What I Know After Five Years of Blogging (And a Giveaway!)
Yesterday marks five years since I sat down at my computer and pounded out my first post. It was completely spontaneous, actually. One morning, I decided to start a blog. I followed the instructions on how to set up a free blog on Blogger, and I wrote a blurb entitled, “Read This First” (creative, I know). Then I shot out a mass e-mail to all my real-life-friends inviting them to check it out.
Because I just knew my real-life-friends would want to read my new blog.
Literally, minutes after I launched my blog, I expected the search engines to direct millions of seekers to my site. I sat with anticipation waiting for comments and questions to start rolling in.
I’m not kidding. At all.
I knew nothing about blogging.
It’s five years later, and in many ways, I still feel like I know nothing about blogging. The industry is changing faster than I have brain capacity to keep up. Just to put this in perspective, five years ago, I had a flip-open cell phone for emergencies only, with no texting capabilities. I had dial-up internet (!) on my home computer. I did not have a Facebook account because I wasn’t exactly sure what Facebook was. I had never heard of Twitter. Pinterest did not exist.
And we all rode to the one-room schoolhouse on dirt roads by way of covered-wagon.
Yes, much has changed since March 4, 2008.
In the early days of blogging, I learned valuable things like
- How to create a basic header and signature.
- How to write posts at optimal length, so people don’t click off mid-way-through.
- How to post a picture, add sidebar widgets and music.
- How to remove sidebar widgets and music because people hate that stuff.
But as I reflect over the entire five years, I think I can sum it up in one sentence: Blogging isn’t at all what I thought it would be.
1. My readers are not who I thought they’d be. I started my first blog (God Speaks Today) with the intention of teaching people how to hear God’s voice. Honestly, I envisioned my blog to be a hotbed of theological debate, so I postured myself accordingly. I had been active on a Christian-based discussion forum, and people there were just plain NASTY. (Yes, the Christians) So, I prepared myself to defend my opinions, my faith and my Jesus. I figured I’d have to monitor and/or delete the offensive comments. I pictured myself with study materials strewn across my kitchen table to address my critics. On my very first post, I laid out the law and warned my readers to “be nice.”
My first readers showed up, and instead of a gang of internet ruffians wanting to throw me and Jesus into a dumpster, it was YOU—a group of kind and supportive people who (gasp!) didn’t want to argue at all. You actually liked reading about hearing God’s voice.
In five years of blogging, I’ve never had to delete one offensive comment. Not one. In fact, some of my very best friends are women I’ve met through blogging. (I didn’t expect I’d have anything in common with you internet ruffians.)
2. My blog is not what I thought it would be. My blog has gone through quite an evolution since 2008. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that not only did you like what I wrote about hearing God’s voice, but, you also liked when I wrote about my kids, my marriage, my laundry and my obsession with fitness. (For about a year, I tried to manage a separate fitness blog, and that didn’t go very well. It’s okay. I didn’t like it either.)
Over the years, I told you all about the death of my son, my struggle with depression, my desire to break free from the bondage of perfectionism and my determination to lose a stubborn 20 pounds I gained on antidepressants. (Tell me, what woman in her right mind lays all that out there and then draws attention to the size of her butt?)
I never intended to lay my business out for the entire world to analyze and scrutinize, but you were so nice. And you laughed at all my stupid jokes. I couldn’t resist.
Your encouragement and support leaves me in tears most days.
I didn’t expect that, at all.
3. Taking an extended blog break was not as scary as I thought it would be. After four years of blogging, I burned out. As nice as you were, I was weary of having my struggles on display for the world to see. I was sick of spending every kid-free minute behind a computer screen. And I was stretching my creative limits to make every blog post fit into my theme of “humbly learning to hear and obey the voice of God.” I lost momentum and incentive, and it was coming through in my writing.
In fact, I started to resent the blog—and I NEVER expected that.
