the writing and photography of Neil Kramer


About two weeks ago, I wrote a post, and as the cursor hovered over the publish button, I decided against pressing it.   Instead, I picked five bloggers out of the proverbial hat, individuals who I thought could relate to the sentiments in the writing, and emailed them the post.  It was if I wrote a blog post for an audience of five.  They all emailed me back with “comments.”

It was nice.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  Writing to five people, and getting their undivided attention was in many ways MORE satisfying (and also more scary) than publishing online.  Question to self:  “If I was able to blog in this manner every day, emailing to five people you trust, could I comfortably close down my blog, stop ranting on Twitter all day, delete Facebook, and avoid Flickr?”  And my answer was surprisingly — yes.

But don’t worry.  It ain’t happening.  This is all theoretical.

Still, my answer disturbs me.  As a writer, I supposedly to want to communicate my ideas and feelings — and my words — to as large an audience as possible.  Isn’t this what ambition dictates?

I appreciate my readers, and love getting attention from others, so maybe I’m just bullshitting myself.  It was fun to go to BlogHer and be recognized because of my avatar.   I do link my posts on Twitter and Facebook so I can get readers.  I do get pissy when no one comments on a post that I like.  So why should five people reading my work feel as satisfying as ten thousand people?  Or is it?  Am I talking about two different things?  Relationships vs. audience?

Perhaps this is the importance of becoming — that hated expression I seem to be obsessed with — a “brand.”  Being a brand means you separate yourself from your work, so your writing can be a product, the equivalent of dish detergent being sold on the shelves of the supermarket.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In some ways, it is essential to making money or having a career with writing.  You don’t go into business to make friends.  Your goal is to push your product to as many as possible, so you can show something tangible for all your work.

And besides, I’m sure these five bloggers would start getting annoyed — even send me a restraining order — if I sent them a personal email every single day.


  1. Bon

    you, sir, can email me anyday. but i disagree with your foundational premises here.

    being a brand doesn’t mean separating yourself from your work. what would that even mean? that’s old-school thinking, mass media era thinking. social media changes how economy and brand and reputation all work.

    your brand, my friend, is that you are a very social and maybe slightly neurotic guy who has relationships (occasionally fraught) with half the mommyblogosphere. and that you obsess about your brand.

    it IS a brand, even if it’s not commercial, because it is the version of you WE all have a relationship with. and the social media economy and all that nice attention we all like so much operate on reputation and relationships. you thinking out loud about this stuff is part of your brand. you writing about it is part of your brand. if you start writing plugs for dish soap, we will notice.

    writing for 5 ppl who receive your words with caring and write back is probably more satisfying than writing for 5000 who don’t seem to care. that doesn’t change with social media. it’s just with social media we have more gauges of whether people seem to care. and directly emailing 5 is more likely to get 5 really good supportive comments in return than just tweeting a link. so it makes sense.

  2. foolery

    Ongoing communication must be reciprocal to last. Without give and take those five bloggers would gush, at first, but would soon begin replying, “Great stuff, Neil!” and then simple smiley faces . . . and then no answers at all.

    Great stuff, Neil! 🙂

  3. Sizzle

    It is funny- that is why I started a blog. I didn’t want to keep mass emailing my friends with my stories. Now look what I have done.

  4. ingrid

    Hmm. I just don’t know.

    As you know I shudder at the whole blog “branding” notion. To me, it applies only in the case that a blog is there to sell a product for monetary gain. If it isn’t for monetary gain, I am much more comfortable with the concepts of blog “personality” or “character”.

    I’m not convinced there is a need (other than perhaps for academics) to label everything. For example, I’ve been living with a guy for 9 years. Is he my boyfriend (we’re both over 40 so this seems silly), my partner, my husband, my main squeeze, my twice a week, my counselor, my loverrr, my hunny bunny, my adversary or my best friend? Somehow all of these apply and none of them do.

    I think that your blog and interaction has lots of heart, character, humor, rule-breaking, talent, skill, intimacy, personality, creativity, truthfulness and commitment. Maybe these are the characteristics that define your brand. Maybe it shouldn’t change. (You’re awesome.)

    x Keep doin’ what you’re doin’.

  5. V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios

    Ditto Bon on brand.

    And as you pointed out so well in your post about “bloggers” and “writers,” bloggers want a direct response, interaction, and yes, approval. Did you read the NYT piece on blogging by Andrew Sullivan?

