On Blogging

Neutral Sweater

Life isn’t all diamonds and rosé, and it shouldn’t be. Life is raw, emotional, real, and, well, life. That doesn’t always come across on your favorite blogs (including this one) and it especially doesn’t come across on most Instagram accounts (again, including mine). But where is this all coming from, Julia? Let me back up.

Last week I had dinner with a friend (let’s call her M) who is a successful marketer and an ex-blogger. She had a lifestyle blog back in the day before lifestyle blogging was a thing. She gave it up a few years ago when she saw the direction in which the industry was headed. You’ve definitely noticed this direction in one way or another. Allow me to explain . . .

It’s the fact that everything is covered in a shiny gloss, a manicured exterior. That there always seem to be fresh flowers and perfect hair and meticulously styled tablescapes and pretty girls easily balancing on heels on cobblestone streets and fancy events with fabulous people and expensive colorful meals. We all enjoy looking at photos of such wonderful things, but it’s so far removed from most of our realities that it’s good to remind ourselves of what is actually real every once in a while.

I fully admit that I do the same thing. My Instagram is chock full of photos that match the descriptions above. M’s question to me was, “Why do you do it”? I can’t speak for other bloggers but for me, it’s three-fold:

1. I started Lemon Stripes with an intention of making other people smile every day. I try really hard to do that and some of the more “real” moments in my life will not accomplish that, I promise you that. I just can’t imagine anyone wanting to see me and my husband eating take-out on the couch watching a House of Cards marathon.

2. It’s a weird form of escapism. If I’m having a stressful day at work or if my husband is annoying the crap out of me (love you, baby!), it’s nice to be able to create something beautiful. It takes my mind off of whatever is making me feel less than 100% in that moment.

3. At the end of the day, my blog is my brand and I want to partner with other brands that appreciate a positive outlook. What I’m trying to say (in a horribly roundabout way) is that as much as we bloggers hate to say this out loud, blogging makes money and I’m hoping to buy a house and start a family in the next few years so yeah, making money to do all of that is important for me! I have chosen to also have a career in marketing but many bloggers rely solely on their blogs for income.

All of that being said, I can see why people like M get frustrated with us bloggers for all posting the same Diptyque candles and pink flowers and outfits laden with LiketoKnowIt links. I get it. Just remember that on the other side of that photo or that blog post is a real person surviving real life like everyone else.

I try really hard to write posts like this one amidst all of the pretty outfits and paleo cookies and throw pillow updates. Check out a few:

Body Dysmorphia

Tough Times in the Suburbs

The Nose Diaries

In the spirit of being real, my college friends were appalled that I didn’t mention the late night bubble gum shots we took in New Orleans in my healthy travel tips post so let me shout from the highest of mountaintops I took a pink bubble gum vodka shot and it was gross and I didn’t write about it but now I am (I hope they’re happy!).

While I’m at it, I want to say one more thing: Sites like GOMI have been created to hate on people who put themselves out there every day and share their thoughts and feelings with the world. I’m all for constructive criticism but hatred and bullying is unnecessary.

Comments

  1. annie said:

    This post is just YES. Sometimes I question why we put all of these beautiful things out there – even on the really, really bad days. Your three points really hit the nail on the head. I feel like it’s a way to brighten someone else’s day, which makes my bad days a little brighter too. Plus, who doesn’t love looking at lovely things? Thanks so much for sharing this!! Have a great Wednesday!

    Annie Reeves

    4.15.15 · Reply
  2. Sasha Reilly said:

    This is an awesome post! It can definitely get annoying to see some bloggers start to fall into the same mold sometimes, but we still love to read…it really does brighten my day to see pretty pics and posts! Thanks for keeping it so real.

