New York Times best-selling author, slow cooking expert, mom of three
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Totally Together

Bloggers and Narcissism

July 18, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

are bloggers inherently narcissistic?

original photo credit: The Secret of Narcissism

This is part of the Business of Blogging Series. You can see all of the posts, here.

 

I’ve done a bit of speaking this summer at various conferences, and I’ve said a few times to the audience (and been met with great laughs),  “Let’s face it. Bloggers are narcissistic.”

While I do love laughter responses, I’m completely serious when I say that in order to be a good blogger, or to put yourself out in the public eye, you’ve got to have a part of your personality that believes that You Are Better Than Others.

and this is a challenge. It’s a struggle for me, and I know it’s a struggle for many of my friends. It feels wrong, it feels fraudulent, and it feels deceitful to decide when you wake up in the morning that you are going to make and write about THE WORLD’S BEST BEEF STEW.

or the best way to fold a fitted sheet.

or write about a completely ordinary trip to Walmart but in a way you just *know* your readers will appreciate.

or heaven help you, post a #selfie on instagram.

I wasn’t raised to seek the spotlight, I was raised to sit quietly with my hands folded while the grown-ups talked and not to interrupt. And that is how I’m raising my children. Nobody likes a know-it-all who interrupts. Blogging is about interrupting.

DID YOU HEAR ME?

gah. It’s loud, it’s annoying, and it feels icky.

So what do you do? How do you balance the self-doubt, the negative voices, and the twingy feeling that you are doing something wrong when you decide to put your heart and voice online?

I can tell you that it gets easier, but I can also tell you that I personally stress and analyze every time I write anything online. This is the list I weigh in my head before posting (on any of my sites, on facebook, on twitter, and even on pinterest)

1) How does this help my audience? (and helpful can just be a feel-good moment. there doesn’t need to be a lifelesson in everything you put online, nor does it have to be a how-to tutorial.)

2) Am I writing this only because so-and-so has written about (kale) a lot and I feel like in order to stay relevant I need to write about (kale)?

3) Am I jumping on the bandwagon about a certain event that has a lot of drama and I want people to link to me when they, too, write about this certain event?

4) [related to #3] am I stirring an already-bubbling pot? Is that what I want to be known for? Pot-stirring?

5) In 3 days, will I still be proud of my writing?

6) Am I writing this because I’m getting paid to write about it (like a sponsored post)? Have I told my audience this truth?

7) Will my writing be search-engine-friendly? If not, how can I massage my words to help with SEO?

8) and then back again to #1…. am I being helpful to my audience?

If you respect your audience, they will respect you.

If you jump in front of the camera keyboard every single time any fleeting thought passes through your head, you might gain lots and lots of followers initially, but they will leave in the longrun. Build a lasting legacy — something that you enjoy, that you can see yourself working on as your life’s work.

As for the negative thoughts? Embrace them. Listen to what they have to say. Maybe you are posting too often, and without anything valuable to offer your readers. Maybe you are only tweeting 7 times a day because some expert told you that’s how many times a day you should tweet. Maybe you are solely only writing about the latest conference drama because you want to be in the spotlight and want to be someone “in the know.”

and if after some soul-searching you realize that you don’t like your current path, then tweak it a bit.

But don’t let the voices win. We ALL have something to offer. We are all on this life-living journey together, and we all have something to share and to teach. Differing perspectives are fantastic — that is how we, as readers, as humans, make decisions. That’s why we read Amazon reviews — our culture needs to know as much as possible about pretty much everything right now. Right this instant. We can’t even wait to get home to our desktop, we have to whip out our phones in the middle of the store and tweet a picture to the masses to see if these shoes are actually a good buy.

This is a great time to be writing online. Do not let self-doubt or shyness prevail. Yes, bloggers are inherently narcissistic. We have to be.

And that’s okay. Just make sure to acknowledge it.

Patience, and Other Blogging Virtues

May 1, 2013 by · 22 Comments 

Patience (and other blogging virtues) -  Part of The Business of Blogging series

This is another installment in my The Business of Blogging Series.

