Writing for a living means I am far less chatty on my blog, which is ironic, seeing as I finally got around to re-claiming my domain and reconnecting with my great love of emotional exhibitionism.

This week, I signed a new client, which is good news. Even better, it’s the first client I’ve encountered who actually wanted to pay me more than I was asking, simply because he thought I should be asking for more.

It’s a good rule of life to live by, really. If you go through life undervaluing yourself, and expecting others to undervalue you in the same way, you’ll never know what you’re capable of. I have a tendency to do this, because I get too comfortable in the familiar, too frightened of losing what’s important to me. I hang on to jobs that don’t pay as well as they should, relationships that don’t work, friendships that bring me more aggravation than happiness, even when I know I deserve better.

I’m not sure if it’s really that I undervalue myself; after all, some might tell you I value myself a bit too much. Yet, there is some part of me that is not only unwilling to give up on things that don’t quite work, but wants to cling to them, even when it is to my detriment.

And, so, it’s eye-opening to me when a perfect stranger appreciates the value of something I do, and asks me why I am not asking for more. I don’t have an answer to that, other than to look at myself and my life, and say, “Well, I guess that’s definitely something I do.”

It *is* something I do. Really, though, it probably shouldn’t be.

One of the negative side effects of writing for a living is that I don’t always find the joy and excitement in writing about other things in my spare time. In fact, by the end of the day, I’m often so burned out from interacting with a computer screen and keyboard, all I want to do is stay as far away from it as possible.

That being said, I miss blogging about my life. I miss e-mailing my friends in something resembling a timely fashion. I miss the bad poetry and maudlin stories I used to write for fun.

These days, my creativity is limited to crafting content for plastic surgeons, articles about dogs, and the occasional promotional content to encourage people to travel to a place I’ve never been. Well, that, and the daily 140-character Facebook status updates.

I actually feel like one of the most dull, creatively uninspired people I’ve ever met, despite that I spend my working hours endlessly creating stuff that didn’t exist before I went to work that day. This is remarkably similar to how I’d feel during a long run of a show, back when I was performing for a living. Perhaps I’m the sort of person that needs a job where creativity isn’t required, in order for my artistic spirit to shine through in my “off” hours, and for me to remember my love of that creative process..

Now I know the *real* reason there’s so many actors, writers, and artists out there waiting tables, tending bar, and driving around on bikes delivering packages. ;)

Note: Once again, there’s a great, insightful post about this issue over at Green Tech Girl that’s much more well-written and informative than this one. ;)

The insanity regarding the recent changes to the functionality of Meetup.Com continues today, and despite the fact that both organizers and members everywhere are up in arms about the changes, and those who have organized groups (in some cases, for nearly a decade) simply want back control of the groups they’ve built from the ground up and paid to maintain, Meetup.com is strangely silent.

The number to Meetup HQ’s customer support line has been replaced with a recording, and all inquiries via e-mail are met with a canned response to the effect that Meetup is not planning on making any changes. In effect, they’re issuing a huge “Screw You!” to the people responsible for their success, and who keep them afloat, both financially and in terms of time invested.

Not only is Meetup.Com determined to be silent on the issue, they’re taking steps to silence others. Multiple organizers have had their accounts deleted for infractions such as posting the Meetup HQ phone number so members can make complaints or advocating the organization of a mass walkout on the site. Threads detailing complaints about the new layout have been deleted, even though they’re being replaced almost as fast as they are being deleted, and any discussion of the merits of competitors’ websites are very quickly silenced. They’ve even gone so far as to pull their App from Facebook, since thousands of people were using the page as a forum to discuss their dissatisfaction.

For an organization that’s decided to force the idea of “community without leadership, whether you like it or not” and everyone working together to make events happen, the attitude of the company is remarkably dictatorial.

