This Writing Life: Snow Angels and Demons

Today is February 15, 2021.  It’s President’s Day and it’s also the day after Valentine’s Day (aka. Discount Candy Day).  My home in the Ozarks, much like homes across the middle west and into the southeast and Texas, is experiencing unprecedented weather.

It’s cold as balls.  

There’s a lot of snow.  

This is very unfashionable.

I’ve spent much of my day making sure we’re ready for minus 11 degree Fahrenheit weather.  Yes. I said minus.  If you live where polar bears raid your garbage cans, this probably isn’t all that impressive, but my bears are brown and it rarely dips much below freezing here.  Minus 11 is a bit of a whole thing.

Today, we learned a new phrase: “rolling blackouts.”  As someone who has spent her entire life experiencing the abundance and softness of the lower flyover states, first understanding, and then accepting, the idea of my electricity being switched on and off all day just to keep the power grid from imploding has been an experience.

The entire city is basically at a stand still.  We’re facing some snow demons.  Actual snow.  And polar bear weather.

But, despite how worried I am about my house and my plumbing, and the fact that I now have two cats to consider along with the three dogs (what the fuck was I even thinking?) should the power go out in all of this, I’m finding a few snow angels, too.

Facing the Unforeseen

Facing the unforeseen is one of those things that dates us, I think.  Mental flexibility that stays intact as we age gives us a sort of foolish youthfulness that often is characterized with three words: “hold my beer.”

Sometimes we need a “hold my beer” moment, though.  Working in the media, for example, is an irregular string of unforeseen moments.  Take last week, for example.

I went to log in to the Motley Fool to do my work, like ya do.  I had a whole bunch of articles to write, I had JUST been to a writer’s meeting where we discussed content strategy for MARCH.  So, when I was greeted with a message saying the entire project was being scrapped, and the wee free writers of the Blueprint were to be set off on an ice floe, it was a shock to say the least.

But, this is media work for you.  This is why we write until our fingers bleed while there’s work to be had.  You can’t ever predict a house cleaning, you can only ride the wave and hope you don’t drown in it.

The writers whose minds have become more like stone will inevitably use this as their opportunity to exit the madness of our chosen field, only to drive an Uber or bag groceries for life, since we have no truly marketable skills.  

The rest of us will have a series of “hold my beer” moments as we fling ourselves wildly at anyone we think we stand a chance of working with successfully.  We’ll do whatever we have to in order to get the attention we need to amplify the Available Writer signal.  

We will make asses of ourselves in the doing and not care that we did.

This is The Writing Life

This is what we sign on for, and why so many people drop out of this profession.  We’re cogs in a giant media machine that really couldn’t give two shits if we rise or fall.  And we have no illusions that anyone cares about us – after all, we live a life where our most meaningful interactions with people are often the most critical.

Our job is to be criticized.  I don’t care what anyone tells you, this is really the heart of the thing.  

A writer who is absolutely clever, lovely, and never commits a single typo still won’t be worth their salt if they can’t stare down a million critics aiming their angry beams all at the same point.  This is probably why we’re so screwed up.  Or maybe we have to be pretty screwed up to accept this kind of behavior.  

I’m not sure, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, really.

We’re masters of trauma and insufficiency and a general lacking in warm fuzzies.  I used to not believe this, but I’m getting older and fatter and I see more of the world as it is, not as I’d have it be.

I once had a poetry professor who told the class that (and I will never forget this) he envied people with clinical depression because it gave them a place to draw from.  I still think that’s a pretty screwed up thing to say to a bunch of college sophomores, but nobody asked me.  At the same time, though, he was on to something.  This is a life that’s all about getting knocked down, professionally speaking.

But there’s a thing Dr. Cafagna left out, and it’s a big one.  This is also a life of extreme resilience.  Imagine being told at 9 AM that you’re the dumbest piece of shit that ever walked the planet and still being expected to make a 3 PM deadline.  That’s a pretty normal day for some of us, depending on who we work for.  

(For the record, The Motley Fool was never like this, it was an incredibly supportive environment – so much so I was constantly on guard for the other shoe to drop.  The harshest thing anyone said to me there was that they’d prefer I didn’t put things in parenthesis.  Seriously.  It was divine.)

Writing and Snow Angels

I know you’re wondering what the fuck I’m on about here.  I’m getting to that.  Or I think I am.

This has been a kind of dodgy weekend, full of new things that we never expected.  Fuel shortages (who even knew a natural gas well could freeze?), rolling black outs, roads that are too cold to be safely cleared, polar bears raiding the bins.  It’s mortifying to anyone who’s experiencing it.  But we get to choose how we respond.

We can be rigid (and now frozen) because God knows we’ve never had to do this before and we refuse to accept what it takes to get everybody to safety.  We can be flexible and absorb the potshots the weather is taking at us and bounce the fuck back with a plan for moving forward.  

We get to choose.  Every day.

Don’t misunderstand me – not every day is going to be perfect.  We’re going to have days where we forget we can choose and instead get stuck in sorrow.  We’re going to have days where that criticism laser beam is too hot and burns a hole right through us.  But if most days we can pick ourselves up and move to the next thing, life becomes so much more.

More what?  Just so much more.  More nothing.  More everything.  More.  Snow angels and snow demons.

That’s today.  

I know it’s terrifying.  I know we’re facing a tricky change-up, but we can all take a deep breath, ask our pals to hold our beers as we fling ourselves forward screaming “GERONIMO!”  That’s what friends are for, after all.

As a writer, you’re going to face a lot of this sort of unexpected polar bear in the bins stuff.  You’re going to have things blow up in your face.  People aren’t going to like you.  People are going to love you.  And it’s all going to be so fucking confusing at times that your head and your heart and your brain suffer from severe whiplash.

This is the job.  It’s not easy, that’s why no one does it.  But it’s not easy, and sometimes I think that’s why we do it.  Maybe we’re emotionally damaged, but maybe we just like eating out of frozen garbage bins.

Are You Playing the “What If” Game?

This has been an impressively odd 365 days.  For anyone living, they’re unprecedented.  They’re without any sort of comparison point to draw conclusions or use as a way to predict what’s coming next.  Even the experts among us have no fucking clue what’s going on.  With all that said, it gets really easy to play the “What If” game, which is one Hell of a trap.

The “What If” Game: An Introduction

The “What If” game is one of my favorite anxiety-related pastimes.  Basically, I sit in a room and I wonder what would have happened if I’d made different decisions.  What if I’d never left my home in the Ozarks and moved to Texas?  What if I’d run off the UK to meet my cousins when I was a teenager?  What if I’d gone to a different college?  You get the point.  There are so many things you can do this with.

