Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nano What-O?

Participant2_120_200_white Nanowrimo: the the latest Jenn-venture. For those of you who know me (and you wouldn't be reading this blog unless you knew me) - you've probably lived through a few Jenn-ventures in the past. There was the 6-year no-sugar, no-meat (and sometimes no eating at all) period of my life, for example. A more recent Jenn-venture entailed a campout (on my own) over a long weekend so that I could become a Boy Scout chaplain. And who could forget the time I got headshots and decided to pursue a career in acting before deciding to give up on that dream for a while so that I could make a lot more money at a job that made me miserable? Classic Jenn-logic.

Nanowrimo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants in Nanowrimo attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. (Really, it's just a 50,000 word first draft because at 1,667 words per day - editing is verboten.) I've already promised myself that if I knock out 10,000 words in my first week then I will reward myself with a vacation day at some point during November so that I can write like a woman possessed for 12 straight hours. But FIRST I must prove to myself that I'm serious about this business.

If you're willing to tolerate short blog posts with poor grammar I'll keep you updated on my progress. I decided to take Stephen King's advice and pursue a genre that I enjoy reading instead of writing about what I know (there are too many legal thrillers anyway). So, dear readers (all 3 of you)...which genre do you think I'll be diving into on Tuesday morning?

a. lusty, frothy romance
b. horror
c. science fiction
d. chic-lit

Post your guess. Your enthusiastic support might be the difference between me successfully drafting the next best-seller and me wasting time with 30 Rock reruns.

No pressure, of course.

Monday, October 17, 2011

How To Get Over Yourself

Today I listened to Danielle LaPorte's interview for the World Changing Writing Workshop. She asked: "What would someone pay $100 an hour to learn from you?"

[Crickets chirped in the background as I considered my options...this wasn't an uplifting query.]

Technically, I am a lawyer - and a pretty good one at that. I could certainly get paid to practice law. Come to think of it - that's exactly what people pay me to do now. The problem is that it doesn't really float my boat. So...what other skills do I have that are potential gold mines?

Cooking? Not really. My food is completely un-photogenic.
Wine tasting? HAH! Um. Nope. I like to drink it but think it's stupid when people say they taste cayenne and grass in chardonnay. If I ever really tasted grass in my wine, I'd think the wine store screwed me over big time.
Starting my own business? I wish I was an expert in that, but that would be another big fat NO.

Around the time I was looking for my wig in the Halloween store, it dawned on me that I could write a "how to" article about getting over yourself because, as it turns out, I've had to do that in spades over the last few years. Repetitively. I'd be falsely modest and state that maybe I'm the only one who needs to get over myself but we both know that's not true, don't we? To be clear, in my mind "getting over myself" means that I roll with the punches when someone treats me disrespectfully, refuses to do their job, or acts like a complete jerk. (The aforementioned disrespectful, lazy and/or jerky individuals are hereinafter referred to collectively as "Apparent Loser" or "AL.")

A step-by-step guide to getting over yourself:

1. Acknowledge that, in your opinion (and maybe in the opinion of most right-minded people), AL is a worthless excuse for a co-worker/teacher/relative/__________ (feel free to fill in the blank as you see fit). Seems counter intuitive, I know. But the truth is that none of us have a prayer of getting over the misdeeds of another unless we first admit that we are completely pissed off at them.

2. Consider whether it is critical that you confront AL about his/her behavior. This is the tricky part, boys and girls. You see, I know you think AL should stop being a jerk/lazy/worthless because it causes you unnecessary misery/work/stress, but is it really essential that it turn into a battle between the two of you? This is honestly the most difficult step for me because I am the princess of the "it's not fair" argument. As many times as Momma told me "Life ain't fair" growing up, you'd think I'd get it by now but ...that's a tough truth to accept. So here's what you do. You ask yourself - What's the worst that can happen to me (or someone I love) if this behavior continues indefinitely?  In a few cases (such as a teacher who is treating your kid horribly or a spouse whose actions are leading to marriage deterioration) the end results could be very detrimental. However, in most cases it's obvious that nothing bad will happen other than the fact that your stress level increases exponentially. The worst damage caused by most ALs is high blood pressure for the recipient. And guess what? The recipients (you and I, dear readers) are really the ones in control of that situation.

3. If it turns out to be critical that you confront AL, then do so in an upfront (i.e. NON-passive-aggressive) manner and expect change to happen because of the conversation. If you approach the conversation with an open mind, you might actually learn about some adjustments that you could make in your behavior that would help the situation. If such adjustments would be helpful - make them.

