Tag Archives: advice

Guest Post: “A Response to ’21 Tips on How to Be a Perfect Girlfriend for your Guy’, by a Normal Guy

I’ve been focusing on some writing projects (more on that later, so make sure to subscribe to the blog with the submission box at right so you don’t miss it!), so apologies for the lack of updates the last few weeks. The following is a friend’s response to a practically medieval article about how women can change themselves to be the “perfect”girlfriend. I hope you enjoy it!

“A Reponse to ’21 Ways to Be The Perfect Girlfriend For Your Guy'”
By Peter Randall

1. Remember that we fancy you NO MATTER.

If you are dressed in a tracksuit and have make-up streaming down your face from when we argued last night, we fancy you. If you are dressed as a duck and have actual poo on your face, we still fancy you. Although maybe get the poo off. The point is, we find you attractive physically because of who you are much more than what you look like – imagine if that wasn’t mutual? We would have no chance. So yeah. Let the mud stay in your hair for a few days. Who cares. We still think you are the most beautiful woman in the world.

 2. Remember that your smell is the hottest smell.

Perfume is great and everything, but the best smell is you straight out of bed in the morning.

3.  Keep nagging and complaining

We are pretty rubbish. As the great Receivers of the Patriarchal Advantage, we are used to having our own way, having things done for us and everyone agreeing with us. Keep working at us. Don’t let us get complacent or turn into typical misogynist arseholes. Nag at us continually until we grow up or you have had enough and you leave us.

4. Don’t say anything you don’t mean

Don’t go all gooey if you don’t feel like it, just because you think we might need some man-couragement. We are adults (most of us) and we need to deal with it.

5. Don’t worry about asking us stuff

Saying “do I look fat?” is not annoying. We don’t think you’re fat. We think you are perfect. We wouldn’t change you for the world. We are in a relationship because we are a team, and if you need that help then you will get it.

6. Remember we are men and therefore jealous

If we get jealous, it’s 99 times out of a 100 not anything you have actually done wrong. Our engines run on testosterone, which makes us ‘brave’ and shit but also makes us jealous and angry and grumpy and all the other annoying stuff we are. So remember that although we might need to be reminded that we are the only guy for you, we should also be trying to CALM THE F*CK DOWN and be normal.

7. Don’t feel like you have to like our friends

Our friends are not us and so you might not like them. And that is fine. Do we like all your friends? Probably not truth be told. Does it matter? Does it f*ck.

8. Don’t do stuff in the bedroom just for us

If you get a kick out of something because we do, then that’s cool – but putting yourself through something for us and thinking about when it’s over? Not cool. For anyone. We aren’t actually interested in dating a pornstar. We are illogical. Men always want someone who knows what to do in the bedroom and then they get jealous because they wonder how their partner learned all that. IT MAKES NO SENSE. DO NOT WORRY. Do what you want to, for yourself, for us, for both parties. It is fun.

9. Never cook. Get takeaway.

Cooking is something that we have to do in our twenties because our metabolisms have slowed and now we are fat. But please, let’s get pizza just this one time.

10. Love is not in the details. Love is in the functionality of the everyday existence of our prostituted lives.

Now we are all working for “the man”. Our great victory is not in receiving little presents but loving each other as strongly as we do in a hate-fuelled world. If you can come home from respective shitty days at work, smile and laugh, it’s good. No one needs “a small token”. Big ones are fine.

11. Do not say thank you for thank yous, we will become evil.

If you show your appreciation every time we get off our hairy arses and actually do something for you, we would end up only being nice to you because we expect something back. Just take it if we are nice, and move on. We don’t need any more spoonfeeding than society already gives us.

12. “Stroke his ego”

Nope.

13. Don’t make us feel like we have to “be the man” in a relationship.

My girlfriend earns more than me. All year round. Does this make me not feel like a man? Nope, still got a cock and balls. Still feel like a man. My girlfriend is far more intelligent than me, and wins most debates hand down. Still feel like a man. My girlfriend knows her way around Central London better than me. Still feel like a man. The list goes on. Ultimately I feel like a man because I am a man and there isn’t really much else to it. I would still “feel like a man” in the relationship if I was in a relationship with another man. Because, biologically, I am a man.

