Reflecting on 2017: An IWSG Post

Good day, my writing and blogging friends. It’s the first Wednesday of December. (Hard to believe.) And as with every first Wednesday, it’s time for my Insecure Writer’s Support Group post. Now before I get started, I have to thank the IWSG Administrative Team for allowing me the opportunity to share and encourage fellow writers. To be honest, when someone encouraged me—I forget who—to sign my blog up for this group, I had my doubts. I wasn’t sure how encouraging I would be seeing how I struggle with the writing process. I’m still learning things about the evolution of the writing process. I’m finding myself having to refresh myself on numerous factors of storytelling. And I’m still learning things about myself as a writer. But in writing these posts, the biggest I took is that not only am I encouraging others, but I’m being encouraged. And we all need encouraging once in a while. So thanks to the administrators for allowing me to share what I’ve learned in my writing journey this year, and I hope to continue to be a source of encouragement in the years to come.

So, now on to this month’s question:

As you look back on 2017, with all its successes and failures, if you could backtrack, what would you do differently?

This came at the perfect time. I’m using the majority of the month to go through my Evernote notebooks and Pinterest boards. During this time, I’m thinking about all the goals I set for the year; about the reasons why I succeeded or failed to meet those goals. I usually reserve that post for the end of the year, but now is as good a time as any.

2017 was a mixed year. It was a year where I decided to expand my horizons in my writing. But like with any endeavor, there were setbacks. And there were things I wished I could have done differently. It seems pointless to be thinking about what I could have, would have, should have done. Especially for someone like me since I can obsess over failures more than successes. But there’s something to be said of being honest with yourself. While I have things I wish I could have done differently, it’s important for me to highlight my successes. So, let’s go.

Let’s start with Project Blacklight. This year, I added two serial blog posts. The IWSG being one. The second being the Weekend Coffee Share, where I create posts about events around my personal life. I interjected writing into the mix. Just recently, I found out the mediator shut down the Weekend Coffee Share postings. But I thought of opting out of the posts anyway because I don’t want to go into too much detail about what goes on in my life. I’ll still offer tidbits on the most relevant events of my life. Content-wise, there’s nothing I would have done differently. In terms of the blog as a whole, I wish I would have chosen a different name. It’s a moot point now, but I wish I could have given it more thought.

Next, social media. It’s not so much about what platforms I joined. It’s more about being more active. On Facebook, for example, I joined a new writing group. The 365 Writing Club. To do so, I had to sign up for their challenge. The idea behind it was to encourage and enrich daily writing habits. I say that it has worked out well, even though I didn’t write every day. And there were periods of time where I recorded consecutive zeroes and debated among myself on whether I should be a writer. Another thing I wish I could have done differently. But I got a lot of support from fellow members and administrators. And I’m seriously considering joining next year’s challenge, upping the word count goal to 500.

On Twitter, I joined the Flash Fiction Hive. I’ve talked about this group on several posts. Even shared some of the stories I wrote based on the prompts offered. The group went live in August and they post a month’s worth of prompts every other month. The best thing I’ve gotten out of the group is the writing hashtag games throughout the week. It sounds silly, but I thought I couldn’t do them because I didn’t have a WIP that involved the theme. But I didn’t need a WIP to participate. I wish I knew that sooner.

And finally, let’s talk about my writing. This year marked a big deal. I wrote some stories outside my genre. This is such a big deal. I felt locked in Contemporary Fiction. But after some encouragement, I took the plunge. I drafted a few stories in fantasy and sci-fi. But the one thing I regret was relying on other writers for inspiration. By that, I mean I posted polls on Twitter for what my next story should be about. I lacked a lot of confidence to come up with a story and I wrote them to please them, not myself. I wish I was more confident in myself to create the stories I wanted to write. Now, that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate their input or their encouragement. But I needed to stand on my two feet. Write what I felt gave me the best joy, even if I didn’t know all the rules.

Second, I set a goal this year to start submitting stories to contests and magazines. That hasn’t happened. I came up with a lot of excuses as to why it didn’t happen.

The fees were too expensive.

I didn’t know anything about the theme.

There were too many ways to interpret the theme.

I didn’t have the right software.

