Doubts as a Writer

Being a writer and also a major perfectionist are two things, I've learned, that often seem to clash. My perfectionistic ways haven't always hurt me, though: sometimes it gives me the extra drive I need to go above and beyond, which is critical as a writer, since writing is one of those things that so many do or want to do.

I don't always remember feeling so insecure about it, but time has gone on, and maybe with age I've just realized more hard truths about the writing and blogging world. And the reason I figured I'd blog about it is because I think it's something a lot of people will be able to relate to, even if they don't admit it. And really, even though this post specifically focuses on doubts with writing, this could be with anything, any dream you have or thing that you want to do.

I've been doing a lot of thinking back. Back to my journey of writing and actually finishing my first novel. I can't believe that was almost four years ago. The thing about it is that you oftentimes hear authors and writers say something along the lines of, oh, the first book I wrote was terrible and not at all suited for publication, but it was good practice, or something along those lines. But honestly, I don't feel like that really applies to my book. The writing of it is kinda sloppy, but it wasn't like I didn't know what I was doing, either, and I fixed a lot of it with edits. But even more than the writing was the themes. I know that it was a story that needed to be told. And if I had the opportunity to publish, I would. I might go through and add some things like I talked about here, but that's still a book I hope to publish one day.

The thing that I think about most, though, is how seemingly natural it felt to write that book. I'm not kidding. I know it was tough; writing requires perseverance. But I finished it in under a year. The themes and characters just seemed to develop with clarity—even though I know I can still make them better. I just don't remember it being a constant struggle like this second book has been for me. It doesn't have anything to do with the second book's plot—I daydream about it all the time and sharing it with people, but for whatever reason, it's like whenever I go to write it, it's always lacking. I just don't remember the first book being that hard to write.

Maybe it's because I truly didn't have any expectations for my first book. I mean, I was only eleven years old; I didn't even think I had it in me to finish a novel. But God helped me do it, and He helped me do it swiftly, which is how I know it was important. I think this next story is important, too. I think the thing that's changed, honestly, is the distractions.

I've talked about distractions before, here in this post. I've talked about how there is such a thing as too much information, where it's overwhelming and makes you overthink everything. That can happen with anything. Take the blogging world, for instance. I think one of the reasons I stopped blogging for so long is because I absolutely despised the new direction of blogging. It felt cheap to me, and I almost thought what was the point? Blogging, once upon a time, used to be about telling stories, plain and simple. It was a place for people to share their thoughts and entertain somebody with their writing or even inspire them, which was perfect for me, and I jumped right on board. But then I watched, oftentimes with horror, as everything started to change. Suddenly those honest posts where you would just write out your thoughts were meaningless, and it became all about blogging what you know. And you know what cracks me up more than anything? There's like, honestly, hundreds of blogs and "businesses" ALL blogging about the same thing: how to blog. And how to make money blogging. And how to make so much money blogging that you can quit your real job and travel the world to write!

And I'm sorry, but that just feels cheap to me. Look, I'm not saying it's a bad thing to want to make money writing or even to want that to be your job because I myself have wished for those things. But I think the thing that annoys me most about this attitude shift is just people's motives for wanting that. They're cheap, kind of selfish motives, really. The whole point of writing is to share something with the world that you feel you need to, something that I believe should be meaningful. And, seriously. Does the whole world really need to know how to make millions of dollars off their blog so they can, what? Quit their job? Buy a bunch of ridiculously expensive clothes to show off? Travel and run away from everything? I mean, seriously?! That makes writing and blogging look so cheap, like it's just some quick get rich scheme for people who just want to live off their romantic life fantasies! That isn't the point of writing! It SHOULDN'T be.

And I will probably lose all of my blogging connections for saying that because that's seriously what most of them do nowadays, but sorry not sorry, I think it's wrong. And I know some people will probably get offended by that and claim they don't do that, but I've had a lot of time to watch and observe, and that's what it looks like to me. Why else would there be thousands of e-courses promising to teach you how to make so much money so you can...quit your job...make tons of money...? Do those reasons honestly sound meaningful? They're not promising to teach you how to write meaningfully, how to inspire people through writing... No. They're teaching you how to make MONEY. Which is not in and of itself bad to want money, but again, it all comes down to people's OBSESSION with that. Welcome to America.

