Archive | Blogging

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons I Love To Blog

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As some of you know, last Friday was the first anniversary of RealDelia. And while I fully intended to break out the champagne…the confetti…the whole nine yards, somehow I didn’t quite pull it off. (I had hoped that my wife would throw me a party, but she was too busy that day).

So I thought that I would mark the occasion today instead, by telling you five reasons why I love to blog, and why you might like it too:

1. It helps you to find your voice. I have been writing for a long time now in my adult life. I started as a research assistant when I first got out of college. Then there was that long, hazy academic morass when I was a graduate student and then a professor. Over the past three years, it’s been a blend of personal essays, reported features and occasional fiction writing. But it was only once I started this blog that I felt that I finally found my voice as a writer, and realized that – with all my career shifts – that was what I’d been looking for all along.

2. It makes you more mindful as a person. Mindfulness is one of those new-agey terms that I deliberately avoided for awhile. But in fact, one of the great virtues of blogging – at least if you are blogging about your own life and trying to extract lessons from it – is that it makes you more aware of how you lead your life, in ways both large and small. In my own case, one of the major innovations in my personal life was my decision to stop working on Saturdays. And while I can’t attribute that decision entirely to blogging, I think that being in the habit of examining my life on a daily basis (on the blog) gave me the tools to step back and change my life.

3. You make new friends. There’s my e-BFF Sharon, of course – of Neverbloomers fame – whom I first got to know through this blog because of our shared interest in adulthood. Now we’re on Facebook, we Skype one another and I think a professional collaboration may come down the pike. But there are a whole host of people I can think of right off the top of my hat – Colleen, Mike, Kristen, Katy, LPC – to name a few, whom I never would have “met” except through blogging (OK, I did in fact meet Katy once but blogging is our bond.) And I’m so enriched because of those connections.

4. You become more disciplined. Yeah, yeah. It’s trite, I know. But it’s true what they say. When you start writing on a regular basis, it makes you a better writer. Partly because practice makes perfect. But also because you’re able to just sit down and pound it out when you really need to. Which – in my case – has come in really handy over the past nine months that I’ve also been writing for PoliticsDaily.com.

5. You learn a ton. When I started doing this, I thought it would be fun to share my small musings about the world with other like-minded folk. And it has been loads of fun. But it turns out that the best part about blogging is what you learn from other people, either because of a comment they leave on your post, or because you subscribe to their blog, or because you encounter them haphazardly while doing some research on – say – adulthood – and then you end up staying to see what else they’ve got up their sleeve.

In that vein – and to steal a page from Nicola (another great blogger I’ve gotten to e-know), I’d love it if, in the comments section, you’d leave a link to a blog that you really like and which you think I (and readers of RealDelia) should check out. Feel free to leave your own blog’s name. I’d love to come visit.

And most of all, thank you!

Image: Blogging Research Wordle by KristinaB via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Managing Your Workload: Take a Self-Imposed Vacation

I’m taking a vacation this week.

Well, actually I’ll be right here in my home. But I’m going to pretend that I’m on vacation…with respect to this blog, at least.

You see, among the many different slashes I wear in my current life as a freelance writer, one of them is novelist. OK, that’s not quite right. Why don’t we say “aspiring novelist”? (I’ll feel better.)

You see, I have the novel written. I just that haven’t sold it. And in order to do that, I need to clear a couple of days in my schedule to send out the draft to the appropriate people. I know who those people are (some call them agents), and I know which ones I want to send it to. I even have all the materials ready. So I just need to sit down, go through the list, figure out who needs what, and then do some photocopying and stapling and standing in line at the post office. (If it isn’t on strike…).

In short: I need to put the rubber to the road and just do it, in the immortal words of Nike.

Which takes…time. And that’s something I don’t have a lot of because I’m, well, blogging. (She said, fully aware that she was blogging about not blogging. What can I say? Old habits die hard…)

It’s really hard for me to take time off from this blog, mostly because I love it, and partly because – as someone with a super-ego that even Freud would find daunting – I feel that I *should* be blogging (unless I’m on vacation).

So I decided to tell myself that I am on vacation. One of the many things I’ve learned from my beloved life coach is that in order to change your behavior, you need to change your expectations. She always gives me the example of the “sick day.” When you’re sick, you don’t expect yourself to get as much done. You go easy on yourself. Similarly, when you’re on vacation, you don’t bring work along with you (hopefully). You understand that the point of the holiday is precisely to stop working for awhile.

