Recap(ish): How to Pick a Career (That Actually Fits You)

This is more a reflection inspired by this post from Wait But Why that gave the name to this blog post you’re reading now. It’s really long, but I recommend you read it if you haven’t and do your own reflection.

I’ve wanted to write for at least five years now, maybe even closer to seven. The quality and quantity of my writing was drastically different (see Deleted Drafts: The Etaloniy Story for a prime example of this). But I knew I wanted to write. Initially it was a vague, general desire to write and publish books. I only kind of knew what that meant, and didn’t know what that looked like.

As I grew, physically, mentally, and in this desire to write, I developed strong convictions about making money by making art. In traditional publishing, the author makes royalties from sales, but the publishing house makes a lot of money too. The author probably makes a certain dollar amount from each book sale. It’s also crazy hard to get into traditional publishing. You have to find someone who connects with your story and can see it making them money.

That’s not what I wanted. I felt very strongly that if I were going to put in the hard work to write a book (or other sellable writing) that I wanted to make the money from my efforts if there were any money to be had from them. It would be my intellectual property being sold, it belongs to me, therefore I should benefit from sales. Also, creative control over my work is important to me. The cover image and all the contents. I don’t want to cut or add scenes I don’t want in order to get published.

This lead to the conclusion that I would self-publish. Even if I sell fewer books as a result, even if I don’t become as widely known, I care about my writing being mine more.

I have such a compulsion to write, even if it doesn’t become my career. I will keep doing it. I want to make it my career, at least partially, if I can. To do that, I joined a freelance site, opened commissions, and next month I’m publishing a poetry collection.

How I Work

Location: St. Louis metropolitan area

Current gig: Crafts or Toys associate at Walmart, blogging here and at Over the Invisible Wall

Current mobile device: iPhone 6s

Current computer: I’m not sure, but I run Ubuntu 18.04 “Bionic Beaver”

One word that best describes how you work: Prioritization

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Google Drive, notebooks and pens or pencils, Gmail, Facebook messenger, my phone calendar with notifications

What’s your workspace like?

Messy. Clutter tends to pile up as I prioritize my work for Praxis, blogging, and other projects over putting away the binder I got out two days ago and finding a more permanent place to store some other things.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Write down what is done and the next step before switching to a different task.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

My notebook and gel pens. I also have calendar notifications for hard and fast obligations for the day. I made a larger list of ongoing to-dos in a Google doc which I’m still refining.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Probably my fitness tracker, headphones, and webcam. If non-electronics count as well, my notebooks and pens.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?

Creative problem solving, thinking outside the “box” to find or make a solution that may be unconventional when the conventional solution is not possible or available.

What are you currently reading?

Niche Down by Christopher Lochhead and Heather Clancy. Other books I’m in the middle of: Eldest by Christopher Paolini, The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller, The Last Safe Investment by Bryan Franklin and Michael Ellsburg, and How Could a Loving God…? by Ken Ham. There are probably others that I started reading and forgot about.

What do you listen to while you work?

I mostly don’t listen to anything while working because I find it distracts me more than it helps me focus. I probably just haven’t found the right kind of music for that, but I prefer songs with lyrics most of the time. I might try making a playlist of instrumental songs and listening to it while working to see if it is distracting or not.

I would welcome any suggestions for instrumental work music, leave your recommendations in the comments and I can make a follow-up post reviewing my experience listening to them while working.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

I like to spend a lot of time alone and working on projects in my own space. I like spending time with people, but I get drained by long periods of in-person interaction even when I’m having a really good time and want to be socializing.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I stay up late and get up late, except when I have to get up early for a shift at my job. I tend to be up past midnight and get up around 9 am if the money making is in the afternoon.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The quickest way to improve at anything is to work at it every day, even just a little bit.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I consider how I make money work, my projects work, Praxis obligations work, etc. Anything I’m not doing “just for fun” is work. That doesn’t mean it’s unenjoyable or not fun, though. I spend the mornings before my shifts at Walmart working on my blog, Over the Invisible Wall, other projects, or stuff for Praxis. It’s work, but it’s fulfilling and satisfying rather than tiring and draining.

My Top Three Skills

I’ve cultivated various skills over the years from instruments to foreign languages to needlework to visual art. There are three skills, though, that are valuable and that I’ve worked hard to improve over the last year especially. These are my top three skills.

