The 8-Year Anniversary of Emma's Thing
8 years ago today, on March 1, 2010, I sat down in my first post-grad apartment at my heavy wooden hand-me-down desk, opened up my 20-pound all black Macbook, registered emmasthing.blogspot.com, and started writing. I was 22 on the verge of 23, freshly graduated from college, green as could be to the workforce in a job that I had to take out of necessity (the economy then tho) that had nothing to do with writing, and was in dire need of an outlet. I've been creatively writing since I learned how to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. I would spend weekend days at my family computer, writing chapters of drippy teenage "novels" that would never see the light of day (and were mostly page after page of unrequited love and heavy makeout sessions). I would put together full Powerpoint presentations on God knows what just to exercise my creative muscle and have something to do. I would journal. I was always writing.
So, when I was catapulted into life after college with no scribe-focused job, I realized I needed something to word vomit onto just to make sure I was still alive, well and with pulse. At the risk of sounding like television grandparents, back when I started blogging, it wasn't a fraction of what it is today. Back then, you blogged to write — that's it. You didn't do it to share pictures (bloggers who actually uploaded pictures and formatted them correctly are now probably on the board of Apple or some shit) or links or get likes and comments or even for the "engagement." You did it because you had random thoughts that you felt needed to be expressed, and you were more than pleased if just your sister, mom, and best friend read it. You didn't spend hours or weeks creating content; when you were hit with a thought, you haphazardly flung your laptop screen open, pounded out the absurdity for your own psyche's records, and forgot about it. All this explains the complete randomness and non-sensical nature of my very first blog post:
OF COURSE, Ellen is mentioned in the very first sentence of my blog. She's been inspiring my rants and road rage since the dawn of time. But this post — my first ever blog post — embodies why I started. I had things to say, stuff to lament about. But in 2010, Instagram was BARELY a thing and Facebook wasn't the place you went to complain, overshare, and get in virtual yet somehow cathartic fights — not yet. So, for me, my blog started as a place to express myself in a world that wasn't as open to that sort of expression yet.
For years, my blog had no direction. All I knew was I liked to vent, cuss, and tell stories (none of that has changed). I didn't have a vision or a hook — I just was a girl in her early 20s, going through the great college breakup, navigating the workforce, and figuring out how the fuck to "do life." I didn't have series or volumes of anything — I just wrote about whatever was top of mind for that day. Some weeks, I'd post every day. Some days, I posted twice! I was a word vomiting machine. Somewhere along the way, though, the vomit started helping me wedge my foot in the door of the writing world. I started getting tiny, insignificant freelance gigs solely based off my blog. Turns out, I had a voice and some people liked that voice and wanted that voice to talk about things outside my blog. The fun I was having furiously typing words onto the screen was lightly paying off! But my biggest break came in 2013. Working in yet another non-writing job, I was growing restless. I was now 25 going on 26 and doing 100MPH toward quarter-life crisis territory. I knew (or at least thought) writing for a living was a now-or-never decision. I was tired of just having a job; I wanted a career. So I took my journalism degree, my blog and, most importantly, my passion and devised a plan.
My sister is an extremely talented designer, so the art director/copywriter pairing was a natural match made in Golden family heaven. We worked to piece together a very makeshift "book" (AKA portfolio) and with that, a finely worded email that my entire family helped me write, and my blog, I dove head first into pitching myself to advertising agencies in Dallas. And it worked.
The same day I started sending out the emma's thing package, the Executive Creative Director at one of the bigger agencies I wrote to emailed me back, and to this day, it's the greatest email I've ever received:
"You sound completely under qualified but extremely interesting. Let's talk."
And that was it. I went in, interviewed with the little work I had to show (most of which was my blog) and was hired. I'll never forget what my soon-to-be boss's first words were to me: "Your blog is wonderful. You have such a strong voice. It's really good." All that seemingly mindless and directionless chatter had a purpose. Without realizing it or working toward it, I had spent the last three years building my very own kind of portfolio. My blog launched my career.
If you've been with me for a while or spent any time clicking on my original URL I posted up there, you know how far I've come over the last eight years. I've reformatted, moved platforms, covered (what feels like) every topic under the digital sun. I've written for plenty of online publications, experimented with different content, and gotten realer than real. But although I've been writing this entire time, I still never felt my direction was clear. I wasn't confident in the "what" or "who" behind my blog — I just knew I had to write it or I would internally implode. It didn't pay me squat; the richness I felt just sharing my thoughts was enough, and I fucking mean that with every fiber of my being.
