Project 7

My First Attempt at Calligraphy

This week, I received all my calligraphy supplies for Project 7! There’s no better way to decompress after finishing a massive task than to get a little creative, so upon finishing our law journal writing competition, we decided to blindly test the materials.

The Materials

I chose this set from Amazon (not sponsored!). After redeeming a coupon, the set went from $15 to $9. The set included one pen, eleven nibs, and some ink. While I don’t have anything to compare it to, I did like the pen and thought it was easy to use.

Without any instruction whatsoever, I blindly tested the nibs. Each one is different in both shape and size. Some have a pointier tip where others create a brush effect by a flatter edge. Some also are longer than others, I have yet to figure out what the effect of that is. Here’s what each of the nibs looked like:

As I was using the pen, I realized it was easier to use than I expected. The ink was easily controlled by the nib which surprised me. I thought using a calligraphy pen would be like writing with a needle – scraping the paper. But it really wasn’t. It felt just as natural as any other pen.

I Tried My Best…

From there, I decided to try writing a little bit of print and a little bit of script. I didn’t look up any sort of instructions – I wanted to start at the absolute beginning. While I will learn actual technique, I just wanted to mess around. I’m hoping that as I get better, I can look back on where I started and see some progress.

I also made a time lapse of my first attempt. (Yes, I did have to set up an Instagram just to post this, expect more content there in the future!). Check it out:

All in all, I was not disappointed. I expected more smudging, but I was careful not to overload the pen with ink. I’ve always had decent handwriting, but I’m looking forward to learning calligraphy fonts. I know consistency is the most important part and my handwriting has never been very consistent.

…And Then My Boyfriend Blew Me Out of the Water

My boyfriend also gave it a go. He might have been the underdog being a lefty, but he was able to pull together something very impressive. He’s always been a bit snotty about his pens, always using only a certain kind of pen because he liked the way the ink flowed. Before trying the calligraphy pen, he was already an accomplished doodler. Here’s some of his older stuff using normal roller-ball pens:

Needless to say, he couldn’t wait to get the calligraphy pen in his hands. He managed to make this on his first go:

(To see a time lapse of his work, check out the second slide in the Instagram post above!)

He also had an absolute blast. I made the executive decision to leave the calligraphy materials at his house so he could dabble whenever he wanted.

I’m excited to take on this project and I can’t wait to get into the real stuff! Playing around was fun – but now it’s time to craft an actual skill. We’re looking forward to both learning more and discovering a new world we know nothing about.

How’d we do? Share your thoughts with us down in the comments below!

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Motivation, Resources, School

The Importance of Being Competitive with Yourself

Hello again! I know I’ve been gone for a while – which is a little ironic seeing as my last few posts included gems like What I Learned from Blogging Every Day and Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity.

The Writing Competition

I’ve been away working on my law journal writing competition. What started as a three-week chance to earn a spot on a law journal at my school turned into one of the most stressful experiences in recent memory. Something kicked into high gear and I just wanted to compete. As someone who is usually low stress and hardly ever feels competitive, this was a strange shift. One I definitely wasn’t prepared for.

Now, I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of the competition, but what I can say is that it was hard. The topic, in my opinion, was very difficult. I spent two of the three weeks just trying to understand the material, not a single word written.

Finding the Competitive Spirit

Something happened while I was competing and every ounce of my body just wanted to win. So much so, that I (safely) went home to stay with my parents – abandoning my boyfriend who was also competing – just to completely focus. I kicked all other distractions out of my life, including this blog.

It was a roller coaster of emotions, but I got through it. In the end, I turned in what I thought was a really strong effort. But honestly, even if I don’t make it, I’ve found peace. I forgot that while I make an effort to better myself in my personal life, I’m often complacent in my academic life. Being the best in the class has never been important to me (that’s why I started a project trying to do it, I wanted to see if I could motivate myself to compete). I’m excited that I’ve found that drive to compete.

Maybe it’s a byproduct of this blog – because since starting this journey I’ve just wanted more for myself. Not handouts, but I wanted to earn every bit of satisfaction. Finding competition has been one of the most fulfilling experiences and I’m really glad these weeks of mental burnout and suffering are over. I’m even more glad I came out on top.

