Your blog is your test kitchen, and other things I’ve learned in 9 years of blogging

Your blog is your test kitchen, and other things I’ve learned in 9 years of blogging

Earlier this month, this blog quietly turned nine years old. NINE.

It feels like it can’t possibly have been nearly a decade. But it also feels like I’ve been blogging all my life.

When I started this blog in 2011, I felt like I was late, like the “right” time to start a blog had already passed. That seems so silly in hindsight! But I am glad I started it when I did, not because the window was closing (it’s still not) but because it’s been such a fruitful project.

I’m fuzzy on the blog’s public beginning, but I remember the private origins clearly. It was right around New Year’s, the kids were in bed, and Will and I were drinking wine and eating takeout sushi at the kitchen table, talking hopes and dreams for the upcoming year.

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 No way. 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.

Here’s what the blog looked like in early 2011:

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.

I know it’s 2020, and people have been saying for years now that blogging is dead, or dying, or, at the very least, completely uncool. I really don’t care. I love my blog, and I’m grateful for all it’s taught me over the years.

What I’ve learned in 9 years of blogging

• Blogging is a discipline. Or, more precisely, writing is a discipline, and blogging has been an amazing tool to help me develop that discipline. The public accountability and feedback has been invaluable.

• Your blog is your test kitchen. A friend used this phrase to describe blogging recently and it strikes me as exactly right. This blog has been a great place to figure out what I think, whether it’s worth expressing, how best to do so, and what readers think about it.

• Your blog will evolve over time. The content here has shifted, of course; nine years ago I never dreamed I’d soon be talking about books and reading on the regular. But other things have shifted along with my priorities, like my publishing schedule.

When I first started blogging, it was incredibly important to me to publish without fail on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I needed the internal accountability back then, and I also wanted MMD to feel as reliable to readers as their favorite magazines. Nine years later, I don’t want you to confuse this site with your favorite magazines, because what we do here is different, and I’ve had to re-imagine the way this blog fits into my reading and writing life.

• The people are the best part. This was, hands-down, the biggest surprise to me as a new blogger. Back in 2011, I didn’t know anything about the blogging community; I didn’t understand how writing by myself would connect me to others. I’ve never been happier to be so wrong.

I’m so grateful for this community; it’s the best part of the blog. After nine years, I’ve met a substantial number of actual friends online. Some of those friendships began right here in the comments section.

A few stats on 9 years of blogging

• 2002 posts as of today—not counting the ones I’ve deleted over the years. (For a long time I was adamantly opposed to deleting old posts. Then I changed my mind. The world really did not need to read some of the truly terrible early ones, and now they’re gone.)

• 94,814 comments as of this morning. That’s a lot of conversation.

• 63,000,000+ pageviews and 18,000,000+ visitors

Out of those 2000+ blog posts, the most popular (based on pageviews) are:

1. Unputdownable: 17 books I read in 24 hours or less (because they were just that good).

2. 9 books you should have read in high school (that are totally worth reading now).

3. 100 stocking stuffers that will actually be appreciated, don’t feel like a waste of money, and won’t be broken/destroyed/forgotten by New Years.

4. What I learned from living with all-white walls for a whole year.

5. 6 books I had to be talked into reading (that I’m so very glad I read).

6. The 2020 Reading Challenge, which just barely beats out the 2018 Reading Challenge.

After nine years, I’m not sure I could choose my favorite posts. If you have a favorite post from the past, or one that’s really stuck with you, I’d love to hear about it in comments.

Thank you for making this a great nine years. I’m looking forward to more to come.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Modern Mrs Darcy blog post in comments. Do you have ideas about how I should celebrate ten years? I’d love to know!

72 comments | Comment

72 comments

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  1. Jessica C says:

    The posts that I return to and/or use the most are probably “20 books to cozy up with this winter” (and its predecessors) and “Addictive spiced nuts”. The posts I anticipate the most are the annual reading challenges and summer reading guides. A carefully curated book list is probably my favorite type of post.

    (Anne, I want you to know that I was definitely overthinking this.)

  2. Joy says:

    I’m so glad you did carry on. I wasn’t there at the beginning but it’s been a few years now. My reading life has been much enriched by your recommendations and my TBR is ever increasing thanks to the lists you regularly give us, (alongside those I hear on WSIRN). Thank you so much.

  3. Susan Bills says:

    Anne, I enjoy your blog so much and I cannot even imagine the amount of thought and work that go into it. I am 76, an avid reader, and probably one of your oldest followers. I particularly enjoy hearing from the ‘younger’ readers who have just discovered authors and series of books that have been beloved by me for so many years. The comments make me smile and sometimes I’ll re-read a book that I’ve forgotten about for years. Rosamund Pilcher and Maeve Binchy are two of my most loved authors and it makes my heart happy to read that there is still an appreciation mentioned for these two fabulous and engaging writers. I could go on and on but instead will just tell you that I love your blog, love the comments, and hope to watch it to continue to grow and blossom for many years.

