Television, Distraction or Inspiration?

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As a writer there’s a lot I can justify in the name of writing. Almost any experience or activity can be seen as a necessary part of the writing process. For years it fueled my already voracious reading habits. I’ve always believe the advice to become a better writer you have to read, and read widely. As if I needed a excuse to excessively shop for books. Even with my often visits to the library, my book collection has grown considerably the past couple of years.

But thanks to a good friend and her Netflix account, my new favorite medium is television shows. In the past I’ve been critical of myself watching too much TV, it felt too much like a waste of time. It’s likely because of the lack of choices, hundreds of channels and still nothing good is ever on. But after thoroughly browsing the horror and sci-fi/fantasy categories I realized the potential for inspiration it provided. So I’ve been pretty much binging on all shows having to do with witches, monsters, space travel, fae, etc.

I have to admit if it wasn’t for the content I’d probably be saying this was a real problem. At my worst I’ve spent almost entire days watching at least half a season. And more than a few times I was up until at least 4am because I just couldn’t walk away. So I’m starting to wonder if I really am lying to myself. Is this binging really just a distraction from the things I should be doing, or is it a part of the process? Some days I feel like I’m really benefiting, inspiring new creative work. Other’s I feel like I’m wasting too much time. I do have a bad habit of become a little obsessive.

I’m sure plenty of other people have lost time getting sucked into a TV watching binge. How do you know when it’s really a problem? I’d love to hear from my readers, especially other writers. Do you think TV can really be a productive use of time in terms of finding inspiration, or is it a big time suck?

Can’t Escape Information Overload, Help!

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Information overload isn’t a new issue, nor is this the first time I’ve been stuck in it’s grip. The past couple of months have been quite overwintering. In the chaos there’s one thing that’s totally been neglected, my email inbox. I’ve managed a couple of times to clear it out but it seems to fill right back up. I have over 300 unopened emails in my inbox. Plus clearing out my inbox I tend to just move emails to folders that I intend to review later. So in addition to the unopened emails I have another buttload of emails waiting to actually be read. Most days I just scroll through opening anything that might be of importance and deleting junk. Every week or so I sit down intending to really clean it out, then anxiety sets it and I give up. It’s just too much, I’ll never have the time, and even if I do it’s a waste of time. With these thoughts ringing through my head is no surprise I can’t get through it.

The easiest solution would be to just delete everything. But as I’ve said it just fills back up again, plus I get nervous about just deleting it all. Would if I miss that one important article, contest, submission deadline, etc., that changes everything. I know ridiculous right. I admit I’m a bit of an information junkie. I’m always signing up for new online courses, subscribing to newsletters, following blogs, and don’t even get me started on social media. But the problem is I just can’t keep up with it. And I honestly wonder if it’s even worth it to. A lot of the information I collect is inspiration for my writing, career and business advice, self improvement advice, and generally just anything I think might be interesting or useful.

The funniest part is it’s never going to be useful if I never actually read it. I just feel so overwhelmed it’s essentially paralyzed me, I’m not sure where to even start. I’m sure I’m not alone in this issue and I’d love to hear how other deal with it. Please comment with any ideas or advice. Or simply let me know I’m not alone or being completely crazy.

 

The Road So Far: Pennsylvania 2017

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Today makes it’s exactly five months since my move. I like it so far but it’s a big adjustment. I’m still not even used to the idea of not living in New York City. I’m glad to be out but do miss it, mainly because there isn’t much to do up here. The week of Thanksgiving I visited for a couple of days, hadn’t been gone long and it felt like I’d never left. With the chaos of the move followed by the holidays I’m finding real hard get back on track. Most of my time’s been spent getting to know the area, looking for a job and just getting settled in.

I let myself take it easy, trying to get my office together and working out new plans for my blogs, newsletter and Etsy shop. I’ve been slowly forcing myself to get back to writing, but my lack of concentration has made it very difficult. I did manage to write and publish a few new blog posts,  in addition to the last two months newsletters. I’ve been stuck editing (actually rewriting) my novel for a couple of months now, barely making it to chapter five. Between the frustration and lack of structure to my days, I feel like I wasted a lot of time watching TV, playing games online and basically sulking around trying to figure out what to do with myself.

I’ve been working on different strategies and practices to boost my motivation and creativity.  I have small library of books on writing with prompts and exercises I’ve tried working with. Also started reading The Artist’s Way again, before the move I got about half way through. I wasn’t really putting much effort into the exercises and tasks. I really like the advice and approach of letting yourself explore your creativity without judgement. That’s not something that comes easy to me and often beat myself up or give up when I can’t meet my standards. It’s been helpful as I start experimenting with other creative art forms.

