The Great Face-Palm

Yesterday I wrote a blog called All in a Day’s Work, in which I talked about how I’d been declined an interview for a copywriting job with the company I work for due to my lack of professional writing experience. Today a friend has reminded me that I passed up an opportunity to write, which could have put me in a much better position for applying for that job.

A few months ago, my best friend and her boyfriend set up a website selling handbags. They asked me if I would write some blogs for it. I shared their excitement for the website, and wrote an initial blog. While it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, Nick gave me some feedback and we discussed ideas for other blogs.

After that, I wrote nothing.

I felt bad for letting my friends down, but they had other people writing for them, so I told myself it was ok.

I don’t know why I couldn’t write another blog. I think maybe the reason is that I knew there was one line in the blog that particularly wasn’t appropriate for that website. But I told myself that was my writing style. And I think at the time, that was all I believed I could do.

It would have been fairly easy to write a few blogs under the themes we had already discussed. So why didn’t I?

I have to admit this is not the first time I’ve sabotaged my own writing career. When I used to work for Siren FM, we regularly interviewed a lovely Australian woman in London who ran an online magazine-style website for women. Shortly before I moved to London myself, I approached her about writing for the website, and sent her a copy of one of my carefully-chosen blogs.

While her feedback on my blog was good, she told me that for the website she needs more solution-based articles. So for example, if I’m going to write an article about how rubbish online dating is, I should really end the article with some alternative ways that women can meet men.

I never wrote anything for that website. I think again I was scared to write something different than what I already knew. Also, I thought how can I write an article giving people advice when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing in the first place?

I’ve recently been on some time-management and problem-solving courses at work, and in both I used writing articles (as opposed to just blogs) as an example of something I wanted to achieve. Thinking that I might finally get round to writing an article, a few weeks ago I visited the website. What I found was an article on my childhood friend who had written the book. And it hit me: while I could have been writing for this website, she was being written about. I scurried away with my tail between my legs. The one good thing to come of that visit though was that I finally edited and published my months-old draft of what was to become Single, Successful and Falling Apart: What an Achievement That Would Be.

So this morning, as I lay in my friends’ spare bed in Manchester, even though it’s so early, I sit here face-palming myself that I let two good opportunities to advance my career pass me by, one which also would have helped out my friends. But face-palming won’t help in the long run. Neither will letting the fear of trying something new overcome me. To quote Baz Lerhmann’s 1992 film, Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half-lived”. It’s time for me to override the fear and start writing outside the comfort zone of my blog, taking feedback on the chin when receiving it and using it to make my writing better.

I thank my Thirty-Something Crisis for one thing: letting me discover my ability to write. But more than that; to allow me to know that I can write. This is not a belief that is buried deep-down somewhere. This is an intrinsic, core belief. For which I am eternally grateful.

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You’ve Lost That Summer Feeling

I mentioned in a previous blog about how the summer here in England seemed to come to a soggy wet end some weeks ago, with the gorgeous sunshine being swapped for almost-daily showers, my summer wardrobe being swapped for its autumnal cousins. As a sufferer of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I felt my mood plummet along with the temperatures and the pouring rain. But most of all I felt the fear: the fear of getting cold.

It’s like I don’t know how to dress any more, but it involves layers, and lots of them. With the temperatures lifting this week to around the mid-twenties degrees Celsius, I’m feeling a little separation anxiety with my scarf and cardigan, who I feel have become old friends. Or maybe my Siamese twins. Either way, as a child, I didn’t need a comfort blanket. I certainly don’t want to start carrying one about now, since I’m already laden down with so much baggage.

So today, I left the scarf and the cardy at home. I’m not ready to embrace winter yet. And I’m working on banishing fears from my life. After a jog down the Thames last night, I’m feeling positive. And I want my summer feeling back.

Steal My Sunshine – Len (1999)

Feel the Fear…and Do It Whether You Want To Or Not?

After more than two months of sitting out on the pavement outside my house, being looked at by passers-by and even having its mirror used by a drunken tramp to see how he was looking, my pink Vespa had its first outing today.

