A Brief History of Raptitude

The beginning

Raptitude was born March 15th last year, but it was conceived in the last week of January. I had just visited Problogger for the first time and saw that blogging wasn’t simply speaking your thoughts into a void, it was an interactive community. The words went back and forth, and side to side. There were big shots and little shots, up-and-comers and has-beens. People were making friends, improving their craft, building their livelihoods and legacies.

I wanted to be a part of it, but had no idea where to start. Darren from Problogger said he was a big fan of Yaro Starak’s Blog Mastermind course. I read his free report, and something about it spoke to me. The ad video seemed unusually frank and upfront for some guy selling something on the internet. My BS detector did not go off. I bought the course and was off to the races.

That upfront financial commitment removed any possibility of not following through, and the course itself removed any doubt about how to go about it. I got busy, excited in a way I hadn’t been for a long time. I spent two weeks shopping for hosts and themes, designing a logo, learning WordPress and breaking down the whole technical side.

Once it was all in place, I was all very proud of myself. The future looked bright. I felt with unusual certainty that I was barking up the right tree.

There was one minor task I hadn’t yet gotten around to, but I would need to do it before I could launch. In fact, it really was an integral component of a working blog.

When I ran out of busywork and other diversions, I finally sat down to write.

And nothing came out.

I sat and sat. I would type some drivel, then delete it. Then some more drivel, and delete that too. Everything I came up with looked so trite and derivative: generic self-improvement crap that’s already been written a thousand times.

I had forgotten how excruciating writing can be. You know you’ve got something to say, but nothing that comes out that looks like it needs to be said. You begin to think you have nothing to say after all. You begin to think you should leave writing for real writers.

After a few dozen false starts, I adjusted my aim a bit. I decided not to write anything good at all. I sat down with a different goal: to write something bad. My goal was one finished article, no matter how terrible it was.

Six hours later I had an article that actually wasn’t entirely unreadable. In fact I was sort of proud of it. It was called “Why Happiness is Such a Struggle,” and would become Raptitude’s debut article.

When my chosen launch date came along, I checked and rechecked everything like an obsessed hostess before Christmas dinner. I hummed and hawed over word choice and widget placement. I previewed the post a thousand times, pretending I was a discerning new reader.

That night, I gathered my nerve and clicked “Publish” for the first time, half expecting something to explode into flames.

Of course, nothing happened. Nobody knew it existed. It just sat patiently in a dark corner of cyberspace. But it was there.

The next day I checked my traffic. Two hits. Me and my mom.

After I published my second article, I waited a while and rechecked my stats. Again two visitors.

Then the next day when I checked there were FOUR visitors! Me, my mom, me from my work computer, and somebody else! It was a very special moment. I had touched the world.

Time went on, and through commenting on other blogs, I accumulated a small following, probably about enough people to fill a school bus. Then two school buses. By the end of the spring, I probably had enough regular readers to fill Canada’s House of Commons.

Then in June I had some trouble. In preparation for my upcoming overseas trip, I found myself scrambling to find a place to live, and I fell behind in my writing and promoting. Traffic dropped by almost 50%, and it gave me the blues.

Once I re-established myself in a new flat, I released an off-handed post that ended up being a huge hit.On  July 2nd I published 88 Important Truths I’ve Learned About Life. I had been accumulating my own snarky little aphorisms for a while, and decided to drop them into the blogosphere in bulk and see what would happen.

It immediately went crazy on StumbleUpon, and a whole bunch of new readers showed up. Then it cooled off for a few weeks. Then it went completely nuclear. July’s traffic doubled June’s, and then August’s was five times that of July’s, largely on the strength of StumbleUpon and Facebook hits to 88 Truths.

To my surprise, it wasn’t just a spike of traffic. It stuck.

Criticism & Misgivings

Raptitude posts take me a long time to write, and very often that long time is the last few hours before my publishing deadline. I have never really been ahead with my writing. I do not stockpile posts. This means I often have to publish them before I’m completely happy with how I word them. So I do have misgivings about many posts, because they don’t always say exactly what I want to say.

Most of the feedback I get is warm and positive, but I have also received a fair amount of criticism. I haven’t stayed away from controversy. My first stab at it was a big sprawling post called There is No Good and Evil, Only Smart and Dumb. Like many posts, I think the idea was sound but I have mixed feelings about how I wrote it. It’s a little venomous and a bit cynical, and didn’t need to be. Most of the criticism was not in reaction to my irreverent views of organized religion, but rather because I used the word “dumb” to describe immorality.

Forget About World Peace was a more recent one, though I knew it was a huge can of worms when I started it. It is a challenging notion to most people, and though I wish I’d had time to give it a good rewrite, I do stand by it.

88 Truths has also been a source of criticism. There are 88 statements there to disagree with, and I’m not sure I even agree with all of them any more. Certainly I would rephrase a few. It was always meant to be glib and a bit snarky, but some people have reacted quite angrily to some of the points. One person listed about twenty of them in the comments, with a rebuttal for each. I even saw a blog post (linked to in the trackbacks section I think) that dissected and rejected every single one! I was quite flattered.