    • Casey Cogburn says:

      Blog schmog- just keep writing🥰 I see so much love in your writing (to us) and the sincerity of desire that the world needs readers and contemplators and community!
      I’m fairly new here (I actually think this is my first comment) and it was providential (thank you Lord) that I got connected. See you in Dallas!
      Casey

  4. Gina says:

    I love reading your blog and am so glad I found it (but don’t remember how I heard about it!) Thank you so much for all the work you put into it. I love the annual summer reading guide – which completely rejuvenated my reading life, quick lit, currently reading posts and also love stories of real life, what’s working for you, recipes, things like that…

  5. Anne McDonald says:

    I’m so glad you blog! Of all the blogs I’ve read 0ver the years, yours is the only one that I still consistently read. 🙂 The funny thing is, though, that now that I’ve heard your voice on your podcast, when I read your blog posts, I hear you talking to me in my head!😂

  6. Anika says:

    This is so inspiring to read! As a blogger, I love seeing the growth of others, it’s such a motivator. And I love your point on blog evolution, my blog is so different to when I first started, and I’m glad I’m not the only one 🙂

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  7. Carrie says:

    I think I’ve been following your blog almost from the beginning! I love all the book posts, but also the little things you put in about your life- like Ask for the Cup- the one about wondering how to get the ceramic mugs at the coffee shop instead of paper. It taught me a lesson!!Looking forward to the next nine years.

  8. Marsi says:

    Congratulations on your blog birthday! My favorite post is about the four levels of relationships. In fact, it’s the one that led me to follow your blog, as I discovered it through a Google search while struggling with the end of an old friendship. The friendship had an intangible quality to it that took me years to understand, and your blog post let in a tiny crack of light and deeply affected me. Years later, the intangible has become tangible and I’ve come to understand that old friendship much better. I still enjoy re-reading that blog post from time to time and am grateful you wrote it.

  9. Kelsey says:

    How fun! Thanks for sharing all this with us!

    Some posts of yours that I’ve loved are your posts on personality types and on what’s saving your life right now. I believe you also introduced me to 168 hours in one of your posts, which has become one of my favorite books of all time.

  10. Heidi M says:

    Congratulations! It is, indeed, a discipline and I needed that reminder today. Thank you for your unique content and fresh perspective, and for maintaining a friendly space. 🙂

  11. I’ve been following you for a loooong time (since 2012 or 2013, maybe?), and I honestly can’t imagine the blogging world without you. (For a fun experiment sometime, I should count up how many times I’ve referred readers over to YOUR blog from MY blog, ha ha.) As a fellow blogger–and one with a much more sporadic posting schedule than yours–I can start to appreciate how much work you put into your site (and I don’t even have a podcast! or a reading club! or speaking or public book signings to worry about!). THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. You helped me to rediscover my love of fun reading, which I sorely needed after graduating with a degree in English (funny how that happens). You are wonderful!

  12. Tif says:

    I’ve been here for about 5 years and I look forward to reading every single post. Thank you for it all. I really enjoy Quick Lit, What I’m Reading Now, and recipe/fashion/travel posts. My MOST favorites are tied between What’s Saving My Life and What I Learned this Month – please keep those coming! I also “hear” you while I’m reading your posts from following you on Insta and hearing your voice. Looking forward to 9 more years!

  13. Betty says:

    I have been following your blog for a couple years now. It all started with the 2018 reading challenge. My favorite blog post was posted yesterday, 130 recommended reads for those traveling to NYC (or who want to)! Last year I surrendered to be a missionary in NYC and have wanted to read all things NYC. I’ve read a few on the list, but still have well over 100 added to my TBR list. My favorites are definitely the various book list posts.

  14. Heather says:

    I LOVE your book lists! It helps expand my reading lists and breaks me out of my comfort zone to find unexpected gems I never thought I would be interested in reading.

  15. Christi says:

    My favorite blog is the ‘Series you should read if you loved Louise
    Penny’. I started the LP series 2 years ago on your recommendation. I. Loved. It! To date, I have not found an author I love reading the way I loved that series. Thank you, thank you for that recommendation!

  16. Dana says:

    Hi Anne,
    Been reading your blog for about 8 years. Can’t say that I have a favorite, although, I confess I’m mainly here for the books 🙂 I love reading your recommendations and lists. My reading has been greatly shaped over the years by you and your readers who so generously share. My Kindle is burgeoning with titles I’ve gotten through your Daily Deals emails. Thanks for the wonderful community you’ve created. Keep blogging!

