Reflections on six years of blogging (and reading for a living)

Reflections on six years of blogging (and reading for a living)

This post is sponsored by Squarespace.

A little over a month ago I officially marked six years of blogging, which seems absolutely crazy to me. Awesome, and crazy.

I’ve talked about Modern Mrs Darcy’s origin story on other people’s podcasts before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever talked about it here on the blog.

Here’s the story of how reading became my job. Will and I were at our dining room table late one night, right around New Year’s Eve. The kids were in bed; we were drinking wine and eating take-out sushi. (Six year ago this is how we had so many great conversations! It’s funny how six years later, we can barely stay awake longer than our kids.)

We were having the kind of talk we love to have at year end: we were looking back at the year behind us, and thinking out loud about what we hoped for in the year to come.

Will had done some blogging in 2010; I was encouraging him to keep it up in 2011. Halfway through that conversation, he stopped me, and said, “Do you know who I think should start a blog?”

“No,” I said, genuinely curious. “Who?”

He said you, and I said you’re crazy. I mean, I barely even read any blogs back then.

But ten minutes later he’d convinced me it would be a fun little project. We immediately started making lists of topics, categories, potential posts. A few days later, I came up with the name. And not quite two months later, I published the first post.

I never would have believed you if you’d told me, that night around the dining room table, that starting a blog would be one of the most fun and rewarding things I would ever do.

The writing itself has been so valuable, for me personally.  Having a blog kept me accountable to keep writing in a way my written journals never did. I’ve met tons of amazing people and formed incredible friendships, some of them right here in my town.

And the blog has opened the door to all kinds of interesting opportunities and projects that don’t necessarily have anything to do with blogging, but wouldn’t have happened without the blog: the podcast! The Book Club! Actually writing books!

All that has been tons of fun (and, don’t get me wrong, a ton of work) but my favorite part is what they all have in common: books, reading, and an air of possibility. It’s a cool job, and I’m grateful for it. (I mean, any job that counts “walking to the library with your dog” as a legitimate workday task is by definition cool, right?)

Reading for a living is pretty great. It’s not without it’s downsides, but if you ever you catch me complaining, give me a good shake, okay?

I’m also grateful for the tools that make all this possible.

So much has changed since I started six years ago. Back when I started in 2011, blogging was the thing I did. It was the thing a lot of people did—the starting point for all their online creative endeavors.

That’s not true anymore. Blogging is just one of many things I do these days, and that’s true for a lot of people. You don’t need a blog for people to find you anymore, but you do need a way for people to find you. That’s why when Squarespace asked if I would like to build a new site on one of their beautiful, easy-to-use templates, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: a landing page that could serve as my personal hub online, that would simply and easily direct readers to all my projects.

Squarespace is a creative tools company that helps you build website, blogs, and stores, making great design accessible to everyone. They do it all—from domains to websites to online stores—offering a full range of products to meet the needs of their increasingly diverse users. Squarespace helps anyone build a beautiful home online, even if you—like me—don’t have design skills.

When I first started blogging, I had to learn so many different tools and platforms. With Squarespace, you don’t have to. It’s an all-in-one platform that removes all of the headaches of installing software, applying security patches, and worrying about bandwidth or storage limitations. All you have to do is upload your content, customize your design, and you’re ready to go.

I’ve gotta warn you: scrolling through Squarespace’s beautiful ready-to-go templates made me want to start twenty new sites, not just one. They’re so well done, and I love the striking way their designs really “pop.” By blending elegant design and sophisticated engineering, Squarespace empowers millions of people — from individuals and local artists to entrepreneurs shaping the world’s most iconic businesses — to share their stories with the world, without having to deal with technology hassles.

And unlike many of their competitors, Squarespace has an award-winning customer care team that serves customers 24/7 via email and live chat, so if you get stuck, you’re not left alone to figure it out, nor do you have to pay a professional big bucks. That support comes with your Squarespace plan.

Over the past six years, it’s been an adjustment for me to start thinking about what I do as a business, but now I absolutely do. And with Squarespace, I’m not alone in that: aboaut 70% of Squarespace’s customers are small businesses like mine with an eye for design. Squarespace offers the things that small businesses need, like eCommerce, SEO, social media integrations, analytics, domains, Google Apps, and a form builder to collect customer data—all the things that make it easy to grow your business.

