The Future of Blogging & How I Feel About It

Photo by Ella Jardim on Unsplash
Since I started this blog back in 2016, I have fallen in love with writing again. But blogging is now so much more than just words on a page. It's about web templates, brand logos, followers, analytics, social media presence, colour schemes, professional-standard photography and much more. I go through phases with my blog; sometimes I love it and other times I forget it exists. Some days (most days) I dream of growing this into a full-time money-making machine, and other days I consider sacking it all off. I remember feeling in a super positive space last summer, planning lots of content when I reached out to my friend to ask, 'What kind of blog posts would you want to read?' and her response was, 'I think blogs are over, it's all about video these days'. It was a crushing response, but is she right? In this post I'm delving into my personal experience of blogging and the future of MrsAtoB.com, how the blogging-boom has hit our (double) screens and whether being a Content Creator, Influencer, Blogger, YouTuber, Vlogger or Instagrammer is as rosy as it seems.

In the beginning.
I remember being sat in a lecture theatre in late 2008 and told by my course leader to start a blog. Cue eye-roll. My initial thought: as if I need more work on top of all the other coursework! But heed his advise I did, and I set-up a Blogspot with a crappy free design template (block red, I believe, which haunts me!). My first blog was called 'Through Rose Tinted Spectacles' and sat in a fairly redundant little corner of the Internet without much love or affection. I churned out blog posts sporadically with no other agenda than to tick the box for my semester module. At that point, I was too embarrassed to share posts with Facebook friends and incredibly aloof to even signing up on Twitter and Instagram. Little did I know ten years later I'd be kicking myself for not riding the wave with the enthusiasm I now have for writing.

Biggest doubts.
Fast forward five years to 2015 and the blogging industry has boomed. Brand budgets have switched away from traditional print media to investing in this new-fangled "influencer marketing", and the online world has become a haven for Brand Blogger. The Class of 2010, an alumni including Zoella, Fleur De Force and Lily Pebbles, have graduated with (metaphorical) first class honours, creating a new industry, a prosperous career and full-time salary. Having watched and admired this transformation take place, it's hard to not feel overwhelmed (read: put off) by the crazy competition and saturation of the market. With murmurings that brands in the present day aren't seeing the same results from influencer marketing as in their hey-day (and pointed fingers at the Instagram algorithm for its demise), has the bubble popped? Is trying to crack this market now like flogging a dead horse? If my peers are anything to go by than it feels like it is. However, Victoria McGrath from InTheFrow wrote a great piece about why blogging isn't dying and her definition on what makes a successful blog today:

"
The sites that inspire me are the ones that encompass innovative designs, great quality content and the ability to connect with me through their passions and insights into topics that keep my attention. A perfect mix that is unique to each blogger and another reason why the blogosphere surely isn't at saturation point.
"



Time, precious time.
How do I fit writing blogs around the day job? I'm not one to preach as consistency is most definitely not my middle name... but definitely the name of the game. There's something about trains that gets my writing flowing, similarly a late night glass of wine can also do the trick. I've heard of people who have written books on the daily commute or in between their baby's naps, so anything is possible with a little discipline. And then there's the (shameless) self-promotion and community building that's required alongside to get a blog off the ground - that really is a full-time job in itself and can be a time-vacuum with little reward. There are many apps around today geared at helping you be more efficient in this department but, time is money. And by that I mean, invest more time and (hopefully) make more money.

Perfectionist's Problem.
I have massively battled with perfectionism which has road-blocked so many posts over the years that will never see the light of day. I look back and wish I'd been less judgmental and let the blog posts flow so I can look back on the different periods of my life and re-live it through those words. Similarly, I have ummed and ahhed about setting up a YouTube channel and even received all the lighting equipment from Mr A several Christmases ago but have been too scared to do anything about it. I wish I'd bitten the bullet and could now look back on the crazy few years we had with wedding planning, travelling and moving to New York but carpe diem I didn't!

Picture Perfect.
My perfectionist issue runs deeper still and has delayed publishing *so many* blog posts striving for the perfect photography to accompany the article. My problem? The words flow but the camera collects dust. Across the blogosphere, blog content evolved from the early days of iPhone snaps to hire-a-photographer or spend-£2k-on-a-DSLR-camera. I remember being wowed by the quality of the bloggers' photography but equally surprised the subject of the images would have nothing to do with the post itself, apart from, perhaps, featuring the author. Whereas I would try to artfully style a pile of books on a sofa or summer skincare products in a sunny garden, other (more successful) bloggers would literally just have photographs of themselves (of course, looking immaculate in a banging outfit) but still, I'd been over-complicating things thinking that everything must compliment the theme.

