What I’ve been doing while I’ve not been posting

I haven’t posted for two weeks. This is the first time in ten years that I have gone two weeks without writing a column. Really. I have a track record for continuing to write when every other sane person would take a break: I wrote a column right after I delivered a baby, I wrote a column from the admitting room of a mental ward, and I wrote a column four hours after the World Trade Center fell on me.

So you can imagine that I did not plan this blogging break. Of course, I tell people that planning a break from routine work is very important for learning. And of course, I don’t take my own advice. So, the break was accidental, but I did learn a lot. Here’s what I’ve been learning about myself.

1. I am sick of straight-up career advice.
Do you want to know what I was writing when I wasn’t writing? I wrote ten thousand random paragraphs about the farmer. I wrote about him considering dumping me for being Jewish, and me having to argue with his pastor about our interfaith relationship. And I wrote about the farmer borrowing my books about business.

Every time I wrote something that was straight career advice (like how to change departments in your company—a question people ask me a lot) the post sucked and I didn’t run it.

But at lunch—I had a lot of lunches while I was not taking time to write posts—I met with a potential investor, and he said, “I read your blog for two hours last night.” And I said, “Oh, did you get a lot of career advice?” And he said, “I read mostly the personal stuff.”

It hit me then that it’s okay for me to write personal stuff all the time. You have to write what interests you. I want to tell you that stuff that is not me is interesting to me. And it is. But only in relation to me.

2. I missed my editor.
In case you didn’t know, I have an editor for my blog. This comes from being a columnist for so long. My editors were incredible—one was from Vanity Fair, one went on to the Harvard Business Review, and they definitely made me a better writer. So I have an editor for my blog, and if you think that’s over the top, consider this: he also edits my Twitters. I mean, you can’t write about sex and investors in the same 140-character phrase and still get funding unless you have an editor to save you from yourself.

So anyway, when I am posting regularly, I talk with my editor three or four times a day. When I stopped posting, he called me to see if something was wrong. And when I said, “Yes, of course something is wrong. I have too much to do,” he changed his tune and started telling me that if I have to cut something, writing on my blog probably wasn’t the best idea. And then I snapped at him: “When someone is cutting out something they love as much as I love blogging, then you can imagine that person is really, really busy.”

The problem with being friends with someone who works for you is when you snap at him about time management issues, it’s hard for him to come back to you with something like, “You are being a brat and a bitch and I’m sure you have twenty minutes to crank out a post about how everyone should be lost in life or something like that.”

So I missed writing a lot. Every night I would tell myself, “Tomorrow I will write. I will have time tomorrow.” It didn’t surprise me that I missed writing because I’m addicted to the process of self-discovery through words. But it did surprise me that I missed my editor. Talking with someone about things that matter—like does the sentence have better rhythm with an and or an also—is a foundation for talking about everything else.

3. My traffic is mysteriously not related to my rate of posting.
On days when my blog is rocking, like when I write about transparent salaries and the New York Times quotes me and I get 200,000 page views from the intelligentsia, Ryan Healy will point out that my blog is not really a blog—it is something else—because I have the same traffic no matter how often I post.

But this is not totally true. For example I experimented by canceling my whole life and posting five days in a row, and yes, my traffic went up a bit. But only a bit. And after not posting for two weeks, my traffic only went down a tiny bit.

4. Some things don’t change. Even after a break.
Look, I’m still writing lists. Right? And I’m still telling myself that for me, blogging is mental, and if I would just take any free half-hour of the day to sit down and write what I care about, I’d have enough posts in the hopper.

And even though I spend tons of my time meeting with investors who tell me that I should use my blog as a way to plug my company, I continue to write posts about me instead of my company, and I still insist on tossing in off-color missives about the investors for good measure.

Our SEO guy, who I love, told me to use the word Generation Y in a sentence and then link to Brazen Careerist. So I am doing that now. Because I want to be a good team player. But really, I took time off from the blog to raise funding for my company, and realized that I care too much about the blog to make the company come before it. They are together. The blog is where I experiment with ideas that end up driving the company.

5. I hate my photo.
This is something I’ve learned in the last two weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I never look like my photo on my blog. First, my hair is never that organized. I try to remember back to when Yahoo had the photo taken and I don’t remember hair like that, so maybe it was never like that and it’s all Photoshop. That wouldn’t be too outlandish an assumption since my skin also never looks like that, or my lips, and it might actually not even be a photo, but a Yahoo rendition of what a photo might look like.

A British women’s magazine did an article about me and my divorce. And they asked if I had three hours to do a photo session. I was like, I don’t even have a half hour for a blog post, so I’m definitely not doing three hours of photos. Then they told me it was a famous photographer, and he takes pictures for Vanity Fair and other big magazines that I figure surely starlets demand to look great in. So I said yes.

And it paid off. Because I have new photos that actually look like me. Here they are.

