Confessions of a self-promoting blog-spammer

A pointed comment in a Facebook group today really cut me to the quick. Another blogger had prefaced a post that he shared with an apology for sharing it and promoting himself. So he was complimented for not being like “those other” self-promoting blog-spammers who think that every Facebook group they belong to is their personal platform, etc. As a self-promoting blog-spammer, I feel a mix of wounded, confused, indignant, and convicted.

Before I started doing this, the concept of blogging seemed utterly disgusting and diva-ish to me. In seminary, I found myself writing a lot of Facebook notes which felt dirty and irresponsible even though I was working through theological topics. It seemed like the pure, holy thing would be to stick to my “audience of one” and write my thoughts privately in a hand-written journal for only God to see. But I’ve never been a very pure and holy person in that sort of way.

When I learned that John Wesley had a journal that he wrote for public consumption and a separate diary that was private, that helped me rationalize this strange addiction/vocation that I had. As I was scribbling an agonized conversation with God in my journal over the question of whether to start a blog, I sent a piece that I wrote to Bishop Ken Carder, a mentor from seminary. When he told me I needed to blog, I felt sufficiently confirmed that writing might actually be what God was calling me to do and not just an abhorrent need to be a superstar.

The main reason I started blogging was because I’ve had an evolving vision for a book over the past decade and I knew that publishers would laugh me out of the room if I didn’t have any audience already established when I approached them. Plus I figured the blog would be a place to work out the ideas I would put in my book. I didn’t ask to be given the things God seems to be giving me to write down. If He closed off my inspiration, I would quit, and that’s what I’ve actually asked him to do on several occasions.

Well, now a little over 600 posts into this, I’m not sure whether my blog has become an idol or a cross. I do know that without it, my life would be a lot more manageable and relaxed. And yet every time I resolve to delete the whole thing and walk away from it forever, somebody has to say something that indicates that God has been using what I write to build His kingdom.

A friend said today at lunch, “It’s a real discipline for you to write that much.” I laughed because it’s the opposite of discipline; it’s compulsive. I am a slave to it. Part of the reason is that it’s the only thing about my ministry that’s even moderately successful. I suck at preaching. I’ve managed to drive away just about every first-time visitor at the languishing contemporary service that I lead with an overeagerness that must reveal how desperate I am. I’m an organizational disaster. But the blog has seemed to bear fruit and touch people’s lives, so that’s where I go to hide from all my other failures.

What’s hard is the fact that most of my readers come to me when I share (or spam, if you prefer) my posts in the Facebook groups I’m a part of. I’m not yet at the point where other people spontaneously share my stuff like they do with Rachel Held Evans, Kurt Willems, and other bloggers who are on the other side of making it. I wish you could understand how much I hate promoting myself. It is the ickiest thing in the world. And it feels like in the Information Age, writers like me are set up. The only way to survive without “spamming” people is to have already made it. Without social media, the blogosphere wouldn’t exist.

The way that you make it today as a writer is not to write something that catches the eye of an editor or publisher on its own merits; your primary task is to build a platform that will be big enough that they can’t ignore you when you have an actual idea to pitch to somebody in the publishing world. In the street-hawker-like economy of the Internet, that means prostituting yourself in the most dignified and pragmatic way possible. You try to learn how many comments you need to make in an online forum between posts that you share.

Early on, I tried putting together pieces for magazines like Relevant and Christianity Today in order to expand my reach, but Relevant has ignored me and Christianity Today has rejected everything I’ve ever sent them. Writing a magazine-worthy piece is a considerably greater investment of time and energy, though I suppose that would be deemed the “correct,” non-spam way of building your platform. I got into the Huffington Post but it actually hasn’t done a lot for my readership; they’re oversaturated with bloggers.

So if you’re one of the people I piss off who thinks I’m some uber-arrogant narcissist every time you see my blog in your newsfeed, I’m sorry and I don’t blame you. Before I started doing this, I looked at bloggers the same way you do. I’m probably at least as disgusted with myself as you are with me. If it weren’t a vocation, I wouldn’t do it; since it is, I have to figure out how to do what I need to do without making people mad. In the meantime, pray for me and show me some grace.

33 thoughts on “Confessions of a self-promoting blog-spammer

  1. Wow! That’s some honesty ya got going there! I hate the self-promotion aspect of life’s endeavors at least as much as you do. We’re kindred spirits that way. Keep on blogging Bro!

  2. For the record, I’ve shared more of your posts on my Facebook than I have Rachel Held Evans’ posts. I’ve always appreciated your wrestling with the tougher scriptural topics, such as wrath or Jesus’ second coming, while interpreting it more, shall we way, “Jesus-like”, rather than just simply playing the “well, the Bible says it, so deal with it” card I hear too often from others.

