Rogue Ink

May 5, 2008

Talking to Yourself: Why Going a Little Crazy is Good for Freelancers

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Writing — Tei @ 4:57 am
Tags: , , ,

I’ve Decided All Freelancers Should Have Imaginary Friends

Try not to panic, this is all perfectly normal. My friends in the white jackets will be here shortly, and it’ll all be taken care of. Until then, stick around and I will explain myself.

If you’re a freelancer, you probably work alone. You might have one of those office share dealies, you might occasionally work in a cafe the way I do, but most freelancers I know spend a lot of the time with just the computer, the empty room, and the cat. Some people like music or television to pretend they’re not alone, and that’s fine with me, but you are still alone. You are all alone, in a room, and no one is making you do anything.

If you are not a self-motivated person by nature, this is a bad situation.

When other people are around, they’re constantly questioning you. What’re you working on, when will it be done, why are you looking at a lolcats again? This is annoying, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t like working in an office, but it does, by and large, keep you on task. Now, I’m not suggesting you need someone looking over your shoulder, but when it’s just you and the blank computer screen, nothing is propelling your thoughts forward. It’s early in the morning, you’ve had a cup of coffee, and everything is shiny and distracting. My head sounds like this a lot of the time:

“Ooh, someone’s got a blog post on networking skills. Eh. It kind of sucks, never mind. Where’s that webcomic I like? Oh, and the other one? And the other one? Wait, I don’t get this joke in Penny Arcade. I’m going to look that up. Hah, this guy in the comments is talking about Skittles. I wonder where I can get Skittles. Actually I kind of want breakfast. I’ve been eating eggs a lot. I wonder if Rebecca would give me some more eggs from her hens? I should write her a note about that. I’ll do that now. Since I’m on Facebook anyway, I’ll play my move in Scrabble. Why the hell do I always get all the v’s and c’s?”

Do you remember where that train of thought started? Me neither. That’s because thought is not a bloody train. It is utterly random, it jumps around all the time, it goes in and out of planes of existence, it latches on to stuff that is not important or is very important or is located in the exact opposite sector of your brain to the one you were using a minute ago (my chocolate and politics sectors are on opposite sides. I do a lot of jumping back and forth between those two topics). Thought is not a train. It’s a time-and-space-traveling-device, and it is everywhere and nowhere at once and the only person who can go along with it is the one person inside it. It’s like the Tardis.

I Have Decided the Doctor Who Metaphor is BRILLIANT and I Am Making You All Come With Me. This is What Happens When I Watch the Series All Weekend.

Doctor Who, for those of you who don’t know, was a TV show where a guy called the Doctor wandered around in time and space fixing things that had gone wrong with time. He had a time-and-space traveling machine called the Tardis, and a companion named Rose. That’s all you need to know. Come on, let’s rock this metaphor.

Whenever the Doctor and Rose got into the Tardis, they went somewhere specific and for a specific reason, which the Doctor was always able to articulate. “Why are we going to Dickensian London?” “Because someone is messing with time in Dickensian London.” That’s a good reason, because investigating things that are screwing with time is the Doctor’s JOB. If he didn’t have to explain himself to Rose all the time, I’m betting the Tardis would go a lot of places just because the Doctor got curious about something. The Tardis was like Googling real life. Can you imagine if you got curious about where the narrowest buildings in the world were and you actually got to go and visit them instead of just looking at pictures on your computer screen? GODS, but I want a Tardis. I would never, ever do work again.

And yet, the Doctor always got his work done, even with the incredible temptation of Googling real life. I am tempted to Google in the normal way, all the time, and I never get my work done. The reason the Doctor was able to resist that incredible temptation was because Rose was always there, asking WHY. The Doctor had to explain himself. It’s not embarrassing to use the Tardis just for playing around once in a while, and he sometimes did. But about the twentieth time in a row the answer to the question “What are you doing?” is not “Saving the world,” the Doctor is going to start to lose face, and that is bad for the Doctor’s Cool Factor.

Back to Real Life Freelancing, and Your Own Cool Factor.

My job is not investigating things that are screwing with time. This is very sad, and I hope everyone feels sorry for me. However, my job is writing. So when I hop in my Tardis (my head, for those of you keeping up with this metaphor) in the morning, I have to explain to Rose (my imaginary friend) what the hell I’m doing, and why. And it damn well better be related to writing, because that is my job.

Again, I reiterate: it is fine to do something fun just because you happened to think of it now and then. It’s when you do only fun stuff, only random stuff, that your head stops being useful for actually accomplishing things. If you have to say what you’re doing out loud to someone, or even to yourself, you will start to question whether the thing you are about to do is worth your time. The twentieth time you answer, “What are you doing?” with anything but, “My JOB,” you are going to start to lose face, and it will be bad for your own personal Cool Factor. Yes, that’s right. Just like the Doctor. I TOLD you that metaphor worked.

Say It Out Loud

You don’t have to talk to an imaginary person. I understand I am the only person wearing that particular brand of crazy. Try just talking to yourself. Say what you’re doing out loud. It will keep you from going on random tangents, because those thought-jumps make sense in your unconscious mind, where nothing has to be articulated, but once you start saying things out loud like, “I wonder how many pairs of black underwear I actually have. I am going to go look in my underwear drawer right now,” you will pull yourself up short.

