Blogging Pause for Thought

On blogging: the possibilities are endless

01/06/2016

Space for the Butterflies - on the mummy blogging preconception

I have to whisper because I think I’m about to commit blogger blasphemy, but here’s the secret: I don’t want to become a pro blogger.

I spent three years at university, one year at law school and then another two doing my training contract before I qualified into my day job, and in the nearly 12 years I’ve worked in the profession since I think I’ve achieved a reasonable measure of success. It goes against everything English and everything female to admit it, but I’m good at my job, and I enjoy it.

I’ve also very much enjoyed making a little money through my blog, because it’s always nice to have a self funding hobby, but right now I have no intention of making it my full time career.

But it means that whenever I’ve gone to something like BritMums or BlogCamp there’s always been a moment during the day, no matter how much I’ve really really enjoyed the rest of it, when I feel I’m on the outside looking in.  There seems to be an assumption that we all dream of giving up the day job to work from home writing advertorial for brands and squeezing in a bit of affiliate marketing, and I know I don’t fit that mold.

If it is your dream, that’s wonderful – go for it. But when did it become the accepted collective dream? And a collective dream for a particular niche of bloggers too; there doesn’t seem to be the same ambition assumed about knitting bloggers, or any other craft for that matter.

The beauty of blogging is its versatility. Over the years I have got so much out of blogging, a little money yes, but also some very dear friends, some amazing experiences, a record of the beginning of our life as a family in a way that my memory will never be able to compete with long term, and the impetus and excuse to write.  It’s paid unexpected dividends too – the ability to write to a deadline and in a readable style has proved very useful in my day job, as has a working knowledge of social media. I wouldn’t swap it for the world.

But blogging can also be the mainstay of your income, give you the chance to be a stay at home mum to your small children and make that an affordable choice, or launch you in directions you might never have imagined.

You only have to look around to see where blogging can take you if you dream big enough – Alice’s Telegraph column is touching and funny and a brilliant read; Katie has just finished writing Hurrah for Gin the book which I cannot wait to read; and in a couple of weeks I’m going to have one of my favourite days out of the whole year thanks to Kat dreaming up Blogtacular and making it a reality. All amazing things achieved by wonderful women who had blogging as the first step on the way to making their dreams a reality.

What bothers me about the “sponsored posts and affiliate marketing” model is not that it doesn’t apply to me, or even that there are sessions at blogging conferences where I’m not the target market, because that would be spectacularly arrogant. It’s the idea that that’s the natural end point in blogging, the aim rather than simply an option.

As a collective group, and, as much as I hate to admit it, as women and as mothers, it’s all too easy for our hard work to be somehow diminished, in this as in so many other things; for those who work long and hard at pro-blogging to have it written off as a quaint little hobby, for those of us who write just because we love it to be told we’re only in it to review free lunch boxes.

If we present just one model as being the status quo then I think we run the risk of colluding in that perception, of keeping ourselves small by presenting a limited ambition.  And yet now is exactly the time we should be shouting from the rooftops that there is nothing that you can’t achieve.

I wish there was a magic wand I could wave and say, “and this is how we do just that! – onwards and upwards” but life is never that simple. We can’t individually turn a tide of public opinion, and inaccurate though it may be, as a label “mummy blogger” does come with a certain stereotype attached.  But perhaps the starting point is simply in acknowledging it ourselves, and by our words and actions making sure that that stereotype is exactly that – farcical and a million miles from the truth.

The truth is that blogging is the stepping stone and the rest is only limited by your imagination and the number of hours in the day, and that’s a message I think we can all get behind – even if all you want to do with your blog is practice your writing and have a little nudge to take nice photos of your children.

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  • Julia @ Rainbeaubelle 01/06/2016 at 7:29 am

    I agree with this too Carie, I don’t write many sponsored posts and sometimes feel I’m a mug for not doing so; the truth is I just don’t want to most of the time and I like to write for an outlet, a hobby and to be creative. I’ve never really thought of it like that before but it does seem to be the expected endpoint. Xx

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:10 pm

      Thank you – I’ve been so glad to see it’s not just me!

