OK, I’ve been putting this off long enough. My ride on the merry-go-round of blogging is coming to an end – I’ve felt it slowing down for some time now – and just like the kid on his favorite wooden horse, that sense has brought me mixed feelings. It’s been great fun – and really served me well in this phase of my life – certainly one needs an activity which will keep one’s mind at work. And if you’re going to look for something to meet that criterion, why not combine a few of your life joys – in my case, food and writing – it’s been wonderful.
But that same sense also brings a real sadness – no one can just stop doing something they love and still escape a feeling of sadness – I think it’s one of the paradoxes of happiness; one never comes without the other.
Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I’m comfortable with my decision. And I wanted to share that rationale with you – hey, we’ve got a mutual investment here – don’t we? Sure we do. And as I’ve said several times before in these pages, if I was ever to give this up, I’d at least leave a note explaining why – to me, that’s part of the deal.
I’m not a ‘bucket list’ kind of guy – not that I’m against goal setting as a part of life – but to me, it’s a little sad to wait until the time when you know it’s coming to an end to do something you should have been doing all along – to me, the bucket list is a part of life, maybe with a different name. But then, anyone with a basic understanding of strategic planning would feel the same. Even so, the advent of my retirement brought with it an opportunity to do things that had here-to-fore not been possible – and yes, I made a mental list of those things I’d now be able to do. Is that a bucket list? OK – whatever.
High on my list was an effort to perfect my bread-making skills, although I suspected that no baker would ever feel as if they had ‘perfected’ their skills – but I knew I could get better with experience. I also planned to begin to work my way through my collection of cookbooks, with the intent of using them in the daily preparation of the evening’s meal. Both of those goals have played out successfully, even if I probably cheat most of the time by using the internet to flesh out the details for our meals, rather than taking on the ofttimes laborious task of searching through my own cookbooks for the same. (Yeah, I know Glenda has a great program/service which provides a search index of her own cookbooks – and if that was a free service, I’d use it!)
I also had hundreds of other things I intended to spend time at – lots of travel, for one, but we soon discovered that requires a lot more money than we had available. And then there was all that experimental horticulture stuff I wanted to do, a la Luther Burbank (one of my heroes), and I suppose there is some of that I do engage in – but the science often alludes me. And then there was the nature stuff – the trips to the woods to hike, and gather wild foods, or just to absorb the mystic – or to the beach to do the same. But those 5 and 10 mile hikes on wild woodland trails never did materialize. In fact, few of my assumptions about how I’d use my freed up retirement time actually panned out – it was the accidental and surprise activities that took up most of my time – and chief among those was blogging itself.
I don’t remember including blogging in my initial activity plans, but I did want to do some writing – and I thought I’d like to get paid for doing that! Hey, why not. In my career work I was doing a lot of writing and I sure as hell was getting paid for that – so, why not?
I began making inquiries to the obvious online sources and soon learned that if I were to write for pay, I’d have to adjust my writing style – to a more journalistic form rather than the laid-back discussion style I was using. At one point, one of my potential editors suggested that my writing style was more appropriate for blogging than for formal writing. It was only then that I began investigating what blogging was all about – and it wasn’t long before I started thinking, ‘If this is my comfortable style of writing, than maybe I should be blogging.’
Over the past 4 years, I’ve averaged better than a blog post a week – I think that’s a pretty good rate – but it’s also one that exacts a price. Not that there isn’t a whole lot of satisfaction – yes, there is. There is something about the act of expressing oneself that is cathartic, resulting in feelings of great satisfaction, and even liberation. I think it’s a secondary human need, and perhaps shared universally by all – although perhaps not to the same driving emotional force for everyone – especially at those times when the downside begins to play out.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here – every fellow blogger knows exactly what I’m saying – and I suspect that almost all readers of this post will also be bloggers themselves. Still, this is essentially the emotion that has been working at me for the better part of the last year, and I cannot let the opportunity pass without giving voice to it – and for just the reasons I have expressed above.