14. “You are partners, not enemies”

Oh yeah? You try holding on to those covers at night. You try getting the last chocolate out of the box, or picking which side of the bed you want. My girlfriend is constantly my enemy. And I love her for it.

15. Have a life and Passion.

Or, in other words, be a human being.

16. Be better than all of his ex’s combined.

Wow. Way to totally dehumanise everyone else involved. Ultimately, most people’s ex’s and current partner will have some things in common because they have that person in common. They would probably be besties in another life. Well, maybe some of them. Be better than all of them combined? At what? Playstation? They are ex’s because they weren’t compatible, or they cheated, or they got cheated on, or they moved on, or your partner was a dick to them or something. Jesus Christ. Not because they weren’t “better”. They are PEOPLE. Christ. Just… yeah.

17. Do be a menace

You know what? It aint normal to not know where your partner is for an evening. Because you talk. So even if he says “going to the pub with some mates” like he doesn’t want to say who the mates are, it is perfectly normal to ask who they are. Or where he is going. It’s called conversation. And also, earlier on, there was that whole “give him a reason to trust you by not flirting or hanging out with other guys” and then now it’s all “just try and trust him if yo get all up in his grille he’ll just snog someone else” I mean fuck off.

18. Having a pleasing personality – OR BE HUMAN

“A woman with a pleasing personality puts your pleasure first”. What the actual fuck. Seriously. I can’t even take the piss out of this. Seriously.

19. Take him for granted

He loves you. You don’t need to be on your toes. You watch a ‘ton of tv’? Well, to be fair, you did that anyway, just in secret. ‘Got fat’? Great, more of my favourite person to love.

20. “work out regularly”

Yeah, please don’t get heart disease and die, work out a normal amount so you don’t die. What, you’re working out for me? Why? So you don’t die? No? Because “you’ll be the perfect girlfriend in my (his) mind”? Yeah, you sound MENTAL.

21. Don’t worry about being feminine, because you have all the right bits and we fancied you for some reason anyway

You know what? I don’t need to explain why this is ridiculous. It is madness. It is terrible. It is all kinds of shit.

Guest blogger Peter Randall also writes poetry, which can be viewed on his website at http://poemobile.com/.

 

 

Versatile Blogger Awards (Part 1: Blog Recommendations)

IMG_20131017_213750On Saturday, I found out that Christina Zarrella had awarded me a Versatile Blogger Award! Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyways), I’m so flattered that she thought of me when selecting her nominees! Christina’s blog, Turbulence in the Veins, talks about her journey from homeless teen to Yale grad, offering some incredible insight into the struggles she faced and overcame on the way and talking about issues faced by those in similar situations to hers. To be honored by such a blogger was immensely flattering, and I hope you’ll all check out her writing. She has a memoir, of the same title, on the way. Thank you so much, Christina, for your kind words about I Wrote This:

Rachel Lynn Brody’s blog is always informative – whether on tech/blogging/writing topics and tips: http://rlbrody.com

Part one of winning a Versatile Blogger award is nominating another 15 blogs – so here are my nominations (in no particular order)!

