The Balance of Blogging and Living

Hello friends –

This is a different kind of post today, from my heart to yours.  Two years ago, I realized I was spending so many heartbeats at work – and though I loved my job, I wanted to cultivate another part of my life.  I stumbled into the lettering and bullet journal communities on Instagram, and it sparked something familiar and new in me. I started Pretty Prints & Paper on Instagram in April 2015 to channel that creativity and reconnect with the artistic part of myself.

Over the last two years, this blog, the Instagram, custom-work, has grown in ways I’ve never imagined.  It has unlocked a lot of parts of me that I didn’t know could exist – being an entrepreneur, an artist, an influencer.  It enhanced parts in myself that I already knew and loved – being a teacher, a community member, a connector, a sassy leadership nerd.  So many great folx cheered me on as this hobby became a side hustle and a business.

It has been a month or so since I’ve shared a new post, and I go back and forth on how I feel about this from guilt to acceptance.  There has been a lot going on since last summer – some of which I’m less ready to share – and it has rocked my world and disequilibrium became the new normal.  I was/am revisiting who I want to be, redefining my relationship to myself and to others, plus a move and big shifts at work.  Recently, my therapist and I concluded I have been living with anxiety for a long time, but I called it a different name. That’s life, right?

Being a blogger is challenging.

My energy shifted away from the blog as I was managing these shifting pieces.  My focus became people rather than planning.  I was faced, often, with the pressures of blogging and the need for self-care.

People often ask me about tips about how to be a blogger or start a side hustle – and although many see the perks, many don’t know the true cost of the endeavor, especially when life happens.

Over the last year:

  • I gave myself the permission to post a new blog just once a week rather than twice
  • I accepted not posting on Instagram every single day, and spending a fraction of the time commenting, engaging
  • Shifted to experimenting with pre-structured planners because it could buy me some time during the weeks
  • Many more bullet journal and calligraphy bloggers joined the community, and Instagram became run by an algorithm rather than a chronological timeline
  • In May, I didn’t post at all on the blog

As a content creator, the pressure to create new stuff all the time is grueling, especially when so many others are creating too.  Rather than a sense of competition, for me, it was wondering how I added value in the mix, rather than too much redundancy.  Over time, this has impacted how I show up in Instagram feeds, the traffic on my site, and so on.

The algorithms incentivize us to chase numbers by playing the game, by tailoring your stuff to be what people might like, by spending time engaging and commenting away.  All of that is well and good, but it revealed to me something challenging:

The original purpose of my bullet journal was to help me live the life I wanted.  I felt penalized in my side hustle for living my life. 

It reminds me of the question that Mark Manson writes about – “What pain are you willing to sustain for what you want?”

Today I talk about the real costs you weigh as you balance blogging and living

So, do I want blogging success enough to sustain the effort it takes to play the Instagram game, to pour heartbeats into creating new original content and blogging strategy? To choose the endeavor over other things and events? To create the time in the midst of your own life shit?

I’m not writing about this for pity at all, truly. I write this to share with you, especially if you aspire to blog and all that fun stuff, that it’s not JUST fun stuff. Life is complex, and you are always choosing. That, as you plan and design the life you want to live, these questions will always surface:

  • Is my time going to the things I care most about right now?
  • Who am I doing this for?
  • How can I be kind, caring, and gracious toward myself in this?

I am reconnecting to my motivation and my place in the bullet journal and lettering communities.  I am emerging on the other side of a big year. I am growing and am lucky if you’ve read this far down!!  The support and small comments from each of you has been heartwarming and life-giving, allowing me to be real with you and gentle with myself.

My big question for you

So, going forward, I wonder – what do you come to this blog for? How can I add value to you? Are there things I talk about that others don’t?

Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me an email at jessica@prettyprintsandpaper.com.  I’d love to know. Thank you, always, for reading!