My point in even bringing this up is because it hurts my heart to see a writing career degraded like that, because then everyone wants to do it just to live out their getting rich fantasies, and it has nothing to do with them being actually passionate about writing or inspiring people through writing. Being an author is the same way—I see TONS of articles on those, too.

It reminds me of those Christians who do nothing for God—you know they don't really care about Him—but yet still talk the talk because they want the perks and benefits of going to heaven and the title of being a Christian. And sorry, it doesn't work that way. If you're not serious about your faith, then don't you dare pretend to have one just to get the benefits. It's not fair to those who legitimately have faith.

My point in this post, though, wasn't really to stir up anything controversial, but then the more I thought about it, I thought that nobody addresses this in the writing world, and somebody really needs to. I mean, I read a post on selecting an English major, telling people the hard truths about it: that no, not everyone makes it "big" like everyone seems to want to in their writing for the money. There's a lot of work, dedication, and craft that need to—and should—go into writing. And people need to know that.

But here's my point in sharing this: seeing all of those articles about making money writing and blah blah blah filled me with insecurity. For one, because like I said, it sends a horrible message about the purpose of writing as a whole. But more than that, it was just so overwhelming. And when talked about like a money making scheme, EVERYONE is going to want to try their hand at it, even those who do not have the willingness to truly develop as a writer. That means more competition, and I hate competition. So I began to wonder what my point even was as a writer. Because I know I won't be making money off of mine anytime soon, though that was never my intentions to start a blog and get rich anyway. But I just thought, with all of these people who may know the business aspects of marketing yourself and I don't, what is the point in writing?

And it became a similar pattern with my book. I just couldn't stop reading things about improving your craft—which is important to become educated on writing; I mean, I just complained about people who aren't willing to do that, but it just goes to show that there's a balance.

What happens when you get tangled into this mess is that you lose sight of God. And He's the reason I write. He's the One who, ultimately, is going to decide where my writing goes, not the business analytics, or SEO, or anything else. And I just shut Him out of it. Same with my book. I read too many articles and began to doubt everything about myself as a writer. Just the other day I was reading an article on showing and not telling in writing. It talked about how you should not use the word "felt" because you can SHOW how a character is feeling. So I did a search in my book for the word "felt." I already have almost thirty uses of it in the first 10,000 words. Talk about discouraging you before you can even get going.

But that's where you have to stop that. You have got to remain focused on God and doing what He tells you to do like I talk about here. So if He's calling you to write for His glory? Then DO IT. And don't spend the better half of your time going crazy trying to figure out promotions and the business side of it. What? DON'T do that? Yep, I went there. Seriously. I was going crazy for the longest time because I had all the social media and was doing my best I could when it came to promoting my blog and getting it out there, and I don't feel like I was getting good results. It was immensely discouraging, and it made me want to quit, to be completely honest. Because I don't like sharing things if I can't help people, and you're obviously not helping anyway if no one sees it. But I had to learn to release that. To just trust that God would get my writing where it needed to be. So I deleted the vast majority of my social media because I was done playing the games. Done trying to compete and market myself when really, I just wanted to write. That's why I started.

And it's the same with my books and with anything you do. You just have to do it. Don't get sucked into the world of being a "girlboss" or whatever. You'll never make it on your own. You have to have God's help. And it is hard sometimes to wait on those opportunities—take it from the most impatient girl alive. But even back then, I blogged about that here.

I'm so guilty of doing things on my own, of not consulting God and just plowing into everything, taking on more than I can handle. But God never asked me to do that. He asked me to write. And I know, that if it's His will, and these are stories and words He wants to share for His glory, then the rest will come. The opportunities and everything.

You have to trust Him. You have to do what you do for pure motives, because it's what He wants. Not to make a million dollars, even though, at one point in my eight year old mind, I did write this in a journal:

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Haha. I'm also not trying to specifically call anyone out or be mean to anyone, bloggers or writers. But I'm just trying to emphasize that in today's society, everyone thinks it's about money and stuff. And it's not. Life is about so much more than that; writing is about more than that.