In short, it’s a really deliciously tempting way to torture the fuck out of yourself.  It can even come in much less dramatic packages, like “What if I’d started working a bit earlier today?”  What if?  WHAT IF YOU HAD?

You’ll know you’re playing the “What If” game if you’re ruminating over things that you literally can’t change.  You’re playing at a pro level if you’re ruminating over things literally NO ONE could have changed.  

Gold star to you, my friend.

Why We Play

The “What If” game is simple.  It’s easy.  It’s a way to look at those things we regret and try to magically wish a different choice into existence.  But it can also be about anxiety due to our current surroundings.  I’m seeing a lot of people playing it these days, more than usual.  And the whole world is on fire, so it’s understandable.  Which is why I’m writing this damn blog to begin with.

The “What If” game is all your hopes and dreams and fears and regrets bundled up in one single, heart-wrenching exercise.  “What If” is hard.  It’s one of the hardest things, whether we recognize it or not.  Sometimes it feels like a bit of an innocent exercise.  “What If” I’d gone to prom with this one instead of that one?  It’s an innocent question, but the implications are actually enormous, especially when you’re 20+ years beyond the Junior Prom.

We play it for wish fulfillment, but in a way that’s really not healthy.  You can’t undo those decisions you’ve made, no matter how much you may want to.  You can only move forward and, if by some incredible stroke of luck that fella you wish you’d have taken to the prom happens to be single and receptive, well, maybe you get another chance.  But you don’t get to erase the rest.  It’s still there.  It’s still part of your story.  The past didn’t change, only the future is affected… like regular time stuff.

Disrupting the “What If” Game

The healthiest thing you can do when the “What If” game starts playing on autopilot is to disrupt it.  I mean, just catch that shit on fire and throw it out the door to smolder in the yard like some kind of demonic kitchen experiment.  There are a lot of mental tricks I use for this, none work all the time, and the “What Ifs” that are the nearest and dearest to my heart are always the hardest to overcome.  Those Big Regrets (™) are the worst.  They’ll cripple the strongest man.

But, here are some things you can try.

Think about puppies.  Really, think about anything pleasant.  When I’m in an MRI, I think about bunnies in a lavender meadow with a big white-capped mountain in the distance.  Pour all your focus into that shape, fill in all the details, give it depth and breadth to the point that there’s nothing left for “What If.”

Phone a friend.  Look, we all play the “What If” game, even if your buddies are too afraid to admit it.  These are times when we need to lean into each other and lay it all bare.  One of my “What Ifs” is about my son, who died in utero in my 20s.  I never really talk about it openly, but it haunts me.  What if he’d lived?  He’d be a teenager now.  But he didn’t, so sometimes I have to take that raw emotion to my good pals and ask for their help carrying it away.  It’s not about forgetting.  It’s about being unable to change the past and accepting that over and over.

Do something highly engaging.  What’s engaging is going to vary based on your interests, but if you can find something that’s engrossing and will fill up all your thoughts, you’ll find that “What If” floating away from you.  Before you know it, you’ll have forgotten you even asked the question of yourself.  You’ll just be so busy knitting a sweater or running a mile or digging a hole in your garden for… reasons… that it’ll move along.

Act on it.  Oh, woah.  Who put that here?  Musta been me.  Sometimes those “What Ifs” are regrets.  And sometimes it’s ok to act on regrets.  You can’t fix them, as such, but you can do what you can to make amends.  You can call the kid you bullied in school and apologize.  You can buy a plane ticket to Aruba (well, at some point you can) and make that decision right this time.  

You can sometimes do something to change your “What If” point.  What if you had gone to school to be a doctor?  Go enroll in night school and get started.  What if you’d bought a red car instead of a blue one?  Trade that bastard in.  Sometimes actions are cathartic.  Sometimes they let us shed regrets by shining lights on the choices we didn’t make so we understand the choices we did make better.

No One Wins the “What If” Game

Nobody wins at the “What If” game.  You can use it as a motivator to accomplish things you wish you would have done, but you can’t change a lot of the things that people “What If” about.  For me, it’s more of an exercise in accepting where I am in life and, when I can, looking at ways to move from that spot to the spot where I think I’d rather be, in a realistic and healthy fashion.

Just, whatever you choose to do with it, don’t dwell in that headspace.  It’s a terrible, soul-sucking part of the world.  It’ll take everything from you if you linger.  Choose an action and move forward.  Ignore it and continue on your path.  Either answer is the right answer.  There’s no “What Ifs” when handling the “What If” game.

What I Learned From Larry King

I know he’s been gone a few days now, but the passing of Larry King actually hit me kind of hard.  See, Larry King was that kind of interviewer that all journalists should want to aspire to be, but a lot can’t understand it in their hot and fiery youths.  

He was a light touch, he had a reputation for being friendly and engaging, but the opposite of the bulldog every young journo wants to be.  They want to go for the hard questions right out of the gate, then bulldog as hard as they can until their prey (the person being interviewed) is exhausted and simply gives in to a well-earned pummelling.

But the truth about interviewing is a lot different than that.  The real nuts and bolts of the art of asking questions are subtlety and negotiation.  This is something Larry King understood that one of the heroines of my youth, Barbara Walters, did not.  Babs was a bulldog, she never let go.  But as I’ve gotten older, and wiser, and more tired, I’ve come to understand that bulldogging isn’t the way.

This is what I learned from Larry King.  Even though I didn’t come across him until late in my training years, he profoundly changed the way I approached everything.

The Edge Larry King Brings

The last thing most people will think of when they hear the name “Larry King” is edge.  He was a man full of round corners and soft spots.  He was the guy you’d grab a beer with, not the guy you wanted to try to nail some of the toughest enemies of the United States.  He wasn’t the king of “gotcha journalism.”  The man was a whisper.

And for the longest time, I couldn’t understand the power of a whisper.  

You see, the thing about a whisper is that it can silence a room.  It can make the most brutal man lower his voice and listen, if only for a moment, because he might miss something important.  

It’s easy to scream.  It’s so, so easy.  It’s the hardest thing in the world to whisper when you’re not sure you’ll be heard.

But a whisper can stop everything.  It can invite people to come closer, to listen carefully, to drop their defenses.  It can change the world.

And Larry was a whisper.  He came in gently, he was kind and friendly and considerate.  And even so, he asked tough questions, but in an incredibly gentle way.

