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what do blog readers want?


…or, more specifically, what do you want from this blog?  From me?

“Stop reading minds and start asking questions.”

These words were up on one of the slides that Jon Acuff, the keynote speaker at Haven, presented.  His entire “talk” was awesome and encouraging.  Just what I needed.  But, those words were one of those inspirational nuggets that hit me like a ton of bricks.

“…start asking questions.”

No, no, no.  You don’t want to ask an open-ended question like that on a blog, because the answers might be…  well, hard to hear?  Not what you’re hoping for?  Maybe too raw and real and honest?  So, I don’t ask the question and I carry on with making assumptions about what my readers want from me.  And maybe I’m missing the mark.


It’s been slowly creeping up on me – the realization that I don’t write like I used to.  I used to be more open-hearted here.  Somewhere in the middle of a growing business and living through the ups and downs that come with success, muddling through as I figure it out, I have insulated myself and kept my readers at arm’s length.

Not always, but most of the time.

I’ve always written to my blog readers like they are my friends.  Encouraging them, teaching, sharing what I’m excited about, sometimes complaining in frustration, knowing others will understand.  I still do that, but I feel like it’s more surface level as of late.  Like we’re acquaintances and occasionally we’ll have a heart-to-heart and then we go back to talking about the weather.  I’ve been feeling like that for a while and I couldn’t put my finger on it until now.

I’ve also come to recognize that I have always been more excited about and thankful for the new readers I acquired (the growth), than I was about the existing, loyal followers.  And I even cringe admitting that in writing.  Growth is just exciting!  It’s sort of like the excitement or defeat you feel when the scale goes up and down while on a diet.  It doesn’t matter that you’ve already lost 10 lbs.  If you lose two more, those two are special and what make you giddy when you step off.  If you gain one, the 9 you’ve lost aren’t enough to lift your spirits.

I would never have said that I took my loyal readers for granted, but I think, in truth, that I have and I am sorry.

Somewhere along the way, and I don’t even know when it happened, I decided that if I was over a certain number of page views or below a certain Alexa ranking, I was enough. I was doing it “right.”  If I fall below, I am not.  I’ve been experiencing so many years of exciting growth and benchmarks, that I didn’t know what to do when I hit a plateau or started sliding backwards.  It made me feel uneasy and I started second-guessing myself and buying into the voice that told me numbers are everything and yours are not good enough.

Now, I know that’s not true.  I know that you can’t measure everything with one stick.  That’s why there are measuring tapes, barometers, seismographs, thermometers…  You get the idea.  I know that success, life in general, is never on a consistent incline heading up to perfection.  It’s filled with mountains and valleys, twists and turns.  It’s usually the unexpected that brings out character, reveals surprises and becomes a sweet and profound event in hindsight.

In an intellectual conversation, I know all of this.

My heart, though, needs some convincing and it feels safer if I start to close it off and turn this blog into a parade of projects without much heart behind them.

And that’s not what I want.  And I don’t think it’s what my readers want, either, but that’s me being a mindreader.


The good news is that it feels like a weight is lifting off my shoulders, just sharing this with you.  It feels like I’ve been keeping a secret from a friend and it’s finally been spoken and it’s no longer a burden.

Also good, is that I feel recharged after attending a couple of really great sessions at Haven that spoke to some of the things I’ve been in angst over and getting stuck on.  I had conversations, sometimes even really brief ones, with some incredibly inspiring, beautiful people and their words filled me up.

I do have some new things I’m working on and a steady stream of ideas I hope to pursue, but I feel more confident than ever, that I need to focus most of my energy on making the things I already do even better, richer, deeper, more fulfilling, more encouraging, more meaningful.  And I feel ready to do that.

So, again, I pose the question…  What do you, my reader, want from me?  What do you want me to write about and take pictures of?  What do you want me to share?  To teach?  How do you want me to share those things with you?  How can I encourage and inspire you?  These questions are open-ended and you can even feel free to answer questions that I’m not even asking.  I’m not putting out a survey with limited questions and multiple choice answers.  I’m leaving the comment field open for you to answer honestly, openly, and in your own words.

I’m hoping our honesty, on both sides, will end in the kind of hug shared by dear friends that’s long, bringing both tears and smiles, and a deeper friendship along with it.

I’m all ears…

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  1. Carla says:

    I used to check your blog daily. I can’t put my finger on exactly when and why that changed, but I find myself checking weekly or less now just to see if something will interest me. I think I found that every post was becoming similar to the previous post. I am sure it can be very difficult to find daily content. You could always scale back on the number of days you post and have more posts that your readers desire.

    Less interested in:
    1. Friday links (never have been)
    2. video chats I will always skip over
    3. One or two days of Lucketts is plenty. Maybe you can have a clickable link at the sidebar of your blog for all those that want Lucketts information like map, parking, schedule, when you’ll be there, etc.
    4. French chair makeovers unless totally different.