I just hope that soon things will start falling into place. It’s no surprise that the move would cause so much disruption. I just didn’t think I’d be working at a snails pace to get back on track. At this point all I can do is keep pushing myself.

2017 Goals

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Every year I make a list of goals for the year. Usually I have a list a mile long, eventually I don’t even want to think about. Basically, I just overwhelm myself so it’s almost impossible to complete anything. This year I’m going to keep the list short hopefully it will help me focus and actually accomplish them. I’ll also try out the advice I’ve read to tape it somewhere you can see it. The past couple of years I’ve written in a journal or notebook and totally forgotten about it. I’ve just included the most important five, I’ll be working on a lot this next year but these, I absolutely must work on.

  1. Finish editing novel in progress
  2. Build newsletter to 100 subscribers
  3. Add two new products to Etsy shop
  4. Complete 5 sewing projects
  5. Complete first Draft of poetry chapbook

 

To New Beginnings

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The past couple of months have kind of been pure insanity in my life. Last post was a short recap of the Poetry Festival. I also posted some of the leftover inventory for sale online. I figured it was worth a shot to bundle some things up to see if I could make some quick extra sales. I started working on setting up a Etsy store but in the shuffle of life didn’t really follow through. As usual life got in the way and set me back a couple of steps.

It’s a long story I wont go into, but I had to leave my apartment by September and ended up moving to Pennsylvania. I’ve wanted to get out of the city for a while, though this was not the ideal situation or where I wanted to go, it’s what life dealt me. Compared to the option both myself and John working ourselves to death for a tiny studio apartment in Brooklyn, I think this was a good decision. Because everything was very short notice, I spent the rest of the summer packing and working as many hours I could at my part-time job.

It’s been a little over a month since the move. So far it’s not bad though I can actually walk to a grocery store and the other major things I need, but yeah I think it’s finally time for me to learn how to drive. But of all things it’s quiet and I just feel calmer here. That is when I’m not having major anxiety over what the hell I’m doing here. I’m not really sure the reality of it all has hit me yet. I’ve been trying to get myself into a routine and working on…like everything. I feel somewhat setback having to give up all my writing groups, volunteer work, and even my crappy part-time job. But I’m also hoping that this new start here might be a good thing. For now it kind of feels like a new adventure.

 

 

Time Flies

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I can’t really believe it’s a new year, even more that we’re already three months in it. I wanted to reflect on how the past year went. I don’t regret my decision to leave my job, but things didn’t exactly go the way I expected. I didn’t exactly have a plan, more like a list of things I wanted to try out and some things I hoped to accomplish. While I may not have hit all my goals, I have progressed as a writer and taken some steps forward. Once I sat down and listed everything I realized I got a lot more done than I originally thought. Here’s just a few of the great things I might not have gotten the chance to do if I was still working full-time.

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  • I attended as many writing workshops as possible; most, if not all, of them were offered free by the New York Writers Coalition. I also participated in their fundraiser, as a show of my gratitude, and attended the annual Write-A-Thon.
  • Found and started attending a monthly poetry group at New York Public Library.
  • Started volunteering for 826NYC, an organization that offers tutoring and writing workshops to students. I helped facilitate bookmaking field trips, creative writing workshops, virtual tutoring and personal statement workshops for high school students. I also took advantage of the workshops they offer for volunteers.
  • For most of the year I was able to keep to a schedule of publishing a new post weekly on my new fiction blog. I was about on a biweekly schedule for this blog, although I wasn’t always consistent.
  • I participated in NaNoWriMo; while I didn’t technically win, I only got to about 45,000 words instead of the 50k goal, I finished the story, attended a handful of write-ins at the NY Public Library and contributed to their weekly blog updates.
  • I also attended a bunch of free classes at the Brooklyn Public Library. Including some that have inspired me to try out some different creative projects. (Likely I’ll write more about those in another post.)

Last year was a bit of a struggle at times and I went through a lot of ups and downs. But overall, I’m happy with what I got done and where I’m at now. Back in December I started working a temp job for the holidays, the reason I fell off my writing routine, and they called me back in to work in February. It’s a part-time gig, but I like it so far and it definitely makes me feel better to have a steady check coming in. I feel like the past couple of months just flew by and I haven’t gotten much done, but I’m finally settling into a bit of a regular schedule.

A Case of The Mondays

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The majority of my working life, I haven’t worked typical Monday to Friday jobs work weeks. Yet I’ve always felt the pressure to conform to that standard. With it has come the dreaded Monday syndrome. While it includes the feeling of having a fresh start, it also includes not wanting to go back to work after the weekend. It’s continued now that I am freelancing with no day job. Many a weeks have passed where Monday came and I just wasn’t really into doing anything productive. It was a day for me just to really begin preparing for the week ahead.

