Tag Archives: write

Why I’ll #bloglikecrazy again

Grab a drink, pull up a chair, and get ready for some straight talk.

Grab a drink, pull up a chair, and get ready for some straight talk.

Somewhere between the day-to-day grind of freelancing writing and the 50,000-word book project that consumed September and most of October, I lost It. For a few months, I lost the magic/motivation/desire/mojo/ love that gets you up in the morning and guides you through being self-employed.

A lot of things have lead to this break. I try not to get super personal on the Internet, but there’s been a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes that I can’t/shouldn’t hide from. So, during the course of November, I’m trying to write my way out of the tiny, dark tunnel in my brain where I currently live. To do so, I’m planning to share a bit more than usual to be honest with y’all, and with myself.

Part of this funk came from mental_floss‘s decision to cease print publication. I’ve been writing a cocktail chemistry column for their website for three years, and still don’t have a clear answer on if my work has a place.

Despite my long-running pieces on their website, I was never published on the print side. It was on my bucket list, which is home to ever more annotations of “not accepting freelance submission,” “closed,” or “wtf happened.” But aside from the professional concerns, I’ve been reading mental_floss almost since publication started. When I was younger, it was a reminder that there were other nerds like me who got to share their smarts in an achingly cool format. It was a haven, and I wanted to be part of it. In a small way, I’ve met that goal, but it still falls short.

I’m also burned out. The never-ending cycle of freelance writing, the pitching, rejection/acceptance, drafting, editing, and submission, and the scramble to catch up after falling behind from family stuff, last-minute projects, and part-time jobs, has gotten me down. These days, I have to fight to dredge up any motivation to write even the shortest article.

But here I am. I’m doing what I know how to do: writing my way out. There’s no way forward but through, so it’s time to start hacking away and see what happens.

Join me for the next 30 days as I make daily blogging an intentional practice. Day one of #bloglikecrazy: Why take on this challenge? 

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Without the right spoon

At some point, you just end up breaking down and buying the damn grapefruit spoon. Photo credit

At some point, you just end up breaking down and buying the damn grapefruit spoon. Photo credit to Viacheslav Blizniuk

Freelancing is a lot like eating a grapefruit without the proper spoon sometimes. It can be frustrating, barely rewarding, and energy consuming. Sometimes, it feels like you spend more energy trying to dig out just a little more fruit or juice with a blunt spoon. But once you’ve finally eaten the fruit and are squeezing the last drops of juice into your poorly paired spoon, you miss and spill the juice all over your shirt.

Or is that just me? Even better.

Over the past month, I’ve blogged my butt off for Birmingham Restaurant Week and been contacted by three different new clients. I’ve invoiced for more money this month than any other since I started freelancing full-time — a welcome change after having to dip into my savings in July. Even with all of these things going right, I’m still trying to figure out how this writing thing will work going forward.

Several of the sections of my blog have gone on to become recurring paid columns. Cocktail of the Hour is now a regular part of my articles for mental_floss. I was blogging about health and fitness in exchange for personal training, but the gym has since closed. In the past, I’d used blogging to keep myself accountable as a writer or for my own health, but it hasn’t stuck.

What I’d like to do is a weekly or monthly roundup post of what I did that week/month — where I fell short, what frustrated me, and any victories. I’d love for my blog to be a place where I can focus on what I’ve done rather than leaving it in my head to loop endlessly through a montage of small victories and overwhelming obstacles. I can and will do this thing, and I will do it right. I hope.

 

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See Clair Write Like Crazy

Celebrate ALL THE HOLIDAYS.

Celebrate ALL THE HOLIDAYS and ALL THE WRITING

Two years ago, I started this blog as a way to connect with other woman writers through the Blog Like Crazy challenge. That November, I skipped a couple days and made it to day 27. Then I stopped blogging for a month. Last year, I did something similar. I started strong, kept writing posts a couple days ahead, and then I quit with a few days left.

