Stopping Something Old to Start Something New

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Sometimes you don’t know when the last time will be the last time, but as I was slogging through a group project for my Literacy for Emergent Learners class, inundated with texts and emails from group members, I realized that I needed to shift my focus.

When I saw the Writer’s Digest poetry prompt today, where I had to use 3 of 6 words in a list (one of my least favorite prompts, btw), I realized, after three years of participation, that it was time to retire “Writer’s Digest Wednesdays.”  November Poem-a-Day challenge will be coming soon; even though I feel I’ve mastered it, my focus needs to be on finishing school and building my (paying) writing career.  

I’ve always said that serious bloggers should blog at least twice a week, so #Micropoetry Mondays and #Fiction Fridays will be a mainstay, as those posts I can schedule in advance.  My work-school-life schedule has gotten too intense, and I’m ready for the shift to less timely writing projects. 

The time I’ve spent on my Wednesday blog installments has been well-spent—it’s instilled in me the power to meet 24-hour deadlines (which are a must in the incredibly shrinking newsroom), it’s helped me write a ton of poetry I wouldn’t have written otherwise, and it’s helped me cross over the 1000-post threshold—but I’m looking forward to working on longer form projects.  

I can finally work on editing my novel (for about the eighth time).

I will still post my short Instagram poems on weekends and writing tips on my Facebook page, but it’s time to do more “behind-the-scenes” writing on a regular basis.  I’ve already proven to myself that I can write something everyday; now, I want to work on projects that will take at least a week—projects I will actually take the time to edit.

I also want to learn how to illustrate my own work.

I enrolled in University, thinking I would be writing for the student newspaper regularly until I graduated, but I’m shifting focus to freelancing gigs.  I might still contribute an article if I happen to be attending an event that interests me, but creative writing will always be my first love (I don’t have to worry about transcribing audio or having to deal with flaky people whose information or interview I need to write my article).

I realize I’ve spent a lot of time writing for sure things—my blog, the college newspaper, etc.—instant gratification pieces. 

Now, it’s time to get serious and start writing those query letters.   

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Me, in one of my many offices, after a particularly trying day.

The Grammar Girl Returns

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Today is the day I start my Baccalaureate program as a Creative Writing major.  I was fortunate to be able to take two months off from work to read, write, and spend time with my family; I even got to catch up with friends.  I got back into the habit of strength training (as weightlifting doesn’t sound very feminine) and took up water aerobics; I’ve also focused on updating all my online presences (including my portfolio), professionalizing them for potential employers as well as uploading my resumes to all the usual suspects (e.g. Indeed, Glassdoor, etc.).  The university I am attending also provided invaluable feedback on my resume and cover letters.  

After refreshing my Upwork account, I was hired as an independent contractor to proofread documents submitted by Grammarly clients.  Even though I work from home, the job has a very Silicon Valley startup feel, which I love.  I am learning so much already; it’s a great gig.  Though there is nothing quite like being able to set your own hours, walk into the next room to go to work, and never answer a telephone, I will always be the type of person who has to have an outside job where I communicate face-to-face.  I’m a people person who also happens to be an introvert.

In addition to my jobs as an office assistant at uni and as a professional writing tutor, my plate will be full, but it will be full of things I enjoy, and that makes all the difference.  

Writerly and Grammarly,
Sarah Richards, Class of 2022

She’d graduated a Titan
before The New Millennium,
watching her training grounds
as a gladiator
in the public school arena
disappear.
Loosely prepared
to become a Pirate,
she laid down
her educational armor,
only to pick it up again
with eyes wide open,
diving head first
into the land of magnolias,
with their spinach green leaves
& mascarpone white petals.
Now, well-prepared
to become an Argonaut,
her armor fortified
with precious mettle,
she dove once more,
under graying canopies
of Spanish moss.
As a Titan,
she had brought home
the bronze medallion;
as a Pirate,
the silver chest;
but as an Argonaut,
she would put upon herself
the Golden Fleece
& battle with her wits
that had no end.

Beyond Paper & Pixels: The Theory of Relatability

His favored correspondence was texting–
with its acronyms & abbreviations;
hers was lengthy letters
written in cursive.
Both were considered a form of code
neither could understand–
his without her 9-year old niece
& hers,
without his 75-year-old great-aunt.
When they met & talked to each other in person,
as all human beings should,
he couldn’t speak in shortcuts
any more than she could in cursive,
& they finally understood one another.

Rebel of a Lost Cause

When Lily Bedletter ran for political office,
her private life was made public—
her divorce,
her bankruptcy,
her emotionally-Facebook posts—
even the two black eyes
she’d given Susan So-and-So
way back in third grade.
The voters made their judgements—
not by casting stones at her,
but by casting ballots against her,
for they knew so much less
about her opponent,
and the less they knew,
the less they could dislike.

Sweet Little Nothings

Like someone in person

He’d been a friend of a friend,
till she wasn’t friends with that friend anymore.
She’d liked what he’d collectively share
with 149 other friends,
family,
& acquaintances.
When she finally met him,
keeping her identity secret,
she shared all that he couldn’t touch
through a screen.
“You remind me of someone,” he’d said,
& she knew then
what he would’ve never told her
anywhere else,
for with the 1 sense he knew & liked,
she had put a face with the other 4 he loved.

Broken Connections

She kept him alive for the world,
breathing through machines.
Through his cell phone she did this,
texting his friends and family
in that language of his she knew so well,
posting on his Facebook account,
Photoshopping and age-progressing his pictures,
crafting the narrative of the life he’d wanted to continue living,
so that people continued to wish him a “Happy Birthday,”
long after he’d had his last.

