Evolution of a blog and a blogger

standard April 3, 2014 10 responses

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My blogging journey started years ago, long before blogging was a “thing,” long before we had kids, long before I even had the inkling of a thought that I might want to one day be a writer for a living.

My first blog was a sad little thing that existed on a platform that no longer exists today. It was about my knitting and, since I wasn’t a very fast knitter, it didn’t get updated very often.

Then I had a baby and the blog and I grew up a bit. We moved to Blogger, Google’s blogging platform. We changed our name. We started writing about more than just yarn.

But, let’s be honest, and I know this for a fact because I just spent quite a bit of time in the archives this week, the writing sucked. The only reason those early posts didn’t just get deep sixed is the subject matter. The writing might have been terrible, the posts either fluffy or just plain boring, but they offer a tiny glimpse into my life as a new mom, the challenges I faced, the joys that I embraced. If I ever have the time I might go back and archive them for good, but for now, they’re lurking in here, somewhere.

As blogging took off nationwide, I went through a phase when I felt that I had to, come hell or high water, post every single day, or risk losing readers. Then I realized that maybe I could skip the weekends. Finally it dawned on me that quality is way more important than quantity and I started only writing when true inspiration struck. Aren’t we all glad?

The design underwent a similar evolution. At first it was the no name platform, then a generic Blogger layout, and then, I decided to invest in myself and hired someone to design something that would make my blog look like “me.”

I loved that Blogger blog. I loved the dark paneling of the back, the notebook design, the photos of the kids at the top. I liked being on Blogger. It was a nice, safe, easy platform.

But last year I decided it was time for a change. Time for some more growing up. I had visions of things I could do with the blog that I couldn’t do on Blogger. I also had dread of days when traffic skyrocketed and I’d be left mentally begging Google not to shut me down. I wanted a little bit more control and ownership over the whole thing. Maybe even a little more space for the words to express themselves.

This move took a long time. It involved a lot of moving pieces and many, many frogs to face down and choke down. To say that I dragged my feet and made this a million times harder than it needed to be is the understatement of the year.

But here we are. Brand new digs. Clean. Fresh. Amazing new header by Becky Bayne. Lots and lots of space for the words to sing.

I hope you like it here. I’m still getting used to everything, kicking baseboards and flipping switches to see what they do, but I think it’s going to be a good place for me. I think I’ll stick around for a while.

There was a time I loved going to BlogHer

standard July 25, 2013 5 responses

A year ago I saw the Facebook posts and tweets about BlogHer scroll by and felt nothing but overwhelming relief. I was so glad to be here, at my desk, in my pajamas, not worrying about sessions or getting dressed up or going out and meeting people. I was glad to not have to deal with organizing care for the kids, or being away, or any of the stress that goes with heading out of town without the family. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be here.

BlogHer the year before had caused one long week of angst and stress and I think I was still scarred.

This year things are different.

The pre-conference events have begun and the posts and tweets have started scrolling again, and instead of relief, I’m feeling mild angst and remorse.

There was a time I loved going to BlogHer. A time I couldn’t wait to hop off the plane to hug my long distance friends. A time I was thrilled to peruse the schedule of events, to decide what sessions I’d attend, to make plans for lunch, drinks, or dinners with new and old friends.

Today I wish I were there to hug the people I know have already arrived in Chicago. I’m feeling pangs of jealousy as I see photos of friends gathering without me. We all live scattered across the country, across the globe even, and there are so few occasions for us to hug, talk, see each other in person.

Yes, BlogHer is overwhelming and intense, but these are people I love, people I value. These are the people who inherently understand what it is to be a blogger, to work in social media. I can be myself with them in a way that I can’t with the people I know in my day to day life. There is a certain comfort to being around other bloggers, a sense of belonging I don’t feel anywhere else.

The remorse over not being there comes from an obvious place. So, why the angst?

Well, I think it boils down to this. There was a time when people would ask me what I did for a living and I’d know exactly what to answer. These days I have no clue what to say.

This is usually what comes out: I’m ah…. a blogger, who dabbles in social media consulting and blogger outreach for various companies, oh yeah, and I have a novel coming out this winter. The confusion in my answer is almost always mirrored on the face of the person asking.

I just don’t know who I am any more.

I used to blog daily. It was an intrinsic part of my day and my life. Now it’s miraculous if I post four times a month.