    4.15.15 · Reply
  3. CT Cupcake said:

    I actually really like IGs such as Real Simple’s womenirl bc it shows just that, women in real life. Blogs as escapism is lovely, but as a reader, I vastly prefer to real life posts, the ones that may be more difficult to put out there but are more than expensive candles and arm parties. I will also say that as a regular blog and GOMI reader, not everyone on GOMI is a “hater” there is a great community on there of thoughtful, intelligent commenters and so much more than discussion on blogs.

    4.15.15 · Reply
  4. Absolutely yes!! My blog + IG definitely aren’t 100% accurate depictions of my life (I posted a tasty donut pic I snapped a few months back, my actual breakfast was a bagel at my desk) and I agree: I view my blog + IG are forms of escapism but I do try to give myself a reality check regularly. A couple of months ago, a recipe I’d been planning to post just completely fell apart and I didn’t have time to re-make it, shoot it + post. So instead I was upfront and honest about my failed recipe and the responses were incredible. It was like a giant weight was lifted. Nobody’s perfect + that’s okay 🙂

    Lauren
    dcgirlinpearls.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  5. Anna said:

    I want to shout this from the rooftops just like you did about your bubblegum shot! May we all honestly accept this reminder and maybe do a little reflecting ourselves. Thank you, Julia!

    4.15.15 · Reply
  6. Agreed! My favorite bloggers (you, included!) are those who keep (and share) a dose of reality, in addition to all the happy and pretty details. It can be scary to put yourself out there. I love following your blog + Instagram… keep it up! 🙂

    xo, Laura
    http://brightandbeautifulblog.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  7. Thanks for this, love when bloggers can pull back and just be real. So necessary because at a point all the blogs and IG accounts I follow start looking the same and what’s the point then? Love unique looks and voices. Great job on your blog and it’s content:)

    http://www.vanessasrunway.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  8. Alicia said:

    Whoa. I don’t know where I’ve been but didn’t know GOMI existed. That truly makes my heart hurt, I just don’t understand if you don’t like something why you need to tell someone on their IG account or spread it on GOMI. Just move on, no one pays you to read it.

    4.15.15 · Reply
  9. Felicia Sullivan said:

    Julia,

    Thanks for sharing this post and the tension between cultivating a brand and representing all parts of yourself online. It’s a challenge with which a lot bloggers struggle, and I think it takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there.

    That having been said, I think there is a marked difference between architecting artifice and cultivating a place of positivity. You can define the pieces of your life that you don’t want to share online (chowing with your husband in your jammies, for example), but I don’t think every photo or post needs to feel so…staged. I think there’s beauty in photos and moments that are truly natural. To be honest, I’ve grown tired of staid photos of home offices, stylized collages, and tulips and the like because it doesn’t feel individualized to me, rather it reads formulaic–it feels as if bloggers are doing what works, what can be monetized versus what’s true, natural and honest.

    And I guess your point #3 is part of that honesty, that you feel partly complicit in all of this because you have an end goal. And that’s cool, but I would suggest owning it then instead of attempting to rationalize or make justifications for it.

    And finally, I have to agree with one of the commenters here re: GOMI. Bullying is a strong term and I think it’s thrown around way to blithely. I’ve read posts on GOMI, and while some are ridiculous and asinine, many others come from a place of frustration. Many people were once readers of a specific blog and have expressed sadness or frustration on how a blog has devolved or how a blogger interacts with his/her readers. There’s a difference between hard criticism (the kind people don’t want to here) and cruelty. If someone snarks on one’s body, sexual orientation, age, etc, that’s cruel. However, if someone is calling a blogger out on sponsored posts, shills, lack of good content, lack of research in posts, etc, that’s fair and honest criticism, regardless if a blogger wants to hear it.

    I’m not advocating for a place where people can go to vent about bloggers, however, I don’t see the world in binary terms. Much like you’ve presented some thoughts on the state of blogging and grey areas, I think grey areas exist in all mediums.

    I hope this comment contributes constructively to the conversation, as I do enjoy the posts you’ve shared in the past (more so your “real” posts and healthy living posts), but I hope it’s also proverbial food for thought.

