reflection

my early writing memories.

A lot of my free time recently has been dedicated to reading books from my childhood. (If you’re not sure why, you can read more over on the newly-launched SSR Podcast page!). While I’ve definitely experienced these stories differently the second time around, the simple act of cracking the binding has given me my fair share of flashbacks, too.

Reading one book brought back intense memories of sitting in a navy blue lounge chair near the pool at my grandmother’s old house while I was visiting her for summer vacation. I’m pretty sure we were snacking on cantaloupe.

Another book reminded me of a plane ride to Orlando.

Still another took me back to sitting on the front porch of our rented beach house at the Jersey shore. Back then, it felt like the biggest treat to be able to stay up as late as I wanted, alone with my book and the sound of other beachgoers walking back to their houses as the sky got darker. (For the record, the mark of a good beach trip for me these days is a 10 PM bedtime. Getting older is weird.)

And, yes, I obviously have the clearest memories of vacation reading. 

But how cool is that? The fact that a single chapter or passage in a book I’ve barely thought of over the past 15 years can make me so clearly sense what it was like to read that book the first time — where I was, what I was smelling, how the air felt — is pretty darn cool.

All of these reading throwbacks have gotten my wheels turning on a few writing memories, too.

Writing was a “thing” for me by the time I was eight years old, largely because I was lucky enough to wind up in an elementary school chock full of teachers who embraced more than just a required reading list. They wanted us to learn to tell our own stories, as well, and it quite literally shaped and changed my life. I didn’t know back then exactly what kind of writer I would be when I grew up, but I did understand that the practice of writing would play a major role in whatever happened to me in the future.

Here are some of my earliest writing memories…

… for years, I only took baths — never showers. I used to rest my notebooks on the edge of the tub so I could work on my stories while sitting in the cooling water.

… my first grade teacher had this spiral-bound reference book that was part baby name book, part thesaurus, part dictionary. The idea was to use it to make your writing more creative and to shake up the kinds of nouns and verbs you were using in your work. I pored over this thing so much that my parents ended up asking my teacher where we could order one of our own, and I carried it with me everywhere.

… my classmates and I were introduced to SSR (Silent Sustained Reading — the inspiration for my podcast!) in first grade, but in second grade we learned about SSW — Silent Sustained Writing. A few times a week, we got to sit at our desks and write whatever we wanted. It was the best.

… another staple of my elementary school experience was the “Read In,” a day near the end of the school year when we all got to wear pajamas to school and build makeshift campsites in the classroom where we got to sit and read all day. At some point, we got to have a “Write In.” I’m pretty sure I brought three empty notebooks to school that day, convinced I would be able to fill them with that time.

… my fourth grade teacher had a filing cabinet where we all got to keep our creative writing projects, and instead of working on a bunch of short stories, I asked if I would be allowed to try to write a book. She said yes. My first attempt at a book — which spent that year getting increasingly crammed into my folder in that cabinet — was called Carrie’s Ride Home, and it was about a girl who figured out how to teach her blind little sister how to ride horses. (I was super into horses at the time, too.)

… I always traveled with plenty of blank paper. I remember sitting on the deck of my grandfather’s house in Florida with a princess hat on, fervently scratching away at one of my beloved notebooks. I refused any notebooks that weren’t five-subject, with skinny lines.

… one of my favorite things was to read my work out loud to my mom, which is weird, since I now pretty much refuse to share any of my creative writing with anyone. It was always a “stop everything!” kind of moment, where I required her full attention.

… as a third grader, I decided that I wanted to start a class newspaper. I tried assigning out stories to my classmates and set up a little desk in the back of the classroom (with my teacher’s permission). I remember getting really frustrated because the other kids weren’t as excited about it as I was.

… luckily for me, most of my friends were as interested in writing as I was, and we experimented with lots of writing projects together — plays we would perform in my basement, “books” in alternating viewpoints, and stories we would simply work on together painstakingly, line-by-line.

Ah, these were so fun to revisit!

What are some of your favorite, most random childhood memories? 

 

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what i’m learning as i prepare to launch my podcast.

When I started freelancing, everything was a new project.

Basically, my whole life was a new project.

I had to figure out what time to get out of bed in the morning, how often to check my email, where in my apartment I could be most productive, how aggressive I could realistically be about approaching new editors and potential clients, and what times of day were best for me to get creative juices flowing.

I had to figure out how all the pieces of my new schedule and lifestyle were going to best fit together… and then I had to figure out how to implement that.

I’ve always been the kind of person who thrives on the idea of a good project, so — while all of this felt kind of overwhelming at times — it didn’t scare me. I liked the feeling of getting up every day (no later than 6:30, which was one of the things I figured out) ad consistently working toward the realization of something totally new and cool. Back then, that something was, well, my career. No biggie.

Thankfully, I figured out my career/life project within a year or so. While there are always new things to learn, I have the basics of my freelancing business more or less down to a science. There are schedules and workflows, more predictable rhythms to my weeks. And while the routine-loving part of my brain gets positively giddy thinking about this, I knew a few months ago that I was antsy for a new project.

I’ve been teasing a lot to my podcast over the last few weeks (check out my May goals post if you need proof!), so it should come as no surprise that it’s become my latest project. Starting from scratch on something new and different, learning about a brand new medium, and somehow figuring out how to adjust my schedule to accommodate all of the work that it requires — none of these processes have been simple, but I am getting so excited to share what I’ve been working on with the world (AKA you) very, very soon. In fact, I’ve decided that I’ll begin sharing pre-launch details of the podcast in just over a week, on Friday 5/25 (!!!!!!). I’m nervous and psyched and all of the other feelings you can imagine about putting all of this (and myself!) out there.

