reflection

thoughts on october.

My last post started with an apology for radio silence. Between a move and a new dog and a bad end-of-summer cold and some unexpected deadlines, I found the blog dropping to the bottom of my to-do list (sorry!), and I was posting just once a week. I had every intention of jumping back into my blogging schedule, and I had posts planned to fill you in on #allthethings.

My intentions were good, but things shifted, and I’ve now been away from the blog for nearly a month. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without posting!

As you already know if you follow me on Instagram, my family experienced a very shocking, very heartbreaking loss on Sept. 20 — two days after my last post and also my 28th birthday. My Nana’s death came as a total surprise. She was healthy, strong (tough, you might say!), and active. She was literally the smartest person I’ve ever known. She gave me my love of books and, in the years that my mom and I spent living with her, so much more. She’s been gone for three weeks now, and it’s still hard for me to believe that all of this has happened.

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When I got the call from my parents that Nana was being taken to the hospital, Matt and I packed our puppy — who we’d had for just four days — in the car and rushed home to Pennsylvania. We stayed there for almost a week. Luckily, Matt had already taken the time off from work to accommodate our move and puppy training, which took lots of pressure off, but it made things that much more difficult when we came back to New York after the funeral. For days, I’d been surrounded by others, and suddenly, I was alone in an apartment that felt unfamiliar, with a puppy I didn’t know, smack in the middle of a neighborhood that I hadn’t mastered yet, and facing down the challenge of building out a work and life routine when I was way more emotionally exhausted than I expected to be in the middle of all the change we’d planned. My original plan had been to take the second half of September easy with work, but instead, I found myself a week behind, trying to make up lost time with writing assignments and squeezing podcast recordings in on top of each other.

To say the least, it’s been a lot.

I’m still emotionally exhausted, but — along with Irv — I’m finding a new rhythm, a new routine. In all honestly, I’m not sure what the future of this blog looks like. Creativity is a challenge these days, and while I’m still working, it’s not coming easily. As I open up more through the podcast and continue sharing my life via social media, I’m just not sure that this blog is the right forum for me in the long run. It’s felt nice to take some time off and to focus this writing energy elsewhere.

In the meantime, though, I do want to share with you some of the things I’m hoping to work on in the month of October. I’m not going to do an “official” goals post like I do most months (check out the last one here), but I think it’s important to mark this moment and be reminded of all that’s left to accomplish, regardless of the chaos at hand!

Here are a few of my goals for October:

  • Feel like myself, physically and otherwise. I’m working on getting back into a good workout routine and getting consistent with good eating habits. Generally speaking, I’ve felt off for the last few weeks, and now that we’re more settled in Brooklyn, I want to try to reverse that. I already feel like I’m on track there!
  • Work toward Patreon launch for the podcast. I’m so grateful for the amazing SSR Podcast community, and I’m eager to set up avenues through which loyal listeners can help support the show. There are some fun things in the works to make this happen!
  • Lead a strong launch month with my new blogging client. In September, I picked up a new blogging client — these clients are generally small businesses who need to outsource their blogs to a writer. We’ll be launching the blog this month, and I’m excited to make it great!
  • Plan a celebration for Matt’s birthday. Matt’s birthday is Oct. 23!
  • Read seven books. I’ve had so many podcast recordings in the first half of this month, so this should be no problem. I have a few non-SSR books that I’m really excited to read once this recording spree is over, too.
  • Reclaim creative excitement + write three times per week. One of the things that’s been hardest for me over the last few weeks is that creativity is not coming easily. Since a key part of my job is being creative, this is far from ideal, and it’s causing me to work through a lot of my assignments verrrrrrry slowly. Once I’m all caught up with my workload (hopefully the end of this week!), I want to prioritize creative writing time again so I can get those juices flowing!

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  • Be patient with Irv! This little puppy is the absolutely cutest and he is well-behaved about 90 percent of the time. I’m not challenging myself to train him perfectly or anything like that, but I do want to be constantly aware of my attitude with him. I’ve waited so long to have a pup of my own and I feel so lucky to have him, and it’s important to me that I resist the urge to get frustrated with him… even on the days when he’s especially frisky. I want to savor this puppy stage!
  • Network for SSR guests and publicity every week. You know the drill on this one.
  • Practice daily gratitude. This is something I’ve done every day for years, but I got out of the routine in the second half of September. Back at it for October!
  • Prioritize some rest and downtime every day. September was supposed to be a time of rest and reflection for me, and while I’m still hustling to get caught up at the moment, I think that big picture rest and reflection needs to happen later in October. In the meantime, I’m trying to make sure that I’m spending at least a few minutes every day relaxing physically and mentally.

