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Today, I just wanted to… write.

I neeeeed a typewriter.

Howdy! I’m sitting in my bed (my usual blogging spot), I’ve had two glasses of wine, and I’ve got a mud mask on… and it’s about time I just wrote something.

You may recall that last week, I finished up another semester of teaching Blogging for Beginners at UT – and while it’s a time-consuming additional to my full-time gig, it never fails to teach me SO much about the craft of writing (and blogging).

I have realized lately that my life is so full of words and content – perhaps more full than it has ever been. I’m creating content 40+ hours a week for my job. I have to fill Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, and a blog, with fresh content all week – and sometimes every single day (I post around 12 tweets a day for work).

I also have this blog, plus I read, and watch TV, aaaand I’ve been doing freelance editing sometimes on the weekend. That = a TON of words! Which, is not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, but I realized I haven’t had a chance to get away from the noise to actually think for myself.

One thing creatives can do to keep their juices flowing is to make time for activities that don’t involve words; such as listening to music (without words), taking nature walks, or simply relaxing in the tub without distractions. It’s times like these when our brain actually gets to wander to the places it wants to go – it’s why we often come up with great ideas in the shower or during the night.

But I’ve been a bad creative and haven’t made time for activities like these. Currently, I have no blog strategy, have barely Tweeted on my personal account in weeks, and well, my SnapChat game? It’s suffering.

Truth be told, I worry that I’m coming down with content-overload. Did I turn a fun hobby into something I can only see as WORK by taking a job in social media? It’s certainly possible.

It’s easy for me to say that 2017 has already just been full of surprises! I kicked off the year with a new career, but also with a newfound fatigue – actual physical exhaustion. While I am awaiting confirmation that it’s nothing physical, I have always been able to rely on my creative mind.

But now… now what? I am still trying to get my butt to bed at a decent hour so I’m not dragging the following day, and I’ve found myself without many ideas to jot into my little notebook – I feel… I feel boring!

Pair that with a picture of me in bed on a heating pad this weekend after three hours of dance, and it may start to click: maybe this is just 32? My birthday is in a month, after all.

I know, I know, this probably all sounds so dramatic. But the feeling is real.

And so, I’m not sure how many writers how there read this, but if so, I’d love to know what you do when you’ve reached true writer’s block? Is there an activity or routine that brings light into your mind? I’d love to hear about it!

I know this is a feeling that will pass – I probably just need to take a good walk, or throw myself into an experience that brings out my inner thoughts. It’ll come – but until then, stick with my posts about TV shows, books, and food.

Hey, it’s all part of the journey.

What did you do for fun… in 5th grade?

What can we learn from our 10-year-old selves?

What can we learn from our 10-year-old selves?

I was listening to an episode of “Happier” with Gretchen Rubin a few weeks ago, and she was talking about an interesting study. The study said that whatever you/we were doing for fun at 10 years old, is what you should be doing for your entire life.

Hmm!

Naturally, I got to thinking about what exactly I was doing when I was 10. It was 1995, and it was the summer between 5th and 6th grade.

During those times, I wore a lot of funky clothes, and I painted my nails all sorts of different colors at least once a week. I loved Gwen Stefani, reading, drawing, a making magazines using printing paper, crayons, and a stapler.

So, perhaps my dream of working at a magazine wasn’t so far fetched after all.

I did a little digging to see what else I could find about this theory. I stumbled across an article from Mark Manson, “7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose“. Question no. 2 in the article is “What is true about you today that would make your 8-year-old self cry?”

Here is Mark’s answer:

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family. Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us. We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites — something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self had asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that 8-year-old boy version of myself would have probably started crying.

Even though he’s talking about his 8-year-old-self instead of his 10-year-old self… I’m totally buying into this concept. It makes total sense!

Of course, sure, we all have to accept the fact that perhaps our dreams aren’t going to be the things that pay the bills or make things happen the way we really hoped. But if what we did at 10 truly defines what we should do for the rest of our lives, then at least we’ve already discovered our life’s purpose, and can now work to fulfill it in some way.

