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Twenty-Fifteen, the year I take back my blog

2015 - northstory

I recently read my last years 2014 goals and despite the fact that that I put most of what I wrote in there into practice, after I read it again my first reaction was “Wow, you were not happy.”

To the average person reading it, it seems like a nice concise list of optimistic goals to work on for their own blog. But I knew better. And towards the end of 2014 I still felt disenchanted with my blog so much so that I started a self imposed 12 days of Christmas crafts thinking that was what I needed. To pour myself into creativity. It worked to a certain extent if only for the self realization that came after.

The thing is, as I write this I am full of uncharacteristic optimism and haven’t felt this much renewed energy for my blog in a long time. I am really happy with where I want it to go. But it took a lot of soul searching to get here.

Now let’s be honest. It’s a blog. If I truly hated doing this that much, it’s really as simple as tying up loose ends with work contracts and calling it a day. But it turns as I have long suspected, it’s not blogging I had a problem with but how I was blogging that bothered me. My friend and mentor Lynne always says in her best blogging advice, the posts the scare you – publish them.

So here goes.

I don’t want to be solely a DIY/Craft project blogger. And that’s exactly what I had pigeonholed myself into and I didn’t know how to get out.

There were so many times this last year I wanted to come on here and talk about things I loved, where we went, what we did with the house, my thoughts on blogging, my thoughts on parenting, my kids, clothing, decor, beauty products, life, thrifting, social media and so on. Sometimes I wanted to be funny. Other times I wanted to be serious. And what happened in my head instead was “But I don’t have a DIY project to post.” I fell into the trap of thinking I could only blog that one way. That my readers and people who came to visit were expecting the next fun craft. I needed something to pin otherwise it was unacceptable. And that is all I focused on.

So I smartened up and I started paying attention to some very important details.

The first, were my readers and visitors and all the lovely comments and emails you’ve left me here and throughout social media. And the one thing that kept coming up over and over could be summed up quite simply as “Your projects and crafts are cute, but I come here because I love how you write.” You mean I’ve been doing all these projects at the expense of a messy house when all you wanted was my writing?! I’m kidding. No I’m not.

The second was me checking my Google Analytics (which for those of you who don’t blog Google Analytics is a program that basically lets you monitor your blog to see your page views, where your traffic is coming from and so on). Well GA gave me a huge reality check. Turns out, out of my top 10 traffic generating posts of the year, over 50% – Fifty Percent – were not DIY’s and Crafts. What were they? Usually posts where I told a story. Like how we bought our couch in a snowstorm. That time I used IKEA’s sewing machine for the first time. My unhealthy obsession with red rain boots.

Seriously, this post – my cheat version of rainbow cake, is second highest viewed post.

I remember asking my friends about it because I looked at that post and was like “Ugly kitchen counters. Check. Horrible old watermark. Check. Badly lit photos. Check. Worlds biggest cake fail. Check.” But everyone who read it said it made them laugh, they related to it and it solved a problem on how to make the most impossible cake on the face of Pinterest. Whenever I look at the Rainbow Birthday Party I am like “Woman were you crazy?” But according to my stats I should be posting a series called “Alex learns to cook and doesn’t burn down her kitchen.”

And the most important, was my husband James who would often see me so frustrated, look at me and go “It’s your blog. Write whatever you want. Stop asking for permission to post what you want to post about.”

He’s right. Most of those posts that have done well were written in the first year I had a blog where I didn’t care what I wrote about with the intention of impressing the Pinterest crowd. I just wrote. I named my blog northstory because of that reason. To tell my STORY. And here I have barely been doing that. Crafts. DIY. Crafts. DIY. Crafts.

This is the year that changes.

I know, I know. I just heard a collective groan of “But I signed up for crafts!” Trust me, I am not about to stop making anything. I am a creative person and I genuinely enjoy making things. But like Emily Henderson said in her year in Review in Point #6 that I so resonated with, any DIY I do, that James and I do, has to be a project that we should make because we want to or need to, not because we feel we have to make. Like the filing cabinet desk or the mirror. Or even something out of a true creative love like the upcycled planter.

But I am going to stop feeling guilty if I buy something and share it in a decor post in our house instead of DIY’ing it. In fact I am not the only one who has noticed that while DIY is great it isn’t always the be all end all of. Holly from Decor8 wrote a great reply (comment # 74) in this post in her blogging series, about how for some reason as bloggers we all fell into the trap of having to make something in order to blog. And even DIY design mavens A Beautiful Mess recently did a reader survey where they learned the a huge part of their readers never made a project or recipe that was shown on their site. I personally feel there is a shift happening with DIY, I just can’t sort it out yet.

