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.
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:
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.
We made it. Despite a 3-hour outage from my hosting provider, I managed to get this done. Thank you for joining me on the ride, and I’ll just leave this up here so I can go get my party on in these last few hours of the year. Enjoy the post!