This week is just full of milestone events. Yesterday, Stephen and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary! We exchanged thoughtful gifts, wrecked ourselves with an amazing brunch at one of our favorite restaurants (of course), and then relaxed around the house for the rest of the afternoon. And, because I was adamant about not cooking on our anniversary, we ended the day with take-out pizza and the ballgame on TV. Chill, low-key, and pretty damn perfect, if you ask me.
For those of you who took the time to send us anniversary wishes on Facebook and Twitter, thank you so, so much! Each message made us smile and reminded us how lucky we are to have so many wonderful people in our lives.
While yesterday was a significant day in my life as one-half of a whole, today is another important day worth noting. Five years ago today, I launched Taste As You Go!
When I look back on all the work I've put into this blog, I'm somewhat amazed that I'm still so passionate about it. The road hasn't always been a smooth one to travel on, and there were times when I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and walk away from it all. But I didn't give up... I worked my way through the bumpy parts and emerged from the frustrating moments with my goal of sharing my love for food and cooking still (relatively) intact.
So... what have I learned over the past five years?
The biggest lesson that blogging has taught me is that comparison is the first step to losing authenticity. When I first started posting my recipes and restaurant reviews, the simple act of sharing was enough to keep me motivated. It was enough for me to keep clicking on the bright orange "publish" button. But, somewhere along the way, before I even realized it was happening, I fell into the comparison trap.
Observation: Other bloggers are getting more comments on their posts than I'm getting on mine.
Conclusion: My readers -- are there any?? - don't like what I'm writing about. I need to model my writing style after the more popular bloggers and write about what they're writing about.
Observation: Other bloggers are negotiating more brand partnerships and brand sponsorships than I am.
Conclusion: My blog is going to become irrelevant because I haven't figured out the secret to getting sponsors. I need to find a way to attach a big brand to my writing or risk losing readers to the bloggers who are consistently publishing sponsored content.
Observation: Other bloggers style their photos much more professionally than I do.
Conclusion: My decision to show food "as is" or minimally-styled was the wrong decision, and readers aren't going to take me seriously because I didn't set up a perfect shot.
Comparing myself to other bloggers was crippling. I started making lists of things I needed to change about the blog -- immediately, if possible -- in order to gain more readers, traffic, followers, etc. I sought the advice of the bloggers who were more popular, who had a larger readership, who seemed to have success dancing at their fingertips. What resulted was a huge internal conflict between making my posts (and whole blog, in general) more SEO-friendly (which was "absolutely necessary," according to many) and staying true to my own voice (which was "important above everything else," according to all).
How the hell was I supposed to game the system and sound like myself?
As expected, the more I followed the so-called rules of successful blogging, the more I sounded like... well... everyone else. The more I shifted my blog to fit the mold, the more I disliked blogging itself. Even though the efforts were paying off -- readers were leaving more comments, brands started to take more interest in me, and readers were complimenting me on my photos -- I was, ultimately, unhappy.
I forced myself to admit the ugly truth -- Taste As You Go was my blog, but there was very little of me on it.
Right then and there, I made the conscious decision to stop making comparisons and to refocus on my voice and my editorial style. If I did that, then everything else would just fall into place naturally.
And it has.
Will my blog ever land on a "Must-Read" list or a "Don't-Miss" list? Probably not. But that's perfectly okay. Making a list like that doesn't define success for me. As long as I'm putting something of myself into everything I write, then I'll be a successful blogger. And as long as blogging continues to make me happy, then I'll continue doing it.
I'm just going to continue doing it my way.
To all of you who've stayed with me this far, thank you for reading. I've loved getting to know you over the years, and I hope you'll continue reading since there's so much more I want to share. I welcome your comments, whether here on the blog, via Facebook or Twitter, or through a simple email, so don't hesitate to let me know what you're thinking!
Here's to the next year of Taste As You Go!
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