Blogging Q&A, Part Two: Content

30 September 2021

Friends, I’m so glad you’re as interested in this series as I am! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the first post – I always love hearing from you.

Today, we’re diving in to all things content! I’m answering your questions about where I get ideas for posts, the topics I’d never write about, whether I’ve written any posts I regret, how and where I draw my personal boundaries, and more. Let’s go!

Have you always enjoyed writing? How did you come to love it?

I’ve enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember! I remember being so proud in second grade when my teacher laminated and bound a short story I wrote and illustrated. She shared it with the principal, who also wrote me a note saying she loved it. (Just goes to show how much the encouragement of teachers can mean!)

My love of writing grew out of my love for reading, which has also been around for as long as I can remember. My parents both read to me, of course, but I think something that was foundational in cementing the habit was seeing my Dad, especially, reading books in so much of his leisure time. I wouldn’t have said it in these exact words, but I wanted to be just like my Dad, and so I read, too!

In high school, I took a few Creative Writing classes and was the poet laureate my senior year (fancy!). I majored in English in college, with a concentration in Poetry; my senior thesis was an original collection of my poems about our island in Maine. I also took a Creative Nonfiction class which I loved; no surprise, since that’s pretty much what I do here now!

All along the way, I had people – teachers, mostly, but also family members – who reflected back to me that I had talent, and encouraged me to keep developing it. I am so grateful for that.

Where do you get ideas for posts? Do you store them somewhere? Do you have a content calendar?

I get ideas everywhere and all the time! Far more than I would ever have time to write about. There are a few main buckets:

— Ideas that grow out of our family’s season or activities. If we’re learning or doing or experiencing something, it’s a natural fit for a blog post, since I’m already spending a lot of time thinking about it. Examples include this year’s garden party and my post about baking with June.

— A trend in the culture or a theme I’m noticing. Conversations with John or friends, sermons at church, posts on Instagram or blogs, articles or essays, podcast episodes, and the things that pop into my mind before I fall asleep at night can all spark ideas for posts, especially if my take on a trend seems different from the dominant narrative. Examples include this post on children and the passing of time, this post on trade-offs, or this post on the standards of parenting.

— Reader feedback. Sometimes this comes in the form of a direct suggestion or query, like from an email, a DM, or a blog comment. Or, I might notice that a particular post generates more conversation than usual, which tells me the topic might be worth expanding upon. Examples include my photo organization series, this post on self care, and this post on organizing your own childhood memorabilia.

— Something that sounds fun. If I see someone else sharing something that looks fun, like the Coffee & Crumbs’ end-of-year superlatives or Janssen’s summer memories or actual Christmas gifts, or decisions that have led to a life I love, I might put my own twist on it.

While waiting for their time to shine, ideas for posts reside in a Google Doc. It’s just a simple bulleted list; right now it has sections for reader requests, work, home, parenting, Marvelous Money, and “everything else.” As of this writing there are 116 post ideas in the doc, which should keep me busy for many years to come.

And yes, I do keep a low-key content calendar! I wrote more about it here, including the sheet I print out six months at a time to house my schedule and month-by-month ideas.

Is there anything you’d never write about?

Yes! Hundreds of things, probably! I want to discuss things that bring people together, things where it’s possible to find commonalities, so you generally won’t find me writing about the divisive issues of the day (except maybe screen time with kids, ha). I’ve found that it IS possible to think deeply and feel passionately about something without broadcasting my thoughts to the widest possible audience.

I rarely say “never,” but one thing I can *almost* guarantee you will never see me write about is my vote. This is a practice I picked up from my Dad, a Coast Guard officer and political science professor; he has kept mum on his personal picks all my life, even in the face of pestering, curious children. (As you’d expect for a professor, he was happy to talk about any issues on the ballot, and even the merits of the candidates, just not the boxes he checked.) I’m not sure if this is a policy common in the military or just a personal preference, but I’ve grown to respect (and adopt) it in my later years. It’s not for everyone (in fact, it would probably seem quaint, or even wrong, to some), but it feels right for me.

A mostly unrelated photo, but I wanted to share the Four Things bag that was a gift from my sister-in-law! It’s mostly my library book bag, so it is related in a way :)

What would you love to write about, but haven’t?

