a happy new year

Well, since we’re basically halfway into 2018 and I’ve done a rather terrible job of blogging in the last few months, I should write about those reflections/goals/resolutions I mentioned awhile ago, right?

Right.

Last year, I adopted the practice of throwing the word “resolution” out the window because I didn’t want to be held to making myself “better” by doing certain things. That’s something of a different beast, independent of whether I eat less or drink less or save more money. I wanted a list of things that I could potentially accomplish and work towards, whether it was something small (drinking more water) or big (write a book/comic.) When I wrote out what I had in mind for the year, I titled it “2017 Things To Accomplish” so it would stick in my head more like actual goals and not pressured improvements.

If I look at this page at a glance, it’s easy to see how many blank boxes there are instead of ones that are colored it. And yeah, I put a lot of lofty goals on there, not knowing if I’d actually accomplish them – but why not?

I may not have interviewed all of my “dream core four” (Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans) or covered an awards show, but I DID interview Scarlett Johansson! In person! At a premiere of her movie, on a red carpet! I stood in front of someone I’ve admired for ages, one of my favorite actresses, and talked to her and asked her a question and she directly responded to me – and I didn’t even fall over! I may not have published or sold a book, but I queried, got an agent, and started submitting to publishers. I may not have completed the “Coast to Coast” challenge because of timing and laziness, but I did run my second half marathon at Disney. I may not have written a story at my “dream” publication, but I did write numerous celebrity cover stories for a luxury magazine, in what has become a great anchor client, who have allowed me to continue to write for them every month. I didn’t read once a day, but I did read more this last year than I have in awhile, and I’m so glad I got my head back in the game where good literature was concerned.

And just because there were things that didn’t happen, it doesn’t mean that I won’t stop doing them – or trying to do them, even in a year that will be otherwise filled with wedding planning. I still would like to try to get myself in a position where I have the opportunity to moderate or sit on a panel at a con. I’d still like to travel overseas or to somewhere fun (at least I’ve got my honeymoon destination, if nothing else). I’d still like to do things I’ve always wanted to do even though my career has shifted in a way that they’re not readily associated with them anymore, like visit a movie/tv set or write a comic.

This year, I took a page from my friend’s book and divided my goal list into different categories: personal, financial, professional and mental health. I may add more as I think of them, I may not – but as I learned last year in getting my dream job and interviewing one of my favorite A-listers – nothing is impossible. (Also, apparently I like running so much I put it on there twice by accident…whoops.)

Oh, and I promise to be better at blogging. Promise.

a year in reflection

I know 2017 wasn’t a good year for a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons.

But in that same different way, it was a good year for me.

I got a job — my dream job, in my dream company — after over a year of unemployment. I got engaged. I started to write a book, got literary agent representation, and went on submission. I interviewed Scarlett Johansson in person on a red carpet, fulfilling a long-standing professional goal of talking to one of my favorite actresses face-to-face. (I still listen to the audio file and kick myself because it’s REAL.) I finally came out to the whole wide world as bisexual, something that was a long time coming but that I felt like I didn’t have the courage to embrace being open about, not until Supergirl showed me that I wasn’t alone being older and open about my sexuality.

2017 wasn’t great all the time. I had some major mental health setbacks. I’m still in major debt and struggling with those consequences, and angry at myself for not being able to make headway on anything no matter how hard I try. Before I got my dream job, I took a job at place that made me miserable. Friendships that I thought were long-lasting drifted away. My book got rejected from publishers in two separate rounds of submissions. I felt in some ways removed from my friends I loved so much due to different reasons.

And the world at large just flat out sucked. Comics twitter was exhausting, and there seemed to be dread everywhere I looked, and I saw it manifest itself everywhere: in my friends, in text messages, at work. I buried myself in writing, in newfound obsessions like Critical Role, in the fandoms and happy places that I’ve always turned to. I cherished the moments that I got to spend with the people I loved.

