Peace and quiet

If you remove the tag, you've got a sofa that looks remarkably like ours! My couch is my refuge. I don't actually have a desk, so I usually settle into a spot on the center cushion. It's not particularly comfortable, which is part of the appeal -- I have to be productive so I can get up and move before I mess up my back. Instead of slowing falling asleep, I can concentrate on writing.

Once I'm settled, I usually check my e-mail, Facebook and Twitter to see if anyone's posting material that's interesting and/or pertinent to the day's writing. If not, I start researching. After opening 10-20 pages in separate tabs, the writing begins. The first draft usually gets trashed or overhauled. The second is bearable, and the third usually gets posted.

It might seem silly to spend so much time on each piece, but I'm a perfectionist. This set of tendencies also motivates me to give even more time and focus than my personal posts. As a freelancer, each story/article/post that carries my name also impacts my reputation. No pressure, right?

Wrong. Somewhere along the line, I picked up the idea that mediocre writing was equivalent to failure. After some time, it became ingrained. Since then, writing has been fun, but it's also riddled with anxiety. This feeling gets worse if I cut a deadline too close or skip a few days. My anxiety level is also directly proportional to the size of the assignment -- if it's a short piece for my blog, I'm fine. For my first two pieces, each inspired a fear that's almost a paralytic. The results have been awesome, but that part of the process isn't fun.

Working through this emotional block can be a challenge to any writer. For me, breaking these tasks into manageable chunks like transcription, research and writing makes them less daunting. On any day where I'm feeling off I can knock out one or two of the preliminary steps. After a few hours or days working like this, each article is broken down into its components and outlined. At this point, I'm raring to do anything other than grunt work and usually knock the actual writing out quickly.

My process might not be the healthiest, but it's mine and it usually works. Allowing myself the time to go through these steps and create new writing is especially important during this month's Blog Like Crazy challenge. After scheduling out my exercise for the next month, I'm looking forward to seeing how a new balance impacts my blog and writing career.

Have a different process? Please share it in the comments!

Run, write and repeat

stoplightAs you may have gathered, I started running regularly a few months ago. Recently, the change in season and position in the service industry left me susceptible to illness. Over the past week, a particularly nasty cold left me exhausted and unable to function, so this week I'll focus on what running has taught me about writing.

  • Be careful about Internet sources. Since Pinterest became popular, running and exercise plans are readily available. As with anything else, make sure that the source is a reliable expert in the field. Just as an unreliable training program can get you hurt physically, writing based on unverified sources can cripple your career.
  • Practice smarter, not harder. Flailing around in running can lead to a satisfying tiredness, but it doesn't build endurance or speed. In writing, undirected practice does little to build a professional portfolio. In the long run, both can do more harm than good. Stay focused, and your directed practice will build your chops.
  • Balance your physical and mental health. Balance is a buzzword in both fitness and entrepreneurship for a reason. Runners and freelancers alike suffer when they're unable to practice, so making time to do both is integral to your success.
  • Find fun in your work/running. Exercise is necessary to your focus and longevity, but running can sometimes seem as tedious as editing poorly written medical copy. Listening to trashy music, running a new trail or even treating yourself to new running duds can break you out of a rut.
  • Pace yourself. You're in this for the long haul, so practice accordingly. If you start to feel yourself getting burned out, take a step back. Consider saying no to new commitments so you can effectively manage your time. Write or exercise a little bit every day to keep yourself in shape.

Got any other tips? Leave them in the comments!

Whiling away the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey

I don't read enough. Well, that's only half true. If you combine the time I spend reading blogs and my tutoring kids’ homework and text at work and you’ll probably end up with a figure much higher than the average American’s.

The full truth is that I don’t read enough books. Though I’ll occasionally read on a screen, a physical book is just so much...sexier. With a paper book, you have the weight of it in your hands, the smell of new or old binding glue and reminder of what you read to keep on your shelf. Virtual notes in ebooks just don’t evoke the same response that fading notes in the margins do.

That said, I frequent quite a few websites to keep my workdays lively. These are divided up into five main categories: nerdery, current events, music and pop culture and local love. The last one will get its own post.

If I’m having a rough day, I’ll usually visit the Nerdist. Home to a dedicated Neil deGrasse Tyson channel, a recurring celebrity bowling segment and sci fi TV news, it’s one of the easiest sources for fun. It’s also run by comedian Chris Hardwick, one of the geniuses behind this Ben Folds (+ Fraggles!) video and this parody of the meme above. Though I am a relative newcomer to the podcast, I’ve already gotten in trouble at work multiple times for laughing too hard at the Bane impersonations (video not from the Nerdist) and the episode with Bill Nye (language NSFW, proceed with headphones).

Many of my nerdy reads come from Adam via boingboing. The few times I’ve been on there, I’ve spent hours going back through the archives. It’s nerdy, tech-savvy and delicious.

My news sources tend to vary widely, from Al Jazeera to the Huffington Post to Fox News to the BBC to Jon Stewart. I try to source my news from several places to counteract the spin, but have recently tended towards focusing on the BBC and Al Jazeera for domestic political news. Turns out, if you’re not beholden to a fan base that has a personal, emotional interest on certain issues, your coverage tends towards a fact-based approach. More on that tomorrow.

For music and pop culture, I follow @PasteMagazine on Twitter and haunt its music section to discover bands’ touring schedules before they hit the venue websites. When used in tandem with a streaming service, it can also be a great way to discover new music or find artists who are talking about or coming to your town.

For pop culture, I usually go back to the Nerdist or boingboing, but I also regularly check the Muppets Studio YouTube channel. I dare you to try to watch their interpretation of “Stand By Me” and not say “HAI, I’M A BUNNEH” several times during the next day.

Title inspired by the Eleventh Doctor