Resetting 2022

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It’s been a few months since I’ve really written anything aside from some freelance writing. The truth is that I’ve struggled on a lot of different levels.

My work schedule, while I thought was manageable in January, soon took on a life of its own. I found myself working 7 days a week with about 60 to 70 hours put in. I burnt out emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. My body kept chugging along but my mind was exhausted. This doesn’t even take into consideration my roller coaster anxiety thanks in part due to the situation in Ukraine, the 24-hour news cycle, and my anxiety running away with my imagination thinking of endless “What if?” scenarios and the end of the world. Needless to say, it wasn’t pleasant.

As April ends and May looks to start, I am looking to do a reset of sorts.

The writing goals that I had started in 2022 with making sure I write every day and going back into fiction disappeared when my anxiety and depression decided to take up the vacancy in my life. Everything went to sort of. I didn’t find joy in my favorite activities. Writing and reading became chores. In addition to my work schedule, I was also trying to balance working on both my mental and physical health. It was challenging and draining. I don’t know how I was doing it, but I was barely functioning.

I am still struggling to reign in my anxiety; some days are better than others depending on what’s going on in the world. I am working on trying to cope, but one thing I am trying to get back is to find joy in the things I used to, including writing and reading. I am finding I need to prioritize these activities and make sure I make time in my schedule. Even if it means physically putting it into my calendar so it will get done.

Another goal is actually to get back out into the water this year. I chicken out for one reason or another and it’s been a while since I’ve been in the water to either body surf or just swim.

Lastly, as always, is the creative stuff. I’ve lost my connection and joy in doing anything creative. The writing is the most obvious. I really want to get back into the swing of things and write fiction again, even if it is just for myself. I also want to refocus on photography and even, dare I even think about, rekindling a YouTube channel I attempted about six years ago.

So, let’s reset 2022, try to stay mindful in the present, and reconnect to the creative things and good things that make me a better person.

My Goals For Writing in 2022.

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I started last year with a resolution to grow my writing. This included growing my freelance writing efforts and trying to grow more profitable. I let it go most of last year until that summer where I managed to cobble together a website, applied to the Medium Partner Program, got over my fears, and created profiles on Fiverr and Upwork. So, how did 2021 end up?

2021 Reflections

Last year was better than I had hoped. 2021 didn’t see me making massive gains, but I made a lot more progress than I think I would have. My months on Medium didn’t see me making hundreds of dollars (in fact, it was only a couple at most), but that encouragement was enough to get started. I tried to keep my own website updated, but not as often as I hoped. Freelance-wise, I had a few orders and after a couple of beginning gigs on Upwork, I’m hitting my stride. All and all, not a bad start. I also experimented with learning nonfiction creative writing, but I found myself wanting to go back to my roots with writing fiction. Overall, it was a really positive year writing.

2022 Writing Goals

In 2022, I am now working 2 jobs (excluding the freelance writing I am still doing), and it feels like my schedule has never been busier. It can honestly be overwhelming at times. My Mondays and Wednesdays could easily be 12 hour days. I’m still struggling to get my routine down for the next few months and also planning some other major life decisions like moving by June. The first handful of months of 2022 is going to be busy. And planning my schedule and routine will be even more important. My 2022 hopes for my writing include a few things.

My first resolution: continue to grow my freelance writing efforts.

I didn’t make loads and loads of money freelance writing last year where I could quit my main jobs and retire early. But I found myself doing the sorts of writing I have always wanted with a job. My freelance writing is primarily content writing, but I have done resume reviews and edits as well. I find that Fiverr is good for resume gigs and Upwork has been best for long-term work. I hope to really try to work on that progress in 2021 and capitalize on it in 2022.

The second resolution: managing my time better and finding more time to write.

This sounds dumb, but I have a tendency to overlook myself and take on more than I can do. In addition to writing and my main job, I’ve also been trying to work on my mental and physical health for the past few years. When I’m not working or writing, my schedule has a lot of appointments and errands to keep. What I found was that I was miscalculation time commitments and/or how long something would take. That left little time to write for fun or not enough time to focus on my other writing projects.

