Thursday, October 22, 2009

My blog(s) - A love story

Once upon a time I had a blog. It was a friendly little blog that was happy being just the way it was with no great aspirations of one day growing up and hangin’ with the big blogs. I did what I wanted on that blog – wrote what I wanted, posted pictures that made me feel good, spilled random lists that flowed from my scattered brain - because I wasn’t too concerned about who showed up or how popular it became.

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.


Sheila said...

Oh, Heather...(wrapping my virtual arms around you tight and with an affectionate squeeze and a light kiss on the cheek) It's such a drag to be discouraged but I admire the way you're standing back up and (I'm sure) wiping your tears. Gives me a satisified smile. I hate the judgement in numbers - ours and others. Quality over quantity is a major factor in my core and sister - you're quality.

tlawwife said...

This is the you I enjoy coming to read.

mmichele said...

I love you! In real and on line.

sherry ♥ lee said...

I understand this completely and totally. Good for you knowing what you need for you!!! ♥

Linnea said...

I so understand. I ... umm ... wow. I got caught up in something similar a few years ago at another blogsite and it took me three years to recover. Even over here, I've caught myself checking for "comment love."

I think YOU are wonderful. I'm quite fond of cozy spaces, and I'll come visit your bloggy self wherever you are. But more important than any of that, I'm happy that you made the decision that is best for Heather. What you've declared here is, in my book, the epitome of FEARLESS.


Olivia said...

I too understand, Heather! I think that this space where you are "just" yourself is perfect for you. The other thing, which some people do, and I have done, isn't something I enjoy either. I think you figured things out really, really quickly! xo, O

Olivia said...

I think "little unassuming blogs" are the best! ;)

andrea pratt said...

That sounds an awful lot like the wisdom wrought by taking risks. Risk taking is never a waste of time. Glad you're back and always wondered if you ever had the chance to sleep with such an ambitious schedule! (BTW Read the "esoterica" quote on my blog under yesterday's post -- it addresses this.) Are you still heavily involved with The Nest?


darrah said...

Heather, I so so SO admire you for what you are doing. I admire that you listened to your instincts and took a break. It sounds like it allowed you some time and mental space to decipher what you really need and want from the online world and offline world. And when it comes down to it, the offline world is what's more important - your family, your home, your self. Take care of those things first.

I struggle with a lot of the questions you brought up. Recently, I slowed down the blogging. It started to feel like work and like you, I already have a job and I always felt stressed out when I couldn't read all of my favorite blogs and tweet with all of my favorite peeps. My new approach is that I write a blog post only when and if I feel like writing one. And I'm doing my best at not worrying about the numbers for now (mine have dipped as well.) I think it's all about understanding what you're goal for your blog is (which you clearly defined here.) Stick with it. And let this space be a place where you can be yourself and break the rules. Screw the rules!

Anonymous said...

I'm with Olivia... I too think "little unassuming blogs" are the best!

I'm proud of you and for this entry and the heart behind it.

(And, for some bizarre reason I can no longer remember my password.)


Connie said...

You are awesome...hugely AWESOME in my eyes.

Peace & Love.

Anvilcloud said...

I think some things have to happen naturally, organically as it were. If you have to try too hard to reach certain ends, you likely won't.

Of course, I'm biased because I'm just an ordinary guy with an ordinary, little blog.

Pamela said...

another thing is that Facebook has really "sucked" the life out of many of the bloggers. Gone... just gone to FB and getting wrapped up in all that 4 second posts. sigh.

I'm glad you're feeling more yourself.

joyce said...

I was walking beside you on this post- this was real and honest and wise.

Lyndon said...

I read your blog because I feel a kinship with you. I don't need to see a post every day, or week, or even every month...

Just post when you have something to share.

Karla said...

I think you're brave.

Linda said...

Wow. That was honest and vulnerable and courageous!