Tag Archives: working from home

5 Crazy Things I Do That Are Normal In the Dog World

26 Mar

Working from home means I get to spend a lot of time with my dogs, which is one of the things I looked forward to most when I started…and so far, I haven’t been disappointed.  Granted, they often require more attention than I’d prefer: someone always needs to go out, or get refereed, or sit on my lap, or fart in my face.  It never fails that I’ll get them all fed, peed out, tucked in for a nap and be tiptoeing back to my computer when one of them  pops her eye open and it’s all over.  Makes me wonder how parents of kids–you know, the human kind–ever manage to stay sane, let alone prevent a household from being condemned and get a hot dinner on the table.

But still, ten times out of ten, my dogs win.  No matter what deadline looms or how much housework glares, I will always take a hand (sometimes both) off the keyboard to lay it on a belly or scratch behind a ear.  I’ll shove over on the couch so someone can breathe hot doggie breath on my cheek.  Why?  I love them.  And one day they will be gone.  One day, I’ll wish for their noses jabbing at my elbow, and they won’t be there.  So while they’re here, they win.  That–or maybe I’m lazy.  Or easily distracted.

Whatever the case, I’m around them pretty much 24/7, and that has exacerbated my pre-disposed crazy dog lady tendencies.  I know I do things that are weird to people who don’t have dogs.  The only people they aren’t weird to are other dog people.  As a way of auditing how in touch with reality I still am, I’ve started a list called “Crazy Things I Do That Are Normal Because I Have Dogs,” and figure that as long as I can still come up with things to add to the list, I’m not totally bonkers.

I’ve got ten on the list and have illustrated only five, but man, I gotta stop for now.  I have tons of other (aka “paying client”) work that I need to get done before they all wake up again.

5 CRAZY THINGS I DO THAT ARE NORMAL IN THE DOG WORLD

Shower with the door open:when you have dogs, you shower with the door open
Carry on conversations with poo in my hand:
i talk to people with poo in my hand


Make up nicknames and songs to go with them…and then perform for the dogs:

yes, i sing to my dogs.  don't you?

Stretch out on the dog bed to watch TV:

the dog bed is way better than the couch

Have my superpower in the form of baby gates:
superpower activate--form of...baby gate!

Sarah Leaps Letterpress (?)

3 Mar

As I’ve been trying to find my voice as a writer, one thing I’ve noticed that I like and can do reasonably well is short form, like taglines and stuff.  It makes sense, if I look back on myself through the years.  In high school and college, I was a notorious quote collector.  In my years with ALC, I learned about marketing and discovered my love for it. I suppose it was only a matter of time before I came up with little bite-sized nuggets of my own.  Plus–let’s face it–who wants to read a whole blog?  We’re all much too busy setting our DVRs and trying to figure out Google’s new privacy policy.

So to help us all out, I started boiling the lessons I’ve learned down to one or two-liners (okay, sometimes a third line sneaks in).

Then, I used my rudimentary designs skills to make some of them pretty (hint: black backgrounds always looks classy), like so:
Doing it is hard

Now, I’m doing some market research to see if maybe these bad boys are sellable.  I’m thinking 6″x6″, on letterpress.  They’re not cards.  They’re not posters.  They’re just little squares of stuff.  If you want to see these things go to market, weigh in on the Sarah Leaps Letterpress Facebook page.  No hard feelings if you don’t; paying rent is overrated anyway.  But should there be enough interest, I might figure out how to bring these to market.  I’m not sure how I’ll do that, seeing as how I have absolutely zero cash to front on this, but whatever.  Either way, this little list is alive, so I’ll add more as the journey continues.  But for now, here’s the launch of “What I’ve Learned So Far (in three lines or less).”

Yourself

  • Doing it will be hard.  Not doing it might be harder.
  • It’s going to fight you.  Fight it back.
  • If you need a break, take one.
  • Read whatever inspires you – every day.
  • Learn things for free.
  • You’ll be terrified in ways you weren’t ready for.  It’ll be okay.
  • Guilt, shame, doubt, and creative drought will be lobbed at you.  Have a mental racket ready and just keep swinging.
  • Step away from the computer and get off your phone.  Stop consuming media long enough every day so your brain can produce its own.  I promise the emails and social media updates will be there when you get back.
  • Do your homework.  It’s possible you’ll find a shortcut, but it’s more likely you’ll just need to work. Incredibly. hard.
  • At some point, your goals will probably feel crazy, unattainable, and maybe even detrimental to your own financial (or mental) well-being.  It’s totally normal.
  • Don’t pad your resume or make up qualifications.  What you’ve accomplished has been enough to get you this far–no need to lie about it.
  • Be willing to explore all opportunities–keep the ones you want, and walk away from the ones that aren’t for you.
  • Enjoy the freedom of being able to work anytime, but don’t work all the time.
  • Have a few different projects going on at the same time.  That way, if one thing isn’t working at the moment, you can work on something else.
  • Have a good handshake.
  • Put visual pep talks, notes, and reminders out for yourself to see every day.
  • Dogs generally make everything better.

Money & Resources

  • The money doesn’t always come.  Be ready for some very lean times.  Think now about what you could cut if you had to.
  • Never pass up an invitation for free food, drinks, or rides…or free anything, really.
  • Money isn’t the only way you can pay someone.
  • You don’t need to pay for PR, business cards, or meeting space.
  • It’s okay to give people a deal, but never sell yourself short.
  • Don’t be afraid to charge what you’re worth.
  • If people really want what you’re selling, they’ll find a way to pay.
  • When times are tough, cut your pay.  Don’t cut your employees’.
  • Take stock of every skill you have–even the seemingly irrelevant ones–then price them out.  You never know what you’ll need to do to keep you afloat.
  • Sometimes, you’ll only take a gig for the paycheck.  Perfectly acceptable.
  • Find ways to make money while you’re sleeping.

