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)