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Get Off Your Ass and Follow Your Passion

Hi. My name is Kim-Lee Patterson, and I am a writer. Not just any writer, but a fiction writer with over 13 years of experience in writing pieces—85% of which never see the light of day. Oh, some of my work is out there, but the grand majority of it lies unfinished in an assortment of folders across three separate Cloud drives. Why? Oh, fear, probably.

See, that’s a thing that plagues many creatives.

Actually it plagues people in general, but I feel that creatives are especially bothered because our craft is often viewed as a hobby… or a pastime, you know? We’re told that we must have a lot of time on our hands, and we’re asked over and over again when we’re going to get a “real job.” Family, friends, colleagues and many others assume that you ‘’don’t know what you want” and that you will eventually figure yourself out in time.

And as time goes on and your art still remains your passion, their looks of concern and their scornful commentary rises high enough to rival Everest.

So, with that kind of energy swirling around your head, putting yourself out there can seem like the scariest thing in the world. Especially since I haven’t even mentioned the critics yet. Oh yeah. See, the naysayers and discouragers of your whole passion for art are one lot. But there are also the people who DO see the value in the arts, but don’t see the value in YOUR contribution to it. Their intent and purpose is, apparently, to ensure that you never post another bit of your work again. Ever. Anywhere. But you know something? The strength to rise beyond that and to keep on sharing your talent anyway is a thing that every creative needs to find if he or she is to be considered worthy of the title they hold. Whether writer, painter, illustrator, dancer, singer, musician, and yes, even a crafter, you are not worth your salt if you don’t try and try again.

Aaaaah! Such a cliché. I know.

But listen.

The reason why things become clichés is because they hold true, time and time again—so much so that that are immortalized in this thing we call language. Rise ABOVE. Do you hear me? Yes, I’m preaching to myself here too. We’ve got to fight for what we believe in, and the one thing I think you and I have in common is our love of art—regardless of whatever genre we hail from. Quit the second guessing and bare your ass. No, no…not literally. Come on! You know what I mean. It’s okay to have doubts, it’s okay to be afraid. Hell, it’s okay to feel hurt that most people don’t take you as seriously as you’d like them too. But it sure ain’t okay to hide 85% (or whatever percentage) of your work from the work because you think they may not like it, or because you think it isn’t good enough. Or because you think it still needs “fixing.”

I’ll tell you from experience: you’ll be fixing those goddamn manuscripts forever if you follow your inclinations.

Start a blog. Start a diary. Um, buy a notebook and take pictures of what you write in it and post them to Instagram. Buy a lamp and start being the photographer you think you need fancy equipment to be. Save up and buy a starter mic and put a piece of cloth over the thing ‘til you can afford a filter, and start that podcast. Mount your phone on a selfie stick and model your fashion designs. Get a tape recorder and record your music samples. Stop making excuses!

Yeah, I know, I know. I’m not the world’s best example of having my shit together, or being great at telling myself not to let days and weeks lapse between blog posts, or telling myself that I WILL write those next 1000 words of my novel “tomorrow.” But hey, while I’m screaming at the woman in the mirror to do better, I may as well jot it all down and encourage you too. Maybe I don’t know you. Maybe I do. But I DO want you to know that I’m rooting for you.

All of you.

I don’t care whether you’re full-time, part-time, or “just doing a lil somethin’ on the side.” Whatever you want to call it—if you’re an artist, then for the love of God, be the best artist you can be, with whatever resources you’ve got. Life is way too short to spend it doing only things that don’t make you insanely happy. I’m serious. It is far too short for that. 

3 Ways to Make Online School Work for You

COVID-19 has really changed the way that many of us live. Since March last year, many of us have had to get used to working or studying from home, due to closures and regional lockdowns. Coping with virtual learning can be really hard for people who learn better in groups or prefer the in-person guidance of an instructor to get through their readings and assignments. So how do you cope with online learning when you’re not the kind of person who is naturally self-directed?

3. Create a comfortable environment

Your living situation may or may not be ideal for studying, but there are always ways to make it more comfortable for you. If you have the space, set aside a room just for you to study in. This could work if you’re a young professional living alone or with a partner and have a second bedroom or a den that you could dedicate to study purposes. If you don’t have a separate room, invest in a decorative room divider and set aside a portion of your living room.

Do you live with many people or just have a noisy house? You can study in your bedroom if you don’t have another option, but you will need to make a few changes so that you can focus. I used to keep my PlayStation 4 in my bedroom, but when I returned to full-time studies, I moved it out to the living room so that I would no longer be tempted to run through the streets in GTA V stealing cars and running over helpless pedestrians (yep, somehow I prefer that to actually completing missions). I also bought myself a proper chair and a large enough desk to hold my laptop and leave me enough room to spread out my notes and textbooks.

