Wednesday, March 31, 2010

FiND iT FREDERiCK Magazine's Latest Issue, Featuring Me!

Great news! The latest edition of FiND iT FREDERiCK Magazine is out, and one of my articles is featured in it.

Click on the name above for the online edition. Or, if you happen to live in or near Frederick, Maryland, pick up a hard copy of it today! Give support to this excellent publication, and the good people who work there. (Who have treated me very well, and been most kind at every step.)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


 I am an actor as well as a writer. Allow me now to invoke the character of your typical generic Net guru posting about how to make a real blog.

Ok so I'm up extra early today hoping to get to Starbucks while the early bird barista is there. She doesn't %$#^ up my order and is absolutely THE only one that mixes my grande white mocha. (Better stop thinking about it...drool on keyboard=so not good.)

Anywho, blogging. Yeah, I think it's about time somebody mentioned how to do it right. And by right I mean do it in such a way that somebody wants to not only read your blog, but crawl inside of your brain, set up shop and kiss your ass like every day. Just kick back in a chair in your brain and relax forever. (Damn, that brings me back to my white mocha...OMFG "Stacy" please don't call in sick today!)

Lists. You love 'em. I love 'em. So here's one.

How To Build a Blog The "Right" Way.

1) Piss Everybody Off

If you are blogging in order to make people think, it's YOU that should be thinking again. It is not the job of a blogger to make people think. You know what the three most important concepts in real estate are, don't you? Location, Location, Location. Well if you want a blog that's worth a damn, remember the three rules of real blogging; Offend. Offend. Offend. Natch. After all, if you haven't offended anyone today, you obviously are not bold enough to be worth reading. And you want people to read your blog don't you? (Oh yeah, I forgot, some of you fancy yourself as "writers". As though writing and blogging aren't two different things. Girl, please. Plug in...)

2) Code: Master What Matters

You say you want to create good prose that stands up to scrutiny and inspires thought? You want to provide intelligent content? Um...1986 just called...he wants to speak to you.

For real, if you are one of those people that believes that bloggers ought to be able to prove they can write well, I am not sure you can be saved. For the rest of you with half a brain, use it to master code. XHTML, or in fact every single solitary code that exists out there should be something you gain expert status on. Sure it is time consuming, and can take years of work to master. Yes it can require hours just to find the right color fade on your front page. But those are hours spent making a real blog. Unless you want the blogosphere to laugh at you, (not that your insistence on not paying for your own domain name isn't causing that already) you need to know code. Period.

Remember the famous studies that indicate each page of a blog or website needs no less than 13 pages of code to be considered "passable." No less than 30 to be considered "worthy of time." (Please Jehovah, don't get me started on people who use templates...we don't cook over an open flame anymore and we don't use templates.)Why would anybody stop off at your blog if you don't have counters, blogs rolls, links, agregators, news updates, live video feeds from your office, streaming radio content, ringtones and the like? You think people who come to your blog want to waste time reading?

3) Twitter

Can you believe that there are people who continue to live lives with problems and difficulties, when by simply getting an account on Twitter nothing would ever be difficult for them again? Nobody wants to say this to you, but everybody is thinkin it...NEWSFLASH: If you don't have Twitter, you are garbage as a human being. Forget about being laid let alone having thousands and thousands of hits to your website the minute you sign up for Twitter. Phew. It's out there. It's said.

4) Niche!
You think people want to visit a blog that is dedicated to something that as many as three other people in the country have already written about? Do we live in a nation of clones? Get out there and find a subject that nobody on this planet has ever once spoken or written about at any time in human history. That is if you want people to be taking the time to read your blog. If your goal is to be boring, fruitless and ignored, by all means chime in on something that somebody may have heard about before. Yawn...

5) Write Something IF You Must. But...

*Sigh* Ok, I probably shouldn't really make this point before I've had my morning coffee, but we're in this far so I might as well go for it. (But I am not to be held responsible for any choking I may be forced to do if I encounter anyone who doesn't understand the following point..

The best blogs do NOT have content. 

There, I said it. Let the cries of the ignorant and ancient ring out against me. Let's resurrect 2003 for the poor lost souls that want to say something and make a difference blah blah blah.