I used to run a thriving digital media agency with three close friends. Now instead of pursuing clients, we take just what comes our way, and precious little comes our way. (Not that we aren’t grateful for what does!)

The book stuff is real. The consulting stuff is real. It’s what fills the parts of my days that aren’t focused on the kids. But it’s not the stuff that makes me feel like I fit in at events like BlogHer.

Two years ago I had trouble letting go of what was going on at home and immersing myself in the BlogHer experience. I felt apart. Like I didn’t really belong in the crowd of happy, excited conference attendees. This year I feel like I would have felt just as apart, but for a different reason.

I have a blog, but I don’t think of myself as a blogger any more. And while I know for a fact that I’m far from being the only person who feels this way, I worry that it would have really impacted my experience at the conference.

It feels like there’s a natural lifecycle to the life of a blogger. BlogHer and other conferences cater to those in the earlier part of the cycle. Being around those people makes me feel… old. It makes me feel tired. I am envious of their excitement and energy, but at the same time sadly jaded about the entire process. I know. I’m pathetic.

So instead of stepping off a plane with a suitcase loaded with cute dresses and shoes, I’m home, at my computer, in my pajamas. In a minute I’m going to drag my kids to the YMCA so I can work out some of this angsty feeling. Then I’m going to come home and try to remember the great story idea that came to me last week. And I’ll try not to be too envious when I see photos of my friends hugging and laughing in a place I once felt I belonged.

The War on Women and the rise of the mommy bloggers

standard November 2, 2012 Leave a response

I started blogging long before it was mainstream. Back then, as far as I could tell, the women blogging were either crafters sharing their projects with each other or women struggling to create families.

I was lonely on my couch while M worked his way through law school and I latched on to both communities, drinking in their words, knowing I didn’t really belong in either community, but unable to tear myself away from this amazing group of women who had an amazing gift.

They shared, openly, without fear, their hopes, their struggles, their dreams.

Vulnerability, taking its rightful place at the center of innovation and change.

These women had a gift. They had the uncanny ability to draw in readers with their words, to weave stories gilded with emotion and truth. These women put raw honesty on display and it was impossible to not be seduced by that pure level of real.

It was a first. Right? Unedited, unfiltered articles, shared with the world without having to bypass the scrutiny of a head editor’s red pen? No one had ever had that before. For the first time words didn’t have to be censored to please advertisers. Emotions could be put on display. Fears. Truths. Raw honesty. All laid out for the world to drink in.

It is my opinion that these early women bloggers, by opening themselves up to the world, paved the road for a female revolution. They gave a platform to people who never knew they were craving one. They allowed muffled voices to sing out. They allowed people who had always stood alone to suddenly discover that they were far from alone in their daily struggles.

The power behind that notion  is strongly contradicted by the terms used to refer to our online community. Could it be possible that the intentional belittlement of women bloggers through the use of seemingly derogatory terms like “mommy blogger” come from fear of the raw power wielded by women not afraid to share the truth? It’s a simple term. It shouldn’t come with a negative connotation. You should no more ever say I’m “just” a mommy blogger than you should say I’m “just” a mom. If there is no harder job than raising children, what can we say about the act of sharing your parenting stories with the world?

At first there were 800 “mommy bloggers.” Today there are 10 000. With so many true stories being shared daily it is no longer possible for anyone to pretend that motherhood resembles in any way the happy, sunny, sterile life portrayed in 50’s sitcoms.

Day after day the unrelenting strength of the average woman being put on display for all to see. Day after day, blog post after blog post, story after story. The joys, the fears, the hardships, the raw emotions, all are put on display and echoed in comments, tweets, retweets, shares, likes, and emails.

“Read this!” “Me too!” ” How did you put into words what I’ve always felt?”

Women who used to feel alone now know that they aren’t. Women who always felt like misfits because of how they felt now know they are not broken or different.

There is power in that unity. There is power in sisterhood. There is power in having your fears, your hopes, your inner thoughts validated and echoed.

Is this uprising and strengthening the reason for the so-called “war on women?” Is this why certain politicians, certain men, are fighting to keep us down, to keep us voiceless? The unrelenting efforts to strip us of our rights to appropriate medical care, our rights to making our own reproductive decisions, our right to equal pay, our right be to the strong people we really are?