    1. Tutorials
    2. Video tutorials
    3. Furniture make overs
    4. Room re-dos
    5. Outside/landscaping re-dos
    6. Personal stories are fine occasionally as it connects your readers to you.
    7. Money talk also connects you with your readers. Include the budget and how others can afford to re-do, etc.
    8. It might be fun to see some items that you passed over on purchasing and why – teaching.
    9. What you purchased on your shopping trips
    10. Occasionally featuring another blogger that is top notch

    Maybe you can find another person’s home to redo in a bit different style, but still YOUR style. You are doing great, but with any business changes are good. Thanks.

  2. Isabella says:

    First of all, I commend you for your success. It is obvious that you are a very hard worker! However, count me in as one of those who don’t check in as often as I used to. The tone of your blog is very different from the beginning when you were very excited to pick up some Christmas ornaments at Walmart on sale after Christmas! I think the turning point for me was when Layla from The Lettered Cottage won your cow naming contest. It was then that I felt you were positioning yourself to get blog hits, raise your Alexa ranking etc.

    I think a very good model for great blogging is Alicia at Posie Gets Cozy. She has been at it a long time, and through it all, has maintained that personal, non-commercial approach. Now, she may not be relying on her blog for income inthe same way that you do, but I feel that when I visit her blog, we are seeing a genuine peek into her life.

    I can’t really give any concrete advice about how to separate wanting to make money with your milk paint business and constantly putting it out there in front of us. It’s one of those dilemmas where success has a double-edged sword of drawing some in and alienating others!

    • Dolores says:

      I just checked out that blog.. I guess what you are saying is that here are different blog styles, and that you prefer a blog that allows a continuous glimpse into another family’s life. I am not comfortable with that. I would feel as though I were just a voyeur, and played a minor role as audience in a print reality show. Isn’t Alicia making money from showcasing her family?
      I think it’s fine to allow occasional glimpses into your family life- but there has to be a limit so that the family doesn’t feel on display or even exploited..There was one design blog I used to follow until the author’s detailed descriptions of her daughter’s increasing meltdowns which escalated while on vacation in Europe, and then the quest for a medical diagnosis, finally had me unsubscribe. Maybe it was a catharsis for her, and I was truly sad for her,but I just felt uncomfortable being part of a stranger’s life to such an extent.
      Just a different perspective..:-)

      • When I first started my blog…even now…my intention is to grow it for maybe a sort of short income later, but now it’s really a vent. I only started it after looking at a craft site that in the middle of nowhere she shared her broken heart and I thought, “You know what? People need more real”. Real people do awesome things and it’s not always easy along the way. I love when I visit a messy home, just to know that mine achieving that status every once in a while is normal. If I post something maybe not so pretty (like those things you feel but don’t see), it’s because I truly believe that God will steer the one person there that is losing hope. I don’t do it to exploit my family in any way, and I do have to honestly say that there have recently been things that I couldn’t share, or at least not yet because they are raw. But someday I will. I have found myself disconnecting a bit though…and planning things in a more closed way.

    • marian says:


      Thanks for your thoughtful comments. It think there is a balance of trust that is established between a blogger and their readers. If you approach a blog with skepticism, not trusting what the blogger says, it’s not going to be a very satisfying experience. For example, I remember when Layla was chosen as the winner of that contest. I was keeping a list of suggested names that I liked, unrelated to who suggested them. At the end of the contest, I picked the name Adele and, when I looked to see who suggested it first, it was Layla. She had won the contest fair and square and I didn’t see a reason to exclude her from winning, just because of her blog. That’s just how it happened. I didn’t have any money-making, blog-growing motives in that decision.

      We make judgements about the motives of others all the time and that’s okay for you to be skeptical. I know if you really knew me, though, you would know that I am honest and fair and that carries over into how the winners for my giveaways are selected.

  3. Isabella says:

    Yes, I do see that point. I myself would not put my children on a blog to that extent. I believe that most of Alicia’s money is made from her craft site. Even that is rarely mentioned unless she has a new product she has designed. That said, I don’t believe I have ever seen a sponsored post on her blog. She does not have pop-ups or even ads that I have seen. (I need to double check on that.) So many blogs today have become walking advertisements!

    What I do like about Alicia’s blog is the peacefulness of it all.

    It’s a fine point between making a living on your blog and alienating readers. One thing I have noticed on some blogs is the whole give-away thing. Often, more times than not, the gifts will be given to a person WITH a blog who can showcase them on her own blog. In that way, the two bloggers can mutually promote their blogs. Gone are the days where the random name is drawn from the jar or the winning number is shown on the screen. Now, we have absolutely no idea how that winner was chosen! If a blog begins to feel like the in crowd in high school, I am usually out of there!

