How to Work Around Phone Phobia

pink rotary phoneI don’t like answering the phone. I will do just about anything to avoid making a phone call to anyone. If it weren’t for having family who like to call me on my birthday or to make sure I’m still alive during the winter, I’d have no phone at all.

I don’t have a cell phone. I don’t want one at all. I did try one for a week. But, I never used it. So I took it back and cancelled the account. No matter how outdated it may seem not to be mobile with a phone stuck to my ear, I won’t be doing it. I do have a mini laptop, that’s mobile enough for me.

I don’t remember just when my phone problems began. I went through a time of having debt problems when I was in my early twenties. I’ve heard that’s how a lot of people develop a phone phobia. But, I had a poor attitude about phones before that.

My Dad was a small business person. Most of the time he kept a home office in the basement. Sometimes he would have a phone number for the business and leave it hooked up to the fax machine when he was supposed to be off hours (not working). But, he could never leave the phone to ring and go unanswered. He would risk breaking his neck by running up and down the stairs, leaping over laundry piles and other stuff my Mom would have (like an obstacle course) on the stairs. If anyone choose not to answer the phone with his same obsessive need to take every call, he would pitch a fit.

It didn’t matter that it was after hours for the business. It didn’t matter that we had one or even two answering machines hooked up to take calls. It didn’t matter that the calls after hours were almost always sales calls, telemarketers and people who wanted charity. Any missed call would cause a huge blow up.

I’m sure I began to resent and dislike the phone during those days. But, I didn’t dread picking it up and answering it or phoning anyone.

Later I worked in a department store. As a cashier you sometimes were required to pick up the phone and send a page out over the intercom. I hated that part of the job. I would do anything I could think of to avoid it. If it meant leaving my place and grabbing something for a customer I would do it. If it meant asking another cashier to make the page for me, that was fine with me. Sometimes I just offered customers a discount rather than paging for the floor staff to price check something for me.

It was ok for the job. They just wanted stuff sold rather than caring how much it sold for, within reason. But, it made me feel silly. So I began making the pages myself. I just made myself start doing them. After awhile it became easier. I even found it easier to answer the phone at home. But, since I stopped being a cashier several years ago I’ve gone back to my old feelings and dealings with the phone. I let the answering machine catch every call. I can listen in and see who it is, then pick it up if I want to, or need to.

It may sound funny to have a fear of the phone. Maybe fear isn’t the right word. I do have a phone in my home after all. I’m fine with the phone as long as it keeps quiet.

Help for Phone Phobia

Plan ahead when you have to make a phone call.

Write out a script, predicting how the call will go and what you will answer. Or, just go over it in your head.

Make sure you have all the information (like account numbers) and a pen and paper ready before you make the phone call.

If you have to face someone on the phone who may be argumentative, negative or hard to deal with for any reason, try getting help from a friend. Have them role play with you. Let them be the boss, service person, etc who you are not comfortable dealing with. Most likely the call won’t be as dramatic or upsetting as you think it will. A friend can give you a different outlook on it. By the end of the role play you could be laughing and the call will seem much simpler then.

Make the actual phone call when you are feeling good. If you are already upset, tired or feeling impatient you’re off to a less than ideal start.

How to Turn Your Room into a Home Office

After getting divorced (after having moved to another country and then back home as well) I have a truckload of belongings and one room to my name. Clutter and chaos and a massive lack of storage space meant I had to part with a lot of things. I was able to store some away in the basement of the house I live in. However, that still leaves me living in a house where I only have the bedroom to use as my own space.

It’s not easy finding space for a home office and a home business. Often people aren’t running a business, but they have their computer and like to have a set up where it is easy to use all their electronic gadgets – like a digital camera, a printer, a scanner, possibly a fax and your recharger for the mobile phone too. That’s a lot of stuff to fit onto a computer desk. But, it can be set up in a corner if you don’t have a lot of clutter.

Treat Yourself to a Decent Computer Desk and Chair

I bought myself a computer desk. It has a shelf on top for the monitor and a shelf at foot level for the computer tower. I keep all the cables running down the backside and once in a while I give them a dusting off. The desk level is where I keep the computer mouse and the mousepad. (You should have a mousepad if you don’t already – they keep your mouse cleaner underneath).

I am currently sitting on the second of my computer chairs. The first wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it was going to be. Make sure you sit in any chair before you buy it. I also put felt furniture pads on the bottom of the chair legs to keep them from marking the floor or making noise when I pull the chair in and out. If a chair isn’t working out a week after you buy it, the store should let you exchange it for another.

It is a good idea to have a footstool as well. This lets you elevate your feet and will help your posture if you are going to be sitting in one place for a while.

