Hello friends and Happy New Year! I hope that you had a beautiful holiday season and that you’ve kicked off 2014 feeling completely open and ready to take in whatever the next twelve months has to offer. I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions (Will I bother? What will they be? Will I ditch “the list” altogether?) and for the first time in years, I’ve decided to abandon the list. While I respect those who take time to carve out their master plan, I thought I’d remove the pressure and just go with the flow this year. Ambition is nice and drives me on one side, but it’s becoming a bit uninspiring and mundane on the other. The real drive, for me, is to simply be more mindful, present, and passionate and to both invigorate and be invigorated. There’s so much ambition and hustle out there (often at a huge cost), I see this so much now online, so I want to step out of the ring and drive a return to passion, happiness and sharing: What drove me eight years ago when I launched decor8. The days when possessing merely a love of sharing and a passion for creative living and decorating were at the core.
THE EARLY YEARS OF BLOGGING
Do you remember the early days of blogging? I remember them so clearly; long before companies noticed us and monetization and social media sites became the norm. In those days, we bloggers only hoped to get our voices, our opinions, out there and to show that we had worthy ideas in addition to what mainstream media was showing us. I started blogging because I was bored with popular opinion in print publications and longed to share an alternative approach to decorating and style. I trusted my gut and followed my creative passions – and today I still do though I feel like I hold back a lot more than I once did and I’m working to change this.
We were all driven by very pure things both raw and genuine, not by money, the number of “likes”, growing a massive audience (we didn’t know our potential back then), or some rather disappointing popularity contest. I personally was driven by a need to connect and share and spread joy for something that I truly loved with all of my heart. What drove you? What drives you today?
GETTING BACK TO MY ROOTS
For 2014, I’m returning to my roots, which you’ll start to slowly see on decor8 and in other parts of my business. I’m not sure how I’ll do it, but ideas have been swarming for months now and it feels good that I came to this decision with the help of my husband. He reminded me to think about what drives me, what REALLY drives me. It isn’t my “brand” or sponsors or ads or popularity or numbers or increasing readership… None of that has ever felt inspiring or motivating to me but only caused me to feel alienated from my core values and from my readers. What drives me is my passion for beauty, a love of creative pursuits, sharing and spreading positivity, being encouraging, nurturing community and connecting others. Maybe this is something you can think about for your blog, too. That is, if you feel overwhelmed by the business side more than the creative passion that originally drove you to start blogging in the first place… What really drives you?
INSTINCT TAKE THE WHEEL
This year, I’m letting instinct take the wheel and drive my blog more than ever before. And you know what, I mostly just want to have FUN doing it. Raise your hand if you feel like blogging, as a whole, is becoming a bit stagnant, boring, underwhelming? Yes, my hand is high in the air too! But the good thing is that we all have the power to change this. We are each our own blog boss; we are the managing editors of our blogs. We drive how we are perceived, negatively or positively. WE are our content, WE are the voice, WE can easily switch things up and create more interesting content that is based on what we are truly excited about vs. what we think will drive our numbers or build a brand or what equals to simply showing off. In the end, your love for your topic will shine through and you’ll end up building readership and a brand anyway, so there’s no business risk.
WHY SO SERIOUS?
Let’s talk about something I’ve not heard discussed at blog conferences or even in books on blogging or blog workshops. HAVING FUN! Yeah, you know, how to really have fun as a blogger. Why is SEO and traffic more important than FUN? I want to blog and have FUN with it. I want that FUN to be contagious and for other bloggers to start having FUN again too. That was how blogging was when we got started, right? FUN. Then, it all got so serious online all of sudden – money driven, over-produced (pressure is on for every post to be magazine perfect), competitive, flat. Yawn. It’s time to have fun again and return to the days when blogging was exciting and when we talked about whatever we wanted on our blogs because that kept us real, approachable and more interesting to read. When we read our blog comments, and replied to them. Real people, real conversations. Going beyond what magazine content provides to lift the veil and get to the heart of whatever topic in which we were writing about.
RESOLVE TO BE HAPPY
Back in the Fall, I was asked by Mollie Makes (UK craft mag) to write an article about my new year’s resolutions. I knew back then that I wasn’t going to make them for 2014, so I replied explaining that I would write the article but instead, I would encourage an alternative approach – to simply open up your heart, drop the self-criticism and task-mastering, focus on family and friendships, bask in the art of taking some time off, seeing behind the veil of perfection that most of us only show on our blogs, and simply to Resolve To Be Happy for 2014. In other words, no race to tick off boxes on our resolutions lists. My article was titled, “Resolve To Be Happy”, and it appeared in the 34th issue of Mollie Makes (you can buy it and download here). I’ve received an overwhelmingly positive response to my words from their readers, which further encouraged me to stick to my resolve; simply to NOT resolve – no resolutions for 2014. Reader response also became a huge source of validation – that how I felt, others felt too. That lots of us just want to be happy, have fun with our blogs and business, and cut the crap.
