As a blogger I spend most of my day thinking about blogging; planning, writing, reading, sharing. Bloggers will understand this. Non-bloggers will wonder if I have a life. And, I was beginning to wonder the same.
Wherever I am, whatever I’m doing, I’m thinking about my next post.
Can I blog about that? What’s my angle? What photos do I need? Where shall I share this? How do I get people to read?
I’ve been blogging for three years and I love it.
It gives me a sense of purpose. It gives me a creative outlet. I take pride in what I do; I enjoy the process, I love the sense of accomplishment.
I love the record of our lives.
But lately? Lately, if I’m honest, it’s felt a bit self-indulgent. I don’t earn any money from my blog, it’s not my job. And, other things in my life have been neglected. The house, the laundry, errands. Friends. Me.
So a couple of weeks ago, I slowed down, I committed to taking a break.
Then I stopped. A week, cold-turkey.
After seven days, I took stock. I realised that I couldn’t simply pick up where I left off, that I had learned some valuable lessons from my self-imposed break.
1. I missed blogging, but not as much as I thought I would
I have spent virtually every moment of free time on my blog for, well, a long time now. Whenever I could, I’d be writing posts, editing photos, commenting on other blogs, engaging on social media, publicising my own posts. Frankly, it’s exhausting. By taking a huge step back I was able to see what I missed, and more importantly, what I didn’t.
I missed writing, I missed the community. I didn’t miss the (increasingly) mad circuit of linkys and blog hops. I was able to read blogs I wanted to read, or not read any at all, and while I felt a bit guilty not joining in with some of my favourite linkys, it felt good to take control of my time and say no, not this week.
I had become so caught up in the detail of blogging that I had forgotten why I was blogging. I’m still grappling with where I go next; do I try to monetize, do I shift the focus of my blog to a more commercial niche, do I write different types of post? But, for the moment I simply want to write what I want, when I want.
If you are no longer able to see the big picture and understand why you are doing something, you need to take a step back.
2. Watching my stats drop didn’t send me into a blind panic
My page views clearly took a hit! A few months ago that would have been a disaster and I would have reacted by writing more, linking more, commenting more. Sleeping less.
Instead, I took pleasure in knowing how much else I had achieved in the time I would normally spend blogging. Walking into a tidier house, being able to find the kids lunchboxes and shoes in the morning, keeping track of all homework, activities and projects.
I also caught up on some blog admin, fixing broken links for example, tedious but necessary. This has all helped me feel more in control and consequently calmer and less stressed.
External validation is nice, but a sense of your own accomplishments and worth is just as important.
3. I get enormous satisfaction from keeping on top of the laundry
Regular readers will know that we are in the midst of a huge house project. Last summer we moved into a fabulous new home, but one that needed a lot of work. Right now, we are replacing every window, insulating and re-siding the entire house. We’re decorating my daughters bedroom and the living room. We’re organising the play room. We still have a garage full of boxes.
It has felt totally out of control. The big projects are overwhelming. The house is chaotic and I haven’t known where to start. The blog has become a wonderful excuse. Just editing one last photo instead of washing the dishes. Just writing one last paragraph instead of emptying a box. Just sharing one more post instead of putting on a load of laundry.
This week I attended all three of my children’s school halloween parties, and didn’t begrudge one second of the time.
This week I’ve had a clean kitchen, empty laundry baskets and I’ve cleared a corner that has been full of boxes for months. It’s barely made an impact on the over all work that needs to be done, but it has left me feeling productive, organised and remarkably happy.
If you focus so fully on one activity that all others suffer, you will never feel in control.
4. I am happy being alone
That might seem like an obvious statement, blogging itself being a solitary activity, but when left to my own devices for the week I naturally tended towards things I could do alone.
I watched TV. I read books. I lingered over shopping trips. I indulged in the odd hour in Starbucks, with just my thoughts for company. I went for walks. I cooked. I took a bath.
I’m currently reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (a bit late to the party, I know!) and one of the points that has resonated with me is the recognition that what makes you happy isn’t necessarily what makes others happy.
I love spending time with friends; chatting over a coffee, laughing over a glass of wine. But, for me to maintain a sense of inner calm, I need as much time, if not more, alone.
Don’t lose sight of who you are by allowing self-imposed obligations and expectations to swamp you.
5. You have to start somewhere
I have been feeling completely overwhelmed recently. The house, the blog, life! It’s been all too easy to avoid dealing with any of it, reasoning that it’s just too hard and I don’t know where to start. Conventional wisdom suggests that doing something is better than nothing, and (shamelessly paraphrasing the Fly Lady) you should start, wherever you are, rather than try to catch up. Completing any task, however small, makes a difference.
This past week I have ticked little things off my to-do list, I have finished niggling tasks, I have chipped away at larger ones.
I have also slept well, shouted less and remained calmer. There’s a lot to be said for stopping thinking and just doing.
When your to-do list seems never ending, begin anywhere. Stop procrastinating, start doing.
So, what next?
Well, I’m going to write when the mood takes me, link when I feel like it, read what I want to read. I’m going to tidy the house, unpack boxes, get at least one room finished! I’m going to finish my book club books on time; watch my favourite TV shows; volunteer at the kids’ schools. I’m going to enjoy time alone and time with friends.
The bigger question of where I want to go with the blog remains unanswered; but one thing is for sure, there will be more breaks like this one, and I’m certain that the way forward will become clear. When I need it to.
Stepping away allows you the perspective and clarity needed to move forward.
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