“The Dangers of Reading Maps” : Finding Your Unpredictable Path Through Life

depth-of-field-direction-finger-34753 copy.jpgSo we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

            Hello again! After a long break, I’ve gotten back into the blogging business. All right, I am making this blog as a personal/inspirational blog and wish to share my journey through it. Today, I would like to discuss how life is never what you planned it to be even when it seems like a flawless plan.

            Recently, someone I know lost a 30-some year career with no compensation or remorse from the Universe. This was a great shock and made the world out to be so cruel. It proved that when you believe you have everything figured out, life can come and drag you down to uncertainty until you question what your journey and struggles have all been for. Where is the justice? Don’t you deserve reward for putting in your time? I believe there is a purpose to such nasty wake-up calls the Universe sends us occasionally to keep us on our toes, even if its a cruel lesson to teach us.

            The person I am talking about has a new chance to pursue something they like or something that makes them happy. Truthfully they were worn down by their job these recent years and wanted a way out. The Universe then answered. It was still a shock to hear they had lost the future they always believed was inevitably theirs. They sat there stunned after being wrenched away from the path they had planned to follow decades before.

            I cannot help but relate with the same uncertainty. When I was a college student, you expect that the world will take notice and give you a well-paying job because you “deserve it” for getting that degree. That cannot be further from the truth. The world doesn’t care about what I believed I deserved as much as it didn’t care about my friend losing their livelihood. Earn everything in life, do not rely on things being promised to you at the end of the very long path you follow, or it is possible you will be surprised when your world turns upside down and the future you were so sure was within your grasp is wrenched away by an unfeeling higher power.

            Life can be scary with such insecurity. I perceive life now as an endless trail we must follow with so many twists, turns, and bumps as you chart your path. Thick forests on either side of you, hiding you away from other people on their own journeys. You don’t witness every challenge or hurtle they overcome, you may glimpse their successes between the trees, but they must keep moving as should you.

            Some see life as stagnant. They park their car, fixate on the surrounding scenery, unable to glimpse the road that continues beyond the bushes.

            WE must forge on.

            I battle with this fear every day, wondering “what is there for me on the path ahead,” but I know stopping will guarantee I will not grow.

            Though this all may seem rather depressing, keep in mind that life can change in ways we can never predict. 

The Writer’s Post: Choosing Your Book’s Niche

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One of the most important parts of publishing a book is choosing where your book truly belongs.

Why should you decide on your genre? Well, if you are trying to convince someone to read your book, they would like to know what to expect out of it. Your readers don’t owe you their attention, so promising a certain type of story will get those people excited for your work.

There are many pros to choosing a genre. If you want to take your work to a literary agent or professional publisher, they will be more inclined to reading and using your writing if they know what genre it is classified under- unless you want your manuscript to end up in the dreaded slush pile. Genres set rules to help you form the book based on what your readership could expect and want from you. If you want to sell a lot of books, you must write what the readers want 98% of the time.

The cons of choosing a genre: Yes, it does have negative aspects. Genres can make your book limited in how your story can develop. To figure this one out, try looking for book series that is somewhat similar to yours, what are they categorized as? Another negative aspect when it comes to getting published by professional companies is that they will often require you to produce many books in the same genre so you have a brand with your name (or pen name). Authors sometimes have two pen names when writing for two different genres for this very reason. So, perhaps come up with a second name to write under.

My tips are:

1) Know Your Genre

If you don’t understand the limits of a genre or what readers would expect from a book within it, then I suggest you do a little studying. Read whatever you can get your hands on. I am not saying that you need to read every book known to man within the genre, but  read enough so that you feel comfortable in making something fans of that genre will like.

2) Decide Why You Want To Write

Are you motivated by the idea of making large amounts of money with your writing? I am not here to tell you this is the wrong motivation, because some people do it mostly for the money. In this area self help books are huge along with romances that cater to a specific group of readers and will sell decently. Scholarly books, such as text books, might require certain qualifications for people to recognize it as quality material, but the market is there for it as well.

Another goal for some writers is the fame. This is the goal I would strongly advise you to re-evaluate. Fame is not for everyone and it is REALLY hard to achieve with countless hours of hard work and  dedication under your belt (and you still might not even make it). Not everyone will want to read what you write. And if you are only focused on becoming famous, you aren’t paying enough attention to what really matters- you’re writing.

