I’ve been asked why I don’t delete offensive comments – and I do publish them all unless it attacks another blog reader. Let me explain. This is my blog, yes, but I don’t really believe that it’s “my little corner of the internet”. I do believe that everyone is entitled to express their opinions because even though this is my blog, it’s published in a public space. Aside from the sometimes polarizing opinions around online censorship, I leave comments alone, no matter how harsh or personally offensive, as a reminder of this.
I think sometimes we might get a little too insulated in our own little blog bubbles. There may be this false sense of security leftover from the early blogging days back when our audiences were smaller (well, this blog has gone back to being small) and it really was a community of bloggers and readers who were just trying to figure out what blogging was about. The internet in the late 90s and early 2000s is vastly different than the internet today. There wasn’t as much noise or opinions or conversations. There was just less of everything. Blogging back then really did feel like a journal that you shared with anybody who happened to stumble across it, and even though there weren’t as many ways to promote your site, people did find you because they were seeking communities with the same interests; those communities were just only forming. At least that’s how it worked when I ran my Asian-American webzine and a few years later started a product design blog for new parents, both of which were one of the first sites to exist in their respective online spaces. I’ve certainly learned a lot from running public webzines and blogs for the past 14 years and I’ve made a few mistakes, but there are no regrets. How can there be? When you go into uncharted waters it all feels like an experiment. It’s really only in hindsight that you can draw conclusions on what you could have done differently because there was no precedent to learn from at the time.
We’re also the first (or maybe 1.5) generation of parents who are raising kids in the age of social media. The way in which we conduct ourselves online is essentially our road map to teaching our kids about being smart in their own online identities and interactions. I’d rather be the one stumbling my way around social media networks and learning from mistakes than my kids for now, though I recognize that I won’t be able to keep up with all the new and yet to be developed networks and platforms that are cropping up every day. But this groundwork informs what we teach them about using social media responsibly regardless of whatever app is popular.
The girls don’t have social media accounts yet, but I know that’s inevitable. It’s encouraging that our pubic school is starting to include internet safety in their 5th grade curriculum and I can only imagine that this will become the norm if it isn’t already. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen too many times, it can really be a matter of life and death. The gravity of that statement is overwhelming, but this is our reality.
I would hope, though I realize it’s probably too idealistic, that people would exercise basic courtesy, restraint and sensitivity in their responses and comments on any public website, but if you have ever read a comment thread on CNN (though interestingly enough they disabled comments to most of their stories), then you know that doesn’t always happen. I was dismayed to learn that my mom read a recent comment that was particularly judgmental, but we talked about it and it served as a jumping point to other related issues that we then discussed. The internet isn’t always the safe haven that we’d like to imagine it to be and these are just periodic reminders of that reality. But there’s always something to be learned, I think. I’ve certainly taken a deeper look at myself whenever I’ve been called out in comments, and I’ve grown a bit more careful about the things that I’m now willing to share. These are good things. Besides, I’ve never been one to craft a certain image or lifestyle on my blog. It therefore seems wrong to me, no matter how flawed that thinking might be, to prune and censor blog comments to read a certain way. So those blog comments that I sometimes wish I hadn’t read? It’s just part of the story.
Posted by Jenna | 2 Comments
I have a friend who has a similar loathing of self promotion as I do and we talk about it often: how we feel like assholes if we tweet about a new product or project more than once, how we cringe at the idea of selfies and building our “personal brands”. Maybe it’s hard for us to wrap our brains around that last one because we have worked on legit branding projects at ad agencies at our freelance “day jobs”. The Gap is a brand. Starbucks is a brand. But I have a hard time thinking of people as brands unless they’re Oprah or Martha. Are you a brand? Am I a brand? No. Most people are just people.
Now, I understand why the idea of building a personal brand is considered important. You want to build a platform to promote or sell something, I get that, but maybe we should be focusing on selling our expertise, our experience, our talents or our products rather than selling our online personas. I think only a small percentage of people can sell themselves solely on their personalities.
