Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Time To Reinvent: Warning Sign #8

You are sitting in your favorite neighborhood restaurant having dinner with your man. He orders a bottle of your favorite Pinot Noir and then looks at you with those eyes that remind you the world is a wonderful place and you are very lucky.

Then he asks  how the job is going.

You burst into tears so torrential that the waiter asks if you would like a side of tissues with your steak.

(If you think it might be time for you to reinvent, check out my coaching services at and contact me for a free introductory half hour session.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Privacy And The Cross Town Bus

When I was a kid  gas was  cheap and cars were still new enough that going for a "ride" with no where particular in mind was considered an afternoon out. A road trip vacation that piled  our family in the car for hours on end was exciting. Since there were no portable DVD players to keep kids occupied and I for one got nauseous if I tried to read, my brother and I  would invent road games. Sometimes it was as simple as counting license plates from different states.

I created a new version of a road game the other day sitting on the Crosstown bus on 57th Street. It's called counting how many people have their eyes glued and their hands locked around their cell phone.  Let's just say I ran out of fingers to keep track with.

The profile of the people engaged with their hand held was pretty interesting. It was as ethnically, chronologically and economically diverse as the city is with shopping bags ranging from Daffy's to Bergdorf's.  Apparently television can no longer reach the masses but hand held devices can.

I was distracted from my counting by the woman two seats behind me who made three phone calls between 8th Avenue and Madison. It was hard not to be. Her voice was loud enough that I now know her phone number, that she has not been feeling well for several days and thinks she should have a blood test. I also learned  the flight dates of an advertising campaign she was booking for a client. She probably didn't think anyone would understand  the business transaction she was engaging in but I recognize words like ratings, three stations combined and presenting sponsorships. That was my business for twenty five years.

In a world in which people are in an uproar when FaceBook changes its privacy policy it is fascinating that no one seems to care who hears their conversation when they are on the phone.  Or that they worry about that seldom spoken but very common phenomenon called six degrees of separation.

I found myself traveling in a time warp remembering the days when I too would be frantic to get business booked no matter where I was. Although I don't recall ever conducting it on a bus full of strangers in a loud voice. I was trained at an early pre cell phone age not to use last names in public and speak in a whisper, because you just never knew who might be listening in.

I amused myself trying to figure out whether the three stations she was talking about were radio or television and if I knew who she worked for but my stop came.

I stole a good look at her before I got off. It was met with disdain. Apparently she found me rude.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Satellite Office

Work for me always had a venue and that venue was my office. I was lucky enough that for most of my career I had my own with a door that I could shut if I chose to. More than one of those offices had a view, although none as nice as the one at my Satellite Office.

I hadn't planned on making the trip. I had planned on working from the Home location with view of a framed watercolor print of Aspen Mountain. But I woke up cranky or as a friend of mine likes to say ornery.

I looked at the list of projects and papers on my desk and surrounding the floor area and felt inspired to do only one thing. Get in the car and work from the Satellite Office.  After too many days of 90 degree plus heat and confinement to air conditioned rooms, I knew I needed the coolness of an ocean breeze and the sound of waves crashing if I was going to get anything done. But still I stopped myself.

I had writing to get on paper, calls to make and ideas to hatch. And I needed to be sitting in that very expensive chair I bought to prevent back injuries. My corporate life instilled in me that work had to be done in a climate controlled office with no pleasantries involved. Even with the advent of laptops and mobile devices, the environments I worked in frowned on the work at home philosophy. They never quite believed if you were anywhere but the office or with a client you were really working. And the beach? Impossible.

So I sat and stared at the blank screen of my word document for a while before I snapped out of it and remembered. I don't live in that world anymore. I can work wherever I choose to. And I knew where I was choosing today.

If you're wondering what happened next, check out this view.
the view from the satellite office

Armed with good old fashioned paper and pen and my iPhone, I got a lot accomplished at the Satellite Office. There was no wandering in cyberspace or laundry to distract me. Just the sound of an occasional seagull. Yes, the commute is a little longer, but with traffic on my side I can do it in under an hour, plus some of my best creative ideas happen the minute I step out of the house. The trick is to remember them by the time I get back. Or at least  remember to use my Voice Memos app.

