#Blogging: Why I blog

*This is Day 10 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

I started blogging in 2008 when blogging was gaining in popularity. Early in my blogging journey, I blogged about music. Specifically R&B and a little Hip Hop. From the time I was little my parents would play R&B music on Sundays. Even after their split when I was five, they still kept to the tradition of playing R&B all day after church. My parents were ultra-old school. It was the classics and only the classics. This is why I knew the words to way too many Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan songs than the average kindergartner.

samantha_g_writes_4So it made sense to blog about music and all things related to it. Through music blogging, I discovered the joys of writing lifestyle topics, which evolved into me creating my personal blog.

Before personal blogging, I found personal blogs to be blah. The ones I’d read would offer little information besides what the writer ate that day. Nothing wrong with that, I’m sure there are people interested in that kind of stuff but for me, I like to read things for edutainment. So when I thought of creating a personal blog, I was against it at first. I thought to myself who will care about my personal life and the lessons I’ve learned along the way? But personal blogging has proven to be very therapeutic.

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#Nanowrimo: Day 10 – Word count and dealing with burnout

 

 

It’s been a pleasant few days in the Nanowrimo challenge. Life has had its intrusive moments, and I’ve found myself staring at my computer when I was supposed to be working on my novel. I’ve been following the schedule I mentioned last week loosely as some mornings it’s been hard to get out of bed and turn on the computer but I’ve been managing.

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As I mentioned before, besides taking part in Nanowrimo, I’m also taking part in a blogging challenge and I also write for others. So with the amount of writing going on, I experienced a little burnout.

It wasn’t anything serious, but I needed to take a day or two off from writing Loyalty is Fiction.  Although my word count suffered, I was able to tweak my story so that it’s more exciting and there aren’t any moments when it’s dragging. I feel one of the things contributing to burnout is the path my story was heading in. I was feeling unenthusiastic with certain scenes and just trying to get through them to get to the scenes I really wanted to write.

You know how albums have filler tracks that are blah and we skip them to get to the songs we like? Well, I’m trying to avoid that with my book. I don’t want there to be any dull moments. I want the story’s progression to be done so well that I make it easy for readers to turn the page and keep reading. I feel more confident with the changes I’ve made.

As of this writing, I’ve logged 12,184 words. This is low to me and according to Nano’s stat counter, at this rate I’ll be done with my book in the middle of December and that’s not going to work. So at some point, I’m going to need to double up on my word count. I am happy with the way my novel is flowing. The dialogue, scenes, and pace make sense so as long as that keeps working I should be fine.

Hopefully your story is going well and if you’re experiencing burnout like me, take a small break but still actively write during your time off. For me it helps to keep writing in any capacity so it isn’t a shock once I pick right back up where I left off at with my novel.

See you on Day 15!

The best of Samantha G. Writes week one

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It’s day 9 of the 30-day blogging challenge I’ve been taking part in and today I’m taking a look back by posting a roundup of the posts I’ve published since day 1 of the challenge.

What I’ve learned from this challenge is that you can blog every day. It doesn’t get boring, and it takes some creativity to create content that you enjoy writing, but it’s possible. It also doesn’t take that much time out of your day to complete. Most of the posts have been unplanned and written and edited in less than two hours. I’m sure if my posts required some research, I’d have to add on additional time. But for the most part, it doesn’t take very long to keep my blog updated daily.

Below are the posts I’ve published since day 1 of the challenge. The posts are a mix of tips I’ve learned in life and writing. There’s also a couple of recipes I use a lot at home for my mini-fam. They make great brain food too. Feel free to share the ones you love!

Day 1:  Almond Milk RecipeMaking almond milk is a lot easier than you think and it tastes amazing!

Day 2: 5 tips for surviving in Brooklyn your first year as a writerNew York is a great big city of dreams and the price tag can be, well, pricey. Here are tips to keep your sanity and a little extra cash in your pocket.