Busting your Home Office Clutter

I don’t find it so uncluttered to have my home office set up in the same room I sleep in. But, I’m working with it – so can you, if that’s the space you have to work with.

Two things which are really important are to keep the two areas defined from each other and to stop any build up of stuff. This includes, but is not limited to, laundry, coffee cups, assorted paper, notes and notebooks, pens and the odd toothbrush.

I have been working on finding a space for everything and keeping everything in it’s given space. You may think that is easy, it is not. The paper clutter is the hardest to keep controlled. This is my area to work on all those little things and they soon pile up. I found a small filing cabinet and then I found a short plastic drawer tower (that’s what the manufacturer calls it). I have been trying to keep the paper in the file cabinet and the pens and paper (for drawing on or writing notes) in the drawer tower. I have them, one on either side of my computer desk.

I do have a scanner which is currently under a pile of paper clippings which I was sorting out this morning. There isn’t quite enough room for my scanner on the computer desk right now. I’m working on that. I took an old Mac computer from my sister which I wanted to explore and that is taking up space I really didn’t have to give away.

My cables for the digital camera(s) are on top of my desk. I want to get a hook which I can put up on the wall and then have them hang on the hook. This is a great way to keep them from being lost in the day to day clutter. It also helps prevent them being harmed from getting banged around or stepped on if they slide off the desk and onto the floor accidentally. You can even use a twist tie to wrap the cords so you won’t have them trailing down very far when you hang them up.

I do have a bookshelf too, which is for my non-fiction books only. I have them sorted by topic. I keep the fiction books in a mesh bag as I read each book it goes into the bag to be exchanged at the second hand bookstore. Not keeping every book goes a long way to helping keep clutter cleared up when I don’t have a lot of space.

Keep the Kitchen, Bathroom and Laundry Room out of Your Home Office

Last of all, I have two laundry baskets. One for clothes which are freshly cleaned and ready to be put away. Even if I slack off a bit, the clothes are still not being added to the clutter. The other laundry basket is for dirty clothes to be washed. Clothes are a big problem for clutter. Last winter I did my best to part with some of my clothes. I was surprised how hard it was to let go, even things which I have not worn in awhile for assorted reasons.

Also, I keep a container in the linen closet for all my shampoo, toothpaste and related bathroom things. I don’t like to keep my toothbrush in the bathroom itself. I think it would get mildewy. So it’s great having all those things in a small space of their own.

Another big thing which you should do for your home office is to keep all eating in the kitchen. I do have a coffee here while I’m working. However, I almost never eat food while sitting at the computer. It’s much easier not to have dishes and crumbs and crud on my keyboard and around my work area. Even if your keyboard looks not too gross, try picking it up and turning it upside down. Take a look at your computer mouse too. the bottom of it as well as the top. Clean the gross-ness you have wrought.

Rearrange Furniture to Suit Your Space and Your Needs

If you have more space than a bedroom you can do a lot more with your home office. For me, I have the computer desk on one side of the room and the bed and clothes closet and drawers on the other side. I also have two large storage containers with books, computer CDs/ DVDs and some hair clips, etc. One of these fits inside the clothes closet and the other sits at the bottom of the bed, like an old fashioned hope chest.

Don’t Forget Office Supplies

Office supplies stores can be a lot of fun to shop around in. Start out as a window shopper, looking but not buying much – if anything. Decide what will really be useful, what will fit in your space and is there assembly required (or extras to buy for it). For something like extra pens, pencil crayons, etc. You just need a place to put them. However, it’s nice to have a cork board or a whiteboard, some place to leave yourself notes, stick up magnets or fancy thumb tacks. You should also have a calendar.

Make your Writer Feel More like a Writer this Christmas

Writing is something we often do alone while we think we really are not very good. It’s so easy to compare yourself to so many other people who seem to do it all just a bit better than you can ever do it yourself. We all get days where we feel we could not write our way out of a wet paper bag. So, we need some inspiration and encouragement from those around us.

If you have a writer you want to encourage this Christmas, I have some ideas for you! These will also work as self-help if you are the writer you want to encourage and inspire.

  • Treat yourself to a creative writing inspiration type of book. Really treat yourself or your writer and buy one new, not second hand.
  • Look at software for organizing and keeping track of freelance writing submissions. If your writer doesn’t already have something like this, you can really encourage them by giving them a tool to help them do more and do it better.
  • A dictionary is an old stand by, maybe too much of a stand by. But, if you really don’t know what to get it’s something safe. Make sure you go the extra mile and sign the dictionary with encouraging words from you.
  • A writer needs a portfolio, not so different from other artists. Talk to your writer about the portfolio they have and ask about how it could be better. Listen for ideas and ways you could help them get from where they are to where they could be.
  • Look at home offices and see what tools and gadgets would suit a writer’s home office. You might get a gift card at a store which offers wallpaper, paint and etc and let them use it toward redecorating the home office space they have.
  • Sometimes a writer needs to get away and recharge the batteries. Give your writer a trip to a spa, a coupon for a weekend of babysitting their kids, or get them tickets to a creative workshop or writer convention coming to the area.
  • If your own budget is tight give your writer a Christmas card full of inspiring quotes geared to writing and creativity. You can find all kinds of great writer-like quotes online.

