The Art of the Collage

Do you remember making collages in elementary school? I remember making collages for everything. I cut up so many magazines to make collages for my favorite books, my favorite movies, things that made me smile, and so on. I honestly remember making collages for fun outside of school because I was a huge nerd, chopping up old catalogs and newspapers we had hanging around our house.

Now I did not keep a single collage I made when I was younger because I never really had any reason to. I may have hung a couple up in my room if I liked the pictures, but any time I cleaned up my room the collages were usually the first thing thrown into the recycling bin. Collages were fun to make, but useless to hang onto.

I would guess it’s been about fifteen years since I made a collage and suddenly, in the last few weeks, I’ve had a very strong urge to make a collage. What I want to make is a vision board, which is basically a collage, but with a purpose.

And I’m super excited about it.

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Example! Mine’s probably going to be a little spookier, cuz I’m a spooky lady.

A vision board is a tool to help you visualize and focus on your life goals. You can use any type of surface you want, like a cork board, the front of your fridge, or even a Pinterest board. The only thing you have to do is put it somewhere where you can see it every day. A vision board is meant to remind you that you’re working toward something and to never give up.

Now, if I make my vision board, I want it to be on a poster board. Something that I can easily hang near my bed and see everyday.

I know what you’re thinking, Daniel. Why do I even want to make a vision board?

Well, because I recently found some of my personal ‘to-do’ lists and I have had the same life goals for the past few years and have made zero progress on them. Zero, zilch, bagel. Nothing to show for these goals I’ve had since I was in high school.

It made me realize that something needed to change. After looking back over the last decade of my life, I realize my issue isn’t lack of skill or time. It’s lack of motivation. It’s because, after a long day of work, I come home, sit on the couch, and zone out watching Netflix. Yes, in the morning, when I first get up, I might think to myself, “Today’s the day! When I get home from work I’m going to do those amazing things I’ve wanted to do for years and it will be amazing!” But after eight hours in the office, all I can think about it relaxing. About grabbing a beer and chilling on the couch.

Well, hopefully, a vision board will change that.

Now I realize a vision board is a bit of a cheesy idea. It’s definitely something young white women on Pinterest do and they fill their board with cliche sayings like, “Go on more adventures” or “Love my husband more.” But you know what, I might be a white woman, but that doesn’t mean my vision board has to be useless. I am going to put concrete, tangible things on my vision board so that every day I wake up and the first thing I see is my to do list.

Wait…this is the most type-A thing I’ve ever done….Oh well, if the anxiety shoe fits.

Anyway, some things I’m going to include on my vision board/life to do list are:

  • Write a novel. I’ve literally had this as a personal goal since I was six and, in the past twenty-one years, I have written zero novels.
  • Become a certified cicerone. This is something I’ve been toying with since I started getting into craft beer. Not only would it basically certify me as a beer snob, it would also open doors to freelancing for craft beer magazines and marketing for small breweries. How cool would that be?
  • Run a half marathon. Literally been talking about this for a year now and all of my attempts to stay on a training schedule have fallen apart.
  • Go back to school. My current job offers an employee discount on college credits and, when I started, I told myself I would take advantage of that. Well, in total I’ve taken two classes. Been here almost five years.

That’s just the beginning, Daniel. I have so many things I want to put on my vision board and I’m excited to get started.

What would you put on your vision board, Daniel?

-EMS

 

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For a Professional Writer, I’m Super Bad at Keeping a Writing Schedule

How long has this blog been going for? More than two years at this point? And in that time only one of us has earned a punishment, and that was me. Last time I felt like I had a pretty decent excuse. I got a sudden migraine the evening I was supposed to write and ended up in bed, waiting patiently for my eyes to stop throbbing.

Well, I have officially earned the second punishment in the history of Seven Degrees of Smudde and guess what my excuse is this time? Well, surprise, surprise. I have none.

