So how do I account for the hiatus in blogging during the pandemic? Was I busy baking banana bread and binging boxsets? Absolutely not. So here is a bit of a recap of how I spent my time.
I accidentally changed careers or rather returned to a few former careers in different guises
We all know how difficult the restrictions were for small businesses, retailers, independent makers, the arts in general and in fact everyone. Standing on my town’s Main Street one day during one of those awful drive-by funerals, I was speaking to a despondent retailer about the forced closure of their shop. I suggested they get an online presence and even better to apply for LEO funding which at that time covered 90% of the costs. Before I knew it, I was building that website and many more for people desperate to move stock or bring in revenue to keep jobs. I had built a few websites for charities and community/sports groups I’m involved in over the years and had built my own Shopify store for my greeting card company but never considered myself a web designer. In many ways, I still don’t as I’m not a graphic designer so I still outsource the brand identity and sometimes choices of colour palettes. I guess I have enough of an eye to know where and when I need help.
The next weird thing that happened was I ended up back in square one. My first job had the rather grandiose title of marketing director but in reality, I was the only non-designer of one of Ireland’s first web design companies. One of my tasks was to write the proposals which included a plan for the site: I’d work out the likely audience, group the content and navigation, and work out the way visitors might move around the site. Nearly twenty years later, while doing a degree in design and technology, I realised I had been developing personas looking at information architecture, interaction design, and user experience but I never read any design books at the time. That intuition came from my marketing mindset. So over the past two years, I’ve found myself returning to those web plans and have done many for companies both as a mentor and freelancer. Whatever way my brain is wired, I seem to be good at ordering large chunks of content and mapping it out in a way that is meaningful for the intended audience(s). It’s a bit like the old Honours Maths homework, frustrating at first until it clicks and it becomes clear what way it must be. I’ve enjoyed solving those riddles again.
Social Enterprise Mentor
I’ve been mentoring businesses for years but having delivered some marketing and research workshops for Northside Partnership in 2019, I was invited to join a panel of mentors for social enterprises in the greater Dublin area a few months before the pandemic. My initial brief was to help with marketing but as the country’s doors closed, I found myself back in ‘get online or go home’ mode. Over the past two years, I have worked with almost 20 social enterprises helping with marketing, website design and development, content design, and overall communications. I’ve found this work hugely rewarding and have met such wonderful people on the journey.
Then let’s not forget my poor neglected child: @trustwordie. The passion project that I ignore more than foster but that’s beginning to change. I got a coveted place on the inaugural AwakenHub SheGenerate accelerator programme and it has been transformational in terms of learning and support. The programme has just finished so I’ll be doing a round-up blog post all about that very soon.
I accidentally published a poetry archive
I was in lockdown two weeks before the rest of the country because my son had managed to get out of Madrid the day they announced the national emergency, remember when it was the hotspot of Europe? Around the same time, everyone in Ireland was sent home and the schools and shops closed but we didn’t yet have the 2k travel restrictions. I remember thinking to myself how fast people were adjusting to this ‘new normal’ with zoom gatherings, click and collect and all that jazz. I remember thinking that it’s happening so fast and we have to record this because we’ll forget about this when we bounce back to our old ways. Obviously I, like everyone else, had no idea we were in it for the long haul. I approached some friends I had met at the John Hewitt International Summer School the summer before about an idea to build a website to publish peoples’ immediate response to the pandemic and thankfully, they joined me on that journey and so Pendemic.ie was born.
We didn’t start out with a master plan but for some reason the concept took hold and they came, shared their stories, left comments on posts, and chatted away on social. I am very proud of the sense of community that Pendemic created even though it was dog work, up to 5 hours a day reading and posting submissions and replying to the contributors. Then UCD approached us about archiving the entire collection within their Special Collections. Ruth, Liz, and Niall (the other co-founders) are blue bloods of the Irish literary scene with all the letters (M.A./PhD) and publications that go with that so they understood immediately the meaning of such an approach. I don’t have a background in the humanities but I will admit to having a knot in my throat during one of our zoom calls with the team in UCD when they referenced writings they had persevered from ordinary people during the civil war. So the penny finally dropped and I realised what small part we played in documenting these ‘unprecedented times’ for generations to come. Apparently, they plan to house it for 50-100 years. That’s pretty cool. I particularly like the idea of some of the primary school contributors taking their grandchildren to see their entries 50 or 60 years down the road. Anyway, it’s in UCD’s digital repository now but you can still see our humble little site and all the submissions over on Pendemic.ie. Happy Reading.
Here is a radio clip from RTE Radio One’s Arena show of me talking about the project along with some readings by the contributors.
So I didn’t clean or declutter my house. I didn’t binge many boxsets, ok I’ll admit I watched Tiger King with my son and I’m still traumatised and sickened myself with about 50 hours of Billions in early 2021. I did take a few months off after finishing a long term project which I called my gap year even though I was housebound for most of it. I’m proud to have been part of a social history project, I did some really interesting work and I found a tribe of fellow founders via AwakenHub but let’s face it, the pandemic sucked. We can blabber all we want about birdsong and dolphins in canals, but our lives and livelihoods changed overnight. The stress of this emergency, because that is what it was and perhaps still is, proved too much for some with catastrophic outcomes. I’ll end with the copy of one my covid-themed trustwordie cards: “Don’t mind all that nonsense about self improvement and making the most of all this new time. This is an emergency so all we have to do is sit tight, relax and come out the other side. Stay safe xx”