Transformation Tuesday (Or, How I Stopped Bitching and Learned to Love the Hashtag)

There’s this holiday-themed Fruity Pebbles commercial from the mid-80s l that I would drop everything to watch when I was a kid. As we were more of a Grape Nuts, Cream of Wheat, and Quaker Oats family, the draw was less about the product and more about the strong sense of family and the magic of the Christmas season (and, of course, Fred finally letting Barney have the cereal).

No lie, that commercial is still fun to watch as an adult. But being an active, sometimes unwilling participant in consumerism, I have developed a little bit of a Grinch complex, particularly towards the over use of hashtags in social media and digital marketing. Considering their overall purpose and that they’ve only been clickable links within the past decade, I can’t really be too critical of them. Within the social media framework, they only serve to further connect people and ideas, whether for good, bad, or worse. And when you think about it, SEO and hashtags are merely yester-era’s catchphrases and slogans. The only difference between :more traditional” forms of media (i.e. print, radio, and television) is that this still relatively new media is available on demand, 24/7.

Anyway, with this realization, I’ve decided to shut up about the whole hashtag thing and learn to love the monster for linking the world together. Marketing means consumerism, which means a potential boost in both local and global economies. Even further, the fact that notable messages, ideas, causes and projects have the potential of receiving substantial exposure outside of an echo chamber is huge. 

Finally, because this type of media is still so new in comparison to others means that there are still plenty of uncharted avenues in which to employ it outside of the standard, excessive, and sometimes annoying. Independent creativity, meet wave of reinvention?

I can feel my growing heart three sizes already.

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More Writing Tips From Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

writing2

(An unintended continuation of this post.)

The Emmys are tonight, which is super exciting and everything. This is an obvious opportunity to celebrate another year of brilliant television. There have been some amazing productions this year on both network, cable, and streaming services. The game is being changed, and it has been amazing to observe, to the point where reception has been, at times, delightfully overwhelming. This must be praised, as quality programming, like other forms of artistic expression, needs to be recognized, talked about, and experienced — because when it is, even more stories get told (especially those that probably wouldn’t have otherwise).

However, yet another year has gone by where I don’t feel like I even have an idea to flesh out. (Yes, I’m making this about me.)

One day I’d love to write something worthy of recognition on such a level. But to do that, I’m going to have to keep writing.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles my whole life, so the star-studded aspect isn’t novel to me. What is novel, however, is seeing people you know do things that you could only dream of doing. In knowing these people, I know first hand that they have the same 24 hours in one day as anyone else. They’ve periods of discouragement and laziness, like everyone else. But they keep moving.

This weekend I was able to go through some old stories and poems from college. Not to toot my own horn, but I wrote pretty damn well. But I was a bit stubborn and, due to writing more for the grade rather than the passion, present-day me could really sense the loss of drive and focus within each piece. It’s no wonder why I refused to read or write during the year following graduation.

The drive has definitely come back, though, almost to the point when I first started writing as a young teenager. I remember writing so much then, even performed at open mics and submitted my work to publications. I wasn’t afraid of saying or doing something. I wanted to contribute, and truly felt my work to hold as much weight as others’.

I’m not sure if that’s exactly the case for me now. If anything, I’m much more conscious about what I put out there, probably due to the saturation of ideas on social media, and how quickly information can be dispensed, digested, and transferred. The pressure to make an impact is very much there, as is the desire.

Like anything else, the view just needs to be scaled back a bit.  I need to go back in my personal history and touch on what’s been pushed out of memory. I need to ask myself difficult questions, especially in relation with others, and experience the breeze every once in a while. I need to write what I know, and be endlessly curious about what I don’t.

And, I need to keep writing.

How Do I…? Mental Feng Shui 

Whenever I hear about feng shui, it’s referenced as being an arrangement of objects to where the placement holds the possibility to either foster or hinder energy. It’s this energy that we need to attain a desired outlook, perception, and foundation for oneself.  (This article via Real Simple explains it really well.)

Now, I’m not an expert, but if there is one thing I know it’s that it is about far more than furniture. If, at its core, it is about what keeps things in the direction in which we are going, then I’d like to apply the concept to the space where we spend all of our time — our minds.

