From the moment I launched Absolutely Prabulous back in 2013, I felt I’d found my purpose in life. During my blog ‘hey day’, I never felt more myself, more at ease, than when I was in front of my WordPress screen, creating content. Yet now as I sit writing this, it’s been 22 months since I last hit Publish on a blog post. (Yep, let that sink for a minute.) Why the huge time lapse? As any serious blogger will tell you, taking a blog break is essential for one’s sanity and energy. But a hiatus this big? Isn’t it absolute blogicide? (Is me returning to blogging an unrealistic aim now?)
In the early years, there was no doubt about why I blogged or what I got out of it. Week after week, I’d open my laptop to serve up my thoughts on motherhood, marriage and modern life with the occasional side order of life in Malta through the eyes of an expat. As the words flowed from my fingertips, post after post taking shape before my eyes, I’d feel an unmistakable connection to them.
It didn’t matter if I was blogging in the night-time quiet of our living room as the kids slept, amidst the lively hubbub of a neighbourhood cafe, at a borrowed desk in the business-like atmosphere of my husband’s office or from an airport lounge sofa. As long as I was in front of my keyboard, I was doing what I was meant to be doing. I was where I was meant to be. My website was my home and I was never happier than when I was in my ‘blog kitchen’ cooking up dishes of words to serve to my house guests, the readers.
By now you must be thinking ‘Well if you were that happy, then what on earth went wrong?!” Then I realise as this is my first post in forever, there is probably no ‘you’ anymore and I might be talking to an audience of only one: me! So if I’m the only person reading this, I might as well map out the trajectory of my blog as a form of therapy…
Basically, just as each year has four seasons, I think (the previous) Absolutely Prabulous had its seasons too. And if that’s the case, then the first 12 months were definitely Springtime on the blog.
It was 2013. There were no established bloggers in Malta and the whole ‘mummy blogger’ phenomenon as it was commonly known back then was huge in the USA and getting bigger in the UK. I had finally launched Absolutely Prabulous (after a year of dithering); my blog was at the start of its life and after nine years of stay-at-home-mummydom, it felt like I too was starting a new life.
People were actually reading me! I was both astonished and thrilled by the support my ‘new baby’ was getting from my Facebook network. Total strangers excitedly shared my posts and thanks to many of my friends and family scattered around the globe, the blog attracted an international readership quickly. It was blossoming and flourishing as if it was springtime.
And how the readers came. They laughed, cried, got angry, felt moved, related, agreed, disagreed, felt informed…etc…I was in heaven. Here and there I made a bit of money as brands and various entities approached me for paid articles. But I never made it to the big bucks stage and anyway, the thing that brought me the biggest joy was the interaction and engagement from my audience. There’s so much I could say about the feedback and blog love I received but I’d just sound immodest and obnoxious. Suffice to say, it was the thing that kept me going (despite not making those blog riches).
They say ignorance is bliss and I can honestly say those first 18 months of innocence were utter bliss! I didn’t know about the Facebook algorithm or writing for google eyes versus human eyes. I didn’t understand the SEO/keyword thing or tie myself up in knots over subscriber lists. And Instagram and Pinterest were in their infancy.
Then in 2015, after spending that first year solely relying on Facebook to drive readers to my blog, things took a major turn when – without really understanding what it was or what I was meant to do! – I joined my first ever ‘linky’. Up til now, all my readers had been people I knew and their network. Joining a linky moved the blog beyond that community and into a new realm: I was now being read by other bloggers. They were leaving fantastically encouraging feedback and promoting my content. I started being named in Blogs You Should Follow, Favourite Blogs and Top Parenting Blogs lists. I was asked to guest post on other blogs, was frequently featured as pick of the week on linkies and was affectionately nicknamed Queen of the Hashtag on Twitter.
I may have entered the blogosphere the minute I published my first post but now I was officially inducted into an entire new blogging world.
During this same period, three consecutive posts went viral (one of which also caused controversy) and two made the Huffington Post. The sun was truly shining on Absolutely Prabulous: it was Summer on the blog and I basked in the warm glow of the attention my words were getting. My blog’s Domain Authority (a ranking that is used to measure your website’s search engine ranking) was rising. And the icing on the cake came the following year when my little blog was nominated out of 8000 blogs and made it to two awards shortlists, culminating in actually winning the Brilliance in Blogging Award for Best Writer, 2016.
