When I first began blogging, I did so to keep our friends and family updated on some of our adoption journeys. I found that I liked keeping an online journal of sorts and soon began including things about our homeschooling and family activities as well. I really enjoyed writing and making connections with others through blogging.
It’s a very long story (so long in fact that I wrote a book about it!) but a number of years ago, our family got caught up in a media storm and my somewhat private friends-and-family-blog was suddenly public when I never intended for it to be and I shut it down. A year or so later, I found that I really missed the writing and the social aspect of blogging. I had actually met some people online, particularly those also on adoption journeys or other homeschool families and some had become true friends so I also missed that connection. I decided to give blogging another go but this time on a public blog (this one).
I blogged in much the same way as I always had until the day a friend of mine emailed me and asked me for my grandma’s pumpkin muffin recipe which I had given out countless times before as it’s one of my most requested. The idea came to me that if I put it on my blog, I would only have to type it out once and could then direct anyone who asked to my blog. Now, my recipes are one of the things my blog is most known for.
Another day, I decided to type out a list of date night ideas. Someone pinned it on Pinterest (which I was using and loving at the time but had never thought to pin one of my own posts to) and I got a huge surge of traffic.
By that point, I had a really solid group of loyal readers who tuned in every day to read my ramblings about parenting or hear about our latest homeschool activities or field trips or my attempts to purge the clutter or our latest trips to the hospital with our daughter. Between the consistent loyal traffic and the new Pinterest traffic, I could see that it might be time to monetize this little hobby of mine to try to offset the costs and provide income for our family.
So began my journey into professional blogging. I put ads on my site and used affiliate links. I began to write more professionally and less like I was talking to a friend over tea. I wrote and sold e-books and then cookbooks. I went to blogging conferences where I met some of the most incredible and inspiring people. I took classes and listened to podcasts and read books. I bought a real camera and tried to learn how to use it. I set work hours and had many late, late nights.
I changed the way I wrote and the way I chose the topics for my blog posts. Sometimes I would write about something that had just happened in our lives or something that was on my heart. Sometimes I wrote something I hoped would inspire or encourage or make a difference. Sometimes though, I wrote what I thought would do well on social media or that I thought had the potential to go viral. And I wrote in a particular way, worrying about SEO (that’s search engine optimization) and images and the right word count.
This photo for example would be included so that this post could get pinned and shared on Pinterest, thereby bringing in more traffic which translates into more page views which translates into more money. Note that the photo is vertical and is a stock image which I purchased because blogging at the professional level costs money too.
There are monthly costs for web hosting, tech support, certain plugins, stock photos, high speed internet (which is a high cost if you live out in the country like I do), photo editing software, social media schedulers, email list subscription services, and more. There are equipment costs like a laptop, good camera, tripod, light box, and props and backdrops for photos. There are occasional larger costs such as web design, book covers and formatting, or video production for a course you’re creating.
There is the pressure to churn out new content and for it to be “pinnable” and “shareable”. The pressure to learn and keep up with new social media platforms (Periscope, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Live, to name just a few) can distract from other things. There is an enormous list of things to do to promote that new content once it’s been published. It can all take your focus off of why you started blogging in the first place.
There are days when the pressure to bring in enough page views, thereby enough income can become consuming and take the fun out of blogging. Then there’s the jumping through new algorithm hoops, feeling like you’ll never measure up to other bloggers, feeling like you’re not in the inner circle of popular bloggers in a particular niche, feeling like no one is being transformed by what you are writing. That is the beast of it.
There is however the beauty. I love the opportunities that professional blogging has brought into my life. I love the constant challenge of it as it is continually changing. I love the chance to network with other bloggers and the way that many of them encourage and help each other instead of competing or sabotaging. It’s a beautiful community. I love the emails from readers telling me that something I wrote changed the way they look at things or encouraged them. I love this job more than any I have ever had in my life (other than being a mom). I even enjoy writing the posts that I “have” to write.
I have however recently begun to miss some of the aspects of the way that I used to blog. I miss writing just for the sake of writing and the sense of community that fostered with my readers. I miss the intimacy of sharing when I thought that maybe a few hundred people would be reading it rather than the pressure of deciding just how much to share knowing that potentially millions may read it.
Maybe I just want to tell you that my daughter competed in her first horse show this weekend, the same daughter who didn’t used to be able to go outside and is technically allergic to horses and pretty much everything else and I want to tell you because it amazes me and I feel so blessed. I just want to share that and not because it’s part of a sponsored asthma campaign. I want to tell you about the homeschool track meet today where I was the leader of the 14 year old boys and they were polite and kind and sportsmanly and nothing like society’s stereotype of teen boys. I want to tell you about the books I’m reading and the activities we did that failed or the recipes that tasted awful.
So this blog is going to become a blog again. Yes, I will absolutely still share recipes with pictures that will hopefully continue to improve as my photography does. Yes, I will still share our sensory activities and our science experiments. Yes, I will still optimize most posts for SEO and make the right sized images in most of them. I have worked very hard for three years to build this career and I still have a mortgage to pay!
But, I will also write just to write sometimes or just to share a thought or an idea or a failure I experience. Those posts won’t have the “right” images or the “right” word count or the “right” keywords. They will just be me being me. I don’t know if anyone will read the old-style blog posts, but I’m hoping that some will. I hope that some of my loyal readers will pop in to read while they sip their morning tea or before they go to bed at night and that they will also say “hey” and let me know what’s going on in their lives. I want this to become more of a conversation again, like two old friends chatting while their kids interrupt and make noise in the background, more like my real life.