Resurrection and Light

The last few months have been a quietly busy time of slow transition and transformation.  A former employer’s “reinvention” (and reductions) motivated me to do some reinventing of my own and I’m still working on it.  Energy focused elsewhere, I found it difficult to blog.  But with spring comes renewal and the desire to re-energize, engage and connect.

After recently authoring a business book, I’m ready to take on more personal projects and the whole concept of reinvention has me thinking. I’m interested in stories of people who have found purpose and passion, changed for the better and are making a difference. As I connect with others and share my ideas and vision, they tell their inspiring stories – each like a luminaria, lighting the way forward. I’m not sure where this path will lead, but I’m hopeful.

luminaria

Especially interesting are people in the “third age” of life who are transforming dreams into reality and moving from retired to “rewired”. Instead of “old age pensioners,” these people are active elders, vital mentors, community builders and trailblazers.

When I was doing some research for an article, I was looking for a synonym for “elder.” I wanted some variety and didn’t really like the word “senior.” Thesaurus.com offered few alternatives, so I looked up “old.” Synonyms such as decrepit, tired, broken down, debilitated, enfeebled, exhausted, grizzled, hoary, impaired, inactive, infirm and wasted made me realize the contempt with which we view aging and those among us who are well-experienced. Instead of wisdom, we see irrelevance. Instead of venerable, we see obsolete.

My research is taking me to a re-imagined world where the journey leads to connection, learning, teaching, growth and renewal. I have some time to go before I am well into that third stage of life, but I’m looking for alternatives to the typical retirement and plan to share my findings with others.

Do you have stories of renewal and reinvention? I’d love to hear about it!

 

40 Days in the Desert (or “Why I Gave Up Blogging for Lent”)

desertLent is a solemn time of prayer, preparation, penance and self-denial and commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and renewal.  And this Lent, one lonely blogger retreated from WordPress, practiced silence and abstained from reading or posting.

Why did I do it, and what on earth did I hope to accomplish?

Retreat.  For 6 weeks I went into hibernation.  Sometimes it’s good to experience what my friend calls “the neutral zone,” where you surrender to nothingness.  Last week I read an interview in The Guardian in which Ryan Gosling revealed that he is taking a break from acting.  “I’ve lost perspective on what I’m doing.  I think it’s good for me to take a break and reassess why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it… I need a break from myself as much as I imagine the audience does.”  I’m no Ryan, but I understood what he was saying.  Retreat and reassess.

Self-Denial.  Sometimes blogging feels more self-indulgent than dark chocolate or champagne.  Taking time out let me feel deprivation and longing, which is unusual in a culture of excess and overwhelming access.

Quiet.  As Sting said, “Great music as much about the space in between the notes as it is about the notes themselves.”  The same is true of writing.  Taking the time to experience, observe and quietly reflect can make writing less frequent and more meaningful.

Renewal.  The end of Lent coincides with the beginning of spring and renewal is in the air.  In the quiet isolation of this figurative desert, fresh thoughts stand out more sharply against the arid landscape and ideas appear in the void.  I’m ready to re-join the world and contribute with renewed energy.

Decision.  Others decide to give up meat or chocolate.  I chose to give up writing, a harmless vice that doesn’t lead to obesity, intoxication or any other state of ill health.  But just the sense of intention gives it purpose and meaning.

I’m back to writing and will enjoy catching up with the recent posts of all my blogging companions.  Happy Spring!

Winter in Texas

It’s December in Texas and you’d never know that the end of the world and fiscal cliffs were looming just ahead.  No dark days or doom and gloom here – it’s actually pretty bearable.  However, if you haven’t experienced winter in Texas, be prepared for hardship. Tea is good for those days when the temps plunge below 70 and always be ready to dig out the long pants.  Brrrrr….

Cup of tea?

winter footwear

changing leaves

How to Attract Followers and Build a Blogging Community

Sending up a flare

Sending up a flare

“It’s kind of like, when you make a film, you’re on this ocean at night. It’s black. There’s nothing. And I’m out there in my little boat. I send up a flare, saying “these are my thoughts.”  And you discover there’s a lot of other people out there in their little life rafts, thinking ‘Oh! I’m not alone! These thoughts exist!'”  (Terry Gilliam on film making)

To me, that’s exactly what blogging is like.  Your goal may not be to broadcast wildly and attract the multitudes, but chances are good that you are blogging because you’d like to connect with others.  Otherwise, you’d probably be writing in your diary or keeping a private stash of your photos.

