The thing about freelance life that absolutely nobody will ever tell you is that when you’re in it, you constantly feel like you should be working. When you aren’t working or getting something you wrote published in some capacity, you feel like you aren’t doing anything with your life. I feel that way a lot. More than anyone would think. And I think I feel that way because I know that one day in the future I won’t be able to do all the things I do now because that chapter of my life will have ended so I might as well make the most out of it while I can and burn the midnight oil and work nonstop. Even if you have a full-time job like I do, and the freelance is all on the side, it’s hard to justify taking time to yourself to stop and relax and be still for a time. You know… LIVE. I feel like our generation is conditioned to taking even these moments of stillness and attempting to put work into them to some degree - blogging about some weekend we enjoyed, Instagramming every single piece of food we put into our bellies, recording every moment and hashtagging it. Ultimately I wonder if it pulls us out of that moment and makes it something to work at in order to look pretty and easier than it really was.
I think about the message of the first Glimpse conference I went to. How there was some speculation that in the future there will be two sets of people - those who are firmly integrated in everything online and those who back off because they don’t want to share every aspect of their lives with the people they both know and don’t. I have no idea where I would fit on that spectrum. There must be some middle ground for people who enjoy the simple, (mostly) free pleasures these websites give us and want to utilize them for good. I am a believer that black and white, all or nothing, does apply to some aspects of life. Just not this part. Though life today is nothing like how I imagined it would be when I was little. I didn’t know when I was 10 that one day I would be placing irritation at the graphics design that my phone’s software update turned out to be.
Sometimes I feel like I’m about to burn out on a series of things that once made me happy to do but have since turned into chores and a series of motions to make it through the day. But then something(s) comes along to pull me out of it and I feel better again. I just need those moments to happen. Occasionally they will occur based on time and events within time. But a lot of it needs to be from within. From my own motivation not to be too still for too long. It’s one thing to be still when you are busy but another when you are still in the same setting and nothing ever changes on the scale you want that change to be.
That moment should be coming up fairly soon.
There is, in fact, a curious sense that just when fashion has become a vibrant force in popular culture, attracting a new generation of designers (and wannabes), Fashion Week is losing its relevance. Of course, people have been complaining that there are too many shows for more than a decade. (It was the subject of a front-page article in this newspaper 12 years ago, and look at Fashion Week now; it’s nearly twice the size, with 350 shows and presentations over nine days.)
But the real point of Fashion Week, to promote collections to editors and retailers several months before they will be in stores, is becoming lost in the age of instant online accessibility. Factoring in the revved-up cycle of fashion, the addition of resort shows, the fashion show that takes place outside the tents for the street-style photographers, and the confused customers, Suzy Menkes, in a column in T: The Times Style Magazine last month, wondered “who needs more fashion and is gagging for yet another show?”
Here’s the reality of NYFW, from the perspective of someone who went for the first time last year and definitely idealized bits and pieces of it before being fully emerged in the process: it’s a nuthouse. It is not something you breeze through and think everything can start because YOU arrived. You wait for everything because no show, backstage or otherwise, starts on time. Nobody can go to all the shows because of time constraints and/or locations. And if you are a writer (like I am) you better believe that once a person you’re talking to finds that out, you’re going to get assaulted with cards about potentially plugging their product/site/social media following on the site you write for. It’s a curious thing to think about the term “influencers” as well and how bloggers especially are invited to attend. Every year, that list grows and the balance in influence shifts. There are certain style bloggers I see having a longevity that will last them well into their 30’s and up simply because they cultivated a specific look and more or less owned it since then (Leandra Medine and Jane Aldridge are two good examples). But the vast majority of the lookbook.nu, Tumblr reblogged en masse crowd, and the people who hover around outside with gigantic piles of Tupperware on their head and like, a raggedy blankie from grade school fashioned into a dress are a dime a dozen. There will be many more people who will start doing similar things at younger ages and the shift in popularity will be passed to them. And then of course, there’s the numbers game for social media. Which site has the most traffic? Which writer carries the biggest Twitter following? Whose Klout score is the strongest? And who can publish a story about this designer complete with