Viewing category ‘Things you should be reading’

Cornered Office

with Mir Kamin

I'm a freelance writer and mother of two working from home, which theoretically means I can set my own schedule so as to best accommodate my family. In reality, "flexible hours" often equals "working too much." Yes, I'm my own boss; no, that doesn't mean life is easy. It's hard to leave the office when you live there. But I love what I do and feel very lucky. And not just because I get paid to work in my pajamas.

To learn more about Mir, check out her profile on Work It, Mom! or visit her blog at http://www.wouldashoulda.com/

There’s no excuse for poor presentations

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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The standard joke is that writers do what they do because it allows them to work 1) alone and/or 2) silently, and no one should be surprised when writers are awkward or boring in person. There was certainly a time when one could fit that stereotype and still make a decent living, but nowadays it’s nearly impossible to be a career writer and not have to do a certain amount of public speaking as part and parcel of that existence. Write books? Go on tour to promote them. Blog for a living? Sit on some panels at conferences. Otherwise freelance in the realm of getting paid for your words? Rest assured, somewhere, at some point, you are going to be expected to speak publicly in support of the work you do.

Nothing will make people question your professionalism more than a terrible public speaking engagement. Listen, some people just get nervous and handle themselves poorly in public; it doesn’t mean they’re dumb or incompetent by default. But a good public showing showcases your ability to conduct yourself like a professional, while a poor one suggests you don’t do well under pressure.

The good news is that presentation skills can be learned. If you don’t yet handle yourself well in this arena, don’t panic! You can cultivate the skills you need.
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Silly Mommy, conferences are for… mommies?

Categories: A mother's work is never done, Like talking but with more typing, Things you should be reading

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I feel like I should preface this by admitting that back in 2006, I was part of a BlogHer panel called “Mommyblogging is a Radical Act.” As much as I’ve never been a fan of this particular term, way back then—seven years ago, which is like, what, maybe 49 years ago in Blogging Years, right?—I thought it was important that the blogging community have an honest discussion about what it means to share about our experiences as parents. I have no regrets about being part of that. At the time, that sort of blogging was still sort of new and different and we were all figuring out what it meant.

But that was seven years ago, and a lot of things have changed since then… including that many of us who were simply sharing our day-to-day for the sake of finding an outlet and community are now paid to write. Many of us are freelance writers running our own small businesses, working full-time (or more), and the fact that we write about our children from time to time is either incidental or just a fraction of the work we get paid to do.

And yet, good lord, the world is just so reluctant to let go of that term “mommyblogger.” Most of the time I don’t care; what’s in a name? I’m just doing my thing, getting my work done, living my life, whatever. But then there always comes someone wanting to take that dismissive term and use it as the cornerstone of painting every woman with a blog as a silly little moron.
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Are freelancers really more depressed?

Categories: Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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Every now and then I come across an article that I think is probably important because it makes me mad.

That’s what happened with this article from Fast Company by Anya Kamenetz titled “Why Freelancers Are So Depressed.” The blurb at the top rather ominously proclaims, “It’s not just February. The work-home blur, social isolation, money woes, and heightened personal risk all mean being a freelancer can be dangerous for your mental health.”

But I saw a lot of fellow freelancers linking to this article, so I figured it must be worth a read, even though I kind of hated it before I even read it. In my personal experience—and yes, I know, the plural of anecdote is not data—most freelancers I know are far less depressed than those working in conventional office jobs. In fact, the most common reason people cite for entering freelancing is that they were unhappy with the lack of control inherent in working for someone else.

So let’s talk about this supposed depression.
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The sweet spot between wanting and planning

Categories: Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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It’s the key downfall of more than a few freelancing creative-types that they’re good at “creative” but not so great with the “business” side of, you know, running a business. I have always—perhaps smugly so—prided myself on never falling prey to that sort of “whatever, man, it’ll work out” sort of business management. This maybe makes me “smarter” than some of my fellow writer-types, but let’s be honest—mostly it makes me just more anal-retentive. It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s that I’m constitutionally incapable of that mystical “letting the universe show me the way” thing that so many of my cohorts seem to embrace.

My tongue is firmly planted in my cheek here, by the way. While I’m glad that I always pay my taxes on time and such, of course there are moments when I believe everyone else is more creative, more meaningful, more everythingniftykeen than I am.

So when I shared that I thought it was time to make another vision board, it was because I’d become keenly aware of everything being off-balance for me, business-wise. I wanted a bit of inspiration while figuring out which sorts of practical measures to put in place and get myself back on track. As an overly-cerebral type, I find this sort of exercise good for me—it gets me out of my own head, for a bit.
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On Mentoring, and Openness

Categories: Deep thoughts, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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Last week I saw about twenty different people link to this post on Penelope Trunk’s blog about mentoring and so of course I went and read it. And then I was confused. Because I was expecting kind of a how-to about mentoring, and that wasn’t exactly what it was. But Cassie Boorn (the writer) did drop this interesting gem at the end:

This is the part where I give you career advice. You can’t hide who you are and make genuine connections at work. Eventually it comes out and you make everyone around you feel like they have been duped. If you want a great career you have to have a good network and you have to have good mentors and people can’t mentor you and be your network if they don’t know you.

