I’ve been quiet lately. I haven’t made my regular Monday & Thursday posting on the blog and I haven’t even been writing bits and pieces on my phone. Usually, even when the blog is quiet, I’m still writing things. I’m just not sharing them. Lately, however, there’s been nothing. Zilch.
I attended a webinar held by Emily P. Freeman on writing to better serve your audience. I didn’t really know what to expect from the webinar. I had simply received an email and signed up, reserving some personal time for myself on Thursday night. Out of nowhere and completely unexpectedly, this webinar might have been life changing.
I’ve been writing here for several years now (Several technically means three or more, so that’s accurate.) and it’s been such a fascinating ride! I’ve grown as a writer, a photographer, a story-teller, and a sharer. I’ve experienced ups and downs, small victories, and a full range of other emotions. I’ve learned how to listen to my own feelings, if for no other reason than to be able to reiterate and clearly communicate them here. At the risk of sounding trite, starting this blog is one of the things that I’m most proud of myself for doing and thankful for. Recently, I’ve realized a few things and I thought I’d take a quick moment to share.
- I feel like I’ve finally come into my own. At first, I worried a lot about what I’d post. Even when there were only a few readers, (Thanks, Mom.) I analyzed every word and was truly concerned about what people would think of me. Don’t get me wrong…I still worry more than I should and often cringe when hitting publish. However, I feel like I’ve hit a groove. I’ve been creating regular content for over a year now and I’ve grown so much more comfortable with my voice.
- I should take myself more seriously. At first, I’d use a poorly lit photo because “it didn’t really matter that much. Only a handful of people would see it anyway.” I excused half-assed work because I didn’t have thousands of eager follows. Lately, I’ve learned that I’m selling myself short with that sort of attitude and that I need to hold myself to the same standard whether I have 10 readers or 10,000. I recently “applied” for a writing position in which the process alone scared the shit out of me. Prepping my application was a big slap in the face in regards to how low of a standard I’ve held myself to. It was a turning point in which I decided I needed to act more legit, no matter how many readers I have.
- I really did become a better writer by churning out regular content. When I first started this little project, my husband told me that my first step should be to write tons of posts. What?! Without a perfectly-designed platform to share them on? Without one million dedicated followers?! It felt like such a waste to write and write without a reason. (And I didn’t follow his precise instructions — who’s surprised?) Nonetheless, he was right. The more I wrote, the more comfortable I became and the more easily I could articulate my thoughts. I’m probably not going to win any literary awards just yet. However, I can say with 100% certainty that I’m a better writer today than I was three years ago. And for that reason, I’ll continue to share here so that I’ll be even better three years from now.
- I love where my audience is right now. I went through a bit of a period where I felt so pressured to do more. I needed more followers, more comments, more repeat readers. I needed more content and more shares. Bullshit. Those things don’t actually matter. It turns out that I’m actually happy with the level that I’m on right now – I’m just not happy with how nonchalantly I’ve approached it. I have enough readers. I have enough comments. What I don’t have enough of is confidence that I’m enough.
It seems silly to think that this little space on the internet could have aided in my personal growth as much as it has. When I first started, I didn’t even quite know why I was doing it. I didn’t have a goal in mind necessarily; I just knew I really, really wanted it. Looking back, I can clearly see that I needed an outlet. I needed a place to spill my thoughts and ideas where I felt like I could possibly use them to encourage or motivate someone else. I needed a place where I was telling my story…both the ups and the downs. Now, over three years later, I can honestly say that I’m a better person and more self-aware than I was because of this blog. I’m a better writer and communicator and I’m definitely more supporting and encouraging of others. Something about putting your life “out there” twice a week will certainly make you more understanding of others!
As I wrap up a year of regular content (I’ve posted every Monday and Thursday for a year now!), I realize just how influential this space has been for me, and I’m thankful that I took the leap. Deciding to post regularly was a huge commitment that felt incredibly regrettable and daunting at times. I’ve felt brave and scared, talented and incapable, strong and weak…and experiencing all of the emotions has made me a better, stronger person. My intentions are to continue this endeavor and in doing so, I can’t wait to see how much I grow over the next year. I can also encourage you with certainty to attempt your big ideas and dreams. Whether you sink or swim, you’ll inevitably learn something and to me, that’s what life is about anyway. 2016 is in full swing. Will it be a year of change and growth? Or will it be another year that slides by without any exciting transitions? You decide.
I read a post about having a hobby while coming back from a quick trip to Baton Rouge. (I wasn’t driving obviously.) It struck a bit of a cord with me and also explained a bit about how I’ve been working to redesign my life lately. It put some things into perspective and gave me the permission I needed to do some things differently.
