Three Cheers for Two Years

When I got the notification that I’ve been on WordPress for two years, I was kind of surprised. It feels like I’ve been blogging forever, and it’s weird to think that I used to hate blogs.WP Anniversary.JPG

Looking back at the blogging goals I set for myself this time last year, I can definitely tell the effect starting grad school has had on this blog.

I did really well for the first half of the year, in my opinion, but as school started, my writings faded down to maybe once a month.

Over the course of the year, I’ve created series, added more pictures and media, and for a while, I did have a regular schedule.

The goals are still good ones I would like to keep in mind as I move forward, but I still might not post to this blog as consistently as I want to while I’m still a grad student.

Hopefully I will still update this blog somewhat regularly, but I am quite busy now that school is in full swing.

I hope you have enjoyed the past two years with me, and I hope you continue checking in with me every now and then.

For now, you can follow me at Earth Lib Perspectives, a fun blog I’ve created to fulfill a requirement for a class. I will be updating that blog weekly throughout the spring semester with postings for assignments, book reviews, and more.

Happy Reading!


Past and Present: Blogging Goals

Friday was the anniversary of my first blog post here (and ever!) on Past and Present: Writings from Stefany Boleyn, a Lifelong Learner.

Over the year, I have set goals for myself to develop this blog further. I’ve changed the subtitle from “Writings from a University Senior” to “Writings from a Lifelong Learner” to “Writings from Stefany Boleyn, a Lifelong Learner.” I have also changed the theme once and tried to create a more user-friendly page.

My ultimate goal was to stick with it. Though some major life events (aka graduating and getting married) hindered me from writing monthly, I am proud of what I have so far.

image (8)
My assistant, Razo, should help me keep these goals.

I fully plan on growing this blog further, and to do so, I have set some goals for myself:

ONE // Create a regular schedule

Honestly, I’m more of an editor than I am a writer. My posts spend a minimum of a week to an eternity in the drafting and editing stages. I don’t write about easy topics usually, and I have to develop my ideas, research them, and put them in some organized fashion before I schedule the post to publish. And especially since this isn’t a full-time project (I work two other jobs and am applying to graduate school), I sometimes forget to finalize my drafts.

However, my goal is to write at least four posts a month (hopefully 1/week on the same day). Ideally, I would eventually get to a point where I publish a post every other day with a regular schedule.

This goal will hopefully help me to a) create more content for you, the reader and b) to help myself learn to stick to quick deadlines.

TWO// Shorten posts

Whether it comes from harsher editing or from making one long post into a series, I need to stop creating walls of text for you to read.

THREE// Add more media

Even when I’m trying to keep them short, my posts can get rather lengthy (apologies), and adding pictures can help ease the eyesore that is a wall of text. My main goal is to take more original photos (rather than recycling old ones) for each post and to have at least one featured image per post.

FOUR// Participate in Blogging U

Hopefully I will be able to do both Blogging 101 and 201. Currently, I’m registered for Blogging 101, so I’m already halfway there!

With these goals in mind, I’m excited to see what Past and Present looks like a year from now!

Do you blog? Do you create goals for your blog, go with the flow, or something else? Let me know in the comments!


Past and Present: Year One

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s been a year since my capstone class required me to create a website, and I decided that, since I’m an English major, why not do a blog instead?

As a writer, I thought having a static website where the only examples of my writing were from academic essays was kind of pointless. I believe that I should create content that is less formal to go along with the formal essays. This blog keeps me writing, keeps me thinking, and keeps me learning.

After about a month, I've finally got my work space up and running!
After about a month, I’ve finally got my work space up and running!

Deciding to create a blog rather than a website made sense to me. Not only am I able to provide links to my academic work, but I am also able to show that I am continuing to write beyond graduation. Best of all, I am able to write about topics and issues that I care about.

I never took myself to be a person who could blog, and before I started, I had only ever followed one blog… but here I am, a year into it, and I love it.

After 41 posts (42 counting this one), I can’t believe how far that it’s come.

I’m constantly drafting out posts and writing ideas down. Though not all of my ideas get published, I’m happy with the content that now lives here on my WordPress page.

