Write With Me: Intro

Last year I tried to write a book…and I failed. I had the idea for the book while I was in college but I waited until after I graduated because I spent most of college writing films and I just couldn’t fit another story into all of that. So, at the end of May 2017, I started developing that story idea. Everything was going great: I loved my characters, I was having fun developing the world, and I’d completed an outline for the story. I started wiring and even started doing blog posts about the writing process but around the 30,000-word mark, I hit a wall. I realized that my story was too big for one book and even if I were to write multiple books (such as a trilogy) the story would still be too big and have too much backstory. So I took a break from writing and during that break, I tried to come up with ways to fix this problem. During this break, a good friend of mine died and I became very depressed. During my time of mourning, I couldn’t bring myself to write or even brainstorm. This period lasted for about 5 months.

By the time 2018 came around, I was feeling a bit better…maybe even a bit inspired because I’d been reminded yet again that life is very short and I want to do everything I desire before it’s my time to go. So, I started thinking of ways to fix the problems I had last time I tried to write. The story was too big. How do you fix that? Most people start their stories too early, so they end up with first acts that tend to drag because the story doesn’t start to halfway through the second act. My problem was that the story started too late. Like, I kind of started the story during the final act of the story and that’s why it had too much backstory. I needed to explain too much in order for everyone (readers) to catch up with what has been playing out in my head for the past four years. The easiest way I could fix this problem was to start the story earlier. 

I took a look at my characters and asked myself, where would my characters have been two years before this happened? What would they have been up to and what would their world look like? So, that’s how I fixed that. The other issue I had, although at the time, I hadn’t considered it to be an issue, was my world building. The world I had created was really cool but my story was conflicting with it. There would be times where something could have been made easier had I not set the story in the world it was set in and I was always worried about world building holes that would distract readers. So I decided to create a simpler world, closer to real life and that also helped me figure out what genre I was writing in. Plus, I simplified my magic system. So basically, if you’re having trouble with your writing, take a step back and then simplify everything.

I also figured out how to outline my book in a way that works for me. That’s the stage I’m in right now. I’m outlining. I’ve been writing for a long time but it wasn’t until I went to college that I was forced to outline. Since then, I’ve developed a fondness for outlining but I had never outlined a book until that first try last year. This year my outlining process has changed so much and I think that has also helped with “fixing” my story. I’ll probably do a tutorial for how I outline now because it’s so effective for me.

Regular writing posts will start as soon as I get further into the book.

Until next time, peace…

I’m 23

I’m a pretty chill person so… feel free to click away if you’re expecting a story full of glow sticks in the desert, alcohol poisoning, and regrettable tattoos. That will probably happen on my 25th though because I plan to celebrate the year 2020 the same way people celebrated 1999. I’m dead serious.

So yeah, I turned 23 at the end of June (Thursday, June 28th to be exact) and decided to take 3 days off from life to celebrate myself and reflect on life while getting ready for my big move to Houston, TX.

This article is about what I did on my birthday. It’s just as anticlimactic as the rest of my life. Enjoy.

I woke up later than I planned, I guess I forgot to set an alarm because I knew I didn’t have to go to work. I took off for my birthday because last year I worked on my birthday and declared to myself, “Never again!” in an overly dramatic fashion probably with my fist raised and my chest puffed up. It’s not like I had anything planned but I wanted the freedom to do whatever I wanted on that day.

So, I woke up around 11:00 am and saw that my sister had texted me “happy birthday”. Her text message was one of the first things I saw and it put an instant smile on my face. I logged into Facebook and responded to the wave of “Happy Birthdays” posted on my wall. I then texted my cousin, Jimmy, happy birthday. This is something I’ve done for the past 8 years. When I didn’t have a cell phone, I would call him on the house phone and wish him a happy birthday. Our shared day has always and will always link us and although he is literally twice my age (something I just realized this year) I know this is something that I will continue to do.

After that, I got out of bed and talked with my mom and little brother for a bit before I decided to go out to eat for my birthday. I washed my hair put on some clothes and ordered an Uber and we headed out to the mall to eat at the Cheesecake Factory. 

