Those writers: They always wanna write

I once had a boss in marketing who told me, “You know, I can always tell the writers in my group. Whenever I call them and leave a message, they respond back with an email.”

There’s truth in the words he spoke. We write for a lot of reasons—one of them being it gets us out of having to talk to people.

I’ve heard this observation multiple times since then, stated in a variety of ways. For the most part, however, the gist is always something about the preferred method of communication for writers being…well…writing. Go figure.

This isn’t an issue when working with other creative sorts. They just “get” it. Problems occasionally arise when trying to explain this particular phenomenon to more unilaterally-focused, one-way-to-do-things individuals.

Whether it’s a memo, a daily interaction, or a passing thought, I always gravitate toward the written word, and there are several reasons for that:

  • Peopleing is hard. I’m an introvert who has learned how to function in polite society where adults must occasionally speak to each other. But deep down, I’m more comfortable with a book (or a pen and paper).
  • Memory is tricky. Email is a nice way to CYA—and it’s also a great way to ensure that you’ve followed through on tasks. It can keep you out of a lot of potential pickles that can crop up if you forget to do things. You can easily look up past messages to ensure tasks are on track and everyone’s taking care of the things they committed to.
  • Email has an end point. If you don’t exactly gravitate toward extended conversation, email is a great way to gracefully dip your toe in, say what needs to be said, and then get the heck out. Say it and retreat: it’s that easy. For introverts, there’s EVERYTHING to love about that.
  • Talking is a workout. You know how you feel after a really intense workout? Energy zapped and muscles turned to jelly? That’s how introverts feel after talking and interacting for a long time. Afterward, they need to recover from their ordeal by hiding in a closet with a book and a blankie for the weekend. It’s so much better to just avoid all that and send an email.

Don’t get me wrong. Talkers are lovely. I have many of them in my family. Extroverts are wonderful, vivacious people with access to seemingly endless energy that’s constantly replenished with fairy dust and unicorn magic, and they spread that energy far and wide across the land in the hope of converting every quilt-covered bridge troll into a brilliant conversationalist. Their liveliness and positive attitudes are admirable; enviable even.

But it comes down to this. Introverts gonna introvert. And extroverts gonna extrovert.

We’ve heard for a whole long time that we need to embrace different work styles and personalities. Usually that is code for, “Hey, all you quiet people, it’s time to adapt and learn to do team projects with the rest of us while we trade stories about traffic jams and new coffee flavors.”

introverts and extroverts in the workplace

But maybe, just maybe, there’s another approach. Maybe there’s a way to combine the BEST of the INTROs with the BEST of the EXTROs. (Brilliant, right? Corporate America should have totally thought of this!) And if we did that, we’d end up with an alliance as powerful as that of Captain America and Iron Man. Can you even imagine?

C’mon, SpaceX is planning human spaceflight, yet we haven’t figured out how to combine the super powers of introverts and extroverts and use them for the good of all mankind? I feel like we’re missing out here.

Corporate America, you can do this. We’re counting on you. Do something more than trust falls and obstacle courses; you’re better than that. Think about your workforce as a whole and think about the talent that’s driving you. There’s a way to be inclusive of every work style…but we’re just not there yet.

Wardrobe malfunction: writers, mind your hats

I know. It’s not nearly as exciting as other types of wardrobe malfunctions that have made the news, but if you’re a creative who switches gears often throughout the day (or the hour), you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

You know that project, the one you’ve had in your head for weeks but just haven’t started? The one you’ve been plotting and scheming and planning? The storyline is built out in your head. You know the characters. But when you sit down to write, you end up shooting yourself in the foot. Why? Because you sat down wearing the wrong hat.

Wardrobe selection is key

Recently, I’ve gotten into a habit of trying to write creatively while wearing my editor and proofreader hats—and let me tell you how that works. I sit down, take a sip of my caffeinated beverage of choice, crack my knuckles, belt out a couple of paragraphs—and THEN (this is where things go awry), I go back and read them, rip them apart, and rewrite them. Over and over and over again.

