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If you've been following my blog, you probably noticed that I took a blogging break and went more than a month without posting anything new to the blog. It was definitely out of character for me, and during my break, I only occasionally responded to blog comments and pretty much stayed off social media in general. It may have seemed like I'd dropped off the face of the earth in a way, but I was really just trying to figure out some things before coming back and moving on.
First, I'd like to say that blogging is a lot of fun for me.
I started blogging as a hobby. I used it as a creative outlet and didn't even realize that one could turn blogging into a stay-at-home job; a way to make an income.
A few months into my blogging “career,” I learned that there was a lot more that one could do with a blog. A blog could be turned into a business, or at least serve as a portfolio for other sorts of businesses. Whether you want to write books, serve as a coach, or just want to sell homemade goods, a blog is a great way to get your word out there and find new clients, all from the comfort of your home. Even without doing any of those things, though, you can still earn a decent income just off ad revenue on your blog if you get enough traffic.
It sounds easy and wonderful, but while blogging can be fun and interesting and a beautiful thing, it definitely isn't easy, especially if you are pushing yourself to be “successful.” Until you try it yourself, you can't even begin to grasp the amount of time that bloggers spend creating content, making it as beautiful as they can, publishing it, and then trying to get their voice heard. (Not to mention having to deal with mean comments or people stealing their content.)
What is a successful blog, though?
Success is really a relative thing. It's hard to measure, and is unattainable in a sense because the more successful you are, the more successful you want to be. You can always be more successful than you are at any given moment, and there is probably always somebody more successful than you are. So, no matter how successful we are, we always continue to strive for success.
When I first started blogging, success for me was getting a new blog comment, or just getting a new like on my Facebook page. I was just so excited to see that someone had actually read my post, or, better yet, had made one of my projects or recipes and loved it enough to tell me about it.
As I met new bloggers, though, that ended up not being enough. I began to measure my success by comparing myself with others. There were bloggers who had started their blogs at the same time as I had and that were soon after making a full time living off of their blogs. There were also other bloggers, of course, who had been blogging much longer than me, and who weren't as “successful” as I was, but as bloggers we are constantly being reminded that there is always somebody “better”, so we push ourselves harder and harder. Some blogs have more traffic than yours, others make more money or sell more products, others get more comments or have better photography or have more loyal readers. It doesn't matter how you are measuring that success, there is always someone better than you in certain facets of blogging.
So rather than let yourself delight in your successes, you find yourself pushing yourself to do more and be a “better blogger.”
Through blogging I have met so many wonderful people. It's not that it is a competition. Bloggers tend to group together in private Facebook groups and get to know each other while trying to learn new ways to build their businesses. We share each other's posts, talk about food, home, blogging, and life in general. We become friends.
Interestingly enough, in one of our blogger conversations (in a healthy living blogger group), we realized that a huge percentage of us had a very similar personality profile, despite it being a very rare one. Supposedly only 4% of all people are INFP's (using a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), but so many of us were either INFP's, or “almost” INFP's that you would have thought it to be very prevalent. Most of us were definitely some sort of Intuitive-Perceptive type (ENFP, INFP, ENTP, INTP), and learning that helped me realize why I identified so well with most of my blogger friends and why we feel the same way about so many issues. While not all bloggers are going to fit into just one personality profile, it's obvious to me that blogging does attract certain types of people. Being an INFP myself, I'm going to be speaking from that point of view.
INFP's are known as “idealists.” We tend to have a strong sense of right and wrong, and we enjoy finding outlets for our creativity. Blogging serves as the perfect outlet for that creativity and it lets us speak our minds about how we think things should be, but there is a bit of a problem. We also tend to be sensitive to criticism, and let's face it… When you share your opinions online, eventually you are going to have to deal with online criticism and, perhaps, even online bullying.
Another big problem with being an INFP? Well, we tend to be perfectionists, compare ourselves to others, and we never allow ourselves to feel successful, even if we really are. That, of course, brings me back to where I was going with all of this.
To be a good blogger, you have to be multifaceted. You should be creative, decent at writing, a photographer of sorts, business savvy, organized, and deal well with people. It's almost impossible to great in all of those areas, and while you are working on it, other areas of your life are probably suffering the consequences.
So, I was trying to be the perfect blogger, all while trying to be the perfect mother, and wife, and homemaker, and gardener, and cook, and…; well, I think you can see where I'm going with this.
