Have you ever done something for ages, suddenly realizing that you’ve been branded with a term that either sells you short or diminishes what you really are? Michael Jordan would eventually try different hats a coach, actor, baseball player and ultimately a very successful businessman, but most people will automatically think of his time dominating on the Chicago Bulls, helping lead the team to 6 championships. No one laughs at his star power now, but to anyone witha few decades under their belt, they still remember Justin Timberlake’s time as the front-runner of ★NSYNC, the ultra-poppy boy band that serves as direct competition for the Backstreet Boys.
I can’t help but think that one day I’ll look at the path behind me and think of blogging in the very same way.
Blogging in Toronto is a Full-Time Gig
Don’t doubt it for a moment—blogging in Toronto is a business unto itself. In a city that’s all too used to being taken less seriously than their neighbours just across the lake, Torontonians work themselves to the bone in response, all to get noticed. Even before we entered the questionable economy that we’re stuck in now, all it took was a look at a Super Bowl Sunday or New York skyline to understand that Toronto wasn’t nearly as flush with marketing dollars as similar industries in American cities. Toronto bloggers maybe vocal, but are fish in a much smaller pond, spreading their message to fewer eyes and ears. It’s a challenging struggle getting through all the white noise of the Internet!
You’ll seldom find anyone who’s just a blogger — Christine’s a digital media specialist; Val runs a PR company; and even though his approach can be somewhat unorthodox at times, before Zach decided to spend a year without a decent bed, he spent his time working as an ambassador for a multitude of brands and freelancing. I see so many bloggers out there writing blog as a side hustle to something else that’s really putting food on the table—most often involving social media, marketing or public speaking from what I’ve seen.
Blogging ain’t easy. The market’s a lot more saturated now that it was back when I casually started in summer 2002, but the bar for creating a solid blog is set so high that writing one for anything other than purely personal reasons means facing very diminished returns for quite some time. But for many bloggers, it’s not about exposure—it’s about carving out the opportunity to experience parts of the world that you might not have seen otherwise, and building your own vehicle to live your dreams, whatever they might be.
It’s news to no one that yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Great March on Washington, where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech that’s forever etched in the collective history of our species. Much has happened in the half-century since, one notable thing being the technological developments that got us to a point where everybody’s more convinced than ever that they can achieve their dreams. In many ways, a blog is a stepping stone to that—a dream you’re trying to reach.
However, the problems come when you don’t know what that dream is.
Casey in Bloggerland
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
It’s not like we all sold out.
Not intentionally, at least.
The world of social media is a dangerously addictive one, luring you in with a taste of free food, alcohol and swag. They’re not asking much—you just need to spread the word. But you see others doing it and the rewards they’re getting, so you work a little harder. And then a little more. And a little more.
When you ford blindly through the darkness, simply writing for the sake of writing without taking the time to figure out what makes you tick first, blindly going so far down the blogging rabbit hole that you can no longer see what direction you’re travelling for lack of a torch—it gets a little difficult to figure out who the heck you are. That’s where I’m writing this from—somewhere deep in the burrow, trying to figure out what’s next.
Some would argue that you could simply drop the blog and move on. That if it causes so much stress and anxiety over making it good, perhaps I should go find something else that makes me happy. That I have nothing to prove, and that I’ve accomplished enough in my life that I should stand proud of everything I’ve pulled off so far, and I should ease back in preparation for the next phase of my life.
And hearing this tell me that these are the people who don’t really get it.
I look at the content some of my peers put out from time to time and wonder how they do it. How do you post daily when you’re posting about nothing? How do you continually post about the same things as everyone else and not get bored? How are you satisfied with just being a blogger, when there’s so much more out there?
My blog is a labour of love—the ultimate representation of everything that is me. I’ve learned over time that while content is king and you can captivate audiences with social media, but memories are short. You may have written thousands of posts, but unless you find a good way to keep old stuff relevant, everyone’s always looking to see what your next trick is. Soon enough, you’re not just a blogger anymore. Maybe you venture into photography. Or being a brand ambassador. Or videography, podcasting or consulting. Maybe you start building your portfolio and your life in social media starts to develop its own unique flavour. Is that when you step away? When you’ve poured so much into something that it may as well be part of you? When my son grows up and wants to follow his dreams, what sort of father would I be if I didn’t pursue mine?
I’m Not a Blogger, I Just Talk a Lot.
This post took me weeks to write. I tried to write it looking at what’s going on in my head as we enter Sarah’s third trimester of pregnancy and the major life change that’s just around the bend. I tried looking hard at the lists upon lists of things to do in the next few months. I felt drained and that I’d written all I could write, but I was wrong.
Originally, I put “I’m not a blogger, I just talk a lot” as a joke, riffing off Big Pun’s classic line from 1998’s “I’m Not a Player”. (And if “I’m not a player, I just crush a lot” doesn’t ring a bell to you, you have some catching up to do!) But the longer I kept it up, the more questions it raised—what is a blogger? Had I finally become one? And—was being a blogger holding me back from so much else in my life?
Perhaps I’m just a guy with a blog. Blogging’s not a full-time gig for me like it is for so many of my peers. In a recent chat with Zach, he touched on something that I hadn’t put words to—that I tend to over-think things. Everything I write has to have purpose. Everything I do needs to be perfect. Rather than swing 10 times and hit once, I try for a perfect batting average every time I’m up to bat.
Because I can afford to.
I’m not a blogger—I’m someone who blogs in their free time, passionate about telling the best stories I possibly can. I’m not just a web designer—I’m someone with a vision, using the tools around me to show the world the ideas rattling in my head. I’m not just a photographer, social medialite or a coder—these are all skills and abilities I’ve picked up on the side to supplement this interesting second life I’ve established for myself.
The point is this — I’m not just a blogger. None of are “just” anything—I’ m innumerable things — a Torontonian, a white-collar worker, a bureaucrat, a writer, a father-to-be, an athlete, a foodie-in-training, a husband, a son, a brother, a technophile, an advisor, a hip-hop head — but ultimately, they’re all just different parts of who I am. I need to combine these things to tell my story. I need to continue developing every facet of my life to define my truth that’s important to me, and make sure that everything I do aligns with that core essence of who I am.
I’m one person, doing all he can to tell his story.
Shouldn’t that be what we all strive for?