The One Thing That Made All the Difference in my Writing Journey

Thirteen years ago I moved away from my sister to a new town.  

I missed her, so I read her blog and out of loneliness and too much time on my hands I stumbled upon all sorts of other blogs. I discovered that the online world was full of fun, creative women who I felt like I had known forever.

 I started reading Pioneer Woman’s blog and couldn’t get over the community and conversation that I saw happening in her comments. I wanted to be able to leave my own comments and have a clickable place for people to come back to and see I wasn’t a killer. 

So I started Nesting Place, a blog named after my small business where I styled a local bakery and sold wares on Etsy. 

There, I talked about how I was making our home. And I was shocked that instead of being laughed at for creating DIY “window mistreatments” the community embraced what I was doing and wanted more.  

Now I’m still writing almost daily (though not all of it is instantly published online or in a book or read by people at all), my third book will release this fall, and my entire business is based on communicating through the written word whether in an email, on Instagram or in a book.

 I actually write for a living! Crazy!

Looking back, I know there was one thing that kept me continuing to write all these years.  

There was one thing that made the difference between my writing fizzling out, and moving forward with purpose.

That one thing was people. 

And no, I’m not talking about the readers, although readers are WONDERFUL! 

The most influential part of my writing journey can be traced back to a private Facebook group of like-minded writers. At the time, I didn’t even use Facebook, but I thought it would be fun to connect with a group of writers and I cannot imagine what my life today would look like if I didn’t take that seemingly risky step. My sister was part of that group too, along with a bunch of other writers just like us trying to figure things out.  

That group, started in 2009, was a safe place for me to realize what my questions were, ask those questions, and mostly to see what was possible. 

The number one most important thing you can do for your writing is to take it seriously enough to surround yourself with other people who have the same passion, questions and goals. 

I believe that is true for anything that’s important to you.  

If you love to decorate, find a group of like-minded people. 

If you love to read mysteries, find a group of like-minded people. 

If you’re into competitive iced coffee making, yep, find like-minded people.

This concept of having a safe, like-minded group of writers made such an impact on my sister, that today, she co-hosts a group just like this for writers in all stages of their writing journey.  

Emily P. Freeman, my baby sister and Wall Street Journal best selling author of FIVE (5!) books is the ultimate encourager for writers. I’m proof, because she’s coached me through every writing decision I’ve ever made.

TODAY, she’s hosting a free webinar to help you:

Discover your writing rhythm,

Uncover your creative call,


Finally bring your writing to life in only 20 minutes a day.

Click here to save your spot for the webinar with my sister. If you are reading this after the live webinars, you can still sign up and watch a replay here.   

If the idea of writing is something that always makes your heart skip a beat, what would it look like for you to take one small step forward? 

You don’t have to have a dream to write a book, quit your job and buy a vintage typewriter or even have the courage to call yourself a writer yet. 

Maybe your next right step is simply signing up for this webinar?

Maybe your next right step is to check out this community of writers?

Well, I hate to end this abruptly, but that’s all I have to say about writing.  

For those of you who have asked me about my writing journey as you move ahead on yours, I don’t take it lightly that you trust me with this question. I promise, if you feel like writing should be part of your life, it’s worth the risk to follow that dream and take it seriously. 

Here’s to you, your home and your writing

PS: My sister is a cohost and a cofounder of hope*writers along with our Dad (also a writer!) our friend Brian (yep, he’s a writer too) and, back in the day, years ago, I was an original co-founder of hope*writers as well.

I stepped away two years ago after reading the book The One Thing and realizing that my One Thing wasn’t encouraging writers, but encouraging women in their home. Which is why I won’t be talking about writing again for a long time, have questions? Ask my sister!  Ask the hope*writers! I still learn from and love their community! 

3 Landscaping Tips 🌳 For Cozy Minimalists

Last week I hosted a Q+A and there were two topics people asked about that I didn’t even get to talk about; gardening and writing. 

So, this week I thought I’d give a few thoughts on gardening, and next week I’ll touch on writing.  

I feel much more confident talking about writing than I do plants but, I’m really happy with the progress I’m making in our own yard so I figured it’s worth sharing what I’ve learned so far. 

Here goes, three tips for your outdoor plants, plans and gardens, based one what I’ve learned.

not my house, this photo is from cottage and vine

1. find inspiration 

It’s not enough to simply know you aren’t happy with what you have, you need to get really clear on what its is you want.  

Then you can make informed decisions. 

