Writing

The Moving Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad?

The Movie Diaries: Is It Normal to Feel Sad? | Writing Between Pauses

5 years ago, Danny & I bought our first home together. It wasn’t perfect. There were a lot of things, right from the get go, that we didn’t love. We had our home built on land I already owned, so we considered it our forever home.

Fast forward a few years: several job changes, a pregnancy, a newborn turned toddler turned preschooler… and suddenly that house just wasn’t right anymore. It felt tiny. We were cramped, on top of each other, and the prospect of adding another child felt absolutely impossible.

A year ago, we decided to build a second home. We would make better decisions this time! We will pick a better plan, build in a better spot, do all the things we didn’t last time. (I will write more about the process of building your own home later. I know this is a totally privileged thing that many people can’t imagine, so just know, if you’re gaping at your computer, I totally acknowledge that.)

Our home was completed last week. It was about 2 or 3 weeks behind schedule by that point. And when I say completed, I don’t mean… “completed.” It wasn’t really completed. (Again: I can write about this later.)

But either way, we started moving our things out of our home into our new forever home. I was ecstatic.

We moved things for 3 days in the evenings: piece by piece, it felt like the slowest process ever. But there was only so much we could do as two people! On Friday, we went to IKEA to buy some new furniture (including a new kitchen table) and then thankfully Danny’s parents arrived and helped us move boxes and furniture.

Friday night, we all slept in our new home for the first time. Forrest’s room was mostly put together, but in our room, we only had our mattress on our box spring on the floor (our bed frame is still on a delivery truck somewhere!). I had a suitcase and my toiletries and that was about it.

I told Danny, “it feels like we are on a really weird, shitty camping trip.” That feeling isn’t helped by the fact that our contractor hasn’t really finished our upstairs toilet in the master bathroom (again, more on this later!) and 50% of our possessions are still in a different house.

My anxiety was high Friday night. Like really high.

Remus is also an anxious being (in that specifically hyper chocolate lab sort of way), so he woke me up 3 times during the night. He would run outside and pee, then look at me as if asking, “Can we go home?”

And at 3am, my last wake up, I briefly thought: let’s just go home. I started to panic. Do I really want to live in this strange house that doesn’t smell like me? Do I really want to leave all my memories behind?

I thought of all the memories I have of our old house. I let Remus back inside, locked the patio door, went upstairs, and cried while Danny slept. I panicked and cried and felt horribly sad.

I thought of bringing Forrest home—anxious, swollen, bleeding, looking wretched—and seeing the sign my sister-in-law Amy made and put on our front door. I remember sitting upstairs with him, pumping and feeding him, while my family sat downstairs. I thought of the hours I spent holding him during naps on the couch: the light shining through our windows in such a specific way.

I thought of painting our living room wall grey last summer, our breakfasts in our kitchen, standing at the counter making Christmas cookies with Fo.

For once, I thought not of all the things that I didn’t like about that house (the cramped layout, the lack of a closet in the master bedroom, the teeny tiny bathrooms) and I thought about all the things I loved. Sitting with Forrest in his room, reading him Harry Potter. Being in his room when he was 2 weeks old and wouldn’t stop crying and not knowing what to do. The long nights I spent awake and pumping. The sink where I washed all his bottles. Seeing him walk for the first time. Getting home from Disneyland with him and being so relieved and sad.

When Danny finally woke up, I told him I felt panicked. I think a lot of it was the feeling of being totally overwhelmed: we still have so much to pack and move and I feel rushed and anxious to get it done. I want to do it, but I also wish I could hand off the wheel and let someone else (anyone else!) do it! Mostly, I just felt sad.

Danny assured me that this seemed normal: we’re in a new house that doesn’t feel like “us” yet even though it is very “us”. We will get used to it and we will love it.

The same feeling hit me later on Saturday. (I’m actually typing this up Saturday, so it’s a particularly fresh memory.) I ran to the old house one last time—at 8pm, of course—to get my computer. I needed, in order to feel sane, to set up my computer. To get all my desk things and arrange them on my new desk and sit and work and feel normal. I went to the house and packed up my office… then I went into Forrest’s room.