Now please note that I am only speaking for myself. I have friends who blog who are crafters, artists, designers, bakers and DIY addicts that are so passionate about what they do that I can’t imagine them ever giving it up. I love visiting their sites and sharing their work. But for me, I need a better balance. So maybe instead of 5 – 6 craft and DIY’s a month, I’ll do one or two. Or maybe one month I’ll feel inspired and do a whole bunch and then the next month it’ll be about other things.

But I am done not giving myself permission to evolve.

And I want to include more of this.

Alex - northstory

And by this I don’t mean selfies. I mean my life. Seriously though, again fashion bloggers, how do you do this? I’d better get over this hiding behind the camera because I need to discuss what it’s like to shop for clothing as a tall woman and some of the work out clothing finds I’ve recently come across from Old Navy and LuluLemon. But I was cleaning up our bedroom and trying to see what we needed to organize and fix and I realized I have never done a post on it or so many other of the major Before and Afters of this home. When we bought this house, that white wall behind me was a mint green with a faux cream white wash. And it was not the nice mint green you’re thinking of.

Did I mention there’s a kitchen reno coming up that we hope to start by March? If you think reading about me using an IKEA sewing machine for the first time is funny, wait til I start a kitchen renovation series. My husband can hardly wait. He’s still remembering putting together the PAX closet in our old condo. Because we have another goal after all that is done. To move to a new home as we’re outgrowing this one.

It’s time to start documenting more of our story. More home decor. More about things I love. Maybe more giveaways. And I hope that you follow along or come visit whenever you get a chance.

45 Comments

  • Reply
    Danica
    January 5, 2015 at 9:11 am

    I’ve been waiting for this post!!! I am in no way a DIY/Craft person at all, but I love your writing style!

    Happy 2015 and to new beginnings!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      This reminds me of your Instagram question about trying to balance the line between real life and staged photos. I feel like you do so much in that, there has to be a better balance.

  • Reply
    Virginia Fynes
    January 5, 2015 at 9:42 am

    Looking forward to what you have to say! You’re so beautiful you should be snappin more shots of yourself 😉 Can’t wait to see what 2-15 brings for Northstory!

  • Reply
    Christina @The DIY Mommy
    January 5, 2015 at 9:50 am

    I can’t wait to read your blog this year! Happy 2015!

  • Reply
    Lynne from Design The Life You Want To Live
    January 5, 2015 at 9:55 am

    May I just scream this right now? —> WOOT WOOT!!

    You go girl! As a blogger, it is like a big ‘ol fat lightbulb goes off when we realize that our readers are like talking to a girlfriend. True, right? They don’t want to see perfection, because life isn’t about that. They want to hear real life stories.

    Everything has a story in it. Everything.

    You rock out loud girly (and holy snap you are gorgy gorgeous). I know it, because I have met you in real life 🙂 and you are not photoshopped in that photo.

    You are legit gorgeous on the inside and out.

    I can’t wait to see what you have coming out in 2015!!

    Lynne xx

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      It is SO much like talking to a friend. The things that we relate to the most are each other lives, shared interests and our stories. I appreciate the talented projects but I miss getting to know people behind them.

      I alas do not have photoshop. That died with our old computer. But whatever crows feet and the like I get as I get older, I’ve earned every damn one. 🙂

  • Reply
    Jo-Anna@APrettyLife
    January 5, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I love this Alex, and I can’t wait to see what you have in store this year! This is your year my friend! xoxo

  • Reply
    Jodi
    January 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Looking forward to it!

  • Reply
    Rachel | The Crafted Life
    January 5, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    Yessss! I know exactly what you mean about being in a place where you feel like you can only share crafts or diy. I think when it comes down to it though, readers want to connect with you (at least I do!). Share what you feel, because even if it’s not a project, it will still kickass.

    Can’t wait to see what 2015 brings for you and your blog!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      One of my favourite posts that you wrote this past year was telling us how you got started blogging. It was such a great thing to read because it was like who is this mystery woman behind some of my all time favourite projects? I think the same. That if you write or make with passion, it will show.

  • Reply
    lindivsLindi
    January 5, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Good for you! Takes courage to realize what you want (need!) and to go forward and do it! I’m excited to read along in 2015! Thank you for your honesty 🙂

  • Reply
    Heather (@HomeToHeather)
    January 5, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I’m so happy for you! I blog a mix of things from food to parenting and DIY too and it really fulfills me. I hope you find the same enjoyment!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      It seems so much more fitting. I love how you organized and write on your site because it never gets boring. That’s one of the biggest things for me, I was so bored. And as much as I enjoy making things, I don’t craft 24/7. It’s just not feasible.

