flow.

The more I practiced in this way the more I improved as a preacher.

Lessons for Blogging from Preaching to Empty Pews

As I reflect upon my early days of blogging where I felt that nobody was listening I now realize that that was a time where I learned a lot about what I wanted to say and how to say it.

In those early days I tested ideas, tried new ways of expressing them and learned a lot about my topic and the medium of blogging.

So my advice to new bloggers who feel like no one is listening is to not give up and see the experience of preaching to the empty pews on your blog as a learning experience.

The things you learn now will shape your future blogging, will grow your understanding of your topic, will grow your character and make you into a better blogger.

Hear endeth today’s sermon….

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. There´s so much truth in this great article and in the replies I read so far — seems that this is a tender spot to *many* more than I thought, lol :-)

    Though probably not many folks seem to visit my web & programming related blog, I somehow managed to get over the initial frustration — after all it´s a personal diary that´s covering stuff which ain´t necessarily of interest to everyone, and that´s alright.

    I reckon it´s all very similar to first learn playing an instrument well and later learn performing for an audience, what´s both a different kettle of fish *and* a sequential natural progress :: even “blogging to yourself” is a very good exercise in itself, and writing is a form of art, what I finally understood when recently writing a lengthy developer article in English (what´s not my native language) — however, if I didn´t have started blogging some months before, writing that article would have turned into a real nightmare.

    So, even the art of initially talking to yourself is something that needs practice and routine — if you feel that your stuff starts annoying you the 2nd time you read it, others having to read it will likely have even more issues with this. Blogging without audience means, you learn pretty much about the “art of writing” as such and your own relationship to this matter — and without getting on other´s nerves at this stage, and that´s certainly a positive thing :-)

    Cheers from Germany,
    Günter

  2. Thanks Darren. Just what I needed to here.

    By the way, I find if I imagine my imaginary audience naked, writing posts to imaginary people becomes much more entertaining.

  3. ning says:

    Yes,only 20 ips a day.Nearly no one listening to me.
    But I will not give up until sucess,your advice is quite useful for beginners,I am appreciated.
    One more question to ask,does my personal blog need promotion?

  4. Blog Bloke says:

    Hello! Can you hear me now?

    It seems we have even more in common after all. I trained for the ministry myself.

    Anyhow, first you start by preaching to the pews, and before you know it you’re preaching to the choir ;-)

    Cheers!

    …BB

  5. Ryan Paul says:

    I see a lot of people praising you… but I don’t see you commenting back to people.

    Why don’t you answer people’s questions or respond to suggestions?

  6. Just this afternoon I realized that I am no longer talking only to myself. Of my last ten blog entries, only one has gone without comment, and that was one where readers just wouldn’t have much to say anyway. My readership is up, subscribers are up, and comments are up.

    Darren is absolutely right. In the beginning, your blog will be quiet and lonely, and you will wonder if you should even bother. If you’re at all interesting, intelligent, and literate, that feeling will pass… because your readers will be the ones telling you that you’re not alone.

  7. Alex Iskold says:

    Right on! The time and probability is on your side when you keep at it.

    Alex

  8. so your actually a preacher?? cool!!

    What my end goal is as well…

  9. Darren Rowse says:

    Thanks for everyone for your comments and encouragement. This post seems to have touched on something that a lot of us have felt.

    Gavin – stick with it – we all have those little patches when things go quiet.

    Mohsin – yes I don’t talk about the pastor stuff a lot here at ProBlogger. While I don’t hide it I guess it’s a part of my life that I don’t like push on people :-)

    Amanda – yes it is uncomfortable to write when you don’t know if anyone is going to read it – but you’ll get used to it! Don’t give up – I’m sure you’re writing some great stuff.

    Damian – wow, that’s a big traffic day. Now the challenge is to harness some of that new traffic to make them come back for more!

    Melissa and JoLynn – yes having readers that don’t comment is a frustrating thing. I can’t remember where I saw the survey but a stat that rings in my mind is that about 1% of readers comment – so your readers sound normal.

    Sam – yeah, i’ve got to get the Dip, sounds like some wise words from Mr Godin – again.

    Telemill – sounds like a pretty good sequence to me. Nice one.

