Friday, July 31, 2009

My Summer Secret

The Beach. A few hours on the beach and suddenly I can write again. That is my summer secret. When I can’t write. When I cannot find the words. When I am not sure I will ever write another sentence I go to the beach.

It does not have to be an exotic beach that requires a plane ride. It does not have to require the three hour drive to my favorite beaches in Amagansett. It is as easy as the hour ride to Long Beach.

The sound of the ocean, the smell of salt water, an umbrella, a chair, a cooler with refreshments and within a few hours I can write again.

I don’t come to the beach to write. I come to sit and to read someone else’s writing. Not the newspaper. Too depressing. Fiction. Memoir. Escapist literature. And from the words of someone else I am left inspired.

About a month ago I had a conversation with a very successful French Canadian businessman who remarked how ridiculous the hours are Americans work. He found it incredulous that the corporate work ethic is this country does not see the benefit in breaks, that they miss the point that often it is those times when we completely remove ourselves from those crammed schedules, without phone or email access that we get our very best ideas.

It would have been considered sacrilegious back in my corporate days had I ever suggested to anyone I worked for that perhaps what we needed to shake things up, to find our creativity, that new idea, the one we were looking for, was an afternoon on the beach.

My summer secret would have been seen as bad work ethic, the culture too attached to the idea that only constant motion will propel things forward. When the truth is that the separation is the thing that makes everything look so much clearer.

Now that my secret's out, Beach anyone ?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Taking Note: Maryann McFadden

By now, you all know that I love inspiring stories. I continue to be amazed at how many I learn of and the ways in which I trip over them.

I found Maryann McFadden on Facebook. As I generally do when I make new friends I look to see who their friends are and any commonalities I might share. Which is how I found Maryann. An author with a long background in selling, in her case real estate, I sensed a connection. So I friended her. I also immediately went out and got myself a copy of her first book, The Richest Season. (released in paperback in July)

As it turns out, The Richest Season is a story of reinvention. The main character, Joanna (no kidding) is off on a reinvention journey. The influences of Corporate America play a role in her story as well as that of her estranged husband, Paul. A third character, Grace, is interwoven to illustrate just how short life really is.

The Richest Season is one of those books, you really don’t want to end, taking place in a location that made me want to get in my car and drive to Pawley's Island immediately. The writing is the kind that assures you will read everything else you can get your hands on by this author.

So go get yourself a copy. But before that, let me tell you what I learned about Maryann’s own story.

She always wanted to write, but like many of us with a true passion, got sidetracked. And when she did put attention on her writing, she suffered the rejection that is all too common in today’s publishing environment. Good, fresh voices are also seen as big risks. While as a writer we may be out of the daily four walls of the office cubicle, the decision making process that occurs there still affects us. Good new talent is often passed for what might be seen as a safer bet or a bigger name. In other words, more revenue for the company. If you follow the publishing world, you know that often results in huge advances that don’t necessarily pay out.

Maryann McFadden got tired of rejection and decided to self publish as well as self market. The Indies loved her and that took her to the agent who got her a 2 book deal with Hyperion. Her second book, So Happy Together was just released in hardcover.

Maryann’s story, both her fiction and her real life inspire me. She had a dream, she held on to it, and it was realized. Perhaps not in exactly the way she had planned, but then the Universe is like that. It always delivers. Our job is to hold to our vision and detach from the route it takes us to get there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In The Still Of The Night

I don’t miss that feeling of fear I used to get when I would wake up in the middle of the night. Whether it was 2AM or 4AM, I would panic. I am not talking about those moments where you open your eyes for a split second and roll back to sleep. I’m talking those wide awake experiences, where even when you try, your eyelids refuse to close.

I would panic because I needed my sleep. I needed it to function through my eight, sometimes more hour days. And because of that panic I would not get up. No matter how much I tossed and turned I would pull the covers closer and wait. Wait for sleep to descend again.

I am one of those people who needs her sleep. I can function pretty well on 6 to 7 hours, but it has to be uninterrupted, good sleep. Without it, by early afternoon I can feel as badly and as hungover as I would if I had drank two bottles of wine by myself, not to mention cranky.

I would lay there, thinking ahead to how tired I would be and how little I would accomplish if I did not get more sleep. I would pray silently and offer thanks in advance that by the time the alarm did go off I would have gotten another precious hour in.