It's impossible for anybody to be perfect at everything, and so many of us who are perfectionists exhaust ourselves trying anyway, even though logically we know that perfection everywhere can't be achieved.
So, why the break?
First I got sick, and got sick again, probably in part from just being tired.
The month began with a parasite infection and a cold. Then I ended up with a UTI turned kidney infection that kept me in bed thinking, so tired that I couldn't even get to my computer. So, my break began as a forced one, and without the pressure of checking emails and Facebook and Pinterest and Instagram and Twitter… each day I had more time to think about my priorities.
Meanwhile, my dog got sick. My twelve year old golden retriever suddenly kept getting more and more out of breath and was having a hard time even getting up. Our first visits to the vet had us thinking that she was just dealing with old age and, perhaps, was recovering from a mild stroke, but we were later devastated to find that she was really suffering the effects of a severe anemia caused by an inoperable liver cancer. There was nothing that we could do to help her other than give her some pain meds and do our best to make her last days the most comfortable that we could. I spent hours and hours of those last days on the floor by her side, trying to enjoy her company and make her feel loved and appreciated.
And then the guilt set in…
During my blogging break, I lost my “best friend.” Losing my sweet Sheena wasn't the first pet lost I've had to deal with, but for some reason it hit me the hardest, and it wasn't only because she was a favorite pet for me. I spent several days in a really dark place and felt sad, depressed, and just plain guilty.
While I know that she lived a good life and knew that we loved her, looking back, I couldn't help but realize that I hadn't been the best “mom” that I could have been to her. Things started out great, and I used to constantly play with and take both of our goldens on lots of walks and for hikes on our mountain, but then I got pregnant and had a baby, and I wasn't able to keep up that level of attention.
Then, of course, came the blog, and while trying to be a good mom, a good housekeeper and a good blogger, I didn't spend as much time with our pets. I felt guilty and blamed a lot of that guilt on the blog. It's time I'll never be able to get back, and that awareness helped me realize how precious time can be.
This month was a wake up call for me.
Having learned from my mistakes, I spent the last couple of weeks of my break thoroughly enjoying my son's spring vacation time with him. We went hiking on the mountain with our Bernese mountain dog, and we brought her on long walks along the beach and even out to eat with us in restaurants with outdoor terraces. We enjoyed being outside on some beautiful sunny, spring days.
I spent this time enjoying my family and deciding to reprioritize.
I realized that I'm never going to be perfect at everything, so I want to concentrate most on what is most important to me. Right now, for me, that is my family and house. I've been repainting, spring cleaning, and spending as much time as I can with my husband, son, and dog.
As for blogging?
It's my creative outlet. I love blogging, but hate pressuring myself to be a “successful” blogger. It takes the fun out of it, turns it into a job, and keeps it from being my “me” time.
Yesterday I picked up my dog's ashes, and now that my son is back in school, I decided it was the perfect time to move on and get back to blogging. This time, though, I have a new perspective.
I'm taking the time to feel good about my successes rather than beat myself up because others are doing better than I am. I want to enjoy life and blogging and let my blog grow at whatever rhythm comes naturally.
There are other bloggers that do have to push themselves. They may be dependent upon their blogging income, and they should know that I'm not judging them, but rather they have my most profound respect. I'm not writing this to say that trying to be a successful blogger is a bad thing. I'm writing this so that you can better understand me, and perhaps will take the time to think about your needs and priorities before letting other people push you into trying to be somebody that you aren't. I'm also writing this so that maybe if you read this, you'll take a few moments to reflect on it, and take some time to celebrate your successes rather than constantly push yourself towards “success.”
So, has this been a successful break for me?
I repainted my kitchen, reorganized and deep cleaned most of the closets and drawers in the house, moved thousands of photos and other digital files from cd's and dvd's to hard drives, reached 5,000 Facebook likes on my blog page, made the Top 25 Kid-Friendly Food Blogs list comprised by the Academy of Culinary Nutrition!
Heck, yeah! This has been a hard month for me, but it's also been a wonderful and successful one. 🙂
Now that I'm back, I can't wait to start sharing new recipes, ideas, and crafts. I'm looking forward to having fun with blogging again and hearing form all of you. Hearing your thoughts and reading about your successes or just seeing you say “hi” from time to time always brightens my day and helps me feel like a successful blogger. So, please don't be strangers, and don't ignore your own successes either! 🙂