Category Archives: Work Life

Need to Level Up Your Career? Listen to My LinkedIn Webinar on Creating an Eye Catching Profile

Woman sitting at table using a laptop to look for a job

What’s  LinkedIn and Why You Should Care

Did you know LinkedIn is the most underutilized social media platform compared to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok? It is the best search engine  businesses, corporations and companies use daily. People wrongly assume that LinkedIn is only for job seekers.  However, it provides a rich opportunity to make professional connections. As a result of this myth people assume they don’t have to develop and manage their profile as long as it’s there and the job info is accurate.

But when someone searches for you online your LinkedIn profile comes up first the majority of the time. If it is not updated, no active engagements and few connections, then you are missing important opportunities and don’t even know it.

Hosted LinkedIn Webinar

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

This is why I was excited to host a webinar titled “Level Up Your Career with an Eye Catching Profile on LinkedIn.  It was held  earlier this month  to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month. It was sponsored  by Bold, Blind Beauty, a platform to demystify blindness through rich storytelling.  The presentation focused on 6 sections of your LinkedIn profile: the Header, photo, contact info, summary, work experience and education. Although, there are more sections of your LinkedIn profile, I decided to spotlight  these 6 because they are the most important for visibility and connection.

Webinar Mission and Focus

During the webinar  I explained what LinkedIn is compared to other social media. Next, I discussed the 6 profile sections.   And last I gave challenges to move you to the next level.

To learn more, listen to my presentation  at this YouTube link.

Grappling with Disorganized Writing? Read My Tips to Write Better, Faster  and Save Time

photo of a messy desktop

As a blogger, I have plenty to do. Continuously coming up with creative ideas and content. Doing research. Reading news articles. Listening to relevant podcasts, and  all to stay abreast of current and trending  topics. Then there is the content on the written craft itself. Sometimes I feel disorganized and scatter-brained. Sometimes, I wonder how I get it all done? I mean, I haven’t even written the piece yet and I got a full plate. Well, I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve  that help me to write better, faster and save time.

Well Organized Writer

Many of you know I am a well organized person. This includes my personal and professional life. Thank God for parents  who drove this principle home when I was a child because it has served me well. Admittedly, I get a little anal and when I do I try to stop, slow down and breathe. The world won’t end if I don’t get it all done today.

However, strongly leaning toward organization helps me be a happier and more fulfill writer. So, I am passing on knowledge  because it brings power. If you can get a little organized in your writing  you will be more productive. You will write better, faster and  save time. Now, let’s go!

1. Create an editorial calendar.

Empish Reading Braille Calendar with Her Fingers

When I started professional blogging in 2013, I created a calendar. I got the idea from when I was a former freelance writer and pitched to magazines. Many publications had an editorial calendar  for topics  and themes coming up they were going to publish. You could read this calendar and know what story ideas to pitch.

So, I took that same concept  and applied it here. I was writing a weekly blog post for my employer  and I jotted down ideas  for about a month or two. This method kept me organized, my mind clear and writing effective.

2. Keep track of updates, news and trends in your niche.

Reading articles, newsletters and other blog post will give you fresh ideas  to write about. They will also keep you current so when you write, your  stories have relevance.

A closeup of various newspaper headlines

For example, I checkout the National Holiday Calendar. I got the idea to write this post because Thursday, Oct. 20 is The National Day on Writing®. This day celebrates writing—and the many places, reasons and ways we write each day—as an essential component of literacy. Since 2009, #WhyIWrite has encouraged thousands of people to lift their voices to the things that matter most to them.

I also subscribe to Google Alerts. I made a list of key words in my industry and everyday Google sends me an email with current news items on that topic. I use all of these resources to keep a running list of blog ideas. Having this list will ensure you don’t  dry out. Or if an idea doesn’t work your list will provide a plethora to choose from.

3. Get on a schedule.

This is not a hard and fast rule. What I mean is look at your day or week and plan things out. Keep in mind life happens and stuff comes up. But if you have a schedule  you are more likely  to get your writing done and not be so distracted. Each day I make a mini list of things to do for the next day. I try hard to stay on track  and  leave any extras  for after I  have met my daily goals.

4. Use non writing time to think.

Empish Sleeping

My best ideas come  to me at three o’clock in the morning. But now that my  sleeping is slowly improving  I am not always awake  that early. However, I have other moments I can call on for inspiration. Traveling on the bus to run errands are times when my mind wanders  and ideas  germinate. Walking on my treadmill and doing household chores are two other times in my day when writing ideas magically appear. Now, the challenge is to quickly jot those ideas down because  I am usually not at my computer. I have relied on the recording app on my smartphone  to dictate an idea or two before it permanently leaves.

5. Go offline.

Empish Using an iPhone

This is a real battle. So many of us are addicted to our devices. And we gotta  check social media or emails to maintain that fix. But to be a better, faster writer that saves time you must do it. So, turn off emails and social media while writing. Plus,  you will be less distracted and more energized.