    • Dolores says:

      Isabella( such a lovely name) I totally agree with you..the fine line between keeping readers feeling as though the were personal friends- and having to give them more and more personal glimpses because that pays the bills, is a fine line. Thankfully, Marion is very discreet and I am happy to see occasional references/inclusions of her family .It is, in some ways- a family business, and they are all stockholders, right ?
      Now on having give-away to bloggers- that’s not acceptable. Other bloggers shouldn’t be allowed to enter contests..:-) Unfair competition? :-)
      For another really peaceful, beautifull blog( no competition to Marion) have a look at British designer Ben Pentreath..Wonderful!

  4. Hi! I took a furniture painting class offered a few years ago in my area where the instructor sold your book and your milk paint. That is how I got introduced to you and your blog. I received a tablet as a Christmas gift and found myself enjoying the convenience and routine of tuning in to see your posts about Lucketts furniture transformations. That was all it took…I was hooked! My husband soon grew accustomed to my time spent reading your blog. “Is that Miss Mustard Seed again?”, he would ask. But now he knows not to ask anymore.

    When Lucketts was over, I missed that daily excitement and anticipation of your furniture picks that day. In order to get “my fix” I started reading your older posts in marathon bursts! Yeah, I am addicted!

    Let me share with you that I am a 40 year old Vietnamese-American woman living in Texas. Your design style really resonated with me. As a child of immigrant parents, we did not have the extra’s for nice home decor. However, that never stopped me from re-arranging my parents furniture or constantly redecorating my bedroom since 2nd grade!

    Fast forward to today. You make me feel normal. I, too, love lovely old furniture and dishes. I am constantly moving furniture at home and work. My husband no longer questions why I want his help to move that armoire again…

    Your style is you and it resonates with me. Despite cultural barriers, you have a gift that allows someone like me to relate to you. Yes, I know we are not “friends”, but your familiarity in my life allows me to find comfort and distraction from my life struggles…even for a few minutes. That is the gift you give to me…a stranger all the way in Texas.

    You are an example to me of the “American dream” my parents instilled in me. You excelled at doing what you love, sharing with others, and providing for your family. Your personal and professional growth has opened new doors and opportunities. In life, there are no successes without stumbles along the way. Sometimes these struggles allow us to grow better and stronger. That is what I like about you.

    There is a time and a season for people in life. The person you used to be is not the person you are today. That is the result of personal growth and improvement. Those who cannot move in the same direction that your blog has taken have expressed disappointment, but I say the opposite. I think it is exciting and refreshing. The core of Miss Mustard Seed is still there. I am excited for you and am your number one Vietnamese fan!

  5. Kathy says:

    I’m late to the party but I thought I’d offer my reason for not checking in as often as I used to. It has more to do with me than you. Let’s face it, yes your blog has changed but what hasn’t changed? I’ve changed too. You’ve been doing this a very long time. You’ve been more than generous with all the knowledge you’ve acquired through all your hard work and talent. Yes, I’ve painted furniture and rooms more than I care to remember. I can’t get over you can keep at it. Me, I have a project I want it over and done with. I’m at a different stage in my life. I’m more interested when you take things to Luckett’s. About once a year I get to shop there and loved checking out your things and buying several too!! Call me lazy. Your talent and energy out shines me. It’s kind of like I love Martha Stewart’s work but my eyes glaze over when her recipes turn into an all day project. Is she wrong? Please, she’s highly successful. People check on for her knowledge your not going to get touchy feeling posts from Martha. You’re a very busy person now. I’m sure you’re nostalgic about the old days. I have to admit I was kind of sad when you said you wanted to sell your home. I loved seeing the transformation. Then I thought……hey wait a minute who am I to talk?? I sold my old dream home farmhouse. It annoyed me when people said I CAN’T BELIEVE you’re selling it!! Well, I did and I’m very happy hahaha life changes.

  6. Sally says:

    Marian, I think what you are also seeing is a shift in social media these days. Lots of blogs have almost disappeared. Many “famous” bloggers post almost exclusively on Instagram now.) Most of my cross stitch blogs have disappeared and have migrated to Facebook. Has blogging run its course? I don’t entirely think so, but there has definitely been a shift. We are that instant information society–a quick text, a tweet, post a pic on Instagram etc. We, as a society, are always looking for something new, a quick fix, a distraction. I think it is good that you are assessing your blog and business in these changing times!