When I’m wearing my editor hat, I may as well type in red ink, because my story will undoubtedly be massacred as soon as the letters hit the screen. When I write with my editor hat on, I’m acting as judge, jury, and executioner to any idea before it even hits the page, when really what I need to do is just get the story out.

The fixing can come later

This is not an anomaly for writers, by the way. We’re all guilty of it. We all have a LOT going on, and some days, it’s really, really hard to be 100% present. We live in a time when it’s heroic to multi-task, it’s admirable to have a completely booked calendar, it’s the norm to eat dinner in the car between extra-curricular events. And it’s not really surprising that it’s difficult to separate all the jobs we do on a day-to-day basis.

In lieu of driving myself stark raving mad, I’ve written job descriptions for some of the various hats I wear, which will, ideally, help keep me on track (and working productively toward my goals):

  • Editor Hat: This hat gives me complete freedom to rip apart, change, and update copy in order to benefit the brand or story I am representing. With a focus on mechanics, readability, and seamless messaging, I take a line-by-line view of the content I’m editing and offer suggestions for grammatical corrections, as well as clarifications for consistency and style. The nerdy, sentence-diagramming girl in me really LOVES this hat.)
  • Writer Hat: This is a flamboyant, creative, might-only-make-sense-to-me hat. It’s a wear-it-with-sweatpants hat or a dress-it-up hat or a write-on-a-park-bench hat. All of these are ok, because right now, I’m the only one who’s going to see a single word that made it onto my screen. Half sentences? Run-ons? Rambling thoughts? Everything goes! (Honestly, they’ll make me angsty, and it will take every ounce of willpower I have NOT to correct things, but this is exactly where they belong…in the writing and creating phase.) This is the get-it-out phase, the fast-and-furious phase of getting words and plotlines into some semblance of a story. Everything does NOT have to be perfect at this point.
  • Idea Generator Hat: This hat is a hot mess. It has feathers and sequins with a dusting of glitter. It has a little bit of felt mixed with satin and wool, topped off with a glued-on band that’s partially falling off. It’s pretty much a hodge-podge of everything—an anything-goes hat. If an idea crosses my mind, it goes into the book or onto the list or wherever I’m keeping the latest compendium of evil plotlines. Absolutely NO editing or writing should happen with this hat. It’s a collecting hat of out-of-this-world ideas and what-if concepts. No correcting allowed.
  • Not Creating Right Now Hat: This could be the Mom Hat, the Family Hat, the Netflix Hat, the Shopping Hat…you get it. It’s the Don’t-Expect-Creative-Output Hat, the one that indicates it’s time to pay attention to other things and be fully present in equally important stuff that is NOT related to writing. (GASP?! What?) This hat’s pretty cool because it delivers a VERY necessary brain break—and it reminds you that it’s important to focus on all the really awesome LIFE stuff. BONUS: All that life stuff is what inspires our really awesome stories.

I’m hopeful that by choosing the correct hat for the task at hand, I can keep ME from sabbotaging myself! Very often writers find themselves going backwards in the middle of the creative process because they’re focused on the tiniest details of grammar and story construct, when really, what should come first are their personal insights, feelings, and learnings. Grammar and construct can be refined anytime, anywhere. Experience, nuance, and story are much more difficult to reconstruct.

Choose your hat

No more self-sabbotage for writers. More self-confidence. More finishing; fewer excuses. More moving foward; never backward. More confindence and pride in hard work. More excitement to begin again. More learning and listening. MORE CREATING.

Your hat—at any given moment—defines who you are, what’s important to you, and what you’re working toward. So, don your chapeau, author…it’s gonna be a helluva ride!