For Writers: Time Wasted vs. Time Invested

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Finding the time to write requires figuring out, over time, what is a good investment of your time and what is not.  Here is what I have found:

  1. Trying to write for a publication or contest because it either pays well or the entry is free when you have no interest in the topic, theme, or publication itself, will take more time than writing two pieces you are passionate about for a publication you read.  For example, there was a national women’s magazine on which the short story topic was, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?”  When I saw the previous years’ winning entries–serving in Afghanistan and other equally courageous things–I thought, well, I got my wisdom teeth pulled without being put under.  Pass.
  2. Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, “businessy” articles/listicles as passionless as cooking without love, implementing lingo like analytics, logistics, and statistics (okay, sometimes stats can be sexy),  I don’t write articles for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll post it on LinkedIn Pulse.  Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article, and then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest.
  3. Keep virtual clutter to a minimum.  Delete bookmarks you will never use, e-mails you will never read again, etc.
  4. Don’t have more than one account on any social networking site.  I tried to have both an author Twitter account and a fictional character Twitter account.  A lot of time was spent signing in and out, and sometimes, I’d get the two crossed.  I had the character account for a year-and-a-half, and have been repurposing the tweets for my Fiction Fridays series, just as the micropoetry I used to write for Twitter daily ended up becoming my Micropoetry Monday series, so you could say my stint on Twitter helped me become a regular blogger (versus a sporadic one).
  5. Keep track of what you write.  I have a master list of pieces I’ve written (with keywords for easy look-up), and where I have submitted each.  I’ve written so much poetry, I’ve had to divide it up into “anthologies.”  (Submittable is good for keeping track, but not every publication uses it.)
  6. Plan for writing contests a year in advance.  That way you never miss a deadline and you’re always submitting quality work.
  7. Have a submission schedule for the publications you write for on a regular basis. You don’t want to overload a publication with submissions, because they might think you’re just using the “kitchen-sink theory” (throwing everything at them and seeing what they’ll take).  For example, the fifteenth of every month, I submit a poem to a certain publication I adore–one I’ve been published in before.
  8. Twitter is a colossal waste of time, though I still have all my blog posts auto-post, adding the hashtags separately.  There are too many expectations of reciprocity–you need true fans, not just those who follow to get a follow back.  You need readers who aren’t also writers.
  9. Be selective with what television programs you watch.  I only watch a couple a week, and maybe a couple of movies.  Every once in awhile, I’ll binge-watch a television show, but time watching TV is time not writing.  Don’t watch something because you’re bored; write something, for writing is doing.
  10. Read.  You need to read everyday (not just blog posts, even like this one), but the kind of slow reading that draws you in).  I’ve gotten into reading pieces on The Saturday Evening Post’s website.  I’m enjoying what I’m reading, and at the same time, getting a better idea of what they go for.

Hiding Places

For some,
it is their mother’s basement
with the glare of the TV giving their face
that 3 a.m. glow.
For others,
it is the local coffee shop,
amongst those too wrapped up in their own lives
to pay any attention to the pajama-clad man
behind the monitor.

They hide behind the faces of others,
of dogs and old, unrecognizable photos,
or shots taken from so far away,
we cannot close the distance and
see their every flaw.

We know not their face,
their voice,
what makes them tick tock
like a clock bomb.
They reveal little parts,
like trailers to a movie—
a smash-cut of a life well-lived,
well-played.

Under the cover of anonymity,
they hide behind an alias or several,
cropping their lives like their photos,
creating the life they want to live
through status updates,
and doctored pictures,
as if the images were sick.

They can be as hateful as they want,
without repercussions.
Then they must, as we all do,
go out into the world
as a fully-functioning human being,
the face-to-face encounters
softening their inner core
of coarseness.

What one reveals in their unguarded moments—
the bright screen stripped away like the Wizard’s curtain,
the keyboard stuck so that all is gibberish—
is the essence of who they are;
if the online presence and the actual one
juxtapose,
then their identity is lost amongst the virtual rubble.

Windows

From the windows of my soul,
I watch the world go by—
my eyelids like shutters
that close during a storm,
blocking out all the unpleasantness.

I check out at the supermarket,
the cashier sneaking glances at her cell
as if it’s a secret lover,
while the bagboy tries to decipher the clock—
the kind with hands that move
rather than numbers that blink.

I hand the check to the cashier
who squints at my neat script
as if it’s scrawl on a prescription,
and I leave the store,
having not uttered a word.

It was at Granddad’s funeral
that an old acquaintance showed up,
and stood right by me.
His name was engraved on my brain,
embedded in the wrinkles of my cerebrum—
a labyrinth of memories and knowledge.

When they came looking for me.
it was as if I was invisible,
as if I was less than glass.
It was as if I had never even been there.
Forty-three people,
mourning my friend,
and I, in black against the snow,
was like a lump of coal.

Though I tread with a slow gait,
through this valley of flickering screens,
it is like I am on fast forward,
for I am but a blur who disappears.
My presence is felt the same
as my absence.

I create my first account to stay relevant.
I search for a friend,
I articulate a thought,
the keys tapping like shoes on the sidewalks
of the information superhighway.
I am heard by someone far away,
but I know if I was there,
I would disappear again
because whatever is going on elsewhere,
is always more exciting than what is going on here,
no matter where here is.

I saw you the other day.
I had friended you,
and you looked right through me.
It was the first time we had met,
and when I unfriended you,
it was as if it had all never happened.