I have been blogging full-time since 2008, and have been hesitant to share my successes “out loud” with very many people because I worry about 1) jinxing it and 2) being show-offy

and I’m not a show-offy person, and I worry a lot about karma and good will and even feng shui.

But I’ve gotten to thinking about why I do what I do and why I started what I started. And honestly, I just like helping people. Specifically other moms.

I like to help people.

I wrote the proposal for the Totally Together Journal way back in 2004 (I was pregnant with my second). I wanted a way to help other mothers, and thought I could be of service in some way. It took YEARS to get that book to the market.

In the mean time, I started the slow cooking site, and wrote the corresponding cookbooks. The very best part of my day is waking up to Thank You emails and tweets. I love that I can somehow help other busy families get healthy, satisfying, budget -friendly (and gluten free, to boot!) meals on the table. I am proud of that.

I worry sometimes about being too proud. I worry about being a braggart, and I worry that others will feel that my success isn’t warranted or that somebody handed me something. I worry that someone, somewhere will think that I must “know someone” and that’s how I got on tv or got book deals, or how I get a lot of people to my website.

and so I don’t talk about my achievements.

or yet I haven’t, much.

 I’m beginning to realize that while I can’t write HTML to save my life, I actually do know a lot about blogging.

I spent last Saturday in Los Angeles with Adam. We flew in so I could speak at the Latina Lifestyle Blogging Convention about Ethics and Blogging (they knew I’m Scottish…!).

And I realized, I know an awful lot about blogging. An awful lot. I’ve learned through trial and error and have been very lucky in my blogging and social media endeavors.

And I figured that EVERYBODY who has blogged for as long as I have has achieved similar results, and am finding out (through talking to friends/acquaintances) that this is not the case.

I make a very good living at this. And I’m having fun.

I make over 100k directly from my websites.

and I do this all, from home, in my pajamas, while I care for my children.

And it’s not that hard.

This post is titled PATIENCE. Because I truly believe that ANYONE, ANYWHERE can have this level of success if they map out a business plan and are patient. The money is out there. The opportunities are out there.

Don’t worry about what so-and-so is doing. Don’t compare your site to anyone else’s. Learn how to write for SEO and give your readers what they want.

I want to help —- my hope is that I can somehow help other people/moms create additional streams of income for their family’s budget.

I feel incredibly fortunate to be living the life I am living, and I would like to help.

If you have questions about future installments for this series, please let me know in the comments below. I’ve finally gotten the green light from Adam to talk candidly (sort of. LOL) and I would really like to offer any help I can. oxox steph

 

OH! and I should probably explain the above photo of the grape vine. I planted that vine 4 years ago, and the leaves promptly all fell off. I kept watering and fertilizing it even though it looked like a dead stick. For 4 years. And this spring? Not only are there leaves, there are teensy tiny grape bundles! Patience. It’s a virtue! :-0

 

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

Use an Ironing Board to Create a Homemade Standing Desk

February 13, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

DIY standing des out of a ironing board

How to Make a Standing Desk out an Ironing Board

For the last week or so, I’ve been using an ironing board as a desk. I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a DIY alternative to a standing desk — but I’m not. It just sort of happened.

I’ve wanted a standing desk for a while –  I’ve scoured pinterest and DIY sites for ideas, have looked at websites advertising these type of desks (WAY expensive), and even have sent Adam links to how to make them at home using cheap wood and laminate.

So I put this idea on hold.

But then last week happened, and we each had different work trips to go on, and we had unexpected company, and the ironing board that I set up in the corner of the master bedroom got left up. And the computer armoire where I plug everything in at night (my current work desk is the kitchen table, but we have a computer cabinet where we hide everything at night so the “work day” is over by dinner time) got a bit cluttered so I needed another flat surface for charging the laptop.

And I used the ironing board.