Users are not just upset about the changes at this point. Meetup is behaving like the arrogant man who divorces the wife who supports him for years while he builds himself up, only to walk away and leave her with nothing so he can take up with a 21-year-old trophy wife. (see: Kelsey Grammer). The Organizers that have invested years of time, effort, and financial involvement in the site aren’t content to be left out in the cold or slowly edged out of what they’ve built, but unfortunately, Meetup is offering few alternatives. Like many that alienate those responsible for their success, Meetup will likely very quickly realise it isn’t upgrading or moving toward a brighter future, but heading toward its’ demise.

For those who care about such things, or are current Meetup Organizers, there is an ongoing list of the changes to the Meetup system that affect you. It seems to be growing daily:

1) Google Maps image on main page
2) “Helped Plan” instead of Organized by
3) No way to insert an image without knowing the HTML code
4) The new place for “We should do this because”
5) There are a lot of places text are to small & color contrasts make it hard to read (really hard for people with bad sight) example “paid”
6) Videos on the main page are gone
7) Pictures on the main page are gone
8) What’s new did not have all the changes, just the main screen change
9) Comments on the main site
10) You can’t really tell it’s a featured Meetup anymore
11) The top phrase “Lets Meetup and…”
12) About Us is no longer a main part of the site
13) Change from RSVP to Count me in
14) Change from Ideas to New Meetups
15) Small icons now for members
16) When you make a change the Meetup Description, it posts a comment and you cant deleted it.
17) The new “Like” link
18) Allowing members to create their own meetups (this can be disabled)
19) Nudge: if the organizer does not have a event posted
20) Removed the announcement to the group feature
21) Changing RSVP’s – You can now search by typing in the name
22) New Members – Get an email that tells them “you’re expected to participate and “don’t flake”
23) Layout in which: new members, new posts, new pictures, etc.. are at the bottom and members have to scroll down to see if you have a few events.
24) The Reminder Emails changed with new layout and subjects
25) Many options have been moved to the “Tools” menu when in an event
26) You lose all your event pictures (the small ones we used to pick from album)
27) When searching for a group, your description may not fully show (happened to me), need to edit it
28) If you had HTML in your description, when searching for a group your HTML code shows
29) Welcome email has “Our Sponsors” & “Perks”
30) Welcome email has “Follow Us” with all your social networking links
31) You can not archive sponsors. It’s either delete or edit
32) Check out our sponsors are at the bottom of the group description page if a non-member views the group.
33) Sponsor and Perks program are combined. Should be a way to distinguish them.
34) Calendar only shows one month at a time
35) About tab turned into pages
36) Selecting a place > Find a place > you can only search name & it’s only local searching. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
37) Recent places is limited to showing 4 at a time
38) Unable to post an event unless you can find it in the event list. – Major Issue, possibly a bug.
39) There is no concept if ideas that you can monitor and choose from. Ideas turned to a Pre-Meetup and Organizers get an email that says within a day if you don’t cancel it, it turns into a Meetup. So if you don’t want this then you have to shut off the entire “Idea” concept.
40) Members can create Meeutps – This can be turned off. Found under the leadership team link on the main page.
41) Custom Titles that you give members now doesn’t show up when they RSVP.
42) RSVP turned to: “Count me in” & “No Thanks”
43) How to find the organizer has been removed
44) Calendar Notes no longer show on the calendar
45) Members cannot add notes with the “No response”
46) When members change from Yes to No, they don’t get a chance to write why
47) When an event has past, you cannot view members answer
48) On the left it used to say Organizer and Assistant Organizer, now it just says “Organizers”
49) Your group picture is what is now used when you click “Find” Meetup under the Trending/Upcoming/New
50) The mobile site on my BlackBerry,opera’s mobile browser, IE Mobile, Palm OS doesn’t come up anymore. It goes to the full site
51) Reports on: After the switch, waiting lists accidentally turned into “Yes”, so a limit of 10 with 5 on a waiting list now may have 15 people attending.Major Issue, possibly a bug.
52) This is SPAM link on top of the event
53) Recent Activity is pushed to the bottom of the page
54) All existing event descriptions now re-formatted to left-hand justification and there’s now no option to center text in an event listing.
55) Adding colors to the event description has been removed
56) Star rating for the group is gone
57) I just got multiple emails that said “Help complete XXXX” where XXXX is the name of a NOTE on the meetup calendar. possibly a bug
58)”Schedule a Meetup Event: no longer has a link to connect to the discussion board. Connection to discussion board can be added if you edit the event after it is scheduled.
59) Meetup iPad app not working (1 reported)
60) Emails announcing new events are no longer listed in the Mail Archive
61) Announcement emails can no longer be set to respond directly to the organizer, instead, like the old post feature, responses go to the whole group.
62) Sometimes Google shows the wrong thumbnail map
63) Can not save edits to a draft
64) Cannot navigate from one event (whether active or draft) to another event without going back to the home page
65) No More “Check-in” feature
66) RSVP’s (or “Count me in’s”) are no longer an option to appear in the activity feed
67) Calendar is no longer on the navigation bar

