Category Archives: Blogging

The Only Way I Can Keep Blogging.

I remember coming out of a deep pit of depression, a breakdown, really, in high school, after my parent’s divorce. I was fortunate that through therapy and medicine I was pulled back from the darkness. God also practically shot a lightening bolt at my feet as well but that is another story for another day. The point is, I was coming out of it and feeling lighter by the day. Finally, I felt like myself but a much more fragile version, as if I was made of glass.

I knew I had to take special care with myself.

It’s one of the first and only times in my entire life where giving myself grace became my sole (and soul) focus. I was so desperate not to return to that dark hole that I heaped grace on myself. I lived it. Eventually, I began to thrive.

What did protecting myself look like? I did not do things that caused me even the slightest bit of anxiety or pressure (physical or emotional).  Because I felt so fragile, the boundary was clear and strong. I told people “no” for the first time. My focus was not on being “the best,” in competition with myself, a competition I am bound to lose before I begin.

For the record, I am nowhere near feeling as if I am made of glass or anything like that (although there are probably a few lessons I could take away from the story I’ve told when it comes to self care). But what made me think of that time was how I have been feeling about blogging lately. It’s come to the point where I need to protect my creative drive.badblogger1

Inherently, I love blogging. I love writing. I love being creative. I love growing in my photography skills and playing with graphic design. And so, why is it that I feel a bit like Eeyore when it comes to the whole thing?

I think it’s because blogging has become more than the things I just listed. It now also includes sponsorships here and on other blogs, giveaways, guest posts here and on other blogs, SEO, branding, an extremely long bloglovin’ feed to get through, and those blogs to comment on. It also means staying on top of pinterest, instagram, twitter, and more. I manage sponsored posts for companies and networks. I have to come up with “pinnable topics.” I am not complaining about these things. Some I love more than others. The point is these are all additions to the why I love blogging in the first place. If one allows them to be, they can be distractions. It’s different for everyone.

Now though, out of protection for my creativity, I have to examine some of these extras. It’s a process. In a way, the timing is good because I can ask a lot of questions now and answer them for 2016.

Once identify I things that are pressuring my creativity, I need to remove them. It’s become this sludge so thick I don’t even want to try to walk through it anymore, even the parts I love. This sludge has me wanting to throw in the towel on this creative venture (something I know would be a mistake).

There are things that are actually killing the fragile amount of creativity I am holding on to now.

I guess you could say I am starting to treat this blog as if it is made of glass.

I guess you could say I have to be protective over my creativity.

I want to surround myself with likeminded bloggers and blogs, who let their creativity take them on a trip of wild abandonment.*** I don’t want to read about how pinterest works when I can find the same info in a million other places, especially when I could be reading about you, about your passions, books you love, artists you admire, things you create (and are not recycled from pinterest). If you can infuse creativity and passion and your own point of view into teaching me about pinterest then that’s a different cup of tea.

So with this fragile, glass-like creativity, I am going to be honest and truthful about things I’ve only talked with certain bloggers with one-on-one. The thing is: we are all in agreement. The blogging world, as a whole, is currently not conducive to creativity. The majority of bloggers are concerned with writing content that will get them re-pins and page views.

Is there anything wrong with that?

No.

But it means my bloglovin’ feed is filled with titles like these, all on the same day: How to Make the Best Blogging Binder, Learn How to Quit Your Job to Blog Full Time, 5 Ways You Can Improve Your Instagram, and more. And that’s just the blogging related titles. It does not include the recycled DIYs I’ve already seen on pinterest by other bloggers or the recycled recipes or the bloggers who include sponsored content four out of five days a week.

This is crap.

I don’t use that word here often. I can’t think of a time when I have used it in fact. But it’s the best one to describe 80% of my bloglovin’ feed. It’s discouraging to see all this crap. It’s even more discouraging to feel as if you must produce crap in order to “make it” in the blogging world. On a less superficial level, this crap doesn’t push me to be my most creative self. Disclaimer: I define this crap as any of the idea I’ve mentioned here without the injection of point of view, creativity, and authenticity. Nothing is new under the sun, so of course, there will be overlap. But I need that infusion of creativity.

