Any time I give a talk on blogging, e-mail management or online strategy, I always recommend that a blogger fields reader comments/emails to a FAQ page, rather than answering the same general inquiries every time. And then, I always laugh, because this was on my own to do list yearrrrrs ago and just, life. You know. It goes on.
So today, I hunkered down and made it happen. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions in my inbox and on Twitter, with answers below. Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments; happy to help!:
Q: How do you stay inspired?
A: I don’t know that people can stay inspired – I think it’s something that comes and goes with little control on our behalf. But I do find that those tiny pings of inspiration strike me the most when I’m away from the computer, experiencing a new sight or sound, texture or taste. Of course, I often make notes of that particular moment and – days later – cannot at all decipher my rushed shorthand. I suppose when it hits, it hits, and then it floats away into the ether…
I do know that – for me – I’m more likely to stay inspired longer if I take special care to recharge, whether that’s a brisk walk, an encouraging Bible passage, purifying face mask or a hot yoga session (all of which – I’ll note – are offline activities). We can only give what we receive.
Q: What’s your advice to beginning bloggers?
A: Tell your story. Tell your truth. Don’t water down your voice. Speak your passions. Stay positive. Do it for the love of the word; for the beauty of what happens when we share and connect and learn and grow.
Read and read and read some more, and then shut out the noise and write. Select all, delete. Do it again. Then again another time. Take a deep breath. Pause. Publish.
Share what you’re comfortable with, and know that might not fit a mold or a niche or a sustainable business model. Realize that blogging isn’t a glamorous job. It looks a little like unemployment to your mother and could more accurately be titled “Professional E-Mailer Who Blogs On The Side.” Like all jobs, there is grunt work and messiness, but blogging is a good and worthy goal. Stories are meant to be told. Inspiration is meant to be shared. Truths are meant to be challenged. Perspectives are meant to be searched for.
Contribute to a community; interact with your readers. Be grateful for your platform, big or small. Endure mornings of blocked words and jumbled coding. Recognize that you are documenting a piece of your personal history. Be mindful of the one you’d like to share. (More advice to bloggers here!)
Q: How did you and Ken meet?
A: We met filming a documentary together in college. I was a student producer creating a documentary for The American Red Cross, and he was a student director leading a documentary about the American Cancer Society. We worked alongside each other in the same room for weeks and bonded over a midnight plate of mushroom alfredo pasta (his creation) late one night. We talked about family and dreams and health (he had been recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor) and after six hours, I knew I wanted to eat mushroom alfredo pasta with him forever.
He moved to Hollywood a few short months later and I stayed in town to finish university (I’m two years younger), so we endured a long-distance engagement before I graduated, moved to L.A. and tied the knot in the same church my parents did decades earlier. Whirlwind romance, all the way!
Q: What are you favorite design resources?
A: For graphic design, I love perusing You Work For Them (fonts) and The Dieline (packaging). I always find something forward-thinking at Fast Co. Design and This Is Paper has an aesthetic I really relate to. For DIY projects with a design slant, Joyce Croonen is kind of a genius.
Q: Why did you decide to have a home birth?
A: Oh, I get this question a lot! I didn’t set out to have a home birth, actually. For me, it was just a question of finding the right caretaker. As a first time mother, I had no idea what to expect in terms of pregnancy, post-partum and newborn care, so it was really important for me to do my homework and find a caregiver that I felt I could trust implicitly to help us all walk through the process. We found that person in a local midwife who wasn’t available for hospital births. So we had a decision to make: have the baby at home with a caretaker we love or have the baby in a hospital with a caretaker we didn’t completely feel at peace with?
I decided I’d feel more at ease at home with someone I trusted, rather than in a hospital in the hands of a potential stranger (our OBGYN couldn’t guarantee she would be available for Bee’s birth). Over the weeks of our midwife’s home birthing courses and curriculum, we became more educated about the added benefits, potential risks/solution scenarios and natural processes of a home birth and were continually reassured that it was the best decision for us.
I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Bee’s home birth story is here, if you’d like to read.
Q: Are you going to home school Bee?
A: We are, yes, or at least we plan to. Nothing is certain and we like to stay flexible, but we do see a lot of benefits to a homeschooling lifestyle, especially given our family’s love for adventure and travel. I think public school is an incredible gift to many, so this isn’t our way of making a statement against traditional educational methods. It’s simply something that’s intriguing to us, and we’d love to give it a go and play a greater role in shaping Bee’s learning style, personality and values.
UPDATE: You can join our homeschooling journey right here!
Q: Are you a Christian?
A: I am, yes! I’ve written a bit about that here, but I understand how hard it is to talk openly about religion in such a non-emotive medium (I love the Internet, but it certainly can’t replace locked eyes and warm hearts, yes?). Specifically, I believe that the Bible is the true and perfect word of God and that Jesus did, indeed, walk this Earth as God’s son.
At the same time, I have struggles. I’m human and broken and – while I hope that I live a life that reflects my faith – I know I fall short. Please don’t let my shortcomings deter you from searching for a crazy deep peace that I believe only can come from God. Happy to offer any resources I have available; e-mail me anytime. Truly.
Q: How do you maintain balance as a working mother?
A: I think, sometimes, it’s easy to approach this topic on too singular of a level. Sure, each day will not be completely balanced between equal parts work and play and family and friends and give and take. There are busy seasons where takeout night is every night and there are lulls where family walks and afternoon picnics are finally doable. And that’s the balance, oddly enough. Because the complete lack of balance in each day is precisely what causes complete balance in the long run. The choices and changes and shifts and “too much”s and “too little”s are what cause us to take hold and adjust with intention, pressing out the wrinkles of chaos like a hot iron over time.
I suppose that’s a tangent to say that – while I don’t believe in perfect balance – I do believe in unwavering priorities. And when you know which plates hold the most weight (for me, it’s my faith and my family and then my work), then you can better know which ones to drop and which ones to let spin for a bit longer.
Q: Why did you start blogging?
A: There’s a loooooong post about this here!
Q: Why are you pursuing adoption?
A: I talked a lot about this on my Disney column, but I will say this: it has been a beautiful journey of trust and timing (my husband was the first to consider adoption, nearly 12 years ago!) and it is odd how very at peace I am with the process. Our marriage is very much rooted in the leadership of Ken, so I’m thrilled to see how his unwavering passion has slowly impacted my own excitement for this challenge.
The truth is, adoption is never a sure thing. There is a wide margin for complications (as there often are in pregnancies), but there is also a wide margin for faith and trust, community and love, forgiveness and grace. Welcoming a new family member into your home – no matter the age, origin, race or personality – will always call for a time of transition. We’re thrilled for ours.
Q: What blogs do you read?
A: I’m the worst person to ask this question because lately, I’ve kind of shut off the noise. I don’t read many blogs anymore, but when I do check in, I like to hear the ideas and stories shared at A Deeper Story or Medium. I always leave with something to think about; to weigh against my own convictions and wrestle with something I hadn’t thought of before.
Q: Where do you like to shop?
A: It depends! I used to buy solely vintage or thrift store finds (I still find myself craving a walk through a thrift shop on a slow, rainy day), but lately I’ve been drawn to purchasing clothing or home finds while traveling. Whether I’ve picked it up in a market in Singapore or a hut in Ethiopia, I love knowing that I’m surrounding myself with something that brings a meaningful memory.