About Kenya

Kenya is a freelance writer and copy editor from Dallas. She is contributor for HelloGiggles and Apartment Therapy. Her work has also been published on JET, xoNecole, Elite Daily and Bustle, to name a few.

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redemption

My thoughts on D∆WN’s ‘Redemption’ album, which just dropped and is already on REPEAT

Years ago, I used to write music reviews and share them with friends and co-workers. But a strange thing happened: I started writing for a living and my quirky, humorous reviews came to a halt. Crazy, right? Well, the release of D∆WN’s Redemption album has reignited a flame within me that’s been dormant for too long. As I write this, I am currently sitting (sometimes standing) on my couch, blasting the stream of Richard’s “Renegades” through my TV. It’s loud AF because I cannot contain how much I love it and I don’t care who knows it. Not even folks who can see me dancing like a madwoman when I play it while I’m driving, but more on that later…

When I first heard Redemption last week on NPR, I instantly fell in love with it and knew I had to have it come Nov. 18 when it officially goes on sale (which is today, but I already pre-ordered). I listened while working, and accomplishing my tasks while jamming to Richard’s moving melodies made for the sweetest struggle ever.

So, here’s my personal review of Redemption. Needless to say, the entirety of the album is LIT, but I simply highlighted my faves along with a brief summation of Richard’s sonic slayage. Redemption (Intro): DAMMIT, I’M HOOKED ALREADY. It reminds me of a fantasy movie, like this scene out of The Neverending Story where Atreyu came face to face with Bastian at the Magic Mirror gate:

Love Under Lights: This song finds Dawn singing about a woman who is 5’10″/lookin’ real good in her skin/I think her shirt said Zeppelin/boots up to her ass, man,” and then the next verse, she’s eyeing a guy who is also a prospect for some “temporary lovin’.” It’s a pretty clever way to highlight sexuality as a theme. And once again, the beats are BOMB.

LA: This laid-back tune is something you can ride to in deep, contemplative thought. Just when I finally grasped the lyric, “We thought we was above it all ‘cause we’ve been friends since Wayne was a Hot Boy,” the the instruments take over at the 2:00 minute-mark and veer off into New Orleans jazz band territory with a Trombone Shorty feature, and I willingly go with it.

Renegades: I don’t know how I manage to drive listening to this song because this is literally me behind the wheel, only I dance harder:

Then when the beat drops at 3:09, it’s like the spirit takes me OVER and who TF is driving my car ’cause it sure ain’t me:

IF IT ISN’T OBVIOUS, THIS IS MY FAVORITE REDEMPTION SONG…On a more intellectual note, anyone else notice how the lyrics paint a picture of someone who wants to run away with a rebel, presumably towards freedom, yet the enunciation of “Renegades” is so tight and restricted? I need to know if that juxtaposition was intentional or just a sign that I got way too buzzed while listening to this.

Vines (interlude): OK so I see she doing this shit again. Just like I needed A Tell Tale Heart‘s “Vibrate” to be longer and BlackHeart’s “Titans” to be a full-length ass song, I’M TOO DOPE TO WALK THIS EARTH WITHOUT A FULL VERSION OF VINES, DAWN! Thx in advance!

The Louvre: Undeniably soul-stirring. The opening with the strings makes me wanna ugly cry even when I don’t have a damn thing to be sad about. But like redemption, the 3:00-mark will uplift you and have you standing on a roof, fully believing you can jump off and fly.

A photo posted by D∆WN (@dawnrichard) on

Valhalla (Outro) – EFFIN’ LOVE THIS. Why are Dawn’s interludes more lyrically and sonically superior than anything I hear on any random radio station?!

So, from start to finish, Redemption is a beautiful album. Dare I say it’s Dawn’s best one yet?  I just wish there were more SONGS because, ugh, it’s just too good to be a mere 47 minutes long. While I’m sad to see the Hearts trilogy come to an end, I know I won’t stop listening to any of the previous Heart albums anytime soon.

Oh, and I cannot WAIT to see her perform “Renegades” live.

 

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What To Expect When You Start Therapy

”What purpose does a therapist serve?”

This was just one of the many real-life responses from someone who doubted my decision to seek professional help to address my ongoing battle with depression a few years ago. Seriously.

The palpable reactions of concern and distrust from loved ones honestly didn’t surprise me, but it would’ve been nice to have a heads-up on some of the unexpected changes that occurred immediately after I began what I like to refer to as my “couch confession sessions.”

