Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Stop procrastinating NOW

I went to Barnes and Noble the other day to edit a dissertation for a PhD student who hired my brain, and on my way up to the cafe after picking up a copy of the APA style guide, I was sidetracked by a book about, appropriately enough, procrastinating.

So what did I do? Stopped and read it for an hour of course.

But wouldn'tcha know, it was worth it. Check it out:

My favorite advice, in no particular order (and some of this is pretty obvious, but just because it's obvious doesn't mean it gets done):

Who expects great things from you? Teachers/co-workers/friends, etc. Invite them to lunch or coffee, hang out, pick their brains, ask for advice. Support is essential.

What's holding you back from getting something done? Is there a good reason for it (e.g., not calling someone back because you need to cool down first so you don't bitch him/her out)? If not, what are you afraid of happening and how can you calm this fear?

Redefine yourself. Just because you think you're disorganized, that doesn't mean you can't go to the Container Store (http://www.containerstore.com/) and pick up some organizational tips from books and magazines. People change all the time.

Prioritize your to-do list (this is SO obvious, but until I read it I hadn't realized that I never do this). Write a brainstorm list of everything you need to get done for the day. Then go back and fine tune it. Put the things with the biggest pay-off first (e.g., sending off resumes) and leave the things with little to no payoff last or cross them off entirely (e.g., do I really desperately need to alphabetize my novels?) You can't get everything done, so do what counts.

Related to the above, a lot of people fall into the trap of doing something, anything, just to feel productive. I definitely am guilty of this. Case in point: I copied and pasted a gigantic list of nonprofits into a Word document and had been going online and getting the names and contact info of each of their executive directors or PR directors, then making a master list of contacts to send my resume and marketing letter. My intent was to do a massive direct mail campaign to get work as a copy writer. I got through about 30 of the addresses. It's been on my to-do list forever. Then I realized that a) this will have very little pay back and b) I don't WANT to be a copy writer for nonprofits. I want to write pithy essays for ELLE magazine and a string of popular-but-still-cerebral novels. So what the hell am I doing that shit for when I should be working on query letters for Food and Wine magazine and Bust? Right, exactly. So, I trashed the nonprofit project, which I had been doing because it felt like I was getting something done by sitting bleary eyed at the computer and copying and pasting addresses into the file. Busy work is what it was, pure busy work.

And some mind control tricks:
No more rewards for bad behavior. I am a chronic pedicure-purchase-to-make-myself-feel-better type of person. What do I do to deserve it other than sink into a depressive funk that red toenails won't cure?

Conversely, use self bribery to help get things done. My favorites are spa services and permission to eat out at a restaurant. I also need a pair of open-toed shoes to show off my red toenails.

Set a timer, work for that amount of time and give myself permission to take a break when the beeper goes off. Kind of along the lines of the ol' "exercise for 10 minutes and then you can stop" trick (i.e., once you get going, you rarely stop).

There were so many other good tips. If you have issues with procrastination, definitely check out this book.

Friday, April 08, 2005

How many days until my bank account = $0?

Lately, a good day for me is one during which I don't spend more than the amount it costs to get caffeined up in the morning. I haven't yet graduated to a good day being when I get a check from a large magazine, say, from Super Copy Chief. But those days will come.

On an up note, I received a stack of consent forms as fat as my butt (By the way, my boyfriend announced the other day that it is in top shape...) as I was saying-- consent forms for the brain zappin' study I signed up for. $1200 here I come. I wonder, is it possible to finance one's life entirely via IV tubes and PET scans? Survey says yes. See "Rebel without a Crew," by Robert Rodriguez. (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0452271878/qid=1113017728/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/104-4862301-4804763)

Other news:

I just e-mailed off a brilliant query to an online magazine that doesn't pay beyond good will and knowledge of a job well done.

This evening after temp job hell, I scoured my bath tub of soap scum and it looks dee-lish. Yes, it's Friday, my cleaning night. No, silly, Saturday night is when I go to Bungalow 8 with Paris.