  • Reply
    francescastone
    January 5, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    You have to love how a new year can put things into context. I say we make a self imposed half year, or even quarter year cut off to make sure we’re actually happy and heading in the direction we want to be.

    Looking forward to reading more about you and you story!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 2:03 pm

      I am ALL in favour of this idea. A self imposed blog retrospection. It’s funny because when I was thinking of bloggers whose work I love and have a genuine passion for their craft, yours was one of the first names that came up. I love how you’ve slowly started expanding on your site with travel and hints of stories on your Instagram as well.

  • Reply
    Kathy
    January 5, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    I also enjoyed the blogs that were more about you and your opinions. I agree with James, write what you want and what makes you happy.

  • Reply
    casacaudill
    January 5, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Can’t wait to be along for the ride!

  • Reply
    Holly LaRochelle
    January 5, 2015 at 2:11 pm

    Dear Alex, can’t wait to read it, no matter what you write. Your selfie is gorgeous, and here’s to another great year in 2015. All the best, Holly

  • Reply
    Tara
    January 5, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    This is fantastic, Alex! I’m so happy that you’ve found the direction that you want Northstory (and your voice) to take! I’ve always loved your blog, no matter what you were writing about – and I think that this is going to be such a game-changer for you!

    And yes, please write about shopping for clothes as a tall girl. It’s damn near impossible for find jeans under $100! Gah!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 2:05 pm

      I could do a series on the ridiculousness that is shopping for clothing when you’re a tall woman. Over 75% of what I buy now I order online, so a post is definitely coming about that.

  • Reply
    kitchencounterchronicles
    January 5, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    All of this sounds awesome, authentic and exactly what you need to do for yourself. Welcome to the world of lifestyle blogging…make it whatever you want…it’s your life and style!

  • Reply
    Pam
    January 5, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Alex! I’ve fallen into the same trap – feeling as though I shouldn’t blog about anything other than projects I’ve done around the condo. Between working full time and a severe lack of funding, I didn’t get too much done in 2014 and as a result my blog was reduced to 27 posts…for the ENTIRE year. Sad 🙁

    This year I want to get back to including stuff I do for fun, exploring Toronto, shopping, attractions, whatever! It’s time to get back to what we love!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

      Do it Pam! Do it! Write about Toronto, what you love, your life. If decor falls into it great, if not, oh well. Write about anything – your favourite recipes, restaurants, stores, topics in the media, how to anything. I am a huge advocate of Decor8’s post now in that we all fell into the “we need to make something in order to blog”. No more.

  • Reply
    dani@lifeovereasy
    January 5, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Great post Alex! I love where you are going – it already sounds awesome!

  • Reply
    Kristen S
    January 5, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    As you know, I am not the best person at articulating feelings into words. I can write a pitch till the cows come home, but ask me about feelings and the words disappear. So no judging, k?

    This blog is yours. Not your readers, not your sponsors, not your peers and not your families. YOURS. And guess why we all come here? For YOU. We love you, your writing, your wit, your creativity, your friendship, and your perspective. You could be writing about how to choose socks that don’t have those annoying seams at the toes, and we would read. If you stopped blogging entirely, we would be sad to see you go, but happy you were taking your life by the balls, and doing things on your terms.
    What makes me happiest about this post isn’t your more personal writing, or hearing about tall girl clothes (but yay! please do big sized shoes too!) What excites me the most is hearing you HAPPY. Hearing you inspired. Hearing you fall back in love with your blog.

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 14, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      I am so going to write about socks. Possibly work socks. You know I love those.

      But I agree, we get so lost with what we think we should do for and with our blogs, that we forget why we started writing them.

  • Reply
    Bets
    January 5, 2015 at 5:28 pm

    LOVE this!! Timely and inspiring for me because this is the year I start doing things/being the way I WANT to do/be, not what I think I SHOULD do/be. For heaven’s sake, how do those messages get into our heads anyway? At any rate, I am looking forward to your journey to becoming more you! Rock on sistah!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      YES! This! How do these messages get in our heads! Here’s to a great 2015…

  • Reply
    Christine
    January 5, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Way to go Alex!!! I can’t help but feel like you are talking about me, how many times have I told you that I love the way you write?! Just a gazillion times! Can’t wait to follow along! xoxo

  • Reply
    Jen @ RamblingRenovators
    January 5, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Yes, yes, and yes. Your optimism is just oozing out of this post. So glad to hear that you are sharing a bit more of you on this blog. It’s going to be a great 2015.

