Lianne Williams

Why I Blog publicly rather then privately

Creative Lifestyle, Business & BloggingLianne WilliamsComment
Why i blog publicly and not privately.jpg

And it's not as ‘self indulgent’ as you'd imagine.

I started my first blog back in 2003.

Back then most blogs were literally just an online diary. Every day you'd upload a text post (No photos etc. This was back when we had animated backgrounds and auto-play 8 bit music) and that was that.

If 12 people saw it that was great. If you got a comment that was impressive.

Now-a-days I get tens of thousands of views. Things are SO much different now. Bloggers can be multi millionaires. They’re often labelled ‘influencers’, even ‘experts’. Back when I started blogging, sure, some people were very popular and had ‘big’ blogs, but for the most part it was an obscure niche, a past time, and not many people even knew what a blog was.

I used mine to record my inner monologue... consider my thoughts of the day, practice my writing, vent, keep in touch with friends and update them on what I was up to if they weren't on my MSN or MySpace. Sometimes I got creative with it, I'd upload quizzes, photos, artwork, jokes I liked. It performed much like a Facebook profile before Facebook existed. There was nothing else to it. However, even then, I still couldn't answer that question... why was I sharing all this stuff publicly?

Even now, when blogging has a thriving community and industry behind it, how can I justify sharing content or blogging online if I'm not using it to expand my business or make money?

How can I blog such intimate details about my life, just for fun?

Some friends/family found the idea of a blog, and even a website, alien and intrusive.

Couldn't I just email my friends? Couldn't I keep my blog set to private? Why did I want to blog at all? Why did I use my real name? Surely a paper journal would suffice? Wasn't it arrogant to think anyone would find my life interesting? Wasn't it dangerous to put myself online? Isn't it all just 'keeping up with the Jones' or 'showing off' or 'being self indulgent?'

And even though I didn't have the words to describe why I was doing what I was doing, and why I preferred the format of a blog over a diary, I knew deep down it was about connecting. Not necessarily 'attention seeking' or 'showing off' (and I've considered those possibilities with an open mind) or even just marketing myself or networking in a professional sense... it was more then those things, it was something far more complex then that.

I could only begin to explain my relationship with my blog after recently coming across a concept discovered by Henry A. Landsberger, called The Hawthorne Effect: The tendency that individuals work harder or better when they are being observed.

The Hawthorne Effect was discovered during a study of workers at a factory in the USA when they realised that whilst under observation the productivity and performance of the workers improved, and when the experiment was finished, performance reduced back down to normal levels.

This sounded very familiar to me.

It's also why I think many creatives and bloggers worry about their audience numbers... if you don't feel like you're being watched, it can make us give up and or put less effort in. We like to perform.

Nobody tells a singer or a dancer that they should do it all in private and never have an audience... so why should writers, creatives, bloggers?

After some consideration I realised that for me it also doesn't matter if the audience likes what they see. Rejection is just a natural part of the experience- their attention as an audience alone, positive or negative still contributes to my productivity (it's probably related to positive/negative ego strokes). The simple fact is the knowledge that someone could be watching me is enough for me to commit to blogging... because I don't want to let them down. I want to be on my best behaviour. I want to put on a show for them. 

An audience also seems to provide me with another benefit. By having an audience I will think up better and bolder ways to entertain them. I will try new things, push myself to reach my goals and in turn improve myself as a person.

If it wasn't for my blog I wouldn't have sold art, learnt CSS, HTML, Photoshop, tried brush lettering, baked a rainbow cake, or took myself as a creative seriously- when other people take you seriously, when your audience takes you seriously, you start to wonder...  maybe there’s some truth in it. I wouldn't have been published without my blog. Nobody would have found me or known of my work. I wouldn't have met hundreds of wonderful artists and individuals who genuinely believe in me and what I make. Who buy what I make and read what I write... even if it’s 'whiny' or 'self indulgent' that week. I wouldn't have exhibited. It's even healed me and allowed me to make big changes in my world.

Blogging publicly is a win-win situation.

This is why switching to private as a blogger and as an artist doesn't make sense for me. Why would I make things harder for myself? 

Now I know that's a lot to attribute to just one silly website, but yeah, my blog has been a brilliant way to keep myself accountable and moving forward. More so then my education. More so then social media. More so then life coaches. More so then my own family and friends. Its nagged me, disciplined me, consoled me. It's given me more work and opportunities (and in an industry notoriously difficult to find work in) then my CV and qualifications ever did. It's kept me in touch with people who've been better friends then people I've known my whole life. And of course, it's produced an income: A small but undeniable bonus.

