When Not Writing Becomes An Art Form…

I’m a list-maker. I have lists everywhere. Scribbled on scraps of papers and post-its.  Written and neatly numbered in notebooks. Multiples notebooks. Typed in the notes section of my iPhone. And so on.  One of the items that is permanently on my to-do list, and appears as an almost daily line item in my planner is “write on Alliezog blog.” I have “blog post ideas” scattered everywhere in various stages of thought-vomit. Lists of potential titles, topics, open letters I wish to write to the world, top 5 lists and so on. But somehow I still manage to go days, weeks and sometimes months without publishing a new post.  My drafts folder is full, my notes are made, but I can’t get my sh*t together and hit publish.

Since I couldn’t decide which blog to complete today, I figured I’d take a closer look at all the excuses I’ve come up with as to why I don’t publish posts nearly as often as I want to. As a “writer” I figure I might as well make not-writing into a legitimate blog topic.

1) I have too much “work-related writing” to do and am mentally exhausted at the end of my days and unable to form comprehensive sentences.

2) I haven’t completely decided on my schtick yet. I constantly struggle with what I want my blog to be and whether I need to have more focused, category specific posts on here or whether I can ramble on about whatever strikes my mood one day, and the next day write about my favorite local hangs in Rhode Island. Who is my target audience? Who is my readership? How will I monetize this thing – and do I even want to – or do I want to keep this space all my own…? See the inner struggle alone is exhausting!

3) I tweet a lot. And post sometimes long, preachy messages on Facebook. And write all those aforementioned to-do lists. Sometimes I even type a cleverly worded text, Facebook message, or email or to a loved one. All that counts as writing right? See – I AM a writer!

4) I’m saving up all my creativity for when someone gives me a (rather large) cash-advance to write my novel…based on…the loosely crafted outline in my head, years of journals and occasionally typed and then re-typed outlines. Fingers crossed!

5) I need to travel! When I travel, I’ll suddenly open the flood gates of creative genius. I’ll totally write my first masterpiece in a sidewalk cafe in France (or England! Or in a hut in Bali!). Isn’t that how all great writers do it? I’ll be just like them!

Hopefully my overenthusiastic exclamation point laden sentences reveal the sarcasm and absurdness of my lame excuses. (I’m apparently real good at that show don’t tell thing writers are supposed to do…)

Hopefully airing it all out (and actually hitting publish on something) will get the writing process going again. If not, at least I now know I can crank out some more excuses and call it a blog post… 🙂

 

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Write On…

Ok let me get this out of the way first, RE: my last blog. After a week (ok it was more like 2 days) of torturous early rising, I am admitting defeat. After telling a few (normal) people about my lofty goal (5:30am, ha what was I thinking?!), I was mostly met with this sentiment: Why would you willingly get up extra early for no reason? You are so lucky to be able to work from home and not have to be anywhere at an ungodly hour.

I tried explaining to my friends and family who don’t spend a large chunk of their time perusing Twitter and blogs for motivational/life improvement articles (I sometimes forget that I live in a very different world from my real life social circle) that getting up early was essentially the new trendy habit of highly effective people (or maybe it always was but there are just a lot more people writing about it now, thanks Medium…). My teacher friends/family who all get up somewhere in the 5-6 am region were pleased to hear that they are unknowingly on the path to surefire success, but after thinking about it I realized that I was being a little unrealistic. It almost seemed absurd to force myself to change my habits when my current lifestyle actually allows for me to flourish within the schedule that has always best suited me. I get a second wind at night dammit and I’m proud of it! Phew it feels good just to let it out…

Before you all go judging me and calling me lazy I should clarify. On average, I wake up around 7:30 am and start working somewhere around 8/8:30 am, which I think is totally respectable, especially since I technically could get up at 8:54 am, make a cup of coffee and “commute” down the hall to my office with time to spare before 9 am…not that I’ve ever done that…

Furthermore, I’ve realized that I should embrace my current nighttime energy bursts because obviously that’s when my brain is at its best and that’s when the universe wants me to do my thing.  Seeing as I don’t have children or any other evening obligations, I’ve decided it’s totally okay for me to use those hours as my extra time for personal writing, side projects, workday overflow, etc.

In terms of getting in a workout, I think I’ve found my ultimate workout sweet spot when my schedule allows it. This past week I’ve worked out everyday mid-afternoon as part of my lunch break. Whether it was an outdoor run, a quick gym session or a power yoga class, I’ve found that this is my peak performance time and provides the perfect break in my day and reboot of my creativity. Quick workout, shower, lunch and then back at it. I highly recommend fellow work-from-homers try this if/when they can.

You may remember that another reason behind my little experiment was for better compatibility with my boyfriend. While after only a few days of test runs and further contemplation, I realized that we both actually enjoy those quiet moments that are all our own, either early in the morning or late at night when the other is sleeping. On the first day that I did wake up early, I’m fairly sure I was interrupting his well-established routine of sipping coffee, watching ESPN and not speaking to ANYONE.

