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Counting Paper Stars

Counting Paper Stars - my goal for 2014 - northstory.ca

Well then. It appears I have a blog. Which I have been completely ignoring.

And it has blown my mind how much stuff I have been able to get done because I haven’t been on my computer. For those of you writing your fresh new, first time ever posts on your brand new blogs this year, don’t say you weren’t warned. Just wait until November.

This is why I should never be allowed to take a break or extended vacations from this medium. Because suddenly it’ll be April and I’ll be like “Was I supposed to do Easter crafts this month or last month?” and the laundry would actually get folded. We wouldn’t want that to happen now would we? I’m half kidding. I often say this blog has done more for me than I could ever do for it.

So on that happy note, tell me everyone, do you have a word that you’ve chosen for Twenty Fourteen? Or is it Two Thousand and Fourteen?

It appears what we call this year is has already started a debate.

I don’t usually make resolutions mainly because I’m not a big New Years type of girl. I think if you want to make a fresh start, make a fresh start. There is no perfect time to press a reset button, but New Years obviously seems to be the the ultimate reset button for many. So in the spirit of a great deal of my blogging friends choosing their Word for the year and because I do have goals both personal and for this blog, I decided not just to choose a word for the year, but to choose a saying. And it’s a culmination of a Christmas present my younger daughter gave to me as well as the Counting Stars song that’s out by One Republic right now.

Don’t laugh at me. I know you listen to this stuff Office Space style on your radio in the car with the windows up.

I shamelessly love this song. The lyrics are fabulous and so many amazing quotes are derived from them. The videoย for the song is completely not what I anticipated it would be but that’s what great about music. We all take something different from a song and what it means to us based on our own experiences.

Now my younger daughter Little C who is completely not into crafts, decided to surprise us by using my star punch to punch out stars in different colours and give them to us a a gift – one colour per family member.

Can you imagine say giving your boss a box of paper stars like that for Christmas? Probably not. Unless there was some deep meaning to it. And that’s the key. What may appear trivial to other people, was meaningful to me. One of the best presents a parent could ever get. Not only because did she understand that her mom likes to make stuff so she decided to make something for me, but also because it was simply from her. And it instantly made me think of the song which both my daughters also love.

“Lately I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep.
Dreaming about the things that we could be.
But baby I’ve been, I’ve been praying hard.
Said no more counting dollars we’ll be counting stars.”

Counting Stars, One Republic

And so the saying was born. It’s the simple idea of cherishing a piece of paper because it has meaning to you, not the financial value of it. Because sometimes in blogging, just sometimes, we lose sight of that. Between the sponsors, the ad money, the never ending social media marketing and promotion, at the end of it all if your content feels tired and has no meaning to you and you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, why are you doing this?

So that’s what I want to do this year.

Spend it Counting Paper Stars.

I want to count creative projects, not Facebook Likes.

It is very easy when you blog to slide down the negative rabbit hole that is comparing your Follower numbers, Stats and Likes to other bloggers. I did this for awhile and it wasn’t pretty. In fact it was really ugly. Then I did something strange. I imagined my kids coming to me upset about this issue and realized how utterly ridiculous I was being. Because what would I tell them? You are worth more than someone clicking a Like button. When you say it out loud, it sounds just as absurd as when you’re reading it. You should never let numbers like that affect your creativity and you should always continue to do projects that make you happy.

I want to challenge myself to style and take better photos, not be comfortable with just coasting along.

When I started this blog, looking back upon my early projects it was pretty obvious to see I was just taking photos to get the projects posts written and done. So I did something these past 3 months that I hadn’t really done in the past year and that was that I styled photos of my projects, not just took photos of them. And the results? People responded and I was happy to see they made other people happy. No one is saying you have to fake your life to a magazine styled perfection, but if you don’t feel like you’re showing your work in the best light then change it up. But by far the most surprising thing about this for me was how genuinely happier it made me to style these images. It brought out another layer of creativity I didn’t know existed. And because I was so happy with the photos, that I didn’t even care if the project did well on Pinterest. Which leads me to next point.

I want to create better art, not spend endless hours on the computer promoting it.

Social media while wonderful for a variety of things, can easily be a time sucking vortex where you will spend majority of your time staring at your phone and having your back to your family while on the computer. Scheduling Pins, Scheduling Tweets, participating in Link Parties, finessing your Facebook posts to meet Facebook’s latest algorithm of “Will they or won’t they see this post if I do this and that?” I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of all that crap. It’s completely not the reason I started doing this blog. And while I understand and am not immune to why bloggers do this as it does promote your content, I feel like like in the end, if your content or writing sucks, it doesn’t matter how often you share it. No one will come back.ย I believe good content wins every time. So that’s what I want to concentrate on. Because then you don’t have to share, others will love it enough to help you out with that.

I want to write better stories and posts when I want to, not because I have to.

