Tag Archives: Writing

A Freelance Writer’s Style Guide

After making strides as a beauty blogger, I’ve decided to try my hand at fashion blogging. It’s a logical move for me. People always ask about my wardrobe. In fact just last week, my roommate opened my closet and said, “Jo, where are all your clothes?”

I’ve decided to launch my fashion empire with this: Dressing for Success: A Freelance Writer’s Style Guide. But before I show you what a successful freelance writer wears, I’ll tell you what she does:

I start my day the way any go-getter would: at 9:30 a.m., with a cup of coffee, a protein shake and 1-2 episodes of Jersey Shore.

Once I’m good and caffeinated, I open my laptop and get to work. I respond to emails, apply for jobs, work on freelance projects and harass people for more of them.

I check the clock. It’s nearly lunch time. I break from work and dedicate the next 45 minutes or so to my studies. Last week, I taught myself how to French braid. Yesterday, I researched Jersey Shore: Where Are They Now? Today, I read up on sporadic incontinence in cats.

Around 2:00, it’s time for lunch. I make a beautiful spread. As I eat, I pretend the cats are my coworkers and the kitchen is my canteen.

After lunch, I consider showering. I decide against it. Dirty hair is easier to French braid, anyways. So I wash my face and brush my teeth as a make-good to the hygiene gods. I change out of my day wear and into my active wear. Sometimes, I go for a walk. Sometimes, I go for a run. The variety is, without a doubt, overwhelming.

And with that, I present my day-wear or, as I call it, My 4-Point Uniform for Freelance Success!

 

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Lounge pants (from my sister), “virgin” t-shirt (from my mom), open toe Ugg boots (from high school), and an oversized cat sweatshirt (custom-made).

You’ll notice I like to mix patterns and textures. My lounge pants are a fine, silky blend, whereas my sweater is a mix of felt, cotton and googly eyes.

I also employ a mix of blues and greens. I find that cooler hues make my four-day-old hair pop in a way warmer colors can’t.

Finally, on my feet, I don a trade secret we in the industry have kept hush for years. They’re called Uggs (but you didn’t hear it from me 😉 !) Everyone styles them differently – over the pants, under the pants, rolled and then pulled over the pants – but I find them most comfortable with a little hole just above the left big toe.

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Toe flow.

Coffee Shop Invasion

Today I tried to be one of those cool people you see in coffee shops. The ones wearing those ridiculously large lawn-mowing headphones, sitting in a corner working furiously on something you assume is their latest short story or screenplay.

I’ve always thought these people seemed hip and successful. So this afternoon, I decided I was ready to join their ranks. It wasn’t as easy as I’d hoped.

To start, it takes me 10 minutes to park before I’m even able to set foot in the coffee shop. This aggravates me. But I try to let it go and tell myself I’m just not meant for menial tasks like driving or parking. I belong in a big city. A bustling financial district with a Light Rail, or whatever.

I arrive at the shop, put my stuff down and walk to the counter to order my drink. I get my usual — a medium dry cappuccino — and settle into a brightly lit corner that I hope will give me a second-hand tan.

Joan's judging eyes follow me wherever I go.

Joan’s judging eyes follow me wherever I go.

The table next to me is occupied by an aforementioned Headphone Wearer, who I’ve decided to name Karen. I crack open my MacBook Air (already pleased with the impression I’m making), and wander around in search of a nearby plug. I find one, plug in, and start unfurling my power cord like I’m laying a bomb or a booby-trap that leads back to my table. Karen looks up several times as I do this. It’s clear she finds me irritating. In this moment, I feel uncomfortably like my dad. He’s always very annoying when people are trying to concentrate on something other than him. He’s chipper. Bouncy and distracting, like a toddler who hasn’t quite come to grips with his body mass or movements.

All powered up and ready to go, I sit down and try to think of something to write about. Five minutes pass. Suddenly, I am painfully aware of how hot the sunlight feels on my delicate winter flesh. I cannot work under these circumstances, I tell myself. Especially considering the mole-removal I endured not seven days ago. So I stand on a chair and attempt to lower the blinds. The opposite happens, and somehow, the blinds open even further, showering Karen and myself with scalding UV rays from above. I hurry to reverse my actions, but it’s too late. The blinds are stuck ajar and I haven’t the upper body strength to pull them back down. It is clear that Karen hates me.

