Happy December! Please welcome my final guest in the Unfinished interview series, Ali Edwards—she knows a thing or two about getting things done (daily) despite how busy December gets! Catch up on the rest of this year's guests here.
Hello and welcome! Please tell me a little bit about yourself and the path you’ve taken to arrive at this point in your creative career.
My name is Ali Edwards and I am a memory keeper. I started this hobby (now profession) in 2002 when my son was just a little less than a year old after having a hard time finding a baby book that matched my aesthetic. I ended up learning about what I call "modern scrapbooking" (more emphasis on photos and stories paired with embellishments) from a now-closed website called Two Peas In A Bucket. I loved seeing the interplay of photos—especially photo enlargements—and stories and I immediately started creating pages about my son. I haven’t stopped.
My background is in American History & Literature (BA) and I have an AA in Graphic Design (I went back to school a couple years before my son was born and that was one of the best decisions I ever made). The marriage of words and design has served me well over the years as I started blogging to share my own stories and my scrapbook pages in 2004. Since that time I’ve done a variety of things in this industry from working for magazines, to being on creative teams, to writing books, to designing products (both physical and digital), to traveling to teach workshops, to hosting online workshops, and pretty much everything in between.
My memory keeping emphasis over the years has been on embracing, celebrating and telling the stories of everyday life (vs. only documenting the big events). Over the years I’ve become more focused on encouraging people to include words on their pages and my professional emphasis has evolved to reflect that passion. Today I have a website that includes a blog, a monthly kit subscription program for people interested in intentional products to aid them in the telling of their stories that includes an education component (called Story Kits™), a shop, online workshops, a project gallery, etc.
You make a lot of projects. Are you a “one thing at a time” person or do you have multiple projects going at any moment? Has your approach changed over the years?
I think my preference is one thing at a time, but the reality is that I have multiple projects going at any given time. Usually one priority project based on deadlines and a lot of others that are either in the wings (mentally or on my table) or actively in progress but not the priority. My approach hasn’t necessarily changed, but it has evolved based on how my business has grown. These days I do more design work for products (actually designing and/or collaborating with a team) as well as product and project management—things that are all behind the scenes until they become available.
What is your strategy for dealing with pages or albums that may have fallen victim to more pressing deadlines? Do you commit to finishing them or can you let them go without guilt?
For me these days it’s just the reality so I go with the flow. I can let go of some of them, others I don’t want to or can’t (most of the work I do becomes public at some point via projects). I don’t have a lot of guilt about those unfinished projects—I think part of that is because it’s not like I’ve stopped memory keeping, I’m just moving on with the next deadline in the pipeline. My current workflow doesn’t have a lot of room for side projects that aren’t being made or developed for a specific public project. Having an audience is also helpful in getting things done because there’s a measure of accountability in place.
The scrapbooking world is gearing up to join you in your annual December Daily® celebration of the season. Inevitably, life gets busy for many people and it can be difficult to finish; what tips can you share for seeing this project through?
My number one tip is to simplify it as much as you can (simplify any choices you have to make: design, product, story, etc). I’ve been encouraging people to focus on one story per day—it might be holiday related, it might be feelings related, it might be a memory, etc. One story per day is manageable even if you can’t work on the actual album every single day. This year I included a Log Book with the Main December Daily® Kit during the pre-order period that is a simple way for people to keep track of their stories even if they aren’t working on their album each day—it’s a super simple design with a spot for the story and a spot for photos ideas at the bottom. Obviously you don’t need that Log Book but the idea of having a place to write down the story so you don’t forget is what’s important.
It’s easy to make this more complicated than it needs to be, especially when people see all the creative and crafty things people are sharing online. I encourage people to make it work for themselves rather than playing the comparison game - which often comes about because people are looking for inspiration rather than simply using that time to document their own story.
Do you have any lingering unfinished projects you’d like to wrap up in the coming months?
I have a number of unfinished travel albums from the last several years that I keep saying I’m going to work on, but the reality is I don’t make time for them because I’ve got too many other things on my plate (including inhabiting my life outside of memory keeping). I really do want to create a schedule for Project Life® for myself this year (when I say schedule I mean something like “I will work on PL each Tuesday") because that’s a project I think is really important—for memory keeping and for my mental health because it’s such an awesome opportunity to practice gratitude.
Ali Edwards is an internationally recognized memory keeping blogger, author, product designer and instructor. Her passion resides in that very special place where the stories and images of life intersect. Learn more about Ali at www.aliedwards.com.