  1. Sare Liz Gordy (Inspiration, One Day At A Time) www.sareliz.com – Sare and I have known each other for years; her blog, which she updates with regularity, is always a window into her attempts to view her world with clarity and self-knowledge. Whether she’s posting about migraines, Feng Shui or finding enlightenment, her blogs are always a focused reflection of the world around her.
  2. Tony Noland (Landless) http://www.tonynoland.com/ – A Twitter acquaintance who I’ve known for a while now, Tony’s blog is a combination of his self-publishing exploits, flash fiction and the occasional DIY project. His sense of humor is always evident in his takes on everyday life.
  3. Jamie Broadnax (Black Girl Nerds) http://blackgirlnerds.com/ – Jamie and I have been chatting on Twitter for some time now, and her blog is a phenomenal resource for all things nerdy. She runs a weekly podcast of the same name, and both outlets dig into comics, culture and more. Through Black Girl Nerds, she’s built a phenomenal community that’s well worth checking out.
  4. C.D. Reimer http://www.cdreimer.com/ – This is actually a combination of three blogs, where C.D. posts about writing, Silicon Valley and poetry. His writing blog is incredibly informative and often offers helpful insights into the process of self-publishing.
  5. Johann Thorsson (On Books & Writing) http://jthorsson.com/blog/ – Icelandic author Johann Thorsson writes short stories and novels (mostly in English). His blog is a collection of book reviews, photographs and excerpts from his essays for megasite Book Riot. As an added bonus, those who follow him on Twitter often get to see, via photo, how jealous we should all be that we don’t live in Iceland.
  6. JC Rosen (Girl Meets Words) http://jessrosen.wordpress.com/ – Jess runs a few different book- and writing-related discussions on Twitter. She’s always supportive of writers and willing to chat about their work, and always able to give an encouraging word. Her blog includes flash fiction on diverse topics and write-ups of the different things she’s reading.
  7. Emily Suess (Suess’ Pieces) http://emilysuess.wordpress.com/ – One of my first Twitter acquaintances, Emily also runs a copywriting business – and when I met her, had taken on the beheamouth of online vanity publishing services to try and help new writers avoid unethical treatment. Seuss’ Pieces has been retired and archived to this URL, but still contains plenty of advice for beginning writers.
  8. Melanie Ardentdelirium (Lovely Like Beestings) http://lovelylikebeestings.wordpress.com – Mels is a Twitter acquaintance whose blog tackles issues of both mental health and Roller Derby. Her topics cover everything from broken bones to sick cats, all with a frank edge that gives you a real taste of her personality.
  9. Jo Clifford (Teatro do Mundo) http://www.teatrodomundo.com/  – Jo, my former MFA supervisor, is also a well-regarded, talented and prolific playwright in Scotland. Her blog is both a resource for understanding what it means to be a playwright in today’s world as well as a rich collection of ruminations on personal experience.
  10. Sarah Hartley (StoryGirlSarah.com) http://storygirlsarah.com/ – Sarah is a New York fashionista in the truest sense of the word, with her signature mod/vintage look stamped across her fashion and design work. (Did I mention she’s responsible for the cover of Hot Mess?) Follow her blog and on Instagram to get the full impact of her creative and clear-headed style.
  11. E.M. Thurmond (Count My Stars) http://countmystars.wordpress.com/ – While it hasn’t been updated in some time, E.M. Thurmond’s blog tells the story of an aspiring TV writer in Hollywood. From interviews with women writers to accounts of her own experiences developing her career, it’s a place where readers can find insight in the crazy maze of trying to make it as a screenwriter while staying true to your goals and ideals.
  12. Vossbrink and Kukurovaca (Hairy Beast) http://hairybeast.net/ – These two twitter acquaintances are quick-witted on Twitter, and the depth of analysis on this blog dealing with photography and culture will change the way you look at pictures. Well worth checking it out, but carve out enough time to really immerse yourself in the subject matter. You won’t regret it.
  13. Debbie Vega (Moon in Gemini) http://debravega.wordpress.com/ – Another blogger I found through #MondayBlogs, Debbie covers writing and pop culture. She participates in a lot of themed blog events, like “The Great Villain Blogathon,” and offers anything from advice on how writers can improve their craft to her perspective on popular films.
  14. NYPinTA (Talking to the Moon) http://www.nypinta.com/blog/ – Film, music, theater, travel and television all get their chance in the spotlight on NYPinTA’s blog. Her clear and direct writing style lets you enjoy her experiences as if you’d been there.
  15. Hugh C. Howey http://www.hughhowey.com/ – I read Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga last year, and was blown away by his intriguing dystopian vision. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with him once or twice on Twitter, and the thing I love about his blog is how generous he is with his advice for aspiring indie authors. As someone whose self-published stories went from blog entries to Kindle novels to being picked up by a major publisher, he’s walked the road many indie writers want to follow on, and he offers a lot of insight along the way.