Look, the days of having something to say with a blog have gone the way of Humvees, CDs, and the Gin Blossoms. In other words.."bye bye!". Yes, I know there are still some hangers on out there who happen to be very prominent in the blogosphere that do still provide content in the form of (help me god) WRITING. And yes, I do read some of it, BUT...(hear this, minions)...there are exceptions to almost every rule. Please don't think that just because Seth Godin or (*gag*) Wil Wheaton continue to be popular even though they actually have writing on their blogs that you can do the same. Content is dead. People are far too busy to have to stop and read or think about anything. (I'm in Gen-Y. Hello????? I have shit to do!) Stick with bells and whistles. Preferably the ones that activate within .5-.9 seconds after arriving at your site. (According to a famous study, that's the average time it takes a person surfing the net to become bored with you these days.)

Ok, and I know that some of you dinosaurs are just not going to get it into your walnut sized reptilian brains that actually writing good content has gone the way of...well..the dinosaurs. So I offer this piece of advice to those who must participate in it.

Blog about blogs. That's really the only inroad left. Blog or (*shivers*) write only about how to blog. Or about people who blog. In a pinch for content, consider blogging about other social media. Preferably Twitter. MAYBE about Tumbler if you are desperate.

If all else fails, blog about Gen-Y. But please PLEASE be as broad, vapid, brief, yet offensive as possible when you do so. (See First Rule.) Otherwise, what's the point?

Nuff said. "Stacy", here I come.

Do It Now

Do it now. Right now. Even if you have to finish reading this post later in order to do it.

Do what now? Anything you can do right now that needs to be done.

Trash? Take it out now. Idea for a new novel strike you in the last few minutes? Write it down now. Have a phone call you need to return. Now.

You are sensing the pattern, no doubt. A lot of big things require planning and consideration, and we can't just hop into a decision. But if we are not careful, we won't ever have the mental space to research and make those big decisions, because we have neglected too many smaller things. And we have let them accumulate to such a degree that they represent one large obstacle to moving forward. The obstacle of "catching up".

Oh I know there are some people that do this automatically. Everything is done with speed and efficiency. Nothing is ever half-assed, and nothing is ever put off or forgotten. Such people have every moment in their life together and nothing gets left behind.

Then there are the normal people. Or in the very least, the people that are sometimes Too XYZ to resist the temptation to wait before doing the small things. I'm guilty.

It reminds me of a statistic I heard that is rather fascinating to me. Ironically, something close to half of native New York City residents have never been to Liberty Island. The reason most often cited? New Yorkers assume that since they live there in the same city, they could go see Liberty Island any day they want. In the meantime they do other things and visit other sites that are further away. Time goes on and eventually they realize they have never seen their own city's most famous landmark. 

Which is how the small things get you. It only takes a brief few minutes to read that article you have been meaning to check out. But you are quite tired right now. It will keep. You'll be able to remember the idea for a poem that came to you in the shower without writing it down. You are in a hurry and don't have time to find your notebook. You'll shoot off a quick email when you don't feel so stressed about life.

And on it goes. You get the idea. Jump on these things as close to instantly as you can while still being safe. It's a pain in the ass today, especially when it seems you can easily pluck off those small errands anytime. But that means they will be just as easy to ignore tomorrow as they are to do tomorrow.

Do yourself and your future time a favor. Do it now.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Just How Often Do Clothes Make the Man

I have to admit that I am not a slave to fashion. I am not worried about trends in clothing. (Or in just about anything else, for that matter.) I tend to purchase clothing, make use of it until it is not longer serviceable, and then discard it to buy new clothing. Given the rather decent quality of clothing I tend to buy sometimes, I have been known to keep certain shirts and pants for many years.
As I have been reading more articles about success on the job hunt and in the professional world, (particularly those written by the ubiquitous Gen-Y) I have learned that not only is this not the practice of most people, but that in some cases, some people insist that it keeps one back.

I can understand the need to look good when one is networking, or on the job. (Though I have never worked anywhere that required a suit.) Being smartly dressed on a date make sense. I even understand the psychological benefits some would garner by being smartly dressed even in private time. (Though I sometimes fall quite short on this one, I must say.) Yet some of the monthly (as in once every month) clothign budgets that some people recommend, I almost blanch. They run into the several hundreds of dollars, even for modestly employed people.

One even suggested that a monthly clothing budget should always be "two-thirds of whatever the food budget" would be.

I confess that my attitude towards clothing may be a bit on the conservative side. I shop for clothing perhaps once a year, or less. Not everyone will be as austere with their ensemble. But is replacing one's entire wardrobe several times a year really necessary to project success and competence? Do simply golf shirts and collared button-downs really go out of style so quickly in our society that if I am still wearing one I got in 2006 I am projecting a lack of pride in myself?

