Life is a lot like the old folk tale of the Little Red Hen. To paraphrase for those unfamiliar with the tale, the plot follows a hen who finds a grain of wheat and (SPOILERS!) over time cultivates it into a loaf of bread through harvesting the grain, threshing it, milling it into flour and baking it. Through the story, she asks other animals for help, but met with a smug “Not I” every time. When the bread’s baked and she asks who’d like to help eat it, the same animals eagerly volunteer — but by then it’s too late; since none of them worked to create the bread, none of them get to partake of it, either.
Sadly, the same applies to our ideas — no matter how amazing they seem in your head, unless you make them tangible, you’ll find it really hard to get others to believe in you.
Don’t tell me what I can’t do.
“Can’t” is a word I’ve heard often in my life.
“You can’t do that — you need to focus on your studies so you can become successful!”
“You can’t write on that — it’s too risky! No one will care!”
“You can’t chase your dreams — it’s time to grow up!”
Though my current situation makes me immensely glad I never threw the towel in on the #BloggerLife and kept pushing forward, there were plenty of times I nearly listened to the people who didn’t see my vision.
People often ask me how I do it — how I manage life as a husband, father and full-time 9-5er while still managing to push content through the blog.
It’s no secret I spend hours working on each piece — scrawling ideas on notepads while commuting to and from work, rewriting relentlessly to refine my posts; putting in copious screen time with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to make sure my photos are not only pixel perfect, but just the right fit for the tales I weave; and spending so much time obsessing over details that I’m glad this isn’t the only thing putting food on the table — as long as it takes to get my posts perfected, my family’d starve in a month.
I definitely take this blog seriously, and while my style and methods may sometimes seem unorthodox, I create standing firmly behind its potential for growth and standing for something at its journey’s end. I think before I blog — a lot — having learned that I want content I can look at years later and still be proud of what I accomplished with some words on the screen.
My #BloggerLife’s embedded in every aspect of my blog, driven by lofty beliefs and ambitious goals as I work to tell the best stories I possibly can, hoping to inspire others to live the best lives they can.
This year, not only am I not rushing through the last of 2014’s content like a madman, I’m ending the year on a solid note, more confident in my content than I’ve ever been!
That Year I Lost My Way and Had to Climb My Way Back Up Again.
…I wanted to write something really special to close out 2014. This year has been the most defining yet in my life, challenging everything I thought I knew about love, balance, blogging and fatigue. 2014 wasn’t all smiles as I lost myself to the blogosphere, living life to the pulse of my email inbox with its media pitches and event invites, but I’m coming out the other side a better man for it, more knowledgeable of who I am, what I stand for, and the things I’m willing to do support that.
2014 was a big year — I got a glimpse of what life as a full-time blogger could look like, and revelled in it. I was finally getting paid for my work; seeing my social media metrics grow in ways I could’ve never previously imagined; and thought myself poised for a glorious future with bigger clients, bigger budgets, and a nest egg big enough to eventually spend all day — every day — working at my personal brand, creating stuff that’d leave its mark on the world.
But it was too much, too fast — I woke up one morning realizing I no longer recognized the path I travelled on. The things I chased felt artificial, the things I thought I wanted seeming to crumble to the touch as soon as I laid hands on them. It felt like I was a marionette, and lost track of who was pulling my strings.
Sometimes you need to clear everything out to find some breathing room.
Things are cluttered in the Life and Times of Casey Palmer right now, constantly busy without feeling like I’m getting anywhere at all.
Work’s frenetic, with a haphazard project that rarely affords me time to think, much less work on the deliverables I’m assigned; my grandpa lost his battle against cancer on November 22nd, succumbing to the illness after months spent withering away; and when I wasn’t dealing with these, I practiced my role as a family man, constantly doing whatever I could to make life perfect for my wife and kid.
But there’s always more to do, always somewhere to be. It’s like we say at my job — good work gets rewarded with more work. You’re constantly on the grind, eventually realizing this time you spend being all the right things for all the right people leaves little time, space or energy for you to just do you — for me that meant the #BloggerLife I’d built these past years and the hours of work I usually dedicate to it.
With everything going on, blogging just felt impossible.
“Aiyyo, I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I can’t get up
Aiyyo, I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I can’t get up
Aiyyo, I’m slippin’, I’m fallin’, I gots to get up
Get back on my feet so I can tear **** up.”
— DMX, “Slippin'”, Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood (1998)
Sometimes you need to take a real honest look at yourself.
As 2014 ends, I’m sitting on a stack of ideas, my backpack a few notebooks deep weighing more than the weight of their pages — it’s the weight of their potential that holds me down.
