One year ago today, 9th January 2013, I published my first ever blog post. Perhaps rather fitting then that this is my 110th post to celebrate my one-year blogoversary!
Looking back, I remember going on and on to my family and friends about starting a blog for months before I actually did something about it but I couldn’t get my head around the best way to approach it, what to call it, what to write about, how I should present it. It didn’t even occur to me to look at other blogs.
What is a blog anyway?
Then last Christmas, eldest son’s lovely girlfriend gave me the book ‘Blog, Inc.‘ and that was the final shove I needed. I didn’t understand much of what I read at first but it certainly helped point me in the right direction. That is, I was introduced to the world of WordPress for the first time. A great place to start for newbies like me, and it was free!
So, you may ask, if I didn’t know what I was going to blog about, why did I start a blog in the first place?
At the time, I was caught up in the thrill of having had my first-ever article submission accepted by Prima magazine. Not only that, they had invited me to a photo shoot in London! To say I was excited is an understatement. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before.
I thought that it would be a good idea for me to start a blog so that, on the off-chance that somebody, even if just one person, wanted to read more about my writing aspirations after my article came out, they could find me on my blog.
I’m a nobody in the writing world but my reasoning was/is that everybody has to start somewhere, right?
In the end, I came up with the title and my first-ever blog post which turned out to be about my garden robin because I had absolutely no idea what to write about. I called it ‘Welcome to my first post – About a Robin‘. I had one ‘like’ and six comments, all family and friends, except for one comment by a fellow blogger much to my delight!
When I received a ‘like’ from another blogger on my next post in which I wrote about the photo shoot, (and a fox!) I was stunned. Amazed! How could someone find my blog like that, and then not only read my post, but like it and then comment on it?
I caught the blogging-buzz and fast.
However, my ideas for my blog very quickly changed. I soon realised that I wanted it to be so much more than just getting myself ‘out there’.
I wanted to show others that it is possible to make changes to your life no matter how late in the day you may think it is. I realised that I struck a chord when I started to write about my daughter’s struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome and also about my alcoholic, jail-bird dad.
When once I thought I had nothing to offer, you who read this blog showed me otherwise and I was astounded.
I knew that what really mattered to me was that I could somehow offer some kind of hope to others that no matter what you’ve been through you can find a way to climb out of the darkness and once again walk in the light of redemption, of hope and of forgiveness.
So I rewrote my About page many times until I found the words I wanted to convey just what I wanted this blog to be all ‘about’. At last I knew the way!
The rest, as ‘they’ say is history (well, one year’s worth anyway). According to my WordPress stats just checked, in one year I’ve had 17,500 views, gained 245 ‘followers’ (I like to say friends), written 110 posts and a total of 3,264 comments. I’m not even sure if this is good, bad or just plain normal.
What I am sure of is that I still can’t quite believe that people actually read my blog, and I really do mean that! That you take the time to read what I write, even when some of my posts, like this one, are long, never fails to truly encourage me.
The other thing that caught me completely off guard were the lovely comments I began to receive for my photographs. I started off thinking it might be a nice idea to illustrate my posts with my own photos so I was delighted at the encouraging responses to them, especially as I am an amateur photographer.
Having the appreciation from others for our work, no matter what shape or form it takes, is something that helps us all thrive and grow. Goodness knows that is a blessing in and of itself given that in this dark world in which we all live there seems to be so much that wants to cut us down and steal our joy.
I’ve had some interesting search-requests, courtesy of google, which have led others to my blog. For instance:
- ‘how to store a summerhouse’
- ‘as I knew him for a hamster’
- ‘a walk in the woods with young girls’ (very creepy this one…)
When I started out I didn’t use tags because I didn’t know how to or what they were. I published several posts before my daughter one day showed me how to use them. I had no idea. She also warned me against trolls and such and to be careful about what I wrote. She is a prolific blogger on Tumblr and other sites so she should know. She also told me that I would probably become obsessed with my blog.
One thing I didn’t do was to visit other blogs much at first as I didn’t know how to find them. This changed when, in March, and much to my utter disbelief and joy I received my first ever blog award! I had seen them on other blogs but assumed they were only for the elite. I came to understand that many awards are a great way to meet and encourage new bloggers and to recognise them for any number of achievements and this set me on the hunt for new blogs. I’ve made many new friends in this way.
I am very humbled and incredibly honoured to say that my summerhouse now proudly displays a total of 19 awards (two of which I’ve yet to write about, watch this space as I always say!) and I am truly thankful for every single one and the people behind them, and for their uplifting, kind and incredibly encouraging sentiments given me when sending them my way.
Besides, up until now, the only awards I’ve ever received were for swimming 100 yards and a few for gymnastics. Oh yes, and one from my son’s teacher one year for helping out with class parties and field trips. Hey ho.
In the whole time I’ve been blogging I’ve never scheduled a post and actually don’t know how. Maybe I should learn. I sort of know what I’m going to write week by week but then again, my plans have been scuppered so many times.
It took me until just a few months ago to figure out what the notification button on the dashboard was for – that helped I can tell you – and I didn’t figure out how to use the reader for a long time. I haven’t done anything with the Daily Prompt either although it looks interesting from what I’ve read on other blogs.
