Tuesday, January 5, 2010

My Inquiring Mind Wants to Know

Before I dive headlong into the new year, babbling on about paint colors and upholstery, I have a question for you. For those of you who blog. I read something recently about blogging, design and decor blogging specifically—who's doing it and what motivates them—that stirred up this question I'm constantly asking myself :
Why am I doing this?

Bunny Williams, ahead of the trend, via House Beautiful.

Around and around in my head this question churns. Sometimes I can answer it easily, other times, not. My first answer is usually this: Because it's fun! I get to talk (well, write) about interior design and color and fabric and lighting and bedrooms to my heart's content knowing that there's a community of others out there who feel the same way I do. Except for the times I've been in school studying design or working closely with other creative people, it's an intense interest that I don't share in common with many in my immediate circle. I've found that blogging feels like taking a class that never ends—where it's perfectly acceptable, necessary even, to spend hours at a time looking at floor plans and room arrangements, talking about furnishings and window treatments, obsessing over the smallest details. Doing that with a group of like-minded people is more fun than I can explain to someone who doesn't share my enthusiasm for interior design.

Too-beautiful turquoise chandelier, via House Beautiful

My second answer to the question is interchangeable with the first because it is equally important to me. As a person who hopes to build a business helping others make their living spaces more beautiful and functional, I want this blog to be a place potential clients can visit to see what I'm about—to get a feel for who I am and how I approach decorating and design. True, there's not much of my own work yet on my blog. Largely because there hasn't been much work done outside my own home in the past year that's significant enough to document here. And I have shown only little bits of my own home because I don't want to give anyone the impression that what I do here within my own walls reflects the work I would do for them—not everyone likes so much color and pattern or the cottage/flea market/farmhouse/whatever-you-call-it that is my personal style. Besides, I have no intention of imposing my style on my clients. What makes me happiest is helping people realize their own style and the potential within their own homes.

A fun place to meet the Beatles, via Cottage Living

So, yes, I see my blog as a marketing tool as much as a creative outlet. That being said, I understand that it could use some tweaking and fine-tuning and requires regular maintenance like any other essential in my actual toolbox. Unlike a static website or portfolio, a blog is an interactive work in progress. That's what makes it so much fun. And so much work.

A pretty turquoise surprise via DIYideas.com

I've been reading decor blogs for a year plus a few months now and writing my own for only six months. Some of you have been at it much longer. Some, maybe less. I admire those of you who have found your own unique voice while I still feel a bit all over the place. When I really think about it, what I would like to present myself as is an advisor of sorts. Someone who has ideas and information to share. With visual aids and resources. That's what I want my clients to see me as. But because most of you reading this blog are just as tuned in to interiors as I am, some with levels of expertise that surpass mine by miles, it often feels like I'm preaching to the choir. Perhaps if my posts took on the form of "discussions" rather than "lessons", I'd feel less "preachy". You see what happens when I start thinking about it? The reasons and whys begin to swirl.

Undoubtedly, you've figured out by now that the question I ask myself is the same one I've come here to ask you:
Why are you doing this?

Architectural salvage at Marburger Farms, source unknown

Your answer, if you choose to give me one—and I hope that you do!—can be as short or long as you like; in the comments here or emailed to me privately. Respond anonymously if you don't want to be "found out" for asking the very same question of yourself. Anything and everything you have to say will be welcome and greatly appreciated. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to know if you. . . blog to further your career as a designer?. . . seek fame and fortune in the world of blogs or magazines or home decor television?. . . simply love to share your own DIY projects? Or do you just like to chat about wool versus sisal as much as I do? I hope you don't mind that I've asked the question in such an "open forum" way. I considered asking all of the bloggers I admire individually, but there are just so many of you! Let me say too that what I'm looking for is not so much validation as direction and focus. Understanding why others do what I so enjoy doing will help me see whether I'm on the right track. Or not. Blogging is a lot of work. That feels more like frivolous fun. Maybe that's why I'm so conflicted.

Turquoise + Aqua + White&Bright = Happy via realsimple.com

So many nice things were said over the holidays about our "blogging community" by those who are a part of it. Before I joined it myself, I was skeptical that so much real, genuine niceness could be found in a virtual world. But it's true. It's really there. I experience and witness it every day. I've seen virtual camaraderie turn into real world friendships through actual meetings and exchanges away from the blogs. I hope in this new year to be involved in more of those myself. On the way to doing that though, could we get back to my question?

Why are you doing this?

I can't wait to see what you have to say.