Instead, this community of crap encourages me to write on “pinnable” topics that don’t mean anything to me. (Remember, I never claimed to be innocent in all this). At first, producing this crap doesn’t affect me. But soon, my creative heart starts to wither up like a prune; it’s got no juice left to give this blog or other creative outlets.badblogger

I don’t want to point the fingers at everyone for producing crap. We’ve all been complicit. I also don’t think it’s wrong to make money from blogging (in some cases, it is a necessity).

Posts are recycled over and over again, as if bloggers pass them on to one another. I don’t want to read about it anymore and I don’t want to pretend to enjoy it anymore either. It is to the point, no exaggeration, that some days I want to scream, even as I read certain posts and comment on some blogs only out of loyalty*. Bloggers I love as people can’t seem to post anything other than this pinnable crap. I cannot take another tutorial I can find a million other places. My one-on-one relationship with them is great so I know they could infuse the “crap” with themselves and it would be magic!

(For the record, I adore pinterest. What I am referring to here are topics that are written because one thinks they will be popular: how to make a gallery wall, be more productive in five easy steps, why your blog will never be popular or why I hate your blog or why I won’t read your blog or 10 blogging mistakes you are making. Personally those are the worst for me).

I know there are bloggers who have been extremely successful writing this type of stuff. As bloggers we see that and we want it. But I am going to go out on a limb and suppose something: I don’t think blogs that are about blogging are going to be around years and years from now. Not unless they are offering something different.

What happened to authenticity? I miss it badly.

Who are you? Why are you doing this thing called blogging? That’s what I want to know.Does the “pinnability” of a post drive your editorial calendar? In essence, does page views drive your content? If so, and you are cool with it, then do you. I need to grow up and just remove blogs from my feed.*(Addendum: a friend commented to say that she feels like her calling is teaching and helping others and that made me so happy on so many levels because: she is doing her (yes!); she is living/writing/blogging out her calling; we are all different with different callings and gifts so if we all live them out there will be diversity in blogging community!)

The thing I is: I just can’t take it, especially when I’ve gotten to know you, and seen how lovely you are and how much you have to offer the world. So it’s just my personal opinion, but offer the world something other than crap because I have seen with my own eyes that you have so very much to offer! Crap is like eating a piece of chocolate cake, ingesting the calories, and being able to taste nothing. If your posts are authentic–whatever that means to you–and have a point of view then they are not crap. Offer the world this and it will thank you for it!

I know what you’re going to say because I’ve said it myself. But Nina, I need to do these things so I can get those coveted sponsored posts (no hate there…in moderation…we all need to cover the costs of our blogs and in some cases, make a living). Nina, I need to create “pinnable” content so my blog gets more views and comments and my social media grows so eventually my blog can be my job and enough money will come from it.

Nina, if I make allowances now, it will pay off in the end.

Do I think people can make a living from blogging? Absolutely. But I also think there is going to be a glass ceiling and I don’t know when we are going to hit it. When we do, I want to be unique. I want to be able to say this is what makes me different because I am Nina and brands who like the way I do things will continue to want to work with me. That doesn’t necessarily mean I am writing about completely new things (remember, there is nothing new under the sun) but it just means that I am writing them from a place of my calling and gifts, injecting them with my personality, and using my creativity.

Ask yourself, what makes you different than the next blogger? Really. I’m asking. Because I am looking at my bloglovin’ feed and I am not seeing it and seeing the same thing over and over again. My answer to that question (on your behalf HA and with much encouragement) is that YOU make yourself different than the next blogger. Write and blog from that place.

