Friday, January 31, 2014

The Importance of (Personal) Office Space

I work a desk-like job at a **** Public Library.
And if you’ve never worked in one, there isn’t a great deal of personal space to go around.
Other things like to occupy your space. For instance
  • carts of books
  • shelves of books
  • busy people sorting and mending things to be put away
  • paperwork you just don’t know what to do with
  • projects that have yet to be completed or are in various stages of sorting and organization
  • things other people put there that you have no clue how to store/organize/where it goes.

So any personal space that you can achieve on your own is amazing. It means that you have a place define as “Yours”, separate from everyone else, that you can personalize and fill with the little things that make you happy. As can be the case often, if you don’t have a desk to call your own (are deskless, sadly) or share a desk, making a space your own can be somewhat difficult. Filling it with things that are yours, that you personally bought and don’t feel inclined to share, is even more of a task.

While achieving your own desk may or may not denote the kind of landmark achievement you were looking for, to me, it was and is, important.
And as a general policy, if it’s not my desk or I haven’t been instructed to look in a particular draw for office supplies, I ‘m not going to bother being around your desk, i.e. if I don’t need the stamps now, then on the shelf tucked away they will remain and I have no business there otherwise.

However, this rule is not hard and fast with more open desk areas, like the front desk, which is open to every staff member if they are looking for tape, scissors, band aids, etc.

It is if it is someone else’s personal desk. And I get a bit touchy about my things on my desk being moved, used, or taken without my permission.
Perhaps it looks like a mess to you (it is, but I know where 95% of everything is, so don’t touch) but it’s my mess, my clutter, and my way of organizing things.

And here is my rub:

Yesterday a coworker walked up to my desk, opened one of my desk drawers, and in front of me, started to take out a piece of candy that was my personal stash that someone else had given to me/I’d been collecting. She had done this before a few times in the past, and while it irritated me, I hadn’t said anything. Actually, I mentally took a note and kept focusing on my work and then forgot because I had more important things to worry about.

But I got upset because it finally occurred to me that this woman had no sense of my personal space or privacy and I’d not dealt with it accordingly. That was my property. She hadn’t asked if she could – she never had. Perhaps the woman who’d occupied that desk and position in the past had never minded; but now I did. It had been several weeks since she’d done it, so I’d forgotten about the action. But boy, I moved fast when I saw her moving towards my Werther’s caramel chews, and I said, “Don’t take that. This is candy that I personally bought and I’d prefer if you didn’t do that.” I could have been nicer, but I was firm and tough about it, or I could have been snotty and said, “If you want free candy, you can get it from the front desk.”

Immediately it was like she’d gotten caught with her hand in the cookie jar. I was angry. Yes I should have stopped her actions before; but honestly, you would hope people know better than to just stick their hand in your drawer and take something out. And this morning I dreamt about her doing that again; which now casts doubt, fuzzily, into whether the event actually happened. (I’m fairly certain it did; I’m just too tired to remember for sure.)

Other people have been caught doing this with things on my desk – rulers, pens – and I have politely in the past asked them to ask me first before going in – incidentally I lost and later found my favorite pen because someone was using my desk without asking or me volunteering; all my papers got rearranged and I found it shoved into the pen can at the Children’s Desk. What was ridiculously funny about it was that the pen had my name on it that I’d typed out on a label maker. Kind of obvious, but some people are oblivious.

That may seem funny to you, but we lose pens all the time; most of the staff with permanent desks put their name on their favorite pen of choice so that if it gets misplaced, it will end up where it’s supposed to be or is less likely to be stolen by an unthinking staff member. But I digress.

That was how I was taught – you ask first before going into someone’s personal space. It’s polite because it’s considerate of their feelings.

But in an office environment, is there any expectation of privacy?

