On writing better & 2016 resolutions

red-hands-woman-creative

The other day I read a really interesting article on Vox about “reverse outrage.” Overall, what I’m going to write about here and what they wrote about there aren’t going to sound very similar, but the article spoke to me and led me here today.

In sum (although I truly urge you to read the article linked above): In 2015 there were numerous trending internet topics that got massively out of control. Between #BoycottStarWarsVII (a pretty racist movement born out of a total rando who thought the new Star Wars cast wasn’t whitewashed enough to his liking) and those damn Starbucks cups, the internet via social commentary has taken some super obscure social commentaries and blown them to massive proportions that they otherwise would not have reached.

This is a wee bit of an issue because it gives these really negative stories a ton of fame, fame that nobody wants them to have.

But here’s the conundrum: we media types love these inflammatory remarks. Inflammatory remarks increase clicking and sharing and commenting, and every website needs that kind of traffic to stay afloat. There is no mainstream media outlet that did not benefit from the red cup debacle, and I can tell you that with great certainty. There is no mainstream media outlet that is not benefitting from Donald Trump, none that is not benefitting from a random racist tweet against Muslims, none that is not benefitting from a scare tactic relative to immigrants.

And it’s perpetuating a nasty little cycle.

As an aspiring professional writer, I’ve been struggling with that cycle for a few months now. Maybe it’s because I got a little too into The Newsroom when I was funemployed this summer (watched the series three times in a row, Maggie and Jim #4ever), but I actually left a writing gig because I felt a little icky about the stuff I was writing, feeling like maybe exploiting some issues just to get traffic was kind of trashy.

I was writing articles with purposefully inflammatory headlines (ones that I sometimes didn’t agree with) all for the sake of getting enough shares to be picked up by the Huffington Post. I was successful numerous times, but still couldn’t shake that discomfort that came with knowing I was simply baiting people into sharing my story. I eventually stopped writing for this website because as a young writer, I don’t want to shape myself into someone who mass produces trash.

I can pat myself on the back all I want for that move, but the awkward truth is that most of the media isn’t a PBS endeavor. We get by on clicks. We discuss sharable topics. We highlight things other people want to talk about. As someone who’s quickly learning that money definitely matters (chat with your rent-collecting landlord next time you claim otherwise), I know that it is important to cover things that people want to hear about. The catch, however, is to do so with the utmost responsibility.

I’m still finding my voice as a writer. I’m 22 years old, have barely seen anything besides New England mountainscapes, and am only starting to think about scratching the surface of what it means to be a writer. But what I’m learning about, and what I hope to continue to explore, are ways to always be better. Right now, being better means being responsible. Right now, being better means knowing that creating false ire in your readers in the name of “discussion” is not journalism, even though talking about trending topics might be.

In all of this talk about being better, I want to call your attention to these closing remarks to that Vox article I talked about at the top of this piece:

We often don’t care about the fixing the wrong or adding to the conversation; all we see is an opportunity to affirm some version of ourselves by taking a side and making a scene. And in doing so, we’ve figured out a way to dismantle complex ideas into simplistic, easily digestible things that, in the end, are ultimately disposable – until the next fight comes around.

It’s New Years Eve today, and as I keep pushing to get new writing opportunities, new writing jobs, new people to read and help me with my writing, I’ve decided to start peddling a better product. In 2016…

I resolve to add more links when I write. Not links back to my own stuff, but to facts, to further reading, to people who definitely can explain a phenomenon way better than I can. Adding facts is the key to responsibility.

I resolve to be myself, because I think that’s what I’ve been looking to do all along. Being myself (as opposed to someone else) is definitely what I do best, and I know there is nobody who can do it quite like me.

I resolve to shelf long columns/personal essays for three days before publishing. I’m great with deadlines, but sometimes to a fault. I tell myself I’m going to post on a date, and I do, but that means I rarely reconsider what I’m going to say; it is one of the curses in disguise in this blogging world. I need to put my money where my mouth is and triple check I’m saying something I actually want to say.

I resolve to fix the wrong. There are two certain occasions I can specifically think of off the top of my head where I’ve started off saying, “I don’t know the answer to this problem, but I’m going to talk at you about it anyways.” I’m proud of what I said, and I do not fundamentally think it was trash, but I hate that I qualified it with “I don’t know the answer.” Clearly I thought I did. Clearly I thought I could help right the wrong, even if in a peripheral way. I resolve to write constructively about issues instead of retweeting news breaks. I resolve to do the best I can in acknowledging what people want to talk about, but to always make sure the energy I’m putting out there with my words helps fix something in some way.

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We are electric. We are infinite. [2014 Year in Review]

2014 brought a lot to me. I turned 21. I defended my senior honors thesis. I started writing for the Provoc and took the leap to become this academic year’s assistant Editor-in-Chief. I grew up and learned how to face the fear of chasing what I’m meant to do. I started this blog! Yay! I started at Her Campus. I got published in a national poetry journal. I said goodbye to a person who once made the air freeze in my lungs and grew from it.

But they say that pictures are worth a thousand words– a thousand words I certainly don’t have the skill to string together into beautiful sentences, so I leave you all with this.