So, what were you doing when you were 10? It might be worth exploring a little more if you’re not already.

‘Hamilton’ & the magic of inspiration.

Siiingin' in the raaain.

Siiingin’ in the raaain.

No, I did not see “Hamilton”, and no, I do not have tickets. But what I DO have is loads of inspiration after watching “Hamilton’s America” on PBS (which you can stream thru 11/18) last weekend.

I’ll preface the rest of this by saying that I was not immediately sold on “Hamilton”. I thought it was hype, and I didn’t get it. Buuut, then I started seeing lots of people I knew who saw it and they said how great it was, and then he hosted SNL:

…And I was all… ok Lin-Manuel, I SEE you! So when I heard PBS was showing a documentary about the most-successful Broadway musical, I was in. I recorded it, and watched it immediately, as I shoveled takeout noodles into my dropped jaw.

Why? Because what I’d heard previously was true: Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Ron Chernow’s book, “Alexander Hamilton” in an airport on his way to the beach for vacation, and was inspired to write a hit musical.

Uhmazing.

 The documentary explores the creation of “Hamilton” before most of it was even written – and it took several years to write, given there are 55 songs squeezed into a show that’s less than three hours.

What did I find so cool about this story about a man who wrote a musical on one of our founding fathers? Well, lots of things.

For starters, the fact that Miranda was so inspired by history in this small instant – his vacation – and also that he put a huge twist on it (hip-hop). And then there’s the fact that most people don’t make money on  Broadway. Creating a musical based on history was completely a passion project that turned out to be H-U-G-E.

I’m also dazed by the amount of work and research that went into the musical, as Miranda really wanted it to be historically accurate. No wonder it took nearly seven years to make.

I stumbled across an article in Fortune magazine which featured an interview with Miranda and he talks about what he learned from creating “Hamilton”:

You can have good ideas when you take a break from what you’re normally doing and don’t just go 100 miles an hour. Two: Really trusting my gut. I won a Tony with In the Heights. I got offered movie adaptations of musicals. I got offered a lot of Latin-theme stuff. But I had faith that the idea I was chasing with Hamilton would be worthwhile.

It takes years to make a musical. So I’ve got to choose projects knowing that even if they open and close in a day, I will not regret the time I spent on them. And so you can’t choose on what you think is going to be a financial success. You’ve got to pick the idea that excites you and inspires you to write.

I don’t want to give too much away, because you really should just watch the PBS documentary. Here’s the teaser:

So, now I’ve got Ron Chernow’s book on reserve at the library (I think I’m #10 in line), because I want to read the same thing Miranda read and see what’s on the pages. Will I see what he saw? Highly doubtful, because I know basically nothing about Broadway, and not much about musicals other than I wish I lived inside one.

In general, I live for these bits of inspiration. There are things that are likely to inspire us all – stories of rags to riches, those who’ve made something out of nothing. But perhaps there are things that oddly inspire you, which may not inspire the person beside you. Why?

Of course, we are all driven by different things. As a writer, great writing inspires me whether it’s in the form of a great song, an awesome TV show, a good movie, or the perfect book. Sometimes, just the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel inspires me: picturing a lazy Sunday morning when I’m knee-deep in work on a Tuesday helps me realize that the end is coming and I’m working toward those quiet moments.

Sometimes, I’m simply inspired by nature: the changing leaves of fall, every single sunset, a rare sunrise when I’ve dragged myself from the covers in time, flowers, mountains, or even green fields.

I’d love to know what inspires you – and what you do to keep that inspirational juice flowing in order to get things done. I know I’m always looking for more inspiration, and I’d love to know where we can all find it. And with that, I’m just going to leave you with this…

Long live creative royalty.

The legend.

The legend.

I never really know how to handle losses like these on this blog. After all, I didn’t know Prince personally (no one I know did – if you did, let me know), I never saw him in concert, and I cannot rattle of facts about him like I could for John Mayer, or say, Amy Winehouse. And I’m not CNN, so it’s not my job to report breaking news or secretive details.

