February 18th, 2016 was the day I launched my first blog post.
There were no fireworks, wardrobe malfunctions or marching bands, but there was a bullpen full of hope.
I have never enjoyed working so hard for free in my entire life.
Some days, my husband has to pry my hands off the keyboard so I can rejoin the outside world. One gets carried away expressing your thoughts in blog form and then hitting that blue Publish button to the right of my screen. It's intoxicating.
2016 taught me some valuable lessons about this process of becoming a blogger.
It got off to a shaky start.
1. Don't let the lack of technology skills get in the way of publishing a blog.
I admit my computer/technology skills are sketchy. Once I came onboard with the ChicagoNow staff, our Community Manager, Jimmy Greenfield, sent me an email tutorial about setting up my official blog. Avatars, widgets, bots and gifs? It might as well have been written in Mandarin.
Tears were shed. I will never understand this. I'm too old for this high tech format. Damn it and I really wanted to succeed at this.
Do I have to rent an eighth grader?
Then the cavalry rode in on a Metra train complete with a laptop and a bottle of wine to save this damsel in a funk. My incredibly smart daughter, Lena, shook some sense into her whiny mom and set up a "GoToMeeting" to help me navigate this foreign language barrier. Bless her.
Lena set up the basics and helped me down the road when I hit 4,752 roadblocks. Her guidance was invaluable. After all, there is no crying in blogging.
Jimmy Greenfield has been my rock. He is a beacon of bright light beaming from a lighthouse out to the stormy seas of Lake Michigan when I'm flailing for a hand. He offers a daily help thread and his presence every single day is a lifeline. His patience, encouragement and wicked sense of humor keep me moving forward. I shudder to think how many thousands of times he's answered the same questions over and over again. I know it's his job to be there for ChicagoNow bloggers, but he's never made me feel stupid or like a pesky mosquito carrying the zika virus. Thank you, Jimmy. Cheers back to you.
2. I wish Google Analytics had never been invented.
You work so hard on a post. Days maybe. You click your heels like Ron Santo that you did a pretty decent job. Not so fast. Later you look at your traffic report on Google Analytics and see you have 56 unique views and a bounce rate of 89%. For a week. Yikes. I "tried not to suck" but I did. Maybe think twice about this blogging gig. Take up the clarinet again.
But then, four months after you post a blog, it takes off. Suddenly it's being widely read and you wonder what happened. Okay, I won't give up just yet.
Just keep writing. Keep writing. Write again today.
I've learned not to pay too much attention to the numbers game. It can leave you in a dark place and take away the joy that comes from writing. Unique views should never discourage the creative process.
But it is rather exciting to see you have readers in India, Sweden, Germany and the United Kingdom. Oh wait, was that all spam?
3. People you think will be supportive and read your blog won't.
Hey, it happens and there is nothing you can do about it.
4. People you never thought would read your blog are your most enthusiastic readers.
This is the most rewarding gift of blogging. You actually have people that read and enjoy your blog. Hell, some even subscribe and comment from time to time. I never take a reader's valuable time for granted and I am eternally grateful for all of you for reading. Thank you.
5. My blogs are too long.
I'm working hard on this one, really I am.
6. ChicagoNow bloggers look out for one another.
I've never met any of my fellow cast members, but they give freely with their timely headline ideas, biting wit, professional experience and concern for fellow bloggers. Chicago nurtures a bumper crop of talented people in our rich, dark, Midwestern soil. You are an endless resource of knowledge, Magic Eight Balls and mischief. Thank you.
Very Terry survived a full year and my voice has more to say so stay tuned.
There is still much to be learned.
Thank you for reading.
Now let's cut that cake, I'm starving.