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The Rumination Antidote

Do you find yourself continually lost in thought? Do you find that as you go about your daily business at work, at home, or out with friends, negative thoughts seem to intrude into your consciousness and distract you from being present in the moment? Do you find that your mind swirls uncontrollably as you recount past negative experiences, one after the other? Once you start, do you find it impossible to stop and feel as though your mind has completely taken over?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you could suffer from rumination. Side effects of rumination include anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue, health problems, selfishness, and sour relationships. If you are prone to ruminating, don’t worry. The good news is that you’re not alone — and I know the secret antidote!

For many years, I myself suffered from rumination. When something bad happened in my life, I found it nearly impossible to move on from it because I felt like my mind kept mulling it over and over and over and over. Even if something bad happened three years previously, my mind would ruminate about it like the bad event had happened yesterday. There was no escape! I felt like my mind was continually holding me as a prisoner. For many years, I felt helplessly enslaved to my own mind.

It took me a long time, but eventually I realized that the situations that happened in my life were not the problem. The problem, I discovered, was that I kept ruminating about the negative situations in my life. It was the ruminating that paralyzed me from moving forward, not the events themselves.

Once I understood this, it took me awhile before I discovered the secret antidote. Eventually, I discovered the antidote in a book called How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie. In this book, Carnegie describes the critical thinking method, which is by far the most invaluable piece of advice that I have ever received in my life. By practicing critical thinking every day, I was soon able to gain control of the thoughts that continually swirled around in my mind and I was able to think of solutions to move forward. Not only that, but I could actually take action; as a result, I could cease thinking about the same problems over and over again.

So how does it work?

Good critical thinking skills employ the following steps:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What is the cause of the problem?
  3. What are my goals?
  4. What are all solutions to the problem?
  5. What is the best solution to the problem?

All you have to do to unpack a problem– ie) controlling the swirling thoughts that ruminate around in your mind– is to sit down and write out the answers to these questions on a piece of paper.

Absolutely revolutionary. What. A. Genius!

Not only does the critical thinking method allow you to remove the thoughts from your mind, but it also allows you to unpack the problem and actually think about solutions to the problem. In addition, it helps you to reframe your mind from one of negativity (thinking about a problem) to one of positivity (thinking about your goals and solutions). Huzzah!

Once you practice critical thinking, then you will start to really think through the decisions you make. Eventually you will become so good at this that you will start to make really good decisions on your own. Consequently, you will rely less on other people’s advice and perspective and rely more on your own. As a result of this, you will build a self worth and a trust in yourself simply because you have the knowledge that you can make great decisions all by yourself.

When you think about it, rumination is actually a combination of 1) anxiety, 2) unforgiveness, and 3) victim mentality. People who ruminate frequently are paralyzed with fear of taking action because they do not know how to avoid repeating the same negative event or circumstance again in the future. People who ruminate frequently are simply blaming other people or circumstances for their own misfortune in life. They do not know how to move forward because they are stuck in the same bad circumstances from the past, as bitter victims.

As I learned, the best way to un-stick yourself from the past is to learn how to forgive the people who hurt you and to cultivate an accountability mindset. Learn how to examine the situation from both sides to determine what role you played in causing your own current situation of misfortune and then learn how to grow from it. Improve yourself to be better or to act differently so that you can avoid similar misfortune in the future. Lastly, cultivate a mindset of accountability and responsibility.

Remember: You, and you alone, are responsible for your current circumstances and your life. If you do not like something, then think critically about it and then take action to change it. This is the secret antidote.

 

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Align Your Purpose(s)

In my last post, Become a Master of Time Management, I discussed how to organize your schedule for maximum efficiency. Not only that, but I gave advice on how to incorporate your “sub-goals,” or daily habits, into your schedule in order to work towards achieving your life goals. But what do you do when you have multiple life goals that all seem to conflict and collide with each other? How do you move forward in all areas when you seemingly need 28 hours in a day instead of 24? Read on for some tips on how to Align Your Purpose(s).