Instead of an instant life-fixing prescription, I received homework assignments that for the first time, I couldn’t haphazardly complete with an all-nighter, faced loved ones who openly doubted my therapist’s advice, and dealt with the stress of relationship changes induced by my desire to heal with a stranger’s help. Basically, therapy came with a ton of fine print and I wasn’t prepared to read.

If you’re considering therapy, here are 7 things you can expect to happen after you take that first step to psychological betterment:

Progress won’t happen overnight.

via GIPHY

Now that you’ve started therapy, your inner badass will instantly emerge from its cocoon to whip your life into shape with Iyanla-like precision, right? Sorry to disappoint you beloved, but that’s not exactly how this works.

Maybe it was a combination of desperation and extreme anxiety, but I was convinced that my first few sessions would yield instant results, much like an hour-long TV series co-signed by Oprah. In reality, there isn’t a quick fix for deep-seated issues that have already had a literal lifetime head start on your attempts to resolve them. Embrace therapy as an ongoing process and realize that that in itself is progress.

The first therapist you see may not be a good fit and you might be tempted to give up.

via GIPHY

If your therapist is habitually late, monopolizes the session with personal stories or makes snap judgments before you’re halfway through your back story, don’t be so quick to forfeit your peace of mind to settle into a lifetime of dysfunction.  We’ve heard horror stories about ineffective therapists, which can be a major turnoff to those who are already resistant to the process.

Instead of allowing a bad experience to completely derail your efforts, commit to going the extra mile for the sake of your well-being. Put the same energy into finding a therapist who fits your needs as you would into perfecting your bantu knot outor hustling your way to boss status.

Friends and family will challenge the process.

via GIPHY

While the guiding light of therapy slowly illuminates the pathway to a promise land free of generational curses and self-destructive mindsetssome loved ones will struggle to support your self-care journey. For instance, your parents could view therapy sessions as a direct insult to their child-rearing skills (they raised you right, didn’t they?), or your spouse might take the slow-paced progress as a sign that you’re simply wasting time and money on an overpaid professional coddler. Meanwhile, your bestie is perpetually side-eyeing your counselor (because she’s pretty sure she knows you better than anyone else).

Even if the sentiments of those closest to you seem to come from a place of genuine love and concern, it’s been my experience that the less you share about your sessions with trusted relatives and friends, the better. I found that listening to too many opinions confused me and interrupted my progress. As someone who loves to share experiences and life lessons, this was a challenge for me, but it inevitably reinforced the benefits of having access to an unbiased individual who keeps ego and personal ideologies out of the equation.

Read more of this post at xoNecole.com.

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6 Things You Can Expect to Happen When You Stop Being a People Pleaser

So, you finally decided to stop being a doormat.

First off, accept sincere congratulations from this former people pleaser who now wields her boundary-setting prowess with ninja-like precision. Thanks to the encouragement of a therapist and countless self-sacrificial fails, I routinely partake in putting the most epic of smackdowns on human leeches, unreasonable requests and the urge to say yes when I really mean hell to the no, and I must say — it feels damn good.

Due to the horrible things that happen when you fail to assert yourself, I’d advise anyone involved in this self-destructive game of putting everyone else’s needs before your own to start playing a “me first” version of hardball ASAP. That said, reversing the habit isn’t quite that simple – just ask Oprah, who admitted to being a pushover in the past.

While giving up the doormat life doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll become the next Grand Goddess of Goodness with a complementary Stedman Graham lookalike, these six life changes that take place post-doormat status are reason enough for you to start putting yourself first – with no apologies.

Some users might pull a vanishing act, while others will resist the new you.

When you do away with a doormat mentality, you’re bound to off-load some dysfunctional relationships by default (and good riddance to them). Don’t be surprised to see far less of those whose viability is normally rooted in your reliability. However, in the case of anyone who doesn’t immediately perform a silent two-step out the nearest side door along with the rest of the people you’ve stopped enabling, standing your ground with them is key even if it feels unnatural in the beginning.

More time and energy for self-care.

Aside from flourishing edges, here’s something else reformed doormats can expect to have more of: time and energy. Disengaging from the draining act of people pleasing automatically frees up more opportunity for invaluable “me” time and the ability to mentally recharge. When you commit to being every woman to everyone but yourself, losing your sense of self is inevitable. Over time, your choices, thoughts, feelings and priorities become a blur beneath a growing pile of collective to-do lists that you didn’t create. Ridding yourself of the need to please clears the path to rediscovering and redefining who you are.