Going COVID Chic: Desperate times, desperate wardrobe choices

We’ve all been making alarminly different fashion choices since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and we can blame that mostly on the fact that we’re spending more time (A LOT MORE TIME) at home. I feel a duty to report that standards have been on a steady deline as many of us continue to work from home.

It all started just over a year ago. Back then, many of us had cute, matching workout outfits from places like Fabletics and Victoria’s Secret and even Target. It was easy to look cute for the occasional WFH day. Now, however, months have passed, and much like the elastic on my underwear, the lycra in most of our leggings is waving flags of surrender.

Admit it or not, we’ve all made the it’s-just-to-the-mailbox walk in our mismatched pajamas and slippers. And a lot of us have been balancing work with futile attempts at trying to educate our own children. (My kid asked if frogs had hair the other day, so we’re gonna need to play a whole lotta catch-up to ensure our future is secure.) Everyone is overdosing on board games and Netflix, and no one wants to play ANYmore educational video games. Even the dogs are ready for us to get the hell out of the house. I think that about sums it up.

We’re all just trying to hang in there

If you find yourself suddenly needing a refresh before your sanity completely escapes you, here’s a handy-dandy list of updated fashion rules to help you navigate the stress of working from home, kid-wrangling, and facing the possibility of never seeing the light of day again. (We’re all hanging onto the edge of this cliff together, so there’s no shame in the game…let’s just help each other out a little.)

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1.    Prioritize laundry cycles by ALWAYS washing pajamas first. You will wake, function, sleep, and do it all over again in these functional clothing pieces. Don’t let yourself stress over matching tops with bottoms. At this point in our lives, nothing needs to match. The only people you are going to see are the Amazon guy, the FedEx guy, and if you’re lucky, the GrubHub guy. If your undies and pjs are fresh, you’re good to go!

2.    Sort your nighttime pajamas from your daytime pajamas. This will help you clearly outline your day and stay on track. Obviously, daytime pajamas are for people who have a plan and want to execute and be productive. Daytime pajamas either match or they are paired with a sporty t-shirt so you can pretend you’re part of the up-and-moving crowd. Nighttime pajamas are for those who are DONE. They are reserved for Netflix and wine, and they almost never match. These are the ones with faded cats, over-stretched elastic, and frayed hemlines–but damn, they are comfy! When you keep your pjs aligned to your goals, you’ll end up feeling much better about your day.

3.    Re-name your clothing staples. Leggings are essentially exercise pajamas, and we’re all living in them now, so let’s embrace it. Just before coronavirus hit, I remember sharing a meme about leggings not being pants. Now, when I see that, I just laugh and laugh. Also recognized as “dressy pajamas” or “going-out pajamas,” leggings are extremely handy for extreme bouts of physical activity like going to the grocery store or sneaking in quick trips to Target.

4.    All sock-and-sandal rules are null and void. Seriously, if we can now wear leggings that come in skin tones, then we can wear socks with our sandals. And do you know why we’re wearing socks with our sandals? Because we haven’t been to get a pedicure in approximately 6 months, and our toenails could rival the claws on a pterodactyl. It’s a new world, and we’re ALL wearing fuzzy socks–in the summer, with our sandals, on the porch, any which way we please.

5.    Roots are the new highlights. We’re letting things go a little longer than we used to, but this isn’t just a fashion tip about what’s going on from the neck up, ladies. The other day, I stepped into the sunlight, and the glint of the light hit my shins in such as way as to highlight the amber waves of…OMG I need to order razors! (Another reason to opt for the leggings.) The fun part of letting our roots grow out? You can go purple, blue, or pink. Whatever you decide, get a little crazy with it and perk up your WFH day with a splash of color. Even if it goes haywire, it’s just you, the fam, and a quick run-in with the Amazon guy, right?

6.  Ponytails are perfection! Down low, up high, in the middle, messy bun, loopy-do, half-pony…girl, you do YOU. If your hair isn’t full of grease, twigs, or actual birds, that bird’s nest will fit right in with all the other looks happening right now. It’s hot, we’re stressed, and nobody’s got time for hair flying all over the place.

