Not a writer’s block

fall leaves

Friends and followers, I’ve been absent from your feeds. Sometimes what life hands you requires your energy and you must divert it from the tasks you love.

One of the heartbreaks of the blogging community – what you can only find out the hard way – is that bloggers disappear. They die. They experience an event so crushing that they lose their voice. Or they just plain lose their enthusiasm and stop writing. One day you have a daily correspondent, a friendly voice on the other side of the world and the next day – poof, just like that – they’re gone. You can’t find them. You can’t reach them. And it leaves you feeling bereft.

And then that blogger was me.

Well, I have the same old voice, but it’s reshaped, perhaps, by the events of the year. Painful personal experiences. Exciting career opportunities. Children growing up and pulling a little farther away. A national recognition for my writing – not for my humor, but for the blog post it nearly broke my heart to write.

Fall feels like an ending for a lot of people, but for me it’s always been a beginning; a chance to retreat back into yourself after the glorious chaos of summer. A time to get serious. If you exercise,  you’ve probably gone through times where, for whatever reason, you can’t get to your run, or your swim, or your yoga class. Then you wake up one day and realize you are a little stiffer, a little angrier, you’re losing your edge – and you put the shoes back on and you run.

Well, I woke up feeling like a run today – and here it is.

 

W is for What Was I Thinking

Screenshot 2015-03-31 21.10.53

The A to Z Challenge is drawing to a close and I am darn near out of ideas. It doesn’t help that the end of the challenge corresponds to those ridiculous letters that so few people use – X, Y and Z. Go ahead, defend them if you must. I will not be convinced.

I was so psyched out by the terrible trio that I forgot poor old W, which is not a bad letter. It’s serviceable in its way. So I’m just going to wing out a few tips that include a W. Sorry, it’s the best I can do:

  • When you fold the wash, sort it as you fold according to the room it goes in. This takes a lot of space, but a fraction of the time to put it all away.
  • When you can, dust with a slightly wet wipe to keep all that crap from floating around in the air.
  • Whistle while you work. Sorry, lame.
  • When you have a dozen half-drunk water bottles around, use them to water your plants. It very slightly reduces the guilt of putting all that plastic in the waste stream.
  • When you pull weeds, pull all  weeds of the same type until they are gone – a particularly helpful tip if you have a clueless kid or two weeding with you. P.S. Start with the tallest weed.
  • When you’re asked to bring a snack or dessert to a kids’ party, bring cubed up watermelon. It’s cheap, it’s fast to prepare, it’s hydrating, and it will be gone in minutes. Seriously, you cannot bring enough of the stuff.
  • If you’re stuck waiting during kids’ sports practice, go for a walk. I do this all summer when my kids are at  lacrosse practice and it’s a wonderful way to end the day.

That is all. I’m going to go off to meditate on X, Y and Z.

Read the series at A is for About

A commitment etched in stone

stonesThe other day as I dusted the desk of one of my children, I found something that made me pause, made me think. Raised a lump in my throat. It didn’t look like much, just a small, smooth stone with some writing on it, in pencil.

But the message startled me. It said, “I will never stop trying.”

It startled me, because this is a kid who sometimes doesn’t seem to be trying that hard, who doesn’t seem to care. For whom heated questions are often met with a shrug and an “I don’t know.”

But in those words I saw a spark, the ambition to do something bigger.

On the other side, I saw my child’s carefully penciled initials. A commitment, etched in stone. It gave me hope. It gave me a glimpse of a child I don’t usually see, one with a determined attitude, in pursuit of something great.

I dusted that little stone and replaced it where I found it. It’s just a small, nondescript thing. But now it’s inspiring two of us.

 

My post has a virus, uh…

detritusWent viral. Viral-ish. And it’s strangely demotivating. Plus Andre is getting on my nerves. He’s my…well, you’ll just have to read on to see.

