Taking Tips from the Blogosphere

We don't know everything. I, for one, don't know Jack. I don't even who Jack is. Shows how much I know. And, should my teenager encounter this post in her web surfing, she'll be nodding her head so hard and furiously that she'll whiplash as she taunts - "Yup, that's for sure. Mom doesn't know Jack." Well, good, there's something we can agree on.

Because I walk the planet guileless to so much, I depend on the kindness of bloggers who generously extend the wealth of their knowledge and the bounty of their opinions to the ill-informed such as me. Hence, I dedicate this entry to those wise women who share their rules of thumb, guidelines, counsel and recommendations. Let's hear it for those bloggers who give us tips!

We all love good tips, don't we? I'm especially fond of tips in a list format. Numbered or bulleted, it doesn't matter as long as I can rip the lists out of the magazine or print them out from the web so I can pop them on the refrigerator under a magnet.

The following bloggers offer enough tips to paper the entirety of my refrigerator door. A wealth and bounty of good advice, indeed:

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From another Grace! In her post, Listen Ladies...This is How it Is, this other Grace lends the world her advice on "moving to a new city with a guy, living with him, getting ditched, feeling lost, slowly recovering, learning how to make friends, growing sturdy survival legs, and moving on." A sampling from her hard earned wisdom:

1. Unless you’re okay with endless dating, don’t live with the boy. Get your own place.

2. Don’t devote your time to his every need. Examples: Don’t sacrifice happy hours with your coworkers to go to his work events.

3. Don’t get involved in his family drama. As a follow-up, pay close attention to the relationships within his family. If they don’t sit well with you, take that as a predictor of your future together.

4. Reserve chunks of your life for yourself, like drawing a line in the sand which he can’t cross over. The hard part? Really meaning it. If you pick up painting, don’t paint and think, “I wish I was with him on the couch in front of the T.V.”...

...15. Plan your life as if you were going to have to do it all alone. While this isn’t the best case scenario, it’s a contingency plan. Anything above that is gravy. As I’ve heard in a movie: “We come into this world alone and we die alone.”...

...19. Stop leaching off your parents. It’s one thing if you need a place to stay when something goes wrong, or if you’re between leases, but don’t depend on them to bail you out. Remember: live life like you’re doing it alone. It builds strong legs to stand on.
20. If your goal is to get married, raise a family, and move forward in developing your relationship with your significant other, share that from the outset of a relationship. Once it’s out there, stick to your guns and be ready to leave if your instinct tells you it’s not going to happen. This is why #15 is important. You’ll be more likely to survive a break up if you feel you can take care of yourself no matter what.

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British artist Kirsty Hall provides motivation and inspiration in her 10 Top Tips for Artists. This particular recommendation resonates for many women:

8: Make Art A Priority

You need to make a space for art in your life. If art isn’t a priority then it simply won’t get done and you’ll get to the end of another year wondering why you haven’t made any work.

I do know that it’s difficult: if you’re working another job to pay your bills or raising children, then finding time and energy to make art can be especially tough but you need to keep hold of the idea that you’re an artist, that it’s central to who you are and that you’re going to keep making work somehow.

You may need to work in the margins of the day - on your lunch break, on public transport, as you’re waiting for a meeting to start, while the kids are napping or when the rest of the household is asleep. When I worked in a hospital, I used to sketch the visitors to the canteen on my lunchbreak. I didn’t do it every day but I did it enough that it noticeably improved my drawing at a time when I had no access to life drawing classes. I know several writers who’ve written zines and even novels in spare minutes at work. Other artists find ways to incorporate their paid work into their art, perhaps by using it as the subject of their work.

It’s easy to think that you need vast swathes of time in order to be an artist but that’s not always the case: what you need is a steady and regular commitment. Yes, having lots of time can be great but it can also make you freeze. When I was at college I used to spend most of the day talking to people, pottering around the studio and drinking endless cups of tea and then in the last hour I’d finally get myself in gear and do some work. I’ve learnt that I tend to do much better with a limited amount of time and a deadline.

If you’ve got serious limitations to contend with, then another option is to temporarily alter your practice. If you can’t make sculpture because you don’t have the space, then maybe you can draw, if you can’t get access to printmaking equipment, then maybe you can do monoprints instead, if your oil paints are toxic to your toddler then switch to gouache. Don’t be afraid to explore the options - you’re an artist, you can surely come up with a creative solution.