The Validation

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, this morning I received my grades for the motion I wrote. It was the only other thing I slaved over, and I slaved over it because it was a part of my project. The grade came back and I was way above the average. Pushing hard and competing against yourself does pay off.

Do you compete against yourself? Do you find this practice healthy? I’d love to hear any and all thoughts down below!

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Book Reviews, Project 4

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Book No. 15

71. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)

Dates: 5/21/20 – 5/22/20 (2.5 hours)

Plot: Fantastic confectioner and inventor, Willy Wonka, invites 5 children – chosen by his famous Golden Ticket system – to tour his chocolate factory.

Experience Before Reading: As a child, Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors. I’ve read most of his books and took the stories with me well into adulthood.

Takeaway: Maybe it’s because I just finished Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that I felt the need to read another English children’s classic. I’m not sure. But I’m glad I did. It’s just as whimsical as I remember. Roald Dahl has a unique writing style in that he almost writes like a child, rambling on like only a child would:

And what a palace it was! It had one hundred rooms, and everything was made of either dark or light chocolate! The bricks were chocolate, and the cement holding them together was chocolate, and the windows were chocolate, and all the walls and ceilings were made of chocolate, so were the carpets and the pictures and the furniture and the beds; and when you turned on the taps in the bathroom, hot chocolate came pouring out.

Chapter 3

Additionally, Dahl shows and doesn’t tell. The story moves quickly. Willy Wonka himself picks up the pace by telling his guests that they need to hurry up. There’s never a moment to digest the craziness, it’s just a plethora of ideas.

These impossible ideas are thrown at you from every direction – on the tour they pass rooms with fantastical names that they just walk (or run) right on by. I absolutely loved the absurdity of some of these rooms. I won’t spoil them for you, read them for yourself with an absolute grin on your face.

The whole book is just fun. It makes sense why it has survived all these years: Dahl has the imagination of a child. As adults, our brains often strike down ideas that we believe to be impossible, but Roald Dahl embraces this and pushes his creativity to come up with such crazy notions. When paired with actual lessons and commentaries from why television rots children’s brains to how resisting temptation may lead to rewards, it becomes a book that children of every era can enjoy.

I’ll end this review with the best review of the book I saw. I think it sums up my experience well:

I responded to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it respected the fact that children can be adults.

Tim Burton

Would I Recommend It?: To every child, whether they’re “grown-up” or not.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/31/20 (2 hours)

Experience Before Reading: I read this book as a child and remembered thinking it was a bit too weird for my tastes. Obviously I watched the movie(s) – let’s not talk about the Johnny Depp one. In addition to being vastly underwhelming, it is the source of an embarrassing moment when my brother mentioned he thought it was a dark film and I responded, “I agree, it was kind of hard to see a lot of it.” His subsequent laughter has haunted me to this day. I’ve never liked the movie and this may be part of it. I would like to say in my defense that I was 10, so cut me some slack.

Takeaway: People always give Grandpa Joe sh*t for being in bed and then when suddenly presented a golden ticket he’s fine to go out, but like he’s 96. My grandma can barely get out of her chair, but I’ve seen her walk nearly a mile to get to a “lucky” slot machine and she’s 88. Give Grandpa Joe a break! Also why is gum chewing so bad?

Important Note: While tasting the wallpaper, Willy Wonka says to try the snozzberries. In a later work, Roald Dahl uses snozzberry to refer to, well, Roald’s little Dahl. Thought this was important for all readers to know. Also, the fact that Roald Dahl wrote an erotic novel is ludicrous. I heard he was a big sult actually. (Not sult shaming, just sult surprised)

Would I Recommend It?: If you liked Alice in Wonderland, I would totally recommend this. It has the same sort of nonsensical fun that children always enjoy. I think I probably liked this better than I did as a child. I am definitely going to be watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory tonight!

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Motivation, Productivity, Resources, Time Management

Four Reasons Why Taking a Break Can Boost Your Productivity

As someone who is always working on projects and posting about them every day, I can understand why people think I’m more productive than most. But I’m not. To be honest, I’m probably less productive than you think. It’s all about time management. I’m an adamant believer in working smarter, not harder.

