I might not finish NaNoWriMo… and that’s okay

It’s November. To some people that means the start of Christmas season, Thanksgiving, football, Starbucks holiday drinks, peppermint, and an overall enjoyable month. To others, it means all that and a mental marathon for the ages: NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month.

I tackled this task last year and won – barely crossing the finish line – and I have pretty much been on a high for the last eleven months because of it. It has always been my intention to make writing a 50,000+ words in 30 days a personal annual event, but just my second time out of the gate, I don’t think I’m going to get very far.

I probably won’t complete NaNoWriMo, and that’s okay.

If I don’t, it just shows how busy I’ve been in other aspects of my life. I’m job searching, writing and reporting for Hypable, studying for exams, spending time with friends before I graduate, spending time with family during Thanksgiving break before I move out… all these things that yes, this year, are more important than writing a book.

NaNoWriMo means something. It stands for something – and it’s not “I’m going to become a published author.” It’s “I pushed myself, and I accomplished something.” You don’t run a marathon with the hopes of winning. You run to prove to yourself you can do it (sometimes. On that note – I’m thinking about trying to start running some 10k’s and half-marathons. Am I crazy?)

So yes, I have a story, and I have a few thousand words already under my belt, but this month will be used to get the ball rolling, even if it takes me a few months to hit that all-important 50k. I’m still writing extensively. But writing these 400 words for this post were more important that writing 400 words for my story.

I’m writing a feature piece about November ratings sweeps for Hypable that is going to be very detailed and researched. That will be 1,000 words I could have written of a fictional novel that is unlikely to see the light of day.

I’m glad I’m involved in NaNoWriMo – the pep talks and encouragement and community are amazing – but it’s fine if I don’t finish the challenge come November 30.

So much has happened that really nothing has happened

It has been a busy few weeks. But it’s been so busy, that there really hasn’t be anything notable to report on. The first half of October predictably flew by in a blur, and I wholly expect the second half to speed by just the same. I’m getting into the second week of midterms, my birthday is in a couple of days, I just got back from an insane weekend with the PRSSA exec board, and I’m starting to rev up my engines to apply to jobs.

I feel bad – guilty – that I haven’t been updating on here as much as I should. That I’ve been neglecting this part of my life over the past few weeks. But I’m trying to let go of that self-imposed pressure and just do what I can. School is top priority, with Hypable and PRSSA not far behind. Then comes this site and some other things. But at the end of the day – literally, around 10 or 11 p.m., I am passed out, exhausted.

The Penn State PRSSA exec board representatives at the Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the conference.

The Penn State PRSSA exec board representatives at the Awards Ceremony and Dinner at the conference.

It’s interesting. At the PRSSA National Conference I attended in Washington D.C. this past weekend with eight other seniors on the Penn State PRSSA executive board, I really learned something. I learned that it’s important to strive for the job in the industry you want. Not the one you think you should have. Or the first one that comes along, offering a steady job and paycheck in a city you’re just so-so about.

That and you’ve got to be able to write. In high school, had no idea how important that skill was outside the world of arbitrary SAT/AP test scores. But then I started actually getting pretty good grades on my AP Lit essays. And then I started writing for Hypable when it was hardly a year old with a few hundred thousand monthly views. Now it’s three and a half years old, we have over four million hits a month, I’m writing better than ever before, and I feel like I have the confidence in my writing I’ll need as I apply to entry-level positions.

I’ll be taking my senior pictures soon, and we’re getting into the final 50 days of my undergraduate career. As Billy Eichner would say, “and here… we… go!”

You make your own luck (Rabbit, Rabbit!)

I forget what book I read it in – some lifestyle/non-fiction/How To book – but there was entire section devoted to the author’s opinion about luck and lack thereof. He said that we don’t have luck. No one is hit with a lucky stick. Just like no one is unlucky for “just because” reasons.

Shattering a mirror doesn’t give you seven years of bad luck, being born with Mercury in retrograde isn’t good luck (in fact – a planet being in ‘retrograde’ has little to no bearing on life on Earth. It just means we’re moving at a particularly different speed than other planets and have caught up/ surpassed them, so it looks like they’re moving backwards for a hot minute. Or something like that – Astro 006 was a few years ago.)

You make your own luck.

You make the choices that lead your life down certain paths. Drinking to excess will leave you with a terrible hangover the next day. So you feel sick and are late for class. That’s not bad luck – that’s the result of a bad decision. Getting out there and meeting people who can potentially set you up with a job post-graduation isn’t good luck. It’s your hard work and dedication paying off.

