These thoughts have been rolling around in my mind for awhile now, and I've been telling my husband a lot lately how much I miss real blogging. How I miss the days of writing from my heart, writing things I was praying or working through, writing things that were raw and vulnerable, my heart pounding as I pressed publish and sent it out into the world. My heart never pounds when I press publish about a wardrobe post or a post detailing how we painted an armoire. Which isn't to say that lifestyle blogs full of outfit and home inspiration are not real, valuable, worthwhile or inspirational. I love 'em as much as the next gal. But deep in my heart of hearts, I know that I want this space to be different than that, for me. Few people in my life would call me a writer. They'd say I'm a designer, a photographer, an artist, or they would look at me confused and ask, "actually, what DO you do?" If asked, even I would most likely not include "writer" in the list of Things That I Am. So it might come as a surprise to people that I do, somewhat secretly, consider writing my first form of creative expression. Growing up, I wasn't really drawing pictures or painting things or even taking photos. I wrote. I still have a stack of handwritten, sloppily stapled "books" I wrote, as a precocious 1st and 2nd and 3rd grader. They are mostly sequels to stories I'd read, stories whose author didn't seem to think needed a follow-up. I clearly begged to differ. I won an essay contest in the 5th grade about "what freedom means to me." I won an essay contest in the 8th grade about the right to life. English was my favorite class in high school. And history. Given the opportunity, I will always choose a book, the couch and a crunchy snack on a Saturday afternoon. I've secretly always dreamed of being a writer, of writing a book. I guess I just convinced myself somewhere along the line that I'm a designer now, a visual artist, so being a writer is off the table. But what if it's not? I honestly never set out to be a visual artist, whatever that term conveys. Here's how the transition went down: I took a lot of art classes in high school. I loved the funny, sarcastic art teacher, and my high school had so few electives that art was the only one I was really interested in. I went to a brand-new high school without many programs, and we never had a yearbook until I was a senior. One day early in the fall of my senior year, a teacher I didn't recognize walked into the art room during my art class, and the art teacher brought her over to me. She introduced herself as the new "English and Publications" teacher. And Mrs. Wagoner, the art teacher, said she'd recommended me to be the editor-in-chief of the brand-new, first-ever yearbook. Since I was fairly decent at art, had done a few photography-based art projects and was super organized and good at multitasking, it seemed like a good fit. So I said yes, without really realizing what was involved. What was involved was a year-long crash-course in editorial photography, graphic design and journalistic writing. I don't say this to brag but just as a fact: I produced 75% of that yearbook on my own. I had to quickly learn how to use my dad's first-generation Canon digital camera to shoot all different kinds of sports and events. I had to learn how to write captions and frame stories. I had to learn how to layout pages and what the heck InDesign was. I learned Photoshop (barely.) I mastered the phrase "I can't - yearbook." And I loved it! It was so, so much work, but holding that hardcover book in my hands the summer after I graduated high school was the coolest feeling.
During the course of my senior year, because I'd starting teaching myself photography in order to produce the yearbook, I started playing around with taking photos of my friends. Some of them were fairly decent, and a few friends asked if I'd take their official senior photos. As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I saw a business opportunity, and Valerie's Photoshoppe was born. I was so fancy with my British spelling ;) I charged $50 for a senior session, all photos included (back in the days of discs, people.) I branched out from seniors and took family portraits, newborn portraits, anything anyone would pay me for. When it came time to choose a college, I chose the college my boyfriend was attending. We broke up the first month of school, but it was still the best school for me - I'm convinced of that. He ended up leaving, but I stayed, and made some of the best friends of my life.
When I had to choose a major, I picked photography (through the art program) and business. It seemed like a natural fit - I'd already started a photography business, so why not spend the next 4 years honing both of those skills? After one semester in the art program, I knew it wasn't for me. I hated the painting and drawing classes, and the photos hanging in the hallway from the upper level photography students weren't the kind of photos I wanted to take. I wanted to photograph people, and stories. I just wanted a fun little photography business where I shot weddings and newborn babies. But it didn't feel like I could get there through the college route. There wasn't a hard and fast "become an established portrait photographer" major. I had a really, really terrible first semester and by Christmas, I wanted to drop out of school altogether. Neither of my parents went to college and went on to be extremely successful, I already had a thriving business that I was coming home every weekend to run and grow, and I figured I didn't really need the degree to get me where I wanted to go. I wasn't very kind to my parents during this time of my life, and was convinced that their suggestion and ultimately, demand, that I stay in school was ridiculous and a waste of (their) money. Somehow, in the mess of that tear-filled winter, my dad convinced me to change my major to journalism. "You've always loved writing," he said. "Why don't you switch to photojournalism instead?" The journalism program at my school was really good, and it seemed like an okay idea. I promised my parents I'd stick out two years there, and then I could decide if I was transferring or quitting. A visit to my counselor and some clicks on the computer later, I was all set as a photojournalism major.
I spent a semester in the photojournalism program and knew it wasn't for me. The classes were outdated and I was bored. I'd already taught myself everything we were learning in class about lighting and technique. And I knew I never wanted to work for National Geographic or a newspaper. Two girls I'd met in photography class had the same thought, and were looking at switching to journalism graphics, another degree track within the journalism school that was graphic-design based. I recalled how much I'd loved rearranging elements on the yearbook pages, like a puzzle, to make them all fit and work together. "I could be a designer!" I thought. I could use those skills in my photography business! I could design Christmas cards and welcome packets and all the fancy things that very famous photographers included in their packages. So I kissed photojournalism goodbye, and became a journalism graphics student. The two (maybe it was two and a half) years I spent in that sequence are some of my very favorite memories. I had incredible professors and met dear friends. I grew my skills not only in design, but also writing and, incidentally, photography. I grew as a leader working on the student magazine. I fell even more in love with stories, and the way we all relate to one another through our shared experiences, which is what journalism is ultimately all about - regardless of the medium. I'm so grateful for my journalism degree, but I still knew I'd probably never use it. By graduation, I was sure. I didn't want to work at a newspaper. I didn't want to work at a magazine. I wanted to work for myself and see what I could become. So after tossing my graduation cap, I did it! I relaunched my business as a dual creative studio, offering photography and design. My blog transitioned from a place of sharing my written thoughts and attempts at essays into a log of the photo sessions I shot, the design work I produced, and inspiration in both categories to keep people coming back. I'd gotten a degree in visual communication, essentially. What business did I have communicating non-visually?
But that's the crux, isn't it? We can let little parts of ourselves die when we let other people and outside labels define who we get to be. I have no formal training in writing. I spent four years learning how to be a designer and, somewhat, a photographer. No one would consider me a writer, not even myself most days. But that spark never totally died out. I'd have ideas for long-form blog posts, record monologues in the car using the voice memo app on my phone, with plans to later turn it into a written post, then delete it altogether, convinced that no one was interested in my words.
But I'm interested in my words. I love to write, and I miss it. I don't want to just show you my life, I want to tell you about it. I want to write about the beautiful and the hard parts of marriage, and pregnancy, and figuring life out as a young entrepreneur, a young woman, a young couple. I want to write about God and faith and the big things happening in my heart. I want to write. I'm not giving up my design gig anytime soon - I love to create visually and don't foresee that changing - but I miss writing, too. I want to get back to it.
So I think I'm going to. And I hope you'll stick around.