Writing A Better Future: My goals for the next year

Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris. Over the past year, I've written for publications I read growing up. Though most outlets weren't lucrative, this work built a portfolio of clips from many different industries. During the next year, I plan to focus even more closely on establishing my writing career.

About nine months ago, I began treating my writing as a business rather than as a hobby. I took calculated risks, shamelessly promoted myself, and began hustling. Once I did, I started asking the right (and the wrong) questions of more experienced writers. I read everything I could find about business writing, and started implementing their techniques.

Now, I've hit a plateau. Since September, my month of just doing it, I haven't placed an article in a new market. I've had more pitches rejected than ever before. Conversely, I've pitched more new outlets than ever before.

But I'm still scared -- still anxious that my writing isn't good or quippy or editable. That it won't be enough, and because of it, I won't be enough. It's still a scary possibility to me, and it's one that I'm no longer willing to entertain.

A few days ago, I hit the point where I refuse to take crap from anyone. Including myself. As a result, this line of thought is no longer tolerated because I am enough, both in writing and in life. With this attitude, I will break into new markets, learn about new topics, and generally kick ass.

With this attitude, no one can stand in my way. Watch out.

See Clair Write Like Crazy

Celebrate ALL THE HOLIDAYS. Two years ago, I started this blog as a way to connect with other woman writers through the Blog Like Crazy challenge. That November, I skipped a couple days and made it to day 27. Then I stopped blogging for a month. Last year, I did something similar. I started strong, kept writing posts a couple days ahead, and then I quit with a few days left.

Since then, I've posted sporadically about things I wanted and/or needed to shape into words. Instead of blogging, I've been writing my butt off for publications on all different levels. Instead of using my blog as a writing exercise, I pretend that people can't see my blog has been neglected.

Let me be clear: this problem is one that I've dreamed of having, but now that it's present, I'm scared of screwing it up. I spend inordinate amounts of time overthinking word choices and syntax. I pitch headlines and ledes and then work with editors to craft them into something eye-catching.

But most of the time, I'm writing. I'm pulling together stories and articles from memories and research. Putting words on paper (or a computer screen) releases pressure I didn't know was building up in my brain, and keeps me grounded.

This November, I won't be blogging like crazy -- I'll be writing like crazy. Every day, I'll post either a blog entry or an article that went live that day. For the article days, I'll write up a little blurb about the piece's background. Expect things like tips for research, how to keep interviews on course, or even thoughts on negotiating writer's block.

Hopefully, a month of celebrating writing, and especially blogging, will help me to rekindle my love for the medium. Even if it doesn't, it'll get me back into the habit of writing every day. Once I get that back on track, I'll be unstoppable.

 

Starting Fresh

Photo credit to Jessica Jack Wyrick "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Last weekend, I came across the Mary Oliver poem that included that line, and it's stuck with me. Since then, I've been hustling my freelance game harder than ever before. As a result, I'm calling September The Month of Just Doing It. So far, I've pitched two national publications and one regional one. I've requested an update from a private client, and scheduled an interview.

Even though I haven't been blogging, I've been writing more than ever before on many of the same topics. Here's a handy list of life updates:

  • I still love cocktails. My dream of writing for mental_floss has been a reality for almost a year, and my editor's help in finding my voice in science writing has been invaluable. Read those posts here.
  • I'm exercising regularly. Not all of the written entries have been posted yet, but having Chris Conn as my personal trainer at Omega Life Fitness has pushed me to a new level of fitness. On to the next goal.
  • Rejection is OK. I've already had a pitch rejected from one national publication, but immediately pitched another. If my motivation to keep moving, working, failing and learning ever stops, I'm finished as a freelancer. For The Month of Just Doing It, I will continue to research and pitch new stories, even if they fail. I also entered a cocktail competition earlier this year and made it to the finals. I didn't win, but did learn a lot from the process itself.
  • I'm engaged. Even before I was engaged, I was writing for Love Inc., a wedding publication dedicated to all love -- equally. I've written about buying a wedding dress, getting engaged (in that order), and various industry trends.
  • I don't like new things. As a writer, being change-averse is both silly and counter-productive. Without experiencing new things, you can't develop new material for any medium. This weekend, Adam and I went to a marksmanship clinic. It was a new and thoroughly frustrating experience, but I can now hit a target with a damn fine grouping at 100 yds, and am a passable shot up to 400 yds. This winter, I'll go hunting with Adam for the first time.
  • Bartending is still awesome. Writing and bartending are two of my passions, and getting to pursue them both concurrently is amazing. But both take hustle, hard work and energy. Over the next few months, I'll be ramping up my networking on both fronts to see how I can move them forward.