And the last resolution: writing more fiction.

One of the reasons why I drifted towards creative nonfiction last year was because I thought it would be therapeutic. But maybe I have some avoidance issues or other mental issues, but I found writing about nonfiction and my life like pulling teeth. It was a difficult experience and I often found myself going through some unpleasant periods in my life that I am still struggling to get past. Fiction and escapism are two of the reason why I started writing when I was 11 years old. Writing fiction in my mid-30s has the same appeal as it did over 20 years. So I hope to write more fiction in 2022 and even tackle one of the writing sessions that NaNoWriMo does in April or July, or even try tackling NaNoWriMo in November and maybe attempting a novel in 30 days.

Thanksgiving Nostalgia

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As I grew older, I’ve been feeling myself become more nostalgic. I don’t yearn for memories or really good food or falling asleep at the dinner table (which has happened to me before). Instead, I grow nostalgic about the memories of my family and those simpler times.

I know, it’s silly. As I kid, I used to always dread the three-hour drive to my grandparents’ home and would sometimes get overwhelmed by all the activity and craziness that was Thanksgiving. I also get nostalgic for the family members that have lost. It’s not just the memories of that particular dinner, but it brings a whole sea of memories that I have gathered throughout my life.

This Thanksgiving, I will be assisting in cooking it for the first time. Another milestone. Another notch in my belt. But I will still be surrounded by memories of my family and be thankful for every single one of them.

The First Time I Felt Like a Writer

I always try to write for myself. The first was a short story. I was 11 years old and did it spur of the moment. After that, I got the bug. I continued to write for the next six years. During that time, I didn’t feel like an artist. I kept my writing to myself. It was a secret that I didn’t like sharing. I was self-conscious about it, carefully shielding the notebook I would carry everywhere with me to write. The writing was just something you didn’t share. That changed my senior year of high school. That year, I found myself struggling to find electives to fill my class schedule. At that point, I had an idea that I wanted to go into technical writing and took things like a journalism class. But I decided to also take a creative writing as well just for the variety.

Up to this point, the only type of writing class I had taken was the state-mandated public school English classes. I was also in honors and AP English too, but writing still was one of those things I kept to myself. I didn’t know what to expect going into it. But to my surprise, it was one of the most chill and interesting classes I’ve ever taken. I adored my teacher. I felt more inspired than ever. I was getting past my anxiety about sharing my written work.

As I began to slowly get past this anxiety of sharing, my teacher announced an extra credit opportunity. At a local coffee house, every Wednesday night, there would be an open mic for people to come read their poetry and written works. I thought it couldn’t hurt. So, that night, I arrived three hours early. I claimed a table in the back near the exit in case I decided to exit early.

As the open mic got underway, I kept largely to myself. There were a lot of people I didn’t know or recognize. There were a lot of people reading amazing work that made me feel inferior. At the halfway point, there was a brief intermission. I could feel the tightness in my chest and the tingling in my fingers; tell-tale signs of an impending anxiety attack. I wanted to contribute. I wanted to share. I wanted to get past my fear. I finished the last of my coffee, and right as the open mic was about to get underway again, I wrote my name with the black dry erase marker. “Kelly P.”

I hurried back to my outpost at the back of the room to wait. I don’t remember much of it after that. I was nervous. I kept eyeing the exit. But then, I heard someone call me. “Kelly P. You’re up!” I grabbed my notebook at the time, a gray composition notebook held together by duct tape. My hands were shaking. I eyed the room briefly as I grabbed the mic. I couldn’t make eye contact. With a trembling voice, I introduced myself. “Uh, hi. My name is Kelly P. and I will be reading…uh,” I flipped to a random poem. I don’t recall saying the title. I just remember keeping my eyes downcast, focusing on my handwriting, and the mic shoved up against my mouth. I had been told I had a problem with public speaking and hopefully they might hear me.

