Let’s Get Real: To Blog or Not To Blog.

I had a bit of a reality check yesterday.

I got a pleasant little email informing me that due to the fact that I’m no longer meeting their required guidelines, I got the boot from the Southern Blog Society.  My guess is that since I barely post often enough to even consider myself a blogger anymore, they had to kick me out.  Bear with me – this isn’t a bitter anti-SBS mean girls post.  I really can’t say I blame them.  Although, I’ve read a few of those posts before.

I’ve told you about all the wonderful and crazy things going on in my life.  I promised you I wasn’t giving O&P up.  For the past two years, I’ve been posting at least once a week, sometimes 5 times a week, sharing what I’ve been cooking, doing, making, finding and experiencing.  It’s brought new and amazing people into my life. It’s helped me keep in touch and get back in touch with people I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years.  It’s helped me launch a business and it’s been the best creative and writing outlet I could ask for.  It’s enabled me to realize that I love shining a light on often overlooked people, places, and things.

I love writing, I love taking pictures, and I love blogging.

However, the longer I blog, the more negative feedback I get for blogging, too.  Lately, I’ve been told how selfish I am.  How self-serving I am.  How I blog (as well as do most of the other things I do) to seek praise from others.  How I should have mentioned this or that in a blog post.  How clearly wrong I was to leave something out or put something else in.  It’s quite the damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situation.

Since I started Oysters & Pearls, I’ve tried to keep my blog posts at an arms’ length distance.  I’ve never gotten extremely personal in this space.  I’ve been hesitant to share too many personal stories or details or thoughts or feelings.  Let’s be real: I’m not very good at sharing that kind of thing anyway.  I’ve been told that was a mistake, too, in fact.  And I get it – the blogs I enjoy reading the most are the blogs that share the personal stuff in life – the real talk about marriages, friendships, babies, faith, houses, pets… the whole nine yards.  You feel like you know that person.  And for all intents and purposes, you really do.  But then you stumble upon blogger-bashing sites like GOMI (stands for Get Off My Internet – I’m not even linking because I don’t want to direct traffic to that site) and get sucked into the reality that the more personal you get, the more people will find all the things that are wrong with you.  That’s a scary thing.

But when you keep things impersonal, what then?  I have been told that I think I’m perfect.  That I’m trying to act like I’m perfect.  That by only showing the pretty parts of life, I’m not being real, that I’m lying by omission.  I am not a perfect person. I am messy and scattered and busy and forgetful and happily imperfect.  I do like for things to look pretty and tidy in this space,  mostly because I like pretty things and pretty food and looking at pretty pictures.  But trust me: just outside the frame of that pretty picture, there are most likely dog toys and/or dog hair and a cat sniffing the food and 3 pairs of Wheat’s shoes and one to five of the 40,000 bags I seem to constantly tote around.  Maybe I should be trying to show the messy side of life more.  But I’m not trying to trick anyone into thinking I’m perfect, and I certainly know I’m far from it.  I just like pretty pictures.

So let’s get real.

In the two years since I started this blog, a lot has changed. I went from simply working and coming home (which let me tell you, was a sad state of affairs), to writing this blog, to being on the Humane Society board and being very involved in that, to ramping up my blog, to starting Maiden South, to helping start a Farmers’ Market, to freelance writing for the Thomasville Townie, Southwest Georgia Living, and a series of publications by Southern Forestry Realty.  I’ve taken up (and become obsessed with) knitting.  And I’m sure I’ve done some other stuff, too.  And that’s on top of life, which is getting busier and busier by the minute.

I don’t say all this to have a pity party, for sure.  I am passionate about all of these things!  I certainly don’t list them all for the praise.  And I most certainly don’t list them all so I can passive-aggressively tell you that I’m busier than you.  Although, that’s how I must come across to some folks, and for that I’m sorry.