Thanks so much to all of you, in advance, for your support and patience as I continue to navigate all of this change! I feel so lucky to have this community : )

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a season of change.

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a complicated relationship with change.

The prevailing philosophy about change, I think, is that it’s tough to deal with. “I’m bad with change.” You hear that a lot. I, for one, am guilty of using it to explain away my not-so-great behavior during periods of transition.

There are people who love change. They thrive on the opportunity to start fresh over and over again, to reinvent who they are based on unusual circumstances that force them out of their comfort zone. Life seems like it would be easier for people who can embrace change this way. I do think, though, that things get tricky for this group when a change proves disappointing, or when one change doesn’t follow another quickly enough. If you thrive on new situations, the more predictable flow of day-to-day life isn’t going to consistently make you happy… and that’s where the relationship with change gets complicated.

I think I fall somewhere in the middle. If you’ve been following the blog for any period of time, you already know how much I dig a good routine. I’ve already copped to defaulting to that “I’m bad with change” excuse. And all that’s true. Still, I’m pretty adaptable. I learned as a kid to adjust to new scenarios, so I’m confident in my ability to do that. Change is hard for me to process upfront — but my routines! and my schedule! and my usual routes! — but once I’ve worked through that, I don’t usually find myself getting too sentimental about actually executing the transitions ahead of me. More recently, I’ve even found myself craving change after long periods of predictability! A few years ago, I don’t think I would have guessed that would ever be the case. Let’s all treat ourselves to ice cream sundaes for personal growth, okay?

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Matt and I are currently smack in the middle of a season of massive transition, and it’s putting all of my complicated feelings about change to the test. I’ve been talking about this for a few weeks (because it’s very exciting!), but we’re moving to a new apartment in Brooklyn in a few weeks and (this just in!) we are officially getting a puppy just five days after that. We put a deposit on our pup last week and I. am. so. excited. I’ve been debating whether or not to share a photo of him in advance, but as hard as it is, I think I’m going to keep him to myself for now! Trust me when I say that he’s really cute and that I’ll be positively overloading you with pics in a few weeks. Anticipating all of these changes, I’ve been working 12- and 13-hour days recently. I know that having a puppy is going to require me to make some adjustments to my own routine so that he can be well-loved and well-trained in those early weeks. And since I only took one full day off this whole summer (for our Mexico trip!), I’m also just feeling really ready to give myself a little time and space in September. At this point, I’m not sure which or how many days I’ll be taking “off.” I just know that your girl’s going to have to cut herself some slack.

Really, what I’m trying to say is that I’m gearing up for two big changes — the move and the pup — in September, while also trying to mentally prepare myself for a longer period of the unknown. In the meantime, half of our apartment is packed into boxes that are slowly beginning to take over our already small space, and we’re traveling every weekend for weddings and other exciting events. That girl that used to say she was “bad at change” would not have thrived very well in this moment.

I don’t have anything especially profound to say about all of this, or any advice that I think will be particularly helpful to you if you’re in a similar season of change. Mostly, I’ve been surprising myself with how calm I’ve been through all of this… except for those Sunday nights when we’ve arrived home from a weekend of travel and I’ve realized just how much needs to get done between now and our move and how little time we have to accomplish it. And those moments when I realize how weird it’s going to be to live anywhere other than the little home where we got engaged, where I became a writer, where we really started our lives. Oh, and maybe those moments when I’ve been so burned out from those 12-hour days that I’m not as nice as I maybe should be to my husband. Sorry, Matt.

I guess I’m really grateful that I’m at this point in my life where I get to tackle these transitions. There are days when I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t other grown-ups that are bound to step in and deal with some of this stuff for me, but when I get past that, it’s exciting to realize how many decisions are now within my control and how many possibilities there really are. When we finally find our way out of this weird holding pattern we’ve been living in for the last few weeks — in 12 days, but who’s counting? — I just know that it’s going to be amazing. I can’t wait to share that with you when it happens, but in the meantime… here I am. Excited and so, so ready to get all these changes going.

