31 Days of Halloween Hooligans

A few years ago, I started a series on my blog called 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. It was my blog’s equivalent of Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas and Lifetime and Hallmark Channel’s yearly blitz of sappy holiday-themed movies starting around Thanksgiving (and some years sooner).

Every December, I would post short stories and poems featuring all kinds of holiday shenanigans.

I use the term “hooligan” loosely, of course, for the purpose of alliteration. The holiday fun doesn’t get that wild…usually…

This year I’ve decided to bring the challenge to my second-favorite time of year: spooky season, aka, Halloween! As a girl who loves ghost stories and anything monster (vampires, werewolves, mummies, oh my!), I can’t believe I haven’t thought of this sooner!

So, every day during the month of October, I’ll post something spooky, something paranormal, something suspenseful, something that would surely give you a fright!

Or not—I never said I was good at scaring people. I write mostly romance, after all.

If you’d like to join the fun, just tag your post “31 Days of Halloween Hooligans” so I can come find you in the Reader (sorry I can’t think of anything shorter).

The haunting starts October 1. See you then!

Or should I say scare you then, hehehe…

—Nortina

Birthdays after 21 suck…

man with party hat celebrating birthday alone

Today my baby cousin—who I call my son because I dreamt about him before he was born—is turning one, and though he more than likely won’t remember this birthday, I have one piece of advice for the little guy: Enjoy these while you’re young, because once you get to be my age, birthdays pretty much suck.

When you’re a kid, you get to look forward to cake and musical chairs. When you’re 18, you get to vote. When you’re 21, you get to drink. After that, just pick yourself up a box of laxatives, get your dentures at the door, and stop trippin’.

Max on Living Single, S3Ep4, “Grumpy Old Man”
man with party hat celebrating birthday alone
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

The whole concept of the birthday party is dead. At least, after 21 it is. And the person who described it the best is none other than Maxine “Ride the Maverick” Shaw from the hit 90s TV series Living Single.

A few years ago BC (Before COVID), I tried to plan a birthday party. I had just moved out of my mom’s house and into my first apartment. I’d just started a new job in a new city. I was so excited, and I wanted to share the good news with everyone. So, I posted in the family Facebook group, which has 44 members, “Come to my housewarming/birthday party!” I provided my address. I gave the time. I said, “Don’t worry about food. I’ve got that covered!” I received plenty of congratulations, but when my birthday came around, apart from the people I expected to be there—mom, brother, who skedaddled right after we cut the cake—not a soul showed up. Not even a card in the mail.

The year after, I was so disheartened by what happened, I didn’t try to plan a big get-together. I said, “F*ck everybody! I’m leaving the country!” I called up my two closest girlfriends, and we went to Mexico.

The following year, March 2020, everyone was on lockdown. I skipped 2021 because ME, MYSELF, AND EYE was still on lockdown, even if everyone else had stopped. And last year, for the big milestone, the number that starts with 3, when I felt comfortable enough to travel internationally again, I packed my bags and went to the Maldives by myself!

Well, not completely by myself, but that’s another story…

Similarly, after a traumatizing Christmas squabble with a family member in 2019, Mom and I decided we were not staying home for Christmas anymore. Every Christmas since, we have traveled (to Biltmore Estates in Asheville, NC, in 2020, to Charlotte, NC, to see the Carolina Panthers vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021).

Christmas at Biltmore

Apologies for the grainy cellphone photos. I’m obviously not a professional. 🙂 Also, I didn’t actually take any outside pictures of the castle on this trip for some strange reason, so the last four pictures are from another visit. The snow feels befitting of Christmas though, right?

By the way, here’s what the castle looks like on a better-quality camera.

grand view of castle from courtyard of bright green grass
Photo by Francisco Cornellana Castells on Pexels.com

Christmas with the Carolina Panthers

The best pictures I could get of Tom Brady (left; #12) and Cam Newton (right; #1, on the sidelines)

Birthday in Tulum, Mexico

Mayan ruins, ocean views, cruise ship docked at port, lizard sunbathing, sunsets over the sea, selfie from the balcony, tiny birthday cake.

Birthday in Maldives

Tiny birthday cake, “Happy B’Day” flower arrangement on dinner table, watching the sunset on the pier, lounging on the beach, tiki bar, resort villas, sharks, and sipping on a papaya milkshake.


Funny that these Christmas and birthday experiences have a common denominator: family members disappointing you to the point that you just run away. Like Max said, when you’re a kid, you get cake and fun and games. Everyone wants to love on you and celebrate the little one growing up. When you’re a teenager, you’re looking forward to gaining more independence—you can get a car at 16, you’re legal at 18, and when you’re 21, you can drink!

But what happens after 21? It’s as if everyone who’s been in your life all these years suddenly stop caring until you die. And it’s ironic, because I have family members will totally guilt trip me if I don’t buy them a present for their birthday every year, and yet I spent my birthday in 2018 completely alone.

It’s hard to be sincere when you’re around people like that. And so I leave.

gif of kid doing the peace sign with his index and middle fingers and then disappearing

Anyway, getting back to my “son,” I’m sure the little man will enjoy his birthday no matter how old he is. As for me, I haven’t decided what I’ll do for my birthday next year. Maybe escape to some place foreign or tropical. Or if the money isn’t there, maybe I’ll book a Getaway cabin in the mountains, where it’ll be just me, myself, my notebook, Mother Nature, and maybe a hot beverage.

My mental health deserves it.

logo: cartoon of girl with glass and her hair tied in a bun reading a book

—Nortina

Delete. Delete. Delete.

Delete. Delete. Delete. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks.

Every so often my blog goes through a purge, when I delete old posts that are no longer relevant or that no longer serve the blog. My very first purge, I changed the site name to what it is now, Lovely Curses, which very much reflects the types of “love stories” I write. In the most recent purge, in 2019, I made some updates in the webpage layout. I haven’t changed it much since, other than giving my front page/about page a sleek new feel (which was updated in 2021). I’d like to think that these regular changes help me to look more experienced as a blogger, make my blog more visitor friendly, and encourage passersby to stay awhile, especially for a weekend coffee chat.

Photo by Alexander Suhorucov on Pexels.com

Then I read Hugh’s post “4 Tips for Housekeeping Your Blog and Improving Its SEO Rating” and realized that I probably could (and should) be doing more than these random deep cleanses every two years or so whenever I come across an old post that makes me cringe.

For one, did you know that deleting a post does not automatically delete the tags? And I have so many tags. WHY do I have so many tags? The only reason I can think of is that some novice blogger told me once years ago that a lot of tags gets you noticed. Very bad advice. And completely wrong.

So here I am, deleting, deleting, deleting…

Deleting a post also doesn’t delete the images in that post, and there’s this little thing called copyright. When I first started this blog in 2014, I wasn’t as knowledgeable and would download pictures from Google with reckless abandon and add them to my blog posts, because blog posts with pictures get more views, which is true, but you may want to make sure you legally have the right to use those photos.

And when you realize you don’t, and you delete the post, make sure you also delete the pictures from your media library, because you still could be held liable. I’m trying to save you guys (and myself) from a lawsuit here. I’ve read too many frightening tales of copyright infringement notices (like here and here).

