Lessons from a year of blogging, Part 1

Well, it looks like today is my one-year anniversary of blogging. (Should I put an exclamation mark?) The whole thing feels a bit anticlimatic as I have, in fact, been blogging for longer than a year. But pre-Only You my blogging was all half-hearted attempts. I had tried writing “news-y” sort of posts about being a business owner as well as light, fluffy anecdotes about returning to the U.S. after my stint abroad. Nothing stuck, except this. Below are some of the things I’ve learned/experienced/realized over the last year:

Voice

To fellow bloggers, was this hard for you? I struggled so much with this in the beginning. I thought that voice was something you could put your finger on, something you could choose and then implement. The other thing was that, well, I have more than one voice, more than one side to me. Which one would I show? Or, more appropriately at the time, Which one would appeal to others most? I’d have such a good time visiting an irreverent and sarcastic blog and think, “Oh, I want to sound like that!” or I’d go to a more serious and contemplative blog and think the same. This multiple personalities beginning is the reason I started and stopped about 4 blogs with titles ranging from “Eight Days” to “Hoop Dreams.” I worried so much about how I sounded that I couldn’t even really focus on the content. I finally just started writing about the issues that I cared about most. Those happened to be my thoughts and experiences related to motherhood, marriage and self (hence my tagline) and the voice – the deep thinking one that appears at 2 a.m. when I’m lying awake in bed – is the one that came out and took over. That voice is not necessarily me 24/7 but that is the me that was knocking on the door the most, asking to be let out and be heard.  

Peaks and valleys and obsessions – the pitfalls of blogging

Blogging brought incredible highs for me. I remember the first time I received a comment, and then the first time I received over 10 comments, all raving (this was the post about my identity as a blogger). I nearly hit the roof! You’d think I’d won the Pulitzer. I was responding to each and every commenter with tears in my eyes, like I was accepting the Academy of Motion Pictures’ Lifetime Achievement Award. Like one’s first kiss (heh, not mine though) or first car or first other momentous thing there is nothing like realizing that non-spam people are clicking on your blog and that some are actually coming back

At around the same time, though, the same efforts that made all this happy feedback possible also brought on a most uncomfortable transition – the one that transports you from normal, active human being to sedentary zhombie. You are constantly composing blog posts in your head. You swear you see your child moving his/her mouth, perhaps telling you s/he needs food or the stove has caught fire, but all you can hear is your next post. You see/hear every person, every quote, every incident as blog fodder. You worry about page views and comments and tie them to your budding blogger’s self-esteem. You’ve incorporated expressions like “I’ll be there in a minute!” into your daily vocabulary and your spouse knows what that means. Most of all, you feel guilt. Blogger’s guilt is unlike any other, because it feels like an addiction. I’d never come close to addiction of any kind but at about month 3 or so, I think I had my first taste.

And then after that initial high was over, there were (are) those moments when I just don’t feel like writing, either because my brain isn’t producing or because I’ve entered a temporary hermit phase where I simply don’t feel like interacting on a computer. I’ve worried about what this means, if I’m a quitter, if I’m going to lose all those readers and friends I had worked hard to keep. Feeling like this turns blogging into a job, and that is what blogging shouldn’t feel like (unless, of course, it is your job, and you are getting paid for it). When I hit this phase for the first time in month 8 of blogging, my fellow readers told me to rest assured; I should take all the break I need and Google Reader will let them know when I’m back. And sure enough, they – you – were always there. 

It was also during month 8 that I took a 2 week break from the blog world when I visited my in-laws overseas. It was then that I somehow weaned myself off of the emotional dependency I had on my blog. By that time I had my handful of faithful readers, and I realized that an increase or decrease of 10 or whatever pageviews each day really didn’t matter. I wasn’t running for mayor of Blogsville, I told myself, and this helped give some perspective.

