Dreaming of a different kind of life

standard March 10, 2015 1 response

90% of my days are the same. I get up, get dressed, pack lunches for the kids, schlep them to school, come home, eat a little breakfast, and sit myself down at my computer.

Most of the time I already know what I’m going to write. I have articles to write, social media posts to craft, ad campaigns to conceptualize. The words are there, somewhere in my head, I just need to let them out – via my fingers – into the computer.

Other days I just stare at the screen. Tired. Drained. Completely tapped out of anything creative or original to add to the miasma that is already swirling around the Internet.

Those are the days I long for a regular 9-5 job where I can just react to what is handed to me instead of having to create something from scratch.

Those are the days when I give in to my endless daydream of owning a little country inn. Couple rooms, kitchen, small common area. My days would entail lots of cleaning, some cooking, administrative duties, and maybe a couple surprises here and there.

It sounds like an insane amount of work. And yet, it sounds like the most restful thing I can think of.

Imagine a life where you always know what to do, where you always have something concrete to point to at the end of the day. Today I did that and it had that effect on that person. Such bliss.

So when people go and do something crazy like offering up their incredible country inn, not for sale, but to the winner of a writing contest. I almost have trouble controlling the drool pooling in my mouth.

Inn! Words! I mean DUDE. I could be all over that.

And then I remember that I have those children that I have to tend to every day and that husband who actually likes his job (most days) and that we actually enjoy living in California. And Maine, while pretty, just ew on the whole snow and winter thing.

And I love the writing, the sitting at my desk with the puppy at my feet, letting the words flow freely from my brain to the screen.

It’s just that some days I think I’d rather be baking a pie for my paying guests and planning out a week’s worth of breakfasts before I go clean up a room that has just been vacated and give my brain a bit of a break.

Until I remember once again how much love to write. How much I need to write. Then I sit back down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and get to work.

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens.

13 years later and the circle closes

standard January 14, 2015 7 responses

Back when I was in college I babysat for a woman who worked in advertising. She was hands down the coolest person I knew. Possibly the most unstable, but definitely the coolest, so when I found myself needing a summer internship, I begged her to let me interview at her agency.

This led to my most painful interview memory ever, where, after I had GUSHED about how much I just LOOOOOVED ads, she asked me which were currently my favorite and I completely blanked.

“Uh… the one with… the plane….” I stammered, making a pathetic initiation of a plane flying with my hand.

Incredibly enough I got the job. Hard to turn down virtually unpaid and willing help. And so began my love affair with all things advertising.

I spent that summer filing things, watching endless bits of competition reels, helping them move, from one office to another, and doing basically anything they needed me to do.

The next summer I got another internship  (much better paid, as in, I got some money rather than none) in New York City. I lived in the stark and rather depressing Barnard dorms, navigated the seriously overwhelming and expensive Big Apple as best as I could, and loved every minute of it. It was a smaller agency and I actually got to do some advertising work.

Then I met the love of my life and threw caution and dreams to the wind and moved to Boston instead of going home to finish school.

I hadn’t given up on advertising, I was just willing to let it slide for a bit as I attempted to obtain a Masters while living an ocean away from my school and my teachers, at a time when people were just barely starting to use the Internet.

It took me a few months of working at a daycare center by day and doing class work at night to realize the situation was untenable. I ditched any hope of finishing my Masters like that and found myself an ad agency that would hire me.

Because ad agency.

This was my first real stint as an actual employee of an ad agency rather than just a summer internship. I lapped up every minute of it. The client pitches. The cantankerous creatives. The fun we had even when we were beyond exhausted. I loved the challenge of translating client requests into language the creative teams could use, and then translating the creative teams’ work for the clients. It was hard work, but it was fun.

So, it stood to reason that I was determined to work in advertising after finally finishing my Masters.

Life’s funny though; it never quite goes how you plan.

We moved to California in October 2001. The world around here had essentially skidded to a halt. Marketing budgets had been cut right and left and there were no marketing jobs to be had anywhere. There was one interview that could have gone my way, but something about the team rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t push for the job. There was another interview that for some reason just didn’t work out. And that was it. The doors had shut in my face and I found myself changing tacks.

