Personal Notes 001: On Being Stuck

Jennet Liaw | The Sweetest Ocacsion

[Lettering + photo by Jennet Liaw.]

Lately I’ve found myself wanting to share things that are a bit more personal and a bit more real. The rare times I’ve done so in the past I’ve always been grateful for doing so, so I’ve decided to open up more often. In fact, the words of this post have been tumbling around in my head for a while now. For whatever reason, today seemed like the day to get them out of my head and into the world in some manner. Because I feel like I need to give these words shape to help myself process them and also because I feel like where I’m at is a place where many of us end up at some point in our lives, so perhaps my sharing will happen to be helpful for both of us. Or maybe I’ll put all these words out into the universe and an hour later delete this post. That part remains to be seen I guess.

See, lately I’ve been feeling stuck. When I started The Sweetest Occasion nearly six years ago, this whole online world was an entirely different place. It was less busy, less hectic, less flooded. I felt like I had time to hone skills, grow my talents, explore new mediums, challenge myself and learn. Certainly, there was entirely less pressure to produce the internet’s most inspiring content on a continual basis because, simply put, there just wasn’t as much content being produced in general. It was so much easier to stand out in the crowd. Just shy of three years ago, I transitioned into the world of blogging full time and The Sweetest Occasion evolved from a side passion and part-time business to a full-time professional pursuit. With that inherently comes change and additional pressure, but in the last year it’s no secret that the world of blogging has changed in a metamorphic way. For many of us who do this for a living, we’ve been banging our heads against a wall trying to figure what it all means because as exciting as it can be, it’s also scary on a lot of levels when your livelihood, your dreams and your entire way of life have come to rely on a website to bring home the bacon. (Or the veggie burgers as my case may be.)

These days bloggers are undeniably producing content that is on par with and often better than that of the highest revered print media. I love that. I find it incredibly inspiring. I am blown away on a daily basis by the creativity, passion and talent of my friends and comrades in the blogging community. My own work has grown and evolved and improved so much over the last few years, something I’m proud to be able to look back on and recognize. But sometimes (ok, a lot of times) this whole evolution is overwhelming. There are all of these things I know I should be doing or that I could be doing or that I see other super talented people doing and it’s almost like I get paralyzed. No, I do. I get paralyzed. I’ve been paralyzed. For the better part of the last year I feel like I’ve been spinning my wheels, gearing up for something but not ending up where I want to be. I have all of these lists and notebooks and sketches and spreadsheets full of the content I want to be producing and sharing and I feel like so little of it comes to see the light of day. Lately I’ve had to have a serious talk with myself about why that is and what I can do about it and, most importantly, how I can get unstuck.

Wherever You Are | Abby Hyslop Print Shop

[Lettering + art print by Abby Hyslop.]

I think any truly successful blogger will tell you that they got into the game out of sheer love for what they’re doing. That couldn’t be more true for me. But somewhere along the way, it all becomes about the numbers. Those numbers dictate everything. How many people are seeing your work, how many potential sponsors may want to collaborate with you on fun and fulfilling projects, and, frankly, how much those sponsors are going to pay you for your work. It sucks, but it’s also a reality. Blogs and websites require a lot of money and resources to run. From server costs to coding and development, to paying for contributors, tech support, supplies, photography, and so on and so forth, there’s literally an endless tally of expenses. As those expenses add up, so does the pressure to have every post blow up on Pinterest so your page views keep growing, your reach keeps expanding and brands continue to want to work with you. It often feels like one giant rat race, pure and simple.

I don’t share this to evoke any kind of sympathy, trust me. I gladly shoulder these weird, industry-specific admittedly first world pressures every day so I can keep doing work that I love and that I find fulfilling both professionally and creativity. I do, however, share this to explain that I’ve come to realize over a month or so of serious soul searching that somewhere along the way I allowed myself to fall victim to the numbers obsession. Over the last few years as I’ve worked tirelessly to grow what I’ve built, I got entirely wrapped up in the numbers and it crippled me. (Which, for the record, is a completely awkward and humbling thing to admit and I’m having a hard time not deleting the last part of that sentence, but I’m trying really hard to keep it real.) Sure, I’ve still produced a lot of content that I truly love and I’ve always maintained a strong stance on only working with sponsors that I feel truly passionate about collaborating with, but I’ve also spent way too much time analyzing what I’m doing before I even do it, trying to predict how the internet will react. And then being smashed to bits emotionally if the reaction isn’t what I hoped it would be. Does that sound pathetic? Because on some level it probably is pathetic, but it’s also something I think a lot of bloggers face.

