The first time I started a blog it was a travel journal chronicling a semester abroad in Australia, 2004, and the long way home my then-boyfriend and I took after. It was a convenient way to keep people in the loop, before newsletters were really a thing. Once home I got on with the business of finishing my degree in Chemistry. I didn’t really have much to say in public.
Writing my thesis, and then starting a PhD, I noticed certain trends in conversation: Any time I mentioned my academic work, I got blank looks, or worse that inhale followed by big eyes and leaning away and the words “Oh, I was really bad at chemistry in school.” Usually closely followed by a hurried escape.
I couldn’t let that stand, so I started writing about chemistry for a lay audience. 2006 was a time when ‘the blogosphere’ was just becoming a thing. Authors actively sought out other writers in their field, there were response, discussions and links back and forth. Does anyone except me still remember blog carnivals? Those were fun and a great way to connect, as were blogrolls. Blogrolls should make a comeback. I found community among my people.
The PhD didn’t go well. I wasn’t suited to the environment. No-one is really suited to the environment, of course, but my undiagnosed neurodivergence exacerbated the issues that many people face in completing a PhD. Just as my work as a blogger was gaining traction, with radio interviews, newspaper articles, and as guest blogger from the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meeting, I burnt out. Badly.
I could go into the details of why and how, maybe one day I will, looking at it through the lens of my new autism diagnosis, but it’s not relevant right now. What is, is that I lost my words. Knowing I had to quit the academic track that I was on, and struggling to write my PhD thesis. I spent months staring at the wall, occasionally hulk-smashing my way through it. I wish I could reach through the decade that has passed since then and tell my past self that it will be ok… ish.
It took me three years to really let go of that work. Talk about a long break-up. In that time I started a handful of blog projects with more or less success. The online landscape was changing. I started writing a lot more on Facebook rather than the blog. Blogs became businesses in and of themselves. People no longer assumed that what you were writing was half formed opinion, or the opener of a discussion. Things were to be polished and perennial now. The community was interested in ‘keeping each other accountable.’ Blog challenges became a thing; can you publish once a week/a day/write 1000 words a day. I became a yoga teacher and drank the marketing cool-ade. I wrote less and less.
I think I deleted the blog at the beginning of 2017. It wasn’t because I was done writing, rather I wanted a blank slate to ‘build my business’ on. I was burning out again. This time at a new job, in a new city, in a new relationship. The blog never happened, nor did the business.
It seemed that to have a blog you had to know what you were doing, or at least pretend to. A blog was a tool for a strategy to sell things. And that never felt good. Now I love marketing, I love understanding a customer base, learning how to communicate with this customer base, and letting them know how the offerings on hand can work for them, but I also missed the ability to just write. To share thoughts as they are, incomplete, a work in progress.
There’s nothing wrong with going quiet. With becoming small like a seed, lying deep under ground. I experimented with new formats. I wrote half a book as Instagram posts. I made a baby, and a home, and a family.
And now these seeds are blossoming. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, like one of those ‘field of flowers’ garden seed mixes. I’m not sure what the seeds are going to be, except for the tagetes, I recognize those seeds. When you don’t know what you don’t know, the best first step is to just gather your materials, your ideas, and some time and start fiddling. Layer them this way and that. Add, discard, rearrange. And slowly something will emerge.
It’s a bit like blogging was 2006. Community emerged from writing and sharing, from bouncing ideas off each other, and coming together. From showing up to write, and to share.