If you’re going through old media files and you’re not sure of the source of a photo, my advice is to go ahead and delete it. Better safe than sorry. There are free websites you can use to look up where an image originated from, but I’m a bit impulsive. I’d rather save myself the trouble and delete it and find a replacement from one of my favorite websites that offer free stock images.

  • Pexels.com
  • Unsplash.com
  • Pixabay.com (has great graphics and illustrations as well)
  • nappy.co (if you’re specifically looking for photos of Black and Brown people)

Another issue I never thought to check for was broken links. The only time I’ve ever updated or deleted a broken link was when I was already updating the post, and it was usually a pingback to a post that I’d deleted in the previous purge. So imagine my surprise when I typed my website into the broken link checker that Hugh suggested and got nearly 300 hits! Oooh, this is gonna take a while.

Delete. Delete. Delete.

I’m starting to wonder if my purges did anything at all.

At least I can say I tidied up my categories and menu bar in the last purge. So, I’m doing something right.

By the way, if you’ve been following my blog for a few years, you might want to do yourself a favor and run your blog through the broken link checker too. I’ve deleted quite a lot over this fortnight, and while the more recent posts are generally safe, anything older than three years is at risk of getting deleted. I’ve already purged well over 100.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels.com

One thing I have to remember to do is pace myself because when I get started on a new organization kick, I tend to get a bit obsessive, and it consumes my every waking and unconscious thought. This week I fell back into old habits: working late, staying up past my bedtime, skipping meals, skipping workouts. Nobody expects me to clean this blog up in two days, so I don’t know why I’m stressing myself. Take it a week at a time, Nortina, and sometimes a day. Or did you forget?

This decluttering project will likely take me through to the end of the year, and that’s alright because by January 2023, the Lovely Curses space will be looking fresh, new, and 100 pounds lighter now that she’s gotten rid of the dead weight.

On another note….

I FINISHED MY SHORT STORY IN A WEEK! It was challenging. I fell behind a few times, and self-doubt started to creep in as I neared the end and the neurotic editor b*tch in me tried to convince me that a rough draft needed to be perfect. But I pushed through, and the result is a haunting Southern Gothic tale that I’m very proud of!

I would tell you more about it, but I actually have to hop on a call with the challenge host and other participants to talk about our stories, so I have to cut our chat short.

But as a final note, if your blog is in desperate need of housekeeping too, I highly encourage you to venture on over to Hugh’s Views & News for more blogging tips and tricks. And do come back to visit me for another weekend chat. I truly do enjoy these.

—Nortina

Remembering a Love Forgotten

I don’t always participate in these types of challenges, but this Throwback Thursday First Heartbreak prompt was too tempting to ignore. Plus, the topic is pretty on brand with my Lovely Curses identity, so here goes…

1. How old were you when you had your first heartbreak?

Seventeen.

2. Who broke your heart—first names only?

Nope, not doing it. His name is too unique. And I know he’s read my blog before (because he told me so), which means his wife has read my blog before (because she doesn’t trust him no farther than she can throw him), and there may have been some overlap between when we “officially” broke up and when they “officially” started dating, and she may have called my phone and left a threatening message once before…

All in all, I have no tolerance for that kind of drama in my life anymore, so he shall remain nameless.

3. Do you remember how the breakup happened?

We’d broken up and gotten back together so many times over the course of almost 4 years I’ve lost count. But the first time was through text. And the last time was through text. Matter fact, I think all of our breakups were through text.

4. Did you have a ring or token of your love? Did you return it?

I still have a necklace he gave me for my birthday—well, the pendant; the chain broke years ago. I don’t keep it because he gave it to me. I keep it because I like the necklace.

5. Did you think this was true love?

I don’t think I ever once referred to him as my true love. The person I’m with now—who apparently uses a burner account to follow my blog, and I still haven’t figured out which one of my followers he is—is my true love.

He was my first love though.

6. Did you play any sad songs to soothe the pain? If so, do you remember the name of the song?

Tinashe’s In Case We Die mixtape was pretty much the soundtrack to our roller coaster relationship for me. From beginning to end, every single song painted a snapshot picture of that particular scene in time—pre-getting together, after getting together, post-first breakup, getting back together, post-second breakup, etc.—evoking a different emotion each time. Every. Single. Song. It was as if she was in my head when she wrote them.

The songs I always had on repeat were “The Last Night on Earth,” “That,” “Boss,” “I Tried,” “This Feeling,” “Stumble,” “Crossing the Cosmos,” “Biding My Time,” and “Chainless.” “Stumble” was hands down my favorite. The lyrics were a perfect description of our constant back and forth cycle, nothing ever changing.

If you’d like to re-experience that tumultuous relationship with me, here’s the playlist (“Stumble” is track 10, by the way).

7. Were your parents sympathetic?

Nope. Not in the slightest. They were glad to finally be rid of him.

8. How long did it take you to get over it all?

It wasn’t until he got married that I finally decided to let go of the possibility of getting back together for the millionth time. He was never good for me, but it took me several years to realize that and my worth. He still tried to hang on to a friendship, but like I said, his wife is petty, and I have no tolerance, so I completely cut them off.

(Side note: A song that quickly became my anthem in the “post-final breakup, let’s be friends but not tell my wife” stage was Dua Lipa’s “New Rules.”)

I still write stories about that time in my life, though. The sadistic writer in me is always drawing inspiration for a new “lovely curse” from my past hurt. Just call me fiction writing’s Taylor Swift. None of my exes are safe. And I’m sure my current love has recognized himself in some of my stories too.

9. Do you remember this person fondly or is it someone you prefer to forget?

I have some fond memories, others not so pleasant, and one that will forever haunt me no matter how hard I try to forget…

10. After all was said and done, was it for the best or did you remain longing for a love lost?

Despite some of the questionable decisions the characters in my stories make, I have 100% moved on with my life. I ain’t crying over that ***** no more. 😛

—Nortina

Happy Blogiversary!

Okay, I lied. It’s not my blogiversary, not for another four months at least. But, as I hit publish on this momentous post, my 87th since mid-August, WordPress tells me I’m on a 30-day streak.

That’s 30 days—a whole month—and 87 morning inspiration writing prompts, 100-word stories, flash stories, poems, and mindless musings after 3.5 years of sporadic writing or no writing at all.

We have to celebrate!

Photo by Natalie on Pexels.com

Fiction Writing

I’ve been on a mission to becoming a more consistent writer. In the past, between imposter syndrome causing my writer’s block, feeling stretched too thin at my day job, and cramming in late-night writing sessions deep into the wee hours when the ideas just weren’t there, I had eventually burned myself out. And I was entirely too hard on myself. If I missed even a day of writing, I felt as guilty as a sinner in church and was ashamed to come back.

This resulted in so many works in progress left unfinished:

  • Love Poetry
  • Lost Boy (still a working title)
  • Oreo Cookies (I’ve been away from this one so long, I don’t even remember where I was going with it—I believe it was intended to be a for colored girls adjacent.)

Now I wake up every morning and challenge myself to write at least 100 words, whether good or bad. Get back in that habit of writing again. Eventually the longer stories will come back, and sure enough, new life has been breathed into Lost Boy as I look back at old brainstorming sessions and character sketches and even write a new scene for the first time in five years. Out of all my current works in progress, a voice tells me this is the one I should restart first, and so I will.

