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.

174 replies
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  1. Kate
    Kate says:

    Missed your posts! Today’s post was so insightful into how your blog runs. Your pictures are beautiful! You are absolutely stunning.

  2. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hi Everyone. Thank you so much for the nice comments.

    People ask me all the time if I read the comments. And the truth is that I am totally obsessed with reading them.

    Usually that takes very thick skin, but not today. Today is a big treat. Thank you so much.

    Penelope

  3. Alice
    Alice says:

    Penelope – you look great! These are such better pictures than your current official blog picture!

  4. Sara
    Sara says:

    Weird. In your photo at the top, you look like a 40-something soccer mom. In these new photos, you look like a 28-year old blogger who hangs out in coffee shops. Anyway, if I were you, I would stop using that thumbnail from Yahoo immediately, unless that’s how you prefer people to see you professionally.

  5. luca
    luca says:

    You look great, Penelope…I guess if you change your photos on the blog homepage you will definitely notice a peak in traffic :) I like your natural look more

  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Also, a quote from your previous post (Living up to your potential is BS)- “Life is very hard. We each probably have some fundamental goals, even if we don’t think of them consciously. First of all, getting up in the morning is very hard. It is fundamentally an act of optimism.” goes to your mention of self-discovery in this post (#2). It’s the process of self-discovery and sharing it with other people as I am capable and willing to do so that makes the start of each new day hopefully a new and enjoyable adventure. Self-discovery by itself is nice but even better when shared with another person or group of people. It’s what I try to do in real life as well as on this blog.

  7. deb
    deb says:

    okay. from all of that, i’m mostly psyched that you had a photo shoot with johannes kroemer. that rocks! i’d love to know what the process was like. how did he shoot? did he direct at all? but that’s the photographer in me.
    ;-)

    as for straight-up career advice, i know what you mean there too. i still sometimes post about my former HR life and participate in the blogs of friends i made online along the way. but sometimes, i think “are you kidding me? someone still wants to know basics about a resume or how to engage employees? the same stuff i wrote about two years ago? couldn’t they just search the archives and find it? i already wrote it.”
    ;-)

    glad you took a break!
    glad you’re back!
    all the best!
    deb

  8. Deanna McNeil
    Deanna McNeil says:

    I have gained as much value from the personal posts as I have from the career driven posts. Rock on Penelope. The photos are just lovely too.

  9. Lar Van Der Jagt
    Lar Van Der Jagt says:

    Haven’t read all the comments so I am sure someone else has brought this up but I just wanted to say that the pictures are a big improvement from the one featured on your blog. “a Yahoo rendition of what a photo might look like.” sounds about right to me.

    I would love to see a new photo used for your header, and would even volunteer to whip one up for you. The current image looks fake, so previously I never really associated your voice with a real person, but rather an avatar. Now that I’ve seen those pictures I actually feel like I’ve been reading about a real person, rather than somebodies digital persona.

    Feel free to email if you are interested in an updated header for the blog! Looking forward to reading more in the future.

  10. rainie
    rainie says:

    Whew! Glad you’re back. Like everyone else, I love the new photos! I stumbled upon this blog looking for self promotion advice and I got that. I refer to it often and point friends to it often as well. But, when I see you’ve posted, it’s that intersection you share about so well for which I truly hope.

  11. Josh Russo
    Josh Russo says:

    Welcome back. I was starting to worry. Not about you, actually, I was sure you were fine. OK, more like withdrawal than worry.

    Will I offend by calling either the pictures or your writing gritty? Hopefully not – that’s what I like most about both. I usually describe your posts (especially the personal stuff) as “painfully transparent”. Although there’s nothing painful about the pictures these are a better match.

  12. Sital
    Sital says:

    As Seth Godin says “Personalize everything, don’t depersonalize anything..”

    Writing about personal stuff and having more natural photos will, in the long run, give you more traffic from the right kind of people (ie from people that are drawn to your style)

    Kudos to you for being so authentic

  13. Yu Ming Lui
    Yu Ming Lui says:

    I think you’ve reached a kind of saturation point on career advice but your blog is great to read about anyway. How you navigate life can be applied to your career, too.