Luck is defined (yep, we’re going there) as “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” And I wholeheartedly disagree with that. ‘Brought by chance’ simply means someone else’s decisions have affected you, either positively or negatively, in the Rube Goldberg-like machine that we call life.

It’s October 1st. Perhaps ironically, I/we say “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit” on the first day of the month to “ensure good luck for the duration of that month” according to British tradition. But me saying a few words today won’t mean I’ll float through the month unscathed. I think of it as more of just a superstition – if I don’t say it, bad things might happen. But since I cannot predict the future nor peek into alternate timelines, we’ll never know would have happened to me if I didn’t.

I got in the habit once, after I read the passage I mentioned at the top of this post (I really wish I remember where I read that), of hushed-whispering “you do not make your own luck” whenever a friend mentioned his or her good or bad luck. But if some people wish to believe in it for their own sanity, who am I to tell them otherwise?

Here’s to a marvelous final quarter, 2014. October, November and December are progressively my favorite months. October is insane, with going out of town next weekend, and already looking toward my next exam week (and – ahem – a very important birthday). It doesn’t help that I’ve got November 1 circled with a big red pen on my calendar – Penn State vs. University of Maryland in football. To say I’m excited is an understatement.

How I Stay Organized

I pride myself on being organized. Sure, that term might be a bit broad, and sometimes it is organized chaos, but whether it’s in the physical world – my closet, my jewelry, my class notes – or the digital – my computer’s files, my Gmail, Hypable articles – I firmly believe in “a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.”

Lately, I’ve had a few friends come to me, looking to mimic my insane organization skills. They’ve asked what apps do you use? How do you organize your calendar? Do you know you’re insane? My answers:

  • A lot of them. Wunderlist and Evernote Premium being the top two, Gmail’s Task tab, too.
  • Meticulously. I use my Mac’s Calendar app, and Google Calendar (and I have a wall calendar), then I have an app on my iPad that combines the two.
  • Yeah, I’m not too concerned about it.

The truth is, I just make sure I always have everything written down. I have three sizes of sticky notes on my desk – squares for quick reminders, larger lined squares for short lists, and a large one to make a ‘run-down’ of whatever (groceries, To Do Today, To Do For COMM 424…). The notes app on my iPhone acts as the virtual sticky when I’m thinking about something when I’m out.

Have you ever had a brilliant idea or question or cure to cancer pop into your head right as you’re drifting off? It happens to writers a lot, but then they go to sleep and wake the next more, trying to scratch the itch that the idea left behind. This is why one of the key pieces of advice for writers (novice or expert) is to keep a journal next to your bed and write it down. I do this for everything. If I have a question for a professor, I’ll quickly type it into a note. Or if I realized a great blog post topic, I’ll write it down.

To become organized, the key is stream-of-conscious writing. Don’t overthink it. You have a million tasks buzzing around in your head, so the best way to make sense of them is to sit down and write/type it all out. An example of what a Google Task list would look like:

  • Write reflection on Case 1 for COMM 419
  • Write and schedule ‘The Mindy Project’ season 3 premiere article
  • Blog post: organization
  • Email X and Y about Z
  • Make sure rooms are scheduled for PRSSA meeting Tuesday

Then, you know to start from the top and just knock ‘em out. You don’t feel like doing Task 1 now? Too bad, probably won’t feel like doing it later, either.
Continue reading

Full Steam ahead!

We are already two weeks into the semester. Or, depending on how you look at it, we are just two weeks into the semester. In some ways, it feels like time is flying by, but in other regards, I know we’re only just getting started.

Looking ahead, I’m already thinking about my first round of midterms in two weeks, and working to build my major advertising capstone project with my amazing group (Full Steam Communications Advertising!) that’s worth more than 50% of my grade, when all told.

We’re getting into the thick of September now, and with it, my org groups meetings are regularly scheduled, and television is coming back. Today has been spent typing up all my hand-written notes from classes, contacting some professors about questions and making sure I have everything in order. No missing assignments!

In the meantime, I’ve been learning a lot. Technically, I’ve only had nine days of classes so far – none of Fridays and Labor Day was last Monday – but I cannot fathom at how much I’ve already learned in my Mass Comm Law class (COMM 403 for you fellow Penn Staters). The court systems and laws are interesting enough, but the loopholes and first amendment technicalities are endlessly fascinating to me.

All in all, I am juggling so many different projects, organizations, classes, and posts that I feel like I really need to make to-dos out the wazoo to keep everything organized.

And on Day 3, I figured out how to code a (very simple) website (sorta)

One week down, fourteen more to go in this Fall semester. Time is a-flying!