Larry wasn’t a bulldog, he wasn’t the kind of reporter I imagined I’d grow to be.  He was a whisper, he was space for those people being interviewed to breathe.  There’s a lot of power in being that person.  People open up unexpectedly.  They surprise themselves with their candor sometimes.

All the strength and aggression a bulldog brings to an interview is nothing by comparison to a whisper.  Whispers change everything.

How I Became a Whisper

I didn’t understand Larry’s methods at first.  I thought there was no earthly way that anyone could get to the bottom of a tough interview with so much measured patience.  I couldn’t see what he was doing, even though looking at it now, it was absolutely the most brilliant position possible for a journalist to adopt.

It wasn’t until I was a real reporter (albeit at a small local paper) that it really started to click.  Hounding people got me nowhere.  It was frustrating for me, it was infuriating for them, it just didn’t work – I had no idea how any of the absolutely legendary bulldogs succeeded that way.  But Larry… he could get anyone to talk to him about anything, it seemed.

So, I started listening more than talking.  

I tried to become a whisper.  

And it was funny, because suddenly people were telling me things they’d never told anyone, or family stories that hadn’t been shared in a generation, or things they had forgotten until we were chatting.  Becoming a whisper gave me a whole new way to understand people and to understand what it really meant to be a local reporter.

When I became a whisper, I hit journalistic Nirvana.  I started teasing stories out of the hardest nuts to crack.  It was like a miracle.  And all because I whispered and I didn’t scream.

You Can Become a Whisper, Too

I know a lot of non-journalists read these columns.  After all these years, I think I have a pretty good feel for who’s coming to look, and I hope you all know you’re appreciated.  This particular piece may have come from a place about my days as a reporter, but it’s a thing you can literally apply to your entire life.  You can become a whisper and get outstanding communication results as a consequence.

So, here’s how you do it.  And I can assure you, anyone can learn to be a whisper.  Anyone who knew me in my bulldog stage will likely tell you that I was about the last person they would have thought could change so dramatically.

  1. Listen very carefully.  Being a whisper means you’re saying less than you’re hearing.  It’s all about being very quiet, like a cloud floating by.  Hear everything, because when people know they’re being heard, they tend to speak more.  They’ll tell you things you never expected.  This is why Larry didn’t work with a real list of questions.  He knew he’d find threads to pull and follow if he only listened.
  2. Take up little space boldly.  There’s a difference between being a whisper and shrinking into the corner.  A whisper has size and shape and takes up the room it needs.  It just doesn’t need a lot of room to get the job done.  If you’re trying to shrink into a corner to be a whisper, you’re not there yet.
  3. It’s important to actively converse.  Active and natural conversation is important when you’re a whisper.  This is your main skill, in fact.  Rather than demanding information, you’re teasing it out.  Never interrupt, but do ask carefully chosen questions about things that come up, and use those to naturally control the conversation, moving it in the direction you need it to go.
  4. Be gracious.  Whispers are courtly.  Whispers understand and appreciate the trust a subject has put into their hands.  Whispers know that if they scold or use any kind of negative pressure, they’re going to lose all the trust they’ve built.  Be gracious.  Thank your source.  Keep your promises.  Hold tight to the secrets you swore you’d keep off the record.
  5. Open yourself up.  This may be the hardest part to gate keep.  Part of working in this way means being vulnerable.  But you can be vulnerable without overwhelming someone else with your problems.  If they bring up a subject that’s difficult and you’ve had a similar experience, it’s ok to say so.  Don’t make it about you, but ensure the subject understands that you do feel their pain on a very real level.  It’s not about you, it’s still about them, but being vulnerable builds trust.  And trust opens all kinds of doors if it’s real.

Live Your Life Like a Whisper

Since I learned the power of being a whisper, my whole life changed.  As you practice being a whisper professionally, you’ll start to become a whisper in real life, too.  This is tricky, to be sure, but it’s worth the heartache, I promise.  Protect yourself with some healthy boundaries, but become a whisper.  There’s no better way to achieve truly deep levels of intimacy with your friends and family members.  Trust is everything in this world, even today, and I don’t know a better way to reach it than to be a whisper.

Sleep Is For the Weak

You know what?  I’m just exhausted.  I was trying to come up with a good topic for this week, I’ve been beating my brain, but the truth is that for most of the last year, I’ve barely worked.  I just started back to full time writing a week or so ago and I’m so, so tired.  Regardless of what anybody may have told you, writing is actually a lot of work.

It might not be a lot of work in the same way that hauling lumber at a lumber yard is, or building a railroad is, or driving around all day chasing ambulances is, but it takes a lot out of the gray matter.  Sometimes it makes it hard to sleep, especially when there’s been too much information intake and no good place to let it wander free.

What Do You Do With an Exhausted Writer?

You can tell a writer who is exhausted by the errors they make.  Especially seasoned writers.  The dumber the mistakes, the more tired they almost certainly are.  The more painfully stupid the writing, the more painfully exhausted the writer.

For some assignments, being a bit punch drunk can work in your favor.  For example, I recently started with a publication that enjoys a lot of levity to be sprinkled in articles.  This works out well for me because the more tired I get, the more dumb jokes I tell.  To a point.  Today, right in this moment, I’m so tired that I can’t even summon up dumb jokes.

Getting back into the groove has been a challenge for me.  Since COVID started and before this new job, I was working upwards of about 10 hours a month, which isn’t a lot… it allowed my stupid gray matter to get all flabby and chunk-a-riffic.  I assume that, like my flabby and chunk-a-riffic body, my brain will snap back into shape if I just keep at it and try to give it enough rest while it goes through the process of trying to tear itself apart.

But right now, it’s goddamn tedious.  I can barely stay awake some days.  Other days I’m making incredibly bad financial decisions because After Dark Kristi has taken the wheel.  (If you aren’t familiar with After Dark Kristi, check out my Facebook account, where I have been regaling my followers with tales of her many stupid purchases… once in 2020 she filled the weekly grocery order with nothing but Tate’s Bake Shop cookies)

Despite it all, I’m somehow muddling through.  And since so many of you are still trying to get back to work, and get your kids back into the groove, I thought I’d talk about what it is that I’m doing to try to sort out my shit.

Safeguarding Against Your *ahem* Better Nature

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume you actually know yourself a bit.  I mean, it is truly an assumption because some people really don’t.  Some people think they do, but they get left alone in a room with themselves and it’s nothing but endless small talk about the weather.  If this is you, you have some work to do before you can complete the stuff I’m laying out, because you really should know yourself well enough to plan around your many lovely quirks.

