A Month of Writing

November is a really exciting month. Not only is there Thanksgiving to look forward to, but we are also so much closer to winter break! For me, this November is also exciting because of Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writing Month.

Nanowrimo is a writing project where participants attempt to write 50,000 words during the month of November. If you sign up on the website, it sends you writing advice, and also allows you to log the amount of words that you write each day. That way, you can see your progress throughout the event, and win some prizes if you reach that goal!

This year, I decided to take part in Nanowrimo. I attempted it two years ago, but could not get past the first few days, because I fell into the trap of worrying that my story was not good. I was also editing as I wrote, which was a horrible idea. This made me feel really discouraged, and it clogged my writing flow. It made me feel stressed out and made writing feel more like a chore rather than something I enjoy. So this year, I am taking a completely different approach to writing than I did in the past.

To combat that writer’s block that I felt in the past, I changed my personal goal for this year. Although the official goal of Nanowrimo is ideally to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month, my personal goal is just to make time to write something each day. Of course around exam times, I cannot get much done, but I still try to write at least 600 words per day. Although this number is far from the official 1,667 words per day goal, the way I see it, at the end of the month I will have 18,000 words written that would not have been there at all if I didn’t attempt Nanowrimo.

Writing requires a commitment, but if you have a passion for writing and a story to tell, then you should definitely make the time for it! I thought that I would share some of my tips that are helping me write and could help you too!

1. Write what you know

I am an avid fantasy reader. I just love the feeling of escaping reality and entering a new world full of crazy creatures and ideas that you would never see in real life. For a long time now, I have wanted to write a fantasy novel, and I have had an idea bouncing around in my head, so I thought that it was finally time to sit down and try to transfer my ideas from my head to my Word document. Since I have a pretty good knowledge about the features of a fantasy novel, I know (for the most part) some of the major components that I want to include in my writing.

2. Get inspired

A lot of the inspiration that I get for my writing comes from Pinterest or Tumblr. Whenever I need ideas about a landscape, characters, or fashion, I go to Pinterest and scroll through pictures until I find something that fits with what I am looking for. On Pinterest, I also create boards to separate and organize those little bits of inspiration, so they are easy to find later when I need them.

3. Take advantage of any extra time in the day

Writing consistently is easier said than done. I know how difficult it can be to get time to write when there is so much work to do and when we are always so tired. Most people say that the best way to get writing done is to set aside a time to write, but unfortunately this method doesn’t always work for me. Instead, I get most of my writing done before classes or when I am taking a break in between studying. I usually write in small bursts where I write down what I am picturing in my head. For me, this “less-structured” style of writing allows me to get my ideas down without feeling pressured or burnt-out.

I know my post was about Nanowrimo, but really any day of any month is perfect for writing. There are always going to be distractions and other things to do in life, but as long as you have a story to tell, you should give it a go! Grab a cup of tea, turn off the phone and break out the pen and paper–you will be surprised with what ideas start flowing out of your mind!

 

 

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Boo to You!

Halloween is just around the corner, and I can feel the excitement in the air! This year, I celebrated Halloween early in September when I went to Disney World. I attended Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party for the first time, and it was amazing! Since it is almost Halloween, I thought that I would share my experience with all of you.

Disney is known for its elaborate holiday events. They have the Flower and Garden Festival in the Spring, The Food and Wine Festival in the Fall, the Mickey’s not-so-scary Halloween party during September and October, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party during November and December. I have been to the Flower and Garden Festival many times and I have also been to Disney around Christmas multiple times, so I can confidently say that Disney goes all out when it comes to events. It has always been mine and my sister’s dream to attend the Halloween party, but we never visited Disney during that time period. This summer, we were there at the start of September, and Disney held their Halloween parties early, so we jumped at the opportunity to attend! And let me tell you, it was worth every penny.

The decorations in Magic Kingdom are truly beautiful. During the party, there were fog machines at the front of the park, and loud Halloween music was playing to set the mood. Also, most of the visitors and cast members are dressed in creative and elaborate costumes. It felt nothing like a normal day at the parks!

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At the Halloween party, there are many characters that you can line up to take pictures with that you normally cannot find at the parks: Jack and Sally, the Seven Dwarfs, Jack Sparrow and more! I have always wanted to meet Jack Sparrow, so that was the highlight of my night.