***Fun fact: if you tell a server at the Cheesecake Factory it’s your birthday, they’ll give you one free scoop of vanilla ice-cream with hot fudge drizzled across it and a burning candle on top. It’s kind of sad but sweet at the same time. Plus, it’s your birthday so you’re happy with anything.

After that, we walked the mall for about an hour and I picked up some new Vans because I needed some new shoes. On the way out of the mall, we got some cheesecakes for later since we hadn’t had any desserts.

We made it back home at a very decent time and I thought I would do more but then the weather turned sour. I thought it was just another bad thunderstorm because we’ve been having them for the past week or so but then I heard the sirens. I went outside and saw the sky had darkened and the wind had cooled. It rushed past me with such furiousness that some of the smaller trees seemed to kneel in fear. Thick clusters of clouds moved across the sky threatening rain that would not come until much later. Apparently, the sirens were a tornado warning. I went back inside with the rest of the tenants in my building and switched the TV from Hulu to the local news and watched the flood cams and footage of the damage to houses and trees in my neighboring counties. Luckily for us, the tornado didn’t touch down in the city but a lot of the counties around St. Louis City experienced a ton of damage from the wind and the thunderstorms.

That lasted for most of the evening and killed the energy for adventure I was feeling but I did buy the new Florence + the Machine album and I spent the rest of the night swaying to it while listening to the rain.

I’m Moving To Houston, TX

Hey everyone, I know my blog has been kind of quiet lately, it’s because I’ve been having some technical difficulties and I’ve also been very busy. Let me explain what happened really quickly and then after that, I’ll get to the moving story.

About two months back, my MacBook Pro of 5 years died and I had to get it replaced. I thought everything was fine because I backed up my computer twice a month, but when I got my new computer, I found out my new computer was not recognizing the external hard drive I’d used to store my backups. This means I lost a lot of content. I lost all the photos from my study abroad trip/travel trips and I lost a lot of documents. I was able to go into the hard drive and retrieve some photos, mostly the photos of my deceased father, but after that, the files became corrupted. So, if it wasn’t stored in the iCloud, on a flash drive, or in Google Drive, I don’t have it anymore. So that’s what happened, that’s why the content stopped because I became very focused on trying to retrieve my lost content, plus I have two and a half jobs and I’m planning an interstate move.

But anyway, moving on…

I’m moving to Houston, Texas. It literally took me a year to decide to do this. Last year when I graduated from college, my mom and my cousin tried to convince me to move to Houston. They both wanted me to change states because of the lack of opportunities in St. Louis but I didn’t want to move or, more accurately, I wasn’t ready to move. Leaving home never bothered me, as long as I can talk to my family, homesickness never sets in, but I just wasn’t ready to leave. So, I created reasons to stay. At first, it was graduate school. I told myself I wanted to go to graduate school but the way my bank account is set up, I needed to get a well-paying job first before embarking on that path because student loans are not fun. But then a few months went by and I still couldn’t find work, and the dream of going to graduate school started to fade. I’m not saying it’s never going to happen, I’m just saying it’s not happening in the next two years.

At that point, I returned to my old job, working part-time but I was still looking for full-time work. I tried a few side hustles and pick up a few extra skills, such as website design, photography, editing video and photos but I never stopped looking for full-time work. Back in January, I got really close to getting a full-time job making $37,000 a year (in St. Louis without any children, that would have made me middle class) but I didn’t get it. I was one of the final candidates but someone with more experience most likely got the job. The experience didn’t make me bitter, it did the opposite, it gave me hope. For a while, I thought I was just un-hirable. I thought I didn’t have enough skills to get a decent job but after that, I knew it was just because St. Louis is small and our economy sucks. Just to give you an example to back up my statement, during my year of looking for full-time work, I tried to get a job with the City of St. Louis. When I went to the website, there were only 27 job openings for official St. Louis City workers. St. Louis City has a population of 311, 404 (2016). I rest my case.

This is when I called my cousin who lives in Houston and asked him if his offer still stood and he asked me when I wanted to move.

For those that are wondering, why Houston? Houston is the fourth biggest city in the U.S. and it has a booming economy.

 

What Offer?

