Just a little over one year ago, in April 2015, I started my blog, Gingerwroot.com, and I’m amazed by the big ways in which my little website has affected my life.
We’ve all heard that art imitates life. But as Gretchen Rubin, author of the book “The Happiness Project,” and one of my favorite modern-day philosophers, says, sometimes the opposite of a true statement can be just as true. Art imitates life, but perhaps just as often, life imitates art. That chiasmus seems to apply to my fledgling year of blogging. I’m referring to my blog as “art” for these purposes, although I’m old enough to know that art, like beauty, is in the beholder’s eye…
Nonetheless, the creating, recording and publishing of my blog (the “art”) has changed me (the “life”), and those changes, for the most part, are really good…amazing, actually! Here are 15 of the most impressive changes that have happened to me during my first year of blogging:
- I See More Vividly. I really notice and see the people and things around me more vividly. Whether it’s light striking a flower, a pendant hanging from my friend’s necklace, my daughter’s countenance when she gazes at our dog, or the steam rising from my morning coffee.
- I Broadened the Scope and Style of my Writing. Before gingerwroot.com, I only wrote in a private journal, occasionally composing short fiction or poetry, all unpublished. But the beauty of having your own blog is that it’s published and that it’s self-published. There’s no one to say, “No, you can’t discuss this or that subject,” or “No, there’s no reader market for that subject.” That freedom of self-publishing empowered me to write anything I pleased and connect with any reading audience that I desired. That, in turn, led me to write for a more practical internet audience, a reader with limited time and patience, or someone searching for quick and accurate information—it’s a new writing style for me that I’m pretty sure is more concise, approachable and readable than a year ago.
- I’ve Learned to Narrow my Focus and Be More Concise. I just mentioned broadening above, but I’ve also learned to be more specific and to narrow my subject matter in a post. Along with the pros of self-publishing a blog, comes the accompanying burden of being your own editor. We probably all could use a great editor to rein us in from time to time, and it can be tough being your own editorial critic. But to create good quality posts, I quickly learned that I must relentlessly self-edit, using vivid words, but as few words as possible for a relatively specific subject. After a year of blogging, I try harder to use the best, most effective, and fewest possible photos to accompany the text copy in a post. And I continue trying to narrow the subject of the post so that it’s quickly readable and the most useful to the most readers. In the world of blogging, I’ve learned that the need for specificity and conciseness is critical.
- I Finally Learned How to Use my Camera. I inherited my SLR Panasonic Lumix and lens from my daughter, who in turn bought a bigger camera a few years back. But until I started photographing for gingerwroot.com, I never took photos with the Lumix. I’m not kidding…I only understood the power switch and how to remove the lens cap. I was intimidated and paralyzed by all the options and buttons on the camera. But I knew I wanted lots of great photos on my blog, so I jumped in and started gradually learning my camera, simply by using and experimenting with it. For instance, you’ll see that photos in my earliest blog posts are grainer due to the high ISO setting, because I was clueless at that time about ISO. I’ve found that learning how to shoot decent photos with a SLR camera is addictively fun, and a joy in and of itself.
- I Learned How to Style Photos Shoots Better. Looking back a year ago at fashion shoots and some of my recipe photos, I realize how far I’ve come. Before, background, depth of field, bokeh, framing, and light and shadow were never a consideration. But now, for instance, I study other bloggers’ photography sets and styles, I notice how fashion models are shot in the Anthropologie catalogs, or I make notes on how a recipe is styled in Martha Stewart Living. I’ve never taken a formal blogging course or class. I might one day, but I’ve found that so much about photographic styling can be learned from observation and lots of practice.
- I Listen Better. I can’t explain this one, but yes, I listen better now. Perhaps before I started my blog, all of my senses were a little numb, deadened by the insipid chores and responsibilities that take up so much of an everyday life. But now, having a hunger and eagerness for post ideas, perhaps I’m subconsciously more open for wisdom from everyone around me. That openness is not only to visual cues, but also to music I hear, and to the words spoken to and around me. That, in turn, I think helps me be a better blogger and recorder of the life around me.
- I’ve Accepted that More Effort Equals Better Quality. I understand better now that if I want to create a post that people want to read and be truly informed or entertained, then I must write engaging and content-rich material. Pithy posts are fast and easy to write (and yes, I’m a guilty of a few), but I’ve accepted that filler and fluff posts are generally a waste of my readers’ time. The hard and cold fact is that creating a content-rich and quality post, whether it’s fashion-related, a recipe, or a book review, requires committed time and energy. For me, the process combines work and play, but it’s still a lot of time and energy. In short, there are no short-cuts. I’m convinced that anyone who doesn’t love to blog won’t be able to sustain the time and energy it requires to create continual engaging and quality content.
- I Appreciate Blogging as a Craft Now. I don’t want that statement to come off as sounding snobby. Less than eight years ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was, and I kid you not; after lunch with a girlfriend who was going on and on about a blog, I went home to look up the definition of the word blog, and Pioneer Woman’s site came up on Google. It was then that I started following certain food and recipe blogs. I knew I liked certain blogs, but I didn’t know why I did. Not until I started my own blog did I become more aware and studious as to how and why certain blogs appealed to me. I wanted to apply that knowledge to gingerwroot.com. From my on-going study of other bloggers’ sites, I acquired a new and deep appreciation for the art and craft of really good-quality blogging, from the knack of witty and entertaining writing to the presentation of stunning photos.
