I don’t even know where to start with this post. This is a blog about living a well-balanced life, right? Well here it is. This is what I’m trying to balance right now:
I’m in a blog funk. And I feel like after taking a 6 month blog break last year, I haven’t earned the right to be in another blog funk.
Remember, back in 2009, I had some publishers interested in my book ideas? I have always wanted to write books. As far back as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of writing books. So, the publisher thing—yes, totally amazing, right? But the publishers, they all wanted me to “build my platform” before they’d sign me. (That’s publisher-speak for “Grow your audience so people know who you are, because—let’s be honest—no one knows Sandy Cooper. And if we are going to invest $50,000 into publishing your book, we need to know you can sell some books beyond your hundred closest friends and family members.” )
After that, I hit the ground running. I tried hard to build my platform and build it fast. I told one publisher I’d have the subscriber numbers he was looking for in one year, and I meant it.
It wasn’t long before I realized that having a toddler at home precluded me from dedicating more than about 8 hours a week to blogging. I could have given more, but I didn’t want to. Not at the expense of time with my baby. Yet, 8 hours a week wasn’t enough time for me to do what I needed to do to grow the blog.
So, I shifted focus back to my kids. I did the best I could blogging for a few years. Then I stepped back to evaluate where God was leading. Eventually, I took a break.
After six months off, I came back refreshed, excited, new and improved. With my children in school all day, I was able to give 20+ hours a week to blogging.
I started reading blogs about growing my blog and books about building my platform. I created a year-long blog plan. I added those social media buttons and tried to understand Twitter. I paid attention to SEO and stats. I tried to include pinnable images in every post. I looked for places to submit guest posts.
Soon, I was like, “What the heck? I’m spending all this time writing for free? I know bloggers who are making enough money to quit their real jobs. I should at least be making enough money to cover the costs I’ve incurred in blog design and web hosting (and therapy). “
So, on top of all that, I looked into monetizing—selling ad space and writing e-books and adding affiliate links.
Since September, this is what most days look like for me:
I get the kids off to school and get the breakfast dishes off the counter and get a load of laundry started.
And I sit down to write.
Except, I struggle to write.
I’m already exhausted from this mile-long-blog-to-do list. I can’t just write what’s burning in my heart. I don’t always have something burning in my heart any more. Because my creative energies are saturated with the growth of the blog.
And some days, I do have something burning in my heart, but it’s so intensely personal or involves a friend or family member, that I can’t write about it publicly.
And some days my most profound balance tip is, “Go pour yourself a glass of wine, rest the back of your head against the chair, close your eyes and breathe deeply.”
Some days I have nothing new to say. Nothing at all.
It’s not always this way. But mostly, lately.
Meanwhile, all around me, I see bloggers, whom I love, writing book proposals, accepting book contracts, writing and re-writing their manuscripts. They’re posting about the ups and downs of book-writing and how it’s not at all what they thought it would be or it’s exactly what they thought it would be, and it’s both difficult and exciting. They’re posting about their head shots and their book covers and their endorsements and their release dates…
And they’re doing it all with children and laundry and breakfast dishes.
I’m encouraged and discouraged at the exact same time.
I’m happy for them. I’m jealous of them.
I try a little harder. I become a little more determined. I force myself to create.
And then I hit a wall.
And that brings me to today.
I’m worn out.
I’m at a crossroads. I don’t know if it’s possible for me to just simply blog, like I did in the beginning. I don’t know how to set aside everything everyone tells me *must MUST MUST* be done in order to grow my audience. I don’t know how to pursue my dream of publishing books without forcing myself to try to get more Twitter followers (uggghhh I HATE Twitter.) I don’t know how to have a clear blogging plan without becoming consumed with the execution of that plan. I don’t even know what a realistic blog plan looks like.
I don’t know if I need to shut up, quit my whining and tie my butt to the chair, or if I should take this frustration—this funk—as a sign from God that I’m terribly misreading His voice in my life.