Something else I want to get back into is writing the short story. Not the flash bits I post here, but longer ones—2,000-3,000 words—that could be published in a collection, an anthology, or a literary magazine (like the ones here). I haven’t done that in a while. I have a few stories that have never been published—of course, that’s because I stopped submitting them—but I’m actually working on a new short story for the StoryADay fun-size challenge, where you write a story in a week.

We’re halfway through the challenge, and hopefully by Saturday, I’ll have a rough draft ready for editing!

The funny thing is this story isn’t actually new. I’ve had the idea in my head for years. You can read the beginnings of it here and here.

Poetry Writing

Sometimes I hesitate to call myself a poet because I don’t write in rhyme or metered verse. I don’t always feel my words evoke an emotion or touch the senses like other poets’ do. They’re too simple, too bland. Then I look back at old poems, particularly ones published here on the blog, and I think to myself, Wow! Look at the imagery! The language! I wrote this?

Yes, you did, girl, and it’s time you remind the people of that, and it’s time you remind yourself.

When I started this blog, I was in my early 20s, fresh out of college, and optimistic for a lifetime of writing. Over the years, I’ve unfortunately let doubt creep in. It didn’t help that people I respected would tell me I didn’t know enough, I wouldn’t make it, I needed to get a day job because there was no money in writing.

But then I am reminded of what the keynote speaker said at my freshman orientation all those years ago, when I first stepped onto the big university campus: Major in your dream and make your dream your career.

He was a writer too.

Looking Ahead

Now I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t you afraid you’ll burn out again.

No, because I’ve been working on developing a system that prioritizes not only what’s important to me but also what’s healthy (i.e., not mentally taxing).

In the past, I did too many things, made too many commitments that caused me to lose sight of my goal, which is to finally publish my book. I won’t make that mistake this time around. I’m writing like my life depends on it, and I’m not getting distracted by anything else.

How do I hope to achieve this? Well, it starts with discipline, and that’s what I’ve been focusing on the last several weeks.

Read previous posts in this series

1. Early morning write sessions

Getting up at 5am when the rest of the world is still quiet and letting my writer’s mind run free. I can’t always focus when it’s completely silent, so I’ll often put on a podcast, usually something writing or church related, because I’m a writing church girl…even if my stories don’t always reflect it.

2. Write it down first

A few years ago, I bought a notebook from a fellow blogger’s Etsy store, and I’ve only recently started using it again. The pages are quickly filling up, so I’ll need a new one soon, even though I have a bookshelf full of unused ones—a writer can never have too many notebooks, right?

Since opening the notebook, I’ve discovered the ease and simplicity of writing my stories down on paper first. The inspiration comes quicker! On the computer, I’m too tempted to edit as I write, which always stops me dead in my tracks. With only a pen (or pencil) and paper, my only focus is the words on the page. It’s so liberating. Who knew, right? The drawback of being raised in the digital era: we forget the simplicities of life.

So when I’m ready to type my story, that’s when I clean and polish it, but only after it’s already written, ensuring that I never leave a story I start unfinished again.

Also, because my day job involves me looking at a computer all day, this method also helps to cut down on my screen time and give my eyes much needed rest.

3. Fit it all in

As much as I would like to write full-time, in this economy, that’s not likely…yet.

(But if CBS ever wants to bring back the Twilight Zone for a fifth time, my contact info is in the sidebar!)

So I have to balance day job work with dream job work. So far, that involves me getting up early during the week so I can write before work and hopefully find a happy stopping point so that writing sessions don’t bleed into work time.

Some days I’m more successful at this than others.

I’ve also set up a system where I write for the blog during the week and for works in progress and longer pieces on the weekends, when I have more free time. A mistake I’ve made in the past was publishing every idea I ever had on the blog and leaving nothing left in the creativity well to write and publish professionally. Yes, I want to keep you guys entertained, but I also want to publish that book. You understand, right?

With all of these steps in place, I hope to come back in another 30 days to tell you of my progress, boasting of my success! Here’s to a 60-day streak!

Photo by Mwabonje on Pexels.com

Now, to commemorate 30 straight days of blogging, I’d like to re-share the top 10 stories that got the most love from you guys:

Murder in the cornfield

Blind date

Foundling

Stretch marks

Antebellum

It’s been a minute

Let’s fall in love

The Breakup

Ghost tide

Attachment

Bonus: Morning Inspiration: Writing Prompt No. 33
A crowd favorite of the Morning Inspiration prompts. What story does the story and first line inspire you to write?

—Nortina

#IWSG: The Reluctant Christian Romance Writer

There are four genres of fiction that I have always hated…

Historical Fiction

Romance

Christian Fiction

Fantasy

Read Part 1 about my reluctance to write Historical Fiction and Fantasy here.

This month for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop, we were asked the following question:

What genre would be the worst one for you to tackle and why?

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Pexels.com

Last week I talked about tackling Historical Fiction. This week I have another confession to make. There was a time when I absolutely HATED Christian and Romance Fiction. And when I say hated, I mean loathed, abhorred, couldn’t stand it! I would stand in the bookstore reading the backs of book covers and rolling my eyes until they got stuck!

Ugh! Another “woe is me” Christian melodrama.

Ack! Another overly described sex scene.

Would you look at that! Nary a plot to be found! We’re just walking around, falling in love, and not knowing why.

But here’s the thing… If you follow my blog, then you’ve seen that the majority of what I write falls within the categories of Christian and Romance.

How did this happen?

Who cursed me?

God, tell me why!

Well, as the saying goes, we write what we know, and what I know is that I’m Christian. God gave me this gift of writing, of storytelling. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. And I was taught in church that we should use our gifts to bring glory and honor to the Father above who gave them to us.

Now, do my “Christian” stories necessarily do that? Eh, debatable. I tend to write about flawed characters, because, well, I’m flawed. We all are. Nobody but Jesus is perfect, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t still pursue God, which we should, and that is what my characters ultimately do. They may do it right after committing a sin, but come as you are, right? And leave better?

The biggest issue I’ve always had with books I’ve read in this genre is that they can come off as very negative. A lot of Christian novels I’ve read include some form of persecution—trials and tribulations. Everything bad that can happen to our protagonist usually does happen to our protagonist, but, like Job, in the end, they still find God and remain firm in their faith. And yeah, sure, that’s uplifting, but I don’t want to read something that’s 75% depressing. I’m already depressed. Please don’t exacerbate my depression!

In contrast, my stories tend to follow the redemptive arc. Backsliders who come back to Christ. Sinners who seek salvation. And I focus more on their character, rather than what’s happening to them. I find this more uplifting that the persecution arc, which generally strips your protagonist down until they have nothing left but to go to God, and I don’t like presenting God as a last resort. I want Him to be my first choice.

Another thing that has always bothered me about Christian Fiction and Christian doctrine overall is how we present Christianity to the non-Christian world—this requirement that in order to be truly Christian, one must willingly make the choice to suffer for Christ. And I get it. There are plenty of scriptures to back up suffering. Pick up your cross. Paul and that infamous thorn in his side being everyone’s favorite. But Jesus also said, “I’ve come that you may have life, and life more abundantly.” And I was taught that that abundant life can come before you die and go to Heaven.

