My most productive time of day tends to be the early
morning. Always has been. I’m what you
call a “morning” person.
I wake easily at 4:30am, on a late day 5:00am – I pour my
coffee and start writing. It’s this perfect kind of quiet that fuels me. It’s
not just the absence of cars or the lack of people talking in the distance, it’s
more about a pure nothingness that seems to be the start of something… a new beginning, a new day, a new possibility
that inspires me.
I’ve always been this person. Even as a kid. Back then, I’d
wake up early and run out into the street in front of my house and stand under
the still dimming light of the streetlamp and start to dance. I loved that time
– I remember it as if it were yesterday – there’d be no cars, no movement, no
sound anywhere – and yet my thoughts
were so perfectly clear I could hear the symphony as I danced along the gravel “floor”…
I do love the quiet. My dream would be to live on a ranch
close enough to the city, but far enough away to not hear the daily sounds of trucks
going by and neighbors doing their thing – kids jumping rope or the gardeners
blowing leaves. In the city, even the
quiet of the day is still not really quiet at all. There’s a natural hum that
happens during each day, different depending on the time – that too is
preferable to pure country living, where crickets and cicadas are a type of noise
I’ll never get used too.
Then there’s the ocean. Oh, how I love thee – but not to live by. Near the ocean is fine. 2 miles is perfect in fact. But to sleep by the ocean waves, although beautiful and fierce, would be the same kind of pain to me as the crickets and cicadas – disturbing and out of sync with my need for that pure nothingness quiet that starts my every day.
I don’t know how it ever happened. I don’t remember the day I became a morning person. I don’t think you can force yourself to be one or the other – it’s just an “IS-ness” I do suppose. Maybe, if you’re born in the morning, then the morning is your time? I have no idea. But I was born in the early morning and that just makes perfect sense.
So, yes, I love the early morning sunrise. The glow of
all things new. It’s my favorite time of day. My most productive too.
So, a couple years ago I was frustrated by an article I saw that talked about reviews that had been planted on Rotten Tomatoes about the movie Black Panther. I was annoyed because the reason someone figured out that the reviews were fraudulent was simply because the movie had not premiered, and the studio had not given copies of the film to anyone to actually review it. There was no way for all of these “reviewers” to have seen the movie to make such comments. Thankfully people at Rotten Tomatoes had realized this and were able to delete all of the bad reviews before the movie came out. https://www.indiewire.com/2018/02/rotten-tomatoes-block-black-panther-fan-score-sabotage-1201924400/
Clearly this was a huge dilemma for the studios. They realized quickly that a predominantly black movie was about to be smeared before it had even premiered. The racist viewpoints about a black superhero or movie in the Marvel Universe that might potentially break box office standings, could easily be undermined before it had even been shown. (Bravo Rotten Tomatoes!)
Bad reviews do and can potentially determine the outcome of film’s box office potential – this is NOT new news, but the blatant racist leanings of the comments and viewpoints made about this movie that had been unseen, made this event crystal clear: the continued power of bots, the power of unverified reviews and comments continue to be an ever mounting problem on the “interwebs”. Of course we can reference what’s come out in the Mueller report about the election of 2016 and what may happen again – the point simply is: we have a huge problem with verified information on the internet.
I was so frustrated by this situation when I read about it AGAIN – that the solution seemed so crystal clear to me that I wrote an email to Mark Cuban. Honestly, I have no real reason why I picked Mark Cuban except that he was on my LinkedIn feed at the time and I followed him and I knew he had a lot of money. I’d been thinking about this problem for years – back when I started online dating WHEN IT WASN’T COOL to do it (we’re talking 2007!!!!). I knew THEN that there had to be a better a way to deal with this. So, yeah, maybe sending a vent email on LinkedIn to Mark Cuban wasn’t the best idea, maybe someone like Elon Musk would have been better, but I wasn’t really thinking it through, I was just annoyed and looking for someone with money to investigate this issue and start working on what I think is still an easy solution to the bigger problem!!!