I’ve been in rigorous academic environments for a while now and one thing I notice, especially in law school, is that so often people incorrectly equate working more with doing more. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is so much danger in working until you drop. That “grind mentality” leads to much less success than little progress every day. We need breaks. Breaks can be anywhere from 15 minutes to a couple of days. Sometimes, taking more time off is critical. Allow me to explain:

1. Breaks Allow Your Mind To Reset

“Just sleep on it!” It’s a phrase we’ve all said, the concept of waiting to make a decision until the morning when you’re all fresh. Sometimes, though, we need to “sleep on it” in the middle of the day. Think of it as restarting a computer. When your computer is moving slow, you reboot it and there, it’s fine again!

Taking a break allows your mind to look for new solutions by looking at it with fresh eyes. You’re looking at your problem in a whole new light, right? Not quite. In difficult and nuanced situations, your brain has likely been processing your problem all along. According to a theory proposed in 2006, called Unconscious Thought Theory, your unconscious mind helps you make better decisions for these issues:

[C]ontrary to popular belief, decisions about simple issues can be better tackled by conscious thought, whereas decisions about complex matters can be better approached with unconscious thought.

A Theory of Unconscious Thought, Ap Dijksterhuis and Loran Nordgren, 2006

You can read the full paper here.

2. You Can Compartmentalize Your Work

I’m notorious for this one. If I’ve got two assignments due, I only work on the one that’s due first. I won’t even touch the second one until the first is done.

This is a useful technique for the same reasons as above. You’re keeping yourself exposed to only one problem at a time. Cranking out assignment 1 and taking a long break before assignment 2 allows your brain get ready for a new topic.

Psychologist Jordan Peterson argues that getting small tasks done can keep us motivated to keep moving and that these small changes make a big impact in our lives. It’s powerful stuff. It’s a bit more motivational than concrete evidence of compartmentalizing, but if you’re interested, you can listen in yourself here.

3. The Longer You Work, The Less You’ll Accomplish

This is the law of diminishing returns. Eventually you’ll hit a point where the more effort you put into something, say studying, the less you’ll retain. That first hour of working on something is primary real estate. Measuring out the wood you’ll cut to make furniture, chopping all the vegetables for a soup. Whatever it may be, there eventually comes a point where your brain just won’t get much more.

While I could explain more on this topic, I think it’s best summarized by a Ted Talk my boyfriend sent me last night. Go ahead, watch this for yourself. You may be surprised:

4. You’ll Probably Be Happier Doing Your Work After Taking Breaks

Scaling back can be invaluable. It’s common knowledge since burning out doesn’t feel good. But happiness can boost productivity (check out this academic paper from the University of Warwick about work environments and productivity).

It’s exemplifies why those who have the “grind mentality” might not get as much done in a day. One social media hustler, Gary Vaynerchuk, consistently advocates for working until you can’t any more. A real-estate investor, Graham Stephan, took the opportunity to explain exactly why this mentality doesn’t work for everyone – and why it didn’t work for him. I’m a big fan of this video because it promotes mental stability and also accomplishing big goals:

If you made it this far, I hope something has struck a chord that it’s okay to move slow. This method works well for me, but I want to know: what productivity tips do you have? Does this method work well for you?

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Project 8

Another Big Announcement: Project 8

You thought yesterday’s news was exciting? I’m here with another new project! It’s finally a physical project, too. I’m going to run a 10k.

My (Not-So) Athletic Background

I’ve always been relatively in control of my general health and fitness. As a kid, I was a big softball player. All throughout college, I was a bit of a gym rat. I was never really obsessive, but I enjoyed working out. When I started law school, working out took a bit of a pause. A year long pause to be exact.

Even though I enjoyed working out, I’m not much of an athlete. Especially when it comes to running: my knees face slightly inward so I have a strange run. I also have asthma and feet that don’t quite fit properly into any shoe. On top of that, I’m really slow. I tend to interval run: walk x feet, run y feet, etc. My runs in college averaged around a 5k (3.1 miles).

