I used to write a blog. This blog. I started it anonymously during my second year of law school, I think. Maybe my first year, actually. I can’t really remember when, but I remember that I was having a lot of feelings and needed to write it out. Anyway, the timeline isn’t that important. What is important is that looking back, I see a pattern in my creative life: I have this urge to write, and I follow it, and then I get scared.
Now maybe the urge to write, maybe that is just a distraction. I doubt this urge a lot, find it quite silly and a little embarrassing. If I really want to write, then shouldn’t I have some kind of clear idea what to write about? I struggled in my college creative writing classes because I couldn’t really choose a topic. I was very critical of my creative self and felt that all of my ideas were stupid and weak. I was afraid people would think what I wrote was lame. (I named all of my characters Jess for the entire semester. My professor wrote on my final portfolio something like You were the smartest person in this room and you could have been the best, if you had tried a little harder. It was my first B.)
It’s hard for us, I think, to really know the difference between what we are supposed to do, what we want to do, and what we are afraid to do. I read something this week that reminded me of this feeling – that we sometimes doubt our “callings” because they don’t always feel like we have been told they will. And sometimes the things that I am most afraid of doing are the things that, once I take the plunge and give it a try, are the things I am most proud of accomplishing.
So anyway, back to this pattern. I followed the urge. I started a blog (and it was really terrible, and oh, the graphics – so horrible) and I kept at it, bit by bit. I was nervous and afraid each time I hit “publish,” and yet I really loved what I was doing. I had only a handful of readers for years, and then I took on a blogging challenge where you posted each day for an entire month. It was fun and also terrible, and I wasn’t sure how healthy that experience was for me so I wrote about it. That post was selected for the front page of wordpress.com. And then – I had thousands of views in a few days and I was on top of the world. It was a rush: I had written something that someone important thought was good, and had shared with others, and those other people thought it was good and helpful too. I was in love with blogging.
Somewhere in there I connected my anonymous blog with my real-life facebook profile. I was proud and wanted to show my people what I had done, but I was also afraid that “people” would “find out” and think I was “silly” or “over-indulgent.” I felt that writing on the internet would be a source of personal and professional shame for me. I went through periods of excited writing followed by periods of absolute fear. (Hey other writers out there – do you feel this way too?)
I didn’t want for my blog to be silly or indulgent or a professional liability or something people would make fun of me for. But I also think that those fears originate from something I shouldn’t let control my actions. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty about the things that give us pleasure. And as a woman, I shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed that some stereotypically female activities like journaling, blogging, crafting or cooking make me happy. I get to be a fully integrated person, who is serious professionally and yet still totally me, and I shouldn’t have to feel nervous that if the internet reflects my true personality my professional reputation will suffer. (I mean, seriously, it’s not like I’m doing anything weird.)
But I do worry. Just because I think intellectually that a thing should be true doesn’t mean that my secret inside person is fully there, all the time. I’m still nervous that waking this blog back up, after letting it sleep in maintenance mode for over a year, is the wrong choice. I am still afraid that my boss or my colleagues would find it and be like Ahahaha you are so silly and ridiculous, look at this blog with purses and makeup and feelings everywhere!
But I miss writing to you. I want you back. And I might get scared and go dark again in the future, I can’t promise that I’ll consistently be brave. But I am here, on October 1, turning my little blog-project back on and saying hello.
I mentioned last week that I’ve been working on my blog, putting in the time behind-the-scenes to make this space better. I’ve been re-labeling categories and editing or deleting tags, which requires spending a lot of time in my old posts. Lord have mercy, the graphics. Nothing humbles the spirit like the blog posts you wrote three years ago.
I have a lot of work to do before this first step is complete, but as I review and organize my old blog posts, I’ve noticed something. Again and again I’ve told you about these great ideas I have, some new routine I want to adopt to improve some facet of my life or some new skill I want to develop — and then, nothing. Nada. Just a bunch of quiet, a mention of what I ate for breakfast or a quick photo of a fish I caught, until I’ve come up with some other new and different goal, skill, adventure to talk about.