Seriously. Try it. If it sounds stupid out loud, it is probably not something that needs your attention.

“I’m going to go see what the state quarter for North Carolina looks like.”

Sounds dumb, right? I did that the other day. I went and looked up the state quarter for North Carolina. In the middle of writing a PR kit. Why? Because the woman I was writing the PR kit for was from North Carolina, and it was a random thought that floated through my brain. I was at a cafe at the time, so I did not question this thought. That was foolish of me. All my thoughts should be questioned regularly. They should have to determine their whereabouts during the night of April the 9th and they should have a damn good alibi. Because they have a history of going off and doing dumb stuff. Like looking up state quarters.

If I had been home, I would have talked to my imaginary friend about this (my imaginary friend is not actually imaginary. He’s my best friend, I just pretend he’s around and that we’re chatting.)

“What’re you doing?”

“Um. Looking up the state quarter for North Carolina?”

“Why?”

“I got . . . curious. I don’t know. I want to.”

“Oh . . . kay.”

My imaginary friend is JUDGING me. Good rule for life: When even your imaginary friend thinks you’re crazy, you are doing something wrong.

Now I’m going to give you the link for the state quarter to North Carolina, because I know YOU’RE curious now too. But before you do, I want you to imagine your best friend in the entire world is in the room, and I want you to tell them the following two sentences, out loud, verbatim: “I am not going to start work yet. I really need to know what’s on the state quarter for North Carolina RIGHT NOW because some chick mentioned it on her blog.”

Sorry to do that to you, because now I’ve removed your ability to click on this link without feeling kind of dumb about it. Here’s your quarter. Don’t feel bad. I wouldn’t be able to resist either.

Subscribe. My imaginary friend thinks that’s a great idea.

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23 Comments »

  1. Hehe lovely post! I would totally do that, but I already have a non-imaginary friend – my boyfriend. He asks me like every ten minutes… “what ya doing?” If I’m doing something un-productive, he’ll ask me, “whyyyyyyy?” in that oh-so-judgmental way. Even when he’s busy playing GTA 4. 😛 Keeps me on track. 🙂

    Comment by Allison — May 5, 2008 @ 5:23 am | Reply

  2. Haha, this is great! It’s true, really, the need to say things aloud when writing in absolute privacy. Music and YouTube only take you so far in breaking the silence. I like to write my papers when I get to talk to myself – otherwise I walk the U.’s grounds motioning and nodding/shaking my head which looks a lot crazier than mumbling – I’ve seen professors mumbling.

    Comment by Megan — May 5, 2008 @ 5:30 am | Reply

  3. I just occurs to me that you have mis-named your blog.
    It should be…Crazy Ink. Mad Hatter Ink. Insane Ink.
    Whacked Out On Something I Can’t Say Ink….

    So Damn Funny You’re Gonna Pee Your Pants Ink…….

    I’m not sure. I’ll talk it over with my imaginary friend today and we’ll get back to you on it.

    Comment by wendikelly — May 5, 2008 @ 12:37 pm | Reply

  4. […] hasn’t actually agreed to be my best friend — emailed me the link to her recent post on why freelancers should have imaginary friends. And since I’ve selfishly decided the entire point of her post was to spark my ass back into […]

    Pingback by Imaginary Therapist Syndrome for OCD: a Batshit Crazy Guide to Productivity : Write From Home — May 5, 2008 @ 2:42 pm | Reply

  5. Freaking. Brilliant.

    Love the stream-of-consciousness stuff.

    Comment by Bob Younce at the Writing Journey — May 5, 2008 @ 4:20 pm | Reply

  6. Thank you for making me smile and also for the rather excellent idea.

    I do spend a lot of my freelance day like Alice, following white rabbits down holes only to re-emerge some time later and wonder what it was that I was supposed to be doing.

    Tei, you are a star!

    Comment by Donetta — May 5, 2008 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  7. You guys are incredibly sweet.

    Allison: Does your boyfriend know he’s imaginary? You might have to break it to him gently.

    Megan: Professors are MAD mumblers. But have you noticed it’s always the mumblers who are also brilliant? Scratch a mumbler and find a Nobel Prize Laureate. That’s how it always worked at University of Chicago.

    Wendi: Dude, don’t tell me that stuff. Harry and I are in discussion about whether I should just call the blog the ‘Good Ink Blog’ and I’m explaining to him that this level of crazy might want to be just a little bit removed from my actual business, you know? I mean, even if only by a title.

    Bob: Thanks! Anyone who calls me freakin’ brilliant is my hero.

    Donetta: Thank you! True, it’s a lot like Alice. Through the looking glass. I’m late I’m late I’m late.

    Comment by Tei — May 5, 2008 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  8. Perhaps it’s a good personality test: can you make yourself talk out loud in a room when you’re all by yourself?

    Even though it’s an extremely sensible idea, I’m too f*cking repressed. CAN NOT make myself do it. I need at least a cat nearby to attempt vocalization.