For me, having my own work desk, not needing to share it with anyone else, was a Godsend. I wasn’t cramped anymore; I could put things where I liked, organize them in the most efficient way to my needs; hell, I could leave my desk an utter mess and no one would come along to screw with it! Lord, it’s wonderful. Still not the most ideal since there’s construction going on inside the building that makes it near impossible to work sometimes; but it’s my desk. Daily I have to pull out a little disposable napkin to clean off the plaster dust I can see. I can keep what I want how and where I want without worry, nine times out of ten, about someone else using it and forgetting to put it back or damage the item.

As a matter of courtesy, I generally don’t go poking around other people’s desks – I ask first.

It may seem a small thing to those who don’t have their own personal space in a workplace environment, but I believe that others probably feel the same way. Hopefully, the problem has been dealt with and I won’t be seeing someone else messing with my candy stash again. Although if asked, I would share.


So if you’re in an office and you see something you need or want to use please ask. It’s a small thing, but it will show you have manners. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Use Pinterest to help your writing

Pinterest has been an enormous help to me as a writer, even if I don't use it as a tool every second of the day.
When I need inspiration for characters, ideas, sometimes even settings, I pop open Pinterest and take a look at what it can offer me.

Writer's often run into road blocks, mental walls that grow from the ground up with monolithic proportions and growl downward at how puny we creative types think we are. I will stand craning my head back in awed terror and despair thinking

"I'm not going to be able to climb that"
in my itty bitty voice of doubt.

The murky interiors of my mind.

So here comes the fun part of Pinterest. Pushing up my sleeves, I stick my tongue out at the monolith of writer's block, and  jump on the net, typing things into Pin's little search bar, seeing what comes up. Some days I'll type in 'Sherlock' for a funny quote to unstick me.
Or I'll go to my board that I have specifically created for 'Heart of Stone'.

The board functions as a corkboard, as is the general idea for Pinterest. However, I use it for more than just inspiration.

Here is a selection of faces that I like to use for character reference, who either I think fits what my character looks like, or has a specific feature that I want to use when I draw potraits of what my characters look like. (My drawing skills are heinous and those sketches shall remain in a dark drawer, thank you.)

Lass Pedersen is the closest face I've ever seen to what my character 'Titan' looks like  - middle top male redhead.

Other pins function as interior design reference and inspiration pieces, that fit what I picture the place looks like.



Others still merely are cool pieces that capture the whimsy and tone of the place that I see in my head.
No section of my book has an overgrown room like this. But it would be pretty cool.

 And yet still I have architectural features that I have found that either are in my book and go along with the image, or that the image has inspired.


This piece captures the strange design features of the place I have written about, a castle on a cliff, with strange and ridiculous architectural features that were created more out of convenience than aesthetic or logical purpose.

Some are just straight up inspiration.

My board functions as a place where my creative inspirations and excess notes like to hang out and get to know one another. Other people have followed and liked my board. But more than that, I hope that they take the idea and use it for themselves. 
Laini Taylor, one of my favorite authors, has done basically the same thing with her board for Daughter of Smoke and Bone. If your favorite author has a Pinterest account that they have for fans to follow, follow them! They might have good interesting bits of inspiration for your own boards.

The thing about Pinterest is that its uses for pinning are only limited by your imagination. Business can use the board to hock products - and why not writers? Crafters and diyers, fashionistas, and everyone else uses Pinterest in a myriad of ways. I have 20+ boards that all function and are neatly organized for people's viewing pleasure.

I will continue to add pins and posts that help me to be inspired when the writing gets tough - like this last month. And when that monolith needs to be knocked over, I pop open my browser and take a look at my board to make my mind start working.

In reference to my participation in the Grow Your Blog 2024 event, I will be slowly visiting all the blogs on the list in the next few weeks. Remember to please subscribe! and stay tuned at the beginning of next month for a Word Count Calendar update!

Happy typing. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Grow Your Blog: Why I Blog and What I Do

Today is my official post for the Grow Your Blog blogging event hosted by 2 Bags Full, and is in its second year.
See? Fancy announcement for the event!


I have been asked why I blog or why I started this blog.
To be honest, they are for selfish reasons: I want to promote myself for the day I become a published author, so that I have something to show for the book that will someday grace the shelves of Barnes and Nobles, Walmarts, and small business book stores (hopefully) around the country someday.