Defeated, I sit back down in my chair. At this point, I realize that I’ve nearly finished my coffee. What happens once it’s gone? Do I just sit here with an empty cup? Do I order another? What would Karen do?

I put this worry aside and begin to look for an acceptable Pandora station to enjoy. Do I go for my usual station — Kanye and Jay Z’s Watch the Throne? Or do I pick something a little more muted, more coffee-shop-esque? I feel Karen’s eyes burrowing into my screen and find myself wondering if she’s ever seen Keeping up with the Kardashians.

Things aren’t going as expected. I haven’t written a single word, I’ve formed a tumultuous relationship with this complete stranger Karen (if that’s even her real name), and my skin is feeling oddly flushed. Am I getting burned? Is my anti-aging cream negatively reacting to the window-filtered sunlight?

I decide to move. A change of scene will help me focus, surely. I pack up my station, wander over to a shady corner and start the whole process again. This time, I put on my glasses as if to say, “it’s go time, folks.”

I’ve now been in the coffee shop for 45 minutes. And I don’t have a word to show. So I write a blog post about being in a coffee shop.

27

A year ago, I published a blog post about turning 26. It was one of my more serious posts, as it was the first time I’d ever opened up about having an anxiety disorder. **Cue the line of eligible bachelors**

Since writing that post, I’ve done a lot of work on my anxiety. I’m by no means cured, but I’ve definitely become more lax about sharing drinks with people. I even ate a fish taco off a hotel floor, which, by anyone’s standards, is downright irresponsible. A death wish, some might say. (Full disclosure: I spent the next day googling variations of: “Do microwaves kill herpes?”)

Since writing that post, I’ve been working on myself. Working on the ability to speak my mind, the ability to let things go, and the ability to get up and talk to people, even when I feel like they hate me.

But perhaps one of the hardest things I’m working on is learning how to value and appreciate myself. I spent a good part of last year thinking, “What the hell is wrong with me? What do they have that I don’t? Am I not ____ enough?” I leave this blank because, depending on the day, I’d fill in any number of descriptors. Spontaneous enough, confident enough, cool enough, pretty enough, funny enough, bold enough, open enough, creative enough. I didn’t feel enough. Period. I felt like an inconvenience in someone’s day, an intruder in their “group.” And while these fears have always lived in the back of my mind, I suddenly found them catapulted to the forefront. It felt like everything I’d feared about myself – my lowest, most self-hating thoughts – were proved true. And that felt terrible.

But today, more than a year later, I’m able to ask myself why. Why does someone else get to dictate how I feel about myself? Why do they get all the power? All of my power?

I’m also starting to realize that people come and go. Friends, boyfriends, lovahs, even husbands – they come and go. There’s only one person I can count on spending the rest of my life with. And that’s me. So isn’t it about time I came to peace with myself? Wouldn’t it make sense to start learning how to love myself? How to feel whole with myself, by myself?

This has been my focus. Which is why I nearly lost my mind when I came across the following:

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If she’s hot and single, she’s crazy.

???

Now to be clear, I’m not saying I’m hot. I’m saying, as a single woman, “What the fuck?”

This meme hit me so hard because it is, quite specifically, the very thought I spent months beating myself up over. The fact that I am 27 and single baffles people, from my dentist to my relatives. I take this meme — even if it was made in jest — to mean there are those who view my singleness as an abnormality, like my childhood snaggletooth. I take it to mean that men must look at me and say, “Oh, she’s single? Well, what’s wrong with her then?”

Why does something have to be wrong with me? There are so many reasons why a woman would be single — why do we automatically assume that she’s a compulsive car keyer?

Maybe she likes being independent. Maybe she’s focused on other things. Maybe she’s just having fun. Maybe she doesn’t feel like doting on anyone, save her cats, friends and family. Yeah, maybe she got her ass dumped. But maybe he was unfaithful.

Maybe she’s just not into you, brah.

Why does a girl need to be spoken for in order for others to believe she’s cool? Why is a woman seen as worthy, valuable, “a catch,” or sane only when a man deems her fit for marriage? 

I realize this post might have crossed the line (several lines, really) from thoughtful to impassioned. And if you thought you were getting into another post about cats or germs, my sincerest apologizes, as I’ve certainly led you astray. To be clear, I’m not making sweeping judgments about men or any other group of people, and I’m certainly not trying to brand myself as a wronged woman in pursuit of justice. I love being single. I also loved being a relationship, when it was healthy. There’s nothing wrong with being in or out of a relationship, as long as you’re happy.

