Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Effects of Reading Daily

Reading can take you on a whole new adventure that cuts through the mundane, everyday life you may or may not lead. From Middle-earth to Indiana to Paris to Avalon, reading fiction can bring you to places you might never otherwise see with your own eyes or during your life time.

So what are the effects of reading? Well, a study that was published in December called “Short- and Long-term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain,” published in Brain Connectivity, suggests that, according to an article on Psychology Today, that “reading fiction was found to improve the reader’s ability to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to visualization of muscle memory in sports.”

This is actually pretty neat once you think about it: your brain uses muscle memory for things such as riding a bike, driving a car, using a pencil, and other tasks you can do on a day to day basis. That same muscle can be used to put your imagination on a “joyride” through the eyes of the main character of the story.

But have you thought about reading daily? It can seem like in our busy lives that we barely have time to use the bathroom, let alone read. If you set time for reading ten minutes a day, then you’ll be using that same muscle suggested in the study (the sulcus) to possibly change the way your brain works.

Not only will it effect your brain, but it can also effect your speech and the way you look at your day to day tasks. I have a friend who has been a part of several Shakespeare plays, including “Hamlet,” and she can sometimes be found to be quoting and speaking in Shakespearean lingo. It can be entertaining, but then again, it can be difficult to understand what she’s saying sometimes.

If you read daily, though, you can open new worlds in your mind – and frankly, staying in those worlds is a lot more fun than real life.

Imagine being able to stay in a world where you can be friends with Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters from John Green‘s novel, “The Fault in Our Stars.” Though the story has a sad turn of events in it, the characters themselves are quite fun individuals and I know I would personally want to be friends with them.

When a novel is able to grab your attention and pull you in, it can be a thrilling moment and you just want more. I know that when I read something that I enjoy I am easily taken to that world and can relate very easily to the main character, experiencing their emotions, actions, speech, etc. I love that feeling because it’s something that’s out of the mundane and out of the norm.

If you read daily, you can experience that euphoria often and enjoy the world the author conveys in their story. Take the time out of your day to read – just ten to fifteen minutes a day, or longer if you have the time. It can be both rewarding and fun. Just make sure to pick something you know you’ll enjoy or it’ll be all for naught!

Listening to Music While Writing

Have you ever listened to music while you wrote? Did you know that it can effect the way you write or the type of scene you write?

Think about it. If you listen to slow, rhythmic melodies you tend to write in a way that the action is either progressing slowly or there’s some type of romantic or calm scenes, whereas if you listened to fast-paced, dance type of music you’d write an exciting piece of action.

Take a moment to think about what exactly you’re working on in terms of writing. Are you writing an epic historic novel? A sappy love story? A fantastical journey through the ages? How will you write certain scenes in these stories? Are you going to start with slow beats and soft sounds, or go right to the hard, fast, and gritty?

Ready for an exercise? Pull out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper – yes, I want you to actually physically write this down.

Plug in your iPod, turn on the radio, do whatever you have to in order to listen to some form of music. Pick a song that’s slow at first. Let the sounds of the instruments run through your mind and concentrate on how it’s being played. Write down a scene from your current work or just make one up that fits the song. Write until the song is done then pause your music.

Look at what you wrote and see if it matches the tempo of the song you listened to and title it after that song title.

Next, pick a fast song. Pick something with an upbeat rhythm – try a dance song! Write out your scene until the song is done. Do the same as before and review it, also titling it with that song’s title.

Next, pick a harsh song, like a metal song (Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, etc.) and write a scene based off of that. This scene will probably end up being a lot darker than your previous ones, but that’s okay. Title it in the same way.

You can keep doing this with a multitude of song types, from rap, to pop, to country, to blues, to gospel. It doesn’t matter what kind of genre you listen to, but just know that it can affect how and what you write. So if you’re not ready to write a type of scene where the main characters start spilling their feelings for each other, then skip that song! It can help in the framework of making a scene, so just keep at it and try new things!

 

What kinds of songs did you listen to when you write? Do you find that listening to music while writing helps or hinders you? Let me know in the comments below!