Since then, I’ve posted sporadically about things I wanted and/or needed to shape into words. Instead of blogging, I’ve been writing my butt off for publications on all different levels. Instead of using my blog as a writing exercise, I pretend that people can’t see my blog has been neglected.

Let me be clear: this problem is one that I’ve dreamed of having, but now that it’s present, I’m scared of screwing it up. I spend inordinate amounts of time overthinking word choices and syntax. I pitch headlines and ledes and then work with editors to craft them into something eye-catching.

But most of the time, I’m writing. I’m pulling together stories and articles from memories and research. Putting words on paper (or a computer screen) releases pressure I didn’t know was building up in my brain, and keeps me grounded.

This November, I won’t be blogging like crazy — I’ll be writing like crazy. Every day, I’ll post either a blog entry or an article that went live that day. For the article days, I’ll write up a little blurb about the piece’s background. Expect things like tips for research, how to keep interviews on course, or even thoughts on negotiating writer’s block.

Hopefully, a month of celebrating writing, and especially blogging, will help me to rekindle my love for the medium. Even if it doesn’t, it’ll get me back into the habit of writing every day. Once I get that back on track, I’ll be unstoppable.

 

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How to change your form

After attending a running form clinic, I was informed that I was “caught in the marathon shuffle.” My knees weren’t driving forward much at all, and the rest of my body was compensating. As a result, I burn more energy than necessary and am not building strength or endurance effectively. The report from the clinic also outlined ways to start changing my stride, and I found that many items were applicable in both running and writing.

  • One step at a time. It’s difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time while you’re running, so consciously work to change one aspect of your form at a time. For writing, choose one stylistic element to tweak whether it’s your diction, syntax or grammar. The tiny changes will add up.
  • Be mindful. Your body and writing won’t stand up well to abuse. Work towards change; don’t try to force it all at once. You’re liable to get burned out and/or injured.
  • Research experts’ advice. Just like in writing, you have to research authors’ credentials and backgrounds. Their information will inform how you treat your body or body of work, so choose and implement information only from trusted sources.
  • Don’t fight it. Yes, you’re trying to change ingrained behavior patterns. No, it’s not going to be particularly easy. Change happens, and with some direction on your part, it can ensure better results.
  • Uncomfortable is normal, overwhelming pain is not. Running through minor pain and cramping is par for the course. If the pain gets unbearable or overwhelming, slow down. You’ll be out of the game longer with a compound injury than you would if you slow your training. Likewise, writing in new areas can expand your boundaries as an author, but if an article topic makes you downright uncomfortable, it might not be a good fit. Your emotional health is more important.

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Peace and quiet

If you remove the tag, you've got a sofa that looks remarkably like ours!

If you disregard the tag, this sofa looks remarkably like ours!

My couch is my refuge. I don’t actually have a desk, so I usually settle into a spot on the center cushion. It’s not particularly comfortable, which is part of the appeal — I have to be productive so I can get up and move before I mess up my back. Instead of slowing falling asleep, I can concentrate on writing.

Once I’m settled, I usually check my e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone’s posting material that’s interesting and/or pertinent to the day’s writing. If not, I start researching. After opening 10-20 pages in separate tabs, the writing begins. The first draft usually gets trashed or overhauled. The second is bearable, and the third usually gets posted.

It might seem silly to spend so much time on each piece, but I’m a perfectionist. This set of tendencies also motivates me to give even more time and focus than my personal posts. As a freelancer, each story/article/post that carries my name also impacts my reputation. No pressure, right?

Wrong. Somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that mediocre writing was equivalent to failure. After some time, it became ingrained. Since then, writing has been fun, but it’s also riddled with anxiety. This feeling gets worse if I cut a deadline too close or skip a few days. My anxiety level is also directly proportional to the size of the assignment — if it’s a short piece for my blog, I’m fine. For my first two mentalfloss.com pieces, each inspired a fear that’s almost a paralytic. The results have been awesome, but that part of the process isn’t fun.