My own presence on the web has changed so much in the past six years, even though the big ideas have remained remarkable stable. I’m grateful for tools that give me the flexibility to change, and a new landing page that lets anyone who wants to know find everything I’m up to.

Ready to start your own blog? I recommend Squarespace. The first 50 readers who use offer code MRSDARCY will receive 10% off their first website or domains purchase.

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49 comments

  1. Linda Pitzen Jones says:

    I am a retired school administrator. Being retired has left a large hole in my life. I’m looking for something fun and exciting to do in my life. I have many ideas floating around, but puzzled where to begin. One idea I have is to blog about children’s books. Another is to travel around to bookstores and libraries, small and large, to promote literacy.
    Where/how to begin?

    • Susan says:

      I, too, am a retired educator. I was an elementary school librarian for 22 years and when I retired almost two years ago, I was searching for a way to continue working with children’s literature, which, along with the kids, was what I truly missed. With my family’s encouragement and support I began blogging about kids’ books and posting on Instagram. My blog is Red Canoe Reader, http://redcanoereader.com. I hope you’ll check it out! And let me know how you’re doing!

    • Lisa Z says:

      I think you can and should do both! The two are a nice fit together. You can blog on your own time, once a week or however often you want. And you can travel to promote literacy and blog about that too. It all sounds wonderful!

    • Anne says:

      The “where” and “how” are quite personal questions … but if I had to take a stab at it, I would say with a legal pad and a good pen for brainstorming, and with a few good friends for talking things out.

      As an interested reader, I would LOVE to read a blog about your adventures visiting libraries and bookstores to promote literacy. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive!

    • FIP says:

      I’m on the opposite side of life, mid 30’s mother of 2 small children and a full time job. But I still want to feed the creative side of me and don’t know where to begin. Reading as a job would be a dream come true but seems far fetched and unrealistic for me.

      • Linda Pitzen Jones says:

        You can do anything by believing in yourself. I didn’t go to college until I was 42. I had three children, a husband (fourth child) and for part time jobs. Twenty three years and three degrees later, I am ready to begin another dream. You can too!

    • A blog is a great way to spread the word about good books and about your projects. But visiting libraries and bookstores–especially bookstores–seems like a strange way to promote literacy: The people who are there already value literacy. Maybe you could talk with your local children’s librarians about what they see as obstacles to reaching the children who DON’T come to the library, and think about what you could do to reach those children. As a retired school administrator, you must have lots of experience organizing and making things happen for children. Maybe you’ll end up driving a Bookmobile?

      • Linda Pitzen Jones says:

        Thank you for your comments. You would be surprised what local bookstores will do to promote literacy, including special projects, donated books,etc. Before becoming an administrator, I was a teacher and a reading specialist. I had a lot of interaction with bookstores–so much fun.
        It would be really a laugh to see me driving a Bookmobile. I get lost in some neighborhoods. LOL

  2. Kris says:

    Love your talent! So glad you you are the modern Mrs. Darcy for us! Hey can you share what headphones you are wearing!

  3. Tina says:

    So, I learned a lot about squarespace, an amazing hub for people who are blogging. But where are the reflections on six years of blogging and reading for a living?

  4. Congrats and Happy Blogging Anniversary! You have changed my life! I have always been an avid reader but got married, got kids, got a teaching job, and I thought I couldn’t make time for it anymore. But, listening to some of your podcast guests talk about how they just made it happen, re-awakened my commitment to something I absolutely love: reading! Thank you so much!

  5. Janice Rine says:

    Congratulations! I have really enjoyed your blogs since finding you over a year ago. Keep up the good work & reading! And thanks for the heads-up on squarespace.

  6. Kitty Balay says:

    Congratulations on all of your success! You have certainly e riched my life with your work! I’m looking for a microphone set-up like yours. You always sound great on WSIRN. What do you use? And, by the way, I just started This is How It Always Is. What a great book!

  7. Laura says:

    Have been following your blog for about 4 of those years and am grateful for all the great books you’ve recommended! The new layout is great- just wondering if you could add a tab linking to the Summer Reading Guides? I reference them probably more than anything else on the site. Congrats!

