I read this article on the SPJ “Independent Journalist” blog. Eight months after moving into my home office I relate to nearly every point the author makes, and having spent my first four and a half years in Houston doing medical transcription from home and gaining 35 pounds I especially relate to the “fridge proximity” challenge. Now that I’m working from home again I struggle daily to avoid adding another 35! Over the last week I’ve been going out to do general reporting, trying to develop some kind of beat (I guess a religion beat of sorts) and it has been wonderful to be working but not in front of my home computer. It reminds me of grad school, when I lived in urban Boston and was out just about every day either at school, at my part-time job or just reporting. I lost 20 pounds during my first six weeks there, especially since I didn’t drive. I’m returning to the Wiccan magick bookstore today and even though I’m not reporting for any story in particular I love being out in urban Houston talking to people of different backgrounds – and maybe even walking a little. You can’t write about people if you’re not talking to them, in the settings of their lives, observing the things they do. The Religion News Service is a wonderful resource but I want to go above and beyond news reporting. My personal mission statement […]
I plan to submit an essay to Creative Nonfiction‘s “Southern Sin” issue. The guidelines are pretty broad – most importantly, the topic must somehow involve the south and sin – so I’ve been struggling for a while to find a good topic. I’ve especially been trying to avoid the mistake of trying to align a story with a concept, along […]
I turned 51 yesterday. At the documented time of my birth (3:45 p.m.) I was in the air en route from Newark to Houston, enjoying the view from the window seat. I had bought the aisle seat, but ended up hitting the coach jackpot: an empty row. With glee, I took my backpack out from its under-the-seat restriction and put it on the seat next to me. I spent $8.50 on a box of snacks and put the remains on the aisle seat. I chilled. Airplane seating puts me on the verge of panicky. I can only sit in the aisle seat; the middle makes me claustrophobic and the window restricts my freedom. The aisle seat allows me free access to the restroom, the aisle, the garbage can in the flight attendants’ area, and basically anywhere other than my seat. In the window seat I am dependent on the other passengers in my row. In the middle seat I am at their mercy. If I need to flee I can’t get away. The last time I sat in the middle seat I felt mercilessly penned in by diners on either side with their tray tables down. I didn’t know I was claustrophobic until my doctor prescribed a head MRI. I never even got inside the machine. I panicked just looking at it. After two failed attempts with an oral sedative and one failed attempt with IV Ativan, I ultimately had […]
When I first started freelancing I knew that good time management would be mandatory. I started out strong. It was easier in the beginning. There were fewer projects and I was spending a fair amount of time conceptualizing. If you’re not careful, though, conceptualizing can become a substitute for working. Recognizing that, I’ve been thinking that instead of making a schedule of each workday, which is what the time management gurus recommend, perhaps I should actually promise myself to write xyz today. I’m going to work on ___ article. I’m going to write a Houston Chronicle post. I’m going to write a MuslimMatters post. I’m going to write five pitches. Whatever. Just promise. The productivity gurus also say that goal setting should include accountability. I think accountability is why I’m afraid to start the day with a promise. If I don’t follow through, who cares except me? That’s the crux of freelancing. It’s up to you. If you make a promise to yourself, you’d better keep it.
I read this article this morning about the “bad” habits of productive people, and was so glad to discover that it can actually be good to be a little distracted, a little flaky, a little thin-skinned. In other words, being a vulnerable and imperfect human sometimes garners success as much as having “good” habits (a la 7, a la effective). A couple days ago I was helping a not-so-computer-savvy friend download software updates. He had been ignoring the notices to update for so long that it literally took at least 20 minutes to get his system up to par. When it became clear that the process was going to be a little lengthy, he immediately said, “all right, now what can I do?” and picked up the phone and started making calls. I know that he works a lot, but it struck me that I would have spent at least 10 of those free minutes just to sit and let my brain ramble. Those seemingly idle moments are when my creative juices flow and also when I look at the big picture a little and figure out what I want to do next – not in terms of tasks, but in terms of projects, goals, sometimes even my life. So who is more productive, him or me? Obviously it depends on how you define productivity. He is a project manager and his work depends on completing tasks. I am a […]
Phew! It took me quite some time, but it looks like I have at least gotten a good start on my personal website. I’m looking forward to adding more to it – I have a couple articles that will be published in the next few months as well as new blog posts on The Straight Path. The biggest challenge since I entered the freelance world is just structuring my time well enough to manage a website…a blog…and wherever else my writing leads me.