Passion, Shmassion.

You remember that writing course I told you guys I was taking?

A quick glance at today’s assignment tells me it’s going to be a doozy. Why, you ask?

Because it’s all about finding your passions.

You see, I’m a person of very few passions, if any. Certainly not many I could fill a whole blog writing about. I care about plenty of things, sure — the environment, social welfare, common freakin’ decency — but I don’t think I know enough about or am passionate enough about any of them.

What does passion even really mean, any way?

People say that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. That if you follow your passions, you’ll always be happy. But that assumes that you’re passionate about something you can make money doing!

True enough, I’ve followed what I guess you could call my passion for proper grammar (yes, I’m that weird) and I’m making a living as a writer, proofreader and copy editor. I often think I should spend more time writing about how to become a freelancer; to help other people with creative minds take the leap from corporate cog to sole proprietor. But if I’m being honest…

I have no idea how to do that.

I mean, I’m doing OK, don’t get me wrong. But I have a lot of cushions that many others don’t, and I haven’t felt the fear of missing rent because I was unable to secure enough work. I have a husband with a good job who values my happiness higher than any income, and a good network of former coworkers and friends who send work my way. How can I sit on my throne of lies telling people how to make it as a freelancer? I’m not making it on my own; I have a tremendous amount of help and support.

And the real truth is — I wouldn’t know how to pitch a publication or other service to save my life. I’m a terrible sales person, particularly when it comes to selling myself. It’s part of why I’m taking this class in the first place, to figure out what exactly I have to offer and how to offer it.

Maybe that’s how everyone figures out this freelance gig, who knows. Maybe I’m not the only person who has no idea what she’s doing 80 percent of the time.

But even if that’s the case, do we really need another case of the blind leading the blind?

So I turn away from freelance advice, and back to the drawing board. What else do I care about?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

I love dogs, but no one needs another person rambling about how dogs are awesome.

I love food, but I would never even attempt to enter the food blog arena. Talk about shouting into a void.

I love beer, but you can only write about that so many times before your family tries to stage an intervention.

I suppose you could say a growing interest of mine is female health education. Call it a symptom of what I’ve been going through for the last year, but it’s truly appalling the amount of misinformation out there about the female anatomy. Girls who are lucky get a quick gloss over it all during sex ed; girls who aren’t so lucky, who don’t even have sexual education in their schools, are often left clueless as to how their bodies actually work.

It’s embarrassing that we leave such important information out of our education. That because it has to do with a woman’s insides (EEK! GASP! CLUTCH PEARLS!) it’s best if we don’t talk about it at all and just hope for the best down the line.

So yeah, maybe I’m passionate about that. But I’m not a physician; writing blog after blog about female reproductive education isn’t going to boost my business in any way. Hell, depending on the person, it might even chase some clients off. That’s certainly not what I’m going for.

Back to the drawing board, again.

Most likely, this blog will always be a place for these random musings to come out, a place where you’ll just hear me blab (and therefore will never get many hits). But I’m working toward finding the right voice for my business blog, and it’s not been easy.

That’s freelancing for you. Too much time to think and not enough direction.

Heh. Maybe it should be a freelancer tips blog after all.

Fighting through the fog

Most mornings, I wake up feeling relatively chipper, bright and cheery and ready to start the day.

I know. You hate me.

But it’s true — I’m much more of a morning person than an night person. Even when I was in college, when I was staying out late every night, I’d still manage pretty easily to wake up by 8 or 9:00. It was both a blessing and a curse, really … I mean, if you’re going to bed at 4 a.m., you really should sleep past 10.

But this morning. Oh this morning. I’ve been awake now for about two hours and I still can’t seem to shake off the sleepy. I’m on my second cup of coffee and it’s still fog city over here.

So what am I going to do? Write through it anyway.

Why? Because James, my online writing course teacher, will yell at me if I don’t.

(OK, not really. She’s yet to yell at anyone.)

