Goodbye Apron, Hello (Again) HootSuite

You either make time to write or you don't. It's a priority or it's not. Having an excess of time one one's hands does not compel one to write. I still don't have it narrowed down exactly what compels people to write, but I'm highly suspect that an excess of free time is a motivator to sit down and put words down.

Several months ago I gave up my media job in San Jose and began waiting tables. The goal was to spend a couple of years carving out a career as a freelance writer. I was going to go back to my roots to put that magazine journalism degree to good use. I was taking a leap of faith in my own abilities, discipline and drive. I was prepared to be poor. I was asked what I wanted to do, decided, then threw myself into it whole-hog. I was going to write.

I've published nothing since. In 7 months I've earned not a single byline. It's not for lack of writing. There has been lots and lots of writing. But when I began to explore what I wanted out of this endeavor, what I was best at, where my strengths were, I discovered I didn't want to write articles for newspapers, websites and magazines. I didn't want to be a freelance journalist.

I want to tell my own stories.

Whether in raw essay form or barely hidden behind the veil of fabricated characters, the power of my voice exists within the stories I have accumulated. Telling you what happened, secrets and all, is what I'm best at. Telling my tales is where all the impetus lies, the real reason I sit down to write most days. Everything else distracts from this best goal.

Of course, coming to terms with what I am supposed to be writing meant coming to terms with the knowledge that people will be hurt. Telling one's stories means being brave and taking huge interpersonal risks. It means pushing down the voice inside you that demands, "This is off-limits. Stop your story." And that voice is very loud.

Deciding to tell my stories also means finding myself in tears on a regular basis. Or as angry as hot lava as writing a passage reveals more about that incident than I had previously recalled. Or dripping in self-doubt. Telling one's stories is a constant therapy session. It's exhausting.

Much like waiting tables is exhausting. I had forgotten how much it takes out of you.



I just remembered that I waited tables and tended bar while going to college. Surely, I could do that again and write on the side. Waiting tables would free me up to carve out that freelancer writer life I thought I wanted. Waiting tables would pay the bills while I created a sustainable income for myself doing what I love.

But waiting tables is fucking hard! Even working part-time, the work leaves me both mentally and physically worn out. It's stressful, high-impact and it leaves this nearly 35-year-old beat and with a backache. And it's certainly not as lucrative as I had imagined. You don't get to come back to the restaurant industry after a decade away, now living in one of the most acclaimed dining cities in the world, and get primo shifts at Michelin-star rated restaurants. I have friends who pull 80 grand a year waiting tables, but they have been working their way into these choice positions all along, and they are absolutely phenomenal at their trade.

Truth be told, I'm just a mediocre server. I was told by my dear friend Leo, a friend I made at the restaurant where I work now, "you're not a restaurant person." At the time I was offended. He refused to go into detail; that's how Leos do. But I thought about it for days: "How am I not a restaurant person?"

One beer-soaked evening (for those in the industry there are many), Leo indulged me and expounded further: "You care too much. You let people get to you. I can see you standing at your tables with Pissed Off written all over your face. If you let your tables get under your skin, you are not a great server."

He was right. And putting it that way made me feel less like a failure at serving. I'm decent at it. But I'm never going to get a gig at The French Laundry. Not happening.

And so, because freelance articles were not where I was focusing my writing efforts and because it became apparent that, for me, waitressing was a dead-end enterprise, I began to panic. OH MY GOD, I thought, I'm going to be a 40-year-old waitress barely scraping rent money together. The idea kept me up at night. How was I going to retire someday? Ever take a vacation? Have adequate health insurance, for fuck's sake?

Lucky for me--I am often lucky for reasons beyond my comprehension--a career angel came knocking at my door. A position for CBS Local Digital Media became available: Social Media Coordinator. And the guy who recruited me to come out from Tennessee in 2007 asked if I wanted to come back to the world of Twittering and Facebooking for the media.

It was an offer too good to refuse. It includes a 401K, sick days (!), vacation time and the most precious thing of all: subsidized health insurance. Mr. Dentist, it's been too long, here I come.

I start next Monday. I'll be back at Broadway and Battery where my tenure in San Francisco began. I'm thrilled. It's the smart, responsible path to take, and I'm so much more secure in my well-being knowing something more financially stable is around the corner. At present I fear a bone break or sudden illness like children fear closet monsters. A hospital visit would put me back so far I'd never recover.

And I'll make time for writing. If I want to get it done, I will. I don't need a part-time job to tell my stories, just the wherewithal to get my ass in the chair and put the words down. John Grisham managed to pump out best-sellers while working 100 hours a week as a practicing attorney. I can tell my tale and also work 40. A media career path does not preclude literary accomplishment. I'm going to prove this theory.

October 1st I'm back to an office job. My desk is huge, my co-workers awesome and my bank account is breathing a sigh of relief. I'm excited. I feel incredibly blessed to have the opportunity.

For now, that's all the life news that is fit to self-publish.

Nodding Furiously Over Here

...the best writers left their websites for jobs with established media companies; established media companies asked these writers—along with many who really shouldn’t be in these jobs—to make content sound blog-ish; cross-site discourse fell off, with the power to shape a conversation aggregated among sites from which so much content now flows down a hierarchy; memes and traffic-generation schemes quickly eroded what had once been innovative ideas; a shared conversational tone predominated, suggesting that certain content was supposed to sound certain ways; a once open and growing system became a series of echo chambers as writers and readers congregated in various places where they could feel good about participating with each other. Websites have grown incredibly stale as a result, and most with passable content have lost differentiating elements.

