Well, friends, the time has come: I need to step back from this blog.
Before I delve into my reasons, I want to take a few moments to express my gratitude and heartfelt thanks. If you are reading this right now, I owe you a debt that can never be fully repaid. I decided to be a writer when I was in third grade, chased that dream through high school, earned a creative writing degree, then found myself in a job market that had no interest my my dreams and dumped me into marketing and communications jobs for more than a decade. I wrote on the side – an album review here, an artist interview there – but never got any traction … until 2007 when I launched this blog. I rediscovered my voice, uncovered an important personal mission, and connected with readers (like you) who believed in me. It was utterly transformative. Continues to be so. Because of this blog and the amazing people who read it, I finally became a writer. A professional writer with a portfolio and clients and books and – perhaps most importantly – renewed confidence in my talents and abilities.
So thank you. Thank you for reading for years, and thank you for just joining us recently. Thank you for commenting regularly and thank you for lurking. Thank you for expressing your enthusiasm when you felt I hit the right notes, and thank you for piping up when you felt I was off the mark. Thank you for educating me on what diversity really means, and on the importance of being truly and consistently open-minded and inclusive. Thank you for supporting me with your words, your clicks, your dollars, your willingness to help spread the word about this website. I am forever grateful. Truly.
Unfortunately, I am also weary. This blog turned nine years old in September of 2016. Nine years is a very long time to do anything, but I’ve come to believe that it’s an especially long time to do something as emotional and vulnerable and personal-creativity-reliant as blogging. I wish I could stick it out a while longer – reach a nice, even 10 years by pushing myself through September of this year – but I can’t. I am tapped out and need to make a change now. Here’s why.
I have said everything I need to say. I have said most of it twice. At this point, although I can still rely on fun and thought-provoking reader requests from you folks, my own creative reserves have run dry. This blog is supposed to be about the intersection of style and body image, and when it comes to body image, I’ve expressed just about everything I think and feel on the subject. I feel uninspired and like I’ve been phoning it in for a while now. Not a good feeling.
I am exhausted by the in-fighting. Debate and discourse within the body image community are vital, and lively arguments keep everyone from getting lazy. But as Internet culture becomes more click-competitive and traffic-driving efforts become more cutthroat, I feel like some sectors are becoming lax about allowing unnecessary combativeness. To assemble the weekly link posts, I pore over hundreds and hundreds of blogs. The feminist and body image sources I read – and they are friendly and positive ones, comparatively speaking- are comprised of content that is 90% call-outs and/or exhaustive lists of ways everyone is doing things wrong. The main message I hear now is, “You may think you’re being body positive, but you’re really just making things worse.” I hope that’s not true. But at this point, I can’t even tell for sure. And pouring my heart and soul into an endeavor that’s meant to support women and shore up their confidence only to be told that I’m tearing them down? It saddens and exhausts me.
I am ready to be a private citizen again. In an age that encourages everyone to be public about everything, I find myself retreating. I don’t want to share my every decision, outfit, meal, purchase, and errant thought with anyone who’ll listen. Actually, I never did. But now, in order to play the social media game, I’m told that failing to do so actively hurts my standing as a blogger. In reality, what hurts me is failing to be present in my own life, to breathe into moments instead of scrambling for my phone to capture them for Instagram.
I don’t like the direction social media has taken. A big statement, I know. But my first few years of blogging involved lively discussions in the comments sections, connecting with like-minded bloggers, and corresponding with engaged readers. Now comments are few, images are valued over writing, bloggers are required to spread themselves across half a dozen social platforms (and incorporate any new ones the instant they gain popularity), and anyone with an Internet presence can expect to be trolled relentlessly. The climate has shifted to the point that blog advertising companies are folding and going bankrupt, forcing professional bloggers to push more and more affiliatized content, perpetuating the cycle of urging people to buy stuff they don’t need. I understand that I may sound like a whiner or a luddite, here, but I assure you that I’m not pining for the “good old days.” I think I’d probably have reached this point even if the blogosphere had remained a more supportive and less dynamic place. I do feel, though, that social media is something I’ve become relatively good at … but that isn’t good for me.
I don’t like how blogging has changed me. OK, I LOVE how it’s changed me in many ways: I shop more sustainably now (finally), I have a deeper understanding of inclusive language, I know how to advise shoppers who wear specialty sizes, I see beauty everywhere in everyone. I am smarter and wiser and better in many, many ways. But over the years I’ve also found myself buying stuff I didn’t need because it helped me feel like I was “keeping up” with my blogging peers. I’ve made progress in my own body image struggles, only to be bumped back by an unexpected stream of borderline-thinspiration images on Pinterest. I’ve stopped even attempting to be funny for fear of triggering someone’s anger unintentionally, and made my writing less engaging in an effort to please absolutely everyone who might ever read it. I’ve started to think about how I dress in terms of outfits that are “blog worthy” and ones that aren’t, instead of just enjoying the creative endeavor of dressing. I am re-wired in some negative ways, and eager to un-do that damage.
