northstory + co

The challenges of being creative as a blogger


It happens to every blogger at some point. It was bound to happen to me. The dreaded creative block.

You know when you get into a mood where you want to make something but you have no idea what to make? It’s like writers block when you want to craft.

So I had this ridiculous idea to go to Pinterest to inspire my creative mojo because nothing helps you say “Hey I can do that!” after someone’s already done it. The problem with that is we’re drilled into our heads over and over that in order to have a great blog you need great, original content. But when social media is as fast as it is these days, trends run like rapid fire. The moment one blogger posts something, suddenly there will be 50 different blog entries/pins of the exact same craft over and over in your Reader feeds and Pinterest. It kills the trend before it even hits the stores in mass manufactured versions.

You know what it also kills? Your creativity. And if you’re out there posting the same content and crafts as everyone else is, how is your blog standing out?

Such is the daily dilemma of a blogger.

But then I saw this pin (go figure), which I had ironically pinned awhile back.

Hugh MacLeod is right (and he has some amazing words of wisdom about it all and his own site Gaping Void if you’d like to learn more).

I looked at my older daughter who is a drawing and crafting addict. She wouldn’t know what a creative funk was if it hit her in the head. When we re-painted her room this past week, all her art supplies were in her desk covered by a tarp and she couldn’t get to them. It was like watching an addict rock back and forth in the living room asking for a hit. Except all she wanted were her crayons.

Why is that I thought? Aside from the obvious that is (i.e. adulthood responsibilities) that kids can play make believe with cutlery and draw with crayons at a restaurant table to amuse themselves and we as adults sit there and make small talk. Even if we’d like to sit there and colour the whole meal we are taught by etiquette and adulthood rules, that’s not what you do at meal time. And if we do colour, we’re “helping them”.

As with all thing things in life when it comes to inspirations and coincidences for blog topics, usually outside factors happen at the same time to influence the topic. In this case, a friend also posted a link on Facebook to a very popular TED Talk by Ken Robinson about how schools kill creativity. It was one of the best 20 minutes I have ever spent watching anything online and I highly recommend you watch it. But one quote really hit me.

If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” – Ken Robinson

Therein lay my problem.

And I’ll use my daughter as an example.

When she does a craft, she doesn’t care what season it is. She doesn’t care what link party is coming up. She doesn’t wonder whether or not people online will like. She just makes what she wants because she’s in a creative mood to do so. Because in her imagination, there are no boundaries.

I asked her to paint a heart for Valentine’s Day and she did this.

DIY Valentines fingerprint heart

And this (her little sister followed suit).

DIY Valentines Fingerprint heart (2)

Barbie needs new clothes? Don’t know how to sew? No problem. Old socks make excellent dresses and hats. All you need is a pair of scissors.

doll clothes from old socks

She saw red bird outside one morning and instantly drew a picture of it. I loved it so much it’s framed in our living room.

red bird drawing kids

Of course the birds outside needed a new birdhouse and it had to a be a rainbow birdhouse. No fancy ceramic MCM styles here.


kids craft birdhouse

And it’s not Christmas or Valentine’s but she wanted to make an angel. So she made a paper angel with tape and scissors.

paper angel kids craft

And the sock dresses weren’t enough so the existing doll dresses got bedazzled with stick on rhinestones.

badazzling a barbie dress

Most importantly she doesn’t need it any of to be perfect. Like the kids Christmas tree they get to decorate by themselves in any way they want.

my kids christmas tree

In their eyes it’s the best Christmas tree on the planet because THEY did it.

Kids don’t care what others think when they are creating and holed up inside their imagination.

Part of what Ken Robinson talks about is how we are educated out of being creative. We are suddenly told we can’t do things a certain way or draw outside the lines. Or as we get older and show off our work to adults, we seek acceptance and validation from them and if we don’t get what we hope to hear, that in turn dissuades us from trying more.

I found this so applicable to craft and DIY blogging with a bit of a twist.

