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.
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.
I remember loving to visit different bookstores when I was younger. I had a few in particular that I loved to visit often and I could spend hours wondering around. Not just the small bookstores either, Barnes & Noble was like heaven for me. But recently I’ve realized that almost every time I go in a one I can’t wait to leave. I noticed the change a while ago at Barnes & Noble. It was right about when they made it easier and more comfortable for people to sit and read in the store by adding chairs. (Most likely to stop people from sitting in the aisles reading, which I never understood.) I’m not sure why but the whole ordeal annoyed me and the stores always seemed so much more crowded.
But even in small bookstores these days I just don’t enjoy looking around as much as I used to. I wonder if it’s actually the stores themselves or the actual reading materials that they carry. They don’t give me the same feeling of peace and solitude, I just feel uncomfortable. But it could just as easily be that there’s nothing in the stores that actually captures my attention. I do admit in the rare occasion that I find a used bookstore, I tend to linger much longer.
But then again it could just be me. It has been a long time since my high school days when I spent the most time in bookstores. I’ve found a lot of different and I guess more exciting ways to spend my time.
In my last update I was in pretty good spirits. For a while I went back and forth between feeling really great and really crappy but in general I was doing well. But that last couple of weeks have been pretty rough. I’ve been struggling with keeping up the confidence to keep going. In general I was just beating myself up for not accomplishing as much as I thought I should. I still hadn’t landed any more freelancing work, actually I haven’t really even tried. I got the news that I didn’t even get an honorable mention in the contest I entered and I haven’t heard back from the few submissions I sent out. I also am basically completely broke, my savings is gone and the few assignments I did get the money didn’t last very long. Now I’m getting back the point of having a credit card balance and feeling like I just can’t hack it. All my insecurities and self doubt began bubbling up and I ran out of steam to keep positive. .
But I’m still too stubborn to give up. Now that I’m done with my depressing rant I can take stock and look at what I have done. I’m about halfway done with the writing of poetry for the collection that I’ve been working on for what feels like eons. I have pretty much kept to posting to the Dante blog weekly and am getting enough of a feel for the character that I might just start writing her stories. A big help through this has been the writing workshops I’ve been attending. I’ve tried to commit to attending at least one weekly and they have really helped to keep me writing even when I was so not in the mood to do anything but lay in bed. Now I just need to work turning some of the writings into finished pieces. I’ve still been writing for Senior Planet, a gig that I’ve been very thankful for. I also decided to start working on some new creative projects, like my new pocketbook.
I have to say I still feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. I also realized I need to start looking for an actual job, I really hate being broke. Plus I think I need some structure and commitment in my life. I’m not so good with that whole self discipline things. But things are again looking up, I’ve also had some other opportunities presented to me recently. I’m hoping that at the next update it’s all good news. We shall see.
Lately I’ve been attending writing workshops. Luckily there are some that meet regularly and are free. The workshop leaders give us a prompt and a set time to write. At the end of the time we share what we wrote and comment on what we liked, what was memorable or anything else that might be helpful. You always have the option not to read or give any feedback, and there’s really no pressure. The best thing is they are very noncommittal, there is usually no sign up before hand and you can show up whenever you feel like it. Which is why I find it odd when people don’t seem to really want to be there.
Well, maybe it’s not that they don’t want to be there but technically they really are not mentally there. I’ve seen people that instead of writing they are on their computer checking email, Facebook, or whatever else. Now on occasion I can see having the computer there distract you, and on occasion I’ll pull out my phone for a quick check. But I swear at least once I saw somebody spend the entire two hours surfing the web. Now I wonder why they bother to show up then. Not only does it seem like a waste of their time, but it’s pretty rude to the other participants. Instead of listening and participating in the discussion about the writing being done, they are basically just taking up space.
I just have to wonder what goes through people’s minds when they do things like this. Is it that they just don’t care, don’t think others care, or that they just don’t realize what they are doing. I get it’s free, it’s not the most professional groups of people, and it’s not that serious. But it just seems, I don’t know, kind of wrong. Well maybe not wrong but it sure is pretty damn pointless to attend a writing group to do everything else except what you’re there for.
Last blog pretty much caught us up to my present situation. It’s been about four months since leaving my job. I have to admit it’s been pretty rough and it was hard not to think I made a mistake the first couple of months. There were so many things I planned on doing and it hasn’t really felt like I’ve been getting anywhere. I spent the first month or so just developing new routines and looking for ways to keep busy.
Being the middle of winter and having nowhere to go, I spent most of my time in the house avoiding the cold weather. I did a lot of baking, cleaning, working on household projects, reading and basically everything I didn’t have time for when working. I set up a schedule to help structure my days and block out time each week for different writing projects. Only this past month have I started to build a routine and feel happy with the progress I’ve been making.