Old habits die hard. But eventually they do die.

the office chair

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Seven Day Tech Detox Diet On ForbesWoman

My Seven Day Tech Detox Diet has become so popular 
ForbesWoman has published a version of it!
Click here to read.
Cool, huh?

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Other Side Of Detox

I've been trying to write this blog all day, the  last in the series of  what I saw and what I got during my self imposed tech news diet. Yet for the first time in the seven days I have been blogging on this subject the words are not flowing.

Is that what happens on the other side of detox?

The diet is over, I'm happy about it, but now I can't write? Or am I just already overwhelmed at the prospect of catching up on those 500+ blogs sitting in my Google reader or opening up the 91 newsletters that have accumulated in a file called Detox?  It was no easy feat not browsing my social networks.  Limiting the number of times I could check email was hard but the most difficult was not watching The View.

And now it's over and I can go back ? Or can I ? Do I want to?

Putting some controls on myself was a good thing. It made our cultural obsession with being plugged in 24/7 look unnatural. More than the limits I put on social networking and Internet and television news the thing that got to me most was the handheld device. Without my own to distract me, I saw our obsession in bold relief.

I'm starting to worry about our thumbs. They were not designed to type on a tiny keyboard. The rudeness factor has no limits. People chat on cell phones in contained public places exchanging information that might be better left to the bedroom. A woman today brought her Blackberry into Pilates to keep herself occupied for the five minutes before class started.  I am more concerned than ever with our increasing inability to just be alone with nothing to distract us except perhaps our own thoughts and dreams.

I have more questions now than before.  How do we balance the benefits of new information technologies with just sitting and being? What makes us so consumed with the idea everything has to be done as fast as humanly possible? Why are we so afraid to slow down and take care?

The world is experiencing one disaster after the other that are the result of a lack of regulations. And I fear if we don't start regulating ourselves and exerting some discipline over our 21st Century obsession  we are headed for more.

When I was younger I wanted to know everything about everything.  But everything was a much smaller pie than it is in our globally interconnected lives. So maybe that is not possible anymore. Maybe I don't need to know everything, all the time, 24/7.  And maybe if I stop pushing so hard to make sure I got it all covered, the surprise will be what I pull in.

There are a couple of things I am sure of now. I will be putting time limits on my on line endeavors. I will no longer sit on my email. I will make time for my printed newspapers. And I will not make my mobile device a priority over the person standing in front of me. The one thing I want to be sure not to miss is the moment. The only exception is if I'm expecting a call from my agent with my book deal in which case all bets are off !

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Detox Tech Diet Day 6. What Would Dad Say ?

I've been wondering what my father would have to say about all this technology. When Dad left this world it was 1986. A lot had changed since he was born in 1921, but in retrospect the change was just the tip of the iceberg.

In 1986 a cellular phone in an automobile was a relatively new concept. Handheld phones were rare and big enough to double as a doorstop. And if you don't believe me check out the one Michael Douglas is using  in the movie Wall Street.  There was no Internet information highway, no iPods, cable television was considered a luxury and CNN was only six years old.

So today, on Father's Day, also Day 6 of my Detox Tech Diet, I am wondering what he would have to say about this plugged into something 24/7 world we live in.

Dad was a fan of new technology. He got into the appliance business in the early days of refrigeration. He worked for companies like Crosley, Westinghouse, and Philco-Ford. My mother tells me that when they were first married in 1951 they had no money and very little furniture, but they had a black and white Crosley television that sat on a cardboard box  they turned on to watch a funny new show called I Love Lucy.

Dad worked  surrounded by what was considered cutting edge at that time and so we grew up with an abundance of the latest new technology, like the dishwasher on wheels that barely fit next to the counter and had to be attached with a hose to the kitchen faucet.

Dad was fascinated by progress. And I imagine he would  be sitting wide eyed and  with a great big smile in front of the computer my mother  refuses to own if he were still here. He would have enjoyed keeping up with every member of our big fat Greek family through pictures on Facebook. I think he would have embraced cable and I imagine be  a fan of the History Channel.  I don't believe he would ever forgo the newspaper, if for nothing else the crossword puzzle. Dad is one of the few people I have ever known that  could complete the entire Sunday puzzle and in ink.