Jessica

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15 thoughts on “The Balance of Blogging and Living

  1. Hi Jessica

    I hope you are ok. I really enjoy your blog. I enjoying reading it and seeing ideas for my BuJo etc: I expect nothing, no regularity – I am completely comfortable with anything at any frequency. In all honesty, I don’t think anyone has any right to any more than that. Take care, Sue 🇬🇧

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I came here for bujo inspiration, then developed a taste for lettering thanks to you, and now I love the motivation you pass along, especially as a fellow teacher. I like that you keep it real because it shows us that it’s OK. Always so inspired by your work and your words!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Jessica,
    I really enjoy reading your blog. I think you should do what feels right to you. I follow blogs on different topics and usually my favourite ones are the ones that are not professional and don’t post regularly because they only post what they want to talk about and their posts sound true.
    However that might also be a cultural thing: I am French, I’ve been living in the UK for the past 11 years and the US blogs I know are very regular, whereas the French blogs post whenever they want and the British ones are in the middle (it’s a big generalisation but it’s still the trend). I usually end up unsubscribing from some “professional” blogs because I feel they post the same thing because they have to post 2 or 3 times a week or always want to sell you something. I feel in Europe, it is a bit more laid back. So I love receiving an email saying “new post from this blog”, if it’s not regular, it feels more like a surprise.
    As a reader, you can see when bloggers just want more subscribers, I know it’s good to try to attract new subscribers because you’re more visible, etc. Also being on instagram, Facebook, a blog, etc sometimes feels redundant. I started using the bullet journal to be more efficient with my time so I’ve almost stopped using social media and I prefer reading a long post with or without a video, to me it feels more finished, especially when people post about something they’ve been using/experimenting with for a while because they can talk about the pros and cons. I like the “instant snaps” less and less, I will have spent more time than I wanted to on social media but won’t feel satisfied or feel like I learnt something because they don’t explore fully what they are about. But it might only be me as I try to live more in the moment, sounds so corny but I just try to enjoy whatever I am doing instead of thinking what is on my to do list next or being glued to my screens.
    So, after all that (sorry!), it is only my humble opinion, your readers might have a totally different one, but do what feels good for you, post often or take a break, as long as it doesn’t feel like a chore and you write/talk about what you feel passionate about.
    I will still receive your emails in my inbox and it will feel special if they are not regular.
    Thank you

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I have always really enjoyed your focus on self-care and staying true to your beliefs! Keep it up! I guess if I would ask for one more thing it would be more about how you prioritize all of your competing responsibilities, something I really struggle with.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I get inspired by your creativity and that’s why I visit your blog. It’s not really about how much you post – but that is, of course, like you said – very dependent on what you want to achieve – more posts, more time on social media etc. means more followers / page views … but is that ultimately important to you? And how does that actually benefit you? I asked myself these very questions when I had a pretty decent blog that made money before (I gave it up). Now, I blog primarily about books. I do it because I enjoy it and to exercise my own creativity and when I can’t post for a month – I’m 100% OK with that. I haven’t given up on my blog however, because I realized that it’s part of my “me time” – and when I’m not doing it, it means that I haven’t prioritized doing something that I want to do. I also partnered with another blogger last year – both of us had time constraints – but together, we make the blogging thing work and we are both happy to just go chugging along on our little corner of the net that doesn’t have the time to try and increase followers, page counts etc. When I can’t post for a month, she picks it up, and vice versa. And when we both can’t do it for a little while – we don’t stress. But like I said – we come back to it, because it’s our little bit of “me” time and it’s important to take care of whatever it is that you enjoy doing.

    I will say that what I used to do with that other blog that was monetized – basically was on the internet 24×7 – even slept with my laptop on my bed – I could never do now. Priorities change, life stages change and eventually we have to accept our “new normal”.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I first started reading your blog because I love your Bujo ideas. Then in the past year I have enjoyed how real you have been. I started my own blog, and I’ve gotten bogged down with the numbers too and have lost the passion I had when I started. Now I feel fuilty when I don’t post as often. I am also starting to think of other things I want to blog about as well and thinking about how to fit it all in instead of just posting what is on my heart. It’s nice to be able to connect with real people verbalizing what I’m feeling. Thank you for taking the risk. I know it’s not easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for being so honest Jess! I agree with you when it comes to creating original content. If someone else is doing it, why does there have to be 500 other people doing the same thing in the exact same way. I have seen one blogger grow and grow and grow in the past year. She was very authentic at first, but now it seems she is trying too much and too hard to please her followers.

