Monday, March 30, 2009

Why I Love Facebook

I first signed up for Facebook at the suggestion of my dear friend Karen Quinn. Until then I thought it was just for teenagers. But I listen to Karen’s advice. After all, Karen’s journey of reinvention has been hugely successful. The author of several books including The Ivy Chronicles, Wife in the Fast Lane and Holly Would Dream, Karen also once inhabited a windowed office in Corporate America. Facebook, she told me, would be a good platform to promote my blog and my writing.

But she hadn’t told me everything about it.

Like the fact that it can be a little addicting. That sometimes when I can’t get myself to write, I can manage to spend hours trolling for friends, past and present. That I know more of the goings on with my Big Fat extended Greek Family than I did when I didn’t have a profile up. That I might reconnect with people I had not heard from in decades.

No kidding. Decades.

The other day, I got an email from an old college friend who I had not seen since her wedding day! You know, one of those people who you spent years with living in each other’s back pocket until somehow life gets in the way and you lose touch. She found me on Facebook and signed up just so she could get in touch with me!

So, yes, Facebook can be a time grabber if you are not careful, but it is also a wonderful way to stay connected to friends all over the globe.

The thing I marvel about it most is the irony. I am of that age that remembers when there were only three major networks to watch on television. The rapid intrusion of technology has been something I have embraced yet questioned. One of the reasons for that is the concern I have had that it distances us from humans. That if we are not careful it can keep us isolated, more mesmerized with the computer screen than another warm body.

But Facebook is one of those technologies that connects on line and off line. It actually creates community instead of dividing it. Now that I work from home, when I need a fifteen minute break, instead of walking down the hall to chat with a coworker, I can sign on to Facebook and see who’s around.

I went on Facebook to market my brand and make new connections. I hadn’t counted on all the old friends and colleagues I would find. Karen hadn’t told me everything.

And my old college friend. We’re taking it offline and meeting for lunch in a few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.

Friday, March 27, 2009

I am a Writer

It still feels awkward when people ask what I do. Sometimes the words come easily.
I am a writer. Other times I stumble and trip. After all for twenty five years I had a different answer. Saying I am a writer now instead of an Ad Sales executive can sometimes feel like I have changed my name.

You would think after 8 months I would have my sea legs and Writer, Novelist, Blogger would easily slide off my tongue.

Not quite. Not yet.

Traveling this last week offered lots of good practice. Conversing with strangers along the way, exchanging stories, always gets to what do you do?

I noticed something this trip that I had not noticed before. When people asked what I did I heard the question as how do I make my money? Because, after all isn’t that what the conversation seems to revert to all day, every day, these days. Money. How you make it. How you lose it. How hard it is to come by.

That was what was making me stumble. Not the newness of my work. It was what I was hearing. How do you make your money? Not what do you do? Are you living your passion?

Corporate life was all about making money. Especially in sales. Every move you made all day, needed to get traced back to the revenue that came in as a result.

I write every day. I work at all those things that will eventually produce money from it, my blogs, my stories, expanding my network, shopping my novels. But there is not yet, a direct correlation to money in. And that’s what throws me. I am used to a linear line from point A to point B.

My corporate days were the embodiment of instant gratification. You made a pitch, you got a sale. Or not. Then you were on to the next prospect. Push, push. No time to waste.

My writing days are not like that. The gratification sometimes comes in the form of a piece I am really proud of, the next few pages of my story that flow easily or a great comment on my blog. Some days there is none. And right now, the money has yet to appear.

So when I am asked what do I do and I hear how do I make my money, it is not so much because I am not used to saying, I am a writer, it is from my conditioning that what we do must have a direct, linear and instant line to making money.

The world is changing a lot these days. So is how I answer the question what do I do and how do I make my money.

I am a writer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring Break 2009

If you’ve been wondering where I have been the last week, I took a break. I suppose proper blogging etiquette would say I should have posted a warning, but I didn’t. I admit it was my guilt. I guess I thought if I just disappeared no one would know my plan was to get on a plane and head for warmer weather.