I don’t remember the words. I tried to read them in one breath, avoiding eye contact the entire time so I wouldn’t be judged. As the last words left my mouth at the end of my breath, I finally looked. People clapped. I felt shocked and then surprised. No one was mocking me, telling me how bad of a writer I was. It was the opposite. I felt the anxiety leave me replaced with some euphoric high. I got a rush from performing my mic and sharing my writing for the first time. I felt good. I felt confident for the first time in my life about my writing. I still feel that euphoric high whenever I give a big presentation or after a big social engagement.

As I left the stage, I reclaimed my table in the back. I felt relief and lingered on the positive vibes as the open mic finished. This was only the first of many open mics throughout my senior year of high school. For the first time in my young life, I truly felt like a writer.

Part 1: Is There Any Value in an eReader?

Part one of a three-part series.

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I think got my first eReader sometime in 2007 or 2008 while I was in college.

I got it as a Christmas gift from my mom. It was white. You know, that gray-white that electronics at that era were. It reminded me of a Hewitt-Packer, was it was just a few shades whiter to almost beat being gray. I don’t remember the name brand of thing. It was off-brand and not an Amazon Kindle or a Barnes and Noble Nook. It was some company that was trying to jump on the bandwagon of the latest tech craze. Like all those companies who tried to manufacture their own MP3 players in the early 2000s. This company was trying to accomplish the same thing.

I don’t remember the exact specifications of it. I do remember that I couldn’t download any new books. I mean, it might have, but it was connected to an existing bookstore. I knew that I could download older eBooks and Project Gutenberg is what came to mind.

So, I downloaded a small batch of classic novels from Project Gutenberg. After Christmas break came and went, I went back to college and brought my Reader with me.

My bachelor’s degree was English so I had a combination of literature and writing classes I was taking at one time or another. I thought to be proactive, I would try to download one of the class textbooks on my eReader to make my life easier. I would only have to carry one thing instead of multiple books. The experience didn’t go so well.

The reading experience was clunky. The eReader didn’t work have the time. I missed the tactile feel of the pages between my fingers. The appreciation for the intricate designs of the book and paper quality. Nothing seemed to be better than the physical copy. I was 19 or 20 at the time but I swore to never invest in an eReader or an eBook. Until a few years ago.

In the following two articles of this mini-series, I will explore my opinions about the physicality of books and how my attitudes have shifted over the past few years.

This is also published on Medium.

I Walked in a Crowd for the First Time Since March 2020

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Last Sunday, I almost didn’t go. I almost talked myself out of going. But I didn’t want to waste money on another ticket. I was going to go. That morning, I gathered my camera, my bag, my mask, sunglasses, water, and sanitizer and drove to the airfield. This past weekend, I went out into my first crowd since Covid first happened. I know that doesn’t sound significant, but for me, it was.

I have been working from home since March 2020. When I go out, I’m always cautious. I remember to wear my mask. I always use a hand sanitizer afterward. With covid, my anxiety increased tenfold, especially during those first few months during the initial lockdown. It was a hard transition that I’m still trying to get over. I’ve made some progress though. It’s small things like managing to go to the gym while I wear my mask. Going over to a friend’s house when I know there will be a few people. Even getting the courage to go to a restaurant during the least busy times.

I used to be able to go out into public with no issues. I loved to hang out in bars and coffee shops and just people watch. I didn’t have the fear of anything bad happening to me. I look forward to it. With covid, it got harder for me and the anxiety seemed to hold me back from enjoying every aspect of life.

But on Sunday, I managed to get a hold of my anxiety for a couple of hours. I walked outside, kept my distance, and managed to snap a few pictures. I know this post is short and doesn’t have a lot of content to it, but to me, it was a huge milestone.

It’s a Match! What Dating and Job Hunting Have In Common

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Job hunting can be intimidating. There are so many ways to go about it these days as a lot of the process is automated. It’s all about connections and who you know. LinkedIn has come into play over the past decade as an excellent tool in professional networking and needs. But despite all this advancement in technology, it can still be a challenge in trying to land an interview.

