Online Learning and Important Lifeskills

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As some of you probably already know from random announcements, Facebook or whatever, I’m starting an online Library Science degree just about… right now. Apparently I forgot to mention it to my mom, who is not on Facebook and I guess can no longer read my mind.

If this all sounds dry and school assignment-like, it is. But I think it’s good information to share anyway.
While I’m just starting up taking classes again, the first graded classes since 2007, there are a lot of different personal skills that I have to have or acquire to be a successful student. A lot of these skills aren’t my strongest ones but I’m determined to use this Masters Degree to make them much stronger.
Time Management

I’m awesome at time management on paper. I can make great lists and schedules. I even get excited about making them. However putting them to use is another issue (this is another reason why I never ended up running in the Color Run. I walked, sure. But I couldn’t get myself to the gym enough to work up my running endurance. So I ran for about a minute. More on this later!). I just can’t get myself in the game enough to consistently be on top of everything I need to be on top of. This can be solved by sticking to a set schedule and hopefully the resistance will melt away. I plan to have certain hours blocked into my schedule as class and homework time. And I will stick to those because otherwise procrastinating will make it really difficult in the long run.

Organization

I like to think I can be organized. I’m easily overwhelmed but when I put things on paper I can sort it all out rather well. I think taking online classes will actually improve my organization skills because I’ll be organized in that one aspect, keeping notes in separate notebooks, tracking tasks and assignments in a calendar (or maybe even two) and regularly checking e-mails and discussion messages. And responding. I don’t have an issue with already checking them. This rolls over to real life though, in many different ways. At my current job I have to be organized. I need to keep track of money and customers’ problems and people I need to get back to. At home organization helps you from losing things, it keeps the overall energy of a room flowing better and it makes people feel more calm in general.

Discipline.

When I was a freshman at MCLA I took a writing class where the professor told us to set a time every single day, the same time that is, to write. And you might sit there for days on end getting a line or two out but eventually the words will come. Inspiration will show up. You train your brain to think in certain ways when you are doing certain things. So planning in certain times for class work, or writing novels actually helps you to be more inspired. It’s like Nike says, just do it. Discipline comes from within. It comes from that place where your mind overrides your emotions and you fight through the resistance. You need discipline to change any habit, to improve yourself in any way. Part of my plan of attack involves aromatherapy. I bought Badger Balm’s Focus Balm which is Citrus and Ginger scented. I plan on having it around/ on me when I am writing or doing school work and at no other times. Eventually the scent will get me in that mood to do work. I’m excited about this little experiment.

Teamwork is another huge aspect of online learning. Projects are assigned to teams where you have to work with people online who you’ve never met before and may never meet in person. All of the life skills I mentioned above are necessary, but there are other ones likes patience and acceptance and negotiability that come in handy when working with other people also. You need to be willing to see others’ points of view, willing to work just as hard or harder than everyone else and to respond to everyone promptly so the project doesn’t fall behind. Many people don’t like the idea of teamwork because they think it really means that they have to do all the work if they need to get the grade they want. I think it’s important to trust your team mates and communicate effectively to make sure you all have the same goals in mind. Teams exist everywhere in life, not just in distance learning. They’re part of most peoples’ every day life whether it’s through their job responsibilities or outside groups or projects or just trying to manage a house hold and a family.

There are a few things I learned recently about working in teams, especially when it comes to school work and online learning. Dr. Ken Haycock spoke at a presentation specifically about teamwork related to distance learning and the real world. He illustrated different types of teams including permanent and temporary. Permanent teams are made up of groups such as children’s librarians where their careers or job positions make it so they will be part of this group for a long period of time. Temporary groups address a specific issue or problem that needs to be solved. Teams for distance learning are temporary groups because they are assembled for a small period of time to accomplish a specific project goal.

Dr. Haycock says there are five dysfunctions of working in groups. The five dysfunctions are: absence of team, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidable of accountability and inattention to results.

These dysfunctions can be avoided with:
*clear expectations within the group,
* addressed roles and responsibilities to create accountability
* picking a team leader who will work to keep the group in order and who will also assign tasks
* ground rules (such as arrive on time, be prepared, etc.) that will help teams work together smoothly

Enid Erwin suggestion that the benefit of working in teams is it allows students to apply experience from teams to real life situations (specifically in jobs, organization and committees). Being on time, helping out others, showing up to be a part of something and collaborating are all skills that can are necessary to work on problems in work environments.

