Ten years ago today I made the very first post on Invading Holland.
Wow! Ten years! Please forgive me if I freak out a little bit for a moment. I can’t believe that I’ve been writing this blog for ten years already. Even writing that sentence does not seem real. When I started ten years seemed like such an impossibly long way away. When I saw other blogs celebrating their ten year anniversary I thought it seemed like such an epic milestone (and it is). I’ve been writing this blog for a decade! I’ve done the maths and that’s more than a quarter* of my life (so far). That’s a long time to be doing anything.
So in this post I thought it would be interesting to talk a little bit about why and how I started, as well as a few of the things I have learned from ten years of blogging.
How It All Started
I didn’t actually start out with the idea of creating a blog. Like so many things in my life it just sort of happened by coincidence.
For a long time I had had the vague idea that I wanted to create ‘something’ online. I just didn’t know what that ‘something’ was going to be yet. I was interested in the way a website could be a creative thing itself as well as a means to reach an audience. I liked the idea of doing something self contained that was my own thing.
I thought about it casually for a couple of months but I didn’t really get anywhere with the idea. It wasn’t until my flatmate introduced me to his latest online discovery that I knew what I was going to do. He had started reading something called weblogs.
I had never heard of the concept of blogging before so he explained it to me and shared a few of his favourites. While reading them I started to become fascinated with the idea of people sharing their stories and experiences online (this was before Facebook and social media became big and made sharing a normal part of internet life).
I started to think about all the crazy little stories I had of my own; the time I got stuck in a lift, the time I was lost in Amsterdam at night with a broken ankle, even the strange story of how I ended up in The Netherlands. They all seemed like the perfect subject material for a blog.
So I started writing.
Benefits of Blogging
Slowly, over time, I started to rediscover the love I had for writing at school before self doubt had convinced me I wasn’t good enough at it. I started to find that confidence again as I continued to write. Lately I’ve been enjoying writing short fictional stories too.
Finding an audience took time. Every new comment was exciting (and still is). My writing started to improve and I slowly developed a style. Some elements of that writing style were conscious choices while others simply developed overtime by themselves without me even noticing.
I was once told during a radio interview that a big part of my writing style was, even though I made jokes about the Dutch I was never mean about them. I’d never realized until that point that I was doing that or that it was somehow noteworthy. Now it is one of the things I pride myself on since I love the Dutch so much.
Writing this blog also forced me to deal with my dyslexia. You’ve probably noticed the odd spelling mistake, incorrect word or bonkers sentence structure that still gets through sometimes but you’d be surprised what it used to be like before I started. My spelling and grammar has improved more than I could ever have imagined ten years ago.
Simply through developing a regular writing habit (500-1000 words a week) I started to make incremental improvements. I started to notice some of my regular spelling mistakes and after fixing them a few times the corrections started to stick in my mind until I was no longer making the mistakes in the first place. My writing is not perfect of course. I’ve by no means ‘fixed dyslexia’. I still make mistakes but I no longer feel that dyslexia is something that defines me or holds me back. I’m surprised how often I forget about it sometimes. I certainly feel that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of, even as a writer. Luckily spell checkers also exist and I have a text-to-speech program I use to read my stuff back to me (sometimes with comical results).
The cartoons which were just the results of some doodling soon became a large part of the blogs identity too. They became just as important as the writing and just as much fun to create. Before I knew it my blog had evolved and become its own thing; The adventures of an accident prone Englishman living in The Netherlands. Best of all, people seemed to like it too.
Dealing with Writers Block
I’ve discovered that it is never a good idea to take yourself too seriously. The times I’ve struggled the most with writing have been the times I’ve started to become too caught up in measures of “success,” like visitor count, number of comments and shares or even the regularity (or lack thereof) of my own posting schedule. It created self doubt which led to that old creeping feeling that I was somehow not good enough and that I had been a fraud all this time. Worst of all it created massive writers block which turned that little bit of self doubt into its own self for-filling prophecy. In those moments I’ve found it useful to step back and remind myself why I started writing this blog in the first place; to have fun telling silly stories.
My favourite writer Neil Gainmen was once asked by an inspiring writer, “I want to be a writer when I grow up. Am I insane?” to which he replied, “Yes. Growing up is highly overrated. Just be an author.”
Ten Years of Blogging
The best thing about blogging for the last ten years has been being able to laugh at myself and amuse other people with those stories at the same time. It’s been amazing to have the support of all the people who read this blog. It’s seeing people’s reaction to it that has motivated me to keep going.
I could never have imagined some of the things that have happened as a result of writing this blog either. I’ve been interviewed by a Dutch newspaper, I’ve been on the radio and on television, I became a part time columnist, and I’ve met lots of amazing people (both bloggers and non-bloggers).
As I suspected, back before I even knew what I was going to create online, this blog has become a place that has allowed me to develop and share my creativity. It’s become an important part of my life and has allowed me to do one of the things I love doing the most; writing.
Who knows where I and this blog will be in another ten years’ time. I hope I am still going in some form or another. I will certainly never give up writing.
Thank you for making ten years of my silly stories possible.
(*27.02% of my life to be exact)
Exciting news! You can now walk into a physical shop and buy a physical Invading Holland T-Shirt for your physical body. During the month of March I’ll be taking part in what has become known as Loppisstores, rent your own table.
Loppis sales are a fairly recent phenomenon that started in the north of the country. It comes from the Scandinavian countries. They are special shops where you can rent a small areas (a stand or table) to sell your own stuff from. You can sell anything from self made clothes and decorations to second hand books, vinyl records and more. It’s perfect if you don’t want to wait for Kingsday each year to sell your own stuff.