For me personally, I have always been double-, triple-, even quadruple- and quintuple-minded. As a musician, writer, and business entrepreneur, I have always had many goals and ambitions for myself and my life. In addition to my professional goals, I also wanted to prioritize the more common and widespread goals of living a long life and being a responsible person. As a result of this, I have always found it hard to focus on and prioritize just one thing.  So confusing! No wonder I had issues fitting everything into the same day.

To make matters even more confusing, when I first started thinking about goals and time management, I was trapped in a standard 9-5 corporate job which actually ended up taking over my entire life. I therefore had no time or energy left over to actually work on my goals at all. In spite of this, I stayed at my job because “I needed to earn money to pay my bills so that I could work on my passions, goals, and dreams.”

Unfortunately at that time, I did not understand the vital flaw in this logic. Maybe I did understand it on a subconscious level, but that didn’t mean that I actually knew what to do to fix it. The result was increasing frustration, irritation, and helplessness with my life on the surface and not understanding what was causing it.

Step #1: Prioritize Your Values

The first thing I did solve this problem was to compare my ideal list of values (how I would like to spend my time) with my actual values (the way that I was actually spending my time). My lists looked like this:

My ideal values:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Music
  3. Writing
  4. Business
  5. Job
  6. Housework

My actual values:

  1. Job
  2. Living a long life
  3. Business
  4. Housework
  5. Music
  6. Writing

Writing these lists, as you can see, was pretty jarring. It woke me up to the fact that I was, for the most part, prioritizing all the “responsible” aspects of life and was not really delving into either of my passions. No wonder I felt so frustrated and unfulfilled! I decided to do something about it.

Step #2: Quit Your Day Job

I know, this decision is not for everyone. That being said, it was definitely the right decision for me. I realized that if I wanted to live a life of true authenticity, I needed to make my music and writing more of a priority. So I rid myself of the largest time-sucker of all: the 9-5 job. Once I quit my job, I decided to earn money as a professional musician and as a business entrepreneur.

Once I quit my job, I felt much more comfortable and secure in the fact that the life that I was living was far more in alignment with my values than it had ever been previously. That being said, I still struggled with music goals vs business goals, and I hardly ever had time to write.

What was causing this problem? Each category had its own goals, sub-goals, and daily habits, there turned out to be not enough hours in the day to prioritize everything at the same time. Even though I tried my best to streamline, combine, and shuffle things around, I still felt too overwhelmed to fully focus on everything at the same time because I felt like I was way too overly extended to be successful in everything.

For example, I would make some success with my music in piano, but then my viola would suffer. Or I would prioritize my viola and my piano would suffer. Or I would have it on track with both instruments, but then I would never go to the gym. Or I would have the gym on track at the same time as the housework, but not do any music. Or I would have the gym and both instruments on track but neglect the housework. That’s not even mentioning my writing or my business. Sheesh.

See? Too many variables. No good. All it did was make me upset with myself for not being able to consistently follow through on anything because I had too many things going on at the same time. Because of this, I still felt deeply unsettled and unsatisfied. While I had made a large amount of progress, I had not yet achieved perfection (lol).

Step #3: Establish Mutual Purpose

Next, I decided to really look into each category and see if they were all truly important to me. Then I asked myself why they were so important to me and what was my purpose that was driving me towards completing goals in each area.

When I answered these questions, I still said that yes, all of these things are f*cking important. Clearly. Even though I still wished that I could hire a personal assistant and/or marry a hot husband who did all the housework, so that *I* didn’t have to be the one to do it, it was still important to me that someone did it.

Housework aside, what was really interesting when I completed this step was that I actually did manage to establish a mutual purpose behind my goals of living a long life, music, writing, and business.

My Mutual Purpose:

  1. I want to overcome to become. I want to overcome the negative, toxic, and scarcity experiences from my past to become a happy, healthy, and wholesome person who lives a life of abundance.
  2. I want to use my knowledge and experience to help others overcome negativity and toxicity and also live happy, healthy, and wholesome lives. I want to break others out of scarcity mindset and help them also live lives of abundance.