Honorable Mention:

Maybe it’s cheating to bring up a blog I help contribute to, but this list wouldn’t be complete without including Calming Brits & Irishmen. My friend @aboleyn started this Tumblr as a way to cheer me up after my back injury, and since then it’s gained nearly 4,000 followers and turned into a sort of Post Secret for Anglophiles. In addition to the meme-like photographs with calming sayings that we started out posting, we now answer anywhere between 3-15 “asks” a day – many anonymous – from followers dealing with upsetting issues from studying for exams to dealing with breakups, mental health issues and the deaths of family and friends — all through the medium of animated gifs of some of our favorite British and Irish personalities. Apparently the brings a smile to many peoples’ days, and if you’re looking for versatility, the topics it covers run the gamut of human experience.

There’s a second part of the Versatile Blogger Awards – sharing seven things about yourself – but as this blog is already topping 1000+ words, I’ll save that for a second part. Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more about me.

I’m currently seeking beta readers/advance reviewers for my upcoming collection of sci-fi and speculative fiction stories, SHORT FRICTIONS. If you’re interested, please click here to find out more. 

Pay-To-Play, Theater Edition: Companies Who Make Playwrights Pay

Imagine you’re a doctor. You’ve put time, money and effort into your training, and have come to be regarded as a professional in your field. Now, there’s a job for a local hospital where you’d like to work. The job carries a $50 “application fee,” and once the hospital in question has decided they want you practicing under their auspices, you’re going to have to pay $5000 in order to see or treat any patients. You can expect about $100 per patient seen as a “kickback” for the chance to treat them, as a way of “honoring” your “investment” with the hospital.

Are you going to take the job? Are you even going to apply?

More importantly, as a patient, are you going to believe that the hospital involved is really interested in providing you with the best medical care available?

Now imagine the hospital is a theater company, and you’re a playwright.

The number of theater companies who think it’s okay to charge both reading and acceptance fees to playwrights seems to be on the rise. And that’s not okay. Playwrights aren’t going to cut into your body (not physically, at least) and they’re not going to save you from an acute life-or-death situation (though they might write something that sticks with you for years to come), but they’re still artists(often trained and practiced) who have put time, effort and ability into their work. And they have no business subsidizing theater companies.

The other day on Facebook, a friend pointed out an “opportunity” for writers who wanted to work with one of NYC’s downtown theater company. After paying a $15 application/reading fee, anyone who was accepted could also look forward to being charged a $175 “acceptance fee” to see their work performed.

Excuse me?

Dear budding playwrights and other writers: the name for a company that poduces or publishes you in exchange for money is “vanity publisher.”

IScreenshot_2014-04-29-10-26-44 realize that reading plays takes time, and producing them takes money, but as a company, if you’re not making enough off your ticket sales and from producer investments to profit from a play without charging the people who wrote them (who are notorious, industry-wide, for NOT GETTING PAID FOR THEIR WORK) to put them on — and you’re not okay with that — then do you really have any business running a theater festival?

Open a theater school. Run a summer camp. Set yourself up as a dramaturg-for-hire. Open your company to development-for-hire.

Just don’t pretend you’re interested in producing theater that opens opportunities or artistic space for those who can’t afford to subsidize you.

When I co-produced ANY OBJECTIONS? for Glasgay 2012, my fellow producer and I put out a global call for short plays dealing with marriage equality. We were particularly interested in getting plays from Asia, Africa and other regions that were under-represented in the world of Western theater, because those were the perspectives we felt it might be most important to show our primarily English-speaking audience. Our only barrier to entry? The plays had to be in English – we simply didn’t have the time or money required to make a translator available.

Did we charge a reading fee? No. Did we charge an “acceptance fee”? No. Did we make any money off anybody but the patrons who came to the performance? No, we did not. And did everybody involved get some kind of paid?

You bet your underwear they did.

