I love the beginning of a new year. It feels fresh, crisp and blank, like opening up the first page of a new notebook. It’s a clean slate; time to draw a line under the past 12 months, reflect on your gains and your losses, the good and the bad. It’s the tentative feeling of a new beginning that you can’t fully grasp yet, but something you’re sure holds exciting possibilities for change and growth.
Saying that, I don’t subscribe to the ‘new year, new you’ motto that is so often peddled by the media at this time of year. I don’t believe you need to fundamentally change yourself, lose 10 pounds, quit your job, cut out sugar, go booze free, vegan, or anything else. Sure, if you want to do one of those things because you honestly think it will make you happier or healthier, or you just fancy a challenge, then hell yeah – fill your boots! But to lend a phrase from a well known film, ‘you are perfect… just as you are’. You don’t need to change, maybe you just need to re-balance. That’s what I’m aiming for in 2018 – to gently pull myself back to my center and take stock of what made me happy and what I felt proud of in 2017, and what I perhaps didn’t do so well in or left me more drained than empowered.
One of my aims for this new year is to put more time, effort and energy into my writing, the outlet for which is this blog. I’m a new blogger, I don’t have a huge following, and I’ve been more active on Instagram than my website so far. I’ve signed up for a few blogging courses in the past, back when I first bought my domain and began contemplating how to reconnect with my love of writing, and how to sow the seeds of change into my life. I’ve picked up useful tips here and there along the way, but if I’m honest I’ve always enjoyed learning in person more than learning online. I like the face to face connection with others and the chance to ask (millions of) questions! So when I read that Monica from The Travel Hack and Claire & Laura from Twins That Travel were launching The Blogger’s Retreat – workshops filled with blogging expertise, taking place in a beautiful (totally Instagram worthy!) setting – my heart skipped a little beat and I knew I wanted to part of it. Fast forward to reading that they were also giving away a Golden Ticket to one lucky person… well that was the icing on the blogging cake. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part – so, before I ramble on forever, I’ve written down a few key goals that I’m going to build my writing and blogging life around in 2018.
This is something I struggling with massively, and is one of the main hurdles I’ve been up against when it comes to building my blog. If I’m not writing regularly and uploading content, then… well I’m getting nowhere fast, aren’t I? I have so many ideas that I haven’t yet put into practice, the notes section of my phone is full of little light bulb moments that wake me up in the night. I reach for my phone in the dark and write them down, knowing that otherwise they’ll evaporate from my mind in the sleepy haze of the night. The posts section of my blog has so many drafted posts that I have the best intentions of finishing… but I lack consistency and space in my schedule. Well, no. I don’t lack the space, I just need to reevaluate my time and how I use it. Working full time, sometimes 6 days a week, I’ve only got a certain amount of time to work with. Remember that saying ‘you have the same hours in the day as Beyonce’? Sure I do, but I don’t have her personal assistant, stylist, housekeeper, chauffeur… you get the picture. I know that everyone struggles with finding time. Life is hectic, life is stressful, sometimes after a day at work, you only have time to kick your shoes off, say hi to your partner/pets/parents/flatmate, cook some food and brush your teeth before you’re off to bed and the next day is on the horizon. That being said, it’s all about priorities. A friend once told me that instead of saying ‘I don’t have time’, you should say ‘this is not a priority’. It re-frames the thought in your head, and sometimes you realize that, actually, the thing you are putting off IS a priority. You realize you need to do it, and so you will find time to do it.
My action to achieve this: I invested in a bullet journal at the end of last year, and I’m finally committing to using it. I’m going to dedicate an hour a day to writing blog posts. I don’t have to finish a full post in an hour, but if I’m at least committing an hour to writing then I’m making progress.
‘If a goal is worth having, it’s worth blocking out the time in your day to day life necessary to achieve it’ – Jill Koenig.
Once I commit to working consistently on my blog, my next focus is on creating content that I believe in. I want to build a blog that inspires people and makes people feel happy when they read it. I want them to enjoy following my travels, and I want to create community. I want to find my voice and my niche. I really think that this is where The Blogger’s Retreat would be a huge help to me – hearing how other bloggers found their writing styles, how they learned to craft their words, and tips on how to find my own unique voice in what is now such a huge blogging world. Especially as a newbie blogger, how do you stand out among so much talent? I want to grow as a writer and be confident in not only my own voice, but experimenting with different styles and topics. After all, I absolutely love travel and this is what my blog and my writing is going to be primarily based around… but I also have an interest in feminism, politics, the environment and craft beer. Can a blog be all those things? Should I focus on one aspect first, while I start out? I have so many questions!