I was both relieved and pleased to discover that I was actually using three different channels to achieve the same mutual purpose. However, this still did not solve my problem of not having enough hours in the day and not being able to achieve long-term consistency in any category.

Step #4: The One Thing

While I had established that all of my goals were noble and that they all did serve the same mutual purpose, I had to take a good, hard look at each category to determine the order and the level of impact for each. Which one category allowed me to facilitate success in the other categories? Which category helped me the most in my own overcoming and healing process? Which category helped me the most in my quest to help others?

Another way of thinking about it is like a row of dominoes. Which domino is the most powerful that, if you could knock it down, it would result in the others also falling down? This is what I set out to find.

When I completed this step, the results were pretty shocking. I realized that while in the past I had achieved great success in my overcoming and healing process through my writing, I actually was now currently achieving better results with my personal growth through my business opportunity. While I still enjoyed writing, I realized that it no longer served me to write novels the way that it did in the past. Thus I decided to put novel writing on-hold for the time being and instead write about personal growth in this blog. See what I did there?

For my music, I realized that while I am currently making a difference with my students and with my performances, I will be able to make even more of an impact when I have the funding available to create my own Grand Performance Academy. In starting my own music academy, I will have control of the environment and culture, so that I can ensure that I am only teaching students (and parents) with the right attitude and mindset of abundance. Therefore, in order to become more selective with my music, I realized that I needed to first focus on building my business. The change and movement that I will make in the music industry will therefore be a byproduct of the results of building my business.

As a result, I decided to focus and concentrate first and foremost on building my business. Not only does building my business help me with my first goal of overcoming to become, but it also helps me in my quest to help others overcome to become. Not only that, but down the line I can make an even greater impact and change in the music industry once I have the finances in place to be able to do so.

Therefore, my order of priorities has now shifted to the following:

  1. Living a long life
  2. Business
  3. Music
  4. Writing
  5. Housework

Which therefore made it possible to streamline all of my daily habits and fit them into a 24-hour day, actually even less-than. Ironically, since making the decision to focus more on my business, I have since spent more time playing my instruments, going to music concerts, and writing. I call that a triple-minded success!

Become a Master of Time Management

For some people, time management comes very easily. Starting from the time that they first crawl out of the cradle, they already know how to be early for things, wake up in the morning, and set up a schedule with all of their activities neatly aligned and time-blocked. These people know how to plan very effectively. These people also know how to correctly estimate how much time it realistically takes to do everything.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I am not one of these fortunate people who came out of the womb with all of her ducks in a row. Time management skills are not a talent that have ever come easily to me. For the past two years, I have agonized and struggled to become even  proficient at this, let alone become a master. That being said, the good news is that if I can learn it, anyone can! Read on for the tiresome fruits of my labor my tips.

Step #1: Figure out exactly how long it takes you to do everything.

I’m not even kidding. Become attached to your watch, or your phone, or however else you tell time (a sundial? is that even still a thing?) and write down how long it takes you to go to the gym, clean the kitchen, brush your teeth, commute to work, scroll through Facebook, etc. You may need to do this a few times to get a consistent idea of how long each activity actually takes you.

Side note: commuting to work (or commuting anywhere for that matter) does not take the exact amount of time that it tells you it does when you research your route on Google maps. Not only do you have to drive there (the amount of time that you researched), but you also have to walk from your house to your car. Then you have to put all of your stuff into your car. Then once you arrive in the work parking lot, then you have to walk from your car into the office with all of your stuff. Then you have to punch in, get coffee, and be “early” to impress the higher-ups. Translation: a 15-minute commute on Google maps actually takes at least 30 minutes, if not more. And that’s not even accounting for traffic jams, lane closures, road construction, and detours.

Once you know how long it takes you to do everything (realistically), the next step is to organize everything you need to do.