Despite my quirks, I’ve always wanted to run races. Five years ago, during my freshman year of college, I tried to run a half marathon. Somewhere around 8-10 miles into my training, I got nasty shin splints and nixed the idea since I didn’t want to injure myself. Nothing more embarrassing than a freshman girl hobbling to her classes from a treadmill injury. Since then, I haven’t tried distance running.

But with the creation of this blog, I wanted to try a race again. I figured a 5k was a little too easy and with the next highest race being a 10k (6.2 miles), I thought it might be a good goal. To break out of my interval running, I want to try and do it in under 60 minutes.

My First 10k

Fast-forward to yesterday morning. It was time to kick myself into shape. I figured I’d try the 10k without any sort of training to establish a baseline. I’ve gone on maybe two other runs this month, both 5ks. Besides that, the lethargic quarantine lifestyle has kept me from any other workouts.

So at what might be the most out of shape of my life, I took to running the 10k. My goal was to just be under 2 hours. This is what happened:

Mile 1: There’s some nature reserves and parks near my home that I thought I’d run to. The problem is that they’re at the top of a 300-foot hill. So right at the start of my run I was met with elevation. Great. I didn’t even try to run it. At least I’d coast down it on the way back.

Mile 2 and 3: This is where your body just wants to stop. Hands down, these were the most difficult miles. At the end of mile 3, I made it to a lake which was a nice little spot for joggers. All of them waved hello.

Mile 4: I had now accepted my suffering. My hips started to lock a little, but knowing I was on my way back, I found my stride. I was surprised I had it in me since pretty much every other run in my life was done by this point.

Mile 5: I was so jaded at this point. I did coast down that hill, but it came at the cost of cramps on the right side of my body. Also, queue the nausea.

Mile 6-6.2: I made it to my boyfriend’s house with a tenth of a mile to go. I did little laps around the sidewalk of his place. I was pretty much crawling. I looked like an extra for The Walking Dead. But damn it, I did it.

I was proud to have done it. As a student, I’m constantly pushing my mental strength, but to know that I’ve become strong enough to control and push myself physically was really exciting. I think I might have caught the bug again.

But now for the part you’re all waiting for: my time. I clocked in at 1:41:10. I was so proud to have finished, I didn’t even care. I also saw a variety of factors that could be optimized: I was out-of-shape, it was so humid, it was muddy from rain the day before, my asthma kicked up, I didn’t know how to pace myself, etc. etc. I know that to improve by 41 minutes is insane, but I know I can do it.

It was just so gratifying to complete my first run. I know that I’ll continue to get better. Seeing my boyfriend’s face when I walked in, he was so proud of me. As a runner himself, he was excited to see me trying something he loved so much. That in and of itself made it all worth it. I asked him if he’d plan my runs, go on some with me, and be a running sensei to me. He agreed to all of them.

As if that wasn’t good enough, I did some research: the cutoff time for most 10k races is 1:30:00. That means if I were running at 10k for a race I wouldn’t have finished or gotten my medal. So yeah, there’s still some work to be done. And man am I hungry for it.

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Project 7

Learning a New Skill: Calligraphy

Now that I’m on summer break, I thought it was the perfect time to introduce some new projects. I know, I know, I’ve got other ones to finish – and I will finish them – but I couldn’t help myself. I came up with some good ideas.

Coming Up with the Idea

I realized that none of my current projects are about learning a new skill. Sure, some involve cultivating a skill, but none of my projects start from ground zero. After stumbling across a video on YouTube, I knew exactly what I’d do: calligraphy.

I’ve been floating around the idea of doing an art project for a while now, but I had no idea what to do. I’m alright at drawing but I’m sometimes too left-brained to let my imagination run wild. I like all my art to look perfect. But that’s pretty much the goal of calligraphy, isn’t it? To make these perfect little sentences. Also, it’s something that with more practice, I’ll inevitably get better at. How satisfying to be able to share quantifiable progess!

The Game Plan and End Goals

So with this idea in mind, I took to the internet to figure out a game plan. I found Lettering Daily, a site dedicated solely to learning script. They offer tons of free printables and lessons so I thought that’d be a decent place to start. I also checked Skill Share and found the same tutorials used in that video I saw. I think I’ll start with one of those.

