The post I published yesterday was the first post in six years of blogging that generated only one comment.

I was lucky enough to start blogging when there were very few bloggers and almost none blogging with my main topic, careers. So I always had 5-10 comments, and now I almost never get less than 50 comments on a post.

This homeschool blog is harder for me. I thought it was an act of love. Or curiosity. But really, this blog, like my other one, is a way for me to explore ideas. It’s pretty much the thing that I’m best at. And really, thank goodness, because I’ve been fired from every other type of job.

So I’m going to have to learn how to write posts on this blog that make people want to talk to me. Mostly because it’s not fun for me to write without a conversation. Really, if talking into an echo chamber were fun, I’d write books instead of blog posts.

What I learned from my blog today: You can’t teach someone perseverance. You can help the person find something they love, often by leaving it around until they stumble upon it, and they will find perseverance on their own.

Some people would look at a post with one comment and give up. The single comment makes me more determined. It makes me want to figure out how to write posts that people want to talk about. And the post makes me love Bec Oakley at Snagglebox. Because if it weren’t for her, I’d have had a post with zero comments.

 

43 replies
  1. Lindsay Z.
    Lindsay Z. says:

    Hi Penelope,

    Your post yesterday wasn’t in vain! The photo idea you shared really resonated with me, but instead of commenting and telling you so (thanks so much for posting it, btw), I forwarded it to my good friend and partner in decluttering, Erin at http://www.medangerbolt.com.

    It always makes my day when I see one of your new posts here or on your main blog. Your writing is incredibly inspiring to me and I can’t thank you enough for it!

    -Lindsay

  2. Luke Redd
    Luke Redd says:

    As a long-time lurker and persevering blogger, let me be the first to apologize for not joining the conversation sooner. I understand the loneliness of the echo chamber all too well.

    It feels like being the new kid at school all over again, wondering about which clothes I could wear the following day that would get someone to return my “Hello.”

    Ultimately, I think your posts have been just fine. Awesome, in fact. They are you. Don’t worry about altering your wardrobe. Your people will find you.

    At least, that’s what I tell myself. ;)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The analogy of being the kid on the playground is a good one. And, ironically, makes me feel happy that I pushed myself through all those years on the elementary school playground so maybe I already know how to do it on my homeschool blog :)

      Penelope

  3. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I love all your posts. I get rid of things like crazy too. I really wish I’d saved my son’s little tennis shoes. The other stuff…I’m glad I got rid of it. I like living with very little, I don’t need all that stuff to remember the good times.

  4. Marti
    Marti says:

    Perhaps the lack of comments on the other post was because there is nothing and yet everything to say about clutter, memorabilia and what amounts to nostalgia.

    What is the point of saving a lot of old memorabilia? That without it you won’t have the memories? If those memories can only exist with the aide of stuff, then perhaps those are not such enduring memories after all.

    We need to teach ourselves that living in this present moment – fully and mindfully – is more important than rummaging around what was.

    Persistence matters because it takes us into the future, otherwise why persist? Memorabilia takes us into the past, not always a useful place to be.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Yesterday’s post was enjoyable to read.
    However the topic didn’t seem to me to fit on this blog so therefore I was not inclined to comment. Just my honest opinion.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      You know what? You’re right. I have a checklist of everything that I have to have in a blog post for it to go on my other blog. I think I need a checklist for this blog.

      Here’s what I think about blogging. You have to have a topic and stick to it. But if you write in the smack center of the topic you are predictable and repetitive and boring. So you have to write at the edges of the topic to be interesting. It’s an art to find where those edges are.

      Penelope

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        having a list for a post to make it to this blog sounds fun and interesting but I am scared that posts like the one of cardboard violin will be lost.

      • Jani
        Jani says:

        This comment you posted right here, on writing at the edge of a topic, was far more meaningful and thought-provoking to me than this post on perseverance (probably because I’m not really your target audience for this blog, I just read it because I still find your ideas interesting). Actually, it would be a great topic for your business blog – I would love to hear more about the art of writing (or creating businesses) on the edge.

        Ironically, I persevered reading through a post I felt was “in the center” only to end up connecting with your comment/dialogue on said post.

  6. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Yesterday’s post was really nice. It was a good story, with references to lots of different, interesting things. It was funny and witty and touching, and I loved the photo of what I thought at first was some kind of toilet brush. I like the idea of taking pictures of clutter, and I love the bit about your mom, and how you empathize with her now. I think that is hilarious.

