Monday, September 10, 2012

Blogging Like It's Your Job


For this post, I'm talking to you fellow bloggers.

The bloggers I read (who are of course, witty and insightful, with a frequent edge of sarcasm) are quick to disavow blogging for “popularity,” numbers, hits, fans, or followers. They blog for posterity, for the love of writing, for community. I would consider myself as a member of this camp. But there's something we're probably not all being totally honest about.

When I started blogging it was when I was working in a refugee camp to catalog my experiences and help people “back home” more deeply understand what I was going through. No one I didn't know read what I had to say, and I didn't much care. I did nothing to promote it to a wider circle.

Later on, I wrote another blog, simply called “Musings.” In the old sense of a blog, it was really an on-line journal of my thoughts, but done in a way that recognized the narcissism and hubris of it all. I think my tagline was “unimportant thoughts that no one cares about except my husband. And I think he's pretending.” Not only did I not promote it, I barely told anyone about it.

So, this is my third blog. A blog is kind of the ideal forum for an expat living abroad. I can keep in touch with far away friends and family and carve out a community of like-minded people when I can't always find that in my direct neighborhood. I moved to a rural Kenyan town and was the only ex-pat parent for miles in any direction. So, I really did want to finally use the blog for it's “worldwide web-iness.” I wanted a community -- of expats, moms, and people struggling to navigate another culture.

But, lets be totally honest. A blog allowed me to pontificate, expound, snark. I've been writing for my job for years, but it's always been for an institutional product that was reviewed, changed, reviewed again and changed back, only to have some director change it yet again into something even more mind-numbing. This blog allowed me to create something mine. My words, my thoughts, my humor.

And this time, I did promote it. Partly to find that community of like-minded people. Partly because, again, let's be totally honest, I don't just spew my complaints or catalog my day and hit “publish.” I work hard on each post to craft something I like. I write something, re-write it, delete the whole thing, start again.  They're not all gems, but I work at them.  And it's awfully nice when someone else reads it.

I'm still not all that slick. I don't have watermarks over my pictures or a button or unique social media buttons that match my overall aesthetic.  I'm baffled that so many people know how to do this stuff. I have a twitter account that I neglect and I'm stubbornly refusing to even investigate pintrest. 

But I've found a link up that I love called yeahwrite, and I've started writing for some other expat blog sites. I've found some fantastic blogs that I admire and that inspire me. And... people who are not my mom have started to read my blog. Not a lot but they're there.

And it's heady. It's heady to get compliments, to start conversations and to be read. So, I have done things to increase my readership, the whole time telling myself that I'm “finding an online community.” And I am. There are a dozen bloggers out there who I feel I know and know I like, and probably feel the same way about me. There are real friendships.

And then there are statistics. 

And then there I am “working” on increasing them, nose in the computer, commenting on sites, linking my blog to others and playing around with fonts, screaming at my son to “be patient, I'll come play in a moment!!” And then it feels like an ugly addiction. Like crack. Or facebook.

One of the more successful bloggers I follow admits to spending 3-4 hours per day on “the blog.” It's not just writing, it's reading and commenting on others' sites, participating in link-ups, doing SEOs (OK. I don't know what that is, but it seems important)   That's what I imagine it would take to really get some “numbers,” unless of course you are the Bloggess, Honest Toddler or naked.

I barely have a slack 30 minutes, much less 3-4 hours.  Much of my spare time, I'd like to make up for my baby-induced sleep deprivation or try and be more present for my family. Maybe make a sandwich.  I love this blog, but to do it "right" might start to feel like a job.   

So, I've been trying to strike a balance, but it's not easy.  I've been trying to only write only those posts that flow from me easily. I'm visiting only the sites that inspire me or make me laugh.  I'm no longer envying those more trafficked sites and I'm trying to ignore my statistics.  (Afterall, any post that has the words "vagina" or "poop" has a lot of those coveted "stats.") And I'm shutting the computer when my child wants to play.  

Anyone out there feel the same way?  Or have you all figured this out? 

(And yes.  I just did that cheap comment-generating gimmick of closing a post with a question.  But this time it's not a gimmick. Tell me I'm not alone.)

45 comments:

  1. Also struggling with it. I'm fairly new to blogging and I love the outlet it gives me. I started in an attempt to find an online community, as I have been feeling really isolated, and I love it for that but it takes time to develop that community and that is time that I am taking away from my family.