Hey, listen. I have done it too. I have fallen into the trap and lost all inspiration and creativity once there. I clawed my way out only to look around and see everyone is doing the same thing, feeling like we all have the same personality. And let me tell you, that does not inspire me to climb higher, to reach for true creativity. It makes me feel like this is all there is: double your instagram following, grow your email list, make this DIY, try this recipe with sponsored content inside of it. Again, I’m not innocent. And again, these things can be done in a way that can feel fresh.

Even graphics are starting to look similar. If this was fashion instead of blogging, I would tell you that a fad is a fad (and also all fads are not for everyone). I think jumpers are adorable but they look a bit strange on me. If this was fashion instead of blogging, I feel like 80% of people would be wearing the same exact thing.

I can’t do that anymore, not if I want this blog to last. Because the way things were going, if I don’t make a change, I can see myself throwing the towel in. Goodbye, Flowers in my Hair.

I don’t want to read the same thing blog after blog and I don’t want to write the same thing either. I want to do me. I want to be authentic. I want to protect the fledging creativity I have left.

When I am writing, I like to start my session by reading some of my favorite authors. My style is completely different from most of them and yet I read them because they pull creativity out of me. Sometimes writers will type F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway just to see what it feels like to type those words. It all circles back to their own work and creativity.

So, that’s why I have a problem with the crap. Even if I stop doing it, everyone else is and I can’t take it.
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And so, the thing is: I cannot continue to commit creative suicide by partaking in this. If something I want to write about happens to be considered pinnable, like the hostess gifts yesterday, fine. But that cannot and will not be my primary thought. I can only control myself and so that’s what I will be doing. But I also am not holding back what may be an unpopular opinion.

I wouldn’t say a word about any of this except I am inspired by great bloggers who are just doing what they do (they do exist!). I am inspired by their creative approach to whatever it is they blog about. Their creativity pushes my own. I think a lot of these other cookie cutters once fell into that category once. They can be unique again.**

Just because this is my opinion does not mean I am right. It doesn’t mean you have to change. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. I hope it does have you asking questions like: what is the purpose of my blog and how do I live out that purpose in a way that is unique from other bloggers around the web? Maybe you are just in it solely to make money. Okay. I have my own theories on that because I don’t think it is truly sustainable but I won’t judge you.

Creativity breeds creativity. And right now, for many of the blogs I read with bloggers I adore as women, the ground seems pretty infertile. So I’m going to go where creativity leads me and I am going to try and seek out other likeminded people.** We’ll see.

*The hardest thing for me to stop doing is going to be to stop commenting on the blogs written by the loveliest of ladies who, for whatever reason, are recycling old tutorials or not sharing any parts of themselves with the world. I feel such loyalty and respect  for them as people.  And yet…it’s like a dementor is sucking the creativity out of me when I comment and read just to be a good friend. And I have known for months (!) that just going and reading and commenting was depressing me on the state of blogging and yet I have not managed to cut the chain. I don’t know when I will manage it. I can tell you even as I write this that I couldn’t do it today and I don’t think I will be able to do it tomorrow.

**If you believe your blog falls into the category where you are offering the world something in a unique way OR you have a list of blogs that fall into that category, can you please, please, please share them? I am in dire need of creative spirits in the blogging community. Don’t feel funny leaving your own along with a list.

***A very wise person commented and to tell me that her purpose is teaching and helping others. She feels this is her calling. I love that so much. And so I do think there is a place for tutorials and how-tos and all that (how could I not? I love pinterest). But write them because you truly have a passion for them and a unique point of view.

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Blogging Burnout and Writer’s Block: This is Not a Tutorial.

blogburnoutIs it gone? All that inspiration and creativity? Has it been sucked out of you for whatever reason? Maybe you should make a pro-con list like Rory Gilmore. Maybe you should just quit. Maybe this, maybe that. Maybe who knows what.

Coming from a writing background, studying it in school, some really smart people say that Writer’s Block exists and some other smart people don’t believe in it. I do know that creativity ebbs and flows. I do know that sometimes taking a break is good.