The actors got paid, the director got paid, and every single participating writer (with the exception of one who chose to remain anonymous and who, I believe, we were unable to contact with follow-up information, despite our best efforts) got a check as payment for their participation in the event.

Paying For The Right To Work

While the language of the Playbill notice differs slightly from the language used on the company’s website, let’s note that this is posted in a major theatrical publication under the title of “Editorial/Job Opportunity,” and the last time I saw a job you had to pay to take it was because they were selling you a kit of “E-Z ASSEMBLE-AT-HOME JEWELRY, MAKE $5000/MONTH” or a list of real estate leads. Let’s also note that this is a production festival for female playwrights, a group that’s historically under-represented in theater productions worldwide – which, to my mind, makes it even more unethical to charge them for the privilege of having their work produced.

Screenshot_2014-04-29-10-30-27The company who placed the ad cited above offers a $1-per-ticket return (they call it a “kickback) after a $175 “acceptance fee” – which comes after a $15 “reading fee,” mind – so that the playwright can hope to recoup some of her investment. That means a playwright has to see three sold out shows and one half-full house before she’s broken even. Does the company give any information on their average audience size for the festival, past production attendance or marketing reach? No? What? You mean the festival’s only in it’s first year, so there’s no data on how much reach it has or what ticket prices should be? (Note: While I’ve emailed the company regarding questions about past audience size, marketing reach and more, they requested more information Tuesday and have not responded to subsequent emails.)

If we playwrights are investing, shouldn’t we be doing so in an informed manner? And shouldn’t the company we’re investing in encourage that?

With this kind of barrier to entry, the company is already excluding any playwright who doesn’t have nearly $200 in her budget from even competing. Is this approach really going to net them the most talented, most engaging entrants? Is it going to open up the possibility of performance in a meaningful way? As an audience member, do you think that this company is more interested in producing an evening of theater that excites and challenges you, or in finding a way to wring as much money as possible from an evening of performances?

I get it, making theater takes money. I also understand that not everyone has a deep-pocketed producer on board to help offset their costs. I’ve produced theater under those circumstances, too. You know what we did? Anybody who put money in got their money back first, and any profits were split evenly between all members of the company.

Know what else? Every single one of those productions was profitable.

Artists Get Taken Advantage Of All The Time – Don’t Be One Of Them

Many years ago, a co-worker told me about a friend who had started a photography festival and was now living off the entry fees. Each photographer who sent an entry was charged $150 for the privilege, and in addition to making enough to pay for a considerable cash prize, the person who had started the contest was now making a full-time living off the fees.

So excuse me if I’m a little skeptical of companies that set up on this kind of model. As a producer, either you believe in the work you’re putting on stage or you don’t. If you do, then you assume the financial risk, pay your artists (or take them on in an equal, transparent profit-share), and hope for the best.

If you don’t believe in the work, and you don’t think you’re going to make a profit, and you have a problem with that, then don’t produce the play in the first place.

That said, the only way this practice is going to stop is if writers stop responding to these calls for work. So writers, if you value your work and your time, don’t buy into the hype. Submit to the hundreds of opportunities that don’t ask for your financial investment. You’ve already put your time, training and effort into your art. Don’t feel like you have to pay someone else to make it for you.

Charging artists to produce their work in order to make yourself a buck isn’t about making quality theater. It’s about running the production equivalent of a vanity press.

Presenting that as a great opportunity for new playwrights is not okay.

 

*To note: this is not the only company charging for acceptance (although Manhattan Rep frames their Spring One Act as a production fee, not one aimed at playwrights, and doesn’t charge for entry) nor are they charging the most.

The MTA, the Airtrain, and Out-Of-Towners: Corporate Incompetence, or Clever Way to Add Profit?

wpid-20140425_081235.jpgIf you take the Air Train to JFK with any regularity, you know how the $5 one-way fare can eat into your travel budget. A few months ago, I learned that you can buy a 10-ride pass for just $25, as opposed to paying $5 every time you go to or from JFK airport. If you commute to the airport for frequent travel, or are an airline employee, then paying $25 for ten rides is obviously a much better bargain than springing the full $5 every time.

