A New Year, A New Start

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For me, the beginning of a new year carries with it feelings of excitement, hope, and a strong personal drive for self-improvement. It doesn’t feel like any other time of year, except maybe the way the start of a new school year felt to me when I was growing up, and every January 1st, I always can’t help but experience a rejuvenating rush of energy and determination to make this year the best of my life.

Two weeks into 2013 and I am already on a flight home from my first business trip of the year. I’d planned on writing a post similar to this on January 1st, but after making some initial new years resolutions, I decided to give it a couple of weeks and really think about plausible goals I could set for myself to achieve this year, not just in terms of my writing, but in terms of the quality of my life in general and how I impact those around me.

First of all, I looked back at 2012 and the anti-resolutions I made last year. Did I manage to go with the flow and keep a positive outlook? I feel like I really did, to be honest. I  managed to start some great habits that I’ve mostly kept up with all year, the most important one being regular exercise and eating healthy. I wrote and worked on my novel, though admittedly not nearly as much as I’d liked, and I entered a writing contest that I did well in and learned a lot from. I feel like the relationships in my life got stronger, including the most important one – the one I have with myself. All in all, it was a pretty great year for me, and I’m so thankful for the family I have and the incredible opportunities I have in my life to excel and enjoy.

However, there were mistakes this last year, and those few that really stick out in my mind tend to haunt me and come back to me in times of self-doubt. As I’ve written about before on this blog, I definitely am very, VERY hard on myself, and dwelling on my mistakes, especially if they are times that I hurt people I care about, is probably the worst habit that I have. So, I’ve decided to tackle that bad habit this year – I’m going to work on giving myself a break. This applies to all areas of my life, including in the subject of this blog – working on becoming a better (and more disciplined) writer.

Speaking of writing, I’ve set a few tangible goals for myself in that arena as well, which I’m sure I’ll be writing on this blog about in the coming months. I’ve narrowed it down to three goals:

1) Aim for 3-5 posts on this blog a month. I am trying to be realistic (and give myself a break!) by keeping in mind my intense work schedule and focusing on writing when I can and when I have something meaningful to say.

2) Work on my novel with enthusiasm and energy. I have started trying to regain the initial fire I had to work on my novel when I first had the idea and was in the planning process. I felt like I lost enthusiasm as the year went on, and now I’ve started getting myself hyped up again when I sit down to work on it. And I want to keep it up, dammit!

3) Enter 3 writing contests. I enjoy the feedback that I get from these and the spark they give me to keep writing. Also, who doesn’t love the satisfaction you feel when you get a positive response to your work?

Cheers to 2013, and to all my writer friends – I hope this year you write the best thing you’ve ever written!

I am always interested in hearing about other people’s new years resolutions, so please feel free to leave a comment telling me about yours! Also, here are some posts from some of my favorite bloggers about new years resolutions that I read as I started to formulate my own:

 

One Month Hiatus: Annnnnnd Go.

A week ago today, I started a deliciously inspiring one month hiatus following what can only be described as a summer in Hell, aka New Jersey, which consisted of 3 months of working a ridiculous number of hours a week, drinking far too much in the few off hours I had and getting very VERY little sleep. It was a summer of excess, to be sure. Though I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything as I learned a lot and was challenged in every arena of my life (not just professionally), I returned last weekend feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, and most horrifically, creatively drained.

And even worse – I’m unemployed now.

But every cloud has a silver lining, or so I’m told. And for me, that is the one month I’m taking off to write, travel, clean out my closet, exercise daily, get my oil changed and otherwise regain some semblance of a normal life, before I jump back into another project and send my life spiraling into unpredictable chaos once more.

It took about a week for me to unpack my bags, for my liver to adjust to moderation once more, and for my body to get used to being back in sunny, lovely Los Angeles, a place I never realized I loved so much until I was forced to spend 3 full months away from it in the cruel humidity and sudden downpours of New Jersey. My head has slowly stopped spinning and I’ve managed to find a nice, sharp focus to carry me through these next 3 weeks.

I’ve got plans – grand ones. I’m attacking my to-do list hungrily and striking off things left and right. This last week, I cleaned out my closet, de-cluttered my apartment and re-instated my membership at my local gym. I opened up my novel files and dusted off my notes, jumping back into a scene I haven’t worked on since June. I backed up my computer and cleaned out my hard drive. I re-registered my car and even went to the DMV to get a new license. I’ve reconnected with friends and family that I haven’t been in touch with for months. Yesterday I flew to Texas to visit my parents and friends in my hometown, which I haven’t done since March. And I leave for 2 weeks in Hawaii on Wednesday – the yearly “vacation” I take for my own mental health, where I challenge myself to try new activities, face my fears, confront my mental obstacles, escape the grind and find new focus and perspective in my life.

I’d been lost in sea of work and booze all summer. Now, I’m hitting the gym and the keyboard harder than I have in months. I’m actually being productive again. And it feels fucking fantastic.