  3. I found you from your “shameless self-promotion” on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. Your blog was a part of what encouraged me in a long and difficult church search (why isn’t “church search” a thing? So much better than “church shopping” AND it rhymes!) which has ended with my family in a pretty fantastic community where I can discuss the theological ideas I read online with real people in real life and not be “encouraged” (lectured) or “prayed for” in a condescending manner. And even though I’m a rare commenter and my husband is a non-commenter, I have lost track of the number of times, in recent months, when we have said to one another, “Hey, did you read Morgan Guyton today? He said This Thing that expanded on an Idea We Were Talking About the other day.” If you ever do decide to give up the whole thing, please don’t delete it! I’ve pinned a bunch of your stuff in my “Theology Geek” pinboard (what, doesn’t everyone have a theology pinboard?)!

    I don’t know what the unspoken protocols are in Facebook groups, but I love it when bloggers show up on blogs and mention that they have written further about a subject and include a link. If I’m interested in the topic or the commenter has said other interesting things, I often click over. One of my favorite things about RHE’s Sunday Superlatives is visiting new bloggers that she promotes, but also people who comment about interesting things going on in their blogs that week. I have found lots of my favorite internet people that way. If they are frequent commenters or part of the community, it doesn’t come off as shameless self-promotion to me. But then, I’m an extrovert and an optimist, which seems to be directly opposite of most of blogville.

  4. I’ve only come across you through WordPress so have avoided any sense of self-promotion! And I really enjoy reading what you write.
    I know the feeling though, I feel like I must annoy people every time I share one of my own posts – but it’s encouraging when I chat to acquaintances who have read my blog and like it, who I wouldn’t have necessarily expected to. So far no-one has actually said “stop it, you’re annoying!”

  5. PS — Not all responses to online blogs & articles are ‘respectful.’ Many are just name-calling, bashing, vitriolic nonsense; so I tend not to read those types.

    • Right. I think God definitely speaks through the challenging and respectful critiques that I receive from others online.

  6. Ditto to many of the above responses. I can’t remember how I first heard of you (whether a Facebook reference, or a Huffington reference), but you have “struck a chord” with me also. I really appreciate the honesty/transparency in your above post, to which I can relate as a writer myself. (Blogging IS a lot of work!) I’ll share just one tidbit with you: I’ve been revising a book (forever, it seems), the first draft of which I wrote in 1998. What I’ve discovered is that engaging in respectful online “debate” with other thinkers has gotten me to sharpen my arguments and produce some of my best writing—some of which I can incorporate into my book. So challenging feedback often facilitates better writing. Keep up the good work!

    • That’s the question I’ve asked Him on many pages of my journal. It’s a mix of spirit and flesh but I know that at least some of it is Him.

  7. Morgan,
    I just noticed the number of subscription followers you have (which is obviously just a portion of your readership) so you’re clearly striking a chord with many, including myself. I imagine I get a few eye rolls as well from my fairly high postings and intense discussions on Facebook. Sometimes we do just have to keep sharing the convictions of our hearts. If we didn’t think what we had to say mattered, we wouldn’t say it. At risk of giving yourself one more thing to do–if I may make one suggestion: when you can, when you’re putting yourself out there, try to always show that you’re engaging the community and “some” of the other conversations. Jump into a discussion with comments–even if you’ve got a thorough blog post. I think that helps avoid the perception of someone running in to promote, and running out because they’ve got better things to do. P.S.I may be completely ignorant of some FB groups that you’re very engaged in.

    • I know I need to invest more time into the conversations. I guess whenever I look it seeks like there’s a question I don’t have the expertise to answer so I don’t say anything.

      • Thanks for the grace-filled reply. As people, we probably should choose silence more, so that when we do speak, it’s less likely to come out as simply noise. So kudos to you. With that said, we’re all works in progress, and you don’t have to always have all the answers to be helpful. Your voice is important, and I’m glad it’s rising.

  8. Love the blog, keep up the shameless self promotion! If you can handle a little criticism then read on. If not delete this. – I would change your gravatar image. Every time I share your post I see the blurry back of your head and a yellow towel around your neck and it looks like you are holding a potato. You might want to face the camera and smile🙂

    • Haha. The buffoonery of that photo appeals to me. I was hitting two rocks together like coconuts in Monty Python. I always think those glam shots that people have look so farcical and ridiculous so this is my anti-glam shot. But I know I need to grow up one day. So I’ll get a real photo.

  9. Morgan, the inconsiderate person taking the pot shots at you and others who blog in the name of Jesus Christ are not worth worrying about. I have told you before that I enjoy your thought provoking writing, usually agree with you but not always. I love the challenge you present. Keep it up brother!

    • Naw I understood their point. But I don’t think this person gets what it’s like to be on my end of things.

  10. Don’t change a thing, sir. I look forward to checking your blog every day, because that’s exactly how often it’s relevant (and edifying and interesting) to me. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Besides, anyone who has a Facebook account at all can be called a narcissist…

  11. May I humbly suggest that you kick that “inner-voice” in the butt, or soundly verbally chastise that “helpful critic” person that has suggested and/or convinced you that you suck at preaching! Some of us that enjoy your blogs are commenters that are not sycophants, groupies, but spiritual searchers who enjoy a good debate or learning moment—we respond when unhappy or confused and if all else fails, we agree to disagree. Isn’t that the point? If preaching is teaching, you are doing your job “better” than most.

    • I just wish there were more fruit in my ministry in the flesh but I’m very grateful for my conversation partners in cyberspace.

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