Why I show my knickers online

magnolia bakery NYC
When I first offered Unravelling online in January 2009 I had no idea that I was also creating a creative business that would still be supporting me to this day. I’d only been in Bath a few months, and even though the move had been the right thing to do, I had no proper income, a stalled photography business that I’d just set free (read: closed the doors when I realised I wasn’t cut out for it, personality-wise) and a growing panic that I wouldn’t be able to support myself.

After my love died in 2005 I’d been unable to work and had had to live off credit cards; by the time I felt ready to write again, most of my journalism contacts were out of date. Those years were fraught, as I searched for ways to support myself with the skills I had; there were many job interviews that I was either over- or under-qualified for. I didn’t blog about most of this at the time because, frankly, i was embarrassed. I was (and still am) a single woman in my thirties, and to be in such a mess felt shameful; writing about grief and my emotions was so much easier than sharing about how I couldn’t pay my electricity bill.

I’ve no doubt mentioned how blogging saved me many times here over the years, but it’s so true; I found community, i found my voice again and i refound my camera.  My years as a journalist were good to me, but there was always something missing; blogging not only gave me a way to combine my words and images together, but i found a reason to dig deeper with my words; I didn’t want to write about fashion and “lifestyle” anymore — I wanted to write about what really mattered to me, and as it turned out, my life was about to unravel and help me find out what that was.

Bereavement brought many gifts into my life; that that would even be possible still blows my mind. There was a lot of healing that needed to be done, and by leaving first my love gifted me with the chance to heal and remake my world — and to truly find my place in it (even writing that still makes me teary). I often have moments when i sit on my sofa wondering how it managed to come together so marvellously, because none of this was planned — far from it, in fact. What would have happened if i hadn’t found that first blog and fallen down the rabbit hole? Or I hadn’t taught that first evening class in Bristol? Or Jo hadn’t suggested I share the course online because she couldn’t make it to class on Tuesday nights? (thank you, Jo x)

E-courses and online biz is all the rage these days, but when I started I didn’t know what i was doing and had to figure it out as i went along. Over time I discovered more and more biz and marketing blogs, online gurus and mavens who sold their wisdom in courses and books. Some of the information was useful and seemed quite intuitive…

But not all of it felt right to me.

The reason I’m sharing all this today is to tell you about a live call* I’m taking part in on Monday June 6th with some really excellent people — Fabeku Fatunmise, Alexandra Franzen, Chris Zydel, and Lisa Baldwin. It’s called Transcendent Sales and we’ll be chewing the fat about how to promote your stuff online without the ick. (and we’re not selling anything — it’s just a conversation we wanted to have and put out there. You can join us on the call or download the recording if it’s of interest to you :)

Because my biggest learning curve has been figuring out how to let people know what i’m doing in a way that feels right to me. When I wised up to the fact that YES I have a business and it’s okay to help it grow, I started paying attention to what the “experts” were suggesting I do (cue lots of panic and comparing myself and feeling inadequate). Anything to do with marketing and promotion always looked so sleazy and yuck to me, so I’ve learned to just take the bits that make sense to me, discard the rest and trust that by sharing my knickers online, aka being honest and authentic and as real as i can be, the people that I can most help, and who’ll truly dig what I’m doing, will find me.

So that’s what I’ll be chatting about in Monday’s call — i hope you can join us!

* I’ve never done a live call before, so it should be interesting ;)

The many flavours of blogging

I’ve really enjoyed reading through the comments on Thursday’s post — sweet Sylvia made a very good point in her comment that I wanted to follow up on. She said:

“i don’t believe there is only one recipe for blogging

people keep their blogs for different reasons {not necessary to write honestly about how their lives suck ;)}

some blogs are just pretty, or funny or have a great content, and some… don’t

can we just let them be as they are… without judgment?

after all, blogs are our own creations and we bloggers choose what we want to share.”

I agree that there definitely isn’t only one recipe for blogging, and thank goodness for that!

I’ll admit there was probably a wee bit of judgement in my post as I wrote it from an emotionally triggered place (I literally clicked away from the blogs and immediately bashed out my post in fifteen minutes flat) but on the whole, when it comes to the blog world and how i view it, there is no judgement — rather, there’s just an acute awareness of my own reactions.