There are two sales locations where I am selling the Invading Holland T-Shirts; Loppisstore in Heerenveen and MijnTafel in Sneek. If you are in the area (or fancy a visit to Friesland) be sure to check it out. The T-shirts cost 8,50 and are still available through the webshop as well.
I’m also trying to find a location in Amsterdam. If anyone is aware of one please let me know.
Dear people of Holland,
As you know I successfully declared myself the king of your country sometime ago. This happened when I put up flyers around Amsterdam announcing the news and no one objected (thus making it official). It has been sometime since my last royal update so allow me to issue the following news.
It has been over half a year since I relocated my royal residence to Friesland (from the royal apartment of Rotterdam). Having spent some time among the Frisian people and getting to know their culture I have decided to grant them full independence from the rest of The Netherlands. I will not (as one of my Dutch subjects suggested) be ‘selling them to Germany’.
This plan means that the province of Friesland will become its own independent country free of Dutch control. Luckily Friesland already has its own flag, language and national anthem so they are already half way there. In order to achieve full Frisian Independence I will be making the following changes over the next few months.
Steps towards Frisian Independence:
1) Frisian will be added to Google Translate (Done).
2) Orange will remain the national colour of Friesland but it will be a slightly different shade of orange from the Dutch.
3) Dutch people within Friesland will now be considered ‘expats’ or ‘tourists’.
4) Border control will be set up between Friesland and The Netherlands.
5) Frisian passports will be issued to all residence of Friesland.
6) Canal jumping will be made an official Olympic sport.
7) Friesland will be represented by its own football team in the European and World Cup.
8) A Frisian edition of the Euro will be created featuring proud Frisian heritage such as; a Friesian horse, carbidschieten and a slow moving tractor.
9) A Frisian representative will be added to the UN.
10) Frisian embassies will be set up in all the major cities of the world.
11) Sloten will be declared the new capital of Friesland.
12) All websites hosted in Friesland will now end with ‘.fr’. Since this designation already belongs to France negotiations will be opened for them to change theirs.
13) A national Friesland day will be created.
14) The name ‘Friesland’ will be changed to ‘The Independent and Glorious Country of Fryslân’.
Case File #113d
secret admirer mysterious speculoos supplier has struck again. I arrived at work one morning this week to discover another surprise gift on my desk. Last time it was a jar of Speculoos spread with a mysterious note asking, “What’s next?” This time I found out the answer to that question; a bar of white chocolate speculoos. The gifts are getting more extravagant.
White Chocolate Speculoos
Sadly there was no note with it this time, unless the message was to spice up my life. If that is the case I wonder if it is a proposal I should be slightly worried about (especially because of the image of the handcuffs).
I am still not closer to identifying the mysterious supplier of these generous gifts. One of my colleagues has claimed to know the identity of the person in question but he is not willing to say anything more. Since he is technically my boss I am not able to use interrogation to get the information out of him (not without it reflecting very badly on my next employee performance review at least).
My only hope is that my mysterious benefactor slips up at some point and gives away their identity. Until then I have a bar of white chocolate speculoos to enjoy.
Most regular readers will already know that about a year ago my wife and I moved up to Friesland. At the time of the move we had got as far as buying an empty field but it was still going to be a few months until a house was built on it. Not wanting to live in a tent on our newly purchased land until then we temporarily moved in with my parent-in-law.
The exciting news is that earlier this year construction on the new house began and a few days ago we were invited to visit the building site. To make things even more awesome the visit also included the opportunity to bury a time capsule/message in a bottle within the foundations of the house. As soon as I found out this was going to happen I knew I had to write something that started with the line, “greetings people of the future,” and that it would not be in any way serious. Here for you now is that letter. Since this version is going online some personal information has been redacted (to add to the mystery).
Greetings people of the future,
The letter you are now holding in your hands (or possibly examining under a microscope) is from February 11th 2016. Hopefully enough time has passed to make that impressive otherwise I’m afraid this is probably going to be a bit of an anti-climax. It would also be a bit unfortunate if not much time has passed because that would mean the house my family and I lived in (which was built on top of where this letter was buried) collapsed a lot sooner than expected.
You might have already noticed that this letter is written in English. Before we go any further I should point out that this is not an indication that the use of the Dutch and Frisian language began to go into decline in the early 21st century. It’s just that I am English and my Dutch sucks.
My name is Stuart ————. I was born on –/–/—- in London. I unintentionally moved to The Netherlands in 2001 and began a career as a game designer in Amsterdam. I once spent several hours trapped in a broken elevator in a deserted building at night.
My wife Simone ———– was born on –/–/—- in Holland. She is a teacher and once got stuck between the floors of her childhood home after falling partway through a hole in the floor between her upstairs bedroom and the ground floor toilet.
We met online in 2008, met each other in person a short while later, fell in love, and got married in 2010 in Rotterdam. At the time of writing this letter we have one daughter, Sophie ———— who was born on –/–/–, and a second child on the way. Sophie would like you to know that she currently prefers dinosaurs over dragons but I’ll be honest with you; that might have changed a few times once this letter is discovered.
I am giving this information about our lives for historical record in the hope that it will be of interest and that one day we will be featured in museum on whatever planets you have now colonized. Hopefully I’m not just making it very easy for someone to commit identity theft.
The letter was placed in a bottle along with a picture by my daughter (who was not too happy when she later realized she would never get it back) and hidden within the foundations of the house by the front door.