Not Responding

It’s been one of those weeks.

My Monday inspired this tweet…

Tweet

…and by Friday, it’s looking like mental health takes more than a day.

I had today’s post all planned out – at least in my head.  I was going to regale you with stories of cute furry animals, and a list of excuses reasons why I haven’t made it to your posts this week.

But last night, during an unusually last minute attempt to get the post ready, my Internet Service Provider decided it was time to have an outage.

I woke up this morning to find the three little videos I was trying to upload to YouTube were still at 1%.  And everything was down.

Not responding

The only thing I had left was email access on my very old Nokia :(

I’m yet to decide if this is the universe’s way of teaching me a lesson in procrastination.  Or if it is trying to tell me that it’s time to get an iPhone…

I’ve been putting off getting an iPhone, so maybe it’s a lesson in both?

The thing is, I’m scared.

Just the other day I went out for afternoon tea, and except for kitchen clatter, the place was silent.  Filled with people sitting together at tables, glued to their iPhones!

Then I read the first of Nina Badzin’s iPhone intervention series, “Help! My iPhone Has Taken Over My Life” – and I was less than reassured.

The thing is, I already have difficulty staying present in my real life.

At least, that’s what I think Monday’s boiled egg explosion proves…

Egg

Hmm, I wonder, is being more connected really what I need right now?

This could be the dilemma of the century.  So I’m turning to you for answers.

Is it time to upgrade my phone?  Will I ever be able to disconnect again?  How do you people do it???

Faking It for Real

My favourite thing about going to the hairdresser is reading my stars.  I usually try to act cool, and flick through the rest of the magazine first, but really all I want to do is navel gaze a while.

Mirror of Venus

The Mirror of Venus (Edward Burne-Jones)

So when a post promises to ‘Type’ my blog personality at the click of a button, it’s hard to resist.

If you haven’t heard of it already, check out Susie Lindau’s post, where she explains all about the research, the creator, and where you go to find out your ‘Type’.

When I first keyed in my web address and pressed ‘Typealyze’, it came out with ‘Inspirer’.

I’ll admit, that sounded nice.  Not that I set out on my blog to be an Inspirer – I had no idea what my purpose should be when I started blogging.

But as I read through the profile, I started having this uneasy feeling it was describing someone else.

In real life, I have to tell you, I’m not all that inspiring.  I’m mostly quiet and dishevelled and roaming about the house wondering, “Why do I ask why?”.

Until recently, my whole reason for being was “Expect the worst, and you’re never disappointed…”

Yeah.  That’s inspiring.

So a couple of days later I went back to Typealyze myself again.  Incidentally, it was after last week’s performance anxiety post.

For some reason, it decided I’m now a ‘Performer’!

Wow.  That was easy.

The thing is, the last time I did anything close to perform was when I was about five years old.

My sister had this bright idea to dress me up in an angel costume and make me perform at the local Christmas carols.

For extra cuteness, I would sing “Away in a Manger“, accompanied by big sis on the piano.

All I remember is a sea of faces.  Missing the cue to the start of the song.  Twice.  And then somehow quivering my way through the rest of it until I could run away off stage – a perfectly fine carol now dead to me.

Nope.  I’m definitely not a performer.

cupid-at-the-masked-ball

Cupid at The Masked Ball (Franz Stuck)

But the whole exercise reminds me of an issue raised in Coleen Patrick’s recent post on blog optimism.

As bloggers, we have the privilege of controlling what people do and don’t see about us.  We project an image of ourselves – is it really us, or are we just a bunch of posers spouting empty words?

Sometimes I feel like I’m faking it.  I strive to inspire when I feel anything but inspired myself.  And that’s when I realise something.

From the start of each week to the end when I put out my next post, I’m just a little bit different than I was the week before.

Maybe we have to fake it a little bit, to make it real.

Maybe it’s not even about what’s real or what isn’t.

Maybe this is just us – on the way to being who we want to be.

How much of you is in your Avatar?  Do you sometimes feel you’re faking it?  Does it even matter?

The Circle of Change

As America celebrates Thanksgiving, I can’t help but reflect from the Antipodes the way in which the blogosphere is changing us.

The moment we arrive in this brave new blogging world, the landscape is vast and unfamiliar.  There’s so much to see, so much to read, where do we hope to begin?

Yet, as we sit there, staring into cyberspace, someone takes us by the Avatar and bids us, “Don’t be Lost!”  They welcome us to Twitter, and their sacred Facebook spaces, and pretty soon we find we’re on the inside, looking out.

This place is home.  And our family is diverse.

There are women who explode into our living room – worlds apart and, yet, singing the same tune.