    Stay true to yourself! You’re honest and original, and that is why I enjoy watching your videos, reading the blog, and following on Instagram. You offer different layouts and ideas to include in my bujo. I love your lettering and I have been working on mine the past month.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Jessica! I’m being totally honest when I say that THIS is actually the type of content I want from you! You have been one of my biggest BuJo/Lettering inspirations from day one and (aside from your obvious talent) it’s because you are incredibly real and humble. Now, I have many different websites/Instagram accounts I follow for more ideas for my bullet journal, but YOU are still the only one who really makes me stop and reflect as I should on planning and living more purposefully. Whether it’s your beautifully hand-lettered quotes (that always seems to say exactly what I need on a particular day) or it’s being able to glimpse your sometimes messy bujo…I appreciate it all because I know it’s you being authentic.

    I have actually “unsubscribed” from a number of blogs/Instagram accounts lately because I feel they have gotten too commercialised. I don’t mean the sponsored posts — I’m all for y’all getting free stuff for the work and visibility you bring to the community — but rather I find myself getting a bit disillusioned by so many in the community starting to “sell” their form of bullet journaling. I worry that when people try to make a business out of their planning, it adds enough pressure that the planning/lettering/etc. is no longer fun, and then the authenticity goes away.

    TLDR: blog or don’t blog as feels right to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I totally understand that feeling. I’m a new blogger and I spend way too much time working around blog. All the times, I feel guilty when I finish a post late, when I don’t upload on time or when I don’t post anything at all for the entire month. I feel guilty and frustrated. But you’re right! Blogging is definitely not everything.

    To answer your questions, I started to subscribe to your Instagram and know your blog since I joined the bujo community. You’re such an inspiration. I love your bujo spread and your hand lettering. Always come to you for inspiration 😀

    Jolie
    Joliecious.com

    Like

  10. I’ve been in the bujo, lettering spaces since you started. When you write from the 💓 you resonate with me.

    I’m unhappy with the algorithms that now show me only things like I’ve liked. I used to get feeds that we’re creative and not cookie cutter versions of someone else:s posts. I want the different and the real stories.

    I have a .”real” day job and try to kindle creativity where I can fit it in. That you are even concerned with your place in the blog verse makes me want to keep you bookmarked … No matter how sporadic your posts may become.

    Huzah! Keep up the questioning and inward focus. You have a unique voice and message. Thanks for being you.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank you for such an honest post. I think it’s important to take a step back and look after yourself sometimes and I’m glad you recognised that.

    I struggle with work/life/blog balance, too, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the blog is the least important of those things. I started a new job this year, which is excellent, but a steep learning curve, and I want to have time to see friends and family and enjoy myself at the weekend, so the blog doesn’t get updated. Ever. When I started my blog it was because I was looking for a new challenge, and right now I just don’t have the time or energy for that on top of the daily challenge of trying to figure out how to do my job. I hope to return to the blog one day, but for now I try and accept that I can’t commit to it as much as I’d like right now.

    I enjoy reading your blog for various reasons, and I’ll continue to read however frequently or infrequently you post. I enjoy your posts about career and self care, as I don’t tend to read about those in other places. I also enjoy seeing your experiments with other planners, as well as your travellers notebook set ups. I’m not into calligraphy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy yours.

    Big hugs, Laura x

    Liked by 1 person

  12. As a person who’s seen the community grow I still look to certain people for inspiration. I love your posts because they’re real. You don’t appear to post sanitised, perfect pages and for that I thank you.
    I’ve been asking myself many of these questions over the past few months. My blog has changed as I became interested in different things and I worried that it would dilute my ‘brand’ but then I realised that I have to be me first, then mummy, wife, teacher, colleague and so many different roles it blows my mind how I survive from one day to the next. I’m proud of myself for getting back into a regular weekly post schedule but I’m not going to beat myself up if I miss one or if I post something on a different theme. I’m not a brand, I’m me!
    I always look forward to your posts but you manage what you can. Look after yourself x

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Woman, you have to do what is right for you. I love reading your posts and have saved several for future use or just to look back on to recenter. I came here for the Bujo. That was the draw. But I love to watch your lettering and listen to your authenticity. Just as with this post. IG algorithms irk me. I want to see who I follow and not just the trending accounts. I miss things because of that math. As far as post schedule…this is your blog and you can post however and whatever you please. I will read it. This blog is one of the few I stay on top of. For instance, I am reading all of your notebook/planner reviews. I enjoy these as my love of paper & pen has been a thing since grade school. You give an honest opinion but do not bombard us with “buy this, buy that”. Nor is my inbox filled with a lot of repetitive reminders about something I have already said no to. So to you Jessica I say “Bring It.” I will take it. 😉

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