Early on, I had plenty of misconceptions about blogging. I thought people could still earn a living doing it (most can’t and won’t) and I thought it would be easier for readers to find me (there are literally millions of blogs; you have to work really hard at putting yourself out there). Stylistically, I thought it was safer to write the way good bloggers did and cover issues that attracted mass audiences (Wrong! In my opinion, great blogs are personal and impassioned).
And then, after a lengthy R&D phase, I tossed almost everything I had learned into the Trash Bin. When I read through posts I had written with the goal of becoming a top blogger, I found my words dry and purposeless. Why bother writing unless I had something real to say? Why add another voice to the blogosphere if I was just mimicking what had worked instead of pushing the medium in new directions?
Shortly thereafter, I deleted all of my earlier posts and started writing from the heart, with absolutely no intention of earning a living or building an audience. Writing Labor of Love was part-catharsis (I feel called to write and am off kilter when I don’t) and part-offering (I wanted my daughter Ayla to understand her profound impact on my life; I planned to have the posts bound one day and give them to her to read). I started blogging a couple of times a week and then settled into a new rhythm of writing longer posts, less frequently.
Gradually (and unexpectedly), I developed a theme. I began blogging about the link between music and parenting. I love music and was so often moved by the soundtrack to my life as a parent. There were so many songs, lyrics and melodies that comforted me in those early weeks and months. Music helped me loosen the grasp on my old life and enter the flow of my new life as a mother. I wanted my blog to pay homage to the extraordinary musicians who made it feel good and right to shift my focus from “out there in the world” to the “here and now.” Music inspired me to find joy in my child, home, neighborhood and local community.
A few months into Labor of Love, my daughter Ayla began to sleep less and explore more and suddenly I didn’t have the time to write and research music. Given the choice, I felt like I had to give up music; I simply didn’t have enough time to do justice to both.
In the next phase of the blog, I dabbled in writing about neuroscience, spirituality and a variety of other micro-interests of mine and then inadvertently found myself writing consistently about one of my core beliefs—that children are our best teachers and that our progress as human beings depends more on our ability to learn than our ability to teach. In many respects, this is how I define life and parenting and spirituality. It’s all the same thing to me. I’ve learned more from the homeless youth (whom I’m supposed to be helping) at the Reciprocity Foundation than I have from my formal education; and my infant child has amplified my life learning-curve tenfold—I can barely keep up with all the growth that Ayla inspires in my life.
Other things have changed too. On the advice of a friend who works in the media business, I added advertising to my site (via Google Ads). She insisted that they would legitimize my blog and impress magazine editors at publications where I had hoped to pitch stories. Last time I checked my account, I had amassed $0.01 in ad revenue. I was secretly pleased that people were reading my words instead of getting distracted by an ad for organic diapers or nursing bras.
In the beginning, I spent a few hours writing and another few hours seeding conversations at various parenting hubs on the Internet (Motherlode, Babble, Working Mother, Facebook, Twitter, Digg). Then I settled on one or two places to post my writing (Motherlode, Intent, Facebook) and trusted that people would find my blog at the right time in their lives. So far this approach seems to be working; one year later, I’ve had nearly 15,000 readers for my 61 posts. I’ve received about 90 official comments, but many more of you email me personally to let me know what you like, and don’t.
I’m not sure how long I’ll keep this up. Maybe one day the book publishing industry will rebound and I’ll start writing in long-form again. Maybe I’ll run out of things to say next week. Or maybe this will continue to be the most satisfying writing I’ve ever done and I’ll never, ever want to give it up.
The strange thing about my one-year anniversary is that I finally get it. I understand why blogging has such mass appeal. As a blog reader, I love that citizen journalism enables me to connect with the few (or many) who share my precise state of mind at any given time. I never have to feel strange or alone or freakish anymore; a few clicks on Google and I can see that hundreds or thousands share my sentiments or experience. I know it sounds trite but the Internet, and the blogosphere in particular, is awesome.
As a writer, I have never felt more connected to my readers, which makes for the most satisfying writing. I love the immediate gratification of receiving comments in the minutes and hours after each post. I love hearing how the blog has affected you, how it helped or healed, or if I enabled a perspective shift that was ripe in your life. The comments I receive from you often move me to tears—sometimes, reading your words is more powerful than writing mine.
And so, a year into this experiment, I want more than anything to say Thank You. I am so grateful for this connection that I share with all of you. Thank you for encouraging me to write honestly and for reading my posts (even the crap ones!) Thank you for talking openly with me about your lives as parents and inspiring new posts. Thank you for helping me finally achieve what I had always hoped for—the ability to do what I love (writing, parenting) and to feel loved for it. After so much searching and striving in my career and personal life, it is nice to feel good about being here, now, with all of you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.