Red Flags

red-flags1During a tutoring session yesterday, I overheard a preliminary interview between a young freelance graphic designer and a businessman. Their conversation included phrases like "Let's keep this in cash, but I won't see you before the first deadline. I don't trust the U.S. Postal Service to deliver anything, much less money, but it's probably our best bet." Several times during their conversation, the businessmen made some statements that would have sent me running for cover. After a few hours, their conversation was still rumbling around the back of my head. To compensate, I made a list of ways to tactfully respond to things that would make me immediately (or slowly) turn tail.

  • "I'd expect to get minor changes resolved ASAP. Our last in-house designer would take 12 - 24 hours for minor things and that's unacceptable." "Unfortunately, sometimes changes that appear minor on the surface can cause a lot of changes to style or composition. I will do my best to get changes back to you in the timeliest possible fashion."
  • "I'm not familiar with the software you've used. Can you swap over to [this dissimilar program]?" "Yes, but only if you're willing to pay for the cost of the program and a slight fee to learn it.
  • "If we give you a check, we'll have to send you a 1099." "If this contract extends to less than $600, a 1099 is not required by the IRS. Though it's a pain in the butt, those forms also allow me to write off related expenses."
  • "I'd really rather pay you in cash." "That will work, but I will require a written contract, half of the total amount before I begin the project and the other half at the time of completion. Are you available on [this date] to meet to discuss the particulars of the arrangement?"
  • "Awlright, sweetheart." *dead eyed stare.* "Is there anything else you'd like to discuss?"

Writing lessons learned from my puppy

Tessie's first snow day. About a month ago, Adam and I adopted a retriever blend puppy from Decatur Animal Services. Our mostly well-behaved Tessie has adjusted well, and we've all gotten the hang of our new routine. During that time, I've also learned some valuable lessons from watching her play and grow.

Shit happens. Clean it up, set better boundaries and move on. There's really nothing to be gained except more stress from focusing on it for any longer than you have to.

Chase what you love. Even when it's tough or you just want to nap or it seems someone's stolen your ball -- er, idea -- keep chasing it until you've got a firm grasp. Then, play with it. Come up with a fresh angle of attack and carry it all the way back to your editor.

Multitasking is like trying to fit two toys in your mouth at once. The moment you've got a grasp on one, the other falls out. Personally, I end up getting distracted from one project any time I get an idea about the other and both end up jumbled and in need of a rewrite. Focus on one, and some of the distractions are gone.

Food is really, really important. Recently, time crunches have meant I've eaten too much junk and too few veggies. As a result, my energy levels, concentration and health have taken a nose dive. That's started to change for the better, but still can use some work.

Sleep is even more important. It's OK to flop over and nap when you've tired yourself out running after stories. Just set a timer, get back up and go after it.

Toys and stories are hidden everywhere. Yes, the possibility of rejection makes pitching difficult, but an unwillingness to dig for topics (or treasure or sticks) isn't an excuse. Keep looking and pitching and it'll come together. Promise.

Get out from behind the screen. If Tessie's up on the couch with me, she'll walk on my laptop keyboard and lick my screen if she needs anything. I've taken more productive breaks for a short burst of exercise or mental health cuddles since we adopted her than ever before. As a writer, these breaks prevent burnout and will, ultimately, make me stronger and healthier overall. It also never hurts to spend time with a puppy.

