Adjusting

I think my brain automatically went into crisis mode after my last post. It’s like, “Well that’s done, now what?”. One part of my brain knows that I can just keep writing like this every day, even without NaNoWriMo to push me. But another part, the stubborn and cranky part, is freaking out. That part of my brain keeps telling me that I finished this project, so now I need to move on and start more projects. Why would I keep writing when I finished my writing for the month? And while we’re thinking like that, why keep writing into December? I mean, there’s all that holiday stress; my schedule is going to be all wonky; I have all that shopping and baking and wrapping and then re-wrapping once my festive feline Bowser Kitten attacks the presents. Why add more stress to that with writing? Writing is for November, and those odd times inspiration strikes and I have access to my computer at the same time. Why force it?

This is the part of my brain that keeps throwing more and more at me. When I wrote my post on things I’m really not good at and mentioned actually finishing things I start, one of you commented that I have to stop trying to do everything all at once. I need to do my month of writing, make it a habit, make it feel wrong not to do it. Once I have that going for me, then throw another thing in there. Well, this part of my brain really hates your suggestion, as much as I freaking love it. This part of my brain is trying to overload me with thoughts, with ideas, with lists of things that I should be doing all at the same time instead of keeping up with writing.

I’ll let it win every now and then when it’s beneficial to me anyway. On Sunday I had to watch a lot of security footage at work and saw myself on all three of the most unflattering cameras. I had to stare at myself standing at the cash register, very intensely looking up something on my phone for a customer, hunched over the counter. My posture was horrible, and I looked huge. So that part of my brain has been telling me over and over, “Forget the writing. You need to work out! You need to eat healthily! We should meal prep! And eat ALL the veggies! Let’s give up meat and go vegan! I know you haven’t run in years and spend most of your day sitting at your desk, but let’s sign up for a 5K next week!” It’s almost too much for me to handle, being bombarded like that by my own brain.

I caved a bit last night while I was at work. I hit up the grocery store on my break and bought a tonne of veggies. The way I look at it, I should be able to appease that part of my brain at least a little bit just by eating a bit better. When I’m sitting here, I usually munch on chips and drink my Coke Zero. But today, after my writing is done, I’m cutting up some veggies and making some stuff to keep in the fridge so it’s convenient for me to grab a healthy snack. I’ll go make some carrot sticks and celery sticks. I’ve got stuff for pico de gallo, which I can throw in anything. Need something on your toast? Pico de gallo. Making an omelet? Add some pico de gallo. Craving junk food? Chips and pico de gallo. Need something on your pasta? Olive oil, cayenne pepper, and pico do gallo. I think I might make a cucumber salad too, just because I could probably eat a cucumber every single day if I had one here.

Even just sitting here trying to type, my brain is shouting so many stupid things at me. I have a few topics left over from this month that I had planned to write about. I also have a bunch of scraps of paper from me jotting down ideas at work. When I set out to start this month, I planned out a whole bunch of posts and stuck to that plan in the beginning. When I didn’t have anything in my mind to write someday later in the month, I had my list of topics I could go off of. Now that little stubborn part of my brain is screaming at me: “What the hell are you going to write about now? You think you can go all of December with just a handful of topics? You think this is bad, just remember that you have the whole year to write before November comes back around! You’re going to use up all your topics, and then have nothing to write next year and you’re going to FAIL!!!” A big part of me just wants to curl up with a notebook and start jotting down ideas, no matter how stupid or how bad they are. It’s what I used to do all the time when I didn’t actually write anything. I’d waste all my time fleshing out ideas, making notes, and telling myself that I still didn’t have enough material to actually start a post.  I’d spend more time worrying about not having anything to write with a notebook full of shitty ideas I was sure I could turn into something if I just made enough notes, than I actually spent writing anything.

I know I have to keep up my ideas list. I can’t just rely on my bits of scrap paper floating around my desk. I think I’ll start organizing them, keeping up my lists in OneNote. I have a little writing section in there, and I’m sure I can set something up to keep me motivated. I can go through my ideas from this month that I didn’t use, and start a master list of topics. If I want to make notes on things, I can make a sub-page for that. I can keep track of my calendar, and word counts, and make goals for each month. I mean, I can make my own NaNoWriMo-esque motivational notebook in there to keep me going.

There’s a lot of things my brain is telling me to focus on right now instead of writing, and I really need to sort through it all. Drink more green tea; look for a new job; take up jogging; go do a bajillion push-ups; learn to cook Japanese cuisine; work on Christmas crafts; drop everything and start reading that massive pile of books I’ve been meaning to read. I think I need to find some sort of balance right now, between this and everything else. I mean, some days this month I’d let myself get distracted by things online and spend 3+ hours sitting here banging out 2,000 words while I read NotAlwaysRight and window shopped online stores. If I can break myself of that habit, then I’ll have the time to do the other things my brain is screaming at me to do. Maybe at night, instead of laying there in the dark wishing I could fall asleep while the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend snores away next to me, I’ll just get up and read a little bit. I can find little bits of wasted time in my days, and use that to do the other things my brain is telling me to do (except for the jogging. I’ve always hated jogging, and I don’t know why my brain wants me to do it).

