Under Pressure: The Perks And Pitfalls

UnderPressure

I once went on a job interview for a production gig that I wanted very badly. Everything was going great until the interviewer asked me if I worked well under pressure.

“Oh, definitely.” I began. “I thrive under pressure. In fact, from working behind extremely busy bars for so long, being under pressure is where I’m most comfortable. I mean, I know I’m not here for a bar job, so, I’m not sure why I brought that up exactly, but I assume the level of pressure is around the same. So basically, if you need someone who’s good under pressure, I’m the one. It’s me. You would be wise to invest in…myself.”

Etc, etc…

As I rambled on, ironically demonstrating my absolute inability to work well under pressure while vehemently proclaiming that I could, I began to panic. I couldn’t help but hear the words that were coming out of my mouth and wanting desperately for them to stop. At the same time however, I knew all the damage I had done needed to be fixed and in my mind, the only way to accomplish this would be to keep talking.

So I went on. Offering explanations on top of mental pictures of the type of cool and collected person I was when placed under fire until finally, while still babbling, my mind was screaming at me to wrap it up Kelly! Put an end to this insanity! Finish on a high note! Say something profound!

To which I paused briefly, looked my interviewer dead in the eye and said “Of course, I also work well under…not…pressure.”

I work well. Under NOT pressure. I said this to a potential employer.

That was at least ten years ago but it was only this past month that I was able to determine definitively whether it’s “pressure” or “not pressure” that I work better under and as it turns out, I was right all along. It’s both. I’ll examine the former first. Despite my nearly melting into a pile of nerves and fears on the interviewer’s floor when she asked me how I performed when under duress, over the last thirty days it’s been made clear to me that without any pressure to produce, I usually don’t.

ShellMan

Here’s a photo of something I saw during my time off to keep you reading. They say pictures on blogs are supposed to do that.

 

Remember back when I was all “I’m just gonna take a month off so I can get ahead.” How I wanted to have like ten posts ready to go so that when I returned, I wouldn’t be rushing to get them out on time? Yeah. That was funny. Let me tell you what I did with my month off:

Exactly nothing.

And I’m not even talking about where writing is concerned. I wish I could say that although I was more than lackadaisical when it came to organizing blog posts, at least I was out in the world living my life to the fullest. You know, taking in museums, attending the theater, filling up my creative well with all sorts of new colorful experiences to write about but that was not the case. Other than the odd jobs I picked up here and there to keep myself out of a homeless shelter, for the most part, I spent my time watching hours upon hours of television. Without the pressure to keep up my posts, I just couldn’t bring myself to do them.

RedScarf

Still reading? Good. Here’s another snowman for you.

 

But now for the flip side of that coin. I think writers, artists or people in any number of fields for that matter, put a tremendous amount of pressure on themselves to always be churning out their best work. I know I do. I tend to get wrapped up in the number of “likes” a post gets or if people engage with me after I’ve written one. When they seem to be duds I go Well I guess that one kind of sucked. Maybe it would have been better if I did A, B or C. Next time I shouldn’t rush so much. I’m not taking the time to do these right! I need to get more organized! I know, I’ll take a month off and write a hundred posts that are all winners because doing them last minute is too much pressure! Ahhhhh!

And that’s kinda dumb.

Yet this feeling stuck with me during most of my time off. It made it so that one weekend of rest turned into an entire week and then two went by and then it got to the point where I would avoid my computer at all costs because opening it and trying to be interesting was like the scariest thought in the world and when push came to shove I found myself curled up in a ball on my couch watching one series after another on Netflix because I could…not…write.

After twenty straight days of being uninspired and thinking I might never do anything worthwhile in my life again I even even considered giving up this site for good but really, I was just putting too much pressure on myself. Specifically that crappy kind that says “I always have to be at my very best or there’s no point in doing anything at all”. And that kind of pressure can be crippling.

It wasn’t until I was offered another copywriting assignment where I had to actually finish a piece of writing by a specific time, that I remembered writing isn’t so scary after all. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it. However, without the pressure to do so, who knows how long this hiatus would have lasted?

So at the end of the day I’ve realized that I won’t be one of these bloggers who has a month’s worth of posts lined up and ready to go. I need at least some pressure to keep me moving or I simply won’t. At the same time however, I need to chill the fuck out a bit on my expectations here. I’m writing a blog for Christ’s sake, not campaigning for a Pulitzer. Constantly worrying that a particular article wasn’t up to par was keeping me from writing them at all so I’ve decided to be a bit more casual about it all. You may find that my posts now won’t be as rigorously scheduled as they were before and in some cases, they might be more loosely formed. You know, without a specific moral or tidy wrap up in the end because so often I skip entire ideas for lack of something witty to close with.