 

Writing

I am primarily a self-taught writer. In elementary school we had writing assignments, but then from sixth to tenth grade I was homeschooled and my mom isn’t a writer. Before I started dual-enrollment I had some tutoring to prepare me for writing college essays, then I was on my own again. On my own time I practiced creative writing like storytelling and poetry. I’ve improved with practice and by seeking out free online resources about my craft. In February my friend Justine and I launched the bimonthly blog Over the Invisible Wall and in July I started this blog.

 

Customer Service

When I began working at Walmart, I discovered a passion for helping customers find what they need and have the best shopping experience possible. It can be difficult to remain calm and collected with customers who are rude, but I do my best to smile, apologize for any trouble they’ve had while shopping, and improve the rest of their experience. The people who are kind and genuinely appreciative of my help make the frustration of difficult customers more than worth it.

For example, I recently had a customer ask my advice on spray paints for a project she was working on. I didn’t know a lot about our different spray paint products, but I read over the packages’ description of the product and asked questions about the project. I walked from Crafts over to Hardware to show her more options and help her find the very best option. I used information I had along with details she shared with me to give suggestions and improve her shopping experience and hopefully her project as well.

 

Initiative

I do my best to pay attention to what is being done versus what needs done and take it upon myself to complete the task. At Walmart, I’ve picked up the slack in my department that has come from being short staffed. We’re behind and need to work topstock, so I’ve made sure to spend some time during each of my shifts on that. I’m currently the only one who knows how to make fabric remnants, and I’ve cleared out the space under the table that was crammed full of them. Additionally, if I hear customer service paged several times to a department I have experience in, I’ll walk over to find the customer and help them to the best of my abilities. No matter where I’m at or what I’m doing, the customer comes first, and if the associate in that department won’t help them, I will.

The Five People Experiment

You’ve almost certainly heard that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. I was encouraged to think about five traits I want to develop in my life and compare it to traits that define the five people I spend the most time with.

Five traits I want to cultivate:

  1. Productive
  2. Focused
  3. Consistent
  4. Confident
  5. Healthy (in a general sense, both mentally and physically)

 

The five people I spend the most time with and one trait that defines them:

  1. My boyfriend, funny
  2. Justine, productive
  3. Jake, creative
  4. Dad, focused
  5. Mom, selfless

 

There is some overlap in the lists. I don’t only desire improvement in the five areas in my list, those are just the top five now. Humor, creativy, and selflessness are also important to me, so I can appreciate that they can be part of my main circle and influence me.

I’ll be spending more time with people in the Praxis community in the coming months, cultivating relationships with them and working with them as we move towards similar goals. This will help and encourage me in the traits I’m working on.

Writing is Writing is Writing

The reason I have pushed myself to blog every day is to write. To build a habit. To get better at writing. To force myself to finish something every day. And to write. And write some more. (And write some more…)

So, yes, I skipped yesterday. I could tell you all the details that led to that. But it doesn’t really matter.

I did write, though, which is the more important element of blogging.

I answered two questions on Quora and doing so reminded me of how much I enjoy writing answers on the site.

I call myself a writer, and it’s not in name only. I write. You can look at this blog and see when and what I’ve written. You can look at my published work page and my portfolio to see more examples.

I write therefore I am a writer.

Why I’m Not a Christian

I’ve been thinking about writing this for months now. At first I thought it might go on Over the Invisible Wall, but I don’t think it fits. Mostly because of the mission statement we created. I’m finally writing this and telling everyone the truth. I’ve implied a lot about my beliefs through omission of my thoughts, so I’m here to clear up some of the basics and tell my story.

This is just my experience. Your experience can be different. That’s fine. You can believe as you will and so can I.

 

I used to be a Christian, or at least I tried to be.

 

When I was five, I went to vacation Bible school (VBS) at my family’s church. The leaders presented the gospel and I asked Jesus to “come into my heart” so after I died, I could go to heaven. I was terrified of hell. If it’s real, it is and should be terrifying. Eternal, never-ending torture with no relief? Who wouldn’t beg to be forgiven for whatever wrongdoing had sent them there?

 

The next few years I attended VBS, I again went forward to ask Jesus to “come into my heart” to save me. I feared that my previous requests were not genuine and I was still destined for hell. This fear was persistent and recurrent. I could not shake this the whole time I considered myself a Christian.

 

When I was nine, I told my parents and church leaders I wanted to be baptized. At the time, I had some understanding that baptism is a public declaration to the church that you’re a Christian too. I also knew it was something I was supposed to do, but I had never seen anyone get baptized or heard of people I knew getting baptized. I’m not exactly sure how I came to my decision, but I was baptized, along with other kids from my Sunday school class and a few others.