Often it was at those moments that my next sentence in my book would pop in. At first I would ignore them. Mostly because writing was not yet my day job. My day job was paying the bills and it took precedence. And I needed my sleep to function.

After a while I caught on that if I did not write them down, they would escape into the ether, only to be seen again if I was very, very lucky. So I would keep a note pad next to me, scribble down the words and hope I would be able to understand my own handwriting in the morning.

But that was then and this is now. Yesterday when I found myself awake at 4AM, a brand new week in front of me, I lingered. It was Monday. I needed my rest. Then ideas started to rush forth. For a blog. For the next sections in my new novel.

I got up. I turned on the computer, made coffee and in the dark of the early morning, before the sun started to rise on the East Side of Manhattan, I started to write. I didn’t worry about my sleep. I didn’t dread the possibility that hungover feeling would start to creep up. Because if it did, when it did, I could just go take a nap.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Confessions Of A Teenage Typer

I cheated. I confess. I cheated in typing class in high school. I was thinking about this the other day when I was doing some free writing, morning pages a la The Artists Way and I realized I was not looking at the keyboard as I had back then but instead at the framed watercolor print of Aspen Mountain that hangs over my desk. I realized that while I had cheated in high school, I had somehow along the way managed to learn where each letter sits on a keyboard and can indeed type without looking.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to master this skill back then. I took the class only because I had to. It was a requirement. You needed it to graduate.

The classroom resembled one of those old office typing pools you only see now in black and white movies, row after row of desks, each with a big clunky manual Smith Corona sitting on it. Electric typewriters, while in use at the time, had not made it into this NYC public school class. At the front of the room, above the blackboard a replica of the keyboard hung. We were instructed to keep our eyes there and not look down. This was going to help us learn.

But I cheated. I would look at the keyboard in front of me every time the teacher turned her back. I hated it. I didn’t care if I ever learned to type much less how fast. I only wanted to pass.

Back then I didn’t see any need to learn to type with any degree of proficiency. Yes, there were term papers and projects that I had to type but beyond that my view was typing was for secretaries. And while I had little idea what I wanted to do at the time I knew that was not my career path. It sounded far too traditional for a woman of my feminist leaning mind. Apparently I was not alone in that thought since today we call such individuals administrative assistants.

So I cheated. I didn’t envision a world in which one day we would all be sitting affixed to a computer screen no matter what our job title. I couldn’t imagine that I would communicate with friends and business associates as much through email as I would phone. It never occurred to me that the keyboard would eventually be committed to my memory out of necessity.

So I cheated. I hated when I made a mistake. Hated whiteout and correct-o-tape and all those antique accoutrements that accompanied the days before computers became commonplace.
I hated the noise of the machines and the lining up of carbon paper between sheets if you needed to make a copy.

I cheated. And still somewhere along the line I learned where all the letters sit. I can type and look at the screen in front of me or the blue and green wash of the town of Aspen. I can think and write and not agonize over where each key sits. Mistakes can be corrected as easily as hitting a delete button or spell check.

I confess. I cheated. But I still don’t care how fast I type. Only what I type.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Anniversary To Me!

Today marks one year. It has been 365 days since I began my journey of reinventing life after corporate America. I think it is cause for celebration.

There was a time in my life when I did not think I would survive without the regimentation of daily structure. A time where I did not think I would know what to do if I did not have some place to go each morning. A time when the thought of uncertainty as to where my next source of income might be would have me breaking out in hives. A time where I was satisfied with earning a good living doing something that had long since stopped offering me any creative challenges or made me happy.

Turns out I was wrong. A year has transpired and I am still standing having learned a lot and created a lot.

In one year I began a blog, started a short story that became the jump off point for an entirely new novel, one that is halfway to completion. I learned about social networking, maximizing Facebook, how to Twitter. I have made new friends and jumped into new professional and social circles. I have learned how to stay focused on my dream when dealing with rejection. I understand that finding an editor to love my writing as much as I do and my agent does is as much a subjective process as anything. I have learned that when you love what you do and are your own boss you can work on Sunday and take Tuesday off.

While there are times, particularly in this economic climate ,I am admittedly scared, I have not once questioned my decision. I knew I had no other choice one year ago today than to take this opportunity to pursue my dream. To turn around what others might view as a beyond unfortunate circumstance and create a positive.