Saying “no” becomes less scary.

For those who lack the skills to pull off assertiveness, the imagined backlash or rejection associated with uttering such a potent one-syllable word might prompt cold sweats, nightmares and near-anxiety attacks. When I first moved beyond my fear of turning folks down, it felt like someone flipped on a light switch inside of me, illuminating the fact that people who truly cared about me didn’t simply stop because I denied their requests. Besides, a lifetime of fulfilling everyone else’s needs to the point that it becomes a detriment to your well-being is infinitely more frightening than saying no.

Read the rest of this post at xoNecole.

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5 Ways to Cope When Your 2016 is Already on Some Serious BS

If 2015 was Cliff Huxtable, then 2016 is my Bill Cosby.

Before I could find a moment to create a vision board to fix my future life, this shiny new year wasted no time shoving a Shaquille O’Neal-sized foot up my ass — and twisting it for good measure.

Since the leap year began about two weeks ago, I’ve struggled to keep my sanity in the midst of a series of unfortunate events that include (but aren’t limited to): losing my bread-and-butter freelance writing gig at the stroke of midnight; shelling out $300 several hours later to a towing company that sneakily hauled my vehicle away from my sister’s apartment complex, taking my NYE buzz with it; and the ultimate show of the New Year’s attitude toward my entire life: discovering a mold infestation in my house that has already cost me dearly (and counting).

Under more pleasant circumstances, hotel-hopping my way through the first week of the year might’ve been a fun adventure, but not when I’m on the run from an insanely expensive, allergy-inducing house guest.

I only wake up to eat, curse my existence, engage in a little self-pity (OK, a lot) and stress over my quickly diminishing coins and lack of gainful employment.

Joblessness and a moldy house makes it a little difficult to digest all of the upbeat resolutions. Yes, I hear you, this is your year (again).

I’ve been inundated with positive updates from fellow entrepreneurs and glamorous travel plans from family and friends who are all obviously going to get what they want in 2016. It all only highlights the hole where my usual start-of-the-year giddy anticipation used to reside.

In short, sappy optimism be damned, because 2016 is on some serious bullshit.

When your new year starts out like a scaled-down version of the 10 biblical plagues, it feels impossible to not lose your shit. But take it from someone who’s spent the bulk of 2016 bemoaning a week’s worth of fails and getting drunk off home-brewed haterade: There are more effective ways to cope with being bombarded by stereotypical displays of new year-fueled optimism.

Don’t believe the social media hype.

This should be a standard rule of practice for social media engagement, but it’s especially pertinent at the start of a new year. If you obsess over every single positive tweet, Instagram post or Facebook status, it won’t be long before you’re convinced a thick mist of goal-achieving repellent is blocking you from success.

Since you can’t mute all those peppy #NewYearNewYou hashtags, put the pause on social media immersion so the glare from everyone else’s shine doesn’t obscure the path to your future wins. And, frankly, annoy the sh*t out of you.

Don’t panic — we’re only a week in.

“But it’s barely the New Year. You’re OK,” reads a text from my mother after I wrote her freaking out over this year’s calamities.

Such a simple dose of get-yourself-together realness couldn’t have come at a better time. While I was knee-deep in the bowels of distress, I had totally overlooked the fact that 2016 is a newborn baby (a cranky, colicky one, but still), and there are an entire 51 weeks plus an extra day remaining in which wonderful things can and will happen.

Realize that progress isn’t a race.

So what if my only brush with productivity in the New Year happened when I whizzed through four seasons of “Cooking Dash”? While I was fully engulfed in whipping up and serving virtual meals on my smartphone, it felt like everyone else was out there #winning.

But just as you and I both know those coins don’t count for sh*t in real life, the strides someone else makes won’t add to or detract from your own. Work at a pace that suits you and keep in mind that the goals you set have everything to do with personal fulfillment. Conjuring up imaginary competition only puts you that much further from an achievement.

Read the rest of this post over at Elite Daily.

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poise passion

When Your Writing Has Poise But Not Enough Passion

My words don’t sang – they just sing… or so I’ve been told.