2014

Pretty much. 2013 was full of more love, triumph and running than any other year before it. At the beginning of the year, I was about to leave my first (and probably last) ever corporate job to start working at a local hospital. After only a few months, I left that job to bartend and freelance.

As a beginning bartender, the hours and fluctuating pay have been challenging, but knowing I don't have to keep office hours can be its own reward. Technique-wise, it's been so fun to begin mastering the basics and working towards a deeper understanding of the foundations and science that underpin it. However, the combined time constraints of Adam's and my work often mean that we can go days without seeing each other for more than five minutes. During this upcoming year, I will set my priorities and honor them as such.

I also began treating my writing like a business and building it accordingly. This approach has expanded my market significantly and given me a bit of financial wiggle room. Connections within my network have afforded an online column for mental_floss, pieces for a gorgeous wedding magazine and a continued relationship with my first freelance client. In 2014, I'll build my market and marketable (writing) skill set even further.

This year also marked the start of my journey to become a runner. It hasn't been easy or extremely consistent, but it's consistently demonstrated the necessity of exercise. I haven't been blogging much about writing or running recently because I had too much material. Once that had passed, I didn't have enough so I stayed away. That changes in 2014. Instead of trying to continue a breakneck pace of personal blogging, I'm cutting back.

Each week, I will be posting twice: one Cocktail of the Week post and one running or writing post. Two posts each week will provide a stable schedule (hopefully) without giving me an excuse to skip runs. 2014 looks different than any previous year, but it looks pretty nice from here. Bring it on, 2014. Bring it on.

Adequate beyond measure

He loves me. One of my biggest struggles is with adequacy. Deadlines put me into an almost perpetual spin of balancing talent I know I have and a fear of not being enough. When I didn't finish the Blog Like Crazy challenge, I threw a pretty epic pity party. Despite the nastiness, I managed and rocked ten deadlines in sixteen days. My blog and running fell by the wayside. As a result, my mood fluctuated a lot and I started spacing out at work.

Through it all, Adam was amazing. His support and reassurance kept what's left of my sanity intact, even as he himself was going through finals. Without him, I would probably have been curled up in a little ball before cranking out a last minute second draft. His encouragement (and cooking) have provided the backup and strength I needed to knock everything out.

Every time I began getting a handle on myself, something came up. First, it was applying for healthcare. Though my income is far below the cutoff for subsidies, I only qualified for $9 per month. The increase will most likely supersede setting up a Roth IRA. On the bright side, it's spurred me into self-incorporating -- once that's done, healthcare costs become a tax-deductible expense.

On Christmas day, I went running for the first time in more weeks than I'm willing to admit. It was a short run, made shorter still by Guntersville's hills, but it felt so good. Today I'll be working out my hips and legs, and tomorrow I'll be going back out. Starting almost from scratch isn't fun, but getting back into the swing of it will be good.

From here, I have a couple weeks to re-establish myself (and my blog and running and writing) until my next deadline. This mini-break will give me a chance to de-stress, catch up on fun and enjoy bowl season. During this time I'll also be able to pitch new article ideas and maybe even give myself a pedicure. It's been a while.

Today's title is modified from a quote by Marianne Williamson. "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

Not-so-needful things

See? I have all that I need.

It's come to my attention that I'm hard to shop for. Personally, I think my interests are pretty straightforward, but if I need something, I'm not going to wait for a holiday. If I can afford it, I'm likely to buy it immediately. So, here's a list of the nonessentials I've got my eye on right now by category of interest:

  • For running, I'm looking out for deals on GPS watches and extra pairs of running tights and headbands. Though I haven't been the best at keeping up with running during the deadline crunch, it'd be good to stock up for the cooler months to come.
  • Writing-wise, I need to update my business casual wardrobe. Some of the pieces in it were purchased when I was a completely different shape. Since I'm cheap and hate shopping, it'll probably be a while before this need is met.
  • Though I get a lot of practice bartending while I'm on shift, I should probably stock my home bar. After purchasing a mixing spoon and shaker tins of my own, I'm getting closer, but I need to also stock vermouth, fruit, syrups, strainers, bitters and rum. My wishlist is also full of bartending books: Gary Regan's The Joy of Mixology, David Wondrich's Punch! and Imbibe!, David Embury's The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, to name a few.

