Group therapy and the blog days of summer

Brick Wall
Creative Commons License photo credit: Toronto Rob

Buckle your seatbelts. This is a long another one. And, forgive me, but while you may find loose references to things related to real estate here, this is really about the blog days of summer.

I had an appointment with a client today in which she chastised me for orphaning my blog. Guilty as charged. My sails have lacked wind lately. I could blame it on “busy,”  and that is partly true, but there are many reasons, if I am honest.

First, there is the boredom. And by boredom, I don’t mean “bored with real estate.” Rather, real estate gets a little predictable this time of year. August is nearly upon us. Inventory is down. Add to that that enthusiasm on the part of buyers is waning, at least temporarily, as they all head off to do all of those things I read about normal people doing during the thick of summer, like having barbecues, taking vacations, and catching up on the first two seasons of House on DVD. (OK, that last one is just me.) It’s August, after all, and we have lived through enough real estate Augusts at Chez Berg to not be surprised that it’s happening yet again. Even so, going from frenetic to steady, seemingly in an instant, tends to mess with one’s routine. Think of how you feel on New Year’s Day. To an agent, that is August.

Then, there is the simple fact that I tend to, on occasion, run out of words (although Steve will enthusiastically argue this point). I have a couple of other writing gigs which compete for my time and brain cells. Alas, both are admittedly in short supply, and too often a perfectly good San Diego Home Blog post takes a detour to points beyond.

There are always the competing demands. I am an agent and broker who happens to write every now and then, not the other way around. The “other way around” would make for a better blog, but it’s a matter of priorities. I’d prefer to keep my kidneys and make a living the old fashioned way.

Finally, and not incidentally, there is writer’s block. It’s not that I lack material; there’s plenty of that occupying the area of my brain which used to be solely devoted to remembering where I left my car keys — and remembering the theme song of Petticoat Junction. It’s just that, periodically, focus is hard to achieve. It’s like the bumper sticker I saw recently that read, “When you stop to think, it’s hard to get started again.”

So, as I was grasping at straws today, I stumbled upon this moment of intended group therapy sitting in my “draft” folder. I apparently wrote it back at the beginning of the year when I was having one of those August moments.

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In January, 2007 I wrote:

In my innocence of youth and in my blogging infancy, I envisioned droves of consumers hungry for real estate information participating in a question and answer and opinion sharing free-for-all. Now, these many months later, we have a healthy audience of consumers; this much I know from the emails I get from past clients, the feedback I get at appointments and the statistics on my hit counter. Unfortunately, getting this readership contingent to move from outsider-looking-in to active participant has been more difficult than I imagined. We have an even healthier industry readership, and we of course have our “trolls”, or rabble rousers, all of whom add value to our site.

Out of this diversity has sprung my challenge – the challenge of content. I have made a conscious effort to mix it up, knowing that each audience is vastly unique. One may have interest in one topic while no stomach for another. In trying to engage both cats and dogs without alienating either, I have been accused of being too dry, too funny, to local, too global, too industry and too Mom and Pop. In the end, I suppose I will just continue to write on a variety of topics that interest me, and hope that along the way someone with find some value, if simply of the entertainment variety.

Lately I’m struggling.

I’ve blamed my broken funny bone on our less than joyful economy; I’ve blamed the word-well- run-dry on a dismal housing market. But maybe my Phoenix friend Jonathan Dalton said it best:

Over the past several months I’ve found myself inexorably withdrawing from the real estate blogging world. It’s not that I have issue with what’s being written or the issues being debated. Rather, it’s a growing sense that it’s all been said. And after a while, purely academic debates lose their luster.

I agree that in terms of blogging for an industry audience, it is feeling a lot like Groundhog Day, but like new buyers and sellers enter the market every day, so do new readers visit a local site. So I’ll do Jonathan one better. We are closing in on three years here, and with age we tend to get less reckless. Where’s the fun in that?

My mouth (or, in this case, my keyboard) has always been the pace vehicle for my brain, a brain running a few lengths behind at all times. It continues to get me in a lot of trouble. But lately, I admit I have taken caution to the extreme. I tend to spend too much time thinking, rethinking and over-thinking each post. How will it be received? Who will read it? Are statistics too boring? Are personal anecdotes to trite? In the process, I risk completely neutralizing any message or entertainment value. In short, I’ve been walking on eggshells instead of dancing up a storm.

I did something this morning that I have only done once before. I pulled a post. The first time, it was painful. I agonized, feeling like a do-over was the ultimate sin against the transparency Gods, and I even saved a copy “just in case.” Today, it took just a fraction of a second and one click executed with no remorse. It was a silly, stream of consciousness, bury the previous “I’m on vacation” post post, yet what I found funny, someone (from Ireland, no less) found offensive. This is when both of my ‘x’ chromosomes kicked in, the ones that are constantly counseling me to avoid confrontation at all costs, leading me to take the path of least resistance.

The harsh reality, however, is that blogging is risky business, as is anything posted on the Internet. It is a given that anything I write will be either misunderstood or ill-received by at least one set of eyes. As I pound away at my keyboard at 5:00 AM, I tend to forget that those eyes are everywhere, even when I can’t see them.

And, of course, the best stories are the ones I can never tell (although I have been guilty of naively pushing the envelope a few times).

I have come to the conclusion that I am, in part, a victim of too much advice. Bloggers by definition read – a lot. And much of what they read is all about purposeful blogging, writing for the audience, and packing in a bunch of keywords that Google will fancy in the process. It’s like dancing, only I am finding that by focusing strictly on technique, the art is lost.

As I was looking back on some of our older articles here, I was struck by one thing. We were better back then. I never lost my passion; I just lost my chutzpah. I used to write for amusement. When it became a business proposition, the cadence changed. Ironically, I was doing just fine doing it the wrong way – my way. So now I am ready to dance again.

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And, with that, I am ready to dance again. That’s not to say that meatloaf night won’t come twice between posts every once in awhile, but for now I’m back on the horse. Some people plant roses; I enjoy writing. And if I worry a little less about who might enjoy it, more just might.

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