STYLE - FURNITURE - GARDEN

Thanks 2014, but the best is yet to come.

Welcome 2015: My New Years Resolutions (the absurd, the normal, and the somewhere in between)

2015 Resolutions

Ack!!! Happy New Years, everyone!

I’m kind of torn on how I feel about New Years resolutions– on the one hand, I want to be super anti-establishment and blow them off; on the other hand, I like goal-setting and working toward something. But when it really comes down to it, I think all of this “new year, new me,” stuff is absolute crap. What’s wrong with who you are right now? Why not take this new year, take who you are, and make something great? Why do you need to change? (I think it’s a similar principle to those who decide to chop off all of their hair after they break up with a boy– like, oh wow, you really showed him!) I’ve never thought melodrama an attractive quality in people, and people who slave over reinventing themselves at the start of a new year are the worst brand of melodramatic.

That all said, I do have goals for 2015, but that doesn’t mean yesterday I went out and bought a whole new wardrobe and started doing my make up differently and became a new me for a new year. Instead I woke up, was the same old me I’ve always been, and started doing things instead of changing things.

The Resolutions:

1. Start writing poetry again (because, poetry, you’ve saved my life in more ways than you could know)

2. Blog better, with more consistency, good substance, and getting a higher reach

3. Graduate magna cum laude (come on… just .05 GPA points to go!)

4. Get a job within one month of graduating Assumption

5. Rock the hell out of the Provoc‘s relaunch (coming SOON this January– way too excited)

6. Learn more about the Adobe suite, especially Illustrator and Photoshop (woohoo for better blog graphics!)

7. Stay in touch with my high school friends as a bunch of them start to relocate for jobs (don’t leave, John and Josh!)

nda nationals8. Make it straight into finals with the AC Dance Team at National Dance Alliance Collegiate Finals

9. Get a bangin’ Daytona body for NDA Nationals (read: work my butt off to make #8 a reality, get hot in the process)

10. Grow my hair so long I can belt it and wear it as a dress (NOTE: may not be entirely possible, but we’ll try)

If you want to hear more about my views about New Years resolutions, check out my FIRST EVER (oh my goodness) Provoc article all about them!

New Year’s Resolutions: Time, Failure, and the Pursuit of Goal-Setting

New Year’s Eve was a cold, biting night, and all that the windows of my friend John’s basement let in were dark rolling hills and mountain tops. Contrary to most young adults’ New Year’s extravaganzas, my friends and I were calmly slumped on couches, Imageconversation between ourselves and Ryan Seacrest flourishing. The minute hand was inching its way up toward the 12, and I grew apprehensive of the year ahead and voiced that to my friends: “You guys… I don’t have a resolution yet. This is an issue.” My remark was answered with ironic looks and cynical laughter. Because, really, why do I need a resolution anyways?

According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are even successful. Why pursue a goal only to fail? In that same study, it was cited that a whopping 31% of resolutions are romantic relationship related, and I certainly don’t want to be the type of person who measures the success of her year off of another individual’s opinion of them. “Most resolutions are too ambiguous, anyways,” my friends argue, and maybe they’re right. Maybe resolving to “live life to its fullest” won’t really get me very far anyways.

But then there’s the statistic that I can’t turn my back on: “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions”.

Maybe not everyone will attain their goal of losing 30 pounds this year, but they certainly learned how to eat healthier and exercise. Maybe the kid who resolved to get all A’s on his report card got a B, but didn’t he learn better study habits? Become a better writer? And maybe my 2013 goal of becoming a funnier person didn’t land me as the next Aziz Ansari, but I did learn how to let thingsImage go, how to take a joke, how to spend my time enjoying life rather than worrying about it. I didn’t change my life dramatically, but didn’t I at least try? And didn’t I change it for the better?

There is a method to goal setting that says an effective goal is time sensitive, one that is expected to take a month or 56 days or an entire year. To me, that’s what a New Year’s resolution is—a goal that you want to achieve within the following year. Kudos to those who want to do that. And to all the naysayers who argue that someone doesn’t need a new year per se to make a change in their life, I want to push back on that a little bit: there’s something to be said about a globally recognized day dedicated to yearly goal setting and yearly reflection. Maybe I can start my goals some random day in May, but maybe it’s more fun to do it when everyone else is doing it.

At the very least, a New Year’s resolution forces you to pinpoint what you want to do and to turn it into something concrete. Maybe you won’t achieve it. Maybe you’ll resolve to lose weight on January 1st, and come January 2nd you’re eating a cheese stick on the couch watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. But next time you have to set a goal in other parts of your life, you’ll know how to choose a realistic goal and how to articulate it.

This year I resolve to eat breakfast every morning. Not too aggressive of a goal, sure, but I think I’m good with it. I’ve been leaving the glory of Reese Puffs and Honey Nut Cheerios out of my life for too long and I resolve to spoil my taste buds with them each morning. Someone can argue that this won’t be too life-changing or me, but I can shrug it off knowing what New Year’s resolutions really mean to me. Sure, they might not be some insane, life-altering, experience, and I’ll probably fail. But their purpose goes beyond that and stretches toward the lesson of becoming a goal-oriented person, how to reflect on failure and success, and how to reach for something in life when it really counts.