Here’s something you may not know about me. I swear like a sailor in real life. It’s probably not one of my best character traits. I reel it in a lot on this blog because I feel like that’s not everyone’s cup of tea and I respect that. It’s also nice to maintain some level of professionalism when you’re sharing a nice shiny craft post slapped on with some ribbon and washi tape (which for the record ribbon is so underused since the advent of washi tape – why people why?!)
So I thought I’d give you a disclaimer in advance that this post is not going to be one of those reeled in posts.
And it’s also going to be long. And it doesn’t contain pictures. So have a seat. Get a drink. Pour some Bailey’s in your coffee. I promise my next entry will be a short one to make up for this novel.
I’ve wanted to write this post for a very long time but I’ve held back for various reasons. What would people think, what would they say? Would people be offended? Is this the type of post you’d expect from a person who shows you how to make pretty shit and kid crafts? Oh wait crafty bloggers don’t swear. They use terms like “Easy Peasy!” all the time.
Right. And writers don’t drink alcohol and you’ve never been in my kitchen when my craft project goes wrong at the same time as I forgot I was boiling a pot of water. Come hang out with a set decorator on a movie or a TV show the morning of a big production and see if they don’t kill you if you try and touch their props (and I’ve worked with some seriously talented ones). Artists when they’re in a zone creating, are not saying words like easy peasy.
I want to tell you the story – the real story – of why I started my blog and how and why I blog has changed since I started. Which stems from me going from a busy career as a TV producer to a busy job as a stay at home mom in the suburbs. But let me back up a bit first.
For everyone that blogs, we all have a different starting point of why we decide to share our lives with millions of people in the world. The most common answer I’ve read for DIY/Craft/Decor/Home/Lifestyle/Mommy blogs is “I wanted a creative outlet because I was reading blogs and I did crafts too and wanted to share and inspire other people” or “I stay at home and wanted to connect with other moms because it’s lonely staying at home with your kids and I’ve met tons of new friends because of it.”
Fantastic. We’re all blogging to connect with other bloggers and inspire other people with our crafts. Let’s all join hands and sing a song.
So I ask again, why do you REALLY blog?
Because every blogger will reach a point in their blog – be it around the 6 month mark maybe even sooner – where they will realize the rainbows and sunshine facade of promises of blog fame, mega contracts with home renovation companies, being featured in major magazines, online publications where everyone is knocking at their door to shower them with gifts, money and exclusive contracts to represent their brand, is a shit load of grunt work for not enough return on their initial investment time.
It’s like running a business. The first year of setting up, you’re lucky if you break even in your sales. Blogging is no different. The amount of time you have to put into your blog content to be able to see a return on people “discovering” your blog is staggering. Especially if you are in one of the niches I mentioned above.
Link parties? Check. Pinning stuff? Check. Tweeting it out? Check. Using your the best Instagram filter to showcase a blog preview of your upcoming posts? Check. Facebook networking with other bloggers and companies? Check. Commenting on other blogs? Check. Oh there’s also Tumblr, Craftgawker & Co., Looksi Square, Klout, Hometalk and seriously I need Google + account to increase my page rank? I just took off my icon in my sidebar because I didn’t have the time to participate in it and now I learn I may need to invest time in that too? Oh and you still have to write your own blog with epic original content.
And you wonder why most bloggers who start out don’t make it past their first year.
Writing a blog is a lot of work. It’s not hard compared to surgery but it insanely time consuming with very little reward initially. I’m not even talking about monetary rewards – but if you want an example my first blog paycheque was $14.57 for a months work. Take that in people. Even if I mark it down to working a P/T 20 hour a week job that is still the equivalent of .73 cents an hour. Trust me when I say that’s about $35 an hour cheaper than the equivalent I made when I was working an office job at a company vs my “creative outlet”.
So why do people, let’s face it especially women, continue to do this. Is it the promise of being the next YHL? Is it the idea that one day your blog will go viral and you will finally make it and get all the readers of your dreams? It better than paying for therapy and cathartic for you to share your experiences and find other like minded friends in the same situation? Is it because you’re a true artist and you need to create, write and pour out your soul so you can share your talents and money be damned, all you bloggers who make money aren’t doing it for the right old school reasons! Shame on you for selling out.
None of these reasons are right or wrong.
Hell you may have read all of the above and disagreed with everything and think well I don’t care if people read my content I do it for myself. And I respect that. But I’ll be honest when it comes to my blog, I do care. Because if I wanted to write for the sole sake of being creative, I’d do a scrapbook at home, show some projects to friends and call it day. The moment you post your work on the internet, you probably have another reason whether or not you want to admit it. It doesn’t matter if that reason is money, inspiration, readers, friendship, a coping mechanism or something to keep you sane when you’re at home with your kids, if you’re putting it online, you want people to see it. You want people to connect with you or your work somehow. You want to impact other people with your words or your talents.
You want to share your story.
We all have a real reason why we blog. And a lot of us tip toe around what that is for fear of what others may think of us or how they will judge us.
So I wanted to write this post to tell you what mine is.