  • Caro 01/06/2016 at 8:34 am

    I think I could have written this – or most of it – if only not half as eloquently. It has absolutely become the expected endpoint, but that also means it has become one the main measures of “success”. And sometimes it also feels like sponsored content must actually be what people most want to read, because it seems like an unstoppable tide washing away content that started from the heart, rather than an affiliate link.

    Perhaps that is a little harsh, and I know that opinion is driven by what I want to, and enjoy, reading. But sometimes now it all feels very formulaic. It feels as though in order to have your blog read, your Instagram photos seen it any other kind of online interaction, you do have to aspire to the collective goal and devote the kind of hours to it that not all of us have, let alone want to.

    I can’t subscribe to the dream because it isn’t my dream. But sadly what I’ve always wanted – to share my stories and contribute to the “me too” collective – no longer seems realistic. I feel very much that there is a “me” but no “too”. And that, I suppose, explains why I currently write as much as ever, but no longer share it online.

    I don’t able to Marshall my thoughts very well right now, but I suppose I’m trying to say that I agree. Anyway, I love your blog just the way it is. For your beautiful writing, lovely photographs and absolute realism. I’d hate for you to change it, and so I’m pleased that your dream is not that dream 🙂

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:12 pm

      Firstly it’s lovely to hear from you – I miss your writing in public! I think and I really hope there is a still a “too” for the “me too”, but perhaps because we can’t or don’t want to spend every hour of every day on social media working towards the dream that isn’t ours we’re just not so noisy about it!

  • Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely 01/06/2016 at 9:34 am

    Oh my goodness, Carie, you’ve just summed up exactly how I feel when leaving blog conferences. And also how I feel about blogging as a whole. I toyed with the idea of full-time blogging but know that it’s just not for me. I love my blog and, like you, I’ve earned a little bit from it, worked with some fantastic brands, and received some crazy good opportunities but that’s it … that’s as commercial as I want to go because anymore and it would stop being my blog. I like things to tick along at my pace without the pressure to be everywhere and do everything … mention google+ and comment/pinning threads in my company and I shudder. Saying that, I really would like to work in the online world and also to write but I’m more of a company/strategic person so would do much better working for someone or something other than myself … controlled creativity 😉

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:14 pm

      Controlled creativity sounds fun! Back when we thought that I might be the stay at home parent and H might stay working I thought about using my blog as a platform for a new career but in all my dreams it was a portfolio and a leaping off point, not the end itself. And now that I’m working, everything that’s not work needs to be fun!!

  • Rachel @ The Ordinary Lovely 01/06/2016 at 9:39 am

    Also, I’m probably one of the spectacularly arrogant person who can’t sit through certain sessions at conferences because I don’t believe they’re for me. If it’s a toss up between a talk on affiliate marketing or the chance for a glass of wine and a gossip, 99 percent of the time, I’d opt for the latter 😉 x

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:15 pm

      That’s not spectacularly arrogant, that’s good use of your time! Arrogant is complaining about it, absenting yourself from sessions that don’t apply to you is common sense 🙂

  • Emma 01/06/2016 at 10:27 am

    Hi Carie, this is a lovely post. It resonated with me as I think this is why, having set up my blog and excitedly gone along to Blogtacular, I ended up with that ‘outside looking in’ feeling. I have allowed this to make my blogging wind down to nothing and now feel a bit confused as to where my very real excitement disappeared. I think you may have provided me with a bit of a lightbulb moment so thank you! I hope you have a lovely time at Blogtacular this year. Emma x

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:51 pm

      Don’t let it put you off blogging – the more dreams and ideals the merrier!