    Warmly, Felicia

    4.15.15 · Reply
    • Felicia Sullivan said:

      Ack. “too”, “hear”–apparently I can’t spell today. 🙂

      4.15.15 · Reply
    • Hi Felicia, Thank you so much for your honesty. You’re right in that there is a beauty in the natural moments but I think I just need to learn how to create content around those as it hasn’t something I’ve done in the past. That is actually great feedback.

      I should also re-word my GOMI comment- Yes there is definitely some good stuff in there but as a friend of many bloggers with long threads, I see how hurtful it can be when people are just plain mean… Commenting on weight or looks or even calling bloggers stupid. Hard criticism I can live with.

      4.15.15 · Reply
  10. Kiki said:

    This post is beautiful. I love reading all sorts of blogs. From fashion to motherhood, to food I can always find a great read. Many of which have come from your site. You have made me smile with your lovely photos and impeccable taste for decor, but I know you are a person. Like me you have woes and worry. I don’t expect every post to be lavish and exciting. Heck sometimes a post about the grocery store is entertaining. Admitting you are human is the best way to connect with people. Thank you for being real Julia. (:
    http://www.accordingtokiki.net

    4.15.15 · Reply
  11. While I love seeing pretty and ‘perfect’ pictures, I love personally relating to blog posts more! The best posts are a little bit of both-making real life a little bit more pretty.
    -Kristen
    http://www.pugsandpearls.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  12. Casey Sharbaugh said:

    Major kudos to you for this very honest post!
    http://www.comfortablycasey.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  13. Another thing I’d like to add to this great post is this: for many bloggers, their audience includes people like co-workers and casual acquaintances, and I know personally I wouldn’t want my co-workers and casual acquaintances to know every difficulty and bad moment or personal problem that I have in my life. So that’s another reason some people might not get too “real” on their blogs.

    4.15.15 · Reply
  14. Amen, Julia. I feel this struggle every day as a blogger as well and it continues to be a balance I feel like I haven’t yet nailed. Always love your honesty + straight talk approach. XO

    4.15.15 · Reply
  15. Betsie said:

    Julia, I hope this puts a smile on your face. Everything you wrote is well said.. and sometimes there is envy on this side of the iPhone viewing well coiffed bloggers in the most perfect vacation photos (my resort wear a top knot and flip flops), the opportunity with the sponsorships, and those amazing weekend brunch tales (mine consist of errands and coffee, shower optional), but one thing I have gained from you all of you is confidence. It’s influenced the lifestyle and wardrobe choices I’ve made that have improved my life and made things a little more beautiful. In the process, I’ve identified my own sense of style. Thank you for that.

    4.15.15 · Reply
    • Thank you for sharing that, Betsie. It means a lot! I’m so so SO happy to hear that you’ve been influenced in a positive way by all of the posts!

      4.22.15 · Reply
  16. Heidi D. said:

    Such a great post, Julia! It’s true, blogs and Instagram (especially Instagram) make everything look glossy and perfect, but so do magazines. This is just the next form of media/entertainment, and we all have to remember to take it for what it is.

    Heidi
    http://www.wishesandreality.com

    4.15.15 · Reply
  17. Mol C. Nichols said:

    I’ve never heard of that blog bashing site until now. What people need to realize is that we visit blog because we love to see the beautiful outfits and vacation photos. Scrolling through pretty IG feed does give me a break from my normal everyday and gives me inspiration to want to look better everyday. So I say thank you for all the hard work you put into your blog.

    4.16.15 · Reply
  18. Mandie said:

    Aw Julia! Your posts on Instagram and on here make me smile every time I see them. I totally understand, sometimes when I am feeling down, less than 100%, I take the extra time in the morning to do something fun with my makeup, hair, or outfit.