With all the talk about social media addiction, unplugging, detoxes and blogger burn out in the news right now I frequently ask myself, could I have achieved all these things without my blog, by just keeping a sketchbook or a journal? Could I quit the internet? Shut down my blog? I'm not sure I could function without it- certainly not as well. 

It all goes back to that desire for an audience. The audience is vital. Where would I find an audience for my sketchbook? My diary? Who would I check-in with? Look for feedback from? Teach? Entertain? Encourage? I don't live in an artist community. I don't have a willing audience in my social circle. And besides... why can't I have both? Why can't I have a blog that connects me with the world AND an artist community in person? Why can't I blog publicly AND write privately?

Why does it even have to be so black and white?

Then it dawned on me. When I work on my blog I am effectively working on Me.

The process of deciding what to share, putting in the work to create content, live up to my expectations of myself, learn new skills, find the self confidence to share that (regardless of its loved, hated or seen at all) is why I blog.

That's the core reason.

I could also mention the following:

  • Blogging allows me to meet like minded individuals 
  • I am able to explain techniques, processes or ideas in more detail through my blog that I might not have time for in person or via social media
  • I'm creating a resource- a place for people to go to and enjoy. I am making something.
  • I can showcase my portfolio easily for clients as well as show them my other skills and interests
  • I am securing a business that is independent to social media and not reliant on those platforms. If Facebook closes one day it doesn't affect my career.
  • I collaborate with individuals and brands I wouldn’t get the chance to meet otherwise.
  • I can share what I know with the world without the expense of hosting classes or publishing a book.
  • Blogs are a convenient and simple way to keep in touch with people or for new audiences to find you.
  • I can dream aloud and by talking about my dreams I often get help/advice/opportunities from my readers which I wouldn't have been offered otherwise
  • Blogs can generate income. You can also blog for free.
  • I learn new skills, from constructing the blog itself, to running a business, to just the things I learn that I discuss in my blog posts. It's a constant education.
  • There's a schedule to follow. And blogging can help establish a routine if you work from home or are self employed.
  • It's a great way to relax and off load tension, as well as seek support and help.
  • There is a community feeling to blogging. You can always find someone to turn to or get advice from.
  • I feel like there's a sense of legacy with a blog. I hope this is something my children will read when they're older and it will stay around long after I've stopped blogging.

Blogging, for me, is a self reflective tool. When my blog looks good, I’m doing good. When my blog is quiet, I’m probably struggling or stressed out.

Obviously my reasons for blogging may change one day. When Instagram first launched (and I’ve been on it since 2011) it was a fabulous alternative to blogging and one that suited me far better, but sadly they’ve effectively killed off the audience aspect of it now so I’m back to blogging. If something better comes along, if my audience in real life becomes stronger I may put blogging to one side- I don’t know. I’m aware my needs might be different in the future. Things change. People change. But for now, this is how I like things.

My Happiness Project: JANUARY, 'Self Care'

Family & LifeLianne Williams2 Comments
The Happiness Project: January Self Care.jpg

There’s one 8lb 3oz reason why I decided to start my 2018 Happiness Project with a month dedicated to Self Care...

This little guy: 

Lianne Williams Baby Jacob.jpg

Introducing my sweetie, Jacob, who joined us on the 29th December 2017 after an absolutely perfect labour/delivery and has been spending the last week dominating my every living moment because he is so damn cute and I can’t put him down even if I wanted to. 

He is now a week old, my older children are back at school and my husband has gone back to work after Christmas and New Year so I'm right in the throng of it all, recovering from labour, dealing with my body going back to it's pre-pregnancy state, hormones, nursing, sleep deprivation and just getting to grips with things like how to use the pram and you know... bonding with this brand new person who's just walked into my life and calls me Mummy.

Basic self care, sleeping, eating, drinking enough water, can all easily get put to one side and from past experience I can recall how much harder that made things, so this time I promised myself that once I'd given birth I would commit to making life as easy as possible for myself and showing myself as much care as I do my baby. 

Welcome January 2018 and the opportunity to put all those things into place.

My Quote for the month?...

'You can't pour from an empty cup'

I've been amazed at how much better I feel when I feed myself kindly, take my iron supplements, drink enough water, take care of my appearance, allow myself a minute or two of silence and solace, napping in the day and weirdly- doing the housework.

Even though I'm exerting a little more energy to commit to doing all those tasks, the pay off of feeling looked after, fed, hydrated, rested, comfortable and organised means I feel happier, and far less stressed.

