Is Self-Employment the Key to Worklife Balance?

I’ve been working on a book–and blog–that explores work-life balance, and how we can all build happier and healthier lives. This post seemed relevant to all you writers out there!

Lean Back

The other day I received a press release from Elaine Biech, the author of The New Business of Consulting: The Basics and Beyond, about worklife balance for consultants. “On one hand, you get to do the work you love while enjoying perks like setting your own schedule and traveling to exciting cities. But on the other hand, you must endure the punishing realities of your job: 4:00 a.m. flights, hours upon hours of work, poorly prepared restaurant food, and getting home at midnight after a long week.”

It got me thinking! So often we associate overwork culture with companies that demand we work longer hours and answer emails in the middle of the night. But that’s not always the case. Being self-employed brings a whole new level of stress to the table.

It’s not just consultants that run themselves ragged despite having more control over their schedules than most…

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Career vs. Lifestyle

I started a new site to collect my thoughts about work-life balance and changing the way we think about success. Here is one of the first posts from “Lean Back.” If you like it, please visit and subscribe!

Lean Back

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” We ask kids that all the time. When they get older and start thinking about college, we tweak the question a little, but we keep asking it. We rarely ever ask anyone, “What kind of life do you want when you grow up?”

Frankly, it’s a better question.

When I was in elementary school, if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d tell you I wanted to be a veterinarian/gymnast. (Who would take care of my patients while I was competing at the Olympics?) But then I quit gymnastics when I was in the fourth grade, and I realized I’d spend a good portion of my life sobbing if I was a vet. (Seriously, veterinarians have a hard job and it shows in their mental health.)

I wish someone had asked me…

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May’s Heavenly Day

Only a very good doggo could inspire such a beautiful song.

The first time I laid eyes on Maybelle she was behind bars, in a kennel between the two dogs I’d come to see at the Humane Society. They were big German Shepherd-mixes. One was mostly black and impressive, and the other was about as striking a dog as I’ve ever seen — yellow like a lab, but with the profile of a Shepherd. And between them was a little 45-pound cattle dog mix with oversized ears that stuck out at a strange angle from her head. While the other dogs jumped and barked, she leaned up against the bars of her kennel and waited for someone to give her a scratch.

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Big Little Podcast

Anyone who knows me, knows that my most frequently uttered phrase is, “There’s this podcast…” Well, now I’m officially part of the podcast revolution. I’m so happy to introduce a fun big, little project I worked on with a couple of friends.

Take a stroll down Monterey’s Memory Lane. Relive Season 1 of Big Little Lies with us.

In one 7 hour long marathon recording session, we drank some boxed wine and dished about Monterey’s favorite murderers. (Bonus points if you can pinpoint the episode where we actually start to get drunk.) If you loved Big Little Lies and wished you had someone to talk to about it, this is the podcast for you!

We explore all the important questions.

Is Madelyn a nightmare? Is Ed a creep? Are all the men creeps? Which of the husbands would you marry/f*ck/kill? Is Otter Bay’s first grade taeacher the worst teacher alive? Which kid is the creepiest? (It’s always Amabella.)

You can binge all of Season 1 today in anticipation of Season 2 — iTunes, Stitcher, or our website.

And I want to know if you’re a Madelyn, Celeste, Jane, Bonnie, or Renata?

Finding the Right Freelance Content Writer

I am amazed by the sheer number of services devoted to helping you find the right freelancer. The only thing more surprising is that there are enough freelancers to support all these platforms. I suppose this was inevitable in the age of #sidehustle. But as someone who works with freelancers every day, I can tell you that they are not all created equal.

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An Ode to Monty Don

I’ve got Spring Fever, and I blame Monty Don, otherwise known as Britain’s Favorite Gardener. After discovering a season of Big Dreams, Small Spaces on Netflix that I hadn’t already seen, I spent a couple of weekend mornings watching intently as people across England transform their backyards with the help of Monty. When I came to the end of the unwatched season I wasn’t satisfied. I started watching Monty Don’s French Gardens, and Monty Don’s Italian Gardens. All of this is on Netflix, ready to be binged. And while you might be saying, “I don’t care about gardening, that show isn’t for me,” I’m going to make a case for why you should all be watching Monty Don.

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Why Every Writer Needs an Editor

An acquaintance of mine, after finding out what I do for a living, asked me if I considered myself a writer. She’s an English professor, who has devoted her life to studying writers. So when I said, “I love writing, but I think I lean more toward being an editor,” she seemed surprised. When you’re a kid, you never say, “When I grow up, I want to be an editor!”

Everyone wants to be a writer--but every writer needs a good editor. 