Working through this emotional block can be a challenge to any writer. For me, breaking these tasks into manageable chunks like transcription, research and writing makes them less daunting. On any day where I’m feeling off I can knock out one or two of the preliminary steps. After a few hours or days working like this, each article is broken down into its components and outlined. At this point, I’m raring to do anything other than grunt work and usually knock the actual writing out quickly.

My process might not be the healthiest, but it’s mine and it usually works. Allowing myself the time to go through these steps and create new writing is especially important during this month’s Blog Like Crazy challenge. After scheduling out my exercise for the next month, I’m looking forward to seeing how a new balance impacts my blog and writing career.

Have a different process? Please share it in the comments!

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Why I blog

For the past year, I’ve blogged to clear out my head. Cataloging my thoughts and organizing them into an ever-evolving portfolio has landed me a couple new writing gigs and has put me in contact with some of the most interesting people I know. It constantly challenges me to interact with words and other writers, which always expands my world.

All of these things have been surprising. I resisted starting a website or blog for three years because I didn’t want to be obligated to create content that might delve into my personal life. For this sometimes introvert, the idea of writing about my life was terrifying. Though I absolutely adored seeing my name in print, I could avoid including any personal details in these articles. Sharing them with my social networks gave me joy, and it was almost enough.

Starting to blog made it easier to form or re-form personal connections with others online. Sharing blog posts on social media has started conversations with old connections I’d been meaning to contact, and has proved valuable in freelancing as well.

It’s also changed how I write. Nowadays, I only commit to writing for a few carefully chosen unpaid outlets. Each has been selected or recommended to break into new markets, advertise my services or to follow my passion. These pieces receive the same care and scrutiny as their paid counterparts, but they can be a drain on time and energy if they become the majority of your work.*

Despite my work schedule, blogging remains a way for me to keep up with my friends and family even when our schedules overlap so much. For me, it’s also become an exercise in commitment and punctuality. It’s made me more aware of deadlines and my own boundaries, and more appreciative of times I can disconnect.

More importantly, it’s given me a sense of the value of my own time. I’ve taken that for granted in the past, and have exhausted myself. Since that point, I’ve put a premium on my time, and if an activity or assignment doesn’t meet that threshold, I don’t accept it. In conjunction with a standard for spending time with friends and loved ones, this system has done a lot of good for my sanity.  Time can’t be recuperated, and I’m going to spend mine as wisely as possible.

*And you’re not building your portfolio. In that case, building a library of high quality clips can be more important than pay.

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Five November Blogging Resolutions

BlogThis month, I’m going to Blog Like Crazy through Birmingham’s See Jane Write blogging group. Our fearless leader Javacia has once again challenged us to blog daily for the entire month of November. Last year, after reading ten or eleven days’ worth of amazing posts, I was itching to write my own, and this blog was born. In honor of the month’s beginning, here are my five blogging resolutions:

  1. Hustle. This month, I will actively work to grow my freelance writing clientele base. I will target new clients more intelligently and efficiently, even after a few rounds of unanswered queries. I will pitch more and write more as I prepare for the future.
  2. Use my time wiselyI’m a master of lists, but I’m also easily distracted. Scheduling my writing, running and reading will create accountability and explicitly lay out my work time and free time.
  3. Take time for self-careIt may not be a session with a professional masseuse or personal trainer, but exercising and being still now receive designated spots in my calendar. With bartending, tutoring and writing stretching me thin, it’s absolutely imperative that I make time to unplug.
  4. Loosen up. Last week, it was brought to my attention that I’m pretty serious which can translate into people thinking I’m unapproachable. As a bartender, that’s not acceptable. I’m hoping to loosen up by lessening my stress levels through items 3 and 4. If not, I’ll find another way.
  5. Show more love. I have the most amazing support system — to whom I rarely reach out. This month, I’m going to contact some of those people to let them know how much they mean to me. I’ve already tried to start doing so with Adam, and want to actively continue that trend through this month.

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