Posts tagged social media
What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions
What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

I set my alarm for an hour earlier.

This habit is both familiar and distant: waking before my house, in the darkness, to create or to write. More ingrained in me is the pattern of staying up past the goodnights and late shows to finish photo editing, fine tune the wording on a tutorial, or schedule social media for the following hours.

"I haven't blogged in 2016," I told inquisitive and supportive relatives this Easter. I've had compatriots, bloggers I've known in the four years since I started Pars Caeli, asking me how it feels to not blog for so long. The worn-in groove of content ideation, creation, photo styling and production, writing, editing, and strategizing communication became a habit for my creative process and my second (or third or fourth) job.

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What I don't want to tell you is this: for me, not blogging has meant more sleep, less short- tempered moments with the people I love, laser focus on other aspects of my creative adventure (read here my new book and expanded shop), the highest readership levels and stats I've ever had, and most impactful for me, taking on the scratchy and uncomfortable chair of the consumer. And I don't want to write that for this singular reason: starting this blog four years ago (almost to the date - happy birthday Pars Caeli!!) has gifted me a fierce and deep self knowledge. It's aslo brought into my life powerfully kind and unmistakably talented people, like the ones reading this right now and the ones that come to the forefront of your mind when you think about the type of human you want to be. Blogging has allowed me to share a body of work that never would have been created without the platform and community that we have all spent our *extra time building.

For the last three months, in the absence of sharing and promoting my own creations, I've relocated to a less familiar position as a consumer of content–from blog posts to photography to podcasts and audiobooks, movies, performances and more. Allowing myself to take a more passive role has brought me to these two realizations:

  1. Makers have to make AND take.
  2. Community is where it's at.

If you're still with me (what a patient human you are!), let me also move to explain why I think the new changes to spaces like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are going to bring a whole lot more joy for those who dive in. But first, point one and two.

1. Makers have to make AND take:

Makers gotta make. As a maker and a friend/supporter to many artists and people who don't-yet-know-they're artists, this resonates with me to my core. Do it for the process is how my friend, Emily Jeffords, describes it. Expressing ideas and emotions in our creations is a singular and wholly communal gift that artists bring to the world.  

Making does not mean you separate yourself entirely from taking.

Heard the advice to stay away from Pinterest if you want to be inspired? Or stop following or reading the work of someone you emulate? The position of maker can often leave you feeling that you must separate yourself from the source(s) that inspire you, that you must create from the sheer emptiness of originality something solitary and unmatched.

And yet, we hope desperately that other makers, our peers, take time to appreciate our work, to feel the value of what we've spent hours to bring to life, whether that be a well styled photograph, a narration of a childhood memory, or a video of a beautiful space. We want others to feel the spark that we might just be avoiding by separating ourselves for the sake of process.

Having three months away has re-reminded me that consuming is a necessary and lovely part of my process. And it's perhaps a part of yours. Taking, in the sense of spending dedicated time and attention, means that I bounce new ideas around in my head, I'm excited to tell other people about what I've seen, and I appreciate others work and the natural world in a new way. When I do it well, consuming allows my gears to downshift and to accept information in a way that my make-make-make posture does not. It's meditative and appreciative and keeps me tender.

And it gives me a seat in this community that leads me to realization number two.

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

What three months away has taught me, and how we're all better for smart business decisions

2. Community is where it's at.

The businesses of social media, places like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, have and will continue to make decisions they deem smart for growing their sales and brand. These mega-million dollar platforms have given each of us tools to communicate and to form communities as introverts and extroverts, from all over the world, in every kind of socio-economic level, and in every life situation imaginable.

Unlike national parks or public libraries, Facebook and the like are businesses in a capitalist society that are adjusting to meet their goals. As a small business owner, I admire and support this. As a communicator and creator, I am slow to change.

Watching these shifts in social media and not needing a tight grip on what they mean for my own stats, I've discovered that these multi million dollar algorithm changes just might lead us to exactly where we need to be.

