Back to Real

I remember - many years ago - looking at a photo in a magazine of Shania Twain, after she had released her third album and won a few awards and thinking, "She doesn't look as pretty as I remember."  I mean, don't get me wrong, she was still gorgeous.  But there was something different. Being in high school at the time, this felt like a very important issue, so I dug out the jacket of her debut CD  so that I could compare.

The more I looked at the two, the more I realized what I was really noticing.  She looked less real.  On that first CD jacket, she looked like a beautiful girl.  She could've been one of the homecoming queens in my own high school.

But in the later photograph, she looks manufactured - a perfectly coifed and manicured version of someone who is pretty.  She looked a little like every other gorgeous celebrity, and something of her unique beauty was lost in the creation.

I thought about this the other day.  I've been struggling over my blog.  In the last few months, I've begun to see it as something with potential.  That seems like a good thing, and it is, but it's also complicating. Even though I said I wouldn't, I started to wonder if this blog might become something more.  I started studying lots of blogs. 

What makes a "successful" blog?  Why does that blog have thousands of readers?  Why were they able to quit their jobs and do this full time?  What is it about their blog that makes people love it?

And how can I make mine like that?

I've made lists of action items and emailed myself links: 

All the blogs whose blog designs I really like. 
The blogs who've done a good job branding themselves. 
The posts about how to get sponsors. 
The posts about affiliate links. 
The types of posts I should write. 
The types of posts that bring in readers. 
The posts that get the most comments. 
The stories of bloggers who "made it" and how. 
The posts where bloggers tell how they spend their time.
Pie graphs of how bloggers make income.

I committed to posting five days a week.  I made an editorial calendar for myself.  I submitted my posts to other aggregating sites.

All of those things are things you should probably be doing if you want to turn your blog into a business.

But lately I'm wondering if this blog looks like me anymore. Or am I just trying to create a blog that is like everyone else's? 

I mean, it looks the same.  Nothing's changed in that regard (though that's on the to-do list), but I feel like every time I try to up the ante, I lose something. 

For one, I lose my joy.  I've written about this before.

The to-do list of crafts is so overwhelming that I can hardly enjoy the creation process itself.  And if a recipe is delicious, but the lighting was all wrong to get any photos, suddenly the creating and eating feels like a total waste.  A weekday without a blog post is a sign of failure, my inability to stay disciplined.

Navah's home for one evening in a week of late, late work nights (for her) where we hardly see each other, and I'm frantically typing out a post and cursing about photos and looking up to realize that she's done all the dishes and changed the laundry over and is in her pajamas in bed.  And I'm saying, for the fourth time, "just one more minute," unable to tear myself away from the computer.

Is this me?

I'm not suggesting there's something inherently wrong with the things I'm doing.  In fact, like I said, they're the right things to be doing if I want to grow this thing.  If I want to have a shot at making it into a business.  But they're things that require sacrifice.  And I'm realizing it's not just sacrificing time and energy and money.  It's sacrificing little pieces of myself for this goal.

And I keep finding myself asking Is this what I want?

The answer might be yes.  The answer might be that this is hard and inconvenient and might mean some rough times and fewer snuggly nights with Navah, but it's what I want.  And those are the sacrifices I have to make to get it.

But I'm wondering also if the answer might be yes...but.  Yes, I do want it.  But not like this.  Not with this sacrifice.

And that's a scary answer.  If that's my answer, I don't know what the next step is.  I don't know how to let go of that dream. Or how to modify it.  I don't know how to go back to what was real before. 

It's been several days since I wrote this post, and I've had a lot of thoughts and feelings about it in the interim, some of which have been reminding myself that I'm still getting used to a longer commute which has lengthened by work day by about two hours.  Some of the thoughts have been comforting, some have not been.  I don't know the answer, and I think there's more to say.  But I wanted to share this in its raw form because I think that this question of identity versus goals is one that many people struggle with, particularly in the blogging community, and I think it's helpful sometimes to hear other people's struggles before they've "prettied" them up.