On Sunday, I’ll list out my goals for developing Past and Present further.

Thanks for reading thus far! Is there anything you want me to write about or would like to see on this blog? Let me know in the comments!

Everything, Libraries

On Understanding

This post has been in the works for some time. However, I attended Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service at my university Monday and listened to a fantastic keynote speaker before the service started. He stressed that we should think about making every day a service day and to serve others beyond a few hours of volunteering. His speech motivated me to think about the ways I serve others in my life.

So far, I know that I have chosen a career path that will allow me to serve others in a meaningful way, and I constantly strive to be the same person I present on social media that I am in person. I also realized that part of how I serve others is how I treat the patrons at my library. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on being understanding and nonjudgmental…

Everyone has a bad day at some point in their lives. Many people have days that are a lot worse than my worst bad day will ever be.

My best friend and I (on the left) before service started.
My best friend and I (on the left) before service started.

There is no rule or law that states people who come into the library must be having a good day in order to use our resources.

Yet many people (in general, not just at libraries) are quick to judge someone based off of one interaction. Perhaps they were having a horrible day. Maybe they really are just a rude person. We don’t know, and it shouldn’t be our job to judge them; we should try and help them or let them be.

Judgments don’t just apply to personalities though. They apply to things like how one dresses and what they come into the library to do.

We as humans are quick to judge others based off of what they wear and how they present themselves, but one of the first lessons I learned when I started working for the library was to not assume the man in the suit is rich or that the not-so-pleasant-smelling patron is experiencing homelessness. People do all sorts of things to hide their true situations, which includes what they do at the library.

Assumptions harm people. They affect how we view people, how we treat them, and if spoken, they are likely to harm the person they’re about.

If there is a not-so-nice-smelling patron who comes in regularly, we don’t know what their life situation is. They could have a mental illness and not have the money to access proper treatment, so they let themselves go. Depression has a strong ability to stop the person with depression from taking care of their self. People who experience mania might be so involved in an idea that they completely forget to shower or practice self-care and thus charge into the library to research how to make their ideas reality.

If a patron comes in wearing a suit every day, they might have lots of money, or they might not. What if they were raised to dress nicely every day so that good opportunities will find them? What if they are extremely poor, but they allow themselves the luxury to wear a nice suit or to have an awesome phone?

My point is that people aren’t always what they seem, and I shouldn’t treat people poorly based on assumptions I make about their life.

People who come into the library want one thing: resources. Why should an assumption I make about their life change how I give them access to those resources?

My job is not to badger the man in the suit who has a lot of fines but never pays them, nor is it my job to make assumptions about any of the library patrons (or anyone else either).

Me working to prepare a Valentine's Day craft program.
Me working to prepare a Valentine’s Day craft program.

My job is to treat everyone with understanding and kindness, and my job is to accept things as they are. I simply have to notify the patron in the suit that they have fines, and I treat them just as I treat the other patrons.

In terms of being understanding and not judgmental, my job is to:

-not make assumptions

-find and provide resources to all of our patrons

-listen to the patrons

-work with them

-serve them, and

-avoid judging them

As with many people, my first instinct is to judge people on first sight even though it’s not something I want to do. However, I have the choice to let my initial judgments rule how I treat people, or I can just follow the saying and treat others the way I would want to be treated.

In my line of work, I have the choice to acknowledge that I am not in the same shoes as the patrons I serve. Their lives differ from mine, and I don’t know what they might be going through (regardless of what they tell me or project to the world).

If we truly are a world that wants equity for everyone, we need to accept that, yes, we make judgments and assumptions about others, but no, we don’t need to allow those judgments to rule how we treat other people.

If we do that, then maybe we will be able to make progress towards an equitable world.

Moral of the story? Let go of our judgments and be more understanding towards other people. After all, we’re all in this whole living thing together; let’s do each other a favor and be good people.

Everything, NaNoWriMo

The End of NaNoWriMo 2014

A few weeks ago, I posted that I was beginning my journey through National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time, and I am happy to report that I won! Winning means that I wrote 50,000 words towards a novel, and I did it.

