2018 Was…

2018 was a very memorable experience for me. I woke up to posts talking about all the negativity in 2018 and yet I don’t remember it. Sure, I’m very aware of the social and political issues of 2018 but in our individual lives, outside of those issues that may affect you personally, 2018 was not a bad year, in my experience.

From my point of view, 2018 was a year of hope and resilience. 2018 was the year that we conquered our fears, we stood up to bullies, and stood our grounds in support of the things we believed in. 2018 was a year of great losses but also a year of great victories. After every shadow that threatened to swallow us in sorrow, came a dawn of warm sunlight and positivity that made us believe in humanity again. Behind every viral video of injustice, there was a video of inspiration and love that helped remind me that the world isn’t so black and white. I was reminded that people are good and can do good when given the chance and the tools to change someone’s life.

2018 was the year that one of my aunts who is in her late 50s and a young lady I knew from high school, who is in her mid 20s, both beat breast cancer. 2018 was also the year I fold out I have a lump in my own breast and although it isn’t cancerous right now, my doctors want to monitor it for the next two years due to my family’s history with cancers. 2018 was the year I thought I had breast cancer. 2018 was the year that I realized that my life could end at the age of 23 and I was forced to ask myself if I was happy with myself, my achievements, and where I was in life. 

2018 was the year I dared to have dreams and hopes for the future.

2018 was the year I lost weight but gained a love and appreciation for myself that I thought I’d already had. 2018 was the year that I vowed to take my health more seriously because the thought of death by preventable diseases scared me.

2018 was the year I moved to a different state only to move back home three months later after the job fell apart and I’d nearly maxed out all of my credit cards.

2018 was the year I made the first move, romantically, even when I’ve been told that women should not. 

2018 was the year I learned a new skill: photography and tried (and failed) to start a photography business. But from this failure, I eased my foot into a different door of opportunity.

2018 was the year I finally got an “adult” job and although I’m still settling in, I can finally see how good it feels to be able to take care of myself financially. 

2018 was the year that I told myself I was going to write a book and so therefore I did. I wrote the first draft of a 257 page novel over the course of three months and realized the only thing standing between me and the things I desire is…me.

2018 wasn’t a horrible year for me. It was a memorable one. A year that taught me lessons I will take into 2019.

What did your 2018 teach you?

Hitting 50k, But Losing NaNoWriMo

This was my second year participating in NaNoWriMo and it was also my second year failing NaNoWriMo. This was definitely one of those “fail again, fail better” moments. Last year I was an emotional wreck and I barely made it past three thousand words. This year I was rolling off the high of writing twenty-seven thousand words in the previous month so I assumed I’d be able to hit the fifty-thousand wordmark inside of NaNoWriMo with no issues. After all, I was writing an average of 2,500 words per day. I was feeling so good about everything, I was even going to buy the winner shirt and one of the mugs from the NaNoWriMo website. Looking back on things, I’m thankful I didn’t.

During the first week of November, everything was good. I was even slightly ahead of the NaNoWriMo word count but by week two, I’d nosed dived. I kept trying to get caught up but life kept getting in the way. And by life I mean work; work kept getting in the way. I started a new job in November and it was my first full-time, salaried job. Sure, I’d worked a few eight-hour shifts here and there, before, but never week in and week out. My body and mind had to adjust to being so productive for eight plus hours and then also having to find the energy to come home and write. My daily word count dropped as the days went on, not just because of work but because of all the family activities I had to patriciate in such as birthday parties, cooking for the holidays, family members from out of state coming to visit, and yearly sickness.Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.35.24 PM

By the third week of November I knew I wasn’t going to make it but I was still aiming for at least thirty thousand words and then by the fourth week, I was begging myself for at least twenty-five thousand words and I didn’t even make that but I’m not sad. I did the best I could and most importantly, I enjoyed the journey. 

Even though I didn’t write fifty thousand words in November, I did hit the fifty thousand word mark in my story on November 30, 2018 after just two months of writing. If December turns out to be another twenty-something word month, I’ll finish the first draft of my book in a ninety day span of time, which was my personal goal before deciding to participate in NaNoWriMo.