Posted in How to blog, Knowing yourself
172 comments on “What I’ve been doing while I’ve not been posting
  1. Chris says:

    Hey Penelope – You’re hot.

    I mean that in all the most respectful and endearing ways. I appreciate your writing and your work. Be Proud.

    Put up a real picture of yourself. If there’s anything you should know about blogging and GenY – it’s about being authentic.

    Plus the real looks way better than the fake.

    Fight On.

  2. The Office Newb says:

    Glad to have you back!

  3. Greg Rollett says:

    I love your SEO guy, smart dude.

    Having an editor is surely a great luxury, but for Twitter, geesh, I just love fitting in my total thoughts in exactly 140 characters, not 1 more or less. Classic P post, glad to have you back!

  4. mamaworker says:

    Love the picture. Glad you enjoyed your break. Do you have info about changing departments in your workplace, because I desparately need it. Thanks for all you do.

  5. Alex Cantu says:

    Just don’t have it happen again. Just kidding. Good to have you back writing.

    Cheerio

    Alex

  6. Dorie Morgan says:

    Your pictures look like a person and not just a brand. They are beautiful.

  7. Neil C says:

    I agree with Chris. I am not sure why you used a body double for your yahoo picture.

  8. Katybeth says:

    It was so nice to see you show up in Google Reader, this morning. I am not sure what brought me to your blog–since I’m not all that interested in the career advice but what keeps me interested are the blogs about you and the farmer…by the way how is he??
    Great pictures…now I’m inspired to have a picture taken that looks like me.

  9. Carol says:

    Those new photos are great! Much nicer than the official one.

  10. Alan Wilensky says:

    You are real, and smart, and raw, and a philosopher queen. There is not another like you – a rare gem.

    Don’t go with the gentiles.

  11. Muneerah says:

    I may be in the minority here (not the first time in life) but I really like your career advice. And I like your personal posts. So there.

    Ever since the NY Times ran the article about your divorce posts, I’ve thought that the picture on the blog doesn’t look like you. I’m so glad there are pictures that really look like you now. You resemble a healthy, bright-eyed Tatum O’Neal.

  12. Holly Hoffman says:

    A. I love the photos – you no longer look like a real estate agent. No offense – mine are the same way.

    B. Your blog is about the intersection of work and life, right? Well, I like reading your life posts because your work is a major part of your life. You take it into consideration when dealing with your divorce, your kids, your love life, and on. That’s why we prefer the life posts. Let someone less creative dole out list-like career advice posts that read like how-to’s instead of real-life advice. We love to see you doing, creating, breaking down and picking it back up. Because that’s what we’re doing. Our gift is our honesty – not everyone can do it.

    Btw, caught the article in Wild Blue. The BF found it on a flight back from Vegas and brought it home to me (“I actually knew who she was,” he exclaimed, as I have told him you are my blog idol). He’s learning. ;)

  13. mike says:

    Are there any pictures that feature more cleavage? If so, I vote for those.

  14. Ian says:

    Enjoy the post.
    Great photos, that giant cup of cappuccino took few years off. You look like you are in your late 20s.(Especially in the 2nd photo)

  15. Sarah says:

    P! Welcome back. We missed you!

    I’ve always disliked your photo. It looks very glossy and posed and nothing like the person you sound like.

    Your latest photos are glorious. And if the farmer dumps you, his great loss!!

  16. Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    OMG Penelope, you look great! I could tell from your facebook photo how gorgeous you really are.

    Fantastic stuff, go you!

  17. Rachel - I Hate HR says:

    Your new photos are beautiful. Lose the old photo and use these. You look much more like a real person in these.

    As far as blog traffic I think the measure of a good blog is one that people can visit for information whether it’s updated frequently or not. When it becomes like a normal webpage – a place for information storage.

    You should blog more because we do want to hear about your personal life. I frequently wondered what’s going on with the farmer rather than wondering what’s going on with Brazeen Careerist.

  18. Erika says:

    My first thought (which turned out to echo the commentors who got here first): you look like a real person!

  19. Carol Saha says:

    I’ve been sending some of your posts to a best friend of mine who you remind me a lot of. (Bad grammar). She emailed me back once and said “it sounds just like me.” I love reading your posts because I miss her so much and it’s like reading a letter from her. Now, oh my word, you look like her, too. Could be sisters. Scary.

  20. Tracy Longacre says:

    Wow, you weren’t kidding about the photos. The old one really does not look like you. I always had a hard time reconciling your “voice” with that photo. But now that I see what you really look like, it makes total sense.

    Glad to have you back. And I’m not looking for career advice much either.

  21. Paul says:

    Man, I was JUST thinking – “hey, where’s my free source of humor/insight? Dammit, I demand a big return on the zero money I put into reading this thing”.

