Category Archives: Career

Goals For May 2015, Because Planning Downtime Is a Must

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If I had to sum up the past several weeks of life, the one word that best describes it would be whew. That’s less of a word and more of a sound, but since I’ve been moving at light speed since mid-March, whew it is.

That’s also a great way to describe how I feel about the fact that it’s already May! Anyway, I have a lot of things to get straight this month, but I’m trying to be careful about overwhelming myself. Joining in on the monthly goals linkup hosted by Drea from The Drea Daily was high on my priority list, so it’s time to get my goals for May out in the open already.

Travel to DC

For the past couple of years, my best blogger friend and writing partner Andrea at Be-Quoted and I have discussed meeting up ever since we met online via Britni Danielle’s The Write Pitch course. After endless emails, texts, tweets, online chats and phone conversations, it’s high time we met in person. The goal is to travel to DC where we can finally connect in person. This is already in the works, so I feel confident it will come to fruition.

Get Some Friggin’ Rest

To put things in perspective, I haven’t spent a full two weeks in a row at home since early March. Since then, I have literally been all over the globe from Atlanta to Mexico to Tokyo. With freelancing though, I no longer have the luxury of paid time off, so before, during and after some of that globe-trotting, I was working, and I still haven’t given myself time to recover because…more work. Clearly, my work-life balance is all out of whack and I’ve just been doing way too much. Before May 31 arrives, I need to designate at least a couple of days to doing absolute nothingness. Wake up. Breathe. Eat. Dassit.
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Why Morning Rituals Are Essential

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Full disclosure: Most of my mornings suck. In a perfect world, I’d start my day off like a Folger’s commercial , bundled up in a soft robe sipping a freshly brewed cup of coffee and randomly smiling to myself while the steam floats across my face, instantly perking me up and giving me a mini-facial in the process. I don’t believe it’s magic in that cup (coffee drinkers may disagree), but instead, partaking in that morning routine helps them ease into the day instead of blundering towards it like a train wreck.

A speeding locomotive heading towards disaster precisely describes the way I begin most of my days, except I’m not as swift. Generally, I roll over and scroll through my phone, check emails, texts and (insert embarrassed face here), Twitter. Then I lay around for a few more minutes and ruminate over what I have to do, why I have to do it and how I’m gonna do it. By the time I get out of bed, my mind is sufficiently cluttered, and the worst part? I’m usually not motivated. At all.

At one point in time, I practiced a simple yet effective morning ritual where I took a few minutes to clear my mind, think of a reason I was happy to be alive (because let’s face it – some days this is extremely difficult) and eat breakfast before I headed out for work. Since I’ve been working from home, it’s been a struggle to maintain a lot of the structure I had when my schedule was less flexible, hence the reasons my mornings aren’t as stable as they once were.

Bottom line is I know I need to re-establish a morning ritual ASAP because there are obvious benefits:

MORNING RITUALS HELP YOU TO CENTER YOURSELF:

There’s nothing like an established morning routine to help you focus on what’s important and mute all the background mental chatter.

THEY REDUCE ANXIETY:

Whenever I wake up anxious, I feel like crawling back into bed and resigning myself to a life of abandoned accomplishments and responsibilities. I hate not being able to silence the thoughts that instantly bombard my mind like what type of work day I’m going to have, fitting in personal errands and/or enjoyable tasks before work, paying bills, eating and… dammit it’s almost time for work. Basically my blood pressure rises before I do! But employing some sort of morning ritual helps me to slow down and minimize stress before I face the day.

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Did Your Vision Board Work? 2014 in Review

vision boardAnnual assessments have always been routine for me. The only issue is they typically leave me bemoaning the days I wasted and wishing for a time-machine to put the past 365 days to better use. However, there was a major shift this year in my attitude that propelled me to make a vision board in January.

I’d heard people discussing vision boards before, and while I’ve always been one of those people who make new year’s resolutions, it still sounded like some pseudo-spiritual propaganda. Like, really? All I gotta do is tack my goals to a board and they’ll magically manifest? Mkay.