Before leaving my job I applied for a job with the editor from my first internship. Now at SeniorPlanet.org she needed a part time assistant editor for a few hours a week. While I didn’t get the job, she ran the sample story I wrote and offered me more freelance work. I’m working on a third story for the site now. Realizing I was spending too much time drafting and editing blogs, I starting setting deadlines and goals for posting. I finally started publishing blog posts on my fictional blog, trying to keep to a weekly posting schedule. And have almost managed to keep up my goal of publishing on Last Words every other week. While progress still feels slow on other projects I’ve managed to submit a couple poems to a literary magazine and a humor poetry writing contest.
With the weather warming up I started taking daily walks, making weekly visits to the library and attending free or cheap events to get out of the house. By the end of February, I was getting pretty stir crazy and would have lost it if I didn’t get out soon. I also applied to volunteer for 826 NYC a nonprofit focused on developing writing skills for kids in school. I’ve been waiting to clear the background check to get started working.
I feel like I’ve started to get a momentum going and am hoping to keep it up. Over the years I’ve tended to lose focus on writing but I think I’m finally on the right track.
I started this series of blog post, The Road So Far, in the middle of last year. I wanted to review my progress as a writer and figure out where it was leading me. By then it had been over a year since I graduated and still wasn’t working in the writing field. Ironically enough I was doing almost exactly what I was trying to avoid when I returned to school in the first place. I was working as an accounting assistant.
During school I was assigned a work study position in the Finance and Administration offices of the college, later obtaining a part time position with the college. I continued working there part time after I graduated, when a coworker retired I started full time in a temporary position. For the next year I worked at paying off my credit cards and saving money.
I tried to continue writing, submitting work, and apply to writing jobs while working full time. But I didn’t feel I was making enough progress with the small amount of time I had to focus on it. I started getting picky about jobs I applied for eventually allowing myself to get lazy with the comfort of having a job. I was beginning to feel like I was settling.
I set a savings goal, I hoped to reach by the end of the year, and would leave even if I still hadn’t found a new job. I was pretty on track with my goal when I found out my appointment would end in November. I ended up too low on the list to get a permanent accounting assistant position. They tried to keep me under a different title but couldn’t get approval for the change. I decided then that it was time to leave. I would be a little short of my goal but I took this as I sign it was time to leave. I offered to continue in my old position until December to help train a replacement.
It wasn’t a hard decision to continue with school. I was still only working part time and with financial aid I’d get paid to go. I ended up deciding to go to The College of Staten Island. The commute sucked, almost two hours, but it seemed like the right fit. The courses required for a communications degree looked interesting and I could choose journalism as a concentration. It’s also one of the few schools that has an actual campus. A feature that helped me to be more involved in the college experience. It wasn’t exactly one big party but I did end up spending more time outside of class with other students. It made it more enjoyable and I also stumbled into some writing and editing work.
Chilling on campus between classes.
A friend from class, Jay, wrote for the site concertconfessions.com. While it wasn’t a paying gig, there was the possibility of obtaining press passes and it was another way to gain more experience. By that time I was writing album reviews for a new music website, misformusic.com. I had also started to experiment with live concert photography and created a website, lastremains.net, to post the photos and music related writing. Jay helped convince me to sign up, arraigning for me to tag along to a Gwar concert.
While I was pretty excited about the school’s publications, clubs and radio station, I never found the time to get involved with any. I did end up working on a magazine started by a group of students. After reading the first issue I volunteered to copy edit articles. After a few issues I wanted to be more involved and expand my role. I suggested a music section that I could manage. While they already had somebody else working on the idea they said we could do it together. I got to work setting up interview pieces and recruited some new writers. Unfortunately, magazine never published any more issues.
To get my degree I had to do another internship. This time around I ended up at a marketing communications company on Staten Island. They designed websites, business cards, and other printed marketing stuff. I have to admit I don’t feel like I learned as much as I did at my first internship. I did gain more experience copywriting and picked up some new design tricks. Though I’ve probably forgotten them since I haven’t had much practice since. But it was a very interesting experience and I gained some new insights into marketing writing. Plus it lead to some paying work after I finished the internship.
I enjoyed the most of my time at CSI. I found a lot of the course material very interesting, especially the communication theories and media culture studies. I also met some really great people, students and professors included. Unfortunately, the last couple semesters got pretty tough, I was even tempted to quit at some points. I wasn’t enjoying the classes anymore and was worried about failing. Fortunately, my worries were for nothing and I graduated in January of 2013.
Pretty soon after I started classes I ended up leaving my job at the bakery. There were a lot of changes in the business and I was forced to split my time between working in wholesale and retail at the Manhattan location. I was discouraged and unhappy with the situation. Deciding to move back into office work, I found a job in accounting for a restaurant chain and franchise company. I enjoyed the change and quickly took on more responsibility. The workload steadily increased and eventually it became too much to handle.