The third and last reason why someone would publish a book is because they enjoy it. This is the greatest reason a person can have to write their stories. You can write what you want and have a greater freedom, stressing less about what readers will want and focus on what you want. With this dream in mind, you don’t really care if it doesn’t sell well, just as long as you find that one person who would really love your story as much as you.

3) Don’t Falsely Advertise Your Book

It’s just not worth it. If you advertise a romance as an action adventure, the action adventure people will find it, read it, and hate it (more than likely). These readers will take to the internet and post lengthy “too much kissing”, one-star reviews. It is best to know your book’s true genre instead of angering the people you have done all this hard work for.

4) Learn Where and How to Effectively Market Your Book 

This is a no brainer. You will want to advertise your book where your target audience would see it. So more than likely a sci-fi thriller might not be appealing to advertise on websites aimed at lawn and garden enthusiasts. Learn marketing skills even if you have a publisher. It will make you seem like you really know what you are doing and  more capable to achieve greater sales for both you and the publisher.

 

So please make sure you are letting people know what they are getting into the moment they first encounter your book, whether it be at the local bookstore or while browsing the kindle store. The reader doesn’t owe you their attention. You must grab their attention by the hand and pull them in and keep them there by giving them an idea on what your story contains.

Keep Writing! Keep Reading! Keep Growing!

How To Stay Motivated (Part I)

How to Stay Motivated: Become a Goal Setter or a Problem Solver!

 

We all have the lack of motivation, and some people feel that life is an endless crunch of the good ol’ 9-5. Today, that is not true. Life is so much more and we can manifest it into being what we want it to be if we- key word here- focus!

 

Setting goals, or naming problems, can tell us where we want to improve our life. That can go for fitness to financial or career. But where do you start? How can you manifest such a destiny that has been a fragmented dream with no pathway? Start with your ultimate destination! Start from the top, imagine you as a successful Whatever-You-Are and recall all the smaller steps you took to get there. Crazy, right? Well look at it this way instead: all that talent you want to possess or the knowledge you want to gain, the ability to gain what you want is already within you.

 

Set your goals by category. Whatever career you want to have you will then plan for what jobs or education you need to gain experience for your goal. What are your financial goals? How much do you make now? How much do you want to make a month from now? A year? Five years? What are skills you want to learn? Do you want to learn about programming, crafts, or how to play an instrument? Set a small goal like learning to play one chord a day then another the next day, and soon you will play entire music without looking at the sheet. Projects are tackled in segments.

 

All these goals should build up to the lager time span goals. Update your smallest goals every day by setting times and dates you want them completed. Do not run yourself down by setting all the goals equal in priority. Focus on the one you want most right now whether it be to buy a new phone, get a new car, or to pay a bill. Work on them a little at a time. Chip away at that mountainous climb to the finish line.

 

The point of all this is to be easy on yourself. Don’t write the goals like you expect yourself to screw it up by saying “don’t sleep in anymore”, instead you should say “wake up before 8am”. Goals should be a challenge, though sometimes you should set easier goals when you are feeling like you need to slow down for after taking on the world like a champ. Achieving most of your goals, means you can make them more challenging to make your accomplishments more rewarding. Finding a goal too difficult to achieve in the time you’ve set, then give yourself a little more time (this is a common result for all goal setters). If you find you no longer want to follow your current goal, then pursue your current passion.

 

And always remember to enjoy each step of the journey!

The Writer’s Post: “Famous Author’s Writing Process,” (Part I)

beverage-blue-breakfast-414551Many of us try to mimic the authors who inspire us in style, story ideas, and characters. But do we know their entire process of creating the worlds and stories we love? Though I encourage you to find your own routine and process of creating your work, here are classic authors and their own methods in creating literature.

 

  • MARK TWAIN

Twain had a study on his farm, on in which no one could enter and had to blow a horn to summon him from his stupor for dinner. Using “brickbats” to weigh down papers, he opened his study up in summer or on windy days to cool off. He would write all day then read his writings of that day to his family to which he recieved their praise.

 

  • C.S. LEWIS

His routine was the most ideal form of writing routines we could hope for. He would have breakfast at 8am and was at his writing desk by 9. He would write until his lunch at 1. After a lunch, he would walk for 2 hours before returning to his desk to read and write until 7:00pm and getting to bed no later than 11. Sounds like an excellent way to spend the weekend!

 

  • JANE AUSTEN

Austen would write beside the light of a window on a small walnut table armed with ink and a pen. She woke every morning before her family to play piano before making breakfast for everyone. Talk about a productive morning! Austen would follow this up and write all day until dinner and read that day’s writing aloud to her family.

