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.
Photo by David Cain