Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Beautiful Music Again

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of making New Year’s Resolutions…

Lose weight, eat healthier, save money, blah, blah, blah…

I’m sick of the “New Year, New Me” status updates on Facebook…

Starting at 12:01 AM, January 1, 2018, things will be different. I’m making big changes, people, BIG. And they’re gonna be huge (“h” is silent). 

I’m sick of setting goals I’ll forget about by February…

Write at least 10,000 words a week, post on my blog every day, publish my book, start a business, take morning jogs, drink 2 gallons of water, lose twenty pounds, adopt a furry, four-legged child, own a home, get married, find a cure for AIDS, solve world hunger…  

For the past two years, I’ve been running around like a chicken with her cut off, worrying about career goals, life goals, accomplishments; comparing myself to former colleagues, former classmates, even kids younger than me who all seem to be doing better; questioning if I truly have support from my family and friends or if all they really care about is money; stressing over income, how to make a living, whether or not I can truly survive in this big, bad world on my own as an adult without mommy always having to hold my hand; feeling crowded because I put everyone else’s opinions and aspirations above myself.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me–I am cooked!

I miss who I was in 2015, when the memory of college was still fresh on my brain; when walking into the office on Monday mornings didn’t slowly kill my soul; when I could sit in front of that computer, or notebook, pen in hand, and the story flowed seamlessly, like I wasn’t even writing it, just listening and following along; when I was prolific in my writing; when I was submitting poetry and fiction to magazines on a daily basis; when the pressure of being “good enough” to get published occasionally arose but didn’t completely weigh me down to the point where I couldn’t write, when my dreams of being a published writer weren’t bogged down by thoughts of “How can I make a living being a published writer?”; when all I did was write instead of think, over-analyze, start on new project after new project to “get rich quick,” lose focus on my first love because I was busy doing so many other things…

In 2018, I want to go backwards, remind myself why I started this blog in the first place. It’ll be four years next Tuesday. Back then, writing was simple. I didn’t care who was reading; I didn’t even care if they liked it. The only thing I cared about was whether or not I liked it. And if it spoke to me, if it sang to me, if it soared above the clouds and made beautiful music to my ears, I hit that publish button.

That’s what the Countdown series did for me these past several weeks. That’s what Love Poetry did for me in 2015, Black Poetry Writing Month in February of 2016, and 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths that April, before my meltdown and the subsequent on-again, off-again battle with writer’s block.

So for 2018, my goal is simply to relax. To go back to writing beautiful music to my ears and sharing it with the world when it’s ready. To stop putting so much pressure on myself to be better than the year before, or to be better than or just as good as the next person, which has only led to anxiety, sleepless nights, and stress-eating. To stop worrying about “plans” and to simply enjoy life; not to let the year get away from me like that last two have. To take a vacation every once in a while, treat myself, read a book, read more books. To remember to take things one step at a time; not to force something ahead of it’s time, but only when I’m ready for it. To learn to say no, I just can’t do that. To put myself first—if I lose even a minute of sleep over it, I know it’s not for me. To figure out what is most important to me, and to do that and only that.

The last time I talked about goals, I had seven of them, but one shouts to me the loudest right now…

CHILL THE FUCK OUT!

Tune out the rest of the world. Find a happy place. Read. Journal. Write. Write some more.

Nortina


This post was written for Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This month’s optional question is: What steps have you taken or plan to take to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

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I’ve Won NaNoWriMo So Many Times

I have a confession to make. I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Not officially, at least.

You see, I was going to, I even spent an entire month planning for it– drafting outlines, creating character sketches, brainstorming backstory and plot points—but when November came around, I got very busy.

Story of my life, right?

If I could sum 2017 in one word, it would be “overcommitted.” I was doing too many things, and it all culminated in one month which, though not the shortest month of the year, definitely feels like it when you have to write 1,667 words a day amid 10,000 other things on your to-do list!

Although the last thing I wanted to do was procrastinate on writing yet another novel, I had to think realistically. How much stress would this add on me—to find time to write, do everything else, and still get to bed at a decent hour? Was it worth it, knowing that I likely wouldn’t finish, or even make it past the 10,000 word mark?

So I said no to NaNoWriMo, at least for this year. But one of my main goals for 2018 is to be less busy and not take on more than I can bear so that I can dedicate more time to my writing. So there’s always the possibility that I may try again . . . if I can take the pressure.

But I won’t wallow in self-pity over another NaNoWriMo project left unfinished (or in this case unstarted), because there have been so many times when I’ve won NaNoWriMo. No I haven’t quite made it to the 50,000 words written in one month feat, but I’ve come pretty darn close!

First, I deserve a pat on the back for completing the A to Z Challenge three years in a row! A lot of bloggers can’t say the same. My first A to Z Challenge in 2015 introduced you to my novella, Love Poetry, which I hope to finally complete in 2018. I have 23,914 words of planning material for Lost Boy, the novel I had hoped to write in November, and that doesn’t even include the flashbacks I wrote as part of Short Story a Day May, a challenge which in total came to 451 words shy of 25,000. And my longest project yet is 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths, my 2016 A to Z Challenge novella, clocking in at over 30,000 words! How’s that for Camp NaNoWriMo!