But when I heard the news – someone at work said it flippantly, in passing, “yeah, sad,” she said. It felt disrespectful to even think of it, of him, like that. It was more than sad; more than water cooler gossip.

Then I heard one of the Jacksons on the news saying it was like when we lost Michael. Not to be rude, but no, no it’s not.

For me, comparing Michael Jackson to Prince is like comparing Kendall Jenner to Karl Lagerfeld. I don’t mean that as an insult – I absolutely love Michael Jackson. But, he was the King of Pop, not creative ROYALTY. Jackson took songs that were handed to him, and performed the shit out of them.

But Prince? Prince wrote the music, the lyrics, and played every instrument on his first five albums, which he also produced. No, seriously. He was the real deal; a legend. More than an icon.

And, there’s something to be said about the universe surrounding a person. Jackson had a lot of negative press; like bad. To be a Michael Jackson fan meant you had to take giant breaths defending him. Prince? He was pretty private.

All weekend, the Sirius R&B Groove station played back-to-back Prince songs; some songs which I didn’t even know he sang. It was enlightening, and of course, made me realize all over just how sad it was, and how I wish I would have paid attention a little sooner.

I was laying in bed the other night, watching an old episode of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon”, and I actually didn’t realize it was an old episode until Fallon introduced The Weeknd by saying the number of Grammy’s he’d won the night before.

He sang the first verso of “In the Night” before introducing Lauren Hill (the-one-and-only). It was her make up to him after she ditched his ass at The Grammy’s.

It got me thinking about the tortured souls in pop culture. Lord knows I love, love, LOVE Lauren Hill – her album, “The Miseducation of Lauren Hill” changed my life as much as any musical piece could.

But the smash album – the one that changed hip-hop forever – was also the start of her demise; the flame to the fuse of her mis-crediting lawsuit; tax evasion and jail sentence; eradic performances and general public distaste of the music industry and the world we live in.

From torture and sadness comes the most beautiful art. Sad but true. But I have to wonder – is this the story for all TRUE creatives? Are they so different, so talented, so out-of-the-norm that they can’t fit into the squares of “normal” society, i.e. the people who are buying their product?

When Prince’s death was announced last week, there was also mention of his previous hospitalization for “flu-like sentence”; we all know that’s Hollywood’s code for “overdose”. And yes, a quick Google search will reveal he OD’d on percocet and received a “save shot”.

Was Prince tortured? We may never know. It will probably be weeks when they rule an official cause of death for the artist, but I hope it isn’t that – even though his drug dealer has stepped forward with some pretty shattering details.

It makes me sad that I can watch an episode of “Intervention” and see some random asshole crunching handfuls of opiates, but…

Then it just makes me sound like an asshole that I’m valuing Prince’s life over that of a deadbeat in the New Jersey suburbs.

I’m not, really I’m not. At the very least, I just think that maybe Prince was too amazing; too fabulous to grow old. The good die young; and his legacy won’t be that of torture. It will be his talent; his purple REIGN.

Do I need a ‘work husband’?

Do I need a "work husband" to advance?

Do I need a “work husband” to advance?

Hey there! If you stopped by the blog yesterday and were disappointed to see the password-protected post, feel free to shoot me an email at holly@thebitterlemon.com (prove you’re not trying to spy on me or sue me) to request it. I wish there was a way to at least let followers read the blog, but WordPress isn’t THAT awesome yet. And hey, feel free to shoot me emails at anytime; I love to read.

Anyway, what I really wanted to talk about today is this: a recent article published by Fortune magazine, “The secret to getting ahead at work? Get a work spouse,” lists several reasons why I should probably get a work spouse.

According to the article, a work spouse can balance the duties of the job; allowing each team member to shine in her/her own way, while getting a TON of work done. It’s apparently a win-win.

I’m all for a winning situation at the office, but that phrase “work husband” or “work spouse” just bothers me. Something sounds so… Ashley Madison about it. Am I alone here? Take this, from the article, for example:

In many situations in our office marriage we have applied the life lessons learned over decades in our actual marriages, such as patience and commitment. The things we have in common – similar values, the joy we take in engaging with clients and developing relationships, and our devotion to community – have helped see us through.

