1. Fifteen years ago today, this blog was born. It was the summer of 2008, just before the U.S. economy crashed and Obama was first elected. Mamma Mia! was in theaters, Instagram was still two years away, and my kids were 6, 12, 16.
A different time.
2. Is blog even a word anymore? These days it’s all Instagram and TikTok and Twitter is out and Threads is in. People don’t write blogs; they write newsletters. Which, to me, is pretty much a blog post that shows up in someone’s inbox—but they live elsewhere, on Substack’s app or Mailchimp’s website.
I’ve started calling my blog updates a newsletter because people know what that means.
3. In 2008, blogs were a way of finding your tribe online. Facebook Groups didn’t even exist until 2010. What I miss most about blogs is the comments section. Real conversations happened there. In the Wonder Farm comments I got to know readers and often we had long, back-and-forth discussions. I’ve met many of you in real life. On a few posts there were more than 100 comments. A typical thing for popular bloggers, but to me those posts felt like parties. It really was a party, on Wonder Farm’s fifth birthday. And again, on its tenth.
4. My most recent post got zero comments. Times have changed; I get it. We’re all skipping around to different platforms, tapping hearts, clicking emojis, maybe writing a sentence if the creator is lucky. Who has time to read blog posts, leave comments that require stillness and thought? Most of the Substack newsletters I subscribe to, even ones with subscribers in the tens of thousands, often only get a handful of comments.
5. Still, to be honest, zero comments broke my heart a little. Made me feel lonely, miss that other time. Made me feel like maybe I’m wasting my time.
But after fifteen years, how can I quit now?
6. And maybe I don’t get it. Maybe it isn’t just that times have changed. Maybe it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me. My publishing guru Leigh Stein always says that you need to provide content that’s valuable to your readers. Back when I was posting on child-led learning and writing with kids: that was easy. But my 6, 12, and 16-year-old grew up, moved out into the world; it got harder. I remember struggling with this before, writing a post titled I Want to Offer You Something Here. I looked it up in my archives—that post appeared almost ten years ago! In it, I offered lots of possibilities for future posts, asked what readers wanted. Blog series? Q & As? Teleconferences? (Teleconferences! Long word—we had no idea how it would get truncated to zoom. So much we didn’t know, then.)
Commenters showed up, answered in full paragraphs. (They really liked the idea of teleconferences.)
7. A handful of commenters indulged me, supported my idea of writing “personal essay-style posts.” I wrote: They’re the format I love writing most, but I’m not sure they’re as popular with readers. (Too wordy! No practical application!) Nevertheless, I started writing them more. In the past seven years or so, essay-style posts are pretty much all I’ve written. And they’ve gotten more fragmented and collage-like and decidedly un-practical.
8. Understand that in the past seven years I’ve been teaching myself how to write a memoir. My posts were practice—me learning how I wanted to write my book. And I do think of you, dear reader, when I write here. I share personal stories because I’ve learned—from you—that personal stories connect, make us think of our own stories. But posts on Joseph Cornell and lyric essays and going analog: maybe I lost you there.
Maybe in a world of divided attention, people really do want something practical, valuable.
9. Yet, here I go off on a tangent again: My heart broke recently when I read they’d discovered the body of actor Julian Sands. For me, Julian Sands will be, forever and always, George Emerson in A Room with a View. It’s one of my favorite films, favorite books. Not just because the writing in both is so smart and funny, not just for that most romantic kiss in the poppy field, not just for the hilarious full frontal nudity around “the sacred lake” in the film, not just because Chris and I saw the film together at the Opera House Theater in San Francisco when we were home on break from college—two letter-writing, long-distance loves—and dreamed that someday, like George and Lucy, we too would honeymoon in Florence. (We did!) No. What I’ve come to understand only recently is that I most love A Room with a View because it’s the story of a young woman who learns to ignore society’s demands and instead, follow her heart.
10. This, I’m also beginning to understand, is my story. It’s what I did when I convinced Chris we should homeschool. It’s the story I tell in my memoir: me, learning to trust my gut, again and again and again.
11. Then, this thought: so much of the work I’ve done, here on this blog, in essays and columns I’ve written, in quick conversations with other parents at the park, with kids in writer’s workshops, with young people as I help them on their college application essays—it’s been about helping people hear their intuition. Trust their intuition.
12. I don’t want to be constantly talking about my TikToks here, but maybe if you have time, you’ll indulge me and watch this one. It’s about research I uncovered while writing my book, on how over the past twenty years, society and the government and commercial interests have conspired to train parents not to trust their intuition. To tell them they can’t be trusted to follow their intuition. I don’t talk about it in that video, but for educators: the same.
In a society where parents and educators aren’t encouraged to trust their intuition, how can kids learn to hear and trust their own?
12. Okay, but how does that translate to this: Provide something valuable to readers. Who are my readers? Some of you are younger parents who’ve found me recently. Some are fellow writers. Many of you are family and friends—and longtime readers who I think of as friends. What could I possibly provide that might be useful to all of you?
13. Back when I was posting on child-led learning and writing with kids: that was easy. Hmm. Writing. My favorite topic. For kids, for adults. But I stopped (mostly) writing about writing here because many of you aren’t writers, or you no longer have young kids. Maybe posts on writing aren’t valuable.
14. But you know what’s helped me develop my intuition most? Writing. For nearly forty decades, writing in a journal. Talking to other people about my writing, their writing. Lines from my old journals are laced through my manuscript draft—those lines were my intuition talking, even if I didn’t recognize it at the time.
15. Which is all to say that after fifteen years, I don’t want to quit you, my Wonder Farm readers, comments or no. I’ve never really liked giving advice. (Well, I do and I don’t, but homeschooling taught me that advice doesn’t help people learn.) And I don’t want to write aspirational content–look at my beautiful life!
I want to offer you something practical. I am nothing if not practical. Let’s do practical.
What if I wrote posts that might help you bring more writing into your life? And, if you have kids, bring more writing into theirs?
Fifteen years in, it’s a different time. Time to try something different.
If you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this post, thank you. I adore you. Your attention, in a 2023 world screaming for your attention, is a gift. A blog birthday gift.