Working with others

  • When you find someone who believes in your vision and does something better than you, find a way to bring them onto the team.
  • When you need it and it’s offered, accept help.  And ask for it if it’s not.
  • If they really want to talk to you, people will leave a message.
  • Your parents will probably worry about you, so don’t tell them everything – like how you haven’t eaten a real meal in 3 days.
  • When you find people who are who or where you want to be, spend as much time as you can with them.
  • Always thank people for their help–and if it can be publicly, even better.
  • Share what you learn–it’ll help others and be a reminder to yourself of how far you’ve come.
  • Call bullies out when they’re being mean to you, but keep your response focused and professional.  Never fire back–especially if you’re not face-to-face.
  • Find ways to collaborate with people you like, even if the connection isn’t apparent at first.

So there you have it.  Another little effort to help others (and myself).  If you like what you see, visit that Facebook page (you can feel free to comment here, too, but the Facebook page is really where I’ll be measuring interest).


As Long As You’ve Got Friends, You’re Still in the Game

28 Feb

I got some mail today!

It wasn’t the usual junk and bills; it was a real-life box, with a handwritten address and everything!  When I opened it up, this is what I saw:

Now THIS is a box of cereal!

Now THIS is a box of cereal!

My good college friend Kim had sent it.

My first thought was, “That was truly the sweetest thing I’ve seen in a long time.  I think I’m going to cry.”  Seriously, I am still kind of on the verge of bawling over the thoughtfulness.

My second thought was, “That’s a lot of cereal!  I won’t have to buy any for like 2 months!”

To the average eye, this might just be a cute stunt.  To me, it’s a gift of presence.  Kim and I haven’t seen each other in at least 10 years…maybe more.  We live on opposite coasts and don’t talk often.  And here she is, suddenly at my doorstep.  Her handwriting, her spirit.  She had to go shopping for all of this cereal–or maybe she had it lying around, in which case, maybe she needs to start blogging–and she boxed it all up and sent it off.  It’s a gift people don’t often give or receive much these days.  It’s one of pure thought and love.  It’s an old friend, taking time out of her busy life of being a CFO, wife, and mom to two boys…to follow my humble writings and to give of herself.  It is just so freaking thoughtful.

It was so kind…and more than that–it’s so USEFUL!  I mean, sentiment is all well and good, but man…it takes a true master to blend emotion with PRACTICALITY, yo.  Truth be told, I would have had the same reaction had she boxed up a plastic baggie of Cheerios with the note.  It’s a great bonus that I can actually get some mileage out of this–wow!

This was beyond nice, and really proves ol’ Clarence right: “No man is a failure who has friends.”

And cereal, apparently.

As Long As You’ve Got Cereal, You’re Still in the Game

19 Feb

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged.  I’ve struggled to compose this “re-entry” post nearly as long.  The easiest way to explain my extended absence is that I just fell into the hole.

It’s part of leaping.

Sometimes, leaping works–the net appears or you have enough trajectory to propel yourself across the canyon on your own–and you think you’re pretty hot stuff.  You’re like, “hey look at me!  I took a huge risk and it paid off!  I’m so self-actualized and gutsy!”

sometimes, leaping works
And then, sometimes–the whole thing goes to hell.  You lose momentum and start plummeting…and that dang net suddenly disappears just when you need it the most, and you plunge into a sinkhole.  At first, you’re like, “whoops, ha ha–clumsy me!  I’ll just find my way outta here…let’s see…I’ll be going now.  Peace out!”  But you can’t.  Every door shrinks away, every window melts before you, and every ladder disintegrates.  It’s then that you start to grasp the situation at hand, but of course, it’s too late.  “Oh shit,” you think, as the light of your hopes, dreams, and fighting spirit gets swallowed up by the darkness.

And that’s what happened to me.

I guess it started in September and it is now February and I’m still stuck.  Not all of me…I mean, I at least pushed my head and hands through long enough to type something.  How lucky this laptop was within reach!

zombie stole a laptop
I really wanted to blog during that time, but I couldn’t do it.  The whole reason I have this blog is so people can see the reality of taking risks, of trying to do your own thing.  It’s not all book deals and puppies.  It is really, really sucky and terrifying sometimes.  And that’s important for any dream-chaser, leaper, entrepreneur, artist, “do-it-my-own-way”-er to hear so they may fortify thyselves!

What started it is that I basically ran out of my cushion money and the glut of well-paying gigs dried up.  The advance from our book is long gone and we probably have another 5 years before we see the pennies roll in through royalties.  At first, it was okay because Bark kept me/us afloat, and I launched a new business, NinjaDog Concepts, to fill in the gap as well.  But tried as I did, it wasn’t enough.  And it still isn’t, truth be told.

Here’s a glimpse at the state of affairs:

  • I’m making probably somewhere around $12k for the year right now.  Did you know that the average author makes just $9k, according to the Author’s Guild bulletin I just read?  So I guess I have that going for me.
  • Between my writing gigs (mostly magazine articles and greeting cards right now) and NinjaDog work, I’m able to cobble together enough for my share of rent every month.  But nothing more…so my expenses like car insurance, phone bill, and food come out of money we make through Bark.  And I can’t even address my credit cards.  I’m not sure when the last time I made a payment on those was.
  • One of my car tires blew in October when I was on a lost dog case.  It wasn’t even dramatic–I pulled away from the curb, and there it crumpled, withered from age and mileage.  The car limped home with the donut (thanks to my brother, who talked us through changing a spare over the phone), and I parked it in my driveway, where it sat until just last weekend, when a friend bought me new tires.  I didn’t have any extra money to get them, so we had been operating as a one-car family.Man, am I tire-d
  • I’ve learned how to do what I call “consume strategically,” which is basically a fancy way of saying “how to eat on no money.” I do things like make the same batch of coffee last for days, accept invitations to places and events that feature free sustenance, and asked for grocery gift cards for the holidays.  We save our “eating out” dollars for business meetings or someone’s celebration.  You’d think with this light eating, I could get rid of my muffintop.  But, no such luck.  Ah, the cruel irony of it all.

