When I was in college at Syracuse University, the legendary Billy Joel spoke at graduation and– while yes, that’s an odd choice for a commencement speaker– one part of his speech has always stuck with me. I’m sure that he was referring to work and the scariness of post-graduate plans, but I think it applies to us bloggers too: “Don’t do it for security or status, prestige, money, or, for crying out loud, don’t do it for somebody else. Do it for love. Because if you love what you do, you’ll always do what you love.”
I started writing A Squared a few weeks after returning home from my honeymoon. After a year of wedding planning I was looking for a new project. I jumped into blogging as a way to keep far away friends and family up to date on our life events– and also to keep myself busy and my Facebook feed less annoying to others who didn’t really care to read it all. It was my third attempt at a blog (sad, but true!), but I jumped into this one headfirst and fully planned to stick with it– through the highs and lows.
Starting my own blog introduced me to tons of other (new to me) blogs that were well designed, posted gorgeous content, and had thousands of followers. I felt inspired and intimidated all at the same time– like my blog needed to become one of these blogs fast or it would just become a failure. And so my little blog about married life quickly became a hodgepodge of all of the things that I loved about these other blogs I followed so religiously: family recipes, styled outfit collages, decor vignettes from around my little apartment, travel tips and wish lists… it was ALL over the place. And it became a chore to write. All I wanted was for people to read my blog, but the truth was that when I wrote about what I thought people wanted to read… then I didn’t want to write it anymore at all. It was difficult to create new topics and even more difficult to write about them. Because it wasn’t me. And nobody wants to read a blog that’s phoney or inauthentic or lacking passion. So, that’s when I had to take a step back and rethink my blog and my strategy a bit.
I like to shop and I have a style that’s my own, but am I so passionate about fashion that I should be writing outfit posts? No.
We don’t own a home where we’re doing innovative design projects, so should I really be dispensing advice all about interior design and decor? Again, probably not.
And I certainly don’t have a jetsetter’s budget, so travel–especially of the exotic and luxury variety–is really not my area of expertise either.
Then I realized something important: The reason that I love to read those blogs isn’t because I’m so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about those topics; it’s because the people writing them truly are. And when you are really passionate about something– fashion, food, travel, finance, or whatever it is– it’s contagious and it’s real and it’s no longer a chore to write. And that’s when readers will really respond to you and to your writing.
After a little blogger soul searching I realized that for me, my passion is food. Cooking, menu planning, dining out, and trying new things is what I really love to do, which makes it something that I really love to write about. Those were the only posts that came easily to me, that I couldn’t wait to write about, and that I couldn’t wait to share. With that, A Squared became a food blog (with some lifestyle posts here and there to keep things interesting) and I haven’t looked back. I have a dozen ideas for future recipes and posts in my head at any given time and 2+ years later it hasn’t gotten old for me. And once I started writing a little more authentically about the foods, recipes, and restaurants that I loved, then the followers started to show up. My blog may never have 500,000 followers and it may never become my fulltime job, but that’s okay with me. It has become a place where I can be creative, where I’m awarded exciting new opportunities, and where I have been able to connect with other food lovers from around Chicago, the country, and the world.
So, my real message here is don’t try to be another blog or another blogger. Be you, write in your own voice about what you love and what you know about… you’ll never be bored and neither will your readers. Write what you love, love what you write.
By Anne Colvin Anne Colvin is the writer behind A Squared— a food-focused blog about cooking, eating, and life in Chicago. Anne resides in downtown Chicago with her husband and works a 9 to 5 job in real estate, but cooking, dining out, traveling, and exploring Chicago are her favorite ways to spend her free time. On A Squared she shares recipes, restaurant reviews, and tidbits about life in the fabulous Windy City with her readers.