reflection

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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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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