Lesson Learned

2012 was a pretty intense year. My blog got bigger, and quickly.  Bigger brands were contacting me, I was getting regular emails from companies wanting to advertise with me, and I couldn’t keep up with the reader comments and feedback that was flooding in. It was exciting, it was exhilarating, it was overwhelming, and somewhere during all that drama I lost my way.

I caught myself buying clothes just because I knew they would make for compelling outfit posts. I started documenting every single minute of my life for Instagram. I’d stay up night stressing over a hurtful comment, and dwell for weeks over one that was constructive criticism. I caught myself attending events just to “feel” like a “proper blogger,” promoting products and brands I didn’t 100% believe in, and feeling competitive with my blogging peers.  I wrote posts thinking more about being Pin-worthy or good for affiliate revenue.  As the blog grew, the comments and emails increased and they started to get me paranoid. I worried about sharing too much about Emerson or Karl, I carefully worded posts so I wouldn’t be too political, too feminist, too hippie dippy, too extreme in any direction. I started looking, acting, and even thinking like a stranger.

This past January was a tough one for me. I had gained weight over the holidays, I was burned out on blogging, I turned 38. Work was busy, the blog was busy, we just finished the holidays and ramped right into Emerson’s birthday, my mom’s birthday, my sister’s birthday, my birthday. Migraines returned and I had my first panic attack in over a decade. I felt torn in so many directions. Emerson told me I worked too much and was on my phone too much. Work mentioned that I seemed as though I was spread too thin. Karl felt I was never fully there, always thinking about the blog or the job or potential blog posts. The doc told me my chest pains and panic attacks were stress and I needed to make a change to preserve my health.  I felt that blogging was the reason for all my stress. I hated that my passion became the thorn in my side.

Maybe it is the return of spring, but things have seemed clearer and more positive in the past week. I realized that blogging isn’t the problem, I am the problem. I created the drama, I made the choices to get where I am. And I am the one who can change it. I am the one who can bring me back to the blog, and with it, the joy of blogging.

I have been writing this post for a couple of days. I would write two pages, and delete every paragraph. Write another page, and wipe the slate clean and start again. I worried I would look ungrateful, bitchy, melodramatic. But then, that is part of what got me in this mess in the first place. Maybe I wouldn’t write anything at all, and just make the change for upcoming posts not yet written and scheduled. And then Maegan Tintari of …Love Maegan wrote a post today that made me realize I needed to stop being a drama queen, stop editing myself and just write this. Maegan’s post made me realize I wasn’t the only one feeling this way, not the only one who lost her way. That while I did create this situation, the blogosphere has changed in the past year and we who have been blogging for a while without fully realizing it have been battling between being ourselves and being current, being intimate without being vulnerable, being authentic while being profitable.

Hoping to keep up the traffic, I lost myself along the way. I rarely stick things through in life, but I have stuck with blogging for eight years. I love the community, I love the relationships I have made, I love the ability to constantly improve my craft.  It would be a shame to ruin all I have built and loved by trying to win PR and pageview popularity contests.

For all of us who started to blog for the love of writing and journaling, it would be a shame to lose our voices in an attempt to make a few extra bucks, score a bit more swag, get a cool mention on a cool site.

There are many reasons to blog; my reason was never to be a web personality or a full-time blogger (maybe a columnist or an author but not a full-time blogger). I blog because I want to share, I want to help, and God I love to write. And write I will continue to do… on my terms.

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  • Amanda

    I had no idea you were feeling this way…love your honesty, your wisdom, and your style! It’s good to hear you struggled and came out on top. You always make it look so effortless! Happy yo see you’re finding your voice and what matters again… Xo

  • http://www.mischiefmydear.com/ Ashley // Dramatis Personae

    Both your post, and Maegan’s have really resonated with me today. I’m not sure if we’ve chatted about this on Twitter or not, but over the last several years I’ve felt very similarly about my site. I fell out of love with it. Within the past few weeks (especially related to stressful circumstances in my life), I just… IDGAF. I’m tired of feeling like I’ll get trolled for sharing an outfit post, for speaking my mind, for opening myself up to the world. The last thing any of us want is to feel that way about something that we’re passionate and excited about.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve gone through this as well, but at the very least– know that you’re not alone.

