Archive of ‘Ask Amber’ category
So, I think we can all agree this is the least creative (and possibly the most self-indulgent) post title I’ve ever come up with, and that’s up against some pretty stiff competition, hey?
The thing is, though, I’ve been getting a lot of questions recently about my hair colour: specifically, is it real, and if not, what the hell is it? (My favourite of these questions so far: “Is that REAL hair on her head?” uttered last week, by an elderly acquaintance who has a habit of speaking about me as if I’m not actually there. Other choice comments: “She’s very pale isn’t she?” and “She’d look better with a bit of colour in her cheeks. I’d like her better if she wasn’t so pale.” )
Anyway, as most of these questions come from people on Twitter and other networks, and I’m physically incapable of writing ANYTHING in 140 characters or less, I thought it might be useful to just write a
quick really long post which I can direct people who are curious about my hair to, and I figured it would be best to give it a title I’d be able to remember in the future, rather than some random song lyric or something. So: my hair colour! And how I get it!
(This post is super-long, and kinda off-topic, so I’ve put the rest of it behind a jump, so those of you who’re not even remotely interested in my stupid hair don’t have to spend the rest of the week scrolling past it to get to the regular content. You’re welcome.)
( Miss Selfridge via eBay dress; Vivienne Westwood for Melissa shoes; mystery cardigan, eBay sunglasses)
Jenni tagged me to do one of those “Seven Random Things About Me” posts a couple of weeks ago, and I started it, then quickly realised that because I’ve done these a few times now, there’s almost nothing about me that’s been left unshared here. Well, nothing that’s FIT to be shared, at least. I mean, I could bore you rigid with a lot of really mundane stuff (but then, that’s what Twitter’s for, surely?), and then there are all my deep dark secrets, obviously, which I just can’t share, but other than that, I got nothing.
OR SO I THOUGHT.
Once I got started, I realised that there actually is no limit to the rubbish I can talk about myself, so here are seven random facts about moi: I have a horrible feeling I may have already “shared” some of these (or maybe even all of them) at some point, so please just humour me, the way you would an elderly relative who is losing her marbles.
1. I have never had a pedicure or a massage in my life…
… and I probably never will. I just can’t stand the thought of people touching my feet, and I’m so bad at making smalltalk that any other kind of treatment which involves strangers, you know, touching me, is horrifying to me, purely because of the socially awkward way I would handle it. I mean, I’m sure massages are super-relaxing for NORMAL people, but for the shy people amongst us, wine fulfils the same purpose, and is cheaper.
2. But I wear make-up every day, even if I’m not planning on leaving the house.
If you’d ever seen me without it, you’d understand why.
3. When I was laid off from my job as a reporter, I applied to work as a salesperson in a designer clothing store, purely for the sake of the staff discount.
I got the job (after one of the toughest interviews I’ve ever had, actually), but turned it down in favour of a job in PR which had twice the salary and made use of my mad writing skillz. It didn’t allow me to get 30% off designer fashion, though, so obviously that sucked.
4. I have developed a mild phobia about escalators
I’m secretly convinced that the moving stair is somehow going to suck me in and EAT ME. So while other people are able to step onto it without even breaking stride, I hop around at the top for ages, waiting for exactly the right minute to step on without being sucked in. And when that moment arrives, I kind of grab the handrail, close my eyes and jump, often whilst emitting a girlie little “ooh!” sound. It must be REALLY annoying for anyone waiting to get on behind me…
5. And I’m terrified of lifts
I think most people are, though, to at least some extent, aren’t they? And if they’re not, they should be. Because lifts are scary.
6. I have had cosmetic surgery…
… to remove two (non-malignant) moles from my face, which I’d hated my entire life. It cost a small fortune, and they both grew back after a couple of years, and had to be removed AGAIN, but it was still one of the best things I ever did, and I wish I could go back in time and have it done much sooner. They’ve both now been cut out at the root, and I’m told the chances of them returning a second time are slim, so naturally I’m expecting them to reappear any day now.
7. I am completely incapable of taking pain killers
I put them in my mouth, take a sip of water… and then I PANIC, freeze and sit there for five minutes with the pills still in my mouth and my eyes popping out of my head, terrified that if I swallow, I will surely choke to death. (I almost did choke to death once, incidentally, although not on painkillers, so every mealtime is an adventure for me now.) When I do finally muster the nerve to swallow them, one pill ALWAYS seems to get stuck halfway down my throat, and while that’s obviously not going to kill me, it does tell me that I was right to worry about it.
And there you have it: seven things that you didn’t really want to know, but which I told you anyway! If you read all the way to the end, you can consider yourself “tagged”…
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One of the side-effects of blogging for a living is that, after a while, people start to assume that you know what you’re talking about, and they send you emails and tweets asking for advice on how they can blog for a living, too.
