Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Favorite Work-at-Home Benefit

There are a lot of reasons why I love being a freelance writer and working at home. Sure, there is the setting my own hours, wearing comfy clothes, no bosses or co-workers to bug me with their annoying habits, not having to endure air conditioning (which I loathe), and so on.

But my favorite benefit? I'm doing it today. I've moved to my branch office in the family room because my beloved Phillies are playing an afternoon game, in HD no less.

In the old days, if the Phils played an afternoon game, I had to figure out how to listen to the game without raising the ire of a cranky boss. For some reason they thought I couldn't multi-task well enough to listen to a game and work (silly old bosses -- I've been writing to the soothing sound of baseball since I was a little girl and the jobs I was doing in my past life tended to involve more photocopying and filing and stuffing envelopes than it did writing). Even worse than the bosses were the co-workers. Even though the volume on my computer was always turned down so only I could hear it -- step two feet from my desk and the sound disappeared -- my co-workers thought baseball in the office was a bad thing.

So, I'd have to often turn the games off so I could listen to my officemates talk about Tom Cruise's love life, graphic details of someone's surgery, or gossip about someone who worked in an adjacent office. Yeah, well, sue me for thinking a Phils game was much more interesting.

On most days, I spend my entire work day in my little office. Day baseball is a nice treat, and I'm still able to answer email, take phone calls, and stuff envelopes without missing an at bat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happy Hours

I think I may be the only person in the world who doesn't care what other people do to make money and almost never bring up work as cocktail conversation. While I get that "so what do you do" can be an ice breaker, think about it. You're at happy hours or a party or some social function to have fun. Why bring work into it when work is often stressful and about the last thing we want to think about outside of the office.

As a writer, I don't like talking about my career with non-writers. I find that telling someone that I'm a writer evokes three responses: 1) "Oh, I'd like to write a book"; 2) "What are you working on?"; and 3) "How do you get these magazines to publish you?" This tires me because 1) everybody wants to write a book; 2) I never work on one project at a time and are almost always subjects that make the average person glaze over; and 3) marketing is tough and very difficult to explain to anyone who doesn't do this for a living. It is the very last thing I want to discuss while sipping a Blue Moon.

I had to endure this at a social event last Friday night. And by a person I know. We had not spoken in years, this person and I, but she decided to drill me with questions 2 and 3. I explained that I don't like to talk about work on Friday nights, but she insisted. "You should be proud of yourself!" she said. "You should be bragging about how successful you are. You're a writer!"

Well, I was always a writer. Now I'm just making an income from a skill I have and the degree I earned. I am proud of myself for starting a business from scratch and making it float during these tough economic times. But brag about it? Really? Do other people brag about their jobs?

I changed the subject with that second best cocktail ice breaker. "Want to see a picture of my grandkid?" As I pulled out the pictures, the woman suddenly saw another old friend and said she'd talk to me later.

And I sipped my Blue Moon in peace.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blurry World

The recovery from PRK surgery has been a bit slower than I anticipated, and it is disrupting my work life a bit.

I'm not one of these people who recover well. By that, I mean I don't take the down time I need. I want to be back at it. And as a freelancer, I don't have the luxury for a lot of down time because I don't have someone to back me up. And in this case, I can't even participate in what is my prefered down time activity -- reading.

Writing has been a lot harder than I expected. For one, the words one the screen are a little blurry at times and reading too much gives me a headache. But the real challenge is looking from my (blurry) notes to the screen. Moving my eye ball hurts like the dickens!

But I have deadlines so I must plug away. And every day has seen an improvement. I'm also anxious to get back to working normally.

I'd love to hear any encouragment from anyone who has had PRK. Compared to Lasik, it's been a very different, slow, painful process. Yet, I feel like there is progress, whereas with Lasik that left eye just wouldn't improve and I always felt off balance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm Back

Yes, it's been months since I last posted. 2009 has kicked my butt in both good and bad ways. I'm lucky that work has been steady -- but I'd like to bump that up to busy. However, things always happen for a reason, and as I look back on the past 6.5 months of the year, it was probably in my best interest that the fates kept my workload right where it was.

I had lasik surgery in January and as my luck would have it, I was one of those people who didn't have stellar results. I battled dry eye and a left eye that still had an astigmatism. Seeing the computer has been a bit of a challenge. Last week I had PRK laser surgery in the left eye, which will hopefully solve the problem. The eye docs warned me that PRK was a very -- and I mean VERY -- different experience from lasik, but honestly, I didn't ezpect this. My left eye has been totally blurry as it begins its healing process. I feel lopsided, but the odd thing is, in some ways, my reading vision seems better. Probably because my right eye is doing all the work.

There have have been other things to 2009 that have kept me from blogging, but I won't bore you with them. Let's just say that those situations have begun to right themselves, and as August makes its approach, life is feeling somewhat normal again. Which is why I'm anxious to get work up from steady to busy.

