And So It Begins!

 

Yes, the joy of writing has begun! Yesterday I set aside an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to work on my NaNoWriMo project. What is so ironic is that I am not writing what I thought I was, I am actually writing fiction this year. I have not written fiction in close to thirty years so this will be an interesting ride. So far, it’s going pretty well and I am enjoying the creation process of my little world. It’s partially a world I wished we lived in and yet it has a horror aspect that I don’t want to ever have to live in. But it’s a funky story so we will see how this goes. I haven’t written yet today but I am going to in a little while and at least get halfway through today’s word count. I will pick up the rest in the evening. I can honestly say that I think breaking up the writing to twice a day helps me meet the goal and keeps me fresh in my writing. If I had to sit and write 1700 words in one sitting, it might get bad real quick.

Are you joining NaNoWriMo this year? Feel free to comment below and tell me about your adventures with it.

Am I Insane?

 

 

 

Perhaps I am a glutton for punishment but I have decided to tackle NaNoWriMo once again.  I have never successfully completed one in the past and I have a tendency to get frustrated. But. I have a book I have been working on for a year and I really need to get it finished. I may not complete 50,000 words on it but I am going to try. It would be the appropriate sized book for what I am working on.

I was going to do a sweater knitting challenge this month but the reality is, I prefer that my knitting be portable and not rely on a pattern all the time. If I am going to get on the computer every night, it really should be to write.

Truth be told, I feel like my personal and spiritual writings have been suffering as of late. The technical writing is great to make money but I want to be known for my actual thoughts and feelings. I want to be inspiring, and not influential on someone’s shopping habits. Don’t get me wrong, I like the tech stuff because I get to learn about so many different things that are out there. I just want to be able to have that balance that lets me tap into that other writing part of myself.

So if you are joining in on the NaNoWriMo fun, come look me up! You can find me as AKunschmann and we can cheer each other on. If you aren’t joining in on the fun, that’s okay. We can still include you in our rantings and ravings all November long.

When You Adopt A Title

 

Photo By: RW Studios

 

Titles, those tricky little shits are at it again. We are a society that loves titles, it helps define who we are and where we fit in the grand puzzle. Titles are also incredibly limiting and can leave us feeling lost and empty when a title is removed. Father, Aunt, Artist, Writer, Disabled, Neurotypical, and a bajillion others can be added and utilized at our discretion. The problem I have is, when can you adopt a title and it be considered legitimate?

I have been a writer a long time and I didn’t use that title until I got some paying gigs for it. I wasn’t an author by any means, “just a writer”. Now that I have been published, I feel confident that I can use the title author. Yet neither of those could I use until I got paid or considered legitimate by other people. Mother is a loaded title that many feel like they cannot use without children under their wings. Yet we care for our pets just the same as we would a child? Mothers, in the traditional sense, are The Creatrix. She has given life to something and it is only fair to consider a woman a mother when she breathes life into something, regardless if that is a human baby or not.

So here I sit, once again on the edge of yet another title and whether or not I can legitimately use it. I have submitted some artwork to an art show for sexual abuse survivors. I dabble with abstract art because I can’t draw to save my life. I have mediums I certainly prefer to use, acrylics vs oil or watercolor, so I can certainly sound pretentious if I choose to. I have not been formally trained in painting…..I just play. I mostly play because my brain runs at light speed and sometimes I need a way to dump it.

I don’t just paint either. I needlepoint, knit, and pretty much love DIY projects (which means you should read that as I am a Pinterest Junkie). I find peace in using my hands in creating something, giving life to something, and often times failing horribly. Trust me, I don’t show the world the crap I make that is an utter failure. Regardless, I have had other people call me an “artist”. Am I really? I have never sold any of my art, I have never participated in an art show (until now), and I certainly don’t walk around calling myself an artist.

Dictionary.com (who is my bff because of the thesaurus tab) defines artist as:

  1. person who produces works in any of the arts that are primarily subject to aesthetic criteria.
  2. person who practices one of the fine artsespecially a painter or sculptor.
  3. person whose trade or profession requires a knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.:
  4. person who works in one of the performing arts, as an actor, musician, or singer; a public performer:mime artist; an artist of the dance.
  5. person whose work exhibits exceptional skill.

 

By their definition, I could be an artist. I do produce work that is subject to an aesthetic. It’s my aesthetic but it’s still an aesthetic. I guess I do practice a “fine” art, painting wise. It is not my trade or profession and yet until recently, I have not been a performer. Yes, I did a poetry slam earlier this year and I will be reading poetry again for the art show. Is it an exceptional skill? I suppose it would depend on who you ask. I am just doing my thing, not something I would argue is very exceptional at all.

Am I dissecting this too much? Absolutely. In the end, it doesn’t matter if I define myself as an artist or not. I think that my issue comes in with my validity with others. I have watched authors bitch for years about someone self-publishing a book and calling themselves an author. I have watched artists bitch that someone else, whom they have deemed as inferior, is calling themselves an artist and couldn’t draw their way out of a cracker jack box. And it’s all left a harrowing impression on me.

I am always hesitant about titles because it hurts to have someone mislabel you or challenge your label. To say I am an artist, writer, priestess, or Creatrix is to dive deep into my identity on this planet. Someone else deciding that I am “not enough” is painful and one that isn’t even up to that person.  Everyone brings something to the table that is of value, regardless of it’s presentation. It’s not up to someone else to belittle it or be demeaning in any way. It is one thing if I try to pass myself off as a lawyer without proper training…..quite another to bash someone’s art work or creation just because you are insecure.

By the way, I updated the Events page and you should check out some of the exciting things I have going on!

Blessed Be My Lovies! No matter the title you use!

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!