6. Set a timer

This is a new thing I recently tried. Do you know what? It actually worked. Having the clock ticking  adds a little positive pressure to push and soldier through a writing project. I want to get done by the time the bell rings so I  don’t let my mind wonder as much and I stay focused.

Now with that being said, I use the timer method for actual writing not for major editing, preparation or research. Although, now that I am thinking about it as I write this post, it might be good for that too. When I research I can go down a rabbit hole. Before I know it, time has passed  and I’m still not done.

7. Create an outline.

An outline will help you know how to start and end. It will help your piece stay on course. Have you written an article or blog post only to recognize you are rambling and all over the place? I will be the first to raise my hand and say yes. But writing a little outline  helps me avoid that pitfall.

In order to write that well-crafted or soon to be award- winning piece you got to be organized. This will lead to writing better, faster and save tons of time.

Can the Disabled Quietly Quit? No,  and Here’s Why

Man looking at resume while having a job interview with woman

Returning to Work After Disability

Several years ago, I had a nice corporate job. The pay was good. Commute  wasn’t too bad and I had excellent benefits. While there, I was slowly losing my vision. Initially I was using low vision aids and devices like hand-held magnifiers, dark lined notebook paper, magnification software  and a CC-TV device. However,  my vision continue to worsen and I took a year off to attend classes at a vision rehabilitation  center.

Considered Leaving Job

But when I returned the company climate had changed. Granted I had changed too. A disability will do that to you. Nevertheless,  the office was different. Yet, my supervisor was the same. My co-workers were the same. I finally put  a finger on it. Although I was happy to return to the workplace  I was dissatisfied with my actual work. I  mentioned this to my vision rehabilitation counselor. I told her I was thinking about leaving because the work was no longer exciting or challenging. Her reaction was quick and not encouraging. She shared with me all the work and effort others put into me returning to work. I was a great example of a successful disabled person reentering the workforce. How could I just up and leave?

I was surprised by her reaction. It communicated to me a certain mindset. I told her I was only thinking about it and wouldn’t leave unless I had another job to go to. But this made me think. The unemployment rate for the disabled in America is pretty awful. Only about 21% of us are working. So, when we get a job we stay. We have been marketed as loyal  and committed employees.

I soon realized I was a part of this working disabled community. How dare I leave this good job? People like me can’t be picky. I  am blind and positions are scarce and options are limited. Whether I like the job or not I needed to stay. I needed to grin and bare it.

Hard to Find a Job

Woman sitting at table using a laptop to look for a job

As we honor National Disability Employment Awareness Month I am going to flip the script. This is not a post about how important it is to hire us. Or how  much value we bring to the job. Or how much we want to work. No, this is about quiet quitting. This term is trending right now but  It is not new. People leave jobs all the time when they are not happy. Or they stay and do the bare minimum. But can the disabled do the same? Can we walk off the job  and just leave when we are not  being fulfilled? Or when we don’t get a raise or promotion? Well, the answer is no and here’s why.

As I said before a lot of work and effort go into employing a disabled person. We have to figure out transportation. We have to request and sometimes advocate for reasonable accommodations. We have extra barriers to overcome. Some physical and others attitudinal. So, we don’t quiet quit because the stakes are too high.

Disabled Black Man in Wheelchair Boarding Bus
Disabled African American Man In Wheelchair Boarding Bus

Employers  want to feel comfortable hiring a disabled person. Unfortunately, a lot of employers do not and we don’t get the job whether we are qualified or not. This is not new info for people who are disabled. So, after much job searching and preparation when the job finally comes we grab it. We make real efforts to do our very best  and try not to complain too much. We  don’t quietly quit.

Employers Have Low Expectations

There is this attitude  that people with disabilities should be ever so grateful for these opportunities. But I push back on that mentality. If I come to a  workplace with the required skills and talents why should I be grateful? You are not hiring me because you feel sorry but because I can do the job and do it excellently.

However, over my 20+ years in the workforce I have learned  this doesn’t always apply to the disabled community. I have come to realize employers will have low expectations  regardless of my qualifications. They are only seeing a blind person in front of them and not much else.

So, when we get hired  sometimes we are underemployed. Meaning we are working in jobs  where are true talents and skills are not fully utilized. We are not challenged and called higher in our positions  like able bodied people. Why is this? It is because people have a low expectation of our capabilities; thinking we can only do the bare minimum . This is not true. With the right motivation and supports  we can go above  and beyond what is expected.

Quiet Quitting Verses Quiet Firing

I was Working in a job where my employer saw my talents and skills. I was given challenging work  and excelled in it. But management  changed  and I  was relegated to a  lower  position. It impacted my morale  and self-esteem. I continued to work the job because my prospects  were limited. I didn’t quietly quit.

I realized years later this  experience was quiet firing. LinkedIn News says quiet firing is going years without a raise or promotion, shifting responsibilities toward tasks that require less experience or a deliberate withdrawal of development and leadership opportunities.” Meaning, employees who are quietly fired might feel pushed out or set up to fail. Their employer is making their job feel like a thankless, unpleasant dead end.