Reaching Your Potential As A Writer

We all have moments of doubt about ourselves, our abilities, our emotions, etc. We all have felt what it’s like to suffer and struggle through times of pressure and stress to either reap the benefits and rewards or the catastrophes that ensue. We don’t all feel 100% like we can do something 100% of the time.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

Writing is a skill and it is an art. Like all great art forms it takes time and practice to perfect it. I’m not claiming to be a know-it-all or authority about writing, because I’m not, but I still do have my own opinions like any person would.

So cast away your doubts! Cast away all those fears you have about writing your first manuscript or your first poem. You have potential as a writer, just like all of us.

How can you reach your potential as a writer?

  • Just start writing. You may or may not like what you’ve written, but you have to start somewhere. Don’t delete or erase anything and don’t throw it away. Your first “masterpiece” (or attempt thereof) can be something you look back on to see how much you’ve grown as a writer.
  • Read! Yes, reading! You know those magical tomes of information and fantastical stories that can come to life in your imagination? Reading is actually a great tool in helping you write because you can adapt your own form of writing by looking at how authors write their novels.
  • Don’t let the critics get you down – they’re there to help! Sending out work to friends isn’t always a great idea because they may not want to hurt your feelings, so find a professor or a copy editor online who may be able to read and proofread your work. Always ask for their honest opinion!
  • Write every day. It seems like a hard task, but if you write every day for just ten minutes a day, your writing will improve immensely. You don’t have to write intricate and elaborate sentences that stretch on for miles; even making a list of points that you want to improve in your writing will help.
  • Writer’s block is just a myth. You can overcome writer’s block by doing a writing exercise every day. There are a variety of different types of exercises that can work both the left and right sides of your brain, I recommend reading “Your First Novel” by Laura Whitcomb and Ann Rittenberg.
  • Accept that you might fail. This is a tough thing for anyone to accept in any aspect of life. Don’t be afraid that what you’re working on may not fit the requirements or preferences of someone you’re writing for. It’s okay! Remember that you can always improve it.

There are more ways to reach your potential as a writer, just do a general Google search of how to do it and you’ll get tons of results. There are no specific right or wrong ways because you really have to find what works for you. One way may work for one person but not another.

Just remember that you have to keep your head up and you have to keep on writing. You’re not a writer if you don’t write!

 

What ways have you tried to continue to reach your potential as a writer? How do you keep moving forward? Leave a comment and let me know!

The Pains (and Joys) of Being an English Major

Do you know how much of a struggle it can be to be an English major?

People expect a lot out of you: “can you proofread my paper?” “What’s the definition of ____?” “You’re an English major! I thought you were supposed to know how to do a, b, and c!” And the list goes on and on.

And it’s true. As an English major I feel compelled to correct other’s spelling and grammar mistakes, but even I get it wrong sometimes. And I don’t want to help constantly on every single paper my friends write because I have my own to worry about.

But in all honesty, I do enjoy it. I enjoy being able to say, “It should actually be this!” And to be able to share that knowledge with others and see their joy (or distaste) is rewarding enough.

Also, we’re expected to read everything under the sun, from the Bible, to Shakespeare, to Mary Shelley, to those of modern times. We’re expected to have read epic novels and short little fiction stories. It’s actually really annoying when I talk to fellow English majors and they say, “But haven’t you read ____?” Most of the time I haven’t. My focus is more on writing than literature, but that isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy it.

It can be a pain to be expected to do so much for such a broad major, but at the same time I do feel honored to know that my knowledge in the writing field can be useful to others who need the help.

If you’re thinking of becoming an English major, ask yourself these few questions:

  1. Do you enjoy reading and writing in your spare time? You’ll be doing a lot of this, so make sure you’re prepared to lose your life to writing and literature.
  2. Are you able to write pages of research or creative pieces without much effort? Yes, research is a process and can often be a struggle, but once you get the hang of it it’s actually fairly enjoyable. You will be writing research papers, there’s no avoiding it.
  3. Do you feel this urge to correct people on their spelling and grammar on social media sites or text messages? For some reason, this seems to be a big thing for a lot of the English majors I know. I personally can’t stand text speak or when people use the wrong version of “there,” “their,” or “they’re.” It drives me up a wall.
  4. Do you have an idea of what you want to do once you graduate? Even if you’re starting out as an English major, having an idea of what you want to do once you’ve graduated can be a big thing in order to help lead you in the path you want to go. I’m unsure of what I want to do – and I’m graduating May 17th! You’ll save yourself some stress if you have a general idea of what you want to do.