Over and over again, the same excuses. Truth is I could have submitted something, as long as it was polished to the best of my abilities. And even then, I used that as an excuse. But the biggest thing that stopped me was me. I was afraid to fall flat on my face. I’m someone who doesn’t like to admit faults and shortcomings. But everyone has them. Everyone is going to fail. Not every work that’s published is going to be the best. There will always be critics.

I’m still trying to get those realities into my head. I’m not going to be the best writer in the world. There will be others better than me. And that’s the biggest thing I would want a do-over. I would tell myself to not worry if I get rejected. It will happen. But at the same time, I would tell myself that it’s worth it to become a better writer. And that’s the end goal: to become better and better with each story. Not perfect, but better.

If I had to define 2017 in one sentence, it would be, “I tried something that scared me.” Now yes, there were some things I didn’t try. And sure, I had moments I wished I could backtrack and change some things around. But overall, I’m proud of myself. And that’s the important thing of why I did what I did this year. I wanted to say I did this, I did that, and it felt so good. Whether it was writing so many words a day or writing outside my comfort zone or being a voice of encouragement even though I had doubts myself. I set out to become a better writer and I feel I’m on the right track heading into the new year.

So, how about you? What are some of your successes in 2017? What’s something you wish you could have done differently? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time…

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Weekend Coffee Share: Growing and Rehashing

Hi there.

Good to see you. I’m sorry if I haven’t been as active on these posts. Sometimes, there’s not a whole lot going on in my life that’s worth talking about. But I’m glad you’re here. Today is an apple cider kind of day. I just finished doing some yard work. And man, it was cold this morning, which is what it’s supposed to feel like in the fall. So I’m going to have my apple cider while you take in whatever you want. I also have some eggnog if you want a different kind of creamer. We also have coconut creamer. That’s Colleen’s new go-to creamer. We have to buy at least two a trip because she goes through it like she goes through unsweetened tea. 

Anyway, glad to see you here. We’ve been busy with the kids, especially Jaxon. Last week, he started school. It’s kind of scary. We were so used to carrying him around with us while running errands. Now that he’s attending special education, the house just doesn’t feel the same. Even when we took him to school, there was something so surreal about it. It was only yesterday that we let the bus pick him up. We met the driver upon meeting his teacher and seeing his classroom. I felt I was going to cry for a moment. It was difficult watching someone else strap him in. And then when he left, I stood there, hoping he would be okay. I thought he would cry when I left the bus. But he sat there, quiet. I was happy, and yet, sad because he was growing. 

It’s only been a week since he started special education, so it’s really unfair to measure progress. Reading the teacher’s reports, though. I get a sense of confidence. It seems like Jaxon is adapting well to the new routine. But even then, they don’t do the same thing every day. That’s good. I guess the one thing I’m trying to learn about having an autistic child is that the definition of progress and success is much different. There are a lot of things we take for granted that are a legitimate struggle for someone like Jaxon. Like following directions (which some people still struggle with), finding ways to communicate wants and needs, using the potty (though he’scoring around). Stuff like that. It’s normal to us, but we have to work extra hard to teach him, and even then, he won’t get it right away. So we have to be patient and adapt ourselves to a different “standard.”

I try not to listen to the news very much. As important as some of these stories are, I feel like the media wants to solely focus on the negative. I don’t know if it’s a ratings thing or what. But there is a direct correlation between what’s going on now and the shape of our country today and how it affects future generations. Take the stories of sexual misconduct that seem to be piling up. Victims have been speaking out more since the Weinstein story broke loose. And with every day that passes, someone new is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior. The thing that concerns me more that I don’t think is being addressed is the lessons we’re teaching our children, especially our young men. I’m concerned about the message we’re sending to them when it comes to women. As a father of two young children, I have a responsibility to teach them respect for themselves and for other people. I also have a responsibility to teach them to defend themselves and not be afraid to speak up against any kind of abuse. 

NaNo is in full swing. It’s been ten days, and I’ve read tweets and Facebook status updates on their progress. While I’m not participating in NaNo, I made it a point to write every day to build that habit. Sad to say, I failed in that goal. And I have no one to blame but me. I’ve let myself get distracted by other things and haven’t made writing a priority. There was one day where I was so stressed, I couldn’t bring myself to continue writing a story I started. And even now, I’m thinking about scrapping it. It might have been the stress talking, or it might have been because I put too much pressure on myself to write a story by a certain time, based on advice I sought out. That never works out for me. In the end, I end up more miserable and unwilling to write anything. That’s something I’m trying to change. So for now, the story I started is on the shelf. But I started thinking of a new story in its place. But i’m taking my time because I want to make sure it’s a story I want to write. And I may incorporate elements of the last story into this one. We’ll see. 

