As the month of June was beginning I couldn’t help but ponder how fast the halfway mark of the year was upon me?
AND, I wondered how could it creep up on me so quickly when I felt like I’d been standing still since the end of March?
OR, was that precisely why it crept up on me?
When stay-at-home orders were enacted, for all intensive purposes, time stopped. What was, was no more, at least temporary, and what would be was still up in the air.
At first this was all a bit unnerving, but once I settled into the notion of being forced to stay home, and knew my work from home would be limited, I embraced this time as time to focus on my dreams and aspirations for retirement.
I was actually a bit happy to finally have the time I needed to focus on my writing and this blog.
AND, I actually welcomed this time after the hiccup I hit in January that set me back as far as my goals for 2020 were concerned.
With this newfound, unexpected time, I once again had 2020 vision for 2020.
AND, not knowing how much time I would actually have, I knew I had to act fast.
I dove deep into my research on search engine optimization (SEO) for my blog site, finally had time to get more engaged in the blog community by reading, following and commenting on sites with similar themes as mine, invested in a Google ad in hopes to not just get clicks but followers, and started a weekly post in addition to my end of month post.
All of this was done with the hopes that I would garner enough followers to make my site worthy of monetizing. Without followers and consistent traffic who would even bother with placing an ad on my site.
Basically I finally had time to focus on the business side of the site, the side that needed the most attention if it was to become a source of extra income come retirement time. As a creative person, this was/is however the side I found/find least appealing, but I pushed myself daily to learn more.
By late April though, I realized the SEO stuff was a bit overwhelming. At that point, I comprehended enough to realize if I really wanted to maximize my site I needed a professional. This was and is a cost I can’t afford, so I quickly let go of that research and threw some money at a Google ad.
I figured what the heck, anything’s worth a try, right? What did I have to loose? I could cancel at any time.
I was able to target my territory and demographics, and write the copy to fit the blog content. In so doing it would also give me a little insight as to what words/phrases brought the most traffic to my site.
PLUS, once placed my work was done. I just had to track the data garnered from the ad and see if it was worth it.
This allowed me to focus more on engaging with other writers. Communicating with like-mind writers was the best part of this adventure and I even made a few online friends within the WordPress community.
However, since I’m back in the office 5 days a week, my time spent communicating within the blog community is once again suffering.
My research had noted the more you post, the more opportunities there are to get readers, and possibly followers. Prior to this, I sometimes barely had enough time to get my monthly post written, let alone a weekly one too.
Adding a weekly post became my reward for my research on the technical side of things. I was invigorated and loved the challenge of coming up with a new topic weekly, while still working on my end of month post.
Sadly though, as my days back in the office continued to increase, I realized I would not have the time to write the additional posts, so my May 20th post marked the last of the weekly post.
As of this month I’m back to just my end of month post.
By mid-May I realized the Google ad might have gotten me quite a few “clicks” on my site, but not one follower. SO, I canceled the ad.
Some may think I threw money away, but by placing this ad, I discovered the content of my blog is not that easy to “Tag” because it’s somewhat esoteric.
Moms trying to rediscover themselves when their kid’s head to college is pretty specific. Although self-discovery can be at any age and impact everyone, the content is targeted to women who are of a similar age, and like me don’t have a lot of time to spend hunting down blogs to read or follow.
OR, are not necessarily fond of reading online.
My first blog, “Waking the Walker – a Mother’s quest to survive her son’s zombie years – aka his teens” still gets traffic, and I’m not even posting on it any more. Why – it’s a parenting blog.
Its audience is far reaching.
SO, although the outcome of my research was not quite what I had hoped for, I did learn a lot. AND, it has helped me to reevaluate my plans for the future and retirement.
NOW, this doesn’t mean I’m giving up on this blog, it just means that I’ve learned that my vision for 2020 and beyond has to change. Writing will always be my true passion, but if it is to be a source of income, it won’t be from this site.
This means I can once again put my focus on the content of my post, and not worry about the business side. I’ve learned the best way to get followers is organically. I’m done trying to force things to happen. If something more is to become of this site, it’s in the hands of the universe.