How do you feel about change? Tell me more in the comments below!

And…

Don’t forget to enter the August giveaway! This month, I’m giving a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter is comment on this post. I’ll be drawing the winner and announcing the results tomorrow, Thursday 8/30. Good luck!

 

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a streamlining check-in.

Earlier this summer, I committed to streamlining.

To give you some context, here’s a little #flashbackfriday action from my May/June monthly goals post

… she gave me some great advice. “You can’t keep adding and adding and adding,” she said. “At a certain point, you need to subtract a few things. It sounds like you’re scared to do that.” And she’s right. I am! It took me so long to establish myself as a writer and to get my income up to a place where it rivals what I was making in my corporate job that I can’t help but feel some innate sense of failure at the mere thought of unloading any one of my gigs… even if doing so will make room for bigger and better opportunities. These are some seriously tough calls, friends.

In the weeks and months since I shared that, I’ve been making those tough calls. I stopped writing on a weekly basis for one outlet, in particular — an outlet that had given me great, consistent work and had afforded me the opportunity to rack up lots of fun bylines, but that demanded a more structured system based on hours instead of stories. The system had put on a strain on my freelancing flow from the beginning, but I went with it, anyway… until I realized that I was no longer feeling challenged by the work. By the time I made that realization, I had brought on some other clients that helped beef up my regular monthly income and had made plans for the podcast — a project l knew would only take up more of my time going forward. I had also more or less stopped working on my book entirely, and had barely been pitching to new editors and outlets because the schedule was so restrictive and I had to spend so much time scrambling to meet my existing commitments.

When I read all of this back, I realize just how right I was in making the decision to stop writing regularly for this outlet when I did (even though the team was awesome and I miss them!).

Still, I’m not a quitter, and it was hard for me not to think of streamlining as simply giving up.

It’s been a few weeks since I made this major change to my schedule, and I thought I’d share a bit more about how the transition has been going. If you’re like me and have trouble saying “no” to things or offloading commitments, here’s what you can expect…

First, I felt overwhelmed by, well, change. Change isn’t always the easiest thing for me to deal with, and any time I have to make a major adjustment to my schedule, it shakes me up a little. I launched The SSR Podcast the week after I quit working for the outlet I mentioned above, so all at once, I had a lot of newly free hours on my hands and was also trying to figure out how the heck to simultaneously produce and promote a show of my own! After spending so many months as a new freelancer trying to fill those hours productively, it was unsettling to feel like I was back at square one again… even though I knew wasn’t really.

Still, I knew it had been the right decision. If it hadn’t been for the looming podcast launch, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to streamline, even though I knew I would eventually need to make some major changes to my workload so I could free up time to challenge myself with new writing opportunities. Since I had a new project to throw myself into at that moment, I didn’t have to stress as much about whether or not it was the “right time” for me to pivot. The podcast was taking up so much of my time (especially in those early weeks, when I had almost no idea what I was doing!), that I couldn’t even imagine juggling it with all the work I’d been doing for the outlet I’d quit. It was satisfying to realize that trusting my instincts had been the right call.

I realized that I could be proud of myself… for a few reasons. First of all, when I stepped back from the self-imposed guilt I was feeling about “giving up” any part of my writing workload, I saw that it was actually pretty cool that I’d reached a point in my freelancing career where I had the ability — financially, primarily — to make some decisions. When I first started in this world, I was hungry for work and didn’t have the luxury to discriminate or turn down opportunities. I hope that I maintain some of that hunger always (I definitely still feel it!), but when I figured out that the choice to streamline was something I’d earned, I allowed myself a quick pat on the back. I was also proud that I’d finally said “no” to something, because it’s not something I do often in my work!

I worked my butt off. I had no problem filling in those extra hours. For a few weeks in the middle of this summer, I was working 12- and 13-hour days every day. At that point, it was genuinely unclear how I’d had anything else on my plate previously.