Tomorrow evening I'm meeting with a creepy man who wants me to do copy writing for his business. I'll let y'all know if he slips me a mickey.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Recent developments on the job and money and writing and eating fronts:

No posts lately. I've been a busy girl. Among my latest accomplishments:

I was selected for a study involving brain imaging of women with eating disorders. It pays $1200 big ones, plus travel, room and board accomodations, in exchange for three days of being injected with a radioactive tracing liquid and getting my head zapped. Pretty fair deal, I'd say.

A doctoral candidate hired me to edit her dissertation. $350 big ones. I'm rollin' in it now.

I got a response back from Super Copy Chief yesterday, in response to a follow-up e-mail I sent her to check that she had received my copy editing test. She said they'd be making a decision in the next week or two. Eeegad.

I'm getting a $900+ tax return. Yea George Bush! (No, wait, what am I saying?)

I received a positive response (interview to come) for a weekend nonprofit position I applied for, involving corraling inner city teenagers for an art project. The ad required that I be like the "Pied Piper." What does that say about the kids?

A bird shat on me today. My boyfriend was sweet enough to wipe it out of my hair with a coffee-soiled Starbucks napkin.

This evening after getting out of the fiery seventh circle of hell that is my temp job, I walked from lower to upper Manhattan whilst eating an entire one pound bag of peanut M & M's. I walked 15 miles today and completely undid whatever bodily good I may have accomplished because I'm a hog.

Overall, however, things are going rather well. Soon I'll shake this sugar fixation, and then things will be going even better.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Chapel of What? And Trying to Get My Engine Going on No Fuel

Yet another one of my friends has announced a wedding engagement. I went to four weddings last summer.

When I got the message from him, I wanted to leap out of my cubicle at my temp job and run around the particle board hallways screaming "Weeeeeee!" But I couldn't (HR frowns upon that), so I stuck my head and cell phone under my desk and called several of my friends, none of whom were around. I even called my parents, who both love the groom-to-be like their own son, but they weren't home either. I had to sit there tingling by myself. And then I became overwhelmingly depressed.

When I finally heard back from three of the people I called, every one of them at some point in the conversation said, "So when are you going to get married." Is there some law that says that once you pass a certain yearly anniversary with someone that automatically you're going to marry the person? My mother was the worst:

"So when am I going to get this phone call about your engagement?"

"God, don't even get into that with me."

"Whaaaattt?" she teased.

"It's a ways off."

"You're not ready yet?"


"Neither of you are?"


"Well, okaaaaay," she said, sounding as though she either didn't believe me or knew something I didn't know.

Christ almighty. It's all I can do to keep myself from running to the bodega downstairs for some sugary goodness. For weeks, my body has felt like an empty cavity that needs constant refilling. The only thing that's holding me back right now are the obscenities my bank account is screaming at me.

Work is eating me alive. I'm getting jerked around by this guy who wants me to do some business copy writing for him and then doesn't call me for two weeks and then says, "Oh, yes, yes, I'll get the info off to you this week." I'm also waiting to hear back from Super National Magazine Copy Chief. She should have received my copy test in the mail today. I have a ton of resumes to send out and online postings to respond to and my hands and arms feel so heavy I'm afraid they're going to crush this computer keyboard. My bed is calling my name. But, no. Work, work, work. I feel like Indiana Jones running to roll under a closing door before he's trapped in a roomful of snakes.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

A little patience oooo-oooo-yeeeaahhh

I've never really been one for patience. A high school history teacher once told my class that the key to success is learning to delay gratification. My rational side thinks this is a great idea, but the entire rest of me thinks it's a crock of shit.

Areas in my life with no place for patience:

WORK. I've been a Freelance Writer for 1 3/4 months now and I haven't yet been published in the New Yorker, ergo, there is something inherently wrong with the way I think and write. I made the leap into this realm with next to zero contacts. I should have them coming out my ears by now. Reasons why I don't: I'm a might timid when it comes to saying "gimme a job." I also look like I'm 17, which doesn't help my petitioning for professional respect. Or maybe my problem is that I'm scared into immobility. Yep, I think it's the latter.

