March Madness

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Hello world! It’s been ages since I lasted posted, but I promise for good reason – I spent the entire month of March finishing the draft of my first book!

Finishing this project is a huge deal for me. I started it in November 2014 (!) as a post-grad starter project, and promised myself I wouldn’t start anything else until I had finished this manuscript.


Fast forward two years, and I wasn’t very far on my draft. Every so often I’d work up the energy to take my computer to the library for an hour or so and jot some words down. After two years, though, I hadn’t made it past 80 pages. Yikes.

Then, I stumbled across a book recommendation for Book in a Month by Victoria Lynn Schmidt, and something clicked. I realized I was sick and tired of not making progress and just making excuses for not writing.

I purchased the book, and the rest is history!

Well…not quite. It was one of the most difficult tasks I’ve embarked on. I’d set a goal to write 3,000 words a day, which took me about an hour and a half. Doesn’t sound like much, but every day I struggled to stay motivated. The lure of relaxing after work in front of the TV was a constant, but in the end, I came through!

Here are some insights I gleaned while writing:

  1. You have to cater to your inner goddess. At first, I planned out that I would get up at 5:00 AM every day to get my writing out of the way. It took a week of oversleeping for me to finally cave in and admit that I’m not a 5 AM person. I also like being in comfortable clothing, having lots of water by my side, and using a legitimate keyboard, rather than a cheap travel one. Catering to these whims made the writing process so much more enjoyable.
  2. You have to rededicate yourself to your goal every. Single. Day. I wanted to give up every time I sat down to write, no lie. But I made it a priority to post sticky notes around my desk about why I wanted to achieve this goal in the first place. It was instrumental to helping me reenergize.
  3. You have to keep going no matter what. I realized my story had major plot holes / character holes / switching character names early on. There were also a handful of days where I had to either skip writing altogether or didn’t make my word count. There were many opportunities for me – the constant quitter – to stop the project altogether, but I persevered.
  4. You have to focus if you want to see this goal through. Normally, I’m trying to juggle fifteen thousand goals at once. New fitness routines, new recipes to try, new makeup techniques to perfect, etc. When March rolled around, though, I realized I could only put 100% into one thing, and I chose that thing to be writing. It made me sad to have to dial back on going out with friends and catching up on TV, but I kept reminding myself it was only for a month.
  5. At the end of the day, it comes down to your attitude. A book in a month – especially one guided by a book of the same title – sounded kind of silly when I started, and I was embarrassed to tell people. And every day I didn’t get to where I wanted was a total bummer. Nonetheless, I told myself repeatedly that I would get this done, no matter what. And I did!

There is still much, much work to be done, but I’m looking forward to it. If you’ve made it this far through this post, I hope you take away this single thought if nothing else: when you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything you want. Corny, but forgive me, I’m riding the high of following through with something for once in my life. Feels pretty good 🙂

 

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Looking at the {Wo}Man in the Mirror

6:30 AM. My alarm is shrieking on my nightstand. I can barely open my eyes, but I don’t have any time left to sleep – I was supposed to already be up, dressed, and working on my novella. I was supposed to have my gym bag packed and my tea brewing and be a functioning human being.

With all of this weighing on me, I moved to get out of bed. Just then, a little voice in my head yelled Stop! Wait! Hold on for a second. Are you happy with this arrangement?

I listened. I stopped. And I reflected.

Currently, I’m on a quest to instill some good habits into my life. I’ve lovingly named it the BLOB program (better life or bust!). BLOB basically has involved me trying to live healthier- I go to the gym more, eat better, and sleep more, and at the end of a certain period of time of doing well, I earn a “prize”. Cue images of sticker charts for children.

On the other hand, I’ve become more serious about finishing the first draft of my novella. The goal is to have the draft finished by the end of March. This has meant at least six written pages a day, plus research and outlining.

Unfortunately, these two little projects of mine have begun to clash.

Where BLOB states clearly that I should be in bed by 10 PM, my novella demands 3,000 words to be written after work. BLOB requires a stretch session before the day starts. The novella needs an outline before that night’s pages can be written. It goes on.FullSizeRender

It’s only been three (count ‘em – three) days of this back and forth, and I’m already exhausted and disappointed. Where I gain with one, I fail with the other. And it doesn’t help that my roommate has recently gotten me into Gilmore Girls on Netflix.