  • http://www.looksharpsconnie.com/ Look Sharp Sconnie

    Thanks for being so honest here. I found your post through Ash in Fashion, and I’m glad that I did.

    I’ve never experienced the kind of success that you did, but it sounds like every blessing comes with a curse. It’s difficult for people to know what being a successful blogger entails, because so much of it is shrouded in (what seems now to be faux) glamor, so writing this is very eye-opening.

    I’m glad you’ve gotten it off of your chest, and I feel like just typing this post will really help you move beyond the things you’ve been uncomfortable about doing for the blog, and maybe make it about you and your passions once again.

    Good luck.

    -Gabrielle

  • ThriftStoreMama

    That’s awful when something that was supposed to be fun and helpful turned in to such a drain on your life ! I hope you are able to step back and make whatever changes you need to make. I find your blog to be such an inspiration that I would hate it if things got so bad you had to quit altogether.

  • http://www.thriftstoremama.com/ Thrift Store Mama

    I’m glad you were able to take a step back and hope you can make the changes you need to make to keep everything sane.

    I’d really hate to see you stop blogging altogether, since I find the blog to be such an inspiration. I hope you can find some balance that allows you to keep blogging.

  • http://brynnash.blogspot.com/ Brynn

    Amen, Alison! I love your blog, and the posts in which I can distinctly hear your voice are my favorites. I’ve been following your blog for over two years now, but recently started to really explore your archives. The posts you have written about feminism and how that ties into fashion, motherhood, the workforce, etc. are my absolute favorites. I am also a proud feminist who wants to be a working mother down the road, and I truly look up to you. You’re inspirational. Good for you for realizing what’s been making you feel icky and stepping back so that your blog can be what it once was – your passion, something that brings you joy.

    Keep writing – I’ll keep reading. XOXO

  • EmilyD

    I can absolutely see how this would happen. I’ve wondered how you manage everything! I love your blog because it always feels real to me, and that you take joy in doing it.

  • myedit

    word. I am considering leaving it at that, just ‘word’ but you know, I have more words to say.
    I also read meagan’s post tonight and it was a good read. It’s true the blog world has changed this year (well, every year it continues to change) and sometimes it’s this struggle to stay ahead of the curve, to be ‘pinnable’, to have constant content, to get the right partnerships… all while not over stepping the boundaries of our private lives… it can be endless really. And it’s all that stuff that sometimes just kills the original joy of blogging.
    It’s easy to get so down about blogging and where I am heading with all of it and then I get down that I let myself get down, you know? It’s an endless cycle of down.
    I have to remind myself why I do this and what I would miss the most if I stopped. And for me it always comes down to the fact that I would really miss sharing the joy of thrift. So I try to keep my focus on that and let the other stuff come as it may… Sometimes I get my panties in a twist over stupid shit but I try to keep a reasonable perspective on what really matters.
    And wow, i just rambled on about myself there. But what I really wanted to say is that I like this post and I like your blog. And we’re reading because you do offer something unique:)

  • Une femme

    Oh, you’re not being overly dramatic or ungrateful or any of it. I totally get it, and it’s really a universal struggle of anyone who creates…keeping that balance between life and art and success and our own true voice.

  • http://walkingwithcake.com/ Catherine Harper

    I have always loved your blog for your openness and honesty, and I truly admire you as a blogger and a woman. Please keep writing for yourself, and we’ll be right here alongside you. :)

  • Jo H.

    Good for you, Alison. Be true to yourself.