Additionally, what on the surface may look like quiet quitting  can actually be quiet firing. A disabled employee  may exhibit  lack of job enthusiasm or poorly preform their basic job duties. But in actuality  it could be lack of reasonable accommodations  to  complete their tasks. I have witness disabled colleagues  advocating and requesting  accommodations only  to get radio silence resulting in actual quitting or dismissal.

More Scrutiny and Consequences

Empish selecting clothes in closet

Disabled employees can be scrutinized more  than  abled body colleagues. We sometimes feel we have to work twice as hard for half as much. So quiet quitting is more of a luxury  . There are more consequences for us. For example, in all of my positions I have maintained a professional dress and wardrobe. I have taken extra time to properly groom myself. I know that because I am blind, people will focus more on my appearance  than a sighted co-worker. I remember, at one job we had casual dress days   but  I still wore my professional attire.

What Do You Think?

When I think about all of this, I don’t see where quiet quitting is a real option for the disabled. I have given my perspective, but what are your thoughts? Do you believe the disabled can quietly quit? Have you experienced quiet quitting or even quiet firing? Share your thoughts and experiences with me.

How Online Learning is Advancing My Career

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

Use Online Learning to Help Career

I am naturally curious. I enjoy learning about all kinds of things. But mostly  skills to advance my career and writing. Online courses  have been my ticket to exploration and career advancement. I take these courses easily from my home. They are convenient and sometimes free of charge. They are fairly accessible with my screen reader.

I remember the first  freelance writing online course I took. It was several years ago. A small group of us wanted to learn better ways to write query letters. Our desire was to pitch  story ideas to printed publications (online pubs were not the norm back then) that would get the assignment. We had a weekly lesson  and later posted our homework for group critique. It was a great experience  and I learned a lot.

Online Learning Day

Although this was a long time ago, I have never stop being an online learner. Today, Sept. 15, is National Online Learning Day. This holiday focuses mostly on educational courses and classes for children and young adults but  the holiday can also apply to people like me. Those who are much older  and have an interest in learning  skills to help their careers.

Besides  just wanting to learn something new, why do I take courses online? Well, for a couple of reasons. Online courses enhance my job searching. They sharpen my skills in writing and blogging.

Enhance My Job Searching

Recently, I lost my latest freelance job and I have been more assertive about looking for work. It has been a long time since I actively searched for employment. I wasn’t current on the latest job hunting trends and techniques. LinkedIn has been a great resource for this exploration. I have learned about writing better cover letters, what hiring managers want, and the importance of digital networking.

LinkedIn sends me alerts  with  topics of interest  around  job seeking. I scroll through the list and take the ones I need the most. These courses are quick little videos  but are jammed pack with valuable and useful information. What I learn from these courses I can apply immediately to my job search.

Extensive  Online Learning

For a deeper dive, I have ventured into extensive  online learning. The latest example was on Google Analytics. I took the course directly from the Google Academy. Each lesson  was on some aspect of analyzing data  for your website. It was a self-pace  course and fairly accessible. You could opt for the video or read the transcript. I chose the transcript option so I could stop and easily take notes . There was a quiz after each lesson where I had to score 80% or better to get my certificate. After completion Google  sent me a certificate and provided ways to share my success on social media.

The only drawback was  the application examples. There were opportunities to directly apply what you were learning. I struggled in  finishing those sections  because they were inaccessible and hard to navigate. Besides this issue, I enjoyed the course, learned a lot and got my certificate.

I had a similar experience taking courses with Salesforce. In the spring of this year, I applied  to get training  with a technology organization. Once completed students would be connected to job opportunities. I had to complete  several sales badges  as  part of the application process. This experience took me through several learning modules and tracks  where I had to read the course materials and take a quiz afterward. Although, I wasn’t accepted into   the training program, I learned a lot about Salesforce and how it is trending right now.

Sharpen My Writing and Blogging Skills

I have also increased my knowledge of writing and blogging through courses with WordPress and my online writer’s group, The Freelance Writers Den. Both  offer  instruction in blogging, journalism, SEO and marketing.

The latest course I took was on a LinkedIn marketing bootcamp. The course  provided a weekly lesson  from constructing your profile, to increasing connections  to applying for jobs.  These were paid courses and well worth the cost. I have already noticed  and increase in my productivity  and online visibility because of the skills learned.

Online learning has been an excellent resource for me. I can learn what I want when I want. I would dare to say as technology advances and nontraditional ways of learning become more accepted, we will all see an increase  in the availability of online education and courses.

Exhausted with Inaccessible Job Searching? Use AIRA  for a Rejuvenating Experience

The AIRA Logo. A turquoise circle with the white letter “a” in lower case

Problems Applying for Jobs Online Still Exist

About a year ago I talked about my challenges applying for jobs online. In a post  for  Inclusively I  gave details on the struggles with inaccessible websites  and online job portals.  Unfortunately, a year later the problems still exist.