I get quite a lot of these requests, and honestly, I never really know how to answer them: not just because I always feel like I’m making it up as I go along, and that one day someone will go, “Wait! This woman isn’t a REAL pro-blogger! This woman is an IMPOSTOR!” and my professional-blogger card will be revoked or something, but also because it’s such a huge subject that there’s no easy answer. I mean, entire books have been written on the subject of blogging: how can I expect to dispense nuggets of wisdom in the space of a 140-character tweet, or in a few paragraphs of an email? Just in case you haven’t noticed, I’m wordy. I sometimes have to use several tweets, just to talk about my breakfast*, so I’ve NO hope of being able to give you blogging tips over Twitter.
(*Not true. I never tweet about my breakfast.)
Rather than writing lengthy emails or multiple tweets, then, I thought I’d put together a lengthy blog post instead, which I can point people to in the event of their asking my advice. And here it is!
Important note for new readers: most of these questions are geared towards blogging for money, and as you can see, I don’t do that here, so if you’re curious to see examples of what I’m talking about, you might want to check out my commercial sites, The Fashion Police, Shoeperwoman and Hey, Dollface! I should probably stress, before I get started, that I don’t have all of the answers. I attribute a lot of the success of my blogs to dumb luck, and being in the right place at the right time, so I’m not writing this as an “expert”, but simply as an easy way to answer some of the questions I’m asked most frequently. Starting off with…
How on earth can you make money from blogging?
This is by far the most frequent question I get asked. (Well, actually, no it isn’t: “Do redheads have souls?” is the most frequent question I get asked. But the less said about that, the better…). Most people understand WHAT I do – I post photos of shoes, dresses, and sometimes myself on the Internet every day. They just don’t understand how I can possibly be getting paid for it. Which is fair enough, really: I mean, it’s a kinda weird thing to be getting paid for, isn’t it? If I were to go back in time and tell my younger self, “Amber, one day there will be a thing called the Internet, and you will get paid to put pictures of shoes on it,” my younger self would be AMAZED. Not least because she totally expected she would grow up to be a famous showjumper, and be in the Olympics and stuff. It’s funny how things work out, isn’t it?
On the other hand, though, it’s actually not THAT strange, when you really think about it. I mean, a blog is just another form of media, like a newspaper, or magazine, or TV show. And if you can create something – ANYTHING, really – that enough people want to look at every day, then there’s going to be some way to make money out of it. If enough people look at your blog, then there are actually lots of different ways you can monetise it. I do it by charging for advertising space on the sites: basically, the more popular a site is, the more people are willing to pay to have their advert displayed on it, and there are lots of different types of adverts you can use, which I’ll talk about some other time. Or, you know, maybe I won’t.
Some bloggers also use the popularity of their blogs to help establish themselves as experts in their fields, and that allows them to charge for other services: public speaking, consultancy, freelancing, etc. I don’t do any of that, so if you’re looking for tips on those things, sorry, nothing to see here..
What should I write about?
The answer to this is limited only by your imagination, so my best advice is to write about something you are genuinely passionate about, and which there’s a good chance you’ll be able to CONTINUE to write about, over and over again, for a very long time. You could, of course, pick some random subject which you think will be profitable, but trust me: it’s hard enough to find something to say about the things you ARE interested in after a while, without trying to write about something you don’t really care about. I mean, there are days when even I think, “Jesus, they’re JUST SHOES.” Seriously.
So, first of all, pick a subject you have some knowledge of, and which you know you’ll be able to generate lots of content about, for the foreseeable future. Pick a subject you have something to say about – and, ideally, which you have something UNIQUE to say about. If there are a hundred blogs about cheese, say, you better have something different to say about cheese, or people will have no reason to read your blog rather than all of the other cheese-lovin’ blogs. God, I love cheese.
Finally, pick something that other people are interested in, too. You could be the world’s leading expert on the mating habits of the electric catfish, for instance, but if you also happen to be the only person in the world interested in the mating habits of the electric catfish, your blog probably won’t be attracting readers in their thousands. Just you and the electric catfish, really.
(No offence to electric catfish.)
Do I really need to have a “niche”? Can’t I just write about ME, wonderful ME?
Well, you can, obviously. You can write about anything you like. But you’ll find it much more difficult to make money out of blogging if you don’t have a focus. Take this site, for instance. It’s the blog I’ve had longest, and it’s the one I have the biggest emotional connection to, but it’s by far the least successful of all of my sites. Even Hey, Dollface! which is updated infrequently, and always the first site to be neglected if I’m busy, gets more than twice the traffic this site does. There could be – and probably are – lots of reasons for that, obviously, but the most obvious one is that this site doesn’t have any particular focus, and the others all do. People like to know what they’re getting. They tend to like blogs which are about SOMETHING, as opposed to blogs which are about EVERYTHING. There are some very notable exceptions to that, obviously – I’m thinking of people like Dooce, here – but they’re few and far between, and tend to have a) gotten into blogging just at the right time or b) had something really dramatic happen to them (in Dooce’s case, getting fired because of her blog) which catapulted them into the public eye. So while I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a commercially successful blog with no particular focus, I am saying you’ll be making it much harder on yourself.
Which blogging platform should I use?