I talk about things here as if I have everything under control and really believe in my success. I write about a new idea or habit with the attitude that once I’ve written about it, it’s basically done. But that isn’t how things work. Writing down a goal or telling you I’d like to change my habits or patterns makes no difference in my actual habits or patterns. Whether I post it on the internet or attempt to make some kind of related graphic does nothing to change that — I still have to do the actual work.
It’s easy to forget the work, isn’t it, when we’re so full of ideas? It’s exciting at the beginning. Those first few steps are pretty fun. But now that I’ve re-categorized 50 blog posts and deleted the 100 tags, I am so over this whole blog-improvement effort. I want to move on to the next step and start working on cool new content and moving my blog to a new host. I’m tired of trudging through the muck of old blog posts that probably aren’t all that good anyway.
But if I really want to change anything, if I really want any of my ideas and adventures and attempts and habits to stick, to become part of my real life, I need to go deeper than the surface and really put the time in. That’s true when I’m working to become a morning person, or plan our meals each week, or add a little sparkle to my daily life, just like it’s true when I want to make my blog work better for you.
This middle part — the part between starting out on a new journey and completing your goals — it’s kind of boring. I’d like to skip right over this part and get to the good stuff, but I don’t have any good stuff right now. Instead, I have long, steady, tedious work that continues. So far, this work has created a new menu for you on my blog — a menu that isn’t quite finished. Well, the menu itself is finished, and if you look up top you can see it right now(!!!). It has drop-down menus to find content by category and sub-category. The content isn’t fully aligned to the menu yet, so there might be a few surprises in there. But I’m working, and I really want to finish this thing, to complete this task as well as others that will follow. Only 350 blog posts and 800 categories to go.
I love linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into series, but it’s been a little hard this month. Because, except for a few days of awesome, January kind of sucked. Let me explain:
Between two polar vortexes (can you pluralize the word vortex? I just did!), incredibly terrible winter weather, and two weeks of being sick enough to consider going to the doctor in -14* temperatures, there wasn’t a lot of time for fun this month. So, I apologize in advance if this past month’s highlights are a little, well, lame.
What I’ve Been Watching
A lot of movies and television and netflix. I don’t exactly remember all of them since I was taking a lot of naps and cold medicine while I watched them, but I logged a lot of couch hours this month! When I got desperate for new shows to watch after too many sick days in a row, you all quickly came to my assistance, offering up a dozen or so new shows for me to consider. On top of the regular shows we’ve talked about before, I’ve been digging Nashville, I watched a bit of Fringe season one, and I caught up on this entire season of Parenthood.
What I’ve Been Reading
I finished my friend Elora’s incredible book Every Shattered Thing (well, technically I read this in December, but it has stayed with me this month). I’m almost finished with Tyler Blanski’s When Donkey’s Talk (I heard him speak at STORY Chicago this past fall). That’s at least one book toward my 28 Things reading goal for the year.
What I’ve Been Wearing
Mostly, jammies. I had three new tops from Stitch Fix waiting for me when I returned from holiday break, and I’ve been LOVING them. I also finally took all of my dress pants to the dry cleaners, which means I have been wearing dress pants to work again. Which is awesome.
A Little Bit of Awesome
I wrote a list of 28 Things I want to do this year. And I started getting them done. (See the next item…)
I completed my first DIY project this month — a spring-ish wreath for our living room. Check out this photo (cute, right?!):
I cooked a ton of delicious food. Before the sickness set in, we ate very well. I have a few snapshots for you that were supposed to be blog posts (please forgive the cold medicine and thermometer hanging in the background of the third snapshot):
And, I went to Las Vegas with my husband and two great friends for a long weekend! It was the greatest ever. I loved it and I have so many pictures to share with you, but I’ve been delinquent in doing so. Soon, I’ll have them all here for you in their beautiful, warm and sunny glory. Until then, here’s a little sunshine and sparkle to warm up your winter week.
I follow a lot of blogs (a quick count today revealed 119 blogs, but I know a few of those have been dormant for quite a while). To make it easy to keep up-to-date on all of the blogs and people I love, especially those that do not update on a regular schedule, I use a blog-reading and content organization app called Feedly.
