Things You Can Do in 5 Minutes to be Happier

Sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to take care of yourself. But everyone has 5 minutes they can spare. You can:

Doodle
Post something inspirational on your social media of choice
Create an Inspiration board on Pinterest and add something to it
Look at cute animals
Write a blog post
Call or text a friend to tell them you are thinking of them
Say ‘thank you’ to someone who has been supportive
Clear off your desk
Put something back where it belongs
Get a cold drink
Do nothing — allow yourself to indulge in the stillness of inaction
Write down a cheerful message and put it somewhere – look for it the next time you’re having a bad day
Make a sandwich
Play a puzzle game online
Start a one-sentence journal
Sing, dance, or yell into a pillow

It’s easy to say you don’t have time. But is it true?

How Chris Rickert Has a Day Job

howtohaveadayjob chrisrickert copy
In the southern area of Pittsburgh, amongst rolling hills and long streets, tucked near the winding T rails, you will find a bookstore. But not just any bookstore. This is no Barnes and Noble, no big-box-little-people establishment. This is Rickert & Beagle Books. And it is a magical place. It’s the type of bookstore like in movies where kids find books that transport them to other worlds. It’s the type of bookstore where you get this huge smile on your face from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave.

And obviously, running such an amazing literary wonderland takes hard work. Enter Chris Rickert, who started working at the establishment when it was Eljay’s Used Books. In 2013, after the owners retired, Chris took the reigns at the Dormont shop and paired up with a certain awesome author to reopen as Rickert & Beagle Books!

rickertmugs
That’s right. Chris is also a close confidante and social media guru for Peter S. Beagle. You know, the author who wrote The Last freaking Unicorn! And if that wasn’t enough to knock your socks off, many of the books from R&B were featured in the 2014 tearjerker The Fault in Our Stars. And she sells awesome B’nnthulhus!

ChrisRickert2

Okay. Before I gush so much my blog starts oozing, let’s get to the questions and hear about how this amazing lady owns her day job.

What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I have two “careers”: Bookseller and handcrafter. As a handcrafter I work mainly in fiber arts: tatting & crochet are my main focus but I study all kinds of needle-lacemaking, embroidery/ stitchcraft. The day job that supports my careers is marketing/ customer service. I work as a freelancer in these fields, but most of my work is for Peter S Beagle and his publishing house, Conlan Press.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

Telefundraising was a nightmare. Lots of people yelling at me, old people crying on the phone because they couldn’t donate more to gun control or animal rescue, and cutthroat managers. I was so anxious before shifts I started throwing up on work days. That was an easy fix, I quit. I think I lasted about two weeks doing that. That’s how I found out that doing a job I didn’t enjoy, or at least, feel morally comfortable with, was never going to work for me.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

“Don’t be afraid to stand up to your bosses when they are wrong” It took me a few times around to understand that my ability to feel comfortable in my working environment was more important than being approved of by my boss.

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

I have tried to remind myself that I’m there to do a job, and no matter how bad the setting is, I’m getting money in exchange for my best work. If I had a bad day and my bosses yelled at me or I had a problem with a co-worker, I could still say I did the best work I could. But in all honesty, my go-to strategy is to not work in places with a toxic culture. I’ve left high-paying management jobs and gone to work in kitchens just to get myself into a healthier environment, and while my bank account reflects this, I know I’ve saved myself a lot of stress and misery by placing my emotional health above financial well-being. (I also have to point out that my lack of children, a car or a house payment has allowed me to [do this])

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

HAH! I come from an arts background, so pretty much every single skill I use in my daily work is from the jobs I worked after music school. The most valuable of those are the understanding of running a business from scrubbing toilets to high-level administration, and marketing a product or business. Some of that came from the used record store job I held for a while, but most of it came from running a large indie bookstore. The head of the company made all the General Managers build our own budgets, manage our P&Ls, run big meetings and so on. Basically, we got to try on his job and then get feedback from each other and from him. That’s the kind of experience you normally don’t get until you actually own a company, and being able to do those high-level tasks is often the difference between a failing company and a successful one. It definitely gave me the confidence to start my own businesses.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

How Cat Mihos Has a Day Job

howtohaveadayjoblogo cat

Good evening! Hope everyone is feeling awesome. I am very, very excited to introduce a new segment to How to Have a Day Job, in which I interview people who have tread the line between living passionately and paying the bills.

My first virtual guest today is Cat Mihos. I had the extremely amazing honor of meeting Cat when she visited Pittsburgh in January for Tatter East/Glitter West, an event held at my favorite local bookstore, Rickert & Beagle. She and the bookstore’s owner, Chris Rickert, sold prints, crochet dolls, jewelry and much, much more.

Even if you don’t know Cat personally (your loss, she rocks), you have probably seen images from a website she runs over on Neverwear.net — a home to many pieces of art bearing the writing of Neil Gaiman. Did I mention that he’s part of her day job?

cat1

What is your current career? This what you love doing that, if asked, you would say, “Oh, I am a ____.” Do you have a day job that supports your career?

I am, first and foremost, a writer. In my “day jobs”, I work with author Neil Gaiman, and he has shone a light on much of the writer’s life for me. I am very lucky.

My other “day job” is a touring production coordinator, where I am paid to travel with different bands and get paid to see the world while listening to great live music. Lucky stars on repeat.