I know that I’m a compulsive spender when I’m under severe stress.  I also know that I tend to buy really stupid things, so it’s not even productive spending.  Do I need ten gallons of chocolate pudding delivered in a small cement mixer?  OF COURSE I DO!  *click*

These are the stupid things I do.  Because I am, in fact, stupid.

But I’m getting smarter.  I’ve found ways to boobytrap myself so that After Dark Kristi doesn’t do quite so many stupid things to herself.  There are rules and protocols that I can generally get her to follow because she does tend to be a rules follower.  More so than Daylight Kristi is, if we’re being honest.

So I have some tricks to help reduce her ability to make stupid decisions without me.

  1. Always get a second opinion.  When After Dark Kristi is active, you may find yourself getting a random message from me asking you if you think that six hundred copper beads is a good investment.  Or if it makes sense to go bungee jumping off a whale.  These are questions reserved for my innermost circle, because they’re the only ones who really understand what a pain in my ass After Dark Kristi is and are willing to supervise.  They’ve been instructed to deny her every request and not enable purchase that sound like a 12 year old millionaire would make.
  2. Put stumbling blocks in place.  For me, it’s usually bad decisions that involve money.  This one must be pretty common, because there are lots of tools to help slow down this behavior, including basic stuff like PINs for purchases, and, my favorite, a delay in shipping on Amazon so I can review any purchases in the morning and cancel them.  If your After Dark behavior is something harder to train out, like eating cookies until you’re sick, you may have to just not buy cookies when you know you’re going into a rough spell.  Make it easy for yourself to succeed by making it hard for the behavior to take place.
  3. Have a checklist.  On the off-chance that After Dark Kristi is able to overcome my boobytraps, I have a checklist for her.  Usually she consults it.  Usually.  Because, as I mentioned above, she’s a rules follower, so I give her rules.  There are rules like no clicking “buy” after 8 PM, and being certain that you’ve got a purpose for the purchase before you make it (at least this way, there’s a shopping task completed, however oddly it may turn out).  She’s got a long checklist, and the maze it creates generally keeps her busy until she passes out.
  4. Sit on final decisions.  Sometimes I can’t cage the tiger, no matter what I do, but I can usually get her to leave a chosen item in a digital shopping cart until Daytime Kristi can review it.  Sometimes After Dark Kristi actually makes some good calls, and I let the transaction proceed.  Sometimes she puts $100 worth of licorice in a shopping cart and I have to give her that look.  The whole “you need to eat more vegetables” look.  You know the one.  

It might not be glamorous, this job, but it also doesn’t pay all that well, so I’ve got that going for me.  This week, like last week, I’m so flipping exhausted I can barely stand and am making a lot of poor decisions in my personal life.  I literally am not 100% sure what day it is, and not in that cute jokey “COVID Days” way.  

I also know this will be over sooner than I think right now.  It always is.

I get this same way when I start running again after an injury or a long cold ass winter.  I fight the fog for a couple of weeks, then I’m out the other end.  Today is a foggy day because my brain is exhausted.  But it’ll come back totally bloody ripped and then we can really get with the program.

Life is Fragile, But There’s Always Hope

As I sit here in silence, just moments after Joe Biden has delivered his Inauguration speech, I’m struck by what this week means for me personally.  You see, Monday was the nine year anniversary of my suicide attempt.  January 23rd will be the one year anniversary of my freedom ride.  It’s a big week, by anyone’s reckoning.

Generally, I try to write up something about suicide and mental health and reaching out in the darkness for this week, but I’ve been having a hard time forming it in my mind this year.  Not that suicide is any less serious or that it’s any less important to reach for a hand when you’re in trouble, but just… I don’t know.  It’s been a wild ride and there are so many more things I want to say than I think I have the capacity or the words for.

But also, Uncle Joe had a lot of things to say about unity and hope, and maybe that’s the real point here.  Maybe that’s what ties this week together.

A Lot of Anniversaries

I’m not generally one to celebrate every little date on the calendar, but there are some days that are burned on my soul.  Two of them live in this same week (three, now, I guess, if you wanna count the Inauguration).  They were both days when I was experiencing the depths of desperation.  Apparently I’m a bit dramatic, or maybe I just make a lot of mistakes… I’m not sure which.

Nine years ago, I tried to take my own life.  I’m not proud of it, but I’m also not ashamed of it, and since then, I’ve spent my time trying to help keep others from ending up in that same place.  It ultimately was due to a bad reaction to antidepressants, which I had just started (there’s a warning label now for that sort of thing), but I will never forget how out of control of my own mind I felt. 

I will never forget how so many people reached out to catch me in my darkest hour.

I will always owe those people my very life.  It could have gone a lot worse than it did.

This is why my door is always open for anyone who finds themselves stumbling in the dark.  I’m far from a professional, but I can listen, and I will nudge you toward the light.  That’s why I’m here.  I’m here to help.  

Saturday is another big one for me, though, and one I’ve not talked about before.  January 23 was the day I fled my marriage with nothing more than four dogs and a few bags of clothing.  Like with my suicide attempt, I am forever in debt to a whole lot of people who helped me in that desperate moment.  From the friends who are family that saw me to shelter to the judge who issued a three year protection order so I could get myself back to a place of peace and security.

These are all debts that can never be repaid, you understand.  They’re the kind you take to the grave.  But at the same time, they come from the simple kindnesses we owe one another as people.  When someone is in despair, we give them a hand.  When someone fears for their safety, we give them shelter.  It’s how we should behave as people, regardless of our beliefs.

Uncle Joe and the Hopey Changey Bits

Today as I listened to Uncle Joe deliver one of the most down-to-Earth and heart-felt speeches I’ve heard in some time from a politician, I was reminded of both of these huge acts of kindness.  And of the sheer number of people it took to help move me from the darkness into the light on both occasions.  

What we have ahead of us, as a nation, isn’t really any different.  We’re still fighting a pandemic, we’re trying very hard to learn to trust one another again after four years of living in a world turned upside down.  We’re traumatized, we’re battered, we’re so, so tired.  And that’s really just the sort of surface level of the situation.

But what I heard today was a call for unity.  A call for us to stand together.  To help one another.  To remember who we are as a family of people.  That we’re all important and that we all matter to one another.  Uncle Joe reminded us that when we don’t pull together, we pull apart.

And I don’t know about you, but there was no better message I could hear today, the day wedged solidly between two violent personal anniversaries.  I am a broken person; we are a broken nation – but we can all heal and see the light again.  

