Experiential Blogging Is a Funny Thing

Day 141 | $57,116 paid | $33,601 till freedom

In my last post, I identified the source of the funk I’ve been feeling, but I didn’t really have a solution for it. Well, I’ve found one…

Stop blogging!

Seriously, I’m not joking. I’ve been writing and publishing most posts on Sunday night, and every Monday morning at work has hit me like a slap in the face. I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that 99.9% of my posts have typically been about me and the challenges I experience in trying to live a lower-cost life. So I live it once, then I re-live it again when I write about it. Then I go in to work on Monday and feel trapped in a cubicle maze. I typically get out of the heavy funk by mid-afternoon on Monday, then the rest of the week is usually pretty easy and funk-free. Then I blog about my debt pay-off misery on Sunday night and the cycle repeats.

I have a good friend from HBS and work who knows all about my blog. He was a film major in undergrad, and he was even filming me for a couple of weeks in an attempt to make a documentary out of this stunt until he realized he’d have to hire somebody full-time just to keep up with me, given the pace at which I was trying different things to eat away at my debt. The other day, we were talking about a lawsuit that he’s involved in regarding his former business venture–a couple of intimidating mobster-like characters from NYC that bought him out (one’s an ex-con) owe him beaucoup royalties and they refuse to pay up–and I encouraged him to write a blog about his experience. He turned down my suggestion, though, explaining that not thinking about the lawsuit has allowed him to stay sane and remain emotionally detached from it.

Then he told me a story about a woman who gave birth to and raised ten kids. His wife once asked the woman why she didn’t keep a journal about raising all of the kids since it would make for such fantastic reading years down the road. The woman replied back that she would have gone crazy if every night she had to capture the craziness of each day by writing about it.

I haven’t blogged in six days, including last night. I woke up this Monday morning and whereas for the past few months I’ve spent the first couple of hours at work in a funk, today I walked into my cube at 8:10 AM and just crushed it. I got completely caught up on email, knocked out several deliverables, started a couple more, and attended a few meetings–all before noon. I successfully evaded the funk.

And that’s the thing about me. If I’m ever doing something I don’t like, but I know that it’s my medicine and that I have to take it for long-term health, I don’t whine about it/dwell on it/think about it. I just do it. I compartmentalize it. I block out the negative thoughts and feelings and power through it. But when I’m having to reflect on it, dissect it, analyze it, and write about it, I tend to get more than a little wrapped up in it.

I think this whole mission would actually be a lot easier if I weren’t spending so much time thinking and writing about it.

I used to keep a private journal (i.e., a diary…whatever, I’m cool with it) on and off since seventh grade, and I always found that I was happier when I wasn’t writing in it. My journal literally made me miserable! I haven’t journaled since 2009. I still see and gain value in writing and reflecting on a major problem when I can’t quite put my finger on a root cause or a solution by working it out in my head, but I think that for the most part, consistent, reflective journaling can drive a person insane. The quotation underneath my photo in my high school senior yearbook is from Socrates and it reads, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I still agree with that, but I might add that the over-examined life can be detrimental to one’s mental health.  

All that being said, I recognize the value of this blog to others; several folks have commented on how inspirational it is. So I’ll keep blogging away about my experiences. I would like to say that I’m going to try to keep things more positive, more on an even keel, but I don’t want this blog to be some idiotic, artificial, fluffy, evangelistic piece of crap, either. I want it to be real. So I’ll probably keep whining from time to time.

Speaking of the Blog
I started this blog on August 29th. Four and a half months later, as of 9:57 on 1/16, I’ve published 73 posts comprised of 95,000 words. Other noteworthy data:

  • 69,275 page views
  • 525 reader comments
  • 102 email subscribers
  • 57 comment followers
  • Top six commentors are: Sarah L (26), Sarah (17), Mike (16), Barbara (16), and Nancy and Zeona (15 each); Thanks a lot, guys!!!
  • All-time biggest referrer: Iwillteachyoutoberich.com (2,341 referrals | Thanks, Ramit!)
  • My busiest day was the first full day of this blog’s existence on August 30, 2011, when the blog went viral and got 2,788 views. It was all downhill from there: catchy title, interesting concept, but horrible writing, I guess ;)

A Special Thanks
I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it weren’t for my readers and the comments. I love the fact that I have my own cheerleading squad, my own ringside coach in my corner. It’s a great feeling. Without you guys, I would have stopped writing about my debt challenge 72 posts ago.