    Normally I would not bother to write this kind of bland, praising comment. The stakes are too high: I want to write the kind of witty, insightful comment that will generate discussion. Just like you.

    But honestly, yesterday’s post was just a really good story. It could have gone in a book. Sorry about the echo chamber, but sometimes you are just a good writer, rather than a relentless instigator of debate. It’s nice!

  7. Ann Clarke
    Ann Clarke says:

    Just because you don’t get a lot of comments on a blog every time doesn’t mean there aren’t a ton of us reading them and thinking about what you wrote! Some blog posts just take a bit more time to digest, esp thoughtful ones like that post. Keep up the good work!

  8. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
    -Michael Jordan.

    That, by the way, is probably my single favorite quote.

    No one, no matter how brilliant hits a home run every time they are at bat. You are an amazing blogger in your ability to engage people consistently. But you’re going to have ups and downs, especially when you only look at just one statistic. Although traffic would not have revealed even that I read the post because the past week or two I have been reading your posts in my e-mail inbox.

    Many of your posts that were my personal favorites were posts I did not comment on. Sometimes when that happens, I send you a “loved this one!” e-mail or something, because like Rachel, unless I think I can add something, I will at least wait until there are comments to comment on.

    Only one day passed between the 1 comment post and this one, and it was pretty close to easter, probably a lot of people found themselves like me, busier than normal.

    All of which is to say, I wouldn’t read to much into it :)

  9. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    It’s really funny to me that this post is about perseverance, because that’s exactly what your blog has been teaching me.

    I had homeschooled before, and it nearly killed me. I’d been trying to implement a curriculum and work at the same time, and while I knew homeschooling was the right thing for us I was clearly doing it the wrong way. So I gave up.

    Finding your blog was the pivotal point in giving me the courage to try again. Your posts are intelligent, caring and realistic, full of so many ah-ha moments that I want to shout about to anyone who will listen.

    I needed someone to show me that it was okay to do the things that felt right to me, to work it out as you go along. That person was you. I honestly can’t thank you enough for this.

  10. Zellie
    Zellie says:

    I wondered how you’d feel about only 1 comment! I like to see what you’re doing and saying, but sometimes I just don’t have anything to say. More often the commenters get me to want to say my 2 cents.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I know! sometimes I just agree and I haven’t generated new material to add to the discussion. But doesn’t mean it’s not interesting.

      Maybe I should just post “hmmm…interesting!” ;)

  11. Amanda Tinney
    Amanda Tinney says:

    I called my 13-year-old into the room I was reading your post in yesterday and read her the part about your kids asking you if you threw something out before going on a search for it. My daughter and I had a good laugh because my husband asks me this all the time before he starts to look for something in our home.

    I throw everything away…haven’t missed having 1 thing yet.

    Will lurk less…comment more.

    btw…Do you have a post on your “checklist of everything that I have to have in a blog post for it to go on my other blog”? Would love to read it.

    Keep posting! I come every day looking for a new story! #bigfan

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hi, Amanda. Thanks for the story about reading the post with your 13-year-old!

      Here’s the checklist I use for posts on my other blog:

      1. Must be useful to the reader.
      2. The title must have some sort of promise to the reader.
      3. Must give a sense of hope, enchantment or inspiration
      5. Must have a personal story
      6. Must have an opinion
      7. Must have a career angle

      Penelope

  12. toastedtofu
    toastedtofu says:

    I thought at one point you had a way to post using your twitter/wordpress profile. I find having to type out my name and email and website make me less likely to comment. Partly this is because I’m lazy, also because I have more than one blog and more than one pseudonym I use on the internet so rather than sit there trying to decide which one to use I just don’t bother.

    Maybe there was a good reason to get rid of it, but considering how impatient people are about the internet are I doubt I’m the only one who does this.

  13. Kat
    Kat says:

    I agree with Mark W. I really enjoyed the post, and loved the tip about taking photos of objects and then binning them (a practical tip of how to not hoard – just need to not hoard photos now), although it didn’t really seem your usual style/theme of posts. I added/liked/tagged the post to my StumbleUpon account, so I could refer back to it at a later date (which I don’t often do for your other posts). So although I didn’t comment, it made me think and I took a different action. It was still useful to readers, even if they didn’t comment.

  14. Sara
    Sara says:

    I know the echo chamber feeling all too well. I have been blogging for 6 years and I rarely get any comments! It’s a labor of love, and I like writing even if it’s not starting a conversation, but sometimes I would like to get more comments.

