Well Happy New Year to you! Here we are, already on the 5th day of 2016. How time flies! I thought it was probably a good time for a bit of reflection, a look back over 2015 and forwards as we move onwards into 2016.
In 2014 and 2015 I chose a word to guide me through the year. The intention was that the word would help provide me with focus and direction when I faltered and would be specifically chosen to suit the guidance I deemed that I needed for the year.
My word for 2014 was BELIEVE. I wanted to push aside self doubts and believe in myself more and in 2014 this really seemed to work for me. It was the year I graduated with my Diploma of Professional Photography. I believed I could do it and I did do it. It was also the year I closed up my first blog and launched Write of the Middle. I was on a roll!
For 2015 I chose the word TRUST. I wanted to trust that I would be where I was meant to be when I was meant to be there and that I would know what I needed to know when I needed to know it. Sadly, having the word TRUST for 2015 didn’t really help me this time. I felt overwhelmed a lot. I had some health issues. I lost focus, direction, and concentration quite often. Self doubts crept back in. I spent a lot of time focussed on the blog and barely any time focussing on my photography. This made me feel like a failure – that I couldn’t do both and do both well. I felt torn between the two, confused as to how to combine the two, and I felt frustrated that my blog wasn’t niche enough to be successful in the mainstream Aussie blogosphere.
I felt lots of self-inflicted pressure to do lots of things in order to be a successful blogger – produce a newsletter (I did do this – started with a fortnightly one and then dropped back to monthly which is much more manageable. My open rate and number of subscribers is not marvelous though!), growing email lists (haven’t put any effort into this), creating eProducts (still haven’t done this as all my time was taken up creating content to keep to my blog schedule), improving how I use social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter etc), and so on! The thing is, all this pressure was stifling my creativity and it was all getting too far away from why I started doing all of this in the first place. It also wasn’t all stuff that I actually enjoy doing! I love photography and I love to write from my heart – when the words come to me and beg to be let out! I don’t like producing what might be perceived as ‘popular’ content in order to be successful, or feeling forced to write in order to keep to a regular schedule.
During 2015 I did focus a lot on the blog.
- I tried new things. I listened to podcasts. I did every free blog training thingy I could find but I also $$invested in a bit of professional development.
- In March, I went to my first ever Problogger event when they visited Brisbane for the day and then in August I went to the main ProBlogger Event (see here, here, here and here) on the Gold Coast. I wanted to learn stuff from those that are in the know and I did – I learnt lots of really good stuff! I also wanted to see if could monetize my blog and if so, how? Though I don’t aspire to earn mega bucks (that doesn’t necessarily bring happiness!), as much as I love what I do, I still do need to find a way to make a bit of a living from it or else I may have to go back to working in a job where I’m miserable and give up on the dream.
- You know what – I think I can find a way to earn a bit doing what I love to do, but not in the traditional way mainstream bloggers do, and not with my blog the way it is right now.
- I was lucky enough to finally have opportunity to do a couple of sponsored posts in the latter part of 2015 which has been great, but even if I got those regularly (note that I would only do sponsored posts that match with me and my blog), the money would still not be enough to earn much of a living from (though it would help cover the costs of running the blog) and anyway – that is not earning a living from doing what I love!
- I’ve realised that I don’t fit with any of the more popular blogging niches and I’ve discovered that the general mainstream formula for blog success is just not for me. It lacks heart and soul and I am all about heart and soul. In saying that, I’m not saying that it lacks heart and soul to those that blog that way (and probably very successfully) – it just lacks heart and soul to me if I blog that way. My blog needs to be authentically me and come from a place of curiosity and passion that excites and fulfills me or it will all just become a chore and at times during 2015 that is exactly what started to happen when I tried to blog like I thought I was supposed to.
- I discovered that too much time at the computer and on social media drains me and that I needed regular digital detox time which made keeping to a rigid schedule difficult.
- Relative to the dot point above – I discovered that I need to get outdoors and into nature much more in order to feel balanced and happy.
- Ultimately, 2015 and all that happened and was experienced during that year has all had a purpose. I have learnt what I don’t want, what is not for me, and what I do enjoy. I also have realised this:
I want to be a photographer who has a blog rather than a blogger who does some photography
Let’s take a closer look at the year that was 2015
The highlight of 2015 in relation to my blog would have to be the interview I did with Tracey Spicer – ‘Let’s Talk About Breasts‘. That was a bit of a thrill, an honour, and I was proud of that! I interviewed her over the phone and she was an absolute delight to speak with.
The low point of my 2015 would be the loss of my mother-in-law in October (see here and here).
Let’s have a brief look at highlights and/or happenings on the blog month by month:
January – my personal highlight for January was the interview I did with my friend Monica who is also a former work colleague. She is now the Owner/Principal of Cultivate Calm Yoga studio at East Brisbane.
