Mabon reflections

Photo by: David Eck

 

For Mabon, we had a labyrinth. We did one last year and it was well received. We did a smaller one this year because we thought we weren’t going to have a huge turnout. We were wrong. We had an amazing turnout and I think that the sharing of magic and intense inner working was a real blessing. We kept things simple as the labyrinth does so much more than we could ever try and accomplish with words and songs. Oh but did we sing. We did the traditional Hoof and Horn that is appropriate for this occasion but we also sang the Goddess chant, with a few tweaks to it. We switched out some names and the end result was, “Ceres, Persophene, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Selu, Inanna”. It takes some practice to sing it continuously without reverting back to the traditional chant we all know and love.

The center of the labyrinth featured a small singing bowl and a bowl of shells. We each were invited to take a shell and ring the bowl with our own prayers. As I awaited my turn, I was consistently pulled by the waxing moon. No matter how many times I had my back to Her, I couldn’t help but turn and look for her as I sang. When it was my turn, I followed instinct rather than really thought about praying or anything of the sort. I held the singing bowl and angled it just beneath the moon and rang it three times. I could almost see the vibrations rise up and surround that small capturing of the moon. It felt perfect and right in that  moment, what the significance was…….well I am not sure yet.

As we closed, we sang Walk With Wisdom:

Walk with wisdom
From this hallowed place
Go with great knowing
Our roots shall e’er embrace
May strength be your sister
And honor be your friend
And luck be your lover
Until we meet again

 

Ah that song. I don’t care much to sing loudly as I am fairly certain my “singing” voice causes peoples’ ears to bleed but on this occasion, I did sing loud and sang strong. It came from somewhere deep within. I couldn’t say the depths of my womb or belly, that seems too shallow. And my voice didn’t sound too deep or shrill or anything, it just simply was.

I have always loved Mabon and it’s that time of year where I feel like I am coming alive and into myself. This year however, feels a bit different. Stronger. More intense. I don’t see an end to it either, each Sabbat in the coming year is going to mean more than it ever has in the past. Which is good, it means that I can be a better person and a stronger priestess.

 

 

 

You Get What You Pay For

Photo by: Jonathan Brinkhorst

Let’s talk about the growing problem for freelancers……..the cheapskate. This person wants you to provide award-winning content in the least amount of words for the least amount of pay (or worse…..free for “exposure”). I recently ran into this problem and was even given a nasty review when it didn’t work out for them the way they thought it would. That’s okay. It ticked me off initially but the reality is, you get what you pay for.

Freelancers and small businesses have suffered from the mentality that they aren’t deserving of fair pay. I don’t mean that we believe we don’t deserve fair pay, trust us……we know we deserve it. For whatever reason, society itself has deemed us unworthy. I don’t have a “real job” because I don’t work for someone else and clock in during bankers hours. I don’t have a “real job” because I can do my work in bed and in pajamas. I don’t have a “real job” because I am the boss. What is most frustrating is that people will walk into a grocery store or Walmart and not dicker price. They will accept the price tag as is and pay for it. Not another word about it. The end. The same people will see something on Etsy that they want or contact me for copy and suddenly my fair pay is not fair to them and is up for debate. It’s mind-boggling!

Freelancers make money to pay their bills. The same bills that everyone else has. I pay my rent, my cell phone, transportation costs, my website fees, utilities, and groceries with the work I do on a day in and day out basis. While I am open-minded enough to sit around and figure out a fair wage for the work you need done, I am not going to work for less than minimum wage just because you don’t think I have a “real job”. If you insist on ignoring my advice on how to achieve your desires, it’s on you and you get what you pay for.

Meanwhile, I am reconsidering my engagements with folks who ignore my advice. You came to me for good copy and if I am telling you that I cannot give you good copy within the scope of what you are willing to pay, I am probably going to drop you. It’s just not worth my time when I could be working with someone who understands my value and wisdom.