Obviously personal preference will come into play here, but I’ve used Blogger, Typepad, Moveable Type and WordPress, and for what it’s worth, WordPress kicks them all to the kerb. In my humble opinion, anyway. As well as being self-hosted (you’ll want to be self-hosted if you plan on making a business out of blogging), it’s totally customisable, very user-friendly, and is constantly being updated, and having new plugins, etc developed for it. Whichever platform you decide to go with, though, the most important thing is to think very carefully about it BEFORE you start your blog. Don’t just get impatient and sign up for Blogger because it’s free, and all the other kids are using it, because
Blogger sucks ass if you change your mind down the line (and trust me, you will) you’ll find that moving platforms can be an absolute bitch – especially if you have a blog with a large amount of posts. Trust one who has been there and done it, although thankfully not with Blogger, which I’ve only ever used for brief periods of time.
* * *
So, when I started writing this, I thought I could answer all of the questions in one, and have a neat little post I could point people to when they ask me for blogging advice. I must have been delirious or something, though, because, like I say, I’M WORDY. And it turns out that I have a LOT to say about not having a lot to say on this subject, and as I’ve just hit the 1,500 word mark (First rule of blogging: KEEP IT SHORT. No one reads long posts!) on this, I’ve decided to split this up into a few different posts. So, yay, that’s something for you all to look forward to, no? And you thought this week would be boring, too!
I’m joking. I won’t do them all in one week. I may not do them all AT ALL, actually. We’ll see…
(So, I haven’t been Frocking lately, as some of you have noticed. I’ve been mostly Skirting instead. Honestly, I’m just totally sick to death of my winter wardrobe by this point of the year, and the skirts didn’t get an airing during Dressember, so I’m putting them into rotation now, before I lose the will to live. Normal Frocking may or may not resume once the weather gets warmer: for now, here are some photos from Shoe Challenge # 4)
Before we go any further here: no, that’s not my new haircut. In fact, that’s not a haircut at all, because these photos were taken on Saturday afternoon, long before my whole “Scissors, meet hair!” episode of insanity, and my hair is just tucked into the neck of my sweater. And no, I will not under any circumstances be getting it cut to that length. In fact, I’m never having it cut ever again, remember?
Anyway, on to this week’s Friend Friday, which is on one of my favourite subjects: beauty products.
1. What’s your favorite drug store makeup product and your favorite higher-end product?
Drugstore: it’s a toss-up between Revlon ColorStay Foundation and any one of Barry M’s nail polishes (but mostly Bright Red, which is my go-to polish. My toes are rarely seen without it.) As much as I love the foundation, it’s unfortunately not quite pale enough for me, so I guess if I had to choose one, I’d choose the nail polish. (If I had to choose just one, I would also cry and whine like a baby, though…)
High-end: No contest: Lancome Hypnose Drama waterproof mascara. I love it like some of you love your children, which is a sure sign that it will be discontinued any day now.
How I wish I hadn’t cut my hair…
2. Is there one type of product that is your go-to, can’t live without?
Yup, mascara. My eyelashes are pale to the point of translucency, and without mascara I look like I don’t have any. That’s pretty scary, to be honest, which is why I’ve been obsessed with mascara since a very young age.
3. What’s the best hair product you’ve ever used?
John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze in Radiant Red. I absolutely loved this (left my hair super-shiny and made the colour more intense), so naturally as soon as John Freida found out, they discontinued it. I may have cried.
My grandmother’s faux-fur jacket. Old enough to count as “vintage”.
4. Fess up, what’s the worst beauty look you’ve tried to rock and look back at now with a little shame or apprehension that you actually did that?
Other than that time I tried to cut my own hair, you mean? That time known as “Tuesday”? Well, there was the poodle perm I had in high school. There was that time right after I first got glasses when I saw my own reflection clearly for the first time in ages, and was so shocked by my freckles that I tried to go to school the next day with a thick coat of talcum powder on my face, because it was the closest thing to a “cosmetic” I could find at short notice. (Fortunately for me, my parents caught me, and told me that once I was an adult I could do whatever I wanted, but that I was NOT going to primary school looking like a Pierrot.)
Looking back, though, I think almost all of my beauty disasters have been hair-related, and other than the perm and this latest fringe, most of those have been the result of bad experiences at the salon rather than deliberate decisions on my part. Makeup-wise, I am very, very boring, and I mostly wear the same makeup every single day. Sometimes I’ll add a little eyeshadow, but always in a neutral colour: I’ve always just used makeup to try and make myself look a little better, I’ve never been into following beauty trends, or getting all experimental with colours, etc. I just stick to what I know – or what I think – suits me, so while I’m sure I’ve had more than my fair share of lipstick that that was the wrong colour, or badly-applied blusher or something, there’s nothing that really stands out. Other than the hair, obviously, but I think I’ve said enough about that for one week…
5. When it comes to beauty products, we all use the same basic products. What do you use that helps show off your personal flair and personality?
