Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Magic of Books Before Bedtime

It’s no wonder that it can be overwhelming in today’s world.

From keeping up with schedules, to finishing things for work, to running around trying to catch the kids, to feeding the husband (or your cat); it can be a stressful day, and night, so what do you do? It can be nearly impossible to find the time to wind down and just enjoy yourself in the solitude of your own room or area of the house with the chaos that surrounds and fills every pore in your body.

The thing is, when you finally do have the time to wind down and just relax, you’re wiped out and can barely keep your eyes open long enough to use the toilet once more before going to bed.

But have you ever thought of changing your schedule around so that you have time to read before sleep? According to this article by Megan Kaplan on Upwave, “Winding down to sleep mode begins with calm, relaxed activities, like curling up with a book, writing in a journal or taking a hot shower — whatever slows you down.”

And it’s true! If you feel that you haven’t had exactly the best night’s sleep in a while, you’ve probably hadn’t had the time to wind down with something that can relax you.

Curling up with a good book – or a horrible one – can relax your brain and muscles because you aren’t looking at “blue light” or something that stimulates the brain, such as a computer or TV.

Not only do books not emit blue light to make you want to stay up for hours on end even though you’re exhausted, they’re also filled with words that you can use your imagination to see. The thing with modern technology is that, in many aspects, it’s been taking away our imagination and our creative ways. As children we would read books without pictures because they were an escape or a way to go on new adventures without ever leaving the couch at home.

Try that now as an adult. You might feel as though you aren’t doing it right or you’re out of touch, but even the most avid readers have their own “dry spells” that they deal with.

Here’s a few tips to think about before you go to sleep tonight:

  • Turn off the TV, dim the lights to a safe reading level, and pick up a book or eReader. (Do not use a phone or HD tablet for this as those devices can still emit a blue light effect.)
  • Make a schedule. You want to be able to have the time to read before bed, so make sure you allot enough time to get as much reading done as you want before sleeping.
  • Read for only 15-30 minutes. It doesn’t take much before your brain becomes tired enough that you won’t be able to keep your eyes open for much longer.
  • Pick a book that you’ll enjoy. You don’t have to pick the most boring, droning book out there to help you fall asleep faster. Reading your favorite novel can be just as satisfying (if not more satisfying) as reading a less exciting book will be.

Take the time, curl up with some tea, and read a good book; you just might be able to sleep soundly again!

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Making an Impact

schoolAs the semester has begun, I have already become stressed. Now this is not to say that I’m ready to throw in the towel by any means (it is my last semester, after all), but I am already finding myself to feel as though I have bit off more than I can chew.

That aside, let me talk about the classes that I believe will have a huge impact on me: On-line Magazine and Writing for Business and Technology.

Even though I’ve had one class so far in On-line Magazine, I can already tell I’m going to enjoy this class. Why? I’ll be able to publish more pieces of my work to be able to have a stronger presence not only online, but also when it comes time to apply for a job. The professor wants us to learn the importance of this small fact of publishing, and so she wants us not only to branch out into a blog atmosphere like this, but to also send stories to various companies, including the university’s online alternative magazine, Detour.

It’s a great feeling to think that more of my works will be published, and therefore I will be able to, hopefully, grasp the attention of potential employers in the upcoming months.

That is also why she wanted us to create a portfolio on a site like WordPress. I’ve added some of my better works to my current portfolio page, as was a requirement of the assignment, but also to say, “Hey, I can do this type of work, too!”

As for Writing for Business and Technology, the professor doesn’t want to focus on just learning how to write resumes, but rather she wants to be able to help the students to reach further and beyond just the entry level job. And so we get the task of rewriting the course description to better fit the needs of what it means to actually write for a business or technology.

Sounds pretty cool, right?

So far I’m enjoying the class and have learned about six literacies that are fundamental to not only the classroom, but also the workplace: basic, rhetorical, ethical, social, technological, and critical. Though each can be taught individually, it is more important to teach them in a much more collaborative sense as each is of equal importance.

These two classes in particular, I believe, will help to drive me into my future. I hope that whatever may come of it, I will be impacted by it in the best possible way.