Muffintops are mean because they're ugly

So all of this stuff’s gotten me down, man.  I feel like a loser because I can’t make enough money to pay bills, let alone get a haircut.  I feel like a criminal 3 times a day when I send the creditors’ calls to voicemail.  I feel like an idiot because I can’t figure out how to put all of this together in a funny, yet poignant book proposal that resonates with the masses and sends a contract my way.  I feel like a failure because I started off strong and now I’ve totally blown my lead.

But the good news is that I’m still here.  And Kim is too.  And so are our dogs (they’re the only ones whose food and care we don’t compromise).   The other good news is that things ARE happening.  I have definitely had my share of little triumphs over these past months, and they are:

  • I was accepted into the pool of verse writers for Avanti Press.  Now THAT’S a fun job!
  • I’ve had not only my first magazine article published, but my second and third ones published…and I have more in the hopper.  So far, they’re all dog-oriented, and I really don’t want to pigeon-hole myself, but it’s where the opportunities are for now, so I’m gladly taking them.
  • Kim and I have seen an increase in commercial gigs through Bark, which is super exciting.  Our passion is obviously our private clients, but our commercial clients help us make a really big dent in our bills.  Plus, we’ve been lucky to get really good ones so far, like the cover of Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy’s new book, due out in May.
  • I’ve been brought on as a resource for a non-profit consulting agency that I worked with in my previous life.  This actually is a good tip, so listen up.  On a particularly scary day when I wasn’t sure if I was going to make rent (which happens periodically), I got an email from a former coworker that made reference to said consulting agency and it reminded me that I had not contacted them to let them know of my freelancing availability.  Wouldn’t you know it that right after I sent them an email with my resume, I got a response that was all, “Wow, what perfect timing–we could really use some extra hands!”  So I got steady gigs with them for a few months at the end of the year, right when all nonprofits beef up their end-of-year giving campaigns.  I haven’t gotten anything lately from them, but I’m grateful to be in their pool.  And I discovered I have a new skill that I’m actually really good at: Quality Assurance.  They give me the websites, apps, or whatever they’ve built, and I go through them and read everything, click every link, and put the whole functionality to the test.  Then I tell them everything that’s wrong.  It’s super intense but super fun.  The point here is: use every contact you have from anywhere.  Tell people what you’re doing, what you’re looking for, and how you can help them.  You just never know when they might be looking for what you’ve got.
  • I also worked a lot of hours for my friend Beth, who has the floral design business.  Her busy holiday season meant lots of prepping and delivering that she was gracious enough to let me do.  That helped me close the gap on my January rent.
  • I launched my own writing website: http://www.sarahsypniewski.com
  • And finally, a couple of our media bits have hit recently.  The local news did a spot on how I use technology in my operations at NinjaDog Concepts, a little show called Career Day included Bark in one of their episodes, and I was a guest on Marketplace Money to talk about how people make decisions when spending money on their pet’s health care.

So yeah…there have been really great things that have happened, and those things are my reassurance, my cheerleaders, my motivation.  They say, “you may not have gotten where you want to get yet, but you will.  You’re headed in the right direction, so quit your cryin’ and get back in there, slugger.”

Also, it’s super important to remember when trying to forge your own path: it’s work, man.  All of these things are really awesome…and often, when they happen, people respond with, “wow, you’re famous now,” or “you’ve finally made it!”

No.  We are not and have not.  Despite these wonderful, great successes that Kim and I experience, we are still hustlers.  We are still struggling to make ends meet.  We are not even close to where we need to be, let alone where we’d like to be.

So we keep working.  And working.  And working.

And that’s why this sinkhole terrifies me so much.  Living a leaper’s life takes a ton of motivation, tireless work, and a gut of steel.  And in that sinkhole, I don’t feel anything like that.  I feel totally defeated.  But more than that, I lose so much ground when I’m in that sinkhole.

Look–we all go through times of self-pity, depression, anxiety, or paralysis.  I went through it during my previous life as well.  But the difference there was, I still got paid.  I still made a living, even if I felt a little blue or if I called in sick or something.  If I call in sick or have a down day now, it impacts everything.

So the pressure is on.

It’s always on.

The ironic thing, of course, is one of the big reasons I left my career back in 2010 was because of the constant pressure I was under there.  This is similar, but different.  And even though I’m still dealing with constant stress, I’m glad I’m here.  I still wouldn’t trade it or go back.  Despite the constant threat of the sinkhole, I am actually quite content.

I guess the point of this post is to let you know that the sinkhole will probably find you too, and I just hope this might help you to be ready.  Be prepared for some really, really hard times.  There’s an amazing quote by Ira Glass that sums it up.  My sister was the first to bring it to my attention quite a few months ago, and I’ve seen it several times since.  I think it’s right on the er–money.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Honestly, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to keep fighting.  I’m not sure how much more I have left in me.  I may not be meant to be a writer.  I can’t figure it out.  I can’t find my place yet.  I can’t make a living, which definitely makes me miserable on a certain level.  But on the other hand, I still have this voice that eggs me on: “your place is out there.  Somewhere.  Keep going!”  That’s all well and good, but while I keep going, is it too much to ask for some cereal in the cupboard?  After all, that’s good for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It's good enough for Seinfeld

It's good enough for Seinfeld

How to Tell if Your Book is Neato

24 Aug

Well, hey there!  I feel like I’ve been away forever, which is so funny to me.   I’m still in awe of The Experiment.