Want to know what I did today? Well, I woke up at 11 a.m., hung out with the ferrets while I watched reruns of Gilmore Girls, read the novella “Cannibals in Candyland,” and then binged the first season of Netflix’s “Frontier” in preparation to binge the second season tomorrow. It was about two beers and four episodes into this Netflix binge that I remembered what day it was. At that point it was a quarter after 10 p.m. and, honestly, I didn’t really feel like pausing my show to write. I just texted you and said to start preparing a punishment because I didn’t feel like writing.

God, listen to me. I didn’t feel like writing. I’m a professional writer. I get paid lots of money to go to work, sit behind a desk, and write things for eight hours. I’m also a pretty responsible and organized writer at work. I rarely miss deadlines and when I do, I let my team know that I’ve been delayed. And while I might not have a good excuse for being delayed, at least I know my schedule well enough to know that I’m fucked.

And yet, when I get home, I become a terrible writer. A terrible writer who sometimes forgets when things are due, like I did today.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m like this. When I was younger, I was always writing. I never stopped writing. You probably remember, Daniel, the way I always carried notebooks with me and would sit for hours writing in them. I always had a story I was working on. Granted, back then, I didn’t have any deadlines to meet, but I’m 100% positive I would have met my deadlines if they had existed. I would have met them because I always felt like writing.

Now that I’m older and I kind of have the writing job I always wanted, I don’t feel like writing. I feel like sitting and watching Netflix and reading trashy horror novels.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m getting older and I don’t have as much of an imagination as I did when I was a kid. Sometimes I think it’s because I spend all of my time writing at work that when I come home it’s the last thing I want to do. Sometimes I think it’s because unless there is an immediately tangible reward or consequence to a task, I have no motivation to complete it, which is a common theme in my life. For example, unless I have an early meeting at work or I’m going somewhere fun, I cannot get up with my alarm in the morning.

Anyway, I hope you have fun thinking up my punishment, Daniel. Sorry for getting this up so late! I need to keep better track of myself. In other news, “Cannibals In Candyland” was just as ridiculous as it sounds.

-EMS  

 

What a Terrible Week

Obviously my post this week is going up late. I wish I had a decent excuse as to why, but it really all comes down to the fact that I’ve had a crappy week.

It all started on Monday when I was dropped off at the airport.

The morning had been pretty easy. I got up, packed the few things I would need for my work trip, and then had a friend drop me off at the airport. We left about thirty minutes earlier than we needed to because I wanted to buy him a cup of coffee as a ‘thank you’ for driving me to the airport. Michael had a pretty nasty cold so he didn’t want to get up early and take me, which was fine. However, that side trip to the coffee shop took about a third of the time I had thought it would, so I ended up at the airport an hour and a half before my flight.

Now, you might say, “An hour and a half? That’s barely enough time to get through security!” Well, that is one of the many benefits of living in a small town like mine. Our airport has only one security gate and it takes like five minutes to get through it. You could get to the airport thirty minutes before your flight and still have time to use the restroom and get a snack.

Anyway, I wasn’t too worried about it. Being early is better than being late, right? And that just gave me more time to work on my laptop. No big deal.

Well, the WiFi wasn’t working and I did have a few urgent emails to send before we got to our destination. I thought to myself, “well that’s crappy, but oh well. I can work when we get to our first layover.” Little did I know that the day was only going to go downhill from there.

About twenty minutes after I arrived, I found out the flight was delayed by an hour so I was actually almost three hours early to an airport that had a grand total of two gates. Did I also mention that you walk directly out onto the tarmac to get to your flight? That tiny.

So I settled in to do some reading while I waited on my flight and then noticed something interesting on my flight itinerary. My first layover was only about forty five minutes, which meant that this hour delay in my first flight was going to make me miss my connection.

Well fuck.

After some finagling, the flight agent managed to find me another connection down in San Francisco. However, the flight was a red eye and I would be getting to my destination at 6 a.m. the next morning. My meeting started at 8 a.m. the next morning so, if everything went as planned, I would get a grand total of two hours to get to the hotel, shower, change, drink as much coffee as humanly possible, and then head right to my ten hour meeting.

Well fuck.