When I tell people I’m an editor, they don’t really know what it means. If they have some idea about the profession, it’s that we spend our time looking for misplaced commas and typos. Of course, we do a bit of that, but in reality, that’s what copy editors and proofreaders are for. My time is spent assigning articles, and then making sure that the writers have hit the mark. I’m usually editing articles about business and technology, which means there are a few things I’m looking for.

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Happy Sunday: Just Fine

Brandi Carlile wowed people on The Grammy’s. Unfortunately, I missed that performance–at least the live broadcast–but her newest album has been in heavy rotation at my house for months. Then, recently, I saw that this song made President Obama’s playlist last year. I thought that was a good reason to share.

A Writing Shed of One’s Own

I am smitten with Britain’s favorite gardener, Monty Don. A couple of years ago, I had no idea who he was, but then Netflix started airing Big Dreams, Small Spaces and I was hooked. But I’m not here to talk to you about Monty Don’s gardening prowess, his suspenders, or his loping walk. I’m here to discuss his writing garden–a lovely little woodland with a shed at the back where Monty types out his books.

Monty Don in his writing shed.
Monty Don is his writing shed.

The first time I ever thought, “Gee, I sure would like a writing shed” was when I read John Irving’s Last Night at Twisted River. The main character talks about the little shack he writes in on a remote island. Then, several years later, Pinterest and tiny houses became a part of my life. Before I knew it, I was very seriously coveting a writing shed of my own.

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Lean Out and Get a Life

I am a working woman in my 30s who has never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m a rare bird, but now that you’ve spotted me, you can check me off your list.

Like a lot of women, I had a very basic, visceral reaction to Lean In that made me an instant skeptic. For me, though, the problem was less about the privileged position Sandberg was writing from at the time, and more about the fact that she was using her prominent position to tell us all to work harder–as if Americans weren’t already working themselves to death.

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On Becoming a Plant Lady

The title of this post is misleading. I’ve always been a plant lady–but focused mostly on the outdoor variety. Back in 2011, I bought a house. The yard was a bit of a wasteland, but I kind of liked that, because it meant I could make it my own. I begged, borrowed, and stole plants from just about everyone I knew. Roses and lilacs from my grandmother. Black-eyed Susans from my aunt. Peonies from my other grandmother. Irises from a family friend. Another family friend helped me procure wood for the raised beds for my vegetable garden. By the time I sold the house in 2017, the once barren yard was filled to near overflowing (though my mom did dig up some of Nana’s old roses and take them to her house before I put it on the market).

But since I sold the house and have been moving around, I’ve had to embrace houseplants. I had a few easy to care for plants at my old place–a spider plant given to me as a housewarming gift, a few cacti also given as gifts through the years. But I’ve never been much of a houseplant person. My cats were generally the enemy of any plants I brought inside. They either ate it or knocked it over. And frankly, I didn’t really know what to do with the plants, anyway. What does “bright indirect light” mean, anyway?

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The Best Way to “Reread” Your Favorite Books

When I was 14 years old, I wandered into my local Barnes and Nobles with the summer reading list my high school had given me. There were hundreds of options on it that I could hardly make sense of. So I handed it to an employee and she quickly zeroed in on John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. She told me that if it wasn’t the best book I’d ever read, I could come back to the store and throw it at her.

I never threw the book at her, because it’s still my all-time favorite. If she’s out there, I’d love to thank her.

I’m not one for rereading books. There are just too many new stories to discover, but when I found myself with a few Audible credits to use, I thought, this might be a good way to revisit some old favorites. It can be hard to follow an audiobook for 20 hours or more (though I’m getting better at it), so rather than trying to follow a new story–and incessantly having to rewind–I downloaded my old pal Owen.

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The Best Coat I’ve Ever Owned

I receive a lot of press releases and story pitches in my day job. Lately, companies seem to be eager to tell me how consumers are more likely to be loyal to brands that take a stand, have a conscience, and are good corporate citizens. I want to write back, “Yeah, I know. Let me tell you about my coat.” But, since that would be weird, I’m going to tell you about my coat. Continue reading

Happy Sunday: Free Thinkers

Over the past month or so, I have wasted an inordinate amount of time watching two guys watch and react to music videos. It started–as so many of my YouTube rabbit holes do–with Jason Isbell. But it quickly led to Chris Stapleton and Amanda Lambert…and even some Alanis Morrissette.

Here’s the premise: Ryan and George, two black men , listen to music you might not expect them to like (based on stereotypes), and they react. I don’t think I have ever wanted to be friends with two people as much as I want to be friends with Ryan and George. Continue reading