Below are five potential ideas on how to do so:

1. Daydream for a minute. Literally, for 60 seconds (or 30, if you’re really pressed for time). The brief shift in focus may be all that’s needed to get to the next moment with a little less stress at the helm.

2. Change your smartphone’s wallpaper or theme. It’s a little like getting a new sheet set, to be honest. As a Samsung user, I’ve found plenty of free themes in the Samsung Themes section of Settings (and I’m fairly certain the iPhone has plenty of options available as well). My two favorites are Ece and Aurora_curiosoo, shown below:

Ece Samsung theme

Aurora_curiosoo Samsung theme

3. Update your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn has quickly become the social media equivalent of one’s resume, without the formal pressure of a cover letter and stiffly-worded salutation. Even if you aren’t looking for a new employment opportunity, it’s a good way to remind yourself of your strengths and abilities especially if you happen to feel stagnant for one reason or another. Plus, the news feed and following capabilities make it a great space to build and maintain a professional network. Not everyone can make it to meetups or mixers,  but you can definitely log in to LinkedIn.

4. Do something different. Anything. Use a different pen to note tasks. Walk a different route during your afternoon break. Eat your salad with a different salad dressing. Listen to a band, artist, or podcaster that sounds like or covers similar topics to whoever you currently listen to. It is the quickest way to do something out of the box yet remain close to any previously designated boundaries of comfort. And on that note…

5. Keep your ear to the ground entertainment-wise. There are numerous options to stay in the now with TV, films, music, and books. I’ve had Netflix and HBO Go for ages and recently subscribed to Amazon Music. Personally, I enjoy the relative non-commitment of listening to numerous albums before buying them, But also, there’s something about commercial-free streaming that keeps the vibes at a cool, even keel.

This is merely my personal take at present — please feel free to leave any tips in the comments on how you funnel energy and iron out the kinks.

ttfn~

Lead photo via Benicia Herald

Coconut-Scented Everything: White Rain Bar Soap (Product Review)

Hear me out.

Coconut is an uber-fad that arrived atop the roof of the wellness train about five years ago and has been milked, oil pulled, punctured and drained for all its worth. The sad thing is that, unless from the actual fruit, most artificial coconut scents smell too chemical-y for this world. It’s true: most beauty products at a consumer-friendly price point smell like headache in a bottle.

As a writer, most ideas come to me in the shower. As such, I take some effort in making sure that my shower experience is both functional and relaxing. From bath bombs to aromatherapy gels, sugar scrubs and oil-infusions, I have tried an array of products with respect to budget and interest, and have still managed to come up short in the zen department. 

That is, until I came across White Rain body soap.

About a month ago, my boyfriend and I were at the grocery store stocking up for the week as per usual. I’d capped off a long lavender streak after having run out of my favorite Dr. Bronner’s liquid hemp soap, and decided to try something different. Making our way down the personal care aisle, I went through the prerequisite rigamarole before landing on a product that I was sure I’d regret buying. “White Rain, huh?” I thought to myself. “In Lavender Shea.” Sitting in between safe Ivory and inflated Tom’s, I thought, “meh, why not?”, a decision made infinitely easier with a two-pack of bars having been marked down to the very friendly price of $1.49.

Little did I know what a beautiful relationship was to bud from there on. Again, with tax, you get two quality bar soaps for around $0.80 each. In addition, the formula is smooth and doesn’t melt away easily (unlike the aforementioned Ivory) — each bar has lasted me nearly two weeks, even with vigorous use. Also, the scents are not overpowering, nor do they smell like chemicals. I have previously stuck to the Lavender Shea scented bars, but recently tried out the Coconut Creme scent (during a 4 two-packs for $5 sale) and well…. let’s just say that I am thisclose to crowning a new favorite in my besprinkled shower kingdom in which I am both subject and ruler.

It’s not that I won’t splurge on something more seemingly decadent, like an oil infusion, serum, or otherwise. But again, as a writer, the shower is one of the few places where one can let the mind fully wander and process for a guaranteed two to five minutes before the day really gets started. And because showering also involves cleanliness, White Rain has made both possible.