Day 3: How to deal with the negative people in your life We all know at least one negative person in our lives. Here are some ways to deal with them and not lose yourself in the process.

Day 4: Creamy Vegan Mac & Cheese RecipeNow I’m hungry again. I’m a huge cheese lover and I’m still a fan of this vegan macaroni and cheese recipe.

Day 5: 7 things new writers should do to make money writing onlineTips that have helped me make money writing online that I know will work for others too.

Day 6: The 5 phases of pregnancy new moms experienceOne of my favorite posts because it brought back so many memories. New expecting moms, this is a must-read!

Day 7: Reading “The Power of Habit” will change your lifeMy review of the Charles Duhigg book that has changed my view on habits and how it shapes my life.

Day 8: How to embrace failure and rejection as a writer If you’re a writer, you’ll face rejection sooner or later. Here are some ways I embrace the dreaded rejection response.

 

#WritingLife: How to embrace failure and rejection as a writer

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You find a lot of how-to articles on the web on how to make it in the writing world. Everything from how to standout when applying to a gig to how to perfect your skills so you are the best at what you do. But I think we need to talk more about failure and rejection, and how to deal with it.

For a while, the fear of rejection and feeling like a failure kept me from opportunities. I would avoid writing an article or applying for a writing gig because I felt I wouldn’t get it and instead of taking a chance, I didn’t try.

Learning how to embrace failure as a writer is liberating. You’ll feel invincible and confident. Taking chances will be exciting and not scary. Here’s how I’ve learned to embrace rejection as a writer so it stings less when I’m told no.

Change your perspective on what it means to fail

I read this Bruce Lee quote a few years ago that has stuck with me. He said, “Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” I agree. Failure only exists in the mind. Click To Tweet If you can see the good in failing you’ll fear it less.

See rejection and failure as a lesson

Whenever I submit my work to a magazine or a website, I look forward to the rejection response. I use to dread it and preferred that they not respond at all if they aren’t interested, which most of them did. But when they did send them, they were filled with advice. It’s understandable to view this advice as criticism, but I see them as tips on how to improve my writing. So I’d review the work I sent them, edit it using their tips then submit it somewhere else until someone said yes. It’s better to take away lessons from everything you fail at as oppose to trying really hard to forget them. I’ve tried doing that, and found it gets you know where.

Don’t take it personal

As with everything in life, keeping this rule in your back pocket will get you far. Often times when someone says something we don’t like, we automatically try to vilify them. Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re doing it but we do and that’s not good. If you fail at something, or you experience rejection from an editor, don’t take it personal. You’re not being rejected because they don’t like you and it may not even be that they don’t like your writing. Maybe what you’ve sent to them doesn’t fit what their audience would be interested in or your blog isn’t the type of blog sponsors want to invest in. But someone out there will. And an editor out there will find that same rejected article perfect for their readers. My point is, when it comes to being rejected, it’s best not to take it personally. Taking things personal is a big energy sap and you need that energy to win.

Ask for advice

I believe asking for criticism can build up your immunity to the fear of rejection. Join a writers group on and offline, or have a close friend/relative read some of your work and ask them to give their honest opinion. You need that, I know I do, because if I can’t get use to not getting applauded every time I write something, the one time I don’t (after getting praised all the time) it will be crushing and might even make me feel like giving up. When you ask for advice you put yourself out there. It’s bold, and it’s brave and those are the two characteristics you’ll need to embrace your next rejection, in my opinion.

The writing life isn’t perfect it’s one big lesson and getting rejected is a part of the curriculum.

#NaNoWrimo: Day 6 – word count, new milestone, next week’s goals

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It’s Day 6 of Nanowrimo and I’m proud to say I’m still hanging in there. In addition to writing for Nanowrimo, I’m also taking part in a blogging challenge and I still have clients to work for so there is a lot of writing happening. Balancing everything has been a challenge all and of itself but I’m learning a lot about how far I can push myself to see results and I’m loving what I see.