SO, as my stay-at-home time dwindles to a few extra hours in the morning, I could be very disappointed that I’m not where I thought I would be as far as my goals for 2020 are concerned. BUT, in all honesty I’m grateful I was able to face all this now and not years from now when retirement is even closer than it is now.
I can honestly say this time has allowed me to grow in ways I’ve yet to completely comprehend. And, one very positive thing that’s come out of this is I did rediscover a side of me I haven’t explored since art school.
AND, it’s this side that may actually be what becomes a source of extra income and carries me into retirement.
Throughout all this time, I have also started to create chalk art on my driveway. It started as a very simple greeting for Easter, and I was going to leave it at that. BUT, many neighbors commented that it helped to brighten their day, and they really needed it during these trying times. So it has grown into a weekly thing for me, with neighbors looking for my new creation each weekend.
Outside of doing some graphic design for family parties, or school organizations I was involved with, I can honestly say my only “real” creative outlet since leaving advertising has been my writing. Which was just fine as I raised my Son.
SO, stepping into the world of chalk art has been somewhat liberating, and takes me back to my art school days. I am not an illustrator, and can’t draw a person, or anything with major perspective if my life depended on it.
BUT, as my art evolved from simple greetings, to copying the greats, then into mandalas, I realized I was actually taking my graphic design experience into a new realm, and boy was I having fun doing it.
Once one is done I start thinking about the next one. Pondering ideas in my head, then researching reference material before I sketch out the design and plot out the colors.
Plus, besides being creatively fulfilling, it’s also exercise. Some days I feel like I’m playing Twister on my driveway. And now that the temps are climbing I certainly feel like I’m getting a workout.
Some have commented that I need to find a way to make them more permanent, especially after spending two hours on them, but part of the beauty is that Mother Nature decides when it’s time to wash my pallet clean and open the door for a new design. I believe I’ve only twice had to actually hose down the driveway to clear the previous weeks creation that was already somewhat washed away.
Not that I haven’t wondered if there was a way to make them permanent, but what makes these unique is the surface of the driveway and blacktop. I’m not sure that can be recreated on a canvas. I am however certainly open to exploring this, especially when the weather turns cold. Not sure I’m up to playing Twister in my winter coat and boots.
To be honest, I’ve been surprised by all the positive feedback I’ve gotten, to include requests for mugs with some of my designs on them. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect that. I mean it’s chalk art on my driveway for goodness sake.
This however did make my thoughts begin to meander down the road of new possibilities. A road I certainly would not have ever imagined if not for this time home, and my desire to play with chalk thanks to the #ChalkTheWalk movement.
SO, as I face the back half of 2020, I’ve found my vision for the year and beyond has shifted into a new realm. It still explores my creative side as a means of surplus revenue for retirement, but expands it in ways I never would have even considered if not for this unexpected stay-at-home time.
In some ways I’m starting over when it comes to a retirement plan, but in reality this is just part of my journey of self-exploration. One I welcome with open arms. I’m waking parts of me I’ve forgotten about or ignored because being a grown up got in the way.
AND, in so doing, realizing that this is who I am, and who I was always meant to be. I just needed to travel the winding path that got me to this point in order to realize this.
Plus, it’s also confirmed even more that I am ready to be free from punching someone else’s time clock and start answering to me only.
Granted I still have a few years till I can make it official, and will have to re-work my business plan to reflect this new direction, and do more research, but this direction has a more solid base because there is an end product that doesn’t involve getting followers or clicks. It just needs people interested in buying something with my chalk art on it.
SO, with this in mind, my first step is to start an art blog featuring images of my chalk art. I just need to research which format is the best for this. Once I’ve got this up and running I’ll be sure to share.
In the meantime please check back at the end of every month to see how this new adventure is going, and what new discoveries, if any I may have found.
Has your vision for 2020 been altered because of the pandemic? If so I’d love to hear about it.
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.
Goddess Masthead © Pamela Danko-Stout and Waking the Woman, 2020. All rights reserved.
Images from Personal Collection
The Waking Dead courtesy of AMC
Universe – 123rf
Winged Woman – 123rf