    Andrew – great suggestions there on starting a blog. Thanks for contributing it.

    Jen – yes, I need to get back to a few Tangents :-)

    Günter – I like the instrument analogy

    Curtis – the imaging the audience naked thing might work in some instances, but I’m not sure that doing it when preaching a sermon is recommended practice :-)

    Ryan – ever had one of those days? Selling our house, sick baby, wife taking good friend to hospital, cat fight in the back yard and all before 9am :-) I get there eventually :-)

    Rich – congratulations on the comments – as others have found, it’s not easy to get to that point.

  10. Darren says:

    Damn that depressing feeling. I can remember that. When I first set up my blog it took months to reach any one. There were times that the only visitors I would have would be myself.

    My one good tip to jump out of that is keep your eye on news in your topic(s). When something new comes out and your one of the first to find it, write about it in depth. Then you should try and visit lots of other blogs that found out about it and comment, making the suggestion to read yours. It worked for me.

    For everyone in that boat just sail through it. Even the best have suffered from it but in the end it teaches you, makes you better.

    Great article sorry the comment is so long.

  11. Outfit says:

    Hi Darren,
    From the number of responses it looks like this is just part of the journey, (as you so kindly pointed out in your email!) and I’m loving grooving around, peeking into other people’s worlds and making friends before the superhighway reaches my doorstep and I’m thrust into the role of traffic warden!
    Thanks for the ever-present optimism and encouragement.

  12. Alan Hocking says:

    Hi Darren,

    Having spent almost 10 years now recruiting and training new sales staff and over 18 years personally in direct sales, when I moved to my new position in research and product development I missed the training sessions and feed back I would get from the new recruits.

    So I started a sales training blog back in April this year and how different it felt in the early days wondering if any one was reading my posts.

    Several times I thought of giving up and that I was wasting my time.

    Then only yesterday a new sales recruit in one of our offices who I had not met before came up to me (He recognised my photo on my blog) and thanked me for an article I had written and asked if I could write something on an area that he had a problem with.

    Then to switch on my computer this morning and find this post of yours has really inspired me to continue with my blogging and training through my blog.

    Sometimes the good Lord moves in strange ways.

    Thanks

    Alan H.

  13. Loved the post!

    Could relate to it quite well… Could totally relate to the “initial days” syndrome as you put it.. the awkwardness.. the desperation to not continue speaking to an empty room… Well, fortunately… (with time!) .. readership increased.. thanks to a few friends and social networking! ..

    A little bit of persitance has indeed made me a better bl0gger (at least relative to how I was doing initially!).. And of course, with some nice tips from ProBlogger.net..

    Thanks! :-)

  14. Sorry… just pasted the URL wrong on the previous comment..!

    Loved the post!

    Could relate to it quite well… Could totally relate to the “initial days” syndrome as you put it.. the awkwardness.. the desperation to not continue speaking to an empty room… Well, fortunately… (with time!) .. readership increased.. thanks to a few friends and social networking! ..

    A little bit of persitance has indeed made me a better bl0gger (at least relative to how I was doing initially!).. And of course, with some nice tips from ProBlogger.net..

    Thanks! :-)

  15. I think the bottom line is that time is your friend as a new blogger. You have to put in the time. Unless you are incredibly lucky (on the scale of winning the lottery) the only way to build traffic is with solid content. And time. Lots of time.

  16. As a complete newbie blogger (less than a month), I am living the story right now. The only comments so far are from friends and as nice as that may seem, I long for more.

    I await with patience and in the meantime, I get better at writing and that’s not too bad either.

    Kudos to you.

  17. Hash says:

    great… wonderful subject…
    especially when i am just waiting for some push with in me to start blogging. Every day, i decide on the topic on which i think i should write, and it all goes down… Your post certainly gives me some encouragement, that i am not the only one to feel like this.

    Should start speaking to an empty room… and maybe someone will slightly pat on the back and say…

    Thanks…

  18. Emma says:

    Darren, Thanks for that. Great analogy!

