I've been blogging at Lady Mama for about four years with the exception of the break I took last year, when I decided to go do something different for a few months. The different thing was good for a while even though in the end it wasn't exactly right for me. But the best thing about doing something different - about taking a break from this blog - was the new perspective it gave me about blogging: a perspective I think I might not have otherwise have found. When I came back to Lady Mama it was like all the old things I'd worried about didn't matter anymore.
I like to write opinionated posts, but occasionally I'd press the publish button and for a few moments afterward feel sick, worried I might offend or upset someone. Taking a break helped me understand that (so long as you're not going out there with the intention of hurting or offending) there's nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, that in fact it's a good thing where blogging is concerned.
I used to fret about how many comments I was getting. If I had less than ten comments on a post I'd wonder if there was something wrong with what I'd written. I needed validation. Now I know that number of comments have no connection with the quality or value of a post. I've seen all kinds of scenarios on other blogs: There are really excellent posts with just one or two comments and mediocre ones with dozens. There are hugely popular bloggers who continuously get just a few comments and less popular bloggers who get tons. And vice versa.
All writing is still important if it's important to the person who wrote it.
But I think the biggest thing I learned during my break from Lady Mama last year is the impact other blogs have had on my life. As well as connecting with some wonderful people I've found huge comfort in other people's writing. I've read posts that made me exhale with relief knowing someone else had been through something I'd been through thus removing the loneliness of parenting; I've read posts that opened my eyes to things I didn't previously understand; I've read posts that have changed the way I think about the way people parent; I've read posts that have resonated with me so strongly that I've wanted to reach out to the blogger and yell "YES! YES! YES!" (in more of a you-totally-get-me! way than a When Harry Met Sally way!).
It's the authenticity of the writing in blogs that brings comradeship to people everywhere - in my case with other parents. I would go so far as to say that people's stories and experiences have, in some ways actually helped me to be a better parent.
I learn so much from other people.
I've said it before but I love reading blogs more than I love reading magazines - and I love magazines. And sometimes now when I do read them, I find myself cringing at the artificiality of it all.
The one other thing I learned from taking a break is that, although I prefer to every post to have a goal and a structured beginning, middle and end, it doesn't always happen, and that's okay. Parenting blogs are not software blogs: we're writing from the heart about the things that happen to us and the things we think, and sometimes it's messy and convoluted. Like life.
And I just have to hope my readers made it through to the end of the post....