My journalling story didn’t actually begin on Instagram, it started on a little blog on Tumblr called “skies-are-blue”. It was only later on, did I change my name to “studying-blues” on Tumblr. The name studyblues is a wordplay on the term “Monday blues” and also partially cause my favorite color is blue.
It all started when 16 years old me was looking for motivation to study for her O Level examinations and I came across stubyblrs (the Tumblr ver. of studygram). I was fascinated with how people made their notes so aesthetic, and I had the strongest urge to try, and so I did.
This was my first post, it was just a bunch of literature notes scattered on my bedroom floor, nothing more; no fancy lighting, no editing, no props. But it truly was the beginning of a very special journey. I had been on Tumblr for about 2 months? When one of the other studyblr suggested that I try to move my platform to Instagram, and I thought about it for a while and decided to test it out.
@study.blues on Instagram was born in December 2016!!
During my time on Tumblr, I was exposed to bullet journaling and decided to start my own. I honestly didn’t have any idea what I was doing, I didn’t have a style and I was lettering with a milliner highlighter because I didn’t own any brush pens. I remember laughing to myself that no one would actually follow me because I was such an amateur!
You wouldn’t be able to find my first few posts now because I’ve since deleted them, purely because they are SO different from my current content, and in no way do they fit with my feed. But I’m going to share them with you can see that I really started out knowing nothing about lightning, or lettering, I didn’t own brush pens or fancy notebooks.
It took me a while to find my own style and learn how to take photos aesthetically. I researched lighting and angels and for every spread, I take about 20 different pictures from all angles just so I can determine which one looked the best. After a while, I started having my own style, and my feed became more consistent. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but after a while, I was pretty satisfied with the way my posts were looking.
This is one of my first spread:
By then, I had fallen in love with journaling and I started buying nicer stationeries and brush pens to make my spreads prettier.
I loved everything about being a studygram. I loved interacting with a community that was so welcoming and I loved journaling. I enjoyed creating spreads and I loved that people were noticing and liking my work.
I eve did a growth tracker to track my Instagram growth at the beginning of my study gram journey — although I eventually stopped keeping count. I guess one could say that I grew pretty fast, I started on the 6th of December and in 1 and a half months I was at 7k. At 7k I was insanely content, it blew my mind that a 100 people wanted to see my work, not to mention 7000? I began to work really hard on my content; posting every day, making sure my story was active, and interacting with my followers. It was like a tightly knitted school community and I loved it.
14th December 2017, I hit 90k followers.
It was around my 1st studygram anniversary and my little community had grown exponentially. And as much as I was over the moon about receiving so much love and support, I was so stressed. Between my IB education, my personal life and my studygram, I was overloading myself.
I started to struggle; I struggled in making content daily, then weekly, then slowly I struggled to make content at all. I was getting a lot of emails regarding sponsorships and collaborations, but at that age, I didn’t know how to handle them properly. Instead of picking and choosing the right brands that resonated with my content and followers, I accepted everything. I tried to do everything and I was doing it alone, so eventually, I burned out.
In the process of growing my account, I lost sight of what was important. I was so busy replying to emails and brands while still having to do my school work and CCAs, that I stopped interacting with my followers. I stopped talking to them, and everything started to become very promotional. I had sponsored posts back to back because I had given my word to too many brands at one go and I didn’t schedule them properly.
Additionally, 2018 was a crucial year for me, I was having my IB examinations that year. People who took/take IB would know that only 60-40% of our grades comes from the final examination, a large proportion of our grades comes from our Internal Assessments, Presentations and Research papers that are completed throughout the year. My educational workload became very heavy and I started slowly disappearing from my study gram account.
By March 2018, I had stopped posting. I would drop by to post one or two posts every 3 months? If I’m free. Other than that, I stopped being active entirely. I decided to prioritize my studies and my mental health. I focused on my school work, telling myself that I will be back after my IB exams.
Truth is social media has a huge toll on my confidence, every time I choose to post something, I worry that it won’t be liked by my followers. I got hurt by mean comments rather than appreciating the good ones. My priorities were all wrong.
In hindsight, I was merely too inexperienced and young, I didn’t handle the overwhelming amount of love and attention properly. Eventually, I lost the passion to create my spreads, they started to become a chore because I was so caught up in all the materialistic part of being a studygram. I was too concerned over how many followers I was gaining, how many likes I was getting, what brand will I be working with next.
Instead, I should have been worried over issues like how are my followers, supporting other fellow studygramers, creating things I like. Essentially, I forgot that I started this account purely because of my love for hand lettering and journaling. That should have been the core of my attitude towards the account. I shouldn’t be concerned over things like followers and likes, but more of getting to know the people who love my art and meeting new people who share my interest, but most importantly, to love the content that I am creating.
Even though I stopped posting, I never stopped drawing or lettering, I merely had the freedom of doing them within my own time without having to keep to a schedule.
Fast forward to 2020 February; it has been about 2 years of hiatus from my account. COVID-19 surprised the world and my country went into quarantine. With all my classes online and not being able to go out to meet my friends, I suddenly had A LOT of time. Initially, I spent my time baking and doing crafts like embroidery, then I decided to journal again. I didn’t have intentions of coming back, but when I finished my spread, I felt so proud of it and had this huge urge to share it… so I did.
Perhaps, its because I’m older now, but I no longer fret over numbers and followers. Not saying that I am immune to it, on certain days I still get nervous about how well my post is doing or my engagement rate, but I handle it so much better now.
My followers had dropped from 90k to 70k within the 2 years that I wasn’t active, but I am no longer worried over these numbers because I have turned my attention towards the people who matter; the ones currently supporting my art.
I’ve been very lucky to be able to have a platform where I can freely share my art, and I am so glad to have found my passion for creating again. I have learned so much about myself through the process of building this account, and I have grown as a person as well. I have learned that nothing matters more then being genuine to yourself and your followers and that no one can love your content if you don’t love it yourself. I’m glad that I was able to find that humbleness and sincerity again, and that now, I am so much more grounded.
People like to ask: How do you grow your studygram? The truthful answer from me — is to just keep creating content that you love, and as long as you come from a genuine place, everything will fall in place.
Thank you for taking the time to read my little story, I hope you had fun. I’ve never really shared this with the public before, I hope it touched you.
You can find Celine on Instagram at @study.blues