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With that in mind, I thought this might be a great opportunity to share some thoughts about what I’ve learned in the process of digging into this big, scary undertaking, in hopes it inspires you or gives you some perspective on any new projects you’ve been thinking of bringing to life!

  • I’ve learned that it’s important to enjoy the process of starting something new, even if it means that you need to build in extra time to make it all happen. I started actively working on the show in late February, and while I probably could have waited until April, giving myself extra time allowed me to feel more invested in every, single step. Plus, I didn’t have to rush as much.
  • I’ve learned that it’s important to share what you’re doing with the people in your life. While I haven’t released more details about the show here on the blog or on social media, a few family members and friends are in on it. It doesn’t always come naturally to me to talk about myself (I’m sure this is hard to believe coming from a blogger, but it’s true!), but bringing other people into the process has made it that much more exciting and made me all the more accountable.
  • I’ve learned that it’s OK to set other things aside temporarily so you can invest time and emotional energy into a passion project. I haven’t changed up my writing workload drastically, but I have had to give myself more grace than usual in terms of saying “no” to opportunities here and there and meeting deadlines instead of beating them.
  • I’ve learned that it’s a good sign when you can’t stop talking about a new venture. I’m so consumed with and excited about the podcast that I’ve had to apologize to Matt on more than one occasion for having so much to say about it, but he’s so happy to see me passionate about something that he doesn’t mind! When the people around you can sense that your time is being spent in the right place, you know you’re working in the right direction.
  • I’ve learned that it’s OK to invest in new projects — whether that be an investment of time, money, or energy. I talked a little bit about the mindset shifts I had about money recently in my last post, but those shifts happened long after I’d hit “buy” on my podcast microphone, headphones, and software. It was stressful to spend that money initially, but now that I’m in the thick of actually using all of those tools regularly and can see what they allow me to do, I have no regrets.
  • I’ve learned that even if you think you’ve overcome imposter syndromeit can creep back in any time you put yourself out there in a new way. And you know what? You just have to take a deep breath and get over it. (That’s what I’m trying to do, at least).

How do you approach new projects? What big ideas do you have brewing in your head that you want to bring to life? Tell me more in the comments below! 

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why i’m joining the wing.

In order to fill in the blanks in the title of this post, we need go back a few months — and we (well, just me, I guess) need to get pretty honest

I’ve never been that excited about leaving New York City. There, I said it.

I had moments when I first moved here right out of college when the city felt pretty miserable. I hated the subway and the crowds in midtown. I hated when people plowed me down, umbrella-first as they rushed along the sidewalk in the rain. I hated that it sometimes took me 30 minutes to travel less than a mile in a taxi late at night, a taxi that I knew I was only having to pay for because I had chosen to live in a place that I’d been made to believe was perpetually unsafe after 8 PM. I hated all of that.

When we moved to Brooklyn, I found my groove again. As a kid, I’d always dreamed of moving to New York, and finding our little niche here in Cobble Hill finally made me feel like I was the kind of city girl that I’d always wanted to be. Almost immediately, I felt more like myself, and even though I understood that there were realities of living in this city that would make it challenging to do it forever, I pretty much forgot about them.

Matt’s experience was the opposite of mine. He hadn’t grown up with aspirations of moving to a big city (he grew up in a neighborhood with woods and a stream and spent the vast majority of his free time on the soccer field or fly fishing), but when his job led him here, he embraced it pretty quickly. While I was sobbing over subway claustrophobia and stressing about my rent, he was living for New York. He loved the restaurants and the ability to walk everywhere, and since most of his friends moved here after graduation, he had a busy social life immediately. It’s only been in the last year that he’s expressed interest in leaving, and only in the last few months that it’s become a more serious conversation.

The idea of moving away started to get real back in October, when we spent two weeks traveling around northern California. Picking up and moving our lives across the country never seemed like a real option for us since so much of our community is here on the east coast, but our vacation definitely opened our eyes to the possibilities that could await us in other places. I could feel the difference in terms of quality life between New York and the Bay Area, and I found myself growing more receptive to Matt’s comments about life beyond Brooklyn.

Matt didn’t want to start seriously thinking about the move until March, so we kind of sat in that maybe-we-will-maybe-we-won’t mindset for a few months. I’m not great at being in limbo, so this was hard for me… but life basically resumed as normal. Fast forward to March of this year, when things became more challenging.

**Insert movie-style fast forward music here…**

Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that Matt isn’t asking me to do anything I don’t want to do with this move. Ultimately, if I was fully committed to staying, we wouldn’t be leaving. I have a lot of mixed feelings about moving on from this amazing chapter of our lives, but I also understand that long-term, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to live the kind of life we want to live here in New York City. It’s a hard reality to accept, but it’s reality. Honestly, I would rather choose to leave now, on our own terms, then a few years down the line when we realize too late that we’ve become uncomfortable in our own lives.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Matt’s job is more place-bound than mine, it’s naturally fallen to him to set the pace of this move, so there were days early on when it felt to me like he had all of the control and I had none. Honestly, there are days when I still feel like this, but I’ve learned that all of this is a lot easier to swallow when I realize that my husband is almost as powerless. The mindset needs to be that it’s us against the world — not Alli against Matt. I can express that clearly now, but it was pretty much an emotional roller coaster getting there. Just ask my girlfriends.

