Five Things I Learned During My One-Year Blogging Break

Last December I decided to stop blogging. The final decision to stop caught me by surprise, although it was something I had been considering off and on for quite some time. Here are five things I learned during my year away from the blogosphere:

Silence is important. One of the most powerful things that happened to me in the last year was that I had an encounter with silence. I was hired to write a book for a man in Istanbul who was dying of cancer, an amazing, strong man with an incredible story, and while I was there I came face to face with silence.

After I got back from Istanbul, I started reading more about silence, making time for it. The practice of silence changed my life, and I look forward to writing more about that here soon.

Basically, when you’re blogging every day of the week, it’s difficult to make time for silence. It’s hard to dwell on things for any amount of time without talking about them right away. This is the challenge ahead of me. Blogging out of a space of silence.

Platform isn’t everything. I was so obsessed with numbers before I stopped blogging. How many visits today? This hour? This minute? How many likes? How many shares? A year away from the blog was a tangible step that forced me to focus on getting better at writing instead of getting better at drawing attention to myself.

There is value in secrecy. You know how in the story the angels told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah, then she Instagrammed it right away? Then shared it on Facebook (which was linked to her Twitter account)?

Nah. She treasured it in her heart. There’s power in letting things simmer, just thinking about them.

I am fascinated by the blog as a form of writing. As a lover of novels and short stories, I used to short-change the blog as a form. I tended to think of it as a platform-building tool, a means to an end. But during my time away I paid attention to the bloggers who were still forging ahead. I watched the interaction they had with their readers and the conversations going on.

The blog isn’t dead.

Jealousy sucks – Celebration is better. Anne Lamott talks about Jealousy in her book, Bird By Bird, and for the first month or two after I stopped blogging I sometimes got sideswiped by Jealousy. It’s hard to take a step back out of the limelight and watch other writers write amazing stuff and get huge numbers and continue to build an audience. But it was good for me. It was good for me to stay silent. It was good for me to wait.

And in the process I learned that one of the best ways to quell Jealousy is by supporting the folks you’re feeling jealous towards. Instead of stewing, get on board and help. Celebrate the small things with people. It’s possible to take joy in other people’s successes. It’s actually kind of fun.

So there you have it. Five of the many things I’ve learned during the last year. Any questions?

29 Replies to “Five Things I Learned During My One-Year Blogging Break”

  1. Silence has such a profound effect upon us, doesn’t it? I read recently that there are certain words which contain an element of silence and then there are words in which no silence dwells. To write and speak (heck, even LIVE) the latter has become my deepest prayer.

      1. When your reply came up in my inbox, I noticed that I somehow inadvertently typed “the latter” rather than “the former” in my original comment. sheesh. Good reminder on a Tuesday morning not to take myself too seriously, I guess. ;)

  2. I decided a year ago to embark on making Sabbath a regular part of my weekly routine and asked blog followers to join me. I think, without taking a blogging break, that simple break from the other six days a week, has taught me the valuable lessons you learned here. Silence and the active role of listening is so important when it comes to finding your sweet spot in life. Your highlights here are a sort of discovery and ah-ha moment for me.

    1. Practicing a regular time of rest is a powerful practice very much related, I think, to silence and solitude. Thanks for that reminder.

  3. Shawn – just want to say thanks so much for this piece (and welcome back!). This speaks incredibly closely to where I’m at at the moment and is a huge encouragement. Thank you.

  4. such wonderful, powerful insights, shawn. i know i can relate to getting caught up in the chatter of modern life. i don’t blog daily. heck, i don’t really blog at all anymore, but with constantly getting sucked into day-to-day routines of modern life, silence is often left out.

    oh, and jealousy. you pretty much nailed it. :-)

  5. Yes. All good things. My blog has been silent for a year now, too, fairly by accident. But now that I’m learning these things, I’m inching closer to coming back.

    Thanks for this!

    1. Hi, Stephanie, it’s been a while. Accidental or not, I’m sure the time away will have changed your blogging for the good. Let me know once your back in the blogosphere.

  6. Shawn,

    I have “Dying Outloud” and it is an incrediblly well written, inspiring, and beautifully produced book. I’m glad that your blogging respite produced such an incredible gift and such valuable lessons re: silence and priorities; but, as Larry, said above, I’m pretty thrilled your back. Your blog is, indeed, like getting to sit down with an old friend; who also happens to be one of the best writers that I “know”. In the writers group that I attend a couple times a month, when I talk about the skill of economy of words, it is your name (along with Justin Torres, “We the Animals”) that I always mention as inspirations. The amazing beauty, insight, feeling, and spirit that you convey in a minimum of carefully chosen or given words is something that always blows me away and something that I aspire to in my own writing. Thank you for your sharing your heart courageously.

  7. Glad you’re back!

    I took an unintentional break from blogging as well, and as I started to ease back toward all things bloggy, I started reading blogs again…only to find that you were gone, and I thought, bummer.

    Laconic, I know.

    So now? Woot!

  8. I took the month of October off while everyone else was blogging their hearts out. It was scary. I was afraid people would forget about me, but they didn’t. I’m pretty sure it will become a regular routine. And I’m considering taking every seventh week off.

    1. Thanks, Kelly! Seems like a long time since we had coffee at Square One with Ken. I hope you’re doing well. That’s one cute kid you’ve had in the meantime. :)

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