 

  • JAMES JOYCE

After waking up around 10am every morning, Joyce claimed laying on his stomach was beneficial to writing. He also used crayons to see his writing clearly and wore a white suit as a light source to reflect off the paper.

 

  • SCOTT FITZGERALD

The author of The Great Gatsby would rise late around 11am and spend the afternoon prepping for a writing session. This proves you need not be a morning person to achieve a stroke of genius.

 

These techniques are nothing to hold true to if they do not work for you.  Find your own writing schedule that fits into your daily routines, and I mean daily, and keep writing. Writers before us had their own writing methods of bringing about their work into this world while juggling their own personal life, faced with the same mountainous climb to recognition, so what is stopping you?

Keep writing!

The Writer’s Post: Deciding the POV of Your Story

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One of the most crucial things most writer’s over-look is the importance of who tells their story and how. Point of View (or POV) is the voice talking to your audience. Without an effective point of view your book will have just as much personality as a lamppost. For this you have 3 options: First Person, Second Person, and Third Person point of views.

When you begin to plan your point of view, keeping a few things in mind will help point you in the right direction.

Who has the most at stake? Readers want to hear the words of someone who will develop the most during the duration of the story.

Who can best help present the theme of your story? If your theme is death, you might not want to choose a character who doesn’t loose someone close to them.

Where is the most action? Don’t make your readers miss out on a great scene in the book. If your view point character is not invited to a party where the antagonist gets a serious butt-whooping, it will make your reader upset they didn’t get to see all the drama unfold.

Which character has the most entertaining outlook on life amongst the characters that cover all these? Who has the most unique voice or the most entertaining personality to you?  What are you are you going to keep to yourself? What POV will be most effective in doing this?

So, let’s break down these options and what they can do for your story and decide what you want to get across to your reader.

The First Person POV

This is a way to tell your story at an intimate level. Readers get to know your narrator like a friend and can hear their voice as they read because your character is telling them what went down. This has the potential to be entertaining and humorous in allowing your character be themselves and bond with the reader.

You must also decide if the narrator is Reliable or Unreliable. Is the narrator giving us a faithful retelling or do they twist things to tell us only what they want to? The possibilities to make your first person viewpoint character shine are numerous!

The Second Person POV

 If you want to take the road less traveled, pick this one- though it’s not recommended. This post is in second person after all with all my “you” s and “your” s. You’re the character and I am engaging you in the story I am telling about how important points of views are. You are at the center stage, and you are the main character. This viewpoint of self-reflection appears in literary works and short stories most of the time. An entire novel, rare as they are, can have the reader addressed the entire way through, but it is most often down paragraphs or chapters within longer fictional works.

The Third Person POV

There are so many ways on going about this point of view and it doesn’t leave you at a disadvantage when compared to the others.

Free Indirect Speech can present your character’s voice and opinions like you would in First person. Word choice will help develop their feelings and reason. It gives the reader the ability to see through your characters eyes and your world from a distance. Third Person Limited is the best to get your reader to hear and understand one character’s POV the entire story like the first person, minus the “I” and “me”.

Multiple Points of View is used in a few popular books today, think The Song of Ice and Fire series. This is a powerful tool in getting your reader to know your characters, but it is hard to do effectively. I have come across books where each character speaking sounds the same and different viewpoints have no purpose to further the plot. You must always pay attention to who’s speaking and the difference in character voices/tones in their sections. If you don’t know these nitty gritty details, then I recommend you not using it or your reader will become frustrated. It is also helpful to define who is speaking for the possibility that the reader forgets what a certain character’s narration sounds like and they end up in a tangled web of confusion they must unfurl for themselves. It is also helpful to keep the number of point of view characters to a minimum in one book. If we have ten characters were reading from, it can get confusing. Keep it simple. Your reader does not know your characters and it’s easy to make them feel like they’re in a crowded room with ten different people all shouting at once.

So, What Should You Do?

Do what you want! It is your book. You call the shots and you make the big decisions. If you ask yourself what will engage your readers and best tell your story without focusing on originality, then you will make the right choice more often than not. If you finish your manuscript and decide to change it after- that’s okay! Don’t be afraid to explore different options until one feels right. Not all first tries are successful.

Keep Writing. Keep Growing. You Got This!

The Writer’s Post: The Voices in Your Head

Ever roll your eyes when another writer says: “oh, I had to have that in the book because [name of their character] told me to”? Well, next time believe them.