See, now I’m all embarrassed, because thanks to the whole “boring” thing mentioned above, I don’t really think I use any product that shows off my personality. I’d try to claim red lipstick (My go-to look involves bright red lipstick and flicked black eyeliner), but everyone does that, so it’s not like it’s my own spechul thing or anything. So it’s not product based, but I guess I’d have to say I reveal my true personality by ruthlessly hacking off my own hair every now and then. I think that probably says more about my personality than any product ever could…
“I think next week I will attack my own head with scissors!”
Oh, and on the subject of my hair (I swear I will stop talking about it soon…), Gemma linked to this photo of Mandy Moore on Twitter yesterday, and I thought, “Hey, that’s my fringe!” So for those of you who are curious, this is roughly what the fringe looks like, although mine is a lot more, um, “ragged” looking:
Er, just to be clear, I’m not comparing myself to Mandy Moore or anything here, it’s just roughly the same style of fringe, although hers looks thicker, blunter and, well, considerably nicer. And the rest of my hair is all the same length, not layered (if a stylist even mentions the word “layers” to me now, I jump right out of the chair and run out into the street as fast as I can go, still wearing my hairdressing “cape” and towel turban. I’ve learned THAT lesson at least…) and is poker straight, so whereas Mandy looks all tousled and sexy here, imagine the top of her head with straight, fine hair attached to it. Yes, I basically have a HAIR HELMET. I’m slightly reassured by this photo, though: not because I think my hair will ever look like that, obviously, but because it proves that it was a good idea in theory. Brave, I was! A fearless hair adventurer! I just didn’t stop to consider that it wouldn’t suit my hair type. Or face. Stupid, I am!
To get back on topic, though: what are your must-have beauty products? Go on, give me something else to bankrupt myself with!
(For more Friend Friday answers, hop over to Modly Chic!)
(Dress, ASOS (obviously); shoes, Christian Louboutin. Worn on a Valentine’s dinner date with Terry. The shoes were the first to be rescued in my Shoe Challenge, hence the numbers at the bottom of the image…)
The Friend Friday-ing:
1. Since you started blogging has your image of yourself changed?
Since I started blogging in general, no. Since I started taking photos for my blogs, yes, I think it has, more so with the photos I take for Hey, Dollface! because as it’s a beauty blog, and the photos are done for the purpose of reviewing products, they’re normally extreme close-ups of my face, and I defy anyone to look at photos which are THAT detailed and not want to recoil a little. Trust me, it can be pretty scary. Even the photos I take for Shoeperwoman have changed my image of myself a little: I think just looking at so many photos every week has made me notice things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise!
2. Are you self-conscious about any aspect of yourself? If so, do you go out of your way to avoid it or do you post it/talk about it anyway?
Oh hell, yes, I’m self-conscious about lots of things. I’m not going to tell you what they are, though, because in answer to the second part of the question, no, I don’t talk about them. When I was younger, I did: I was the kind of person who would always point out her “flaws”, so if I had a giant spot on my forehead, say (which I often did), I’d be all, “Hi, everyone, I’m Amber: get a load of this spot! I bet you’ve never seen one as big as this before!” I kind of felt like if didn’t mention those things, people would obviously notice them anyway, and, I don’t know, it would be like they had one up on me, or something. As if they’d be thinking, “Ha! Amber has a huge spot and she doesn’t even know it!” So I would attempt to remove this “power” from them by making sure I always mentioned it first, whatever it was. Pretty stupid, no?
These days I don’t go out of my way to draw attention to the things I’m self-conscious about, particularly not on the Internet. I just don’t think there’s anything to be gained from it, and I’ve also learned the hard way that people on the Internet don’t need me to point out my flaws to them – they’re more than capable of noticing them all by themselves!
3. Based on how you are feeling now, what do you think the future holds in the evolution of your body image?
Oh, lordy, I have no idea! I think I’m a lot more comfortable about my body image now than I was when I was younger, so I’d like to think I’ll get even more comfortable with age, but who knows: once everything starts heading south, I may be singing a different tune!
4. Do you photograph yourself for your blog? If so, how do you feel about the experience when you’re having your picture taken?
Yes, I started off taking the aforementioned product review photos for Hey, Dollface, and then last year, when I started the Shoeper Shoe Challenge, I started photographing myself for that. I expect this will come as a surprise to most of the people who read my blogs, but I hate having my photo taken: I always feel really stupid and self-conscious, and this isn’t helped by the fact that I’m a “blinker” – seriously, I can take 10 photos, and in 9 of them I’ll be standing there with my eyes shut and my face all screwed up, so when I’m having my photo taken I have to do this crazy kind of “deer in the headlights” thing where I try to open my eyes as wide as possible and stare like a madwoman. It’s not fun. (Although I guess it might be quite fun to watch…)
(Sometimes I close my eyes deliberately. It’s easier that way.)