So today I am celebrating!! Cards, flowers, dinner invitations, as well as introductions to book editors looking for their next break through author to commemorate the occasion are all most welcome!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Raised on Cronkite

I have been immersed in watching and reading about Walter Cronkite the past few days. I am one of those kids who grew up with Walter in their living rooms, in that far away time when there were really only three television networks to watch and after a certain hour of the day every one of them took a rest and there was nothing left to watch but a test pattern.

I remember that day in 1963 when they sent us home early from P.S. 186 in Bellerose because the President had been shot. I have a snapshot in my head of our neighborhood over run with kids racing home, no one sure what was going on, but everyone knowing it was serious. In that snapshot my mother has the television on, a tissue tucked in her sleeve, looking very sad. The TV was turned to CBS, waiting the next update from Walter Cronkite.

That may not sound like a strange scene to walk home to but it was in 1963. TVs were not the constant din in the background that they are today. And the era of being glued to a screen, flipping channels to see whose coverage was best when something of critical importance was going on had not yet arrived.

But that was a different time. The best news coverage in our house was to be found on CBS and Walter Cronkite was the voice we listened to.

When people say he was the most trusted man in America it makes perfect sense to me. No one questioned what Cronkite said. His integrity was a foregone conclusion. His calm, steady voice never tried to sway you with his personal opinion. He gave you the facts, ones he had checked in advance, the who, what, where, when and why of a situation and let you decide what your opinion was.

By the time my father got home from work we knew the President was dead. My father sat glued to the television set, smoking his cigarette. My mother advised my brother and I it was best not to say too much and to be quiet. I remember sitting on the floor next to him, watching, too young to understand fully the implications of what had happened, but old enough to know it was a big deal. The television was on more in those next days than it had ever been. It is a black and white memory of the way things were before and the way things were after.

Walter Cronkite did not use his powerful platform to sway you in one direction or another. He did not abuse the stature he achieved with scandal to make us question his judgement. He did not report on a story to get a rating, but because it was a story that needed reporting and from there the rating came.

Cronkite was a combination of solid, Midwest upbringing combined with New York sophistication who loved what his job was, loved his wife, his family and was clearly grateful for the life he was blessed with.

I learned from him the importance of forming my own opinion. That getting the facts before jumping to a conclusion was important. I also learned to develop a distaste for the pundits who mistake themselves as reporters, inflecting their voices to incite, hoping in that way their opinion will become your opinion.

While I never really met him, like many others I felt like I knew him. So the day when I was sitting on the Delta Shuttle a dozen or so years ago en route from Washington, DC to NY, I easily recognized the voice of the man speaking to his wife as they took the seats in the row in front of me. And when I caught his eye, he smiled back as if he knew me too.

While his passing is sad in that we are not likely to ever see another Walter Cronkite, the story of his life is a great lesson in how to live, with purpose, integrity, authenticity, passion, humor and a true love of life. We need more of that in the world today.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It Was Always On My Mind

For years I would sit in awe when I met someone who told me that they always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. You know those stories. When I was five I knew I wanted to be a neuro surgeon. At fifteen decided I wanted to be a lawyer. As a freshman in college I knew I wanted to run for government office. And then they grew up and that is exactly what they became.

I was in awe because I never had a dream so defined when I was younger. At least I thought I didn’t.

I have been immersed in old journals of late. Piles and piles of them. The purpose being research for my new book. I wanted to see what I had jotted down that would be helpful as I recreate life in the 80s and 90s.

It turns out that I always knew I should be writing. That whatever I was doing at that moment, whether it was teaching, my early days of sales, or my years in sales management, I wanted to write. I felt better when I was writing. I could breathe easier then. I always saw writing as the next thing I would do.

I knew I had never dreamed of being a teacher, even though I became one. And I will not even for a moment tell you that while I was teaching I was dreaming of one day selling commercial advertising space for radio and television stations. All I knew then was I did not want to teach anymore, selling intrigued me, a radio station with no ratings hired me and from that was borne a very successful career.

My vocations seemed to grow organically. Each one I was good at and for many years in each one happy doing, but they were never my dream. I didn’t think I had one.

But as it turns out from all those journals, I did always know. It was always on my mind. I just took a while to do something serious about it.

Most of what else is in those journals has not helped in my research for my book. Most was incessant chronicling of the various stages of my various romantic relationships.

A friend told me she had burned all of hers. I think I might do the same. But I am glad I haven’t before reading through one more time. If I had I would never have known that writing was always on my mind.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Branding Offline

I don’t miss putting on a suit every day. I don’t miss the robotic motion of getting up to an alarm, rushing out of bed, into the shower, gulping down coffee, dressing and running out the door. I don’t miss the dry cleaning bills. I don’t miss any of that.