Taking A Break From Connectedness

Photo by: Age Barros

There is this struggle within to stay connected at all times. Because of my anxiety, I end up on my phone when out in social situations to distract myself from the anxiety. I check my email 20 times a day from the phone when I am not at my laptop. I play games. I incessantly check social media, which in turn adds to my anxiety. Actually, all of it adds to my anxiety and I find myself struggling with addictive-like behaviors when it comes to my phone. If I can’t find my phone I freak out in a very unnecessary way. As it turns out, there is a link with anxiety and depression to smartphone addiction.

One of the things that my therapist and various peer support counselors have talked about is the need to practice mindfulness outside of a panic attack so that when panic does set in, my body is trained to ground and center. It’s not something one can just do after trying it once, you have to practice at it when you have had years of your body trained to be in constant fight/flight/freeze mode. However, it’s very uncomfortable for me. The quiet scares me because that is when the brain wants to kick in and replay every horrid moment of my marriage or childhood for me to endure over and over again.

Last month, I took a bus trip to see my bestie who had moved out of the area. It wasn’t a long trip, about an hour and a half by bus. But I challenged myself to turn off my phone. I could turn it on at anytime but the goal was to turn it off for as long as I could. I ended up turning it off for most of the weekend that I was gone. I saw on that bus and I just focused on the trees going by. I wasn’t doing the “quiet” meditation where you sit with an empty head. That just does not happen with my monkey mind. No, I noticed every leaf and every branch. I watched the clouds and noticed the shapes. While with my bestie, I did some work. I knit as much as I wanted. We watched movies. I went shopping for her birthday. I didn’t turn my phone on for 3 days. I was also the most relaxed I had been in awhile. Part of that was just going out of town, I don’t much care for where I live and moving out is not a current option. The other part was that I was disconnected and able to relax.

I have since rethought my cell phone use. I am not going to go cold turkey or anything but I am looking for more ways to not use it. Right now I have a dedicated one hour that I don’t touch my phone per day. If I can go longer, I encourage myself to do it. I want to elevate that soon to having set “phone hours”. Then maybe after that, I will go weekends without using it.

There is one thing I recommend. If you are going to turn your phone off physically for a length of time, notify people who might try and contact you. Namely close friends and family members. That way no one panics when they can’t get a hold of you. It isn’t meant to isolate, only to allow you to decompress and practice being in a moment and not contribute to anxiety or depression.

Finding Writing Work

One thing about the work I do, it’s not easy to make a sustainable income nor is it easy to find work. It’s a matter of networking and you need to find the right people who can link you to the right work. A majority of my best paying work is work that I have found through my connections with other people. My other work, that doesn’t pay as well, has been because I happen to have found the right ads at the right time. I have been doing this for two years and still often look for better gigs so that I can replace some of my lower paying work with better paying work so that I can work smarter. If you have been considering taking on some writing jobs, here are some places you can look at to get started.

UpWork

Upwork requires that you prove your residency in whichever country you are working from. This is to ensure that you are getting the appropriate work. Some clients want a UK-based contractor because of their use of language and the culture is different than the US. Sign up is fairly quick and easy and you can look at jobs within minutes. Does it pay well? Not in my opinion. I honestly have not used UpWork ever because of the sheer frustration at people who want to pay less than a penny per word and expect award-winning work. While I do take some low-paying jobs, I am not about to spend an hour or two making $5-6 for that time. Has it worked for others? Yes! I do know of people that have started out on UpWork and found themselves excellent clients that hired them outside of UpWork at a fair living wage. It is completely up to you if you want to spend your time there.

 

ProBlogger

ProBlogger is a fantastic website if you want to make decent money. This board attracts people who are more willing to pay someone a beginning salary rather than slave labor. I have picked up a couple of short-term gigs on the site and routinely apply for other jobs there. My advice when using ProBlogger, read the ads and carefully and do the math. For starters, you want to make sure you are applying in accordance with what they are looking for. Secondly, once in a while you will see someone who is incredibly particular about their work and will want to pay as little as possible. Reading the ads carefully and following instructions carefully will get you decent work that can lead to much better later on.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not your typical social network because it’s not really meant for social networking like we are used to on Facebook. It’s business networking and you should use it as such. Make sure your profile reflects the writing work you want to be doing and the writing work you have done in the past (if any). I made a major career change when I left my last accounting position and my profile does not reflect any of that work. Which some think is odd because I do write financial articles often. No, my profile is the endorsement of my writing skills, why even discuss the past that I am trying to let go of?