So, we do have a business and you could even call our business a brand, and I realize that this is where things get a bit complicated because a brand isn’t just about the products anymore–it’s about an image and a lifestyle. Small biz owners are often tied to their brand image (have I given you a headache yet?) because we’re often the voices of our businesses on social media. So are we–by extension–promoting ourselves? (oh god, this is getting confusing). I’ll fully admit, I have admiration for people who are good self promoters who can do it all day, every day, on the hour. They have balls. Do they not care about overexposure? (That is a thing!) Do they not care about annoying people with a constant barrage of “me me me” or risking being labeled a narcissist? I don’t want to be that person on Facebook or Twitter who posts about every single thing that’s happening to them. Or worse, what about those vague teaser posts? (“OMG this is the best day ever! I have news! BIG news! But I can’t tell you for another year!”) I have to wonder if at some point it crosses a line between self promotion and seeking validation. Self promotion is hard, but not because I don’t believe in our product. I think our cookies are awesome, but I don’t want to be tweeting or blogging about it every day (edited to include a link to the shop. See what I did there?) But you know what? Good self promoters do promote their stuff everyday. They understand that it’s easy to generate excitement around a new product launch, but that there’s a cliff and quick drop off. The real challenge is sustaining the buzz, and how do you stay visible and relevant? By promoting your stuff.
We rely on social media for the majority of our marketing. We don’t take out ads on blogs or publications (I think we’ve taken out ads twice in the 6 years we’ve been in business), we’ve never hired a PR firm, and we don’t have a marketing team. This is it and this has pretty much been it since we started. Maybe if we invested in marketing, our reach and audience might grow larger and quicker, but we’ve been fine with the pace of our growth and letting it happen organically. That said, I know I need get over myself and promote the hell out of our business because if we don’t do it, no one else will. Having a great product is nothing if no one can find it. So I’ll see you guys on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Will I be promoting this blog post? Yeah, probably not.
P.S., this succulent doesn’t need any self promoting; it’s getting by on its looks alone. I saw it at home goods store in Rockport, Massachusetts and had to take it home. I’ve never seen flowers on a succulent quite like this before!
Posted by Jenna | 22 Comments
I’ll admit I’ve been distracted lately. Although I have always been a fierce multi-tasker, I have a strong desire to consolidate and simplify things in my work life. Dividing my time between the business and my freelance design work has always been a juggle, but one that I haven’t minded. In fact, I relish having multiple things on my plate and having my hands in a couple of different projects. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and exercising my brain, but I know that this thinking can be flawed. The truth is, lately I’m feeling like all I’m doing is juggling. I’ve been consistently working with 6-7 clients for the past year, all at the same time and often on the same days. The work has been all over the place too – print pieces, websites, logos, and touch screen devices; all day I switch gears from one client to the next. Needless to say, my work life has been crazy.
So I’ve been walking. Sometimes it’s at the expense of time spent working towards deadlines, which I’ll just make up later in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. I’ll walk around the city for miles, sometimes with friends, but often alone. Walking through neighborhoods that were once so familiar to me, but have changed so much that they are only ghosts of my past; seeking out quiet spots where I can see the horizon, but also seeking out loud and textured sidewalks as well. It’s oddly thrilling to discover a street that I’ve never walked before, not in all my years here. The city sometimes still holds surprises and I suppose that’s what keeps things fresh when it’s easy to just get jaded.
I was thinking about a project that never manifested earlier this year, one that just went away. There are always a few of those that seem to disappear without any warning or reason. While I should have been disappointed (and I was, for a bit), I’ve come to be thankful that it never came to be because it was like a little gift of time. We could always use more work and more money, could we not? But sometimes it takes things beyond our control to force us see that maybe we should have said no in the first place anyway.
Posted by Jenna | 3 Comments
I was presented with an interesting question on two separate occasions recently which really made me stop and think about my perception of myself. “What do you want?” In the context of jobs, deals or my career, it’s not exactly a question that I get asked since it’s usually about the needs of the client or the project. Usually it’s something along the lines of “what can you bring to the table? What can you do for this project?” But what do I want? It’s such a simple question, but a deceptively hard one to answer.
