Tag Archives: writing

BEDA 2016

What I Learned From Blogging Every Day in April | BEDA Day 30

30 days, 30 posts. I actually freakin’ did it.

I started this project out as a way to get myself writing again, knowing full well that I would probably quit halfway through, as I have with almost every challenge I’ve started over the last few years. I thought that even if I made it halfway through, 15 posts in as many days is still quite a feat. 6,000+ words in two weeks is nothing to shake a stick at, unless you’re doing NaNoWriMo.

And yet, even on the days where I felt zapped of all creative energy, I wrote. I knew a 100 word post about my weekend was better than no post at all. I got the words down on the virtual page and sent those words out into the world. Sometimes I got 2 hits a day, sometimes I got hundreds. The traffic didn’t really matter to me. As long as I could cross “write a post” off my to-do list for the day, I was happy.

So what have I learned over the past 30 days? A few things, actually.

I can always find something to say.

I’ve always struggled with self-confidence (who hasn’t?), especially when it comes to meeting new people. I tend to hang back in conversations or not introduce myself to people, thinking I have nothing interesting to say. If anything, this project has shown me that I can always find something to add to the conversation. My thoughts are valuable and worth sharing. Even if I have some trouble translating what’s in my brain into conversational English, I’ll eventually figure it out. This is all easier said than done, but I’m working on it. It all takes practice, and I think BEDA was a great exercise.

I don’t always have to fit into a niche.

Everything I’ve read about “the business of blogging” encourages writers to stick to a genre of content and not stray too much, lest they lose precious eyeballs. That definitely works if you want to build your blog into something huge, but when it comes down to it, I’m writing for me. It’s easy for me to stick to travel content when I’m only posting a few times a month, but that gets a bit mundane when I have to post something every day. And when it comes down to it, I’m not a travel expert. I’ve traveled a lot, and it’s one of my favorite things to do, but I still don’t really know how to pack a carry-on. I’m allowed to write about the gender wage gap or tiny houses if I want. When it comes to this site, I’m my own boss. And that’s incredibly freeing.

I need structure.

Generally speaking, my writing output has gone way downhill since I graduated from college. When I was in school, I had deadlines every week and professors to hold me accountable for them. Now, when I want to write a new script, I have no one to answer to but myself. Being your own boss can be great, but I’m a pretty lax manager when it comes to deadlines. With this project, I knew I had to get something out every day, and if I didn’t, my inability to follow through would live on the internet forever. When I go back and watch videos from my failed VEDA attempts, I get pretty embarrassed. I didn’t want to feel that way again. Maybe letting my inner critic drive this project wasn’t the healthiest move, but it helped me get it done. For once I wanted to whole-ass something and throw myself into a creative project as much as I could with a full-time job. And that’s exactly what I did.

As for the future of this blog, I don’t really know what’s in store. I’m going to keep posting at least twice a month, but right now I want to focus on other writing projects. I dusted off an abandoned pilot script a few weeks ago and would like to at least finish a draft of that. Going back to the theme of structure, I’m also hoping to et back in the classroom this summer and start some new projects.

I think I’m coming out of this project with a better sense of who I am as writer and as a person. Sitting down to write every day forces you to reflect and spend some time in your own brain. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s terrifying, but it’s always worth it.

Of course I have to thank you all for reading and supporting me through this project. Whether you left a comment, favorited one of my Tweets, or said something to me in person, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only person reading these words. I hope you’ll all stick around for…whatever I have in store for the future.

BEDA 2016 completed. Someone buy me a drink.

Disregard Misogynists, Acquire Funds #EqualPayDay | BEDA Day 12

Today is Equal Pay Day, a day in which women around the world work to raise awareness about the gender pay gap. In case you were wondering, the gender pay gap is real. Period. End of Story. We should not be debating this anymore.

In the United States, women make $0.79 for every dollar a man makes. That gap widens for women of color, mothers, and transgender individuals.  Ask your friends, ask your coworkers, ask your mom: they’ll probably have some personal experience with income inequality. Sure, we can populate higher-paying industries and negotiate all we want, but this problem is not going away. It’s a thing, and if you don’t believe me, go read this article on elle.com immediately.