According to my partner in Un-edited crime, Andrea, my writing should read less Beyoncé and more Fantasia. (That’s one hell of a metaphor, right?) I should be flattered at the suggestion that someone believes I share stylistic similarities with (almighty) Queen Bey, but before anyone gets the idea that I’m feelin’ myself waaay too much, lemme explain – what she means is my writing mirrors the cool, calm and palpably controlled composure of your expected Beyoncé performance, but lacks the wild, shoe-flinging, damn near reckless abandon that takes place during a typical Fantasia show.  Even though my heart may be caught in a fan, à la Bey’s bountiful Brazilian weave, my words always manage to hold it together so as to not truly expose the emotions brewing beneath the surface.

bey

Bottom line is fancy designer prose, subject-verb agreement and generous use of metaphors may provoke a reader to nod in agreement or have a tempered two-step of a reaction, but they won’t make anyone jump up, shout or come anywhere close to sweating out their fresh perm.  Writing is cathartic, but I don’t think there’s an author out there who doesn’t want to create work that makes a reader feel emotion.

So, why would a writer (or any other creative individual) hold back when expressing themselves?

Fear:

This one’s self-explanatory and could range from being afraid to reveal personal truths, fear of being judged, fear of facing one’s true emotions, fear of not being able to fully execute an idea, fear of Beyoncé giving you a public side-eye for daring to compare yourself to her in a somewhat unflattering manner, and the list goes on…

Concern about offending others:

For example, I have a heartfelt rant in me about the recent rash of women who are hellbent on oversharing about their periods, but I’ve held back because I don’t want to offend anyone who might think I’m being oppressive or anti-feminist when I comment on the ludicrousness of free-bleeding for a cause or posting period blood on Instagram, not to mention how utterly disgusting it is to cook with your own vaginal yeast. (There, I said it.)

Oversharing:

The impact of oversharing feels like a hangover that can strike at any given moment and ain’t no Alka-Seltzer-time machine combo that can ease the symptoms. It passes when it’s good and damn ready. Honestly, a lot of my personal essay pitches are collecting dust in a mental file because of a prior experience with sharing too many personal details in print (I’m still cringing, ugh). I considered this heavily when I wrote about my complicated relationship with my father because obviously I’m not the only one impacted by those words, but I wrote it out of emotional necessity. Fantasia’s father sued her for writing about him, so if my father happens to stumble upon what I’ve written and doesn’t like it, I guess I’ll prepare myself to hear the words, “You’ve been served.”

Not thinking your voice, thoughts or opinions matter:

I say this to myself as much as I say it to anyone else – your voice exists, therefore it matters, even if you’re the only one who believes that.

People can be mean and intentionally harsh towards those who willingly expose themselves with the world.  That said, a part of me doesn’t blame Beyoncé one fucking bit for keeping her shoes on her feet. But constant self-censorship only keeps me stagnant and it also makes me feel a bit fraudulent being one-half of a site that promotes the loose and free usage of words, unfiltered thoughts and raw feelings. 

I am certainly committed to being more transparent and true to my emotions when writing, but unlike Fantasia, I can’t promise I’ll let you see my feet.

fantasia 2

 

 

 

 

 

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struggle

When the Struggle Becomes an Addiction

Growing up, several disappointments caused me to construct a wall around myself to dull the impact of any future letdowns. For a long time, that wall was my Employee of the Year, never calling in sick or sleeping on the job. I programmed myself to believe that happy times were earned by bad experiences and if something good was to happen, then impending disaster waited around the corner for me, ready to pounce at a moment’s notice. But what I thought was a stealthy source of protection actually dismantled my ability to embrace blessings and happy moments in my life. This may sound insane, but I’ve come to realize that I’m addicted to struggling. Yep, the support group, 12-step program type of addiction.

After I finally had my first paid piece published (a goal that had been set years prior), I barely acknowledged the fact that I’d finally accomplished my goal because I was worrying about hypothetical backlash from my family and inconsequential opinions of complete strangers. I couldn’t resist manufacturing a struggle-filled worry session instead of simply enjoying my moment.

scared

Me, too afraid to celebrate good news

Before I quit my 9-5 to pursue writing full-time, I envisioned my last day on the job as a par-tayyyy filled with celebratory Tuaca shots that would leave me doing carpet angels in the middle of my living room floor. Instead, my struggle mentality lured me into stressing over whether I’d be able to make a living writing and wondering to myself how long my husband would  support me before this idealistic “chasing my dream” notion got old.