7.    If you tuck it in or wear a belt, you are fancy. If you’re feeling like a fancy stroll to the mailbox or a glam day of homeschooling, simply tuck your hoodie into your sweatpants or layer a belt over your ensemble to add dimension and style. Covid rules are different, and you’ll get points for creativity. Just remember, not too tight with the belt or it’ll be tough to eat ice cream while you’re watching Dr. Phil.

There will be tests

Stay strong and stick with your uncanny sense of pandemic style. Tests will be sent your way, but when you look your best, you feel your best. Or maybe now, it should be…When you feel your best, you feel your best? So whip that hair into a messy bun, pull on your softest sweatpants, and deal with all the sarcasm, bullish attitudes, and I-don’t-wanna-do-it attitudes that are thrown your way every day.

Just remember: every challenge you face is merely a chance to build up your willpower to last until the kids’ bedtime before breaking open that new bottle of cabernet and switching the TV to the Lifetime Movie Channel. Fortify yourself in stretchy clothing, and wait for the younglings to collapse into exhausted oblivion.

And as for creativity & productivity

If you’re trying to produce new material right now, Dear cats and kittens, remember to turn of Tiger King before doing so. (Yes, we’ve all seen it…at least once. No, I will NEVER admit to owning Tiger King socks.)

It may not seem like it now, but we’ve all been given an opportunity to flourish and grow. You know how weeds grown through concrete? Yeah, we’re gonna grow through this, too. We’re figuring it out, and we’re moving forward. I mean, we look pretty ridiculous in leggings and bathrobes, but we are persevering.

The finish line

That feeling when you can see the finish line is pretty damned gratifying. Especially if you are a fat girl who is really running (and not writing a metaphor). OMG, sometimes that finish line seems so far away…and donuts seem even further away! But we can all do this if we stick together.

So gather up a load of casual laundry and cue up a disastrous, yet affirming, Lifetime movie. Check on your friends, feed your kids, curl up in a blankie, luxuriate in those over-worn leggings, and disappear into someone else’s fictional drama for a couple of hours.

We’re gonna make it through this. And someday, history books will reflect on this period of fashion and dub it “Covid Chic.”

The Care & Keeping of Your Bridge-Troll Soul

I get it. People are tired of being cooped up in their houses and going on long, solitary walks and sitting on their front porches reading books and well, generally being not surrounded by people. It sounds absolutely excruciating—unless you are an introvert, in which case, you’ve been given an extended vacation from people-ing that is akin to winning a getaway to a tropical island filled with coconuts, island breezes, and cabana boys—the kind that deliver drinks and don’t want deep conversation.

It’s not the most popular opinion. Most of my friends are chomping at the bit to GET. OUT. THERE. To get back to normal, whatever that was. To get back to the office, get back to the grind, the carpools, the birthday parties, the over-committing, the general busy factor of life. But what if… What if this has been a way to get us all to slow down, look around, and appreciate what we do have? So take a minute. Look around. Breathe. Play some silly games and watch Netflix. We WILL all be back out there soon. Soon the tide will turn, and it will be the introverts who are uncomfortable again.

Just give us some pajama pants, fuzzy blankets, and books…and everything will be ok.

This post is for you, introverts. We’ve all become accustomed to being at home, and quite honestly, we’re loving the fact that we don’t have to work so hard to bury our introvert tendencies just to function in the real world. We can be productive, work successfully, and NOT be in such a loud, extroverted world. We don’t have to worry that the spotlight will turn on us in meetings—but we can still do amazing work. We LOVE our teams, but we don’t have to worry about team-building activities that include constructing the tallest spaghetti towers. (Please stop doing this to us. It’s unnecessary, and we don’t need spaghetti to understand the concept of teamwork.)