As someone just getting started in her career, reading about the wage gap and seeing it in action is incredibly disheartening. Somehow, my work is less valuable because I’m not a man. It is worth less for reasons I simply can’t change. Why is that? Because maybe I’ll pop out a kid someday? Because I’ll eventually have a man to rely on to feed and clothe me (God forbid I marry anyone else)? Or is it simply because I’m not wanted in the workplace?

What makes this all even more bananas is the fact that it is SO EXPENSIVE to be a woman. We get charged more for products that are literally just painted pink. I cry every month when I have to hand over $10 for a box of tampons. Once you add clothes, hair, and makeup it all gets kind of absurd. These things sound frivolous to complain about but it all comes down to a higher cost of living that our salaries can’t always cover.

So, what can we do about this? Personally, I’m working on being more confident in the workplace. Sticking up for yourself is hard, especially when you’re an anxious mess who has no idea what she’s talking about half the time. I’m working on the whole “fake it til you make it” thing and I know I’ll get there eventually. On a more global level, though, we can all help by speaking out about income inequality. I urge you all to have a conversation with your friends and family about this issue, and not just today. We need to take the stigma out of talking about money, and this is a good place to start. If you want to go even further (and you should), you can urge your representatives to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Not sure who to call? This site has you covered.

I know I’m subjecting myself to every awful reaction the internet has to offer by posting this, but let the yell all they want. I can’t just sit here anymore. It’s high time we fixed this.

 

Photo Credit: Ak~i on Flickr

Shut Up and Write, Already | BEDA Day 1

I’ve been thinking about identities a lot recently.

DON’T CLICK AWAY YET. This won’t take long.

I, like many others, kind of define myself by what I do. Vlogger, performer, assistant, traveler, they’re all hats I’ve worn over the years. One title I’ve felt particularly distant from recently is one of the one’s I’ve held the longest – writer. I talk so much about writing and wanting to write and other people’s writing…and yet I’m not actually writing all that often.

Part of it is the job. I work 50 hours a week, 90% of which is spent in front of a computer. It’s pretty difficult to motivate yourself to sit in front of a screen and churn out words after doing so for 10 hours straight. Of course, plenty of writers can make it work. I just haven’t quite gotten to that point yet.

Another part of it is that I’ve started writing for other people – and getting paid for it. Which is great! Side hustles are super-important in this economy. However, I’ve found it hard to motivate myself to work on my own stuff when I can whip up a post for a client and make a few bucks. This all sounds more like a #humblebrag than a complaint, but it’s something I’m feeling. I only have so much creative energy to give.

It’s time to put those excuses aside. For this month at least.

In an attempt to get back in the swing of things, I’m taking part in BEDA – Blog Every Day in April. I have attempted these “create something every day” challenges before to varying degrees of success (High Point – completing Vlog Every Day in August in 2011, Low Point – giving up on VEDA after 3 days in 2012). The key to these challenges I’ve found is two-fold:

  1. Preparation – I’m writing some of these posts ahead of time. This might go against the rules in some writers’ minds, but I take “Blog Every Day in April” to mean “Post on your Blog Every Day in April.” And it’s my blog so I make the rules, punk.
  2. Being Okay with Imperfection – When you’re posting something new every day, sometimes it’s more important to just get something online than to make sure it’s the best thing you’ve ever written. Not everything I post this month is going to be great. It probably won’t even be that good. But it’ll be there.

So here we go. 30 posts in 30 days. Will it actually happen? We’ll see. But it doesn’t hurt to try. And I’m trusting y’all to keep me accountable. Comment, share with your friends, nag me on Twitter, whatever you feel like doing. I’m looking forward to this month, y’all.
Here we go.

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5 Amazing Moments from Nerdcon: Stories 2015

After 6 Vidcons, I can count on Hank Green and his team to run a great conference that caters to both fans and creators. Their events manage to be equal parts variety show, public forum, master class, and party, which always leads to a good time. While Vidcon centers around the more specific world of online video, Nerdcon: Stories tackles storytelling, an artform as old as…well, people. I was curious to see how this event, the first of its kind, would play out, so I bought a pass and headed to Minneapolis.

What I experienced at NC:S was a celebration of how stories are created and how they connect us all. “We are all made of stories,” was the general refrain of the weekend, and both attendees and presenters brought stories to share. I left on Sunday feeling emotionally energized and inspired to create, albeit physically exhausted from three days of walking around the giant Minneapolis Convention Center. Here are some of my favorite moments from this year’s conference.