I’ll post eventually with a summary-type thing of the year, based on my goals and stuff that I set back in January. But in my Passion Planner, there’s a section where you’re supposed to keep notes of the good things that happened during the week. While I was unemployed, I used to lament to Shelly that I had nothing to write about that was good, and she reminded me it didn’t have to be something like “did good at work” or “got another freelance job.” It could something as mundane as “had a nice conversation with a friend” or “petted some cute dogs.” As I went through the year, I tried to chronicle things during each week — some mundane, some not — and while I’ll eventually post a summary-type thing based on the goals and stuff that I set back in January, I decided compiling those things in one large list here is the biggest way I can give insight into my year.

  • Lunch with Eileen twice
  • Got a cover story assignment
  • Shelly’s back!
  • Paid bill hanging over my head
  • Planner date with Shelly
  • Went to the gym twice/ate healthy
  • Women’s March
  • Skype date with Jill
  • Positive feedback about my writing
  • Got responses from book queries
  • Spent time with Eileen
  • Had serious boyfriend talk
  • Got asked to write more on proposal
  • Got another job interview
  • Long lunch with Eileen
  • Had engagement talk
  • Got good response from agent/publisher
  • Set up call with publisher
  • 2 interviews!
  • Agent phone call
  • GOT AN AGENT!
  • SIGNED WITH AN AGENT!
  • ANNOUNCED MY AGENT!
  • GOT A JOB!
  • Started a new job
  • Buffy Burlesque
  • Margs with Hayley
  • Snow day (slept in)
  • Got package from mom
  • Sent proposal to agent
  • INTERVIEWED SCARLETT JOHANSSON AT THE PREMIERE
  • Got to see Margie
  • Finally paid a lot of overdue bills
  • Brunch times with Candice
  • 80 degree weather
  • Got to spend time with Ali and Kayleigh
  • Saw mom and dad
  • Got lunch and wine twice with Cate and Eileen
  • Hopeful interview at Marvel?
  • GOT MARVEL OFFER!
  • STARTED WORKING AT MARVEL 🙂
  • Got to see my back-up bunnies
  • Good week at work
  • Felt better about stuff at work
  • Got to see dad
  • Got to see Eileen, Cate, Alix and Christine!
  • Booked Disney trip!
  • Saw Wonder Woman!
  • Drinks with Eileen
  • Had a good night with Esther
  • Black Panther trailer was AWESOME
  • HeroesCon and my back-up bunnies
  • Finally posted fic
  • Eileen’s birthday!
  • Saw Chip and Candice and Bri
  • Ran 3 miles
  • Good interview with Danika
  • Got official SDCC confirmation
  • Good email from my boss about work stuff
  • SDCC and seeing my slothes!
  • Cuddles with Jill
  • Got good interviews/reviews from colleagues at SDCC
  • Jill’s Facebook post about friends
  • Turned 35!
  • Spent birthday with family and friends
  • Good vacation weekend with family
  • Disney planning night with Katie
  • Had a good chat with my agent
  • Drinks with Sina!
  • Went to Disney!
  • Noelle’s birthday
  • Saw Groundhog Day
  • Got to see dad
  • Spent Rosh Hashanah with Shelly and Ziv
  • Fun XWP podcast recording
  • Ren Faire
  • Critical Role essay getting love
  • Laura’s DMs and Matt’s tweets
  • Jess and Danielle got married!
  • NYCC!
  • Saw Chip and Marvel friends
  • Wine night with my girls
  • Finally ran
  • Got some good book work done
  • Saw some cute dogs
  • I GOT ENGAGED!
  • Meeting Ashley Johnson at the Blindspot event
  • Celebrating with Eileen
  • Everyone congratulating me on my engagement
  • Ran my SECOND half marathon!
  • Boss was in a good mood at work
  • Saw Becca and Dan
  • Family time at home
  • Booked wedding stuff
  • First wedding dress shopping trip
  • Got wedding stuff done
  • Took a mental health day
  • Met AlphaFlyer for dinner!
  • Got a wedding photographer
  • Had a good therapy session
  • I SAW A STAR WAR!
  • Won the raffle at holiday work party
  • Made progress with wedding planning