If you have friends there who have seen your writing skills, have them endorse you! Endorsements are an excellent way for you to show off that you do have skills and others are appreciative of your skills. LinkedIn is also an excellent resource to look at job ads. I have an alert setup so that if a remote content writer job is posted, I will see it.

LinkedIn is also the place that I am not discriminatory about who I connect with. You simply never know who might be that one link you need to an excellent writing opportunity. Fortunately, I have not had the unpleasant experience of strange and boundary overstepping on LinkedIn. It does happen but it’s not nearly as bad as Facebook.

 

A Few Other Tips

Tell your friends and family, who are supportive people, what you are looking for. It’s amazing how sometimes I can get a job because a friend referred me to someone.

Signup for job alerts with sites like Indeed. I suggest throwing in “remote” in those searches because you don’t want to limit yourself to just your town. Especially if you live in a small town.

You will get 20 no’s before you get a yes. It’s not easy and can easily hurt your ego. It is still hard for me to hear a no but I love writing so I keep putting myself out there. If you can develop a thick skin to hearing no, you will be okay.

Think outside the box. Consider looking for ads on Craigslist, they are hit or miss and really depends on your location, but you never know.

Have a website! List your services, keep a blog, show off your writing skills as much as possible!

 

 

Personal Vs Work

Photo by: Anh Nguyen

There has been an ongoing battle with my own personal writing and the writing I do for work. I spend most of my day writing product descriptions (cheer leading gear has been hitting my inbox like crazy) and articles that educate people about the local real estate market or how to modify your home for your elderly parent who now has a mobility issue. It’s dry writing. There is only so much humor or spiritual wisdom one can interject while meeting the demands of a client (who don’t like to be controversial or appear negative in any way). I have specific word counts and specific links I have to use. It’s very regimented and I love it. I love researching topics and sharing information that I find. But, my personal writing sometimes suffer.

Sometimes the dry, to-the-point, and very technical pervade my own personal writing. I have always been someone who likes to be efficient with all that she does, it saves time after all. But I also remember a time when I could eloquently string words together and take someone on an adventure with me. Not to say that I have lost that ability completely, but it feels buried. A bit hidden away and I have lost the map that could lead me to that part of me and tap into it. It’s a frustrating conundrum to find yourself in. I don’t want to quit my day job by any means but I don’t want to lose that joy of sitting and writing those words that evoke emotion and jab at the hidden parts of your heart either.

As of lately, I have been reading poetry and classical works mixed in with books focused on spirituality. It all seems so important that I remind my brain of what good personal writing looks like. I have also taken to writing at least one poem or one personal thing each week so that I can continue to tap in. Sometimes I am disappointed at what I produce. I know better is buried in there and haven’t yet found it. Patience is not my virtue and yet I am trying to make it one!

 

Processes For Poetry

Photo by: Ksenia Makagonova

It doesn’t usually take me long to actually write a poem. Once I start writing the words, it flows pretty easy. It has shocked some people to see me just pick up paper and start putting the words down. I don’t know that it’s all that odd though, surely there are other people who do the same!

It doesn’t mean that poetry is sitting in my head and I just magically concoct something in a matter of moments. Almost always, a phrase or two have been rolling around in my head for more than a day and I know it’s time to write it out. My most recent work had two lines floating into my head that grew into much more than that. That is how it usually works. I hear something or I think of something and it becomes persistent. It also happens to be a trait for the PTSD brain to latch onto some thought or phrase and play it over and over again. I used to think it was me being crazy but now I think of it as being crazy with an artistic flair. If I can turn some annoying thought pattern in my mind into something that speaks volumes about me personally, why not put it to paper? No one ever has to see it. More than likely someone will but this is really a healing process for me.

There are times in which I flex my writing muscles with poetry prompts. Most often the prompts are a picture and you are to write what you see. Sometimes I can do it. Sometimes I can’t. But it’s a nice way to practice writing without relying solely on my own thought patterns. Because one day, those thought patterns will be healed and I don’t want to stop writing just because the well I have been drawing from has dried up.