I had to walk away and get a fresh perspective. So, last year, on my blog’s Four Year Anniversary, I set out to take an indefinite (maybe forever?) blog break. I didn’t know what to expect. I think I expected the worst…that I’d walk away from the blog, and you’d shrug your shoulders and walk away, too.
I was excited to see what God had for me outside of blogging. But I was scared to lose everything I had worked so hard to build—namely, an audience of loyal readers and an opportunity to reach people around the world.
The blog break lasted six months—four of which, I spent plotting and planning the rebirth of my blog.
(so much for a break)
In September of 2012, I returned to the blog scene, and much to my relief, you were all still here. I made the switch from Blogger to WordPress (which means nothing to you, unless you are a blogger), merged God Speaks Today with my defunct fitness blog, and created a new blog with a fresh theme: The Scoop on Balance.
And here we are.
The evolution of the blog(s) has been interesting, frustrating, exhausting and exciting, all rolled into one. After six months in my new space, I am still trying to figure out everything WordPress is capable of (hint: a lot!). I’m not quite sure how to manage all the social media outlets or the industry demands for better and more relevant content. I feel like I need an assistant just to handle all that for me (anyone??).
Most days I’m staring at my computer screen hoping something I have to say helps you. Some days it’s difficult to write what’s truly on my heart, because it involves my growing children, who deserve better than to have their mother use their lives as blog fodder.
I don’t know what 2013 holds for me, but I’m here for now, constantly trying to balance my life and share it with you when I do.
Whether you’ve been around since day-one or you just found me today, I want you to know how thankful I am that you are here. You’ve changed my world, simply by showing up. I did not expect that people on the other side of my computer screen would be such an integral part of my life.
(I have a gift for you, so keep reading!)
What’s a Blog Birthday Without Blog Trivia?
Unfortunately, since I switched blog forums (from Blogger to WordPress) my stats only go back as far as September. But they are still fun. Check these out:
The Top 10 word searches that led people to The Scoop on Balance
1. Peanut butter power balls—yes, a recipe is number 1. If you want to see it, click here.
2. The Scoop on balance—Yay! People know the name of my blog and actually type it into search engines. Notice, this is the only reference to “balance” in the top ten.
3. Paul ryan shirtless—Oh dear. I think people are sorely disappointed to find I did not include a picture.
4. God speaks through people—Rock on, God Speaks Today. Rock on.
5. Michelle obama flexing—this would be because of the same post where I talked about Paul Ryan shirtless. It was a bipartisan post. By the people. For the people.
6. I want to adopt but my husband does not—this one makes me happy. That series on adoption is one I’m most proud of. You can see all the posts in that series here.
7. God speaking through people—God Speaks Today again!
8. God places people in our lives—This one always baffles me. What are people looking for when they type this into a search engine and why does my blog show up?
9. Hot wife—No explanation needed, due to my obvious hotness. (Honestly, I would love to be a fly on the wall when the creepy guy who types this into the search engine reaches my blog, only to find a fully clothed Christian girl interviewing her husband about biking. I doubt that’s what he came looking for.)
10. P90X2 results–The best workout program EVAH.
My highest traffic day since September was November 12, 2012, when I posted pictures of my new office.
My Top Ten Most Popular post by visit (a disturbing trend—not one post in the top 10 had anything to do with balance! )
1. Nine Lessons on Hearing God Through Other People
2. I Want to Adopt But My Husband Does Not, What Can I Do?
3. Fitness Friday:: Funny Headlines Regardless of Your Political Affiliation (it’s the whole Paul Ryan shirtless thing)
4. Meet Sandy (my “about me” page)
5. Fitness Friday:: 5 Minute No-Bake Peanut Butter Power Balls (again with the power balls.)
7. God Speaks Through the Storm, Part Two (The story of my son’s birth and death)
8. Beachbody (I’m a Beachbody coach, and this is where I tell you about that)
9. More Jesus (A guest post from my friend Shelly Wildman—you go, Shelly!)
10. Fitness Friday :: P90X2 Final Results (With Pictures) and my Review (people love before and after pictures)
A Give Away!!!
