Category: inspiration

Labor Day During a Pandemic: Working Hard While Hardly Working

This year’s observation of Labor Day has to be the most poignant one in American History.

Here’s to you, working harder than ever behind the scenes trying to figure out how to re-imagine your business for these trying times, and trying to figure out how to bring your business back to the level it was at before the pandemic. You’re putting in untold hours of extra effort. You’re losing untold hours of sleep. But I have a feeling that in doing so you’ve learned a lot about your business and about yourself. You’ve revealed what really works for you and what never was really working in the first place.

Here’s to you, working overtime to fill in for gaps in the staff where you work. These are the times that make a staff a true team. A collective with one agenda. Here’s to you whose hours have been cut. Working fewer hours than you did before, you may be pushing yourself to the limit to make yourself indispensable to your employer. The year 2020 has brought us to one of those “when the going gets tough” moments in history and people everywhere have stepped up and shown their employers and themselves what they are made of.

Here’s to you, unwillingly out of work. There is this old-timey way of thinking that is still around which asserts that a hard-earned living equals a certain morality, and gives a person value. While a hard-earned living is honorable in and of itself, it does not assign any inherent value to the earner. And even though, to paraphrase Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s and women’s souls” it is certainly not a moral issue. We saw that more clearly than ever when the U.S. federal unemployment rate jumped from 3.5% to about 15% this spring. While I won’t debate the wisdom of state-wide lock downs vs. the push to re-open, we saw how adamantly so many people fought to get back to work rather than collect an unemployment check.

Here’s to you, putting in extra hours – your home time, your free time, your family time – thinking about what you will do if things change at work. Not because you want to think that way, but because you have to be prepared. This has been your chance, without anyone really blaming you at all for it, to see what other possibilities there are for you. Maybe you never really had a Plan B or a Plan C, etc., but thanks to Covid-19 now you do. Maybe it’s made you re-evaluate what you want out of life. Maybe it’s helped you to re-invent yourself.

Madness can be a wellspring of opportunity when you’re looking for it. I hope you’ve looked and found it. We’re all doing the best we can. Over the course of 2020 we’ve had to live in the moment even while preparing for the bleakest of possibilities. It’s been a weird paradox of a year. We know we are meant to live in the present. If you think about it, you’ll likely agree that you are at your sanest when you are not re-living the past or playing out endless future scenarios in your mind.

I started this post talking about those who were working harder than ever while not really doing business at the level they’d like to be. We’d all like to be “working hard while hardly working” but in a different way. Busy, busy, busy, but never feeling like we are “at work..” We all want a productive, prosperous, full life. It’s my wish for all of you this Labor Day.

In My Right Mind

Did you know that in baseball, a left-handed pitcher is called a “southpaw” because traditionally ballparks were built so the batter faced east? Hence the pitcher stood with his left paw toward the south. It kept the sun out of the batters’ eyes mostly. It didn’t help the pitcher any.

But I talk about baseball enough on this blog.

The technical term for left-handedness is “sinistrality” which, if you think about it, sounds like some generic deviant behavior. You couple that with the realization that left is the opposite of “right” and you might end up with a complex.

So it is nice that there is an International Lefthanders Day. It is today, August 13th. Mostly it is an opportunity for the left-handed to lament how writing with a pencil or pen always leaves their words smudged and the side of their hand all leady or inky.

To put a positive spin on things, International Lefthanders Day also gives us a chance to enumerate the many notable public figures who are/were lefties. It helps us to feel not so…you know…ten percent of society. Maybe we’re insecure and we need to be able to tell people “Hey, look! so-and-so is left-handed, so I could be a famous such-and-such one day too, you know!”

I used to just say “Well I’m left-handed so that means that I’m in my right mind,” a reference to each hemisphere of the brain controlling the opposite side of the body. Not only is the division of labor between the left and right brain at least a bit muddy, but I already told you how I feel about the implications of the word “right” in all of this.