As a freelance writer and blogger, I am regularly on the hunt for  new contract assignments and searching online is a primary part of that exploration. When I come across complex combo boxes  and inaccessible edit fields   my perseverance  wanes. My enthusiasm about landing that next writing gig quickly  diminishes.

Help is on the Way

Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. I  started using a virtual paid personal  assistant called AIRA. When I initially heard  about AIRA some years ago, the focus was on getting visual assistance  to navigate the physical world around you.  The professional human assistant would use  the camera on your smartphone  or smart glasses  to give you  visual information live and in real time. It was a tool for travelers. Since I was  not in need of that kind of help I put AIRA on the back burner.

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

They have expanded those services  and provide remote  assistance via your computer. This was great news for me as I continued to struggle with inaccessible websites. So, I downloaded the app, created my account and selected the paid membership level. I am able to call AIRA any day, anytime to get assistance  . AIRA has a  special feature called “Job Seekers.” This  free service is specifically for filling out job applications and updating cover letters and resumes.

AIRA and CAPTCHA screens

I have used AIRA to help with  frustrating  and inaccessible CAPTCHA screens. You know the ones that ask you are you a human being? Usually, I would check the box  and type  into the edit box what I hear. Unfortunately, many job sites don’t offer that option. Only type in what you see with several pictures popping up on the screen to identify. Of course, I can’t do that and  as a result can’t submit my job application. What I find so perplexing is the employer gives all this info about being an equal opportunity employer and understands diversity and inclusion. They say they will not discriminate  based on age, gender, race or disability  and feel free to disclose. Yet, they have this inaccessible screen  prohibiting me from applying. This experience questions how  much of an equal opportunity employer they really are. Or perhaps, they are just unaware of the importance of accessibility for all applicants.

When  I come across this situation, I no longer throw up my hands in annoyance. I no longer moan and groan. I  no longer walk away in pure exhaustion and don’t apply for the job. I  call up AIRA  and use remote access  with a human assistant. I explain the problem  and they  check off the appropriate boxes. I have even asked them to do a quick review of my application  before submission. It is always good to have a second  pair of eyes look things over  before pressing the submit button.

AIRA and Job Assessments

Another task AIRA has  helped me with is job assessments. Some applications require the completion of an assessment  along with submission. These assessments  rate me on my writing and editing abilities. Some will score me on my knowledge of particular skill sets like SEO and WordPress  . When I start the assessment the timer interferes with my screen reader. So, while trying hard to concentrate  the timer is verbally ticking off each minute I have remaining. This is incredibly distracting and stressful. So, instead of dealing with all of that headache, I call AIRA  and the assistant can read the questions to me while I give my responses. We can review the assessment  and then submit.

Use AIRA After Hiring

After landing a job, the assistance from AIRA doesn’t stop. Many of my friends  who are employed use AIRA to help with various work assignments. Some employers  are receptive to blind employees  using AIRA  on the job as a work accommodation and will pay  for the monthly subscription. AIRA is sensitive  to the employability of blind people  and supportive of removing barriers.

AIRA Provides Me relief

Job hunting has its own list of hang ups, adding inaccessibility  just increases irritation  and disappointment. I want my job exploration to be as stress free and pleasant as possible. AIRA  gives me relief. They rejuvenate my desire to keep searching. If you are visually impaired and a job seeker, like me, investigate  AIRA as a handy tool in your career toolbox.

Celebrating My Birthday With 7 Writing Gifts to Myself

Red and white gift boxes. Some decorated with stripes and others with patterns.

Tuesday, June 21 is my birthday and I am breaking tradition. I am celebrating by writing gifts to myself. I know you are supposed to receive gifts from others and I will happily take them. I just wanted to do  something a little different this year. After all the birthdays I have had, and there has been plenty. You got to spruce things up a bit  and get a little more creative.

Now you may be asking, “What is  a writing gift?” I am not talking about physical gifts like fancy or expensive writing pens or decorative  writing paper. Not even cute little paperweights with witty writing sayings or slogans. Or a writer T-shirt with matching tote bag or coffee mug. What I am talking about are gifts  that bring sparkle and joy to my creative process as a writer. These gifts are not covered in shiny paper  and bows. Rather they are internal  and part of the process  of a writing life and routine.

1.  Gift of calling myself a writer

No imposter syndrome here! Although I am currently not on the writing payroll, I do consider myself a writer. I am writing this post, aren’t I?

Publication  and payment are not sole determinations of a true writer. Writing takes work, energy and perseverance but it is also fun and exciting.

Whether I get paid or see my byline writing is a gift. Not everyone can do it. Coming up with creative and interesting content, and writing compelling prose is a real talent. Nothing to sneeze at! The actual acknowledgement it matters is Honoring the time and talent to my craft.

A pink birthday cake with a shiny gold #1 candle on top

Thinking of myself as a writer is a gift because half of the writing process is mental. I am the first person to make my work legit. If I don’t believe  I am a writer then I can’t expect anyone else to believe it either.