So you’re stuck with the foggy, disjointed, rambling Ally this morning. I hope you’ll be OK with that. Right then. On with the real post.

As you probably know, it’s been a dreadful couple of winter days around here. We even hit a record low overnight last night, something like -9? NEGATIVE NINE DEGREES, people. That’s unfair. That’s not right. That’s…

February.

Remember how I told you that I hate February in the midwest, and that in particular, I hate snow?

I don’t think I fully explained why. You see, my birthday is in February. And every year when I was a kid, my parents would let me invite all my friends to spend the night for a birthday sleepover. It’s what every kid wants for their birthday, right? To get all hopped up on cake and punch and run around like an idiot with her best friends.

But it never happened. Every year, EVERY YEAR, my birthday plans would get canceled because of an impending storm. There was always snow, or ice, or sleet, bearing down on the tri-state and bringing down the fun.

You see, I grew up in the middle of nowhere. Getting to my house was a little more difficult than normal on a good day, so when there was snow in the forecast, it was a no brainer. It simply was not safe to drive to my house, so my friends’ parents had to call it off.

So I got used to it. My family started making a running joke of it. It never surprised me when I had to be holed up in my house on my birthday. In college it was a little better, because I had roommates and I was walking distance from nearly all my friends, so the annual snowstorm lost its edge. When I moved back home and then later into my own apartment, though, the distance was greater and the curse resumed.

But this year, this year was different! On my birthday weekend, it was sunny and almost 50°! We met up with my family, went bowling, had fun … I couldn’t believe it — the curse had been broken!

Then last Friday, I found out that my friends were planning to come visit. A belated birthday surprise, of sorts.

And guess when it started snowing.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?! The birthday curse strikes again, even three weeks after my actual birthday.

February.

Man I hate February.

But hey, look at that — my brain is finally starting to wake up.

Grief is weird

So, you guys remember how I applied for that Damn Fine Words scholarship?

Turns out, I won!

I’m excited about this opportunity to help develop my writing skills. You know, seeing as how I work as a writer from time to time. Classes started yesterday, which means precisely two things:
1. You’ll be hearing a lot more from me over the next 10 weeks.
2. I’m going to have to figure out something to say over the next 10 weeks.

So what should that be?

I’ve gotten quite a bit further into my personal life here than I ever thought I would, but it’s turned out to be a pretty good thing. I know that since I wrote about the struggles we’ve been having over the last year, I’ve had several people tell me that they’ve found solace in their own losses. That’s all I could have ever asked for, that maybe by being open about how absolutely awful this whole trying to start a family thing can be, that maybe someone else would feel a little less alone.

But of course, that also means that practically everyone knows what’s going on in my life, in my head, and that’s a bit trippy. Questions that were once polite conversation starters now take on such a somber tone, as if people are afraid I’m going to break down at any second.

“So, how ARE you?”

“Anything new?”

“How have you been doing, you know, with everything?”

I know that talking about this is difficult for people. They don’t want to say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, or be insensitive. But here’s the thing: If I want to talk about it, I’ll talk about it. If I have news to share, I’ll share it. If I’m on the verge of some mental breakdown, you’ll sure as hell be able to tell.

More than anything, don’t pity me because my life went a little off-track this year. As low as the lows were, there were also some pretty great high points this year, too.

Grief is such a strange emotion. It isn’t something you carry around at the front of your mind, all day, every day. Sometimes it takes a back seat to the wonderful things going on around you. It lets you appreciate the good things, the sunny days or the goofball dog at your feet, and it gives you a break from feeling sad.

And on those good days, seeing pity in your eyes doesn’t do me any favors.

I don’t want this to come across as a list of dos and don’ts, because quite frankly, it’s not so simple as that. There are no hard and fast rules on how to get through this, not for me and certainly not that can be applied across the board.