I’ve said since October that I was going to continue to live my life in New York as normally as possible, and that I wasn’t going to get too mentally tied up on when we’d pick up and move. For the most part, I think I did this successfully. I planned for the holidays and saw friends and continued to clean my apartment within an inch of its life. It felt like business as usual.

Where I struggled most to keep on keeping on was in my work. While I will be able to continue with most of my existing freelance work in a new city, there are some changes I’ve been wanting to make to my workload that I’m not comfortable making until we move. I’m excited about the chance to do a little professional pivoting and explore new opportunities, but I’m hesitant to do that now. I’d rather make all the transitions at one time. I started to feel really uncomfortable with my lack of control in a situation that was really affecting my work, and there were days that it made me resentful. Sometimes, it felt like I was just kind of standing still, like the only thing that was actually changing for me was that I was burying myself under more and more work.

One of my best friends started working for The Wing a few months ago, and from the beginning, I was fascinated by it. To quote the Web site, The Wing is a “co-working and community designed for women.” It now has three locations here in New York City and is already growing to other cities. Girl power, people. I went to a few events with friends there, but never really considered becoming a member myself, because I was so aware that my time in NYC was ticking. I borrowed some photos of the Brooklyn location from this article in Artnet News so you can see how lovely and inspiring it is.

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When I got back from the Ignite Your Soul Summit a few weeks ago, I was feeling ready to invest back into myself and my work, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve always had a bit of a scarcity mentality around money, and I’ve been nervous to spend since I started freelancing, even though I’m now earning as much (sometimes more) as I was in my corporate job. Chris Harder, who spoke at the Summit, really inspired me to think about money in a different way, and to allow myself to celebrate my work by putting the resources I’ve earned back into the “system” so it can ultimately come back to me and empower me to do great things.

I happened to be meeting my friend for breakfast at The Wing the morning after I got back from the Summit, and as I was walking to the Brooklyn location, it hit me:

This is the thing I need to do.

It hit me again when I was sitting in the beautiful waterfront workspace, surrounded by brilliant, independent women doing interesting work and moving forward with their passion projects. It hit me again when the woman at the next table came over and asked me about my planner (you know how I feel about my planner). It hit me again when I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I returned to my home office later that day.

I talked it over with Matt and submitted my membership application the next morning. A few hours later, I learned that I’d been accepted. When we want to, we can work really fast over here.

To be totally fair, I wouldn’t have made the financial commitment to The Wing if they weren’t expanding, and if I didn’t think there might be a chance that I could transition my membership to another location when we do leave New York City. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a consideration. I’m happy to be investing in myself, but I’ve hardly thrown all caution to the wind.

In the meantime, I have a sneaky suspicion that making this decision for myself is going to be one of the best things I’ve done in the last year or so. Realizing that this kind of community is available for me — down the street, essentially — was a big wake-up call in a time when I’ve felt largely out of control. It’s empowered me to reengage with parts of my life that I’ve kept at arm’s length ever since we started talking about moving away. It’s reminded me that I have a lot to accomplish and create in this transition period, and that I have every right to accomplish it outside of the confines of the home office that I’m now realizing I outgrew a few months ago.

My first day as an official member is Tuesday, and I am literally counting the days until I can spend my time in the beautiful work space in the company of so many incredible women. Making this choice has totally changed my perspective on things, and I can’t wait to see how it serves me as I continue navigating big changes in work and life.

Basically, Wing, I’m really happy you exist. 

Happy weekend-ing, friends. More Wing cheerleading to come, I’m sure.

How do you cope when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut? Tell me in the comments below!

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a day off.

For the last two months (check out my February and March posts for proof!), I’ve been prioritizing a day off. Not just a Friday afternoon that frees up by default because we have to drive somewhere or a holiday like Christmas day when everyone has off. A real day off — the kind I used to take when I worked a corporate job that usually involved little more than binge watching the Real Housewives and getting a manicure. Putting this kind of day for myself on the schedule didn’t pan out for the first few months of the year for a variety of reasons, but about two weeks ago, I glanced at the calendar and realized that last Friday looked promisingly free. I immediately blocked out the day in my planner and started thinking about ways to keep it free. I got weirdly protective of Friday the 13th. It was all I could think about.

So, yeah, I guess you could say I really needed a day off.

I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to put on the brakes and step out of the work routine for a day — let alone a week! — but I’ve found it even more challenging to do so since I started freelancing. There’s no one else who can serve as my email back-up, no reliable colleague who can handle any surprises in my absence. Plus, since so much of my workflow now revolves around rolling deadlines, I almost had to pull back on commitments for the whole week leading up to my day off, simply to ensure that there wouldn’t be a last-minute Friday deadline added to my calendar and that I didn’t leave anyone hanging on emails about big new projects! As a result, I ended up with a slightly calmer week, which was just what I needed. It’s nice to be reminded of what it feels like to work an eight- or nine-hour day (instead of a twelve-hour one) and to realize that, even if you bring in a little less money than usual for a week or two, there will still be plenty of opportunities waiting for you when you get back.