Happy is what I’m focused on. Not who makes me happy. Just being happy. Period. And if THAT’S what makes me crazy, cool. At least it’s not my cats.

Waiting for inspiration

Blogging used to come easy to me. Looking back, it seems like every day, I was struck with something that I just had to write about. Something that I couldn’t wait to jot down and roll with. I had such a constant stream of thoughts, ideas and blasphemous remarks from my dad that, for a time, I considered hooking a tape recorder to my belt. I still get a little excited at the thought of it, particularly because it would allow me to start using the phrase “Captain’s Log” in earnest (a Battlestar Galactica pipe dream, I suppose).

But in all seriousness, those are the days that haunt me every time I sit down to write another blog post. What if I’m a burned out blogger? A poser? What if I’ve peaked? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time, just look at my athletic career. Or my modeling career.

Here I am modeling the Dark Lord's spring collection, "He Who Must Not Be Drab." My career plummeted shortly after this photo surfaced.

Here I am modeling the Dark Lord’s spring collection, “He Who Must Not Be Drab.” My career plummeted shortly after this photo was released.

I’m sometimes so afraid that I’ll never come up with a “big idea” or a good story that I stop myself before I can even get started.

So here’s my attempt to change that. Which means I’m going to stop waiting for inspiration to strike and just write. I’m going to journal like the moody, LTD2-coveting child I once was and give a mere update on my life as of late. Brace yourselves, it’s riveting.

1. I’ve studied up on animal behavior. My exact Google search was: “How to tell my cat I love her.” I’m a firm believer in open communication – it can make or break a relationship. That said, I want to establish an ongoing dialogue with Joan, something that helps us communicate our immediate feelings or frustrations and navigate any future issues that may arise, like the introduction of a new father figure.

As you can see, she’s already very communicative. Particularly when it comes to feelings of disdain and superiority.

As you can see, she’s already very communicative. Particularly when it comes to emoting disdain and/or superiority.

Now, I’ve always been wary of verbally communicating with cats (you never know if you might be saying something disrespectful), so I’ve focused on deciphering body behavior and subtle social cues. My studies are far from finished, but I hope to draft myself a Doctorate Degree sometime in the near future.

2. Equally damning to my love life, I threw a birthday party for the above-mentioned cat. But from what I understand, my parents have already spent a significant amount of time renegotiating my dowry, so I’ll skimp on the incriminating details. Message me if you’re interested. And in the meantime, here’s a video of Joan’s fetching skills which, I must say, I’m incredibly proud of:

3. I’ve tried to hit on people for the first time in years. In college, my friends used to call me creepy. I denied it, of course. Quite vehemently. The way I saw it, I was proactive. Aggressively, disconcertingly proactive. But the day one of my pursuits addressed me via text message as “Hey creepy,” I decided it was time to throw in the towel and embrace the tactless romantic I was born to be.

Needless to say, my “game” has always been a little rough around the edges. And having been out of the game for a while, it’s safe to say it’s gotten worse. Just the other weekend, I hit on someone by broaching the scintillating topic of Meth Mouth. I asked someone out via LinkedIn (not my fault entirely), hid in the woods from a Tinder match and have since completed a few more cringeworthy actions that, for the time being, I’m unable to disclose. The wounds are too fresh.

So there you have it. My life as of late. A Captain’s Log, if you will. My hope is that this has somewhat alleviated my blogging block, but only time will tell.

 

Versatile Blogger Award

I’m always amazed when people tell me that they’ve read my blog or liked one of my posts. Actually I’m more than amazed — I’m flat-out shocked. I decided to start blogging this summer because things were getting a little ridiculous on the home-front — my days consisted of landscaping, dog grooming, Buster pampering, liquor/grocery shopping for my parents and any other miscellaneous task that my family members didn’t feel like tackling themselves. When I realized that I was buying more beer for my parents than for myself, I decided that things had reached an all-time low.

But I was wrong.

When my mom brought home a pet rat named after me, then I realized that things had reached an all time low.

