Sunday, January 10, 2010

This year is getting off to a slow but good start. Already things are far better than they were this time last year, and I'm looking forward to everything 2010 will bring.

I'm working on some freelance contracts; I've been getting great feedback and it's looking like my current projects will lead to future work, which is fantastic. I'm also finishing up some temp work - at the moment, that will be ending next week, although it might end up lasting another couple of days beyond that. I'll be training my replacement starting on Tuesday. I've met her before and I have every confidence that she'll do a great job.

On a total aside, I've been watching some old movies lately, and I came across Anna Christie, the 1930 film which was Greta Garbo's first talkie. While I found that not enough was done to create a realistic bond between Greta's title character and her love interest, I did find the film itself to be compelling - especially given the time in which it was released. When I think of films from the 1930s, I think of highly stylized, romanticized, and watered down scripts to appease any censors. Anna Christie is filled with characters who populate the underbelly of society; the storyline is dark and gritty. It doesn't shy away from subjects like neglect, poverty, and prostitution, and yet there is also a sense of hope - that the characters can rise above their circumstances and find some sort of happiness, even if it doesn't conform to society's idea of propriety.

Apart from watching old movies, I've been working towards making this be a successful year. Further to that, I'll sign off for now so I can go and bid on some more projects.

Happy travels,


Friday, January 1, 2010

I seem to have an inability to let things get me down for very long.

2009 sucked. Royally. But when something crappy happens, my philosophy has always been to feel sorry for myself for a short time (say, a few hours or a day), and then I move on. For example, I learned recently that I will not in fact publish a paranormal romance with Harlequin.

But that's ok - it just means that I'll edit, re-write, and massage the manuscript into something that another publisher might be interested in.

I also intend to get back to my more literary writing interests. I stopped by an Indigo the other day and picked up a copy of The Malahat Review, and I already feel more writerly. This year, I intend to send off more short stories and poems to my favourite literary magazines. Fear of rejection has kept me from sending my stories in, but fear feels so very redundant.

I've always had a philosophy of doing things despite fear that might otherwise hold me back, and it's silly to not extend this philosophy to my writing as well. Especially given the fact that rejection comes with the territory, so I might as well just get over it.

I did my first-ever discover scuba (long before I ever did a full and proper Open Water Diver course here in Ontario), and I did this one-day, see-what-it's-like class in Thailand despite a huge yet irrational fear of sharks.

I was absolutely terrified. But I also really wanted to try scuba diving, to see what it was like. So I went to a dive shop, asked them a million questions until I was (fairly) certain that they were legit, and that I wouldn't die. That would have put a huge dent in my vacation.

I was still terrified of sharks. So to keep myself invested in this scuba diving plan of mine, I paid for a discover scuba session that would take place the next day.

I didn't really sleep that night. The next morning, tired and anxious as I was, I told myself that I would get on the shuttle bus, but I might not get on the boat.

Then I got on the boat, but told myself that I might not put on the wetsuit and gear up to get in the water.

Then after I was finished getting seasick over the side of the boat, I told myself that ok, I might do the whole giant-stride-off-the-boat thing, but I might not actually go through with the dive.

And then I and my instructor slowly descended until we got to our max depth. I had been so busy paying attention to watching my instructor, and to clearing my ears as we descended, that somewhere along the way I forgot to be scared.

And then after I showed that I had learned the basic hand signals and the basic safety skills, like retrieving a reg (the thing you breathe from), we set off on our dive in the ridiculously beautiful and clear tropical waters. With colourful fish darting into sight and then swimming off into the blue, it felt like I was in a giant aquarium.

And you know what? I felt so incredible, so relaxed and yet full of awe, that I thought to myself: if a shark comes along, that's ok. In fact, it might be kind of cool.

I didn't end up seeing any sharks on that dive, but I did get to cross something off my list. I had experienced, however briefly, what it feels like to scuba dive, and I had done so despite my fear of large underwater predators.

And this is only one example of doing things despite fears that might otherwise get in the way. After I graduated university, I moved halfway around the world, despite never having lived outside of Canada, despite not speaking the language of the place I was moving to, and despite the fact that I only had $35 dollars to my name by the time I was sitting on the plane somewhere well into a 10-hour flight and was seriously thinking I had made a mistake and just wanted to go back to something comfortable and familiar.

Mind you, I had a job lined up, and they had paid for my flight over there, but still. That's a lot of things to be worried about.

Thankfully, I didn't allow myself to give in to wanting the safe and travelled path until the plane was about to touch down at my far-flung destination and it was too late to change my mind. Thankfully, I allowed myself the chance for a great opportunity to see the world, a chance that stretched into 3 years living abroad, with several countries visited along the way.

So I really don't see how I can let the fear of rejection stand in the way. When those standard form letters come to my mailbox, I will let myself feel dejected - but only for a little while. And then I'll keep right on writing.

I also intend for this to be the year that my communications business really takes off. I've already taken on projects, and have gotten wonderful feedback from my clients, and I intend to take this full-time as soon as I am able.

I am an optimist. I don't intend to change that.

Yes, I am also a realist. I need concrete things like food and shelter, and until I get enough freelance contracts to support myself fully, I realize and accept that I may need to take on temp work to pay the bills. I won't, however, accept that the only way to live my life and the only acceptable means of supporting myself long-term will be to settle for a full-time salaried position that will make me whither a little inside every day.

I believe that I can and will become fully self-employed. I have the talent, and the bull-headedness to pursue this until it becomes a reality. I will contact potential clients. I will bid on online projects. I will do a great job for my clients, no matter how small the project might be. I will build on my portfolio. I will cold call. I will network.

I will not settle.

I will take better care of myself. I can't keep filling myself with crap and expect there to be no consequences. I will cut down on the amount of frozen and processed foods that I consume. I will eat my vegetables.

I will exercise more. To that end, I will promise myself something more concrete. It's too easy to make vague promises that end up half-fulfilled. I will start swimming laps. I will do this twice a week to start, then build up to three times a week. There. I said it. Now please feel free to chastise me if I don't hold up my end of the bargain.

I will scuba dive as much as I can. This will be an easy promise for me to keep. I was fortunate to dive as much as I did and to have learned as much as I did this past year. In the New Year, I will continue to scrape together the money needed to head north to spend time with my friends and to relax to the sound of my breathing underwater.

I am a coffee snob. I don't intend to change that.

There might be days, weeks, or (hopefully not) months where I will have to make my coffee at home, or will have to rely on the free coffee at whatever office I might be temping at. But when I have the funds for it, I reserve the right to feel miffed and yet vaguely satisfied as I sit at a Starbucks sipping my insultingly-overpriced-yet-tasty iced mocha. Light ice. No whip cream.

I will make more time for friends and family. This is not as easy as it sounds when you're getting a business off the ground. But it's well worth it, and I will make the time to be with those that matter to me, even if it means having to formally schedule it into my planner.

I will get myself a pretty planner, since I'll be looking at it so many times every day, throughout the year. And let's face it, books (and planners) do get judged by their cover.

Wherever you are, and whatever your goals for this year, may 2010 be the year for you. May this be the year of checking those nagging things off your to-do lists, the year of doing those things you always wanted to do but were either afraid or reluctant or were made to think were impossible.

You can check off those to-do list boxes.

You can do those things you wanted to do. They're not impossible - you just need to find a way to make them possible, even if it means making more to-do lists with small, manageable stepping stones to get you where you want to be.

Wherever you are, and whatever your goals, I wish you all the best.

Happy travels,