Don’t Be Afraid to Tell Your Story

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I’m disappointed.

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about something that happened in my life. It would be silly to try and deny that I was nervous and fearful about sharing it. I knew it would shake people and ruffle feathers.

For two years I’d held on to my story, afraid to tell it.

Ultimately, on that post, there were two unsupportive commenters (and several people who ‘unfriended’ me). One had a confrontational tone, whose intention, I imagine, was meant to embarrass me. I easily shrugged that one off.

But it was the second one that, months later, I still find myself pondering and tossing around in my mind.

I was told that some things do not belong on blogs and that my post was one of those things.

My story had no place on a blog. Even my own blog.

…insert long pause…

I had many thoughts about that comment and still do, because ultimately, the post wasn’t just about telling that particular story, but about the fear that I felt in writing it.
In telling my own truth.
My story.

And why?

Because… I was afraid that it would make others angry at me.
Or not like me.

{hate me.}

Do you know what?

Out of the hundreds of emails, comments, texts, tweets and phone calls I received, all but those two were able to relate in some way and applaud me for having the courage to write what I did.

Despite my fear.

Some of those people may not have even agreed with what I wrote; I don’t know… But they supported my right to tell my story and didn’t try to make me feel badly about doing so.

Why?

Because it was my story to tell.

From my perspective.
About my own experience.
Through self-examination.

When all was said and done, the story wasn’t even about what that commenter implied and was pissed off about. But rather it was about sharing something so that others could maybe… hopefully… learn from something I’d experienced.

I will always shake my head at that comment. But I will continue to tell my stories.

Despite the feathers they may ruffle or the way people may be made uncomfortable.

Not everything looks pretty from every angle, but everyone has a right to tell their own story.

And you should tell your own.
Without fear.
Without anxiety.

Unless you are making up your stories and selling them as ‘truth’.

In that case… you’re on your own.

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A Cautionary Tale: afterward

As I mentioned in my comment on the last post I had planned on doing a follow up to it, to sort of wrap things up.

I  figured that there would be questions and comments that would need to be addressed. I didn’t know how my posts would be received.

I hit “publish” and then held my breath.

The feedback immediately started via comments, emails, dms, tweets.

Thanking me.

Because apparently, a lot of people have experienced the same sort of tale or their own personal BackStreet, and didn’t know if or how to express it. They saw themselves in my tale.

Since I hit publish, I’ve learned and been reminded of many things.

If I’ve learned one thing about the internet (and thank you Jesus for the fact that there is more to it than this) it’s that people do not like to hear things that they disagree with, don’t understand, find unbelievable or haven’t experienced.

No matter how I shared this, there would be people who wouldn’t like it.

I was mean for writing what I did.
wimp for not naming names and “setting it up so that it would be done in comments“.
Even the style I used to tell my tale was criticized.

But all I heard from those responses was: I didn’t really read your post.

Because it wasn’t about outing people. It wasn’t about being mean. It wasn’t about bringing someone down. There are at least 50 bajillion more effective ways I could have written my post if that had been my goal.

It was telling a tale that others obviously needed to hear.

And hear it, they did. Over and over and over again, people opened up and shared their own stories, as we shared a collective exhale.

So instead of wrapping this up in a nice and tidy package and storing it away, I’m crafting a couple of  posts that deal with some of the general feedback I received: ie: what’s appropriate vs what’s not; wearing masks; the truth about our new transparency.

You know — light, fluffy reading.

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Useful WordPress Plugins

I am often asked what plugins are useful on a WordPress site. The main thing to determine is what you are using your site for. Sure there are a lot of plugins out there. I am amazed at what plugins can do for a site. But just because it is available doesn’t mean you should use it.

So here is my top 10 list of useful plugins that every blogger should have – whether a power blogger or beginner.