Does it all stem from the fear of seeing what women can accomplish by simply standing tall, shoulder to shoulder, and speaking the truth as we see it, as we experience it?

There was a time when women lived in community, working together to make everyone’s burden’s easier to bear. Civilization as we know it has separated us from our sisters, forcing us to parent behind closed doors leaving us to face our worries and challenges on our own.

That time is over. The Internet has broken down the walls.

We are not afraid to show things as they are. WE are not afraid to shine the spotlight on things that are hard to face. And we are not afraid to stand up for what we believe in, for ourselves, and for our sisters.

Through blogs and everything else the Internet has to offer, we will not be silenced and isolated again. We will stand strong and take our rightful place in the world. Anyone who doubts that this might be true just needs to spend some time in our blogosphere to see how the world has changed for the better.

I’m not going to tell you how to vote on Tuesday. You’re smart and you can make your own decisions, but, just, please, look beyond the taxes and the other things that usually clutter political agendas. Consider how far women have come in recent years and how far we still have  to go. Do we want to go back to being voiceless, powerless? Can we make sure that Women as a whole aren’t getting hurt in the process?

Living in the silver lining

standard October 23, 2012 7 responses

“And what’s your blog about?” It’s the question invariably posed at blog events or even by people who have just discovered what I do.

“It’s ah, called ‘It’s my life…’ and it’s ah… a blog about my life.”

Inevitably the person nods knowingly, imagining only dry posts about what I had for lunch or some cutesy story about my kids. Eyes glaze over and shift to look behind me to see if someone more interesting might have magically appeared.

“It’s a lifestyle blog of storts,” I rush in to elaborate, despite never really having understood just what “lifestyle” encompases, but knowing that it sounds good or at least legitimate.

“I tell stories about my life as a writing mom… about… uh… my life.”

It’s weak. I know. This lack of definition has taunted me for years. How is it possible that I can’t define something that is such an essential part of me, that is so central to my existence?

A few months ago, at a blogging conference in Utah, at a conference attended by many women who, on the surface, seemed so secure in their blogging identities, I stumbled on the fact that I’m not the only one who struggles to define my ‘niche.’

These other bloggers and I are a strange faction who never found a niche beyond just telling our personal stories. We are diarists, but we share our stories professionally, not intending to post them just for our families and friends or just for posterity.

Are we stuck in our efforts to claim that as a true niche because it seems somewhat disingenuous to say “I write these intensely personal stories about my life and fully expect to earn money doing so?” Are we turned off by how self-serving that seems?

Finance bloggers, tech bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers, craft bloggers, even coupon bloggers are (arguably) putting inherently valuable content on their blogs. The information they share has value beyond the fact that they are the ones who wrote the words.

My stories have no intrinsic value to anyone other than me. Any value readers derive from the words is purely hapenstance.

You can sell most niche blogs if you’re ready to walk away from your creation. You can’t sell a diarist’s blog. It simply doesn’t retain value without its creator.

Once upon a time, before mass printed books, before radio, before TV, story tellers were revered. They were welcomed into people’s homes, they were embraced and listened to raptly.

So why is it that we modern day storytellers have such trouble proclaiming proudly that we do the same, with slightly different tools?

Back in July, at that conference in Utah, I started toying with the notion that I wasn’t “just a blogger,” that, just maybe, I was a story teller. This week, at another conference, this one in Atlanta (fueled by Coke and put on by the lovely people at Coca-cola*), I took advantage of a branding workshop replete with a vision board exercise, to dig a little deeper into that notion, trying to define what sets my particular brand of storytelling apart from the other writers who use blogs to share their stories with the world.

My stories, they are about me, about the kids, about the cat, about life as a writer, a blogger, a friend, a wife, but they always seem to focus on the joys hidden in the unexpected parts of this life of mine.

And there, in a flash, I finally found the answer to that question that keeps tripping me up.

What’s my blog about, you ask?

Easy, I blog about the mundane, messy, sometimes challenging cloud that is my life, and about how I strive to live in its silver lining.

Lake Tahoe at sunset. Silver linings as far as the eye can see.

(*My trip to Atlanta was sponsored by Coca-cola. I’m grateful to have been invited there to discover more about this iconic brand and the amazing people who keep their particular brand of magic alive and bubbling.)