Paul Sabourin’s Opening “Why Stories Matter” Keynote

Throughout the conference, several special guests were invited to give their take on why stories matter. Paul Sabourin, one half of Paul and Storm, kicked off the first morning session on Friday in his hilarious and high-energy fashion, running through a (very) brief history of storytelling. Sure, it mainly focused on storytelling in western civilization (as most history classes in America do), but it gave us all a good idea of why stories have been so prominent throughout history. Ultimately, we tell stories to feel less alone in the world, to relate to each other. Whether their true or not, stories have the power to connect us. 

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Leslie running the story circle like a champ.

Leslie’s Story Circle

Have you met my friend Leslie? Aside from being a fabulous human and great friend, Leslie created and curates “One Time Stories“, a storytelling web series in the vein of The Moth and StoryCorps. It’s truly amazing and I suggest you check it out and submit if you’re so inclined. As a featured guest (#proudmama), Leslie hosted a storytelling circle on Friday night which drew a huge crowd. People shared heartfelt and hilarious stories of firsts: first kisses, first times crying in public, first poop explosions (go with it). There’s something so simple and great about just sitting in a huge circle, kindergarten style, and listening to people sharing their truth.

“Honing Your Craft” Panel

As a writer, I’m always looking for ways to embetter my word-doing, so I jumped at the chance to listen to a panel of great writers talk about their process. The panel featured several novelists who write across several genres – including Lev Grossman, Stephanie Perkins, and Nalo Hopkinson – whose processes are as diverse as their writing styles. They were each brutally honest about their struggles to get words on the page. Nalo spoke in particular about working with ADHD, which was incredibly important to me. Once again, I had a moment of feeling less alone.

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From left: Paul Sabourin, Paul DeGeorge, Cecil Baldwin, Sarah Mackey, and Leslie Datsis on the “Communities and Fandom” Panel

Dylan Marron’s “Why Stories Matter” Keynote

Speaking of representation, Dylan Marron’s take on why stories matter was one of the most powerful moments of NC:S. Marron, known for his “Every Single Word…” video series and for playing Carlos on Welcome to Night Vale, touched on how storytelling helps us build empathy by showing us how we fit into the world. When we tell universal stories with only white faces, we essentially deny the existence of people of color. The fact that hundreds of (mostly young) people got to hear this in the convention center’s main auditorium gives me hope for the future. You can check out a video of the speech here.

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind

Sometimes, you have to fly to the midwest and attend a major conference to see a show that’s performed twice a week in your own city. Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind is an ever-changing show by the New York Neo-Futurists, in which a group of actors attempts to perform 30 plays in 60 minutes. They introduce new plays each week, and the order of plays is determined by the audience, so you never know what you’re going to see. I was incredibly excited to see TMLMtBGB, and the Neos did not disappoint. Each play managed to be poignant, true, and funny within the limited time. Above all, the Neos are genuine, and I love that. Kevin R. Free is a delight. I want to be best friends with Desiree Burch and Kate Jones. And Jeffrey Cranor brought me close to tears more than once over the weekend. I’m now determined to get to a Neos show in New York before the year is out.

It’s safe to say I had an amazing time this weekend at NerdCon: Stories. I’ll definitely be back next year, hopefully with some stories of my own. In between all this awesome, I learned that Minneapolis is a wonderful city that we should all move to (6 months out of the year). Stay tuned for more on my Minneapolis adventures next week!

From a Window Seat

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I spend a lot of time looking out the window when I’m traveling by plane or train. I like to guess where we are in the journey, make up stories for the towns we’re passing through or over. I try to play the same game on car trips, but the road signs kind of take the fun out of it. Plus, 2 hours on the interstate will make you think that the world consists solely of trees and Roy Rodgers restaurants.

I’m currently coming to you live* from the Amtrak Keystone line between Philadelphia and New York. I’ve taken this route several times over the last few months and it’s starting to lose its charm. The tracks are mostly lined with warehouses, junkyards, and unfortunately-placed apartment buildings. Tonight, I don’t seem to mind it as much, though. The skies are mostly clear and there’s a brilliant sunset to my left. It’s the kind of lighting that makes even the most industrial scenes seem idyllic.

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Sometimes I joke that my childhood took place along I-95. With most of my family in the New York area, my parents and I spent many weekends on the road visiting them. Was it an ideal situation? Probably not. But I never really had a problem with it. I spent those hours in the backseat listening to music, making up stories to go along with the songs. It was a kind of meditation, a time for me to be still and let my brain just kind of go. Heaven for my introverted side.

