Not a morning person

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6:45. 6:45. 6:45.

I used to chant the time to myself as I fell asleep at night. In middle school and high school, that was the time I needed to get out of bed in order to get showered and everything before the bus stopped at the end of our driveway. Usually, I hadn’t had any breakfast, or maybe in my hands I had waffles with peanut butter on them like a sandwich — milk turned my anxious stomach that early in the morning, so no cereal, and no time to stop and eat it anyway — and I’d be flying out the door, running down the driveway, praying the bus driver would see me and stop. My mom and I used to have such fights about this. She’d always try to get me to bed earlier the night before and I’d be like “I’m years old, Mom! I don’t need a bedtime!” Or she’d try to get me up earlier, which I would protest more quietly but no less vehemently; I’d timed each and every part of my morning routine, knew how many minutes each part usually took and what I could skip or hurry along or do on the 45-minute bus ride once I made it there. So I knew exactly how many minutes past 6:45 I could stay in bed. (More or less.) Mom would be shouting at me the whole time, trying to get me up or telling me what else I should do to get up earlier, and I’d be shouting back because I was tired and stressed and also a teenager and didn’t understand or couldn’t express what I was really feeling, deep down, so I was mad at the clock. And Mom.

In college, I avoided scheduling classes before 10 a.m. I had some early-morning science classes in my first semester, I think, and an 8 a.m. speech class once when I couldn’t take any other sections. (Performance days were the worst in that class. It was 6:45 all over again.) I knew exactly how many minutes it took me to walk to each class from wherever I was on campus. Sometimes, I still rolled out of bed and barely made it to class on time for the 10 a.m. ones, and sometimes I slept late and missed them completely. I skipped classes for plenty of other reasons, as is traditional, but for the morning ones I had usually just overslept.

After graduating, I only ever had one job that required me to be there at 8:00 a.m. exactly, and it … didn’t work out well. 6:45. 6:45. 6:45. I had a stash of oatmeal to eat at my desk, I lived almost within sight of the office, I had an hour for lunch so I could go home and make something instead of having to have it prepared and brought with me, and I still showed up late too often. (And I had to dress nice, too, so I couldn’t skip much of my morning routine.)

Years passed, I was pregnant with my first, and I had been working second shift at a different job for more than six months before I finally started to make peace with mornings. Before I started to work with my schedule instead of fighting against it. Before those shouting matches with Mom didn’t ring in my ears when the alarm clock went off. Before I even stopped bothering to set an alarm. I actually have some fond memories of the mornings when my daughter was only a few months old. I’d put her in the swing and start washing dishes, and she’d fall asleep from the sound of the water and the motion of the swing. I’d have half an hour of peace on a spring morning while I cleaned the kitchen and had my coffee and cooked eggs or made a clafouti or whatever I was inspired to do.

I’m so grateful to have kept that peace with mornings. It’s one of my favorite parts of the work I do now. Depending on my schedule (and what kind of chaos reigns when the girls wake up), I can take the time to make pancakes on a Wednesday. Or put on a pot of coffee, drag my bleary self to my desk, wake up and plan my day or week as I read e-mail, and then open some files and get to work. No bundling up to shovel snow or scrape off a car. No scrambling to get self and children clean, dressed, fed, and out the door before my body is even ready to be out of bed.

Avoiding those little daily miseries won’t last through my daughters’ school years, I’m sure. They’re 3 and 5 months now, so I see my share of sunrises. But the part of me that’s still a stressed-out, angry teenager feels like I’ve won some kind of victory.

Getting woo-woo for a moment

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As I said in the sticky post, I moved my feeds to The Old Reader and have been weeding through blogs I didn’t read or that hadn’t updated in six months or more, and catching up with blogs that I loved but hadn’t had time to really sit with and read deeply.

I’d like to recommend some blogs of the latter type. They aren’t really about editing (see the sidebar for editing/writing blogs I like), but they share a focus on being your own self rather than projecting an image that you think is more likable or better at everything. Maintaining that image takes a lot of unnecessary work, and while the image can be a protective shell or a useful mask, it can also be uncomfortable and limiting. In the years before I took this leap, I was increasingly frustrated by the need to divide myself into a “work” persona and a “real” persona. I didn’t feel that I could be as feminist, as spiritual, as silly, as simply human, or as wholly myself while at work. So part of my work in building Last Syllable Communications is to set that image aside, take the risk of being my authentic self, and trust that clients who want to work with me — not just a warm body with X, Y, Z skills and Q years of experience, but me in particular — will connect with me and we can begin a working relationship, whether for the length of one project or over the course of years.

These are some of the blogs I read that encourage authenticity, risk, being your own self, and nurturing that sense of self.

  • Captain Awkward, an advice column for the nerdy and awkward among us (self included)
  • The Freelancery, which I recommend over and over here for freelancing advice and encouragement
  • Momastery, a blog full of light and love and brutiful life
  • Nurshable, about gentle parenting (you may find this blog less useful if you’re not a parent or have a very different parenting style)
  • Beauty Tips for Ministers, advice on dressing fashionably and appropriately at the same time; geared toward clergymembers, but enormously useful to me as I transitioned into my thirties and realized I needed to learn to dress myself again

Today’s the day!