I don't love to blog, in a sense. For me, I love to write, love the feeling of expressing what I think and know, sharing it with others, or simply just telling a good story. Writing first and foremost in my book has always been about telling a good story. 

"While walking at night in a market in Marakesh, I met Death on the street." Those fifteen words should have you hooked. If they don't, then I didn't do my job to draw you in and make you want to know what happened after I met Death in Marakesh. Did we gamble for my soul to find the most pure-hearted human alive? Did we dance and cackle like goblins, rounding up souls to be taken to Charron?

For me, everything is about a story. Spoken word, anecdotes, and tales of my life's adventures elude me, have no meaning or significance to others. But when it comes to the written word, of tales of gallantry and great courage, wicked queens and strange birds that transform into sorrowful maidens, my mind and words find form, become solid and take shape in marvelous ways, like a creation goddess on some distant isle as creatures take shape from the music of her lyre.


And of course, things should have a point.
My ultimate goal is to get this baby published:



It's a mock-up of what I'd initially like the cover to look like. I also like to dabble in graphic design, by the way. Not today, but someday, I will publish "Heart of Stone". Will it be a mega-hit? Likely not. But it will be mine, definitively.

I also like to offer advice on some of the trials and tribulations that younger people - or just everyone in general  - runs into with publishing, finding a job, or just living their life and working to make sense of it all.  I also like to knit and paint, and occasionally share my great love of yarn - but not too much. This is a blog about writing, writers, and all that that entails.

So I am actively inviting everyone who stumbles on my blog to follow me: for humor, insights, and occasionally, a good story that may or may not be true, concerning Death and a market in Marakesh, and work on a plethora of novels started but not finished.

Primarily, this post is for the Grow Your Blog Event of 2014. But to all you hopeful writers and dreamers, crafters and creators, this blog is for you as well. Sometimes, we need a little help and a little push in the right direction to help us stagger out of the muck of blissful, anonymity in a sea of mediocrity. And boy, do I know that feeling.

Feel free to email me/chat at inscientiaestverum@gmail.com

I am having some technical issues today, so if you send me a comment, please bear with me. :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

Being a Published Author

I am now officially a published author! (Sort of.)


The final publication with my 2nd Place story inside. *Eee!*

Earlier this week, I received a nondescript brown paper package from Purdue University. Originally, I thought it was just left over stuff they were mailing because I am an alumni of the college.

But au contraire! I was mistaken.

Inside were two copies of the Portals contest entry winners and a letter apologizing for the late mailing of my copy. Almost two years later, my story "Grace" was published and released.

Officially, I can't find the book through its ISBN listings on the back:
ISBN 13: 978-1-259-19142-2
ISBN 10:  1-259-19412-4

 As is the case sometimes with school-specific printed materials, these items are not released to the general public and are probably not in anyone's library, save the school's or the winners, as in my case.

But it is a feeling of elation to see and know that my story that jumped from my teeming brain eventually made its way to publication.


My name on the "Contents" page. 
Overall though, it is only a small accomplishment in the grand scheme of things. I didn't win any money, but as other people who publish have told me: If you're in this to make money, get out of this field. 

Writing is about the act of creating and making something new. We shouldn't do it to make oodles of money. Most of us are never going to be J.K. Rowling. And if we do hit it big, I've heard that the average before making it big is about three-four published works before your name enters the general consciousness. 

Sure you are to get rejections every so often - maybe quite frequently. But rejections happen in life and you can't let them get you down. I submitted this story to Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine, who promptly turned it down.
And seeing that there was a contest on campus, I tried my luck there, putting it in and getting 2nd Place.

I would also like to note that of all the short fiction entries that were submitted for publication, mine was the only one that made it in.

Why?

Perhaps I filled in all the proper paperwork. I don't know. But today I am celebrating my achievement.


