Every morning there is construction going on outside my window. Every morning. I’m not kidding. Saturday? Sure! Sunday? Absolutely. I can usually tune it out but I have to admit my annoyance with the whole thing has peaked this morning. And I thought the sound of traffic on our road back home was bad.
I’m ready to take prisoners.
And now, on to the meat of this post. There was an article in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago on blogging – specifically about the burnout that can happen to bloggers: When Blogging Becomes a Slog. Several bloggers were interviewed, but the article was inspired by John and Sherry Petersik’s decision to take a break from their amazingly popular blog, Young House Love. I am a faithful reader of that blog, in part because John and Sherry are so genuine, so transparent, and so honest about their projects and their lives. When readers commented about a sense they had that the quality of the blog posts had declined recently (John and Sherry just had their second child and their plate is full) those comments struck a chord with the Petersiks, who had been feeling much the same thing. So they wrote an articulate post about their dilemma and took a break.
Now, the Petersiks and others mentioned in the article are in an upper tier of decor/DIY bloggers who make their living by blogging. And I would assume that living is not just ‘scraping by’ but a very healthy one. They have created a space on the Web that draws millions of visitors. That’s a lot of ad income, my friends. What has generated that interest, that fan base, are lots and lots of projects and detailed tutorials. Lots of research. Lots of putting money back into the blog to generate more projects. And on and on it goes. But the same thing can be said not only for Big Bloggers but for all sorts of bloggers who work hard to generate fresh content and make an income through their work.
The reader is lucky. The reader gets it all for free. Just one click and there you go.
However, the blogger has created a business that must keep generating content. The pressure increases. There’s competition out there – a lot of it. New projects have to be created. New and fresh ideas – always a tough one, because there’s really nothing new under the sun – have to be designed, made, styled and photographed. And the business becomes a monster that must be fed constantly, or it will consume the blogger.
Add to that the constantly changing set of rules for bloggers. I’m not sure who decides these things and why everyone feels they need to follow them. You must pin a certain amount of pictures/posts a day on Pinterest. You must Tweet. You must link here. Or there. You have to use Google+. Oh and wait, now everyone has to use Stumble Upon…that’s the new thing. And on it goes. Someone says jump and everyone shouts, “How high?”
Soon, the blog is purely about business and for many bloggers that is just fine, it’s a very clear choice that they’ve made, and more power to them. I know bloggers who are making a very good income from making that decision and, truth be told, I’m a wee bit jealous! There’s nothing wrong with creating and designing a blog with business in mind.
But the Petersiks and others have spoken about an essential ingredient in the process that has disappeared lately: joy. The initial thing that drew us to this platform; the joy of blogging, the excitement of writing a post, the happiness that a well-written and crafted post can elicit, the connection to readers, the friends made…all of it can disappear before we’re even fully aware that it’s gone.
I’m just a teeny-tiny blogger in the grand scale of things. My page views aren’t that impressive. My ad income is minimal, just enough to keep this blog going, to pay for hosting and security, and to allow me to pay for a bill or two along the way. If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I’ve wrestled with the whole enchilada: do I put ads on my blog, do I do this or that to generate income, do I start to craft posts specifically with page views in mind, do I pin, do I do what everyone else is doing? I’ll be honest with you – I’ve sometimes been jealous of all those niche blogs that seem to generate much more income than I will ever see. I’ve been a bit resentful.
But I’ve lately really come to terms with it all. I can be no other person than me. I started this blog as a sort of journal of my life. I started it because I love to write, in fact, I need to write and this new world of blogging gave me the perfect outlet for that need. That, along with my love for photography, sealed the deal. That’s what brings me joy. Writing, photographing, sharing – because I want to, not because I have to. That’s the joy. Meeting all of you – more of the joy.
So my coming to terms with it all means that I cannot and will not change the essential nature of this blog in order to make it a business because I can guarantee you that would be the moment when joy would begin to disappear. Are some days easier than others? Yes. Is every post a gem? Absolutely not. I post every day and, let’s face it, pearls of wisdom are not always flowing freely from my brain.
Some of this I’ve said before. But now, now it has gelled, solidified, for me. The pressure to have new content every day in order to generate income can lead a lot of bloggers to post photos from elsewhere on the web, to essentially lift content from other sources, to do more and more sponsored posts, to find something to fill the space because writing fresh content every post is tough. It’s a challenge. It’s just plain hard to think of something new every day, or three times a week.
My choice is to not do that, to not use content or photos from elsewhere. If I started doing that, the heart of the blog would change and it wouldn’t feel right. But that’s purely my choice – it’s what works for me after 6 years of blogging. The biggest change might be a choice in the future to blog six days a week instead of seven. But the jury’s still out on that. We’ll see. I’d even drop a lot of my ads if I could get by without them. I’m not crazy about their look on my site, but they are necessary.
Lucky for me, I don’t have to put all my eggs in one basket. I can’t expect this blog to remain true to my heartfelt vision and, at the same time, be the source of all my income. Never gonna happen. If I was a different kind of blogger, maybe. But even those bloggers like the Petersiks and others mentioned in the New York Times article have spoken about making changes. The Petersiks may look for another source of income, through a different kind of employment. Others have put the brakes on and are going back to their roots.
Even the book blog, my newest creation, was started to share my love of reading and books. I’d love it to eventually reach a wider audience, but if it doesn’t, that’s just fine. It brings me joy.
Blogging is fascinating, isn’t it? I’ve likened it to the Wild West before and I think that still holds true. There’s so much that’s changed since the early days of blogging, for better and worse. And it will continue to evolve. Let’s hope that none of us lose the initial joy that blogging brought to our lives and if we do, that we make whatever changes necessary to get it back again.