Contact Form 7: This is a very nice contact form that does allow for customization (I use it on my business site). You can also create multiple forms and use each one on your site. There are other contact forms available, but I like the ease of use of this one. (and it’s free)

WP Database Backup: Any blogger’s worst nightmare is to go to their site and realize it’s GONE! It can happen. Backups are so important. This plugin would be worth paying for if you had to (but it’s FREE!)

Tweet Meme Button: Allows users to tweet your post. Anymore, it is pretty much assumed that you’ll provide this option somewhere on your posts/pages/site.

Sexy Bookmarks: I love this plugin. I’m sure I’ll get tired of seeing it everywhere some day, but for now, I think it is an attractive fun way to allow your users to share your site on various networks (you get to select which ones are shown)

ShareThis: does the same thing that Sexy Bookmarks does, but in a smaller manner.

All-In-One-SEO Pack: This works “out of the box”, so it’s great for beginners. But advanced users will appreciate being able to tweak things even more.

WP-Touch: More and more web users are accessing sites via their smartphones. A site can look totally different on a mobile device. This plugin will allow the visitor to see your site on their device without you have to do any special coding or resizing. Another option is WP Mobile Edition.

WP Super Cache: Speeds up the time your users have to wait for your site to load. (explained via a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo… but all you need to know is FASTER!)

Yet Another Related Post Plugin (YARPP): Keep your readers on your site longer by showing posts they may have missed. This plugin will show posts that are related to the current post (obviously…)

Google XML Sitemap: Helps search engines better index your site, and notifies search engines when you create new content.

I’d add Askimet, but it is included by default now when you install WordPress. USE IT!! 85% of comments on the internet are spam.

To install a plugin:

You can install a plugin by either downloading it to your computer and then uploading it to WordPress OR install it directly to your site via WordPress.org.

Click on “Add New” via your “Plugins” page on your dashboard (see below)

Then decide whether to “Search” (WordPress.org plugin directory) or “Upload”. Or to really be adventurous, filter them by what is popular, featured or recently added.

Install the plugin by following the screen prompts. Once it is properly loaded it will ask if you want to activate. Activate and then be sure to change any setting necessary for the plugin to properly function (*Not all plugins have settings options)

What are your favorite plugins? Which one would you cry over if it suddenly stopped working on your site?

Need more info or help on this topic? Do a google search, or feel free to ask questions in comments or email me.

Managing your time online

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When I first started blogging over 4 years ago, it was easy for me to manage my time. I sat down to write a post, edited it, posted it and that was that. I didn’t know anyone else who had a blog, so I didn’t spend time reading other blogs. There wasn’t Twitter. I wasn’t using Facebook. I didn’t know what a feed-reader was. My online life was manageable.

But soon, I realized that there were blogs. MANY blogs. Written by other people. And they were interesting. My “Bookmarks” list in my browser became flooded with links. I quickly realized that method was futile. I spent my time going through that list each day only to realize that there was nothing new to read. Wasted time.

Fortunately, I discovered feed-readers and that solved that problem.

Enter Twitter. And Facebook. And the hundreds of blogs that I ended up subscribed to. And all of the other social media sites that I became involved with.

If I hadn’t realized a way to wrestle all of those things under control, I’d be sitting in a corner sucking my thumb and rocking, mumbling something incoherent. That’s not to say that I have time management down to a science. I don’t. But I have found some things that help me maintain my sanity, while also continuing to grow my sites and business online. You won’t necessarily find anything new on this list, but we all need to be reminded of these things on occasion.

1) PRIORITIZE: Your to-do list is probably a mile long. Face it – you aren’t going to get it all done today (and that’s ok.) But what you can do is look your list over and find the items that have a glaring need for your attention. Put those things at the top of your list. AND DO THEM. If you can’t complete the entire task, break it into little chunks and check those off as you complete them.

2) STOP PROCRASTINATING: If it needs to be done now, do it. Ignoring it will not make it disappear off of your list. It will only serve as a further distraction as you start to worry about the fact that it isn’t getting done. So just do it. You’ll feel better once it’s checked off of your list.