So if you want to know how I’m doing, ask, but know that it might be a longer answer than “fine.” Trust that if there’s something I want to tell you, I will, and don’t assume there’s anything wrong unless I say so.

Who knows, I might even have good news one of these days.

Half a year, half a lifetime away.

I can’t believe it.

It’s been six months (and change) since I became a freelancer.

Since I last wrote, I’ve secured a retainer with one of my clients! Negotiating a retainer for marketing and content services has been key to making this freelance thing work – it provides a steady baseline of work (and income) so we know at minimum what I’ll be contributing to the budget for the next few months. This has been a huge weight off my shoulders, and I’m thrilled to be working with this team to get the company off and running.

Aside from that, I’m afraid life has been mostly uneventful. As you probably know from the news, this winter has been a doozie, dumping snow and ice all over the midwest. For me, that means getting out even less than normal, because let’s face it: if I don’t have to go anywhere when there’s snow and ice on the ground, I’m not going anywhere.

To be honest, I cannot even begin to describe how ready I am for the spring. The winter has been downright depressing, sucking the motivation right out of me.  I feel lazy and lethargic and I go to bed every night feeling somewhat unaccomplished. But today, today is different. It’s right around 60 degrees and I have the windows open, took the dogs for a walk and actually have some desire to clean the house.

It’s crazy what a little fresh air can do for the soul.

Evidently it even makes me think writing a complete blog post about absolutely nothing is a good idea.

Oh well. Here’s hoping the motivation sticks around and I come up with something better to say next time.

Day 69: A kick in the pants

Hold onto your hats, folks; this might be a long one.

So as you’re probably aware by now, if you’ve read any of my posts, I’m a full-time work from home freelancer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do; at least, in some far off capacity that I assumed would work itself out and be awesome when it did.

Funny how things work out, even if they don’t work out like you thought they would.

I was thrust into freelancing in a slightly less-than-expected way, but so far, it’s working out pretty well. The truth is, I’m a pretty solo person and I work best when I have time to think, focus and work uninterrupted. It’s why I love what I do – and simultaneously why I sometimes hate it.

Anyone who works for themselves will tell you it’s an incredibly liberating feeling. In my case, I’m lucky enough to have a supportive husband whose job allows me to explore this world even before really being ready. But the truth is, it can also be extremely lonely.

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, she’s one of those writers.”

But in all seriousness, the transition from being a needed and important member of a team to being a sole proprietor who has to prove their value on a daily basis to new and changing clients can be rough. It is rough. It will continue to be rough.

I think in so many ways that’s why I struggle to post here; I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy when I’m having a rough day. But I’m starting to realize that if I’m going to do anyone who’s trying to strike out into freelancing any good, I have to share the ups as well as the downs. Truth be told, working for yourself ain’t all sunshine and rainbows, kids. (Yes, I’m a writer and I said ain’t. This is my blog and I’ll slang if I want to.) Sometimes it can be sad, lonely and downright hard, and you deserve to know that. But it can also be extremely rewarding, allowing you to focus your efforts where your talents lie and find happiness in what you do.

Last night, Darrell and I watched the first episode of Master Chef Junior. We sort of stumbled across it because we A) don’t have cable, B) left the TV on for the dogs when we went out to dinner and C) always leave it on Fox 19 because their morning news crew is awesome (although very weird without Sheila…but I digress).  If you missed it, let me sum it up for you: sit and watch as children half your age show you up in the kitchen … and every area of life.

Hi, my name is Ally and I have less direction, talent and sense of self than the pre-tweens on Master Chef Junior.

I couldn’t help it. I was completely in awe of these tiny little people who know exactly what they love to do and exactly what they want to do in the future. We’re not talking kids who want to be astronauts or princesses (although that may be their unmentioned back-up option); they have very realistic dreams and are very well on the path to achieving them!