Lately, I’ve had to dig deep, do some soul searching and figure out where I want my life, and subsequently, this blog, to go.  I stretched myself thin in 2014, no doubt.  It’s been wild and thrilling and scary and wonderful.  But it’s been exhausting.  And it’s been hard.  And it’s been rough to be told a lot of awful things about yourself after you’ve worked and tried so hard to do the right things.  And it just plain sucks to have that self-doubt in my head now.  Am I doing anything I’m doing for the right reasons?  I thought I was… but maybe I’m not?  If some of the people I love the most (and for that matter, some people I don’t even know!) don’t support my decisions, or tell me I’m selfish and self-serving, how do I know if I’ve even made the right decisions at all? Regardless, I’ve decided that 2015 is a year for reflection and self-examination.

I usually don’t talk much about my faith, but the past couple weeks, I’ve been praying.  An awful lot.  I’ve been reading my devotional.  I’ve been reading Thirty One Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and Doer with my business partner (and a true blessing to me and this town), Jessica.  I’ve been reading Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World.  I’ve been seeking guidance on my next steps in life, family, blogging, business, and basically all. the. things.

On day two of Thirty One Days, one of the calls to action is to choose a verse to memorize over the course of the month you spend reading the book.  I stumbled across the most perfect verse that has become my mantra – and probably always will be.  So much so, I even created a handy little graphic with one of my favorite pictures from our trip to Yellowstone to plaster all over every computer/iPhone/tablet screen I can find.  No need for it really, as I’ve already memorized it, and I repeat it to myself every few minutes, it seems.  But I don’t ever want to forget a single word: each line in this verse hits home hard for me.  If they hit home for you, too, feel free to snag it and use it for yourself.

Colossians 4 2, 5-6

I wish I always knew how to answer everyone.  I wish I could always have seasoned conversations full of grace.  I try to make the most of every opportunity, but Fear is always a nagging little voice sitting next to that jerk Self-Doubt.  I need to be more wise in how I treat others, most especially outsiders.  And I need to devote myself to prayer more, always being watchful and thankful for my many, many, many undeserved blessings.  As an aside: I love that word watchful.  I really do like to think of blogging and instagramming the little things I observe and am thankful for one way to be conscious and watchful of the blessings around me.

So where does this blog fit in and where does it go?  I don’t know.  I think I still want to use it to share things going on in my life with friends. Because most of you are friends!  And if we’re not, I feel certain we would be.  I cherish this creative outlet and platform, however small it may be.  But I’m afraid that it’s become a platform to promote myself for vain and self-serving reasons.  I stress and worry that I’m not doing a good enough job at blogging.  My hobbies and interests and goals are varied and crazy and different and I feel my blog going in different directions.  So if you’ve made it this far down the page… I guess I’m asking y’all: what do you want to read here?  What do you want to know about?  More about my life?  The nitty gritty personal stuff?  Far less about my life?  Knitting?  Beekeeping?  Maiden South?  Recipes?  What I’m up to?  What my dogs are up to?  All of the above?  Or none of the above?  Do other bloggers out there wrestle with this personal v. impersonal v. blog niche dilemma???

I can’t make promises anymore.  I can’t promise I’ll be able to devote my time to thoughtful, well-researched, thought-provoking posts.  I can’t promise that you’ll like each and every recipe I post here. I can’t promise my posts will be perfect, grammatically or otherwise.  I can’t promise they won’t just be a bunch of iPhone pictures of my dogs eating apples. Which, by the way, is hilarious.  I’m sure I’ll get an email or comment now about how apples are really terrible for dogs and how I’m a bad dog mom.  (I swear, I don’t let them eat the seeds!)

I can promise to try my very best to keep my conversations here and elsewhere full of grace and seasoned with salt, but I respectfully ask for the same from y’all.  I don’t know where this blog will be a year from now or a week from now.  But I do know that I appreciate the positive things this blog has given me, and I appreciate each and every one of you who took the time to read this ridiculously long, wordy, out-of-the-ordinary, touchy-feely post that took me four days to write and hit publish because I was so nervous about putting myself out there.  And I hit publish knowing full well that no matter how open and honest I feel this post has been, there will  be someone who finds fault in it and in me.