And that is another topic all together, the fear of writer’s block. I may save that for a different day.

What say you? Share your stories of how you concoct your own writing!

Practicing For A Poetry Slam

Photo by: Kane Reinholdtsen

This past July at a conference, I did my first open mic. Several people sang, I chose to share some poetry. I had never done an open mic before and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I had not rehearsed anything, I just showed up and did it. I wanted to vomit and pass out but I pushed through. Several people complimented my poetry afterwards and that helped stave off those worrisome thoughts regarding a poetry performance.

And here I am, a part of a poetry slam coming to Asheville on September 29. I have been responsible for the venue and that part was fine. Reading at this event is another. At the conference, I knew quite a few people in attendance and that helped tremendously. This time, it’s a different crowd. I will be inviting people to attend to support (and even read their own work) but it’s still nerve-wracking. For some reason, it feels important that I participate. So I suppose I will rehearse a few that I really want to read and be willy-nilly if I read beyond that. If you have participated in poetry slams before, feel free to comment with some suggestions for preparation. I am the queen of preparing and don’t want to look like an idiot!

Calls To Submission For You To Consider

Photo by: Tim Gouw

One of the things I love to do is to encourage others to write and get recognition for their skills and thoughts. I have a number of writer friends that fall in the spectrum of personal to published author. The calls that I have found are for everyone no matter your skill level or credentials. Some are ongoing and others have deadlines. Be sure to read their submission guidelines carefully and follow them to the T. Think outside the box and challenge yourself into trying a new genre or exposing some work you have created but have been afraid to share.

The Writer’s Workshop Of Asheville – Literary Fiction Contest, ends Sept 30, 2018. Submit a short story or chapter of a novel of 5,000 words or less. Pages should be paper clipped, with your name, address, phone number, and title of work on the first page. Double-space, and use 12 point font. It appears that there is no way to submit online!

The entry fee is $25 per story, or $20 for Workshop members. Multiple entries are accepted.  Enclose legal size self-sealing SASE for critique and list of winners. Payment can be a check or money order mailed with the entry or pay online with Paypal.

 

The Same – an online literary journal that accepts work from women only! They are accepting various styles and genres of writing and the link will provide what it is they are looking for. Do click the down arrow for each genre to see their requirements and if they pay for the work that they accept. They publish the works annually so this one will not have an immediate response or release date.

 

Vulture Bones – this magazine is looking specifically for speculative fiction from transgendered and non-binary authors. They have very strict guidelines so be sure to read them carefully! You definitely do not want to send any erotica or anything over 5000 words as they will be automatically rejected. Deadline is October 1, 2018

 

If you know of any calls that are open until October 1, feel free to link them in the comments. If you have a call for submission that you would like to be announced in a future monthly post, please email me at thecontentgoddessangela@gmail.com with the information and the deadline for the submissions.

Music To Work By

Photo By: Juja Han

I don’t know if all creative-types rely on music but I certainly do. Music was at the heart of everything as a child and I still love to listen to music during the day when I work. Musical tastes vary from person to person but I have such an eclectic taste that I felt offering up some favorites would be a great way to share some great tunes that you can incorporate into your day.

Classical
The fact that there is classical music that I enjoy seems to shock a lot of people. I wasn’t raised to appreciate it like some were but I discovered it on my own. My most favorite is the Arabian Dance in The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky. I love it so much that I honestly wish you could find a 10 minute version of the song, it’s simply too short!

My other favorite is Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. There is something so hauntingly beautiful about the composition that I seek it out at times in order to work while feeling slightly motivated and relaxed all rolled into one. To be honest with you, I am listening to it as I write this post!

 

Go For Girl Power

I was exposed to a lot of rock from the 70’s and grew up with a lot of hair bands of the 80’s. One thing is for sure, there were a handful of ladies that inspired me to seek out women rock artists all my life. I created a Spotify playlist for you to check out and be inspired by ladies from back in the day to current artists now. I find there to be a lot of power in those specific songs and so much rawness in the ladies that it’s a great pick-me-up when my mood wants to tank. I feel empowered by my sisters and I am very likely to be singing along while working. Which isn’t always great because I tend to put lyrics in the articles and I might have to edit some more.

