Ten Years of Blogging Killed My Writing. I had to walk away to get it back.
I started my blog in 2004. I used to describe it as ‘writing a memoir-in-progress,’ and it was. I was just telling my story to a tiny digital group of badass women walking down the same shitty infertility road. For the first few months I blogged, I had maybe twelve readers on a busy day.
But then bad shit happened, and the readership of my blog jumped. Suddenly my lifetime dream of being a writer came true; people wanted to read what I wrote (a huge improvement from my years as a wildly unsuccessful poet). At the height of my blogging popularity, I was getting thousands of readers a day. I was hooked.
I became addicted to internet fame. I can’t tell you exactly when the switch flipped, but it did.
I became a blogger and I stopped being a writer.
“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss — you can’t do it alone.” — John Cheever
Of course I wanted an audience. Like most writers, I’m a narcissist—and I’m also a recovering alcoholic, so I’ve got extra. Which is a self-centered statement on its own, like “Hey, look at me, I’m the best at narcissism.”
It turns out blogging was the ideal nutrition for this self-involved addict. The immediate connection to readers was utterly intoxicating, far better than reading poetry on a stage. I was hooked.
I began to be careless. I wrote about things with zero sensitivity, pissing off my core original audience—those lovely and amazing twelve women—by writing dumb crap I didn’t think through, all for the sake of clicks.
It worked! My readership grew and the comments poured in, all telling me I was brave and pretty and smart. I’m not gonna lie; I ate that shit UP. I fucking loved it. I bought my own fucking myth.
I started shaping what I was writing to generate reactions rather than tell a story. This only got worse as social media became a thing, and likes and followers and “being a brand” became all the rage. It wasn’t long before it all became toxic — and I’m not talking about the trolls.
It was poison to my writing. Eventually I didn’t care what shit I tossed up on my blog. My grammar became terrible, my tone inconsistent, I was often less than honest, and my writing was substandard. People noticed, and called me on it, but by then my self-perception was so completely jacked I just lumped those people into the “trolls” column and ignored what they had to say.
Growing my audience and my Facebook fans and my Instagram followers and fucking Pinterest (of all things) became far more important to me than writing anything decent. Every single word I wrote became calculated to do one thing: make me more “famous.”
I was so deeply into it I didn’t even see how it was unraveling my life.
I was no longer a story teller. I was a story SELLER. And I wasn’t that good at it, either.
Okay, here’s where I add the caveats.
I watched this process happen to many bloggers over the years—and you know what? For almost all of them, it was fine. Smart, savvy women saw the chance to earn a living doing something they enjoyed and ran with it, crafting an image and eventually a brand that brought in real cash.
Were they still sharing deeply intimate stories about their lives? Of course not, because they aren’t idiots. With a large audience comes scrutiny, press, and publicity and they knew it was time to dial down the personal and intimate details. They found a balance between respecting their personal boundaries and connecting to their readers.
I missed that memo. Instead, as my audience began to waver and turn from lovers into devoted haters (hey guys! long time, eh?) I doubled down and got even more crude. I mean, I wrote a fucking post about how to give blow jobs—and we won’t even talk about the sponsored post where someone gave me an expensive bed and I wrote primarily about how it was for sex.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place to write about blow jobs or sex on expensive air mattresses. I’m saying that place wasn’t my fucking blog, where supposedly I wrote about politics and infertility and parenting and sobriety.
That post got me mad traffic, though. And thus the cycle continued.
About five months ago I got serious about writing that book I’ve claimed to be writing for the last decade. But suddenly I was hit with something I hadn’t had in many years: writer’s block.
Blogging for a living is an incredible pressure cooker. It’s a nonstop cycle of writing, sharing, snapping, posting, reading, going to conferences, creating power points, learning public speaking—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Great bloggers become social media managers, graphic designers, web developers, and marketers to succeed (and this is why so many personal bloggers have successfully transitioned into full time marketing gigs, and frankly, why you should probably hire one). Blogging was the hardest job I ever did.
Walking away was HARD. My identity was all wrapped up in being “CecilyK, that crazy crude blogger chick with bright pink hair who never stops swearing or being inappropriate.” I thought that was all I had to offer. Letting it go was almost as hard as getting sober.
Now, three years of emotional distance later, I can see the truth: it wasn’t blogging that killed my writing. It was chasing fame and cash that did it. Blogging is innocuous, but fame can be fucking fatal. You need to have a strong central core to bear fame in a healthy fashion, even if that fame is just on one little corner of the internet. I had it when I started, but over the years, I stopped maintaining my own center—so it deteriorated almost to nothing.
Stepping away from blogging helped restore my clarity and my sanity. So did finally starting therapy, and trying to rebuild my spirituality. This work got me back to the core of who I am, and guess what? That switch finally flipped back to the correct position — from blogger to writer.
I realize it was always here; after all, I did some pretty fantastic writing during my decade of blogging. But it’s taken me three full years to wrestle down my inner narcissist to a manageable level so I can do the work that needs doing and just write that fucking book already.
Today, I’m telling my story. I’ll do the selling after it’s written.
“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
— Barbara Kingsolver
Cecily Kellogg is a writer who lives in Philly with her husband and daughter and too many pets. She is working on a book about how much infertility fucking sucks. Yes, she still does have a website.