Let's be honest: I'm probably not going to leave my couch today. I don't like the concept or execution of Black Friday and therefore will not be participating if I can avoid it. I hope your Black Friday is similarly relaxing!

Life's high notes

Writing playlist. I can't live without music. Since I was little, I've listened to or played music every day. But each day is different, so its playlist follows its structure, not some proscribed outline. The songs I choose are picked based on my rules, which are eerily similar to those for playing music in a public place.

  1. Gauge the mood. No one wants to hear hyper Latin pop if they're just hanging out. Likewise, the same music has its place during runs and workouts, but not many other places.
  2. Be mindful. If you're by yourself, pay attention to how the music affects you. Listen to the music that sets the tone for the rest of your day. After all, you don't want to be the only spacy emo kid at the disco or that twitchy overcaffeinated jock at the symphony. Don't be that guy.
  3. Make dedicated playlists. Appropriating specific songs for specific occasions heightens their significance to that activity. Assign songs to activities and don't let them cross over.
  4. Being sad is OK. Happiness is a constant choice, but the world can be overwhelming. Choose happiness, but take time to experience your other emotions. If you need a musical boost to lift or deepen your mood, pick your songs accordingly.
  5. Do it and dig it. Trashy rap aficionado? Get your daily dose of humor at Snacks n Shit. Classical junkie? Rock out with your Bach out. Time is too precious to listen to music you dislike. There's no reason to make yourself unhappy.

Meanwhile, in my living room

Hey look! My exercise buddy and person! Today, I didn't want to write. I want to curl up in a blanket and stare at my bedroom's ceiling tiles, not confront all of the deadlines looming right after Thanksgiving. Despite the funk, I'm up and about.

Days like this are the reason that I exercise. Even just 15 minutes of yoga or running or lifting weights has the almost magical ability to get me back to emotionally level within a few hours. This week, my schedule is riddled with deadlines and bartending shifts. Between the seven remaining deadlines and quite a few hours behind the bar, I'm seeking out all the things I can do instead of knocking out deadlines early.

The problem is that fitness won't wait. If I put it off, my mood suffers, but if I commit to it, I'm diverting precious energy with the knowledge my energy levels will eventually increase exponentially. It may sound like lip service to the proven research on science, but it's true. Though I want to melt into the couch, I won't.

In my years on this planet, I've experienced the ups and downs that come with living fully. The sadness and joy and love and craziness that accompany it are natural parts. These emotions are vital to being human. They're also so powerful that they can control the path of life, but exercise can help to regulate them.

Even if a short yoga session only serves as a quick mental break, the time spent will be well worth it. As a science, tech and writing nerd, my brain is usually stuck in high gear, and running or lifting slow my thoughts just enough to keep me sane. So, if you need me, I'm unplugging for the next 45 minutes before I go in to Octane.

Marvel-ous Blondes

xmenAs a kid, I adored Marvel comics. I had a compendium of The X-Men Universe, watched cartoons and read graphic novels. Though there were lots of women in strong, empowering roles, none of them looked quite like me. Except the villains. As a tiny towheaded super nerd, the only women blonde women I encountered were bimbos or plotting to kill Dr. X.

Admittedly, I didn't make the connection until I was researching possible cosplay options, but the conflict was there. In spending an hour or two (or three) looking through the X-Men Wikia, I found a few random, inconsequential characters who appeared occasionally to round out a shoot in the X-Men movies.

