Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Day 365 1/4 of 365: So, What Now?

Of course I couldn't leave this blog alone without a follow up. If you are still interested in hearing me ramble, you can go to my new blog That (Not This) Abby Rose. I'm currently doing the Two Week Writing Prompt Bootcamp, aka the Nicorette Patch for the 365 project. It's also a nice little hub for all the other things I got going on.

Of course, if you're a fan of my sporadic DIY projects, you can still mosey on over to Trial and Error Creativity. Or maybe you just want to check in on my Thought Catalog Writer's Page for the drivel that the editors find post-worthy.

And don't forget to add me on Twitter already. Sometimes I make 140-character length jokes. And sometimes they're funny.

Again, thank you so much to everyone who checked in on this blog from time to time. I somehow amassed roughly 10,000 unique hits during this year, and that's without any type of networking or promoting. If you end up starting your own 365 Blog Project, please let me know (so I can harass you about copying me, obviously... and you know, moral support, blah blah blah...)

Best of luck to all the writers out there. And remember: it's not necessarily important what you write, but that you write.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Day 365 of 365: 365 Days - A Retrospective

Yesterday, a local radio show host got in contact with me, telling me that he saw my article on the Market Basket situation and asked if I would like to be on the show as a phone interview. I'm now scheduled to literally phone it in tomorrow morning at 7:30/7:40 (and for those who live in the area, or like listening to the radio online, it's 94.9 WHOM, Teddy McKay in the Morning).

It seems incredibly fitting that, around the time that this project finishes up, I get one of the biggest real life offers that came as a result of my writing. An offer that happens to come the exact same day as a print photoshoot gig in Rhode Island, a go-see nearly an hour away from the shooting location, and a yoga class back up in NH (and the first three happen all before 1:15), but that's a tale of plotting left for another day. And, well, another blog.

I feel like I picked a very good year to do something as ridiculous as this. We had just closed on a house and I was figuring out WTF I was doing next. I had just quit doing the one thing I thought was tailor made for me and found myself reevaluating everything. It documented (most) of my yoga teacher training. I was able to talk about what was going on in my life in a way that you just can't unless you're forcing yourself to write every single day. I got to talk about huge milestones in my life, like releasing my collection of essays or finishing M#3 or submitting to the ABNA contest.

But I think most importantly, it gave me a vehicle to turn a lot of blah-blah-blah opinions in my head into something a little more cohesive. These were the baselines for almost all of my articles out -- and there's a lot of articles out right now. I did the math, and -- not including self-publishing platforms like Medium -- I published over 50 articles in the past year.

This project wasn't easy. Somewhere along the line, I got so bloody tired of writing that I stopped proofreading entirely. I stopped reading over old entries to make sure I didn't type out the wrong words (which is kind of my specialty. "Through" when I mean "throw", "down" when I mean "done" ... I'd love to sever the synaptic connections that decided those words should be bundled up). There were days when I was so damn sick of writing a blog post. All throughout NaNoWriMo, I felt like I was dredging each and every single world out of a swamp. Wasn't easy being on vacation, either, and realizing that the day wasn't complete unless I typed something up.

But I did it. Dear Lord, I did it. And, while some posts were definitely sloppy, I know I am a better writer because of it. I'm a lot less hesitant. I'm more willing to put myself out there. And I was able to articulate thoughts that might've just stayed silent inside my mind (everything from essay ideas to teacher-related issues).

In a way, I have this blog to thank for everything I've been able to do in the past year. I wouldn't have been as active of a writer on Thought Catalog had I not had this blog to get every idea out -- which would've resulted in me not only being in less great of a standing with the editors of the joint, but less able to write out stories of my model mishaps (both of which would've contributed to a whole lotta no-ebook). The confidence of finally having some work out there is what reignited my agency search (and -- fun fact -- still as fruitless as it was before, but still! You just need one yes...).

It's incredibly bittersweet to say this is the last official entry, but it is time to move on to bigger and better things. Well, I don't know about bigger -- how in the world could I top an entry a day unless I'm doing multiple entries a day? But it is time for the next phase in things. And, coincidentally enough, it feels like my life in general is gearing up to really start that next phase. From promising yoga teaching opportunities to opportunities to expand with my writing. The part of me that felt incredibly lost as a former-teacher now feels incredibly confident as a future-RYT.

It's interesting to read the last paragraph in the very first post in this: This might turn out to be the best idea I ever had. This might turn out to be the be worst. Only time will tell. But regardless, this is Day One. Of three hundred, sixty five. I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that, yes, this really was one of the best ideas I've had.

