5 Things I’ve Learned from Writing My First Short Story

In elementary and middle school, my teachers would encourage me to write a short story. Writing a short story was the perfect outlet for me to unleash my imagination.

Well, I stopped writing stories when I got to high school, since my teachers made me writing essays only.

I didn’t think about writing fiction again until I stumbled upon Yin Chang’s 88 Cups of Tea podcast.

To my surprise, Chang interviews various NY Times Bestsellers on their writing process and struggles they’ve faced as writers.

After listening to the podcast a few times, I decided to write a short story! After editing my final draft, I submitted it to a literary magazine!

No matter what response I get from the magazine, I’m proud of myself for finally writing a short story.

From writing my short story, I’ve learned some things.

1. It’s a process

Don’t expect a perfect draft on the first time. Your story will probably change more than once. Get the idea of perfection out of your head.

2. Don’t get lazy

I will admit that I didn’t work on my story for more than a week. I was being lazy. It was my friend, who was so nice to edit my story, was always asking me when I would get a new draft to her. That forced me to continue perfecting my draft.

3. Expect a lot of rewrites

Coming up with an ending was the most challenging part. Every ending I wrote, my friend rejected it. She expressed that each ending didn’t feel natural for the story.

I took Matt de la Pena’s advice of not overthinking how a scene relates to the story. His advice eventually led me to my ending!

4. Accept constructive criticism

You won’t grow as a writer if you’re unwilling to accept constructive criticism. For example, my friend commented that the dialogue didn’t show the characters’ personalities. Her comments made me realize that the character development aspect was missing in my narration.

5. Utilize free time to write

During my breaks at my temp job, I was working on my story. I always brought a printed copy of my draft, so I could read and revise my story. Using those breaks were so beneficial because I didn’t have to worry about my draft when I got home.

Podcasts As My New Lectures

Back in February, CollegeFashionista emailed me about their new podcast series. I heard about podcasts as a medium vaguely in the past; they were explained as digital radio interviews.

I listened to Amy Levin’s, founder CollegeFashionista, first interview with Joyce Chang, EIC of Self Magazine. Amy Levin asked Joyce how she pursed a career in journalism. Besides journalism, Joyce shared her new habit of meditating in the morning to clear her mind.

Listening to Joyce’s talking about meditation made me make meditation a daily part of my routine.

The podcast interview showed me how information can be presented differently.

Podcast as a medium taps into the audio senses of the mind. Unlike print, you can actually hear the tone and attitude of a person.

On the contrast with video, you’re only listening instead of letting visuals distract you. When you watch an interview on YouTube, you can’t help judge what a person is wearing. That can distract you from understanding the ideas a person is conveying.

Thanks to CollegeFashionista, I have began listening to other podcasts. My favorite is 88 Cups of Tea by Yin Chang. I remembered Yin Chang as Nelly Yuki on “Gossip Girl”.

To my great surprise, Yin switched from acting to hosting. She interviews various creative minds, especially writers and directors, on how their creative process works. Plus, she asks them to give practical advice on deal with writer’s block, such as which computer programs to use.

Just recently, Yin interviewed David J. Peterson, on how he created the language for “Game of Thrones”. I learned the term conlag, which means a person who invents languages.

My new habit of listening to podcasts has shown me that you don’t have to gain knowledge from a classroom only. Podcasts are a free way to gain others’ knowledge and advice. Plus, they are a lot more enjoyable than a typical college lecture.

I recommend that you take the time to listen to a podcast. You will enjoy it.

So Many Career Things Happening…

Hi everyone!

Last time, I revealed my decision to pursue a copywriter career.

Well, I have taken a few steps toward that goal.

1. Launching a website

I’m using Squarespace to design a website for my copywriting business. Squarespace isn’t so hard to use so far. And it gives me flexibility on design layout.

I’ll launch my website very soon.

2. Completing copywriter course

I’m learning a lot from my online class. Been good with doing my assignments.

3. Finding prospective clients

I’m reaching out to people to let them know about my new career move.

5 Rules on Writing/Blogging

School loves to tell us how to write. We’re told that using contractions is wrong. A lot of professors make ridiculous requirements, such as requiring ten pages for an essay.

Well, a lot of things school teaches us are wrong in the real world.

Recently, I have been a contributor writer at Slant News. I have learned a few things about writing.