There you have it.

The Rhythm of a Short Week

Never underestimate amount of bliss contained within the four-day workweek that follows a three-day weekend. Who doesn’t love Faux Monday falling on Tuesday, and a Friday that takes no time to arrive? It’s all such a carefree flurry breezing through humdrum life, not unlike bygone days of early dismissal in grade school. 

But mind thy calendar, for as quickly as you wished for it, we’re now back to your regularly scheduled two-day weekend. And once its over, what’s left is the five-day workweek of weeks past — complete with Real Monday, and perhaps a sour gut feeling as if nothing noteworthy ever happened, nor will happen again. 

C’est la vie. Such is life. Every day is, in fact, a gift, and yet:

“Time keeps on slipping into the future.” — Fly Like an Eagle, Steve Miller Band

Just like that. 

Writing Tips from Someone Who Doesn’t Know What They’re Doing

Before starting this blog back in June, I had gone through a solid five-year post-college hiatus from writing. As a creative writing major, the last semester at school was taxing to the point where it was no longer enjoyable. Engaging in discussions of history and theory, participating in workshops, and joining in with the university community was a truly unique experience. But the pressure really wore on my drive and imagination. 

After graduation, I lost all nerve to put ideas to paper. It even came to the point that saying that I was a writer felt like a lie.

Thankfully I don’t feel that way anymore. But looking back at it now, I realize that my biggest hang up was getting started. Even today, getting this post started was a challenge, but then I remembered one of my favorite quotes (simple enough and probably overused, but no less true):

“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” — Mark Twain

Everyone has their own approach to writing, but sometimes it just boils down to the basics. It doesn’t matter how you do it — using an app, typing on a laptop, or jotting a blurb on a napkin — getting something down is the most important step, followed naturally by revision, then editing.

Revision and I weren’t always good friends, but we’ve worked through our differences, especially since I’ve realized it’s always had my best interests at heart. Looking at the word itself, “revision” implies the re-seeing of something, often through the eyes of someone or something else. Paired with editing, back and forth is to be expected, but is well worth the outcome. Drafting, extracting, and reworking not only improves the concept at hand, but can breed multiple ideas from one initial idea, therefore lessening writer’s block. Total win-win.

Making sense out of an idea can be a long and demanding process, but like a sculptor molding a likeness out of clay, forming abstraction into relatable experience is a meritorious undertaking. I definitely have a long way to go, and don’t always know what I’m doing, but will forever stand by getting started as the most important part of the process. 

Updating My Operating System (Er, My Brain)

Sometimes I feel like my brain is in my hands instead of my head where it should be. 

Like most of the population, I’ve grown very attached to smart technology. To a great extent, I trust these devices to store, process, and make information available when I need it. That’s not an unreasonable expectation. That’s their intended function. However, an issue lies with me, in that I have allowed my intended function — my natural intelligence — to be greatly reduced.

Does that make me brain dead?

When I was a kid, my parents made sure that I’d memorized our home address, our home phone number, their respective work numbers, my social security number, and a few emergency contact phone numbers. 

These days I still know my parents’ phone numbers, as well as those of my younger brother and boyfriend. I’ve memorized my home and work address, my work and mobile number, but I’d be hard-pressed to know the same of my friends off the top of my head. 

A month or so ago, I was visiting my sister and we reminisced over photo albums from our teenaged days. As we went through them, I felt myself struggling to piece together certain places and times and faces. Thankfully she could remember them for me, but I was surprised that whole parts of my life had pushed back to the point of nearly being forgotten completely. 

I can’t help but wonder how much more I may have tuned out and forgotten by letting technology do the thinking for me. Will I, too, be forgotten in the process?

Exactly how much I have underused my brain? How many times have I been so focused on documenting the perfect moment instead of fully absorbing the feeling, or taking in an image through my eyes, developing it with my very own operating system? 

I was born with the most complex technology available, surely the most priceless. It’s time to use it. All else is merely supplemental.

Which came first: the human brain, or smart device? 

I know the answer — do you?