Writing about a good life requires living that life

Last night during our date I had the biggest “aha!” moment I’ve had in awhile. You could almost call it a “duh!” moment, because I’m pretty sure it qualifies for that, too.

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Over tea, Kyle and I talked about work. Sounds boring for a date, but I promise it isn’t—on these occasions we don’t talk about nitty-gritty stuff, like did you remember to send in that paperwork? talk. We talk Big Stuff. Dreams. Ideas. Possibilities, and wondering if they’d even work. How we’re feeling about our current work. What we could do over the next few months to change what we don’t like.

Good stuff, in other words. I promise it’s fun. (Even though when we came home and the 9-year-old asked what we did on our date, her response was, “Oh! Well, I guess that’s okay for a date, since you’re married and already know each other and all.”)

So, over tea I rambled to Kyle about my blogosophere observations, what’s currently making a blog popular and why so many blogs eventually peter out. Naturally, this led to my musing over the main blog that I run, and how I envision it long-term.

(This is a frequent conversation we have, so this wasn’t a special occasion or anything. No major changes in the works.)

As I was listing the blogs doing well, here’s what I realized they all have in common: the writers are out there living a good life. I don’t mean they’re leading super thrilling, adrenaline-rushing, crazy risky lives. Many, if not most, of their lives are simple and quiet. Everyday, even. But there they are—they’re out there, living good lives.

(I know we’re often reading the good stuff from our lives on the Internet, not the mundane “I did nothing but laundry today” sort of realities. But that’s not what I’m talking about here in this post.)

What I mean is, even among the niche blogs, those with a super-specific topic, those that flourish have content creators that are creating content from an outpouring of a multi-dimensional, thoughtful life.

The Petersiks are writing about DIY and home decor as a natural outpouring of their daily home improvement-filled lives. Shauna writes about food, hospitality, and community because she’s constantly having people over for dinner. Amanda Soule fills her days caring for cows and children, sewing and knitting and cooking and reading, and then her blog overflows with a love for natural, intentional living.

They’re fully present in their real life, doing stuff.

Realizing this epiphanaic-not-really-an-epiphany-because-it’s-obvious truth, I naturally then looked inwardly. How is this reflected in my blog, which is dedicated to exploring the idea of simple living?

There’s a weird dynamic when you can earn a full-time income off your blog. You spend your days blogging, which you love, but it’s not often translatable for most readers, yet you earn that income because you have those readers. Even though I initially started the blog to journal my ideas about simple living from my experience as an expat mom and wife, I’m now exploring the idea of living simply from the perspective of a… full-time blogger who writes about living simply.

I’m not really qualified to write discoveries about living simpler as a coffee shop barista who’s also juggling college and single parenting. I can’t speak into the challenges of living simply as a full-time executive who spends her days in stilettos. I can’t even speak from experience about simplifying the parent gig beyond the ages of my own children.

(This is why, I’ve found, it works best to have a community blog about simple living. There’s more than one way to live life, but you can only share your perspective. Friends help add their own perspectives. I’m grateful for the 20+ writers at AoS.)

Anyway, what I’ve found interesting so far this year is that I’ve grown more excited about the blog ONCE WE STARTED TRAVELING AGAIN. I was out there, doing what I love almost more than anything: traveling with my family. I was doing stuff.

Here lies the rub with publishing a blog about a concept (simple living, or spirituality, or minimalism, or education, or green living, or whatever) instead of chronicling your life. The good stuff worth reading comes from an outpouring of living a good story. So you need to make sure you’re out there, living a good story, and not just writing about life. You’ve gotta actually live life.

"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." -Ben Franklin

This is why I’m drooling over excitement about the new travel channel we’re going to launch this summer at Art of Simple. On that spot, my family and I (yep, Tate will be writing, too) will be writing about our trip preparations, and then naturally chronicling our trip once we leave in the fall. After all, writing about travel usually works best when you travel. We’ll be out there, doing something we know how to do well. We’ll be living a good (to us) life.

So this was my aha! moment last night. I guess I already knew it, deep down. But it was still a good thing for me to affirm, to acknowledge. Blogging and writing shouldn’t be an end in itself. It should spur us on to keep on living, to get out there and live life. And from that life, our best writing flows.