06 October 2007

Impact re-evaluation

These have been a challenging series of weeks, balancing reality against my self-image. The reality checks have been harsh but liberating.

When the AJ2 poll/census revealed that the Yahoo Group was about 1/10 active, I was surprised but not shocked. This week, I made a similar (albeit unplanned) discovery at AJmarketing, which I will talk about in a few days. In the meantime, I'm checking my stats, re-examining my goals, and so on.

What I'm looking at right now is this: I don't make much money as Aisling. Not really. (Most of my work is under another name.) That's fine. Awhile ago, I realized that what I do as "Aisling D'Art" is about sharing my enthusiasm for making art. My goal is to encourage others to express themselves creatively, too. So, it's okay if I don't make much money at it; that's not why I do this.

But, if I'm also not making much impact... well, maybe it's time to let the existing body of work remain online for people to enjoy, but quit putting so much time and effort into the Aisling stuff. Maybe I've said as much as I need to.

I'm reminded of something that SARK said: Sometimes the few pages or paragraphs that you read in a bookstore are all that you need to get out of a particular book. Maybe you don't need to buy it. (I do that often. I read a little bit in a book, get all excited about it, buy the book... and the rest of the book turns out to be ho-hum. I'd read everything that I needed to in the bookstore.)

So, maybe--as Aisling D'Art--I've said as much as people need to read/hear, to get excited about personal creative expression. I'm not sure.

One of my decisions will be about my podcasts. I've been podcasting for over a year now. When my new mic arrived about two weeks ago... well, I recorded new podcasts daily for most of the past ten days. That was a chance to play with the mic. Each recording was an experiment and involved slightly different settings. (The podcast content was pretty much off the top of my head.)

I'm not sure if I'm going to make those podcasts weekly or monthly.

See, after listening to an illuminating interview with Seth Godin about his new book,
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick), it's like a whole lot more lights turned on for me. (The quality of that recording is perfectly awful, btw. Listen to it anyway. Parts of it are so important, I listened to them three or four time each.)

I've been getting progressively more ruthless about cutting activities from my schedule in favor of doing what I really want to. It's not easy for me, but part of that may be about an illusory self-image.

I'll be at B&N when it opens this morning, to buy a copy of Godin's book. Then, I'll be reading it and checking my various stats (website visitors, income, etc.) before making further decisions... but the signs look fairly clear right now.

I never had a business plan for my websites. They each grew out of hobbies and a general need to express myself and connect with others. One reason was because, at that time, my marriage was crumbling. I needed to do something that felt like it was valuable to others. (So, Godin's blog post, The Reason, really resonated with me.) I never intended any of my earlier sites to become businesses, per se.

Each of them spawned more websites, and... now I have this empire of sites and Yahoo Groups and stuff. Ten+ years later, I'm wondering how much of this is inflated self-image, how much is filling a genuine need, and how much is simply unconscious momentum.

The bookstore opens in half an hour. I've already started gathering my numbers to chart where I've been, where I am now, and what to expect if I keep doing what I'm doing.

I'll have more to say after the weekend.

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29 September 2007

AJ2 --> WAJ2

For those who can't find AJ2 now:

The name has changed to WAJ2. That stands for "Writers' and Artists' Journals, too." The owner and moderator is Red Dog Scott, famous for her amazing projects at Capolan.org

The new link for WAJ2 is: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/WAJ2


27 September 2007

The last of my big changes at AJ2

I've just announced it to AJ2: I'm stepping back as its owner & moderator, and Red Dog Scott will be taking the helm. I'll still be a member of AJ2... but not its owner and not a moderator.

For more about this and other changes in my life, see http://www.santaflamingo.com/next.htm

This is a relief, really. I need more time and mental space for current and especially upcoming projects.

Oh, this change is not without some anxieties and sadness. For six years, AJ2 has been one of my "babies." But, I've known for awhile that it was time for me to put my energy and focus into other projects, including my own art career. The change at AJ2 was far from an overnight decision!

And, I have total confidence in Red. She and I share some rather colorful (and coincidental) connections in our past, and we've been very good friends online since the mid-1990s. Her Capolan exchange is legendary.

Meanwhile--and this is probably temporary--I'm adding a podcast a day at my revamped podcast site, called Views from Santa Flamingo. They're all about five minutes long (or less) and are about art and creativity. Sometimes I share tips for specific kinds of art. In other podcasts, I talk about creativity in general.

(That will probably become a weekly podcast series, once the novelty wears off my shiny new microphone. Right now, I'm really enjoying not getting headaches from my old headset mic!)

That's today's news. There's been a lot of behind-the-scenes work to make all of this happen. I'm probably going to be fairly quiet for a few days.

That's not because I'm terribly sad or anything (mostly, I'm relieved), but because I still have two articles to write this week, and six short stories to write by the middle of October. Busy, busy!


26 September 2007

AJ2 changes: Step one, completed

This isnt' about art... it's about what I'm doing instead of making art. *sigh*

I stayed up late last night, blasting through the AJ2 membership update, manually removing each inactive member. Yahoo's software makes this a tedious and error-prone process. Even double-checking each member against my list of active members... well, it was stressful, worrying that I'd make a mistake.