5. What would you want every person who struggles with body image to take to heart?
That we’re all our own worst critics, and that the things we’re self-conscious about are often things that are really only noticeable to ourselves. I’ve had so many conversations with female friends where they’ve mentioned something they absolutely hate about themselves, and they’re always things I’ve never even noticed about them, and I don’t think anyone else would either. I think that’s probably often the case: we’re all too busy worrying about our own body image to pick apart someone else’s. One of my favourite quotes on this subject is a really famous one from Cindy Crawford, who once told an interviewer, “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford…” I’ve always loved that, because I think it’s so easy to look at other people, and compare yourself unfavourably to them, but the truth is that we’re all struggling with our own set of insecurities, and no one is perfect. Not even Cindy Crawford.
Um, that was Jerry’s final thought for today. Until next time, take care of yourselves – and each other…”
(More Friend Friday answers at Modly Chic, more Friday Frocks on Facebook)
Oh, and for those of you who don’t read Shoeperwoman, a short video of my shoes, filmed by Terry. I do warn you, though, you will feel like you’ve just watched porn after viewing this…
(*This title totally made me think of lots of little men in overalls running around inside my blog and going, “Well, we can fix it, love… but it’s going to cost you..”.)
1. What technology do you use in blogging? (computer, camera, video camera, tripod, etc…)
Um, let me think… I have a Sony Vaio laptop (don’t ask me the spec, I have no idea! It’s a silver one, kinda rectangular: that do you?), a Nikon D5000 DSLR camera, a tripod and a remote. And an iPhone, but I mostly just use that for obsessively checking comments/stats/Twitter etc, so I’m not sure if it counts.
2. What computer and online technology do you use? (blogging system, photo storage, photo editing tools, etc..)
All of my blogs are on WordPress – I’ve used Blogger, Typepad and Moveable Type in my time, but think WordPress is head and shoulders above the rest: love it! For photo storage, all of my photos are stored on our server, and we have a removable hard disk for backups. I do have a Flickr account, but I stopped using it a few months ago, after all of the “people stealing my photos” drama went down. (The photos weren’t being stolen from Flickr, I hasten to add, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to streamline things a little, and have the photos only available on my blogs.) I use Photoshop for editing: it’s taken a long time to get the hang of it, but I’m learning!
3. What is your process for taking pictures?
I don’t think I have anything as formal as a “process”! I just get ready, then either harass Terry into taking the photos for me, or set up the tripod and do it myself.
4. When it comes to backdrops for your photos what do you consider? Do you scout locations or shoot the same spot daily?
A bit of both: if I’m out somewhere and I come across something that might make a good backdrop, I’ll make a mental note to go back with the camera when I have the chance, but I also take a lot of photos indoors, in the same spot: sometimes the Scottish weather makes it the only option!
5. If you could splurge and get one new piece of equipment what would you be buying?
Um, do shoes count as “equipment”? OK, dresses, then? I actually can’t think of anything I really need right now: we’re pretty much set, and technology isn’t really my strong point (I bet Terry could think of something, though), unfortunately. If I could justify an Amazon Kindle as “essential blogging equipment”, though, I totally would: I think Terry might want his back one day…
Read more over at Modly Chic…
(Dress, ASOS; shoes; vintage Gina, from a thrift store)
For today’s Frocking Friday, I had planned to wear a completely different dress. It wasn’t even from ASOS, or anything. I know! But then I put that dress on, and I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought, “Verily this is the ugliest, most unflattering dress I ever did see!” (Because when I’m on my own, I like to talk like a character in a Shakespeare play, forsooth.) So I changed it for this one. And it’s from ASOS. Yes, AGAIN. Well, someone has to keep that company afloat, you know, and it very much looks like it’s going to be me…
In a neat little twist of fate, however, I had also planned to combine my Frocking Friday post with a Friend Friday one. And the topic of this week’s Friend Friday is planning ahead. Which is what I should have done if I’d wanted to avoid the scenario above. Here’s what else I had to say about being prepared – or not, as the case may be:
1. How do you determine what you will wear that day?
If I’m going to be leaving the house, I usually just have a little mental run-through of my wardrobe the night before, right before I fall asleep. Then I usually wake up in the morning and discover that the weather isn’t anything like I thought it was going to be, and I have to start from scratch. Or I find that my dress makes me look like a pregnant woman from the 1960s. (No offence to any pregnant women from the 1960s who happen to be reading this, by the way…) If I don’t have anything planned, though, it just comes down to what I feel like wearing when I get up. Every day’s an adventure, people!
2. Do you plan outfits out in advance for a whole week, month,weekend?
I’ve heard of people who do this, and I’m in complete awe of them. As “Lazy” is my middle name, however, I’m afraid I’m not one of them - unless, of course, I have some kind of special occasion coming up, for which I will do some planning ahead. Or, as I call it, “shopping”.
3. Do you have any specific way of tracking outfits and items already worn so you don’t repeat?
Nope. I know this is a bin no-no in fashion blogging world, but I am a shameless repeater of outfits. When I find something I like, I want to wear it aaaalll the time. And sometimes I do. I always think it seems such a shame to have something you love, but to only be able to wear it occasionally, for fear of being seen to be a Repeater. (I also don’t think people actually notice the repeating. I mean, I doubt that any of my friends or family members sit around of an evening thinking, “OMG, I can’t believe Amber wore that dress again!” And if they do, and it bothers them, well, a) that’s a bit weird, to be honest and b) they are welcome to send me new clothes, so I can mend my repeatin’ ways.) So no, no systems required, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t covet Alicia Silverstone’s closet in Clueless.