Reflecting this morning gave me the moment’s pause I needed to say something has to give. In college I remember seeing a Venn Diagram of three circles arranged in a triangle. One is sleep, one is your social life, and one is your grades. The caption underneath read “pick two”, meaning that something always has to give.

In life, we cannot be great at everything, always. I can’t be staying up until 1AM every night and expecting to run a full day on only four hours sleep for a month. And I can’t expect to finish my draft if I am spending more time working on other projects.

It’s ok to compromise and to adjust in order to prevent this kind of burn out. I’ve decided to lessen my BLOB duties for the remainder of draft writing, but in return I’m going to focus on achieving a more reasonable bedtime by prepping for my writing the night before. It’s not perfect, but I’m hoping it will be a major improvement.

May you also seek the answers to your problems with a little reflection in your life 🙂

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Write Right

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If there’s anything I’ve learned from, well, life, it’s that communication is key. Key to getting things done (and done correctly), key to learning and sharing ideas, and key to one’s well being. I’ve lived in southern Cali for almost a year now, and the one thing that eases homesickness is keeping in touch withphoto 1 my loved ones back east.

Luckily, today we have websites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. to keep us in the know how. I can text my mom and Skype my dad and Snapchat my cousins all from my phone. Technology has been key to keeping me and the loop, and alternatively reassuring my family that I am, indeed, surviving out here.

One of my absolute favorite ways to say hello, though, is through a good old fashioned letter. This dates back to my American Girl stationery days – in cleaning my room, I’ve come across dozens of half-finished letters to schoolmates and family members (hey, I never said I wasn’t a procrastinator!).

Even now, there’s something fun about writing a little diddy to someone, popping it in the mailbox, and waiting expectantly for them to receive it. Because who doesn’t like getting something besides spam in the mail? It’s a personalized, handwritten treat that I think has gotten the shaft with the advent of tech.

Lately, my letter writing has gone into a slump, so over the weekend I “created” my own stationery to write to my grandparents on. A quick life summary later and voila! A letter has been born.

photo 3If you’re not feeling that ambitious, regular old stores like Target carry a variety of blank notecard & envelope packs that range from adorable to chic. The Paper Source is another letter writing haven, packed with cards to stamps and everything in between.

Happy writing!

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Don’t Forget the Passion!

 

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Last night, I was lucky to reconnect with an old friend from home whom I hadn’t seen in about two years. We met after work for margaritas and $1 tacos at a local Hollywood watering hole and caught up. I told her about my move to LA, my new job, my apartment. She described her (very cool) development internship, and her plans following graduation in December.

As I walked her back to her car afterwards, the question of “what do you want to do far, far down the road?” came up. As in, where do you see your career going? I want to produce, she said. I could only nod in agreement – she had the perfect demeanor for a good producer. And me? Writing is still the goal, I told her. A staff writer on a TV show.

Then, I told her about an idea I was working on. It’s one I’ve had for a while that’s been gnawing at me, begging to be written. It’s not quite right for TV or film, I said, so I’m thinking it’ll work best as a novel. One, I hoped, I could possibly write over the course of November during NaNoWriMo. It’s an annual November novelnanowrimo-logowriting project that “brings together professional and amateur writers from all over the world.” The goal is for you to write every day, and at the end of the month have completed the rough draft of a novel. It was an idea I’ve toyed with for many Novembers, and I felt like 2014 might be the year to start.

My friend was excited by all of this. Once the book was finished, I could adapt it into a screenplay if I wanted! I laughed. Or it could be some freebie eBook.

This is when my friend got very serious. “That’s been something I’ve actually been trying to curb,” she said. “Laughing at what could be. Why not dream big? Why not be serious about it? We’ve already come so far, the only place to go is up.”

I was dumbstruck. She was right! How often was I guilty of telling people my aspirations for the future – traveling, writing, owning a bed and breakfast, publishing a novel – and then minimalizing those dreams in the same sentence? I do want to write a novel, very badly in fact. But I couldn’t even get through telling a friend that I wanted to without sounding flippant and noncommittal. Perhaps it’s a safety net, so as not to have my feelings hurt if someone thinks my ideas sound terrible.

Whatever the case may be, I am pledging from here on out to be more careful about how I present my ideas to others, and I urge you as well to make sure you never trivialize the things you’re truly passionate about. Making my ideas and myself seem smaller is nothing but detrimental.

With that, I am so excited to announce that I have officially signed up for NaNoWriMo & will be working on my first novel! Don’t be surprised if November leaves me a little sleep deprived 😉

 

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