Sep 17

How to Create Your Writer’s Vision Statement

Creating your writer’s vision statement is the best way to keep your life on track.

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links. This means that I’ll receive a small commission if you happen to purchase one of the books I mention — at no extra cost to you. 

If you don’t know what a writer’s vision statement is, GET READY TO BE EDUCATED, SON.

Firstly, it’s the over-arching view of your career and life trajectory. Secondly, it will keep you on track when life gets in the way or when you don’t know what step to take next.

How to Create a Writer's Vision Statement

Original photo by Yeshi Kangrang

Admittedly, I haven’t always held onto my writer’s vision statement. Hell, I didn’t have one until fairly recently. But now it’s my guiding principle. It keeps me grounded, and helps me make decisions that will ultimately allow me to create the sort of life I want. And it doesn’t allow me to prioritize non-writing things over writing.

This free writing activity will help you create a plan for your life and career. Click To Tweet

The writer’s vision statement was born out of a free writing activity I made my students do. I adapted it from an activity in this Writing for Human Relations textbook created by Dr. Susan Nash who I had the pleasure of teaching with a few semesters ago.

I teach Business Communications, and one of the big assignments this semester is a cover letter. In order to get my students in the right headspace for writing a cover letter, I made them envision the career and life they wanted, list principles they valued most, and define their overall career goal.

Some of them loved it. A lot of them hated it. Mostly, I struggle with getting my students to actually do anything that doesn’t directly show up in the grade book. To say that standardized tests have destroyed the critical thinking skills and the ability of our youth to engage is an understatement. So naturally, I MAKE MY STUDENTS DO THINGS THAT CAN’T BE TAUGHT WITH MULTIPLE CHOICE TESTS OR GRADES SO HELP ME GOD.

But hey, that’s what happens when you get a touchy-feely liberal arts degree-havin’ professor up in the business school.

And before I get into exactly what goes into a writer’s vision statement, I want to stress how much this can help anyone struggling to define what it is they want from life. Any profession can have a vision statement. Hell, any hobby can have a vision statement. Any personality or worldview or activity can have a vision statement.

This exercise exists to help you see where the outcome you want intersects with the values and goals you have. And so, if you feel like you don’t know where you want to be, but you know what principals are important to you, I think this activity is a good starting place.

And while this isn’t a comprehensive way to achieve every goal you set for yourself and get you where you need to be to live your dream life, the first step is ALWAYS defining what you want and what’s important to you.

Once you have that, I think it gets easier to put together the rest of the pieces.

Why do you need a writer’s vision statement?

Choosing an artistic career path means a lot of things that many people outside that career path don’t understand. For instance, you may stay in school longer to study with relevant people in your field. You might choose a day job that doesn’t pay much, but gives you the time off you need to create what you want to create. You may not achieve traditional life milestones at the same rate as the rest of your friends.

All this can make it seem like you’re failing. And, if your friends with traditional careers are assholes, they’ll put pressure on you to jump into the rat race just as hard as they did. But if you have your vision statement, you can see that you’re not really behind at all. In fact, I would argue that you can see how on track you are to achieve what it is you want for you life.

How to create your writer’s vision statement

This is a very simple process. I recommend grabbing a pen and paper. Make sure it’s a pen you like to write with — one that’s smooth and allows you to work quickly. And get some paper that allows you to write quickly and comfortably. If you don’t want the spiral of a notebook in your way, get something else. This is mostly a free writing exercise, and you’ll refine it all over time. That means you gotta get your thoughts out on paper fast, and do the editing later. So pick tools that allow you to do that.

Then, all you need to do is sit down in a quiet place. Take a moment to get your headspace right. There’s really no point in doing this with a bad attitude. (There’s really no point in doing anything with a bad attitude, honestly.)

All you need to do is free write on each of these elements until you think you’ve gotten out everything you have to say on each topic. I don’t recommend setting a timer, because you want to make sure you’ve gotten all your brain and all your heart out on paper. Simply start with the first one, and write until you’re done. Then, move on to the next one.

