In early November, I posted an article on Pegs on the Line. A week later I stopped working on new articles or posting on Instagram. Then I stopped checking Twitter. I just….stopped.
It wasn’t planned. There was no goal to detox from social media. No resolution to ‘live in the moment’ more. Nothing like that. Initially it was lack of time. Not long after I hit publish on that post, my partner and I bought another house, then he scored an amazing new job in a different city and so began a crazy few months of painting, packing and moving.
At first I missed not having time to write or take photos, but then it changed to not wanting to. I had no motivation to open my laptop and start tapping away. Comments on existing posts weren’t moderated. Thoughts for blog posts popped into my head and out again almost as quickly. My camera stayed in the cupboard.
My lack of interest in blogging spread. I’d look at the Instagram icon on my phone screen and almost shudder at the thought of opening the app. In the past I loved scrolling through the pictures and being inspired by the places and the photography. Now there was a strong urge to throw my phone across a room if I had to look at another flat lay or an image of a girl with perfect hair standing atop a mountain in shoes that were definitely not suitable for hiking. Seriously – you’re going to twist an ankle!
I’d open my blog reader occasionally and close it without reading a post – disappointed it was full of the same old content: 10 tips for this city, the ULTIMATE guide to that country, or (my favourite) advice about locations written by bloggers who hadn’t been there (yes, we can tell). Everywhere I looked, the travel content was geared to one goal – getting clicks and likes.
I became disheartened by the travel blogging industry and the business of it.
The worst part was I saw myself falling into some of the same traps.
Even without the goal of turning my blog into a money-making machine, I let myself be influenced by messages and advice to travel bloggers everywhere. I was initially active on social media because I genuinely enjoyed those platforms, then I found myself making sure my Instagrams, Tweets and Facebook posts were ‘on brand’ – even though I didn’t think I was building a brand in the first place. I was doing what travel bloggers are supposed to do and eventually, my personality was being filtered to project a particular image – the exact behaviour I deplored in other bloggers. Don’t even get me started on the pressure I felt to identify my niche.
One of the most important aspects of good writing is having a voice. Discovering and keeping your voice creates and maintains good writing, while losing your voice hinders it. And I was losing my voice by letting it be influenced by branding, self-marketing and other interests, rather than things that meant something to me. Although I was writing stories I believed in, I wasn’t taking the same approach to every aspect of blogging.
This post isn’t a criticism of bloggers who want to make money from their blog. My disillusionment stemmed from feeling I didn’t ‘fit’.
I realised a long time ago I had no desire to monetise my blog or go to great lengths to use it to score freebies. Of course, it would be awesome to be paid to do this, but it takes a commitment of time and effort I wasn’t prepared to make. Also, for a long time it seemed achieving that goal would involve writing click-bait headings, staging Instagram shots, and producing content that, ultimately, I would only be writing because it would be popular online. That was a path I wasn’t prepared to walk. Now I know better and have seen (some) bloggers achieve success without doing any of these things, but there is still the time/effort thing. I find a full-time job, house renovations and a social life keeps me plenty busy without posting on social media three times a day or sticking to a writing schedule that leaves me no time to binge watch TV shows.
For the last few years I’ve been writing what I want, knowing nothing I produce has the slightest chance of going viral. But when every blogger around me was focused on making it big, I began to feel I was wasting my time to blog without that ambition.
Doesn’t anyone do this just for fun?
Most creatives would produce their work even if no one would ever see it but them. I’m the same. I’ve always said I’d write this blog even if its audience was limited to my partner and immediate family. But there is a satisfaction that comes when others appreciate your work. And in the blogging world that appreciation is measured in followers, website hits, social media likes. If those likes aren’t there, it’s easy to fall into the mindset of ‘no one likes what I do so why do I bother?’
That question swirled around my head for weeks until a blogging buddy gave me another one to think about. “You need to define why exactly you blog,” she advised in response to me complaining about my lack of motivation.
It was brilliant advice, but surprisingly, took me a while to answer.
When I started Pegs on the Line five years ago (on blogger!) it was my postcard home. I had no idea there were ‘travel blogs’. It wasn’t until a year later that I stumbled across this post and realised ‘oh, other people write about this stuff’. So for 12 months I shared my adventures, clueless that this was a common (let alone crazy popular) thing to do, or that anyone made money from it.
When I wasn’t working in media, my blog was my outlet to write. While I didn’t miss the newsroom, I did miss telling stories, and that’s what motivated me to talk to strangers, jot down notes and dig deeper when travelling. I loved sharing content I couldn’t find anywhere else and I still do. Sometimes my writing is cathartic, or to help other travellers or because these places are interesting and deserve to have their story told.
I take photos because they are my favourite souvenirs. I never intended them to become marketing materials to post on social media. Also, I’m not at my most attractive while hiking so my ‘I’m on a mountain’ shots aren’t going to be a suitable backdrop for an inspirational quote or yield me any kind of Insta-fame. I can, however, take ‘windswept’ to a whole new level.
Never was my blog about becoming popular or making money. That temptation, or more specifically, pressure, developed as I became more involved in the travel blogging industry. Again – this isn’t a dig at the industry or the people in it. But I have struggled to find my place in the blogging world as someone not focused on attracting thousands of followers or having brands knocking at my door. Learning to tune out the pressure to desire otherwise has been a challenge.
After thinking about it for a few months, I’ve identified my blogging passions and motivation, and none of them involve caring how many people read this post.
You probably won’t notice any change on Pegs on the Line – other than I’ll resume writing more than once every three months. My blog has always reflected what I wanted to write about and the stories I wanted to tell, and it will continue to do that, no matter how unpopular those topics and destinations. The biggest change will be how I feel when I spend days or weeks crafting a post only to have it sink into my blogging archives without a ripple. As long as I enjoy writing it, having someone enjoy reading it is a bonus, not a goal.
Moral of the story?
Do what you love and don’t feel pressured to be something you’re not. It sucks.
Do you blog just for fun?