  7. I read your blog fairly regularly. I usually click on every post, although I don’t read every word of them all. Sometimes it’s because I don’t have a particular interest (even then, I usually scroll through the pictures), sometimes it’s because it takes a long time to load (old computer, maybe the ads, probably a combo). I do still follow regularly however. I have read a bit of the feedback you have gotten and have no particular suggestions. I read your blog and others for inspiration. Eventually, I get off the couch and do something to my own home! Since that’s my purpose for reading, there’s nothing that needs changing for me. My personal assessment is that yours is one of the most professional and one of my favorites. I would prefer fewer ads, but I am happy for you to make money for the work that you put into it.

  8. Hi Marian,
    I’m a fellow blogger, you know who I am ;-). I don’t visit much because writing my own blog, I don’t have the time any longer to read other blogs as I used to. I am still a one woman show. At this time I don’t have anyone else helping me….it;s just me. After reading some of the comments about changing your style and the ads I wanted to say this.
    I know that for me my style is what it is. I can’t change my style to write blog post. I would be dishonest to my readers if I started blogging about contemporary style or modern or whatever. Just stay true to yourself. So if some think you need to change your style, then maybe this blog is not for them.
    Ads are always an issue. I try to limit mine, and I hope to someday take all of them off of my site. But for now it’s the main way I make money from my blog. I don’t think most readers understand the time and money it takes to run a blog. But yet so many want more projects, and information shared that they get for free. Everything comes with a price.
    I think you are amazing and you have always inspired me,

  9. As I am a ‘from time to time’ reader of your blog, I wouldn’t dare nor dream to give you any advice – I also NOW realise why I didn’t read it regularly (there was a certain amount of self-promotion which I didn’t appreciate – but I didn’t even notice until you brought all this up now) – I am just so utterly impressed to see that you have hundreds and hundreds of faithful readers to think about what you wrote and voicing their opinion. That IS a good thing and I assume from their reactions that you ARE indeed a well known ‘unbeknown friend’ to many of your readers.
    I just hope to find time (sometime in the near future) to read through all those comments; I am sure there is much to learn from for all and everyone of us
    Thank you for your honesty – it’s highly appreciated

  10. Hi Marian, I don’t read as much as I used to but I think the posts are more plentiful of late and I fail to keep up. Where do you find the time???
    I do like FFF but if I’m honest, only if I’m submitting something. I always hoped to be featured but I felt it was a little MMS milk paint biased in its features. Sorry.
    The ads are the biggest bugbear for me. The page takes ages to load, things pop up and have to be closed and often music blares out or commercials start playing.
    I never listen to design ramblings.
    Your blog is one of my favourites ever. I love that you keep it real. I don’t mind a bit of family life popping in to it. How can it not?
    You are inspirational and I LOVE your style.

  11. Dear Marion,

    I’ve been following your for a very long time. I’m also a blogger myself, a bad one I guess. I don’t have many people that read what I post, maybe because I’m not the best writer, maybe because I’m not the best photographer, who knows. I started my blog in 2007 and it was a way for me to journal about my family life and share my home design dreams. I used to be a scrapbooker and was a designer for a few companies back in the day, my blog fulfilled that need to create. I don’t advertise which I should but I don’t want to become to commercial, which in so many ways it has. I get it blogging is now a big time business for so many. I don’t mind the ads but the POP ups for the Disney cruise that pops up on all the pictures drives me nuts!! It’s taking me computer so long to load and then when it does I have to take the time to click out of the boxes. I find myself going on Instagram more because of this. Having said this…I love your blog and your probably the only blog I visit faithfully. I enjoy the video chats and so many of the topics I’ve thought about and I wish I could be sitting with you drinking some coffee and discussing those topics with you. I like that you share so much, your honesty and bit and pieces of your family life, it is what makes you real! I love your style even though it NOT completely my style I think you have wonderful taste and have a very creative mind. I’m glad I’ve got to witness your success and that you’ve taken the time to email me or answer my questions when I’ve asked.

  12. Lesley D says:

    I too used to check in daily, but I too tapered off in recent months. I had noticed the content/format had changed. I started a new pattern of checking in every so often & scanning titles to see if anything was of interest as compared to before when I read every entry.

    I like the tutorials and the transformation before and after photos. I generally don’t watch the videos because of time (my lack of…I can read faster than watch a video).

    Right now, I’m really interested in accessories for my home. I’m beyond that phase of furniture, rugs & curtains. I always LOVE how you use unexpected items or even ordinary ones to accessorize, so I’d LOVE to see more of that. Ideas: staging dressers, hanging art, coffee table or occasional table arrangments, etc.

  13. Wow, Marian. How brave you are to ask what people want from you! I haven’t read the comments (344!). I can only imagine what they must be. I’ve been reading your blog a long time, almost since the beginning. It’s the personal-ness of your story that drew me in so many years ago. Life has twists and turns and our stories change as life changes. I’m in a sea change myself, as an artist.

    I love what I am seeing on your blog with Megan’s office makeover. I love the process of you helping another person develop their home and story. Great job.


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