February – is when I wrapped up my series on the 9 Attitudes of Mindfulness and explained my thoughts on The Benefits of Mindfulness.
March – is when I did a book review on my blogging friend Leigh‘s book – ‘Without My Mum‘. I met Leigh online when the book was still in its infancy. I’m so proud of her achievements! She hasn’t stopped there though. She has now launched an online magazine called Mama Love Magazine. Go Leigh!
April – is when I started my Digital Detox series. We also left for our Tasmania trip in late April.
May – is when my Tassie Trip posts started. The majority of posts were travel related like this one and this one in Hobart, this one in Richmond, this one with my top 5 travel lessons learned, this one with a video of wombats at Cradle Mountain.
June – is when I blogged like nobody was reading.
July – is when I guest posted about ‘My Favourite Space‘ over at The Builder’s Wife. Thanks for having me Nicole! It is also the month that I started my 14 Ways to Help Rebuild Self Confidence series.
August – is the month I went to the main Problogger event on the Gold Coast and there were blog posts to follow (see links above). It is also the month where I revealed the story behind my nickname of Min.
September – is the month where I interviewed Tracey Spicer in relation to her ‘Let’s Talk About Breasts‘ documentary. It’s also the month where I opened up the blog to guest posts and many fabulous bloggers took me up on the offer – see here, here, here, here and here!
October – is where in my Taking Stock post I sadly revealed that my mother-in-law had passed away.
November – is where I shared my little tribute to Betty (my mother-in-law), along with her famous Chocolate Pudding recipe (you must try it)!
December – I revealed my royal connections of a different kind and took things a little slower on the blog while we had a beach holiday at Burleigh Heads on the Gold Coast and of course were busy with all things Christmas!
So what do I plan to do during 2016 then?
Firstly, I have decided I am not choosing a word for the year. I’m not making any new year’s resolutions either. I am just going with the flow. That’s not to say I will lack direction or that I don’t have any goals. They are there but they are flexible. It is ok if my goal posts shift! I will follow my heart. I will take steps to ensure that I don’t get overwhelmed, because when I get overwhelmed I freeze and all creativity and productivity goes out the window.
Some other general thoughts, goals & plans:
- I want to give the blog a bit of a makeover, giving it a new sleeker look.
- I’m putting one of these on my wish list for my birthday in May so that I can be more mobile and don’t always have to blog from home! I need to get out much, much more!
- I want to put much more focus back on my photography this year. I might do a bit more training, do some classes, field trips, find a mentor, learn more. Photographers are always learning!
- I want my blog to be more about photography – sharing my photography and experiences – not so much photography tutorials (though there may be some) because there are so many other blogs out there that do that and do it very well.
- I want to ease off the pressure I put on myself to blog to a rigid schedule and blog more organically – still regularly, but when the words come to me, not when I force myself to write in order to meet a scheduled timeline pressure. By doing this – I will be able to get a better balance between the blog and my photography and my posts will be more authentic.
- I want to hit the road. By hit the road I mean – I want to travel around more. I want to photograph things in little country towns. I love old stuff. I want to photograph old cottages, old sheds, barbed wire fences, cattle and sheep, hell – alpaca’s even. I want to photograph old jugs and plates and flowers and teapots and food – so yes, I also want to do more still life photography too.
- I want to create a website for my photography and start creating galleries of work. I want to add a shop to my blog and/or photography site where prints can be purchased and my images can be purchased in various other forms.
- I think Write of the Middle will continue to evolve but will eventually start to align less to the mainstream Aussie blogosphere formula and become a bit more quirky and boutique! That’s a nice way to put it I think! It means that I will get less comments and views but I will be happier, more fulfilled, more creative, more productive and hopefully eventually I will reap the rewards of following my heart and find success in my own unique way.
There is much more that I want to do, many more goals, dreams and aspirations, but that is a snapshot of where my heart is leading me right now.
What are your plans for 2016? Did you choose a word for the year? Have you got your year all planned or are you going to follow your heart and go with the flow a bit like me?
Ciao for now
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT
with Kirsty at My Home Truths for #IMustConfess
What a fantastic summary of your year last year Min. I can relate to most of what you are saying. Blogging for me use to be simply writing words down and hoping the odd person would read it. When started to take it a little more seriously, I started to stress over all the things I wasn’t doing and needed to do. Then I realised that the list just never ends (like laundry). If I am on my computer too long, it drains every happy bubble in my body. Good luck for this year.