What is the worst job you ever had? How did you get through it?

The absolute lowest low of my touring career was working the Woodstock ’99 festival.

It was my first experience at touring on that level, and things went very wrong at a top organization level. The crowd set several trailers on fire. Some of the protesting was brought about because of the high price of basic needs, such as water, among other things. You really shouldn’t put a huge number of people into a space and tell them they can’t bring their own water, but over-charge etc. The lines at the pop-up ATMs were horrendous. The amount of waste in catering struck my heart; they would throw the food away rather than give it out. I saw this giant catering company turn away a group of Tibetan monks, while throwing away food as they watched. Witnessing that level of karmic disservice dropped my spirits to their lowest.

The silver lining was that I feel I can do any job now with a strong spirit and now would challenge that in attempt to make changes. I was just a dumb kitten then.

If you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when you first started working, what would it be?

Good question! I would be less hesitant in my actions, less fearful of doing the wrong thing. “Fortune favors the bold” is a true statement. As Neil says, “Make beautiful mistakes.” Also I would have counseled my younger self to be less worried about asking for help. People inherently want to help one another. Speak up!

What would you say has been your master tool for getting through difficult times when working? Is there something that is your go-to tactic for dealing with best-of-times-worst-of-times scenarios?

There is something about a certain level of self confidence that gets me through anything. Hold your head up when you walk into a new situation and remember that everyone started somewhere, even the masters. Don’t let fear hold you back. Be interesting and engaging. Stay in the present. I used to hide in books (ok, still can do) and now I try to interact with my surroundings as much as possible. “Be where you are” is one of my main mottoes.

With where you are now and what you are doing with your life presently, what is the greatest lesson you’ve learned from working day jobs? Is there a skill that you’ve picked up from a work environment that you would not have otherwise?

Hmmmm. A little synopsis of my touring day, we roll into a new city and set up a show, do the show and then pack up and head to the next town. The days can be 20+ hours long, you need the local team of whichever venue you are in to want to help you, so you have to be patient. It is important to be clear and direct with your needs. After a long load out and a shower in the venue dressing rooms, which are usually locker rooms of some sort,  you are on a bus with your co-workers, so you are in close quarters with the people you have just spent those long man hours with.

Live kindly, be thoughtful, let anger be your last resort. My skill is survival in all things, but with kindness.

Are you interested in being interviewed for How to Have a Day Job? Comment below or shoot me an email with a brief description of what you love to do and what you do in the off hours!

Freakin’ Weekend

This weekend I drove from Pittsburgh to Annandale-on-Hudson to Maryland and back to Pittsburgh.

In Northern PA, I passed alternating signs for rabies clinics and llama farms.

I stopped in Scranton to go to the Mall in Steamtown, hoping for an interesting small-town experience that would make me think of one of my favorite shows. Not so much. But it’s a story, and that is what counts.

I saw Neil Gaiman talk to Laurie Anderson about art and personal experience and creativity. I talked to people from Bard College, and I was struck by their kindness and their welcoming campus. The talk ended with a question I had submitted for Q&A; I had asked for Neil and Laurie to talk about their creative processes. I was expecting something about their day-to-day creativity, but instead listened as Laurie talked about her next project, how it was born out of tragedy, and how she was trying to push for legislation that would help soldiers decompress after active service. It was amazing and moving and very, very real.

In DC, I saw Amanda Palmer laugh and cry and sing about how fucking scary it is to face life. I didn’t get a chance to tell her how much I get scared of becoming boring, too. I didn’t get to tell her how much it meant for me to hear her admit that she was terrified of what lay ahead. I didn’t get to tell her how grateful I was for her music, for her experience, for her strength. I just told her that she was going to be an amazing mother. And she smiled tiredly and said, “I’m going to try.”

I stayed with my amazing aunt who I feel closer and closer to every time I see her. I drove home in beautiful, glorious spring.

It was amazing. I’m so happily exhausted.

Writing Tip Wednesday: Think Less, Do More

As most of you may recall, I recently took part in Clarion West Write-a-thon, for which I committed to adding 500 words per day onto the rough draft of my next novel, “Working the Dead.” And I succeeded — above and beyond, in fact. At 70 pages/almost 40K words, I found myself chuffed to bits over it. Tickled pink. Overjoyed.

How did I do it?

I stopped thinking about it.

Before the Write-a-thon, I had been going through a horrible bout of blockage. If they had prune juice for writers, I would have probably taken out stock in it. Instead, I loaded up on self-help books, articles and every spiel I could find to make me feel better about myself. “Everybody gets blocks!” they said. “You should take up yoga! Or deep-sea welding!”

It was only when I finally stopped looking up TED talks and motivational conglomerations that I was able to open that Word document and get to work.

I started accepting certain truths I think most writers should consider:

– Rough drafts should be just that. You’re not going to show it to anyone (for fear of gelato-binging heartbreak).

– If you’re getting stopped by the fact that something isn’t perfect, you’ll never do anything new.

– The sooner you stop saying to yourself, “I can’t do this, I’m a failure, this is not going to go well,” the sooner you’ll get to work.

– You’re not the awful writer you think you are. You deserve the faith in yourself that you should always have at hand.

So the next time you find yourself dreading the intimidating horrors of the blank page, just throw yourself at it. Make the smallest commitment you absolutely know you will do and do that. You’ll be glad you did.