Almost a decade ago, I launched a beauty, wellness and lifestyle blog entitled The Daily Doll. This was a few years after earning my bachelor’s degree in journalism, but well before I ever had a magazine byline. Almost immediately, it became my most happy place on earth.
To my surprise, others fell in love with it, too. It swiftly attracted impressive clicks and shares and killer traction on Pinterest. In a matter of a few years, I grew a faithful list of subscribers who adored the humorous, newsy narratives, the confessional and introspective essays, the cheeky, no-nonsense column, “I’m Just Being Honest” and the quirky product reviews. Readers responded to my weekly newsletters, gushing with sentiments like, “I’m kind of addicted” and “You have no idea how much I look forward to your articles each week” and “I need my Daily Doll like I need my morning coffee.”
I monetized the brand with ads and affiliate links. And, honestly, to this day, I continue to spot quotes on Instagram, plucked from old The Daily Doll articles (oftentimes without credit, but such is the nature of our digital world).
During that era, I started writing for The Huffington Post, then had essays published in small magazines like Skirt!, and then I got a contract with Hearst and landed in Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day and Marie Claire. In the years that followed, I became beauty editor of Mirabella magazine and editor-in-chief of The Connect, an inspired living magazine, securing cover stories and features with celebrated entities like Betsey Johnson, Deepak Chopra, Daymond John and The Smithsonian. Professionally, I was sort of killing it.
Through those experiences, I decided that, in terms of my personal brand, I didn’t want to be a blogger anymore—not even on the side. I wanted to be taken seriously as a journalist and editor who sparked interesting and meaningful conversations. So I bid farewell to The Daily Doll and dreamed up the colorful, gutsy media source that you’re currently visiting: The Wonder Report. In my mind, it would become a space of enlightenment, edutainment and self-love–where I could also give other talented writers the opportunity to stretch out and use their voices.
I conceptualized the whole thing—from the sunny color palettes to the retro-glam fonts to the spunky brand language. “We celebrate women with curious hearts, free spirits and big, beautiful brains,” I declared.
I was giddy and madly in love with it. It was my radiant, brand-spanking-new brain baby that would speak to the nuances of empowerment, feminism, popular culture, personal expression. And I’d make sure it was punctuated with style. It would be engaging and sprightly and solution-oriented; never rant-oriented. I was reeking with pride over it.
And it would become one of my most colossal and embarrassing failures to date. Instead of clicks and shares and pins and newsletter responses, I got crickets and disinterest and unsubscribes.
It baffled me. I was still getting love letters in response to so many other aspects of my work. What in God’s name was going on?
For so long, I’d move through cycles of abandoning this space for writing gigs with O, the Oprah Magazine and other fancy brands, to revisiting, rethinking and tinkering with it. And, for so long, I was scratching my head as to why it felt like I was standing over a gorgeous body of work that had no pulse.
I just couldn’t make The Wonder Report relevant, no matter how hard I tried to resuscitate it. I couldn’t convince people to connect with it the same way they connected with so many other aspects of my work as a magazine writer and journalist.
I’d had articles for Popsugar go viral and be syndicated by Apple News. My work had landed on the front page of Oprah.com. I’d been a featured guest on a variety of top Forbes podcasts–with stunning feedback much of the time. I thought, “For the love of God, WHY is The Wonder Report getting snubbed? Why doesn’t anyone care about my darling little offspring??”
It was so frustrating and disappointing.
Until it wasn’t.
This is what I learned: If you’re going to make things, you’re going to fail at some of those things. At least in the public eye. That’s the risk you take when you decide to show all the way up and be a participant in this world. Failures don’t define you. Not ever. But, if you’re wise, you’ll allow them to redirect and guide you. Success lies in sorting through the failures. And you’ll continue to fail at the things you refuse to examine and revise.
Through my disheartenment, I realized that the magic that was missing from The Wonder Report was my own. It didn’t have my pulse. It lacked my breath and heart and mojo. I was trying so hard not to know it, but I didn’t really love it anymore. I’d been reborn since its inception. My creative and entrepreneurial juices were flowing wildly in other directions.
I’d undergone a mental, physical and spiritual metamorphosis since I’d created it–excelling as a serious journalist, championing a controversial and weighty story for Marie Claire on Breast Implant Illness, and interviewing Harvard Fellowship-trained doctors, someone from the FDA and a former member of Congress. I’d grown another life and become someone’s mother. I’d begun tackling complex topics on mind health, identity, relationship issues, grief, trauma and the nuances of self-optimization.
I’d juggled breastfeeding and meeting tight deadlines from my bathrobe in the midst of a global pandemic. And, during that pandemic, as if the loneliness of social distancing wasn’t enough, I’d been full-body run over by a speeding car in a parking lot, experiencing a bloody, life-altering brush with death.
The fact was and remains still: I’m not the same woman who dreamed up The Wonder Report. Not at all. She’s still inside of me, and I know she’s proud of me, but I’ve been stretching out far and wide in realms she’s never seen, with a much different vantage point. The Wonder Report, no matter how hard I’ve tried to make it work, kind of feels like hanging out in my little sister’s bedroom. And so I’ve realized that I need to take my training wheels off.
Here’s the point: so often we keep ourselves hostages to relationships or careers or beliefs or projects that are expired. They don’t fit into who we’ve become or who we want to be. And, yet! We keep on investing because we invested so furiously much in the past. But, you know what?
Just because you’ve invested bazillions of precious hours into a love story or a project or an idea doesn’t mean it deserves one more of them. Maybe it does. But maybe it doesn’t…
I humbly share all of this for any and every ambitious and creative person who’s been disheartened by failure. Know this: some things you do or create or release might fail to resonate with your audience. And that’s okay! The world doesn’t owe you the reaction you think you want. No one, no matter how cool or funny or genetically blessed, bats 1,000 every time. The people you admire most have fallen on their faces, too. And, if that happens, know that the undesirable outcome doesn’t define you or your skills and talents as a collective.
But, then, if you’re like me, sometimes you might also consider that something isn’t working because you’re unknowingly shrinking yourself within it. Maybe it’s not getting the best of you. Maybe it’s missing your breath and magic and pulse–the truth and fullness of your big, beautiful evolution. As a result, you might be keeping yourself a hostage to a completed purpose.
And, in such case, maybe you just need to take your training wheels off. As I’ve decided to do.
This fall, The Wonder Report will be bowing out and LaceyJohnson.com will become the new and reigning home base for all of my work as an author and journalist. It’ll be a one-stop shop where you can access my newest magazine articles on mental health, relationships, empowerment and women’s issues, tune into podcast appearances, keep up with speaking engagements, and purchase books and courses as I release them.
And, yes, there’ll be a blog section in support of it all–including cozy story times and behind-the-scenes perspectives of some of my high-profile interviews. And, hey, “I’m just being honest” might be making a cheeky comeback.
Regardless, I don’t ever want to imagine a world where I’m not connecting my heart, mind and expertise with those who’ve supported my work for years–especially those who’ve stuck with me since The Daily Doll days.
So, farewell from here as I prepare to stretch all the way out and move into my fresh, new world. I’m buzzing with excitement for what’s to come and I hope to connect with you there.