Five years ago, I posted something on Facebook every day. I would easily converse with family and friends who made comments. Twitter was a place for easy conversation with colleagues and new connections. I wrote tweets, looking for people to respond back. When I joined Pinterest, I'd comment on really great ideas and get comments back from the creators. And Instagram was once a place where I chatted with others on their view of the world and new discoveries.

I was engaged. Liking, commenting, sharing.

And the changes on the horizon for Facebook, Instagram, and others are encouraging us all to return to engagement. 

Social media is asking us to be social again.

I get that it's coming from a lens of ROI and profit margin, however . . .

The double tap, scroll through is not where it's at. Self promotion with no conversation is empty. On one side we complain about the masks and fronts that we see others creating (is that really what her kids look like after a long day? no way their house always looks like that) and comparing ourselves artificially. On another side we gloss over posts and comments, looking for more information, more images, more distractions. More.

And we're rarely engaged.

Let's win at social media AND community with engagement. Let's show creators that we're seeing their efforts. Let's tell the writers that had never thought of the world the way they have. Let's share and reshare great ideas. Let's point out to the world dark spots that need our attention. 

Stretching and reaching out brings life, connection, and hope to our lives. Social media has the capability to enrich our human capacity for community.

I've tried engagement, or rather returned to engagement, in these three months. Community is what made me press publish four years ago, what motivated me to withstand late nights of creating for years, and what brings me back to blogging STILL four years later.

Like, comment, and share. It's going to take you further online and potentially give you a fuller life in the process.


P.S. I missed you.


How to continue the momentum after a conference

So you're on a conference/retreat/workshop high. The world is at your feet, ready to follow your amazing leadership or get hooked on your fabulous content. You know that at some point this experience will come to an end. How do you keep the inspiration flowing? How can you best transform this momentum into real-life progress?

I had the best time at Alt Summit last week, learning and laughing, and I'm still on an adrenaline rush from all of the creativity that surrounded me!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

How to continue the momentum after a conference. 6 practical tips to stay inspired!

6 Practical tips to stay inspired after you've returned home


You listened to knowledgeable and interesting people whose stories or ideas grabbed your imagination. Did you write down their contact information or exchange a business card? Send that person a tweet, an email, or even a hand-written note and let them know what it was that they shared that stuck with you. You'll find you've made a valuable contact that will continue to inspire and possibly even support you long after your time together.


It's not only the speakers that will continue to inspire you, it's your peers. Pull out that deck of business cards and make notes. Take special note of the ones that interest you. I put mine in a special envelope for future referencing, BUT...

Before you put them away, USE them. Connect with these folks on social media. And do it as soon after the conference as you can so that your connection is as relevant as possible.

3. Take notes on your notes

As soon as you're able (even before you leave), read through your notes and look through your photos, and get all of those brainstorms down. No judgement or evaluation on these ideas, just write, write, write. You can come back later and edit. If you act on these inspirations, you're bound to find some golden nuggets amongst a few weeds.

And if you're like me, writing down important points AGAIN, will help you commit those thoughts you want to keep close to long-term memory.


Maybe it was an inventive business card or a freebie giveaway that encapsulated a theme you don't want to forget. Post that card or frame the print and put it in your everyday space. Let it serve as a continued reminder of what you want to create for yourself.

I'm framing my letterpress print from the ladies of Handmade Mood. Its simple styling says, "I'm kind of a big deal, on my blog." The sass and the ownership (and the sheer talent those three ladies possess) remind me that I can create my own path here on Pars Caeli. I set my own pace and go my own journey.

5. Take an immediate step

Sometimes I return home and get so involved in what is greeting me (smiling children, happy husband, mounds of work, etc.) that I forget to act on all those really important things I said I was going to do when I got home.


So, avoid the self-annoyance and before you walk into your home, take an immediate step in the right direction. Register for the class. Do the thought exercise. Call the potential lead. For me it's been the 5-minute flip and Karen Walrond's vision statement exercise. More on those in future posts!!!