But Dad was also a socializer. He liked people. I think he too would worry about communicating more electronically than in person. He would miss the likes of Walter Cronkite style journalism while still being mesmerized by the speed and ease in which information is now shared.

Dad also believed in his quiet time. While not very Zen, his morning ritual consisted of coffee and a cigarette in silence. He would get up early so he could take some time to sit at the kitchen table quietly in his own thoughts. I never thought to ask what he was thinking about. I only knew to be sure not to interrupt his special time.

Mom and Dad opening wedding presents in 1951
My detox tech diet Day 6 continues on Father's Day. And in honor of Dad I will conduct my own version of his morning ritual. It will not include a cigarette but there will be coffee and silence and lots of thinking. Mostly about him.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Detox Tech Diet Day 5. Cheating

Yes, its' true. I cheated. Just a little. I did not revert to my obsessive habit of checking my email every fifteen minutes  but I did check more than 4 times in 24 hours. I think I was getting a little edgy from my withdrawal. In fact I still might be.

I've decided reading two newspapers cover to cover every day can become burdensome too. The theme is repetitive with all roads leading back to money and politics. More companies choosing profit over safety, cash incentives to get people to take their meds and students to get good grades, and attempts to make BP's irresponsibility President Obama's personal fault.  I find it fascinating that references to the blogosphere run rampant in the newspapers, substantiating that bloggers have influence and blogging is not a passing fad. And how cute was it that the Times headlined Anderson Cooper and his reporting in the Gulf! The paper talking about a television station it doesn't even own!

But I am digressing. On  Day 5 I feel a bit disconnected and  very ready for this detox to be over.  In my experiment to get control on one thing it's likely I am overdosing on newsprint. And it's not even Sunday yet! I continue to be appalled at the astonishing number of people who walk the streets of Manhattan oblivious to everything but their phone conversation, including a car who has the right of way, the person next to them and in more than one rather distressing scene, the child they were pushing in the stroller. And let's not get into the texting. Oprah is on a no driving and texting campaign. Perhaps the no phone zone should be extended to walking. No laughing aloud! You have no idea how many people bump into me texting and walking and look at me like I am the one who is rude!

While I'm ready for this detox diet to be done, I am fascinated by the time it has opened up for me and what I am observing.  I feel lighter, my head feels clearer and the world has not come to an end because I do not know the details of my Twitter feed or that I've been cheating a bit.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 4. The Detox Does Not Get Easier

I'd like to tell you this is getting easier. But it's not. Day 4 of my Detox Tech Diet and  in some way it's becoming more challenging. There is that worrisome little voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me I am missing something life changing by not checking my email every five minutes and that there is something of monumental importance in one of the 500 blogs that sits unopened in my Google Reader, not to mention the 65 newsletters in my inbox.  I am starting to wonder what all my Facebook friends and Twitter followers have been up to this week.

But the voice passes. When I do check my email I am assured that I haven't missed anything that couldn't wait a bit. And that check in is slowly shifting into something I can look forward to as opposed to an energetic drain. If anyone really, really wanted to find me they can call.  The fact is I am rather enjoying this pause.

And that's the thing I'm noticing. All of this obsessing and overusing  our technological advances is not only draining the power sources of Con Ed, it's been draining me. Trying to stay on top of my tech plug ins is  an effort by me to control when in fact I am the one being controlled.

But that's starting to shift. Like an alcoholic without her poison, I feel lighter this week. I am up earlier and with a much clearer head, even if my hands are shaking a bit. I notice more and more how epidemic this addiction has become and I am determined to find a balance.

Surprisingly I do not miss television news at all. But that may have more to do with my own personal backlash from spending so many years in the TV business and being forced to watch the 24/7 news channel I worked for. The other twist is that next to The View, that channel, NY1 is the only one I have to stop myself from turning on.