Blogging Burnout is a bit different than Writer’s Block. Some people start a blog just for fun and it stops being fun. No judgement here. Some people love fashion or cooking and the blogging comes from there. There’s so many different ways to come at this blogging thing so this may not apply to you at all. But if you happen to be a writer and blogger…

Here’s the thing I know about Writer’s Block. Keep writing. Push through. We all need breaks and breaks can be good. But don’t stop. The more you create, the more creative you feel. It ebbs and it flows and if you can accept it and play in the sea anyway, then do it. Sometimes you’re frolicking around in the surf. Sometimes you’re being pulled out by a riptide. Sometimes you can’t find a shell in the sand to save your life.

Just do it. If writing is a calling for you, then keep going. Take care of yourself but keep going. Because if writing is a calling, then stopping because of Writer’s Block? Waiting for a lightening bolt of inspiration to suddenly strike you? That feels no better than being blocked. Sometimes we have to search out that inspiration; sometimes it comes to us divinely like a message in a bottle. It cannot always be predicted. But just like we cannot predict sickness, we can eat healthy and take care  of ourselves to avoid it. So surround yourself with things and people inspiring to you. Keep a journal. Take photographs. Do something creative just for fun. Anything.

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Please know I am reminding myself of this right now as well. Sometimes, it is just not possible to push through for any number of reasons and I empathize with that. I’ve gone through some tough seasons with my family…where I lost the words. Usually though, for me personally, I can only say that I am a better human when I am writing so if I am not writing here not her, I better be writing somewhere else. That is just me though.

I took a few days off this past week in that I did not write here ever day but more like every few days. Because I am very upfront, I will say I have been battling Blogging Burnout a bit. I’ve talked to others and I don’t think I am alone.

I can only speak for myself here though. It’s a combination of a lot of things: difficulties in real life but also just feeling like this blogging thing, this blogging world? Well, I’ve been feeling a little closed in by it.

For example, I collect books and I love to read. Good writing inspires good writing. Lately, I’ve felt that the blog world has been very recycled lately. This is not a dig. Does anyone feel the same? I feel like I need my blogging shelves filled with great bloggers who are also searching for creativity. But I can’t control my Bloglovin’ feed and what people post so I’ll go into the world in search of new inspiration.

In the meantime, when it comes to Blogging Burnout and Writer’s Block, I’ll be here, playing and working in the surf, riding the wave and always looking for next one.bloggingburnoutpin

Have you ever had Writer’s Block or Blogging Burnout? What are your thoughts on it?
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What I’ve Learned After Two Years of Blogging.

What I've Learned After Two Years of BloggingTwo years ago, I pressed publish on my very first blog post. I had been living in San Francisco for a year, just been promoted at a job I loved, and was living an adventure away from everything and everyone I knew. Now, two years later, I am living in Chicago, starting a new business venture, and have no idea what kind of adventure God has planned for any of this. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?

When I realized it was going to be my blogiversary, I planned to write a post like this. As in, I wrote on my editorial calendar “2 year post.” Then I talked to a blogging friend and said this: “This is what I have to offer people after two years. Just get better.” She laughed because it is kind of true. It is also the reason I am not linking to my very first blog post.

So here is what I’ve learned after two years of blogging with a laugh or two thrown in:

Be organized but organic

Yeah, editorial calendars are great and I do keep one. I think I would go insane without it. I also keep a bullet journal which includes blog, business, and personal life. But guess what? Yesterday, I was supposed to post about a recipe (an updated healthy version of Nonna’s Icebox Cake). Guess what I wrote about instead? My Favorite Fall Nail Polishes. The point is, the longer I blog, the more organized I become, the more planners and spreadsheets I have. But I have to keep it loose. I have to do me. Because that’s why I started blogging in the first place. I want to love this place. I want to love coming here and writing here. And you guys want me to be authentic and real. Believe me, you can tell when I am not being that way (which hopefully never happens here). So, yeah, find that sweet spot between loosey goosey and right and tight.