HAS PREGNANCY CHANGED ME?
I often wonder if getting pregnant is at the core of my list dropping. I know pregnancy has definitely affected my need to listen more to my body and less to what the rest of the world says. You learn to really tap into your instincts when pregnant, don’t you? Especially if you’re like me and you intentionally stay away from all of the baby books and websites (and pregnancy forums! omg, lots of nutty advice!) out there. I’ve only relied on a single app, flipped through What To Expect… (although I found most of the advice instinctual which made me realize even more the need to tap in to myself), and I read that book on French parenting (thanks for the gift, Leigh!) which proved more humorous than insightful and ended up being a great read while I was so ill during the first 5 months… But yeah, I’ve had to tap into my instincts like never before. My doctor speaks only German to me so I’m constantly googling or referring to my husband to explain medical German terms to their English equivalent. So even from a medical standpoint, I’ve had to ultimately trust my gut because so much of what my doctor says gets lost in translation. I’m learning to trust my gut like crazy right now and I imagine, after our son arrives, this will only increase.
WHEN THE TEACHER GETS SCHOOLED
Then there is this thing that happens when you are are a teacher. You think you know it all but then, through the eyes of your bright and talented students, you see how much you have to really LEARN. Teaching online and in my in-person workshops for the past five years has brought about a massive shift inside that sort of “hit” me this year as I was teaching Blogging Your Way online just a month ago… Maybe it was because it was the first time I taught while simultaneously being pregnant. My students ask me a lot of questions, some I don’t know the answer to so I do loads of research to assist them along their path. Through teaching, I’ve learned that ultimately, the answers are inside of us – we just need guides at times – but we have to be more open to what the questions are and to have the courage to ask them – even the tough ones. I like to motivate my students to ask the right questions, to dig inside and to really examine their intentions. Oftentimes, we aren’t open and aren’t asking because we’re too driven to succeed, too scared to know the answer, too focused on being better versions of ourselves, scared of failing, etc… Tuning out and tuning into our gut instinct is all we’ve got to rely on sometimes but ultimately, it’s a pretty damn good guiding light. So again, for the New Year, I’m going to tune in more to what Holly wants. Maybe you can tune in more to what YOU want, too?
INSPIRING IS NICE; BUT INVIGORATING IS A CALL TO ACTION
My ultimate desire sounds simple but it really isn’t. It’s to be HAPPY and to INVIGORATE others. We all know what happy means, but what about invigorate? It means to give vitality and vigor to; animate; brace; refresh: fill with life and energy; energize. It goes beyond simply to inspire. Pinterest is inspiring. But does it call you to action? Are you making the cakes or the crafts that you pin? I had a long discussion on inspiration vs. invigoration before the holidays with my husband and he is the reason the topic of INVIGORATION came up in the first place. He encouraged me to make the New Year a year that I focus on this word: invigorate. To not just show pretty pictures and inspire, but to go beyond that and really use my talents to fill others with life and energy. With our first child to arrive any week now (he’s due 25 January!), this will be a very literal translation of “filling others with life”, a baby! But what about my students, all of you, my family, my friends and my husband and our new baby? What about me?
While I’m not going to make a resolve to take any particular step towards my master objective: to invigorate, I will be listening daily to my heart and soul to see where this leads me, and my blog and business, my friendships and family, for 2014. I may make some mistakes. I may not. But I’m going to trust my instinct and open my heart to what I think matters and where I want to put my energy into for this year. I’m going to look at my blog very critically and make some changes. I’m going to get back to my roots, take time to play with my baby and bond with him, decorate my new apartment, share projects here with all of you, and I’m going to take it one day, on step, at a time. None of these are resolutions. I’m not pressuring myself to fulfill any particular task. I just want 2014 to be a year when I grow up and let my instinct drive me, when happiness and having fun become part of my daily life again, and when I get back to what drives me and in turn, invigorates all of you. Let’s see where I end up this time next year.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
And what about you? Do you have resolutions? Have you chosen one word that will define your new year? Have you given much thought to tapping in to your raw desire and passion vs. letting others lead you? Have you ditched new years resolutions list for this year too? Do you have a different approach to this year that you’re taking? No way is the “right” way, so feel free to share.
Happy 2014 everyone! xo, Holly
(image: illustration by the lovely Emma Block for my article, Resolve To Happy, which appeared in issue 34 of Mollie Makes)