Monday, June 29, 2009

What's so funny about peace, love, and billable hours

The pup in the picture is Shadow, the faithful family pet who crossed the Rainbow Bridge last summer. Shaddy, as we called him, was an excellent example of how stereotypes and/or cliches are sometimes true. He was loyal, kind, smart, easily trained, and gorgeous — all attributes one would expect from a storybook Golden Retriever. Photo by Susanna Rowan.

The challenge of working from home is keeping up with "billable hours." It is easy to think you've worked all day, but who are you going to invoice for the laundry, dishes, cooking, and the rest of the housework you did while brainstorming or trying to come up with the perfect closing paragraph?

It just seems to be a waste of time to "think" for thinking's sake. Throwing in a load of laundry or deciding on the evening's menu don't distract from getting the job done. Or do they?

Maybe if I gave my business the respect it deserves, I'd be billing a lot more hours. To stare blankly at my (blank) computer screen is an important step in getting the job done. Why should I think it is a waste of time and I that I may as well pull a few weeds while "I'm not doing anything."

Time to honor my process. Truthfully, saying things like that makes me cringe. It sounds so cliche and trite. It strikes a chord though, and that's probably what makes me so uncomfortable.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Learning to Bare My Bests

At left, hometown girl makes good. The piece is about from whence I came. Click the link below for a better look.

It just occurred to me (well, actually it was last night but I couldn't get here right away) that I should use this blog as a way to showcase some of my published work. It could be one of those win-win situations you hear so much about but never see evidence of. I could plug me while plugging the publications and/or outfits that publish me.

I gotta tell you,though, that I can't hook you up with the ghostwriting stuff. There's a reason it is called ghostwriting. Too bad, some of my best work is done with the safety net of anonymity.

Anyway, check out the following!

Carpinteria Magazine . The little publication that could. The town is small and the budget smaller, but that doesn't mean the product can't be first rate. A testament that money (or fame, name, and whatever else) doesn't equal taste.

The Los Angeles Times. A real feather in my cap! I know I'm the bottom feeder in the hierarchy (the lowly freelancer) and I don't purport otherwise. Still, it does not stop certain family members, friends, or acquaintances dropping my name to others like I'm Katherine Graham or something, er, someone (maybe I should say Dorothy Chandler, but she wasn't active in the family business).

One Less Thing I Want to Be

At right: In Cambodia near Angkor Wat children earn money selling souvenirs. This is where we ate breakfast one morning.

Last summer I scratched "travel writer" off my list of things I'd like to be and my list of ways to make more money. Where it came from I don't know, but I imagined myself underneath the ceiling fan in the bar of the Raffles Hotel oblivious to the half-finished cocktail (now, that's imagination!) while engrossed in my travelogue, furiously trying to capture the allure of the tropics while threading a bon mot or two of my own into the missive, all the while my editor waited on pins and needles stateside for my copy to come across the wire.

I gave the fantasy the ol' college try. I sold some stories before a trip to Cambodia and Thailand. That coupled with the stories I would sell upon my return would not only pay for the trip, but would garner some extra income and reignite the passion in my marriage.

It didn't work out according to plan. I ended up not filing a damn word except a few emails to extricate myself from the assignments I worked so hard to get. It's not that the passion part got in the way, it's just that I found out I really did not want to be a travel writer.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

It's 8:30 p.m. Do you Know Where Your Appetite Is?

It is 8:30 p.m. and really time to start dinner, which requires putting the really good pesto dish I made two nights ago into the microwave. Not having to obey a strict dinner hour and eating exactly what you want are two perks of adulthood and having your own business.

Another plus of having your own business is the illusion/delusion of writing off all expenses on your tax return. The cell phone is a great deduction but doesn't hold the same sizzle as restaurant and bar tabs. The manila envelope (recycled, of course, its first life was bringing a kitchen remodel catalog to my mailbox) on the right side of the second shelf of the bookcase near the front door is bulging with all sorts of receipts just waiting for Uncle Sam's reimbursements.

It is a nice feeling to pick up the check; the nerve wracking part is getting through the meal/drinks ritual. I'm not concerned about how much to tip or my table manners (Girl Scouts and my parents did a pretty job on that and I still get compliments). The confusing part is much more basic.

Since when did restaurants deviate from strictly either "sit down" or "take out" models? Nowadays, you never know if you order at the counter and someone serves you the food, or someone takes your order at a table and then calls your number to come pick it up. Or maybe you order and pick up the food yourself but someone sets your table. Then, do you bus your own dishes?

It is all very confusing. Not a burden by any means, just another confusion curve ball thrown into the game of life. (Methinks that sounds a tad too cliche.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

12 Hours Later and Still Sticking to My Guns

It's kind of a relief when you understand why you do the things you do

Today was one of those 12-hour, full-on-brain-engaged days. Fortunately, I've engineered my workload in a manner that eliminates that sort of insanity. But sometimes the insanity is out of my hands. (Yes, I know I could choose to not please the client. And that would result in loss of money and having to replace that income stream, and blah, blah, blah ... so don't get all Psych 101 on me.)

What I've been toying with in my mind—for about three years—is writing into contracts, agreements, and the like is that if the job is not completed by the agreed upon date, then my wage/rate goes up.

I think that is a pretty common business practice, actually. I just don't feel comfortable laying out those sort of boundaries. I feel it is kind of like inviting someone over for dinner and adding the disclaimer "if you aren't out of here by 9, I'll be expecting a tip of 15 percent on the perceived value of the meal."

More attention and credence should be paid to operating under common decency and respect. We need less verbiage in business agreements and more handshakes to seal deals. In a way, working the odd 12-hour, full-on-brain-engaged day is how I put my money where my mouth is.

This is Nella, my vicious cat. Don't let her cute looks fool you; she's pretty mean. She just doesn't know any better (how many people who you know does that sound like?). Nella is pretty good company at the computer — curling up in my lap or looking earnestly out the window. It is just that I never know when she is going to attack me.