I feel like the person who wrote that was a little more into it than anyone should be. An article published on AdWeek approaches the subject a little better, admitting there are pros and cons to having a work spouse.

  • Pro: the bond is second-to-none. Con: there’s a gray area between personal and professional.
  • Pro: greater productivity. Con: less productivity.
  • Pro: less stress for you. Con: animosity among others.

Not sure if your work friend qualifies as your work spouse? Have no fear, CNN is here with seven signs you have a work spouse:

1. You depend on a particular co-worker for office supplies, snacks and aspirin.

2. There are inside jokes that you and a specific co-worker share.

3. You can be bluntly honest with this person about his or her appearance, hygiene or hair (and vice versa). You’re comfortable enough to point out that the other’s hair is sticking up — or that someone’s fly is down.

4. When something eventful happens at work, this co-worker is the first person you seek out for a de-briefing.

5. At breakfast, lunch and coffee breaks, your closest co-worker knows what to order for you and how you like your coffee (and vice versa).

6. You and your co-worker can finish each other’s sentences.

7. Someone in your office knows almost as much about your personal life as your best friend or real-life spouse does.

…So, do you have a work spouse? If so, I’d love to hear about it! I don’t think I’ve had quite this serious of a “work” relationship, though I’ve definitely had something close. What these articles don’t address is the size of the office or the office culture where these types of relationships exist.

In smaller offices, focused on team work, I’m leaning toward the feeling that there’s not really a need for an exclusive “marriage” relationship. Thoughts?

Me & my bullshit, part two.

Drop the mic, bitch.

Drop the mic, bitch.

Read part one of “Me & my bullshit.” 

I find a tiny bit (okay, a medium bit) of comfort in recognizing the fact that the road many writers, amateur and professional, travel is one that’s alone.

The craft of writing is introspective — even fiction writers often say their stories come from some place real — and looking within isn’t something that happens at a conference table or in a room full of cubicles.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what success means to me — not in terms of money, but in terms of what every day is like for me. I’m still working to get where I want to be.

While Ryan’s words really, really hurt me, I know that I cannot change who I am to please him, or anyone. I have always promised myself and my readers that I will remain honest, even if that means I’m not the most popular person.

I also know that there’s a big, big difference between someone like me who works every single day, chasing my dreams, and someone who sits at a job, letting the days pass them by. Complacency is not for me.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about successful people, and I’ve noticed that many of those people, who are SO successful in business, are also misunderstood in many other aspects of their life. Perhaps that’s just how it goes.

Take Steve Jobs for example. Chances are you’re reading this from a device that he invented. I’m writing it on one. And I’ll Tweet about it on another one later today. In his biography by Walter Isaacson (a genius writer that I’ve been lucky enough to interview), there are many mentions of how Jobs went against the grain in nearly all areas of his life — even in unflattering ways.

At the root of the reality distortion was Jobs’s belief that the rules didn’t apply to him. He had some evidence for this; in his childhood, he had often been able to bend reality to his desires. Rebelliousness and willfulness were ingrained in his character. He had the sense that he was special, a chosen one, an enlightened one.

— Walter Isaacson, “Steve Jobs” [119]

There are other successful creatives I can relate to — Amy Winehouse and her broken heart (and the ability to turn that into beautiful music), John Green in his writing processes, and of course, my love, John Mayer, in his ways of being so, so introspective and insecure, that it gets him in trouble socially.

And while I know (haters, this is for you) I’m not nearly as genius as those people, I do know that I’m not a dumb ass. I’m not the girl who lost her job. I’m not someone wishing to be a writer. I’m someone just trying (and often succeeding) to make it. And by it, I mean my dreams a reality.

My past is littered with guys like Ryan. Guys who tell me how great I am, and then disappear for no valid reason. One of the biggest questions I had when Ryan sent me his douchey text was this: Why are we so quick to cut people off?

