Sunday, August 30, 2009

Staycation's All I Ever Wanted

So I am still in vacation mode and am planning on staying like that until after the Labor Day weekend. Which is why my posts have been limited recently. Mine is a hybrid staycation, with my travels taking me only so far as the East End of Long Island.

With that in mind, it was was pointed out by my good friend and brilliant artist, Linda Eckstein, one needn't go very far if they call New York home to feel as though they are traveling the world.

Check out Linda Eckstein's New York. The inspiration was the multitude of cuisine to choose from on the Upper West Side. Yes, somewhere above 59th Street between CPW and West End Avenue, a restaurant exists for each and every one of these exotic locales!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What's A Blogger To Do When They Don't Have A Blog To Post ?

This is the thing with having a blog. It takes care and feeding. You have to be consistent or your readers wonder where you have gone or, worse yet, just forget about you.

But sometimes you just can’t think of anything you really want to blog about.

That’s where I’ve been. A blogger without a blog to post.

Once I got into the swing of blogging I started planning ahead. On Sunday I would have a pretty good idea of what I was going to post that week. Sometimes, and this is what I strive for, by Sunday night they are all in the cue and ready to be published.

That was working really well until this past weekend. I could not think of anything I really wanted to blog about. I thought perhaps it was because it’s August. Here we are in the last week of the month with the summer about to be over. I’m in vacation mode. But do you really ever get a vacation when you blog?

My thoughts are to the beach, the pool, drinking in the last days of summer before I go “back to school” and get really serious about life again. That leaves me inspired only to play. Which is what I’ve been doing.

I thought perhaps it was my self imposed moratorium on taking in too much news. News often inspires me to blog. But the noise and chatter about Health Care Reform or Not to Reform has been tiresome and filled with so much misinformation I have found it exhausting. So I am on vacation from that. At least until the US Open starts.

And here I am, not quite 300 words later,still left with the question. What do you do when you are a blogger without a story to blog? Does anyone know?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Contact Lessons

I recently got my first pair of contact lenses. My distance vision is still fine, but without my reading glasses, this computer screen I am writing on becomes nothing more than a blurred vision of gibberish.

I never thought contact lenses would be for me. I am generally a squeamish sort who could barely get an eye drop in without it running down her cheek. The idea of anything foreign floating in my eye left me edgy. But when not one, but two of my girlfriends started raving about these multi focal lenses they had just gotten, I decided to give it a try.

I left my eye doctor with my trial pair, an instruction sheet for the first time I put them without the guidance of one of his staff, and a starter kit of cleaning solution and moisturizing drops.

I learned quickly this was not going to be easy. In fact, it was going to be frustrating. I was going to have to practice something that is always a challenge for me, patience.

My first solo attempt was like an episode of I Love Lucy. I kept misplacing the right one. Once I found it on the floor. The left one got folded in half and while the instructions made it sound very simple to unfold, I did not find that to be the case.

My frustration level was high. Of course the more frustrated I got, the more difficult it seemed. So I walked away and waited.

Then I came back and tried again. This time it worked. First the left and then the right. I could do this! It was possible!

I was feeling pretty proud a few days into it. I was getting the lenses in and out in less than a half hour. That was until I had a set back.

I accidentally had torn the left one in half. It got caught on the edge of the container and I didn’t notice it was not in all the way. A couple of screws on the lid and that lens saw an early death.

I was really frustrated now. Maybe reading glasses were just easier. Why was I making things harder? So what if once they were in, I could see all my food in front of me. Did I really need to see what looked to be a new crease at the corner of my eye? Cleaning the kitchen is a lot quicker when I can’t see all the dirt that has accumulated.

But I called the eye doctor anyway and had them order my full set. For I am not a quitter.

Now a few weeks into it, I have gotten the hang of things. Some days it is a little harder, but I always get them in. I wait if I am having trouble and try again when I feel refreshed. And then it works. Most times, at least.

