I took this little video shortly before midnight last night, after I’d tiptoed into the living room to take a break from the screen by the warmth of the fire. I needed a little time out before retiring to bed after what had felt like a super long but lovely day spent enjoying time with family and making the final tweaks to this beautiful new blog you’re reading now.
Perhaps, before I go further, I should introduce myself very briefly for those of you who don’t know me – I’m Annabel (hiiiiiii!) and I live in rural North Yorkshire with my husband Philip, our two children Eska (12) and Leanora (7) and three dogs Izzie, Winifred and Maggie. I am a full time blogger, working from home in my lovely office with views of the North Yorks National Parks. You can read a little more about me here and follow me on Instagram here. I’ve been 100% self employed since 2011 and I have a small team who support me running my business, which, as of earlier this year, now includes my much loved sister Camilla. And now, I’d like to tell you why I’m here, writing this feature.
As I sat warming my feet by the fire in the video above last night, I contemplated for the briefest of moments; how did I get here? How did I get from those early days of mooting the idea of a new blog and community for women amongst friends, family and colleagues in early 2016, to now, the eve of ‘going live’ – the culmination of everything I’d planned, dreamed and stressed about, jumped with joy and fretted over – my lifestyle blog vision, all complete and finally ready to share with the world?
The answer was already there for me. There are so many life lessons I have learned in the eight years since I’ve been blogging, and seven years since I became self employed. But perhaps the biggest of them all is the power of community, and what wonderful things can be achieved when you surround yourself with good people. This dream of mine has become a reality today, because for the past 18 months, I have made sure that I surrounded myself with good, kind people who wanted to be a part of it’s success.
I know that I can always rely on the support and love of my husband, family members and close friends, but what has astounded me over the past few months, is the abundant level of friendship, support, sisterhood and all-round love that has come forth via a relative group of strangers online.
Allow me to explain; earlier this year, I established a closed Facebook group for members of our Love My Dress community to hang out online and discuss all matters ‘non-wedding’. It was clear through survey results and increasing feedback that our wedding blog community were looking for ‘somewhere’ or ‘something’ that shared the warmth and supportive nature of Love My Dress, but that would enable them to participate in a community that wasn’t just about weddings. My plan for a blog to fulfil these needs was already underway by this point, but setting up a closed Facebook group changed everything. People say that Facebook is on the way out, but frankly, I could not disagree more. You just need to learn how to harness the incredible potential for community building the right way.
The Facebook group I went on to set up, swiftly amassed hundreds of members (there are almost 1000 to this day*) and in a matter of weeks, all matters of life were being discussed -at what felt like the best table in the best cafe in town with all your best mates. Everything from the silly to the serious, the tragic to the hilarious. Bonds were formed, friendships were established and soon, these women were making arrangements to meet up and confirm their friendship in real life.
Witnessing this community take shape and friendships forged both on and offline has been a complete revelation and huge inspiration to me. I still pinch myself to this day that this has happened! A Life Loved was having an enormously positive impact, before it had even been launched.
The power of community is incredible when that community comes to together to support and uplift one another, and that is what the A Life Loved community is all about. A Life Loved will be a lifestyle blog with difference. I’m not interested in creating a blog or for that matter any social media feeds full of the same old rinse and repeat style fashion and beauty product recommendations. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty of fashion and beauty content – I promise you that, but moreso, my dream is for this precious online space to tell stories. Stories that inspire others and that will provide a sense of catharsis, relief or the pleasure of simply sharing, for the story teller.
Through storytelling, I wish to help make and facilitate human connections. I want to share stories of joy and success and achievement alongside stories of struggle and vulnerability. I want to take our readers on a journey. I want them to ‘feel’, and be inspired, to have their views and opinions challenged – or reinforced. I want to never be afraid to tackle the more taboo subjects with absolute honesty and authenticity. I want to focus on diversity and mental health as much as I want to focus on those amazing home renovations and movie reviews and fancy frocks.
I want to encourage and motivate other women to take risks in their lives and careers and to not be afraid of failing.
And I wish to produce content that will help build confidence and offer empathy and trust and support. I want anyone who visits A Life Loved to feel they have found their tribe and to experience a sense of affinity – a warmth, a familiarity, comfort.
I am absolutely determined to create a different kind of lifestyle blog that respects and supports women from all walks of life and today, as you read this, I would like to invite you to join me.
Are you with me?
We launch today and for the period through to January, we will be beta-testing A Life Loved with the help of all you early adopters – this is our ‘soft launch’, if you will – a chance for us to settle in and get used to things, tweak things here and there and make sure that come January, everything is ticketyboo.
We warmly welcome any feedback – there may be some small design flaws that we need to iron out and if that is the case, please let us know by emailing email@example.com.
You’ll find around 20 articles already published on A Life Loved and I very much hope you enjoy exploring through our pages and reading them. They provide a small flavour of what lies ahead and the many features and diverse content we already have scheduled and planned to share with you in 2018. I am ridiculously excited – I can’t tell you!
I personally invite any of you who may be interested in writing for A Life Loved to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org – be it a one-off-feature on a matter of interest or importance to you, or something a little more long term that you might like to contribute to the blog about on a regular basis. We’d genuinely love to hear from you. Establishing a broad and interesting team of content authors is a key part of my vision. Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced writer – we have guidelines and would be delighted to offer you support.
I didn’t want to write too lengthy a feature for my introduction – November has genuinely been the craziest, most busy month for me and my family and colleagues and it feels like I’ve all but blinked and December is already almost half way through. And so, I’m going to do my darn best to actually enjoy a day with my family today. That’s after a lie in. Because I confess, it was much later than midnight by the time I finished this sentence.
A heart full of love to everyone who has supported this project, but not least my dear, darling husband Philip, sister Camilla, co-editor Katie, designer Ian and assistant Lyndsey. Thank you to all the people who have and will be contributing to A Life Loved – your generosity and passion has been the most wonderful of inspirations to me, and I am excited and proud to be hosting your words. Thanks to many other people – I’m literally too bleary eyed to think straight right now, but you will know who you are.
I’m going to go and hit that big shiny blog button that will finally reveal A Life Loved to the world now (YIKES!), before I attempt to creep quietly up to bed and sleep at last.
Big Sunday love to you all – I hope you love what you see and enjoy a good read today! Do leave a comment below – I’d LOVE to hear from you – can you imagine waking from that sleep I’m about to have and there being no feedback here to read? Nooooo, no no – I’m keen to avoid any embarrassing tumbleweed moments 😉
A Life Loved is going to be wonderful. Just you watch this space.
* We only accept women into our closed Facebook group and new members must answer 3 simple questions. You’ll find everything you need to know here.