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June is a very special month for me. Not just because it’s my birthday but because, for my birthday, I got this little gem of a blog. Shoestrings & Fancy Things is four amazing years old and even though my love affair with blogging has been going strong for a lot longer than that, it’s through the challenges and rewards that I’ve enjoyed on this particular journey that I feel I’ve grown so much.

As a big thank you for having joined me on this adventure, I’d like to share some of them with you and, hopefully, give you a few takeaways that will help you on your own journey.

Stay true to my work ethics

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have both broad and very focused roles within the Marketing discipline and while I’ve changed a few hats throughout my career, from freelancer to Marketing Manager, Content Marketing Manager and Marketing Consultant, a few things have never changed. I’ve always loved telling stories and I’ve always put people first. The people in them, the people reading them, and the people who I hoped would explore and grow through them.

I’ve told stories about travel agencies to happy go-lucky holiday makers, about personal trainers to people trying to work up the nerve to drop that triple cheeseburger and pick up a carrot instead, about semi-boring services to marginally-interested buyers and, what I’m most excited about, a better, more honest marketing for the benefit of the user.

This last one is why there’s a Shoestrings & Fancy Things blog, in the first place. Just like 10 year old Cristina thought her dream of becoming an astronaut was as realistic as the Moon rising every night, so 26 year old Cristina believed the only thing that stood between marketing professionals and a truly people-centred marketing effort was having the option and tools to do so.

Shoestrings & Fancy Things – circa 2014

Life happens, though, and  given enough time and experience we learn that some things require more effort than we’re willing to invest or sacrifice. I didn’t become an astronaut but neither have I lost nor abandoned my belief in the value of delivering useful, relevant, tailored and experiential marketing solutions.

It’s not always been the easiest thing to do. I’ve worked in contexts in which I was pushed every which way to settle for good enough and be happy about it. I was told off for taking too much ownership when, having very little support, I tried to do more than my job description said I had to. I was looked down upon as an idealist when I flagged I wasn’t comfortable with stretching the truth about the stuff we were marketing. I was set aside when I wasn’t ok with implementing half-assed tactics that did nothing more than feed egos.

Through all of these and more, Shoestrings & Fancy Things has been my outlet. You see, my blog is not a business. If a diary and a soapbox would have had a baby, my blog would be it. It’s always been synonymous with the completely freeing and grounding experience of allowing me to structure my thoughts, approaches, test them out and see if my work ethics, principles and methods really were fundamentally flawed. They weren’t.

Tone down my perfectionism

I can’t remember when I realised just how much of a perfectionist I am, and I’m not saying this to spin a negative into a positive and put a modest bow on it. It’s something I’ve very much had to struggle with both in my professional and personal life.

It’s held me back in many things but nowhere more visibly and irritatingly, to me at least, than in marketing my own blog. Throughout every iteration of Shoestrings & Fancy Things and its identity I worked with one single, amazing designer – Radu Chelariu. So it’s always been just me and him, and both of us have full time jobs. Yet the things I wanted to do and the tactics that I was interested in applying would only have worked if we’d CTR+C’ed and CTR+V’ed at least another designer and two marketers.

Shoestrings & Fancy Things – circa 2016

While my blog affords me the freedom to do whatever the hell I want, it also challenges me to get creative with resources, time management and budgets. By doing so, it hurls me completely out of my comfort zone and forces me to face my perfectionism.

If in the beginning I wasn’t willing to compromise too much and would spend hours editing my content and struggling to create visuals I ended up being frustrated with because I was comparing them to professionally-designed ones, in time, I got over it.

I learned to prioritise the things with the biggest potential impact and focus on those, leaving stuff that’s nice to have on the back-burner. Does it hurt my brain any less? Not really but I can deal with the little devil on my shoulder stomping its foot that something isn’t perfect and focus my energy less on what I see and more on what you will experience through what I’ve created.

Discover my interiority complex

I’m an introvert. Not only that but I’m a very reserved person, to the point that if you open the dictionary to read the definition, you might even find my picture instead.

I suck at receiving compliments, I’d rather be criticised than praised and I’d much rather chew glass than talk about myself. Which is why I’ve been procrastinating with writing this blog post for the better part of a month. Nope, I’m not even sorry. I’m proud I managed to push through and hit publish.

A big part of my adventure with Shoestrings & Fancy Things has been about focusing on the positives rather than the shortcomings, overcoming personal challenges, learning to open up more and more about myself and sharing who I am and what I believe in with all of you guys.

Cristina’s Shoestrings & Fancy Things – 2018

By making you the centre of my attention and writing about the things you could then apply in your day to day job to make it easier and more rewarding, I’ve built a very different and much healthier relationship with myself.

Instead of using comparatives to place my work in a hierarchy of many, I look at every piece of content and try to understand whether it’s been useful to you. I no longer judge it as better or worse than Jen or Bob’s. I define it as worth your while or not. And if it’s not, that’s fine too cause I can do better with the next one. And that’s a glimpse of how I’ve defined my interiority complex, a made-up term for a terribly effective concept by Caroline McHugh. 

The Bottom Line

Most people see blogging as either a cash-cow or a tool to thrust oneself in the spotlight. While both are true, blogging can do so much more and while it may not have a monetary value, it definitely deserves a place as a punchline in one of those old MasterCard commercials.

Thank you so much for being part of this adventure and I’d love to share a big slice of this masterpiece cake by my very talented friend Corina, over at Smafinaria, to celebrate my blog’s anniversary, my own birthday, and this delightful story we’re writing together.

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