    4.16.15 · Reply
  19. Syl Tang of @hipguide said:

    I am facing a lot of the same misunderstanding slash questioning by people who do not think Instagram is important. They do not view it necessarily as a business or they think we’re self-absorbed. That said, I think maybe what a true friend is really asking for, might be more posts that do reflect real life. I do think a lot of the bloggers have the same Gray Malin prints, same fern pillows, same Diptyque candles (no offense Gray and Dipytyque!) I bet you own some things that are also beautiful but which don’t have Like To Know It Links, and frankly we’d like to see that. It’s supposed to be a window into your style and the more individual that is, the better that is, IMHO. It’s okay if it’s last season and it doesn’t make money. I know it takes time (and money) to make the posts, but there is beauty in the things you just love, just because, as well. Frankly I would give you equal likes for your House of Cards couch post.

    4.16.15 · Reply
  20. Paola Blanc said:

    Great post, Julia, I totally agree with you
    Paola
    http://www.lechicchedipaola.it/

    4.17.15 · Reply
  21. Very insightful post. The great news is that there are great blogs outside of the standard style or beauty focused websites. Therefore, when people are seeking out inspirational messages or “real talk” series, there are so many options to choose from. Happy Saturday 🙂
    http://www.lovecompassionatelee.com/thinkoutloud/2015/4/13/41315

    4.18.15 · Reply
  22. Whimsy Soul said:

    Thank you for this post! I just started blogging a few months ago and find it hard to be “glossy” all the time via instagram but also relaxing at the same time. Like the flowers I did an instagram post with last week are now dead and I keep forgetting to replace them and have realized that all the fashion bloggers must have it in their planners to pick up flowers a couple times a week to keep making clean, popular photos. Yet I will keep making photos like this with flowers and coffee since, you’re right, it’s a nice escape.

    http://www.whimsysoul.com/

    4.18.15 · Reply
  23. Suzanne Miller said:

    And this is why I read and love your blog. I follow a few different bloggers – mostly to escape my “mundane suburban mom in her mid 40s” life. It’s fun to see what the 20 and 30 somethings are up to and keeps me from feeling old before my time. I like to be reminded that it’s OK to take a little extra time getting dressed, to buy some flowers for my nightstand (always pink!), and enjoy the simple beauty in a chilled glass of rosé. I appreciate what you’re doing and love the fact that I am often inspired by your blog and always enjoy it. You definitely make me smile. And thank you so much for that. XO

    4.19.15 · Reply
  24. Jules said:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a long time and just wanted to say- well said! We read/write blogs because we want to inspire and be inspired and reading about someone’s work drama and/or fight with their mom isn’t what most of us had in mind. (no offense anyone) I’m constantly getting ideas from others and hey- some of us enjoy the pretty pictures and ridiculously priced candles 🙂 Love your blog!
    -Jules
    http://SavoringSaturdays.com

    4.19.15 · Reply
  25. Michelle said:

    I knew I followed you for a reason! Great post Julia, it’s so true. Love your blog, keep up the great work!

    4.20.15 · Reply
  26. Alexandra said:

    Hi Julia! I recently found your blog and this is such a great post! And you’ve definitely put a smile on my face!

    Alexandra
    charminginpolkadots.wordpress.com

    4.21.15 · Reply
  27. I love this! I’m currently going full time freelance and hope to use my blog as a business resource. However, I really feel the pull to mesh that with real, raw life. Sometimes I think that even as bloggers we can feel a little unworthy compared to the successfully perfect (from the outside) and manicured blogs. I’ll fully admit it’s something I strive for because of my photographer/designer brain needing the perfection…but I’ve been thinking lately that maybe what the blogging world needs more of now-a-days is reality, more of showing readers that no one is really perfect, that life is messy and that’s ok.

    4.27.15 · Reply
  28. Elana Lyn Gross said:

    This is such a fantastic post, Julia! One of the reasons I love your blog is that it’s honest, authentic, and creative. You make me smile every time I read it!

    4.28.15 · Reply
  29. mrte said:

    Good article

    http://xyx2010,org

    6.29.15 · Reply