RUNNING. I shattered my shins from overtraining for a marathon I ended up not being able to run last fall. I took ample time off to heal, then slowly began running again, less mileage this time. I ran maybe once every week or every other week between Christmas and the end of February. Then, springtime. I am ecstatic. The daffodils are in bloom. Daffodils are like Pavlov's bell making me want to run 20 miles every day. I know I can't and I shouldn't, but once I start it's hard to stop. Today I had to cut it at six miles and I'm very proud of myself for doing so. I signed up for the NYC marathon lottery again this year and I'm vowing not to let my competition with myself screw it up again and wind up hobbling for three weeks and standing on the sidelines.

BOYFRIEND. I can't decide if I'm still in love with my boyfriend. We've been together almost three years. I love him as a person, as a friend, as someone who knows me better than anyone else. But am I IN LOVE? Who knows? I do know that I'm not so attracted to him lately, be it my spinning-out-of-control brain, my long days, my work-money-life stress, or the fact that he is a little, shall we say, lacking in regards to romance. "Flowers? Why do you want flowers? They just die in a day." Why is it that some guys think that going from zero to catching a peak of a girl's undies to getting a hard on in any way translates into foreplay? Guess what, randomly groping my ass doesn't turn me on. Go figure. I'm at a standstill as to what to do. I'm 24 and so the clock is not in overdrive yet, obviously, but I still feel like I'm at a point where I either need to let it go and get on with my life or keep going forward with him. Any longer and it'll just get messier to break up. I want things to be clear, now.

There are a million other things: I want to publish my as-of-yet incomplete first novel (incomplete by about 200 pages) NOW. I want to have beautiful curly haired babies NOW. I want a house in the mountains with an organic vegetable garden out back NOW. I want to be bilingual, no, make that trilingual, NOW. I want to complete a triathlon NOW, even though I have yet to run my first marathon. I want fat royalty checks and full copyright retention NOW. And the thing is, I have so many good things going on for me now, yet I can barely stop to enjoy them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Alienating sources, one person at a time

I'm writing an article for one-a-them $.05/word magazines. I'm at no loss of contacts to call, since it's about an issue that's been in the news a lot lately. It's due tomorrow. No biggie. It's run by a couple of Brooklyn hipster idiots with home publishing equipment.

(Note to readers: The use of "idiots" and "Brooklyn hipster" in the same sentence is not in anyway meant to infer that Brooklynite hipsters are idiots. I saw them, I interacted and I once even lived among them, and hope I never go back.)

Anyway, so yesterday, one of my sources finally graced me with a phone call from her holy self. She had shot me an e-mail the day prior telling me her phone number and said that although I really should've called her months ago for this article (even though I got the assignment two weeks ago and initially e-mailed her in a timely manner) and although she is a very, very busy person, she could perhaps squeeze in a little time for little ol' me. How nice. So, I called her back and left a friendly message on her voice mailbox. She called me back 45 minutes later, and asked,

"Do I know you?"

Well, if you count the three e-mails that have passed between us today and yesterday, yes. But I understand that some people have members of the press knocking down their doors, and so can not possibly keep all our rubber-necking names straight.

Anyway, so I patiently explained again who I was and why I was calling (which I had done in my first e-mail and again on the voice mail I left). Her long-winded response was that she was very busy and I should have contacted her months ago.

My response after her little diatribe was that I understand the constraints of a busy schedule, and not to worry because I have plenty of other contacts for my article so I can do without this interview if you can't fit me in. She immediately started backtracking and then again said that I should have contacted her months ago. (I'd like to add here that we could have blown through the entire interview in the time it took to discuss how busy she was.)

At this point I was about to be late to where I was walking to and was a bit pissed that this very busy holistic health counselor was copping an attitude with me and insulting the way I work, so I said that in so many words. And then I hung up. And then I developed the biggest shit-eating grin ever. It was liberating and perhaps stupid, should this woman ever rise to a position of power that could hurt me. For the next ten blocks I kept my cell phone out, waiting for her to call back, which she did, and I didn't pick up. Then for the next five blocks I continued to grip my cell phone in my grubby little hand, waiting for the message beep, like one waits for someone to finally get the punch line to a joke just told. I listened to her message and it was surprisingly polite and expressed confusion at the "miscommunication" (I was disappointed and had hoped for a chorus of fuck yous).