All in all, I hope this serves as a reminder to all the people who didn’t win NaNoWriMo that some words are better than no words. Any words you wrote in November went towards your story and that’s a victory within itself. 

When Life Is Going Great

My last few posts were all kind of dark so I decided to take a step back and get my life together.

This is what that looks like:

1. I moved back to St. Louis.

I was in Houston, TX for three months before I came crawling back home but to be fair, I didn’t come back because I was homesick, I came back because I was broke. The job that I moved down there for didn’t work out and then the second job I was able to get was horrible and ended with me filing a formal complaint with the company’s HR department due to verbal abuse from my boss. I had such a hard time getting a job because I didn’t have a car. I had several interviewers tell me the reason they were not going to hire me was because I didn’t have a car. It makes sense, sort of, Houston is huge but I was even turned down on a job that was literally across the street from the house I lived in because I didn’t have a car and I was young and they were afraid that if they trained me for the position, I’d leave within the next ten years. No, I’m not making this up. Yes, they did really say this to me but they were also nice enough to give me temp work on the weekends. But the big defining reason why I came back home was that I was broke and in serious credit card debt.  For the majority of my three months in Houston, I lived on my credit cards and my credit score fell from 750 to 702 and now I’m about $4,000 in credit card debt. So yeah, it was time to come home.

2. I lost 10lbs in Houston

I wish I could say it’s because when I moved to Houston I truly did do one of those “New City, New Me” things but it really came down to money. I know what you’re thinking and no, I didn’t starve myself. I did the opposite. While In Houston, I stayed with my very affluent cousins. It was meant to be a stepping stone until I found my own place but when the big job fell through, it became apparent that I might end up staying with them for a much longer period than any of us had imaged. I bring up their money because it’s an important factor in health. They had enough disposable income to buy really healthy food (such as fresh fruits and vegetables) as well as higher grades of meat. So while I was down there, I ate my normal meals with the addition of fresh vegetables and I naturally lost weight. I lost about a pound a week and I feel great.

3. I’m more than 50,000 words (200+ pages) into my novel

I’ve been trying to write a book since I graduated in May of 2017. I’ve tried several times but for one reason or another, I failed. So while I was jobless and feeling sorry for myself, I sat down, scrapped everything but my characters and came up with a new story. I wrote a nineteen-page outline over the span of three days, in September, and started writing the book when I came back home in October. It’s December now and I’m more than two-thirds of the way into the first draft and haven’t made any significant changes. I’m pretty sure I’ll finish this first draft this month. I’m just so excited about this.

4. My first “real” job

In November, I landed my first “real” job a year after graduating from college. I now work at a library making close to triple the amount I made last year and I finally have health insurance. When I tell you life is going great, I really do mean it. I lucked up on this job. I flew home from Houston on a Saturday and by the following Monday, I had a job interview with a bank. After the bank job interview, I didn’t want to go straight home because I wasn’t sure If I landed the job and I didn’t want to think too much about it so I walked to my local library just to say “hi” to the librarians I grew up with. When I stepped in and told them why I was back In St. Louis, they told me they had a job opening and I should apply for it.

When I didn’t hear back from the bank the next day, I applied for the library’s job opening. A week later, I went in and did the interview and test for the position and was called back a few hours later. Because of how poorly I did on one section of the test, I assumed I wasn’t going to get the job. I assumed that they wanted to tell me that face-to-face because we’ve known each other for all these years. But when I arrived, I was informed that there may be an opening for a higher paying position and they wanted to know if I was interested. I told them “yes” and they told me I had to wait a week to have this new position approved by Human Resources. A week passed and I received a phone call from HR informing me of my new job position. I was elated beyond description. I’d been having such crappy luck, job wise, that it’s hard to believe this all happened this way.

I’m just super happy that life is finally going great.