‘It doesn’t matter how you begin, just jump in. Get moving’ – Tama Kieves
I originally started this blog in 2014. I bought the domain, found a website design on Etsy, fiddled around with WordPress a bit, learned a few things, set up my Twitter and Instagram handles, and posted a few times…before deciding that there was ‘no point’. I cancelled my web hosting plan, deleted all my posts, changed my Twitter and Instagram handle back to my real name, and deleted everything to do with my site. You see, I have a problem with self belief. I don’t know if it’s just the human condition to doubt your own strengths, but I know it’s a common theme in young people, and something about being in your 20s and 30s and feeling like ‘you should be good at this by now’, mixed with a dash of ‘why I haven’t achieved that yet?’, with a finishing sprinkle of ‘that person is doing so much better than I am’. When I first began my blog, my writing was rusty after falling into a retail job instead of bagging the dream media job I imagined I’d be in after university. The recession had other ideas, and although I’m glad for those years for making me appreciate where I am now, I left my writing on the back seat because I lost confidence in my abilities. When I decided to start writing again, instead of accepting that I would find it hard and it might be a long slog to where I wanted to get to, I looked at the path ahead and felt like a deer in headlights. So, I took the path of least resistance, and gave up. Basically I was trying to draw a line under myself as a failure, before I’d even actually begun to really try. It sounds stupid, but sometimes it feels safer to stick with something you don’t enjoy, but can do easily, than try for something you have your heart set on, because of the risk of the pain if you fail.
Enough of that. I’m starting again, and this time I’m going to let go of the reigns, let go of my fears and see where my hard work takes me. I want to kick self doubt out of the door this year. It’s all about belief!
‘A year from now you may wish you had started today’ – Karen Lamb
As I’ve mentioned, so far on my blogging journey I’ve struggled with getting words down and blog posts up, and my main focus has been my Instagram. I don’t have a huge following by any means (600 as I type this, but thanks to those pesky algorithms it will likely go down in the next few days, then up again, then down… what is up with that?!). I find my photography so much easier to share than my words and thoughts. Perhaps because, in a way, you can hide behind photos – with a picture, you aren’t baring your soul or putting yourself out there in the same way. Although I want to share my words this year, it by no means follows that I’m going to give up my travel snapping! At the moment a lot of my photos are taken on my Google Pixel, but I have a Canon DSLR that doesn’t see the light of day as often as it should. In my head are the same excuses ‘but I have no time!’. Enough of that. Now that I have a schedule in place, I’m going to commit to spending more time experimenting with my DSLR. Not only brushing up on my skills using the camera, but I also want to learn how to use photo editing software. Back in uni I dabbled with Photoshop, but I know that these days it’s all about Lightroom. Now, I don’t have the money for that yet, but I know there are other photo editing platforms I can play around with, so it’s time to get stated! I also have a lot of old travel photos that I’d like to go back through and edit, so that I can share them on Instagram and feature them in blog posts. I’m not a full time traveler so I don’t have new fresh travel pictures on tap all the time, but I know I have more than enough to work with from my past travels.
‘It is a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at’ – Elizabeth Gilbert
As my Instagram has started to grow over the last year, I’ve enjoyed hitting the milestones of 100, 200, 300 followers along the way. This year I would really love to hit a big milestone – my aim is 1000 followers, on either Instagram or Twitter. I think this is another way in which The Blogger’s Retreat would help me – it would be so useful to hear first hand how professional bloggers grow their audiences, how they manage their uploading schedules, and how they stop becoming disheartened at the crazy roundabout that is the Instagram algorithm! As well as growing my social media following, I hope to start seeing more clicks to my website… which I hope will come hand in hand once I start uploading more regularly to my blog, writing more often and sharing my posts on social media.
‘It’s not ‘what do I want to do?’, it’s ‘what kind of life do I want to have?’ – Arianna Huffington
Ok, this goal fills me with a tiny bit of fear! As a newbie blogger, I don’t yet have a solid community of fellow blogging friends, however I have begun interacting with bloggers more frequently after years of being a lurker! So far I’ve found it a friendly and welcoming place, and I’ve really enjoyed the feeling of community and support. This year I aim to reach out to people more, make a deeper connections if I can, and spend as much time as I can reading and commenting on other people’s posts and pictures, as well as finding awesome new blogs to follow. And I made one big decision last year – to book tickets to Traverse 2018 in Rotterdam! Butterflies mixed with a cold sense of dread at having to really put myself out there… but sometimes you need to just make the leap and figure the rest out on the way. Again, I also think attending The Blogger’s Retreat would be a brilliant opportunity to meet other bloggers and writers, share our stories, learn from others and support each other along the way.
I see my blog as a portfolio, and hopefully the start of a writing career. That, at the end of the day, is my dream. To do this, I need to apply all of the goals I’ve set out for 2018, and be open to where my blog may take me. As I grow my blog, I aim to build a basis of work that I can build a foundation upon. I’m not saying I will be a full time, freelance writer in the next 12 months… in fact, I’m pretty sure it won’t happen that quickly! But if I start now, I’m investing in myself and I’m following my dreams for the future. Life will no doubt throw a few curve balls along the way, but if I keep writing, keep blogging, keep learning and keep believing in myself, then I’m half way there.