Making an Experience, Not a Commodity

I haven’t been writing much here lately. One big reason is because I’ve been writing like a madwoman at work, researching and summarizing every possible tidbit that I can find about how climate change is likely to impact forests in the northeast. It’s fun, but it can also be mentally exhausting and I’ve been short on ambition for evening writing.

But I’ve been plugging along here and there, and thinking a lot about what’s next.

I reached out to another blogger asking for their thoughts on why he’s been plugging away on one of his own sites for nine years, but pulled the plug on another. Both had good content, so what was the difference?

Personality. I gathered that he thought that the long-lasting site was true to his own self. It showed that he was a real person, and allowed him to build a relationship with readers. The loser site was just a resource, an encyclopedia, a list. It didn’t have personality.

Because of this the site was only a commodity and not an experience, people felt no connection to it and as such felt no need to help its success.

This is such a great point, but so hard. How do you let your personality shine though in a website or other writing that isn’t necessarily about you? Sure, it’s easy to have personality come through in a post like this one, but what about in something that’s more explanatory?

Curses! This is where the past 10 years of learning to write like a professional scientist may have led me astray. I work really hard to write good, clean, sentences: here are the facts or implications, unbiased, and clearly stated.

But my other writing is a mess. At Greatist, I could adopt its voice and write with that personality, which wasn’t too far of a stretch for me, and it worked. But as I work to create a new site, I’m still struggling to find the right voice for it, a personality that works for me and will resonate with the audience.

I have some more advice on this for another day (not from me—from another writer who actually knows stuff!). But, in the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Is there a website with a personality that really catches your attention?

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3 thoughts on “Making an Experience, Not a Commodity

  1. I’ve been keeping a personal blog for a long time and I find that aspects of my personality resonate with my readers, but other aspects do not. I consider that fact before I post anything on the blog, but try not to let it limit my topics or pov.

    It’s a complicated dance, really– with readers who come and go without any explanation about why they are doing so. I’ve come to wonder about the strength of any social media connections, no matter how sincere a commenter might seem.

    Best of luck with your new site. I look forward to seeing what you do next.

  2. Thanks, Ally! I appreciate your comments. And I’m really intrigued by your comment that some aspects of your personality don’t resonate with readers– I can’t help but ask: Which ones? (although you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to!). I agree that social media seems incredibly temporary– I think that it’s so easy to surf that you don’t end up with the same depth of connection as in the “real world.” For that reason, I definitely wonder some days if I should be spending my time online at all.

    1. I wonder about being online, too. There’s lots of communication but very little connection. I continue to write because it forces me to write in a casual way, on a consistent basis, with the possibility of learning a little something about the people around me. Seems like enough, most days.

      What I’ve found that doesn’t resonate with my readers is: my past, sadness of any sort, or discussions of style. I don’t know if my writing about those topics is lousy, or if those topics are a *yawn* to my readers. But over the years I’ve learned to not even try because the sound of crickets is defeating.

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