It’s tax day here in America. The day when U.S. citizens pay our dues to the government for the goods and services provided to us in the previous year – from building roads and minimally supporting our local National Public Radio stations to starting 10-year wars with people halfway around the world and allowing our Senators and Representatives to opt-in to free healthcare that normal citizens are denied because Senators and Representatives don’t think we’re worthy. Thank you, government, for all you do. Sigh…
Like taxes and government, it’s hard to know sometimes whether some things in our lives entirely help or hurt us. Take this blog, for example. I took a two-month hiatus from writing because I couldn’t figure out if it was good or bad for me. Sure, it was bringing a modicum of happiness to other people, but what about yours truly? I wasn’t sure.
Writing, as anyone who does it seriously knows, is a love-hate art form, something like having your fingernails slowly pulled from your skin by unsharp tweezers on bad days and like the best Prosecco-induced buzz on a warm, sunny spring day on good ones.
I’m a slow writer by nature. Ideas have to braise in my head for a long time before the words gush forth like so much hypergraphia. Ergo, I’ve lost a lot of fingernails in the quest for that sweet, tipsy feeling I might get at the end.
Then, too, blogging isn’t just about generating content. It’s also about marketing, and linking, and promoting, and tweeting, and on and on. And let’s just say that, while a part of me is a social butterfly, there’s another part of me that’s an antisocial loner who prefers the company of chocolate bars and penne a la vodka to other human beings. What can I say, I’m a chicken, wrapped in a duck, enveloped in a turkey: a human turducken.
And then, because it’s tax day, let’s talk frankly about the cost of blogging. After delaying until April 9th to submit my tax records to my dedicated and eternally patient accountant, I discovered, to my shock and horror, that this blog cost me a whopping $5,000 U.S. American dollars last year.
Now, to be fair, some of that money went to trips to exotic places like Kentucky, and a fancy-ass camera inspired by my trip to food blogger camp, and the new laptop I had to purchase when my old one broke in half after seven years of being dragged from foreign town to foreign town. I also had costs related to buying food to test recipes and less sexy expenditures, such as Website hosting, purchasing plugins, and so forth. (Rich Depew, accountant extraordinaire, are you writing this all down?)
What’s funny though is that I actually started this blog as something of a tax write-off. Okay, relax, Internal Revenue Service! Don’t get your knickers all up in a twist! What I mean is that, one day a few years ago, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great to get paid to do what I love: travel and eat. And then I had one of those related thoughts, if I had a million dollars and/or all the time in the world, what would I do? To which the answer came: travel the world and write the “CouchSurfing Cookbook.”
When the million and time didn’t materialize, I started the blog by hosting people in my home and the rest, as they say, is history.
You see where this is going? Of course you don’t. Okay, where it’s going is here: So I started this blog with romantic notions of days and nights spent eating, traveling the world, and free-flowing writing with nothing but glorious tax write-offs at the end of each year. And what did I get instead? Slightly larger love handles than when I started in 2010; far less traveling than I envisioned; a few less fingernails from the stress of feeling I had to write something profound at least once a week; and, now, after all that, the I.R.S. will likely tell me to screw myself and my receipts because I didn’t make a dime of profit. Oh, and did I mention, this week I learned that food blogs are officially “over.”
But does that mean that this blog was just a big suck of time, money, and resources, as some people think the U.S. government is, like we’d all be better off building our own roads and letting corporations run themselves without any oversight? No.
Because you see, blogging, like the government, like eating, like sitting in airports to take exotic vacations, and like relationships with other human beings, is complex and multi-faceted and doesn’t easily fit into all-good or all-bad categories; it giveth and it taketh away.
And while I’m still figuring out how to make money from this blog – while hopefully making a difference in the world, too – I got something back from the blog this year that can’t be quantified in dollars and cents or measured in hours spent beating my fists against the wall trying to arrive at the perfect word: I made friends. From all over the world, in fact. And I had adventures. Really good ones. I learned stuff, too. I’m a better cook. A better writer. I feel more creatively satisfied. I even learned about that annoying entity known as the Internet and how it works, what one has to do to establish a presence on it, and so on. Heck, one day I might even use this blog to become a successful business person.
Now THAT would be priceless.
[Got an idea for how I can take this blog in a new direction in 2012, so that it makes a difference in the world and a small profit for me? Write your ideas below. My accountant and I will heartily thank you! And if you're an app developer, Web designer, or investor interested in partnering on a project, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to cook you a fabulous meal in exchange for your time!*]