Like 2015, 2016 has been a Jekyll and Hyde sort of year. Last year it was the dichotomy between Rowan’s birth and Rowan’s existence. Something that made my life so much more difficult and scary also filled it up in amazing ways.
This year comes with its own stark differences, summed up below via a meme that went out of style in 2014:
Back then, my only readers were my friends, family, and a handful of friends-of-friends who were following Rowan’s story. Would anyone care what I had to say? Would anyone bother to visit my blog, especially since Google Reader no longer existed?
I imagine that by this point I had an inkling of an idea that I wanted to write more about mental health but was not quite willing to commit. The day after I created rhiyaya.com I submitted a reworked story from my Rowan blog to Scary Mommy. I knew absolutely nothing about the wider world of publishing and I am not sure why I made that leap. The next day, when I checked my email and found an acceptance from Samantha at SM, I was sure I must be misreading things. They were going to publish my words. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?! How would I keep second-guessing myself and my abilities with cold hard proof right in front of me? Turns out my abilities of invalidation are stronger than any evidence.
Around the start of 2016 I decided to create a Facebook page for rhiyaya. I thought it would mean friends and family who wanted to see my blog updates could and those who don’t really care would not have to be bothered. I obviously knew less than nothing about Facebook’s algorithms.
In February, Scary Mommy accepted an original post from me. Shit. That meant I was now a paid writer. Ok, I was already a paid writer because in 2015 I had a short gig as a content writer for the new breast pump company, Moxxly. But now people were trying to legitimize me! Ack!
I got an email response from Arianna Huffington herself, inviting me to write on Huffington Post.
Both the Scary Mommy post and the HuffPo piece went live within a day of each other. The first Huffpo piece was about OCD and made it to the very front page of HP. I was talking about mental illness in front of millions of people. I hyperventilated a bit and emailed my therapist. Then another HuffPo piece was shared by their Facebook pages, went viral-ish, and suddenly I had around 1000 Facebook followers, which is approximately 950 more than I had before. WHAT WAS HAPPENING?!
From there it gained momentum. Another post went semi-viral. I had my first experiences with really negative comments. People emailed and messaged me to say I had made a difference in their lives. Friends saw my work shared by random people.
I signed a syndication agreement with Mom’s Choice Awards. A South African website contacted me and asked to syndicate a post.
A question to the editor of TODAY parenting team ended with her asking me to let her know if I posted anything I felt might do well. Then I had a post go semi-viral there and gained another thousand Facebook followers. I was shared on the main TODAY Facebook page and by Kathy and Hoda. A piece I wrote about preparing your kids for a hurricane was the first story on TODAY.com for an entire day.
As I wrote for new outlets, I joined behind-the-scenes writers’ groups for the places that have one. This led to more contacts and leads. Networking, baby. I cannot thank Susan from Beyond Your Blog enough for her wonderful resource. If you’re looking to publish essays, her site and its corresponding Facebook group is an absolute must.
I tried my hand at satire and enjoyed it. After many rejections, I achieved a bucket list goal I had only recently added — an acceptance from McSweeney’s.
I was accepted into the National Geographic Kids insider program for 2016 – 2017.
I submitted a few articles to Pregnant Chicken. Then a couple of months ago Amy Morrison emailed me and asked if I would be interested in a staff writer position. Why yes I would — right after I finished panicking that she. emailed. me. rather than the other way around.
There was rejection along the way, too, followed by learning how to deal with the feeling of being rejected. The feeling of having someone say, “No thanks” in a variety of ways ranging from supportive and encouraging to short and blunt. Sometimes I sat and cried. Sometimes I not-quite-panicked. I decided to quit writing on an almost daily basis.
Here are the stats at the end of year one:
My own blog posts since the creation of rhiyaya.com – ~150
Posts on other sites – ~77 if I only count each post once. It’s way higher if I include syndication.
Income – $2300 plus some free swag
Facebook followers – 2770
Places I have been published –
I’m going to get rejected. A lot. Because that means I’m submitting and putting my words out there. Hopefully, there will be a lot of accepting going on, too.
My biggest goal for 2017 is to see my words in print in an actual magazine (rather than me printing them myself — at which point I’m always out of paper or ink anyhow).
I will keep learning all I can about this new universe I have entered. Blogging, SEO, syndication, publishing, editing, pitching, deadlines, oh my.
Hopefully, I will make more connections and find more opportunities.
I am torn between making money and seeing my words widespread. The two are not mutually exclusive but frequently the sites with the biggest following are not the sites that pay. I hope to keep finding the balance.
My advice if you are just starting out
First, never take advice from me. Half of what I write is basically a big list of the reasons I am the last person who from whom you should take advice. But if you are going to do it anyhow, here goes:
You can write and work full time at the same time. I hit a wall where there is not much more I can do while also working 40 hours per week and parenting two children, so now I am working be more intentional in the things I can do.
You won’t get published if you don’t submit.
Your work will be rejected. This does not mean you are being rejected.
It’s a rare opportunity that falls from the sky like rain. But networking certainly creates clouds.
When lightning strikes and your post goes viral, pretty much nothing changes. I found that it has made me set the bar higher, which in turn makes it more difficult for me to feel accomplished. So it’s a mixed blessing.
You might have a thousand blog visitors one day and by the next week, you might only have five.
Get used to cutting words, phrases, and sentences that you are really attached to. Just because you love how something sounds, does not mean it fits the piece you are writing.
Submit nowhere without first reading both the submissions guidelines and checking Beyond Your Blog to see if Susan has done a podcast or Q&A with the editors.
Read the submissions guidelines again.
I love mixing Trello and Google Drive for organization.
Grammarly is useful.
Make an invoice spreadsheet the first time anyone pays you anything.
Don’t be scared of the technical aspects of a blog. Take it slowly, which is the only way to do any of this without making yourself crazy. I started with a free account and now have a self-hosted account with my own domain and lots of pretty widgets, plugins, etc. Google is your friend. WordPress forums are your friend. You do not need to go from your first blog to coding your own CSS in a week.
Here is the progression of my blog header over the last 12 months, courtesy of the Wayback Machine. There were many versions in between these, as well. See how much better it looks now? The same is true for my writing.
It’s amazing what a difference a year can make. So here’s to more growth in 2017.
What are your goals?