Tag Archives: 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.

Tips For Adulthood: How To Make Time Off Productive

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Last week I took a self-imposed vacation from this blog in order to focus on marketing my novel. It was an unusual thing for me to do, but I’m so glad that I decided to do it. As the self-development guru Colleen Wainwright – a.k.a. Communicatrix – put it so well in a comment on that post:

“Hardest thing in the world, carving out time for the Not Immediately Necessary. But how else does the big stuff get done?”

How else, indeed?

So in this week’s tip list, I thought I’d share what I learned from that experience and, specifically, how to make “time off” (as in time off to carry out a specific project, as opposed to a vacation) productive:

1. Tell Other People What You Are Doing. Several people – including myself – noted that I wrote a blog post to announce that I wouldn’t be blogging for a week. Why not just…stop blogging for a week? But I did that for a reason. I knew that if I told readers what I was doing and gave myself a time-line, I’d be more inspired to hit my goal. And I did.

2. Cut Distractions. This is obvious, but it bears repeating. Much of the joy that comes from being a blogger doesn’t just come from writing posts, but from reading other people’s blogs, commenting on those blogs, sharing an interesting article on Twitter, etc. Doing all that is a big part of how I come up with my ideas. And while I didn’t stop reading my RSS feed last week (perish the thought!), I did dramatically reduce the amount of time I normally spend in the blogosphere.

3. Stay Focused. Another obvious suggestion, but which also bears repeating. Midway through the week, I realized that I could easily have devoted the entire week just to clearing out my inbox. And by “clearing out my inbox” I don’t mean deleting announcements about “What’s on at The National Theatre” or the latest cure for cancer in homeopathy.  I mean attending to really useful articles and websites I’ve flagged for myself about blogging, writing, publishing, etc. that I *really must read.* But then I reminded myself: Nope, that’s not what I’m doing this week. I”m working on the novel. But that insight did motivate me to take another, future SIV (that’s “self imposed vacation” as opposed to SUV, FYI..BTW..IMHO…ha!) that will just be about blogging best practices.

4. Recognize That You’ll Never Totally Clear Your Inbox. I think I had this fantasy that once I took this large, annoying monkey off my back (e.g. sending out the novel to agents), the sky would magically part and I’d be relaxed and in control of my to-do list. But taking time off also made me realize that, much as I’d like to, I’ll never completely reduce my “to do” list to zero. Because as soon as I take one thing off the list – like “send out novel to agents” – something else immediately moves in to take its place, like “blog promotion.” Sure, there’s all this stuff floating around out there about inbox zero and the Four Hour work week. What-ever. I think for most of us, it’s about reducing our to-do lists to a manageable level and then taking it one step at a time, accepting that whatever we prioritize comes at the expense of other things we’d also – genuinely – like to be doing. That’s just…life.

5. Remember that Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder. One of the best ways to appreciate something in your life is to take a break from it. Your feelings while your away will tell you how much you either totally love it or could actually live without it. Back when I was an academic, I took a year off to work for the United States Treasury Department, precisely in order to see whether I’d miss my life as a professor. I didn’t miss it at all and mailed in my resignation half way through the year. In a similar vein, last week while “not blogging” I realized how much I love this blog and missed both writing it and being part of this community.

And that was the best lesson of all.

*****

If you’re interested, here’s my piece in yesterday’s PoliticsDaily.com about the pro-Israel lobby in the U.K.


Image: Monkey On My Back by Mshai via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Finding My Parachute: Why Self-Help Books Aren't Just for Ninnies

It’s always a pleasure when – whilst ambling through one’s RSS feed or just cruising the internet – you stumble upon a kindred spirit out there in cyberspace.

This happened to me the other day when I came across an article by Liesl Schillinger in a 1997 issue of O Magazine entitled Hooked on Self Help Books Against Her Will – recently reprinted online.

In it, the author – a regular contributor the New York Times Book Review and one time Style columnist – fesses up to being a late convert to the whole self-help genre.

I could relate. Until quite recently, whenever I entered a book store and saw the “self-help” section, I turned and ran in the opposite direction.

Schillinger’s reluctance stemmed from her childhood belief that she could divine most of life’s important lessons from literature. She was also raised to be skeptical of anything therapeutic.

In my case – as I think this blog makes clear – an aversion to therapy was never my issue. My problem was always the popular nature of this kind of literature. Self-help books just seemed – as Schillinger puts it so gently – for “ninnies.”

But I’ve changed my tune on all that. It started the day I decided to change careers and realized that, despite my advanced degrees, I had absolutely no clue how to go about that. So I read a book called What Color Is Your Parachute – the self-help book to end all self-help books – and I was off and running.

Then I had a couple of kids and realized that, contrary to all this business about the end of over-parenting, an attentive but something-less-than-religious read of a few carefully selected parenting books can actually stand you in good stead.

As I gradually began to read blogs on a regular basis, I came to realize that these, too, are often another variant on the self-help genre. (Although I remain sufficiently resistant to the tag that I thought about sub-titling this blog “self help with a twist,” less anyone thought that I took myself too seriously…)

And, of course, what is seeing a life coach but one giant dose of self-help stuffed into a human body?

In short, it’s been a slow conversion for me. But, like Schillinger, I’m coming around to the conclusion that it’s by tinkering with the small things in daily life that you can actually effect change in the big ones. In other words, life really is one giant “How To” in six easy steps…it’s identifying those steps that’s the hard part. And that’s what self-help books are there for.

Now where did I put that tome on achieving work/life balance?

Image: Parachute by km6xo via Flickr from a Creative Commons License.

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Friday Pix: Recommended Reading for the Weekend

Again this Friday, I’d like to direct you to a few things around the blogosphere that caught my eye this past week:

1. I was thrilled to be the featured blog on Barbara Swafford’s Blogging Without a Blog. Barbara did a lovely write-up about my blog and sent lots of new readers my way. If you are new to blogging or an old dog who likes learning new tricks, be sure to stop by Barbara’s terrific site, which she describes as “a blogging classroom on the web.”

2. I was riveted by New York Times reporter Edmund Andrews’ first-hand account of indebtedness in the New York Times Magazine. I’ve read my share of analyses of the current economic crisis, but none have drawn me in quite like this one. This article should be required reading for anyone looking to understand the role played by every day folks like you and me (and our banks!) in bringing about today’s economic downturn.

3. I’m intrigued by a new book reviewed in Slate by first time author Matthew Crawford entitled Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. In it, the author brings his background in political philosophy to bear in understanding the relative merits of office life vs. having a trade, arguing that only the latter can truly help cultivate a sense of “self.” As someone who loves to think about people’s relationship to their work, I was immediately drawn to this piece.

4. Finally, for all you literary types out there, please stop by my old friend C.M. Mayo’s blog, Madam Mayo. I first met Catherine years ago – down in Mexico City – when she was an economist and I was a political scientist. She was really great at what she did but had the guts to strike out on her own as a fiction writer. Numerous books, articles, and short story collections later, she’s still at it and having a ball. This literary blog is a great resource for aspiring writers, especially those living  in the D.C. area.

*****

I will be heading out of town this upcoming week for a family trip to Scotland. See you when I return in June!

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!”