I’ve been in an identity crisis for most of 2021. Personally and professionally and it made planning the future very hard. WHO ARE WE POST-LOCKDOWN??? The year 2020 shifted the blog (and all our lives dramatically). Our design content pivoted (are we done with that word yet?) pretty quickly to help solve problems, create comfort, and give resources in the home as we were all in lockdown. But we did it in a very low-budget, casual way that required way less production on our end. And I LOVED the freedom and ease of that level of production. We went from 4-7 photoshoots a week to maybe 1-2 with my iPhone, at my house, in my pajamas. I’m talking REALLY LOW QUALITY when it came to photos, styling, etc. I just rewatched and read Brian’s post about Matty Matheson and I really loved that vibe. We were way more focused on what was practical and relatable than trying to be perfect. And not only was it fun/fast/easy to do but it was actually what we wanted to see on the internet, too. Even myself, a stylist obsessed with perfectly yet effortlessly styled photographs did NOT want to see someone’s home looking annoyingly beautiful during that year.
Cut to the end of 2021. In the last few months specifically, I’ve seen this real shift back to “perfection” on most of the internet. And y’all I don’t want to go back full-time perfection pushing. I found myself, for the first time in my career, really comparing myself to others, feeling jealous their homes looked so good, their content so professional, and frustrated that the world is just back to business as usual – that what we learned in the last two years has already been forgotten. But of course, that was just my own insecurity, grappling with my desire to not become the machine that I once was, and just trying to figure out how to “do it all” while maintaining the sense of slowness that I’ve had. I also have felt confused about what people want, and like there is a backlash for anything we do because the audience has gotten so large. Here’s an example – If I wear an American-made, expensive dress, people are irritated that they can’t afford it and I get called out. If I wear a $19.99 Target dress, people feel like I’m promoting fast fashion and I get called out, and if I wear something vintage/thrifted people feel frustrated they can’t click and buy. And I fully understand all three viewpoints, but no matter what I feel bad that someone is unhappy and it feels like a lose-lose. The sauna blanket posts is a great example – so many of you found it useful (and the traffic/engagement were very high which yes, produced a lot of revenue) but many of you found it was off-brand for me – which I fully get, but it was honest and I had fun doing it. It made me think what is “the brand” anyway post-pandemic.
While the blog was doing great (thanks to you all) in 2020 and 2021 I was still confused about the future. Brian and my priorities shifted and we really wanted to slow down. So we left the city and focused on trying to create a life off of the hamster wheel in Oregon. But what does that look like business-wise? Do I want to grow the business or keep it “as is”? Can you even exist without wanting to grow or progress? Isn’t that just part of the human condition? How do you exist as a content creator or “influencer” with a team to support without getting back on the hamster wheel and saying yes to everything good that comes our way? DO I HAVE TO BE ON TIK TOK???? Can we possibly keep up with every platform and do them well??
And then I realized, wait, we can do all of those things and maybe that’s actually where we should live anyway (and always have, but with less mental ownership). We can still do low-budget mirror-selfie posts while also doing the higher budget styled-out photoshoots. And that’s not only OK, but perhaps having a looser approach can actually have a broader/more inclusive appeal. We can be more things to more people and just own it.
So here is the analogy that I pitched to the team – We are like a large Hollywood studio production company that tells stories about home and design. We can do big-budget blockbusters (the tent pole superhero films that pay for everything else), the low-budget indie films (budget stories, trends), documentaries (real process and education), off-broadway plays (experimental design posts), commercials (sponsored content), and even the free theater in the park (feel good makeovers) – WHATEVER WE WANT as long as we do them in the EHD way. Not every production (post) will be for all people, and that’s ok. Like Hugh Jackman – I prefer him in The Greatest Showman over Wolverine, but he does them both really well. Some people are here for the big well-produced reveals, some for nitty-gritty farmhouse documentary process, some for house hunting, some for trends, budget products, fashion, and some for sauna blanket reviews. And that’s GREAT. We hear you and we know that many of you want budget design ideas while others want discussions around sustainability. And that’s good! Both things can happen here. With my team and our contributors, we can be more things to more people, but we can’t be all things to all people every single day. We all can agree that if today’s post isn’t for you – just come back tomorrow and hopefully it might be.
