Friday, September 29, 2023

Toxic Positivity as a Freelance Writer

Recently I've been reading a book called Toxic Positivity.  I was curious about the book when it popped up on my library's recommended titles.  I'm generally a pretty positive person, so I wanted to know what made positivity toxic.

The answer boils down to when positivity is forced and, often as a result, crowds out other perfectly healthy emotions.  It's when positivity becomes so forced that it devolves into platitudes and other inherently unhelpful impulses.  And once I started reading the book, I realized I know exactly what the author means.  This level of forced positivity is toxic.

Then there was also the discussion of when your forced positivity doesn't extend to your true feelings, leaving you feeling like a failure.  My interpretation is that there's a level of dissonance in people who try to force themselves to be positive even when they don't feel it, and end up feeling worse because they know they're not achieving what they think they're supposed to.

But why am I blogging about this on a blog about freelance writing?

The author, Whitney Goodman, also touches on how toxic positivity impacts the workplace.  In her book, she discusses an overworked employee who is silenced and shamed for daring to complain about the work environment.  The book discusses toxic positivity in the workplace: bright colors, foos ball, common areas, holiday parties.  These things are designed to force a feeling of fun and camaraderie in the office, but in this employee's experience, just disguised the toxicity of the office and made it so that anyone complaining could be shamed for being negative in such a positive environment.

That's one reason I bring it up.  But it's not a direct comparison to freelancing, since we typically work from home and with a fair amount of independence.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized we're still susceptible to this idea of toxic positivity, from both inside and outside sources.

  1. The toxic client.  Most of us have probably encountered clients who present themselves as the perfect client to write for, the dream opportunity... but then you find out you're expected to be on call 24/7, put up with unreasonable expectations and nitpicky critiques of your work, etc.  If you try to enforce your boundaries as a freelancer, you're silenced much as the employee in the book was, because how could you ever complain about such a fabulous gig?

  2. Toxic positivity in presentation.  Another thing Goodman talks about is the wild chasm between how we present our lives on social media, and how we actually feel.  Social media is evidence of toxic positivity when we always pretend everything is perfect, even when it's most definitely not.  I think we as writers are horribly guilty of this, as we feel like we have to always present our freelance status as a perfect existence in order to combat society's skepticism.  So when people ask us about what we do, we talk up the flexibility and the independence, and conveniently leave out anything about how hard freelancing can be.

  3. Internalized toxic positivity.  When it comes down to it, it's all in our head, but unfortunately freelance writers spend a lot of time in our heads.  We tell ourselves freelancing is a dream job even though we're working long hours to market ourselves and continually look for more work, still meet our deadlines, and generate enough in income.  We're impossibly hard on ourselves and always view our accomplishments as not being enough.  "Believe you can do it and it'll happen!" is the message, no matter how unrealistic the goal is.  And we pretend our job has this amazing advantage of flexibility even though in reality that means working all hours.  In short, we are both the boss and the employee in the scenario in the book: overworked and telling ourselves how dare we complain when we have the good fortune to work for ourselves.
I'm not yet finished with Toxic Positivity, but I'm looking forward to seeing if there's more that appears to be relevant to freelancing, and what solutions the book proposes (because it does discuss ways to reframe so that you're not constantly undermining yourself and others with forced positivity).  I'll post again if I find anything else that bears passing on.  In the meantime: Remember, we may love freelancing, but we don't have to sell it as being perfect all the time.  No job is perfect all the time, and freelancing doesn't need to be either in order to justify our decision to pursue this life.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 18

Last week turned out to be pretty eventful, so I didn't get much done that I had planned.  This week has been complicated so far as well, which is why I'm only now getting around to posting about my plans for the week, when the week is half over.

I feel like much of last week is a blur, so I'm going to reconstruct what I can.

Doll stringing ebook: I ended up having to move this again.  I moved it to next week since I knew I wouldn't get to it this week.  I really do need to get these pictures and finish the ebook updates, though.  I want to get this ebook back up for sale again.

Ruby Ransome: I'm fairly resigned to not starting to work on this again until probably October.  (Which is, alarmingly, just a few days away at this point.)  NaNoWriMo is coming up quickly, and I don't want to be scrambling to figure out where I'm at with it again during November, so I do need to get back to work on it in October.

Blogging and website maintenance: This definitely fell by the wayside in the last week.  I've had ideas for some content that I haven't been able to carry out, though, so hopefully soon.

Other projects: I did, fortunately, get some work done on my organization project.  In addition to doing some reorganization in my "sales closet" that I think will make it more functional, I also started organizing the dinette to double as a photography studio when I need to take pictures.  I have a few more things to do to finish the job, and some related content planned for later this week that is also part of this project.  I want to get it done this week or weekend, since it will facilitate other content coming up.