Our families are close yet distant. He’s my cousin on my mother’s side of the family. My mom took care of his mom when his mom had breast cancer. And his mom was my mom’s oldest sister and she literally helped my grandma raise my mom. So, we’ve always been connected. After he moved out of St. Louis, we became distant but I knew he still cared about us. He would check in on us, send us presents or money for Christmas, etc. He even gave me a vacation when I graduated from high school.

When I graduated from college he offered to help me transition into adulthood. He offered to help me move, give me a place to live until I could afford my own place and he gave me a car to get around in. He wants to help me foster an environment where I can focus on growing my photography business and writing my screenplays and novels without the fear of failing and not having enough money to live off of. In our family, we believe in paying it forward. If you’re at a point in your life where you can afford to help others, you help them. I am so thankful for this opportunity and I can’t wait until I can help someone else in this manner. I’m excited for this next chapter in my life.

I move to Houston on July 18, 2018.

Gone Away

Today marks the fourth year that I’ve been on this earth without my father. I wasn’t going to make any social media posts about this subject because I didn’t want to bring anyone down, but then “Gone Away” by The Offspring came on today and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. So I’ll leave you with the lyrics that both inspire and haunt me.
Maybe in another life,
I could find you there.
Pulled away before your time.
I can’t deal. It’s so unfair!
And it feels…
And it feels like,
Heaven’s so far away
And it feels…
Yeah, it feels like
The world has grown cold
Now that you’ve gone away.
Leaving flowers on your grave
To show that I still care.
But black roses and Hail Mary’s,
Can’t bring back what’s taken from me.
I reach to the sky
And call out your name.
And if I could trade
I would…
And it feels…
And it feels like,
Heaven’s so far away
And it stings…
Yeah, it stings now
The world is so cold
Now that you’ve gone away.

So, I’m Sort of A Freelance Photographer Now…

It all started back in January; my job was hosting some events and needed someone to take photos of it. They already had a professional photographer, but they needed someone to take photos for live and scheduled social media postings. Everyone knew that I went to school for film (scriptwriting) and they have all seen my study abroad photos so I was a natural choice. I did that event for them, using their camera and then for the next event, I used my own camera. I was using my Mirrorless Nikon 1 J4 to take the photos. I did another event where I was the second shooter and my images were used for promotional work. After that, I was hired on to do some non-work-related event photography and I even took some portraits for a media kit.

Up until all that happened, I’d never thought about photography as a second job or a career choice. I’ve always loved photos. I collect them, like a weirdo. I draw inspiration for my stories from the images I collect. In fact, I had 25GB worth of images on my old computer. I’d accumulated those photos over a decade span, but still, that’s a lot of photos.

When I started traveling, I realized I really liked taking photos to document things. So, if you ever get a peek at my travel photos, not the ones that I post, but the ones that are saved on my computer, you’d see pictures of everyday things. Photography turned into a hobby of mine. I had to take classes that covered basic photography when I was in college because of what I studied. I also was part of the photography club on campus, but again, I’d never thought about photography as a possible job until people actually started paying me to take photos. It’s silly, I know. Someone really had to say, “Here, take my money,” before I thought about the financial benefits of photography.

But once I started thinking about the possible financial benefits, I immediately wanted to better myself.  So, I went back to school… sort of… I took some online courses on photography from sites like Lynda and Skillshare (although I do not like Skillshare and I would not recommend it, the class I took was excellent). YouTube is also a great place to learn new things. There is a tutorial for everything and I needed tutorials for Lightroom and Photoshop. I also upgraded my camera. I went from my Mirrorless Nikon 1 J4 to my DSLR Canon 80D and yes, I did cry a little bit on the inside when I bought it. I cried out of excitement and out of fear because I knew I’d just spent a lot of money on something that may or may not make the money back. And I’m a stickler for at least breaking even, even on passion projects such as this.

I think I’m going to add a Photography section to this website to keep you updated on what I’m doing with my photography. I have two upcoming photo shoots and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Back At It Again

I know that some of you started following me because this started off as a blog about writing, and then it started talking about traveling with a little bit of lifestyle content thrown into the mix. And then all of the sudden, the writing content stopped. There was a little travel content here and there, but it mostly became a lifestyle blog.

Let me tell you what happened…

My friend died.