Now, I’m giving myself some space to figure out what happens next. I’m now a month beyond the launch of the podcast, and the tasks that were taking me so long to complete early on are starting to become more routine. I’ve figured out a workflow and rhythm for the SSR-related work, as well as how to slot it in around my freelancing jobs. Now, I’m seeing some of that time free up again, and I’m trying to be patient with myself as I figure out how to spend it. I’m already back in a better pattern of working on my book and pitching new projects, so what happens next? Do I focus on up-leveling the podcast? Do I put my head down and try to churn out the first draft of my novel (finally)? Do I get even more relentless about seeking new writing opportunities? Honestly, I’m not quite sure yet how it’s all going to work, and while I’ve had moments over the last week or so when that’s felt weird, I’m trying to remind myself that it doesn’t need to get figured out all at once. I’m still busy, I’m still earning a steady income, and it’s summer! Which means most other people out there aren’t making big decisions, either : )

I’m heading to the beach with family for a few days this weekend, but I’ll be right back here Monday to announce the winner of the July giveaway! The prize is a $25 gift card to BaubleBar! All you have to do to enter to win is comment on my last post here. There are just a few days left, so don’t miss out.

Do you have anything fun planned for the weekend? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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thoughts on how to support your freelancing + side hustlin’ + WFH friends.

I honestly don’t know how I would have made it through these first (almost) two years of freelancing and of working from home and for myself if I didn’t have the support of some pretty kick-butt people. I was reminded of how lucky I am to have such amazing humans in my corner more recently when I launched The SSR Podcast. This whole “nontraditional career” thing is no joke, and as much as I create structure and routine for myself, it can sometimes be the people in my life who provide me with what I really need to move forward with my writing — and now with the podcast, too.

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I’ve been thinking about writing a post like this for a while, but I found myself hesitating about it a few times over the last few months. I never wanted anyone to feel, when reading it, that they had done something “wrong” in approaching a friend who, like me, is pursuing a freelance or self-employed lifestyle or who is trying to launch a business or side hustle. The truth is that any effort you make to support a friend who’s doing this is meaningful, and I know I speak for all of us when I say THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for the love!

In the past two years, I’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of efforts to support and understand what I do, and since freelancing and side hustles seem to be on the rise (at least, according to my editors!), I thought it might be interesting to organize some of my thoughts about the best ways to be there for people in those situations. I do think that there are a lot of misunderstandings out there about what it’s actually like to be your own boss or to work from home, and it’s easy for those of us who do it to be oversensitive about them. Hopefully, these tips will help you cut through those misunderstandings so you can (respectfully!) be the cheerleader I know you want to be : )

1. Ask questions. When I left my corporate job to pursue writing full-time in 2016, I’m sure that plenty of my friends felt confused about what I was doing. And I totally understood that! There were moments when everyone’s confusion made me question what I was doing, but what helped were the many great conversations that came from it. When people asked genuine, earnest questions, it gave me the opportunity to get more and more clear about where I was going. More importantly, it made me feel like they respected me enough to talk to me about my “work stuff,” even if they didn’t quite understand it right away. And that’s still true! Ask your freelance, WFH, and side hustle friends respectful questions about the work they do, just as you would anyone else. You’ll learn more about their world and you’ll boost their confidence by giving them a chance to demonstrate some of their expertise.

2. Minimize assumptions. Yes, working from home or running your own business can afford you flexibility when it comes to when and where you work. But that doesn’t mean that we freelancers or WFH-ers don’t have routines that are necessary in order for us to be productive! When people equate working from home or being your own boss to habitually sleeping in, taking long weekends, and blowing off work commitments in favor of last-minute fun, it can strike a nerve! While all of those things can happen, they’re the exception and not the rule for most of us.

3. Celebrate milestones. If one of your friends who worked in a more traditional career got a new job offer or earned a promotion, you’d probably congratulate them, right? You might buy them a drink or call them to hear more about the good news. Your friends who have side hustles or work in less traditional settings don’t have those clear milestones, and they probably struggle with that themselves! We’re taught to pursue logical checkpoints, to achieve things in a linear way — and as rewarding as it can be to be your own boss, that lack of a clear path can be a bit of a mind game, too. Look for opportunities to celebrate major professional moments for your freelancin’ and side hustlin’ pals, whether it be when they bring on a new client, launch a new project, or earn enough money to upgrade their workspace.

