Happy 9th birthday

It’s my blogging birthday today. After nine happy years, I’m still here and plan on sticking around for a whole lot longer! In the spirit of tradition, I thought I would write a helpful ‘what I’ve learned’ style of post around the subject of decision making. Our blogging stories are full of decisions, big and small, and I’ve made plenty of both kinds. I hope you find the following helpful and informative, enough to take you on to your nine-year anniversary… and beyond! (Especially if you’ve already been blogging that long!)

These are in no particular order:

1) Moving from Blogger to Self-Hosted WordPress

This is the earliest decision I made and remains as one of the most significant. By 2007 I knew I had come close to exhausting Blogger’s limits in terms of design and functionality and was starting to become frustrated with that aspect, but of even greater significance was the matter of ownership over my content. I had copyright over my own words, of course, but I wanted total control, and that included the ability to modify design and look as much (or little) as I liked. This brought extra responsibilities and costs, but the benefits are immeasurably better.

2) Make my ‘Living List’

I launched my ‘Living List’ – aka a public ‘bucket list’ – in late 2011.

To give some perspective, I was struggling a bit with blogging in 2011. Blogging had really hit its straps by that point in Australia, and with the popularity came the first examples of tension and conflict in the community. I hasten to add that similar stoushes have occurred since, and will probably continue to do so; the combination of passionate bloggers and human nature is certainly complex.

Anyway, I was tired of it.

So I wondered what I could do, how could I – perhaps – show a different way. Now, I know bucket lists are hardly a new thing, but sitting down to write my own was quite an illuminating and moving experience. As I learned with dad’s passing, life is short. Just do things. Act.

Note: those images in the collage are items I’ve been able to tick off this year alone. Starting from top left, going clockwise: Rome, Paris, Whitby, Hot Air Ballooning.

3) Begin blogging under my own name

Moving from the name ‘Miscellaneous Mum’ to blogging under my own name is the most recent change (late 2014) and, honestly, is one I wish I’d made a long time ago. Maybe even from the beginning.

‘Miscellaneous Mum’ was always problematic. In writing circles, I was Karen Andrews and in blogging circles I was ‘Miscellaneous Mum’ – even though I was always open about my real name and never used pseudonyms for the kids. Of course, I was ‘me’ at both, but ‘Miscellaneous Mum’ was a deliberate construct, a barrier perhaps, because I was so frank about other aspects of our lives and I wanted to hold on to some kind of… alternate title. For those people who’d land on my blog accidentally, or via a casual click-through, they’d see ‘Miscellaneous Mum’ and leave again. I never lost any sleep about those people, because they weren’t my desired readers.

But after a few years I thought, well maybe I could make the ‘first impression’ experience more immediate, and a way to do that was use my own name. I wasn’t building a brand to sell, not even the Miscellaneous Mum/Press connection – and if I had a brand at all, it was as me, Karen. End of story.

4) Go to New York for BlogHer

This is related to the Living List because this was a goal I was able to tick off in 2012, but I am including it here for two independent reasons.

The first is because it was the first time I used blog earnings to fund an overseas trip. BlogHer is an enormous conference and I yearned for the experience because many of the bloggers I read raved about it. And it was in New York! The timing was perfect.

However, once I got there, I was underwhelmed. Not with New York – the conference. I walked around the sponsorship and showcase rooms in a state of bewilderment and disconnect. I was reminded of what I didn’t want to be, or turn into. In fact, I ended up ditching half a day of programming to head down to the NYU district for research that I would later turn into my essay for Island.

5) Self-Publish my own book

2008 was a massive year. I won’t go into the whole history of my children’s picture book Surprise! here, but in summary it was a bold, expensive and risky undertaking. Most publishing ventures are, as I’ve come to discover, but it’s especially the case with picture books and cookbooks (anything that requires pictures and high-quality stock etc.). However, I did a hell of a lot of research, secured distribution and in the end kissed it goodbye to send it on its way in the world.

I’m happy to report that it sold in the same numbers as a commercially published picture book and I still see it in bookshops today.

6) Allow myself to be vulnerable

I’ve written about a lot of sensitive and painful topics: anxiety, PND, a twin pregnancy that wasn’t to be, health scares, processing grief and even my own occasional fraught relationship with blogging.

I haven’t regretted any of these, but that doesn’t mean they were easy to write or publish. However, the support and love I’ve gotten in return makes vulnerability worthwhile. In turn, I hope, at such times, my story and truth has helped someone feel less alone.

7) Hire help when I need it

I do a fair bit of upkeep and maintenance on this site, but there have been times when I’ve wanted a major overhaul (or even the occasional bug fix or code tweak) and I know I can’t do that, so I’ve hired designers to do that for me. I prefer to pay people for their work – the notion of unpaid internships has never sat all that well with me. That opinion could fill an entire blog post on its own.

8) Ditch the contact form

I’m going to keep this one short. I hate contact forms. People keep them because they think they’re going to get spammed if they make their email address public. I haven’t, and you probably won’t.

9) Stopped the Chase

I’m busier now than I’ve ever been before. It’s ironic. When I focus on doing my work instead of participating in frivolous tasks or exchanges, or wasting time on social media (I love it, but really needed to put measures in place), I get so much done! Actually, it’s not ironic. It just makes sense.

 

I’d like to conclude by thanking all my readers – those of you who’ve been around since the beginning, or are new, and everyone in the middle. I’m hoping this coming year is packed with lots of news and exciting things – I think it will be. x

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Karen Andrews is the creator of this website, one of the most established and well-respected parenting blogs in the country. She is also an author, award-winning writer, poet, editor and publisher at Miscellaneous Press. Her latest book is Trust the Process: 101 Tips on Writing and Creativity