Everything is possible when we work together to elevate those who have the least and need the most help.

Today I have hope for America.  And I have hope for myself.  And I have hope for you.  And I have hope for everyone.  It’s a welcome feeling.

The Rituals By Which We Measure Time

As I sit here listening to the tapping of the keyboard like rain on a metal roof, I’m participating in one of many, many rituals in my daily life.  We all have them.  Get up, get a shower, eat breakfast, take your keys from the place they always hang, run out the door, go to work, punch the clock, attend your station, perform your duties – each step part of a ritual enacted and perfected by after day after day.

You may have noticed that I was unusually silent last week.

I wasn’t mad at you, I didn’t take off on an exciting whirlwind tour, what happened was quite mundane and profound.  You see, my rituals were thrown off by an unexpected power outage that created a chaos spiral.  On New Year’s Eve, we had a freak ice storm that pulled the branches of a very lovely pine tree down onto my power and internet cables, violently ripping them out of my house.

The effect was immediate.  Not only to my house, but to my psyche.  This isn’t the first time I’ve had to power through an ice storm, but the last one was something like 14 years ago, when I was considerably younger and far less reliant on comfortable sameness.  Comfortable sameness.  That phrase seems so… middle aged.  I never expected that I would embrace the march of time.

But in that chaotic pause, I was not too gently reminded how much rituals matter in my daily life, and I was determined that I would make a blog post about the whole thing.

Rituals in Writing, Rituals in Life

Writing, like so many other things in life, requires going into a specific sort of head space to properly accomplish.  Some writers need absolute silence, others, noise.  A few like myself need controlled dissonance to properly distract the demons that make it hard to focus.

We all have rituals that help lubricate the day.  There’s no sinnin’ in it.  There are valuable time management skills buried in daily rituals.  After all, if you don’t have to think about how to make the coffee or burn the pancakes, like you do every day, it speeds up the process.

I know a lot of writers who struggle with time management (myself included), but I’ve also learned a few tricks for overcoming my own misguided behavior over the years.  Rituals made such a difference for me.

If you don’t already have rituals to help automate some of the more basic parts of your day, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a shot.  I promise you don’t have to admit that you’re getting older and less spontaneous.  Just look at it as freeing up processing power for more important tasks, like searching the Internet for increasingly bizarre memes.

Establishing Useful Rituals (No Chanting Required)

One of the most important rituals for me is something I like to call “breaking the seal on the writing day.”  I don’t do this every day, because I don’t write every day, but I do it most days.  When I get a fresh new day, I have to start totally from scratch.  I can’t carry over the momentum from days before – I can’t even do that if I’m interrupted for an hour or so, if we’re being honest.  So, breaking the seal is kind of a big deal for me.  It’s become a bit of a ritual for my work life.

In that blog I linked, I talk about seal breaking specifically, but here, we’re just going to talk about rituals kind of in general.  How to start a ritual, how to use a ritual.  Here we go:

Start with the problem.  What’s the issue you’ve got that requires a little better approach?  It should be a problem you face most days, otherwise it’s not really a regular ritual.  For example, you may always forget to take your cholesterol meds before bed.  This is a simple one a lot of people struggle with.  It should be a simple thing, rituals that are too complex are easy to forget.

Designate a ritual space.  I know this sounds all kinds of mystery cult, but the truth is that having a space for your ritual, whatever it is, makes it easier to build associations and help you remember to ACTUALLY DO IT.  So, for example, put your cholesterol meds in a place where you are near bedtime, in a designated spot, so you don’t have to go digging around looking for them.  Be middle aged.  It’s ok.

Set a reminder.  If you’re terrible at starting rituals, do what I do.  Set a reminder for a specific time.  Your phone, your watch, your home assistant, they can all help you remember.  If nothing else, you’ll wonder what that incessant noise is long enough that it may occur to you what you’re supposed to be doing.  This works as well for work tasks as life tasks.

Perform the actual ritual.  It’s all fine and good to plan to do a thing, but you actually have to follow-through.  This is probably the hardest part, really.  But do the thing.  Do it again.  Do it over and over at the right time until it’s just part of your life.  

Rituals are great, they truly are, but they can get a bit dodgy when unexpected chaos erupts.  So, while I really believe in the power of rituals, I also try to not become overly reliant on them.  After all, it really sucks trying to remember how to do a thing outside of your usual ritual environment.

Now, back to your regularly daily scheduled rituals…. *chants in Gregorian*

New Years Letter 2020

Hooboy.  If you’ve been following this blog for long, you’re well aware that today is the day I issue the traditional New Year’s Letter.  It’s a tool for me to reflect upon what’s happened in the year: the wins, the losses, the things I can fix, the things I can’t affect.  In a year filled with Twisted Teas, Angry Bees, and Dreaded Disease, I don’t even know how to begin this.

I guess I’m going to begin at the beginning.  Of the year.  And work from there.

See, while 2020 was transformative for most people, for better or worse, it was especially pivotal for me on a very personal level.

2020 was the year I fled my marriage.  It was the single most dramatic period of my existence – and I’ve seen some shit.  On January 23, 2020, I left my home in Fort Worth, Texas, with four dogs and a few bags, and I didn’t look back.

That trip ultimately would take me (and the hounds) over 2,200 miles across six states, and showed me, once and for all, that Internet friends are real friends.  It took an army to help me get home, and resulted in an outpouring of love and hope that I’ve never experienced before.  It was absolutely life-changing, and I will never live long enough to properly thank all of those involved.

Late on February 10, 2020, we made it back to an empty house, full of possibilities.

It was only then that I even realized there was a pandemic coming on.  I’d been a bit occupied, you understand.  About three weeks, give or take, after we got home, I was called by my doctor in Texas and advised to go into isolation.

I won’t lie, it was a bit of a gut-punch.  See, I had really been looking forward to getting reacquainted with the land of my birth, the Missouri Ozarks. The open spaces, the trees (you have no idea how much I missed trees), the calm, folksy ways of my people.  All of it.  I was ready to soak it up like a dehydrated mongoose.

But instead, I stayed home and I waited.

I ordered groceries, I shopped on Amazon, I wrote what work there was to write.  And I waited.

One week turned into two, two turned into four, a month turned into six months, six months into nine, and here we are… give or take.

I’m still waiting.  But it’s the end of 2020, so I’m done waiting in 2020.  Tomorrow I’ll start waiting in 2021… (that’s a joke)

In all this waiting, a lot of very bad things happened.  People got sick.  We lost over 350,000 of our countrymen – who didn’t have to die – to a poorly executed COVID response.  We cried collectively, we shared our fears, we celebrated the best we could while together, but apart.

