On Not Writing

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.

Saying Yes

Something weird happened to me today. No, really.

I was having a perfectly ordinary day at work when I noticed this tweet:

Intrigued, I checked my email. I had a note asking me if I could do something online in about an hour. It was really short notice (especially considering I had never done it before), but I thought “why not?”. (Note to my work peeps: I made sure I was reasonably caught up with my work first.)

This is how I ended up being part of a panel on HuffPost Live earlier today. The subject was ‘changing your name after you get married’. I believe the producer found me via my post I wrote last year about why I hyphenated my name after I got married.

I’ve never done one of these segments before. It was done via a Google+ Hangout, which I had also never used before (they’re easy). Once I got the confirmation I was in, I hustled to a spare office with my laptop so I could set up and talk without interruption and my cubicle mates thinking I was crazier than normal, talking to myself about my choice of nomenclature.

Here is the link to the discussion.

 I chatted with the other panelists beforehand and they were lovely women. I hope the woman who couldn’t decide what to do about her name (she’s getting married in a month) comes to a decision that works for her and her husband.

I’m not so sure how I did as a first-time panelist with no experience or guidance. I am happy that my microphone worked. I didn’t say a lot – the joys of being an introvert.Too much listening.

I’m proud that I went for it though. If they had caught me on another day, I probably would have just said “No, I’m at work – can’t do it”, and spent the rest of the day wondering “what if I had done it?”

Saying yes can be just as powerful as saying no.

I need to say yes more often. Get out of my rut. Try something new. Have adventures. This feels like a good start.

My #BlissdomCanada recap: better late than never

So my Blissdom recap is happening more a full week after I came home from the last party. You know, the one where that guy from the late-80s boyband showed up.

No matter, I’m choosing to believe that I’ve taken time to consider my thoughts and formulate my opinions. It was not that my laptop was busted or that I have a life outside of the Internet – I mean really, who has *that* these days?

So I went to Blissdom Canada. I had a good time. It felt different from last year. I’ve been reading everyone else’s blogs all week and I’m not the only one who feels that way. I’m just glad I’m not crazy! The conference, and expo hall, were much larger. The round tables at the front of the session rooms filled up quickly so I usually ended up in the rows of seats at the back of the room. That took away from the community vibe a bit, but doing the whole room with tables would have fit fewer people in so I get why it was done that way.

A lot of people talked about feeling alone or disconnected from other people at the conference. I felt that way too sometimes, but honestly, I expected that. I go to these conferences alone. I’ve connected with lots of the attendees online and met several of them last year. Even with that ‘in’, I don’t like to interrupt other people’s conversations. I often spend a lot of time listening or observing in group situations. By the time I’m ready to comment on something, the moment has passed. I did my best to come out of my shell, but I know I didn’t interact nearly as much as I observed and listened. I did have a great dinner Friday night with Mel and Sherrie Mae, which made up for a lot of the shyness I was feeling earlier in the day.

Many (but not all) of the sessions talked about monetizing your blog, building your personal/professional brand, and working with corporate brands. I left the conference with my intent not to do any of those things intact. I’ve been comforted to learn this week that I am not the only person that feels that way.

When I introduced myself to people, my answer to their first question “how long have you been blogging?” was usually “I’ve been writing online for 11 years, but I’m not very good at it, because my stats aren’t great and my readership is small.” I inwardly cringed every time I said this, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was trying to build myself up by mentioning my longevity in the genre (even though longevity doesn’t really matter). Then I instantly knocked myself back down by saying that even though I have lots of experience, I’m still not “good at it”.

Way to go, self.

I don’t have as many readers and feedback as someone who hustles like crazy to promote themselves and their blog. While I have been blogging a long time, I haven’t always done it consistently. I also haven’t participated in the community aspect of blogging as much as I would like. I read, but rarely comment. (Hey, I remember when blogs didn’t even have comments!) So really, what am I doing to earn readers and feedback?

I want my voice, my writing, to matter. I realize this makes me sound incredibly narcissistic. I write about my life on the internet as a hobby – of course I’m (at least a little) narcissistic.

So ultimately, my takeaways are as follows:

  • In order to publish more, I need to write more. I need to find the time to do this.
  • I need to earn the feedback I want. Good writing is only the start.
  • I need to get a better handle on tasteful promotion, so I can get what I want without feeling gross or dirty about it.
  • I need to stop diminishing myself and develop confidence in my writing and my voice.

Now to actually get started on these things. Advice is welcome.