There's my baby on the inside.
I was so enthusiastic about its being published that it renewed my hope in eventually publishing other things someday in the future. Today's is a short post, but the main message is to keep hoping and trying. Don't give up, because someday someone will publish your work. If it's not great, then go back and polish it up and try again; work it till it flows, persevere, and be tenacious.

Keep writing on!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Liar Pretends to be Writer, Hits Obstacles

Unfortunately, half the month is gone and I have not managed to write a single word of my would-be new novel, that will also, unfortunately, never see a publisher's desk.
But back to the falsehoods.
I said that I would write and keep up my Word Count Calendar, which has proved to be far more difficult to maintain than I had thought.
However, I have finished most of Robin Hood by the BBC whilst working on my knitting project, a sweater.
Richard Armitage is insanely distracting as the subversive Guy of Gisborne.
I know. Man candy is a much better distraction than staring a blank page and blinking cursor.

But no more excuses! 
Truth be told, the world according to me has been terribly bleak:
  • One of my presenters was fired from her job and would no longer be doing programs for me.
Thus, I had to cancel two of them on my already meek smattering of things to offer at the public library, including most of her already scheduled future programs. (Have I mentioned I work in a library? I do. And no, I don't get to read all that much. Terrible misnomer that.)
  • A certain position I was desperately hoping for did not come my way; again, the crushing defeat of not getting a job. (Still searching, nothing yet.) Yes, I did cry. Yes I blew my nose. And after about fifteen minutes of this, I sat myself down, bucked up, and started looking elsewhere. Nothing else to do but that.
And so here comes the truth of my blog:
I use this blog to showcase my writing skills, and occasionally discuss things that do not pertain to anything important at all. I desire to be a writer, a crafter of words and stories, and to talk to people by sharing with them news, current events, or things that maybe they just find useful. Perhaps I am talking to myself here, but at least I am trying, when so many others aren't or have given up.
Maybe I'm not a liar; but I am a procrastinator.

I would like to take this opportunity to shamelessly plug the Grow Your Blog Event happening next weekend, which I am participating in. The deadline was January 14, but that doesn't mean you can't participate by supporting little blogs like mine, visiting, and subscribing! 
Blogs are a bit like the small businesses of the internet world, in relation to writing. We set our hopes out there, discuss things, participate, acknowledge and ponder what we see or talk about what we love.
So show a little blog love and support the Grow Your Blog event for 2014 by visiting the blogs that Vicki will post on her website. Remember to check back often for more information.

So thank you for reading and check out Grow Your Blog to support small blogs and dreamers everywhere.
In the meantime, I'll keep writing (trying to) and provide what I can about writing, life's inconsistencies, and the job market. Bleak and boring perhaps, but that is what I know best.

And in case you like Richard Armitage just like me, here are some shameless pictures of him looking gorgeous. Not too many, because this a (mostly) serious blog. Cheers!







Monday, January 13, 2014

Bullies: Take a page from Kristen Lamb

Isn't she beautiful? Kristen Lamb
Yesterday I went scrying back for an old post I had read from author Kristen Lamb
entitled Brave New Bullying, primarily on the topic of anonymous trolls and bullies who attack authors just to drum up numbers for themselves and be extremely cruel. Just for the hell of it.

While I think she covers this topic extremely well, I do want to add a few words myself about bullies and my own experience.

As a kid I was awkward. My mother described it as painful to watch, seeing me stick both my feet into my mouth and stagger around as the laughing stock of others, unable to comprehend why people looked at me strangely, thought I was weird, or made extremely cruel remarks. Often, I misunderstood what other people meant and said something back that made no sense, inciting their meanness.

Then there was my distinct germaphobic behaviors that everyone took a shot at, and was made worse.
However, I can pinpoint it to one teacher, Mrs. D. Mrs. D. would yell at me, mock me, and ridicule me in front of the other students, to the point that other parents noticed it and said something to my mother. I remember she even called me stupid once.
She put me in remedial reading because she thought I was stupid; truth was, I was so terrified of speaking out and being corrected that I refused to read aloud. I loved the reading help classes, because for forty minutes every day, I got to leave class and go spend my time with two sweet ladies who encouraged me, joked with me, and were kind. It was the one bright spot in my day. And when they told me at the end of the semester that I was going back to Mrs. D's. class because I really didn't need to be there, I was upset. I was being damned to hell again.