Oh gosh, so many things. (See: list of 116 blog post ideas in Google Docs.) I would love to do another round of Marvelous Mamas, and a series of interviews with my favorite dads. I’ve been kicking around ideas for a post on patriotism for YEARS. I’ve wanted to have a discussion about our relationships with our alma maters. I want to finish my Triangle guide. I want to share my advice for new college students. (I’ve already shared advice for new college grads!) The Toni Morrison essay with the line “your real life is with us, your family” has been so resonant with me for the last few years that there must be a post in there. I want to write about parenting with a higher risk tolerance, my most-recommended books, helping our kids develop executive functioning skills, and soooooo many Marvelous Money topics (lifestyle creep, our rhythm of generosity, college savings, working with a financial advisor, the financial implications of having three kids…!!).

For almost all of these, the limiting factor is time.

For having written for such a long time, is there anything you regret writing about? Any posts that embarrass you now?

This is an excellent question, because I have, indeed, been writing here for a very long time. The answer, though, is no, there’s nothing I can think of that I regret writing about.

Of course, some of my earlier posts are a bit cringe-y (whyyyy wasn’t my first post something more astute?! and why did I think I was a DIY blogger??). But I don’t think I need to be embarrassed by posts like that – I was doing the best I could with what I had, and where I am now was built on what came before.

I think the most important reason that I have no regrets and few embarrassments is three-fold:

1. I am a naturally moderate and (in many ways) cautious person, and I tend to think deeply about things. I have a good sense of how I and my writing will be perceived by others, I think about the future a lot, and I have long looked to mentors and experts older than me to model myself on.

2. I have been a pretty fully-formed person since about age 16. The core of who I am and what I believe has been intact for a long time, and I like to say that core is embodied in my spirit age of 36, ha! Even as a college sophomore, I was a wife, mom of three, homeowner, and working professional at heart :) I have not weathered wild swings, but instead seem to have gently evolved over the years. This might sound boring, but it does come in handy when you share your life on the internet.

3. If there is a post I’m particularly nervous about or where I want to make extra-sure my meaning and intent is clear, I’ll ask John to read it before publishing. It’s very helpful to have someone who can catch your blind spots.

What is your approach toward blogging for yourself and blogging for your readers? Do you feel you write more for yourself or do you consider your audience first?

I’d never quantified it before, but this question helped me realize I have a few hurdles that every post must jump over before being published. In order, they are:

1. Am I passionate about the topic? Do I have something unique to share? Am I eager to sit down and start writing? Am I forming sentences and jotting down notes as I fall asleep at night? Am I looking forward to the comment section, eager to discuss with you all?

2. Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? Is it aimed, thoughtful, strategic for the eternal good of others? Is it adding to the noise or adding to your quality of life? Would it needlessly offend someone or make them feel less-than? Would I be proud to share this post with both my dearest friends and an arena of strangers? With my children?

3. Will my readers find it interesting and helpful? There might be topics I’m passionate about, and that are admirable, but that simply aren’t a good fit: I’m thinking of topics that might be too niche or obscure, too specific to my personal situation or interests, to be widely useful.

In the end, this blog is a record of my personal life, written firstly for my family, but it’s also a public record, not a diary. I don’t think I would have spent so much time pouring out here over the years if I didn’t think it could have an impact beyond the walls of my home.

How do you manage the balance of being personal, yet protective of your and your family‘s privacy? Does it ever feel scary or strange sharing so much about your personal life in a public format?

It’s impossible to know how I’ll feel in the future, but thus far I feel comfortable with the balance I’ve struck. I think about this very deeply, on a consistent basis (at least with every post I publish!), and am regularly examining my comfort level and fine-tuning my approach. I know it will continue to shift as our kids get older, too! The guardrails above help. A few others that come to mind:

— Aside from their nurseries, I don’t plan to share photos of our kids’ rooms. Those feel like personal, private spaces.

— I have never felt comfortable sharing a day-in-the-life post or a specific schedule of our days. Though I love reading those posts from others, they’ve always felt out of bounds for me. (One exception: I did do a DITL Stories series on IG in spring 2020. Things were so nutty and outside our normal with COVID that it seemed like an alternative reality, ha!)

— If I’m deciding between similar family photos, I choose the ones where my kids look better, rather than myself.

— I try to ask permission when I’m sharing photos of other people’s children (like cousins!) and do my best to be considerate of any details I share about others.

— Again, if there’s something I’m on the fence about sharing, I’ll ask John for his opinion or to read through the post.

And the biggest, though perhaps most nebulous one: I always want to be telling my story, not writing theirs. I never want to box them in or make them known here in a way that would preclude their own development or self concept.

It is possible to share some without sharing all, to share generously but not excessively. Do I do it perfectly? No. But I have found it is a worthy pursuit.

And that, my friend, brings us to the edge of part three’s topics, so we’ll pause here for today! I’d love to hear any of your thoughts on today’s post, or feel free to share a favorite past EFM post or post idea you’d love to see in the future!