I threw The View into this diet because I consider it more a news source than a talk show. I admit to cheating a little here. I did DVR the show so I will have a week's worth of episodes  sitting in my  cue  when this diet is over. The only thing I know about the show this week is that  Whoopi Goldberg (my personal fav) is on vacation.  I'm wondering if she heard about my tech detox diet and decided to take the week off and do the same thing?

Have I mentioned that I hadn't realized how much I missed the feel of newsprint on my hands until I really started getting dirty with it again?

I was a little worried reading in the Thursday Style section in the NY Times that in a world that gives a cell phone to a twelve year old, there are schools and camps discouraging best friend pairings. It will also soon be easier to divorce in the state of New York. Mmm. We seem to be OK with making and keeping Facebook friends, but not so good with working on those in person relationships.

I discovered in the WSJ that a former colleague and Corporate America escapee, Melissa Perrucci is the brainchild behind IndieShop, a TV show and website that features independent designers and that the secret to finding happiness in New York according to Ralph Gardner, Jr. is the simple things like people watching. Except that with iPhone4 preorders hitting the 600,000 mark, it seems the thing people are watching most is a handheld screen.

So I'm over the hump on this detox and determined not to cheat. I know I can't do this forever, but I also know that I will come out of it on the other side with a fresh perspective and a plan for keeping this more in balance. And that after all, is what detox is all about.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Detox Tech Diet Day 3: Life Is Supposed To Be Simple

Life is meant to be simple and easy. That was the thought for the day on my Louise Hay calendar yesterday. It's humans  who complicate things and now we have high speed 24/7 wired connections  to take that to new levels.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. The promise was that technology was going to help to make life simpler and easier. That was what our engineer at the radio station I worked at in Washington, DC said when he set up my first personal desk computer  in my office in 1994.  We didn't have an IT department then. We had an engineer, the same one who made sure the radio station stayed on the air,  also in charge of getting us all wired.

And yes, while there is information access and interconnectivity I would not want to let go of today, my diet research is substantiating that things are out of control. Last night I caught a man waiting outside the men's room door in Marea, with his thumbs feverishly working that Blackberry. He claimed there was a line, but really, when is there ever a line for the men's room and not the ladies room? I think he was hiding from his dinner companions and didn't want them to know they were not captivating him enough to disengage from his flood of email.  Later that evening I had a friend call me fifteen minutes after he sent me a text, wondering why I had not responded. I explained that in trying to not check email I had hidden my phone from myself.

Yes, it is time to  gain  some control over all of this intrusion.

I am rather proud of my discipline. The email continues to be the most challenging, so I've reframed the experience. I look forward to the  4x a day  I check it like a kid on Christmas morning, certain of some of the presents under the tree but eagerly anticipating a few new surprises.

I've stopped eating breakfast in front of the computer. I hadn't realized I was browsing cyberspace and chewing in front of my 21.4 inch monitor until I couldn't browse. So for a really creative twist, I've gone back to eating at my dining room table where there's a window with a view that does not require a mouse. What a concept!

The newspapers continue to enthrall me with new information. Stuart Elliott's column in The New York Times writes of  a company that wants to intrude more on my dwindling quiet time  with television advertisements in the supermarket right next to the products.  I've been worrying about what is going to happen to our thumbs with all this texting and smartphone emailing, but in San Francisco they are worried about the radiation rate and are creating new laws that will require cellphone makers to list it.

I've also learned that Dawn dish detergent is being used to help clean oiled slicked pelicans. One bottle of Dawn for each bucket of water and three buckets of water to wash a single pelican! A mattress can cost as much as $33,000, the Shinnecock Indian Nation on Long Island has finally been officially recognized ( I hadn't realized they weren't),  a star Ballerina was mugged in my neighborhood (It was really hard not to turn on NY1 for more details on that one!)  and a new show called Hot in Cleveland premiered on TV Land to a good review in the Times. I was surprised to read Alan S. Blinder's Opinion piece in the WSJ (recommended reading). I didn't think the Journal allowed anyone saying something positive about our government's economic rescue efforts.

