The Evolution of Blogging (For Me)

15 Dec 2014

WARNING: Long, pictureless post that's probably only interesting to those who are interesting in blogging or have been reading for a while ;)

I've been blogging since October of 2008 and things have really changed (both personally for me and in the blogging world) since then.   I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now but haven't actually sat down to write it.

My blog has sort of always been evolving over the years into what I need it to be at any given time.   Ultimately, I blog because it meets a need I have for writing about the things that excite me: design, decorating, work, life at home, food, flowers, finding beauty in the every day, and to connect with others who share similar passions.  Writing has always helped me think things through.  In my daily life, I don't really have people to talk about these things with.  My friends and family don't want to sit and hear about color schemes in a client's home or the floor plans in a project I'm working on.  (And to be honest, when I'm hanging out with the people I care about, that's not really what I want to be talking about either.)

My decision to blog went hand in hand with what was going on in my life personally.  David & I had just sold our town home for a huge loss and moved in my parents' basement with our then one year-old to try to recoup and save up for another house. (We'd bought it in 2005 at the peak of the real estate bubble- yay for us!)  We had loved our house so much, had fixed up every inch of it and had a great little life there, so we were really sad to leave it, but after a couple years of being mortgaged up to our eyeballs and not being able to do anything or save any money, we knew we had to get out.  At the time, David was teaching and I was taking on a few clients, so moving into "the basement" afforded us flexibility and of course frequent in-house babysitting which allowed me to take on more clients...  But we were pretty bummed about having to give up so much of our independence as we loved entertaining and having our own place.  

Just before we left our house, I had it professionally photographed and put the photos on my professional website, which resulted in a good amount of new client inquiries.  That will forever remind me of the power of good photography.  (I'd had the very same projects on my website prior to the professional ones and had gotten nowhere near that amount of interest.)  

I knew that I'd never really have another opportunity to get my business really going without overhead and that we needed to make the most while we were there, so I spent lots of time on it.  I worked on my website and put together better marketing materials, worked on a logo and all of those kinds of things at night after our little guy went to sleep.  Somewhere in my research online, I stumbled across blogs.  I remember being really confused at first thinking, "these people are writing about their home renovation and others are reading about it...  WHY???"  (I don't even know the name of that first blog but it was a young couple showing DIY home renovation progress.)  But eventually, I found decorating blogs and was really inspired by what I read.  Soon after, I started my own on blogspot.  No one really read it other than my grandmother and my mother-in-law but just getting my thoughts and ideas out felt good.  Writing has always made me feel clearer and helps me work things out.  

So I started writing about whatever I felt like writing about and reading others' blogs.  I made "blog friends" (many of whom are now very good "real life" friends) by connecting with the other bloggers.  {Camilla of High-Heeled Foot in the Door -now "Effortless Style"-, Lindsey of Everything LEB, Brooke of Velvet & Linen, Maria of Colour Me Happy, Eddie & Jaithan of Eddie Ross, Joni of Cote de Texas, Holly of Things That Inspire, Michele of My Notting Hill, Paloma of La Dolce Vita, Terri of Wind Lost, Marianne of Haven & Home}   I can't think of my early days of blogging without thinking about these friends and what their notes, comments and emails meant to me.  I was feeling embarrassed of my living situation and they made me feel like it was okay and nothing to be ashamed of.  In the mornings after I'd write a post, I'd race to the computer to see if any of them had written.

What had started out as a place to write about decorating had now become a place for new friendships and support.  They don't know it - and I don't think I knew it at the time- but they all helped me get through a difficult time.  As I got to know other blogs and bloggers, I made new friends and got even more into blogging.  My business started to grow -QUICKLY- because of it, especially when Terri Sapienza of the Washington Post included me on a Blog Watch article, and I got lots of calls for new work.  It was at that point that I think my husband realized that blogging wasn't just a social outlet or a time suck, but that it was actually helping my business grow and really began encouraging me to stick with it.

We saved up and tried not to wish away the time in the basement, but we were always looking at real estate.  Then one day we decided we'd maybe look a little bit farther out to see what we could afford and we found our fixer-upper.  

A little under a year after we'd loved into my parents' basement, we moved into our new house, where I began chronicling our renovation & updates.  My blog readership really went up at this time.  (In hindsight, I now get that DIYing and new houses = a huge readership, but at the time I was just doing my thing.)  Readers' comment made (and still do!) my day and I found myself planning posts with readers in mind and wanting to do things in my house that I'd not only like to live with, but that would please others to look at.  It was like grown-up decorating show-and-tell and I loved it.  Showing pictures of my house led to my home being photographed and featured by Better Homes and Gardens Magazine (love you Joanna Linberg!!) which was a dream come true.  My blog became something I was really proud of and had helped me gain more self-confidence in my own skills as a decorator because of all of the really kind encouragement from others.  

