I published a post about blogging last week, and a great point was raised by my fellow blogger, Bookstooge; he said he would be interested in learning the reason behind why I recommended connecting a blog to social media in order to share it with more people and invite online traffic. While thinking on this, I began reflecting about the journey my blog has taken me on and how I got to the point I am at today. So this is the story thus far; let’s start a little before the blog even existed and try to understand why it was created.
I was an English major in college, so though I spent a significant amount of time reading, the vast majority of that material was in the form of academic articles or books that I had to study and analyze. While I did enjoy many of these texts (it was my chosen major after all), they weren’t what one might call recreational reading. I was able to read some fun books in my free time, but it was only during intervals between work, studying, and classes. After I graduated, I found myself with an abundance of free time while looking for a job. The position I took was in a warehouse, which didn’t use any of the skills I had gained in my education other than my work ethic and communication abilities.
I spent about a year feeling creatively stunted before deciding to start a book review blog. This would allow me to maintain my writing chops, bring me back into a social circle of like-minded individuals with similar interests (though I made friends at my warehouse job, there weren’t many who wanted to talk about books and stories in their free time; I was lucky to find a couple of confidants who were more than willing), and to create a living portfolio that I could use when applying for writing jobs. I also created social media pages and connected my LinkedIn profile in order to get my writing to as many people online as possible. If there is one thing online dating and job searching have taught me, it is that you have to put out a wide net to capture even the slimmest chance; I set out to bring this site to as many readers as possible.
A common complaint of recent college grads when looking for jobs in their field is that the positions we are trained for typically ask for qualified candidates with years of experience. There is a veritable Catch-22 inherent in this conundrum: most employers are looking for workers with 3 to 5 years of experience to fill an entry level position, but how does one gain experience when the very jobs they are applying for won’t accept them because of their lack of experience? This causes many of us to seek out other opportunities, which often leads to freelancing. I contemplated going freelance, but decided to continue doing my blog for free and applying for positions with more financial stability.
I think another part of the difficulty I had in landing a writing job was due to where I was living at the time; I lived in a suburb of Kansas City, where the vast majority of entry level “marketing” jobs are selling digital cable packages in retail stores or door-to-door sales; starting to see why the warehouse job was so appealing? After a couple of years applying internally for technical writer jobs, and being rejected each time, I moved with my parents back to the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, which has much more opportunity in the line of work I wanted to do. As has been so true in my life thus far, patience proved to be a necessary skill.
Shortly before moving back to Minnesota, I interviewed for a marketing coordinator position, and they offered me the job. Despite this opportunity, I chose to turn it down because it wasn’t good a fit for me financially, and I wouldn’t have been happy performing the position’s duties. I started working at Aldi to keep money coming in while I continued my search. The strange schedule of a retail job that, despite being full-time, didn’t guarantee 40 hours a week gave me more time to create additional content and grow my blog, all the while connecting with people through social media. It all was much of the same until I was contacted by a burgeoning publishing company; they had found my blog and wanted to know if I was interested in submitting for one or more of their upcoming publications. Though they had reached out to me, there was no guarantee that my writing would be accepted, so I figured I had nothing to lose and sent in an essay that began as a rant about social media. Months went by and I didn’t hear anything, so I figured it was another loss; back to work and blogging. Then I received an email saying my piece had been accepted, and all of the work of the previous two years on the blog suddenly seemed like it had started to pay off; little did I know that the benefits had only just begun.
I worked at Aldi for 11 months, and during that time applied for any content writer, copywriter, or technical writer job I could find in the area. During that 11 month search, I had a couple of phone interviews, but nothing with any real traction; it wasn’t until I applied for a technical writer position at a medical device company that my effort saw success. For years I had told myself that all I needed was someone to give me a chance, to get my foot in the door, and I would finally be able to put all of the skills from school and the workplace into good use. I was offered the position, on a contract basis due to budgeting, with the possibility of being hired on full-time. That was four months ago; I am now on track to be hired full-time at the end of our current fiscal year, I have made a good impression (as far as I can tell), and I am enjoying the work. All of my experience, both professional and academic, has come together to create the precise skill-set that was required for this position and, though there are still challenges and I am continually learning, I look forward to going to work.
I don’t know how much of an effect, if at all, the blog had in gaining this opportunity, but I did take a moment and wonder if it had served its purpose. I was getting burned out on writing reviews before I was even hired as a tech writer, and had already phased out my movie reviews. I was stressed about how many pages I was (or wasn’t) reading on a daily basis to keep up with my self-imposed editorial schedule, I wasn’t taking time to enjoy the books, and I knew that I would be spending much more time in front of a computer at my new position. So I had to make a decision; do I continue, or do I stop blogging?
I had initially decided to quit until a chance conversation with a LinkedIn connection that reignited my passion for blogging and sharing my writing online. I would continue Music Monday posts because they were easy content, shared music I love, and I enjoyed creating them. I would do it differently and wouldn’t force myself to post during any specific days other than Music Mondays. I then decided to share more about myself; this blog began with judging the creative work of others for over two years without giving away much information about who I am or what goes on in this mind of mine. The writing I do for work is very dry; creating work instructions and training documents for operators isn’t exactly my idea of high art or literature. This blog now serves as an outlet for my more creative and personal writing; I want it to be honest, relevant, and to share my stories with other people out there who may be able to connect with them.
I have already noticed a pattern of themes in the posts I’ve written since taking this new path. Loneliness, relationships (or lack thereof), love, loss, mental illness and health; these are all themes that have shown up in my essays and poems and they are universal topics that are relevant to many. I will continue this blog until it is no longer enjoyable, or until I get a girlfriend; then the blog gets dropped like a bad habit.