Now it’s your turn, if you so choose.  Let me have it.  I’ve told everyone and their mom what I’m feeling.  So whether you’re another blogger with a similar struggle, someone who thinks I’m just an awful person, someone with another devotional/book recommendation for me, or you would like to see more or less of anything or everything here on the blog… go ahead and give it to me.  Seasoned with salt (and a little grace), preferably.

Until Next Time

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32 thoughts on “Let’s Get Real: To Blog or Not To Blog.

  1. David

    Girl you letting folks get to ya…. :) I can tell you now that there are too many people in this little town that don’t have enough to do or the drive to do it. Therefore they spend there time telling others what’s wrong with what they’re doing…..shake it off and follow your heart! I like it! – david

    Reply
  2. Shirley Davis

    I look forward to your blogs. It is so sad that negative people thrive on making others feel less of themselves. Once it’s said and in your head, it is hard to get out. Please don’t let these negative thoughts stop you from the wonderful blog you have created and share with so many of us. God gave you the talent and I feel you are using them to the utmost. I feel you should always use the talents God gave you to the best of your abilities. I feel you do this Natalie!

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  3. Jim McClellan

    My suggestion is to write what you want, when you want. Your words are genuine, witty, interesting and always well worth a few minutes of time to read. When you stop writing for you and start writing for somebody else, it becomes a job — and you already have several of those it seems! I’ll leave you with a poem from Domingo Ortega:

    Bullfight critics ranked in rows
    Crowd the enormous Plaza full;
    But he’s the only one who knows—
    And he’s the man who fights the bull.

    Reply
  4. Niki Bracewell Ginel

    Mistakes don’t happen, God has given you this platform for a purpose. I think this post was full of grace and vulnerability. Sharing your faith and how you have turned to prayer during a time of doubt will surely reach someone.

    Philippians 4:6
    Do not be anxious about anything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

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  5. Wheat Kirbo

    I’m very proud of you, your blog and all of your MANY other hobbies. I, of course, really enjoy reading it, too! Don’t let it be an obligation and let your blog go where your heart and God leads it! I can’t imagine spending my days trying to keep pace with anyone else. Love you!

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  6. SAFB

    Nat, I look forward to your posts every time I get a notification in my inbox! I love knowing about your crazy life because I’m too far away to keep up with all of it over a phone call or weekend trip. You have always been a beautiful and witty writer and I love all that you do!

    Along the theme of people leaving poems and verses, here’s a bit from T. Swift :) :
    “But I keep cruising
    Can’t stop, won’t stop moving
    It’s like I got this music
    In my mind, saying it’s gonna be alright
    Cause the players gonna play, play, play
    And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
    Baby I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake
    Shake it off”

    Reply
  7. Helen G.

    Dear Natalie, I love your blog! I read the ones I want to (about Bristol and Apalach and oysters and shrimp and food and Bainbridge and Wheat and ……) and skip the ones that don’t interest me! I love what you have done for Bainbridge. You are a great writer! Forget the haters who only try to elevate themselves by downgrading others. But remember this one thing…..To Thine Own Self, Be True! Do what is right in your heart. You rock girl! God bless you!

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  8. Barri

    Without ever meeting you but knowing you through your posts, you are a beautiful person who has added enjoyment to my life. You are a very positive person and I bet you’ve Never criticized other bloggers. Sugar, if people don’t like what you write….they don’t have to read it! Chin up and let’s enjoy this Glorious life .

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  9. Ruthe

    Keep up the good work, Natalie. I enjoy your refreshing and positive attitude. Also Your husband is one of my very favorite people in the whole world.

    Reply
  10. Betsy Wilkerson

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog, the personal and the educational. Do not let other folks dictate what you write. The blog is not about them. It is about what is of interest to you and what inspires you. And for Pete’s sake……if they have a problem with it, then they don’t have to read it!