Watch out world! Lindsay has FREE TIME!!!!!

Apartment Porn

In my last post, I broke the news that I’ve moved to New Jersey for 3 months. I also promised photos of my fun new apartment, and due to the resulting overwhelming reader demand (ie my parents and the few close friends that have booked tickets to see me while I’m here) I’m posting them here. Please enjoy Jersey City at (what I’m told is) it’s finest…..

Not bad, right? It is a great home base for all the shenanigans I’ll be up to from now until mid-September. I could use a desk, but that kitchen table will do just fine for diving headfirst into my writing projects, as long as I don’t face the window….with so much to see, I am far too easily distracted.

That last photo was from tonight…..I started to do some peaceful yoga, until my candles set off the fire alarm, scared the hell out of me and completely sent my chakras into disarray. Oh well, I’m too tired for down dog anyways. Off to bed!

Let’s Pretend April and May Didn’t Exist.

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……except Coachella. That definitely existed.

Oh wait, I don’t have to pretend, because as far as this blog is concerned, April and May didn’t exist. I was absent, oh so absent, for most of those 2 months. I even avoided visiting my own blog in fear of the guilt I would feel when I looked at the date of the last post. This blog was like that annoying email you have sitting in your inbox from a distant friend you keep meaning to reply to but it keeps getting shuffled to the end of your to-do list, and then chucked out in favor of going for a beer with your friends.

My absence wasn’t really caused by going for too many beers with friends. The last 2 months were, to put it mildly, really full. Full of surprise events and unexpected turns in the road, the kind that are usually dotted over about 6 months or a year but were, for whatever reason the universe had for me, were feverishly packed into 2 months.

I like to say there are some sections of your life that you live a lot more in than others. I lived densely during April and May. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I believe all of life’s experiences should be embraced as they all impact the person that you are ever evolving to be – but it certainly took a lot of my free time away.

Most of the stuff that happened is personal – far too personal for a blog post – but suffice it to say that the mixture of several surprise events with some not so surprising ones, along with my always hectic work schedule kind of catapulted me into a new phase in life, which I knew deep down I needed to enter but was too chicken shit to take the first step into. I found myself newly single and without a plan – and let me just say that wandering aimlessly in life isn’t something I do well. I tend to be self-destructive and entirely unproductive, drinking too much, partying too hard and then crashing even harder. But luckily, after about a month I pulled myself up, dusted myself off, and did what I always do when I feel like I’m drowning – I make a new plan.

And, the good news is I have plenty to write about.

So I’m back, hungrier than ever for that blank Word document, a free Saturday afternoon, some good movie scores playing in the background and my imagination taking off while I cling to its tail, holding on for dear life.

Let’s go.

More Writing Contests…..and a fancy new iPad!

I’m sitting here at my desk with the candles lit, a new Word document opened up ready to be filled with story-telling brilliance and my fancy new iPad playing some motivating movie scores on my Pandora app.

I’m inspired tonight to start a new short story. You see, this last week I had not one but TWO new short story ideas pop into my head, and I immediately searched for some new writing contests that would motivate me (meaning would give me a concrete deadline) to actually sit down and write them. Since my awesome experience with NYC Midnight Short Story Competition this year – round 2 results should be in next week, by the way – I’ve decided that whenever I have a good idea for a story, I should immediately look for a reason to see it through to completion, in the form of an upcoming short story contest. Because, for some odd reason, having just the base desire to write the story is not enough to actually get me to do it. I need a deadline.

My search yielded several results (thank you, writersmarket.com!) and I narrowed down the options to three contests, all of which have deadlines around the end of April/beginning of May:

1. The 34th Nimrod Literary Awards – a 7,500 word limit on a fiction piece, due on April 30th.

2. The Writer’s Digest Annual Writing Competition – A big flipping deal, with several categories for submission and a deadline of May 1st.

3. The Lorian Hemmingway Short Story Competition – Run by the Hemmingway’s grand-daughter, this needs submissions by May 1st as well. 3,500 word limit.

My initial plan was to write one story, one GOOD story, and submit it to all three competitions. They all accept simultaneous submissions as far as I can tell, and they all have pretty similar guidelines. But, since I’m new to the writing contest world, I wonder if that is a normal thing to do.

Since I have two story ideas, so I may go ahead and try to write both in the next month, despite the heavy work schedule I have lined up. I will be traveling a lot, and I tend to get a lot of writing done when I’m spending a lot of time on planes and trains and in pretty hotel rooms. It may be rough and I may be setting too high a goal to attain, but that might be something good. I certainly feel inspired and motivated these days, why not try to capitalize on it?

Has anyone out there ever entered any of these contests or have any comments on them?