And listen, if coming here many days in a row makes you feel bad, uncomfortable, or snarky in any way – then I think we aren’t the right fit for you. And that’s ok, too. We’ll be more on top of the comments this year to ensure that this remains a site full of positive, productive, and constructive design conversations, education, inspiration, resources all with a personal connection to us. No snark towards each other, or the writer of the post in the comments allowed, and if you want to snark about me there are dark places on the internet you can waste your time. Go for it. Of course, discussion and constructive criticism are ALWAYS welcome, but I’ve had too many readers reach out saying that some days the comment section kinda ruins the spirit of the blog and bums them out and we agree. No one should feel guilt and shame for their choices in their home. I know many days I’ve avoided the comment section myself out of anxiety and we have some writers that don’t want to write for us anymore because of it. And listen, it’s just a few commenters so I think it will be easy to control (we know because we can look up IP addresses even if you use email aliases like a few of you do). So don’t waste your time, you will be quickly deleted (which FYI automatically deletes any comment that replies to the original one so don’t reply to them). Boundaries, y’all. We aren’t perfect people. We are human, and we are trying really really hard to help inspire, educate and entertain no matter what your budget and style.
I’m actually super excited and feel re-energized – and I couldn’t have said that 2 months ago. I feel more empowered to educate and use what I’ve learned to help you all through your design process. And I’m not alone! With the help of my team (and former team), we’ve really turned into a publishing platform and have been able to broaden the voices, styles, and budgets and want to continue to do it in 2022. I think I just needed to own my shit more, be proud of the mess, process, the reveals, and throw up some new boundaries (the buzzword of 2021).
I think just giving myself permission to do the big-budget blockbusters and the more experimental low-budget indie films has unlocked my creativity and made me less hard on myself. Going back to perfectly produced everything gave me anxiety and just didn’t feel right. I mean I’m living in a house with sheets on the windows for curtains and renovating what feels like an absolute mud/money-pit. My hair is frizzy every day because of the rain and I mostly wear yoga clothes and bogs. I don’t really feel like a style inspiration right now and I refuse to put it on just for the camera. How do you show that mess “perfectly”? I think you don’t, you just embrace it. And yet I can’t WAIT to style out the farm, making beautiful photos and videos to reveal this insane project (yes, the “blockbuster”), I LOVE styling branches in a vase to camera and placing the slippers next to the bed, *like so*. But I also love talking about my mudroom or closet woes, with iPhone shots. I love working with a partner to tell a story around their product, which often pays for the feel-good makeovers. We love finding truly great budget furniture and researching smart products for better living. And I love writing personal posts about parenting, marriage, and religion.
WE LOVE IT ALL. So instead of feeling like we have to be one thing, we are embracing the fact that we can do posts of all budgets/styles, etc, as long as we do it in the EHD way.
So expect all of it – it’s going to be a real “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” year – which honestly isn’t that much different than the last 10 years, it’s just a clearer mind-frame and less apologizing. And in digital and social media there is literally no predicting what will work – well except talking about dead cats, vasectomies, living room rug sizes, hair, and sauna blankets. I suppose I should figure out what all those have in common and plan our editorial calendar based on that?
A huge thank you to my team, of course, who has stuck with me navigating my identity crisis this year. There was a lot of “talking it out” and moments of privacy and I know that isn’t easy for a small team to navigate, both personally and professionally so thank you Jess, Caitlin, Ryann, and Mal. I appreciate the hell out of you. And thank you to our new contributors who have created some of the best content on the blog – looking at you Key, Malcolm, Albie, Ajai, Anita, Lea, and Rashida. I’m so proud of all of the EHD family for the incredible content produced, even when your leader is having an identity crisis. You’ll see even more faces this year as we grow a small team in Portland.
And thanks to you readers, seriously. Twelve years in and I know that many of you were here from the beginning and come every day and I can’t TELL YOU how much that means to me. I am not a “people pleaser” in general, but boy do I want to please you, as you guys truly do know me and have supported me on the way up. So just thank you for sticking by me, coming back, and embracing all of the changes, transitions, and self-indulgence
CHEERS TO 2022 being a VERY interesting year!!!!!
Opening Photo Credit: Photo by Suraya Barbee
The post Happy New Year + My Fresh 2022 Outlook… Is My Identity Crisis Over? appeared first on Emily Henderson.