The result is: Only those who voted "yes" in the recent census/poll--which asked if people wanted to stay in the group--are still in AJ2. That's about 15% of the size that AJ2 was a week ago.

Yes, over 1300 lurkers didn't bother to say that they wanted to stay in AJ2. Apparently, it was a wake-up call for some when they realized I'd been serious about revitalizing AJ2.

The email that followed has been... umm... colorful.

Most of the people who've asked to rejoin are sincerely interested in the group. They understand that they made a mistake.

A smaller percentage have been obnoxious, as if I'm an employee and--by removing them from AJ2--I'm guilty of an unacceptable shortcoming.

Having reprimanded me, they may overlook this error if I reinstate them at AJ2 without further effort on their part.

Yes, I'm feeling a little cranky about this. But, I also looked at it last night and realized that if I make less of the value of what I do--sometimes because it's easy for me--I can hardly expect others to recognize its worth.

I also have to own that, during much of my previous marriage, I was desperate for approval from others. I set the tone. They had something valuable (approval, friendship, association) that--at the time--I thought was more valuable than my time, energy, and... well, the things that make me unique.

I'm the one who changed, not necessarily the AJ2 members.

If you know me in real life, you know how I hate confrontation. I hate to upset anyone, even mildly.

But, it's time for me to make it clear that my era as a doormat has concluded.

With the exception of Santa Flamingo, pretty much everything that I do online is community service. My blogs are--and always have been--for me, first and foremost. I've always been up-front about that. The rest of it...? The websites, groups, podcasts and lists...? They're to share what I've learned, and--hopefully--to inspire others.

(Santa Flamingo is my only created-for-profit website. But, I've been advised by several friends and one stranger that I'm underpricing my products at Santa Flamingo. I need to think bigger. They're right; that's part of the changes ahead.)

Mostly, with the move to New England on the near horizon, I need to make very conscious choices about how much time, energy and other resources are necessary for this move. And, I need to be sure that I use only spare time for everything except what will make this a successful move.

So, step one at AJ2 was to take a poll and then remove the inactive members. This is restoring it to what it was when I started it, six years ago: A vital and interesting group in which all members participate (at least now & then).

Tomorrow, there will be another announcement.


25 September 2007

AJ2 poll concludes, podcasts change again

The AJ2 census/poll concluded early this morning, and 193 people voted to remain in the group. I'm very pleased!

Now, I'll be manually removing the ~1300 members who didn't respond to the census/poll, or who asked to be removed.

Meanwhile, I woke up with clarity about my podcasts. I was trying to change something which needed more focus--a clearer sense of identity--not a different focus.

So, later this week, my former Miles Away from Mundane podcast is changing to Views from Santa Flamingo, with a lot more of the Aisling-type stuff in it... ways to be more creative in an everyday context, including art journaling. (This will coincide nicely with the arrival of my new microphone, which should also improve sound quality.)

(The Miles Away from Mundane podcast will move to a new channel, and it'll be more about my gallery-type work, such as my oil paintings and fabric art wallhangings.)

I'm going to be doing a lot more with podcasts in the future, including a monthly podcast related to Ireland and Irish ancestry. It'll include some genealogy tips, some travel stuff, reviews, events and cultural info.

And, I've picked up a quick writing gig which means completing six short stories by the middle of October. So, I'm going to be all kinds of busy for a couple of weeks... as if I needed to add anything to my schedule...! *LOL*

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20 September 2007

Changes on the horizon

Yes, things are changing at ArtistsJournals2 (aka AJ2), a Yahoo Group that I started almost exactly six years ago.

I've had a great time with AJ2 and I love so many of the members! But, it's time for changes at that group... some very big changes to keep it vital.

The first change is that it's for people who want to exchange ideas. The key word is "exchange." AJ2 turned into a group with maybe 50 people contributing... and 1450 (maybe) lurking.

Oh, I'm not pointing a finger. I mean, I'm the one who said that it's always okay to lurk in my groups! But... I never meant AJ2 to become a spectacle, where just a few people bare their souls and contribute journaling tips. I figured that, in time, most of the lurkers would come out of hiding and share questions, advice, and so on.

I mean, art is about communicating... isn't it? It's about sharing what we see... in our mind's eye if not in our surroundings.

It's funny, the email that I've rec'd since saying that everyone has to agree to participate in discussions now & then. (Not weekly, maybe not even monthly... just "now & then.")

From some, the disapproval has been searing. To them, I want to say, "Fine. Go start a Yahoo Group that's for people who are too busy or too self-absorbed to say anything. See how much people enjoy that kind of group." And y'know what...? I'm only half-joking.

But, yes, I was ready to close AJ2 about a week ago. Thanks to my two co-moderators, Red Dog Scott and Becky New, I decided against that idea. Instead, we came up with a plan to revitalize AJ2 and take it in new directions.

That's what's in progress right now. The first step was to identify who is still reading AJ2 and can agree to participate in discussions. That's what we're doing right now, with a poll at AJ2. (If you're in AJ2 and haven't been reading your emails recently, now would be a good time to do so.)

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