Lefties do tend to be more artistic, creative dreamer type people, and righties tend to be more technical, analytical thinkers. But technical and analytical do not necessarily equal “smart”, and blanket statements like those can never be entirely accurate anyway. It’s like saying “girls are smarter than boys” or vice versa. You say it enough though, and some might start to believe it. And when left-handed kids start to realize how few of them there are in the world, they might start thinking there is something wrong with them. And there is a point in your life when being “unique” is a small consolation.

I was born with spina bifida. My parents were told early on that as a bi-product of the condition, I’d likely have difficulties with math and other analytical brain function, which proved very accurate. You take that, along with my left-handedness and it is no surprise that I became a writer and not an engineer or something.

There are a ton of other well-known mini-annoyances associated with left-handedness. Some things are just made for the 90%. It’s a fact of life for lefties. You learn to work around those things. In short, you get creative. Or, to put it another way, it’s a good thing you’re in your “right mind.”

Okay Let’s Brainstorm

“Brainstorm” sounds like a hipster word to me. I don’t really know why I think that but I stand by it. It turns out the term was in the dictionary at least a century ago.

Then, the definition of “brainstorm” was “a sudden and severe attack of mental illness”, “a temporary loss of reason” or “a serious error in judgement.” In fact the Oxford Dictionary still supplies those as alternate definitions. These days, a brainstorm holds connotations of something more positive, creative and constructive, usually a group discussion designed to generate ideas.

It isn’t group hysteria though.

Funny though, when someone has an idea that they want to lay on you that is new and unique, and maybe even a bit unorthodox, they’ll probably – perhaps self-deprecatingly – present it as a “crazy idea.”

These are usually the best ideas, probably because they were the result of the person doing a little bit of brainstorming on their own. I’m not saying that every “crazy idea” is a great one. Many of them are just…well, loony ideas. But a really good idea is very likely at some point considered by someone as a “crazy” one. Everything that has never been done before looks crazy to someone. But a lot of things that have never been done before are exactly what a lot of people have been waiting for, maybe without ever knowing it.

You’ve heard that song that goes “what the world needs now is love, sweet love” right? Well what the world may need now is “crazy ideas.” Maybe we need risk-takers. To say we need a “paradigm shift” is a cliche, hyperbolic platitude. Like when people say society needs “change” but without offering any particular plan. Maybe it even sounds like a crazy idea.

So it’s probably worth looking into.

…But Listen To The Color Of Your Dreams…

Okay, full disclosure, I only titled this post as I did as an excuse to make a reference to the Beatles. This post has nothing to do with them or music or anything. It does have to do with the creative process.

Have you ever had a dream that was so vivid, so brimming with little nuggets of information that it is a self-contained story that demands to be told? I had one in about 2006 when I had a dream that I was in New York City outside the Dakota building waiting to get an autograph from John Lennon. No seriously this post isn’t about the Beatles. The dream turned into the first draft of a novel. I’m still not satisfied with it so it’s still a draft. I’ve had stuff to do. The point is that tiny little vignette turned into an entire novel.

I have another novel I started working on well over a year ago after a visit to New Orleans but set aside quite a while ago after hitting a brick wall creatively. Then, a few nights ago I had another one of those dreams that was so lucid that it demanded attention, and I knew as soon as I awoke that it was the next piece of the story I have to tell. Because the dream was a crystal-clear scene from a specific spot I’d been to in New Orleans, and a face in the dream was just as hauntingly clear. It was a New Orleans musician, a subject to which my story intimately relates. It was like the dream was grabbing me and shaking the next phase of my story out of me. I wasn’t about to ignore it.

Stories are like that. They come to you one chunk at a time. Each chunk, when it comes, gives you a giant leap forward. So listen to your dreams. Use them. Especially if a story you are trying to tell is really weighing on your mind but you can’t quite get it going. Your dreams are what is beneath the surface of your consciousness. Maybe these bits that come to you in a dream are so strikingly perfect sometimes because you’ve given them time to gel while you’re only sleeping.