Then it all fell apart (or at least I did)… I fell out of love with it. Hard. And hit blogging rock bottom. Hard.
If 2014 was the year of emergence where I excitedly introduced the newly launched blog to my Facebook world,
And 2015 was the year of recognition and validation reading and being read by other bloggers, going viral etc,
And 2016, was the year of ‘growth and glory’ forming blogging friendships, gaining further recognition in the blogosphere and winning an award,
…Then 2017 was the start of the big blog ‘breakdown’…
…It may have been Spring in the calendar year but it felt like Autumn on the blog. Just as trees lose their leaves, I was losing blog traffic. At the risk of sounding egotistical and attention-seeking, my confidence was badly affected as I started seeing my content ‘failing’ (as I saw it) on blog linkies or collab projects. Where I’d once enjoyed good interaction from fellow bloggers on these linkies, suddenly my views were dying. Week after week I’d find myself reading, commenting and sharing others’ posts in my usual spirit of pay it forward and supportive blog behaviour. But where there had previously been reciprocation, acknowledgement and blog camaraderie, now there just seemed to be an abyss of blog silence.
I started to unravel: a horrid (and unexpected) downward spiral into self-doubt and crumbling self-confidence. It sounds pathetic and childish now; obviously there is more detail to this story but suffice to say, I felt like my blog was out in the cold. Like I said, Autumn.
Add to this the huge disappointment of discovering that my blog award wasn’t an automatic blog income door opener with brands wanting to work with me…
…And my existing frustration over insufficient blog earnings, rubbish Facebook views and confusion over blog direction was well and truly compounded.
After an unsettling, only partially productive 2017 – punctuated here and there by successful content including We Are Not the Same and a spoof news article about a Beauty Craze Victim and the very surprising ‘consolation prize’ of another awards shortlisting LINK) – 2018 arrived. And with it (I thought) a chance to address the confidence wobbles, switch my blog brain back on and finally have a proper crack at growing my blog income. I had plans to totally revamp the site, launch an online shop and so on.
However, two significant events occurred on the personal front in 2018: Arrival of Vivi and a Huge Life-changing Move causing a major distraction. Add to this, a seriously intense summer schedule of study supervision, new school prepara tion and sports/activities…and it’s not surprising my blogging intentions were scuppered again. There are plenty of mum bloggers who’d have handled all that alongside normal daily duties and still managed to bash out several posts a week. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them!
2018 turned to 2019…and six months of not publishing anything seemed to have actually helped re-energise me. I started off 2019 lining up successful brand collaborations with the organic skincare brand Ellie & Carl, Valletta boutique hotel 66 Saint Pauls and the chocolate cafe Sunday in Scotland and had the clear objective of building a consistent blog income.
But a chance conversation with someone in January led to a job interview in February that led to me going back to work in March (not in my intentions at the start of the year!) for the first time since becoming a mum in 2004.
The adjustment and the specifics of the job itself – which in hindsight was just too difficult a role to take on after such a long career break – once again threw a spanner in the blog works; the last thing I wanted to do after a day at work and mum duties in the evening was sit down in front of the laptop to blog. AGAIN, my blog drive left me.
At this stage, it was obvious I’d finally reached Winter on the blog.
I needed to be honest with myself. Were any of the above circumstances concrete justifiable reasons for the long blog break? Or was I in fact just making excuses? Did I even want to run a blog anymore? Did I need to just change direction and find a new niche (if you can call writing about anything and everything my ‘old niche”) Because the fact is, I found it a relief not to have the obligation of thinking up content…
Lo and behold, come September 2019, I realised I actually missed writing and the cathartic benefit of blogging. So, I logged onto my site, hit the plugin update button for the first time in nine months and promptly crashed my entire site!
After months of delays, dealing with numerous individuals and IT companies in effort to fix the problem, I discovered my domain absolutelyprabulous.com – that had built up a decent SEO score and Google ‘mileage’ – had lapsed. Upon going to renew it, I learned to my dismay that it been bought by someone else. The tosser refused to reply to any of my emails and I had to accept my website had gone. Several more months followed and absolutelyprabulous.blog, that you are now on, was born and the process of building it began. On the plus side, I’ve developed a hell of a lot of new site building expertise (much burning the midnight oil and beyond took place). On the down side, 80% of the comments have been lost. I must at this point, give a shout out to the fabulous Josh of Growth Gurus who saved me from near hysteria and salvaged the essentials from the old site and migrated everything across.
