Life As A Blogger

confessions

I’m just a little bit caught in the middle
Life is a maze and love is a riddle
I don’t know where to go I can’t do it alone I’ve tried
And I don’t know why

-Lenka (who I just realized is married to James Gulliver Hancock, and where have I been, Art Community at large?)

I get so very thinky in the wintertime. The world slows as the snow falls and suddenly, my mind has the time and space to race wildly. My thoughts take on maximalist behaviors – never content with quiet, always creating noise to blanket the silence. They’re not bad thoughts, they’re just… a lot. Swirling in full force, a shaken snow globe of question and reflection and doubt.

(Do you hear Damien Rice circa 2002 playing in the background? Of course you do.)

I have been reading and reading and reading this week, which always lends itself to the inner turmoil. If there’s one thing that spikes my idea punch, it’s other people’s idea punch. I’m learning about leadership and community and faith and hope and poverty and consumerism, and they’re all flavoring my world like a really mean mixed drink – the kind that leaves you with a bit of a hangover the next day (week?). All of this to say, hang on. We’re taking a field trip today.

Stream of consciousness break: How do you give weight and honor to an unintended platform? How do you share a story that isn’t yet written – one that involves other characters – with twists and turns that still await us all?

As the year winds down and I prepare to take a break from this space, I feel like reflecting on my journey as a “blogger.” It’s been an entirely accidental one – a gift that landed on my doorstep wrapped in a paper box with a puppy inside, begging me to care for it and maybe take it for a walk.

I’m a private person, and also an introvert. This means that many slivers of my life are kept far away from the keyboard and, instead, voiced to close friends and family members. It’s the way I’ve been wired – to share with intent, to share with few. But here’s what that means:

I don’t talk about the hard stuff here. I don’t talk about the indecision over website launches or future career moves or negative emails received. I don’t write about disagreements with my husband or crumbling friendships or family tension. It’s not the right place to do so, for me. It doesn’t sit well when I think about the kind of legacy I want to leave – written or not.

Here’s what that doesn’t mean: My life is perfect.

Life is hard (mostly because I have a habit of manufacturing problems in my head, but that’s another post entirely). Twenty minutes before this photo was snapped, Bee had a 10-minute tantrum because her apple was sliced lengthwise rather than in quarters. This duvet cover is stained from Bernie’s projectile vomit last night, and this sofa is covered with mounds and mounds of laundry to be folded.

But why give weight to all of that? It’s not what I’ll remember next week, or next month – or even next year. Instead, I’ll remember the snuggles and the crisp, morning walks and the quiet, the beauty of a life that’s been offered freedom and peace and unconditional love.

It’s a constant balance, and I hope you know I try to be really sensitive to that. I teeter between the inspirational and the authentic, totter between the real and the hard. I want this place to be purposeful – uplifting and encouraging – without posing as someone who has her ducks in a row, each one primped and polished for Sunday morning church.

But I’m an optimist, one who can easier find the good than the bad, and that’s a part of myself I want to embrace. The past year of slow blogging has brought so many surprises (thank you for coming along for the ride, btw), most of which is my realization that Design for Mankind is just a small part of my story.

I am a mother and a wife, a daughter and a sister. A vegetable-chopper, a gift-wrapper, an Amazon-shopper, a countertop-cleaner, a laundry-folder, a yoga class-skipper, a Bible-reader, a piggyback ride-giver, a rapid emailer, an overcomplicator, an iPhone photographer, a birthday-forgetter and a birthday-forgetting-apologizer. I’m more than a blogger, and I know you’re more than a blog reader.

I’ve always heard that, to be a great blogger, you must brand yourself. You must stand for something specific – something permanent. Something that you’re so very passionate about that it’s woven into the very fibers of your being. But here’s the thing: I’m still being woven. My story is still being written, just as your page is still wet with ink. We grow and change and our course alters beyond our control, and we’re stretched in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined when we hit Publish on our first Xanga entry back in 2001 (oh wait, was that just me?).