The People are Great

It’s a documented fact that 98.8% of the people I have met through blogging (whether in real life or just online) are amazing. Let’s face it: blogging attracts open, authentic, creative, funny people. And those are the types of people I like to be friends with. I never expected this to be such a perk but man, it is. I have friends from blogging. Like friends I facetime and text and even visit. I’m going to Influence next week (a blogging conference) and I am going to meet more of you and I am going to like you. And yeah, some people are difficult. But I feel like the blogging ratio of cool people is slightly (slightly) higher than if you just walked down the street. But what do you think?

Look How Far You’ve Come (and don’t wince too hard)

You get better. It just happens. You learn new skills (photography). You buy fonts and make friends who teach you things. Your graphics have watermarks on them. So when you look back, be proud of how far you’ve come and don’t wince too hard because the fact is, you probably are going to go a lot further and in another year, this very post may make you want to throw up.

The More You Learn…

Those watermarks? They add time to my blogging life. Getting the better picture? Same thing. I like getting better and improving both myself and this space but also I cannot go crazy. Because if you leave me alone with these Faux Kate Spade DIY Storage Boxes I will obsess over straight lines. I mean, focus on it with an intensity that is probably not good. Once, I was with a blogging friend and she told me: you do not need need a second graphic for this series. And I spent an hour making the second graphic. Even though I didn’t listen to her (I still don’t know if I regret that or not), it has made me question where and what I put my time in here on the blog. So yeah, I deal with the watermark time but there are things I let go of too (or am trying to let go of).

I’m So Glad I Never Posted About That

Yes, that’s right. If you happen to know me on a deeper level, you may know I am the type to put it all on the table. The fact is, it is a bit hard for me to hold back. I would love to share all the details of my life with you. But it would’t be wise. Or fair to the other people in my life. And it wouldn’t be good in the long run. Not really. I learned this from a small blog I had in college. All that to say, here is the rule I run with: if there is any part of me that questions whether I should share something, I don’t. At least not yet. Now, there could be stupid reasons like: I don’t want to share this because people may not agree with me. Then I text one of my blogging peeps and they say: you’re posting it. But when it comes to my health? I still question it because of future employers. Or stories about my family (like where is Bravo because we have a show people would watch…let alone the entertaining and sometimes difficult stories that could seriously run this blog like you would not even believe). That doesn’t mean I won’t ever share about my health. But there is still a question in my mind so not now.

Sometimes You Have to Remember Why You Started

How many blogs have I stopped reading because they jumped the shark? A lot. When you lose your voice, when you stop sounding like you, when it’s only about blogging income reports and how to make money and promoting your own stuff, I tune out. I need you to be you, whoever that is, because that’s why I started reading. I try to remember that here so I very much try to balance (hence the organizing) beauty and books, blogging tips with Italian cooking, writing about my faith and making you laugh (but don’t forget that whole organic thing).

Check out my Blogging Tips and Tricks Pinterest Board (with blogging wisdom from all over the place…not just here) or just follow all my boards.

Follow Flowers in my Hair | NB Creative Inc.’s board Blogging Tips and Tricks on Pinterest.

 

So that’s what I’ve learned. I’ve probably learned a lot more but you know, organized but organic, right? What has blogging taught you? Do you agree with any of this wisdom? Ha. Signature

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So You Have a DSLR, Now What? | Photography 101.

photography101I had a DSLR for a long time before I learned how to shoot manually by taking classes and seeking out knowledge. Now, I can’t imagine shooting auto. Still, I know I waited a long time to learn because I was intimidated. I’m a writer and numbers were involved (eek!). A few people have asked where and how I learned. I definitely recommend taking a class. A great one can be found through Nicole’s Classes (where they also often have sales) but if a class isn’t in the cards, check out a book like The Busy Girl’s Guide to Digital Photography.

My goal here is to make this a simple series–Photography 101 for shooting manually with your DSLR. It won’t be exhaustive because I want to focus on the basics in order to keep things as clear as possible.