Here’s a tip I’m sure you’ve heard before – Always begin goals with the end in mind. Click To Tweet

And that’s what I’ve been doing. As of this writing, the amount of words I’ve written is 8,739 which means I reached my first milestone of completing 5k words. Woot! The next milestone will be reaching 10K words, which I’m trying to do tonight, so wish me luck! My treat for 10K is getting one of those Lush bath bombs! It’s the little things.

The goal for next week is to keep writing, simple. My habit back in the day would be to start things and to rarely see them to the end. But with learned lessons and the idea to keep the end in mind, I will get to 50,000. Though word count is important, my focus is on making sure my story’s progression is on point.

I’ve had to stop and reread certain parts to confirm that the timelines make sense or if some of my character’s reactions are warranted. The last thing I want to do is to finish the novel and when editing get all confused by the events and moments then feel discouraged to continue editing. I feel that’s what happened with the first novel I completed last year. This is why it’s taking me so long to finish editing it.

My second goal is to double my word count three days out of the week. Tonight, I plan to double my word count to meet my next milestone. I feel this will keep my story fresh in my mind.

Anyway, I hope you fellow Nanowrimo participants are progressing well through this challenge. You learn a lot about yourself when you dedicate yourself to a challenge. Do you agree?

See you on Day 10!

#WritersLife: 7 things new writers should do to make money writing online

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In 2008, I told myself that I wanted to get paid to write online. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to get paid to write about, but I knew that I wanted to write and get paid for it. It’s been a rocky road filled with disappointments and sometimes getting paid in pennies but I’ve found consistent work that pays.

I’ve yet to receive a check so big it would make Donald Trump blush, but I’ve made enough to cover my rent or to pay a bill. Though there are many writers out there with more experience and are making far more than I am, I’ll give you my take on making money writing online as a new writer.

Be prepared to write for free

Oh yeah, I’ve had to do this once or twice. And sometimes the exchange was somewhat worth it. I wrote for a popular website for free and got access to major events like award shows, private parties, and received transportation reimbursements. I did that for longer than I should have; the perks were SO GOOD. This recommendation I typically give to new writers who don’t have writing samples or have little experience writing online.

My tip for writing for free is to not be like me and do it for too long. Set a deadline for how long you plan to write in exchange for perks instead of cash. After the deadline, make it clear to yourself that you will only write for money. The editors you offered free writing to probably won’t like it (if they’re great, they’ll offer you a paid position), but their promise of exposure to their millions of viewers will not pay your bills. If only exposure was a valid form of payment for bill collectors. Click To Tweet

New Writers Should Start a blog

If writing for websites for free for exposure doesn’t work for you, start your own a blog. You can go all the way and invest in a domain name and hosting plan or you can just sign up for a free blog on the many websites that offer them. When no one would give me a chance, I started a small music blog and moderated it for six years. I got a bunch of opportunities from them and met and interviewed a bunch of celebs.

My advice is to make sure the blog is aimed towards the area of writing you want to specialize in and get paid for. And make sure you know what you’re talking about. Your blog is like a portfolio. It shows the tone you write in, how well you’re able to write, and how much you know. And when you apply to online writing gigs, you can use links to blog posts that show that you can write on the topic they are looking for writers to contribute posts on. Set a publishing schedule you can stick to. And if you’re directing editors to your blog, make sure you’re publishing often. They like that because it shows you’re consistent and reliable.

Actively look for gigs on writer websites

This is one of the most important tips in finding writing gigs. If you’re waiting to be discovered, you’ll be waiting a long time. You need to go look for that next big writing gig. Actively search for gigs on websites like Craigslist, FreelanceWritingGigs.com, FreelanceWriting.com, and Indeed.com. There are tons of other websites I may dedicate a post to during the 30-day blogging challenge, but a quick google search will pull up tons of articles with them listed. Here’s an oldie but goodie tip for everything in life including online writing gigs posted on Craigslist and websites like it– if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, don’t feel defeated if all you see are gigs looking for writers to write in exchange for “exposure” a.k.a. for free. There are paying gigs posted on Craigslist often you just have to sift through a lot of crap to find them.

