Five Thoughts from a Blog Designer

As a designer, I have a myriad of blogs that come across my desk every day. Design blogs, blogs I’m building, friends, writers, ideas, concepts, you name it. Over the course of a year, I talk to lots and lots of fellow bloggers, thinkers, entrepreneurs, moms, sisters, friends who want to talk dreams. Plans. Goals.

So here’s my 5 thoughts for you, fellow bloggers, writers, seekers of truth and beauty, and miners of the diamonds amidst all the coal. These are what I would tell you if I could over coffee or peanut butter on toast with blueberries, which is my absolute favorite, but I digress…

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1. Your blog is an extension of you, but does not, and should not run your life. It’s really easy in this blogging world to get swallowed whole by the screen that you sit at every day. I’ve found myself taking out my iPhone, snapping a photo only to think, “I should blog about this later.” I’m sure you all know this feeling. Your readers, your friends, your family, don’t want your blog to run your life. TRUST ME. The best and most authentic posts and content come from people who are living rich lives, learning from mistakes and getting into the grit of the world they live in. This might mean you take some time off and that’s ok. I’m sure I’m going against all “How to get one million followers in one day” suggestions, but you don’t need to keep constant content. Keep GOOD content.

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2. Uncluttered design is better for your reader. I come across a lot of designs that are full. Busy. Links and arrows, directions, options, ads and you name it. I love seeing so many exciting things going on for so many bloggers. But if people are coming to your site to read, make it easy to read. When it comes to the design, remember that there are three main areas your readers are looking — who you are, where to connect with you and what you’re offering. Keep it simple and cohesive. Too many colors, images, fonts, etc, will make it harder for your community to engage completely in what YOU are saying. Try to imagine your blog and website as another room in your home. Declutter it. Dust it. Refresh it. Give people beautiful things to look at, but not too much to distract them from why they’re really there — to see YOU. Whether you’re writing about parenting, home decor, organizing, the Gospel, whatever it might be… keep the main thing the main thing.

3. Don’t try to be someone else. We all know that there are some amazing writers and creators out there. So. much. good. stuff. But if we all tried to be like them, this world would implode really fast. As Dr. Seuss said: “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” Own who that person is. Maybe it takes some introspection. Don’t be afraid to routinely ask yourself — Why am I writing? What is my story? What do I have to give? What is my voice?

4. Smaller can be better. Your audience is not a direct reflection on your content. In the business realm, it might be beneficial to keep an eye on stats, but sometimes it can destroy a personal passion. If you are PASSIONATE about something, then don’t let small numbers deter you. Your passion should not fly or fall based on the attention of others. We wouldn’t tell our children that they are less beautiful or handsome based on how many people tell them this, would we? And if you are trying to grow numbers, remember to stay authentic and press on. Hard growth doesn’t mean it’s bad. It could mean that you are just growing deeper roots.

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5. Moodboard your life. With all the designs I do, I start with a moodboard. This is a collection of images, colors, typefaces, concepts to help myself and the client work from the same idea. We are both looking at the same collection of items regularly to make sure we’re not splitting too far from the concept. You can do this on your own for your own life and blog, and you should. Start collecting images, photos, prints, clips of things that inspire you. Maybe it’s a magazine ad. Maybe an old photo. Maybe it’s a quote in a book or a blogger who said something that went to your heart. Collect all of these things and put them somewhere where you’ll see them every time you write. Remember who you are and why you’re there.

(If you create one of these or already have one, link up here and share!)

I am thankful for all of your stories, voices, tips, bravery and passion.

Shine bright. :)

Andrea

Andrea Levendusky writes about everything. Literally everything. Whether it’s the deep, disappointing heartaches of life, the richness of the Gospel or last weekend’s epic baked oatmeal recipe, she writes in hopes that you’ll sit and talk with her too. It’s no secret that life can be one wild mess, and she writes to be a voice of hope pointing to redemption in the middle of it all. When she’s not rambling at theorganicbirdblog.com, she’s designing and creating pretty things for theorganicbird.com. And if you really want to keep up with how much she’s procrastinating or whether or not her daughter is the next four-year-old savant, you can follow her on twitter (@theorganicbird). She also drinks copious amounts of coffee, which is worth mentioning in this bio since really it’s the only reason she gets anything done.