So, yeah. In the words of Lin-Manuel, it was a “bit of a year.”

monthly round-up: january

If you use a passion planner, one of the big organizational things they try to instill is goal setting. Whether it’s for the week, the month, a year, whether it’s three years, ten years, your lifetime, whatever, the point is to try to accomplish as many things as you can even if they don’t end up being your SOLE goal. (For example, you may not have published a book, but you did write 10,000 words of a draft of a novel that you can query. Or you didn’t get married, but you did get engaged. Or you didn’t get a new job, but you did get a promotion.) At the end of each month, you reflect on your goals and your steps that you’ve taken to get there, however big or small. You sit down, you look at questions that ask you about specific feelings or moments, and you reflect on how you’ve changed over the month. You look at the things you said you wanted to do/accomplish 30 days ago and you see if you’ve made progress on them. If you have, yay! If you haven’t, that doesn’t mean that you failed anything — you look at the month and you think about why you didn’t accomplish things, and you make resolutions to do better next month.

(See, look at me trying to make it look like I don’t feel like a failure for that whole “no I didn’t make my goals this month” thing!)

The monthly exercise is a way for you to keep your motivation in check, and I figured putting those things in a blog would be a good way to do that, as well. Maybe it’s all a little redundant, since I’m doing this in my planner each month, but hey, it can’t hurt.

These were my “goals” for January, as put into my planner at the end of December:

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

So, how did I do?

  • FIND AN APARTMENT

I didn’t find an apartment. The truth of the matter was, I didn’t expect to find an apartment, not with my lease ending in two months and knowing the way the market moves in New York. But I did start looking, and I plan to kick that more into gear this month. I basically have to, considering that I’m leaving my current place no matter what. Have I mentioned that I hate apartment hunting? Because I really, really hate apartment hunting. Number one, it means making a huge change, which basically fuels a lot of my anxiety. Number two, I hate processes that are out of your control, so when I need to make a huge life decision or change I usually end up putting it off or hiding in order to avoid dealing with it. My therapist and I have been talking about ways to combat my fears, because I can’t really do that with this situation or I’ll screw myself over in more ways than one. In good news, I saw a place that I fell in love with. In bad news, I’m pretty sure for a variety of reasons it won’t work out. But if not, the search goes on.

  • START SAVINGS/BUDGET

I didn’t do this the way I envisioned I would, or by starting some program that helps you track your spending. (Apparently programs like that don’t do well for me considering I live alone and have a hard time allocating expenses and I get overwhelmed more often than not.) But I did become aware of my spending, and I kept a vigilant eye on my checking account and my credit card balances, more than I usually do. I carefully calculated what was coming out each month (usually, I just handwave a lot of the automatic payments and forget about them) and at the beginning of each week, when I wrote out my passion planner, I tried to remember to put in my starting balance so I always knew what I was working with when it came to spending. It’s a slow process, but I do feel like I’m slowly gaining more control over my financials, however small the steps are.

  • WRITE EVERY DAY

I cheated slightly with this — even before I made all my “resolutions,” I was pretty much writing every day because it’s how I spent my free time or downtime. So it wasn’t really about making myself write more, but more refining my writing — how much I do it, when and where I do it, etc. Admittedly, although I blocked off time in my passion planner every morning and night for writing, I didn’t stick to those constraints. I did find, however, that it does help me to visually and mentally put the time aside, because even if I go out on a weeknight or sleep in too late, I always remember I need to at least try and write. But I did open a google doc every day and make progress on projects. Right now, all of the things I’m working on are fic, and it will probably stay that way until NaNo starts again. But in other ways that writing every day has made a difference: I’ve blogged regularly almost every week, I’ve kept on track with my huge multi-chapter, and I started new stories I have inspiration for.