Some of you who started following me because of my writing content may have noticed I haven’t done a full blog post about writing since around August or September of 2017. At that time, I was growing frustrated with my “current” work in progress because I was overwriting. My original word count was supposed to be around 85,000 words but I was starting to believe the story would really end up being around 110,000 words.  Yeah, that was a big baby. I know. But the real issue with the story was that there was just too much content. All the stuff that was there was needed information told in a way that wasn’t direct exposition. I was introducing too many of my plots at once. So I decided to take a month off from writing. I was supposed to use that time to figure out how to trim down my bloated first act or simplify the entire story.

By October, a very close friend of mine had died. His death was life altering for me because I always felt he was the one that got away. I live in North America and he lived in South America. We met during his high school study abroad experience. We became friends the moment he sat down next to me in French class. We started walking to and from school together because of how close we lived to each other. We became inseparable that year, with all of our inside jokes and shared curiosity.

Over the years, throughout high school and college, we stayed in touch. His death destroyed me because he was my biggest regret. I regretted the fact that I wasn’t brave enough to let him know how I felt when we were younger. By the time we were in college, we’d talked about things and even tried to visit each other once or twice. But he was in med school in Brazil and I was studying film in the U.S.

He was only 21 and cancer had stolen him.

Unbeknownst to him, he had leukemia.

My mother is currently in remission from the same type of cancer that killed him.

He was almost done with medical school.

He’d just delivered his first baby in May 2017. I can still see the photo of him smugly grinning as he carefully cradled a newborn baby; he and his instructor dressed in matching light blue scrubs and hair caps. That image will forever be burned into my mind because it’s the last smiling image I saw of him before the waves of “condolences” and “gone too soons” crashed against my computer screen, sending me into a black hole of depression that made me abandon social media for two weeks and writing for five months.

I failed NaNoWriMo not because I was busy, but because I couldn’t write. I had no creativity left in me. The story was dead. All I could think about was what this world had lost. We’d lost someone who was trying to do something good for the world. We’d lost someone who knew what he wanted to do and how to do it. I’d lost someone I’d loved and I knew I’d loved him because, outside of my father’s death, I’d never felt so hollowed by the news of death.

And so, after five months, I finally seemed to have recharged. For the first time in five months, story ideas are organically germinating in my mind. For the first time in five months, I feel like I have agency in my life and I’m not faking it.

 

Lazy Natural Hair Routine

It’s no secret that I’m a lazy natural. I have a certain philosophy about my hair that I adopted from my journalism courses: KISS.

Keep

It

Simple

Stupid

And that is exactly what I do with my hair. People always ask me what do I do to my hair to get it to grow and I always tell them “nothing”, because I’m being honest. I do the least amount of work on my hair and it flourishes because my hair (like a lot of people’s hair) benefits from low manipulation. And low manipulation isn’t just about styling, it’s also about how you take care of your hair. So, in this post, I’m going to “keep it simple, stupid” and tell you all about my lazy hair routine.

img_2820

So I start by sectioning off my hair into four sections. My hair is thick and it shrinks a lot so working in sections has been my way of not overwhelming myself. And it also makes it easier to distribute product evenly throughout my hair.

I soak each section with water first, before applying my shampoo to my roots/scalp. I massage my scalp and then rinse the shampoo out and put the hair back into its ponytail. I do that to the remaining 3 sections and then I add conditioner to my hair and I let it sit for about 10 minutes. I rinse the conditioner out of my hair and place the hair back into the ponytails and then I towel dry my hair with a microfiber towel. I pat the hair that’s laying on my scalp and I squeeze the hair that’s hanging from the ponytail.

The next step is to detangle and style. I start with one section, add a leave-in conditioner to my hair and detangle with a wide-tooth comb. I then add olive oil to that section and start to style it. My go-to style is a twist out. So I normally just twist up that section and then move on to the next section and let it air dry. The next morning, I untwist and rock.

Every 3 weeks I do a deep conditioning treatment but the process is pretty similar. Instead of conditioning my hair, I do the deep conditioning treatment and leave it in for 15 minutes after I finish putting it all in my hair. I rinse it out and then proceed with the rest of the wash day routine.

Voila! It’s so simple, anyone can do it.