Forrest has gotten a big bed in the new house. He’s incredibly proud of it. But in his old bedroom, his toddler bed is still sitting there, along with some of his toys and some boxed up clothes. About half his books are still there too. (Like I said, so much to move still!) I collected up all his clothes to pack into the car and as I walked out of his room, I started to cry. Again.

It hit me like a wave. To me, that was Forrest’s room. It always will be. I took all his weekly and monthly progression photos in that room on his chevron carpet. I rocked him to sleep every single night for two years—and have read him a story and sang him 3 songs every single night for about 1 and a half more. That room is his room: it feels like him, it smells like him. But we’re emptying it out, shaking out all the things that are Forrest to make into a new space. And while he loves his new room, I can’t help but think of him crawling across the floor, the nights I ran in when I heard him sick and crying, reading him Harry Potter while he drank his last bottle for the night. That toddler bed will be moved to the new house and have the front put back on in anticipation of a new baby: one I don’t know yet, who will fill our lives the way Forrest does.

Moving is hard. As someone said to me on Twitter, moving is nothing but trauma. Change is hard and locational change is particularly difficult for me, someone who is incredibly anchored by my physical space. Not being able to clean and organize the way I want makes it hard for me to feel anything but adrift.

I don’t know if it’s totally normal to be sad over moving. I cried when I moved out of all of my college dorms, however; I cried when I left my college apartment. I cried when I drove away from Caldwell, Idaho, a town I had viscerally hated for 4 years (and now return to on vacations at least twice a year). I cried when I moved out my parents’ house. I cried when I moved in our old house. I suppose for me it is normal, but it feels like this time it has hit me a lot harder than it did before.

It’s a total cliche, but it’s true: moving is hard. It stresses everyone out. And now being the one in charge of the moving (no one is holding my hand and helping me make these decisions!), it’s even more stressful.

I don’t have a real clear message to end this post on. It’s a much more personal one than I usually post. I guess what I’m saying is: I don’t know if it’s “normal” to feel sad when you’re moving, but with emotions running so high, I can’t imagine it’s a new phenomenon either. If you’re moving and feeling sad, tell me about it!

Inspiration Sunday: October 28

Inspiration Sunday: October 28 | Writing Between Pauses

Happy Sunday!

October always feels like a very long month, which is good because it’s my favorite month. But as we get closer to Halloween, it starts to click in just how long this month is. Forrest has been asking nonstop to go trick-or-treating; the concept of days is still a bit strange to him, but I made him a little calendar and we cross off each day to Halloween now. He’s so excited to experience Halloween, which makes me so excited because I’ve always wanted him to love Halloween as much as I did and do! He gets to have a Halloween party at school this week, so I may have gone a little wild and made goodie bags for the other kids in his class.

This all leads me to the point of this post: what do we do when we get to a big event we have been beyond excited for?

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For me, I always feel a bit ho-hum and let down after big events. A prime example is my wedding; I planned, I excitedly looked forward to, I had fun on the day and then, the next day… there were no big to do lists, no things to check, no plans. I’m somehow to works best by always having something to look forward to, a deadline to hit, and when I don’t, I find it hard to focus my energy. That’s why I liked being pregnant so much; I knew my body was working towards something very specific. That’s a little bit why I struggle with eating regularly and working out the way I know would help my body; I don’t have anything that I’m specifically working towards.

I always stress a bit how to not pass on this trait to Forrest, because, in general, it’s kind of a difficult one. Having to always set deadlines for myself to tasks so I don’t just languish on something is really challenging. So we often take to Forrest about how exciting things can be every single day, instead of just on days of big events. I try to make him excited for our regular days, by doing crafts and activities and lessons, having him help make dinner, playing games, or learning about chores—but still, I can tell he is just plain more excited for Halloween and he wants the days to hurry up so we can get to Halloween already!

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The most challenging part of being a parent, for me, is looking at the big picture. It can be a pretty dismal way of looking at things, to be always focused on what positive traits I’m passing on: I want him to be tidy, like I am, and not prone to being messy, like Danny is, but I don’t want him to be obsessive about it, like I can be. When I reduce my parenting to purely “passing on positive traits,” it can get really overwhelming. And ultimately, Forrest is going to pick up what Forrest picks up!

