Part 1: My Blogging Journey

I have been blogging for 6 years and have only written piecemeal about why and how I started In My Own Style. Last week, I was reminded of my blogging journey when I read a post Ed wrote on his blog.  Did you know that my husband has a website? He does. I created it for him a few years ago. I used a DIY blog theme that I had used when I first started my own blog.  He uses his site as a place he can share his ideas for his consulting business.

He recently wrote a post entitled:  Education – With a Twist of Passion.  The post is basically about me and how I took my passion to make my dream of becoming a magazine editor come true. I consider my blog, my magazine where I am the editor-in-chief. :-)

In My Own Style Blog Decorating blog

Reading his post got me thinking of what I have accomplished.

I have to backtrack a little to tell the story of how my creative life began.  For me, it started back in grade/high school where all I wanted to do was create, but the curriculum of the day only taught one way…“teach to pass the academic tests”.  I didn’t do well, but got by. I knew then that there was a different path for me. I just had to find it. I couldn’t concentrate on the numbers when I had to take math tests. All I wanted to do was reach for the box of crayons in my desk to make my test paper look pretty.

flourish

When I went to college, I flourished because the courses I was finally allowed to take fueled my passion. I was no longer being taught “to the academic test”.  In college, I was being taught about the things I wanted to learn about…creativity, style, and fashion.Algebra

College allowed me a chance to see that there was a way I could use my creativity to make a living and it didn’t involve smarts in chemistry, algebra, or Shakespeare.

College grad
Circa 1981: Fashion Institute of Technology Graduation at Radio City, NYC

The most important thing I learned while in college was that even though I was amongst thousands of other creative students, we each had a unique gift. Finding it and being confident enough to use it in our own unique way would open doors. This way of thinking led me to a dream job of working in retail display where I could make and create every day and get paid to do it.

I remember when I decided to start the blog. I had started one 2 years earlier called, Style in the Making, but I abandoned it to create a website for jewelry I began making. That site was called Styledi.  I created that site from scratch and was quite proud of it, but knew in my heart that a blog was where I could share more than just handmade jewelry. I finally decided to take a chance on my dream. A voice inside of me kept whispering that I could do this. I decided to close up the jewelry shop to start In My Own Style. 

DIY blogger supplies

To start any website, you need to have a domain name. I really wanted to use Style In the Making again, but someone else had taken it. I didn’t know back then that I could have kept the name for $10 a year so no one else could claim it. I had to come up with a new domain name for my blog before I could proceed.

About the same time, Ed lost his job and we had to reprioritize the way we lived. We vowed to stay positive and make the best of what life had dealt us.

Reality often swamps and paralyzes our imagination. For me, the reality of living with Ed’s unemployment had quite the opposite effect. It fueled me.  I found that it’s better sometimes to have too little, because it makes you more resourceful and creative.

We had already paid for a September vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina so we decided to still take it.  It was just the two of us; we were new empty-nesters since both of our daughters were in college.

While on that vacation, I kept a spiral notebook with me to jot down all sorts of blog name ideas. I literally had pages of names.  I knew when we returned I would have to register a domain name as a first step to start the blog.  I decided on In My Own Style as the name of my blog for two reasons.

The first reason relates to the writing of my book, Instant Decorating. I wanted many parts of it to be arranged differently, but had no say in the layout and how the content was presented. The editors at Meredith made all of those decisions.

Instant Decorating Book: Pre-Blogging tutorials

I am proud of my book, but missed out on doing it my way.  My blog was where I was going to do it my way. The second reason for naming my blog, In My Own Style was that I didn’t want the name to only reflect decorating. I wanted it to encompass lifestyle, travel, and all of the other things in which I was interested.  I did post this stool cover tutorial from my book on my blog.  You can find it here:  Dish Towel Stool Covers

It took me about 2 months from registering the domain name to publishing my first post. My first post was a sketch I drew of a favorite outfit. It was not decorating-related, but something I could easily scan and place in as a test of how the whole back end of a blog works and then you magically press Publish and it is out on the Internet for the world to read. I remember getting my first comment. It was from Kim Johnson Gross, the author of the Chic Simple series of books. I realized then just how far my reach as a blogger could go.

Blogging was still fairly new when I jumped in with both feet. I learned as I went. If I had waited to learn first, I might never have started the blog.

Learning became easy since I was following my passion. I asked tons of questions and read everything I could.  I also had a great local resource to tap into that helped get me over the hurdles. I cannot thank Jo-Lynne Shane enough for the affordable monthly PSMM workshops she ran. She started a local Philadelphia area bloggers group where I learned almost everything I needed to know about the technical side of blogging, including simple HTML, CSS, SEO, photography, and more.