2.  Gift of time to write

My lifestyle affords me the time to write. I don’t have to squeeze it in between work and family. I don’t have to get up early before the kids wake up. I don’t have to leave my home for a quiet place to concentrate. I can write at any time I want. Morning, noon or night. I have even gotten spirts of writing inspiration in the wee hours of the morning. Booted up my computer and got to typing.

And because I am very organized I can plan and prepare in advance. Well, you know, as much as humanly possible. Things can come up unexpectedly. I can schedule my time, giving space for life, friends and social activities  along with moments to write.

3.  Gift of letting go

I am a perfectionist by nature and it comes out in my writing. I will ruminate over a piece of work, nick picking before pressing the submit or publish button. I am learning to let go and that  this is a gift to myself. I don’t have control over how my work is received  by others. I don’t have control if an editor will publish it or not. I don’t have control of  reactions from a social media post. I can just control what I write on the page.

The ability to release  and let go reduces stress and anxiety I didn’t even know I had. When I let go I can focus on the pure joy of writing.

4.  Gift of boredom

Empish Yawning

Taking time away from writing  to just sit  and think about nothing is a gift. I do this in the A.M. while listening to the bird’s chirp outside   or rain pelting across my windowpane. I just lay in the bed and do nothing. Letting my mind scatter, thinking of nothing in particular.

We all know, children get scolded for letting their minds wander, not paying attention or listening. But actually, in this situation, being a kid is a good thing. Mental musing is a gift . It allows the brain to recharge  and helps  creative ideas to flow naturally.

5. Gift of community

The writing life is typically solitary. Yet having a community of fellow writers is  not competition but friendships that feed and nourish creativity.

Having others to “talk shop” builds connection  and a sense of belonging. I am not alone and having others to converse with is a wonderful gift to myself. Every writer needs a friend who truly gets it without having to explain. Support one another  through this writing life because we are all in it together.

6. Gift of saying no

Saying no is a powerful gift to myself. I have to prioritize what writing I am going to do. Do I have the time? The energy? The head space? The knowledge? Sometimes I want to be Super Woman and do it all. I don’t have to feel guilty or obligated  to write a piece or take an assignment that doesn’t fit. Can you relate? I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have looked over writing opportunities  trying to decide if I should take the gig or not. Sometimes you find yourself compromising  for the money, the opportunity, the prestige. Or fill in the blank. This is the time to weigh the cost and use the gift of saying no. It will free you for that yes coming around the corner.

7. Gift of saying yes

Understanding the powerful gift of saying no, leads to the time to say yes. I am imagining  that moment when this amazing  writing assignment comes to me out of nowhere. The one I have been waiting for and didn’t even realize it. The one I was a little shy and afraid of. This is when I will use my gift of saying yes.

What Are Your Writing Gifts?

These seven writing gifts are included in my self care regiment and writing toolkit. They are great reminders of who I am  and  motivate me to keep going. Now, that you know my writing gifts, what are yours? Share in the comments  and let’s  celebrate the power of gift giving.

Growing  a Writing Green Thumb:  6 Ways Spring Can Nurture Your Craft

Colorful spring flowers in a field with the sky in the background

Writing About Spring

I’ve  never been great at growing vegetation. Plants and flowers  don’t seem to flourish around me. The idea of getting outside in the heat. Dealing with bugs of all kinds. Tilling soil  and getting dirty. None of these are my thoughts of a fun  and enjoyable activity. Then add my visual disability to the mix  and my interest quickly wilts like leaves on an unwatered plant. Although there are blind gardeners they must have a passion I don’t possess. But what I have found fruitful is writing about the topic. Now, that is something I can do.

I have been reading a lot about spring and it has inspired me to write about the season as it relates to the writing craft. I can’t grow an actual green thumb but I can do it with words. Here  is how I do it.

1. Start New Writing Habit

Spring is the time to rejuvenate. The time for rebirth. The time to try something new. With that in mind, start a new writing habit or ritual. I tried something new  with writing this blog post. Before writing anything down or doing any research I wrote a list of keywords that  communicated spring and growth. Words such as: nature, nurture, flourish, blooming, blossoming, petals, plants, leaves, stems, root, ground, dirt, soil and germinate. This writing exercise helped to get the creative juices flowing. It boosted my excitement about writing this piece. I felt energized  . Also, it helped eliminate using the same standard, old words and phrases  multiple times.

2. Writing in a Different Genre

Empish holds the anthology titled “Strengths, Courage and Inspiration During the coronavirus.”

Another new habit worth trying is writing in a different genre. If you are a nonfiction writer try fiction. If you are an author enter a writing contest or pen an article for a newspaper or magazine. Just like growing the same crop every time the soil  will lose nourishment, your writing can go stale. Your creativity can suffer. I have tried a new writing assignment. A  submission  I wrote was recently published in my local library’s anthology. it has motivated me to continue in this direction and I am working on another anthology submission for Black female writers.

3. Interact in Person

Spring is also the time to come out of the winter cave. During those cold months we stay at home and hibernate. Plus, the pandemic  has made many of us hesitant to physically interact with each other. But this is the prime time to get out of the house. Slow down those numerous Zoom calls. Renew old friendships and meet new people. Whether it is a writing group, book club meeting, or just hanging out, these interactions  boost positive energy  perfect for growing creativity.