Let’s see…what have I been up to?  The biggest news is that Kim and I have a fully laid-out version of our book, Dog Photography For Dummies.  Apparently, when our editor, Vicki, told us last month that it was our last chance to make edits, it was only half true.  This month was our last LAST chance.  And I actually believe her.  We were only allowed to make edits that were absolutely necessary (like when we called a Mastiff a Great Dane, after switching a photo but not the description, for example).  It all looks really good, if I do say so myself.  All of us did a bang-up job on it.  Super duper, team!  It’s a pretty neato book, and here’s how I know: despite having spent 7 months with these words and nearly another 5 in the process before that (we’re coming up on the year anniversary of when Wiley contacted us), as I went through our pages, I:

  1. Immediately flipped to all the photos first to see how everyone looked–before I even started reading.  Who cares about the words anyway?  Bohhhhh-ring.  It has pictures!  It’s the coolest canine yearbook ever.  I just hope we can get a lot of pawtographs–I’m pretty sure you don’t need opposable thumbs to sign “K.I.T.” or “LYLAS!”
    Content is boringPictures are awesome
  2. Literally laughed out loud once I actually started reading.  I had forgotten how amazingly clever and quick-witted we are.  Oh, we are so hilarious.  And by “hilarious,” I mean “I think we might’ve been drunk when we wrote a few parts.”  To get the full effect, I read some aloud to Kim.  Indeed.  Yep.  We are definitely funny.  Or drunk.
    At least we make ourselves laugh
    *(does anyone know why WP is cutting off this panel?  I gave up fighting with it after 20 minutes)

  3. Didn’t mark it up with edits–and I was looking for them.  There’s an epidemic spreading across this country, people, and it’s called “I don’t care about know spelling I never learnt grammar either LOL but I still get job’s .  People take there life’s too seriosly.”  Really?  I can overlook most of the daily assaults on the English language in casual settings like Facebook and parties (cuz let’s face it–English DOES kind of ask for it with its impossible rules and sassy mouth), but seeing it in PRINT is just tragic.  It happens all the time…and it never gets easier; I’m always totally shocked and angry.  And then I light the book on fire and throw it across the room.  I really hope I don’t have to set my own book alight.

Bad grammar hurts

So after reading our book in all of its official layout glory with the proper font, colors, and photos and figures in the right places (and mechanical errors silenced), I was pretty stoked.  And then I got nervous.

“What if this doesn’t sell?”

All along, I’ve hedged my bets, which I think is perfectly realistic.  While my dad is already planning visits to his famous author daughter’s Malibu estate, I’m measuring my income in Ramen noodles and fending off the nightmare that this little blip on the radar won’t even make it to the radar.

Did you know Amazon lists over 8 million books?  8 million.   According to some remedial Googling I just did, getting below 10,000 in the ranking (we’re at #400,000 something at the moment) is considered successful.  One of the things we’ll be asking our fans to do is help us achieve that by providing positive reviews on our Amazon listing.  Of course, we want honesty.  You don’t blatantly lie…but don’t worry too much about that; I don’t think you’ll have to.

All I can say is the book is done, and I’m proud of it.  Not only because it’s well-written (at least, I hope it is), but because we managed to create something we think will really help others.  Whether it’s an individual dog guardian, a slew of rescue volunteers, or an aspiring entrepreneur reading through our pages, I really believe this book has the power to add something positive to their lives (as well as their dogs’).  Throughout the book, we do our best to tie it into what matters–the love, celebration, and welfare of dogs.  And in the end, that’s worth way more than an Amazon ranking.

Well, I Didn’t Blow Myself Up

18 Aug

Well…I made it!

I have officially written and blogged for 7 days in a row.

That might not seem like much to you, but this is a major achievement for me.

I think about where I was a week ago…actually, I’ll back farther–like, a month.

I was smack in the middle of a slump.  We had finished our book except for the final edits, a big freelance account was coming to a close, and I just wasn’t sure what I was going to do.  I also had not one iota of desire to write.  And it was paralyzing.

It seemed all I did during my “previous” life was spend hours I didn’t have writing emails that didn’t need to be written…the kind full of narrative and exposition and you know…writing.  Just because I wanted to.  Just because I felt it.  And I’d find inspiration in my daily doings–sitting back in the middle of management meetings to watch my colleagues collaborate with so much heart and smarts or driving home from work in the moody but huggy fog–and I’d just have to write.

I left my life behind because in my soul, I just felt like I was a writer.

And immediately, things took off.  I was rockin and rollin right outta the gate, and I was feeling pretty dang pleased with myself.  And then somewhere around mid-June, it just started fizzling out a little and no matter what I did to try to fan that little flamelette, nothing was catching.  For a few weeks, I was worried, but okay.  After a month of it, I was consciously starting to ignore the depression that was tap-tap-tapping at my window.

I managed to push out the Freelance Hustle at the end of June, and then that was it.  I went into a dark hole of not having anything to write about or say and not knowing why.  And then I started doubting everything and trying to make myself as small as possible on the universal radar.  I even dissed Coacherly the Great because of a scheduling snafu that I couldn’t recover from.  We had arranged a session after a couple of tries, but a vet appointment for one of the tiny snarling beasts ran long on the day we were finally supposed to talk, and I felt so ashamed of not being able to keep a simple appointment, that I just disappeared.  When I’m that low, I can’t bear to face anyone, even after tiny hiccups that aren’t my fault.  I just can’t bring myself to lay my failure at anyone’s feet.

Luckily, Coacherly the Great is a talented and encouraging man.  He didn’t let me get away.  He used his powers of email to blast through my feeble wall, and caught me at a good time.

I was in a weeklong Grantsmanship Center training to learn how to write grants, and it had raised my mood significantly.  Going to class every day for 5 days was just what I needed.  I got to be around other people (something that’s distinctly missing from home-based offices, for better or worse), got to use my brain and collaborate and try new things and feel productive and like I could really do something with this new skill.  I felt alive again!  So when I got Andrew’s email, I responded and knew I would keep the appointment he invited me to try again for.  And well, you all know what happened during that.

The biggest thing that stuck with me from that session is the theory he had around why I wasn’t writing.  Or, why I wasn’t feeling like I had anything to write about, after I had totally changed my life to make room for it.

He said that sometimes, our internal saboteurs are crafty mothers, and they have a real way of messing us when we’re trying to just git er dun, you know?  It’s like the universe is testing us to see if we REALLY want what we say we do.  It’s just a big chess game, is all it is.  Like, I took the leap to leave my job and my immediate reward of a book contract kept me busy for 9 months (check), but I haven’t written much of my own stuff (brought my queen out too early).  So now that I have the time, the tricky, doubting devils inside have made me believe I have nothing to say (dang–took my queen).  Just to eff with me.  Just to see how badly I want this.  Well, I wanted it (still have my rook–didn’t see it there, didya?).

