Once upon a time, in the summer of 2005, I had just moved into a two bedroom apartment with my four children and husband. We were on a “great adventure”, changing states, changing lives, because Much Had Gone Wrong with the old one. One lonely, cramped day I sat down to my computer and impulsively began a blog I called “Living Deliberately” on blogspot.com. It was just a simple outlet for me to share with family what we were doing, the great new farm-fresh foods we were eating, and sharing my thoughts.I didn’t know it at the time, but I was desperate to feel “heard”.
I could never have imagined what it became in my life. That Christmas my brother-in-law gave me the gift of my own domain, sixredheads.com, and a blogsite. A single column, very simple site with our holiday family photo at the top. My family and I had moved from the tiny apartment to a slightly bigger home in town. I was high on learning how to live debt-free, grow my own “everything”, and quietly conquer the domestic violence that plagued our home. I blogged about anything that came up: new foods, book reviews, opinion, favorite photos, projects…it became a very consistent creative outlet for me and one I clung to.
Lo and behold one day I blogged a review about one of Oprah’s “projects”. It turns out mine was one of the few negative reviews with an optimized title. I didn’t realize what I’d done. My traffic spiked from 50 or so readers to about 80,000 a month. It was my first taste of search engine magic. I learned quickly. Friends in business noticed and wanted tips. I suddenly had an audience.
Writers write because they have to; the words spill. They write because they want to be read. And sometimes, if they are very lucky, they write to be paid. I was hired to teach what I’d learned about “social media” but I never have quite let go of the thought that I blogged because I had to write. The business came to be and quickly grew to a steady income. I learned code languages, design, and how to customize websites. I was still homeschooling, gardening, cooking everything down to our ketchup from scratch, washing 18 loads of laundry a week. We made it out of debt and threw a publicized party. We were finally meeting long-held goals. My husband was still verbally abusing me, sometimes dragging me down the stairs, and sometimes pushing my head into the door frame. Life was getting so complicated.
Then one day something broke. A hair snapped. A final thread. His eyes turned black and we left at midnight. It all sounds very dramatic. It was. One night as he followed me around the house with a 2 foot long piece of firewood for 4 hours and screamed obscenities and I knew that if I didn’t sneak away at the first chance I had, we’d be the next awful murder-suicide story in the news of a family blown away.
The sweet little homeschooling family full of redheads with the pretty website and homegrown food. Can you imagine?
Well. Let’s hit the fast forward button. The business continued. It grew. We spent a year on the road and then settled into my parent’s country home out in the boondocks. I stopped personally blogging. The content became much, much too heavy and dark. The transparency of the past would have been dangerous.
My clients, by and large, had no idea until the year of hiding was over. And then a very strange thing happened. The business grew to be too large for me to handle and the whole subject matter was unpalatable. I started choking on my own rhetoric. I couldn’t stand the words, “social media”, “monetize”, “relational branding”. I went to a very large conference in the industry I served and met someone who had a job idea. I also started paralegal school.
By then my kids were in public school. The new job was ghost writing for sales and marketing articles placed online. Kind of like blog posts but without being all touchy-feely. I jumped at it. I was on the double track for school. My blogging business now had 2 outsourced contractors. Things seemed promising.
But burnout is kind of funny. It builds slowly, exactly like the frog in the pot of boiling water. And when it comes, you just know you have to be drastic. Climb out as if your life depends on it….because it does. For me, one major symptom of burn out is the complete lack of any creative energy. I don’t cook. I don’t notice colors. I don’t reach for my camera. I speak only when necessary. I certainly don’t write.
So I gave my business away. I didn’t price it and try to sell. I just found a competitor that seemed to have his act together and called him up one day. I gave him access to it all and turned it all over. I hope it’s gone well for him. I finished school and didn’t look for a job.
Remember the ghost writing? Well it started to double. Then triple. Another funny thing about burn out: when you start eliminating what is holding you down, buoyancy returns. Breathing beings really do flourish. Becoming a commercial copy writer for a man’s company whose name used to be on my vision board 4 years ago sort of happened by accident, along the way of just trying to BE. Like blogging became a business that fueled my independence from violence. Or maybe one thing really does just lead to another.
Somewhere along the way I closed the door on sixredheads. And then opened a new one to to singingtomyself.com. Somehow the energy there is not what feeds me. It’s not what I wanted. Life is happy. Light. Full of healthy elements. But it’s taken me a long time to remember that writing what is on my heart, or memory, or imagination didn’t have to be a hard thing. It doesn’t have to create great traffic or make me money. It really can be every bit as simple as opening an account and starting to type. No fancy design, no personalized domain name. I even like the generic photo at the top.
One thing I left behind in my past was The Soapbox. I don’t think I have any answers. I just have a story to tell. I’ve been a protestant, in a cult, and found an ancient faith. I’ve been in debt, out of debt, and homeless. I learned what falling in love with a real man is like. I’ve buried one of my children and spent months in the lost world of a Childrens’ Hospital. Having had 5 children that I once home-birthed, breastfed, and home-schooled…then public and private schooled, single parented, and fed whole foods the entire way gives me experiences to share. I read a lot, create a lot, listen a lot, love a lot, garden a lot, mother a lot…maybe I just live a lot. Anyway. What I’ve discovered is that these elements are all parts of the whole. I can’t leave any one of them out and make sense of who I’ve become. I have stories to tell. This is What Worked For Me. Your Mileage May Vary.