Since it is a Halloween party, I also got to trick-or-treat! I personally haven’t been trick or treating since middle school days, and it is something that I missed a lot! At Disney, they encourage everyone (yes, even the adults) to trick-or-treat! As soon as you get there, you are given a bag and a list of all of the candy stations around the park, where you can pick up some treats (and you can go back as many times as you’d like!).

Of course, Disney wouldn’t be Disney without a special parade and firework show. The parade is called “Boo to You” and the fireworks show is “Hallowishes”. During the firework show, there were projections on the castle that went went along with the music. It was so much fun to sing and scream along. The fireworks were great, but I think that the parade was even better. During the parade, you see characters that are not in the daytime parades, such as the hyenas from the lion king, Oogie boogie, a whole float full of villains, and so many ghouls from the Haunted Mansion!

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The Haunted Mansion performers had really beautiful costumes and their dancing was really good!

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is an experience that I highly recommend to people of all ages. It’s so much fun to get dressed and see other people’s costumes. Also there are so many different things to do like meeting special characters, going trick-or-treating, and eating special treats that are only available during the party. It is something that I will never forget, and I really hope that I will be able to attend again one day!

Being Productive, One Step at a Time

Summer is over and once again it’s time to break out the textbooks and get right back to work. School can feel very overwhelming as the semester starts to kick in and assignments get thrown at you from every angle. Throughout my first year of college, I noticed that a major source of my anxiety came from not planning enough and therefore procrastinating too much or not studying far enough in advance. So this semester, my goal is to stay on top of my due dates and be more organized so that I avoid that stress! Here are some of the things that I am doing to be more productive this semester:

1. Use a planner or printables

Recently, I bought a planner from barnes and noble for less than $15. It has a slot for each day of the week and it also has little section for important notes or for things that I don’t want to forget. Each day, I write down my plan for what I want to get done, as well as the homework that was assigned in that day’s class. I also use printable calendars to write down all of the due dates from the syllabi, since it is nice to see how much time I have in between assignments and activities. A website that I use to get printables is http://emmastudies.com/printables. There are so many different types of sheets that you can use to organize your week, your month, or your study schedule. I have previously used the “Exam Printable Pack” to organize what points I need to revise more before tests. I highly recommend it!

2. Put down the phone!

Phones are probably the biggest distractions that we have today. To combat this temptation, I use an app called Forest. All you have to do is set your timer for however long you want your study session to be, and a tree will begin growing while you study. If you exit the app while the timer is still going, you will kill your tree, so it forces you to stay off your phone. You can also label the study sessions so that you can track how much studying you have done each day for each subject. It feels really rewarding when I look back and see how productive I was. It’s really motivating!
Disclaimer: Forest is a paid app ($1.99), but I made sure that I liked this type of timer before paying for it. There are many other free apps that are very similar such as Focus Now, although there is less freedom when it comes to setting how much time you want to study for.

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3. Use Momentum

Momentum is one of my favorite productivity tools. It is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to write down your To-Do’s and check them off as you finish them. Although having a planner is essential to keep track of everything in the week, Momentum is extremely useful for deciding what you want to get done that day. There is a gorgeous picture from somewhere in the world, a large clock, and a motivating quote on the bottom. Just looking at the screen makes me feel motivated!

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These tips may seem really obvious, but it’s the little things that make a huge difference. Taking a bit of time to plan out your daily schedule and timing your study sessions can help you get more work done in a lot less time. Then you will have more time to get involved or spend time with friends! A good start to the school year will put you on the path to success!

Anyone can Draw

One of my biggest goals this summer is to improve my drawing skills. Personally, drawing is something that calms me and makes me happy, even though I am not a very good artist. But I watched a bunch of videos recently of artists and their drawing progress over a period of time, and I realized that anyone can become a great artist if they are dedicated. Here are some of the tips that I am following to improve:

1. Watch YouTube Tutorials

Today, you can learn to do virtually anything just by watching a YouTube video. I have watched many YouTube videos over the past few weeks that have taught me how to shade more effectively, how to work with guidelines, and how to use colored pencils to create depth in a picture. I also watched videos to learn how to draw eyes and lips realistically. YouTube has proven to be a very important resource to me as I was able to learn so much from it and create drawings that I didn’t know were possible for me!