There are men, so kind and brave in their humility, searching for their place on this unravelling path.

There are boys who beam at you from their corner of the globe.  Others who paint moonbeams in the sky.

There are those we cry with, and others we get high with.

And then there are those precious souls who, despite their own tragedy (or perhaps because of it), are always seeking ways to make us smile.  Again.

This is just some fantasy.  It’s not real – they say.

But at the blink of a button, someone close bids us farewell.  And we know that they are more than just an Avatar.  They are people who reached through their world and touched ours.  Uplifted and changed us.  Made us strive for better than we are.

This is real.

This is the stuff they don’t teach you in writing school.

This is the ancients, who by moonlight wrote their futures in the stars.

It all starts with a dream.  And you know that dream is real when it brings you back in touch with people from your past who say, “So glad I found you here”.

But where is here?  It is everywhere and nowhere.  It’s a place where what we have in common is greater than our individual parts.  It’s one looking glass, with a million different points of view.

This place has changed me.  YOU have changed me.

I was that person, at a dinner party, who’d take a breath to say something, and find the moment missed.  Spend the rest of the night clutching my drink and watching other people’s mouths move.

I didn’t believe in the goodness of people or the universe.  Almost never accepted a gift or a compliment.  Even less knew how to say Thanks.

Maybe I’m less afraid to make my voice heard these days.  Or maybe people are listening more.  I don’t know.  But one thing’s for certain – things are different now.

Now I can speak.  Now I have faith.  Now I believe in the principles of give and take.

So today, I’m giving thanks to each of you…

For listening, for sharing, for daring to dream.  And, most of all, for being the change.

Has blogging changed your world?  How?  Or is this just some wild fantasy?

This Filly Needs Her Downtime!

Spring Racing Carnival season is upon us here in Melbourne.  That time of year when we are reminded of Australia’s love affair with horses.

For those of you who don’t know, the first Tuesday in November is Melbourne Cup Day, the day of the race that stops the nation.  This is followed by Oakes Day for the ladies (also known as Blokes Day for reasons I won’t explain) on the Thursday after.

If you’re like me, this simply means the first public holiday since June (yay!!), and the nationally embarrassing cocktail of women, champagne and high heels.

The first time I made a bet on a horse, the name Jezabeel caught my attention for all the wrong reasons.  I won seventy dollars, which was immediately blown on several rounds of drinks.  I’m not sure what happened after that.

Since then, I’ve gone off betting – not just because of the pointlessness of Cup Day hangovers, but because of the uneasy feeling I get every time a horse is shot for broken limbs.

Of course, this immediately labels me completely un-Ostralyin, for which I can only be entirely unapologetic.

But the surprise is when a piece of information actually sticks.

A few months ago I caught a news item about the latest Australian favourite mare, Black Caviar.

As the trainer fervently explained the challenges of international travel and her exercise regime, he almost gave a plea, “People always come up to her and want to pet her and say hi and all that – but sometimes they just got to understand, she needs her downtime!”

It’s a theme we all know well, yet struggle to put into practice: to be productive, we need rest.

On Tuesday, when I cast a glance over this year’s Cup Day contenders, I was surprised to see Black Caviar not listed.  What happened?  Didn’t she get enough rest?

That’s when Andrew Hawkins taught me a crucial lesson in Racing 101: the difference between a sprinter and a stayer.

Black Caviar is a sprinter, competing at distances of less than 1,400 metres, whereas the Melbourne Cup is a 3,200 metre race.

Suddenly, it all makes sense…

All I can say is, if Black Caviar needs her downtime, then how much more the stayers in the game?

So this is the part where I acknowledge I’m way overdue in my giving out of blog love.

There are wonderful posts to share, supporters to be thanked, gift cards to be written, books to recommend and blog posts to be read.  And while I’m at it, some conversations I would love to have with all of you.

If you’ve noticed my game slipping, I can only say one thing:

This Filly needs her downtime, too!

With the Hello Pepi launch coming up next week, I am anticipating a return to sanity and blog love soon.

Until then, I hope you will bear with me, and know – I’m with you for the long haul, not the sprint!

What kind of filly (or colt) are you?  A sprinter, a stayer, or a different kind of player? ;)  Ever been inclined to bet, and did you win or lose?

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Credit for images is as follows:

Spring Carnival Ad courtesy Five Starr Photos
Race by Andrew Jabs courtesy stock.xchng
Horse and Girl by Belovodchenko Anton courtesy stock.xchng

Give-ourselves-a-break Week

This week I’ve noticed a strange phenomenon going on in the blogosphere.  It seems like everyone’s gone into some sort of meltdown at the same time.