  8. Kirsten says:

    “…and then the murders began.” Haha. Blowing up TBR lists everywhere!! Congratulations, glad to have been along for the ride for so much of it and can’t wait to see what happens in the future!!

  9. Bonnie says:

    I only discovered you a few months ago and am looking forward to joining the Book Club this month. But similar to a previous comment, I would have preferred to hear how your life and your family’s lives have changed these past six years. Unfortunately your post feels like one long advertisement for squarespace. I get that you need to do these things from time to time but I would have preferred to hear about your personal experiences!

    • Anne says:

      How my life and my family’s life has changed because of blogging? Hmmm, that could be an interesting post for another day. (Anything specific you’d like to know?)

      • Bonnie says:

        I think of the word “reflections” as a culmination of thoughts and musings over past experiences. So I guess I was curious to learn how the passage of time, family demands, etc. has influenced your reading choices and therefore your blog. I know that what I choose to read today is quite different than what I would have selected in years past, simply because I am different. I wondered how reading for a living (something I would love to do!) influences what you choose or don’t choose to blog about.

        • Anne says:

          Could we just have a 90-minute coffee chat about this? 🙂

          That’s an interesting question when you pose it like that: of course I’m a different person than I was 6 years ago, and my blog and reading have been a factor in that change. But which is driving which? (I think they’re intertwined, and teasing out how will be interesting.)

  10. Nellie Bewley says:

    Well, I’m super glad your husband gave you that nudge. I have enjoyed all sorts of awesomeness as a result!
    I’ve only ever used Typepad. I’d like to switch over, but Squarespace really intimidates me. I feel like I’m writing over the top of someone else’s blog when I use their templates. Is that just me?
    Anyone have any good resources? When in doubt read books, right?

    • Anne says:

      I think “when in doubt, read books” is a good all-around policy. 🙂

      I’ve found over time that the template truly is just a beginning point. I’m not a design-savvy kind of person, so it took me a long time to grasp that the template is only a small part of what the finished design looks like.

      • Nellie Bewley says:

        I’m not particularly tech savvy either. I married a guy who is, though. I may hand him my laptop and say, “Please make this work. I have important things to say.”

      • Nellie says:

        I do have a question about your early days as a blogger. Did you decide to blog with the intention of gaining an audience or just as a personal outlet? I’m always curious about how that works. I know that it can be a lot of work to promote a blog in order to create a readership. Did that happen organically for you, or did you need to hustle to make yourself visible? The other question I always have for successful and high quality bloggers is how they decide that they have something to say that’s *different* from what other bloggers write about. Clearly, you do. That’s more than evident. But blogging can be a crowded marketplace. I run into the feeling that everything that I have to say is already being said, so what I can contribute? Kind of like having 100 bookstores side by side by side. Aren’t all the books already being sold? Does that make sense?
        There are a lot of question marks in that paragraph…decision fatigue writ small.

  11. I remember when we started blogging around the same time. My little blog will hit the big 6 in July. Craziness!!

    I’m actually getting ready to revamp my blog with a brand new custom design, and (gasp!) possibly a new name. I’m really looking forward to it! My blog has had to take a back seat to quicker, less time and energy consuming ways of connecting for the past 3 years or so. I’m ready to pick it back up and really do it right.

  12. Debbie says:

    I am such a fan of your writing. With that said, I must point out an apostrophe error in the second paragraph beneath the photograph of you speaking into a microphone. Thirty-one years of teaching high school English haunts my reading (and mentally and physically correcting grammar is ingrained). Do not feel that you have to post the comment. (It’s is the contraction for it is; its is the possessive pronoun.)
    Best wishes always,
    Debbie

  13. Tara says:

    I was ready to quit blogging completely, after only two years, thanks to all of the headaches I’d had with technology: so many different plug-ins and things not working the way I’d hoped…ugh. I already have a job; this was too much work. Thanks to Squarespace, I started a new blog last year and have never been happier; I always highly recommend them and I LOVE your new landing page! It’s beautiful!

  14. Hannah says:

    Maybe I missed something around here, but what book are you writing? Congrats on 6 years, I’ve been following your blog for the past couple of years and have absolutely loved it! Keep up the great reading and writing!

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