“Becoming serious is a grievous fault for hobbyists. It is an axiom that no hobby should either seek or need rational justification. To wish to do it is reason enough.” – Aldo Leopold
When I first started Beeson On Beer just under three years ago, I never thought in my wildest dreams that it would lead me to where I am today. In those three short years, I have gone from an enthusiastic and fairly inexperienced writer to a nationally published journalist with two British Guild of Beer Writers Awards to my name. It’s been quite the journey.
Along the way, this website has taken me to places I never thought I would get the opportunity to visit – from rural breweries in Catalonia to the cellars of Pilsner Urquell and the fields of Flanders. It’s also enabled me to make writing about beer my primary source of income and my day-to-day job for the best part of two years – no mean feat in an industry where newspaper circulation figures are in freefall and jobs are being cut left, right and centre.
In May of this year, I wrote an article reflecting on my first 12 months as a fully fledged journalist writing about the beer industry. In the article I stated that the transition from blogger to professional writer had been a difficult one. I cited the difficulty in switching off from my job, the constant scrutiny and criticism I faced from people within the industry and the strain my alcohol consumption had put on my mental and physical health.
Not long after I published that particular post, I decided to leave my job at The Morning Advertiser. This was down to a great many factors, including the lack of opportunities for promotion, the desire to travel and my belief that writing about beer for a title whose main agenda is (at least partly) driven by the need to generate page views was detrimental to my own career aspirations and goals.
Coming to New Zealand in September, I hoped to rediscover my mojo and enthusiasm for writing about beer. With the exception of a couple of regular commissions I have been winding down the amount of freelance work I have been undertaking, hoping that this would reignite my passion and revive the enthusiasm that led to the creation of this website in the first place.
That hasn’t happened.
Instead, over the last few months things have, if anything, gotten worse. Working as a journalist in an age where clicks and engagement are currency, and a story’s worth is judged on the basis of the number of people who read it, has irrevocably changed the way I approach Beeson On Beer.
Prior to publishing a piece of content for the website, I feel almost physically sick with anxiety worrying about whether or not it will be well received. I obsess over the analytics section of my site, trying desperately to think of ways to get more people to engage with and read my content. When a piece doesn’t perform as well as I had hoped, I feel angry, depressed and question my own writing ability.
Running the blog like a professional website, managing its social media accounts, ordering merchandise and trying to generate revenue via Patreon, has taken all of the fun out of the simple joy I used to extract from writing about beer and sharing the stories of those who make, distribute and sell it.
Forcing myself to ensure a regular stream of new content, as well as regularly re-sharing older content to try and maintain page views, has turned the website from a hobby into a chore. At a time when I should be meeting new people, exploring a new culture and taking a well-earned break, I find myself scheduling tweets, editing photos and posting on Instagram late into the night, trying to ensure maximum exposure back at home.
Today I am making the decision to put Beeson On Beer – in its current format – out to pasture. The reason for this is simple: I no longer enjoy running it. What once gave me great pleasure and created within me a sense of immense satisfaction and pride brings now only anxiety, unhappiness and stress. The time I spend on creating content for and maintaining the online presence of the site is time that I can no longer justify to myself, and hence, effective immediately, I will no longer be actively updating the website or its social media feeds.
This doesn’t mean I will be ceasing to write about beer entirely. I am still very much actively looking for freelance commissions and will continue to write my regular column for Honest Brew. I may even still occasionally post my thoughts on here, but I no longer have the drive, energy or time to spend updating its social media accounts and producing content on a regular basis. The days of me running Beeson On Beer like a website are over, and I’ll shortly be transforming the site into an online portfolio for my freelance writing, photography, events and consultancy work.
I guess all that is left to say now is thank you to each and every single one of you that has read, enjoyed, shared and supported my work on here. Despite the unhappy ending, it’s been one hell of a ride and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ll see you at the bar.