I was pregnant with our second son and would stay up  lots of nights until 2 AM trying to answer reader questions and emails.  My business was growing to the point that I needed to hire more childcare and a design assistant.   I would write blog posts early in the morning while everyone was sleeping.  I got advertising inquiries and started a small sidebar for ads on the side of the blog.  I wasn't making very much off of that but I thought "why not?"  After a year or so of that, I eventually ditched having ads on the sidebar because I realized that I wanted to try to keep my blog fun and to not have the pressure of posting a certain number of times per week or being beholden to anyone.  (None of the advertisers had ever required a certain number of posts from me but I sort of felt like it was turning blogging into a "job," which I didn't want.)  But I was blogging like crazy, loving it though starting to run myself ragged with it.  My business and my blog- which had once gone so hand-in-hand- were fighting for my attention, along with my family.

Around the time when my second son was born, I remember holding him asleep in my arms in a chair, trying to catch up on emails, responding to readers' questions and being so tired I could barely keep my eyes open.  I will never forget the moment...  Looking at the unread emails and looking at my baby,  I wanted to cry I felt so guilty for shutting the computer.  

For the first time, I had the thought that my life was different now and I wasn't going to be able to blog the way I'd been blogging for the past couple of years.  With one child, it had been possible to sneak it in while he was sleeping, but now with two, my free time was non-existent.  It was a WEIRD feeling.  Oddly freeing to be able to admit to myself that I couldn't do something, but also a little sad for me because I knew it meant disappointing people.  I remember how I was disappointed when I first started reading blogs and I wouldn't hear back from someone and knew that I was now that person.  

So what do you do then?  Just give up and decide you can't write a blog at all because you can't put as much time into it as you used to?  I decided, I'd keep it going, because ultimately, I still needed and loved doing it.  I struggled with guilt for a long time because I couldn't answer all of the questions coming in.  I even added a little bit in the "about me" section asking advertisers and businesses not to contact me about doing sponsorships or giveaways and that if they did, I wouldn't be able to respond.  

Somewhere along the way, Instagram came into the picture for me.  I had never really gotten twitter or found it interesting to read, but was instantly smitten when my friend Eddie called me and said YOU HAVE TO CHECK IT OUT.  I did, and was in love.  I felt like it was everything twitter was missing and it was so much easier to keep hit "like" on a post and show your blog friends you care than writing a comment or email.  It suited my now-fuller life.  As I started posting on Instagram, I realized I was posting less on my blog.  I had gotten my "sharing" bug out on instagram and didn't have as much of a need to share it on my blog, only posting when I actually had something to say about what I was showing.

Our business has continued to grow and I couldn't be more excited about it, but that's also demanded that I keep lots of my favorite projects OFF of the blog so that they can be published in magazines or in my upcoming book.  I completely get why magazines and publishers want fresh, never-before-seen projects and these publications are a part of my livelihood.  But it's tough  because I know seeing projects is one of the main reasons people read my blog and it's also tough because I don't get to instantaneously share the way I love to.   

We sold our house and bought another one and fixed it up, but I had to keep most of that off of the blog because I knew I was getting the house published.  It was a bit weird for me then...  I felt like I couldn't talk about the very thing I was most excited about and I pulled back a little bit from the blog.  (It was a far cry from sharing every little accessory move in my last house...)  I share a little less personal info on here, not intentionally, but because I don't post as frequently.  Instagram has mostly filled that void for me of sharing little snippets of the boys and family life.  Not that I never do share these things on the blog or that it's been a conscious choice...

We now have three kids (with another on the way) and my husband works with me in the design business out of a studio that's open to the public.  I still struggle sometimes with not having the "perfect blog," with all questions answered,  posting every day, or sharing all of my work,  but have let go of most of that guilt because I know that if my blog was my top priority, that I wouldn't be able to stay in business, help support my family with my husband, or have quality time with my kids.  Writing the type of blog that makes everyone else happy is a full-time job and I can't do it.  When a blogger chooses a blog as their source of income, as their business, everything changes.  There is so much more pressure...  from all sides.  Readers absolutely LOVE them and really care about them and the bloggers realize they need to make a living in order to justify the amount of time spent on the the blog / business.  But readers often tire of seeing sponsored posts and it can get really difficult to please everyone- make a living and make readers happy.  I don't have the volume of readership I had when I was blogging like a madwoman.  It's taken time, but I've learned to let it all go...  to do my best and be okay with my blog being what it is.  

Over the past year or so, I've been thinking a lot about my blog and how it's evolved...  It bothered me at first but I'm okay with it now.  It kind of reminds me a little of the Giving Tree...   It's been my outlet all along, but became a support network, a place for friendships, a career-builder, a source of confidence, and now it is what it is and what I'd originally intended it to be: a place I come to share & talk about what I'm excited about or thinking about for fun.  There are weeks when it's on a front burner and weeks when it's on a back burner.  But somehow, I still need it, and as long as I feel that way, I'll be here.   I can't thank you enough for coming along for the ride- whatever type of ride that may be.

-