Why Do We Do This Again? (Again, In Which I Brave Pinterest)

“Wait.  You went to PRINCETON?” the woman exclaimed.  Then she shook her head.  “I can’t believe you only work part-time.  Shouldn’t you be off, like, conquering the world or something?”

We had covered a fair bit of territory at this point, this rather more, shall we say, Sandbergian mother and I, on the sunny green where our children played: work habits (primarily), bedtime routines, daycare experiences.  After educational pedigree we moved on to hobbies and I mentioned I maintain a blog.  “How many readers do you have?”  Not too many.  About 600 hits a month.  “Do you monetize at all?”  I haven’t done that yet.  “So why do you do it?”  Well, I guess I just like to write.  I have something to say, and I don’t journal.  “Do you think a lot of people do that?” she asked.  “Like, write, just for fun?  I mean, writing is in-demand.  Good writers can make a lot of money.”

I looked at her through my sunglasses.  “I am sure,” I replied drily after a pause, “that I am a great disappointment to a few people.”

Sarcasm, a skill honed at the above-mentioned university.  Sarcasm, one of my sharper weapons, one of my most dangerous Achilles’ heels.

I am not in the habit of justifying myself to strangers.

A very good friend of mine (and fellow blogger, and all-around interesting woman) recently commented her blog’s lack of “platform,” or “brand.”  People building those, she argued, are farther along on the road to publication.  To which I reply, Perhaps, but is that really that why you’re in this game?  Because I don’t think so.  The blog is personal and soulful and attempts to untangle the occasional universal truth.  I believe that it is, at its heart, a personal exercise.  That’s part of its appeal.

Of course it’s tempting.  It sounds so easy.  Have blog, become writer.  The Honest Toddler has a book deal.  People I Want to Punch in the Throat has a book deal.  Did you see Julie & Julia?  The happy ending was the book deal.  After all, what you didn’t see in the movie was how that charming marriage at the center of it fell to pieces when Julie Powell got famous.  Which, of course, became the basis for her second book.

For the purposes of this post, I did a bit of research, trolling the more “successful” blogs for the occasional post on “How to Go Viral” or “How to Get Published.”  Viral, as it turns out, is about timing and luck and how topical you are (to illustrate, my recent post on Lean In gets the heaviest traffic of any page on Less on the Floor, seconded by a post I wrote, rather abstractly, in response to the Newtown massacre; the third- and fourth-place spots are occupied by posts with “boobs” and “Owen Wilson” in the titles).  People writing about their own kids (ahem) are less likely to go viral, unless there’s a “hook” (hello, HT).

Getting published is trickier.  It’s either about going viral (i.e., getting discovered), or, in most cases, actually, taking all that stuff you spew out on your blog and working your tail off with a million edits and rewrites to produce a polished manuscript which you then shop around to agents and editors and publishers and maybe, but maybe, get picked up.  Maybe.   (Okay, but if you’re serious about it here are a couple of illuminating Jane Friedman posts for your reading pleasure: a step-by-step guide to getting published and a commentary on “blog-to-book”.)

Blogger and WordPress are littered with the avatars of the would-be writers, the would-be famous.  The blogosphere is this era’s answer to the Hollywood late-nite diner, where the would-be starlets hustle to pay rent after a day of auditions.  The blog, of course, is just the beginning: there’s the Pinterest following, the Facebook fan page, the Instagram feed, all talking to each other and spreading the Gospel of Me to the universe.  But, in writing as in stardom, for every blog that’s discovered there are thousands that just…are.  That are there for their creators, and for their readers, however few.

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?

My more familiar readers may recall a time last spring when I was utterly befuddled by Pinterest.  But then my blog designer left that little “Follow me on Pinterest!” icon on the homepage and it’s just hanging out there…so I ventured in.

The first, immediate lesson is that some people, as it turns out, have a MAJOR Pinterest problem.  I mean, who is this woman Lady V and doesn’t she have a JOB or kids or a yoga class to take or a coffee to sip on, for heaven’s sake?  All she does is pin things, all day long!  It’s exhausting to look at.  And I worry, a bit, about the wanna-be consumerism of it all — I love this, I covet this, I wanna look like this, I have to eat this someday, and then I have to try this workout.  It’s disturbing, somehow, this ever-expanding visual record of our many unfulfilled desires.  But for some people: okay, that’s their brand.  Their taste.  Their sheer Pinterestiness.

I gave it a go for a few minutes, and then I got bored (and, I’ll admit, a little stymied about how to pin something from a flash site, for example).  So I stopped, and my Pinterest page lay dormant for some time.  Why should I Pinterest, anyway?  To build my brand?  Who am I, anyway?  Some working-mom Bay Area chick with a blog and an interest in clothes.  Get in line, sister.

If someone creates an online persona but nobody notices, can it really be said to exist?

Fortunately, I didn’t waste too much time pondering these existential concerns because as it is I have enough going on, thank you, and don’t really need one more procrastination device to derail me any further from The List.

But then I was helping a friend with some personal styling, and as I perused every retailing website known to humankind and became overwhelmed by the number of tabs open on my Firefox browser and got confused about which pair of sexy-boyfriend white jeans I had landed on for her, it came to me in flash: Pinterest.

I built a board.  I stored all the ideas on it.  I curated and showed it to a few people and got feedback and curated again.  Then we shopped.  It was fun, and useful, and here’s the wild thing: when I’m using it that way, not for the following or to look interesting or cultured, but un-self-consciously, for me, for my purposes — suddenly it becomes cohesive: I start to show up in there.  Dare I say: the brand was there all along.

To my friend, the blogger, I say this: Keep telling your story.  Tell it honestly, tell it well.  Keep writing towards your purpose, not towards your brand.  Continue to cultivate the craft before the platform.  That’s what fulfills you, and fulfills your readers.

(Oh, and then follow me on Pinterest.  Because by the time you’re reading this I may already be famous.  You never know.)


  1. Exactly! You figured it out. That is exactly how i use Pinterest. Sure, I have my own boards of things I covet and how I want my house, kids, self, food etc to look and feel. But I find it most useful when I'm creating boards for clients and I can share selections with them, get them to comment back and keep track of everything in one place. It's great for that sort of stuff!

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