The Measure of Success

24 May

I’ve given a lot of thought to whether or not I’m running a successful blog, especially in the last few months. I kind of abandoned it, and felt guilty for letting my readers down. I wasn’t gaining any new followers, my page views were abysmal, and my social networks had become stagnant. Fail whale.

When I first started this, I was purely driven by fame and wealth. I wanted to earn Scrooge McDuck status, making so much money I could swim in it. Eminem would write derogatory things about me in his songs, and I’d become the target of a Republican Tea Party attack. My aptly titled “Tonic” perfume would sell in Sephora stores around the world.


Okay, so that’s a bit of a stretch. Well, except the perfume part because I really do think it’d be cool if people smelled like I do. That mix of desperation, underboob sweat, and awkward sexual tension took me years to perfect, and I just want to share it with the world.

To be honest, I didn’t have a plan for this blog when I first created it. I knew I wanted my own writing space, and to make the few people who stumbled upon my posts laugh. Other than that, I was content to have it become nothing more than an online showcase for my writing.

When I launched Sips of Jen and Tonic, I met another blogger, J, who was also just starting out. There’s a bond that occurs between new bloggers because you’re all still writing for limited (or nonexistent) audiences. Seeing familiar faces in your comment threads is akin to the feeling a captain gets spotting a lighthouse after months at sea.

Although J no longer blogs regularly, she and I have kept in touch. I feel like we may have been sisters in another life, I adore her that much. Last week she sent me something that made me realize this blog has become so much more than some wannabe Theater in the Round. It was an ultrasound picture of her future son.


I may be the father

To say I felt honored was an understatement. It was an extremely intimate moment in her life, and one she wanted to share with me. I may have cried, but if anyone asks, I got something in my eye.

I’ve met so many extraordinary people in the year and a half I’ve been blogging, people who have invited me into their lives. I’ve read about breakups, new loves, weddings, deaths, births, and miscarriages. Some have confessed of their struggles with depression, anxiety, fertility, sexuality, substance abuse, and other personal demons. I’ve also laughed at tales of awkward sexual encounters, dating mishaps, and drunken debauchery.

That intangible stuff was slipping by me the whole time, those moments when people went from being a random blogger to someone I respected to someone I consider my friend. I’ve e-mailed with some, Skyped with others, and a smaller number of friends have my home address. Sure, I could keep a close eye on my page views, follower count, comments, post likes, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and Klout score, but I’d be missing the point.

This blog is already successful. I’ve managed to turn a one woman dog and pony show into a powerful network of meaningful connections. I’ve been given glimpses into so many people’s lives, and have grown enough as a writer and person to give them a glimpse back into mine. What I now know is that there’s real value to all of the words I write and read these days, and there isn’t a metric around which could measure that.

161 Responses to “The Measure of Success”

  1. Adam S 06/05/2013 at 8:21 pm #

    You’re the bomb, Jen…

  2. Judy Smith 06/05/2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Oh. Such timing. (That happens a lot in my life!) I really, really, really needed to read this, exactly right now. I’ve been lazy, depressed, discouraged, disillusioned … all that crap. But I love my little blog and don’t want to let it die. Your writing is so wonderful — I’ve been drawn to you since the first piece I read here. I would absolutely HATE it if you didn’t keep writing!!! So … I’m very glad you’re thinkin’ you’ll stick around. And like rarasaur, I’d buy “Tonic” in a heartbeat and wear it blatantly.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/05/2013 at 8:51 pm #

      Timing is everything! I think it’s totally normally to feel all of those things you expressed. Earlier this year I actually considered closing up shop. I told myself that if I wrote one more post, and still felt the same, I’d really quit. Of course, the high of finishing a post showed me I wanted to keep going. I hope you do too!

      Thank you for the kind words 🙂

      • Judy Smith 06/06/2013 at 4:02 am #

        And thank you for following my blog — what a sweet little gift. Almost as good as rubbing your boobs on a napkin and mailing it to me!