Well, that’s it for today. I got to get dressed for work. Let me know how your week has been in the comments. Contrary to the belief, I do read them. I may not comment on the comments, but I want you to know that you are not being ignored.

So long for now. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Welcome Back

Good day. 

I have missed you guys. I’ve been very busy with work and family. My therapist tells me I need to make time for myself. So that’s what I’m doing right now. Grab a beverage and let’s get to chatting.

Before I start gabbing, let me say that it finally feels like Fall in Georgia. I stepped out of my house and it was genuinely cold. Like 30 degrees cold. And the highs are right where they’re supposed to be. Not this Indian Summer weather we’ve had the past week. But real cool, crisp weather with that slight chill in the air. Now I can justify buying a Caramel Apple Spice from Starbucks. Or a hot chocolate. No matter, Fall is finally here. 

Now then, like I said, it’s been very busy these past couple of weeks. Work has been the biggest culprit of taking up my time. Not only at my main job, but also with Uber. Do5 get me wrong. Uber is fun. I’ve met some interesting people and have had some interesting and lively conversations. But it’s getting to the point where I’m getting burned out. It’s hard to say no to passengers, but I need time to rest. And I have to be more selective when it comes to choosing runs. Sometimes it takes me to an area that takes forever to reach and I end up running late to another commitment. And the GPS Uber uses is not the best in the world. Sometimes, it will have me make a circle or do a U-turn just to get on a street where I could easily turn right or left. But sometimes, my passengers will lend a hand and offer alternate routes. That definitely helps. 

Whenever I haven’t been busy with work, my family keeps me on my toes–in a good way. Last week, we celebrated our kids’ birthdays. Officially, their birthdays are this week. However, this past weekend was the only time I could take the time off to celebrate. My main job blocks requests for time off these last few months of the year. Some people had an issue with this, but that’s how it played out. But right now, we’re at the point in our lives where we don’t care. We’re not going to let others dictate what we can and can’t do. If people want to come, then they’re welcome. If not, it’s on them. 

Speaking of the kids, we recently attended some meetings with the local board of education as it pertains to our son Jaxon. Since he’ll be turning three in a few days, certain therapies will no longer be available to him. So we took him to a school to have him evaluated to determine the best course of assistance. This past week, we learned they approved our request for more treatment. He’ll be attending a local elementary school where they specialize in teaching children similar to Jaxon’s diagnosis. We’re a little worried because the school is further from us and that he would have to ride a bus. We’re nervous because this will certainly be a change of routine for all of us. But we try to think about what is best for all of us.

I mentioned that my therapist told me I need to make time for myself. I need “recess,” as it is. I couldn’t agree more. But it’s hard. I work two jobs and I have my duties taking care of the family. It’s hard to find time to do what I want to do. But I think the one thing that would help is detaching myself from my phone every once in a while. No Facebook status or tweet is that important to where I can’t take time to myself. Time to rest as I’m taking a nap. Time to do something fun like write or play video games. Time to work out and get myself in shape. There are a lot of things I can do without involving my phone or tablet. 

Speaking of writing, I had a little bit of a crisis. And it kind of coincided with something I struggled with in my life. There are a lot of regrets and resentments I haven’t worked through in my life. A lot of things I hate having done or haven’t done. I spilled it onto my writing career. I ranted about it on social media groups. I ranted about how I hate that I haven’t done anything with my degree. No manuscript. No submissions in years. I hate that I’m constantly comparing myself to other writers. I hate how I’m so entrenched in writing in one genre; that the phrase “write what you know” has become part of my mantra. But thanks to my writing friends, I realized these feelings are normal. I have nothing to be ashamed about. I am a good writer.

I’m thankful for the family and friends who support my journey. Writing is what I love to do. I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Well, that is it for now. I’ sorry that I haven’t been more active on the Weekend Coffee Share. I certainly will try harder, like everything else that’s important to me.