  • Vision: The vision is the overall view you have for your life. This includes your career, family, location, money, and lifestyle. To write about this, think about everything you want out of life. Do you want to publish bestsellers, or do you just want to publish? Do you want to write quietly in the woods, or do you want to be one of those NYC writers? Are you looking to start a family too? How does the family fit in with everything? How much money do you want to have? What sort of house will you live in? Do you want to travel? Will you have a day job in addition to your writing? Explore all of these topics until you’ve created a vision for the person you will be.
  • Core Values: What principles are important to you? These could be as codified as moral or religious standards. Or, they could be something a bit more nebulous. For example, my core values include creativity, flexibility, freedom, and choice, amongst others. For some, family and community may play large roles in their lives, and those may be some of your core values. Whatever you choose, make sure you also write out a definition for each core value so it’s clear what that particular principle means in the context of your life.
  • Mission/Purpose: This is the goal statement for your existence. It should encapsulate everything you want to achieve, and the principles you will uphold to get there.

And that’s the first step to creating your writer’s vision statement. Once you’ve completed the free write, then all that you have left to do is refine it. So, let it sit for a bit, and then come back and do some editing.

Once you’ve refined it, you’ll see that you have clear statements about who you are as a writer, and a defined path for your life. And most importantly, you’ll have something tangible to undergird your argument when you remind yourself why you do what you do.

Then, while you’ll still doubt yourself, at least you will see a path. And when others question your life and career choices, it won’t matter, because you’ll understand them.

How to Create Your Writer's Vision Statement Click To Tweet

Have you ever created a writer’s vision statement? What else would you include?

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Aug 17

How to Keep Bad Energy Out of Your House

I’ve discovered one really simple thing to keep bad energy out of your house.

I've got a really simple tip to keep bad energy out of your house!

Original photo by Viktor Mogilat

I know, I know. I’m getting super witchy and woo woo in my old age. What can I say? Some of us are descended from Avalonian high priestesses, and some of y’all are basic assholes.

Don’t hate on me because I’m magic.

Don't hate on me because I'm magic. Click To Tweet

And for those of you who think this is all hooey, let me just say this. Mindset is everything. So don’t act like the bad attitude you got at work doesn’t affect your home life. Don’t pretend that you don’t bring your negativity home. Don’t even act like you’re a ray of sunshine, BECAUSE YOU’VE ALREADY POO-POOED WHAT I HAD TO SAY.

So keep an open mind, here.

It’s important to keep bad energy out of your house for a number of reasons. For me, I like my home to be a place for rest, recharging, and dog cuddles. And if I’m bringing in negativity when I get home from work, or just stress from driving in traffic, it prevents that rest and recharge. (Nothing stops the dog cuddles when Rosie wants them. Though, to be sure, she doesn’t want them half as often as I do.)

The house I’m living in now is the first place I’ve lived that I’ve had 100% control over. From the decor to the schedule, everything is all me. And for that reason, this environment has been really good for me. Like, I’ve been more social and more positive-minded in the past 3 months than I have in the past 10 years. I’m excited about projects, and I’m envisioning a very good future for myself.

It’s really a great place to be.

But, with the semester starting up, and the stress of grading papers and contentious department meetings on the horizon, I knew I had to devise a way to keep the atmosphere in my home cozy and positive.

If you would like to do the same, then you can follow my simple steps to keep bad energy out of your house.

When you finally get home from work, don’t go into the house immediately. It’s easy to just get out of the car, barrel up the steps and bust into the house. However, if you do that, you’re not taking a moment to enter the house intentionally. Admittedly, this — the waiting — is the hardest part (SORRY NOT SORRY FOR TOM PETTY LYRICS) because I typically have to pee really bad when I get home. So, if you can wait just a moment, do. If you can’t, I totally get it, and I won’t judge.

When you finally get home from work, don't go into the house immediately. Clear your head. Click To Tweet

But the reason this moment is important is because you want to take that time to clear your head. Sure, Suzy sent you that passive aggressive email about that tiny error you made on the quarterly report. And yeah, that kid in the Land Rover almost hit you as you were going through the crosswalk. Your entire department spends all day complaining about management, and no one will drop it. They keep heaping one complaint on top of another, and their stirring up past grievances until the atmosphere is a roiling mass of anger. Oh, and you’re favorite soda in the vending machine? It’s been out for TWO MOTHER HUMPING WEEKS.

