Reflections on seven years of blogging sent me a nice message a few weeks ago congratulating me on my seventh blogging anniversary. Seven years, wow!

Down the Road, v. 1.0
Down the Road, v. 1.0

I started blogging on impulse. I was recovering from an ugly divorce and was looking for things to do that I would enjoy (as joy had been in short supply) that didn’t cost much (as I was left nearly broke). I used to write for a living and really enjoyed it, so starting a blog seemed like a natural thing to try.

This blog has had three phases. The first was the “I’m not sure what I want this blog to be” phase, where I told stories about myself and wrote reflections on my faith that I find now to be a little too preachy. I posted sporadically, two or three times a month.

The second phase came when I started writing about my trips to explore old roads. I had always been curious about the old two-lane highways, and spending all day exploring one was a splendid distraction. I used to document my road trips extensively and exclusively over at my old-fashioned HTML Web site, but eventually I started sharing the best photos and stories from the trips here, and now this is the only place I write about the old roads. I think it’s an odd hobby, this search for iron bridges and abandoned brick road segments. But other like-minded roadies soon found my writing, and they led me to an entire old-road subculture. I’ve so enjoyed sharing with and learning from others who also enjoy this esoteric pursuit.

Buoyed by having found a small but regular readership, I committed to posting twice a week. Meanwhile, I had restarted an old hobby of collecting vintage film cameras and was happily putting film into them and learning the basics of photography. I started posting about my old cameras here, too, and went looking for other old-camera blogs. Whether they know it or not, those bloggers taught me much about how to make photographs, and I came to enjoy that process. Now I consider myself much more a photographer than an old-camera collector.

And then the staff found my blog, featuring it an astonishing four times on its daily Freshly Pressed feature in 2010 and 2011. They shared two of my camera posts (here and here), a post about classic cars at an auction (here), and a post about grammar (here). I dashed that grammar post off quickly to fill a scheduled post day where I had no better ideas, and it got more views in a day than the rest of my blog got all year! Many who read that post kept coming back.

Meanwhile, my old-camera posts started benefiting from the Internet’s long tail. Many of those posts are in the top three Google search results for those cameras, which brings lots of visits every day. Some of those viewers have subscribed.

Feeling encouraged by increasing readership, I began this blog’s third phase by posting three times a week. That boosted readership to the next level, showing that there’s no substitute for fresh content. I also bought a custom domain name – actually, a subdomain off my preexisting domain – and bought upgrades to customize the look of the blogging template I use.

I also began experimenting, writing about other things to see which subjects would stick. It seemed natural to write about software development, as that’s how I make my living, but you stayed away from those posts in droves. So I started a second blog about it (here) and promote it separately. It’s still trying to gain traction. I’ve written some opinion posts that have been well read and discussed, such as one about bullying (here) and one about standardized testing in public schools (here). A series of posts reviewing fried chicken prepared at restaurants all over Indiana (example here) was really starting to take off when I discovered that a gluten-free diet eased a pesky health issue that plagued me. So much for that!

Sometimes the words just come. When that happens, I set aside lots of time to write them down and soon posts are scheduled four to six weeks in advance. Other times, especially when my stress is high, I find I have nothing to say. I always hope those times come when I have weeks of posts already in the can! In either situation, writing my blog keeps my mind sharp. And seeing you read, comment on, and share my work is a rush that keeps me at it.

Today, my blog is mostly about photography and old cameras, with some old-road posts in the warm months and posts about my faith when the spirit moves me. I fill in the gaps with posts about whatever comes to mind – like this post. It takes a lot of commitment and effort to keep writing three times a week here. I’m a busy dude, directing an engineering team in a software company, raising teenage sons, and serving as vice-president of a nonprofit (related to an old road here in Indiana; check us out here). Sometimes I think I’m nuts to keep it up.

Every man needs a hobby. I’m fortunate to have several, and I write about them all here. But this blog is my favorite.


35 thoughts on “Reflections on seven years of blogging

  1. Christopher Smith says:

    Thank you for writing your blog Jim and keep it up, I enjoy reading it very much even though I don’t comment on every post, mostly because I can’t find anything to say or contribute. I especially enjoy your camera/photography posts as thats close to my heart being a avid camera collector myself. I also like the rest of your posts no less as it’s nice to read about life on the other side of the pond (being in the UK) it amazing how the internet/world wide web has made the World a much smaller place to live in and brought people together.

    PS. I admire your commitment to the blog.

    • Christopher, I’m glad the UK is so well represented here at Down the Road. I understand that not every topic gives you something to say in the comments!

  2. Carole says:

    Congrats! I so enjoy your blog and though I am not a camera buff, I enjoy your photos the most. From my perspective, you have become quite a photographer. Thanks for all your efforts and please keep it up!

  3. John Smith says:

    Happy 7th! I think I discovered your blog when I was toying with the crazy notion of buying an old Polaroid camera..and I did buy one and it was indeed a crazy notion! In any event, my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are brighter because of your blog Jim.

    • Road trip season is almost here! Thinking about doing the 1850s Lafayette Road this year, which stretches from Indy to Lafayette. There are a couple 1920s concrete former alignments lurking about.

  4. hmunro says:

    Seven years! Congratulations, Jim. It’s been a privilege to be part of your loyal following and to see your blog grow and evolve over the past three or so years. I look forward to seeing what wonderful things the *next* seven years will bring for you and Down the Road. Cheers!

  5. JoDawn says:

    Even though we’ve not met, your writing makes me feel like I’ve known you my whole life. Not many writers make me feel that way. I thank God for giving you to us :)

  6. Nancy (Roe) Stewart says:

    Jim–Always check on your blog every time. Enjoy them all, especialy the road trips, anything pertaining to history and stories about our old neighborhood and schools.Don’t know too much about cameras, but do enjoy your photos. Congratulations.

  7. Lone Primate says:

    Shoot, Jim, I never even thought of warehousing blog entries. What a really good idea. I tend to just throw whatever’s occurred to me up on mine, and it tends to be feast or famine. Mostly famine. But you’re right; and I can see now that warehousing your ideas means you CAN post regularly with greater ease; it also means there’s something to say when there’s nothing to say… and I imagine it also means you can build on things that are still in the queue and refine them. I think I’m going to give that a try.

    Boy, you’re just never done with the good ideas. :)

    • I’ve been queueing up posts for probably five years now. I always have at least a couple in the hopper. As of today, the blog is written for the next 3.5 weeks! But I don’t know if this makes it easier to post. It just allows me to post on a regular cadence.

  8. Has it been 7 years already, I can’t remember when I read your blog for the first time but I want you to know it has always been a great read and revisiting your blog is like revisiting an old friend Jim…cheers !!!

  9. Neil says:

    I’m not sure whatever possessed me to subscribe in the first place, but I’m sure glad I did. Well, maybe it was God. Hope you post for seven more and beyond.

  10. Congratulations on 7 years of blogging! Pretty incredible how fast the time flies. Feels like just yesterday you had your first blog post. I actually also just celebrated 7 years of blogging at my catonmat blog, and I wrote an article about it. Check it out: 7 years of blogging. It would be very awesome if you shared your visitor numbers and top posts as well.

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