Monday, June 30, 2014

Things to Remember When Writing

1. You can always edit and revise and your first draft should reflect that. Use your first, second, maybe even third draft to get your plot figured out and your characters clear. Worry about the language that will make your piece exciting to read towards the final drafts. Do not try to make your first draft publishable, this will only cause stress and disappointment when you realize that is too difficult a task.

2. Have a plan before you sit down at your computer. Starting with a blank mind and no idea what you want to accomplish in your writing that day is an easy way to make yourself feel uninspired and quit early. I like to take a few minutes with a notebook, write down which story or article I want to work on and jot down a few ideas for a scene or topic points for an article.  I don't always accomplish everything I write down, but I feel that writing—rather than typing—jump starts my brain and creativity. I also find that it can be a good thing when I don't do everything that I write out first because that leaves me with some extra ideas to come back to the following day.

3. Read and don't feel bad about it. I have a hard time just relaxing and reading because I feel like it's a luxury that is taking up time I could use to do something more important. Don't get me wrong, I love reading and I would do it all day if I could! But I always end up feeling guilty about it. This is something I need to stop because all writers will tell you that reading is just as important as writing. It expands your vocabulary, it introduces you to writing styles and stories you would never think of, and it could really help with your own writer's block. Writers need to read so make sure you schedule enough time into your busy day for reading.

There is tons of advice out there for writers by writers and I find that it really helps to keep me focused and motivated when I think about some of these things. It is easy to get discouraged when writing, for many reasons, but these three things keep my mind in the right place.

Do you have any advice for writers or positive thoughts you use to stay focused?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Morning Musings

It's Sunday morning, and I could use one of these right now. The delicious coffee pictured above is called A Cold Roman, and I got one with my sister at the New Canaan Farmer's Market yesterday. It was delicious! It's cold espresso with whipped half & half which somehow makes it so much sweeter! I wish it came in a bigger cup! 

I'm very tired and a bit bummed this morning. AJ and I had dinner plans with our friends last night and, while it was so great to hang out with them and we had great discussions, the experience at the restaurant was awful. Service was terribly slow, food and drinks were sub par, and the owner did not want to honor the Groupon we bought last week because they had just changed the name of the was really bad business and put a damper on the whole night. It stinks when you just want to have a fun Saturday night out with friends (which we don't really do that often) and the restaurant kind of ruins it. Needless to say, we will not be returning to that place and we will try to stick to the restaurants we've had good experiences with. 

But the night was not a total loss. Like I said, we had great company and great conversation. And after dinner, two of my cousins came over for a sleepover! I haven't had a sleepover since high school and it was really fun to have a night to just hang out and talk with my cousins. One of them is in high school herself and the other is in college so it was fun to chat and see how we're all in different stages of life. I love having family that I can do that with and we talked until 3 am. I'm not used to staying up that late and my body clock wakes me up before 7 every morning so I'm sure I will crash for a nap later today, but it's so worth it to spend time with my lovely cousins! They're still asleep in my basement, actually. 

I'll be seeing more cousins later today at a graduation party and I'll keep today a little slow to just enjoy the sun and the nice weather. Sundays are the best and this sunshine makes it even better!

I hope you are all enjoying a happy weekend! Do you have any plans for this lovely day?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Shakespeare Saturdays: In Disney

Our last Shakespeare Saturday discussed the movie adaptations of Shakespeare plays. This week, we'll discuss how the plays have snuck their way into the most beloved Disney movies of our childhood. Believe it or not, there are an abundance of references to Shakespeare in these classic animated films and today I'll disclose just a few!

1. Beauty and the Beast. This is my favorite Disney movie and when I caught the reference to Romeo and Juliet in an added scene I loved it even more! At the end of the added song, 'Human Again', you can hear Belle read the last lines of Romeo and Juliet's epilogue: "There never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo." At this moment, the Beast asks her to read it again and you can hear her state, "Two households both alike in dignity..." It's a sweet moment between the characters and is a reflection of their relationship.