Step #2: Organize everything.

It’s not just about deciding what time of day that you should do certain things on your list. It’s about also thinking realistically about what time you actually gravitate towards doing certain things. If you do not take the time to do this, chances are you will not be very successful in following through on your schedule (unless you have super-human long-term consistency skills, accountability skills, and emotional stability).

For example, you might have the best intentions to wake up at 5 am to work out. But will you? Or will you just end up hitting the snooze button 30+ times because you’re not a morning person and you don’t want to wake up, and then get mad at yourself for not following through on your commitment to yourself (guilty)? Maybe you will be more successful if you put your workout after work instead, because then you would be working in your strength zone (being a night owl). Working with yourself, instead of against yourself, is key.

That being said, this step in particular takes quite a bit of practice if you are not used to thinking realistically about what order you should do different activities. You may need to create different versions of your schedule, try them out, and then revise/tweak them until you find a progression of activities that actually works well for you and your energy needs.

Step #3: Managing your to-do list.

Before I studied time management skills, I always felt completely swamped and overwhelmed by what I coined “annoying phone calls” – aka spending three hours on the phone with some company trying to resolve a conflict or issue and then having it turn into a huge ordeal/crisis each time.

Pro tip: call at a time when not many other people are calling. At first I thought that calling in the morning was best, but in reality almost all other people also call in the morning. Generally people think that they are being smart and so they try to call before they have to go to work, but because everyone else also thinks that they are being smart by calling in before work, it simply does not work. I’ve found that calling in the early afternoon (1 pm) is best. If you call at 1 pm, not only are you calling in after all the lunch break callers are finished, but you also have the benefit that the person you’re speaking with also probably just took their lunch break and is now in a great mood, therefore actually wanting to help you. Problem solved.

In addition to refining the timing of when you call, also make sure to divy the calls and errands up into small chunks each day so that they are not so overwhelming. Invest in a daily planner and write yourself a note to call your credit card company on Monday, the insurance company on Tuesday, the bank on Wednesday, etc. What I find helpful is to spend a little bit of time thinking and planning your errands and phone calls for the week each Sunday and then divying them up into your personal planner.

Step #4: Actually completing the household chores.

For those of you reading this who aspire to some day hiring a personal assistant to take care of all this #$*%, I feel you. I am one of them. If you have a spouse or a roommate who actually enjoys doing these things (just like natural time managers, some people come out of the womb and actually enjoy cleaning. Again, I am not one of them.), then I am somewhat jealous of you but also wish that you would be more selfless and help that person out. If you already have a personal assistant who does it, I hate you.

If you don’t have an obliging spouse or roommate and you do not have a personal assistant, the good news is that once you have steps 1-3 down, step #4 should be a piece of cake. Once you know how long it takes you to clean the bathroom, clean the kitchen, do laundry, clean your room, change your sheets and towels, water your plants, back up your computer, update your iPod, go grocery shopping, cook meals, do your budget, do your tax log, and do your mileage tracker, then you are already in pretty good shape. Knowledge is power.

The next step is, of course, to organize (step #2) and divide and conquer (step #3). When do you feel more inclined to complete these chores? Some people prefer to lump-sum all of them and dedicate their whole Saturday towards doing it. Other people prefer to split it up and do some of it each morning before work. Other people split it up differently and do some chores on the weekdays and some chores on the weekends. Again, no two people are alike and you can totally customize this to your strength zone.

Step #5: Handling a crisis.

Ah, the crisis. This one will be very quick. Is it really a crisis, or are you just procrastinating on the work that you actually need to do???!

Ahem.

Step #6: Prioritization.

Once you generally know how to schedule according to your strength zone, and once you have all the annoying bits in check so that you can truthfully refer to yourself as a Responsible Person, then the next step is to prioritize and fine-tune your schedule so that you are working every day to achieve your life goals.

What if you don’t have any life goals? Well, get some! Become passionate about something and go for it. Develop some #ambition (or in my case, #BlondeAmbition).