And while I’m basking in my NaNoWriMo successes, let’s talk about what I did write in November. Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans! Yes, I know I said I had completed the story earlier this year . . . I lied. The truth is I spent a few slow days in May writing three more chapters. But the rest came this November, as I wrote one chapter a day, adding to what I had left unfinished back in 2016.

So you see, I didn’t totally abandon NaNoWriMo after all! And don’t you worry; I still plan on finishing Countdown. A recent bout with procrastination, along with Thanksgiving travel (and, you know, being with family), kept me from finishing the story in November as I had originally planned, but that’s all going to work out in the end, because I stopped at Day 24. You know what that means. The story originally meant for Christmas (last year) will finally be concluded this Christmas! Next week, I’m giving you the final seven chapters of Countdown (Monday through Sunday), so if you want to catch up on the story, read it from the beginning here!

By the way, Countdown currently sits at around 27,800 words, which means when I close this year with the final chapter on December 31, it will be my longest completed project to date! Just the boost of confidence I need going into 2018 with the hope of finishing (and possibly publishing) even more projects. Whether they are products of NaNoWriMo, or my own writing victories.

I’m just so happy to say I did it!

—Nortina

#WeekendRewind: 7 Things I Want to Do Before 2018

I can’t take full credit for this post. It was definitely inspired by Marquessa’s list, 30 Things You Can Still Do Before 2018. Read Part 1 on Planet Simon and Part 2 on Marquessa’s blog, Simply Marquessa.

Oh, 2017, I’d like to say it’s been real, but like 2016, I’m ready to be rid of you! While this year probably wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be, these last few months have definitely been difficult. I’ve said it before— I’m not satisfied with where I’m at in life right now. The fire that should have been lit at the end of 2016 (but fizzled out before February) is now blazing!

If I want next year to be different, I’ve got to be committed to making a change, and as someone who still struggles with procrastination, I’m not waiting until January 1 to do it. You can’t limp into the New Year expecting to miraculously leap once the clock strikes 12. You’ve got to start taking those steps toward recovery now. So, with that being said, here are seven things that I want to do before 2018.

1. Lose five pounds.


I’ve been on this weight loss journey since June of 2016, and while I’ve lost around 40 pounds, I still can’t fit in that size 4 dress collecting dust in my closet (well, I can, but it doesn’t look cute 😉 ). This October, I finally passed another milestone: I’m no longer plateaued! Yes, I’m back on my downward trend. It only took me a year to do! Originally my goal was to maintain that weight through the fattening foods of the holidays, but now I’m taking a more aggressive approach. I want to continue that downward trend. I might not make it to five pounds, but any weight loss before the end of the year is a step in the right direction!

2. Create a sleeping habit.

For someone who can barely keep her eyes open past 10PM most nights (and some nights even earlier), I never go to bed on time. I’ve been up after midnight, one o’clock, two, and when I pulled my all-nighter, FIVE IN THE MORNING! Funny thing is, I’m not a night person at all. The only good thing I’ve ever done at night was be born, but when it comes to productivity, I function so much better in the morning. The problem is getting out of bed, washing my face, brushing my teeth, and eating a balance breakfast in order to start my day, and I can’t do that if I’m only getting 4 to 5 hours of sleep.

I read somewhere that in order to get your body in the habit of going to bed at a certain time (I’m aiming for 9:30 or 10PM), set your alarm to 45-50 minutes before to alert you to start preparing for bed (like do hair, wash/brush, pack lunch for the next day, do nighttime exercises, write down everything you have to do in the morning so you’re not laying in bed worrying over it, etc.) so that when it’s bedtime, all you have to do is get in the bed and close your eyes. I’m going to give it a try, and hopefully, by January, cranky, irritable, baggy-eyed, needing a nap in her car after lunch, Nortina will be a thing of the past!

3. Wean myself off of phone dependence.

Every morning, the first thing I reach for (after I slam my hand down on my alarm’s snooze button for the eighth time) is my phone. And that backlight is sooo bright in the morning! I’ve dimmed it, and it’s still blinding! And what am I really checking? I’m not that big on social media—you won’t know my life by looking at my Facebook page, my last Instagram post was in August, Snapchat is stupid to me, and while I do want to tweet more to build my online author platform, I’m not there yet. Most of my emails are spam or notifications I could care less about, and while I do check WordPress comments, it still takes me a couple days to reply to them. So really, what am I checking my phone for?

Earlier this year, I went two months without a phone. I actually thought my phone had died and I needed a new one– I just didn’t have the money to buy a new one at the time (I still don’t). Surprisingly, it turned back on one morning, but those two months disconnected from the digital world were liberating! Yes, I still had my computer, and I was able to connect with people that way, but a bulky, seven-pound laptop is not the same as a phone, and I’m not going to carry that around with me everywhere I go. Not having a phone gave me the freedom to look at the world and enjoy it. I wasn’t distracted, plugged in, or feeling hypersensitive because of that damn backlight!