So, what about you? It’s been a few weeks. What have you been up to? How has life treated you? Let me know in the comments. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Driving (Insert Here)

Good afternoon,

I finally have a chance to catch my breath and meet up with you all. I had an energy drink earlier today. (I know. I’m trying to cut them out of my diet.) I’ve been getting some pretty bad headaches in the morning. Probably stress-induced. I’ll go into detail in a minute. First, let’s get situated. There are K-cups, but I also have unsweetened tea and apple cider. Just don’t ask me to warm it up. 

So, I have some news. I picked up a new second job as an Uber driver. I’m excited, yet sad that I’m leaving Pizza Hut. It was an experience working in the food service industry. And I gained a better understanding on what goes into making great food and satisfying customers. It’s like retail in the sense you have to think about what will make your customers happy. Having the products they want. Being served in a timely manner. Going above and beyond to make sure they come back. I will say that working at Pizza Hut—especially as a delivery driver—doesn’t present as much opportunity to build an one-on-one relationship with a customer. The other thing I will miss is the crew I worked with in the year I was there. But like any other business, I saw associates come and go. I had a couple of go-tos if I needed help with something. And management was very accommodating with my primary job. I will visit whenever there’s opportunity. 

The time has come to turn the page. Like I said, I picked up a new second job with Uber. Unlike taxis, I’m driving my car to take passengers around. And so, I’m putting more priority on making sure the car is clean and running in peak condition. I had to purchase some accessories to make for a pleasant experience. Like a car mount for safety and needed to purchase a car mount so as to not be holding my phone all the mints and water bottles. The only thing I’m missing is one of those car fresheners. I’m looking into what would be ideal. 

In the week I’ve been doing Uber, there have some good and bad things. First, the good. I set my own schedule. I can drive for as long as I want. I get to meet some lively people. (So far, most of my passengers have been pleasant.) I can cash out my fares any time I wish. Especially handy when I’m in need of extra cash right away.

There are some drawbacks. For instance, it’s hard to say no when I’m on a roll. This is not necessarily bad, but sometimes I can end up not getting the proper sleep I need for the next day. Hence, the energy drinks. Also, I don’t know where I’m taking my passengers until I pick up my fare. So far, I haven’t come across an unsavory situation, but I hear stories. And being on call all the time, essentially, cuts into my time I would like to spend writing or doing something to unwind. 

But overall, it’s a fun adventure. I try not to think about driving with Uber as work. But more like I’m learning more about the city and meeting people different from me and getting a glimpse into their lives. Something that might come into handy with my writing.

Well, that is all for this week. Kind of a short visit, but like I said, doing these jobs doesn’t allow for a lot of free time. But I want to hear from you. What’s going on in your life? Anything new? Let me know in the comments. 

Until next time…

Weekend Coffee Share: Short Visit

Good morning.

It’s nice when we get together for coffee and a quick bite. I’ve been trying to get back to a healthier diet. Having energy drinks doesn’t help, but I’ve felt it necessary because I’ve had to take my sister-in-law to work early in the morning. But I could do without and stick to making a cup of coffee to get me through the day. And eating foods that provide the protein I need for energy. Which is why I like these Jif To-Go packs. Makes for a quick snack, but like everything else, have to eat it sparingly. 

So, let’s talk. 

I really don’t know where to begin. There are a lot of things to complain about, but I’m trying to be grateful, especially with work. I must say that I’ve had issues with customers and their blatant disrespect for the associates and the goods we sell to them. I know I shouldn’t be so worked up over it. It happens all the time. But I can’t help but to feel—what’s the word? Upset—about it. We do all we can to make the store presentable to our customers, and they just wreck everything. It’s maddening. 

Ok. I’ve had my rant. Now to better things. 

My wife recently started a blog on our journey with our son who, as I mentioned before, has been diagnosed with autism. Some of the things she’s shared, I couldn’t agree more. There are a lot of assumptions made about parents of autistic children. She doesn’t shy away from addressing those issues. (Actually, she doesn’t shy away from a lot. That’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.) I encourage you guys to have a peek at her blog and let her know what you think. Here’s the link.

As far as writing goes, it’s been pretty slow. I have a few ideas for stories, so I’ve been writing them out just so I can get them out of my head. I don’t really know what I will do with them. But I figure it’s best to do something to keep my writing brain in shape. And I have been journaling more to express my frustrations. But that only goes so far. At some point, I have to put myself out there. I have a slew of unfinished pieces waiting for the editing block. And if I’m going to be a better writer, I need to get some–you know what–and get these stories into the wild. Be prepared for the inevitable rejection. So, wish me luck. 