So, I decided to start blogging to document the awkwardness/slew of rejection that is my post-grad life. I never thought people would read it, let alone enjoy it. When someone tells me they liked one of my posts, my reaction is somewhat similar to how I imagine redheads feel after every spray tan: pure and utter elation. (But seriously, the feedback and support I get from my friends and family makes me happier than I can ever explain. Thank you all!!)

When Katy Stuff gave me the Versatile Blogger Award, I very nearly emptied my inhaler — I was ecstatic!! I can’t thank her enough for how amazing she made me feel. Now, to claim the award, I have to fulfill each of these conditions:

Versatile Blogger Award

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

3. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it!

I already mentioned how thankful I am that Katy Stuff gave me this award. If she only knew how much she brightened my day!

Now for 7 things about myself:

1. I put Frank’s hot sauce on everything. The fact that so many restaurants provide only Tabasco sauce disgusts me.

Hot sauce casualty.

2. When I was little, I cried because Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia wasn’t real. I guess I’ve always been an awkward animal lover.

3. I don’t like going on dates. Dates are uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable — it just doesn’t work out. I also don’t like occasions that require I change out of my yoga pants. I especially despise restaurant dates. I guess you could say I prefer bar dates, a fact at which as she reads this, I’m sure my mother is shaking her head disapprovingly and drafting me an email about her concern for my future.

My dusty pair of Jordans I wore for DZ intramural basketball games. We won twice in the 3 years I played.

4. I own 2 pairs of Jordans, one pair of Timberlands and at least 5 velour track suits. I had a phase in high school. My poor parents — I often wonder what they thought of me during that questionable time in my life.

OPI addiction. Just a few of my colors.

5.  I’m addicted to OPI nail polish. I don’t want to count how many colors I have because I don’t want to know much money I’ve spent on them. But, if I had to guess, I’d say my OPI collection is worth more than a few good velour track suits.

6. I still sleep with a stuffed animal. Needless to say, I’m single.

Buster & Buster.

7. My favorite month is October. Actually, I’m pretty much obsessed with it. October is the start of the holiday trifecta: Halloween (and my birthday), Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m very much looking forward to the next 3 months as they’ll be my only source of income for the unforeseeable future.

Now, here are the 15 blogs I’ve recently discovered and really enjoyed!! (and yes, this did involve a fair amount of creeping) Be sure to check them out!

I’m passing the Versatile Blogger Award to:

http://unknowledgetree.wordpress.com

http://applescout.wordpress.com

http://theblackboxdiaries.com

http://oatsnbows.wordpress.com

http://sarahsypniewski.wordpress.com

http://mybeautifulair.wordpress.com

http://thekarinachronicles.wordpress.com

http://collegiatecrusades.wordpress.com

http://goingtogermany.wordpress.com

http://hippieinbloom.wordpress.com

http://realfunfood.com

http://bloglikeitshot.com

http://jhointhecity.wordpress.com

http://wanderlivin.com

http://danielsfunny.wordpress.com

Life in the Nest

Yesterday morning, I read an article in the Courier Journal that made me so mad I nearly ripped my sleep tank from my chest. I think it was my first experience with roid rage. I’m not usually one to throw a tantrum over a newspaper article, but this one really upset me. I’ll probably sit in the dark later and fume about it in my diary .

The article is called “Adult kids can need a push to leave the nest,” so right off the bat I questioned this columnist’s sanity. I’m 22 years old and living in a nest, do you really think I want to be here? I don’t need a push, a nudge or even a passive-aggressive verbal cue to get me more motivated to ditch this unfortunate situation that I can only refer to as indentured servitude. I’m sleeping in an office for crying out loud. My days consist of grocery shopping, picking up family members’ prescriptions, grooming Buster, feeding Buster, cleaning up Buster’s vomit after he eats too quickly, lawn mowing, unpaid internships, dog sitting, kitchen cleaning and other miscellaneous requests. I’ll probably start wearing a visor and headset sometime soon, like I imagine personal assistants and PTA-executive-board-members wear.