    • Mark Kenski
      Mark Kenski says:

      Sara, you have a very nice blog. As a second generation homeschooling mom, you have a perspective I have not run into much before. In just taking a look for a few minutes, I found two posts that made me want to comment. I’ll be back to do so. In the meantime–as a reader not an expert on anything–may I make a couple of suggestions?

      Your about page is just a vanilla blogger.com profile with no e-mail. I know, and share, the feeling that the whole blog tells about you, I hate about pages. But they exist because they answer a real need. People have a few minutes to check out a blog and if they do not make a connection with you personally, it’s so easy for your blog to get lost in the shuffle.

      I come to Penelope’s blog regularly, not just because it is interesting and inspiring–which of course it is–but because I feel like Penelope is someone I know and care about–a friend of mine. So I’d suggest making at least a brief page that gives a reader a chance to get to know you at-a-glance so to speak. If they hit your about page, they want to get to know you, so satisfy that desire. And include an e-mail because a lot of people that would enjoy your blog may be shy to comment in public at first, they might enjoy reaching out to you personally.

  15. Eva
    Eva says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I love your blog! I have been reading it faithfully since the winter of 2006-2007, after I heard you speak at an education conference in Madison. My highlight was hearing you respond to a woman commenting to the conference “how are we suppose to teach kids when they can spell the work capitol correctly?” When you responded that spelling was irrelevant, there was an audible gasp in the crowd, and I couldn’t help laughing!
    It has never occurred to me to leave a comment on a blog before. Looking back on that, I realize that being silence to pretty rude, I have left all of the talking to you! I am very sorry, I will make more of a point to join in the conversation. Please keep up the wonderful conversations you have started!

    Kind regards,
    Eva

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is a great comment. Thanks. I like hearing how you found this blog — I remember that speech. I really do love when people comment. I always think of the blog post as a start of a conversation. The conversation is the best part.

      And that’s similar, really, to my speeches. I usually do a large portion of a speech as Q&A because I think the conversation is the best part. And look, that’s the part of my speech you remembered most clearly.

      Penelope

  16. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    I think you get more comments when you say something controversial. It gets your opponents commenting, which in turn gets the other side boiling over. What you said yesterday was generally accepted as good advice and I, for one, didn’t have the uncontrollable urge to make a comment like I normally do. I only comment when I can’t help myself.

  17. Glinda
    Glinda says:

    You don’t usually do warm and fuzzy, so maybe you aren’t used to the reaction. I thought yesterday’s post was perfect. I was enjoying my warm and fuzzy. Leaving a comment just didn’t fit when, for me, you already said it all.

  18. Amy Scott
    Amy Scott says:

    One idea for your homeschooling blog is this: do what you do best, which is, ask questions, explore trends, analyze/discuss research.

    As a second generation homeschooling mom (I was homeschooled and now I’m homeschooling six kids–sometimes just one kid, and sometimes all, depending on school/living situations), I’m not beyond learning from a new homeschooler. You can learn something from everyone. But the reason I come to your blog is not for advice on raising first graders (i.e. as a mother of teenagers, I would never let my kids play unlimited video games….it’s a bad, bad idea), but because of the value of your perspective of pushing the edges of an idea and mowing down sacred cows. So thanks for that! You’re valuable, Penelope!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Amy, this is great advice. It’s so obvious when I hear it from you — which is why I know it’s good advice.

      Thanks,
      Penelope

  19. emily
    emily says:

    This last comment, from Amy, just made me think of something: Penelope probably sees all the comments in one big administrative cue. The user doesn’t get to see that view. So we don’t know when someone has commented on an old post.

    While there are some other ways to manage updating the user on new comments (perhaps by showing a full index list of posts / topic with the number of comments, organized by most recently comments) a short list of articles people commented on last could work. Could be a separate page that we could go to to see the same administrative view, only without the controls.

    That said, I think people mostly get in a habit for how they read the blog and what they check and when, so changing those habits can be a big undertaking that might not be worthwhile. The recent redesign included some changes to encourage new reader habits though. For instance, I’m more inclined to explore new topics – like “start-ups,” up on the top nav, than before.

  20. Andria
    Andria says:

    Dear Penelope,
    The beauty of who we are is knowing that the posts and the writing is as much for us and our children than for anyone else. No one reads my blog…LOL and it’s chock full of good information. Most people aren’t ready for the homeschool/unschool talk. This will shift in time. It’s still nice to know you’re way ahead of the curve. I just found out who you are yesterday, a very synchronistic event posted your blog about Tim Ferriss to my email. And then I realized your a homeschooling writer mama/farmer, and I thought, what a great sign! That’s what I’m working on. I’m creating a spiritual school for children here in Northern CA, gardens, community and no curriculum but love and nature. I wrote my first book last year titled, The Book for Parents – How to Honor Your Child’s Soul. I sense you may like it.