I don’t feel as excited by or connected to style and fashion. And further, I don’t feel like I’m able to express a key concept without stating it in some sort of disclaimer at the end of every single post, and it is this: I don’t care what anyone wears. Ever. I don’t care what anyone looks like. What I care about is how people feel about themselves. In my mind, dressing and style are a means to an end, and that end is confidence. If dressing differently can give you self-confidence you currently lack, it can be transformative. And, of course, style is also a marvelous tool for self-expression. I still believe it has real, significant value. But it can be expensive and competitive and a game of diminishing returns. I look at my fashion magazines now and just feel shouted-at to buy stuff. I look at blog posts about trends and just feel shouted-at to keep pace. I want women to look good so they can feel good, and I want that for myself, too. But that message gets buried. No matter how many times I try to revive it.
This has all been happening for a long time. And I did my best to keep going because I continued to get amazing, supportive, heart-rending emails from readers who told me that Already Pretty helped them, changed them, made their worlds feel less bleak. I didn’t want to stop or change gears or shut it down because it was clearly providing a valuable and important service to people all over the world. But now, I think and hope I’ve figured out a way to do what’s best for me AND continue to help them (and hopefully you).
Here’s what you’ll continue to find here every week from now on:
Refreshed topical posts from the archive
Again, nine years is a long time. I’ve got a pretty astonishing archive of posts that many of you have never read. I’ve begun the process of going through them all – every single one of the 4,000+ posts that have been published here since 2007 – and updating them so they align with my current views. (I knew less and felt differently when I was 30 than I do now at 40.) Several refreshed archive posts per week will pop up on the front page here. If you happened to miss this post announcing the change, there’s a very real possibility that you’d never notice any change at all. I hope to keep the site up for many years to come since its rich backlog of topical and tutorial posts make it a valuable resource to readers.
I am honored to say that several Already Pretty contributors have agreed to continue posting new or repurposed content here, too. You’ll see Joi, Nadine, and Kristine on a regular basis. Understandably, they may choose to withdraw eventually, and Gracey, LuAnne, and Aarti have opted out. (Gracey has stopped blogging altogether, as you may know.) But Joi, Nadine, and Kristine are sticking around for the time being, and I’m unspeakably grateful.
Link roundups … and cats
I will continue to assemble and post new Lovely Links posts every Friday since I know those are reader favorites. Weekly Kitty pics, too. Not sure this will continue indefinitely, but it will into the foreseeable future.
The full archive will also be accessible at all times. Certain topics and groups of posts won’t be recycled back to the front page, but you can find them by searching, by using the drop-down in the right rail, or through topic categories in the top navigation.
You will no longer see:
- New topical posts
- New outfit posts
- New sale picks posts
- The monthly email newsletter, though you can still receive blog posts via email
- Anything on Twitter or Instagram as I have stopped posting to both. Facebook will remain active, at least for now.
I will also be closing comments permanently. Since I truly need to step back, I will be shifting this space from a blog to an informational website. There has been rich and enlightening discussion in the comments section of this blog for many years, and I have appreciated it all along. I simply do not have the bandwidth to moderate or respond to comments any longer. I will leave this post up for a week or so with comments open since I know many of you will have questions and thoughts to share. I’ll do my best to keep up and respond. Once the archived posts begin to cycle, comments will be turned off. (You should be able to view old comment threads through the archive itself.)
What will I be doing with myself instead? Well, as many of you know I’ve stopped taking style consult clients and begun to shift away from much of the style-centric content I once created. I’m focusing on editing and ghostwriting, activities that allow me to exercise my creativity and help others express themselves clearly and eloquently. I am currently working on a memoir for a 50-year-old man who grew up in and escaped from Sierra Leone, a book about business practices for healers and yogis, blog posts for a variety of clients on a variety of topics, and a handful of fun web copy projects. I’m always on the lookout for new writing and editing work. Although I will continue to write under my own name in a few other places like GoDaddy and the Star Tribune, I feel very ready to write and edit in the background now.
I will continue to pursue my stated goal of empowering women through volunteer work with LOTT and the MFBT. Both causes are close to my heart, and both do important and life-changing work that impacts women in my community and beyond. And in the current political climate, I will be engaging at a local level to support women, people of color, LGBTQIA+, immigrants, and other marginalized communities as best I can. I want to be on the ground doing this work, not in the ether.
And I will do lots of things as a private citizen that I will never document or announce online. I will do my best to re-learn enjoyment as an analog activity.
I know this will disappoint many of you, but I feel like it’ll surprise few of you. I hope you will temper any disappointment with the understanding that I’ve given all I could for as long as I could. Now it is simply time for the next phase.
Thank you again for reading, for supporting, for making this all possible. Thank you for understanding that I need a change. Thank you for an incredible journey.