    Reply
  11. Rachel Machen

    If I could accomplish 10% of what you do on a slow day, I would be beyond proud of myself. I say you keep Oysters and Pearls simply as a creative outlet. No more worrying about consistent posting or content that appeals to the masses. Write about what you love. And I, personally, would love a post full of pictures of your dogs eating apples :)

    I think O&P has been so inspirational to so many people. You’ve helped me learn how to cook-that alone is an accomplishment!!! And I love to see the latest happenings in your world!

    I love that scripture, I’m not sure I’ve ever really paid attention to it until now. So glad you posted it!

    xoxo,

    Rachel

    P.S. your husband’s comment was so sweet, there’s a chance I might have teared up at my office reading that!

    Reply
  12. CLMJ

    I love you and I have always loved your writing, from witty comments on facebook photos to reviewing memos in school to this blog. My advice is to post when you want about what you want, and those who care about you and enjoy the blog will be there with open arms and hearts to read and appreciate your writing. You are an inspiration to all who are around you. LYLAS / PLAM, love you, mean it.

    Reply
  13. Becca

    What a wonderful, heartfelt and truly beautiful post. You’re the one who inspired me to start my own blog! You’re such a relatable writer. Every time I read a post, I feel like I’m actually talking to you. That’s my favorite kind of blog to read! Over the past two years, it’s been such a joy to hear about all of your accomplishments. Regardless of whether the blog continues or not, know that you’ve been a great source of inspiration for me. Thank you so much for sharing all that you have so far!

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  14. Roslyn Palmer

    I’m just shaking my head in disbelief that someone would criticize a blog that is someone’s personal thoughts and thereby a privilege to be “let in” to read. I’ve enjoyed it. Hope you keep it up in whatever form you choose.

    Reply
  15. Joyce Hilburn

    Dear Natalie – I read your post yesterday but decided to wait a bit before replying, Mainly because it upset me so much that you would be subject to such, in my mind, unfair criticism. Not knowing if the negative feedback came from someone’s misguided attempt to be helpful or if it was just mean-spirited jealousy, I can only say that I have enjoyed this blog so much. You are an extremely talented and unselfish young woman with so much to give to those around you. I admire your many talents, your willingness to share yourself and your abilities with our community and your amazing energy. Personally, I believe this community is a much better place because of you. Keep it up and let your light continue to shine!!

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  16. Charity K

    I love you! I wish I could give you a big hug after reading this post. It was absolutely beautiful, raw and honest. Toby and I were talking about you on our walk last night. I was sharing with him that you were having some of the same emotions I have had through the years about people in general. Finally after about 2 miles of listening to my ramblings, we came to the same conclusion that certain people are just inimidated by confident, strong women. And you, my dear, are a strong woman. One of the strongest women I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and calling a friend. I am a better person by knowing you, and it is going to tear my heart out when you leave us one day. I will NEED your blog at that point, so please don’t stop writing it!

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  17. Natalie

    Girl – just breathe :)

    I started following soon after I think you started blogging. I was a client of your sister and she turned me on to you.

    I’ve enjoyed following along. Possibly too much at times. I appreciate your perspective and have learned a good bit as well.

    I’m sorry if you’ve recieved mean spirited comments. One thing that I really know is that very little in life is personal. If people are mean, it’s on them. There’s a certain peace (for me) in not taking things personal – I like my life and I’m the only one living it. I say trust yourself and your instincts. Do what feels right and it will be right. Maybe you’re already thinking and living similarly. Just a few words of support from another Natalie.

    I hope you keep updating us on your journey. Take care.

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  18. Jessie

    Long-ish time reader, first time commenter. I’ve always enjoyed your stuff, and I think the reasonable folks among us understand that you have a life outside of this blog, and don’t exist just to create blog content for us! As a Tallahasseean, I really love your local focus–whether it comes through in your recipes, garden posts, artisan stories or even weekend recaps. Keep on keepin’ on and thank you for what you do.

