Grilling Eden Kennedy about NaBloPoMo's Glorious Madness
By Deb Rox on November 10, 2009
BlogHer Original Post
You know you've reached Bloglebrity status when your name is synonymous with an entire month. I interviewed the fabulous Eden Kennedy, the blogging luminary behind National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), about the madness she inspires in the blogosphere every year. NaBloPoMo is an annual ritual that drives many bloggers to commit to posting every day during the month of November, facing all of their demons, distractions, dearth of ideas and defiant natures along the way.
Now in its fourth year, NaBloPoMo has grown massively from its start as a little blogroll of participants on Eden's personal blog Fussy. Now the movement has a life of its own and a terrific site managed as a labor of love by Eden. Although bloggers don't have to register to be a part of NaBloPoMo, the site hosts a rich blogroll of those who submitted their blog link to the community pages.
Not every blogger goes for NaBloPoMo bragging rights. Some fail. (I already have failed this year. Please don't tell Mrs. Kennedy.) Some only do it once. Some just don't get into it, or tell PoMoers to GoBloMe. Regardless of each writer's choice to Po or not to Po, Eden's brainchild is big blogger buzz in late October and November. Whether bloggers do it as a challenge to master, a practice to improve their writing, a freeing exercise, an attempt to flog themselves, a community activity or for reasons all their own, it's undeniable that Eden has created a force and a meaningful ritual in NaBloPoMo.
It was very exciting to talk with Eden. Although I felt starstruck to be interviewing one of my top Bloglebrity heros/cult leaders, talking with her was inspiring and fun. She even confessed one of her crushing NaBloPoMo defeats, which has made me feel a tiny bit better about some of mine. I still don't want you to tell her about my NaBloPoMoFail this year, though. Let's just keep that between us right now.
Eden's blog: Fussy
Satirical babyraising fun: Let's Panic About Babies!
NaBloPoMo Community: NaBloPoMo
IComLeavWe (Commit to commenting on blogs, in partnership with NaBloPoMo): IComLeavWe
Follow Eden on Twitter: Mrs. Kennedy
Transcript of the interview:
Deb Rox: Hi this is Deb Rox. I am a contributing Editor at BlogHer and today I am celebrating the wonder and madness of National Blog Posting Month with the Blogebrity behind the movement Eden Marriot Kennedy. I am so excited talk to Eden, I have read you for a long time and I am just excited to talk about this particular baby of yours. Eden blogs at Fussy.org and she is talking with me by phone today from her home in California. How are you today, Eden, and how is California?
Eden Kennedy: It's good, it's sunny.
Deb Rox: Excellent, what's going on at Fussy Headquarter today?
Eden Kennedy: Not a whole lot, I spent the whole morning in bed, which I have the luxury of doing because now I am writing – it's pretty awesome; I have nothing to complain about.
Deb Rox: The creative life gets to plan its own time and sleeping in is terrific. Well thanks for talking with us today. I love National Blog Posting Month.
Eden Kennedy: You do, you’ve been doing it?
Deb Rox: I do, and I am doing it, I have tried and failed before. I love it and I want to just talk to you about the history and the practice of posting everyday. I think of blogging as many things, I know we all think of it as a community and as a practice and as an art form. Like any art or sport or vocation there are seasons and I really look at blogging or personal blogging as having three distinct seasons and one is; pre-BlogHer conference, one is post or recovery time BlogHer conference and the third is National Blog Posting Month. Basically you're not just a blogebrity, you're a season.
Eden Kennedy: It is something you definitely have to gear up for, because it's a lot of work to post everyday. You think “I will find something”, but there are days, after you have run out of your first ten or so ideas, when all of a sudden you are in the mid month going “uh youtube video? What do I do here?”
Deb Rox: Right exactly, that’s at the core of it. Why don’t we start there, why don’t you talk about the core or in essence what is National Blog Posting Month?