Ever since I can recall, I dreamed of traveling to Hawaii. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to visit two islands during my honeymoon. One day, between winding around curves on Maui’s beautiful Road to Hana, and snapping pictures of waterfalls and seaside cliffs, I became overwhelmed with a feeling of not belonging, like I didn’t deserve to be there.

My husband looked confused and told me, “Our money spends just like everyone else here. You wanted to see Hawaii, didn’t you? Just take it in and enjoy it,” he said, reminding me that this was something I’d been blabbing his ears off about since we met.

I look back on the beautiful photos from my visit and regret not embracing what should have been a moment of pure joy! Sure, some pretty effed up stuff happened in the past. But today my increased level of self-understanding tells me that not every moment has to involve a struggle.

Meanwhile, I’m working on de-programming my debilitating train of thought by celebrating victories, big and small.  The end goal is to learn to fully relax and let the sunshine from happy moments flood my insides. Doing just that has been–you guessed it–yet another struggle, but I refuse to settle. Truth is, I’ve been about that struggling life for far too long and I’m finally ready to sober up.

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freelance

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2

Last week, I compiled a list of ways freelance writers can avoid playing themselves, and before I knew it, I had enough tips for two blog posts. As it turns out, there are more freelancing pitfalls to look out for than becoming an envy-fueled, byline-blocking spammer who doesn’t have an accountability partner (yikes). So without further ado, here are some additional tips on what not to as a freelance writer if you want to flourish instead of flounder, because it takes way more than a mean pen game.

Trying to do too much: Earlier this year, I was working six days a week, which meant bylines on bylines on bylines, but after a while, I had to ask myself for why? I am by no means rich, wealthy or anywhere near it — I needs my checks — but running myself into the ground trying to keep up with every scandal, news item or hashtag simply isn’t worth it.

Thinking that writing skills = automatic flow of work:

Your words sing, dance and twerk their way off the page, but when it comes to landing a byline, there are more politics involved, like timing, connections, persistence and the list goes on. This is precisely why you shouldn’t (but probably still will) bemoan that writer who lands bylines at that pub you’ve pitched a zillion times, despite the fact that we both know you could’ve written that article 10 times better.

Underestimating the power of your blog:

Not only is a personal blog  a great way to hone skills and work through insecurities about writing, it can also serve as a point of contact for potential clients. Also, prospective freelancers who are looking to write for money can use their posts to pitch paying publications. Trust me — it works, and you’d be surprised at who’s reading your seemingly random musings about home life or your fave polish of the week.

Allowing fear to stop you from pitching:

Honestly, pitching still scares the beejezus out of me, depending on the publication. But most of the rejection that beginning freelance writers dread doesn’t actually happen the way they envision it. Instead of nasty responses telling me I needn’t quit my day job (too late for that), the rejections I’ve received have all come in the form of silence. Writers I know who have received responses are usually told that their idea isn’t a good fit for the publication, and in some cases, they’ve been invited to pitch again. Which brings me to…

Not following up on rejected pitches:

If an editor asks you to pitch them again, do it, and soon. They receive a ton of pitches, so yours must’ve been pretty special to elicit a personal invitation to try again.

Don’t give away too much info for free:

There’s no coincidence why this little gem is last on my list. While I am an advocate of helping other freelance writers and sharing information with pretty much anyone who asks, there’s a limit to how many details I’m willing to part with for free 99. I could write a separate blog post on all the ways I have completely played myself by doing what basically amounted to consulting work because I genuinely enjoy helping others and I thought (wrongly) that I was forging a reciprocal relationship with people who would eventually help me in return. Now that I know better (and have sworn off dealing with leeches), I am making plans to package the info and monetize it in the future.

With that, fellow writers, let’s stop playing ourselves and start with progressing.

Happy freelancing!

 

 

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freelance writer

How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 1

Here’s a confession: I don’t have enough writing friends. Believe it or not, pals with whom I can lament over the joys and stresses of freelance writing are a rarity in my life, which leaves me partaking in way too many one-sided conversations with the hubs about bylines, pitches and how I should handle my latest #BBHMM moment when yet another janky client decides they can’t be bothered with paying me.