Overall I’m looking forward to accepting these new and necessary challenges to help me to succeed with my Masters in Library Science. I have quite a road ahead of me but I’m excited to finally start the journey.

January Recap and February Plans

I may not have posted much in January, but a lot has been going on inside my head. I’ve been crafting ideas to share, thinking about doing a blog overhaul, contemplating my financial situation and more importantly I’ve been doing a lot of self work. I’ve been spending even more time alone. I’ve been filling the pages of my Pisa journal, writing a fairy tale short story and working on becoming.

A lot of times it feels like days are dragging, but the weeks go by so fast.

Things I’m looking forward to in February:
Starting a new journal
Finding some awesome dance DVDs
Doing spring cleaning early (and finishing before spring!)

Things you can look forward to here o this blog:
Wanderlust posts on travel
Songs that mean the world to me
A random giveaway
Discover different fiction
How to be Your Own Valentine

What are you looking forward to in February?

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750 Words

One thing that I’ve learned (though it’s something that I’ve also known, sometimes you can know something and not truly know it until you learn/ feel it) is that I need to write.

In a way, it doesn’t matter what I’m writing, or why. I just need to do it. I need to crank out words onto an open screen. I need to release my secrets into Moleskine journals. I need to find pretty paper and write lovely letters. I need to stop and asses my day. I need to purge thoughts onto the screen before I can full comprehend my own feelings. I need to spread my thoughts over the Internet, risking over sharing for the option of reaching out. I need a place to stick the stories I create. I need to mold them into reality by the way of words.

In short. I need to write. There’s no way around it. Every since I was in second grade and we started writing exercises on computers, I’ve needed to write. I asked for a computer for Christmas and Santa brought a shiny new black and white MS Dos computer. At school we wrote short stories. I really feel like that was the beginning of everything. Of where I am today.

And so I come to tell you about 750 Words. I’ve made this post before, though it’s never seen the real Internet world. Every version is a little different, but still every version is a little bit closer to what I want to say.

750 Words is a website based off Julia Cameron‘s idea of “morning pages” it’s what you write before you write anything else, the brain dump that gets you going. It’s your warm up exercise to accompany your cup of tea. There are no rules for morning pages, but the point of 750 words is to write that many words per day, at least to start off. 750 words is the equivalent of three double spaced pages and it’s a canvas to your day.

You can write journal entries, brainstorm random thoughts, think up blog posts, insult your neighbour, complain about the state of the world, create an alter ego, or write fiction. You can review the movies you’ve seen and hated, wonder what the future will be like, create shopping lists, explain why you won’t be crossing things off your to-do list, write love letters to someone you haven’t met. You can do anything with words and a blank space. It’s yours for the taking.

Fun things about 750 Words include: random badges when you’ve completed 750 words for days at a time, pie charts to tell you how emotional/ positive/ etc. your writing has been, and graphs to show how fast you wrote and  how many times you were distracted for three or more minutes at a time. If you sign up, you can elect to get a daily e-mail reminder to write your words.

Over the past few months I’ve been slacking with writing my 750 words daily. I’ve put all of my focus into writing my novel and then, at the end of November, burning out and just taking too much time off. I’ve managed to not write blog posts, forget about journaling and ignore words that weren’t already published (I mean, I read five books last week. I guess that’s kind of a lot…). I plan on using 750 Words to bring me back into the world of blogging, to remind me to finish my novel and to let my writing take over like it wants to most of the time.

So if you’re a writer of sorts, or if you like to make epically long lists or if you’re looking for something to complain to, I suggest checking out 750 Words. The daily e-mail reminders are great, just because they are one more thing to talk you out of keeping lazy. If you’re a wanna be writer, now is the perfect time to stare at the blank white screen like the rest of us.

There’s one thing that I always remember about my freshman year fiction writing class. You have to show up in order for the writing to. My professor taught us that discipline is what brings on inspiration. Sitting down to write every single day, especially if it’s in the same place at the same time, trains your brain to think writerly things. It makes it so you are able to write, even if you think you can’t. And it also means that if you want to be a writer, you can be a writer. You just have to show up and do the work. And you’ll keep learning along the way. It may not mean that you’re going to be published or that you can make a living off your words, but that’s not the point in writing, anyway.

The point is something you’ll have to figure out on your own.

