How to Have a Day Job: Monday, Monday


Every week, that iconic song by the Mamas and the Papas plays in my head. Which, while it’s a softer tone, isn’t too much better than the saccharine Office Space voice saying, “Somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” And then there’s the manic Monday, the rainy day Monday, the I-don’t-like Monday (tell me more!). Think Monday and you get doom, gloom, short tempers and wailing grievers, bemoaning the loss of those sacred seconds in Saturday and Sunday.

When was it that the world decided to hate Monday? How did Monday get the short end of the stick? What high school told Monday that it was the Least Likely to Succeed? What bus drove through a puddle and soaked Monday in front of all his coworkers? Well, I’m sick of seeing Monday eating lunch alone every day. It’s time to flip the script with this. Life is way too short to begin each week with resentment, immediately counting down to the end of it. I say no more to that!

Here are 5 ways you can make Monday more awesome:

  1. Start something new: have you been meaning to start a new book but just haven’t made the time? Maybe you want to go for a walk every afternoon, or cook more, or create a better cleaning schedule. Mondays have historically been seen as an auspicious day for good habits. It’s a clean start. Give it a try!
  2. Eat that frog: if you’re dreading a certain item on your To Do list, Monday is a great time to knock it out. You’ll get a kick of encouragement and motivation that will set you on a success streak for the rest of the week.
  3. Meditate: I love alliteration, and the gentle m’s of Monday put me in the mood for some mellowing out. Take 15 minutes out of your day, find a quiet space, and take long, deep breaths. Focus on the feeling of each inhalation (7 seconds) and exhalation (11 seconds). Clear your mind and refresh your core.
  4. Begin with the best: Monday is also a great day for assessing your morning ritual. Get a good breakfast, do a few stretches, fill up a water bottle. Leave your house a little early so you don’t have to worry about running to your desk. Load up your phone or iPod with some good music, books, or podcasts. Sit in your car and drink in the morning.
  5. Recognize Momentum or Management: There’s that glorious ‘m’ again! You don’t know how your Monday is going to go until it’s over. If it’s good, you can ride the momentum and let it supercharge the rest of your week. If it’s not, take a step back and try to figure out what you can manage. Did something happen that was outside of your control? Let it go. Did something occur that you can learn from? Make a note for the future. Stay in the moment rather than dwelling on what’s in the past. Tuesday is right around the corner! Just make sure Monday doesn’t feel ignored…

What do you do to work through the beginning of your week?

5 Things I Learned About Writing (And Life) from my Mom

Your mom is the first person who gets to see you at your worst: naked, gross, kind of bloody, screaming. They look at you and for some reason, they don’t run away from that horror show. And they stick around and deal with years of crying and pooping and crying and bleeding and crying and…well, that was my experience anyway. Even though you may not realize it at the time, your mom teaches you things, and those things affect what you choose to do and make with the time you have.

These are just a few of the things my Mom taught me that I have found have impacted my writing. You might learn a thing or two as well.

1. Life is too short to do stuff you hate. Whenever I think that I’ve made the worst decision ever, Mom tends to tell me about how she almost became a nun. We talk about all the steps she took to reach that goal and how, once she was there, all she could think about was leaving. Never be satisfied with misery just because you think you owe it to yourself to wade through the muck. Come at writing and working from a place of joy. If that place can’t be found, time to look elsewhere.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Over the years since I moved to Pittsburgh, I have had to call my Mom and commiserate over bad times. I can call my Mom in tears, and usually before the end of the call, we’re laughing about whatever is going on. Nothing you’re doing – whether it’s a memoir about the worst time of your life or a set of poems about death and despair – is so bad that you can’t take a second, smile and realize that you’re alive.

3. Come at it a little at a time. The other day, I was talking to my Mom about how to organize my home. We are both packrats, and I always marvel at how everything seems to have a nook or home at my mother’s house (“That’s organized?” she asked me, laughing). However, she gave me this advice and it’s made a world of difference. It’s so easy to fall into being completed overwhelmed, but that’s only if you come to the mountain and immediately cry because you’re not at the top. One step at a time. One word. One sentence. That’s all it takes. You’ll get there.