Well, let me just say, that the PROBLEM revealed itself again recently while I was on Twitter – and this is why I’m here writing this now. During the Robert Mueller hearings lots of conversations were going back and forth on social media and again, I kept hearing that the “Russians” are trying to undermine our elections – Robert Mueller said it himself: They’re doing it right now as we speak. The next part of the conversations always goes something like this:
“We have to educate people on how to spot fake news”, or “People
need to become more educated and be careful…”
It’s such a one-sided solution.
What’s the “solution” I’m talking about?
Instead of attempting to ONLY make people better educated on what is and what is NOT a bot or a “fake” website, commentator or ad, why not also make it easier for people to recognize a VERIFIED version of all of those entities online? In other words, why not make it easier to SPOT an organization or individual online as a LEGIT organization?
Imagine, if you will, a Global Verification on the internet. It’s possible. Some companies already do it – like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. They have those little blue verification markers for Celebrities and such. Here’s an example of a verified account (@violadavis): Imagine, if – just like passports in the physical world you were able to use your verified handle wherever you went online and people would KNOW you or your website were verified by a legit entity? People could then choose to “listen” to your commentary – the little blue legit “signs” or “identifiers” on Twitter and Instagram folk partially does this, but only for “celebrities”. But, imagine if everyone could be legitimized across all platforms, using their handles, across all countries on the internet?
With the technology behind Block Chain, I know this could be done – and maybe it’s already being worked on – but there has to be a way that an individual, who wants to be taken seriously ONLINE would have a global verified handle account that they could use as they go and communicate on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn on any Website. Also, it would make it easier to spot legit sites and so on.
Imagine all the applications – people would not confuse websites like www.abcnews.com with www.abcnews1.com — which is a good example of how people were creating FAKE new sites with similar names and confusing people with actual FAKE news. But the applications are endless. Most importantly, even if YOU choose to go to the FAKE site or you visited it accidentally, you would know it hadn’t been VERIFIED. After that, the choice is yours to accept that information as truth or not.
Now, I know this is a huge idea.
And this is just the beginning – I’ve been thinking about this for a
while now and don’t even get me started on the 2016 election! To me, this has been foreseeable for a long
time and has been in my non-techy head for a while. It may seem too big of an idea, but so wasn’t
going to the moon when no one thought it possible – for me, it’s just always
been about interest and yes, about necessity!!!!
Anyways, I have to believe people smarter than me are working on this somehow – but I’m stunned that simple things like verifying me – a non celeb – on Twitter is still a non-possibility. Why can’t Twitter find a way to verify committed and decent “regular” users of the service? They seem to only verify people based on celebrity or size of followers or what they deem impactful situations. This is what leads me to believe that NO ONE is working on a bigger more important solution that would inevitably be how we all identify online.
This is a HUGE idea. It continues to eat at me and so trust me, in the past couple of years, I’ve tried to get some people interested who I thought might be. At the very least, they had money to make things happen — and as always, people tend to say they’re “interested” but then really don’t follow up. Totally cool. Asi es la vida. But after sharing my idea with a few “very interested” who would have the means to follow up on it, I realized today why not share it with my cool contacts online who might have some insight and care about this too? Either way, ENOUGH wasting time on the possibility. It’s an idea. Someone “stealing” an idea is just bad juju on so many levels. But this really isn’t about one person. It’s not about making a profit (though this would clearly be HUGE) – but it is a necessity. We need to do something to help people recognize legitimate sources of content on the internet. And maybe this is just the tip of the iceberg? Maybe there’s a better way to go about it – I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and I can only imagine that there are others, way smarter than me – who have some thoughts on the subject. Maybe someone knows of something like this and it’s being worked on all along? If so, please, do tell! I’ve done my research so be ready for a clapback if it’s something I’ve already heard of (hahahahaha! I say that with such love though) but yeah, send it my way. I need to know someone’s working on making the internet a better place to be!