Since my family does a fair amount of travelling to and from the city, we’ve started to buy the $25, 10-ride cards. Yes, there’s always the risk of losing the card between trips, but if you’re careful to keep track of it (I carry mine with my regular unlimited metrocard) then you can save 50% of the cost of travel to and from the airport from the subway stations at Jamaica or Howard Beach.

Unless, that is, you ask an MTA employee whether it’s OK to add money to your card for the regular subway. And they tell you yes. And you believe them. That happened to my sister this morning. As she made her way back to JFK, she asked a station attendant whether it was OK to add money for her subway ride to the same metrocard as her Airtrain fare. They told her yes. She took their word for it.

Upon reaching the Airtrain station, she found out that adding $2.50 for the subway ride had wiped the remaining 5 rides from her Airtrain metrocard. So she had to pay a full $5 fare to take the Airtrain to JFK, because she’s on a budget, doesn’t make a lot of money, and didn’t have an extra $25 lying around once she’d been robbed of the remaining rides on her card thanks to wrong advice from an MTA employee.

What can she do about the situation, or to get her money back? Pretty much nothing. I’ve asked her to send me a photo of the back of the card, on the chance that the MTA can trace how many rides were used from the card’s serial number, but from past experience I know that even if that’s possible, the MTA has a charge for processing refunds that makes it a waste of time to even bother. Even if you buy a card from a vending machine and it doesn’t work, they charge you enough to process the paperwork for a refund that it usually negates the amount you’d get back (unless you carry hundreds of dollars on your metro card, and who does that). I know that because several years ago when my brother and I bought cards for the Air Train and then they showed zero fare when we tried to use them, the Penn Station ticketing attendant’s advice was, “Always buy from the ticket window because if the machine messes up we can’t help you, you have to write in and they’ll charge you ten dollars per ticket to process your refund.” The Airtrain/Subway tickets we had purchased were a total of $7.50 each.

It seems wrong to me that a public service company like the New York City MTA can lie to out-of-towners with seeming impunity, with the result being that their pockets get lined by nonredeemable fares. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am angry. My sister didn’t deserve to be lied to, and if the employee had given her the correct information she still would have had to pay an extra dollar for the extra metrocard she would have had to buy, so the MTA would still be making extra money on the transaction.

I’ve sent a few tweets (included below) to both the MTA hashtag and the MTA Twitter account, and I’d just love to hear their explanation for why it was OK for their employee to give my sister false information that led to her being out a total of $17.50.

Storify story included below.

 

Ask A Local: Coming to NYC With The Family

One of the reasons I moved to NYC – aside from it being a great place for writers – was that I knew it was the kind of  place my friends might be likely to visit. I’ve gotten into the habit of fielding questions from those making trips, and a recent email from a friend made me think: maybe it would be useful to post this and other travel-related discussions online.

Feel free to add to this in the comments; if you have a question about NYC or other cities I’ve lived in, get in touch and I’m glad to help out when I have the time. 🙂

So, my inaugural edition of Ask A Local…

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Q: Hi Rachel! We’ll be in NYC from June 8-13. Since we’re driving we’ll need somewhere to park the car as well. I was thinking of maybe looking for somewhere in Brooklyn on airbnb. In terms of budget, we were hoping for $200-$250 per night, not sure if that is realistic? The hotels that I looked for seem to be either really cheap and really dodgy looking or really upscale and expensive! We’ll mostly be out and about so don’t need fancy just clean, safe, and somewhere to have breakfast would be good. The kids are small and can sleep in one bed together so we really just need two doubles/queens. Thanks for your tips. Excited to meet you too!

A: I had a quick look into hotels and I think Brooklyn would be an awesome option for a family trip.

