Essay

10 Things I’ve Learned About Life from Blogging

by Grace Bonney

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I don’t know if it’s the impending cold weather or some changes that are about to happen in my personal life (more on that soon), but I’ve found myself reflecting on the lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. The blogging generation often gets a bad rap for being too focused on trends and topics that lack substance and depth, but I’ve found that the moments I’ve spent with my online colleagues over the past year have proved to be some of the most meaningful and real. Learning about real life from the Internet can be an odd thing (it often feels like learning about real life from TV or a movie) but it’s no less valid and helpful than lessons learned face-to-face. So today I decided to take a second to step back and look at the ways this incredible platform, blogging, has taught me lessons about real life. From learning to listen more and write less to trusting my gut and finding that patience isn’t everything, the life lessons I’ve learned from blogging are universal and will inform the way I live for years to come. I’m curious to know if these are things you all have learned from running your blogs, too? Or perhaps there are different lessons that I haven’t touched on here. I’m always fascinated to hear how working in this vast and varied community of ours has shaped people’s lives outside of the screen. If you have a moment to share your stories, I’d love to hear what your experiences have been. xo, grace

Click through for the full post after the jump!

Listen More, Write Less

As a blogger, I make my living by writing and sharing things online. But I’ve also learned that everyone (including me) is happier when I listen more and type less. The most important and eye-opening conversations that have happened here, happened because I decided to let someone have their moment to complain, explain or educate us about something we didn’t previously know. In the early days of blogging, it was considered rude to not reply to every comment, but these days I’ve come to feel that letting people have room to talk is the best thing. Everyone’s viewpoint is informed by a unique backstory and experience and I definitely feel better having the chance to get to understand someone through their comment rather than trying to control how they feel, talk or disagree with me about something.

Trust Your Gut

In the past 10 years, the only times I’ve regretted a decision I’ve made have been because I didn’t listen to what my gut was telling me. Working online means that you’re exposing yourself, willingly, to the thoughts and opinions of other people on a regular basis. Most of the time that is a wonderful thing. But sometimes it’s not. Those are the times when you have to cling to the fact that you know something is true/right/accurate for you. It doesn’t absolve you from upsetting someone and it won’t prevent people from disagreeing or becoming angry, but it does mean that at the end of the day, you’re operating from a place of what feels true for you. I’ve had deals and opportunities fall through for all sorts of reasons, and I can speak from experience when I say that nothing feels worse than losing out on something (whether it’s a business deal or a friendship) because of an opinion or statement that is not your own.

Patience Can Be Overrated

If there’s one thing blogging has taught me, it’s that I love being able to publish something at the drop of a hat. In the early days that meant posting brand new products at 2 in the morning if that’s when the press release came through. But these days that means being able to process something, think it over and publish on the same day, if that’s what feels right. I would say 80% of my life is spent thinking and re-thinking something to make sure I’m making a decision for the right reasons, but then there are those perfect times when I know exactly what I want to say or do from the start. Traditional wisdom teaches us to wait and sleep on things, but blogging has always encouraged me to speak now or forever hold my peace. And I’ve grown to love that. It doesn’t mean I go yelling whatever I want willy nilly, but it does mean that when your gut and your mind are on the same page, there isn’t anything wrong with speaking quickly.

Acknowledging Your Privilege is Crucial

Over the past few years I’ve spent a lot of time really looking at the things we write and what people around us write, too. Partially to understand how other people see us and partially to understand why so much of the Internet seems to have a major issue with design/lifestyle bloggers. At the crux of a lot of the problems is this: a failure to acknowledge privilege. Whether it’s a privilege of finance, education, race, gender or sexuality, there’s always something to consider before you start talking online. I know I’ve been privileged to grow up in a way that’s made life easier for me in a lot of respects and whenever I fail to consider that or speak from a place that acknowledges that, I’ve put my own foot in my mouth. I’d like to spend more of my time having real conversations and listening to people, and that means being more considerate and understanding of everyone’s experiences, not just my own.

Passions Can Change – and Become Routine

The blogosphere is quick to rally around the phrase “Do What You Love,” as if it’s a solution to all the problems surrounding happiness and jobs. But even the most wonderful, passion-based career, built around what you love most in the world, can start to feel like a “job” in the worst sense of the word. And even the most wonderful job will have aspects of it that aren’t fun. I am the worst admin worker ever, always putting off mailing things and getting paperwork done, but it’s part of a job I feel lucky to have, so I try to keep that in mind. I also try to keep in mind that no passion and no job stay the same forever. Blogging has taught me to stay open-minded, light on my feet and remain open to the idea that what “defined” me in my 20s may not continue to define me in the same way a decade later.