And another way to think about it is this: if Amazon can deliver packages to people all over the world and not be confused by “authenticating” an entity, then why isn’t this possible? To me, it seems like such a no-brainer. But you know, I have a million of these ideas that stream through my head — never once have I felt the need to share….
Hit me up if you have any thoughts or questions on this – I’d love to hear more information and more ideas. Hmmm…imagine an internet where you could land on a website or read a comment and KNOW there was a way to trace back to who said it and why and not worry that it may be a bot or fake information? Think passports, licenses… validation. Verification. It doesn’t mean you can’t go on “anonymously” if you wanted too – surely, there are people who lie all the time about who they are online and if you wanted to do that, you could. But, for the times you wanted to be taken seriously – or more importantly, as a consumer – imagine feeling comfortable about going to a site and reading a comment and KNOWING through a simple visual that it was the legitimate source…
Let me stop. I can go on and on forever about this…
Just an idea from a non-techy-but-very-techy-interested-kinda-gurl.
I was a dancer as a little kid. I rehearsed early in the morning and after-school till late at night. I was diligent and passionate about performing and doing a fantastic job. There was also something innate about my dancing. I had to do it daily. It was a part of me. I was pretty famous too – Well, I thought I was famous in the world, but in fact, I was just a well-known entity in my neighborhood, in my community. Ha! When I found out that my “fame” wasn’t world-wide I still rehearsed diligently – maybe even more so. Early in the morning before school, after-school, weekends… I developed a habit of working those muscles daily and always finding ways to improve – fame or the lack thereof, had nothing to do with it!
Writing is the same way for me. I don’t dance “professionally” anymore so writing has taken over that habit-forming rehearsal space. I’m diligent about my writing practice. I write every morning in a hand-written journal, while I drink my coffee. I write during the day, generally for work. And then, at night, I work on my stories or my exercises. My next work. My next project. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. The practice of writing. It’s part of the process, the habit of working to become a better writer.
And just like dancing, writing takes many different forms. I’m great at some types of writing and not-so-great at others, but I’m always in the pursuit of getting better. I love writing content – especially in first person. I love writing stories, blog posts… however, I also enjoy the struggle of writing copy for a product I have no interest in – it reminds me of ballet class. I hated ballet with all my heart as a dancer, even though I loved watching it. As most everyone knows, if you’re going to call yourself a “dancer” you better at least know the basics of ballet and find a way to push on through, even if you don’t like it! Writing copy for a product I don’t care about is almost like that. A good example: I wrote copy for an electrician’s website recently. As much as I didn’t care that much about the subject matter in general, it was like that ballet class – I appreciated the work I had to do and ultimately, I got through it and did it brilliantly. But only because I’d “rehearsed” my writing over and over again. When you practice your craft and you’re thrown a new category or style, you can easily maneuver your way through it because the basics are so innate — they’re a part of you. So much so, that when given a challenge, you’re always up for the task! I may know absolutely nothing about how to be an electrician. But, I know enough about copy and how to write to sell his work – it’s easy enough to navigate and get it done!
So, why am I bringing all this up? Well, I get this question a lot, especially after a speaking event about how I wrote my book CANELA. Everyone thinks they can sit down and just start writing their book. They think I might have a secret formula on how to do it — How do I find the time? How did I even start? How do I find work as a writer? Most people want to write their own story — surely, anyone can hire a ghost writer – that’s one way to go, but most people fancy themselves a writer. But what they don’t realize is, like anything else you want to excel at, you have to put in the work. Writing is NOT EASY! Yesterday, someone actually explained to me that they were planning to write their book and have it published before the Christmas holiday so they could give out as a gift. They wanted my insight into how to make that happen. Christmas is only four months away! WHAT?!?!?!