  19. Sharon says:

    Thank you! Just what I needed to keep me going, I have been feeling rather lonely in my blog since I started it 2 weeks ago. I think we begin with unrealistic expectations just to realize we are 1 in a million out there and can float around unseen for a long long time. But sometimes I need to follow my own advice, follow the three p’s of potty training in life – Patients, Perseverance and Positive attitude.

  20. Jason says:

    There’s an odd corollary to this, too (at least for me, having started only a few months ago)… when you write something, and then someone you know offline asks you a question that you answered on your blog. You’re left quoting yourself, which feels awkward.

    I’ve decided to call that feeling Blogja Vu.

  21. Laura says:

    Great story, and very relevant to blogging. There are times that I feel like I’m talking to no one. It CAN be frustrating, especially if you have a personality type that really thrives on feedback.

    Your point about practice is well-taken.

  22. tbfrascone says:

    Darren, I enjoy your site. I am just learning about blogging, but i found it interesting what you had to say about preaching to the empty pews. My pastor is training me to be a pastor and he told me to do the same thing, so I also prepare my sermons by preaching to an empty room. It was very awkward at first, but I am so glad he had me practice this way. I find It helps organize my thoughts so that by the time I have to do the actual sermon, it comes across a lot smoother and organized. It also helps me to be less wordy and get to the point. I have yet to blog, but I can definitely see how this story would apply to blogging or any type of writing or speaking environment. Thanks for the great article.

  23. Linsey Knerl says:

    Wow! What an encouraging article. Not only was your insight something I needed to hear, but the other readers’ comments made me feel like I wasn’t the only one in my shoes. Great way to pull all the readers together! Thanks.

  24. Love the analogy. I too have had the feeling that nobody is reading what I’m throwing out into the world. It’s been a year and I haven’t stopped yet…

    Thanks for all the tips. I’m glad I stumbled upon your site last year.

  25. Dave Starr says:

    Great ideas in this post, Darren. How many realize it may not be an accident that another highly successful blogger, site developer, financier, et al., Guy Kawasaki:
    http://blog.guykawasaki.com/
    is a graduate of at least two “Preaching Institutions”.

    If you want to blog better, put your religious beliefs (or lack of same) in your back pocket and visit a church, synagogue, mosque or whatever with a large following/community presence. You will learn something about reaching people, “I gar-on-tee!”. (RIP, Justin)

  26. Dave says:

    Darren thanks for the inspirational words. I’m a new blogger and I’m seeing the stats go up but not getting any comments. At times I’m feeling like no one is reading my blog.

  27. zewt says:

    very inspirational indeed… good analogy.

  28. luisgalonso says:

    Actually, I feel very much like talking to myself.

    Thanks for this post. I will keep “talking to myselft” hoping that it will only be memories in a few months(?).

  29. God says:

    Forgive me for entering the discussion so late in the day. A very useful, and inspirational post young man. I too am at the beginning of my communication 2.0 journey and your post was both timely, delightful and joyous.

    Many thanks.

  30. Gavin says:

    Great post but I still feel as though nobody is reading my page..I have a counter but most of the counts are me seeing how many people have read ha ha!

  31. Alli says:

    I have only been blogging over the past few months and your post highlights how I have been feeling about my blogging experience. Although I have to admit blogging does help me keep up with what is happening in my profession and the latest ideas etc as I research the topics I blog about. Which also helps me with my studies. It also helps me to get my thoughts out of my head and why not share these thoughts.

  32. Larry Lam says:

    Darren, thanks for your encouragement in this post. I believe that if you write on something you are passionate about, then the effort alone is worth it. Don’t think of the reward first but write from your heart and your words will find their readers.

  33. CatherineL says:

    Brilliant advice Darren. I am always checking my stats and wondering if anyone is really reading – especially when I have no comments.

    Then, when my stats drop, I panic and try to find the post that must have driven them away – when what I really should be doing is writing the post that will bring them back.

    I’ll take your advice and just battle on for the experience.