Since I feel guilty about constantly bombarding him with information he couldn’t care less about and because my constant social media lurking tells me that there are other writers who could actually benefit from this info, I’ve compiled a list of ways that freelance writers can avoid playing themselves. This list comes from some of my mistakes as well as some that I’ve observed from fellow professional scribes, so if you feel slightly embarrassed while reading,  realize that you’re not the only writer who’s engaged in some of this face-palmy behavior.

Refusing to help other writers:

When I first got into freelancing, a businessman referred me to the editor of a small local newspaper who refused to help me. She dismissed me because she was too busy, plus she didn’t already know me from the work she’d done on my college campus as a part of the National Association of Black Journalists. I didn’t get a chance to tell her that while in school, I worked full-time and had a magazine internship, which didn’t leave me much time for NABJ or anything else, but it’s all good because clearly, I dodged a bullet.

Since then, I’ve heard numerous stories about established writers who flatly refuse to help other writers with simple information such as sharing contact info or answering a question about their experience writing for a particular publication. I do realize there are some instances where sharing an editor’s contact info may not be appropriate, but I’m referring to blatant byline blocking, wherein the writer ain’t trying to help because they fear that assisting someone else will hinder their progress. But guess what: Helping another writer get a leg up isn’t going to take away from your opportunities. With all the paid writing jobs I see every single day, there’s enough room for everyone to get a piece of the pie and to be quite honest, one writer’s byline ain’t gon’ stop my hustle.

Spamming other writers on social media:

In my humble opinion, I’m not even on the freelance writer who warrants spamming level (not that any writer does, but lil’ ole me?). Still, that doesn’t stop random bloggers/writers who haven’t even bothered to say hello to me online from sending me links to their work or DMing me to share their posts. It’s pushy, annoying and most importantly ignored by me.  Why not introduce yourself and engage in authentic conversation with folk and develop a relationship first, then naturally work your writing in?

Also, that tit-for-tat business doesn’t work very well either, at least not for me.  I tried that “you share mine, I share yours” arrangement, but that grew old really quick, and it just doesn’t feel genuine. Like, why am I sharing your piece on the horticultural interests of 17th century Spanish aristocracy when that topic doesn’t interest me, the piece is not well-written and/or I only did it because you retweeted my article on Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt” video?

Repeatedly doing business with people or publications that have burned you:

OK, so opinions may vary on whether writers should permanently sever ties with a publication that wronged them, but I’m of the “Oh, hell no, not again,” mindset. In my experience, when given the opportunity to redeem themselves, my list (yes, list) of repeat offender pubs failed miserably. Bottom line is I’ve been there, done that, got multiple burns to prove it and I’m done.

Not having an accountability partner:

God bless Andrea, my writing partner and the other half of Un-Edited. She’s dope as hell, has helped me minimize my writing-related backsliding and holds me to my words (even when I forget them). Honestly, if it wasn’t for her, I would’ve probably beat a hasty, yet regret-filled retreat back to cubicle life by now. If you don’t have a writing accountability partner in your life, I suggest you get one ASAP.

Underestimating the value of your time: So, now it’s my turn to face-palm. I once spent several hours writing and sourcing photos for an article that I earned $15 for just because I thought writing for so-and-so would put me on the map, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. By the time I submitted the story, I was in the hole. You’ve been warned…

Writing strictly for pay: I believe in dabbling in a little bit of everything because you may find that you’re interested in previously unexplored topics that a publication asks you to cover. But don’t let writing to pay the bills become your sole motivation for pitching or targeting certain clients because that’s the fastest route to burn out.

Welp, by now you’re either cringing with embarrassment or feeling aptly prepped to go forth into freelancing.

In between licking your wounds or penning the next greatest pitch, make sure to stop by for How Not to Play Yourself as a Freelance Writer Part 2, coming next week. (Yes, there is more.)

 

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SAD

Battling the Blues: 7 Ways to Cope With Seasonal Affective Disorder

Many people approach the fall and winter excitedly anticipating the start of cuffing season or finally being able to pair their sexiest knee-high boots with trendy Olivia Pope-inspired coats. Unfortunately, I’m not at all consumed by the notion of cozy, romantic jaunts or flaunting fashionable ensembles that shield my body from the plunging temperatures. Instead, I’m preoccupied with summoning an extra dose of self-compassion to safeguard myself against the toll that Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, has invariably taken on my mind, body and soul every year for the past five years. 

To put it bluntly, SAD is a relentless, punctual bastard who shows up annually on my doorstep, trifling and empty-handed as ever.