But that's not the only one in Beauty and the Beast! During the fight song when the villagers are getting ready to kill the beast, Gaston says, "Screw your courage to the sticking place," the same lines Lady Macbeth states to her husband in Act I Scene VII as she encourages him to pluck up the courage to kill the king.

2. Aladdin. This is undoubtedly one of the funniest Shakespeare references! After Aladdin asks Genie to make him a prince, the Genie is suddenly dressed in a toga and laurel wreath with a dagger and says, "Et tu Brute," the same thing Caesar says to Brutus in Act III Scene I of Julius Caesar.

3. Oliver and Company. This film of lovable mutts features Francis, the high brow bulldog, who in one scene is caught watching a television production of Macbeth. His monologue, one of Shakespeare's most famous, from Act V Scene V, "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow" is heard from the television. These words mirror the plot of the movie, the dogs are awaiting the impending arrival of the film's evil antagonist, Sykes.

4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Fittingly to the themes of this film, Disney's darker animated movie contains a references from The Merchant of Venice. Victor, a gargoyle, says to Quasimodo, "Yet if you kick us, do we not flake? If you moisten us, do we not grow moss?" These lines are modeled after Shylock's famous speech in Shakespeare's play: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?" This play is an appropriate one to fit into The Hunchback of Notre Dame because it focuses on conflict between Christians and Jew while the movie focuses on conflict between Christians and Gypsies in France.

5. The Little Mermaid. Another allusion to Romeo and Juliet! During the boat scene where all the animals are trying to convince Eric to kiss Ariel, Scuttle says he needs to perform a vocal romantic exercise. He starts to squawk a version of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet instrumental.

6. The Lion King. This is perhaps the most obvious Shakespeare reference because the story is just that of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Mufasa and the King are both killed by their brother, Scar and Claudius respectively. Then their son, Simba and Hamlet, is visited by his father's ghost and is led astray by a duo, Timon and Pumba from The Lion King and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from Hamlet. The endings are the same, too. Simba and Hamlet both return to avenge their father's deaths and take their throne back. Thankfully, Nala has a very different fate than that of Ophelia.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday: A Life Update

Sometimes I feel like publishing two posts in one day, and since my earlier post was just about clothes, I thought I'd post another one that's mostly words. Here are a few snippets of life around here lately.

  • I bought one of those small cacti from Trader Joe's this week. I like having some form of plant life in my room but I don't have enough space for a big vase with an arrangement, so this tiny little cactus is the perfect fit! The edges are almost hot pink and the green jar matches my bedspread. 

  • I'm still reading The Group by Mary McCarthy. I feel like this is important to mention because it's the reason why I haven't posted more Currently Reading posts or Book Reviews. I'm nearing the end and it is a great book. The structure is far more different than I had anticipated and it deals with some subjects that are germane to the time period and since I'm not too familiar with it I find I get lost occasionally but I'm enjoying it and I'll get more into the specifics with a review!

  • I have been spending many hours a day writing this past week which is great because I feel like I'm forming a habit and being productive. I set my alarm for 6 am every morning. Sometimes I'll pull my laptop into bed to get started early on a blog post or research for an article. Other days, I'll get up right away and start plotting my writing plans in a notebook. I've also been reading more websites about writing and publishing and I'm also looking for more ways to expand my blog and readership—slowly.

  • I've been writing more for Collective Lifestyle, you can find all my articles here. I really enjoy it but sometimes I have difficulty coming up with good ideas! 

  • For the first time, one of my blog posts was posted on Facebook. AJ liked my post about The World Cup and Us so he asked if he could share it. Nervously, I said yes. I know that posting to Facebook is a sure fire way to get more readers and share, but it still makes me nervous!

  • AJ and I have some fun plans set up for the weekend. I'll be spending time this afternoon with my sister because she leaves to visit her boyfriend in the Middle East—for a month!—tomorrow night. Saturday my sister and I will go to the Farmer's Market and at night AJ and I have dinner plans with our newly married friends. There will also be a fun Shakespeare Saturday post (finally!) coming up tomorrow morning so be sure to read it! And Sunday, we are going to a party two celebrate two of my cousins' graduations!

