Today's post is one some of you have specifically asked for, and also a story I wanted to tell. This year has been a very different blogging year for me, and a LOT has changed as a result, so here is my story of a year ... in 2 halves.
I'm going to take you back to roughly this time last year. December is my biggest blogging month by a mile. As well as my normal content, I also do my end of year reviews AND the Crumpet Readers Poll, meaning I typically treble my output. That's a lot of blogging.
In the middle of all this I had just been made redundant by a company I loved, had just found a new job, and was also about to throw myself into a new 31 Day Challenge. So far, so "normal".
Somehow, I got through that, but then I broke. Sometime near the end of January I hit the milestone I had pursued for so long - 1 million page views. Euphoria and skippy dances hit quickly, and I launched a massive giveaway. And then meltdown struck.
Running a giveaway with 30 odd prizes, all with different winners and sponsors is not easy. Somewhere between picking all the winners, and calmly replying to them when they wanted to know immediately whether their prize had been sent zapped me. I also came down with flu for the first time in about 5 years, and the combination just wiped me out.
I did the good girl thing and went to bed, and didn't fret too much about the blog .... until I saw how big my review pile had gotten. I'm not the biggest or the best blogger, and usually my pile is very manageable, but with being poorly and feeling swamped, I suddenly had review packages from 6 different brands - and no energy to do them.
So I took a break. I spoke a lot to my DD girls and asked their advice. I fretted that the blog I'd worked SO hard to build would wither and disappear overnight if I took even 1 day off from it. They convinced me it wouldn't, and so, effectively, I took a month off.
Sometimes you become so immersed in something that it becomes impossible to see how it affects you, and I had lost sight of how blogging stole my every waking moment when I wasn't working. It's no exaggeration to say it was stealing 40 hours of my week. Also, it had started to feel like a treadmill. The joy was waning, and I really did think there was a big chance I just wouldn't come back. But I did.
So why did my break / breakdown not become total burnout? I'm not sure. I honestly think it could have gone either way, and the whole point of stepping back was to test my appetite, to see if I WOULD miss it. What I found was that I missed some things more than others, so I kept what I missed, and ditched what I didn't.
That meant I didn't volunteer for every challenge under the sun. It meant I wouldn't break my balls posting dull swatch posts I didn't want to write. It meant I wouldn't keep adding to my vault like it was a pile of gold - all it was was a millstone round my neck.
And finally, I learnt how to breathe. I purposely decided to take it slower. Beyond the Digital Dozen, I didn't commit to much. I got those 6 reviews posted, and whilst all the brands understood, not all of them have come to me, but I guess that's a price worth paying. I emptied the vault. I emptied the Fucking Vault !!! Man, that was a day of Hallelujah when that happened. And I started doing things I'd wanted to do for ages - stash posts and tutorials, although they could be a lot more professional!
These days, I still blog a lot, but my pattern has changed. Instead of being an all week thing, it's mostly (not completely, but mostly) a weekend thing. I'll paint on the Saturday and then schedule the week on a Sunday. And I've got to tell you, the sweet joy of that schedule button is amazing - it lifts a massive pressure.
Nowadays, if I'm tired by Wednesday, and there is no post scheduled for Thursday, then there ends up being no post for Thursday. I've learnt it's far more important for me to rest, or watch TV, or just chill with Beth than it is to write a post with half-closed eyes that is bound to be shit.
As you know, LOTS of my blogging friends lost their mojo this year. So many of them were in the DD with me, and it feels weird that I survived this journey, and they didn't. Maybe I paused before the moment of no return. Maybe that time out saved me. Who knows.
What I do know is that there WILL be a day when I quit. I honestly thought that day would be this year, but it wasn't. When it will be, I don't know, but I know I'll just KNOW. (Oh and I do have a plan to make sure Spring 2015 doesn't end up leaving me wrecked like 2014 did).
In the meantime, the only way to survive the ride is to have fun. DON'T make it your second job. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.
The minute you get that treadmill feeling, STOP. That's not how it's supposed to be.
The minute you find yourself trying to swatch 30 polishes in a weekend, STOP. That's not how it's supposed to be.
The minute you find yourself with tears of frustration because your nail art / tape mani / water marble sucks, STOP. That's not how it's supposed to be.
And the minute you tell your daughter you'll be with her in 5 minutes, knowing it's more likely to be 35, STOP. THAT is not how it's supposed to be.
Real life matters. And without a real life, you're just a blogging robot.
Thank you to each and every one of you who helped me through this year, who counselled me, encouraged me, told me to take all the time I needed. THANK YOU. You sustained me, and made this something worth coming back for. I am so glad we're still together for this weird ride.
Lots of love and Christmas wishes to you all.