It is more important for me, as a parent, to work on the things I can change; this shows Forrest, more than anything, that nothing is set. It’s ok to change and it’s ok to adjust your behavior and work on the things you need to improve. A lot of people are so set in their ways because they think their negative personality traits are set in stone; but that’s just not true! My indecisiveness isn’t set in stone; I can choose to work on it, to not get decision fatigue, and to have the confidence to take charge.

So whether Forrest feels let down after Halloween or not, I know I need to let him have that feeling. It's ok to feel that way. But I know it is more important for me to allow him to feel that way, but then also show him ways to keep moving forward, even after a big, exciting day.

This is a bit different of an Inspiration Sunday post. It’s been something I’ve been mulling over for the past few months. And moving forward in my 30th year (!!!) on this planet, I know it’s time to start really working through all these things. What’s inspiring you this week?

How to Write Every Single Day

How to Write Every Single Day | Writing Between Pauses

Recently, I wrote about what I learned from taking on three solid months of writing challenges (you can read about it here). I also recently wrote about staying creative as an exhausted, busy mom (you can read that one here). 

You might be wondering: how will this post be any different from what one about being an exhausted mom? 

Well, I think there are a few key differences. There is a difference between making time to use your brain creatively and actively trying to write (a great amount of text) every single day. Plain and simple, that's the difference: when I first had Forrest, I had to find ways to keep myself creative, whether that meant writing or reading while I pumped or simply creating in ways that were different from before. (Again you can read that post here.) Now, when I expect myself to write consistently every single day, there are other methods I undertake--things that not just moms will relate to, but everyone who seeks to write a high volume. 

So, who is this post for? 

  • Are you a blogger who wants to produce more content? 
  • Are you an aspiring author who wants to finish a novel or hit an important deadline? 
  • Are you a writing hobbyist who just wants to get into the practice of writing even when you feel like you have nothing to say? 
  • Are you someone who isn't sure if you would enjoy writing, but like the idea of it? 

Basically: if you want to write more, I want to help you find ways to write more. Every day, actually. I want to help you find time, and discipline, to write every single day. 

The Obstacles

We've all seen the joke tweets, like this one (that isn't specifically about writing, but you get the drift). 

Does that sound familiar? Sitting down to write and instead finding yourself browsing Amazon, reading the news, browsing Twitter. I think it's fairly typical. We're all prone to distraction, especially when we aren't feel particularly inspired. 

What are some other obstacles we face, as bloggers, dedicated writers, or hobbyists? (I consider myself all three, in case you are wondering!) 

  • Distractions
  • Discipline
  • Time
  • Inspiration

How do we overcome them? 

Cutting Distractions

Every year during NaNoWriMo, this is truly my biggest obstacle; when I'm staring down a deadline, I'm definitely a flight kinda gal (instead of a fight). When the going gets tough, I get going, if you catch my drift. When a scene gets particularly sticky or I just find the scene I have to write dreadfully boring... I get distracted, I read the news, I send out a few tweets, I scroll through my Facebook groups, I change my music...

You get my drift. How can we cut out those distractions? 

  1. Turn off your internet. I'm not kidding. Turn it off!
     
  2. Use pen & paper. Is it slower than typing? Yes. Are you less apt to be distracted? Yes.  
     
  3. Download apps that restrict your websites. These apps are pretty popular among writers (just Google it); they allow you to block websites from yourself for a specific period of time. So that hour you plan to get some writing done? You can block social media websites, news sites, and more. And once the hour is up, it undoes itself. 
     
  4. Set a timer. And I'm not talking a timer for an hour, or however long you planned to write. Set a time for 10 minutes, stand up, stretch, and take a break. Then set it again. 

It all seems convoluted, but you won't be doing these things forever. Once you get yourself into a good pattern, you can slowly give yourself more freedom; you can start checking Twitter and then getting back to writing, because you'll have more focus.