I hear you shouting "Emma Frost! What about Emma Frost?!" Yes, there were a few storylines where she was totally and entirely good from the start, but she's a villain at some point in most of them. As I looked into the matter further, I became more and more frustrated with the Universe that used to be my escape.

After a while, I searched Reddit. Talk about a rabbit hole -- I ended up spending 30 minutes looking at pictures of dogs dressed up as superheroes, but didn't find anything that addressed the lack of blondes. Once I got back on track, I found several threads debating the hottest character, but it didn't seem like Redditors cared about much above the neckline.

Though we female nerds have been speaking out more and more, there's still a lot of bias to overcome within certain fandoms. I understand that the target audience for these comics is adolescent and pre-adolescent boys, but a good number of girls and women read them as well. So where'd the blondes go?!

Have any theories? Leave them in the comments.

Slow burning

Egg salad sammich, Steel City pop and pine nut tarte delivered with love. At age 24, I've already burned out on two jobs. The two side jobs that I kept and resulting lack of sleep probably didn't help, but the side work kept my sense of fulfillment intact. That said, I was so unhappy during this time that I came close to just giving up, work-wise. Here's a list of things I did to break that funk:

  • Lists. What's making you miserable at work? Is it the work, your attitude or your coworkers? Does your job offer you anything positive? Taking time to appraise your situation can tell you a lot about the job's worth within your life. If there's nothing positive left, it might be time to look elsewhere.
  • Find what makes you happy. Find it, focus on it, and start working towards doing it more often. Even if you can only practice it for 15 minutes a day, put in the time to do what makes you happy.
  • Exercise. No matter how busy you think you are, you are the only one who can choose to exercise or not. Get up and move on your coffee breaks or Google ten minute workouts to do when you get home. You'll work off excess energy that can prevent you from sleeping and undo some of the effects of working at a desk all day.
  • Take your vacation days. America is one of the only places in the world where workers don't actively plan to take all of their vacation days every year. Even taking a small, tech-free staycation can go a long way towards fostering a sense of rest and relaxation.
  • Pamper yourself. You don't have to spend $100 or more to pamper yourself. Get a massage through a local massage school or take a yoga class at your local gym or see if you can find ways to barter for these services privately.

Ask a writer: Cecilia Dominic

MountainsShadow-The72lgToday's prompt for Blog Like Crazy is to do a Q & A with someone I admired. Cecilia Dominic is that person; as a clinical psychologist by day and fiction writer by night, she has committed to her passion by writing every day. This year, her first book was released by Samhain Publication. Called The Mountain's Shadow, this novel features Joanie Fisher, a research scientist who studies an amped up version of ADHD titled Chronic Lycanthropy Syndrome. When her grandfather disappears and his will is read, she inherits the family's manor. The house and sprawling grounds come with a catch: the nearby town's children disappear during every full moon...and her butler turns into a werewolf. After a months' long hiatus from reading fiction, I tore through The Mountain's Shadow in a few hours. Its smart writing and thoughtful dialogue are complimented by Dominic's scientifically precise descriptions. When I spoke with her, she was between sessions with patients at work. Her book is available through all major e-book retailers.

Clair McLafferty for See Clair Write: How did you get started writing?

CD: Apparently I wrote my first story when I was two. I dictated it to my mother, and apparently it was about a bunny. Speaking of, I need to ask her to dig it out because reading it now would be hilarious. After that, I wrote little stories on and off during school. I only got serious about it during graduate school when I needed something to keep me sane.

SCW: What made you choose to write fantasy?

CD: That’s just kind of how it happened. I love to read fantasy, and I really love urban fantasy. I think I always wanted the world to be more interesting than it is.

SCW: How did you connect with your publisher?

CD: It was a slush pile submission. One of the representatives from a publication house, Samhain Publishing, had come to talk to the Georgia Romance Writers. I sent in my sub about six months later, and it ended up on my editor, Holly Adkinson’s, desk. We went from there.

SCW: When did you start blogging?