hi-res photos the fastest so the keywords catch on Google and become newsworthy? That is a writer’s worth now. That’s what you rattle off to anyone who asks you what your name is and where you work. I don’t like that. I don’t believe in it because the numbers are arbitrary and all subject to change over time (and are also easy to manipulate into bigger and better amounts too). My perspective on writing when it comes to coverage of anything, no matter what the topic is, has always been to be an advocate in quality over quantity in what you write and how you present that work out, ensuring you (as a writer) leave behind a legacy of strong articles you can be proud of and so can the brands/designers/experts you feature in them too. The only major fly in the writing ointment is like the rose-colored glasses a person who has never been to New York Fashion Week has about the entire process: time. One time zone ahead of another, a few precious hours to write, write, write, and little to no sleep will wear on you. And I’m only speaking from a writer’s standpoint, not even an editor’s!! So don’t fear the live streaming reaper. While the energy of being there and in the moment at fashion week is fantastic, streaming the shows ensures that you can rewatch the looks come down the runway over and over again and without dozens of tall people sitting in front of you, blocking your iPhone’s blurred shot of a flash of dress. Times are changing and time itself is changing - and wouldn’t you like to get a bathroom break without worrying someone who steal your seat?
You say it’s corny, I think this is cute. (Go social media, especially Twitter today!)
We’re the grown ups now. And we like it.
It was the unspoken theme that surrounded my entire day yesterday from start (1:43 AM, when I woke up) to finish (12:25 AM, when I went to bed) as I went from LA to SF for the Glimpse Conference for the day. If you’re drawing a blank on what Glimpse is, it’s a full day conference based on social discovery that features a ton of panelists and speakers from start-ups and established businesses and online site writers alike, crowded together in a big room bouncing ideas off the walls on everything from changes in the social marketplace to content to music and dating.
I had gone last year, hence the title, and enjoyed the taste of what I got so much that I knew I had to go again this year. Round two of Glimpse was for the adults. The venue was upgraded to the Bently Reserve, resplendent in its two story layout with a bar and restaurant only a few steps out the door reserved for attendees, the crowd was bigger and filled with more professionals in the communications/social/marketing game, and the speakers were just as, if not more, passionate about their work and how they intended to change the world through it.
In 2012, Glimpse had been a smaller, more intimate, affair. I had worn a dress then that had a skirt that was loose and billowy. People talked about what they did and you mentally stacked up the duties of others within their position (if it was the same as yours) against your own and it pleased me then to know I seemed to be doing more than most social media managers. But a lot has changed since that year has gone by and the June 2013 version of me that went saw the change in myself and within others. I wore my boatneck pencil dress and pushed myself to perfect a sock bun that morning. At lunch during the conference, I was at a table with the VP of Communications from GoodReads who asked a small cluster of us what our social media goals with the respective companies we worked with were. I didn’t have to think twice in articulating my own personal strategy because I knew it was my own and it was what I was working on for a reason. There was no mentally comparing/contrasting my own duties against someone else to see if I was “doing it right” and no need to feel like I needed to hold court above anyone else either. It came out of me because it was what I had been thinking about and doing and pulling together for some time now.
You’ve got no idea how good it felt to be sitting in a sea of people aligned with Yahoo and Buzzfeed and Pandora and not feel insignificant or small in any way, shape or form. I like to credit that threefold because a) I have always been pretty confident with myself, b) I work with a great team that makes that feeling all around mutual in our department, and c) because I bust my ass for it. Social media may initially appear to be the job that on the surface attracts people as a position that’s easy to do (lulz, it’s Facebook!), but I’ve begun to notice a real shift in the field. The people who are genuinely passionate about it don’t disappear from the company after 6 months. They constantly keep the wheels grinding away on new initiatives and ideas to implement and like to try out a little bit of everything to see what works. They are not content to do everything the same forever and evolve with the job as it goes. Hence, the grown ups. And why you feel grown up when you’ve been doing it for some time. It’s a feeling that EVERYONE who works should be able to have and it’s the feeling you get when you’re established in your career. I don’t like to believe it’s a tipping point to anything or that you should consider what you’ll be doing for your “second act” (somebody asked me that once during an interview and I mentally remember thinking, “but I’ve only been in this position for two years that does not a second act make”).
