How Do You Bribe Yourself Into Getting Busy?

hungry kittenThose of you who follow me on Twitter may have noticed that I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with motivation these days.

Monday, April 22, 2:27 p.m.: “I just picked up a book, slammed it down, and shouted at myself, ‘You can read that if you get shit done!’ Obviously losing it.”

Tuesday, April 23, 10:41 a.m.: “Today will be one of those days where I only get shit done by bribing myself with Spider Solitaire + hip-hop + @poetswritersinc.” #freelance

Then on Wednesday, I came home from my a.m. yoga class all pumped up to be productive, but was then quite easily lured away from my desk by a fellow Toastmasters member who wanted to meet up for lunch.

I obviously have no self-discipline.

I mentioned to Thursday Bram (on Twitter, obvs) that this is the dirty little secret of being a work-at-home freelancer. As holy-shit-fantastic as it is to be a freelancer (and you’d better believe that it’s holy-shit fantastic, and I feel incredibly lucky), it’s still hard as hell.

So I still manage to successfully juggle the social media management and the three ghostwriting projects and the weekly sex column and the yoga teacher training and my book proposal and my Toastmasters VP of Education responsibilities.

But damned if I know how.

Here are things I have promised myself in the pursuit of being productive. [Read more…]

Why Your Goals Aren’t Good Enough

iStock_000014911902XSmallEarlier this month, I met up with Susan Johnston of the Urban Muse at the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. We don’t get to see each other often — she lives in Boston, I live in NJ, and the last time we saw each other was at the ASJA conference back in April — but when we do get together, we often end up chatting about where we are with our freelance writing careers. We take stock of where we’ve been and try to figure out where we’re going.

At the time I saw Susan, I was ghost-tweeting for one client, creating a series of blog posts for another, and ghostwriting a book with a couples counselor. I was also collaborating on an ebook with a fellow word nerd, coaching a beginning freelance writer, and revising my book proposal. As busy as I was, though, I felt adrift.

“What are your goals for 2013?” Susan asked me, and it was a tough question. Finally, I settled upon four:

1. Land a book deal.

2. Start writing the type of stuff I could submit to lit mags.

3. Earn my yoga teaching certification and start teaching classes and planning workshops.

4. Get pregnant.

They were good, solid goals but, out of the four, I’d already set out to achieve two of them in 2012. And I’d failed. [Read more…]

How To Break Through Your Work Block

I’ve made a lot of excuses for myself over the past month:

I just finished several large projects; I deserve a break.

I’m distracted because I’m waiting on responses to my lit agent queries; can you blame me?

I’m suffering from Holiday Brain.

I’m suffering from S.A.D.

I’m suffering from this god-awful, nasty, lingering cold.

Poor excuses all, especially considering how much work I could’ve been doing based upon the goals I’d set out for myself.

I’ve been procrastinating on one project in particular: pulling together the notes for the ASJA panel I’m appearing on in the spring. (For more information, you can now find the lowdown on my Sex Writing panel here, on the tab for Saturday, April 28.)

Of course, when it comes to issues of procrastination, burnout, and rebooting, there’s a lot of advice out there: Step away from your work. Schedule in a walk, workout, or meal. Do something that nourishes your soul. Meditate. Etc.

But don’t these tips assume we’re all struggling for one, universal reason? Aren’t they all just temporary salves that don’t actually solve the underlying problem? Why else would we need to repeat them again and again (and again)?

Shouldn’t we be tackling the root of the problem? [Read more…]

How To Harness the Power of NaNoWriMo… All Year Long

We’re just a few days in to NaNoWriMo, and the tweets and motivational blog posts are already flying fast and furious. Not that I’m participating, mind you. I’m not a novelist, and all of my attempts at “fiction” back in college were thinly-veiled, totally emo personal essays (as were everyone else’s). But I can’t help feeling envious that fiction writers have a month like this, during which they can go all in on that large project they’ve been daydreaming about for eons, a built-in support network (and hard-core accountability) just an email or dedicated forum away.

Of course, I get my motivation and accountability elsewhere. My writing partner, Lyz Lenz, sends me threatening emails every week.

But what about the rest of you? Where can you go to ensure that your writing goals are met, thanks to a mix of motivation, camaraderie, and abject fear? [Read more…]

Didn’t Get It Done? That’s Your Own Damn Fault

Things that distract me:

– my cats
– an opened bag of Candy Cane Kisses
– music that is particularly peppy
– the knowledge that there is an unwatched episode of The Sing-Off on my DVR
– the dust I just noticed on the far edge of my desk
– a sink full of dishes
– Etsy
– my sudden obsession with yoga bolsters, brightly colored jeans, or illusion necklaces
– Twitter
– etc.