Finding Inspiration

What are you writing about? Right now, I mean. What's the thing that's making you want to put pen to paper? 

Is it a blog post about writing every day? (I'll admit, I've taken 10 breaks writing this post already!) Is it a story you've been thinking of for years? Or do you just want to start writing essays, or poems, or short stories? 

Get Inspired | Writing Between Pauses

Finding inspiration to write every single day can be hard. Sometimes, you just won't want to work on the novel you've been plugging along with for years, or the short story that you really loved at first, but now hate to think about. Sometimes, you just won't be inspired. 

So what do I do in those moments? I turn to my handy-dandy notebook. I keep a small, pocket size notebook wth me at all times and I keep a running list of things I see throughout the day that I want to write about. Here are a few examples: 

  • The hunger of creativity
  • Dystopian society (World War Z style) 
  • A man in a flannel pushing an old woman in a wheelchair

Those are just fragments of things I think about, or see, or read about throughout the day. Things that spark a little flame of creativity, but I don't have time to explore in depth. When I don't feel like working on something permanent, or a blog post, I write in my notebook about one of my topics. I spin a yarn about someone I see. Or I write further on a topic I've been mulling over. 

Inspiration can be found everywhere. If you journey out into the world throughout the day (even digitally--you can write about a tweet you found funny, like this one, or an article you read), you have things you can at least free write about. The more you write, the more you'll be able to write. (Trust me when I say, it's all about getting into a rhythm.) In getting into this kind of creative rhythm, you'll find the discipline you thought you previously lacked. (This is basically building a habit.) 

Making Time

Now, you might be asking, when do I have time to do all this? 

You don't have to be writing for hours and hours. On average, I would say I write maybe 1-2 hours every evening... but that doesn't count all the writing I do at work (an average of 6-8 hours of pure writing and creating content at work, plus writing blog posts and social media for this little side hustle of mine). I write a lot. You don't have to write that much, I promise! 

Making Time | Writing Between Pauses

Dedicate the time you have. If you only have 30 minutes to spare in your busy day, then that's what you have. Spend those 30 minutes writing. If you want to develop a habit of writing, making time (even when you really don't want or you want to do other things) is extremely important. And it's really not as difficult as it sounds. You don't have to write in one solid chunk. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Write in your notebook during your lunch break or between classes. 
     
  • Write while you cook dinner, or make notes on something you want to write about during dinner. 
     
  • Write while watching a movie or your favorite TV show. 
     
  • Write on the bus or train. 

If you take opportunities to write throughout the day (or at least read and use your brain creatively), you're much more likely to continue the habit of writing when you actually want to get work done. 

What's Next? 

Start writing! You can't start a habit in one day; it's something you have to work at consistently. Once you get a good habit in place, you can modify it, drop certain things, and focus on creating something big. 

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo

How I Plan to Win NaNoWriMo | Writing Between Pauses

I wrote last week about what NaNoWriMo is and why I personally choose to participate. 

This week, I wanted to talk about my NaNoWriMo process. I’ve touched on this a few times here and here, but I’ve never gone in depth. 

I have a really specific process for outlining for NaNoWriMo. You read that correctly: I’m a planner, not a pantser. (Confused by those terms? Click here.) 

The very first year I did NaNoWriMo, I was a pantser—and it is crystal clear in the novel I produced! It is easily my weakest year. However, since then, I’ve written outlines and followed a detailed plan. I’ve worked out a system that absolutely works for me and if you’re already struggling to stay afloat this month, I think it can work for you too. 

1. Write a Synopsis

First things first, I write a brief synopsis. This is just my idea. Usually, it’s something very simple like: a marathon runner witnesses a gruesome murder. As she tries to put the pieces back together, the victim’s identical twin destroys evidence of her sister’s secret life. This is the basis of my idea: no more, no less. (This synopsis is verbatim from my 2013 novel.) 

2. Write 3 plot crucial points. 

The first point is usually the beginning piece of information in the synopsis; in my example, it’s the murder that the runner witnesses. The second point is usually the climax of the story, when the tension is highest; in my example, the climax was the arrest of the killer. The third point in the conclusion; in this case, it’s the murderers trial. 