    Glad you’re back, and I’m with your investor. Your personal life is fascinating. Your twitters make me shiver… with laughter.

  22. madeleine says:

    As an arts-writer, and as someone who just had to have her picture taken for a “contributors” page for the magazine that I work for, I can sympathize…it’s not easy to be photographed, nor to feel like your truest most authentic self while doing so.

    So bravo for looking like an actual (beautiful) person in the new pics! And as for your lists, I love them…I love that they organize your thoughts wittily and articulately.

    So glad to have you back!

  23. Jenn S. says:

    Great post to kick-start after a break! Seriously, though, I was getting worried about you, because you’re always writing *something* – blog or otherwise, and when there was no column anywhere by you, I was just hoping everything was okay!

    Keep sharing your wisdom on work/life! And the new pics are great, and more importantly, REAL.

  24. Brianna says:

    Penelope:

    Whenever you publish a new post, my coworkers and I always try to find the personal touch you weave into each story. We mostly gawk at how many details you are willing to share, whether it be BJs, your divorce, or the farmer you’re frolicking around with. So a few weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that while I don’t trust you or think of you as a go-to source for career advice, I still look forward to seeing the Google Reader alert that tells me you’ve published a new post. You’ve made your life entertaining to read about, so please keep posting about it as much as you see fit. Because you’re right – your straight career posts really kind of suck. Keep up the good work with Brazen Careerist, but keep feeding our Penelope gossip addictions on the side. :)

  25. Barchbo says:

    I love your new photos! You look like someone I would be friends with (which is the greatest compliment I can give. I am self-centered like that.)

    Before, you looked like you would be a sorority sister of mine from college who shops at Ann Taylor and talks about carpool. But I would still love you.

  26. Eric says:

    Penelope:

    What drew me to your blog was your writing. Sure, you give the best career advice I’ve read in a very long time, but it’s the personal posts that I really draw me in. It’s the style, not just the content. You write from your heart. That’s what I love.

    -Eric

  27. LP says:

    “And after not posting for two weeks, my traffic only went down a tiny bit.”

    That’s because those of us who prefer visiting your site (rather than usign an RSS feed) keep checking back in hopes you’ll post something. But I promise, ifyou stopped posting long enough, people will stop checking back. Also, if you post very infrequently — there are some blogs I only check once every month or so, as opposed to every day (like yours). Don’t take advantage (too often) of your readers’ commitment to visiting frequently by not supplying content.

    I second Holly’s comment above — posts about work+life are good, but turning the blog into basically a personal blog, might make a pretty good dent in your traffic eventually. There are ALOT of funny and touching personal blogs out there, so there’s nothing wrong with sticking to the niche you’ve carved out for yourself.

  28. mary says:

    You are gorgeous! Get rid of that old photo. Now that I’ve seen the real you, I can’t look at something that’s clearly not you at all!

    Glad you’re back. And I can identify with a lot of what you’ve written in this post. It’s quite timely, actually.

  29. Beckie says:

    Hi Penelope..the world is now a better place since this latest post. Missed ya!

  30. Chris Mahan says:

    @alan: what’s with the “don’t go with the gentiles” thingy. I think she can choose for herself.

    @Penelope: You look great in those photos! And, write about what you want. We’re reading your blog because we like you, not the “made-for-web photoshopped bullet-point talking-head”.

    :)

  31. JC says:

    Penelope, in the yahoo pic you looked more Hispanic. Now you look more European.

  32. Nino says:

    Missed ya too!

  33. Mike Lally says:

    “And even though I spend tons of my time meeting with investors who tell me that I should use my blog as a way to plug my company, I continue to write posts about me instead of my company,” –

    hmmm…I thought you WERE writing about your company.

    I love that it is all jumbled together. That’s the way life is- jumbled. I love the couple of minutes every post brings where I get to just dive into the deep end of the pool.

    Do what you need to do. I will still be here.

  34. Diana says:

    Great photos – they look “real” in a good way! I agree, and think you should continue your blog the way it is. I think that is why many of us continue to visit. We enjoy your personal stories because even as crazy as they may be, we can all relate in one way or another. Glad to see you are back to blogging and getting to know you more.

  35. Queercents says:

    Penelope,

    Of course, I think the new pictures are smashing, but I never minded the Yahoo photo. On the post about why your Twitter feed disappeared from your blog, you indicate that each of us is multi-faceted and we express different parts of ourselves in different ways. The same can be said for photos. The Yahoo photo fit the Brand of Penelope when you were promoting your book back in 2007 and I think the corporate head shot served you well in this role. After we met, I recall thinking that it didn't really look like you, but what head shot does – isn't this a bit like Hollywood. Think about the actor trying out for a film – they have 10 head shots and send in the one that best represents the character.

    Today, your blog is more personal, your startup is focused on a youthful generation – these new pictures fit your current brand. And… I bet you have already framed one and given it to the farmer.