Work, and life advice I hope to follow

I’ve had this video from TEDWomen on my to-watch list for a couple of months. I finally watched it after reading the Metafilter commentary on it and this New Yorker article earlier today.

This video features Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook talking about “why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite”. (Quote taken from TED page.)

You should take the time to watch this whether you’re a woman who works “outside the home”, if you’re home with your family, or if you’re somewhere in between. It’s about fifteen minutes in length.

This video really resonated with me. The three points she talks about are really good career (and life) advice for women at any stage in their career.

It seems that in some circles, there are training programs, mentors and coaching to women (and men) who are on their way up in the business world. These are good things.

What I’d like to know: where are the programs for people (women and men) who are high performers, but not quite management material. The ones who aren’t ready, or (heaven forbid!) don’t have the desire to be in management but want to be high-level individual contributors. What about the people who don’t realize that they would be great business leaders because they are too busy handling their regular job? And because their company is stretched so tight, the powers that be can’t let that high performer stretch beyond their role because they need someone to turn that cog or push that pixel.

How do we develop those people so they feel like they could even climb the next step of that ever-lengthening ladder? Or is the only option that we develop those people so they eventually move into jobs at other companies as the current company simply cannot see that person outside of their current role? How can those high performers help themselves move forward, if being a high performer isn’t enough?

Sorry, I’m getting a little off-topic here.

Another facet of this presentation that impressed me was that Ms Sandberg admitted that she didn’t know the answers and that she was struggling with a lot of the same issues. As a person who has worked as a high-level executive at both Facebook and Google (among other places), I wrongly assumed that she was childless. That she had to sacrifice her personal life to achieve professional success. When she spoke about her children, it reminded me that all parents have the same problems balancing their family, professional and personal lives no matter what their title and salary are. (EDIT: It bothers me that I made that assumption – that the only way to get to the top at work is to sacrifice the rest of your life to your job. It’s unfair to the people at the top and sets unrealistic expectations for those at the bottom.)

I believe a lot of things about the modern workplace are wrong. I’m very intrigued by the ROWE concept. What I’m not sure of is how to fix the workplace to ensure that more people are engaged in their work and producing great things for their companies. I believe that taking the time to think about the points Ms Sandberg makes: staying at the table, owning your success and not checking out before you leave will make me – and anyone else – a happier worker. That will lead to higher engagement and productivity. That benefits company and worker alike.

Random thoughts on the upcoming Canadian election

While this post is political in nature, I’ve done my best to keep it non-partisan. I’m not a die-hard supporter of any particular party, so I’m not endorsing any party’s view over another.

This may be my nerdy side showing, but I love voting in elections. Municipal, provincial, federal, student council, it doesn’t matter – they all have excitement. I like watching the numbers go up on election night and seeing who won, whether they’re an incumbent, an upstart or a dark horse.

As much as I enjoy the excitement of elections, it’s hard to get past the cynicism and distrust I have of so many politicians. So many promise the moon to get people to vote for them and then spend their term explaining why the promises they made just can’t materialize into change. I don’t trust politicians who seem to be calculating every move they make and are in it more for their own fame and legacy versus actually being the voice of their constituents. This makes me naive, doesn’t it?

Mom the Vote!I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the #momthevote movement on Twitter and Facebook. Anything that gets people talking about the issues and gets them out to vote is okay with me. Family-friendly policies have become more important to me since I became a parent, and I’m grateful for being able to read in one place about how all the parties plan to treat Canadian families. I’m also enjoying the debate going on and it’s making me think more about the issues up for debate in this election (and the issues that aren’t being debated which is telling in itself).

I don’t understand how politicians who cross party lines (or go independent) midway through their term can keep their position without a by-election. Their constituents may have voted for them for personal reasons, but odds are they voted for them because they were affiliated with a certain party. If everyone in a riding voted for a person because they belonged to Party X, and that person joins Party Y half way through, they may no longer represent the wishes of the riding. If the constituents really like that person, they can certainly vote them back in but I think constituents should be given a choice.

It alo really bugs me when people say “I don’t want my tax dollars going to <something that won’t benefit them directly but will benefit many other Canadians>. I expect my tax dollars to go into a big pool. That pool is then used to dole out money to all the different services and things Canadians want and need. I can’t and won’t use every benefit my taxes help pay for, but that doesn’t mean other Canadians don’t need them. Since we’re a country, we’re all in this together and it takes all of us to pay the bills.

Please get out and vote on May 2nd. Make sure your voice is heard.

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.
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