Day 12: Writing Anxiety

22 04 2009

Hello, my name is teetah, and I had writing anxiety. It’s been four months and 2 weeks since my last post. During the past several months, overwhelm and perfectionism have had me freaking out about everything, especially my writing. That includes my writing here.

In an effort to alleviate this anxiety, I consulted a variety of books, websites, and other writers which only seemed to make matters worse. I read the introduction to Strunk and White’s Elements of Style written by E.B. White’s son-in-law. In the essay, he describes how White fretted over every word and punctuation mark, revising and sweating some more even as he put the envelope containing his latest manuscript in the mail. Then he’d sweat some more while trying to devise a way to get the envelope back. I won’t bore you with the other stories I’ve read from books on procrastination and some of the personal advice I’ve received. All that matters is the message I took from it all: who am I NOT to be anxious about writing?

I let things get so bad that I dodged my one editor’s calls, emails and text messages for weeks and all he wanted was a 500-word article that I’d already researched, done all the interviews for and outlined.

It’s at that point that I read this and this about labeling fears and then killing them, then promptly realized that when I was in college and even a reporter at a daily, I didn’t have anxiety. Sure I’d be peeved if I waited a long time to write something because waiting til the night before was a habit. I didn’t know how to start things early ’cause people in my house never started things early. We just stayed up late and got it done, no anxiety necessary.  And if it was anxiety, I certainly didn’t know it, but when I started reading procrastination books and all that kind of self-help literature that does more harm than good, I wound up doing just that. Those books helped me pull out all the things that were “wrong” with me, but that’s about all reading them did.

So yesterday, I pulled every single self-improvement and professional development book off my bookshelf (about 80% of the books I had left since the first time I whittled down my books in January) and donated them to the local library.

Shortly thereafter, spent the rest of my day between my futon and my dining room table cranking out that 500-word story which my editor, though peeved, was excited to see in his inbox. Today, after a brief misunderstanding about an assignment, I did a house viewing and wrote the 500-word article about it in two and a half hours. I could’ve been anxious about it, but I didn’t have the time, just like in the newsroom.

I don’t know if this means everything is cured forever and ever, amen. But I do know that as long as I’m real with myself and my expectations don’t become super high and I no longer think everything ever created is wrong with me, when really, it isn’t, I should be OK. Or so I hope.

And no, I’m not going to go back and edit this as I normally would. However random and awkward it reads is how it reads.


Out of the Loop

8 12 2008

I regret to inform anyone who actually paid attention to this blog of mine that I’m going to be offline for a while. I guess you could’ve guessed that seeing as though I haven’t checked in in about a week or so. Just know that when I come back, major progress will be made.


Day Eleven: The Weirdness Is Staggering

30 11 2008

My intention was to hit you up with an interesting post about the best in how-to sites including my favorite videos from Expert Village (I have no idea who Rachel Dayan is or where she came from, but she is so boring, yet so entertaining. People all over the YouTubes have decried her crafts as crap, but I can’t stop watching). But then I stumbled upon the site for a South Bend, Ind.-based company called Pantalaine. According to their tagline, Pantalaine provides “America’s finest plural clothing.” I don’t know who these people really are and I can’t call to find out because there was no contact information on the site, but I want to know who thought of this and why. Mind you, I’m not endorsing said creepiness, but is worth at least a click through.

A visit to their site will net a variety of joined-at-the-hip duds such as the “Support Shirt”, three longsleeve cotton tops with the cuffs of some sleeves sewn to the back of an adjacent shirt.

Pantalaine's Support Shirt

Ahh, support. Sweet!

As much as I love my friends, I don’t love them enough to dress up in a sewn together shirt. Maybe on Halloween, but even then you couldn’t get away from one another without flashing your grand tetons to the world, and the poor person in the middle can’t even get her drink on. That’s so not worth nineteen bucks or the impending ridicule.

Then there’s this gem. It’s a slip cover! It’s a dress! It’s…a couch dress?! WTF?

Is this REALLY what's hot in the streets?!

Is this REALLY what's hot in the streets?!



Yes, ladies, when you’re ready to cozy up with your dude, just slip on this bit of sexiness made from stank, discarded crocheted blankets from the Salvation Army and get it on. All I can say is wow.