4. How do you discover new combinations of items in your closet? (Trial try-ons? Hanging items together?)
I try things on, and prance around the house in them, sometimes whilst drinking wine and/or listening to Lady Gaga. That sentence explains quite a lot, doesn’t it?
5. To streamline the process for 2011 what is one new thing you can do to cut down your dressing time?
I guess planning ahead more would be the thing. That way we might have less days/evenings out which begin with Terry sitting outside in the car with the engine running while I run around the house in my underwear, frantically putting on and discarding outfits. Maybe.
P.S. I really hate to be the blogger that does this, but you see the little follower widget in the top right-hand corner of the site? I kind of convinced myself that I have to get it to 100 by the weekend, or the world will end or something. So the next two followers get… well, you get to save the world, basically. If that’s not enough for you, though, you get my eternal gratitude, too. Mwah!
My Dressember Day 3 post is coming soon, and so is a massive rant, just to warn you. In the meantime, here’s this week’s Friend Friday, which is on the subject of blogging, and knowing when to quit…
1. How many hours a week do you spend blogging? Has that number changed since you started blogging?
Probably anything up to ten hours per day, five days per week: sometimes more, occasionally less. To put that in perspective, though (and, er, make it seem a bit less like an unhealthy obsession), blogging is my job, so it’s not like I’m sitting in an office from 9-5 and THEN coming home and blogging for ten hours. Blogging is my 9-5, even although I don’t keep anything like those hours (Becoming a small business owner turned me into a workaholic, and trust me, that’s not a word I’d ever have associated with myself before…), and I have three blogs to update daily, not including this one. That’s not all writing time, of course – I’m also including the time I spend researching posts, managing the sites, taking photos, and all of the other background stuff that’s part and parcel of professional blogging. I try not to blog on the weekends, but I will always check-in on comments, stats, Twitter etc, which is technically “work”, even although it often doesn’t feel like it. The presence of an iPhone in my life, and my compulsion to constantly check my email etc on it means that blogging is never very far from my mind!
The hours I spend on it haven’t changed too much since I started: if anything, I’ve reduced the hours a little because back in the early days I would work seven days per week, with very little difference between weekends and week days. After a while, though, I realised that was a one-way ticket to Insanity Central, so these days I try to keep the weekends blog-free, and I’ve been making a bigger effort to take some time off in the evenings too. And I also have Fi and Caroline writing for one of the sites too, now, which has been a huge help.
2. There is always more you can do, write, read, comment on… how do you limit your time spent on these tasks?
I have quite a strict blogging routine, which I try to stick to: it involves writing as many of my weekly posts in advance as I can, leaving me the rest of the time to do all of the other stuff. Sounds good in theory, but in practice the actual content creation frequently eats up almost all of my time (I can never predict how long it’ll take me to find something I want to write about: some days it comes easy, other days it takes hours) and I end up sitting at my computer at midnight feeling like I haven’t done even half of the things I’d wanted to get done that day. I’m working on ideas to free up more time, though: hopefully by next year things will be a little easier…
3. Have you experienced Blogger burnout yet? How have you dealt with that?
Yup, frequently. The only way I know of to deal with it is to switch of the computer and walk away – and by that I mean far away. This is why I value my holidays so much: if I’m at home I find it really difficult to switch off, because the compulsion to check comments, check email, or write one more post is always there, and because I have an overly-developed guilt complex which means that I feel guilty if I’m at home but am not working. If I don’t have a handy vacation planned, a day-trip or something will also work: anything that gets me out of the house and away from the computer!
4. This time of the year is always a lot busier than any other time. Will your blogging change as a result?
Ha! Yes! Because I blog for a living, I don’t have the luxury of being able to just shut the blogs down when I’m not here (well, I can, but if I do, people yell at me, and I also don’t earn much money, so it’s not a great idea), so I have to write all of those posts in advance. It’s by far my least favourite part of the job, but the holidays are always worth it.
5. Could you forsee a moment in which you are not blogging anymore? How would you you identify that it’s time to walk away?
I actually decided to give up this blog earlier this year, and didn’t update for over a month. At the time, I felt that no one was really reading any more, and I started to question what the point was of putting so much of myself and my life online if no one was interested in hearing about it. When I made the decision to quit I was pretty sure it would be permanent, but as the weeks passed I started to miss it: something would happen, and I’d think, “Ooh, I must blog about that!” and then remember that nope, I wasn’t doing that any more… it was a strange feeling because I think blogging had become such an ingrained habit by then that it was hard to give it up. So I started up again in September, and I think the break did me some good, because I’ve been enjoying it much more since then. With that said, if it did reach the stage again where I felt like no one was reading, or if it started to have a negative impact on my life, then yes, I would walk away. People always tell you to write for yourself, but it’s actually really hard to do that online: you always have to be aware of the fact that you’re ultimately writing for an audience, and if that audience were to disappear, then I would take it as a sign that it was time to go back to a private journal.