6. Don't hesitate

Be honest with yourself. If this conference or retreat was really inspirational, consider how you'll attend the next one! Or follow the speaker that sparked a new way of thinking. Or purchase the book that everyone referred to. This final step will likely take an investment of money so take some time to decide what out of the entire experience was the most meaningful for you.

And make it happen - again!

You better believe I'll be joining up with my pals from Alt Summit to make and to strategize again. The time together was just too good not to be replicated!

xoxo, MJ

7 valuable lessons for Pinterest

During the month of May, the sweet Stacy of Kids Stuff World invited me to be a guest pinner on the gigantic collaborative board of the Top 20 Must Follow Pinterest Moms. It's a lovely place full of activities, essays, recipes, and varia of amazing from moms who know their stuff. At the risk of sounding cliche, I was honored just to be asked to post, and I was delighted to share my content!

When you're around people who are really passionate (and good!) at what they do, you can't help but learn from them. Whether you're a momma or not, if you want to grow your following on Pinterest here are seven valuable lessons that I learned.

1. A great pinnable image is where it's at.

Pinterest users gravitate to the vertical format, we know that. We also know that pins with warm colors and no human faces (perhaps it makes it seem too personal if we have images of others) are more likely to be repinned.

I found that sometimes one great, large image worked well.

For our summer bucket list post, I pinned the rainbow watercolor image of the list. The vertical format and bright colors were enough to grab people's attention. It has over 800 pins so far, and it's been exciting to see our list pop up on different boards all over Pinterest.

2. Don't give it all away in your image.

Our summer bucket list pin drew a lot of repin traffic, but it didn't necessarily lead to a lot of traffic back to my blog. Why? I kind of gave away the cow with the milk on that one. No one needs to click into that pin to get the ideas for a summer bucket list, it's all right there before them.

For greater traffic to my site, I found that slightly less informative pins with interesting titles drew more viewers. Take for instance a project pin like the one below. The process for these shirts is hinted at below, but you can't walk away with all the information - you need to click in for more. This pin has generated almost 800 repins so far.

Or consider this one that has seen nearly 400 pins. An interesting idea (to me) with a fun photo, but in order to really get into the concept, you'd have to click to the post on my site.

3. Sometimes you just need the right eyes on your content.

This was the most gratifying piece for me. You mean, they like me? They really like me?

The ideas and projects that I've developed over the last two years, that I thought were so great, were seen by a whole new audience, probably the best audience to receive them. And guess what? These posts were pinned and repinned like I had hoped that they would be!! No longer a small one or two repin, but hundreds?

Sometimes you need the right stage to put on a good show.

Unfortunately, not all of us can pin to boards with hundreds of thousands of followers, but here is a grand old nod to collaboration. Working together with other writers/creators in your genre can help out a ton! I've loved collaborating on group boards for the Mini Cooks series and now the Endless Summer series. Combining our networks has brought so many more eyes to the content we want them to see. Find like minds and create collaborative boards on specific topics.

4. Pinning your stuff to multiple boards is okay.

This is a real matter of skill. The key, I think, is to pay careful attention to your audience. When are they pinning and from what boards are they pinning? Some boards might dominate your traffic. For example, I see interaction on my board Mommy and Daddy School. Many of my followers follow only that board. So, if I were to pin one of my kid craft projects to the DIY & Ideas on Pars Caeli, this audience that follows only one board would miss out on the pin, and I'd miss out on their traffic.

From the pros I noticed that multiple pins the same post (sometimes different images though) over a series of days and time slots to try to reach different eyes. And as a follower of these pinners, you can either feel turned off to see these pins more than once or perhaps begin to like (feel a moderate sense of peer pressure) these posts more and more when you see them come up in your feed again and again.

5. Use those descriptions for fun or provocative info.

The description of the pin had been pretty lifeless on my pins until I discovered just how much you can make that space work for you! With a great lead-in or teaser, that interesting photograph can become something readers will want to follow. Consider posing questions or alternatively leaving only the most interesting words that will lead your audience. Even a light-hearted joke might do the trick!