And it all goes back to God, to trusting Him to take care of us and looking for our joy in Him. True joy is found in obeying Him, so if that means writing for Him, then do that and don't get so insecure about what other people are doing. God has a plan for YOU and what He's called you to do. I always worry that I'm missing it because you know me, I don't take waiting very well, and waiting to me looks like missing hundreds of opportunities. But not to God. And I have to trust that. And I have to write for Him alone.

Oh! I took an online quiz one time (ha, one time, no, I take them all of the time because I get a kick out of them and because they give me meaningful advice like which type of house I should live in and what makeup style I should wear, haha {for the record, it says I should live in a castle, and I don't disagree}). This particular quiz was over what I should blog. And it said I should blog about my life, and that it's actually pretty interesting. And I was like, you know, you're not wrong. I don't know if sitting on the computer for hours on a Friday night taking random quizzes counts for anything, but who knows, you might learn a lot from that that needs to be shared! Yeah, they said I should blog about boy drama and hanging out at school and all those wonderful things. And of course I was like, why not! I don't have much boy drama for you right now, but just wait until I write another letter to my future husband! I'm sure talk about living in a castle will come up. :)

But anyway, this meaningless quiz actually did give me a bit of insight, saying that the best blogs are ones over personal experiences anyway, which I totally agree with. It just reaffirmed everything I've been writing about and my goals in writing, but then just when I need it, God also sends just the right people to encourage me as well, and that's why I want to write. To inspire people and encourage them, too.

And if that million dollars shows up somewhere along the way? All the better. But that's up to God. :) And money or no money, that isn't the point of life. The point of life goes back to my fourth blog post I ever published: inspiring people for His glory.

That's the goal, and that's my goal as a writer. I'm not going to let doubts of anything else stop me because I want to live for and honor God. And my final advice is to not worry about what other people are doing. Worry about what God is telling you to do. You'll be rewarded for it, because He's amazing like that, and it's reward enough even to see Him working.

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Reflecting on My Favorite Quotes {Fulfilling Dreams}

I've already blogged about my thoughts over some of my favorite anxiety quotes. I have folders with some of my favorite quotes that I love reading that help me come up with writing themes or just are good reminders of life lessons I agree with. So today, I thought I'd go over my thoughts on some of my favorite quotes over your passions and fulfilling your dreams. I've already blogged extensively about my tips for helping you fulfill your dreams, and these quotes are the encouragement I need to go after mine. I don't have nearly as many of these as I did with anxiety, but they're short and sweet and make their point nonetheless.



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Jeremiah 29:11—never underestimate the power of this verse

My first quote talks about the importance of believing in your dreams because they have a purpose. I've wrote about that before in this post, where I talk about how your passions aren't random; you're supposed to do something with them. I get really antsy because I have a lot of passions and don't feel like I get to do much of anything with them right now. (Then again, we all know patience has never been my strong point.;) Mainly I have the passion to make a difference through writing, but it's hard to do that when you don't have a finished novel, and the one you did finish needs to be rewrote. But anyway, oftentimes that leaves me feeling really discouraged, and then I begin to wonder if those dreams and passions I have mean anything. But they do, just like yours do. So long as you're using them to do good, for the glory of God.

The other quote that I love talks about when you can't get something out of your head and it's all you think about, it is something you should work for. I really started realizing this during seventh grade, playing basketball, how I thought basketball was what I wanted, but my mind kept drfiting during practices to my blog, and my books, and all of the things I wanted to do there. With anything I do, I always think of ways to tie it in with my writing. I can never get it out of my head. Also, psychology is beginning to be like that for me, too. I hardly know anything about psychology to be honest, in terms of the science of it. I mean, I know some psychological facts, and I have read various Christian posts that go into some psychological issues, but that's probably about it. I'm taking an advanced psychology class next year though, and I can't wait for it! But anyway, there's just certain people, sometimes even people that I don't know, that I just can't get out of my head. And no, it's not just the guys I crush on, but they're there too. ;D That might sound weird, but just their stories stay with me, like I NEED to write about them and that there's something to be learned through observing other people. So usually when I have situations or people that I can't stop thinking about, I play around with different story and plot ideas and themes because maybe there's an underlying message in there that needs to be shared.

