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. Hailey
    Hailey says:

    I love this post – I was really missing the blog and wondering what was going on. And I love the new photos – they look much more real and less posed than the old one! Yay for the Vanity Fair Photog!

  2. Carla
    Carla says:

    Glad to have you back, and your new photos make you look very cool and young — more of the volleyball player and less of the suit, which from what I’ve read in the last year, is more you now anyway.

    And if the goyishe farmer dumped you for the yid thing, at least you won’t have to sweat through Christmas. Chag sameach!


  3. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    After religiously checking for new posts {for what seemed like a month but apparently was much less}, I checked in today intending to leave a “Penelope, where are you??” comment on the previous post. So glad you’re back! Yup, the pics are darn nice, but all the foxy and hot comments are kind of offensive. To me, blogging is about getting past the superficial – it’s about what you have to say, not what you look like. So while it’s nice to know you’re more attractive than your official blog photo, I think it distracts from the message to include them in the post. Better to have just switched your headline photo and see who notices – which, judging from the comments, would be just about everyone – including me :)

  4. Melissa
    Melissa says:


    I don’t care what other people say about your career advice (sometimes) being stupid, irrelevant, etc. They are missing the point. You write from the heart, and we should be reading with our hearts. Some of the career advice I could take or leave, but that’s what it’s for – advice, not grand missives of what we must do. I read it with my heart, keep the pieces I like, discard the pieces I don’t, and empathize with you through the good times and the bad, and see myself in your writing more often than not.

    I know you care about writing. I know you love this blog. And it shows. And I will keep coming back and reading it, because my heart tells me to.

    And I’m really glad to see actual photos of you. I’m from the Madison area and may move back there soon. Now I’ll know who you are if I run into you in a coffee place or something. :)

    Thanks for sharing your advice, and more importantly, yourself with all of us.

  5. Nate McIntire
    Nate McIntire says:

    “…and I wrote a column four hours after the World Trade Center fell on me”.

    That is literary license, I take it.

    Having lost colleagues from the WTC on 9/11, those words have deeper meaning for me.

  6. steve
    steve says:

    Why are you so concerned with your looks that you put your picture into your blog? Is it necessary to get reassured by your readers that your looks are socially acceptable? It seems a little off base from what you’re suppose to be writing about.

  7. gt
    gt says:

    @ Steve,

    Lighten up. Most everyone would like to know what people look like that they have only communicated with over the phone, web, etc. Penelope now seems more like the “rest of us”. Although she probably deosn’t want pic of all of us in return :)

    So how old, Penelope? I thought you were in your 40’s. Those pics look like 30’s for sure. How about a few more with a better shot of the eyes. And smile a little more.

    Hang in there!

  8. SarahD
    SarahD says:

    Wow – you look gorgeous! You’ve lost the slightly manic glaze in your eyes in these pics too, it’s a lot less intimidating :)

  9. Jacq
    Jacq says:

    Lovely photos. I am so glad to have found your blog – this is the first entry I’ve read and I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy it!

  10. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    Nearly everything I wanted to say has been said here in the comments (sigh). I’ve been reading your column for quite a while. So many other columns give so called great advice that (yawn!)puts me to sleep before I can get any usable information out of the column. Readers crave a genuine person with real issues, problems, fears…not someone who hopes suckers will believe they are the all knowing source for career advice. We love you because you are real and you’re not afraid to share it. I completely agree with my fellow posters/readers…the new pics are great. Thanks for keeping it real.

  11. Jake and Maggie G
    Jake and Maggie G says:

    gt said:

    > So how old, Penelope?

    We’ll never know. She’s changed names so many times it’s impossible to trace the birth certificates!

  12. Maurice
    Maurice says:

    Like the new pics but kinda liked the old hair style – though a word of warning as your now writing for the gruniad be very careful as some of the poor columnists pics look horrid.

    Hadley Freeman had one where her hairdo looked like she had been repeatedly shoved through a hedge and the poor chap on the business page – €“ the poor chap looked like he was undead.

  13. Laurie/Halo Secretarial
    Laurie/Halo Secretarial says:

    I was so glad to see some new posts from you in my Reader today! And I definitely read more for the personal stuff and the way you address general life stuff, not just business (although that is helpful too!)
    Great new picture – especially the one with the giant coffee, hmmm now I need to go get a latte. Take care!

  14. IRG
    IRG says:

    The majority of posters sound like a bunch of teenagers writing about a pal. (Commenting on your looks, sex appeal, etc. rather than actual “content.”)

    Says a lot about the kind of people she really attracts to her site (which has never been about career advice but just an excuse for Penelope to get in comments about her personal and social life. Even more so of late.)

    Be clear folk–and investors: Penelope is posting simply to get attention for herself. Not to be authentic, or vulnerable. It’s really pretty sad to see how desperate she is for affirmation of her appeal, etc. Especially for a woman her age.