Do you feel all that bad energy?

Do you want that in your house? (Should you even be carrying it anyway?!) Because that shit will sit next to you on the couch as you try to unwind. It will follow you into the bathroom when you’re flossing your teeth. It will sit on your kitchen counter when you’re chopping tomatoes. And even worse — it will keep everyone else you live with company. In fact, in a lot of ways, all that bad energy will replace you in your relationship with those people or pets, because that’s what you’re bringing into the home.

That’s why you need that brief second.

Just stand there. Not too close to the door, and not super far away. Just at a spot where you’re comfortable, and don’t look like a goober to your neighbors.

Imagine all those things that you experienced throughout the day slowly dissipate, like they’re liquid evaporating off your shoulders. Once they’ve lifted, you’re free not to worry or think about them until you get to work the next day.

I like to close my eyes in this process. I take two or three deep breaths, and I literally imagine my work email disintegrating like moldy paper. I pretend that I’m stepping into an alternate dimension where I can’t be reached by coworkers. I envision all the homework that I have to grade has been impounded, and can’t be accessed until the next day.

Then, I unlock the door and step inside.

That’s how you keep bad energy out of your house.

It’s nothing revolutionary. In fact, it’s quite simple. But if I don’t do it, I will walk in the door with all those things weighing on me. And when those things are weighing on me, I don’t enjoy my rest/recharge/dog cuddle time as much.

In fact, when I’m feeling those things, I can’t relax. I don’t want to walk Rosie, which is something I mostly love. I don’t want to read, which is my favorite past time. I don’t take time to nurture and develop hobbies the way I should.

When I let the bad energy in, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through my phone all evening, and that’s not productive down time for me. It makes me grumpy, and it makes it hard for me to go to sleep. And I know my brain isn’t getting the sort of rest it needs to do worthwhile work the next day.

How to Keep Bad Energy Out of Your House Click To Tweet

So, I want to issue a challenge to you. Keep bad energy out of your house by pausing to breathe on your doorstep. Let the things fall away. And heck, if you want, you can send me a video of you doing it via Instagram stories! I’d love to see what shape this ritual takes for you.

What steps do you take to keep bad energy out of your house? Are you descended from Avalonian high priestesses too?


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Aug 17

Dollar Tree Drug Test Kits: Comparison is the Bringer of Joy

Comparison may be billed as the thief of joy, but yesterday because of Dollar Tree drug test kits, it became my reason for it.

I saw a girl buying some Dollar Tree drug test kits, and this is that story.

Original photo by Brooke Cagle

Let me explain.

Firstly, if you know me in real life, then you know that I’m catty. I gossip too much, and I’m mostly not a great person. I’m working on that, but I felt I needed to say that to give you a frame of reference for why the following story would bring me so much happiness.

Because I enjoy getting a good deal AND buying cheap plastic crap, I like a good trip to the dollar store. My local Dollar Tree is a treasure trove of paperbacks, personal care products, and cheap Sour Patch kids. Naturally, I shop there often.

After reading Tracy’s post about watercolor Skillshare classes, I decided I was going to sign up for Skillshare, and try my hand at some painting. But I didn’t want to buy expensive watercolors in case I absolutely hated the process. So I figured buying garbage paint from the school supply section of Dollar Tree would hold me over until I decide to pull the trigger on some real paint.

And naturally, I needed tea light candles and a vase for my grocery store hydrangeas I was planning to buy, and I can’t leave Dollar Tree without at least three paperbacks. (I wound up buying 5 yesterday. SO MANY MAINSTREAM FICTIONS GOODIES!)

Anyway, I went at a great time because it was quiet and chill. I hate going to Dollar Tree when granny has all 7 of her grandchildren in the store to purchase candy before going to the movie theater, or when unsupervised teens try to casually steal the hair dyes. And let’s be real: The only time shopping is good is when there is no one else in the store. That’s why Mondays are the best days to do your combo Dollar Tree and grocery store runs.

I grabbed my items and briefly considered picking up some Hot Tamales and Twizzlers. I didn’t though, because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t eat like a toddler that was locked in a candy store over night. So I made my way to the line. And that’s where I got my moment of clarity.

