“I’ve got a degree, does that mean I have to spend my life with intellectuals? I’ve also got a life-saving certificate, but I don’t spend my evenings diving for a rubber brick with my pyjamas on.”
– Victoria Wood
I started a blog back in 2012 when I knew practically nothing about it. I was pregnant and alone in a new city and miserable. My mum said “why don’t you start a blog?” I’m still confused as to how she knew what a blog even was. I went on Blogger and started typing, submitted a small essay and felt all excited that a few of my facebook mates might read my post (and my mum of course).
I wrote about what being pregnant was like and the inevitable embarrassing incidents I found myself in, like the time an elderly lady witnessed me peeing on a cross country train or the time I told my cousin all about how much I wee-ed when she’d only asked about my weight or about the time I displayed my nipples in Mothercare or the time I had to get my entire face waxed due to hormones. My titles were very obscure. I called it The Confinement Chronicles. It made me laugh and cry – it made me chuffed if anyone read it and it became my only friend through my whole pregnancy. It was my little space on the Internet and I loved it.
When I became pregnant for the second time I changed the title to Up the spout and wrote about having a toddler and being pregnant. After a few emails from PR people I thought I would give reviewing a go! (Who can say no to a free product?) While writing a poem about my ‘terrible twos’ son took me literally five minutes, a review took me sometimes weeks. It became apparent that these goods weren’t as ‘free’ as I first thought. However – if I felt very passionate about the product / service it was a lot easier.
Then somewhere along the line I heard that you could earn money by blogging – that people were paying their bills by blogging! Well – this was amazing – I wanted a piece of the action. I set about trying to learn about it all: SEO, Affiliate links, scores, plug ins, self hosted. I moved again and renamed “mummy’s writing, darling” with the idea that I could branch out into writing about all sorts of things – food, fashion, beauty, more reviews. I studied fellow bloggers who I greatly admire and did a snazzy CV, updated my pages with a ‘work with me’ and put PR friendly on everything. I even got bloody business cards.
The problem with me is I’m not too comfortable with myself and I always want to be someone else. I can’t just admire someone – I have to try and be them.
I suddenly found – for the first time in my life – I was unable to write. I was dried up. I had no inspiration. I had nothing to say. I started to feel ill, uneasy, a fraud. I started to hate anything I wrote and was afraid of people reading it. I started to feel like I should just give up. When will I, will I be famous?
Then Victoria Wood died. I remembered who I was. I wasn’t glamorous! I wasn’t a fashionista. I’m not a food critic! (though I’m very good at eating) I’m not controversial. I’m the girl who wants to get a laugh – the funny girl – and that’s ok. My entire life all I’ve wanted to do is write – make people laugh, and sometimes make them cry.
I had lost myself in the desire to be someone else and I had lost myself as soon as I tried to turn my love, my hobby – into a job. I had become obsessed with views and SEO and tots 100 ranks. I had started trying to engineer click bait titles or write in lists because I knew people were more likely to read a list. I started trying to write about controversial topics or things in the news (is this how Katie Hopkins devolved?) that I just don’t know enough about to comment on. I made sure I was on all of the social media channels just so I was visible (I still don’t know how to use Pinterest!!). I kept wondering what would ensure me Mumsnet or Netmums front page.
I started agreeing to review things I didn’t feel any passion about and it was like drawing blood out of a stone – I dealt with some incredibly rude PR people who made me so angry I wanted to write a book called ‘Blogging Bastardised” (copyright Stephanie Siviter April 2016) full of incidents where bloggers have had negative experiences. One PR person emailed so relentlessly about a review days after I had given birth to my second son. Where was the review? Where was the review? “Sorry dude, I can’t feel below my belly button, my nipples are bleeding and I can’t remember what sleep is – let me drop the baby on the ground and write your urgent review for a product that costs less than a tenner! (I almost sent a tenner, wrapped in a soiled nappy).
I was miserable – and I have not earned a single pound in the process.
So I’m going back to being me. I can admire other bloggers who do all the other stuff so well (and I really really do admire them) from afar and be very envious of their income. I can watch their make up tutorials in awe without having to do my own (can you even imagine? “Hi guys, so here is a fun every day look, now first you’ll need a trowel and some haemorrhoid cream”).
The apology is to anyone who I have let down by trying to change what I write – and trying to change myself, and writing some crap posts of late. It’s also to myself for not having the confidence to just be me and know that’s enough.
I’m going back to just writing what I know and what I truly love – and if only my mum reads it – that’s enough for me.