During the time I worked with resume writing and cover letters, I was taught that you needed it to customize the job. Sound advice. But that advice felt generic and, at times, hard to figure out especially when you were trying to even begin writing. I also learned it’s important to highlight and show soft skills when one doesn’t necessarily have the experience been asked for. Trying to combine these two concepts was difficult for me and trying to articulate when I did resume writing was hard as well.

Then I looked at it in terms of dating. I know it sounds silly. Job hunting. Dating. What could they possibly have in common? Bear with me a moment.

One of the timeless pieces of advice one receives with job hunting is to customize the job. If you have ever been on a dating app, in theory, you do the same thing. I have many horrible Tinder stories and I have tried my fair share of dating apps. Whenever I agreed to meet with a guy, I would always try and view his profile and make plans to make talking points about what he had on his dating profile. I know, it sounds silly and a little controlling, but in my mind, it was the thing that could make or break a second date. If you find someone interesting and he or she has that they love dogs and hiking, you’re going to try and talk about dogs and hiking in the mountains. Even though you’re more of a cat person and really prefer the beach.

The same idea applies to looking at a job ad. If an employer list that they want public speaking and leadership as skills, you will try to find a way to make that stand out on your resume. Say you only have experience working in customer service. We can make that work! Your ability to speak with customers counts as being skilled with public speaking. Did you ever oversee another employee, for example, checking outside work in a restaurant? That counts for leadership skills as well! If an employer is looking for a certain skill, you will reframe your experiences to make it sound like the skills they are looking for. It will help you stand out as an ideal candidate.

New Update, New Look

The new logo.

I don’t know what came over me this weekend. I had been working on making Medium a more concrete thing and trying to refine my Fiverr gigs in landing that ever elusive first client. I started thinking and listing all the creative avenues I had started in 2021 and reflected back on the original goal of this website.

I created Kelly’s Surf Words to serve as a blog and slowly evolve into freelancing writing. The website languished until June until I started getting serious about it. I did a couple of blog entries but nothing more. August was getting the courage to join Fiverr and Upwork. I started writing a bit more for Medium these past couple of weeks. I also had a RedBubble shop. I had all these creative endeavors but they were all over. I lacked a central location to house everything.

Which brings me back to this blog, which is now also a hub for my creative endeavors, my freelance writing, my photography, and a portfolio. I decided to house it all under here: Kelly’s Surf Words

I spent a good chuck of today in between my job and everything else updating and reconfiguring pages. I even bit the bullet and invested in a professional logo. It’s seems an odd mismatch, like all the things going on here. The owl represent Athena’s owl (the goddess of wisdom in Greek mythology) and the original title of the website, Kelly’s Surf Words which connects my love of the beach with my love of writing.

Here’s to a new phase and beginning to the life of Kelly’s Surf Words.

First Steps in Freelancing

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Freelance writing is something I’ve always wanted to get into. I tried to back in 2015 and early 2016. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. The only real experience I had was the experience with my bachelor’s degree provided me six year prior and whatever personal experience on social media. Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

2021, I decided to get my act together. I’ve been working on my mental and physical health. I really began to focus on this blog and writing. I also wanted to bring in more income with what I was already doing. I took a month reading various strategies about ideas and notions of passive income.

Medium, along with the blog, were my first real attempts at the beginning of 2021. I’ve written a couple things on Medium but what I’ve done is just used my blogs post from here over there. I know it’s not very original but at least I can grow the audience with my writing. This blog though has been a rock. I have tweaked it here and there, trying to perfect it as role changes. In addition to being a lifestyle blog, I am beginning to use it as a portfolio as well.

I wrote about my first attempt with a RedBubble store. I still have yet to make a sale but I haven’t lost motivation. Instead focusing mainly on graphic design, I decided to put up samples of my photography. The aspect of being free is certainly appealing but I really like the variety of products they offer to put the image on. But after working on this enterprise a bit more, I came back to the thought of freelancing again. This time, I hope it’ll be different than the first time. I’m older, have a second degree, and am somewhat wiser from my past mistakes. I also had about a month’s period of watching YouTube videos and tutorials on LinkedIn to help relearn and polish skills.