I really do want to keep up with writing. Even if my content right now isn’t great, it’s the fact that I’m actually doing it that matters to me at this point. I spent so many years just not writing anything because the few things I actually did get down weren’t terrific. I basically thought that every single little thing I ever put down on paper or typed out had to be a freakin masterpiece, and scared myself out of actually trying. I was basically too scared to try, because I didn’t think I was any good. But people actually read what I write. They like my posts, they keep coming back to read them. Even if not every single post is amazing, chances are I’ll push something out that is at some point. I just really need to keep doing this.

Only time will tell how much I keep up with this. AAB is really pushing me to keep doing this. He can see a change in me, and it’s brought about a change in him too. I’m happier, and it makes him happier. Do you know what we did on Saturday night that we haven’t done in more than a year? While he was cooking dinner, he had a song stuck in his head. He kept singing it to himself, until I could identify it: Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. While he was singing to me, he just grabbed me to slow dance. So I found the song on YouTube, and we giggled and slow danced in the middle of the kitchen at 10-o-clock at night, just being happy together. We used to do things like that all the time, and it’s been ages since we did that. But I’m happier now doing my writing, he’s happier working on learning to cook, and it’s making everything just a little bit better for us. Whether I keep up with writing every single day, or just a few times a week, I don’t know. But this is something I want to work on, even if that stubborn part of my brain is screaming at me not to.

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NaNoWriMo: Happy November!

Well, Halloween is over. I wore tiny hats, devil horns, and various animal ears every day for the last few weeks at work. The past week or so, my makeup got gradually more and more “festive”. I got to be a witch, a bloodied patchwork doll, the devil, multiple cats, and Chucky from the Child’s Play movies (costume is taken from The Bride of Chucky and beyond when he had the stitches on his face). The always adorable and fierce Bowser Kitten wore his little cape and cowered in the corner whenever trick-or-treaters came around. I got all of my fun out before the first of November, so I can thoroughly enjoy the stress that comes with this day.

You see, a lot has to happen in the next few weeks. We’re still showing the bedroom downstairs and looking for a new roommate. Two of the roommates I have right now are silent nightmares. Between the fruit flies, the smells, and the lack of internet money coming my way (account is in my name), that’s enough to drive a sane girl crazy, and I’m not even that sane to begin with!

Add to that a bit of seasonal stress. My mother has been bugging us for Christmas lists for a little while, and today is the day that the bugging goes Full Throttle. I have to start looking for Christmas gifts for everyone else and need to order stuff online soon if it’s going to get here for Christmas. Things at work start to get busier, and it wears on everyone. I mean, it’s great that I maxed out my hours this week (we’re only allowed 40 hours in the payroll system each week), but I’m doing that over 7 days. I’m looking at another 30-day stretch at work, in the beginning of our busiest season. New rules with scheduling might even mean that we don’t get the 5X 8-hour shifts a week we usually get closer to Christmas, and might get spread out to 7 days a week then too. So, I’m looking at ZERO days off this holiday season, and have to start planning accordingly.

The little things start piling up this time of year, especially with the lack of time off. I burst through the inner thighs of my work pants yesterday, and my steel-toe workboots very badly need to be replaced. My schedule is constantly changing at the drop of a hat, so I don’t have time to hit any stores not in the plaza I work in. That means no mall, no clothing stores, no boot shop, and no international grocers for my mushroom meat. I have some deep cleaning around the house to get done. My plates, mugs, and cutlery are constantly going missing and suddenly reappearing filthy and crusted in old food in the sink. Our bedroom is a mess, there’s baking to be done, I have student loan repayment paperwork to work on, work training piling up, holiday crafting to start, and a precious kitten who has just discovered squirrels exist outside our bedroom window.

And then you add in NaNoWriMo.

Apparently, November is National Novel Writing Month. The goal: write every single day in the month of November on the writing project of your choosing, and reach at least 50,000 words. It doesn’t have to be a full-out novel, it can be anything you wish. And this year, my blog is the anything I wish.

You see, I keep meaning to update this blog. I have ideas, I write things down and throw them in a little file folder to go back to later, but then later never seems to come. I keep putting other things before my writing. I’ll think I have a great idea for a post. But then I’ll see a sock on the floor, or realize I haven’t’ re-watched every episode of Daria in months, or I’ll find a make-up tutorial or a 10-hour Vine compilation or a video of Cher blinking for 10 minutes and get distracted. I put everything ahead of my writing, and treat it like a hobby I only get to indulge in every once and a while.