Over the course of the last month I’ve started listening to a lot of podcasts while I’m working instead of jamming out to my usual playlists. Listening to other creatives and entrepreneurs talk about their struggles and their methods of coping with change and growth in their work has been so helpful. It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone. A lot of realizations have come to light for me, but I think the most important among those is that I believe for me to produce my best, most inspired and passionate work, I need to exist in a bit of a bubble. You know those people you see on Facebook who seem to have it all? The gorgeous kids and that amazing house and exotic vacations multiple times a year? Those kind of people. The ones that somehow in all of their beauty and happiness make you feel a little less shiny and golden inside the everyday realities of your own life? That’s how I’ve been feeling, only professionally. Like no matter how happy I am with the way a project turns out, somehow someone else is going to do something cooler. Or maybe they’ll do something really similar and theirs will be the photos popping up all over Pinterest. It’s a ridiculous, petty and categorically unproductive way to think, but especially these last few months that’s how I’ve been feeling. Lost. Stuck. Paralyzed. And I’m sick of it!

A Ship At Harbor | Social Proper

[Art print by Social Proper.]

I realize this post is one giant ramble and if you made it this far I owe you a cupcake. Or maybe a baker’s dozen. Like I said, in part I am writing this post for me. So I can sort through all of this weird garbage and then work to compartmentalize it, create an action plan and move forward. The Sweetest Occasion will be undergoing another site update sometime in the next few months and with that I’m working on honing in on refining the branding in a way that has me really excited. I’ve started a Pinterest board where I’m pinning freely and wildly at the moment, without analyzing what I’m pinning or why. I scheduled a few photo shoots centered on fun projects for the coming weeks to get back out there and start flexing those creative muscles I’ve been allowing to atrophy a bit since the beginning of the year. Additionally, I’m working on an updated business plan and mission statement of sorts so that when I’m feeling stuck in the future I can revisit those words and intentions and try to get myself moving again in short order. I’m traveling through much of May and while it will be hectic and hard to juggle everything, I’m excited to get on a plane and head off to Charleston and Montana and New York over the next few weeks so I can be invigorated by new places, new food, new people and new sights. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m vowing to stop doubting myself, questioning myself and being quite so critical of my own work. Part of that for me will be giving less energy to watching what’s going on around me and getting busy with all those notes and sketches and spreadsheets I’ve been making. I think we could all probably benefit to some extent across the board by thinking less about what others are doing, and thinking more thoughtfully about what we’re doing in our own lives and careers, don’t you think?

I have to say, after months of feeling really down and quite pessimistic (which is honestly so opposite of my usual disposition), I’m feeling more like myself than I have in a long time. I believe in the coming months you’ll see the result of this play out here as I work to produce my best work yet and to bring you my version of the best in entertaining, parties, DIY, recipes and home decor. And because it’s my version, it probably won’t look like it looks elsewhere or possibly it will even look different than I’ve shown it to you before, and I’m totally ok with that. Because truth is, I’m the type of girl who favors a big bunch of wildflowers in a pitcher over a formal place setting with umpteen million forks. And while I own a ridiculous number of heels, by the end of every party I am notorious for ending up barefoot, sitting cross legged on the living room floor laughing with friends. And because I truly do consider each of you friends, that’s what I want to bring back to The Sweetest Occasion. A little more real. A little more me. I sure do hope you’ll be along for the ride! xoxo¬†

40 comments

Comments

I have been a silent reader for over a year now, and this post is super refreshing. Don’t feel like you should delete it; I think your words here are highly relatable and real. Every blogger, at some point, falls victim to the numbers obsession…but you are a genuine enough blogger to realize it and attempt to do something about it. There are a lot of blogs out there where the content doesn’t feel true to the person, and you can always tell when they are doing something just because they need page views or they need to please sponsors. This is not one of those blogs.

Keep doing what you’re doing; it’s wonderful.
xoxochelsea

Cyd, thank you for your candor. I personally love what you do, and can’t wait to see where your heart leads you as you struggle with the why and the how in the web world as it is now. I wish there could be a giant pop-up that bloggers see before they hit “Publish” that reminds them that they are creative and special and valuable as they are, and that their lives are beautiful in the reality, not just in edited photos. Until then, know that you are creative, special, and valuable just as you are, and that your life – your REAL life – is beautiful. Don’t ever give up!

I am so touched by your story and courage to share it. As a wedding planner in a very crowded market I can totally relate to your pressure issue in this world where everythings is fast, creative world. All information and technology is reachable and accessible so it is hard to stay unique. I think you totally nailed it… stay close to yourself! Good luck! XO Janina

Please don’t delete this! It is so good to see someone else who feels the way I do. I am not a writer, and could never have laid it out the way you did, so really, this helped me put to words how I have been feeling about the internet world lately. Stuck! I look forward to seeing your business growth and I will take away from this post some inspiration to not give up! Thanks!!