There is a rule of life that came late to me – essentially, that the degree of satisfaction we receive from any endeavor is roughly equal to the amount of physical and emotional investment we are willing to put into it. Simple enough – and I’m sure most of us would readily agree. But I think this simple rule may be the essence of maturity – and no one ever said I matured early. And it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about one’s career, or that same person’s leisure time activities – the rule still applies. And it surely applies to blogging!
As I look back on my early blogging days, I can see that I tripped over this rule time and time again. I overemphasized the joy of expressing myself and discounted my contingent responsibilities. Sooner or later, it dawns on you as a blogger that you owe something to your potential reader – even if you don’t have, or ever will have, any potential readers! Yeah, the early days of a blog are tough – you pour yourself into every post, and you have absolutely no idea if anyone is even seeing it. Yeah, WordPress is good at telling you how many ‘hits’ your post has had, but you still don’t know if those were intentional or just accidental drive-by’s and spammers. And then comes the day when you get your first comment (I mean of course, your first comment from a non-relation!), and your education into what readers are looking for really begins.
But even now, after almost 5 years of steady blogging, I’m sure my brand of food-blogging is only attractive to a very small, distinct audience of readers – and I think most of those ‘regulars’ keep reappearing in the Comments section because they’ve become friends – and this is one of the by-products of blogging that I didn’t consider when starting. But it is one of the elements of blogging that keep you going – it keeps you invested and rewarded too. And it is this ‘friendship’ part that gives me pause when I begin to consider giving up blogging – but then I realize that almost every one of my blogging ‘friends’ are themselves a blogger, and our contacts will stay alive through their own posts and comment discussions.
So, what is it that I won’t miss about blogging? Not a hard question – more than anything, I won’t miss the photos. Have I ever told you how I hated having to take pics of the stuff in my posts? I really did. Not so much the bread posts – ’cause you can take a bread shot anytime, unless you too quickly eat it! But the shots of dinner always gave me trouble – what I discovered was that you could either get some good dinner shots, or you could enjoy a hot meal – not both! And those shots of dinner are easily the most difficult of all food photos to take – and some of my blogging friends were taking shots with cell phones that made my stuff look lame. I tried, but I just never caught on to the photo part of blogging.
Have you noticed yet that there are no pics on this post? A new first for me – and a belated celebration of sorts – humor me.
I won’t miss having to worry about not having an idea for the next post. Every blogger knows this is not because you don’t have a list of ready topics for your next post – we all have one. But food bloggers don’t do posts from lists, they do posts from inspiration – and once your inspiration wanes, you need to be looking for a new muse.
I also won’t miss having to try to rescue a poorly written post – every writer knows the feeling – and it’s always the stuff which was so hard to get out the first time – and when it’s done, you let it sit for awhile, and then you read it again – and you know. It’s just not good writing. Can it be redone? Often, the only reason why we think it can is because it was so damn hard to get done the first time! If our writing head is on straight, we know the right thing to do is to simply toss it, and start all over again – or go do something else while we wait for the next influx of inspiration. Nope, I won’t be missing that.
And for those many times when I couldn’t bring myself to listen to my own inner voice of common sense, and I put out a post that never should have been made public, please dear reader, forgive.
There isn’t much more I can add – except to say a heartfelt Thank You to all my blogging friends who so faithfully tagged along week after week, and most importantly, engaged in a follow-along discussion – often when one was not even worthy. I look forward to keeping in touch via your own continuing efforts.
Now, another one of my lists awaits the newly freed up time I am creating; my list of books I’ve not yet read – I used to have such a reading list, and I really enjoyed pecking away at it. But when blogging came along, I just didn’t have the time to invest in continuing my reading list. So, I’m eager to restart that effort. I guess you could say that’s my bucket list – or as close to one as I’m going to get.
Now dear reader, stay well, try to live a simple life, and work hard at being happy. And thanks for being a part of my world.