So I’m going to put myself on a self-imposed vacation, during which time I am going to do my very best to send my novel out to ten more agents. Because we all know that the secret of being a writer is persistence. Sometimes, that’s about forcing yourself to sit down at the computer and bang out those 1000 words. Sometimes, it’s just about sitting down, period. That’s not my problem right now. My problem is committing myself to selling the book that I wrote. And making the time to let that happen.

So good-bye. And wish me well. Feel free to imagine me wherever you’d like…Tahiti? Iceland? The Galapagos?

See you next week.


Image: My Feet in a Paradisiac Beach by Princess Cy via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Tips For Adulthood: Five Ways to Establish A Tone

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

As a writer, I think a lot about tone. Does any given essay/blog post/tweet that I write convey not just the meaning – but the attitude – that I’m after?

Setting a tone in writing is no less important than setting a tone in person. How we speak to other people and the verbal and non-verbal message we communicate to them often determines whether they want to listen to us, befriend us, or – dare I say it – be our children/siblings/parents/spouses.

With this in mind, I’ve chosen five bloggers I regularly follow whom I think have mastered  “tone” in their writing, which in turn makes them very inviting as people. In each case, I highlight what they bring to their blogs to cultivate this tone:

1. Curiosity. Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is a must for anyone out there looking for concrete, practical steps to leading a happier life. Sometimes this means cleaning out a closet; sometimes reading more Virginia Woolf. But the main thing Gretchen communicates on her blog  is a deep and abiding curiosity about the world around her. From the diverse range of articles and blogs that she recommends on a daily basis to her willingness to try pretty much anything  – like singing in the morning – in order to see if it actually makes her happier, you get the sense that she is, at all times, drinking in life.

2. Community. Another hugely practical site is the Freelance Writing Jobs blog network, founded and managed by Deb Ng. A lot of people come to this blog for its diverse set of writing tips, as well as its amazing daily listings of freelance jobs. I come because Deb’s passion for building community is almost irresistible. It shines through her daily tweets which always begin with “Good Morning World” (usually followed by an observation about D.C. weather), as well as the way in which all of her posts are infused with an appreciation for- and commitment to – the community of writers she’s gathered around her.

3. Introspection. You’d be hard-pressed to read a single post on Colleen Wainwright’s glorious Communicatrix and not come away feeling that this was a person who was putting herself out there, for all to see, day in and day out. Laugh-out-loud funny – but also brutally honest – this is a “self-development” blog that succeeds in making you feel like you are accompanying the author on the journey, not just listening to her ex-post musings. Check out her trademark 21-day Salutes. (She’s in the midst of one right now.) They will convince you – if you needed convincing – that the examined life is definitely the one worth living.

4. Enthusiasm. Christina Katz’ Writer Mama blog brims with enthusiasm. Written by a team of “writer mamas,”  this blog offers writing tips, links to online writing classes as well as observations on the writing life. But what most stands out about the blog is the indefatigable Christina Katz herself, who sounds so genuinely enthusiastic about writing, parenting, networking and – above all – platform building, that it’s infectious. To Christina’s credit, she not only promotes her own work on the blog. She is also extremely generous about highlighting the success of her co-bloggers and former students.

5. Wisdom. It’s really tough to try and offer advice to other authors while being sincere and funny at the same time. But Nicola Morgan’s Help! I Need A Publisher! blog does just that. Nicola manages to somehow combine a strong dose of wit and “telling it like it is” with a lot of really smart advice. Read this post where Nicola reacts to the self-doubts of a struggling writer and see if you don’t find yourself laughing while also nodding your head in agreement.

Follow me on Twitter.

Image: Tone by Passetti via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Networking in Adulthood: Dating For Friends…Online

One of the great things about blogging is that you get to read all this stuff you’d never come into contact with normally, simply because you are now paying attention to – say – adulthood. This past week, for example, I can’t tell you how many wonderful reviews I’ve read of the movie, Where The Wild Things Are, all of which talked about its appeal for grown-ups.

Another great thing about blogging is that you get to know (ok, e-know) all different kinds of people whom you’d never meet in real life. That connection might come about because they left a comment on your blog or started following you on Twitter. Or because you saw them interviewed on someone else’s blog and you decided to get in touch. Whatever the source, the social side of blogging is one if its many wonderful attractions.