Always have more than one writing gig

This was a lesson I learned the hard way. I made the mistake early in my online writing career to complete one writing gig at a time. Meaning, I would sign a contract with one website and refuse to take on another contract with another website. I thought I would overwhelm myself with more than one writing job. Ha! Guess what happened when the website I had been solely contributing articles to shut down? Or the other website that got banned from Goggle because some of their other writers were stuffing their articles with keywords creating pieces that made no sense when read by humans?

That’s right, I didn’t have another gig to fall back on. So it always felt like I was starting over when the one gig I was working fell through or the traffic resulted in low payment. Today, I make sure I’m working as many gigs as I can handle without burning out. And this is separate from my small business copywriting clients. I don’t play those games anymore and neither should you.

Collect testimonials from editors you’ve written for

Testimonials are awesome and are like reviews that everyone can read. I like to put my testimonials on my resume to give website owners and editors an idea of what my earlier editors had to say about my writing and work ethic. It’s like product reviews. You wouldn’t feel confident in buying a product that customers gave bad reviews for versus the product that’s getting a five out of five star review from satisfied customers. In your budding online writing career, you are the product and the testimonials you collect are your reviews.

If your work is great and you’ve got great testimonials, the editor or website owner may lean more toward giving you a shot. If you’re shy about asking for testimonials, don’t be. Just ask your editor to give you a two line testimonial about what it was like to work with you. They’ll be happy to do it, especially if you’ve exceeded their expectations.

Learn how to sell yourself

Speaking of products and reviews, learning how to sell your skills is important. Excelling in online writing has a lot to do with your writing but it also has a lot to do with how you sell yourself as a writer. That website you want to write for is probably the website that every writer wants to write for too. That means that site’s editor is inundated with responses. Your email cannot sound like the fifty other emails they read before yours. This makes it easy for the editor to skip right over yours or worse send it straight to the trash bin if the first few lines in your email doesn’t peak their interest.

I like to create email templates for my inquiries where I cover the basics and then tailor it to the type of content the website I’m interested in normally publishes. I also make it a priority to read a few articles on their website to understand the voice the editors are looking for and make my emails sound similar, but not like a carbon copy. Then I sprinkle a little personality in them, but not too much because I still need to sound professional and not like I don’t have a single professional bone in my body. But most importantly, I market my skills. You are a brand, so it’s important to know and sell what you offer and sell how your skills will make their brand better.

Never give up

I’ve learned that to write well you have to stick with it. They’ll be days when you can’t wait to get up to write and others when turning on your computer is the last thing you feel like doing. But you have to fight through it and stick it out. Take a break and binge on Netflix for a day or find a different writing environment that will get you in the writing state of mind.

Do whatever you have to do to never give up. I’m all about making plans these days because as my husband puts it, Success is premeditated. Click To Tweet So whenever you feel something isn’t working, take a moment to figure out what about it isn’t working and make a plan to correct it so you don’t get knocked off your path to making money writing online.

Writing is like exercising for your creativity so if you do something for an extended amount of time, you’ll get better at it. The more writing gigs you book, the more experience you get, the larger your portfolio will grow, and the higher you can set your rates. Next thing you know you’re writing for one of the top 500 websites on the internet. We can get there, we just have to stick with it.

#Recipe: Creamy vegan macaroni & cheese

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*This is day 4 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

I was once a vegan for a year after a bad experience with dissecting a baby pig in college. Let’s just say the experience sent me running for fruits and vegetables and refusing to eat anything with eyes or that moved without the assistance of the elements.

