I didn’t sign up for this. Where can I get a return on my adult card?
I didn’t sign up for this. Where can I get a return on my adult card?
My very own 20-Something Profile! Check it out!
When I graduated high school, I was unsure of what I wanted to study. I liked foreign languages and linguistics. I liked reading too. But above all, I liked writing fiction, and I knew I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else.
So, I took French and Italian, two languages I already had some experience in. I took German, something that had fascinated me for years. I also took courses political science and Persian and astronomy. My philosophy for university was simple: study things that interest me, and the rest will sort itself out.
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So, here’s the deal. I graduated university in April. I left on a plane ten days after my last exam and travelled to South Africa and Europe for forty days. While I was abroad, I managed to secure a publishing contract after YEARS (legit, like 7 years) and then get a contract for a day job to carry me until I can *hopefully* be able to make my writing my work.
My secret? I stopped caring.
Okay, backtrack. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I do care. I cared very much about getting my post-secondary degree. I cared very much about being able to uproot my life for a while and live out of a backpack. I cared and continue to care very much about my writing because ultimately, writing is my art and my child and without it, I’d be completely lost.
What I stopped caring about was all the pressure that I was putting on myself.
Before I completed my university degree, I was in a different place. I had three manuscripts that seemingly no one gave a rat’s ass about. I had the daunting task of trying to find a job in this rough and often hopeless-seeming economy. Worst of all, I had this fear welled so deep inside me that I would never get to live my dream of being a writer. I worried that I would lay on my deathbed decades from now and realize that not only had I not achieved my dream, but I had wasted my whole life with nothing to show for it. I felt hopeless.
And then I boarded a plane and everything changed, almost as soon as I landed in Paris from my first overnight flight. It wasn’t that nothing really mattered anymore because a lot of things did, it was just that I seemed to have developed a distance from everything in my life. Sure, the physical distance was there, but there was also a mental one — an emotional one.
I learned to live in the now. I stopped worrying so much about what I was going to do once I graduated, what would happen when I returned home, and how I would feel if I failed the one thing I so desperately wanted to do. I also realized the immense pressure I had been putting on myself. It was the pressure to succeed for myself and a fear that I would fail and have to live the life that society envisioned for me. I became okay with not having a clear-cut direction for a little while and best of all, I stopped caring.
I didn’t care that I had no job. I didn’t care that society was trying to convince me that my dream was unable to be achieved. I didn’t care that I had very little money and that I would return home to face an abyss with little more than a grand to my name. I just knew that I loved something so much that I trusted I would find a way to make it work.
And the moment I stopped caring and stressing, things fell into place. I was twenty-five days into my backpacking trip, checking into a hostel in Heidelberg, Germany when I got the email I would be a published author.
So, stop caring.
If you’re like me, you’re facing unemployment. You’ve just finished high school or your fancy-dancy, hideously expensive post-secondary education, and you’re ready to face the real world. Or you’re one of the lucky ones who snagged a summer internship or contract position and your end date is looming. But it won’t be so bad, right? The real world isn’t that scary. I mean, everyone around you is doing it and they’re fine.
Stage One: The Pre-Search Feel-Goodies
Your resume is sparkling and you’ve honed your cover letter writing skills. You attended a few workshops and you can wow any employer with your apt responses and buzzwords. Your mom has looked over your application material and she said that she would hire you.
You feel good. Enjoy it. I wish I could tell you this would last longer.
Stage Two: The Application Process Jitters
You’ve started your search. You’re picking and choosing a select few jobs here and there that interest you and that are relevant to your experience and your goals.
Wow! Look at how many there are in this list. Recession? You don’t even remember what that means. You’ll apply to this one and that one and look, there’s another over here. Oh, wait. That one wants 5 years experience. And this one? Who the heck has training in bathing chimps?
Maybe you should take a bit more time perfecting that cover letter for the one job you actually qualify for. It may just be your lifeline.
Stage Three: Taking Over the World
It’s been about two weeks. No one has contacted you for a job or an interview or even to tell you that your application was garbage. Out of the 10 jobs you *thought* would be awesome for you, you’ve managed to get none of them.