Well, NaNoWriMo doesn’t let me do that. The whole point is to find the time to put writing first. 50,000 words in one month is only 1,667 words a day if you write every single day. I can ramble that much a day no problem. This isn’t going to necessarily be my best writing, and there will more than likely be quite a bit of shit-posting going on, and I’m fine with that. The whole point for me is to get back into writing every day, to get those topics off the Post-Its and onto the screen. It’s about getting back into curling up at night with my notebooks and writing down ideas I had during the days, organizing my paper scraps into a folder and actually doing something with them. It’s about getting the ever-fuzzy and precious Bowser Kitten and the Amazingly Awesome Boyfriend ready for the stress that comes with me getting back into writing.

Ah yes, the stress. It’s not like it’s going to be a breeze to get through this. True, I can babble on like crazy if I need to hit my word count. I’m a natural born babbler, who can talk anyone’s ear off if given the chance. It’s one of my superpowers, actually. A creepy guy hitting on you? Here, let me annoy him away with my incessant whining. Extra stinky customer following you around the store? I’ll explain the difference between wine grapes to him in as many words possible until he just wanders off. It’s a gift, really. Problem is, I can’t harness this power for good most of the time. Yes, I can ramble out loud. It’s putting it all down on paper or computer screen, in well-thought-out and meaningful words that stumps me.  It can take me multiple tries to sit down and get a paragraph out if the words just don’t want to flow out of my skull.

And finding the time to sit down like that is hard when your schedule is more of a possible guideline. My manager, who is pretty damn awesome in every other way, isn’t the greatest with schedules. Come to think of it, all of the managers we’ve had at this job have had scheduling as their major weakness. Maybe, just maybe, they should be covering that at their “management meetings” instead of how to win friends and influence people yet again. The schedule goes up 4 weeks in advance. It will change a minimum of 7 times before it becomes the schedule for next week.  Once a shift is 7 days away, the manager has to get your approval before changing it on the schedule. Between sick calls, hockey practices, kids’ recitals, a coworker with a major health issue, and the days getting shorter and busier, our schedule board is a mess of Post-Its and pen marks by the time the week starts. My 4 hour Sunday shifts usually wind up becoming 7-8 hours. My “day off” is suddenly a regular work day. This past Monday is a great example of the craziness that is our schedules:

I was scheduled to work 4:15pm until 9:15pm. That’s my usually Monday night closing shift I get scheduled for every week. At 8am, my assistant manager called me. He has a bad back, sneezed too hard and pulled a muscle in his back. Could I come in 9:45am to 2:45pm instead to cover for him and help unload the delivery truck for the day? Hop out of bed, run for the shower, inhale some coffee, and slap some red lipstick on my eyes (it was Devil’s Night, so I was wearing devil horns and red makeup to work like I do every year). Stop to grab an energy drink on the way to work, and make it there 10 minutes early to throw on a uniform shirt and smooth out my apron. Perpetually Absent Co-Worker is sitting in the office, talking to the manager. Two minutes before the store opens at 10am, the two take off to the coffee shop for a “talk”. Fifteen minutes later, they’re back and the Perpetually Absent Co-Worker announces he’s leaving for a few weeks to attend to his illness. That 2:45pm leave time became 6:15pm, giving me an 8-hour shift. My full week of closing shifts became mostly morning shifts peppered with a few closings. My just under 30 hour work week became 40 hours with all the schedule changes that were made since the schedule was first put up.

Having an ever-changing schedule like this makes it hard to do things. I’ve been meaning to make an eye doctor appointment for months, but never know when I’m going to get called into work. I can pledge that I’ll get up early every morning and write for an hour before I get ready for work. But “early” is different for a morning shift than it is for an afternoon shift. If I’m scheduled to close the store, there’s no way I’m waking up at 5:30am to write for an hour, which is what I’d have to do for a 9am shift. But if I plan on working a closing shift, but get called at 8am for a day shift again, there goes the whole “writing for an hour before work” idea.