6. Keep that 80/20 rule going strong.

No one likes a narcissist. Your readers will get turned off by over posting your own work. Find, cultivate, and repost great work that you find from other creators. Make sure that pins follow your brand and fit with your style, but be sure to promote great work that see and share it abundantly with your audience. And by abundantly, we're thinking 80% of pins from others/brands and 20% of your own content. You'll be surprised by how much more your readers will come to trust you once they see what you are recommending and get to understand your brand identity.

7. Timing really makes a difference.

As I watched the other women set publish their pins, I was surprised to be the first one of the day pinning content. If I pinned a project or parenting post at 2pm, it saw drastically fewer pins than those I posted at 8, 9, or even 10pm (EST).

I caught on (slowly) that the audience I want to hit - busy moms and even busy ladies - weren't pinning until later in the day (largely). Sometimes a recipe or an organizational post would do well early in the morning and early in the week, but projects and longer posts scored higher in the late evening. Additionally, Saturday and Sunday are high pinning times for my audience - and at almost any point of the day - so I tried to save my favorite content for the weekends.

Consider who you want to reach and when they will most likely be on Pinterest. There's a ton of data and pins out there to help you narrow down who pins when, and it's always a good idea to experiment yourself.

I'm so grateful to the opportunity to work alongside these creators, and I'm loving all my new knowledge.

What would you have to add to the must know list of success on Pinterest? I'd love to pin it. :)

xoxo, MJ

5 ways to use social media to boost your creativity

It's just not true that we run out of ideas or we lose our creativity. The more we exercise our creative muscle, the more we are able to produce outstanding results. Nevertheless sometimes we hit walls or feel in a fog. And sometimes social media is accused of bringing us to this state of saturation or complete drought.

I use Facebook, Twitter, and the rest to spur my ideas, and you can, too. Here are five ways to use social media to boost your creativity.

1. If you're on social media, you're likely to have a favorite or at least a favorite for now. As a graphic designer and a visual fiend, I adore Instagram for inspiration. Find the feeds that will make you want to dive into the images and bask in the compositions. Use Instagram to observe all you can. Take note of the tones and shadows, the mood expressed in the images (and how this is achieved), the caption and/or story that accompanies the photography. How can these influence your work? Which posts feel "successful" to you and what elements can you bring to your own creations?

2. Facebook has changed quite a bit in its ten-year history, but it still has the power to put fresh perspectives right on your screen. How so? Start a conversation. For many of us, the majority of our connections still hang out on Facebook. This is a perfect opportunity to reach out and leave messages. Ask questions from your experts and gather collective feelings. Wondering how to find the best new apps? Ask your friends. Looking for fresh ideas on summer vacation? Solicit others thoughts.

3. I find Twitter to be the most charming of the social media that I use. From the silly hashtags that folks post to the easy back-and-forth of short communication to simple sharing of interesting links, Twitter can give you the quick feedback that you seek. I often use my feed to see what is on the minds of influencers and what are the quirkly, less popular, conversations going on that really bring something new to the table. Twitter can also be one of the easiest ways to break a train of thought (in the best way), and redirect you to another concept. It's also incredibly easy to spend endless time on this network so be sure to set your limits.

4. Google+ is an intriguing platform for inspiration. Much like Instagram, it favors the visual, and much like Twitter, you can utilize hashtags to find related information. I use Google+ to search out keywords and see what ideas and images come through. In my experience thus far, I've found a wide breadth of expressions on the same topic, and I've been inspired to think in ever-widening circles just as the platform's process itself implies. Add your post to Google+ and tag it, click on that tag, and read the myriad of other tidbits to broaden your perspective.

5. Pinterest is an amazing source of creativity for some, while others intentionally keep a distance from it when they are looking to imagine. I use Pinterest much like I did college art assignments. Let's say I want to do an Easter egg project - I first look through my board to see what's caught my eye, and in particular I look at pins that have been added to wrap up posts or projects that have a lot of repins.