I had read so many comments recently on different blogs, of bloggers frustrated that they felt like they had to whip up and post a craft because that was what was expected of their blog. When in reality all that did was stress them out and they wound up posting about something they didn’t even want to do or worse, that they didn’t think was good enough. And in the pressure of trying to create that potential DIY post that could go viral on Pinterest or making that one photo stand out in a 4 x 4 square at a 750+ person link party, we lose the actual magic of creating something that we truly enjoy just as we did when we were kids.

The greatest irony of putting this pressure on myself with regards to my blog, was that I realized my favourite bloggers do not post every single day. Quite the opposite. Maybe once a week. Sometimes every 2 weeks. But when they do, it’s a post filled with inspiration, humour, great writing and maybe even a project that will make me eyes light up. They don’t feel the need to post 3-4 times a week and fill it with things that every other blog has. They’ll do it once, but they’ll do in style.

And that one post will be epic.

So watching my daughter create on her own terms, really helped me to remind me that when I started my blog, I made things for the house and did certain crafts because I wanted to do them and we needed them done, not because I felt I had to do them.

And when you let go of parameters that confine you in this realm, you can start to create again. In fact so much so that by time I finished writing this (which believe me was not in a day), I had several ideas in my head for projects to do.

Now finding the time to get them done with little rug rats around the house…well that’s a whole other post.

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  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 10:51 am

    You are the best thaaaang since white bread. Okay, white bread is not a good example. You are the best thing since ‘the most viral pin on pinterest’. Why ? Because you are authentic and real and you inspire by just being YOU. I luvs ya girlie!!!!

    P.S. You better bloody well have been referring to me as one of your favourite bloggers. hahaaaa!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 11:02 am

    This post is honestly brilliant. I work at a post secondary instituation and while faculty understand the importance of creativity and engagement in learning, the systems in place don’t jive with life long learning skills. So much content in so little time. It’s a struggle!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Great post!
    I love that TED talk…watching it again because it’s totally worth it.
    I remember the day a teacher tried to bash my creativity into oblivion. It was grade 6 music class. Mrs Bodnarchuk (yes, I WILL call her out by name because she was brutal) was tasked with teaching us about the different orchestra instruments. But instead of focusing on the music and the instruments, we had to colour instruments on a sheet of paper and had better not DARE colour outside the lines. And we were given wonderful feedback if we carefully drew a black box with specific measurements around each instrument’s name and coloured the inside of the box yellow. Again….DON’T go outside the lines, or lose marks. I realize now she must have been obsessive compulsive, but at the time all I thought about was the damned colouring and not the music or the instruments at ALL!

  • Reply
    Casey @ Waffling
    April 3, 2013 at 11:23 am

    This is a great post! I often feel in the same funk- that I am not doing anything original with my blog and I am at a standstill. I used to be so creative as a kid too!! PS- I love your kids’ art!

  • Reply
    now at home mom
    April 3, 2013 at 11:54 am

    The creations of your little girls are beautiful! 🙂 & for the “crafts block” I understand you, many weeks I suffer from it and even if I read or do other things the “creativity” doesn’t always come to me! but I’m sure as I’m leaving you this comment; you are already planning a great idea in your head Alex! I love reading your posts, they are always honest and I can always relate! 🙂

  • Reply
    Green Door Hospitality
    April 3, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    This is such an inspiring post. THANK YOU!! Creativity is such a huge part of a child’s every day life and it should be a much larger part of our adult lives. I actually have found that my blog has helped with this to a certain extent. I still get in funks from time to time. But I have found that the desire to post new and interesting recipes has pushed me as a cook even more, to get creative with recipes and ingredients.