4. You can’t always be in control. This one is always a doozy for me. I’ll be sweating and screaming about something – anything – and after minutes of sound advice, my Mom will finally say, “You have to give it over to God.” And I’ll make some inappropriate noise at that, and she will tolerate it, because she knows she’s right. You can’t always have your ducks in a row (look at Youtube; those things are always falling into holes and grates and getting blown over by fans, etc). Sometimes you have to sit down at the screen and say, “Okay, God/universe/Muse…I don’t know what’s happening, but let’s give it a go, huh?”

5. Live life with joy and spontaneity. Some of my fondest memories are of the random things my mother and I have done together: trips to the beach or to a bookstore or even to a fancy mall. You don’t need a crazy trip to Hawaii to get your creativity going or rejuvenate your energy. All you need is the willingness to step out of the normal day-in-day-out of your existence. Have a little adventure. You’ll be a better writer…hell, you’ll be a better person. I know I am.

Thanks, Mom.

5 Things About Habits/Goals

1. They say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. That’s a long time, but you have to start somewhere. This is that starting point for me.

2. I’m using a super fun app called “HabitRPG.” It makes a game out of getting stuff done that you are trying to form into habits and daily tasks. You earn money and buy items for your character as you complete things, but on the other side of that, if you fail at finishing tasks, you could die. Very fun and surprisingly effective!

3. I had a moment of clarity a few minutes ago: when approaching your daily, weekly, monthly, etc. goals, you should think of them the way you would think about a life list or an agenda for a trip. If you’re going to NYC, you’re obviously not just going to put down “Visit a museum,” right? You would look at which museum is most interesting to you, the hours, the cost and so on.

4. SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.

5. Something is better than nothing. I recently read on “The Happiness Project” blog the following mantra: Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. It means that you shouldn’t put off doing things because you are not in the exact frame of mind/place to do something or have the perfect conditions. The example used is “the 20-minute walk I take is better than the 3-mile run I never start.” I got a lot out of this one, simple phrase.

How do you feel about habits?

5 Things to Get Your Writer for Christmas

1. Amazon gift cards. Believe me, most writers already have a copy of On Writing (I have two). By all means, get us books, but best to make them random books, books that are ‘I read this in 5th grade and it makes me think of you’ more than ‘this is #1 on the best-selling books for writers.’

2. A Saturday night in a hotel room. It doesn’t have to be so specific — you might even do a ‘redeem this for one hotel stay’ coupon. The point, however, is that you would like to give your writer friend about 18 hours distraction-free to help them get some writing done. The change in atmosphere can really get the creative juices flowing.

3. A massage. While we’re on the subject of giving writers time away, why not treat them to some pampering? Other acceptable alternatives could be certificates for movies, restaurants, fun things in the city…you can tailor things like this to your writer’s interest and give them something fun to do away from the keyboard.

4. A personalized moleskin journal. Everybody loves these things, but you know what would make them better? A collage on the cover of their favorite writers. A picture of a moment of fun you’ve shared. A doodle of their ideal bookshelf. The gift of a journal is a good start for a writer, but it’s nice to show you put effort into the idea.

5. Soundtracks. Not to movies. Give them soundtracks to their writing. Think about the type of music that comes to mind when you read their stuff. Is it epic? Is it sappy? Is it retro? Put it together on a CD for them. Trust me, even if it’s the worst stuff on the planet, your writer will get a kick out of it.


What are you buying your writer for Christmas?

Great News, Everyone! or, Five Awesome Things You Should Know Are Happening

1. I just returned from crossing off one of the biggest items on my Life List: a cross-country trip from Pittsburgh to Seattle. We stopped in Chicago and saw the Bean, rode rollercoasters at the Mall of America, witnessed the largest carousel in the world at the House on the Rock, came face-to-face with wild buffalo in Yellowstone…just to name a few. Photos coming. It was a life-changing experience, and I think everyone should do it. Right now.

