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One Year Anniversary Review: Kudos and Surprises

As I have reviewed this past year on , I’ve also reviewed my own life in relationship to the articles I wrote. I don’t blog personal stuff here, as it is inappropriate, but I hope you have gotten to know me a little over the past year through my writing. You certainly have learned a lot about what I enjoy writing about.

This past year, personally, has been jam packed with massive travel, some of which was typical of my life on the road, and other parts that were not. I drove across three-quarters of the width of the United States twice, and flew back and forth and in between many times on many business and personal trips. I met in person with a lot of clients I’ve been working with virtually for years, and met many new clients for the first time ever. While I did less programs and workshops this past year than usual, mostly due to Hurricane Katrina and moving back to the United States, I still presented a few programs and had my say, having way too much fun sharing what I love with others and learning from those who came to learn from me.

I also made several life dreams come true this past year, things I’ve very proud of accomplishing, and one of those was to create a blog where I could write about my passion for web writing, WordPress, and web development and design. The fact that there is no end in sight and I have stacks of things to write about here, even after one year and over 800 articles, just proves I’m on the right track with this successful dream-come-true.

I had some fun surprises for me on this blog, too. One thrill was when Mandarin Design, a web design blog I’ve been a huge fan of for years, gave me a very cool Valentine’s Present with a link to this blog.

Successful Outstanding BloggerIn May of this year, Liz Strauss of Successful Bloggers honored this site and me as an SOB – “Successful and Outstanding Blogger” – which was a huge surprise.

Top 100 BloggersI have also stayed near the top of the list in my field of The Top 100 Bloggers for the entire year, which proves to me that I must be doing something right here. At least, enough people think so to vote for this blog.

Then I was on the final list for which shook me to my toes and inspired “Nominated for 9Rules – Not Worthy”:

I can only say one thing about the honor of being among those under consideration for inclusion:

I am not worthy.

That’s not humility speaking. That is fear. If I am chosen to be part of the 9Rules blogging network, I will feel a greater sense of responsibility to you, my readers. I will have to work harder. I will feel added pressure to live up to some kind of expectation. It is a responsibility as well as an honor. And part of me fears it.

I love all the nice things everyone has said about me, so much so that I collected a lot of them and put them on my About Page so others could read them. They also remind me that someone thought I was “okay” and “worthy” when I’m not feeling so good about what I’m doing here. There are parts of this blogging business that sucks and it can get you down fast.

After putting all the nice things people were saying about me and this blog on my About Page, I wrote about why I did that (as if I needed justification – okay, I did) in “I Love It When You Say Nice Things About Me”, encouraging others to collect nice things people say about them. After all, it’s the random and purposeful acts of kindness that really sustains us, isn’t it?

Many today think, rightly so, that their work should speak for itself. That’s nice, but it helps when other people speak for you. Your opinion is a bit biased, so hearing it from someone else, preferably an unbiased party (not your mother), not only gives you a nice warm feeling inside, it works well when it comes time to promote you and your work…

Where and how you include these nice things people say about you and your work is up to you…On a blog, you might want to publish some of the nice things people say about you and your work so everyone can see them, since they often can’t see your resume.

The response to many of my articles was surprising and overwhelming. I knew there was a need for a simple blog dedicated to WordPress and blogging, but the popularity of the site stunned me.

What Did I Learn, Enjoy, and Fuss Over Too Much

Cybergeography - what does the internet look likeOne of the articles I had the most fun researching and writing was “Can You Visualize the Web?”, inspired by my mother, a woman who sees the world through a different lens than most of us, who asked “What does the Internet look like?” Describing it as a “web” just wasn’t enough of an answer for her.

“How Google Ranks Websites” continues to be one of the most popular articles I’ve written here, and while it attracts a lot of attention, it wasn’t much fun to write. I wrote it because I wanted to understand what the patent for the search algorithms said, and I understand best when I have to explain it to others. This is one of my life policies, the guidelines by which I live my life: We teach best what we most need to learn.

“Hundreds of Resources for Finding Content for Your Blog” was the most laborious article I’ve every done. I took a collection of links I’d created over a year or more on resources for writing material and research and decided one day to turn it into an article link list. Gads, what a nightmare to organize and structure. It took weeks to style it, organize, and flesh out missing details, and I fretted over it’s layout for the longest time before releasing it, and then fixed it several times afterwards. I’m still not happy with it, but it remains hugely popular. I hope people find use out of that vast link collection of writing inspiration, motivation, and resources.

There have been a few articles which were inspired writing, like “Blogging Rants: Tangential Blogging Can Lose Readers” and “How NOT to Comment on Comments”, and then those which were inspired and yet troublesome to write. I would spend sleepless nights fretting over whether or not to publish these. I have another life policy that has saved my life: When in doubt, don’t. So some of these will never see the day, but I’m constantly in conflict with another life policy: Go Into Your Fear.

Admitting to you my panic at being accepted into the finals of the 9Rules Network was very revealing and risky for me. In “Too Much To Write About”, I let you see inside of my overwhelmed head:

Imagine the inside of my head looking like an office. In this corner of the desk I have a meter high pile of articles and research I want to write about on my family’s history after an amazing last few months digging into the past and coming up with full hands and head. Sitting in front of me is a half meter high stack of notes and ideas on articles about WordPress and blogging that have been backlogged with all the traveling I’ve been doing for the past 3 months. On the floor next to my chair are the stacked half finished manuscripts of three books I have to finish writing very soon, and under my feet is another pile of paper representative of another book still in the negotiation phase.