My clothes are always cleans, free of wrinkles, and lacking holes when I am out doing something other than exercising. Is this not enough?

Not that I am likely to suddenly change my whole clothing budget in the future, (I don't have the money for that.) But I am curious just how often any of you may replace entire wardrobes, and how crucial an expert knowledge of that years fashions is for your self improvement.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Social Media

Five years ago, I started toying with the notion of starting a blog. Everyone was doing it, and most of the ones I read just weren't that impressive to me. I figured, "I can do that." People were getting respected and admired for writing about the dumbest of things. Hundreds of people were listening to what these bloggers had to say. Maybe even thousands in some cases. And since there was really no other way for a non-connected writer like myself to get his words and thoughts out there, I figured I would give it a go.

I didn't know code or anything like that, so I launched on a search to find a WYSIWYG template. (Though I didn't use that term then. I didn't know that was a term.)

I found Blogger, and was impressed with the simplicity. This was a writer's template, not one for computer programmers. After a few days I determined to follow the old adage, "write what you know". So I did. I chose to write advice and opinions on stage acting, while sharing my own personal adventures in same. The result was "Always Off Book", my first blog, which I still keep today.

The many followers never really showed, though certain posts I have published over the years have sparked some debate and conversation that lasted a while. Nonetheless I hold onto it out of love.

A few years later came Myspace. I saw it as a bit silly and confusing, but I reluctantly joined as a way to keep in touch with friends from a central location without having to use e-mail. I thought perhaps people would be more likley to respond to my messages if I used it. They weren't, but I held on anyway because it had some fun elements.

Then there was Facebook, which I joined with the same ill-fated mission as when I joined Myspace. It has eclipsed MySpace, but I don't understand why. It's basically the same thing. I get ignored by friends just as efficiently there as I did on Myspace.

Just before Christmas of last year, I got it in my head to start a new blog in addition to Always Off Book. You're currently reading that blog, and if you go back to entries from January you can read the story behind why this one exists.

A mere 30 or so days ago, with a very skeptical bent of mind, I joined Twitter for the first time.

In all of these actions, I was engaging in "new media" or as those within it prefer to call it now "social media".

But I am not your typical independent firebrand Gen-Y individual looking to burn my personal brand on everything that moves so I can get ahead and become location independent. (There's my SEO sentence of the day.) No, I use these things to connect with people. To do what writers do and share my ideas through writing, so that people might have a better day because of something I write. I don't need to change the world, but I want to alter it's trajectory a bit, and hopefully run into like minded people. Also to experience organic networking that would lead to bigger and better things.

In some ways, this has happened. Overall however, I don't know if I could be called a social media success story at this point. And I think I know part of the reason. It has taken me a while, but the truth has begun to dawn on me. The answer is this...

I see social media as a tool to do things. A means to an end, not the end itself.

And I believe most people, especially the "Gen-Y" types see it as the end in and of itself.

Like I told you, I joined Facebook, (and Myspace before it) to keep in touch with my friends. That is all I use if for. I don't spread a "personal brand" with it. (Let's just say right here and now that I think the overall concept of personal branding as it is currently defined is about 50% bullshit to me.)

Youtube is just for laughs. Twitter is...well I'm still working on what the hell Twitter is supposed to be for me right now.

And then there are my blogs. These are the pride and joy of my online presence. Where content IS king, dammit. (And if you don't like that I said that because it is "sooo 2007" then you are free to take your short attention span elsewhere.)

I have met some good people with social media over the years. Mostly because they found my content and it spoke to them, (which is how I wanted it to be originally), but also through intentional means. I don't mean to lump all of the new friends I have made into the same cold stew. But the social media thing really is in many ways extending beyond its own usefulness for someone like me, now that it is seen so often as more than a tool.

You know what 75% of the Tweets, blogs, videos and Facebook pages I encounter in social media are dedicated to? Social media itself. Some days it seems that many people in social media just can't shut up ABOUT it, and use it for a purpose outside of social media aggrandizement. Content consists of...

--How to get more followers on Twitter
--How Social Media Can Expand Your Business
--How Social Media Defines Your Personal Brand
--Like it or not, Privacy is dead, make sure the 10,000 People that may hire you one day approve of every last posting you ever put on Facebook ever, because they ARE going to check it. Here's how to make sure you're ok.
--SEO doesn't have to be boring, but it DOES have to be.
--Networking, Networking, and More Networking
--How to Tie your Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Tumbler, Wordpress, and Foursquare accounts into Your Toaster.
--Not to mention the approximately 458 million posts that incorporate both "Gen-Y" and "Social Media" into their titles.