That being said I’m very happy to be back, if only to reconnect with all of the people I’ve gotten to know through writing this website. Funnily enough, what I missed the most during my month long hiatus were the interactions with other bloggers and the people who comment regularly. I didn’t realize how much I had grown into a community until it wasn’t there anymore. Watching Rachel and McGyvra go at each other in the comments section or having Iva leave a remark for every last link in a Slackers post was worth coming back alone. So thanks you guys, and anyone else who stops by or says hello from time to time! I truly do love being a part of your world and I hope you’ll continue to be a part of mine.

And finally, for anyone awesome enough to actually subscribe to this blog, my apologies for the email last Wednesday announcing my upcoming return as though it were the opening of an Applebee’s. On top of all this other nonsense, some evil asshole hacked into my site two weeks ago pretty and much destroyed it. It’s taken the diligent determination of two fantastic web designers to put it all back together again and we had to do a test email last week to see if everything was working properly. If things look weird right now it’s because we’re still ironing out the last of the kinks. Subsequently, if my next post is about a pilgrimage to Indonesia to track down and beat a fourteen year old who’s seen Fight Club too many times, you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Cheers, and I’ll see you on Slackers Day!

SnowHorse

You made it! Here’s one last picture for getting all the way through. You deserve it!

 

  • Liz Imler

    a snow horse! I wanna ride that ish,

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Ok, I feel like I’m a hundred years old but I keep seeing people write “ish” and I don’t think I get it. I understand when someone uses it like “Did you quit smoking?” and then someone respond “ish” as in kind of, but are you saying you “kind of” want to ride the snow horse or is “ish” a term now for things? I swear, I’m my grandmother right now.

      • Liz Imler

        ha ha ha — I thought “ish” was a synonym for “shit.” As in, “I wanna ride that shit.” Are you sure the smokers aren’t saying “ugh” or “eh?” I’ll need to urban dictionary this…

        • Liz Imler

          sorry — I needed this Monday morning validation.

        • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

          No! I came up with that example. Like akin someone are they hungry and they say “ish” but now I know what you mean when you say it. Iva, who comments on here all the time says “ish” in the way you did and I never really understand what she’s talking about. Now I know. Thank you for clearing that up.

  • http://www.wanderlyn.com/ Eternally WanderLyn

    Welcome back!

    I think as writers/bloggers we always feel compelled to put out the best content, so when it doesn’t do well we always feel like we could have done better. But we should ease up on ourselves a bit and learn to relax. :) I also read an article recently about how writers often procrastinate. The theory was that most writers never really had to try hard in English class, so they left their essays until the last minute. And this basically set the tone for the rest of their lives. It’s basically a learned habit. At least, that’s the excuse I’m using! lol

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Ha! That’s an interesting theory. I’ll go with that. We’re just so brilliant we’re confident we can bang out our work in the minutes before it’s due. Good to hear from you Lynsey!

  • Food Booze & Baggage

    That is terrible about your site getting hacked. What a nightmare!Glad you got it worked out and welcome back! My dream is to have a whole month worth of posts but not sure I will get there…instead I’m rushing around doing things at the last minute, glad to know this is somewhat common :)

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      You know even if I did get a post done super early I would feel compelled to publish it right away anyway. I have no patience. So best to just go with what works, you know? No. You are definitely not alone.

  • Awesomely Over-Zealous

    Woohooo glad you’re back :) I understand the pressure you’re experiencing, especially since you’ve been blogging as long as you have. Just tone it back – do once a week if that’s all you can muster. That’s what I do – it’s good to be consistent but don’t break your backbone trying to do so. :) We’re just happy to hear from you and better once a week than seven days a week, because honestly who the F has time for that? And yes, the snowman pictures helped too. I think we all have the attention span of squirrels now. I bet you it was some pimple headed teen who jacked your shit – people are taking these hacking conventions too seriously they need to simmer down. Hope you’ve made progress in other areas though – :) Happy Monday and welcome back Kelly! -Iva <3

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Hi Iva! I’ve missed you! I think that’s sound advice. Once or twice a week of quality work is better than three times a week of mediocre. How are you feeling by the way?