On the horizon: NaNoWriMo approacheth!  At this point, it's just over a month away, which means I really need to get serious about planning.  I've reached out to several venues that host some of our events in November, so I've officially started the ball rolling.  Getting started on planning early is helpful as it leaves less to do at the last minute.  One of my co-organizers who is less able to run write-ins this year has offered to write all the email blasts, which is a relief, so I'll just need to do some planning this year and that's it.

Sometimes it doesn't feel like I've gotten much done even when I make this list, but looking at my sales closet, dinette, and kitchen, I can see the evidence of how much I accomplished.  Since getting organized and establishing spaces for things like sales stuff and photography is so fundamental to getting my other things done, every time I start feeling like I haven't done enough, I look around and remind myself of how much I have done.

It's getting there, slowly but surely, and sometimes it's important to look at the progress instead of feeling bad that it's not done yet.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 17

I can't believe what a cluster last week ended up being.  Some of it's sensitive so I don't want to get into  all of it, but suffice it to say that my husband's cold was only the first interruption of the week.  Car problems and a rather stressful situation with one of my Facebook groups took care of the rest.

This week is already off to a rip-roaring start, too.  I have a lot on my list to do for the week, but today didn't go as planned.  Tomorrow won't either, since I have to run an unexpected errand, and then I have a (planned) visit from my mom in the evening.  I have planned "interruptions" pretty much every day this week, actually, which is going to leave little time to get things done.

One of the "interruptions" is a big deal and an accomplishment, if it goes well, so I can't feel bad about that.  I'm just frustrated with the lack of time to work on things I'd like to work on.

I'll do my best though, and probably spend some time trying to catch up on stuff around the house on the weekend.  Here's last week's rundown, and the plan for this week.

Doll stringing ebook: I did move this to Wednesday, and I'm glad I did as there was no way it would have gotten done today.  I'm hoping to get back on track so that I won't push it back again.

Ruby Ransome: Once again, I opted to shift this back another week.  I have too much to do this week.  I am reminding myself that I told myself last week that was okay!

Blogging and website maintenance: I didn't get much done here, on social media either.  Just two blog posts last week.  I have ideas for some reels, but I haven't had a chance to film them yet.

Other projects: Not much happened with my organization project last week.  Even the weekend ended up being too full to work on anything.  Hopefully I can make up for that this week.  I'm trying to leave the weekend open for it.

On the horizon: I meant to reach out to my various contacts about starting to make plans for NaNoWriMo, but it didn't happen last week.  It's on the docket for this week.  It's too early to be making most plans yet, but there are a few things that should get on the calendar sooner rather than later.

Some weeks I feel pretty good about things, and other weeks I feel like I'm caught in a riptide and I need to focus on keeping my head above water before I can even think about trying to go anywhere else.  Last week was one of the latter, and this week may not be much better.  Hopefully by the end of the week all the "interruptions" will be over with and I can spend some time over the weekend on my projects.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Sick Days When You Work from Home

Well, it seems we may have brought "con crud" home with us from the Fall Show.  My husband woke up with a slightly sore throat yesterday, which progressed into some congestion throughout the day.  He took medicine before bed, and today I can hear him coughing and fighting congestion while he works.

As for me, I was hoping I would avoid it, but I woke up with the faintest of sore throats this morning.  Any other time I would have assumed it was allergies, but with Zac sick I am playing it safe.  I skipped my ride with my leaser today as I didn't want to expose her to it, and I'm contemplating skipping my dad's appointment tomorrow at the cancer center.  If I am potentially carrying something, the last thing I want to do is to take it to a bunch of chemo patients.

Listening to my husband hack and cough while he works made me think of how sick days have changed.  It used to be that people were expected to largely work through being sick, so hacking and coughing at one's desk wasn't really that surprising a thing.  Then covid put the fear of illness into everyone, and people were expected to stay at home.  But at the same time, the world was shifting to a more virtual workplace in response to covid concerns, so it became a matter of "Don't be selfish and expose other people, but also make sure you do this work as we still need it done."

In a lot of ways, I think this has eroded people's sick days.  While now it's more expected to stay home if you're ill, it's like the corporate world thinks you can still rest while working from home.  So even though your body needs real rest to get better, you're expected to spend your rest time working from home.

Of course, my husband is in a similar boat as I am.  He's a contract-to-hire employee, so until they hire him on as a full time employee with benefits, he has no sick days.  If he has to take a day off, he loses the income for that day, which motivates him to work through the illness.

The same goes for me when I'm sick, although as a freelancer and a self-employed person, I get paid a little differently (by what I accomplish, rather than hourly).  And honestly, that difference often means that I'm not motivated to work, unless I have a pressing deadline that can't be postponed, because I tend not to be very focused when I'm sick.

