Tag Archives: post grad

And then it was October

When life moves, it moves quickly, leaving little time for the little things like blog posts and hair cuts.

You graduate, finally receive your diplomas in the mail, finally purchase your own game of Trivial Pursuit (thus making you an official adult), and get so wrapped up in your new job that you forget that at one point, you had other goals in life besides making it to your next pay check. You know, like writing a novel and getting published in a literary magazine. Oh yeah, that thing I’m so passionate about…writing, right? And then all of the sudden, it’s October.

And that brings us to now: October 1st. The first day of a month that’s whole purpose is planning costumes and preparing for November, better known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Last year I wrote a few posts about NaNoWriMo, mostly discussing the pros and cons, why it works for some and not others, and how to be successful if you choose to take on the task. But despite what I claimed about probably never doing it again, I am having second thoughts. I think it might be just what I need.

So why am I reconsidering NaNoWriMo?

1) Establishing a strong writing routine. There is nothing like a great community and high stakes to finally motivate you to set and stick to a writing routine. Then, after 30 days of showing up and getting work done, I’ll have a better chance of actually sticking to it moving into December. I mean, after a month of religiously observing a daily minimum word count, life will seem incomplete without it.

2) Getting over the inner critic. Grad school and studying the literary industry have made me extremely critical of my own ideas. Each time I think of a new story, I dismiss it, finding it too cliche or juvenile–standards I picked up for fear of being judged by the literary community. But as long as I eventually get to something strong and original, it doesn’t matter what I started with, right?

3) Remembering why writing is fun. After working my butt off on my thesis (which was not fun), all I wanted to do was take a break from writing. But to finally write a story that I can love might actually help me find that passion again. Even if it ends up in the bin, as long as it gets me where I need to be, it will have been a success.

So I guess it’s time to start creating the stakes, pulling together some notes, and really preparing myself mentally, because I remember what it was like last time…and I can only imagine what it will be like going for it again.

Previous NaNoWriMo posts:

NaNoWriMo is coming

Why I Love NaNoWriMo, but (probably) won’t ever do it again

So you want to win NaNoWriMo: 10 Tips for Success

Using Twitter During NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Prompts #1

NaNoWriMo Prompts #2

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I refuse to call this writer’s block

I posted a while back about how there is no such thing as writer’s block and I stand by that assertion. But when I initially went on my mini-rant about that most common excuse for not writing, I was on the other side of things–I had deadlines and expectations. Basically, I didn’t have time to be “blocked” whether I had ideas or not. However, now I am experiencing this “not writer’s block” feeling from the other side of things, the side where no one is breathing down my neck expecting me to produce material weekly. Any writing I do is purely for my own satisfaction. It is a very different feeling, and while I refuse to call what I am experiencing “writer’s block,” I will say that this is probably the feeling a lot of writer’s feel when they consider themselves to be “blocked.”

This “being locked”, of course, is not  the result of any kind of mythical wall standing in the way of me and my brilliant ideas. My greatest enemy in this moment, the monster keeping me from writing, is simply myself. There are no external forces at work, I am not at a loss for creativity and wonder. I am simply not motivated in the way I once was, forcing me to reevaluate what keeps me writing.

Frequently do I sit down and feel like writing, but find myself stuck because I desperately want to fall into writing a lengthy story of worth and merit. But each time I start, I just can’t keep going because I constantly second guess myself. It’s as though because I no longer have that buffer of the graduate workshop, I somehow think that everything I write has to be amazing the minute I put it on the paper. I’m constantly second guessing myself, thinking my ideas are all cliches or just generally bad. Some how I forgot that first drafts are meant to be crap and that editing is where you make any story shine.

How do I fix this? It’s the same advice writers always give when people claim to have “writer’s block.”

I have to just write. I have to write crap. I have get used to writing again and then something will come.

I realize now that this is why so many people participate in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Turning off that inner critic–the one I never had while I was in college–is what so many people (including me, at this very moment) need to just sit down and write.

At least I know what the problem is and I can take steps to fix it, but it’s not easy. And I know there are others out there who feel the same way, so that’s almost reassuring. Almost.

I’ll figure it out.

And no, It’s not writer’s block.

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Internet, Efficiency and The Lack Thereof

It’s a funny thing, the internet. You never realize how much you rely on it until you don’t have access, and yet when you have gone without for a week or so, hitting up a coffee shop or bookstore for some free wifi leaves you unsure of how to use your precious time with this new-age luxury.

But lucky for me, I once again have internet installed in my apartment and I am again thrust into the digital world to browse Reddit, apply for jobs and interact socially on Facebook. Actually, I’m more pleased to once again have access to Netflix. It’s like I can’t eat a decent meal without watching some sort of moving picture anymore.

I think what I was most shocked by during my five-day internet drought is how much I relied on the internet to simply exist. Even without internet, I had access to books, my computer, my car, and even the pool literally ten steps from my front door. And yet, without internet, I felt like I didn’t have the tools to accomplish anything substantial.

Granted, my main objective right now is to acquire employment and in this day and age, it’s difficult to do so without the internet and email. But why wasn’t I writing?

No seriously, it’s a question that has been keeping me up at night. Why am I not using this free time? It’s not like I can do much else besides read, write and play old PlayStation video games.

This week has been full of stark, real-world realizations.