Well, suffice it to say, I told that person they should definitely consider hiring a ghost-writer, make it a real short story of just one moment in their life and call it a day. But for everyone else who is serious about writing – whether it be your own story or just getting better as a writer, here’s my advice about how to start and how to keep your writing strong, fresh and ready for the next challenge:
Write every single day about anything and everything! This will help you find and develop your voice. It doesn’t matter if you do it with a pen, on a computer or just for a few minutes a day. Rehearse every day. Write. Dance. Write. Repeat.
Think about moments in your life and write those first. Don’t worry about the book and it’s beginning, middle and end just yet. If you’re just starting out, or if you’re just stuck on where to start, just jot down the story of you and your brother taking a sleigh ride that winter when he broke his leg. Or write about your dog when he was a puppy and you first brought him home. It doesn’t have to be long at all – a few sentences. Just start the process of thinking something and writing it down. Thinking about dancing isn’t the same as actually getting up, putting on the music and gettin’ down. Same with writing. Stop just thinking about it writing that book and instead, write that thought down NOW!
When you don’t know what to write about, write about the first thing you see: Currently, I’m looking at my lamp. I think I need to change the bulb because it flickers every-so-often. I keep meaning to buy a bulb, but I always forget. I’m going to write that down in my grocery list right now! When you practice regularly, you can easily find a way to express yourself on paper. That’s the goal. It’s like dancing – the more you do it, the more comfortable it is to just go with it and not think too deeply about HOW to do it, it just starts to flow.
Stretch your writing skills: Here’s a fun way to do this. Put down your pen or close your laptop. Watch TV. Yup, I know, trust me. Watch TV, wait for the next commercial. Any commercial. Before the commercial really starts, turn off the TV. Write about that product and try and sell it through your writing in a goofy way. Be fun with it, play around a bit. It really helps – and hey, you may be a copywriter and not even know it – but walla! This is another way to change up your writing rehearsal time. If you normally write stories, try a script, or a poem or write a speech. All of these take different types of skills as a writer and regardless of whether you do it professionally or not, it’s stretching that writing tool. Just like when I took TAP as a dancer – I’m not a tap-dancer, but I surely can tap if I have too. I never knew that, until I forced myself to try…
Be comfortable with your own voice. This will take time. I know a lot of people are advocates of reading as much as possible in order to become a better writer – eeeh… I’m not sure how I feel about that. Don’t get me wrong, I watched other dancers growing up and admired them, but it was the music and the constant battle to be a better dancer and finding my authentic style that made me great. So, of course everyone should read books – I love to read – but I don’t think that’s the ultimate reason why I became a decent writer. Actually, writing daily makes me a decent writer. Learning what my voice “sounded” like on paper made me a more confident writer. Being a confident writer, makes me a viable writer worthy of getting paid and more importantly, being “seen”! So, practice that writing and get comfortable with your own style and voice on paper!
If you want to be a writer, you need to write. If you want to be a decent or great writer, then you need to put in the rehearsal, the work. It’s not any different than any other profession. Writing is a skill that takes a lot of time and effort to perfect. Maybe you’re a born writer like Misty Copeland is a “born” ballet dancer? Maybe it’s an innate talent? Writing/Dancing comes easy to you? But know that Misty rehearses every day. I rehearsed every day as a dancer and now I practice every day as a writer. The greats, especially the innately gifted, always rehearse and refine their gifts. Writing is no different. If you want to write, then sit down and start writing! Do the work. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! There are no short cuts success. Period.
Click the link below if you want some other tips from other writers, authors, etc. about how to be a writer…any tips on dancing or for further questions/comments from me, please feel free to reach out to me anytime on my contact page!
There are many benefits to working from home – I don’t
need to list them all here, but some common favorite reasons to work remotely
Working in your pajamas.
Creating your own schedule.
No one looking over your shoulder.
A lot of companies are trending more towards remote positions whenever possible and some people are having a tough time adjusting.