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Writing for the Crowd

My sister is the mother of 8 beautiful children. Wife to a hard-working man. Homemaker extraordinaire, gardener of wild things and wild hearts, baker of cakes and cookies, and curator of the good stuff.

I marvel at her, managing 8 children, each teeming with dreams, hopes, and energy. They’re all weaving a whole story of their own under her rooftop. And she writes about them. Photographs them. Tells stories of them. Yes, blogs about them all.

She writes about their adventures. About their nature lessons. About hikes into the woods and valentines crafts, Christmas dinners and slow Thursday mornings.

I tell her it sounds like a storybook. She laughs and tells me that’s far from the truth
but she’s a seeker of beauty and I tell her that she does quite a good job of finding it.

grady

Not long ago, we surprised her and took the years of blogging she had written, and printed each entry into a book. A real life, hard cover book for her own kids to hold and read. All those stories, poems, thoughts she had captured about the beauty of a simple life, there in hand to recall at a moment’s notice.

And that was when I realized — sometimes we’re not writing for the crowds of readers and tweeters out in the giant world. Sometimes we’re writing for the crowd around our feet, or the ones who are living life shoulder to shoulder with us.

She tells me her husband loves that she writes about the beauty of her life. That it helps him see it all too. That when it’s hard, or uncertain, she is chasing down the line of grace in the middle of it all, and holding up the light like a beacon of hope in their home. The children circle around the book. They recall the best of days and give thanks that someone captured it, and relive the good that is built under roofs of wood and in hearts of love.

She and me, we talk about the blogging world. How big it feels sometimes. How easy it is to feel small, insignificant, and like you’re not even sure who you’re trying to talk to anyway. There are so many voices, opinions and styles, it’s easy to feel swallowed up in the giant web of it all.

So we agree — it’s good to step back and ask, why? What is it that I really wanted to accomplish with all this blogging anyway?

Sometimes we’re not writing to give an angle on the latest controversy. Sometimes we write to give an angle on the beauty that is refracting into our lives. Sometimes it’s not about marketing and opinions, methods and how-to lists. Sometimes it’s foundations and memories, dog-eared pages and remember-whens.

If you’re writing to remember, that’s a good reason to write.
If you’re writing to capture, that’s a good reason to write.
If you’re writing to document, to frame moments, to tell stories, that is a good reason to write.

Sometimes having a blog isn’t about the numbers or how much traffic you can generate from a tweet at 2:15 p.m. Sometimes it’s much bigger, much better, much more meaningful than a stat or comment.

And that? That, I tell my sister, that is the best kind of blog.

Andrea

Andrea Levendusky writes about everything. Literally everything. Whether it’s the deep, disappointing heartaches of life, the richness of the Gospel or last weekend’s epic baked oatmeal recipe, she writes in hopes that you’ll sit and talk with her too. It’s no secret that life can be one wild mess, and she writes to be a voice of hope pointing to redemption in the middle of it all. When she’s not rambling at theorganicbirdblog.com, she’s designing and creating pretty things for theorganicbird.com. And if you really want to keep up with how much she’s procrastinating or whether or not her daughter is the next four-year-old savant, you can follow her on twitter (@theorganicbird). She also drinks copious amounts of coffee, which is worth mentioning in this bio since really it’s the only reason she gets anything done.

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When You Belong to No One

She always asks me, “You and me forever, right mom?” I assure her that yes, indeed, it’s me and her, forever.

We all want to belong to someone, don’t we?

It’s easy as a single parent to sometimes feel like I belong to no one. My daughter, she’s at home in my heart. But me? I feel the loneliness creep in with a heavy silence, long after the child’s play and songs have gone quiet into the night.

Confession: I snuck out of church a few weeks ago. I stepped off stage from leading worship, and when all greetings stopped, all backs were turned and all eyes were looking forward, I took my exit to the door and found a brick wall on which to sit. Sometimes I can’t handle all the couples coupling up. All the seats taken. All the places I feel unwanted or don’t belong. Sometimes it all feels a lot worse than it actually is, and when it does, I need to get fresh air and clear my head.

photo source: weheartit

And it was that kind of morning.

