Vocabulary Differences

I use words differently than most people around me. Not in a way that hinders understanding, but my word choice sometimes surprises people.

Today at work, my manager remarked on my use of “unwieldy.” I actually realize now I said it wrong, because I said “unwieldly,” with an extra l. He said a lot of other people would have used “awkward” or another more common word.

Previously, another coworker was surprised by a word I used, though I cannot recall which word it was.

That got me thinking, why do I use a different vocabulary to most of the people I interact with?

For the most part, it’s fairly similar, with a few uncommon word choices. Sometimes I’ll use a word with creative liberty, like finagle. I don’t use that exactly as the definition, “obtain by devious or dishonest means” (according to Google). I have remarked to a friend that I was trying to finagle my hair tie (ponytail holder) out of my hair. It adds a layer of meaning that implies it is difficult and I cannot do it as I would normally.

Over time, I have encountered and learned a wide variety of words. I have admired odd or meaning-heavy word choices. I find it exciting and creative. That has likely contributed to my adoption of unusual and uncommon words into my vocabulary.

I tend to go through cycles of infatuation with specific words, interestingly enough. For a week or even a few days, I might really enjoy using unwieldy or finagle or some other word. (Sorry I cannot think of more specific examples other than those two at the moment.) Then I might find or remember another word I really like and start using it again.

When I think of a word choice that fits and feels correct, I use it, even if it may seem wrong or strange to other people. Most of the time, I have not had confusion with this approach, though it has been seen as amusing. I’ve also had cases where I learned I was using a word completely incorrectly and it did not work in my chosen context even with creative liberty. That happens. I learned and adjusted my speech and writing according to my newfound knowledge.

I enjoy surprising people with the freshness of unfamiliar or infrequently-used words. I’m not trying to show off or appear smart by using “big words” or words people don’t hear often. I’m trying to use the right word, and often that’s not the usual way of expressing that idea.

I love unusual words. Share your favorite uncommon word with me in the comments!

Newly Vegetarian: My First Week

For the last week, I haven’t eaten meat. The last time I had meat was for lunch on Monday December 3rd.

I decided to stop eating meat while writing An Informal Discussion of the Ethics of Eating Meat for Over the Invisible Wall. My research included an article about fish and fishing and a video of a vegan’s thought-provoking speech on eating meat. I did more research on the meat industry.

Monday night and Tuesday I hadn’t fully committed. I thought I would try it or eat a lot less meat. I was eating vegetarian, but thought I would eat meat Wednesday night. I managed to abstain from meat, including bacon. Bacon was the biggest temptation. My grandma offered me bacon on Monday and my parents made bacon on Tuesday. I almost caved. Almost.

Wednesday I thought I’d have a small amount of meat for dinner. I was ready to commit to eating significantly less meat, but was still debating if I’d have any meat. That night I found I didn’t want to eat the chicken. That surprised me. I’d expected it to take longer for me to be disinterested in meat. I was definitely not disinterested in the leftover bacon in the fridge, but I didn’t want the chicken I’d made.

Thursday was harder than anticipated. It was my first day back at work since I’d stopped eating meat. I thought Panera would be easy because there’s a lot of various options. How wrong I was! While making people’s food, I remembered how much I love the chipotle chicken avocado melt and the Cuban panini… and bacon. I was reminded of my love for bacon countless times. I told myself, “Bacon is the enemy,” and laughed at myself for that. I also realized only two of the soups are vegetarian and I don’t really like one of them. I still managed to not order anything with meat.

Friday was the best of the first four days. I had fewer problems with feeling hungry and had an easier time abstaining from meat. I talked with Julianna Carbonare, a member of my Praxis cohort who has been vegetarian and vegan, about my problem with hunger. She suggested that I need more protein, so I made an effort to increase my protein intake. I had eggs twice, for breakfast and lunch. I discovered that the green passion smoothie at Panera is fantastic with basil.

Saturday I had thought out what I’d eat ahead of time. I learned that Culver’s, a burger place, surprisingly has a vegetarian soup and a few salads. At this point, it was already getting easier and feeling more natural to not eat meat. I did not want it, and only craved bacon a few times while at work. I had a better understanding of how much I needed to eat throughout the day to not feel ravenously hungry.

By the end of the week (only a week!) it felt natural. I never thought I would ever be vegetarian, but now I am.

Throughout the week I talked a lot with my friend Justine about food and eating vegetarian. She shared the information she had and suggested some food ideas. At her recommendation, I bought a few vegetarian canned soups from the brand Amy’s. I picked out some other soups while browsing. I made overnight oats Friday night and they lasted through Monday morning. I made protein “cookies” for a portable, filling snack early in the week. That first batch had a grainy texture that didn’t feel like a cookie, but the taste was good. I made another batch Monday morning before work. I didn’t follow a recipe or write down how I made them, just combined ingredients based on my knowledge of baking in general and cookies more specifically. They turned out better this time, but they were a bit crispier than I intended.

I’ve had to be more conscious of what I’m eating and putting in my body. I pay attention to foods that contain protein, because that helps stave off hunger between meals. I did some research to make this easier and now have a list of 36 plants or plant based foods that contain protein.

It’s been difficult starting out, but I feel good about what I’m eating and that I’m not harming animals.

Effective Writing Critique

I’ve been part of writing groups, both in person and informally online. The best way to improve your own writing and be able to read it critically is to learn how to critique other people’s writing.