One of the most common calls I get is from new “remote” employees who are struggling to stay on deadline and are finding it difficult to get things done. Here are some basic Do’s and Don’ts, in no particular order, that I’m sharing with some of my clients who need help becoming better remote, working-from-home, telecommuting, e-Worker, etc., employees:
Keep a schedule. Everyone says they’re going to do this, but they never do – at first. Why? Because it’s hard! There’s a freedom to getting up, having your coffee, and not having to jump in your car and sit in traffic. So, maybe you flip on the TV. Something catches your ear – maybe a text, or it’s an old episode from a show you streamed, or you just get fixated on something on Twitter and all of a sudden what started with good intentions at 8am has now passed and it’s 3pm and you’ve done absolutely NOTHING.
The fix: Treat your workday just as if you were working in a brick and mortar office. Create a schedule and stick to it. If you’re going to work from 8am – 3pm Monday through Friday, then stick to that schedule no matter what – at least until you get the hang of this newfound freedom.
Do not stay in your pajamas. I know, people hate this one the most. But I’m telling you, if you roll over in bed, turn on your laptop to work, and stay in your pajamas, you will inevitably end up being distracted or worse, fall back asleep! If you don’t treat your work professionally as you did when you went INTO the office, then you won’t produce “professional” work because you won’t be in that “professional” state of mind. This is the same for creatives. You need to be in that head-space in order to create – and again, when starting out working from home, you should mimic some of those basic behaviors that you had working in a brick and mortar office to begin with…ease your way into working remotely efficiently by treating it professionally.
The fix: Get up, get dressed, keeping to your schedule. Change out of your pjs, brush your hair, brush your teeth, and throw on sweats or lounge wear or workout clothes if you want, but do something to transition yourself from one activity (sleeping) to another (working). This helps not only get you out of your slumber of sleep, but also gets you in the right frame of mind. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.
Do not share with your friends and family that you “work from home”. What you’ll notice when you start working remotely is that everyone will now contact you at all hours to talk about whatever drama is going on because they know you’re home. Your neighbors will knock on your door if they need help and you’ll be happy to help – you have the time, right? Since you work from home now. One neighbor asked me to watch her 6 year old for a few minutes and came back a few hours later!?!?! Well, with just a few haphazard moments like that, you’ll get behind in your workload and you’ll start to feel overwhelmed by everyone who is “bothering” you. It happens.
The fix: So, when it comes to your family and friends, tell them you work remotely, and you have “meetings” all day long, from 8am – 3pm or whatever your schedule is. But you’re happy to fit them in. Grab your calendar and schedule them in for AFTER your workday or project. Because you’re keeping a schedule now, remember?
a secondary place to work – Without fail there will always be a problem you
can’t control in your regular workspace.
Maybe the electricity goes out, or there’s street construction and you
can’t hear yourself think. My neighbor once had about 15 people visiting – at
least that’s what it sounded like and I couldn’t concentrate because it was
just so noisey. So, make sure you always have a plan B so you never miss a
deadline, a conference call, meeting, etc.
The fix: The local library, a coffee shop, a shared workspace rental like WeWork, etc. Be prepared to sit in your car and take a conference call or meeting if your plan A situation gets too loud and you can’t easily reschedule. Always have a plan B!
Schedule a “lunch” hour every day – I’ve already touched a bit on this earlier, but one of the other problems with people working from home is the other extreme: working too much and forgetting that you ONLY need to work 40 hours a week (or whatever your agreed upon part-time job is). Most people, once they get the hang of it, become so much more efficient that they actually get a lot more work done. But therein lies the problem. People forget to take breaks, to eat right, to take the weekends off — they easily make their lives all about work – which, by the way, defeats the whole purpose of working from home.
The fix: Schedule a lunch time every day into your calendar. And at the very least: GO. OUTSIDE. FOR. A. WALK. Honor your cut-off times too. When your work-day is done, it’s DONE. Period.