  36. Humaira says:

    Penelope, I never comment so I’m coming out of lurkdom, but your photos look amazing. Very real and you look different, much more relaxed.

    Also, while I missed your posts, its good to take a break sometimes as you come back with a different perspective.

  37. Holly Hoffman says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m laughing my ass off at the “philosopher queen.” You should totally put that on your resume – “blogger, entrepreneur, philosopher queen.”

  38. Patrick says:

    Madison ex-pat says: Were those pictures taken in Barriques? You look great. And relaxed.

    * * * * * * *

    Yes. Barriques. And they sure put up with a lot that day.

    -Penelope

  39. M says:

    Agreed with many other commenters – your new photos look great, a lot more real, and much prettier, too. :)

    I first started reading you for career information, but I very much enjoy the personal information and random insights/experiences as well.

  40. Mark W. says:

    It is good to see you back with a post!
    I also find it hard to follow my own advice. Many times I find myself giving advice to reinforce what I know is true but difficult to follow myself. I’m glad to see you posted the photos you like of yourself on your blog. That’s one of the things that’s great about having your own publishing medium – you have control with what’s published. It’s you and any compromises that are made are your own. I’m thinking NY Times here. :) Obviously you still have your mojo. I think you could still pose for Playboy. Whatever you do, don’t forget us and let us know how you’re doing regardless of the frequency of your posts. Later.

  41. KHP says:

    first, welcome back.

    second, your photos are great. but like many readers, I think your standard headshot is attractive as well.

    let us know when the British article is out!

  42. Don B. says:

    You sure are pretty. Look quite young. Nice to have you back. Your writing is what is enjoyable to read so the subject can be anything and I just enjoy the perspective and the way you tell the story.

  43. Charles says:

    Penelope,
    I’ve never known what exactly you company is or what it does. Anyway, I’ll throw my two cents in on the posts.

    #1.) Why do you hate writing about career advice?

    Simple. It is dry and boring and once you’ve covered the basics there is little to keep it fresh. You inject your own personal drama into the advice because you are bored with it. (And the fact you like to talk about yourself more than career advice means that you are more interested in telling us the personal details than careers. <–Take it any way you like, you’ll be correct.)

    I’d give you tips on how to keep the advice fresh, as career advice is part of my job, but the nature of how you give advice is different from mine. You are a single voice to many people. Of the people that read your advice, only a few respond. You are supplying nearly all of the content, and because of this the burden of entertaining us is on your shoulders. (You are essentially engaged in one-way communication with a large audience.) Unlike folks like me who engage in individual conversations and meetings with others seeking our advice, you are less able to look at personal interactions and the effects of your advice with others on this blog. Often times the comments read like a cheer section. This places an incredible burden on you to keep the content fresh and relevant. So here's kudos for trying.

    #2) I had an editor from Yale once. We are still evaluating the actual utility of Twitter as a networking tool. In other words, don't know why I wrote that. Maybe I need an editor.

    #3) Traffic stays the same for many reasons. Sometimes people want to assign meaning to trends when there isn't any. Keep posting what you want to post. If it wasn't for all the drama you inject, I'd be reading articles at Career Builder. Boring!

    #4) Blogging is mental, but you need mental breaks. I store blogs for down times. Which reminds me –

    #5)You look fine, in fact you look a little too familiar. But at least you aren't subject to people running up to you on the street asking to take you picture after eating your weight in deep fried cheese curds at the state fair (while sweating in the 95 degree sun.)

    cheers,
    Charles

  44. LC says:

    While you were gone, I checked back several times to see if you posted anything new. Had you gone much longer without posting, I would have stopped checking. So perhaps two weeks isn’t long enough to make a big dent in your readership, but eventually people would lose interest. It would have been nice to have an “on the road, I’ll be back in a few” post.

    What makes a writer interesting is how strongly their voice comes through. The divorce material makes me cringe, but in general the depth to which you’re willing to reveal yourself keeps me coming back for more.

    Which brings me to the pictures … they’re perfect! Because they’re different than your typical headshot and are much more “you”.

  45. Leslie, Madison Wi says:

    Great to hear from you again and great photos, but they still don’t do you justice!

  46. Elsie says:

    LOVE the new pics, and the post of course.

  47. Jason Heath says:

    wow, I just found this site, and I have to say, you have it going on, from the brains to the beauty.

    Now, if you will excuse me, I have a lot of catching up to do…

  48. Melanie says:

    Thank you for posting a new picture! I love the second pic with the coffee.

    I have to say the new picture matches your voice much better…I was shocked when I called in a couple weeks ago because you sounded taller and more athletic and younger than the “glossy” picture led me to think.

  49. Mike says:

    you look like sara bareilles – the singer – like her older sister or something.

  50. Kendall says:

    Welcome back. You’re cute!

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