And by the way, about the new iPad – I actually won it in a drawing on SaveUp.com – no joke. Pretty awesome, yeah? I’ve decided to allow it to be the only gadget that I leave out of my work realm entirely. I want it to be my writing companion, keeping my notes and inspiring me with its awesome brainstorming apps and music features. I just need to come up with a name for it…..I’m thinking something like Albus?

Yeah, Albus. That’s perfect. 

I’m off to read a book with Albus and then maybe play a word game with him before bed. Goodnight!

Visiting Art Museums (and how they can inspire writers)

This last weekend, my dad and my step-mom came to visit me in LA for the first time since I’ve made it my permanent (ish) home, and I was tasked with showing them around for a couple of days. Because they are both well-traveled and enjoy art, I decided a trip to the J. Paul Getty Center Museum would be a perfect way to fill a pretty Saturday afternoon in LA.

The Getty is one of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles. For those of you that haven’t had a chance to visit it yet, it is perched high above West LA on a hill, right off of the 405 Freeway, and it houses a fabulous, first rate art collection ranging from antiquity to a few early 20th century pieces, all of which are displayed in a beautiful modern white marble collection of buildings. The views alone are worth a trip.

I’ve always loved visiting the Getty, especially when I was in college. Even before I switched my major from Creative Writing to Art History, I would make the drive from Malibu to the museum at least once a month to bask in the treasures that it holds and to revel in the views of the LA basin, which stretch from downtown all the way to the ocean on a clear day. And the best part was and still is that admission is to the center’s permanent collection is FREE.

This trip, the museum again didn’t disappoint. It has been years it seems since I last visited the Getty, and I always forget how amazing the art and experience of it is when I spend time away. We wandered around the galleries and had ourselves a grand time, and it occurred to me how inspired I was feeling to go home and write.

I tried to think of what it was about visiting art museums that I’ve always loved. I’ve decided that reveling in the incredible works of art that men and women have created over centuries past has the power to spark the desire in us, as writers and as creators in general, to work tirelessly towards our own creations and contributions to the world. Seeing the great work that others have accomplished reminds me of the vast creative ability of man, something that is easy to forget in our world that is being devastated by those seeking to destruct and harm.

It made me want to go home and start writing immediately and see my own creative vision be manifested on the page!

I think I’m going to make it a habit to visit art museums more often – I’m a big fan of LACMA and the Norton-Simon Museum in Pasadena, and it is definitely time I paid both of those spots a visit.

 

Writing Down Your Stories

I just finish blowing through two short memoirs written by Roald Dahl called Boy and Going Solo, both of which are compilations of stories from his childhood and early adult life. In Boy, most of the stories revolve around his adventures while attending an English boarding school, and you can see the early experiences with a candy shop and with horrible headmasters that influenced his highly imaginative children’s books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Going Solo picks up where Boy left off with Roald going to work for the Shell Company in East Africa and then joining the RAF during World War II and his experiences flying fighter planes.

What I loved most about these books is they weren’t like an autobiography or a memoir in the traditional sense. They were just stories of interesting things that happened to him in his life along with some funny anecdotes  and remarks about how these experiences shaped his later adult life. He even writes at the beginning of each book about how autobiographies are boring, but stories aren’t, and that is why he decided to publish only the pieces of his memories that were the most engaging.

And they were engaging – they very much transported me to another time. I felt what it was like to be a boy waiting for a beating in the headmasters office for an offense that I didn’t commit, what it was like to live in colonial Dar es Salaam in the ‘30s, and the gut-wrenching fear that comes with fighting in a war against impossible odds, waking up each morning doubting whether you’ll live to see another day after this one.

Roald Dahl was a highly interesting person, but more importantly he was a very engaging writer and a phenomenal story-teller. What would have been an account of episodes from a semi-average man’s life from that time period was skillfully told in a wonderfully entertaining way under his expert hand.

Reading all his funny and interesting stories made me think about how little I record the memorable things that have happened to me. I feel like I’ve lived a very unconventional life thus far (entirely by choice, of course) and I wish I had written down all of the crazy things that I’ve done and seen, particularly while living abroad in college and from navigating the world of reality television over the last 4 years. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t’ think I’m super interesting or some kind of wonder in terms of what I have done, but I do think I have some funny anecdotes that someday my children and grandchildren and so on would like to hear about.

It isn’t journaling, it is more like telling stories from your life and crafting them as you would a story of fiction. It is definitely something I want to try.

So, I’ve bought a new journal – just what I need, right? Another journal yelling at me for a contribution from my bedside table! – and I’m going to use it just to write down funny memories and bizarre things that have happened to me in my life thus far. My plan is just to try to write 1 or 2 stories down a month, when I have a moment, so that someday they can be read and enjoyed by my kids, and their kids, and their kids. Even if they aren’t seen by anyone ever, it will give me a nice feeling of happiness recalling and reliving them, not to mention great writing practice.

I love getting lost in stories written by others from another time. Who is to say someone down the line wouldn’t want to read mine? Or yours?