So I embarked on that Experiment.  And now that I’m at the end of it, here are my conclusions:

 

  • I can’t believe how fast it went
  • I will miss doing this every day–I don’t want this to end
  • I feel like I know a lot more about who I am as a writer
  • I actually believe that I am a writer–it’s not just an affirmation written across the dry erase board in my office

And most of all, my hypothesis was proven.  I thought 7 days would be long enough to create enough momentum to form a habit.  And it totally did.  And that–more than anything else that happened this week–is what means the most.  Because it means that even though I didn’t feel like I did at the time, I actually had faith in myself.  I couldn’t see it or feel it, but I actually was willing to believe I could write for 7 days.  And then I did.  This week was the vision I’ve had of myself–excusing myself to my office on a schedule to write, feeling articulate, having people to write to, staying up late, getting up early…riding the wave.

I’m so tired…but so, so happy.  I managed to shake the cobwebs out and create some energy here (but not now. Now, I have to sleep), and I’m so grateful and excited.

The only question now is, what’s next?

I had a request today to keep blogging every day.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep that pace up, but I will definitely be doing it a lot more now.  It feels like a lifestyle now as opposed to something on a to do list.  And I love it.  So who knows what’s next?  Anything’s possible–so long as I continue to LEAP.

Checkmate.

How about you guys?  Any of you fight with yourself?  How do you beat your saboteurs?  I hope you will share your stories of success or trade ideas here.  We’re all in this together.

 

Well, I didn't blow myself up

 

 

 

 

Freshly Obsessed–er, PRESSED

17 Aug

Yesterday started out unremarkably, except that I woke up feeling better than I had in awhile, (dumb summer colds).  I flashed a peace sign to the heavens in gratitude.   Word.  I had a major deadline for a possible gig, and I had set aside the whole day to work on it.  Having a clear head and nose would help immensely.  This was a great omen, I decided, as I performed my morning ritual of weeding through my email and Facebook happenings that posted overnight.  Then I put the coffee on and wrangled the little dogs for our daily morning walk.  Pretty standard.

We came back from our trot having had no incidents, which was another delightful treat.  A pack of three Chihuahua mixes might not SOUND like any trouble, but let me tell ya–they will cut you.  Rather–they want you to think they will cut you.  This equates to them barking at anything that dares move into our path, hurling themselves wildly into the air until the leashes remind them that they’re attached, and pretty much making a fool of me twice daily.  I’m usually good and grumpy by the time I arrive home, dragging the tiny snarling beasts behind me.  I can only be angry at myself, really.  And that just makes it worse.
Tiny snarling beasts on a leash
That did not happen yesterday.  We had a deliciously (and most unusually) quiet walk.  It was peaceful and grey under the marine layer.  We meandered at a lovely pace and got back before we saw another soul.  It was delightfully well-adjusted and normal.  I finished up the morning routine by doling out breakfast all around (including to our Pittie, who has her own walks with Kim) while Kim left for work.  I cleaned up the bowls and then flipped open my laptop again to get the day started.

The tab holding my inbox showed 35 unread messages.

“What?”  I failed to compute.  I had just emptied it twenty minutes before.  Must be a weird Gmail glitch.  Google’s up to something again, I assumed.  But when I actually opened the window, it was no Gmail glitch .  Those were real emails in my mailbox.  And more than that, every single email was from WordPress.

I scrolled up and down, scanning the subject lines and wondering what the heck was going on.   Strangers.  All of them.  And they were all liking or subscribing or commenting.  Why?  What was it?  Was this a very elaborate prank of some sort?  Did WordPress screw something up in the programming and these people really wanted to subscribe to the “Cats in Drag Who Knit” blog?  And then it hit me.  So help me, it blindsided me like a freight train full of discount shoppers bound for Thanksgiving eve at the mall.

I had heard about this fabled moment.  I’d read on others’ blogs about how, on the day they became Freshly Pressed, they found out because they were inundated with new readers and comments.  So many they couldn’t keep up.

Was this happening to me?

How was this possible?

But what other explanation was there?

I literally watched my inbox go up by the second, and by then, I was shaking and clicking madly at my Mac to find the WordPress homepage.  I was so out of sorts that I suddenly couldn’t figure out how to get to Freshly Pressed or sign out so I could find the homepage.  I’m always signed into my dashboard, and for the life of me, I could not find my way off of it.

“COME ON, COME ON!  FRESHLY PRESSED, WHERE ARE YOU??  <CLICK>  NO, I DON’T WANT TO GET SUPPORT!  <CLICK CLICK>  ACK!  NO, I DON’T WANT TO DO A NEW POST!  PLEASE, I JUST NEED TO GET TO FRESHLY PRESSED BUT I CAN’T GET OFF MY DASHBOARD!”

My fingers weren’t working (probably because my brain was crawling out of my head as it tried to comprehend what I thought might possibly but probably wasn’t true).   <CLICK CLICK…CLACK THACK SLAM CLAM>

“PLEASE WORK, PLEEEAASSSE!!”

PLEASE help me get off my dashboard

I was sure I was going to pass out before I got an answer to this mystery that seemed hell bent on not revealing itself quite yet.

And then, suddenly, everything got quiet…and if I had been in a movie, that would’ve been the part where the camera went in for a tight shot right on the screen, cuz THERE IT WAS.  Right hand column, in the middle.  The only cartoon on the page.  Oh wow.  Wow, wow, wow.

Bask in the Freshly Pressed glow
Phone.

“Where’s my phone?!”  I ran around the house like a crazy person trying to find it and when I finally did (right next me on the chair–of course!), I dialed Kim with trembling hands.

She answered like she always does: “Hey”

I think I said something like, “I’MFRESHLYONBLOGWORDPRESS!  FRONT PAGE!  FRESHLY PRESSED!