I’m not sure whether the Meetup fiasco is based on some sort of premeditated, evil plot to get rid of the organizers and move toward a system that makes that leadership role irrelevant—amounting to the company that insists you bring in clients, and then fires you when your base is loyal to that company— or simply the result of an idea gone awry that Meetup isn’t willing to lose face over. One thing is certain, and that’s that this issue isn’t going to go away. Meetup will either sacrifice a number of current customers, opening doors to competitors and development on the part of sites like Facebook, in order to move the company in a different direction, or it will simply realise that the success of any venture is highly dependent upon listening to the concerns of the customers.

I’ve seen this analogy everywhere lately, but it’s a highly appropriate one. If Coca-Cola hadn’t admitted it made a mistake with “New Coke” and brought back what the people wanted, the market share would be 90% Pepsi in the United States today. The powers-that-be at Meetup.Com should really take a lesson from that. If your goal is to unite people and exemplify the value of community, you won’t get there through divisive action, cutting off communication, and putting your profit margin above the needs of your customer base.

While absolutely nobody reads this blog, save for a handful of close friends, it seems I’ve been targeted by a spammer-bot that found me on LiveJournal, and just won’t quit with the comments. So, I’m going to handle the situation like I usually do when a problem with someone or something comes my way: by writing a polite note that is perfectly cordial on the outside, but on the inside, contains a very large middle finger. :)

Dear Spammer-Bot,

My comments are moderated for a variety of reasons, but you are one of them. Your comments will not be approved, so, please, stop wasting your time and mine.

Thanks,

*~ A.

In other news, I have now officially failed at/ broken all my New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t lost a single pound since successfully convincing the scale to take 5 off the number it shows me every day, I spend more time wasting time on the computer during my work day than actually working, I’m not in a financially promising situation due to all the things that are going into planning a friend’s bridal shower, bachelorette party, and attending her wedding next month, and I’ve only read one book and watched one movie on the “classics” list. The past few months have brought a good deal of distance, both physically and emotionally (though, ironically, not at the same time.) into my relationship with The Guy I Am Currently Dating. We’ve had open and kind of emotionally draining conversations about the future of our relationship—or, in my mind, the lack thereof.

I’m certain that those that have known me for a long time have pegged my recent sadness as simply that thing that happens to me every so often, where I realise I’m dissatisfied with my life, and ready to run: from a job that isn’t ultimately what I want to do, but is improving my life and good for me *right now*; from a relationship that often seems too hard and too complicated and destined to end as soon as it is time for me to make any kind of major life change; from a living situation I don’t like, with a roommate that simply refuses to find a full-time job and hasn’t paid more than $100 a month toward living expenses for a year; from friends that talk about me behind my back and I’m not always certain truly like me or consider me a friend, nor if I truly like them. I know I tend to run away from things rather than moving forward, but I haven’t done that in a long while, and as a result, I feel stuck.

