New Year, New Banner

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Credit: Brian Chin

Thanks to the talents of Madison Square Garden graphic designer and up-and-coming musician Brian Chin (who is also my good friend and former roommate), I now have a new banner for my website! He literally sent it to me yesterday, just in time for the beginning of 2017.

The new banner combines everything I love—the printed word, the handwritten word, sketches, and water color. If you look closely, you’ll see that Brian hand-drew the font and sketched not only books, but also a laptop, a spiral notebook, a coffee cup, and even a pencil. And that text in the background? Yeah it’s the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, one of my all-time favorite books.

You’ll also see a new image on the right side of this page that lets you sign up for my newsletter. As one of my goals in 2017, I’m going to start using MailChimp to update my subscribers whenever I have a new post on my site or any news to report (which means you’ll get an email maybe once a month, tops, since I’m pretty lazy). If you’re interested, please sign up for my mailing list by clicking that shiny new image! (Or just click here.)

And as is customary for a new year’s blog post, I suppose I should comment on 2016. I have a lot of friends who had the worst year of their lives. I have a lot of friends who had the best year of their lives. And I have a lot of friends who, despite their shock at what has become of the U.S. political scene, their sorrow over the loss of so many childhood heroes, and their horror at the many calamities happening around the world, still somehow managed to have a pretty good year both personally and professionally. This gives me hope that there’s always a spectrum, that a year can’t necessarily be summed up by one feeling or one event.

I was among those who had a pretty good year both personally and professionally. The biggest things, of course, involved getting back on the horse and saying “giddy up” to my writing productivity. I’m still working on sticking with good habits, but luckily I’m at the point where if I go for more than two weeks without doing any form of writing I start getting really uncomfortable and existential, and I start to berate myself. That’s healthy, right?

In summary, here is my 2016 year in review by the numbers:

  • 60 submissions to literary and mainstream magazines and contests, which resulted in:
  • 1 story told at a Moth StorySLAM
  • 9 books read (though since three were over 600 pages long, including George R.R. Martin’s A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords, total pages read = 3,240)
  • 3 years with my boyfriend David
    • 1 move to a new apartment together
      • 5 rooms / 20 walls painted
  • 1 brother engaged  🙂
  • 1 political party changed (I am now officially a registered Democrat)
  • 8 vacations / new travel destinations
    • Palo Alto, California
    • Asheville, North Carolina
    • Chicago, Illinois
    • Richmond, Virginia
    • Chicago again
    • Camping in Staatsburg, New York
    • Dublin, Ireland
    • Boston, Massachusetts
  • 1 Harry Potter-themed LARP attended
  • 150 work out sessions (roughly 3 per week)
  • Countless (decaf) coffees drank
  • Countless moments of meditation and gratitude
  • Countless dreams to work toward in the new year

Happy New Year everyone!

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TABula Rasa in the New Year

"Along Came Pocket."

Along Came Pocket

There comes a time in every person’s life when we experience something so great that we just need to shout about it from the rooftops. We want everyone we meet to know just how lucky we are. And we hope that one day they too will experience it.

That’s how I feel about Pocket.

Seriously though, with the new year upon us, I’ve decided to tell the world about an amazing app that I believe will help anyone who wants to clean up their internet tab situation and begin 2016 with a blank slate: a tabula rasa, you might say.

My Tab Problem

I’m a lifelong learner, a consumer of informative writing, interesting articles, well-crafted fiction, self-improvement pieces, personal essays, and ground-breaking journalism. However, the amount of reading material out there is overwhelming. The internet provides us with an amazing buffet of mostly free writing (whether I agree that it all should be free is a different story). It all sounds so good that I often don’t know where to start. So I open tabs in my browser. Lots of tabs.

I’ve been guilty of having at least 20 tabs open at a time on both my personal laptop and on my work computer (though I’m sure other people have hoarded more than that). I’m always coming across new articles, and my Facebook news feed is constantly flooded with enticing links. So I’d open more tabs. And because no one can possibly read all those articles in one sitting, I’d just leave them up and never turn off my computer. That system update that requires me to restart my computer? I’d been clicking “Remind me in 4 hours” for almost a year.

This vast array of tabs slowed my browser down so much that it was painful to navigate any webpage I was actually using. I’d also have a heart attack whenever my computer randomly shut down (my battery is terrible). Each time that happened, I’d lose everything I was “planning” to read over the next ten years!

Sometimes I tried emailing myself the articles. Sometimes I’d post them on my Facebook wall to read later. Sometimes I bookmarked them. It could have worked in theory, but I often forgot about them the next day, and came across new articles on Facebook. And opened more tabs. Sound familiar?

How Pocket Helped Me

Despite how it sounds, I love being organized. My tab addiction was also my biggest pet peeve. I just wanted a simple way to keep track of my growing reading list without breaking my computer. Then, along came Pocket.

I don’t remember how I came across it (hopefully not by opening yet another tab), but I took to the app instantly. I saved all my pending reading material in my Pocket account, and finally, finally, turned off my computer.

Pocket is an app that allows users to “read it later.” It can be integrated into all browsers and accessed from all devices at pretty much any time—even without the internet. When you access Pocket, the program shows you a running list of all of the articles you’ve saved to it, presented in a clean and organized way. It allows you to create tags as well. For example, my most useful tags are “writing advice,” “about blogging,” and “for Dave” (these are articles I plan to read with my boyfriend). It also lets you archive articles once you’re done reading them so they’re removed from your reading list, but not lost forever.

Here’s how I did it:

  • I downloaded Pocket for free.
  • I added the Pocket extension to my Chrome browser (it’s located at the top right of the browser, next to my Pinterest and Evernote extensions).
  • I also downloaded the Pocket app on my phone and synced my account.
  • Whenever I come across an article I want to read later, I click the Pocket extension button in my browser and it automatically saves the article to my list. Then I close out (yes, actually close out) of the article.
  • If I’m on my phone, I copy the article URL and then open up my Pocket app. It asks me right away if I want to save the copied URL to my list. Of course, I click yes.
  • Over the past few months, I’ve begun tackling my list, article by article. If I have a free moment on my commute, I open up Pocket and read. I’m trying to read about one article per day. When I’m done with one, I just archive it and move on to the next article in my list (though you can read them in any order).
  • At this point my list has grown to include over 100 articles to read. I haven’t been perfect about it, but at least those aren’t all open at once on my computer.
  • Pocket also has a “Recommended” section that suggests articles to read based on the articles saved to your list. Yay knowledge!

I also want to mention that Pocket didn’t ask me to endorse their product. I just love it and had to share it with you. Pocket has helped make my quest for knowledge much more manageable, organized, and convenient. As an aspiring writer myself, I hope that one day something I’ve written ends up saved in a few Pocket accounts. That would mean I’m really starting to make it.

Now, go get Pocket and start closing those tabs. Happy New Year!

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