  • Sarah G

    Thank you for your honesty, just one of the many things I love about you. I really hope you keep writing this blog – I really get a lot from reading it. XOXO

  • http://www.coffinkitsch.com/ Meagan Kyla

    I really look up to you as a veteran blogger and I would hate for you to burn yourself out and stop or stop being authentic. You and your family come first, then everything else is second.
    I’m not going any where! ;)

  • Bernie

    I kinda knew something was wrong, and I’m glad that you’ve managed to put your finger on exactly what it is that’s troubling you. My mum has a phrase “brittle bright”, and at times it’s felt a bit like that, but as a stranger over the interwebs, it’s difficult to know if you are reading too much into things. I can only say that I have been there with the panic attacks, migraines, insomnia, working every hour there is…and it’s time to start looking after yourself. No way are you being a drama queen, bitchy or anything else of the sort. You have a true, authentic voice, and you stand up to be counted in so many ways I admire. Here’s to the love of writing, doing it on your own terms, and happier times. Sending you lots of positive thoughts from the UK, Bernie x

  • http://rosalovesdc.tumblr.com/ RosaLovesDC

    Thank you for this very honest post Alison. I do agree with you about the blogosphere having changed in the last year and I felt a little burned out in the last 3 months or so. And like you, I truly love the relationships and amazing people I’ve met through my blog and the years of reading blogs. So I am here for you and I am going anywhere. You are one of the first blogs I found and I still read every day. Trust me, you are as real as it gets.
    In terms of the panic attacks, just take a step back and take a moment to breath. Stress can be a b@#$%. So don’t worry if there’s no post ready for the next day, we, your loyal readers, know you have a life with a husband and adorable kids and we will be here. You gotta take care of yourself and be happy.
    Sending lots of hugs your way pretty lady!

  • http://hemsforher.com/ Hems for Her, a.k.a. Katie

    I appreciate your honesty and struggles. After reading both yours and Maegan’s posts, I see that the “grass is not always greener” on the other side of the blogging fence.

  • Patti_NotDeadYetStyle

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Allie. It *is* a difficult balance, so listen to yourself, and keep writing when it feels right! I love your blog, and your honesty.

  • Melanie Simmonds

    I found WO looking for a blog about real women struggling with fashion and looking good in a body larger than what we see in the catalogs. I love WO and love reading your blog. I’m really glad you have made this post and appreciate your honesty – I’ve quit too many blogs because they were a never ending commercial! Hugs, and thank you for what you do!

  • Sue K

    Ok, I normally don’t comment but I feel compelled to today. You are the first blog a visit in the morning, my favorite fashion blogger. I love that you are a real person, you are beautiful…don’t ever stray from who you are. Thank you for showing me that even though I’m not 5’9″ and size 6 I can still look great and hold my head high.

  • Bethany

    One thing I’ve always liked about your blog is that you seem so genuine. Many blogs I’ve liked over the years have gotten “bigger,” and they just become constant giveaways, sponsored posts, and diplomatic no-opinion posts, and they just get, well, boring. Please stay you! You have such a distinct, no-nonsense, genuine “voice.”

  • Kathryn W.

    Allie, your honesty and candor are why your blog is so awesome. It’s the first blog I look for in my reader each morning, and I love your sense of style and your ability to keep it real. It’s your blog and you get to be who you want to be, and that right there is why you have such a loyal following. Keep up the great work and, most of all, thanks for writing such a great blog!

  • Cheryl Chancellor

    This is exactly what I’ve been feeling lately. I got totally obsessed the past few months over traffic and earnings, and I found myself thinking all the time about posts or articles I could write, things I could add to existing articles, ways to improve my SEO… I’ve become depressed and stressed, and the writing isn’t fun the way it used to be. I’m trying to get some perspective and set some limits, but it’s hard once you’ve gotten yourself so focused.

    Anyway — you’re totally not alone in feeling this way. And thanks for speaking out, to let other people know that they aren’t alone either. Good luck & best wishes…

  • http://www.agirlinboston.com Lissy

    Allison, great post! I’m glad you are going to stick to it because I for one would miss your perspective.

  • em

    I’m nobody to you, but I support you in this! :)

  • Grace McNamee Decker

    Thank you for sharing your real self. :) I am not really a “fashiony” person and don’t read many fashion blogs. I read yours every time you post.

  • Red Peeptoe Pumps

    I have been reading your blog for years, and just wanted to say that I’ve always appreciated your totally accessible (yet enviable) style and your honesty here. We’re not the same age, same body type, in the same city, or working the same kind of job, but I’ve always found your posts inspiring, and you’ve taught me how to wear my clothes better and make my closet more purposeful. You’re the one blog I read every day, no matter how busy.