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I’ve included some photos from my most recent flight back to New York from Savannah, GA. I’ve traveled a lot, but I’m not quite jaded enough to lose my fascination with clouds. By some miracle of science, we are able to see these kinds of sights AND NOT DIE. I mean, that’s crazypants. I don’t take for granted the fact that I can step into a metal tube and come out 5 hours later on the other side of the country.

And then I get stuck on the Tarmac for an hour at LaGuardia. I could do without that part.

In other news, thanks to the magic of WordPress, A Suitcase Full of Pens is a real-ass website now! I’m super-excited about this, but please bear with me as I get things up and running and looking nice. It’s all a work-in-progress and a learning process and blah blah blah. However, I’ve got lots of new content coming your way, so watch this space.

*This is a previously recorded broadcast. Voting has now closed.

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Finishing The Hat

There are at least 3 unfinished screenplays sitting on my hard drive right now. They all start with good intentions: I get some brilliant idea that I have to turn into a script, forgo outlining, and just dive right in. Then, about 10 pages in, I get stuck. I go back and read over my pages and deem it an unsalvageable mess. Rather than go back and fix the problems, I just move on to the next best idea. Brain crack gets the best of me.

If you followed this blog at all last year (and bless you if you did), you know that this reluctance to finish things is nothing new. I may have finished my senior project (2 episodes of an hour-long drama) on time, but not without extending a few deadlines in the process. Half of it was due to extenuating circumstances, but half of it was because I was, well…having trouble finishing.

Finishing things feel great. It’s nice to be able to hand your project to someone and say “Here, check out this thing I made.” The road to the finish line is difficult, but crossing the last step off your to-do list is amazing.

On the other hand, starting a new project, especially one that you are really excited about, is falling head-over-heels for someone. All your thoughts are focused on this new idea, and you can’t wait to come home to it. Every hour you’re not working on it is agonizing. It’s kind of addicting.

However, as I mentioned above, the honeymoon phase wears off quickly. Right now, I need to work on sticking with things. There’s a solution to (almost) any creative problem. When I’m out in the trenches, though, sometimes it’s hard to remember how great it feels to type the words “Fade Out.”

Senior Project | Doing the Thing

Guys. I finished it.

Okay, I use the word “finished” loosely. The only script I’ve really finished is the one that was actually made into a short film. The rest of them sit on my hard-drive, waiting for me to dust them off and turn them into something people would actually want to produce. I’m a “tweak things up to the last minute and frustrate everyone working with you” kind of gal.

I had a week to get a new draft of both the pilot and the second episode together before the final due date. I’ll be honest, I got lazy. I discovered a lot of moments where things weren’t quite working as well as they could, but chose not to change them due to lack of time. I guess that’s how things go, though. You wish you had all the time in the world to mold your script into the magnum opus you’ve always wanted to write, but you actually get seven days. A wise man once told me that the entertainment business is just a constant race towards mediocrity. I think I get that now.

Regardless, I’m proud of my scripts. I poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into them (okay, let’s be real, mostly tears) and managed to turn a rather ambitious pitch into something real. I’m excited to put them out in the world.

I graduate in a matter of days. David Byrne’s voice is constantly shouting “How did I get here?” in the back of my head, particularly when I found myself wading in one of the fountains on campus at 4 AM last night. Gotta get the shenanigans out while it’s still socially acceptable, right?

 

Senior Project | In the Immortal Words of Tom Haverford…

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I passed my roommate in the hall on my way back from the gym this morning. We shared an awkward, “Oh, haha, you’re going to the gym? I just went to the gym!” exchange, and then she mentioned that I’d lost a lot of weight. I’m never quite sure how to react to these kind of comments, so I laughed a little and gave her a confused “thank you” before ducking back into my apartment. She’s right, though. I recently started running, I’m generally more active, and I cut soda out of my diet (for the most part). I’m doing the work and seeing results. Feels good, man.