Screenshots are Real

In real life, we have often benefited from people having memories that fade over the years. If you’ve said something you regret, people can generally forgive and (sort of) forget. But that doesn’t exist in the Internet. Sure, there will be another scandal or issue for people to focus on, but screenshots are alive and well and can be not-so-friendly reminders of behavior we’ve contributed to the web. Thinking about this makes me a lot less quick to express opinions or spout off rants that aren’t positive. It doesn’t mean I don’t have those thoughts, but remembering that some people could see and save that rant is a friendly reminder to keep those thoughts to myself most of the time.

Time Away from the Computer is 100% Necessary

As an extreme introvert, I’m someone who could easily spend a week indoors without ever going out. I’ve done it before and if I didn’t adopt a dog, I would probably still be prone to fits of major homebody-ness. Life online is alluring and tempting in this way that real life isn’t, because it feels like (the operative word being “feels”) you can control the information you receive. If you’re desiring a certain type of response, you know exactly where to get it. But in real life, things don’t work that way. You have to engage face-to-face, receive negative and positive (and everything in between) responses in real time and you don’t have a school of Internet supporters who will pop up right away to remind you that you’re the best and everything will be just fine (thumbs up, clapping hands, happy face emoticon). Without realizing it, the Internet was enforcing my introversion to an unhealthy degree and finally forcing myself to have a life outside of the screen (where no one knew – or cared in the least bit – what I did for a living) was the key to finding real balance.

Letting Go Is a Terrifying But Beautiful Thing

FOMO and YOLO culture would have us believe that every major decision is always right at your fingertips and just about to be missed. You know that dream life you want? If you would just join in and do this thing and say yes and sign up RIGHT NOW, you could have it! The catch is, not all decisions can happen that way. It’s impossible that every great thing that will happen in your life will be missed if you don’t say “yes” to everything, right now. So learning to say “no” is important. But I’ve found that saying no actually isn’t the hard part. It’s dealing with people’s reactions that is the hard part. Sometimes it will be fine, but sometimes you may have to let someone down or miss out on something. You might even be replaced by someone you consider a competitor. But at the end of the day, you have to consider who you plan to have by your side when you’re 80 years old. Will it be that blogger you’re always trying to beat in every competition? Will it be that hot new company you really want to partner with? Probably not. It will most likely be your friends, family, partner, whoever really matters in your life. So learning to let go of the things that seem like you “have” to do immediately is a great skill to learn as early as possible.

There is No Need for #1

I will never understand the Internet’s desire to choose a #1 or imply that there can only be 5 or 10 “great” types of anything per year. I wish instead people would give out awards or general pats on the back for people doing great things throughout the year. I think that would truly reflect the sort of wide-ranging, talent-deep waters that we work in online. The wonderful thing about the web is that there’s plenty of room for everyone here. Yes, you have to work harder to stand out in a deeper pool of people, but now we all benefit from the fact that readers want to read many blogs, not just one. No one is saying “I can only choose ONE design blog to read! No more!” They are reading dozens and dozens and aggregating even more via Pinterest and other social media outlets. Once I understood that concept (that there’s room for everyone), it made me approach life a lot differently. I used to feel embarrassingly jealous of or possessive of my friends but when I got my mind around the fact that the term “best” didn’t mean anything as long as my friends were good friends and we were all supportive of each other, I let go of feeling the need to be someone’s “only” or “best” friend. Having friends at all is a true gift so ranking any of them seemed silly.

Good People Are Everywhere

I would never expect to find more faith in humanity after working in the blog world, but I have. Sure, there are days when I want to throw my hands in the air and yell, “Really?”, but most days I feel pretty amazed at how much talent there still is to discover, how much kindness and generosity lives online and how many people genuinely want to connect with and help people they like. Every job has its up and down days, but I am consistently grateful that my “office” (the Internet) is a place where there is a constantly growing and evolving group of co-workers that can contribute something wonderful to not only my life, but everyone else’s.

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Comments

  • well said! i loved this so much and shared on my fb page and personal fb page. so true about passions changing, and letting it be ok. also, the #1, etc- so many “big” bloggers make some newbies feel like there’s no room for new or more blogs (i am not a newbie, but have seen this happen). but wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if there were lots of unique diverse bloggers?