Having made it to the other side of my bereavement journey (at peace with what happened while still honouring and cherishing the memories of the past) I’m now pretty self-aware, and I know that any time something out there causes a reaction in me — other people’s actions, words, events etc — it’s because there’s something in me that’s asking to be looked at. A reaction to a blog post about the bliss of being in love isn’t envy towards the blogger and her love life, but rather the recognition of a tender place inside me I’ve been pushing down and trying to ignore. The blogosphere — and the world at large — tends to hold up a mirror to what’s really going on inside us; the trick is to look inward to heal rather than outward to react.

On the other side of that, as I touched on in my last post, I find I’m sensitive to personal blogs that seem to have a particular agenda behind them — perhaps the blogger has reached a level of fame that means her blog reads more like a magazine, and her voice has changed as a result — and that’s not me being judge-y, simply being observe-y.* Blogs and bloggers evolve, and their reasons for blogging evolve too; we all have our different reasons for blogging and having the means to be able to share our stories is a gift I know I take for granted these days.

But I’m not just a blogger, I’m a blog reader too. The longer you hang out in the blogosphere the more finely attuned your blog radar becomes and you know the sort of blogs you resonate with and those you don’t. I subscribe to a lot of blogs in my Google Reader and read widely across the internet — I follow design blogs and business blogs and everything else in-between; there are blogs I enjoy visiting for quick shots of inspiration, and others that share a slice of life that I don’t experience myself. I follow friends and strangers, and love the richness and diversity i discover in my Reader every morning.

When it comes to personal blogs I appreciate the ones that have shades of grey between the black and the white, that acknowledge the ups and the downs in a way I can relate to. That’s how I like to write my own blog, so it makes sense that’s what I also like to read. And as so many of you mentioned in the comments, it’s all about finding the balance; this is a topic I’m really digging into for the guidebook, so I’m going to take my time to really do it justice — if we feel called to share aspects of our personal lives on our blogs, how do we do that in a real and authentic way without sounding whiny or spilling beans we probably shouldn’t?

As Sylvia noted, people write blogs for many different reasons, and there is something for everyone. Because blogging, really, is just like ice cream — there are so many different flavours to choose from. You might like butterscotch and caramel, while I prefer mint and cherry; they all taste good and sometimes I don’t mind a smidge of butterscotch, but mostly I prefer the mint. Some ice creams have too many sweet toppings on them — but some people like them better that way. And that’s cool with me — we don’t all have to hang out at the same gelateria.

Sometimes vanilla is what we crave; other times it’s double-whip-fudgetastic-marshmallow surprise with chocolate sprinkles.

Most of the time, though, I stick to mint.

* If you can name that pop culture reference then you’re as big a geek as me ;-)

Can we just be honest?

NYC

I’m having a moment of impatience with the blog world. I’ve been clicking around, reading a few posts, checking out what’s been going on in my virtual ‘hood, and i’m left with a racing heart and a horrible feeling of being less-than. I’ve blogged about the PR version before, how bloggers tend to share their bestest most shiniest selves on line and hide the stuff that will sully that projection — and I understand why they do it. It’s very tempting to turn our blogs into an on-going affirmation of what we want our lives to be like, hoping that if we share only the good stuff we can make it real. But it can leave the onlooker/reader feeling deflated.

I try and put a positive spin on the lessons life chucks at me, but even I get tired of reading the happy skippy posts that are rife in the blogosphere. It’s not even that I’m envying the bloggers who have the sun shining on them every day — i just find it exhausting to read and yearn for a bit of self-deprecation once in a while. I find it hard to swallow the my-life-is-so-awesome-i-am-so-grateful posts (and don’t even get me started on the all-you-need-is-love posts*) — they just don’t connect to my understanding of the world: that there is rough as well as smooth, that sometimes rain is just depressing and grey rather than an opportunity to don pretty wellies and splash in puddles before returning home for hot chocolate and laughter with cherished loved ones — i go home shivering with limp wet hair only to discover I left the bedroom window open and now my rug is soaked through.