      • Awesomely Over-Zealous

        Yay :) It’s good to be missed! Yes one good, quality piece of work a week by far is better than 3 pieces of mediocre. I’m feeling a lot better thank you for asking :) Slowly coming out of my winter hibernation – it’s been a long one! :) Hope your plans are aligning girlie :) can’t wait to hear about all your adventures in the last month 😛

  • Damien Galeone

    She’s back! First of all, welcome back, my long lost blog buddy. Secondly, I have very much the same tendencies, that’s why writing a blog is key for getting our writing out there. Moreover, it’s why a whole hell of a lot of people DON’T write – there is no pressure, nobody is going to come to their house and demand a short story or a blog post or ask for imaginary money back if they don’t write one. It’s also why from the beginning I set the days for my blog – Mon and Thurs – so if I don’t post one, people notice. And finally, it is very clear that you put a lot of thought, time, and energy into your writing and I am glad you do. I wouldn’t read a blog that was dull and poorly written, so keep stressing just the right amount. Oh yeah, and more snowmen pictures!

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Hey Damien! Thanks for the encouragement! Certainly having a schedule is helpful. I always did well in school because I knew I had tests on certain days and HAD to be prepared, but when I graduated and had no one telling me where to be or what to do, I started to panic. I spent a year drinking and doing drugs instead of looking for a job. Jesus, I’m glad that’s not what transpired with my month off as free time can have a slippery slope effect. Glad you liked the photos!

  • http://www.awashwithwonder.com/ Shannon

    I used to published four times a week on my blog! And I wanted EVERY single post to be perfect. Couldn’t keep that up past the first few exuberant months, and felt bad every single week that I didn’t keep doing that. Then when I had no schedule at all, I would go weeks without posting and feel bad about that, too. Pretty stupid cycle to be on when I consider that I just write a blog for fun! Now I aim to post once a week (I even have a day: Tuesday) and I try to write good content. What I’ve found though is that the ones I’m really proud of, no one gives a fuck about, and the ones I think are kind of silly get liked 100’s of times. I used to obsess over the amount of people interacting (and I do still care) but then I read a blog post about how 6 people on the internet are as worthy an audience as 6 people in real life. Like if you made 6 people in real life feel happy or moved or whatever, you’d feel great about yourself! Same is true on the Internet. So when one person leaves a comment, I’m like, “yay, I made a gift for one person!” and that’s a way saner approach than “I need to write Pulitzer prize worthy blogs every single time even though no one is paying me for this”. Longest comment ever to basically say: I feel you.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      I like that analogy about the six people. When you put it that way, we’re reaching way more people through our sites than in real life. I don’t think I see six of my friends in a month usually. And four times a week is very difficult. That’s impressive and also hard to tone back once you feel like people are expecting it from you now. What I’ve noticed, without sounding too negative is that people are so wrapped up in their own business they rarely miss a post from me if I don’t have time to write one. So I’ve had to calm down thinking that there’s a number I have to hit every week post wise. If people genuinely like what you have to say they’ll be there when you’re ready you know? Thanks for the input! Oh! One last thing, the most popular post on this blog EVER was a total throw away in my mind. Go figure :)

  • http://thefearlessscribe.blogs

    I post when the words flow. If I haven’t posted in a while and I’m at a loss and force myself then I struggle and it reads like crap. Someone, somewhere once said, “Everything is copy.” so I try to look for inspiration in the every day and build on it. I once wrote 20-something blog posts last October for NaBloPoMo. I used a lot of Halloween-type/Fall prompts. Anyway, glad you’re back! Snowman pics rock!

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      What’s NaBloPoMo? I love Halloween! I write a post on it every year. I like you’re “Everything is copy” idea. I’m going to keep that in mind. Thanks!

      • http://thefearlessscribe.blogspot.com/ Sandy

        National Blog Posting Month. Blogher does this every month (I think). It’s an ambitious under-taking so I don’t know what the hell I was thinking! Keep the saying, hope it helps.

  • Rachel!

    Kelly!! I am so happy you are back! I was a little worried that you had been hacked last week when your site when crazy! Welcome back and thank you for that awesome picture of the snow horse!

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Yeah, the promo for estrogen and whatever the hell else was on there isn’t my usual subject matter. I was going nuts for a minute there. Good to hear from you Rachel!

      • Mcgyvra

        Yippee! The world is right again! Oh, except that Rachel is now working somewhere else :( …. But I am taking “Single White Female” steps to get over there and I’m currently in the interview process. Thank you for sharing your struggles…………it’s great to have you back!

  • http://www.brasshoney.blogspot.com/ Shannon Kerns

    Welcome back and thank you soooo much for this post! Totally hit home and was exactly what I needed to hear.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Awesome! I think most people who do any kind of creative work on a regular basis probably get stuck in that kind of a rut from time to time. I just had to let mine run its course, you know?