So here I am, thirteen years later. I’ve made a name for myself as a writer. I’ve published a novel. I do a lot of consulting. And I truly thought my ad days were in my past.

Until a friend offhandedly asked me if I would ever consider copywriting.

In all my years working, living, breathing ad stuff, and later all my years working, living, breathing the written word, it had never occurred to me to blend the two.

I said yes without a moment’s hesitation. Went to my first meeting hoping against hope that no one would guess I was faking it with all I had. Aced my first project. Aced the second. And now find myself once again immersed in the fantastic world of advertising.

People, it’s fun.

Every new project leads me to having to learn something new. Want to know anything about solar power? Flash technology? Data storage? I got ya covered. 

I’m working with creative people. I’m exercising a part of my creative brain that hasn’t had a chance to play much in recent years.

I’m allowed to be as punny as I want. It’s even encouraged. Swoon.

Even better? I’m good at it. Better than I ever was on the client side of things.

Do you know how good it feels to feel good at something? Damn good, that’s how.

They may not be words I’m writing for me, but they’re fun to write and it’s amazing to be working with people again. And who knows, maybe one day, someone driving down the highway on their way to work, will get a laugh out of one of my tag lines.

That’s almost as good as becoming a best selling novelist. Almost.

Processing the Post Conference Chaos

standard April 14, 2014 5 responses

I’ve been going to blogging conferences more or less regularly since 2008 and, other than for the very first one I attended, I’ve had to fly to get there. I always feel a hint of envy for the people who live within driving distance of the conference; packing for them is a breeze and doesn’t need to resemble a game of Tetris, but then I remember just how much I relish my flights home and I go back to trying to find creative ways to fit a million pairs of shoes and countless little 3oz bottles of shower products into my carry-on bag.

You see, conferences tend to be like this:

You arrive, a bit anxious, a bit shy. You meet a few people in the lobby of the hotel. You go up to them with trepidation, introduce yourself and BAM, you’re off. For the next two or three days the hectic mornings of a mom with 7 kids will have nothing on your frantic pace. First there are lots of sessions. It’s like cramming a semester’s worth of studies into a two day period. Then there’s networking in the halls between sessions. Lastly there are a bunch of evening events, dinners, after dinner chats, after chat drinks, and then decompressing and processing with your roommates until the late hours of the night.

Add to that the fact that most conferences take place on the East coast leaving me with a 3 hour time delay which works great in the evening and not so great in the morning, and you’ll find me, on the morning I’m due to go home, vibrating slightly from a mixture of too much coffee, too little sleep, and way too much information to process.

Know what’s an amazing cure for that?

Being strapped into a plane seat for a couple of hours.

Until this weekend every post conference flight has given me the opportunity to sit down, pen in hand, and just free write my way out of the buzzing chaos in my head.

I never fail to be amazed at the coherence that I can pull from the noise.

This weekend, three days hanging out with other writers at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop, should have ended the same way. I have pages and pages of notes taken in incredible session after incredible session to read through. I have a ton of business cards to sort through and ideas about emails I want to write to think through. It was an amazing conference. One I know I have so much to say about.

But a large group of punk kids had a party in the lobby and parking lot of our hotel the last night we were there. They partied, loudly, starting around 11pm. When I left to go to the airport at 4:30am they were still going strong. I was very, very tired and very, very cranky.

So instead of freewriting and processing my way home, I slept. Hard.

And then there were my kids to hug, puppy kisses to fight off, stories about their weekend to hear, messes to clean up, life to get back on track, and all that brilliance has been pushed into some shadowy recess of my brain, awaiting a quiet moment to emerge.

Of course it’ll have to wait. This morning I’m having a preventative breast MRI, then the puppy needs to go to the groomer, I need to take the kids to apply for passports, three days of emails to answer, oh, and I have to figure out how to get my Passover cake out of the mold it seems to be really attached to. Thinking that singing Let it Go! at the top of my lungs isn’t going to cut it.