This past weekend — at a time when I was supposed to be working on the first chapter of my book so that I could get it to my writing partner by Monday — we lost power (along with hundreds of thousands of others on the east coast, thanks to a freak October blizzard). Okay, fine, I thought to myself. I’ll give myself a pass. My laptop will die in under two hours anyway.

Then, on Sunday night, the power came back on.

By Monday morning, however, Internet had still not been restored. “Ooh!” I said to my husband. “I’ll take this opportunity to write that chapter without any distractions!”

I then proceeded to spend the next few hours watching Project Runway, playing Spider Solitaire, and checking email on my phone. [Read more…]

You’re Doing Great. You Should Give Thanks and Chill the Eff Out.

In case you forgot, I was at a retreat this past weekend (neener neener). It was glorious, I didn’t have phone or Internet access, and I even found maple cotton candy while I was up there.

But I’m not here to gloat. (Or am I? J/K. Or not.)

I wanted to share something with you.

At the beginning of the retreat, we had a welcome ceremony, during which yoga instructor Erica Mather passed around a talking stick and asked each of us to answer a few questions. Among them: What are you hoping to gain from this retreat?

When it was my turn to speak, the talking stick shook in my hands. My eyes teared up. What was I looking for? I had been feeling a lot of anger and frustration lately, both from the continued lack of interest in our condo, and in my continued failure to get pregnant. I told the group before me that I was looking for calm.

At the end of the retreat — five yoga classes, five cooking classes, two hot tub sessions, a greenhouse field trip, a journaling session, and a s’mored up, drunken bonfire later — we passed around the talking stick again. What do you feel gratitude for? Erica asked us. What have you learned?

By that point, it was clear I’d received something much better than simple calm. I’m grateful that I was able to experience something like this, I told the group. I learned that I have a lot to be grateful forso I should just chill out.

[Read more…]

You Need To Wear Many Hats… But You Shouldn’t Wear Them All

You can't wear ALL the hats. You'll just look silly.

Last month, I wrote a piece on spec for a new online startup. I wouldn’t typically do such a thing, but I was excited about the forthcoming website, and the project was backed by several companies I admired.

When the piece was killed, I was disappointed, but the editor I was in contact with assured me it had nothing to do with me. She told me that her and her superiors liked my writing style, and wanted to give me another assignment. Despite misgivings, I went ahead with it, working my ass off to get the piece done before deadline.

Then, the second piece was killed. We like your writing, the editor wrote to me, but the two posts you’ve written for us fail to demonstrate an understanding of what people are interested in or intrigued by.

Lemme tell you. That email really ruined my day.

Yes, I was angry at myself for doing work on spec. Twice. But I was more upset because I felt insulted by the implication that I didn’t know what people wanted to read… and I was the target audience!

[Read more…]

They Hate Me! They Really Hate Me!

man hiding behind hate letter

The other week, I wrote a post for YourTango’s LoveMom blog, about my struggles with chronic depression and PMDD, and how it was affecting my decision to start a family. It was something that had been on my mind lately. I was worried about my hormones and postpartum depression, and about the strain I might place on my marriage. So when I wrote up my post, I really put it all out there, describing my ugliest moments and my worst fears. I was nervous about pressing the “publish” button, but I felt it was important to be honest. I thought that there would be people out there who could relate.

Then the hate comments began rolling in.

[Read more…]

Coffee Break: Burnt Out or Blessed?

Oh hey guys. What’s up? What? What’s that? Why yes, I did run a brilliant guest post by Susan Johnston in mid-April and then drop off the face of the planet. You’re absolutely right. God, I’m like the poster child for worst blogging practices ever. (By the way, did any of you buy her e-book yet?)

Those of you who follow me on Twitter already know that my grandfather died last Friday. It hit me pretty hard and, instead of working through it, I spent the past week watching TV, eating Cheez-Its, and taking Xanax. (I also sang my grandfather’s funeral mass and learned that yes, it is possible to belt out hymnals while you’re leaking tears and snot.)

Yesterday was my first day back at work. And yeah, it was a bit overwhelming. I ended the day feeling cranky, stressed out, and emotionally drained. Thinking about all the work I still had on my plate made me want to curl up in bed and pass out for the next year or so.

But then I forced myself to remember my humble freelancer beginnings, a time when I had so few projects on my plate that I spent entire days watching America’s Next Top Model marathons. And I forced myself to consider the fact that my grandfather would be super-pissed if I devolved into reclusive couch potato-dom on account of his death.

And so, here’s a look at things to come now that I’ve ruled out hibernation:

[Read more…]

Got Jumper Cables? My Career Is Stalled

Sometimes, when I’m at the office, I’ll finish up a project and be completely unable to start something new, just because there’s a meeting in 30 minutes. And even if it’s totally possible for me to whip up a blog post within those 30 minutes and set it to go live, I won’t.

Because my mind is occupied with waiting.

And that’s pretty much how I’ve been feeling these past two weeks.

[Read more…]