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As of today, Last Syllable Communications is 100% of what I do!

To recap: I used the couple of months before my previous job ended to start my business, take care of paperwork, try out systems for file management and scheduling, talk to prospective clients, and not least of all, complete a few projects. Now I’m starting this phase with a handful of lovely clients and ongoing projects, an understanding of how I work and what my needs are, and a manageable to-do list.

At the moment I’m feeling a little bit at loose ends because I’d normally be getting ready to head into the office. Instead I’m about to settle my daughter down for a nap, and then I’ll review some testing materials and plan dinner (I’ve so missed cooking).

The new routine will take some getting used to, but it’ll be a good change. I’m very excited!

In a whirlwind

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I hope you had a wonderful holiday, readers! My Thanksgiving was lovely. I cooked entirely too much food but we did get to have pie for breakfast and turkey sandwiches for lunch afterward (but not too many days afterward). I spent a little time relaxing and a little time working and it was just what I  needed.

I have a million ideas and thoughts and plans.

With this house, nothing is turning out quite like I expected. Like, I had this whole setup in mind for my desk, and then my mother-in-law offered a rolltop desk that she’s not using (yes, please!), so now I’m rethinking how to arrange the furniture in my office and where to put my printer and maybe using a different color paint (no, most of the walls are still not painted). In a couple more months, either those details aren’t going to be particularly important or I’ll be able to change what bugs me, but right now it’s stressing me out.

I had lots of good ideas about scheduling my work time, but the implementation is not going so smoothly. I will more than likely have late nights and early mornings for the next couple of weeks. Sleep is very important to my own particular good health and I’m not happy about losing sleep. I’m counting the days until I won’t have to schedule my work around a different full-time job anymore.

There are classes and webinars I want to take, books and articles to read, things to think about and ponder and attempt and tweak…

But it’s not time for that right now. It’s time to dive in and do all that work. Which frustrates me, but them’s the breaks.

Link roundup

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Another set of links that I’ve been reading lately.

What does it say on your tin? I hemmed and hawed about the idea of specialty e-mail addresses, but what really got me was the illustration of three addresses for three different proofreaders with equivalent skills:

There is a four-figure budget for each title with guaranteed repeat work but the clock is ticking. Which of the three do you feel like trying first?

I’m quite fond of my Gmail address but I couldn’t argue with that. This post is the reason my contact e-mail here is now Does what it says on the tin.

The Freelancery: I found this site through a link on the EFA members’ discussion list and spent the better part of my night reading through the archives. I love the encouraging yet willing-to-admit-failure tone Walt Kania has and the nuts-and-bolts processes he discusses. There may be a couple more posts forthcoming where I generally enthuse about this or that post on The Freelancery.

And a couple of literary news items:

“The World Is Not Acquainted With Us” The Emily Dickinson International Society last month showed a daguerreotype that is probably Dickinson with her friend Kate Scott Turner. I’m not a Dickinson expert so I wasn’t aware that there had only been one other image of her. Very exciting to be confirming a second image!

Richard III dig: ‘Strong evidence’ bones are lost king Speaking of exciting news, this BBC article indicates that an archaeological team is close to DNA confirmation that a skeleton found on a dig in Leicester is the actual Richard III. The location of the burial (at Greyfriars, in what’s now a parking lot) is consistent with the historical record, as are some physical characteristics of the skeleton (severe scoliosis and wounds to the skull). This whole thing is just breathtaking.

Officially official

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Yesterday was the big day! Paperwork has been completed and filed and notarized, even. I am officially doing business as Last Syllable Communications, a sole proprietorship in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I’ve put in an enormous amount of effort to get to this point, long days and working naps and a whole lot of reading studying and learning, and I’ve just gotten to the starting line! There’s lots more work ahead, but I’m excited for it. Going freelance has been tremendously, well, freeing so far. I’m finding my voice, dreaming big, and just bubbling up with joy at all the future possibilities.

Doing what I love

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As in, I must be doing what I love. I have had so little interest in business for most of my life (including a previous try at freelancing full-time), but in the past month, I have been so caught up in learning all the little details, it just astounds me when I step back for a moment and notice this.

Last night I was propped up in bed with my laptop, drafting my business plan. I was pretty tired so there wasn’t much quality writing happening, but that cover page looks sharp and all the sections have been divided up nicely. But still — 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, and there I am with my business plan.

I’m waiting until Mercury goes direct (it’s currently retrograde) to actually file the paperwork to create the business, and I am on PINS. AND. NEEDLES. I’m using the time between now and then to gather forms and other resources, write lists and remember what I’d forgotten to add to them, read advice columns and how-to books, and generally allow time for things to go wrong and need fixing before the big day. Kind of like packing the hospital bag before my daughter was born.

Next on the schedule: signed up for a “Fundamentals of Starting a Business” class on the 16th, going down to the county clerk to file papers on the 20th.[ This is a change; the stars align a little better on this date.]