I suspect that’s why everyone is lauding this as a must-read piece, even though the mentoring relationship described in the article is perhaps a somewhat unconventional one. I also suspect this is part of why this piece bothers me so, because I would hate for someone who’s never experienced good mentoring to read Boorn’s words and conclude that her relationship with Trunk is the only way mentoring can or should work, which I don’t think is really true. And finally, I’m not entirely sure I even agree with the conclusion.
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It’s the most BlogHerful time of the year

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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Here, let me sum up 80% of what is currently flooding my Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds for you:

“ZOMG BLOGHER IS THIS WEEK! WHAT DO I PACK? WHAT DO I WEAR! I’M SO NERVOUS! I’M SO EXCITED! NEW YORK CITY AHHHHHHH! MARTHA STEWART! BARACK OBAMA! BLOGHER, BLOGHER BLOGHER!”

So… yeah. In case you’re living under a rock, you might not know that the BlogHer 2012 conference is this week, and bloggers everywhere suddenly have extra social awkwardness coupled with nothing to wear.

I’ve always been a proponent of blog conferences as excellent opportunities to network, but I’ve never been shy about expressing my mixed feelings towards huge conferences like this one. They’re expecting something like 5,000 attendees, and that makes it an Event (capital E!) unlike a smaller gathering. It’s not for everyone, and even if it is for you and you’re the most extroverted socialite to walk the planet, it may have its moments of being overwhelming.

And no, I’m not going this year. But I have a few pointers for you whether you’re going or not.
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Sleep, glorious sleep

Categories: Maybe I can pencil in a nap, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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Much as youth is wasted on the young, I firmly believe that naps are wasted on children. It takes being a harried adult to fully appreciate the luxury of being able to just stop whatever you’re doing and take a nice, relaxing rest if that’s what you need. Of course, by the time most of us would appreciate a daily siesta, there’s no time for that.

For me, sleep is my handiest barometer of my mental health. This is even more true now that I’m a freelancer; when I get into poor sleep habits as I work here from home, they’re all too easy to perpetuate because I don’t need to be commuting to work and sitting in a cubicle for eight hours. If I don’t sleep well at night nowadays, I actually can sneak a nap in more often than not… but it means I don’t get my work done when I should… which means I’m liable to stay up too late working… which leads to not getting enough sleep… which, hey, did I mention there’s a hole in the bucket? You get the idea.

Because this is an issue near and dear to my sleep-loving freelancer’s heart, I loved this recent guest post by Tania Dakka over at Problogger about sleep mistakes that negatively impact your blog.
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Perseverance, luck, or both?

Categories: Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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I was wasting time on Facebook earlier—as one does, when one probably should be working (ahem)—and as usual I was clicking around and following links posted by various friends.

It wasn’t long before I came across one of these sorts of “you have to watch this heartwarming video!” links, and because I tend to be a cynical curmudgeon, I clicked, but I prepared to be unimpressed. Much to my surprise, though, I found the story really moving… and as I reposted it to my own page, I started thinking about it some more. Yes, on the surface, it’s a nice story about a kid with a dream and a stranger who did something nice for him, sure. There’s nothing wrong with that story (at all). But I think there’s a pretty good allegory in here for us grown-ups, too.

Surely you’ve seen this story by now, but just in case you haven’t: Go watch this video about Caine’s Arcade for a dose of warm-fuzziness.
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Better blogging by the numbers

Categories: Like talking but with more typing, Things you should be reading

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There’s a school of thought that says that information is best conveyed in a numbered list of items. (I’ve also read/heard that those lists should always contain an odd number of items, but that may be a bit more controversial.) As a lifelong rambler who never writes a sentence when a half-dozen paragraphs will do, the list thing isn’t something I do too often. (I should probably try doing it more.) I do find it a fabulous way to garner lots of little informational tidbits in a short amount of time, though.

Translation: I am not succinct, but I appreciate it when others are. Heh.

Anyway, in the spirit of the whole new-year-self-improvement kind of thing, I figured that as January is winding down, now, I’d direct you to a few master list-makers who’ve piqued my interest lately. If you’re looking for the best bang-for-your-buck mileage out of some blogging advice, check out these lists from people smarter—and more succinct—than I:
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This month, I pause

Categories: My boss is an idiot, Now I'm free(lancing), Things you should be reading

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I feel like I’ve been writing about how stressed out I am for at least a month, now. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas—and all of the family time therein, or worrying about missing that family time—always seems so crammed full of obligations that I’m often left with precious little time to just enjoy, which I think is kind of a shame.

And as much time as I spend trying to figure out how to take time off, get away from my desk for an entire day (imagine!), the deeper issue is that day-to-day balance so that life feels like something to be experienced rather than an endless slog. (Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole, but still.)

It’s not about figuring out a vacation, necessarily, but about making every work day more doable, more manageable. I mean, vacations are nice and all, but until I hit the lottery (which is difficult, I’m told, if you never actually buy a ticket), I still have to work for a living… so I’d rather figure out how to make most of my time more enjoyable than simply endure for long stretches between the nicer bits.
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