If there is one thing I am taking away from this weekend, one thing I don’t need quiet to process, it’s that I need to re-prioritize my days. I need to make space for the words. Because at the end of the day, without the words I have nothing, nothing I’m proud to call my own, and that pride was the highlight of my weekend, one I’m not ever going to be ready to give up.

Top 9 Ways Writers Procrastinate… and the one way to actually get the words on the page

standard November 19, 2013 2 responses

The first of November kicked off the 14th annual National Novel Writing Month wherein an insane number of writers (303 580 and counting to date)  try to write a 50 000 word novel in under 28 days.

What really happens is that over 300 000 writers sit around and find creative ways to procrastinate on writing the number of words they have to write every every day to reach their goal.

Oh, and if there’s anything writers are good at, it’s procrastinating. We’ve turned it into an art form. And we can justify every single way until we’re blue in the face.

Want to know how we do it? Sure thing.

1) Laundry.
It has to get done. It never goes away. And it’s awesome mindless work, which is perfect for brainstorming scenes, thinking up plot points, and letting your subconscious noodle away at that gnarly issue we’re facing with that uncooperative character.

2) Grocery shopping
Dude. Even writers have to eat. You can’t think without the right brain food. Plus, hanging around at grocery stores is a wonderful way to people watch. After all, you can’t create believable characters without watching real people.

3) Making coffee
Can’t write without coffee. Well, for me it’s tea. Either way, until we make the best seller list for the 10th time in a row, we have to make our own caffeinated beverages. Plus, it’s more of that mindless repetition stuff that helps get the creative juices percolating. Mmm percolate. Like coffee. See?

4) Reading
Everyone knows that to write you have to read and read lots. Such a shame when you get sucked into a good book and lose track of time… of writing time.

5) Preparing yourself so you can write.
There’s no shortage of software that exists solely so writers can organize their thoughts and stories. Scrivener is a top favorite. Within a couple hours you can have created character profiles, setting profiles, chapter outlines, and a million other things. What you won’t have done is written a single word. But hey, you’ll be ready to write…. That’s something, right?

6) Watching TV.
You know how to master great dialogue? Yup. You have to hear great dialogue. And you know where you can hear great dialogue? Yup. On TV. TV shows help you get your own dialogue flowing. It’s scientifically proven. Totally. I saw it on TV. Gotta watch TV. Lots and lots of TV. Plus, how else are you going to know how to write the screenplay to your novel if you don’t watch lots of TV shows and movies? Duh.

7) Writing a blog post
Nothing gets the creative juices flowing (you know, other than laundry and making coffee) faster than writing. The trick is to trick your brain into writing. So you start with something completely unrelated to what you’re supposed to be writing. It’s like tricking yourself into exercising by playing with the dog. Not that you guys are dogs. Or that I would ever do something like this. No… not me…

8) Checking email
Have to do it. Have to do it often. I mean, you never know when an urgent email is going to come through that needs super urgent attention. What if that happened after you got into the ‘zone?’ Then what? Huh? Better check and then better check again. Just in case. You just never know what’s waiting in there!

9) Internet research.
Has to happen. You can’t write about something you don’t know. There’s always something that has to be researched. Always. And then poof, it’s three days later , you haven’t eaten, you haven’t showered, and you’re not quite sure where your kids are, but hey, you’re the proud owner of a multi-cooker, have 57 recipes pinned to Pinterest, and a vague idea about what you were supposed to be looking up in the first place. Oh yeah, the top speed limit in Omaha. Wait. I’d better look that up. It’s a key plot point in my novel.

And the one thing we all know we have to do to write down the words? 
Easy. In theory.

Sit your butt down, turn off the Internet, put your fingers on the keys… and just start writing.

Because I am the queen of ADD, I find it easiest to do that if I set a timer first and then open OmmWriter. It shuts out all of the distracting bleeping and dinging my computer likes to throw at me. But that’s just me.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I have 2700 words to write. You know, after I make myself some coffee, and maybe get some lunch. It’s getting a little peckish around here…