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Archive for the tag “blogging”

Could 2014 Be My PEN-ULTIMATE Year??

I have declared 2014 my Write or Die Year.

Of course I don’t plan to physically die, but I do plan to let the dream of becoming a full-time, novel/short-story writer die if I can’t prove to myself that I can be totally committed and disciplined to write—not just regularly—but on a daily basis.

My vision board for 2014 is all about writing, submitting and applying to contests, publications, residencies and MFA programs.  I promised myself to complete two short stories that have been on my computer for over a year and begin the rigorous process of writing a novel. To be sure I stay focused, I have even sworn off Facebook for the first six months of this year (with a few exceptions).

My personal goal is 1000 words a day.  To the seasoned novelist, I am sure this goal is equivalent to a text message word count. I get it. However, what I am really aiming for is a consistent writing schedule instead of sporadic, manic writing fits where I type 3000 words in one night, but won’t fit in another writing day for two or more weeks.

Those stories are usually left untold.

In addition to signing out of my most addictive social media site, I also did a few other things to prepare for my PEN-ULTIMATE Year. Here’s a glance at my plan:

  • Taking advice from Pinar Tarhan who had a feature in the November 8th Funds for Writers newsletter (if you’re a writer and you don’t already receive this free weekly newsletter, you absolutely should subscribe!), I decided to commit to a part-time retail job for the months that I will be writing.  My job provides enough flexibility to allow me to stay up late nights to write while also being lucrative enough to pay the bills.
  • I scaled back on social time, allowing myself only certain days and times for play.  Before, I jumped at too many events without considering my work first.  This year, I intend to maintain a good balance of work and play.
  • I decided to take a break from freelancing, journalist gigs and blogging until my stories are complete.

Ten days into the year and my writing commitment and I am feeling pretty good.  However, I have decided to keep my blog going, contributing to it at least once a week. I am very excited about this endeavor and I think sharing my writing experiences—or whatever other stories I feel compelled to share— here on lastletterfirstword will also help me build brain muscle!

What are your writing goals for 2014? Could this be your Write or Die Year, too? Pens up!

The (Online) Diary of a Mad Black Mzungu

For those of you who don’t know, my title is a spin off of the Tyler Perry movie, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”  I’m not really “mad”.

Today is the first day of my Indiegogo campaign, The Black American Mzungu Literary Project, to raise funds for my trip to East Africa and to reopen a school for Ugandan girls with special needs in Mukono.  Ironically, this is also my first entry on this blog page which I started five years ago while studying in Uganda the first time.  Because of the campaign and because my time away is solely about writing, I thought it would be a great idea to give myself a weekly assignment of keeping an online diary where I can keep folks informed on what’s happening with me as well as make a personal writing commitment where I am somewhat held accountable by others.

Blogging has always been a little daunting for me– especially when you are considering submitting work to be published widely.  How does one decide which thoughts or moments are fit for an online rant versus a real story that could be later developed into something substantial and meaningful?   Does blogging imply that you think so highly of your thoughts and writing that you want it on the web for everyone to see? Will I feel like a loser if my only followers are my parents and siblings who wouldn’t necessarily read my rants, but have to follow me just because it’s the right thing to do?

Truth is, it’s hard for me to write so openly, so regularly.  I do, however, frequently journal (is that a verb? If not, you know what I mean)– it has helped me sort out my thoughts and frustrations over the years and has also been a great reference when writing about my time in Africa.  I find that keeping a journal (the old-school leather -bound books of lined paper– I faithfully use Moleskines, btw) is one of the most stress-relieving exercises one can commit to.  I believe it so much, in fact, that I recently inquired about leading an extracurricular journal writing workshop with the incoming students of the Uganda Studies Program later this fall for which I was approved.

But to blog on the internet, whether it is an open or private forum, means to be vulnerable with both friends and strangers about what I feel.  It means I have to decide if I will censor my thoughts or be candid about my views, and with whatever I decide, be okay with the feedback that comes along with it. IF, that is, there is any feedback at all.  What if no one cares about what I have to say? Will that be the ego-bruising moment for me? To log on and see that there is no one following, no one reading, no one commenting?

I’ve been contributing to 215mag.com, a digital magazine in Philadelphia, for over a year now and a few things I’ve learned are 1. write your best 2. proofread your work 3. build an audience 4. be ready for scrutiny.   I am still working on the 3 & 4, but these days I think I am ready to strut my stuff online– whether my audience is 1 or 1000.  I think I can handle readers’ comments– whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent.  I’m not sure what my theme will be yet, but I think it’s cool to figure that out along the way.

So here it goes– from journaling in Moleskines to blogging online, my life is really about to be an open book.

 

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