Blogging Q&A, Part Three: Grab Bag

25 October 2021

At long last, I’m back with the third and final entry in this blogging series! We’ve chatted about the nuts and bolts of blogging and all about content, and today we’re wrapping things up with deep thoughts, the future, and other assorted grab bag items. (There will be one more series-adjacent post with writing tips – coming soon!) Thank you again for your questions, your interest, and your engagement, with this series and always. It means so much!

Without further ado…

Mostly unrelated, but the cutest package from my friend Katie’s shop!

I’ve noticed you have quite a lot of readers who also comment, so I am wondering how they get here. Once they’re here, how do you get them to stay and become involved enough to comment?

Great question. I do not know the exact answer, but I have a few theories.

1) Many of my earlier readers found me through Southern Weddings. SW was a beloved and personal brand (I wrote about my wedding planning on it!), and so many readers felt they knew me and cared about me before they ever found Em for Marvelous. Working with Southern Weddings was a shortcut to people caring about me.

2) I genuinely care about my readers, and I think (I hope!) that comes through in my writing, my choice of content, and our interactions. I do my best to answer questions, reply to comments, and respond to emails, and if someone leaves a comment here and has a blog of their own, I try to return the favor. (I know how much it means!)

3) I like to think I write about interesting topics that engender conversation. I love discussing interesting things with interesting people (it’s why I started an Articles Club!), and from what I can tell, this blog attracts people who feel the same way. Eventually, a flywheel effect takes hold – once you know smart and kind people are commenting, you’re more likely to check the comments, which results in more engaging comments.

4) This feels like a community because there’s no agenda. I don’t need to sell you something. You are here because you appreciate what I have to offer; because you know I do it for the enjoyment and privilege of sharing, perhaps you express your gratitude through joining the conversation.

Those are my best guesses, anyway. You tell me :)

What are your favorite blogs right now, and why?

When I open up Feedly and there’s new content, these are the subscriptions I’m happiest to see updates from:

Cup of Jo | In my opinion, no one does it better than Joanna. Many blogs tout themselves as feeling like a conversation with your stylish and in-the-know best friend, but all of them pale in comparison to CoJ. She showcases diverse voices, excellent writing, and interesting topics – content that feels relatable, genuine, and infinitely discussable. I appreciate that I’ve discovered beloved recipes, genius parenting ideas, hidden travel destinations, and unique gift ideas from its archives, and also that it serves as a bulwark against my own confirmation bias. Reading CoJ helps me understand the motivations and perspectives of people who are different than me, and to empathize with them. On that note, I very much admire how Joanna handles her highly-engaged community – they’re fiercely passionate about everything, including her site, and she handles moderation and feedback with grace, empathy, and good humor.

Everyday Reading | If I had to choose one blogger who is most aligned with my core values and predilections as a person and parent, it would be Janssen. We have our differences, to be sure, but she is by far the blogger who most often leaves me saying “yes!!!” after reading one of her posts. I love her focus on raising vibrant, confident, resourceful humans, and in a world of content that can often feel like the same ideas repackaged over and over, she consistently shares posts that are clever, unique, and thoughtful.

Many of you say reading EFM is like hearing from a big sister. With Janssen’s youngest of four daughters being about the same age as June, I feel the same way about her.

Something Pretty | Lisa is a dear friend and beautiful writer. Our taste and style is similar, so I know if she’s recommending something, I’ll likely love it, too! Even though I get to chat with her in real life whenever I want, I still love reading her thoughts on faith, family, and celebration.

Honorable mentions go to Coffee + Crumbs and The Fashion Magpie! Both share beautiful essays that make me think, feel relatable, or encourage me to grow in some way.

Do you plan to write a book one day? (I think you should!)

If just one of you had sent this question in, I would have blushed and grinned and ignored it. Since four of you did, I felt like I had to include it, ha!

But really, a book?! Who do you people think I am? Ha! I know we live in an era when seemingly every content creator has an ambition to publish something, but the idea of writing a book has never occurred to me in any serious way. What would you even want me to write about?

On a more serious note, my proximity to the publishing industry in various ways (through work, and through my brother-in-law, a literary agent) has made me aware of many of its stark realities. Mainly, that to get a debut book deal (especially in the non-fiction realm), having a huge social following is almost a requirement. With stripped-down budgets and a saturated market, the publishers want you to be able to do much of the heavy lifting of publicity and driving sales.

(Note: Many of you are probably familiar with my 2021 goal to create a book for my family from the first ten years of EFM. I’m still excited about this goal, but it will be rolling to 2022, since exactly zero progress has been made, ha.)

Would you want this to be your full-time job?

Heck no. Heeeeeeeeeeeeck no. I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when I seriously considered this, but it has gotten even less appealing over time.