I’m not a brand. I’m a person. And I’m not a blogger. I’m Erin Loechner, a girl who loves to write just because she loves to write. I’m the first person my friends call when they need a redecorator, or sound advice, or a stylist. (And consequently the last girl they call when they’re having a domestic dilemma in the kitchen, garden or craft room.)

I’m allergic to cheese, but I keep eating it because I have zero self control. I pick at my cuticles when I’m stressed or on the phone. I’m nearly deaf in my right ear, thanks to a combination of less-than-stellar genes and my competitive swimming past. I worry near-daily that I’m not giving enough weight to this life, that I’m not doing what I’m supposed to be doing or what I was built to do or what would honor my talents in the greatest of ways. I worry that I’m scarring my daughter when I let her watch Cailou again. I tip too much, recycle too little and drink just the right amount of red wine on the weekends.

I’m a work in progress, a portrait that was given a lot of brush strokes this year. And although I don’t know what colors will reveal themselves next year, I’m doing my best to share the light amongst the shadows.

I’m taking a break until 2014 hits, but would love to hear from you: why do you show the slivers you show online? How do you honor the platform you’ve created, long after the ‘you’ that created it has changed and grown? And where do we all go from here?

  • Love this. I’m an extreme extrovert and a stay at home mom so I blog because I have things to say and the internet gives me someone to say them to. It makes me feel connected and not so alone. That being said, I don’t have much agenda as far as crafting an image. I just write what I feel like writing. I’m not trying to make anyone think anything about me. I’m just sharing. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to share the most private or painful parts of my life just so others think I’m being authentic or so that I can use #keepinitreal. I describe it to my friends who struggle with comparison like this: you aren’t going to go to someone’s house and see divorce papers or pictures of their cellulite in their scrapbooks. We save and display the things we want to remember. And when I’ve outgrown the way or things I used to write, I just start doing it a new way. But, that’s easy for me to say since I have about 12 readers. No doubt it must feel like a heavier responsibility when you have a larger platform. Great post!

    • Oooh, these are such good thoughts, Heather – thank you for sharing! I love your philosophy, and man – you’re so right about divorce paper and cellulite scrapbooks. :) Thank you, lady!

  • Oh, Erin, this resonates with me so much. I think that for all of us bloggers, we’re just looking to tell our story, to share whatever part of our lives we can with the world, even if our moms are the only readers we have!

    For me, it’s about letting people know that they aren’t alone, that what they’re feeling is universal, that we all really feel the same things and that it’s okay to talk about them, feel vulnerable about them, and ultimately, live your life in spite of them.

    I so appreciate you being so open and honest here (and always have!) because ultimately, your saying “my life isn’t perfect” gives us all permission to still find the celebration in our own also-imperfect lives.

    Thank you. For all of it. And mostly, for you being you. Happy holiday love to you and the family.

  • This post really resonates with me. I sometimes need to hear someone else say that their life isn’t perfect either, and that they don’t like to write about the things that aren’t really appealing. Thank you.

  • Erin. I feel like you crawled into my head and surreptitiously investigated a little bit, creepy as that sounds. I appreciate your writing and sharing so much.

    It’s such a good reminder that everyone, no matter how good they look on the internet, is just trying their best. Doing all they can with what they have. I really love and appreciate the honesty & authenticity here. Balm for the soul.

    Everyone is so much more than what they seem like online. Everyone’s story is all intertwined with everyone else’s in a big beautiful tangly mess and we’re all just doing the best we can.

  • Thanks for the wonderful post(s), Erin. So many of your ideas resonate with me. I am a fellow overcomplicator—as well as so many others that you mentioned. After you posted about slow blogging I began to shift my blogging focus a bit too. And with the new changes in blogging commerce, I’ve found posting to share with a community is my goal. I think the bits of sparkle and joy each of us notices in life is a blessing. Thanks for keeping it real on your blog. Warmest wishes for the holiday and new year.