Now you may be wondering, “what kinds of things can an English major do outside of teaching?” Or “what kinds of concentrations can you focus on within an English major?”

There aren’t a large variety of jobs, as far as I know, but there is a wide range in which many corporations, such as AmeriCorps, look specifically for English majors? Why? As English majors we have use of critical thinking skills, how to use spelling and grammar and punctuation properly (or close to it), we’re literate, and more. We have qualifications that other majors may or may not help to develop.

As far as concentrations go, I know my university offers professional writing, literature, teaching, and drama. Other colleges and universities may offer different ones, but this way you have a broader look into what interests you rather than just English.

My concentration, specifically, is Professional Writing. I have taken a lot of creative writing courses including fiction, non-fiction, and creative writing courses. I have also taken classes in journalism, writing for the web, online magazine, and lots of literature classes. I’ve also had to take a speech class, so don’t think you’re free from public speaking!

Since it’s my concentration I can look for jobs in being a lobbyist, a secretary, author/writer, freelance writer, librarian (with a masters), etc.

It can be scary to think of what might be entailed in being an English major, but it’s a really rewarding major. I have learned to critically think about and analyze literature, I have learned to better my creative writing by showing, not telling, I have learned that there are possibilities at doing what I love and not have to be a teacher for it.

Of course the pains of being an English major can sometimes outweigh the joys, but looking at the bright side of it all is really rewarding, for sure.

Think about what you enjoy doing and if you think this would be an ideal major for you. It’s a hard path, but definitely fun if you allow it to be!

Keeping a Journal

Remember when you were a kid and you tried to keep a journal? We’d usually start it with, “Dear diary…”

Many of us may have fallen out of the habit, though, and haven’t been able to keep one going after a certain age. But the thing about journaling is that when you’re having a bad day, or a good one, and you don’t have an outlet from which to share those emotions, it can become bottled up in the wrong way and come back to bite you later.

The benefits of journaling as an adult are endless, plus it’s kind of fun to have something secret like this. Some of the benefits of keeping a journal are:

  • Letting your emotions out onto a page rather than out in public, especially if they’re negative emotions.
  • Going back and looking at how you were one day compared to now (this can be over the course of a week, month, or year).
  • It’s healthy for you emotionally and psychologically. You don’t have to suffer and it can reduce stress.

If you haven’t had a journal for a while, or ever, I suggest starting one! You don’t have to write in it everyday, but a couple of times a month or when you feel you need to can be very helpful in improving your health, or even your day.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, and it doesn’t even have to be paper, but start a journal today! There are various types of journals that you can start, it doesn’t have to be a “Dear Diary” journal at all! In fact, I got some tips from a video by OrganizedJen and started four journals based off of hers:

  • Gratitude journal – a journal to write in every night with 5 things I am grateful for for that day
  • Health journal – a journal to write how I’m feeling health-wise, including both mentally and physically, and possibly how any diets and exercise routines are going
  • Spiritual journal – a journal to log my spiritual journey and how I’m growing in my relationship with Christ (you can obviously tailor this to whatever religion you follow, if any)
  • “Dear Diary” – it’s exactly the one you did as a kid: it’s for your eyes only and is used to write down your deepest thoughts, desires, feelings, goings-on, and so forth

There are more types of journals that you can start: dream journals, family journals, project, gardening, and more. It all really depends on who you are as a person, what your hobbies are, and what you hope to get out of journaling. Take a chance and try it! There’s not right or wrong way with journaling as it’s all up to you on how you use it. But the best advice I can give you when it comes to journaling is:

Start today!

Maybe you’re having a really bad day and need to write it out before you explode, or maybe you just had the best experience of your life and you don’t want to forget it any time soon, including your emotions of that event. Write it down! Create as many journals as you want, and don’t be afraid to keep going further!

If you’re going the digital journal way, try Google Docs where it automatically saves your work as you type and you (hopefully) won’t lose it, or keep it in a Word document. Keep each day on a separate document and save them as the date, or keep it all in one document and style it however you want. There’s no end to the possibilities when it comes to creating a digital journal because there are so many different types of fonts, colors, and styles you can use to make it look pretty – which can also be pretty detoxing if you’re having a stressful day!