Write Yourself a Love Letter


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If you give yourself one thing this holiday season, give yourself the gift of love. Take the time to just be and give to yourself. And what I mean by this is … write yourself a love letter.

Maybe it sounds corny, but only because you might think it’s corny. Tell yourself how much you love yourself. Write about what you love about yourself. Write about you right now as if you’re telling this to some other person. Open it  a year from now after you do the same again. Remind yourself that you can’t ever love or be loved unless you gift yourself that gift first.

Here are some examples of ideas for your love letter:

Write it in bright pink glitter gel pen, make the words stand out.
Create your own stationery and write on that.
Keep the pages going and going. Write as much as you can.
Time yourself. Give yourself ten minutes of pure love. Or more less.
Address it to yourself in 2012.
Put glitter in the envelope so you’re showered with it when you open it next year.
Use stickers, draw pictures or cartoons, tell your story however you feel it’s best for you.
Write with your eyes closed.
Write in pig latin.
Translate your letter into French so your future self will have to translate it back. (or learn French next year!)
Tell yourself a story.
Remember one thing amazing about 2011.
Practice alliteration.
Create metaphors.
Rename the people in your life.
Write it in e-mail format and have Future Me send it out.
Include your 2012 bucket list.
Ponder the end of the world.
Imagine where you’ll be this time next year.

It’s important to exclude anything negative from this letter. Your future self doesn’t want negative in his/her life, so don’t give in. Make everything positive. Search out the light in situations, reflect on why something bad might actually be a blessing.

Finished and still inspired?
Write yourself a love letter to be opened in 2016.
Write your best friend a love letter for next year.
Write one for a stranger and leave it in the bindings of your favorite library book.

NaNo Wednesday, The End & November Review

So we’ve reached the end of November so much quicker than the other months this year, I swear!
Last week I reached my 50,000 word goal. I’ve spent the past few days mostly not writing but brainstorming and figuring out where to go now. The story’s not finished, but the scenes have been thought up. I’m just one step closer.
While I’ve completed NaNoWriMo one time previous in 2004 when I was in college and just barely working, I’ve learned something this year that’s really big for me. I do have the time to write a novel, even if I’m working 40+ hours weekly. And I can find the energy to do so.
I’ve learned that waking up an hour before I need to (on mornings where I don’t open) is incredibly beneficial. I can get over a thousand words on the page. I can make myself breakfast. Once I’m finished writing I’m actually hungry. After my work day I feel like I’m semi accomplished. I can relax. But I don’t have to. While I’d like to continue to do this, but maybe work out in the mornings, this is a work in progress. I can’t beat the urge to keep sleeping so easily. But I won’t give up.
As far as my November goals, go…
I did not work out as much as I planned, nor did I reach my weight loss goal.
I managed to cook two new recipes, instead of four
I really skimped on blogging this month. All of my writing energy went toward my novel, so my deepest apologies!
 I can’t even remember any other goals for right now. So I probably didn’t accomplish them. Oops!
xo

NaNoWriMo Wednesdays: Word Wars

If you’re stuck on your word count and unsure how you’re ever going to make it to 50,000 words within the next week, I have one possible solution for you: Word Wars.

Word Wars is done with a group of people (though technically you can do it on your own, too) and a clock. You pick a set amount of minutes (I did a lot of 7 and 22 minute intervals) and write for that long. At the end, someone calls (or says) TIME and you all stop writing. You announce your word count for that time period and, if you’d like, share the last sentence you wrote. It’s fun and intriguing. And while I was playing through Facebook chat with a few girls I met through my Francesca Lia Block classes I kept on winning!

This helps because you are not writing on your own.
It’s affective because you are trying to beat someone or something and the time is on!
The short ones help warm you up and you can get everything out quickly.
The longer Word Wars force you to stretch yourself. You might feel stuck but that’s okay. Your mind will help you make up something to keep on going. (At least, if you don’t get too distracted, that is).

On Monday word wars helped me to write over 3500 words.

So what are you waiting for? Find a few NaNoWriMo pals, met some people in a chat room, coerce your room mate into writing nonsense for random timed intervals. And just get out there and write. You’ve got a week left.