  • This is wonderful, Erin. I love how you so consistently share your truth, and in such an eloquent way. It’s what keeps me coming back for more :) as a blogger myself, I too think about that which I leave offline, both consciously and not. I was told recently that I seem “poised” on my blog and I nearly rolled on the floor laughing because poised is never the word I’d use to describe myself. My mind is all over the place sometimes and my dreams have taken me to and fro physically as well. I worry that I’ll never feel settled or sure. But then I look at my own blog, my writing, my snippets of life that I share online and the sweet comments in response to them, and I’m comforted by the goodness there. Bad days shine through sometimes, but I also choose to focus on the brighter stuff. To have them catalogued there is what encourages me to look forward to the unknown to come. Not to mention, it not the moments worth sharing that matter most? I love being able to do so with such kind and insightful readers. Blogging can be such a privilege in that way.

  • This is SUCH a great post. I love your healthy perspective…and I totally agree with Heather’s comment too. I do like seeing “honest” posts on blogs sometimes because it’s good to know we’re all alike and no one is perfect. But I also think it’s totally fine not to put your struggles and messes out there for all to see and pick apart–inviting people to your blog space is like inviting them to your home. I’d never have someone come to stay and leave the guest bed unmade, I’d tidy up for them. And I wouldn’t go on a date in my PJs. We dress up sometimes (both ourselves and our blog) not because we’re being fake or unreal, but because we’re putting our best foot forward. I know for me personally, I prefer not to share anything that involves struggles with other people (husband, family, or friends). Sometimes I share my blog-related or career-related struggles, because I like to get advice and I think it’s more relevant to what I normally post–but I don’t like to get into my private life.

    Thanks for the post, Erin! I’ve been “thinky” lately too–something about the end of the year and the start of the new one does that, I think. This is great food for thought and I can’t wait to see the conversation it sparks.

  • Erin this is why I love your blog: because it IS so authentic. To me we are always aspiring to be better than we are but we seek out those who are on the same journey and meet the same hiccups and bumps in the road as we do. Why does one seek out blogs to begin with? To find community. Common souls and experiences. I’ve mentioned before that I turn to your blog for the “oh thank goodness it’s not just me” experience. Life is meant to be shared but reality is very personal. I think most people understand that bloggers don’t post every day, it’s snapshots of time. Life (your life, readers’ lives) happens in between the posts.

    • Oh this is the TRUTH, Jennifer – THANK YOU! Love this line:
      Life (your life, readers’ lives) happens in between the posts.
      Thank you for sharing this!
      e.

  • Erin,
    I really enjoyed reading this. I recently made a HUGE change on my blog (from “lifestyle” to a focus on food and family… and authenticity). I’ve been writing more, posting way less, spending more time offline, working on myself, my photography, writing in a journal again. I get to spend more time with my babies and it feels so much more true to who I am. I am a former extrovert and recovering perfectionist. I’m discovering, as I give myself the space, I am actually rather introverted… yet in spite of that I find I’m actually sharing more on my blog! It’s not at all what I expected but it leads to my larger goals: writing, photography, recipe development. I’m so happy with the changes I’ve made and am making and look forward to sharing in yours.

    Happy Holidays,
    Kacie

  • Well done! Thanks for this post! I’m new to the blog, but this makes me want to keep reading. I appreciate the tension between sharing and keeping things private, and as a fellow introvert who is planning to start a blog in the wintertime this year, I’m wrestling with these issues too. Thank you!

  • Erin,
    I love the way you write: thoughtfully, honestly, sincerely, and whole-heartedly. These qualities are what keep me coming back again and again. Over the past year, I’ve been drawn to blogs that are more thoughtful, that dig a little deeper into issues as opposed to making things look shiny and pretty. Too much of that shine and prettiness makes me feel like maybe I’m not doing enough.
    That realization made me step back and re-evaulate my own blogging habits: do I contribute to making people feel inadequate, or do I try to meet them and offer inspiration and food for thought? My efforts may be small and starting out on wobbly legs, but they are there.
    It’s not to say I share all the “bad” stuff going on. What happens between myself and others does not make it onto the blog. I try to respect relationships, and those (the ones that matter most) happen in real time, between the blog titles. That space is sacred space. What I do share is what I think about, the internal struggles I have, the things I revel in, the things that push me to grow. Every woman struggles, thinks deeper thoughts than most know, and desires to grow; I want my blog to be a place where she can come and realize that she’s not alone in that, even if the thoughts never vocalize because of fear, screaming kids to care for, or a job that takes up most of her time and energy.
    Thank you for writing, and keep thinking your thoughts and sharing them. You are inspiring!

