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.

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: 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.

Keeping entertained while unemployed

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I’ve pretty much been employed since the minute I got my working papers at fourteen years old. Except for a couple of months I was out of work after I moved back to the city, the longest I’ve gone without a job has been three weeks. As I write this I haven’t been working since May, in addition I also finished up my semester right after that. So for the past couple of months I’ve pretty much had nothing to do. I will admit I haven’t been looking that hard, because I am getting unemployment and I know I’ll be starting school again soon.

All this extra time on my hands has been driving me insane. Part of the reason I always worked was I needed to keep busy. So I’ve had a million little projects that I’ve been working on. In case you’re ever wondering how to pass some time if you have plenty of it here are a couple of my recommendations.

  • Organizing your CD collection and/or uploading them all to your computer.
  • Rearranging furniture.
  • Saving all clips as pdf files, printing and creating a list of them, or updating your resume. In general preparing yourself for a job in your desired field, whatever that may include for you.
  • Cleaning out your refrigerator.
  • Get back into shape (with no real income I’ve become a fan of walking through Prospect Park for an hour or so).
  • Take care of your health, if you don’t have it yet get medicaid, go get the physical you’ve been putting off.
  • Catch up with old friends. Who knows it may lead to finding out about a job opening.

There are some also some other things you could do to keep busy that I don’t recommend, they will probably just keep you unemployed longer.

  • Drink in the middle of the day.
  • Pace around the house, unless it’s part of your workout routine. (I wouldn’t recommend it though, that’s the kind of thing that makes you start feeling a little cabin fever.)
  • Spend all your time in bed. This could easily lead to feeling unproductive and useless, that’s when depression starts sinking in.
  • Catch up with old friends. It could be a bad thing too, either you realize why you don’t talk to them anymore the hard way, or you occupy too much time hanging out instead of focusing on getting a new job.

At the end of the day the best thing to do is find anyway to keep busy while also being productive. If not, you could easily find yourself in a rut that will not lead you back to being employed. In my experience, the longer you stay out of work the harder it is to get back out there. Unless you have the luxury of not working and enjoy doing nothing, I suggest you find something right away and be flexible. Everything may not seem perfect but at least give it a chance, you never know it may become perfect.

Physical and mental writing blocks

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I have a life pretty much filled with clutter. This is as much mental as it is physical. I have recently come to the realization that this clutter has become a hurtle to overcome when it comes to my writing. I’m sure some of this will sound familiar to others. Here’s a fun little list of things that stand in my way.

Physical clutter

  • Notebooks upon notebooks half full of writing, ideas and half done poems that I would love to be able to go through to get some inspiration.
  • Scraps of paper poem lines, short story ideas, scenes, and random dialog.
  • Folders full of school papers that should be edited to use for publication.
  • Then there are the piles of random other junk. At the moment my bedroom looks like a tornado just passed through.

Mental Clutter

  • First thing in the morning my mind get filled with the redundant task of everyday like, check email, shower, myspace, howework, work, etc.
  • In the back of my mind I’m always questioning how I’m going to get my bills paid.
  • Right after that I begin the worry of needing to find a decent paying job. Keeping in mind that I would like it to be a job that I actually like.

While all that runs through my mind I still have all the other worries that I’m pretty sure every other person in their 20’s has. I do have periods of time where I am able to push everything aside and get some writing done. But it seems to be getting harder and harder lately.

It would be great to hear if anybody else has these same issues. It would also be great to get some advice on how to deal with it.