If you share a bedroom with one or more other people (and you’re all home, thanks to COVID), the noise might still pose a problem and you may not even have space for a desk of your own. In that case, invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling earbuds or headphones so that you can listen to concentration music while you work.

2. Figure out whether you’re a morning or night person

This may not seem very important, but studying when you’re not at peak energy levels can waste a lot of your time. If you’re a night person, don’t study during the day just because someone told you that you should be studying all day and sleeping for eight hours at night. Follow your body. If you’re studying full-time and not working, then create a routine where you sleep until the late morning or early afternoon, and then do something active, such as working out or your daily chores. Once evening rolls around, you can start your assignments and readings, and you will feel alive and motivated.

If you’re a morning person, be sure not to be up on your phone late or leaving all your tasks for the evening. You will be tired and probably not be refreshed when you wake up. Set an early bed time and then get up between 5 to 7 AM to get your studying done. By the time you start to lose energy in the late afternoon and evening, you can then go ahead and do something active, get your errands done, and then go to sleep.

If you’re like me and have messed up energy levels (I have the most energy between 10 PM and 2 AM and again between 5 and 9 AM; the rest of the time, I’m something of a zombie), then work with that. Study when you have the most energy and do everything else when your energy is low. Working out is one of the best things to do when your energy levels are at their lowest because that will help you get your blood flowing and help get you going again.

1. Stay connected with classmates and friends

With most of us in varying forms of lockdown or restrictions on socializing, things can get very lonely, especially if you work from home along with virtual studies. When going to Wal-Mart or the corner shop becomes the main form of entertainment and you haven’t seen your friends in a while, staying motivated is not easy. Since this is quickly becoming our new normal, you may need to get used to connecting with others in ways you’re not used to.

If you’re a university or college student, it’s likely that your courses include online forums for students enrolled in the same course. If you attend your Zoom lectures, it’s likely that your classmates will come together to create a Discord or WhatsApp group chat that you can join. Don’t shy away from these, even if you’re introverted. They can be very useful during moments when you’re feeling isolated or perform better when you’re able to talk things out with others.

Evolution of a Writer

I had all kinds of dreams in elementary school; wanting to be a pilot, a chef, even an architect, all at once.

For a little while, I even dreamed of being a basketball player. I wrote often, but hadn’t thought of it as a career. By the time I entered high school, I had other thoughts. Using computers and the Internet were second-nature to me. The idea of being a counselor or coach crossed my mind. I had never been clear on what I wanted to be and silently wondered if that was normal. It seemed to me that nearly everyone I knew was sure that they wanted to be this and would be studying that. Me? I couldn’t decide. Puzzled and perplexed, I picked up an empty notebook and began to write.

It was hard at first. My wrist ached, but I wrote anyway. “There’s a city over yonder, where I someday want to go…”  it began. Being raised in a Christian family, the line, of course, referred to heaven. Although the poem had nothing to do with anything, it somehow made me feel a whole lot better. Turning to another page, I wrote again. And again. Writing felt so good. No, I didn’t figure out what career I wanted, but I did know that, one way or another, I wanted to be a writer. Knowing that writing might not reliably make a lot of money, I kept it as a part-time gig and kept trying to figure the rest of my life out. But I didn’t stop writing. More than anything else, I wrote poetry. The following year, I began writing a book on the life of one of my favorite heroes. Soon, my collections included short stories, articles, and others. Words were fun for me and English became my favourite subject.

One of my early frustrations with writing was the problem of getting readers. Family members were kind enough, but I wanted more. I needed to get out there. So a couple of months before my 15th birthday, I started a blog. I felt exhilarated—until I realized how much work blogging can be. I was clueless about getting followers or even how to blog effectively, but I was determined. And that’s what made the difference. I soon learned to use my blog as a portfolio of sorts. To be a writer, you have to write and show what you’ve written—or so I told myself. And that’s exactly what I did. 

Blogging became a part of my life. It was my way of getting readers without having to get everything I wrote published. When I did publish my first book in 2011, I was so happy. Finally, I was no longer only a writer; I was an author as well. Shortly after, I produced my first e-book, a much cheaper, faster way to publish. No one was entirely surprised. I had been a scribbler and a bookworm from childhood—they knew I was happiest when dealing with pencil and paper. They weren’t wrong, I like to have my way with words. Whatever I can’t or won’t say with my tongue is said through my fingertips. It is my way to express, to learn, and to teach. I’ve been writing all my life

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