Now we are one

Anyone for birthday cake?

Anyone for birthday cake?

Cycling with heels is one year old today!

If it were a child, there’d be a party with balloons and streamers, a huge birthday cake, more presents than one small person could ever play with, and a room full of proud parents and screaming babies.

But as it’s a blog, a party seems a little over the top. So instead – if you’ll allow me the indulgence – I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back over the past year.

I had no great master plan when I started Cycling with heels. I simply wanted to write.

(I do get to write at work, but not in a way that really excites me. I’m an editor for the MS Society, and my job involves producing information resources about MS. Sticking to the facts, as I must, does tend to get in the way of a good story.)

I wanted an outlet to develop my own ideas, and to write about the things that interested me. Why not a blog? And, given that I’d have to find a focus for the blog if I wanted anyone other than my friends and family to read it, why not a blog about cycling? After all, I do it every day, and can talk about it at length, if given half the chance.

I had no idea whether anyone would be interested in what I had to say, or even that I would be interested in it enough to be able to keep it going.

Things got off to a slow start. I rather naively thought all I needed to do was publish a few posts and readers would magically appear. Unsurprisingly, my stats remained stubbornly low.

182 hits in November 2012. 65 in December 2012.

Things picked up somewhat in the early part of this year, when I figured out that if I read other people’s blogs then they might return the favour. But still the stats remained pretty low – around 400 hits a month.

The turning point was in May. Having concluded that being the wallflower at the blogging party wasn’t getting me anywhere, I overcame my fear of self-promotion and got in touch with a number of cycling websites and blogs.

One of these was London Cyclist, run by Andreas.

Given the number of cycling blogs out there, and given – I’d imagine – the number of people who email him – as I did – to say, ‘Hey! Look at my blog!’ I wasn’t expecting much of a response.

I wasn’t expecting Andreas to send a Tweet out to all his followers – all 15,000 of them – with a link to my blog. And if I wasn’t expecting that, then I certainly wasn’t expecting that he would list my blog as one of the top ten cycling blogs in London, or that I would end up writing for London Cyclist.

That connection to London Cyclist gave my stats the boost they needed.  And so, at the end of my first year, I now have 126 followers, and my page hits are just shy of 20,000.

Those numbers may seem quite modest compared to other blogs and websites, but for me they’re extraordinary. Frankly, I still can’t quite get my head around the idea that anyone is interested in what I have to say, never mind 126. The thought that all these people have, of their own volition, signed up to follow my blog is somewhat mind-boggling.

And then there are the people who say I’ve inspired them – to start their own blog, to start cycling, to start whatever. Little me, inspiring someone? Really?

It’s all a little overwhelming.

I still think I could do better, though. I worry that the topics I write about are too eclectic – from the perfect bike bag via Poland through to space4cycling – and that I should focus more on just one aspect of cycling in London. I worry that I’ll run out of things to write about, and I’ll end up repeating myself. I worry that I need to do more to promote myself, and to get out there and become more of a part of the London cycling community.

There is one thing I don’t worry about anymore.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but never believed I was good enough. A year’s worth of blogging has taught me that I can actually write, and that people seem to like what I write. It’s given me the confidence to believe that maybe, just maybe, I could actually give this whole writing thing a proper go.

One year down. Who knows what the next year will bring?

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19 thoughts on “Now we are one

  1. Happy birthday! The cake looks nice.

    I think you do a great job. You’re style is conversational but intelligent and your topics are varied, rather than messy. Please never fall into the trap of being obsessed with the minutiae of bike design or become a channel for product placement. If I had a constructive suggestion, I’d say stick to what interests you and perhaps develop a theme around something you would like to achieve. For example, what would it take to move those women who are thinking about cycling to actually do it, or how cycling, with all its health benefits, might be woven into a busy life. Poor examples perhaps but I hope they communicate my drift. And interesting to hear about your day job. I’m editor of the journal of medical marketing, so we have some common ground. If you ever consider writing a peer-reviewed paper on MS – perhaps on the role of patient groups for example – I’d be delighted to hear from yo

    • Thanks. The cake was actually my birthday cake from earlier in the year 🙂

      Don’t worry – there’s no danger of me ever becoming obsessed with bike design, or of becoming a channel for product placement. If someone does approach me to review something, I offer them a review on London Cyclist rather than this blog. So far no one has complained about that – and why would they?? 15,000 followers compared to 126 – it’s a bit of a no-brainer really.

