Wednesday, March 13, 2013

5 Ways To Kill Writer's Block

I feel incredibly elated when I write out a ton of content and I think it’s apparent in my writing (sans all of the emoticons.) Before I hit the epic wall of doom, my writing makes me feel like I’m a unicorg and I can shoot sunshine out.

I definitely exaggerated that a little, but I honestly feel so exhilarated after I put in my all into a post.  And then, just like that it disappears as I faceplant a huge wall — writers block.

It is the hands-down, the absolute worst for me. Because I know the writing is all there in my 

head, but it’s like my hands have become mute and cannot write/type out the words. When the words are at the tip of my tongue, but for some reason everything that I write or type out is just a plain disaster.

My own personal writing FEMA to recover from my writers block disaster falls into the three actions.  

1. I keep writing
Ok so this is the most painful route for me to cure my writer’s block. However, it is also one of the most effective things for me. It’s really like pulling my teeth out and I’m trying to describe it the nicest way possible. My fingers probably hit all of the wrong keys, my handwriting becomes straight scribbles and I really just want to 

throw my hands in the air to give up. My deadlines scream no though. So I continue on usually writing out expletives (Sorry Mom.) or a nonsensical mess until the right...and appropriate words come to me. But it gets me going and I’m able to scale the blockage in front of me. I wrote majority of this post while have a writer’s block moment.

2. Music...specifically all of the latest pop hits.
Britney, Biebs, JT, Carly Rae and One Direction — Gang’s all here! If you’re my Facebook friend or follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me pay homage to pop hits. I think I could even be a bona fide teeny bopper, minus that I’m 23 years old. Yet, these catchy beats really get me to jam out my writing. Maybe I’ll even be bouncing in my seat, but at least I’m moving towards a finished piece of writing. Find the tunes that make your head bop and you’ll be writing away before you know it.

3. Nap
I swear every night as soon as my head hits the pillow, a storm of thoughts flood my brain. It’s completely frustrating, but some good ones do spring out from that thought downpour. During a midday’s writer’s block though, I can’t exactly say goodnight to the world. So, that’s where a nap comes in. Sometimes I don’t even need to sleep, but laying my head down kickstarts my writing once again.

4. Read
Writers are Chatty Cathys and Readers are Listening Lucys. I totally just made that up, but it definitely makes sense. You can interchange each role and I believe some of the best writers are also voracious readers. I read A LOT and I think it’s also allowed me to become a pretty decent writer.  So when I can’t seem to form any sentences, I turn back to where it all started...reading. Sometimes it’s nonfiction or fiction, but I always have at least a few books I’m currently reading. If it’s not a book then I go to my Feedly account and consume some articles on there. It takes my mind off of how I can’t currently talk and makes me listen to something else to get my words off the ground.

5. Clean
Shout out to my mom, who will probably have a heart attack reading this. Yes, mother, I do clean. Sometimes you need a fresh start to really churn out the thoughts and put the pen to the paper. I’ll wash dishes, straighten my closet, clean my bathroom, make my bed etc. It all helps though because it gives me a fresh place to work...not that I’m going to work in the bathroom though. Or 
besides it giving me a clean space I also can scrub out my anger from being so mad at myself for not being able to write.

Disclaimer: If this post is just a big blob, please excuse me, it’s my writers block talking

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Girl vs. Woman

Girl, lady, woman, female or gal all seemingly function with the same definition right?

Well I thought so, until I was corrected by a number of people.

Let me preface this by saying that I still cannot believe I am 23. It feels like yesterday that I was 16 years old just learning how to drive. One thing remains true for that and it’s that I’m still learning how to drive. (I know everyone is glad I am no longer behind the wheel...except I am also the worst pedestrian ever. Apologies to everyone.)

But I’m not a 16 year old girl anymore, I’m a woman (I prefer lady sometimes, but it sounds a little too formal for my liking). And I’m still unsure if my 23 year old self can fit into that gender defining word.

I pay my own bills, rent, buy groceries, my clothes etc.. I’m self-reliant and I’m an adult; yet, I’m having trouble grasping that I am in fact a woman. This probably sounds very immature, but the way that I imagine the word woman I’m not exactly sure if I fill that role quite yet.