Eden Kennedy: I tried to start it as a writer's exercise because it was based on National Novel Writing Month which also happens November; where thousands of people cycle through trying to write a novel. I forget what the word count is, is it 60,000 words or something in the space of 30 days. I tried to do that one year and I just failed utterly and I thought well I could still post my blog for 30 days in a row that wouldn’t be too hard, which its turns out it sort of is. I don’t know if necessarily this is a controversy, but a lot of people don't sort of take blog writing all that seriously. A lot of blog writers don’t take it that seriously themselves because they are posting links to current events, or using it as a discussion forum rather than as a place to thoughtfully express using good interesting verbs or good descriptive writing of what's going on in their life or in their brain. I thought let's just focus on that part of it, see if you can sit down and write something everyday and throw it up there. What happens after you do that for a while and you are doing it publicly it's not like you are writing it in your diary everyday, you are throwing it out there for between 10 and 100 or 1000 people to read depending on your traffic. Your barriers start to come down and you start that perfectionism thing and start to loosen up for better or worse sometimes worse. Sometimes you end up posting up stuff you never thought was worth writing about and it turns out "Hey I really liked writing that post and I want to explore that more." or you get more feedback or whatever. It's just a way of loosening up that nasty perfectionism thing if you have that.
Deb Rox: Absolutely, it sort of functions like writers pages or the basic practice of writing every day without doing your best in it to move beyond the anxiety of polishing and reading. Immediacy that comes from having a daily move. People sign up and they commit that they are going to try to do this and I know you have been blogging since 2001, when did you start National Blog Posting Month?
Eden Kennedy: I think it was 2006, 7, 8, 9, yes this is the fourth year.
Deb Rox: Fourth year, okay, in those years it has evolved and now you have a community site as well, how does that work?
Eden Kennedy: It works really well I think, I am note sure, I mean I suppose it could be better, it is not like Facebook. It is pretty good for what it is I think, people come, they get on a blog roll and a lot of groups have started, Canadian bloggers or people with ADD, or people who take their camera everywhere, or people who write about office supplies. It is just random, but it is all centered on blogging and so every once in a while you get some weirdo comment trying to come and sell real estate or they sell this commercial stuff and I try to clean them out, but for the most part people have been really sort of sincere about it and that's kind of awesome.
Deb Rox: National Blog Posting Monthers are unified by the idea I am going to post everyday, I am going to own this, I am going to share my thoughts, my art, or my ideas or whatever it is, everyday. In doing so they are sort of joined with different bloggers doing a lot of different types of blogging and its a great place to find what people are posting and people come there also to commiserate.
Eden Kennedy: Yes and they are like oh my god this is hard, or how do you get more traffic, or what's the best blogging platform. Everything from basic I am just starting how do I do this, to someone with slightly more sophisticated questions. One thing I think that helps is this year I had a friend help make the blog roll process a little more automated so that people could enter categories to describe what they do. Now you can go to a blog roll page on nablopomo.com - National Blog Posting Month.com – and you will see all of the craft bloggers together, and all of the parenting bloggers together and all of the anonymous ranting bloggers together and it makes it easier to find like-minded individuals that way. Before it was alphabetical and you could trip across some stuff randomly or if somebody has an interesting name for their blog, you’d get to go for it, maybe you find something great. This way narrowing it down this way it’s a little bit better, people really seem to be responding to that.
Deb Rox: And promotes community.
Eden Kennedy: Yes it does.
Deb Rox: One of the things that really I think is powerful … I think of it as a movement and like I said as a ritual, as a season in blogging because people talk about it throughout the year, make decisions about it definitely in the time period leading up to the month, people sometimes they are deciding, as you said decide between Novel Writing Month or Blog Writing Month and whether does this make sense in their life. It is also the busy month for people because there are other holidays.
Eden Kennedy: It's a terrible month actually; it has Thanksgiving right in there, it really is like the worst month you could have picked.
Deb Rox: That makes it a definite commitment; its almost like boot camp for bloggers, getting down to the…
Eden Kennedy: Really getting that obstacle right here.
Deb Rox: Down to the bone, I am going to post every month. It also brings bloggers back to the origin of blogging which is more the daily blog.
Eden Kennedy: Yes true
Deb Rox: People do it for a lot of different reasons, but I do think people feel a real a badge of honour. Success going through the tunnel. What are the kinds of things that you heard from people who have completed it?