In front of me stood a young woman. She was a college student, and I could tell because she was wearing the requisite short running shorts and an oversized Delta Omega Pi Theta Alpha Kappa or whatever shirt. Her nails were manicured, her tan nearly perfect, and her hair was very clean and freshly styled.

Did you know Dollar Tree sold drug test kits? Click To Tweet

And in her hands were 3 Dollar Tree drug test kits.

Yes. Dollar Tree drug test kits.

I know. I thought they only sold pregnancy tests which they stock right at checkout, like the one impulse purchase you can’t leave without is a hella cheap pee stick.

She was quite fidgety. Though, I suppose it’s hard to play it cool when you’re buying drug tests.

A cashier opened up a new lane and she darted over. As soon as the cashier dragged those boxes across the scanner and dropped them in a bag, she slapped $4 on the counter, grabbed her merchandise, and sprinted out.

She didn’t even wait for her change, which really confused the cashier because you can buy like three-quarters of an item at Dollar Tree with the money she left behind.

And that’s when comparing my life to the lives of others brought me immense joy.

Don’t get me wrong. I wish this young woman the best. I hope everything turns out for the best, and I hope that she gets the answer she wants from those drug test kits.

But comparing my life to hers brings me immense joy because I will never have to be that age again. And because of that, I will never find myself in a position wherein I need to purchase Dollar Tree drug test kits.

(We’re all where we’re supposed to be, and I don’t gotta be there no more.)

Though being a 30-something in a college town can make you feel old ALL THE TIME, sometimes it makes you feel super grateful.

With age comes wisdom, and jobs that no longer test for drugs because they require so many other credentials and have such a low turnover that they know you probably won’t do anything harder than the occasional Benadryl. With age comes the realization that no matter what is going on in my life, I never have to relive my twenties again because they were THE WORST. I will never find myself in the position where I put my faith in a $1 drug test.

So, to the young woman who I saw at the Dollar Tree on 12th and Alameda, I hope your week improves. I hope you get the result you need to get, and I hope it means you get the job or whatever you were testing for. We all had summer indiscretions in college, and I hope you aren’t punished for partying the way that a vast majority of people do at your age.

And to myself, I remind you that everything is coming up Millhouse, and you ain’t gotta buy no Dollar Tree drug test kits.

Dollar Tree Drug Test Kits: Comparison is the Bringer of Joy Click To Tweet

Am I a terrible person for sharing this story? Have you ever seen a stranger that reminded you how good you had it? How accurate do you think those drug tests are? What is your favorite item to buy at Dollar Tree?

Aug 17

Transitions are Hard

Transitions are hard, y’all. And my job is full of them.

Transitions are Hard

Original photo by Sam X

Sure, I do the same thing every semester, but the way the school year works is weird. There’s so much build up to the fall semester where you get everything set and then power through, and then you push through to Christmas. You get a month off, and start it up again. I taught for the first time this summer, and it was like a third round of the same cycle.

Transitions are Hard Click To Tweet

I feel like I’ve reached a point in my job where I’m not only capable, but so many things are running on autopilot now. I’m able to anticipate what kind of questions my students will have, and head ’em off at the pass, so to speak.

(Teaching is mostly a battle, and getting college kids to write a well-reasoned, CONCISE paper is lot like executing a ancient Greek-style phalanx. You gotta have the metaphorical armed men and the spears to basically prod students into doing the assignment correctly. All’s fair in love and war. And education.)

But even so, the school year has a lot of wear and tear. And the schedule is brutal.

With the starts and stops of the normal academic calendar, I feel like this one scene in Beavis and Butthead Do America where they’re escaping the trunk of a moving car. They’re able to pry the trunk open, but Beavis is scared to jump out because “that road is moving pretty fast.” Butthead says it’s okay, and that Beavis should just run really fast when he hits the ground.

I’ve cued up the movie here for you if you’re one of those productive humans who doesn’t often find themselves quoting Beavis and Butthead and using it at a metaphor for life.

(Side note: Not that I mind you coming around, but like, if you AREN’T the type of person to use Beavis and Butthead as a metaphor for life, what the hell are you even doing here?)