Once my research was done, I brainstormed my end goals. I don’t start projects around here unless there’s a clear end goal so I can concretely say I finished a project. I think this one has two clear goals:

  • Learn five fonts: This requires me to learn different styles which I think can give me a broader understanding of calligraphy in general. Also, between five fonts, there’ll probably be at least one I’m good at… right?
  • Do calligraphy for someone else: Envelopes, weddings, anywhere that needs calligraphy. The test of how good I am is if someone else is willing to display it. It doesn’t have to be paid, just knowing in my hear that I learned a new skill seems to be enough.

Getting the Supplies

With high hopes, last night I set out for the stores to buy my calligraphy pen, ink, some paper, and of course the nibs. Unfortunately, I had no luck finding calligraphy supplies but I wasn’t going to let my artistic flame die. Instead my boyfriend and I got distracted and bought a coloring book. And well, this happened:

Oops.

Anyway, if any of you know anything about calligraphy or have tried it before, do you have any advice for me? Anything you’d like to see me write or try?

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Organization, Project 2, Time Management

A Guide to Organizing Your Entire Life

So, I have a little confession: I’m actually really close to being finished with Project 2. I know that might come as a surprise, seeing as I never post about it… it’s just that I recognize that reading about me cleaning every day is boring.

That being said, it’s not like I haven’t learned anything. I’ve actually learned a lot – both about myself and about how to organize. Reorganizing and decluttering is a much more liberating experience than I ever could have imagined, I really do feel much better having everything in its place. Also, my list extends beyond physical decluttering to mental decluttering in tracking different aspects of my life.

Though I’m not finished with everything on my list, I have begun everything. And it turns out that I wasn’t really able to gauge the difficulty that’d be required for each task. I realized that two things go into cleaning: time and effort. Obviously, time relates to how long it took for me to get something done. Effort refers more to the amount of work required I’d have to put in to get it organized. For example, setting up my photo wall took a lot of time since each picture had to be put up separately, but once I had the measurements all done, it didn’t take much effort on my part. I did most of the project while watching Netflix.

It’s from this premise that I created a bit of a theory. Tasks can be sorted by these two variables, and each of these two variables can be divided further. From there, I propose that there are 9 kinds of tasks as indicated by this fancy graphic.

I thought today I could share with you guys the 9 different types of tasks as they appear on my personal cleaning list with a little insight on what was really required to get things done. That way if you’re looking to clean up something in your life, you can have a better idea of whether you’re in over your head or you can get it done in an afternoon.

The Easy Tasks: Little Time, Little Effort Tasks

These are the easy ones – they don’t really take any time at all. If any of these are on your personal list, start with them because they’re so simple.

  • Keeping Track of Your Passwords: Start a list right now of your computer passwords. Seriously, right now. Every time you go to log in to any website, add it to your list. In less than a month, you’ll have most of your passwords sorted out and you’ll be asking why you didn’t do this sooner.

The Hour Long Tasks: Average Time, Little Effort Tasks

These tasks are easy as pie. On a day off from work, they’ll make you feel like you’ve accomplished something with lots of time to spare.

  • Drawers: You can’t hide from the truth any longer – clean out that junk drawer.

The Quicker Tasks: Little Time, Average Effort Tasks

The tasks that’ll have you saying: “That wasn’t too bad!”

  • Organizing Your Computer Bookmarks: Honestly, this can be fun seeing what corners of the internet you discovered. But beware: distractions are bound to happen.
  • Setting Up Your Calendar: If you already have a calendar system in place, but it hasn’t been updated – this task just requires getting all your ducks in a row. If you don’t have a system that works for you to schedule everything, try looking around. Personally, I use Google calendar and whenever anything comes up it goes straight in. Very easy to maintain it that way.

The Full Day Tasks: Average Time, Average Effort Tasks

I’d recommend you do these on a Saturday so you can enjoy your Sunday and still feel like you had a productive weekend.

  • Organizing Groups of Objects: This is easily one of the most satisfying tasks on the entire list. Think about what you have a lot of. For me, that’s clothes/beauty products and old textbooks/notes. Organizing these individual groups of items by seriously cutting back makes you feel so good. Bonus points if you can make it look aesthetically pleasing!