Well, that is all I have to say about this week. It’s been slow. Next week, though, I’ll share my time at my 20-year high school reunion. I’m looking forward to it. In the meantime, feel free to share your week in the comments. 

Until next time, take care and watch your step. 

Weekend Coffee Share: Getting Back Into a Routine

Good afternoon,

Nice to see you guys again. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Sorry about the mess outside. Haven’t had a chance to clean up after Irma blew through here. Help yourself to some treats, including some autumn mix candy. We love this stuff, but can’t eat all of it. I’m sure my sister-in-law won’t mind. 

Ok? Good. 

So, it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve seen you. Last week, everyone was focused on Hurricane Irma. At my Walmart, people were buying water, portable battery packs, flashlights, battery-powered radios. Pretty much anything that could be of help when the storm hit. By the time my shift was over, the store was practically picked clean. 

I paid a lot of attention to the weather reports on the days leading up. I had a local weather app I checked frequently. I watched and listened to weather reports whenever I could. By Monday, I breathed a little sigh of relief when I heard the hurricane weakened to a tropical storm upon reaching my neck of the woods. Still, it was pretty scary and it was no time to rest. There was still the issue of winds gusting up to over 60 miles an hour throughout the day. Monday afternoon, our power went out and was out for a little over a day. School for Zoe, obviously, was cancelled the day the storm landed. And the following day. I assume the school had their power issues too. I was off of both jobs that day, thank goodness. But I had to come in at Walmart the next day. And they were still out of power. From what I understood, the power was out for two days.

The focus this past week has been on trying to get back into a routine. We had to buy some supplies we used during the storm, which wasn’t a lot. I spent some time with my grandmother last week, too. It was nice to get out of the neighborhood. And Colleen posted an impromptu reunion for some of her friends who went to Georgia because of the hurricane. But the day of, there was a change of plans. We went to meet with one of the friends and had the makeshift reunion there.

The one good thing that came from the storm is the amount I had for assessment. Trying to figure how to make things better for me and my family. One conclusion I came to was finding another second job. So finally, I pulled the trigger and applied for another job. I hope to hear something within the next week. Also, I need to be more diligent in taking care of my health. I’ve been lackadaisical in not only counting my calories, but also my gym attendance. I think that comes from not making a schedule for the week and not getting the sleep I need in order to have a productive workout session. Starting today, even though I can’t make it to the gym, I need to get back to the enthusiasm I had starting out. 

I haven’t done a lot of writing the past couple of weeks. Last week, my focus was on the storm and trying to keep the kids busy. But that’s not to say I haven’t been thinking about it. The past couple of chat sessions on Twitter have been very spirited. So much so that I’m thinking about a new project. I’m not going to talk about it now only because it’s in the planning stages. I can say that this will be something I hadn’t thought of before and it will be probably the biggest undertaking of my writing journey. And truth be told, that’s what scares me about it. But I am lucky to have some great supportive writers. I’ve been doing on research on not only the project, but on how to “publish” it. I thought about starting a Wattpad account, but I got a lot of negative feedback on the idea. So I’ll leave it to my blog. And with some perseverance, you will be seeing my work coming to life. 

So, that about wraps it up. My thoughts go out to those recooperating from Harvey and Irma. Feel free to leave comments on how you’re dealing with things after the storms. Did they give you some perspective on certain things in your life? Let me know. 

Until next time, take care…

Weekend Coffee Share: Serious Moment

Good afternoon,

I’m a little tired right now. Just got out of the gym. I’ve been up since 4am. It’s hard for me to get back to sleep sometimes once I wake up. I have some Folgers K-Cups in the pantry if you need some.

I’ll wait a minute…

Now, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting anyone to come by this weekend. With the Decatur Book Featival and DragonCon, I was hoping to have that time with my family. Unfortunately, there’s work to be done. But while I have a moment to talk, I want to discuss something serious.

I really don’t talk a whole lot about my family on this blog. As much as I want you guys to know the real me, I’m pretty protective when it comes to family. Continue reading “Weekend Coffee Share: Serious Moment”