Stepping Up My Practice

stepping_up_spiralTech note: It’s been a long time developing, but I finally invested in professional paid themes for my websites. I went to Studio Press and adopted the Genesis theme framework as well as adding one of Brian Gardner’s nicely sleek and simple themes, Sixteen Nine, to this site in particular.

I can definitely feed my site design tweaking addiction much more easily now. Just have to get used to having great plugins and actual support from the folks at Studio Press. I’ve always been on my own as a non-coder site designer/user; this sense of support is probably their greatest selling point vs. picking free themes on your own and tweaking them (extremely time consuming). I had to actually stop myself from just looking for plugins and go to Studio Press to see what Genesis already had available. So much easier! Really, if you are serious about managing your own sites (and know how to tweak CSS) and want to work on them without a lot of frustration, this is a great investment. End of Studio Press gushing (and no, they don’t pay me). :)

This technical investment has also gotten me focusing on what to do with this part of my web presence (as compared to my current money-maker, aweditorial.com). I really do give good space for people to blossom into their own star-selves, but figuring out how to value that as a professional exchange has been tough for me. I have no problem charging for counseling/coaching type services or courses; I’m just struggling to define what it is I provide, although on an informal basis I’ve seen amazing transformations from other people exposed to my non-judgmental approach to supporting them, and my ability to explain complex spiritual ideas.

I know, I need to write that e-book, start that podcast, come up with that course outline. But first, I’d like to just write these posts regularly and find my tribe. Brian Gardner, through his very valuable personal blog, has helped me tremendously to focus on writing what I want to express rather than writing what I think others want to hear. “For they shall come to listen when they hear the message they are looking for.” :)

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“I give great space for you to be your own star.”

Yeah, that’s a good slogan (thanks, Chris Brogan, for inspiring that one). So, let’s start here with two things: Writing stuff that helps both you and me, making that space in the comments for you to express yourself without any judgmental interference. Yes, tell me your galactic dreams. I will support them. And then back to the tech/design side: I’ll work up a little portfolio shortly of some design tweaks I’ve done for my own and other people’s websites, and maybe my ideas and color schemes will prove valuable to others as well.

It’s time to step up my practice beyond just editing people’s words. Let’s design inspired lives and express them online.

Connecting—My Practice

hs-2003-20-swirly_stellar_explosion_n49

This stellar explosion is what my own universe has been like over the past several years. No real shape and lots of time and task fragmentation.

I’m not actually ADD, but still more distractible than some folks, thanks to generalized anxiety and my extroverted personality (gaining fulfillment from human connections). So, social media and email have turned into monsters for me. I found myself scattered all over the virtual universe with multiple accounts (thinking this structure would make it easier to seed what’s up) and belonging to many social media groups and communities. I was waking up and turning on the computer first and feeling compelled to go to email in particular, and then getting caught up in answering things, finding myself working before breakfast (ugh!).

I do tend to over-accommodate other humans, feeling a little satisfaction from taking care of their needs, often at the expense of my own self-care, so this pattern was an extension of my tendency to jump to take care of everyone else. Now after 57 years on the planet, I’m finally building a structure that takes care of me and my responsibilities for others.

With the following, keep in mind that I am a self-employed publishing services professional, so I don’t have to get up and get on the road to an office an hour after I wake up. But I think the principles can still apply, even for folks with employee status.

Catalysts for this change on the Web:

1) Chris Brogan—”Your inbox is the perfect delivery system for other people’s priorities . Commit to checking mail only 2x a day for 30 minutes each. Tops. If someone’s important enough to need you more often, give them your cell and have them text you.” OK, so I haven’t gotten down to two times a day and texting for important people (I really think there may be a “too old for texting” category).

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But, when I wake up, I pick up my MacBook and take it out to my improvised stand-up desk (something creative for old entertainment centers), I turn it on, and…I don’t check email! I do a quick check of news headlines and turn on my yoga program (a larger monitor sits over the left) instead. Yay, me! Then I eat breakfast, and finally sit down to do my morning stuff as per this really cool program that Chris has called OMFG. My morning Daily Actions: yoga, daily draws (Tarot cards), social media, writing. Look, no email yet!