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Somehow, I lucked out and ended up with the best weather day of the year for my day off, which was the cherry on top of an already perfect sundae. I tucked away my winter coat and broke out the denim jacket I bought when we were in Charlotte a few weeks ago and pulled out my favorite sandals from the back of the closet. Here’s how I spent the day off…

  • I stayed in bed until 8 AM — which is pretty late for me, even on the weekend — watching old episodes of Trading SpacesI’m so glad they brought this childhood favorite of mine back to TLC, and as fun as the reboot is, having access to the classic shows might be the best part.
  • An unhurried workout! It’s nice to have a little extra time to play with at the gym.
  • A stop at Books Are Magic, the independent bookstore here on my block that I mentioned in last week’s Brooklyn-themed Gratitude Diaries. I picked up copies of Text Me When You Get Home (the next pick for my book club!) and The Female Persuasion, written by one of my all-time favorite authors Meg Wolitzer. Both books were signed, which makes them that much more special.
  • As soon as I officially decided to take a day off a few weeks ago, I booked myself a massage at Element Healing Arts here in Brooklyn. At this point in the half marathon training process (more on that later this week!), my body is never very happy with me, so it was nice to have some of my knots worked out… though I was pretty sore after!
  • I treated myself to a makeup facelift at Sephora. As I’ve started prioritizing taking better care of my skin, I’m also trying to test out different kinds of makeup. Since I work from home, I don’t put on a full face of makeup every day, which has given me some wiggle room to spend a little more money on higher-quality products. My favorite buys? The Anastasia Brow Wiz (how have I not been using a brow pencil for all these years???) and the Smashbox Be Legendary lipstick in Pretty Social. With springtime almost in full swing, I wanted to treat myself to some new goodies so I can feel totally confident and fresh.
  • met Matt near his office in Bryant Park and we went to grab a drink with a friend at a patio bar in Midtown Manhattan. From there, we got a bite to eat at the Urbanspace food hall and finished the night with some spontaneous McFlurries on the steps of the New York Public Library.

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Start to finish, it was a pretty perfect day.

I’m not usually one to love shopping or pampering myself, but when I do, I go big… in case you couldn’t tell from that list : )

The biggest lesson I learned from this day off is that email has far too much power over my time and mental health. I knew that in order to really appreciate some free time, I would need to ignore my inbox, but I took the extra step of deleting the Gmail app from my phone entirely. I didn’t reinstall it until Sunday afternoon, and I can’t tell you how big of a difference it made. Now that I know how great it feels not to be so tied to my email 24/7, I’m going to try to make more of an effort to avoid obsessively checking it on my phone whenever I have a free minute. It’s all about phone boundaries, right?

What does your perfect day off look like? Tell me more in the comments below!

Finally, if you have a small business or side hustle that deserves a little love for press and podcasts (or know someone who does!), check out this deal that Brittney and I are running for our complete Partnering for Press series! Through tomorrow, we’re offering 25% off, which grants you lifetime access to all of the highly informative free webinars we’ve been running over the past few weeks, as well as an invitation to an even more comprehensive live session tomorrow night. You’ll also get a set of customizable tools that you can use to pitch your own business to the press so you can increase your reach and revenue! Click here for all the details — and to register! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

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imposter syndrome + the big picture.

Over the past few days, I’ve spent a lot of time talking with other writers — all kinds of writers: writers who haven’t been paid for their work yet but who know they have a passion for the practice and want to figure out how to make a living at it, writers who are in the freelance game like me, writers who have finished real books (insert so-impressed-jaw-is-dropped face here). I didn’t plan for all of these meetings to happen over the course of the same week, but they did, and in addition to filling my heart with all kinds of joy and appreciation for other people who do what I do (and leaving me with a bit of a scratchy throat), this coincidence of timing has gotten me thinking a lot about the journey that I’ve been on figuring out how this new career that I’ve made for myself is supposed to look. Lately, I’ve been working so fast and with my head so. down. that it’s been a while since I really thought about the big picture.

Let me tell you something that you might have already guessed…

When I first started this blog in September 2016, it was because I honestly had no idea what was about to happen with my life or how I was going to spend my time. 

I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I had a vague picture in my head of what a writer’s day would look like. I pictured myself toting my laptop around Brooklyn, posting up at various coffee shops, always casually and comfortably hipster chic in a loose sundress — or a loose sundress with a chunky sweater and tights, for winter. I’d learn to enjoy the taste of coffee and drink three or four cups a day, mostly because the people who worked at said coffee shops would learn to know and love me so well that they would offer free refills without a second thought. I’d crank out content for magazines and Web sites and maybe a few corporate clients here and there, but being in the constant flow of writing would also make it suddenly easy for me to finish the novel I’ve dreamed of writing since I was seven years old.

I knew that this wasn’t my reality in September 2016, and I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get there (which hopefully makes it sound a little less silly), but the best thing that I could think to do in the meantime was start a blog — and to use that blog to share with a few people the journey of actually achieving that writer lifestyle fantasy. I also knew that having a blog would give me an advantage when it came time to reach out to editors who would surely need to check out samples of my writing before they could agree to work with me. I didn’t set out to be a Blogger-with-a-capital-B, and it felt awkward when I started putting links to new posts on social media. There are still days when it feels awkward putting myself out there like that, but this blog has evolved with me over the last year and a half, and I’m so grateful for the community that’s built up here in that time.

In some ways, my life looks a little like the fantasy I had — but in a lot more ways, it doesn’t. I do occasionally tote my laptop to coffee shops in my neighborhood, but most of the time, I just feel anxious about whether or not I’ve spent enough on snacks and drinks to deserve a table.. and since I still don’t like coffee, my options are limited, anyway. I can rock the sundress or chunky sweater look after a meeting, but more often than not, I show up wearing gym clothes and sneakers. I most certainly crank out content for magazines and Web sites and the occasional corporate client, but being in the constant flow of writing sometimes makes me feel so creatively tapped out that I go for a few weeks at a time without even touching my novel.