For my 5th birthday, I would love for you to come out of hiding and let me know you are here. I can see you on my stats, but I would love to see your name and maybe tell me something about yourself. I have five I-Tunes Gift Cards ($10 each) I’ll give away to five people, simply for leaving a comment today.
If you receive this by e-mail, Twitter or Facebook, would you kindly click over to the blog and leave your comment there? Pretty please?
It’s my blog birthday, you know.
I’ll choose winners randomly and announce them on Friday.
Congrats on blogging 5 years!
Congrats on 5 years!!! I LOVE reading your blog and often times find myself going back to before I started following to catch up. Loved your posts on adoption! I work full time have two boys and a husband and trying to get my fitness/food on track to lose some weight that I have been carrying for far to long.
I have so enjoyed reading all of your blog posts! You are a great writer & touch on topics that are applicable. Keep them coming!
Sandy, I am so grateful for your blog because I got to meet YOU in person! Twice! And I know we will somehow meet again, friend. You are such a source of inspiration, encouragement, and just fun–I love coming over here and reading about your latest exploits. You are precious and I am so glad to have met you!
Did you see you made my Top 10 List of most visited posts??? 🙂
Happy Blog Anniversary. I am glad you decided to come back! I appreciate you sharing your life; your struggles, your triumphs, your highs and lows. I enjoy learning from you as well. Thank you.
Oh, dear Sandy. This post is so timely for a number of reasons. Happy 5th! I always glean a valuable nugget of inspiration and a much needed laugh at just the right time! Thanks for that, as it was never more needed than right now. Love you, sister.
Huh. We could be blog twins. Well, almost. I think I started my blog Jan/08. My blogger blog, that is. I was writing stuff on bebo for a year-ish prior to that. I also was really unsure about that whole Facebook idea back then. Now, can’t imagine my life without it! 🙂
Happy Blog Birthday!
You are an inspiration and a joy. Thank you for what you do. I am blessed to call you my ‘online friend from Kentucky I met in real life once’ 🙂
PS: You are one of the reasons my Facebook fast for lent is so hard!
I didn’t realize our anniversaries for blogging were so close. Mine is coming up, but I’ve only been at this three years and am not nearly as refined or eloquent.
Congratulations to you for making it 5 years. I’m one of the readers that waited not so patiently for your return when you took your much needed and well deserved break.
Happy Anniversary, Sandy! I’m so glad you’re here.
I heard you speak at a women’s retreat in Canada last spring and have been hooked ever since! I have been so encouraged and challenged by your words. And we are just at the beginning of the international adoption journey so I have especially enjoyed reading about your family’s trip on that wild roller coaster. Thanks!
Happy Blog Birthday!! Love your posts!
Met you in person JUST as you took a break from bogging – so really glad you’re back – and keeping balanced 🙂
I’m not even sure how I found your blog, but I put it in my “favorites.” Thanks for your insight and honesty.
Karen, you are one of the winners of the itunes gift card! If you see this, send me your email address asap so I can send you your redemption code!! 🙂
Congrats & welcome back, I have missed you! (here & there, [NLC] too) I miss all of my former K/6 kids. <3
Hi, I’m Amanda. I am a single mom with 2 boys. I think I came to your blog from “It’s Almost Naptime” There was a 30 days linkup, I think. Anyway, I like your blog (except the fitness parts because I don’t have time to worry about my body and it just makes me jealous that other people look good) I have really enjoyed the shift to “The Scoop on Balance”
Thanks for such a real blog. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I look forward to every post. You’ve got a loyal reader in Atlanta!
Thanks for writing. I started out following your fitness blog and made the move(s) to the current site. I enjoy reading here.
soooo, I just adore this post and pretty much everything about you. I’m gonna start stalking you now. I just thought I would let you know. You have a fantastic blog and I’m so happy that you stuck it out, revamped, and came back stronger and more confident from your hiatus. The world needs more people who encourage and inspire the way you do. 🙂 Thank you!