The task's I've chosen this month cover a variety of self care areas that I wanted to commit to either because I felt they were key to my happiness, or were areas I knew i'd struggle and I wanted to remind myself not to avoid them.

Do the Minimum. But do it.

This is in regards to completing tasks, mainly housework, and it's something I've introduced to my family too. The idea is, don't aim to do everything perfectly, just do the minimum that needs to be done to get a task over and done with as quickly as possible. And most importantly of all, DO IT. Don’t just leave jobs to fester and get out of control. At the end of every day I’m doing a quick tidy up, no matter how exhausted I am, because when I wake up the next day the feeling of being in a tidy, organised space is utter BLISS. 

Heal my body

I have to admit, I didn't have a particularly difficult labour. In fact, I had one of those dream labours you only hear about in hypnobirthing books so I find myself in an incredibly privileged position in terms of recovery. But none the less I still need to heal my body. Pregnancy and labour are intense. It changes you biologically and physically, and all of that has suddenly lurched full speed into reverse. So that means listening to my body and helping it along. It means accepting life at the pace it dictates and loving myself even when my hair falls out or doing my exercises to repair my diastatis recti- which is particularly bad this time. This is a reminder to heal. Take my pain relief. Eat well to sustain nursing. To get comfortable. To say ‘no, I’m busy right now’.

The happiness Project, January Self Care sleep.jpg

Sleep

Obvious really? I’m a fussy, light sleeper so sleep right now needs careful maintenance, especially as I’m also the type of person who prefers 8-10hrs a night. I doubt I’ll get that for a while but I also know from experience I can function on 4hrs broken sleep a day so I’m going to aim to give myself 6-8hrs sleep a day, whether that’s at night or through napping during the day. Either way it MUST be an absolute priority. Sleep is essential to my well being and I am on a fast track to misery if I don’t respect it.

Feel beautiful. Indulge yourself. 

For me, I can tell if I’m struggling when I don’t take care of my appearance or forget to indulge myself once in a while. It’s the first thing of my self care regime to slip. This isn’t about deliberately putting myself in the path of inconvenience or expense however, it is about defining what REAL indulgence and luxury feels like to me and that can vary from wearing my favourite lipstick to spending the whole day reading. My indulgences this week have included buying a comfortable nursing bra (why are they so torturously uncomfortable???), treating myself to pate and a walk to the shops. It also forces me to think about myself once in a while, remember who I am, and not get too lost within the label of Mother. Ultimately I’m Lianne first, and that should always be honoured.

Ask for help. Check your ego. 

Making sure I ask for help seemed like a great way to practice self care, but history will testify, this isn’t one of my strong points.  Relying on others, asking for help... it all makes me a tad anxious. Not to mention the fear of being rejected, let down or then ultimately being left to fend for myself anyway. A lot of the time it looks far easier to struggle alone then to ask for help but I know deep down, figuring out how to delegate and trust others to watch my back is vital to my well being right now. This month I’m going to try and explore that and find ways to lighten my load that don’t leave me exposed or uncomfortable. Starting with smaller favours and then dealing with any problems as the occur. Ultimately the buck will always fall on me but if I make sure I communicate my needs clearly, ask for help at the right time, choose the right people for the job, and try and not take hesitation/refusal personally, I think I’ll feel much better relying on others.

Goal

To establish a healthy, happy foundation for more intense tasks later on in the year. 

The Happiness Project: My Monthly Themes and Resolution Chart

Creative Lifestyle, Family & LifeLianne WilliamsComment
My monthly themes for The Happiness Project 2018.jpg

I've chosen my themes, I've created a monthly resolution chart to help keep track and I'm ready for 2018!

As you may know I am revisiting The Happiness Project for 2018 so over the last few days I've been considering the areas of my life that I want to focus on and trying to translate them into monthly resolutions and tasks which will make a positive change in my life over the next year.

There's no method to figuring this out. It's different for everyone, so I thought I'd show you what I'm focusing on, how I figured that out, and then provide anyone else who want's a go with their own resolution chart so you can plan your own Happiness Project. You can download that now over in the resource library or click the image below.

My Monthly Themes and what they're about

In the past I've done Happiness Projects which followed similar themes to what Gretchen Rubin (the creator of THP) explored through her own Happiness Project but I've also done very focused Happiness Projects, dedicating each month to a specific medium or artistic pursuit, which was also an excellent way to focus on specific skills that I wanted to improve. But you can honestly choose any theme for that month that you like- it just has to mean something to you.