It’s the way some people go about describing what Christian suffering looks like that doesn’t sit well with me. I think modern evangelical definitions and the apostles’ definitions of suffering for Christ are two divergent concepts. Imagine someone telling you, “Christ died on the cross, so you should be able to handle long COVID.” Uh, no. Christ died so I wouldn’t have to. I’m not about to go out and intentionally catch COVID for God.

Okay, that might be an over exaggeration, but you get my point, right? That type of mentality is why so many people have stories of “church hurt.” Yes, in this life we will have hardships, but I’m sure God never intended for you to be with a husband who beats you, Sis. Get out of that marriage!

I prefer to focus on the hope of God.

Though, I will admit, most Christians will probably consider my writing to be smut. I mean, we all read it; let’s not pretend that we don’t, but I doubt my intended audience would be those pretentious, “holier than thou” type Christians. You know, the ones who would rather suffer in a feeble attempt to prove themselves worthy to God than choose the other, and still holy, option.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT)

But I’m no preacher, and I’m getting a bit preachy, so let’s move on.

My home church owns a bookstore that sells and promotes books written by members who are also authors. I don’t have anything to sell yet, but if I did, I know for a fact I could never sell my books there. I don’t want to see the look on my pastor’s face. Or hear all the gossip from the church mothers. Can you imagine? Key Ingredients to Good Christian Living next to a book with this chapter in it?

Anywho…

With Romance, my problem has always been that there is no plot. There’ve been way too many romance novels that I’ve had to put down because they took too long to get to the freaking point. If the love interest isn’t in the scene with our main character, it’s boring, and if the novel takes too long to bring them back into the story, I lose interest. Then, of course, there’s those toxic romance tropes that come again and again that will never fly in real life—or, at least, you hope they won’t—and, to top it off, the poorly written sex scenes.

Speaking of plot, I’m reminded of a fiction writing course I took in college. Our professor gave us the five basic plots to a story (or was it six? I may not have been paying attention to that last one). Surprisingly, I still have my notes all these years later. Here’s what I wrote down for “The Love Story”:

  1. Boy meets girl
  2. Boy falls for girl
  3. Girl don’t like him “like that”
  4. Girl starts to like him but…
  5. Boy doesn’t care
  6. Boy cares now
  7. Happily ever after

I have one word for this…

If there’s nothing happening in those spaces between Boy and Girl being together, don’t write it! I need a Romance novel that’s going to give me a plot where, even if our two lovers are not on the same page together, I’m still eager to continue reading.

Now, before you chop off my head, I am NOT saying that all Romance Fiction is like this, just like NOT all Christian Fiction is how I described.

Obviously, there are exceptions to my vast generalizations—I’d like to think that I’m one of them. These are just reoccurring frustrations I’ve always had with the genres and why I find it ironic that I now write in them. But maybe that’s why I choose to write in them.

I choose to write what I want to read.

—Nortina


This is Part 2 of my answer to this month’s IWSG question. I figured I should give a two-parter since I’ve been away for so long. As I said in Part 1, I am aware that because of my frequent impromptu and extended blogging hiatuses, I’m always missing the IWSG blog hops when they come around, and so my blog is repeatedly removed from the sign-up list. For this reason, I’m not going to add it back until I can participate in at least two more blog hops.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: $3 Movies and Writing a Story a Day

Morning sunshine! Who’s gonna have a good day today? We are!

Extra shot of espresso for anyone who can tell me which classic Disney Channel series that line is from…

Photo by Arshad Sutar on Pexels.com

Hello, and welcome to another weekend coffee chat! Pull up a chair and have a seat! We have some things to discuss.

First, I’m sure you’re wondering how my writing schedule is going. This week had a minor setback. Having Monday off (Labor Day holiday in US) threw me off my game slightly, but I hope to recover by the time Sunday rolls around because I have a new project to start!

More on that later…

Speaking of Labor Day, did you know last Saturday was National Cinema Day? Yeah, I had no idea this was a thing either, but apparently it’s a way to encourage people to go to the movies during Labor Day weekend, which surprisingly tends to be a slow weekend for theaters. I guess most people prefer to cookout on the unofficial last day of summer. So Saturday, theaters across the country were selling movie tickets for $3. You read that right. $3! I don’t think I’ve ever paid that little for a movie ticket unless I was at the $2 theater, and those theaters usually only show older movies, definitely not new releases.

Like most pandemic-conscious people, I’m still a bit hesitant to go to the movies, opting to wait for the films to come to streaming instead. But since I didn’t have any other plans for my Saturday other than to write and watch tennis, I thought, why not? There were a couple movies I didn’t mind paying $3 to see…

Movie #1: The Invitation

Anyone who knows me personally knows that I love myself a good vampire movie (not you, Twilight!), especially one in the classic gothic horror genre. I’m a monster girl. I love monster movies, and vampires are my favorite monsters.

Please don’t confuse that with me wanting to be or date a vampire. Absolutely not! I prefer my boyfriends to be alive.

So it wasn’t a question which movie I would see first…

There’s nothing fantastic about The Invitation. It has your typical vampire romance plot…

Girl meets dark, mysterious, and insanely attractive guy.
Girl quickly falls for him.
Guy reveals his true nature.
Girl freaks the f*ck out.
Girl must decide whether to stay and give herself over to him or get the hell out of there.

I knew what to expect going in. Also, the trailer showed the entire movie in two and a half minutes. We all knew what to expect. Still, this movie had a twist that I was not prepared for.

I won’t spoil any more of the movie than the trailer already has, but I will say, if you haven’t read a particular work of fiction or seen any of its hundreds of film and television adaptations, some subtle and not-so-subtle references may go over your head, for example, the names of certain characters, the name of a particular location in London, the history behind and translation of a specific name.

Someone on social media said it’s like Get Out meets Twilight. And yes, yes. I totally agree, but not Twilight. Another, classic vampire novel.

If you still haven’t figured it out, you’re a lost cause. Just go watch the movie.

While the buildup and reveal were satisfying for me, I did feel this movie didn’t know where to start or how to end. As a writer myself, I’m all too familiar with the struggles of writing a beginning and ending to a story. The beginning of the film is a bit fast paced. We learn that our main character Evie (played by the gorgeous Nathalie Emmanuel) has recently lost her mom and has no other family. She takes a DNA test that was conveniently given to her in a gift box at an event she was working (personally I think this plot point would’ve made more sense if she was adopted). She meets her overeager long-lost cousin, Oliver, who quickly invites her to a wedding in England to meet the rest of the family.

Pause: What Black person in their right mind is getting on a plane to a foreign country BY THEMSELVES with a strange white person they just met? I don’t care if they are family. Nope, we ain’t doing that. Not in the post-Get Out era. Have we learned nothing?? But I guess it wouldn’t be a horror movie if our characters weren’t making dumb decisions.

There was also a scene at the end that, unless it was sequel bait, made no sense to me. Honestly, they could’ve ended the movie three minutes sooner. Have her steal some money before burning the house down so she can buy a plane ticket back home.

Lastly, the best friend, almost a carbon copy of Lil Rel’s character in Get Out, served zero purpose in this movie other than for comedic relief, and she really wasn’t all that funny. Take her character out of the film, and the plot would be exactly the same.

But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed myself watching this movie and would happily watch it again when it comes to streaming, if not to see if there were any other references to that particular work of fiction that I missed on the first watch.

My rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Movie #2: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul

Honk for Jesus was NOT advertised well! I went into that theater expecting to see an entirely different movie from what I actually saw, and I’m sure a lot of people did too. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m gonna warn you now, this is not a knee-slapping, rib-cracking, laugh-your-ass-off movie. You probably won’t even laugh at all. Maybe a snort or two, but that’s it. And that’s not to say that this is a comedy that isn’t funny; it’s not a comedy! Dark comedy? Sure. Tragic comedy? You bet! Pure, dumb, comedic fun? Absolutely not.

And maybe that’s what the filmmakers were going for. Jordan Peele is an executive producer after all, and if there’s anything we’ve learned from the three films Peele has written and directed so far, it’s that you can’t take these movies at face value; they require you to look a little deeper, to think a little more critically to find the subtle message, usually about human nature, that the film is trying to bring to the surface. His movies really force us to analyze ourselves, just as we analyze the characters.

So when I accepted that this was not the comedy I initially intended to see, I watched it as I would any other Jordan Peele film (though this movie was actually written and directed by Adamma Ebo).

Honk for Jesus is about a disgraced pastor (played by a very convincing Sterling K. Brown) of a megachurch who is forced to close the church doors after an all too familiar scandal results in his public shaming and a mass exodus of congregants. A year later, he and his wife (played by Regina Hall) hire a documentary crew to follow them as they attempt to reopen their church in time for Easter.

As I said before, I would consider this film a dark comedy rather than pure comedy, mainly because the scandal that Pastor Lee-Curtis and First Lady Trinitie are dealing with is not something to laugh at. Of course, the pastor denies ever doing something wrong, and the film doesn’t directly say whether or not he’s guilty, but there were a few scenes that confirmed to me that he absolutely did it.

Basketball court…bedroom…

If you’ve seen the movie, you get it.

What I love about this film is that it skillfully shows the hypocrisy of some religious leaders, particularly in the church, without coming off as lecturing or trying to vilify Christianity as a whole. Lee-Curtis is what my pastor would call a prosperity preacher—more concerned with the big house, fancy car, and designer clothes than actually teaching the word of God. Even as he attempts to reopen his church, he makes it about him saving souls rather than God, which is why ultimately, they [SPOILER].

That being said, you can’t simply write him off as your typical hypocritical Christian. That would be completely ignoring the depth Sterling K. Brown’s performance gives to this character. This is a man who struggles with temptation. He desperately wants to be the man he preaches about and presents himself to be every Sunday in the pulpit, but it’s a constant battle with sin, and instead of addressing it, he puts on his mask, puts on his show, and becomes the charismatic preacher that’s garnered him so much fame, forgetting again who saved him and who saved the thousands of people who used to attend his church: God, not the pastor, God.

Regina Hall’s First Lady Trinitie is equally complex. There was a particular gut-wrenching scene when she’s asked why she doesn’t leave, and her answer turns into this very emotional monologue about how this is her husband and her church and she’s worked too hard, and she’d quicker kill him than leave him. And this is the first time we really see Trinitie’s true and raw feelings about this situation her husband’s actions have put her in.

Watching this film, I am reminded of Matthew 23, when Jesus warns against following teachers who do not practice what they preach and care more about being seen and being highly regarded than about showing people the way to heaven.

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

Matthew 23:12-13 (NIV)

On a lighter note, one of my favorite scenes was when Pastor and First Lady were rapping “Knuck if You Buck” in the car on their way to see their rival pastors’ church. This song came out when I was in middle school and had our 12-year-old little selves in a full choke hold! To this day, I still get a little gangsta (a little crunk) whenever I hear it on the radio, so I was right there in the theater rapping along! Unfortunately, I was the only one. Nobody else heard of this song? Or are y’all “Juju on That Beat” kids? But it could also be that there were a lot of white people in the theater. Nobody wanted to get caught saying the N word. I can understand that.

My rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Story-A-Day September

If you’ve been following my blog for a few years, then you may be familiar with the Short Story A Day May challenge. I participated in it back in 2017. I had so much fun with that challenge and was surprisingly prolific despite having just finished the A to Z Challenge, another month-long challenge that requires a lot of creative energy.

Recently I discovered that they do the Short Story A Day challenge again in September, with the same prompts, for anyone who couldn’t participate in May. It’s a bit too late for me to fully commit to joining the month-long challenge when we’re already a week into September. Fortunately, the challenge host, Julie Duffy, is also doing a fun-sized version of the challenge, where you write a story in a week. Now that, I think I can do. Besides, it’s been several years since I’ve written a short story longer than 2,000 words, the kind I might submit for publication in a literary magazine. So that is my goal by the end of this challenge. For reference, here are the common story lengths:

Micro/Nano: 140 characters-250 words
Drabble: 100 words
Flash Fiction: 250-1,000 words
Sudden Fiction/Short-Shorts: 1,000-2,500 words
Short Story: 1,000-7,500 words
Novelettes: 7,500-17,000 words
Novellas: 17,000-40,000 words
Novel: 40,000+ (but probably around 90,000)

If you’re also interested in participating in the fun-sized challenge, it starts today, it’s totally free, and I think there’s still time to sign up. Click here or click the badge in the side bar for more details on the challenge. If you’d like to join the month-long challenge, click here. You can also click the badge in the side bar (right below the fun-size badge).

Alright, I’ve been talking too much, and I’m sure you have places to be, other coffee chats to join. We’ll end ours here for now, and if you’ve seen or plan to watch The Invitation or Honk for Jesus, do let me know your thoughts. Would you give a similar rating? And will you be joining any story-writing challenges this month? Allow me to shamelessly plug my Morning Inspiration prompts to get your creative juices flowing. Until next time!

Written for Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

—Nortina

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Finding a Writing Schedule that Works

In my last weekend update, I told you I was going to try to establish a schedule of waking up at 5am during the work week so that I have more time to spend on my writing, particularly my blog. In this post, I’ll show you how that went. So grab your cup of coffee—I’m drinking tea because I had way too much coffee this week—and journey with me back in time.

Week of Monday, August 29, through Friday, September 2

Day 1: Morning

Today started out promising. I went to bed Sunday 20 minutes early at 9:40pm, and didn’t have any trouble falling asleep because, despite not doing much on Sunday, I was really tired. Unfortunately, I didn’t stay asleep. You see, I have this really annoying habit of drinking the recommended daily intake of water right before bedtime, which results in…well, you can pretty much guess. Anyway, by the time 5am rolled around, I was finally starting to drift back to sleep after my fourth bathroom trip, so I did not want to get up. I hit snooze, and when the alarm rang the second time, I turned it off and slept an hour until I had to use the bathroom again. By the time I was up and ready to start my day, it was already 7AM. Biscuits!

(Sidenote: I watched this adorable video of baby screaming “Biscuits!” in frustration because his dad wouldn’t tell him his real name. I’ve been saying it ever since.)

So I decided to take a morning stroll first, since the sun was up by then. A sweaty forty minutes later, I had maybe half an hour to write before it was time to get ready for work. And for the first time in two weeks, I was completely blank. But I was prepared for this! I’ve scheduled my posts a week out just for moments like this. I just hope it doesn’t last long or that my inner writer isn’t angry with me for trying to control her. You gave me no choice, Sis. Did you forget we nearly starved last Thursday?

