30 days and going strong

waze iconsI’m a huge fan of Waze. For my commute to Denver for work a couple of years ago, I relied on this traffic app to know when I needed to take an alternate route, when a cop was in the area or when it was going to be an extra-long drive home.

I still use it for local driving, because it’s great not just for telling you where you’re going but when you can expect to arrive. Of course, it first has to understand where you are now.

Thankfully, when it comes to blogging, I don’t need Waze to tell me where I am now. After 30 days straight of shipping, I have a pretty good idea.

Now, I’m excited about where I go from here.

Lessons learned

After 30 days of blogging, I discovered I can do it. I can blog regularly and reliably. Some days, it’s meaningful. Other days, I don’t feel like shipping at all. But I know now I can push over those hurdles. That stopped me many times before.

I’ve also discovered I have something (lots, actually) to say. And I’m discovering new things to learn and share. Not necessarily out of my initial scope for my blog, but different angles than I expected.

I am HERE

For the record, here’s where I am on my little journey now:

  • Completing a demanding commitment through #YourTurnChallenge (I did it!)
  • Inspired to keep going and keep learning
  • Freed up – liberated – to move forward
Where to go from here

From here, while I’m not exactly certain where my blog will end up, I am excited about the journey. It will probably be someplace I’ve never even imagined for myself.

Encouraged by a wonderful group of companions* on this journey, I am gaining confidence daily through what I learn from and through them. I love that part.

Going forward, I want to go deeper. That may mean blogging less frequently so I can plan content with greater precision. Maybe it means punctuating more thought-out content with abbreviated posts.

But my big Aha! is that, while there are many professional blogs out there designed, down to a science, to monetize content, for once I don’t feel I have to be among them.

And now, moving on.

* Estelle, Ann, Steve, Nancy, Mona and Gwen, to name a few

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The give-and-take of creative critique

diver is midair, headed for lake water with companions in background

Asking for others’ critique could just be the thing that sets your work free. (Good thing, it goes both ways.)

I used to hate having my work critiqued. It made me itchy.

Over the years, I’ve learned to love it. In fact, I’m usually much more proud of my work as a result of others’ critique.

A little backstory: I lost my job in 2012 and it took a year to get back into the workplace. Yet another year later, I was job hunting again. Since the freelance and consulting work found me, I decided it was probably what I should be doing.

But one thing I’ve missed about the workplace is being with people. I’m an ENTP (read: extrovert who likes to start stuff), I love being, working with and learning from others. That includes critique of my work.

Because un-critiqued work is almost never the best possible work.

In my view, it’s work that no one really cares about. I get it that people are busy and may not have extra bandwidth, but getting someone’s input on your work is critical, not only to quality but to buy-in, especially if your work proposes changes that affect others. Socializing ideas is always easier when others have seen the preliminary work and have an opportunity to contribute their thoughts.

The fear of feedback

It’s understandable to fear critique like the plague, since it can feel like a personal jab to something that’s a part of you…like kicking your dog or something. Consider instead that you can get a lot of satisfaction knowing the core idea is yours. Others will just help you polish it up a bit.

In the end, critique is about collaboration. If you’re a believer that “together we’re better,” it’s a lot easier to swallow.

When giving or receiving critique on creative work, try the following:

Take a dispassionate approach to the critique.

  • Don’t take things personally.
  • Take your emotions out of the equation and consider, “If this were someone else’s work, might I have asked similar questions?”
  • Consider the role – rather than the personality – behind the critic’s feedback. What bases or interests are they trying to cover or represent? Does it help more to include it than it would hurt to leave it out?

Take every piece of feedback and put it into a checklist.

  • This isn’t so much so that every single suggested change is made, but so you can see the range and scope of changes and how they can impact your end product. Maybe there’s a pattern in that feedback that begs your attention.
  • Do the suggested changes make sense individually? Do they stand on their own?
  • More importantly, would the feedback make sense if it were all applied?

Consider the end user.

  • Will they understand the work as is? What questions are they likely to have, with or without the applied feedback?
  • Does the input provide more answers than questions? If No, there’s more work to do.

Give others the benefit of the doubt.

  • It’s true, there’s a kook in nearly every bunch who wants to throw you under the bus. Ignore them. But don’t necessarily toss out their feedback. If you’re on the same page regarding end-product quality, it’s worth considering others’ insights before assuming they’d just rather see us burn in hell.

Ultimately, it’s your work and, at the end of the day, the feedback is yours to take or leave.

But there’s one more question that if you ask nothing else, you must ask, it’s this:

Will this input make the end product better? This is the most liberating question of all, because it forces us to let go of “ownership,” releasing our work into a larger community.

  • No? Nix it.
  • If Yes, the rest should be a piece of cake.

Now, go make some great stuff!

The truth of the matter

I’m coming up on 30 days solid of blogging – shipping each and every day.

Granted, it hasn’t felt like it was great shipping, but it was keeping a commitment to just do it. For that, I am very happy. I’ve built both a new habit and a new discipline, and I couldn’t be happier abot it.

What I didn’t realize is how this process will play out in stages of maturity.

While I’m getting over the fear now of “just doing it,” I find that, in this process, it is still hard for me to open up. It’s still hard to crack the nut of what hurts and what really makes me vulnerable.

So this will be my one of my new goals for Phase 2 of my personal Your Turn Challenge:

I don’t know what I think

flanery-dont-know-what-i-think

This is true for me more often than not. HT McGillistrations.

(A) Weed by any other name…

I’ve noticed our cat, Fritz, getting into more fights lately.

We thought at first it was because we’d rebuilt a fence backing up to our alley, which he doesn’t climb well but neighbors’ cats can get over with relative ease. Maybe that makes him a little cranky and he kicks into protector mode.

kitty-weed

Witness the happy side of kitty weed, and the pudgy underbelly of my cat, Fritz.

We often forget, however, the volume of wild (?) catnip growing in and around our yard – even in the winter. We call it kitty weed. I think the feline guests know that’s what it is, too.

Maybe the last homeowners planted it to get some four-legged traffic in the yard.

But what they may not have intended was causing trouble in the neighborhood.

After the latest bout between Fritzy and an uninvited guest this evening and a little snooping into where that noisy, howling battle took place, it occurred to me his visitors may be coming for companionship, but more likely for the kitty weed.

True story: This is now the second cat we have that has gotten hooked on weed. We accidentally detoxed our last cat – a story for another post, perhaps.

Some days (or nights)…

It’s just better to have a glass of wine with someone you love and get offline. Tonight is that night.

Blog comments: Where to share?

After returning to blogging last month for the first time in a long time, I realized so much has changed, thanks largely to how “social” media has become.

I didn’t realize, however, the number of hoops a blog reader now has to jump through just to participate in a conversation. We’re not talking just Captcha anymore, although it still makes appearances (like the “I’m Not a Robot” check box).

It also didn’t occur to me that blogs may or may not be where conversation really happens.

And none of this was even on my radar until:

Hyatt admits his decision may not be right for everyone, but there is some really strong rationale around why he did it – especially with numbers like his. He was, after all, named one of Forbes’  “Top 10 Online Marketing Experts To Follow In 2014.”

Since Poor Mexican Gone is very young, I feel I have time to make this decision based on where the traffic comes from and where the ongoing conversation ends up.