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Positively cheesing with my first official byline last fall.

I say all of this not to somehow show that going this route has proven to be less glamorous than expected or to prove that working for yourself is harder than it looks. Even with the ups and downs — and the minimal glamour — I have a genuine appreciation for the way my days look now because it’s taken me a long time to get here. I feel pretty comfortable owning the fact that I’m a Writer-with-a-capital-W, even if some days I can’t help but wonder if real writers would wear the same sweatshirt for three days in a row.

But let me tell you about something else that has happened, something that I didn’t expect.

As I’ve grown into myself as a writer, I’ve also been so inspired by the social media and solopreneur communities that I’ve found myself trying to diversify my workload even further. I’m working toward launching a podcast this summer, I’m building an awesome PR/journalism education program with my friend Brittney, and I’m even feeling added pressure to turn myself into a Blogger-with-a-capital-B. It’s in these spaces that I find myself feeling insecure again. If I’ve already “found plan A,” should I keep showing up here? And if I’m “just” a writer (even one with a capital W), will people think I’m stepping out in a way that’s inappropriate or irrelevant when I put myself out there in new places with projects that have nothing to do — in an official capacity, at least — with my work?

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Things get real with a podcast when the microphone arrives.

I guess the answer is that I don’t know. And I’m sharing all of this with you not to imply that I’m right and other people are wrong or to make you feel sorry for me, but because I think it’s important to pull back the curtain a bit and show that imposter syndrome is still a thing over here, and that I’m still not quite sure where I’m going to land as the big picture keeps getting bigger and bigger. In that way, I guess I haven’t totally “found Plan A” yet, so I hope you’ll keep sticking with me while I do : )

In the meantime, I’m so excited to share one of my latest new ventures with you! (Cue imposter syndrome…. now.) I’ve been teasing to my new venture with Brittney Lynn for a few weeks now, and it’s finally time to reveal the details of Partnering for Press. We’re launching a series of three free Webinars all about the intersection of PR and journalism, so if you want to learn more about what I do or have a secret side hustle that you’re dying to get out in the world, I would love, love, love for you to tune into the first chapter, which will be live on Tuesday 3/20 at 8 pm EST. It’s free, so you have absolutely nothing to lose, and you may even decide to stick around for the rest of the series!

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You can register (for FREE!) right here. If you have aspiring writers or entrepreneurs in your life, I’d be so grateful if you could share the details with them, too!

 

 

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setting phone boundaries.

After my most recent monthly goals post, I got questions from a few readers about the all-too-tricky question of phone boundaries. One of my goals for January was to stop checking my phone — specifically, Instagram — before getting out of bed in the morning, which I noted was part of a larger transition I’m trying to make away from being so tied to my phone and all that comes with it. It sounds like I’m not the only one trying to make these strides, so I thought I’d go ahead and share a few of the other specific things I’ve been doing to try to adjust my phone habits.

I’ll start by saying that, relative to the other people in my circles, I wouldn’t call myself super dependent on my phone. I’m not one to download a lot of apps, and I primarily use my phone for calling, texting, listening to podcasts, watching Hulu at the gym, and (of course) checking social media. At the moment, I don’t have a single game installed, and most of the apps on the second screen (when you swipe to the left) of my phone are rarely touched. I spend all of my days in front of my laptop alone, fielding communication from people in seemingly endless digital forms, so I really don’t crave more of that in my spare time — at least, not outside of talking to my family and friends.

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All of that being said, I’d be lying if I told you that I didn’t love the mindless Instagram scroll or a quick Twitter check-in during a free moment. Catching up on my Instagram feed first thing in the morning used to be my way of waking up slowly, of transitioning from cozy-in-bed to work-ready. I don’t think there’s any harm in these social media rituals and I have absolutely no judgement if it’s part of your routine, but I will tell you that I’ve loved easing my way out of some of my own, and it’s made me really excited to make even more changes.

If you want to shift your own phone behaviors, here are some ideas based on what’s been working for me!

  • Leave your phone at home. Nothing will happen if it doesn’t come with you everywhere you go. I understand that emergencies can happen and, yes, it’s important to be accessible — but an hour here or there without your phone is going to feel great. The only thing I’ve really missed since doing this more often? The camera! You may have noticed that I’ve been posting fewer photos here on the blog and sharing less on Instagram — but I can buy an actual camera to fix that. The mental shift you’ll feel when you start to physically separate from your phone is actually pretty surprising.
  • Switch up your email app. A few months ago, I finally caught up to the rest of the world and downloaded the Gmail app. In doing so, I hid the standard Apple mail app (you know — the white envelope on the blue background) in another app folder so it would be out of sight and hid notifications for Gmail, which means that I don’t have to see that annoying red bubble constantly tallying up how many messages are waiting in my inbox. This allows me to check my email on the go only when I need or want to, instead of every time I see the red bubble. The red bubble is stressful, and more often than not it signifies the arrival of some random coupon or discount code I don’t even want. Along these same lines, I’ve also started to unsubscribe from as many mailing lists as possible so that I can streamline the time I’m spending across all devices.
  • Put the phone away during “down time.” One of the things that most inspired me to take stock of the role my phone has been playing in my life was an episode of the Beautiful Writers podcast that Matt and I listened to when we were driving back to Pennsylvania for the holidays. The guest was Tom Hanks, and he spent a lot of time generally lamenting how obsessed everyone is with their devices — and while a lot of his thoughts on how to fix it seemed a little idealistic to me, I was struck by what he described as our inability to be bored. If a commercial comes on during our favorite show or if we’re bored during a movie, we check our Instagram to pass the time. I hate commercials as much as the next person and I’m not a big movie watcher, but this really got me thinking about what it was like to be a kid in the world pre-cell phones, when all you could do during that time was, well, sit. Or read (which is one of my favorite things, anyway!). I’ll admit that this has been a really hard one for me to keep, especially because Matt’s not on the same anti-phone crusade as I am right now, but it feels really good when I get it right.