The post talked about how necessary it is for everyone to have a hobby. I’m sure most people would agree with that without really thinking much about it. The post took it a bit further though. A hobby should be something we do just for fun, relaxation, or personal enjoyment. It shouldn’t be a side job or anything that’s done to enhance a resume, make more money, or accomplish any larger purpose. Talk about perspective. You see, I feel like I have to have a reason for everything. I feel like every minute of my day must be used in a way that accomplishes some goal. I often even feel guilty about having downtime. I should be working towards something.
After reading this post, I decided to cut myself some slack on that. This blog currently falls into the hobby category. I started it as a hobby and an excuse to write and if I’m not careful, it could easily turn into something much different. Right now I’m still writing and sharing posts based on what I want to write about and share with readers. However, I can so very easily switch to creating content that’s more pinnable and shareable. I can so easily feel tempted to write things for the sole purpose of adding numbers to my analytics. If I’m not careful, this blog could very easily switch from being a hobby/outlet for me to another business venture. Over the last few months I’ve felt guilty about not wanting this space to grow exponentially and be the biggest and baddest blog of all time. I’ve felt like I’m selling myself short for not carefully selecting my content and only sharing magazine-worthy photos. I’ve felt like I had to want to make this blog a business (or at least a funnel to my other businesses) and it’s just now that I realized that I don’t have to do that and I certainly don’t have to feel guilty about it. My Neck of the Woods can continue to be just a hobby for me and that is 100% ok.
I can also play tennis. At times since starting this tennis journey, I’ve felt insanely guilty about the time it occupies. There are times that I play or take lessons early in the morning, making my work day start a tad later than usual. I’ve felt guilty for that. Some days I schedule other activities around tennis and I’ve felt guilty for that too. Matthew and I have adjusted our evening routine a bit to play together in the evenings, and I’ve felt uncertain about changing our schedule around. After reading this post, I realize that the reason I’ve felt so uncertain (and slightly secretive) about this tennis adventure is because it’s not accomplishing anything. I’m not doing it with a big goal in mind or a plan of action. However, I love to learn new things, really enjoy the game of tennis, and absolutely want an active lifestyle. Tennis is purely a hobby for me and I deserve that.
My husband is one that attempts (and often abandons shortly after) many different hobbies. When he becomes interested in something, he tries it. He does this with no agenda in mind. He attempts something new and once he feels he’s explored it enough, he moves on to something else. While the details of this approach on hobbies are one of the main things that drive me crazy about him, I’m also a bit jealous of his approach. He tries new things regularly and simultaneously abandons them when he’s no longer interested. As we’ve talked about his hobbies numerous times, he’s mentioned that I should try a hobby. I thought that I had plenty of hobbies. However, I’m realizing that most of the items I considered a “hobby,” actually had some sort of hidden agenda or intention.
Since stumbling upon this post, I’ve given myself the freedom to do things without a greater purpose in mind. Not all of my activities have to propel me towards a greater goal, and I can benefit greatly from giving myself a bit more freedom. Tennis is a current hobby and so is this blog. I can and will continue to do these things just because. I don’t have to justify them to myself or to others. If you don’t have a true hobby, I encourage you to think about what sorts of things you’re interested in. Find something to do that’s not done to make money or accomplish any sort of goal. Spend some time doing something you’re interested in, just because you want to. I deserve it and so do you.
It’s somewhat hard to remember a time before this blog. Today marks exactly 3 years since my very first post, and I’ve been writing here consistently for the last year. When I think back, I can distinctly remember the nervousness I felt when creating that first post (and those terrible photos that followed.) However, I don’t really remember a time before I was writing about my life. It’s such an integral part of my life now that it feels like brushing my teeth. Or sipping yummy coffee. Plus, I’ve created stories around my experiences in my head for years before having this blog. In the midst of every experience, I’ve always envisioned myself telling someone that story. That makes it seem like I’ve been doing this for even longer.
As I was thinking back on the beginning, I remember how the blog came to be in the first place. I remember stumbling upon my first lifestyle blog from Pinterest. Prior to seeing this, I was unfamiliar with the concept of a lifestyle blog…a place where someone wrote about their experiences and interests, even if they vary. I can distinctly remember staying up way too late and exploring every nook and cranny of Smile and Wave. I spent hours going back into the archives, amazed with every varying post topic and the realness of the conversation. It was upbeat, yet honest. I was immensely blown away by the opportunity to write about whatever one was experiencing…good or bad, varied interests, and different topics. I thought blogs had to be specific. You could have a food blog. Or technology blog. Or DIY blog. Who knew the concept of a blog about your life could exists?? I was hooked. To this day, I still follow Smile and Wave and each post brings with it a bit of nostalgia as you’d feel running in to an old friend.