Beavis and Butthead: A Metaphor for Life Click To Tweet

The reason I bring all this up is twofold. Firstly, if you’ve never seen Beavis and Butthead Do America, you absolutely must. It’s a cinematic triumph. And secondly, I’m bringing this up because I FEEL LIKE I KEEP HAVING TO RUN REALLY HARD BECAUSE THE ROAD IS MOVING REALLY FAST WHEN I JUMP.

As I was saying, transitions are hard.

So, each semester, I change schedules. I go from grading EVERY PAPER EVER WRITTEN IN ALL THE HISTORY OF ACADEMIA (or so it feels) to posting grades and having so much free time. Because I need a break, I’ll take some time to just chill and slowly let my brain melt and dribble out of my ears while I watch Netflix. And before I know it, I haven’t used my time off for any of the productive things I intended to use it for, and I’ve already jumped into the cycle of powering through a new semester.

If I could power through the transition, this wouldn’t be a problem. But transitions are hard and I’m trying to avoid burnout. And because transitions are hard, I feel the need to make a small confession.

I’ve been misrepresenting myself a little lately. Sure, life is going well enough, and I’m happy, whatever that actually means. I’ve been keeping in contact with friends, and I’ve had some very good hangouts the past few months.

And I’ve been reading, slowly but surely. Some books move faster than others, and some books make me pause and think about my life, and sometimes that’s too much. But I’m reading still, which is something I have to do lest I go insane.

But here’s where I have to make a confession.

I haven’t been writing.

I have zero writing routine to speak of.

(Please don’t send me a link to one of those think pieces about how if you don’t write each day you should just get out of the game now. I AIN’T HERE FOR IT.)

Summer would be the ideal time to bash out a project — to outline a novel, or create new character ideas, or to formulate research questions for that Ph.D. I’m always threatening to get.

But here I am.

And so, if you thought I was hella good at productivity, know that I’m not. If my life were a car, it would be a primer-colored POS with a dents and dings and loud-as-hell muffler. Parts are held on with duct tape and zip ties, and no one is really sure what happened to the back bumper — that’s how long it’s been missing.

And what’s worse is that I’m in the trunk of said car as it barrels down the highway. I’ve just pried it open and I’ve got to jump. And I should be good at it by now because I’ve been jumping for the past two years.

But no.

Transitions are hard. And that road is moving really fast.

So I haven’t leveled up to writing daily.


Transitions are hard. And that road is moving really fast. Click To Tweet

And with that, I turn to you, readers. How do you keep up habits in the face of big transitions? How do you keep your schedule going when your work schedule changes about every 3 months? Have you ever jumped out of the trunk of a moving car?

Jul 17

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged

After moving into my new place, I knew I wanted to decorate my new home in the nerdiest way possible. But I also wanted it to look like the home of someone with a hella famous Instagram account — even if I don’t have the budget to decorate that way. The solution was clear. I got a letter board. And I’ve been obsessing over my letter board quotes ever since.

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged

I’m a words person. That’s the most important part of songs and movies. It’s what I focus on in stories — the words the author chose. I scrutinize why someone would phrase something one way and not another, and try to derive  meaning from it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Letter Board Quotes: Motivation for the Delightfully Unobliged Click To Tweet

Naturally, when I saw the first letter board in my Instagram feed, I thought to myself, “Damn. I need one of those.” But the problem with letter boards is that they are generally too small for all the letter board quotes I need to see on a daily basis. That, and they’re only sold at hipster kitsch/craft stores that are stupid expensive.


But then one day, whilst hanging out with Katie, writer/photographer/artist/mermaid extraordinaire, I spotted this gigantic letter board at a thrift store. Finally, one that could hold all the letter board quotes I had in my brain!

Naturally, I didn’t buy it first thing. My brain said I didn’t need it, and for a thrift store find, it was kind of expensive. (It was $24.99. I know this isn’t that expensive. But in my head, it was at a thrift store, so nothing should be over $5.)

I thought about it for a week before I went back to pick it up. And I’m so glad I did.