  • Reply
    Pillows A-La-Mode
    April 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    I LOVE this post! Thank you!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    So great! love this post because I have felt that many times as well… why force a blog? what do I have this blog for in the first place! I have to always remind myself WHY I blog and keep that perspective!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    I’d like my crayons back too!

    very nice read!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    I shared that very quote on my blog because I love and read Hugh’s book. That quote comes from his book, “Ignore Everybody: and 39 Other Keys to Creativity.” It’s a great book. When I had read and posted about the book “Steal Like An Artist,” the author makes a point that I loved that we are all creative simply because we are all ourselves. Because we are unique that makes our ideas original. But anyway, I read “Steal Like An Artist” and at the end he had a list of readings he recommended and Hugh’s was one of them. When I read Hugh’s book I had a notepad next to me and that was my favorite quote to write and then share. 🙂

    I’ve stopped looking at Pinterest for inspiration a long while back because it doesn’t just kill your creativity, it doesn’t even allow it to emerge. I have reduced the physical creating I do to keep down the amount of stuff in my home but when I do make something I need or really really want then I normally use my environment. Austin, author of “Steal Like An Artist” has a great section about separating your process. He calls it analog vs. digital. He has one desk with zero electronics. That’s where he creates ideas and make them happen. When he turns around he has a desk with his computer. All he does with the digital desk is share those ideas. I try to do that as well, though I use the desk, a nearby park and so on but I do not, like him, use the web. I have found my favorite projects to do are ones that I needed and found ways to make out of stuff that presented itself or stuff presented itself (like a dead light bulb) and I didn’t want it to go to waste so I made a necklace. Those are my favorites. But if you loved that quote of his I highly recommend his book as well as Austin’s book. Cheers to ya!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    And I am with you there too – my favorite bloggers don’t share every single day. I have recently taken the approach of I’ll share what I want when I want. It may be a lot one week and one post the next week. I don’t care much for consistency anymore because life is not consistent, so why should a blog be. To me, it’s not that those bloggers don’t post often that I like, it’s that they post when they want and share what they want. They are authentic and keep true to themselves. There is a difference between a blogger who feels this need to post every day and so they force out a post and one who happens to have posted a lot one week because they happened to have a lot to say. I’ve stopped, like you, caring about making my posts the best for others. I make them the best for me, so that I can go back and reflect. It’s been such a joy and I’m amazed with how freeing it has been to no longer be this “labeled” blogger and to do what I want when I want. I don’t preplan. I write in the moment and I just love it!

  • Reply
    April 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

    I often stare off into space trying to figure out what next, what should I blog about? what am I going to focus on? More often than none, people ask me for content and they want short, mindless, image filled posts. Thanks for writing this. I should take a step back and really say, do I want useless blogs or more fulfilling?. I guess with fashion and image heavy blogs, it’s hard to put good input into it as you have with this. Good job Alex!

  • Reply
    Victoria • Restoring our Victorian
    April 3, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    I’ve said to you at least a million times that I have no idea how you found the time for so many detailed posts… and obviously, I am in the less-is-more post camp… but I think it’s possible, you’ll still spend the same amount of time. Blogging is some kind of weird, vacuum–resistant organism… it expands to fill the time/energy you have available.

  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Brave New Home
    April 4, 2013 at 2:41 am

    I love this post and have been feeling and contemplating very similar thoughts lately. I tried to think back to when I was a child to figure out why I was so much more creative then as opposed to now. For me, it boiled down to two main points: I didn’t follow rules and I didn’t care what anyone else thought. I’ve tasked myself with taking a step back from Pinterest and really looking at what it is I want to create for my home. I’ve been great at creating my own projects for a lifetime, why do I all of a sudden need a tutorial to tell me how to do something? I’ve been sitting on a pile of creative energy but get overwhelmed with ideas so I never even start. P.S. Your kids amaze and inspire me (all kids do!). Thank you for sharing : ]

  • Reply
    April 4, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    What a brilliant post Alex- once again you’ve nailed a universal truth… and so eloquently too. Like you I’ve had moments where writing a creative blog has made me feel like an uninspired slave to the machine, and your reminder that kids have got it right and just create so spontaneously and unreservedly was timely and beautiful (I love those photos! Your girls definitely have bucketloads of artistic talent… do you think their mom had anything to do with that genetically?!) Loved reading this… keep it coming, please…

  • Reply
    April 5, 2013 at 1:02 am

    Well said, my friend. I love that your girls are inspiring you to live freely, love abundantly and let your creativity fly. You are amazing and authentic and I’m so grateful that you are taking the time to breath in what is important rather than fall in the trap of keeping up with the Pinterest Jones. You will be blessed!

