I remember seeing Kim for the first time at the Aussie Bloggers Conference last year. She came up to the stage shortly after the ice-breaker session had started and we looked at each other and said “It’s you!” simultaneously. I always like those first few seconds of recognition, the putting together and reconciling of internet avatars and blogs to the person, sometimes years after you first started conversing.
Kim has been blogging longer than I have, is a super cook, went to the same university I did, we both run when we can find the time and we’re both Sagittarians (best sign of the Zodiac, naturally). We’ve both been two-time finalists of the Best Australian Blogs Competition.
What first brought the concept of ‘blogging’ to your attention? Do you remember the circumstances? Or even the first few blogs you read?
Back in 2003 I read an article in The Sydney Morning Herald talking about this new online diary phenomenon taking off in the US called “blogging”. It mentioned Heather Armstrong (Dooce) and another woman in Los Angeles whose blog I adored but she stopped about a year later citing difficulties with the whole baring her soul dilemma that blogging often presents.
Why did you decide to start blogging yourself?
At the time I was still in the grip of some pretty severe depression and doing the whole work/life struggle with two young kids, one of which had (still does!) significant special needs while the other was a non-sleeping screamer. As a journalist it was a pretty natural progression to want to write about what I was experiencing. At the time I didn’t really think about anyone else reading it or what would come of it, it was more a case of just getting it out of my head and keeping some sort of record of the time.
I was shocked at just how bad my writing was and worse, how angry I was. Pure vitriol just spewed forth and it was alarming to say the least. I stepped away from it thinking perhaps it wasn’t for me. Fast forward a year or so and I was contracting in a new job when I mentioned the blogging concept to my boss.
She had also tried her hand at it only to have similarly veined vitriol vent from her fingers. We decided to try blogging together, thinking perhaps that by doing so perhaps the vitriol would dilute. It did and Glamorouse was our world for the next 12-18 months.
In the beginning, did you ever feel that what you were doing was ‘weird’ or on the fringes? Did you get any negative reactions?
Oh my goodness did I ever. I told Chef what I was doing and he just dismissed it as ‘so self-indulgent’. He still doesn’t read my blog so you’ve got to give him points for tenacity. Even now people scoff at it and are genuinely surprised when I tell them about the popularity of and community in blogging.
What were the best things about the Australian blogging community at the time? What were the worst things (if any)?
In those early days one of the best things about the Australian blogging community was how close-knit it was while being quite diverse. Here we were in Sydney blogging about trying to juggle family and work but many of our readers were crafters from Melbourne. I firmly believe the blogging pioneers in Australia were crafters in Melbourne – it was such a dynamic, creative force years ago. The worst things were not really something we experienced but there was quite a bitchy component to it that we watched from the periphery. I think that is unavoidable when you get a small, intense creative group of people jostling for popularity.
When you look back at those early days – from 2012’s perspective – is there anything you miss?
That sense of being a part of something new and exciting. It was a feeling of being unique and on the cusp of something exciting, that we were all in on this big awesome secret. There was an innocence to it, a purity – popularity came solely off the quality of your writing not your ability to market and promote yourself. I miss that.
In your opinion, is the blogging community better now… or just different?
That’s a hard one. It is better in terms of the range of voices that are now being heard and the role blogging plays in giving a spotlight to things that have otherwise not been really openly discussed in mainstream media – for example talking about living with a disability or having a child with a disability, all aspects of mental health, death and grief.
For me, being able to talk about those things and then have a conversation with people who have read it has been hugely beneficial. I don’t think any of us can ever dismiss the opportunity for people to be reassured they are not alone, it will get better or perhaps to try doing or responding to something a different way.
But there is a different ‘vibe’ to blogging now, primarily a weird sense of an entitlement to popularity or sponsorships or earning money from your blog – but perhaps that is just exactly what I saw happening in 2005-06 when blogging exploded in the US now just happening on home soil.
The rising influence of bloggers also has brought about a concurrent examination of money and power. Is there too much emphasis on the latter? Or is it justified?
OH boy. That is a really big question. At the core of blogging is your voice, whether that comes through words, pictures, music, technology, food or craft. And for you to gain any sort of audience that comes back, your voice must be authentic. And what does every single company trying to sell us something want? To be seen as authentic, trust-worthy, on our side.
It is therefore unavoidable that as blogging gains popularity certain sections of it will be courted by corporations wanting to promote their products and be associated with bloggers who have popularity and a clear brand in and of themselves. And as sure as the sun will rise, with money comes power.
Is it justified? I don’t know, I just think it is unavoidable.
Where do you see blogging headed? Is it in a direction you like?
I think with any new phenomenon it will reach its peak and then plateau out. Other new mediums will appear and so the online world will evolve once more. Is it in a direction that I like? I don’t know, on the one hand I feel like a blogging pioneer and on the other I feel like I have totally missed the boat in terms of monetising my writing. The whole thing is a bit bittersweet for me at the moment.
So what do I do, wail and shake my fists at the computer each time I see someone getting a sponsorship to an overseas event or a major partnership which I know I would have been perfect for or something I would have been awesome at? Yeah, I do that a lot. I hate the monetisation of personal journal blogging but that’s probably because I am a suburban voice wanting to monetise my blog but with no luck at doing so!
It’s an unavoidable direction, so do you try and jump on the bandwagon or just wave as it passes by?
Will you ever stop blogging?
I’ll never stop blogging. Regardless of the direction blogging goes, irrespective of how overlooked I feel, I come back time and time again to why I started blogging in the first place – to create a written log of my life, to get all those words out of my head and to connect with others.
There are people I know only through blogging who have been a part of my life for more than six years. I have never met some of them and maybe never will, but I view them as some of my closest friends and treasure their place in my life.
While earning a living from my blog would be lovely and at this point in my life much needed, the reality of those friendships, that feeling of being connected is most important to me.
This is post one of the Personal Blogging ‘Then and Now’ Series. Read more about it here.