I hadn’t yet reconciled with the fact that it was OK to need the break, even though some might argue I have been on a break since last August. I hadn’t come to terms with the idea that I was going against today’s constant current of hoarding what money is saved and living with a vision of scarcity. Instead I was going to splurge a few dollars, or as I see it now, invest them.

So last Thursday, I boarded a plane out of LGA for South Beach. While many things have changed over the years, my love of the beach has not. I was and always will be a beach bum. While many extol the evils of the sun on our skin I believe a good sunscreen, large hat, moderation and a big umbrella will let just enough Vitamin D soak in and restore perspective to life. Besides there is nothing quite like the sound of the ocean to soothe the soul.

And it did. I checked into the Sagamore Hotel. I did not write. I did not blog. I did not think about my dwindling 401K. I sat on my chaise lounge and let my mind empty, thankful when the person next to me was speaking French and I could dream only of the South of France.

My change of scenery proved the perfect antidote to this very long, cold and snowy winter. As I toasted the first day of spring under the shade of a palm tree, I was reminded of how important it is to not hold on to tightly in these times. A little letting go opens up so much more. As if to prove my point and that my investment in myself was wise, the Universe gave me the grandest of winks. The stock market finished the week up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Joy In The Simple Things

One of the really great things about my life now is the joy that I can find in the simple things. A lot of that has to do with having time to do the simple things instead of pay someone else to do it.

Case in point. Cleaning.

I don’t remember exactly when I got my first cleaning lady, but it seems that throughout my corporate working life I paid one. The busier things got and the further up the ladder I went, the last thing I wanted to do with my Saturday was clean. Besides the fact is I never really was much of one for liking the idea of cleaning and getting my hands dirty. Not to mention the havoc it would wreck on my manicure.

So in addition to that weekly nail appointment, a cleaning lady was added to the ever growing list of my personal payroll.

But when last August rolled around and I received my pink folder the first thing that I cut was my cleaning lady. It no longer seemed a justifiable expense. I can’t say I was looking forward to running my own vacuum, and I was certainly not convinced I would do as good a job as her, but things were different now and I needed to pay more attention to money out.

I expected I would miss her. I expected I would dread cleaning. I expected I would every so often call and ask her to come in and clean the way it should be cleaned.

I never expected that I would do a better job than her. Never. And I never expected to find out that I would like to clean. That I would find joy in something as simple as cleaning.
Yes I said it. I like to clean.

I like the feeling of accomplishment it brings especially when I am having one of those days that writers have where there are no words for the page. If I wipe the streaks off the hall mirror, I am amazed at what else becomes clearer. Suddenly I am writing that sentence in my head I couldn’t get out before.

It happened again this morning. I wanted to blog, but the page was blank. No ideas. Nada. Until I started cleaning the kitchen.

I have learned a lot in these last months. I have found cleaning is a way to break writer’s block. I find I don’t need a weekly manicure. I have found I can cut expenses and not feel it. But mostly I have found the joy in the simple things, like cleaning.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

World Wide Rave

One of the really great things about my life now is that I have time to learn. Not that I wasn’t learning new things when I was caught up in 9 to 5 but it was a lot harder then, especially when you are on the sales end. Revenue producers, particularly in the current economic climate, are expected to produce revenue, nothing more. Carving out an afternoon to do something like partaking in a seminar, something that is not a linear connection to the next sale is often seen as a waste of precious selling time. The idea that investing a few hours of listening will more than pay for itself gets lost. It sounds short sighted but that is what happens all too often.

But now I can take a break from writing to go learn something new. My new boss (that being me) believes in stepping back for a moment in order to go further. In fact I find when I take the break I come back full of fresh ideas and writing more.

So yesterday I got to go to NYU for the book launch of World Wide Rave, by David Meerman Scott who also wrote The New Rules of Marketing and PR.

I was excited for two reasons. One being that an author loves to see another author launch their new book. That is good karma! And secondly because this was about marketing. And while I am no longer a member of the rank and file of sales and marketing, I am still very much interested in it plus I have a new product to brand. Me and my writing. And I want to stay on top of how to best do that.