So I am gaining control. Not quite halfway done this experiment I know for sure that disconnecting completely is impossible. We are all too far into being electronically wired to each other for that to happen. And as one who embraces technology and social networking I don't want to. But there has to be a balance. If this has become our new addiction, then like food addictions and sex addictions we cannot eliminate them completely from our lives, but we have to discipline ourselves.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 2. The Detox Tech Diet Continues

I am happy to report that as I am about to complete Day 2 of the Diet I am still alive and breathing, not to mention feeling much more space in my life. The separation anxiety prevails but how could it not ? Aside from my own personal tethers to our electronically connected world, I am noticing more and more that I am not alone in this addiction.

Take yesterday at Equinox. First there was the short woman with the sunglasses, her legs moving quickly on the elliptical machine, clearly trying to keep up with the pace of her thumbs on the pink covered iPhone she held with both hands.  Then there was the woman working with her trainer, who took not a moment to breath, but a moment in which they could both check their email and rush off a note to someone, somewhere. Maybe it was about those poor fish fighting for their lives in the oil slicks in the Gulf. I didn't ask. I'm not one to strike up conversation in the gym. Usually because I have my headset on, listening to my iPod. But maybe that will change soon as I have declared headsets off limits during this diet. Yes, even my exercise will be without distraction.

Because what I am getting most  from this detox, is that all of this multi tasking takes us away from being with us. Doing two or three things at a time is energy draining. We are not present for anything when we stop midstream to answer a cell phone or check an email as if it might be President Obama himself or George Clooney and if we don't respond immediately our chance for a meeting will be lost forever.

As my personal research indicates this technological overload is reaching epidemic proportions. The WSJ supports that. They ran an article yesterday on Why Relaxing is Hard Work because we are so wired to other places and things. This was my favorite quote from Edward Creagan, a medical oncologist who writes a blog for the Mayo Clinic on stress.
"We're driving ourselves wacko with no time to power down."
Dr. Creagan suggested limiting your access to an hour at a time and he didn't even consult with me! Great minds think alike.

My newspaper meanderings also learned from the New York Times that  Rawanda , a dirt poor nation has a national health plan. Turns out mosquitoes are more attracted to men than women, and Starbucks is  offering free Wi-Fi access so now you can go have a coffee in a public place, stay longer, but be so involved in your laptop that you might not notice if Lady Gaga sat down next to you. More encouragement from business to not be with you.

I was sorry to learn that the CEO of Sara Lee, 56 year old  Brenda Barnes is on a leave of absence due to a stroke. I was even sorrier when the better part of a half page article in the WSJ discussed only how this would affect the company and the shareholders and nothing to the causes of her illness or her prognosis.  But hey, that's Corporate America for you. I just hope the stress of her electronic tethers to her job did not contribute to her illness.

As a side note this happens to be my 200th post. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Detox Tech Diet: Day 1

When I set my mind to a project and give myself strict parameters I am very disciplined. I look at it all as a game. If you break the rules you lose.  So at the end of Day 1 I am winning. But not easily.

You see this diet is a great deal more difficult than I had anticipated. I knew I was spending a lot of time wandering cyberspace but had not realized how much until I told myself I couldn't. And checking email only 4x a day! Well that was something I threw in for fun at the last minute and am finding the most difficult of all.

But I knew I was onto something right with this idea when I got into the elevator in my building last night. A man who lives here walked on, looked at me as if I was intruding on his private space, pressed the button for 12 and then made a call on his cell phone. I had to stop myself from asking if the call was the answer to cleaning up the oil in the Gulf and that was why it couldn't wait the three minutes until he walked into his apartment.

I read two newspapers cover to cover  and flipped through last week's New York Mag yesterday.
I learned Best Buy is giving away a cell phone application that would allow audiences to use their cell phones during a movie. That's what we need. More encouragement to not just be with one thing or person at a time.

I've decided the Wall Street Journal's new Greater New York section seems more repurposed articles from the NY Post than the quality that I expect from  WSJ journalism. I also found out that one of the most distracted, over booked and self involved doctors I ever went to in New York got himself on the list of Best Doctors 2010. Go figure.

