Archive for Beginnings

Working on Location

I have worked out of my home exclusively for the past 17 years. Although I found it challenging at the beginning—the isolation and keeping company with only people under the age of 5 years took some getting used to—I grew to love my cozy home office, and my ability to spend so much time with my children. But three weeks ago, I began working for a company that requires its contract workers to work onsite. Once again, I’m adapting. It’s taking some getting used to, especially in the face of this week’s impending Nor’easter. I keep asking myself if this is the wisest choice I could have made…

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Learning a Lesson

Today I begin an online freelance writing course. Years ago, I took a continuing education/university evening class about breaking into freelance writing. The timing wasn’t good, though, as I had just moved to a new city, had begun a new job, and was starting a family. I admit, I’m not great with multitasking. I prefer to give one task all of my attention, and then move on to the next item on my To Do list.

So, this writing course. I’m a bit overwhelmed by it. As usual. I’ve received only the first lesson, and I’m still hesitant to dive in. But dive in, I will, as that’s really the only way I’ll get myself started. I’m either on the precipice of something wonderful, or not. We’ll see how it goes.

Just Dive In

I always have difficulty beginning new projects. I try to examine every note the publisher provides, rereading style guides and taking a look at every file before I begin. But this task — this familiarizing myself with a new assignment — is so boring to me that I tend to procrastinate during the first few days of an assignment. And then a week later I look back at the poor way I used my time and wish I’d just begun the process right away, imagining how much further in I’d be at that point.

I’m at that stage in two projects right now. I’ve made the leap into one of them, but really need to work on the other. Today’s goal? Get started on that manuscript!

[Edited to add this link: http://www.subversivecopyeditor.com/blog/2011/04/first-things-first-.html. Fantastic advice.]

Restraint

A blog entry by Carol Saller, the Subversive Copy Editor, got me thinking about the kind of copy editor I was when I first started. My first assignments were done in red pen on paper. A friend and I had both applied for the same two jobs in the same company: one in writing and the other in editing. He  went to writing; I, to copyediting. And, as time and fortune dictate, one of my first assignments was his first book. It wasn’t pretty.

Of course, I, as an overly eager and newly labeled copy editor, went to town on this book. I devoured every mistake in style conformity and spit back pedantic reasons why the changes had to go my way. My pen flew across the pages as I exhibited my knowledge of written grammar. I wasn’t being vindictive. He was a good friend, and we spent lots of time together before that experience. I wanted to “help” him be a better writer. He was kindly receptive to my enthusiastic criticism because that’s the kind of person he was — open-minded, respectful, and patient. Unlike me.

I like to think that both time and fortune have a hand in making me a better copy editor than I was back then.

Twitter

I’m working on developing a Twitter following, but failing miserably. I’m not sure how to to acquire legitimate followers. Most of the advice out there recommends a spam approach: follow hundreds of people in the hopes that a percentage of them follow you back. But what’s the point if it’s all automated and no real person ever sees your tweets? I rejected that approach. Now I consciously examine every potential Twit (one who tweets? hmm…maybe that’s my answer right there) to see if it makes sense to follow him/her/it. That’s probably part of my problem. I actually READ the tweets to see if they relate to me in some way. I have a feeling that 99% of tweets out there are never read–uh, except if they’re “written” by the cast of “Jersey Shore.”

For my needs, I envision Twitter as a tool to generate paying clients. Oh, and interest in a blog that I should really write on more often, and about stuff that people actually want to read. Yeah, I guess I have to work on that.

Experience

When I was 13, I was sure I’d become a geneticist. We had just finished a unit on heredity in my science class, and I was hooked. I did a project that traced physical traits throughout my family: hand dominance, hair swirls, tongue rolling, eye and hair color, and ear lobe shape, among others. My brothers and I all have different color hair and eyes, which had always been interesting to me. But if you looked at our faces, you could see the strong resemblance despite the color variation. Each of us is a dizzyingly different, individual combination of the exact same genes.

This fascination leads me to look at the world from a scientific bent. When I was pregnant with each of my children, I drove my husband crazy with the day-to-day progress: “The baby is forming eyelashes today!” He accused me of taking the magic out of pregnancy, but I didn’t see it that way. To me, “magic” and science are interrelated. How incredible is it that virtually every living thing is programmed to build cells in the same way? That’s magic to me.

A few years ago I had the privilege of witnessing my niece’s birth. It was astounding to me to witness the occasion from the opposite perspective. As I watched the nurses and doctor guide my sister-in-law and bring her baby into the world, I imagined theirs to be the best jobs in the world. I also had delusions of grandeur that I could do that. I researched midwifery programs. My research led me to realize that I was not the best candidate for such a job, but I learned much about the concerns of midwifery. In ancient times, the midwife was considered a shaman–a combination of science and mysticism.

Many years before that, one year after my youngest was born, my mother was hit by a car and sustained a traumatic brain injury. She was never the same, and lived for 10 years in a nursing home because she required extensive, round-the-clock care. The brain’s ability and inability to recover became my fascination. I wanted to know why my mother wasn’t my Mom anymore. I read a lot, understanding maybe 15%. But once again, I took a scientific approach to my experience. I always wanted to know what was going on inside her mind. She recognized me most of the time, and had curious periods of absolute lucidity, almost as if she’d recovered. Then she’d lapse into a daze and we’d barely get a glimpse of recognition from her. That cycle of clarity versus haziness confounded me. I would have given anything to know what she was thinking. If she was thinking.

So, this is where my experiences have led me. I know that someday, when I finally find my words, I’d like them to be scientifically based, but combined with everyday occurrences. I hope to get there soon.

Inspiration

I’m looking for inspiration, both in general and in my writing. I have a folder on my laptop of great writing ideas, but I just can’t motivate myself to do anything with them. Self-doubt paralyzes me. I’m a word technician, trained by experience to tinker with sentences until they’re as clear as can be. I’m following directions that way, something I do very, very well. I’m hoping this blog, and the constant push it gives me to JUST WRITE will get me past that self-doubt hurdle. I’m clumsy, though, in so many ways. Why not in writing, too?

And So it Begins . . .

Before actually typing these words, I sat and stared at my computer screen, waiting for the words to come. They didn’t. So I’m following my own advice to my son, who also is stumped when it comes to knowing what to write. I told him to just start typing.

What the heck am I going to write about? What do I feel passionate about? Hmmmm . . .