I’ve learned my contact lessons. Like my journey to publication, this has its moments of frustration. At that point, it is better to pause, breathe, reassess and then try again. And each time is better, each time easier, each time closer to perfect.

My near vision is definitely better with my contacts than my reading glasses. My distance suffers a bit. But perhaps there is a lesson in that too. Maybe for right now, I don’t need to be looking that far away. Maybe for right now, I need to be concentrating on what is right in front of me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Taking Note: Karen Quinn

I have been taking notes on Karen Quinn since the first day I met her. Until then most of the authors I knew personally where the ones I had paid to take a class with.

I was in awe. At the time Karen had just published her second book, Wife in the Fast Lane. She had come to writing later in life, having started out in a profession (she holds a degree in law) and then spending fifteen years in the Corporate world working for American Express. She had reinvented herself more than once, this time as a successful published author. Her background bore similarities to my own. I wanted to know her.

Lucky for me I got to.

Since that time Karen has published two more novels, Holly Would Dream and her most recent The Sister Diaries. The film rights to her first book, The Ivy Chronicles have been optioned, with a script currently in the works and Sarah Jessica Parker signing to star in it.

I chose to write about Karen today for two reasons. The first being that she inspires me. Karen is living my dream. She reminds me publication after rejection is indeed possible. And because Karen is not just another author, but a friend she gives me an inside eye into the ups and the downs that happen when you choose writing as a career.

For instance, you can have success and still have challenges. You can find publication in the UK and not in the US. In fact, her latest book, The Sister Diaries has hit the best seller list there.

I just finished The Sister Diaries and found it to be a fun, entertaining, often hilarious read and my favorite of all her books to date. Karen has a gift for this genre of women's fiction.

I also found this another reminder of the puzzling world of the US publishing industry at the current moment, where $2 million advances are often awarded to books that will never see that return and good story is challenged to find a home. Fortunately for us all, Amazon has a UK branch and makes it easy, seamless and relatively inexpensive to ship this particular good story right to your door.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rejection Is Not A Four Letter Word

There is a reason most people don’t go for their dreams. It’s called rejection. The words that first come to mind for me when describing rejection are not words I would write here. On line or on air, they would be a series of four letter words. Something like this. !!##**@//\\/#!!! But you get my drift?

It’s not pleasant. It’s exhausting. It’s frustrating. It serves only to make one question. Am I doing the right thing? Is this really what I want? Am I really good enough? There are easier ways to make a living.

But I’ve already gone that route. And easy doesn’t make happy.

Yes, in case you haven’t figured it out already I got another rejection on my first novel last week.

Rejection is not a four letter word. It is part of the process. I get that. In my twenty five years of corporate life, selling those snippets of air on radio and television stations I learned how to deal with the dreaded NO, WE don’t want what YOU have. It toughens your skin. You learn how to bounce back quickly, because really, there is no other choice.

But rejection is different when you are a writer than when you are a salesperson. It’s easier when the product being rejected is some inanimate object of nothingness like air time and not something you have created that contains part of your heart and soul.

As a salesperson I knew exactly what to do when someone said they didn’t want to buy my station. I asked the reasons why, got a sense of what I might do differently next time and dialed another number on my list of prospects. But as a writer you don’t have that much control. The industry has been so designed that your agent is the person who does that for you. It leaves me feeling a bit helpless with the only constructive thing left to do, to keep writing.

But I never keep writing when I get news of a rejection. I have to wallow for a bit. Rant. Rave. Question. My head, for those moments, is out of the lives of my characters and into my own.

This time I gave myself the entire afternoon. I had been up since 4:30AM and writing for over three hours before I found out. So I called it a day and went to a movie. I chose Julie and Julia. Pretty apropos, huh?