    I thought you were absent because you were too busy with the farmer and work. Sometimes a gal just needs a break from blogging.

    Great picture by the way. I always thought the photo on your blog looked weird and overly photoshopped. I mean, your NYT’s picture was entirely different, too.

  14. Werner von Wallenrod
    Werner von Wallenrod says:

    I completely agree with LP’s posts, that your traffic is staying high when you don’t post because people like me check to see IF you’ve posted, and we would check less frequently if it became clear you were going to post less frequently.

    I disagree with his other comment, though. The personal material is the compelling writing for me… career tips are cool if you think you’ve got a brilliant notion to share, but it’s certainly not what interests me or brings me here (which is why I don’t read the Brazen Careerist blogs – sorry!).

    And yeah, the new photos are better. I think the Yahoo was just trying to make something work that could be tiny and background free. It’s more of a symbol that still puts a face to your writing – it works for what it is.

  15. melanie gao
    melanie gao says:

    I was checking your blog the last 2 weeks for updates, thinking there must be something wrong with Google Reader. When I got there and found no new posts I still had fun reading the comments that were piling up on the last one.

    Did you do your own makeup for the photos? It looks awesome. Brows are great.

  16. sfordinarygirl
    sfordinarygirl says:

    I’ve been wondering what took you so long to come back and write! Your new photos are gorgeous. You look so much more natural, real and human compared to the people on the site. The current photo looks too staged and fake with the big smile.

  17. Sassy
    Sassy says:

    Love the pics. THe funny thing is when I was just clicking over to Brazen before reading this post and seeing the new pics I was thinking, “does she really look like that?”

    And editing your twitters? Now that’s one I haven’t heard of before. Impressive.

  18. Stretch Mark Mama
    Stretch Mark Mama says:

    You know, with feed readers, I rarely notice when people don’t post every day. I’m sure it has to do with my own self-absorption and the fact that two weeks go by in a blink. Anyway, you’re a good writer so people will stick around.

    And I look nothing like my blog pic as well. Though unlike you, it wouldn’t be an improvement to show people The Real Me. Snnnerrrrkk.

  19. Brenda
    Brenda says:

    I missed your posting. I am a 24-year-old adverting professional (senior media planner to be precise) and I find your writing 90% spot on and 100% interesting. Your new photos make you look younger, prettier, and far more approachable and interesting. Glad to have you back.

  20. Madame Monet
    Madame Monet says:

    Penelope,

    I’ve always enjoyed your business advice, but I’ve always enjoyed your personal columns just as much. I discovered your blog when you were writing about going through counseling with your husband, and that’s what hooked me. Anyway, if you are tired of writing about career advice, everyone needs a change from time to time. Write about whatever interests YOU, and WE WILL find it interesting. Don’t worry!

    Madame Monet

  21. Irina
    Irina says:

    Penelope, I love your blog and especially the posts about your life. And you look gorgeous on those pictures! Keep it up – you have lot of loyal readers that wait impatiently for news from you.

  22. chris
    chris says:

    PT, the kernel is that you are a writer and that writing is a way to self-discovery. NOT writing can sometimes illustrate those points as well as writing.

    I agree completely about the power of writing.

    In your 2nd photo, the one with deeper skin tones, you look intense. You look like the kind of person who looks others straight in the eye–for extended periods. Obviously, we love your confrontational style. Do you sometimes get accusations of cornering a listener, however?

    With respect to the above, you MUST take your own advice about being KIND . . . the kindest confrontations . . .

    CAK

  23. Leanne
    Leanne says:

    Wow …. it is like you have seen the light .. when I first started blogging I thought of you as a role model … I quickly found my own stride and have been happily me ever since ..

    Thru you and your comments I have meet a great blogger – http://www.Jenx67.com – and the one thing I know about blogging now is we should all bring our own genuine voice to the space.

    You seem to have just spoken up LOUD and CLEAR … my best to you Ms P

  24. J
    J says:

    Penelope, I’m a 57 year old man with 2 grown kids and a wife. I may have 10-15 more years of work, but your career advice is not why I read you. It’s that you are so open about your life. You have been though a lot and are still standing. You not saying “poor me”, you are showing the world that you are a beautiful, intelligent young women with a big heart. I think your kids will grow up to be good people and will do whatever it takes to make a living in this world.