Fourth of July Fashion

The Fourth of July is only one week away! I am so glad that it is falling on Friday this year, it feels more festive when it's followed by a weekend of continued celebrations! Typically, I don't do much to celebrate Independence Day. I don't like fighting crowds at the beach to watch fireworks so you'll most likely find me at home, grilling with a few family members and calling it a day. But this year, I want to celebrate a bit more so my cousin and I are planning a family cookout! I'm still not sure what I am going to wear, but here are some collections for all your 4th Festivities!
Fourth of July Barbecue

This look would be great for a casual lunch followed by a stroll through town! The stripes are always in style and can be reused through the rest of summer and even fall. Everyone needs a pair of colored jeans and the shoes and bag pull it all together! Very patriotic!

Parade Watching

This outfit has all the necessities for parade watching on a a hot July day. The dress is breathable, comfortable, and can be worn to the beach or a party after. Frame your face with the adorable sunglasses and don't let anyone doubt how much you love your country by carrying it's flag on your wrist!

Dinner Party

Maybe your fourth plans are a bit fancier than mine! Are you going out to dinner or hosting a sit down dinner party? This outfit is pulled together but styled to maintain some Fourth of July spirit. The gorgeous dress is a perfect combination of classic and trendy and the shoes could not be more perfect for summer. Accessorize with red and white to kick up the look!

Casual Lunch

If you plan to spend the entire day outside by the grill with great company, consider this outfit. The flirty top will keep you cool while the white hat will protect your complexion from the hot sun. The bright blue shoes are easy to kick off when you want to dig your toes in the grass. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the holiday in this comfortable combination. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

On Blogging: Four Months In

About a year ago I wanted to start a blog but I didn't. I struggled to. I read multiple blogs on a daily basis. I would check the same blog a few times a day to make sure I wasn't missing a new post because I enjoyed reading blogs that much. It made me want my own.

But I didn't know how to make one. I didn't, and probably still don't really, know how to format a website and play with the HTML. I didn't know how I would get readers or what kind of content I'd even post! And because I didn't know any of this stuff, I was scared. I was scared that I would fail and disappoint myself so I just avoided it. But I still never got it out of my mind!

Four months ago, I finally just did it and wrote my first blog post! It made me happy and I kept writing posts. At first, they weren't really posts about anything in particular—they still aren't really, but who cares? I love putting together a simple post and hitting publish. It makes me feel great to have created a little something that's just out there in the online world now. I went on a writing binge last night and the feeling of completing so many posts made me really happy.

I like getting my writing out there, on Collective Lifestyle or other websites that feature articles, but I know that I don't have a lot of readers on my blog. That's ok, because I'm having a lot of fun without readers! If people enjoy reading what I write, great! I'd love for people to enjoy this blog and read it for their entertainment and happiness. But I hope that I would continue to write even if I never gain a following.

June has clearly been my most successful month as far as posting goes. I track my success and progress by the amount of posts I publish and I always try to beat the previous month. February, my first month, was easy to beat. In April, I slipped a bit and had one less post than March and in May, I only had a handful of posts more than the last two months. June is different, because I've really been getting into the swing of writing. I have over 20 posts and the month has not ended quite yet, although it did go fast!

As badly as I wanted to start a blog last year, I'm enjoying it far more than I imagined and I am so happy that I took the plunge to just write and publish! If I want to keep improving upon my number of posts each month, I have a lot of work to do for July! I may have to start posting multiple articles a day.

I'm excited to see where this blog goes and I know that, no matter what, I'll continue to have fun doing exactly what I'm doing right now!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Literary Links

I love Buzzfeed and this article might just be the best thing they've ever published. Ernest Hemingway's  food diary really made me laugh, although I think his sentences would have been even longer. And Dan Brown's was perfect!

You may have seen my Summer Reading List for Collective Lifestyle, but the books I included would never have made this list of highbrow Beach Reads! The books are good, and what the books say about you are hilarious!

Another World Cup related links this week. What if there was a World Cup for writing? Who should partake?