Everything did end up going as planned from there, but I’m not going to lie and say Tuesday was a good day. It sucked. It sucked so much. I was able to sit through my all day meeting, but I had to get up and move around every twenty minutes or so to make sure I didn’t fall asleep where I was sitting. I also hadn’t thought my wardrobe through and brought heels to wear to my meeting. Thankfully, I did not fall on my face.

The meeting was two days, so I did manage to get a decent night’s sleep at the hotel. However, the next day I had to pack up and head the airport right after the meeting because I had another late evening flight to catch. If I had known I was going to end up taking a red eye in the first place, I would have never agreed to such a late flight.

So, in conclusion, I got to my destination at 6 in the morning and spent a grand total of about thirty six hours there before I had to fly home.

Well fuck.

So I got home and slept for about ten hours before heading into work to catch up on emails and check in on a few projects. During my very brief day, I got a phone call saying I had been denied on a very awesome opportunity, which I will tell you about later, Daniel. After that I went home, opened a beer, and climbed into bed to rewatch Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time because when you’re depressed, there’s not much else you can do.

After a few episodes, Michael managed to cheer me up and I finally felt energized enough to write my post. And then, boom. I got hit by a migraine.

Well fuck.

After taking aspirin and sleeping for another ten hours, I was able to get out of bed and go to work this morning, where I frantically tried to catch up a project I missed before I was kicked out of my office for an event. Still have a bit of a headache, but at least it’s manageable, right?

Right.

Anyway, here’s my post. It’s a little pointless and has no deeper meaning, but at least I got to bitch about my weekend. Maybe next time I’ll have something meaningful to write about.

-EMS

 

I’m Never Prepared

Dude, I feel like I’m never prepared to write for SDoS. No matter how well I plan out my week, I always end up writing my post during my lunch break at work, struggling to brainstorm a topic in between my meetings and work projects. Logically, I know that if I just take a few hours to brainstorm and outline my thoughts, my SDoS posts would be so much better, but it’s hard sometimes to find the motivation to put a lot of effort into something when I’m not feeling particularly inspired.

I think that’s the root of my problem. I think I’m in the same place that you are, Daniel. I’ve run out of ideas and it’s hard to find more things to write about when all I do is work, crochet, and chill at home. I’ve written about all of those things. I need something new.

Earlier this week you asked me to teach you how to be inspired and I jokingly said you need to stand on your head and drink kombucha, neither of which I will willingly do. But the more I think about it, the more I like the analogy. Finding inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha: physically tasking and not appealing at all.

A lot of people seem to think that I’m a creative or inspired person, but in reality I rarely feel “inspired” anymore. Yes, I crochet and I write and I sometimes craft things, but in reality all of the things I create don’t magically appear, conjured by a flash of magic inspiration. In reality, I crochet things I see on Pinterest, write things based on parameters given to me by my boss or a writing prompt, and make things to fill a need in my life rather than to satisfy a whim.

My creativity isn’t spontaneous, romantic thing that sweeps me off my feet, it’s more like a task on a to do list that takes time and energy.

Inspiration is like standing on your head and drinking kombucha. You’ve got to take some time and get yourself into a headstand and then you have to force yourself to do something you really don’t want to do, like drink gross kombucha or write a bunch of garbage until something wonderful happens.

There’s a quote from Stephen King that always comes to mind when I finally force myself to sit down and write my SDoS post:  “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

Sometimes I wish Stephen King could just follow me around, poking me with a ruler and reminding me over and over that if I want to write I just have to sit down and do it. Don’t loggy gag, don’t sit around and use the “I don’t have any ideas” excuse.

Obviously this post is more a reminder for me than it is for you, Daniel. You are a very inspired person and just listening to the way you talk about the blogs and your roleplaying campaigns, I know that you’re a way better writer than me. I really should be asking you to teach me to be inspired, not the other way around.

I guess I’ll end this post with another reminder to myself and any other writers out there on the internet who stumble upon this post. It doesn’t matter how good your writing is, what matters is you wrote something.

Writing is like going for a run. It doesn’t matter how fast you go or how long you run for, what matters is that you went for a run. Same goes for writing. I hated my last three SDoS posts and my last two WMR posts, but at least I sat down and wrote them.