The Watch-a-Movie Tasks: High Time, Little Effort Tasks

Since these tasks don’t really require you to have your brain present and active, go ahead and watch a movie while you’re doing them!

  • Any Sorting Task: Whenever you have a group of something that needs to be sorted out, you can do it while catching up on TV you’ve been missing. This can be anything from nail polish to fishing bait. Caution: Does not apply to going through photos.

The Thought Provoking Tasks: Little Time, High Effort Tasks

These might not require all that much time, but they requires you to be completely mentally present.

  • Creating a Food Diary: This really doesn’t take too much effort when you start, but it’s certainly high effort to keep it going. I mean logging every. single. time. you eat is definitely a lot to keep track of. But seriously, being able to track your vitamins and minerals is so worth it!
  • Setting Up a Workout Log: Same as above. It’s all in the upkeep.

The Tasks That Require Breaks: High Time, Average Effort Tasks

These aren’t tasks you can get done in one go, but they’re manageable enough to painlessly spread them out over a few days.

  • Cleaning Every Square Inch of Your House: You didn’t think I was going to forget this one, did you? It doesn’t really require all that much effort to get the ol’ spring cleaning done, but it does require that you’re actively thinking about what needs to be cleaned. Like honestly, when was the last time you moved the couch and vacuumed behind there?

The Tasks You’ve Been Putting Off: Average Time, High Effort Tasks

Okay, I’ll say it – these ones are the worst. These projects don’t quite require all day to do, and that’s too bad, because if they did you’d plan a whole weekend for them (see the Advanced, Expert Level tasks below!).

  • Planning a Budget/Checking Your Credit Score: This one is especially painful if it’s your first time since it requires you dissecting your spending habits. If you do have an old budget, it’s painful because you’ve got to look through your old budget to see how accurate it was. No matter what, we all hate looking at just how much money we spend and what our credit looks like.
  • Cleaning Out Social Media Accounts: I’ve found that cleaning out social media accounts requires high dedication to setting the image you want others to see. Those cringe-filled status updates that you posted when you were in high school probably need to be deleted.

The Advanced, Expert Level Tasks: High Time, High Effort Tasks

These are the tasks from your nightmares.

  • Cleaning Out Your E-mail: It’s easy to get rid of spam e-mails. It’s also easy to get rid of promotional e-mails. But oh man is it a lot of work to unsubscribe from e-mail lists. Then sorting which e-mails to trash and which to keep is brutal. Creating folders and reliving moments from the past digs up emotions. Seriously, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
  • Sorting Digital Files: It does not matter what sort of digital files you have, it’s a memory trap. If you stumble across an album of photos you haven’t seen in forever, you can accidentally lose an hour of your day. Plus, they’re everywhere: on your desktop, your google drive, your iCloud, your phone notes, old USBs and more. Hope you don’t find your old Sims CD. Good luck finding a single place to store it all.

What do you think of my list? What tasks are the easiest and most-satisfying for you to get done? Is my method the next KonMari method?

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Blogging, Productivity, Resources, Time Management

What I Learned from Blogging Every Day

If it’s your first time stopping by this week, you might have noticed quite a bit has changed around here. I’ve got my own domain and have changed up the actual site! With a new theme and new featured images, it looks much better!

In the midst of these changes, Abbey and I spent a whole day doing nothing but reading in preparation for a week straight of book reviews. It was something we’ve been planning for a while as a way to relax after me finishing school! Originally, I was supposed to go visit her, but given quarantine we did it separately and checked in over the phone.

A week’s worth of consistent content has been a blast. It was tough to prepare so many reviews ahead of time, but I’ve had the opportunity to work on even more content because of it!

Additionally, I have seen a huge spike in engagement on the blog which has been overwhelming! Having the opportunity to meet some new faces and engage with people reading the same books and doing similar projects has been so much fun! On top of people visiting me, I’ve been trying to reach out to creators whose content I enjoy.

Throughout this process there are a few things I’ve picked up on that I thought I’d share. This week has given me insight as a blogger and my place in this whole mess.

