A Brief Post about Phone Anxiety

I heard recently on a project management podcast that millennials (that is, my generation) have higher rates of phone anxiety. It was mentioned in passing, but with the subtext that we young’uns just don’t know how to talk to people anymore.

So. Yes, I have phone anxiety. But I can tell you that I didn’t always have it, and the cause isn’t texting too much, or whatever the excuse de jour is.

You know who calls people nowadays? Telemarketers, robo-calls, collections, and scammers. I haven’t dealt with collections in a decade in a half, but the other three are rarely pleasant. My parents don’t call; they text.

In college, I called friends. I called family. I called the pizzeria if I wanted delivery. And generally speaking, it was pleasant most of the time. Phone trees didn’t suck like they do now.

While the proliferation of confrontational and malicious phone conversation is one aspect of why I hate using the damn thing, the second is a bad professional experience I had. I’ve changed and omitted some of the details of the following.

Imagine you’re at your desk, well into some task that requires most of your concentration, when the phone rings. When you get a call, you’re professionally obligated to answer, so you do. It’s a client. They’re mad, about to switch to a new provider, unless some little thing that broke is fixed right that second. This isn’t something you’ve worked on or are familiar with, but they absolutely insist, and you’re the only one who can take the call. So you muddle through, and they still complain to your supervisor.

Once? Frustrating, but you deal with it.

Constantly? Over years? Your adrenaline spikes when you hear a particular ring tone.

Now imagine this. You need a piece of information from a team of specialists. You know just enough to ask for what you want, but — because this isn’t your area of expertise — you occasionally slip up, misuse some jargon, etc. But unless you get the exchange just right, you won’t get what you need, and you’ll probably be ignored until you get your supervisor to ask again, less politely.

Maybe you start avoiding using the damn phone at all costs unless you’re reading from a script.

But no, I clearly have phone anxiety because I like emojis too damn much.

I had a teaching moment recently. Any personality flaw or shortcoming can be addressed with enough time and energy, but usually it’s better to find an easier path than try to pursue it with brute force.

Be kind to yourself during your screw-ups. Know that no journey is pre-ordained.

(Also, see your therapist every once in a while. It’s good for the heart.)

Adventures in Post-Theology

There’s one episode of the cartoon series Doug that I recall in vivid detail. Doug and his classmates are playing baseball. Everyone’s doing fine, except poor Doug, who keeps striking out. It’s late in the game, the score’s tied, and Doug’s up to bat. Patti notices something: Doug, who’s a leftie, is swinging from the right. She corrects Doug’s form, he hits the ball, and the game is won.

It’s ridiculous, right? Something so obvious — Doug being a southpaw — getting overlooked by Doug himself when he tries to swing a bat. How could anyone overlook something like that?

Yeah, well, have I got a story for you. See, I’d been under the impression that I was a Theist for the past few years. And it didn’t occur to me, until after some intense introspection, that I’m actually not.

But that doesn’t make me an atheist.

Continue reading Adventures in Post-Theology

Like Blood from a Stone

During intense periods of stress, my creativity shrivels up like a dried mushroom. Writing, in particular, seems to run out completely when I’m overworked.

Like for the past month, for instance.

My life isn’t getting any easier, alas. If anything, I’m taking on more challenges in my professional and personal life.

But I do wish the well hadn’t run dry.

Like, I Dunno, Maybe Facebook Is Toxic?

When the news broke about Cambridge Analytica obtaining personal information on Facebook for use in a presidential campaign, I shouldn’t have been surprised. And yet.
Continue reading Like, I Dunno, Maybe Facebook Is Toxic?

Story Publication: “Mold”

I am pleased to announce that my short story “Mold” will be appearing in a forthcoming anthology! Survivor, edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj and JJ Pionke, will be released by Lethe Press in Summer 2018. Pre-order the anthology here.

A big thanks to Alison McMahon, Karl Dandenell, Jocelyn Kirby, and others for their insightful input during the development of this story. It took a long journey from first draft to publication, but now the public will get a chance to read it.

Edit 2018-04-02: new release date and pre-order link added.

Jen Grew Up: Moving on from The Dark Crystal

Even the Urskeks knew when it was time to leave.
Sunday afternoon I turned on The Dark Crystal for my annual re-watch, a New Year’s tradition of mine. As I was sorting through old mail and generally cleaning house, something odd happened:

I turned it off midway through.

My feelings about this beautiful, imaginative film have evolved over the past few years. I was deeply invested in this film not too long ago. Yet after my disillusionment with the Henson Company’s prequel writing contest in 2013, I started taking a more critical look at it.

I typically don’t do this to movies. Books, including both prose and graphic novels, I can engage in with some distance, which allows me to tease apart a story more easily. Yet movies have always been visceral, and I’m usually too emotionally involved with the visuals to properly engage them.

But The Dark Crystal meant a lot to me, and I had to figure out why. The writer in me had to know whether it was the storytelling or the production design that drew me to it.

Well, here’s what I found.
Continue reading Jen Grew Up: Moving on from The Dark Crystal

Sunk Cost Fallacy, or Why My NaNoWriMo 2017 Plans Are Up In The Air

On my hard drive sits a novel-length manuscript. I wrote the rough draft about four years ago, and subsequently revised, polished, rewrote half of it from scratch, revised and polished yet again, and let it sit while I decided where to take it.

This novel had some similarities to a very popular show on a global video streaming site. I thought I could use that show as a comparable, or comp for short. (Comps are used in pitches to editors and agents: they demonstrate that a story is enough like a successful work that it can be sold.) I would need to differentiate my work from this show, since there were some uncanny similarities, but that could be done through incremental revisions.

However, a new season of this famous show just dropped.

Continue reading Sunk Cost Fallacy, or Why My NaNoWriMo 2017 Plans Are Up In The Air