Thursday, February 26, 2009

In Search of the Muse

I did not leave the house once today. Not once. It had not been my intention yesterday, but today when I awoke I decided to stay sequestered and get some writing done. I did not even venture downstairs to check my mail.

I have been known to do this in the past. Not leave the house for a whole day. But when I had an office to go to, that would only happen on a weekend when I needed to decompress. Never a Thursday when the rest of the world all seems to be someplace.

I forgot what happens when I plan to write. I can’t. But I keep trying to focus because I have to get something done. You see, I still hold myself to the self imposed standards I did when I had that corporate job. THINGS must be accomplished, every day, all day. Push, push, push.

Since I couldn’t write, I tried to accomplish little things in the hopes the little stuff would lead to words. I cleaned up email. I tried to figure out how to best connect this blog with my blog on the 85 Broads site. I made a few phone calls.

But still I wandered, desperately wanting to get that urge to let my fingers go flying on the keyboard. But the muse couldn’t seem to find me.

So I resorted to what I often do when I can’t get anything done. I clean. I have this idea that if my apartment is freshly dusted and vacuumed the muse will find it more inviting to visit.

An hour later, my apartment sparkled but the muse was still nowhere to be found. I thought maybe Oprah would help me find her, so I clicked on one of the three episodes that I had saved in my DVR. It turned out to be Lisa Ling covering the newly homeless now living in tents in Sacramento looking for a way out. Not only did I not find my muse, I was swirling into the vortex of the economic mess we are in and having one of my, what in the world am I doing embarking on a new career right now, it’s a tough world out there, moments.

So I decided to lay down for a bit. It is what I have always done when things get to be a bit too much. Go lay down for a bit.

And then who showed up as I was lying there, starting to giggle at the absurdity of myself. Yes, my muse.

I remembered that I had days like these, where it seemed impossible to get anything of substance accomplished, when I still had an office to go to. And sometimes the very thing I did when that happened was exactly what I started doing today. I cleaned.

I straightened up the papers. Dusted those places the cleaning people never got to. I made room to get things done the next day. I closed up shop feeling accomplished. I stopped trying so hard.

And as I lay there remembering and giggling, I realized I had to get up. Suddenly I had something to write. I had a blog to post. Just like that. When I stopped for a moment and stopped trying so hard to find the muse, the muse found me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Something REALLY Interesting

I am a big fan of Seth Godin. If you are not familiar with his blog and his books, I suggest you indulge yourself. Seth is the blogger all bloggers aspire to. He blogs most every day, occasionally twice a day, even on the weekends. He makes you think. His message is concise and consistent. He is inspiring. He has something important to say.

Today is Seth’s 3000th consecutive blog. From someone like me who has only recently started blogging ( this is blog # 21) I am in awe. That is a lot of material to turn out, a lot of ideas to share, a lot of important information to spread, a lot of dedication to his passion.

In honor of this milestone he asked those who already blog to blog about something really interesting today. So I am choosing to blog about Seth Godin.

I think what Seth has to say is interesting. A friend once remarked that he states the obvious. Why, they asked, did they need to read the obvious? I suppose that is true, at least for those that find what he says obvious. But what about those who don’t? Those who need to be pointed to the obvious. Or those who know the obvious, but choose to ignore it or forget about it?

I think it’s obvious that not enough people heed the kind of things Seth writes about. I think it’s obvious that most choose to ignore the obvious. I think it’s obvious that the genius in Seth Godin is he remembers the basics to good marketing and embraces the wonders that new tools and technologies (like the blog and the internet) bring to the table. I think it’s obvious that Seth Godin sees the obvious and still sees a vision.

Seth might not think writing a blog today about him is REALLY interesting. But I do. I think it’s obvious.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just a Thought

I have more time to think than I used to. I like that time. It’s generally when my best creative ideas are hatched. Lately I’ve been thinking about how little it seems people do that. Think that is.

There are a multitude of examples. My latest personal favorite being the Republican Senator from Ohio who last week claimed that FDR’s New Deal caused the Great Depression. Didn’t he think to check a history book to see when exactly the Depression started and when FDR came into office before he spoke? And then there was yesterday, with those editors at the NY Post and that political cartoon on the stimulus bill. Can they really be surprised at the controversy over this?

Maybe it’s my mother always ingraining in us growing up to stop and think before we speak. Maybe it was the first boss who told me when I got into advertising sales that I was paid to think. I happen to think, thinking is important. I also happen to think we don’t seem to put enough value on it anymore.

No, it appears we’re all too busy running to do something, to remember to think.

We value being busy. When we are busy it is assumed we are accomplishing something. The value is on the doing. And if we are doing, it is assumed we accomplish and if we accomplish, well, there must be something in the form of tangible revenue that has now hit the bottom line. And really, isn’t that what we have come to value most?

Rodin captured the act of thinking in his statue. A moment of reflection and quiet to let ones thoughts roam and let the creativity flow. I wonder what would happen if we all stopped more to do that. If we paused and said, let’s think a minute before we do that or say that. Is that me thinking or my sharpened pencil thinking as I slash another line item in this budget? What great new idea might be ready to burst through if we took a bit more time to think?