Next I found a job working two days a week for the nonprofit company Seedco. I started out doing data entry for one of their programs. Later I got the chance to help out with the program newsletter. I wrote and edited articles, then reformatted it from print to email.
While there I used the extra time to to do an internship. I found one assisting the editor of a website aimed at expecting and new parents. I wrote small pieces for the newsletter, proofread articles, assisted with the editorial calendar and did administrative work. The internship was unpaid but I was hired as a freelance writer for several articles published on the site. By then I had built up some momentum and was writing more regularly. I even tried sending out some work for contests and publication submissions.
I stayed at the internship from April until December of 2008. I felt I had gained enough experience there and couldn’t afford to work for free anymore. At that point I thought it would be a good idea to find ways to expand my experience and explore different areas and industries I was interested in. I joined the internet marketing team of band, volunteered for a film and arts festival, and attended a conference on working in the magazine industry. I also wrote published a story in a heavy metal themed horror anthology and began writing music reviews for a metal website.
When I got my degree that May, I started to even more actively search for a second or new full time job. I didn’t have much luck and even considered taking on another internship to beef up my resume. I eventually decided that I would continue with school, getting my Bachelors degree. If I went full time I would be eligible for full financial aid. Tuition would be paid with money left over for me to survive.
I didn’t expect to enjoy going back to school. My plan was to take it easy with a few classes. This way I could focus on the classes and not take on too much with a full-time job. The goal being to at least get my Associates degree. I figured it would make the time upstate seem less wasteful and would look better than just a handful of random classes.
I ended up at Borough of Manhattan Community College and took two classes a semester. I paid for most of it myself and was determined to get my money’s worth so I never missed class or slacked off at all. School was nice after working all the time. I started remembering why I had liked school as a kid, I was actually learning new things and moving forward towards a goal. I wasn’t just going through the motions because I had to do it.
Most of my general education credits were done upstate. So most of the classes at BMCC fulfilled my writing and literature major. I got to take classes that really interested me. Like journalism where I had write several stories and they required me doing interviews. While I had done journalism writing in school before I never had to do interview. It made me nervous and the first one I did by email to make it easier but eventually I had to do an in person interview. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. There were some interesting literature classes. And one of my favorites, creative writing. The professor was a bit of a hard ass but he really whipped me into shape. With his help I was able to really improve my editing skills. I was never really good at editing my own writing. He pushed me to get better and I did.
I also got to take a multimedia class. I was glad to have the head start with the html, for the website design. The class went over hand coding before moving into using Dreamweaver. We also created flyers, website banners, and animation using Photoshop and Flash. While I haven’t really mastered designing, a lot what I learned came in handy.
It took several years to get the degree. While I was doing that I moved, changed jobs a couple of times and generally kept myself very busy.
In December of 2001 I was back home from school after a year and a half. I struggled to find a steady job full-time job for almost a year. I eventually stumbled upon a bakery that was hiring retail sales people. I spoke with the manager and gave him my resume. I called to follow up several times until he finally put me on the schedule. It started part-time and I grew to really enjoy working there. It was a relaxed workplace where I easily learned and quickly took on new tasks. It taught me a lot of patience and great people skills. Working at the bakery my goal was to pay off my debt and eventually return to school. However, as my role at the bakery continued to grow I became comfortable and in no hurry to return.
Not expecting the bakery to be long-term I occasionally looked for work and made attempts at improving my skill sets and experience. I searched for internships that didn’t require school credit and found a work at home program promoting bands. I was sent a package of promotional posters, cd’s, stickers, etc. that I was to post and give out around the city, then take pictures and send them back to the company. I wasn’t motivated enough to do the work on my own, especially since I had no interest in the band I was assigned and quit very early. Since I was interested in writing for the web I tried learning HTML with a self learning kit. I learned basic coding easily but I didn’t really have a way to put it to use. I wrote stories and poetry occasional. I also tried to improve my writing with free online classes and joined the website DarkPoetry.com. The site is a community for writers to post work, receive commentary and support. I also submitted for publication once in a blue moon. But due to a lack of discipline my I wasn’t very consistent and easily let other things in life take priority over writing.
After several years at the bakery I moved into a full-time position handling wholesale business. But I was getting restless and there wasn’t much more room for growth. I still wanted to work in a field related to writing but lacked the experience or degree to gain a position. When I did start applying to jobs, the only offer I received was in accounting for the food service industry. I don’t mind accounting work, it’s easy and I’m good at it. But it still wasn’t something I wanted to do long term. With my failed efforts on my own to gain the experience, knowledge and skills I would need to move to something else I realized it was time to go back to school. I turned down the offer to stay at the bakery after negotiating a raise and a flexible schedule, both of which I would need to return to school.