Why So Quiet?

“Why so quiet?” asked no one of me, ever. Yet, here I am, writing my semi-regular excuse for neglecting to post a thing in ages. Come to think of it, I wonder what the ratio of actual posts to posts about why I haven’t posted, might be. But I digress…

A photo of fog on a lake reflecting nearby trees in full day but the lighting is dark.
Here’s a picture of fog on a lake for no other reason than that content with images gets more clicks. It doesn’t have a thing to do with this post otherwise.

Why so quiet? A while back, I wrote about how I needed to level up on the corporate side of my career, and I followed through. I made my day job my focus and my priority. I dug in and worked hard. I became more mindful of my tone when pushing back on policies and processes that were…inefficient. And hot damn! The work paid off. An opportunity arose and my name was suggested. I interviewed, and ended up with a dream role, one that I really believed in. I thought I was going to help save the world (as much as a content developer can, anyway). I even did that cliché go-getter thing where I viewed every frustrating challenge as an opportunity to problem solve and showcase my ability, excited to advance my career and do some real good in the world.

And then, without warning, they cut funding to the project and my contract ended.

Now, if you’re in the business of writing and developing content, particularly in contract situations, you know that this is common. The whole point of contract work is that you’re disposable, no matter how talented or experienced you are, and dismissal often has more to do with budget than performance. Still, in this case, I was very lucky. A spot opened up on my previous team and I was able to negotiate a transition into that role. I lost a project, but not my job altogether, and during a pandemic when lots of people did lose their jobs, I counted myself blessed and moved on.

But I was still (am still) heartbroken about that contract ending.

The only real thing that softened the blow was knowing that my fiction writing was still there, and I still had control over it.

So, the first thing I did was cut mental funding to a project.

The novel I was working on is on hold indefinitely because it read like my own personal therapy session spiced with ample shade at everyone I’ve ever met. The bloodthirsty demon I’d created to splatter gore all over the place did nothing to cover immature writing and hackneyed dreck that my work should have evolved well past by now. Maybe someday, once I’m finished working through all my personal shit, I’ll revisit that piece and make it something worth reading, but today is not that day.

I do have a project I’m actively working on. It began as a short story and has expanded from there. And the more I write, the more ideas I have. I think—and I don’t want to jinx it—but I think it might end up being a worthwhile novel. But that means it’s going to take more time. A lot more time.

And I’m watching the hourglass. I see said time slipping away. I know how long it’s been since I put anything viable out into the world (approx. 6 ½ years at the time of this writing), but y’all…let’s talk about the world for a second.

I am of the belief that for a writer to create a really beautiful piece—poetry or prose, fiction or non-fiction—the writer has to care enough about the human condition to pour all that creative energy into saying the deep, meaningful thing. Well, after the last two years of watching people ignorantly refuse to help protect each other against COVID-19, and the last ALL of my living years of hearing people’s heartless responses to social injustice, and that people are still not doing much about the climate crisis, all I really want to say to humanity is, “FUCK OFF! FUCK RIGHT OFF, RIGHT NOW! Get off my lawn. Lose my number. Delete my email. Don’t find me on the apps.”

And if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

So yeah…that’s why I’ve been so quiet.

Time to Level Up

I took a sip of the champagne—the good, imported stuff. This was a celebration and I couldn’t have been prouder of my husband for getting the raise and soon, the title, he’d worked so hard for. Still, the thought tickled the back of my brain like the bubbles tickled the back of my throat: I need to level up in my career.

Let me take a moment to acknowledge that what follows is the sappy song of someone who got everything she wanted in life; the kind of stuff that rolls eyes the internet over. It does not provide any concrete solutions to anyone’s problem. It will neither be discussed as sage wisdom in the forums of accomplished women, nor taught in the halls of learned men, though it may get a few hate shares (a click is a click). So, if you’re not rolling out the guillotine yet…

The day job. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s the job that pays the bills while you’re working on the career, particularly a creative career. I’ve taken a lot of criticism over the years about how I balance the day job with creative endeavors, and it has mostly come from creative circles. From barely audible side comments and “just sayin’” observations, to dramatic tales of sacrifices made for art, I’ve lost count of the ways people tactlessly opined that I put far too much energy into the corporate resume and not enough into honing my craft. That these observations often coincided with something the observers wanted me to do for them is perhaps why I continued doing what I needed to do to live up to my own standards as a grown woman and paid little mind to their criticism. The bills weren’t going to pay themselves, and it seemed better to work towards a job I could tolerate than to keep bouncing from something I hated to something I was about to hate in the interest of conserving energy for art (or using misery to fuel it).