  • Lorena Lorena

    Well said – the best part, like Maegan, was that you stopped, analyzed and redirected. You have to be a woman of character and a smart one too in order to do it.- Kudos Allison.

  • R

    Ditto to what she says above. I also like that you are a real woman working in a real office. I started to notice that you were doing things with promotions, and I didn’t like it. I want your opinions. Your authenticity is what drives me to your blog every morning. I’m also wearing a ponte knit skirt this morning because of you. Keep up the good work!

  • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen

    I try to not do promotions that are a bad fit, but I do them and will likely continue to do so because as the blogosphere changes, it’s the only way to make decent money from it. This blog is the reason why my husband can stay at home to raise Emerson, the reason I was able to buy a (used) car when mine died last spring. In 2013 I will make a more concerted effort to not partner with bad fits or do too many (I’ve declined a lot recently that “could work” but after my hair situation I learned to not make excuses or justify things), but you will see some from time to time.

    I love blogging, but if it didn’t bring in money, I don’t know if I would do it as much as I do because I would need the time to do something else like a part-time job. The very unromantic side of blogging…

  • http://www.wardrobeoxygen.com/ Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen

    I liked your ramble, I like your blog, and I like you. Thanks Yen!

  • http://www.pichandroor.blogspot.com Waverly

    I love your blog & I definitely can relate to the feelings you were having! It’s amazing how Spring can make everything better .. even if it snowed Monday lol. You have so much stuff on your plate & I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better through your blog. Keep up the great work <3

  • http://www.scorchingstyle.com/ Ana

    I am so glad you wrote this. As someone who never wanted to (and still doesn’t want to) become a full-time blogger, it can be hard to see the “success” around and feel intimidated. I started blogging about a year and a half ago and I have very few followers. I used to worry about that because I would attend blog conferences and it felt like all the other bloggers had a ton of followers and they wore the coolest clothes and all had the “IT” bag. After reading your post (and Maegan’s) I realize that everyone has a path they follow. My path may not have many readers, but the readers I have are awesome and I truly feel like I know them.
    Someone mentioned on Twitter that an upcoming blog conference feels like summer camp where you get to see your “pen-pals” once a year and I’ve decided I like that! I love attending blog conferences because no one else quite “gets it” the way fellow bloggers do and sometimes it’s nice to drink the kool-aid.

    I love your blog because it is one of the few that I genuinely feel that I can relate to. I love your capsule wardrobes and I love your instagram pics! I hope you are able to get back to that which made you blog in the first place and I’m sure most of us will still be here to read about it. :)

  • Lynne DeVenny

    I’d hug you if I were there. You expressed exactly what I’m going through now, except that The Teen is likely to have a bone marrow transplant this year, and that will really make things challenging, although we’ll be beyond joy if she’s cured of sickle cell disease. I do talk about it on the blog sometimes, simply to raise awareness of sickle cell disease.

    To help with the Bloggin’ Blahs, I finally accepted that I did not need to post every day, or take a picture of every outfit. I was starting to feel weird, and honestly, even ugly when I compared myself to other bloggers. I want to focus more on secondhand clothes, and not just because the budget will only allow for secondhand clothes :o I need to keep blogging because it’s fun, and because I dearly love other bloggers and readers. I’ve learned so much from personal style blogs and want to continue to do so, but only as long as I’m not feeling pressured to post. When it stops being fun, there is nothing wrong with taking a break for a while.

    Love, peace, & grace,
    Lynne

  • Keri Kaiser Howard

    I’ve been reading here since I thought your name was Dilly and have been loving watching your style change, your life change and well, YOU. I’m so happy you’re finding balance, and are becoming happier with blogging again.

  • http://www.getfiercestyle.com/ Margaret McGriff

    I love this post as well as Maegan’s and it’s so refreshing to read. I’ve been blogging for 3 1/2 years and it’s soo easy to lose your way and caught up in everything. I recently wrote a blog post about the state of fashion blogging and it makes it even easier to lose your voice. Realizing that you need to get back to what you love and passionate about when it comes to your blog is a very important step and it takes a lot of courage to not only admit that but to write about it too!
    Bravo!

