Looking back on Shutter & Pen

So I came across something interesting earlier. As of last Friday my blog is officially nine years old. Happy Blogiversary to me!

It’s actually a little older than that if I think about it; originally I started the blog in 2006 with another host, before moving it to WordPress at the beginning of 2007. I hadn’t written many posts before however so I think of the blog starting more when I moved to WordPress.

It’s been a long nine years and the blog has gone through several iterations in that time. When I first started the blog it was called A Writer’s Life and primarily was a writing blog with some book reviews and other things. Back then I mainly saw the blog as a way of generating interest in my writing and so pretty much everything related to writing or books in some way.

After a while I started to find that too restrictive and I decided to widen what I wrote about. I still saw the main purpose of the blog as generating interest in my writing but I started to approach it differently and started writing more general articles and columns. The topics became more random and the blog much more of a window to my thoughts on life and philosophy as well.

During this time a funny thing happened. I guess originally I stumbled into blogging because I felt like it gave writers an online presence they could control and needed but I actually found I really enjoyed it. I liked writing about ideas and philosophy and knowing that this little space was mine, a piece of my intellectual property. And along the way I started to find a bit of an audience and made some new friends.

This period lasted for about four years, from late 2007 to 2011, and it’s interesting because it probably coincided with the peak of blogging as a whole as well. Blogs were everywhere then, both professional and personal, and it was a good time to be a blogger and reach an audience. Interestingly though I think the quality of blogging was not as high as it is now; while there are fewer blogs now, I think writers are more experienced and more focused now which has definitely helped the quality. They’re blogging because they want to, not because it’s fashionable.

Around 2010 things started to change though and blogging went into decline. The biggest impact on blogging was the rise of Facebook; the majority of blogs then were personal blogs where people shared updates about their lives and interests and Facebook gave them an easier and more convenient way of doing that. So blogging declined and unfortunately I saw it happen to many bloggers whose blogs I really liked and who eventually stopped updating.

During this time I started to cut back a bit myself. Part of it was that I was saddened at seeing many of my friends disappear but the major reason was that my health took a bad turn at the same time and I found it difficult to concentrate and update regularly. I still felt like what I published was good but my output was drastically lower and I went from a post or two a week to one or two a month, sometimes less.

I still enjoyed blogging though and I knew I wanted to get back to doing it more regularly… I just knew that I’d need to find some other posts that were easier for me to do while I worked on my longer articles. And so that’s when I started to post my photography, usually with a haiku or haiqua to provide a link back to my writing.

I’ve always loved photography but I’d never really thought of myself as being a particularly good photographer and initially I was actually quite nervous about posting my photos. But I was flabbergasted by the response I received. Right away I started getting really good feedback on the photos and people seemed to like the haiku as well and thought they complemented each other. And so I started posting more.

And that’s how the blog changed again. The name changed from A Writer’s Life to Shutter & Pen and I started posting more about photography than I originally intended to, to the point where a casual visitor to my blog now probably wouldn’t realise that I’m actually still more of a writer than I am a photographer! But in all seriousness sharing my photos here has been one of the best things I’ve done. It’s made me want to go out and take more photos, which in turn has improved my photography, to the point where I have now sold quite a few photographs and could legitimately look at it as a profession if I wanted to (one I am seriously thinking about in fact).

But I am still a writer first and foremost and whilst unfortunately I can’t write the way I used to anymore due to pain, I do still write… I’m always writing in fact, whether it’s a poem or jotting down ideas, and I’m starting to work on short stories again now, with the ultimate goal being to start on my novel again later this year.

And so that’s where we are with the blog now. What was originally a simple writing blog has become a lot more than that, a window to my thoughts on writing, philosophy, photography and life. And yet, at its heart, I don’t think it’s really changed all that much over the years. The idea is still for this blog to be my intellectual space and somewhat random and that’s what I always want it to be… and hopefully people will have some fun along the way too.

For the next year I guess my goal with the blog is to keep to a bit more of a schedule; I aim to post something at least once a week, with a new column every Sunday fortnight. I also want to try a few new things as well – one of them a semi-regular Q&A which should be fun (feel free to suggest a question if you like!).

My other goal is to get back into interacting with the community more. I’ve got into a bad habit of just reading other blogs recently and I’d like to put that right, particularly as there are so many brilliant bloggers out there, like the wonderful Cordelia’s Mom and Manniqueen, two people I’ve met recently and whose blogs I absolutely adore.

Looking back over the last nine years I think the most interesting thing for me has been watching how blogging and the internet have changed. A lot has happened online over that time, particularly the way people access the internet. I was looking back through my stats earlier and that’s the thing that really jumped out at me. Even four or five years ago (let alone nine) the number of people accessing my blog on a smartphone would have been fairly small, probably around 4% or 5%. Looking today it’s 27.2%. That’s huge and shows just how much smartphones and tablets have changed how we interact with the web.

There were some other interesting things in the stats too. One was the average length of time visitors spent on my blog. 90.7% of visitors spend less than 30 seconds, which isn’t great but isn’t too bad I think for my kind of blog – it’s just a small, low profile blog so people tend to come off Google a lot and click away -, but the really interesting thing to me is that 4.1% spend longer than an hour looking. So basically that means almost half of the remaining visitors spend an hour or longer on the site which to me seems like a really good ratio. Drilling down on it a lot of that looks like people going through my stories and poetry as well, so I guess it shows if I ever do get a novel finished, I might have some people interested in reading it which is encouraging.

The other interesting thing was which posts have been my most popular ones over the last couple of years. Since 2012 the top 5 posts have basically all been the same and they’re all older posts. I’m not sure why that is. It may be that they have particular staying power for some reason, or perhaps I just haven’t been writing about things that catch on as much these last few years. Either way I thought it was interesting.

These were the 5 most popular posts from 2015 if you’re interested:

Do we rely too heavily on technology?
What makes something art?
5 famous misquotes from literature
10 things I’d do with 10 million dollars
5 sayings that don’t make sense

Anyway that’s just me getting geeky. All in all 2015 was a pretty good year for my blog but the truth is, none of that matters. I’ve never craved hits. I do this blog for me and not for any other reason. Never have and never will. What matters is that I’m happy with it and I’m glad other people seem to like it too.

Hopefully 2016 will be a good year too as the blog continues to evolve. Thank you to everyone for reading and I hope you continue to enjoy the journey with me.

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5 thoughts on “Looking back on Shutter & Pen

  1. So, I’m blithely reading your post and thinking, OMG that sounds so much like me except that I’ve only been doing it for 2 years or so – and that bit about photography? That is soooo me! Who would have thunk that anyone would find my silly little pictures worthwhile? Or my posts entertaining?

    And then my own name jumped out at me! I am honored – and humbled. I’ll try really hard to continue to earn your respect, Chris. Thanks for mentioning my little blog.

    1. Thank you! I find the stories of how people came to blogging really interesting too… it’s always fun finding out what inspired people to want to write and post. I thought this was a good time to share mine and it’s amazing how similar the stories can be sometimes.

      And I’m so happy I could mention your blog. I absolutely adore your blog and photos and I hope through the link maybe a couple of people can discover it and enjoy it too.

      I hope you’re having a nice weekend. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Cordelia's Mom, Still and commented:
    I love this history of blogging. Having only reached my second year, I didn’t know anything beyond the fact that everyone else out there seems to be better than me. But I especially love the special mention toward the end of the post. I’m feeling very special today!

    (Comments are closed here – leave any comments over on Chris’s site)

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