But with the EXPLOSION of social media, the blogging world has undergone an evolution and transformation of Caitlin Jenner proportions. What was once owned by little ole bloggers like me is now overrun with FASHION, MAKEUP, MOMMIES, and BEAUTY. Content has gotten richer, more involved, and curating that content is cut-throat. Professional developers, photographers, and probably makeup artists are at-large behind the scenes now. The words have become a must-have rather than the most important thing and ya know what? That's okay. I can't control that — it is what it is. But all this forced me to reevaluate my blog and finally clearly defining the what and who behind it:
Authentic, honest, original content all written and created by an open book who's lived a lot and has a lot to say about it.
It took me years, but I finally realized emma's thing is about connection. Even with the uprising of follows-for-follows, likes-for-likes, and (gag me) buying of followers, I've somehow managed to Zeta-Jones in "Entrapment" the shit out of all of it and cultivate a readership who I am so in love with. And yes — at times, I've been tempted to conform. To do things the way I see so many other, "bigger" bloggers doing it but, in those moments, I've never felt less like myself. So, starting 8 months ago when I rebranded emma's thing and took a much more focused approach, I made a silent vow to keep doing things the "hard" way by refusing to play the game. The climb's been snail's pace at times, but I wouldn't have it any other way because once my readers are in, THEY'RE IN. And I fucking love it.
And yeah — some things have changed. I now have the opportunity to slightly monetize my blog by sharing the pieces of my exorbitant amount of OOTDs or link you to products I'm currently obsessing over, but the open book authenticity has always and will always remain. I'll never push a product I don't truly swear by 'cause yah girl just don't play like that. And I'll never change my voice in order to be more of what a brand is looking for because I am a brand. And a good one, too.
Now, for the new bloggers or the lost bloggers or the thinking-about-starting-a-blog bloggers — some advice. No matter if your focus is fashion, food, mommy-stuff, or good ole writing, these are 3 things I wish I had known a good five years ago.
1. Know your voice and don't change it.
Humans are complex. We so rarely only have one passion in life. However, the sooner you find your focus, the sooner you'll find your voice and, with it, experience a crystal clear sense of calm with your blog. You'll be tempted to throw shit at the wall and see what sticks, and that is a very important step in discovering what shit sticks best but once you've found that sticky shit, don't stray. For example, while I love fashion, recipes, and beauty, none of them are my bread and butter. Writing is. So you'll notice I've only ever attempted a few picture-heavy fashion posts and, when I share recipes, I keep the copy very short up top because you're not here for a food blog — you're here for me and oh! She posts recipes, too? Neat! Maybe I'll try one. Knowing, owning, and capitalizing on your voice is what will keep you grounded in the "what" and "who" of your blog, and set you apart from so many others who are all doing the same thing.
2. Consistency isn't just key — it's everything.
If you're serious about wanting to put the time in with your blog, really put the time in. Treat it like a true side hustle. Posting every day for a week then going silent for a month then coming back and posting twice that week then not posting again for three weeks — not a good look. Even if you have no readers, be consistent about posting from the get-go so once you do have those loyal, die-hard readers, they know what to expect from you and when. Of course, some weeks you're going to be dried up and have nothing to offer in terms of content (I just went through this), which is natural. But outside of that, being as consistent with your posts as humanely possible not only establishes trust, foundation, and excitement with your readers, but also means you're constantly working that creative muscle so it's in great shape. And as for coming up with content...
3. Content calendars are God.
I flew by the seat of my pants with blog content for YEARS. Literally, up until this past October of 2017, I was writing what I wanted when I wanted and not giving it much in-advance thought (save for birthday or end of the year posts) and I liked it that way. But when I decided to rebrand and really buckle down, I started becoming increasingly more overwhelmed with ideas and had no idea how to organize them all. Enter: my best friend (who I joke is also my doctor, therapist, agent, manager, and personal chef). She's a project manager and account executive and it shows, because she had my creative ass sit down at a coffee shop one Friday in October, pull up a Google calendar, and start planning out my content for the first time in my life. And by Jove — it worked. I was no longer panicking about what I would post that week or how I would cover all the ideas I had. I had a calendar, and my OCD boner was raging. Now, of course, the calendar is always loose. It changes constantly because things come up, but just the fact that I have some sort of schedule and can visually see what I'm going for that month has been a game changer. Make one and be amazed.
It's been 8 years full of ups, downs, threats to quit, viral posts and complete bombs, and I wouldn't take back any of it. My blog has been with me throughout my early adulthood, documenting the trials and tribulations of everyday life and I'm so grateful. In fact, I'd like to thank young Emma for just going for it and gifting today's Emma with such a wonderful, visual timeline of my own evolution. The connections I've made by sharing the stories I have are what has made this entire thing worth it and will continue to for who knows how much longer. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.