The story isn’t complete, and I will probably get rid of half of what I wrote in the revision and editing processes, but I’m glad I did it.

Starting off nine days into the month definitely put me behind, and I will never, ever start late again (if I can help it). However, starting late and the whole month in general taught me some good lessons, and I thought I would share them with you.

Lesson One: Find Support

Hufflepuff won second place, and some tasty (and not so tasty) beans as a result. On the right, you can see how far my word count graph bar jumped as a result of the Harry Potter write-in.
Hufflepuff won second place, and some tasty (and not so tasty) beans as a result. On the right, you can see how far my word count graph bar jumped as a result of the Harry Potter write-in.

I would have never finished NaNoWriMo had it not been for the constant support of my husband. He kept me going to the very end, and his words of encouragement kept me sane.

I also have my local NaNoWriMo writers to thank for my victory. We scheduled regular meet-ups at Starbucks, Panera Bread, and local bookstores. At these write-ins, we would share our struggles and triumphs, discuss plot lines, write together, “compete,” and have a lot of fun. Everyone encouraged one another, and we had a blast.

My favorite write-in was one that was Harry Potter themed. We divided ourselves into houses, and held timed races where each word written counted as house points. (My team, Hufflepuff, came in second place to Slytherin). Besides the scramble to the finish on the last day, I wrote more words that day than any other day during the month.

Also, if you’re looking to publish your novel, write-ins are a great way to network and get advice from other writers, which sort of leads me to…

Lesson Two: Writers are Readers

Many times have I heard the phrase, “Writers are readers,” and never before had I understood that phrase completely until I started NaNoWriMo.

As I wrote, I found myself thinking of what worked best in novels I have read. I found myself thinking of what I found interesting and what I found boring.

I thought about character development and what characters I had read about seemed most genuine and believable.

I thought about the world my characters lived in and what helped me understand the worlds of other characters.

I thought about dialogue and what sounded best.

I thought about what, as a reader, I wanted more of and what, as a reader, I wanted less of.

I thought about the times I was emotionally moved.

I thought about the morals and lessons the stories taught me inadvertently and how they pulled it off.

It’s amazing how much I have learned about writing just from reading, and so my advice to anyone that wants to write is to read lots and lots.

Lesson Three: Silence Your Inner Editor

I cannot tell you enough how freeing it was to tell my inner editor / perfectionist to shut it. At university, I developed this habit of editing as I wrote. Looking back, this was a good habit for me to get papers done in a short amount of time and still have something legible at the end of the day, but it’s not effective when trying to write 50,000 words of fiction in a short amount of time.

Silencing my inner editor was the best thing I did throughout the month. Generally, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words of fiction… not to produce a novel that is ready to be published at the end of the month. It doesn’t matter that I will eventually edit and revise and trash a bunch of what I wrote.

The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that it doesn’t matter how awful the writing you produce is; at least you’ve written more than you had at the start of the month, and at least you’ve started a habit of writing regularly.

Editing can come later; first you have to write, which leads me into…

Lesson Four: Just Start Writing

I ended the first post about NaNoWriMo with:

“I have accepted that I may not finish the novel by the end of the month, but I’ve found that the more I write, the easier it is to develop my ideas further. Maybe the concrete nature of writing helps to develop my ideas, and I’m able to flesh them out more once I write them down. Maybe a J.K. Rowling moment isn’t what I needed. Maybe I just needed to start writing.”

And I was right. I just needed to start writing. Part of the way through the month, I realized that I had formed an idea that could span several novels.

If someone had told me in October that by the end of November, I would have the material to write several novels and have been 50,000 words into the first of them, I would have told them that they were out of their minds.

Now, however, I find that I do have the potential to write several novels. When I let go of trying to form an idea and just started writing (no matter how the quality of the writing was), the ideas began to form and spread.

So, whether you want to write a short story or a novel, the biggest advice I could give you is to just start writing.

Don’t worry about what it sounds like. Just write words on the page until they start writing themselves.

Even though I drank too much Starbucks and stared at a computer screen more than I probably should, I found my first NaNoWriMo to be rewarding in so many ways and almost way too much fun!