On the other end of it I’ve had people writing me saying they are going to live by these rules or read them aloud each morning. I didn’t mean to write a manifesto, but that one post has defined my online persona to more people than any other, for better or worse.

The most bizarre criticism came in response to Six Songs That Illustrate What it Means to Be Human. Apparently the six songs I picked all happen to be written by white males, and at least two readers thought this meant I’m secretly (or maybe unwittingly) sexist and racist. I told them I think music is music and I don’t care what kind of genitalia or skin complexion its authors have. It is interesting though — different readers each infer a different personality behind the words they read.

The Big Trip

In June I announced my plans to leave home and spend a year in New Zealand. I left home October 16th, and have been blogging from the road ever since. Having given up my job, I expected to have loads of extra time to blog, so I even started a second blog to keep you updated on my travels.

I actually found it rather difficult to both write and maintain my blog on the road. I rarely had the privacy and unlimited internet access I was so used to, and my writing habits were disrupted. My travel blog became more of a chore than anything and I haven’t been particularly fastidious about keeping it up to date. It doesn’t inspire me like Raptitude does, and running one blog alone has always been a serious time commitment.

I love traveling but I really miss being a bigger part of the online community, and I don’t get as much a chance to do that while I’m living in hostels. I don’t get a chance to read many blogs or do much networking, and am eager to dive back into it when I get home.

Where do we go from here?

Well, I’m as excited as ever about Raptitude, but I want to focus more on growth this year. I’m proud of my progress so far, but I really have tapered off promotionally since I’ve been traveling. I’ve just been writing. Traffic has more or less plateaued in the past six months, though subscribership has increased steadily and last month was the biggest traffic month ever.

Though my big trip has slowed Raptitude’s growth somewhat, I have grown considerably on a personal level and travel has filled me with questions and ideas to explore in future articles. Taking this trip is the best decision I ever made, perhaps aside from starting a blog. To steal a perfectly appropriate quote from a good friend of mine:

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. ~ George Moore

Whether you’re a new reader or you were there from the start, I thank you and welcome you to year two.

And like that, my rookie year is over.

R

Photo by David Cain



Eric | Eden Journal March 18, 2010 at 6:52 am

David, it’s been a wonderful first year. I found Raptitude shortly after I started blogging in October. I love the thought and time you put into your posts. The depth of the articles and writing from the heart makes you stand out from the crowd. I read because you are not the standard personal development guru. You write the things that are important to you and you tell a story; your story.

I love reading of your journey’s and although I don’t make it by to comment as often as I’d like, I’ve been keeping up with the RSS feed. I always smile when a new Raptitude post pops up in the feed reader.

I look forward to another great year!
.-= Eric | Eden Journal´s last blog ..The Campfire – A Collaborative Discussion of Happiness =-.

David March 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Well thank you Eric. I’ll continue to light up your RSS reader :)

Steve March 18, 2010 at 9:15 am

Hi David,

My name’s Steve, first time commenter, long time reader.

I came across Raptitude last year and have become an avid reader since. I am a New Zealander living in London and have often found the going tough, whether it be work, friends, love, living situation or just where I see my life going in general. I have drawn a lot of strength from your insightful articles, which have pulled me out of some dark places since I’ve been away from home, while at the same time, reminded me to savour the good times. So thank you for that. I wanted to pass on a belated happy birthday to Raptitude and wish you all the best in your future adventures in New Zealand. It has been awesome to view my home country through someone else’s eyes.

I look forward to reading more!

Cheers,
Steve

David March 18, 2010 at 2:19 pm

Nice to meet you steve. It’s so cool when a long time reader makes a comment, because until then I wouldn’t have a clue who you are. I’ve noticed that the vast majority of blog readers never leave comments, which is perfectly fine, but when I picture my audience the only pictures I can summon are the faces and names of the commenters. So now Steve is part of that picture.

Floriane March 18, 2010 at 10:31 am

I am a recent reader from France! I have discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago and I just have to say it inspires me. It makes me see things differently and help to move forward in some ways. I will be glad to be part of this year 2. :-)
Can’t wait to read the next posts!
Keep up the good work.

David March 18, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Merci, Floriane

See you in year two.

Lori (JaneBeNimble) March 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

Hi David,

I enjoyed reading about your childhood (your rookie year). I find it interesting to watch and read about your blogging journey — our journeys are all so different and unique.

Thanks for taking us along with you. I’ve always admired your blog (and you, of course). It’s lovely to see you’ll continue your blogging journey forward.

Cheers!
~xo
.-= Lori (JaneBeNimble)´s last blog ..Righting Time =-.

David March 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Yes I’ve loved watching other bloggers appear from nowhere and grow. I’m sorry I haven’t been as active in the community, but I will be when I get home. Thanks for all your support and help Lori!

