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.

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.

Sometimes I Forget How Great I Am

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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.

Freedom Overload

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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.

When Work Isn’t Working

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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.

The Road So Far: Why CSI?

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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.

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.

The Road So Far: Keeping Busy

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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.

The Road So Far: Back to School

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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.

The Road So Far: Back Home

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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.