Eden Kennedy: People they are really grateful for the momentum I think and it helps them if they do it to sort of commit to their blogs a little more.
On the one hand the last thing we all need is another blog, I mean there is millions of them, but in other ways who cares, do your thing these are your pixels; what are you going to do with them? You can make them in to anything that you want, and so what is gratifying is when people say I have so much momentum I am going to keep doing it. They slide right in to December and sometimes and there – in 2008 there was a blog 365 group that kind of splintered out of it that was people were trying to commit to doing it every single day of the year, which I thought was amazing.
Deb Rox: The crazy monk's bloggers; insane.
Eden Kennedy: Some people are just wired that way.
Deb Rox: Does somebody bring them rice and tea or do they make it, like Mozart won’t leave the piano. It's really pretty amazing because you don’t have a budget, you don’t have an advertising budget, and the word spreads – word of mouth?
Eden Kennedy: Yes I guess it does, yes, I have never done a Google adword or anything.
Deb Rox: It seems to increase ever year.
Eden Kennedy: It does we had a big leap when we moved it, because it started off just a page on my site with a couple thousand links to people who were doing it, but moving it over to the social network. People who don’t know who I am, it used to be people who knew me would come and do it, but now its just taking on a life of its own.
Deb Rox: That’s amazing; that really helps transcend the commitment into a movement and there is energy with that, and I think that's some of what people tap into. I would bet that most people know who you are because clearly your commitment and charisma and I don’t know guru type vibe is part of this commitment and I know that is what I hear from bloggers who are contemplating it or struggling to finish…
Eden Kennedy: Really?
Deb Rox: …yes, because you have been a blogger since the very early days of blogging – 2001 that's serious.
Eden Kennedy: Yes.
Deb Rox: People are inspired by, already, your longevity and your commitment, and your devotion to the community; it's inspiring and I want to be – I want to be good for Eden.
Deb Rox Or know that whenever you see someone who has achieved good things from commitment you want that, you want whatever it is that they have. I think that you probably could start a cult if you have successfully motivated. You’ve dominated the month of November for how many people?
Eden Kennedy: Right, start making people do things.
Deb Rox: What about you, do you still find the practise interesting?
Eden Kennedy: It comes and goes, like you say it is a seasonal thing and this year; this is the year it was hard, my mom died and I felt like I kind of went under water for a while and I really was not interested in sharing anything on the internet at all; I was just feeling kind of fragile. I just kind of moved through that and I thought well then I am going to withdraw, because if I force myself to post and there is some months where I think I maybe posted three times in August or something pathetic like that. I thought about closing down Fussy all together. I thought, well, I will regret that and I just moved through it and came back up, and November it was half dreading it and half looking forward to it, because I am doing it there is no way I can't do it. It had become less of a burden than an excuse to just – oh here is this other I was thinking of…oh well maybe nobody cares, but I have to put something out there. It is an excuse to just let loose with a bunch of stuff and so it's good.
Deb Rox: Great, I am glad that that was a good practise for you because you give so much to others and I know that there has to be a lot of labour involved in keeping the community rolling. You get together prizes for some of the completers, which is a nice little dangling carrot.
Eden Kennedy: I didn’t even think of that, people started offering the first year, like, “Let’s have prizes”. I don’t even know what created that impulse but I was like sure – it's amazing. We usually get 30 or 40 good prizes and so for whoever posts 30 posts in 30 days they go on a random list and then I just randomly pick people. It is not like you earn it; the first few people were kind of bummed. They were saying, “Oh but this woman she had cancer and she went through all of this stuff, and she posted everyday,” and I am like I am really sorry; I am really sorry we are not rewarding quality here at all – it’s sheer quantity.
Deb Rox: Yes, actually, the opposite; it's pushing past the boundaries, but I have seen some amazing things come out from that and I think it's the freedom or maybe it's the practise, when you know you have to do it you make time.
Eden Kennedy: Yes, I think maybe it’s just desperation I don’t know.