CD: I started blogging almost six years ago in 2008. In 2007, we had gone through cancer treatments with one of our cats that were intense and eventually unsuccessful. They lasted from March to December, after that whole ordeal was over, I was feeling the need to take care of something. We could either get a dog, have a baby or start a wine blog. We decided that the wine blog would be the most feasible.

SCW: What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

CD: I would say that once you write your first book and are sending it out, don’t wait to write your second book until that one is published. Just keep writing. With every book, you’ll learn something that you can take back and use to revise earlier drafts.

There are things I wouldn’t do again. By the time my first book had gotten accepted, I had written three more. It was great because I thought that made the manuscript better, and when the publisher said that they wanted another one within six momnths, I had the process down. It saved me a lot of stress to know that I could do it.

SCW: Anything I missed or that you’d like to add?

 CD: I am still in search of the perfect writing cocktail.

Have a cocktail for Cecilia? Leave it in the comments!

Manifesting a manifesto

Photo credit to Mary Katherine Morris Photography Outside of blogging personally, I maintain a laser focus on my goals. I'm pretty damn good at managing my time and resources and forming connections with interesting, diverse people. On here, though, I've held on to the idea that I could write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and use this website as a personal portfolio.

Once I formulated a set editorial schedule, I started working past my mental blocks and got in a blogging routine. It didn't evolve how I thought it would, but it evolved into my writing about topics I care about deeply and talk about often. With that in mind, I've put together a kind of manifesto of my intentions for this blog:

This blog is a record of my journey as a writer, runner and bartender. It will be an honest accounting of my life, even when the truth is uncomfortable. It's my place to show kindness and love for others, to strive to be a better person and to learn everything I can that will add value to my life. It will also accurately showcase my talents as a writer -- even when I'm so busy I want to get off my schedule. Lastly, it will continue to serve as a point of connection with other amazingly talented writers in the community.

As I keep saying, I can't wait to see what other connections writing will add to my life. After two years of wonderful things, it can only get better from here.

Coffee and cocktails

octane_coffee_logo As some of you may know, I work in a coffee shop that serves alcohol. That said, you won't find Kahlua or Bailey's on our shelves. We're not trained to make hundreds and hundreds of shots that will get you white girl wasted. But we are nerds. Any of the denizens of coffee world can talk your ear off about our espresso beverages and coffee beans, and any of us bartenders comes with a huge repository of product and classic cocktail knowledge.

Despite my description, Octane doesn't employ a cadre of fully functional (and well-coiffed) coffee- and booze-savvy robots. In the words of one of my coworkers, "We're the nerds who finally get to be cool because we're into coffee and cocktails." We geek out on this stuff because it's cool to us, not because of its newly christened place in popular culture. As a writer with a column on cocktail chemistry, I'm constantly looking to study parts of the drink making process that I haven't examined before. Personally, as a perfectionist who studied under one of the best (thanks, Angel!), my technique can always use a little work.

It's not perfect or truly glamorous work. In the past six months, I've lost weight from running around...and taken more time to recover from late nights. I might be young, but I don't bounce back as quickly from sleep deprivation as I used to. On average, I drink less than I used to, mainly because my palate has evolved so that I can't tolerate things I used to like a lot.

Over the past six months, I've learned a lot about how I like to live and work. After almost nine months of jobs I tolerated to pay the bills, not dreading waking up has been an amazingly positive change. It's also made a huge difference to know that I want to learn more about everything I'm doing when I go home. My cocktail book collection is growing at a very steady pace and doesn't appear to be stopping any time soon, and my home bar is getting stocked very slowly.

It's been amazing to see what a change of work environment has done in six months. Needless to say, I'm really excited to see where it will take me next. Until then, I'll be meeting the plethora of deadlines I have looming over the next two weeks.