It’s almost a polarizing and far reaching term for me. I see a woman as generous, passionate, strong, incredible and being a leader in whatever role she sees fit. I think I do have those qualities, but not in a heighten impactful way just yet.

I’ve have some extremely strong and incredible women in my life. My mother and my aunts are the ones that truly carry the torch on this one. After feeling Vietnam in 1975 with my grandparents, starting from the very bottom to going all graduating from fantastic schools and starting careers (and most with their own families). These are amazing women to me, yet I, without a doubt, still feel like a girl around them.

Seeing a woman, like Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, or even my mother rise to where they want to be, I’m reminded that I can fill the role of being an extraordinary woman.

A woman never limits herself to just one thing.

I read an article very recently that made me so angry, but this post isn’t a rebuttal to it. Maybe my next response is, but I’ll let you read it to form your own opinions.

I firmly believe you can have it all, if all is a career, being a mom, or a mixture of both — it’s your decision as a woman. It may not all be at once, but you shouldn’t have to make such a hard choice, especially if the other gender doesn’t have to make it.

Maybe that’ll change when I’m older, get married and have kids. If I even do any of the last two things. But I know as long as I’m passionate and love where I am, I will be happy. I look up to women like Sheryl Sandberg because to me she, like my mother and aunts, define the powerful word of being a woman.

My favorite takeaway that comes from Sheryl Sandberg's talk below — "I don't have the right answer, I don't even have the right answer for myself." I'm still trying to figure it out. It's the beauty of my life right now and the journey of my blog. So for some of you wondering why my blog is “a girl starting up” rather than a woman this is why. Until then, I, own who I am, a girl...a girl adult or whatever nonsensical title I give myself to avoid using the unfamiliar term of woman. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

Skincare Start Ups

Eruptions, hot lava, craters and flames all over — that was just my skin about 6 months ago. I’m sure I’m exaggerating some and I apologize for the graphic image, but if there’s one thing I’m OCD about, it’s my skin. I thought I was going through puberty all over again, but it inevitably was stress about graduating jobless.

While being in a stressful job state, I think I was even stressed about my skin. Causing even more stress on my skin — that’s a lot of stress. I needed to get it under control.

My new facial skincare regime gained some severe traction and I’m happy to say I’ve reigned in the volcanoes to a certain extent. This skincare regime is quick, gets the job done with the little time I have to focus on beauty.

A super important factor for all of these products is that they worked quickly and that my skincare regime didn’t take more precious time than I had.

1. Catastrophe Cosmetic — A fitting name for my sometimes disastrous skin. This is something new I’ve implemented into my care. It’s a great, smell-good, natural mask that refreshes my skin after a long week. The blueberries are packed with vitamins and the calamine soothes the redness. I usually this on after work Friday to relax at the conclusion of the week. Pretend I’m at the spa? Yep.

2. Clarisonic Mia or the skincare holy grail — Please put back that blouse you are going to buy or the 10 lattes you get in the next week and buy this instead. Seriously, one of the best investments I’ve ever made. It takes off all of my makeup, exfoliates and makes my face feel super clean. This little gadget is a triple threat, and if I go a day without using it I feel a little grimy. Once you get a Clarisonic, you’ll wonder what you did with your life before it.

3. Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash — I’m currently on the fence about this guy. There’s some exfoliation in the wash, which is nice, but not necessary with my Clarisonic. However, it sure does smell fabulous.

4. Bliss No Zit Sherlock 2-1 Face Wash — This Bliss Face Wash is great! I use it as my nightly wash to get all the gunk off my face and it’s a little bit more powerful to get some things in order. I like the added probiotics; however, I’m sure on how much scientifically they help my face.

5. Bliss No Zit Sherlock Acne Spot Treatment — I truly wish there was a spot treatment to eliminate every blemish in the 6 hours that I sleep. Until then, this spot treatment does reduce the size of my pimples and is easy to apply.

6. Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream — Oh hello, best moisturizer on this planet. It’s basic and doesn’t overly hydrate my oily skin. A little goes a long with this guy, but sometimes I apply more than I need to spread on my hands and neck. I can’t help it because it’s so great.

7. Night of Olay Firming Cream — I bought this on a cheap whim and it was a good 5 dollars that I spent. This was a good drugstore find and helps relieve some of my eye puffiness and smells really nice.

8. Vaseline — This will probably come across as idiotic, but I’m going to say it anyway. If there was ever a complete oil depletion...I probably wouldn’t worry about gas. (Mainly, because I don’t drive) Instead, I would worry that petroleum beauty products couldn’t be made again, like vaseline. Chapped lips to moisturizing my eyelashes (I dream of super long eyelashes every night.), Vaseline steps up to the plate and hits a homerun.

I curated these products on my own and I’ll probably change up my routine when the warmer weather hits.

I think my routine takes a total of 15 minutes or less. That’s really important to me and I think anyone else who is OCD about their skin would agree. Or anyone working for a startup, time is of the essence and it probably shouldn’t be spent worrying over volcanoes...I mean blemishes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

10 Things You Didn't Know About Working for a Startup (as told by a girl)

I began working for a startup a few months ago. It’s my first gig out of school and I can’t form into words how much I love it so far. It’s exactly what I wanted out of school and its truly hard for me to tell you have thankful I am to have this position.

However, it’s far from being glamourous. I work A LOT. I wake up early, go to bed late (unless you don't count the times I have fallen asleep with every light on in my apartment at 9pm...oops.) But, it all has been worth it and I can place a large bet that will not change any time soon. 

Whether, its going back to my alma mater to visit my friends, various extended family members asking, or meeting a guy at a bar, I get the “So where do you work?” more than I can count on my fingers and toes (and your fingers and toes for that matter). My response is usually “I work for a tech startup.” Then I receive various responses such as, a nod of something thinking they understand, change of subject, or them thinking I want to be the next Mark Zuckerburg. All valid reactions, except maybe the last one because I have no intention of becoming the face...of Facebook. 

Hell, I’m still completely unsure what exactly a startup is, or working for one. The beauty is that it can’t be confined in a box or restricted to a definition in Merriam Webster (If you have a solid definition of a startup, I would love to hear it.)

Even though its only been a few months for me, I think I’ve gained some solid ground in picking up things that people on the outside wouldn’t know. These are the 10 things I learned so far while working for a startup as a girl. 

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Working For A Startup (as told by a girl)

1.You’re in the minority.

Women represent nearly half of the workforce in the United States, have a higher percentage of holdings a bachelors degree and represent 58% of the online buying force. Yet, when I look around at other startups in DC,  I’m one of the only females. I think I’ve met a total of 4...maybe 5 women in startups. Granted, I just started, but I know it’s not me just being a newbie. Women are in the minority in startups, but that’s not something to take lightly. I’m not going to blabber on about how more women should be in these innovative areas (I really could go on a rant) ; yet, you should fully own how you are a girl (or woman) in this field. You are at the cusp of something fantastic and being a woman in this field is great and an even better stepping point.

2. If you wear the same outfit twice, no one will probably notice. 

This may sound a little frivolous, but I do pride myself on dressing well. But, if you factor in the time I don’t have, I sometimes lose points in the fashion realm. A small benefit of working for male dominated startups is that fashion doesn’t necessarily, or ever, take precedence. Yes, I have been guilty of wearing the same outfit a row...the horror! Yet, no one noticed ;) (Or cared to inform me that they saw me wearing that outfit yesterday.) Spending time learning how to code, making sure customers are happy, social media, emails etc. will always trump my ensembles now. 

3. You need to be hungry.

Well this could go both ways, except I’m the biggest baby when I get a small twinge of hunger. The main reason why I say to be hungry is because you should always be hungry to learn. You’re out of college, so you won’t have a regimented syllabus. You also will be far from working at a standard 9-5.  It’s ok to say “I don’t know” so long as you have the strong willingness to learn what you don’t know. So you don’t know what Python is or the only design you did was in Kid Pix, ask and then take the time to learn how to code or design. Don't be afraid to learn things on your own too. Be ready to eat up a bunch of knowledge at a startup and always be hungry to experience more. 

