6 Reasons To Read Your Published Articles

During a conversation with my pitch partner Andrea from Be-Quoted a few months ago, we were discussing an article she’d successfully pitched when she revealed that she rarely reads her published pieces. As a result, I told her that I could build a case for my opinion that writers (new writers, in particular) should make a regular practice of reading their published articles. Now, while I will admit that I haven’t read every single one of my live articles, I still think writers can benefit from regularly reading the final, edited versions of their work.

Scrolling Twitter one evening, I came across some tweets from Julia Beverly, formerly of Ozone Magazine. She’s currently writing a book about the life of the late UGK rapper Pimp-C and has been discussing the process online.

As enthusiastic as she seems about her upcoming project, in the same breath Beverly candidly admitted that she more than likely would not be reading this book upon its completion. Merely revising articles can sometimes feel like a mild form of mental torture, so I can’t say I necessarily blame her for already planning to pass on reading her own book before she’s even written the last word.

The reality is Beverly is a certified OG in the writing/publishing industry, so she can totally afford to give her published work the cold shoulder. But for less established writers, I feel there are good reasons to read those published articles:

It allows you to learn from your mistakes.

Based on the changes I’ve seen from my editors, I’ve been able to identify problem areas and even managed to make some improvement without having my weaknesses explicitly highlighted.

Once, I received a group email from editors who advised the writers on the correct way of citing images. I realized I hadn’t been doing it the right way, but that could’ve been avoided if I took the time to at least skim over some of my previously published pieces, or better yet, pay more attention to my style guide! In that situation, I got two lessons in one.

Learn your editors’ style.

Not all editors are created equal. That means that depending on who you write for, there may be little to no difference between the piece you submitted and the published article. Other times, the final article may not resemble anything in your original piece. It’s a delicate balance because you don’t want to lose your voice while trying to do the piece justice, but unless it’s your blog, an op-ed or a pub that  has extremely lax guidelines, the publication’s voice and style ultimately trump yours.

This is why I think it’s best to try and pay attention to the editors’ changes to see what you can pick up on.  That may mean writing “stuff” when you really want to write “shit,” or leaving out something you think is hilarious and clever (more on that later).
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Becoming a Better Writer in 2015

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This year I’ve made leaps and bounds when it comes to writing, but I still have many miles to go before I arrive at what I’ll call my optimum writer status. Truth be told, I have no interest in being the perfect scribe (whatever that may be), but I definitely have some room for improvement.

Here’s how I plan to be a better writer in 2015:

SUPPORT OTHER WRITERS MORE

I get so caught up in the stresses of creating that a lot of times when I’m done filing articles, I haphazardly tweet the links and log the hell off my computer. In those moments, I don’t want to read another headline, blog post, or article because I’ve been fully immersed in them for hours at a time and my eyes and brain just can’t take anymore. But beginning now and throughout 2015, I plan to devote more time to reading, sharing and commenting on other writers’ work, especially those who are just starting out, or those whose work I truly admire.

ENGAGE MORE ON SOCIAL MEDIA

Someone one posed the question, “What does your social media presence say about you?” I’ll be the first to admit that mine isn’t very reflective of who I am.  In reality, I thrive in social settings and am at my best when I have some food, drink and good company. However, I’m old school and social media is just so…OPEN. I can’t properly convey what I’m feeling, but I haven’t gotten comfortable with putting my fleeting, uncensored thoughts and beliefs out there for the masses to consume and share. Whenever I do, it’s followed by so much self-scrutiny and anxiety that sometimes I’m tempted to delete my account altogether. Anyway, it sounds insane but it’s the truth.  But the fact is,  I need to be more engaging online. While it’s still awkward for me, it feels much better to actually interact with people instead of simply seeing their tweets float by on your timeline daily without having a clue what they’re about outside of some random tweets or blog links.  I joined to put myself out there (plus, there are work requirements), but I realize I’m doing myself and other writers who look for support a major disservice by being a hermit online.
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The 8 Most Common Excuses I Use Not to Blog

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Well, this is embarrassing—and that statement has absolutely nothing to do with Firefox failing to load all my tabs. I hate that it’s come to this, but if I have to put myself on front street just to get shit done, then so be it. Within the past hour, I’ve created two drafts (three if you count this post) in which I began a blog but didn’t see either of them through to completion.