-EMS

 

I’d Like to Call this my Rebellious Phase

As you know, Daniel, a few weeks ago I finally did something I’ve been wanting to do since I was a teenager.

I finally got my lip pierced.

When I was in middle school I wanted to be a cool punk kid so bad. I wanted to be dark and mysterious. I wanted to wear all black and die my hair a funky color and pierce my face, but a lack of money and fear of authority kept me from living my dream. The closest I got to being a rebellious teenager was getting a ‘C’ in a science class and piercing my ears twice. Not the most effective way to show that I’m edgy and cool. After a few years of trying, I gave up and went back to being a nerdy, advanced placement student with perfect grades and glasses.

Well despite the fact it’s been more than a decade since middle school and I spent all of college as the same nerdy girl, I still dream of being a cool and edgy person.

Of course, over the years the dream has changed a little bit. My ideal self wears less black and no longer has an eyebrow or nose bridge piercing, but the idea is still the same. Basically, I want to stand out. I’ve spent most of my life trying desperately to fade into the background for fear of ruining my life. The idea that my appearance could keep me from getting jobs or making friends loomed over my head and kept me in place.

Well now I’m ready to be seen for who I am. And I’m ready in every sense of the word.

Now that I’m an adult, with a stable career and now parental supervision, I can do whatever I want. I cut my hair short, I pierced my nose, I got more tattoos, and I finally pierce my lip. I still worry a little about my work superiors getting upset about my appearance, but I’m also confident enough now in my professional abilities to know that it would take more than a lip stud to get me fired.

Anyway, I feel like piercing my lip was the start of my second rebellious phase. I had a very mild one in middle school and now I’m really going at it in my late twenties. Took me fourteen years to get my shit together, but I finally did and now I’m trying to make my middle school self proud.

If I met my thirteen-year-old self, she would either be very impressed or very intimidated by the way I look now, which is exactly what I’m going for.

Now I just have to wait for it to heal up so I can drink beer again. It’s tough being this cool. Sacrifices have to be made for the sake of looking punk.

Sorry for the short post, Dan. Been a busy week.

-EMS

 

Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen Parks and Rec, Daniel. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The characters are genuine, the humor is funny without being offensive, and somehow the story is both hilarious and deeply moving. I am not exaggerating when I say that watching this show has changed my life. This show taught me how to love myself and how to love the people around me.

It also gave me a new role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like Leslie Knope.

giphy

Leslie Knope is a wonderful woman who spends her energy trying to make the world a better place for the people around her. She’s kind, she’s supportive, she’s ambitious, and she’s always excited about her next adventure.

I know I’ll never be exactly like Leslie because I don’t have an endless reservoir of bubbliness inside me and I’m definitely not assertive enough to be a leader. But I can be generous and ambitious in my own way.

Recently, I’ve been planning out elaborate parties and making things for the people around me just because. I’ve been crocheting afghans, planning surprise parties, and buying tiny gifts for my friends because I want to see them smile. While I’m still nowhere near Leslie’s level of generosity in the show, I feel like she would be proud of me because instead of focusing on myself, I’m thinking of the people in my life. I’m showing them that I care about them without being ashamed of my love.

I’m also continuing to push myself to try new things every day. I know that I can sometimes get complacent, especially now that I have my degree and a comfortable job. It’s so easy to lose focus sometimes or forget that there are still things to work for. So everyday I remind myself that Leslie never lost focus. Everything she did, she did to reach a goal and that’s how I want to live my life.

As you know, I’m training for a half marathon right now. Lots of people have wished me luck. Others have asked me why I would do this to myself. I’m doing this because I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon. That’s it, that’s the reason I’m working so hard. Sometimes people won’t understand why you’re working for something and Leslie Knope taught me that, despite what they say, you keep going. Don’t give up.

tenorOf course, Leslie does have her faults. Except, instead of being ashamed of her faults she embraces them. Instead of stubbornly ignoring her flaws, she understands that sometimes she needs help and she reaches out to her loved ones for it rather than pretending she’s perfect. Leslie can be controlling, anxious, obsessive, and self-centered, but none of these things make her an unlovable person because she works every day to make sure they don’t define her.