Hate Mondays

Image credit: 7thplanetout via DeviantArt

I wonder sometimes if it’s not just peer pressure to align my schedule with the rest of the business world or if it’s ingrained in me from years of school. Actually for a long time I’ve based my life according to academic calendars, whether I was in school or not. I spent many summers wasting away time, more concerned with hanging out and enjoying the weather. But the minute September comes, it feel like it’s time to buckle down and get to work.

I’m really not sure how to break out of these cycles. Honestly I feel like its a major roadblock to being more productive and successful. I also wonder if other people that work odd schedules feel this way. I’d like to know how many writers work out routines that resemble normal office hours. Reading about successful writers I realized I do need some sort of schedule but I haven’t been able to successfully implement one. I’ve tried but honestly unless I am accountable to somebody else I find it hard to stick with it. I wonder if there are any successful writers that simply wing it doing what they want whenever they feel like it. I suspect that doesn’t work very well.

I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on this subject. If you’ve found a way to chase way the Monday blues, or embraced a totally different weekly schedule fill me in on your secret.

How Ethical and Fair are Drug Testing Policies

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I recently went on an interview for a retail store. As I filled out the application, one of the forms given to me outlined hiring procedures which included drug testing. It specified that a negative result was required for hiring. I paused for a second but then quickly moved on. Thinking I needed the money so I guess I’d have to oblige them. But afterwords I couldn’t get it out of my head. How is it possible that the most menial jobs require people to pass a drug test. I’ve always pretty much avoided jobs that required drug testing, not because I was afraid of failing but simply because I don’t think it’s right. For one I don’t think its useful, many horrible employees don’t do drugs at all and most people that do have found ways to get a negative result. Plus that fact that it just seems way too invasive. And while a positive result guarantees you will not be hired, having a criminal record supposedly will not be held against you. So instead of hiring a kid that occasionally smokes a little weed, it’s better to hire a convicted criminal. What about that makes sense.

There are some jobs that require drug testing and it makes sense. Jobs like airplane pilots, train operators, and other places where they are responsible for the safety of others. And yet hospital employees aren’t required to take drug tests. A situation that looked at closely can easily be dangerous for many reasons. Take for example this story, where a worker not only stole drugs but harmed patients. But to work a cash register and answer customer question I have to be subjected to a drug test. Yeah that makes sense.

While I actually thought I’d like to work for this company, I’m starting to second guess that. I know my refusal wont make a difference. Plenty of people are willing to put aside whatever feelings they have about the practice so they can get a job. But if I go along with it just like everybody else that’s the same as approving of it. If it was a different moral ideal they made me push aside in order to make a living would I still oblige. If part of my job was to lie or steal would it seem so small a issue.

All this pondering is probably for no reason, I still haven’t heard back from them. I guess I just needed to rant a little bit. I’d also like to hear other people’s thoughts. Do you agree that drug testing is too much to ask or do you think it’s a reasonable request? Does it really help employers make better hiring decisions or is it a waste of everybody’s time?

Riding The Waves Of The Mind

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I started bike riding this year, an attempt to be active and get out of the house more often. I try to make it out everyday but usually it’s only a couple days a week. I’ve found that it’s a great way to clear my mind and sometimes I find sparks of inspiration. My regular route is along Shore Road in Bayridge, Brooklyn. Last week I was out for a ride and focused in on the sound of the waves. Then my mind started wandering. As I focused on the experience and the world around, the word waves kept rolling around in the back of my mind. Without thinking hard, I went through a little free association, and ended up with the line, “I’d rather ride the waves of my mind than keep up with modern times.”

It was a rather quick and random process, I wont bore you with the details. But once the line was in my head new ideas just kept coming to me. Immediately, I thought I needed to catch a picture of the waves to post on Instagram with the line. I also thought it was the great start to a poem. Which I ended up writing later that day. Then I realized that the anecdote about the line coming to me while riding was perfect for a blog post I had been working on about finding inspiration. I’d been working on the draft for a while but it just wasn’t coming together.

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Riding the Waves of the Mind

One of the challenges of being a writer or any kind of content producer these days is always coming up with new ideas. Most of the time I push too hard trying to force it. But when I stop focusing on it and let my mind drift ideas just pop into my head. This isn’t exactly a new revelation, in many creative fields professionals advise doing something else to jump start creativity. But I thought it would help to see how a simple bike ride led to one line that turned into social media posts and a poem. I’m also even considering expanding the idea further to include other techniques and pitching it as an article to a writing publication.

Next time you feel stuck or out of ideas maybe you should go for a bike ride. If you don’t have a bike, go for a walk, or do anything that keeps you from thinking to hard. The point is to let your mind just wander, see where it takes you and enjoy the ride.