To that threefold, I’d like to add one more element to credit which Glimpse took fully - enthusiasm. Hours upon hours in the same room as so many other people all so enthusiastic about what they do and where they’re going and what they have yet to implement to come projects a natural high. You couldn’t walk into the Reserve that morning and exit without a million ideas circulating in your head. “It’s the biggest discovery challenge, serendipitous discovery.” was what Otis Chandler, the CEO from GoodReads said at one point and he’s right! Serendipity in the online and the offline world, where we discover so much in others and moments and places and ourselves!
But I have a theory about serendipitous discovery and so much of life in general. It will never eat you alive unless you let it. But you wouldn’t let that happen because you’re part of the grown ups now.
I took a moment early on that day to scribble some ideas I had and this is what came out. Fits in well enough, I think.
"Not a big fish in a small pond but a fish in a pool of water, where it learns and grows and likes the current and sticks with it. The fish might swim upstream or not but that’s fine too. And so is swimming in the ocean, even if it sweeps you away at first.
Nothing is too big, too consuming, too overwhelming. Everything shrinks with time and familiarity. Everything, even the foreign. And then you run to embrace the new elsewhere or stay with what shrunk and carve out more of what you know or don’t there.”
My second year anniversary at work is a much quieter affair than it was last year, when I was practically bellowing on Facebook and all the assorted other social networks that, “Hey guyssss ONE WHOLE YEAR WOOOOO!!”
Already you may be getting the impression that I’m not particularly jazzed to be saddled in my second year here, but don’t let the lack of leaping in the air and fist pumping the sky fool you. My second year is in its own respects reminding me of the scene in Mad Men's fifth season when Don Draper, creative director extraordinaire, is looking through a series of advertisements and copy produced by his team copywriters. A lot of the work is Michael Ginsberg's, some is Peggy Olson's, not much of it is Don's. And he knows and can see this looking through the portfolio. Joan, standing in front of Don, sees this all in a different light - that because of his direction, this great work is all gathered before them from very talented minds.
When I first started my job, I wrote everything. Every article, every blog post (with the mild exception of the ones on Fridays since a legal intern would typically grab that one up), and yes, all of those Forbes posts - all ghostwritten under my hand. I did this because as the only social media employee period, I was the only one who could write everything, but also because I love to write and will never say no to working on a piece, no matter what the topic may be. I look back on a lot of my “early” work and shudder hardcore, but smile because in light of various circumstances at the time, I could not have written those articles any better then than I would now. They might read a little more “chop chop, on with the program” now than they did then, but there’s a great creative spark in many of those pieces that I’m awfully proud of.
In the same category of pride falls my two former interns, James and Kelsey. This summer, they’ll be full-blown associates, no longer under the “intern” title umbrella. As a team, we’ve all grown together so much it’s ridiculous. If you had told me in college that my former roommate’s boyfriend would wind up working with me and consider me to be his boss in many ways, I would have laughed in your face. Same goes for the girl acting in the campus stage play I was the assistant stage manager for. Who knew? Life can be funny and so far, I like this joke. It’s been good to me.
My job has evolved quite a bit as well. James and Kelsey blog an awful lot now than they did a year ago. We’ve secured so many more outlets to write with now than we did first starting off too. And I’ve settled into a close to Don Draper presence in the process of giving them more responsibility - scheduling articles and guest posts and confirming emails and sitting in all meetings and writing the occasional post here and there, but mostly serving as the head of our department more than anything else. It’s been an interesting shift, but not one I’m surprised about in the slightest. And definitely not a shift that allows me to rest on my laurels either.