    To be fair my family do get an awful lot of my time and I am enjoying blogging - it is helping me stay sane and a sane Mama is better than an insane one - but there was a lot to learn to get started and I am still learning. It could very easily become a full time job so finding the balance is tricky. I try to limit it to my children's naptime and after their bedtime but I don't always feel inspired then so there have also been the moments when I've been pleading with them to just play quietly for awhile please!

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    1. Yes - such a weird tension. We do this to find an online community, but then it keeps us from finding a real life community. And keeping my sane HAS to be a priority. That's why I continue to do it even when it sometimes cuts into family time.

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  2. I have this same thing on my mind, actually - the dilemma of writing as if it's a job (and this sort of writing can, in fact, lead to other sorts of writing that might--god forbid--pay something, or so I've heard at least; it's not like the big paychecks are just rolling in over here). I *have* a job, and I have a family, and I have a blog. Thank god we don't have any pets or I'd collapse. Finding time for all things is an eternal quest but I've noticed lately that when I haven't made time for writing, I'm crabbier with my kids, which suggests that blogs & other things are feeding a part of me that needs to be fed - and isn't fed by pouring someone yet another bowl of cheerios. Balance. Hmm.

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    1. Yes! *Exactly*! I am happier when I can craft some of my thoughts into words. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction like little else. So, I can't very well scrap that. It's just a matter of fitting it all it, as you say.

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  3. The commenting thing is what gets me. I read a lot of the blogs on my reader, but really only leave comments when I have something to say... I'm always a bit disappointed to read comments that have been left for me that are an obvious "now come visit my blog" and most of the time reveal the author hasn't even read my complete post - that kind of goes against why I write in the first place. So I guess the answer is shut that computer down. Every once in a while link up somewhere or write an article for another site, but it boils down to if you write it, they will come!

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    1. That's definitely a change I've made - I only leave comments when I have something to add to the discussion or when it's a blogger I feel I have a connection with. And I enjoy blogging a lot more since. Feels more authentic and less like homework. : )

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  4. It's so hard to balance out the time. Constant battle between the computer and the clock!

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  5. Your blog has actually inspired me to think about re-starting my blog, or starting a new one. I agree about the comment and stats thing, better to have quality over quantity. Also, if you just agree not to "monetize" your blog it is less stressful. I haven't written a blog post in a few years but still get e-mails from businesses that have found and "like" my blog, and have just the right item for me to peddle. Right.....

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    1. Yes! I think if there were dollar signs attached to this, it would be almost too much needless pressure to bare! Glad to hear you're thinking of starting it up again though! Let me know when you do...

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  6. I know what you mean, Kim. I've felt very similarly for a long time. It's tough to find the time, but that's what it really takes if you want to grow. It's a Catch-22.

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    1. I guess that's the tough reality. Maybe when the baby starts sleeping a bit better I'll find another 30 minutes in my day... ; )

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  7. I used to have a healthy living blog (everyone together now: BAHAHAHAHAHAHA! No, seriously. What was I thinking?) and I commented on so.many.blogs. And the crazy thing is that they were all (more or less) talking about the exact same things, and I was trying to fit in, so I talked about the exact same things too. I cared a lot about my numbers, even though I totally lied and said I didn't. I realized that it wasn't even close to fun anymore, so I just shut that blog down. I was so relieved to be done with it.

    Now, I really don't care so much about numbers. I mean, I'm not going to lie...I love getting comments and emails. And I do participate in some "community" things, like yeahwrite (which I totally get) and Twitter (which I haven't quite figured out yet). But I don't really think about it too much. I think that the hardest thing for me to do as a blogger now is to not feel pressured to return every comment. It's hard to differentiate between commenting because I actually have something to say, and commenting because I feel like I "should". I only have a finite number of hours in the day, and I'm trying to limit my blog-reading to less than one of those hours. It's not always easy!

    (apologies for the ridiculously long comment)

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    1. Don't apologize. I love your "ridiculously long comment." Good for you for shutting something down that wasn't making sense for you anymore. And I know what you mean about the pressure to respond to each comment. But you probably have more than me. ; ) I guess when someone takes the time to take the discussion further or add something personal (like you did), I do feel like I should respond. (even though sometimes life gets in the way). But if someone just says "write on!" I'll leave it be. I'm not sure if people can easily come back and check that I've responded anyway. But it does feel like work. Maybe we should set a timer. Sometimes reading blogs sends you down a time sucking black hole...