Deb Rox: Maybe that’s when we get to the really good stuff, whether that’s wild creative or heartfelt creative.
Eden Kennedy: Yes, I think sometimes that’s true.
Deb Rox: I wondered too if it’s a time, like you say, where I think all bloggers or anyone who shares any part of their creative work with any audience, let alone online with an audience you might not know, struggles with how long to continue blogging or when…times when you think of throwing in the code. Maybe it is also time to take stock; that’s a typical harvesting. Here you are the season, you’re Demeter – isn’t she the goddess of…you’re Eden, the goddess of NaBloPoMo. Maybe there is a taking stock piece as well.
Eden Kennedy: There are times when you should stop blogging; there is no reason to torture yourself. Some people…I had a friend who stopped and he said it is not that I quit, it was that that blog is complete; it's like I put everything that needed to be said there and now it's done – boom. Sometimes that’s true; it is not something that you have to do forever, but for me the ball just keeps on rolling and I would really regret it if I ever – I can't say if I ever stop, but if I stop now there is no reason for me to. As long as I feel comfortable backing off when I need to emotionally withdraw and then coming out when it’s time to party.
Deb Rox: There are no rules.
Eden Kennedy: There are no rules.
Deb Rox: Unless you sign up to post every month.
Eden Kennedy: Well yes, unless you start…yes.
Deb Rox: What would you tell someone who is considering, as a new blogger, because that’s the other thing about Blog Posting Month is that people who are veterans and who have an established traffic base and a really solid platform are members, and take on this challenge, and some very new bloggers, who are just experimenting, are just trying to create their definition for their own piece of ‘blogebrity’ give it a go. What would you tell someone who is not quite sure?
Eden Kennedy: I think if you are just starting out it's a good way to build up your blogging muscles very quickly. If you want to just start running, well I will just run twice a week and that will get you to a certain point, but if you run everyday you are going to get that point quicker; you will become fitter, faster. This is kind of a way of like seeing if you have got muscles for blogging and for writing daily and for doing it publicly, so those are the three big things right there.
Deb Rox: December is just a breeze?
Eden Kennedy: It does become after that and you say, “I’ll skip the day, whatever; it doesn’t matter.”
Deb Rox: What's the bottom of the barrel that you have ever scraped in order to get a post in by the end of the day?
Eden Kennedy: I remember the – was it the first year where I had just been putting it off all day and then all of a sudden it was like 11:30 and I was like I have got to do something and Blogger shut down the blogging platform I use. They were like sorry, “You won't be able to post now,” and I was just like, “No I have got half an hour left – shit.” I had to go. I went over to WordPress and started a new blog and I called it fussy.wordpress, and I was so angry and I was just blowing it, and I went and I thought I have got to calm down. And I had a copy of the Tao Te Ching or something like that and it was just like, “The master finds a way no matter what obstacle,” and I was like, “Aah” and I was furious, and I just typed this thing out and hit publish and said I'm done – whoops. I ceased to count at that point because all of your posts have to be on the same blog so I blew it big time right there; I got something out, but it wasn’t on my blog.
Deb Rox: Exactly, you were resourceful.
Eden Kennedy: Yes, so that was my dark night of the blogging soul right there.
Deb Rox: That was as PoMo as you can get.
Eden Kennedy: Yes, but it is true, but I got there.
Deb Rox: I know you have blogged while travelling and all sorts of other…
Eden Kennedy: Yes, which is if you don’t have a laptop, ooh. I think if people are planning to do that I let it be okay to schedule posts in advance, so if you need write a couple of days in advance and have them published automatically. I kind of let that go because what kind of cruel taskmistress would I be to not let everyone leave their Thanksgiving dinner and sit down at the computer.
Deb Rox: I love those posts and some people find solace in them, because I remember last year I was at a few blogs who were sad about the Christmas season. Surviving their family traumas, which is a driving force for many writers very much like your famous T-shirt shares with the world that “writing is the best revenge.” I love that T-shirt. That’s just a classic piece of your ‘blogebrity’ as well. I think it is very true for writers that sometimes their drive to wanting to communicate and sometimes with our family.