So this is me signing off on the 365 Blog Project. I'll leave this post -- I'll leave this project -- with the very first sentence I wrote this time last year. A bit of advice every writer needs, regardless of their level of success, regardless of their proficiency, whether they're creating their own 365 blog or just hoping to finish a story, a paragraph, or even a passing thought:

Rule #1 of Writing: Just write. Stop thinking. Stop planning. Just write.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Day 364 of 365: Against Bombing Hospitals

Sometimes I get a thought that plays on repeat in my head while I'm sleeping. I consider it a weird byproduct that happens when a sleepwalker's mind meets Stage 3 of sleep. Sometimes it's something incredibly silly. And sometimes it's a surprisingly on point sentiment.

Last night's thought? "I don't care what you're for or against or neutral about. But you should damn-sure be against bombing hospitals and shelters."

This is in reference to the absolutely heartbreaking situation in Israel/Gaza Strip right now. It seems like you can't have a single opinion about what is going on without someone asking if you're pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-Hamas, pro-Israeli military/ministry... Mark Ruffalo got in a bit of trouble a few weeks ago just for pointing out a bombing attack on a Gaza hospital in the middle of them evacuating.

Maybe it's because of all my time/research on Belfast and "The Troubles", but I've taken an obnoxiously sociological stance on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since day one. It's an ugly, murky water and it's honestly so contested that I have no interest in expressing my opinions on the matter in a public setting, even if they do hang out in that frustrating gray area.

There are just some things that shouldn't happen, things that you should be against regardless of your alliances. It shouldn't be a sign that you're pro-this, anti-that, pro-this-ideology, anti-this-ideology. It should be a sign that you're human.

And thus marks the last *political* blog post I make for this blog. I'm not sure if I'm ready to let tomorrow be the last proper day of this project. It truly has been one helluva year.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Day 363 of 365: Runner's Heart

So this will most likely be my very last post about running in this little project.


It seems fitting that one of my very last posts will be on the same topic as one of my very first posts. This time last year, I was training for my first very half marathon. Now, I'm trying to rehab up a strained tendon, hoping I have a knee that can fully function during distance running.

As I've mentioned before, usually my knee feels 100% normal. Unless I'm running for too long (or there's a sudden change in barometric pressure -- aka the, "Feels like rain" effect). I'm treating this summer as my at-home physical therapy, doing high-intensity cardio with stretching intervals to keep everything from tightening up. I've been slowly (incredibly slowly) upping the distance in my runs. Right now it's at a pathetic 2.5 miles -- not exactly where you want to be if you need to run an addition 10.6. But I am incredibly adamant about staying under 5k until the end of August. In September I plan on incrementally upping it up to 10k, and -- from there -- to 9. The goal is 9 miles by the end of September, and 11 - 12 miles the weekend before the race.

That doesn't seem like much time to train, especially given that I trained since April for my first one. But I compare to my husband's swimmer's heart: once upon a time, my husband was an incredible swimmer. He swam for his high school -- he even swam while in college for a tick. He hasn't swum much since, but it's very easy for him to get into a pool and outswim anyone else in the gym -- even against adults who have been swimming laps as a way of exercise since, well, college. He can get into that attitude very quickly because -- even though his body is no longer conditioned to swim at fast speeds to long periods of time -- he still has his swimmer's heart.

Before a freak yoga accident strained my tendon, I quickly got to 7 - 9 miles after my winter sabbatical. I attempted to start out slow, since I had no clue where I was in my abilities, only to find myself gliding through 5-milers like I was born to do it. In fact, the only thing really holding me back was the fact that my feet did not have time to slowly build up calluses, making blisters on the edges of my feet a very real possibility.

This might just be wishful thinking, but I can tell through my little runs that I still have that runner's heart. There's a part of me that gets into her stride around mile 2 and is actually a little disappointed when she caps the run a half-mile later. It's the part of me who dealt with the Ashland Half Marathon's Green St Monster -- a downright vertical hill at the 10-mile mark, aka their Heartbreak Hill -- without stopping to walk once. It's the part of me who got lost during a run and ended up doing a full half-marathon and then some.

And it's the part of me who understands just how important it is to complete the Boston Half Marathon, on so many different levels. As someone who isn't competing in the Chicago Marathon and as someone who is still affected in some way by the bombings. It's the part of me who is willing to go in undertrained and potentially reinjuring herself if it means crossing that finish line.

