Who’s Afraid of the Ghost Now?

We all need dreams to give us a jolt.

To move us to action.

A dream job will remain a dream unless we step up and go for interview.

The body shape you desire has to be earned through sweat and resisting food.

However, dreams can end ambition, as they did for my writing.

I love writing but grew to dread it. No matter how often I trained myself to ignore statistics, the chase for likes and comments became tiresome.

I dreamed of thousands of views, dozens of comments and a successful blog, whatever success means.

If I avoided the numbers , the technology still trapped me.

Hello WordPress

When I discovered WordPress it sounded like magic, and it was.

I created my website without a developer, then painted it in colours. All I had to do was watch my child blog grow into an adult.

Before my writing got a chance to develop I was distracted by the get-rich-quick bloggers who insisted you had to publish morning, noon and night.

Being an introvert, creating a website to publish articles was a big deal. WordPress made it happen. WordPress was like a toy. I played daily with design, tweaks, then redesign.

Creating a website that works is time-consuming. Unlike developers, you need to rely on plug-ins for additional features. The list of ‘to-dos’ was endless:

  • Social sharing, including the ubiquitous click to tweet
  • SEO
  • Featured images to RSS
  • Page builders for smart-looking landing pages
  • Security
  • Subscriber calls to action
  • Dealing with spam spam spam spamity spam
  • Backups
  • Link management
  • Back-end maintenance

The list could go on.

Having a self-hosted website is like looking after your home. You have cleaning (updating), DIY maintenance (adding code snippets) and calling on handymen for tasks (subscription software).

Experimenting with software packages stole time from what I wanted to do.

All I wanted to do was write.

Write for my sanity.

Chasing numbers, email subscribers and fuelling automated tweets took me down a dark path.

Goodbye WordPress, Hello Medium

Medium.com was a breath of fresh air.

Medium provided a clean writing space without the technology woes. With Medium, there was no excuse but to write, or was there?

Medium took away the tech related hassle but added social network comparisons in its place.

There is the writing community, placing an onus on commenting on each others posts – with the option to turn a comment into a blog post. Probably to the annoyance of the article’s writer.

You can write for publications, magazine-style blogs with thousands of readers. Some of my posts attracted tens of thousands of readers while posts under my profile attracted between zero and a hundred.

To avoid likes Medium gives you an applause button – you can give an article up to 50 claps.

Applause on Medium.com

The Medium partner programme gives writers some monetary compensation based on the number of readers their article attracts and some overall secret sauce. Hey, I started to earn a little, which was nice.

But Medium can make the solo blogger feel out of place. Without a large following or being part of a publication, you begin to wonder why you’re on the platform.

Medium’s terms state that by posting, I grant Medium a non-exclusive license and the freedom to use my material.

You are there for Medium. 

While many writers re-post their articles from their own webspace, using Medium as your web home is insecure. It can be fantastic for some, but Medium closed down the option to use custom domains, making it less attractive. The decision may now be under review.

Medium.com began as a force for growing writers then became a publishing house for professional publications. The founding principles changed.

Nothing wrong with that but it gave me an inferiority complex.

On the verge of quitting the blogging world, I stared at the screen night after night until I hit the delete button.

OK, truth be told, I hit the export button, then the delete one.

I thought that was it. Finished with writing and self expression.

Finished with straightening out my thoughts through electronic pen and paper.

Writing is Expression

After a year, I missed writing. I missed working out my thoughts and beliefs, as they are today. I have opinions and need to express them.

The idea behind blogging is freedom of expression without fear of recrimination or heaven forbid, alternative opinions vying for dominance. 

My guiding principles are to be sincere and avoid offence, where possible. Tolerance is key. Nor do I believe in holding to a fixed viewpoint since views and opinions evolve throughout one’s life.

Writing is a freedom, of creativity and independence of thought. It is unjust if I permit a lack of self-belief, few claps or flat stats to suffocate the freedom.

Life is a journey, our views and opinions change over time and a blog is a good way to record the trip.

The Road Less Svbtle

The seed was planted.

On the bus to work, before the COVID pandemic, I googled minimalist blogging platforms. I found a list published by cmscritic.

I knew platforms like Svbtle, having considered them before Medium. But this time I mean it. No technological learning curve, no chasing views, no pressure.

I want to write and put my views out to the world, satisfied in the knowledge someone at some point in time might read something.

Write.as is a strong option and its #100Daystooffload challenge helped me to reignite a snappier writing pace. However, the platform failed to hold my loyalty for some reason. I could never bring myself around to making Write.as a home for my main blog.

Silvrback, a Svbtle-style platform with bells and whistles, aligns itself with developers in mind. Silvrback offers value for money but the original creator, Damien Sowers, sold Silvrback in 2015. Not a sign of confidence.

Something about Svbtle chimed with me. Svbtle offers a place to log ideas, develop them, write and publish. No distractions prior to publishing or after.

Svbtle is simple to set up and provides a beautiful writing space. Despite being long past the fanfare of its arrival, competing with Medium and Ghost, Svbtle continues to exist the same way it did in 2011.

But unfortunately, Svbtle is like a house with the lights out. I respect privacy and writing can be a solitary affair. But with Svbtle there’s been no noise for several years. Email support didn’t reply to my emails about HTTPS quickly enough.

As I looked to avoid technological woes in search of an active and supported platform, I found Ghost.org.

Ghost is minimalist or complex, whichever you need it to be. I have watched Ghost develop over recent years from a Content Management System alternative for bloggers to a broader enterprise.

I used Ghost Pro for one year and never had an issue. Except for the price. For a small blog, $29 per month is too much. More technical minded people could use Ghost by self-hosting at a fraction of the cost.

The introductory pages state Ghost is not necessarily a good platform for beginners or people who just want a simple personal blog – oops. 

Ghost Pro is for publishers who want to monetise their site by charging readers a subscription. Ghost is no longer just a blogging platform.

So what now?

It’s back to WordPress, with lessons learned and a minimalist theme thanks to Takao Utsumi.

No obsession with plug-ins, web stats or any distractions.

Just write.