I guess I like my blog reading to have a bit of grit in it. It makes life more interesting and real. More relatable. It makes me feel less alone.

I’m as guilty as anyone of avoiding this space when I’m feeling down — that’s when I have no energy to string words together and would rather be watching Buffy Season Six with a blanket over my knees. And I’m certainly not suggesting we only blog about our ingrowing toe nails and credit card debt; I just think it’s important to keep it real here, to share a realistic slice of what my experience of the world is like. Considering I spend most of my time alone at home working, I hope i manage to be somewhat entertaining (maybe I should throw in a few knock knock jokes?)

I’ve been thinking about blogging a lot recently, as you can probably tell. I’m chipping away at my Blogging from the Heart guidebook and it’s making me dig deep into my own motivations for blogging; the blogosphere has evolved a great deal in the five years I’ve been writing online and it amazes me that when I started there was no Twitter or Facebook and Etsy was only a few months old. The internet felt smaller, somehow, and more cosy — yet now there is so much opportunity for connection and growth. I feel quite proud to call myself a blogger — it’s a really important part of my life.

Who’d have thunk it, eh?

So how does the blogosphere make you feel, generally? I’d love to know what you think…

* might be time to detox my Google Reader again…

Blogging from the heart


Yesterday was my five-year blogiversary — five years of writing about my stuff and communing with an amazing community of people from around the world. I didn’t know what I was entering into when i wrote that first post on my fledgling Blogger blog. It was Denise who convinced me to start — our friendship had blossomed after I’d left a comment on her blog and she wrote me back, international penpals who became real friends in the truest sense. I still have the email she sent me on March 23rd 2006 that opened with the fateful line: “Oh Susannah… I really think you should start a blog!”

After a couple of weeks of umming and ahhing, i finally decided on a name — Ink on my fingers — and wrote my first post on April 12th 2006; when i switched from Blogger to Typepad a year later, I lost all the comments from those first months, which is such a shame as I’d love to read them again. This blog gave me space to remember. It gave me a reason to pick up my camera again. It rekindled my love of poetry. It brought me friendships and support. And now here I am, blogging under my own name, running a creative biz online and penning books — and all of this came from being brave and posting some words on the internet for all to see. CRAZY!

Thank you for being here and reading my witterings — thank you for the comments you leave and the good vibes you send me, i really do feel them, sitting here in in my attic flat in Bath. When I was still deep in my bereavement, this was the place where I knew I could find some sanctuary. Whether you’ve been with me since the beginning, or have only recently found me (hello!) you guys helped me change my life, from grief and loss to light and hope. From the bottom of my stitched-back-together heart — thank you.

I’m still as passionate about blogging, and online community, as I was when I started, which is why my next project is Blogging from the Heart. I’ve been itching to get started on this but was stuck in the writing cave, so now i have a brief reprieve (until the book edits come back, that is) I’m jumping in feet first. Blogging from the Heart will be a guidebook to blogging sharing everything I know about writing with honesty and heart, how to create images that share your world and inspire, and bringing it all together on a blog. There’ll also be videos, writing prompts for blog posts and interviews with creatives who’ve inspire me along the way. I want this guidebook to be really fantastically useful and also really beautiful to look at too, something you can dip into to get inspired, ready to blaze your own blogging path.

There are already a ton of blogging books, blogs and courses out there, but I’ve yet to see anything on creative personal blogging – how to share your life and heart online as a way to express yourself creatively, dive deep and meet like-minded friends along the way. I won’t be looking at how to make money from blogging, but if you have a biz and want to share more of yourself online with your customers, then this guidebook will definitely help with that. It’s about being honest and open, enjoying the writing process, recording your world with your camera and getting your creative juices flowing!

I have notes and plans coming out of my ears, so as I ease myself into another writing stint (I’m a glutton for punishment :) I wanted to ask you…

What would you like to know about personal blogging? What elements of your blog writing or photography do you struggle with? If you’re thinking about starting a blog, what would you like to know? If you could ask me one question about writing, photography or blogging, what would it be?

Leave a comment or drop me a line – thank you for your help! x