 

dsc_1045.jpg

Making Better Choices

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a post about my 8 goals for this year. One of those goals was weight loss. I know. I know. That is so basic. It’s always on everyone’s list. It’s the worst repeat offender of all time. But when I put something on my to-do list, I do it and that’s all a New Year’s resolution list is. It’s just a big to-do list stretched out over the course of the year. In February, I took some time to re-evaluate myself and my lifestyle. I’ve never been a super active person, mostly because of how uncoordinated I am but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that working out is essential to a long healthy life. So, I work out. I do 1 hour of cardio three times a week and 30 minutes of resistance training four times a week. Plus, I walk everywhere because I don’t have a car. Yes, my legs are very strong.anigif_enhanced-buzz-9965-1402961405-27

But even with me doing all of this, I wasn’t really losing weight. I was staying toned but I was dropping weight at a glacial pace. What gives?

This made me re-examine my diet. Overall, my diet is good. I used to make the joke that I’m chubby because of my love of ice-cream. Over the course of a two-week experiment, I realized that it was actually true. I am chubby because I love ice-cream. Here, let me explain a bit.

Once February hit, I started taking this whole “30 lbs weight loss” thing seriously, so I started making adjustments to my eating habits. My normal diet was never really bad, it was just lacking a few key ingredients like…vegetables. So, I’ve been adding more of those into my meals.

I’ve also been snacking better. Instead of eating junk food when I’m craving something small but comforting, I’ve started snacking on fruit such as apple slices with peanut butter and plain/vanilla yogurt with granola and fruit. When I’m making a salad, instead of buying the garden salad mix which is basically just iceberg lettuce and shredded carrots, I started buying bags of expensive leaves. Yes. I said leaves. I’m talking about kale, spinach, chard, and arugula. I feel like I’m being ripped off because they honestly look like leaves I can find during the summer time on the trees outside my house, but I digress. I still eat my salads with ranch dressing but I no longer add the cheese and the croutons and all that extra stuff. I do eat my salads with baked chicken and I can attest to the fact that it tastes amazing.

img_2813

I also gave up ice-cream or more accurately, broke up with it. I used to eat ice-cream every single day as if it was its own food group. The only reason my weight didn’t balloon out of control was probably due to my workout schedule. I still eat ice-cream but it’s not allowed in the house. And if it is in the house, it has to be one of those pint-sized containers. I read an article about getting unhealthy food out of your reach. For me, I really enjoy ice-cream so it recommended that I didn’t have it in the house. If I wanted it, I had to go out and buy it. For ice-cream, that means I either have to buy it in the pint-size containers (so there isn’t any left for the next day) or I have to go out to an ice-cream parlor. Both of these options are kind of pricey if I do it multiple times a week, so I know I’d be able to stick to this rule. I hate wasting money.

Over the course of two weeks (even without me working out) I lost a noticeable amount of weight. I’m currently working on revamping my workout routine as well so I can maximize my time and get the best results. I really want to lose the weight but I also want to make sure I can keep it off and live a healthy life. So, I’m not going to do anything crazy or stupid to lose the weight. I’ll keep you updated on my journey. I’ll start posting pictures once I go down a pant size.

Why Don’t We Talk About Finances​?

Why is everyone so afraid to talk about finances? I grew up in a home that didn’t really talk about it as if it was “grown folks” business. It wasn’t until I was deemed old enough (senior year of high school) that my dad opened up to me about our family finances. The discussion we had was eye-opening because, for most of my life, I didn’t think we were bad off, financially.

I grew up living a simple life. We lived in a six bedroom, one bath, full basement, 3 story house that had belonged to my grandparents and was passed down to my dad. Our neighborhood wasn’t that bad, but as the decades went on, the neighborhood started taking on more and more negative connotations. We always had food and we always had clothing, a running car, and heating during the winter. We didn’t have central air, but that was because the house was a turn-of-the-century home and the remodeling would have cost too much. We had air conditioners and steel fans for St. Louis’ hot summer days. When I think about my childhood, I remember big Christmas celebrations,  birthdays, annual trips to amusement parks and even out-of-state field trips. If I asked for something, my parents always delivered it. Luckily for me, I didn’t ask for things often, so it was never really a burden on them.