What does this have to writing? Quite a bit, actually. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been integrating some better habits into my writing routine. I say “writing routine” like I had one before. Writing 20 pages the night before a deadline definitely doesn’t count as a “routine”. For one thing, I started blocking out time in my schedule to work on my script, usually one or two hours a day. If that time is in my Google Calendar, I’ll usually stick to it, regardless of where I am that day. While I still enjoy the occasional page dump, it’s a lot less stressful to chip away at a script a few pages at a time. I also find it much more productive to work at a desk or table rather than splayed out on my bed. When your bed is the centerpiece of your tiny room, it’s pretty hard to ignore the temptation to get under the covers and write. I for one can’t sleep and type at the same time, so my bed isn’t a particularly productive place.

The most important part is just doing the work. I know that sounds pretty obvious, but scripts don’t write themselves. There are some days when writing is fun and some days when it feels like a chore. I’m learning to power through those crappier days. I never quite felt like I deserved the grades I got in high school and college because I didn’t feel like I was working hard for them. In a lot of ways, I was skating by on natural talent. I can’t really do that right now. I’m happy with my first drafts of my episodes, but they’re far from done. Rewriting isn’t always fun, but it’s necessary.

46 days til graduation. YIKES.

Senior Project | One Draft Down, Many More to Go

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There is no better feeling than completing a draft of a project. Even if you know it’s going to need some a lot of revision, it feels really nice to just finish something. I now have a full first draft of my pilot. It may be a hot mess, but it exists in some completed form, and it’s much better than the tons of abandoned projects sitting on my hard drive at the moment.

Of course, I’m nowhere near finished with my senior project. I have another episode to write, then a ton of revisions to do between now and June. Despite the amount of work ahead of me, finishing this draft has really motivated me to keep working to make this project something special. This idea has moved past the brain crack stage and into something real that I can actually show people (other than my professor). Whether or not I actually want to do that remains to be seen.

Something I’ve found out in this last writing push is that I can actually write to music with lyrics. Usually I find music with lyrics too involving and I get sucked into the story of the song. This time around, I kind of tailored my playlist around the content of my script. I used those lyrics as inspiration for certain scenes or as a way to better get into the heads of my characters. One song I’ve been listening to a lot is “The Woodpile” by Frightened Rabbit. I had it more or less on repeat as I wrote the last scene of the pilot between my main character, Lily, and her overwhelmed boyfriend Jim. I don’t want to give to much away (ugh, I know, I hate me, too) but the song is kind of perfect for that scene. Who needs a music supervisor when you have Spotify? Just kidding, music supervisors are brilliant humans. I’ve included a Spotify playlist of some of the (non-embarrassing) songs on my writing playlist if you’re interested in that kind of thing.

I also strayed a little from my treatment in this draft. I made certain characters more pivotal to the plot, which means I may need to go back to the drawing board for this next episode. Sure, it’s more work, but I feel a lot better about where the story is going than I did when I wrote the first treatments. Things are looking up!

[spotify id=”spotify:user:125417104:playlist:1o55vBJ3H1sSmsOLtV7o0P” width=”300″ height=”380″ /]

Senior Project | Winter (Break) is Coming

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We’re nearing the end of term and by some miracle I have almost half of my pilot script written. I really didn’t think I would pull it off with everything going on this term. I was way behind deadline-wise for most of November. I got hit by an avalanche of work once Godzilla closed and of course my senior project work fell to the wayside.

I’ve never been particularly good with these independent study style classes. If I don’t have to physically go to class once a week, I tend to push that work to a dark, dusty corner of my brain, only to stumble back into that corner when I have a deadline approaching. This project requires a fair amount of self-discipline and time management, two things I’ve never been particularly good at. However, I think I made some strides in that department over Thanksgiving break. I went into the (all too short) break knowing that I had some pages to deliver in a few weeks time. I made it my goal to set aside an hour or two a day to just sit down and write. I wrote at Panera Bread, in my room, in the car home from Long Island, wherever I happened to be at the time. Even if I just wrote a page or two in those sessions, I still made progress.

My goal for the next few weeks is to finish my pilot script. I’ll be writing over my winter break, so this could be really easy or really really difficult. Sure, I won’t have any other schoolwork to worry about, but it’s so easy to get distracted over break. I’ll be traveling, spending time with family, doing Christmas shopping, and hopefully picking up some part-time work. I’d better start scheduling those writing sessions now. Luckily, I have some really cute coffee shops and a newly-renovated library in my hometown, so I can escape the holiday madness at my house and hang out in the world of my script.

Anyway, on to finals week. If you couldn’t tell, I’m about ready for this term to be over.