Before I became better acquainted with its effects, I mistakenly attributed my annual slump to the inconveniences that seasonal changes bring (because driving in sleet and snow is a b*tch), and I thought that maybe I was traumatized by the unfortunate experience of nursing my first broken heart in the dead of winter (because that is the loneliest of loneliness). Until I was officially diagnosed with depression, those were just two of the reasons I used to try and justify why I felt like the absolute worst version of myself once the seasons started to change.

In reality, SAD is a potentially life-threatening form of depression that is directly linked to changes in the season. According to Psychology Today, SAD affects an estimated 10 million Americans, most of whom are women. While it commonly strikes during the fall and winter, reverse SAD can also take its toll during the summer months. Clearly, it’s not a joke, but neither is the way I handle it. So before seasonal sadness swoops in for its annual roundup, here are seven methods I use to cope with the effects of SAD:

Be proactive. I’ve never been much of a planner but dealing with SAD has forced me to seriously step up my game. Imagine if you threw an annual party and you already knew a particular individual showed up to each gathering like clockwork to act a damn fool. This isn’t Basketball Wives, so you wouldn’t stand around and watch the drama unfold, and thanking SAD for its services and dismissing it isn’t a viable option. Instead, I like to treat SAD like that person who only gained entry to the party because they name-dropped depression at the door. 


When it arrives, I already have a plan of attack: a list of methods that did/did not help me cope in years past, the names of people who’ve agreed in advance to support me when the going gets tough, as well as some cash set aside to finance extra date nights or a quick getaway with the hubby because getting out of the house is essential to my personal self-care routine, especially when I’m depressed.

Pinpoint your triggers and avoid them at all costs. Triggers include literally anything that could potentially offset your SADness. They could range from attending family gatherings where relatives you don’t like will be present, to getting all caught up in mushy holiday commercials that make you feel extra lonesome, not to mention broke. I’m not particularly fond of either activity, so I turn down the invites (anybody who doesn’t like it can stay mad) and I hit up Netflix so I can choose what the hell I watch on TV (eff yo’ sappy Black Friday propaganda).

Be vocal about your feelings. Like the total hater that it is, SAD thrives on isolation. The urge to physically and mentally burrow into a hole with your emotions can be overwhelming, but it’s super important to remain open with a trusted friend or relative, even if you feel like a burden. Depression layers a thick haze over my self-awareness and ability to think clearly, so I tend to use others to gauge my behavior. If I slightly detect that old familiar unsettled feeling, I have no problem asking my husband if there’s any disturbing patterns that he’s observed from me. Sometimes I think I’m OK when it’s clear to him that I’m not.

Watch your diet and ease up on the booze. I know, I know. The season to be jolly beckons, plus Beyoncé warned us to “never drop that alcohol.” But when it comes to SAD, consider coming up with a personalized, liquor-free remix to “7/11.”

Also, keep in mind that you feel what you eat. Overindulging in rich, sugary, fatty meals turn me into a sluggish, anxious mess, which only exacerbates the impact of SAD.  

Get active. To someone dealing with SAD, the word exercise sounds downright offensive. But the endorphins released during a workout are the real deal. They boost your mood and your ability to focus, which will help you think clearly and balanced, unlike the muddled, irrational thoughts depression wants you to accept as the truth. I recently enrolled in a Bikram yoga class that has done wonders for my anxiety in a short period of time, so it’s officially on my list of anti-SAD activities.

Write or vlog it out. Don’t be alarmed—these personal musings are not for the ‘Gram. They’re strictly to help you come face-to-face with your reality. So many people use the mirror solely to check their physical reflection, but they never bother to look past the surface. As horrifying as it sounds, I saved a video of myself from when I was really down and watched it back as soon as I recorded it. It was extremely sobering and almost felt like observing a stranger for whom I had an immense amount of compassion. And who am I kidding—it also made me cringe like hell. But in the end, it motivated me to do whatever I needed to do to stay afloat, because I never want to see myself in that condition again.

