Emails to a Young Writer

Illustration by Machado http://machado.portfoliobox.io/bloomylightstudio

Illustration by Machado

A while back, a former high school teacher of mine reached out and asked if a student of hers could send me some questions about being a writer. I felt like a hack since I haven’t really gotten too far in my writing career yet, but said yes anyway. I pretended to know a thing or two—and thought I’d share my answers publically in case there are any young writers out there who want some advice from a slightly less young writer. (more…)

I Made a GIF!

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(*Big thanks to Ryan Meitzler for the video editing.)

What’s Your Biggest Regret?

Photo Credit: aplus.com

Photo Credit: A Plus

I want to share the below video with you—a video I found extremely touching and motivating.

In New York City, A Plus asked people to write their biggest regret on a chalkboard. Some of the regrets written were the type that couldn’t be changed—regrets like not spending time with a family member before they died. However, if you watch the video, you’ll see that so many of the answers were things that each person could have the chance to pursue or change now. Regrets like “not getting my MBA,” “not saying I love you,” and “not following my artistic passions,” can be reversed if you have enough motivation.

There have been a couple of studies done on deathbed regrets, and it’s striking how many people regret things they had the power to change when they were younger. The very regrets that the presumably young and healthy people in the video wrote on the chalkboard are the same types of regrets that people at the end of their lives share.

So what does this mean?

Well, it could mean that it’s just human nature to feel that way—to feel like we haven’t done enough even when we’ve tried our best. And while that’s definitely true, I also think that contemplating our regrets periodically can show us what we really need to make time for in our hectic 21st century lives.

And that brings me to 2016. What better time to focus on reversing our regrets than the onset of a new year?

I’ll share my biggest regret thus far: I regret not taking the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester while I was in college. I may not be able to change that one entirely, but I am going to try and make damn sure my next regret won’t ever be “not pursuing my writing and creative dreams.”

What’s your biggest regret?

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!

Existentialism in Bookstores

Book and Hour Glass

I’ve hit a point in my life where I now have an existential crisis every time I walk into a bookstore.

Years ago, bookstores (and libraries) were places of solace for me. I couldn’t wait until I was older so I could go to a bookstore on my own and spend the day browsing and sitting cross-legged on the floor between the shelves, reading ten books at a time and daydreaming. Now I’m old enough to do just that, but it doesn’t go so well when I try it.

Now my adrenalin rushes when I walk into a bookstore. Just by glancing at the shelves, lined with thousands of book spines facing out at me, I’m reminded that there are too many books out there. I’m reminded that I don’t have the money to buy however many books I want because I want them all (besides the crappy ones). I’m reminded that even if I do have the money, I will quickly run out of places to put these books. I then start to think that I would be better off utilizing my Kindle, or checking a book out of the library for free instead, and that I’ve made a terrible mistake by walking through the bookstore’s doors. I’m reminded about all of the books I bought on a whim that are still sitting on my shelf unread. I’m reminded that I don’t have the time to read all of the (not crappy) books in the world, not only because my free time is limited, but because my lifetime as a human is limited. Death will prevent me from reading everything I want to read. There are too many darn books.

A few months ago, a couple of friends of mine and I exchanged thoughts on why we each want live forever. One said that he wants to live forever so he can become a sort of vigilante and save people. The other said she would use her immortality to have sex constantly. I said I would use mine to read every book in the world.

Thus, when I walk into a bookstore, knowing that I can never be immortal, I feel uneasy and start to question my life and the choices I’ve made along the way. I start to question why I want to read in the first place, or why I care that much about being a writer. Which then spirals into questioning how a writer can ever feel satisfied, or how humans can ever be happy in general—because the one thing  that once gave me so much pleasure (browsing through bookstores) now makes me feel overwhelmed, inadequate, and on a terrifying personal deadline.

Moments of existential angst, of course, can be prompted by anything—not just by visiting a bookstore. Bookstores just tend to be my trigger for the life-is-too-short feeling that (I think) is universal. Sometimes I wonder how we can even stand to contemplate existence and meaning without imploding. But even though I feel pressure to measure my life by how many books I read, I also hate rushing. Rushing makes the process less enjoyable.

Maybe of all types of people, readers have the right to slow down, because we live a new life with every book or story we finish. Maybe reading makes us exist more.

Have you ever had a life crisis in a bookstore? Am I alone in this?

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