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

What will I regret in 2018?

Remember when we used to be timely with our posts, Daniel? I used to write my post Thursday morning, carefully proof read it, and then schedule it to post early Friday morning. Now, I’m lucky to have the post done by the middle of the day on Friday. Eventually, I’ll be routinely posting Friday night at 11:59 p.m.

Anyway, I enjoyed your post about your plan for 2017. I’ve also never been much of a New Year’s resolution person because why wait until January to start a new goal? I also feel like calling a goal a New Year’s resolution just sets you up for failure. How many people do you know who’ve actually followed through with their resolution? I can’t think of a single person in my life.

However, I do have some things I want to accomplish this year, but I don’t want to call them resolutions. Resolutions are something to give up on. Instead, I’ll think of it the way you did, Daniel. At this time next year, what will I regret not doing?

Well, for one, I finally want to write a novel. I have so many half-finished novels lying around and, this year, I want to finish one. This has literally been a goal of mine since I was 15 and I regret not doing it every single year.

I also want to look into self-publishing my novel. I’ve wanted to write books since I was little and now there are so many opportunities for me to do so without the struggle of finding a big name publisher.

I want to open an Etsy shop for my crochet pieces. Everytime I crochet anything the first thing people ask me is “Do you sell anything on Etsy?” My answer has always been no and when they ask me why I don’t have a very good reason. I think I’m just nervous to put myself out there. Well, time for that to change.

I want to read more books. I already read a lot, but I feel like I don’t make it a priority in my life anymore. There are so many books I’ve been meaning to read and there’s no time like the present.

I want to run a half marathon. I’ve run 5ks, 12ks, and Triathlons. Time to step it up a notch.

I want to earn my beer server certification. Now, I know this one seems a little random, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I graduated college. There is a test online that I can take and become a licensed cicerone, which is like a sommelier for beer. Why the heck not? I know a ton about beer already? Why not make it official?

I want to be more aggressive with my freelancing. I’ve been wanting to start freelancing on the side for a long, long time and, much like my Etsy store, I’ve been nervous to put myself out there. Time to change that!

I want to teach myself calligraphy and hand lettering. I’ve always been attracted to words and  I want to turn my words into art. There are so many free tutorials online so there’s honestly nothing standing in my way.

It’s easy for things that you really want to do to end up on the back burner, isn’t it? Well time for that to change. 

-EMS

Writing Rules I Want to Unlearn

Regret is universal. Despite the many motivational posters, self-help books, and poorly-designed tattoos that tell us to live life without regret, regret is something everyone experiences and just can’t be avoided.

Reading your post about how you took the “easy route” through school made me think about the Spanish classes I gave up on, the short stories I never tried to publish, and the elective classes I skipped so I could take more required coursework. There’s so much I still want to learn and despite barely being in my twenties, I feel like I’m running out of time.

But, that’s not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about the stuff I want to unlearn. Specifically, the stupid rules we were taught in grade school English. As a professional writer, I’ve had to “unteach” myself so many rules over the years so I could find my own writing voice. 

Your last post was very personal and my original plan was to respond with something equally heartwarming, but I decided a list of all the writing rules I hate would be better. We’ll get back to our regularly scheduled sibling mushiness momentarily.

Rules I Hate

Rule #1: Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.

As students, we’re all taught not to end our sentences with words like to, at, of, or by. I’m sorry, no one actually talks like this. No one says “To which restaurant do you want to go?” Everyone says “Which restaurant do you want to go to?”

Rule #2: Don’t split infinitives.

Another rule everyone hears in grade school English. I’m sorry, but Gene Roddenberry would disagree and I always side with Gene. The Enterprise’s mission was “to boldy go” not just “to go.” Stop teaching us rules based on Latin. We’re not writing in Latin, we’re writing in English.

Rule #3: Parentheses are okay to use.

No, parentheses are not okay. Parentheses are a surefire way to make your reader stumble over a sentence. If that extra piece of information is essential to the sentence, you can take the time to find it a place.

Rule #4: Always write out an acronym on the first reference.

Okay, so some people actually flip flop on this rule. For me, unless the acronym is obscure you don’t need to spell it out. Keep in mind who you’re writing for and make sure you’re not babying them.

Rule #5: Don’t write in the first person.

Why? Am I trying to convince my audience that I’m not actually a person? I actually am a person, believe it or not.

I guess I’ll stop there. I have more I could rant about, but these are the ones that come immediately to mind when I think about the rules I want to unlearn.

Of course it all depends on what you’re writing. If you’re writing for academia, rules are rules and you have to stick to them. If you’re writing for a blog, rules can be bent. You just have to learn how to ignore that voice in the back of your head, the one that sound suspiciously like your fourth grade English teacher, and write what you want to write.

No regrets.

-EMS