What I Learned About Blogging When I Quit Blogging
At the end of October, I took a three-month sabbatical from my blog to pursue some other writing interests. I approached the break with some excitement and a lot of trepidation. I worried at the time that I was making a terrible mistake, but I've come to decide it was one of the best things I've ever done -- not because there was anything wrong with my blog, but because stepping away from it was an act of courage. I didn't have any great epiphanies during those 90 days, but the separation from the blog gave me the distance I needed to get a few things into perspective.
I Own My Blog. My Blog Doesn't Own Me
The Web is overflowing with information about how to grow your blog. In fact, if you read a lot of blogs, you will inevitably find posts or ads in the sidebar or tweets about how to increase your readership, about all the things you need to do to get bigger and better. When I'm blogging, I get completely sucked into it. My mindset shifts from thinking about what I want to talk about or take pictures of, to thinking about how to grow, grow, grow.
Taking a break reminded me that my life does not depend on the size of my blog. In fact, my life zipped along just fine with no blog at all. Perhaps you're thinking "duh," but I think we can all recognize times where we our perspective gets a little skewed by external information. It's not that I don't want to grow my blog -- I think it's pretty obvious that I do. But I don't have to. My blog is not a failure if I don't. I am not a failure if I don't.
My blog is here because I enjoy writing and taking photos and sharing. That's it. If I don't enjoy it, then what's the point?
My Blog is Not an Imposition on Others
Before I took the break, I always had this lingering thought in the back of my mind that I should feel a little guilty, a little ashamed of my blog. Who was I to ask people to read what I wrote? Why did I think I was so special that I could request that from someone else? Deep down, I worried that people were bothered by the space I took up on the Internet.
There's more to unpack there than a simple bullet point in a list (therapy, anyone?), but I learned these last three months that people missed my blog. Maybe not hundreds of people, or even dozens. But I got emails and Facebook messages from folks asking when I would be back. It felt really nice. And it made me think about all the blogs I read and what I think when I see an alert on Facebook or in my Twitter feed about a new post.
I might not click over, but I realized I never, ever feel imposed upon by someone else's desire to share. In fact, what I almost always feel is appreciation that they took the time to create a recipe or take a beautiful photo or explain their writing process or put into words their battle with depression or tell a funny story about dinner time at their house.
I see their words as a gift. Why should I see my own words any differently?
Niche Blogging Can Be a Shifty Business
I started ktmade as a crafting and cooking blog -- a domestic oasis of sorts -- because I was reading lots of crafting and cooking blogs and wanted to participate in that community. It was my third blog after two law school-focused blogs that I'd started because I wanted to participate in that community.
When I took my blogging break, I had time for a lot more blog reading. And instead of reading with an eye toward comparison, I was reading just for pleasure. I have a lot of different interests. I read fashion blogs, cooking blogs, sewing blogs, knitting blogs, lifestyle blogs, blogs about faith, blogs about traveling, blogs about writing. I also go in phases. I'll be obsessed with home design blogs and then get totally bored with them and focus on cooking blogs.
My personality -- and what I want to share on my blog -- doesn't really work with a niche. I can't be sure that I'm going to keep enjoying something unless that something is broad enough to include... well, a whole lot. If I want to stay interested in my own blog, it can't be just about cooking and crafting. It has to be broad enough to encompass whatever I'm interested in that moment, which makes it more of a lifestyle blog than anything else. And I'm okay with that.
My blog will not be the place anyone goes when they want to learn everything there is to know about quilting or whole wheat baking, but it will hopefully be a joyful place of sharing creative pursuits.
Writing Blog Posts May Not (And Does Not Have to) Satisfy All Writing Desires
In taking the time off to work on some other writing goals, I finally, finally accepted what I've certainly known was true for quite a while. Blogging isn't enough for me, in terms of writing. I love this blog -- the creativity and the discipline and the sharing. But I also have other loves -- the characters I've created, the books and stories that are forming inside me.
I have wanted -- for the sake of mental and emotional tidiness, I suppose -- to have one place where I pour our my creative energy and fill my creative well. But if these last few months did anything at all, their best gift was in convincing me to give up that myopic image of what a creative life looks like. Mine looks like writing of all types all over the place -- some edited and good for sharing on the pages of this blog, some fiction saved in the folder "novel" on my computer, some private craziness in the pages of my journal, some tidbits of this and that saved on my phone, on scraps of paper in my purse, and in emails sent and re-sent to myself.
In practice this means that I'm pulling back a bit on the number of posts per week so I can leave some space in my schedule and in my brain for that other writing. And I'll be sharing some more about my writing experience with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) down the road.
Hobby Bloggers Can't Play By Full-Time Blogger Rules
Of course there are no real "rules" about blogging (though some will say they are), but it's easy to look at all the bloggers you love and start to come up with a list of things you should be doing, ways you should be writing or taking photos, ways your blog should look. At least, that's very easy for me.
What I realized while combing through my Google reader list of blogs is that almost every single blog I love and look to for guidance or inspiration is written by someone who does not work at a different job outside their home. Some are full-time bloggers; some are stay at home moms; some are artist/bloggers or writer/bloggers. Not a single one of my top ten favorites (the ones I compare myself to) works outside of their home.
So when I look at the number of times they post or the quality of their photos or the professionalism of their blog design, I have to keep all that in mind. It's not that they don't work hard -- in fact, I know how hard it is to get great photos and content up on a blog. It's just that their life situations are such that their blog is their business (or at least part of their business). And whatever feelings I have about it, for now, that's not my life situation. I can't expect evenings and weekends working on my blog to create the same result as someone who works at it as their day job.
I can enjoy and admire and even be inspired by those blogs, but I have to accept my limits.
I'm so glad to be back here in this space, with a new appreciation for where it fits (and doesn't fit) in my life. A big thank you to all of you who show up here and read my words, and a hug to all those who wondered when I would be back, who shared excitement for the experience of seeing my post pop up on their computer. And a thank you to all the bloggers who share their words and their images and their hearts every day, for everyone who opens themselves to the vast internet so that we all have a chance to connect with worlds that are not our own. What a gift.