Why I Journal

Why I Journal

Keeping a journal has been an essential piece of my writing process, since the moment I became a writer all those years ago. Putting the pen on the page and letting my thoughts spill out before me is not just comforting, but helpful – even if I am just doodling or writing about how much I dig the pen I’m using.

Journaling been so many things to me, but the three things below are what I find most important about my journaling journey.

BRAINSTORMING

When I am working on a project (personally or professionally), I often start with brainstorming. I will literally just start writing down topics, key words, random thoughts, or any tangent of an idea that I’m having at that moment that is connected with the task at hand. When I take to my journal to hash out potential ideas for a blog, poem, or for a process at work, I let my pen narrate my thoughts. It helps me to visual the ideas I have, either in front of me on the page or displayed on a white board. And because I love lists, it helps me organize my thoughts and formulate a plan to move forward.

LOGGING LIFE, EXPERIENCES, AND PROJECT PROGRESS

I have more notebooks than I need, so I usually use them for separate things. I have a journal for personal thoughts, a small journal I keep in my purse for musings on the fly, legal pads for outlining, etc. I also write down big things that happen during every day life, so I can look back and see how I changed, for better or worse. When I got married this past spring, I recorded our weekend and the epic road trip that followed, so my husband and I could read it later and remember exactly how our marriage began.

A few years ago, I decided to dive head-first into fiction and began writing a novel (and I won’t lie, it’s taking forever because, you know, life). I started a journal for that project mainly to chronicle my thoughts, shortcomings, and victories while working on the piece. How wonderful it will be to look back on that journal when I finally finish the book, to see how I grew as a writer. And who knows, maybe I’ll find gems years later that prompt the next endeavor!

THERAPY

Ah. Therapy! Perhaps the most important reason why I keep a journal. Since I was a pre-teen, I have written down my thoughts to sort through them. Those angsty teen (and let’s face it, early twenty-something) feelings I had were always worked out between the pages of my private journal. The things I went through as a kid, teenager, and young adult – I was able to sort through the weird thoughts and feelings by writing down how I felt in the moment. I don’t know where I would be, emotionally and mentally, if it weren’t for my journals.

One of the most therapeutic exercises I’ve done is not even keeping some of those pages inside the journal. To work through the tough stuff I write down exactly how I’m feeling. Maybe it’s directed at a person, or just how I’m feeling in general. When I’m finished, I make a deal with myself: once I destroy this paper, I will let it all go. That’s when I rip it to shreds. I flush it down the toilet or I burn it. It’s a strange relief, I must say. It honestly helps me move forward.

What are your reasons and how does journaling help you? Even if you aren’t a writer, give it a shot. You might be surprised with where journaling will take you!

This post was originally published on the VINAzine <3

I Took A Social Media Detox… Should You?

I Took A Social Media Detox… Should You?

Over the last decade, it’s no secret that social media has wildly grown and become an essential piece of our daily lives. There are SO many pros to using a social media network, like connecting with friends, co-workers, family, or meeting awesome new friends. We can make connections around the globe and aren’t limited to the people who live in our vicinity. It’s truly a beautiful thing, when used correctly.

For me, Facebook became a site I logged into out of habit and rarely enjoyed my visit. I would endlessly scroll through the timeline and became increasingly annoyed at most of the posts I read. I got to a point where I would log in and think, “Why am I even here?”

Sure, I enjoyed seeing updates from friends and family about their happy lives, but i could no longer tolerate or scroll past the users who would blindly share incorrect information or misleading/fake news stories. I wanted to shake the person posting and scream, “Seriously, it takes 30 seconds to open Google and verify something these days!” I even texted a friend and said those exact words. Their response? They didn’t care or think it was a big deal. I finally reached a breaking point.

I decided to actually do something about it. I couldn’t continue correcting people in the comments (yeah, it’s fine, I was that person…). It was time for me to bid my adieus and bow out gracefully. But that isn’t the answer for everyone!