Outside on the city streets, I didn’t feel as alone as I did inside a room of several hundred people.  I don’t know if I can blame it on being single, divorced, being in a city without any family around, being friends with lots of couples, or what. I don’t think I should blame it on anything really. It just is. And every so often, it feels like I no longer belong anywhere, with anyone, to anything.

Even Mother Theresa said — “The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”

So I sat on the brick wall outside of church, and watched the cars, the people, the city move on a brisk Sunday morning, and tried to regain some control back on my emotionally spiraling heart. I moped, really. I gave God the silent treatment, and let the tears flow.

As I did so, a woman wearing ragged clothes and no shoes passed slowly by in her wheelchair, and stopped in front of the other church that sits right next door to ours.

She rolled to the front of their steps and began shouting at the closed, metal doors.

“Hey! Hey! Anyone still there? Hey!” Her voice echoed off the stone building, and no one gave a glance, except for me it seemed. I watched her wheel to the side of the building, and she continued to shout vehemently, banging on the side door with no response. I knew what was coming. I felt the awkwardness seep under my skin. She turned to me.

“Hey you! Will you go in there? They have food for me and I’m late.” I hopped off the brick wall and walked toward her. She continued, “I blew a wheel out this morning,” she gestures toward one of the front wheels on her motorized wheelchair. “Another guy in a wheelchair helped but now I’m late. Will you go in and ask if they still have my food?” Food that they give to the hungry. Bakery leftovers. Day-old rolls.

“Yeah,” I said and walked up the steps, into the inner city church. A man brought me to the basement, grumbling about how the woman outside was almost too late, and “lucky for her”, handed me a few bags of food and sent me on my way. After delivering the food back to the woman on the street, she gave thanks: “God blessed me today. On behalf of me and my daughter, thank you. Thank you.” And she went on her way.

And like a ton of bricks, the Lord cut to the quick of my selfish, self-centered heart. As if he wanted to quickly answer my teary-eyed questioning of, “God, I don’t feel like I belong to anyone.”

“You belong to me,” He said. Fast. Fierce. Jolting me on the city sidewalk, and causing that familiar lump to rise in my throat. I felt the closeness of a kinsman redeemer, reminding me that my place is with Him.

You belong to me which means sometimes your seat is not among your peers and friends. Sometimes it’s on city sidewalks. Sometimes, even when you think you’re running away from me, you’re actually running toward me.
You belong to me which means the people I love are the people you love. The ones who belong to me, should belong to you too.

It’s amazing to me how in a moment when I wanted to use my sorrow as a defense against openness and community, God wanted to use it as an inroad to brokenness and humility. I made my way back indoors to my church family, and looked around. The belonging I ached for wasn’t a person, or a chair, or a face. It was that steady, Gospel-truth reminder that I’ve been bought with a price that I cannot repay. That in all of this life, I belong to something, Someone greater. My soul ached for something, and I labeled it loneliness with my flesh, but it really was disbelief in my position in Christ. I didn’t need back-patting encouragement; I needed Gospel-realignment.

This morning my daughter asks me again if we’re a family. “Yes love, we are.” 

“We belong to eachother, right?” she says wistfully. And I say yes, feeling my heart creak open to the reminder again that we are His. Our words. Our stories. Our seats. Our homes. We belong to Him. The kinsman redeemer. The one who places us within our boundary lines. The one who builds families, answers prayers, and also binds up broken hearts and leaves the 99 for the one.

We belong to Him.

Andrea

Andrea Levendusky writes about everything. Literally everything. Whether it’s the deep, disappointing heartaches of life, the richness of the Gospel or last weekend’s epic baked oatmeal recipe, she writes in hopes that you’ll sit and talk with her too. It’s no secret that life can be one wild mess, and she writes to be a voice of hope pointing to redemption in the middle of it all. When she’s not rambling at theorganicbirdblog.com, she’s designing and creating pretty things for theorganicbird.com. And if you really want to keep up with how much she’s procrastinating or whether or not her daughter is the next four-year-old savant, you can follow her on twitter (@theorganicbird). She also drinks copious amounts of coffee, which is worth mentioning in this bio since really it’s the only reason she gets anything done.

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