    (Now it’s time to go check statcounter for the 400th time today…)

    Comment by Crabby McSlacker — May 5, 2008 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  9. Oh GOD, you’ve addressed the very thing I’m doing right now being here! I should be editing but I’ve managed to find a million other distractions and now it’s 2 pm. My imaginary friend is pissed!

    Comment by steph — May 5, 2008 @ 5:47 pm | Reply

  10. Well, I’m gonna out myself here by saying yea, talk to my imaginary friend out loud all the time! I guess I should stop arguing with her and use her for good. Darn it! What, what’s that? This counts as work, I needed a laugh, a boost. Well it has nothing to do with writing that press release but I needed a break.. oh crap, getting to work now. Stupid friend! This may not be work but dang it sure was fun! I’ll be back but don’t tell her! 😉

    Comment by Karen Swim — May 5, 2008 @ 5:56 pm | Reply

  11. Tei, you are made entirely of awesome! I tend to surf from one thought to another when I’m surfing online — this is a great stop check.

    Comment by Sally J. (The Practical Archivist) — May 5, 2008 @ 6:07 pm | Reply

  12. Crabby: If I can (and do, without being compelled) is that a bad thing? I think it might be . . .

    Steph: Give him a cookie. Calms ’em right down.

    Karen: Heehee. It’s what I’ve always loved about productivity posts. They defeat their existence by existing.

    Sally: I want a T-shirt that says I am made entirely of awesome. Seriously. It would make me happy inside.

    Comment by Tei — May 5, 2008 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

  13. Between the Twitterratti, James, and the cats, I don’t really need imaginary friends. However, all those imaginary friends are waiting in the wings while we get our creative writing gaming board in order. Once I let them loose, watch out.

    Yes, that was a shameless plug – blame James. Or Fukko.

    Comment by Harrison McLeod — May 5, 2008 @ 6:17 pm | Reply

  14. Harry: Oh, you better believe I will be posting on the creative writing gaming board. There will be mad promotion over here. And obsession. And T-shirts. And very possibly a self-help group.

    Comment by Tei — May 5, 2008 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  15. Tei…I love Harry-

    (Don’t tell James but I love Harry better,cause he was my knight in shining armour once,)
    But this one little tiny time, he’s just a little bit wrong.)
    This blog is the freakin’ Mad Hatter’s Tei Party blog.

    My imaginary friend told me so when I wandered down to the fridge to get a diet coke, but then absent-mindely noticed the laundry that I was gonna throw in the last time that I was…oh never mind…..

    Comment by wendikelly — May 5, 2008 @ 6:27 pm | Reply

  16. Ok, Karen, I think there are at least 4 of us that have been outed today. We got ourselves a club.

    Comment by wendikelly — May 5, 2008 @ 6:28 pm | Reply

  17. Wendi: Ah, the Tei Party. The pun everyone needs to make at least once. It’s cool, I kind of love it.

    New T-Shirt Idea: Having An Imaginary Friend is a Totally Legitimate Business Practice.

    Comment by Tei — May 5, 2008 @ 6:54 pm | Reply

  18. It’s so nice to read of others who talk to themselves. Actually, I talk to Fishy. Fishy gets told about the rotten clients and the late checks, and he/she gets a lecture on why I should buy lottery tickets more often. It’s bad enough I bitch to myself all the time – now I have to bitch AT myself?

    I must go lie down.

    Comment by Lori — May 5, 2008 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  19. I talk to myself too. I don’t have an imaginary friend…but I think I might try to get one today. I talk to my dog a lot when I’m home. But she doesn’t judge…she just wants to be petted. I need a judgmental imaginary friend…

    Comment by Sandie Law — May 6, 2008 @ 11:53 am | Reply

  20. Maybe I need to seriously listen to myself… and that’s what’s missing.

    I’ve tried a lot of other things… twittering what I’m gonna do (I just need to work on my followthrough)… little reminder notes trying to tell me what to do … popup reminders … timers (which kinda work, but it’s “off the clock” stuff that sucks up time).

    I’m definitely not past talking to myself. Sometimes it’s the only way to get a decent conversation! (Hah! I can’t believe I’m the first commenter to say this!!!) But seriously, I am going to add this to my reminder notes: “If it sounds stupid out loud, it is probably not something that needs your attention.” Awesome.

    Comment by Qrystal — May 7, 2008 @ 3:00 am | Reply

  21. […] finally happened. Wendi made the Tei party joke. And since she has, let us celebrate with a Mad Hatting Tei Party, and talk about wearing different […]

    Pingback by Versatility, Hats, and the Happy Man « Rogue Ink — May 7, 2008 @ 6:43 am | Reply

  22. Excellent post, I am a freelancer and get tremendously curious and distracted by things.
    I love that line at the end – “When even your *imaginary friend* thinks you’re crazy, you are doing something wrong.”

    Comment by Avi Marcus — September 8, 2008 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  23. How bad is it that I got halfway through this and thought, “man, I need to Twitter this!”

    Le sigh.

    Comment by Lise — September 29, 2008 @ 5:50 pm | Reply


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