And all the other students followed her lead in damning me as well. My awkwardness made my fear of her worse, and they saw an opportunity to pick on me.
It carried over from grade to grade, third, fourth, fifth, and even into middle school, where the kids from the other grade school that bused in also picked up on it.

Life was a miserable hell. My "friends" picked on me, were critical of the work that I did, when I did well or when I did poorly. It didn't matter. I was the whipping boy, the post full of nails. Sometimes maybe I deserved it because what I said was idiotic and insensitive.

But I do want to thank those bullies. These days, I tell people to f*ck off, in no uncertain terms, mind their own business, or stand my ground and call them out for what they are. If I hadn't learned to stand against the people that tormented me, I wouldn't be as hardened and tough as I am now. Don't get me wrong, I am a nice person, and I am kind. But I am not a doormat; I will not take abuse nor will I be taken advantage of. I stand my ground and I fight back. 


Do you remember that J.Lo movie Enough?
Enough (2002) Poster

When I saw that film in 2002, I knew that I had had it. I'd had enough. It is not the greatest film ever made; but it is a good film about learning to defend yourself and holding your ground. What gives bullies power is the ability to intimidate you, to hit you when you're down and to strike. As the film says, "Because as sure as he is a coward, he will strike you." Learn to strike back, in your own way. 

I learned how to speak properly, became more socially intelligent, and to never back down or take anyone's crap. This doesn't always make me friendly and has affected relationships with others. But I am never a victim because I refuse to be one

Kristen Lamb is right; for the trollers and bullies on the internet, they've become more insidious and cowardly because they can hide their face behind a digital smoke screen. But behind the fancy effects, they're nothing. In the workplace a bully can ruin your career; but they do not own you. And yes, you can walk away. 

So my list for bullies

  1. Learn to pick your battles. If you can walk away with dignity, others will see that in you and respect you. The bully will still be a bully. That will never change. 
  2. If you have to fight, be steadfast, be honest, and be brave. Speak the truth and be strong. 
  3. Call them on their bad behavior.
  4. Do not resort to name calling and fallacious arguments like ad hoc, ad populi, or non sequitur. These will not win your case or your fight.
  5. Maintain a calm demeanor and do not rise to their bait. That's what they want you to do.
    1. In particular, do not give them your power or any power over you by taking the bait. If you let them control you and your emotions, you've already let them win. And that's not going to help you out in the end.
These are not hard and fast rules for life, but they have done me well. Over the years I've had people say (even people who picked on me) that they admired me for taking a stand, even when everyone was against me, and holding my ground.

Bullying is never ok. It is never kind and it is painful, beyond words. And most importantly, it is never funny. Those who do so are trying to build themselves up because they desire a sense of importance and power. That's all. Beyond that, they're nothing more than a sneer and a lot of hot air.

It's a hard battle to fight and often feels overwhelming. But it is not impossible. I am still alive today because I chose to keep fighting and not take my life when I hit my lowest point. There are days I still struggle with that. But I remember what I have to live for, and it gets me back on my feet and out of my pity party.

Stay strong and fight on.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Need a reference? Hire this company!


Not everything I do starts with LinkedIn, and 70% of the time I don't read the articles that cross my feed. Today, trolling around as I do, this gem caught my attention as I scrolled through and landed on The Blaze news site.

Buying fake job references is actually a thing — here’s the company that sells them

The story is old by now, yet relevant to all the folks who search for jobs and bang their heads into walls trying to get them- read this to get my take on the job search headache that has been my life.

Back to the story, Career Excuse sells, for a fee starting at $150, a fake job reference, replete with fake website, working telephone number and voicemail, and a "legitimate" email to send inquiries to.
William Schmidt, owner, does not take any moral stance, stating from the classic entrepreneurs standpoint, that it's not his problem if the person gets in trouble for unethical behavior. He has a good and he turns a profit on it.