  • http://hemborgwife.wordpress.com/ Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    I have found what I need are time limits not even like hey today I will write a blog post but I have to say to myself at 2 you are starting to clean the house so the blog post has to be done before then or else I will look at every last thing on the internet before I start. I was the same in college though and always ended up writing papers at 2 am and the next day I would sometimes be like what the heck does that even mean but at least it was something to turn in.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Ha! I have found that I do the opposite. When I have a post to write I’m usually like, let me just vacuum first…then I get to the dishes and then I’m on the phone to my mother, grandmother, anyone! Just so I won’t have to start writing.

  • http://mycreativenergy.wordpress.com/ Amy

    Hooooray!! You’re back!! And you didn’t miss a beat – you had me laughing from beginning to end (why oh why does ‘finish on a high note’ inevitably lead to ‘pause and then put other foot in mouth’). I think you are such a good and honest writer that even if you post less than polished pieces – they’ll still be enjoyable. And at the very least, there will always be snowman photos to fall back on 😛 Keep it up!
    PS – sorry about the hacking, but LOL(ololol) to describing the email as “the opening of an Applebee’s”. Hilar!

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      HI Amy! Ha! So glad you liked it and thanks for your enthusiasm. That’s really very sweet. I’m happy to be back and reconnecting with all my blogging buddies, that’s for sure. Good to hear from you!

  • http://www.erikafromamerica.com/ Erika

    This post is pretty much everything I love about this blog!

    Seriously, you had me laughing aloud during the re-telling of your interview.

    And then, I was nodding in agreement about what it means to be a writer. Finding the motivation to write is hard! Especially when Netflix is a button away.

    And I’ve found that you’re right — once you start writing, it gets easier. But when you stop, the pressure becomes immense and you build it up and it almost makes you hate it. But getting beyond that mental block leads you back to loving it. And I, for one, am glad that you found your way back and are doing it your way because I enjoy this blog so much! Glad you’re back!

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Thank you Erika! I’m still feeling it somewhat. It really does take a minute to get back into that groove. I think this winter being so brutal came into play as well. There was nothing to do besides lock ourselves inside and wait it out. Not exactly inspiring circumstances. I’m still finding it tough to get back into the groove of things around here but comments like yours are what make it worth it. I really did miss connecting with all you guys. I’ll see you at your new space!

      • http://www.erikafromamerica.com/ Erika

        Well, don’t beat yourself up too much about it. I think every writer in the world has experienced the resistance and procrastination. Have you ever read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield? It’s a great kick in the butt for times like these (and seasons like winter, apparently, haha). :)

  • JanaStopMe

    Glad you’re back! I’ve found that trying to force blog posts to stay on schedule usually means I’m posting crap — and who wants that? I try to get out a couple of posts a week — and sometimes, when I’m really feeling it, I might write more — but I try not to stress about it anymore.
    PS — when I get nervous I also get verbal diarrhea — and you just can’t stop that shit once it starts to flow – it is truly horrifying.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Ha! Yes! I get so nervous sometimes and unfortunately my responses are counterintuitive. Rather than keep quiet and avoid disaster I often find myself spewing out nonsense in an effort to show myself that I’m just fine. It rarely works out.

  • http://eatwellpartyhard.com/ Claire Suellentrop

    The snowman photos. I just…I hope you actually saw all of these in real life. Especially that first one. Perfect embodiment of my (and probably everyone else’s) sentiments on winter.

    More seriously, though, it’s good to have you back. We’ve missed ya, and that can…not…write feeling? It’s the worst. Props to you for pushing through.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      That first photo is actually from a snow scene that my brother and I constructed on the front lawn of my father’s new house seven years ago or so. I think he had moved in three days before and his neighbors got to wake up on Christmas morning to a snowman firing squad across the yard. There were actually two more snowmen with rifles but I couldn’t get them in the frame properly. At any rate, I decided to use this photo as my Christmas card a number of years ago with the caption “Here’s to having a blast in 2012!” I’m not sure everyone was as amused as I was. The rest of the snow guys are from a fun but frigid day out in Central Park a couple of weeks ago. I do love them so. Good to hear from you Claire! And thanks for the welcome back!

  • http://www.wittytitlehere.com/ Cassie

    Your depiction of the interview is perfection. I’m glad you’re back.

    Related: I once gave a woman who was interviewing me a weak, awkward (but passable… I didn’t miss and hit her in the boob or anything) handshake, but instead of pretending like it didn’t happen like a normal person, I said SORRY after said handshake. So that was fun.

    • http://www.therheeldaze.com/ RheelDaze

      Haha! Aw, Cassie, that’s adorable. I have done that. Well, similar things. I once went to lean in and kiss this guy hello who I had only met a couple of times (friend of a friend but always made me nervous) and I tripped and fell into him and then apologized and tried to kiss him again! Ugh, why do we even bother being alive sometimes?