2. Use a Book

I went to the bookstore around two weeks ago and looked at what they had available for drawing. I flipped through many books, and I found one that I thought might be able to help me learn some of the basic techniques better. The book that I am currently using every day is called You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler. The book has so many different examples of people who used these methods to improve their art, which I find to be very inspiring. The book is split up into lessons, so it is easy to just do a lesson a day. It doesn’t take up much time, but I can already see a change in my skills when I flip through my sketchbook. If you are a person who wants to learn more about drawing techniques, but are too busy or find it hard to commit to learning for a big chunk of time each day, I think it is worthwhile to check out this book and see if it may help you.

3. Watch other people draw their drawings

I guess this could be under the YouTube category, but since I talked more about tutorials in that one, I will consider this a separate category. I like to watch pictures of other people’s artwork to get inspiration to keep drawing. I also like to see what other people do and gather ideas for my own work. Another thing that I think is helpful is watching speed drawings and seeing the process that artists use when they draw. When you look at the steps that other people take to get to their end product, you may want to try something new!

You could follow all of these steps but the most important step to becoming a better artist is…DRAW! Sometimes I fall into the trap of just sitting and watching video after video, but not actually trying anything that I have learned. The only way to improve is to take action. So pick up your pencil and sketchbook and just doodle away!

Taking a Step Back from Technology

After what felt like forever, summer is finally here! We have such a long summer vacation, so it is really easy to lose track of time or waste time scrolling through our phones for hours or sitting and watching Netflix all day. A way that I make my summer more productive and fun is by taking some time to put away my tech and engage in activities that do not involve screens. Here are some of the activities that I enjoy and that make me feel like my time was well spent:

1. Drawing or Coloring

Although I am not very good at drawing, it is an activity that I have always found enjoyable. I like to sketch items that I see around me or animals that I see in the backyard. Other times, I look up cartoon characters (using technology, oops!) and see how my drawing compares with the image online. Sometimes if I don’t feel like drawing, but I still feel like being creative, I pull out a coloring book and start to color! Adult coloring books are really popular today, and you can find a huge selection of them at stores like Barnes and Noble. There are many pretty books that are animal or nature themed, but my favorite coloring book is Harry Potter themed!

2. Painting

Another fun thing to do without technology is painting. I am personally really bad at painting, but I really enjoy messing around with watercolors. They aren’t very messy, and they look really nice when you learn some of the techniques that go along with it. I like to make watercolor bookmarks that I can use in the books that I am currently reading. Going back to the coloring suggestion, in some books if the paper is thick enough, you can use paints instead of colored pencils for a completely different effect.

3. Writing or Journaling

Writing is something that many people can enjoy. I like to write about characters that I created and describe the fantasy worlds that they live in. For people who do not feel like writing an intricate story, journaling is a great alternative. I recently started journaling since I think that it is a fun way to write down and sort through my thoughts. I like decorating my pages with pretty pictures and inspirational quotations. This brings me to my last suggestion…

4. Lettering

This summer, I am trying to learn brush lettering and faux calligraphy. I like how this type of script looks when it is used for motivational quotes or headers in my journal, so I am trying to improve my technique. I find that learning a technique like lettering is very enjoyable and relaxing, and I feel like it is very rewarding as well. Once you perfect this skill, you will be able to apply it to other things like posters or projects.

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Hopefully one day I will be able to create art like this!

Now that I look back at my list, I realize that a lot of my suggestions are art-related. After spending so much time studying in school, I think that it is really worthwhile for us to take some time during the summer to engage in art, and exercise the creative part of our brains. You don’t have to be an artist to be creative. If you have some free time this summer and are looking for a break from your tech, I guarantee you will have fun with any of these activities!

Study Music

I can’t believe it is already April! Exams are just around the corner and finals are coming up faster than I would like. That means that it’s time to log out of Netflix and really get to work!

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I try to get as much work done as possible during the week and on weekends, but sometimes it is just so hard to concentrate when there are so many other things that I would rather be doing. For me, the right study music is essential for me to be able to get anything done. Here is what I listen to while trying to complete specific tasks:

*Disclaimer: I am a Disney fanatic, so most of the music that I use to study are Disney related 🙂

1. While Concentrating or Studying a Difficult Topic: Piano Music

When I am studying for something that requires a lot of concentration, I make sure not to play music with words in it. I also will not listen to music that is really epic or intense since sometimes that can distract me from reading the textbook or concentrating on a difficult topic. Instead, I listen to slow piano music. My personal favorite types to listen to are the Disney Piano instrumentals that you can find by typing in “Disney Piano” on YouTube. I like these because they are songs that both put me in a good mood and at the same time help me to stay focused on the tasks at hand.

