Speaker Spotlight: Emily Austin

Do you ever wonder how successful bloggers became successful? Emily Austin of The Waiting (http://notthehardestpart.com) started blogging in 2011, and by 2014 her blog had over 13,000 followers. In 2014, she was also selected as a BlogHer Voice of the Year and landed a job as a communications specialist for a local non-profit. Not bad, right? So how did she manage it?

Emily Austin with her daughter
Emily Austin with her daughter

Born and raised in Memphis, TN, Emily is a gentle person who is funny, loves to write, and yearns for connection in a way that has served her well in her blogging career. When she writes about trying to blog, her daughter’s 8-month birthday, or finding your people, Emily does so with empathy, frankness, and humor. You get the feeling that she’s a lot like you; she’s got some thoughts, and she just happens to write them down and share them with you on the internet. Her blog happens to have over 14,000 subscribers, but her voice is as candid and personal as when she started 4 years ago.

In Phoenix on April 18, Emily will be speaking about how she built her blog’s community of followers in a session titled, “Slow and Steady Wins the Race.” It’s full of not-easy answers to the question of how she got to where she is today via blogging, and we’re pretty excited to share it with our attendees. (In/near Phoenix? Get your ticket!) To tide you over until then, here’s Emily in her own words:

A photo of Emily AustinQ. What made you start blogging on The Waiting?

A. I had planned on starting a blog during the summer of 2011. I was about to turn 30 and I realized that there were still a lot of fairly basic grown-up things that I was inept at. The blog was going to chronicle me learning how to type (and yes, I am a professional writer who does not possess by-the-book keyboarding skills. There’s hope for us all.), how to change a tire, and how insurance actually works. Then, right as this blog-that-never-would-be was starting to take shape in my mind, I found out I was having a baby. Obviously, since no one blogs about their family and people who cannot operate a Xerox machine without spraining their brains should *totally* make small people, I decided to throw my hat in the parenting blog ring.

Q. What kept you (and still keeps you) posting regularly?

A. I’ve heard quite a few bloggers say that blogging is a lot cheaper than therapy, and this is totally the case for me. I need to write to retain what shred of sanity I still possess. It’s also a great way for me to chronicle my daughter’s development and my own decent into toddler madness.

Q. What are a few of your favorite posts, and why?

Picture of Emily Austin looking unenthusedA. The Reluctant Mommy Blogger is special to me because I wrote it out of pure frustration for being “just a mom” not only in my life but in my writing as well. The actual act of writing that post made me recognize the root of a lot of the malaise I was experiencing at the time. It also really struck a chord with other moms, so that was awesome.

I’ve also written a fair bit about my dad who died when I was in college, and I invariably love those posts. But my favorite is Meet Ed Pate, Salesman because it 100% celebrates who he was rather than the feelings of loss I associate with him.

Finally, I love this post that I wrote on my daughter’s first birthday. Reading it still makes me tear up a little. I seldom get all the words just right, but I think I got there with this one.

Q. Tell us a bit about your writing process: do you keep to a set routine?

A. When I was posting on The Waiting 2-3 times a week, I definitely had an organized routine, mostly because I was also a stay-at-home mom to a baby. I wrote when Cee slept, and luckily, she was a really good sleeper. Now that I’ve gone back to work full time and a significant portion of my job (and energy) is managing other blogs, my writing “routine” — if you want to call it that — basically consists of me writing until I fall asleep at the keyboard a couple times a week. Where I am right now, it’s more important for me to write a couple times a week than it is for me to actually post.

Q. Do you edit a lot or not at all?

A. It depends on the post. For the more cathartic, journal-y posts, I really only line edit and make sure there are no glaring errors, and I also make sure that I haven’t revealed anything so personal that it would violate the line of discretion I have around my family. I edit and polish the general parenting and humor posts a lot more heavily so I can cross-post them to websites and blogs other than The Waiting.

Q. Do you have trouble finding time to blog?

A. “Yes,” she types on her phone while making a lasagne and erecting a Duplo tower with her child.

Q. How have readers responded to your writing?

A. I am still absolutely astounded that anyone reads my blog at all, but I know better than to question it. I’m very blessed to be surrounded and supported by readers who run the gamut of parent and non-parent alike. Even though The Waiting is most easily categorized as a parenting blog, I like to think of it as a human-ing blog. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’re given, and I think that’s the chord my stuff strikes with folks.

Q. Why did you choose to blog with WordPress?

A. My husband suggested that I set my blog up on WordPress because, ahem, it’s easy to use and the tech support is great (I would need ease-of-use and support…a lot). Considering that he took me to see The Ring on our first date, it wasn’t the worst suggestion he’s ever made. I’ve stuck with WordPress over the years because the community of bloggers and readers I’ve found there are supportive and discerning. Everyone’s voice has validity.

Q. If you could go back to when you were getting started blogging and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?

A. Don’t ever hold back. The regret you’ll have for being completely candid pales in comparison to the regret you’ll have for never having written at all.

Boundaries in Blogging

“You’re going to blog about me, aren’t you?”

If you haven’t gotten this question from you friends, family, coworkers, or random strangers at Target yet*, it’s just a matter of time. From the moment that I made it known to my friends and family that I had set up my own digital space to tell my stories, people in my life have wondered when, exactly, they would make their grand entrance on my blog and immediately start receiving their residuals.

*Hey, it could happen.

Almost four years into my blogging stint, my friends and family now know that I would never write anything personal or sensitive about them, and even if I did, I would vet the post with them first. None of us lives life in a vacuum, so it’s important for us to exercise discretion when we share our world on our blogs. The truth is that there are other lives in the mix, lives that may or may not appreciate being read about.

Being a parenting blogger, I’ve struggled with the question of boundaries ever since my daughter was born. She’s a toddler now and only associates my blogging habit with me drinking gallons of coffee in one sitting. But I know that, eventually, the day will come when she’ll want to read what I’ve written about her. And since she’s going to hate me anyway when she’s a teenager, I’d rather it be because I wear God-awful jeans that come all the way up to my boobs and not because I shared too much about her on my blog when she was small. The older she gets, the more I try to write in broad strokes about her and avoid the embarrassing, personal stories that aren’t really mine at all to tell.

What about you? What boundaries do you have in place when you write about your family or friends?