Anyway, not to worry. I don't plan on making this a practice. Basically, I had just had a long and stressful day and was not in the mood to be lectured on how I work by an echinacea muncher. The rest of the interviews for this article went well. Maybe she just hadn't sipped her miso that day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

And I Try So Hard to Be Vegan

You ever read one of those self-help type articles in magazines (in this case, New York Magazine) and think, "Jesus Christ, has someone been watching me?"

This is what happened when I read the special issue on stress the other month. I try to curtail my magazine buying habit, opting instead to tear and spill coffee on the pages of unpaid-for magazines in the Barnes and Noble cafe, but I decided that this issue of NY was worth the $4 investment. What I read scared the shit out of me because I am fully convinced that someone cased my apartment for part of the cover package. I'm referring to the How to Cut the Tension article, specifically, "Case Study 6: A Self-Employed, Self Medicating Creative Type, who destresses with a pint of Ben and Jerry's." (http://newyorkmetro.com/nymetro/urban/features/stress/10891/index.html)

OK, well it's not entirely accurate. My budget long ago forced me to wean myself off of my Ben and Jerry's binge habit, so last night and this morning it was half-priced Easter candy. If I eat another malted milk robin's egg I'll barf.

Anyway, so after I read said article, I attempted to follow its suggestions for my Type:

1. Put your tight jeans on.
I have a really terrible, awful problem in that I lost a little bit of weight at the same time I began losing a not so little bit of money, which meant baggy-butt pants and no means to buy ones that fit properly. Therefore, I have no clothes that I can squeeze into to remind myself to not inhale my dinner. Besides, it's great to say, "Yes! I will treat my home office as though I work in a real office," but come on! When I first started working for myself, I made it a point to put on tweed skirts and knee high boots in the morning. Ha! Right now I'm wearing a rank set of running clothes because I haven't bothered to change since I got back from my morning romp in Central Park.

2. Eat your meals at a table, not off your lap.
I would love, repeat, LOVE to do this, if my studio apartment had room for even a tiny table. Instead, it's crammed with a double bed, a computer desk, a 3 x 5 table holding two record players, plus shelves housing a book and vinyl collection that rivals that of the Library of Freakin' Congress (my dad's words, as he was helping me move in). So, yes, I would love to dine instead of just eat, but my lap will need to suffice until I get a bigger place.

3. Volunteer at a charity.
Check. I'm tutoring ESL students and I love it. This was one of the best suggestions I have ever received from anyone, including my mother.

4. Adopt a pet.
Second best suggestion ever. I adopted a cat from the ASPCA, which I had been wanting to do for a long time but never acted upon until reading this article. Her name is Maeve and my clothes are all covered with cat hair and I cut social engagements short because I need to rush home to dish out kibble and I have scratches all over the tops of my hands and I LOOOOVE her!

5. Binge smart.
Rather than get to the root of why I turn to food in times of stress, why don't I just continue to use eating as therapy but replace ice cream with celery. GREAT IDEA! All these years of therapy and journaling and antidepressant trials, and ya'll solved my issues with two small, yet magical words. I love it. I love even more that they quoted a macrobiotic chef in this section.

So, after my Easter bunny binge, it's back to attempting to eat healthfully.

I was a vegetarian for eight years (middle school/high school and part of college), and by vegetarian I mean that I ate anything as long as it contained no meat; meaning, a day could very well consist of PBJ and oranges and Sun Chips and it'd be fine by me. I was a picky eater growing up and never got the hang of vegetables until I got to college and realized I ate like a baby.

I started eating animal products again late in college when I got over my save the cows mentality. Recently though, after reading a slew of fuck-the-government books (Fast Food Nation, Fahrenheit 451 and others), my decision to go veggie again has more to do with a disgust with the meat and commercial farming industry- economic and social reasons rather than for love of chickens. I've been pseudo vegan-vegetarian for about a month or so, not without slip-ups, of course (like, um, mini Hershey bars wrapped in pink foil). I'm doing my best though, because I'm also trying to repair years of nutritional damage I've done to my body and avert the dreaded family cardiac problems that I'll probably get anyway.

I think I'll go have some peas and carrots for lunch. Funny how 3,000 calories worth of chocolate vacates one's digestive track so quickly.