Untied knots

27 Jan

Image courtesy Grog LLC's 'Animated Knots' app

I don’t know if it was the vacation I took from work in late December, the fact that I just purged out my desk at work and moved to a new one (more on that in a sec) or just a general sense of delayed New Year’s reflection, but I haven’t felt this content, centered and focused in a while. It just makes me realize what a nervous wreck I was last summer and fall as I was galloping to try to catch up on major writing assignments at work (and at home) and balance it with a toddler on the brink of being potty trained and an infant in the house.

Whatever the reason, the last few weeks have felt really good in some weird, undefined way. The air seems scented with possibility and at one lull in my December vacation, my wife joked about how relaxed and laid back I was, something she rarely gets to see.

“Oh, don’t get used to this. Relaxed Omar will be gone soon. Say goodbye. He’s great, but he’ll disappear by mid-January,” I told her.

I think she may have cried.

The 2011 good mood is partly because a lot has been resolved of late. The Kirkus Reviews project, which started back in October, is finally wrapping up, at least in its current phase. I committed to write 50 children’s app reviews, which at the time seemed like a ridiculous, theoretical number, the kind of challenge a competitor at the Coney Island 4th of July hot dog eating contest might accept. I just didn’t think I could do it, no matter what the offer was on teh table. So I did it anyway.

Breaking it down to five reviews a week (and then, when even that seemed daunting, breaking it up to three reviews written by Sundays and two by each Monday) really worked. I turned in my last two reviews with a week to spare (we agreed to have 50 reviews done by the end of January) and I was lucky enough to work with a great editor, Vicky Smith, who guided me through the unfamiliar territory of children’s literature and gave my short write-ups careful, witty, knowledgeable edits. It was a good experience and I may stay on doing app reviews (but in much smaller numbers) for Kirkus as they continue covering the emerging digital book market.

The other major loose end was that, on my wife’s solid suggestion, I called up my contact at NPR to find out what was up. It was a great conversation and, as it turns out, my fears that I had been unknowingly put out to pasture and was unworthy of being on the radio anymore were unfounded. The stuff I do for them in the future will likely be different than what I was doing before, but in a really good way. I wrote up and recorded a segment for them that is scheduled to air on Monday, Jan. 31 on All Things Considered. We’ll see how that turns out, but it was nice to find out that the door hadn’t been shut on me. It relieved a lot of anxiety I was having (but was trying not to acknowledge).

In general, I feel an easing of tension, a lack of nervousness and anticipation. In the past, I’d have interpreted it as feeling that my life was boring and I was being unambitious, but lately, I’ve come to embrace having a little free time and room to breathe.

Meanwhile, my day job continues as usual (or, hey, better than usual). We’re already preparing for South by Southwest Interactive in March, but in the meantime, I’ve had a few stories in the paper. On Monday, I had a piece on the front page of the Statesman about an Austin-related lawsuit filed against Courtney Love. I got to talk to some lawyers about libel law and how it relates to social media. Read it if you want to know if your Tweets and Facebook posts could get you sued.

I also did a “There’s a Creator for That” app feature about “Animated Knots,” an iPhone app that is about knots and how to untie them.

I got quoted in a Huffington Post piece about the 30 most underrated tech innovations of 2010 and the book I wrote the foreword for was featured in a New York Times Magazine article and on an NPR Fresh Air segment. So those things were pretty cool.

Also did a short piece about a new order-from-your-seat technology at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center called Bypass Lane and on Digital Savant, I covered a little breaking news about layoffs at Junction Point Studios.

Next week, we start up a new season of Trailers Without Pity with our first new video since early November.

At work, I switched desks, which was an occasion to completely clear out my old desk (as well as the new one) and to wipe both of them down and get all the grime and dust and disorganization cleared away. We’re doing the same thing in our home office; January for me has been a time to throw old stuff away, donate whatever I can and think about how I want to live and work and exist in my space.

It’s been very liberating to come to work and not face stacks of paper and books and just schmoot all over the place. I know it might not last long, but right now everything fees like its in the right place, that things are focused and correct, relaxed, but poised to act.

2 Responses to “Untied knots”

  1. stacey January 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    So glad to hear you are in a good space, and that you will be back on NPR ATC – I really missed your pieces in All Tech Considered, and look forward to hearing more!

  2. Saidul Islam January 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Keep up the good work! I enjoy your stuff on the radio

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