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  19. Libby Henderson

    I am so sorry that anyone has felt the need to use the fact that you put yourself forth with vulnerability and grace as an opportunity to find fault with you.

    Though we know so many of the same people and have traveled much of the same paths and places, I got to know you first through your blog, and I love it. I was delighted to meet you in person and find that you were the same person in living color that you are here, in your writing. Being able to let yourself come through what you write is to put yourself in a very raw and open place, and you do it very well.

    You’ve gotten a lot of good, positive, feedback here and clearly have a lot of readers who love what you write, when you write it. I’m always surprised by criticism of someone’s blog that says “oh, you are just trying to portray yourself as too perfect.” Well, DUH. While people do love seeing into the “real” life of people, who in the world invites visitors into their home without picking up and straightening up and making sure that things look nice for company? I mean, I have two layers of that, I guess –” clean like the entire Fletcher clan is coming for the reunion clean”, and it is a “good friend stopping by clean” but regardless, we very rarely invite people in to the unmade bed, dirty towels on the floor world and anyone who doesn’t understand that a lifestyle blog or an Instagram account is an idealized picture of someone’s life isn’t very realistic. And it wouldn’t be how your momma raised you, either — am I right?

    In any event, sometimes recipes don’t apply to me (um, I think *ketchup* is sometimes too spicy, so the hot ones won’t work for me, and you and Wheat can have ALL the sushi, for instance ) but in that case, I share it with DH if I know he’d like it and if not, I read for your humor and comments about what you guys have going on and move on.

    I really love your writing and I hope you will stick with it — the blog is a perfect place to post things that keep up with the various things you have going on and can provide a place for other folks to find information. I spread as much news about the Farmer’s Market as I can, but your posting about that, and about getting it started is great info, gives people a personal connection and may help some other small towns to get one going. (Which gets my brain spinning — we have informal “markets” in Greensboro across from the Express Lane — I wonder if we could get some small local farmers or just people with good gardens to set up there on Spring and Summer mornings? Hmmm)

    Anyway, one of the things you do best in your writing is to inspire others — you always get my brain churning, so please, keep it up and just be yourself. If anyone isn’t comfortable with you being yourself, I wouldn’t put much faith in their opinion, anyway.

    Libby

    Reply
  20. Amy Wells

    Natalie,
    I remember reading your blog and knowing that I was going to love you when we finally met. And I was absolutely right. Your blog is YOURS! Folks can read it or not. No one forces them to read it. You are an incredibly busy, busy lady who gives so much to the two communities in which she lives and works. Do what you want with regards to your blog, but make certain it is what YOU want!

    Reply
  21. Helen J. Fraser

    You have done your best to entertain and inform an audience that has signed up for your clever blog. You have covered an array of topics and highlighted several new and existing businesses. I enjoy your blog very much, because it is random and all over the place. What ever strikes your fancy you share—I find this refreshing and never dull. This is your blog and you should use it for the purposes that you want to.
    I have lived in Atlanta my whole life and I know basicly nothing about the other thriving towns around me. I was so impressed with the clever shops and stories you have shared. The before and after pictures of your shop were so cool.
    You are doing a super job, and don’t let negative and very probably jealous townfolk take away your focus. Don’t spill your guts if your are not comfortable, you are supposed to enjoy sharing ideas. I can tell you are warm and caring by the stories you select for readers to enjoy.
    Future ideas might be on what your town/local has that big cities don’t:
    Local animals that worth talking about, champions, record winners, ambassadors for local shops or farms or just some irritating varmits that have people talking.
    The recipes you come up with are special—as are the stories of where they came from. Find more and tell us why they are worth noting and who created them.
    Line up 10 to 12 blog topics for the year so you won’t have to stress over what comes next, if they are not seasonal, you can use them whenever. Make a short outline for each and you are set to fill in the blanks.
    Really and truly, I hope you continue to write, Helen Fraser

    Reply
  22. Carlyle

    Natalie,

    I know that I along with tons of people enjoy reading your blog. They have been great and think a lot of people have benefited from being able to share your wonderful thoughts, ideas, and recipes. You do not need to let what anyone says affect what you do. The important thing is to always do what makes you happy! I love you!