Shortly after finding Smile and Wave, I was exposed to A Beautiful Mess. Their perfectly executed DIY projects and beautiful photos showed me the magnitude of possibilities with a blog. Right after I started following them, their business really took off and I learned just a few of the ways in which a blog can lead to business opportunities. It was through ABM that I found, Elise. Again, I saw the lifestyle format at work. I read Elise’s posts and felt like I was chatting with an old friend. They were real with a hint of humor…music to my ears. I wrote more about Elise’s influence on my blog last week.
Honestly, I think blogging is the most fascinating and wonderful thing. There’s nothing that you can’t find on the internet. No matter what your worry, fear, or struggle is, there’s someone out there sharing their journey. No matter what you’re hoping to create or make, there’s someone showing you how. It’s an amazing place, the internet. I’m happy to have been a part of the noise for 3 years now, and I feel even more honored that YOU read along. Thanks for joining me on this ride.
As I approach my 3 year blogging anniversary (!!), I’ve been thinking a bit about how I got started. Today, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite online spaces. After all, if you like reading my posts, you’ll most likely enjoy reading the posts that I like to read too. Plus, I think we should celebrate the work of others and support one another whenever we can.
I decided to finally share one of my favorites after reading a post by Elise on San Diego. Even though I’m not planning a trip to San Diego just yet, this post opened my eyes to why I love this blog so much. The post was full of details, yet short, sweet, and to the point. (Go to these places because I think they’re cool. Eat the mashed potatoes.) Music to my ears! Much like Elise, I can write for days on things that I’m passionate about. However, I generally prefer things to be to the point. And funny. This is the foundation of why I read her blog.
Want more details on why I love this blog? Here are a few reasons, if you insist.
- She tells it like it is. I’ve never felt like any of Elise’s posts were sugarcoated or fictitiously positive. If she screwed something up, she tells you. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of reading something real.
- It’s funny. I like funny people, and I like to be funny. At the sake of sounding like a total fan girl, I think Elise and I could be BFF. We have such a similar sense of humor, and reading her witty posts makes my day. Tongue-in-cheek and slightly cheesy humor, it’s what my dreams are made of. Plus, Parks and Rec mentions. What more do you need??
- We have a similar writing style and interests. Lots of details sprinkled with one-liners and funny stories = A+.
- It’s real life. Working, being a mom and a wife, and dreaming big. There are so many of her posts that I can relate to, and the insight into her daily life makes me feel like we’re real friends. This is a goal of mine for my own blog, and I thank Elise for being such a great model to follow. She shares real life stories, but not in that awkward, over-sharing type way. This is a goal that I have for my own space…to share real-life struggles while still maintaining a positive atmosphere.
This is one of the blogs that I never miss a post from. I look forward to reading each and every post and really relate to most. Her posts on goal setting, blogging, and business always leave me wanting more. I was even captivated by her letters to sweet Ellerie, even though I’m not a mom. I loved the real, and sometimes heart-wrenching, look into what it looks like to be a new mom. I hope to do something similar with my children someday. I even look forward to her weekend links, as strange as that sounds. (Most of the link posts you see are full of useless fluff.) I tweeted once that these posts are my main source of current event info, and I’m not even joking about that.
In addition to being one of my favorite reads, I give full credit to Elise for giving me the boost I needed to start my own lifestyle blog. I had been following along with several blogs for a bit, and I knew that I wanted to write. I just couldn’t decide what type of blog I wanted. I didn’t want it to be all DIY projects. Even though I have a fashion background, I didn’t want to have a fashion-centered blog. I’m not a mom, so mommy blogging was out. I certainly didn’t want a food blog. I couldn’t commit to any of the typical blog focuses, so I kept putting off writing that first post. Then, I stumbled upon Elise’s blog.
Elise was my first introduction into the world of lifestyle blogging. Shortly after finding her site (and binge-reading years of posts in one sitting!), I knew that a lifestyle blog was the route for me. I wanted to tell stories, but not just any story. I wanted to tell my story. This means that my blog could be about all sorts of things! It could be about whatever was going on in my life, which felt so immensely right. Here I am, just shy of 3 years later, still learning about what I want this place to be like and still developing my style and skills as a blogger. I credit Elise for the encouragement and inspiration to take this leap into internet land. Thank you for that, Elise! I’d likely still be lurking the internet and dreaming of having my own forum if I hadn’t found Elise’s blog.