    Talk about “me, me, me”
    That IS you Penelope. Even the people in your life are only discussed in relationship to YOU. (And with NO respect for their feelings. You really think anyone who wants an intimate relationship with you would really want it discussed in public? Think again.)

    Real people are interested in a larger world, a world beyond just themselves and their feelings and thoughts. That’s what makes things interesting. And really good bloggers and writers write in a way that the reader feels it is about THEIR world as well as the writer/blogger’s world. It’s more universal. You can be personal without making it ONLY about you.

    Reading your posts is like reading excerpts from someone’s private diaries–ewwwww. Sorry, not interested in your private life Penelope.

    (Nothing wrong with journaling. But that doesn’t need to be blogged. Who the hell cares about your pubic hair? PUH-LEASE!
    And those comments on Twitter. You’re neither vulnerable, nor authentic. Just controlling. )

    Penelope writes, and this says it all about her real interests (herself):
    “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.”

    “only in relation to me.”

    That’s what’s really off in this blog: All you care about is you. The world revolves around YOU.

    I’ve seen teenagers with more self-confidence, self-respect and an understanding of what is TMI and what isn’t.

    TMI, Penelope. TMI…

    I think you do have something worth saying on business and other topics. But this is now your personal social journal and I, for one, am not interested in your love life, sex life and personal hygiene.

    Being authentic does not equate to saying whatever comes across your mind.

    And as for having an editor, good luck to them.

    You need a lot more editing — I am fairly certain any professional editor could not convince you to shut up about some of the stuff you’ve been happy to share about your ex-husband, etc. (You show such little respect for others that it’s amazing to me that anyone would want to be with you. Who wants their relationship online? Oh, wait. Someone who is just like you.)

    I thought you might return with some actual professional work insights or commentaries but those days seem to have gone by.

    This businessperson has a life, and friends, and family. I’m not interested in reading what has become the equivalent of a teenager’s diary online.

  15. Dara
    Dara says:

    “I’m addicted to the process of self-discovery through words.”

    I honestly have never read anyone put it any better than that, Penelope. How many times do you reread the personal things you write? I know that sounds egotistical, but I think only a “writer” would understand that question.

    Of the whole post and even the very good photos, that line stuck out to me the most. I’m intrigued that you do what I’d never dare to do. Half the time I think you’re crazy, but then again, the one time I let my husband read an on-again-off-again journal of mine from when we were dating, he told me I was crazy.

    Writing is my profession, but also my obsession. It’s my therapy when life dishes me something out of left field. You just publicly post your “therapy” and the entire world is intrigued. I’m floored by it. I admittedly could draw nowhere near the same interest b/c my life is undeniably “neater” and I praise God for that, but you are fearless…or crazy. Whichever, it’s nice to know there is someone out there who feels the same way about the art/process of writing.

  16. Dara
    Dara says:

    One more thing. I hope everyone who reads this blog realizes that you show more of yourself in the words you write than you could if you were naked in those photos you posted. I think you’ve gone and made me philosophical today.

  17. kate
    kate says:

    . . . i don’t think i’ve commented before, but i’ve been reading for a couple of months now. i love your blog, even though i don’t have a 9-5 job or want to be an entrepreneur or need career advice. i think i come here for the personal stories :) because, honey, you give great personal.

    and your copping to giving great word and having issues with the non-verbal is nice, because i share the same affliction. i look forward to reading all sorts of details about it in the future as the lines between live and online blur even further :)

  18. chris
    chris says:

    In response to IRG:

    If PT is guilty of TMI, you are guilty of TMA, “Too Much Attack”. I hope you are not in management with this attitude.

    Have you ever heard of “Find the good and praise it”?

    We only know what PT chooses to write. We don’t know the whole picture of her life. She is, as all of us are, complicated. We read her brazenly declaring that she pays attention to things only in relation to herself . . . but, if we were all to be as brazenly honest as she is, we would be saying the same. In fact, we’d all better be invested in self-discovery and self-knowledge and self-absorption, or else we will be vulnerable to attack and we will be left behind . . .

    If PT is raising young children, as she is, she cannot possibly be pathologically self-absorbed. Raising children forces you to be interested in others, to protect them and often, to put their needs above your own.

    As powerful as writing is, we cannot know another solely through their writing. Part of the craft of the writer is that s/he is able to put a filter on what they write/disclose. I, myself, married a man who I thought I knew, following a 7-year correspondence. We found we did NOT know one another sufficiently, and did not realize our incompatibilities.

    PT can take criticism. She doesn’t need me to defend her. But I did want to say that I believe that we ALL should cut one another some slack.


  19. Chris
    Chris says:

    What sort of self absorbed person refers to 9/11 as the day that the WTC fell on THEM?!?!?! Are you fucking kidding me?

  20. Grace
    Grace says:

    Penelope is about making connections. Showing how everything can be a metaphor for something else. One cannot compartmentalize one’s life. As we see how Penelope manages in all these areas of her life, we are inspired to open our eyes to the connections in our work-life balance.

  21. Adam Rice
    Adam Rice says:

    I’ll +1 your pics. They’re far more you, and it’s nice to see a picture of the person behind the writing.