And dudes, don’t think you’re off the hook.

You can get close to two of your buddies in the most homo-erotic way possible with…wait for it…the SHAMROCKER!


Pucker up, buttercup.

Pucker up, buttercup.

Oh Mark, are Rick and Steve keeping all the kisses to themselves? Well, not anymore. Get your Chapstick and Family Guy DVDs ready ’cause you and your ‘bros are gonna be closer than ever!

Man, just the name of this thing alone screams sex toy. 

For the duetically inclined, there’s the du Punk, two worked-over, patched up jean jackets held together by an excessive number of safety pins; the Hug Jacket, which kind of sucks ’cause for $80 only one person is kept completely warm; and Hand Holding mittens and gloves. Let’s not talk about the group-length belts, elf hats, and shoes–completely ridiculous. The book mitten thing is kind of fly though. I mean, so often while reading War and Peace, my hands get really cold and I wish I had a book cover with built-in mittens. See kids, dreams really do come true.

Make yours a happy home and keep your kids from 'hanging from your tits'

Make yours a happy home.

And these pants would’ve been perfect for Diahann Carroll when she starred in Claudine in the ’70s. There’s enough hanging on space for six kids, the social worker Miss Kaybeck, and Rupe. And all of them would have to hang off of her legs instead of her tits (her words, not mine). The latter would really hurt and lead to majorly sagging boobage.

Day Nine: The Listening

25 11 2008

For the past month and a half, I’ve been making it through my days and nights listening to Marvin Gaye albums—Here, My Dear, Let’s Get It On, and I Want You in particular. Maybe that’s why my Big Fish are skewed the way they are. Each person is probably two degrees or less away from the Prince of Motown. And truth be told, my favorite singer pantheon has always been limited to Minnie, Stevie, and Michael (the 1968-82 versions), but I think I’m willing to do some reorganization and clear some space for Marvin. I’m violating my rules on this one because sometimes you have to let the music do the talking or writing, as it were.

Here are my favorite mid-to-late 1970s Marvin Gaye songs, plus an extra cut I didn’t even know existed from Tammi Terrell.


“Come Live With Me, Angel” from I Want You

“Just to Keep You Satisfied” from Let’s Get It On

“Anna’s Song” from the brilliant, yet criminally underrated Here, My Dear

Bonus Jam: “All I Do” by Tammi Terrell written by then 16-year-old Stevie Wonder

What happened to day four?

20 11 2008

Sorry folks, but today’s entry was made private. I had something happen today (nobody assaulted me nor did I lose any family members, pets or property…nobody’s sick either, just so you know) that’s just too raw to share right now. I’ll label it a call to further action and leave it at that.

Someday, maybe one day soon it’ll be public, but for now, just know that I’ve completed 517 words today. I hope I won’t have too many more of these. If I do, it will defeat the purpose of the blog.

I do wonder what kinds of feelings all this writing is conjuring up in you all. Have you been enraged, saddened, embarrassed by some of the things your writing practice has dredged up? Yeah, writing will do that. Still, you have to admit it’s awfully cathartic.



Day Three: Scratching and Mixing

19 11 2008

About a month ago, I replaced the LaCie external HD I broke last February while backing up my iTunes folder prior to my trip to Atlanta. For the longest time, I thought everything I’d downloaded over the past two years, some 300 tracks from iTunes and Amazon MP3, was gone forever and that my only option was to do an iPod rip, which I wasn’t looking forward to because I didn’t know what I was doing. However, all my downloaded tracks and their accompanying artwork were restored when plugged in my new 500 GB LaCie. Was I glad? Yes, indeed. What I didn’t anticipate was the disappearing act my imported tracks pulled. Yep, they were ALL gone. Every Minnie Riperton, Stevie Wonder, Jamiroquoi, Jay-Z, Floetry, and soulful house CD – vanished from both my MacBook HD and my iPod.

I’ve been putting off importing everything for months and months now, but with no looming deadlines and everything kind of quiet and still, I decided to import my entire CD library and do laundry. For those of you who know me, this is no easy undertaking. I have, oh, 350 or so CDs in the binder I used to lug around Xavier, not to mention the more than 100 that had to be taken out to make room for new acquisitions. We’re talking 450 CDs here, and I’m determined to add each and every one that I might listen to on a half way regular basis to my library.