On the other side of the chair on the floor are piles and piles of PHP, HTML, and CSS coded print outs, covered with red pen marks as I analyze, troubleshoot, and break my head on them. There’s good material there for technical articles, but more problems to solve than publish. I spot an apple turning brown among the papers and ignore the ripening smell in my head. Maybe it will turn into one of those neat dried apple heads in a few months, preserved for all time. What do you think?

On the shelf above my desk, right above my mental laptop screen, is a huge row of articles on photography and travel rustling at me to publish on my Taking Your Camera on the Road website. On the shelf also sits a photograph of my husband, smiling at me with love in his eyes and camera in his hands. A smile and eyes I haven’t seen in four months as I’ve been constantly on the road. My heart aches. It reminds me that tucked in a small alcove underneath are months of dusty papers making dry cracking sounds from their thin pages on the airline manufacturing and maintenance industry for my husband’s aircraft engineering blog, much ignored lately.

In between and around the stacks of paper, notebooks, scratch pads, and books are the dried up remains of half eaten lunches and dank tea cups with the loose tea leaves starting to grow plants. A roll of stamps twists around the yellowing pages of another manuscript on the business of networking for nature photographers, a reminder of days gone by when such topics were in demand and real letters were once written. I don’t even pay my bills with stamps and envelopes anymore. In fact, I think the stamps have 29 cents imprinted upon them. Yikes.

Airline tickets and car rental receipts fill in the left over spaces, as does huge lumps of gas receipts and mileage records, keeping track of the more than 15,000 miles I’ve traveled by vehicle in the past six months, across 24 states, repeating some of them more than once (which total to 30 states, I think, but whose counting?).

I hear a sniffing and scuffling sound, and from in between the white stacks pops my black cat, Kohav, evil in her golden eyes. I grab the piles and hang on because right behind her is Holiday, my tiger kitty, chasing her across my mental desktop. It takes all my energy to hold everything in place. This time, the stacks survive. Next time, even in my mental office, I might not be so lucky.

With all of this mental clutter, you think that my brain would contain a gold mine of material worth digging up and translating into text for you to read and editors to buy. With all this mental clutter, it’s hard for me to focus and concentrate. That’s the truth and the dilemma.

These may not seem like much to fret over for you, but I work hard to hold to my policy of writing here about WordPress and blogging and not about “me”. I do more than enough telling stories and personal undressing on .

Among the articles I released that had me nervous, and most proud, was “Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging”. It was one of those “let’s talk about the elephant in the living room” topics which needed to be addressed but really wasn’t. By addressing the root issues and methods of blog bashing and name calling, I wanted to give people choices on how to deal with it, and stop it if they themselves were inclined to be blog bullies. I wanted to help people talk about this in a safe way, while not getting bashed myself.

People really responded well, thank goodness, and they talked about it. They talked about the blog bullies and set comment policies on their blogs and taking charge of the comment content on their site, overcoming their own fears. My article on “How NOT to Comment on Comments” cemented this, letting people know they don’t have to take the abuse on their blogs. And, more importantly, they don’t have to respond to bullies, giving their power away.

I wouldn’t say I was nervous, but it was risky for me to open my blog up to a guest blogger. Greg Balanko-Dickson was my first guest blogger here. He did an amazing job. He wrote “When was the last time you read your own blog?”, “Prevent Blog Pollution”, “True Confessions of Early Adopter Turned Blogger”, and “Writing a Blog and Engaging Readers”. I’m giving some thought to opening up to more guest bloggers. What do you think about that?

Having been “blogging” long before there were blogs, you’d think there would be no surprises, but there were a lot of surprises this year for me on . I am still constantly dazzled and humbled by the kind things people have to say about what I do here. I’m thrilled that I’m making a connection. I’m continually stunned and fascinated at which articles attract the most attention and which don’t. I was sure that only WordPress fans would find a few treasures here, but bloggers using every kind of blogging tool available are finding worthwhile material here.

What has been a tremendous surprise is the rise and popularity of . I knew it would be exciting, but I was sure that most people wanted more control over their blog’s look and abilities. I didn’t realize how much people wanted to share their voice with the world without any hassles, stresses, or strains, and WordPress.com provided that. It’s so darn easy to blog with WordPress, you often forget about the power under the hood for the ease of getting your words published.

I knew WordPress.com would be hot, I just didn’t realize how hot. I would love to be part of the marketing team that “sells” the WordPressMU blogging networking service like WordPress.com to companies, networks, and online services. Giving audience, members, customers, and employees a voice! It’s such an easy sell.

As an evangelist for WordPress, I’m very proud of the fact that I have helped many people “cross over” to a better blogging program. I’m very proud of how hard all the volunteers and staff work for WordPress, and I’m honored to be one of them. It’s a fantastic team and an awesome product line, so it’s great to be a part of this fast growing industry.

Thank you to everyone who helped me along the way this year. Without you, honestly, I would be dancing in the dark.


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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

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