Damn. Talk about #goals, am I right?

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect. I rarely challenge myself because I’m afraid of failing and I never talk about my fears with the people around me because that would mean I’m flawed. For a majority of my life, I’ve equated being flawed with being unlovable.

giphy1Watching Parks and Rec helped me realize that wasn’t the case. Seeing Leslie Knope struggle with her own flaws and still succeed helped me realize that I can still be a good person without being perfect 100 percent of the time.

Basically, what I learned from Leslie Knope is that sometimes it’s better to be remembered as a fun, generous person rather than a perfect human being who can do no wrong. I want my friends and family to think of me and smile or be inspired or just feel warm and fuzzy rather than remember how skilled or smart I am.

When I grow up, I want to be Leslie Knope.

-EMS

 

Making my Own Opportunities

“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

There is some controversy about where this quote comes from. It has been attributed to a Roman philosopher named Seneca, to the football player Darrell Royal, and an American insurance salesman and writer named Elmer Letterman.

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You gotta read this, Daniel. So good!

Before you start imagining me, sitting at my desk, reading classic literature and smoking a pipe, let me tell you where I actually found this quote. I found it in the wonderful novelist Nick Offerman’s book, Gumption.

Not quite as regal sounding as a Roman philosopher or great American writer, huh?

When I read this quote, it really resonated with me. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it or some iteration of it before, especially since it goes hand in hand with things like “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” and “you better work, bitch.” However, I think it stuck with me because it doesn’t attribute success to just hard work. Yes, hard work is essential to accomplishing your goals, but in this day and age you could be the hardest worker and still get nowhere.

As a fellow millennial, Daniel, I’m sure you’ve heard all the terrible things people say about our generation. We’re all selfish and entitled and don’t know the meaning of hard work. As a fellow millennial, you probably also know that this is complete and utter bullshit.

It seems like every person I know who’s close to my age works their ass off. All of my friends work forty or more hours a week, find odd jobs around town to make extra cash, and still need to pinch pennies every single week. You can just glance at the news to see that people our age are having a hard time finding steady work, even with college degrees, and yet for some reason lots of people seem to think it’s our fault.

We’ve been preparing all our lives for our lucky break. Now we just need the opportunity.

After reading this quote, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own goals. Some of them I have been actively working towards, like running a half marathon. However, I realized for some of them I’m just sitting around waiting for the opportunity rather than using my time to prepare for when that opportunity arises.

Maybe the previous generation was right about me. Maybe I am just a lazy, entitled millennial.

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Me after a long run. 

One goal I’ve had since I picked up a pen was to write a novel. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school and I would love, love, love to publish one of my stories for the world to enjoy.

Except, in the last four years, I haven’t been preparing for it at all. I have written three, maybe four short stories in the past four years. That might sound like a lot, but that’s definitely not enough to prepare to be a writer. I’ve been sitting around, waiting for something to strike suddenly and change my life rather than getting up and changing my life myself.

I feel like I also sit around waiting for easy opportunities rather than taking advantage of the tools at my fingertips. Yes, it would be so much easier to get picked up by some big publishing company and have them edit and promote my work, but that won’t happen until I get my name out there. And how can I do that? Well, in this magical age of the internet, I can self publish. No one’s stopping me from writing my stories and posting them somewhere. Maybe even on a WordPress blog. What a concept!

This is where I subtly work in our new blog, Write Makes Right. See how I did that? I’m a marketer.

But there’s more to it than just posting what you’ve created on the internet and hoping people will stumble upon it. If I want to make my writing dreams come true I have to be my own editor, promoter, and manager.

Terrifying? Yes. Necessary? Absolutely.

Sorry for this one being a bit rambly, Daniel. Nick Offerman talks so much about creativity and hard work in his novel that, once I finished it, I was eager to get out and just do something. Anything! I just felt the urge to create and write and this blog post is a product of that passion.

This is also an example of how I need to hone my skills if I’m going to be my own editor.

See you next week on Write Makes Right!

–EMS