UPDATED TO ADD: Thanks so much to every one of you who took the time to weigh in on this question, whether here in the comments or by email. I really appreciate and was so inspired by your thoughts and ideas. I'm sure others who read them were heartened as well to hear that not only do so many of us struggle with the same question— "why?"— but that the answer is fairly unanimously "the fantastic people". I could not agree more.

Top image is "Lost" by photographer Clark Little. Click on it to visit his gallery. All other images here were chosen from my photo files to represent my ideas for using a little or a lot of turquoise, the 2010 color of the year. How can we not look forward to a year filled with such a gorgeous, optimistic color?!


Renae said...

Oh my....you have read my mind completely. I often wonder "why I do this"? We all read the same trade magazines, many of us like much of the same things, where do we go for inspiration or a voice where other's haven't been. What can be said that isn't said a dozen other places in interior cyber space?
The friendships real and cyberly are amazing. I "met" you didn't I? There are wonderful talented people all over the place.
So I will let you know when I finally do come up with the reason "why"!

Pigtown-Design said...

Funnily, I just sort of answered this question on my blog as I start my 4th year of writing. I had just moved back to the States, was in a horrible job and needed a creative outlet. After 750+ posts, I am still all over the place, but each post that I write is something that interests me... and that's what matters most. To thine own self and all.

the gardeners cottage said...

Hi Tracy,

What a great question. Since I vow at least once a week to quit blogging I should answer that question first.

I blog first and foremost because I wanted to share with others my experience of restoring an old cottage. Then it evolved into sharing with others my way of life. Friends and family could not believe we wanted to give up a perfectly good tract home to learn to live with so much less. For us downsizing was the main motivation for moving and so I guess the blog went in that direction. Then I started adding the vegan aspect b/c I'm all about that too. I'm completely head over heels for anything to do with simplicity, so in that goes. I'm also crazy for fashion and want to add that too. So I guess for me blogging is a forum for sharing information about things I love.

Even though your blog isn't about simple living I enjoy reading it because you offer information that I can translate into my own life. I love learning and I especially love seeing how others live.

I think if I were you I would show more of my home because it reflects who you are and what you are about. The little you have shown makes me want to see more. I think you have a captive audience here and could capitalize on that. You could offer e-advice or consultations or something like that.

Also, I never in a million years expected to make friends through blogging. But I have and they are all over the world. That is seriously fantastic. I've met the NICEST people ever, you included.

I hope this was of use to you. It actually was good for me!

Whatever direction you take your blog it will be terrific I just know it. Good Luck.

Your Friend,


Jennifer, Inside Out Colour and Design said...

Hi Tracy,

Very good question. Um, I don't really know.

Like you I want to build a bit of exposure, create a virtual, working portfolio for prospective clients and share with the rest of the world (well those few that read my blog) all of the fascinating, interesting and sometimes downright ugly things I see in the world of furniture and fabrics. The friendships I feel I have made or am making is also a bit of a buzz and I love reading what everyone else is seeing and doing in colour and design from all corners of the globe.

There are times when I am stumped for something to write and I vowed never to write just for the sake of it so sometimes there are big gaps between posts. I'm still reading and being inspired just not finding anything I want to share or sound like I've just discovered.

It is alot of work but it is fun and sometimes indulgent. My family don't get it and think it's just a way to avoid doing what should be done, and perhaps it is sometimes. But I'm hooked and am here for the long haul.

I love reading your posts and feel like a kindred spirit with the same experience in blogging and perhaps even our design businesses. So it can't be all that bad if we've met and connected. I'll continue to read your posts and be inspired and intrigued.


Anonymous said...

I've been grappling with the same issues of direction and focus. Mainly because a lot of design blogs have such a distinctive style and I feel that I haven't found my voice yet.
But whenever I start "stressing" over it, I remind myself that I started this blog as an outlet for ME! So until I'm hit with the mother of all inspirations (I'm thinking that may never happen), I'll continue to collect pictures of things I think are beautiful. I have to remember that this is for me and not about pleasing anyone else.

Which is advice I should use in other parts of my life as well...

Sarah said...

Oh boy! I came over to say thanks for coming to the Mood Board Monday party and now you are forcing me to think!!! Hee, hee!

By the way, I can't believe you've only been blogging for 6 months. It is a huge accomplishment, I feel you are one of the experienced/well known voices in this big circle of ours!

