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‘When Blogging Becomes a Slog’ from the NYT

I was contacted last week by Steven Kurutz, a  New York Times reporter, about an article that he was working on about “Blogger Burnout and how to avoid it” (that’s what he told me the article was about in his email.) The article came out a couple of days ago and while — yay! I’m in the New York Times — the title “When Blogging Becomes a Slog” kinda makes it sound like I’m totally over blogging, which I’m not. (It doesn’t help that right over my photo it reads “Singing the Blogging Blues” either. ha!)

Now, I’ll take a second to confess that I had to look up the exact definition of the word slog.  After looking it up and learning that “slog” means “a spell of difficult, tiring work or traveling” I would argue that blogging, just like any daily practice or job that involves an everyday commitments, is difficult, tiring work, it is a slog, but it’s a slog (or ‘hustle’ as I like to call it) that I LOVE.

Anyway, I thought it would be fun, as an addendum to the article, to show you the questions that Steven asked and the answers that I sent back.  Many of the discussions around the article that have popped up, including this one on my homegirl Holly’s blog, includes questions as to why this article was focused on DIY/Design bloggers and not bloggers in general (or people from every profession for that matter, we all experience burnout, right?!?) But the questions that were posed to me by Steven originally shed some light on this subject, I believe, so check it:

How do you keep things fresh without repainting your walls every three days:
I use a lot of textiles and flowers in my work. I can bring in different florals/plants/foliage or simply cover a chair/sofa/table in a beautiful textile and completely change the look of a space without actually doing too much. It is in my nature to enjoy changing things up too and I think that helps–ever since I was a child I’ve loved to rearrange furniture and switch things around at home, so I actually enjoy the constant flux in the jungalow.

How do you balance the need to show readers your space with the need for privacy?
I don’t have any problems inviting people into my space. I love to entertain and have guests over to the house, and I feel like sharing images of my space to my readers is a natural extension of that. Where I do tend to need more privacy is with family matters. I have a young daughter (she’s 2 years old) and my husband is a pretty private person, so I just run ideas by him if a post involves him or Ida (our daughter) to make sure that he feels comfortable with it. When I’m sharing things of a more personal nature, they tend to be about me, my issues, my feelings and not too centered around the rest of my family. Both of my parents are developmental psychologists and I think I was raised with strong notions of ‘boundaries’ and I think that this has helped me to find the balance between the parts of my life that I keep private vs. the parts of my life that I make public.

How do you keep the blog fun and organic if it’s also become an income stream?
I get a lot of offers for partnerships that just don’t work with my taste. I don’t take them. I think one of my strengths as a creative is that I have a very clear style and vibe and if I don’t feel like the partnership is a good match, I prefer to forgo the cash and wait for something that aligns with my blog and brand. The partnerships that I do take on allow for me to be even more creative and invest in materials and assistants and spend time crafting great content as opposed to spending time on client work. I love to think of creative ways to work with brands to generate content that is authentic to my style and voice. I keep things fresh and authentic by having concept driven content as opposed to product driven content. I think that really helps to bring each post back to my unique voice and the way I see the world. This is slightly unrelated, but the YHL post that you linked to reminded me of this tangentially related topic on the subject of sponsorship — I look around in the world, on TV shows and in movies, in magazines and at concerts, on the sides of buses and in subways…I see sponsors all over the place and I see bloggers as the only people apologizing for it, or feeling a need to justify to readers WHY they are creating sponsored posts. I am earning a living and supporting my family through blogging. I am creating great, free content for my readers and I really proud of what I have accomplished and that I make money from this. I am unapologetic about creating sponsored content. I believe all of my content is fresh and authentic, sponsored or not. I do draw lines in the sand, however. For example, I have turned down several large partnerships this year that would have made my daughter the focus of campaign, something that my husband and I have agreed not do do.

How do you renovate and redecorate without living in chaos:
I currently live in a rental, so there are a lot of more major overhauls I’d love to do to the house that will have to wait until a family can afford to buy a home in L.A. on a blogger’s salary ;) That having been said, we do live in chaos. I have craft projects everywhere, my desk is currently in my living room, I do all my flower art on our patio (and yes leaves and flowers blow everywhere in the wind!) There are toddler toys mixed with bags full of props and textiles, computer wires everywhere…it’s not even a beautiful mess, it’s just a mess. I’m pretty sick of it (my man is over it too) so I’m actually in the process of looking for a studio, hopefully that will help remedy the situation even just a little bit.

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure y’all knew that I am not tired of this space–in fact, I love the challenge of it, I still get off on it, and still am inspired and motivated–and IS a slog, but it’s a damn good slog….and I feel like I’m only getting started! What are your thoughts? Did you have a chance to read the article?

Photo by Kevin Scanlon For the New York Times

Alternative Text Justina Blakeney

Designer, artist, stylist & mama. Founder and CCO at The Jungalow. Crazy for color, pattern and plants!

23 responses to “‘When Blogging Becomes a Slog’ from the NYT”

  1. Bubbie says:

    I am sooo glad you posted this retort to an article I thought was soo blatantly biased. I thought to myself: how did they choose Justinablakeney est. 1979 for a burnt out blogger??!! Could hardly be further from the truth. And the courage and integrity of making hard choices in whatever we do. I, too, wish we lived in a time and place where I and Each of you could share our gifts and our passion (in my case teaching, encouraging and shrinking troubled young people) free of charge, free of “sponsorship” or “partnership” …that’s not the kind of world we live in…yet, and I am totally proud, encouraged and inspired by your boundaries and your commitment to transparency and honesty…you offer guidance to your readers and your sponsors….would that the print media or the television media had the kind of integrity and care you express in your partnership.

