Today, Red Shutters turns ten years old. In honor of that blogging milestone, I’m taking a walk back to remember how it all began. Happy birthday, Red Shutters.
Ten years ago today I published for the first time on this blog. If you go back to read the very first Red Shutters post—which I kind of wish you wouldn’t (it’s terrible)—it’s clear I was a blogging newbie. That first post includes three way-too-small photos and practically no text; it’s not really a story at all, it’s more of an announcement. (Okay, okay, I’ll share: here’s the link, but I warned you.)
That post, while not my best work, was exactly right for where I was in the blogging world in 2008. I had only recently learned what a blog was and that I could have one for myself. I envisioned my blog as a means to update far-flung family members about my growing family, and if you scroll through those early posts (but, again, please don’t), a lot of what I shared was baby news (The baby was born! The baby grew two inches! The baby sleeps!). All those posts are funny to me now since that “baby” is a 10-year-old Minecraft-loving-baseball-playing tween, but, at the time, that content was a perfect blend of what fueled my heart: my new family and my writing.
I kept going like that for while, nearly two years—all alone, doing my own thing, blogging about whatever I wanted to share, some of it incredibly mundane. I was finding my way, figuring out my voice. I was thrilled when I had more than two people (me and my husband) read what I shared. My blog was hosted by Google then, through Blogger, its free blogging software platform, which offered anyone who wanted a blog to throw up a site with no coding or tech experience.
In those early days, I adopted the blog name “Red Shutters” (check out my About Page to learn why), started to read about search engine optimization (SEO), and joined social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Later, my photo skills improved, I began to write more than kid updates, and I started learning about blogging best practices
Then, in 2010, I joined Boston Parent Bloggers, a local blogging group, that connected me to other bloggers, people who loved to write or take photos, who had their own sites and were working to develop a point of view, brand, or business plan. I made several very good friends through BPB, traveling with them to blogging conferences all over the US, strategizing ways to work together, and growing our blog readerships. I had a lot of fun during this time, yet blogging remained a hobby, something I fit into my life after my family, friends, and career. It was something I did late at night—often I didn’t even sit down to write until 10 PM—or on breaks from my full-time job.
Along the way, I watched other bloggers explode with success. Some jumped from their blogs into book deals, TV shows, and work with international brands. They turned their blogs into careers, and along the way, blogging became the platform for their new lives as social media influencers. But, still, for me, blogging was something I did on the side.
That side grew for me, too. I included ads on this site, started to work with brands and organizations I respected, and sold some of my freelance writing. I also upgraded my blog, moving it to WordPress and finding a new hosting company so I had more control over the site. Red Shutters filled more of my time, and it became harder to juggle everything, but I made it work because it was important to me.
As my dedication to this blog increased, readership did, too. People from all over the world—yes, really!—reached out to ask questions, comment on a post, or share something I had written. I’m deeply grateful that something I created had meaning to my readers, and I appreciate that they—you!—made Red Shutters part of their lives.
Then, in late 2015, I was dealt with two devastating events: my mother passed away after a long illness and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. My family and my health consequently became my biggest priorities. I still wrote for Red Shutters, but my posts became less frequent as I underwent treatment.
My relationship with blogging, already changing, spun into a new zone during this time. I was never one to share intimate details of my life on Red Shutters, and as a result, from time to time, I struggled with what to write. Additionally, my kids were getting older, and increasingly, I realized that the parenting stories that I could share about them weren’t mine to tell. They were my children’s. My son and daughter are their own people and deserve privacy; they deserve the right to decide what is shared publicly about them. More and more, I hit delete instead of publish on posts about my kids and related parenting dilemmas. This decision decreased my available content for Red Shutters, but it was the right choice for my family. In response, I added other posts about books and travel, two of my other passions, expanding the topics featured here.
However, I did push myself out of my comfort zone to share my breast cancer journey. I was very apprehensive to do so, but I hoped my story would provide comfort to others who were recently diagnosed—and encourage more women over 40 to get mammograms. In response, I did hear from several women who found my updates helpful and others who shared my posts with colleagues and friends trying to understand what a cancer diagnosis and treatment were like.
Over the past year, as treatment ended and my life shifted to normalcy, the frequency of my posts on Red Shutters decreased to the point a friend emailed to ask if I was okay. “I hadn’t seen anything from you lately,” she recently wrote, worried that she had missed new content on the site. Everything is fine, I told her. I explained that I’ve been busy with other writing projects, including freelance essays and a big to-be-announced project. Her email was the kick I needed to post again, and that’s when I understood I missed Red Shutters. It’s also when I realized was approaching a decade of this blog.
A perk of having a blog for this long is that it’s a great way to look back on the years. My life in 2008 was all about adjusting to motherhood and a new baby, and I’m grateful that Red Shutters can give me some insight that time again because it feels so far away from today. Some blogging experts argue for removing old posts, especially the off-brand or not-so-terrific posts that went up in the early days. I can’t get myself to do that, though; I want to remember how far this site has come, how far I’ve come.
A lot has changed in the blogging world over the past 10 years. Many bloggers have closed up shop and moved onto other opportunities, while others have had exponential success. Still, many bloggers—like me and several of my friends—have found our lives changing and growing, and our blogs, whether we post every day or once a month, have kept us connected to each other and to fellow writers in an increasingly fractured world. With so much of our lives spent online, blogging has made a place for us all.
What I loved about blogging is how it’s helped me find other voices, with stories both different and similar to my own. I’ve embraced those writers, I’ve savored the ones whose words stir my soul, and I’ve shared content that must be amplified so our world can be a stronger, more respectful place. Words matter, and so do people, and blogging is the best celebration of both.
Thank you for ten years of Red Shutters, dear readers. Thanks for being with me along the way, and I hope you’ll stay with me for the road ahead.