    Carlyle

    Reply
  23. Carol Dupree

    Well dear Natalie. After reading all these comments, which by the way I don’t recall seeing so many before which tells me you hit a nerve with your readers, I don’t think there’s anything left to say. You are loved, your blog is loved. That’s what it’s all about. The only comments you need to listen to are the ones written above mine. This is your audience and we love it all. Just do what you do and how you do it. It works. We love it and you! Big hug for you when I see you next, just giving you fair warning!

    Reply
  24. Michael DeVuyst

    Natalie don’t change a thing. I love checking in every week. Follow your heart and take the blog in that direction. Check out Psalms 91 by Peggy Joyce Ruth for a good read.

    Reply
  25. Leah

    I absolutely love reading your blog. We all struggle with self-doubt and fear and prayer is a great place to be when dealing with it. I am cheering you on, girl. Know that you have a lot more cheerleaders than critics. I love that your posts are scattered with recipes, life, hobbies, etc. That makes it real. And you have to enjoy your life, so the facts that sometimes you post more often than other times is understandable. I use SRT devotions, but also check out Proverbs31 Ministries if you haven’t…and I just started Make It Happen by Lara Casey. I think you would enjoy it.

    Reply
  26. Mary Ann

    All the above post pretty much said it all. I have been following you ever since your blog about Mark’s tobacco boards etc. I always look forward to your blogs and re-read some that really interest me or speak to me and skip those that don’t. I have always thought that even though I’m a few decades older than you, that we were kindred spirits…we like a lot of the same things, only you have the guts, brains, wherewithall to write it down and put it out to share…that is awesome. Follow your heart…I like your blog just the way it is…recipes, dogs, hobbies, friends…and I hope you continue to do it. People that are hateful and mean must have a terrible life…please pay them no mind, or atleast try not to. Hugs to you my never met before friend.

    Reply
  27. Aimee Broussard

    Oh, Natalie this hurts my heart to hear you’ve been dealing with such negativity. The blog world environment is a tough one and we all go through precisely what you’re going through. On one hand it’s full of amazingly creative people that result in friendships you had no idea your life was lacking and on the other, it’s the same high school drama you were certain you left behind decades ago.

    Do not let SBS get you down. A good friend got booted a few months ago (no explantation, just a not so friendly little email letting her know her links were removed) and it totally rubbed me the wrong way. So much so, I’m not renewing. I propose we start a SBS rejects club. :)

    As for the others in your life, I have found that the more successful you become the more people you tick off. It’s hard, but you have to remind yourself that it really does have little to do with you personally, and has more to do with their own shortcomings. I have a quote framed in my office that says “don’t you worry your pretty little mind, people throw rocks at things that shine”. You, my friend are guilty of nothing more than shining too brightly for the dull. Dimming your sparkle is doing a disservice to yourself, your husband, and those who truly care about you. I say shine on, sister! Write about what you want, when you want, and do your thing. You’ll make time for the things that matter most, and if the blog falls into that category so be it. And if doesn’t, just promise you’ll throw us a little update email every now and then. :)

    Thinking about you!

    Reply
  28. Saress Moye

    Natalie, just write what makes you happy and don’t worry about the critics. There is always someone trying to bring another down. Worry only wastes your time and energy….I used to be the Queen of the Worriers, I even told people worrying was my job! I am not perfect by any means and worry still tries to sneak in and I have been tested so much in the last year, especially. I have a mantra also and keep it up, it will help. I enjoy your writing and the heck with the critics, they are just jealous.
    Here is a link to Ram Dass Face book page and you can find the website there also. This has been a real help to me. I knew of him in the 60s, but have just now really gotten into reading his writings. Enjoy.
    Namaste

    Reply
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