Blogging: Looking back + looking forward.
I started my first blog—an offshoot of my Cure website, Hello Image (RIP)—in 1998. I didn’t call it a blog, though, it was just a journal. This was before the advent of blogging software, and the journal was a static page 50 miles long. Any comments were left as a guestbook entry. It’s funny to think about this stuff now!
About a year later, LiveJournal was launched, and those personal journals started to turn into communities. I maintained a LiveJournal for years, but it was private and restricted to a small group of close friends. I never got involved with the Blogger platform, but in 2001 Movable Type came along…and Absolutely Vile was born. Mena and Ben, the couple behind Movable Type, were Cure fans and had been involved with the online Cure-fan community, which is probably the only reason I was a aware that blogs (ahem, “weblogs”) were even a thing that people were doing at that point. It’s weird how everything is connected!
I updated Absolutely Vile every day—often multiple times a day—for almost four years. That took me right up to 2005, the year that Jason Kottke decided to quit his day job and become a full-time blogger in exchange for donations from readers. Blogging was turning into…something. I wasn’t really sure what that something was at the time, but I knew that I wasn’t really comfortable with it. My blog had always been a place where I could post about anything that was interesting to me or whatever was going on in my life that I felt like sharing. I didn’t have a plan or an agenda, it was all just for fun. Suddenly, though, I started to feel like there were a lot of eyes on me, and a lot of questions about what exactly my blog was about (the answer was always “nothing and everything”). Nasty comments started to become more common, and the demand from readers to see more of my life than I was willing to share became increasingly loud.
So I stopped. I deleted all of the archives and just walked away. I still kept in touch with my friends through my LiveJournal, but I essentially had no public online presence anymore. It was a massive relief.
During the two years that I stopped blogging publicly, Evan and I decided to leave Brooklyn (where we’d been living rather unhappily in a noisy loft in Red Hook) and move upstate to Beacon, rent a house for a year, go through a lot of real estate drama, move into my mother’s basement temporarily, and, finally, buy a Victorian fixer-upper in the City of Newburgh. If you’ve never been a blogger that distinction of public vs. private might not mean much, but in retrospect I am very glad that we did all of those things without having any input from strangers. For better or worse, I don’t know if we’d have made the same decisions we did if we’d stopped to listen to other people’s opinions. Yes, I did keep writing in my LiveJournal, but it’s different when it’s just close friends reading your words. I didn’t feel like “a blogger” during that time period.
Two big things happened in the world of blogging during my absence: Everyone left Movable Type and switched to WordPress…and bloggers started to make money. Sometimes a lot of money. It became commonplace for blogs to have ads on them, and sponsored posts also eventually became de rigueur. Full-time blogging was becoming a reality for a number of people, and everyone and their brother and their mother had a blog.
Despite swearing that I’d never do it again, I started to really miss blogging. Once we’d closed on the house (a long, arduous process), it seemed like the kind of renovations ahead of us were probably worth publicly documenting. And so, in the spring of 2006, I started Door Sixteen. For a couple of months, I quietly blogged about electrical work and re-plastering and such, and then I panicked. What was I doing? Did I really want to share this? Did I actually want people to read it? What was I even writing about? I wasn’t sure. So I stopped.
Fast forward to July 2007, and I was, of course, missing blogging again. So I made a commitment to restart Door Sixteen, but to only blog about the house. Period. No personal stuff, no makeup, no pictures of myself…just the house. I also made a firm decision to not monetize my writing, since it seemed at odds with my desire to remain slightly anonymous and to let my house be a home to turn the experience into a money-making enterprise. That was about as much thought went into it, really. I never plan posts, I don’t schedule anything, I have no sense of obligation to document everything I do, and if something doesn’t feel right to me, I stay away from it.
And now here we are another five years later, and I still love blogging. I love the sense of community it fosters, not only with my fellow bloggers, but with readers who engage in commentary. I love being able to share things I come across that I like with a bunch of other people who might like those things, too. I love doing what I can to demystify what’s involved with (slowly, slowly, slowly) renovating an old house. And yeah, as much as I tried to avoid it this time around, I love talking about makeup and music and movies and dogs and food and coffee. More than anything, though, I love to write. Before I figured out that I’m supposed to be a designer, I was pretty sure I’d be a writer. That didn’t happen, but I do still get a lot of satisfaction out of expressing myself textually as well as visually. The act of writing helps me to understand myself more, and sometimes just writing a post about the simplest thing brings me some insight that I might not have arrived at just by sitting in a chair and thinking.
I love blogging. I hate the word “blog”/”blogging,” but I guess we’re stuck with it. It just sounds so…phlegm-y.
(Is anyone still reading this? I know I’m rambling here, but I’m going with it.)
So where do I go from here? I’ve been blogging for fourteen years. That’s a long time! I don’t worry that I’ll run out of things to talk about (I never shut up!), but it is becoming increasingly hard for me to carve out the time it takes to put together worthwhile blog posts. I work in an office doing this all day long, and then I come home and do this until the wee hours—and then I sleep a little bit and wake up to do it all over again. I love designing stuff, don’t get me wrong, but man alive is it easy to get stretched thin. Everything takes at least five times longer than I think it’s going to, and I hate saying no…and, well, I’m not sure how well I’ve actually learned these lessons I wrote about last year.
This is what I do know: I want to blog more. I don’t want to slip into patterns where I’m letting weeks pass between posts. If I really do love doing this (and I do!), I want to do it as best as I can and in a meaningful way. I need to figure out to make that happen. At a minimum, I need to be able to stop doing so much freelance work in the evenings/nights/mornings/weekends.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I should start accepting some advertisements from independent businesses. I know that’s probably shocking to a lot of you reading this, but I’m not going to shy away from talking about it. My approach to this kind of thing has to be totally transparent or else I feel creepy! I’ve had a lot of conversations about this subject with blogging friends of mine over the past few months, and all of them (whether they accept ads on their blogs or not) have been really supportive and encouraging of me going in that direction. I need to figure it out for myself, though—not just whether it’s OK or not OK for me to do, but where I fall within the realm of OK-ness and how this all fits into the scheme of things where my personal ethics are concerned.
So I’m working on it. I care a lot about the integrity of my voice and my opinions, and I don’t want to violate any trust I’ve built up with my readers—with you—over the years. It’s a tough area, I know. I promise not to be shady about it, regardless of what I decide to do.
Thanks for listening. ♡