Writer’s Block: The Five W’s and the H

We’ve all had writer’s block at one point or another. It’s always a pain and it comes up when you need it to be at bay the most. But why? Why does it do that and who does it affect? I’m taking my own personal views as to why writer’s block comes about and possibly give ways to get rid of it.

Who: This affects you, obviously, but it also affects your target audience, your boss (if you’re working to write a blog, newsletter, email, etc.), and even your peers. If you don’t keep working toward getting your work done, you won’t be able to succeed and work past the block.

What: Your piece of work, whether it be a longer article, a short email, or a book, your work will be affected. If you have a writer’s block, often enough the work that you are trying to get done won’t have nearly the same amount of quality and effort put into it if you didn’t have the block. Though, sometimes, the work may even turn out better because you have to work through the block!

When: Writer’s block can sneak up on you when you least expect, and more often than not, it comes about when you’re on your last few pages of your novel, or on the last few paragraphs of a research paper. Whenever it pops up, it’s a nuisance. It also happens right before a deadline, making your suffering even more unbearable.

Where: Your writing, obviously. This does’t need much explanation.

Why: Writer’s block is like your brain saying, “I know you’re doing a good job, and you’re on a roll, but I need a break right now, so…” And it’s as though your brain conspires against you when you need to get that very important piece of work done before the deadline.

Okay, so I gave a general, broad overview of writer’s block. They’re the five “W’s” that we wonder: “Why does this happen?”

Well, here’s the “how,” a.k.a. what you can do to help get over your writer’s block.

How: 1) Put it down and come back another time. This is seriously one of the easiest things you can do, but probably also one of the most dangerous. If you put it down for a few minutes, a few hours, or even a few days, be sure to come back to it. Don’t just leave it to sit and gather dust!

2) Try a writing exercise. Instead of trying to write what ever you’re working on, grab a separate paper or open a new document and just write the first words that come to mind. One word per line. Just write for five minutes and see what you can come up with. It helps to get your brain muscles working and helps to get your thoughts flowing easier.

Or you can try writing a small blurb for a novel you’ve already read. Add on to the story, change the ending, change the love interest, add a new creature – anything you want! No one’s going to see it, anyway, but this is just a fun way to see what you can create. And who knows? You might even come up with something that you’re working on at the moment.

There are many places online and in hard copy books that you can find where you can find various writing exercises. I recommend “Your First Novel” by Ann Rittenburg and Laura Whitcomb, as one example. I thought that their views and opinions on writing, as well as ways to get published, were useful and easy to understand. (This is mostly for the writing exercises Whitcomb uses throughout many of the chapters, not so much the publishing side of it.)

3) Have someone talk to you about your idea. Yeah, sometimes you don’t want anyone, not even your agent, to know what you’re writing about. But sometimes talking about it and having someone ask questions can open up a whole new door – or onslaught of doors! – for you to consider adding to whatever you’re writing about.

Now these aren’t necessarily the only ways to work through writer’s block. There may be plenty more out there or you might come up with something on your own. Either way, a writing block can be a pain, but if you work through it then you’ll be golden!

Here’s a few other blog posts floating around the Internet that you can check out and see if anything catches your eye:

Just try to keep your chin up! Your writer’s block will be over soon enough (I hope)!

(Just as a small sidenote: I had writer’s block while writing this, starting on January 9th and completing it today, January 14th. Happens to everyone, right?)

The Beginning of the End (Sort Of)

Ah, the last stretches of the winter break are coming to close, and as of next week I’ll be back in classes.

It’ll also be my last semester as an undergraduate.

It’s been a long journey. From coming in as an ignorant freshman, to leaving the college for a semester, to coming back and realizing my strengths and weaknesses. It’s been an amazing and difficult, but awesome, journey.

I just can’t wait for it to be over.

During this semester I’ll be taking four English classes, two of which have some relevancy to what a “real world” situation would present. I hope that the classes will teach me something and I won’t just be taking them to fulfill requirements to graduate.

Either way, I hope to write and give more advice and talk about more subjects that I feel should be touched upon.