I like getting up when I want to. I like that mornings I can go directly to my computer and start writing. I like that some days I have accomplished between 6 and 10 what it used to take me a full day to and still have not showered. I like that I do not have to wear make up every moment of every day. I like that some days I work in gym clothes.

I admit it.

BUT when I have some place to go I open the closet and I dress for it. When I am attending a networking event or a seminar I dress as if I am going to the “office”. I am branding.

So today, when I was racing out the door early to attend a Constant Contact seminar I wore a suit. Yes, it was warm out. Yes I would be sitting for the better part of two hours listening to the rules of permission based marketing. Yes, I suppose I could have slipped on a pair of jeans or capris and a t-shirt and been fine. But I didn’t. I dressed as a professional.

That was how I was raised. That was what I learned in my early days of sales. Presentation is key and it starts with how you present you. Plus whether it was my mother or a manager I worked for, it was ingrained in me, that you never know who you are going to meet. It could be just that person who is going to be pivotal in shaking up your world for the better. So look your best. Be your best. Dress like you mean business.

Maybe what I am about to say ages me. Maybe this sounds ‘old school’. I was a fan of Casual Fridays when still locked away in the corporate world. I was happy to be able to wear my jeans on that one day of the week. Still when I walked into the very full room at 3 West 51st Street this morning I was taken back. There were many who had indeed dressed to impress. They stood out. But there were as many who looked as though their next stop was the tennis court or the park bench.

While we were all there to learn, part of what we were learning was how to better brand our respective products on line through email marketing. I have become a big proponent of social media and on line technologies in the last year. The buzz word there is branding, and not just your product, but you.

Did the gentleman wearing shorts and sneakers and sporting a great tan not think that maybe he might be sitting beside his next big client? That this could be their first touchpoint to his business ? That this was that person's first taste of the brand that is both his product and him?

Of course, maybe he was in the spray tan business and no one told me.

OK, so you might be thinking, that I am now a writer. Why should how I present myself matter? My clients are my readers. What do they care how I look as long as I can write? At the end of the day, if they don’t like my writing it doesn’t matter how presentable I come across.

But I think it does. If I don’t look like I care about myself, why should a potential reader, editor or publisher care. Maybe it is an old school way of thinking. But I would rather engage in business with someone who looks like they care enough about themselves to care about me.

Branding on line is the new black. And I believe in taking full advantage of that. And when given those rare opportunities to brand in person, I believe first impressions count.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vibrational Harmony And Breakfast At Wimbledon

The path of reinvention tests you, trips you and sometimes second guesses you. And when that happens all those things you are striving for, that great vision of what this new life is you are creating seems farther away today than it did when you first embarked on the path. When this happens it is pretty easy to fall out of vibrational harmony.

For those of you who have dipped their toes into such philosophies as The Law of Attraction, you know what I am talking about. For those who don’t the simplest way to explain vibrational harmony, is that in order for you to create what you want, you have to be thinking as if, acting as if, feeling as if what you want is already here. Then you and your desire, goal, intent are all operating on the same vibration.

I wasn’t really aware of how much I had been teetering on a tightrope as far as this harmony thing goes, until I got this note in my email from Esther and Jerry Hicks.

"The things that we would be asking ourselves is, "What proportion of my day am I in vibrational harmony with my desires, which means, how much of my day am I happy, glad, eager, fulfilled, satisfied, complimentary? And what percentage of my day am I ornery, irritated, frustrated, or blaming?" And you don't have to do 100%, you don't have to do 90%, you don't have to do 80%. If you could even get around 55% feeling better, than not feeling so good -- you'd have significant movement in what begins to happen in your experience.--- Abraham" Excerpted from the Abraham-Hicks workshop in San Diego, CA on Saturday, August 11th, 2001

As I read it I had one of those, oh, so that is what has been going on moments. It was clear to me that my vibration was simply not matching up with what I want. For me, it’s usually impatience that throws me off. And I have been quite impatient lately with the speed in which things have been showing up. As with so many things, awareness is halfway to changing. I started paying more attention to get my vibration back in alignment.

Which takes me to last Sunday and the Wimbledon finals. I am not a big sports watcher in general, but tennis is one sport I do enjoy. Perhaps it is the civility of the sport. Perhaps it is those hot men with great legs and the intensity in which they approach their game. But it catches me and once caught I can’t move from the television.