  • Reply
    Alex - Hydrangea Girl
    April 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Excellent piece, Alex. You’ve inspired me to wander tomorrow like I used to when I was a teenager. I shall try my best to colour outside of the lines.

    p.s. I miss crayons so much. I used to eat them too – only the red ones though. I was an adventurous child.

  • Reply
    April 5, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    i love those barbie dresses! 😉

  • Reply
    the home tome
    April 5, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Bravo! Yep, those Barbie clothes are divine! And so are all of her other creations. It’s no surprise that your daughters are so creative – they got it from you! – blogger’s block or not…you got it going on! 🙂

  • Reply
    April 5, 2013 at 3:43 pm

    Love this.Thank you! I’ve totally been feeling that pressure lately and finally just took a week off. This is such a great reminder. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Lauren @ The Thinking Closet
    April 5, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Alex, this might be my favorite post you have ever written…and I’ll have you know that by about the second or third paragraph, I started thinking, “I wonder if she has ever seen Ken Robinson’s talk on ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity?'” and then BAM! There it was. That video rocked my world when I saw it in grad school (a professor assigned it to us), and I tried rocking my students’ worlds by showing it to them during the second week of school each year. It spurred a great discussion about the fear of being wrong. I made it one of my main goals as a classroom teacher to ensure that the four walls of Room 120E were a safe space where students felt freedom to make mistakes. As an educator, I believe that then and only then can real learning occur.

    It was inspiring to see your daughters’ artwork…and catching a glimpse of the world through her eyes and her creative hands. The drawing of the bird gripped me most, perhaps because of the bright red color splash on the bird and the bird’s beak pointing straight up into the sky. I think I’ll see the birds fluttering around our backyard a little bit differently today thanks to her.

    Also, if and when I become a parent someday, I am so going to let my kids decorate a kid-sized tree any way they want. THAT IS AWESOME. (And yes, that deserved all caps.)

    Thank you for this, Alex. This post expressed so much of what I feel deep down and so much of what we all need to be reminded of. That creativity is not about churning out posts. And if it becomes that, that’s our cue to step back and reevaluate why we’re doing this whole blogging thing in the first place. Is it for traffic and maintaining airs, or is to collaborate and share with other creatives? Or something else altogether? Way to get us all thinking….

  • Reply
    Monica // mon makes things
    April 6, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    This is one of the most thought-provoking and inspiring posts I’ve read in a while. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. Children’s art can really be the best sources of inspiration, it seems. Your daughter is going to be an amazing life-long creative, you can tell! 🙂

    I have definitely fallen victim to the dreaded creative rut, and have been feeling that pressure to post something new and inspiriing. This is just what I needed!

  • Reply
    Gabby @ Essentially Eclectic
    April 6, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Hi Alex,

    Newest follower here! Some of these lovely bloggers tweeted your post and I stumbled upon it. Love what you say about creativity here, and the timing couldn’t have been better! When I was first inspired to trash my blog and start completely anew with a brand new blog a few weeks ago, I found myself struggling to come up with ideas that are creative and unique to blog about. And that’s when a lot of what you describe in this post hit me: I don’t want to just post crafts and recipes and tutorials. Those are nice, great in fact, but I just don’t want to do JUST that. (Besides, so many other bloggers do that so well my feeble attempts wouldn’t even compare!). I wanted my blog to be flexible, to give me the freedom to post about whatever I want (hence the blog name, Essentially Eclectic!). So we are totally on the same page girl! Some of the posts I have planned for the next few weeks have absolutely nothing to do with crafts or recipes…hopefully they will turn out as unique as they seem to be in my head 🙂 Anyway, wanted to say an Amen and thanks for writing this 🙂

    <3 gabby

  • Reply
    April 7, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Great thoughts. I feel the same way

  • Reply
    Allison @ House of Hepworths
    April 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    This POST is epic. My favorite part?