  • sustainablemum 01/06/2016 at 12:09 pm

    I will admit to not reading any blogs that are plastered with affiliate links and sponsored posts, I don’t find them in the least bit interesting to me they have no soul. if that makes sense, a bit like a puppet being controlled from elsewhere. I am also not their target market. I also struggle with blogs that are full of advertising not least because we are still waiting for fibre to be installed in our village and our band with cannot really cope with blogs that are full of adverts (they take forever to load). I don’t blog for money/income and cannot imagine ever doing that. Nor can I ever imagine ever attending a blogging conference. Having said all that I do enjoy reading the posts you write about the blogging events you have attended they are the closest I will ever get to them! I am glad you are not going to change paths as I would struggle to know what to do as I love coming here to read your posts!

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:52 pm

      Oh there’s no worry about my changing paths – I’m far too stubborn for that!

  • Sherry 01/06/2016 at 2:18 pm

    I really resonate with this post, at the moment, and for the future it would seem I have no intention on wanting to pursue it as a career. I did it as a little diary for me to keep track of J’s progress and the good and not so good times. I guess it’s one of the reasons I was worried about going along to a blogging conference, I’m still yet to! But it’s nice to read that I’m not in the only boat. This is a great post Carie, I hope the conference is great for you!

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:53 pm

      Please don’t let me put you off blogging conferences – they are so much fun, and it’s lovely getting to meet people in person you’ve only known through a screen – they’re worth it even if there are a few sessions to sit out and chat instead!

  • Teika Bellamy 01/06/2016 at 5:49 pm

    Well said, Carie! Thankfully, I began my personal blog (the Marija Smits one) with the hope that it would connect with a few souls (mothers, wild women and sensitive, creative folk mainly). As it appears to be doing that, I’m very pleased. 🙂 But being a pro-blogger was never a goal for me. It does sadden me that it does appear to be the only ‘goal’ for so many, but as I’ve learnt from my publishing work, writing the book and getting it published is not just the only ‘goal’ either. There’s so much value in the creative process itself, and yet, our society often forgets that. Best wishes to you. xx

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:54 pm

      Thank you – I think you’re so right about the value of the creative process in itself being overlooked and it’s such shame

  • Maddy@writingbubble 01/06/2016 at 5:54 pm

    Oh, I agree and I’ve been feeling a bit pressured by the mummy blogging world really – it feels like there’s such a lot to live up to! Logically, I know here’s no need to try and be like everyone else and I wouldn’t even want to be, but if I’m not careful I start accidentally seeing a certain type of blogging as the ‘successful way to do it’ and judging my blog harshly. In terms of blogs I like to read it’s never those heavy with sponsored posts because even when they do post interesting content you have to wade through the blander stuff to find it. I love reading about personal experiences and interesting thoughts rather than reading product reviews. I think the beauty of blogging is that there’s something for everyone and you’re right that we need to celebrate different types of blogging more. A great post, Carie, that’s actually helped me come to a decision – thank you! Thanks for linking to #WhatImWriting

    • Carie 01/06/2016 at 10:55 pm

      Well you’re very welcome! I know what you mean about feeling the pressure to conform – I think that’s why it niggles at me; it’s not that there’s a problem with the way anyone is blogging, it’s the assumption that rankles

  • karen 02/06/2016 at 1:06 pm

    I love how my blog is my blog, and I can do whatever I want when I want. I can sometimes dream about possible money avenues but then again, I love the fluidity that my habit of writing has and my freedom!!

  • Katy (What Katy Said) 02/06/2016 at 2:13 pm

    Oh I do love when you write like this Carie!! When I first started blogging I did want to become a pro blogger in the common sense of the phrase. But 2 years in and I am tired of the treadmill. I do make a living from my blog but it is more to me than that, it is a way of connecting with others, sharing my experiences of allergies and other bits and bobs surrounding kids. It has unleashed my creative side, shown me how much a really love taking photos and just given me a new lease of life. Was just reading Rachel’s comment about choosing wine and I agree (although make mine an orange juice haha) I know what I want to know about the ins and outs of blogging and now I just want to come away from conferences feeling inspired, whether that be from a fab talk or from chatting with others. I so wish I had chosen Blogtacular this year, I think it would have been right up my street!! xxx

  • Antonia 02/06/2016 at 5:39 pm

    I’ve been deeply into blogging in the past, I still generate an income from one blog, BUT I can’t cope with blogging conferences any more, nor the drive to be a pro blogger, when I want to write what I want to write, not what ‘sells’. The plus point of a blog is that it is a place where I can write without pressure, and ‘pro blogging’ takes all that away.