Last year I went for a job interview. I had been a stay at home mom since leaving the TV Industry back in 2009 for a whole variety of personal reasons. One being that my husband switched careers to a very demanding profession and at the same the TV industry took a huge hit economically and jobs became scarce in my field. Top that off that with the cost of daycare for 2 kids being equal to my take home monthly pay and the decision was pretty obvious. I was supposed to stay home for a year just to see if it would work for our family. In May of this year it has been 4 years.
I fully plan on going back to work, down the line – whatever work that may be – so when friend presented a P/T job opportunity to get my feet wet again, I thought that is perfect. P/T jobs in my industry do not exist. TV is full of long hours, on location shoots and it’s rare that anything like that comes up. Of course I thought for sure let me get my resume sent in and several weeks later I was sitting in a suit in a boardroom getting interviewed. I got asked all the usual industry questions, qualifications, etc.
Then I got asked this.
“So. Have you done any work the past 3 years?”
Hey stay at home mom’s of the world, let that sink in for a minute. Go pour some more Bailey’s in your coffee and then come back. Actually go make a martini. You are a housewife after all and that means you drink lots of booze so you should know how to make a good one.
I want to tell you that I responded to that with a kick ass Good Will Hunting job interview scene type of answer and even with the “Fuck you, you’d never ask that of your wife or daycare provider” that flew through my head as I sat there and stared the Bill Lumbergh clone in front of me.
Instead I said the following.
Me – “No. I just stay at home with my kids. Do you mean aside from staying at home with my kids?”
Interviewer – “Yes”.
Me – “Then no.”
I know what he meant. It was a poorly phrased question – really fucking poorly phrased question – for a manager to ask at a job interview. He meant had I done any ‘media/TV’ work since I stayed home. At least I hope he meant that. I had not because well I was oh, really damn busy with everything else I did on a daily basis. You know aside from just pushing a stroller around the suburbs and watching daytime television. Have I covered almost all of the stay at home mom stereotypes yet? What am I missing? Oh yes, excessive shopping with all the extra money I have.
I had been working in the TV industry for more than half my life. I started when I was 18 as an intern, then did several more internships and started freelancing at our local cable station in Toronto while I was still in University (for which I paid my way through with my Part-Time retail job that I had held since I was 15 and until the day I graduated University). Upon graduation I started as a Production Assistant, moved up to Production Coordinator, Production Manager and then switched to Producing. I did it the old school way. I paid my dues without knowing a soul. I had no connections, no mom and dad making a phone call to get my foot in the door anywhere. Throughout my career I had the privilege of interviewing and organizing productions for likes Jodi Picoult, Martin Brodeur, Mike Holmes, Karim Rashid, Michael Ondaatje, Stephen Brunt, Anne Rice and John Irving. I had once sat about 2 meters away across from Sting and his band doing an acoustic dress rehearsal of Fields of Gold. I have told countless stories of everyday people who had deeply personal, moving experiences to share about their lives, their families, their art and their views on the world who trusted me enough to translate their words to the screen. I organized productions and editing schedules for a national TV channel. I worked my ass off to get where I was and I was so proud to have done that from scratch.
And yet none of that mattered.
None of it.
By the time I got home that day, that moment made me realize that from now on, all any potential employer would see on my resume was the giant gap of space that I had between the last media job I had done and me being at home with my kids. They were then left to fill in the blank notions of what they knew or thought they knew I did as a stay at home mom.
I am not going to get into any major debate on what a stay at home mom does. There are tons of blogs you can go visit for that. My theory on it all is simple: Do what is right for your family and stop judging other women for their decisions. I was an office working commuting mom. I have friends that are office working commuting moms. I know how tough it is to do it on that side of coin. In fact so much so that now that I can compare the two sides, I find them to be completely incomparable because they each come with a completely different pro and con list with barely any overlap except for the following – both sides work their asses off. But I will admit it kills me that in 2013, while you would never think to ask your daycare provider, an ECE worker or even a pre-school teacher if they work during the day, criticizing the work or assumed lack there of work of a stay at home mom is still a topic of discussion. If after all, what we do isn’t work, then by all means go tell your daycare provider that you don’t think they need to get paid to watch your kids. I work. I don’t get paid to do it, but I work.
Now you have two choices in life when it comes to being put in a position like that.
Choice # 1 – You can go home, pour a stiff drink (see martini reference above) and cry your eyes to your husband, send emails to all your girlfriends telling them what a horrible interview you had, have them tell you what an asshole he was and you’re better than that. Then wallow in self pity and become depressed and feel that you are never ever going to work or be taken seriously again and repeatedly say, “But I have a degree, I have experience, why can’t anyone see that?”
What’s that? No one can see what I do? Why is that? Hmm…
There’s an expression in the media industry that says “You’re only as good as your last story”. And yet I had stories – lots of them. But no one saw them because I didn’t have a demo reel anymore. A demo reel in the TV field is basically a showcase of all of your work on a DVD of your last produced stories and content. All they saw was “Homemaker. 2009 – present. Sometime volunteer at her kids school. Terrible cook.”
