New York Times bestselling author, slow cooking expert and mommy blogger next door
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Totally Together

Real Life, Not a Magazine

May 8, 2013 by  

this is real life not a magazine

This is Real Life, not a magazine article. It’s okay to not be perfectly glossy all of the time. —


Probably a lot like you, I began reading magazines in my teens. I eagerly looked forward to Seventeen Magazine each month. I wanted to know what highschool was like. I wanted to know what it was like to have a boyfriend, go off to camp, and what things I needed to do to get into a good college.

When I was engaged, I read Bride and Modern Bride magazine like it was a religion. I needed to make sure to get this type of dress, have these types of favors, and wanted to make sure to keep to my allocated budget. I needed to make sure that I packed my honeymoon bag exactly how the articles told me.

When I was pregnant I read every parenting magazine I could get my hands on. I knew WAY too much about the perils of a medicated birth, was certain that breastfeeding was going to be a glorious experience, and knew that my baby was going to be a bonafide genius because I, too, would start with the Doman flashcards the second my infant could focus.

When I was more interested in working out I got Shape magazine and was certain that I, too, could have Buns of Steel or Ripped Abs if I did what the articles suggest.

and then something happened.

I quit all magazines. (except for Star and US Weekly at the hair dresser…. because who are we kidding? reading gossip is fun!)

I quit them because I hated how I had expectations about what I should be thinking/feeling/doing/acting and how my house should look and how I should entertain and how my kids should behave and how many calories I should eat.

I’m actually a really lazy person. The reason I use my slow cooker is because I don’t LIKE cooking —- that’s why my eyes gloss over when a colleague starts quoting Bon Appetit or Gourmet magazine. I don’t LIKE cleaning or doing housekeeping stuff. That’s why I do the Daily 7 and why I have laid out all the “have-to” stuff in the Totally Together planner.

I do like gardening, but my garden is NEVER going to belong in Sunset Magazine. I love my kids, and am proud of how they are turning out, but they will NEVER be glossed over or airbrushed into any sort of mold.

I have (strong) opinions on things, and so do my kids.

But these magazines sell well. VERY well. We all know they are phony-baloney yet we buy them anyway. We try to emulate the articles on our websites. We gloss over things because we know what sells and what doesn’t. A “perfect” food picture sells better, even if that means the meal was sprayed with extra oil or was taken out of the pot before being fully cooked.

We don’t really want to read about all the things that can go wrong on a camping trip. We’d rather read about the 10 Great Ways To Make Your Camping Trip the Best Ever. (oh yeah I forgot I used to read Camping Life, too!)

So how does this tie into blogging?

Because we are NOT magazines. We are real people who are living a REAL life. We have opinions, we  give advice, and we  provide recipes for food and for DIY projects.  But our readers are turning to us because they have a connection to us. They know that we’re in the trenches with them —- we’re not typing from a Manhattan Mad Men-style office building with a team of copy editors and photographers at our disposal.

we are real.

When you forget you are cut-from-the-same-cloth as your readers is when you become unrelatable, and no longer a fun read.

Everyone knows you can turn to Martha Stewart for perfection. Your readers aren’t looking for perfection —– they are tuning in to read you.

So yes, write your 10 Ways to Make Your Camping Trip the Best Ever blog post. But throw in some personality — don’t write like a magazine editor. Write like a blogger. That’s what your readers want, and the first rule of writing is to give your readers what they want.


This is part of the Business of Blogging series.

Part 1: The Business of Blogging

Part 2: Figuring Out Your Internet Voice

Part 3: Writing for Search Engines Doesn’t Mean Selling Your Soul

Part 4: Is Self-Esteem Tied into Sitemeter?

Part 5: Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

and other stuff:

10 Best Business-y Books

Creating a (non-cheesy) Vision Board

Working from Home with Small Children in the House



Post a comment · 4 Comments »


4 Responses to “Real Life, Not a Magazine”

  1. Blog of a Mom on May 8th, 2013 9:42 am

    Great post – totally agree with you. I prefer blogs to magazines so much now!

    I recently started a mummy style feature on my UK mummy blog after blogging about how I was sick of fashion magazines and how they just don’t appeal to me any more as a mom!

    L @ x

  2. The Cocktail Lady on May 8th, 2013 10:35 am

    Very true, great post Steph! xoxo

  3. Sandy Cooper on May 8th, 2013 5:00 pm

    Thank you, Stephanie.

    I certainly have made it my practice to showcase my mistakes and use them to help people. I throw myself under the bus often–not in a self-deprecating way, but in a humorous way, I hope. I think it’s disarming. I like to read how other people struggle and I like to read how people get better after the struggle, through the struggle. So, I try to do that, too.

    You’re right–it’s rare to find that in a magazine.

  4. Holly on May 9th, 2013 8:15 am

    You’ve done it again, Stephanie: made me stop and say, “DUH! Of course she’s right! Why didn’t I think of this?”

    Why do I keep reading magazines when time and time again I am disappointed in the articles? I always hope they will share some deep-dark unknown information, but it is always just a bland re-hash of what I already know…

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