It was a Hell of a year and I can promise you that our experiences will be remembered for generations to come.

I don’t even have the words for this year.  But I do have a lot of hope.  Even after all this blackness, I have hope.  Maybe I’m a dangerously optimistic person in these strange times, but I have ALWAYS believed in humanity.  I always believe we’re better than we think.  

Collectively, I mean.  Some of you are real assholes.

Looking back on 2020, I think we all did really well.  Given the circumstances, merely surviving was a massive accomplishment.  But we did more than that.  We learned to make sourdough starters, we navigated online shopping (many for the first time), we figured out ways to stay in touch safely.  We reached out when we were in danger or in doubt, and others caught us.

People will look back on this year and see nothing but loss, doubt and fear.  Some will see selfishness and political upheaval.  It’ll be a year that kids didn’t go to school, workers were sent home, businesses were shuttered… but for me, until the day I die, this will be a year of hope.

I watched people fight for and love one another ferociously.  I saw families get closer than they’d ever been before.  I was fortunate enough to be party to various acts of kindness for those who were struggling with the “new normal.”  (Heck, we even collectively deposed a would-be dictator…) 

This year, I saw so many little candles burning in the black, it fills my heart beyond bursting.  

We’re none perfect, and we’ve all made mistakes this year.  We’ve all had to balance our physical health and mental well-being (and a few people have been really complete and utter bastards), but by and large, I think good is winning.  I think good is going to come out on top at the end of all of this.

It may be hard to see right now.  Especially for those who are working as frontline workers, those who are in the thick of the medical system, those who have lost someone, but in big giant brushstrokes, I think most of us were looking out for others as best as we knew how to do.  I think most of us gave what we could spare to keep those people who didn’t have enough going after the government had abandoned us.

This year, I’m going to remember the simple, beautiful acts of individuals.  The tiny kindnesses that meant more than anyone could possibly believe.  There’s no lesson this year.  There’s nothing I could have done better, nothing I should have done differently.

I’m proud of how I handled this year.  I’m proud of how you handled this year.  I’m proud of us.  Collectively.  

If we can do 2021 like this, but with less fear and more faith and belief in truth, I think we may well be on to something.

Happy Holidays and Stuff

It’s December 22, 2020 and I’m sitting here contemplating the coming year.

If you’ve been a follower of this blog for any amount of time, you know I write a New Year letter to myself every year.  2020’s… boy, I don’t even know where to start.  But, today is pre-Christmas, so I’ve got time to sort it.

Today, I just wanted to give you a quick shout out for this, the two week Holiday gambut so many of us run year after year.  It’s gonna be weird, not gonna lie.  It already IS weird.  But this is life in the Darkest Pandemic Timeline.

We’re sitting at over 325k dead in the US alone, 1.7 million and counting worldwide.  In most corners of the planet, we’re fighting for our lives and the lives of the people we know and love.  None of this is normal.

I have friends who are reporting their local medical facilities are overwhelmed and on the verge of collapse.  I have friends who are reporting their countries are going back into the highest level of lockdown possible.  I have friends who have died, friends who have been extremely ill, friends who are protecting someone they love by avoiding them at all costs.

I feel you all.  I feel it so hard.  It’s difficult to be alone at the holidays, no matter if you’re religious or secular.  I’m immunosuppressed, so trust me, I hear you.  It’s been a rough fucking year.

But, even so, there’s hope.  There’s a little bit of hope.  Vaccines are going into arms as we speak, brought to us by scientists who have collaborated across all sorts of borders, with proper funding (for once), in the greatest meeting of minds that our generation will ever know.  

The US government has finally gotten its act together to bring relief to millions of people who are still out of work due to the crisis, potentially avoiding collapsing the American economy, which would definitely have global impacts.

There’s a raging fucking fire burning, but I can hear the choppers full of water.  Can you?  You might have to listen really closely, but they’re coming.  Hold on for dear life.  One Zoom Christmas won’t hurt anybody.  I promise.  Zoom is awesome.  Zoom is where it’s at.

I love you guys, and I’m so proud of you for being so brave.  It won’t be long now.  The cavalry’s coming, but we have to keep fighting until they get here.  Wear your masks, be careful who you come into contact with, don’t lick any random doorknobs.

Day by day is how we make it through.

Going About Finding Your People

I promised I’d tell you how to find your people in the last blog, but when I did that, I had no idea what a monumental task it would be to put that into actual words. Then a friend of mine made a post on Facebook about loneliness (it was a helpful post for people feeling lonely, she’s a good egg). And although this blog is meant to be for your personal development, over time it’s also come to be very useful for people in their personal lives, too, so it kind of got me thinking.

Marketing yourself to the wrong people IS a lot like hanging out with people who don’t get you, which can be a source of loneliness. The constant miscommunication and disappointment that you’re having to explain your core essence to someone is the same whether personal or professional. 

Even though we, as creatives, have a job that requires we learn to handle A LOT of rejection, it still stings. It still can generate professional setbacks if there are too many losses in a row. This is why it’s SO much easier to just find your people than to try to force yourself to be someone that you’re not. After all, this world is built on niches upon niches, there is absolutely someone who gets you out there, and almost certainly enough of those people to allow you to make a living. 

After all, NO ONE is *that* special. Not really. We’re all just meaty bags of pulp at the end of the day. 

Identifying Your Segment, Sector, Humans, or Fleshy Bags of Wonder

Before you can find the people who will hold on to you and understand the unique talents you possess, you’re gonna have to do some real soul-searching and, frankly, be painfully honest with yourself. I’m sorry, but this is the only way.

I’ve met a lot of young writers who really want to be a certain sort of writer: clever, sarcastic, witty, sardonic, intense, intellectual, the list is long, but who were really something entirely different. And there’s no sinnin’ in learning how to write like someone else, or to get better at networking with some kind of self-help reading, or to generally improve your skill base. 

But there’s a difference between doing this and trying to overwrite who you are at your very core. It’s that heart that makes you you, and, as far as I’ve ever seen, that bit doesn’t really change a lot once you’re a fully mature person. This is where the honesty thing comes in, because you need to recognize who that is, what it is that makes your heart beat, and harness the fuck outta it.

Maybe you want to be a clever writer, but you’re really an analytical one. You know what? That’s ok, there are so many places you are amazingly useful and people who WANT a naturally analytical writer will fall all over themselves to find one who will embrace that. There are also places where your cheek is way too fucking much and you’ll get kicked to the curb for being sassy. I am both a highly analytical thinker and have a bad case of the sassypants, so I speak from experience here.