So how can you attract followers?  Even better, how can you build a community?  In the months that I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned everything from you!  I’m not an expert, but I’ve seen unique approaches and connected with some remarkable people and can only tell you what works in my opinion.  There’s no handbook but here are some lessons learned.

1.  The naming is the hardest part.  A name tells others about you and the purpose of your blog.  A good name should be clever and/or clear.  For example, More Than Bratwurst features great contemporary and traditional German recipes and FrugalFeeding is about eating well on a budget.

2.  It’s all About you.  The “About” section of your blog or Gravatar bio is an opportunity to tell about yourself and connect with others.  How would you describe yourself or your blog in a 140 character tweet?  The first blog I followed on WordPress was The Edmonton Tourist.  Why?  Because of her “About Me” that described the decision to become a tourist in her own life.  I was hooked.

3.  There’s someone for everyone.  There’s a 100% chance that someone will relate if you write about an interest or a challenge, or post a photo, travel story or poem.  Be authentic, be yourself and others will respond.  Ido Lanuel describes his journey from Combat Officer to journey to India to yoga practitioner and self-awareness writer and, at last count, 2,518 readers responded by liking his story.  It’s like The Secret for bloggers – whatever you focus on, you will attract (in the form of followers).

4.  Visuals aid.  It might go without saying, but readers are attracted to interesting visuals.  Posts with photos stand out when browsing the WordPress reader.

5.  The sense of Purpose.  Having a purpose helps you as a blogger and it helps others to find you.  Here are some common themes.

  • Travel.  Blogs can be better than a tour guide.  They’re up close and personal and you can see new places and old favorites through someone else’s eyes.  Have Bag, Will Travel takes readers on journeys around the world with wonderful descriptions and stunning photography, and with 416,708 hits, I’m not the only one who enjoys Andrew’s blog!  Everywhere Once details the story of full-time wanderers traveling the globe since 2010.
  • Food.  A constant source of inspiration, food blogs can teach you to make any type of cuisine.   Kiran’s Cooking Club is described as “Everyday Indian Food” which seems anything but ordinary to me and Vina’s Delicious Recipes has also introduced me to Bengali cuisine.  My Custard Pie has a very professional style and clearly conveys Sally’s passion for cooking.  Vegan, vegetarian, low-cal, Asian, Paleo…it’s all there!
  • Inspiration.  Some blogs are there just to inspire and to encourage readers, the writer or both.  Penny at The Why About This   brightens your day with inspiring thoughts and music.  No Fries for 365 is more physical kind of inspiration blog charting progress on a journey to fitness.
  • Craft.  Are you a crafter or a maker?  There’s sure to be plenty of material for you!  Sites like Pillows a la Mode, iMake and other DIY blogs are full of project inspiration.
  • Photography.  Photos can be a quick pick-me-up, a work of art, interesting, provocative or all of the above.  Mobius Faith specializes in urban photography, while others document travels or try their hand at landscapes or portraits.
  • Poetry and Writing.  Whether it’s haiku or a serial novel, writers like to share.  Rivers of the Heart and Another Wandering Soul create beautiful images with words and other writers share tips and success stories.
  • Lifestyle.  Bloggers share their experience of urban life, rural dwelling, retirement and other lifestyles.  Retiree Diary is written by a Hong Kong native sharing his adventures for the first time by blogging.  As Michael says, “I have never written anything. Pre-retirement, the only thing I need to write were emails.”
  • Challenges.  Some bloggers aim to help others through shared difficulty by writing about illness, loss, and other challenges.
  • Sharing Knowledge.  Writers like Thomas Cotterill share thoughts and philosophy and many others educate about every subject imaginable.
  • Blogging.  Bucket List Publications is an exciting site about adventure travel, but Lesley has an incredible amount of traffic (more than 10 million hits!) and is generous with tips and advice for other bloggers.     

6.  Active engagement.  The best way to find your tribe and build a community is through engagement and interaction.  Visit others, like posts, leave comments, give encouragement.  Share and give and good things will come back to you – in blogging and in life.

7.  Be a regular.  Write or post.  Period.

8.  Great content.  Write well, post great shots, share something of value and others will respond.