4. Stay engaged. It’s 2018, and if your friend has their own business, side hustle, or passion project, I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one way that you can engage with it online or via social media. Liking, commenting, following, or subscribing might seem like a small gesture to you, but that kind of engagement is quite literally the fuel that keeps these projects going. Take every opportunity to participate in these ways, and to encourage other people in your circle to do the same.

5. Play the role of a boss or colleague (when appropriate!). Whenever I’m feeling down on myself because a new project isn’t growing quite as quickly as I want it or or because I’m struggling to make connections with the editors I want to work with, one of my best friends reminds me that I’m in unchartered territory and that I’ve already made strides down an untraditional path. This advice is a great motivator because it helps me remember that I’ve already proven myself capable! After that, she helps me talk through small goals that will allow me to make progress. In the absence of a boss to have these conversations with, I do need my loved ones that much more. You know your friend well — what kinds of conversations do you think they might be missing from an office environment, and what kinds of conversations will help them do more and do better with their work? Consider how you can be the one to facilitate those conversations, then make sure they know you’re available to have them if — and only if! — you need them.

How do you support friends and loved ones who work in untraditional ways? If you’re a freelancer or have a side hustle yourself, what kinds of support do you look for? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

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finding a summer state of mind.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while (first of all — thank you!), you might remember that my first summer as a freelancer in 2017 proved a bit of a challenge.

I came out of a corporate job that was wildly generous with its benefits, one of the biggest of which was summer Fridays. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, all employees would work an extra hour Monday through Thursday, then leave at lunchtime on Friday. The hours themselves were great, but the spirit of summer Fridays bled into the culture of the company for the whole summer. Obviously, we worked hard in the summer months, but everyone felt a little lighter. The promise of a shorter workday on Fridays changed the whole tone of our weeks. It was kind of the best.

Summer Fridays aren’t unusual here in New York City, and many of my friends have adjusted schedules at this time of year, so when I watched last year as my pals began posting photos of Friday afternoon happy hours and regular long weekend trips, I couldn’t help but feel bummed out. Yes, I had left my former job with eyes wide open about the benefits I was losing, but giving up summer Fridays felt particularly sad.

You’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But you work for yourself! Don’t you have full control of your schedule?”

Well, you’re right and you’re wrong. Freelancing is kind of funky, because while I don’t technically have a Boss (yes, with a capital B), I still work for plenty of people, and I’m constantly hustling to deliver work to those people on time and to put myself in front of other people who might be interested in hiring me in the future. I don’t quite have the flexibility that other entrepreneurs (in the truer sense of the word) have, because I don’t get to call all of the shots in my work. I probably call about half of them. Once I’m in a successful business relationship with an editor or client — which is obviously my goal — there are only so many liberties I can take with my schedule and workload. Since I’m always balancing a handful of clients and a lot of deadlines with my own passion projects, that can mean that I’m working 60-65 hour weeks… even in the summertime.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this last summer. A few of my freelancer friends and I even thought about trying to hold each other accountable for taking summer Fridays and granting ourselves a little more down time! That didn’t quite work out, and since I have even more on my plate this summer, it’s not exactly happening in 2018, either. Still, we’re now halfway through the summer (?!?!?!), and I want to find small ways to make the season feel more special, even if I can’t take a ton of extra time off. Ever since I started working from home, I find that minor changes to my routine can make all the difference!

Here are a few of my ideas for finding those summer vibes even in the craziness. Maybe they’ll be helpful to you if you don’t have any big trips planned or are feeling overwhelmed by work, too : )

1. Get outside. It sounds simple, but making a point to step outside of my home office is big for me. Summer in the city can be hard because there’s not a ton you can do to minimize the heat, but I walk to and from The Wing whenever I can, and if I know I have a crazy day head of me, I’ll take an extra lap or two around the block on my way to the gym in the morning.

2. Treat myself more often. I’m naturally pretty frugal, and one of my biggest concerns when I started working from home was that I would constantly be tempted to buy myself lunches, Starbucks, etc. This summer, I’ve been allowing myself a few extra indulgences — especially strawberry bubble tea from the Vietnamese restaurant under our apartment! These drinks are a great way to cool down, and they taste like summer to me.