2. My previously unpublished short story, “Reborn,” will be featured in the next issue of Fireside Magazine. Of nearly 600 pieces, mine was one of 25 selected for publication. Links to the magazine when it is available will be forthcoming in late June/early July.

3. I have just signed up for 2013 Clarion West Write-a-thon. You will have the chance to donate money to Clarion as I meet my writing goals. I specifically plan on taking this opportunity to publish stories about the Black Carnival, a setting some of you may already be familiar with. You should sign up for it too!

4. I am currently writing pieces for the next Gadchick¬†magazine on how to write and self-publish a novel. So if you have questions…now is the time to ask and maybe I can address what you want to see? Maybe?

5. My Dad is coming up to visit me in Pittsburgh. It’s kind of different from all the stuff listed above, but awesome all the same.

What are you all up to?

5 of the Best Sitcoms Ever

I’m not certain why this is, but recently I’ve been revisiting some sitcoms.

Now, my relationship with television growing up was very old-fashioned. I lived in the generation where Nick-at-Nite actually showed old sitcoms and dramas: Dick Van Dyke, Bob Newhart, Happy Days, I Love Lucy. I usually left these on as I fell asleep at night, the black and white bouncing off the ceiling above my loft bed. If I woke up to go to the bathroom, many times it was to the jingle of Mary Tyler Moore or Laverne and Shirley.

When I went off to college, not much changed because when my boyfriend moved in with me, he informed me that his household rarely turned the TV off. As a result, no matter what we were doing, the television was on something. Usually it was animated. Or had zombies. I still recall after he moved out how weird it was to not have the constant noise, to be alone and silent in the cell that was my efficiency.

Recently, though, my husband and I have picked up a few random sitcoms, and it’s gotten me thinking about the series that have really affected me over the years. I was surprised to realize that some had even affected my writing. Crazy, huh?

Here is my list of the Top 5 Sitcoms of All Time, in no particular order:

1. Scrubs

This series was also my first medical drama. And it is a medical drama, despite what the clip might lead you to believe. This is one of the few shows I’ve seen on TV that could, in one episode, make you cry from both laughing and heart-break.

2. The Office (American Version)

The Office wasn’t as funny to me until I got a job in a corporate environment. Steve Carrell was the best worst boss I’ve ever seen. Also, no, I’m not arguing with you on why the British one may or may not be a superior comedy. I really don’t care.*

*I do, but I just couldn’t get into the British version, no matter how funny Ricky Gervais’ dancing is.

3. New Girl

New Girl is the perfect cocktail of a show. It’s original, interesting and very character-oriented without taking itself as seriously as it could.

4. Community

Being a dork, I saw the Dungeons and Dragons episode before even sitting through the pilot. Then, I picked up the first season on DVD, and within two weeks I had seen the first three. There are references that everyone gets and references only a niche crowd can freak out about. It opens itself to every demographic and then one you didn’t even know existed.

5. Taxi

I know, given the wide range of beasts above this one, I’m sure some of you are like…”Wait, what?” Taxi was this surprise that came out of left field for me. I started picking it up during marathons on Nick-at-Nite and it was the first ‘grown ups’ show that I felt like I actually appreciated. I think for a while I wanted to be a cab driver (that didn’t last long).

What are your favorite sitcoms?

5 Valentines for Writers

Ah, Valentine’s Day! A special time of the year when sweethearts do what sweethearts are supposed to do: throw money at each other and make the people who work with them nauseous! But no, really, I like Valentine’s Day. It took me a good 10 years to start getting behind it, eschewing my black clothing and glowering persona for a, you know, positive attitude.

Now, as my gift to all of you, here is a list of 5 Valentines for Writers: things to watch, listen to, enjoy and appreciate for it’s important message about twue wuv.