During my year as a vegan I threw myself into the vegan lifestyle and it was amazing. I had so much energy and I hardly was sick. I mean no colds, no upset stomachs, no headaches, nada. It was great. I also learned how to prepare vegan meals that didn’t only consist of vegetables, similar to this mac and cheese recipe I’m about to share with you!

My family loves this stuff and the taste is nom nom, as my son says every time he takes a bite. Even though I’m no longer vegan, I still enjoy this meal every now and again. I find it simple to make and I think you will too.
This particular recipe is a modified version of The Pioneer Woman’s mac and cheese recipe. I love the way she prepares food and loved making her version of creamy mac and cheese. So I veganized it and here it is!

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#NaNoWriMo: Day 4 – word count, schedule change, and a mini ‘uh oh’ moment

 

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It’s Day 4 of NaNoWriMo and I’ve got a quick update about how my writing is going, my word count and some changes I’ve made. From Day 3 until today, I’ve been waking up at 5am to complete my word count which is 1668. On day 1, I wrote 2000 words and the only other time I wrote close to 2000 was yesterday and that’s because I wrote twice in one day.

My plan was to write at 5am and then go running around 6am. But because I write slow and require frequent reviews to make sure my characters dialogues makes sense, it’s taking more than an hour to reach my word count for the day. Pair that with editing as I write and there goes the hour.

So I’ve switched up the plan and have decided to write in the morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Then on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I write right before bed. I’m doing it like this because writing before running or vice versa isn’t working and I refuse to give up either one. Because my running schedule is Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays it makes better sense for me to write at night the days before my run. Im a true believer in tweaking a plan as many times as possible until it works. No use in giving up on something without really trying.

The amount of words I’ve written so far is 5,566, not including the words I will write tonight. I’m loving the way my story is progressing and I hope to continue to stay in love with it. I did make a mistake that I was able to correct. I wrote without reading the outline I created for one of the scenes and my imagination took the story in a different direction. While this works for pantsers, to make things up as they go, I need a throughly planned out storyline. My mistake gave me the idea to write at night on some days and early in the morning on others, so it worked out for the best.

For these next few days, I’m aiming to double my word count so I get more on the page. I also need to finish the outlines for the remaining scenes in the novel.

I hope you other wrimos are having a great time with your novels! One of the secrets in getting to the end is to fall and stay in love with your work so it feels less like an obligation and more like a treat every time you turn on your computer.

See you on Day 6!

Welcome to #Brooklyn! 5 tips for surviving in Brooklyn your first year as a writer

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In “Sex and the City,” Carrie Bradshaw makes living in New York City seem so glamorous. She’s often seen attending new restaurant openings with a cosmopolitan in one hand or walking the New York streets questioning why Big won’t love her back. But one thing that’s painfully obvious throughout the series is that the ladies rarely cross that bridge into Brooklyn. Even when Miranda moved to Brooklyn in season 6, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte were not feeling it too much.

Well, here we are in 2015 where Brooklyn is now considered everyone’s new favorite borough of the metro area. I’ve lived in Brooklyn all my life and have witnessed the transformation. I’ve also noticed that among the new people I meet who are writers, they’ve come from all over the world to follow their dreams of having a successful writing career.

So I’m here as your Brooklyn fairy godmother to give you some tips (besides getting yourself a roommate) on surviving in Brooklyn your first year as a writer. I believe these tips are useful for longtime Brooklynite’s and those who have just moved to the borough.

Tip 1: Invest in a MetroCard

A MetroCard is a little gold card that you load with a certain amount of money that you swipe to pay for your train and bus fare. Back in the day, commuters used tokens to pay for their train and bus rides, today it’s the MetroCard. Now, Carrie may have gotten around the city in a city cab, but that can add up. If you’re a fairly new writer living in Brooklyn you may need a higher income to afford daily rides in a cab or via Uber. And owning your own car and dealing with minimal parking (unless your building offers an underground parking garage), gas prices, or the high costs of parking lots isn’t worth it. The subways and buses run often and they’ve improved since the 80’s and old episodes of Law & Order, A LOT! There’s minimal graffiti (if at all) and they are safer. In some of them, they even offer free Wi-Fi. If you buy an unlimited MetroCard you’re good to go practically anywhere in the city. There are fare hikes but when MTA’s fares go up you can bet the same will happen with the cabs. A MetroCard is like a golden ticket…that you pay for.

