I spent a lot of time Not Writing this year and I am disappointed in myself.

The year started off strong and I even signed up for a month-long online writing course. (Alice Bradley’s The Practice of Writing, which appears to be offline for updating so I’ve linked to her blog’s homepage.) I really enjoyed the course, but struggled to find the time to do the daily exercises. When I got really behind I would go through rapid-fire catchup sessions while Sean would get Flora ready for bed. Then, when my colleague went on a two-week vacation, I was doing a lot more at work and was just too burned out to write at night. Truthfully, there were probably only a few tough days at work, but once you start on a Not Writing cycle, it’s hard to get back to Writing. I acknowledged that I didn’t give the class the attention that it deserved – or that I wanted to give it. I have the PDF of all the class notes in my email, and I haven’t had the guts to even look at it yet. The course ended more than six months ago. I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t just keep up and keep going.

I still feel ashamed, and I’ve wondered many times over the last few months if I should just give up writing and blogging altogether. I’m still here so I haven’t given up yet. but I haven’t figured out how to shut the negative voices up and just write anyway.

I’ve written a few blog posts and percolated ideas since then. I know logically that writing leads to more writing, which leads to better writing. I know I need to kick my own ass to actually make the time. I’m hoping the dark and bleakness of winter will encourage me to write. If not that, football season and Sean’s new Xbox will keep me away from the TV so that’s one distraction gone.

So many people/magazine articles/advice givers/general know-it-alls say ‘get up an hour earlier’. I already leave my house by 6:30am on weekday mornings. In a perfect world, I’d be leaving at 6:15 and getting out of bed at 5:45am at the latest. I just can’t get up any earlier. I stay up after Flora goes to bed so that I can have time to myself. Sometimes I even spend it with my husband. (Blasphemous, I know.) I’m usually in bed by 10pm, and I need that sleep. I need that time with my husband. I need that time with myself. I want to use more of that time to write, but lately, I’m just so burnt that I can’t do more than read or play The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Those hobbies are valuable to me too. (I started playing Tapped Out because Sean was playing it and I wanted to see what the fuss was about. Now it’s one of the few video games we’ve ever played together, which is a nice bonding experience.)

I’m writing now, so I’m hoping that will open the floodgates a bit. Maybe that will lead to some actual Writing. Or just plain old ordinary writing. I’m willing to start small.

I did a little redecorating around here this weekend. (If you’re reading via an RSS reader, click over and have a peek.)

This redesign is actually a bit of a big deal. I actually purchased a theme and modified the CSS myself to make it look more like me. I learned the basics of CSS years ago, but my skills got rusty as websites got more automated. I’ve been taking lessons at Codecademy to catch up to how things are done today, and it’s coming back to me bit by bit.

(I designed the new logo and background too, but I usually do that so that’s not really news.)

For me, blogging is writing, design, and technical skills coming together to create something interesting and usable. Since I’m a hobbyist, anything I pay for comes out of my pocket. I don’t have the money to hire a pro to do it right the first time.

I’m doing this for love people. Like a sucker.

I’ve learned a lot about patience and have built my skill set by doing my own website for the last 13 years*.¬† To be clear: I’m not a pro developer at all. To say otherwise would insult so many talented craftspeople and I don’t want to do that. I’m a print designer by trade so I understand the importance of making content visually appealing. I’m always surprised at how much easier it is to create websites that look like real websites – not the Geocities-style stuff of the late 90s and early 2000s I produced. It’s honestly getting easier and easier in a lot of ways. It’s more complicated in other ways, but I love learning how to uncomplicate it.

I got this site completely redone in less than 24 hours. I did a lot of other things in those 24 hours too – I wasn’t completely glued to the computer. It’s the fastest revamp I’ve had in years, if ever. The future really is amazing.

* There was a period between 2007-2009 where I was on a web service that provided pre-made templates that didn’t allow for much deviation. Whenever a customization feature was introduced, I always tried it out. I discovered I liked having more control over the output.

#blissdomca hotel room" src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8473/8112671013_74460e2a94_n.jpg" alt="View from my #blissdomca hotel room" width="320" height="320" /> Hey look! Here’s the first picture I took post-lesson. Not great, but not completely terrible. It’s a start.

I came back from the third annual Blissdom Canada inspired to write more (thank you Haley and Ali). I also got ideas and tips for improving my iPhoneography skills (thank you Schmutzie). I had told Haley that I needed to ‘kick my own ass a bit’ and I think this conference has helped me do that. I’d like to thank all the organizers and speakers for all the work they did to make it a success.

(An aside, when I told Sean that the conference was at the Sheraton Centre downtown, he looked at me and asked “are you staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Canada? Have you been selected to represent the school at the National Grammar Rodeo? Sean makes me laugh. This line is from Season 7, episode 21 of the Simpsons. I couldn’t find a video clip of it so you’ll have to catch the episode in syndication sometime.)

I was thrilled to be able to tell Susan Cain how fascinating I found her book in person at her book signing. When I showed her my Kobo with her book on the screen, she told me that it was the first time she had seen the ereader version of her book. To think she had to come to another country to see it! That makes me smile.

I also stayed in a hotel room all by myself for the first time. This is a big deal for me.I wrote about wanting to do this back in January 2011 but haven’t been able to make it happen until now. When I bought my conference ticket, I booked the hotel room that day, knowing I could always cancel, but also knowing that I wouldn’t. I’m a person who needs her alone time and I don’t get nearly enough of it. (Funny, I’ve written about this before too.) As much as I was enjoying the conference and all the learning I was doing, I couldn’t wait for that window between sessions where I could check in to my room, dump my stuff and sit down in the quiet for a few minutes before I got back to the noise of hundreds of people at a conference.

I finally got that opportunity, but it was cut short because it was in the window of time before the aforementioned Susan Cain went up on stage to speak about introversion. There’s a joke in here, right? I was not missing that talk, so I put my stuff down and zipped back downstairs and took part in the rest of the conference. I did not regret my choice. I learned from all of the speakers, and the questions that were asked of them.

I had considered skipping the closing party to enjoy my purchased solitude. I didn’t have a costume and I had been stuffed up most of the day so I wasn’t sure I should be unleashing karaoke on anyone*. My need for a few drinks and a few laughs (and let’s face it, the karaoke) trumped my need for solitude at that point and I had a good time with everyone. Of course, I lived up to my introvert ideals by having the best moments when listening to conversations and occasionally contributing versus cutting it up on the dance floor. (Dancing can be fun, but it’s not my strong suit.) At the end of the night, I went back to my quiet room, had a great sleep in a king-sized bed and lounged around Sunday morning before I packed up, checked out and went home.

So Blissdom gave me a lot this year – more than what was on the website and in the conference brochure. I’m saying out loud that I plan to make the most of what I’ve been given. I hope you do too. How do you plan to improve your blog or other online work?

* I don’t get my love for karaoke either. I am totally on Team Introvert, but for some reason, I love doing karaoke. I think it’s because it’s a forgiving medium. You can be bad and people will still cheer you on. My experiences around karaoke really need a post of their own.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada
This work by melissa price-mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada.