May 192014
 

Recently, my dear friend Elizabeth sent a message my way, asking if I was interested in being a part of a “My Writing Process” blog tour.  I was beyond honored that she asked me to join the fun, which celebrates blog writing and community – two of my favorite things! 

Elizabeth is one of my favorite women on the planet.  She is constantly teaching me life lessons through her actions, which as you know, speak so much louder than words. She’s a creative force to be reckoned with, leading us all by example to infect the world around us with positive change as best we can.  She shares my love for productivity tools, organization, and color-coding and she’s also one of the first people I contact when I need to share information about washi tape – STAT! So there’s that.

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This is one of my favorite photos of Elizabeth EVER.  Pregnant with Grace at last year’s HLS, rejoicing over office supplies [or at least that what I choose to believe is happening here!]

I’m quite certain our first one-on-one communication took place when she totally stalked me during the 2011 Healthy Living Summit. ;) After connecting at HLS that year, I remember becoming a big fan of Elizabeth’s blog, On Tap for Today, and back-reading her old content whenever I was procrastinating. On Tap for Today is one of my favorite sites to visit these days for deep insights, nutritious recipes, and DIY inspiration.  Plus you can’t beat photos of this stylish little lady and this ridiculously witty dog!

I’ve talked about various topics in blogging here on Then Heather Said a handful of times over the years. [If you are interested you can check out those posts here: Behind the Blog Category << some of my most favorite posts of all times are filed there!]  I’m grateful to Elizabeth for asking me to add another post to the list.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

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What am I working on?

A lot has changed at THS over the years. Since I first started this blog back in 2009, there have been seasons of sporadic posting, others of twice-daily blog updates, and everywhere in-between.

Currently, I’m focusing on two things.  The first is realistic consistency.  To me this meant finding a blog schedule that I can manage during all of the busiest seasons of the year. I’m committed to publish two reoccurring series posts each week – on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  If there is a post I want to write that doesn’t fit into these two series schedules, I consider it a bonus point and publish it whenever I see fit. [Like today for example. Or that time I talked about Tofu.]

The second is finding ways to repurpose some of my favorite, most-frequently-visited posts.  I’m sprucing them up, giving an update and finding new ways to use the goodness that is still in those words.  These are specific posts that I know have “legs” and are relatable and worthy of sharing today. It has been a long time since I’ve reworked content, sincerely, to get to the best version and I’m excited for the chance to challenge myself.  My posts are typically written, read through once, and published. Rarely do I ever peer edit any more, and honestly I’ve become lazy enough to do the proofing the day the post is published, when I find it in my email that morning. 

[Side note blogger tip: subscribe to your own blogs in the same manner in which you ask your readers to, so that if the formatting ever gets wonky, you are aware and can handle the issue ASAP!]

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
If you take a trip down the THS history path, you’ll find lots of heart-filled posts about relationships, self-acceptance, and my journey to a healthier, happier me.  The words I would hear most often back when my blog was very essay-heavy, were things like “authentic” or “honest” or “encouraging.”

Did you know THS started when I was recovering from a broken engagement and rediscovering myself? [Cliche, much?]  I spent the first couple of years writing here as a sort of healing-through-sharing therapy session collection. [That’s a mouthful!]  I also started writing a book.  But over time I grew out of that part of my story and stepped into another.

These days I’d say THS differs from other “healthy living blogs” [yep! that’s the genre I claim. Even though THS should likely be classified as a TV-watching blog.] because it’s pretty set-in-stone what you’ll find here.  I declare Tuesday a day for sharing “happy things in twos” [Twosdays!] and bring a simple dose of inspiration to your screen each Saturday with a quotation-graphic meant to motivate us all! [Simply Saturdays!]

[And I use lots of parenthetical, often unnecessary, statements in brackets.]

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Why do I write what I do?
I’ve always been a fool for words and have been the one with quotations from favorite authors, historical figures, television characters, and friends scribbled in my journal and on post-its* stuck to my wall.  Simply Saturdays allow me to share that piece of my heart with you all.  

Twosdays are all about sharing my favorite happy things.  I love to point my fellow television addicts to the shows I’m loving, recommend new-to-me products I’ve discovered and loved, and share the link-love to the best content I’m taking in throughout the week.  Each Twosday’s topics are different because each week of my life is filled with different happy things, but the structure remains the same – two topics, photo, two topics, photo, two topics, photo, two topics.  For the sake of transparency, this makes post writing A LOT simpler in my book. 

How does my writing process work?
I usually “batch-prepare” Simply Saturdays about 12-15 at a time. 
I have a running list of quotations I want to include in future SS posts on a Google Doc.  I like using Google Docs for ALL THE THINGS, but especially this, because I have access to it no matter where I am when I come across a quotation worth saving.
I started to use PicMonkey to create my images at the beginning of the year. [I used to create all the images in Microsoft Paint, if you can believe that!] 
I also have a stash of photos to use for background images that I’ve collected over time.  Sometimes I use them, other times I design from scratch using all the killer tools PicMonkey provides.  I have the Royale plan now, but you can totally use the free plan to create wonderful work, too!

I typically prepare Twosdays on the weekend.  I’ll start with a list of topic ideas based on what happened in my life the previous week, paying close attention to what I have photos of on my phone.  If I come across a great article I want to share or know I want to talk about something specific in the next Twosday post, I’ll start my Windows Live Writer draft earlier in the week and add notes to it as things come up. 

If I come across something I want to remember to talk about while browsing on my phone, I will take a screenshot and upload it to dropbox, which I use to transport photos every weekend. Speaking of dropbox, I love it for sharing images, files, and such with the Dream Team and other people I’m project-ing with these days.  I also made this fun public Then Heather Said Dropbox which has some super fun printables from this time I wrote original content for 30 days straight to celebrate my 30th birthday. A Then Heather Said accomplishment I’m extremely proud of.

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Wow. This tour is starting to feel a bit braggy. But you know what? I think I’m okay with that. I love that I’ve put work into things here on THS and that deserves bragging! OH MY GOSH [literal reaction while writing this] I just wrote this quotation down yesterday when I was watching the farewell Barbara episodes of The View on Hulu+: “The greatest lesson I have ever learned is if you care about the work that you’ve done, then you need to tell people about it or they won’t hear about it.” – Star Jones, on the number one lesson she learned from Barbara Walters [*case and point]

If I have several physical things I’ve tried, rave about IRL and want to share in the coming weeks, I will ask Nick to play photographer and take a batch of photos with the real camera.  It’s a small way he can help and I am grateful for it.  I edit any photos and collages I use in Twosdays posts in PicMonkey, as well.

And now for the next leg of the Blog Tour….

With this My Writing Process Blog Tour, I really thought about which bloggers in my life I knew would take the opportunity to allow this post topic to inspire them and bring them fresh creative energy.  I truly believe that evaluating how we work, create, and consume every-so-often helps us to better understand ourselves on many levels.  I must admit that as a curious creature by nature, I am also quite excited to see the behind-the-scenes of how three of my favorite bloggers get the job done!  

Please check out the blogs of each of these talented women and tune in next Monday, May 26th, as they share their own processes on the My Writing Process Blog Tour.

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Rachel of The Rewm
I have no idea how I first came across Rachel online [was it Twitter?] but I do know that I can always count on her to stir something in my heart with the words she writes.  She is a brilliant, talented journalist, freakin’ impressive editor and fantastic conversation starter.  Rachel is the person who I most love to get meta bloggy-wise with and we’ve had some great long discussions via email chains and Gchat over the years. I respect this woman like mad, and was thrilled to have her present at the 2012 Healthy Living Summit. [I seriously have a page in an old journal that has “get Rachel Wilkerson to speak at an event” on one of my goal lists. LEGIT.]  Her blog, The Rewm, is filled with uber-valuable content ranging from recommend recipes [totally trust her taste buds] and DIY wonders, to serious conversations that need to happen.  I would venture to say she has written many of the posts on my Most Important, Yet-Often Ignored, Topics list.  [which totally doesn’t physically exist. yet.]  If her blog were a superhero, it would be a bad-ass, uber stylish Wedding coordinator by day and Ignorance Buster by night.  And she’s smart-hilarious in the best way.

Jasmine of Blissfully Bama
I first discovered Jasmine’s magical touch of creativity through her amazing jewelry brand, bama + ry.  I’ve collected several of her pieces over the past year+, but my first was a gift from a dear friend, and it speaks so much to my journey in life, and here on THS, too.  The fact that Jasmine could convey so much of my experience and emotion in one hand crafted necklace really impressed me.  I love how personalized everything in the bama + ry shop is, and can promise you that her jewelry makes awesome gifts. [Raise your hand if you’ve received a piece of bama + ry jewelry from me during the past two years. Many hands!!!!] Jasmine’s blog is a recent find, honestly.  I’ve probably been reading only 2 or 3 months, but I’ve REALLY enjoyed what she shares there.  I came over to Blissfully Bama after subscribing to the bama + ry e-newsletter, Bliss of the Week and having three back-to-back emails impact me majorly. 

Stephanie of Cat Lady Runs
It is one of my goals in life to work with this woman as often as possible. I have been constantly impressed by her since the very first moment of our very first Google Hangout video chat.  She inspires me beyond belief and is just about the most fun thing since glitter sprinkles. [I love glitter sprinkles.] Cat Lady Runs is a place you’ll find well-written recaps of races, events, and places Steph visits, along with tales of running, cats, and general life, too.  Cat Lady Runs is the kind of blog you check in with daily because you feel like Stephanie could easily be your best friend in real life.  Her posts inspire me and keep motivated to continue with my “make one healthy decision at a time” goals.  She’s also going to be my long-distance half-marathon co-coach with Mindy. [even if they don’t know it, yet.] And her tagline is Run. Write. Meow. I mean seriously.

Sep 072013
 

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Surprise! I leave for the Healthy Living Summit in just FOUR SLEEPS.  I think I am excited, but I’m not really allowing myself to process any of the emotions I’m facing until I’m done with the very long to-do list currently sitting to my right.  I’ve been LOVING the super big, uber-colorful, handwritten task list these days as a compliment to all the apps and programs I’ve been using to stay on top of all of the things, which you can hear more about during my and Julie’s session, The Organized Blogger if you’re joining us in Minneapolis a week from today.

One emotion I have been feeling lately is gratitude.  I’ve had so much support from my friends and family, over the past month especially, and my heart is swollen with love for all of you! 

My grandma passed away last month, poetically on her 70th Birthday.  I’ve spent the past two weekends flying into Chicago for mega-short trips; first to say goodbye [one day we shall discuss the bittersweet opportunity for last words,] then to gather back with my family, memorial service style.  I’m so fortunate to have been able to just drop everything and hop on a plane two weeks in a row to be with my family.  I’m so grateful for the support and love of my family, and for all the friends who have given me long distance hugs and words of support the past few weeks.

Nick is currently going through a similar experience, which is hard, of course.  Our apartment can seem a bit like a cold, dark cave at times with all the days of having to deal with the fact that life ultimately ends.  We continue on, one day at a time.  We search for the little things to bring in smiles.  We talk about life and try to get Benson to cuddle [he resists] when we watch mind-numbing television programming in need of an escape. It’s quieter here.

Prior to these sadder days were some crazy last-minute work trips, also leading me to board planes, trains, and automobiles followed by doing computer work from a hotel bed.  My instagram feed proves I can squeeze in work from the road and back-to-back additions of the Statesman and Globetrotter badge to my Yelp! profile can probably explain why I fought off a fever earlier this week and am trying desperately to kick this cold before I leave for Minneapolis to start Summit prep on Wednesday. 

I must state again that there is no way the 2013 Healthy Living Summit would be happening without Julie’s endless effort in picking up my slack while I was unavailable during my normal working times.  She’s been doubling and sometimes tripling her workload while I was traveling and still training for a charity century ride, which she happens to be riding in RIGHT THIS MINUTE.  That’s 100 miles on a bicycle, my friends!! She blows me away with her dedication and ability to do what needs to be done without a second thought.  She inspires me to keep chasing after my goals and do what needs to be done to reach them.  And she helped me choose family over work by reminding me she could handle things while I did what needed to be done.  To sum it up in as few words as possible: SHE ROCKS!! And I’d be lost without her.

[Did you know that Julie and I started our blogs on the same day over four years ago?  We just celebrated our blogiversary this week!! Check out this awesome Veggie Packed Lasagna Bolognese Julie made in celebration of her blogging and cooking journey!]

Did I just gloss over the fact that THS turned four years old?  As someone who has a scarf she’s “been knitting” for 4 years, a PR dream of a sub-30 5K she’s been chasing for years and dozens of half written pieces – perhaps I should take a moment to celebrate. 

A lot has happened in those four years, but truly it makes me oh so happy to get to work as the director of HealthyLivingBlogs.com and to be one of the planning partners of the Healthy Living Summit.  Thank you to every member of the HLB Community who has my day to day life such a wonderful experience – even when things get hard or the tasks feel overwhelming.  You have made my evenings and weekends a dream!  I am so thankful that my blogging journey has taken me on this path [which I am so excited to be taking on this adventure!] and I know it wouldn’t be possible if it not for every single person I’ve come in contact with over the past four years through the doorway of Then Heather Said.

