My Creative Journey & Updated Process

Manda Lee Smith |

As a creative, I've faced many challenges on my Instagram journey. Truthfully, I still face many challenges on Instagram, but one I've sent up and moved on from is searching for a way I can create content in real time.

I struggled over the past four years, figuring out what it would look like to take a picture of my life, my outfit, and post it the same day. Something about posting days, a week, or even TWO WEEKS later, regularly, felt ingenuine and inauthentic.

Manda Lee Smith |

So I pushed forward, hurriedly putting together outfits, rushing my husband, past photographers, and usually without thinking through any locations.

I wasn't detailed, or thoughtful. Frankly, I was sloppy, BUT the one thing that irritated me more than anything was that I was spending SO much unnecessary time throwing together images that I didn't take pride in. "My headspace is so much better," I would think. "No one has any idea of these great thoughts and ideas I have." "Why can't I get it out?" I struggled so much with this thought process that I would regularly delete my pictures. If you guys have ever noticed why my post rate is so low for someone who's been blogging for four years, THAT BE WHY. I would be up at like one in the more scrolling and deleting.

THEN, inevitably then, there were the moments when I was just plum burnt out. Something about those quiet, frustrating times sparked a need to feed my creativity. I found inspiration when I wasn't looking for it, and even more when I was. My vision for say one outfit, or location became very clear. Everything just became much more specific.

So I'd have this pocket of like 6-8 photos every now and then that was curated, poised. In my head, I would think, "I'm still growing, maybe I've not arrived at the exact feeling I'm going for, BUT this small little section of my feed FEELS LIKE ME." I'd look at my Instagram planner over and over and over, and be proud of it.

I could never pinpoint just why I couldn't maintain that.

So then, what? Why did maintaining those small moments of pride feel SO incredibly forced? Why did it seem like an unattainable goal?

Many of the accounts I looked up to, and still do, were living these jet-setting lives. I loved seeing their new fresh, inspirational content EVERY SINGLE DAY. It's what made their stories so fun and vivid. I was trying to emulate a completely different world, women living a completely different life. Women quite specifically, without children.

I had spent so much of my time thinking that this way was the only way to do it. That I had to be that sort of woman, emulate a life that was different than what my life actually was and create daily content. Funny though, I don't think I ever actually gave off that vibe but never-the-less, that was my goal.

So right now I'm in this beautiful, fantastic season. I've been blessed with three healthy children and I just physically, mentally, spiritually even, CANNOT keep up with the expectation I'd set for myself. I was causing much more harm than good in many more ways than one. And I came to this conclusion...

If I'm genuine in sharing my reality, you guys know what I do and who I am. I’m a mom and a creative. You wouldn't expect an artist to finish any body of work in one day and especially when they have three children. I may not be your go-to fashion blogger for daily updated inspiration butI hope that when you see my post come across your feed, you think at least this one thing, you appreciate the effort behind it. LORD KNOWS, when done right, it's a hell of a lot of work. So uh... keep watching my stories for updated yoga pants because that's also part of who I am.

Manda Lee Smith |

SO. With all of that being said. What follows is what my schedule for creating content actually looks like right now. Not only has it freed up the week to be focused on my family alone, but it's helped me grow as a creative.

1. DO I WEAR THE OUTFITS IN REAL LIFE> Yes, but also no. I didn't have the text space to finish my thoughts on this with my Instagram post yesterday. Here's the deal, I wear almost all of my outfits in daily life when I'm not at home, but for the sake of being truly transparent, there's definitely the occasional dress or what have you that I don't wear other than taking the image. They head straight to the archive when I'm done.

The archived pieces are the ones I don't want to wear out, I want to keep them perfect. They invoke much more creativity than my daily outfits do. They are the pieces that inspire my WHY.

Don’t be afraid to take risk or move outside of your comfort zone. Different angels, locations, color hues, and even a dress you won’t wear in reality could be the one thing that sparks a light and nurtures you forward.

2. IT TAKES ME A WEEK OR TWO TO FINE TUNE MY VISION FOR A SHOOT> I start with the outfit as my inspiration. Then, I create a mood board for how the pieces make me feel, which usually inspires an over-all theme and location. At that point, I pull additional inspiration based off of the area I'm shooting and purchase any props I need.

HOWEVER< There ARE times when I'm in an aloof mood and don't "feel" like overly thinking. Those are the times we just go out and let fate take over. And while occasionally I'm lucky, regardless of how beautiful the photography itself is, the caliber of content doesn’t feel as cohesive as when I’ve mentally committed to a theme.

Creating a vision is going to bring nothing but good, I promise. That vision can change a bit but the point is that you have one.

3. I ONLY SHOOT ONCE A WEEK> and on the weekend. I prefer to shoot once every two weeks, although sometimes that's not obtainable.

That means 2-4 outfit and location changes all in one day.

Plan for what’s ahead before you have to. In my experience doing more work on one day reduces my over all anxiety and worry.

4. I EDIT AND ORGANIZE ALL OF MY CONTENT OVER TWO-THREE DAYS> I spend early mornings and/or evenings, creating a vision of my feed layout for the next 2 weeks. This is one of key elements about shooting in advance that I really love. My creative energy is able to regenerate when I’m not overthinking what I plan to post every day leaving more time for what’s most important to me in life.

Don’t let work consume you. I think that’s a golden rule, regardless of what profession you’re in. The more focus you have the better you will be able to figure out margins for yourself.

When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.
— Alexander Den Heijer