There are a few things I know for certain: pencil always smears, gray carpet in a studio is the worst idea, and research is a lot of times the most boring things a writer can do. Which isn’t to say research isn’t necessary or even interesting at times, but reading, watching videos, digging for those things and taking notes can get tedious quickly. I’ve always known this, but I’ve been working on expanding a short story I wrote last summer into, if the plot allows, a full blown novel. Unfortunately given the subject matter of the novel it also means that I have to do a lot more research than I planned on accumulating this summer. I love history, and have always had a fascination with the time period I’m working in, but right now I want to write which I can’t do until I can get a timeline better pinned down.
How do you handle large quantities of research? What tricks do you use to keep yourself engaged for long periods of time? How do you manage the boredom that inevitably accompanies hours of searching for material you may not use?
So I saw this daily prompt and it got me thinking about not just friends, but the people in my life overall who have influenced me. I’ve been lucky enough to know my best friend since I was three and we’ve been together longer than the average marriage lasts. A lot of my friends aren’t local anymore- scattered from college, military service, and life, and I have more than one I only know online. They’ve done a lot for me- from listen me to whine about the scariness of dropping out and getting rejected for a lot of jobs to pushing me out of my comfort zone and telling me to stop whining when I need it. My friends are awesome.
When I really think about it though the people who have influenced my life aren’t necessarily my friends or family. She’s the 4th grade teacher who was the first adult I ever stood up to because I didn’t think animals should be called ‘it’.They’re the soccer coach when I was 10 and the only girl on the team who pushed the entire team to do their best and who unintentionally taught me more than feminism and equality than any blog or class ever has. Its where I learned I was not just as good as the boys, but a lot of the times just flat out better. They’re the student council mentor in junior high who pushed me out of my comfort zone, taught me to stand up for myself, and to speak my mind, who never stopped encouraging me, told me it was okay to cry and gave me the best advice of my life- trust yourself. Its the high school teacher who was teaching for the first time that I’m still friends with and who encouraged me to go on a study abroad- which was ultimately one of the reasons I decided to leave school. Its about my mentor from an after-school program that I later taught at who not only taught me everything I know about theater but also taught me that sometimes no matter how awesome a person is sometimes they other priorities. Its about the art teacher who was over the moon when I told her the skills I learned in her classes were what helped me start my own business in high school. Its my advisor for my history degree who was the first and only person to buy my first short story and who encouraged me to do what I needed to do to be happy.
Those are the people who have shaped me and taught me what i needed to know, even if I didn’t know it then. The big things and the little things you don’t are big until later. I love my friends and tolerate my family but at the end of the day I’m not sure if they’re the ones who shaped me.
AKA what I’ve been struggling to do
My problem is I know a little about a lot and I’m not sure how to turn that into a readable article. I feel like there’s a lot I need to know to pitch articles and have them accepted and the only way I can know it is to get a job, but I can’t get a job until I know it. Its not a lack of drive, or an unwillingness to work- its that I have no idea where my niche is or how to get started in it. I forget I don’t have to magically know everything that’s in the article and I am allowed to do research.
So my question is: how did you find your niche? Was it a moment of inspiration or just a lot of trial and error? How did you find work in that niche?
I have a few things to say about New Year’s Resolution because for the past two weeks from Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr that’s about half of what I’ve been hearing about (the other half relates mostly to the new season of Sherlock which is a whole other batch of opinions) and I’m slowly losing my mind. I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions- maybe I’m just cynical, maybe its because my birthday falls so close to the new year- I just don’t see the point. Goals rock but no matter how you look at it a year is a long time and any goal you set that can be accomplished during that time is going to need a bunch of smaller goals to accomplish anyway.
At the end of the day I’m a fan of short-term goals. Suffering from anxiety sometimes means those goals are getting out of bed in ten minutes and facing my e-mail, but a lot of the time I have my “I’m a functioning adult” goals. For me, long-term goals are too overwhelming to really be useful. “Become a paid writer.” doesn’t do anything for me besides make me wish I was small enough to fit under my bed. “Make 3 blog posts this week.” and “Pitch 2 articles before Thursday” is a lot more attainable and satisfying when I actually accomplish it.
Everyone has long-term goals but the accomplishment of those goals doesn’t just magically spring into existence. Therein lies my problem with New Year’s Resolutions. Everyone has them and most of the time they involve Big Life Changes they expect to happen and then they get overwhelmed a month later when its not happening and they realize they don’t know where to start. Its not about what goals you have or how big those goals are its about how you can achieve them.
What are some of your big goals for the year? The decade (I’m turning 2-0 tomorrow so there’s a whole new decade of time to think about goal wise). How do you see yourself accomplishing them- by breaking it into steps or setting mini-goals?
My life since May has been one series of eye opening discoveries after another and have led me to decide to make a set of Big Life Changes. The biggest of which has been deciding to drop out of college to pursue writing (and reopen my Etsy shop). It’s the sort of decision that should be difficult and that you spend weeks agonizing over, only to have the answer come to you in one moment of absolute clarity. I knew it was the right decision for me simply because it was- I was miserable where I was, and I knew either the situation had to give or I did. My mother was (and still is) furious, my father only slightly less so, but every one single one of my peers said I was making the right call.
The reality of it is the people of my generation who have spent the majority of their lives in a post 9/11 world and many of whom who struggle to get fast food jobs know the reality. According to the Huffington Post only 6 in 10 Millennials have a job, and half of those jobs are part-time (link). Those aren’t good numbers- those aren’t even okay numbers. I’ve spent the past two years searching fruitlessly for the elusive summer jobs only to realize I’m not just going up against the age bracket that traditionally has those jobs, but also our parents and grandparents who can’t afford to retire and lost most if not everything they had when the economy tanked.
I got frustrated, I got angry, I went back to school because that’s what I was supposed to do. Making the decision to freelance wasn’t easy, especially since I have virtually no technical knowledge. I once lost a file trying to crop it. My major (and what I continue to study in my free time) was history and anthropology. I have a keen interest in literature, art, and design jewelry and tote bags. I have nearly a decade of theatre experience. Basically what I can write about isn’t necessarily what most people want to read about. As I’ve dived into the freelancing market over the past couple months and started writing poetry again I’ve realized that my niche isn’t going to come to me- I’m going to have to go to it. Which as far as I can tell involves spending a lot of time on sites that make me glad I have anti-virus sometimes.
Finding what my niche even is has been hard, but I’ve also been working on something I actually do have experience in- running a business. My time at college wasn’t entirely wasted as I learned how to handle a budget, both for myself and for various organizations I’ve been involved in, and has allowed me to hone my skills as an artist. Although I don’t really produce enough to consider jewelry design much more than a hobby, it is one I’m incredibly passionate about. I’ve also started to design tote bags which is a lot less time consuming and in a lot of ways easier. It gives my brain (and wrists) the break they need from writing, while still working on a potential income source.
I know it sounds like I’m obsessed with money, which probably isn’t the best way to impress you. I’m not- the past several months have been about trying to figure out what makes me happy and how I can pursue that without living in an actual cardboard box. Thus far its been a challenge, but one I think I can meet, even if it does cause the occasional panic attack.