Above: About a month ago, my photographer and I had discovered a random table by some of the campus admin offices and decided to shoot me standing on it. These are some of my favorite photos that we’ve taken together.

When I was thirteen, I dragged my mom to Hollister to buy two polka-dotted skirts. They were too short and rode up unflatteringly whenever I sat down, but I didn’t mind because I’d seen one of the pretty girls in my grade rock one earlier that week. Never mind that I hated skirts. I was convinced that copying the look of someone I admired would make me as effortlessly beautiful as she was.

I’ve since then realized that emulation, while flattering to the original, isn’t exactly the best strategy to go about when you’re trying to create something of your own, whether that’s a personal style, career path, or way of running a blog. I now embrace a style that is all my own, one that is very high femme and consists of absolutely no skirts (dresses that look like a top and skirt are acceptable). I don’t know anybody else who wears party dresses to class, but when I put on a bright pink frock and six-inch heels for the day, I’m going with what I know works for me; I look good because I enjoy what I’m wearing.  

For some reason, I didn’t realize that the same logic applied to my blog. Asian Barbie was for fashion, so I’d take my photos and write my posts like every other fashion blogger I’d seen. Look back at my old blog posts or my Instagram and you’ll see what I mean. Generically, I did well, but my content sucked. Photo shoots consisted of me striking generic fashion-blogger poses in the same locations over and over. Afterward, I’d go home and agonize over what to write on the blog. Then I’d struggle with the Instagram caption.

I hated it. Blogging soon became a daily chore rather than a fun pursuit. I procrastinated, pushing my posts back to three times a week, then two, then none at all. Schoolwork got to be more intense. Weeks would go by without a single blog-related peep from me. Occasionally I’d get a burst of inspiration and set out to blog again, only to get hit with the same struggles that had kept me down before.

The hundreds of books and guides on how to create an engaging fashion blog that I devoured all said basically the same thing: have a photographer, edit your photos but not to the point where they look fake, be mindful of how all your pictures come together on your Instagram grid profile, use hashtags like #OOTD, and join a networking group. But my problem wasn’t that I had no style, or that I wasn’t trying enough. It was that I simply had nothing to say.

Publish a photo of a girl in a pretty dress accompanied by a mediocre caption and the post won’t do too badly; do that every day for a month and watch everyone–girl included–get burned out by fake-sounding, overly peppy posts about her outfits. “I love this dress! The deep blue color reminds me of the sea. :)” Can we not?

Instead of writing about what I was actually interested in, I’d made the same mistake as my thirteen-year-old self and thought that the path to blogging success was to emulate other fashion bloggers I knew. While they legitimately enjoyed writing about their outfits and personal lives, I’m not one to recount minute details of the day, and I hate posing the same way over and over again (that habit will be a little harder to break, though — I feel so awkward taking candid photos that aren’t really candid, even if they look really good in the end). I’m also pretty bad at sounding bubbly over the Internet. Like, I used to cringe in embarrassment every time I thought of someone I knew in real life reading an outfit post I made on my blog. Every word sounded so contrived and shallow and painful to read, which is what happens when writing is forced.

The thing that always gets me about fashion is its ability to make a statement. Clothes can flatter the human body, or the human body can show off a particular garment. An article of clothing can easily change perceptions about the wearer; I personally chose to start wearing dresses, heels, and other stereotypically “girly” clothes because of gender identity issues I’ve had my entire life. I could go on and on about the historical and cultural significance of Lilly Pulitzer or why I have an entire closet filled with white sundresses. I’m no anthropologist, but the impact that certain styles of dress have had on society is something I never get bored of. I didn’t realize that I could have written about all of that in my blog until last night when I had a sudden epiphany in the shower (the birthplace of all good ideas). Looking back now, I can’t believe I hadn’t been doing that all along.

That doesn’t mean I can’t start now, though. From now on, I’m going to take a more authentic approach to my posts: the reasoning behind my sartorial choices, the hipster-like irony I like to employ (you don’t think I’m wearing that shift with the pink and navy smiling whales all over it without my tongue firmly in my cheek, do you?), and the statements I make. I’ll be going with what interests me, and I hope that it’ll interest you, too.

Here’s to a fresh start,