The fact is, that isn't me. Hell, I can't even get a straight answer from somebody as to whether or not I am even in Generation Y.

I am not against marketing. Businesses need to do it. Freelancers, such as I am trying to be, have to do it in regards to the services they hope to sell. I am working on it, believe me.

But I can't do all of it all of the time, every waking moment. The ubiquity of it all! The pavement pounding and the phone calls, and the ads and the networking and the back scratching and the link passing, just to get people to have a conversation with me? A conversation?? Kind of sounds like job hunting. The way it was before social media even entered our lives. Which begs the question, if it isn't any easier than it used to be to connect with people for non-retail purposes, has social media served a greater purpose?

I don't know. I can't answer that. All I can say is I'd rather connect to people through my ideas for once, instead of having to listen to lectures and read articles and retweet tweets pertaining to the mastery of nuance of the latest social media fad. (I maintain Twitter itself will level off and be replaced some year.) I want to at some point not be wheeling and dealing, searching and sliding, researching and networking and scratching backs and learning the latest lingo just to connect with human beings. I'd like to use social media once in a while for the very thing I got into it for in the first place. To make a personal difference in people's lives without feeling like I'm trying to sell them a used car. I'd like to succeed by using social media when appropriate without having to surrender to the notion that it is the new voluntary version of Big Brother.

I'd like to matter with the aid of social media. Not because of it.

But perhaps I am just TOO XYZ for that too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nothing to Fear But....Indecision Itself?

Many scholars believe that Hamlet's fatal flaw was being indecisive. I have never agreed, and probably never will. An interesting discussion, but not germane to this blog's content.

I, however, am germane to this blog's content, and I have no problem admiting that sometimes I am indecisive. That perhaps being so has stagnated my life at times.

It isn't out of laziness. It is out of over analyzing the options I have. And perhaps sometimes it is the fear of making the wrong choice that leads me to studying something into oblivion. (I have made some doozies in my time, and each time I become more determined to not do it again.) The bigger the decision, the greater the chance of my indecision.)

Here is an interesting post I cam across today, via Brazen Careerist. It sums up well the sometimes paralyzing nature of over thinking our decisions. I recommend it for those who, like me, sometimes find themselves Too XYZ to make a decision.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Belated Sense of Direction

This blog was designed not simply to offer personal advice and observations about succeeding,  but also to, in as frank a manner as possible, examine some of the reasons I may be so far behind society's (and sometimes my own) definition of success. While much of my lagging behind remains a mystery to me, years of introspection have led me to realize a great many possible reasons. Some could not have been avoided. Some could have been. Some are huge, and some started out quite small, and would, in theory have been easily rectified if I had as much self knowledge at the time as I do now. I'd actually like to talk about one of the small things today.

Driving. I'm not especially bad at it, and once I have driven somewhere, oh, about 100 times, I have no problem with doing it. But there has always been a slight tension in me associated with driving. Especially when driving somewhere new. It's better now, but for the first few years I drove, it was almost clinical.

It was a combination of things, really. First, my sense of direction is garbage. If I could park in a giant paper bag, I probably couldn't find my way out of it on my own. Owning a GPS has for the most part eliminated this problem for me today, but for the longest time it kept me from things.

I don't think you can really learn that. My mother has an exceptional sense of direction, and she is the one that taught me to drive. (My father died when I was a child, and ZERO people stood up to help fill the gap. Another reason I don't have all the tools I need,  but also another post.) So her sense of direction didn't rub off on me.

Mom, however, is also a slightly nervous driver. Never takes highways except in an emergency. Doesn't like to drive after dark. Likes to hover just under the limit. Because this was the type of driving I was exposed to 85% of the time growing up, and as I was getting a licenses, I did inherit those things.

So combine a lousy sense of direction with a pretty constant fear of other people in traffic, and you get someone who doesn't drive more than 10 miles from home very often between the ages of 16 and 21.

When college came, I very rarely ventured further than a few miles from campus in the car for the same reasons. I feared getting lost, or hurting somebody. Fortunately in college there were more caravans on which I could hitch a ride to do stuff than there were in high school. But as far exploring nearby towns and such myself...never happened. Maps just look Greek to me.