When my phone came back to life, I slowly started to become dependent on it again, until it reestablished itself as my permanent crutch. The moment I realized my phone had to go was when I was hanging out with a guy from work (not on a date, but I know he’s interested in me), and all he could do was look at his phone, scroll through his friends’ Facebook posts, show me shit I couldn’t care less about, tell me crazy crap our government is doing (and try to convince me he’s not reading “fake news”). I was just really bored with him. You mean to tell me all the conversation we can have has to be initiated by your phone? No thanks! So I’m officially killing my phone again, and whatever relationship that could have been. Quite frankly, I was never looking to be anything more than just friends with him– now I’m even reconsidering that!

4. Organize. Organize. Organize.

I’m sick of talking about getting organized and never doing anything about it. To finish this year, I want to be proactive in my organization. This week I cleaned my room . . . again . . . but there are still some things I want to declutter, like my closet and dresser. I guarantee about 70% of the clothes I have I never wear. Time to fill up those donation bins (and get a tax credit too!). There are too many people in need in this world for me to be hoarding all this stuff!

There are actually three facets to my organization goal. The first is my room; the second is my blog. At the beginning of 2016, my blog got a total overall. I changed the layout, the background, the title. 2016 was the year I really wanted to establish my writer platform, and I think I did that successfully. But I let some older posts that don’t fit in the direction I want to take my blog stick around. Even today they still get views, and I am sick of seeing them in my site stats.

So, come January, all of those posts will be deleted! There really aren’t that many—maybe about 50 out of over 800. And I’m pretty sure the people reading them aren’t staying to read my newer stuff, so I don’t think the posts will be missed (and Google can stop directing random searchers to my blog!). I may see my site stats go down, but I think over time, this will be a good move, because then Lovely Curses will only have one focus: my writing.

The third facet is organizing my email. I have so many unread emails, and as I mentioned in my previous point, about 90% of them are notifications and subscriptions that I don’t read. And the important emails, that require a response, get lost in the sea of unread emails. While my email has automatically organized my inbox to help weed out some of the spam I get, I think I want to take it a step further. I could waste my time unsubscribing to everything, but Marquessa suggested something that sounds even better. Trash it all!

5. Look for available apartments.

While 2017 was unfortunately a year of complacency, 2018 will absolutely be a year of big change! There were three big changes I considered making last year that I never did: Quit my job, go back to school and get my masters, move out of my mom’s house. I’m so close to paying off my student loans, so I’m hesitant to go back to school. I think eventually I will go back to get my MFA, but until I decide on what I really want to do career-wise, I’m going to hold off on that.

However, one thing I can change now is my living arrangement. I’m almost 26, and according to the healthcare law (has it been repealed yet?), 26 is the age to finally sever your dependence on your parents. I think it’s time. I love my mom and my brother, but I’m sick of living with them. And if I ever want to truly feel like an adult, I’ve got to start doing adult things, that includes venturing out on my own. It’s one of the main reasons I want to clear out my room: make it easier to move. So for the next two weeks I’ll be making my list of apartment candidates, I’ll start looking at and applying for the ones I like in January, and hopefully by my birthday in March, I’ll be moving out!

6. Aggressively look for a new job.

I need a change. Period. While my current jobs does put food on the table, it’s not permanent, I don’t get benefits, I don’t get paid vacation or holiday, which SUCKS during Christmas, and there’s no path for career development.

Call me crazy, but I’m the type of person who actually wants to work in her passion—you know, the field of study I got a degree for. Time to stop settling for complacency and hit that pavement to find the job that’s gonna make me eager for Monday mornings again!

7. Chill the f*** out!

One last thing I have to do going into the New Year… CHILL THE F*** OUT! Yes, I’m hypersensitive. I’ve come to accept that. And when I start to think about life and the future and goals, etc., I feel a variety of emotions: anxiety, depression, excitement, sadness, anger. I really do need a playlist for all these feelings. Marquessa mentioned it in her post; I think I’ll do it. I’m actually a step ahead—my playlists are already created. I have an “Acoustic” playlist for when I’m “in my feelings”; I just need to update it. I have a “Gospel” playlist for when I need inspiration and when I need to be reminded that God is still in control. And I recently created a “Vibe” playlist for when I’m in a good mood and I just want to dance. And guess what. I’m feeling good today, so I think I’ll blast my “Vibe” playlist on the speakers!

And that’s my list. So sorry for the length of this post, guys! I didn’t intend for it to clock in at just under 2,000 words, but if you read it all the way to the end, I really hope this list inspired you like Marquessa’s list inspired me. Is there anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments! Oh, and by the way, good luck on finishing out this year strong! I wish you a happy, productive, and fulfilled 2018!

—Nortina