Posted in Writing

Short Poem: The Journal

The Journal

Watermarked linen pages
Fashionably bound in artisan hardback leather,
Patiently await the labored ink of one ….
…..Who thinks too much

 

 

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Posted in Life

The Graveyard of Failure

I don’t know a lot about what it takes to be successful. I once read this book called,“ 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30. It was Glamour Magazine’s definition of success and womanhood. I failed miserably.

What I am learning lately, is that the road to success is paved with failure. They don’t usually write it in the biographies, or sometimes they do. But, here is what I know about about success:

To reach a certain level in life, any level that we can define as success, you have to try and fail at things. You have to have done things that didn’t work. You have to have apologized to people. You have to have those moments where you said, “In hindsight, I would have…”

Failure, a fortune cookie once told me, is the tuition you pay for success. I read that in the restaurant that day and nodded pensively in the way that you do when you read something deep but somehow can’t wrap your head around it. I saved it, and it haunted me for years.

I think about those things I would have done differently.  Maybe I should have done this, or that. But, really, would I have?

If I hadn’t had those failures, would I have been the same person? Would things have ultimately turned out the same? Was that detour, in fact, actually an integral part of the road?

I think success is not a golden pinnacle at the top of a mountain. It is a survivor’s triumph, received at the end of a messy graveyard of failure.

Posted in Writing

Prostitution and the Art of Writing

I’ve spent the last year or so writing a poetry book. I’ve posted some of the material here, and some quietly sits on my hard drive patiently awaiting the un-appointed day. As I’ve been honing in on the actual plans for the book, there’s a part of me that’s just a bit unsettled.

These poems—they are certainly designed to bring companionship to this crazy mixed up journey of life. And my hope is, that by reading them, you, my gentle reader, will somehow relate and find solace in that someone else relates. Or at least find a succinct articulation for your own feelings. But, beyond that, or perhaps because of that, these pieces are personal, intimate portraits of my soul. And it has just struck me, that I am selling it. My soul…for money.

And it’s not just poetry. It’s most of the things that I write, or the important things anyway. Good writers reach deep inside, and pull out the very essence of what it means to be human, and bleed it out onto a page, defining and articulating this experience under the sun. The best ones, the ones that endure centuries, and produce exquisite works that plague high school students for centuries, those are the writers that have shamelessly bared their souls for time and humanity at large. They have stood, naked, before the world, and invited them to analyze, critique and discuss every nook and cranny of what they may find. And some of these critics, many in fact, are not so kind.

But, in these writers’ bravadoes, they have, for the sake of us all, laid out, in glaring picas and fonts, what it means to be human. What it means to feel, to love, to hurt, to lose and to breathe…deeply the stuff of life.

And it’s not just writers. It’s all artists. Alanis Morrissette did a music video where she simply walked naked through the streets of New York, and no one noticed. It was a metaphor for how her music was her bared soul, and it’s just treated as a casual soundtrack, background noise on a bus. I love it. (But I do find Ms. Morrissette a bit melodramatic in this sense. I mean, really, who can feel sorry for a multi-platinum recording artist, on the fact that everyone knows her music?!)

Andy Warhol came to the conclusion that once a person bought his works, it was no longer his. It became whatever the buyer envisioned for it. So, when Bob Dylan walked into his studio, bought the most expensive painting there, and turned it into a dartboard, Warhol just laughed. Well, I’m not that secure, or vain, whatever that is…If I heard someone were using my book as a dartboard, or packing material, I don’t know that I would quite recover.

Which, brings me to artistic ownership. As patrons, we partake in works of art, whether they be visual art, music, literature…and we throw at them, or their legacies, the $12.99 or so they may ask. When we are done, we discard them to rot on a bookshelf. Trophies of literary prowess, books we’ve “had,” to show off.

And how is that so different from prostitution?

Posted in God, Life

Things…Things…All About Things…

I am flying today. It’s been a crazy week already, and it’s only Tuesday. I am going out of town for six weeks, and when I return, “home” will be in a different place. I’ve spent the last several days going through everything I own. Some things to be packed for the trip…some things to be packed for the move…some things to be purchased…some things to be tossed….nothing to be remain where it is…Things. Things. It’s been all about things.

I’ve not really had much of investment in things. I grew up a nomad, having lived in over thirty places and counting. My entire school years, and beyond are stored in one big plastic bin, I call my “memorabilia box.” High school yearbooks… autographs and backstage passes….photo albums….programs from plays I’ve been in…all tangled up in one plastic tote. And then closed with a lid, and stuffed in a back corner of a closet. Life…in a box.

After all of these moves, I have scaled my things down to an essential level. Several boxes of books, a modest assortment of basic furniture, clothing, a laptop, a camera, a couple of typewriters for vintage flavor…

And with each move I lose a little more of what I thought was essential. No, I don’t need those old clippings of articles I wrote for the college newspaper. It’s been a decade and I’ve got much better material. No, I don’t need that lamp. Even though I love it, it got quite banged around during the last move, and has never been the same….

Sometimes I lament my lack of things. If I admit that something needs tossing,  a little bit of me hurts. It’s like I’m losing a bit of myself almost. And, I waver on the decision. But in one such cleaning session, I ran across a Scripture, I think in Jonah, that says, “Those who cling to worthless idols, forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” That hit me hard that time.

Things are nice, and yes, things can hold memories. There are certain things that I have, that I can look at, and will instantly transport me to a warm and cozy place.  And, yes, we love to be surrounded by beautiful things, and things that make life easier, softer, better for us. But, when we become too attached to them, we can miss out on what God has for us now. So, as I cleaned out my things this last weekend, I worried that I was too ruthless. Would I regret not holding on to this or that? Maybe.