This process of creating a bunch of possible blog posts and then leaving them to rot in draft hell isn’t a new pattern for me. It’s a bad habit I formed and haven’t quite been able to shake. The reasoning behind this pesky tendency can’t be narrowed down into one word, but I figure if I just write it down in a list, perhaps it can help me avoid my addiction to creating drafts and encourage me to write, edit and hit publish already!  Furthermore, I hope it’ll encourage any other bloggers who, like myself, can come up with 99 reasons why they shouldn’t post a blog.

So here it is, in all its unfiltered, shameless glory. The 8 most common excuses I use not to blog:

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4 Reasons My Thanksgiving Was Non-Traditional

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Usually I tend to develop some major anxiety and irritability (read: flip the f*ck out) if my husband and I don’t partake in at least one traditional Thanksgiving activity.  I don’t know why but I just have this thing about formally acknowledging a holiday, which used to pose a problem because my better half isn’t big on celebrating. When we first started dating,  he once called me on Thanksgiving from a Jack in the Box drive-thru. In my opinion, consuming fast food on a holiday is a complete travesty, but he saw nothing wrong with it.

Fortunately,  since then we’ve created a few of our own traditions, but what I most look forward to is him frying a turkey the evening before Thanksgiving. The entire house smells like Cajun spices and it helps to get me in the holiday spirit.

This year’s Thanksgiving was really non-traditional, at least compared to the stereotypical holiday gatherings of tons of rowdy friends and family, excessive amounts of food and cool, gloomy weather. Who knows what kept my meltdown at bay—perhaps it was the aroma of fried turkey or the near-70 degree sunny weather.

Either way, here’s what made my Thanksgiving surprisingly non-traditional:

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Bypass the Burn: 7 Ways to Avoid Burnout

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Ever find yourself barely limping along with what feels like an infinite to-do list stretched out in front of you? Sometimes the end appears like a mirage in the desert, wavering in the distance. You’re approaching something alright, but unfortunately it’s not the finish line. It’s burnout, which is oftentimes unrecognizable by those whom it afflicts until it arrives in the form of depression, loss of motivation, insomnia, alcohol or substance abuse and a host of additional health-related consequences. If you feel like you’re literally teetering on the brink of sanity, a bout with burnout may be in your near future.

Here are 7 ways to avoid burnout:

Morning rituals: Instead of doing the equivalent of jump-starting your brain by rolling over and checking your email or Twitter feed, consider easing into your day with a morning ritual like meditation or sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, or partake in one of these activities that make mornings less sucky.

Take a break: This might sound obvious, but according to a recent Forbes article that states only 25 percent of Americans take their paid vacation, routinely taking breaks is apparently something a large portion of the population struggles to implement into their lives. In a society that’s all #TeamNoSleep #Grindin’ and other ridiculous hashtag lifestyles that promote excessive work over one’s well-being, it’s easy to fall into that trap of constant work. It’s OK to be motivated to reach a goal, but allowing your mind and body to take a break is less of a hindrance to success than having that body and mind break down in the process. Whether you seek respite from the daily grind by taking a weeklong Caribbean cruise or a brisk 15-minute walk around the block, regularly scheduled breaks are essential to avoiding burnout.

Establish and enforce boundaries: Typically, people who are prone to burnout have an issue with setting limits. Before they realize it they’ve committed themselves to 30 hours of work in one day, which obviously spells disaster. To this I say, exploit the power of saying no. Say no to squeezing in that extra assignment, helping a friend on your only off day or just stretching yourself too thin in general. Prioritize by using a list of wants versus needs and talk it over with someone you trust to make sure you stay on track.

 

Read this rest of this article over at ClutchMagOnline.

Image: Dskley/Flickr

Fighting Through [Random Writing Rant]

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Me right now. Except I’m a brown-haired black chick who hates pink and was too lazy to look for another photo.

Right now I’m supposed to be writing a couple of articles, but all day long I’ve done everything but the tasks at hand and now it’s nearing midnight and I’m not any closer to finishing than I was this morning.  To my credit, I woke up early with the intention of researching, outlining, writing and then submitting the articles, but something happened along the way. What was it? NOTHING. Absolutely nothing.

Today I’ve helped a friend edit a pitch, shopped for groceries, skimmed Twitter, watched TV, wasted hours on YouTube and that’s about it. Nothing really productive…and I didn’t even exercise (I’ve been on a roll with that lately, but that’s another story).

So now it’s 20 minutes until midnight, I’ve got to complete these two articles before sunrise and I have a specific shift I work tomorrow for a different publication.  I write all this not with a point in mind, but just to show that even when you have work and you are doing something you “love” and “have a passion for,” the struggle is still incredibly real. This shit isn’t easy and it’s certainly not glamorous. And we won’t even go into the insanely low amount of money I stand to earn after all of this mental grief.

