Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Origins of My Blog

The start of my celebration leading towards my 1,000th post has begun and to begin I thought I'd give you the history of my blog as I never intended on being a blogger, really, but with everything I've become it just sort of happened by fate (and maybe accident.)

I was hired full-time with TouchPoint Autism Services (now Easter Seals Midwest) four years ago come March 2nd and, when hired, I was hired on not really knowing what, exactly, I'd be doing. I don't think anyone envisioned that I'd be to the level and the numbers of today, but back then it started small with a lot of time in the office and constant presentations at the police academy. Since there was looking to be a lot of time at the office the question was what I should do with the time. Ron Ekstrand, the CEO at the time, suggested that I start a blog.

"A blog?" I replied with a voice implying that this was the last thing I wanted. I mean, a daily blog? That means I'd have to come up with something each day and who would want to read about my daily experiences? What would I have to offer? I tried to debate, but in the end I was told to start a blog so I went to my office and sat down and then it hit me.

When I write I always, always ALWAYS start with a title and work out. In all my book chapters and blog posts I have NEVER changed a chapter title after I started it. This is my style and when I sat down the title of my blog hit me and I knew I was now a blogger because the name, "Life on the other side of the wall" had such a ring to it. So, knowing nothing about blogs, I ventured to do a Google search of starting a blog and I found Blogger and after setting the templates up my first blog post was up.

My first month's worth of blogs were fun to write because this was different from the book chapters I was used to writing. Also, it was neat writing real time because, when writing a book, one doesn't know if anyone will ever see the words written, but this was instant! On the other hand, I still didn't know if anyone was actually reading my blog outside my friends on Facebook and those at the office.

April 2nd was a big day for me as I wrote this post on how I got my mission to raise awareness instead of being a race car driver. A couple hours after writing this post I noticed my followers were going up faster than ever. 25, 35, 40, 60, 75! What was going on? I then went to Facebook and saw that Autism Speaks had published my blog on their wall and I now had a huge inspiration to keep my blog going because people were actually reading! I had no idea if anyone was, really, and I was getting frustrated but this gave me a new vigor to provide a daily look at life on the autism spectrum.

The first of what would become many travel stories happened later in April as I worked the first event in the new SKUSA Pro Tour. Sometime this week I'll give an in-depth look at the history of racing on my blog.

As 2010 went on I wrote a lot of blog posts that were good enough to be book material and I used a lot of concepts put forth in that year's blog into my third, and yet to be published, book. When June happened, though, I discovered a new way to get people to find my blog and I know a considerable amount of you found my blog this way, was through Facebook advertising. Sadly, this form isn't as cost effective as it is now and don't get me started about having to pay to have posts be seen on my author page, but back then $20 in advertising would equate into about 1,000 new people finding my blog. I never had a blog sponsor and I spent everything out of my own pocket, but whenever I'd write something that I felt would help people I would advertise. I don't use this method now, as since they've gone public the pricing model doesn't work for small person like me, but all in all I spent WAY TOO MUCH on this but the amount of people that learned something from my posts made it all worth it.

By August my blog felt natural and I no longer worried about it. Oh yes, there was a lot of worry in the beginning as I'd wonder if I could come up with something to write about. I guess you could say there was a lot of pressure, but the pressure increased in 2010 as I would be on a panel with Temple Grandin! I can still remember the nerves I had going into this, and a couple blog posts prior to the one I linked to, I did some video blogs leading up to and then following the panel, but it was so great to be able to share this experience with all my readers.

As I continued to advertise my audience grew and grew and I couldn't believe the global audience I was attracting. Using stat tracker I could see that I had readers from every continent every day (except Antarctica... those penguins are hard to impress!) and I had diehard "fans" from Australia, The Netherlands, England, and Brazil. And from this growing audience it was how my current publisher, a division of Penguin, found me and rereleased my book, Finding Kansas.

The years went on and here I am now nearing the verge of 1,000 posts and I can't fathom that I've come this far. I can still remember the meeting in Ron's office where he suggested this blog and I protested adamantly, but if it weren't for his insistence you wouldn't have read this, or any of the 900+ other posts, Penguin never would have found me, and who knows because, perhaps, I wouldn't still be doing what I'm doing. I may have ended as the Community Education Specialist just a couple months after starting instead of now being the Autism Ambassador and having done presentations across America (twice) and have reached almost 40,000 people spoken to. To think it all started from a simple, "Welcome" blog post, well, it just makes me smile because who would have thought it'd grow to this?

As the week continues I'll share some more on various aspects of my blog and next week I'll start a two-week run of the top 10 posts of the first thousand.

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