Seek therapy. We’re only a couple weeks into the fall, but I already have my therapist on deck because this time of year is when I need that extra bit of support the most. In December 2013, my seasonal mood swings became markedly more pronounced and a heated argument culminated in suicidal thoughts, which ultimately led to my roughest bout with depression to date. I’ve grown stronger since then, but relapses are always in the back of my mind. However, knowing that I have at least one go-to person who provides ego and judgment-free assistance helps me to keep SAD in check. If the thought of speaking to a stranger face-to-face makes you uneasy, consider reaching out to The National Prevention Suicide Lifeline, or Imalive.org, an online network of certified crisis intervention volunteers. In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Week, don’t hesitate to research and secure resources that help you manage. Because #Iamstigmafree, I realize that my struggle is way too real to go unaddressed because a misguided, uninformed segment of the population believes people with mental illnesses should suffer in silence.

The bottom line is I refuse to allow SAD to come barging into my party simply because my depression insists on handing out invites without my approval. I’m expecting it to arrive any day now. Meanwhile I’m busy hiding my good china, warning my other guests, and preparing myself for its impending foolishness. I may not be able to completely rid my life of the annual SAD visits, but I can make sure that it wipes its feet upon entry, and understands that while I might waver, I won’t back down from the fight of my life.

This post was published on xoNecole.

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writing

5 Fallacies of Full-Time Freelance Writing

writing

Last night, I went to sleep with tense shoulders and a clenched jaw, thanks to my masochistic habit of reading work emails on my days off. However, on this most wonderful day of hindsight-induced clarity that the Lord hath made, I vow to never — ever, ever, ever (!) — do that again. In a recent article published in The New Yorker, the author explored why Americans work so much, but just like I can’t explain my obsession with continuously checking my email, he too, came up rather empty-handed when attempting to answer his question.

Part of the blame goes to the fact that I chose to write full-time and nearly two years after taking the plunge into making my own schedule and working independently (to an extent), I still struggle to maintain a healthy life-work balance. After feeling that old, familiar stress-related neck strain forcing my ears to damn near touch my neck, I thought to myself, What part of the game is this? Truth be told, I didn’t anticipate half the experiences I’ve had with freelance writing for a living, including some of the troubles that have recently landed in my inbox.

And you wanna know something else?  I don’t feel like writing a damn thing. In fact, it’s the last thing I want to be doing at the moment. But then, I hear my voice of years past echo from beyond my old cubicle and make its way through menial tasks and co-workers I hate(d). It rounds the bend by where my old desk was located and gently taps me on the shoulder to say, But this what you asked for. You’re living your dream. And I am instantly grateful for the courage, growth, opportunities and knowledge it has brought me. But honestly, sometimes this entire arrangement feels more like a nightmare.

Two years in and I’m far removed enough from the beginning to realize that I had the game all twisted. In the emo words of Drake, “Nothing was the same” once I found out the real deal. So, in the spirit of my prior naiveté and overall shitty attitude du jour, I’m here to set the record straight for anyone who’s all googly-eyed over the prospect of living out their dream of writing full-time.

I’mma let y’all finish daydreaming, but here are five fallacies you might currently have about freelance writing full-time that are nothing more than lies from the pit of hell:

Mellifluous words of profound inspiration will constantly spew forth from my pen.

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I tried to come up with an elegant way of saying this, but all I got is HELL NAH.

I am overflowing with gratefulness that I’m living my dream.

dreams oitnb season 3 brown jumpsuit

OK, so there’s a caveat. It depends on what you’re paid to create and I’ve learned that a) sometimes I’m expected to cover topics that don’t interest me and b) I don’t absolutely love everything I create. It’s difficult to remember gratefulness when you’re struggling through a godawful assignment.  For this reason, I plan to be more selective about what I write, but depending on the circumstances, beginning freelancers may not always feel like they have that luxury.

It’s so much easier to write a book now that you’re writing full-time.

rihanna high ponytail brown coat

I mean, the ideas are just nonstop, right? You’re already writing other shit, so just ride that creative wave into a book, right?! Um, that’s cute and all, but my mind has repeatedly rejected that notion. I haven’t abandoned the idea altogether, but I’m finding less reasons to put up a fight.

People will praise me constantly for breaking into a competitive field – and I will expect and need them to care about my writing.

coming to america guy clapping

Bottom line is they really haven’t, they ain’t and I don’t.

Since you’re doing what you love, it’ll never feel like work.

tamar

SIGH. Maybe when I’m Oprah, I’ll agree with this sentiment, but until then? Lies.

And that, my dear would-be full-time writers, is ALL truth, no backspace.

 

Images: CreateHerStock; ReactionGifs; Giphy 

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