Tip 2: Buy your produce from local fruit and vegetable markets or green markets

Eating out is all good and everything, but if you are trying to stay in shape and reduce the amount of times you get sick, especially during our freezing winters, you’ve got to learn how to cook for yourself. Your oven is not an extra drawer for your things. With this said, we don’t have farms in Brooklyn (that I know of) but we have fruit and vegetable markets located all over Brooklyn and they sell their produce for reasonable prices. If you don’t have these markets in your area, do research online for green markets where you can get produce for great prices. At the Grand Army Plaza entrance of Prospect Park there are several green markets offered throughout the year where you can get super fresh produce, most organic.

Tip 3: Do most of your home goods shopping at Brooklyn discount stores

Target is great, believe me I know. But you’d be surprised what you can find at discount stores. To give you an example, I purchased mason jars from my local dollar store for $1 each. And found a collection of Pyrex branded bowls and cookware for under $10. At stores like Bobby’s and Bargain Hunter, I’ve been able to decorate my bathroom, kitchen and living room for a little over $100. I promise, I’m not making this up! I still shop at Target for some home goods, but for the most part I buy my home goods from discount stores because they sell most of the same items Target does, but for less.

Tip 4: Join a writers or ladies/guys night out group

As a writer, landing gigs has a lot to do with what you know and how great you can write, but it also depends on who you know. Your connections are everything in New York and can get you a coffee date with that publisher who will change your writing life. A great way to connect with other writers is through writers groups. I find most of my groups online on MeetUp.com. This website isn’t only good for finding writing groups, you can find groups for just about any interests you have even groups for writers who just moved to New York. Another great place to find writers and to receive critiques on your work (this one is mostly for writers of novels, memoirs, poetry) is the New York Writers Coalition that hosts workshops in the Central Brooklyn Public Library. Free feedback plus an opportunity to meet fellow writers and make solid connections! Win-win if you ask me.

Tip 5: Make Groupon and LivingSocial your go-to place for everything else

Chances are you’ll be living on a budget, so Groupon and LivingSocial needs to be your go-to place for everything else like entertainment, grooming, training, headshot photos for your website, or when you don’t want to cook and need to treat yourself to a meal at a restaurant. Groupon, LivingSocial and other apps like it offer great deals on places around Brooklyn and all of New York. My advice is to do a little research on the deals you find on these sites. Sometimes you can get the offers for cheaper elsewhere. Plus, you want to make sure you’re not purchasing an acupuncture session at a place in the back alley of a Chinese takeout restaurant. Not saying those exist, I’m just saying do your homework.

*This post is Day 2 of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge*

#Recipe: How to make almond milk the easy way

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*This post is a part of the 30-Day Blogging Challenge hosted by Sarah Arrow and this is Day One!*

Almond milk is a staple in my home. My son has been drinking almond milk from the time he stopped breastfeeding, which was around 18 months, and my husband has to have it every day. We used to buy it in the carton and found ourselves spending a lot on it per month. Add to that the not always safe “natural” ingredients that gets added to it and you’ve got a reason to find other alternatives to having almond milk.

It was my husband’s idea to start making our own, and I was like, who got the time. But it was after I did the research on how to make it that I realized how many people are doing just that. The simplest way to make almond milk includes just a blender, filtered or spring water, and a cup or two of almonds.

Yes, literally all you need is water and almonds, and if you want a bit more taste like the flavors you find in brands like Silk, we can make that happen too. Check out the recipe below and start making your own almond milk tonight!

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