It was through a combination of these two channels that I came to discover my new e-BFF, Sharon Hyman. I was scrolling through one of the many “search alerts” I routinely send out on topics like “adulthood” and “middle age,” when I came across an article in the Canadian National Post entitled Imposter Adults. Intrigued, I read on. It was all about Sharon’s reflections on the process of growing up. It read:

I always thought that being a grownup meant you had the external trappings of adulthood: marriage, kids, a mortgage, maybe even a driver’s licence! Of course, having none of these, I presumed I couldn’t possibly be seen as a proper adult in this society. I also figured that being a grown-up meant that you had conquered the hopeless insecurities and fears that derailed you in high school –again, something I have yet to achieve. With these thoughts in mind, I set out to discover if anyone really feels like a grown-up on the inside, and what the concept of grown-uphood really means.

Sound familiar?

I immediately went to Sharon’s website, Neverbloomers (subtitle: The Search For GrownUphood), where I found out that she’s actually making a movie about said topic. I watched the hysterically funny video on the front page of the website, which includes clips from some of her interviews for the film.

And then – because who am I to turn down a personality test when proferred? – I took the Neverbloomer “Have You Found Your Inner Adult Quiz?” (Needless to say, I haven’t, though I did receive the result “grown up in training” which sounded about right to me).

I promptly emailed Sharon to express my delight and appreciation at having found her website. The rest is history. We’re now “friends” on Facebook.

I once wrote a commentary for Chicago Public Radio about the elusive search for female friends in adulthood. The thrust of the piece was to illustrate – by example – what a nightmare it is to have to “date” for friends once you grow up and have kids. But in this brave new world where most community-building takes place online, that’s all gone now. And so, like millions of men and women before me – I’m now discovering the joys of online “dating”…for friends.

And what a joy it is.

*****

Speaking of e-friendships, follow me on Twitter.


Image: 42/365 Meet My Best Friend II by Leah Mancl via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Life is Not a Crew Race

As I sit here at 8 pm on a Thursday night, determined to get a post out before beginning my nightly ablutions, I am reminded of something  a friend once told me that had great resonance for me: “Life is Not a Crew Race.”

He was right. It’s more like a marathon.

My friend was talking about graduate school, and the fact that you couldn’t think about pursuing a PhD (something we were both doing at the time) as a short term project or you’d never get anywhere. Rather, you had to think of it as a long term investment and understand that the payoff would be deferred.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because when I began this blog, “blogging every day”–or at least every week day–was one of my resolutions. I’m a pretty self-disciplined sort, so I thought it would be no problem. And it wasn’t–for the first two days. And then a massive, unexpected family crisis unfolded that had me on a plane to New York within three hours of booking my flight (I live in London, so this was not a trivial journey). And there went post number three, disappearing into thin air somewhere over Iceland (or was it Greenland? Note to self: must learn names and locations of Northern island countries.)

And though I’m SO GLAD I went to New York, and SO GLAD that I have the sort of career where I can drop everything and run to the nearest airport when I need to, I also felt this nagging sense the entire time I was there that I was letting myself down. That I’d committed to something and failed to follow through. And because when things like this happen I often go on what another friend calls a “death spiral,” before I knew it I had death-spiralled down to the end of the blog…to the end of my career as a writer…the end of, well, everything. In like five minutes. I was dead.

And then I remembered this quote from my friend and I took a deep breath and I felt a bit better. Because while this new blog is really important to me and something that I don’t want to let fall to the wayside (and while I’m at it, please do give me credit for not beginning this post with the all-dreadful “Sorry it’s been quiet here for awhile…”), it’s also important for me to recognize that sometimes life really does intervene and things more important than–egads!–RealDelia.com will take over and supercede it.

Because if there’s one thing that I do know, it’s that writing–blogs, fiction…heck, just about anything worthwhile–really is a marathon. It’s something you build upon, and improve, and experiment with every day. And if I just think about this blog as a giant 26 mile run around a city (any city, but let’s pick Washington DC for the moment, since I once ran a lame-o 5k there many moons ago) rather than a sprint/crew race/pick your athletic poison, then I know that having missed three days of posts does not mean that I’ve lost the entire race.