I wanted to write this first post of 2014 earlier. But you know what I chose to do with my time instead? Spend it with my family. Spend it with my husband who was vacation and had his first Christmas off of work in 4 years. Spend it with my kids. And I didn’t physically turn on my actual computer for almost 2 weeks. Ok maybe for 10 minutes in there to start our weekly forum threads. But other than that, I disconnected and just kept in touch on Instagram (I can’t get over how much I love Instagram – fix your grey screens already). And even last night when I finally pressed Power On and I wanted to press publish as I wrote this initial draft, I kept feeling pieces were missing. They were. A key post I want to share at the end of this appeared in my inbox this morning like serendipitous timing. Trust your instincts. Write when you want to write not because you feel you have to.

I want to make sure that companies and brands I work with matter to me and are ones I can speak with genuine conviction about, not just because the money is nice.

For the first time since I started blogging, I can honestly say I am now making actual money blogging. It’s nowhere near paying our mortgage money, but it’s more than my first paycheck of $14 I made when I started. It continues to be a goal of mine to be able to create P/T or freelance work opportunities from this site so that I can continue to work from home. But as that grows and as my inbox starts to get emails from companies and brands interested in working together, I want to make sure that I do not waver from my mantra. And that is unless I could see myself writing a post for free about a product or brand, that I won’t do it just because they’re offering me money. Especially if it’s not the right fit for the content that I write. It is a lot easier to write a genuine happy post about a brand you can stand behind or that you actually purchase and use in and for your home, than it is to write some contrived press release that sounds the same as 10 other bloggers posting the same thing on the same day.

But most importantly I want to make sure that anything I put on here is worth the time I could be spending with the person that made me these paper stars.

I’ve been reading quite a few bloggers 2014 resolutions and goals posts this month. And there seems to be this pattern emerging, especially from long time bloggers. And that is a return to a blogging community where there is less keeping up with the Jones. More doing of actual projects that make them personally happy and fulfilled and not just ones that can potentially go viral on Pinterest. Increased time spent with family and friends and less time on the computer. And this which arrived in my inbox this morning from Blueprint Social‘s team, where they shared Design for Mankind’s post to remind us that sometimes it’s good to slow down. Do you need to post 5 days a week? Are you killing yourself to get that done? Are you taking more photos of your blog projects than you are of your kids, your pets and the world around you? Finding a balance between this online world and my family time is a huge priority for me this year.

Henry David Thoreau quote

And anytime I need a reminder to those wise words above, they can be found the form of paper stars sitting in a little jar on my desk.

Cheers to a promising 2014!

23 Comments

  • Reply
    Martina
    January 8, 2014 at 2:13 pm

    So much of this post makes me want to channel an old-school revivalist church response, replete with standing, clapping, and emphatic exclamations. To be brief the jones-y “bigbigbig-moremoremore” mentality that can pervade the internet exhausts me. Which is why I’m prone to semi-annual blog-hiatuses.

    The gift from your daughter is such a sweet gesture. It means so much to young children to give a gift of something they *made* not only for the sense of pride in making something but also, kids aren’t financially autonomous & unable to purchase ‘things.’ The beauty of it is that because they don’t quite grasp adult value systems it means so much more than just getting some paper. It’s the genuine act of *giving*, simple and kind and that’s what makes it meaningful.

    I won’t be picking a word for 2014 until it’s over ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Gilit
    January 8, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    I’m too exhausted to write a proper comment so I’ll just sit here and clap….Okay, done.

  • Reply
    Amy ~ Love On Sunday
    January 8, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Welcome back Alex! I love this post and I really admire you for keeping up with this blog all while having 2 girls. The quality of your posts are on another level and that’s what keeps me coming back. Such original ideas and photographed so well! It’s easy to see where your girls get their creativity from – and those paper stars are amazing. Such a sweet and precious gift. All the best!

  • Reply
    Shauna
    January 8, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Amen! I totally agree with your blogging resolutions. I think I’ve stayed pretty true to those in the past, but it’s easy to get caught up in it all. Happy 2014 (no matter how you say it)!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    January 8, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    I love that song too but never would have known the words otherwise! Have a great year, Alex!

  • Reply
    Dani @ lifeovereasy
    January 8, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Those paper stars really tugged at my heart. My “babies” are heading out of the nest. My youngest is a 5’10” volleyball player, the oldest is becoming a brilliant engineer. Where did the time go? I was lucky enough to be at home more than most people, and I savoured it all. But even so, I still know I missed so much while I was busy with things that didn’t matter. You are so wise to recognize these things! And it seems to be happening in the collective blogging consciousness – we are all questioning the blogging rat race so to speak. I think it’s a great thing. Here’s to an amazing 2014 with richness and abundance in all areas!

  • Reply
    Joanna
    January 8, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Love! Thank you. I have a blog, I wanted to make something of it. I found I only did it in spurts and the more I blogged the less I made. And the more I tried to make, the less inspired I was to blog. You make so much sense. Good Luck in your year. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply
    Vanessa@Decor Happy
    January 9, 2014 at 12:05 am

    I love this Alex! And spending time with our kids and family is way more important than blogging (that’s why I only blog intermittently.) Although this year I am trying to blog a bit more – we’ll see how it goes. I now have to go and listen to that song! Wishing you an amazing year!

