Saturday, September 20, 2014

Quite A Week

Autumn in New York City is the best time of the year. Now that everyone's washed up on shore from summer there are all sorts of things to do.

This week:

1. Saw former Cosmo editor Kate White talk about career success tactics. I've been to a million rah-rah lady empowerment talks, and Kate's insight was actually worth the price of admission. I even bought her book.

2. Stood in a line that wrapped around the Columbia University campus to see Peter Thiel talk about all sorts of things.

3. Got my Wynton Marsalis on and finished off strong with Caribbean jazz at the opening party at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

And it's not even October yet, which brings The New Yorker Festival. I went a little crazy buying tickets.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tuesday Night = Taking A Random Selfie With Tim Gunn In Midtown

The first rule of living in New York City is to never make a big deal about celebrity sightings. Because that would only show how green you are and no matter how recently you came to this town, no one wants to look like a star-struck rookie.

And then you see Tim Gunn on 50th and Madison at 7:00 on a random Tuesday night, and suddenly all bets are off.

I'm the least sentimental person that I know, but every year at around this time I get a little nostalgic because I moved to Manhattan during the first weekend in September in 1999. For you mathematicians out there, that means I've been here for 15 years. Always in Manhattan. No defections to Brooklyn or the suburbs. Always on the East Side.

The city is a vastly different place than when I got here, and most of my core crew of people have moved on from Gotham. When I think about who started with me in 1999 and who is still local, the list is a bit like that scene in Austin Powers, when Austin is going down the list to figure out which of his friends from the 60s are still around. (Jimi Hendrix? Drugs. Mama Cass? Ham Sandwich.) I've stayed because the jobs and --believe it or not -- affordable apartments -- were always here. Plus, up until very recently, I didn't really drive, which makes public transportation all the more important.

It's easy to be jaded and cynical after this long in Manhattan. I'm still surprised that there are luxury apartments on the Lower East Side, or that the Second Avenue Deli is now on 33rd Street and Third Avenue. But then -- and it usually is this time of year, when the air and the weather all remind me of the fall of 1999 -- something fun will happen that reminds me why I stay. It's cliche to say but every day in New York really can be an adventure. Sure, jobs become drudgery and partners will bore you to tears, which is exactly when it is time to change things up. And in Manhattan, there are no shortage of options. If you think there are, then it really is time to exit, stage left.

I'll still be here, though.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Take A Hike -- In The Rain

I realize this is no glamour shot (I am soaking wet and covered with mud) but it was taken at the end of an incredible hike up on Indian Head mountain in the Catskills today.

I've been on plenty of hikes before, and they've been great, but I've never been on a hike that was as physically challenging as the one I went on today. The ascents sometimes seemed to shoot straight up, there was legit rock scrambling, and -- oh, yes -- it rained the entire time. That made lunch and the descent all the more adventurous.

I knew the hike was going to be a little harder than what I was used to (Discover Outdoors ranked it a 7 out 10) but I was surprised by what a leap in physical exertion it was. Or how I managed to keep up with a very quick pace. If you hike with groups you know that unless you are the very last person, you need to keep up so you don't slow down the others. The ascent was insane -- sweat was literally rolling off my face and grown men were drenched. (It was 50 degrees outside on the mountain.) But when we stopped I felt exhilarated, even accomplished. Did I really just climb 3700 feet?

The metaphor is obvious: always push out of your comfort zone. I have a lot of friends in Manhattan, but very few of them show an interest in exploring the wilderness with me, even for just a day. On mental level these day trips do wonders for clearing my head, switching up the exercise routine and sharpening my small talk skills with strangers. The other advantage is on a much more macro level: it teaches that no matter what, you have to get through, or up, or at least to the next clearing.

In writing, it's easy to hit blocks, to have moments when a project seems stalled, even worth abandoning. That is when I need to think about the ridiculous trails that I wasn't aware I had signed up for, yet was obligated to get through. Because realistically, it's not impossible to get up a steep incline or down a very slippery and muddy trail. You just have to focus. Take deeper breaths, adjust to the way the rocks are arranged. Otherwise, you'll fall down the embankment and have to be carried out by the guides. And that's just embarrassing.

Writing can, in fact, be physically painful. I've heard many friends say this. But 99% of physical pain goes away when get to where you're trying to go. Sometimes you just have to level up to get there.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Driver's Test: Passed!

When you've lived in Manhattan for 15 years, the last thing you think about on a daily basis is your driver's license. If you have an out-of-state license -- mine was from California -- and you let it expire for over a year, you have to take the written, classroom and road tests all over again. More fun? You can't take a road test in Manhattan. There are locations in Brooklyn and Queens, but those appointments are always taken.

I managed to get a road test in White Plains. I still had to take lessons through a driving school and use their car for the test. Another fun fact: you can't rent a car to take a driver's test, at least not in New York state. All this takes time and money, so it's best to pass it on the first try.

Which I did, despite my horrible parallel parking. (I quite literally learned how to on Saturday.) Now I tell anyone who will listen: never let your out-of-state license expire in New York. Consider me cautionary tale.

The next batch of fun = a motorcycle license. I've never really loved driving, but I love bikes and I loved the motorcycle intro class I took back in June. If I can pass a motorcycle road test by the end of the fall, I will truly have arrived.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Work As Meaningful Distraction

This year in particular, I've been reading a lot of Alain de Botton, and have become a bit of a superfan, if one can be a superfan of a modern philosopher. In fact, that last sentence may be one of the nerdiest I've ever written. (But serisouly, start with On Love and How Proust Can Change Your Life, and then let's talk.)

I came across this quick video about finding meaning in the daily grind of work. Creating order amid chaos is an important aspect of life, and I like the way he puts it into perspective.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Does Completion Look Like?

I'm a huge Marie Forleo fan and her video today is one that all creative people need to check out. Anyone who embarks on any creative endeavor, be it writing or art or even quilting -- probably starts at least 10 projects for every one that they finish. This can be disconcerting and may make you feel like a quitter for not finishing what you start.

Her video today looks deeper into the non-completion component of creativity, and why it's good for you. Her best advice is to always ask yourself, What does completion look like? This can be interpreted for both the long and short term of any project, and, at least for me, seems like a good way to set framework for daily goals.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Empty August

August feels like molasses. Everyone seems to be on vacation and I feel like no serious decisions or work will get done until after Labor Day. Still, I muddle along with a few projects, patiently waiting for calls to be returned and emails to be replied.

This week, the theme of failure has strangely been popping up on my screen a lot. I'm not quite sure why, since things have been going pretty well over here on Planet Pauline. Failure is probably 80% of the life of any writer, and I love any new insight about it. By nature I tend to be a bit of a battering ram until I get an end result, but maybe there is a way to be a more gentle battering ram.

1. First, Jennifer Armstrong wrote a lovely blog post about what daily life is like when you are writing a book.

2. The New York Times ran a column about how failure is writing's constant companion.

3. Time had a piece about how failure is key to success for women.

4. And then there is this video from Marie Forleo, about how failure is just a stop on the way to success.