Uh, I think I'm right there with you. One of the main reasons I started this was my side business...I had no real name for it, I know I need to make a website but its such a huge undertaking...and starting a blog seemed easy and quick and would allow me to meet some people in the industry, maybe attract some new clients, get feedback from people with similiar tastes and knowledge.

The other part of me just got really excited about interior design after hanging out on the Decorating and Renovating board on the nest.com for 3 years...and I wanted to learn more about it, view more fantastic rooms that weren't in just magazines, participate in blog parties.

That's as far as I've thought about it. I do have a ton of fun which I think is the most important part, even though blogging is harder and more time consuming than I thought it would be:) And I've met great people!!!

C.J. said...

I think it's a wonderful way to stay involved in this arena, to see and read what others are doing and yes most of all for me to enhance my home staging business, (which I love) obviously helps attract clients and as most of my clients are Realtors until my website is up and running (they say any day now, but then they have been saying that for quite some time) I will continue on my blog. I must add to this that I too have met the most wonderful creative people. Happy Happy 2010!


Averill said...

What an interesting question (and one I've asked myself from time to time, especially when I'm having writer's block and/or are way too busy with my "real" job). I think the question is particular relevant to bloggers (like me) who aren't also promoting a related business. I blog for free and for fun (a fact that negative commenters often seem to forget). Like you, I enjoy having a virtual community of folks who share my passion for design and style -- I don't have this in the real world as most of my friends and family aren't particularly interested in design. I also think that if you don't blog yourself, you really don't get the full experience of the blogosphere. You have to risk putting yourself out there to really get a lot back and I love sharing my ideas with others, giving and getting feedback/advice, etc. You're absolutely right that it's like a class, just less structured and more self-directed (both positives in my book).

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I would say the question is yet to be completely answered for me. I really just enjoy design and I like helping people. Both of those interests merge in the blog because I'm constantly able to see new things in design for my own inspiration and pleasure and I'm sharing decorating ideas, inspiration and advice which hopefully helps others. I love it! When I started out I expected it to be an occasional thing and had absolutely no clue what I was doing. I've learned so much in the last eight months, and met so many nice, fun, interesting people that I would definitely have a hard time not doing it at this point!

Lauren said...

Tracy- what a GREAT question!!! I find that when I'm writing something down, I'm forced to analyze it further & to really have a serious grasp of it. It's one of the reasons I love writing about aspects of design, the home, life, etc... I feel like when I write about things, I figure them out.

I use my blog as kind of a home journal too- it's been fun chronicling our renovations & brainstorming for ideas by creating posts. I've also gotten some amazing ideas from other readers & bloggers. I'M CERTAIN my style is influenced by all of you.

Like you, I also like the idea of potential clients being able to check out my blog & get a sense of who I am & what I'm about & how I handle projects, but I do write my blog more casually, as if I were writing to friends rather than potential clients.

And finally, I just get so excited about things & have to share!! The people in my 'real' life do NOT want to hear my home-related ramblings so it's amazing to have a place to go where people are interested in the same things as you. I love the idea of helping make people happier in their homes & if something has made my life better/ easier/ happier, I try to share it. (I've gotten so many awesome ideas from other ppl's blogs & can't get enough!!) The friendships we've all made here are irreplaceable and I just love connecting with people!

Great question & sorry for the rambling Tracy!!!

Jill said...

First and foremost, validation...of my love of all things creative, specifically design, flea markets, incorpating vintage into my home. It is so great to be part of a like-minded community to "get" me. I am working more on the "why" part of blogging...where it will take me I don't know! I guess I am just "putting it out there". I have met so many wonderful people in the last year, including you!

Great post!

Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality said...

Hi, Tracy,

WHY? OK, I'll try to answer that one too. I'm going on 3 years with my blog & had no idea what it was all about when I started it. I've been online for 10 years on decorating boards, so sharing online has come naturally to me for such a long time. I made real life friendships from those outlets too & since I have such an intense love for decorating/design, am drawn to all of you who feel the same way. And we don't always share that love with our real-life friends, as most of us can attest to. So, this blogging is a great outlet for sharing creativity, sharing ideas and bouncing things around. I started my blog on a whim and it turned into a part-time business & now I'm doing online consultations & having a ball with it. I'd love to grow my real life business here in my own town, but until that happens, I'll just keep blogging. If I didn't have this outlet, I would be SO bored & it is such a part of my life, I can't imagine quitting. THe readers are so great & the real life friendships I've built these last 3 years have been priceless to me. They are real and they are special friendships. ANd that's the best part. Just the community of like-minded people out there & the fact that it's so huge is just amazing.