I wouldn’t say that I’m on a mission to raise page views–I’m actually quite content with the way things are going right now.  The current crew of commentors is outstanding and it offers a great deal of insight that I find useful and constructive. I’m happy with that, too, since I can’t afford to pay for visitors, I’m not a big fan of hosting guest bloggers (it would have to be an excellent fit), and I don’t have a lot of time/patience/interest in doing the other stuff this guy recommends to increase blog traffic.

That being said, the very competitive side of me is still curious how 70k organic page views in 4.5 months stacks up in in the world of blogging–whether that’s high or low. I think that given the context, it’s a fairly high figure. I mean, I’m writing about me. This is quite possibly the most self-centered blog in the blogosphere. Every single post is about me, my life, and my money!  I’m not that interesting of a guy, and I’m not exactly providing readers with very helpful information–I don’t go to financial seminars and write about them, I don’t do research and conduct studies, and I don’t interview people. I literally just find an hour or so each week, sit down in front of the computer, and write about whatever I’ve been noodling on in my head for the past few days. The fact that it’s not just my parents and grandma reading this blog is cool; the fact that the blog gets roughly 300-400 page views a day from complete strangers is completely astounding.

So, a big thanks to my readers. For you, I will write 5.5 months’ worth of more posts, or however many I can fit in whatever time on earth I have left living with student loans. Thanks for stopping by!

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32 Comments

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32 responses to “Experiential Blogging Is a Funny Thing

  1. Love reading your blog! I find it very inspiring. I had some $24k in debt after my first degree and like you got sick of trying to pay it off slowly. So after a year of working 2 jobs, I moved to Taiwan to teach english and paid it all off in a year (through working hard, limiting expenses, not living it up like many others were).
    I started grad school this year and had to take out some student loans for it, but my plan is to kill it as soon as possible after I graduate!
    I’ve found it very interesting to see how your perspectives on some financial things have changed during your journey and I look forward to the next 5.5 months of your adventures! And hopefully a follow up post or two after that.

  2. I have to wonder if you’d be this motivated to pay it down without blogging about it. It’s inspiring to see all the various methods you’re using to pay down the debt. Keep it up!

  3. 70k organic page views in 4.5 months is absolutely killer dude.

    There are blogs that don’t get that in 2 years. Basically, that big burst of traffic you had at the start is highly unusual, most blogs go completely unnoticed for months like you mentioned.

    I think the value in your blog is actually the experience and the whining. It’s a hard thing that you’re doing and people love to hear about the challenges and how you’re getting through it.

    It’s kind of like we get to read your diary. Didn’t you know? We’re all just a bunch of voyeurs on the internet :)

    Keep it up mate..

  4. christeen

    Hi
    It is a strange feeling isn’t it when you have someone from on the other side of the world taking the time to look at your blog. My 9year old and I have a little blog together and I remember the first time we had a comment from outside the family, WOW. Also when you look at the stats and see people visiting from Moldova! That had my daughter googling where it was. The internet still amazes me at times.

  5. Well, my blog is a bit more casual than yours but your stats are much better than mine. Much. I’m with you, I don’t really want to do all the things people say you need to do to get more readers. Right now I just appreciate the readers I have. It’s amazing how many pageviews you have to get to even get one comment!

    I know how much HBS people like feedback, especially positive feedback :-)
    I really enjoy your blog, keep up the good work. And thanks!

  6. Sarah

    NMHD the movie??!! You know I’d pay to see that! So glad to see that you will continue to blog, I was scared at first. Everyone can learn something from your blog even those of us who are debt free like me. Also, it’s funny/slightly embarassing that I’m your second top commenter.

  7. Alexis

    Have you checked out your page rank on Alexa? It will give you some more interesting data.

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nomoreharvarddebt.com#

  8. As I read the first paragraph, all I could think was “Oh no! Don’t stop blogging!” But that’s just me selfishly wanting to follow along. Do what you need to do to make yourself happy during the process. For what it’s worth, I agree on the journaling observation, as I’ve had the same experience.

    And yes, I’m glad that you’ll be continuing to post. Thanks for indulging your followers!

  9. Interesting to hear your perspective! I have very different reactions to journaling — I love being introspective and reflective. It hadn’t occurred to me that other people might not.