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, sweet Bekah – I can completely relate! All my best to you and yours this Christmas. :)

  • Thanks for sharing Erin – Always loved your work and appreciate your honesty in everything you do. Merry Christmas and maybe I’ll catch you at Alt next month.

    • Thank you, Timothy – sadly, I won’t be at Alt this year (I’m smack dab in a pretty busy season of life), but I so hope our paths cross again soon!!

  • Erin, this is so beautiful and thoughtful. I don’t really have anything to add — yet, anyway. Just wanted to give props where props are due.

  • Ahh…I love you, Erin Loechner. I love the way you let your online space move and flow, sharing what you want to share, dabbling in different creative realms, and not letting yourself being boxed in to just one thing. That’s what I strive for in my online space/life too – sharing what I want, working on the types of projects that I want, crossing back and forth between creative boundaries, looking for and using language that explains what I do and create versus trying to fit myself into titles/jobs/lifestyles that already exist. That’s what we have to do. We have to keep growing and changing and sharing what feels right for us at the time. We have to keep exploring and learning and creating without knowing where we’ll end up or caring about “if it fits” with the things we’ve previously created. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your lovely family. Thank you for inspiring me. xoxo

    • Oh love – what a positive, inspiring thought: “crossing back and forth between creative boundaries, looking for and using language that explains what I do and create versus trying to fit myself into titles/jobs/lifestyles that already exist.”

      Amen to this! Thanks for sharing, sweet Melanie. :)

  • Thanks. For this makes me okay with the site I’m always apologizing for.

    Come to think of it, I’m always apologizing for myself too.
    Maybe my site and me are just fine the way we are.

    XOXO.

  • Version three as the first two disappeared into the ether!

    Net net I’m doing it my way. When I’m true to myself and not squeezing myself into some brand or social media formula, I’m the happiest.

    I create what I like and share it. I write about what interests and inspires and challenges me creatively. And through it all I’ve met the most amazing talented people who stretch me in so many ways.

    My blog isn’t what it started out as and isn’t even what it was six months ago. But I know that I’ll only feel happy and fulfilled if I’m true to myself.

    • Sandra: Thank you for this!:
      “My blog isn’t what it started out as and isn’t even what it was six months ago. But I know that I’ll only feel happy and fulfilled if I’m true to myself.”

      You’re totally right. Here’s to staying true to ourselves in 2014!

  • I love you even more for this, I really had started to think you were perfect!!!!
    Haha. Don’t listen to the haters, everybody judges. Just always glad you’re here!
    PS Don’t be hard on yourself. You’re awesome.

    • Ah, thanks, Blaine. Books on my nightstand, in no particular order!:
      -Then Again by Diane Keaton
      -Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker (I’m re-reading this one, which is screwing up my life completely)
      -Start With Why by Simon Sinek
      -The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis
      -The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (this is an annual read – my favorite of all)
      -Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

  • I’ve been battling a lot this holiday season and it crippled my blogging like I wanted to. A lot because I wasn’t motivated to right and I didn’t want to pretend my life was picture perfect when it isn’t.

    I like coming upon blog posts where people say, “hey, my life is great.” It makes them more “real” and helps me as a blogger myself. Not saying I’m going to write about what’s wrong, because I’d rather not (it’s pretty heavy), but I don’t feel like everyone is happy and jolly and I’m just here.

    *Phew* In short, thank you for post :)

    • Ah, you’re welcome, Clarissa – here’s sending you well wishes as you battle the heavy stuff. All my love,
      e.