Create a dedicated Pinterest board for the exterior of your house, read flower books, watch gardening shows, follow landscapers on Instagram and save the photos that make your heart soar, all of these will help you clearly know what you don’t like and what you love.

Plus, along the way you’ll pick up tips and tricks to apply to your own yard.

Nine years ago, this very image from Cottage and Vine struck a deep cord with me and although we didn’t even own a house, a door we could paint nor did I know if I could grow that particular plant in my zone, I knew this was the welcoming look and feel I wanted for our house.  

I found out that the plant was an evergreen vine: Clematis Armandii. Bonus, it was growing here in my actual planting zone!  

I want you to know that this very image of that charming vine has kept me going for NINE years.  

Two years ago I finally planted my first Clematis Armandii. 

I planted two, one died. Neither was at our front door because living in a fixer upper means one project at a time and we didn’t get to figuring out what we wanted for our front porch until last summer.

Last summer, we finally added new front doors and painted them to work with our green metal roof (I just in this moment realized that my door color is also similar to the inspiration door–look at that!). 

After widening the steps, adding a new house skirt, creating boundaries for beds, putting in the walkway and giving everything a fresh coat of paint I finally planted Clematis Armandii that will eventually grow over the front door. 

FYI, for the photo above I had to plant one vine in a container on the porch to help speed the process for a photo shoot, but, I also planted two vines in the ground and I’m happy to report they are growing like crazy.

summer 2019
fall 2019
photo from this morning, sorry for the harsh lighting but you get the idea

2. Plant for joy and beauty both now and in the future 

This is our 14th house and I’ve planted something in the ground at every place we lived, even if it was a temporary rental. 

The key is to not plant with only the future in mind “in 10 years this tree will finally grow, bloom and look great”. Yes, plant with the future in mind, but I want you to love what you planted NOW, not once it fills in next decade. That might mean investing in more mature plants, but for me that’s worth it, to get joy now. Plus, bigger plants mean I need to buy less plants to get the full garden look I love. 

Two years ago we paid $50 for a few peony plants full of buds from a local landscape nursery. Fifty dollars? I can find them for $16 at Lowes! 

But, guess which plants already have 20-40 blooms every year? Yep, the peonies we paid more for were older and have brought me three times as much joy because they have ten times more flowers than the younger, less expensive plants.  

This also means I avoid most annuals because I don’t want to only get to enjoy flowers for one year. I focus on perennials so I can plant once and get joy, annually 🤣. 

3. One (outdoor) room at a time 

As a Cozy Minimalist, I approach my house one room at a time, and when I’m outside, I approach my landscaping beds/areas one at a time too.  

Since we bought a house with a 30 year old in ground pool, the backyard was our first outdoor project. Naturally, any area that needed landscaping around the new pool project was where I focused my energy first. 

Then I moved onto the bed by the back door (where everyone comes in) and just last year I finally got to focus on the front door. 

The entire time, the front of our house sat patiently like this:

We’ve been working on outside projects for three years now and we still have one side and half the front of our house left to get landscaping attention. 

That’s okay with me because what’s done looks great.  

Seeing progress and some finished areas gives me tons of motivation to keep going. 

Personally, if all the areas were half done, I’d be annoyed and want to give up. So creating outdoor ‘rooms’ and boundaries that I can focus on and finish (or finish ‘for now”) is key.

April 13 above
May 11 below

A few places I find inspiration beyond Pinterest

Monty Don (although his Instagram is mostly dogs, WHY?!): last spring I watched every episode of Big Dreams Small Spaces and it was the most inspired and motivated I’ve ever been to garden. 

Floret: if you want flower how to and inspiration, Erin is your gal, along with her books, and y’all she’s gonna have her own show on the Magnolia network this fall

Gardenary: if you are ready for raised bed kitchen garden help: Nichole is the best mentor out there. 

Oh and if you are wondering what that big sphere is in our front yard, it’s a round fountain we bought at Costco years ago // similar here

Bed on the right side of the house is done (yes I want 100 more flowers there but it’s done enough for now), bed on the left side of the house is just begun (six months later).

Those are my simple tips for outdoor plants and flowers, I have never regretted planting anything, even if a plant died, I got to learn what I was bad at growing! 

Happy planting!

 PS, If you want to get a jump start on a few writing resources, you might just love these created by the Hope*writers: 

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Write a Book

How to Finally Make Progress in Your Writing Journey

And lastly, a fun quiz to see what stage you are in as a writer

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