I could easily make this entire post consist of links to Buzzfeed articles but that might be kind of bland considering most people read Buzzfeed on the daily. But anyway, here's another Buzzfeed list of books that all creative types should read. I'm already putting these books into my Amazon cart.

A Thought Catalog pairing of books and songs that are perfect for one another. I love Regina Spektor's Fidelity. Another pairing that would be good on the this list: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and the song Mad World by Tears for Fears.

Remember last week when I posted a link regarding the lack of soccer in literature? Well this article proves me wrong! Check out these books that do feature soccer and read like a baller. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pre-Cana Part Two

On Sunday, we finished up our Pre-Cana course in Bridgeport at the the Catholic Center. I was looking forward to it more than the first class because I knew what to expect and I was interested to learn more and have more conversations with AJ. We covered four more chapters in the workbook and class went from 9-2.

The first chapter that we read had us discussing our love languages and how to learn the best way to interact with each other. My primary love language is AJ's secondary love language and my secondary language is his primary so we're pretty close, but then again both of us found that we have preferences in all 5 languages.

There were also discussions about having children and how God leads couples to this. A young couple came in with their two small children to tell us about how God played a large role in the decision, for them, of if and when to have kids. The other chapters covered things such as dealing with finances and debt, growing your relationship towards God together, and family life.

Another important topic we talked about was the vow that is made when you promise to take your husband or wife for better or for worse. This was my favorite chapter of day two and a large part of the discussion was on apology because it is necessary in maintaining a long, happy, healthy marriage. The workbook said that the most important words a spouse can say are, "Will you forgive me?" I can see why that's true. Being married to someone means taking someone as they are, forever. It goes without saying that the couple will have issues, arguments, and misunderstandings that could leave them upset with each other for hours if not days and weeks. But marriage and the life that two people create together is far more important than an argument or disagreement. Couples have to try their hardest not to let anything cause a rift between them, and the best way to do this is to practice apology and to truly move on from the issue once one person apologizes and the other forgives. Apologizing is hard, but we learned that the first to apologize is the bravest and the first to forgive is the strongest. Sometimes, people don't feel like they did anything wrong and therefore refuse to apologize. On the other side, sometimes a person is hurt so badly by what their spouse has done that they feel it is unforgivable. But in a marriage, it's essential that one person puts their ego aside as the other puts their desire to hold that grudge aside. It's hard but it's the best thing you can do for a marriage. Not only will it help heal the marriage, but it will make the relationship stronger when the couple finds that they are able to move past a difficult time together. You'll feel happier and at peace knowing that, as a couple, you can get through anything. I think that this was the most important part of the day and the part that I will focus on deeply. Praying also helps when one has to either apologize or forgive.

I'm bummed that the course is over so fast. My mom said she doesn't know anyone who enjoyed Pre-Cana as much as AJ and I did but we went in with a really open mind and both of us love having discussions like the ones that were prompted in class. We hope that we can find a way to continue these types of discussions and hold onto what we learned as we moved towards marriage.

You can read an article that I wrote a few months ago about apologizing for Collective Lifestyle here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Hiking at Devil's Den

On Friday, we had beautiful weather. The sun was out but there was a cool breeze. AJ and I have been wanting to go to Devil's Den in Weston to hike for months now and I can't believe we finally got around to it. We had high expectations and planned to walk miles and miles and miles.

We did walk miles, but maybe not as many as we had hoped. The trails themselves were fun and not difficult which is good because we are not experienced hikers. There were rocks to climb over, hills to scale, and fallen tree limbs to dodge. There were also plenty of bridges and logs to walk across small streams and make it feel like a real adventure. 

 We had a lot of fun, but it got hot and buggy fast. This photo was taken at the very beginning and I did not look like that upon the end of our hike. The bugs were relentless and kind of put a damper on the hike. We were not thinking of that and I didn't plan for it so we didn't bring bug spray. We won't make that mistake again.

It was so beautiful and really fun, especially because it's something new for us! We want to do it again but we have to remember buy spray next time. I'm covered in bites! AJ took this photo from a bridge we were on, it reminds me of Pocahontas. 