Like I said, I think the fates played a hand in my work and writing life. And it is hard to write when you are worried about family members and the results of medical tests. I'm excited to write again. Which is why I decided it's time to fire up the blog, get back to writing essays, and start thinking seriously about a couple of book ideas that have been floating in my head. That along with bumping up my marketing and getting some of my article ideas in front of editors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Day, New POTUS, Simple As That

From the time I was a very little girl -- seriously, from about the time I started reading -- I read biographies. I remember a series of biographies written especially for kids and I would devour those things. Every week at the school library, I'd take one or two home with me. I'd read them over and over. Sometime in the 5th grade, the librarian joked with me that those biographies would collect dust when I moved along to the 6th grade and she showed me that I was the only one who ever checked out about half of them, and my name was there four, five, six times.

In middle school and early high school, I was the typical adolescent -- movie star struck. I still read a lot of biographies (and at this point I moved on to classic literature as well) but the bios tended to be of celebrities, as opposed to the Virginia Dare, Betsy Ross, Sacajewea, Clara Barton books of my youth.

But during that adolescence, Watergate happened, and Watergate was THE topic of conversation at my grandparents' house, where I spent a good deal of time. My grandpa put his cassette recorder by the television and taped the hearings, then would listen to them again in the evening and on weekends. He made me want to know, he made me want to care about politics. I took an interest in this Gerald Ford guy, and followed the 1976 election closely, and the 1980 primaries, still too young to vote and unsure yet of any ideological leanings, I knew that there was something about that George Herbert Walker Bush guy that I liked. I went back to the nonfiction section of the school library and started taking out the books on history and biographies on presidents.

In my sophomore year of college, I needed a speech topic, and I couldn't come up with anything. I met with my professor who asked me what my favorite classes were outside of the writing/English classes. I said history and politics classes. She asked what I liked best about history, and I said the presidents. She told me to pick a president, someone from before FDR, learn about him, and present a speech that would make the case why we should know about this president (and not any of the usual suspects). I picked Theodore Roosevelt, and once I started learning, I couldn't stop. My office is filled with books about TR.

But my library is filled with biographies of almost all the presidents, as well as the first ladies, and tons of general reference books and anecdotal books and books about other political figures who influenced these presidents. It is an insatiable passion of mine.

And it should be no surprise that when primaries and elections and inaugurations come around, I'm in my total element. I've tried to talk to people about primaries and elections and inaugurations, but it's difficult. People are too passionate about their ideologies. I have my ideologies, to be sure, and I struggle at times to see the other person's point of view. But I don't really watch presidential politics like most people I know. Let's just say there aren't a whole lot of things that surprise me about a candidate or his administration.

I love inauguration day. I've watched every one since Reagan 1984, taking vacation days when I had to. I used to tape them all, too, until Bush 2004. I watch from early in the morning, when they attend church services, to late in the evening, through the balls. I think it should be a national holiday, to celebrate this greatest of American traditions. I've watched when the guy I disliked was sworn in; I've watched when the guy I voted for was sworn in.

So what did I see yesterday, beyond the pomp and circumstance and the unusual historic relevance of this election? I saw a new president faced with the task Lincoln had before him -- to reunite a severely divided nation -- and faced with the task Grover Cleveland and FDR and Ronald Reagan had before them -- to fix a nation that seems to be imploding -- and the task of Richard Nixon -- to end an unpopular war -- and the task of Theodore Roosevelt -- to put greed in check. This would have been the task that fell to whomever won the election. I also saw a vitality and youthful exuberance I've never seen before in an inauguration (and remember, the Clintons were about the same age when they took office in 1993). It had little to do with the crowd, but with Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden themselves.

The biggest takeaway? What I take away every four years -- that the exchange of power happens smoothly and that even if the opposition doesn't like it, well, they have a chance to change it in the next election.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

So it is now 2009

Workwise, 2008 was a very good year. Heck, it wasn't so bad on the personal side either, although there were some moments there toward the end that were a little hairy.

I don't know about anyone else, but I always feel a change -- mental? physical? emotional? -- when I hang a new calendar on the wall. I love the new calendar feel. I take the cellophane off (note to calendar makers: can you get a little more ecofriendly with the wrap?) and page through it. Not so much to see the pretty pictures, but to see the blank dates.

I'm a calendar obsessive. I have them all over the place, including three in my office -- two appointment calendars and a wall calendar where I track deadlines. Actually there is a fourth, from 2004, I think, that has beach scenes. I keep it around because I like the pictures. I keep my old calendars, too, which probably tell more about me and my life than any journal I ever kept.

I love the blank dates. To me, they represent hope and the openness of the future. I get a thrill every time I write something into one of those big blank spaces. It means something good is happening -- a deadline, lunch with a friend, LASIK surgery.

But sometimes the blank dates are scary. No deadlines. No interviews. Nothing on my plate, what will I do? You know the answer to that -- go out and try to fill those blanks, that's what!

My calendar is looking pretty good right now. There are interviews scheduled and deadlines all over January.

I can't wait to see what else 2009 brings.