There is still I have to learn and refresh. A lot of the writing styles that I learned in college I haven’t touched in years because I couldn’t find a job with my chosen field originally. But I have spent time refining what I know and learning about writing in different contexts thanks to my master’s degree and continuing to grow in creative writing. As I researched how-to, Fiverr and Upwork were the websites that stood out. I still don’t know about starting a business or anything like that but using those platforms seems like a good stepping stone.

So, you can find me on Fiverr and Upwork!

I’m still trying to perfect it but, hey, it’s a start in the write direction!

I Was the Biggest Obstacle When Creating My RedBubble Shop

You are your own worst enemy.
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Only recently have I gotten this idea of “passive income” into my head. I blame the numerous articles Medium recommended when I started to look at freelance writing. I read a few of them and it caught my interest. I have watched dozens of YouTube videos and read various articles on Medium and whatever Google Reader suggested.

But this post isn’t another article about the top five ways to get a side hustle, what to look for when figuring out what to do, or five things you need to do to make money. There is countless content about those things out there. Instead, I want to write about the biggest issues I encountered with beginning a side hustle: myself.

To be fair, I did do the research and see what the prime side hustles seemed to be these days. Things that topped the list were print-on-demand services, freelance writing, virtual assistant, and the list goes on. I settled with something I thought was simple: a RedBubble store. I have experimented with photography in the past and dabbled with graphic design so I thought this was the perfect excuse to try to expand it to the next level. Now, to be fair, I still have yet to make my first sale. I did have someone like one of my designs, so that is a start! 

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I am even writing on this topic if I’ve had no monetary success. For me, the biggest obstacle in even starting a side hustle has been myself.

You’re your own worst enemy.

You’ve probably heard that saying before. Perhaps you’re flashing back to your first memory of really getting past the fear and insecurity and putting yourself out there. For me, a side hustle is another extension of that.

I’ve always been insecure about myself and had low self-esteem. Putting myself out for the world to see is always a challenge from putting on an outfit for a date, starting the first day at a new job, or beginning a new online venture. One of the hardest moments is hitting that ‘publish button. What will people think? Will it be a viral sensation? Will it get a lot of likes? Will I pick the right hashtags to get the right target audience?

The second part is continuing that momentum and believing in myself. It’s one thing to take that next first step. It’s another to sustain it.

Keeping It Going

To keep anything going, you need to plan for the long term.

I’ve always lacked this skill. I’ve gone through life thinking in terms of extremes and short-term. Either it is can/cannot, pass/fail, good/bad, etc. There was also the problem of keeping a short-term perspective. With that either/or mindset, it could only apply to a specific moment or situation. For example, I try a new skill. Two things either happen: I do well or I do not. If I do well, I use that as evidence and keep going. If I don’t do well, then I take it as it is: a universal sign that tells me whatever it is is not meant to be.

These flaws in logic are things I have struggled to overcome and grapple with consciously from day to day. It is hard and frustrating. I want to be perfect with everything I do the first time. I need the instant validation. If I don’t, I get easily discouraged and quit.

The act of writing is something that had similar struggles. I remember writing my first story at 11. Was it amazing? Not exactly. Was it something I continued to work on over the next twenty years? Absolutely. Do I forget that fact and continue to be hard on myself? Unfortunately, this is true as well.

With opening a RedBubble shop, I have to tell myself to keep going even though I haven’t found that instant fame or money. It is a new challenge trying to figure out designs, which old photos might do well, and gambling on the right keywords to figure out what will capture people’s interests. I still haven’t figured it out. The traffic isn’t that reassuring either. But that isn’t going to make me quit just yet. I want to learn how to be successful and decipher and understand a new skill set, which will keep me going. 

My love for writing was not an overnight miracle. It took many years of learning, experimenting, trial, and error, and I still haven’t figured it out. I am a better writer because of it though. With learning and experimenting with this side hustle, I hope to become a better person and learn a few lessons about business.

I also published this over on Medium.