When I first started blogging nine years ago, it was a chance for me to write out the details of our home renovations on the mess that was our Fort Wayne home. We bought a foreclosure with plans to tranform a huge hodgepodge of a house into the home of our dreams, and over the course of the next three years of blogging, we did make significant improvements on the house, turning it into a place that was safe for our kids and comfortable enough for entertaining that we weren’t embarrassed to have family over for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.
Starting a new blog when we moved to Texas was about changing the focus of my writing. I wanted to take the emphasis off of being “frazzled” by the world around me and instead talk about the unexpected in my life journey. Using that as a theme would allow me to not just reflect on the changes our family would experience while we were making transitions, but to also legitimately focus on bigger issues that impacted our lives, the lives of our children, and the lives of those around us. It was also a move towards taking my writing more seriously, although I was far from dreaming of publishing outside of that space.
It was probably not the best approach to developing a writing niche, but it readily acknowledged that I was not just one thing. There was more to me than either/or. And as a woman trying to balance the vocations of wife, mother, and teacher, my blog gave me a place to freely write and publish without the fear of being rejected by all manner of online publications.
It also meant essentially sitting in virtual obscurity with a small audience that was kind enough to read what I had to say about everything from camping travels to electoral politics.
I had no real niche, but I didn’t really care. I had a place to write and share and reflect and I was going to use it.
Then I got brave.
I started writing for THRED and learned that people outside of my social circle actually liked my writing and also thought I had something important to say. I got a taste of what it was like to write for a larger audience and I liked it.
When that opportunity came to a close I dove back into my blog, committing to writing once a week as part of a disciplined writing practice that made me a better writer and teacher. I eventually started looking for outlets where I could republish blogs I had already written for a wider internet audience. Both Scary Mommy and Red Letter Christians answered with the occasional “yes,” and I once again saw my words appreciated and absorbed by a larger audience outside of a few subscribers. I kept searching for platforms that would publish my writing after I had already attempted self-publication, certain that original content would be too hard and too risky, because what would I do with the rejected material once I received what was sure to be a “no.”
And then everything fell apart.
When I lost my job, I flailed to figure out what was next. I thought about my dreams of writing full time and dove into Facebook blogger groups where people share and build up stats in hopes that it will help them become “successful.” I wasted far too much time trying to build numbers instead of healing and creating, mostly because I didn’t know what else to do.
I finally realized that I was running in metaphorical circles, the numbers were nothing but a lie, and if I wanted my words to matter and my writing to mean something, it was time to “let go and let God.”
That’s not something I excel at.
I left all of the social media groups and decided to focus on my own writing and not worry about numbers. And while my numbers took a serious dive, I suddenly had the mental space to start really creating. I wrote original pieces for Real Clear Energy and submitted my first ever original pieces to both Scary Mommy and Red Letter Christians, finally breaking ground with pieces that were bravely written and published just for those platforms.
I had something to say and it didn’t need to come from my blog. It was worthy to be out there for a bigger audience.
A friend once told me that I should be using my blog as my workshop space, a place where I could write from my heart, reflect, and see where the words would take me. It was excellent advice, but I lost sight of who I am as a writer and a person in my quest for something bigger with absolutely no idea what that something bigger was.
When I finally sat still, I had to swallow my words to my husband, who had joked that when everything was said and done, I would start a podcast. I said that would never happen. And then a friend and I started our Lit Think Podcast at the beginning of May and I can’t think of any creative work that I would rather be building up right now, and that includes the memoir that I really do want to finish sooner than later.
I’ve learned that I don’t need to use my blog for writing about “all the things.” When I have something important to say, there are places that are willing to publish some of those thoughts and I can, and should, be using that bigger platform whenever possible. My blog can be for me and my journey and the occasional vent when it fits into that journey.
I’m moving from habitual to intentional. Instead of writing because I’m making it part of disciplined, weekly practice, I will once again write because I have to, because I have something to say and I’m burning to share it with an outside audience. That may mean writing with less regularity and more occasional bursts of activity when time allows it.
More than ever before, this will continue to be my workshop space, a place where I can go to process the many life changes that are coming down the line. I have come to terms with the fact that learning to write for other audiences and spaces as I expand my writing experience and my portfolio means that writing that is solely for me will have to be less consistent. And that’s ok. That move will allow this to truly be the space for the “unexpected journey” as I turn my focus here to my life process and the travel our family does to help me through that process.
Thank you for continuing to walk along with me.