3. Start Your Outline

From there, you have all the information you need: beginning, middle, and end. Now, it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. When it comes to writing a detailed outline, I have a very specific process. Here it is. 

A NaNoWriMo novel is 50,000 words; so, I plan 10 chapters that are 5,000 words, at least, each. Each chapter has 5 scenes of at least 1,000 words. If I can plan more words or more scenes, that’s great, but that is the bare minimum. 

On my outline, I name each chapter, identify each scene, and briefly describe each scene. It might be something as simple as, Rory, the runner, returns home to find her boyfriend, James, has left her a letter. Or, it might be something as complicated as: Molly returns home to search her sister’s bedroom, where she finds a black notebook that her sister used to journal and a stash of cash, as well as other assorted possessions that seem out-of-character. 

I also usually place my big three plot points: the beginning plot point usually goes in chapter 1 or 2; the climax usually occurs somewhere between chapter 6 and chapter 8, and then chapters 9-10 deal with the conclusion. 

Outlining in this way always gives me a scene to work towards and a goal to hit. I know when I start a new scene, I need to write a bare minimum of 1,000 words. And as I’m writing through the month, I may add additional scenes or break scenes up into small, vignette-style scenes… but I always have something to move on to, even if I’m experiencing writer’s block. 

4. Edit your outline. 

I usually write my outline in September. Yep, September! Then, in late October, I read over the entire thing and make any changes: I add details, write character descriptions, move scenes around, add scenes, change plot points… Basically, I fine tune everything so that when November starts, it’s as easy as pie. 

Why I Got Rid of All My Notebooks

decluttering as a writer

I've been receiving notebooks as gifts for as long as I can remember. Well, as long as I was telling people I wanted to be a writer. Notebooks are easy gifts: they can be beautiful, they can be practical, and it's an easy writing accessory that everyone understands. 

As someone who has kept a journal my entire life, these notebook gifts have been a blessing, honestly. I've rarely had to buy my own journals, especially if someone goes above-and-beyond and gives me a Moleskine for Christmas. However, it also has meant that I've always had a surplus of notebooks. 

In fact, this surplus started to get really embarrassing when I was pregnant. I unearthed a box of blank notebooks while getting organized and cleaning out Forrest's room. I had a stack of empty notebooks on my desk, on the bookshelf in my office, in a drawer under my desk... I had notebooks. I had notebooks upon notebooks. I had more notebooks than I would ever use in my life. Why? Because I cannot hand write fiction, or poetry, or anything. The only thing I use notebooks for is journaling. And a girl can only journal so much. 

It was time to bite the bullet. I always wanted to be the kind of person who could quietly sit with a notebook and write a story. At least get out the bare bones of it. I like journaling by hand and I like taking notes; I like writing out my grocery lists and to do lists. But trying to describe something, to actually write, by hand is a huge challenge for me. I know myself well enough now to know that it's just never going to happen. That's fine! 

So I had to get rid of all those notebooks. 

Some of them were beautiful, and expensive. Some of them I had bought myself, sure that the "right notebook" would spur my creativity. Some were cheap ones I'd bought in the last days of School Supply sales. Some were gifts. Some were party favors, or I received free from work. 

They all went. Into a box, that went to Goodwill, that hopefully sold them to someone who needed them, who can actually write in a notebook. It felt weird to let go of them, to let go of the idea of the kind of person I thought I could try to be. 

All The Things I Wish I'd Known

I wish I'd known how tiring it would be to have a child. Not how hard--I knew raising a child, and taking care of a baby, would be hard work. I knew I would dedicate hours every day to doing things I didn't necessarily want to do. But I wish I'd known how absolutely overwhelmingly exhausted I would become: the kind of exhausted that a good nap or a good nights sleep won't cure. I wish I'd known that my days would start at roughly 4:30am and I would not stop, with a break for myself, until I fell asleep at 9pm that night. 

I wish I'd known that my hobbies would cease to be hobbies, but rather activities that I fondly remembered. I wish I'd known I would have to ask for help, for time for myself. I wish I knew how to ask for it without getting angry. 