    But great job at figuring it out, and knowing that, hopefully you can tweak the process a bit so its not so negative for you. If you can’t, then as much as I appreciate reading about your experiences, I’d say close up shop. Best of luck to you in whatever you end up doing!

  10. Jyoti

    Hey hey! It’s funny, I’ve been reading the blog since you started it and I share most of the same points of view that you do (feeling the funk 2-3 years out of bschool, the hardest part about loans is not being in control of your own life and how hard it is to balance spending what you feel like you have “earned” with taking a longer-term stance, etc. – wonder if it’s a bschool thing, an HBS thing, an age thing, a personality type thing …) But anyway, what I MOST relate to is this whole journaling thing. I have tried so many times to start a journal, diary, blog, book, etc etc and it’s just too exhausting to relive everything in my life twice. So, I stopped and when I get the very occasional, fleeting urge to write, I do. Otherwise, it’s just life and I’ve lived it and that’s enough :) Anyway, impressed with your commitment to keeping the project and the sharing of it with your readers going. Keep it up and thanks!

  11. Jyoti

    ps – how awesome was that Sugar Bowl??

  12. Nancy

    Sweet, I feel like I made the Pac-Man leaderboard! I know I over-comment on your blog, but your posts really resonate with me, so I sort of can’t help myself. For instance, I completely agree with you about constantly thinking/writing about your loans leading to a funk that permeates other aspects of your life (work, etc.). I found that I had to step back from thinking about my loans constantly. I realized that, although I might rather be doing different work or living elsewhere, I am where I am, and I’m doing what I’m doing until my loans are paid off. I have my time-frame for that; so now, I just have to live in the moment (you helped me with that, by the way). So, thanks for the inspiration, for continuing to write, and for being a general all-around badass!

  13. Your blog’s a big inspiration to me. I have around $5000 of debt that I’m trying to pay off in the next 12 months or so, and it’s tough at times. Reading about how you’re managing to pay off a much greater sum gives me the motivation to keep going. Plus you write entertainingly, and I enjoy it in a sort of voyeuristic way – hope you don’t find that weird ;)

    Keep going mate, and always remember how good it will be when you’re finally done and have all that extra cash to blow every month.

  14. Sarah

    Future blog post: I’m curious what your HBS classmates think of your mission and if they are doing something similar. If they aren’t, why not? Thanks.

  15. Sarah L

    HAHA that’s so weird that I’m your top commenter. Hope you haven’t tired of me yet.

    I halfway agree with your take on journaling. It absolutely causes one to think more about the topic and it does cause one to dwell on it longer. However, I’m a firm believer in emotional awareness! Sorry to be a stereotypical girl here, hah. But it seems to be the healthier way to experience life, no?

    I could be totally wrong here…let me try to articulate why I’m pro-journaling/blogging. I think that when we have conflict with others, the only way to resolve it is through confrontation of some sort. Otherwise, bitterness sprouts and the relationship cannot grow or deepen. When I have conflict within myself or with the world as I’ve experienced it (something happened that made me feel upset, hurt, down, etc), I must process through it in order to grow as a person and to feel at peace with myself.

    Also…FWIW, I think it’s not absurd at all that your blog has enjoyed such high visibility. People are drawn into narratives. It’s like the draw of reality TV. You’re the substitute for Jersey Shore for the financially-savvy twenty-something generation, haha! Keep it up…fist pump! Jk…but only kinda ;)

    • I totally agree–I am not averse to journaling when I’m dealing with some sort of revelation or serious conflict in my life. It’s just the daily/weekly journaling seems to be overkill.

      How DARE you put my blog and Jersey Shore in the same sentence. How DARE you!!!! :)

  16. Maybe if you take a little pressure off yourself and make a goal of a weekly or biweekly post, things would be easier. Write on a topic that has been on your nerves/mind for 15 minutes on Monday and go back to it on Thursday or something. While I’ve enjoyed your chronicles, it is okay to go back and reexamine some of the earlier stuff. (For example, look back at the job searcher and see if they’ve filled the erotic gladiator job or that shady modeling career is still advertising)

    • Lol, I think I’m over the shady stuff. Fewer blog posts is definitely the way to go–good idea. I’m also running out of stuff to say. I feel like I’ve already learned so many things throughout this process. Things might change in the second half, of course.

  17. Admirable post, really intersting and excited to take a look,
    Thanks for sharing……..

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