Time to expand the job search. Weird hours? Okay, fine. Dog walker? At least you don’t need experience. 10-day contract with the option to extend? Well, okay.
Just apply to everything under the sun. When all these people see your fantastic resume, you’ll be prying them off of you with shovels. Then you can pick and choose. Good plan.
Stage Four: The Low
It’s been almost two months since your job search began. You’ve applied to every job that you’ve found, tried that whole networking thing that everyone seems to rave about, but still you’ve yet to secure a job. You may have had a few interviews, but they went terribly and you’re convinced the hiring manager got you confused with someone else (wait, experience bathing chimps? I don’t remember putting that in my resume…)
Ultimately, you’re still unemployed. You’re broke. You’re depressed. Your dad is offering to get you in somewhere because he knows a guy who knows a guy. If you live on your own, this is normally where you move back in with your parents. But free meals, right?
Stage Five: The Perfect Job
By now, you’ve settled into a cycle: wake up, browse for jobs, eat lunch, browse for jobs, have dinner, wallow in self-pity or invite others to join in on your misery train. In fact, you’ve become so good at this, it ought to be a full-time job.
But then there it is. You’ve just made your morning coffee and a new job has been posted. It’s the most perfect thing since all of life began. It’s interesting, there’s good hours, it’s close to home. Best of all, you qualify!
You start hyperventilating. You’ve been waiting for this moment, but what if you’re not ready? What if your resume really is terrible? You call Mom for support. “Just do it,” she says. “The only sure way to fail is to not try… and you’ve been pretty much failing already.”
One final read-through of the application. Click submit.
Stage Six: The Moment of Clarity
On an unassuming Tuesday afternoon, you’ve almost completely forgotten about that perfect job you applied for last week. In fact, it’s pretty much been absorbed by the other positions you applied for, since technically you’re still applying to anything that has the word “job” in the description. But then the phone rings. It snaps you out of your mindless twitter feed scrolling. An unknown number? Who could it be? It better not be a telemarketer. You already told them you don’t need the ducts cleaned.
But it’s them. You’ve gotten an interview. Two days later, you go to it, so nervous and excited that you’re terrified you might pee yourself if they speak to you. By the following week, you get another call. Same number.
Welcome, job. We’ve been expecting you.
That’s the ideal, right? I’m just not quite there yet :p
We’re just so cryptic, you know? Okay… Maybe, we’re not fooling anyone.
“I’m in between jobs.”
Meaning: I have no idea what my life is about anymore. I thought I knew, but that was a lie. And I realized there’s no job market for what I want to do anyway.
“What do you do?”
Meaning: Is there an opening at your workplace? Can you get me in? This is networking, right?
“How have you been?”
Meaning: Are you as lost and confused as me? No? Well then.
Meaning: I’m probably not fine, but I numb myself to real life so I can keep a peaceful existence like everyone else. Oh look, wine!
“I think society is unfair to Millennials.”
Meaning: I’m secretly afraid that everyone is right about Millennials.
“I’d love to travel.”
Meaning: I spend an obscene amount of time cruising travel websites, blogs, and Cheapoair, but ultimately, I’m broke.
“Yeah, I drive a pretty good car. It gets me from A to B.”
Meaning: My car is shit. I’m terrified it’s going to break down on my way to my job. Correction: on my way to a job interview.
“I’m job searching. It’s a rough economy, but I’m staying positive.”
Meaning: I’m freaking the hell out and I’m scared I’ll spend the next 10 years living with my parents mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage for an allowance of 20 dollars a week.
“I’m using the experience to build my resume.”
Meaning: Basically, I’m working for free.
“I’m working on my ten-year plan.”
Meaning: I have no plan. Everyone else seems to have their shit in order though so I guess I’ll pretend to too.
“I had a crazy weekend!”
Meaning: I drank wine, watched Netflix, and put off tasks that should have been done two weekends ago.
“I can’t believe Super Successful Sally is getting married.”
Meaning: I’m weirded out but also kind of stressing. Should I be getting married too?