Write With Me: The Joy of Writing

Week 2

Day 8 (9/9/18)

So, it’s the beginning of a new week and I’m trying something different. I decided to write before watching TV. I’ve noticed that on days that I don’t work, I stay glued to my computer, watching television shows, youtube videos, or movies. So when I woke up this morning, I decided to write first and then binge-watch later so that even if I waste my whole day on Netflix, I’ve made sure to get my words done first. It sucked because it took me forever to get into the groove of things, but I got the job done.

Total Word Count: 4,258

Day 9 (9/10/18)

I took today to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, career-wise. Also, my hands need a break because apparently, my carpal tunnel wasn’t feeling the fact that I tried to play word count catch up on top of my workout routine. I had a very productive day, though, just not when it comes to writing.

Total Word Count: 4,258

Day 10 (9/11/18)

Can’t complain about the writing day. I finally made it to chapter 3 and was able to introduce the last central character of the story. This means I now have all three major parts of my world written. I introduced the gritty underground life in the first chapter, the law and order situation in the second chapter, and the higher magic situation in the third chapter. The world building is set-up but I still have about one or two chapters before the story’s catalyst happens and I still have a little more of the plot to set-up before that can happen.

All in all, it was a good writing day and I finished the first season of Daredevil on Netflix and started the first season of Jessica Jones. I’m watching all the shows (the Marvel Netflix Series) in that series in the order in which they were released because I know they all connect and you need to watch them in the order of the release dates in order to understand the overlaps and not spoil yourself.

Total Word Count: 5,387

Day 11 (9/12/18)

Didn’t write today. Good news is I was approved for unemployment and I figured out what my career path will be. Finally! It almost feels like I’m an adult now. I have an event to go to today. Super excited.

Total Word Count: 5,387

Day 12 (9/13/18)

I wrote a little. I couldn’t focus. I thought having such a detailed outline (chapter by chapter) would help me write faster but I’m starting to think my issue was never coming up with ideas, but maybe it was not allowing my emotional state or events that are happening around me to distract me from my writing. 

Total Word Count: 5,557

Day 13 (9/14/18)

Didn’t write at all but I did finish the first season of Jessica Jones. I disliked so many of the characters on that show, which made me sad because I was really looking forward to it. Well, it’s on to season 2 of Daredevil.

Total Word Count: 5,557

Day 14 (9/15/18)

Today was a word catch up day. I woke up and didn’t watch anything until I had at least a thousand words written. After every thousand, I took a break so I could make sure I didn’t burn myself out because I knew I had to catch up. If I didn’t, I’d end up with a daily word count too big for me and I’d eventually miss my deadline. Also, today was a fun day. I remembered why I wanted to write this story. I remembered why the idea for this story stayed in my mind for over a year. I’ve been letting all the stuff around me distract me from the joys of writing but that ends right here and right now. Plus, I really like the second season of Daredevil. 

Total Word Count: 9,276

Photo Essay: Project Face

I’m a self-taught photographer that loves taking portraits of people but hate getting my own photos taken. I know, I’m so original when it comes to that. I’ve struggled with self-image problems for a very long time. At first it was because of my weight and then it was because my parents “gave me the ugly” (brownie points if you get that reference) and then it was because of my teeth. Yes, after 23 years of finding something that I didn’t like about myself and then slowly overcoming it, I finally settled on my teeth. My gap to be precise. Just so you know, I’m not a gap hater. I love them. I think they’re cute and add personality to a person’s face much like a scar or a mole. Just not mine. Overall, I like my teeth. I like how big and white they are. I have a big face with big features, I can’t have those tiny “baby teeth” as my mom calls them. My face is just too big for all that. So I love my teeth, I just hate my gap.

This hatred towards my gap came later in life. I’ve always had a gap, a big gap on top of that, and it never was a sore spot for me. I just saw it as part of me–one of my features such as my skin color of the shape of my nose and I’ve never wanted to change any of those things, so why close my gap. When I was in high school, I developed an abscess and after being hospitalized, I had that tooth removed. Years later, I realized just how much that changed things for me.

In the latter part of my freshman year of college, I noticed my gap was getting bigger. Because I was more socially active in college than I ever was in high school, I was taking a lot of photos and as I flipped through my photos one night, the horror dawned on me. I could see the progression of my teeth spacing out with every image I selected. That’s when I started to dislike my teeth. Leave it to me to go to college, cut off my hair, fall in love with myself and then find something that has always been there, to pick at.