The thing I am learning about rejection is that my years of selling prepared me well and have given me an advantage in dealing with it that many writers don’t have. The latest rejection stopped me from writing only momentarily, long enough to dwell in my disappointment and see an inspiring movie. This one reminded me that selling a novel is a lot like finding true love. It can involve a lot of rejection, it’s a matter of personal taste, timing is everything but in one split second it all connects and your world is forever turned around.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #10, The Last In The Series

Keep a Sense of Humor

Someone at the gym recently told me that every time you laugh you burn three calories. If that isn't reason enough to keep your sense of humor I don’t know what else is.

But seriously…don’t take yourself too seriously. Some days that is easier said than done. But high drama serves no one, least of all yourself. I firmly believe that the people who will do the best during these times are those who see it all as an opportunity and laugh and giggle their way as they create what's next or if they are like me or some of the folks in the Lemonade Movie trailer, reinvent themselves.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #9

Get to Know You Again

Many years ago someone remarked to me that the best thing that had happened as a result of him losing his job, was that he had gotten the chance to know himself again. Somewhere along the line, his position had become so consuming, there was no separation between him and the job. When he suddenly had time to look in the mirror he didn't really know who he was any more.

I suggest making a list of all those things you haven’t had time for and do it, no matter how simple. A trip to MOMA or an afternoon at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. Think about what you used to do, before your life got so hectic, when you had the time to wile away an afternoon, and do it. And remember to enjoy it without letting the worry about when the 'what's next' is going to start. Treat this period as a gift to reenergize yourself as you prepare for what will be your next success.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #8

Make New Friends But Keep The Old

Stay in contact with the network you have already cultivated. Even if like me, your aspiration is to create something entirely unrelated in your career as you move forward, don’t forget about those folks. In this interconnected world you just never know how one person leads to another. Just remember, the onus is on you, the one who left to keep those relationships alive.

But make new friends. Widen your circle. Get out there and mingle in person. If you feel naked without a business card in hand, order some inexpensive ones on line from sites like Vista Print.
I am a big believer in social networks, but nothing will ever replace good old fashioned in person conversation to really forge a new connection.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #7

Learn Something New

Take a class. Maybe it is that drawing class you always wished you had time for. Or maybe it is a skill that will make you more marketable when you are ready to go back to work.
Read a book. One from that pile you bought that you never got around to. Learn how to use Google Reader so you can start reading more blogs than just this one.

Think about what you would REALLY want to do if money was no object. If it's not what you were doing, then see if you can figure out a way to make money doing this new thing. Maybe this is the time to just do it.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #6


Get rid of the stuff that you were holding on to from your last job. You know, what you kept around, just in case. Unless it was really important and might be useful in another endeavor some day, get rid of it. I am partial to purging on days like today, when the sky is overcast and the morning light grey. It sets the mood.
Purging feels good, often cleansing. Especially, if like me, you get a thrill out of putting that shredder into overheat.
There are many, myself included, who believe a good sage smudge after a purge will rid your home of any lingering energy associated with that old job. While that might seem a little too "out there" for some of you, keep in mind that this is an ancient tradition that will only help with the letting go of that old place of employment as you move forward to your next success.
But even if you forgo the sage part, Purge. Now.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #5

Take Care of You

Exercise. Even if you weren't doing it before, exercise now. Go to the gym. Play tennis. Ride a bike. It can be as simple as walking in the park.

Eat well.

Shower, get dressed and get out of the house every day. This was the hardest for me in the dead of winter. It was cold out there and I had plenty to do inside where it was nice and warm. In fact for the first time in my life I developed a Vitamin D deficiency from lack of sunshine.

But get out. Create excuses for yourself. And I don’t mean just taking the elevator downstairs to get the mail and chat with the doorman. Even if it is just to indulge in a Starbucks down the block, get out.

Lastly, try not to drown yourself in alcohol. That will only serve to keep you lingering at the edge of depression.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #4

Social Network

This might be especially scary for the over 40 set, but if you have not yet been on Facebook or Linkedin, if you still don't get Twitter, take the cyber leap, sign yourself up and see what is going on. This is a great way to dip your toe back in as you start to widen your network.