Worst of all, as these changes crept across the internet and cemented a way to do business, so to speak, they reinforced the notion that everyone can be an expert while staying at home and living life behind a series of screens. [emphasis mine]

-Family Business (read more) [via Ned Hepburn]

One of the Best Things Ever on the Internet Ever

A long time ago on an internet forum I once frequented, a user posted a video he created. Below is that video. You should watch it because it is one of the best things ever on the internet ever:

If you didn't watch it, you really must. It's short, and if you're going to read any further, it is imperative that you watch the video. Go ahead. I'll wait.


This video is awesome. It's a perfect parody.

(It also captures the auteur David Lynch in rare form, cursing. Despite his films being as black as midnight on a moonless night, filled with weirdness and violence and plenty of shits, damns and fucks, the man himself rarely uses foul language. In fact, if you've ever seen interviews with him he has an Eagle scout, aw shucks demeanor that belies his macabre motion pictures.)

I asked the creator of the video if I could upload it to my YouTube account, I loved it that much. I credited him in the description by his forum handle because he did not want to be identified. He said that I could.

In three years that video has been seen 1,768,366 times. New comments are added daily. I wake up every day to new notifications from YouTube that someone else left a note. It became so popular that reporters began contacting me, wanting to know if I'd talk about the David Lynch/iPhone parody video I'd made.

After correcting those with inquiries, I asked the creator of the video if he wanted to talk to any newspaper or magazine reporters about the piece. He said no. 

Once upon a time I moderated the comments that come in every day until I realized it would be a never-ending task. This video's popularity is going strong, as well it should.

It's one of the best thing ever on the internet ever:

That's Good Online Outreach

The Pilot Precise in question was the first of its kind I'd bought. Got it on a whim at the drugstore. Fell in love immediately and have been smitten ever since.

Then I saw this:

The Pilot people faved my tweet. Aw. Someone at the Pilot place clicked the little heart. 

Way to jump into my feedback loop with a simple little ego stroke, guys. Nice move. Now send me some pens. (Just kidding. In a way.)

Do Not Want: Google+

not_doing_shit_google_plusLet's talk about Google+ for a hot minute. Errbody else is, and I can't resist a good bandwagon.

I first learned of our new social media overlord's existence on Twitter, where I get most of my news. And my immediate reaction was, "Oh, fuck."

I ignored it for a couple of days. Stuck my fingers in my ears and sang LA, LA, LA. Didn't want to see it. Hoped it would go away.

No dice.

Soon I was getting notifications that I'd been added to these cultish-sounding Circles and I knew I had to shake hands with reality. Google+ is here.

It may not be here to stay, but dammit, it has parked its ass on the couch with a beer and your remote and it isn't hitting the door anytime soon.

Okay, fine, I admit it. Once I started getting notifications I wanted in. I like being FIRST! at new online servies, even if I discard them like an OK Cupid date if they don't put out. I wanted my wristband into the potentially happening new party just in case the venue became overrun. - I can't wait for Google Plus to reunite me with everyone I blocked on Facebook.

I got my invite, walked past the rope, took a look around the club, saw a few familiar faces and a lot of white space. Then I left.

I'm scared to go back.

Google+ is, I fear, a part-time job I desperately don't want to take. But if I want to eat, I will. As a blogger, marketer, outreacher it is essential that I stay abreast in social media, new and old. I enjoy it, so really, no complaints, but with Google+ I am afraid it's going to be a huge project that ends up sucking major time.

My attention is already splintered by the likes of Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Instagram, and shall I go on? Will Google+ supplant all of those? Or will it become one more digital commitment?

I don't know. And I'm frightened to find out.

[Image via cambodia4kidsorg]

Why I Love Philanthroper.Com

Daily deal sites are taking over the internet. Groupon is Living Social in Gilt like the TownHog. I've gotten my fair share of Brazilian blowouts and a dozen cupcakes for the price of six, but what I like even more is a new site called Philanthroper. is a daily deal site for charities. Those already exist, but what I really like about Philathroper is that you can only donate a dollar.

One dollar a day to a different charity each day. Brilliant. Why is that? Because of this:

Why Can I Only Donate $1?

So you can donate another $1 tomorrow. And another the next day. Use Philanthroper daily, and we guarantee, you'll donate more over time than you would have otherwise plus it won't sting your bank account so badly. Use Philanthroper every day and you'll be on the right track to give more, more easily. If you're compelled to make a larger donation, fantastic. We always link their site. So go for it. [emphasis mine]

I have a dollar. You probably have a dollar. What better to do with it than give it to this guy?


This sounds trite, but nothing is truer: Every little bit helps a lot. reinforces this maxim.

A++++++ will donate again!!!!!!

Then & Now: Deja Vu

Then: "What is a blog?"

Now: "What is Twitter?"

Then: "Why would anyone want to read your blog?"

Now: "Why would anyone want to read your Twitter updates?"

Then: "You really think people care enough about your opinion that you should have a blog?"

Now: "You really think people want to read about what you are doing all the time?"

Then: "Blogging is for egomaniacal exhibitionists."

Now: "Twitter is for egomaniacal exhibitionists."

Then: "Blog is a funny word. It sounds stupid."

Now: "Twitter is a funny word. It sounds stupid."

Then: "Blogging will be the death of legitimate, long-form journalism."

Now: "Twitter will be the death of legitimate, long-form blogging."

Then: "I would never have a blog."

Now: "I would never have a Twitter."

Then: "Heyyy, I finally got myself a blog, check it out!"

Now: "FormerSkeptic is now following you on Twitter."