Have you ever wondered about people’s lives? Sat in a coffee shop, people watching – wondering what people’s stories are? Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by people, particularly drawing their faces over and over.
As I grew up I loved reading and then later on writing. You could loose yourselves in the lives of others, if only for a few hours. I’d sometimes make up long stories of my own, typing them up and giving them to Dad to print at work. I always imagined I’d become a writer, like my favourite novelist Jacqueline Wilson. However, soon you learn such dreams are a long shot.
Getting older, I decided to study law and arts, dropping English somewhere along the way. Even back in the mid-late 2000’s I knew that printing and magazine’s were changing (though I was obsessed with Tatler, Britsh Vogue and Teen Vogue as a teen). I decided not to become a journalist as I wasn’t sure what the future would hold, and that career seemed precarious at best. I decided to go with the ‘safer’ road of a back up career in law.
Fast forward to around August 2012 – my final semester of uni – I was mucking around on the internet one day, after watching YouTube which I’d started to get into, and on a whim decided to start a blog. I was feeling pretty disillusioned by my studies, not looking forward to my much sought after graduate job that awaited me in Banking Law the following year at a prestigious law firm. I literally googled ‘Blogs’ and found Blogger come up. It seemed very easy to use so quickly I set up a blog, thinking to myself I’d like to create something semi-documentary style like my favourite coffee table book ‘The Selby’, sharing portraits of people around the city. To this end, I named it ‘The Residents’. A blog was born.
I was too shy to ask people to be portraits so I milled around the streets taking photos of street style. I also wrote online diary style confessionals about being in my twenties (and somewhat constantly heartbroken) meant. After a few months of half hearted attempts, I petered out. The blog was left to sit lonely in the depths of Google page rank, a sad testament to what might have been.
One day, in early October 2015, almost 3 years on, I was travelling to the Hutt with my flatmates to pick up a steam cleaner we’d collectively bought on Trade Me. I got an email out of the blue from a tiny cider company called ‘Steel Press Cider’ who wanted to know if they could send me some cider to review. I had no idea what they were on about. I echoed this to my flatmate who suggested they could be referring to my blog. I dug it up and looked at what I’d done so far, realising that if I wanted to finally start taking writing seriously as I was heading into my late twenties (I’d just turned 25 and had not done anything much since school ended), I needed to take this blog seriously. I returned their email, giving them my work address to send the cider to. It was delicious.
After that, I decide to start interviewing people, one a week for a whole year. I began to work in lifestyle, food and fashion, as well as events highlighting the events and good causes around Wellington, my hometown. It took a great deal of energy and tine to arrange meetings with people in person, photograph them, transcribe the recording of the discussion, edit it, edit the photos, send the story back to that person to fact check and review before uploading everything and publishing it. However, seeing how people reacted to having their own story, and the stories of their loved ones, friends and acquaintances up online, was more rewarding than I could have ever anticipated. In tandem, I created an Instagram account, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to share these stories more widely with a range of audiences.
In the time I’ve been running The Residents, there have been high highs and low lows. Highs include visiting Thailand with the Thai Tourism Authority and being published in highly prestigious UK Blogosphere Magazine, which also featured the like of Victoria from In The Frow and Patricia Bright in the same issue. I’ve also been on the cover of Wellington Woman Magazine and The Dominion Post. stuff.co.nz have written about me and The Cook Strait News. I also won an award as an Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian in June 2017 from the Wellington City Council and Mayor. Now I’ve just received a position as a finalist in the New Zealand Social Media Awards under the Social Good category. It’s quite mad when I put it all down like that.
On the low side, I lost two friends very early on who didn’t like my blogging. I get burnt out, constantly, have cried lots, struggle balancing my job in finance on top of everything else and know that there is no end in sight. Social media keeps changing and quite frequently sucks. I find myself getting annoyed about really stupid things like loosing 10 instagram followers in one day. But I wouldn’t change anything. Once you get on that train, you have to keep going.
When I feel down, ironically, all I need to do is go and find someone new to interview as a ‘Resident of Welly’. I might start feeling over the whole thing, but by the end, I am excited and absorbed into their story. It is a great way to get to meet people you admire – highlights for me including designers TwentySevenNames, Para Olympian Liam Malone, Facialist Margaret Hema and Film Maker Gaylene Preston. Helen Clark has even shared my blog!
I would say to anyone wanting to start a blog – just start. You’ll learn as you go. Make sure to surround yourself with great people. Anything worth doing won’t be easy. But always remember why you started i the first place….