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  • Put a hard stop on the phone at bedtime. I don’t pick a certain time to put my phone down for the evening because our routine can differ a little from night to night, but when I’m done with my final social media check for the night, I set the phone face-down on the nightstand and pick up my book. This might sound silly, but it’s huge! I used to keep my phone face-up on the nightstand, so if I caught the screen lighting up out of the corner of my eye with a notification, I was more likely to grab it again. I know there are a lot of people out there right now advocating for everyone to charge their phone outside of the bedroom at night (Arianna Huffington even put out a “phone bed” to spread the word on this!), but with a little self-control and a slight tweak to the habit, I’m not sure this is necessary.
  • Don’t look at your phone first thing in the morning. Seriously. Turn off your alarm and just. get. out. of bed. If you can go for even the first 10 or 15 minutes of your day without checking in with the rest of the world, I think it’s really going to help! I find that what you do in the morning really sets the tone for the next few hours, and as my phone has become less of a priority first thing in the morning, I’ve naturally become less attached to it later on, too.

What are your thoughts on phone boundaries? Do you want them? Do you need them? What have you tried to put them in place? I’d love to hear more in the comments below.

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my word for 2018.

Happy New Year, friends!

I hope your 2018 is already feeling great, and I’m happy to report that mine is! We spent the holiday weekend with friends in Philadelphia, and it was the perfect way to kick off the new year. It’s become a tradition for us to spend New Year’s Eve with Matt’s best friend and his fiancée, and this year, we had another set of friends fly in to be with us, too! Matt’s really lucky to have a close-knit set of friends from college — and I’m just as lucky to have been adopted into this group of truly good guys and the women they’ve chosen to spend their lives with. We ate sushi, played board games, drank wine, danced to our friends’ soon-to-be wedding band, and celebrated the stroke of midnight high above Philadelphia surrounded by windows, so we had an amazing view of the lights below and, of course, the fireworks. We also spent a few hours at a trampoline park (yes, that’s right, a trampoline park), which was as fun as it sounds! The six of us were easily the oldest people there without kids, and the jury’s still out on whether or not everyone else was thrilled to have us there — but we had a great time, and it made for a great workout, too. Who knew you could be so sore from climbing out of a giant foam pit? Not me. (I wish I had photos, but I was afraid my phone would fall out of my pocket and break!)

It’s never easy to come back to reality after a holiday, but I have to admit that it’s been nice settling back in here in Brooklyn. I was still mostly plugged in and working while I was staying at my parents’ house last week, and as much as I love the flexibility of working for myself and being mostly mobile, it’s definitely easier to get things done from my own apartment and office. I also always love the feeling of being home and back in the routine of buying groceries and cooking meals and going to the gym. Last night, we took down all of the holiday decorations, and even though it always feels a little sad to clear out the tree and all the tinsel (how does the season always go so fast?), it was nice to be able to deep clean the apartment and get back into our usual groove. When you live in a tiny little space, that tree takes up valuable real estate!

A new year, of course, means new resolutions, but if you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you might remember that I actually prefer to share a word of the year, instead of a specific set of goals. My word for 2017 was ABUNDANCE (you can read all the details here), and I can honestly say that keeping it top of mind — and on my desk! — was a driving force for me over the past 12 months. This last year was an abundance of work, opportunities, challenges, fun, and growth for me. I think I was able to frame it that way for myself because I’d decided to be intentional about seeking abundance in my daily life. Otherwise, it may have just felt like straight-up overwhelm.

Knowing how much I benefitted from having a focus word for 2017, I was really excited to choose one for 2018. I recently invested in a set of Powersheets from the awesome team over at Cultivate What Matters (I’ll share more about this later in the week when I post my goals for January), and I loved the process it laid out for figuring out the perfect word of the year. Thanks to Powersheets and some soul-searching on my own, I came up with…

WELCOME

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Friends, this couldn’t be more perfect for the year I have ahead. Here are some of the notes I jotted in my Powersheets that led me to choose it.

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2018 is likely to be a big year of change for Matt and I. There’s a good chance that we’ll be making a major transition to a new city, which brings with it all kinds of other transitions. I want to start this year with a mindset of welcoming change and embracing the opportunity it presents to continue to grow my marriage and make me a stronger, more adaptable person.

I want to welcome hard work, welcome new avenues for my writing, welcome new ideas, and welcome people with less judgment. I want to escape some of the internal “noise” I have about money and instead welcome the fruits of my hard work and use those resources to give back to others and make myself feel special, too! I want to welcome opportunities to try new things both in my work life and my personal life. I want to welcome good habits and embrace an attitude of health and consistency. I want people to feel welcome in my home. I want to feel welcome in my own skin by cutting back on the negative self-talk that so many of us are guilty of every day.

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Just like ABUNDANCE before it, WELCOME is now framed on my desk, ready to help me kick the new year into high gear. I would be lying if I said that the changes ahead of me this year aren’t a little intimidating, but I am going to try to do more than tolerate or deal with them. I want to do my best to welcome them!