Whilst I've never hired a pro, I've been tempted by the idea (fake it until you make it, right?) but instead I took advantage of my husband who likes being behind the camera (ironically, he hates photographing people but he grins and bears it for me!). After many failed attempts, bruised egos (mine) and short fuses (his), trying to plan and execute photography as frequently as my blog ideas demanded, it became unachievable. Plus, it felt so self-indulgent. I gave myself permission to get over the expectation of having incredible photography (only so much you can do about the model...) and get back to enjoying blogging, and that meant focusing more on the writing than the pouting. For the moment I'm swapping out my mug for stock photography. It means I have less delay getting my words on the web and wince a lot less at the sight of my site.

Haters gon' hate.
One thing that is totally unappealing about the industry yet seems to be par for the course of being a content creator is the amount I hear about hate and trolling. Whether it's nasty comments on a YouTube video, evil direct messages on Instagram or (worse of all) purpose-built websites for people to congregate purely to bitch and moan about specific Influencers. It's totally unacceptable and really does show off the worse of human nature. When you see people getting free kitchens or a brand new car as part of partnership, or *even* a trolley-dash of Boots the Chemist, I would be lying if I said I had never felt pangs of jealousy. But that's why businesses do this #gifting malarkey; you want what they have and buy it for yourself. Subconsciously, it's the lifestyle of that Influencer that we're hoping to attain, it's the perception of the status they're selling that we are being seduced by, yet this isn't new by any means, it's just plain marketing. Hats off to those who have grafted to build an engaged audience and have brands come to them with discount, gifts or paid-partnerships. Rather than send hate, why don't those few spoil-sports just unfollow anyone they don't want to see. Remember the lesson Thumper taught us all in Bambi?

"
 If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all.
"
I, for one, applaud the Influencers who 'out' these haters and lift the veil on the barrage of abuse that happens behind the scenes or in the comments section. The industry needs better regulation and anyone wanting a piece of the action needs to be prepared to have a thick skin.



Rant over. That's the inner workings of my head for the moment on the topic of blogging. I'm taking myself off the hook from my 2019 goals (to move to WordPress, grow my social media following (bloody impossible, I swear) and a site redesign) and I'm stripping it back to just the words on the page. And if you made it to this final word on this rather long blog post then, thank you, because you must be a fan!

**Coming Soon: Under the Influence. My favourite Content Creators of 2019 (and what they've made me buy!)**

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Bake Off | 4 Cake Recipes to whet your appetite

The newest group of bakers are set to land on our screens in the infamous tent for this year’s series of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4. I’m anticipating the urge to don an apron and get baking, which happens only once a year and not surprisingly in conjunction with this show. My culinary skills leave little to be desired so, rather than sitting in awe drooling at the TV screen, I’m getting in the kitchen this year for a little practise. Sharing with you four recipes I can’t wait to try my hand at baking.

Lemon & Lime Poppyseed Cake
I’m not going to lie; the icing is 100% what sold me on this one! Plus, I know that for my husband who loves all things sour, this citrus combination is going to be a hit! With poppyseed in the title, it basically sounds healthy too (kind of). Here’s the recipe I will be following by Lorraine Pascal.

Banana *and Chocolate* Bread
This is an attempt to ‘freestyle’ a little with my mother’s infamous, well-thumbed recipe. I have forever known there to be a Banana Teabread in the cupboard at all times. Perfectly sliced on the side of a cup of tea as a mid-afternoon snack or for guests who popped around. Oh! the quaint ol’ days.When I think about the fact my mother used to bake a cake almost weekly, I really do wonder what I do with all my free time?! This recipe can make use of those browning bananas in the fruit bowl along with a bucketload of dried fruit that is (let’s face it) collecting dust in the cupboard. My favourite bit has always been the banana sponge (and least favourite bits the dried fruit) so I’m deviating off-recipe to create what I’d like to find mixed in the batter: chocolate.

Ingredients:
450g/1lb ripe bananas
100g/4oz butter or margarine
150g/6oz castor sugar
2 eggs
225g/8oz self-raising flour
Grated rind of 1 lemon
50g/2oz glace cherries, chopped
100g/4oz raisins

Method: 
Whack it all in a bowl, mix it with an electric whisk (or prepare for some arm ache if you’re mixing by hand) and pour it into a lined baking tin and bake until brown on the top. Do the kebab skewer test to check it’s cooked all the way through! There seems to be an etiquette of ‘allow it to cool’ but, frankly, I think the warmer the better. Serve with a cup of tea. 

Nigella’s Merookies
When I was living in New York, I basically craved all the home-cooking. American food is incredible don’t get me wrong, but nothing beats home comforts. My particularly sadistic habit of watching British cooking shows did nothing for the home sickness pangs but it did make me fall in love with Nigella. Literally every recipe had my mouth-watering and looked incredibly easy to achieve (whether this is true or not, I’ll find out!). A mixture of meringue and cookie (hence the name) with chocolate chips and pistachios require very little cooking (more warming). Visit BBC Food for the full method.