So I think my last post about running is ending on a note of hope. Hope that I can at least temporarily get back into the distance thing one more time. Running has played a huge part in my life for the last 3 or so years. I went from someone who was very self conscious of her "gazelle powers" (thanks, high school track coach!) to someone who takes great pride that she can run for so long that she has to eat in the middle of running. Especially at this stage in the game, injury is just an inevitability. But I think I'll be fine, so long as these injuries never really affect my runner's heart.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Day 362 of 365: Trash Talking

I know this comes as a huge surprise (I'll let you decide whether or not I'm being sarcastic), but I absolutely hate trash talking.

And I don't mean that in the "this athlete totally trash talks the other team/opponent!" I mean the gossip that can run rampant when a group of people are interacting in too-close vicinities for too much time. This can be anything from a workplace to school to a gym... anywhere. The second someone isn't in the room, two or more people harp in on complaining about said person. And I'm like the XKCD cartoon, where I wish I could back away and find a group that is talking about giant squid instead.

Maybe it's because I abide by the quote, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." Maybe it's because I get post-traumatic flashbacks to my high school days. Maybe it's because the older I get, the more I deal with complain-worthy people in my life by either limiting contact with them or (if that's not an option) figuring out how I can process or communicate their bullshittery. Maybe it's because I recognize that our brains actually feed off of us venting negativity (thanks, operant conditioning!), making us actually more inclined to complain in the future.

Or maybe it's because I fully recognize that if these people are so easy to talk smack about someone this way when their back is turned, what is stop those people from talking about me in the exact same manner? Maybe that's incredibly narcissistic and egocentric of me, but still a good reason for distancing yourself from people who get into gossip and shit talking like this.

I say this because I ended up in a group situation somewhat recently where the conversation quickly turned to how negative a certain person is. I internally chuckled -- yes, let's bitch and moan about how someone else is negative! It made me think about former workfriends and the amount of gossip and shit talking they would do, and how I could tell deep down that I was not immune to this cycle of two-facedness. This is something I experienced at multiple jobs -- including an internship or two -- and this is something I experienced in high school like you wouldn't believe. Was it ever worth it? Did it ever really make anyone feel better? For the most part, the gossip hid underlying issues: that the workplace conditions were toxic, that we were stressed, that something else was going on. And instead of addressing what actually needed to be addressed, everyone sat around and rolled their eyes over what this or that person had said on Facebook.

Of course, I'm no better, bitching about it on a blog, but -- hey, life is all about a little hypocrisy, no? The nice thing about being in the real world, and being in a line of profession like instructing classes, is that I have a lot of freedom to associate and disassociate with whoever I need to. And I've lucked out so far: my bosses have been incredible, my students are (for the most part) great. And since it takes so much effort to stay in touch with friends, I can let those who need to slip, slip, and focus on those who I truly want in my life. It's frustrating when you realize that a group you connect with might not be as universal as you'd like them to be, but, hey, that's life. And life is all about things not possibly going to plan, no?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Day 361 of 365: What America Needs

If you live outside of the New England area, the name “Market Basket” might not mean much to you. In fact, if you live outside of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Maine, it might stir up some vague recognition at best.

Right now Market Basket is in a completely unprecedented situation. Shelves are unstocked. Food products are not being delivered. Employees and customers alike are picketing and protesting. And board members are scrambling.

Market Basket has a very long and complicated history, filled with feuding family members and changing alliances within its ownership. But let me give you a short, almost offensively simple summary of what is going on: once upon a time there was a CEO named Arthur T Demoulas. Now, Arthur T did the unthinkable: he was able to run a successful grocery store chain that carried low-price items and provided its employees with living wages and proper benefits.

And, in doing so, he did something else unthinkable for a CEO: he earned the love of his employees. He understood that loyalty is earned; that no one should expect loyalty purely because they’re the ones signing the paychecks – a sentiment many people in management positions seem to forget.

This past June, Arthur T was fired alongside two other higher-ups. The actual reasons for the ousting still seem murky. Maybe it really was because he paid his employees too much and charged his customers too little – or maybe that was just a viable-enough excuse for a board filled with contentious family members to vote him out of office. The people in charge – which includes Arthur’s cousin and rival, Arthur S Demoulas, as well as some brand new people, like the former president of RadioShack – stepped in with a new plan to maximize profit. And it doesn’t take an economist to understand how such a company will maximize their profits.