I’d like to take you back to this past Wednesday – my third day of classes. I am taking an online class, Art 003: Web Design and Visuals for the Web. Seems simple enough. I have a decent enough grasp on the fundamentals of images, ‘visuals’ and the like and how they’re used online.

Wrong. Oh I was so very wrong. As I was going to the syllabus I realized that I would have to actually learn how to code a website for the first assignment. I cracked open my textbook and tried to find an easy way to use CSS for the first time. It spelled mostly everything out and I already knew most of the fundamentals, but by and large: new territory.

So I got to work. I read the first twenty pages of the textbook – going beyond the assigned reading portion – and opened TextEdit on my computer to start writing the code. I had typed up what I thought were all 50 lines of correct code.

I typed this code! Then I read over it approximately one thousand times.

I typed this code! Then I read over it approximately one thousand times.

Then I started running into problems. The font was being read properly, the page was all misaligned, and the spacing between my paragraphs was irregular. Back and forth I went for an hour, carefully scanning each character looking for the error. I realized I was learning a whole new language. It felt like I was back in spanish class, knowing the general gist of the phrases I was reading, but not fully grasping every word.

Now, I’ve been around HTML a while. I use the basics for Hypable, such as italicizing and bolding. I can figure out how to resize images and align them certain ways, and I can get into a Tumblr blog’s theme code and change the colors of the page or the margin sizes. But goodness, actually creating something from nothing proved to be quite the task.

After finally reading through the chapter once more and inspecting the element (looking at the HTML of the example my professor posted), I took to looking around my classes’ site for HTML help.

Lo and behold: there is a generator where you can import a .html file and it’ll scan through, pointing out errors and, this is the best part, the reason why they are errors. A reasoning for the cause! My rational brain was so thankful. I went from 14 errors to 3 in one try (the back up to 17 with bad editing on my part) and finally, the message that I was free and clear of errors and my file was good to go!

This assignment isn’t due until September 8th, but I am so happy to have accomplished this task already.

One hundred and twenty-some days

I have just about one hundred and twenty days until I graduate college. As we head into the final week before my classes start for the final time, and I soak up the last bit of summer, I am shocked at how fast time is flying by.

Slowly but surely, the syllabuses for my classes are appearing online. Announcements about club meeting times and places are being sent around Facebook. It’s like we never left. Grad-photo_Versaw

I move back this Friday and currently am in that packing purgatory where all my stuff seems to multiply every time I turn around. There is a bit of relief that comes with knowing this is the last time I’ll have to pack for a semester.

But what does that mean, really? The next time I’ll be packing to move out will be to move to a new city and prepare myself for the Real World.

I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’m trying to remember all my tailgating gear, my clothes that I wear to classes, to parties, to interviews, to Friday night dinner with friends, to bum around on a Saturday afternoon, shuffling between friends apartments watching movies and eating food that is no good for us.

Fall is right around the corner, and with it comes my autumn wardrobe, jeans and boots and flannel, light knits and vests. Then my winter pieces! Like the puffer coat that covers me from head to knees, when my snow boots pick up the slack and protect my calves to toes from the frigid temperature.

I know it’s strange to be discussing my wardrobe in this capacity, but packing for semesters has always defined the sign of the times. This year, I won’t be packing for my Spring semester – and thus my spring wardrobe. It’ll all be here with me at home. Or New York City. And that’s only a little bit terrifying.

As we tumble towards the final few months of 2014, I am really, really ready to graduate. I’m ready to start applying for full-time jobs and get this show on the road. (New game: how many times will I refer to my post-grad life as ‘show’ and how often will I use that phrase? I’ll need a swear jar-like punishment soon, I imagine.)

15 years of education behind me and it’s all coming down to the next 120 days.

August is finally here!

The last 31 days have been insane. To think back at all that was accomplished and all that happened to me personally is slightly exhausting. There was happy moments but also far too many tragedies. The month was nothing short of overwhelming.

  • July 4th weekend was spent with my friends in State College, PA. An amazing three-day reprieve from my real life, I realized the trip was exactly what I needed at the peak of summer.
  • I saw my eldest cousin get married and danced the night away with my other cousins, enjoying each others company for the third time this summer. It was time being made up for these recent years that were spent at our respective homes for the holidays.
  • There was a visit from my friend who hails from Australia, and I crossed ‘visit the Newseum’ off my bucket list.
  • I continued my internship at Weitzman, and now only have a few days left next week. This internship, I realized over time, was very similar to my internship last summer where, I never dreaded going to work. I was always excited to get into the office and start the day anew. It’s given me exposure to and hands-on experience in the agency life I’ve been learning about for years.
  • There was also a lot of online activity. Events I sat on the sidelines for and watched with awe. Most notably, the Television Critics Association summer press tour and of course, San Diego Comic-Con that just wrapped last weekend.
    This month was also really a turning point in my online brands. I have been blogging not more than ever on here and on Ampersand New York. It is a source of accomplishment. I post as much as I can, and it might not be a lot yet, but it is enough for now. I’m writing. I’m writing as much as I can.