Ingredients:
2 large free-range egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch fine sea salt
100g / 3.5 oz caster sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
¼ tsp ground cardamom
75g/2.5ox mini dark chocolate chips
75g/2.5ox pistachios, finely chopped

Christmas Pudding
After last year’s success of a Christmas Cake which fed both sides of our family and poisoned exactly zero of them, I want to up the stakes with a Christmas Pudding this year which I believe requires some prepping in advance (although only 6 weeks according to this recipe). I’ll spare the risk of a dentist trip with the traditional silver coin that used to be added as a token of good luck to the recipient (or to go towards the dental bill!) There’s some commitment with this recipe which requires ‘feeding’ in the countdown to Christmas Day. Let’s hope this fairs better than my feeding the house plants! I own the Nigella Christmas recipe book but found the exact recipe to follow online.

I still have the biggest wish to learn to make croissants from scratch (thanks Nora Ephron & Meryl Streep in It’s Complicated for that one!) and also attempt to recreate these amazing pork guac nachos we used to get from the sports bar down the road in New York. At least I’ve still got a few months left of 2019 to give the kitchen a good run-out, assuming I don’t burn it down before then!

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The Highs & Lows of Buying a House

Where's the script to follow a failed house purchase? I'm familiar with the one for a failed relationship, a failed job application even, but what's the etiquette for dusting yourself off and moving on after the dream home you'd set your heart on gets torn from you? Having experienced it twice in the past six months, I am struck by how devastating it can feel. It’s bricks and mortar, not flesh and blood, yet it feels like we need time to recover and heal. It’s like the excitement of seeing someone propose, only to witness the crushing blow of the answer 'No'.  It’s like we’ve called off the wedding and now we’re having to call all the suppliers to cancel the cake, the DJ, (instead it’s carpet and Sky home set-up). And then there’s telling everyone. After sharing excited pictures/plans/designs, I feel like Carrie post-jilt in Mexico with a phone full of voicemails I can't face. I’ve transcended from the highs of bar stool shopping, meandering around show kitchens in John Lewis and carrying swatches of carpet in my handbag to feeling tired, deflated and blue. My Pinterest-filled bubble has burst and now I’m left with egg on my face rent... and a solicitor’s bill that, insultingly, still requires paying.

In the beginning, I remember the butterflies of 'playing grown-ups' calling estate agents and booking appointments to view properties. For anyone a touch nosey, it's a dream opportunity to see what's behind closed doors. And for a while, like the honeymoon phase of a relationship, it was fun. It reminded me of playing a fantasy game like the one when I was a child, wanting to dress up in a pinny and pretend to cook a roast dinner in my new EasyBake kitchen with plastic chicken legs and fruit. 

Then the reality sets in when you have to ask serious questions like, 'Is it gas or electric?' 'When was the boiler last serviced?' and questions which, frankly, I don't even know the right answer to hope for. My parents did their best to equip me with basic knowledge in an attempt to conceal the naive girl beneath and avoid a situation where I offer on a property with subsidence and dry rot (I'm still genuinely unclear how to spot the latter...)

Having hopped over those hurdles and talked the talk, thanks mostly to the wisdom of my formally flat-owning husband, we managed to actually find a property we loved. In fact, after eight viewings back to back on one drizzly Saturday in March, I'm not entirely clear if we did love it or were just desperate to end the torture, put up our feet and find our nearest soon-to-be local pub to neck a glass of red. To be fair, this apartment was gorgeous. Beautifully decorated, open-plan (a tick on the wishlist) and who doesn't fall in love with a TV at the end of the bath?! The open hallway made this two-bed flat feel palatial, just one small snag... Of course there has to be when you have a finite budget and wish to live in West London. A compromise is to be expected... Who needs outdoor space, eh? You have Richmond park on your doorstep* (*20 mins away). Who needs a car parking space, eh? Well we don't have a car and we travel by public transport so... yeah we don't need a parking space! (Like we could even afford one on top of the eye-watering mortgage repayments!) Great, well here's a lovely flat just for you... did I mention it's on the south circular? I mean, I can sleep through anything (thanks Mum for hoovering when I was a baby. Best. Gift. Ever.) Pollution, you say? Well it's London after all!

OK, so maybe that one wasn't The One. But the next one surely will be...