I am an introvert but love interaction. This spring  I started attending live theatre again. I went to my first production  last month and it was a wonderful experience. I will share more in a future post. Later this month, I will be meeting with my dinner book club in person for the first time since the pandemic started.

4. Write Down Ideas and Thoughts

Now, for the real dirty work. You must plant seeds in order for your writing green thumb to grow. Just like in a real garden, seeds must be sown in order for flowers, fruits or veggies  to materialize. Something I do regularly is write down blogging ideas whether they turn into a published piece or not. This  boosts my creativity  and gets those little writing shoots growing. When you write a list of ideas you  can refer back  and it keeps your creative brain fertilize. You are giving your thoughts and ideas a safe place to grow and germinate.

The seeding stage is the most important of phases of a plant’s growth  and can’t be rushed. In other words, you can’t speed up creativity. it has to sprout over time, and with water, sunlight and nurturing creative ideas will soon emerge through the soil.

5. Remember the Writing Process

Seeds are resilient to weather changes, fighting their way through the ground. You will see little spurts of green sprouts inching their way up. As a writer it is easy to focus on the victories and successes of our craft. The published article, blog or even book, without properly acknowledging  the hard work it took to get there. There is real time and struggle in accomplishing any objective  or success story. Remember the experience and don’t forget the writing process as you work toward your goals. Enjoy the journey  not just the fruits of your labor.

6. Stop Writing If Burned Out

Are your writing seedlings not growing? Don’t see any shoots sprouting up? Experiencing creative burnout? Yes, I can relate. If you are Stuck on the next section of a story, unclear on a headline,  struggling with a character. Then stop. Do something totally different than writing. Do something you enjoy but doesn’t require a lot of mental gymnastics. This gives your brain a break allowing creative ideas to blossom. For me exercise is my thing. Turning up the music loud and walking on my treadmill not only is good exercise  but I can relax and enjoy the moment. usually by the time I am done I can get back to writing. Other times, I will sit on the piece and sleep on it. Then come back the next day and continue to write.

Empish on Treadmill

Spring is here and full of writing possibilities. Use my ideas to inspire and refresh   your work. I am sure that one, two  or maybe even all of them will help you grow that writing green thumb.

Can You Hear Me Now? Why I Like Landlines and Smartphones

Empish using iPhone

Telephone Memories

Today, Apr. 25,  is National Telephone Day and I am feeling somewhat nostalgic. I am reflecting on my usage of this important communication device  invented by Alexander Graham Bell. I remember my first telephone. It was a white Princess model purchased from Bellsouth. It sat on my nightstand next to my bed. I remember my parents  and I going to our  local shopping center where there was a Bellsouth store. In the store were a variety of makes and models of phones much like  the cell phone stores of today.

In my hone, there was one in my parents’ bedroom  and one more in the kitchen. The kitchen phone was a wall mounted version with a rotary dial. For those too young to  remember  or those who have forgotten a rotary dial was a type of phone where you had to place your finger in an open metal circle and turn to the corresponding number you wanted. You had to do this one digit at a time and it was a slow process but that is how we dial numbers back then. Also, there  wasn’t a need for area codes unless you were calling long distance.

Now getting back  to my Princess model. I can’t remember if it was a rotary dial or push button because it was so long ago. All I remember is that as a teenager I had my own phone and that is what counted.

But having my own phone quickly ended when I started college and lived in the dorms. It was the phone in the hall mounted on the wall  . Someone would yell loudly, “Empish, you got a phone call!” Then later it was housemates in an apartment. Depending on the situation maybe I had a phone in my room or not.

Blindness and Using a Landline

When I went blind the importance of the telephone  and my ability to use it really  became critical. I  didn’t realize  how vital vision was until I couldn’t dial a number on my landline phone. Back then cell phones were not really happening quite yet. This was back in the mid-90s. People were still using landlines. But my vision loss kept me from seeing the small numbers on the keypad. Initially I got a large print phone with high contrast. The numbers were big and pronounced. The colors were black on white for better visibility. But as I lost more vision  those features were not as helpful anymore. I began to totally rely on the small, raised dot on the number 5, slowly navigating around the keypad. I started memorizing the sequence  and order of the numbers  to know which one to press. I also began to be more  particular about my phone purchases. Touching carefully  the display models in the store before walking out with one. I duplicated this same method when cell phones became popular. Carefully touching the display models to be sure I could  access the buttons.

Empish Using a Landline Phone

Today I am a master at my landline phone. Yes, I still use one . It has a large size keypad. A dot on the number 5. I can quickly dial numbers without even thinking much about it. I also have several cordless phones throughout my hone. All with  distinctive keypads for easy dialing. I have these phones in case of an emergency because you never know when you need to quickly grab  your phone. If you have a cell phone it could be anywhere in the house while you are someplace else.

