I wrote my first blog post when I was 13.
The exact details of it are lost in time, although I do remember my parents insisting on checking everything to ensure I didn't slip in my address and cause hordes of strangers to turn up at my house. This was the despite the fact that, surprise surprise, no one else read it.
In 2011, the internet was a different place. Everything was rougher around the edges, newer and all anyone talked about was Obama and Rebecca Black. I was in eighth grade - that interstitial year between childhood and adolescence. My blog niche was personal style, with a focus on artistic (though amateur) photography. There were a lot of vintage wedding dresses, flower crowns, hair colours and handmade necklaces.
This post is about how I started blogging, the growth of my first blog, why I gave it up (despite the substantial income it earned me), the origin of the site, and what I have learned along the way.
For the first few years, I was clueless. I came at blogging from a naive angle, unaware of SEO, bounce rates, personal branding or anything technical. Using a basic default template, I wrote at sporadic intervals, put hideous filters over my pictures and used irrelevant song lyrics as post titles.
Unlike most people, I did stick with it. I blogged my way through school, slowly growing a readership of like-minded people.
Being young on a platform dominated by older professionals, I stood out. Most 13-year-olds do now have an online presence, though it tends to be on social media. Blogging is a whole different game. It lacks the immediate rewards of an Instagram posts or the simplicity of a tweet. There were also fewer teenagers on the internet six years ago.
From the start, I was often included in 'bloggers to watch out for!' lists. Something about that annoyed me. Those lists imply that you are a bit sloppy now but people should follow you in case your blog gains fame.
By 2015, that began to actually happen and my blog took off. I was attending events, getting press coverage, collaborating with brands and making money. I got caught up in the excitement of meeting cool people and getting heaps of exciting stuff in the mail each day. People often expressed admiration or jealousy of my lifestyle.
Except, it took a lot to keep up my online image. In my real life, I was wracked by depression and anxiety. I worked hard to conceal the self-destructive behavior, panic attacks, and depressive episodes. After all, I had every reason to be happy, no rationale for my withdrawal. The frequency with which I wrote shrunk as my mental state worsened during college. Without warning, I quit posting and took my site offline in December 2014.
For over a year, it stayed that way. It was at the start of 2016 that I decided to start blogging again. Leaving behind the old site with its embarrassing name (a few of you know what I mean) and reek of teenage angst, I began anew. Right from the start, this eponymous site has been the sole focus of my spare time.
I decided to start this site at the same time as adopting a minimalist lifestyle, which is why I made it a central topic. My new content has nothing in common with the old. The name and platform are different. You probably never read my prior site (if you did, thank you for sticking around - you are amazing.)
But the lessons I learned from those early years have remained valuable. After all, sucking at something is a crucial part of becoming good at it. Many of my interests spawned from the urge to improve my site. I have invested in better cameras, taken Photoshop classes to structure my editing marathons, researched until my brain ached, and done everything to try not to suck. All these years of spending each evening honing my thoughts into paragraphs add towards the ten thousand hours it takes to develop this skill. Fitting that in around my school work created a need for efficient time usage, leading to my obsession with to-do lists. I couldn't let my school work expand to fill all the available time. Right from the start, blogging represented an escape from the monotony of school. Having an outlet for creativity was valuable, and much needed.
Blogging at that age forced me to become, in the words of Gary Vaynerchuck, built to take a punch. Receiving criticism of the malicious type on a daily basis left me with the non-choice of becoming immune to it, or giving up. Nowadays, I can delete even the vilest comment or email without even registering the intent, aware of the numerous positive ones which surround it. I'm grateful for that strength which I taught myself to have in order to continue doing it.
Any form of creation is an inherently vulnerable act. You put yourself into something tangible, then loose full control over it as others are free to interpret it as they wish. That has always been a strange part.
Over to you now - I want to hear when you started blogging (if you do) and if you think it was too young or too old. If you don't blog, when did you start reading them? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. If you enjoy this site, consider taking a look at my Patreon page.