To this day I do not do highways very often. (But more than I used to.) I won't drive certain times of the evening or morning. Traffic makes me a wreck. (No pun intended.) So through the years, my job hunt, (a dismal failure anyway for much of my life) always took one thing into consideration first; can I reach the place via public transportation. If I couldn't I wouldn't apply for the job.

Now I am somewhat fortunate in that I live within the Washington D.C./Maryland/Virginia public transportation vortex. Trains. Metro. Buses. If I had ever gotten a job in those places I could have swung a public commute in most cases, I dare say. But this is beside the point. I am sure you can tell that such a timid view of driving, seemingly an insignificant character quirk for the longest time in my mind, was actually a moderate to severe limitation on my creating opportunities for myself in all sorts of areas. Career. Recreation. Social.

Could this have been different had I been taught to drive by a more adventurous, relaxed driver than my mother? Or was it a symptom of a deeper psychological situation within me that could not have turned out any differently, regardless of who taught me to drive? I imagine the true answer to that can never be known. But I mention here because without a doubt it was something that initially seemed to be rather small; I don't like driving. But over the years it became a significant hindrance.

And it remains a problem to some extent even now.

But I have improved. Again, the GPS has helped a great deal. I try to make plans that allow me to drive in lighter traffic times. Sheer practice on the horrible Route 340 in West Virginia, (whose traffic flow has increased by 65% since I first took it to a theatrical rehearsal 7 years ago) make things easier than they otherwise might have been.

But there is still no way in hell I am driving the D.C. beltway, no matter how good the job.And it would have to be very important for me to attempt I-270 in Maryland. But I do things now I didn't do as a teen. Maybe in a few years I will be doing even more. If I'm not Too XYZ for it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Look Before You Melee

I am not a true gamer. I have a lot of fun with video games, but I am perfectly content to play on what most would consider ancient systems. (Genesis. N64. GameCube.) Even when those systems were new, I often bought games that the serious gamers never bothered with. Mario based games, or winter sports related things. My low level of gaming skill wouldn't allow me to enjoy, much less succeed in more hard core games.

Once in a while I'll play a first person shooter. (Set to the easiest level, of course, because I suck at such things.) Last night I actually beat such a game on my GameCube. A first person shooter that takes place in World War II. I think the historical nature of it compelled me to buy it last month at the used game store.More appealing than shooting aliens or zombies in warehouses.

It was frustrating at times, playing that thing, given my low skill level. But despite that it was addicting. Not just because of the realism, but because I managed to make slow but steady progress. Progress that made sense in the real world, as opposed to the usually confusing physics of other shoot-em ups.

In other words, I was learning from the things that didn't work, and applying new strategies to accomplish missions when I played again. I remembered a concept that I'd encountered in a other video games I have played;  if you want to get anywhere you have to remember to play defensively sometimes.

My video game history, pathetic as it is, is filled with games I never conquered, or made myself crazy conquering, because I'd be too anxious to advance. I'd run into every room and start blasting to hell everything that moved. In a boxing game I would basically never hit the "block" or "dodge" button. I would just pound away at the opponents head as fast as I could until he was knocked out. Such a melee approach often would get me quite far rather fast for the first, say, third of a game. Then, not surprisingly, as things started to get more difficult on the higher levels, I'd hit a wall. My characters would die quickly, or get knocked out in one round. All because I wouldn't take the time to finesse things.

In this most recent game, that charging and blasting was not going to cut it, and I found that out fast. So I had to develop strategies. Sometimes I'd have to have the character wait, and duck behind something. Certain targets could not be reached unless I ignored other potential targets. Worst of all, a few missions required that I let myself get hit for a minute while things worked themselves out in my favor.

Same with the boxing. To win, I had to learn to actually do something other than punch. I had to block. Weave. Duck.

Over the years, I started to think that this approach may have been indicative of an attitude I have about other things. And it's true; I do have a tendency to want everything done, right now. To line everything up, work like hell, and then hope at the end I will have found success due to sheer cussedness.

I've learned that just like in some video games, that will only get you so far. To succeed in a career, in life, even in friendships, (especially in friendships?) one has to sometimes fall back. Assess. Go really slowly or even stand still for a while. Forgo one smaller benefit in order to get a crack at a much larger one. Once in a while, it even requires us to willingly take a hit, with knowledge that we will have enough power to get through to the end. In the last few years I have begin to take that approach more often, both on GameCube and in the real world.