I love writing – crafting a beautiful sentence and shaping an idea until it comes out just right. I love teaching and sharing. I love meeting friends in the comments and learning together. I love writing about topics I find important, but that don’t, in my opinion, get enough air time. I love leading a community united around getting better every day and enjoying the beautiful world along the way.

I don’t like scouring the interwebs for shopping round-ups.

I don’t want the pressure to be on my phone and on social media at all times, posting and engaging and fighting the algorithm. I don’t want the landmine-dotted landscape that shadows every professional influencer: of never saying the “wrong” thing or not saying the “right” thing.

I don’t want to monetize a brand that’s built around my family or myself, further complicating the issue of privacy and boundaries.

I don’t want the entrepreneur life of wearing all the hats. I’d rather not have an unpredictable income.

I don’t want someone else to tell me what to write about and I don’t ever want to feel I have to compromise my opinions or convictions for the sake of making a sale.

So no, turning this blog into a job is not for me. I would love to be able to devote more time to it in the future, but only if that was possible without needing it to produce income!

How do you deal with negative people or criticism?

I’m almost scared to write this, but I have very, very rarely received negativity or criticism online (at least not that I’m aware of, ha!). In fact, I can only think of one instance, and it’s so mild it almost doesn’t bear retelling, but here it is: in one of my annual surveys, a reader rather brusquely commented that she didn’t care for me posting the yearly videos of our kids, because she thought it was oversharing.

Pretty innocuous, yes, but I think it stung because protecting our children is one of my most important jobs, and sharing about them is something I think about more than almost anything else. It’s also a lot higher stakes than something else they could have criticized, and so I’m more sensitive to the idea that I might actually be doing it wrong.

We do deal with disgruntled people at work, and I often get called in to advise since I’m known as the diplomat on our team. In those cases, I try to remember that “hurt people hurt people” and that a rude or angry comment is very rarely about you. Usually, it is both possible and satisfying to transform an ugly interaction by treating the other person as if they had good intentions – the old “killing them with kindness” idea :)

What do you think is the future of EFM? Of blogging in general? Growth versus decline?

Seven years ago (!) I wrote a post commemorating my sixth blogging anniversary. Here is part of what I wrote, including a lengthy quote from Erin Loechner (in italics):

“I know lots of people think Instagram and Pinterest have combined to sink blogs. I agree that social media has changed the way a lot of people blog, including myself. But those two platforms on their own would never make me stop blogging, because to me, blogging is an incredibly lovely – and powerful – form of storytelling. Erin Loechner worded it much more eloquently than I:

Storytelling doesn’t die… And blogging is storytelling, but with a megaphone. We’re just here, on our soapboxes, sharing what we know – the good and the bad and the mundane and the pointless and, sometimes, a few words string together in the right way and spark a life change in someone we’ve never met.

It’s good. It’s necessary. We’re cavemen, carving our stories on the walls of this Internet mountain – words and pictures and documentation that we were here. We existed.

I think about this all the time, about the kind of picture I’m carving. Is it worth it? Is it profound enough to exist in my mountain for future generations to view and question and fill in the blanks about the kind of people we were? The answer, of course, is yes. Absolutely, yes, one thousand times over… we’re telling a story that history will use to piece together the puzzles of this age. And that’s a story I want to be a part of.

Blogging won’t die, because it was never truly alive. The stories, the voices – that’s where the heart beats. And storytelling, friends, is forever.

I love being a part of the story, and so from where I sit now, I’m in it for the long haul. Long-form content, where I can provide context and offer value, has always been where I’ve felt most comfortable. I hope I can continue writing and sharing long into my children’s childhoods and beyond. What a gift to record these years for posterity! What a gift to feel like I’m making a difference, however small, in the lives of people along the way.

As for the future of blogging in general, I’m bullish. I’ve always been bullish (obviously – it’s why I’ve kept it up all these years!), but I’m also hearing whispers in all corners about a return to and renewed focus on blogging. (Newsletters, too.) People are realizing social channels are not effective internet homes. Between frustration with the algorithm, the often illiberal landscape, the harmful effects many feel when engaging, and the realization that it could all be gone in a snap due to a hacker anyway, the love/hate relationship seems to be souring every day.

Blogging does take a lot of work. And it can feel futile and lonely if no one seems to be around to appreciate it and engage with it, without the built-in community of social media. But when it works – when writers make the effort and readers make the effort – it can be magic.

What’s your blogging “why”?

I have lived a wildly fortunate life. I know the Gospel. I come from a whole and healthy family (I also married into one). I met the love of my life in high school and we have three marvelous children. I have an education. I was raised in a rich lineage of wise, kind people. These are gifts from God, and I believe He has expectations for how I should use them (to whom much has been given, much is expected).

And so, in my own small way, I am trying to freely give away whatever I have been given. I don’t have all the answers, but I do have confidence in the decisions I make for myself and my family, and a willingness to share them. Part of my life’s work is to equip and empower women to see that they are capable, and this blog is a large part of that. (The fact that I have the ability and passion to write here is a sign to me that this is where He wants me!) Hopefully, through sharing my story, I can show you that it’s okay to live your own path kindly, purposefully, and simply, without fanfare or fluster.