  17. Thanks for the encouragement, Anne! You’ve inspired me to take another shot at my very VERY sporadic blog. The problem is that I am very full of self-doubt and easily intimidated by the good writing of other bloggers. Now I will post the piece I’ve been working on today!

  18. Susan in TX says:

    Happy Blogiversary! I’ve been here from the beginning, but the bookish posts have always been my favorites. I’ve got Summer Reading Guides going back to 2012 – so fun to see how that has evolved through the years. 🙂 Here’s to the next nine!

  19. Pam Coons says:

    Yours is the only blog I every read! I’m so thankful for how your book recommendations consistently provide me with worthwhile books to read. My book club has been impressed with my book selections and it’s all thanks to you! In addition, I think my family would probably thank you that they are getting better stocking stuffers than they used to! (I loved that post!) I hope you keep blogging for years to come! Thanks for sharing yourself with all of us who love to read!

  20. Lisa F. says:

    My favorite posts have been the ones with book lists for winter/seasonal reading; lists with the classics or literary fiction; the Friday links; posts with “things I’m loving right now”; and anything to do with Scotland. There’s a lot of great stuff here!

  21. Jackie Jones says:

    For someone who loves reading and enjoys many of the same books that you do, your blog is the best. It has led me to other blogs and book stuff that I was not aware of and I thank you for that. My favorite thing on your blog is the One Great Book segment.

  22. SB says:

    As an avid reader, I enjoy your blog very much. Your Friday posts, however, are the ones I look forward to the most each week. They generally lead me down an unexpected path with excellent and some times lasting results. I also appreciate the regular links back to older posts. Thank you and your team fo all of your work.

  23. Susan says:

    My favorite posts hands down are book lists of any sort because I don’t think I’ve ever walked away without adding at least one to my TBR list. You have been my go-to reading blog that has truly challenged me to read more. Thank you for being on the web. Are you going to add Savannah to your book tour?

    • Jennifer says:

      Yes! Savannah 🙂 great idea. I’m in Orlando Florida but since no Fl stops are on the list Savannah is an easy 4 hours. They have the best charming book store with a very good tea shop ( E. Shaver bookseller.) just an idea, or of course Fl. would work too;)

  24. Allison says:

    I love this post, and so glad you shared this! The part where you said that you don’t WANT this to be confused with favorite magazines is so true. Thank you for your spirit and continuing to do this.

  25. Stefanie Nordstrom says:

    Congrats on the milestone! I have been following this blog for many years. I wish I could still see the date on a pin in Pinterest so I could see when it was that I started following. Spinning out from Aug 2014 was the post that made me a regular here. I identified so closely with what you had to say. I could not find my introverted thinking reflected in any of my friends or co-workers. In fact I struggled with their criticism of taking too long to think things through. “Spinning Out” helped me find a place where I could relate, learn and grow. It will probably always be my favorite for that fact. I know I am in good company in being grateful that you opened your life to us in this blog. Thank you and Congrats.

  26. Aya Amurjuev says:

    Anne, I’ve been reading your blog since the beginning.
    I used to read 100s of blogs but these days I’m down to 4 blogs in total and yours is still my #1 favourite <3

  27. Carol Smith says:

    Sometimes it doesn’t get easier – August 3, 2017 is my favorite post. I reread it from time to time to remind myself to stop overthinking things and just get them done.
    I also enjoyed the post on Synesthesia. I shared it with my book club, and found out one of the ladies has spatial sequence synesthesia. She thought everyone saw numbers and months of the year like she does! It’s fun to learn something new. Thank you, Anne!

  28. Jojo says:

    Hi Anne, I echo what a lot of other people are saying. While I subscribe to several blogs, yours is the one I will always read and enjoy, truly. I really like your book lists and I do read through all of the comments to jot down what other people suggest as well. It’s like if they subscribe to your blog – then they like the same books I do. Thank you for the many hours of enjoyment – reading your blog, and then reading great books.

  29. Jan says:

    Congratulations! I enjoy reading the blog every day and have for years. My TBR list is soooo long thanks to you! Thanks for sharing your life in such a positive, loving and inspiring way.

  30. Allison says:

    Congratulations and Happy Blog Birthday!

    I have been reading your blog for probably most of the time you have been writing it. I enjoy the book/reading posts; the fashion posts; the “examined life” posts; and definitely your weekend reads posts — I have found so many other interesting blogs as a result of those links.

    Thank you for your hard work. We appreciate you!