  3. BrainRants 06/05/2013 at 8:01 am #

    I agree blogging takes some work. My year deployed nearly killed mine. Also, woman sweat is highly underrated.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/05/2013 at 8:50 pm #

      It does take work, but I think there is something to be said for reader loyalty. If they love you, they’ll stick around.

      (You’re not going to be deployed again, right?)

      • BrainRants 06/06/2013 at 3:31 am #

        (not if I have anything to say about it)

  4. rarasaur 06/04/2013 at 12:26 am #

    My husband does not thank you for this post since “dolla dolla duck bills” has been permanently embedded in my head as an appropriate thing to say whenever he asks me how much something costs, haha. 😀 Also, I’d totally buy Tonic.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:57 pm #

      Want to take it up a notch? Carry around monopoly money and throw it around while shouting, “Dolla dolla duck bills.” I’m sure he’ll love it!

  5. sassypanties 05/31/2013 at 2:14 pm #

    Being someone who developed a BLOG that is completely TOP SECRET so that I could see if I could organically gather as many followers as possible, I’ve found that my blog gets out of it what I put into it. Share the love and the love will come back to you. It appears that there are those out there hungry for what you have to say – as for me? I just stumbled here and based on your sarcasm alone, you’ve gained yet another follower. So – thanks for letting us be a part of your crazy. It’s clear that many enjoy it. Wow. Doesn’t that sound funny? WE LOVE YOUR CRAZY!!!!!!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:56 pm #

      “I’ve found that my blog gets out of it what I put into it. Share the love and the love will come back to you.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      Oh, and I love that you all love my crazy because it isn’t going away. I’ve tried.

  6. Melanie Jo Moore 05/31/2013 at 3:08 am #

    I’ve tried not checking the STATS button, (but dammit it’s like crack!) I’ve only been on the blogging circuit now for about four months and I’m with you, there are times that I want to march my laptop out to the trashcan and scream, ‘I’m going Amish! No more laptop, blogging or zippers!’ Luckily, when I started to get the Nobody Cars Burnout, I had a seasoned blogger come along and jump on board with me. She comments regularly, she read my book and she brags about me to other bloggers. She really is my floating door at the end of Titanic, without the creepy Leonardo DeCRAPio hanging on of course.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:55 pm #

      That floating board was the worst character in the whole movie. Acting like it could only hold one person when science says otherwise.

      Checking stats is kind of like crack, and I do feel happiness when my stats get jacked from certain posts. I think we all just need to remind ourselves that it’s only one part of the blogging experience.

  7. Main Street Musings Blog 05/30/2013 at 8:12 am #

    Well said, Jen.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:53 pm #

      Thanks, Lisa! Glad you’re still on this train to Crazytown.

  8. Burns the Fire 05/25/2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Lovely, inspiring, inspired!

  9. Aimee 05/25/2013 at 12:09 pm #

    I would definitely buy your perfume!! Your blog is awesome, regardless of what statistics may tell you. I used to be way too concerned about the stats and got sad that no one was visiting. But I had made real connections with those people who HAD visited, so I feel successful. Do the blog for you and for your own happiness. Don’t worry about the traffic!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:52 pm #

      The type of stuff you write about lends itself to very solid friendships. I think you’re brave to put it all out there, and I know your blog will help the people who read it. That is worth it.

      • Aimee 06/05/2013 at 4:38 am #

        Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m glad you visited, though I hope you have no need for my blog 🙂 It’s the kind of thing you wish no one had to experience, let alone write about.

  10. The Hook 05/25/2013 at 11:00 am #

    Well said, Jen.
    I’m sure you smell great regardless of the circumstances and your blog – not to mention your outlook on life – rocks!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:50 pm #

      I use to be such a sourpuss. I like this Jen much better.

      • The Hook 06/05/2013 at 6:58 am #

        This Jen kicked my ass on The Indie Chick’s blogger awards, so she’s no shrinking violet…

        • Jen and Tonic 06/05/2013 at 8:54 pm #

          I’d like to think I lightly spanked you.

          Also, why were there so many good choices in that category?!

          • The Hook 06/06/2013 at 3:59 am #

            There is a surplus of quality material out there, I guess…
            And by the way, thanks for the spanking, Jen, strangely, I didn’t mind one bit!