What can I say, maybe it stems from the fact that most of my jobs for the first 10 years of my working life were night jobs, or it’s just another thing to blame on my parents (kidding mom and dad!), who still stay up for the 11 o’clock news…and sometimes Leno…and usually scrabble on their computer (dad) or Pinterest on their Kindle (mom).  There’s also the whole little matter of my brain having a serious issue shutting itself off at night and thus makes falling asleep difficult, but I’ll save that for another blog post…

Whatever the reason, I’m declaring my first 2014 goal a wash, which brings me to my next fun little experiment for this year. Writing everyday. Obviously I technically already do this for work, but this time, it’s personal. I recently saw a few great blog posts (like this one from David Spinks) about challenging yourself to write everyday even if only for 15 minutes and even if (you think) you have nothing to say. Starting today, I plan to write everyday either in a personal journal, here on this blog, or as notes for future publication (for the best-selling novel I promise I’ll write someday). This won’t include freelance writing assignments or writing/blogging that I have to do for work, it will only count writing that is all my own.  To this end, I am looking to attend some creative writing workshops, writing retreats or other similar events in the coming months so if you know of any, please get in touch! There is coincidentally one this weekend right here in RI that sounds amazing but I sadly found out about it too late.

Any advice/feedback welcome. More to come!

5 Reasons Why I Should Be The Next Content Crafter at Buffer…

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1)   I still remember exactly when I first discovered Buffer (from a co-worker at Likeable Media) and how much I loved it! I even sent this tweet in excitement. From then on it has made managing both my personal social presence and countless clients infinitely better.

2)    I’ve been writing since I was 6 years old, and my dad (a journalist in NY for more than 40 years) taught me how to type on our Atari computer. I wrote my first “novel” shortly after – a mystery called The Adventures of Jillian Rhonda, loosely based on the Nancy Drew series…  Since then my writing experience has grown considerably. I studied journalism at the University of Rhode Island and wrote for the campus newspaper, I interned at Scholastic magazines, I wrote my own column for a local newspaper, I started a blog in 2006 and then stumbled gracefully into the world of social media sometime thereafter, expanding my writing outlets to blogs, websites, Facebook posts, tweets, etc.

3)   More specifically, I’ve written a number of blog posts on the topic of social media, I’ve been chosen based on my writing to be part of brand campaigns such as IBM’s #MySmarterCommerce and Pepsico’s Social Communicator project covering Internet Week in NYC, and even earned an appearance on CNN as a social media expert not because of my job at a top social media agency but rather because a producer was a fan of my personal blog.

4)   I left the fast-paced agency world of NYC to live a more relaxing life by the beach in the beautiful seaside town of Newport, RI. Although I’m no longer living in the hustle and bustle of the big city, I’m still a hustler when it comes to working hard and pursuing my passions.  I’m inspired by the notion of working where I feel my most creative, which for me, is sitting in a coffee shop with a chai latte, my laptop and some great music in the background. Bonus points for being able to see, smell or taste the salty air of a nearby ocean.  I find inspiration comes from the most unlikely places and being able to work at a dream job while living where I chose would be the ultimate work-life zen.

5)   I’m planning on buffering this blog post 🙂

Think I’d make a great writer for Buffer?  Please share this post and let @bufferapp know you want to read more from me!

A Blogging Identity Crisis…

The more blogs I read, the more I have conflicting views on where I want my blog to go and what I want my niche to be, or perhaps more accurately, do I want/need to have a niche at all??

I started this blog back in 2006 and I’d like to think I was a relatively early adopter at the time.  Since my blog was born, its had three different “looks,” the first one being a very cheesy beach scene that was a popular blogspot template at the time.  I’d stumble across the same background on blog after blog and feel sheepish about the fact that I was so common place, but to most of my readers (friends and family that barely knew what a blog was) it was still pretty cool.

As an avid journal keeper most of my life, I began my blog as just that, a slightly more edited version of the diaries I’d kept for years. A place where I documented my life just starting out in the world of PR and all the crazy/funny/wonderful/odd/terrifying experiences along the way.  I met my current boyfriend shortly after starting the blog (ironically he appears in one of my first ever posts where I mention a kind neighbor who I rode the train home with…) but if blogging had been a thing back when I was single…well I can’t even imagine the direction my blog may have gone.  One quick look at my old MySpace profile and the “blog” I kept there is enough to remind myself just how wacky my life was back as a single waitress. Anyway…

Over the years my blog took on different identities and I started experimenting with different kinds of posts.  I’ve blogged about social media, I’ve made a lot of public lists and goals for myself and then I’ve gone for months without writing at all.

After I finally moved into NYC, I decided I needed a cityscape design so I spent hours teaching myself basic HTML in order to successfully update my background to a flourescent pink skyscraper scene.  It was glorious…and then it wasn’t.