You have to add to that the anxiety and depression I battle. Finances and schedule changes are two things that trigger them. If I’m not getting enough hours, cue a panic attack! In the back of my mind, I’m constantly worrying about bills and groceries and being able to feed both me and the Bowser Kitten this week. It’s damn near impossible for me to concentrate on writing with all of this flying through my head. But then on the flip side is working too many days. I have no problem doing a 40-hour work week. When I had midnights or mornings of 8-hour shifts, I loved it. Working a 5-day 40-hour work week is great for me. It’s when that work week is 7 days, and the hours aren’t quite at 40 hours. I do 20+ day stretches, picking up the odd extra hour here and there to get closer to that 40-hour mark. Even doing 7 days a week, my biweekly paycheck is barely over 60 hours. I had a day off in the middle of October. With the Perpetually Absent Coworker being on leave, it looks like I probably won’t get a day off again until the middle of November, when I booked the weekend off for my mother’s annual birthday celebration at the Christmas Homes Tour. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a day off earlier that week like I was scheduled. But even at that, I don’t have a day off scheduled again until mid-November. I’m guaranteed to have a 26-day stretch, which could be turned into a 30-day stretch if my mid-week days off are taken away. All of that time, without a day off to get things done or just zone out from everything, gnaws away at my mental health. Without a day to recharge fully, I’m like a 6-year-old smartphone: I can recharge all freaking night, but that charge is only going to last a few hours at best before I’m just drained.  And when I’m drained, I wind up sitting at my computer and watching Vine compilations or old episodes of Friends instead of writing.

So, this is not going to be an easy month. But bring on the stress! Bring on the 20-day work weeks, and the construction paper Christmas crafts, the creepy roommate who smells like old bologna and who hoards old socks. Bring on the tears, the papercuts, and the massive amounts of shit-posts. I just have to keep reminding myself that while getting up and writing every single day is going to be rough, it’s going to be rougher on you Sunshine since you’re the ones who have to read all this mindless brain goop I’m posting.

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Found a little inspiration on Twitter today

Brandon Calvillo tweet

So these popped up on my Twitter feed today while I was definitely NOT spending my morning off day dreaming about Brandon Calvillo’s social media brilliance. And they got to me somehow. I screenshotted them and kept them, looking at them from time to time, trying to figure out what it was about them that made me feel so damn “argh” and “blah”. They gave me this feeling that I couldn’t just put into words. Instead, I sat there trying to reason with myself, unable to get full words out at times, replacing them with random guttural moans.

It wasn’t until I had a nice long talk with myself in the shower (which I regularly do, in case you were wondering) that it hit me: I used to be a writer until everyone decided I should be a writer.

When I first got out of high school, I wanted to write. I had been writing on and off since 8th grade. I also had spent the last few years having everyone close to me tell me every single reason why I should NOT write. Now, this was when the internet was first getting to be The Next Big Thing, and everyone seemed convinced that we wouldnèt need journalists and novelists and satirists anymore. There would be a handful of these people out there, who would create content online, and we would all read the same thing.

I know, how so very Orwellian. These are also the same people who stockpiled water before Y2K and bought things like flashlights and candles that were labeled “Y2K Compliant”.

I was pushed into things like Political Science and Comparative Politics, which I had no interest in at the time. So I quit everything, took a job at Subway and a very small writing job as an Arts and Culture columnist for a little underground magazine. It was a weird time in my life I refer to now as my Dark Days (I hung out in goth bars and was kinda sorta engaged to a drumming ninja. Seriously.), and I was a complete shit writer for that magazine. But I was writing. None of my friends or family read it, and a lot of what I got paid to write was complete drivel. At the end of the day, after coming home from work or an art show or from seeing some random local band play, I would write. Not all of it was good. Hell, most of it was pure crap (I wrote a lot of poetry while sitting in a dark candlelit corner of a dingy goth bar). But I was writing all the damn time. And as crap as my life was, my writing made me happy.

Once I moved home, though, all of this changed. Suddenly, my family wanted to see everything I was writing. I could have the barest of outlines for a short story or an article, or even just a few lines of an idea, and theyèd want to see it. They’d critique it, or laugh at it. They were always asking me, “Well who would actually read this?”

The answer to that question should have just been: Me. I should have just kept writing what I wanted to say, what I wanted to write. I wasn’t writing to make people love me, or make people want to run out and buy books a lame-ass poetry by me. I was writing because at that precise moment in time that is what I was feeling, and it needed to be said somehow.

Suddenly though, everyone was convinced that the only reason I should ever write is so people will buy my writing from me. I should be writing with images of dollar bills (or Loonies, as we have here in Canada) flashing before my eyes. I should be tailoring my every word to exactly what people want to hear from me.

And that killed it for me.

So I stopped writing for years. I’d push out the odd little piece here and there. I had one one little satirical story published in an off-campus University newspaper once when I went back to school. But I was more focused on my writing for classes at that point. I absolutely loved pouring over stacks of research papers and figures and tables. Academic writing was like some strange parallel between me writing what I wanted to write, and me having to write what people wanted to hear. As a Criminology and Psychology major, I got to write papers on criminal profiling, eyewitness testimony in wrongful convictions, moral panics, and all sorts of things I had a true interest in. If I had the courage to actually apply for the master’s program here, I would’ve been up to my eyeballs in research on events of mass violence specific to a school setting, and major media influences blamed at the time of each incident, cross-referenced with crime statistics and the release of other similar media not blamed for violent events.