  34. Mother Earth says:

    Great timing and sharing of your humble and thoughty beginnings and blogging success wisdom. Preaching to the “empty” choir is just too darn strange and something I have recenty felt. Is anyone out there? I appreciate the reminding that there is a beginning for a reason and from what I can tell soemthing all bloggers have felt. Nice to meet you Darren

  35. Hi! I really love this inspirational piece. I am a relatively new blogger myself. I started my new money/finance money a few months ago and sometimes I feel like I’m talking to myself. But then I turn on my Feedburner counter and look the number displayed and I don’t feel so by myself. Note: my counter says I have 4 readers…lol

    Anyway, yes it is easy for beginners to get dejected…but stay determined and we will all prevail months or even years from now :) :)

    -Raymond

    http://www.moneybluebook.com

  36. Asako says:

    I totally see this post. In fact, after a month of writing to an air with no comment, and only a few visitors a day seemingly passing through within a few seconds, my blog is starting to become my personal diary….

  37. Thanks again. Found your blog in June.
    Tried a few of your tips over the summer.
    Your blog has helped my traffic more
    than anyone else. I will keep reading.
    Elizabeth G.
    http://BookTestOnline.com
    http://booktestonlinecom.blogspot.com

  38. Sean says:

    I too felt like that in the beginning and I still do :-(

    I have had my blog for only 3 weeks now and I am getting traffic to it, but it doesn’t seem like anyone is reading because the amount of comment is peanuts!

    Thank for inspiring me though, I will contiinue to do and one day, get a popular blog like your! :-)

  39. yiting says:

    I have to kick myself for that. I’ve been in the blogging industry since 2004 and it’s been 3 years since then. I’m still in the infancy stage of blogging though where I feel like I’m talking to myself (still does now). Any tips for me to get more ‘hits’? Beside the fact that I should start a new blog about other topic rather than my personal life?

  40. Manish says:

    This is a great peice of advice for all those new bloggers out there.Keep up the good work.For related blogs:blog.teensearn.com

  41. TravelingMel says:

    Funny, I recently started a blog (about 2 weeks ago) and was just thinking about how it seems I’m putting all this stuff out there and very few people are reading it.

    So, now I’ll think of it as practice time, which helps!

  42. Me like the new design on this site :)

  43. Pádraig says:

    Another quality post. I was just wondering: at what point should we start worrying about not getting any comments? After a month or two? Or a few weeks?

  44. Thanks for the post. I recently started my blog and am in that awkward stage now…wondering if anyone is interested, much less listening!

    Thanks for the encouraging word.

  45. JohnS0N says:

    Very inspiring post Darren!

  46. Great post! As for just starting off, I’ll take a look at your blog, Michael.

  47. This has been the most inspiring article for me as a new blogger. I’ve been working on my money/finance blog for a few months now and I really needed to read this! It’s so easy to lose focus if you keep your morale high. Thanks for the sermon Pastor Darren! :)

    – Raymond (MONEY BLUE BOOK)

  48. Err I mean It’s so easy to lose focus if you DON’T keep your morale high.

  49. I just love reading your blogs as they inspire me to keep writing, although I do have a habit to keep checking my stats and they are beginning to improve.

  50. Vanessa says:

    The first real post is always the hardest. I’ve had a site for Christian women for seven years and to this day, few post comments unless its a subject that really grips them personally. There are on average 60 views a day and over a 100 when its a subject that is universal in interest.

    Also I note that its when I get personally involved in the topic, my personal view in what I post, that I get the most responses and views. Most of the time you would not even know it had arrived their E-mail boxes. Its just silent. But few have unsubscribed over the years and I have subscribers from all over the world.

    It takes time and trust. Also I humbly state, I know my subject matter well having studied the Bible for almost 30 years intensely. Readers are intelligent and discerning. It keeps me going. They’ve gotten to know me and can forgive when I blow it.

    However, I’ve learned more from them in those few comments over the years than they learn from me though they probably would not agree. Just their faithfulness to stay with the site says a lot and encourages me not to let them down if I can help it. That means I stay true to what I believe whether they agree or not. It breeds mutual respect. I answer my e-mails and never trade them off to anyone. I respect their privacy and trust.

    My blog on the other hand is not a Christian site and still new. It holds a challenge to communicate in a different arena. My asset is I have more than a passing interest in what I am trying (smile) to write about and I’ve been blogging (clumsily I might add) since 2003. Its still a challenge. I like that.

    This site is an oasis and a vast resource. Your candid, personal way of communicating is a gift Darren.