After all that, then I open my email program (I also have no notifications set up, so I have to go check myself; no interruptions). Remember my bit in the first paragraph about multiple accounts and such? I’ve consolidated all that into one account with just four folders to keep my stuff in. I thought maybe it would take more time to go through if I had one account with more folders, but no. It’s actually faster.

Important: Now time is my tool, not my slave-driver. I still have the same number of hours in a day, but I feel like I have more “me” time and am sacrificing myself much less. I even had time to work in the garden yesterday!

2) Brian Gardner: This site designer and writer is getting wonderfully unfiltered and minimalist in all sorts of cool ways. One of the reasons I had multiple social media accounts was because I was concerned about professional reputation (editing business) being compromised by personal interests (there’s that Tarot and other New Age woo-woo stuff). But, hey, if you Google my name, you get everything anyway. And if you’re really close-minded, we’re probably not a good match for my business, so let’s take ownership of me and consolidate.

So, I still have three websites. It would be a bit much from a practical perspective to put all my editorial biz and Tarot reading content on one site. I’m not concerned about consolidation where it works anymore, though, so I’ve now got one Twitter account, and one Goggle+ account. It’s so much faster and easier to maintain good quality connections on social media without so many “places to go.” And now that social media checking is part of my morning routine, I get those connections taken care of early (I use Hootsuite to schedule some retweets, etc. so I have presence throughout the day without being annoying) and don’t feel compelled to check in many times a day. And when I get started on billable projects (by noon or 1 pm), I can focus just on those and be done early enough in the evening (7 or 8 pm) to have an evening.

I am so relieved to have found some mental systems to make my connections flow through my life instead of fragmenting it. And I find myself blogging more and better as I feel the freedom to write about whatever works for me in that moment, rather than thinking only in terms of what other people might want to hear. I assume that someone will benefit from what I’ve learned, and hopefully they’ll leave a comment to let me know, but it’s not necessary. ;)

buddha_figureRemember to breathe. :)

 

Poetry Corner—A Texas Spring (reprise)

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In honor of our Texas spring in full force today, and because this tummy bug is playing havoc with my concentration, I’m reprising my 2011 poem for you. For inspiration to those farther north who await with patience or impatience the inauguration of their spring, and for appreciation to the South for sparing us the deep cold.

It begins with birdsong,
When some magnetic whisper
Vibrates in their invisible ears,

With St. Valentine they come,
And the cacophony begins
Just outside morning windows.

Meanwhile Jack Frost’s footprints
Make their last impression
In the crunch of St. Augustine grass.

White and pink blossoms
Drape trees and pollen windshields
As we sneeze along the avenues.

Our trigger-happy fire ants emerge
From mounds that weren’t there
Yesterday; the battle begins, again.

In the North, they still shiver and shovel,
While our trees don their cloaks
Of green before St. Patrick’s day.

We are graced by the saints, then
With a preview of northern summer,
Our curtains dancing in the sun.

But come May, we pay the price
For our breezy pleasures
As a tropical sun climbs,

And heat presses down
For what seems forever, or
At least through September.

(sigh)
Time to go North.

(And we will go North, and West, by the end of this year, 2014)
©2011 Joanne Sprott

The Downside of Advertising—A Small Rant

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Sorry, but I need to rant just a tad about the deleterious affect of advertising revenue on media—U.S. media in particular. All this past week, every commercial 24-hour video news outlet (I get that PBS, the BBC and Al Jazeera may be exceptions) that I have access to has spent hours and hours talking about almost nothing in the world except the loss of one airliner somewhere in the Indian Ocean (or South China sea, or Pacific, depending on the speculation of the day). I understand that the fellow in charge of CNN justified this obsessive coverage as being of interest worldwide, and that if we wanted news on any other topics, we should go to the Internet. Even though World War III may be starting in the Ukraine, for example.