The end of NaNoWriMo 2014 isn’t really the end for me; it’s honestly the beginning. I plan on finishing and revising my novel, participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, and doing NaNoWriMo all over again next year.

Now that I’ve started, stopping seems impossible, and that’s a good thing. 😉

Keep Reading and Keep Writing!

Current Events, Everything

On Making Change

Every person has the ability to make change in their own way.

Many people choose to use their voice. Some voices are louder than others. Some are more articulate and thought-through. Some are emotional. Some are timid.

I know people who use their ability to captivate an audience to their advantage. They are able to inform others online and in person with facts at the drop of a hat, and they know it. I have a friend who can express everything I’m feeling long before I’ve ever figured out the right words. Those people are inspiring.

I also know people who may not be so good at coming up with what to say, so they “share” or refer to those who use their words well. That’s okay. I’m one of those people a lot of the time.

My friend does a lot to make change. She uses her voice, her right to vote, her influence on social media, and so much more to make change. It’s in her blood.

Like her, some people make change by using their voice. Some use media (social and otherwise). Some look to politics. Some look to education (for themselves and others). Some prefer to team up and work with people. Some choose to hold demonstrations and protests. Some take a strong and public stand against injustices in our world. Some are terrified, for reasons that don’t have to be known, to express their opinions publicly.

There are so many ways to make change; you just have to pick one. You don’t have to be like my friend and take a strong public stance, but you have to do something. If you don’t want to be in the public eye, reach out to those who do speak up loudly and ask how you can make change. They’ll have ideas. The only thing you can’t do is nothing.

I’m a fan of the band Rush, and they have a lyric that goes “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Though they aren’t talking about making change, the lyric still rings true for me.

My biggest point is that, no matter how you choose to make change, understand that everyone has their own way of making a difference. No one facing the same goal should criticize one another on how they choose to make change. We all need to stand together and use our strengths to our advantage. Not everyone can stand up and be a strong-voiced leader, but we all have our own way of making change; we just have to start doing it.

And we all have to stand together and support one another.

No goal gets accomplished if we all bicker over how to best make change. We all make change differently, and we all have to support each other. So if you would rather demonstrate with a group, do it. If you would rather be a loud voice on social media, do it. If you would rather make a movie about injustices, do it. If you would rather be a supporting voice rather than the main voice, do it. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone.

Working as a team gets more done than fighting with one another about who’s making the best change and why. We all just have to work together and do it.

So whether you want people to know how what’s happening in Ferguson affects us and that #BlackLivesMatter; or whether you want to make your community stronger; or whether you want to fight racial (or any other) injustices; or whether you want to make any other kind of change, find your way and do it.

Every person has the ability to make change in their own way.

Now you just have to find your way and do it.

Everything, NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo and the J.K. Rowling Moment

November marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. The goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words throughout the month of November.

This year marks the first year I will actually participate in NaNoWriMo since I first heard about it four-some years ago, and I’m terrified. I started writing on November 9th, but the late start won’t stop me from trying. I have written one unpublished novel that has been buried in the depths of my basement or sent to the land of lost valuables (it was written in several notebooks). I was quite pleased with the book I had written, though it did take me one summer of almost nonstop writing.

However, I’m terrified to try writing fiction again because I have difficulty finishing one short story. Every week, tons of ideas flow through my mind. Some I write down, some I forget before I can find somewhere to write it. Others, I try to start, but I can never get the idea to become fully-fleshed.

I think I’ve been waiting on a J.K. Rowling moment, where a character strolls into my head, fully-formed and ready to be committed to paper. I’ve decided that now isn’t the time to wait, so I will use NaNoWriMo to start me on my way to writing again. Perfectionist, though I am, I will not let that stop me from attempting to reach the 50,000 word goal.

After five days half-dedicated to writing, I am nearing 11,000 words. I have accepted that I may not finish the novel by the end of the month, but I’ve found that the more I write, the easier it is to develop my ideas further. Maybe the concrete nature of writing helps to develop my ideas, and I’m able to flesh them out more once I write them down. Maybe a J.K. Rowling moment isn’t what I needed. Maybe I just needed to start writing.