Writing Editorials

Originally from Suite101 University, a free ecourse posted a few years ago. I’ve saved the information here because there is a lot worth keeping and I don’t know what will happen to all of it now that Suite101 is closing this area of their site.

Writing Editorials

By Jason Reeher


Welcome to the Suite University course on writing newspaper editorials. In this course, you can learn effective techniques for writing letters to the editor, then submit your opinions to everything from your local newspaper to national publications. Valuable for anyone interested in public affairs, current events, and pop-culture, this course will help the student to develop a writing interest, as well as hone argumentative and persuasive writing skills. This course is great for beginning writers, as well as those interested in scientific disciplinary writing, print journalism, editorial processes, and public policy discourse.

Writing newspaper opinions is a great way to gain expression for your writing. With relatively little time invested, you can learn to produce concise, effective and persuasive editorials on a regular basis. Perhaps the most exciting element is that YOU can choose your subject based upon public interest and current relevancy. By learning what subjects are most important to your target community, whether it’s local property taxes or “American Idol,” you become part of the public discourse when your opinion is published. This course can help you get there. Continue reading Writing Editorials

What Writing Related Life Hack do you Use?

Curvy Girl Guide asked: “We want to know what items make your life easier. Not counting your phone what life hacks do you use?”

I thought about it for a while and then wrote:

My old TV tray. I use it to sort out the mail in the morning. I use it to sort through stuff that would otherwise clutter my home office desk. I can bring my mini laptop to it and work on small stuff or catch up with family. I like not having to be in the home office for personal computer time. At night I will sometimes set my coffee on the TV tray while I make dinner in the kitchen, keeps it out of my way and yet within reach. I even eat on the TV tray some nights. It’s almost a mini home office, but far more casual and I don’t get crumbs on my desktop computer!

The old TV tray is kind of neat really. I use it more than I realized. It’s just simple, a small flat tray with legs that fold underneath it and then the top falls down to the side. Mine is wood, a secondhand/ thrift store find. I spray painted it with silver colour a few years ago. It could use another round of paint as the wear and tear are showing. But, it’s sturdy and reliable. Not something I’d want to use my desktop computer on but it’s perfect for the mini laptop and whatever accessories (like my scanner or the digital camera) I want to use with it.

Setting up a Home Office on the Cheap

Not everyone can decide to freelance write and then go out and buy up a storm. Likely those are very few and far between. So, for most of us we are looking for ways to cut corners without leaving out something or making ourselves feel we are second rate.

First, consider what you really need versus what it would be nice to have. You can always get those nice extras later, like when you have a first real profit to show for your efforts, buy something slightly extravagant for yourself then. Meanwhile, make a list and cross off those things you can treat yourself to later.

I think the main essential in the computer age, is a computer, printer and matching software. But, don’t think you must invest thousands of dollars. Try thrift stores, ask family for copies of software and look online for freeware. Word processing software comes with new computers, likely you have a CD with MS Word or Lotus Notes. I use Lotus Notes myself.

Although we tend to back away slowly from computers and other hardware at thrift stores you should take a look, try plugging it in, booting up and seeing how it runs and what’s been left in it from the last owner. Printers and scanners are especially cheap (and plentiful) at GoodWill. Thrift stores aren’t likely to let you return a computer but you can test drive it before buying. Also, consider your needs, if you’re just using a computer for word processing and email you can manage without a new, souped up one for gamers and hefty music/ movie downloads. Check the software bins too, you may be amazed at what you find. Make sure software is compatible with your computer and check how old it is. Some software will have free updates online but that won’t help you if it’s too ancient to run on your computer to begin with.

Beyond the computer situation you need basic office supplies and reference books. These are often found at thrift stores, second hand bookstores, flea markets, garage sales, library cast offs, family and friends and office supply stores going out of business, back to school sales in the Fall, etc. Beyond the standard dictionary and thesaurus look for books about writing including grammar, word usage, style guides, editing and publishing. See if you can find general reference books for fact checking and research.

You won’t need a lot of pens and paper with a computer. But, consider having some kind of file system, a way to keep organized with story ideas, story submissions, publishing contacts, invoicing and whatever you use for self promotion and marketing. Find a system for keeping everything organized and work on maintaining it.