Thank you Natalie! Yes to everything you have said! Blogging started off so simple in my mind and snowballed into a great big complex ball of ‘to do’ lists that never ended and made me feel inadequate. I have learnt a lot of really great stuff, but time to take a breath and remember why I started doing it in the first place and go back to doing what I actually enjoy and love. And I totally relate to the drain on the happy bubble when spending too much time on the computer. All the best to you for 2016! xo
I don’t do the word choice thing, either. How could I only pick one? I don’t worry about fitting in so much either. I figure that I can’t please everyone, so I just please me and hope likeminded people read along. My views are okay- I have no real idea what others get but that’s ok.
I only just figured out how to add a subscribe option. I think I have 2 subscribers! ???
I tried the word choice thing but it didn’t feel like the right thing for me to do this year. I need to do more work on not worrying about ‘fitting in’ and ‘being liked’. I’m a long time people pleaser – trying to recover! haha Whatever you’re doing Amy – keep doing it! I love your blog. You’re brave, gutsy, intelligent and passionate and I always enjoy reading your blog posts! Happy New Year! 🙂 xo
I can relate to a lot of what you are saying about the blogosphere right now. The current blogging orthodoxy is over-rated if you ask me. I pretty much break every single blogging rule and I don’t care, frankly. Once i let all that stuff get in my head I lost the joy for it as well, so I’ve given my permission to thumb my nose at it all and do whatever the heck I want – and it’s working. More people are coming to my blog and are sticking around for more. It feels so right to be so wrong. LOL.
Keep breaking the bloggy rules coz you do it bloody well! LOVE your blog and love the way you write. You’re smart, witty, sarcastic and so bloody funny! I’m not surprised that it is working! Keeping doing it your way. Happy New Year! 🙂 xo
I hope that 2016brings you all you want Min. Do what works for you and trust that is right!!!
Thanks Deb – yep I’m going to do what feels right for me and not what I think I am supposed to do. We live and learn! 😉 xo
I just this Min, what a (mostly) wonderful year you had last year, and I am totally into your flow for this year. I find the more I pressure myself with strict deadlines, the more I fail, so I too will be adopting a more of a flow attitude to this year. I love your photography and really look forward to seeing more of it. Happy 2016! xx
Thank you Nicole! 2015 was a mostly good year. I did learn a lot about blogging and it was fabulous to meet so many lovely bloggers last year. I did get quite a bit distracted by trying to blog how I thought I was supposed to though, so I’ll be running to the beat of my own drum a bit more this year. Thank you so much for your lovely compliment on my photography. I hope that 2016 is a great one for you! xo
Min, what an interesting summary of your year and an even more interesting look into the crystal ball. I think the most important thing that you have hit on is the realisation that the success of a blog isn’t how many readers or sponsored posts or rote like comments or replies that you get. Its how it makes you feel when you write and when you read your posts later. Don’t follow formulas, follow your heart. Write what is in your heart. It will be more satisfying and also much more sincere and real to your readers. They might not always understand or agree with what you write but the will recognise that its genuine.
Be yourself – always. Its a most attractive and fulfilling way to live.
Yes you’re right Patrick. I think I needed to go through what I have though to get to where I am now. I felt I needed to learn about blogging and I have spent 3 years doing that (though there is always so much more to learn). The problem is that the more I learnt, the more bogged down I got with stuff that I felt I needed to do in order to be a ‘proper blogger’, and the more stressed I became – which ultimately resulted in a crash and burn of my creativity and productivity! I am going to listen more closely to my heart and follow what it tells me from now on and trust that there will be some like minded people that might enjoy what I do. xo
I’m excited to see what you do this year now Min. I love your photography and would like to see more of it. Especially of the country side and things we don’t get to see very often. x
I’m excited to see what I do this year too Jess! Yay! Take me to the country now! I’m so glad you enjoy my photography. I can’t believe I neglected it so much during 2015. I just felt I needed to devote some time to learn more about blogging and I am glad that I did that. 2016 will be more about my photography. Bring it on! 😉 xo
I totally hear you about not liking the mainstream formula for success! I consider my blog a success because it’s launched my day job as a content manager and copywriter. My actual blog makes pretty much $0!
Yay to you Bec! I’ve heard many similar stories. xo
I can totally relate to your feelings re: blogging and trying to fit in to the formula of what is “successful”. I am no good at it either, and I found I really struggled with blogging through the year because of it. So like you I’ve decided to refocus on what I love, photography and writing from the heart and see where it takes me. All I really wanna do is share beautiful images, talk about books and have a little rant from time to time so that’s what I’m going to do, come what may.
I can’t wait to see more photography Min, you know it’s what I love!