Kim had no idea what the heck I was trying to say, but my addled brain somehow managed to navigate her to the WordPress site nonetheless.  Once she was there, we tried figuring out how this had happened, but I was totally useless, so I hung up, took a screenshot and did what any self-respecting blogger would do: I hit Facebook up for a little shameless celebration.

Then I called Sir Coachalot, my mommy, and a handful of other advocates and supporters.  I never got any better at my opening lines; I pretty much verbally assaulted every single one of them with a combination of broken English and pig Latin (sorry guys).  Between sentences, I’d cast my wild eyes upon the skyrocketing emails –50, 100, 120–and hit counts (I got up and over 1,000 around 10:30 am) and wonder how much more of it she could take!  Meanwhile, my dogs kept it all in perspective.  As I was losing my mind over how cool this all was, there they were, snoring away on the couch.  Yep, just another day.  And this is why I love them.
Do you mind keeping your joy to yourself?  I'm sleeping...thanks.
Once I was done with calls, I set to work trying to meet my deadline.  You know, the one that existed before all of this craziness?  The one I had to hit?  The one that presented a great opportunity, the one I had blocked out all day for, the one that was almost done, but that I just needed a solid final 5 or 6 hours on?  Yeah, that one.

It was pretty clear pretty quickly that I was going to have to fight against myself all day to pull it together.  I had to push a little meeting with my pal about doggie training off…and even though that created a little more mental and time space, it wasn’t going to be enough.  I couldn’t stop looking at my inbox, dashboard, and Facebook page.  I’d just sit there in front of my laptop with adrenaline buzzing through my veins, eyes bugging out of my head, leg shaking with a mutated form of RLS, clicking refresh and jumping between windows.  It was insane.  I still hadn’t had a chance to actually have that coffee I made, thank God, or I’d’ve really been in trouble.

Something just ain't rightAlthough my compromise was that I’d read the comments via my email notifications only, but would not respond (instead of going onto my blog, where I was sure to be lost forever), it was still impossible to focus with my Gmail window open.  Every time the inbox number would go up, I’d have to click on it.  I’d just have to.

I literally closed everything down once around 11:30 to try to finish out my project, only to open it all back up 5 seconds later.  I felt like I was simultaneously operating outside of myself and from way too far inside it.  I began panicking.  I imagined what I would say to the project editor: “Oh, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to pass on this awesome opportunity because I am no longer in control of my motor skills and my soul is possessed by Freshly Pressed.”  Awesome.  No–not awesome.  Horrible.

It was a constant battle between wanting to read and respond to comments and buckling down and just getting my project done (this is where those chippers have a distinct advantage).  Finally, at 1:30, I had no choice.  On Facebook, I declared myself “going offline,” and did.  Okay, maybe I cheated once…okay, fine…twice.  But it was just for a second.  Get off my back, okay?  I don’t have a problem!

Finally, at 5:30, I was done with business and man, was I exhausted!  I felt like I had just sprinted into a brick wall, and wasn’t sure how I’d make it through the rest of the night.  I logged back in to an inbox that had grown to over 300.  I knew I wanted to respond to every comment before bedtime…plus, I still had a blog-mitment to keep.  And I wanted to call my sister back, who had called sometime in the 4:30 range: “HELLO? “

“Hey Sarah!  Congratu-“

“HIONADEADLINECANTALKRIGHTNOWCANICALLYOUBACK <click>.”

Kim came home, presented me with a new succulent as a prize for my special day (“look at it whenever you need to feel Freshly Pressed”), and I realized I was STARVING.  I hadn’t eaten anything all day, and the adrenaline was still pumping.  I was wired and needed to chill.  I ate something, talked to my sister, and had a shower.  By then, it was about 9:00 pm and I was ready to knock out a blog entry (which I did in record time–30 minutes) and then…after a whole day of waiting…I got to sit with all of the amazing comments YOU wrote.

It was really overwhelming to read them.

I started this blog for one reason (well, besides making fun of myself, that is)–to help others.  I have no idea what I’m doing here, but if anyone can learn something, get inspired, or just forget their worries for a moment because of something I write (or draw) here, then huzzah!  I’m not just taking up space after all.

I laughed whenever I saw you guys laugh and smiled when I saw all the knowing nods…I felt happy and lucky and still in shock as I stayed up until almost 1 responding to everyone.

From the time it went up yesterday to the time the baton was passed around 9 am today (24 hours), I had gotten 5,957 hits and gained 90 subscribers.  My hits took the expected hit when the guard changed–since then, I’ve gotten just 167 hits and 5 more subscribers.  I say “just,” but really, that’s still amazing for me.  Before being FP’d, I had 30 subscribers total and my average hit count on a publishing day was 60-70, so the numbers I saw today are great!

I’m not delusional.  I may be a compulsive refresher, but I’m not delusional.  I know the drill.  This was a special treat.  I got one day to float around in a creamy, dreamy haze of validation.  Tomorrow will show my real hand.  I’m sure I’ll dip back into my lower registers, and that’s just fine with me.  And while we’re on the subject of keeping it real, I’ll also let you know that:

  • I have gotten a total of zero job offers from that post
  • I am still hustling–in fact, I had an interview with a freelancing agency today
  • No one’s throwing book or movie deals at me

I’m still wondering where my next moola’s going to come from (not sure about the weather in your area, but I don’t see a forecast for raining money here in SoCal), still walking my dogs everyday, and still surfing the net more than I should be.  I’m still just trying to find my way.  By all accounts, everything has returned to the way it was and yesterday was nothing more than a big ol’ thumbs up from the universe.  And you know what?  That’s plenty for this hustler, baby.

Love plant or weapon

Day 5 or “How About I Reward You With a Freshly Pressed?”

16 Aug

**Disclaimer: this post is having an identity crisis.  I’ve changed its name twice now.  I can’t decide which I like better.  The alternate is “Day 5, Otherwise Known as Day AWESOME!”  I apologize for any confusion or discomfort this may cause.**

Gosh, where do I even start?  It’s almost 9 pm here in Santa Monica, and I’m trying to eek this out before the clock strikes twelve.  It is, after all, Day 5 of The Experiment, no matter what other plans Freshly Pressed has.