Certainly I can’t wait around for that kind of inspiration to strike me while I am freelancing, but inspiration shows itself in various forms, thankfully. I listen for it.

When The World Falls Apart, Put It Back Together

About a week before all Hell broke loose and everything started shutting down, I got a new wheelchair which I promptly dubbed “the company vehicle.” I fully intended to be all over town in my chair spreading the word about my business. I fully intended to be too busy for my own good by Memorial Day. Before my state locked down due to COVID-19 I had three different companies that had expressed interest in my work.

Then everything went silent. And rightly so. No one could confidently put a freelance writer in their immediate budget. I don’t know if I adjusted with a great deal of grace, but I’ve kept writing at least.

The events of 2020 have reinforced for all of us the importance of preparation for the unexpected. Actually it has made clear that there is no preparing for the unexpected.

Because it’s unexpected.

That’s kind of its jam.

You don’t see it coming.

So “preparation” may be a misnomer in this case. The only thing even resembling “preparation” for it is to maintain a state in which you are able to respond even when events unfold that are unlike anything in your experience. It is safe to say 2020 fits that description.

Full disclosure: I have a job apart from my freelance work. I would not be broken were Dailey Freelance to disappear tomorrow. But though I have not had any leads or clients in months, I have not stopped posting on my company Facebook page. And with a few exceptions, I have kept this blog the “weekly” that its name says it is. Because, simply put, it means something to me.

I’ll never be in the shoes of a person who has built a business for 30 years only to see it crash because of the COVID-19 fallout. But I have listened to people who are in that position, and I feel that what they have to lose means infinitely more to them. Because they believed in it enough to make it their one and only source of income. That speaks volumes, I’d say. I am only working my way toward that, right now.

I know we are a nation of people who will hold fast to what we have worked for. Now that we are able to – or soon will be able to – begin rebuilding, we will do so with the same heart and soul we put into our businesses when we first started out.

With a renewed vigor.

With a renewed sense of why we ever opened up shop in the first place.

We don’t agree on how or when or how quickly we should return commerce in America back to “normal” and mistakes will inevitably be made. But one thing is clear:

People are responding to the on-going lock down the way they are because getting back at it matters. The foundations they’ve built their lives upon matter to them. And I have to respect that.

So as we try to bring back some semblance of linear motion in our lives, please, take care of yourselves and your family, but also please, please….you know what? Because it feels extremely appropriate right now I’m just going to leave one of my favorite Red Hot Chili Peppers lyrics for whatever it’s worth:

One, two, buckle my shoe / take care of me ’cause I might be you

Writing For the Sake Of Writing, and For Something Bigger

My mantra is “I’m a writer, and writers write. So I write.” I’m paraphrasing some old advice from a dear friend.

I am a freelance writer but I started this blog just to keep working on my writing chops in between client work. And for a long time it really did give me the motivation to just write for the sake of writing. Funny, but lately I’ve been fighting off a nasty case of writer’s block. It’s hard being a commercial freelance writer when everything is closed indefinitely. So you’d think right now would be the time to get plenty of writing for the sake of writing done.

Alas.

This blog is called the “Dailey Weekly” and I almost never fail to write something here weekly. But last week I did and I’m kind of past my self-imposed deadline for this week too. And it isn’t just writing. I am finding that with many aspects of every day life on hold, it often feels like there is less to talk about. Maybe it is a bi-product of almost the entire news cycle and the monologues of late night talk shows being dominated by COVID-19, and by extension a great deal of our every day conversation being infiltrated by the subject.

Let’s face it. There is a whole lot less “What did you do today?” and much fewer immediate plans being made. That tends to carry over. I would not want this blog to become COVID-19 Central. I wouldn’t subject my readers to it, and I don’t think I could do it to myself either.

But an increasing number of of business owners are now able to get back to work and are trying to maintain a connection to their customers. So I’ve recently decided that going forward, until our economy regains stability, for every piece I write for a client, a part of my fee will go to this “Adopt a Healthcare Worker” initiative in the clients’ name.