When my son was small, I couldn’t even draw because if he woke up and threw me out of that creative zone, then I wanted to throw him out of the window! I decided this wasn’t an ideal frame of mind for parenting, so I switched to photography and writing - both forms I was able to pick up and put down much more easily - until he was older and I had more mental space. And let me tell you, I came out of that restricted period like a bat out of hell, I had so much stored up creative energy that it powered me for years.

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These gems are for audience members who want to pose a question to a speaker in the smartest and more effective way possible without stammering or breaking into hives. From author Gretchen Rubin, lawyer and creator of the blog and soon-to-be-book, The Happiness Project, here are some of the Ten tips for asking questions from the audience, plus a bonus Secret of Adulthood:

1. Wait for the microphone, if there is one.

2. Pause for silence – don’t talk over a chattering crowd.

3. Don’t make excuses for yourself. This is tiresome and unnecessary.

4. Don’t address speakers by their first names. Some people will disagree with me, I’m sure, but this always strikes me as affected and inappropriately familiar, unless the mood of the presentation is extremely casual.

As for that "bonus Secret of Adulthood"? It's a good one:

You know the situation when you’d like to talk to someone who is surrounded by chattering people—whether after a lecture or at a cocktail party? Here’s a Secret of Adulthood: In a group, it’s okay to stand next to a person, and just listen, while that person finishes a conversation, and in time, that person will turn to speak to you. Other people understand this. Other people do this. They won’t think you’re rude, or clueless. Yes, it feels awkward, but it works.

Ms. Rubin's blog features life tips every Wednesday. It's all part of her plan for The Happiness Project, "...a memoir about the year I spent test-driving every principle, tip, theory, and scientific study I could find, whether from Aristotle or St. Therese or Martin Seligman or Oprah. THE HAPPINESS PROJECT will gather these rules for living and report on what works and what doesn’t.

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Last, but hardly least, is an entire blog devoted to beauty and fashion advice for women and men of the cloth. Beauty Tips for Ministers - Because you're in the public eye, and God knows you need to look good. preaches the word of "the encouragement of self-care, the sharing of tips, and the celebration of shoes, lip gloss, fragranced shaving cream, and all of the other accoutrements of vanity which have hitherto been considered wholly unholy, and therefore generally discussed only in hushed whispers among the servants of the LORD."

Amen!

Blogger PeaceBang, a Unitarian Universalist minister, offers grooming and wardrobe tips beyond the clerical collar. And, the good reverend means business, from eye makeup:

The Maybelline waterproof liner has been a blessing these past humid summer Sundays when I would spend all day going from church service to church service, clapping, praying, singing my heart out, and sweating. I constantly feared a Tammy Faye Bakker (of blessed memory) situation, but this Maybelline stuff doesn’t budge no matter how damp I get.

To appropriate footwear:

No, you may not wear Crocs.
Not unless your title is Minister of Landscaping or Lead Pastor For Volleyball.

Repeat after me: “Shoes are not all about my personal comfort. Shoes are not all about my personal comfort. Shoes are not all about my personal comfort.”

And as I’ve said before, just because Jesus wore sandals everywhere doesn’t mean they’re appropriate for ministers. You aren’t Jesus.

And, of course, there are lists for days (maybe even 40 days and 40 nights?). A fine example - Rev. PeaceBang's general tips for Ministerial Attire:

4. Church going is an entirely voluntary option in today’s society. In most parts of the country, no one will look askance at you if you do not attend church. So clergy can no longer slide by assuming their and their congregation’s relevance to today’s world. If clergypeople believe their ministries are hip and relevant to today’s world, they should look hip and relevant. Even if you wear a collar, you should have a hair style of some kind, and there’s no need to persist with those aviator frames you bought in 1972 because they looked so good on Lee Majors or the guy on “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

5. If you wear a chalice necklace, there’s no need to wear chalice earrings. And vice versa.
P.S. Sticking a chalice around your neck does not mean you’re “dressed.” Did you shine your shoes? Are your pants appropriately hemmed? Did you check that your blouse isn’t gaping at the bosom? Are there sweat stains at your armpits? Have you asked anyone you trust if your perfume is too strong? Have you trimmed your beard and if necessary, your eyebrows? (Milo O’Shea can get away with crazy stickin’ out eyebrows. It just makes you look eccentric and distracts from your eyes). Have you cleaned your spectacles and gotten off the smudges? You know you were up ’til 3:00 a.m. working on your sermon. Your congregation shouldn’t be able to tell. That’s why God made ice packs and concealer (which works just as well on male skin as on female).

God bless PeaceBang.

And, God bless all of the tipsters.

Contributing Editor Grace Davis, collector of tips and refrigerator magnets, also writes on her personal blog, State of Grace.

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