I’d really like to take you through every minute of today–every crazy, whirlwind, dreamy moment–and give you pictures to boot.  But, I gotta level with ya–I don’t have time for that right now if I’m to continue meeting my goal of a blog a day.  I’ll make you a deal, though–if you promise to come back, I’ll run the whole thing down for you tomorrow, complete with illustrations.  Deal?

For now, I’m still in awe.  I’ve been going full steam ahead since about 9 am, when my inbox first heralded the arrival of something special.  Not only did I suddenly find myself smack in the middle of sudden blogstardom, but I had a mean deadline to meet today.  The last thing I needed was another reason to obsess over my blog.  Before you start throwing things (like Malibu bottles) at my daft head, I’M NOT COMPLAINING!  Ha, not even close.  I just mean that it was an insane day–of the best kind–so I apologize for the timestamp on this bad boy.  I also must offer my olive branch for not yet responding to any of the amazingly supportive and generous comments I’ve gotten today.   I’ve wanted to–believe me, it took every ounce of my willpower to totally log off this afternoon so I could have any hope of scoring a couple of gigs I’m up for later in the week–but I haven’t been able to.  I guess it’s a good thing my self-control won the arm wrestling match of its life against my ego.  It usually doesn’t.  But what can I say?  Ol’ SC is a clutch player, I tell you.  CLUTCH.

But I digress.

My point is that before I sleep tonight, I will lovingly tend to all of the wondrous greetings and cheers you’ve been kind enough to leave behind for me.  I am so excited to meet all of you and I am beyond humbled and grateful that you clicked, you read, and you “get it”!  I know you can relate when I say I just never know if what I see in my own brain quite translates to the page–er, screen.  It’s tremendously gratifying to see all of the “me toos!” amongst you.

And as for the rest of you–you know, the ones who believed I had something worth saying before WordPress did–I write for you.  I’ve always written for you.  And that won’t change.  It’s nice that a few other someones who don’t share my DNA or FB wall think I’m worth it, too.  But I know you Early Believers will be around long after my hit count slinks back down the alley from whence it came.

Thanks for making my Freshly Pressed day amazing

Thanks for making my Freshly Pressed day amazing

More than anything, I’m left reeling in amazement at what happens as I continue to leap.  Not tiptoe, or scurry…not shuffle or crawl…but LEAP!  Like, with everything.  I started this blog back in October when I took the very first leap as a way to document whether a net would truly appear or not.  You might remember how I got a book contract a mere four months after I left my ten-year career (and believe me, I toiled over that decision for months…even a year or more).  If you weren’t with us back then, take a peek here.  That was the start of this whole thing.

Since then, I’ve been trying to make my way in this freelance/writing/I-hope-I hit-the-jackpot-but-if-not-at-least-can-I-make-enough-to-eat forest.

The last few months have been tough.  Luckily, Bark’s been kickin, so I’ve been living off of that pretty much.  But the writing’s been non-existent and the slump has been an evil, evil bastard…so when I accepted that challenge Coach McGoates put before me less than a week ago to blog EVERY SINGLE DAY, I felt like I had finally made the turn.  I just didn’t know how big of a turn it would be in 5 short days.  Let me repeat.  Last Friday, I agreed to go from blogging once a month (or less, if I wasn’t inspired) to blogging every day for a week, just to get myself writing.  Just to see what would happen.  Well something happened, alright.  The universe just high-fived me and bought me a round of Miami Vices, all at once.  Anyone want one?

Please, take one.  Join me in raising a glass to LEAPING.  To being caught in a freaking black hole and being willing to fight to stick a hand out.  To being presented with and recognizing an opportunity to grow–and to taking it.  To knowing that creating the life I want is not always going to be easy or inspiration-filled.  Sometimes, it takes good ol’ fashioned my-quads-are-burning-can-we-stop-now-WORK.  Sometimes, I have to look that mean ol’ bastard apathy in the face.  And then slap the smile right off it.

You know, Mr. Coach always likes to ask me how I measure success, how I want to celebrate things, or reward myself for achievements.  Going into this challenge, I told him (like I always do), the process itself would be the reward.  And I meant it.  I felt like if I could make it through a whole week of blogging daily, I would have discovered it was possible and I would have created enough momentum for it to maybe stick around a little.  And if nothing else, it would be a big F YOU to the monster of slumpville lurking in the shadows.  Of course, I pointed out, I’d use the hit counts and comments on my blog to keep me going when the times got tough.  And I reminded him that obviously, the dream of any blogger is to get discovered–for the right person at the right time to stumble across the right blog–and that I was no different.  He proclaimed, “I fully believe the right person at the right time will see you.”  And I said, “I hope you’re right.  But either way, I’m going to do this.  It doesn’t matter what the outcome is.  I’m just going to commit, and I’m going to leap.  It’s worked for me so far.”

Little did I know, Freshly Pressed was even within the realm of possibility.  Mind you, the post they picked up was an old one.  But I fully believe my sudden increase in posting and traffic had a big hand in this.

So thank you, universe, for catching me as I continue to hurl myself off cliffs in the darkest of night, time and time again.  And thank you, kind readers, for being there with flashlights…just in case.

xo

An Experiment in Terror

12 Aug

Okay, so I just got off the phone with my fabulous coach, Andrew.  He’s been coaching me on all sorts of stuff; not just my writing, although today, that’s what we talked about.  He had asked me what I wanted to work on during our session today, and I told him I really wanted to build up some momentum around my writing because I just don’t really feel like I’ve been doing any lately.  I told him I wanted to get into a rhythm and practice…you know, like all good writers do.

“And what would that look like to you–‘getting into a rhythm and practicing’?” he asked in his coachly way.