Do you have a word in mind to inspire you in 2018? I’d love to hear more! Feel free to share in the comments below.
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the new normal.

How did we already get to Tuesday? Birthday celebrations rolled on into the weekend (thanks to everyone for all of the well wishes!), and I feel like I’m just now coming down from all of the excitement…

My family came in on Saturday and I got to do one of my favorite things — show them around Brooklyn! Our borough is so chock full of amazing little corners and things to see, and I can’t help but feel like it’s a personal victory when I have a chance to let out-of-towners in on some local secrets. Saturday, we caught up over coffee on the patio at the bakery across the street from our apartment (which also happens to be my favorite work spot of late), then jumped in the car and went to Red Hook, a Brooklyn neighborhood located right on the water that’s off the beaten path of the subway. Red Hook is known for its awesome views and yummy seafood, so we had a photo shoot (the barge in the photo below says LEHIGH VALLEY, which happens to be the area of Pennsylvania where we’re from!) and then celebrated my birthday at Brooklyn Crab over crab rolls and margaritas. No birthday is complete without dessert, of course, so we finished the day at Ample Hills Creamery with a scoop of cotton candy ice cream (for me, at least).

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Before the weekend, Matt won the Husband Of The Year award (as if he doesn’t do that practically every day, anyway!) and gifted me tickets to Hamilton for my birthday. I still can’t quite put into words what it meant to me. We are ob-sessed with the show and its soundtrack in our house, and I’ve been dreaming of going to see it for months. Sunday, we capped off my birthday weekend with a matinee, and it was even better than I expected. This show is quite literally the best thing I’ve ever seen (yes, generally the best thing), and I still can’t believe I got the chance to share it with this special guy. I’ll never forget it, and it was a great way to kick off my twenty-eighth (eek!) year.

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Something I’ve been thinking about over the last few weeks as I’ve rounded the corner on some big milestones — yes, my birthday, but also the one-year anniversary of launching this blog last September — is the concept of “the new normal.” It’s a phrase that we all hear pretty often, and one that I can personally cop to using maybe a little too much. Heading into year two of Finding Plan A, I’ve been imagining what the next chapter is going to look like for the space, and I just thought I’d share some of that with you.

When I started blogging last year, I was mostly focused on flexing my writing muscles again as I prepared to transition out of my corporate job into full-time freelancing. I thought it would be a good way to keep my friends and family in the loop about what was going on in my new life, and I hoped I might be able to help people understand why I’d decided to go my own way and what it had taken to get there (if I got there at all, because at that point, I had no idea what was going to happen!). While this space has definitely served those purposes, it’s also turned into a community that’s kind and gracious and vibrant and supportive — and one that I’m excited to continue growing moving forward.

I would never claim to be “done” with the transition just because I have a full calendar year under my belt now. I haven’t “found Plan A” (LOL). I’m not starting an entirely new chapter here on the blog simply because a certain period of time has passed. This journey is still in progress, and I would never pretend to be an expert or to give up on learning and reflecting.

You will, however, notice some changes around here now that I have 365 days in the books. While I’ll still be doing goal recaps (like this one), you’ll notice that I’m going to be phasing out more general monthly progress updates (like this one). I’ll take a moment to call out major milestones, but I’ve graduated beyond those more regular recaps, and I don’t want to bore you with the details of the constant inner monologue that happens in this overanalyzing brain of mine : ) Moving forward (not including this month), I’ll also be making changes to the procedures for giveaways — so be on the lookout for that!

In the meantime, I’ve mapped out what’s happening on the blog for the full month of October, and I’m really excited about the content you’re going to see in this newly normal phase. I’m itching to get started! We’re stepping it up over here, friends, and I can’t wait to share it all with you!

… some things never change, though. Giveaways, for example, are always awesome.

Remember to enter for this month! September’s prize is my favorite skin care product EVER — Beautycounter‘s Adaptive Moisturizer. All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post. I’ll be drawing and announcing the winner on Friday 9/29, so get those entries in ASAP!

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27.

Today is my 27th birthday. (And thanks to a nasty sleep cycle I have going on right now, I got an extra early start on celebrations hah!)

Honestly, I’m not so sure how I feel about this birthday. 27 feels so much more decidedly late twenties than 26, and even though many people who are much smarter than I am have told me that there’s absolutely no point in sweating the passage of time, I’m just having a little trouble wrapping my head around it.

That being said, I don’t plan on turning down any cupcakes or champagne : ) After all, it’s still a reason to celebrate — and I am nothing if not always ready for a celebration.

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It’s been a big year over here. Since my last birthday, I launched this blog and became a professional writer. But you already knew that.

I also celebrated a wedding anniversary for the first time (and it was awesome). I started a book club. I got hooked on podcasts and Dancing With the Stars. I drank a little too much rum punch on a catamaran in the Caribbean. I somehow managed to pull off big surprises for all four of my little sisters. I watched two of them graduate and go on to the next step in achieving their goals (and, yes, I cried both times). I lost one very special dog, and stopped about a million unsuspecting fellow New Yorkers to love on their dogs in the middle of the street. I met a lot of incredible women. I ran my fifth half marathon. I threw a cookie swap party. Matt and I turned our apartment into a full-on winter wonderland for the holidays. I wore makeup a lot less often, but tried to learn to do it better on the days I did. I took better care of my skin. I danced at two of my best friends’ weddings (and, yes, I cried both times). I got back into yoga. I became a workaholic again and loved every minute of it. I started reading The New York Times every week, and struggled just as often with the crossword puzzle. I got new glasses for the first time in five years. I had a love affair with my planner. I watched a lot of episodes of the Real Housewives, but successfully boycotted a full season of The Bachelor (and if you know me, you know this is a big deal). I jumped into the ocean in the middle of January. I visited friends at their new homes in Philadelphia and D.C. I got love attacks from a puppy that looks like a teddy bear. I fell even more in love with my husband, and we started a new Valentine’s Day ice cream sundae tradition.

