On Blogging: A 5+ Year Reflection

Travelling Lines Comment and Opinion, Writing

Friends, I am finding it hard to know what to write at the moment. This is the fourth article or post that I’ve started. I’m rather hoping that I’ll be able to finish this one. I’ve got halfway through my Dartmoor Way story and got bored of the words coming out of my pencil. Not because the trip was boring, but because for some reason I’m uninspired by writing about it. I started writing about my first night in a bivvy (hilarious and hopefully coming out soon), but then I had to go off and do something else. When I came back I’d lost the rhythm. Then yesterday, mid writing several articles for MPora about via ferrata, I realised I’d barely ever written anything about via ferrata on this site and launched into a post about that. Which will definitely be finished, but not right now.

So here I am, sitting on a sofa after dinner, wondering what it is that I do want to say at the moment. And the more I think about it, the more I just want to sit down and chat to you about this. About something reflective. About writing – because my adventure quota is at all time rock bottom at the moment (I’ve barely left the house in days). And then I thought I could write about blogging itself, which is hopefully not too meta to make my head hurt right now.

Is Blogging Writing?

Blogging and writing are two different things for me. Not so much in what I write, but in how I write. And just to confuse things, I publish both things I’ve “written” and things I’ve “blogged” on my blog – which is also called a website interchangeably. Oh English language don’t we love you! Most of the time, when I write something I do it literally: I pick up a pencil (ideally 0.5mm HB) and write it down on a continuous pad of A4 thin lined paper. That is writing for me. I write that way for work and for this blog and for my own personal amusement. But blogging is somehow different.

Right now, I’m blogging (by these odd definitions of mine). I’m just typing into WordPress. I started with a blank page and very little idea of what I was going to write, except a vague theme. Yet here we are, still tapping away into the internet. And you might be like, “Yeah Emily, that’s still writing.” Which, sure, it is. But it’s a very different sort of writing for me. Particularly because I’m unlikely to go back and reread any of this. Writing gets at least 3 looks over: initial version on paper, typing up into computer and then another final typo check (occasionally done whilst recording into audio). Blogging feels different. It feels more personal somehow. And although I’ve never checked, I’m sure I construct sentences differently.

Why Blog in Today’s World?

This blog started in December 2015. As I’ve mentioned before, this was not my first shot at blogging, but it was the one that stuck. I certainly didn’t start of writing on the same topic as I’m on now. But I think it’s stuck because I found my voice in these pages.

Over the years, this blog has gone in cycles. It broadly matches what’s going on in the rest of my life, actually. At the start I posted one or two times a month into a void of silence. No one was reading it, but that was somehow liberating. I’d just finished uni and was back at home, unemployed, trying to work out what the hell I was supposed to do with the rest of my life. I needed someone to talk to, so I spoke to the internet in the way one speaks to a puddle or a hillside. You don’t want a response really, you just want to say it.

Then I posted sporadically for a while until I got a job I wasn’t really enjoying. I mean, it was fine – and that’s the scariest kind of job. One you could easily stay in forever feeling ever so slightly unfulfilled. Sometime around then, I jumped into a serious weekly posting regime which lasted for a while. Without checking, I’d say until around the time I started Intrepid Magazine and things sort of broke. I was doing that crazy entrepreneurial hustle of full time job, plus creating a print magazine from scratch and ignorance, plus everything else. Looking back, I have no idea how I actually pulled any of that off.

Then at some point, I made a Serious Plan and a cool little editorial calendar and started writing with a purpose: to educate and entertain. Most of that wasn’t blogging any more, it was full on writing. I was doing about two posts a week for maybe 6 months before things started to break down and become less frequent. And then my personal life did a backflip (ha!) and I had a change of almost everything, including a job that meant I got to write about adventure all day.

Understandably, when you’re writing all day you might not always want to write about adventure all evening too. (Heck, who am I kidding, my writing schedule is nowhere near that linear.) But I did want to write, I just wrote a bit less and a bit more sporadically. More like when I wanted to than when any Serious Plan said I should. I guess I was using up all my best ideas at work.

Wait, you haven’t actually said why yet

There are loads of reasons to blog in today’s world. Personally, and particularly in these last 6 months, I’ve found myself bemoaning the old world of blogging. You know, back when people had long and regular posts that gave you an insight into their lives and thoughts and feelings. It was like getting a regular letter from a friend. So many of the blogs I used to read have either dried up or turned into incredibly irregular updates, or morphed into a site optimised solely for traffic.

Let me put down some resolves now: I really don’t want to become that author who only blogs about their book releases (as a reader this breaks my heart). I don’t want to become someone who only writes SEO keyword articles and listicles and What I Think You Want To Read posts either. Because that’s another very serious reason to blog: so people can find you. Whether the end goal is sheer traffic for putting on your Media Kit for Brand Collabs or for affiliate royalty or whatever… It certainly helps you get your name out there as a Person in a certain industry.