“Oh, I dunno…like, writing every day…about…whatever.  I wouldn’t care if it was even just five minutes, but I want to make it a goal to write every day so I can get into the habit and just shake the cobwebs out.  I mean, I just don’t feel like writing is a big enough part of my life.”

“Mmhmmm, mhhhmmm.”

(he’s very supportive and always actively listens).

“Well, you have a blog, right?”

I didn’t see it coming.  I should have.  I don’t know why I didn’t.  I was probably too busy trying to come up with things to write about for 5 whole days in a row, so when he said, “what if you posted a blog entry every day next week,” I was literally shocked–it was as if he had slapped me across the face.  If he were sitting in front of me, I would’ve punched him in the gut in response.  But (lucky for him) this was a phone consult, so instead, he heard silence.  And then,

“Well, that’s truly terrifying.  But also, it’s a little invigorating and exciting.”

I meant the first part–obvi.  The second part was mostly true, but in the same way an Ironman might be “invigorating and exciting.”

Usually, my posts take me two or more days to write, so cranking out one a day would be an achievement in and of itself, I told Mr. Coachy Coach.  Whenever I write one, I’m very focused on making sure my posts have something of value in them, are funny and smart, and stay true to my “brand…” all while not overburdening people’s inboxes.

In order to keep a one-a-day pace, I’d have to let go of all of it.  I’d have to risk posting petty, clichéd entries.  I’d have to risk getting boo’d offstage, looking like a fool, and radio silence from my “audience.”  I’d have to stop thinking about writing and just write.

The more we talked, the more terrified I became.

“That’s how you know this is something important!” Andrew assured me.

So we talked through it a little more and finally, I gave him my word that I’d accept this little challenge of his and see what happens.  After all, the worst thing that could happen is that someone scrawls hate messages all over the comments section (so what, I’ll delete them or beat them at their own game with my witty and cutting retort)…and then starts an Internet-wide campaign about how horrible of a writer I am (Facebook isn’t THAT big)…and then next ….oh, you know, like I’ll never have a hope of making it.  Meh.  No big deal.

So here it goes.  My experiment in terror.  I apologize in advance for whatever comes of this.  If you have to unsubscribe, I’ll understand (my goal is to have at least one remaining subscriber by the end of this).

It’s just a little exercise.  It’s been too long since I’ve leapt, so I figure I’m overdue anyway.  I’m getting a little soft around the middle.  With any luck, by this time next week, my keyboard will have a killer six-pack and you won’t think I totally suck.

Do the Freelance Hustle!

29 Jun

*This post was named Freshly Pressed on August 16, 2011*

One of my friends asked me on Sunday night, “so what do you have planned for the week?”  Good question.  Since the book is wrapping up and I have no other projects at the moment (a clear break in my 3 -tiered system protocol), I’m currently doing the Freelance Hustle.  It’s really easy to learn. Here, I’ll teach you:

1. Become cognizant of the fact that you don’t have anything in the hopper and you only have two more advance checks coming.  Plan to search for jobs in between Facebooking if you can fit it in.  Feel good about your goal-setting and carry on about your day.

Ya gotta have goals

2.  Avoid eye contact (and all interaction) with your bank account–if you ignore it, you can’t tell how small it is.

If you ignore it, it doesn't exist.

3. Blog.  After all, you’re just 3 forwards away from being discovered and scouring the Internet for freelance gigs will be irrelevant, anyway.

Whenever you have stuff do, it's best to blog.

4. Allow your ever-diligent conscience to remind you that you’re about to be poor in about 2.5 seconds if you don’t start finding projects that pay right now, missy, and your blog isn’t one of them.  And then jack that conscience upside the head with a bottle of Malibu.  Yeah, that’s what 1.75 liters of pure coconut rum feels like, son. You like that?

Curse you, delicious vacation in a bottle!

5. Check your bank account while you’re on the island and resolve to do something about it the next day…and mean it.  But you better tell someone of your plans–just in case you need some firm, yet loving support.  Lindsay Lohan has a sober companion; you can at least have an “I’m a fan of four walls and a bed” companion.  You’ve just worked too hard not to.  Don’t undo all the progress.

Don't let Lindsay Lohan in.

6.  In the morning, brew up a pot (whatever that means to you), spend hours on craigslist, flexjobs, morningcoffee, HARO, facebook (strictly business), crowdspring and whatever other rabbit hole you can find to explore for leads.  Pour your heart and soul into crafting customized cover letters and resumes that reduce grown men to tears and make grownups out of babies.  I know you want to, but do NOT skip this part.  Always customize–unless, of course, you don’t really care whether you get the job.  In that case, just use your boilerplate for everything.  Oh, and you might as well include a photo of your dog taking a giant dump, too.

Nothin' like takin' a steaming dump on your resume.

7. With a great flourish (and many rounds of editing behind you), submit them.  Grab that bottle of Malibu (it probably rolled under the couch after that incident with your conscience) and take a swig.  You’ve earned it.

Give it a little something extra.

8. Keep your laptop or phone fired up and with you 24 hours a day.  Keep refreshing your inbox.  Also, check your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts rabidly, because maybe they will contact you there.  As you wait, re-read your brilliant submissions over your sensible meals of PB&J, picturing the manic joy that will unfurl from the hiring manger when she reads your amazing prose, moments before she shows up at your house with bags of money.

You're smart!  Have this money!

9.  Nothing yet?  No response in 48 hours means they’re busy.  No response in 96 means they’re selective.  No response in 168 hours means you might think you just did a whole lotta work for a whole lotta nuthin, brother.  But don’t be sad.  They simply aren’t ready for your genius…but you’ll find someone who is.

You don't need them anyway.

10. And the most important step of all: don’t let this little stumble make you fall.  Recover and just keep dancing.  The key to the Freelance Hustle is to keep moving–no matter what happens.  Keep looking and keep trying.  And be open to new kinds of projects.  Keep easin’ on down the road, because sooner or later, the right audience is going to come along, love your performance, and want to bring you into their company…but you gotta keep hustlin’.  And on that note, it’s time for me to dance on outta here.

Eff em.  Just dance!

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