After giving it a little more thought, I realized that a vision board simply reinforces the fact that people tend to be drawn to things they want.  If a late-night Wendy’s commercial can lure folks to the drive-thru, why can’t a board that advertises personal dreams and goals essentially do the same thing?

HAS IT WORKED FOR ME?

Well, the better question is whether I’ve allowed it to work for me. 2013 ended on sort of a high note professionally, but personally it was one of the darkest, lowest moments of my life.  Therefore, I decided that 2014 had to be better.

I had a ton of stuff on my board, but here a few successes I had this year that really stood out for me:
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6 Reasons To Read Your Published Articles

During a conversation with my pitch partner Andrea from Be-Quoted a few months ago, we were discussing an article she’d successfully pitched when she revealed that she rarely reads her published pieces. As a result, I told her that I could build a case for my opinion that writers (new writers, in particular) should make a regular practice of reading their published articles. Now, while I will admit that I haven’t read every single one of my live articles, I still think writers can benefit from regularly reading the final, edited versions of their work.

Scrolling Twitter one evening, I came across some tweets from Julia Beverly, formerly of Ozone Magazine. She’s currently writing a book about the life of the late UGK rapper Pimp-C and has been discussing the process online.

As enthusiastic as she seems about her upcoming project, in the same breath Beverly candidly admitted that she more than likely would not be reading this book upon its completion. Merely revising articles can sometimes feel like a mild form of mental torture, so I can’t say I necessarily blame her for already planning to pass on reading her own book before she’s even written the last word.

The reality is Beverly is a certified OG in the writing/publishing industry, so she can totally afford to give her published work the cold shoulder. But for less established writers, I feel there are good reasons to read those published articles:

It allows you to learn from your mistakes.

Based on the changes I’ve seen from my editors, I’ve been able to identify problem areas and even managed to make some improvement without having my weaknesses explicitly highlighted.

Once, I received a group email from editors who advised the writers on the correct way of citing images. I realized I hadn’t been doing it the right way, but that could’ve been avoided if I took the time to at least skim over some of my previously published pieces, or better yet, pay more attention to my style guide! In that situation, I got two lessons in one.

Learn your editors’ style.

Not all editors are created equal. That means that depending on who you write for, there may be little to no difference between the piece you submitted and the published article. Other times, the final article may not resemble anything in your original piece. It’s a delicate balance because you don’t want to lose your voice while trying to do the piece justice, but unless it’s your blog, an op-ed or a pub that  has extremely lax guidelines, the publication’s voice and style ultimately trump yours.

This is why I think it’s best to try and pay attention to the editors’ changes to see what you can pick up on.  That may mean writing “stuff” when you really want to write “shit,” or leaving out something you think is hilarious and clever (more on that later).
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Becoming a Better Writer in 2015

Writing Tools

This year I’ve made leaps and bounds when it comes to writing, but I still have many miles to go before I arrive at what I’ll call my optimum writer status. Truth be told, I have no interest in being the perfect scribe (whatever that may be), but I definitely have some room for improvement.

Here’s how I plan to be a better writer in 2015:

SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS MORE

I get so caught up in the stresses of creating that a lot of times when I’m done filing articles, I haphazardly tweet the links and log the hell off my computer. In those moments, I don’t want to read another headline, blog post, or article because I’ve been fully immersed in them for hours at a time and my eyes and brain just can’t take anymore. But beginning now and throughout 2015, I plan to devote more time to reading, sharing and commenting on other writers’ work, especially those who are just starting out, or those whose work I truly admire.