  11. Elyse 05/25/2013 at 9:39 am #

    Great post. Thanks to TwinDaddy of Stuphblog for sending me back your way. I’d lost you.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:50 pm #

      Elyse! Somehow I unfollowed you, not sure how that happened. Remedied. Thanks to TwinDaddy, indeed!

      • Elyse 06/05/2013 at 3:29 am #

        I’ve done that too. That little button at the top is a dangerous thing!

  12. jennessjohnston78 05/25/2013 at 9:05 am #

    I greatly enjoy your blogging style and think that you are totally right it is about relationships and connections. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:49 pm #

      Life is definitely better when you have people to share it with.

  13. daniheart21 05/25/2013 at 9:05 am #

    Love this Jen. You rock!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:48 pm #

      Thanks, Dani! So happy we connected through the crazy world of writing.

  14. Cathy Ulrich 05/25/2013 at 7:52 am #

    We’ve known each other here for awhile. I think we were even FP’d on the same day! And I agree with everything you say in the post – and you say it so well. Thank you for expressing something that I feel from this blogging experience. Success is measured in the relationships.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:48 pm #

      Great memory! I totally forgot that we were FP’d on the same day! Now we’re bonded for life.

      You’re one of the people I’m so happy to have among my Hooked on Tonics. You’re just so damn cool.

  15. Garry Crystal 05/25/2013 at 5:47 am #

    Jen, I could count the amount of blogs I read regularly on one hand, actually just a few fingers and yours is one of them. Whenever one of your new blog article notifications hits my email I take a break from whatever I am doing to read it because I know it’s going to be a very funny (plus the pictures are always superb) and entertaining read, and more than once you have thrown in something very personal and touching about your life, which is a brave thing to do. It’s all about connecting and relating and you do this brilliantly, keep it up Portlandia, untz!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:47 pm #

      I can’t believe you read my blog. You’re a REAL WRITER, and I’m some person who talks about sucking poo from her rectum. I’m glad to have you here though, and am thankful we’ve kept in touch despite the B-word debacle.

      UNTZ on you sexy Scottish devil.

  16. speaker7 05/25/2013 at 4:29 am #

    I’m kind of glad I’m getting all these spammy new followers so now I’m not as obsessed with looking at my stats, which have became pretty meaningless. I am now, however, obsessed with procuring a bottle of Tonic.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:45 pm #

      Why do you want a bottle of Tonic when you’ve got Hugo Bellybutton Cheese Parfum at your disposal?

  17. genericmessage 05/25/2013 at 3:21 am #

    I too have neglected my blog for about a month. But the difference between you and I? No one notices when I’m gone.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:45 pm #

      You have a blog?! Wait, there aren’t any links on gravatar or on Twitter. Is this some top secret stuff?

      • genericmessage 06/07/2013 at 4:27 pm #

        I follow you on twitter and here. And amply share my links!

        • Jen and Tonic 06/07/2013 at 7:42 pm #

          Share links to your posts? I haven’t seen any of those on Twitter, at least not since I started following you.

          • genericmessage 06/08/2013 at 2:53 am #

            I do!

  18. celeryhills 05/25/2013 at 12:45 am #

    I always thought success was measured in blog hits, twitter follows and the like. I see bloggers on twitter spending hours twitting, and wonder if they do anything else. I just “unfollowed” one blogger because my twitter feed was being blown up with all her ramblings and I just got tired of it. If she was saying something cool, fine, but all I saw was her twits clogging up tweets I was really interested in.

    So with that in mind, I think you should keep going. You aren’t annoying and you are funny as fuck. I read one post (the gym one) and cracked the hell up. It’s rare when I can read a blog and laugh, I generally read them for information.

    Personally, I started out with a blog, but then after a few years I got bored with it. Also, my focus changed. So I just went ahead and deleted it and started over with everything: new name, new handle, new twitter, facebook, instagram, tumblr accounts, you name it. Even a new email address. Being able to start over was VERY freeing. No, I am not up to the number of likes on my Facebook page, and I am slowly creeping up to 100 of followers on twitter, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, to coin a phrase.

