Recently a lovely reader named Janna wrote in with a great question…
First of all, thank you so much to Janna for the kind words! Over the years I’ve had a number of readers write to me asking for advice on starting and maintaining a blog, and so I thought it might be helpful to write a post on how it all happened for me.
I started my blog back in 2011 when I first graduated nursing school and moved to New York City. I’d been following many blogs for a long time, and reading them with my morning coffee was one of my favorite parts of the day. Some of my favorites back then were (and still are), Live Creating Yourself, Elements of Style, and Cupcakes and Cashmere, among tons of others. Since I’d just moved to the city, my sister and I were having a blast exploring and trying new places, so she actually suggested that I combine my love of exploring NYC with my love of blogs, and start my own site about all of the places that we visited around the city. In the interest of accuracy, I’ll admit that she actually suggested that we start a blog together, but I wound up taking the reins and going it on my own (which I’m quite certain she agrees turned out for the best).
Anyway, that’s how it all started…I felt so inspired by the blogs that I loved that it seemed to make sense to start my own. We brainstormed ideas for names (there were some doozies…I hope I still have that list somewhere!), and I came up with York Avenue, which is where my NYC studio apartment is located. I still love the name, as it feels timeless and seems like something that can grow with me, plus it has a personal significance and invokes that NYC vibe.
After choosing a name, I set up my Blogger account and got to posting!
So that answers the question of how I got started. I literally just started. My first posts were nothing special, I didn’t have a plan in mind, and I didn’t have a list of one hundred post ideas to fall back on or anything like that. I just dove in. I think back then that I was really feeling energized and full of ideas that just kind of came flowing out of me, like pent-up inspiration. I remember when I first started that I just LOVED blogging. I loved finding pictures for my posts, I loved the Blogger interface, I even loved the really mundane things like creating links. And I think that is such an important component when it comes to a time-consuming hobby like blogging: you need to LOVE it, and you need to love the things that you’re blogging about.
That’s the first part of the “how I got started” story. There’s actually a second part to it all, which is where I got started again, after stopping. So I started my blog initially in November of 2011. I blogged rather consistently up until July of 2012 (not even a year!). And then I abruptly and unceremoniously stopped. There were so many reasons for stopping, one of the biggest being that I felt super burnt out from putting tons of pressure on myself to blog every day. I tend to be very all-or-nothing so I thought if I didn’t blog every day, it wasn’t worth doing at all. I was a lot younger back then, and I think instead of just enjoying it, I got really caught up in the numbers and the stats and feeling competitive…which ultimately led to feelings of frustration…and when I get frustrated with things, I tend to quit (character flaw). So that’s what I did.
Flash forward to September of 2013. I remember sitting in my sister’s then-apartment in Hoboken, having a pretty sisterly chat as the afternoon wore on and the sun gradually set. I was telling her how I felt uninspired and seemed to be in a bit of a rut. I wanted to do something, but I didn’t know what. I thought I wanted and/or needed to make a big change, and my sister suggested that sure, I could make a big change…but in the meantime, I could also just start my blog up again. It seems so obvious now, but I was surprised at the suggestion (it hadn’t really crossed my mind), and also reluctant. Part of me didn’t miss blogging. I actually liked going places and not having to worry about documenting it (this was pre-Instagram also, for me). However, after talking for a while more I realized she might be right – starting the blog up again would give me a place to explore and share the things I loved again, and might make me feel energized and more involved in the things that I enjoyed. She encouraged me to not worry about posting frequency, to in fact post once a month if I felt like it! Who cares, she said. Just do it.
My sister is awesome, and I can hardly explain how grateful I am that I had that conversation with her and that she knew that starting my blog up again was the right thing for me to do. I wrote a very simple, no big deal post for my triumphant return, and it felt so good that I haven’t stopped since.