Day 1: Evening

I stopped drinking water at 3pm to test a theory my mom had—that if you finish your water intake by 3pm, you should have a dry night—but I must confess I did feel a bit parched by 8. I probably should’ve taken a few sips of water then (but not a giant glass). I’ll remember that for next time. Also, I forgot the US Open started today! And of course the most interesting matches were at night, starting with Serena! I probably still could’ve made it to bed by 10. I’m not a stranger to falling asleep with the TV on.

I ate dinner on time (just after 6:30), but I forgot I was supposed to cook a pot of bean and vegetable soup for lunch this week. Although I wouldn’t need the soup for lunch until Wednesday, I knew I wouldn’t have time to cook it Tuesday night (my typical dinner schedule, thanks to Hello Fresh, is cook two servings and eat the second serving for dinner the following day. I cooked two servings on Sunday, ate the leftovers for dinner on Monday, so Tuesday was a cook day, and I was not cooking two meals on Tuesday), so if I didn’t make the soup tonight, I wouldn’t have lunch for Wednesday. To avoid a repeat of last week’s hunger pains, I started a pot of soup at 8:22pm. Yep, definitely didn’t make it bed by 10.

Lessons Learned from Day 1

Finish your recommended water intake by 3pm, but don’t dehydrate yourself if you’re feeling thirsty later in the evening. A small glass with dinner should be enough to quench your thirst but not too much that you’re running to the bathroom all night. Also, DID YOU FORGET YOU HAVE A CROCKPOT??? Next time you realize you still have to make a pot of soup after 8pm, just throw everything in the crockpot, set it to low, and go to bed!

Photo by Vladyslav Bahara on Unsplash

Day 2: Morning

It was after 11pm when I finally went to bed Day 1. I set my alarm for an hour later so I could still get the appropriate amount of sleep. When I woke up to use the bathroom, I was perturbed, because I really thought the 3pm stop would work. But then I checked my phone. 5:56am. It did work! That was just my body’s natural alarm clock waking me up four minutes early.

I did not feel tired this morning like I did Monday, but I decided to skip my morning stroll since I took a rather long one on Monday. I spent the first hour and a half catching up on blogs I follow: hunting for new writing challenge prompts, bookmarking blog posts I plan to write commentary on in a future post, and liking those that I want to revisit to comment on (when I can think of something to say). I spent the next hour writing and editing new posts for this blog. Thank goodness I wasn’t blank today!

Day 2: Evening

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a teacher. Then I met the little monsters known as children and quickly said never mind! Of course, that teaching spirit still lives in me, which is probably why I’m a trainer in my current job. However, just like the writer in me, the teacher in me has a tendency to get carried away when she receives a blast of inspiration, which results in me working well past clock-out time to put together training materials, organize meeting agendas, and write everything down so I don’t forget (because I’m so forgetful). Some days I’m still on the computer well past 9pm. Breaking free from work is a lot harder to do since working from home. And I’m not getting paid overtime to do it—or even being asked to do it—I do it because I enjoy that part of my job. Still, I have to admit, it does disrupt home life. Fortunately, I caught myself before getting too wrapped up in what I was working on at the end of the day. It still resulted in me eating dinner a little later than I wanted (but still before 8). And thanks to tennis (you know I had to watch my Rafa), it was around 11 when I finally went to bed, so I knew Day 3 was going to have a late start.

Lessons Learned from Day 2

Don’t beat yourself up about going to bed late. This is what trial and error is for. Yes, you could’ve ended the workday earlier, but at least you still ate dinner by 8. Yes, you could’ve put that soup in the crockpot, but at least you made sure to stick to your plan to cook it on Monday and now your lunch for the week is made, and that should more important after what happened last week. Also, you still had a productive morning despite the late start. I count that as a win! Now, let’s try to work out tomorrow.

Day 3: Morning

Today, I woke up at around 6:30 and lay in bed for about 45 mins. I started my day with a morning stroll, which was quite peaceful. I love that I live near a walking trail. It’s about a mile around a lake, and if I’m out early enough, I may catch some of the wildlife, such as ducks, rabbits. I haven’t seen deer yet, but I know they’re around.

Then my morning was almost derailed when I checked my mail and found a rather large bill that I was not expecting to pay. The American health care system, I tell you, it is a BUSINESS!

But after crying for about 20 minutes, I sat down in front of my computer and willed myself to write a new story for a future blog post, join a writing challenge I hadn’t participated in in quite some time, and revisit an old work in progress that I have neglected for far too long.

Day 3: Evening

Nothing much to report here. I clocked out on time. I ate dinner on time. I went to bed on time, after a really intense Serena match. Gosh, I hope she wins her 24th major at this year’s US Open before she retires, but even if she doesn’t, she’s still the GREATEST OF ALL TIME!

Lessons Learned from Day 3

Sometimes you gotta count your wins. I could’ve let that unexpected bill completely ruin my day. I didn’t, and I was still productive. I call that progress!

Day 4: Morning

It’s a new morning, and I woke up at 4:45am!!! Did I feel tired? Actually, no. Did I want to lie in bed a little longer and wait for my alarm. Yes, and I did, and I stayed in bed a little longer after my alarm and caught up on blog posts in the Reader. But I eventually got up, and it was still dark outside. Yay!

Today, I went straight to writing. No workout today. I think I like my pattern of alternating workout days anyway. Because it was the first of the month, I decided to check my blog stats, just out of curiosity. Would you believe it? I reached over 1,000 views in August! Now, I know to you, that probably isn’t a lot, but for me, this is such a huge accomplishment because my blog has not seen more than a couple hundred a month since my impromptu drop-offs began around mid-2018. The fact that people clicked on my blog over 1,000 times since I started posting again in the last 2 weeks of August means the world to me, and it’s so encouraging. So if you dropped by, left a like or a comment, or decided to subscribe, I just want to say, whole-heartedly, thank you! I hope you stick around, and as you’ve seen in this post, I’m really making an effort to be more consistent and disciplined in my writing. It’s all for you!

(Sidenote: Now I can brag to those rude family members who say, “Does anyone even read your blog?” Does anyone look at something you did a thousand times??)

Photo by Darina Belonogova on Pexels.com

This morning was extremely productive! First, I’d like to thank Julie at Eat, Play, Live for suggesting I make a schedule of everything I need to do to give me a reason for why I’m waking up so early. I’ve made similar checklists at work, and it’s helped me tremendously to stay on task. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could do that in my writing life too. So before bed, I wrote down everything I wanted to do this morning. And I finished all but one! I even had time to cook breakfast, which I often skip. The only reason why I didn’t finish my whole list was because I wanted to catch up on the latest MasterChef episode on Hulu. Old habits die hard.

Day 4: Evening

Tonight was more tennis! The Williams Sisters in doubles and Rafa right after. I was a happy camper! Of course, Serena and Venus lost, and I fell asleep on Rafa, but I did wake up at 5am the next morning!

Lessons Learned from Day 4

You’re starting to get the hang of this! Keep at it. Also, maybe cut down on your caffeine intake? You were a bit jittery when you went to bed tonight. Lastly, if you don’t get to everything you wanted to do in the morning, celebrate what you did accomplish and put what’s left on the checklist for tomorrow!