    And girl…I think I’m just a tinge farmer jealous ;)

    Danny seems a little old. (I apologize profusely to the Baby Boomers who actually “get it” …but it’s true y’all have hang ups we don’t) Cause the intersection of life and work IS what Gen Y is about. And guess what? Hygiene, sex lives, relationships, and all the messy stuff that goes along with it is what people are interested in.

    How should I act when my boss is an *ahem* moron who doesn’t understand the web? or who doesn’t understand that mental illnesses (like depression) are just as debilitating as getting pneumonia?

    Yeah, we talk about our personal lives because let’s face it–the separation of personal lives and business lives is a crock. We’ve seen what it does. We’ve lived through the previous generation’s crap. Now it’s time for us to make our own mistakes, which, in turn, will be called crap by a generation or two down the line.

    *gets off soapbox and thinks we need a new cliche for all the stuff soapbox means, since, how many of you have ever seen a soapbox?*

  22. Rod
    Rod says:


    Yeah, she was there, but the towers didn’t fall on her. Otherwise, she’d be dead.

    I had the exact same reaction as Chris, but thought maybe it was just me. Obviously not.

  23. AB
    AB says:

    “Investors gauge whether I’ll stay in Wisconsin by asking about the farmer. Maybe I’ll add a Powerpoint slide graphing frequency of oral sex”.

    Oh please do hun. And I like your new pics as well. Your original one has a great portrait quality to it, you “action” shots are just as beautiful.


  24. spleeness
    spleeness says:

    You’re gorgeous! It’s really nice to see the person behind all your words. I hope someday I can be like you and discover myself through words.

    I love your personal posts. Write them as often as as long as you need to. We (your readers) are just drinking it up.

  25. Dale
    Dale says:

    Incidentally Penny,
    with careers being what they are it would defeat the purpose of a career blog to restrict one’s content to work related issues. Life happens in spite of our careers, or our best intentions, and though I do not always agree with your take on things, I find it very realistic, useful, and interesting that you juxtapose the work with the personal.

    Ultimately… it’s all personal.

    My 2centsworth.

  26. mdt
    mdt says:

    Hi Penelope,
    I admit that the personal stuff keeps me reading, too. Although your posts about the work/family balance have been therapeutic for me. I continue to struggle with raising a baby while going to grad school (I know you wouldn’t advise it :) and coming to terms with the uneven sharing of that workload in my marriage.

    I’m posting a comment to tell you how worth it my ‘interfaith’ relationship is. My husband is Jewish and I’m a Christian. Like the farmer, I did a lot of struggling and dumping. But now after more than 10 years, it is crazy that those differences that seemed so important don’t even matter anymore.

    good luck in love and life and thanks for your advice-

  27. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    Quoted from #4 –

    “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.”

    This is a good observation of the role of your blog. Actually your blog plays a much larger role since it preceded both your book and your company. Your blog is your brand and your book is your brand as you noted in your most recent post – ‘5 Reasons why you don’t need to write a book’. Actually the ‘5 Reasons …’ post details how the blog is at least as valuable as the book. The book generates revenue but the blog generates ideas from yourself and the community that makes things like a book and a company a reality.

  28. krysia
    krysia says:

    In your blog photo you look like a fake person, I don;t know how to explain better.
    I was relieved to see these photos.
    Change the blog one!

  29. Nate
    Nate says:

    I think the career advice and the personal backstory go hand in hand. It’s like reading a wikipedia article and taking a glance at the references at the bottom — you want to know your source. Call me crazy but it seems reasonable to want more information about the person telling you it’s a good idea to ditch your job for a different one. Oh, and the pictures look great.

  30. mrtruckster
    mrtruckster says:

    Hi forum users and readers I hope you can solve a stupid problem with my computer  
    When I start my webbrowser, Im using internet explorer its some weird search engine. It used to be google and everytime I change
    it back to google its okay. Until I start me pc again, then the wrong search engine is back. How can I get rid off this? Its getting annoying
    and there hase to be a way right? 

    Well thats it, stupid problem and I hope that it has a nice easy solution that you can come up with, Im getting all your replays to my email
    so I´ll keep an eye on the topic, take care. 

  31. toxBowlRall
    toxBowlRall says:

    Hello I’m new here
    And it looks like a interesting forum, so just wanted to say hello! :):):)
    And looking forward to participating.
    Going on vacation for a few days, so i’ll be back

  32. PatyHingle
    PatyHingle says:

    President-elect Barack Obama delivered a speech today, January 8, 2009. Obama discussed the current economic crisis and urged Congress to act quickly in passing a stimulus bill, warning that the recession could become
    (Video + Transcript)
    Infrastructure? What is he thinking? The US has some of the best infrastructure in the world. Anyone who has traveled can see that. Only Europe has better… and not ALL of Europe. Not only that, but there are 250,000 people out of work on Wall Street, and Obama is going to hand them all a shovel? …NONSENS !

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