Included in that $24.99 price tag was a whole hoard of letters. Not enough for my needs, but enough to say, write the daily lunch special or list out whose office is in what room. (I imagine that’s how the board was used in its past life. And I’m glad I could give it a real purpose in its second life.)

Letter Board Quotes

To supplement the letters I did have, I ordered some more from Amazon. Only, as my father says, I have no attention to detail, and thus ordered some letters that are about a quarter of an inch bigger than the letters that came with the board. Which, could ruin the aesthetic, or add a real ransom note sort of feel.

If you ever want to see your precious Lucille Clifton quote again, leave $500 in unmarked bills on the bookcase beneath the letter board.

Ruined aesthetic, or ransom note chic? You decide. Click To Tweet

My letter board quotes are a mishmash of things. Firstly, they are things I need to remember. Secondly, they are reflections of where I am currently. And thirdly, they are things that Mari and Stephanie wanted to impart to me the other day when they came over to talk blogging, the universe, and life in general.

Letter Board Quotes - The Hold Steady

This is a quote from Sapphire by The Hold Steady. (I think we know how I feel about The Hold Steady.) The full line that always gets me is “‘Cause dreams they seem to cost money // But money costs some dreams.” It’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. I think anyone who has an artistic pursuit they’re chasing can identify with it.

I know I have friends who are more monetarily successful than I am. And I’ve been toying with the idea of taking a position that pays more. But the thing is, I don’t have to. I’m happy where I am, and I’m quite comfortable. I’m delightfully unobliged — no kids, no partner, just a chill dog who likes naps and walks in equal measure. At the end of the day, I have the job I have because it gives me time to write. I need the flexible schedule and the months off that teaching offers so I can work on the Next Great American Novel. (Or short stories that no one will ever read.)

Letter Board Quotes - Lucille Clifton

This Lucille Clifton quote is from an untitled poem from the book Mercy. The beginning of the poem goes, “your mother sends you this // you have a teapot // others have teapots // if you abuse them // they will break.”

Admittedly, I’m not entirely sure what Ms. Lucille (may she rest in peace) was talking about, but to me, the poem has always been about opportunities and talents. You have this time to do what you can do. Others have that time too. If you waste it, it’s gone.

And just a side note: If you have some sort of spiritual concern, but ain’t the churchin’ type, may I recommend the poetry of Lucille Clifton?

Letter Board Quotes - Frank Turner

I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Turner lately, and incidentally, I’ll be seeing him open for Jason Isbell in Oklahoma City in September. (Are you going?! You totally should. You can buy me a beer at the show.)

This song has kind of been my mantra since back in April. I feel like I’ve completely started over, and things are going well. But emotionally, I feel like a scrappy stray dog that lives in an alley, and I’m trying not to be that way. So, knowing I still have time to get better is a good thing to hear.

Letter Board Quotes - Elf

Stephanie put this on the board, and I think it’s the perfect addition. I have probably watched Elf too many times to count, and even though I’m not a big fan of the whole Christmas season, Elf is a Christmas movie I can watch. And thinking about that movie always makes me smile, which is something I have to remember to do more often.

Letter Board Quotes - Fuckery

Perhaps the most motivating of my letter board quotes comes from Mari. Not only is it fun to say, but it’s just good advice. Mari pulled up this meme on her phone:

Onward Buttercup! There's fuckery to spread!

Mari had this saved to her phone. Because of course she did. Unfortunately, even though I ordered extra letters, there weren’t enough for the real quote, hence why it’s shortened and there are some numbers and symbols in there. But I think it really enhances the overall message of fuckery.

Onward, Buttercup! There's fuckery to spread! Click To Tweet

And, since we met on Sunday before the big Game of Thrones premiere, Hodor made an appearance. And then we all almost cried thinking about how he died.

Letter Board Quotes - Hodor

I can only assume that “Hodor” made it into the letter board quotes because it’s generally good life advice not to let Bran Stark warg into your brain from the future when he’s seeing into the past.

Also, it’s just polite to hold the damn door for others, even if you’re being torn apart by the undead.

So, what about you? What letter board quotes should I add? Do you have some letter board quotes that keep you going through weird times? Did you even notice my hookah with the Crown Prince of Iran on it?