Oh yeah, I forgot to say what I’ve done to try and thwart the intense procrastination that’s settled inside of me.  I started by opening a bazillion tabs related to the subject of my article.  That led me to YouTube because I thought music would set me at ease.  That led me to watching interviews of music artists and basically down a black Internet hole.  So then I thought, wow it’s a beautiful day and for some reason mid-afternoon hours between 2 and 4 pm are my absolute favorite and I feel like I must venture outside. More accurately, it kills me if I’m not outside.  This is what led me to the impromptu grocery store trip. I thought getting outside would help me. I’ve spent a lot of time holed up in the house lately, working pretty much every day. But getting out only worsened this procrastination.
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All Family Isn’t Good Family

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For Memorial Day, I went out of town to visit my family and returned home feeling frustrated. Being around relatives can do that to you sometimes, but this time was different.

A while back, I came to the conclusion that some of my family members suck. But I just continued to deal with them in small doses and figured that the unaddressed tension between us could be managed because I live far away and our interactions are generally limited to holidays, weddings and funerals.

But as it turns out, those interactions proved to be too much this weekend. So I’ve decided that certain individuals who share my lineage are a complete waste of my time and effort and I’m done being related to them.  Yes, just like that, I decided. And so it is.

People say, “Family is forever,” and “blood is thicker than water,”  but it also takes two to tango, so if they don’t value our relationship, then why should I? For far too long, I’ve held on to this idealistic vision that one day they would recognize how fortunate they are to have extended family. Oh what a joy it would be if they actually cared enough to ask how I’m doing and wait on a response before moving on to another subject. And it would be really cool if they were interested in building a bond with me that goes farther than me traveling to visit them a few times a year. Maybe we could actually be friends, share experiences and have a reciprocal relationship filled with compassion, concern and respect. Continue reading

5 Things That Ruin Friendships

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If a friendship is authentic and strong enough, it can endure obstacles of all kinds, including cross-country moves, busy schedules and more. But even the strongest bond needs boundaries that match in solidarity. Without an unwavering line drawn in the sand that defines what goes and what doesn’t, these 5 situations can be like dropping an atomic bomb on a friendship:

Weddings.

This weekend I pressed play on Bridezillas on Netflix in an effort to take my mind off the hour-long workout I’d finally gotten around to doing. The brides on that show obviously go overboard for the entertainment’s sake, but anyone who’s had a wedding or participated in someone else’s ceremony knows that wedding planning has the unparalleled ability to divide and conquer the most stealthy of friendships. Whether you sucked as a bridesmaid, or had a member of your wedding party show up wearing the wrong shoes, wedding drama can turn friends into enemies. I, unfortunately, found out the hard way. One of my oldest friends and I experienced a parting of the ways shortly after she began planning her wedding.

The abbreviated version involves a ridiculous list of maid of honor duties, a four-month absence in which I heard not a single word from her only to later be accused of being a bad best friend, which was basically a myth perpetuated by a mysterious group of strangers who apparently expected more from me. *rolls eyes*

In the end, my allergy to bullshit and unnecessary grandstanding forced me to limit my participation in the wedding to purchasing a gift and attending.  We tried (one of us more than the other) but our friendship never did recover from the wedding drama. Continue reading

My First #AskAwayFriday with Mrs. Tee of LoveLifeLaughter

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OK, so I promise myself and the world that now that I’m freelancing full-time, I will dedicate as much time to my blog as I do to the rough and tumble world of pitching and networking and finding people who wanna pay me to write and edit stuff. So with that, here’s my attempt to dedicate myself (again) to routine posts.

#AskAwayFriday! I met Mrs. Tee of  LoveLifeLaughter through a #SITSSharefest on Twitter and I thought participating in this exchange with an established blogger could help me familiarize myself with how things go in this here blogging world. I’m trying to get my feet wet and put myself out there in a way I’ve been afraid to do so far. But bloggers like Mrs. Tee give me hope and encouragement! She’s an AWESOME blogger who’s found great success in a short period of time. Reading through her blog, I learned about her family, her interests and that we have a lot in common! Her dedication to blogging despite a HUGE (and lovely) family shows me that it’s possible to do something you love and be really good at it if you stay disciplined and dedicated!