But all of this was a lie. A carefully constructed lie. My family never tried to act like we were big ballin’ or whatever, but at the same time, I was purposefully kept in the dark on financial matters. During my senior year of high school, while I was applying for colleges, my father had a frank discussion with me about our finances. We were working poor. I would say we were working class but that would imply that there was money stashed away somewhere in a 401K or we had investments or something like that when in reality, we were working poor. We didn’t live paycheck to paycheck. We lived every three paychecks to paycheck.

My dad explained it to me like this: he could miss two pay periods and everything would be fine but if he missed the third one, one of the bills wasn’t going to get paid. My father was a master saver but he was a man with a family and he was the only person working. He had three kids and a wife that couldn’t really work due to the aftermath of chemotherapy and leukemia. Don’t get me wrong, my mom can work, but working a fulltime job would destroy her body. She has an extremely weak immune system and her joints are all messed up from the chemotherapy and leukemia. That all started when she was in her early thirties and still continues to this day. So my dad shouldered the burden of everything and became the sole provider for our family. We were staying afloat until the 2008 recession hit.

After two years without work, both of my parents finally re-entered the part-time workforce. Well, my dad started off as a full-time manager but because the economy was still so shaky, he slipped into part-time work and that led to another job, and that led to another job. Things were tough. By 2012, he and I were having frank discussions about our finances. My dad was of the generation that still believed that a college education was the gateway to wealth or at least financial stability. And since a fair and good education was something that my family was denied (my parents, aunts, and uncles all grew up before or during the civil rights movement) they always encouraged me and my siblings to do well in school and pursue higher education. College was seen as a gateway out of poverty.

During my freshman year of college, my father died from cancer. His battle only lasted for three months but it depleted all of his savings and the money I’d been saving while in school. It left us paying off medical bills, property taxes, and funeral fees. My father had insurance, it just didn’t cover cancer… Isn’t life great? But that’s neither here nor there. After his death, I ended up taking out more student loans because my dad was no longer giving me money for school. After four years at a private university, I raked up $38,000 in student loan debt. I know, your eyes just kind of glazed over, right? Originally, I was on track for $32,000 in loans, which would have put me closer to the national average, but I just had to study abroad (I say sarcastically). But in all fairness, I don’t regret studying abroad, I just wish I would have planned for it, starting in my freshman year, instead of doing it as an impulse thing the summer before my senior year.

But yeah, I’m $38,000 in debt and I’m not freaking out. Mostly because all of my loans are federal loans, President Obama made sure I wouldn’t be screwed over by the interest rates (Thanks, Obama!) and I plan to get an actual job. I’m working part-time, making peanuts, but I recently went through the process of ALMOST getting my first professional job. In this case, almost really doesn’t matter but at the same time, it does. It let me know that even with my very small job history, my degree allowed me to make it to the very last hiring stage of a job that would have started me off on a salary of $35,000-$37,000 a year. I really wanted that job but the whole experience just made me grateful went to college. It let me know that my degree isn’t worthless and that it can open doors that can lead to high paying careers and that made owing $38,000 in student loans a little less scary. It also made me believe that maybe my dad was right to believe that college really can be a gateway out of poverty. It just takes time.

Happy Birthday To My Blog!

Today is my blog’s first birthday. I’m so excited. Looking over all of my posts I can see a change in myself. I’m no longer the wide-eyed college kid who was constantly worrying about my future. Now,  I’m a working adult, trying to further my writing career.

At the beginning of January, I was promoted to a management position at the job I’ve been working at for less than a year. This is a big deal for me because I didn’t get my first job until I was in college. My first job was a secretarial job so I’ve never tried to venture far from that. Even with my current job, it relies heavily on customer service and data entry. All of the other jobs that I’ve applied to, in my search for a second job, have been secretarial as well because I was afraid to expand my horizon. It wasn’t until I realized I was undervaluing myself, my skills, and my education that I truly started making changes.

I’ve never seen myself as a natural leader. I’ve always been the leader who stepped up when no one else would but that has changed and I honestly think it’s because of this blog. Writing down my experiences and sharing them with you has inspired me to do better–to do more. So, I’m very thankful for this blog. It has changed the way I feel about myself and the way I approach problems in my professional and personal life. I look forward to another wonderful year with you. May we all grow as people and prosper in all of our aspirations in 2018.