    You say writers want to reach the largest audience possible? Maybe some do. But the reason some want to reach the largest audience possible isn’t to impress everyone, but to impress those 5-10 people whose opinions matter to them (including their mothers, ha ha ha).

    In contrast, literary writers don’t want to impress EVERYONE; they only want to impress certain people. Being popular is often the worst thing that can happen to someone who wants their work taken seriously by critics, but hey, being popular will impress your neighbors, who see their value rise because your kids play soccer together. Popular will impress Hollywood, Oprah, and BlogHer.

    I do think you’re talking about two separate things–relationships vs. audience. And I think your “addiction” to Twitter is more about escape and procrastination than writing or approval or audience. It’s what you do to avoid what you should be doing, it’s where you distract yourself from things you don’t want to face.

    • GrandeMocha

      The last paragraph nailed it. Twitter = avoidance.

  6. unmitigated me (m.a.w.)

    I think you were trying to cultivate a group of Blogging-American friends to refer to in conversation, as in, “Hey, some of my best friends are bloggers!” Probably now they feel like tokens.

    • GrandeMocha

      Ha ha!

  7. Danny

    I don’t get the whole brand thing. Have your thoughts on branding ever led you to change your writing in any way to cater to your audience or “brand?” If so, then stop doing it immediately! If not, then are you just saying your “brand” is your quick elevator pitch when someone says “what’s your blog about?” I also can’t relate to your experiment of sending your writing to five people instead of posting it online. That’s not blogging, in my opinion, it’s sending your writing to five people and waiting for a response. Which is great, of course, it’s just something else. One of the reasons I like blogging so much is that I can put my thoughts out there and if people are interested, they will come, if they are not, they won’t. No pressure, no forcing a particular audience that I think might enjoy something to read it but instead letting an audience develop more organically.

  8. Quadelle

    I’m with Bon on the brand side of things.

    As one of your audience who has had a three month holiday from most things blog-related, it’s good to know you’re not planning on stopping your blogging just as I’m returning to read. If you do, though, I’d be happy to receive emails and comment. 😉

  9. Finn

    Brand, shmand. You’re Neil and we like you. What more do you need?

  10. Loukia

    One of the reasons I started blogging 4 years ago was because my friends were getting annoyed with how many emails I’d send them a day, about stories about my child, and about stories in the news that bothered me and that I wanted to talk about. I figured a better outlet would be a blog, a place where I could write whenver I wanted to, and if they wanted to hear about it, they could read it over there.
    Of course, as time went by, the more censored I became on my blog, and now, because my readership has increased so much, and actually, because specific people read my blog, like family members, etc… I cant’ even blog about the things I really want to blog about because, well, the wrong people will be reading! I still love it, absolutely. It’s just a bit different now.

  11. Mamie

    I think you already know how I feel about this. Blog = good to a certain point. Twitter = entertaining to a certain point. Email = very wonderful to a certain point. Coffee and walking and actually discussing parts of where these posts come from = irreplaceable. We are after all human animals, and even as we frantically use our opposable thumbs on the iPhone we still need want and crave physicality and a hug. At least I do.

  12. Poor Fish Girl

    That is a relationship issue (at least in my opinion). I’m not sure why you were apprehensive to hit publish… Maybe you wanted positive affirmation from the people whose opinions matter most? After all, writing can be a very personal art. I have a dear friend that I’ve met through blogging, from time to time he will send me a post before publishing, likewise he is the only one that gets to see all of my writing, not just the guarded work I post publicly. I feel comfortable with him.

    I also find that writing to please others (think brand), no matter how much attention it receives, is extremely unfulfilling.

  13. Heather

    I think if more people thought like you, the world would be a better place.

  14. Titanium

    You can email me a post ANY time, Neil. I think that it’s an excellent idea to solicit the input of a select few from time to time, knowing full well that the response will be far more comprehensive because of the nature of the correspondence.

  15. Juli Ryan

    I probably would be a more “successful” blogger if I wrote my blogs posts like they were columns. Instead, my blog is a jumble of e-mails to my penpals. I think I’m doing it wrong.

  16. Marinka

    That’s interesting. The idea of emailing my posts to five people has absolutely no appeal to me. But I also hate the workshop aspect of writing classes.

  17. schmutzie

    I wouldn’t file a restraining order. I might create a special email folder for your emails, but I wouldn’t file a restraining order.

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