  • Eline @ Emmy + LIEN 03/06/2016 at 12:14 pm

    I always love your reading your thoughts on blogging, and this is no exception. I really get where you’re coming from – I was recently told off by someone State side for not “monetising” (ew) my blog with advertising and the like. I thought it was so unfair. I do approach my website, and the blog on it, from a mostly professional point of view, but that just happens to look a little different to that accepted “norm”. What made me extra cross was that I did second-guess myself for about a day! Then I decided I like my site just the way it is and if I let the commercial side take over completely it simply wouldn’t be a fair representation of myself anymore. I think that’s what accepted norms like this do: they take away your individual creativity, which is a very sad thing and should definitely be contradicted whenever we have the chance!

  • Sophie Lovett 06/06/2016 at 11:45 am

    Great post – and one with which I am in complete agreement! I got really confused this time last year when I went to my first (and only) blogging conference. It was so lovely to meet in the flesh some of the people I’d already ‘met’ online, and there were a few interesting titbits from the various presentations, but ultimately I came away feeling like the whole ‘blogging world’ really wasn’t for me. I was never going to be a pro-blogger, had no interest in sponsored posts or reviews, o what was the point? Fast forward a year and I’m in a much better place with it all. I’ve re-evaluated what & how much I post, and through keeping things focused on my key ‘real world’ priorities (writing and parenting) am finding the blog working much better for me. And it continues to throw up some really interesting connections and opportunities that I would not have access to if I gave up my corner of the blogosphere completely 🙂 xx

    • Carie 07/06/2016 at 9:37 pm

      I think there can be huge value in blogging conferences even if you’re not a pro blogger; you just have to choose the right one, and I guess there’s an ability born of experience to judge which sessions are going to be right for you and which you’re really not the target market. I go to the ones I find inspirational 🙂

  • Becky Cowley 14/06/2016 at 10:24 am

    Great Post and I totally agree!
    I made the decision a while back to stop, I found that reviews and things like that don’t come naturally to me and I’m never that happy with the end result. Once I let go and just wrote what came naturally and what was in my heart and what I loved to write about I feel much better about my blog and about blogging.
    I find at conferences etc I just skip the monetising sessions and take that time to catch up with some friends that blogging has introduced me to

  • sally 05/07/2016 at 10:21 am

    This is like a whole different world to me! I don’t know whether it’s because I don’t particularly ‘mix’ in the ‘Mummy’ blogging circles (sorry, that sounds a terrible phrase) or whether it’s because I’ve never been to any blog conferences but I had no idea that monetising your blog was such a big thing never mind kind of the established goal. It seems slightly crazy, surely there are thousands of blogs out there, thousands of parenting blogs out there, they can’t all make money from their blogs, the whole supply and demand thing would not work for that. And this is so blindingly obvious that surely a huge proportion of bloggers must realise this. Plus, for the vast majority of parenting bloggers I would imagine that the old saying ‘nothing fails like success’ would apply, surely as soon as a blog becomes dominated by affiliate links, sponsored reviews and adverts, a huge proportion of the readers will be turned off. So perhaps this really isn’t a collective dream at all, perhaps it has just become a slightly fake but very glossy image of blogging. Perhaps it’s almost like the blogging version of people dreaming they can win the X-factor. When in reality it’s just a tiny, tiny proportion who make it – those with lots of talent, a single minded drive, a bit of good luck and good timing and those prepared to really work at it. Or maybe I’m talking complete rubbish and there is this strange, crazy world out there of which I’m blissfully ignorant!