Websites and Wallflower Moves

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Today I want to give you a little behind-the-scenes glimpse into my relationship with my website, which is perhaps more prickly and precarious than you might imagine--partly to capture this aspect of my journey at this moment in time, and partly because I can't be the only one feeling totally crazy about her site and design. 

My site has felt all wrong to me for more than a year, I'd say. I know many people just hire designers to do this side of their work, but that hasn't been a good solution for me for a couple reasons. First, I'm a DIY-kind of girl, and I actually enjoy doing the work and knowing how to tweak it whenever I want.

People who hire out site designs have these big public unveilings: Come look at my new site! This doesn't happen much around here because the site redesigning is constant and continuous. Even now, there are some new banners, but there are pages to come and  graphics yet to be made. Phyllis pointed out at one point that it's a tall order for the site to keep up with the fast-paced evolution my work. "First you were a blogger, then a writer, then an instructor. Then you were a stage storyteller, then a photographer, a publisher, a producer and now a filmmaker." Okay, so when she said it like that, I could see that was one force I was up against--rapid growth as a multi-media artist.

From a pragmatic angle, this means creating a navigation structure that allows people to find all the things I'm offering in one place--and the more offerings I have, the more thoughtful I've had to be in this organization.

The other element of my struggle was a vision issue. Even if you want to hire someone to fulfill your vision through a website, you need some clarity in that vision. Going into the site restructuring I did this summer (primarily to clean up the organization and navigation), I had this strong desire to really showcase and feature the work.

Visually, our offerings are growing more diverse all the time--not just because we have so many projects but the projects are designed to reflect the personal style of the authors and artists behind them. A Jolie Guillebeau book looks and feels like Jolie's paintings and her website, and the offerings by author LIz Lamoreux are infused with her style and sensibility. Add a growing collection of short videos and trailers to our library of book cover thumbnails, and visually there is very quickly a lot going on.

I did my typical wallflower move--I thought, I don't want this to look like the Jen Lee Show. I want a quiet canvas that allows the resources and the artists who made them to be the focus. And that's why the banners went away.

Yes, the site was quiet on the eyes to look at, but it was missing some essential pieces. It took me a few angsty months to realize once again, for the two hundredth time, that my wallflower move never goes well. That I have to keep bringing myself to the table and letting myself be seen. That it's the kind of being seen that doesn't hide other people in its shadow but that draws them into its light. That bringing back a sense of person and place creates context for all that we create.

Place is really essential for me--there's someone I get to be here on this brownstone block in Brooklyn that I don't get to be just everywhere I go. There is a possibility that life in this city represents to me that is a unique kind of partnership in my creative work. So banners are back, along with many of my photos of this beautiful landscape I call home.

As soon as my photos were back in the mix, I felt like Rip Van Winkle waking up. I wanted to shout, I'm Back! because that's how it felt. Like I had been missing and the room had been bare. Do I feel narcissistic with all these photos of myself? Yup. I just try to not think about it too much, and to remember that when we aren't seeing each other face to face every day that we feel a certain hunger for faces and voices. And I'm trying to give you all of me I can.