I’m older now, feeling my way through a young person’s game. My bones creak, I don’t bounce back like I used to — a younger generation came into the blogosphere, leaving us 30-something bloggers feeling like yesterday’s news. They run Vine. They run YouTube. With so many channels I’ve never considered, seeing content go from 30-minute blog reads to 3-minutes YouTube videos — when Vines are seconds long but rack in millions of views, you know things done changed!
While I’m still loyal to the Twitter and Facebook audiences I’ve grown over time, these platforms are past their prime. Zach Bussey compared Twitter’s rise and fall to a zombie apocalypse, everyone’s Moms got themselves Facebook accounts — the end is nigh and content creators need to ask themselves some questions: what do they want to gain? Why do they still blog? Will they change to keep up with the times, or are there other things they should do with their time?
And that last question’s exactly what I’m trying to answer every day I’m on the grind.
It’s been a little while since I’ve sat down by the notepad and laid my soul bare for the blog. I’ve hustled immensely through the summer, but now that we’re closing 2014 out with The Months of Ber, I’m finally able to see the forest from the trees and take stock of my life.
Blogging’s fallen from grace as my preferred activity du jour — I’ve been rediscovering my long-abandoned artistic side and trying to take the mélange of my life and build it into something amazing. I’ve seen so many of my fellow bloggers fade into obscurity as other priorities wrest control — some would argue it’s all part of growing up; you either transform blogging from a hobby to a job, or you eventually just… quit.
I mean, what blogger simply writes words on a screen and calls it a day in 2014? Blogging today involves photography, slaving over edits in post-production to get the look, add the watermarks, tag all the metadata possible. It involves social media strategy, recognizing that no two platforms are alike, so you craft different messages for each of your audiences, all the while looking for opportunities to grow where countless others are trying to do the very same thing. It involves branding and advertising, packaging everything you stand for into something digestible so people get you when they come across your site, and not write you off as just someone who gets free stuff to write.
But a year of fatherhood changed my perspective, my goals and my priorities — where once I strove to take the crown as the best blogger in Toronto, clearly crushing the craft with every piece of content I put out, for me, the free swag and luxury trips don’t gleam the way they used to. You can’t come home roaring drunk from brand-sponsored parties when you have to wake up and take care of your kid the next morning. You can’t run from place to place on a media trip and uproot your child’s routine and expect them to be okay. With major life changes, you adjust to the new challenges. You figure out what makes you tick.
I’ve written this post more than a dozen times this week, piecing thoughts together from a million directions to figure out what comes next. Fresh from a summer of contests, events and family gathering, I spent a lot of energy killing it these past months, leaving me unsure what’s left in the tank to see this momentum through the year’s end.
Brand development’s a marathon, not a sprint. You might have some hot content one day and trick yourself into thinking you can strike lightning twice with the piece after that, and again with the one after that.
But creating amazing work is seldom so simple, and I don’t care whether you’re writing your first blog post or you’re raking in more than most people’s mortgage payments every time you hit “Publish”, all content creators need reminding that not everything they put out will be mind-blowing… and they need to learn to accept that.
Getting Used to the New Casey Palmer
At this point in my life, my story’s that of a man who’s trying to raise a family, working entirely too hard, and far too ambitious for his own good, convinced her can do anything if he only uses his mind, time and effort to make it happen.
When I see the trips my fashion blogger friends take, or some food bloggers I know are hanging with chefs like Susur Lee, I catch myself thinking, “I need to step my game up! I need to show these bloggers what I’m really packing and tell ’em what time it is! I need to get my hands on all the opportunities and all the things!”
But come on — let’s be real.
There aren’t too many big-name bloggers I know who haven’t made blogging their full-time gig, or used a blog as a launchpad into doing something full-time that started with the words on their screen. Trying to blog daily’s already admirable — I tried to do it in 2011, and only hit 324 of the year’s posts. But trying to do it while working a full-time job takes a ton of hard work and discipline. And to add parenthood on top of that?
Some days it feels like success isn’t even an option.
But then I take a few deep breaths, look at myself in the mirror, and remember it’s not all about the glitz and glamour.
Free stuff is nice — getting paid to write content is even better — but that’s not what people relate to. People want to hear about the time you went away to a writer’s retreat to get some quality time in with your writing, only realizing after the 3-hour drive that you’d forgotten your laptop’s power cord, and the outdated battery only gives an hour of juice to work with.
People want to hear about the time your brother changed his cell phone number without telling anyone in the family, leading to them scouring the lands to see whether he’s still breathing for fear than an angry ex-girlfriend had exacted their revenge, leaving his corpse in a ditch for us to find.
People don’t want to hear about your #BloggerLife and all the stuff you get that you think they should get with a little disclaimer at the bottom of all your posts — they want to hear about your life and maybe even share their experiences with the things going on when you’re not dealing with life in the blogosphere.
Any blogger can write a good story if they try hard enough — use good grammar; be emotionally compelling; and don’t be long-winded when driving your point home.