The match between Roger Federer and Andy Roddick will go down in the history books, not just as the longest Wimbledon ever, but also as the one in which Federer beat all Grand Slam records.

It was an incredible event to witness. They were both playing at the top of their game. They were both thinking as if, feeling as if, and acting as if they had already won. Yes, what I saw was two individuals, each clear on what they wanted, each playing in vibrational harmony with that desire. Perhaps that is why the match went on for four and a half hours.

I am not sure what the experts in the philosophy of vibrational harmony would say about the outcome. My guess is that Federer is the one who has been more consistent in his goals. The more consistently you are in vibrational harmony, the more of what it is you want shows up. That might be what those who follow tennis more closely than I would say as well.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

My 4th Of July Spectacular

It wasn’t until July 1 that it dawned on me that the 4th was only days away and I had no specific plans for the holiday.

That never happens to me.

As a rule I am at once spontaneous and a planner. The planner version is usually in overdrive when it comes to holiday weekends. But this has been a very different year in the life and times of me so it would stand to reason that the 4th would be the same.

It hadn’t at all felt strange to have no big plans for the weekend until I realized that it was a holiday. Then it felt weird.

Just a year ago I would have known the holiday was close at hand. I would have been one of the first who would know whether the official bank holiday was Friday or Monday so I could plan accordingly. In fact it would have been written on my calendar months ahead.

The reason? The 4th meant more to me than the birthday of our nation’s independence, the “real” start to the summer and a display of fireworks. It was an extra day off. One that did not count as personal vacation time. That had to be taken full advantage of. That meant a definite change of location.

The stresses of Corporate America are rarely assuaged by days off alone. There needs to be a complete geographic switch in which to regain the sense of balance that world can shake from you and perhaps to look at it all from a fresh perspective.

But I am in my life after Corporate America phase so I forgot.

As it turns out, I did wind up changing geography. Thanks to the generosity of my good friends Nancy Moon and her husband Steve Gordon, I got to escape to their beautiful home on the beach in Fairfield, Connecticut. And I was reminded that with or without corporate craziness, a change of location, a day at the beach and the mesmerizing spectacle of a great display of fireworks is still an important part of keeping life in perspective.

(Fireworks photo is courtesy of Nancy Moon, who in addition to being one of the best PR people out there, is a great photographer.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Taking Note: Claire Cook

I met Claire Cook on Twitter. Yes, for those of you still wondering what the fuss is all about with Twitter, know that if it is nothing, it is a great way to forge new connections with like minded people.

It began on Father’s Day when after posting my blog, I tweeted it. One of my followers then retweeted. If you are as yet unfamiliar with the world of Twitterdom, you follow people and they follow you and you don’t necessarily know each other but there is usually some similar interest that has you connected.

In this case it was writing. The woman who tweeted me had a cute little typewriter in her photo and was in publishing. I thanked Brenda Copeland and after a brief exchange she introduced me to Claire. From what she could tell we had a few things in common and were both writing about reinvention. She thought we should connect.

It turns out Brenda is Claire’s editor at Hyperion. Claire, a best selling author, has written several books, the most notable to date being Must Love Dogs.

I love meeting authors, especially those who have achieved success as Claire has. It’s good karma for me to be around. So we exchanged a few tweets. It turns out her latest novel, The Wildwater Walking Club is centered around a woman who reinvents herself after corporate life.

Yes, you read that right. Reinvents herself after Corporate America. The Universe once again speaking to me, this time via Twitter!

I walked myself over to Barnes and Noble, picked up a copy and dove into this delightful read. To say it resonated with me would be an understatement. Claire captures in a funny, endearing voice the absurdities of what you encounter when there is no need to set the alarm. At the same time she beautifully unveils those moments of ahas ! that appear in the most unexpected places.

What inspires me about Claire is that she did not publish her first book until she was 45. She walked down the red carpet for the first time at 50 for the Hollywood premiere of the movie version of Must Love Dogs. She once taught school, worked for a large corporation as well as a radio station and knows that there is no problem that cannot be worked out through the discipline of a good walk. So maybe what inspires me most is that with eerily similar backgrounds, she has achieved the success I aspire to.

This is a great read for anyone who is unsure that there is another way than the corporate way, is in transition now, or is just in search of an entertaining, inspiring story of possibility.

(To the men who read my blog, please note this is classified in the women’s fiction category.)