So this photo essay means a lot to me because it’s the first time in a long time that I purposefully took photos so up close and personal, where everyone could see my perceived flaw.

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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.

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.

Failing at NaNoWriMo and Other Adventures!

November has been the month I failed at everything and I’m okay with that.

I’ve been looking forward to participating in NaNoWriMo since last year when I started watching vlogs about it. There is something so inspiring about watching someone complete a book in thirty days. As the year went on, however, NaNoWriMo slipped to the back of my mind and by the time October of this year rolled around, I started thinking about it again. For the first two weeks of October, I debated with myself on whether or not I should actually participate in it. A week before NaNoWriMo started, I told myself I was going to do it. I had it all planned out. I was going to write two thousand words a day and it was going to be so easy. I was going to have everything on a schedule. I was going to be ahead of the game and although the book would not be finished when I hit fifty thousand words, I was still going to feel like I’d accomplished something.

And then two days before NaNoWriMo started, I decided to start a new, lighter story–something just for NaNoWriMo. Needless to say, this idea blew up in my face big time. I didn’t start actually writing until the fifth day of November. That day, I wrote close to four thousand words and then I gave up. Not because I didn’t think I could catch up, but because there were other things going on.

So, I’ve been expanding this website and trying to plan out my future, or at least figure out what I’m going to be doing for the next few years. I have a degree in Scriptwriting but I live in Missouri. I can’t really use my degree until I move closer to one of the coasts; I’m just being honest with myself. During this economical draught, all of us in St. Louis are experiencing, I’ve been trying to figure out ways to either get a second job or start marketing myself as a freelance writer for a little side income. You see, although the main focus of my degree was film and television I had to take the same core curriculum as journalism, mass communication, and public relations students. So, I’m actually well versed in commercial writing and I’ve been trying to market my services.

Around the time I started NaNoWriMo I actually got a client that wanted me to do some technical/legal writing for them and build them a website. I was super excited about this opportunity but I was really nervous because I’d never done legal writing before. If you can understand something and mimic it, then you can learn any type of writing style but the thing about legal documents that will catch you up a bit is the fact that there is rarely an example or template you can work from. So, while I was coming up with a story for NaNoWriMo and trying to get caught back up, and expanding the website and promoting my other services, I was also working really hard on something I’d never done before. I wanted to do well on this, not just because someone was paying me to do it, but because it was a legal document that was going to help them start a business. I was very upfront with them about not having done any legal/technical writing prior to their assignment but they had faith in me and they were patient with me. The final version of the legal document turned out very well and after it gets notarized by an attorney, I’ll get started on building my client’s website.

As far as NaNoWriMo goes, I’ve failed and I’ve come to accept that but I’ll be ready for it next year.

Growing Frustrations With My WIP

If you’ve been following my “Writing Logs” you may have wondered why I haven’t posted the latest one yet. Here’s a bit of an explanation.

So, I haven’t been writing because I’ve become frustrated with my story. I don’t hate my story. I love it. I haven’t jumped ship or anything like that, I’ve just grown frustrated because I realized that I started the story too early. I’m an over writer—that has always been my problem which is why I didn’t freak out at the idea of writing an 85,000 word novel in 3 months. I thought it would be a fun challenge but now I’m just sitting here frustrated because I’ve come to the conclusion that my first act is dragging on. It’s not boring but I’m also aware that a lot of this information can be cut down and told in a more engaging way to make sure my pacing stays in a good range. If I shorten the first act, everything moves faster. The only problem is, that would mean a rewrite is coming.

I should wait until the second draft to fix it all but the fact is, I have to get through the first act in my current outline; I still have two more chapters to get through. That’s about 8k more words/2 more weeks of writing something I know I’m going to cut and rewrite. I’m frustrated. I love this story so much because it’s helping me work through a lot of internal emotional turmoil I’m dealing with right now and I don’t want to give up on it. Sigh.