But, I recently heard a pastor talk about materialism. He said we actually don’t own anything. Everything we think we own is on loaner for our time here on earth. We have it for a little while we’re here, and then we must leave it behind. Most things we have to leave behind much sooner anyway. It’s common sense, of course, but I had never really thought about in that way. I don’t actually own anything. At all.

And I don’t believe that God is against us owning things. He’s just just against things owning us. When we can’t let go of things, when we spend our lives in pursuit of things, when we are so obsessed with more things that that’s all we really want…then we have a problem.

And, so I sit in the airport terminal this morning and ponder my modest collection of things. It’s not about the things. It’s about life. Living life. Giving of yourself. Loving God, and loving people. Things, are just a backdrop. Tools that make it possible. And so, if I have everything that I need to do that, then why should I cling to what are ultimately worthless idols? I would never want to forfeit what God is doing with me now…because I couldn’t let go of an old lamp.

Posted in Writing

Lessons in Telecommuting

As discussed in an earlier post, working from home is the new thing. You can hardly throw a rock without hitting someone who says they have their own business. (I’ve never understood that expression. Why would you throw a rock at someone?). But, suffice it to say, everyone sells something, or does something from their home computer. But not everyone is successful at it. I have seen many fizzle and fade, and fold their business. (Sometimes owing a lot of money to the cosmetics company or whatever). Granted, every business is different, and mine is as well. But here are the lessons I have learned from my adventures in working from home.

Don’t be fooled by the, “I can work in the middle of the night if I want,” idea.

You won’t. You have some flexibility in your hours. But, you need to set regular business hours and stick to them. There are a number of reasons for this. First of all, most of your clients will be up and about during business hours. As will anyone you report to, directly or indirectly. If you are completely stumped on a project at 2:00 am, whomever you need to call for clarification will not be available. Being available when your clients/supervisors are available, will just make things move faster. Texts and e-mails zoom in and out of your phone as plans and projects change and morph. A successful professional is right there in the middle of it. Secondly, you won’t work in the middle of the night. Don’t kid yourself. You really won’t. And then you will lose clients.

Trick: Get up at a decent hour, shower, dress, eat, whatever. Then go to work. Work until everything is done, or at least at a stopping point. I find a six hour day works best for me. After six hours, I feel I’ve given it a good day.

Keep a log of what you do each day.

It’s easy to get discouraged or confused about what how much you are doing. Maybe you don’t see much actual productivity, but a log will show you that your workday consists of a lot of steps toward getting the work done. That’s fine. That’s productivity. Conversely, you could feel like you are working all the time, but your log shows you’re not really doing much of anything. This is characteristic of the work-at-home novice. They start too late, take too many breaks, and don’t know when to end the day. So, they feel like they are working all the time, when they aren’t actually getting much done. A log will show you this and help you see where you can reign in your time

Trick: I keep a dated Excel file. I’ve got a calendar laid out week by week, one tab per month. Each week, I put the assignments in their appropriate due date. Then, each morning, I put in the steps I will take to get there for the day. This gives me a to-do list for the day. As I complete each task, I turn the type red. If at the end of the day, any black items are still left, I transfer those to the next day’s box. If I do something that’s not on my list, I put it in there anyway and turn it red. That way, I also know what date I did it, for future reference. This also helps me keep organized enough to do non-paid assignments, like work on my poetry book and blogging.

Create or Find a Good Environment.

Your environment will make or break you, and there’s a lot written about home offices. But, if you don’t have a good space in your house, or you can’t ignore the pull of housework or other distractions, then it’s possible to come up with a good “mobile” office. This is all the rage, and some cities have office spaces that work-at-home people can rent a desk. We don’t have those here, but I have route of work environments that I frequent. This includes various libraries, coffee shops, and even the local community college. Each has its pros and cons and I daily choose the locale based on my needs for the day. It’s difficult at times, but in the absence of a good home office, it works. I have a laptop bag that I keep stocked with my computer cord, an extra phone charger, pens, notebooks, a flash drive and headphones.

Learn from Everything….And Then Just Do It.

Sometimes work at home novices are nervous about their new venture. This is understandable, there is a lot to learn and you will continue to learn throughout your career. But, at some point, you’ve got to just do it. Get out there and learn from your own mistakes and your own successes.

Trick: If you’re nervous about starting a new home business, use the “backdoor clause.” Give yourself a time limit and a goal. Tell yourself, “I’m going to give it 90 days/six months/a year…” and set a realistic goal of what would mean “successful” to you. Then, go after your business with the reckless abandon of everything you’ve got. Eat, sleep and breathe that business. If after your time passes, you are nowhere near your goal, then re-eavalute your idea. It may be a good time to shelve it, get more training, or just pursue it as a hobby for a little while.

Get a Good (But Not Overpriced) Accounting Software.

You will need to keep track of your invoices, and clients will expect professional presentation of invoices. The type of software you use, will depend on what you are selling and how. My product is a service, and my clients are businesses, so my invoicing/billing is super simple. I have a basic accounting software called Express Accounting. I found it free online, and it generates and sends professional invoices. It keeps track of everything, and I can generate reports and enter payment dates. It’s easy to use and does everything I need. There are more expensive ones that sync to your bank account, like Quicken and Quickbooks. I find, for what I am doing, I don’t need all that power. But, in a home based business, you will need to be your own accounting office, so keeping track of all of this is essential.

STAY ORGANIZED.

This goes along with the previous point, but I think it deserves its own. You will not get anything done if you have to spend twenty minutes just looking for the scissors. Keep everything you need together, and in an orderly fashion. You will find things move much faster when you do.

Above all, enjoy working from home. It’s a lot of fun, and if done right, can make you just as much money as anything else. As long as you actually do it.