That’s not entirely true. Tom started it months earlier. He created the URL and wrote the first eight posts chronicling our Fifty States Project — the actual first blog post ever (here) explains more. (We haven’t given up on the Fifty States Project, but it’s taken a backseat because these days I don’t go anywhere if there isn’t a potty within 25 feet.)
The blog has changed in the past three years. I’ve written more than 450 posts; I wrote a lot about running at first, then about gardening, knitting, even a post about the Oscars. Mostly, though, it’s about our family, especially the kids. My awesome kids.
Blogging has surprised me in a lot of ways. First, I was surprised by how much I like blogging. I love the writing, the photography, the editing; I have self-imposed deadlines and goals. After a long day with the kids, the way I want to unwind is to write a 500-word post about how much I love them.
Second, there’s this whole blog culture out there on the Internet I didn’t really know about before I started a blog. I mean, I knew there were a ton of blogs, but there are a ton of blogs. Even more surprising to me is that there are hundreds and thousands of decently successful blogs out there.
As for my blog, in the past three years my growth has been pretty steady and slow, which is fine. Growth and generating readership has been a surprise and learning process, too.
Before I started blogging I thought the successful, well-trafficked blogs gained readership with good content. I figured, somewhat naively, that as long as there was good writing and good photos, word of mouth would work its magic and readers would follow. But that’s not really the case, it’s much more complicated than that. There are lots of poorly-written, blogs that make money because (to an extent) it has much more to do with marketing and networking and SEO, which I know nothing about.
Because, have you heard of Pinterest? Oh, how Pinterest has changed blogging. Did you know that there are blogs out there that create content just for pins, that users will find on Pinterest and end back up on their site? Bloggers create Pinterest-friendly content and “pinnable” photos (vertical photos, usually with text over the photo), because if you get a popular pin, your traffic will skyrocket. Pinterest is why “Homemade Teething Biscuits” is my most popular post. It’s also why I created this fancy graphic for Mary Virginia’s strawberry-themed birthday party. (And it only got three re-pins!)
My most-trafficked posts aren’t the posts I love most. For example, I work really hard on the monthly updates I do about my kids and treasure them, but they don’t get many hits. Mary Virginia’s birth story is probably my all-time favorite post, and it’s never been in the top 10. (The biggest exception to this rule is the letter Tom wrote to me on our five-year anniversary. It got a ton of traffic the day it went live, and it still does.) This post I wrote about our shower curtain, gets a ton of traffic, and if you Google “How do you say baby shower in Spanish” I used to be the number one result because of this post. (Three years later, it’s #3.)
I do get some traffic from Pinterest, and I participate in a few link-ups throughout the week, but most of my readers are my friends and family, the ones who haven’t gotten tired of seeing my posts on Facebook and hidden my updates from their timeline.
I’ve also gotten asked to write a few sponsored posts and had the opportunity to work with a few companies, which I’m really grateful for. For a small blogger like me, that sort of attention is really flattering and exciting. When the last opportunity came up, one of my friends congratulated me and asked me if that was my goal — to get lots of sponsored posts and make money from my blog. I hadn’t really thought about it until she asked me.
Was that my goal?
And part of me says yes. All writers want readers, that’s definitely true. I’d love for this little blog to explode and make so much money that Tom could quit his job and our whole family could spend all day in our pajamas rolling around in all our money and binge-watching PBS. If I want more traffic, there are ways to make that happen. But it might mean drastically changing the content.
It made me think, why am I doing this? What’s my point here? I came up with two reasons.
First, I’m a big fan of the online parenting community. It might sound silly, but I like parenting in a time when I can type “how to potty train” into a search engine and get nearly 600,000 results, not to mention message boards and community forums. Most of them are results from real moms who are in the trenches with their kids. Some of what comes from other moms can be discouraging and not helpful, but the overwhelming majority of it ultimately sounds like, “Yeah, it was hard for me, too. But you’ll get through it.”
Being a parent is a hard and isolating job. Internet relationships do not replace in-person relationships, but I hope that, from time to time, other parents read my blog and think, “Wow, my kid does that, too.”
My second goal is to capture memories. I want to chronicle my kids’ childhoods as well as I can, and write stories and take photos they can look back on. I hope that, one day, when they have kids of their own, they’ll look readtheir monthly letters (David monthly and Mary Virginia monthly) and, even though they might not have attracted much blog traffic, I hope they’ll be heartened by how much I struggled, and encouraged by how very much I loved them.
So I’ll keep doing link-ups, the occasional Pinterest-worthy post, but I don’t want those things to drive content. I’m thankful for the traffic they bring, but I don’t want those things to be the cornerstone. I want to tell stories and share experiences. I’d much rather it be about my daughter who was born with a scowl and that time I threw up on Tom in the middle of the night.
I’m sure things will change as my family changes and grows, but for now I feel really comfortable with the direction the blog has taken.
Thanks so much for reading along.