How do you know a social media detox, whether it’s in the form of deactivation or deletion, is right for you? Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is this adding joy to my life, or is it simply a way to pass time?
  • Would I miss it if I didn’t have it?
  • Am I wasting too much time endlessly scrolling through a news feed, only to find myself annoyed or angry at the content I view?

That third question was a big YES for me and that’s how I knew it was time to detox. I ended up deleting my Facebook account in May after having it for 12 years. TWELVE YEARS! I mean, the archive this website had on me was insane (which, to be honest, was a great reason to delete it). I was worried I would have a serious case of FOMO, but I don’t. Sure, I miss connecting with friends and family but deleting has (happily) forced me to make phone calls and send texts/emails to the people I love.

I still have Twitter and Instagram, but I’ve changed my habits on both of those platforms after this detox. I took a small break from posting anything on those networks and even deleted the apps off my iPhone for a couple of weeks. I missed those much more than Facebook, though. It didn’t take long to reinstall those and I didn’t have a sense of dread when I did. I kind of had the “first day of school” feeling — you know, when you’re excited to get back to see all your friends and hear about what they did during the break!

When I decided to end my detox with Twitter and Instagram, the first two questions I mentioned before were now easily answered: yes, these do bring joy to my life (but also to pass time when I am waiting for someone or something), and yes, I did miss it when I didn’t have it. That’s how I knew I took enough time away.

Deleting Facebook was a bigger decision, given I was connected with family and friends. That, and I used Facebook for professional purposes. I help moderate several pages and groups on different networks for the podcasts on which I work, and I simply can’t abandon them. I found a way to work around this and still have a successful detox and/or removal of my main account, but it does require some effort.

  1. Make a new “burner” account. Create a new, separate profile without any friends or personal details (or what you consider to be the bare minimum of information for your profession).
  2. Log back into your original account and make that new burner account an admin/editor of all the pages you run. If you work for a company, make sure you clear this with your boss first!
  3. Log into the new profile and test! Double-check your permissions are correct and that you have access to everything you need.
  4. Wait a couple of weeks. Make sure you have everything you need from your original account before pulling the plug. Or, just rip off the bandaid – honestly, what’s the worst that can happen?
  5. Click that delete button! It’ll feel so good, I promise.

Would I detox again? Absolutely. I think it’s healthy to take a break from everything in life every now and again – it’s just like taking a vacation from work. Sometimes you just need to unplug!

How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

How to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Whether you’re looking for a career change or your very first job out of college, we don’t have to tell you how important it is to make sure your resume shines bright like the star you are. If you are looking for ways to make sure your resume stands out against the ever-growing sea of applicants, check out these tips below for some inspiration!

DO A LITTLE TAILORING

You may be applying for multiple jobs at one time, so change up certain aspects to better customize the resume for that particular job. For example, you can reorganize the order of your professional skills. Whether you’re going after a writing gig, a retail management position, or something at a Fortune 500 company, be sure to tailor your resume respectively and include the things relevant to that industry at the top of the list.

KEEP IT TRENDY

Trends for resumes are constantly changing, so make sure you’re ahead of the curve by doing a little research. Hit up Google and LinkedIn to find articles and sources on the latest and greatest resume tips. Some quick ones for keeping it fresh in 2017 are:

  • Forego the objective and replace it with a short biographical profile. A quick statement can be a few lines about you and your experience, as well as what you are seeking professionally.
  • Avoid using caps. (SEEMS A BIT SHOUTY, DON’T YOU THINK?)
  • Stick to using no more than two complementary fonts. This is a classic design trick that helps avoid inconsistency and distraction.
  • Make sure it fits on one page. You want to also leave space in the margin to allow the interviewer space to make notes.

MAKE IT MODERN (READ: VISUALLY APPEALING)

Calling all ladies in the visual arts field – show your potential new boss how creative you can be by making your resume pop on the page by using bright colors and graphs. Just make sure it looks good on the screen and in print – print a couple of versions in color as well as in black and white to make sure your information still stands out to your future employer no matter which way they’re viewing it.