ENGAGE MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Someone one posed the question, “What does your social media presence say about you?” I’ll be the first to admit that mine isn’t very reflective of who I am.  In reality, I thrive in social settings and am at my best when I have some food, drink and good company. However, I’m old school and social media is just so…OPEN. I can’t properly convey what I’m feeling, but I haven’t gotten comfortable with putting my fleeting, uncensored thoughts and beliefs out there for the masses to consume and share. Whenever I do, it’s followed by so much self-scrutiny and anxiety that sometimes I’m tempted to delete my account altogether. Anyway, it sounds insane but it’s the truth.  But the fact is,  I need to be more engaging online. While it’s still awkward for me, it feels much better to actually interact with people instead of simply seeing their tweets float by on your timeline daily without having a clue what they’re about outside of some random tweets or blog links.  I joined to put myself out there (plus, there are work requirements), but I realize I’m doing myself and other writers who look for support a major disservice by being a hermit online.
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The 8 Most Common Excuses I Use Not to Blog

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Well, this is embarrassing—and that statement has absolutely nothing to do with Firefox failing to load all my tabs. I hate that it’s come to this, but if I have to put myself on front street just to get shit done, then so be it. Within the past hour, I’ve created two drafts (three if you count this post) in which I began a blog but didn’t see either of them through to completion.

This process of creating a bunch of possible blog posts and then leaving them to rot in draft hell isn’t a new pattern for me. It’s a bad habit I formed and haven’t quite been able to shake. The reasoning behind this pesky tendency can’t be narrowed down into one word, but I figure if I just write it down in a list, perhaps it can help me avoid my addiction to creating drafts and encourage me to write, edit and hit publish already!  Furthermore, I hope it’ll encourage any other bloggers who, like myself, can come up with 99 reasons why they shouldn’t post a blog.

So here it is, in all its unfiltered, shameless glory. The 8 most common excuses I use not to blog:

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Bypass the Burn: 7 Ways to Avoid Burnout

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Ever find yourself barely limping along with what feels like an infinite to-do list stretched out in front of you? Sometimes the end appears like a mirage in the desert, wavering in the distance. You’re approaching something alright, but unfortunately it’s not the finish line. It’s burnout, which is oftentimes unrecognizable by those whom it afflicts until it arrives in the form of depression, loss of motivation, insomnia, alcohol or substance abuse and a host of additional health-related consequences. If you feel like you’re literally teetering on the brink of sanity, a bout with burnout may be in your near future.

Here are 7 ways to avoid burnout:

Morning rituals: Instead of doing the equivalent of jump-starting your brain by rolling over and checking your email or Twitter feed, consider easing into your day with a morning ritual like meditation or sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, or partake in one of these activities that make mornings less sucky.

Take a break: This might sound obvious, but according to a recent Forbes article that states only 25 percent of Americans take their paid vacation, routinely taking breaks is apparently something a large portion of the population struggles to implement into their lives. In a society that’s all #TeamNoSleep #Grindin’ and other ridiculous hashtag lifestyles that promote excessive work over one’s well-being, it’s easy to fall into that trap of constant work. It’s OK to be motivated to reach a goal, but allowing your mind and body to take a break is less of a hindrance to success than having that body and mind break down in the process. Whether you seek respite from the daily grind by taking a weeklong Caribbean cruise or a brisk 15-minute walk around the block, regularly scheduled breaks are essential to avoiding burnout.

Establish and enforce boundaries: Typically, people who are prone to burnout have an issue with setting limits. Before they realize it they’ve committed themselves to 30 hours of work in one day, which obviously spells disaster. To this I say, exploit the power of saying no. Say no to squeezing in that extra assignment, helping a friend on your only off day or just stretching yourself too thin in general. Prioritize by using a list of wants versus needs and talk it over with someone you trust to make sure you stay on track.

 

Read this rest of this article over at ClutchMagOnline.

Image: Dskley/Flickr

Advice To My 2013 Self

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I’m a little bit behind on this 28-day Imperfect Blogging Challenge–three days to be exact. But it’s better late than never. That’s what I think about when I recall where I was this time last year and match it up to where I am now. There have definitely been some major changes, some scary changes, but I am confident those changes were necessary, even if they seem foolish and risky.

WHERE WAS I THIS TIME LAST YEAR?