Damn, I’m wet even just thinking about researching all that.

Sadly, there’s no market out there for a BA(H) who wants to write academic papers, unless they’re shelling out the cash for grad school. So, I work in retail selling the devil’s brew. And I want to write.

Problem is, it’s starting all over again. I try to jot things down on my break, and I have people reading over my shoulder. I tell friends or co-workers that I write a bit, and suddenly they know exactly what I should be writing. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the same guy tell me that I NEED to write a book on some specific topic because I could make MILLIONS on it.

I don’t necessarily want the millions though. I mean, that would definitely be nice not having to worry about rent or student loan payments or debt anymore. But I don’t want to write something just because it would make me millions. You know?

I mean, I’m not an overly eloquent writer. I swear a lot in my daily life. And I have a hell of a time getting things down in writing. I mean, I can ramble for hours if you let me. I can have intense, intelligent conversations. I’m sure if I really wanted to, I could do a podcast or a vlog of my random ramblings and get a hundred posts out easily. But once I try to get that out on paper or typed out, the words just get stuck sometimes. It’s like I could have the greatest idea in the world, and be able to tell you all about it in minute detail, but once I try to actually get it down it’s the written equivalent of a 3-year-old’s crayon drawing of a giraffe.

I fell into that trap, though, where I figured I was supposed to be writing because I could make money from it. It killed my creativity and the few things I tried to get out where some of the worst pieces of crap I’ve ever written. I wasn’t writing anything for me, I was writing crap I thought other people would want me to write.

So I came back to this blog. I mean, I know why I started it, and it was all for me. I’ve watched as hundreds and hundreds of people around me have been coddled and babied and taken care of as kids and teens and pushed to the breaking point in high school to study and learn. And then one day they’re thrown out into the real world at a university or college and expected to just function normally like a full-grown adult. They don’t know how to budget, or cook, or do laundry. They’ve never had to pay their bills on time or live on next to no money. And I’ve seen so many people fail in different ways. Hell, I failed at some of this crap epically, and I went back to school in my mid-20s! A big part of me starting this blog was because I just wanted to get the info out there that people need to know in order to function sometimes. I wanted cooking tips, and how to grocery shop, because I had to teach myself all of this and I had to watch a lot of my friends fail at this. I wanted to write something personal to me, but applicable to so many people out there, not to gain fame or fortune, but to let people know that they’re not alone.

And I really needed somewhere to bitch about work and roommates, too.

These two simple tweets reminded me of why I ever wrote anything in the first place. In 8th grade, I told off my basketball coach for a bunch of things. He wouldn’t let us play our annual Valentine’s game against the boys’ team because we were not very good, and he spent more time telling us what utter pieces of crap we were than coaching us some days. So I wrote down what I wanted to say and practiced it over and over. When I had the nerve to tell him what I needed to say, he said he’d pretend he didn’t hear that. So I shoved my rehearsal paper in his hand and said, “Well, you can’t pretend you didn’t read it.” And that was one of my greatest pieces of writing ever. He sent it home with my sister to show my parents, and they weren’t even mad. My mother was impressed: I managed to explain myself at least at a 12th-grade level and tell this man off without resorting to foul language. She even said she was proud of me for it once! Writing all of that down, though, getting it out of me and down on paper, that was the greatest feeling ever.

Since then, I’ve lost that feeling. I haven’t created anything just for me in so long, aside from this blog. I’ve been mentally lost in this void, constantly being told what I SHOULD be doing and I SHOULD be writing and just giving up and falling further. My anxiety and depression have worsened in the last few years. My panic attacks are worse. I cry myself to sleep more often.

Just since reading these two tweets, I’m feeling better. I took 3 days off of work this weekend after working every single freakin day in June, so today is technically the last day of my little “vacation”. And I decided today would be a day just for me. I made a kick ass YouTube playlist of some pretty chill and awesome tunes to throw on while I write and clean. And they’re all songs I wanted to hear and I love, regardless of if they mesh well together in a list. I mean, it’s pretty hard to take “Cry Little Sister” from the Lost Boys soundtrack and pair it up with much. And I threw in all the Talk Talk and Lou Reed I could handle. I worked on a list I’ve been playing with for this blog, just things I really shouldn’t have to say to my grown-ass adult roommates but still have to. I wrote this massive shit-post of a ramble. I made a foot rest out of a laundry basket (ok I turned a laundry basket upside down, but it’s still something) and have mentally re-arranged the bedroom. Hell, I might even physically start moving things around tonight.  And I think I’ll rewatch some old Twin Peaks this week before I start watching the new series when I’m on closing shifts for a week.

Two little tweets from a man I’ve never met, but whose work I’ve come to admire, have changed my outlook completely. I feel alive and refreshed right now. I have the energy to do things, and for the first time in a very long time, I don’t feel like I completely wasted a day off.

