Ten years ago today, I began blogging. On 30 December 2002, aged 16, I first dipped my toe in the web.
My early experiments with blogging
I had done some bits and bobs with websites for around a year or two running up to that. I designed and redesigned a few basic HTML pages over and over again. I created them using some free software that came with my dad’s computer. I hosted them on a Geocities account.
At the start, it all seemed impossibly exotic. I felt like a charlatan, making websites when I didn’t really know what I was doing. But then, almost without realising it, I managed to pick up some HTML. After a while, I no longer had to rely on the software to create the pages for me.
I began to realise that I could code.
Deciding to move away from those dodgy static webpages and move over to a blog was when it all really took off. At first, the blog was just an appendage of the Geocities website. For that reason, the first post does not even make much sense.
Of course, my blog was not very good at first. In fact, it was terrible. It was just a daft hobby. The ultimate toy.
A trickle of people read it. In the early days, if I got more than 30 visitors a day then I was worried because I thought I must have written something controversial or wrong. Then getting more than 30 visitors a day became more normal. The readership grew, and I built relationships with other blogs.
I began to realise that I could write.
From my early experiments, I never imagined that I would be able to run a website properly. After all, I decided not to pursue anything to do with computing as a career because I thought I wasn’t good at programming (despite what my computing teacher told me). And I didn’t pursue writing because I thought I wasn’t good at English either (despite what my English teacher told me).
I began to take blogging more seriously. In 2004 I moved away from free hosting and Blogspot. I bought my own domain name, and ran my blog on WordPress, developing my own theme in the process.
After a couple more years, I was running multiple blogs on different topics. It was a lot of work, but in those days I had the time on my hands.
Meanwhile, I didn’t think much about my job prospects. I had a degree in economics and politics. But university ground me down and I had no confidence whatsoever. I felt like I wasn’t good at economics, and I lost interest in politics. That was a bit of a problem when it came to trying to find a job, particularly since the economic situation in 2008, when I graduated, was pretty hairy.
But I had my brilliant blogging hobby to fall back on. I had a sense that I could sort of write, and could sort of code, and could sort of help people out with web stuff in general. I began to do some bits and bobs for people on a freelance basis. But I did not find it particularly comfortable. Nor was the cash exactly flooding in.
Working in the web
A very kind reader of my blog emailed me suggesting that I should apply for a job at a university. They were looking for a Web Content Editor. I was intimidated by the sound of the job. But I was looking for work and I had nothing to lose. I went for it.
The interview went very well, but I missed out. I got a second chance a few months later, and this time I got it.
I have been in that job for over three years now. There, I work with a brilliant web team, and I have been given the chance to develop my skills and knowledge in all sorts of areas.
Difficulty continuing blogging
The downside of having a full time job was that I could no longer blog as much as I once had. I also lost a fair bit of my motivation to blog.
Moreover, I cringe about those early posts on my blog. My first post was published when I was 16. All of the difficulties of my late teens and my student years, the dodgy writing, the ham-fisted politics, the sheer gaucheness of it all, are out there in the open for all to see.
There is no point in deleting it. That would just cause other problems. It would also be difficult to just dispense with all that work in those ten years that define my life so much. It is what it is.
In 2011, frustrated with all of these issues, I decided to start afresh with a new blog. I stopped updating the old blog, which had been running since 2004, and started a new one with a new name. It went well at first, but after a few months I ran out of steam again, and the “new” blog also began to fester.
Another fresh start
You might therefore wonder why on earth I have decided to start blogging once again.
Well, I have had a long hard think about it. The fact is that I still want to write. I need an outlet. There just needs to be a way for it to seem OK if I am unable to sit down and craft something during busy periods of my life.
The blog format does not necessitate posting regularly and frequently, but it does create the pressure to do so. Knowing that people will visit, and the first thing they see might be a post that is four or six weeks old, or even older, is embarrassing. Faced with this, it is easy to just concede defeat.
So I am trying again with a different approach.
In the meantime, I am going to celebrate ten years of blogging. I will also reflect on the fact I started on zero, taught myself HTML, taught myself how to write, and got myself in a position where I can make a living from what had been my hobby. Sometimes I forget how brilliant that is, and how lucky I am. I shouldn’t really.