Also, a lot of quotes talk about not letting age become a factor in your dreams, regardless of how young or old you are. The truth is, if you're still alive, God has a purpose for you. In fact, I can remember back to when I was really getting into prison ministry and wondering about if even people like them had value (because society relentlessly says that they don't), and so that's actually how I learned that. There was a song I love called "Here for a Reason" by Ashes Remain, and I remember thinking how if that applies to us as Christians, that God has us here for a reason, that's true for anyone. So don't waste your life. Use your passions for His glory. No matter what you've done, or who you may be, God can still use you to do great things. That's the major takeaway here. And those shouldn't be underestimated. It's a short, simple message, but it just may be one of the most urgent ones people need to hear, that their lives do indeed have purpose, and that shouldn't be wasted on meaningless things.

Ashlee Mae

Summer 2017: Thoughts & Bucket List

No pressure.

If there's anything I want to remember this summer, it's this. Something I do all the time is that when I've had something super fun happen in the past, the next time I go to do it, I try to plan everything just so so that it is as fun. But normally it's not. Why? Because (a) it's too PLANNED. Honestly, the best moments in my life have come unplanned, when you're not trying, you're just letting life happen and trusting God. And (b) don't spend so much time trying to recreate a special memory. The memory is special because of the time at which it came in your life, appreciate it for that, and don't spend so much time trying to recreate it. Keep letting life happen, and more will come.

So this summer, I don't really want to plan so much. I just want to let it happen. Of course I have goals and things that I want to do, but I just want to savor each day and enjoy whatever the day will bring. Maybe that's just the type B in me, but I really think life is better when it's not so planned. I love to plan things out for fun, but that's about it. My world won't end if my plan isn't followed directly. In fact, most times when it isn't followed, it ends up being better.

But with that being said, I love to dream, I love to set goals, and hopefully some of these things can happen this summer!

The summer 2k17 bucket list :)

- get good word counts on my new book
- blog about the things I am passionate about
- go to Minneapolis and complete the color run (so excited for this!!)
- shop at Okoboji (can I borrow a credit card?)
- go to Estherville, like, every weekend, or hopefully at least a good week :)
- go on a new photoshoot (I need updated pics so bad)
- go to the Grotto
- see fireworks in Spirit Lake
- finish redoing my room (I have to clean it so pray for me)
- walk my dog in town a lot
- go to Knoxville multiple times
- spend a day at Arnold's Park
- ride a jet ski at 'Boji
- go to a drive-in movie
- do nothing in Canada except lounge (and hunt down the internet hahaha)
- go to an Okoboji beach
- ride the Queen (it's a boat over in Okoboji)
- go shopping
- stay in a hotel in downtown Des Moines
- walk around downtown Des Moines and take picsssssss
- read lots
- get in shape hahahaha
- learn to drive
- go for long drives and look at mansions (I seriously love doing this)
- go for bike rides
- finish rewriting my first novel
- publish short stories
- go in a hot air balloon (I seriously put this on every year, but really, it would be fun)

Have any suggestions for me?! Leave a comment, and tell me what you are doing this summer!! Xo

What Are You Passionate About?

When's the last time you took the time to stop and reflect on what you're passionate about? Do you know how important that is?

Life is too short to not be passionate about something. Maybe more than one thing. God has designed each one of us with our own special gifts, talents, stories, dreams, passions, etc. So when's the last time you stopped to think about those?

I think it's worth a shot. No matter how old you are or where you're at in your life. Life is too short to just survive. If we know Jesus, we should be the most passionate people ever. Life is so short. Live with a purpose, and live with passion. You don't have to live your life serving God at some mundane task or live your just getting by until you're dead. Because Jesus didn't just die so that we could have eternal life, but also so that we could live an abundant life here (John 10:10) and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). There are so many ways to reach people, so many different types of people to reach, and so many topics to reach people on. Isn't it amazing how God gets us passionate about certain ways to reach people, and certain types of people to reach, and topics to reach them through, for His glory! He created us for good works (Ephesians 2:10), and I'm so thankful He allows us to participate in His work and gives us opportunities to do that through the things we love and are passionate about.