It’s been two months since I innocently published a post that had the same title as a porn video. My first notice was a little like spiking a fever – a sudden realization that I had way more traffic than usual something was just, well, off.

After my initial panic, I decided to laugh, enjoy the traffic, and wait for it to die down.

But it never did.

In the days following my post, my traffic doubled. Then it doubled again. Now, it’s running about five times what it was in the days P2PR (Prior to Porn Reference). Sounds great, right? But I’ve no illusions that these visitors are all reading. P2PR, I could see from my metrics that most people who stopped by read two or three posts each visit. Now they just hit and run. It really dampens my urge to write.

“Ignore your metrics,” my sage blogging buddy, Cristina at Filling My Prayer Closet, advised. But I can’t. I’m a numbers girl. It’s sort of like telling me not to cough. *coughs* See, I coughed right there, just thinking about it!

I’m even getting to know this traffic a little. It’s highly skewed toward international visitors, many from former Eastern bloc countries. I know when they visit, what days and what times. Weekends are a big draw.

I even know some of them think they’ve landed on the right page because they click on the picture associated with the post. (Yes, they click on the image looking for the video. Sigh. Those former Soviet countries apparently aren’t churning out the rocket scientists they used to.)

While I can’t shake the vision of a room full of frat boys huddled around a screen trying to access a get-ready-for-the-weekend video, and their utter disappointment when they instead find someone who looks like their mom staring out at them, I’ve developed a profile of who I think my average porn-seeking visitor is, and how he differs from the traffic I’m accustomed to.

Being a marketer, I like to think in terms of reader profiles. Yes, I know reader profiles are gross generalizations. But given the chance, we marketers prefer to deal in gross generalizations.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average reader three months ago:
She’s a mom we’ll call Jenny. Jenny is a professional woman who used to work full-time, but left her job to stay home with her kids, age 4, 7, and 9. Jenny is smart. Jenny is witty. She blogs. She struggles to find balance in her everyday life. She is into fitness and nutrition. She likes to commiserate with me, and is glad to read a humorous take on parenting now and then. I like Jenny.

Here is the profile I’ve developed for my average visitor now:
We’ll call him Andre. Andre lives in (your Eastern European country of choice.) He is a computer programmer. When he needs a break, he doesn’t get up from his computer and wander down the hall – he surfs porn. And when he finds a great video, he tells all his friends who, unlike Andre, do not have the liberty to surf during the day. They search sometime between Friday morning and Sunday evening, hitting my blog by accident, and not at all amused to find a humorous take on parenting. Unlike Jenny, I don’t like Andre. I think I dated him once, and I learned my lesson.

Dealing with Andre has given me a massive case of writer’s block/torpor/disinterest. He doesn’t care what I write. He isn’t even going to read it. Unfortunately, writing is like exercise. You have to keep at it or you lose the muscle. I feel like I’m starting to develop the not-writing version of a beer gut. I’m not sure what that would look like, but I’m guessing “b”.

I’m even starting to resent Andre. On a slowish traffic day, I find myself angry at him for NOT showing up. “What’s your problem?” I hear myself mutter, “Video porn not good enough for you anymore?”

So I need to move beyond my dinner with Andre. Get back on the horse. Turn over a new leaf. Get my blogging groove back. (Ugh, see what I mean? I can’t write without using cliches.) It’s time to elevate the conversation a little. I even have my next post prepped. It’s called Road Kill.

Yes, well, that’s how bad it’s gotten. Obviously, my recovery isn’t going to happen overnight.

Lost and found

Some people will go to great lengths to avoid change. Not me. For me, it’s a way to regain what I’ve lost.

I made a change not long ago because I’d lost some things. Important things, like:

  • My patience
  • My motivation
  • My humor
  • My interest
  • My energy

And my resolve. I really need that. There’s nothing like barreling through life with a big dose of resolve.

I try to make a major life change every couple of years just to keep myself interested. Some might say I’m an underachiever, but I prefer to think of myself as bold and adventurous.