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  8. I love your Kenya-as-an-American posts most of all. Even though I acknowledge you've likely put a romantic spin to your lives over there, your stories make me wanna pack up and move to, uh, maybe Colorado or somewhere. I feel like I'm in a rut in this environment I've chosen specifically for my kids' educations, and I'm ready for some adventure. Being the wuss that I am, I find my adventure on your blog. I'm glad you've found yeah write to be personally valuable; we value you, too.

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    1. Funny that you should mention choosing an environment specifically for your kids' education - because that is one of the biggest trade-offs living here, and as the kids get older it's going to possibly tip the scales.

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  9. I'm not sure there is a way to do a blog "right" or "wrong," although I'm sure that there are people who would disagree with me. I love my blog, but in general I write what I want to write, and have mostly stopped focusing so hard on who reads it, how many comments I get, and those pesky statistics. I love Yeah Write because once a week it feels good and productive to stretch my writing muscles past the point of comfort, and to dig in to a community of people doing the same. I think it has made me a better writer, more creative blogger, and a different kind of thinker. I think that, if it feels good or right to you, then you are doing exactly what you should be doing. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. Um, vagina and poop posts? Yeah, I think you just described my last month of blogging... :O

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  11. Nice post - Looking forward to reading more of your work. Are you familiar with tales from a small planet? talesmag.org.

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  12. Well, not being a parent gives me more time than some others, for sure. Right now I'm juggling with my full time job, freelancing, and blogging. I spend way to much time in front of a computer. Bah. But I do notice that I get more hits when I am out there, commenting on other people's stuff.

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  13. every day i wonder why i blog. i'm still not sure, but i'm going to keep writing till i figure it out. :)

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  14. I read this earlier today and then got sidetracked, so I didn't get a chance to comment.
    I'm going to jump in and get honest. I think blogging can feel like a job. It's certainly a great way to practice writing and meet some incredible people, but it can be a lot to maintain. I want to read and comment on many of the great posts I read, but it takes some serious time and commitment. Then I need to write a post and advertise that which leads me to the social media of it all. And, oh boy, can that take some serious, serious time. Can you tell I'm a little disenchanted right now?
    I took a break this summer. And I'm slowly wading back into blogging, but I must admit I wonder if I need a longer break.
    Anyway. :)
    I love reading your writing. Always.

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  15. I struggle with blogging a lot. I have half-written a "what the heck am I doing?" post a dozen times in the past few weeks, and I never get it done. There are so many paradoxes in it for me it is sometimes paralyzing. I get what you mentioned about finding an online community - as a stay at home mom the computer is one of the places I express myself as an individual. Commenting is one of the trickiest parts - I'm on the computer partly because I struggle with social things, but the social etiquette of commenting and what to say and whether to respond to every comment can be more overwhelming than things I handle face to face.

    Most importantly, though, I'm struggling right now with why I do this. At first it was just a way to remind myself there's still a human being in there, with a voice. Now what? I don't want to care about "numbers" and "hits" and blog cute snarky posts about "vagina" and "poop." :) Currently I post about once a week to submit something to yeah write that I've worked on for hours and hours. I feel like that's blogging "wrong," even though I know there's no wrong way. I just don't have any better answers right now. Thanks for the post. And those questions at the end are good when you actually care about the answers!

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  16. I don't post on my personal blog unless I Want to. Capital W want. I write for a few other sites, but I'm also (mostly) the boss of me over there as well. I do some things to stay current with blogs, but lately I've had very little time to really enjoy READING as well as WRITING. Thanks for writing this, it's fitting in with a lot of what I'm trying to figure out right now.

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  17. I love this post. So much. It's what I needed tonight. I am struggling with this after BlogHer. I am not clear at all what I want to do. And I miss reading books. I used to read about 35 a year and now....it's all blogs all the time. I need more balance.

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    1. When I read this comment the first time I read "I need more balance" as "I need more substance." Ouch. I guess my head is trying to tell ME something!