This year I've decided to go back to core self improvement themes and carry on healing myself after some difficult years and give myself the opportunity to start dreaming about what I'd like to do in this new chapter of my life.

Take a look at what I've settled on and then I'll explain my process and give some tips on choosing your own.

The Happiness Project 2018.jpg
  • January: Self Care. Since giving birth to my son a few days ago I thought it best to start gently and remember the importance of self care and not overwhelming myself. Tasks include 'Do the Minimum' which means making sure I only commit to doing the very essential tasks but also 'Take time for indulgence' so I can feel good and begin physically healing and returning to normality.
  • February: Connecting with Others. February would offer itself as a good time for romance but after months of being anti-social due to an uncomfortable pregnancy I've decided to focus on connecting with others generally. I'll be looking into 'Practising small talk', 'Opening my Home' and 'Witnessing Others'- giving others my attention and time.
  • March: Spring Clean. Something I've been itching to do since Christmas Day but unfortunately will have to put off till now. A much needed Spring Clean with our new family member involved. So I will be revisiting 'Konmari', 'Taking Pride in the Results' and regularly giving myself 'Fresh Flowers'.
  • April: Body. Hopefully by April my body will be ready for a challenge so I'll be asking myself 'What can my body do?' I've always been a creative or intellectual and over the years I've become curious about what my body is physically capable of doing. How strong am I? How do I like to move? What activities can I take up that will engage my body and mind. It's also a month where I hope to 'Fix what's broken' and have a health overhaul.
  • May: Food. Eating and food is one of my big life passions but domestic cookery and dealing with other peoples dietary requirements has killed off a lot of joy in this area for me and I'm hoping to rekindle my relationship with it. Things like 'Cooking for others' and 'Start Fresh' are tasks this month. I really want to push myself to try new recipes and make food a priority again rather then a drag.
  • June: Celebrate Myself. June is my birthday month. Last year I didn't have a great time... in fact I cried for most of the day as I was all alone... and that was my fault. If nobody wants to celebrate with you, you celebrate yourself. So for the month of June I'm going to be focusing on giving myself approval and clapping for my own damn self. This month will be about self love and being my own champion.
  • July: Nature. Hopefully we'll have good weather this summer but either way I intend to reconnect with the outside world in a variety of ways. I'm hoping to 'Embrace Garden Living' and 'Perfect the Picnic' as well as learn some new foraging skills.
  • August: Motherhood: August will be smack bang in the middle of the school summer holidays so I figured it would be a perfect time to hone my parenting skills. Tasks include 'Teach what I want to pass on', 'Memory Making' and 'Practice Selflessness'.
  • September: New Skills: Once the summer holidays are over I often find myself itching to get back to my own projects so I'm going to indulge myself with some new skills. My interests cover everything from Art to Languages so this is a HUGE theme which I couldn't break down into specific subjects that I wanted to learn. Instead I will be focusing on setting effective targets, making sure I ask for help and documenting what I do learn.
  • October: Marriage & Love: October is the month I got married in, and my husbands birthday, so it's a perfect opportunity to have some fun and work on making myself a better person so I can be a better partner. 
  • November: Independence: This coming year will be an intense one and I'll be depending a lot on others just to survive, so come November, when things will have hopefully settled, I think i'll be ready to pick up the reigns and start encouraging myself to be more independent again. This will be a challenging month as I have a lot of fear/anxiety in this area- such as going places alone just as 'Lianne' (and not Mum) or driving to new places. But it can only boost my confidence so it's worth doing.
  • December: Unplug and go Hermit. I chose this theme based on how I've felt this December and I've decided it would be the perfect time to go Hermit mode and explore living without the distractions of electronic devices. I want to embrace traditional hobbies and activities like board games, reading, talking and reconnect with reality and using my hands a lot more. A big task will be to learn how to 'Lead by Example' and not to expect others to join me when I unplug.

Each month I'll try to remember to introduce the new theme and discuss what I'm hoping to achieve in more detail and then round up how that month went. I'm not expecting to succeed at everything but I'm hoping to learn a lot and hopefully boost my happiness overall. If I were to Quantify my current level of happiness I don't think I could rate it out of ten or anything like that but I do know i'd like to achieve the following:

  • Feel more connected to family and friends
  • Be more grateful and content
  • Laugh more
  • Increase my threshold for snapping and be less responsive to things that irritate me
  • Relax more and feel it in my body
  • Listen more
  • Grow in confidence and self awareness
  • Find a sense of security and optimism
  • Give my children a firm foundation for their own adulthood
  • Feel like I've achieved something for myself using my brain and my abilities. (be more then a wife/mum)

Come December 2018 I will reflect on those points and see if anything has changed, improved or whether I've learnt anything about them.