  • Sarah

    I am so glad to read this! If anyone with a blog happens to read this comment, please believe me when I say that your readers know when you are pushing a product vs. sharing something you love. We can tell from your outfit photos when you are wearing something just to give a sponsor their shout out so you can get paid, or because you love it. I have been a fan of so many blogs over the years that just suck now because they started accepting sponsors and lost their way. I don’t have any issue with blogs that have sponsors unless those bloggers stop being themselves, and it seems like a really difficult balance to strike for most bloggers.

    Alison, I super duper double dog LOVE your blog. I don’t always agree with what you say and I don’t love all your outfits all the time but I love how real you are. You seem like the sort of woman I would be friends with in real life – a straight shooter, no nonsense, but kind and funny and smart with GREAT taste in music!! Over the past year I have noticed a change in your blogging – mainly, that it seems like you just don’t enjoy it as much as you did in the past. Also sometimes I felt you were a little “preachy” about your advice but I have noticed in the past few months a much more inclusive attitude toward fashion and style (says the girl wearing black flats in the office every day of her life). I have kept reading because your pictures are gorgeous, your clothes are attainable, your style is amazing, and your writing is clear, concise, and entertaining. I will keep reading for those same reasons. Thank you for sharing this post and for letting us in on what’s been going on “behind the scenes.”

  • Val

    A lot of my favorite bloggers have been expressing similar frustrations and sentiments lately. I think that you are spot-on when you say that the issue isn’t just an individual one, it is a result of a lot of rapid, drastic change in the blogosphere. As corporations have begun to see blogs as a powerful (and frankly, incredibly cheap) marketing tool, their influence has really been staggering.
    Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with promotions and advertising. I enjoy the free content, and I do want my favorite bloggers to be compensated for their time and their excellent work. But there’s no soul in a blog that is just one constant product review or an attempt to be all things to all readers. The blogger loses her relatability, too — it’s great that Jane Doe was able to re-do her living room with a blank check from XYZ, Inc., but that has no relevance to me, with a $1,000 budget. (Not that you have ever been anywhere close to this level of sponsorship.)
    I’m glad that you are having your own little spring awakening and taking some time to focus on your priorities. It would be such a shame to lose your uniqie voice (or have it watered down).

  • Cynthia Washburn

    Having followed for awhile, I could sense that things were a little “off” with you lately. I agree that it’s a fine line to walk and I think that we all know that people will stumble here and there. I’m glad that you’ve been able to take a look at what you didn’t enjoy anymore and refocus on what you do like about blogging. I also appreciate the honesty and self-assessment that went into this post.

  • http://physwalkofcats.wordpress.com/ Pastel Lady

    What an amazing and honest post! Staying true to yourself and your beliefs is really important. It’s easy to get carried awaybin this wild journey called life.

  • http://physwalkofcats.wordpress.com/ Pastel Lady

    * carried away by

  • racheliacovou

    Oh, Allie. Like a previous commenter, I have also been reading since I thought your name was Dilly. I hope you find the balance that works for you, and that it includes some of your wonderfully honest writing. Take care of yourself.

  • alice

    Your blog is more useful to my life than many others because your outfits work for real life, not my fantasy fashion editor life or costumey theater life. I have to wear clothes that speak for my professional self without being too staid and your blog hits that sweet spot perfectly. I also appreciate your product recommendations and recently got the DHC deep cleaning oil that you mentioned here and LOVE it. When I think back to your older articles (the closet cleanout ones that first brought me to your site), I do miss the snarky voice you had sometimes – it was funny and I didn’t see anything mean-spirited in it.

  • Lexa

    I have a whole lot to say about this. But I will just say this for now: thanks for writing this and thanks for being here with smart and practical advice. I am glad I can call you a friend.

