I took a week off from blogging last week. It had been a really long time since I’d done that. In fact, I can only recall a few times since I started blogging when I didn’t post fresh content every week and I started blogging in 2005, so that’s a stretch.*
I’m proud of this. It’s not easy to start a blog and keep it up. Many a young upstart will tell you: content creation can be a real bitch over time. That’s a fact.
When blogging is part of your business, you also don’t have a choice. You have to create content that will keep people coming back to read. For me, it’s a melange of personal stories, scrapbooking how-to stuff, product promotion and a little design education thrown in for good measure. There is a balance to seek between these elements in order to achieve a state of authenticity and engagement with readers.
And then there is what I like to call the X Factor. The thing that people connect to on some deeper level wherein they decide, “I like this person. I want to come back and read more.”
The X Factor is the hook and every person brings their own needs and wants to any blog reading experience.
Personally, I don’t read very many blogs and I have very specific reasons for reading the ones that I do keep up with. I’m looking for an X Factor that speaks to me and I have different X Factors depending on what I’m looking for. I’m guessing you do, too.
The other part is that I want to be true to who I am and how I write and in the world of really fantastic blogging—I’m mean, seriously, there are hella many great writers and content producers out there—I want to continue to cultivate my own voice and approach and not get hung up on realizing how many way more awesome people are out there than me.
But last week, as I was not blogging but still on social media, I kept trying to take a photo of a coffee cup on my couch—you know, create some riveting and artistic image for my Instagram account—and I realized, “My God, Cathy, you have done this shot six freaking ways to Sunday. Please. Just. Don’t.”
I took the week off from blogging but chose to stay on social media. I was nearing 7,000 followers on Instagram and my ego decided to keep adding a few images to the stream, you know, just to see that number roll over. In my mind, it’s never good to disappear completely, right? You need to keep up with Facebook. You need to keep up with Instagram. You need to keep taking those life-changing photos of your coffee mug.
And as I was framing the shot (no, it’s not the one you see above), I just thought: What the HELL are you doing?
I’ve had a lot of moments lately where I’ll take a photo to share on Instagram, look at it and ask myself, “And your point is?” And then I just don’t. I don’t do it.
I’ll scroll down through my feed and even delete photos that I think are stupid. Shots I took for no solid reason. Shots that were designed purely for promotional purposes.
Then I’ll look at other people’s feeds, the ones filled with images that make it look like they live in bright, white houses 24/7 and remind me how decidedly unwhite and not bright my own home is and I think, “Well that just makes me feel less than.”
In fact, there are feeds that exhaust me emotionally. Part of it’s simple jealousy (is your life REALLY that beautiful all the time?), and part of it’s just a lack of connection to what is real, as in, that’s not all that close to my reality.
Then I wonder what is the purpose behind my own feed? Is it truly for me? Because when it all started, it surely was, I can tell you that. It was all about the magic of having an iPhone and taking little photos that made me super happy.
But now social media is part of the CZ Design Machine.
The second thing going on here is this: the quest for authenticity. When your life is also part of your business, as is the case with we who make our living in the crafty world, you have to keep up the image you are cultivating in order for that image to translate to income.
Does that mean the person I present to you is a carefully cultivated and crafted person? Yes and no. I mean, did my coffee cup, tray and blanket naturally occur in the image above? No, they didn’t. Do I censor myself in this space with much more frequency than ever before? Lately? I think I do.
If my X Factor is striving for real in a business that is often about pretty and inspired and telling you how to make things look better, then I believe I have a contradiction even though I aspire toward congruency.
In the end it really is all about the business because the business pays the bills. I am finding myself at a crossroads again in regards to working this careful balance down to a nub.
I’ve heard that I seem real from many of you. And maybe that is because I have shitty light in my office and you can see cables. Or because I do all my own bathroom cleaning. Or because I’m lucky to squeeze into a Size 16 on a good day. Or because me and Dan have to work on our marriage. Or because I work in pajamas sans bra. But I assure you that it’s a balancing act I struggle with. How real is real? How does real conflict with business? How does it help?
Do people want a pretty coffee cup shot or do people want something else?
But I also want to make a living doing what I do.
Therein lies the rub. It remains a fluid and changing balance to navigate. Anyone who tells you otherwise, well, they are a lot smarter than me or have a much more focused business plan.
Good for them.
I work in an industry that is all about image. It’s all about stuff that looks good. It’s all about pushing the real life but making sure it looks freaking amazing at the same time. Hell, even I teach you classes to help you do what? Make shit look better.
Yes, it’s also about telling your story. I get that. In fact, I LOVE that, but to deny the other layers of the scrapbooking business would be disingenuous of me. I’m privileged to presently make a living doing this. If it stops translating, I will find other work. That’s not a woe is me. That’s real life.
I’m not sure how a photo of a coffee cup migrated into this, but it did. Sometimes I start writing and if I let my gut take over, I never know where it’s going to end up. I’m working to figure out my business these days and it’s making me look at a lot of things.
Chalk this up to that.
And thanks for reading.
*In October 2006, I deleted my Typepad blog after having a bit of a personal meltdown over trolls and realizing that I didn’t need the judgments. Then I realized I just wanted to write about my life. The business? That all came much later. I resumed my blog in January 2007.
Note: as I write about my experiences in business, I’m going to keep these posts link-free, save for the occasional sad trombone. That said, if you wonder what types of ways I hustle for extra income, read my disclosure page which lists the affiliate programs I am a member of. Keep in mind, no one I know is getting rich on affiliate links, but every little bit helps.