1) No one is holding me accountable anymore. Aside from paying rent on time and cleaning the dishes in the sink, no one really expects anything from me. Okay, maybe my parents who helped me spend five years in school to learn how to write a damn book, but they aren’t breathing down my neck about it like a professor with a deadline.  I have to be accountable for myself all of the sudden. It’s like when I stopped playing organized sports and I didn’t have a soccer coach screaming at me to run faster—I just stopped running.  This worries me.

2) Jobs are not like internships. My biggest fear about getting a job is that unlike an internship, when you work a job there is no end date to look forward to. With internships, eventually you get kind of bored or the work runs out or it just feels like it’s time to move on. With jobs, they’re sort of forever, or at least until you quit/get fired. That’s a big commitment, man.

3) Networking is awkward, scary and completely necessary. I went to my first fundraiser/networking event. I actually met some very nice people, one of whom took my information to pass along about a job opportunity, but not before 15 very awkward minutes and a $10 glass of red wine. I think I need to brush up on my social interaction skills. I’ve been a reclusive grad student too long. Also, personal business cards are a must.

4) The real world has a different kind of rewards system that is in no way related to how smart, hard working or capable you are. I read a really interesting article about anxiety in the United States (which you can read here). Apparently, because I was told my whole life that if I worked hard and did everything possible to look good, I would succeed based on my personal merits. And apparently, I was lied to. It’s all about luck. And if I’m not lucky enough, I’ll be a failure. And I’ll have to live in a box under the bridge. And because how lucky I am is not within my control, I get to experience a lot of stress and anxiety. But it’s okay, apparently this is normal.

5) It’s really hard to have fun in a new city if you don’t want to spend any money. Half the fun of moving to a new place is experiencing all the cool new things the new place has to offer, like food or entertainment. Well, if you don’t want to spend money, it’s really difficult to acquire food or libations outside of ethically questionable flirting during happy hour downtown. And if you don’t want to spend money, you are very limited to the kinds of entertainment available to you. I really want to try this great Pho restaurant that was recommended to me by the internet, but I’m broke so I think I’ll stick to my mass quantities of rice and beans that I’ll be eating for every meal for the next two months and watch the Netflix my parents don’t realize they are still paying for.

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This Big Scary World

It’s always a strange feeling to realize that many of my friends have been out of school for at least a year now, while I am still waiting to finally move away from campus. Some of them have already switched jobs twice, some are engaged, some are married and some have taken their year off and are headed back to school. In a way, I am ahead of people my age because I finished grad school a year early, but I also feel like I’m a year behind.

When you’re in school, you always talk about that big and scary “Real World” where you’ll have to find a job and support yourself. Now, suddenly, it’s a reality, and I’m really scared. But that’s normal, right?

Maybe I’m not setting myself up for the smoothest of transitions. I’m in the process of moving to a new place away from my parents but populated by a good number of my college friends. I have an apartment, I have furniture, I have savings, but no job. That’s right, I’m part of the ridiculously high percentage of college grads with liberal arts degrees going off into the real world without a job. And again, I’m really freaking scared.

Everyone keeps telling me how brave I am and how impressed they are with my courage. Hah, great, thanks guys. That makes me feel good about this life choice.

I think this is something everyone who studies English (or any discipline that can be described as a “liberal art”) encounters when they make the choice not to pursue a career in teaching or academia. What are our skills good for? Well, tons of things. I only went to school for five years to learn how to write and communicate well, including multiple genres and forms. I am great at researching and fact checking. I can edit for grammar, style and content. And I am ridiculously creative–something my liberal arts degree encouraged and required. I can analyze pretty much anything within logical bounds and identify what an audience prefers over something else, and why they prefer it. So why then is it so hard to find a job?

I think it has more to do with the state of the job market and how companies are operating in an employers market. When you have the pick of the masses, you’re gonna pick the ones you don’t have to train. It makes sense and I can’t argue with that. It’s frustrating as someone just starting out and hoping someone will take a chance on me, but I do understand.

I just have to keep looking, and looking, and looking…

What is much more frightening about this big move is that for the first time, my life isn’t scripted. When you’re in your school years, it’s one grade after the next, and then college, then grad school and then a job. But what job? Where do you work? What work do you do? There is no set path anymore.

So here I am, wondering if I am making the right decision. Is this the right place to move? Am I applying for the right jobs? Am I going to live in the right neighborhood? Now, everything in my life is subject to second guessing. Now that is scary.

But everything will be fine, right? …right?

I find myself switching back and forth between absolute terror and unbridled excitement. I can always be a stereotype and work in a Starbucks to pay the bills. And if I can’t pay the bills, I will move back home. I am surrounded by friends, I have a supportive family, I’ll be okay. With that in mind, I feel like nothing can go too horribly wrong. And yet, what if this is the first time I fail? What if I use up all my savings and never get a good footing? What if I can’t make it work? Then I move home and I take a different path. And that’s okay. Deep breaths…

I think the hardest part of this whole ordeal will be coming to terms with my unscripted life. Maybe I won’t use the skills I gained in my college years. Or maybe I will. But I can’t pigeon hole myself into one path. That’s not how life works, and it’s really hard to accept that.

Reminds me of writing a book. Sometimes the outline you spent hours planning just doesn’t work and the story veers off in a totally new direction. Hopefully this one has a proper happy ending, or at least some really awesome adventures along the way.

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