 

Pump Up Your Jam

Some days, I just want to lay in bed and do nothing. Those are the days where I need some serious high energy to get me going and keep me moving. So I looked back to my running days for music to help me out. Pop songs are most popular for running because of the cadence and I have found that when it comes to writing, it can be just as rhythmic as running. So I look for Macklemore, Pharrell, Salt ‘N Pepa, C & C Music Factory, Britney Spears, Shakira, and Katy Perry. Don’t judge, I like to booty shake just like everyone else!

 

Power In Metal

At the heart of it all, I am a metal head. I may be eclectic but if nothing is satisfying me, I go straight to metal. Right now, as many people will already tell you, my favorite band is Ghost. Because they are my favorite and I could spend hours talking about the songs that I love, I am actually not going to say anything else. What I will say is that I bounce around with Sepultura, Metallica, Megadeth, Korn, Nine Inch Nails (yes, I know they aren’t technically metal but SHHHHH), Marilyn Manson, Slayer, and Corrosion of Conformity. I personally tend to listen to their older stuff because that’s the stuff I know inside-out and very very well.

 

The Oddity

Ok, there is always that one thing that you listen to and cannot put into another category. Squirrel Nut Zippers happens to be that kind of band. I am not a huge fan but there is this one album, Hot,  I really love to listen to. It’s different, jazzy, danceable, and all around just good.

 

So, what is it you love to listen to while you are being creative???

Finding Touch in an Affectionate Deprived Society

Photo By: Angelos Michalopoulos

We talk a lot about boundaries and consent so that people feel safe and secure. So how come we don’t talk about touch and the lack of affection in today’s society? It seems to me that we have taken things so far with boundaries and consent that people would rather not touch and not ask to touch because it’s just easier to avoid it all together. Which is not what boundaries and consent is really about!

About a week ago, I had to be taken to the hospital because I was in a wretched amount of pain. As it turned out, I had a kidney stone. When I got there and sat in the waiting room, the woman who drove me reached over and gently rubbed my back. That sweet and soft gesture about brought me to tears because my body responded strongly to it. I was in immense pain but I was immediately overwhelmed with love and warmth. Why did I respond so intensely? Probably because I don’t get that type of touch often and because I didn’t get that touch in most of my relationships in my life.

As a child, I wasn’t hugged very much. I remember my Nana hugging me often and giving me little kisses on the daily. Once she passed, those things went away. Hugs were relegated to family members who came for a visit and then left to go home, often family members who lived far away. Do you know that because of the frequency of my Nana’s hugs and kisses that I can tell you what her lipstick smelled like? And you know what else? I don’t know what my own mother smelled like. I couldn’t tell you the brand of shampoo or soap she used. She wasn’t big on makeup or perfume but I know she wore them occasionally and yet no scent is embedded in my mind. All of my past boyfriends and ex-husband….didn’t much like touching me either unless it was to get sexual gratification for themselves. Holding hands? Heavens no because then people would know we were together! Kissing? Yea, not unless it was time for intimacy.

I have come to learn just how deprived of touch I am and how little of it I can receive. There are misconceptions that women cannot kiss each other on the cheek without it being a sign of lesbianism. Men cannot hug men. Men can’t even hug me unless we want to imply that there is a sexual desire between the two of us. I crave touch. I crave to touch others. I always ask for permission because I don’t want to be dismissive of another person’s boundaries and even that is sometimes received with shock.

I have even started asking for hugs from others. Some people are more than willing to step in and give a heartfelt hug (we aren’t talking about one of those one-armed side hugs that don’t allow for closeness). Others seem a little uncomfortable that I want to hug. It’s such an odd sort of situation that I get really excited if I meet someone new and they say “I am a hugger”.

Let’s stop being afraid to show affection. Yes, ask for consent first. Yes, you must honor the boundaries set by the other person. Beyond that, find your people and touch them often. Hugs, hand holding, and a kiss on the cheek can go a long way. You never know how much it means to another to develop a smell memory of you that can get them through hard times. You never know what someone else may be struggling with and small sign of affection can save their life.