Blogging: The First Year
What? How can it be? This week marks the one-year anniversary of À La Prochaine! What a year we’ve had together, and a fast one at that! Gabbing over cocktails one evening, my friend told me that I should start a blog. I cradled that advice for the next year, investing most of my time building a project that would not only fulfill me, but encourage others to ditch the couch and explore! Since À La Prochaine’s inception, I frequently tell anyone who will listen that they too should start a blog. Sharing and connecting is pretty great. Trust me.
It’s true. The blog has been an exceptional adventure, and often, I’m asked about what actually goes into building and maintaining… well… this. The generalized answer: as much as you want to put into it. However, for me the answer is: a lot. I decided to informally spout my reflections, setbacks, surprises, and general advice.
So here goes:
Blogging. It can be…
- Time-Consuming: Blogging is a second job; however, it doesn’t actually feel like a job. Although, you put as much time into your website as you’d like. I want À La Prochaine to look professional and thoughtful with hopes of attracting a good crowd. Therefore, for my goals, time is a smart investment.
- Preparations for the website took me a year of consistent work- testing layouts, learning HTML code, and fiddling with widgets, etc.
- Once the blog launched, I established corresponding social media pages, which collectively see 2-3 hours of my time daily. That’s around 21 hours per week liking, connecting, exchanging ideas that support the blog’s mission, generating interest in my own content, and supporting fellow bloggers by sharing their content. Social media is important in gaining a following. Think of it this way: If no one is reading your work, what’s the point?
- Generally, posts take about 10-12 hours per week to draft and finalize. I realize this sounds outrageous, and it likely is, but I was a writing minor in college. I trained to draft, read aloud, and draft again. The current record for revisions is 52. French literary master Gustave Flaubert coined the phrase, ‘Le Mot Juste’ (the perfect word), and that is my bred mantra.
- Don’t forget the planning, photo-editing, excursions, and outreach!
- Expensive: When the blog first launched, I set a goal for four excursions per month. This was great until my wallet started coughing dust bunnies and cobwebs before the next pay cycle. I don’t receive any sponsorship for the blog, and I’m not paid to review the places I feature. Therefore, until I win the lottery, I try to set a goal for one adventure per month to review. Call it, ‘a great investment in well-being’, if you will. In between, I try to find other budget-friendly ways to be a devoted francophile: Books, movies, recipes, expat interviews, historical snippets, etc.
- Intimidating: The internet can be an unfairly cruel and critical place. Earlier this year, I received an email from a reader saying that my writing is terrible, and I whine a lot. The feedback stung, but it didn’t change anything. In my first published post, I wrote about how special it was to share the Eiffel Tower with a loved one for the first time. The second I clicked the ‘Publish’ button, I shutdown the computer and hid under my covers in fear of judgement from friends, family, and strangers. While À La Prochaine isn’t intended to be personal all the time, I enjoy sharing private snippets on occasion. I’m a real person with thoughts and feelings, not just some random gal gallivanting across scenic New England and joyfully stuffing herself with macarons and baguettes! I really do want to connect with readers.
- Constantly Evolving: I’m always thinking of ways to improve the experience here. Sometimes the website itself will require a tiny facelift, or I’ll add new user features, like an email subscription. Also, the scope of your original idea could completely change as time progresses. That’s okay! Keep it fun, interactive, and interesting!
- A Connected Experience: By far, the best outcome of blogging has been befriending fellow francophile bloggers globally. They’ve been inspirations, fun collaborators, mentors, and just a delight to know. I never thought it possible to meet so many other people who equally share this passion!
- Your Own Schedule: There’s no frequency formula for blogging. Some bloggers post new content several times a week. Some only update every few months. Unless you are a full-time blogger, you have to play the balancing act. With a full-time job, finding the time to plan, write, and connect can often feel tedious. In the beginning, I ambitiously assigned myself three or four new blog posts per week. This was completely unrealistic for my schedule- between a career, marriage, and other personal commitments, I simply couldn’t produce that much content in such a short amount of time. When those posts were miraculously published, they were lousy. Therefore, I stopped putting so much pressure on myself and stuck to my own schedule. I have a giant spreadsheet of all the items to be featured, and I explore each one when life permits. After all, this is supposed to be FUN and not STRESSFUL!
- A Lesson in Being Your Own Boss: This slightly piggy-backs off of the previous tidbit. At the start of this adventure, my husband wisely reminded me that this is whatever I want it to be. He was right. Sometimes, that’s hard to remember. A LOT of great bloggers exist out there. Some publish fascinating posts four times-a-week religiously. Some write beautifully. Some are skilled at maneuvering social media- don’t compare yourself to them. Don’t try to be them. Borrow concepts and strategies that may work for you, but inevitably, you are your own boss. You don’t have to be Ernest Hemingway for every post, either. Sometimes, my voice here is formal, and sometimes, it’s casual. This is your show! If your content is interesting and thoughtful, then people will read, and that’s what matters most.
- A Platform That Can Combine Your Hobbies: Outside of my French obsession, I have several other interests: art, art history, design, painting, cooking, reading, music, and film. If only we had more than 24 hours in a day! Since I can’t control time- not yet at least- I like to use my blog to keep my many interests active. I’ll experiment with French recipes or read a book about life in France- all to be shared on À La Prochaine. Really, doing so keeps me accountable for prioritizing the things I love. Our passions are often lost in the shuffle of the everyday hustle-bustle.
- A Strain on Relationships, Sometimes: Since maintaining a blog can be time-intensive, other areas in life might be temporarily put by the wayside. Having a successful blog requires prioritization. Therefore, declining invitations to parties or other outings becomes slightly more frequent. For me, the work week doesn’t afford time to jet-set to feature destinations on a Wednesday, for example. The only realistic time for travel is the weekend. Most are supportive and understanding of the commitment and sacrifice, because À La Prochaine makes me happy, and we always manage to make time for each other at some point. However, some have struggled with disconnect. You simply do the best you can because your happiness matters too!
- Totally Rewarding: Psssst… here’s a secret. All the work is worth your time. I promise! When you put love and thought into your passions, and make them public, the positive feedback is a darn great feeling. A deep sense of accomplishment presents itself when a friend who previously held a strong stance against France suddenly wants to stop me to chat about crêpe recipes. That, my friends, is success.
There you have it- an informal primer on my blogging life here at À La Prochaine. Keep in mind, these are my personal experiences, but they are worth sharing nonetheless. I’m sure year two will bring just as much discovery. As for you? Whether you love fitness, cooking, knitting, sports, movies, books, theater, or even button-collecting (yep, that’s a thing. Google it.)- the internet, when used properly, is a wonderful platform to connect with others who share the same interests. If you’re already a blogger, please do share your thoughts below in the comments. So in short, start a blog, then tell me about it so I can subscribe and follow you! Do it! Do it!
À La Prochaine.