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?

 

Meet the Crew

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well then . . . . I contradict myself;
I am large . . . . I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman (from Song of Myself)

hearts by Heleen - Dutch Colours/ Dutch SistersIt’s blog spring cleaning time again and all of my selves are enjoying the process of renewal. Everything, everything is made easier by my decision to craft my life around how I want to feel.

My editor brain is enjoying the quest for clarity; the re-writing, the deleting, the cutting, pasting and re-ordering of my narrative.

The life coach in me is enjoying the big questions: Who am I? How do I serve? What do I want to share? With whom? Why? How? Where do I want to go? How do I plan to get there?

The lingust and language teacher are evangelists for connection, for learning and sharing.

The translator instinctively understands – lives and breathes – the concepts of heart connection, vibrant expression, authenticity… the filtering of essence and soul. (Perfectionism? Anxiety about getting things ‘right’ before they’re made public? Part of the territory.)

The homelife coach shares those obsessions, but she applies them to the notion of homes as sanctuaries, galleries, gathering places, life-museums: her realm is the relationship between function and form, the balance between simplicity and warmth in the shared spaces, between serenity and cosiness. Am I living my life by design? What am I holding on to? Why? What does it say about me? These are her questions. She loves letting things go to make room for what matters most. She’s the one who HATES the clunky, stuck, cluttery, unfixable bits of her blog and so spends hours learning CSS and HTML and searching for that perfect – but elusive – free WordPress theme, the one that’ll pull everything together.

The homemaker – mother and wife? She wants to create a home where folk are loved, cherished, supported, championed, heard… She curates, treasures connection and is always available.

The daughter? Exhausted. Caring for a ninety year old father is an honour, a hymn of gratitude and also, sometimes, a challenge; she often has to press the blogging OFF switch.

The writer? Ah, well, she has the easiest role; as long as she can be authentic, everything’s fuel.

The songwriter, lover of music and poetry? Desperate to share her favourite music, lyrics and poems but frustrated by copyright laws and technology.

The poet? Waiting. She doesn’t mind; she just keeps soaking it all in and taking notes.

The painter? Also waiting, but resenting that blogging takes her away from days spent inspired, immersed in colour, details and texture, watching something recreate itself in paint. I suspect she also plays a major role in the longing to log off.

The crocheter? Couldn’t care less about blogging; she’ll post pictures of colourful blankets someday, but she comes to life when the laptop clicks shut.

The quotehunter? The reader? Longing to share everything, but biding their time, reading… filtering… building up to that moment when the jug overflows… they’ve gathered thousands of quotes to share, but ah…the filing and sorting is a chore.

So that’s a few of my me’s, but enough to illustrate my complex relationship with blogging.

How many you’s make their way into your blog? Do you ever feel like you have multiple blogging personality disorder? Which of my blogging selves do you resonate with most?

In my clearing out today, I found this version of my very first post, published in 2008 on a simple wee practice blog before I  launched properly. My decision to keep it got me wondering why, so I decided not to bin it. I still visit craft blogs for pleasure, and it seems I still have the same blogging values as I did back then.

Autumn Hearts

I love unique blogs full of exuberance, creativity and pure authentic passion. Blogs that feel like snack food for the soul. Blogs that don’t make me feel like my only purpose as a reader is to bump up the numbers at a vampire fest. I logged on today to learn from some of the world’s top pro-bloggers and ended up feeling like the poster child for how not to blog. A few of my crimes?

  • I use the word ‘I’ more than ‘you’.
  • I write about myself, my home and my family – one blogger called this “egocentritis”.
  • My favoured format isn’t daily How To… lists or Top 10 anythings.
  • My posts are so long they’d land me in blogging jail if there was such a place.
  • Even my short posts aren’t easily scannable by folk who like to whizz through dozens of posts a day.
  • My post titles aren’t written with search engines in mind.
  • I still think of you as a reader, not ‘traffic’ that needs to be ‘driven’ somewhere.
  • I haven’t stuck to one niche.

That’s why I was delighted to come across today’s Daily Mmmm… while I was doing what I call synchronicitous surfing, letting my natural curiosity take me from one link to another for the length of time it takes to drink a coffee.

A couple of curious clicks led me to a Dutch blog by a stay at home mum and part time teacher who makes little works of art, creative pieces rich in colour and detail. I love hand-made craft items that take time and love to create; in much the same way, I enjoy blog entries that aren’t just dashed off to feed the insatiable hunger of the search engines.autumn-hearts

I smiled when I came across these wee hearts; they warmed mine on a cold autumn day full of low self-esteem, self-doubt and ranting frustration. I wrote to the artist and asked her for permission to use this photo; she replied, in English, within minutes and her warm, appreciative response made my day.

Dutch colours: hearts | Dutch Sisters

Brave Authenticity

0901130011I read an article today about the SEO value of paring down categories and cleaning out archives. (February would seem to be my favourite month for clutter clearing – I’ve already shredded the contents of five photo albums in the last few days!) Fired up and ready to start culling and consolidating, I started off with posts in the AUTHENTICITY category.

At the end of an ancient ‘patchwork post’ from 2009, I found a list of some of my favourite authenticity quotes. As a cluster, they were a prescient glimpse of the blogging journey that lay ahead of me, and I smiled to myself, realising that my blog has always been a quiet manifesto for brave authenticity, one where even my absences and frequent jeremiads about ‘deciduous blogging’ have their place; many of us need periods away from the internet to replenish our spirits and reconnect to the real world.

Finding these words of wisdom today reminded me, too, of how much I feel at home when I’m quote-hunting, that simple, deliberate act of having a pen and notebook to hand when I read; I love the synchronicity of it, the filtering, the distilling and the sharing of other people’s gems and journeys.

Just rediscovering these quotes has thrown up ideas for new posts to write, old posts to revisit and an old manuscript that’s been haunting me… Do any of them resonate with you?

What we are really looking for is a sense of the real and an experience of true significance, true meaning. That can only come from one source. Deep down inside, every human being hears the echo of the experience of unity and wants it back. So we live our whole lives with only a vague sense of what it is we want but with the absolute knowledge that we had it once and it’s possible to have it again if only we knew how. ~ Sarah Susanka

The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is insincerity. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

If  I choose to ignore myself when I am in desperate need of my own attention, I will resent those I have deemed more important than me. Even though I might spend the day trying to be happy and pleasant, underneath I will feel depleted because I have made a choice that has depleted me. ~ Debbie Ford

Instead of trying to hide the emotional refuse that is festering with rot, bring it to light and stick it in the compost bin to be transformed into useful fertiliser that will grow your future better self. ~ Kathryn L.Robyn and Dawn Ritchie

When you are adrift from your core, the space between your surface and your depth fills up with anxiety. Too much time away from your inner home leads to homesickness. ~ Carrie McCarthy and Danielle La Porte

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

In order not to cheat yourself, you have to make writing a high priority. You have to make it very nearly sacred. But you have to live the rest of your life. too; you have to allow room for all that makes you you, for all that feeds you. In my mind, being more than a writer means you’re more of a writer. ~ Elizabeth Berg

We are not powerless specks of dust drifting around in the wind, blown by random destiny. We are, each of us, like beautiful snowflakes –  unique, born for a specific reason and purpose. ~ Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

When you do not seek or need external approval, you are at your most powerful. Nobody can disempower you emotionally or psychologically…You cannot live for prolonged periods of time within the polarity of being true to yourself and needing the approval of others. ~ Caroline Myss