For as long as it takes for that stability to come, or as long as the “Adopt a Healthcare Worker” initiative runs, whichever comes first.

Lightening the load for a local health care worker who is carrying a lot on their shoulders right now will make me feel like I am doing something useful to my community. It will re-motivate me to write because I will be doing it for a cause well beyond myself.

I hope you and those you love are doing very well.

The Evil Leprechaun Who Haunts My Apartment

Most people are unaware that there is a counterpart to the leprechaun in Irish mythology called the clurichaun. They are known to be surly, drunken little tricksters, mischievous fairies who usually haunt breweries and wine cellars and the like. Okay so he’s not really an “evil” leprechaun, per se. Just kind of a jerk.

Like leprechauns, they are known to guard hidden treasures. So I was pretty well convinced, being the mischievous bounders they are, that a clurichaun was responsible for the various items that had gone missing in my apartment of late with no plausible explanation.

The missing items included:

  • a flashlight I had used almost every night to read before I slept, which I would put in the same place every night when finished
  • one of my favorite caps which I bought because it reminded me of my grandfather
  • my favorite t-shirt, and the one tangible piece of memorabilia I brought home from my most enjoyable vacation
  • a whole damn card table

That last one is no joke. Months ago it occurred to me and my wife that neither of us had any idea where it was. We live in a two bedroom apartment, and the way we have our living space arranged, there really are very limited places to store such a thing, all of which would be quite visible.

Total mystery to both of us.

Then, about a week ago, as mysteriously as it disappeared, out of nowhere, my wife noticed the table, legs folded up, and leaning against the side of our living room sofa. Which we spend a good deal of time on, by the way. Then probably the next day, when doing some spring cleaning she discovered my flashlight in an area which was of course the most obvious place for it to be, but because of that, also the most scrutinized area in my previous search for it.

In any case, there it was.

Still no sign of my t-shirt or my cap. Maybe when the clurichaun gets bored with his mischief these treasures will be relinquished back to me.

Until then, because of how absolutely freakish the table’s reappearance was, I am reminded by this ordeal that human beings have an uncanny ability to not see what is right in front of their eyes.

Maybe if I approach my apartment from just the right angle, I will find my missing belongings.

Maybe if we all look at our lives from a different point of view, all of the missing pieces will come into view.

In any case, I don’t know what a clurichaun would be doing in our apartment. We don’t keep a lot of liquor around and none of what we have has gone missing.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone.

Strange Days Indeed.

This month is full of contradictions. So much so that the whole thing started last month, on February 29th. “Leap Day.” We gained a whole day.

We coasted off that momentum right into March 4th, “the only day that tells you what to do.” March forth! It is also known as “Do Something Day!” meant to be a day of positive initiative. Just in case we didn’t make good use of February 29th.

Yeah, but then a few days later we “lost an hour” when we Spring(ed) – (sprung? sprang?) – Forward. Nobody ever has anything positive to say about that day until they start to realize they’ve got more daylight after work. Then it’s all just lovely again.

Now, then. After we’d leapt, marched and sprung, the other night we had a full moon. I am not a superstitious person, but for those who are, the ominous implications of the full moon are likely to cancel out the extra hour before sunset, all of the marching forth they’d done, and (did I mention?) their entire extra day!

Just in case it doesn’t though, this Friday is “the 13th.”
Double….whammy….

Fear not, though. Because I assure you that if you manage to evade the perils of these two most inauspicious days, St. Patrick’s Day and the “luck of the Irish” will be right around the corner.

For your sake, I hope you are Irish.

I’m kidding. Just as whatever it is that is unleashed on a full moon and on Friday the 13th does not discriminate, on St. Patrick’s Day, everybody is Irish. So everything’s going to be fine. Then all you’ll have to worry about is what your friends have in store for you on April Fools’ Day.