Yep I’m not good at it and I don’t really like it. Funny how we both gave it a go only to discover much the same thing. Loving your photography Kylie. Hope you’re enjoying your studies (unless you’re finished already?). Lots of little changes will take place here at WOTM this year and much more photography. xo
I heartily agree with your thoughts on blogging Min, I think I’ve reached much the same conclusion. I’m sick of all the “tips for blogging success” – I’m the only one who can define what that success looks like for me! I just want to have fun with my blog and enjoy connecting with my readers. #teamIBOT x
Oh me too Janet – so tired of all the tips. My head was crammed to overflowing with all the jobs I needed to do in order to be successful. It was too overwhelming and not fun. My new motto is that ‘I’ll blog to the beat of my own drum from now on’. xo
Great motto Min – you and me both! x
Here, here! 😉 xo
Nice wrap up of 2015 and great plans for the year ahead. In 2013 and 2014, I had phrases for the year. Didn’t have any last year and it was a crap year. So this year, I did come up with a word (Kind).
Hope 2016 is a wonderful year for you Min! 🙂
Thanks Sanch. I hope your word ‘kind’ is helpful to you during the year. Have an awesome 2016! xo
Min – there is so much in this post. So much wise reflection. I really resonate with you saying that you want to be a ‘photographer with a blog’ rather than a blogger who takes pictures. This is me, only substitute ‘yoga/meditation teacher’ for photographer. I will contact you off-line as I’d love to chat creative ideas. 2016 is going to be great! X
Thanks Kathy – took me a while to write this one. Lots of thinking, wandering off, coming back to it, etc. Yes – the big breakthrough was the realisation that I want to be a photographer with a blog, rather than be a blogger who happens to like taking some photo’s! I totally get how this might be relatable to you insofar as your yoga/meditation teaching. You’ve got me intrigued with regards to our offline chat regarding creative ideas. Look forward to it! 🙂 xo
Happy New Year Min! This was such an interesting read and I’m sorry it’s taken me a few days to find you! I hear you on all you are saying. I do think when we listen to the hype of blogging it confuses us (it sure did me a few years ago) so that we become uncertain of what we want from what started as something we enjoyed. You are right to gather your ideas together and come out with one thing that makes you most content. Good on you. I will continue to follow your journey. It was good being a guest poster here in 2015 and I thank you for that opportunity. Come on over to my ‘renewed’ space for 2016 when you get a chance! Denyse x
Happy New Year to you too Denyse. The thing with this blogging this is that each year I learn more about myself and get closer to understanding what it is I’m s’posed to be doing – which is a good thing! I’m sure I’ll be over at your blog often again this year. xo
Love your post Min! I agree with you that we can put too much pressure on ourselves as bloggers – create blog posts, keep up with social media, create products, sell products, monetize …. aye aye aye! I don’t make any money from my blog, however I do my living as a writer – funny isn’t it? Different audience! My blog doesn’t fit into a mainstream nice either Min – maybe we should start our own? 🙂 Best wishes to you for a wonderful 2016 and I look forward to keeping up with your adventures this year too x
Thanks Lyndall! I wonder why it is that as bloggers we put so much pressure on ourselves? Is it because we are all perfectionists or maybe it is some identifiable common quality that blogger personality types have? You are lucky that you make your living as a writer as it takes the pressure off needing to monetize your blog. I left my income earning job in search of a way to make a bit of a living doing something that I enjoyed (for the first time in my life). It’s not as easy as I thought because first I’ve had to work out what I actually like doing and then I have had to do some learning! I have been fortunate to have this opportunity. It has taught me a lot about myself. Best wishes for a fab 2016 and I look forward to keeping up with your adventures this year also! 🙂 xo
I think following your heart is a great goal!! I look forward to seeing some of your pics from the road! I love old landscape photos. I know exactly what you mean about not ‘fitting’ the blogging niche and all your thoughts on that!
Good luck with all you wish to achieve in 2016!
There’s sure to be heaps of pics over 2016 Zita! I look forward to hearing about how you go with your interview and following your 2016 adventures! 🙂 xo
Love this! I’m so very similar to you in my approach to blogging and social media.
Thanks Raychael – glad I’m not alone in the way I am thinking. 🙂 xo
I’ve had to unfollow some blogs because they became so obviously formulaic (well, to me at least). But thankfully that gives me time to find other blogs to read!
Yes I’ve stopped reading some that have become too commercialised, predictable and well just don’t move me at all. xo
Go you for recognising what you want to do and acknowledging that you are going to travel your own road. I love that line that you want to be a photographer that blogs not a blogger that takes photos. I’ve been blogging for 5 years now and I’m only just working out what I want to do. I want to help people but it’s taken me ages to work out how I can do that. I look forward to following your journey this year into the quirky and unique boutique space you aspire to create!
Thanks so much Kirsty. It does take a while to learn, grow and evolve into the right blogging pathway doesn’t it?! It was 3 years of blogging for me in September last year. I’m looking forward to some changes this year! 🙂 xo