  • You write so well Erin and I love reading your posts. They are authentic, funny and thoughtful and I LOVE the fact that you’re taking a break for the holiday season. I’ve started blogging this year and am slowly finding my voice as well as boundaries of what to share with my readership. At first I wanted it to be more like a magazine without any personal content but little bits kept creeping in and I asked myself what do I enjoy in a blog and it’s the fact that the author DOES indeed reveal some personal things. And it made me smile when you admitted that you’re life isn’t perfect. I don’t know anybody’s who is. Keep staying true to yourself your inner compass is spot on! Happy holidays! x

  • This post makes me so happy. In part because it’s nice to hear such refreshing honesty from another blogger but also because I was recently chastised by another blogger (very passive aggressively on her blog) for only presenting a positive view. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then, in a “Am I being honest and myself on the blog” kind of way. And truth is, I am. Yes, I chose to focus on the happy, because there’s so much unhappiness in the world and I really have it good and honestly have no business being anything but grateful for what I have. I’m a journalist in real life and have met people with such extraordinary stories that I always walk away thinking about how good I have it or being so worried that I’m not pulling my weight in the world and need to get busy. I agree that fights with my boyfriend have no place on the blog. Sure, it’s a part of my life, but it’s also his and he keeps to himself much more than I do. He has become a part of the blog through the home renovation and traveling and life adventure that we’re on, but there are huge chunks of our life that are private and he deserves to have some part of me that isn’t shared with others.

    All that said, figuring out what I share on the blog and what I don’t is still a work in progress. I decide with each post and sometimes I’ll write something out and then start all over because it’s just a little too personal, or thoughts written in anger, frustration, sadness, versus thoughtfully with purpose.

    I post too many photos of the dog and Montana outdoors and will keep being positive. Not because my life is perfect, but because I want my little corner of the internet to be something that I want in my life, positive, thoughtful, personal but some of those parts of myself and life are reserved for those closest to me. Because as much as I share in life and online, there are so, so many things I keep private and I think that’s a gift to those who love me off line.

    • Ah, I’m sorry to hear you’ve received criticism in this regard, but I like your spirit: do what you gotta do, you know? I’m happy you’re pressing forward in a way that makes sense for your own life. :)

  • This is my first time on your blog, but I thoroughly LOVED this post and your writing style. I felt like I was curling up with a book I’ve owned for ages — your writing is friendly, humble, and descriptive. As a blogger (and human being) myself, I loved your sentiments about these spaces we carve for ourselves. Thank you for this post — it gave me lots to remember and consider. :)

  • “I’m still being woven.”
    Waaw.
    This post has got me quiet and re-reading.
    You write really beautiful, so please just keep on writing, in your own special way, about your chosen subjects…
    I started blogging because I needed an ‘uitlaatklep’ (i cannot find the right translation for this, ‘outlet’?), and as a collection of things I find to be beautiful or important or… And I found much beauty and hapiness and kindness on the blogs I read. Of course, reality is different (sometimes). But tv and the news already focus so much on what goes wrong… There’s nothing wrong with sending some positivity into this world. Because there is a lot of that too. Here’s to you and all of those beautiful blogging women out there. Enjoy the holidays and celebrate those small things with the people you love.

  • What a wonderful post! I deal with this every time I blog – on the one hand I don’t like reading blogs that are “too perfect” on the other hand – I don’t want to take pictures of my not-so-clean home or talk about difficult things I’m dealing with – that stuff is private. I find that writing about myself with a dose of humor helps – that way if I’m making fun of the “perfect lifestyle” it doesn’t come off as annoying. I’m always afraid I’ll make people feel bad about themselves rather then inspired (sort of like looking at Photoshopped celebrities:)

  • Thank you for posting this. I’ve been following your blog for a few years now, but I’m not usually the commenting type. I think I’ve decided to break that habit because this post rings true. I have a hard time deciding what to put online, and how to balance myself and my brand. Sometimes I think the brand can be a trap that I don’t always know how to move forward from…or maybe grow within? So really I don’t have any answers to your questions, but I’ll go ahead and hit post on this comment anyways because maybe that’s part of where I go from here – actually commenting on things that mean something to me. Thank you!