Feedly is the greatest thing since Google Reader. It may be even better than Google Reader. The app can be slow to update when I don’t have a strong internet signal, but overall, using Feedly to connect with other bloggers was one of the best social media decisions I made in 2013. Feedly’s text is beautiful: crisp black lettering on a bright white screen. It takes out the formatting that can make content slow to load when you’re mobile, and I never encounter that awful music that automatically starts playing on some pages. Using the app, I can browse blogs while commuting, walking on the treadmill, or waiting to meet a friend. With one click I can save posts for later, which is really helpful when I’m putting together internet highlights for you each Friday.
One downside to using Feedly, though, is that I have no idea when my favorite bloggers have changed their formatting or updated the overall look and feel of their blogs. For those of you who visit this space on a regular basis, you may have already noticed that I’ve been working to make Pink-Briefcase more user-friendly and visually appealing. For those of you reading through an app, this is your invitation to click through and check everything out!
Here’s what’s new on the blog this year:
A new theme and color scheme. We went through a few themes over the last six weeks, so you may have experienced a bit of design whiplash. I wish the transition had been smoother, but I’m really not sorry because I love how things turned out.
I deleted the “library” and updated my blogroll. What seemed like a brilliant idea last year turned into a list of books I wanted to read but didn’t, and that I never updated. It wasn’t great for you or for me. I’ve also revised my list of recommended blogs. My top two favorite reads today? Corporette.com [for career-focused women] and AskAManager.org [for anyone who has ever worked in an office].
I’ve added a few rules and expectations for the blog — for you and for me. I’m always afraid that a potential job opportunity will be ruined because my intended employer stumbled across this blog and thought “this is so silly and weird, I don’t want to hire her!” So, I wrote about why I blog, to remind myself that this isn’t silly and weird [at least most of the time!] and to give you an idea of what my personal boundaries are for this space. It’s pretty personal and I’m kind of proud of it, so click over to “Why I Blog [the Disclaimer]” and let me know what you think.
I’ve added some new ways for us to connect. I’ve linked my twitter, instagram, goodreads account, and pinterest boards to the blog on the page “Let’s Connect.” I’d love to keep up with your reading, fitness, beauty, style, or recipe recommendations, so please do add me on one or all of these channels. I’ve also added an email just for this blog, so if you have a question, want to guest post, or have suggestions or comments for the blog you don’t want to share publicly, you can email them to me instead.
Even bigger, I’ve started a Facebook Page for this space. I hope to transition all blog advertising from my own profile to this Page, so that my personal life and my blog can be comfortably separate. If you normally come here through a Facebook link, you’ll want to like the Facebook page because soon I will stop linking to Pink-Briefcase from my personal profile. There’s a chance this is a terrible idea, and my blog stats will drop very low, but I’m hoping we’re ready for this. It’s something I really want to do.
I’ve made a commitment to myself and my team that I’ll be writing more this year. That writing won’t always be published in this space, but much of it will. Take some time to look around the new site, and let me know how it looks. I’m excited to see where this is going, and hope you’ll stay with me for this journey.
The New York Times’ Invisible Child series that will blow your mind and have you running to volunteer at your local homeless shelter, and a response and personal story from one of the bloggers I have recently begun following which responds to the series by showcasing her own story of homelessness.
1. Invisible Child, Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life, written by Andrea Elliot with photography by Ruth Fremson.
It is Dasani’s belief that she and her siblings are the cause of her mother’s ruin. It never occurs to her that, for Chanel, the children represent her only accomplishment.
[Can we just put a pin here, to talk about the layers in these two sentences? How children are a burden and a blessing, living in seemingly hopeless situations but also our only hope? Oh my goodness.]
2. Becca Rose at The Bookworm Beauty, with The Tent.
Years later, my dad would tell me,
“I’m so glad we went through that time, because it really taught you kids about faith and trusting God.”
What I wanted to say but didn’t was that no, it didn’t teach me about faith. It taught me what it feels like when God abandons you.
* * *
I constantly hear diatribes against food assistance, free health care, and other benefits that kept me alive as a child when I was homeless. I don’t think there’s a human face on the other end when people say things like this, because if they knew what it was like – if they knew how a child’s life would be affected when they vote to decrease funding for those things – I can’t believe they’d really do it. I can’t believe anyone is that heartless.