    No matter if you and “the farmer” make or not, you’ll still be strong.

    I don’t agree with all the advise you give, I love hearing about your life.

    J in Massachusetts.

  25. John Sheridan
    John Sheridan says:

    I thought you may have gotten lost in a corn field.

    Nice to see your post. Thank you for continuing to be so genuine and sharing. That’s unique.

    john (late again!)

  26. Duncan W.
    Duncan W. says:

    PT’s career advice is absolutely horrible. I kind of feel bad for anyone who reads her blog for it. I typically read it for the comedic value…I find it hilarious when she recommends to do yoga in the bathroom or that women shouldn’t report sexual harassment.

  27. Mary
    Mary says:

    Welcome back! This is a great post, as always. I love the real pictures – so much better than the official one. Real is always better than manufactured.

    Glad you’re taking the time and focusing on what you love to do. Inspiring!

  28. Joselle Palacios
    Joselle Palacios says:

    Take that headshot down now. Put these up. Or get someone else to take pictures like those if you can’t use them. You are beautiful.

    I am so happy to hear about your break and what it’s inspired in you and your writing. When you write about your personal life, you are at your most compelling.

  29. Susan Kennedy
    Susan Kennedy says:

    Love the post. look forward to more career advice as well as humor. I would also like to give career advice as I am a career coach for young adults… let me know if I can help!

  30. Julie
    Julie says:

    It’s infinitely more interesting to read personal posts than posts from someone solely trying to promote their company. Good advice, and I love your blog, so don’t change a thing. The old photo looks nothing like you! You’re really much younger-looking than I imagined–very pretty!

  31. Tiffany Monhollon
    Tiffany Monhollon says:

    Those photos really do look like you. Finally!

    I may not be as successful a blogger as you in terms of traffic, but whatever, I feel exactly the same about missing it as a process of self discovery. I haven’t been writing as much of late, and I think it’s because since I launched this new blog, I feel so confined by this “niche” I’ve created for myself, I have a hard time finding the balance between writing what I want to write and writing what I should write. I have ideas for each, but I always end up writing what I want, then not posting it, because I think, this doesn’t belong here.

    So it’s good to see that other bloggers feel and think the same things. Because so much of my life revoles around interesting things happening in my own life (and not just my “niche” per se), I feel more inspired to embrace the story of me than I have in a long time.

    And thanks for taking a break. I think we all need them sometimes, so it’s important for our role models to do what we need to do so we don’t feel so guilty when we decide to do it ourselves.

  32. David
    David says:

    Gorgeous photos, great writing. I never paid much attention to career advice, you hooked me with your personal writing and I missed it. Glad you're back.

  33. NW Guy
    NW Guy says:

    P –

    It’s great (and painfree) to watch someone else’s walk through life. Thanks for all of the advice, insights, and entertainment.

    With the new photos, and new season, how come you’re not joining Misty May-Treanor on Dancing with the stars? Surely you could cut a mean rug with the farmer and provide primetime insights into the world of bloggers.

  34. Susan
    Susan says:

    I am old enough to be your mother, and I don’t read blogs–just yours. That alone should tell you you’re doing something right (or maybe not, since I’m hardly your target demographic). I do also read the Farm Journal that Gabe (a 30-ish single woman) writes from the local farm where I buy produce at http://www.sapelofarms.com. You might enjoy the Farm Journal, too, what with your interest in the farmer and all.

  35. C
    C says:

    I am glad you are back! I was honestly worried after your last post which was sort of dark. Your new photos are so much better. In your old photo you looked like you were straight out of 1996 and now you look real and current and relatable.

  36. Emilie
    Emilie says:

    I’ve only recently become an addict of your blog. Thank you for such honest writing — it’s inspiring, refreshing, and comforting. Your photos are stunning. I remember thinking when I first started reading that your blog photo didn’t match your voice, but these do. Thank you for posting them.

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