Not in the visual arts? Keep it sleek and chic. You can use an online resume builder service, like ineedaresu.me (which is free, babe!), to help you build a gorgeous, modern resume in just minutes.

IF YOU CAN SWING IT, HIRE A PROFESSIONAL (Like me!)

There are many resources out there for hire – you just have to search! Contact a local college or university’s writing center to see if there are any student writing consultants or recent graduates looking for extra work to build their resume. You can also place an ad on Upwork, a popular freelancing website. LinkedIn may also harbor some connections you already have who provide resume or professional writing services.

Even if you aren’t looking for a new job, it’s always a good call to make sure your resume is in tip-top shape should an opportunity swing your way. After all, your next career move may be waiting for you around the corner!

(Feature image via Popsugar)

This post was originally published on the VINAzine. <3

What Kind of Journaler Are You?

What Kind of Journaler Are You?

Me? I feel like I’m a shitty journal keeper. Personal journaling, that is (unless you count Twitter). I’m pretty consistent when it comes to jotting down my thoughts about my writing journey. I opened a journal I started last September. I’ve barely filled a third of it with personal notions. In fact, most of the entries end are about writing (which is great). Some of my personal life seasons the pages, but not enough. But who really decides what is actually enough – the journaler or the possible reader?

The term journaling can be used loosely, meaning anything from penning some brief thoughts to writing down daily gratitude and grievances. A lot of well-known authors have kept journals about their writing process while working on a project (or just in general). Teenagers begin with their diaries, working out their angsty or whimsical points of view (hello, this was totally me as a kid). Some continue into adulthood recording every detail about their lives for their own benefit, and others find their passion for writing and use it as a tool to keep them going or better understand their personal writing process.

Writing has always been therapeutic for me. With that said, I don’t really know what holds me back when it comes to writing about my personal life. I have an empty journal on my bookshelf just waiting for me to write in it the story of my life. There, I could write about all the things I don’t want to talk about with others (although I know I should – honestly, it’s just easier for me to bottle it up, place it on a shelf, and move the fuck on). Maybe I will soon, but maybe I won’t just yet. While I like the idea of a great-grandchild finding my diary several years after I’ve left this life, I’m so undisciplined about writing every detail down in my journal at the start or end of each day. It’s all in my mind, but that’s lousy for those I leave behind after journeying toward the great unknown. I also fear there is nothing exciting about my low-key, fairly drama-free life, but I guess that isn’t up to me to decide in the end.

One thing I know I will do is continue to write about my writing process and journey down this long and crooked path. My struggles with writing fiction as a bred nonfiction writer and poet at heart (even if it is shit) have been a big focus as I’m working on my first serious attempt at substantial piece of fiction. I actually enjoy the complicated process of crafting a well-written story. Yeah, I’m a glutton for punishment… I’ve much room to improve, especially when it comes to structuring the story. My biggest issue is wrangling all the random ideas I have about the project on hand and getting them on paper. I just have to suck it up and try my best to make it happen.

I feel I am becoming better at the fiction writing process. I owe that to the story I am writing and the copious amounts of fiction I read. I think about it all the time’ it needs to come out. I’m desperately coaxing it out of the dark corners of my mind. Some days, I have major breakthroughs and I feel as though nothing can stop me. Other days, life happens and I am at a standstill, which can be discouraging.

I keep writing and I keep reading. Even when I don’t want to, I do it. I feel guilty that I don’t write more; however, actually sticking to a writing schedule is helping ease that guilt. Keep pushing. You’ve got this. Work this story out – it could be really great – just something I tell myself almost daily.

This isn’t a resolution to be better about writing about the everyday. It should be, but I figure if I’m writing something every day, I’m on the right track when it comes to polishing my craft, regardless if it focuses on one genre or another…

…Because writers actually write – every day.