I had intended its maiden voyage to be a drive up to my brother’s house, only a few miles away but to get there you have to go through town.  On reflection, my plans were rather ambitious, much like many of my plans.  But better to aim for the moon and only get to the end of the road, than to go for the end of the road, and not even leave the house.

So anyway, I put on my boots, bike jacket, gloves and helmet; my housemates took a few pictures of me and it came to the point of no return.  Bearing in mind that I did my CBT – Compulsory Basic Training, at least I can get that right now – at the end of August, which seems like a lifetime ago, I was rather nervous about getting on the bike.  Also, the bike I did my test on was a 50cc.  My Vespa is a 125cc and rather heavier (and pinker) than the one I did my test on.

The first step was working out how to switch it on.  Bikes have this whole key-turning-brake-pulling-accelerator-switching-button-pushing way to start them up.  Thank god they have bikes in Taiwan, because my Taiwanese housemate, Richard, was able to start it up for me without too much trouble.

The next step was getting it off the stand.  Not as easy as you may think, and something I barely mastered during my CBT course.  Anyhow, two housemates later and I was ready to roll.  After letting a car go past me, I revved the accelerator, and I was off.

I’m not going to give you a commentary of the whole journey, but let’s just say I didn’t go all the way to my brother’s house, rather around the block a few times, having been beeped at a roundabout, before making it home in one piece (luckily so did everyone else).

So what was it that brought the tears to flow once I’d pulled up at the kerb outside my house?  I had done it – I’d finally gone out on the prize I’d won on Twitter almost three months ago.  I remember thinking on my ride of how much I’d like to sell it and have the money, before being reminded of all the things I’ve had to buy.  Sure, it was a free bike, but the insurance, CBT, jacket, etc all cost me money I hadn’t ever intended to part with in such a way.

After I won the bike, I was determined that I was going to learn to ride it.  Do one of those things that I’d swore that I’d never do.  The problem is, I’m a great believer in if you don’t like doing something, then don’t waste your time doing it.  In 1998, I was a receptionist in a hotel.  I hated it; I was determined I never wanted to be a receptionist ever again, and I haven’t been.  I know that I don’t enjoy being ‘front of shop’ and that I don’t believe I am good at it.  So to do this would cause me so much stress, it’s better just to say no, I’m done.  I’m also not a huge fan of theme parks, well, more specifically, big rides.  If I never had to go to Alton Towers again, it wouldn’t be the end of the world for me.

But where do you draw the line between trying something new, figuring you don’t like it, giving up on it early to dedicate your time to things you would rather do, and keeping trying the thing you don’t like doing, in a bid that one day it will become your favourite thing in the world to do?

Recently, I came to the conclusion that I don’t like doing location reports for radio.  Many a time I have taken a recorder with me with the intention of interviewing people.  As much as I enjoyed last weekend’s trip to the National Achievers’ Conference in London, I wonder if I would have enjoyed it so much more if I wasn’t constantly thinking that I needed to get some interviews to take home with me.  By the end of the weekend, I had decided that I no longer wanted to do location reports.  After all, I took the same recorder with me to LA last November, to Boston in February for the Mission Hill gig and to the National Achievers’ Congress in London.  Each time, I’ve had opportunities to interview great people and to record great audio postcards from these locations, but something has always stopped me.  This then has the effect that when I hand the recorder back, I feel like I’ve not only failed, but also let my radio station down.  But the conclusion I’ve come to is that I have enough stress in my life. I don’t need to worry myself sick about things that really don’t matter.  I want to concentrate on doing what I am good at, and enjoy that, rather than stress myself with things that don’t.  Let others be great radio journalists and Vespa riders – I want to be a great writer.

Anyway, I guess that’s something off my chest.  I haven’t decided to get rid of my bike or anything, and I may get out on it again in the week when the roads are quieter.  But knowing that I don’t have to force myself to do something, just because I feel I have to, does ease the butterflies in my stomach.