    Au revior, July. You were one for the record books. Hello August. You will be filled with a few final days of work, a vacation, a lot of writing, even more reading, and finally: the pilgrimage back to Penn State for my final semester of college ever.

    FOMO, SDCC and You

    Working for an online entertainment website is wonderful. I get to talk about television with people who are cut from the same cloth, make friends from all of the world, and my pop culture knowledge is off the charts. It’s especially nice at Hypable because we’re given a lot of creative freedom to write what we like. We are a site that is “for fans, by fans,” after all, so anything that we are passionate about, we’re encouraged to write about.

    All that being said, there is also one major downfall to being in this entertainment world: San Diego Comic-Con. Specifically, my lack of attendance at the convention.

    At this point, there’s something for everyone at Comic-Con. Yes, at its core, there are still panels and sections of the vendor hall dedicated to comic books, video games and everything that comes with those universes, but there are television shows like The Blacklist and Once Upon a Time and television/online hybrid Community. There are panels for movies such as the Marvel franchise and Disney ventures. The glitz and glamour of fancy Hollywood parties have creeped into SDCC’s evening plans over the years (disclaimer: I have no idea if this is a new thing or not. Has social media simply made the partying more evident?) Continue reading

    Being a tourist in my own town

    I’ve lived within 30 minutes of Washington D.C. for the majority of my life. It’s our nation’s capital and a city that millions of visitors pour into and out of every year. The history mixed with the plethora of museums for whatever topic strikes your fancy, and the frequent fairs, festivals and events that come through means that there is never a shortage of places to visit and things to do.

    Despite all this, my family and I have relegated our visits into the city to, well, school field trips and hosting extended family. I’ve been to the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum and the Air & Space Museum more times than I can count. My favorite exhibit is the gemstones and minerals, my least favorite is the one where you go through the tiny spacecraft and feel very cluster-phobic.

    Last week, one of my very good friends visited town and we decided to conquer the still-relatively-new Newseum. Updated and renovated in 2008, I distinctively remember reading The Washington Post the day it opened, the Style or Metro section I believe, about the huge reproduction of the First Amendment on the face of it’s multi-storied building. Since then, I’ve wanted to visit and dedicate the time that the stories within its halls deserve to explore it, but I simply never had the chance.

    "Wait, we have to take a selfie."

    “Wait, we have to take a selfie.”

    Until Marama decided to visit.

    Over the two and a half years we’ve been at Hypable together, Marama has grown to be one of my closest friends. She may live 14 hours ahead of me most of the time, but we make our time difference-friendship work. This is her second year what I have dubbed ‘The Australian takes on America’ tour. She jumps around major U.S. cities for the month of July before settling in with most of the Hypable team (sadly, not including me) in California for San Diego Comic-Con.

    Knowing that she is a journalist and would probably appreciate the change of pace from the Smithsonian museums, I suggested we visit the Newseum. The day we went, it was relatively empty and we spent around two hours there but we could have spent much more time pouring over every detail that has gone into the curation of stories. Thinking now, it’s overwhelming to try and explain all that there is to see.

    The horror and terror that has plagued our world is documented on 200 years-worth of newspapers, television segments and tweets. But there is also joy and triumph. Women breaking through the glass-ceiling of journalism particularly stood out to the two of us because of obvious reasons, and the pomp and circumstance of the Olympic games – uniting the world for brief blips in time.

    Going through the 9/11 exhibit was hard. Going through the Berlin Wall exhibit was hard. It was overwhelming at times, but worth it in the end. Journalists and reporters have risked their lives for centuries trying to tell the truth and report the newsworthy stories we need to know. It makes me think about the current events of today – the Iraq war, and now with Palestine and Israel’s attacks mounting on each other, and Russia and the Ukraine. This is history in the making, every day. It makes me wonder what we will say in twenty years, or how these stories will be told to kids in their history classes.

    Marama and I walked around for a little bit afterwards and said our goodbyes for another year. Then there was a train broken down on the Orange line three stops before mine, thus reminding me of the hassle that is dealing with D.C.