And then my brainstorming process begins. I think through and write out all of the "obvious" connections to the most popular ideas, and get all of the imitation ideas out. That process of getting it all out allows me to unearth something fresh. In many ways, Pinterest is most helpful in giving me the fodder I need to run the other way, but in the right direction. I go back to my boards to look at other processes folks have used to see how I might incorporate something unexpected to this new effort.

How do you boost your creativity? Do you find social media helpful in this?

Can't wait to hear your thoughts!

xoxo, MJ



How do I tell you this? I think I have a blog.

If you suddenly started an expansive button collection, consisting of the most majestic, sparkling, and extraordinary buttons, ones that make you proud to collect buttons and including a handful of, you know, mediocre ones you started with... Would you tell your friends? Take pictures of them with fun hashtags?

What if you started a blog, including a year full of posts that include your ideas, ramblings, projects, and collaborations, ones that make you proud to be a writer/designer/photographer/artist as well as a handful of posts that make you say, "Meh."  Would you share it with your family? Send them links to the posts that are your fave?

Do the real people in my life know I have a blog?

Do they read it?

Over the last year, I have thought about this first question - a lot. I began this blog to keep me actively creating, not necessarily to keep in touch with people I know or bring myself any level of attention (though I do love me a great big page view at the end of the day).

For the first few weeks of blogging I told only my husband about this new thing. Then I sent a Facebook message to a dozen girlfriends who I thought might be willing to read and follow along. Next I told my parents - admittedly a little heeby-jeeby'd that they'd be seeing all of this, in my very mature 30-something way.

It took me a bit to send the blog address along to my closest friends. Why? I'm not completely sure, but at first, this new adventure was easier to share with strangers than people who loved me. If a random person rejects me or, worse, is just disinterested by my blog, that won't hurt so much.

Well, over the year-and-some that I've opened Pars Caeli, it's become very much a part of my creative process, my inside jokes, my free time (what?), and my joy. And now it's kinda weird that everyone in my life doesn't know about it. But how do you casually bring up, "Oh, I have a blog. And, yes, I post something daily, sometimes a few times a week. Uh, yes, I've been doing this for an entire year. Did I not mention this?"

But honestly? The really brilliant part of this reveal experience is that I've been met with only support.

And that little boost or sometimes big bounce like the one that comes from your boss with jokes like, "you're going to be famous," or statements like "what can we do to help you grow?" ... well, those moments are the cups of crisp, cold water on my overheated, stewing mind. Never underestimate the power of support in the early buds of creativity.

So, friends, I've got a blog. It's not an easy conversation starter, but here it is.

And here are the whole spectrum of answers to this question from charming blogger pals of mine:

Do the real people in your life know about your blog? Do they read it?

xoxo, MJ

PS. Head on over to Twitter and follow all of these lovely tweeple because they are good and decent enough to respond thoughtfully to this request of their time. xo

Chat It Up: Facebook

One of my best friends in the world (hi H) just joined Facebook! I never thought it would happen. Really. Her arrival has me wanting to engage more and post more over there so I can stay in touch with the latest.


I'd sort of given up on Facebook. It was my first baby step into social media, and it is the place where more of my family gathers than anywhere else. Eg: my parents are not going to begin corresponding in 140 characters (or less) with hashtags, they are going to like photos of my kids or wish my cousin a happy birthday.

And yet it can be a very stagnant place for me, and I find Twitter and Instagram my new go-tos for inspiration and interest. And I give virtual high fives to folks I know who proclaim they've given up Facebook. For good.

Many of the blogs I love have FB pages with more or less interaction from readers. I've kept Pars Caeli off of Facebook, hearing from other blogger pals that the social media giant doesn't affect readership much.

Jeff Goins published A Blogger's Guide to Facebook nearly 2 years ago but some recommendations still hold. Check it out if you haven't.

So, let's chat it up, lovelies. Where are you with Facebook? Totally smitten and commitin'? Or closing the chapter on Facebook? Perhaps somewhere in between.

xoxo, MJ