Once you have a list of your goals, you will need to spend some time planning the sub-steps (or “deadlines,” if you prefer) in which you will work to complete them. Once you have the sub-steps identified, then you can determine the daily habits that you need to put into place in order to get yourself there. Then you can update your schedule accordingly to include your daily habits. This may require some juggling and shuffling in other areas in order to prioritize your daily habits, but it will all be worth it in the end. Trust.

Help! All of goals seem to collide with each other and there are simply not enough hours in the day for me to complete everything!!! What do I do???!!!

This was me for a very long time, so I feel you. The good news is, I worked my way through it, and so can you. In my next post I will cover this topic in more detail.

Anyway, there you have it! If you follow these 6 Steps consistently and work to improve, then you will become a Master of Time Management in no time.

The Six Main Self-Care Areas for Adults

If you’re like most adults, you struggle greatly with finding balance and meaning in your life. You might be asking yourself, “Who am I, really? What is my purpose in life? How can I serve and give back to others? How am I supposed to accomplish my life’s purpose at the same time as working a full-time job, managing my home, maintaining good relationships, and taking care of myself?”

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, the majority of us were not taught how to balance our lives in school, nor were we taught how to create a meaningful life, legacy, and impact for ourselves. That being said, don’t let this deter you! Regardless of what age you are, there is always a chance to start fresh and change your life in a positive direction in order to produce the best results possible. All it takes is some prioritization, focus, determination, and diligence, and balance will be yours. As long as you maintain an eagerness to learn and a willingness to change your mindset, then the world will truly be your oyster.

So what is the best way to get started? There is a lot that goes into balancing your life, as well as many questions to ask. “How much time should I spend working? How do I build my financial empire? How often should I cook and clean? How often should I go to the gym? How often should I see my friends and family? How often should I work on my to-do list? How do I make good decisions? How do I manage and prevent crises? How often should I take a break, relax, and de-stress?”

Those are just the questions that apply to your life in the moment. There are also larger-scale questions to think about, such as, “how much time should I spend thinking about life in the moment vs life in the big picture? How do I achieve my goals in life at the same time as taking care of myself properly? When is it appropriate to be selfless and when it is it appropriate to be selfish? How much of my time should be spent trying to excel in this life, vs how much should be spent preparing for the next life (in a spiritual sense)?”

If a there’s a lot that goes into balancing your life, and there’s a lot of questions to ask, where do we even begin? How do we even begin to tackle this complicated problem?

To start with, I will share with you the six main self-care areas for adults. In order to achieve balance in your life, you must master the following areas:

  1. Self-Care. If it is your goal to serve and give back to others in life, then you must first be able to serve and give back to yourself. Take care of yourself mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually, and see your ability to help others soar. Self-care is the foundation for living a lengthy, prosperous, and vivacious life.
  2. Mindset and Attitude. If you would like to maintain healthy relationships with others, you again must first start with yourself. Cultivate an abundance mindset of selflessness, patience, grace, empathy, and forgiveness (after all, isn’t this the attitude that you would like others to take when they relate to you?). Take the time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as a person and work to improve yourself as needed.
  3. Much of our stress in life comes from unhealthy, toxic relationships. Become a master of good conflict resolution, boundaries and standards, expectations, laws, and rules of society in order to maintain good relationships with others. Be prepared to snip or limit the time you spend with others if necessary.
  4. Learn how to make better decisions in your life that will achieve the optimal result. Employ critical thinking skills (what a lifesaver!) to navigate personal and professional issues. Learn how to prevent crises from happening in your life and how to mitigate them once they do.
  5. Time Management. Much of our stress in life comes from poor time management skills. Take back control of your time, instead of having your time control you. Organize your schedule, to-do list, goals, thoughts, and mind. Streamline for better efficiency and set realistic goals for easing yourself into your schedule. Allow time for planning and reflecting in order to improve your system.
  6. In addition to better managing your relationships and your time, you should also spend some time in self-discovery mode. Much of our stress in life comes from lack of alignment with ourselves in our lives. Spend some time determining who you are, what you stand for, what your purpose is, and what your goals and dreams are. Once you know all of this, just go do it! Seek full alignment with yourself and start today.

