Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

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Ways That You Can Value Your Work – Chick in Charge Part 2

In my post last week I looked at ways that women, especially those who work from home, often diminish the value of their work. Whether a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a home-business entrepreneur or a combination of both, millions of us do jobs that are undervalued by both ourselves and society.

While I looked at some of the reasons why in last Sunday’s post, I want to point out specific changes I have made in my life that remind me of the importance of my work. Most are not huge or expensive, but they remind me that my time, skills and goals are important to me and others.

Schedule

As I pointed out in my post “3 Things You May Not Have Considered About Working From Home“, your schedule becomes fluid and flexible without an office to report to. It’s both a blessing and a curse and some of the best advice I ever got about making it work for you was from a book about treating SAHM work like a real job. I wish I could remember the title, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t give this fabulous author credit. Her suggestion was that I look at my mom job as a split shift. Shift one was morning to after lunch and shift two was from late afternoon until bedtime. The break in the middle was nap time which is when so many mom’s would frantically clean and, in effect, never take a break; sometimes not even a lunch break. If you re-imagine your day to be work in two shifts, the break in the middle becomes more obvious and necessary. Long after my kids stopped napping they still had an hour or two of quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. This was important time for me to recharge my self and mentally prepare for my second shift. Using this time wisely made a huge difference in my energy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done every night.

Her technique still serves me well. My days don’t break up quite so nicely, but I’ve learned to work with the rhythm of my days to get my work done and give myself necessary breaks. If you work from home and you’re a night owl, it is possible to keep working until one or two a.m. but the key then is to either sleep in or take a nap after your family’s morning routine. It is amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your natural rhythm and schedule in breaks.

Another important and easy technique is putting your work on your family’s schedule. The power of this didn’t become obvious to me until I had an at-home job with a regular paycheck. As a university instructor I have frequent deadlines and online meetings I must attend. These obviously went on the family master schedule because they involved others and therefore were important. I’ve never missed one. Somehow I’ve always managed to arrange all the practices, field trips, dentist appointments, etc. around my paid work. So why couldn’t and wouldn’t I do the same for my unpaid work (or marginally paid, like writing). It’s just as important to me. If I want it to be my main source of income someday I need to allocate time and energy to it. So I’ve added writing and marketing time to my schedule. Once it’s on there it is much less likely to disappear under a lot of other tasks that might feel urgent at the time but don’t fit into my big picture.

Surroundings

Creating a work space that supports you is another way to value the work that you do. Too often when we work at home our “office” is carved out of left-over space, cluttered, or non existent. To do your optimum work you have needs. They will vary from person to person and if you are doing more than one job from home you may need different designated spaces for each type of work. Homemaking magazines love to feature clever and crafty kitchen spaces for mom to manage the family schedule, grocery lists, school information, etc. The convenience of the location might work great for some, but that room is too busy and chaotic for me. Not to mention that all office supplies within view in the kitchen are considered fair game. For me I need a space to spread out, where I won’t have to move things every time I need to cook, and where the pens and scissors I like will not constantly disappear.

When looking at the work space(s) that support you consider things like; amount of sunlight, proximity to fresh air, heat or air conditioning; view of the TV (whether necessary or a distraction); ability to close yourself away from interruptions or noise; and space for supplies (that won’t be pilfered). This is your office so decorate and organize it in a way that makes you want to use it. Paint is cheap, decorative folders are cheap but both can do a lot to make your space uniquely yours.

After a recent absolutely heavenly massage I decided to add the scent of essential oils to my home office. For less than twenty dollars I bought a diffuser and an oil blend designed to encourage brain activity. I don’t know if I’m having more brain activity but I’m loving the scent and the quiet little motor is fantastic white noise. The most important thing about the diffuser isn’t the cost or if it’s markedly increased my productivity, it’s the fact that I took the time and effort to get it. I made my work space a priority.

And I’m really just getting started. A she-shed is calling my name. (If you’re not sure what one is, search Pintrest.) What better way to give your work the space it deserves than a building dedicated solely to it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your work and your work spaces more seriously. If you get some ideas from this post I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know how you make your work and your work space reflect their value. When you value your work, others will too.

Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1

When I worked in an office I always thought job titles were kind of a joke. I can’t say I stressed out too much over what mine was as long as I was doing work I liked and it came with a paycheck, you could call me whatever you wanted. When I became a stay-at-home mom I decided to give myself the title Chick in Charge. I wanted to have business cards made so I could put them in the fish bowls on deli counters and win a free sandwich.  It started as a joke, but the more I thought about it the less silly it became. If I wanted to be taken seriously in all the work I do I needed to take myself seriously.

This past week two writers had me thinking again about the work I do, all my jobs, and how I see myself in those roles. First the wonderful and wise Kristen Lamb posted an article “Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams.” In it she encouraged female writers to take on some male traits and take their writing careers more seriously. She made some fantastic points and reminded me that this is a process I am working through right now. I’m proud to say I’ve definitely made some of the moves she suggests in the post. The second post was by the writer February Grace. Her post “The Worth In All Our Words” addresses the question of when we should call ourselves writers and how this can be debated even within the writing community. Both posts brought up my own ideas about what constitutes “work” and how that work is valued by myself and others. This is such a huge and important topic that I want to address it over two weeks (possibly more).

This week I’ll look at ways we diminish our work as women and how we can give it more power in our lives and in the world. Next week I’ll talk about specific ways you can be more in charge of all areas of work in your life.

So, let’s start with my jobs. I’m a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), a writer and an adjunct instructor for a university. All are equally important jobs even though only one has a paycheck. There have been times in the past sixteen years when mom was my only job. Those were important times for me because I felt like I was making a huge contribution to our family and society but that wasn’t the message I was getting. Unpaid hours spent doing repetitious work can feel as if it has no value and mothering is a job that only becomes obvious if it isn’t done. To make matters worse, it is definitely diminished and written off as women’s work, something uninteresting to the menfolk and not worth discussing in mixed company. This is when my idea for my title Chick in Charge was born. Sure I wanted free food but I also wanted the acknowledgement that I worked. It helped, having a title, but I still wanted the world to give me something that I wasn’t giving myself–credit, worth, value.

Skip forward to today. I truly do have three jobs and I know I am not unique among women. Millions of us take on jobs to add to our family income. I write but I have friends who sell different product lines or make items that they sell online through Etsy or Ebay. Most of us are not making huge sums of money but that’s just one of the reasons we don’t take our work seriously enough. Just like mothering our work is often written off as trivial or unimportant by both ourselves and others. We buy into the erroneous idea that you have to be on the level of Beyonce or Oprah before your work can take priority and be valued. But here’s the catch, Beyonce and Oprah started out like everyone else. They were very small potatoes at one point in time but what they didn’t do was believe that what they had to offer the world was of little value. They believed in the value of their work.

It’s taken me a long time, but that’s where I am (or at least that’s the direction I am heading) and the first thing that had to happen is I had to decide I truly was the Chick in Charge of my life. I needed to run my life with all the seriousness and intention and passion of any CEO. I needed to set some goals and then put things in place to reach for those goals. I also needed to create my own employee rewards program where I celebrated each milestone and goal reached in a way that was meaningful to me.

Key to this whole process was to trust myself, my instincts, when it came to what I wanted to achieve. The world wants to tell you what goals you should set–junior should be reading by age X, your first book should sell X number of copies in the first month, you’re only a successful writer when the NY Times or USA Today says you are. The problem is these goals are set by people who do not know your kid or your business. Maybe your kid is a wiz at music but reading just isn’t coming as quickly. If you follow your knowledge as CiC you will know when he or she is ready to read or potty train or whatever. You will also know when you have succeeded in your business because you sold X number more than last month or you finished writing a particularly hard piece.

The other thing you have to have is a view of the big picture. You need to know where you are heading (in general) so you, and sometimes only you, will know that you are making progress. I guarantee that Beyonce and Oprah and all super successful women saw themselves in a big picture long before they were actually there. I have my big picture. I know my kids will survive high school (and I will too) and go on to live happy lives doing things they love. I know I will write more books and continue to gain more readers who tell me how much they enjoy reading my work. I also know I will be taking some fantastic vacations and doing things that recharge my batteries and keep me excited about my goals. Self-care is definitely part of being a CiC.

Which is what I will address next week. I’ve put some systems in place and changed a few things in my world. None of it was earth-shattering or huge to others, but it was all important to me. It was all to acknowledge my worth and value as the chick in charge of my own life.

Are you a CiC? When and how did you take charge of valuing all your work? Share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.