I also credit Tiffany Romano of The SITS Girls, who are now know as Massive Sway for their affordable day conference that I attended in 2010. These were invaluable to becoming a successful blogger.  If you are a new blogger or are thinking of starting one, attending a blog conference will help you in many ways. There is so much to learn as the online world changes constantly. Attending blogger conferences is money well spent.

My ideas on how to decorate a home are sometimes not the “conventional way” of doing things. As I discovered in college, the nature of our particular genius happens when we stop trying to conform to other people’s model, learn to be ourselves, and allow our natural channel to open and go forth confidently with our way of doing things, whatever it may be.

In the early days of the blog, I wrote that I used hot glue to keep a door handle in a fixed position. Almost immediately I received a comment saying…“You did what? You can’t do that.”   Well… yes I can! 

It was a defining moment for me. My way worked just fine.  The conventional way of doing something is not always the only way to do something well. This knowledge came from years of working in retail display where we had to make a display in a few hours using nothing but the supplies we had in the store’s prop room.  I became very resourceful and creative using odds and ends and zero budget.

Career and Passion quote for blogging

For the first year and a half of the blog, I continued my full-time job in display since I wasn’t making any money from blogging. Advertising revenue had just started to pick up, but was not enough to pay the bills. I stayed up late and survived on 4 hours’ sleep on weeknights so I could blog and work 9-5. At this time, I also started to write a weekly post for another site, called Momtastic. Soon after this, Glidden Paint called asking me to be one of their bloggers to write for their blog, My Colortopia. This was a big turning point for me in how I could make a living writing about what I know best. I was now not only writing for my blog, but getting paid by others to write for their sites. On my lunch breaks at work, I went out to my car to write and read without getting interrupted. I read every “Dummies Guide” to Blogging, Photoshop, Photography, Twitter and more.

At this point, I started making more money from my blog than my 9-5 display job. I decided to take a chance and quit my job to begin life as a full-time blogger.  This was a tough decision since it also meant we would have to give up the health care benefits that came with my job.  Out-of-pocket health insurance as you know is expensive, but Ed was on board and I left my job to start blogging full-time….

… stay tuned for Part Two. Click here to go to it: My Blogging Journey Part 2

I am also happy to report that my long-time relationships with Glidden and True Value Hardware as well as with HomeGoods will continue. I truly appreciate any love you can give these sponsors when you start a new project and need supplies or decorative accessories.  They are one of the reasons that make it possible for me to keep blogging. The other way is the advertising on my site.  More on this coming in Part Two of this post.

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27 Comments

  1. Thank you for telling us how you started your blog. It gave so many important tips.
    Smiles

  2. I so love your glued door handle. The yes you can do it your way! It’s your blog! Live your story part 1. I discovered you this morning and I so love your style, ideas etc. Thanks for doing your blog!

  3. Blogging is something that keeps bubbling up to the surface of my brain (who knows what else is lurking below the surface!). You mention blogging conferences — are there any you would recommend checking into?

  4. Hi Diane, I really enjoyed reading about your journey. I think I’ve been reading you almost since you began and your blog is one of my favorites. I’m a holdover from the earlier days of blogging (pre-monetizing) and I’m so impressed with how you’ve done such a beautiful and professional job of it. You really are “editor-in-chief” and your lovely hand shows in every post!

  5. First off, I love that you take the time to reply to most of the comments. That is so sincere of you!! It let’s us know you read what we say and you appreciate us as much as we appreciate you – so for that, I thank you!

    Second of all, thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable. I am still new. Still afraid. Still learning. Wanting. Hoping. Wishing. Dreaming. Re-designing and re-theming. Organizing and painting and writing and photographing and the list is never ever ending and I am tired. You provided me with a ton of encouragement right when I needed it and I can’t wait for the next post! :)

    1. Hi Jenny – As you know first hand blogging is a 24/7 job. Somedays it takes everything you got and then some. I think we each have to find out what works for us in the way and amount we post. I know for me 2-3 posts a week is the most I can ever do since DIY style posts take a lot of time to produce. Once you find your rhythm, it does get a easier. The first two years were the hardest since you are working so hard to build content, but also to find your following. All the competition and everything that you need to know can become overwhelming. Find what makes you the happiest to write about it and do it. That is what will make blogging a success for you. Your blog is beautiful and you are well on your way. XO