With a complete mastery in all of these areas, you will significantly manage and reduce the amount of stress you feel in your life. Not only that, but you will be on track to achieve greatness in your life and you will be able to set out to help others. There is no better balance than being relaxed, healthy, happy, and set on a vision!

Welcome to ‘Find Your Balance’!

Do you feel like you are completely and utterly overwhelmed by all of life’s demands? Do you find that you are stressed out beyond belief trying to take proper care of yourself, at the same time as managing your to-do list, at the same time as working full time? Do you find yourself truly unable to cram everything into a twenty-four hour day and instead wish that you had thirty hours in the day (or maybe a personal chef, maid, and assistant to take care of the chores)? Do you find yourself continually resentful of the people closest to you, having fight after fight with them that never gets resolved, and then ruminating about the problems for months afterward? Do you consistently find yourself in the midst of a crisis that you didn’t see coming, and then do you have to delegate hundreds of unpleasant hours afterward cleaning up your own mess? What if you do have a plan to set yourself up for success in all areas of life, but then find yourself not wanting to follow through on your own schedule and instead end up curling up on the couch, watching a romantic comedy, and shoving chocolate down your throat as you break down in panicked misery?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, this blog is for you!

Oftentimes, we feel overwhelmed by life because our lives are not in balance. Who can blame us? There’s so much that goes into taking care of ourselves properly and taking care of our responsibilities. From mental, physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual well-being, to working to pay our bills, to taking care of our homes, it is no wonder that we are overwhelmed by life. As if all that weren’t enough, we also need to maintain good relationships with our loved ones and be selfless, giving people. With all of that on our plate, how do we even have time to focus on our passions in life and work toward achieving our life’s purpose? How is it possible to find the balance between being productive in all areas of life and relaxing?

In my new blog, Find Your Balance, I will explore with you the idea of a balanced life. I will discuss the importance of self-care, mindset and attitude, maintaining good relationships, thinking, time management, and alignment. Before you know it, you will be a master of balance in your own life! To learn more about specific balancing tips in each area, read on to my next post, “The Six Main Self-Care Areas for Adults.”

New Publication

Hi everyone! I am very pleased to announce that my scientific article has been accepted for publication by the International Journal of Earth Sciences. Check it out here:

Porous Media of the Red River Formation, Williston Basin, North Dakota: A Possible Sedimentary Enhanced Geothermal System
      -International Journal of Earth Sciences (2016)
The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00531-016-1398-9.

I am very pleased that my research has been published in such a prestigious journal. It took a lot of work and a lot of revision to do it, but in the end, I succeeded! I am very proud of how well the final article turned out. I can only hope that my article will be useful to other scientists who are completing similar research!

Now that both halves of my master’s thesis have been independently published (the other half was published by the Geothermal Resources Council in 2015), I want to switch gears and focus on writing my new-adult fiction novels.

I feel a calling in life to help other people. My goal in writing new-adult fiction is to talk about struggles that other people face, but that they are too ashamed to talk about. There is no shame in anybody’s struggles, regardless of whether or not they are “big” or “small,” or regardless of what those struggles even are to begin with. I want people who are struggling and suffering to know that they are not alone out there, that other people go through similar situations as they are, and that there is a way out of those situations to the other side.

I can’t wait until my novels are published. I know that I can impact a great many lives with my writing and that my writing can help to make other people’s lives better. I am still putting the final touches on my first novel, but stay ‘tuned for more updates about that!

Submissions

Hello everyone! It has been a crazy few months, but let me fill you in on all the exciting things I’ve been up to.

First, I completed a second round of revisions for my scientific article. I just finished these last week. I’m not sure how many rounds of revisions there will be before my article gets published, but IJES is very prestigious and thus there might be more revisions to complete in the future.

