On Making Mistakes

On Making Mistakesfeatured

I think I’ve mentioned here once or twice that I started my first blog in 2009. I kept it up for a little over a year, sometimes posting nearly every day, sometimes (most times) much more sporadically. Eventually, I changed its setting to “private” but didn’t take it down entirely.

Last week, I managed to remember my old WordPress password and started reading through those archives. Most of the posts are pretty terrible. I spent a lot of time cringing as I read them. Some weren’t so bad, though. And more than anything, I was struck with the thought, “I wish I’d kept this up this whole time.

I try not to think much about where I’d be, writing- and blogging-wise, right now if I hadn’t just given up on that blog. I try not to look at other bloggers who have been around since that time and compare where I could’ve been to where they are now — would I have readers numbering in the thousands or more? Brand partnerships? More lucrative writing opportunities? A podcast? A better camera?

On Making Mistakes {the ponytail diaries}

Do you remember blogging in 2009? All the aspects we take for granted now — sponsorships, brand partnerships, big bloggers getting book deals, everyone and their dog starting podcasts, carefully growing social media follower counts — were still in their experimental stage. I stopped writing my blog, but I never stopped reading blogs — my Google Reader and now Feedly just kept on expanding over the years — so it’s almost weird for me to think about the blogs I used to read. Blogs that are now defunct, or blogs that have changed so drastically they’re barely recognizable now.

I mean, does anyone remember Oh She Glows before she was vegan? When she posted about running and working out at least as much as recipes?

It’s fantastic that so many bloggers now are so successful, and that — because, largely, of their dedication and hard work — the blogosphere presents so many opportunities now.

But also? For those of us who didn’t start before monetizing blogs became the ultimate goal for many of us, starting a blog now is fucking hard.

And it’s partly because us newbies have no excuse for not getting things “right” right from the get-go.

Look at your feed. How many posts are there about growing your e-mail list, using the right hashtags on Instagram, improving your About page, creating a media kit, using keywords in your headline for SEO, setting up affiliate programs? About finding your “niche,” honing your voice, visualizing your “ideal reader,” perfecting your “brand,” writing posts that are “scannable”?

(I’m totally hitting SEO jackpot with this post.) (Only probably not.)

Every “big” blogger would tell me to stop using landscape-orientation photos in my posts because portrait-orientation works better on Pinterest. Ask me why I’m not sponsoring blogs and participating group giveaways to get more readers and followers (A, I’m lazy and “sponsor blogs” keeps slipping to the bottom of my to-do list and B, group giveaways generally drive me nuts).

And then, business and life coaches tell us to “take risks! don’t be afraid of making mistakes! be bold! dare to fail greatly!” (but make sure you know your ideal reader and test the best times to send those tweets and for the love of God, don’t use a selfie for your social media profile pictures).

It’s hard and overwhelming to want to pave your own path and achieve whatever you think success is, on your terms, when it seems like every possible path out there is already so well-trod that you can’t possibly get lost and figure it out on your own. That if — when — you “fail,” it’s your own damn fault because LOOK at how many resources and guides and ebooks and podcasts are out there!

Why didn’t you follow all that advice from Day 1 and then look, you’d have 10,000 Instagram followers and a book deal and speaking gigs like me!

Why didn’t you start going to ALT and then apply to be a speaker the following year and create the perfect launch for your Etsy shop?

Why didn’t you make sure to spend 30 minutes a day connecting with influencers on Twitter, but not spend more than 10 minutes a day in your inbox because email is death to productivity?

Because I wanted to do it my own way?

Because I wanted to stumble around and find my voice on my own time and make a few mistakes before I figured it out?

Because I was trying to learn by doing, not following?

I’m talking about blogging here, but this could go for anything — starting a business, getting a job out of college, backpacking through Europe (you’re crazy if you don’t use a thousand travel hacks to get from Point A to Point B and maximize your time in each spot and soak up local culture), celebrating holidays, keeping your home clean, whatever. Every time I’m even mildly stumped on anything, whether it’s how to hem pants or keep tomato plants healthy without pesticides, I turn to Google or YouTube. We’ve got such a massive overload of how-to that we can’t just try to figure things out on our own.


  • I absolutely LOVE this post. there is so much truth. blogging has changed so much. Sometimes I forget to be me and sometimes I want to turn my blog to private and start completely over. (people tell me not too)

    • Thank you Jessa! I totally get wanting to start fresh or completely change direction or stop altogether.

  • Love this Allison! I know I feel so overwhelmed by it all some days. I know there are certain steps, but I want to do it my way and just figure it out too. You really hit on some of my own thoughts in this post!

    • Thanks Mariah! That’s exactly it — just because someone else has proven the “right” way to blog successfully doesn’t mean that’s how I want to do it. I could just copy A Beautiful Mess’ model, but what would be the point?

  • I’m with you. I want to do this my way! I tried for a little while to follow all of the conflicting advice and found that it was a complete buzzkill. It sucks the joy out of my reason for writing in the first place. Sure, it would be fun to make money off my blog or receive free things, but then my posts would be nothing but shout outs to brands and I would likely lose myself like so many big blogs have. (The song “My Way” is now playing in my mind. ha!)

    • Exactly! I get so annoyed when I scroll through my reader and I see basically the same post five or six times because a bunch of blogs have signed up for the same campaign. I don’t begrudge those bloggers doing what they can to earn money off their blogs, but that doesn’t mean I *have* to follow their example.