  31. By coincidence I’ve been drafting a post today to mark my blog’s 8th anniversary and was also going to include ‘lessons I’ve learned’. Will be interesting to see how far mine are in synch with yours ..

  32. Jennifer Anderson says:

    I love your book recommendations/reviews AND your audiobook recommendations/reviews. I look forward to all of those posts. I enjoy the other posts too. =). As a mom of a special needs kid, I rarely have the chance to sit down with a paper book and just read. I have to “read” while I do something else that requires less mental focus, like fold laundry. So, I’m all about the audiobook recommendations and tips. Thanks so much!

  33. Jennifer Geisler says:

    I started to read your blog with a focus only on the marvelous lists of books to read. That narrow approach disappeared after the first few blog entries I read and I was hooked! Now, I anticipate the book lists as eagerly as ever, but also the non-literary posts which are often filled with your own special wisdom. Thanks for sharing your learnings with us!

  34. Mary Kay says:

    I love your blog, I wait until I have time to click on every attachment you have taken time to give us. My favorite blog of yours was when you unveiled your new library. I love, love, love seeing your library with Daisy on the rug in front of the books!

  35. Kelli Roberts says:

    My very favorites are the self-reflection posts. Some of the ones I’ve loved the most are “Say what you mean to say”, “I take the long way home”, “On showing up”, “In the waiting room”, and “Split the loaf with a stranger”.

  36. Michelle says:

    I thought blogging was dead too – but then I got hooked reading MMD. It’s gotten to the point that I feel disappointed when I see your emails in my inbox, because I think I get to read a new post…only to realise that I already read it when I compulsively visited the site. My favourite posts are your Links I Love, What I’ve been reading lately, and the What I Learned posts (though they don’t appear so frequently). Thanks for writing, Anne!

  37. Tessa says:

    Hi Anne, I’ve only been reading your blog and listening to WSIRN for about 6 months but I’m so glad I stumbled upon it all! You have further fuelled my passion for books and reading (I’m a research librarian by day) and helped me get a better understanding of what type of books I truly love to read. Your book lists have also introduced me to so many stories and authors I may not have encountered otherwise.

  38. I am SO glad you said yes to your husband and jumped on board 10 years ago! I don’t even remember where I first came across you – maybe EBA? But at some point what you were writing started feeding my spirit and I’ve shared your work, given your books, and been GRATEFUL over and over for your words of courage! Thank you for all that you have built here!

  39. AnnA says:

    Thank you, Anne, for sharing your life experiences, thoughts, and book expertise for almost a decade through the blog. I have learned much, enjoyed it to the extreme, and still anticipate every blog post and email from MMD.
    Extremely meaningful for me have been your bringing HSP to my attention, your recent post about seeking counseling, and your assistance in expanding my reading life. Will always be grateful for your venture into blogging!

  40. Deborah says:

    Hooray for nine years! You and your blog were among the first people and places I read online.
    I do not remember how I found you, but I’m so grateful I did!

    I think a ten year celebration at the Modern Mrs. Darcy most likely should include a variety of YOUR favorites, some Pride & Prejudice related things, bookish things, books, pens, journals, the books you’ve authored, and a hot drink and blanket! 🙂

  41. Alicia says:

    Huge congrats on such great success! I work in marketing, and am learning how long and hard the road can be to gain the kind of following you have. I’ve been reading your blog for years and have passed it along to countless friends. You’ve really created something totally unique, reliable, and inspiring. Keep up the awesome work, and don’t forget to take a minute to relish in 9 year of success!

  42. Jean Speake says:

    I cannot remember what fellow book nerd recommended your blog several years ago–it may have been an acquaintance I was working the Friends of the Library book sale with. I’m sure I subscribed the first time I read it–must have been a book list of some sort! My TBR list has grown exponentially, but so has my faith in younger generations of readers, both as they discover writers I have loved for decades, and I discover new authors that they recommend. Keep up the great work-even the non-book posts because there is more to life than books; the trick is to manage the other well so as to have more reading time!

  43. Leslie Occhiuto says:

    Happy blog-aversary! I came to the blog for the books and reading posts but I love the lifestyle, clothes, organization, and daily life stuff just as much. And I always love the photos.

  44. Congratulations on nine wonderful years Anne (and to many more!). I’m just a baby blogger in comparison to that stretch, but I completely agree that the PEOPLE are the most amazing part – I’ve met (and “met” online) so many incredible readers from all around the world through blogging. That’s why I always tune out when people start talking about how “negative” social media and the online space is, because it just hasn’t been my experience at all. MMD has such a welcoming, wonderful community, and my own little tribe of Keeper Upperers are amazing, too.

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