4. Carry A Big Bag

Mary Poppins had it right, the varying items she had in her bag always had some purpose. (Does anyone know where I can get one of those?) This may sound kind of ridiculous, but I swear my bag has been my lifesaver. You always want to be prepared and you never know what you are going to need to carry. My bag is a simple Large Longchamp, but it can fit my laptop, moleskine, wallet, various pens, whatever book I’m currently reading, headphones, iPhone, business cards, 6 TrackMaven T-shirts, stickers, a coffee mug, oh and my chapstick. Yes, that all has been carried before. 

5. A Constant State Of Terror

Ok, this isn’t supposed to scare you away from working for a startup, but as a girl you are more prone to have more emotions than our guy counterparts. We do have a higher EQ and all. Which probably increases this fear. There is going to be a teetering of if your company is going to succeed, if there is going to be enough money, do your customers like the product and the fact that you could be fired at any moment. Yep, terror. I’ve discussed this terror with quite a few people, but it’s not something that should ever stop you from working at a startup or doing your job. If anything this terror should fuel your work even more to help your company to success. 

6. A Firm Handshake

Let’s get this straight...yes, I’m a girl, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fragile, delicate human. Shake my damn hand and don’t give me some pansy hand hugging. You will get many “shakes” like the perviously mentioned ones, but don’t let that deter you from having your own firm handshake. Trust me, it goes a long way.

7. Be Friends With Everyone

You are going to meet a ton of people while working for a startup, so this elementary school adivce will go a long way. I don’t care if you are in Series B funding or this person you meet thinks they can crush Google with their new iOS app. You better be nice because you never know when you are going to meet this person again, if they know someone who could help you, or they could in fact crush Google in the future. What is the point of making enemies in this tightly niched field, you don’t want to have to explain any nastiness anyway — it takes too much energy and is just bad karma. Being friends with everyone is key in this world because it’s how you grow your network the right way. 

8. “8am coffee is serious business.”

I heard this at a DC LocalLEVO Power Panel I attended and I couldn’t help, but agree whole heartedly. Think about it, someone is starting their day with coffee or breakfast with you. You start their day out hopefully in the best way possible, so then once this meeting is done they’ll have started off their day on the right foot and have you to thank or remember. Don’t discount these coffee dates as being too early, when you get asked to 8am coffee or you invite someone, it is in fact serious business. Plus, it’s coffee, working for a startup you'll always want to start your day with some caffeine.

9. Murphy’s Law

I’m pretty sure this must be an asterisk on my birth certificate with the note of Murphy’s Law, “Any thing that can go wrong, will go wrong.” It’s my life in a simple sentence and a part of working for a startup. Always be prepared as best as you can for the unfortunate, but take it as a learning opportunity.  One of my favorite things my boss says to our customers is that while being in the beta, things will break or that they will inevitably break something. And that’s ok. Startups are going to be “buggy,” but the feedback that you get from something breaking/going wrong is always super helpful. Preparing for the things going wrong is always the best defense, but things will inevitably break, so get back up and learn from it. (Or to piggyback off of #4 carry a big bag with all of the things you could possibly need.)

10. People will think you are crazy. 

There’s over a 90% chance that your startup will not succeed, your coworkers become long lost relatives, you work more hours in the day than you sleep in the week total(weekends too sometimes) and you love it (well hopefully). I took the less beaten path than my fellow peers after graduating. I knew a regular 9-5 job wasn’t for me and I looked past joining a large company. People look at me sometimes like I’m completely insane for loving to work countless hours and being completely infected with love for corgis (TrackMaven’s logo is a cute, albeit dopey, corgi). However, if you are passionate about what your company is working towards, you work with amazing individuals and you are powered by some form of a caffeinated beverage (I included you tea drinkers), you truly won’t be so crazy. Regardless, I think the craziest people are the best anyway. 

I think people who have worked for startups longer than me could add some more to this list, but I think its some solid insight for the past few months. If you agree or disagree, leave a comment or tweet at me (@sabelharris).