Don’t be afraid what others may think of you as a result of journaling – it’s none of their business, anyway! It’s for you to grow and express yourself. So don’t hesitate and start today!

 

Do you have a journal? And if so, what kind is it and how do you use it? Leave a comment and let me know!

Fiction vs Nonfiction

First off, let me just say that everyone has their own personal preferences as to what they like and dislike in a book, and these are just my views and opinions on these two genres.

The two major branches of classifications in a book are fiction and nonfiction. If you don’t know what the differences are, let me tell you:

Fiction is a story that can be either real or imaginary, but takes place in a setting that is created by the author. Think of stories like “Divergent” by Veronica Roth or “Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen.

Non-fiction is a story that is based in real life and can fall under the categories of autobiographies, biographies, historical, memoir, and more.

Each major genre branch has many little branches that like to “grow” from them, let’s say. For fiction there are genres such as historical, romance, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, teen paranormal romance, etc. For non-fiction there are genres such as lifestyle, historical, biography, etc. There are many different genres to read in this world, and there are also many different forms of these genres, particularly those in print, digital, and magazine.

When looking at the big umbrella of fiction and non-fiction, there are different factors to consider when picking out a book (or looking for a website) that you should consider before you pick one up:

  1. Are you in the mood to read about something that is made up and that has a plotline? Or are you interested in someone from the real world, whether that be a politician, an actor, or an author?
  2. Do you tend to be more of an artistic mind or are you more of a forward thinker? This can actually make a big difference when you choose the types of books you read. If you have an artistic mind where you have a vivid imagination or are thinking of getting ideas for your own story, then maybe you want to read at a fiction book whereas someone who’s more business oriented will want to read a non-fiction book or magazine to just pass the time or learn more about the world.
  3. Do you prefer digital or print? Thought eReaders are becoming really big nowadays, that doesn’t mean that print is going out of style anytime soon. For many books, though you can easily find them for an eReader, if you don’t own one or you spend more time online but are looking for a fictional novel to read, you might be out of luck. Think about getting an eReader from either Amazon or Barnes and Noble – it’s an investment that can be worth it.

Though it can be a toss up as to whether or not you want a book via a certain type of “printing” you can still decide what you prefer to read by also making a pros and cons list.

Fiction Pros: Fun to read; engaging; imaginary worlds; sometimes they’re in a series; many different genres for every type of interest

Cons: If they’re hardcover they can be expensive (as will a non-fiction book); cheesy covers; it’s a gamble – you may pick up a really great book with a great story, characters, and setting, or you may pick up a dud

Non-fiction Pros: Easily relatable; entertaining (magazines); factual (most of the time); useful resources

Cons: Sometimes boring; topics retold over and over again; magazine subscriptions can get expensive

All in all, it’s really up to you. If you’re a person who doesn’t read a lot but is looking to pick up the hobby, this list I made may or may not have helped. If you’re a seasoned reader, then you know what you like and you know what you can look out for. I find that both non-fiction and fiction books have their own charms and their own curses, but when it comes down to it there is only one person who can determine what they want from a book, and that’s you.

Monthly Writing Challenge

Yup, I’m joining the bandwagon and am going to start doing monthly writing challenges for any and all to come participate in! How these are going to work:

  1. The monthly challenge prompt will be themed (so since it’s April 1st, today’s theme will be April Fool’s Day).
  2. You can respond to the prompt at any point during the month it’s for (aka leave me a comment on this post!).
  3. Let’s all have fun with it!

I want to get the creative juices pumping and the blood flowing, so let’s begin, shall we? Here’s the prompt:

The dreaded day is finally upon us: April 1st. It’s dreaded by some because they are easily susceptible to pranking, while others find it a marvelous way of unleashing their fury (and laughter) upon others. You are the person who dreads it. You’re going about your day, minding your own business, when suddenly at your workplace, local coffee shop, school, wherever, when suddenly – BAM! You’re hit with the worst prank you’ve ever been hit with (or by). In 500 words or less, tell us: what happened?

I hope this can be a fun and engaging activity for you all to participate in!