In fact, the passions you have were probably given to you so that you could serve God through what you're passionate about.

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I remember earlier this year I had all these passions and dreams I wanted to act on the day I got them, and you know little ole impatient me, a week (or not even, ha) goes by, and I watch other people do what I want to do, and I think about all my dreams I haven't gotten to fulfill yet or the passions I have that I can't act on yet, and I get discouraged. I get discouraged quickly. And then I go right into doubts. Are these some OBSESSIONS I have that I'll just grow out of? Am I doing this just because other people are? How can I know if God is calling me to do something or it's just all in my head?

Then I saw this quote. When I saw it, it was like something clicked inside of me. And I knew that the things people would consider an obsession, the things that were always on my mind, the things that made me want to pray about over and over, the things that got me fired up whenever I talked or wrote about them. . . . None of those were by accident. Especially if they can all be used to give God the glory. (I say this because one time I talked about how your dreams and passions must align with God's will, and I used stripping as an example of something that would NOT be. So, people, I'm trusting you have discernment, and I'm also trusting that if the Holy Spirit lives in you, I know you will not have desires like stripping, because He will put desires in you that give God the glory. But just so we're clear on that. . . .)

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When something will lead you closer to God . . . lead other people to God . . . will give Him glory . . . and won't go away . . . but instead will keep coming back and give you a reason to get up, to be excited, and to keep praying over it . . . ? There's a very good chance you've just found your passion.

Serving God doesn't have to be boring, and it shouldn't be. He's given each of us our own personalities for a reason, because He has good plans for us to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). You can serve Him through your passions!

Oh, and here's that quote before I get going on a rant about my passion for having passions: "The things you are passionate about aren't random they are your calling."

Amen! Those things that get you excited and fired up and yearning to do something about . . . those things that can glorify God that He has laid on your heart . . . don't ever think those are random. God has laid them on your heart for a reason. Just because you can't act on them yet doesn't mean you won't ever be able to *note to self*.

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So what if you don't know how to determine your passions? It is really so simple. Don't make it complicated. Don't think about how logical or reasonable your passions are. Just be honest about what they are, what you feel God is laying on your heart, and pray over them until He removes them and replaces them with something better or leads you to do something with those passions. Don't ever give up on His timing *ANOTHER NOTE TO SELF*. Don't give up on your passions. Keep leaving them in God's hands. He cares about them.

To find out what you are passionate about, simply type on a new document or write on a new sheet of paper your answers to questions like these. . . .

What gives me purpose?

What do I love to talk about? (If you don't know, ask other people. I'm sure they will say there's always something you can't seem to shut up about.)

What are my hobbies?

What messages do I love to share?

How do I like to encourage people?

What are my favorite verses in the Bible? What are they about? What can I do to share them?

What do I love to learn about?

What would I change about the world?

What do others say I'm obsessed with?

What can I relate to?

You get the idea. Make a list. And then pray about each thing on that list. If you want some ideas, here's a list I just made. . . . I'll also add some details to a few to share how I learned I was passionate about these things, so maybe they will help you too. Share your list of passions with me, too!

I am passionate about...

writing stories // I simply couldn't stop writing stories. I love writing them.

telling stories //

sharing my personal stories //

sharing what I’ve learned about life //

being completely real and authentic // I've had to deal with a lot of problems in my life, and I've seen what can happen when somebody pretends their life is perfect and covers up the bad. Pain must be addressed, I learned that through my life, and it is only when we admit that we have pain and sin that we can ever heal from it. So since I've learned this, I'm passionate about other people learning this.

learning about suffering and the problems in our world // I get so upset when people are ignorant about how good they've got it, or they pay no attention to hurts other people have. I became passionate about this because of that.

learning about hope //

connecting with people //

encouraging people, especially people who have no hope //

prison ministry // A lot of people at my church do prison ministry, and their passion for it is contagious. I always thought they were what started my passion, and though they definitely fueled it, they actually weren't what started it. I read a local story about a crime that had horrendous effects, and it broke my heart. Ever since then I've been passionate to help people who appear too far gone and see beauty come from terrible situations. I've learned that if you think prisoners are too far gone to be saved or too far gone for anything good to come of their life, then you don't know God very well.