I always feel like I'm straddling the fence of DIY and Design. I'm definitely NOT a real Designer, but consider myself a decorator, so sometimes don't feel like I fit in the niche of the "Design Blogs" at all (they are outta my league). But, there are so many DIYers out there & that's where I fit in. Just trying to inspire creativity in others, share my ideas & help people see the potential in trying things themselves. I get a lot of satisfaction from helping others do something they've never tried before.

OK, I'm stopping, I wrote a book! :)

Struggler said...

You have a tonne of great insight here already. I could write a book too (why the heck am I in this virtual world rather than being productive in the real one?) but benefits for me include:
- A creative outlet (my day job is very analytical)
- Pathetic gratification that anyone at all gives 2 cents about what I say
- Keep myself accountable for actually doing some of the things I blog about
- A really handy place to collect ideas and inspiration I love from others

Tammy@InStitches said...

I've only been blogging for 6 months and I think I mainly started because my business of making custom draperies was slow and I was bored. I loved reading the design and DIY blogs and wanted to share a piece of myself with all of you. I know for a fact I didn't want a blog that posted pics from the internet. I wanted to only post my work and my projects. I too have "met" so many nice, like minded people and it's FUN !

Just Beachy said...

I sure did get to see seasons 1 and 2 of flipping out , I get so jealous when i see the season start in the US but not here , they even block the webisodes , its torture I was so happy when my husband found flipping out on the guide last weekend , I jumped for joy.
Love your blog , thanks for commenting on mine.

Acanthus and Acorn said...

Great post and super timely topic for me personally as I just started my blog last month. I asked myself these same questions. My answers were many of the ones you listed and left by others. By nature I am a very private person...not one to give a million personal details unless prompted. So to put it all out there in blog land is quite a leap for me. Very different from putting your portfolo on your web-site. So to sort of force myself to jump into this venture, I've decided to blog first then nail down the final design of my web-site. I'll be doing my first post on my work in the next few days...and eventually my own house.

sallymandy said...

Great post, Tracy! And by the way, I saw that Bunny Williams room in HB and for some reason that big ol' flower print was the only thing in the room I didn't like. Well, the antlers on the mantle were a little much. But I LOVE your aqua photos here, in the dead of winter.

Why blog? My reasons have evolved. My blog started as an exploration of style matters for women over 40 and now it's very much wider and deeper. I guess that's because I see it now as a conduit to relationships, and relationships always change and grow.

I learn and get new ideas and change my focus. My blog is now also serving a business purpose to some extent, but I pretty much credit my blog and blog friends with opening my mind to the business I have now started. My blog led directly if slowly to me quitting a frustrating job of 10 years and doing something way more in keeping with "me."

It's great, isn't it??

Happy 2010.

maría cecilia said...

Good morning Tracy, a good question that I would like to answer: I start my blog because I wanted to keep a record of my garden and home and how it evolves mainly for my family of three more than adolescents and my husband... they never ever go up to the hill where I have created a wonderful garden which I "only" enjoy... so in the future they will see what their mother and wife has done. And now is about that and also about many friends I have made through blogging who I treasure so much.
Muchos cariños,
Maria Cecilia

artis1111 said...

You are like an artist.
ost of our work we keep findind faults with. I should have done this ,or it would look beter if I had not done that. Our minds are always changing and so do things that we love. We loved it when we painted the room that color, now we think it would look better in another color. You help people bring all their thoughts together and then guide them. You are like a mother duck helping her littlwe ducks pick the right thing to do. Kathy

soodie :: said...

i've been in a quandary over this exact question you posed. especially at the start of this year which i vowed to pull back on blogging. after all, it takes so much time and it is a lot of work with no pay. some of us do it to market our services, to make sense of things, to make connections with other people -- which has been gratifying, but sometimes all this is at the expense of attending to our home life, or actual work which we (me) will put off until i get that latest blog post up or read through my favorite blogs. when i first started, i had a very specific concept in mind. it also allowed me to discuss things where i couldn't with my regular work. now my posts are just all over the place. i feel i should be more focused and not as sloppy. but i like the diversity other blogs have. i don't know why i do it. feel like i should be using the blogging time at the gym, cooking a better meal, marketing my services the old fashioned way (as in calling and meeting with people; not hiding behind a computer screen as i've gotten NO work from my blog) and most certainly socializing more. it's worrisome, as i like evenings alone reading other people's blogs vs. meeting a friend out for a drink. what happened????