How to pick your own themes and resolutions

  1. Make a list of areas in your life that you'd like to work on. Often we have ones that jump out immediately- you know where it hurts most, and they're often good starting points. Consider how the following areas feel to you right now: Career, Skills, Education, Finance, Love, Family, Friends, Physical, Health, Spiritual, Fun, Recreation, Giving, Community, Home, Legacy and what things you'd like to improve or the ways in which you could be happier.
  2. You could break those bigger themes into smaller ones if you find you really need to dedicate more time to each thing. Perhaps for three months you'd really prefer to focus on your finances? Maybe one month could be Savings, another Debt control and another Making money?
  3. You might have more of a syllabus then a variety of themes, so maybe for a whole year you want to focus on your health so each monthly theme would relate to that like: Diet, Exercise, Mental Health, Check-Ups, Strength, Relaxation etc. That's another way you can approach a Happiness Project.
  4. Make a list of things that make you happy and unhappy. Sounds obvious right but it's really that simple. What's bugged you today? What do you wish for? What do you want by the end of the year? Examine yourself and your feelings throughout the week and note when you feel lowest and when you feel good. Do you always feel guilty for going to bed late? Looking at your phone during dinner? Does going for a walk each day boost your energy levels? Do you feel extra sassy when you wear your hot pink lipstick rather then the nude? Do you have a doctors appointment lurking over you? A place you dream of visiting? A career change you want to make? What can you work on this year?
  5. Find actionable steps based on the things that make you happy/unhappy and decide which steps you're going to tackle this year. You don't have to attempt everything this year. And if you're struggling to find ideas, research the problem and look for advice. If you want to tackle your anxiety have a look at current techniques or talk to experts and look for small steps you can take towards finding happiness. If you want to quit sugar, buy a book on it and examine what needs to be done to achieve that. Once you take those first steps often new doors begin to open. Who knows how much your tasks will evolve beyond their initial considerations.
  6. You often have to guess first what's making you happy/unhappy, test it out, learn from it and then tweak your happiness project to reflect on what you've learnt. You might think for instance that practising yoga will make you happy so you spend a month dedicated to that, only to find it didn't make you happier- you in fact just liked the idea of you liking it (a common issue- people often punish themselves for not enjoying something others enjoy and THP helps us let go of things we secretly don't want for ourselves). From there you can plan your next step because understand yourself better.
  7. Stick to completing 5 big tasks for the month. Don't worry about micro managing and detailing every little thing you hope to achieve that month. That generally happens organically. For instance, in my month of Food one of my resolutions is to 'Make Food I enjoy' but I don't list what those foods are or when I'm going to make them. The tasks are umbrella targets to aim for and within them you will achieve many smaller things.
  8. Don't be afraid to chop and change things around based on the time of year or personal requirements. In fact take inspiration from the time of year and commitments you have. Would you like to travel more? Book that in when you've saved for it or when the weather is good. Hoping to read more? Start early on in the year and then you can create a monthly reading list to compliment that task. Some things often naturally follow on from each other. For instance I wanted to focus on Spring Cleaning when I'd be cooped up indoors rather then the height of summer.
  9. Remember none of this is concrete. It's a learning experience and as you do the Happiness Project you'll realise that some things don't contribute to your happiness and you'll want to add in other tasks or adapt them. That's a good thing and needs to be embraced rather then ignored. Be prepared to edit.
  10. Look at other peoples bucket lists, happiness projects or prompts. I find this useful as I'm reminded of things I'd forgotten about but would like to include.
  11. Make sure you've got a balance of challenges and rewards. It's easy to get stuck focusing on painful areas rather then letting yourself have a bit of fun too, but that's SO important to avoid. Heal yourself with things you'd love to do as well as challenge yourself to make changes that might frighten you or be painful.
  12. Once you've got a list of 12 themes and some ideas on what you could do each month begin putting them into your template. Shuffle things around and create a month that has a mix of big challenges and baby steps. Give yourself too much and you will fail. Make it boring and you probably won't even attempt it.
  13. Find a quote that reflects on the theme that month. I found this really helped define what my goal was for the month.
  14. Explain to yourself in detail what this months goal is and how it's going to make you happier. This can be very insightful and I've scrapped themes when I couldn't answer that question. If it's not going to make you happier- why are you doing it? If you get ripped abs but you're still miserable what's the point? Find a new theme that truly contributes to your life.