  • I’ve likely typed the words “Grace you’re an inspiration” an infinite number of times in comments on D*S. It’s simply the truth.
    I’m trying to feel my way through the world of blogs/vlogs/social media et cetera.
    It’s immensely overwhelming, contradictory and confusing.
    D*S helps keep me remain grounded.
    Your advice in this post in very valuable and can certainly be applied in general to life, not just blogging.
    Thanks Grace :)

  • Amazing, these are all so true. I love your point about privilege though; the more time I spend in the blogosphere, the more our privilege becomes evident to me. I’m still wrestling with how we can be good advocates for the voiceless even as we share our own thoughts and experiences with humility on our blogs. I really appreciate you writing this, it’s inspiring to think about how our blogs fit into the larger story of our own lives and the communities around us.

  • Cool piece. On “Do what you love”: I remember seeing an opinion piece recently that urged people to stop spouting that mantra because it has a way of devaluing the real labor aspect of your work. At first I found the article a little off-putting, but as I thought about it more it started to make more sense – if you’re always placing pressure on yourself to constantly love what you do, of course you’re going to feel guilty whenever you aren’t totally loving some part of your work (which is, of course, normal). Ideally our work is fulfilling in multiple ways, and we look forward to it most days – but I think that there is some truth in the idea that the “do what you love/love what you do” philosophy can be oversimplifying and sometimes unrealistic. Not to mention that it is also a privilege and blessing to totally love what you do in the first place! Anyway, I completely agree with the points you make about passions changing, and learning to be at peace with that.

  • With my blog, Plum + Trinket, just starting out, it’s so great to read a post like this. It’s so comforting and reassuring to hear seasoned words of wisdom like this and I truly appreciate you sharing this knowledge with the online community. It takes courage. Thank you!

  • “Everyone’s viewpoint is informed by a unique backstory and experience and I definitely feel better having the chance to get to understand someone through their comment rather than trying to control how they feel, talk or disagree with me about something.” I love this quote and the rest of this post so much. It’s been such a joy watching this blog grow and bloom, and all the while you and the rest of us are glowing and blooming along with it. This post articulates that process perfectly. Thank you for writing this, Grace.

    • Thanks, Kristen- and thanks everyone else. I’d love to hear any lessons you all have learned from blogging, too. Everyone has such different experiences online :)

      Grace

  • Great info! I’ve been blogging since April and have found blogging to be a great way to meet some really wonderful people and for sure a huge privilege to be able to share my photos and travels with folks who might not otherwise get to experience them. The hardest aspect is for sure visibility and gaining readers.

  • This is a fabulous review of your blogging experience! I just started about 2 months ago, but its great to see how a passion can evolve and change your life – I’m looking forward to it! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you, Grace! I recently took a qigong class where the Master informed that screens are poisoning us. I can’t be away from my tv/computer/phone all the time, but definitely lessening it, consciously, has improved my energy levels.

  • I’m a Brazilian designer and I really agree with your points of view. It’s perfect when we found people like you on web who share yours expiriences sincerely.
    Great post! It help me a lot.

  • As per usual, the essays are my favorite! Very well done. I enjoy feeling like I connect with you and your team on a personal level…and of course, now I’m feeling nosy about your personal life changes. It may be weird to feel connected to people I’ve never met, but know that there’s a little me out here cheering and loving everything you and your team do. You are always giving me new points of view to think about!

  • Grace, I love the design content of your blog, but I look forward to your biz ladies posts and personal essays like these the most. Thank you for writing them, and please feel inspired to continue doing so- they are important. Regarding this essay, I thing the point about recognizing privilege is spot on. I hadn’t been able to voice what differentiated one lifestyle/fashion/design blog from another (one being “superficial” and another resonating, though the content is much the same), though you’ve perfectly captured it. Anyway, great piece- thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

  • I’ve learned a thing or two from your blog as well, so thank you. I love that you seem to have ethics, good manners and are a good sharer. This essay and that on ‘gender specific’ design especially resonate with me, although I read everything you publish.

  • I’m popping by the comments to thank D*S for their good work on the matter of privilege, particularly financial privilege, an area in which the blindness of some individuals have completely turned me off their work. Your efforts are appreciated over here.

  • As a newbie to blogging – I’ve only been writing mine since March 2014 and these honest comments are invaluable advice. Thank you for sharing – they have now been stuck to my wall for when I need them :)

  • I love this post and I love D*S. Want to know what one of my absolute fave D*S moments was? When you found a darling little stray kitty cat and posted about her to help find her a home. She was adopted by two amazing graphic artists/illustrators who named her Mischa!