The Company Vehicle

I got my new wheelchair last week. It came with significant improvements, which I specifically ordered. I originally told them I basically wanted the Batmobile of wheelchairs, but it seems my insurance wasn’t real keen on that concept. So this will do.

  • I hardly ever use the brakes but when I do need them it is good to have a dependable and easy to use mechanism. This chair’s brakes are a spring activated situation, so a flip of the thumb is all that is needed to lock them.
  • The front wheels are wider than I’ve ever had before. So the many potholes in the sidewalks and roads will be much less of a hazard.
  • The footplate is tucked underneath significantly in comparison to my old chair, making me much more mobile in tight spaces.
  • The frame of the chair itself is minimal, making it much easier to keep clean. Though the existing bars are beefier than the ones on my old chair, the minimalism makes it much lighter.

I’ll be able to move very well in it once I master driving the thing. It is going to take some getting used to. I had my old chair for over 11 years. So though it was getting a bit creaky, I had driving it down to a science. I knew how flicking a finger against a spoke, or pressing a palm against the side of a wheel to slow one side down just so, could help navigate certain types of terrain.

With a new cushion and new tires, I’m pretty well set to take on the world this spring and summer. I plan to put on a lot of miles, as I do every year once the weather gets warmer. Especially this year as on evenings and weekends I’ll be pursuing my side project ever more seriously. You see, by day I am a mild-mannered insurance marketing agent. Outside the office, I am a freelance writer.

I ordered my chair painted dark purple to match the logo for my freelance writing business. I call it “the company vehicle” because I plan to put on some significant mileage rolling around my home town, getting to know my fellow business owners and offering my service, throwing some business cards around. You know.

In my work as a writer, I am driven by three things:

  • I am a writer. And writer’s write. So I write. Not only do I have a love for communicating in writing, for crafting a phrase that reaches people, but it is an inexorable part of me. It must be done.
  • A great and ancient lineage of poets and story tellers is represented by my family name, Dailey. That is why I called the company simply, Dailey Freelance.
  • Today is National Wheelchair Day. And though I don’t try to make it the headline, I never shy away from the fact that I am a disabled business owner. It is important to me to represent that because the kind of world I’d like to see, that I’d like to help create, is one in which disabled people are putting their talents and contributions on full display.

So I write. Because I’m a writer. And writer’s write.

Finding Your Life’s Work, Your Legacy, To Echo Through the Ages

My wife and I watched the Oscars last weekend. I’m not real big on the pageantry of it all, or the trophies as a reward for art, and frankly the speeches can get rather inane. Even when the winners try to use their platform to say something of substance. Even so, someone said something that caught my attention.

I wish I’d written it down, but what it boiled down to was that everyone in that room were artists, and as such, they were a part of a lineage that went back to the dawn of civilization.

Inspiring.

Not only did the observation tie each of them to the history of Hollywood (and WELL beyond) and all of its luminaries of the past, but it linked them to each other. Technically what they were engaged in that evening was a competition, but they were one, when it came down to it.

As a writer, I know that I have a sort of “pantheon” of authors, poets, and journalists whose works I consider at least quasi-sacred. I’ll bet if you think about it, you do too. Maybe your luminaries aren’t writers. Maybe they make up the lineage of whatever your life’s work is. Whoever they are, it is nice to be able to see your own work as a part of that particular story.

Some people think it is a cliché and an exaggeration but I think we’re all artists. I don’t think that brushing your teeth or drinking a glass of water or shopping for groceries is art. But whatever your livelihood is…whatever enriches your life…whatever you do to tell the world who you are…whatever your legacy will be…that’s art.

Every one of us has a body of work that is weaved into that same tapestry, that lineage of artists which was mentioned on the Oscars. We’ve been building upon it, adding to it since time immemorial, and we’ll continue to do so.

I’d be deeply honored to use my art to tell the story of yours. If you’re ready to put the story of your business in the spotlight, see my blog’s contact page.

Then let’s do this!