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Holding on to the momentum

standard April 15, 2014 3 responses
Just one of many, many pages of notes.

Just one of many, many pages of notes.

You should see the pages of notes I take at conferences. They’re a mix of transcriptions of speaker soundbites, things I want to remember to look up later, and ideas that have popped into my head during conversations and sessions.

Ideas. So many ideas.

It’s incredible what I can come up with when I hand off all of my regular responsibilities and preoccupations and make more space for my own thoughts.

I’ve yet to come home without a single “I should really do this!” kind of idea. They’re usually big, ambitious ideas too. I come home ready to throw myself into new projects with wild abandon. I feel energized and motivated and pumped to shake things up a lot.

And then there’s laundry. And the dishes. And that school project that needs to be finished. And that volunteer thing. And dinner. And lunches. And email. And the dog needs to be walked. The house needs to be tidied. Oh, and all of my other projects and deadlines need attention. And of course the fact that new projects are rarely lucrative at first, and can I really afford to work for “free” even more than I already do?

And everything slowly creeps back into my brain until I start to feel almost more overwhelmed than I did before I left.

The problem with working for yourself at home is that there’s no one to help you prioritize your tasks. There’s no one to bounce off ideas to see if they are worthwhile or just plain silly. It’s a challenge, and the dog is really no help at all.

I’m not tabling my new ideas quite yet. I’m still in love with them, still hopeful that I’ll find a way to make them work. But, more urgently, I need to find a way to maintain that level of motivation and passion after I get home and re-immerse myself into my life, after I open up my brain to contain all of the children’s lives and issues, all of the puppy’s needs and wants, all of the house’s demands.

I worry that if I don’t, those ideas will perish the same way so many other great ideas have died, only living on the pages of an old abandoned conference notebook, gathering dust on the back of a shelf filled with countless others. And that would be a crying shame.

Processing the Post Conference Chaos

standard April 14, 2014 5 responses

I’ve been going to blogging conferences more or less regularly since 2008 and, other than for the very first one I attended, I’ve had to fly to get there. I always feel a hint of envy for the people who live within driving distance of the conference; packing for them is a breeze and doesn’t need to resemble a game of Tetris, but then I remember just how much I relish my flights home and I go back to trying to find creative ways to fit a million pairs of shoes and countless little 3oz bottles of shower products into my carry-on bag.

You see, conferences tend to be like this:

You arrive, a bit anxious, a bit shy. You meet a few people in the lobby of the hotel. You go up to them with trepidation, introduce yourself and BAM, you’re off. For the next two or three days the hectic mornings of a mom with 7 kids will have nothing on your frantic pace. First there are lots of sessions. It’s like cramming a semester’s worth of studies into a two day period. Then there’s networking in the halls between sessions. Lastly there are a bunch of evening events, dinners, after dinner chats, after chat drinks, and then decompressing and processing with your roommates until the late hours of the night.

Add to that the fact that most conferences take place on the East coast leaving me with a 3 hour time delay which works great in the evening and not so great in the morning, and you’ll find me, on the morning I’m due to go home, vibrating slightly from a mixture of too much coffee, too little sleep, and way too much information to process.

Know what’s an amazing cure for that?

Being strapped into a plane seat for a couple of hours.

Until this weekend every post conference flight has given me the opportunity to sit down, pen in hand, and just free write my way out of the buzzing chaos in my head.

I never fail to be amazed at the coherence that I can pull from the noise.

This weekend, three days hanging out with other writers at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, should have ended the same way. I have pages and pages of notes taken in incredible session after incredible session to read through. I have a ton of business cards to sort through and ideas about emails I want to write to think through. It was an amazing conference. One I know I have so much to say about.

But a large group of punk kids had a party in the lobby and parking lot of our hotel the last night we were there. They partied, loudly, starting around 11pm. When I left to go to the airport at 4:30am they were still going strong. I was very, very tired and very, very cranky.

So instead of freewriting and processing my way home, I slept. Hard.

And then there were my kids to hug, puppy kisses to fight off, stories about their weekend to hear, messes to clean up, life to get back on track, and all that brilliance has been pushed into some shadowy recess of my brain, awaiting a quiet moment to emerge.

Of course it’ll have to wait. This morning I’m having a preventative breast MRI, then the puppy needs to go to the groomer, I need to take the kids to apply for passports, three days of emails to answer, oh, and I have to figure out how to get my Passover cake out of the mold it seems to be really attached to. Thinking that singing Let it Go! at the top of my lungs isn’t going to cut it.

If there is one thing I am taking away from this weekend, one thing I don’t need quiet to process, it’s that I need to re-prioritize my days. I need to make space for the words. Because at the end of the day, without the words I have nothing, nothing I’m proud to call my own, and that pride was the highlight of my weekend, one I’m not ever going to be ready to give up.

There was a time I loved going to BlogHer

standard July 25, 2013 5 responses

A year ago I saw the Facebook posts and tweets about BlogHer scroll by and felt nothing but overwhelming relief. I was so glad to be here, at my desk, in my pajamas, not worrying about sessions or getting dressed up or going out and meeting people. I was glad to not have to deal with organizing care for the kids, or being away, or any of the stress that goes with heading out of town without the family. I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be here.