I don’t really know how to end this. I guess sometimes we all just need to feel a little bit inspired, and sometimes we need to be reminded of why we do the things we do. Everything has become about the money these days, and it doesn’t have to be. Go do something for you, Sunshine. Go be you for you. Create, exist, touch people’s lives. And read random tweets from cute little ex-Vine stars, because you never know where you’ll get your inspiration from.

Motivation

I’ve tried to start half a dozen new posts in the last few days, and nothing has come of them.  I can get a paragraph, maybe two, into them and that’s it.

I just have no motivation right now.

Since I graduated from University, my motivation has just plummeted. I mean, I still get up every day, do  my thang. I have my job search, my free online classes that I keep starting and never finishing, my housework………. but that’s it.

I used to craft. I used to write. I could write 8 12-page research papers in a matter of weeks, on top of constant reading, volunteering, and Buffy marathoning. I could research for hours, curl up in a ball and write all night, and still have the get-up-and-go to head off for drinks after that. I was a damn machine!

But lately……. I’m just blah. Honestly, I thrived on all of those deadlines. Knowing that things had to be done by a certain date and certain time gave me drive. I could manage dozens upon dozens of deadlines and projects at once. I had a scheduling system that encompassed a monthly calendar, a 4-month calendar, a day planner, a monthly task list, a weekly task list, and both daily and weekly to-do lists. And I loved it!

These days, though, I don’t have that. I have a decent job in customer service. It pays enough to kinda pay the bills. I’m looking for a second job, or a full-time job, but there’s no huge rush on that. I can manage for a while on what I’m doing.

There’s no structure for anything, though.

My job has an ever-changing schedule. Just today, my evening 5 hour closing shift got changed to a full-day 8 hour closing shift. I jump from closing to open to close support to afternoons all in a week sometimes. I can’t make a strict schedule for my time with my shifts jumping all over the place. I can’t say “I’ll get up and write every morning/every night before bed” when I don’t know when I’ll be waking up or going to bed. When I work a closing, I’m up later trying to unwind.

Add to that the fact that I have no deadlines. If I don’t update this blog, no one comes after me. There is no one demanding I update this. There is no negative consequences to not updating, other than losing the few readers I have. Basically, all of the structure I had forced on me before is gone, and I don’t know how to deal with that.

I’m not alone in this, either. I’ve talked to so many people who come out of school feeling empty, feeling lost, with no one there to tell them what to get done. I keep telling myself that I’ll make my own structure, that I’ll give myself deadlines, but it never works. I don’t have anyone else here to enforce them.

Anyone else out there in the Internet have this problem, Sunshine? Drop me a line, let me know how you deal with the post-grad lack of structure!

Do What You Love and…….. Starve?

Sound pretty shitty, doesn’t it?

For years growing up, I was told that if I do what I love, then money would follow. The thing is, people didn’t seem to care what I actually loved. What did I love way back in high school? I loved writing, and reading. Even once I finally went back to University (almost a decade later), marking papers and reading student works were the only things I loved more than writing papers.

Who the hell can make a career out of any of that though?

Turns out, plenty of people. When I was told to “do what I love”, people assumed that just meant me sitting in a room, writing. I would be a writer, first and foremost.

But there is so much more to all of this than just writing.

I could have been an editor, or a professor, or a ESL teacher. I would have been happy researching for a company, or a lawyer, or a researcher. I could have become a private tutor, helping students with their academic writing.

None of this was made known to me, way back in high school, before we really knew how to use this whole Internet thing. Back in the days of dial-up, you didn’t have The Googles (as mum calls it) to search for “careers in writing”, or “what can I do with an English degree”. Nope, we had bare-bones web surfing back then: GeoCities for making web pages dedicated to hot celebrities; IRC chat rooms; AIM or ICQ for instant messages; and Hotmail for our email. That’s it. Somewhere out there was porn, but we couldn’t access it at school (believe me, we tried).

Point is, all I ever knew was that I loved to read and write. I still do. I’m broke as all hell, and I just ordered three new(er) books from Chapters this week (damn you Celia Rivenbark for having a book out there that I don’t own!!!!). I was always told that I would be a writer, and needed a career to fall back on.

Well that’s a crock of shit if I ever heard one.

Yes, things are rough out there. Believe me, I know that as well as anyone. I live in the unemployment capital of Canada, where getting 9 hours a week is considered “gainfully employed” to make statistics look good. I know the job search scene, and the toll it takes on you.

And I know what it’s like to feel like a total bitch, because you’re looking at jobs and thinking “well, I need a job, but do I really want to do THAT?!?!”