We’re all busy, and change can seem really daunting when you’re buried in details. But when you think about it, what is change but just swapping that really crappy to-do list for one with better stuff on it?

My energy is back. I’m even feeling a little patient. Seems like this change is for the better, but if this doesn’t work, I’ll just make another change.

See how that works? It’s a beautiful thing.

This post is part of the Blogging University Writing 101 series.

Is fear a motivator? Part 3: What actually happened – with a twist

Those of you who read Part 1 and Part 2 already know my dilemma – whether to let my daughter struggle on with a band exercise believing she had a C, or tell her the teacher had revised her grade to an A.

It got me thinking about fear in the workplace caused by things like a potential layoff, a looming deadline, or the threatened loss of a key account. Does this threat result in Herculean effort, or is it more likely to lead to exhaustion, resentment, or withdrawal?

You’ve probably guessed by now that I didn’t tell her. I let her struggle. I figured the lesson would be better learned if she experienced some discomfort. But as it turned out, she discovered on her own and promptly did what I expected her to do – submit all three exercises including the one she’d never mastered. But that’s not the final word on the story.

A week later she had another practice log due. Once again, she missed the deadline, landing herself right back in the position she had worked so hard to overcome.

My conclusion based on this experience? Fear might be a motivator in the short-term but it’s not likely to modify longer-term behavior.

Do you agree with my conclusion? Or have we beat this one to death? Send your comments to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use them I’ll feature your business.

Is fear a motivator? Part 2: your answers

Well, it’s official – I am a hard-nosed mom. In Part 1 of my posts, I discussed my daughter’s struggle to raise her band grade and my dilemma about whether to tell her when the teacher unexpectedly revised her grade upward.

Overwhelmingly, readers thought I should have told my daughter she’d met the required standard and let her off the hook on her practice exercise. I heard from business owners, friends, relatives (who were soundly in my daughter’s camp though, admittedly, biased), even from a former teacher who based on her nineteen years of teaching suggested I tell my daughter but encourage her to keep trying on the exercise.

Here are a couple of the other comments I received:

Karin Khuhro of Strategy Essentials offered me this quote from Bill Cosby to support her view that fear isn’t motivating:

In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

Lisa Bickford at Highlight Printing said:

Tell your daughter for the same reasons you’d tell an employee – you are on the same team, you are not trying to trick her into better performance.

But I didn’t tell my daughter. I let her keep working because: 1) I thought she could achieve a higher score and suspected she would give up the minute she heard; and 2) She had left the performance evaluation to the last minute and I thought it might be a lesson on procrastination. But after reading the feedback I realized that I probably would not have reacted the same way with an employee. I would likely have told him or her because I would have assumed that fear would affect the quality of the output.

My daughter played on – but that’s not the end of the story. In Part 3, I’ll tell you how the story ended (I think you’ll be surprised) and tell you the conclusion that I drew from this experience.

Would you react differently with a family member vs. an employee? I’d love to keep getting your feedback. Send it to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it I’ll feature your business.

Is fear a motivator? Part 1: the scenario and a question for readers

My daughter had a dilemma: Because she’d missed a turn-in date for a practice log she was earning a C in band. Her only hope to maintain the C was to get a near-perfect score on a performance exercise that had three components. She accomplished the first two easily but success on the third eluded her. She practiced for hours and still couldn’t get it quite right.

In an effort to help her out, I accessed her online grades to see exactly how many points she needed on the exercise to keep her C and discovered something strange. For some reason her teacher had revised the practice log grade to an A – and she had already achieved the scores needed to keep the A. So now I had a dilemma: Did I tell her she had reached her goal or did I let her struggle on for a bit to prove a point?

It’s easy to see how this might translate to managing an employee with an important deadline. So, parents and managers, before I tell you the outcome I want to hear from you. What would you have done in this situation?

Post a comment or send your answer to sarah@dayonebusinessservices.com – if I use it I’ll feature your business.