Could this change in perception account for my somewhat increased success in these type of video games? Who can say? I can however be certain that is has contributed to an increased success in my life.

But watch out, because I am still unafraid to melee when needed...

Have you ever used a melee approach when finesse would have been more appropriate?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Half Belated, Half on Time

Between keeping up with more than one blog, still trying to understand the world of Twitter, a stubborn head cold and auditioning for plays, some things are bound to get left behind. But give me credit when it is due me, I fill in the void, albeit belatedly.

Fellow blogger, Twitterer, and freelance writer Melissa Breau, interviewed my last week as part of a series she is doing on freelance writers. Part One of that interview can be found right here. Part two is coming sometime this weekend.

Do me the favor of reading it, and letting me know what you think, and do her the favor of reading it, along with other posts of hers, and leaving comments and questions for her. She writes on many topics.

And of course, follow us both on Twitter, if you have it, though she is better at it than I am.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kindred Blogger

I wanted to draw everyone's attention to this post by fellow blogger, (and new Twitter acquaintance),  Ashley Nicole.

She draws attention to how sometimes it feels like the hard work isn't paying off. (Though she knows that one day it will, and she is right.) By far a more positive minded person then myself. But as someone who is just trying to meet some people, gain some influence, and make a dent, though not yet succeeding as she would like to, I can see in this post some similarities between her and myself. Perhaps she is ever so slightly XYZ in some things as well.

I was touching on a similar concept in my most recent post about being a victim. Ashley is not claiming the same things exactly as I did in my post, but I think there is a connection there that some people may have missed when reading my assessment.

So go read hers,  and leave her some feedback, if you please.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Own Your Victimization

“Repeat after me, ‘I am not a victim,”.

I would hear this from a bitchy ex-girlfriend of mine quite often when I would mention how unfairly I had been treated, or how it is sometimes near impossible to overcome the inertia of multiple large setbacks which I have faced all of my life.

I’d repeat it, to shut her up. (Not that she ever took her own advice.) But I don’t think I ever once believed it. Still don’t.

In all fairness though, she is not the only person I have encountered that made use of this mantra, either for their own good, or against me and my world perceptions. And while I may complain about certain things less now than I have in the past, one thing I haven’t changed my mind on is how ineffective this “I am not a victim” thing is for me.

The fact is, I am a victim.

That’s right, I said it.

I understand that in theory not seeing ones self as a victim is supposed to establish what psychologists call the “internal locus of control”. It’s the perception that we have within ourselves the power to change our negative circumstances. We make things happen, as opposed to them happening to us. No outside force is responsible for the situations in which we find ourselves.

Clearly, those that came up with this concept never had to deal with some of the things that I, and other that are Too XYZ have had to deal with, through little to no fault of their own.

I’ve suffered more set backs then I care to remember. I have been poor all of my life. More then once I have had my stability shaken when circumstances I had come to rely on were destroyed. I have had zero career mentors, stumbled on virtually no lucky breaks, possess almost no network, failed at several creative endeavors, never held down a true full time job of my choosing, and outside of my recent freelance writing endeavors have never once been given a chance to be paid to make use of my true talents.

Through it all many of my friends have been either apathetic or disloyal. I have had almost no sounding board for any of my ideas or fears. I get no visitors. Few phone calls. So I often must assimilate my life struggles alone.

All of that despite my best efforts to the contrary. As a result I sometimes battle bitterness, fatigue, depression, (not clinical), hopelessness and loneliness.

Yet I am supposed to state with conviction, “I am not a victim,”?

Do I know of what I am a victim? Not with any certainty. Are there those in the world that have been victims of worse things than myself. Of course. But that doesn’t stop me from owning my own victimization. You should own yours as well.

For you see by owning it, we can fight against it. We can acknowledge that for whatever damned reason we are struggling more than the average person. We have been put through more than our fair share of discouragement. We have not succeeded the way we thought we would. The way we were told we would. The way we know in our hearts we are equipped to, if only given a chance.

If we immerse ourselves in trying to accept the ever so important internal locus of control when dealing with lives that have been a little Too XYZ, we are forced to conclude there is something wrong with us. That who we are is not good enough and must be changed. That we are lesser people.

To me, that is the one way in which I choose to not be a victim. I won’t be told by people who usually have no idea what it has been like to struggle as I do that I am to blame for everything that has happened. I tried it before, and you know what? It made me feel terrible about who I am. It made me feel like damaged goods because I haven’t found a niche of success where most people have. Because I haven’t chosen to do exactly what people tell me to do in every aspect of life just for the chance to gamble at possible success. (No guarantees of course.)