“We should meet for coffee. We haven’t hung out in forever!”
Meaning: Coffee is a nice thought, right? We always say we should but legit this time, we should. No, I’m busy next week.
“I never see you anymore!”
Meaning: I miss how close we were in college, and the fact that those days are gone makes me feel old and lonely.
“I miss college. Those were the days.”
Meaning: No one told me real life was this hard.
I always find it funny that writers and editors always seem to have a billion sometimes-contradictory dos and don’ts when it comes to writing “good” fiction. But what is “good” fiction? I don’t want to start a philosophical debate, but one person’s Shakespeare is another’s Rebecca Black, you know? So instead of giving you a list of things that I think make good writing, I’ve decided to look at the rules, whether they come from professionals or amateurs, and I’ve taken the liberty of refuting some of them.
8. No Prologues
Listen, I can’t say I’m a particular fan of prologues, but honestly, a lot of successful writers have used them and their work has been just that: successful. I would suggest that writers stop agonizing over this rule and focus on what’s important. Get back to the writing. Get back to the story and the characters that will carry you beyond that prologue. If it’s essential to the story, it will stick.
7. No Adverbs
I read somewhere that using adverbs is a mortal sin. Mortal sin? Really? Even worse than a flawed plot line or boring characters? I militantly disagree. A couple adverbs here and there aren’t going to ruin a piece. In fact, sometimes I like them. It’s like drinking wine: a few adverbs may heighten your experience, but a lot of them can be draining and induce headaches.
6. Never Use A Dialogue Tag Besides “Said”
I was on this boat once, and then I got an editor and she pointed out how dry this made my writing after paragraphs and paragraphs of he said, she said. I’m not saying writers should go wild, I’m just suggesting that perhaps spicing it up a bit may actually enhance your writing.
5. No Present Tense
Don’t get me wrong: when done poorly, this can be disastrous, but mindless copies of the same old third person narrative can be terrible too. When done well, first person has an almost fast-paced, immediate feeling to it. It also feels more personal and more artistic, kind of like the primitive storytelling that humans were good at for THOUSANDS OF YEARS. So, give it a try. If it works, perhaps your story is meant to be told that way.
4. Use Only Complete Sentences
If you’re writing academically, then sure. Fiction? It can have positive effects.
See what I did there?
3. Write Every Day
It’s not that I disagree with this rule, it’s just that it’s unrealistic and puts a lot of pressure on aspiring writers who ultimately fail at this and then feel inferior for not reaching this goal. Myself included. If I could rewrite this rule, I would say Write a lot.
Life happens. People have day jobs. And school. And children. And lives. If writing every day doesn’t happen, that’s okay. But don’t doubt the need for time. Writing won’t happen when you’re asleep. Just remember, sometimes quality trumps quantity. You may find that writing every day for ten minutes may not be as productive or as enjoyable as writing for 2 hours every couple days.
2. Write What you Know
I don’t necessarily disagree with this, but I disagree with the misinterpretation this rule carries. I read somewhere once that young people made for bad writers because they were too inexperienced. The argument was that young people should go out and experience the world before attempting writing. I even heard that young writers shouldn’t even try until they had a master’s degree in creative writing. In other words, young writers don’t have enough in the “know” category yet.
I say, to hell with that, write away! Forget about what you know and what you don’t. Write something that comes from the heart. 9 times out of 10, what comes from the heart isn’t just something you know, it’s what is meaningful to the soul. Besides, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise was published when he was in his twenties and he dropped out of his undergrad at Princeton without completing. That’s not to say that a writer shouldn’t explore the world around them and get new experiences, I just caution against waiting. Strike the iron while it’s hot, if you can pardon the cliché.
1. There are no Rules
There is perhaps no rule I can disagree with more. Rules are meant to be broken, yes, but that doesn’t mean that there are no rules. Writers still have to adhere to grammar and spelling rules. Failyure to do sow results in sentenses that look like this.