Day 5

Today, all my trial and error came together, and I got a preview of what successful implementation looks like. I woke up at 5am. I wrote for two hours. I stopped to work out. I washed, got dressed, had breakfast, did a little more writing, and shifted to work.

Serena lost a tight three-setter. I can’t say I’m disappointed because she’s had a phenomenal career. I’ve been watching her all my life. She is the greatest as far as I’m concerned. And none of the men in the Big Three (Fed, Rafa, Djoker) can ever say they won a major while pregnant. And regarding Margaret Court’s most major titles of all time at 24, half of those were in the amateur era. So you tell me, who’s the best?

Weekend Wrap-up

There’s a common saying that it takes 21 days to build a habit. I don’t know how true that is. And I’m not implying that I did it in five days, but I did wake up at 5am on Saturday morning without even trying, and since I was already up, I decided to go straight to my notebook and laptop. It’s too soon to say that I’ve trained my body to operate at this new schedule, because it will still depend on certain decisions I make, such as when to end work, how often I should drink water, when to cook dinner, and, most importantly, when to go to bed, but I’m optimistic for the weeks to come and for the stories that will follow.

Written for Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: I will not fizzle out!

Hello there, and welcome to another Sunday morning coffee chat on the front porch as we watch the sun rise. What are you having? Me? I’m drinking tea, bourbon tea. No, it doesn’t have bourbon in it, it’s bourbon flavored—Harney and Sons, I highly recommend—though I could use some bourbon after the week I’ve had…

Well, let me clarify. It wasn’t a bad week. In fact, I had a relatively productive week. Up until Thursday, when I realized I had a problem…

If you recall, it’s been two weeks since I’ve returned to writing. Which, when you really think about it, is an odd thing to say, because how does one stop writing? Theoretically we’re always writing something, right? But you know what I mean. Maybe I should say it’s been two weeks since I’ve returned to creating. Ah, yes that’s much better.

Anyway, that first week, I cleared my schedule. I was off from work. I stayed home. I avoided social media like the plague. And I opened my mind to let the stories flow. And flow they did.

Week two I was back on the daily grind, and though I feared returning to work would cause a block in my inspiration streak, quite the opposite has happened. It’s overflowing, more than it has in years. The only problem is I can’t get it to stop—I don’t want it to stop, but it’s spilling over into my day job hours, and I’m struggling to find a balance.

It’s interesting, because when I first started blogging, I was at job where I had a ton of free time.

Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but a lot of that free time may have been spent blogging…

Actually, I don’t care. It was a temp job, and I had nothing to do. Everyone in the office knew I had nothing to do. Turned out the service I was hired for wasn’t as in demand as they all had thought. And truthfully, I could’ve worked half-days if they weren’t so afraid that an urgent need would come up at 4:58pm on a Friday afternoon that couldn’t wait to Monday.

But I digress. That’s in the past, and my current job is five steps closer to where I want to be, which is book publishing.

Actually, my dream job is to own a quaint little used bookstore in the center of town, where they serve hot chocolate with a free story every holiday season. Yes, my dream is to exist inside a Hallmark Christmas movie. But that’s a story for another day…

Photo by Jill Wellington on Pexels.com

Anyway, at my current job, my day is pretty full. And even if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t dare go near any blogging websites for fear of the very strict IT policy, which has me terrified to do anything that could even remotely be mistaken as personal on the work computer, even when I’m off the clock. So I keep my mind as far away from blogging as I can while I’m at work.

Until this week. No, I did not go anywhere near WordPress on my work computer, thankfully. What happened instead was that whenever a thought came to mind that I wanted to hold on to, I quickly wrote it down in a notebook, or grabbed my phone and opened the WordPress app, or ran down the hall to my personal computer if the mobile app was acting buggy. Then on my lunch break or later that evening after work I logged in online, gathered all my thoughts together into a new post, and hit Publish (or scheduled for a date in the future).

And this process worked for a time, or at least I thought, until Thursday hit, and I realized how much I was neglecting. That prolific writer in me completely took over my life in a few short days, and I haven’t seen the sun (or eaten a decent meal or gone to bed at a decent hour) since.

And I don’t want to complain. I mean, I’m happy she’s back and alive. I hope she stays. But Sis, you’ve got to give me a break. I can’t live like this!

There was a time when I thought writing full-time would never be possible for me. There’ve been so many times I’ve talked myself out of pursuing a dream of mine because I didn’t think I was good enough to accomplish it. How long have I been promising that book now? And the plan upgrade I would need to monetize this blog—do I even have the stats for that to be worth it? But then I have to remind myself to keep that Field of Dreams mentality: If you build it, people will come. This week has shown me that consistency produces success.

And no, I am not saying I’m about to quit my job and blog full-time. It is too soon for all that, and knowing my track record, it’s a recipe for fizzling out, and I will NOT fizzle out! I’m just saying that I recognize that the potential is there. That I can make a career out of my writing if I just dedicate myself to it and, more importantly, discipline myself.

That’s my next step. The first step was to find the writer in me again. She’s found! She’s here! Wave your hand so we can acknowledge your presence, Sis! The next step is to keep her under control, without stifling her progress, at least until I’m ready to unleash the beast and see what she can really do when she has all the power.

First, let’s look back at the tentative schedule I made last week for getting back into a writing routine. Well, I can confidently say that I am writing more that 100 words a day! I’ve got my posts scheduled out a week in advance, so when the inspiration well inevitably runs dry (hopefully not for long, though), I have a safety net. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to touch any works in process yet, as I’ve spent the majority of this week working on my blog. But I have thought about the works in progress. That’s a step forward.

However, because my workday is already pretty full and I spend most of my evenings planning posts and making sure to visit other blogs I follow, sometimes late into the night, I think the most feasible option for finding time to dedicate to my works in progress is on the weekends. My weekends usually consist of catching up on TV series and movies, meal planning and prepping, and staring at my walls. Surely, I can carve out 4 hours.

Just don’t let it bleed into meal planning and prep, because we can’t let Thursday happen again. I was starving!

I could also make things easier on myself by starting my days a little earlier. Work is at nine. We’re still working from home for now, so there’s no commute. I could start my day three, maybe even four hours earlier—if I go to bed on time—and get so much accomplished in that time frame.

I’m not a morning person. I’m really not. But I can make myself get up when I know it’s something important. Hey, if I can wake up at 3am to catch an international flight, then surely I can get up at 5 or 6am to spend some time in my writer zone. It’ll be hard switching over from evening writing to morning writing, though. Does my brain work better at night. I don’t think the time of day necessarily matters for me, because I’ve had blasts of inspiration come at me randomly—while I’m driving, while I’m working, in a dream, while I’m in the shower. My problem has always been remembering them by the time I’m in front of a computer or pen and paper.

My only requirement is a mind that’s not busy. And by “not busy” I mean not overcrowded with a million different thoughts in my head—whether angry politics, pandemics, family drama, work stress, etc.—thanks to my purge.

Waking up at 5am may be a tad bit early for me; 6am I could do, but that’s assuming I don’t hit the snooze button six straight times. Once we get to 7am, there’s not much I can do before I have to get ready for work, especially if I want to squeeze in a 45-minute workout. I could work out at night before bed, but I’ve told myself a million times I’m going to do that, and I never have. Truth is I’m more disciplined when I set a time in the morning to work out rather than at night, when the day’s weight is on me, so I won’t change that.