Thank you thank you thank you for sharing! I felt like you had crawled into my brain and finally put words to my feelings of being paralyzed. Thank you for the encouragement and I am so excited to see what you are up to!

This post is absolutely beautiful, beautifully written, beautifully shared, just all-around beautiful! I’ve even bookmarked it under ‘inspiring-keep going’ so please don’t delete it! I am a newer-ish food blogger (I’ve had a blog for a few years but only recently started posting regularly and started improving it) and in the process of constantly trying to improve, learn from others, etc. often find it can get very discouraging with the ‘bigger than me, better than me’ mentality, but then I come across posts like these and feel such hope that I get all inspired and motivated to keep at it because I’m not alone in those feelings. Your blog is simply amazing, and I’m looking forward to all the new and exciting changes you’ve mentioned!

Amy N

You hit the nail on the head with this post. I’m not a blogger, but I’m currently working on my online portfolio to try to break into the web design business. I constantly find myself comparing my work to others – the pressure is insane. Thank you for sharing your story – you’re certainly not alone!

Amy N

Also, I can’t wait to see the new site! :)

Elle

You go girl! I deal with the same thing, and the best thing I can think to do in a world full of such creative minds is to just do what you love and love what you do. In my opinion, that’s when the best work is produced. Honestly, I am very picky when it comes to style and design, and this blog is one of the most inspiring and fabulous blogs (though there are many out there) that I’ve seen so far. So, keep up the great work!

I regularly follow your beautiful blog and want to thank you so much for sharing this post. I felt the same with my last blog so I decided to start over with one that’s about the things I love even if it’s not as successful.. I can’t wait to see all of the changes you mentioned, good luck x

Can’t wait to see what you do. I am sure it will be amazing.

cyd

Thank you so much, Chelsea! Your words mean so so much. I really appreciate your encouragement! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. xoxo

cyd

Bekah, THANK YOU! You are sincerely so kind and I appreciate your support more than you know. Sending huge hugs to you! xoxo

cyd

You are too sweet, Janina! I think this is a topic on which so many of us can relate, but not many of us are addressing. I’m glad we’re in it together! xoxo

cyd

I definitely promise not to delete it, Baylee! ;-) It honestly makes me so happy to know this post was helpful for others, too. We’re in this together and we one another’s support we can do great things. Sending love! xoxo

cyd

Jessica, thank you thank you thank you for being awesome! I’m so happy my crazy ramblings could help in some way. Thank you for being here and for sharing such kind words. xoxo

cyd

Hi Amy! Ugh, the pressure is the pits! I think we all put too much pressure on ourselves and we could all probably thrive creatively if we just let ourselves be a little bit. At least that’s what I’m telling myself. ;-) Thank you so much! xoxo (And yes, I’m so excited to work on the new site, too!)

cyd

Thank you so much, Phi! I’ve visited your blog and you’re doing so great. Just keep it up! This blogging game isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you love what you do that always shines through. Thanks for being so kind! xoxo

cyd

Perfect advice, Elle! And thank you so much for the sweet words. It means so much to have you love what I’m doing and to be here sharing in the journey. Huge hugs to you! xoxo

cyd

Congratulations on the new blog, Marcy! Sometimes a do over is just what we all need. ;-) And thank you for your kind words and all of your encouragement. You’re the best! xo

cyd

Thank you so much, Kristin! xo

What a candid and totally refreshing post – thank you for your honesty and keeping it real! What you are doing is amazing, and I’m just always in awe because it feels so authentic. While I’m not a blogger, I have a little online party + paper goods shop that I started as a hobby because I love it and needed a creative outlet…and I too feel the pressure to create content and imagery and sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day when you have to do your ‘real’ paid job! I’m forever obsessing over where I think the business should be, finding a USP and the one thing I keep coming back to is this mantra: Comparison is the thief of joy. And truly it is. Never lose sight of why you started. Because what you are doing is ace! X

cyd

Thank you so very much, Miriam! You’re right. That is a fabulous mantra. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but it sums things up nicely, doesn’t it? Many thanks for your words of encouragement and your support! xoxo

Girl, PREACH! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had these exact conversations in my own head recently. Things in blogland feel a little forced right now to me as well, and I’m rolling plans around to restructure Lovely Indeed so that it feels more real. And I’m really looking forward to it.

I can’t wait to see what you do here and I’m so looking forward to it all. Big crazy mad props to ya! xoxo

I’ve been working away in my little corner of the Internet and was so grateful for this post. It is hard not to get caught up in the numbers game and to let that dictate your content. Thank you for helping me re-energize and have faith and my vision.

Aly

That Jim Elliott quote is one of my favorites of all time. Thanks for sharing such personal thoughts.

Hi Cyd,

You owe me a cupcake! Thanks so much for sharing this post – I’m new to blogging but trust me – your blog already stands out for me, and I just love your honesty.