Part One: Nuts and Bolts
Part Three: Grab Bag
Part Four: How to Be a More Relational Writer

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
September 30, 2021 7:42 pm

So much to learn from you, friend! This is such great advice!
I love that you don’t regret any posts – even though you obviously evolved! I‘m not sure a lot of bloggers can say that. But, of course, I had to check out your DIY link! Too good, ha! I did copy a DIY idea you mentioned recently and made a garland out of the pumpkin vase fillers from Target. So, don’t think you don’t have it in you ;)

October 1, 2021 7:45 am

Emily, I love this series, it is so interesting! I have absolutely zero skin in the blogger/influencer game, but I find the answers to these questions fascinating. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone more thoughtful and intentional with their content than you are, which is why every post always feels like such a treat!

October 1, 2021 9:22 am

Emily, I’ve been reading for a while and often wondered about your strategy to posting! Yours is one of the blogs I read to prevent against confirmation bias, I.e. reading only things that I agree with to reaffirm what I already believe. So yes, I don’t always agree with your perspectives but I appreciate them! And I’ve learned from you, so thank you for being so considerate and intentional. I’d like to see a post on that entire Toni Morrison piece, not just that one quote. She has some good nuggets throughout.

October 1, 2021 9:33 am

This part stopped me in my tracks and I re-read it multiple times: “Is it true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy? Is it aimed, thoughtful, strategic for the eternal good of others? Is it adding to the noise or adding to your quality of life?” Such an amazing aspiration and you truly accomplish it! As always, thank you! I’m so excited by all the topics that you are excited to explore in the future.

Abigail Gray
October 1, 2021 3:27 pm

I love following along with you here and reading your perspective on all sorts of things – it is always a bright spot in my day when I see you have a new post up! I learn from your content, even posts that are focused outside of my current season of life, like posts on kids toys, ha! What I love most about your posts is the thought and care that you put into the construction of each, so I loved reading a bit more about your blogging process.

October 1, 2021 4:41 pm

Love the idea of teaching our kids executive functioning skills. Fun!

Kelly Strawberry
October 2, 2021 2:50 pm

“I choose the pictures where my kids look better”…..this made my heart smile.

October 3, 2021 8:30 am

I always love your huge (unique) variety of content! A few posts I’d love to see:
1. What are some ways the pandemic positively influenced you & your family?
2. How you tactically balance 2 careers, 3 kids, a home, and all of your responsibilities without living a frantic life.
3. Packing strategy & hacks for trips!
4. I know you’ve mentioned montessouri with your kids – I’d love to know what this looks like at home.

October 4, 2021 8:39 am

This post is all-inspiring, Emily! While it is so interesting to hear about your thought process and the considerations that go into the making of EFM, it is reading about your heart and intentionality that shined the most for me in this post. I would LOVE to read about all the ideas you shared in the ‘what would you love to write about?’ section (with an extra vote for reading about patriotism, the parenting topics, your favorite books, and your alma mater – my best friend is a Wheaton ’14 alumna!). I’m so grateful for EFM! :)

October 4, 2021 10:09 am

Just wanted to pop in to say that I’m really enjoying this series! On a random note…how are you liking the Target diapers this time around? We used them with our first and now that we’re expecting #2 (!!!!!!!!!!!) I’m curious as to how they are holding up. The newer reviews on them are pretty terrible. Random, I know, but I trust you and you’re my go-to for most things.

October 4, 2021 4:37 pm

I’m loving this series so far! Thanks for sharing such thoughtful, transparent content!

October 12, 2021 2:16 pm

Coming to echo others that your posts are always a bright spot in my day and it’s so fun to get a peak behind the curtain at how the magic happens! While there are so many posts that have stood out over the years (How We Do It Series, Making Friends with Neighbors, Making Trade-Offs), your post on the best way to re-heat pizza still takes the cake for practicality. I have now been sharing that stove-top tip for years :)

October 22, 2021 5:15 pm

I started reading your blog since the “how we do it” series, I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from you since then!! Your posts are so relatable, refreshing and insightful! Most of all, they’re a joy to read! I’m from Hong Kong and all of my family is still there, there are so many things I didn’t know I should know about until I read your posts-they’re so helpful to me!! I told my friends that you are like a virtual sister to me! Thank you so much for all your love and effort you put into each blog post!!! P.S. my favorite find from your recommendations is the collapsible striped tote, I got two when they were on sale!!

[…] desire to return has been on my mind for quite some time, but Em For Marvelous‘s series on writing really drove it home. The idea that one can blog for the joy of it without feeling pressured to […]