1. Don’t ramble

Readers have a short attention span. Generally, articles should be between 500 to 800 words. If you ramble, people won’t bother reading the whole thing.

2. Better to keep it short and simple

In school, it’s encouraged to write long sentences and paragraphs. In the real world, that isn’t okay. When writing an paragraph, it’s better to have only one sentence rather than five sentences. People want concise writing.

3. Only give reverent information

Background information is important, but only give facts that matter to your story. Dumping random facts on people will annoy them.

4. Know your audience

You have to cater your writing to whoever is reading it. If it’s for a specific professional crowd, you should incorporate their jargon into your work.

5. Have a clear point of view

Stick to your voice. Know what you want to convey to others.

 

The Difficulties of Forming a Creative Identity

Whether it’s fine art, film making, writing, fashion, music, or anything creative, it’s hard to develop your voice. You feel the pressure to do it all. Well, you can’t and it’s okay.

When you first enter a creative field, it’s huge. There are so many different types of things to do. Everything excites you.

Yet, there is a lot of competition. You fear that not doing enough will make you undesirable for anyone to hire. That fear makes you jump on anything presented to you. You try to tick every box in the industry. This might make you feel accomplished, but you get lost on who you are as a creative mind.

That is why you need to first think about what you want to do exactly. You don’t have to have a very specific idea and you shouldn’t. That sounds so contradictory, but you have to build depth in something without boxing yourself in. You don’t want people to typecast you or else it makes it hard for you to experiment later on.

To succeed, you have to have depth and range. Both are needed because you have to develop your skills well while being opened to different opportunities. It’s hard to achieve this without spreading yourself thin.

My advice is to take your time to figure your creative identity. Taking the time will help you see what works and what doesn’t work. Don’t let the pressure get to you.

Finding Your Voice

The task of finding your voice tends to be a complicated process. You first wonder what it means to have a voice. Even if you know what it means, you can get confused by listening to others who think they know you.

I have struggled to develop my voice. Growing up, I had no idea what my voice was. People kept telling me how I should act. Even in college, my professors strongly told me that my thinking was awful. They almost made me think that their bs style was the best (it turned out that some of my professors lacked originality and creativity). 

Now I have a better idea what my voice is. It has taken me trial and error to find it. This is how I found it:

1. Why do you care to have a voice?

I have realized that you have to have a reason for wanting a voice or else you will drown in confusion.

2. What is the end goal?

Having a clear goal better informs you on who you are trying to talk to.

3. Stop giving a fuck who people think.

It is so easy to let others’ opinions overwhelm you. You have to learn not to take things personally.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others.

I was guilty of comparing myself to others. Self-doubts were strong because I feared that I was not doing enough. It dawn on me that I had to stop thinking that I was doing a shitty job.

5. Keep it moving.

You are bound to have some missteps along the road, but you just have to keep it moving.

By my struggles of figuring out what I feel or think about things, I am getting closer to finding my voice. 

Stimulating the Mind

The structure of school is instilled in us from a young age: classes, essays, exams, and readings. Teachers expose us to different subjects, such as the founding of the United States. We are told of what we are supposed to do.

We no longer have the structure to lean on after college. There is no professor to tell you what you are supposed to learn. Cultivating your desire to learn becomes less important when life throws things at you like bills. You become focus on working, which then makes it hard for you to care about developing your mind.

I fell into this trap after graduation. I was so happy to not have to write pointless essays anymore. No more wasting my time researching things I did not care about. However, I started to feel bored and uninspired.

Part of me questioned what I was supposed to do with myself. I could not think of any task to do. Just laying in my bed, I just stared at the ceiling. I thought, “What am I supposed to do?”

Later in the summer, it dawn on me that I had not written for myself in a long time. I always wrote to please professors in college. It was time for me to write for fun again. However, I wanted to challenge myself again.

Getting on my laptop, I decided to google writing opportunities. Writing contests kept popping up. So, I clicked on those links and read about the contests. That moment made me decide to enter these contests.

I could not be anymore happier about my decision to compete in writing contests. It has made me use my mind again. I have been writing materials and getting my friends to review my work. So far, I feel so stimulated again.

The most important lesson I have learned: Your learning does not stop at the classroom. You have to find ways to challenge yourself. It is up to you to figure out how to stimulate your mind.