I love getting to know more about fellow creatives - how they work, how they balance and what keeps them creating. Today I have an interview with Chicago style blogger Maya McDonald...
Tell me a bit about yourself and where we can find you creating.
Oh hey there! My name is Maya McDonald and I am the blogger behind the Chicago based style blog, Charmingly Styled. When I’m not working on my own blog I can be found writing for Wandeleur (a site I co-founded with my friend Emily), ghost writing for other bloggers in Chicago, and working as a freelance social media manager for various companies around the US. I’m also a full time senior social media manager at Zapwater Communications as well – so I spend most of my day behind a computer creating social posts, blog posts and everything in between.
Tell us the story your blog - why fashion?
That’s a good question, and honestly one that I haven’t thought about that much over the years! I started my blog because I realized after I graduated from college that I actually wanted to work in social media (originally I thought I was going to be a high school English teacher, which I quickly realized through student teaching wasn’t for me!).I started a blog because as I was applying for jobs I realized that I needed to work on my graphic design and photography skills, so a blog became the perfect outlet to practice. It eventually evolved into sharing my personal style and stories about my life – and now it’s mostly evolved into focusing primarily on style and beauty. To be honest, I haven’t ever really considered myself a very stylish person, so it’s actually a nice challenge to focus on fashion and give myself an outlet to experiment with trends and classic pieces I’m remixing.
What is the weirdest thing about identifying yourself as a creative?
I think the weirdest thing is that it took me so long to realize that I actually was a creative person. Growing up I thought creativity was rooted in more traditional forms – painting, design, etc., and that since I wasn’t really good at any of those types of art, I probably wasn’t a creative person. It wasn’t until a few years ago when I was working at an advertising agency that I realized that I might be more creative than I give myself credit for. With social media you’re always wearing so many hats – from photography to copywriting and everything in between, and even though it’s not the same type of creativity as a painter or sculptor, it definitely still counts!
What drives you forward to keep creating?
Being creative has become a necessary outlet for me, and I find myself getting restless if I don’t have the opportunity to work on my site for a few days! After working on other sites and balancing my full-time job with freelance work, working on my own blog has become a luxury for me, and it’s something I always look forward to over the weekend. It’s not always easy to put myself out there in my real life, and blogging gives me the opportunity to experiment with my personal style, creative skills, and talk openly about things that I’m mediating on each week.
How do you see your creative work affecting other people and how does that affect you?
That’s a great question, and one that I think about often too. In all honesty, I wish I did a better job of having my creative work be more meaningful to others, but balancing so many things makes it hard to carve out time to work on projects that are important to me – half the time I’m just trying to get by! But I’d love to start working more with local organizations and charities to give my blog a little more meaning, and draw attention to a lot of really worthwhile causes in Chicago.
One thing that I do love seeing is how some of my more personal blog posts can strike a chord with readers, and it’s reassuring to know that I’m not on my own when I’m feeling down, or un-creative, or just stuck in a funk. I’d love for more bloggers to be honest about some of the struggles that they’re going through, especially when everyone’s painting a picture of a perfect, charmed life that isn’t always so glamorous. I’m always happy to keep things pretty real on my blog, and it’s something I want to continue to do (and do more of!) as my blog continues to evolve.
It looks like you have a great group of supportive blogger friends in Chicago! How does that affect or help your creativity?
I am so so lucky to have so many creative friends in Chicago! When I first moved here almost 4 years ago, I didn’t really know anyone who lived in the city and blogging unexpectedly became the way that I met most of my friends, and I’m so grateful for the inspiring group of ladies I’ve met through it. It’s nice that I have people I can bounce ideas off of, and ask for advice in what’s working for them – plus having friends to take your photos is a total life saver when you live alone!
Do you have any rituals that help create balance in your busy life?
This is actually something I’m working on this year. I’ve definitely fallen victim to late nights and being overly stressed out, so I’m trying to be more diligent about giving myself some much needed TLC and taking care of my self more. I started going to yoga a few weeks ago and I’m limiting myself to only working 1 day on the weekend (which is really something I struggle with because I feel like I should always be working!), and it’s been helpful in making me feel a little more balanced. Hopefully I can actually keep it up!
We can't leave you without asking... tell us your favorite shopping + brunch spots in Chicago!
Oh gosh, that’s so hard…do you have all afternoon? ;)
I absolutely love living in Chicago, and there are so many amazing spots to visit in the city! For brunch, I love Cindy’s rooftop at the Chicago Athletic Association, Summer House Santa Monica in Lincoln Park and Kanela in Old Town. I try my best not to go shopping too often (it’s really dangerous living in Chicago!) but I love Jayson Home and Alapash for home décor, Art Effect for trinkets in Lincoln Park and Club Monaco for clothes that I probably shouldn’t be buying…we all have our weaknesses, right?
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