In more recent years, as our world has grown increasingly polarized, it’s also my deep prayer that this place can be a reminder that what we have in common matters a lot more than how we differ.

I’d like to start a blog, but I feel like the list of what I might want to write about feels impulsive and disparate. How have you managed to stay so cohesive over time?

Though I like to joke that I never change, the fact is, I have, and so has this blog. I went from writing about weddings, fashion, and inspiration boards, with only the lightest touches of personal storytelling, to sharing about personal finance, raising kids, making a home, and a million other random topics, with lots of personal storytelling. I went from writing five times a week to four to three to my current one to two.

What has stayed consistent, I think, is my perspective and my care. And so, if you’re willing to be vulnerable and authentic as a writer, to share things that truly matter to you, those things just might matter to other people. And when your readers care about you and your perspective, they accept you and your topics changing over time. Thank you, friends, for allowing me that grace.

What advice would you give someone starting a blog now versus when you started?

My advice would be the same: do it. If it gives you half the joy it’s given me, it will be more than worth the effort.

Whew. These posts have felt a little raw and like a LOT of talking about myself. I’m glad we did this but I’m also looking forward to moving on, ha! Here’s to many more years of interesting discussions!! Up soon: our Atlanta/Florida vacation, those writing tips, Annie’s birth story, and my top tips for the fourth trimester as I close out that season in my life!

Part One: Nuts and Bolts
Part Two: Content
Part Four: How to Be a More Relational Writer

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October 25, 2021 7:23 am

This post was truly all things that are marvelous about Em for Marvelous-great recommendations for other blogs, steadfastness in decisions to not go where popular culture may push (re: if you’re great at something, you can make a career or side hustle of it and your decision to simply say no), and producing content your readers ask for/about which they care!

Kelly Strawberry
October 25, 2021 9:04 am

Very much enjoyed this series :)

Abigail Gray
October 25, 2021 9:23 am

This post and this series reminds me why I am so grateful that you blog and that I get to follow along with you here! I have toyed with starting a blog for a couple of years now (mostly about my reading!) and even have it built out now with lots of blog posts, but it feels vulnerable and raw. This is the push I needed to put it out there!

October 25, 2021 11:01 am

So much wisdom, as always. I might be coming back to this post whenever I need to be reminded about why I blog in the first place. Thank you for that :) Looking forward to many more years of reading (and commenting) along!

October 25, 2021 7:34 pm

Emily, thank you so much for taking the time to write this series! Your blog is easily my favorite to read. I appreciate the time and thought you put into each one!

October 25, 2021 9:42 pm

Loved this series! One other thing I appreciate about your blog: Of course, all of the content is wonderful, but it is supported by meticulous attention to grammar and punctuation; I’m not sure I’ve ever caught a typo – and that’s coming from someone who would consider copywriter as an alternative career! ; )

October 25, 2021 9:52 pm

Wow, I’m curious about your experience with the fourth trimester. It’s so hard to find any true transparency on that topic with social media and its highlight reel nature. I read one article on The Atlantic that I ended up sending around to anyone (not moms) who asked how I was doing LOL Also, CoJ is my favorite blog. I love Joanna so much that when looking for party ideas for my one-year-old, I ended up recreating her son Toby’s annual “party in the park.” LOL

October 26, 2021 2:15 pm
Reply to  Em

Here you go:
I adopted my daughter but I related to most everything in her essay, even how she said she thought new motherhood would be “sitcom hard,” not actually hard.

Kelly C
October 26, 2021 8:21 am

I wish I had more eloquent words, besides just a resounding yes to all the above. And I think you’re 100% spot on about the reasoning for reader’s engagement. I still flip back through SW blog posts from time to time, not for the wedding content, but the story telling. And your blog over the last many many years have inspired me to live a life I’m proud of, and to feel more empowered and capable in my skin. Thanks Em for continuing to write, your writing is truly so beautiful.

October 26, 2021 10:19 am

Hopefully, through sharing my story, I can show you that it’s okay to live your own path kindly, purposefully, and simply, without fanfare or fluster.”
Wow, so beautifully said. As a long-time reader (pre-June!), I can confidently say, in my humble opinion, you’ve accomplished this goal. I’m so grateful for your corner of the internet and how the words here have made a lasting impact in my own life.

October 26, 2021 11:49 am

I love what you say about Cup of Jo! Sometimes their articles make me pause and wonder if it is a website I want to patronize, but it is easy to live in an echo chamber of ideas sometimes, so your comment about it helping to offset your confirmation bias is great food for thought.
On a totally different note, I’m looking forward to your 4th trimester thoughts. I’ll be entering that time any day now with my first!