  • http://www.foreveramber.co.uk Amber

    And this is the reason you’re one of my favourite bloggers. Thanks for writing this, Allie: I think you’ve managed to say very eloquently what a lot of bloggers have been feeling lately about our own blogs – I know I have, and I really needed to read something like this around about now to know I’m not the only one. I think you’re right that the fashion blogging world has changed dramatically over the last year or so, and I think it will take people like you and Meaghan to stand up and admit that they don’t always love those changes, and want to get back to what it used to be about for the balance to slowly start to be redressed. Like you, I’ve been blogging for many years now, but it’s still such a new thing really that I think most of us (brands included) are still just feeling our way a lot of the time, and making it up as we go, so it’s always reassuring to read a post like this and feel a little bit less alone in it all!

  • http://www.facebook.com/kristinmhodnett Kristin Hodnett

    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. I’ve been blogging just over 2 years and have felt this way myself.

  • cashmeremystery.wordpress.com

    nice read…..and it is not about blogging….one stops being natural or authentic..doing anything….thanks for sharing true feelings..

  • ReRe1971

    I love reading your posts and your edgy style one day and classic style the next. You have a sparkling smile and I just imagine you to be a really cool chick to hang out with! I love that you are a real person and not a stick figure! You have shown me how to work it! :-)

  • rebs

    Allie, you’re still and always my favorite, girl! I am happy for the return of spring and you feeling better.

  • Dawn Davis

    Good for you, Alison. I recently recommitted to my blog for the writing aspect, so while I don’t have the traffic, etc., worries – I understand the need to have a place to go to write and to be yourself. Looking forward to seeing what you write next. :)

  • anya

    Don’t worry Allie, I actually love your promotions. Your voice has never been anything but genuine to me. Plus, i love hearing opinions on brands and review. After all, we do them all the time, informally as non-bloggers. ( Right now, my girlfriends have a love hate relationship with zara shoes and a love affair with nine west) . Also, i loved your style before ( no nonsence and guidelined) your style last year ( prints! hot pink capris ! summer! ) and you newfound cool minimalist rock elegant direction. You are a person, and it’s so normal to change your mind.

  • Jayneway0317

    I like you just the way you are!! I’m an academic and I go through the same cycles you describe. It’s hard to get out of my head some days too, but we can do it!!

    And I don’t mind your promotions, one bit! I learn things, you learn things, and you get to have a side-business. Win / Win! Keep going Allie!

  • crtfly

    Allie,

    Please do what is authentic for you. I’m right here with many others, cheering you on.

    Chris

  • Kristen P

    Good for you. I understand how easy it is to get caught up in the blogging drama; I’ve been on a few blogs and other sites over the years, and I well remember get entangled in fights, and building up a reputation among readers, growing a “brand”, and all the headaches and time involved that went into it. That’s why on my own blog I use it an outlet for myself and I don’t try to engage further or build a brand, etc. Good for you for realizing the toll it was taking and stepping back into being more you. That’s why I read you in the first place; your fashion advice is always so sensible and relatable, but more than that I love how your life and your personality is what creates your voice. Don’t let that disappear!

  • Sonia

    Allie,

    I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog for a few years now. I love your honest posts, style tips and ability to write on just about everything from clothing to your home life (I still giggle at your post when you were on vacation in Vermont, I believe!).

    Burnout and panic attacks are awful; I’ve experienced them myself and I’m not a blogger but a reader of several.
    Thanks for keeping it real. I too was wondering why your blog had become a bit commercial of late. I still loved the outfits, but couldn’t get into the promotional aspect of it.
    I hope everything works out and calms down for you. There are many followers and readers that care about what you have to say.

  • jo

    This was a refreshing read, you know I think these are problems that affects most bloggers more or less, but some might not come to any insight about it! Glad you did, all the stress must have been terrible.

    And please be as political, feminist, hippie dippy, and “extreme” as you want :) That makes for interesting reading.

  • Sark

    Hey Allie, you gave us all such a gift in sharing so much of your time and energy and knowledge–for free! You don’t owe us anything, we’re just grateful that you keep doing what you do. Never do it for less than love. If you stop loving what you do here, then don’t do it. We will all survive. You have one life, and such a beautiful family! You’ve shared so much that has changed, inspired, and challenged so many people! Lots of people of pinterest think content just happens, thanks for being real. You’re not selfish. Quite often, I think you’re readers are.
    Bless you, and have a cup of tea!