Speaking of my focus, that has been suffering today too, I'm afraid.  I was hoping to be productive while "stuck" at home from my canceled ride, but instead I haven't accomplished much that I had intended to do.  I don't know if it's because I'm getting sick, but I haven't had any energy or motivation today.  Sometimes I feel fine, and other times I think that maybe I'm feeling a little bit off.  I guess only time will tell.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 16

I can't believe I've been doing these progress posts for almost four months now.  Looking back on the first ever weekly progress post, I realized a lot of my current projects were on my list even then.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  The cleaning and organizing overhaul is a massive project and one that I don't work on equally every day or even every week, so that's why it's still on my list.  Plus, I have made progress over the past three and a half months; I just have to look around my living room to see how much.

But there are other projects that I feel bad about not having accomplished anything on yet, mostly those projects waiting in the wings for me to finish other things and get back to work on them.  These are projects such as my doll stringing ebook and my novel, things I promise each week I'll get back to work on, but that keep getting pushed back.

Is it a race, though?  Do I have to do them right now?  When I stop and think about it, I don't really have to get right to work on them.  I'm working on other things that are more important at the moment.

Last week didn't see a lot of progress on any projects, though.  I worked on a project for one of the Facebook groups that I run, and got my exhibit ready for the Fall Show.  That was, unfortunately, the bulk of what I accomplished last week.

This week I'm hoping to get more done with my organization project, and maybe get a couple of large items listed for sale to clear some space.

Doll stringing ebook: I scheduled this for next Monday, and that's still the case.  I'm going to try not to have to move it again because I need to get that project done.

Ruby Ransome: I shifted this back another week.  Honestly, at this point maybe I won't get to it until closer to NaNoWriMo, or even until NaNoWriMo, and that's okay.  I just want to make sure I get my organization project done before NaNoWriMo, so that I can focus on NaNo in November.

Blogging and website maintenance: You can see that last week was a little challenging for me, as I didn't get any other blog work done.  I did get some quick content (reels) at the Fall Show over the weekend, and have some more content planned for this week.  I think I'm also going to change the title of this category, or maybe I need to separate out social media into its own category.  I'll have to think on that.

Other projects: I didn't get much done on my organization project last week, but I'm hoping to catch up in a major way this week.  I have lots of ideas for what I want to do next, but there is of course always more to do.

On the horizon: NaNoWirMo is coming up and I need to start looking at plans.  At this stage, I probably just need to reach out to the coffee shop that usually hosts our kickoff party and some of our write-ins and make sure they're on board for this year.  Not a lot else needs to be planned yet, but pretty soon we'll be planning write-ins and other small events, so I'll start reaching out to other businesses soon too.

I love when the start to a week feels so promising, like there's a lot to do and I'm full of hope that I can get it all done.  That being said, today's plans have already gone astray, so we'll see what the week has in store for me!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Accountability and Progress: Week 15

I'm really enjoying how things are shaping up around the house.  We got a lot more done this past week, especially over the holiday weekend, and it's so satisfying every time something else takes shape.  Unfortunately, we also had to give up some of our time over the weekend to dealing with car maintenance, and I babysat for most of yesterday as well.

I also got some work done blogging last week, but most of what I did was organizing and such around the house.  I've pretty much given up on doing the super ambitious content push.  I'm just going to try to do some videos as time allows.  This week I expect will be pretty quick without a lot of opportunities for much, since it's a short week due to the holiday, plus I'm losing so much of the week due to obligations outside the house.

Doll stringing ebook: I'm putting this back on the to-do list, but scheduling it out for the week after next.  This week is a hot mess already, and next week I want to try to get around to doing some content.

Ruby Ransome: I had planned on getting back to work on my novel this week, but with the short week and the myriad other demands on my time, I'm actually going to put that off until next week.

Blogging and website maintenance: I'm still working on ramping up my work in this category.  I blogged exactly twice last week, though, so this area definitely needs work, and across my other websites and blogs as well.  My social media participation slowed down a little last week too, so it was just a slow week overall for everything but my organization projects and a couple other things.  I'm hoping to do a little better this coming week (what there is of it).

Other projects: I worked some more on the copy, flyers, and social media content for the museum's doll event coming up in October, and I think that's more or less done now.  I had to finalize it before the museum's Fall Show this coming weekend, so they could make flyers for the show.  And of course I've been working on cleaning and organizing, and making good progress on that.  Lots more to do this week and next, too!

On the horizon: I picked up my business cards to display at the Fall Show, and now I really need to work on planning my exhibit.  I have some ideas of how I want to set it up, so this week I'll work on that.  Friday is setup day, and I'll probably set up mostly in the afternoon.  I'm also volunteering at the show on Sunday, so I expect a fair bit of my weekend will be taken up with this show.  Unfortunately that does mean I may not have another weekend to spend on cleaning and organizing until the following weekend!

This weekend is going to be over before I know it, and without much time to get things done, between the holiday, today being mostly over already, car issues, a farrier appointment for the horses, and the Fall Show Friday through Sunday.  I think it's fair not to have many ambitions for this week, and just try to get through it with my to-do list more or less intact.  I'll work more on getting things done next week.


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