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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Gone Missing?

by RS on May 11, 2016

It has been almost three months since the last time I posted and if you’re wondering what I’ve been up to let me tell you that I had not gone missing, but getting my life in order. Below is a brief rundown of what I achieved:

Writing for Newsday’s Luxury Living Magazine and the HealthLink special section. For the magazine, I wrote a feature story on Yoga studios in the Hamptons. The issue will be available on June 19th. For the May Healthlink special section, my article centered on HPV and its link to cervical cancer.

I’m pleased how the articles turned out and more so after I received complimentary emails from both editors. Edits and questions were minimal. Newsday is a good market to break in and I hope that I’ll continue to get asked to pitch more story ideas and get assigned to write more articles. The next market I want to pitch is Yankee Magazine. Why? Well that leads to achievement number two:

A new home in Brattleboro, Vermont! Yes, I moved from the woods and back to civilization on April 30th. Indian Lake was lovely, but it was too remote. Although I received a clean bill of health, I don’t ever want to be too far away from a hospital (not that I plan to be hospitalized again) but you never know when you might need to have medical services nearby for a human or canine emergencies.

The new pad is the downstairs flat of a two family house located within walking distance of town. That means I am near the food co-op, restaurants, coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries, the library, post office and so on. Brattleboro reminds a little of Park Slope, but prettier. Within in a short driving distance in North Brattleboro (about five minutes from the house) there’s a shopping mall with an Aldi, a Hannaford, a Staples and a Peebles (similar to Marshalls). A little further south is the Brattleboro Outlet Center, a PriceChopper, the hospital, and veterinarian. There’s also public transportation and a train station nearby. And the best part…sidewalks for easy walking into town. No more having to trudge on steep dirt roads and slipping on debris, snow, ice or mud. Below are some photos of the new flat and of Brattleboro.

 

Book corner of the living room.

 

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Savings! This is a big one. I sold the Jeep. No more paying nearly $500 per month. I still have a vehicle—a 1995 Land Rover—that needed $1,200 in repairs, but now that I’m close to town I don’t need to rely on it to drive long distances to get groceries and run errands. I’ll only use it when I visit friends in Northampton, MA, or go exploring outside my little area. But there’s more! The apartment’s rent includes heat and utilities. In this case, my savings is almost $1800 a year! My overall savings including not paying the Jeep and the extra insurance comes out to nearly $7,800!

Since January, I’ve accomplished three major goals, but I still have more to wrestle:

1. Pay off debt, fixing my credit and dismal tax situation(an ongoing process).

2. Writing for larger regional markets (Hello, Yankee Magazine!) and national market publications

3. Launch Plain Speaking Communications (more on that in the next post).

4. Finish (yes, I mean that) Julius and find an agent.

I’d like to reach three of these goals by December 2016. That’s seven months of hard work and getting out of my comfort zone. I know there will be days I’ll want to hide and be a hermit, but I’ve done that for too long. I’ve come to realize that solitude isn’t good for me mentally or emotionally. I need to have some human interaction.Thankfully, because of the Messrs. Bessie et Trumbo’s daily walks, we are all getting a good dose of human interaction—they’re admired and I’ve actually have had conversations with my own species!—and quite a bit of exercise. We average five miles daily.

Now that I’m settled in the new home, I hope to be consistent with this blog (I know, promises, promises) and flex my writing muscles again. I discovered yesterday during a round of slight revision on Julius that my fiction muscles were as tight as my hamstrings (working on those too) and needed to do some serious stretching. It was a short “workout” but I think I’ll get back up to speed again.

More to come in the next couple of days….

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