Which leads me Choice # 2. After you’re done wallowing and drinking your way through Choice #1, you get a grip, put on your big girl pants and realize the answer to your problems was right in front of you the entire fucking time.
I had previously started a nice casual blog under my old blog name – northofseven. It was a total hobby blog because I had read a lot of blogs so I thought “Oh hey I can do that too!” and tried it out. My early posts are so half-assed and embarrassing because I wasn’t treating it like work. My pictures. Please. They need to be deleted. You’d think I had never heard of lighting. So when it hit me that my blog that was my demo reel that I had been missing, I realized I had been squandering a platform in which to showcase what I needed to. In which case last September, I registered a domain, switched names to northstory, got a blog redesign by the absolutely amazing Stacey, went self hosted and started taking my little hobby blog a LOT more seriously. Better photos, better writing, better content. And a lot more effort.
My blog is my resume.
It is my demo reel.
It shows how I write, decorate a room, do DIY project, event plan, organize, cook, clean, bake, garden, run a website, travel and the products I endorse. It shows how I am a teacher and what I really do with my kids instead of watching daytime TV. It shows the things in life I am passionate about. And yes you know what, it shows what I like to drink – maybe not a martini – and how I can style food photography and challenge myself to learn to be a better baker. The beverage styling I’m working on. Ice melts fast in the hot lighting of a photo shoot. And beer doesn’t last long enough to actual take a picture of around here. What?
My blog isn’t here to make moms feel bad for not throwing a Pinterest style birthday party for their kids – I am very honest in telling you how many hours go into all the prep work. It’s not there to make you feel like your kids room isn’t a magazine style room – I’ll show you the real life photos along with the after. It’s not there to make you go “Wow she has a lot of extra time on her hands”. No, no I don’t. I fill it with things to do because it keeps me creative, always thinking and learning, not becoming complacent especially with the ever changing world of web design and social media and keeps my head in the game. Because that’s the type of person I am and I want my kids to realize that I don’t just make their food everyday and be a good role model for them.
I do this for the opportunities it can present me such as freelance writing from home. Guest posting just happened to be one of the great side effect of this blog. Making money on this actual blog is also another. For the record, I’d love to make even more money than the .73 cents an hour so if you like what you read or see, spread the love. Tell all your friends. I’ll bake you cookies. Ok maybe I’ll make you a Thank You card instead.
I do this so that the next time I go on a job interview if someone asks if I have done any work while being at home for the past 4 years now, I can say the following:
“I am the proprietor of a lifestyle website called northstory, where I write, edit and showcase projects on home decor, crafts, kids activities and product reviews. I maintain the site and all of its content on a daily basis. It has been featured in online publications such as Apartment Therapy, IKEA Family Live and Craftgawker. I encourage you to see for yourselves to learn more about myself and what I can offer your company. If you’d like me to elaborate or show you some of the projects I have worked on that we can translate into stories for your show or content for your production house, I’d be happy to do so.”
Or maybe in a year I’ll say to hell with this and go back to school and become a Pharmacy Assistant. Or open up my own business. We’ll see what happens.
The point is, I now have options where before I didn’t have any. Don’t ever sit down and wait for someone to create the opportunity for you, that you can create for yourself. You don’t even have have to work in the field I did to use this as a platform for a different path in your life. Instead of telling someone you are talented and how you could do this and that, show them your talents. There’s a reason why I called my blog northstory. I live in the great white north a.k.a. Canada and this is my story. So that no one can fill in the blanks in that story but me. Especially during job interviews.
If by any chance you’re wondering if I am still mad at my own version of Bill Lumbergh for asking me that question during the interview, it’s quite the opposite. I want to thank him. Because if he hadn’t said that or if I had gotten the job or even if just chalked it up to job interview that just wasn’t meant to be, I probably never would have gotten to this point. I don’t want to give him all the credit though. A lot of this was due in part of a lot of soul searching and a very encouraging husband.
A fellow blogger who I adore and who I now am friends with said to me wisely and I quote “you are hiding your writing chops under your craft bucket”. And I thank her for that. Humbly. Because sometimes I feel like I’m not supposed to “write like this” and show crafts at the same time because well, they’re possibly two different audiences. Then I remember Hey, this is my blog and I can write whatever the hell I want! And right now, I don’t want to pidgeonhole myself into a category.
That blogger, Victoria, is one of my favourite bloggers and without her and the friendship and support of another one of my favourite bloggers, Danielle, I don’t think I wouldn’t have gotten this far with my site. It’s one of the reasons I am contemplating doing a new segment on here that I’ll hopefully announce soon. Something to let you tell your stories and bring my back to my journalism roots.
In the meantime, the comments section is all yours.
Why do you blog?
What’s your story?
Because we should never assume we know why someone really blogs.
PS – The first photo with the “Why yes, I am overqualified” is actually a business card holder that one of my dear friends Erika gave me many, many years ago during a different time in my life. I used it as a tongue in cheek photo for this post and not to say that I think I am better than a given job, because I don’t believe hard work is beneath anyone.
It’s also well, another long story…