I wish I'd known the right things to research. While I scrutinized mattresses and the amount of diapers I would need, I should have read about breast pumps, breastfeeding holds, and nursing pillows. I should have understood how to breastfeed better and maybe I would have been more successful. I wish I'd known that it's not as easy as it seems: there is more than just putting the baby to your chest. I wish I'd known it was ok to not succeed that this particular endeavor, that there are other (just as good) ways to feed a baby. I wish I'd known how to stand up for myself in the hospital better. 

I wish I'd known how all-encompassing a tiny person would be. In my long days of pregnancy, I imagined nap times and nights in the crib. I imagined a world that was completely different from how things ended up. I wish I'd known to stop planning, to stop having expectations for what would happen, what would come next. I wish I'd known that, regardless of where the baby sleeps, my work would never really stop. 

I wish I'd known, earlier rather than later, that no matter what happens, no matter what amount of planning goes in to having a baby, things will always change. The baby will or won't sleep; the baby will or won't eat the way you want them to; the baby will or won't follow the "guidelines" for development. I wish I'd known that babies change their schedules as rapidly and suddenly as everyone else on the planet: they are criminals of spontaneity, making you think one thing and then doing another. I wish I'd known to throw the plans, everything I ever thought about having a baby, out the window. 

Mostly, I wish I'd known to savor more: to stop crying about breastfeeding in those early weeks and, instead, cuddle with my little baby who is now not nearly as little; to let myself co-sleep from the beginning without worrying; and to stop worrying about every little possibility and just allow myself to enjoy the time I had. 

I wish I'd known that being Forrest's mom would be the most challenging, rewarding, demanding, and exhausting thing I've ever experienced--but I wouldn't change it for the world. 

Can We Still Call It Fashion Blogging When All You Write About is Shopping?

Back when I maintained what I tentatively referred to as a fashion blog--was I always lifestyle or something? I don't know--I prided myself on the fact that, most of the time, I wore the same items over and over. To me, that's true of anyone who is fashionable or stylish in a real day-to-day setting. My outfits often featured the same belts, scarves, dresses, and shoes worn in interchangeable ways, which was easy for me and my budget.

As I scroll through my feedly or Bloglovin these days (why do I have two readers?), I notice more and more that all fashion bloggers seem to have one thing in common: they almost never wear something twice. And often, a series of blogs will feature the exact same dress on the exact same day--and of course, they received it for free.

And even if the same bloggers have received the same item at the same time (and inexplicably all posted about it on the same day), none of them style it any differently. A dress paired with nude heels and a white clutch... over and over and over as I scroll through blogs. It's not even aspirational. A cheap dress from ModCloth or Nordstrom is still just a cheap dress if you don't show me how to, I don't know, dress it up for work or dress it down for a BBQ or how to transition it to cooler months. What's the point? 

The element of personal style seems to have been removed from fashion blogging as it becomes more monetized. I'm not one of those people to say that "blogging is dying," but the monetization of more personality-based niche blogs seems to be harming the creativity and ingenuity of those blogs. As well, more and more people seem to be getting into blogging as an "easy fix"--a ready-made career where you can get free clothes with minimal effort. 

The more I thought about this, the more I realized it really bothered me how homogenous and boring the "big" blogs had become. At the same time, the blogs I'd loved (and that had stayed unique through the years) were floundering: they received less and less good deals and all seemed to be embarking on a personal crisis (which, Lord knows, I'd been there too). Then, one day, Danny said something that made me realize what was going on. He said, "It's not really fashion blogging though, is it? It's just a shopping blog for all the stuff they buy." And... he's not wrong, really. 

Sadly, fashion blogging has become more about acquisition.

I've written about this in regards to scrapbooking. The community seems to more about constantly buying, buying, buying new (admittedly cute) stuff, and less about tutorials or demonstrations to use said stuff. This is seen in haul videos and posts, in empties videos and posts, and outfit posts. 