    • Ah, thank you for commenting, Ruth! And yes, the brand can certainly be a trap. Here’s to figuring this out in ’14! :)

  • beautifully written and so true. i once read that there’s enough bad stuff on the news, why not write about the good stuff? i keep my blog as a place to focus on the positive, which i’m sure comes across as a perfect life, despite my intentions of just FOCUSING on the positive! i now believe it’s a struggle that the reader must overcome, not the writer. everyone who reads a blog must know that there will always be parts to a blogger’s life that the blogger doesn’t share. happy new year!

    xoxo,
    Christie
    KiKiMac.me

  • Keep on the keepin’ on, Erin. Your writing and blogs are pure joy. And for the record, my blog life is pretty darn edited, too. I sometimes write about my bad day, or Forrest’s, but little about my hubby at his request, and almost never about personal problems, fights, etc. Blogs aren’t that different from books, documentaries, movies, etc – there’s always an editor, right?

    Happy New Year!

  • Thank you for this post, it speaks to me loud and clear! Me, I’m thinking of my blog as a prism through which I look at my life meaning to see only the bright sides or, at least, to maintain hope for the best. Just like you. Having this in mind, people tend to be happy to see your downs and not only ups! not in a mean, spiteful kind of way, they are just relieved to know you are real, imperfect, and they feel even more sympathy for you when they realize it’s just your choice to be optimistic and strong, to enrich happiness and joy instead of whining all the way.

    Also, I don’t want my life to be cut in stone and defined by some ‘format’ I’ve established for my blog some years ago. Somehow, people tend to respond to that too, they have respect for evolving people that change (hopefully grow) with time. They are OK with us being not the same as years ago :) They are not the same to, and we motivate them for a change, that’s quite a mission, ha? :)

    I wish you all the best this New Year! 2014 is declared to be about enjoying life by so many people I know, I think that’s great and that’s what really important, no matter what you do!

  • Erin – thank you for this post about blog writing and your life. I didn’t intend to be a blogger. Our shop blog started as a way for us to survive in a changing retail environment. Trying to give the same vibe on-line as we have in our shop is a constant challenge. I want people to see that we are unique and special. To try and convey that message without being too personal or “look at me, look at me” can be a struggle sometimes. Heck, me even writing this comment is a little uncomfortable for me. ( I’m an introvert too!)
    But I am positive about the changes we are making this year and feel good about our plans moving forward.
    I have always loved your blog, but I think I like it even more now. Keep doing what you’re doing, enjoy your life. Changing and growing is natural and good. All the best to you in 2014!

    • Oh Maggie – this is the sweetest note ever. I completely agree with your perspective – it’s a tough balance to strike, isn’t it?

  • Erin. I (like so many) loved this post. I have been debating the past month or so wether or not to even continue blogging. Sometimes it feels that the internet is such the wrong place for the introvert/private person. I love the creative outlet that it provides……but am not immune to the pressures of putting my whole life on display. I go from feeling glad that I have kept my private life private to feeling like my blog will never go anywhere because of it. In the end, I’ve come back to why I have kept my blog going and it’s really a creative outlet for me. It’s so easy to get away from that. Your authenticity inspires me.

  • This is the best post, most punchy and delicate at the same time post I’ve ever read. This –>”But here’s the thing: I’m still being woven.” is going on my wall.
    In USA everything is moving so fast (I feel it especially when I’m in Poland) and I constantly race and try to get things done. It’s all about getting things done here..And defining : biz, yourself, believes.
    BEING WOVEN makes me feel like I can rest. And grow. At my own pace.
    Thank you, Erin. Beautiful.
    Happy 2014!

  • My comments mirror basically what the rest of the gals here are saying- all in all, just a downright great post. You really hit the nail on the head. Such a strange thing the internet has become, so different to all of us in our own ways. I write for the same reasons. Keep up the good work & never stop writing! :)

  • Thank you for your beautiful transparency. Almost every time I publish a post on our #staymarried blog, I think, “Hmm… maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s all I have to say. Is it ok if I just stop blogging altogether.” So far, I’ve only taken breaks here and there, but I consider it all the time because of just what you mention in this post — Is this all that I am? Is this all that I have to give? Am I more or less than what this blog would have readers believe? Thank you for creating a space to question the significance of our writing, of our efforts, of our passions. It is so good to stop and think.

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