Go check out elisejoy.com. If you like my online space, I can guarantee that you’ll like hers! Do you have any suggestions for other blogs I should follow? Sipping a cup and coffee and reading well-written blog posts is one of my favorite activities. I’d love to hear your suggestions!
*Photo from “September: Currently.” by Elise.
Well folks, it’s been two full years of blogging for me here at My Neck of the Woods! I really can’t believe that two years have flown by so quickly and that so much has changed in such a short time. My first post was on September 14, 2012. (Honestly, I planned to post an anniversary post on that day but was thinking it was October, not September. I did the same thing last year. Oops.) Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that I still love this place, and that I appreciate you for following along with my crazy life.
So much has changed in my life over the past two years. I’ve gotten married, sold a business and started a new one. Matt’s gone to nursing school (and will finish in February!). We’ve bought a house and a car. We’ve celebrated a first anniversary and a second. We’ve tackled cancer and done some traveling. Two years seems like such a short period of time, but I can assure you that I’ve done so much in those 730 days. A lot of it has been shared here on this blog, and it truly means the world to me that you want to follow along.
In addition to all of our personal changes, this blog itself has changed a lot. When I wrote that very first post, I really had no idea what to expect. Previously, I had just shared my thoughts in extremely long Facebook posts. I had really wanted to find a way to speak out for months and months, but launching a blog seemed so daunting. One day I just sat down and did it. I created a free blogger site with little to no knowledge of how it even worked. I didn’t have goals or plans…I just knew I wanted to try it. A few months later, Matthew created a more complex (and attractive) wordpress site for me, and I felt like a real blogger. My only readers were friends and family, and I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to post about. I just knew I wanted to write.
In the beginning, I thought this would be a DIY blog with lots of fun ideas and tutorials. I thought I’d post inspirational tidbits and blog a lot about decorating. My pictures were absolutely horrible and the layouts of the posts were choppy and hard to follow. I didn’t know what I was doing, and looking back at those early posts are quite embarrassing. (Feel free to take a gander through the archives if you’re brave enough.) However, the important part is that I took the step. I knew that I wanted to tell my story, and I jumped out there and gave this blogging adventure a shot. I just started posting. I didn’t spend years researching my options or learning the best ways to post. I started snapping pictures with my iPhone and posting my thoughts on the internet. I shared crappy projects and bad photos for quite some time as I learned more about the process and my goals for this space.
After two years of blogging, my photos are better (not fabulous, but better). My posts are more like me (not always perfect, but they’re me). I post more regularly (not quite like clockwork yet, but I’m getting there…they’re definitely more frequent than before).
After two years of blogging, I know more about what I want from this space. Like in the beginning, I still want to tell my story. It might not always be a thrilling, invigorating story, but it’s mine. My foremost goal for this space is to simply share my life with those around me. My second goal is to inspire. Whether inspiration be found in a project or home tour or through a post on making this world a better place, I simply want to inspire others to make their worlds work for them. I want people to find beauty in everyday life and see the possibilities that lie around them. At this point, I don’t think this blog will be the place to come for a new DIY tutorial. Two years of blogging has helped me to learn more about myself and my goals, and for now, I’m going to focus on telling my story and using this medium to inspire and encourage others.
When I really sit and think about the fact that it’s been two whole years of posting here, I feel so humbled and thankful. Many of you have read along with me since the very beginning and you’ll never know how much that means to me. For some, you’re new here and that’s just fine too. The fact of the matter is, I feel incredibly honored that you all come here and read my writing (which is sometimes more rambling than writing). You come back post after post and read along. Sometimes you comment. Sometimes you email or message me. Sometimes you mention posts in public, and no matter how you reach out to me, please know that I’m incredibly appreciative. I don’t know what the next two years are going to look like for me, but I can’t wait to see it play out, and I can’t wait to share it with you here.
After reflecting on this little anniversary, I feel like I should say this – whatever little dream or idea that you may have, it’s time to take a chance on it. Take a chance and try something you can’t stop thinking about. You don’t have to know everything about the process and you likely won’t be fabulous at it on day one. However, taking a leap of faith and just starting will be so much more rewarding that never trying. It’s better to have tried and failed than to always wonder what could have been. Chances are, you won’t fail at all. Chances are, that you’ll be able to look back in a few years and see how much you’ve learned and how far you’ve come. Changes are, you’ll look back and be embarrassed at how little you knew back then but be proud of how much you’ve learned.