I get by with a little help from my friends

Who dressed up as her boss for Halloween? This kid. Last year, one of my favorite posts for Blog Like Crazy was about the power of female friendship. Though the majority of 2013 has been better than 2012, it's been friends of both genders who have made sure I stayed as sane as possible. They have shown me what love can add to even the fullest life and have embraced me and all my flaws.

The people I call friends have been amazingly supportive during my transition out of 9-to-5s that I hated. They were encouraging and loving, but if I was miserable and wouldn't admit it, they were more than willing to give me the kick in the ass that I desperately needed. It's been this strength and high set of standards that's lead me to demand more for myself and my life.

Bartending is a largely male-dominated field, and here in the South that can mean that women in the industry are held to a different standard. It's not easy, but it's satisfying and surprisingly intellectual work that adds layers and layers of complexity to what would appear to be a straightforward basic skill set. At Octane, I was the first woman to successfully complete the barbacking process at Octane, and am one of only a handful of female craft bartenders in the city.

My female friends especially have been my biggest cheerleaders in starting to bartend, so it's been amazingly refreshing to be able to pass along that support. Jack Wyrick, one of my incredibly talented photog/blogging/creative/handy friends (if you don't know her work, check out this and this), started at Octane this past Saturday. Seeing her focused on learning and joking around with people made me proud and excited for the future of the food industry and, more importantly, my friends here in Birmingham.

Y'all, it's important to earn money, but it's just as important to make a life instead of a living. My friends have pushed me even when it wasn't comfortable financially or psychologically to work towards what would make me happy, not what would provide benefits or a set 401K. Their support in hard times has gotten me through any and all obstacles in my way. They enrich my life with their stories and their advice, and I can't really and truly can't thank them enough.

Who wears what?

photo (17)I may work in what I consider stylish or cool fields, but my personal style tends to be anything but. Most of the pieces in my wardrobe were under $50, and most of them are several years old. I take care of my clothing as best I can, but changing shapes a few times from running has rendered even the most form-fitting dresses unflattering. When I find shirts that fit, I buy the same one in several different colors. As a result, my outfits don't vary much from day to day. With the craziness of bartending and writing, I haven't had time to tailor them back into well fitted wardrobe pieces, so much of what I wear is a little baggy.

I'm also cheap. Shopping and spending money are two of my least favorite things, so I stay away from malls and shopping sites as much as possible. When considered along with my height -- I'm 6'1" -- shopping becomes a nightmare. As a result, I've gotten creative with outfit choices.

To be perfectly frank, most of these outfits are held together by fashion-oriented apathy. Call it a bad attitude, but it's what makes my outfits work. That, and buying clothing that fits my body type. Though it often takes days or weeks to find just a few shirts or a pair of pants, anything I buy fits well when I try it on in the store.

Other than that, I don't buy clothes (outside of running duds. You can't let those shoes get too old). In the near future, I'll be replacing some of my dressy black flats that are three years old and falling apart at the seams, but otherwise you won't find me out at the mall. Really though, I need to step up my game -- and my wardrobe. Though it pains me, I should really go shopping sometime soon. Anyone up for taking on a fashion mentee?

How not to become a full-time writer

netflixI love writing. Building individual words into words and articles that demonstrate my knowledge and wit has been an incredibly fun way to spend my time and energy outside of bartending. However, I've recently become aware that some habits I've formed are not conducive in any way, shape or form to expanding my freelance markets. I've put together a list of the worst offenders to help others avoid my mistakes.