I am a writer, at heart. I sit at a desk, type things, organize things, research things. This blog is one of many things I do related to my craft, in addition to my part-time job. I know damn well that I would be horrible at certain jobs, because I would spend too much time hating them. Hell, even knowing that, out of desperation I have tried some of these jobs! That is how I know that I AM the world’s worst janitor (it only took me throwing up in a garbage can 7 times in an 8 hour shift to prove that to myself).

My desk-type personality tends to lead me towards other desk-type things. I went to secretary school, and worked in an office for a few years. I went to University and worked in research offices. I am a desk worker. But even that has its limits.

I know that right now, I can’t support myself with my writing. VERY long story short, after being forced out of it for many years, I am only now getting back into my craft. That means no portfolio, no old blog posts, nothing for reference on a CV. I need a job to pay my bills and get the hell out of this house (don’t worry, I have enough Roommates From Hell stories to last a lifetime on here for y’all). While there are a lot of things that I would be horrible at, I KNOW that I can rock a desk job like no-one else. Not a telemarketing job, not a soliciting job, not a call centre job…. a straight up desk job.

Sounds pretty entitled, doesn’t it?

Well, I’ve got the education. I’ve got the office experience. And I am a desk worker. I thrive best sitting behind a desk, typing at a computer. I am a data entry clerk, or a dispatcher, or any other position where I type a lot and don’t have to make phone calls.

And the thing is, doing stuff like that is what I love.

From what I was told for years, even for decades, if I just strive for that, then the money will follow. So where is the money, Sunshine?

Resume Basics

So it’s not secret: you need a resume to apply for jobs. Back when I was in high school, you just went to the computer lab, plugged a bit of info into a resume template, and you were good to go.

Oh, if only life was still that simple.

In today’s economy, there may be hundreds or thousands of people apply to one position, meaning there is no way for hiring managers or HR personnel to read every single resume they receive. Some places use computer software to look for certain words or phrases. Some places take a quick browse through a group of resumes, pick the best ones, and toss the rest (so you’re competing against a group instead of everyone, which can really suck depending on whose resumes yours is between). Some quickly browse through all the resumes, looking for certain things to eliminate candidates, and certain things for picking the best potentials.

So how do you compete?

For starters, you need a damn good resume! You need to create something that will catch a prospective employer’s eye. You need something that not only emphasizes your best attributes in the working world, but shows how you would be a perfect fit for that specific company.

So, you know, no pressure or anything.

It sounds like a daunting task, but once you learn how to create a resume, it’s easy to make one that you can proudly hand out.

Don’t Use A Template

I know, it’s so much easier to just plug in your information in a bunch of pre-chosen spaces, in a nicely formatted template. Don’t though! If you make one tiny little change in your resume that doesn’t follow perfectly with the template (add an extra previous employer, or a bunch of volunteer work, or a second contact phone number), you could screw up the formatting of the entire document. Suddenly, that nice and pretty one page resume of yours is three pages long, with dates not lining up with experience, and contact info all over the place.

Also, if you’re applying for a job that requires you to use Microsoft Word, using a template could very well be one of the things that eliminates you from the running for that job. There is a little button in Word that looks like a wonky backwards P. That button shows all the “non-printing characters”. In other words, it shows your key strokes. So if you try to say that you are quite proficient in Word, and then they see that you can’t even format a resume without using a template (because they pushed that button while looking at the resume you emailed them), your resume gets tossed right in the recycling.

Also, templates don’t always translate well to PDF format. Now, while you shouldn’t be creating and formatting your resume in PDF anyway, some companies require you to send it in that format. If you create it in Word and then create a PDF file of it, some templates will throw the document’s formatting all out of whack.

Don’t Use an Objective

Everyone already knows what your object is: to find a damn job! Putting in an objective just takes up valuable space that you could be using to brag about how awesome you would be in the position you’re applying for. Also, if you’re applying for multiple jobs at a time, then personalizing your objective to each and every one of them is just way too time consuming to deal with.

Use Words From the Job Description

Remember that computer software I mentioned that looks for key words? Well, a lot of those words come from the job description! Sometimes there are very important things that a company is looking for in a potential new hire, and if you have those things, your resume needs to show that. If they need a bilingual employee who also has Advanced Microsoft Certification and 4 years of Human Resources experience, and you have all of that, then it damn well better be in your resume! They are not going to know that you’re the perfect candidate for the job if you don’t tell them.

It’s not just requirements that you need to look at though. Look at the language and wording they use. You should try to mimic that. If you say you are an exceptional customer service rep, and they say they want an dynamic customer service rep, then you’re not on the same page. Mirroring their language shows that you would already fit right in with the company.

Use Bullets, Not Paragraphs

Again, they could be getting hundreds of resumes for one job. No one is going to sit down and read what looks like a short story with some contact info on the top. You need to be direct and to the point with your skills and qualifications, and bullet points are the way to do this.