If your blog is mostly just about shopping (no matter what you're shopping for), isn't it just a shopping blog, a blog to write about all the things you constantly acquire? If you don't write or demonstrate how to use them, how to remix them, how to implement anything in a way beyond simply having it... really, what's the point of labeling a fashion blog or a scrapbooking blog or a beauty blog anything other than a shopping blog? 

I think this is a frustration that lots of blog readers are having. You see this mostly in communities like Get Off My Internets. Whether you agree with the premise of an anonymous community where people can complain about bloggers or not, GOMI represents some of the common critiques and attitudes about blogs: who cares about one woman buying a bunch of crap she simply doesn't really need and never doing anything with it? The number of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle bloggers that ultimately get labeled with "shopping addict" is astounding. Truth be told, it's most of them... and I don't think that label is necessarily wrong in a vast majority of cases. 

Blogging isn't an art that is dying. There are lots of interesting blogs not related to fashion, beauty, or lifestyle that don't get pulled into the consumerist obsession with constant shopping. And obviously, those types of blogs are still very profitable: the number of women earning a decent living (or at least enough to supplement another income) off a fashion, beauty, or lifestyle blog is still very high. And really, that's one of the coolest parts of niche blogging, the fact that so many women have made careers for themselves out of it. 

I do wonder, however, what the answer is. Will niche lifestyle blogs ever snap back into what they once were? As long as interest from big brands exists (and there is an outlet for them to promote using sponsored blog posts and courtesy-of clothing), many blogs will remain in the rut of "shopping exclusively." But I hope that someday the blogs of the past will emerge: great outfit posts, great make up tutorials, and great DIY posts that are only about sharing great content and advice, not appeasing a sponsor. 

On Scrapbooking With Less

I love scrapbooking blogs. 

In fact, I would say they are one of my favorite niche blogs to read. Over the past six months, as I've moved away from fashion and beauty blogging, I've followed more and more scrapbooking and organizing blogs and Instagram accounts. Maybe it's the baby, or maybe it's that I'm returning to my first favorite hobby. But either way, I've gotten into scrapbooking again for the first time in a long time. 

However, there seems to be an overwhelming theme to most scrapbooking blogs (and organizing blogs, now that I think about it). What's that theme? Acquiring stuff

Funny enough, this is one of the things that made me a little, well, exhausted with fashion blogs and then beauty blogs. The constant acquiring of new things: new tops and skirts and shorts and dresses and belts and purses; new foundations, powders, blushes, bronzers, lipsticks, blushes, eyeshadows, palettes, and nail polishes. It gets exhausting to even think about keeping up with the rate at which some bloggers just seem to acquire. Some stuff might come from sponsors, but it still seems like the bulk of what bloggers write about is... stuff they bought with their hard earned cash. And if you add up the totals at the end of the day, the numbers aren't pretty. 

One beauty blogger that I follow spend about $500 in one week. In one week on random dupe purchases, multiples of products she already owned, and other random beauty supplies. She admitted in a video to owning over 50 bottles of lotion, but she'd still bought three new tubs of Body Shop body cream. She also admitted to owning an endless supply of lip scrubs and lip balms, but had bought five more of both in the same week. She just wanted to review them, she said, for us, her viewers and readers. But did she really? Or was the desire more for the product? 

There is nothing wrong with acquiring things. My thought is if you like something and use it, you should buy it. But I've started to get very wary (and this might be because I'm an adult with bills to pay, who simply can't afford to drop the equivalent of a mortgage payment on lotion that I already own) of bloggers that seem to just spend, spend, spend. Bloggers can definitely make good money from blogging--but they can't make that much money. 

It seems like a new way to showcase, and excuse, a shopping addiction. It also seems like a weird competition: who can review the newest thing first? Who can have the most products in the most pristine condition (because really when you have 20 different blushes, you can always photograph one looking pretty and new)? 

That's why I stopped reading a lot of beauty and fashion bloggers. 

I didn't expect to see the same kind of frivolous spending among scrapbooking bloggers, but I was wrong. At first, I didn't notice: as I scrolled through my Instagram feed, I ooohed and aaahed over the meticulously decorated and scrapped planners, the gorgeous Project Life pages, the books, the washi tape, the stickers. Then, I started to notice something. I started to keep count. 

