A Facebook Break

by RS on May 27, 2016

I’ve written in the past about my love/hate relationship with social media, specifically Facebook. The virtual water cooler is laced with an addictive substance that keeps me distracted. I’ve noticed that in the last six months that someone has put Kool-Aid in the cooler and it’s toxic.

Facebook has always brought out an aggressive streak in many users, but I’ve seen some egregious behavior during the last six months in a group dedicated to women writers that included insults, bullying, and slander.

Earlier this week, I caught myself reading one long thread about ageism. Within three comments the vitriol surfaced and that’s when I decided I had had enough. It was time for a self-exile and this time I knew I had to be strict with myself and that meant no daily or weekly check-ins. This would be a cold-turkey exile with the goal to make it last the entire summer. So far, I’ve been gone for 72 hours and I don’t miss it.

I’ve been fortunate to meet several people offline and become friends with them. They helped me deal with Greg’s passing and encouraged me to forge ahead when everything looked overwhelming and bleak, but when social media becomes the pulpit for bullying, slandering, ridiculing and allowing adult women to act like 15-year-old mean girls it becomes difficult to ignore, and that’s when you realize that it’s time to step away.

In my last Facebook update, I said I needed the break to write for work, write for Julius, and write for my sanity and then went on to list what I wanted to accomplish while I was gone. This self-exile is also a reassessment of what’s important to me. The time I spend away from Facebook is the time I plan to put to good use. The tasks I hope to cross off is completing Julius, getting the dogs trained (the action sit and down is almost there!) as well as working getting Plain Speaking up and running. If I can accomplish that by the end of the summer, I am, as Mary Katherine Gallagher would say, a “Superstar”.

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Plain Speaking

by RS on May 24, 2016

In Gone Missing, I mentioned one of my goals was to launch a new business venture–Plain Speaking Communications. As some of you might know, I was a former public relations executive. In 2007, I resigned from my agency job because I no longer wanted to work with clients in the toy industry or with any kid/mom related products or services.

When I launched my marketing communications consultancy, I made several mistakes. The first one was to not have a plan.  My belief was that I didn’t need a roadmap to run my business because creativity can’t be chained down. I was lucky that most of my business came through referrals and that led to my second error: I couldn’t be bothered with the time-consuming and expensive networking events. The third error, which I blame as a personality flaw, was arrogance. If it didn’t work out, I could always go back to a high-earning agency job.

Easier said than done.

I managed to get interviews but never made it past the gate-keepers. I was over 40, asking for a lot of money, and I also made it clear to employers that I would only manage the creative aspect of accounts and write. No pitching media (blech). No supervising junior staff. No after work networking events to get more business.

Obviously, that didn’t go over well.

I came to the realization I wasn’t playing the game during the interview process, but I also didn’t want to play the game. I knew that even if I earned more than my last agency job, I’d be miserable because public relation agencies all run under similar business models. If I wanted something different, I would have to make it different. When I figured this out, the recession had hit, I moved to the beach with Greg, and my last client went pfft because he could no longer afford my services. That’s when I made the move to “writer.”

Unfortunately, my timing was off because I entered the industry just when rates plummetted and new media companies were offering “exposure” as compensation. Nonetheless, I eked out a living but the idea of creating my own business to suit me never went away. It was always in the back of my mind, but I had little time to think it through because I was in a constant state of agita when Greg was alive. I was worried about earning enough money to cover my share of the bills; frustrated in the relationship because of his addictions, moodiness, insecurities, and long-term illness. Plus also dealing with both our terrible finances and his bad attitude simply sapped my energy to think of nothing else and focus on the work I had and distract myself with Julius.

It wasn’t until late March of this year–after I received a jargon-filled press release that made no sense–that I revisited the idea of launching my own business. After I read the press release twice, I still had no idea what the agency was publicizing and kvetched to a friend that the majority of the press releases or pitches I received were incomprehensible.

“You should email them and offer your services,” my friend said.

I agreed and then BOOM. The epiphany. New home. New city. New business offering writing and editorial services to individuals and small companies in plain English that everyone can understand.

This time, I won’t ignore the business plan or the networking. As for that arrogance, well, it’s a company of one. As founder, president, bookkeeper, admin assistant, writer, dog walker, and in-house techie, I can’t afford to say I won’t do certain tasks. It is solely up to me to get it all done. Should Plain Speaking become successful, knock on wood, then—maybe—I won’t have to do all the filing and I can hire an assistant.

Where am I now in the process?  The domain name has been purchased. Next on the agenda is writing the business plan. I have no intention of becoming a large company, so there’s no need for investors. This plan is my roadmap of where I want the company to be in five years. Once the plan is written then we get to the fun part—designing the website, writing the copy, and finding clients.

Stay tuned…

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Building Muscle

by RS on May 16, 2016

Because of the move, car repairs, paid writing assignments, I’m afraid I haven’t been as productive with Julius as I planned way back in January. Life did get in the way and I had a whole lot of issues to resolve after the fall out of Greg’s death.

Now that I am settled in the new home, I’m here in my lovely office with no excuse but to work and write. On that note, let’s talk about the writing muscle, specifically relating to fiction. Sadly, mine is out of shape. Not atrophied, thank goodness, but the words to create those sentences and paragraphs that make you want to read more are not as robust as I would like. In fact, they’re anemic.

How do I get that strength back? I can’t give them a shot of iron and have them eat spinach. Instead, just as I do for myself and the dogs, we go out for a long walk to get exercise, and that’s what my writing muscle needs a daily one hour of writing sprint that will get the creative juices flowing, the wheels of the imagination greased and raring to get the next aspect of the story down.

At Writer Unboxed, Calling on the Muse: Meditation for Writers, Mary Sharratt describes her method of connecting with the muse through her meditation practice.

I’ve used meditation to calm the anxiety I experienced after my malady and after Greg’s death. And like daily exercise, meditation has been a form therapy to make me see things clearly and move forward. Unfortunately, I haven’t been consistent but now that I am settled, I will follow Sharratt’s advice and find 20 minutes (after the one hour walk, the 35-minute yoga practice) to summon my muse. He can be a bit irascible, especially when feeling ignored, but he’s never let me down.

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