 

Around the age of thirteen, perhaps a bit before, I began to struggle with depression. I now have a hunch that it was likely in part due to the hormonal swing that accompanies the menstrual cycle. However, at the time, and for years, it was a near-constant state for me. I still experienced positive emotions such as happiness but a lot of times I felt hopeless. I recall a myriad of times that I begged God to end my life. I was in a dark place a lot of the time. Most of my poetry from that time is about all the negative thoughts and feelings I had.

I was taught my whole life that I am a horrible, sinful human being that deserves to go to hell, that it is entirely my fault if I end up there, that I will have chosen to go to hell. This intermingled with the other aspects of my depression. I felt very strongly that I deserved to die, that I shouldn’t be alive because I didn’t deserve to live. There were times that things felt too hard to handle, I felt like I couldn’t go on, I didn’t want to live. I frequently had suicidal thoughts. I will not disclose more detail about my thoughts in that vein as it is a dangerous thing to do.

I prayed and prayed. At first, I prayed for God to kill me or make the rapture happen now. Later, I started praying that I might be free of depression. I’m not entirely free of depression, but things are looking up. It took years, though, and I was at risk for a long time before I was able to combat the thoughts I was having.

 

Between the ages of thirteen and about sixteen I kept flip flopping from trying to pursue a relationship with God to giving up and back. When I was pursuing God and godliness I spent a lot of time praying, reading my Bible, and memorizing Bible verses. I asked for closeness, I sought after it. When I prayed, it felt like I was talking to myself. If ever a voice spoke to me when I asked a question, it was quite obviously from my own mind.

I would pray for strength to resist sin, and I would do well avoiding things considered sinful for a few days or a couple weeks. Then I would buckle and cave. I felt incredibly guilty over this. Many times I gave up pursuing God because I kept failing, beating myself up over my failure, asking for help, not getting it, and repeating. More than a few times I decided to quit trying.

 

In that same window of time, I found that I was attracted to girls and guys. I was taught that homosexuality was bad and sinful and against God’s plan. I didn’t choose to be attracted to people regardless of gender. If I chose who I’d find attractive, I would be straight not bisexual. I didn’t understand why something I didn’t choose was so sinful. A position I encountered was that homosexual desires themselves were not wrong but acting on them was. However, to be consistent, you have to acknowledge that based on Jesus’ equation of lust and adultery, homosexual desires are the same as acting upon those desires. It didn’t make sense to me why it was sinful.

 

For about the last year and a half, I started having more problems with aspects of Christianity not making sense. While I thought through some of the contentions, I stumbled into the atheist community on YouTube and started watching videos. A lot of what they were saying made a lot of sense to me. What I knew and understood of theology, philosophy, and logic was not sufficient to form counterarguments I found convincing. At that time, and for a while, I was at near-perfect agnosticism, uncertainty whether there is or is not a god. I have since drifted further from agnostic theism into agnostic atheism.

I have an article I wrote detailing a logical problem I have with a specific aspect of Christianity and God. It is too long to include here so I will be editing it and sharing it in the future.

 

I was once committed to theism and Christianity. My life centered around it. Everyone I knew well was a Christian. It was easy. Over time, faith wasn’t enough, the arguments weren’t convincing enough, and it fell apart for me. That is why I no longer consider myself a Christian.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments. I don’t want a debate, but if you want more detail about certain parts of my story I will do my best to recall them.

Life Is What You Make It (2)

I frequently think about my life, what I want to accomplish, what I’ve done so far, and how long I have to do everything I dream of. This is a series featuring things I’ve written about such things, both poetry and prose.

 

Whether the earth is only a few thousand years old or several billion, we live for only a few fleeting moments in the grand scheme of things. What we choose to do with that time, those moments, is up to us. For some, it is directed by religion, for others it isn’t. In either case we are each in the driver’s seat of our own life, we are in control of where we go and what we do. We only have so long, so we should make the most of it and live the best life we can, whatever that is for us on an individual level. For some that means marriage, parenting, for others singleness, creative pursuits, generosity, showing love and kindness to those who are lacking in some way. There isn’t just one way to live a full life, to feel your life wasn’t wasted, to have as few regrets as possible before you die, if your life is not cut short by some tragic accident. Knowing we are in control of our lives, our direction, our purpose is both freeing and frightening. You can choose to live directed by religion or not as well as so many other things. Life is what you make it. You have one life. Make it count.