Not too long into his talk as he was giving his background, he hit on the pivotal point that took him to a career as a writer, author, and international speaker. He got fired from his job in 2002. That opened the door to doing what he does now which is clearly his passion. Needless to say, I was already entranced. Fired. Laid off. They all mean the same. Someone other than yourself made a decision for you to do something else. David chose, as I am now doing, to follow his heart.

Having listened to many people speak over the years, it is always evident to me when someone speaks from their passion. Their message makes you listen differently. They are genuinely happy. And that authenticity makes their work look more like fun. Pure passion does that.

David’s message is about creating a World Wide Rave. The idea being that with today’s technology anyone with good content worth sharing can find success with one big caveat, that the traditional ways of doing that need to be reexamined. Change. That word seems to be everywhere these days.

Obviously he had a lot more to say than that. I was intrigued to learn further, so I bought his book. I recommend that you do too. It is available for free for the next few days on Kindle, but I bought a good old hard copy. I still like the feel of turning a page, the smell of opening a new book. That is one change I am not quite ready to embrace. I am however changing how I think about marketing and how I , too, will create my own World Wide Rave. Stay tuned.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Trying to Quit

I keep telling myself I am going to stop watching the news. But I can’t seem to do it. It is like some horrible addiction. If I turn off the TV, hide The New York Times, and never allow my browser to go to I would be fine. But I keep getting drawn back in.

I liken it to an alcoholic who finds themselves in an endless sea of bars where everyone is offering them a drink. They say no and then start to weaken. Maybe just a little sip. What could that hurt? They think this time it will be different. They’ll be able to handle it. But it isn’t. They can’t.

Now that I work out of my house, I feel I have to connect with the media every so often just in case there is something important happening out there that might affect my day. Like the 1 train not running. Or the Dow going back above 7000.

But I am trying to break this habit, because frankly the news is just too depressing. It sucks the creativity right out of me and leaves me not able to write a word, staring off into the abyss, praying that the world will not end before I get my novels published. It keeps me stuck when I want to move forward.

I’m thinking that the answer is Jon Stewart as my primary source of news. He seems to have a handle on things. A case in point was his rant last week on CNBC. And no matter how absurd or bad the news is that day, at least he makes me laugh.

It’s either that or calling Al Anon and seeing if they’ll set up a new group for news junkies. Recovery would be a good thing for all of us and might even help the economy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Guilt and Bathrobes

I am not sure exactly when it will be, if ever, that I stop feeling guilty when I find myself still in my bathrobe at 10AM on a Wednesday. The guilt is unfounded. It is not as though I have not gotten anything done. I have already managed to write four pages in Seduced by Corporate America. That by any writer’s standard is already an accomplished day.

Yet, I still feel a bit guilty.

So ingrained am I in that office mentality, that you must get up in the dark, shower, dress and be out the door by a quarter to eight in order to work, that I still, now eight months into this, feel guilty.

I know I am not alone sitting in my bathrobe. I know this morning work attire is not limited to writers, but to all my entrepreneur friends who keep home offices. Some sit in their pajamas. Some in their sweats. Some (and sometimes this is me) sit in their gym clothes after a morning run.

I love being able to get up and get right to work. I often wake up with that new idea for where to go next in my story line. Or a new idea for a blog. And I love that I can turn on my computer and get those words out while they are still fresh in my mind, instead of just jotting down a note for later. I love there is not the delay of having to shower and put on make up first before I can work. There are no coworkers distracting me from diving right in. There are no fires that someone else started that I am now responsible to put out.

There is just me, my computer and the page to be filled. And of course, my guilt.

But perhaps the guilt is not from being in my bathrobe writing? Perhaps it is simply because I am happy doing it. That despite all the craziness and uncertainty out there at this very moment, all the 24/7 news sources telling me how miserable I should be, I am happy. I am doing what I want. I am writing. I am creating what is next for me. In my bathrobe.