3) USE APPLICATIONS/TOOLS THAT ALLOW YOU TO BE MORE EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT: When I first started using Twitter, I hated it. I found myself on the Twitter website obsessively refreshing to see if someone had replied to any of my comments (“Why doesn’t anyone else see how witty I am on there?”). I wasted so much time doing that, I had to just quit Twitter for a couple of months. Then I learned about Twhrl and was hooked on Twitter once again. Only this time, I was able to use it in a way didn’t take me away from other work I was doing. If someone responded to me, I received a little notice on my screen. There are so many applications that make using Twitter so much easier and I’ve tried most of them. Tweetdeck has been my favorite, and each new version adds something that makes me enjoy it even more. Try them out and see which one helps you the most.

(*NOTE* I will be posting tutorials on some of the helpful features for each Twitter application/tool in an upcoming series)

4) KNOW WHEN TO CLOSE OTHER APPLICATIONS: The internet allows us to be in multiple places at one time. On so many levels, this is a fantastic thing. But when you are trying to get work done, it leads to overload. If you have too many programs open on your computer screaming for your attention it will become a major distraction. If you need to write a blog post, close down every program except for the ones you need in order to write your post. Don’t keep Tweetdeck or Skype or GoogleChat open, unless you have to have access to write your post. (And if that’s the case, consider doing that portion of your post separately) Those are tools meant to help you. Just as you can turn off your phone to keep from being interrupted, you can turn these other distractions off as well.

5) ALLOW YOURSELF TO BECOME PICKIER ABOUT WHERE YOU SPEND YOUR TIME ONLINE: When I first started reading other people’s blogs, I had the time to do it. Soon, my reader had become too full. At first I tried breaking them down into types of blogs (eg: design sites; blogging friends; cooking sites…) but my reader still caused me anxiety when I’d open it and find 500+ new posts waiting to be read. I was so afraid of missing something that I’d try to make it through that list (Oh yes I did…). But when I got to the end, I realized that I couldn’t recall most of it. That is because not all of it was relevant to me anymore. My needs had changed. I no longer needed every single design site (And really — did I ever??). So I whittled my list down to the select few that I consistently found myself referring to. I did that for each type of site I had in my reader. If it was not useful to me, I removed it.

6) ALWAYS HAVE SEVERAL POSTS STARTED IN YOUR DRAFTS: At any given time, I have at least 4 posts in my drafts folder that I can work on. This allows me to work on them as inspiration hits, but it also keeps me prepared for those times when something unexpected happens and I need to get a post up. If you are a blogger with a regular posting schedule, this can be a life-preserver in a pinch.

7) DEDICATE PARTS OF YOUR DAY TO VARIOUS TASKS: If you were at work in a corporate office, you would most likely have some sort of schedule that you’d follow through the day. It should be no different when you are sitting in front of your laptop at your kitchen table. Come up with a schedule/game plan for how you will spend your computer time. Twitter won’t die if you aren’t on there every 20 minutes. Facebook will carry on without you while you complete your current project. Set aside times of the day to spend on each of the sites you frequent. Consider what times of day are most active on those sites. (eg: Twitter is most active in the evening/night hours… but you may have people you call on who are most active in the morning) Feel free to allow for flexibility with it, but be aware of how much time you are spending on each site and how much time it is taking away from the other things you need to get done, and plan your time accordingly.

Time management doesn’t always come naturally to us. We want to do what we want to do. But sometimes, we have to do other things. With some focus dedicated to those things, you will soon find that your day feels more in control.

How do you manage your time? Share in comments.

Thanks

Y’all! How I’ve missed you! And all of your comments on my last post reaffirm how much I love this whole bloggin’ thing. To think that I write a post after almost 3 months and YOU NOTICED!

Thanks for all of the sweet comments. It means so much.

Keep your eye out for me reemerging from the woodwork some more.