Eden Kennedy: Right, to tell your side of the story.
Deb Rox: Exactly and so having…even though it makes it hard month to have it over a holiday, it is kind of nice.
Eden Kennedy: Well that’s true actually; it gives you that valve, so that you can blow off some of the steam yes.
Deb Rox: Have been interested in looking to make it a corporate sponsored event or are you happy with the way that…
Eden Kennedy: I wouldn't even know how to go about doing that, frankly, and I am curious actually there are quite a few members of the network who are really frustrated with how I paste the blog roll and it sometimes takes a day, and it would be…yes, if had some corporate sponsorship and an assistant or something and I think it worked really sharp then I am sure people would be very thrilled, so yes maybe I should do that. I like the whole doop-di-doo homemade aspect of it though and I don’t want it to be slick, but maybe that’s…
Deb Rox: I do too, I love it, but everyone can do what they want to do in all of their intellectual creations, so I'm interested in whatever you want to do with it, but I think that it has a definite feeling – the feeling suits…you know, it’s a commitment and it’s just something that people can do without having barriers.
Eden Kennedy: Yes and I have got some blog ads up or BlogHer Ads up there and that covers…the revenue I get in November covers the hosting costs and stuff for the whole year, so whatever, I break even; it’s good.
Deb Rox: That’s great, it's definitely a gift, Eden; it's definitely a gift that you have given just the whole blogosphere in helping define some of the work that people do, but because by giving this month attention it let's everyone think through the rest of the year and what they want out of their blog, and one big important piece of the community. Like you say it helps people take it both a little more seriously and also just make it a little piece of them, so definitely a gift and an amazing creative endeavour that I am so glad that you shared.
Eden Kennedy: Thanks; I am glad it’s grown. I am glad people like it.
Deb Rox: When people want to find you and read more of you, if they haven’t found your blog yet, it's at fussy.org and they will know they are when they have a fortune cookie telling them...?
Eden Kennedy: Yes, at the moment it's telling them I think, “A true friend stabs them in the front.”
Deb Rox: Excellent, how long have you had fortune cookies up?
Eden Kennedy: The fortunes have come and gone depending on my template, but they are back.
Deb Rox: I remember them from just when I found you years and years ago. You are on Twitter @MrsKennedy and they can join up, and people can join halfway through the month; there is no reason to wait until next year.
Eden Kennedy: I was all set to be kind of a jerk about it this month, because just for my own selfish reasons I wanted everybody on the blogroll to have committed to starting from the beginning and to have people come in halfway through I am starting on the 15th, I thought no I do not want you, but then I was like ‘relax’, so I opened it back up again. Anybody can join.
Deb Rox: They are not going to get a Girl Scout badge for their vest.
Eden Kennedy: No you won't and you won't be eligible for a prize, but there is always next year.
Deb Rox: You are welcome to practice for next year to give it a go or just to poke around the community. Participants would love readers and would love comments.
Eden Kennedy: Oh, we are hooking up with another site which does this thing called IComLeWe International Comment Leaving Week, so that’s the third week in November I believe and so that’s going to be a whole subset; am I going to start trying to get NaBlo people so if you failed to blog everyday you can go around and leave, I believe, five or six comments on different blogs every day for one week.
Deb Rox: I love that, so that’s new this year.
Eden Kennedy: Yes, that’s not my idea; that came from another - who we’re just – she started that separately and we are just going to join forces this year.
Deb Rox: Fantastic, so can we read about that on NaBloPoMo site?
Eden Kennedy: It will be though; I just haven’t announced it yet, but I was going to do that this weekend.
Deb Rox: Because it is later in the month?
Eden Kennedy: Yes, exactly.
Deb Rox: The comment leaving, so that’s terrific. Thank you so much for talking today about the amazing work and all the ‘blogebrity’ that you bring into it, and I will be looking to see how you handle the rest of the month as well as your devoted horde of cokies.
Eden Kennedy: You too.
Deb Rox: Thank you so much.
Eden Kennedy: Hang in there
Deb Rox: Bye.
Eden Kennedy: Bye