I started that blog nearly 6 years ago, when I was preparing for my first trip to Africa. Because the trip was so full of excitement, yet carried some old cultural and religious baggage that I wanted to deal with, I thought a blog might be a good way of working through some of that, as well as documenting parts of the trip for future walks down memory lane.
At first, I told no one of the blog, but then I discovered my sister and sister-in-law had secretly started blogs of their own, so we bravely shared URLs and started commenting. Soon some close personal friends started blogging, and before long, strangers started showing up for one reason or another. It was all very lovely and cosy and soon I felt like I had a nice little community of supportive friends surrounding me in cyberspace. The odd time weird things happened (like someone claiming one of my readers was a fraud), but those were pretty rare, since my blog wasn’t really drawing much attention to itself.
About six months ago, my life started feeling really restless, stuff at my day job started falling apart bit by bit, and it occurred to me that maybe I should revive my old dream of becoming a serious writer. Maybe I should start putting myself out there in cyberspace as some kind of “expert” with wisdom to share that people would eventually want to pay me to share. Maybe I should try to build a more “serious” blog.
So, with great love and care, I created a new space. It was all very exciting and gave me so much joy and pleasure to be creating something new and to have something positive to get energy from when other things in my life were feeling more like energy-sucking black holes.
People started showing up in larger numbers than they’d ever shown up at my other humble little blog and it was quite thrilling… at first.
But then, sadly, a few things started happening that began to taint that initial excitement.
1. It was beginning to feel like work to create an engaging, interesting space. I didn’t need more work – I was already up to my eyeballs in work. I needed pleasure and recreation, not strategy, marketing, and planning. Not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with those things, it’s just that I’ve already got plenty of that stuff in my day job.
2. I began to miss my old blog and my old friends because I had little time to spend with them anymore. At the new place, I felt like I was trying too hard to attract “readers” rather than “friends” and what I really needed was friends.
3. Before I knew it, partly because I’d had so many discouragements at work and was feeling vulnerable, I began to let myself wrap my self-worth in the numbers game. When the numbers dropped (and, sadly, the highest stats were on my very first day – I never went back up to that number), I wondered why I wasn’t as interesting as the other blogs that were drawing big numbers.
4. I was pouring too much energy into this new entity (and Twitter), and other things in my life were suffering – my family, my day job, my home, and the freelance writing and workshops I used to do occasionally (and get paid for now and then).
5. In my efforts to follow this “dream”, I was reading way too many “10 easy steps to making a living as a blogger” or “10 easy steps to a more fulfilled, successful YOU!” and though some of them inspired me at first, in the end, they mostly depressed me. Self help stuff has a way of doing that to me. I can only take it in small doses.
6. Partly because of the self help “follow your dream” stuff, I was allowing myself to paint a more bleak picture of my day job than was fair. It’s a job I was once quite passionate about, and though there have been some rough spots, it didn’t deserve to be pushed into a corner and ignored so much. I’m working for justice for people who are hungry, after all. For various reasons, I need to stay in this job for the time being, so I just HAVE to find a way of committing myself to it, or I’m cheating the people I serve. (Ironically, I had to give myself the same talking to I once gave a staff member when she’d developed a bad attitude.)
So, after a few tears shed on top of my growing pile of laundry, I just quit. Cold turkey. I walked away from all of my online spaces. I re-engaged in real life. I read more books, I poured more energy into my job, and I tried to be more present for my family. I refused to care if I was committing “blog suicide” or “Twitter suicide” by my walking away, I just knew that silence was what I needed for awhile.
Yes I missed it, and many times I caught myself thinking “oh – that would make a great blog post”, but overall, it’s been such a good thing to take a break and focus on my priorities. Even though I still eventually want to make a career change, my job is giving me pleasure and passion again. I have some fun things to look forward to (a couple of workshops to facilitate), I’ve had some really wonderful lunch conversations with friends, I’m worrying less about other people’s opinion of me, and more than anything, I’ve found some contentment again.
I’m ready to gradually re-insert myself into cyberspace, but it will be a scaled back version, at least for now. I’ll be setting aside the new site, and just being content with my little unassuming blog in my corner of cyberspace where I can play to my heart’s content, show off my kids, wrestle with a few demons now and then, dance in the rain if it feels right, share fun stories about the wonderful adventures I get to go on from time to time, and just be the authentic me that I feel like putting out into cyberspace whenever I feel like it.
I’ll leave the big blogs, the marketing strategies, the SEOs, the self-promotion, the strategic networking, and the numbers games to someone else.