I know, I know. You must think: ‘Cassandra? You are defending these people when they believe their imaginary friends are talking with them? They might even talk to them out loud!” Oh, the humanity! Really? Is this the worst thing these people could do?

Sit down before you continue reading.

Writers are talking to someone. They aren’t crazy and the characters aren’t fictional. The voice inside the writer’s head is themselves. As we go about our lives, we are influenced by the people and places within it. Writers are delving into a memory, emotion, or a person they knew in the past when they conjure up an idea of a character, it is not “from scratch”. We can never have an original thought, thoughts and ideas will always have their origin. So no, the people they make aren’t enterily fictional. How else can the characters evoke emotion from the readers if they do not come from another human’s heart and personality?

Ever felt a personal connection with a computer? Exactly.

Emotions are the building blocks a writer uses to understand what type personality and backstory a character will have. For example, a stern side of a writer’s personality can inform the creation of a paternal character. “Speaking” to this fragment of themselves is all part of the process in forming believable characters that readers, people who were never inside the writer’s head, connect with. It is through the writer’s humanity that makes it possible for readers to feel connected to their fabrications from real-life experience and exploration, while we can’t connect with the experiences of a hair brush. A high school character can connect the writer and reader through their own experiences during the dreaded teenage world of angst and emo bands.

In conclusion, writers do hear voices in their heads, voices from emotions that are very real. Writers follow that emotion to form a person, give them a goal readers can find reasonable- no they can’t be evil just to be evil. Without a true understanding between the audience and characters, the reader won’t care if they live or die.

Writers: The voice in your head, or as we like to say: “the character’s voice”, is your own emotions and experience with your own life story leading you in your writing. Sometimes you will deviate from what you originally planned and form your story into something almost unrecognizable (I have been through this many times). It is all part of being a human and having the emotional capacity to create worlds and stories. Go with your instincts, it is you advising yourself anyways under the guise of a character.

Keep striving, growing, and learning. And never EVER stop writing!pexels-photo-799420.jpeg

My Words on the Word “Defeat”

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Cassandra here! Now I know that this is the time of year we have our yearly goals and resolutions, which we have either stuck to or paused (the key word there is paused). When you think about it, we never stop whatever progress we make in our life, because we can always continue our goals later on. You want to go back to the gym after taking a month off, then do it. The voice in your head that’s calling you a failure is wrong. Shut that voice out right now. Saying you “failed” can kill the drive to keep going.

You can hold yourself responsible for not achieving a goal, but it becomes toxic if you use it as a weapon to beat yourself down. My advice is to embrace the times when you have a set back and to learn from it. Try to ask yourself why you stopped. Was it the fact that you believed naysayers? Did you not feel as inspired as you thought you would? Did medical reasons get in the way? Determine if it was wise to stop, and by wise I mean will it benefit in making you a happier and healthier you without putting yourself at too much risk.

I believe we all have our reasons for continuing or discontinuing our endeavours.  Trust yourself and tell yourself there was a reason, whether good or bad.   Change what you label it. If you label it a “failure”, then everything in life you do not achieve is a failure like: waking up late, forgetting to return a call, or spilled milk. If life was full of failures, then it is a wonder why we even bother getting out of bed in the morning. Failure, by definition, is the lack of success (aka defeat). Our goals are made to boost us up, so it is strange that we use such goals to tear ourselves down when we made them because we wanted to achieve something more. It seems like a cycle of a self-defeating mind-set.

Years ago, during my high school career, I attended college. In the evening, mom would pick me up from the bus then drive me to campus. While there, I was exposed to the classic authors like: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mary Shelly, and Jane Austin for the first time. I knew I wanted to write novels. While I didn’t understand all the literary significance, their worlds and characters captured me and I knew writing was something I wanted to do. In one of my first college classes I wrote research papers based on these books with the idea I could show off my gift in writing with the world. I mean, I had been writing stories from the moment I could hold a pencil. Whether it was through comics or written word, I was always telling stories. Boy was I wrong. Handed back poor grades, I was stunned and tried to fix my writing, but never seemed to grasp it on my own. One day I was called down to a professor’s office to discuss my paper, I was practically told that my writing was awful and that I might want to change majors. This was not what I had planned.

Now, I could have given up and went for a “safe” major like nursing or accounting. I could have decided anything for my future at that time. I left the building in tears, clutching my paper with red marks scarred all over it. It was my work, my voice, and it was not good enough. That was what I told myself. And that thought had almost ended my love for storytelling, a skill I had discovered as a pre-schooler while making characters through plastic dinosaurs. I thought I was just not talented enough to write, so might as well give up.