  6. Hello Diane,
    Have been reading your blog for a while now, and thoroughly enjoy all that you blog about.
    Love the whole post about your start-up life as a blogger. I, too, have a blog that I began just over a year ago.
    Can’t wait for part two……
    Keep up the fantastic job.
    Kindest regards, Judy

  7. Thank you for sharing your blogging journey. I can relate most of your situations. Your story gave me hope to continue my blog. Looking forward for part 2! :)

  8. Thanks for sharing Diane! It’s always interesting to hear how a blogger got started. Looking forward to Part 2!

  9. Thanks for sharing your blogging story. I have only published two posts on my neophyte blog so I can identify with your early blogging days. I have your book, Instant Decorating, that I bought quite some time ago. You are right–the projects can be done in any style. My husband liked your window sash table and has made his own version of them several times. They sold very well on Craigslist. I’m looking forward to reading part 2!

  10. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person! Congrats and best wishes for your continued success. Your blog works because you are the real deal, doing it in own style. Thanks for sharing your talents with us and encouraging us to step out of ourselves and go for it.

  11. You are always so inspiring to me Diane! I love learning your story and can’t wait for part 2!!!
    When my husband lost his job, I too discovered that the lack of income forced a new level of creativity from me. Really it was a gift. There always is a silver lining if we choose to look for it. Congratulations on your success. I’m so happy for you!!

  12. Wonderful to learn your backstory and realize blogging is not just for the twentysomethings! I’m about to become an empty nester myself and embarked on my blogging journey back in January with the goal to work toward increasing personal fulfilment in my vocation. It’s interesting to hear the story of people’s motivation to become a blogger and enjoyable to follow them as they share their thoughts and knowledge. I look forward to following your posts and picking up some creative inspiration!

  13. I enjoy reading your blog, and this post on how you got started blogging is especially interesting! I’m looking forward to reading Part 2. Your photos are always so beautiful with excellent lighting, wonderful color and arrangement. May I ask what camera and photo editing tool you use? I would be interested in reading what you have to share about photography for bloggers, and how to make Pinterest worthy photos.

  14. Diane your graduation picture is adorable, you haven’t changed a bit except for the shorter hair.
    I wish I had the time to blog, I work full time and mostly for the health insurance. I’m counting down the years to retirement.
    I enjoy your blog. You have inspired me to try many things that I normally wouldn’t have. I spray paint everything now – lol
    Looking forward to reading Part Two.
    -Lisa

  15. Hi Diane,

    I found your blog a few months ago and have been enjoying it ever since. I appreciate your own style and that you are creating an environment that is for your enjoyment. It is so refreshing.

    Reading about your background, felt like a glimpse into my life. I wasn’t the best student but enjoyed art classes, drawing, creating and decorating my room. I never did make it into a creative field for my employment, but that creative urge has never gone away and has been coming back with a vengeance. Now that I am an empty-nester, I have been giving some thought to blogging and/or opening an Etsy shop.
    I enjoyed today’s post and look forward to Part 2. It might just provide the inspiration I need. It seems a bit intimidating at times to just take that leap.

  16. As a relatively new blogger, I love hearing stories about people that have made their blog work. I know it takes a lot of work, but I love my little blog already. :)

    I look forward to the next installment.

  17. …oh yes, and HGTV? When it first started up, it was mostly ‘how to’ programs – I miss that now, some of my favorite people had shows that I dearly loved. I still watch to see decorating programs, but it’s so different. I’ve written to them recently to ask for some of that programming to return… no replies.

  18. What a great look at how you arrived here in my computer! I think Ed is pretty cool too, wonderful story for your next book, “how to blog and become blogworthy” – I’ll buy it!

  19. Thanks for sharing…I’m a young mom of 4 little ones under the age of 6…but it’s a dream of mine to blog and have my own website. :)

  20. Loved the post. You are my blogging hero and role model. I wish I had started earlier but my daughter was the reason I didn’t and she is still the reality that paralyzes my imagination unfortunately. It’s so much work dealing with her issues.
    Did you tell me about the book before? Did I forget that? So cool.

    1. Hi Julia – Thanks. I was am empty nester when I started so I could devote my time to starting the blog. You are on the right path with your daughter and such a good mom XO. My book was published back in 1994. It is no longer in print, but copies can be found on ebay and the used book section on amazon. It came in a hard and soft back editions. The fabrics I used look dated now, but the projects themselves are timeless. I used to promote the book on the pre HGTV show, Our Home. It was on Lifetime TV. Lots of fond memories. :-)