acting out your convictions and sharing them with others // I've always, always, always been passionate about being a light. It's just something that came to me. What is the point in having convictions if you don't live by them and share them? This passion also grew deeper as I got interested in prison ministry because so many people know what's right and think all these prisoners have done so much wrong, and I'm like, great, I'm glad you know what they did was wrong, but is that seriously all you're going to do? Whine about how people sin and yet do nothing to help people correct their lifestyles?

standing by your values //

unconditional love //

forgiving people // I saw a situation where forgiveness wasn't offered, and I saw a situation where forgiveness was offered. They were both about crimes, and they both took place at a sentencing hearing. The one with forgiveness offered made me cry and had such an amazing impact on this man's life (now he testifies about forgiveness and shares what happened at his sentencing all the time to share God's grace and mercy). The one with no forgiveness made me cry also, but only for bad reasons. It was ugly. It was depressing. And I don't even want to know what effects it will have on this person's life, even though yes, they are guilty. Hence the desire to go into prison ministry all the more. That is where multiple passions can even come from one passion, too. I've just seen how ugly not forgiving is. No hope ever comes from not forgiving somebody.

focusing on the big picture // I've learned life is too short to worry about things that don't matter in the end. Lots of your passions can come from what you've learned and wished others would.

living life with purpose //

remembering //

the importance of family //

miracles //

understanding people (psychology) // This is so interesting to me, and I love learning about it.

rehabilitating people (counseling) //

appreciating the little things //

setting goals // I've always loved to set goals; it's been so fun for me.

dreaming big and live your life in light of those dreams //

connecting with people via the internet // Also something I love to do. Lots of your passions will probably come from hobbies and what you've learned.

That's just a short (ha, I promise it actually is) list of my passions. And I want to know: what are you passionate about?

Life is short. Live for God. Live with passion for Him and His people. There's no greater joy than that. And . . . it's never too late to start living with passion and dreams again. As long as you're still alive, God is still fulfilling His {good} plan for you.

<3 Ashlee

Another Blogging Recap (Over a Year at It)

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It's so hard to believe that a year ago, I wrote this post of a blogging recap (and also my five million and one blog designs). I mean, wow. I've learned so much through blogging. Some of it was the blogging tips everyone constantly throws out there. But a lot of it was just the purpose of my blog in general and trusting in God.

I learned...

Why I do what I do.

I've always had an idea, but finally I wrote out the exact purposes of my blog and brand. Read why I do this.

What my blog goals are.

Also how to make myself lust over laptops. Read that story here.

Blogging changes your life.

It's funny to think about how my life was before my blog. I practically can't do it. Being a blogger is quite a different life from others. Read all about how blogging changes your life.

Now... Ready for the blog designs?!

I've had 8 since the old post. So really, nothing has changed because I think that's how many I had in my previous blogging recap too.

This one was an okay design. I think I was trying to recreate one of my very old ones. I was really content with it for awhile, but then I think I thought it didn't look enough like a "website", and I switched to a template that I thought did look better.

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Which led to this one. I really like how this template, Marquee, displays content, but it didn't look good on the blog. The blog page made the images huge, and it was just hard to read.

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This is actually a design with the template I'm using now, but there are some changes I made. I think I was desperate with this one because none of the other designs had worked.

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I was experimenting with new templates, and I kind of liked this one, but it wasn't "it" either.

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Then I was looking into blog designs I really liked, and I wanted the layout one site I liked had, but needless to say, it looks better on their site haha. This design wouldn't have been that bad if it had a sidebar, but I don't think it was for my brand.

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I went back to the first design I showed, but I changed it up. I still really like this design, but it was pretty basic. It looks like just another blog, so I kept on trying different things.

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I also tried this design, and I definitely still like it, but I felt like it was more like somebody else's site and not my own.

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I've always liked the template I have now. I like the imagery and just the layout. It's different, but I've always felt like this one says my brand the best. We'll see if I actually stick with it haha. Thank you all for following along!

P.S. I've added a new page for FAQ's and blog post requests! Ask me/request something here!