Quality Matters

This is something that’s been really noticeable in my book reviews. There are books I really loved reading and others I just couldn’t wait to finish. Sometimes, it was hard to find the motivation to even write the review after and it showed. No wonder those posts didn’t have nearly as much engagement as the ones that I was proud of writing! The key takeaway I discovered was that if you don’t enjoy what you’re writing, your readers will notice.

With love and affection, it doesn’t really matter what you’re writing about – it only take one reader to identify with your content. For example, a book I really disliked was A Clockwork Orange. It had mostly to do with the – in my opinion – abhorrent slang that distorted the story line. But I really took the time to flesh out these opinions and unpack it a little more. I spent quite a bit of time writing that post and I was happy when it became one of my most-liked posts. My readers could see the love I had put into it and responded to it.

Quantity Matters Too

This week in particular I’ve been focused on putting out content every single day. It’s been challenging, but I came in with a game plan, so it was very do-able. To no one’s surprise, posting every day brought a lot more traffic.

I’m not sure if it has something to do with the Reader algorithm wanting to suggest me more or if I was creating content on subjects others already followed. Nevertheless, I found that when people visited, they checked out my other content too. Because I have a back-catalog of posts on a variety of topics, I saw that visitors were averaging higher views when I was putting out content every day.

Writing often familiarizes others with your content and gives you more of an opportunity to be seen. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll be seen by someone who enjoys your stuff.

Motivation Fluctuation

Just like any habit or hobby, if you’re truly excited about what you’re doing, doing it every day makes you even more excited. I found that I was thinking about content and working on my projects much more this week just because I wanted to.

Motivation is a rarity, so making the most of it is crucial. But exposing myself and quite frankly, some days forcing myself to write, brought more ideas and more of a desire to deliver on material.

There you have it – my thoughts on consistent blogging. It honestly comes down to finding your place and your voice on your blog. But I want to hear your thoughts: What do you think? Do you agree with my observations?

As always, thanks for reading!

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Book Reviews, Project 4

All’s Well That Ends Well – Book No. 13

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

43. All’s Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare (1623)

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: A young woman is given the opportunity by the king to marry who she wants. She chooses the man she’s in love with and he gives her conditions for his love. Oh, also it’s a play.

Experience Before Reading: Nothing really. Besides the infamous prose of Shakespeare, I was unfamiliar with the plot.

Takeaway: Okay, Shakespeare is just not my thing. It’s also not Abbey’s thing. When creating our list, we went for one that neither of us knew anything about. I’m glad we did that because I really did enjoy the plot of the play.

All’s Well That Ends Well gets a lot of heat because the leading lady is allowed to choose her husband and she chooses a man that’s a bit unlovable. Initially, I really enjoyed watching the woman have a little power, something that especially wasn’t common in earlier Western literature. However, when you realize just how unlikable her man is, you wonder why she picks him.

This could be a byproduct of it being a play. it’s difficult to read a play without context because it feels like you’re only presented with part of the story. You miss the narration that you’d otherwise see in a theatre. The lack of these stimuli make it difficult to contextualize the story. Maybe in some of the productions her man has a little personality.

I don’t think context was the only thing that went over my head though. As always, I did research once I finished. I remember some things from high school from Shakespeare – a little iambic pentameter anyone? – but not a lot. Some things most definitely go over my head: I’m not really sure why Helena’s lines rhymed when she was talking to the King and I’m not really sure I understood all the jokes. Doing research didn’t make it much clearer either. And for that reason, I had to take some points off.

Criticism aside, I know that there are people who enjoy Shakespeare’s work and I completely understand why. The story is creative and as a comedy it’s quite funny (if you can decode the language). I really liked the story and it’s not one I’ve heard before. It’s crazy to think that this story hasn’t been done over and over again like the likes of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. But then again, this is why Abbey and I chose this: it’s not one of his more well-known plays.

Would I Recommend It?: Probably not unless you like other Shakespearean stories.

Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: Helena, a poor maid, is in love with the Countess’s son. After a favor to the king she asks to marry the Countess’s son, but must bear him a child and wear his family ring before he relents to marrying her.