But I digress. Let’s get down to the business of taking care of your inner bridge troll. My inner bridge troll is the one who does not want anyone TROMP-TROMP-TROMPING over her bridge (or getting in her personal space). She’s an unpredictable troll because sometimes she likes to go out, have fun, and kick back…but those times are exhausting—and they require recovery time. You see, we introverts LOVE our people, but we recharge in our solitary environments.

Here are a few things you can do to ensure your inner bridge troll is the happiest troll around—and in turn, you can be sure to be the best friend, co-worker, and family member to those around you. They’ll understand you better, and you’ll FEEL better, so just go for it:

Don’t overcommit. I know, it’s difficult, but when things get back to some semblance of normal, everyone will want to do ALL. THE. THINGS. And probably all at once. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, introverts. You’ve been in your house for weeks with nothing but your kids and your toilet paper stash, so ease back into outside life gradually.

Prioritize. There will be things you really, really want to do—and then things you feel like you have to do. Here’s the thing: you don’t have to do anything. Be gentle, be kind, and learn how to say no.

Do what you love. Things are changing daily—heck, probably even hourly—and no one really knows what’s coming next. What do you love to do? Answer that question…and then REMEMBER the answer. Don’t forget to do the things you love. I love to write, make mosaics, spend time with my family, and currently, my new fascination is bullet journaling. Don’t let any of those things go. Instead, build on them—even when life lets us get out and about again.

Reach out. Ok trolls, here’s the hard part. You are not the only people on the planet—and there are people out there who love you and care for you. That means you have a responsibility to not only focus on your own introverted comfort, but also look outward and focus on the needs of your loved ones. Try picking a day or two a week to make phone calls and check in on people, send good old-fashioned cards, and plan coffee dates with friends. If they can respect us as introverts, then we can at least go get a damn cup of coffee.

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Relax. Life will go on. We will adapt—humans are good at that. Let’s all just lean into each other’s strengths and get through this thing. Some of us are good at people-ing. Some of us are good at introverting. Let’s all work together.

My hope is that from all of this we will emerge smarter, more intuitive, and more able to respect boundaries of those who work differently, play differently, and live differently. That’s the beauty of being human. Find your people, love them, and appreciate them even more after all of this is over.

Bridge trolls: Come out of your caves occasionally to chat with people and get in touch with what’s going on in the world.

Extroverts: Reach out the introverts and try to understand that it’s sort of tough for us to leave our Hobbit houses and socialize…but we really love you and want to be your friends.

And there you have it. Bridge trolls, meet the extroverts. Extroverts, meet the bridge trolls. Now, y’all work that shit out.

How to break your toys and be glad you did it

I killed a character today. And it was hard because I sorta liked her a lot. I was digging what she stood for, how she carried herself, and how she had her shit together. But she took a turn…in my head and in my imagination. And suddenly, she just wasn’t the same girl anymore. She had to go.

All that was left was to figure out how to murder her.

It’s not easy to kill your darlings

But sometimes it must be done. Why? They no longer serve the purpose of your story. They’re no longer the people you thought they were. There are lots of important reasons, but first and foremost, they simply don’t fit into the story you’re telling anymore.

The corporate world has been my darling…

As a creative writer just starting out in the world, I constantly heard my mom’s words reverberating in my head, “You can’t make any money writing. Why would you want to major in Liberal Arts?”

I thank everything on this giant spinning globe that I didn’t listen. She tried to get me to shoot for an international business degree, and since checkbooks, banking, and generally anything dealing with finance sends me into a bout of hives, that would have been a disastrous decision.

So, when I landed my first corporate job as a proofreader / transcriber, I was elated. BOOM, Mom! See, there are jobs for those of us who prefer diagramming sentences to solving equations.

From that moment forward, I never left corporate. I’ve proofread, edited, written, marketed, planned, organized, branded, rebranded, and worked my way up as a pretty decent word nerd extrordinaire. But here’s what I just learned.