    I never saw myself getting rich off of blogging. I know of some bloggers who have ads, do reviews, all that, and that isn’t for me. When I had my old blog I had several companies contact me to do reviews. I did one review for a product I really didn’t like and questioned some of their ingredients, and of course the company wasn’t thrilled with me. So I bullshitted my way through the review to their satisfaction, then hated myself for being fake. Never again will I do a sponsored review. Also, it’s really difficult to do a review on something you wouldn’t pay for yourself. I talk about something if I bought it only.

    Credibility is important to me, and you have it.

    Bottom line, keep going! You have an audience, you are funny, and you definitely have something to say!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:43 pm #

      UGH, the people on Twitter who ramble or retweet in excess kill me. I wrote a friend to tell her she needed Twitter rehab. She turned into Amy Winehouse, and kept saying, “NO, NO, NO!”

      Wow, you had a blog and then deleted it? That’s bold. I think, if you’re over it, it wasn’t worth keeping around anyway. It’s good that you got back into it. It’s hard to let go of the blogging bug once you’ve been bittern.

      Thanks for saying I’m credible! I would have preferred INcredible, but hey, I’ll take it 😉

  19. victoriabruce 05/25/2013 at 12:30 am #

    I started my blog to blow off steam about the crazy world of my work. I am still surprised when people read it.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I started my blog to prove to people how weird I am. Your story is better.

      • victoriabruce 06/05/2013 at 2:31 am #

        Everyone knows hoe weird I am. Although I prefer eccentric.

  20. PinotNinja 05/24/2013 at 2:12 pm #


    This was beautiful and absolutely inspiring for someone, like me, who is just starting out. If the blogoshpere is full of people just like you, then I’ve definitely made the right decision to show up at the party even if I’m still hanging out over by the punchbowl trying to make my first friends right now.

    Thank you for creating such a wonderful space.

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I really like your blog, and I’m not just saying that because we have the same theme. I can definitely see your blog picking up steam in the near future. There’s a tipping in point in blogging when you go from obscurity to people actually knowing who you are. Just enjoy the process in the meantime.

      • PinotNinja 06/05/2013 at 6:35 am #

        Thank you so much! And, yes, at the end of the day the most important things about my blog are (a) that it makes me happy to write it and (b) that this is going to be something that my two co-writers and I will be able to fondly reminisce about when we’re old ladies living in Boca Del Vista.

        • Jen and Tonic 06/05/2013 at 8:55 pm #

          Promise me you’ll live a life much like what was portrayed on The Golden Girls.

  21. The Bumble Files 05/24/2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Jen, I always look forward to reading your posts! You’re an amazing writer and blogger. Yeah, sometimes you just got to with it, right? Sometimes, I stop to question things and then realize it’s just worthless to do that. Like you said, you can’t measure the value of all these wonderful people. I would buy that Tonic, too. Go for it!

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:36 pm #

      You’re a great writer, don’t doubt yourself. I think it’s in a writer’s nature to do that at times, to question what they put out there. At some point you just gotta push publish.

  22. trjensen 05/24/2013 at 1:46 pm #

    I feel like I lost sight of what was important to me about my blog too. I started comparing my writing to other people’s, getting jealous and I lost that genuine love I had for my blog and my fellow writers. I have realized that when I love what I do it matters.

    And I love you and this blog. You are amazing, talented and inspiring.


    The Narcissist

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:35 pm #

      “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I love that quote, and it’s so true. There is only one Teri in this world, only one person who has your thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and life lessons. It’s a unique footprint only you can leave on the internet. Don’t forget that!

  23. saradraws 05/24/2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Word UP SO HIGH IT’S DOWN. I know, that makes no sense, which is why it’s cool. Just go with it.

    Love you, love reading you, love being your friend. I like you very much. xoxo

    • Jen and Tonic 06/04/2013 at 10:33 pm #

      You were the very first girl crush I had on WP. I remember seeing your old avatar and thinking I wanted to marry you. Then a clown showed up, and I realized I never stood a chance. Merd.


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