Keep track of your workday. If your company is not using a project management software program like Asana.com, Trello.com, Monday.com or Basecamp.com just to name a few, then make sure you’re keeping track of your work and what you’re doing. One problem I’ve encountered with companies making this transition is that management will ask what people are doing when they’re working from home. Some of this is also their new-ness to having an employee work from home, but it can also be a default reaction when a project goes badly. I’ve also experienced employees who were so stressed out that they don’t think their boss or supervisor believed they’d been working. As the employee, take control of this aspect. You know what you’re doing every day. So, be ready with answers of what you did for for that entire project in case someone asks. It will also help with a sense of accomplishment when you see how much you’ve done in a day, a week, etc. Keep track however it easily works for you.
The fix: Some of these project management tools can be used individually but could be costly and unnecessary. You can easily keep track of your calls and daily work in your calendar – when you finish a project for that day, just jot it down. How many hours you worked and remember to detail any calls you made and such. Remember this is also great just for YOU to keep track. It helps you with organization and keeping tracks of TO DO lists. Win-win. (Note to companies: if you have employees working from home, you should consider a project management tool or create a system in place to help employees and yourself feel good about the work you’ve accomplished).
Understand that you’ll need to socialize more on your own – When people go from working in an office environment to working remotely, what they realize rather quickly is that it can get a little lonely. You may have no distractions and are probably working more efficiently, but that one-on-one interaction with fellow co-workers, or that “meeting-up for a drink after work”, may no longer apply especially if you’re out-of-state. It can start to feel a bit isolating.
The Fix: Make sure you find other ways to socialize. Interacting with people at meet-up groups that may be work-related could be a great way to fill that gap. It’ll also allow you to continue generating new ideas, keep yourself fresh on all things going on in your industry and more importantly, keep you from being alone.
Be kind to yourself. If you’re new to working from home, know that it takes a little time to get used to it. Working remotely is a wonderful experience and can be a great benefit to both employees and business owners. But understanding that it does have its pitfalls is a good first step in getting it right. The data is still being calculated on all the pros and cons. It’s still a pretty new thing for a lot of folk – so yes, it can be devastatingly lonely and jarring when you realize you’ve been home all day working and no one stopped by to say “hello”. There’s no “water-cooler” or staff kitchen to hang out in. No ordering lunch together and no “grabbing a drink after this meeting” type of event. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are just NOT the same thing – and not what you’re used too. It takes time to adjust to a new way of working. So be kind to yourself.
The fix: If you need help, just ask. Any company working remotely is aware of what some newer employees may go through. You’re definitely NOT the only person who may need some tips during the adjustment period. So, if you have a question, just ask. Personally I’ve been helping companies make the transition and/or setting up new organizations and individuals into their new cloud-based remote lives for many years. It’s just one part of what I get paid to do. Happy to help.
I hate using the word “procrastination” because it has such a negative tone to it. Truth is, some of my best work is done when the tic-toc of the clock is closing in. I know quite a few people who also function this way, successfully too!
However, it’s not my favorite way to work. Not at all. I tend to be a very organized, “To Do List” kind of person. I love scratching off an item on my list and moving on to what’s next. But sometimes there are items that just feel so big or torturous that I just don’t want to do them – that’s where procrastination plays a role.
The things I don’t care about at all, are the things that
get pushed aside in the wake of the things I love to do and want to
do. I’ve decided not to be too cruel to
myself about it anymore and instead embrace the idea that I’ve mastered
the art of procrastination. That can be
a new skill after-all. Why not?
Beating ourselves up for not always doing things the “right”
way, tends to just make matters worse. Negativity isn’t going to make you work
any faster or better! Instead, find a way to embrace what you may see as “faults”
in your way of functioning and see if you can’t make what seems to be lemons,
I procrastinate. It’s just the way I get some things I hate to do, done. Getting it done, is all that matters.