Experience Before Reading: None. I have read many Shakespeare plays when I was in high school, but it has been a long time since I have cracked one open.

Takeaway: This is certainly not one of Shakespeare’s best plays. When I was in school I read three of his tragedies and two of his comedies, and I find this play to be lacking. I think the main conflict setup was a stretch, and the change of heart of Bertram seems very sudden.  At least I got a great new insult out of it: “Your old virginity is a withered pear” is a new favorite line of mine.

Would I Recommend It?: Honestly if you are new to Shakespeare, don’t start here. This is one of his lesser know works, clearly for a reason. I don’t feel that his characters were as fully developed as his others (I loved the characters in Much Ado About Nothing and honestly would recommend that far over this play.) However, it should be said that since this is a play, much of the characterization I am missing would come out in the actors portrayals.

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Book Reviews, Project 4

Animal Farm – Book No. 12

This book review is a part of Reading Week. To read more reviews, click here!

58. Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945)

Dates: 5/9/20 (3.5 hours)

Plot: Animals rebel and take ownership of a farm. They adopt some methods of leadership similar to ones you may know.

Experience Before Reading: It’s funny because I told Abbey that all I knew about the book was that it was an extended metaphor for something and it definitely did not have talking animals. Whoops.

Takeaway: Since this book is an extended metaphor, I can’t fairly review it without talking about it. If you don’t want the book spoiled, stop right here and come back when you’ve read it!

This book is an allegory for the dangers of communism – particularly Joseph Stalin’s rise to power. This isn’t my first politically-charged book of the project, but it is the first one where the only takeaway is political. Typically I’m apprehensive to political commentary, but this one’s just so damn good.

There’s symbolism in almost everything: from the events that happen in the book to which animals do what. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the sheep follow blindly? Orwell adds an additional layer to the animals by making them inherently “unequal.” Some animals are better at reading, others at plowing the fields, and some don’t have any true skills. It’s definitely left me thinking what he meant by delineating between animals. I don’t want to ruin it, but I’d love to have a discussion about it down in the comments – for those of you that have read it, what do you think?

Anyway, I’m always a little uncomfortable with political commentary since it’s very polarizing. However, I didn’t mind it here. I think it’s because Orwell works hard to not explicitly express feelings towards any of the events in the story: he lets you decide how to feel. By using animals instead of people, he kind of – excuse the pun – leads the horse to the water by showing the absurdity of the situation.

After doing more research into the book, I’m shocked at how many of the characters represent real Soviet figures. The story line even correlates to specific events and ideas. This isn’t just an allegory, it verges on a retelling of history that switches out the names and places. That being said, if you do choose to read this book, please follow it up with research. It enriches the story and leaves you awestruck.

Lastly, I’d be mistaken not to mention the ending of this book. Without spoiling it, this is an ending that leaves you in silence. I was stunned by the power of the last few words. Any perfectionist can find instant satisfaction in knowing that every word is deliberately placed in furtherance of the theme. Honestly, I think that alone is a good enough reason to read this book.

As always, I’d love to hear thoughts and opinions on this book, especially since this review is so one-sided.

Would I Recommend It?: Yes. This is a must-read classic.


Abbey’s Review

Dates: 5/9/20 (1.5 hours)

Plot: Mr. Jones’ animals come together in an uprising following the teaching of Animalism by Major the wise old pig. The novella details the inner working of a farm run by Animalism, and shows the successes and failures that come about.

Experience Before Reading: I read Animal Farm once before when I was in 6th or 7th grade. I remember the plot fairly well, but missed on some of the major takeaways. 

Takeaway: Basically this book is a critique on communism in The USSR under Joseph Stalin and its failings. I think one of the major areas of concern is about the importance of having fully realized political opinions. One of the major issues in the book is that some animals are not able to grasp the concepts being taught to them and “agree with whomever is talking at the moment.” Also, I’m glad I read The Art of War before this because you actually can see some of the tactics in the Battle of the Cowshed.

Would I Recommend It?: This is one of those books I think everyone should read. Regardless of your political beliefs this is an interesting commentary on political systems and the greed of man (or animal?).

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