And while I know there are options for unsticking myself that don’t involve just packing up and going somewhere where nobody knows my name (which I guess means Boston is out. :P ), that idea can’t help but seem appealing and exciting to me. I’m ready for a new adventure, and for things to not always feel so stagnant. Part of me just wonders if I’ve exhausted my adventures here in Atlanta, while another part simply wants to move closer to the city and into my own apartment. Either way, I find myself being bored and restless, and while I don’t want to leave behind all the positive relationships I’ve built here and find myself all alone in the world, it seems like every time I finally develop something that feels like home and family, my natural inclination is to want to go away from it and visit it on holidays.

I am really, truly, in need of personal growth, adventure, and excitement. For the first time, concerns about relationships, work, money, and everything else aren’t paramount in my mind, although they really should be. My energy and focus always drifts away, and dreams of adventure, exciting changes, and recapturing my spirit.

I’m not really sure what to do with that, or about that.

Even though I didn’t really make that many “New Year’s Resolutions”, so to speak, I find myself being very motivated to make positive changes that weren’t necessarily the first things on my list I intended to focus on, but positive, nevertheless. Not only have I been fairly productive about catching up on work and turning out decently creative content over the past few days, I’ve also been spending less time watching TV, and more time catching up on other interests.

When I was in NYC, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of the book “Shopgirl”, by Steve Martin. Even though it’s quite a number of years old, and I’d seen the movie way back when, I’d never gotten around reading it. Of course, I both loved and related to it, as my friend thought I would. The impressive thing about the book is that there’s really relatively little story to it; rather, it’s driven by a fairly impressive amount of character development that makes the story less about what’s happening, and more about the psychology of what’s driving the action. Steve Martin has a unique voice that manages to be at the same time intellectual and removed, and perceptive and empathetic. I really admire artists that have a number of creative gifts, and while I’ve never been the biggest Steve Martin fan, he absolutely commands respect for falling firmly into that category.

Each year, I make a resolution to read at least 100 books I’ve never read before over the course of the year, which typically works out to two books a week for me. Some years, I’ve exceeded the goal, while last year, I fell far short. I’m happy that this book was my first of 2011, since I felt such a strong connection to it. Only 99 more to go!

In addition, I’m a bit of a magazine fan, although admittedly I only seem to read those that are somehow about fashion, celebrity gossip, and entertainment. Since I know I am not that shallow, I decided to add Timeto the list with one of my free subscription offers. It’s actually one of the more worthwhile magazines to read, and may help me stay current with my trivia. ;) I’m catching up on the Person Of The Year issue, which this year, is Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, a pretty fascinating character.

I’ve also been in somewhat of a nesting/organizational stage, since we signed the lease on my apartment for another 6 months. Whenever I find out I’m going to be staying put for awhile, I go through a few weeks where I’m very committed to wanting to improve my surroundings, and create a place that feels as much like “home” as possible. Even though I won’t be getting, or even renting, the thing I truly want—a cute little townhouse— anytime soon, I’m still indulging my “nesting” instinct, and attempting to Alayna-fy my apartment as much as possible. To that end, I ordered a few post-holiday sale items, including a bookcase for my bedroom, and a short little shelving unit to provide some additional storage space in the living room. Of course, it’s that inexpensive laminate particle board stuff that will end up being donated to a recently-divorced friend in a few years, and requires me to put it together, but a small investment for my greater nesting needs.

I also cleaned out my closet a bit, and tossed out old clothes, trash, and everything else that’s lurked but been totally forgotten for a year. In the end, I had four boxes of trash to show for my labour, which gives an indication of the extent to which I am not a naturally organized human being. I think it’s so much a part of my fundamental personality, that it’s not even worth making a resolution about. *laughs*

The most impressive of the “new year, new lifestyle” changes I’ve made, however, has to be the fact that I used my oven tonight, and cooked a dinner that included all the major food groups, and was still under 400 calories. Since losing weight, getting in shape, and developing healthier eating habits are going to be a focus for me in 2011, I felt proud of myself for starting out on the right foot.

Now, if only I could get all the work done I told myself I’d complete today….but not only am I running low on hours, I’m running low on energy, and developing a large headache. A few hours away from the computer may do me a world of good.