Do you know what I was doing when I was 10? Playing soccer. Or chasing puppies. Or reading a book. Or playing school bus driver with my sister while mom mopped the floor. I wasn’t thinking about a future or a plan or a dream … and looking back I realize I’ve never really been a big dreamer. Call me a realist, call me what you will, but I never had big aspirations of being the best at anything, the first at anything or really even anything in particular, for that matter. I just knew I’d grow up, get a job, have a family, so on and so forth until death do us part, amen.

I realize there’s nothing really wrong with that, but I can’t help but be jealous of these driven little forces of nature. Did the judges take it a little easy on them? Maybe. But I know for a fact if I went in the kitchen and tried to whip up anything those kids did last night, it would fall a little short. So color me impressed.

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. Well after Master Chef Junior … and an hour or so of other TV … Darrell and I got lost in about an hour of Jenna Marbles’ YouTube channel. This girl, who is (I think) almost exactly my age, is someone I used to think of as someone who hit the funny-on-the-internet jackpot. But recently, she posted a video (below) that makes me feel like we’re all sort of stumbling through this together. She also points out that while sometimes doing what you love can be hard, and lonely, and even sorta sad, it’s better than spending every day doing something you hate.

Kudos to you for sharing this Jenna.

Oh right – why is this post called “A kick in the pants?” Because someone I know on Facebook is starting their own 100-day challenge, and told me to get my lazy ass back to it. So here I am.

And here’s that video. Hope it brings you the same sort of odd inspiration it brought me. Sorry, not sorry, for making you lose an hour or two of your life to her channel. See you tomorrow (I promise).

Day 59: Rainy day for productivity

I don’t know about you, but when the sun is shining and the weather is perfect, it’s hard to sit still and be productive.

Good thing it looks like it’ll be a rainy one today, because deadlines are looming!

It’s funny. There’s a famous saying about deadlines by Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” But for me, deadlines are usually just the pressure I need to get the job done. Typically, I meet my deadlines, so here’s hoping that holds true today.

Of course, my deadlines are probably much different than those of a novelist. I often think about the kind of determination, focus and creativity it takes to become an author, and wonder if I’ll ever find that within myself. Reading has and always will be one of my favorite activities; I love losing myself in the characters of a book, turning page after page to see what happens next.

It gets ridiculous to the point where I’m usually sad after finishing a good book, knowing that my time with those characters is through. I can’t even imagine the dedication to those characters their author must have. To those of you out there writing or even just dreaming up your characters now, I applaud you.

And on that note, and until I join your ranks, I’d say it’s time I stop talking and start getting to work.

Day 57: Keeping secrets

Well that’s a pretty ominous sounding subject, isn’t it?

Trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds. What it does mean, though, is that while it’s clearly no secret that I’m horrible at maintaining a constant flow of content here, it’s partially because I have a lot of things I just can’t talk about.

Some secrets we keep for others, some we keep for ourselves, and some we keep for sake of not jinxing something we’re looking forward to. The first two are easy for me – secrets are meant to be kept and I’m pretty good at doing so. But when it comes to keeping my excitement for something tempered … well … that part gets a little trickier.

How’s that for vague?

The truth is, when I’m looking forward to something, when there’s an event or an activity on the horizon, the excitement is all-consuming. Earlier this year, for example, when we were planning to sell our home and move, I could think of nothing but mortgage rates, showing appointments and which houses are on or off the market. I watched and waited impatiently, torturing myself as homes were snatched up before my eyes.

We also have a vacation coming up. Evidently I’m a masochist, because I booked this vacation so far in advance I’ve been counting down the days since they were in the two hundreds. Now that we’re getting closer, every hour of the 90 days we have left will drag on mercilessly.

I tell you this to point out that while I would love to have a lighthearted outlook at things poised in the future, I’m much more obsessively ridiculous than that. So in the meantime, I’ll simply try to focus my efforts elsewhere; namely, right here.

Whoever came up with this 100-day challenge business, anyway? That was me?

Figures.