1. (500) Days of Summer: Stop shrieking! I hear you out there. “This isn’t appropriate! They say in the first five minutes that it’s not a love story!” While that is true, I feel that this movie is the epitome of a love story’s caricature: the sweeping joy, the disgusting infatuation, the devastating falling apart and then…hope.

Also, the soundtrack is pretty amazing.

2. The Fault in Our Stars: I recommend the audiobook, as I really enjoy listening to Kate Rudd read to me. It’s a cancer book, with all the things that make a cancer book a cancer book…there’s even a cancer book in it! Pretty meta, right? It’s YA, but it’s so beautifully written that through about half of it, you forget. And that sounds like a way to go, but…uh…yeah, you won’t actually stop reading/listening anyway. It’s that good.

I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.

3. “The Bed Song” by Amanda Palmer: don’t get just this for your Valentine, because you’ll look cheap. Get the whole album it comes off of.

Sorry it’s a boring video, but just go with it.

4. Chocolate or an Edible Arrangement: who doesn’t love these things? I refuse to be clever here. They are delicious. People deserve these.

5. Eat, Pray, Love: either the book or the movie or both. Oh God, stop rolling your eyes. I’m actually not recommending this because of the love story snuck in at the end, although that’s nice. No, the real reason is that the deepest, most meaningful truth in this story is how much you are worthy of love. You deserve the right to be so in love with your life that you lose yourself in it.

5 Things That Happened

Hi, guys! Hope you’ve been enjoying the Writing Tips. Here are a few things that have been going on since last we encountered our hero.

1. My car got broken into. Silver lining – they didn’t bust my window, break any of the gadgets or hooky-do’s that make my car go, and they didn’t take anything that couldn’t be replaced. Such as the car.

2. I got a tooth removed. Silver lining – overall, it was a very easy procedure. Especially for someone with chronic dentist phobia like me (adult life lesson – tell people these things, because the right people will give you the right tools to assist you in overcoming these problems, thus preventing you from going so long without proper care that you even have to get stuff like this done. True story.)

3. I got a new article published. Huzzah!

4. Look up there. I bought a snazzy domain name. Free Writing Tip! If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you should purchase one for your own website. It’s just about the first thing every guide I’ve read on freelancing/novel/big-boy-pants-wearing-people has said to do, and it really does make one feel more legitimate. Also, ignore the idea that it’s going to be a big hassle, expensive, etc. I did all of it on WordPress for a total of $26 ($8 of which was for the fancy ‘you can’t get my address’ perk). Come on, you spend $26 on one trip to Barnes and Noble and you know it!

5. My husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary with Ted (the movie, not some creepy guy who hangs around with us) and burritos. It was awesome. Although technically we did that over the weekend, not on our actual anniversary, which was the 12th. Because unfortunately I was celebrating that day with a man in latex gloves toting Xanax and Novocain. Because I know how to party.

5 Things I’ve Done in the Last Few Days

1. I spent an evening looking at pictures, documentaries and videos of national tragedies. The next day, I confessed this to my husband, and I explained that every now and then I feel the need to do something like that in order to feel closer to other people’s pain. He was surprisingly nonplussed.

2. I started keeping a journal every night. Believe it or not, not all writers did this all their lives. I had a Livejournal – which shall remain in the bowels of Internet pseudo-anonymity, thank you – throughout college, and a Deadjournal – which I even went so far as to delete – before that. I’ve always started notebooks, but my pen has never seen the last page.

3. I saw Moonrise Kingdom and tore apart a lobster, realizing that I’m most satisfied with food I can eat with my hands. Oh, the movie was very good, too. You should see it.

4. I replaced my Canon Powershot with a Rebel. I’ve yet to take it out of the box, because I don’t know what to do with it, and I can’t stand the idea of it collecting dust on my desk. As if it may get tired of me before I even get a chance to take it out into the world.

5. I came across a very fat rabbit on my way home from the gym. I love finding rabbits. Oh, and I started this new blog! Hello!