Either that, or everyone’s in a perpetual state of meltdown, and getting brave enough to talk about it.

The posts I read were illuminating.

First there was 4amWriter (who does, impressively, get up at 4am to write).  She did an analysis of her time spent Blogging vs Writing and the results were – astounding.

Let’s just say, it’s more than the average 21 hours most Aussies spend on-line in one week.

I encourage you to check out her blog, because in it are some great links to other posts and related conversations about blogging habits.

Most notable (and I hope she won’t mind my linking to this one) is a post by jmmcdowell that includes a live poll on how we follow blogs.  Did you know most people follow between 100 and 200 blogs?  I didn’t (though I am getting close to the 100 mark).

Right after I read these two posts, I saw another one by onethousandsingledays.  In I’m not a jerk, but I am sorry, she discusses the issue of life, balance and replying to blog comments.

There are other comments I’ve received, tweets I’ve read, and probably a hundred other posts I haven’t read, discussing a similar theme:

How to honour our followers
while also honouring our real life loves and occupations.

There’s no easy answer to that.  Everyone has different expectations and reasons for being here.  There are also numerous (and sometimes conflicting) rules out there about what one should and should not do.

I devoured those rules when I first started blogging.  Rules are useful – they help point me in the right direction when I haven’t got a clue.  They also (hopefully) stop me from making a complete nincompoop out of myself.

But here’s the thing:

Too many rules does not a happy blogger make.

Maybe it’s just me, but I start having what are affectionately referred to as ‘Alarna Dramas’.  I get paranoid, and wonder if maybe I did something that upset someone and maybe that is why I haven’t heard from them in, like, two weeks?

I’m no different than anyone else out there when it comes to a borderline blogging addiction.

I mean, who doesn’t feel a rush every time they log in to WordPress and see the little orange speech bubble gleaming in the corner?  Not to mention gloom when the bubble’s STILL a shade of grey.

But then I think back to those days, before blogging, when the Inbox was empty and the phone didn’t ring and nobody visited unless they were invited and I ask myself some simple questions…

  • How many meaningful real life friendships do I actually have?
  • How long do they usually last?
  • How often do I hear from them once a month, let alone once a week (and vice-versa)?
  • Is the conversation always equally two-sided?
  • Is the conversation always interesting?

When I compare that to the quality and level of weekly online engagement I’m expecting myself, and others, to adhere to, suddenly the rules fall away and I am just eternally grateful for anyone who ever bothers to come by, let alone RETURN…

So, in honour of all the faithful and not-so-faithful bloggers out there, I say, let’s give ourselves a break.

It’s like this tweet I fell in love with yesterday:

Presumably, there’s no one holding a big stick over our heads making us blog our hearts out, right?

Let’s do what’s meaningful for us, and let the natural laws of physics do their thing.

Life’s too short.  At least that’s my thought on the matter.  How about you?

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Credit for images is as follows:

Emotiguy by farconville, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Signposts by jannoon028, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Friends by digitalart, courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Welcome to my Rock

This post marks the end of my twelfth week in blogosphere – which means, in job terms, I’ve just passed my probation.  Yay!!!

You’d think by now I’d have some idea what it is I’m doing, but a couple of weeks ago, one question pulled me up short:

Why do you blog?

I’m very thankful to Jenny Hansen for posing this question in her post Does Blogging Jack Up Your Schedule? because (as her blog promises to do) it demanded MORE from me.

In my travels so far, I’ve found almost as many approaches to blogging as there are people in the world.

For some, it’s a means of meeting and keeping in touch with friends, a public form of ‘diary’, or a place to heal and figure out your thoughts.

For others, it’s a highly professional gig.

If you’re like me, you’re here because you finally realized that living under a rock is no longer an option for writers in the 21st century :(

Until I read Jenny’s post, I thought that was enough – except for the one small problem of it having robbed me of my Quiet.

For example, this is what I actually wrote the week I posted An Island in a Sea of Words:

I was whining explaining to my most important person that I had lost my Quiet.

Helpfully, she told me how I if I don’t learn to Logout.  Shutdown.  Exit the program. I will drive everyone insane.  Including me.  This is not sustainable.  She says.

“But that’s just it.  It’s not like I don’t know that!” I squeal, hands in the air.

“It’s like my brain is fighting with itself.  On one hand it’s like – You have to interact – and the other side is saying – You can’t keep doing this – and then I’m like – But look at all those tweets – and then it’s like – What about your writing? – and them I’m all – You haven’t read their blog posts…And next thing I’m staring at the screen and

…I am Not Responding anymore!”

By this time she is pissing herself laughing at the monster She unleashed…

Clearly, I was in need of help.