Friendships

At around the same time I was blogging, my son was stepping into his own social world. I admired how easily young children could make friends, and then realized the blogosphere was no different. I don’t have to join some outdoors adventure club or hang out at PTA meetings hoping to eyeball a nice mom, drum up conversation, gain trust, etc. What I did was find a small handful of blogs that I enjoyed (because of the writing and the content and thus the writer’s personality) and curiosity would lead me to click on their recommended blog links. Birds of a feather and all of that. There is something about the blogosphere that reduces all the awkward, insecure steps of friendship making. Maybe it’s because, through reading each other’s posts, we sort of speed our way through the lengthy get-to-know you stage. Anyone who checks into my blog today can easily learn plenty (maybe too much) about me. I’m all here, under Archives. 

(Having said this, there is awkwardness in cyberworld as there are the occasions when you keep visiting another blogger and she doesn’t give you the time of day or vice versa – someone visits you frequently but you don’t or can’t reciprocate, or when a regular reader suddenly stops coming…I won’t go into it but we know it exists and I am not saying that it’s all peaches and cream in the blog world. But again, the important thing is to not tie your feelings of self-worth to your blog.)

Of course (and I feel like I have to put this disclaimer out there), this doesn’t mean I have chosen cyberfriends over flesh and blood friends. I’m still in close touch with friends from the different stages in my life and I have several new friends that I’ve made since moving to the area. We go out for lunch or dinner, have playdates with the kids, chaperone school trips together, etc. But it never hurts to have more friends, friends that you can get to know even if you’re in a different time zone. These relationships, built on line, are based on the intimacy that we’ve shared through words.

Concision

Be to the point. Write in succinct paragraphs. Don’t let your readers’ eyes glaze over. This has been another struggle for me since there are always too many words running through my head. So, as I skid over the 12oo word mark, it is time for me to sign off, and continue this next week.

Thanks so much again for reading 🙂

How long have you  been blogging and/or reading blogs? What has the experience been like for you?

25 thoughts on “Lessons from a year of blogging, Part 1

  1. Again, your writing: crystal clear.

    No wonder I click over as soon as I read “New post: Only You.”

    You succeed at creating a feeling of intimacy, no matter the topic.

    You are a naturally gifted communicator: I have a feeling you’re much the same way in real life.

    You, a true, transparent, humble human being: who does not need to impress, or disguise what she thinks or feels.

    I do love you.

    • Alexandra, You were one of my very first dear blogging friends, and I owe much of my motivation to keep writing to you. Thanks for my first award, for recommendations to contribute to other blogs, and for all the pick-me-up emails! You definitely make cyberspace such a warmer, happier place.

  2. If you were running for Mayor of Blogville, I would appoint myself as your campaign manager. But I ordain you Queen of Blogville and Beyond, so I’ll sit on my resume…for now…

    Thanks for a great year (and the previous years while I was loving your in the closet blogging)!

    • Haha, thanks Kathryn 🙂 I remember your early encouragement and how you were my first and only (??) reader. I appreciate so much all your support and feedback, which made me go further public with this as well as not stopping. Thanks!!

  3. Congratulations on your one year anniversary!!! You always amaze me with the beauty and honesty of your words…thank you for sharing your world with us. 🙂 And yes, we will always be here. Love you!

    • Christine, I always say how much I appreciate your reading my blog. Thanks for your friendship all these years, and now for following my posts and encouraging me as well! xoxo

    • I appreciate this so much, Delia. I still remember how we first met – totally by chance – and am happy you have come back time and again. Thank you.

  4. Can’t call myself your constant reader yet – since I stumbled upon your blog just a week ago. But after reading through your posts – I immediately added your feed to Google Reader.
    Congratulations on the first anniversary and waiting for the second part…

  5. Congrats Cecilia! I love your post today. There isn’t a single word here that doesn’t ring true for me. In fact, I think I will just copy and paste it word for word on my blog when I celebrate my blogiversary, which is around two corners from here.

    The voice – I still find myself struggling to pinpoint my “writing personality”.

    Peaks/valleys/obsessions – Always. Right now, I’m sadly in the valley. The high is no longer there to keep me exciting about blogging. And I’m not sure why. Maybe just sheer exhaustion with other areas in my life.