This brings me to my current blog, complete with my own photo and “classic clean look.” I’ve though several times about changing the name of my blog to something more subject-matter related.  Is calling it “The Allie Zog Blog” self-serving?  Am I important/interesting enough to have a self-titled blog? Is this the equivalent to a self-titled album by an artist??

But what would my new name be?  Like a reporter without a beat, I’ve never felt like I had a clear niche, a subject I would want to stick to exclusively or an area of expertise.  I prefer to think of myself as a columnist of the new age because after all, isn’t the reason being a columnist was/maybe still is such a coveted job, the flexibility to write about whatever you want?

The options are endless these days. I could write a social media marketing blog coming up with new ways to repurpose the same “breaking” tech stories that hundreds of other bloggers are writing about (I call these the “Facebook releases a new feature – film at 11!” posts) or I could be a “fashion blogger” taking gratuitous pictures of my “outfits” for the day and writing about why I think mint green is this season’s IT color (my most compelling reason for considering this route is when I discovered all the free clothes  even the most novice fashion bloggers can receive by simply posting pictures and links to the products) or maybe I should become a food blogger?  This one I’ve most seriously considered as I’ve previously written about restaurants and bars, have worked in the restaurant business for a good part of my life and recently discovered a penchant towards cooking and baking.  Yup, I thought, I should totally rename my blog “Allie Eats” or something equally catchy and go that route. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for better or worse, The Allie Zog Blog must remain.  It’s who I am and it’s a place for me to write about whatever I want, which, all jokes aside includes a lot of what I mentioned above. It also allows me to evolve, change locations, change jobs and gain new hobbies without needing to start a new blog or change the name.  I still find myself blogging about NYC (or at least referring to it) because as they say, you can take the girl out of NYC but you can’t take the NYC out of the girl, but now my “where I went, what I did” posts are almost exclusively New England based, with Newport having the obvious hometown advantage.

The bottom line for me is this, I love to write and I love to do so about a variety of topics. One day, I may blog about how awesome I think yoga is and the next day I may rant about the weather. But like most egotistical writers, my favorite topic is me! To put it less pompously: things that I’m passionate about, experiences I’ve had, and life lessons I’ve learned along the way.

So, a question to my readers: Do you think my blog, or any blog really, needs to have a niche or can it be all-encompassing?  And if one day I do decide that I want to blog about one thing (travel, New England, FOOD, not sure just yet…) should I start a separate blog for that, or just keep it all right here on the blog I so eloquently named after myself?

Comment away folks!

The easy way to start again…

The new year is always a great excuse to start up the regular blogging again.  After being MIA through the holidays, the new year brings an easy no-think idea for a first post to get back on the blogging horse as I like to say.  The new year always seems like such a fresh start but I’ve realized my resolutions often stay the same year after year, meaning I either haven’t accomplished them the previous year or am still working on them slowly but surely.  My “travel internationally” resolution still remains front and center as well as the yearly “write more.”  One clichéd resolution that I’ve actually been sticking to from last year is the committment to working out more.  I began running regularly this past summer and once the cold weather hit in November I joined a gym and actually go (gasp!).  It’s funny, when I lived in NYC and had a comped membership to a fancy gym 21 blocks from my apartment with every amenity I could imagine, I rarely went but now that I belong to a local YMCA going seems a lot easier.  Go figure…

I tried to find my last few years of New Years Resolution posts but as it turns out I’ve been more inspired to share my goals every year around my birthday than New Years.  One thing I wanted out of post-30 life was to find a new hobby.  While I’m not sure it’s the most glamorous one, I’ve become quite the chef recently and enjoy cooking up new recipes (mostly tweaked from Pinterest or food blogs and given a little zog twist!).  I’m thinking of beginning a section on here to share them so stay tuned.

In 2013, assuming I actually stay in one state for a full year, I’d like to get immersed in the New England/RI lifestyle and become as much as a localvore as I can.  (Sorry that I just used such a hipster word…)  I want to re-learn snowboarding because really, how can you live in New England and not have a snow-sport hobby?  Judging by my end of summer yearnings to learn to sail last August, I suspect that might be a possible summer ambition?

As small as RI is, I realized even though I’ve lived here off and on for the better part of 8 years now, I only really know small pockets of the state well (Newport, Narragansett, Kingston/Wakefield) and there are prized areas that remain unexplored.  Providence has recently won all kinds of awards for its restaurants and culinary delights yet shamefully my knowledge of the area doesn’t extend far beyond the Providence Place mall, Thayer Street and one recent trip to Federal Hill.  A few friends lived there after college and I remember visiting there cute apartments and getting coffee at a place called Zog’s Cafe or something similarly named after me (speaking of which, is that place still there??) but beyond that I think we sadly only frequented lame college bars, clubs, The Cheesecake Factory and not much else.

A new year, a new state, a focus on living local, living each day to the fullest, living out my dreams and living well.  Here’s hoping 2013 is my year and your’s too!