My particular issue has always been that I don’t really know what I want (well I kind of do in a big dream sort of way, but that involves some serious random luck with a lottery ticket. Yeah I know, happiness isn’t about money, but I wouldn’t object if it started there). While it’s been a painfully slow process, I’m finally getting closer to focusing in on what I want by identifying what I don’t want to do. More importantly, however, I’ve come to realize that I’m not allowing myself to acknowledge the things that I want because I don’t believe in myself enough.
Yeah. That’s a big one. It’s really easy to brush things off by saying, “oh, I’m not an artist, I’m not a writer, I don’t feel like an entrepreneur.” I do it all the time. I did it just an hour ago on a phone conversation I was having with a friend. I have no idea why it’s easier to discredit myself than it is to own up to my skills and accomplishments, but it is. It’s been pointed out enough times in articles that this can be a gender thing, that women aren’t confident enough, but I also keep having conversations with people about the difference between my generation (I guess that would be X) and the generations younger than us. I believe we might be the last generation to have this mentality that accomplishments and accolades are earned and the only way to get there is to work your way up and “pay your dues”. I’m certainly old enough to have earned confidence in my field, but it’s been hard for some reason to shake off the grips of perpetual self doubt. It gets even further complicated when you’re raising girls and trying to nurture their own self confidence. The irony at play here isn’t lost on me.
As you know, a career change has been on my mind for a long time (are you tired of hearing about it? Because sometimes I am). My own mom did it around this age, partially to leave a demanding physical job and partially because she didn’t know how she was going to send 2 kids to college on a nurse’s salary. It worked out really well for her and she tapped into a business side of herself that she never even knew existed. Even though I have a great role model in her, a career change is daunting for a lot of reasons. Logistically, the process of getting there can be challenging and time consuming and this is *after* you figure out what you want to do. But it’s also daunting because our identity is so tied to our jobs and careers (at least here in the US) and for me, personally, my sense of self worth is often tied to my ability to bring in a paycheck. We always get asked the question, “what do you do?”, so if we strip ourselves from our jobs, what’s left? A lot, obviously; we aren’t one dimensional, but sometimes it’s hard to see who we are without the filter of our careers.
This year feels different though. Entertaining a few recent opportunities has made me take a look at what I’ve done and what I can do. Not surprisingly, it’s more than I give myself credit for. It’s long overdue, but it’s time take ownership of what I’ve done with my career in the past so that I can define what I want in the future. It’s not validation from others that I need, it’s validation from myself. And if you’ve gone through a career change and reinvented yourself, I would love to hear your experiences too.
Posted by Jenna | 32 Comments
It’s so boring to keep talking about the weather, I know, but it’s 1 step forward, two steps back with this Spring. Didn’t I say that March could be cruel? But it’s also been the perfect analogy for the month I’ve been having (and maybe for some of you out there too, from what I read). Highs and lows, progress and setbacks. In the end though, things eventually normalize and settle. When you find that you’re still pointed in the same direction that you were headed before the most recent wave of events flung everything up in the air in a moment of confusion, then it should be confirmation enough that you’re headed in the right direction.
Self doubt and the fear of the unknown reveal the ugly side of self employment, at least for me. On the other side of the mirror, constant questioning and a future of possibilities puts a positive spin on those same states. Really just depends on which side you’re standing.
But there are signs of life and regrowth and spring if you look carefully. Never thought I would be so happy to spot the tips of bulbs pushing their way up from the ground, or the snowdrops that I would have missed if I was rushing around as usual. I don’t mean to sound like a self-help booklet, but sometimes it’s hard to keep pushing forward all the damn time, particularly when you’re not even certain where it is you’re suppose to go. But I tell you what…the grass is always greener – always – but it’s not all that it seems and often, it’s just a projection of what we want to see. I think it’s human nature to yearn for the things that we feel we are missing, whether it’s real, imagined or something that we just want. Sometimes you’re reminded of just how great your life is by other people who may yearn for something that is different in your life than what they have in theirs. By all accounts life is great, that much is true. But the constant quest to fill the holes that we perceive to be the keys to fulfillment and happiness is the fire that keeps us pushing forward. For some people, that fire burns too bright to ignore.
What I know for sure is that we all need people. We can’t do it alone. Even the zombie apocalypse tells me so (a Walking Dead reference, naturally).
Now, how’s that for vagueblogging?
Posted by Jenna | 8 Comments