It’s ok to call yourself a victim, so long as you are doing your best to escape from it. If you are anything like me you’ll think you have escaped it many times over, only to be thrown back down into even further victimization. Blame something, if you need to, but don’t blame it on your own unworthiness. If you are fighting hard in the only ways you can, you are worthy. Sometimes it really just isn’t your fault.

Repeat after me, “Sometimes, by God, I am a victim. But not forever.”

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Come Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow Follow Me?

(Believe me, it's a song.)

But the point being made here is that as a blogger I like for people to follow what I write. Both officially and unofficially. And I certainly hope the unofficial numbers are higher than the official ones, as I have only two official followers.

I have lately tried finding blogs that I want to follow more and comment on. I feel when someone puts effort into a blog, the best way to repay the effort is to make educated comments on their posts. It is what I seek as well as what i try to provide. In the near future I will be putting links to some of my most frequently visited blogs on the main page of this one.

But my question to you is, in this era of Twitter, and scratching one another's back and networking, is there not a limit to the number of blogs one can follow with any degree of sincerity? One cannot possibly on a regular basis keep track of all blogs they are likely to come into can they? It seems just the ones written by those within one's network would be too numerous to enjoy much.

We want to connect, make friends, and network. We want to gain influence and attention to our own blogs. But there is a limit, I would dare say.

So let me many blogs do you follow faithfully? Be honest here, and don't conflate the numbers. Just tell me how many blogs you read carefully most days and comment on, say, at least twice a week. I want to hear from you on this one, folks!

Monday, March 8, 2010

When Should Rules Rule?

The temptation among many creative types is to say, "Ignore the rules. Make your own rules. DOWN WITH ALL RULES! We are Too XYZ for stinking rules!"

Indeed if you are caught following a rule or a convention, you are not an artist, writer, filmmaker. You become a sell out.

Take it easy. Let's back up a bit.

I tend to think that breaking a rule simply for the sake of breaking it is not only foolish, but a tad boring. Refusing to conform to the rules 100% of the time in every circumstance is just being obnoxious, and to an ironic extent, conformist. Rules should never be broken for their own sake. Not because they are sacrosanct, (though there will be consequences for breaking them, like it or not.) But because to break rules indiscriminately doesn't challenge you. Your decision at every step is easy; "Break the rule!"

But truly knowing yourself and understanding where you want to go and who you want to be requires better discernment than that. It requires effort. It requires a true understanding of what rules are, and why a specific rule is threatening who you want to be, and how you want to proceed in life.

The great visionaries of the world were almost exclusively rule breakers. But they didn't sit in a room one day before they were renowned and say, "whatever is expected of me, I am going to do the opposite of it. Just so I can be hip." No. Rule breakers that we admire became so because they let were aware of what their hearts told them. They lived by Ralph Waldo Emerson's edict, "Don't die with your music still in you." And if following their music meant that boundaries were crossed or rules were broken, then so be it.

But the key is that they knew themselves well enough to understand the reasons for their rejection of the rules. Some visionaries did end up breaking almost all of the rules within their sphere. Some broke a few. Some actually only broke one single rule, but did so at a crucial time in history. When a confluence of personal passion, cultural readiness, and contemporary like minded people brought about a paradigm shift.

None of which would have happened if their actual goal had merely been to "break all the rules, all the time."

Learn from the entirety of their example. Make sure you observe when they followed the rules, and what rules they followed, and why, in addition to when and how they broke the rules. Find out which rules help you be true to yourself, and which ones hinder it. And if doing something in the conventional way speaks to you the most, by all means follow convention! It will not be the end of your creativity and your power. Indeed, it will be the beginning of your honesty with yourself about how you work. And that will be the very first step toward your greatest potential.

When you reach that point, no rule can stop you.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Some Fine Tips From Another Who May Be Too XYZ?

I came across this post, and I wanted to share it with readers of this blog, because I think it sums up perfectly how to keep a positive outlook when one finds that life has not turned out in a way that society would call successful.

Read it here.

I have not met Maggie, though I left a comment on her Brazen Careerist page about this blog post.

I have been in a similar frustrating situation, but for several years longer. However, if I had been able to assert as positive an attitude as Maggie only two years out of college, I would perhaps be in a different place today. But what matters, I suppose, is that I have begun to reach more positive, constructive places in my life now.

