Jessica is a freelance writer, editor, and blogger who lives in upstate New York. She writes about parenting and education at her blog, School of Smock and partners with Stephanie Sprenger (of Mommy, For Real) on a collaborative blog and book project about female friendship called The HerStories Project. Although she has a doctorate in educational policy, her almost three year old toddler is not impressed by her academic qualifications.
I started my blog, School of Smock, about 15 months ago. Like for many writers, starting a blog was a calculated move. Almost done with my dissertation, I wanted to transition out of academia and into freelance writing. Maybe I would turn my dissertation into a book about resilience in children. Or maybe I would write something completely different. Maybe I would return to my first career out of college, journalism.
I wasn’t sure, but I knew that I – someone whose last official writing credits dated back to the days of dial-up modems and pagers – needed a “platform,” a way to showcase my writing, attract an audience, and gain credibility as a writer and even (maybe) as a “thought leader.”
At first, like many bloggers, I was consumed by the logistics of blogging. Should I have a self-hosted blog or is WordPress.com good enough? What is a widget anyway? What if I want to change my theme? What if I hate Google Plus?
Meanwhile, I was experimenting with my voice as a writer. I started off writing about education primarily, and then ventured into writing about my own life as a first-time parent of a toddler, about work/family balance, about books and writers, and finally about female friendship. A year ago our “other blog” The HerStories Project was born, and out of the stories that we collected from that blog, we published a book in December.
What no one told me is that there’s a “blogger sophomore slump.” (I credit my dear blogging friend Deb from Urban Moo Cow for the term.) All of my “peers” – bloggers who started their blogs around the same time that I did – seem to be experiencing it. Some days it’s all we seem to talk about.
Because a blog often seems to take on a life of its own. The demands are relentless: reading and commenting on others’ posts, keeping up with the newest developments about social media, joining and maintaining relationships in blogging communities, adapting the design of your blog to reflect your style, brainstorming topics, participating in “events” (everything from Twitter parties to linkups). It’s exhausting. And soon you’re not sure how all this work – and it is work! – has anything to do with your goals as a writer.
It starts to dawn on you that you’re a small fish in a very big ocean. You do have friends, ones whose friendship and support have come to mean more to you than you ever expected. But they’re mostly smaller bloggers too. You realize that your “big break” – when your posts will all become viral, when literary agents are calling you day and night, your debut on The Today Show – may not come any time soon, or ever. You start to question why you’re doing all this every day. Your toddler starts to whimper when you walk near the laptop. (“Mommy, no more ‘puter again.”) You sigh and close your computer when you look at the day’s stats. Maybe you keep your laptop shut for a day or a week. It feels good to go back to your old life.
But something – a comment from a reader, an article that you just can’t keep from writing about, a friend’s encouragement – makes you open that laptop again. You write another post, maybe a little more warily.
And you do it again the next day, and then next. Because you want to write, and this is how you write now, for better or for worse.