But, in the words of Kipling, it’s hard not to lose your way in this game, to “walk with kings, nor lose the common touch… and yet don’t look too good, nor talk to wise”. At the start of this year, I made my Serious Plan for the first 6 months of 2021. As I said back here, I was and am genuinely excited about the writing I’ve got lined up. But I’m consciously not going too serious on keyword targeting and all that. I mean I totally could, it’s what I do for a job after all. I know full well the benefits and there is a little voice in the back of my head telling me I probably should. And yet, I don’t want this blog to become too serious. I want there to still be space for posts like this.

Consistency: the Double Edged Sword

Part of the reason I’m writing this post is because I’ve committed to writing posts every Monday and Thursday. I made that choice years ago, on the inception of the first Serious Plan. Then when I got a job in adventure travel writing, I changed the conditions to “if I post it will be on Monday or Thursday at 7pm”. A slightly more flexible take on the same schedule. Because there’s nothing like being a longtime reader and constantly wondering when or if the next post will be.

But all that said, it’s been two weeks since I went off piste for my editorial calendar and I’m writing this at gone 8pm on a Thursday, with full intention to backdate this post to 7pm on Thursday – whatever time I actually finish it. Is that cheating? I don’t know really.

Consistency and structure are good in some ways, because they make me want to post. It’s like agreeing to go to netball practice every Tuesday night or orchestra on Thursday lunchtimes. It takes out the questions about when should I post and replaces them with the simple question of what? What should I write? It’s okay to bunk off sometimes because you’re feeling ill or tired or just can’t be bothered. But if you’re away for too long, people will wonder where you’ve gone and/or assume you’ve left. Or as one friend said to me recently, “I thought you’d emigrated.”

But when it becomes too much of a chore and a pressure, that deadline is no longer fun or inspiring. It’s actually prohibitive. Or at least that’s how I feel. Except when you force yourself, but that’s another matter. Usually, I try to get some buffer in so that I’m writing and scheduling articles weeks before I publish them. But life’s not always very accommodating about that. And sure, I could probably have tried harder to write more today. But instead I watched YouTube videos and fretted about not having somewhere to live in the summer and ate granola bars like biscuits because granola = healthy, right?

I even started a mailing list so I can give people updates in a personal, sprawling email sort of way that I don’t feel quite fits on the blog. Or at least to alleviate some of the guilt whilst not endlessly posting updates or “sorry I’ve been away” posts on here. But I even don’t feel like writing them sometimes.

Reflections

So, one and a half thousand words in and I haven’t really done any proper reflections yet. That, my friends, is blogging. The unshackled tap of keys on a laptop into a meandering sort of post. A musing but not quite as sharp as a thought. And I think, now I’m here, I’m going to sidestep the reflection altogether and say this: blogging is a reflection. It’s a reflection of your life and the world and your experiences, tying the two together. You’ll look back at your old words the way you look back at old photos or drawings you did when you were 10. You’ll smile or cringe and you’ll see things in it that other people won’t, because you have the full context.

I look back at this innocuous little post and smile ruefully. Because I’ve written it the way snappy copywriting blogs tell you everyone must blog to be engaging (the way people currently post on LinkedIn with an infuriating number of line breaks). But also because of the frustration I know I was experiencing and how lost and sad… and just everything. I see the full concoction of things behind that moment, not just that post. (Do watch the video.)

I cringe a bit at my first ever review post and feel relieved that I got through that teething phase quickly. And I laugh at this post that I genuinely wrote at 5am after an all night callout, trying not to fall asleep because I had work in the morning. I’m astounded by my audacity at actually posting it to the internet and wonder if I probably should delete it after all. And I laugh because in the half hour after I published it, I fell asleep, slept through my alarm by over an hour, missed the bus and ended up arriving to work a little late, in a dishevelled state. Sometimes I’m completely bonkers. I look back at some of the things I wrote at the start of furlough and wonder what I was smoking.

But I love that I have this record and, for now, I’m happy to share that record with other people. Maybe one day if too many people read this blog and get all shouty and angry I might stop. But I like to hope that if we’re all honest enough with eachother and clear about how we communicate, it won’t happen. Fingers crossed anyway.

Needless to say that when I started this blog in 2016, I did not imagine it would help me to become a full time writer – and adventure travel writer at that. And, in some ways I’m glad I didn’t, because I might have taken it all too seriously and never ended up here at all.


And I think that’s me for the evening!

If you have a blog, no matter how little it is, I’d love to see it. Honestly, I’m really struggling for good voices to read at the moment, so please feel free to share.

Fingers crossed I finish up one of my other half-finished articles over the weekend, else it will be more rambles next week too!

Night, night,

Emily