All of the ideas she presents are good ones, and I have attempted each of them in some degree. As I have said to other bloggers in the recent past, however, the volunteering thing hasn't quite panned out for the good for me. I just haven't found a good organization yet. One that will appreciate me for what I do, and won't burn me. I will be posting about my views on volunteerism in another post in the near future.

Another thing that Maggie has going for her is a network within her community on which she can rely. One that she is continuing to build. One of my biggest weaknesses over the years has been a lack of a network. I know nobody in the town in which I live, and have no immediate prospects for meeting anyone. Too XYZ and all of that. But had I reached out as early and as often as Maggie had, I am once again sure I would be in a different place now.

I am not beating myself here. I did what I could. But she provides a prime example of the importance of local relationships both when things are bad, and as things improve. (More on that from me as time goes on as well.)

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Potential Disaster of Living for Potential Employers

I randomly came across this interesting blog post.

I agree with the blogger. I think as time goes on we are sacrificing too much of our privacy. When a few clicks can solve the problem, why not do so?

I mentioned to this blogger in another forum that there are those who see the use of privacy settings to be problematic, because then employers will ask,

"What are they hiding?" So people I know keep their Facebooks totally open, and then delete my comments because "potential employers may look me up, and I don't want them to know about that."

This is just another example of why I think I have failed to embrace the traditional job search. (And failed to succeed at it.)

We are told that potential employers will judge us by our resume. But also the format of the resume. And the font. And we shouldn't use any other color paper but white because that is not professional.

Employers will get a first impression of us based on our clothes. (Assuming we get the interview, which I usually do not.) Don't wear colors that are too loud. Be conservative or the employer will be nervous about hiring you.

The same is true of you wear you favorite cologne or perfume. Do not wear it to your interview, because the hiring manager or his secretary may be offended by, or allergic to the fragrance. And unlike anywhere else in the world, during the interview process nobody is expected to deal with someones personal style. There would be no way to hire someone with perfume that makes you sneeze, and simply request politely that when they start work, they don't wear it, and explain the problem. Nobody gets hired if someone sneezes after all.

Answer questions during an interview, but ask your own. You don't want to seem like you haven't spent 4 months researching the company. But not too many questions or you will seem pushy, or the manager will think you appear smarter than he does, and we cannot have that. Chat it up with the first person who opens the door for you while you wait. The may be the gatekeeper. Or not.

Before getting to an interview stage, never have any kind of debt at ALL, because if you can't keep your student loans paid off quickly, or can't cover your credit card bill this month, how can you be expected to be a trustworthy employee? And of course, managers WILL check your credit before hiring you.

Never let yourself be tagged in Facebook pictures you wouldn't want you boss or potential boss to see. Monitor the comments people leave on your Facebook, in case your boss or future boss decide to look you up online and see what you are up to. And NOW........

"Don't use privacy settings because your boss or potential boss will wonder what you are HIDING?" Where does it end??

Being professional, polite and able to demonstrate your ability to do the job are one thing. But when did we suddenly feel the need in this world to censor every moment of our lives for the sake of an employer or potential employer? How did it come to pass that we have to eradicate any record of our so called sins, in order to be worth hiring, even at the local cafe? Sins that everyone commits...such as being in stupid pictures, going to parties, having a few too many once in a while, going into debt. Or simply not having a resume on paper that does our intellect and our experiences justice. (Like me.)

I have goofy pictures of myself on Facebook. I post notes to my friends about really weird stuff sometimes. I make wry or off color jokes to people I have known for half of my life. And I have all my settings on private. (One reason I do not use my Facebook to network with employers.) If that makes me unmarketable...well it can line up next to my "significant full time employment gap", my less than impressive "networking abilities", my lack of "demonstrable increased salary and responsibility" on my resume, and 40 other things that have kept me from landing a full time job EVER. But a line has to be drawn somewhere. I will not pretend to be something I am not for people that only MIGHT give me a job. I guess I am Too XYZ for that.

I don't know if the 3 people in that last 7 years that granted me an interview, (that's right, only three) bothered to look into my Facebook, my blog, my letters to the editor, my cologne choice, my shoe laces, and all sort of other things, but if that is why I have never gotten any of those jobs, I think I'd rather not have them.

They can make me learn more skills. (I have been trying to do that.) But they can't make me fake my way into a personality that is not my own.