A Lyrical Leave-taking

Back in 2009, I set up my blog using the Thesis theme; it was a trailblazer in its day, allowing non-programmers like me (and many others who visit/ed my blog) a lot of built-in flexibility and control. For years I tweaked it as much as my limited skills would allow, but when you hit the wall with Thesis, you really hit the wall. Last year, I spent more time delving into CSS – changing layouts, fonts, and colours and trying to make Thesis responsive – than I did writing.

Which is daft.

But then I asked myself Why? and that was really smart. I realised that the feel of my blog has always been important to me; creative self-expression, does, after all, sit quite comfortably at the heart of personal blogging. We all evolve and recalibrate as we get older, reaffirming our values and letting go of what doesn’t serve us any more and it’s been happening as much here as anywhere else.

I’m old school; my blog’s not just a place to showcase things that make me go mmm… It’s my online home, and as such, a place that needs to feel cosy and welcoming, yet reasonably light and airy and uncluttered, like my real home. I need it to be functional and responsive but – and here’s the Aha! moment I had last year – it doesn’t have to be toned-down, like the home I currently share with my husband, teenage son and daughter who don’t share my craving for colour. (My longing for a patchwork, floral-patterned, vibrant, multi-coloured sofa recently met with horror.)

After years of deciduous blogging and jeremiads, it stuns me that I still have visitors, but now that my blog is kitchen table intimate at best, a boarded-up ghost town saloon at worst, I decided to change the theme to reflect how I’ve changed as a person.

Sharing the Journey started off as a bustling wee online bistro; I wanted to fill it with music, photos, writing, film clips, quotes, and above all, community. I wanted to be a barista who knew everyone’s names and stories. People used to drop in, write comments as long as posts and even chat with each other in the comments boxes when I wasn’t there. I didn’t fully realise at the time how blessed I was with the quality and quantity of visitors I had here and discovered recently that 2009 was considered to be a noteworthy year for personal blogging, especially blogs written by women.

My tagline used to be Soulfood and Support for Coaches, Writers and Homemakers. It showed up in Google and was emblazened across my header tulips. For a while that’s what my blog offered – and Thesis made sure I had lots of search engine traffic – but it’s hard to be supportive of anyone when you’re not even posting! The new tagline, on the surface, is a better description of what the blog has become, a synaesthetic memory scrapbook…

…a lyrical album of moments

I’ve always enjoyed capturing, exploring and sharing those fleeting, intense moments when presence and learning align, when inspiration flits in and life overflows, but my decision to warn readers of impending lyricism may raise some eyebrows. Lots of folk are repelled by lyricism, but I’m tired of being ashamed of my lyrical tendencies; to be honest, the layers of meaning in the word lyrical actually seem like qualities a blogger should feel no shame in aspiring to:

1. (of literature, art, or music) expressing the writer’s emotions in an imaginative and beautiful way.
synonyms: songlike, lyric, melodic, musical, melodious, rhapsodic, poetic; expressive, emotional, deeply felt, personal, subjective, passionate

I decided to keep my tulips – they always make my heart sing – but this time, I’ve used a photo that includes one of my favourite jugs. Jugs are very symbolic for me; it’s how I write. Life simply fills the jug and overflows. I gave the photo ripped paper effect edges and used a typewriter font for the title because my blog’s curated itself into an old fashioned memory scrapbook.

I spent weeks, probably months, swinging between four or five free themes I like. The others were clean, simple and minimalist – which I love – and one was very easy to customise, but I finally decided to activate the one you’re seeing now (horribly named Lovebirds) because I find it quite gentle and unassuming and it doesn’t rely on fantastic photography to bring it to life.

Just after my last post, we had a death in the family that’s led to tragic knock on effects like dominos falling in a line. When I logged on last week, after yet another lengthy cyber-hibernation, I was glad I’d tweaked this theme to remind me of spring, flowers and new beginnings.

It’s been a season of letting go: I’ve been able, finally, to let go of Thesis, of the dreams I once had for my blog and of the sadness I used to feel scrolling through the archives.

I have fun experimenting with new themes and will probably ‘redecorate’ again, but what you’re seeing now is a victory in my struggle with anxiety and perfectionism. There’s still a lot of theme-tweaking I want to do – evolution is what keeps us creative, alive and human, after all – but I’ve decided it’s better for me to focus on tweaking one theme rather than five.

And what’s even better still? Writing again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~X~~~

How often do you change the appearance of your website, if at all? If you do change it, what criteria do you use? How concerned are you by the functionality and feel of other folks’ blogs?

 

12 thoughts on “A Lyrical Leave-taking

  1. Hi Janice – you’re on my list to contact .. and probably would have if not for a cold and thus frotsville weekend! So thank goodness you popped up now .. I’ll be back tomorrow to reply in more detail – but it’s excellent to see you here … that’s great .. cheers Hilary

    • Hi Janice – you’ve always been a brilliant communicator, able to bore down and realise what others are nattering on about … I so admire that. It’s good to see you here once again – last year was not easy for you … and as a mother, wife, daughter, sister etc your life was stretched … I’m glad you took time off to re-calibrate somewhat.

      This new look is very clear and easy on the eye … “a lyrical album of moments …” is an excellent title .. but I’ve always loved your jug with its flower surrounds .. it brings my mother back into my memory bank of spring flowers and the jugs I used for those.

      Yes some blogs I really struggle with – I wonder if their personality is like their blog – and I must do something with mine …

      Cheers for now .. and am delighted you’re back – Hilary
      Hilary recently posted…West Country Tour … Ilfracombe … part 12 …My Profile

      • Thanks, Hilary. Good to see you! Thanks, too, for sticking with me and my semi dormant blog all these years. Seventh year now. It’s been a year of constant recalibration and will continue to be while everyone in the family goes through their own personal grief cycles and my dad gets keeps getting older… 91 now.