If the piano music still seems to be distracting, sometimes I put on an ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) video. I like to play Harry Potter white-noise videos that feature a crackling fireplace in the Gryffindor common room or the bubble of a potion boiling in Snape’s classroom. Hearing these noises help to calm me down if I am nervous and worried about an exam while I am trying to study.

4 hour Disney Piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3j0AdcNJpI

Harry Potter ASMR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyYB-txU6Jg&list=PLjFwUFnGRUqN9pIvCq6TS1FMaJNxX0KEv

2. Tasks that involve practice problems: Upbeat and Intense Soundtracks

If I am studying for a subject that involves doing practice problems, I find that it gets really boring and tedious very quickly. If I listen to slow piano music, that makes me feel tired and I lose motivation during a long study session. That is why I chose to listen to upbeat music instead! The Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack or Game of Thrones soundtrack works best for me since they are intense and most of the songs are fast-paced. This helps me to keep up with my work and prevents me from daydreaming or losing interest in the topic I am studying.

Pirates of the Caribbean Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMQh-rhWaz8

Game of Thrones Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YRd4ARUQkbQ

3. Getting work done: Various Instrumentals

When I am trying to write a paper or finish projects for my classes, I tend to get distracted quickly and procrastinate, and that leads to the task taking a lot longer than necessary! I need to listen to music that will keep me going and help me not get bored. Personally, I like listening to “themed” music, for lack of a better term. For example, I like to listen to music that transports me to a different place. For me, this music tends to be instrumentals, like Celtic or Japanese instrumentals. I also like listening to the themed Disney World area music, since I really like those themes.

Celtic Instrumental: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiwuQ6UHMQg

Japanese Instrumental: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyieFu7BnHE

Disney’s Expedition Everest Area Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrSWblCsAhk

 

Good luck on exams and finals, and I hope these music suggestions help you to be more productive too!

Making Time for Reading

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my first semester, it is that college is really hectic. Every day you have to get up, eat, run to catch the bus, and attend class. Then after studying and doing homework, it feels like you have no energy to do anything else! Last semester, I got caught up in that busy lifestyle, and I lost track of something that is really important to me–reading.

Although school may get really busy at times, and it might be hard to find time for fun, I have learned that it is really possible to make time for a hobby like reading! Here are some of the techniques that I have started using to incorporate reading into my daily schedule:

  1. Read an e-Book

Today, there are so many phone apps such as Nook, Kindle, or iBooks that make it really easy to take books with you wherever you go. I use these apps to add some reading into my day, either while I am either waiting for a class to start, waiting for a friend at the dining hall, or even while I am on the bus! Using a phone app means that there is a book waiting for you and it is literally a tap away. It is easy to use, and makes reading more convenient for the busy student and eager reader.

  1. When you make an agenda, add in reading time

As I make a list of all the tasks that I want to tackle for the day, I also make sure to include “Reading time” as one of them. Whether it be 10 mins, 30 mins or an hour, I make sure to remind myself to read each day so I don’t fall behind on my reading goals. Writing it down as a part of a daily schedule means that every time you look at your task list, you are reminded that reading is a part of your daily goals!

  1. Choose shorter books

During the semester, I choose short and exciting reads (mostly YA books). These books grab your attention very quickly and are usually very fast-paced, making it easier for you to stay interested in the book even while your head might be thinking about other things. Personally, I have noticed that if I try to start reading a long and dense book during the semester, I usually do not finish it. Sometimes I would forget what took place, or sometimes I would lose my emotional attachment to the characters and then have no motivation to continue reading the book. Also, reading shorter books means that you finish them more quickly. The more books I finish reading, the more motivated I get to read more!

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A hefty book like the Hamilton biography might be harder to read during school since it is so long and dense. A smaller book like Throne of Glass is a quick read and captures interest quickly!

 

I hope these tips are helpful for anyone who wants to incorporate a little more reading in their daily lives. At school, it is so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of homework, exams, and extracurriculars, but it is always worthwhile to add in some “me-time” for something relaxing and fun!