Don’t Lie

If you’re not bilingual, don’t say that you are. If it took you 6 years to get your degree and you were maybe an average student, don’t say that it took you 4 years and you were on the Dean’s Honour Roll every year. If you’ve never worked a day of your life in customer service, don’t say that you have. When you’re writing your resume, you should be like Shakira’s hips: don’t lie. Don’t even try to stretch the truth. If you’re not qualified for a job, then don’t pretend that you are. If you want that job so badly, talk to someone in the company and ask what you need to do to get that job. It may mean taking classes, volunteering, or getting expensive certification, but it’s a hell of a lot better than lying about already having these things. Remember, people who lie on their resumes, even if they do get hired, get caught eventually.

Proofread

I like to read things like Failbook, and Monday Thru Friday, and pretty much anything else that’s part of the whole Cheezeburger network of funny sites. I can remember seeing a post on there more than a year ago, where a guy posted a picture of part of his resume online. He had passed it out to a bunch of companies already, after asking a friend to proofread it. His friend assumed he would read through it again before sending it out, and as a joke added “excessive masturbation” to his “Skills” section. Well he didn’t proofread it, and it was sent out to a bunch of companies with that in it. And no, he didn’t get any interviews from them.

As funny as that is, not proofreading your resume is one of the worst things you can do. Spelling and grammar mistakes are one of the things companies look for to eliminate resumes from their pile. If they have 500 resumes for a receptionist position, they’re not going to call back anyone who claims they would be a “grate resepshionist”. It’s not just obvious mistakes you should be looking for, either. Look for any little thing that could be wrong. Even an extra space or a missed period could be fatal to your job prospects. Remember, it’s ridiculously competitive out there. Don’t let a stupid mistake kill your chances.

Don’t Try to Be Cute

Repeat after me: I am not Elle Woods. I will not print my resume on coloured paper. I will not spray my resume with perfume. I will not put doodles, clip art, or my picture in my resume.

Your resume is a formal document. If you’re applying for a job in a creative field, then create an entirely separate document to show off your creativity. Send in work samples, or a link to your website. Some web sites out there recommend showing off your creative side in your resume. But there are so many businesses out there that will not take you seriously if you do that. It’s better to play on the safe side, send your creativity separate from your work experience, and leave your resume as professional as possible.

 

So, now you know what NOT to do with your resume. But what exactly do you actually DO want in it? Well the fine folks at Owl Purdue have a resume workshop up on their website that shows you what basic info you need on your resume. While I would trust them with my life when it comes to formatting documents in MLA vs. APA formatting, I’m a little wary of their resume advice. For starters, they recommend using an objective. Aside from that, they do have some great advice if you’re really stuck.

Another suggestion is to LOOK at resume templates, just don’t use them. A lot of templates have great titles and sections, and show you what you need to fill in for them. You can use these as a guide, to help you get all the basics in.

Also, Google is your new best friend. Try “resume tips” or “resume help”. There are thousands of sites out there with advice on how to format your resume.

As for the basics, there are some things you should get together before starting. They are:

  • Name, address, contact info. If you don’t have a Gmail account, get one. And make sure your email (and your voicemail message) is professional sounding.
  • Your prior work experience. Write down you past employers, your job titles, the dates you worked for them, and all of your responsibilities. You may not need all of this info for your basic resume, but having it all together makes personalizing your resume for different jobs a hell of a lot easier.
  • Do the same thing for your volunteer experience.
  • Education. Write down where you went to school, or where you are going to school, the dates you went there or your expected graduation date.
  • Contact information. You generally don’t put that on your resume, but while you’re going through your work and volunteer experience, it’s easy to pick out who to contact from each place.

So that is the very basics you will need to get started. Good luck with the writing, and good luck with the job hunt, sunshine!

NaNoWriMo

So I’ve been neglecting my writing for quite some time now. There just always seems like I have enough time to do 10 things in a day, but I have 12 in my list.  But, November is National Novel Writing Month. I, having blown off my writing and prep for months now, do not have anything novel-ready to begin writing. I know that my New Years Resolution was to FINALLY get started on that, but life happened.

So, instead, I’m doing my own spin on the month. Instead if writing every day on the NaNoWriMo site and trying to reach 50,000 words in a novel that I know will turn out all wrong (because that’s how my writing turns out when there’s no planning behind it), I’ll be using my blog to reach that goal instead. This month, I am aiming to reach 50,000 words in my blog posts, and attempt to write every single day. This will be with a combination of pre-planned posts (I’m working on outlines and topics as we speak), research queued up to post sporadically throughout the month, and some more personal posts (mainly along the lines of my Roommates From Hell posts).

So, hopefully, you readers will enjoy this. And, hopefully, I will enjoy it too.