Brad March 18, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I had a feeling you were going to talk about your blog some more. Or maybe I just like to validate my hindsight. I am the same way. I have a strict schedule; I post every day (although I decided to take Sundays off). I told myself I might just keep like a couple months ahead of schedule, but no–as a rule I cram in the post every day about 10 minutes before the one-o-clock email. I remain a bit obsessive compulsive about wording and such as well, but as it is a language blog I might be more readily chastised for my mistakes.

I have had a stagnation in traffic too; it is disheartening. Same problem; not enough time for promotion!

Best of luck in your second year.
.-= Brad´s last blog ..Exodus to Virtual Worlds =-.

David March 18, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Yeah I’ve been ahead by a post once or twice, but I’ve never gotten too far ahead. I just don’t like the idea of having a post sitting there. I guess I figure it’ll go stale or something.

Lisis March 18, 2010 at 1:40 pm

The thing I love most about Raptitude is that, when I’m here, I don’t feel like I’m reading a blog. Reading Raptitude, for me, is akin to reading “real” books in electronic format. I get that same magical sensation, of words dancing from the page to captivate my imagination.

Because of this, I think your current adventure is the best thing you could do for yourself and for this blog. If you don’t get out and LIVE, then you’ll just be writing your thoughts about other thoughts. But now, you get to write your own impressions about Life… and that’s the kind of stuff that’s worth reading.

I’m really looking forward to your second year.

PS: That’s an awesome quote! Your friend must be a genius. :)
.-= Lisis´s last blog ..What Are We “Teaching” Our Children? =-.

David March 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I think you are right. Sometimes during my trip I’ve wished I was back home where I have everything at my fingertips and I can resume blogging full-force. But this trip has given me so much experience and insight I wouldn’t have had otherwise, so I think this blog will end up ahead in the long-term. It has also been loads of fun.

Yeah my friend is totally a genius :)

Alison | Quest for Balance March 18, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I love that quote, too! : )

Happy Blogiversary, David. Here’s to a fabulous Year #2!
.-= Alison | Quest for Balance´s last blog ..What Are We “Teaching” Our Children? =-.

Kylie March 19, 2010 at 6:31 am

Hey David,
I have to say I’m totally heartened that a writer that seems so together as yourself struggled with your first post. I have recently (finally) mustered the courage to regularly set aside some time to write – but it sure ain’t easy! I also find the best way to get moving is not to try and write something good, but just to write something, anything. And some of the time it doesn’t seem completely terrible, and that’s what makes it fun and makes me turn up again. That and the fact that its (way past) time to really challenge myself.

So thank you for sharing that. And I agree with Lisis, Raptitude feels more ‘real’ than many blogs: it has a resonance and depth which makes it stand out. So thank you for that too. Bring on Raptitude Year 2!

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) March 19, 2010 at 6:50 am

Hey~ I did Yaro’s course too! He is very helpful, I recommend him to others first starting. The Inshallah approach I have does not do justice to the insights he has shared. But then my idea of profit is having sweet potatoes, compliments of students living on less than the dole, or extra mullah to reno my home.

Isn’t it great tho, how some people go all the way out of their lives, to let you know, in a judgmental way as possible, what they think is wrong with how you see the world..?
Being the focus (sun) of another’s life (orbit) is part of godhood~ I’ve noticed you are a compassionate being who treads lightly amongst the Lilliputians. It will give them hope when they think none exists; sometimes our dharma is to shake others up~ tres bien god ~:-)

LeeShand March 21, 2010 at 6:24 am

I found Raptitude from an 88 truths tweet and immediately added you to my favorites and devoured the archives. I look forward to it every week. I appreciate all the laughs mixed with serious thought. ( I even bought a keetleball in weeks after I found this blog) heehee, Keep up the great work. I am in much appreciation.

Roger March 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm

David,

Congratulations! You have just outlasted 99% of blogs. I really have enjoyed your writing and I hope you keep up the great work.
.-= Roger´s last blog ..Beginning a Meal Mindfully =-.

Darren March 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Thank you and happy anniversary for your blog. I stumbled across this blog months ago when I was looking up articles on quitting following the news. It’s nice to read something that’s written both from the heart and the head. The documenting of your struggles resonates with a lot of people because those are everyone’s struggles as well, to varying degrees. It just shows that we are all connected on the intrinsic spiritual level.

Charles March 23, 2010 at 11:55 pm

You have provided much food for thought in this post. As a newbie I have gleaned some wonderful insights into the blogging world…..Thank you.
.-= Charles´s last blog ..Poetry…..A Balm in Gilead? =-.

Eran - The Quarterlife Quest March 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Hi David! I’m a new reader (as of today!) having discovered your blog through Quest for Balance. I love that you’ve given a history of your blog here – I’m a new blogger myself (launched on Jan. 18, 2010) and it’s inspiring for me to hear how your blog has grown and developed. I’m especially glad to hear you’re not a stockpiler; I’m the same :)
Looking forward to reading more!

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