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:28 pm

      Can I tell you I have had more emails about that? It’s so funny how our friends and readers can tell when we’re not happy blogging or doing it like a grind vs from the heart. That’s definitely a reason I want to change. I want to come here and be happy writing and creating. Yes great 2015!!

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    January 6, 2015 at 12:21 am

    This is a sweet post, Alex. I love the quote from Lynne that if you’re scared to publish something then you absolutely should publish it. I think I am guilty of over editing my posts to the point where my voice is lost.

    I think you’re so right about there being a shift in DIY. I can’t quite put my finger on it either but I kind of feel like more DIYs are being done to push the envelope and out do others. Pinterest was quite the game changer in that way. My favorite DIYs are typically the ones that people create for their own homes and enjoyment and not necessarily with the intention to have a post go viral because it’s so different or the opposite, trendy.

    And if I could take selfies like that on a whim I think I’d be compelled enough to sign up for an Instagram account!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      That is I think a huge part in the shift in DIY. The start came from a place with good intentions, where made things to improve our homes or even share natural creative projects that were extensions of us. Now it’s who can get the most repins and followers and is this project going to blow everyone’s mind.

      Even since I wrote this post, the response has been astonishing and not just to me, but with other bloggers who have shared it. It feels like so many of us are missing this – just chatting with each other and enjoying hearing about our families, our homes and this was what it used to be. And it has changed so much.

      YOU – get on Instagram! Stat!!

  • Reply
    Jessica@CapeofDreams
    January 6, 2015 at 6:06 am

    Rather than groaning because I signed up for crafts, I am cheering because I have actually skipped most of your posts this year and even considered stopping following you. I am glad I stuck around because I think I like the direction things are headed. Good for you for following your heart!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      You know what’s funny Jessica? I could have written your comment myself. Because that’s what happened to me. I wound up losing interest in so many bloggers this year and all but gave up following them because of this. So I took a good look at myself and thought, if you’re thinking it, imagine how boring or what people may be thinking of you?
      Cheers to the next rounds of raw, fun and often perfectly imperfect posts! Thank you for sticking by my journey!

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    January 6, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    Yep! Love it and can’t wait.

  • Reply
    Time With Thea (@TimeWithThea)
    January 7, 2015 at 12:16 am

    Visualize my standing ovation! Your strength in your blog is your wonderful writing style! Looking forward to following you on your new journey. I so respect that you have chosen to direct your blogging rather than have it direct you.

  • Reply
    Tash @ The Dreamhouse Project
    January 7, 2015 at 7:04 am

    Good for you Alex! I absolutely love every single one of your crafts, but what keeps me coming back and falling into the rabbit hole of your blog every time is your writing. You inspire me in so many ways, your really have no idea. Looking forward to following along with you as things evolve!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      I remember your comments throughout the year Tash. I almost cried one day when you wrote something along those lines (I was having a particularly frustrating discouraging day) and I thought I need to listen to Tash. I need to get back to what we all enjoy about each others blogs and that’s that we are not magazines. We are bloggers. And we share our stories and experiences and insane home renos and life with our kids. And that is what we love about them all. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    beleyne
    January 7, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Awesome! I just started following you and it’s your writing I enjoy most, too! Although I love your photos. You have a real knack.

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      Thank you so much Beleyne!! Welcome to the crazy! 🙂

  • Reply
    204 Park
    January 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

    Yeah girl! Your writing is hilarious and as amazing as your DIY projects are, your readers are here because of you! So take back your blog pretty lady and we’ll all be here with you!! XO, D

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 15, 2015 at 4:43 pm

      I owe you about 20 comment replies. I have read every one of them and think she’s going to kill me. Thank you so much!

  • Reply
    somuchbetterwithagee
    January 21, 2015 at 12:00 am

    I totally agree, girl! I was thinking the same thing by the end of 2014. I’m exhausting myself. I actually do DIY projects because they need to be done, BUT they don’t need to be done that fast. We had too many renovations going on last year and this year we don’t have any plans and I’m looking forward to just doing posts that I want to do sprinkled in with some tutorials and projects. I think readers just want us and some lovely photos for inspiration.
    Love your blog, girl!!
    Hugs,
    Jamie

  • Reply
    C.Lem (creativeclementine.com)
    April 2, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Love this post! Even though it’s old, I absolutely relate. I started as a party/gifting blogger, then got completely derailed when I bought my house. I decided to open up the scope of my blog, but didn’t get around to blogging any of my house projects and now I’m nine months into a new house again.
    My fella raises an eyebrow when blogging seems stressful and reminds me it’s supposed to be fun. Your hubby is right: its your blog! You do you.

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