        I’m glad you mentioned the ‘easy on the eye’ factor. That was my husband’s first impression and exact phrase when I showed him this theme after I first tweaked it. One of the really clean themes I mentioned is monochrome and doesn’t even have a header image; I was SO tempted, but in the end, I wasn’t quite ready to give up my tulips and a bit of colour.

        Don’t rush into doing anything with yours until you’re sure. People love the familiarity of favourite blogs – they get used to them, like someone’s living room full of interesting, eclectic bits that are a mosaic of the person whose home it is. I’m like that when folk change their gravatars, too. I’d miss your hat… and Sara’s sunglasses heart. Have you heard from Sara at all?

  2. Lovely reading your thoughts again, Janice. I think your new layout looks great. Like you, I’m getting tired of the visual and mental busyness things online.

    I’m sorry to hear about the death in your family.

    • Thanks Barbra. I definitely am a maximiser when it comes to blog themes. There are so many out there that I drool over, but I’m content with this one for now. No point in feeling frustrated by my lack of computing and design skills. I haven’t deleted the other three minimalist themes from my live view section, so I can still enjoy playing with them when I get the urge to practise CSS. They might even make an appearance at some point, along with my discarded taglines and header quotes. Sorry I didn’t catch your Twitter message; the alerts go to the email address I use for newsletters etc and I haven’t been near it for months.

  3. Hi Janice
    We seem to have had a similar experience with Thesis!! I use it for The Quiet Entrepreneur (although I’m thinking of changing…) but I chose a simple free theme for my personal blog.
    I absolutely LOVE your new tagline “a lyrical album of moments” – I think it describes your blog perfectly, and it does give you free rein to add colour, sound and whatever else you fancy!
    Like you, I had had a hiatus in my blogging, for about a year – then last year I pretty much just posted photographs and videos. This year, I feel ready to write again – although perhaps it’s a little too early to say that…!
    Looking forward to our continued connection in the blogosphere. 🙂
    Julia Barnickle recently posted…New Year Reflections – Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, LondonMy Profile

    • Having loved your latest post, I’d say go ahead and write! Though, to be honest, most photographers I know are writing poetry with their photos anyway.

      If you want to keep Thesis over at your other blog – I do miss the keywords and SEO etc – there’s a lot a good designer can do with the Thesis Classic skin. I love many of the blogs designed by Allie over at http://www.Alliecreative.com and she’s used Thesis a lot in the past.

      I’m glad you like the new tagline – I agonised! So many quotes I love, so many ways to describe who I am and what I do. What clinched it was deciding to describe what the blog is.

  4. Congratulations, Janice, and welcome back to my eyes/heart/thoughts! Victories are great to celebrate! I join and appreciate your transparency about loving/losing/grieving your previous blog, before creating and sharing latest. (Anxiety and perfectionism sure know how to couple, I know from my own life!) I too continue with challenging stuff and joyful ‘births’, which you sum up so well: “evolution is what keeps us creative, alive and human, after all”!

    • Hi Connie – good to see you back! Let me know if there’s any way of helping with the challenging stuff.

      You were there, right at the very start of my blogging adventure, so you know how ridiculously obsessive I am about details, how much pleasure I get from the wee things that go right and how the snags niggle and nag me. This theme’s pleasant, and it’s been really useful getting feedback on it from friends who agree it’s fresh, simple and easy on the eye, but it doesn’t make my heart sing when I log on like my tulip banner used to, nor does it give me the thrill of an empty airmail notepad like some of my discarded minimalist choices did.

      Over here in the UK, there was a lottery jackpot of over £30 million a few weeks ago and my husband and I had fun speculating about what we’d do with the winnings. It was very revealing that one of the things I’d do would be to hire a personal website and brand designer! I’d also create two homes: one, a home by the sea with sun bleached wood, shells and driftwood; the other a vibrant, eclectic, colourful city apartment. I need two blogs, methinks. 😉

  5. Janice,

    Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been traveling in the blogosphere. I love the new theme and it’s nice to catch up with you, but I am sorry for the death in your family. That can take time to recover from, but what I read in this post, you sound good and happy!!! YEAH.

    I love the tulips and the jug. I’m glad you kept the flowers and added something else. I miss Thesis very much. Every time WordPress does an update, my site seems to change. The text gets smaller and smaller, but I been writing online lately. I’m hoping to come back slowly. I’ve missed the conversations and reading the posts of other people. There’s always something I take away from every post I read.

    So, while I’m late to this post, I’m really glad you’re starting to write again!

    • Hi, Sara – lovely to have you back! I hope to see your comments and posts popping up all over the place again soon. I am feeling very positive, more like my old self. It’s like the universe dumped me in the washer dryer a few years ago and I’ve stopped spinning and come out shrunk and faded and a completely different shape, but clean, comfy and ready to get back out there.

      Your Thesis theme was lovely and I completely empathise with your loss and the frustrations around your new site. I keep looking for all the Thesis dashboard SEO extras we used to have, like keywords and meta data thingies. I’m in the position, as of last week, where I can’t update my new theme because I didn’t create a child theme before I made all the tweaks and changes to the CSS. Daft, I know, but I got excited and carried away. Now, if I update my theme, I’ll be right back where I started – but OH how I’m not looking forward to having to learn how to create a child theme. 🙁 If I were you and had a good coder, I’d investigate getting the Thesis Classic Responsive theme. I just didn’t want to risk doing it myself.

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