August 20, 2015

What I learned this Summer: Writing is my Nemesis turned Guru & that’s Not All.

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Last year I was hyperfocused on a political campaign project that dominated the lion share of my nights and weekends, when a dear and fabulous friend of mine recommended the elephant journal apprenticeship program.

The political campaign was just one of my side projects. My 8 to 5 still trumped all, even me. The timing was certainly off then but it stayed in the back of mind, though it was by sheer chance in late May that I stumbled upon the apprenticeship program while I was searching for an article I had been reading earlier that week having to do with empaths and another on race relations in America.

I must admit, at first I was hesitant to apply for the program because I was already late and the things I’d have to give up this Summer to make it happen started to populate my mind. At the top of the list was my precious free time that I am getting less and less of these days, thus, a very frail work life balance. I had also not written in a very long time, for public consumption that is, and asked myself repeatedly “What are you really thinking?”

It was indeed an imperfect situation, but the timing turned out to be perfect—I was at a point in my life where I was literally at my wits end.

Despite the obvious reasons why I shouldn’t do the program, I set out to challenge myself anyway. I honed and learned incredible new skills in social media, writing, and editing. To say, I learned a lot of things this summer is an understatement.

In my attempt to capsulize what I learned this Summer, here are the top 3 lessons I learned:

1. I learned that social media management rocks.

Humanity is awesome and connecting with people in a meaningful way is the best thing ever. This summer I learned how to manage elephant journal Facbook pages I was assigned to and I successfully increased page likes, post reach, overall engagement and ultimately conversion rates. I planned and scheduled visual and written content for these social media pages and monitored the insights  weekly which turned into an almost daily activity. I weighed current performance against historical performance and rolled out tactics accordingly to ensure that my pages were trending upwards and into the green.

I learned the value in leveraging all three of the Facebook pages I was managing and an internal elephant group where we shared and compared best practices. The group made a tremendous difference in boosting the performance of my pages. I was fascinated by the kinds of content that would go viral vs. ones that would get minimal traction or just plain fall flat. At times, it became a bit of a social experiment for me and I was awed by the encouraging feedback I got. The deepest, witty, and most thought-provoking posts tend to be repeat winners and posts that challenged the norm and spoke of the often unspoken trended upward.

I thoroughly enjoyed dropping bits of inspiration and shaking people up—in a good way. I observed fan activity on image and article posts, the types of articles that tend to get the most reach and engagement. I gauged other factors like the crafting of captivating titles almost guaranteeing likes and how the more personal a piece, the greater the ability to relate, appeal and there for expanding reach. I discovered a strong liking for managing and curating content for Social Media channels. I am closing out the program with every single category of the pages I am managing in double and triple digit growth. I am proud of the success I’ve made and I know this is only the beginning for me.

2. I learned that writing is my nemesis turned guru.

The heart of the matter is that I started to devote myself to writing when I was 9 years old. Writing was a medium that I tapped to channel my inner self against the strong currents of societal pressure. In essence, it was a retreat space I could return to whenever I sought communion, an outlet to express myself authentically without fear of how I might be perceived or even judged. It was through the quiet, contemplative practice of writing that I heard my inner voice. The lessons I learned this summer about writing have been life altering. It has been a sort of intense unfolding, a slow and cautious yet enigmatic rekindling with an old flame. I had a love affair with writing when I was growing up, but then we split. We’d see each other every once and while but it wasn’t the same, something was different. I know now that it was me. I changed. I got too busy to spend time with.

Midway through the program, I got a bout of severe writer’s block which felt so crippling and was more symptomatic of external pressures in my day to day than anything else. Allowing the flow of thoughts and feelings into the outer world was difficult and frustrating. I would try my best to write about a topic, but I’d feel my stomach knot up. It didn’t feel right and I was right. Waylon’s guidance yielded breakthrough after breakthrough—he’d focus on what was causing the block and challenged me to remove it with a sudden jolt yet with quiet surrender. He said to “Give up but never give up” and “Don’t write unless you have something important to say.”

It was the ultimate mindful body scan of sorts not only did it indicate that my immediate attention was needed, but it showed me what and where. You see, writing has always been an outlet for me—a place that I could turn to but, over time and in the hustle and bustle of life, my visits grew less and less. It became a nemesis because with writing it’s all or nothing. It took me a while to come to terms with that. What felt like an Achilles heel has actually been the most revealing source of strength.

3. I learned to edit for the love of all.

I am an avid reader and techy girl with an artistic flare. I enjoy focusing in on the details and glancing back intently at the big picture. I love humanity and all that makes us unique. I seek to understand the essence of things, comb them over with a fine and determined brush, and hand it back with care. I’ve heard the saying before, but it takes on a whole different meaning now: “You haven’t read until you’ve edited.” It’s an exercise in respect for another’s work, compassion for their journey and resolve in best bringing to life their story.

I took great pride in scanning articles for their grammatical correctness, flow and fluidity of thoughts and, of course, appearance and style. I started working on the pieces in Word, working on the grammar, flow, structure, and reworking titles and body. Then moving them into the WordPress platform that was a joy and ease to work in. There I reformatted, structured and styled making them aesthetically pleasing and visually intriguing. All in keeping with the elephant journal’s standard.

I aimed to care for each piece as if it were my own and what I learned is that, in a way, it was. There was so much commonality in our journey’s yet intrigue in the uniqueness of our paths. Ultimately, I learned that editing was just as much about curating and presenting content as it was about connecting and understanding our peers in a mindful way.

My mindful wrap up:

The work being done at elephant is nothing short of transformative and profoundly inspiring. It has been a humanizing experience. I have gone through the gamut of every human emotion as I joyously turned page after page, devoured story after story of the lives of many hopeful for a more mindful world. Elephant journal’s content is real, it’s substantive and soul-stirring. I am truly grateful to the elephant journal team for such a rewarding experience and generous gift.

I was a casual elephant journal reader before this and that has undoubtedly changed. The icing on this metaphorical cake is that this collective movement of human expression is dedicated to the mindful life. It couldn’t be a more perfect fit for me at the most perfectly imperfect time. All those who know me well know that’s what I am all about at my core.

My quest now is to merge that passion into all areas of my life. This experience has called for a rededication of my spiritual journey. A deeper commitment to understanding and lifting the dense veil of illusion that clings to human consciousness with a tight grip while leading an even more meaningful existence. One in which I hope to be of service to others. It’s time.



The Doors that Appear when we Follow our Bliss

Author: Carlotta Amalia

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Image: Flickr/HeartInMyHand & Wikimedia Commons

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Carlotta Amalia