    Friendships – I so hear you. I love that blogging has propelled us from hi/bye friends to people who truly understand the ins and outs of one another, even if we’ve never met. And as for my friends IRL, they read my blog and are more likely to open up to me too since I’ve made it easier for them to cut through the BS.

    Concision – Still working on it. As you can tell with my comment today, I’m not quite there yet. Maybe you and I should start a support group?

    Congratulations again. I’m glad you decided to stick around 🙂

    • Justine, I actually love your blogging voice! I always admired that you seem to have it down pat. And I didn’t realize you were going through a lull…you’re so disciplined and you keep churning out good stuff. It’s probably a natural process of writing (and while working full time and being a mother) though…I definitely go through those phases where I don’t feel the motivation, but after a break I bounce back. It definitely comes and goes.

  6. Congrats on making it to the one year mark! The voice you have found is so welcoming, intelligent, and confiding… no wonder I love visiting your site.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts about blogging. I feel similarly.

    Actually this is my 8th month, and I’ve been debating whether to continue. I wonder if we both fall into a normal pattern for blogging?

  7. Mrs. Mayhem, You *have* to keep going!! (uh, not to be pressuring you…) Your blog is one of the handful that I read regularly. I’ll miss you sorely if you stop (I guess that’s another good topic for a future blog post…what to do when your friends stop posting)….anyway, it can be draining…but maybe you can take a break and just see how you feel. We’ll be here!

  8. hi there, old friend… Congrats and a quick FYI that you were featured in both the Star Tribune’s print and online Cribsheet blog over the past few days. Not sure if you were aware that they ran an excerpt in print – Very Cool. I was SO proud and tickled to see my dear Cecilia right there in the local paper as I sipped my coffee! Keep on truckin’!

    • hi Claudia – thanks for this! Yes, I knew my essay was going in there, but I did not know it was going in the print edition as well! Very cool that you saw it – I continue to be amazed at how small this world is…Thanks as always for reading and commenting! 🙂

  9. What you have written in your section entitled peaks and valleys, paragraphs two to four, is exactly what I have gone through these last few months, exactly and it took my week away and week off afterwards to finally get me in balance and like you, now I do less blogging and readership drops off (this is a very you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours world, understandably to a large degree) but I feel better now I have time again for the rest of my life. Like Kristen at Mrs Mayhem this is also my 8th month and I have seriously debated quitting and my husband would love me to quit. I am not ready to do so – maybe this is a standard process of being a blogger, the 8th month debate. Maybe you have coined a new blogging phrase and named a common dilemma!

    • Jane, I didn’t realize you are going through the same thing. Maybe this 8-month thing is a bonafied condition! I agree to stick it out if you are not ready to quit – blogging shouldn’t be so black and white. Your burn-out may just be a sign that you need to do less of it. I went at a much slower pace and got the respite I needed. Now, I am feeling motivated again and try to find time within my work schedule to write something once or twice a week. It is just about finding the right balance for you. I do hope you won’t stop, and your loyal readers will still be there.

  10. I really enjoyed this post! I found myself nodding in agreement with so much that you have said. I too went through the phase where one would have assumed that I was running to become the Mayor of blogsville. It was a stressful time, but I have since recovered. I now blog for friendships, connecting, and learning from other women.

    I came across your blog through a comment that you left on Mrs. Mayhem’s blog. I have loved everything that I have read so far, and look forward to getting to know you better.
    -Jessica

    • hi Jessica, I really appreciate your visiting and leaving your warm comment! I’m looking forward to checking out your blog as well. Glad to meet a fellow friend of Mrs. Mayhem!

  11. I am so glad to have found you through Alexandra! I agree about finding your voice, it can be tough and I have struggled with this. Just like you I started to go with the stories that were in my head, and it lead me to where I am today. Love your blog and the articles I have read so far!

  12. Pingback: Friday Favorites No. 19 | Life Without Pink...

  13. I found you through Mom Renewal, which I started contributing to this month as well.

    I liked to read how your first year of blogging went through. I have a lot to learn from you and others bloggers that are more experienced. I´m still finding my voice, for instance, and it trully helps to see how other fellow mom-bloggers dealt with it.

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