And then left it on the ironing board while I was answering email in the morning, and even used it as a table for the last slow cooker recipe I photographed —- and although it’s not the prettiest thing in the world to keep up in the master bedroom, it might very well might be the most practical thing I’ve ever come up with. :-)

What I like about standing versus sitting:

* I’m burning calories — there are studies that prove that standing exerts more energy than sitting
* I’m naturally stepping or swaying while I work — my pedometer (this is the one that I LOVE, and it’s cheap!) is showing that I’ve added a good 2000-3000 steps to my day with very little effort on my part
* I am now finally ergonomic. Since I’ve never owned a desk chair, my table to chair to floor ratio (don’t even know if that’s the actual terminology, but I’m going to assume you know what I’m talking about…) hasn’t ever been proper. I’m exactly 5 feet, so there are very few chairs that allow my feet to sit flat on the floor the way they are supposed to. And our dining chairs are a bit large in the seat, so my knees are at a funny angle if I lean all the way back, which causes me to perch on the edge of the chair while I write, causing my shoulders to slump. With the ironing  board, it’s adjustable, so I can raise the keyboard to the actual right spot for my eyeline and shoulders/wrists.
* BUT. My wrists aren’t supported, I know. Honestly, I’ve never had supported wrists or elbows, so that’s not an issue for me,  but I can see how it would be for others.
* The other really big benefit is that I’m not spending as much time on the computer. It’s just not as comfortable to stand at an ironing board and read gossip sites, or twitter, or online news as it is to curl up with the laptop on the bed or couch. But that is something I need to work on, personally, anyway. I waste a lot of time on frivolous Internet surfing, and my time could honestly be better spent sticking to my to-do list and goals.

                  (this might actually be the biggest benefit)

So there you go! Super simple (and actually kind of stupid) brilliant idea!

It’s Okay To Be Different

January 17, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

being different is ok

Darth Vader in Barbie Dream House

Darth Vader in Barbie’s Dream House

Why are we programmed to think that it’s not okay to be different than everybody else? Why do we care so much about fitting in? Why do we worry incessantly about what other people think? Why do we try to impress complete strangers? Why does a critical statement from a casual acquaintance or even from an anonymous Internet person stick with us more than praise from a close friend?

Why do we waste time, energy, sleep, and calories trying to squeeze into an impossible-to-fill mold?

Why is there a mold in the first place?

As very young children we try to bend our personalities and our behaviors to fit into preset stereotypes — you’ve got the rambunctious toddler, the quiet preschooler, the bookworm, the artist, the jock, the social butterfly, the brainiac, the playground politician.

in college it’s the same — there are the partiers, the studiers, the rebels, the drifters, and the nerds.

When you’re pregnant, you begin searching for “like-minded” pregnancy friends. You scour Internet message boards and engage in circular arguments about whether medicated or un-medicated birth is the best. You identify whole-heartedly with a group and that becomes Your Identity.

but then things change. Complications arise. Now you’re scheduled to have a c-section. And your friends, Your Tribe, no longer sees you as a good fit. You’re the one who had a c-section. And you are starting to realize that you really had nothing else in common with this group, this tribe, this close-minded group of like-minded people.

And so after a while you look for a different group of like-minded people. Maybe it’ll be the soccer moms (no, they all wear Ugg boots and you once saw a YouTube video on how Uggs are made). Maybe it’ll be the Vegan Moms (no, they make you feel bad about giving your kids Fruit by the Foot). Maybe it’ll be the Crafty Moms (no, because they spend all their free time at Michael’s and spend more money on brown paper and raffia than you thought possible).

and so you drift some more.

Until one day, you realize that you are Happy. You are Happy with who you are —- you work out here and there, but not enough to be considered a gym rat. You eat pretty healthy, and buy organic fruit for your kids, but also buy Cheese in a Can, so you aren’t  a foodie. You like HGTV but would rather watch others work than sand down the porch, so you aren’t a DIYer. You’re pretty thrifty and somewhat cheap, but loathe cutting coupons, so you could never be an Extreme Couponer.

and then you realize that not only are you Happy, you are The Normal. And categories and molds and trying to be something you are not is what’s Abnormal.

what a relief.

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