The impression I got from the media analysis was that all these outlets were competing for mass-market (or at least cable-market) audience and that this was the most dramatic story with worldwide impact (remembering it’s not just the U.S. audience). But, 24 hours a day? Would they really lose that many multimillion-dollar advertiser clients by covering the news in a more balanced fashion? Really? And should large corporations with those multimillions dictate what is most available news-wise for an audience to see and hear?

I do get most of my news information from the Internet, but that’s problematic for other reasons, like not being able to tell opinion from factual reporting, and lack of professional investigation. Those multimillion-dollar advertisements also pay for professional reporting and analysis (although I often wonder about the value there anymore) as well as presence worldwide.

The advertising model of marketing is so…20th century, folks. I realize that it kept subscription prices down for hardcopy magazines and newspapers back in the day, but in the 21st century, we need another model for business visibility. Companies are totally wasting their multimillions trying to reach a mass audience anyway (yes we are fast-forwarding through those ads on cable), and I don’t think that targeted marketing of ads helps that much. We consumers of this new century are way too savvy, for the most part, to be swayed by ads more than about 10% of the time (more on how I see advertising and marketing in general in this post).

I would much prefer to pay a direct subscription for, say, CNN through the Internet (if they actually changed their model to a balanced coverage of worldwide news stories—and they don’t have to be boring like PBS. ;)). The content providers of video media need to divorce themselves from the cable companies and offer us an a la carte option. Kind of like Hulu does, where for free, you get certain content with more ads (if you really want to continue down that very inefficient path), and for x amount more you get more content with fewer ads, and maybe for x amount more, content with no ads. Then folks can decide what content they find most valuable and affordable and make their choices. Seems like a win-win to me.

So, y’all the stations making the content (and I know that Comcast owns some of you; that’s another issue—it shouldn’t), give me the opportunity to support you directly. Do like the smaller products and services businesses: build your tribe directly.

The age of advertisement is dying except as an adjunct to online search. Let’s move on to another story.

And from Darkness, Light

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Woo-woo and geeky cosmology mash-up warning. :)

Yeah, I love putting the woo-woo weft into the cosmic fabric’s warp. That’s just the way it looks to me.

Great pic, yes? My friend TJ Phillips of Believe in the Moment (very inspirational lady), has been helping me choose cosmology photos for my tarot deck and sent me this artist’s rendition of a black hole (courtesy of NASA).

Trying to figure out how to use something like this one for a Tarot card. Funny thing is, in human archetype-world, there’s no such thing as a challenge that sucks you into oblivion and can’t then be reborn or recovered from. Humans are very hopeful creatures as a rule. The idea of something that sucks everything in and flattens it like a pancake to go round and round in the darkness “forever” just doesn’t seem to jibe with human experience.

We humans have a pattern of bright joys followed by dark sorrows, but the weird thing is that even in the midst of our darkest inner black holes, outside the window of our grief, the stubborn sun refuses to stop shining, the grass refuses to stop growing, the trees refuse to stop blooming in spring. Resurrection of life (but not necessarily restoration of the old) seems to be the norm.

Yes, our losses in a lifetime (and life on Earth can be seen as a series of losses and our responses to them) seem permanent, and for this lifetime, they may very well be. That’s symbolized by the Death card in the Tarot (the version for my upcoming deck below).

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The essence, the atoms, the quarks, the DNA for the next birth even, goes on in a different form, no matter what. You are never alone, for the essence of the universe constantly hugs you one way or another. All that “happens” in the cosmos is constant change of form. So, just because it doesn’t look like it did last week, last month or a million years ago, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in some form.

Even with black holes, there are mitigating circumstances, Stephen Hawking’s latest seems to be that the information about stuff in a black hole is not actually lost but spread out at the edge. Haven’t been to a black hole, at least in this incarnation, so I don’t know. It may be, then, that black holes don’t suck; they stretch things. ;)

The coolest thing about these black holes, though, is that their destructive gravitational “sucking” properties are the same ones that create structures around them at a safe distance like galaxies, which provide homes for stars, planets, and life. The bright center in the galaxy below shows where the super massive black hole is. Weird, huh?

The ultimate cosmic irony is that the darkness supports the light.

Yeah, go think about that one for awhile. :)

NGC6744_sibling_to_milky_way