For the past year, I've blogged to clear out my head. Cataloging my thoughts and organizing them into an ever-evolving portfolio has landed me a couple new writing gigs and has put me in contact with some of the most interesting people I know. It constantly challenges me to interact with words and other writers, which always expands my world.
All of these things have been surprising. I resisted starting a website or blog for three years because I didn't want to be obligated to create content that might delve into my personal life. For this sometimes introvert, the idea of writing about my life was terrifying. Though I absolutely adored seeing my name in print, I could avoid including any personal details in these articles. Sharing them with my social networks gave me joy, and it was almost enough.
Starting to blog made it easier to form or re-form personal connections with others online. Sharing blog posts on social media has started conversations with old connections I'd been meaning to contact, and has proved valuable in freelancing as well.
It's also changed how I write. Nowadays, I only commit to writing for a few carefully chosen unpaid outlets. Each has been selected or recommended to break into new markets, advertise my services or to follow my passion. These pieces receive the same care and scrutiny as their paid counterparts, but they can be a drain on time and energy if they become the majority of your work.*
Despite my work schedule, blogging remains a way for me to keep up with my friends and family even when our schedules overlap so much. For me, it's also become an exercise in commitment and punctuality. It's made me more aware of deadlines and my own boundaries, and more appreciative of times I can disconnect.
More importantly, it's given me a sense of the value of my own time. I've taken that for granted in the past, and have exhausted myself. Since that point, I've put a premium on my time, and if an activity or assignment doesn't meet that threshold, I don't accept it. In conjunction with a standard for spending time with friends and loved ones, this system has done a lot of good for my sanity. Time can't be recuperated, and I'm going to spend mine as wisely as possible.
*And you're not building your portfolio. In that case, building a library of high quality clips can be more important than pay.