Also Using a Smartphone

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my smartphone too. Unlike older cell phone models my iPhone is totally accessible with voiceover command. I just don’t make calls much on it. The shape and design is  not made for holding up to my ear. Yes, I know I can get earbuds  but for some reason I have been slow to get on that train. So, I use my smartphone  for other things like reading my audiobooks, listening to podcasts and watching movies. I do some text messaging  and store my contacts  as a digital address book. I also find it helpful as a quick and handy dictionary and spellchecker.

The evolution of the telephone has come a long way. Who would have known that our phones would  become minicomputers in our pockets or purses? The advancement of technology  and what we can do with it is amazing. I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would  say if he could see how far his invention has come. I know he would say more to Mr. Watson than, “can you hear me now?”

Fun Telephone Facts

Looking for some fun facts  about the telephone? Read these provided by National Days Today:

  • Alexander Graham Bell and his helper, Thomas Watson, made the first phone call.
  • The first phone book only had 20 pages.
  • Mark Twain was the first person to own a phone.
  • In the United States, telephones expanded rapidly, from one phone in 1876 to 11 million phones countrywide by 1915.
  • By 1910, New York Telephone had 6,000 female telephone operators.
  • When Bell handed Watson the phone and said, “here, hold this,” the phrase “to put someone on hold” was named after them.
  • When Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922, all telephones were silenced for one minute with respect to the inventor.
  • In 1956, the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. A telephone cable was laid across the ocean floor, reaching depths of 12,000 feet. The cable connects Canada and Scotland across the Atlantic Ocean.
  • There are around 150 million telephone lines in the world, with the number growing by thousands every day.

Suggestions for Celebrating National Telephone Day

Whether you still use a landline phone or only use a smartphone, or like me use both, celebrate National Telephone Day  with these suggestions:

1.  Call someone today you either rarely speak to or normally communicate with via text.

2.  Who is your favorite person to talk on the phone with? Give them a call today and check-in to see how they are doing.

3.  Feeling nostalgic? Inquire with your grandparents about the amount of energy required to “dial” a phone — and why they disliked numbers with a lot of zeroes.

4.  And if you are really feeling musically inspired  and bold call a friend or loved one and sing Stevie Wonder’s  iconic song, “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”

Managing Creative Burnout and Slowly Getting My Writing Mojo Back

Empish sitting on mat in a yoga prayer pose

Writing is a Joy

Writing has been such an intricate part of my life it is hard for me to remember  the days when I was not a writer. With that being said writing is something I love to do not just a task to make money. The creative process is a joy. Coming up with  topics to write. Stringing interesting words and phrases to make sentences worthy of reading is exciting. Researching fascinating topics for a blog or an article  thrill me. But I noticed a shift recently. It was  not glaring directly in my face like a deer in headlights. Rather it was more subtle  and quiet.

It  all started around the Christmas holidays. My mother came to visit me and boy what a treat. For her  short visit I set up a firestick so we could lounge on the sofa and watch TV and movies. This is what we typically do when I am home. We did that and had a wonderful time. But after she left I kept lolling on that sofa. It was hard to get up and get going. I would tell myself, one more movie and then I will get to writing only to look up and the whole day was gone. This strange and weird pattern  stretched over several days and then weeks. I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. This behavior  was not my style.

Showing Signs of Creative Burnout

I did a self-check in and noticed my love for writing  was not gone. I was just not in the mood. I was just not motivated.

After reading all the new year articles about setting goals and intentions I stumbled across some talking about creative burnout. As I continued to read and research I discovered this was me. Like being diagnosed with a disease, I was displaying  the signs and symptoms. I became my own doctor and started to work on a cure. Or at least a way to reduce  the symptoms  so I could get back on track. As of this writing I am in a better place but don’t feel completely recovered. I don’t feel that I have fully gotten my writing mojo back. Rather I am managing my creative burnout  and here’s how.

Need to Chill Out

AS they say in the Alcoholic Anonymous meetings you have to admit there is a problem. You can’t be in denial and expect to get better. As I said earlier, I knew something was wrong. Or at least something was off. But I had to go a little deeper. I looked at my personality. I am one of those Type A people most people love to hate. I am on time every time. I am meticulous about keeping things organized. I keep a running list of things to do and  don’t handle it well  when I can’t scratch  items off my list daily. So, you get the idea of the kind of person I am. In a lot of places my type works very well yet in other places people  want me to chill. I have worked on relaxing  and cooling out over the years. Which leads to my creative burnout.

Since I know who and what I am, it began to dawn on me  this period in my life  was probably a needed respite. Instead of getting stressed out, worrying  or even ramping up my work, I needed to stop and listen. To take a chill pill as they use to say. To slow down  and be quiet.

I Am Not Alone

The next thing I realized is that I was not alone. While sitting on my sofa  mindlessly watching movies  I felt a little isolated. Like I was the only one or one in a few dealing with this issue. But that is not true. People who are creatives  can experience burnout. That is people who are writers, artists, social media  experts,  musicians, influencers, podcasters, etc. People who have to crank out content constantly  for the man. You know who I’m talking about. It is a continuous  grind to come up with creative ideas to write about, to blog about and on and on. After a while you get tired because  you are not a machine but a human being.