 

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She asked me some off-the-cuff questions that had me LOL’ing, which I tend to do a lot. Check them out, along with my responses below:

 1. What is your favorite hot day lunch? Sandwich, Salad or Smoothie?

Um, when I say I’m a HUGE eater…none of these would cut it for me LOL! But if I had to choose, I’d go with a sandwich.

2. Are you sarcastic or straight forward?

I’m sarcastic, but not in a jerky kinda way. I can be straight forward depending on my mood and the subject. I really loathe when I ask someone a question and they beat around the bush. In that situation, yes I’m straightforward. And I frequently sprinkle my writing with sarcasm.

3. Has either you sarcasm or bluntness ever gotten you in trouble?

In person, it has been known to piss off my husband, but that’s mostly when he doesn’t get it, which unfortunately happened when we first met. Now, I know better. I try to get to know the person before unleashing my sarcasm.  I’m wondering what you read on my site that makes you ask me this…LOL.

4. Shoes tied or untied when you take them off?

OMG, I used to be so concerned about this! But I don’t have time, so I kick ‘em off without even thinking…Come to think of, where are my shoes…

5. How many keychains do you have?

I have a few that I collected from traveling,  but I don’t really use them. I had a friend in high school whose keychain was so ridiculous and loud and that changed my entire outlook on keychains haha…

6. On a hot day do you still drink hot (coffee or tea) or only cold (shakes water iced tea/coffee)?

Well, I will but if you’ve experienced any form of Texas heat (which can strike at a moment’s notice, even if it snowed yesterday), you will run for the first cold beverage. So typically I gulp down anything that’s cold and stay away from stuff that makes me sweat even more than the sweltering heat and humidity.

7. Do you prefer poolside or sitting in the sand?

Without a doubt, the SAND!!! I was just on the beach in the Dominican Republic a few weeks ago. Ahhh, how I miss the sound of the ocean waves…I’m convinced that in a former life,  I was a beach bum. I’m trying to get back there, but the whole bum thing isn’t working out that well for me…I got bills, ya know.

 

On the beach in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

On the beach in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

8. What did you eat so far today?

Uhhh, *hides face* See, what had happened was…Let’s just say it wasn’t healthy lol.

9.  What’s is the last song you heard?

I’m not ashamed (well, just a little bit) to say it was New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love.” I had a lot of writing to do today, and for some reason old R & B sparks my creativity.

10.  I am in love with your story of finding your ‘niche’. What advice would you give to someone else searching for their place?

Whew, I feel like a hypocrite answering this because I still don’t feel like I know my place. I’m still trying to find my way. So far, that’s involved trusting my gut, which is a bit of a struggle for me. But yeah, that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it. Do what feels right for you. Do what you would do if no one else was watching.

 

 

 

A Quote To Live By

 

imperfect blogging day 11Day 11 of the Imperfect Blogging Challenge highlights the importance of quotes. My favorite is:

“You cannot conquer what you don’t confront; you cannot confront what you don’t identify.”

This quote infiltrates my thoughts and actions each and every day. For me, it represents a simple, three-part equation that leads to personal growth. To fully explain what it means to me, allow me to break it down into two parts.

“You cannot conquer what you don’t confront.”

I think about this when I find myself constantly complaining about the same issue or when someone vents to me about something that’s been nagging them forever. Talking through it, around it, and about it is like covering a bullet wound with a band-aid. Much like the bullet, the problem won’t vacate the premises until its located and removed with surgical precision. If not, it is guaranteed to do potentially irreparable damage to whatever surrounds it, be it friends, family, jobs or health. Focusing on the first half of the quote drives home the importance of nipping a problem in the bud before it snowballs out of control.  I’ve been duking it out with some pretty durable self-doubt lately and simply writing about this quote is shedding a little light on how I’ve been breathing life into my ongoing dilemma.

“You cannot confront what you don’t identify.”

How can you resolve an issue if you don’t know what it is? Oftentimes, I annoy myself to no end with over-analyzing, but in the case of identifying the source of an issue, this trait serves me well. It encourages me to dig beneath the surface for more clues. Sometimes this comes in the form of writing down my problem then reading back what I wrote. And as weird as this may sound, lately I’ve begun keeping video diaries. They’re definitely for my eyes only and the probability of them winding up as a YouTube soliloquy is absolutely zero. So while I may cringe at how the camera magnifies that huge zit or how badly my hair needs a trim, watching these videos of myself also increases my self-awareness and sometimes what I thought was a monumental, irreversible issue really isn’t. Continue reading