  • Oh my gosh. It is sooooo true about passions changing. There have been a number of things that I thought “were it” and then months later, whomp, whomp, whomp! I’m glad someone else understands that. I really enjoyed reading this post and have added you to my bloglovin so I can come back for more!

  • I love this! I just started blogging on interior design after losing my job of 20+ years. I have already met some amazing people. I too have opinions on everything out there but pull back and try to keep my blog positive and about interior decorating only (with a fave recipe thrown in here and there). I believe interior decorating is not the end-all to have a happy life of course but I feel it’s important to make a pretty nest for your family so they can have someplace to go after being out in the Mad Mad World we live in. Thanks for this :)

  • I love, love, love this post! I’ve been blogging for five years now and I can proudly say I wouldn’t have learned so many life lessons without it. That includes the fact privilege exists and there are so many amazing and genuine people on the internet. Great read!

  • Awesome post – so much wisdom! The thoughts on privilege resonated with me most. I’ve been criticized for being passionate about fashion, style, and blogging – when there are so many problems in the world – but my thoughts are that it is the same as hobbies such as sports, partying, etc. It’s a way of seeing beauty and being inspired and given hope everyday. I too have found good everywhere from the people I’ve met blogging. Thank you!

    Warm Regards,
    Alexandra

  • Grace. This is amazing. It feels so much from the heart. While, I’m not a blogger, I feel every lesson can and should be applied to running any type of creative business. It all feels so important. Especially trusting your gut, saying no, and taking time away! These posts are so important, I hope you never stop! They remind us that there are people with questions, challenges, fears, and joys, behind every blog. And that we are all in this together.

  • Thank you for sharing Grace! I have been running my own interior design business for the past 7 years, and only added a blog component a few months ago. I’m really amazed at how it has been helping me build my business and connect with new friends. I used to feel so lonely and isolated working by myself for years on end. I never really thought of the internet as being “alive” before, but now I’m discovering that it’s much easier than I realized to reach out and make connections online.

  • I love the reminder about there not being a “number one” for everything! The thing I like most about some of the blogs are read are the little quirks and unique things that writer or designer brings to the table… not whether they have a competitive edge. The power-house-blogs out there produce some really gorgeous and amazing things, but so do some of the smaller and newer blogs. Sometimes without the pressure to compete, people produce the most original and fresh stuff. And actually, when people post a complete fail or struggle it makes me feel much more like I can relate!

  • Oh wow. This might be one of my favourite posts in a long time – and my reader counts an embarrassing number of blogs. As lame as it sounds I agree fully with everything you said and would be too intimidated and amazed by the way you wrote this to even think of anything to add. The blog world has been a true blessing for me, too, in more ways than I can keep track of. One of my favourite parts, though, is that all of us can trust in never being alone. Even when others are living so far away, there will be a ‘blend’/blog friend – or more, really – to listen and give valuable advice. If we find the right balance – recognizing myself in your introvert statement – blogging can be one of the best things to happen to us.

  • This was so great! It was all great advice, and I totally agree with the “there is no need for #1” section. It’s sometimes easy to forget that I’m blogging for ME and get wrapped up in and worried about everyone who is “better” than me in the blogging universe. I need to remember your words more often, and let it be MY best…particularly since I have a year-round showcase for artists and makers that I love–there is no #1 because everyone has something beautiful to offer!

  • I came to your blog from ellendacoop and I am so glad I visited. In our hurry up rush rush world of being on 24/7/365 I am so thankful to take time for blogging and connecting with wonderful people all over this world. Thank you for your post. Creative Bliss…

  • I love this post! Thank you so much for all of your thoughtful work, and for sharing it with all of us. Are you sure you are not 150 years old, Grace? Pretty amazing insight and so much experience you have! I cannot say enough about how much DS brings to my week (every week)!!

  • Love this post! It’s all so true, and not of just blogging, but any online publishing.

    One thing I have learned from online experiences is how much deeper having a connection online can make relationships. I’ve had the experience several times over where I knew someone as a not-very-close friend or acquaintance and never thought we had much in common. After knowing them online, however, through Facebook likes, Pins, Instagram pictures, and blog recommends, we communicate more and more and become much closer than we likely would have been able to become if our relationship had solely been through the group hangouts where we met.

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