Mar 052013
 

I’ve had a draft saved titled “March 2013 Goals” for several weeks now. I settled on a final list a few days before March officially arrived, yet I haven’t felt motivated to finish my post detailing which of my February goals were hits versus misses.  I haven’t felt motivated to share the goals I decided on for this month.  I haven’t felt motivated to do any sort of work towards said goals. I haven’t felt motivated for much of anything; especially in terms of sharing myself through this little blog these days.

I’ve been feeling pretty much the way Elizabeth explains in her post from earlier this week; “To say I am feeling a bit stressed lately would be an understatement.  To say I would like to hole up in my condo with a limitless supply of Cheese Doodles (and without contact with the outside world) would not be an understatement.”   [sub kettle corn for cheese doodles, of course.]

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I know that stress and worry is something we create ourselves, and I promise I’m trying to make this confession of said anxieties sounds as least whiny as possible.  I have brought this into my life and I’ve been on a mission to fight the impending “burn out” I’ve felt looming over my head for the past several weeks.  [Mission was launched after an over-emotional, over-tired, weekend of doubt and tears paired with the watching of the docu-film, Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop.]  I am in control of my emotions, my time, my priorities – and yet I haven’t yet found the balance I feel like I’ve been searching for in the past several years.

My biggest challenge has been accepting the fact that my to-do list is always going to be there and there will always be things to add to it, too.   I have a tendency to guilt myself into a black hole any moment I’m not GO!-GO!-GOING!, and it’s been a real fight not to fall into this habit in 2013.  I remind myself that I am the boss of myself and my internet-life and that I can work as many hours as I want to work, and no one is going to yell at me.  If I need to take a step back from one responsibility I have bestowed upon myself, or another, it will all be okay.  If I need to postpone a deadline or push back a project, it will be just fine.

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The funny thing is, these tasks and items of “to-do” all fall under the “my passion” file header.  I love the blogging community, and sharing my life through THS, and every part of HLB, and all that takes place in creating the Summit.   Each and every task is something I genuinely enjoy, no matter if it falls under the THS, HLB, or HLS heading.  Honestly, it confuses me – how can I love participating in all these tasks, and yet feel so very down in the dumps when I think about all that needs to be done?  How can I long for a break when I love getting to work with such a great team or people who I consider more than just internet co-workers, but my dearest friends and favorite people on the planet?  How can I want to crawl under my bed and hide from the option of spending time creating and planning and organizing – three of my favorite activities?  How can I turn my back on list making!?!?

These kind of questions send me into a mind-spiral, for certain.  The important thing and the healthy thing is to prevent the overwhelming anxiety I have found myself facing as March bestowed herself upon us.  “It’s okay to take a break” is written on a square of paper at my desk.  “It’s okay to say no” is scribbled on the page marker in my day planner. “Enjoy life and enjoy living it” is the mantra I’ve held tight to lately.

Today I am throwing away the first list I made for my March 2013 Goals.  I have created a new list.  A list of less. A list of enjoying life and enjoying living it.  A list free of nagging tasks and goals I’m not feeling, and full of rest and pause and simply being.



March 2013 Goals

Talk to a friend.
I’ve been holding all of this in until now because I don’t want to be the burden friend who is always complaining about self-imposed stress and worry.  I’ve been holding all of this in because it’s easier to hide from it and avoid the topic and just pretend like I’m not crumbling.  I’ve been holding all of this in because I am a fool. And I’m done with that.

Spend time with people. Period.
Real talk: I have a tendency to put tasks above relationships when it comes to my priority list, which is something I truly hate about myself.  Every time I make plans with a friend, go away for the weekend, or attend a party, I feel like I need to “make up” all the time I wasn’t working with late night hours or by setting my alarm clock for way too early the next day.  If I don’t find a way to make up the time, I feel like a failure and stress over how “far behind” I am until I am able to have a 3-day weekend of uninterrupted productivity, made by scheduling PTO from the office so that I can work at home.  I really would love to pour some energy into my relationships with humans this month and not feel like I need to compensate for it with more time working.

Read whatever I want to read, whenever I want to read it. 
Currently I’m excited for the #hlbbookclub pick, Julie & Julia from Julie Powell, and a large stack of magazines that have taken residence at my apartment over the past few weeks.

Embrace naps.
Because I was recently reminded of the power held in a good nap. Recommended reading: Change Your Life without Getting out of Bed from SARK



After having said ALL of that, I urge you to read this post from Rachel, please.  I want to add a disclaimer to so many of the sentences above.  Let’s just call Rachel’s discussion on the privilege of blogging be a step toward that disclaimer, okay? Getting Meta: Better Homes and Bloggers