A popular trend among scrapbooking blogs is planners. Yes, planners. Those pre-dated little books you can buy in a variety of shapes, sizes, orientations with different timelines and what have you. Super popular among scrapbookers. From Filofaxes to Erin Condren planners, some people do some amazing things with them. 

But as I started to do a counting experiment: in one Instagram account of one scrapbooking blogger, I counted 20 different planners. She owns 20 different planners... and scrapbooks in each. and. every. single. one. In her mind, each planners serves a different purpose: this one records her appointments; this one, she journals about her day (this is separate from her scrapbook journal and her visual journal and her Project Life scrapbook and... and...); this one, she uses just when she's camping; this one, for her kids; this one, to keep track of her expenses; this one, for another thing; this one, just because she likes it. It's exhausting. How can she keep up? I barely have time to write a paragraph in my journal!

That wasn't the end of it either: there seemed to be an endless list of things she'd bought "just to try." Scrapbooking subscription boxes. Piles of Midori folders. Different Filofaxes. Every single Project Life kit available. Sticker printers. Label makers. The Cricut machine. It wasn't just planners. It was everything. And then, finding different and creative ways to organize everything, which of course included buying more stuff: Ikea carts, Container store desks and shelves, and more.  

I had unwittingly stumbled into the same kind of niche as before: the niche of purchasing new. Instead of focusing on scrapbooking and showing the pieces of art you can create in the simple space of a journal or planner, bloggers instead get caught in the trap of having something new to show off, to demonstrate, to review.

The fun thing about scrapbooking is that you can use basically anything to do it: pictures, washi tape, notebook paper, Sharpies, pressed flowers, leaves. You don't need to buy 100 different kinds of stickers. You don't need 27 different rolls of washi tape. You don't need all this stuff. In trying to hard to document life, you spend so much time doing it that it almost feels like you don't have much of a life to document. The most fun part of scrapbooking is doing it after a long period of not being able to. Those weekends of binge scrapbooking are so fun and relaxing! 

And I felt like a lot of the blogs and Instagram accounts I had followed had lost that. They'd lost the simplicity and fun of scrapbooking from, well, scraps. That's why it's called scrapbooking! While I oohed and aahed over the pieces they created, something about them started to feel hollow. While they are creative and beautiful, they also seem a bit empty, a bit lacking. There is something overly processed about them, even though they're handmade. It's probably because I realize now that they aren't created just to create; they're created for the process of showing, of demonstrating, of reviewing another purchase. And that's a bit sad, isn't it? 

I love Project Life and Simple Stories packs. I love them because they reduce a lot of the stuff you need and you can easily mix and match pieces and cards. I don't feel the need to buy a bunch of new packs when I want to start a new project. I ordered $20 worth of new stuff for my baby scrapbook (only because I'd simply run out of things for it). I keep my scrapbooking hoard to a minimum (and I try to keep it minimally organized). I'm proud of my scrapbooking hobby and my abilities in it (it's one of the simplest art forms to get into), but I worry about falling into the trap of acquisition, the siren call of wanting to try the newest planner, the newest pens, the new stickers or buttons or whatever. 

I've set rules for myself. As much as I want to scrapbook in planners (because they do really look cool), something about that just seems to... time consuming. I only buy new pieces when I start a new album--and I only start a new album for a major life event. I have a scrapbook for my Disney vacation, my wedding, my honeymoon, the baby. I want to start a general (big) scrapbook for everyday bits and pieces: weekend trips, barbecues, documenting my pregnancy. Otherwise, I'll do a little scrapbooking in my journal, but nothing extreme, nothing too hardcore. I'll do listing challenges and make albums out of leftovers and bits and pieces. I won't go overboard. I won't order 30 different planners. 

Ultimately, this is a sign of the problems with niche blogging. Ultimately, the niches begin to revolve more and more around competition, over who has what and who has reviewed what (and who reviewed it first). It becomes about acquisition. It doesn't matter the niche. It seems to happen everywhere. But that doesn't mean you should give in to it.