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  18. What I like most about blogging is the sense of accomplishment, but today, I feel like I completely mismanaged my time and lost the day. My third load of laundry is not folded AND my story is still in my head instead of in my computer. Twitter/FB/Britely sucked my time away and it feels like a waste. Maybe I should go check my stats to see if my social interaction gave us a bump. My oh my, it's a slippery slope, but I'm certainly glad you're on the internet. Ellen

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  19. I am soooooooooooo (all 'o's necessary) right there with you. I write anyway because I feel all weird and itchy if I don't. But blogging is this whole other deal because you have to comment. You have to tweet. You have to network. There's techy stuff. There are %@#%! conferences. I like the community aspect but I'm terrible at commenting, tweeting, networking, techy stuff, and conferences. I could improve, I suppose, but then it becomes a "thing." Like I'm in training or something.

    Only I don't know what I'm training for. If you're training for a race or promotion it's pretty clear that you suck it up and do ABC because your goal is XYZ. But blogging? I don't know what, specifically, I'd be training for. I could man handle my schedule and excercise discipline to the point where I get a lot better at certain blog-accompanying things. But why, specifically, would I do that? I need a carrot and a stick.

    Right now I have an uneasy agreement with myself that I've got a year to just kind of do as much or as little as I want with respect to blogging so when I do make any kind of carrot or stick based decision I at least know WTF I'd be getting into. I don't know, though. I know why I write. I don't really know why I blog.

    Anyway, nice post! :)

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    1. This is *exactly* how I feel. what is the end game? And what's my motivation. But, like you, I feel "itchy" when I don't so I suppose I'll keep on scratching. I wish I could just write, and not worry about all the techy stuff, but it's all part and parcel. I'm just glad to know there are so many others out there with the same struggle! I guess that's also what keeps us coming back - this "community" is no joke. I read the reedster's piece supporting another article on gay rights. That man then commented that he felt more supported by her than his family. It's a real thing to connect about ideas with others -even if you never meet them in person. So, we'll keep blogging for that too...

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  20. I understand how you feel completely! I have decided, for myself, that 1-2 posts per week is all I can do. Anything more than that, and I am taking too much time away from my part-time job and time with my family. It's hard to strike a balance, and I know you find yours!

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  21. I adopted the philosophy that I'll blog on my personal site when and only when I want to. I write for two other sites and have deadlines there, but what goes on my personal blog is all mine, so if I have nothing to say, I don't write it. If I have words screaming to be written, I write them.

    When blogging became more work than fun, I backed off. I decided that even though I know the way to generate traffic is to have new posts up daily, I wasn't going to stress myself writing about life instead of living it. So my blog was awfully darn spare while the twins were infants. I know -- so much source material!! Yet I was so emotionally and physically tapped, I had to take a break.

    I have decided that if no one ever read what I wrote, I'm fine with it. I'll put it all together and give it to my kids as they're becoming parents so they can see what our family was like from my perspective instead of just theirs. I hope they like it!

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  22. Kim, I love this post and the comments have also been great to read, so thanks for that. I'm amazed that anyone can blog while raising a baby or very small children, and I'm glad I wasn't doing it back then because I know I would have been staring at a screen while I should have been on the floor building towers and tickling. Where I am now (kids are eleven and thirteen) I don't feel I'm taking away from them by writing, plus I do most of my blogging stuff from 4:00-5:00 AM and while I eat my lunch, not while they're awake or around. AND, I love it that you don't have a watermark. I can't stand seeing a beautiful picture with a big ol' watermark messing up its composition; as the daughter of a professional photographer, that drives me absolutely bonkers. Keep it up!

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  23. Yes, exactly. If you look at my blog, you'll notice my last post was nearly a month ago. And it's not because I haven't had things to write, it's because my kids have needed me more than usual lately and something had to give and it was the blog. The writing doesn't take much time but the "upkeep" certainly does. I enjoy reading about your adventures a ton though even though I may not always manage to comment from my iPhone, while walking the first grader to school and appeasing the toddler with goldfish and trying to fit in a little exercise.

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  24. I can so relate to all of this. I really only started blogging in March and have yet to find the balance. But your life seems a lot more interesting being an ex-pat in Kenya!

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  25. You bring up a great question. I started my blog with a purpose. I wanted those people trapped in a closet to know they weren't alone. I wanted to share my story as honestly and well told as I could possibly tell it. Basically, I wanted to share my love. In doing so, I have spent less time with my real love, Paul. He understands, but sometimes I wonder if I spend too much time writing. But, I have found that I love writing too. I don't know where it will end, or if it has really begun. But balance is definitely the key. And I won't publish a post for statistics. I publish it for love.