Cranky

Buster: Cranky & waiting to be fed

My nights consist of a part-time restaurant job or, if I’m off, watching Battlestar Galactica, the Tennis Channel, and/or ridiculously depressing indie movies with my parents until 9 p.m. when they call it a night. I can’t handle depressing movies and my parents know it. For some reason, they insist on watching these disturbingly heavy films anyways, leaving me alone on the couch, hyperventilating and contemplating the meaning of life after they’ve gone to bed. I’ve started dressing in all black for family movie nights, and I’m considering purchasing a beret for added theatrical emphasis. I’ve really gone off the deep-end here, people. The fact that I’ve spent the entire summer pining for a fictional spaceship pilot does not help my case. For the record, I’m talking about Helo Agathon. I’ve moved on from Captain Apollo (see 8th & 9th paragraph in this post). He turned out to be a sentimental basket-case and I just can’t handle all of that romantic, emotional turmoil. I’m rapidly becoming a graphic-tee-wearing teenage boy who spends his days googling World of Warcraft cheat codes. I’m moments away from subscribing to Gamefly and ordering Halo.

Do you think I want to be here?

The author of this article really throws herself under the bus with her opening line: “One of my favorite movies is ‘Failure to Launch.'” Woof. Any journalist intending to write a meaningful piece who begins their article with a sub-par Sarah Jessica Parker movie reference should really reconsider where things are headed. I’ll admit I’m a huge fan of SJP. I’m overjoyed when I’m able to watch her in something that doesn’t involve any scenes with her sourpuss, redheaded friend Miranda. However, no matter my feelings towards Ms. Carrie Bradshaw, ‘Failure to Launch’ is not a starting point I would use to begin an intellectual argument.

The author goes on to explain that parents are suffering because they can’t gather the strength to “cut the financial ties” with their children. She states that about 60 percent of parents have given or are currently giving financial support to their college grad kids. How unreasonable of them. Especially with this booming economy and incredibly fertile job market. I’m working unpaid internships during the day and a part-time paying job at night. I apply for jobs multiple times per day. I spend hours drafting cover letters and job applications, sending emails and searching online for any connection that might lead to another internship or potential job. I even call random companies and leave incredibly uncomfortable voice mail messages. I work very hard to earn my “rent” (as my dad calls it). I’m entirely grateful for all my parents do for me, and they are well aware of it.

I have no doubt in my mind that this author worked very hard to get to where she is today, but I bet if she quit her job and put herself in my shoes, she’d change her tune faster than Buster scarfs and spews his mid-morning snack. I respect her opinion, but surely things aren’t the same today as they were when she graduated from college. I fully acknowledge that there are some post-grads living at home, refusing to grow up and putting more effort into rolling joints than finding jobs, but from where I’m standing, they are the exception. Not the rule.

One of the many sanitation problems in our household. Please note my dad’s repulsive footwear.

I’d like this woman to have a conversation with my parents. Although I’ve already admitted a strong desire to fly the coop, my parents are adamant about keeping me here until I can financially support myself. Also, I’m fairly certain they need me here for their health. My dad doesn’t believe in expiration dates, or germs for that matter. Last week, we were making homemade pizza and he dropped nearly every ingredient, including the dough, on the floor. “425, Jo. 425 degrees,” he’d say every time he brushed an orange tuft of fur from a sliced tomato. His rationale was that we’d just bake the hell out of every pathogen, and the remaining floor residue would “boost our immune systems.” Needless to say, I supervise about 90 percent of all kitchen activity.

If my parents kicked me out, there’s no way I’d be able to completely support myself while fully focusing on job-hunting. They’re 100 percent okay with me living at home until I get on my feet. If not, I’d probably end up living in a cardboard box in the backyard, feeding on mulch and whatever scraps of food they toss into the compost pile. Perhaps I’ll try it and write a blog about it. Then I’ll send a letter to this author and ask her for money.

In the last paragraph, she does admit that she’s “all for helping but not enabling.” I’m not a drug addict, so I’m not entirely sure what she means by that, but I appreciate her less than enthusiastic support.

Side note: I realize this post sounds a little spiteful. I understand that for the most part, she’s probably referring to college grads who stay with their parents for years on end. Nevertheless, it’s still a sore spot. Don’t take my rant too seriously, I’m not an angry person. Unless Goodfellas sells out of cheese pizza anytime after 2 a.m.

Post-a-Week

Uhoh. I’ve decided to join the WordPress Post-a-Week challenge. I’ll be posting a blog every week for the rest of 2011 and I’ll need all the support I can get! Since everyone’s busy being employed or going back to school this fall, I figure I need something to keep me busy in between dog grooming and lawn mowing.

Thanks so much to everyone who has been reading my blog and showing their support through Twitter, it means the world to me! Really, it does and I can’t thank you enough. Every time you say something it makes my day!