April 20, 2014

Lent is over. Alleluia!

Happy Easter, friends.

It's a truly special day when Felix is wearing something other than a graphic t-shirt and running pants.

Here I am, at the end of my Lenten journey. Instead of giving something up, I took something on: I decided to write 40 blogs in 40(ish) days. The math got a little fuzzy toward the end, but we made it.

There were days when I almost gave up. There were days when I literally cried because I was so tired and I still had to write. But I powered through, and here are a few things I learned.

Choosing a topic is the hardest part. On my best days, I knew what I was going to write about. It might spring from a thought-provoking interaction, like Felix's belly question or Melanie's "rules for Facebook." Sometimes, the day's topic was obvious in advance, like Evie's birthday or mine. These were the easiest to write, and I was generally pleased with the results.

On my worst days, I sat down at the computer at 9, 10, or 11 p.m. with no ideas and zero energy. These nights, I made a list or posted a lot of photos with some disjointed filler text. Some of them turned out OK; most were pretty lame.

If I intend to write frequently, I might benefit from a structured plan that gives me topics ahead of time, such as blogging my way through Julia Child's cookbook. If anyone has an original idea for a project like that, let me know.

I enjoy having written more than I enjoy the act of writing. During this project, I occasionally scrolled through my old blog posts. I've been writing Bridge Over Bottled Water since 2005; I blogged my way through my pregnancy with Evie and life events such as choosing our house and saying farewell to our beloved cat and having my purse stolen. Sometimes, I cringe at the imperfections of my earlier writing, but mostly I feel grateful to have these moments of my life documented.

Someday, I will look back and appreciate having 40 posts that tell the story of a period in my life. Right now, I'm mostly relieved to take a break.

Writing every day is too much for me, at this stage in my life. I embarked on this project thinking I would find room for daily writing in my life. I was wrong. The first few weeks, I sidelined so many other important things: sleep, exercise, quality time with Sam and the kids - that I felt less like myself.

This doesn't mean I don't have time to write. It just means I can't commit to writing every day, right now. Once or twice a week feels like a healthier, more natural rhythm. Maybe someday, when the kids are grown up and the house is quiet, I'll have time to write daily. Maybe I just need to take the long view of a balanced life.

I'm still not sure which is my best voice. Successful bloggers have a distinctive voice which permeates their writing, and they tend to focus on a specific subset of topics, such as parenting or business or spirituality. I'm interested in all of those things, plus a whole lot more. 40 days wasn't long enough for me to discern my "true voice," if such a thing exists.

My most popular post was Dear Pinterest Mom, which I wrote with the goal of relating to a broader audience of mothers who put too much pressure on themselves. I got 252 views and a few Facebook likes from friends of friends. Hardly a viral phenomenon, but enough interest to make me wonder if I should write more blogs like that one.

My business blog, The Forest and the Trees, got a decent number of hits, and a few re-shares on LinkedIn. Perhaps I should invest my energy there since it fits with my day job, and the world already has a lot of "mommy bloggers." 

Knowing that someone out there is reading makes it all worthwhile. Even though I sacrificed a lot of sleep for my 40-day project, I loved waking up and seeing if anyone had liked or commented on the previous night's post. I also appreciate the friends from work and church who mentioned my blogs when we met in person. It means a lot to me. It really, really does.

And this is why I'm not giving up. I'm going to keep writing - not every day - but more often than before. I have more stories to tell, and I have people who will read them.

Thank you for coming on this journey with me. Sometimes, it was a slog. Sometimes, it was a lot of fun. Most of all, I'm glad I didn't have to do it alone.

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