With my other blogs, the idea of giving up is obviously more complex because I wouldn’t just be giving up a blog, I’d be giving up a job, and in order for me to be able to do that, I’d have to have some other form of income. At the moment, I can’t really imagine what that would be: I know I never want to go back to a “traditional” job, but I guess another business idea could tempt me away from blogging – I just don’t know what that idea might be yet!
For more Friend Friday answers, click here.
A quick snapshot of my Formspring account:
This last person, by the way, followed the Formspring question up with no less than three comments on the blog itself, all in the space of ten minutes, and all asking about “sheeping” to Lebanon. I answered the first two questions via email, letting the person know that I can’t provide them with either sheep or shoes as I AM NOT A SHOP, and then the third comment started with the words, “Try to answer my questions, please!” Which I took to mean “Unless you answer my questions by telling me exactly what I want to hear, I will just keep on and on asking them…”
There are some genuine questions in there too, of course, but for the most part it seems to have turned into just one more way for people to pretend I’m a shop. (And even if I was a shop, I doubt I’d be able to answer these questions. I mean, “The blue platform shoes that are in the picture”? “This shoes”? How am I supposed to know what these people are talking about?) Bizarre! I’m just surprised I’ve not had any questions about Joan Rivers yet!
Readers, a question has flooded in! Well, a problem, really. For me to solve. This is awesome. Maybe after this I’ll at last fulfill my dream of having my own problem page in a magazine or something? It could be called “Agony Amber”. Magazine editors: call me!
Now, before I put my Agony Amber hat on, a couple of three quick disclaimers:
1. Am totally not qualified to give anyone advice, about anything. OK, maybe shoes. Say what you will, but I DO know shoes.
2. Will give it a shot anyway. Because any excuse to get all wordy on you is just fine by me.
3. This is REALLY wordy. More so than usual, even.
So! The question comes from a reader I’m going to call Isabella, because isn’t that a pretty name?
I have been following your blogs for a while now, and thought you may be able to help me with something.
My fiancé of 3 years has recently started complaining about me buying clothes and shoes. In the past year he has mentioned it casually, but the other day we got in a full scale argument about it. He doesn’t seem to understand that I like to buy clothes for fun and that it makes me happy and more confident when I am wearing certain things. The frequency of shopping is around once a month when I have saved up some money. He complains that shopping isn’t a hobby and that there is something wrong with me. He seems to think I am the only one who is like this, whereas there are many style programmes, magazines, websites and so many high street fashion stores it is obvious there is a huge market for it.
Have you got any ideas of how I should overcome this? I want to keep him happy, and this is the only thing we argue about – I don’t see why it is such a problem. I would also quite like to carry on shopping, and it is my money, after all. I could just not tell him when I buy new things, but I don’t want to lie to him!
Have you ever experienced anything like this before?”
So, I like to shop. I know this isn’t exactly breaking news for anyone who’s been reading this site for more than a day, but it’s true: I didn’t JUST dress up as Becky “Shopaholic” Bloomwood for Halloween last year because I’m lazy, you know. Like Isabella, I shop about once a month, using money I’ve budgeted for the occasion. I have some fairly strict rules to govern my shopping, too: for instance, I NEVER use credit. If I can’t afford it, I don’t buy it. If I REALLY want it, I save up for it. I will also only buy something if I really, really love it, or if I think I’ll wear it constantly. And I do wear the things I buy: these days I operate a cunning “coat-hanger” system which means that I don’t just buy things and hang them in the closet never to be seen again. If something doesn’t get worn, it gets donated, and it serves me right for spending money on something I obviously didn’t really need or love.
But the fact remains, I like to shop. By that, I don’t just mean that I like acquiring new things: I mean that I enjoy the whole process. I love hunting down something that’s exactly my style. I get a thrill out of finding that perfect dress, or pair of shoes, and I get even more of a thrill when I find it on sale, or on eBay or something. I even enjoy just walking around shops browsing, although I’d probably enjoy that even more if The Others weren’t such spoilsports all the time. Then of course, there’s the whole process of bringing the item home, putting together outfits with it, and then getting to wear it and (hopefully) feel great in it. It’s a creative process, but it’s also a lot of fun, which is I guess explains why so many people enjoy it. Shopping isn’t my ONLY hobby, of course, (I also enjoy whining about stuff on the Internet, too, for instance. Am well-rounded person.), but it would be fair to call it a “hobby” of mine. And here’s the thing:
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
To answer Isabella’s last question first, no, I’ve never actually experienced the kind of situation she describes. Oh, I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who feel that way about me and my shopping. So far, though, none of them have been brave enough to come out and say it to my face, though, and while I don’t think Terry really relates to my love of shopping, exactly, he likes the fact that it makes me happy, and he understands that when I’m spending my own money, that I earned myself, it’s really up to me what I spend it on. Sure, he’ll say “Not ANOTHER pair of shoes!” (he said this just last night, in fact) and it’s his (incorrect) opinion that I have more than enough dresses, but as long as I’m not spending our savings on them or racking up debt, he’s cool.