Enough time has passed for me to discuss a change that occurred in March to our department. Without going into too much detail other than to say that this was not a decision made exclusively to our account there alone, Forbes decided to close several blogging accounts, with ours included. It was also an email that came from a producer from the site and not our editor. In the span of an hour, I went through stages of shock, anger, and acceptance which is a rollercoaster ride of emotions to the absolute max. I was moody about it for 24 hours (same day I went home early and made a burger and sat by the pool) because it was, well, it was so odd! When it comes to blogging, there’s no set date in mind for so many sites and you more or less wind up assuming that you’ll be blogging there until you run out of ideas. Or don’t, and keep making more up as you move along because it keeps you relevant to the internet. I don’t know why I assumed we’d be writing there forever and living happily ever after. Two years was long enough. There were a lot of rules to follow and quite honestly, it. was. so. stressful! As an example of some of the rules, every paragraph could only be 5 sentences long or less before publishing. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. But we ended on a very solid, tidy note, with a post that was so pulled together that I couldn’t have asked for a better way to exit a website.
Moodiness aside, that minor hiccup remained exactly that: a minor hiccup. My boss and team were wonderfully encouraging and we pushed forward with other endeavors instead. I’m quite fortunate in this regard because I know for a fact that there are many CEOs who would be less forgiving with their social media departments if that happened to them. But… I don’t work for those
crazies, old disgruntled WASP men, companies so that’s that! And our current endeavors have been paying off in spades, with much better outlets, one of which I’m pleased to say is The Huffington Post! (Which I “re-discovered” through a Google search my boss had a long-dormant account with and we’re gonna dust that off to get it all shiny and pretty again.)
So here we are, in 2013, a world apart from where we began, but still are so very rooted firmly in the same enthusiasm and drive that we had first starting out. My days only feel long when I get home and get asked by a roommate what I did that day. I blink once and it all comes rushing back all over me, like the ghost of a foggy dream from last night that the very sight of an inanimate object like a pen could invoke the very memory of.
What did I do? What did we do? What will continue to be done?
Only time, and more writing, may tell.
'Bout that boss lady note…
I hosted a webinar on my own today for the first time and it went great! It was on social media engagement for businesses, entitled “Social Media Engagement and You: It’s More Than Just Saying ‘I Do.’” Such a different experience from last time - which if you may (or probably don’t) recall I was on a panel of three speakers with a moderator and over 500 people logged in listening and asking questions. This was a much more intimate affair - 15 people listening in and a PowerPoint presentation I worked pretty hard on. From what I understand it was well received - got some emails asking me for more information from business owners including one who runs a company in SF!
Feeling progressively more and more like a grown up every day, in every way. This is a far cry from that Festival of Scholars presentation I did in college where I was still coloring in my poster board up until the last hour before the presentation.
… people find the ones that are open and head on in!
Today something really awesome and unexpected happened at work. We’ve been running a contest that gives away $1500 for one very clever one to two minute video that discusses what makes your business brilliant and now that we’re in the last three (!!) days of the contest, we’ve had some last-minute stragglers submitting their videos to our website. Before leaving work for the day, I did a quick last-minute check on the contest folder where the entries have been collecting where to my complete surprise, a video submission was there from a girl named Hayley.
Hayley was one of the very first affiliates within our company that I worked with, nearly two years ago, and helped her out with establishing her blog and social media accounts. That in of itself was special enough. But there’s a little something more to it… at the time Hayley got her company incorporated and started with us, she was 16 years old. Now she should be 18 which is the legal age to enter our contest which of course is awesome to the nth degree.
BUT WAIT THERE’S EVEN MORE. Her company is amazing - it creates soluble sugar packets for coffeeshops to help cut back on the paper waste in landfills across the country. Isn’t that incredible? And to know that she not only started her company several years ago but still wants to keep with that idea and help it grow into bigger and better proportions really makes me smile and get all of the warm fuzzy feels inside.
It’s not often that I jump up out of my chair at work from excitement and run to tell the three other people who worked along with me and her about the video submissions but I did today. Because I’m proud of Hayley and excited to see her come back into the fold of what I help do here.