where to from here?
This post has probably been brewing for longer than I realise.
But things — suddenly and finally — collected and coagulated in my mind last night as I sat working, unhappily, at the kitchen table.
I had been scrolling through my blog’s editorial calendar (actually a list saved as ‘list’ on my desktop) while tinkering with some images from old posts that I’d never been happy with and, quite unexpectedly, I began to cry.
‘I don’t want to do this,’ I moaned to myself.
And I tried to think of what I would like to be doing but came up blank. I couldn’t think of a single thing that I could work on that wouldn’t make me feel miserable.
While I sat hunched at the table, I realised a bunch of things at once.
Firstly, I don’t enjoy blogging any more. I don’t like what I do here. I started One Good Thing just over a year ago, having blogged off and on (mostly on) since 2002. When I launched One Good Thing, I thought that I knew what I wanted to do with the space. I modelled this blog on the ones that dominate my feed, mostly lifestyle and design blogs. The problem is, while I’m quite Internet and design literate — and a lover of beautiful things — I am neither a stylist nor a designer. I’m a writer. Sometimes I read incredibly successful design blogs and it bothers me that the blogger doesn’t pay more attention to their writing. However, at the same time, I’ve let my own writing slide in a big way, often generating half-arsed, smart-arsed commentary about whatever thing I’ve posted for the day, then wondering why I feel so disheartened and unfulfilled all the time. I became aware last night that what I produce on One Good Thing is neither different nor special considering the volume of truly excellent lifestyle and design blogs out there. Do those bloggers ever stumble across my site and wonder why a writer is trying to develop visual layouts? Do they feel like I shouldn’t be playing with their toys? Although I enjoy learning more and more about effective layout, design, and typography as I go, I do waste considerable amounts of time and energy sweating over visual components when I could, in fact, be writing.
As a writer, I have the opportunity, responsibility, and (I hope) the skills to produce content that readers want to read — not merely glance at then skim. I myself subscribe to hundreds of blogs. I know that I’m guilty of looking at dozens and dozens of entries every day, but skipping the accompanying text because it’s so rarely compelling. And that’s sort of OK if the purpose of those blogs is to collate visual material. But my purpose in writing has always been to write meaningfully and well. I want to have interesting discussions about the things that turn me on — food, style, design, health, words, the philosophy of living, the philosophy of writing, and current issues. I don’t want to have ‘just another WordPress site’.
All of this has come to a head quite organically over the last several weeks because of some particular occurrences and conversations.
Two months ago, a super popular blog linked to the post I wrote about the HBO series Girls, and my little baby blog experienced a phenomenal spike in traffic. (Take a look at my stats, if you like). That was a crazy time. Without warning, I had thousands of people reading an opinion piece that I had hammered out over one or two hours while sitting in a café one morning. It wasn’t a brilliant post; however, it did raise some interesting points. People enjoyed reading it. In the weeks since, my traffic has gradually fallen back to its previous baseline, and I’ve found the slow decline somewhat discouraging. It’s shown me that I’m not consistently producing content that piques readers’ attention when I actually am capable of doing so.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote an article for a small south-east Queensland magazine about depression and spirituality around the theme of ‘submission’. It was finally published last week and I have received a lot of positive feedback regarding not just what I said but how I said it. Quite naturally, that felt good to me: I’d written about something close to my heart and I was proud of the writing, too.
What I’ve come to realise is that I work best when I work to a topic or theme rather than trying to introduce superficial material such as ‘this packaging is cool’. By trying to emulate my favourite sites, I may have actually been selling myself short. My haphazard blogging ‘schedule’ doesn’t usually offer me the time or space that I need to work effectively. I need a more clearly defined structure and focus — and I need to get back to what makes me different as an individual and as a writer.
Just today I read a brief article by Flying Solo contributor Robert Gerrish. He wrote: ‘… we do ourselves no favours if we diminish the role of the individual by doing what’s expected or what everyone else is doing.’
It was the final little push that I needed to arrive at this place.
Last week, I sat in a dimly lit bar talking to a friend and I confessed that I didn’t feel comfortable writing about many of the things that I actually want to write about.
While I always a) post only what I like — not what I think is cool or what other people will like — and b) write in my own voice, there are many things I’d like to mention or discuss that I feel I shouldn’t. I worry that my family, friends, or clients will judge me or that I will hurt my business by discussing things of a more personal, serious, deep, or abstract nature. I can be glib and loose and quirky, sure, but at my core, I can’t abide chitchat. And I feel that One Good Thing has become a hub of my own mindless chitchat.
Maybe it’s because I’m not entirely comfortable with myself.
In the past, I’ve been led to believe, to a large extent, that who I am is not good enough. I have never been secular enough for secular people or religious enough for religious people; I have never been literary enough for serious writers or gripping and edgy enough for popular writers; I have never been alternative enough for the alternative crowd or whatever it was that grants admission to the in crowd; I have never been bad enough to be really bad or good enough to be really good; I have never been in the right place at the right time for anything: I’ve never been the right girl at the right time for the various men that I’ve chased; I’ve never been offered the incredible job because I’ve known the right person or simply got lucky. All my life, I’ve watched my peers streak ahead with their confidence, luck, and connections while I’ve put my head down and worked hard.
Let me tell you, a squeaky clean GPA does not keep you company or return your calls. Looking good on paper doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know anybody. Credentials amount to very little if you do not believe in yourself, if you are not proud of yourself. The blogging world, just like the real world, is a bizarre mishmash of leg-ups and self-promotion.
Lately, I’ve become more aware of the game and I don’t want to play it any more.
I want to go back to basics and create something good — and authentic. I only want to pour my energy into something that feels right and of which I can be confident and proud.
So, I guess I’m saying goodbye for a while. To One Good Thing. And to blogging in general. I’ve registered a new domain name for a different venture already, but I need to take some time to figure out what I want to do with that space and how I will do it. I’m going to leave mood boards and cupcake porn to the professionals. I’m going to daydream and brainstorm and shed the layers of expectation and self-loathing and worry that have built up over time. And I’m going to try to locate the real Amber who exists in the mess somewhere.
As a final word, I want to say thank you to everybody who has read this blog, liked my page, followed me on Twitter, sent me messages and e-mails, and left comments — despite my hang-ups and failings. I hope that you’ll join me on my next adventure, whatever that may be, and if it’s your thing.
See you later!
Categorised as: health+mind+body