Monday, October 1, 2012

Gray Areas

It's time to take a moment and follow up on my post on Making My Way Back.  In that post I explained some of my ambivalence about blogging in the past few months, and my confusion over the next steps for me as a blogger and a writer.  I was getting off a rollercoaster that zoomed up-up-up with aspirations  of blogging professionally and becoming a one-woman brand, and then crashed DOWN with a boom when this pregnancy kind of knocked me on my arse and made me realize that I don't have the single-minded focus to do that right now.  In my yearning to make SMJ my professional endeavor, I wrote sometimes out of obligation instead of passion, and got caught up in what it seemed others in the blogosphere were achieving, and I didn't like the way either of those things felt.

More importantly, I realized that earning a living from this blog would mean chasing down sponsors and product endorsements on a full-time basis.  Not only do I not have the consistent time to devote to that successfully right now, but I also found that I didn't like the effect I've seen that have on other blogs I've read that have "gone pro."  Without fail, the blogs I love the most are the ones that seem written from the heart and soul and like a letter to a friend, more so than the ones that are a revolving door of sponsored product endorsements.  Some blogs I've loved were once one and became the other, and I lamented the loss of that more authentic original voice.

One thing I love about my husband is that he keeps me honest, and it was he who brought up to me the gray area that I'm approaching in seemingly frowning upon this sponsorship trend.  Not too long after that post went up, I got a FedEx from Stonyfield Farms.  Inside were 50 free coupons to share for their Oikos Organic Non-Fat Frozen Yogurt, the prize for having won my event in the Oikos Frozen Decathlon back in July.  I also was asked to do a cookbook review for a holistic health cookbook right around then, and a giveaway offer just popped up in my inbox from the National Pasta Association.  All of this caused my sweet life partner to raise a loving eyebrow at me and question just where I was going with all of this.  Admittedly, my inner Jiminy Cricket was asking me the same.
What gives, lady?
I gave it some thought, and this is what it boils down to...

For me, there is a difference between an aggressive and single-minded pursuit of partnerships, giveaways, and the like, and the occasional opportunity which presents itself to work with a company I believe in or am intrigued by towards the mutual benefit of myself and my readers.  And, to be clear, neither one is right or wrong!  Believe me, if I was presented with an opportunity to write in my authentic voice and gain sponsorship for it without feeling I'd sold my soul, I'd be doing it, and I would be thrilled for the opportunity.  It was the seeming futility of chasing after that made me frustrated and muddied my sense of purpose.  

My resolve, then, is to write from the heart, when I'm inspired, and when I have something of value to share, rather than in a quest for search engine optimization or brand awareness.  I still plan to work with companies I love when I get the opportunity, but I plan to do so in the spirit of the giddy feeling I once had of "WOW!!!  I get to share FREE frozen yogurt with my friends!  Boo ya!" rather than "Hmmm, how can I parlay this into a sponsorship and a pageview maximizing enterprise" and other such Scroogey thoughts that came along as I felt more desperate to keep up with the internet entrepreneur Joneses.  It's a subtle distinction, to be sure, and one that takes place mostly in my own head, but it is important to me that it rings true for you, my friends and readers, as well.

I'm feeling the writing bug again, and I think it is mostly because I've removed this insane pressure from myself, and am just allowing things to come naturally.  I have lots of posts brewing for the coming weeks, and yes some free fro yo and pasta may show up in the mix for ya'll while I'm at it.  I hope that when products appear here you can trust that I'm giving you an honest opinion and that I'm coming from a place of authenticity in the whole enterprise.  For me, that's what works for now.  It's a gray area, but one worth swimming in in my opinion.
Thanks, as always, for sticking with me...


  1. It sounds like this has been a good process to go through to get back to the love of writing while taking advantage of what you have built. You've worked hard to write authentically and sponsors are now recognizing that. It's always good to do a self check to make sure you are fulfilling your own needs and that you are aiming towards what you want out of life, but don't feel like your intentions are necessarily compromised if you capitalize along the way.

    Try not to feel guilty about making money (or taking goods in kind) for your hard work. I know it feels weird and corporate to mesh passion and finances, but it's one of those things you have to practice and practice and keep practicing. (Pretend it's like yoga.) Despite my gregarious personality, charging for my massages was a hard learned skill. I love giving massage and I love helping improve people's health and at first I felt awkward, guilty, embarrassed about asking people to pay for it. After 3 years, I struggled with raising my rates, but did it and everyone was happy to pay. Six years in, I've gotten much better about it, but still notice the emotional swell every time someone asks, "how much was that?" after a massage.

    Keep working through it, you'll find the sweet spot. You've got an amazing product (YOU and your writing.) Keep being amazing, don't stand in your own way, and the money will follow!

  2. Great follow up post. Thanks for sharing even further. The take home message that I'm hearing is that you're going to follow your heart and make SMJ work for you. You can't go wrong with that. I'm proud and amazed to see how (seemingly effortlessly!) you've grown this blog, and I, for one, will continue readership whenever you get around to posting. So cheers to you!

  3. Thanks so much, ladies. I am so grateful for your empathy and support! xoxo