In almost any other company, in almost any other situation, that would’ve been it. Beloved CEO is ousted and replaced by “consultants”. Wages and benefits are subsequently cut and prices are raised. Customers have to deal with a more expensive product and employees have to deal with working for less money and compromised benefits. Maybe there will be a strike; maybe not. Typically, it will stay business as usual.

But this time, it’s different. Employees are going in, working their shifts, and then going outside to protest, carrying signs that say things like, “Arthur T is our CEO.” Customers are coming in to give the employees pizza and words of encouragement, before leaving to buy their groceries somewhere else. Other customers are joining in on the picketing and the rallies calling for Arthur T’s reinstatement.

Market Basket first reacted to this dissidence by firing some of the protesting employees. This only stoked the fire as shelves became empty, produce was left to rot, and the sound of cars on the street honking in support of the protesters could be heard from inside the building.

In a world where even the slightest drop in revenue can result in a grocery chain closing down stores or going completely out of business, this has been a devastating blow for those currently running Market Basket. As I am writing this, Arthur T has proposed purchasing the 50.5% interest in the company – an offer that the board is still mulling over.

To the naked eye, this seems like just another local fiasco that would and should never make it past the regional news. But this is exactly the type of news story that America needs to hear.

As a society, we have become incredibly jaded. We look at the behavior of businesses and feel disheartened. We’ve given up hope on there ever being change. It feels like those in charge will do whatever they want, and with little accountability. As of late, it seems like those in the boardroom hear even the mention of “mandatory health insurance” or “wage increase” and react by firing off entire teams or slashing benefits. We live in a post-Occupy Wall St world, where we feel like there is genuinely nothing we can do. We are at the mercy of those in charge because they sign our paychecks. We fear addressing unfair situations because we could be met with, “Well – if you don’t want to work in these conditions, someone else will!”

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say something to that effect in the last month or so regarding Market Basket employees, I’d be able to buyout Market Basket. And, thankfully, the employees don’t agree with that sentiment. They’ve banded together and said enough was enough: it’s time for their voices to be heard. They don’t agree to those conditions and a poor job market is not enough to scare them into silence.

It’s absolutely heartbreaking to be in the twenty-first century and have people regard the job world as if we were back at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. People shrugging their shoulders and crossing their arms like they’re nineteenth century factory owners, rolling their eyes at the idea of installing safety bars in the machinery, telling the employees that they could always just leave and be replaced, reminding the employees that they should just be happy they have a job.

The Market Basket protests are a reminder that there is still power in the people: that if we are passionate, if we are organized and keep our goals clear, and if we are not willing to give up, then change is a possibility. We don’t have to be at the mercy of an out-of-touch consultant who doesn’t see a community of people so much as he sees a set of cogs for the machine.

The Market Basket protests are a reminder that we still have a voice, even if we feel like it got buried alongside the American Dream. And that is why this story is exactly what we need right now.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Day 360 of 365: Write or Simmer

As I've mentioned before, I've been playing around with a possible story idea for this year's NaNoWriMo. It's the first time I've ever had to actually think about and unwind a story; usually the story idea grows in my the back of my mind until I can't take it anymore and realize that I need to write it out. This time, I have the background, but not much else. And I've been attempting those "interview with myself" moments while I'm drinking my morning coffee (and, at the recommendation of my husband, going out to our underused farmer's porch to do it). Ideas have been rethought, scrapped, revised... it's getting to the point that I might actually have a proper synopsis on my hands.

So the question is: do I let it simmer or do I attempt to get everything out on paper?

Every writer is different. Some love layouts; others love dropping their characters into a situation and figuring out alongside the protagonist how shit will sort out. Some people love making detailed character profiles; others just play it by ear. Given that the past three manuscripts were essentially ideas that hung out in the back of my mind until I was ready to write them out, I'm more of a "simmer" type of person. But the situation is completely different now. Now, I'm trying to actually think stuff up.

The best advice I've ever been given as a writer is also some of the vaguest: if you need to write an outline, write an outline. If you need to not, don't. If you have to think up the entire story arc first, do it. If you don't, don't.

Every writer, every situation, every storyline is going to be different, and it's okay to play it by ear or plan it out or whatever. And maybe I can let this count toward my, "do something writing-related that isn't this blog" -- a blog project that finishes in five days, holy shit.

Either way, I think I need to spend more time swinging on the bench on my farmer's porch, sipping on my coffee before the weather gets muggy. For pure literary reasons, of course.