Writing in the corporate world

Writing for companies and large entities is a unique experience, and I believe all creatives should give it a shot. Why?

Because it gives you experience in learning to write to the voice, tone, and feel that another person is directing. It gives you the experience of working with a team to develop an overal concept that’s not your own. And it gives you the experience of not owning your work. It makes you tough. And resilient.

We’re all human

Writers are often portrayed as “too sensitive,” but that’s only the case because we HAVE to let our expressions, words, and feelings out in order to pour them onto paper (or a screen). Spreadsheety McNumbers doesn’t have to do that in order to get his job done, so a lot of the time, he doesn’t understand that. (That leaves it us to we sensitive sorts to be a little more understanding.)

Giving up control is hard

There’s nothing worse than feeling extremely protective over your work and then having to give up control over it. I’ve recently had to step back and learn this, both at my money-making job and at my creative-outlet job.

Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, both in my personal writing and in writing for a corporate entity:

  • I will take on too much. I will continue to take on projects, work, writing, whatever you can throw at me until I break. And then I will keep going.
  • I won’t tell you. (#IntrovertProblems ?) Could be an introvert thing, but I don’t think just introverts suffer from this phenomenon. Maybe it’s more of a pride thing. If you keep handing me things, I’ll keep doing them. And I won’t stop until they complete and correct.
  • I won’t answer the phone. OMG don’t call me. I love you, but don’t call me. I have email and text, and I am exhausted from human interaction. I answer the phone for a very select few people, and if that’s you, then you know I would also throw myself in front of a bus for you because I love you that much.
  • If I’m backed into a corner, I will fight. And I won’t fight fair. I think that’s true of a lot of people, but I’ve learned that a lot of people won’t admit it. They just get nas’y. See how I let people know in advance? That’s the sensitive side of me!
  • I’ve worked hard, and it sucks when it feels like someone is downgrading that. So if I see that happening to you, I’ll fight for you, too.
  • I will respect you, but I want respect in return.
  • No company will ever value my family and my personal time as much as I do. That’s true for me. It’s true for you, and for everyone else on this planet. So if you’re working somewhere that you don’t feel valued, it’s time to re-think your situation.
  • I’ve been too hard on myself, but then again, who isn’t? Here’s a little secret about creatives: you don’t have to be tough on us or our work. We’re already WAY ahead of you there.
  • There are still a LOT of old thinkers in corporate America. They may throw around words like “innovative” or “bold,” but many of them will balk the first time you give them new-day, new-thinking ideas. Often, they don’t want to be the first ones to take chances.
  • I thought it would be easy to walk away from a corporate career. It’s not. We’ve been brought up with this mindset that a corporate title determines our success. You’ll finally feel free of that B.S. when you dip your toe into the slow lane…the one that chugs along outside the Rat Race.
  • I have more pride than I thought. Pride can be a good thing, but don’t forget, there’s also that old saying about it coming just before a fall. It’s all about balance. Don’t let your pride get too big to simply put it in your briefcase and walk away.
  • I’m underselling creative talent to please other people. And so are you. Your talent for creating, writing, editing, and imaging new worlds is phenomenal! (Honestly, you think that guy over there putting all your accomplishments on a spreadsheet can come up with next year’s kickass tagline? As my teenager would say, “Naw, fam.”)

Question for my writer friends: Are we selling our creative souls for the sake of funding our present comfort?

So what’s next? Here’s what I propose:

Take a look at your darlings. Do you still love them? If so, then they get to stay in the story for a while. If they are meaningful, add depth and intrigue to the plot, let them stay. (I loved being in the office for a long time! I loved the hustle and bustle and deadlines and watercooler meetings. And it’s ok to love that!)

But when it’s their time to go…when it’s time for a new chapter, don’t think twice about choosing your murder weopon and OFFING your darlings.

Also, I did just kill a fictional character, and it felt pretty good! But if anyone runs across my online search history, I expect you all to vouch for my “research” endeavors.)