They move their pens, they type on their laptops or typewriters, they push the pencil, and they write shit down every single day. Some have a purpose when they journal and others just free write. Some start with freewriting exercises (writing prompts or whatever they can pull from their mind at the time) and it turns into something profound. That’s me, minus the piece turning into something profound! Pages of prompts could eventually turn into great stories – flash-fiction, a memoir, a novella/novel, poetry, or even online serialized literature. That’s my hope, anyway – it’s enough to keep my pen pressed to the paper.

Fresh Writing Prompts to Finish the Holiday Weekend

Fresh Writing Prompts to Finish the Holiday Weekend

Today wraps up the last day of the Labor Day weekend holiday. To kick off the weekend I had oral surgery to remove a couple of wisdom teeth, so I’ve been confined to the couch for most of the holiday watching Netflix and napping. When I wasn’t doing one of those two things, I was writing.

Taking a break from my book, I decided to use writing prompts instead this weekend to keep my pen moving. I do this often with the idea that some of the prompts could turn into something substantial – either to add to my current project or to keep off to the side for a new project or story. At the very least, I’m writing!

This weekend, I used 712 More Things to Write About, put together by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. This book is slowly filling up over time and is one of my favorite resources for journaling. There are a few other versions of this book and I can’t wait to get my hands on them once I finally fill this one to the brim!

You are sitting in a café in Barcelona. A man approaches your table, sits down, and slides an envelope in front of you. As you go to open it, he tells you to wait until he is gone. He stands up, scans the surroundings, then walks away. How long do you wait to open the envelope? What are the contents? What happens next?
Describe a room where a murder took place in three points of view: from the maid’s point of view prior to cleaning, from the murderer’s point of view after the crime, and from the victim’s point of view prior to the crime.
Write about a chance encounter at a cemetery.

The first prompt above is something I dreamed up, and the other two come from the book I mentioned before. To shake things up this time around, I’m going to share what I wrote for the third prompt below.

Lizzie picked herself up off the ground and wiped her eyes. It had only been three months since her fiancé, Ben, was killed in a car accident on Route 44 outside the city. Right after it happened, she visited his grave three to four times a week… now she was stopping by once a week to begin moving on with her life because it just became too much. She knew she needed to let go because he was never coming back.

She replaced the wilted rose from her last visit, kissed her index finger and touched the cold marble slab that lay before her. She thought of their last moments together and how happy they were. Before the tears could start, she quietly said she loved him and turned to walk away.

As she made her way back to her car, she saw a man a few rows away. He looked like he was leaning on a headstone. He stood up and Lizzie could hear him get louder as his body became more animated. She couldn’t hear what he was saying clearly, but it was very clear he was upset. She kept walking toward her car but something inside her made her stop and walk toward him instead.

“Excuse me… are you okay, sir?” she asked, timidly.

“I’m… no, no I’m not okay… I’m far from being okay,” he said, placing his head in his hands.

As he moved behind the grave, Lizzie saw the name of a woman on the headstone. The dirt was semi-fresh and she noticed the death date was just a few weeks ago. Lizzie introduced herself to him and asked if he wanted to talk or if there was anything she could do for him. He began talking almost immediately – his name was Jack. He was a newly single father of two after losing his wife in a car accident. The driver of the other car was drunk and slammed into her van – luckily, the children (Sarah and Jane, twins) weren’t with her at the time.

Lizzie moved to stand next to Jack and put her arm around him while he stared at the ground. After a moment of silence, she started to share the story of losing Ben just a few months earlier. He too was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from working the night shift. Sharing tears and memories, the two continued to talk for another thirty minutes before Lizzie asked him if he wanted to get a cup of coffee and talk some more. Jack accepted the invitation and the two walked together toward the parking lot. This marked the beginning of a new chapter in each of their lives.