Best of luck with your new mantra – I think you’re absolutely right – sometimes you have to just stop worrying about what others are doing, and pour yourself into what you want to do, without over-thinking or analysing. It feels wrong, but I bet it’s rewarding!

Let us know if it works please =) Look forward to seeing your work to come.

Shelley x

cyd

Cupcakes it is, Shelley! lol Thank you so much for your encouragement. It truly means a lot. And thank you again for including me among your Pinterest favorites this month! You’re too sweet for words. xoxo

cyd

Thank YOU, Aly! :-) xo

cyd

Oh gosh, Lila, thank YOU for chiming in with your seriously sweet words. I’m so happy this post resonates with so many people – it’s nice knowing none of us are alone no matter how isolated we may sometimes feel! xoxo

cyd

Forced is so the right word, Chelsea! I have a feeling a lot of us are feeling the same way right now and I’m hoping it leads to a renaissance of fresh, real and unique content that we can all be proud of, feel inspired be and enjoy reading. Either way, I know you’re only going to do amazing things! xoxo

It’s so encouraging to read this post, as so many other already have I’ve got to thank you for your honesty and willingness to share that with us all. Ive just started a blog to support my shop, so it feels scary starting at a time when the blogging world is shifting so quickly. Even with running a small business, its easy to get discouraged when seeing the success others seem to be having around you. Landing big accounts, getting featured on big blogs. So many of us have the same fears & insecurities and hang-ups, its pretty amazing to see the response that this post is having. I’ve been reading your blog for maybe a year now and I’m so excited to see what you choose to do in the future with this blog and your studio space. whatever it is, I hope it all brings you joy.

So proud of you, Cyd. A delicious cocktail is waiting for you in Charleston. Actually, I drank it, but I’ll mix you another pronto. xoxo

cyd

Thank you so so much, Ryan! I appreciate your words and support so much. Isn’t it crazy how many of us are feeling the same things? I think we could stand to give ourselves a great big hug and just let some of that self-induced pressure go. And your blog is off to a gorgeous start so just keep doing what you’re doing! xoxo

Jen

Oh, I can so relate. I bet our unreasonably long, cold winter (is it even over yet?) didn’t help, either.

I’ve had a web presence in some form or another since 1999, and it really is different now. I feel like I can’t even begin to compete with some of the best bloggers. I don’t have a DSLR, I don’t have the time to learn to use one, I don’t have the money to hire a really awesome web designer, posting just once per week is a herculean task right now, etc. But as the saying goes “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I need to focus on the fact that I enjoy writing, and just go with it, numbers be damned.

A couple years ago some local blogging friends betrayed me by copying my work and winning some valuable prizes that we were all competing for. I had worked my tail off and really needed the money. That nearly did me in, and I’m still bitter about it now. It’s doubly hard to see someone else’s success under those circumstances, and that has contributed to my numbers obsession — I want to outdo them! I really need to just let it go.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I think your blog is amazing. It might sound silly, but it meant a lot to me when I discovered your site and realized that the few bloggers I knew from this area who had disappointed me were not the only (or best) game in town. Here was somebody from my area doing an amazing job, without being caught up in any local drama or striving to be famous. You gave me something to aspire to, and you are truly a success. So, thank you.

I love this post and have always loved your and your word Cyd from back in the Smock days to now. Truthfully, last year I unsubscribed to my daily emails from most blogs because it was clogging my inbox and making me feel bad for not being creative or witty enough. Yours is actually the only one I still get every single day so that says a lot. It makes me happy and your are brilliant and awesome. Hope to see you in NYC? Stick with it. You’re evolving and no matter what you do is going to be amazing. xo

Thanks for this I really appreciated this insight. I love blogging, in fact I am obsessed by the creative desire it fulfills for me. I have a good blog with plenty of daily hits & followers & always questioned why I never ventured into making money out of it. But your openess & honesty shows me that if there’s no advertising & no money involved then there’s no pressure, no responsibilty and I can just have fun & be creative and not stress. So thanks for this post & I will continue to pop over here for my weekly inspiration fix!
x
Melissah

Lenna

I can’t believe you are feeling so vulnerable because your content and site is one of the best out there! It brings me much joy and I truly appreciate the hard work and dedication that is required to run such a fantastic site.

Yep, I’ve been feeling all this and then some. Can someone just figure it all out for me please?

It’s hard to be so honest online, and I think it’s awesome that you are so willing to share your thoughts and feelings openly with everyone who reads The Sweetest Occasion. I think this is an awesome post that can really inspire anyone to remember how important it is to not compare themselves to what everyone else is doing, but to do what you want to do! I really enjoy reading this blog and have been reading it for a few years now, keep up the awesome work :)
Sara :)