The inability to leave was my saving grace. The only thing keeping me in those classes was the fact that dropping out might cost my parents a large sum of money since my high school had already paid the tuition. So, I thought, if I fail might as well make it count. Studying college papers online, I taught myself how to construct an academic paper and how to best form an argument. Soon, I discovered that my previous pessimism was because of the initial negative feedback. I identified what was giving me this feeling. It wasn’t because I no longer wanted to write, but because I didn’t get the glorious praise I expected from the first few papers. The problem was that I was just inexperienced. My inexperience resulted in bad grades. So how could I fix it? I gained knowledge and experience on my own, turning the writing boat right around. The next semester, I got handed back C’s, then B’s, and then the most frequent A’s.

The moral of the story is that there will always be set backs. No lofty goal is achieved without many setbacks and nay-sayers. A life seen as being full of defeat will make you unable to see the next step after being told “no”. That is the great thing about goals. You achieve them after working hard, making them worth achieving with pride. If one route doesn’t work, try another. It is not failure. It is not a defeat. Keep studying, working, and growing and you WILL get there.

Stop Feeling Guilty For Pursuing What You Love! (My First Blog Post!)

Hello! And welcome to my very first blog post! I had been planning to make this post an introduction about me, but I currently feel that there is something much more crucial at hand to talk about.  I am writing this post from my own experience and struggle with depression. This depression, I think, is directly linked to the fact that I never let myself play or dream. I just put all of my energy and blood into work that does not feed my soul or mind. For my entire life, the things I love to do have always been placed on the back burner until I had some time set aside from work. This life-style depressed me. By the time I got the opportunity to work on what I was passionate about, I was too tired to put much effort into my drawings, creative writing, or whatever I wanted to do.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago: “What do YOU want to do, Cassandra?” Posed with this question, my programmed mind came up with a practical answer: find a job, get an  apartment, and start a normal life. But now I understand the question much more clearly and it is quite literally a question of: ‘What I want’.

I must work for money in order to pursue my interests, of course (at least for now), but that should never be the main focus. What is it that you want in life? What is a passion of yours? I have been crying so much these past six months because I made no time for that part of me, none. I would make myself feel horrible if I ever wrote one creative page for my novel instead of focusing on work.

While in my final semester of school, I drew a picture of one of my novel’s characters. I remember having such a hard time finishing it because of the guilt I had for not working on assignments. I actually stopped drawing the picture for a week, and the creative side of me wanted to get back to it. I remember negotiating with myself that I would finish the painting and leave off the rest of my creative projects until I graduated. The matter seemed settled, and I worked on the picture a little more. But the anxiety of not doing a project or studying for an exam came clawing back into my mind. Out of a pure panic, I summed up the drawing in a matter of 30 minutes. I stepped back and looked at it. The picture was not at all what I had wanted. It had so many careless mistakes because I wasn’t focused on what it needed while I thought of other things.

I feel like that picture reflects my life. It took myself 24 years to finally realize that I am only doing what others expect out of me. I am killing my own internal creativity and my own self. The anxiety and the depression I had for years was that part of me slowly being snuffed out but fighting to live. I had almost smothered it.

I think it is time to realize that we all need to express that part of us, to do what makes us truly feel like we are living. If your passion is sports then pursue it, even while working full-time; if you like racing, then nothing is stopping you from climbing that ladder; or if it is just surrounding yourself with business driven people, then find those circles (the internet is a great tool to find like-minded people). Do what you want to do more than anything in the world. I know, I know. It sounds cliché to say “no one is stopping you, but yourself”,  but it is kinda true. I have written this to warn you with my own experience and lesson in life. And if you do find yourself crying all the time like I have been recently, then know you aren’t the only one facing the anxiety the world puts on us.

You are not alone.

Please reach out to others and ask for them to just sit and listen to you. If there is no one in your personal life to find support from, then hop online and find groups that support those with depression and anxiety. I have found a few groups for myself and have found people who are going through the same kind of struggle and who are willing to offer their support with so much understanding.

Be gentle on yourself. If you need someone to talk to, some outlet to go to, then you must seek it out.

My closing message is this: Pursue your passion no matter what anyone says. If someone says you aren’t good enough and you’ll never make it, most times it is done out of jealousy. If you work really hard in what you love, then there should be nothing that is stopping you from making it to your goal.

Keep Learning. Keep Growing. And Always Strive For A Better You.