Connections are being made every day and not just with your long lost friend from college. Information is exchanged. Yes, some is useless, but a lot more is not. Make some new business friends without ever leaving your house. And remember, you can no longer simply send out your resume and hope someone will call you back.

Case in point. Read about the job search The Murphy Goode Winery just completed. They created a cyber campaign as they set search for the newly created position of social media strategist. Yes, that is an actual job. Not only did one lucky person get hired but the brand received over $7 million in publicity.

Lastly, let's not forget these networks take some of the loneliness out of not going to an office. When you want to see what the conversation for the day is about, you can just sign on and see what people are talking about. It’s like hanging out at a giant water cooler in cyberspace.

Pink Slip Advice #3

Avoid The Naysayers.

There are too many out there who believe what is going on in the economy is the end of the world. Their energy is thick and lethal and will only make you want to retreat back into your mourning period and pull the covers over your head. Stay away from them.

There are those who will be afraid to get too close to you because they are certain that what you have (unemployment disease) might be catching. There is so much fear circulating these days around having a job or not having one that it can be physically debilitating if you are not careful. In the words of FDR, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.".

Remember, this is only the end of a chapter in your book. There is a new one waiting to be written. Find like minded people who are creating new things and believe the sun always rises. Keep them close.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #2

Do Not Start Interviewing Immediately

Before you get yourself back out there, make sure you have completed your mourning period. There is no surer way not to get a job than still seething over the fact you don't have one.

Next start thinking about what you REALLY want to do next and get clear on it before you sit in front of a potential employer.

Maybe like me it is time for complete reinvention. If you are willing to go for it and have an idea that moves you, this is a great time to go the entrepreneurial route. Maybe you still love corporate life, but want to go in a slightly different direction. Whatever it is, make sure you know what you want before you take an interview.

There are jobs out there. Maybe not as many, but there are jobs. I have friends who dove right back into another Corporate job. But if that is what you want, remember , no one is going to hire, especially in this climate, someone who is not absolutely certain of what they want to do next. So take the time to figure it out. An interviewer has the luxury of a talented, large pool to tap into it. The ones who get the jobs are the ones who are positive and certain. So make sure you are one of the certain ones before you take an interview.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pink Slip Advice #1

In my first year of non corporate life I have gotten more calls than I can count from those who have joined the ranks of what I like to refer to as the Pink Slip generation, one that is not defined by demographics, but instead by a Cobra package and a letter of separation agreement.

I listen to the uneasiness and apprehension in their voices. Even those who were expecting it or see it as a door opening instead of one closing have shaky voices as they wrap their arms around the idea.

While the consensus in this past week's news seems to be that we have reached a turning point in the recession, one pointed up, it is expected that unemployment will be the last to recover, in fact it might still get a little worse.

So I have decided to impart what I have learned, my advice for those with pink slips in hands, in a series of blogs. It's my collection of all those things no one advises you when it happens. If you are not a pink slip holder (and I hope you aren't) you probably know someone who is. In which case, please pass these on to them.

#1 Mourn

Give yourself a set amount of time to mourn your loss. This is a big deal. It was your livelihood, your income, perhaps it was and still is your passion.

So really mourn. Once the numbness of the initial shock has faded, feel sorry for yourself. Do nothing. Dress in black if that makes you feel better. Write a hate letter and then take the shredder out. Watch those pages ripped to ribbons and let go of that anger and resentment. It serves to hurt no one but yourself.

But keep the timer on . Decide in advance how long you want your mourning period to be. The Greeks believe in 40 days to mourn a loss. ( Hence the name of my first book) They believe that is the amount of time a soul wanders the earth, making amends before it ascends to heaven. Yes, this is a job, but really, it is also a death in another form.

For you, mourning may be a week, two weeks, maybe a month. If you are financially able I always suggest taking a good long break before the job search ensues. Even if you can't, you still need to mourn this, only in a shorter period of time.

After which, let go of the sadness, the anger, the resentment and the fear. It WILL be alright. Besides, it's almost time to start thinking about what is next and what's that is going to look like.