Remember, you aren’t restricted to specific length with these prompts. Just get that pen moving – that’s what matters. Who knows, the result of the prompt I shared above might turn into something useful for a story later down the road. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to see where this story goes… Maybe Lizzie and Jack find comfort in each other and begin a wonderful life together – either as friends or more.

Please share what you dreamed up in the comments section – I look forward to reading your work!

Summer 2015 – One for the Books

Summer 2015 – One for the Books

I’m back!

Holy shit, it’s been a while. When I realized I hadn’t posted all summer, I couldn’t believe it. It’s all good though – it’s been a very busy summer for me. Here are some highlights…

  • Traveled for business to Savannah, GA (a city I wanted to visit for the past 15 years and finally had the chance);
  • Visited Washington, D.C. (and got engaged! More on that later.);
  • Saw my favorite band and had a blast with my best friend (Panda), her daughter, and all our girlfriends who came to town to celebrate summer with DMB;
  • Traveled around Indiana for business;
  • Worked on my book (no seriously, I’ve finally made some progress!!); and
  • Enjoyed some amazing R&R and great family time.

And summer isn’t over yet! That thought alone is making me smile. Now for some randomness about my writing adventures this summer… I mentioned I worked on my book this summer. At the beginning of August, I wrote out a writing schedule, to which I promised I would commit. I’m so happy to report that I’m 100% committed and I’ve made some awesome progress. I finally feel like this story is coming together. As someone who primarily writes nonfiction and poetry, with some prose sprinkled in, I honestly had no idea what I was in for when I just suddenly decided to write fiction. I read a lot of fiction, so I figured I could try my hand at it and give it an honest effort.

My biggest hang up in the beginning?? Making shit up. Oh man, I love making up a good story, but I have always been an honest writer. I finally made myself move past that, though. I literally gave myself a pep talk that went something like this:

“Nicole, you can make this shit up. It’s okay. Let your imagination take over. It will be okay. I promise. Just fucking do it and stop making excuses and make something up. What do you want to read? What kind of story do you want to hear? Write it… now, not later. Polish it later. WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? DO IT!”
(Cue that viral Shia LaBeouf video that hit the ‘net earlier this summer).

And it worked. I kicked my ass into gear and I committed to my writing schedule. I’ve solidified my outline and have key plot points ready for chapters. I even have a handful of chapters ready. I have a feeling though, with my planning process complete, this book is going to take a while to complete… but I will make it happen!

I also joined a writing group, thrown together by The Geeky Press. It’s laid back and a great group of people. We just meet up on some pre-scheduled dates (#WritersHack) and hang out for a bit, eat, talk about writing, and write. We hosted our first one-day retreat in July and I think it was a great success. We’re doing another one on November 7 and hosting a weekend retreat in December. My favorite thing about these retreats and hacks is that we actually freaking write. We write whatever we want. The goal is to get words on the page. If you’re interested in joining our shenanigans or want more information on events hosted by The Geeky Press, just check out their website. You don’t have to attend every event nor do you have to pay any dues (the day or weekend retreats have a low cost, though). We just are a group of people who want to write and connect with others who want to do the same.

I have to say, it’s awesome to be back in a community of writers. I’ve missed college mostly for that reason, and now I’ve finally found another place to nurture my talent. I finally stopped procrastinating and became a member of the Indiana Writers Center. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of their member discounts and getting to know the folks there in the coming months.

Speaking of writing communities… this thought brings me to the topic of serialized, web-based literature. Have you heard of websites like Wattpad or Channillo? From what I understand, these sites help you build an audience and network with other readers and writers. You post a chapter at a time. This could be a good thing to do, since I’m getting my feet wet in this category and not quite ready to publish a book just yet, even though I have a solid story plan/outline. I’m considering this route with some of my other fiction (short stories, flash fiction, etc.), but can’t decide if I should with this story or not. If you are familiar with either of these platforms or know of others I should be considering, please let me know in the comments. I want to weigh all my options and could really use some advice!

That’s all for now, folks. I won’t be gone as long as I was before this time… I promise. Peace!

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