COMMUNITY: How Blogging Has Made Me Part of Something Bigger

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When I started my blog my years ago it was purely a personal project. It was an outlet for my rowing passion, a place where I could talk about a sport I loved without boring my long-suffering (and non-rowing) husband. I didn't think about audience or reach or stats or brands; all I wanted to do was chat, and if someone out there happened to be listening then so much the better. I was dimly aware that there could be perks to blogging in the form of the occasional freebie, but really I was just in it for the craic.

So I started chatting and, to my delight, people listened and chatted back. Bit by bit, inch by inch, my readership started to grow. And as it grew I became aware of what an amazing community of rowers there was out there, both in real life and online.

To the huge amusement of my crewmates, people would come up to me at races and introduce themselves; before long I had friends in other clubs all over the country. I'd get emails from people as far away as New Zealand and Canada asking for advice, or telling me how much they could relate to my ups and downs. I started to feel a part of something.

To my amazement the love wasn't just confined to regular club rowers. Multiple Olympic champions such as Matthew Pinsent and Pete Reed were feeling it too. I noticed they regularly replied to tweets from ordinary Joes like me - heck, they even followed me back - and would offer advice and support to the most humble beginner.

The power of the rowing community really came to the fore when it came to the UK Blog Awards. Despite being a tiny blog in a niche subject with an inevitably small following, when word got round that a rower was up for a blog award, the rowing community rallied. And so I found myself, against the odds, in the final eight alongside big names with tens of thousands of followers.

But it wasn't just casual, hello-how-are-you friendships I was making. I discovered that rowers - in common, I imagine with sports people from every discipline - really support each other. A Twitter pal fell silent for a while and messages whirled around behind the scenes between people concerned about her, checking up and discussing what they could do to help. When a rower undergoing chemo said how much she missed seeing the sky, another friend on social media started up a hashtag #skiesforDaisy to accompany lovely pictures of skies, and scores of people who'd never met her joined in, posting sky pictures from Aberystwyth to Abu Dhabi (check it out - it's pretty uplifting). And so it went on.

So if you're dithering about whether to start a blog or despairing about your stats, remember that blogging isn't about numbers or statistics or rankings. It's not about brands or sponsors or freebies. Blogging is about people. About you and your readers and what you can do for each other. Remember that and blogging will be a richer experience than you could possibly imagine.

Patricia Carswell

Patricia, aka Girl on the River, is an unlikely rower. Distinctly pint-sized and with a history of health problems, she fell in love with a sport that doesn’t always love her back. At Girl on the River, Patricia shares her ups and downs, joys and frustrations, laughter and tears, disappointments and triumphs, and above all her determination to master a challenging sport.