  • READ EVERY DAY

By the end of January, I had finished Wishful Drinking (love Carrie Fisher so much), The Night Circus, and Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please. I read three books this month! THREE! Last year, I read maybe two books over the course of the entire year, and one of them was Margie’s Black Widow novel which was half work. The only difference between last year and this year, aside from commuting, is I made an effort to read when I wasn’t doing anything else or when I had some free moments to relax, rather than sitting on the computer and scrolling through Tumblr, or re-reading fic on my Kindle. (Which I still do, I just default to it less often, having an actual book I know I want to get through.)

  • POST ONE NEW FIC A MONTH*

Success! I finished my Star Wars/Avengers AU, which I had started back in December when I realized just how much alike Rey and Finn were to Clint and Natasha. And I’d like to finish one of the three ideas I’ve been working on for next month — even if I can’t break my word count from last year, as long as I can keep posting one new story every 30 or so days, I think I’ll be satisfied. It’s just important for me to keep my brain creatively active, even if I go through periods of feeling like I have no motivation or inspiration whatsoever, or I feel like there’s no audience for my words.

*(for the record, this whole “one fic a month” thing does not include an ongoing multichapter that is, at this point, over 100,000 words.)

Every step is a baby one, but I think so far, I’ve done okay. It’s been a productive first month of trying to make myself happy with what I have. And looking back at what I’ve accomplished makes me feel positive I can push forward, even if things endeavor to push me back.

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blah blah blah, ignore all the life commitments

january, week one

So it’s officially been one full week of 2016. How did I spend my first seven days? Spending time with my college roommate who visited for New Years Day, seeing Star Wars yet again (no shame here), going wedding dress shopping with one of my best friends, and doing a fun project at work for my favorite actor’s birthday. All in all, not a bad way to start the year, even if there were some early morning wake-ups and mental setbacks (thanks, anxiety.)

It’s also been one full week of starting fresh (or trying to), attempting to follow through on resolutions, and get myself on track for a better and healthier life in all aspects, so I thought I’d take a brief look at the efforts I’ve made so far.

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passion planner mantra of the day/week/month/year: What Would Laura Barton Do? Also, yay for arrow stickers!

  • Organization: I’m still trying to figure out how to properly use and decorate my Passion Planner in a way that’s beneficial to me, but I already feel like by making it by Bible, I’m seeing a difference. I look at it every morning, I look at it during the day, and I’ve made a commitment to plan out my week ahead every Sunday, blocking off times for writing, social events, etc, so I can have a clear idea of the week ahead (I know I’m not going to be able to plan EVERYTHING, a lot of plans happen last minute, which I have to get used to.) It’s a little frustrating when I get ahead of myself (for example, I planned to post a piece of fic this weekend, had it all written out in my planner and ended up finishing and posting it early) but that’s something I’ll work on: the reminder that not everything is set in stone. The important thing is that I’m blocking out the time needed to accomplish things. (But seriously, guys. This Passion Planner thing has been a godsend. I’m so grateful for Shelly’s recommendation.)
  • Reading: I already finished one book! Thank you, Carrie Fisher, for having a short (and hilarious) biography. I’m currently in the middle of my second book, The Night Circus, which is a little more dense. Am I reading every day? Not quite. But I’m definitely making an effort to spend less time online once it gets late, and trying to use that time to read as long as I’m not tired.
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a good friend recommended I start 2016 with simple pleasures: a good book and tea/coffee. So I did.

  • Internet: I’ve been in bed mostly by 10:30 or so every night, which is a huge change for me — even if I’m not reading, it means I’m also not staying up to blindly scroll through Tumblr, or staying up and pushing myself to write when my brain is too exhausted. So while I haven’t mastered the strict “Internet time” rules that I wanted to start to implement, I feel this is at least a step in the right direction.
  • Writing: So far, I’ve been managing to write every day, even on days where I go to bed early or get up late or am out late. I’m still working out an actual routine for that, too, but I’ve been mostly writing after work — and if I can get up early enough, in the mornings for a little bit. I moved my list of WIPs from my computer to my Passion Planner, and each week I plan to map out exactly what parts of my ongoing fic I want to work on, to keep myself on schedule.
  • Misc: I started wearing my FitBit regularly again! (I’ve had the thing forever but fell out of habit after I left grad school.) And when I say “regularly,” I mean that I don’t take it off except to shower, and I’ve been using the silent alarms to wake up and trying to hit all my steps. I’m now religiously using the app and trying to figure out how to challenge people, so go me for being healthy! I even bought a nifty little designer band for it, which, yes, I am that person that is more inclined to use/wear practical things if I can make it cute.
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do your worst, Fitbit