Along the way, there were plenty of moments of uncertainty, and even more sleepless nights. I spent a lot of hours sitting in traffic, and just as many overanalyzing things that I know now were silly to worry about. I stressed — a lot — about the state of the world around me. I was really hard on myself, and too hard on other people sometimes, too.

I may not be thrilled about the number 27 right now, but when I think back on the moments big and small that made me smile this past year, I have to believe that things only get better and more fun with time. So here’s to another year of adventures (and here’s to champagne and cupcakes, too)!

…and one more cheers to GIVEAWAY DAY! Come back on Friday for all the details on this month’s prize. 

 

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one year recap.

Exactly one year ago today, I posted this:

One of my favorite things about social media is the way that (when used correctly) it can serve as an incredible real-time journal. In all the times I’ve tried to establish a consistent routine with keeping a written diary, I’ve never been able to figure out how to capture moments from my life quite the way Instagram does. There’s nothing like a photo to bring you back to a special moment, and when I look at this one, the way I felt on September 15, 2016 comes right back to me.

My wedding ring was brand spankin’ new. It had been on my finger for less than three months. My nails were freshly painted from celebrating my friend’s wedding the weekend before. I was reading a book called The KnockoffIt was a perfectly gorgeous day, one of the first of the season that was cool enough that I could whip out my favorite denim jacket again. I walked out of my office building downtown for the last time around noon. That moment felt like any scene of a revolving door you’ve ever seen in a movie — a little disorienting, a little upside down. When I got out onto the street, I stared at the sky for a few seconds before making my way to the subway. In my time as a New Yorker, I don’t think I’ve ever walked slower. I sat silently on the train, too antsy to read or listen to a podcast. I remember looking around me at the subway car, empty in the middle of the day, wondering if I’d find myself right back there several months later, sitting alone in an abandoned car at noon, ferrying myself back and forth to Manhattan begging for a new job because I’d failed as a writer. When I got home, I wrote this:

It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season. In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.

When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania. I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day. “Here I am, in New York! This is where I’ll make a name for myself. I’m here to make my fortune!”

There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions. I know that it’s not. I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself. I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life. Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old. Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.

For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne. Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.

I did just that. I ate all of the French fries, and I think I ordered a second glass of champagne, too. And now, a year later, I’m even more grateful that I’ve chosen the path of becoming a writer, because it gives me a chance to uncover musings like this one and to think back on the self that walked out into the world with only a vague plan and absolutely nothing on her agenda a year ago and to say to her, “You survived. You did what you said you would do and you did it well, and you survived.”

It’s unfathomable to me now that I can reflect back on that day with a year’s worth of wisdom and experience. There have been a lot highs and plenty of lows. And as much as I usually like to wrap up these monthly recaps with a clear lesson or specific takeaway, I’m not sure that I can do that today. I’ve realized that this journey and the career path that I’ve chosen are constantly changing, so maybe what I’ve learned these past twelve months is simply to buckle up, hold your head up high, and try your very best to make things happen. In spite of the challenges and setbacks, I get up every. single. day and work — hard, and only occasionally in my PJs. It doesn’t always pay off the way I expect, and I often find that I have an entirely different set of goals 24 hours later, but this formerly uptight, cautious girl has embraced the uncertainty and seen the benefits of letting go. When you put in the consistent, back-breaking effort and trust the timing of the world around you, magical things happen. All that I’ve wanted throughout this process was to be true to myself and to set a good example for my four younger sisters, and I hope I’ve done that. I want my sisters to know that you have it within your power to build something that’s all your own.

When I shared that photo a year ago, I intentionally stayed quiet about the specifics of my transition. In the end, it wasn’t about leaving a job or starting a new job. It wasn’t about being dissatisfied at my former company or telling the world that I’d had the guts to quit. It’s still not about that. While leaving was the right choice for me at that time, I still have nothing but gratitude for that first chapter in my career, and I look back at it now with even better perspective on all that it taught me. What I wanted people to know that day was that I was about to launch myself into a crazy new adventure. Getting into the specifics was pointless, because I hardly knew what the specifics would look like myself. I’m so glad I didn’t limit myself with some “official announcement” of what I was doing, because the adventure is ongoing. I’m still not quite sure what exactly I’ll be doing next week or next month — let alone a year from now — but I do know that I’ve carved out a niche for myself where I get to do what I love, make a living doing it, and learn a hell of a lot about myself along the way. With that said, I feel like I can confidently call this first year a success.

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Today, I’m celebrating this personal milestone by slowing down work and taking some time for myself. I might get a manicure. I might finish the book I’m reading. I might take a walk around the neighborhood. I might go back to that little French spot on the corner and enjoy another order of French fries and a glass (or two) of champagne. I’ll figure it out as I go — after all, I’ve gotten pretty good at that lately. I have a feeling that whatever I decided to do will be really fun : )

Thanks to all of you for supporting me over this past year. It’s been more special than I can say to share this experience with you! Let’s keep it going, shall we?

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