Williamsburg has seen so much influx of $ the last few years that their hotels will be mostly new builds. I am slightly wary because I don’t know the bedbug situation in Brooklyn these days (i don’t say that with any alarmist intentions, it’s just a thing modern travellers must be aware of) BUT the solution to this is easy; you just look the property you’re considering up – a Google search like “[PROPERTY NAME] review bedbugs” should tell you everything you need to know, and if u aren’t sure how to interpret something, link me and I’ll give u my opinion. Williamsburg is very cool and relaxed now, lots of hip thirtysomethings and lower who can afford east villiage prices but prefer Brooklyn/the burger for whatever reasons. Cafes, meatball shop, good vegan/vegetarian, cocktail bars and beer halls. If u like video games and nouveau-retro and beer, barcade. Know where you’re going before you leave the house bc lots of blocks and poor signage generally; well-documented on yelp.

The other neighborhood I would feel confident recommending in Brooklyn is Carroll Gardens or park slope. Slightly older and more professional crowd. Kids probably in the range of 3-7 on avg? (based on math taking place in my brain, grain of salt.) A bit twee. Grocery stores (trader joes), bars, near downtown Brooklyn, excellent downtown Manhattan access.

Can you recommend other accommodation or neighborhoods for this friend, visiting the city with her family? This was all off the top of my head, so if you know the ‘hoods I’m talking about, or feel there’s something I left out…join in the discussion. 😀

Is There Any Reason to Hang On To Old Business Cards?


My first New York City job was in an office where everybody – even me, the new receptionist – got business cards. When I left the job three years later, I still had over half of the box I’d been given.

That box is still on my shelf. Is there any reason I should keep hanging on to the cards I was given? What are they, other than funny, curious relics of a job I’ve left behind?

How does one reuse old business cards? Any ideas? Or do they just head into the recycling bin?

…Hope everyone’s week is moving swiftly toward the weekend.

Just Start

Back when I worked as a receptionist at an architecture and design firm, I sat in the front of the office at a long, black desk. The desk housed my computer, a bunch of binders, some folders, business cards, pens, papers, staplers, random antiques, and more. Because it was a fast-paced small business, it was easy for my desk to become – I don’t want to say “the office dumping ground,” but…let’s call it as we see it.

Needless to say, a cluttered reception desk is not a desired feature in an award-winning design firm’s front office, and from time to time a fresh start was needed. The challenge, when this happened, was to figure out where to begin.

It’s not unlike writing. I have a number of projects “on the go,” so to speak, and there are times when I know I have an hour or so to work and just cannot figure out what to work on first. My friend’s novel edits? My own fiction? Maybe I should work on restyling my website. Or is it actually the living room that needs cleaned, the bathtub that needs scrubbed out, the bookshelf that needs to be moved into the other room and re-organized so I have a peaceful writing nook in the corner?

At times like these, I think of one time when I needed to clear off the reception desk. We’d received a special Magic 8 Ball as a Christmas present from one of our contacts, and I had made it my own, keeping it nearby because instead of the standard Magic 8 Ball answers, the company had had it customized with their own funny sayings and pieces of advice. As I stood and stared at the pile of papers, files, books, my boss’ personal belongings, stacks of business cards and more, I remember feeling that same richocheting feeling of desperation for prioritization.

I picked up the Magic 8 Ball and spun it around in my hands for a few seconds, more to give my mind something else to focus on than anything else, and said in a quiet voice:

“Where do I even start with this mess?!”

I flipped the 8 Ball over and waited for the geometric bubble inside to settle on which face held my fortune. When it did, I laughed out loud. What was the Magic 8 Ball’s advice?

“Just start.”

I try to think of that advice when I can’t decide which project to give priority to. Just start. Just get something moving. When there are forty thousand things that need to be done, doing one of them takes it down to 39,999 things. Which is still a lot of things, but is one fewer thing than you had to do before.

I try to remember that now, when I hit moments like this morning: up two hours before my alarm, trying to make the best of my time because I know I’ll be tired by the end of the day.

Just start.

Ninety minutes later, I’ve edited another 5-6 pages of a friend’s novel, written a thousand words on Electalytics, and finished this blog entry.

So if you, like me, are feeling overwhelmed, I share with you the advice from that Magic 8 Ball:

Just start.