Now while I can see having an excellent job reference to land the position can be game changing, lying about it certainly doesn't seem to be the smartest bet, especially if you are found out. 
Photo: careerealism.com

What does this say about the person employing the service? 
Maybe they really are down and out for a reference.

But the fact that they used one, should they be discovered, belies their authenticity as an individual and employee. Perhaps a better candidate was passed over because such a sterling review - or the appearance of that website - created a falsely positive impression of Joe Jones over Sally Smith. Now you have an employee that casts doubt about their real skills and motives in the company.

Recourse for hiring could pan out in several ways, depending on how the employer takes it, versus if the employee admits to it with a slice of humility. Either way they lied, in a big way, and this leads to my point.

Lying to get the job, especially if it's a big lie - citing job experience where you have none - can definitely come back to give you a good thwacking if you are called upon to perform feats of skill or discuss what's listed in your experience on your resume. The more complicated the fib you have to tell, the harder it is to remember all the details. If someone suspects you, chances are they will subtly try to trip you up - there you are, egg bits and goo all over your face (the lie), and there they are, trying to decide what to do with you.

Be honest and play it close to cuff. As we learned from Bernie Madoff, liars always get caught.


Bernie Madoff. The name should have been a clue.
 Courtesy extratv.com

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Crushing Defeat of the Job Search


There is something anticlimactic and sad about receiving news that you have not been accepted for a job. It is an even worse feeling when you have applied, and received nothing at all, not a congratulations on getting the job or a rejection. Not even a rejection. Just an empty slot in your mailbox where that small notification might be to help you move on to the next thing.

And the next.

And the next.

Lately, my chest has been gripped with the empty feeling of defeat. I’ve applied for jobs only in a certain area, geographically or skill wise, that seem promising. But since entering the search, I’ve become unsatisfied with what has been returned.
If news reports are to be believed, there are thousands of jobs out there, even though our economy is not the best that it could be (supposedly). And there are hundreds of jobs that I have seen. It isn’t only that they require experience and expertise that I don’t have – they won’t give me the chance because of the old catch twenty-two of no job no experience – but that almost none of the jobs available interest me.

I’d like to be a copy editor, seeking out grammatical errors like a falcon stalking a prey slinking surreptitiously through a field of words, trying desperately to hide as my red pen strikes. But there are no jobs of that caliber, entry level or up, where I live. Only in larger cities. The issue with larger cities is the amount of money it takes to spend going there and taking up residence. Then there’s the issue of finding the job in the first place, or at least, convincing someone to hire you based on the promise that you are A) what they want, and B) are willing to relocate.

So far, no bites.

I can’t even get a preliminary interview. And as time goes on, I wonder how many other people are out there like myself, with good skills and a quick and agile mind, who can’t get a break because everyone seems to already be looking for the one thing we as a group don’t have: experience, at least, enough to qualify. The mystery that eludes me is how does one break in when no one is looking to hire a kid a year and half out of college wanting to take a chance and get the real-world experience everyone says you need.

But to be honest, if you want that job, you need to go out and get that job. Sitting there just putting out electronic application one after the other is, frankly, lazy. You just clicked a button. Whoohoo!

But where was the initiative to prove that you really want this job, are good for this company, even without the necessary years of experience? Where was the work?

And that was part of my problem. I applied for a job at a news station several weeks ago and figured I probably wouldn't get it. But a week later, I called the station manager back and left a message, telling him I'd be happy to discuss my resume with him. 

And I called him again the next day. And a few hours later, he got back to me. We had a lovely 20 minute mini-interview. Will I get the job? I don't quite know. But the experience of talking to a prospective employer, learning how to sell yourself, or just having that process of being asked questions you're not used to was invaluable. I have better idea of what to say when someone asks, "So tell me about yourself". 

Sometimes, taking the initiative pays off, in big ways and small ones, but in the end, it gives you the satisfaction of know that you tried.


My happy dance

Leave your comments or suggestions below.