BlogHer the year before had caused one long week of angst and stress and I think I was still scarred.

This year things are different.

The pre-conference events have begun and the posts and tweets have started scrolling again, and instead of relief, I’m feeling mild angst and remorse.

There was a time I loved going to BlogHer. A time I couldn’t wait to hop off the plane to hug my long distance friends. A time I was thrilled to peruse the schedule of events, to decide what sessions I’d attend, to make plans for lunch, drinks, or dinners with new and old friends.

Today I wish I were there to hug the people I know have already arrived in Chicago. I’m feeling pangs of jealousy as I see photos of friends gathering without me. We all live scattered across the country, across the globe even, and there are so few occasions for us to hug, talk, see each other in person.

Yes, BlogHer is overwhelming and intense, but these are people I love, people I value. These are the people who inherently understand what it is to be a blogger, to work in social media. I can be myself with them in a way that I can’t with the people I know in my day to day life. There is a certain comfort to being around other bloggers, a sense of belonging I don’t feel anywhere else.

The remorse over not being there comes from an obvious place. So, why the angst?

Well, I think it boils down to this. There was a time when people would ask me what I did for a living and I’d know exactly what to answer. These days I have no clue what to say.

This is usually what comes out: I’m ah…. a blogger, who dabbles in social media consulting and blogger outreach for various companies, oh yeah, and I have a novel coming out this winter. The confusion in my answer is almost always mirrored on the face of the person asking.

I just don’t know who I am any more.

I used to blog daily. It was an intrinsic part of my day and my life. Now it’s miraculous if I post four times a month.

I used to run a thriving digital media agency with three close friends. Now instead of pursuing clients, we take just what comes our way, and precious little comes our way. (Not that we aren’t grateful for what does!)

The book stuff is real. The consulting stuff is real. It’s what fills the parts of my days that aren’t focused on the kids. But it’s not the stuff that makes me feel like I fit in at events like BlogHer.

Two years ago I had trouble letting go of what was going on at home and immersing myself in the BlogHer experience. I felt apart. Like I didn’t really belong in the crowd of happy, excited conference attendees. This year I feel like I would have felt just as apart, but for a different reason.

I have a blog, but I don’t think of myself as a blogger any more. And while I know for a fact that I’m far from being the only person who feels this way, I worry that it would have really impacted my experience at the conference.

It feels like there’s a natural lifecycle to the life of a blogger. BlogHer and other conferences cater to those in the earlier part of the cycle. Being around those people makes me feel… old. It makes me feel tired. I am envious of their excitement and energy, but at the same time sadly jaded about the entire process. I know. I’m pathetic.

So instead of stepping off a plane with a suitcase loaded with cute dresses and shoes, I’m home, at my computer, in my pajamas. In a minute I’m going to drag my kids to the YMCA so I can work out some of this angsty feeling. Then I’m going to come home and try to remember the great story idea that came to me last week. And I’ll try not to be too envious when I see photos of my friends hugging and laughing in a place I once felt I belonged.

What’s on your life list?

standard August 10, 2012 3 responses

“What makes you happy?”

That was the question Karen Walrond, leader of the EVO’12 conference session on creating your life path and blogger/photographer extraordinaire, opened with that afternoon.

Blank faces stared back at hers while the thought “tea, tea makes me happy.” swam through my head.

“Don’t let your inner gremlin tell you it’s dumb. Just make a list of anything you do that brings you joy.”

So we did.

Obviously my list was topped with “drinking tea,” but it ran on and on for four pages beyond that, with items ranging from “making my friends laugh,” to “getting into a well made bed.” As the list grew the well of gratitude in me deepened. So many of the things that fill me with joy abound in my life. Simply taking stock like that reminded me of just how good I have it and how powerful it can be to just take note once in a while.

The session progressed, leading us from the catalog of joy to the categorizing of these things and eventually to the creation of another list, our life list, or rather, as Karen suggested, our Life Menu.

“Think of it like you would a restaurant menu. Much might sound tasty, but you wouldn’t eat all of it.”

All of a sudden the heavy responsibility and seriousness of a creating a life list was gone.

This list wouldn’t be a list of things we had to do, just a list of things we wanted to do, something to give us inspiration as we went about the day to day living of our lives.

“Make sure you put things you love to do on that list,” Karen suggested. “Put easy things too, so it doesn’t seem insurmountable.”

My pen flew over the page, writing things that surprised me, things that delighted me. Some items gave me mild twinges of anxiety, others were filled with longing, pure and simple.

This is no bucket list, no 40 by 40 list, it’s just a suggestion list for those days when you feel like life will forever be predictable, when you start to wonder how and why you should keep pushing on.

It’s a list for the things you know will make your heart beat a bit faster, that you know will push you, challenge you. A list for the forging of memories.

I haven’t yet finished creating my list. Halfway through I got sidetracked by another conference attendee and got drawn into a great conversation. But it’s ok, the list isn’t something static that needs to be completed in one sitting, it’s something that will grow and evolve with me as I keep embracing living life to its fullest extent.