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  26. This was a great post! We lived in South Africa for 3 years and I had a blog the entire time. The most important thing I learned was that when people get to know you, they are interested in the small things. Every post doesn't have to be a production. Its a journey. I've had my current blog for a year now and I still love doing it. Every. Single. Time.
    That is important!

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  27. I am right there with you.
    Up until last week I was a stay at home Mom of my three kids, but decided to go back to work before they killed me.
    Okay, not literally, but I needed a break and writing just wasn't cutting it anymore.
    So while I am generally happier overall now that I get to pee with the door closed for a portion of the day, I am now balancing 3 kids, a job, volunteering 3-4 times a week at our local animal shelter, doing a guest post a week (or so), and writing a weekly article for a website on top of all of my other wifely stuff. So the time for my personal blog has been cut dramatically.
    But I do love doing things that will help me grow as a writer, and that is where my obsession with Yeah Write comes in. If I can only get one post out a week I would love for it to be linked there, because the feedback, support, and encouragement I get is priceless and worth the late nights I spend writing for it.

    I agree with everyone who says that balance is key. Especially with Bill because everything he says makes me want to hug him. Haha.

    I really love your honesty with this post. You are awesome.

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  28. I haven't got it all figured out by a L-O-N-G shot. One site that is awesome for helping, though is The SITS Girls. I see your badge, so I won't expound endlessly: you've already found them. They have great tutorials for exactly the things you mention above, like the watermarking and the unique social media icons. Me? I want to make money. It would be impossible for me to sell out - I'm way too blunt - but I do worry about people thinking I have. Not that I have anything to worry about yet, because I can claim only a few steps in the right direction at this point. :)

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  29. I need to come back to this and read all the comments on here because I'm sure there's a great conversation going on.

    Sometimes I feel like you do. Other times I'm so jealous of the people who have the time to spend blogging and working on their blog. Mine looks like crap, I wish it was better. But I don't have the time and it really gets to me. Then I'm envious of those with the stats and the following and the whole bit. It's difficult. But I blog because I love it, I love writing and I love the community. I know people care about me as a person and my writing and that makes me happy.

    Very thoughtful post here.

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    1. Sometimes I feel like you do. Other times I'm so jealous of the people who have the time to spend blogging Surf Movies

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  30. I am a new blogger and understand you completely! I agree with Michelle, I want to come back later and read your post again as well as all of the comments. We're all here, doing this thing with the same worries and insecurities. Thanks for sharing! Oh, and I am one of those that always asks a question at the end of my blog. :) What can I say? I'm a question asker!

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  31. Great conversation, Kim. We can all relate to this post. I started my blog as a creative outlet. I did not know what would happen. I researched and followed many suggestions on how to set it up. What I love about it is the feedback, and the other bloggers I have met. I'm still so new at it so I don't know where it will lead, or how I will feel about it a year from now. What I most understand, however, is what it means to write for yourself, and not for the expectation of praise or gain. That's what I mean by a creative outlet. I have learned a lot from other bloggers who write and writers who blog by the comments they leave, and of course, from their blogs. It is a lot of work, and I have the time to do it, but wow, if I had a family to take care of I'd have to temper my addiction. And your blog, to get specific I love because you tell us about Kenya. What's not to love? Travel and all that goes with it - I live for it - ok, and my blog. Terrific post, Kim.

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  32. Wow. I was nodding and cheering at this one. What the hell is an SEO and Pinterest scares me. I like this post, your blog and you.

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  33. I read this post at the beginning of the week and it's sat open on my computer, waiting for me to comment, so clearly I'm having trouble with time management these days. What I wanted to say, is that I feel the same way. When I started writing again last winter, it was because I needed to write. And I loved what Yeah Write did for me in terms of my writing. I felt the need to step it up, and somehow, I did. It was having that sense of a due date and knowing that people - strangers, who don't already love me - were going to read it. I fell back in love with writing and, to be perfectly honest, the feedback. I "met" so many wonderful people - you being one of them. But I was also constantly checking my email or trying to write a story, instead of playing cars with my kids. I took the summer off - partly because I was busy with the school, but mostly because I felt I needed to focus on my kids while I could. Now that the oldest are back in school, I am really itching to start writing again, but a big part of me is scared I'll fall into the same traps of ignoring them to do something for me. I guess that's the spill it version of "I'm there with you!" :-)

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