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What you feel vs. think: Taking a break from thinking

 

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If you’ve been around since the new year, you know I’ve been ill for practically the whole month of January. All I’ve heard from others  as I lie on my bed was, “How are you feeling?” “How does it feel?” “Are you feeling better?” Nobody asks what I think about this or that or what’s on my mind.

It made me realize how much I tend to overthink things when I’m well and alive. We all do this. Confucius was way ahead of his time when he said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” When we got well-functioning pairs of eyes, ears and sides of our brain, we like to disregard our feelings and prioritize our “shoulds” and “coulds” to prevent the “would’ves”. It’s understandable, because in this day and age, we’re always short on time.

That is why ight now, I feel like it’s a good time to take my sabbatical from the blog to focus on something else for a month. I also plan to do this annually. Back in January, I published a blog post that revealed how I’ve been working to dive in to business and take my blogging content to meld with the said boutique. And then from there the blog will become a form of content marketing to drive the business. But, honestly, I’ve been having this temptation to just stop blogging once and for all and just work on the boutique, because then I won’t have planned blogging content to prepare constantly and all the time in the world to focus on every stage from the product development to marketing. With what Stillwater has become today1, you might not be surprised that so far, I’ve only got time to explore different vendors,  and I haven’t moved as fast on my feet as I’d like to to the actual launching process.

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Most people don’t get how much work it takes to maintain a blog, much less a blog that isn’t in the niche market. Once in a while I do get the “But bloggers don’t have vacations, right?” comment, which is such a relief. But for the majority of the population, blogging looks like a 4-hour-workweek kind of job and not exactly a “real” job. So here’s for the untrained eye: Just to produce content, you have at least 5 different process – brainstorm, photoshoot, write, edit, and publish. Also, there are roughly a dozen unfinished/unedited/non-revisited drafts lying on my agenda. For the backend side of things, you pitch, network, research, expose yourself to opportunities, consider your opportunities, write around e-mails, respond to press invitations, create presence, collaborate, engage readers who contact you personally, engage the online world in general, update social media platforms, tweak your web design, fix plugin errors, optimize blog posts, etc etc etc. Yes, you only see the 20% part of blogging. 80% of the work isn’t visible to the naked eye.

That said, this month-long break will be for me to get out of this constant. It’s an unsustainable schedule if I want to throw in a side business into the mix.

During my senior year in college, the life-changing project that made me realize my spirit animal is a pig was when the assignment demanded us to pick an animal and a) draw them realistically, then b) anthropomorphize them. But 5 years (5 years!!!) of creative labor without much mental stimulation ended up making me resent drawing, and if there’s one thing that felt effortless and expressive for me, it was drawing pigs. There’s no reason behind it other than they’re cute. People don’t see the snout like I do, and drawing them cutely comes as naturally as a breeze. How do I know it’s love? Well, I’m willing to draw humans and flowers and other props just for said pigs, and I really don’t like drawing humans. When I was 11, my elder brother gave me a testimonial on Friendster that described me as someone who “doesn’t like to use her brain but when she does, fear her |ntellig3nc3!!!!”. Now that I think about it, I guess I went to art school and not to journalism/literature/English for that reason, that aesthetic pleasures are closer to my heart, even though I enjoy the brainwork that writing demands.

"Am I a pink/purple pig or a cream/blue pig?" #ThePig
“Am I a pink/purple pig or a cream/blue pig?” #ThePig

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Up to this day, my mini-breaks from blogging consist of countless hours shrieking at pet piggies on Instagram. Like, how on earth are they so cute?! It doesn’t take an iota of energy to push myself to share the way I see pigs, or at least, pig. In fact, it felt almost as if it’s my responsibility to show the world how cute and lovely and endearing they are as I see them, like an undoing of cute aggression. This piggy love has even manifested itself into a whole, tangible character that I got its copyrights reserved. It all just takes time … time I have to *sigh* spend on the blog.

I mean, I never run out of ideas for posts. It’s the quality of these posts that had me this worked up all the time, and quality is super important to me, no matter how many times quantity (3-5 posts/week) gets the spotlight when it comes to chasing traffic.2 It’s just that it takes a lot of energy for me to get up, carry my DSLR-containing camera everywhere, turn on the camera, hold my breath, get the shots, pose awkwardly till I get the shot right, delete the bad ones, explore other angles, and start editing those darn photos. In addition to the photo-taking fuss, I never write one blog post without opening multiple tabs simultaneously; for research, Dictionary.com, fact-checking and all that jazz. I was never a greatest multi-tasker to begin with. Plus, don’t forget that all this is just 20% of the workload. Altogether it’s increasingly becoming burdensome (with a capital B) when in fact, ALL I intend to do is just getting the word out – like when you clear your throat and speak a full sentence. I don’t regard this as doing anything original in every sense of the word (unlike drawing pigs cutely), just original content in SEO-speak.

So this brought me back to the fresh start I made last year in May, the time when I basically diverted every aspect of my blogging into a more professional direction.3

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I gotta be honest. At that point, I still wasn’t quite sure why I wanted to blog. I do have specific intentions behind each blog post, but the big picture still looks nebulous – the big “why”. Perhaps because I actively stimulate my mind everyday and needed an outlet to record the things I’ve learned? Perhaps because I want to connect with like-minded people? Perhaps because I want to share my joy and all my passions in life? Or perhaps because some part of me wanted to make money of of it? Perhaps one day, I want to look back and remember the most grateful moments of my life? Maybe all of the above, because Stillwater was never meant to be in the niche market.4 It’s frustrating for me that after all these months, I still can’t quite put it into sentence with a full stop – like if there’s a form in front of me asking me to fill the ‘Mission Statement: __________.’ part, I wouldn’t be able to complete a proper sentence.

But there is one good thing since May though: I’m starting to discover more and more of what it’s not. It’s like a master filtering system to cut out all the things I don’t need to do. Some things it’s not:

  • my primary income source
  • 100% hobby blog (I want to profit from it)
  • a 100% compromised medium (for maximum profits without sacrificing integrity)
  • a fleeting interest5

 

Judging from the 6 resolutions in May, I can check all of the boxes off and consider the past 10 months an accomplishment:

Stop creating content for content’s sake
Minimize dilution
Leverage offline engagement
Invest in social media presence
Be of service

 

Now, the issue lies in evolving Stillwater to supplement my boutique as opposed to the other way round, and from then on, sustaining it without having me go crazy.

It sounds like a lot will change … But!! I’m sure if I step away from virtually all blogging responsibilities for a whole month – you know, get out of my head, see things outside of the box, go do non-“mental” activity like pig-drawing and creating products out of them and other things that feels right for me for a while – I know I’ll come back with more clarity.

I don’t know how else to conclude this but saying thank you so, so, so, so much for reading this up to this point and for understanding. Be back soon.

 
 
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Stace

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 Footnote(s):

  1. doubled the traffic, opportunities consistently showing up, massive PR people e-mailing me irrelevant stories that only showed they obviously don’t read my blog []
  2. The most basic premise of profiting from blogging is that your traffic determines your income – that’s about the most basic as I can go. []
  3. That’s also where I began retrieving my old DSLR camera again and started carrying it everywhere I go. []
  4. For this, I always, always get conflicting opinions (all unsolicited) about what topics and what not to cover, and it’s been a huge source of my self-doubt. []
  5. I’ve been blogging since I was 10 and I don’t plan to stop till my last day on earth []

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