    Many blessings to you and your family,

    Andria

    • Meg
      Meg says:

      Liked the conversation on blogging in the center. I find there are far too many blogs chock full of great info on unschooling…so many that all have the same perfect depictions, the same pastoral family life still shots, the same brilliant ideas, the same hyperbole. I almost never find any written by anyone who is willing to take a risk, which is why I almost never find any that I am willing to keep coming back to.

      Penelope’s is right now the only exception, that actually has fresh material often enough that I can come back and find something new.

  21. lhamo
    lhamo says:

    I liked yesterday’s post, too. I don’t comment much, but I check both of your blogs pretty obsessively. I’m in a good place myself careerwise at the moment, but trying to convince my DH to get out of his rut and try something new. He’s got a serious case of golden handcuffs, made all the worse by the fact that our kids private school is paid for largely by his employer. There are local options we could consider, but I’m not thrilled about them (we live overseas). So I basically told him the other night our apartment is our lotto ticket, and any time he wants to cash it in and try something, anything else, I’m game and I’ll homeschool the kids. I’ve thought about it a lot before, actually, but loving my own work and a bit of fear about how that dynamic would be for our family keeps me from leaping into it. Your blog has helped me move away from the fear in a big way. If you can homeschool with all the challenges you face, why can’t I?

    Never doubt that we are listening, even when we don’t comment. We’re here, and eagerly waiting for the next post.

  22. Meg
    Meg says:

    Hunh. Go figure. There I was, proud of my self-restraint, in NOT replying.

    I read that post, liked it, resonated with it in terms of being one who teeters both ways (I have a seemingly genetic urge to keep glass jars and lids, but also go through periodic bursts of the ruthless ability to get rid of things we don’t use daily, so that our living space will actually have space in it, because space is of positive value, as much as that which can fill it, for quality of being.

    You did describe a duality of purpose at the heart of the hoarding-vs-austerity conundrum: those who homestead, who make things instead of buying things, and those who make money so as to use it to buy, rather than create, nearly all of what they consume.

    Both scenarios have value economically: the maker of things, reduces cash outflow for net gain, and the buyer of things, increases net income, for net gain. The modulating factor being time versus economic value, with the intangible factor of personal life satisfaction in there somewhere, tipping the balance in favor of one scenario or the other, depending on the person.

    I didn’t comment even though I had the urge to, because I am trying to learn to dial my annoyingly high levels of assertiveness back a bit.

    But being one of your fans, if there is ever a post again, where it looks like everyone else was content just to read, I’ll step forward.

  23. Christine
    Christine says:

    I never, never, hardly ever comment on blogs. But I’ve been reading your stuff since 2003 or 2004, when I was at a career crossroads and a coach I met with encouraged me to read your column. I don’t even think it was really a blog yet, just your syndicated column. Funny, even though I left my job in 2005 when my first son was born, I kept reading because the career blog was still interesting/relevant to me even though I wasn’t actually working outside the home. Then we were considering moving from Chicago’s North Shore to Madison – and then you were moving to Madison….I had to keep reading. Then you moved to the farm and my husband’s family has property near Dodgeville/Spring Green and so I had to keep reading. And now with a first grader of my own, I’m so extremely intrigued by your take on homeschooling, I have to keep reading. I just never never comment. I’m out here, I just never feel like I have much more to say. Or I’m intimidated because I can’t say it any better than you or other commenters. But keep writing, keep truth-telling, keep us all questioning, I’ve learned a lot from you.

  24. Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot
    Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot says:

    Hi P,

    I wrote recently about why I’ll never stop leaving blog comments even though many would see it as a waste of time… And maybe it is!

    But as a blogger I need that motivation and feedback that comes from getting comments. That’s why I like leaving comments for other bloggers and why I try to comment here and on many othe rblogs regularly so thhe writer knows that I appreciate their work. it’s like giving someone a tip.

    But as you can see here theres an education process happening. A lot of people don’t realize how much those comments mean to bloggers until we tell them:)

    I’ve noticed comments going down on my blog and I think it’s relAted to more people reading blos on phones or iPads. That just makes leaving a comment a bigger Hurdle.

    I’m on my iPad now and this is taking far longer than it should and looking a lot worse. Thank heavens I know you don’t care about spelling:)

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