  2. Deb says:

    What’s so funny is your photo and blog are anything BUT blue!! Literally and figuratively! My day job employer does a lot of work with major media including NYT, and many times our intent gets lost in translation. It’s cool to see this Q&A.

  3. I didn’t even know about this NYT article till I read about it here. I have been struggling with minimizing the blog component of what I do. Try hard as I might, I just couldn’t do more than once a week (in a good month). I used to think something was wrong with me, but hello, I have 3 kids, a husband and a part time job. Doing projects, photographing, editing and writing take sooo much work, and time OMG! And I don’t even make any money from it, or have an audience. I think the success of your Blog, Justina, is that it’s not personal (as in, it’s not about JUST your house) I think that’s the difference. I was never one to be really really open about my life on the blog, and now I see that I must focus elsewhere. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Jessica Rose says:

    A similar thing happened to a young female blogger in the UK recently for a national newspaper and she received some fairly nasty comments from members of the public who thought she was a whinger and a moaner…and to get a *real job. Journalists hate bloggers (although they won’t admit it!) because we are a *threat* to them (they feel) …don’t worry those who read your blog are on YOUR SIDE! ;))

  5. “..I look around in the world, on TV shows and in movies, in magazines and at concerts, on the sides of buses and in subways…I see sponsors all over the place and I see bloggers as the only people apologizing for it, or feeling a need to justify to readers WHY they are creating sponsored posts..”
    Amen to that Justina! Having a decent amount of sponsored post doesn’t mean one is not true to their beliefs, but that’s something overly discussed these past months. Just like trying to apologize for what we do, as you put it.
    As well as, obviously, blogging to many is a job and like any kind of job (one loves and believes into), it has its ups and downs, dedication and long hours, as opposed to a hobby you can start and stop at any time. Why should blogging be any different?

  6. Gucki says:

    I’ve started blogging just a little bit more of one year, thank you very much for sharing your experience and your daily life. The article is very interesting but also scary… Could you tell me more about your blog beginning? I really would like to figure out which direction I would take…
    I am Italian and I live in Italy, sometimes I think that if I were in USA it would be easier for me transform my blog in a job. Here in Italy diy blogging is still something that people doesn’t understand much – seems that just fashion blog could do it!

    Thank you in advance!
    If you would like to take a look to my world… http://www.gucki.it :)

  7. Andrea says:

    Dear Justina,
    You are by far the most innovative and fresh blogger out there in my opinion and I’m always amazed by your seemingly unending creativity. You blast me with new inspiration on the reg. Keep being the shining beautiful light you are and pay no mind to the shade being angled in your direction.
    You are a creative force to be reckoned with!

  8. […] blog world right now. This blog is ending. This blog is not saying. This blog has slowed down, and this blog is still excited about moving […]

  9. April says:

    I read the NYT article. In my opinion, the story presents Justina as the authority who has overcome challenges and avoided burnout. Although, the design of the photo does kinda suck.

  10. First, thank you for sharing your side/behind the scenes of this article. Reading the NYT article, I was left with a feeling that there isn’t much hope left in this industry, very discouraging. I’m a newer blogger, struggling to make full time work for me and have definitely been faced with challenges of burnout and confusion early on. It’s an industry that not many people understand and for some reason don’t equate to “normal” jobs. I’ve given up trying to explain to people how much goes into blogging, styling, photography, graphic design and social media. There is this silly illusion that we just click a button, make things look pretty and all is done. It is so encouraging to see behind your curtain and know the same concerns exist in your world. I hope that the article will at least spark more awareness that this is a tough profession and deserves a lot more respect as a career.

  11. […] article also featured the opinions several bloggers I follow, like Justina of Justina Blakeney and Erin of Design for Mankind. Each of these ladies had their own take on […]

  12. Dee says:

    I was surprised to see your name pop up in the article b/c as a reader/fan, I never get the impression that you don’t *love* this. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Sarah M. says:

    Justina, you’ve already earned the title of being my favorite blogger– for your spirit, your sincerity, your commitment to creating a community behind your blog. This post is awesome– it shows such poise and grace in confronting the NYT’s kinda shady portrayal. Thanks for setting the record straight and showing a little love for us :) We’re so glad you love the slog, because we love the results!

  14. Jasmine says:

    You are my favorite blogger Justina! Great point about everyone else in the world outside of blogging unapologetically crowding our world with ads. Insincere ones at that! You have so gracefully yet blatantly pointed out that you are a strong project conceptualizer rather than sponsorship drone- beyond inspiring and will no doubt keep you true to yourself with that contagious spunk! You rule! Congrats, especially in recognizing that for all of the way you’ve come (NYTimes baby!) you’re just getting started!

  15. […] There were some really great responses to the article from some of the bloggers featured (here, here and here) but I’m curious to know what your thoughts on the shift in social media are. Have […]

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  17. Oh, so interesting post! thanks a lot for your words. I’m Italian and I am a blogger but an Engineer and Interior Designer too :) so in my website I talk about my interior projects, design and colours. Hoping it will take me far away!
    If you want to have a look, recent posts are available also in English ;) http://www.easyrelooking.com

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