This may sound ridiculously overstated, but there’s part of me that fears if I don’t do what the platform-building police tell me to do—if I choose to jump off this crazy train of building my tribe and creating my brand—that I’m essentially dashing my God-given dreams to the ground.
At least I *think* they are God-given.
And then last week, I read this by Shauna Neiquist, and it undid me completely.
Publishing is all about striking while the iron’s hot. But sometimes you have to trust that the iron will still be hot later, and that there’s more to life than that iron. Sometimes you have to trust that life is long for most of us, and that there will be other irons.
I’ll tell you right now, I’m afraid to hit “publish” on this post. I like to share my struggles with you AFTER I’ve resolved them, when I can use them as an illustration for you to work through your own struggles.
I don’t really know where this funk is leading me or what I should do about it, but here’s what I know that I know that I know in the midst of the funk:
- Balance is wisdom: You focus your energies where you thrive rather than where you struggle.
- Balance is freedom: You don’t have to say yes to everything.
- Balance is neglectful: Sometimes you say no to good things so you can have better things.
- Balance is dynamic: To maintain balance, you must remain flexible.
- Balance is unique: You don’t compare. What works for me may not work for you.
- Balance is growth: You can’t be perfect, but you should progress and improve.
- Balance is seasonal: What works today may not work tomorrow.
- Balance is perspective: Some things matter and some things don’t.
- Balance is peace: You know you are exactly where God wants you to be, and you plant yourself there until you hear otherwise.
In other words, I’m trusting God with my funk. I’m going to set a few things down for the sake of balance, and trust the Lord to keep the earth spinning on its axis while I do. I’m going to stop taking myself and my blog so stinkin’ seriously, and free up my brain to make room for joy and peace.
I want balance in my life. I want God’s will for my life. For me, it’s the exact same thing.
I’m not afraid of hard work, if hard work is what God is leading me to. I just need to know it’s God and not the blog police requiring it of me.
Therefore, until further notice, I’m blogging under some new rules:
1. No more Twitter: If you follow me on Twitter, you will receive a link to my new posts (which generates automatically) and that’s about it. There will be no conversation there. I might even delete my account. (I felt a little naughty when I wrote that just now!)
2. On my Scoop on Balance Facebook page: This will be the place I share interesting links with you and may post something encouraging or funny–maybe. But don’t feel like you’re missing out on something if you don’t follow me there. You won’t.
3. On Pinterest: I am pinning my recipes and probably a few other posts on balance or house renovations—but if you already subscribe to my blog, you won’t be missing a thing if you choose not to follow me there. I’m only keeping my Pinterest account open because I get a disproportionate amount of hits for peanut butter power balls coming from Pinterest. And I can’t, in good conscience, deny anyone of a great peanut butter recipe.
4. On my blog: I will continue with my Better Balance in 2013 series, and also Fitness Friday. But I’m not forcing myself to write on a schedule this summer. In fact, I’m not forcing myself to write at all. I only have four more summers before my oldest daughter leaves for college! Four. I’m not wasting a single minute of this one worried that I didn’t get my post up by Tuesday morning. Not a minute. I’m going to the pool. A lot. And I’m going to read books. Many.
5. Also, on my blog: For the record, I love the community we are building right here in the comments. It’s my absolute favorite part of blogging. When I post something and you respond, I will always be around here to converse with you in the comments. That doesn’t drain me or frustrate me or contribute to my funk in any way. It refreshes me. So, thank you for that.
I probably could have done all those things and not said a word to you. You probably wouldn’t have known the difference if I did. But the other part of me wants you to see the anatomy of my struggle. I want you to know that balance for me comes with great effort, just like it probably does for you, too.I don’t always have it wrapped up in a neat package with a thousand-word limit, a scripture, a few thought-provoking questions and a list of related posts.
Sometimes, it’s just this: a funk.