What I got for my effort was a resume full of day jobs that led to good jobs in my field, which I shaped into the corporate side of my career overall. On the corporate side, I have enough experience that I’m in demand but not so much that it works against me. I like what I do and I’m good at it. I even really like my current position, which I get to fulfill from my home office. Things are going well.

The problem is the self-induced career stagnation. When an opportunity to advance the corporate side comes along, I think, If I throw my hat into the ring and it works out, then that’s what I will be—not a dark fiction writer. Though I am no more correct than the critics I’m able to ignore, when the thought is my own I tend to give it more attention than it’s worth, and that can lead to missed opportunities. This phenomenon is not unique to me; I’ve been discussing it with fellow creative people for a long time. In fact, many of the people who’ve criticized my balance of steady jobs with creative pursuits have also confessed to experiencing this same phenomenon, and I wonder if their criticism comes from not being 100% pleased with their own decisions on the matter.

Yet, there I was, trying to make a crossroads out of a clear path, when my husband called to tell me he got his raise and to give me the details about pending promotions. Now, I don’t really believe in signs. It stands more to reason that we see the signs we want to see based on the decisions we’ve already made, but if I had been waiting for a sign that it was time to level up on the corporate side, that would have been it.

As I said, I clearly don’t have any answers or concrete formulas on how to manage a career (I was literally just talking about signs). If there’s a point at all, it’s that:

No one can determine your path, assign your priorities, or define your success but you, and it’s perfectly fine to ignore anyone else who tries.

And THAT’S how we do motivational posters around here.

Is There Such a Thing as Social Media Anxiety Disorder?

We all know that social anxiety disorder is a very real thing. It’s crippling to those who suffer from it, and it’s hard to watch a loved one go through it. And while I hate to bring up social media within the context of a serious disorder, I’m starting to wonder if there is such a thing as social media anxiety disorder. It seemed a ridiculous thought at first, because seriously, just turn the computer off–right? But the more I entertained the thought, the more valid it started seem.

Again, I start with my usual disclaimer. I am not slamming social media. Social media is not the devil. It’s a very useful tool, from marketing to keeping in touch with friends with whom you otherwise might have lost contact, to sharing information.  And let’s not forget the girl who used Facebook to find her birth mother.

I use social media to share my blog posts, and will absolutely use it to market my book. As far as day jobs are concerned, I wouldn’t scoff at getting back into digital and social media marketing. I get it. I understand it. I truly enjoy it.  And as someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy the telephone, I’d rather communicate via the computer (which is a whole other, relatively played out, post entirely).

That said, who gets stomach butterflies (and not in the good way) upon seeing a Facebook notification? Who signs in to Twitter and immediately signs back out again because the Twitter drama is just a little much that day? Who hears that “ping!” on the mobile device (or whatever sound you have your various social media alerts set to) and immediately wonders, “What now?”

I don’t think I need to point out that people are often much more vicious online than they would ever be in person, which leads me to wonder if people are being more honest, or if they’re just being jerks, trolls, or bullies. This, of course, leads me to wonder (and often judge myself) about why in the heck I even have relationships with these people to begin with.  Is that where the anxiety comes from?  Or, is it that in an effort to not exhibit these traits myself, I second guess every last thing I post?  Unless there’s been wine, which again, is a whole other post entirely.

I’m even agonizing a little over this blog.  Is it a smart career move to speak negatively about social media experiences when I’ve just admitted to possibly wanting to get back into digital and social media marketing down the line?

I think at this point, a lot of us have a love/hate relationship with social media. I have often fantasized about deleting my accounts altogether, which is always a rather short fantasy because, in this world, not having a social media presence means there’s something wrong with you. From employers thinking you have something to hide or aren’t tech savvy enough to figure it out, to commentaries about how James Holmes didn’t have a social media presence.

As it turns out, we have to have a social media presence and it has to be pristine. It can’t show us as we are, but as we want the world to believe we are or else *insert list of crappy things people are going to say/believe about you here*. It seems that social media has become another mask we have to wear. And maybe that’s where the anxiety comes from.

Is anyone else having this feeling, or is it just me?

Update: Apparently it’s not just me.  Check out this great article from Julie Spira: Do You Suffer From Social Media Anxiety Disorder?