I originally started off that sentence by saying “I’m lucky” that Terry is like this. But while I don’t want to play down the wonder that is Terry (Who I am, indeed, very lucky to have) I really think it’s pretty much a given that your partner should enjoy seeing you do something that makes you happy, and should understand that we’re not all the same, and we don’t all get pleasure out of the same things. This “Shopping isn’t a hobby” thing? Says who? I mean, it’s not like there’s some magical list somewhere that says “Things That Are Acceptable Hobbies To Have”. Is there? If there is, can we have “gardening” removed from the list? That would be great!
Actually, gardening is a pretty good example here. I can’t for the life of me understand why some people enjoy gardening. Intellectually, I can understand that there’s a lot of satisfaction in creating something, and seeing it grow, of course. But personally, I can’t see the pleasure in enduring back-breaking labour, out in the elements, only to have to do it all over again a few days later. I just don’t understand it, but at the same time, I’m not about to tell all the gardeners out there that they’re “weird” (They are weird, though, aren’t they?) (That was a joke, by the way.), or that they shouldn’t enjoy gardening. Hell, they’re not hurting anyone, and while they’re busy digging in the cold, hard earth, they’re leaving more shoes for me, so have at it, gardeners! Garden for your life!
My point is that just because you don’t understand why someone likes something, it doesn’t mean it’s fair to tell them they’re somehow wrong to like it, or that it’s “not a hobby”. I think people say these things about fashion, or shopping, because it’s frivolous. And let’s be honest, here: it IS frivolous. There’s no point even pretending otherwise. But here’s the thing about that:
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that either.
Sometimes frivolous is just what you need, ya know? We can’t all be super-serious all the time, and actually, now I come to think of it, I can’t really think of anyone I know who has a hobby that could be described as a weighty, important or intellectual pursuit. (Now that I’ve said that, I bet dozens of you are going to comment saying “Actually, my hobby is giving money to charity and building houses for the poor with my own bare hands.”) Hobbies tend to be, by their very nature, fun, relaxing things that give you a bit of a break from the serious stuff for a while.
Some people watch a lot of TV. Some like football. Or knitting. Or…jumping out of planes. And some like shopping, and fashion. I don’t think the person who spends 30 minutes watching Eastenders is a better person than the one who spends the same amount of time reading fashion blogs, or vice-versa. (Unless the fashion blogs are mine, obviously, in which case fashion-blog-reading person WINS.) We all have things we like to do with our spare time and spare money, and as long as we’re not hurting anyone, what’s the harm? You could, in fact, argue that even a “traditional” hobby like… oh, let’s go with gardening again, shall we?…like gardening is “frivolous” too. You’re not saving the world, after all. You’re not grappling with quantum theory, or discovering the cure for cancer. Ultimately, what you’re doing is making your environment a little nicer and creating something that’s pretty to look at. Do you see where I’m going with this comparison.?
(Am aware I’m on shaky ground with the gardeners, here. Obviously if you’re a vegetable gardener you’re also putting food on your family, as a not-so-wise man once said. So you win. In this example, though, you’re just a regular gardener, with the flowers and the water features and stuff. But moving on…)
Of course, you wanted advice, and you got a rant. Sorry about that. Let’s see if I can rescue this now…
At the risk of sounding like Jerry Springer, I think the best advice I can give Isabella is to sit down and talk to the fiance. I mean REALLY talk. Honestly, his surprise at your love of shopping is… surprising to me. It’s hardly the most unusual thing in the world for a woman to enjoy, is it? It’s not like you’ve just confessed that your hobby is dressing hamsters up as the Beatles and making them dance, say. THAT would be weird. (Although also a little bit cool, it must be said. Assuming the hamsters were into it, obviously.) I think shopping is only really a “problem” for a relationship if you’re doing it aaaaallll the time, getting into debt over it, or sacrificing other things because you just. can’t. stop. shopping. Like, if you see the assistants in Topshop more than you see your friends and family, or you want to buy a house together but you can’t because you spent all your money on shoes and now the debt collector wants to have a “friendly word” with you. Or if it’s literally the ONLY thing in your cold, empty shell of a life. (Which for most of us, it isn’t, because we are modern women, which means we can enjoy shopping AND quantum physics. Well, some of us can. Liking clothes, though, doesn’t preclude you from ALSO having an interest in other things, although, for some reason, lots of people like to assume that it does.)
To me, a once-a-month shopping trip, with money you’ve saved up doesn’t really fall into that “problem” category, so I think you need to first of all find out what it is, exactly, that bothers him so much about your shopping, and go from there. Hopefully some of the points I’ve made here will be of some use to you, but if not, I’m hoping my readers will weigh-in here with some advice of their own. Because they’re cleverer than me, let’s face it.