Obviously, I can’t say that in seven days I’ve turned my life around. I know some of the routines and some of the monthly goals I’ve set for myself will take time and effort to fully implement. But I’m really proud about how deeply I’m already committing to a lot of resolutions that I’ve made. It’s not just about trying to be a “better person.” It’s about shaping up so I can make myself the happiest I can be, dissatisfied parts that I can’t change be damned.

goals, part one

In the past few years, I’ve fallen out of setting goals and resolutions for myself at the end of the year. It used to make me feel excited, because New Year! New Things! New Beginnings! But I never followed through on anything that I set for myself, unless it was a big long-term thing like “get a relationship” or “go to grad school.” Which aren’t BAD things, really, but the small, day-to-day life improvements? Nope, never really happened. Or, well, I tried to make them happen and that lasted less than 24 hours.

Eventually, I got lazy and stopped trying to essentially better my life. I also stopped making short-term goals because it sort of became, why bother if I’m not going to do anything, anyway? But in my ongoing quest of realizing how important certain things are to keeping my mental health in check, and in my renewed passion to take charge of those realizations rather than just pushing them to the side, I’m looking at 2016 as a change in organization, commitment and responsibility, in all ways.

  • Internet/Tumblr

This is a big one. This year, I fell into the black hole of letting social media consume my life in an overwhelming way. (Okay, let’s be real, it wasn’t all bad. Fandom brought me some amazing, important friends that I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t so involved, and I’m forever grateful for that.) Some of this “immersion” was due to anxiety, in that to keep my mind off of real life things, I fully threw myself in denial and Internet life instead. Some of it was due to work, and the fact that because of the job I have, I need to be connected 24/7 or at least keep up appearances on Twitter and such. It’s tiring. But even after staring at news websites and tweets all day, the first thing I do when I get home? Get on Tumblr and do the “fandom, fun, relaxation things” that I don’t get to do at work. And instead of giving myself limits, I let that consume me, to the point where I’d bypass dinner or forget to call my parents or forget something else important in favor of sitting on the computer. (Living alone can kind of suck sometimes.)

I’ve realized that personal relaxation time is important to me, and it’s important for me to HAVE that time to dick around on the Internet and flail about fandom things. But I’m going to try to improve the way I integrate all of that into my life: an hour or two of online time, maybe, and then doing real world stuff. Getting myself into the mindset I don’t NEED to be connected all the time, that the world won’t end if I don’t see my entire Tumblr dash, etc. Curating the amount of time I spend will (hopefully) help make me more productive in the long run.

  • Reading

I wrote about this in another entry, but I miss how I’ve fallen out of reading regularly due to being busy, or just not being in the right mental state. Reading is not only so much of who I am (I wasn’t an English major for nothing) but as a writer, it’s so important to keep my brain active with other people’s words. Good fic is a nice substitute, but I miss real stories. So I’m hoping to read more this year, and even if I can’t get through a lot of books, I at least want to regularly read each night or each weekend. I have a pile of stories on my list and I’m trying to get recs from friends, and hopefully that’ll help.

  • Time Management

Probably my biggest self-improvement goal for 2016. I’m currently waiting on my newly ordered passion planner (thanks, Shelly) which I plan to use religiously. I’ve become so dependent on technology, especially since my Mac syncs everything from my phone to my iPad to my computer, that I haven’t used an actual paper planner for far too long. A lot of my friends started bullet journals this year thanks to the fabulous advice of Kelly Sue (glow little shark, glow) and that’s hopefully going to be something that I start doing, also. But I’m hoping to use my planner to chronicle everything from commitments to writing time to life events. And hopefully relying on that will help me put order back into my life.