But you know who I want to be? Or who I used to want to be, before I realized that I could only be who I am anyway? I wanted to be one of those writers who sound so, so smart. They pull in quotes from philosophers I’ve never even heard of, they speak four languages fluently, they are all that is intellect and class. That’s who I used to want to be. That’s the round hole I used to try to pound myself into.

You know who I am? I’m a walking dad joke wrapped in rural folksisms. I’m a person with a great deal of practical knowledge, not nearly enough formal education, and no fear. I’m a force of nature, just like you, but I would have never realized this until I really took a long look at myself.

So, step one is to really understand who you are and what your skill set looks like. Because, as I’ve said so many times in the past, as writers, we’re not in competition with one another. The client will hire the best fit for what their brain eyeballs see. They hire the person who they think is the right person, there’s really not even a contest. 

It’s like dating, really. Just because you go on a bunch of dates doesn’t mean those people are competing with one another. What you’re really doing is sizing them up to see if any of them are the right person to help build the future in your mind. Honestly, this whole blog came about because I was thinking about how much dating was just like sending out job inquiries. Every potential match is different and there’s a certain amount of self-understanding that’s required to figure out which ones are the best for your overall well-being.

Where Do Your People Live?

The biggest trick to finding your people is to figure out where they live. That mainly means in professional circles, so please don’t go knocking on doors asking around. There are personalities that exist in all realms, of course, but some tend to attract certain types, and the real trick is to find where your type hangs out. 

This is kind of like an intro to audience segmentation, honestly. To find your people ask yourself this simple question: Who do you connect with easily? Women aged 25-40 with college educations? Blue collar men in the trades under age 50? Be specific and honest. The more specific you can get, the closer you’re going to get to their homes.

Social media is a great place to fish for people, but you can’t exactly do that when you’re looking for writing work. Clients tend to frown on you stalking them.

What you have to do, instead, is set out a lot of bait and see who comes swimming up. That bait needs to be all you, as you are, and nothing less. I’ve hired a lot of writers over the years and I can tell you, I rarely hire the ones that sound like carbon copies of one another. I hire the ones that have teeth and voice and have zero shits to give.

Your Opinion in a Relationship Matters, Too

So, this is where I’m gonna go into the actual actionable stuff. Like ya do. See, the whole point of casting the bait and reelin’ them in is so you can actually talk to these people and get a feel for what they’re about. In your professional life, social life, actual life, doesn’t even matter. It’s the same trick.

You may not be yet ready to walk up to every new person and treat them like you’ve known them all your life, but you can get a bead on them and whether or not a relationship with them will end up making you happier or more miserable, whether you’ll feel like a member of a team or increasingly isolated.

These are my top tips for feeling out strangers (not feeling up strangers, that’s against the law):

1. Be honest about who you are. In a job interview, you should obviously be a bit more formal than you would in your life life, but it’s still important to be honest about who you are, what your needs are, and how you believe those can be met. For example, when I meet with a potential client for the first time, I get the money talk out of the way right away. If they won’t pay me what I deserve, there’s no reason to waste anyone’s time. We’re not going to be compatible if they don’t value my work at the same level I do.

In the same vein, I also make sure they understand that I’m not a churn and burn content flipper, I don’t do fast content, I do good content, and the things I generate for them will make them money for years to come. That’s who I am. I’m slow sometimes, but I am always methodical. I am all about doing the job right. If they’re not for that, then it’s probably not going to be a good match because we simply don’t have the same values when it comes to work. 

I have ethical lines in the sand I won’t cross. For example, I won’t overuse the fear button just for a sale; I’m more of a hopey-changey type. I’ll sell hope all fucking day long, man. But fear, that’s not me, even if that’s what the client thinks they need. I’ll walk before I support that shit, because I know who I am now.

2. Have some personality. Along with being honest about who you are in a professional way, you should be honest about how you work. What’s it like to be around you? Are you a miserable prat that no one likes? Well, maybe keep that under your hat… but if you’re someone like me who is super casual with everyone, well, you definitely need to get that out. Don’t lead with fart jokes, but don’t give the impression that you’ve got a stick up your ass, either, because that’s who that client will expect to meet time after time. 

3. Interview the interviewer. Because of my background in journalism and sales, it’s second nature to me to ask a lot of questions and to size people up. This is admittedly not a skill that comes easily to a lot of people, but anyone can learn how to do it with some practice. A job interview, just like a first date, should go both ways. They ask you questions, you ask them questions, you have a proper conversation. If you get little red flags popping up all over the place, maybe you decide this one is best left alone, or, at very least, to be watched very carefully for signs of going toxic.

4. Allow yourself to say no. I’ll be apologizing for this forever, I’m afraid, because I used to say that writers should always say yes and never say no. Admittedly, the environment was a lot different back then, but that was still really miserable advice to offer. You should absolutely tell people no when you mean no. No, I won’t do this. No, this price isn’t gonna work. No, I have zero experience writing about cooking waffles for ducks. It’s ok to say no. It’s not a dirty word. It’s a limit on how many of your resources you’re willing or able to spend.

If the client isn’t giving you answers you like, say no. Maybe there’s a way you can work together differently, maybe there’s not, but you won’t know until you say no and offer a compromise. No, I don’t do DropBox. How do you feel about Google Drive? No, WordPerfect isn’t an appropriate word processor for the 2020s. I can send you anything that’s MS Word compatible. No, I won’t take any goddamn paper money, get that shit out of my face. 

I’ve learned that how people respond to “no” says a whole lot more about them than how they respond to “yes.” With yes, they know they’re getting what they want and it’s all good. With no, well, it’s anybody’s guess. Maybe they’ll get what they want eventually, maybe not, but they won’t get their EXACT way, and there are some intolerable assholes who will out themselves quickly when you drop the N-word. No, I mean…

This is only really a basic primer on finding your people. What I know about this subject could fill a book, so if you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to ask here in the comments or via my FaceBook account, Waterworth Writes.

You Don’t Need Everyone to Love You

I used to give horrible advice when it came to clients.  I really did, it’s not a lie, and I will totally own that.  I used to say that you (as a writer) should be a chameleon, and as a chameleon, you should be able to be a lot of different things to a lot of different people.  And while I still maintain that it’s an important strategy as you’re establishing your business and trying to keep food on the table, it’s not a recipe for longer term happiness.