    • Reply
      Vanessa@Decor Happy
      January 9, 2014 at 12:12 am

      Oh, I know and love that song. Just didn’t know the title. Yes, the video is a bit quirky with that alligator/croc whatever it is! And PS forgot to mention how the gift from your daughter is the sweetest thing ever and funny how it ties into the song.

  • Reply
    Inspire Me Heather
    January 9, 2014 at 6:05 am

    Ok, that was an amazing-wonderful-couldn’t have said it better post! What a refreshing attitude Alex, you rock (and I just have to listen to that song now!). Thanks for keeping it real and hugs!!

  • Reply
    kim @ DESIGN + LIFE + KIDS
    January 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

    Ok, I love love this! Thanks for reminding us to stop and simply enjoy. BTW… so wish you were coming to ALT!

  • Reply
    Victoria โ€ข Restoring our Victorian
    January 9, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    my favorite part was the piece to new bloggers writing their first postโ€ฆ Remember all that ENTHUSIASM? Before the soul-crushing realization that indeed, you are NOT going to take over the Internet in a couple of months?
    Happy new year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Danielle
    January 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    Dang… I love Thoreau!

    This is one of my very favorite blog reflections on 2013. So well said and a great goal… intentional living.

    I love that song; it’s one of the things that got me through the crazy holiday retail season. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet
    January 9, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    Truth.

    Alex, I appreciate that you are always reflecting, always adjusting, always checking in to make sure you’re doing it all for the right reasons and being true to YOU and your family. Thanks for affirming a lot of the instincts I’ve been feeling lately. My word this year is BALANCE in response to the hours upon hours I was staying on the computer doing social media promotion and responding to emails and really working on everything BUT art. And that is not sustainable. Not for this girl!

    Here’s to a year counting paper stars!

  • Reply
    thelearnerobserver
    January 9, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Girlfriend, you touched a nerve there! I mean, I don’t have kids, so I don’t think about spending time with them, but I have a family and I want to be present for them, not just always thinking about “The Blog” and what needs to happen there. I disconnected for a little bit there too, and it felt awesome. I wasn’t even reading other blogs, let alone writing my own! I don’t think you need to worry at all about your blog and your brand growing as long as you have this attitude. You do amazing work, you create amazing things, and you’re an amazing writer! Have I said how amazing you are?

    One last thing, this –> “I know you listen to this stuff Office Space style on your radio in the car with the windows up.” was my favourite part because, HELLO, how did you know that is totally meeee?!?! And I always love a good Office Space reference!

  • Reply
    Tash @ The Dreamhouse Project
    January 10, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    I don’t think I could possibly say it any better than Martina so I’m just gonna say ‘Ditto’ and AMEN! Alex you are such an inspiration to me and I applaud you for living the life you want (and the one that so many of us want too!). xo

  • Reply
    Midsommarflicka
    January 10, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    I just discovered your blog recently and this is one the first posts I’m reading here, and I have to say: I LOVE it! And it’s so true! I also disconnected a little bit and haven’t posted any projects or similar this year so farโ€ฆ and it feels so good so far!

    I’m gonna follow your blog and will be excited to see and read what else you’re posting about!!

    Wish you a great weekend!
    Love, Midsommarflicka

  • Reply
    Tara
    January 11, 2014 at 2:55 am

    Great post, lady.

    You hit the nail right on the head (as always) and said some things that have been running through my brain so frequently this month.

    I’m looking forward to this year. I think it could be a banner one! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But yes, let’s all just chill a bit, shouldn’t we? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Reply
    Heidi
    January 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    What a wonderful post! Makes me really want to be present for each and every day and not just rush through it.

  • Reply
    Cate Moore
    January 11, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    I always love what you write, Alex. There are so many great reminders in this post too. And this Thoreau quote is something I need to learn to live – I love it and I suck at it.

  • Reply
    Time With Thea
    January 15, 2014 at 10:21 pm

    Bravo and well done! You have come so far since I started following you when you first joined the blogging scene. I am inspired! ~Thea

  • Reply
    Jacquie
    January 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I love that quote! That alone could keep any parent grounded ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m a younger blogger (only 2 years) and I can see the constant flurry to keep up – honestly, it really gets in the way sometimes.

    My manta this year is ‘Organize, Simplify, Focus’. I need better organization of my ideas so I don’t feel the urgency to blog them right away. And we’re also working to simplify some things (social media being one of them especially for a throw-back vintage girl who still keeps a paper calendar) so I can focus more on what I love and what matters most.

    Lovely post and best of luck with your goals this year!

  • Reply
    Jess
    February 3, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Alex, this is just lovely. Continue counting stars, we’ll be here counting along side you.

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