3. More date nights. Summer is one of the best times to live in New York (as miserable as the heat can be), because it’s easier than ever to explore your neighborhood. Matt and I have been making it a priority to go out more frequently on weeknights, even if it’s just on a walk to the bookstore or to get an ice cream cone. There will be plenty of time to curl up on the couch and watch TV in the winter!

4. Get dressed up. If you work from home, you know all too well how easy it is to keep things casual — to put it generously — in your day-to-day life. Most of the time, if I don’t have meetings or events, I throw on a pair of leggings and a sweatshirt and call it a day… but I’m trying to do that less this summer. I always get such a boost in confidence at this time of year, so I’ve gotten reacquainted with my closet and have been much more likely than usual to actually put on an outfit, even if I’m planing to work out of the apartment. I still don’t wear a ton of makeup most days (better for my skin that way!), but fully embracing my boho style with maxi dresses and long skirts and rompers on a daily basis has been really fun.

5. Drinks! A few months ago, I stopped drinking almost entirely. I’ve never been a huge drinker, but in the late winter and early spring, I was finding that even a glass or two of alcohol here and there was seriously messing with my stomach and giving me a raging headache. I don’t think I’ll ever be someone who likes to drink a lot, but I love me some rosé and girly cocktails in the summer — our summer social life in the city involves a lot of rooftops, and a girl needs rosé on a roof! — so I started working the occasional drink back into my rotation a few weeks ago. It hasn’t been making me feel sick… only celebratory!

What do you do to capture summer vibes? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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the SSR Podcast is live!

It’s a crazy experience to have your head down so intensely in a passion project for months on end, and then to release it out into the universe in a way that probably feels very loud (and maybe even a little annoying) to the outside world but somehow seems very quiet to you, at least relative to how much louder it actually sounds in your head. Basically, when I dispatched all the social media announcing that The SSR Podcast was a living, breathing thing at about 5 AM yesterday morning, it may have felt a little spammy from an Instagram perspective… but it seemed surprisingly quiet and private for me — and not because I’m not getting support (because I am, and it’s been amazing!), but because I’ve been so consumed with getting all of this up and running that it was hard to believe that tapping those little “post” buttons was really all it took to make it happen. After so many hours, hitting “post” was the last thing standing between me and the moment I’d been stressing about? It was a pretty crazy feeling.

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Believe me — I still have plenty of work to do in order to really get things moving and grooving the way I want to for the podcast. But to have met this one major milestone in what felt like such a quick, quiet way was an extremely weird feeling.

You may already be tuned in to SSR’s social media accounts — and if you are, thank you, seriously! — but I just wanted to take a quick moment to share some easy links for my followers here who may have yet to jump on the SSR train. If you’re feeling like I’m being a little spammy, bear with me for just a little longer here, please. Getting the podcast off the ground has been a huge part of my journey in 2018 so far, and it would be weird if I wasn’t getting the official launch news out with all my pals here on the blog! I’ll resume regularly scheduled programming shortly, I promise : )

In the meantime, here’s what you need to know about yesterday’s official launch of The SSR Podcast

You can listen (and subscribe and leave reviews!) here…

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  • iTunes — if you’re going to subscribe and leave a rating or review, this is a great place to do it!
  • Google Play
  • Stitcher
  • the SSR Podcast website “Listen” page (this is a great place to go for fun show notes and extra resources, even if you actually listen to episodes elsewhere)

You can be part of The SSR Podcast community here…

I can’t wait to get your feedback on the show, and if you enjoy it, I hope you’ll share it with your loved ones! This feels more personal than anything I’ve done before — more even than the blog, which is kind of crazy — and inviting people into it is scary, but I’m looking forward to seeing where it takes me : )

And while I’m talking about sharing with loved ones…

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Don’t forget to enter this month’s giveaway! TWO of you will be getting a goodie bag full of all-natural lip balms from Bushel & a Peck (a woman-owned business YAAAAS!). Comment on my last post here to enter! I’ll be randomly drawing the winners this coming Friday 6/29, so get those entries in ASAP. I’ll announce the winner here on the blog. Unfortunately, you’re not eligible to win this contest if you live outside of North America, due to shipping concerns. I’m sorry about that! Good luck!

Product photo credit: Gallivan Photo (via Bushel & a Peck) 

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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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