In my quest to manage this thing called a ‘Social Media Platform’, I’ve consulted some incredibly generous souls for their advice:

Anne R. Allen is an advocate of Slow Blogging.  For a variety of illuminating reasons, she promotes quality-over-quantity, which for her means blogging once a week or less.

Amber West has a refreshingly principle-over-rule approach.  Her ‘You’ve Got Questions’ series answered a lot of mine, including the big one, Do Writers Need to Blog? and a fantastic overview on Everything Twitter.

Nina Badzin is the go-to-girl for detailed Twitter tips.  This includes how to organize Twitter so you don’t go insane, as well as solid tips on how to avoid driving other people insane.  She also defends those of us with Facebook lurking tendancies! ;)

Pooky shares a succinct and sincere approach to social media.  She reminded me that the point is interaction.  After all, who has time with 5000+ followers, to send a personal tweet notifying you they’ve replied to your comment on their blog?  Well, she did, and for that I am immensely appreciative.

Suzannah Windsor Freeman tops it off with help for burnt-out bloggers.  A fellow lover of small things (including tea cup chi’s and elves), she encourages us newbies to enjoy the benefits of having a small audience.  She doesn’t need to tell me twice…

It became clear to me, from all the good advice, that the question of what to do is best answered if you know why you are doing it.

I was reminded of Mokey and her song (at 3:27 mins) from Fraggle Rock:

Sometimes I’m alone,
Sitting on my very own,
Trying to find a simple kind of clue.
And I would like to know
Why the Doozers Bloggers move me so,
Doing all the things that Doozers Bloggers do.
Why do caterpillars crawl?
Why is there a sky?
Why is there a world at all?
Why, do I ask why?

And then the answer came.

Have you ever noticed how animals won’t come near you when you’re noisy?  But sit still long enough and you get to experience a whole other kind of wild?

It’s like that with the Fraggles.  They might run away from Gorgs, but don’t be fooled – they got it goin’ on!

That’s when I realized.

Living under a rock is not the problem.  It’s failing to invite anyone else under it!

So, what can you expect from my cosy little den?

  • For now, a move from weekly to fortnightly wordy thought provoking posts (phew, relief, right?) :).
  • On alternate weeks, shorter posts about fun things Fraggles like to do – cook, chit-chat, send postcards, scamp about, sleep – I don’t know, I’ll make it up as I go along.
  • Until I have a better plan, a less-is-more approach to social media.
  • The space to Go Wild. Quietly.

Hopefully this will make me more congenial to be around for everyone concerned ;).

So – consider yourself officially invited.  And while you’re here, please tell me:

Why do you blog?  Are there any tips you care to share for all us baby bloggers?

Unleashing Your Inner Rock Chick

Australia is obsessed with The Voice at the moment, even though I think most of us were ‘no way gonna watch another damn reality talent show’.  I know it wasn’t just me – singer-songwriter Kate Miller-Heidke summed it all up in her send up of Australian Idol, ‘Career Advice‘.

Anyway, the first replay of the first episode caught me off guard, on account of the fact that the judges didn’t get to see the contestants.  Of course, that would appeal to me – it’s kind of like the difference between blogging and pitching for writers :)

The stand out is Karise Eden, who has the voice of a 40-something at the age of 19, complete with a hard-luck story to melt the most cynical of hearts.  As Seal, one of the judges, put it: “Your 50% is like everyone else’s 80%”.  All I can say is – she better win.

For me, singing is probably the highest form of art – especially singer-songwriting.  It is that sublime meld between writing and performance that gets me every time.

I was trying to explain to my brother on the phone one day how I would have liked to be a singer in an alternate universe.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “I know who you would’ve been – who’s that chick who sings and plays the piano…that’s right, Norah Jones.”

Now – nothing against Norah Jones – I have full respect for her musical talent.  But, bro, did you miss the four years of my life when I was whining about how much I hated piano lessons?

I was going for alternate universe…the kind us introverts can only fantasize about (yes, I’m talking to you…don’t think I haven’t seen you lurking here…).

I went searching for an example of who my Ultimate Alternate would be.  I typed in to Google:  Sexy Rock Chick.

Apart from all the porn sites that came up, there were a few results:

Pink.

Hmmm, maybe before she was a pop star.

Gwen Stefani.

Love her stuff, but way too blonde.

Joan Jett.

Not my era.  I mean – mullet, people, Mullet!

There were a whole bunch of others, but none seemed to fit the bill.

Then I remembered a movie I had randomly watched back in the 90’s, when I was living alone with Pepi, huddled in front of the bar heater…

Bandits, a German movie about a prison girl band whose members escape jail and somehow manage to make it on the world stage.