That being said, the revisions I made in this last round resulted in a very cohesive piece. The article now reads very well, being both concise and informative. So hopefully this set of revisions will be the last before publication, but we will see!

After I submitted my article revisions, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I actually found a new place to submit my novel unsolicited! From my preliminary research, the publisher seems to offer good contracts to their authors, so I figure it’s worth a shot!

Before I submit, I am going through the novel again to make sure that everything is on-point. I have to say, I am really digging this intro with the prologue! It’s funny how when you put something away for a few months and then work on it again, you can see it more clearly with fresh eyes for what it is. This opening works very well!

Last night I polished up the introductory frame, so now I’m working more on the middle section. From the part I read last night, the work I had done a few months ago really paid off! You would never have guessed that the main character had sounded flat at one point. Now she has a really strong voice and a lot of attitude (lol).

Anyway, with the long weekend ahead I am going to work on my novel as much as possible. I will submit very soon! I foresee lots of coffee in my future as I prepare my manuscript. 😀

More Articles; More Revisions

After I finished my scientific article revisions, I decided to write an article for Cosmo. This article is a short piece (about 800 words) on the subject of body image issues. I submitted the article to them last Tuesday, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Hopefully it will appear in a future issue 🙂

Once I was done with the Cosmo article, I started working again on polishing up my novel. I am still fixing up the middle section of it so that it’s less flat when written from the first-person perspective. Another thing that I’m doing is organizing the whole section so that it has improved flow and clarity. This is proving to be more difficult than I realized.

Much of the difficulty lies in the fact that there’s a lot of flashbacks necessary for the middle section to make sense to the reader. I had been incorporating the flashbacks as I went, as the info became pertinent to the story. The result was a layering effect in which the narrative delved deeper and deeper into the emotions of the main character. This is exactly what I was going for. This sort of emotional layering is very powerful for readers, as it provides them with an extra level of rawness and intensity that really helps them to identify with the main character.

For instance, imagine that you are telling a story to your best friend. In the middle of your story, he or she interrupts you and asks you to clarify something. You tell the back-story to your best friend, which helps him or her to understand your current story and helps him or her to understand your feelings. This is exactly the effect I have in my novel.

While this is a cool effect to have in a narrative, one drawback of it is that the time travel with the flashbacks can seem kind of jumbled and confusing to the reader. I had contemplated changing the organization of the middle section so that it would be chronological; this would eliminate the confusion from the time-traveling flashbacks. That being said, doing so would totally kill the layering effect that I have created. Also, making it chronological might actually be more confusing to the reader, because the reader wouldn’t understand why those details are even being discussed in the first place.

The other thing that I had considered doing was taking the info out and putting it into prequel(s). However, doing so would also eliminate the layering effect. In addition, it would drastically reduce my word count, which I can’t afford to do.

At 41,000 words, my novel is currently too short to be published. I need to add more to it to make it longer (a novel is typically no less than 50,000 words). It is actually kind of funny that I have this problem, because I have literally always had the opposite problem. My work has always been too long, which means that I have had to spend time streamlining it so that it becomes shorter. For instance, my Cosmo article started out being 1800 words; then I had to cut it down to just 800 words to meet the word limit. I’m really not used to adding material because my piece is too short to meet the requirements.

But, I will see what I can do. Maybe by adding more information here and there, I can simultaneously  increase the flow/transition of the novel to make the flashbacking more clear and natural to the reader.

Article Revisions

Hi everyone! Sorry to have gone MIA for the past few months. I have been working diligently on my revisions for my scientific article that will be published in the IJES special geothermal edition that is due out in 2017.

The good news is, I’m done (yay!). Well, almost. Tomorrow I need to read through everything one last time before I submit. Also, I need to update my annotated list of corrections with the most current info.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with scientific article revisions, here is what happens. After the article is submitted to the journal, two or three reviewers edit the article. They then provide you with a list of corrections that you must fix within the article. In addition, you must provide an annotated list of corrections that addresses every issue raised by the reviewers; here, you must list either your correction or your rebuttal, if applicable.