NaNoWriMo Wednesdays: Getting Past Obstacles

Are you stuck yet? The other day I passed the halfway mark, a few days premature of the middle of November. I was delighted and excited! Then the day after that, I felt stuck. And then I got a cold. I’ve been drowning in a sea of tissues and drinking orange juice nonstop. It’s hard to stay clear headed when I can’t breathe! But this is just another obstacle, something to push past.

Another huge obstacle is writer’s block.

Writer’s block can be anything to anyone. Johnny Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls once described as when you write and everything feels like it’s crap. To me, writer’s block is when I just can’t write. I can’t figure out how to make what’s in my head into scenes on a page. I have no interest in writing what comes next.

Recently when I was going through this, I skipped around. I decided I would write the scenes I would enjoy writing. And I’d fill everything else in alter. I started writing scenes that make me feel. And I feel like this part of my story is coming alive.

Here are some other suggestions for breaking through writer’s block:
*First off, you need to sit down and show up to write every day. Even if you only write a sentence.
* Introduce a new character and see where it takes you.
* Write something else, a poem or a blog post just to shake it up.
* Go for a walk where there are other people. Observe those people. Write a scene for what’s going on around you.
* Write only dialogue and forget about everything else.
* Write a dream like sequence that summarizes the scene you are trying to write then move on from it.
*Kill one of your characters.
* Send someone to Tokyo
* Visit the Young Writer’s Program and use their dare machine to give you some random plot ideas.

What do you do for writer’s block?

NaNoWriMo Wednesday: Writing Tips and Advice

Are you in the middle of a marathoning NaNoWriMo writing session? Or just enjoying watching your Facebook friends struggle to meet some sort of almost impossible word goal for the month while you decide to purposefully not write anything in November, not even Tweet? Or maybe you’re just tired of reading about me talking about writing so often (if that’s the case, you’re reading the wrong blog, sweetheart). No matter what your situation is I have some links to share that might get you through your writing slump and back into the marathon.

Why Sara Zarr is inspired by failure
The creative process, and the creative life, is mostly full of moments between the idea and the being done, the spark and the blazing fire, the shimmering magic and the finished piece. We’re always living in the gap between our vision of what could be and what might be, and what is.

Don’t Avoid Painful Writing
We must reveal that part of ourselves that we’d rather hide. But this is the part of you we’re all longing to see.

Learn From The Greats: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers
6. James Joyce. In the pantheon of great writers of the last century, Joyce looms large. And while more prolific writers set themselves a word or page limit, Joyce prided himself in taking his time with each sentence. A famous story has a friend asking Joyce in the street if he’d had a good day writing. Yes, Joyce replied happily. How much had he written? Three sentences, Joyce told him.

How to Flourish in Your Writing
Always have great kindness for yourself. Look over your shoulder: there is no one there. No one cares if you write. It has to come from you, from your effort. There is no hierarchy in writing; you elbow your way into the lineage by your human effort. It is democratic and should be in the declaration of independence—the right to liberty, justice, the pursuit of happiness, and writing. Only human beings write. Clouds don’t, ants don’t.

 

Thirty Days and Nights of Literary Abandon

It’s November again, and in case you aren’t sure what that means, it means the beginning of National Novel Writing Month. It means this is when thousands of writers lock themselves in their offices and bedrooms after their work days and write a novel with the goal of reaching 50,000 words written in the month of November alone. Once again I am attempting this goal, working with a novel in process to make it into a novel that’s finished (at least, the first draft anyway).

This marks my 6th attempt at the 50,000 word goal, one that I only reached as a Sophomore in college in 2004. This year I do plan to win. What do you get when you win, you ask? Well, the satisfaction of knowing you completed it, and a certificate you can print out. And maybe, if you want, you can buy yourself a NaNoWriMo t-shirt that declares you a winner.

Lots of writers have different opinions about NaNo, varying from supporting it to disapproving. Here’s the one thing they everyone must remember if they’re setting out to write a novel in a month: you’re writing a first draft. And it’s going to suck. Sure some parts might be good, but mostly it’s going to be a lot of crap to wade through and stuff you need to edit. That’s how writing works. And you need to forget about editing for November. Just write. Get the gunk out, find some gems, challenge yourself and just write. That’s what’s important this month.

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this month? If you want to friend me on the NaNo site, you can click here.

<3
Melanie Kristy

(The fact that it’s November also means that it’s almost my birthday! On the 12th I’ll be another year older. Does anyone have any birthday rituals? Every year for me is different.)

Moments Like Movies: My Francesca Lia Block Weekend.