The most interesting part for me is the feeling of separation I am getting as I limit my cyber news intake and read only what I choose.  I have an anxiety that I must quell that there might be something going on out there that I won't know about, some important something that I need to know.  Then I remember being in my twenties when I had to go out every Friday night and meet my friends. No matter how I felt or whether I wanted to, I went because I thought I might miss something. That might be the night the next great love of my life was waiting to meet me.  But I never missed anything and the loves, well, I always seemed to meet them somewhere else.

It makes me wonder if this new obsession we all have to be constantly in touch and connected is more of an addiction than anything else. Something that is keeping us from ourselves.  And as in most addictions to food, or alcohol or sex,  can be a good thing  when consumed in moderation but can be detrimental to our health when in overdose.

The folks at AA might want to get ready. This could be the new 12  step recovery program for the 21st Century.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Seven Day DeTox Tech Diet

I'm starting a diet today. Maybe it's more like a detox.

The idea started percolating on Friday as I was standing on the platform of the 1 train watching the man in the suit, beads of perspiration matting his hairline,  the strap of his briefcase pulling his suit jacket off his shoulder,  a Blackberry clutched in one hand and a  flip phone held to his ear in the other. He was pacing from the edge of the platform, one eye checking to see if the  train was coming, back to the little snippet of space near the subway entrance where on a good day you can get Internet access. The expression on his face might make you think he was about to find the cure for cancer and if the train did not come immediately or he didn't get enough bars to put through his phone conversation, the information needed to solidify his findings would be lost forever.

I found it appalling! I mean, what happened to just standing still and waiting with no distraction but your own imagination!  I was even more appalled when moments  later I caught myself taking out my iPhone, checking my email and trying to search the App store to see if there was one that tracked the location of the 1 train.

Later in the day  I found myself in a packed elevator at ABC Carpet. The Black Eye Peas started singing from my purse.  I checked to see who was calling me. It was not the cure for cancer or for that matter my agent telling me we had a book deal, but I did take the call, with no regard for the six other people I was sharing the elevator with.  It wasn't until I stepped off and had finished my conversation that I realized what I had done. This is something I implore in others!

But the thing that really cemented my decision was when my WSJ arrived Saturday morning. They have a relatively new glossy magazine section.  As I started to flip the pages, looking for what might appeal to me to read  I realized it had been a long time since I had done this, leisurely browse through a magazine without being directed to a specific article because of some web based suggestion. Or a newspaper for that matter. My New York Mag sat unopened since Monday. A weeks worth of NY Times and Wall Street Journals collected in a heaping pile with only a few pages of the Business and Arts section glanced at. Not to mention this month's Food and Wine.

I am on technological overload and it is time to do something about it.

Yes, I believe in embracing new technologies. Yes, I think there is something to Twitter and Facebook. Yes, I think my most favorite handheld device ever is the iPhone.  But what happened to just standing and doing nothing. What happened to finding news because my eye was drawn to something and not because I have it coming to me via some newsletter or web link or because someone else suggested via a Tweet I read it?

So I've decided to go on a  detox technological  news diet. For seven days. An experiment.  It is not radical. I don't believe in radical diets. As in food diets if you say absolutely not one drop of chocolate for the next week, all you are going to crave is chocolate.  So  I am not about to tell you I will not turn on any technology for seven days and pretend I'm a Jew on Yom Kippur.  But what I'm going to do is not receive my news via  any technology, the Internet or Television.

I will read my newspapers and magazines. I will not read the countless newsletters delivered to my inbox nor will I read the blogs in my Google reader. I will not watch any television news.  I've decided to lump The View into that category, since I consider that my best source of encapsulated news these days. I will not be browsing my social networks.

I will post a blog every day about what I see, what I get,  and what I learn. I will Tweet and Facebook it's arrival. I will check my email 4x a day. In the morning, before lunch, at the end of the workday and perhaps one more time before sleep. I will not open my Huffington Post app or the one I have for NY1 News. I will answer my phone as long as there is no one else within ten feet of me and I will respond to personal text messages. After all, how does a woman date in the 21st Century if she doesn't answer a text?

It is time for a little detox here. I want to see what I learn, what I notice and how much time I free up for more productive pursuit. I want to see if my hands start to shake when 4PM rolls around today and I can't check my email until 5.