Here's a photo to prove AJ was there! This, too, was taken early in our walk. By the end, we were gross, sweaty, covered in bugs, and hangry (hungry-angry). I had to ask AJ if we could turn around and head back because the route we were on was too long and I didn't want to deal with more flies. 

We really do want to go back, though! But we have to bring bug spray. I also want to try other hiking trails in Pound Ridge and where ever else we can go!

Once we got home and got a little something in our stomachs, I fell asleep while AJ watched soccer. We continued our day of being outside by getting take-out salads and eating them at Compo Beach. I love taking advantage of the gorgeous weather this summer is giving us. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Sunday Morning

Just a quick Sunday post to say hello before CBS Sunday morning starts.

For those who are interested, I just came across this interview by The Masters Review with Laura Van Den Berg, whom I wrote about here last week. It's a great insight into writing, form, and inspiration. Also, she talks about one's writing habits and workspace which I, too, wrote about last week! Be sure to read the interview and check out Van Den Berg's works!

Things coming up, a post about hiking and another about Pre Cana!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Writing Or Typing

In the age of the computer, laptop, and tablet writing longhand is becoming obsolete. I tried to fight it as long as possible. In college, I NEVER brought my laptop to class to take notes. I always preferred writing out my notes in a lined notebook with a mechanical pencil. I rarely even used pens.

When it comes to writing fiction, though, I feel most comfortable typing on my laptop. I think this is mainly because I'm timid when I'm writing. I never know if what I'm writing is going to work or if it will last through a revision. By typing on my laptop, I feel like it's much easier to erase or start over and add a paragraph in the middle of a page that didn't exist before. Writing on paper, to me, seems more permanent and it makes me feel like I have no room for error because making changes on paper is harder.

Instead, I'll plan out what I want to write on paper; I'll write down questions I want to answer, ideas for scenes, character names and traits, and plot ideas among other things before I open my laptop to begin writing.

There still are downsides to writing on a laptop, though. My laptop is eternally connected to the time consuming, mind numbing hole that the internet can too often become. I don't have great self control and I find myself becoming distracted with funny articles, time wasting quizzes, and Facebook photos of people I haven't seen (in person) in years! When I finally look up at a clock and see that I just wasted three hours pinning photos of kitchens on Pinterest, it makes me wish I had opted for notebook writing that day.

So is one choice better than the other? Maybe, or maybe it depends on the writer. Believe it or not, there are still authors who write everything the old fashioned way. For example, Joyce Carol Oates. She has 56 novels, 30 short story collections, and volumes of plays, poetry, and nonfiction work to her name. All of which were written by hand. And her novels are typically long, mind you. Her most recent novel is over 500 pages.

Author Lily King, whose most recent novel Euphoria is generating a great deal of praise, recently stated in an article with the Boston Globe that she writes by hand with a pencil before transcribing it onto her computer as part of her revisions process.

Another famous author, the late Truman Capote, had a similar method. He divulged his own writing method in a 1957 interview with the Paris Review. Capote wrote both his first and second draft of a story or novel in pencil. He would type the third draft on a typewriter using yellow paper. The fourth and final draft would be done in the same manner but with white paper, marking it as complete.

Knowing that so many established writers have been successful writing long hand, I wonder if it could be a known but unheeded key to literary accomplishment.

How do you write? Do you think there is a better option when it comes to notebook or laptop?

Now I want to buy a typewriter and see if that makes a difference!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Literary Links

This article about Donna Tartt's Goldfinch kind of gets what I've been feeling.

A list of books that are living the dream in NYC. All the books listed are different from the list I made for Collective Lifestyle.

Making author-inspired sneakers could be a great way to cultivate a greater interest in literature and reading. 

This article about the lack of soccer in Latin American literature is very relevant at the moment, considering the World Cup. 

What an ideal way for a book and garden lover to spend a summer weekend in England. 

A list of books that will be in theaters soon!

And lastly, because I'm still wishing I could be on the Cape year round, an article about literature in Nantucket.