As  creatives, yes, we take breaks. Yes, we do all the selfcare stuff. But we can still get burned out. Because we are on someone’s schedule  and the work has got to be excellent. The heat and pressure is on.

Switch Writing Gears

So, what to do? I have switched gears up a bit. I have worked on writing projects  that don’t demand  all of that from me. Projects where I can use  the other side of my brain. This way I can give myself some needed rest while still doing what I love.

Not Demanding Perfection

I am also not demanding perfection from myself as much. I realized the huge amount of stress I was placing on myself. Not that I  won’t produce excellent work. Or be open to correction  and criticism to improve. That is not what I am talking about. I am referring to the fact that I am not perfect. That I tend to be nitpicky when it comes to my work. I know as long  as I do my very best that is good enough. I just have to keep telling myself that until it sticks like old chewing gum on the bottom of my shoe.

Making Peace and Not Afraid

I have also made peace with this place in my life. I am not fighting where I am. Everything has a purpose. This transition or phase or whatever you want to call it is happening right  now  for a reason. I am learning how to lean into  the moment and experience the ride. I don’t have to be in control of everything  all the time. And actually,  it feels pretty good  to pump the breaks.

Lastly, with this new resolve I am not afraid of totally losing my mojo. AS a matter of fact, it is slowly coming back. Not in a big title wave like I had originally expected  but more  like drips from a  leaky faucet. I can live with this fact because writing is my joy.

Talk to me. Are you a creative? Have you experience burnout? If so, what things did you do to manage it? How did you get your mojo back?

Feeling Anxious About Tax Filing? Stay Calm with My  Stress-Free Organizing Tips

Woman holding up two tax forms in front of her face

Although this year’s tax filing deadline is right around the corner on April 18, I traditionally file my taxes in February or March. I figure the sooner the better and to just get the whole maddening business out of the way quickly. But more importantly I file early  because things get pretty busy and hectic. This way I avoid the stress and anxiety as much as possible.

Before losing my vision I prepared my taxes myself. It was fairly simple  and straightforward. But afterward, I lacked the confidence to do it on my own and some tax preparation  products and tools were not very accessible or complicated. Even though tax filing has become more accessible over the years I  still prefer to have a professional handle the paperwork. So, when I was recently in my tax guy’s office he was telling me once again how organized my paperwork  was and how easy it was to file for me. He tells me this year after  year,  marveling at how I do this with vision loss. I just smile and say, “Thank you for the compliment.” But it got me thinking  and led me to share some of my tax filing tips. The things that keep me stress-free  and organized each tax year. Hopefully, you will feel the same after reading.

Make Excel Your Friend

The biggest tool I use to stay calm  during tax filing is Excel. This software program  is my friend. I use it daily for all kinds of things. To track my grocery spending. To track my Uber/Lyft  ride amounts. To track my credit card payments. To track my out-of-pocket medical  cost. Do you get my drift? Excel is a great way to track numbers for nearly anything you want. So, each year I track my freelance income and expenses. For example, on my freelance expense spreadsheet I create  rows and columns for the date, company, expense description and amount. On a spreadsheet everything is laid out and easy to read. You can also sort and reorganize the columns and rows to crunch the numbers in different ways which my accountant loves.

Each year I create new spreadsheets with the year in the title so I know the difference. I usually  will do a save as in Excel and just update  the new one. I find this easier  because the formula I use to calculate my totals  stays the same each time. Then when I meet with my accountant I just hand him the thumb drive  and he can clearly read and review the spreadsheets  he needs for tax filing.

Create Email Receipt Folders

Now, how to deal with all those paper receipts. And no, I am not talking about stuffing them in a folder or shoebox. I have noticed nowadays   most receipts are provided electronically. I can even get my grocery receipts  sent via email. Now what I do is create folders in my email provider for receipts. I label the folder in accordance with what is in the folder. I use Outlook for this process. I have a folder for all my Amazon orders. Another one for house-related  things. Another for medical. I refer back to these receipts  for taxes when I need to. I can simply punch all the info into  my spreadsheets  and/or print out the receipt for verification if needed.

For receipts that are not electronic I store in a paper file folder for tax filing only. I have a dedicated folder strictly for this purpose. Throughout the year, as I get receipts, donation  letters, home ownership tax statements and other documents, I place in this folder. Although the amount is minimal this step keeps me from getting stressed out later because everything is in one place  and ready to go during tax time.

Empish using water and fireproof safe

These paper receipts I store with a copy of my tax return and place in my water and fireproof safe. There I keep copies of previous tax returns  for the future just in case the IRS comes calling.

There you go. My two biggest organizing tips for  stress free  tax filing. Some might be looking for a long laundry list of tips and tricks but for me it is really this simple. I have been doing this for years and it actually works. Hopefully, if tax season is stressing you out, my tips helped you feel better. With some organization and preparation this year’s filing could be your calmest ever.