So after all that rambling, what schedule have I decided on?

Well first thing’s first, I must go to bed ONTIME tonight. For me, at least 7 hours is a good night’s rest, so if I want to wake up at 5am, I must be in bed by 10pm, which shouldn’t be hard, because I’m usually dead-dog tired by 8pm, anyway. Where I mess up is that I make myself a cup of tea and stay up another five hours.

If I’m going to bed at 10pm, I must eat dinner at a reasonable hour. So, get off the Spanish dinner eating schedule, Nortina. Dinner is at 6:30pm, no excuses. And you are not Spanish. Even if you’d like to be.

And lastly, let’s write out my morning schedule. I’d like to be optimistic and say I’ll get up at 5am on the dot, but knowing myself, I’ll likely hit that snooze button at least three times. So let’s cautiously say get up at 5:30am. No, the sun will not be up, so I can either write for an hour to two hours and then work out or work out first, wash, make and eat breakfast, and then spend the rest of the time block writing until it’s time to transition to work. Which schedule will work better for me? This may require a little trial and error.

How about I alternate between the two and come back next week, same time, with a final decision. Alright, I’d better go inside and get started on that work in progress. It is the weekend after all!

Written for Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

#WeekendCoffeeShare: Taking it a week at a time…and sometimes a day

Good morning! It’s a beautiful day to sit outside on the front porch with a nice warm cup of herbal tea and listen to the birds chirp, the landscapers mow the lawn, the leaves ruffle in the breeze. It’s cool for now, as the sun is not yet high in the sky. I’ll close my eyes and enjoy this for a moment.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev on Pexels.com

So, after a week, my “stay-cation” is over and it’s back to the regular 9-to-5 starting tomorrow. Since deciding that I would spend my week off getting back into the groove of writing, can I say that I accomplished that? Well today, WordPress congratulates me on 6 straight days of posting, so at least my streak of neglecting my blog is over. But I think it’s too soon to say I’ve got my mojo back. I’ve been away too long to just dive back in headfirst, giving you story after story and expecting readers to come back and stay and, especially, trust that I won’t disappear again. I haven’t ensured that confidence yet, not in you and definitely not in myself.

But since being back, I’ve taken the time to read other people’s blogs—some new, others I’ve been following for years—and I’ve realized something. I’m not the only one struggling to pick up the pen. It would be foolish to say that I’m the only one who’s been affected by these past three years. We’ve all had to deal with pandemic fatigue. We’ve all gone stir-crazy stuck in the house but hesitant to go outside and commune with selfish people who would so easily cough in your face and not care that they’ve put you and your entire family at risk. We’re all processing different stages of grief after losing someone we thought we’d have forever. We’re all overworked, tired, stressed out, frustrated that the world is so hell-bent on getting back to normal when everything has changed. We all hate our jobs for playing ignorant to the fact that cost of living has skyrocketed. We’ve had it up to our necks with politics that offers quality of life as an option rather than a necessity, that takes away your bodily autotomy and reduces you to become a ward of the state, a state that imposes itself as a representative of God on Earth when the truth is He couldn’t be further away from your favorite politicians’ platforms and talking points. Rod Serling was truly a genius and a psychic because every time I turn on the television or get on social media, I see episodes of his Twilight Zone playing before me. “Obsolete Man.” The Eye of the Beholder.” “The Gift.”…

Against this corrupt, this evil, this debilitating backdrop, how does one find the motivation to write? I don’t have an honest answer. All I can say right now is that I will try, but only by taking baby steps. One week at a time…and sometimes a day. This week I focused on my blog, but I want to get back to those works in progress outside the blog, those books that have sat unfinished for years. I want to quell the inner critic in me who tells me it’s not worth it before I even start to edit and before anyone else has the opportunity to read it and develop an opinion for themselves. But I have to start small, because I know being too ambitious will only lead to the well quickly drying up, and if I stop again, I don’t know how long it’ll be before I can start. And I fear many hopeful readers have already given up waiting. I pray you haven’t, but if you have, I understand. I know what it’s like to be strung along on empty promises, never feeling satisfied.

A few weeks ago, my TV broke down. These days smart TVs last about as long as smart phones. You have maybe two good years in them before everything goes to shit. I’ve decided to wait to buy a new one because, well, inflation. You’d think that would force me to watch TV less, but I simply switched over to streaming on my laptop. But recently I shattered the screen on my phone (I don’t think this one even made it to two years), so I bit the bullet and replaced it, but after transferring all my old apps to this new phone, I didn’t rush to sign into my social media accounts. And I’ve noticed something, it’s been quite peaceful waking up in the morning and looking at something other than Twitter first thing. I’m still grabbing my phone (baby steps) because of the alarm, but the first thing I did this morning was open my WordPress app and begin to type this post. I call that progress! My old phone still works despite the cracked screen, but I keep it away from me so that I’m not tempted to descend back into the abyss. Without the distraction of social media and other such apps that are constant reminders of the shit world we live in today, I’ve found myself able to focus again. The inspiration comes quicker, the stories flow from my brain without feeling forced. I still can’t commit to writing anything longer than 100 words right now, but 100 words every day for a week is more than a page on that work in progress. And that’s more than what I’ve done in the last 3 years.

It’s a start.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels.com

Going back to some of the blogs I’ve visited this week, there were two that really inspired me in this journey to find my way back to consistent writing, and I encourage you to check out these post posts as well if you are trying to manage similar struggles:

Becoming a Disciplined Writer by A.C. Melody

  • Becoming more disciplined, not only in writing but also in other aspects of my life, such as fitness and self-care, was my main 2022 resolution, and seeing A.C. Melody’s schedule, which was inspired by another post, Baby Steps: How to Become a Disciplined Writer by Cynthia Franks, reignited the desire to establish a schedule of my own. I love A.C. Melody’s schedule, but for me, I may need even smaller baby steps: At least 100 words to new material, whether a blog post or a new project. If more words come, great! But if not, at least get 100 in. Thirty minutes to an hour of editing and revising current works in progress. And, of course, my personal goals I’ve already started earlier this month: getting up and walking every morning, planning out meals for the whole month so I stay on track with my eating habits (and my grocery spending).

consciously unplugging by Marquessa

  • If I want to achieve those goals I’ve listed above, I know there are some things I’ve got to unplug from. The obvious start is social media because it is the source of the majority of my mental anguish. But that’s not the only form of media I need to unplug from. My TV broke down for a reason, and it was not for me to replace it with more screen time somewhere else. I’m oversaturated and I need to purge. There are so many things that bring me joy that I haven’t been able to do because I’m so distracted and burdened. This week I did those things because I had room, in my mental capacity, in my schedule. And it felt so peaceful. I want to make room for more things that bring me peace. That includes removing things from my life that do nothing for me, or that keep me busy but don’t do much else. Hence, I’m abandoning that whole podcast idea I had months ago. It seemed cool in the beginning, making my blog available in podcast form, but I’m a writer first, not a speaker, and I really don’t care that much to put so much time and energy into it for it to be something worth listening to.

So that’s my wrap-up for the week! I’m nearly finished with my tea, so I think I’ll go inside and make another cup. Maybe a story idea will come to me as I wait for the water to boil. Until next time, friends!

Written for #WeekendCoffeeShare, hosted by Natalie the Explorer.