Happy new year! The running out of the calendar is a great reminder to stop our bustling about and sit down for some much needed introspection. My usual method of year-end reflection was to jot a short journal entry about memorable moments, triumphs, and disappointments, and then outline my upcoming goals. It was a crude method, but adequate to trigger the twinned emotions of closure and anticipation at year end.
Last year around this time, I started this blog instead. I had no idea what it would be about, but I had just launched my musician webpage and knew that it needed some “content,” fast. So I dubbed the blog “Jules of All Trades,” imagining that I would write articles full of tips, tricks, and hacks about everyday topics such as decluttering, good books, relationships, and cooking. You know, the usual.
Instead, this blog morphed out of my hands into a very personal forum where I attempted, publicly, to process the events of 2017. Let’s face it: this year was tough in many ways, and there was no shortage of things to process. I didn’t expect to stray so far from my neat pile of mainstream blog topics, but I think it was the right choice. I once heard a powerful piece of advice from a law school mentor: when picking a legal research topic, start with what makes you angry or keeps us up at night. Most of the topics in my blog posts were spawned out of intense, irrepressible emotion, and that made the writing easier and more meaningful for me.
So I kept it up, as much as I could. By the numbers, in 2017 I wrote:
- 22 blog posts
- With an average of 1200 words each
- About every 19 days.
It’s not much when you add it up that way, but over just one year, this little blog experiment has taught me so much. Here are just three lessons I've learned from blogging this year:
1. Writing regularly improves your writing.
For those of you who are afraid to show your writing to the public, I’m with you. I’ve never considered myself a good writer, and my perfectionism means that I have written far more posts than I’ve posted. (It also means I often go back and edit entries after posting….). However, practice makes perfect, does it not? Also, I’ve been inspired to grow my writing skills even more this year by reading more. Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley in Search of America is up next.
2. Writing in a public forum connects you with people, often unexpectedly.
When I started this blog, I had no readers. I was pretty sure it would stay that way forever, but three months later, I wrote an article (out of extreme frustration) about Betsy DeVos and what she taught me about my own learning journey. This article somehow was widely shared, getting over 2,300 hits that day!!! THAT’S A LOT OF PEOPLE I DON’T KNOW! The support from beyond my networks took me completely by surprise. I got emails through my website from strangers who had seen the article on Facebook or Twitter and wanted to share their own experiences with finding a growth mindset. I also heard from friends I hadn't talked to in years. It was an utterly amazing experience.
So, heartened, I kept writing, especially when I felt a discomfort in my heart that needed soothing. The other top posts from this year ended up being:
Each one got hundreds of visits the same day that I posted them. Overall in 2017, I had over 12,000 page views from almost 7000 unique visitors. I know those numbers are insignificant in the world of high-rolling blogs, but to me, it was an overwhelming amount of human connection. The fact that people stayed engaged enough to read what I wrote, and that it meant enough to some to write me personally, made me feel heard and supported more than I could have hoped for.
3. Writing with gratitude begets more gratitude.
Being a natural-born realist (some would say pessimist) I have to be very careful not to ship the whole world to hell in a hand-basket anytime something makes me upset. Writing in a public forum provides me the accountability to try always to turn anger, frustration, and hurt into more helpful emotions, such as acceptance, learning, and above all, gratitude. Having this platform for working out my strong emotions to events this year was an immense blessing, because every time I resisted ranting and tried instead to find a more uplifting message, that positivity returned to me a hundred-fold, amplified by those it had traveled through before coming back to me. Gratitude, like any other habit, grows with practice, and this blog has given me an arena to keep up the practice.
So. I guess what I’m trying to say is, THANK YOU. Thank you for reading, for the texts and emails and comments in person supporting this little project of mine. It has been one of the bright spots of 2017, and that’s because of all of you. Looking forward to 2018, I’ll try to write better, think deeper, and lift us all up higher, together.
Might I suggest that we all practice gratitude together? It puts us in control of our emotions (instead of the other way around) and readies us for the hard work that has to be done in 2018. There is much to be done.
Happy new year all, and wishing everyone your best year ever.
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