And, if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that happiness is really important.  Like so much more important than I ever imagined.  You can make happiness from nothing, but it’s a lot easier if you just find the people who help feed that happiness.  This is a lesson I’ve taken from COVID and I want to pass it to you.

This goes for your personal life, your professional life, your recreational life… it goes for everything.  If you’re surrounded by a lot of miserable cunts who couldn’t care less if you live or die, well, it’s hard to generate your own little island of joy.  If you find yourself around people who are pretty pleasant and who kinda like, you know, get you, the whole process is a whole lot easier.

And that’s why I’ve come today to correct myself.  Because you don’t need everybody to love you.  You just need the right people to love you.  This is meant to be for your writing life, but it also can be applied to your generally squishy people life.

We’re Not For Everyone

I have long known that I wasn’t for everybody.  I knew I could be intense, I could get lost in my own head, I had a variety of interests that make most people’s eyes glaze over.  I knew all of this about myself, but I also knew it was just kinda how it was.  This is just who I am.

And while all of that stuff was true, there was a falsehood in there.  One I wholly believed and it crippled me.  I thought I was among a small minority of people who were this potentially unbearable.  I thought I was rare and gifted in my level of general inability to be loved by others when I let it all hang out.

I was so, so stupidly wrong.  I suffer terribly from Imposter Syndrome and I’ve written about it many times over the years (you can find blogs about it here, here, and here).  It ebbs and flows, but this year has been a real fucking winner in that battle (that’s sarcasm).  I think that’s where I got the idea that I was an insufferable taint of a human…

The truth is that NONE of us are for everyone.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, an accountant, a fucking trust fund hippie… doesn’t matter.  You’re not for everyone.  And that’s ok.  It takes a lot of different types to make the world turn, and you can’t be everything for everybody.  It’s just not possible.  

Get some healthy expectations will you? GOSH!

… But We ARE Glorious Among Our Own

I’ve been a digital writer for most of a decade now and I’ve learned one ineffable truth.  There’s only one person like you in the whole goddamn world and you’re super fucking glorious to someone.  

I mean, I think you’re an asshole, but what does my opinion mean?  Nothing.

There are niches upon niches upon niches of people in this world.  Social media and digital marketing has driven this point home to me harder than you could possibly imagine.  So what if the biker gangs of the world don’t want to hang with you?  You’re more of a ship in a bottle type.  Fuck ‘em.

This goes doubly when it comes to being a working writer.  There are going to be clients who really don’t like you.  I mean, some will absolutely loathe your very existence and be kind of salty that you get to use up oxygen.  I’ve had those clients and they’re impossible to please because what they want is something that I cannot ever be.  What they want is someone else, even though I’m alarmingly sexy, disarmingly talented, and remarkably fond of curse words and bad jokes.

You can’t be everything to everyone.  I may have already said that, but I still mean it.  I mean, we’re about 750 words into this thing, I have no idea what I was writing ten minutes ago…

Anyhoo.  My point, if I have one, is that I was fucking wrong, you deserved better, and I failed you.  So, let that freak flag fly, my friend.  Be who you are.  There’s no other motherfucker on his planet who is just like you.

Tips for Flying That Freak Flag

As per the usual format, I’m gonna give you some kind of advice that you can actually use.  I’m good for more than useless platitudes.  

Generally.  

Letting your freak flag fly is a delicate balance.  You don’t want to be a walking cartoon, but you do want to let potential clients (and humans) know that you’re not a blank slate.  Try this stuff:

1. When you write (or otherwise communicate), do it freely.  Take a big, deep breath, and reach down to your gut stuff.  Speak from your metaphorical diaphragm, let whatever’s rattling around in your brain bubble up, so long as it makes sense in the context you find yourself in. 

For example, I may have a piece to write about making paint choices, since I still do home improvement content.  

I once got an AI-generated Facebook status (from one of those many weird tools on the Internet) that said my status should be “In the Maldives, the water matches my hair.”  I think about that a lot.  Probably a lot more than is reasonable or sane.  

Anyway.  I got this message from the AI-bot and I think about it a lot, like I said.  

If I were to have a piece on this year’s colors of the year (I might have that slated for today) and one of them is aqua, AND there was a photo of me with the article, I might talk about this very story.  I might say, “This year’s color of the year from Sherman-Williams is an aqua called ‘Potatoes By Starlight.’”  And then I might mention the time I got a message from an AI-bot about my hair matching the water in the Maldives.

I’ve not been to the Maldives to confirm this prophecy, but I have no doubt it’s accurate.  In fact, there are days that’s the only thing I am pretty sure is true…

See how all that just kind of rolled out as a story?  Well, that’s what communicating freely is about.  Weave a little bit of yourself into everything.  It doesn’t always come naturally, so I recommend practicing a lot.

2. Use the Words You Use.  As writers, we’re sticklers about language.  In fact, I think sometimes we’re far too stickler-ly about it.  There’s no functional difference between a lot of words, like “often” and “regularly,” for example.  Those words are basically the same, but they sound a lot different, and they give off different smells.  

If you mean “regularly,” but you think the proper thing to do would be to use the word “often” to avoid the dreaded “-ly” ending, you’re trying way too hard.  Use the words you use.  Your words have power, even if you don’t like it.  Your diction has meaning, purpose, and a place where it fits.  It’s easier to find the fit than to force yourself to write in a way that is against your own nature.  

As long as it’s the proper dialect for your project, use the word that you use naturally.  Stop trying so damn hard to impress people who probably don’t give any shits about which way you go.

3. Remember It’s Ok to Have a Personality.  You are who you are, and that’s actually pretty cool.  There’s not another writer in the world just like you.  In fact, I get more work because I’m voicey than because of anything else in my credentials.  People love that they read me and hear ME when they do it.  They know these words were shart from my own word hands and not from some potentially generic person that might not even be alive.

Inject your interests, your thoughts, your own expressions, anything you can squeeze into the requirements for your work.  Trust me, you’ll come out so much better and your readership will eat it up.

Give your words life.  Give your conversations life.  This is the way.  

In Summary…

You’re never going to be everybody’s Cup O’ Noodles.  Some people are on low sodium diets, or they’re allergic to wheat, or they just really can’t stand that artificial chicken flavor.  It’s ok.  You’re SOMEONE’S Cup O’ Noodles, and what I’ve found in all these years is that it’s a LOT easier to find those people who jive with you rather than trying to stuff yourself into a mold where you’ll never really fit.  

So go find your people, be they clients, coworkers, friends, or lovers.  Find your people.  You will never regret it.  (We’ll talk about how to do that next week)