- I Wake Up Earlier. Every food and fashion blogger knows that daylight is the best light for photos. Food must be prepared and styled, drinks mixed, and photos shot in good light. Outfits and hair must be styled and makeup applied for a photo shoot at the right venue in the best light, and preferably not in direct sun. Night-time shooting rarely is the best for a blogger. Now, I rise earlier to fit in a photo shoot before I head to work, knowing there won’t be time that evening, especially in the winter when dusk arrives oh, so early. Because I rise earlier now, I’m more productive.
- I Am More Organized and Efficient. To juggle blogging with the rest of my life, including my day job, my family, my fitness, and day-to-day chores, I plan ahead and I watch my time more carefully. For instance, on a cloudy day with perfect light for shooting, I might dress in two different outfits and shoot two separate “What the Wroot Wore Wednesday” fashion posts. I once cooked, styled and photographed three separate recipes in one day. Then I cleaned up the kitchen, which was so messy and chaotic that it was laughable. But I only had to clean up the kitchen once and, then I was finished. Later, I knew that I could edit all of the photos and write copy to accompany them on posts. To have the time that I need and want to blog, I’ve learned that I have to keep organized and plan.
- I Make More Room for my Intuition. For instance, I allow myself the time and freedom to jot down notes and ideas that pop up throughout the day, wherever I may be. I consciously keep my camera battery charged, since these days I often toss my camera in my purse when I leave the house, knowing that I might want to shoot on a whim something that catches my eye. I just mentioned in 10 above that I’m more organized and that I plan more. But at the same time, I now let my unannounced creative juices flow when possible. I’ll scribble down a catchy phrase heard on the radio, I’ll tear out that fab photo from an artsy catalog, or I’ll grab my camera and tripod and go take photos of a hauntingly beautiful moon hanging behind the branches. And I always keep a ragged spiral notebook at my fingertips for when I need to frantically jot down a killer blog post idea.
- I’ve Learned to Let Go of some Ego. Blogging is constantly walking that fine line between wanting every photo and sentence to be perfect versus the desire and need to post often and consistently. I want all of my photos posted to look professional quality, and I’ll find myself constantly editing and re-editing them, sometimes ad nauseum. I’ve caught myself rewriting a sentence for a recipe or fashion post three or four times, for instance. No, I don’t want to post crappy content, but I’ve learned that not every single photo must be spectacular and that not every sentence must be poetic. To let go of this desire for perfection means letting go of my ego, and letting what content that I have created reasonably well go out there for the world to take as it will. This acceptance of imperfection gets easier with time, I think, not only because I’m now more practiced at letting go, but also because I now realize that the quality of my posts is gradually improving, thanks, again, to practice and just doing it. That improvement can’t happen unless I let go of some ego and post imperfect content. Blogging is a process, and knowing that helps me deal with the perfectionist ego.
- I Am More Thoughtful about What I Eat and Drink. Much of my blog covers food and cocktails, so it’s less wasteful and more efficient and cost effective when I eat and drink those recipes that I’m preparing, styling, and posting on gingerwroot.com. But, alas, there are only so many recipes that I can post and only so many calories that I can eat without becoming obese. So more than ever, I carefully consider the grocery list when I sit down to write it, and I buy more deliberately at the grocery store. I will select one pasta over another now, because I know that its unique shape or color might look more striking with shrimp, for instance. Even if I crave a margarita like last week’s cocktail, I’ll push myself to embrace variety for this week’s cocktail, and try, say, a spicy martini made with vodka. For breakfast, I could eat just berries topped with cream, but then I’ll stop myself and consider carefully layering the berries and cream in a miniature verrine for an even more palatable effect–something that just might be post-worthy in the future. There are so many wonderful foods to eat and cocktails to drink and our time and calories are limited…perhaps we should all be a bit more deliberate about what we eat and drink…
- I’ve Accepted the Cost of Immersing Myself in my Blog. I’ll call it the bittersweetness of “being Ginger.” By committing yourself to something that you love, and embracing it and acknowledging that it brings you happiness, you necessarily have to let go of those things that you would like to love and perhaps romanticized about loving, but that you really don’t love. Gretchen Rubin says facing this fact makes her sad because (1) it makes her realize her limitations in a world that offers so much adventure and variety and (2) it makes her realize that even though she wishes she were different, no one can really choose what they like…“You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do,” Rubin states. This is obviously hard for Rubin, and it’s difficult for me also. It’s about accepting that we cannot have it all, and if we try to, then we’ll have nothing worthwhile. As Rubin says, the bittersweet edge to being true to one’s self and interests is one of the paradoxes of happiness. Because blogging is so demanding of my time and energy, this bittersweet truth hit me hard over the first year of gingerwroot.com. I’m more accepting now that I’ll never be an expert painter, drawer, dancer or actress, nor will I ever be a National Geographic photographer, a famous writer, or even someone who can be at ease while hosting a dinner party. I simply don’t have the time or energy to be good at those things, and while accepting that is one less burden, it’s still bittersweet.
- I Unplug More Often and More Completely. When I’m plugged in, I’m really plugged in, but when I don’t need to be in front of the computer or on my phone, I’ve learned to either turn those electronics off or put them out of my reach. Considering how many hours that I’m in front of the computer screen at my real day job along with the additional hours for my gingerwroot.com job, it’s almost a necessity for my health and sanity to unplug when I can. And I find that I want those remaining waking hours of my day to be unplugged, whether that’s time spent working out at the gym, taking my dog Daisy for a walk, reading, cooking, or lounging on the back deck with a glass of wine. I’m applying the “work hard and play hard” philosophy better now, and it does wonders for me. Because I plug in for long and intense stretches, it’s easier for me to also completely unplug.
It’s been a full and wonderful Year 1 of blogging on Gingerwroot.com…I can’t wait to see what Year 2 brings!