To be honest, my entire blogging experience can be described best as ‘flying by the seat of my pants’. I hope I can still get away with it, ha!
When I read my first few blog posts now I can sense my enthusiasm at the time and my delight in the way my writing career was starting and yet, despite a year which saw great strides in my personal fulfillment as a writer and some wonderful ‘happenings’ these many highs ran parallel against a backdrop of a year filled with crushing lows and great personal struggles and I was devastated by an event that left me grief-stricken for a time.
From that point on and for some time to come, I struggled with everything and I didn’t think I could carry on blogging. I couldn’t think straight, I was floored with grief and locked up inside with my own dark self. Then something happened.
I had planned to share some photographs but the posts I had wanted to write no longer mattered, seeming irrelevant in light of all that had happened. Instead, I went for broke and wrote what was laid bare in my heart and I ended up with what I can only describe as photo-poems, words pouring out from deep within my soul and captioned with my photos by way of illustration. This was my way to write the grief, to expunge it and to sort my head out. Publicly.
I was overcome by the messages of love and support from those of you who stood by me, thank you seems so inadequate.
The same thing happened when I shared with you my younger son’s heartbreak by writing ‘Smoke & Mirrors – My Son’s Way Back‘ which became one of my most popular posts. The support my son and I received from you all truly blessed us and I honestly can’t thank you enough.
Some very interesting things happened on my blog during the summer months. Firstly, I learnt that even when I had to take some breaks from my blog, readers still came by to visit my summerhouse and were kind enough to leave likes and comments and even sign up to follow. This surprised me greatly as I really thought more than once that my blog would disappear at such times.
Then of course, and no one-year blogoversary post would be complete without mentioning the scandalous Spamgate and Followgate, in which I, along with many others, saw my comments on other blogs being sent to spam and I ‘lost’ all my followers.
Yet incredibly, Spamgate in particular turned out to be a turning point for my blog. I put a plea out for help with springing me out of my spam prison and I quickly discovered that I wasn’t the only one! We didn’t do the crime but we did our time! Through it I made some wonderful friends and through them my blog began to blossom.
In terms of numbers, I saw my blog grow from 50 followers to 245 between July and December but more important than numbers are the people behind them. When I thought I couldn’t write you urged me on, when I was down you lifted me up, when I had something funny to share you laughed along with me and when I felt like quitting you made sure I didn’t. This I say to all of you who read my blog and to family and friends who don’t!
My blog may not be the most successful or the largest by any means but I love my little corner of the blogosphere and my wonderful community which shines so brightly over here in my summerhouse.
Since then I’ve written two guest posts on other blogs and I hosted my first guest post here in early December. I won a flash-fiction blog-run competition thanks to your support. I also took part in a huge ‘opinion project’ in which I took the chance and shared some things about my early life which I never thought I would (publicly that is!) and through it all I’ve made so many lovely friends.
I read once that you should never share on your blog, or on the internet, anything that you wouldn’t shout across a bar. Well, as I’ve said before I’m sure that I’ve shouted a few things across a bar in my time but hopefully nothing that would incriminate me! Certainly I hope that I can say the same about my blog!
As I come to the end of my anniversary post (and many apologies for it being so long but this is my line in the sand) I need to mention one more thing. My book. The one I keep saying I’m going to write. Which I have actually started. Amongst the many things my one-year of blogging has shown me is that now is the time for me to write it. My story of me and my American GI. Then maybe about my dad.
You have shown me that not only can I do it but that I should do it. More than that, you have told me that you want to read it! So now I have no more excuses. I’m using that dirty ‘c’ word – commitment. You can hold me accountable, here and now, that 2014 is the year when I shall do this. There, I’ve said it. I’ve put it in writing. I’ve shouted it across the bar. No going back.
All I ask is that you better throw me a lifeline when I need it because I’m barely keeping my head above water now as it is.
In a nutshell then, this is what I’ve learnt from my one year of blogging:
- Write, and they will come, no question
- It’s alright to take a break, your blog won’t disappear nor will your readers
- Blogging has restored my faith in humanity
- If you have a technical problem you will find help if you ask for it
- Even when I thought I couldn’t write, you helped me find a way
- The friendships I’ve made here are real and genuine
- I’ve learnt that to be a writer takes guts, staying-power and single-mindedness
- I am not alone in my writing journey
- My daughter is right – blogging is an obsession
- Forget all the rules – do what feels right to you
- Keep smiling
So what of the future of this blog? Well, simply this: To keep on blogging!
With you all by my side I can do it! I honestly never take for granted every single time you visit me at my summerhouse and spend a moment or two to share your thoughts, ideas and stories with me. It’s wonderful to be able to drop in and visit with you all, at any time of the day or night, to catch up with you and see what you are all up to. Writing at home can be very isolating but knowing that you are all ‘there’ helps tremendously with that.
The kindness you have all shown me here has touched my heart in a very deep way and I will never forget it.
Thank you to you all so very much my dear friends and family (who don’t read!) and dear blogging friends who have been with me from the start and those who I’ve continued to meet along the way, some very recently, for celebrating my one-year blogoversary and for walking this journey with me. I can’t wait to share another year of blogging and writing with you. You really are the best.
Love Sherri x
‘Go out of your way to encourage someone with your words today…a word spoken at the right moment, how good it is!’ Proverbs 15:23