A Few Thoughts on Blogging

I was a relatively early adopter of blogging. I started my first blog back in 2009, when Twitter was just starting to grow, Facebook was still only for college students, and Instagram hadn’t even kicked off yet. I’ve always loved blogging because I’ve always loved scrapbooking, journaling, taking photos, saving articles… I’ve used Blogger, Tumblr, and WordPress. I’ve had photo blogs, blogs about identity, about my work as a journalist, about writing, and about taking “notes for no reason.” They were all lovely blogs, and they all ended for various reasons: either my life changed, or I lost my good camera, or I got busy with schoolwork, or I changed.

This is my latest blog, and I feel especially committed to it. It started a little over two years ago as a place for me to experiment with and ask questions about work-life balance, and I learned a lot from it. Over time and organically, both here and on Instagram, it developed into a place where I can enjoy recipes and the memories that come with them, explore books and share the lessons or beauty I find in them, and share my attempt “to live deliberately,” as Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden.

That’s what work-life balance means to me: being present, living deliberately. One of the things I hate most of all, and that worries me the most, more than not succeeding at something in my work or things going wrong in my life, is when days and days, sometimes weeks, go by, and I don’t know where they went. I know many people feel the same way.

Over the last few months, I stopped posting for several reasons. Two of them are normal reasons to put something aside for a little bit: I had some great projects I was working on offline, and caring for loved ones took up some extra time (both my husband and Minjay had shoulder and knee surgeries respectively last winter and spring, both thankfully are OK!). But two reasons I stopped are worth unpacking.

The first reason was that it started to feel a bit forced. Take putting together the perfect picture, for example. When you scroll down Instagram, so many images and pages look the same now. I often wonder if in some ways so-called “formulas for success” have made us less creative and removed some individuality. Blogs and social media platforms like Instagram have allowed for so much great creativity and self-expression, but I do think we always have to ask ourselves if we’re being as creative as we can, and true to ourselves. Also, the idea that we have to post constantly didn’t work for me. Some things are best enjoyed in the moment, without a smartphone in hand.

The second reason was that I began to worry about growth and audience, and I really don’t want to ever worry about that again. I want to enjoy the blog for me, write about things I care about, and, yes, hopefully connect with some people if my posts resonate with them. I love the communal aspect of blogs and social media. I love connecting with people in my city and all around the world. I love seeing the creative and wonderful things people are up to online and being part of that community. Writing can be a lonely endeavor, and sharing posts here on this blog is a way to connect with people and be part of something bigger.

I wanted to take some time to reflect on the evolution of my blog and its purpose: It’s a place to explore, to live deliberately, to be creative, and to connect. And that’s what I hope to do again, with a fresh start.

Thank you for reading!
Michelle

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The Art & Science of Loving Where You Live

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Do you love where you live?

In an increasingly mobile world, so many of us leave the place in which we grew up for college, work, relationships, and a variety of other reasons. Author Melody Warnick moved 6 times in her adult life, and upon finding herself in Blacksburg, Virginia in her mid-thirties, she began to wonder what it would take to feel settled in one place.

The result is her book, This Is Where You Belong, which was my new book club‘s first selection to read as a group. We all agreed it was a quick, easy read with great information, interesting research and useful tips. Warnick describes a lot of actionable steps you can take to become more rooted in the city you live in. Some happen naturally, some simply take time. But others require effort.

One of her findings is that walking more can help you get to know a new place. I had already experienced this through my twice daily walks with Minjay. (I’d add that getting a dog can really help you feel rooted anywhere.)

Some of her suggestions can be done easily– find a great nature spot and go for a hike! Others may require you to come out of your shell, like inviting neighbors over for dinner.

My favorite chapter in the book was the “Buy Local” chapter. It’s filled with charming stories of real-person connections that can be made by using your dollars at a local small business. For example, Warnick tells the story of Stacy Mitchell (author of Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses), whose brother bought her a book for Christmas from her favorite Portland, Maine bookstore. He made the purchase online, and then got a call a few minutes later from someone in the shop to let him know that his sister already had the book. (That story really tugged at my heartstrings).

I had never considered the “multiplier effect” of shopping local. Warnick explains that 14% of revenue from big-box retailers stays in the local economy, while 52% of the revenue of small businesses circulates locally. That seems like a really good investment in your community. Add that to the chance to make good connections and new friendships, and it’s seems so worth it.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who just moved to a new city, or anyone who feels like they want to belong more in a place they live, which would be a big contributor to work-life balance.

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At the end of each chapter, Warnick includes a simple “Love Your City Checklist.” I marked this one:

“Learn the names of the flora and fauna in your area. Check out a book on the subject, or connect with the Master Naturalists or Master Gardners in your town.”

After walks with Minjay in my neighborhood, I had already started to do this, for a children’s book I’m writing. For example, I found this fun map a couple of years ago. This was a great reminder that I’d like to (and should) do more.

Some other steps I’ll be taking after reading the book:

  • Seek out small businesses more and buy local as often as I can. Immediate changes I can make: the pet store and christmas gifts.
  • Go on more hikes nearby (Minjay will especially like this), and find more nature spots.
  • Search for more landmarks in my neighborhood. I had started to do this in Santa Monica, but after moving 3 months ago (just 10 minutes away), I need to do it again in my new immediate neighborhood.
  • Write my city councilman about our street corner, on which I’ve seen so many unnecessary accidents happen in just the last 3 months. It needs a stop sign, or at the very least a speed-limit sign with some more enforcement.
  • Learn more about Robyn Bomar’s “The Birthday Project,” and do it in January when I turn 30!

 

 

 


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