That's what I've been thinking. Just a thought.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

85 Broads


That was the conversation at the 85 Broads Power Breakfast I attended Tuesday. I did not know when I signed up that the subject was the one I blog about. It was the first event I had attended since I became a member. I had joined to network and had come to the breakfast to network. I did not know I had also come to be inspired.

I had been introduced to 85 Broads by my friend Nancy Moon. Moon is a savvy PR pro who is always wired into what is going on. So when I asked, wasn’t this just for Wall Street women, she knew that they had been on an expansion to include women in other industries. 85 Broads, founded by Janet Hanson, is now 18,000 women globally.

So I followed her lead, filled out the membership application and kept my fingers crossed I would get accepted. I did.

Which is how I came to be at sitting at AJ Maxwell’s on Tuesday morning eating scrambled eggs and fruit salad.

The energy in the room was decidedly different than it was outside. It was positive. The enthusiasm of the women was evident. This is hard to come by these days as the sky is said to be falling in New York. I didn’t know that was just the beginning. You see, under the list of benefits to membership is that this network will make you feel empowered. And that is what they proceeded to do.

Janet Hanson welcomed the group, reminding everyone that when you are reinventing it is important that you surround yourself with those who are brave. She then introduced two such women Alison Levine, founder of DareDevil Strategies and the Climb High Foundation and Kristen M. Fox, Founder and Principle of FoxInspires LLC.

Both women believe in reinventing yourself every three years. Which puts me a little behind as I am now working on #3 of a lifetime. They both believe that you really have to love what you are doing. Passion is everything. I am good here. I am without a doubt doing what I love. And they are both believers that fear is part of the process and a good thing. OK. I experience fear ALL the time. I like the idea of embracing it.

What struck me the most were two things that Alison Levine suggested. One was that what puts you at the greatest risk is complacency. The second that you have to believe you are going to make it. There is no choice.

I have attended many such networking events over the years. I felt a difference with this group immediately when I walked in the room. Here amidst all the craziness in the world was a group of women who know they are going to make it and are smart enough to surround themselves with women who believe the same thing.

85 Broads was originally founded by Janet Hanson in 1997. It was named as such because the original group of woman all worked for Goldman Sachs at 85 Broad Street. One of the benefits it lists of membership is feeling empowered. I left feeling exactly that, empowered and as Janet Hanson said in her opening remarks, surrounded by women who are brave.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Guilty Pleasure

I confess. I love Dancing With The Stars. I confess that I log on and vote for my favorites. I confess that when a season of the show is over, I am in withdrawal. So much so that I confess that last night I drove to the Prudential Center in Newark to see the Dancing with the Stars Tour.

I am not a reality show fan. I have never seen an episode of American Idol or Survivor. I can barely look at the promos for The Biggest Loser. But when the season starts on Dancing with the Stars, my DVR is set. And when I saw the tickets go on sale for the tour, I was there.

People often look at me cross eyed when I tell them of my fascination for the show. It is that same look I get when I tell them I have decided to pursue my writing career and not get another job selling ad time. REALLY?? You are kidding ?? YOU??

Yes. Really. Me.

If you have ever danced you know that in order to, you must be entirely present. You can’t be thinking about the shrinking size of your 401K or you will trip and stumble. As it turns out that is true merely sitting in the audience. There is no space for the 24/7 barrage of media coverage on the sorry state of the world. There is only room for the sheer joy of watching people having fun.

The allure for me is the total escapism into a world of movement and music that allows my imagination to run. And the thing I think is so great is that when your imagination is in high gear it stirs your creativity and when that happens you remember the endless possibilities of what can be.

And really, we can all use a little reminder that it is possible to create a new order out of this mess and it just might be, if we allow ourselves to imagine it, better than the one we have been holding on to.

Last night I escaped. I indulged. The new season starts on March 9, just eleven days before Spring. I am taking that as a sign that things are moving in the right direction.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Out of the Dark

For years I woke in the dark, the alarm set at 5AM in the hopes that by 5:30 I would have gotten myself up out of bed. The degree of darkness at that time of day in NYC varies from a winter shade so black that you can barely see out your window, to that in summer, when the sun is already streaking through the midnight blue to morning.

I taught myself to like getting up early. I had no choice. At some point in my life in the corporate world I got that the only way to accomplish all that I needed was to start the day with an edge. I did not do it because I believed that being an early bird was going to garner me the proverbial worm or some such equivalent. It was purely time management.

And it worked.

I marvel when I think of all I used to accomplish in a day. It takes a lot of coordinating to try and lead a balanced life. While that word, balance, implies some sort of Zen state, the attempts to get there can often feel like more like running a relay race. Getting up before the sun did proved to be my answer.

These days I move slower. The sun is my alarm and not my clock radio. While I have my days when I feel I am the same task mistress I have always been, I never feel like I have accomplished as much as I used to.

But maybe that is because I am comparing it to that life when a day was all about measuring how much got done, not necessarily what. The quantity was so paramount that it left little time to think about the quality.

Now when I get up before the sun it is more from the enjoyment of it and not the burden of all that needs to get done that day. I still think it gives me an edge. After all, it’s not noon yet and I have already posted a blog !