I’d been working at my job for two years, had graduated to a new position that previous fall and I was already thinking of what would be next. Bored. Unmotivated. And wishing my life away by the day, trying to convince Friday to come early every week. I remember that I was always planning to do something. I planned to get serious about writing professionally. After purchasing a domain and joining Twitter, I planned to start posting blogs. I planned to submit a short story I wrote and enter it into a writing contest. I planned to resume writing a book. But I did very little of what I set out to do.

I spent a lot of time saying I didn’t have time and the rest of that time worrying about what would happen if tried to do what I wanted.  I saw the blogs of more established, successful bloggers whose sites were more visually appealing than mine. I had no idea what I was doing while they seemed really comfortable forging a digital footprint that clearly displayed who they were. Frankly, I was intimidated and my progress was snail-slow. Continue reading

The Benefits of Having an Alter Ego

Sad woman with Superhero's Shadow on wall

Quite often the sheer act of existing feels downright overwhelming. Sometimes I wake up and before my eyes adjust to the morning light, a never-ending to-do list sidles into my mind and sprints off towards a mirage of a finish line. If you ask me, that’s just too much pressure before breakfast. At that point, I want to do nothing more than drift back into a peaceful sleep where deadlines, bills, emotions or any other concern that’s popular amongst the living mean about as much to me as a crack in a sidewalk.

But life beckons, and I eventually roll out of bed, sometimes sliding down the side of it, other times sitting up with an attitude and a curse word forming on my lips. It is then that I realize how badly I need a stunt double. Since Texas is a day’s drive from Hollywood and my house isn’t a movie set, I’ve decided to settle for the next best thing: an alter ego.

Nicki Minaj has Roman Zolanski. Garth Brooks had Chris Gaines. Eminem has the maniacal Slim Shady. And Lady Gaga has Jo Calderone. Now, I’m not sure what in the hell she needs with an alter ego because she seems to be quite the handful all by herself/selves, but that only confirms that having a little spare personality buddy can’t hurt.  And finally, if Beyoncé has an alter ego on her payroll, then goshdarnit, so can I. I’m far from a member of the Beyhive, but there’s no doubting the benefits that the Sasha Fierce transformation hath wrought upon her life.
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7 Ways Working a 9-5 is Like Being On a Reality Show

This is the one time I wanna be like Kim---no longer a cast member.

This is the one time I wanna be like Kim (pictured in gold)—no longer a cast member.

So today, I’m pissed and totally over the work drama, so let’s skip the fancy intro and get right to it. Here’s a list of seven ways jobs make their employees feel like they’re on the set of a sleazy reality show, only the lighting isn’t flattering and workers aren’t getting the hit singles, paid club appearances, Christian Louboutins and fresh sew-in weaves in exchange for their troubles.

1. Ain’t nobody f*ckin’ with my clique, clique, clique…: Ahhhh, cliques. The delightful dollop of people who consist of a lumpy, co-dependent, shit-talking mass of conjoined humans. They tend to share a brain, so it’s no wonder they don’t take too kindly to outsiders. They routinely convene about when and what to think, and the unfortunate soul who manages to permeate their wall of nasty judgments and constant gossip regrets it immediately and hopefully has the wherewithal to retreat just as quickly, lest they wish to give up their souls to the devil in exchange for the coveted honor of “fitting in.”

2. Bullies: Quite frankly, I don’t buy into the notion that adults can’t be bullied. Just like they appear on each cycle of Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model,” a narcissistic, sociopathic bully seems to be a workplace staple. I’ve dealt with my fair share of them, from an alcoholic, racist judge who thought it was cute to unplug my automatic stapler each time she passed my desk, to other co-workers who took more pride in delivering stare-downs and partaking in feverish whispering sessions than they did in actually working. Just like aggressive playground tyrants and reality show jerks, most of the in-office offenders don’t stop unless their targets knock them flat on their asses, whether in the form of an official complaint or a nice-nasty tongue-lashing. (Full disclosure: Both methods have worked for me.  There are other methods, but…nevermind.) Continue reading