The experiment starts now! If you want to reach me  quickly you'll have to call me. If you want to join me, share your discoveries with me.  Post your comments here. I'll be checking. But only four times a day!

Friday, June 11, 2010

To Everything There Is A Season

This morning  I was at my computer at 5AM. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't write either. So I wandered cyberspace. I signed on to all my social networks. I read blogs. I checked the news to see if that brain trust at BP that knows how to drill for oil so well had figured out a way to clean up their mess. And I thought.

I thought about being a writer in the age pre Internet. When being a writer of fiction meant holing up in a garret somewhere, smoking cigarettes and pounding out words on an old Smith Corona. When mistakes were corrected with white out and not a delete button and questionable spellings were checked in a copy of Merriam Webster that also doubled as a door stop. When if you had a need to connect to the human species for inspiration you had to leave your house and could not substitute with a Twitter chat with a stranger.

I have always wanted to write. When I wasn't writing I was reading.  Books are like oxygen to me. But I am not sure how I would have done as a writer before the age of the computer and high speed Internet access.  I do not know how easily my words would have flowed if I could not take a break from the solitude at will through  the miracle of cyber connection.

I sometimes wonder why I didn't leave the Corporate world sooner. Doing this feels so right. But then I think about all that typewriter ribbon and how I never really mastered replacing it and I know why. It wasn't my season yet.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To Read, Perchance To Smile

I was practicing my elevator pitch for my book on a former colleague today. When I was done he asked me if the book has a happy ending.  My reply was easy. Of course it does. I believe in happy endings. In a world that seems overly consumed with the negative and the idea that doomsday is just a breath away I have no interest in reading a book or watching a movie that leaves me feeling worse than when I started. I have 24/7 news for that.

Which is just one of the reasons why I love Claire Cook's books. Claire's books entertain me. They make me laugh and they make me think.

I first blogged about Claire Cook last July.  In that blog I told the story of how we met via Twitter after a woman who turned out to be her book editor read a blog I wrote and suggested we connect. Since that time  we've remained cyberspace friends. I love being around women like Claire who remind me that my dream can and will be realized as hers has.

Claire is a reinventor. She wrote her first book at 45 and just this month published her seventh book, aptly titled Seven Year Switch. I finished it last night.  The characters she creates are hard not to like, so much so, you're sorry when you get to the last page that you have to leave them. The good news is if you  discovering her writing for the first time, there are six other novels that came before this one to lose yourself in and no doubt more to come. Now that's what I call a happy ending!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Real Me

People's eyes tend to light up when you tell them you've written a book, especially when it is a novel. I still squirm  when asked what it's about. I know the importance of an elevator pitch. I've been a seller and marketer. Always be ready because you just never know who you're talking to that can help you.

But this is different. My product is me. Plus after so many years living in a world where achievement is only measured by how much money the deal is worth, I  hold back on the fact I've written not one, but two manuscripts. Until there is money attached and a date set for publication, I don't think its a big deal.

But other people do. So as I sat in the office of my eye doctor last week, with my chin resting on that contraption that makes it easy for him to look into the depths of my eyes, we caught up on what I've been doing since my last visit. I practiced my elevator pitch. I told him about the novel I wrote about a woman, who like myself, had a long and volatile love affair with Corporate America.

It's  not as easy to step into my sales pitch as the days I sold commercials for the radio station. I've struggled with why. If this is my passion, shouldn't it be even easier? But then I read a blog by Aidan Donnelly Rowley   about how writing and having your words published  is a bit like stripping naked before the world. If you've held back on people, even the slightest bit, the gig is up when they have read your stories. You have exposed yourself, mind, body and soul.  And then I got the real reason for my trepidation. The real me is revealed. This craft I've chosen to make my career makes me vulnerable. Selling advertising never did that.

My eye doctor asked to let him know when he'll be able to buy my book.  I told him he was on the mailing list. His parting words to me, were he wanted to read it so he could see who the real Joanne is.
Yes, the gig is up.

Note: Aidan Donnelly Rowley writes a blog entitled
Ivy League Insecurities.
Her debut novel,  Life After Yes
is now available in bookstores everywhere!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Further Away I Get, The Closer I Am.