It’s that easy, especially hiding behind a fucking phone screen, to write someone a message and cut them out of your life forever, because you don’t feel like dealing with a human. Another question I had? If my behavior was so scary, why didn’t he ask me if I was okay?

And that’s the difference between being selfless and selfish, my friends.

I know I won’t stop writing — let’s be honest here, there’s nothing else I’m really cut out for. And I know it’s not going to be easy. But when the road gets tough, and the guys continue to be assholes, I’ll probably just write more of these posts about my “bullshit.”

You know the greatest thing about that guy at the gym who thinks my column is bullshit?

He read it.

If you’re nice to me I’ll never write anything bad about you. 

—Amy Winehouse

Pic of the Week.

Spring is here!

Spring is here!

Friday evening marked the start of spring and after this winter, I know a lot of people across the country have been celebrating the coming of warmer weather.

As I mentioned yesterday, spring-ish weather in Louisiana doesn’t last long. But it’s the mark of a fantastic season that means baseball, crawfish, and all kinds of festivals. It’s a fantastic time to be here!

Over the weekend, I joined my friends for the annual Zapp’s Beerfest, perhaps one of my favorite events of the year — 2.5 hours of unlimited drinking and all-you-can-eat Zapp’s chips. Not to mention the abundance of delicious home-brews (I had a banana split porter that was delicious).

It was a cool, overcast day, complete with a shower, but not to worry because I was stomping the grounds with my new rubber boots (pictured above). It’s amazing that I’ve lived in the South for more than ten years and just now got some boots worthy of puddle-stompin’. They kept my feet nice and dry.

I’ve mentioned before how I’m more likely to set goals for myself around my birthday (in July) than I am around the start of a new calendar year. This year, I’m feeling pretty excited about spring. It’s a season of renewal and fresh, new ideas.

With each day, I’m moving closer and closer to making my own business a reality. I’m getting new clients, drafting business proposals and plans, having meetings, listening to podcasts, doing research… It’s a lot of work, but it feels right.

There’s a lot (a TON) of learning in this process, and it’s not always easy. I had a meeting a few weeks ago with a fellow creative and he was telling me about how vulnerable we all are — every time we craft something and send it, we are being judged. Most of the time, I don’t think of it in that way, but there’s definitely some truth to it.

If you’re following me on Twitter, you definitely know that last week, I spent almost four days Tweeting my first book, “How I Fell: Love, Lies & Cocktails,” 140 characters at a time. I’ll be honest, I didn’t think it all the way through in that I had no idea it would take me so long.

I spent a majority of the week staying up, typing. Not only was I lacking sleep (and living off beer and takeout), reading and remembering about such a terrible part in my life was emotionally draining. So, why did I do it?

I never want to put myself into a box. I don’t want to strap myself into a 9-5 schedule. I don’t want to lose that creative edge. Some of the most successful things that have been done, were successful the first time they were done. I want to use all of the tools I have — my brain, my computer, and free marketing services like Twitter, to get my ideas out there.

The consequences? I thought a few people would be annoyed and unfollow me on Twitter, but instead, I gained quite a few followers (score!). But, I also got a text message from someone I’ve known for 11 years. He told me my Tweets were scary. He said my behavior was scaring him and it would be best if we never talked again.

I’ll elaborate more on this and who told me this in a later blog post, but the gist of it is: I may not always been understood. And some of the most successful people aren’t understood. As a writer, most of my work is done alone. I spend a lot of time at my desk, and a lot of my work is introspective.

As sad as I was to lose this “friend,” I know that I can only afford to surround myself with people who support me. That does not mean they agree with everything I say or do. It means they won’t drop off the face of the earth when I think of something out-of-the-box.

In the last month, I’ve spent a lot time wondering if this life, this career will stand in the way of me ever finding love. But, instead of worrying about it, I’m just going to roll with it. I can’t change my brain to please the world.

And so, cheers to spring — bring on the new beginnings. I sure could use some fresh ideas (and flowers) ’round these parts!