“Writing and reading has always been a huge escape for me. One of the things I want to convey to my reader is that. I want to provide them that same escape.” This is what I tell nine girls and Francesca Lia Block. We are going around a circle talking about either, the one message we’d like to convey through our writing, or why we write. This is why I write.

“I can tell from reading your piece that you got a lot of pleasure out of writing it. You had fun, and you definitely convey that to the reader.” This is coming from Francesca Lia Block herself, the goddess whose writing I’ve worshiped and studied since high school. She is the woman who has taught me the most through her words. Through her I’ve met some of my closest (albeit not physically close) friends. And here she is, commenting on my own working.

Francesca sits on the edge of the chair with her legs crossed. She looks like she’s ready to take flight, yet at the same time she appears comfortable and grounded. It’s the beginning of summer in New England and she wears a black leather jacket indoors. Later she comments that she must be cold blooded since the rest of us are in t-shirts. Her boots are tall, pleather and shiny over black jeans. When she reads the piece I’ve submitted to be work-shopped, she laughs out loud often. I am so pleased by this reaction that I can’t help but grinning.

She says my story is charming. Later a few other girls comment on things that I’ve mentioned in the story. Vegan Love Cakes are appreciated by the vegan girl. The dream my main character has about floating on a cheese danish makes another girl realize that is also her dream. We laugh around a table covered in oreo brownies, lemon meringue cookies, and veggies with hummus.

When I first saw on Facebook that Francesca Lia Block would be making a rare appearance in Boston, I knew I would have to go. I rearranged a few work things and decided that I would be there for everything possible. Then to learn that Francesca was offering a workshop! As a writer, this is more exciting that word can even express. I compared it to meeting Hanson, but if you don’t understand that, then maybe my words aren’t enough. It’s almost better than meeting Hanson. I have feedback about my writing from my favourite author. This is who I am. This is what I want to do.

The day before the workshop, Ari and I took the T into Cambridge. We found the Cambridge Public Library, a library so beautiful I got chills, and went to find the Main Lecture Hall. The guy at the desk teased me when I asked if he could tell me where it was. “Yes, I can.” Was his response. “Will you please tell me?” I smiled. Yes. He would.

We took the elevator in the wrong direction before redirecting ourselves and making it to L2. We ducked inside fifteen minutes late. We missed the actual reading, but Francesca was answering questions. For an hour she told us about her writing process and her upcoming books. She asked who we thought should be cast in the Weetzie Bat movie. She answered questions about writing, gave advice on life.

After she signed books in the hallway. Fifty some-odd girls lined up. I bought Ari a book and we waited in line, getting closer and closer. I snuck a picture. I grinned a lot and was unable to stand still. When it was finally my turn, I excitedly hold her I would be at her workshop. I forgot to introduce myself. She smiled opened the book to see where my name was written (on a post-in someone passed out earlier). I forgot to ask for a picture with her and seconds later it was Ari’s turn. We left with signed books, on our way to meet Shaylin for delicious sandwiches. I saw earrings in a jewelry store that were ladybugs and I had to have them.

Sunday I am on my own all day. My mom worries about me wandering the streets of Jamaica Plain by myself. As if it wasn’t one o’clock in the afternoon. I am excited and nervous. I don’t want to be disappointed. A book signing is one this, but this is different. This is real life weaving its way into my dreams. This is my dream unfolding in ways I never imagined. This is my fiction and my creations blending with the fictional world of Francesca Lia Block.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine people as real people who eat and live and sleep in beds like you do. When you’re little you are unsettled by seeing your teachers outside of the school environment. When you’re sitting ten feet from your favourite author, hearing her talk about something you wrote, it feels like it isn’t happening at all. It feels like those moments in life when you think to yourself, this moment feels like a movie.

After the workshop part we take the time to go over basic elements. Francesca suggests ways to make characters sympathetic. She tries to offer more specific suggestions for our work. She turns to offer to sign something for me but catches herself, “Oh, you had signed something yesterday.” So instead I ask for a picture. I hand off my iPhone wishing I had brought something more professional (also wishing I owned something much more professional that was also digital). The picture is as surreal as the afternoon has been.

When I leave she hugs me and tells me to keep writing. I return to the streets with a refreshed sense of self. My senses seem a little sharper. I am more aware. This feeling is one I want to remember and this moment I want to take with me.