typhoons, the business of blogging, and the definition of success

we had another typhoon this week. thankfully the damage was less than the last one that rolled through Taipei, but my apartment still suffered four leaks and a brief power outage. coincidentally, our cable and internet were shut off a few days before the storm. not because of it - in fact we couldn't seem to determine the reason why at all - but we had to rely on spotty cell phone internet for nearly a week.

so I haven't been very present online. I've been focusing on the things I need, rather than the things I think I need to do. Ive been taking time to tend to the things that call to my heart and fill me with joy (which is certainly not checking Facebook.) I've been reading and journaling, visiting friends and taking scooter adventures, playing video games and drinking wine, shooting photos of raindrops while the typhoon blew by.

and you know what? the world didn't fall apart.

being forced to take a break made me realize how much I've been struggling to find balance. not just in time spent working vs not, but in how I spend that work time. meaning: for every hour I spend writing it feels like I spend four hours tweeting, creating pinterest graphics, optimizing for SEO, reading other people's content, and trying to come up with witty and interesting yet original hooks to get someone to click. if you're a blogger, I'm sure you understand this struggle.

I want to share my work, but I don't want the sharing to become more important than the work itself. but even more, I don't want the outcome of my work to become more important than the work itself.

part of this realization comes on the heels of reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. she argues that there's merit in creating something, just for the sake of creating. that completion itself is an achievement, and a rare one at that. and you have to believe you are worthy, regardless of the outcome. [can you tell she's friends with Brené Brown?]

that seems to go against all the advice I see out there on the internet right now. create great content, promote it ruthlessly, build community and gain popularity. saturate the market to gain brand recognition, stay focused and on-message in everything you do, share other's content to be useful and position yourself as an expert. these are the things I've been hearing, over and over. that - and the promise that if you do these things you will achieve xyz.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with that method. I mean, last month I wrote about how art cannot exist in a vacuum. and as a business model, it makes sense. but my blog is not a business, and I never intended it to be. I'm not getting paid, guys, I'm here because I like it.

now that blogging is a valid career choice, it seems like the expectation is that all bloggers must be professionals. I'm not here to say you shouldn't take your work seriously. if you want to treat your blog like a business - you can. and in fact, if blogging is your legitimate job and page views keep food on your plate then you probably should.

but though your blog can be a business, it doesn't have to be. you don't have to analyze every post and spin yourself into a frenzy over comments and page views. it is one hundred percent ok to simply write because you love to write, to take photos and share your life because you enjoy doing it.

which brings me to this: you can be serious about what you do, without having to live and die by the results.

for example: though it's been up for a week, I don't have any comments on my last post about hiking Mt Qixing. on the flip side, somehow my post on the Nugget Point Lighthouse in New Zealand has almost 5,000 page views in just two weeks. so what happened with my hiking post that made it such a dud? there's a few ways this train of thought could go...

maybe I shouldn't have posted about another hike so soon after my last hiking post. maybe no one actually cares about me climbing mountains. maybe my pictures suck. maybe I didn't promote it enough on social media. maybe I posted at the wrong times and people just didn't see this piece existed. maybe my hook wasn't interesting or my pinterest graphics are lame. maybe I gave too much information and sounded like a guide book. maybe all my readers have abandoned me because my blog has been so sporadic this year and my 15 minutes of mediocre popularity are over.


no one commented on my last post. that sucks, I thought the photos were beautiful and I really enjoyed that hike. oh well. time to edit photos from last weekend's adventure and write about that.

maybe one of these reactions [and subsequent corrections] will get me more pageviews in the future, but I can tell you which is better for my metal health. and I think the distinction comes down to this: how do you define success? if you measure it by external standards, there's no guarantee that you'll ever achieve anything. I don't care how many formulas you follow - you can't control the actions of others.

but if you say success is simply making the best work that you can in that moment, and being brave enough to put it out in the world? you can do that. you can do that every damn day.

the point is, the choice is yours.

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