Hello, two balconies. Hello, car parking space. Bring on 1000 sq. ft. of space, two spacious bedrooms and two bathrooms. Not to mention a walk-in utility! I was in love. We both were. Having seen this flat separately, Mr A and I both agreed it was worth offering. On the cusp of a bidding war, we offered the asking price with a 24 hours expiry date and HOORAY, it was accepted. Fast forward a few weeks later, mortgage offer in place and it's with the solicitors to conduct searches and get the paperwork in order. I've spent a morning in May with all the parents to show (off) and ensure I had their approval and enjoyed lapping up their oohs and aahs on the south-facing, sunny outlook and far-reaching views over Richmond. Luckily, all parties were chain-free so we were looking at an expedited lead-time of 6 weeks from offer accepted to being handed the keys. We had already mentally moved in to this apartment; I'd already planned my new exercise studios on ClassPass, sussed out our Saturday brunch place, we'd picked out carpet swatches, and designed our new kitchen island we wanted installed. We had even booked time off work for our anticipated move date UNTIL... an unsightly discovery: 400-flat residential development in the plans according to Richmond Council's website to be built directly opposite our flat blocking all views from every window. Disaster, darling.

I can only imagine this discovery is a similar feeling to learning you've been cheated on. You feel a bit sick, a bit teary and then VERY. BLOODY. ANGRY. The only thing that can be done (once you've paid the sodding solicitor's fees) is block every estate agent's number, unsubscribe from every email newsletter and delete the RightMove app. 

Six weeks later, the anger and resentment has sloped to a 3/10, we've had a mini (and cathartic) makeover of our apartment and my energy is redirected to having and planning holidays. 



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The Four Phases of a Relationship...

...with a book.
I posted on Instagram earlier this week that books have taken over my life. Literally. In every aspect.  Physically; the pile of books on my bedside table that wobbles taller, collects dust and never seems to diminish. Socially; conversations with friends and colleagues than transpires with more books I *have* to read right away! And financially; the Kindle receipts that keep landing in my inbox (whoops). I am literally binging on books. The thrill I get from buying them has replaced the thrill of buying a new lipstick. I know I shouldn’t, I know I have enough, but I *can’t* not!

Having just been lost in the ebook pages of a crazy, intense love story (The Hating Game, for those interested), I’ve realised how predictable I am in different phases of reading a book. Does anyone else join me on this roller coaster? 

Phase 1: Overwhelm. In relationship terms, we’ve all heard the old adage ‘plenty more fish in the sea’. Well, in book terms, I’m awash. I’m literally lost at sea drowning in the tide of never-ending recommendations. My Kindle wishlist on Amazon now stretches to six pages. The list on my iPhone is so damn long, I’ve had to take extra notes to remember who recommended what before categorising all those 'books to read' by ‘Kindle', ‘Bookshelf’ and ‘Audible. At present, I have ten books downloaded waiting on Kindle, seven books purchased on Audible (plus one credit spare) and don’t get me started on the stack of physical books on my bookshelf in my flat… and at my parent’s house. I often fantasise about my full-time job being reading. I think my husband has the same fantasy (so I'll clear some shelf-space). 

Phase 2: First Hurdle. I find starting a new book can sometimes be bit overwhelming. Will it be better than the last? Will I like the characters? The writing style? Will the ending leave me satisfied… or pissed off? With literally forty books to choose from (aka: spoilt for choice), picking one can be hard enough but I find having a good portion of time to dedicate to the start is key. That’s why on holiday, I can fly through four books in a week because I have zero interruptions.  In normal life, I am definitely guilty of getting a few pages in, my eyes start to droop and before you know it I’ve fallen asleep and I struggle thereafter to get into the swing of the book. The Hating Game being case and point. It sat at the difficult 3% mark for a good couple of days before a little bout of insomnia gave me a two hour block to break into it. Carving out time; a long journey, a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon, are my prime opportunities.

Phase 3: Infatuation. I often say the main benefit of Audible is that you don’t have to stop reading when you're walking to the station or changing lines on the Underground. Well, the truth is with a bloody good book that’s not true. I love seeing Londoners wander nose-down in a book attempting to navigate the crowds with peripheral vision only and a sixth sense to stop you face-planting a lamppost. My train broke down this morning on the way to work and I was overjoyed at the legitimate excuse for more minutes to stay lost in the story. Sign of a good book, for sure. It's equally responsible for making me an antisocial hermit who will cancel plans, feign sickness and wish for rain just so I can selfishly sit in solitude with only those characters for company.

Phase 4: Mourning. The problem with infatuation is it never lasts. The more infatuated I am, the sooner I find myself in Phase 4 feeling bereft that the author selfishly stopped writing. I lap up those indulgent epilogues which jump into the future and give you the sugar-coated, chocolate-dipped strawberry of a ‘happily ever after’ just to leave you feeling truly satisfied. However, next comes the book-blues. I just raced through the final 40% of the book in the last 24 hours and I’m now sat contemplating, well, what now? Half of me wants to keep on the reading bandwagon and dive straight into another book. The other half of me feels emotionally attached to Lucy ‘Shortcake’ Hutton and Josh Templeton that, surely, no one can compete (for at least a few days). 

Perhaps that’s why you’ve got this blog post - "book-reavement".


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