In fact, I’ve just begun…

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Writing with the Wrong Hand

Yesterday I wrote about why I started this blog.

Today I wanted to say something about why I didn’t blog earlier. I’ve been writing for quite some time now, and I’ve published a decent amount in reasonably high profile places. So why wasn’t I blogging?

Part of it was that starting a blog seemed like a monumental undertaking, and I was doing other things. It also seemed like everyone and their cousin was doing it, so why even bother? I read somewhere that some 120,000 new blogs are launched every day. In a word: buzzkill.

But I think a lot of my hesitation was that for the longest time, I was hung up by what I’d call a legitimacy constraint. Sure, I was a writer. And sure, I was doing OK. But I wasn’t super famous. Or even non-super famous. I was just…me. So how could I dare even presume to write a blog?

Which was ironic, of course, because the whole thing about blogging is that it lets people invent themselves. In becoming, “The Blogger, Delia Lloyd,” you acquire a new identity over night (Ok, perhaps not overnight, if my own technorati stats are telling me anything…but I digress). But somehow it took me a long time to recognize that I could actually create a persona for myself on the internet, rather than wait for the “Writer” identity to emerge, Zeus-like, fully formed, before I started blogging.

I also used to be an academic. This means I tend to analyze things a great deal before I take the plunge. And so when I started reading other people’s blogs and saw all those bells and whistles like Flickr images and trackbacks and RSS feeds and and and… I thought: Do I really have to master all of those before I start blogging? Forget it!

And then I read this  terrific post by Brazen Careerist blogger Penelope Trunk where she talks about The Easiest Instructions for Starting a Blog. And I realized: I don’t need to worry about any of this. I don’t need to be famous. And I don’t need to know everything. All I need is a passion to write, a topic I’m excited about, and a lot of determination. Done.

Which brings us to adulthood. A lot of adulthood is about, to paraphrase Nike, “just doing it.”  Taking risks. Enjoying the Fun of Failure as happiness blogger Gretchen Rubin says.

The metaphor I like to work with is “Writing with the Wrong Hand.” By which I mean, the importance of doing something that makes you feel uncomfortable every once in awhile. It could be wearing low waisted jeans, or experimenting with on-line dating, or daring to…zeut alors!…actually speak French in France.

Whatever. The important thing is to plunge in. And to see where it goes.

Now if I only I knew how to find a Flickr image to match this title….

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Welcome!

Welcome to RealDelia.com.

This blog is devoted to the idea that adulthood is not a destination. Growing up, I always thought adulthood was the final frontier – a place you arrived and suddenly everything made sense:  you knew what you wanted to do with your life, you knew what advice to give your kids, you knew which shoes looked right with that jacket. Turns out, it doesn’t work that way. Sure, you make progress and have those “aha” moments every so often, but growing up is all very incremental and you never really arrive anywhere.

And that’s the point.

Why RealDelia?

Well, my name is Delia, for starters.  For a long time, I didn’t think that I could get away with having a blog that had my name in the title. It’s not like I’m Oprah. Or Cher. Or even Charo (remember her? I’m dating myself, aren’t I?)

But when I realized that what I really wanted to write about was that curious journey that is “growing up,” it occurred to me (and some friends who helped me out) that RealDelia was the title I’d been searching for all along. Because, among other things, I’m here to write about what I consider to be the “real deal” when it comes to adulthood – you know, the stuff you won’t necessarily read in a glossy magazine but is true nonetheless. Plus, I think the subtitle – Finding Yourself in Adulthood – pretty much says it all:  it’s about “finding yourself” (literally) in a place where you also need to “find yourself” (figuratively). So the blog could really have any title and RealDelia works for me (one friend suggested “Sanity Fair”…any takers?)

What kinds of things will I be covering?

Loads. That’s one of the things I like about having an umbrella concept like adulthood – lots of stuff fits underneath it: career change, therapy, parenting, yoga, aging (gracefully or otherwise), hangovers, marriage, religion. You get the picture. But it will – I promise – all be germane to the theme of adulthood. And it will also- I promise – not just be about me.

OK, I’ll stop there. Our time is up for today, as my internal therapist is telling me.

Let me add that I’m very happy to finally be writing a blog. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for the longest time.

So, in the immortal words of that famous song from the musical Cabaret, whose lyrics I inexplicably find myself singing all the time:

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome!”