I have a secret. Since I started this blog I have professed that I do not miss Corporate America. That I am happy as a clam to be pursuing my passion and have no desire to ever walk into another executive office. But it's not entirely true. I have been holding back on you.

I dream about the day I put on one of those suits I rarely wear anymore and walk inside the climate controlled comfort of a marble lobby complete with a security desk. I look forward to pushing the button of said floor and taking another elevator ride up.

You see the further away I get, the closer I am to what I left.   My manuscript is officially being shopped. And all of those editors my agent will pitch me and my book to are housed in Corporate offices.

So the day my agent calls me and tells me my manuscript has been sold is the day I become tethered, once again to the very thing I left. And yes, I am looking forward to it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A New Vantage Point

So it's Monday and it all looks the same. But what if you shifted your vantage point ever so slightly? What might you see that you had been overlooking?

Last week I found myself on the top of a double decker tour bus. One of those bright red ones you see teeming with tourists that I always say would be a fun thing to do but never get around to trying.

When I heard this was the transportation from the wedding ceremony on the Upper East Side to the reception in Battery Park of my young cousin I used my 87 year old mother as an excuse to say no. You see I reacted as most Manhattanites would. Bus? All that way? Not me.   Plus how was I going to get my mother up those stairs?

But the Universe was out to teach me something that day. There was a seat for Mom in a limousine and one for me on the bus.

I had never seen the city from that vantage point before. I've walked the streets, ridden the subways, pushed my face against the window of a plane to catch the night skyline, but had never seen the city from the top of a double decker bus complete with a tour guide.

I listened to the historical tidbits our tour guide offered, some I knew, like the famed Paramount Theater where Frank Sinatra made his mark and some I learned, like the location of the original Macy's on 14th Street. I felt the excitement and the rich history of this city the way someone does when they visit for the first time.

I saw my city with fresh eyes and  fell in love with it all over again.

Try looking at your world from a new angle today and let me know what happens.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Are You Lip Syncing Or Living Out Loud?

I learned how to lip sync in grade school. It started the day of tryouts for Glee Club. I wanted nothing more than to be in the Glee Club. Our teacher lined us  up in size place order along the side of the room next to the closets and had us sing The Star Spangled Banner. She walked up and down that line listening to our young voices. I was the first one who was picked to go to the back of the room.

I was elated! She had chosen me right away! I was that good! I was in Glee Club!
Or so I thought.

It turned out I was sent to the back of the room because I had not made the cut. Worse, I was the first one out. I was an eleven year old kid who until then  believed she could do anything she wanted. I already understood fear. I knew the things I couldn't do because I was afraid to. But not do something I wanted to? Because I wasn't good enough? That was new territory.

I learned that day I had a tragic flaw.  I couldn't carry a tune.  It was that simple.

I didn't know how else to handle it so I learned to hide  my imperfection.  I learned to lip sync.  The only place I allowed my singing voice to ring loud and clear was when I was by myself. In the shower drowned out by the water. Later in my car with the radio blasting.   But never in the presence of someone who would learn my dirty secret. It wouldn't be the last time I turned down the volume on a part of me that I had decided wasn't good enough, but it is the first I remember.

Last Tuesday I sealed my manuscript.  My agent and I have agreed there is nothing else it needs except the perfect editor to buy it. I  immediately felt nauseous.

Somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered Glee Club. I remembered  the crushing blow of believing I was good at something only to find out I was not.  I had learned then to lip sync whatever part of me I didn't think was good enough. I got so good at lip syncing that sometimes I just moved my lips when it came to the stuff I knew I was good at.  I kept my writing at lip sync decibles most of my adult life because somewhere along the line someone had engraved in my brain that it was impossible to make a living as a writer. That success was for someone else, not me.

But then I remembered that the same school that told me I couldn't sing, also published my very first story in The Castlewood Times.  The nausea passed momentarily.

Today I picked up a hard copy of my manuscript I had printed out at Staples. I want something concrete to hold on to as my agent begins to shop my story.  I'm hoping that helps with the queasiness. I understand nausea is a frequent visitor when you're living out loud.