Anyway, Tadaaaaaa…welcome to my brand spanking new site! So, where do I go from here?
Pass! So much has changed in the last two years that I hardly even recognise the blogging landscape anymore and kinda feel like a fish out water returning to blogging (you wouldn’t think I’d been ‘in’ it for nearly five years before my break, would you?). I’d probably make a non-blogger’s eyes glaze over if I tried to explain all the technical changes. From a simple human angle however, I can tell you it feels like the blogosphere has less soul than it used to. And this isn’t my imagination or paranoia as I know several of my peers feel this way.
Many – if not most – of the bloggers who formed the fabric of the blog scene, during my ‘peak’, have now left altogether. Some have returned to full-time work, some have simply moved on to other passions, while others have decided it was no longer viable to continue documenting family life as their children get older, join social media and form an opinion about their childhood being aired (something in fact mentioned by Dadventurer in his farewell to blogging post). Those who’ve stayed on have largely scaled down their posting frequency and social media presence, either due to burnout, falling out of love with it, realising that they no longer want to do it for commercial reasons or that they couldn’t make enough money from it.
But perhaps the most nerve-wracking part about returning to blogging? How do I say this?
Apparently, in my absence, everyone’s become a blogger. Or should I say influencer. (So maybe that makes me a ‘womenfluencer’?)
The blogosphere has exploded since I started and it feels like you can’t turn around without running into another blog. Frankly, there’s something called saturation. And I can’t help wondering if there room for all of us. And it’s not even called blogging anymore really. Nope, now everyone’s an ‘influencer’. And I’ve got to tell you, there’s something about this term that has never sat well with me. What is it I find so unsettling?
I mean, surely one of my goals as an online writer is to in fact influence my audience in some way (even if it’s just to influence them into clicking on my blog post links ha ha)? And obviously I want my words to strike a chord with my readers, offer a benefit or have some kind of purpose (be it informative, moving or entertaining). Even better: using my blog to spread awareness about something (such as Scandal That Rocked Malta) or lead a reader to think about an issue in a different way.
If that’s what influencing is, then great, I’m all for it.
But if it’s to work with every Tom, Dick and Mary brand promoting product after product, to the point where it’s just not believable or sincere, then that’s not for me. Just to clarify, I am talking specifically about my own perception of the influencer phenomenon and where I (do or do not) see my place in all that; no slight intended against my fellow bloggers.
Then there’s the final dilemma…WHAT the actual heck is my niche?
Aaargh…the dreaded niche! The utter bane of my blog life. THE thing above all other things that I lost the most amount of energy obsessing about over the blog years. As ANY blogger will tell you, it’s drummed into us that in order to build a successful blog, it’s essential to have a niche subject area: that one core thing our blog is known for.
Thing is, I just CANNOT write about one subject all the time. Bores. Me. Rigid. After all, none of us are just one thing, right? Aren’t we are all made up of many aspects? How can I pick just ONE thing and only ever focus on that? Seriously, how!
Also, I may have been frequently called a brave writer and am probably viewed by many as quite a confident person (upon first meeting at least). Yet just because I’m not a shy retiring wallflower, it doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly discovered a new desire to join the bold bloggers out there merrily sharing the private details of their relationships (well alright I may have done that once *blush*).
And I’m definitely NOT willing to deliver nitty gritty reviews of sex toys. I’d rather boil my own head.
Nor am I comfortable joining the ranks of amazing women talking about body confidence, sharing Instagram photos of their post-kids jiggly mum body (oh alright, I may have done that once *blush again*)…
So I guess that’s it. Feck it. It’s still Mum Life. It’s still Malta Life. It’s still Modern Life.
And um…Mid Life. Ssssssshhhhh.
As for the question of whether returning to blogging is realistic after such a long break. Well I guess that’s up to you dear reader. I can tell you I plan to do things a bit differently this time around (YES I promise that includes writing shorter posts after this marathon read!).
I guess we’ll find out together…
PS. If you have any feedback regarding the site, things that could be improved in your opinion, mistakes/glitches you spotted, don’t hesitate to let me know! Either drop a line below or feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.