On Journaling as a Personal Practice
3. Claire de Boer at The Gift of Writing with Five Questions to Take to Your Journal (and life).
To stop, ask the question and either write the answer or ponder it throughout the day, has been the hearth to my cold wintry bones.
I’ve been trying many different journal writing techniques over the last few months—everything from writing letters, free-writing, dialoging and list-making, but to simply ask one of these five questions has been the most nourishing of all.
On Being Careful with our Words (and using our privilege and power wisely)
4. Brad Littlejohn at The Sword and the Ploughshare with The “All I Really Meant…” Syndrome.
None of this is to say that we always have to speak in carefully-measured, lifeless academese, with a footnote to define our every term so as to remove all cause for dispute. There is a place for provocation. But provocation must always be according to truth. “I’m playing the prophet!” is never an excuse for non sequiturs, or false generalizations that have no basis in reality, or for sloppy language that would confuse even a well-educated, well-intentioned reader. Moreover, even where it avoids these pitfalls, it must always be subjected to a cost-benefit analysis. Just because you might succeed in getting the attention of some that you otherwise might not get doesn’t mean it’s worth it. Not if you alienate many more whom you otherwise might have won, or sow division where you could have sown peace.
On Productive Meetings and Good Management
5. Amy Gallo for the Harvard Business Review’s Blog with The Seven Imperatives to Keeping Meetings on Track.
Valuable information regarding how to plan for meetings that are focused, productive, and positive experiences for your team. Emphasis on “planning,” because if you aren’t planning your meetings, chances are they will not be focused, productive, or positive experiences for anyone.
It’s 22 degrees Fahrenheit (but feels like 7) and I’m heading home right before it starts snowing (hopefully). We’re expecting two inches.
I’ve had to start leaving for my bus stop five minutes earlier than usual because that’s how long it takes me to layer on my winter gear. I missed my bus by barely a minute three days last week because I wasn’t factoring in the time it takes to zip, button, and tie a jacket, a coat, and snow boots; tug on my gloves; and pull my hat down over my forehead.
I’m in a slow-zone at work and it’s hard for me to maintain my typical level of focus. I can feel each minute slowly passing by. I’m working steadily, but I don’t have my beautiful rush of adrenaline, which I probably depend on a bit too heavily at times. [Emergencies are my specialty.]
Here in the slow zone, my introversion creeps out from its normally air-tight prison cell. Today, while walking back from the microwave with a slightly burnt miniature bag of Kettle Corn, I was caught mid-thought by an introduction that went well enough, except that I did not say my own name back to the introduction-initiator. I did, however, say “nice to meet you” and smile, which is just going to have to be good enough. I’m not running for office (at the moment, at least).
Writing about work makes me nervous because the internet is public.
Writing in general makes me nervous too.
When I write here it’s like writing a quick email to a friend, and as long as it isn’t a topic that might get dicey (relationships, politics, etc.) I can write uninhibited. When I think about writing elsewhere, such as a guest post or an article or something with my real name attached to it, I get a little panicky. I don’t want my writing to be flippant or without substance, yet I’m afraid of being too serious because my expertise on everything is limited.
My greatest fear is writing something that ruins my credibility. I am learning well from writers who can say “last week I thought X, but after learning Y I’ve changed my position to this-that-and-the-other.” That’s the approach I would like to use when writing, but instead I go through stages of publishing remorse that usually starts with “wow I’m the worst I’ve ruined everything forever oh my gosh why oh why oh why did I do that.” Then about three hours later (or maybe twelve) I’m back to “it probably doesn’t matter because no one really reads what I write anyway.” And then maybe three days later, if I still even remember the subject matter at all, I might be able to say “last week I thought X, but then I realized how stupid I was and so now I think I might think Y, but I can’t really be certain in Y because we all know what happened last week.”
NOTE: I thought about adding in some italics or brackets or mixing up the font in this so that it would seem “artistic” instead of “ridiculous,” but let’s be real for a second. I already bolded my font three times.