But it takes truly gifted bloggers to find beauty in the utterly mundane, touching on things we’re all thinking, but too often lack the words to give it voice.
And that’s what I should strive for as a Dad blogger — everything else is just window dressing.
The Path Ahead….
Once upon a time, in an age where tweetups were all the rage and Twitter wasn’t the self-promotional tool it is now, I’d think nothing of going out 4 or 5 times a week, soaking in what Toronto had to offer and never having a shortage of adventure to write about.
Now that my story’s changed, I need to change right along with it and see the world in a different light to find new inspirations for the stores I share — less waiting for the next awesome email to come in, and more appreciating what I already have in all its abundance.
And if that isn’t a life lesson, I don’t know what is.
Until the next time,
Tell your wife, tell your kids, tell your husbands:
And out of nowhere, like a dreaded cold that chills your bones, The Months of Ber have fallen upon us, signalling the time to check on our affairs and tie up loose ends wherever we can.
With summer wrapped up but a wealth of work still sitting on my plate, I looked at my desk and didn’t even know where to start. When I added cleaning my desk to The 2014 100 back in January, it was no joke — the pressed wood of my 2% stake in my home has long vanished under piles of unfinished ideas, half-read books, and a plethora of resources I got with good intentions, but ultimately used them so seldom that all they do is take up space.
It’s time to figure out what really needs doing in my life, and with luck, I can enter 2015 much farther ahead than I was a mere 9 months ago.
Another birthday in the bag and I’m long overdue for a solid blog post. Admittedly, part of my recent absence involved my two-week vacation from work and my choice to spend more time with my family, time stolen away by the 9-5 I work to keep him well.
But though all else seemed secondary for a while, with my gaze transfixed on the small adventures we’d have in Ottawa and Toronto, I’d never stay gone forever, the blog too much a part of me to abandon it without good reason.
I entered 2014 thinking I knew exactly where my blog was going next. I’d just had a kid less than two months before, eagerly writing on the brand-new fatherhood experience and everything I was learning from it. I’d written up The 2014 100, my annual list of 100 things I’d like to try doing through the year, looking more optimistic than my list did for The 2013 100 as I better understood who I was and what I wanted. Through either dumb luck or all the years of hard work paying off, I was lining up paid opportunities and access to plenty of product reviews — it felt like the year I could finally say I “made it”, one of Toronto’s bloggers making money for their craft, with the potential of calling blogging a “job”.
But the truth isn’t nearly as simple as that. Six months later, my posts are infrequent, my mind’s tired, and I feel like my #BloggerLife’s more confused now than it was when the year began.
It might be time to take a look at my blogging and figure out what it is I’m trying to accomplish.
In the vicious wild of the blogosphere in a creature mighty impressive, but rarely seen. He’s ferociously protective of his young, carving out territory to tell their tales without overexposing them to the dangers of the world. He creates for his peers that may never see his craft, more likely to follow sports teams and tech trends than they are tales of families and minivans. The Dad Blogger is very real, very vocal, and though small in number, are a group of bloggers you’d better keep eyes on for the future!
The Rare Beast of the Blogosphere: The Daddy Blogger
The Mom Bloggers are a reckoning force, hundred if not thousands in number here in Canada alone, having built solid distribution channels through sites like Parent Tested Parent Approved, Mom Central Canada and the Yummy Mummy Club. Many other breeds of blogger love to hate on them, seeing their success with Brand Ambassadorships, Twitter parties and vast social media metrics, wondering why they can’t have a piece of what the Mom Bloggers have cultivated for themselves. And not only have Moms gotten together to form a blogging ecosystem unto their own, the mother as the classic parental figure lends itself well to the medium, providing plenty of opportunity for sharing on similar experiences, whether they’re birth stories, breastfeeding or the barrage of emotions included with a child’s milestones like their first steps or that fateful morning you drop them off at daycare.
But Moms aren’t the only parents — Dad Bloggers do exist, even if there’re only a handful of them.
Most male bloggers I’ve come across aren’t fathers, and of the ones who are, they often don’t blog on their fatherhood experience. The guys I know blog food, they blog tech, they blog on all these things that society deems “masculine”, but the joys, trials and lessons that come from fatherhood aren’t a topic often discussed around the digital water cooler.
So far, I’ve tracked down just over 30 Canadian Dad Bloggers (aka “Daddy Bloggers”, or my personal favourite, “Father Bloggers”). 30. 30’s a mid-scale blogger event in Toronto. 30’s an average attendee number at a popular Twitter chat. 30’s a group, but it’s shockingly small for the size of a niche that spans a nation!
A quick look at the 2011 Canadian census would have us expect 2,054,645 fathers across Canada, yet 99.99853989% of them are oddly silent with their stories.
Where are the fathers? If they’re not sharing their stories online, where are they sharing them?