    “The greatest irony of putting this pressure on myself with regards to my blog, was that I realized my favourite bloggers do not post every single day. Quite the opposite. Maybe once a week. Sometimes every 2 weeks. But when they do, it’s a post filled with inspiration, humour, great writing and maybe even a project that will make me eyes light up. They don’t feel the need to post 3-4 times a week and fill it with things that every other blog has. They’ll do it once, but they’ll do in style.

    And that one post will be epic.”

    Them are fightin’ words. And I love it. I have been trying to live and blog with this philosophy for months now. I can’t say my posts are epic, but I do blog less, and I do try to put out only awesome content, and I am a happier person. Thanks for the great pick-me-up this morning.

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    This is really good. I haven’t missed a day of blogging since my onset in January 2012, and I was posting 3 times a day the first year. I am going to have a hard time missing my first day. However, this is great stuff. I wish we could all capture what we had as kids. A couple of my popular re-pins were ideas my daughter made up…her own craft. Thanks for a great article.

  • Reply
    April 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

    Excellent post and quite timely. Today I was staring down the barrel of a blogging block and knew it right away, so after 4 years doing this, I got up and walked away from my computer and did something else rather then sit there and force it. And you’re right, something will come along. I used to worry, but not anymore. You’re in a a good place. 🙂

  • Reply
    Gabby @ Essentially Eclectic
    April 13, 2013 at 10:32 pm

    Hi Alex!! Loved this post. As some other comment-leavers have said, you posted this at just the right time for me too 🙂 I thought you might like to know I loved this post so much I linked to it on my latest post. Thank you for writing this! xoxo gabby

  • Reply
    April 16, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Im so glad I read this Alex.. I totally got in the same sitch as you a couple months ago, it was like there was suddenly pressure to have enough blog posts for the week and I would be on Pinterest trying to find some inspiration that EVERYONE had already made 10 times over.. Then I remembered why I started blogging and thought what was I even worrying about.. It’s meant to be fun, not a headache.. Now I do a post maybe once a week if I feel it’s something I’d like to share, maybe something we made or did that week.. I love blogging and love the blogging community out there but I just stepped back and realised a lot like you did.. This post is perfect, so true and honest! Thank you! 🙂 P.S Love the pictures in this post by the way, that redbird artwork is beautiful, your daughter is so creative like her mom! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 7, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Pinterest definitely inspires me… I don’t look at where the pins originate from because I don’t want my ideas/creativity influenced by what I see. I saw some fab sunglasses and wrote a blog post on sunglasses… I’ve done this with ponytails, food and tons of decor ideas… When an idea doesn’t come I don’t stress about it… I would rather have fewer posts with great original content than more with so-so content. Loved this post!

  • Reply
    Andrea :: Crafting Connections
    July 20, 2013 at 9:18 am

    I pretty much love everything about this post. I was the same as a child – happily I’ve retained my love for crayons and creating into my adult life (and oh who doesn’t just LOVE an organized box of crayons?! Well…my 3yo, that’s who…since she’s so busy creating as well. Yes, I have a house filled with rainbows!!)

    On my own site, about 6 months ago, I was also feeling the pressure to pump out DIYs. It was sapping my energy and time. It was also sapping my happiness – and we just can’t have that! So we made a change. We now do 1 project each month – but boy, what a project! Instead of several smaller DIYs we now put out a mini-magazine for people to download with a DIY project, ways to expand on it, creative prompts to talk with your children with the project as a jumping point and even poetry. It’s wonderful – it’s inspirational, it’s a joy (and I’m just talking about how I feel when making a mini-magazine).

    I am pinning this post because I want to remember it, to see it again. Pinterest is whatever you allow it to be. It can be a creativity sucker. Or it can be a place of visual beauty and inspiration. Either way – so glad I found this post and your site!! xo, Andrea

  • Reply
    July 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I found this post through Classic Play, and I’m so glad I did! This thought process is what prompted my pulling black from blogging 5 days a week. So many great things have come out of it that what was going to be just a summer break is now going to be extended indefinitely. Thank you so much for writing this! xo

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