What’s different this time around? A few things. First of all, I’m different. Do I still focus a little bit on traffic, stats, money earned, and the like? Of course – I’m human, and when you put effort into something, you can’t help but hope to be rewarded or acknowledged in some form. But nowadays, would I ever let those things dictate whether or not I blog? Definitely not. I realize now that what’s most important isn’t your number of pageviews or especially someone else’s number of pageviews. Blogging (for me) is about having a creative outlet, a space to talk about the things that I love, a space to write and share my photography and be enthusiastic. I’m actually glad to be writing this post and reminding myself of that.
I definitely go through times where I question the amount of work that I put into my blog and especially the amount of time that it consumes while not bringing in an actual income. And yes, I’ll admit it – I look at other people’s blogs and think, why am I not as successful as them? Why is X brand working with them and not me? Why don’t I have as much traffic as they do? It’s the comparison trap, and it really is a trap. It is pointless, negative thinking, and it led me down a bad road previously. So when I find myself feeling that way, I try to remind myself: Why am I blogging? For me, it’s for fun and enjoyment. As long as I’m getting that out of it, that should be enough.
Starting your blog for the right reasons is important. So many people make their living off blogging, and even some relatively new bloggers make bank after a short time! Which is cool and inspiring, but in my opinion, definitely not a given. I’ve been blogging for years now and while I make some money from it, it’s not even close to enough to sustain a living. People who make their living off blogging put a lot of time into it, and invest a lot of money into it (for professional photographers, site designs, camera equipment, and more), and also, have a little bit of good timing and good luck on their side…along with a lot of traffic. So, I would say it’s not a great idea to start a blog because you think you’re going to become a professional blogger right off the bat and quit your job. Of course, that is a possibility and a worthy goal to strive towards, but blogging is so time-consuming and the outcome so uncertain that you really need to do it because you love it – otherwise you might not be able to sustain the commitment if you don’t become “successful” or make a of money right away (or ever).
There are also a lot of advantages to just blogging as a hobby, rather than for income. You can post when you want, you can take breaks when you want, you don’t have to worry in a serious way about the success of each post or the number of comments you get or your traffic or any of that! In a way, that’s a great thing. When your blog is your whole income, that’s an amazing profession, but it also brings its own set of stresses and burdens. The thing is, if you want to start a blog you should try to know why you’re blogging – know what your motivation is. That will help to dictate your plan (or lack of plan), your posting schedule, your level of commitment, your time commitment, and more. If you’re doing it as a business move, you need to be more strategic and entrepreneurial about it and you should be posting very consistently. If you’re doing it for fun, it’s really up to you to set the rules.
Ultimately, what I’ve come to realize through this blogging “journey” is that putting pressure on myself and comparing myself to others led me to give up something that I liked and kind of needed. And only when I started up again did I realize how much I had been missing it. So don’t let petty concerns stop you from starting a blog if you want to start one. Don’t worry if your blog isn’t going to be perfect, or look perfect, or whatever. Just start! You can always take time to find your voice, and re-design your site, and do all of that, but don’t let those concerns and comparisons stop you from just getting started.
Blogging has brought so much good into my life. Not only does it provide me with a sense of happiness and fulfillment, but I’ve also met a few wonderful girl friends through blogging, (which I never expected), and it has afforded me amazing opportunities that would have never come my way otherwise, such as visiting the domino Shophouse, working with Ladurée, and meeting Rebecca Taylor, to name just a few. It’s helped me discover an enjoyment of photography, improve my writing skills, and even become a bit more confident in unfamiliar situations (i.e., events I’m invited to where I usually feel anxious because I know no one, but wind up having a great time, like here and here). I’m so grateful for these opportunities and the chances I’ve had to meet so many awesome and talented people through my blog. No matter where blogging takes me or what happens, it’s an amazing thing to have in my life – which is why I encourage anyone who is thinking of getting started to go ahead and dive in like I did.
Phew! So that’s my long-winded answer to Janna’s question, and I don’t even know if I really answered it! Janna, let me know. Anyway, I hope this is helpful or just interesting to any bloggers or potential bloggers out there, and if anyone has any other questions about blogging in any capacity, please do email me or leave a comment!