So, don’t listen to those who say that there are no rules. There are. Editors judge pieces based on rules. Publishers judge pieces based on rules. READERS judge pieces based on rules. What this rule means to say is that some rules can and should be broken. Others can even add an element of artistic flair if broken in the right way. Ultimately, you decide, but know that getting an opinion from an editor or trusted reader is always valuable.
Got any rules that plain just don’t make sense?
This past Friday, I turned 23! Hurray! I’m so old, right? Just kidding. I’m not that person. In any case, it’s a new year with new opportunities and I’m excited continue working to pursue my dreams of writing, travelling, and living.
Now, I obviously won’t be able to do ALL of this before I turn 24, but I plan on this being the trend for the next couple years. Maybe a 5 year plan? Either way, I’ll post updates as I make progress (or lack thereof).
20. Make good lifestyle choices. I am the worst. I suck at sticking to an exercise schedule (read: I have no time). I prefer to eat out rather than cook (read: I have NO time). I’m a sucker for sugar, sodium, and wine (read: I like comfort food).
19. Try new recipes. This builds into #20. I wanna expand my cooking abilities, especially with quinoa and couscous (I LOVE them both). Got a cooking blog? Get at me. I need inspiration.
18. Expand my short story and poetry collection. I’d ideally like to read more and write more from these two mediums. I dabble a little in them now, but I can honestly say that novel writing is more my thing.
17. Find a good TV show. I haven’t found one that’s held my interest since LOST. That ended in 2010.
16. Brush up on my language skills. I’m a foreign language major but I feel like the languages I’ve studied are slipping away. Maybe I’ll start reading books in other languages again.
15. Learn a new language. My partner speaks Afrikaans and I’ve been dabbling in it for a while now. Time to jump on board and study it seriously?
14. Get back into non-fiction. I have so many non-fiction books on my shelf that I just. haven’t. read.
13. Explore the world in my backyard. I’m really good at finding places I wanna go that are far away, but not so much at exploring the places within driving distance. Anyone in southern Ontario or New England? I’m looking for places to go for weekend getaways. Suggest in the comments.
12. Buy a new car. Okay, not new, but I’m scared mine might go any day now. Maybe just a car that’s not 13 years old.
11. Clean out my car. After practically living out of it for almost two years now, it’s a joke. I apologize to any passengers who may have contracted a disease.
10. Clear out old clothes. I’ve been meaning to do this for AGES. I have so many things I don’t wear, and I’m sure I can find a good charity to give them to.
9. Get out of my city. Already decided I won’t live here. Hell, my family doesn’t want to either. Time to go.
8. Plan for the future. Where am I going? What do I need to do? Do I want to buy a house? Life insurance? A spaceship? Adult decisions everywhere!
7. Take more time to just be. Maybe that includes meditation. I haven’t decided. God, I’m so meta.
6. Spend more time with those I love. This one kinda bit me in the butt recently. I had someone very close to me pass away, and I kind of feel like I didn’t get to spend enough time with her these past couple years. It wasn’t that I ignored her, I just regret not learning more about her and not making more memories with her. That needs to change for the future.
5. Go on a big trip next year. And the following year. Already planning Greece and Turkey for 2015. Maybe South Africa again in 2016. Been to these places? Comment and let me know what you think.
4. Edit my next novel. Again. Just when I think it’s done, I get a publishing contract and I get self-conscious of my work all over again. My focus is of course on my first novel that will be out next year, but I want to also fix my subsequent novel so that can be released soon afterward.
3. Make and execute a kickass marketing campaign. I’m amped and planning a huge campaign for my first novel. Want to collaborate? Contact me! Otherwise, look out for it mid-autumn. I want it to be EPIC.
2. Complete a third manuscript. I already have two on the go, you say? Welp, I just can’t help myself. It’s already started.
1. Be able to live off of my writing. This is my NUMBER ONE goal. For me, writing is not about the money. I’m not looking to be famous or buy a humongous house, but I want to be able to do what I want for a living. I want to be able to make my passion for writing my work. It may not happen tomorrow, but I will stop at nothing to get there. I want to be able to support myself off of what I love.
Got any goals?