      I haven’t been very good so far at planning ahead – I tend to come up with the subjects for my blog posts on a week by week basis, which is great for keeping things fresh and newsworthy, but less so if I want to develop an overall theme or direction for my writing. I’m not saying I want to one of those people with an agenda who always bang on about the same issue with no variation, but I do want to get better at planning and developing more focus to what I’m doing.

  2. Hi

    Just stumbled across your blog recently – wish I could remember where, as you’d probably find that more useful than merely “stumbled”!

    I started my own blog (insert plug: velovoice.blogspot.co.uk) about the same time as you and have likewise found it a bit unnerving – “who’s reading this? anybody?!” I try not to get obsessed with page hits… but I do. And since moving out of London, I worry I’m not putting myself out there enough, gathering grist for my mill. Not to mention, missing out on some amazing evening events e.g. LivingStreets talks, Cyclefit symposia, LCC campaigning conferences. I miss all that! So instead focus on trying to make a little difference in an area where cycling has not really caught on yet.

    Anyway, well done with your blog. As already said, it’s intelligent and conversational. I enjoy it and will keep reading.

    And Happy Birthday! Here’s to many more!

    Rebecca

    • Hi. Thanks for the comments and for ‘stumbling’ across my blog 🙂

      Even though I live in London, I know there are so many events and other cycling-related things I’m missing out on. Because I live in Stoke Newington and work in Cricklewood, my daily commute doesn’t take me anywhere near central London. To go to something after work invariably involves a massive (about 7 miles!) detour, which I don’t always feel like doing, particularly now that it’s dark and getting colder. I would love it if it were easier for me to just stop off on my way home; either I’ll have to get better at making an effort, or get a new job!

  3. Well done blogging twin persona! My aim with the blog was to actually write down a story and make drawing part of my day job so I’m pretty happy that I’ve got half way through what I’d imagined I could do in a year.
    It’s great to read the same anxieties about self promotion (I’m a bit reticent too!) – but when my old primary school re-blogged one of my posts for their birthday celebrations I was completely taken aback! Keep going with the cycling and the writing – it’s inspired me to keep promoting cycling too even though I’ve moved away from the city and mostly just ride a bike around in my mind – which may not be sane! PS Save me a piece of Cake!

    • Sorry – all the cake’s gone 🙂
      Blogging is a great way of making the things you want to do in your life an actual part of your life. Keep up the good work! Hopefully both our blogs will make it to their second birthday.

      • I’m hoping to keep blogging – it’s been a great way for me to stay productive and try and do something new everyday. Good luck for your second year! – I really have to add getting back on the bike for this year.

  4. Congratulations!

    As regards the eclecticism, I know some blogs that have a regular ‘off-topic’ day, on which the writer simply writes about anything that interests him or her, regardless of applicability to the official blog topic. There’s a well-known photography blog I follow (The Online Photographer) which has recently seen posts on topics as diverse as the possible price at auction of a copy of the first book printed in N America, and the design and construction of pool tables. These posts are always interesting, in fact, and they’re subjects that I wouldn’t otherwise have encountered if they hadn’t been in that photography blog. It seems OK to read them in an official ‘off-topic’ page

    • Thanks! I don’t know about the ‘off topic’ days – I’d like to think there are plenty of cycling-related topics I could explore, if only I managed to sit down and think about them a bit more. I thinking planning is the key here, rather than just reacting to the news or what happens on my way home from work.

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