In between fluffing and folding and switching discs, I’m also looking for part-time gigs. I found one, but it may require me to move back to Memphis. I’m not the biggest fan of Memphis, Tennessee, but if it gives me the chance to save money and have the time to freelance, I’ll have to get over this thing I have with my ‘hometown’. Ugh, I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Memphis is so not where I’m from, but since I lived there the longest, I have to call it my hometown, or at least that’s what people tell me. It has become easier to say that I’m from Memphis when my subjects see my cell phone’s 901 area code pop up on their caller I.D., so maybe the River City and I are mending fences. Still, I sometimes take the time to tell folks that I’m “from Memphis by way of New Orleans.” I guess it’s my very Southern, very genteel explanation of why my voice is more Cajun Country than just plain country.

On the other hand, going home (again) is going to be lame. I’m going to go from a 730-square foot box to a 16’ x 11’ box, but at least Peanut will have a backyard again. I’ll probably have to sell a lot of stuff before I leave, too. I’m not trying to take all of this stuff back with me. It’s too much. I’m still going to apply and see how things turn out and begin to make my decisions from there. It’s not too early to start thinking about these things, but it is too early to worry about them.

So pardon me while I get caffeinated, listen to N.E.R.D, fluff and fold and write my cover letter for this gig. It’s going to be a long day.


Day Two: Freelance Frustration

18 11 2008

Clarifying questions are clotheslining my projects. It’s not that I refuse to ask clarifying questions or somehow think asking questions is beneath me. I usually feel like I have a good understanding of the project until I’m in the throes of it and realize I don’t get it at all. So I guess what I don’t get is why it takes me so long to figure out why I don’t get it. Does that even make sense?

Perhaps it’s cockiness or slight overconfidence. Maybe I want to believe that I understand the project in its entirety so that I look smart only to frustrate myself later on. I think it has more to do with how I complete projects: I have to “see” the parts to think about them. Until I start working on a project, all I have is a request or an assignment on a piece of paper. It isn’t real yet. By the time it is, though, I always feel like it’s too late to ask those clarifying questions for fear that people will say, “Well, why didn’t you ask that in the beginning?” Still, isn’t it better to ask questions eventually than to not ask them at all?

Intellectually, I know that assuming to understand something is about the worst thing you can do, yet I keep doing it because it’s easy. Coming up with questions and being thoughtful about the intent of the project and the work it entails is hard. So, maybe I should try explaining how I operate to the people work with, something along the lines of ‘Yes, I’m nodding my head in the meeting and no, I don’t have questions right now, but will once I start shifting the pieces around in my mind and on paper’. Then again, the way I operate could happen much too late in the game, especially if the project isn’t urgent. Plus, that’s me expecting them to do things my way. That’s not how this business works.

After googling ‘how to ask clarifying questions’, I stumbled on this article on Stepcase™ Lifehack that actually speaks to the opposite end of my dilemma, management. The part that caught my attention was buried in the eighth paragraph (emphasis mine):

An easy to remember, and very effective strategy in avoiding misplaced clarifying questions is to deal with only one question at a time in a conversation (also smart in keeping to one subject at a time, and getting it actionable before proceeding). You do this, by letting the speaker finish whatever they’re saying before you say anything, and you train yourself to get better at sensing those times when they’ve stopped talking, but they’re actually silently thinking of the next thing they’ll say. Learn to get comfortable with silence; consider it to be thinking time versus your next opportunity to speak.

Could it be my need to fill up the silence in my meetings that keeps me from thinking about and asking clarifying questions? Have I really convinced myself that I understand everything to avoid silence and take away my opportunity to think about the project? That’s deep. No, that’s scary.

What to do, what to do? I can’t think of a time I asked clarifying questions to build a model from. Not off the top of my head, anyway. The most I usually ask is: 1) what’s the deadline, 2) how many words, 3) do you need pictures 4) what’s your budget. Way to be client oriented!

I know. I’ll open it up to you, my few readers out there. Sure, questions differ based on the project, but what are your top five clarifying questions? Bonus question: what’s the most thoughtful clarifying question you’ve asked (you know, the one that elicited a genuine ‘That’s a great question!’-type response from whomever you were working with at the time) and how did you come up with it?