4. If it's not critical that you confront AL (and this will usually be the case) - that's when you've got to get over yourself. Which is so much easier said than done. Lucky for you, I'm here to walk you through the process.
  • Start by being honest with yourself about the last time you were lazy or rude or useless. If you're like me you'll try saying: "Well, sure, but I never act that way at work!" or "Well, sure, but he deserved it!" DON'T do that.
  • Next, try to remember the last time that you had a truly terrible day and you treated someone else like poo or just plain forgot to do something. Remember it? Well, maybe AL's day was worse.
  • If all else fails, ask yourself whether you can you walk away from the situation. Maybe it's no fair that you have to leave your job because someone else is mean or lazy - but nobody ever said life was fair. If you have another option that will make you happy why not take it? Maybe your child needs another teacher. Maybe you need a different friend. You can't fix some meanies and those are the ones you sure don't need in your life.
  • Finally, it's just like your mom used to tell you (or maybe she didn't - maybe it was just mine): you can be mad at that person all you want, but the only person you're hurting is yourself. Do you feel that stress headache coming on? Did you notice how you ran straight to the candy machine at work? Uh-huh. Momma's right. Don't let AL win in the long run by making you sick, sugar.
For most things, we just need to let it go. That bears repeating... and I will do so.
Let. It. Go.

Do I follow these steps all the time? Heck no. I'm lucky if I follow them 25% of the time. Not only that, I'm fully aware that God has a sense of humor so I expect that she'll send me a doozy of an AL within 48 hours of me hitting that bright orange "Publish Post" button at the bottom of my screen. As a matter of fact, I'm really writing this so that I'll be accountable to my tribe. The next time you hear me complaining about someone (and I will) you now have this handy reference so that I can be reminded of how to get over myself.

Or you could just keep your advice to me short and sweet.

Let it go, Jenn. Let. It. Go.

Monday, October 10, 2011

40-Year-Old Jennifers and the Conspiracy to Conquer Life, Art and Happiness

You may or may not be aware of this fact, but a significant number of Jennifers are turning 40 right now. That's because, for some bizarre reason, every second mother in 1971 named her daughter Jennifer. The best explanation I've heard for this is that the heroine in  Love Story - the one with the really screwed up idea about what love "means" - brought the name Jennifer to the attention of America. My mom swears up and down that's not where I got my name. Maybe it was some huge cosmic coincidence. Who knows? We're here now. We were all born together, we all went to kindergarten together (many of us singing happily along to Free to be You and Me), we all watched M.A.S.H. reruns with our parents when we got home from our dates in high school (we never could get past the fact that Alan Alda was supposed to be narrating Free to Be, not acting like a drunk doctor), and then we went to college BEFORE everyone started taking notes on laptops. (Then we felt very old five years later when we found out those graduates didn't even buy spirals for their classes. It was as if we were the last vanguard of traditional note-taking students.)

Now we're 40. Some are married, some are divorced, and some stayed single. Some are moms, some of us didn't go there. Some are straight, some are gay. But we're all at that point in life when a woman looks around at her life and, if she's lucky, decides that it's time to write that book, or paint that watercolor, or  take that trip that's been niggling at the back of her mind since she was twenty. I'm there and have been slowly building my support group around me as I take baby steps into my artistic future.

As it turns out, I require a tremendous amount of support. Thankfully, I'm surrounded by fabulous friends and family. They've been on the "Jennifer-can-do-it" train for a while now, encouraging me to jump on the bandwagon. I finally decided it might be a good idea to hop on board. I've been building up my courage and support before taking that big leap.

My support system is not primarily made of Jennifers. As a matter of fact, a few of my strongest supporters are men (I've yet to meet a male Jennifer...guess I'll add that to my bucket list). But two of the people who've given me the most to think about in the writing department also happen to be named Jennifer. And both of them were born in 1971. I like the idea that we were all going through our 1970s childhoods (subjected to corduroy pants, the Muppets, and really horrendous pop music) at the same time and found each other on the other side.

I'm beginning to think of this web-o-support as "The Jennifer Club" - but you don't have to be named Jennifer to be a part of it. (Megan was my first and best non-family cheerleader, so she's really the inaugural member of the club.)

In twenty more years, we'll all be 60 years old. As long as The Jennifer Club sticks together and continues to support each other, each decade will improve. So watch out world...I wasn't joking when I said I was going to be conquering you during my forties. It took a few decades, but I think I finally believe that Free to Be message. Thanks, Marlo!