First things first, turn your camera to M for Manual. If you’ve been playing around with other settings (I was always fond of Macro), you probably have taken some great photos. The issue with these presets is that they use Auto Exposure for each setting which may not be correct for the light, the depth of field, or the photograph.

Let me break it down the best I can.

So what is Exposure?exposureExposure: the actual process of capturing light with the camera to produce an image. It is the combination of the F-Stop or Aperture (the same thing) and Shutter Speed.apertureAperture or F-Stop: literal opening of the camera lens. It also controls the depth of field.* Annoyingly because it is opposite of my intuition, a large F-Stop gives a smaller opening while a small F-Stop give a larger opening. A smaller opening offers less light a darker exposure and a larger opening brings more light into the image and a brighter exposure.
shutterspeedShutter Speed: It is the duration that shutter is open and exposed to light, measured in seconds. For example, if I am photographing sports, my shutter speed is going to be fast. If I want to take in a lightening bolt, I will have an extremely slow shutter speed so my shutter is open for longer in order to hopefully capture the bolt. A long shutter speed requires a tripod because one cannot hold a camera still long enough for that lightening both. Fast or slow, the shutter speed will affect the Aperture and vice versa.

ISO: This number is how sensitive the sensor on your DSLR is to light. A low ISO number means less sensitivity to light and a high ISO number means more sensitivity to light. A higher ISO also means more grain or “noise.” When possible shoot with as low of an ISO as possible. Change the ISO last after you have tried to adjusting the Aperture and Shutter Speed so you don’t lose quality. Like Aperture and Shutter speed, these all effect one another.

I  have a Canon Rebel T2i so you may have to check your manual but this is where I am able to determine my exposure, change my aperture, shutter speed, etc. You’ll also see that I tried to take a picture with my phone of what you can see if you look through the viewfinder and press the shutter down slightly.cameratrioWas this helpful? Feel free to ask me any questions but keep in mind this is a series of Photography 101. At first, this was so overwhelming me. Take a lot of photos. Put your camera on manual and play with the aperture and shutter speed.

P.S. After the photoshoot of my camera, I cleaned it. 🙂
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How to Prioritize & a Free Printable to Help.

How to Prioritize & a Free Printable to HelGrowing up, I wrote things I had to do but was afraid of forgetting on my hand. I couldn’t forget it if it was right there, right? Well, my parents didn’t love it and turns out in this life stage it’s not super professional. So I started sending myself emails. I couldn’t miss those but I clearly already had an email problem. In the last few months, I’ve been bullet journaling which has been a huge help. I can list everything I have to do and because I am constantly looking at my bullet journal, I won’t forget. But everything I list? It doesn’t have the same weight; it can’t all be high priority or I would go insane (as would anyone).

So how does one prioritize in an easy way?

I learned this trick awhile ago and I have to say whenever I am overwhelmed, I go back to it. But what if I used it even if I wasn’t overwhelmed? Probably wise.

So I take my lists and lists (I’m sorry I just love a to do list, especially when I am crossing things off of them) and divide them up using this.Priorities_Worksheet

And then I use this extremely simple table to divide things into four categories: Urgent Important, Not Urgent Important, Urgent Not Important, Not Urgent Not Important. I’ve made one for you here so you can simply print it off (prints perfectly on regular sized paper) and get started: Priorities Worksheet.priorities2

Here’s an example of how I filled it out recently. It gives me a clear mind because I suddenly have to evaluate: is this thing urgent? is it important? Because if you know me, you may be laughing right now. Without the sheet and all in my head, I tend to think everything falls into that Urgent Important category when in fact that isn’t ever true.How to Prioritize & a Free Printable to Help 1

With a keener focus, I am able to prioritize my lists and cross things off in the correct order (instead of the order they come to mind) and there is no danger of forgetting anything…even though it isn’t written on my hand.How to Prioritize & a Free Printable to Help 2

Do you have tools to help you prioritize? Does anyone else struggle with this stuff? Don’t forget to download the Priorities Worksheet.
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