  • Netflix is a fantastic substitute for cable. However, there are millions of hours' worth of TV shows and movies available instantly. Getting sucked into a show (or three or four) is easy, but extracting yourself is not. Start watching Supernatural at your own risk.
  • Complacency is easy. There's something to be said for treating your current clients like gold -- it's absolutely necessary for a freelancer to succeed -- but it's another to stay within your boundaries because they're comfortable. Taking action will mean facing rejection and bouncing back, but just asking could lead to possibilities you'd only imagined. After reading mental_floss as a kid, I never thought I'd actually have a column on their website, but I do. It's more awesome than I could have imagined.
  • Networking is a buzzword for a reason. Writing and freelancing do depend on your knowledge, but breaking into new markets is just as dependent on who you know as what you know. Until you reach out to your friends and acquaintances, you'll never know what opportunities their networks can offer.
  • A personal blog can be a great way to put your thoughts out there for the Internet to judge, but it can also turn into a distraction from real, paying deadlines and important personal connections. Balance is key.
  • Ignoring your limits is a great way to get yourself sick, overwhelmed and unable to function at all. Taking on too much work can seem like the perfect way to set yourself apart from the crowd, but it can also backfire -- hard. If you get exhausted and miss a deadline, it'll make an editor remember you in a way that can harmfully impact your personal brand.

How to change your form

After attending a running form clinic, I was informed that I was "caught in the marathon shuffle." My knees weren't driving forward much at all, and the rest of my body was compensating. As a result, I burn more energy than necessary and am not building strength or endurance effectively. The report from the clinic also outlined ways to start changing my stride, and I found that many items were applicable in both running and writing.

  • One step at a time. It's difficult to focus on more than one thing at a time while you're running, so consciously work to change one aspect of your form at a time. For writing, choose one stylistic element to tweak whether it's your diction, syntax or grammar. The tiny changes will add up.
  • Be mindful. Your body and writing won't stand up well to abuse. Work towards change; don't try to force it all at once. You're liable to get burned out and/or injured.
  • Research experts' advice. Just like in writing, you have to research authors' credentials and backgrounds. Their information will inform how you treat your body or body of work, so choose and implement information only from trusted sources.
  • Don't fight it. Yes, you're trying to change ingrained behavior patterns. No, it's not going to be particularly easy. Change happens, and with some direction on your part, it can ensure better results.
  • Uncomfortable is normal, overwhelming pain is not. Running through minor pain and cramping is par for the course. If the pain gets unbearable or overwhelming, slow down. You'll be out of the game longer with a compound injury than you would if you slow your training. Likewise, writing in new areas can expand your boundaries as an author, but if an article topic makes you downright uncomfortable, it might not be a good fit. Your emotional health is more important.

InstaVine that tweet

When anything remotely photo worthy happens at the Octane bar, one of the bartenders will usually start saying something along the lines of "InstaVine that! Better catch it now!" You haven't missed out on a new social media outlet. We just like to treat them as a unified whole. It's easier that way. My relationship with Twitter is specifically pretty good. I love the creativity the 140 character limit inspires. It's an extremely easy way to share content with a lot of people and to gauge their future responses to different subjects. It can also turn into a mob of disgruntled, faceless bullies in a heartbeat. Personally, I've given into making my Twitter account my own rather than trying to turn myself into a branded wonder. It's just not who I am.

In the writing world, I follow a lot of amazing writers. If not for @writeousbabe and the @seejanewritemag Blog Like Crazy challenge last year, I wouldn't have a blog. Javacia, the beauty and brains behind it, has been immeasurably helpful in providing advice (directly and indirectly) that has made my freelancing what it is. I also owe @bhamboxset for getting started both freelancing and blogging -- Carla Jean has been my mentor and friend and occasional tech support since 2011. Listing all of the writers and bloggers I admire and follow would take days, so I'll keep my list abbreviated.

To keep myself informed and entertained, I follow @mental_floss. Full disclosure: I write a column for their website, but their lists and informational stuff is too awesome not to share. For all things girl nerdy, I follow @ThreeChicGeeks and @BakerStBabes and a ridiculous number of others. My nerd is strong.

Otherwise, I follow friends, people I admire, magazines and websites I want to write for and many others. Oh, and @fernetbranca. If you're not familiar with their deliciously herbaceous and bitter spirit, remedy that. After all, it had a medical dispensation during Prohibition, so it's medicine, and medicine's good for you, right? Let's go with that.

Today's topic was to shout out to the people I follow on Twitter. There are a lot, so I chose seven.