That’s it!  I thought.  But when I found the video, it was so NOT what I had in mind at all.  It was like Eurovision’s idea of bad chicks…way too clean.

I was coming up with nothing, and then I realized my Ultimate Alternate was not a singer at all.  Aww, but imagine if she WAS one?!

Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

It was so perfect.  I mean, she’s an introvert, who totally kicks ass, who – in an Alternate Universe (I’m pretty sure) – really would be a Sexy Rock Chick!

If you ask me, the whole Alternate fantasy is all about control.  And the desire to either have it, let go of it, or – better still – have BOTH at once!

I’ve only ever raised my voice at someone twice.  Both times involved copious amounts of alcohol.  And the words all came out slurred, which sort of defeated the purpose.

So, given that I can’t be a Lisbeth Salander SRC, I’m forced to resort to blogging…sigh…But, actually, I’m having a blast :)

The great thing about a good Alternate is that they connect us with that inner source of who we are.  The tricky part is how to get it out there.

It’s like Seal said – “You already have The Voice – it’s a question of what you’re going to do with it”.

So I’m dying to know.  Who’s your Alternate?  How do you unleash it in the here and now?

Thanks Kristen (from a WANA Wannabe)

Hello World…

I’m a writer who has only recently removed the word ‘aspiring’ from my bio, even though I don’t – yet – have a published work to my name.

It feels…SUBLIME…ly scary…

There are only two people in the world crazy enough to encourage me to do such a thing – so this first blog is for them.

Meet Kristen Lamb

Kristen came across my path about three weeks ago, when I was trying to figure out a self-publishing strategy that didn’t include social media.

Her Freshly Pressed blog, ‘Stress Less, Write More’, jumped out at me.  Within minutes, instead of breaking into a cold sweat, I was laughing and telling the Person sitting next to me what a ffflipping fabulous article I just read.

So I subscribed and went back to what I was doing.

Meet She-who-can’t-be-named

Unlike me, the Person sitting next to me has always taken my writing career seriously.

Not only did she read Kristen Lamb’s Blog, but she also clicked on the link to her best-selling book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

“…OMG…you have to buy this book immediately.”

Suddenly, between fits, She was reading aloud how, “…‘Most of us would rather have brain surgery with a KFC spork than learn about computers and social marketing’ – OMG, that’s just like you!” She laughed, “You have to buy this book immediately!”

So She bought the book and downloaded it to my Kindle, proving Kristen’s premise to be right (that I am not Alone).

Thanks to Her, I read We Are Not Alone and then Are You There, Blog?.  What a revelation…

Kristen’s advice to writers is more than just ‘how to’.  She explains the principles of writing, and of social media, in such a way that it becomes a life lesson.  A lesson in LOVE and the rules of FRIENDSHIP, so much so that, suddenly, Twitter and Facebook have meaning far beyond a status update on the colour of my navel dirt.

I’m SO relieved.

The last three weeks have turned me into a convert.  Kristen has even managed to convince me that I can do this thing called social media.  At least, now, I’m willing to give it a go.

If she can convince me, she can convince anyone.  I mean – seriously.

Since I read Kristen’s books, I’ve been doing somersaults trying to write my first blog.

The process is similar to figuring out what to say to the hairdresser for two long hours – the internal dialogue goes something like this:

Quick.  Talk about the weather – that’s always a good place to start – No, too lame – everyone knows that’s an act of desperation…..Think!  Talk about Whitney’s drug overdose – No, no entry point, it’ll look weird….There you go – she asked you what you’re doing on the weekend – But I don’t have any plans!  I mean, aside from cooking food for my demented dog. No-one wants to know about that….  There’s your writing – you’re setting up your platform this weekend – I’m not telling her I don’t have a Facebook account – she probably grew up on Facebook!  Too late.  Moment’s lost.  Just – keep quiet….Goddammit….

Time to take a deep breath.

Thankfully, yesterday morning, I opened my email and saw Kristen’s new blog – ‘The Age of the Artist – Time for a Revolution’.

It’s amazing how, with just a few words, Kristen can make me laugh and cry all at once.  The way she pares everything back to the bigger picture and gives us hope.

It’s not about me.  It’s about Sharing the Love.  That’s, anyway, why most of us are here, right?  Or isn’t it?

In the spirit of sharing it around, I’d love to know – what inspires you to write, and why?  More importantly, is there anyone in your life who encourages you to keep at it, when no-one else could care?

I want to meet you, and to give a plug to our supporters.  In many ways, their task is harder than our own…..

Much love,

Alarna Rose Gray