It’s easier to find problems in other people’s writing, because you experience it as the reader rather than the author.

I’ve grown as a writer through working with Justine on Over the Invisible Wall and having a consistent exchange of writing. We’ve been reading and critiquing each other’s work since the beginning. That helps both of us to see what we’re doing right and wrong and point that out to the other person.

This is the blogging month with Praxis, and we write a post and comment on two other people’s posts everday. Not only are we practicing writing itself, but we’re also practicing writing critique.

I’ve made a point of noting places the post I read was confusing or distracting or any other problems that seemed to be in how the post was written.

But I’m not overly critical of the piece, and my approach is important. If I only provide negative feedback, that will bring my cohort down.

I can’t just point out what’s wrong, I also have to point out what’s right and what I like about the post.

Having that positive feedback is not only encouraging, it also makes it easier to take the criticism, to realize that it’s not an attack, but intended to be helpful.

With my experience of giving critique in the past and practicing it now, I’m improving my ability to look at my own work critically. I get quicker at recognizing the problems in my own posts, my own writing, and learn how to fix them.

Writers can’t improve in a vacuum. Writing practice will take you far, but critique can multiply the benefits for you and your fellow writers.

How I Finished my Poetry Manuscript in 2 Weeks

I chose and gathered together the poems for Inside a Writer’s Head several months ago. I tried a few times after that to organize the collection to no avail.

Part of that was my own fault, for trying to organize the collection while choosing the poems, but I also had no idea where to start.

Cue the guiding hand of the Praxis program. I was only one week into Module one when I started thinking about my portfolio project for this month. I talked with Hannah Frankman, the module one advisor, about my goals for the program and how it played into my longer term goals. I initially wanted to finish and publish Inside a Writer’s Head for my project but was advised that a better project would be to market it.

I had my work cut out for me. It was hard at first, and I had to do some research to get some ideas.

To help eliminate the block I had created, I deleted all the section names I’d added. Then I started reading and moved poems around as I did so. I familiarized myself with the poems such that I got ideas for sequences and poems to put together. As I read through the collection more and moved the poems around more, it got easier.

I amazed myself by finishing the manuscript in one week instead of two.

In order to do this, I put my other projects on hold so the poetry collection would be ready for this month.

I also scrapped my initial plan of designing the cover myself. I knew it would take me more time than I had to play around with options and create a design I was happy with.

I reached out first to Alexandra Wagner, a Praxis participant in my cohort. She said she would be unable to complete it by the time I needed it. I asked for suggestions of who to work with and found Jacob Beman. He has a website where he sells clothes with designs he created, and I liked the style and nature of his work. He agreed to work with me and did a really great job on my book cover. I reviewed his work here.

Three things allowed me to have a self-publishing-ready poetry collection: Focused work, a deadline, and finding the right designer.

If you can focus on the project you intent to complete instead of jumping project to project you will surprise yourself how quickly you can complete it.

The deadline for completing the project seemed really tight and super hard to meet. I pushed myself to finish quickly and surprised myself with the speed of my work. If I hadn’t had the extra push to finish the collection before November, it would have taken me longer. If it had been less urgent, I wouldn’t have been as focused or as driven to complete it as quickly as I did.

Find a designer whose work you could see being a great fit for your vison of your book cover and who is excited to work with you. Both of those make for a great experience working with that person and lead to you getting a result you love.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. For $5 you get early access to part three of the Diary of Kaashif Sarwan and another post later this month as well. There are other rewards at every tier, so be sure to check it out!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

How Praxis Teaches Self-Directed Learning

Praxis, the one year educational bootcamp and apprenticeship program I’m in, encourages and guides self-directed learning.

Self-directed learning is exactly what it sounds like: Learning you pursue yourself.

In the one to two months of pre-program, Praxis participants build their website, LinkedIn, pitch deck, and professional email address. More detail on that here. This is a foundation to build on throughout the remainder of the bootcamp.

In Module/month 1, those pre-program deliverables are refined and further improved. More things are built, including some blog posts to give insight into who you are, how you work, and how you are growing. More on that here.

In Module/month 2, the self-directed learning really goes into full swing. Now participants think of, plan, and execute a month-long project to showcase existing skills or build a new skill. The project is self-directed with additional guidance and feedback from the program advisors and fellow participants.

This is as far as I’ve gotten in the program, but already I’ve taught myself the basics of making a pitch deck, telling my story on LinkedIn, making a pitch video, some video editing, and how to create and self-publish a poetry collection.

I had guidance and input, but I pursued these and the knowledge required for these on my own. I am being taught how to teach myself.

I’m developing my notetaking skills during the Wednseday calls, while reading books, and in the learning I pursue not directly tied to Praxis.

In all this, I’m being encouraged by my peers and advisors to lean in to my curiosity and seek out knowledge, and to showcase my capturing of that knowledge. That’s primarily on my blog, but I’m working to expand that to YouTube as well.

By doing projects and leaning outside of my comfort zone, I’m learning skills and expanding that comfort zone.

Based on my experience, I would say the best way to effectively master self-directed learning is this: Find or build a community of people who seek out knowledge, share that knowledge, and encourage each other in the pursuit of knowledge. Use what you learn. Do a project to learn something or to show the world you have learned it.

If you like reading this blog, please check out my Patreon. There’s some cool rewards available, just waiting for someone like you to claim them.