  • Money

Oh, the big one. I’ve been struggling with debt for years, thanks to bad choices in my past, and that hasn’t been helped by the fact that going back to grad school 2 years ago meant taking on student loans, which I hadn’t had before. While I’ve gotten better at being aware of how to handle money, I’m nowhere near satisfied with my financial state, and there are multiple “life” things I need to face in 2016 that hinge on money. I can’t even remember the last time I kept a checkbook, because I stopped writing checks when everything became electronic, but I’m making an effort to make notes when my bills are due (so I don’t miss deadlines), and sign up for programs that will help me budget correctly so I’m constantly aware of what I’m spending.

  • Writing

Allocating writing time! In addition to blocking off specific Internet time, I want to block of writing time, too, for both blogging and fic and original personal writing. I’d like to at least get into the habit of blogging once or twice a week, no matter what I’m writing about, with set times to work on fic or just write in general. (This will go out the window when it’s NaNo time but whatever.) In the same way I plan to set limits for myself with Internet usage, I want to give myself time for writing: an hour or two each day, but at the very least, regular writing time each day no matter what so I’m constantly working my brain…and then not feeling guilty for not having time.

A lo of the things I want to do this year are going to be challenging — not because of how big the changes are. But I’m not “settled.” I’m still going out every so often and messing up my routine some nights by not getting home til 10 or 11 at night, I’m not living somewhere that’s a real home or that I know will be a real home where I can feel settled as much as I love my apartment. I’m a little worried that I’ll be thrown off if I miss a few days of not being able to do things with the regimen I’m trying to put into place, but that also feeds into my efforts to be better about my mental health. Just because I don’t do something every day, that’s no reason to fall off the wagon. Just because I don’t do something every day, it doesn’t mean that I’ve failed at anything.

It should be enough.

 

books! books! books!

One of my goals of 2016 (I have no idea how it’s almost 2016) is to read more. A lot more. This feeds into my “lifestyle improvement” resolution that I need to write about at some point, but even moreso than just balancing my time better between the Internet and reading, I want to just READ, and get in the habit of reading again. I miss the days where I binged A Song of Ice and Fire over six months, where I would come home and do a few things online and then be in bed by 10:30 or 11 and allow myself at least an hour or so to read. No Tumblr (which wasn’t as prominent in my life then, anyway), no TV, no scrolling through Twitter or email on my iPhone. Just me and my book.

Granted, I can’t blame everything on the Internet when it comes to being distracted from reading. There have been other factors over the years. I used to have a commute that was an hour on the subway each day (not to mention time in the middle of the day where I could take an actual lunch for an hour and sit and read) and then when I started working again, after I came back from school, I was living close enough to walk to work — ergo, no commute time. (Now that we’ve moved offices and I can no longer walk to work I have that time again, although the commute is currently not that long to begin with.) I tried to read in grad school, especially on the plane rides when I’d travel home, but I usually ended up on my computer doing schoolwork, reading comics, or writing fic, the latter of which is essentially how I stayed sane.

In order to put this somewhere (and because my planner isn’t here yet), I’m compiling a list of books I hope to read and make priorities this year. It’s literally all over the map right now in terms of genre, some of it is recs from online or friends. Obviously, it’s not comprehensive — I’m sure I’ll end up reading stuff that’s not on here — but hopefully it’ll give me a good base.

  • Princess Academy: Shannon Hale
  • An Ember in the Ashes: Sabaa Tahir
  • Fire Logic: Laurie Marks
  • Outlander: Diana Gabaldon (I promised beloved Katie I’d at least try)
  • The Warrior’s Path: Catherine M. Wilson
  • One Kick: Chelsea Cain
  • The Expanse: James S.A. Corey (SyFy gave us a collection of the books at their holiday party and, well, I can’t turn down free books)