So, scientific revisions can take a long time. I decided to tackle the revisions by going through the list of corrections methodically, item by item, and then updating the annotated list as I went along. Some things were quick fixes (such as changes in semantics/word choice, deleting sections, etc.), but others took much longer (such as figuring out how to make a new map when your student edition of the software has already expired).

That last one was fun. Luckily, I remembered that ESRI has an online version of GIS on their website. The information I needed to include in the map was easily found on the online version, so I just did the map that way. The downfall of doing the map online is that you have no control over editing the symbols or colors in the legend or in the map itself (#GISCertNerdProblems). Unfortunately, this was a choropleth map that used varying shades of color to symbolize different categories… yet the online version decided to make the colors into shades of yellow. Yellow! Also, it chose some funky pastel purple color to represent electrical lines. I had to work some Photoshop magic and enlist the help of others with better Photoshop skills than me to help me out of this one. At least the end result shows very nice shades of red for the choropleth part and a solid green color for the power lines.

Anyway, aside from the map SNAFU, the rest of the revisions went pretty smoothly. The revisions that took the longest had to do with fixing issues with the actual content, rather than fixing syntax issues. Once I made my way through the list of revisions, I then went back and edited the article as a manuscript. This took me a bit more time to figure out, because I ended up having to combine two sections together for improved clarity. Finally though I did figure it out and it turned out great!

That’s about it for now. Once I submit my revised article, then I can go back to working on polishing up my novel. I figured out that I can get a lot of writing done if I bring my Surface to work and use my lunch break to write, so I’m going to continue to do that and make more progress!

Opening Scene

After many revisions, I have finally settled on an opening scene for my novel that works. Yay!!!

The first thing I did was to answer all of the agent’s questions in the very first page. This was very difficult; it took me a long time to figure out how to do this correctly. It was very difficult because I liked the way that I had presented the answers to these questions in my earlier draft (meaning, I had become attached to the language and the phrasing that I had used in my earlier draft). When I subsequently moved up these sections to occur earlier in the story, the language and phrasing no longer worked and I needed to change most of it. This was a bummer, but I finally got the revision to work with new language and phrasing that I like.

After I reworked the content of the opening scene, I had some guinea pigs read it and give me feedback. Even though I had answered all of the agent’s pertinent questions upfront, my guinea pigs still thought that the main character was a nutcase. Geez, this problem was a tough nut to crack! (lol)

It turns out, a large part of the problem was that I had used the wrong syntax for indicating that the main character was thinking to herself. Because I had used quotation marks instead of italics, my readers thought incorrectly that my character was talking to herself out loud. No wonder everyone thought that she was a nutcase! She was seemingly talking to herself out loud and yelling at herself out loud in every other paragraph…

That part was an easy fix, but it did not solve the problem entirely. There was also a line at the end that set the wrong tone for the rest of the novel. People read it and thought that my novel would be like a slasher/revenge sort of novel, which is not what I had intended at all.

I revised that section and had people reread it until it gave off the correct tone. What I ended up doing was having the narrator talk about something that the main character did not yet understand, telling the reader about the problem vaguely without actually giving any concrete details. My goal for this part was to be mysterious in a good way, to intrigue the reader so that he or she wants to read more and wants to find out what happens next.

Finally, what really helped to fix the opening was adding a prologue. The prologue I added is short, sweet, and in all italics. It is a flashback to the middle section of the novel, detailing an abusive scene. The prologue really helped set an ominous tone for the rest of the novel, as well as provided more sympathy toward the main character.

So that’s it for the opening scene! Up next: fixing the middle section.

When I referenced the middle section to write the prologue, I realized that my middle section is very flat. The reason for this is that I have a tense change into the first person. In order to properly engage the reader while writing in the first person, the writing must be extra dramatic and over the top. So, this is what I will be tackling next.