How to Find Inspiration While Quarantined

Hello everyone!

When COVID-19 heated up and quarantine first started, I was trying to think on the bright side: I could write a ton and work on so many other creative pursuits I wouldn’t otherwise have time for! What I didn’t realize, however, was how difficult it would be to find inspiration and stay motivated to be productive and do these things while trapped in my house with little variation or activity around me. If you’re in a similar spot right now, keep on reading to find out how to get your creative mojo back. These are tips I’ve been using to help me stay inspired while writing, but they’re definitely not writing specific.

  1. Find a slightly different environment to work in.

I understand that we’re all in different situations and might not have as much freedom or the space to have specific workspaces, but just do whatever you can to switch up your surroundings. If you normally work in your room, try working in the kitchen. If you normally work at a desk, try laying everything out on the floor and working there- I actually love working on the floor, believe it or not. Also, try not to work in your bed, as it’s harder to stay productive and maintain a separation between rest and activity in your brain if you’re working in bed.

2. Look at Pinterest.

No matter what you’re trying to get done or what you’re seeking inspiration for, there’s probably oodles of content related to it on Pinterest. Make an inspiration board or just find examples of whatever you hope to make/accomplish. You could even make a collage of pictures you like from Pinterest and set it to your phone or laptop background so you’ll be reminded of it.

3. Be gentle with yourself.

Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to be creating content or being productive. This is a difficult and strange time for everyone, and it’s okay to take breaks or just not do anything on some days. Spend time with your family and do other fun things you usually don’t have time to do that don’t require much thought; it might be just the brain break you need to give you a new burst of inspiration.

4. Consider the time.

I couldn’t figure out how to word this better, but this is an event that will go down in history, so if you’re looking for inspiration, draw from what’s going on around you. Who knows? Your interpretation of these current events through art, writing, videography/photography, et cetera could be primary sources as to what was going on in history when people look back on this time. I’m sure we all have a lot of conflicting feelings surrounding how COVID-19 is affecting us and our world, so use that in whatever you’re working on. Embrace it!

5. Try something new.

You have all this time to work on what you love doing, but that also means you have all this time to try other new things that you may fall in love with! If you’re struggling to find inspiration for one thing, get out of your comfort zone and do something completely different. When I had a little case of writer’s block, I tried sketching, something I would never usually gravitate towards since I’m not a good artist. It was actually really fun, and I returned to my writing afterwards. Find a different creative outlet, try it out, and when you’re done use that experience to get inspired in what you were doing previously.

I hope these tips helped you out and inspire you to seek out even more inspiration 🙂 Like I’ve mentioned a million times, these are unprecedented and strange times, but we might as well make the most out of them. Whatever that looks like for you, I hope you find the inspiration you’re looking for and use this time to your advantage. Stay healthy and safe.

Brooke

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a black canvas – Poem by Me

if i was a painter 
i would paint you a beautiful
black canvas

vast as the galaxy
and you could add in
your own stars

a blank slate for 
you and i
the opposite of colorful

but with endless opportunity

As always, I hope you enjoyed this poem! It was one of those things where the idea randomly popped in my head (the title came first). I’ve been trying to tap into my artsy side with some drawing, so maybe that’s why the topic was on the brain. That being said, please let me know if you have any feedback, suggestions, or challenges for my writing in the future! Stay safe and healthy 🙂

Brooke

Why You Should Read and Write Often

Welcome back everyone!

While we’re in quarantine and have nothing to do, there’s no better time to pick up a good book or write the story you’ve always wanted to read. I know in this day and age with hustle culture and all the pressure to constantly be busy and productive, people often push pastimes like reading and writing to the side unless it’s their absolute passion. I happen to love reading and writing and always have, but I think it’s important for everyone to read and write, especially now while they have the extra time. Why exactly is this so important? Keep on reading to find out!

Reason #1: It expands your vocabulary.

I know, I know. You’ve probably heard this before from your teachers, parents, and other adults, but it’s true! You pick up new words and phrases from reading (which you can use in your writing) and you’ll tend to start using them in real life. If you’re in high school and starting to prepare for standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, being well-read can cut down on the amount of vocabulary words you need to study or be familiar with. You’ll be able to interpret the passages on the tests better as well.

Reason #2: It’s an escape and a way to explore new worlds and ideas.

If you’ve always wanted to travel somewhere but can’t for whatever reason, read a book about that place! If you’re obsessed with the fantastical, read fantasy books filled with witches and goblins. If you can’t find a story that suits the world you want to explore, do some research and start writing it. I’m sure there’s a million-dollar book idea floating around in everyone’s heads somewhere- you just have to do some digging. On the more realistic side of the spectrum, writing is also just a way to get out your thoughts. Journaling or making a story out of your life can be therapeutic in so many ways.

Reason #3: You’ll learn random tidbits of information and be smarter because of it.

Sometimes the most random things will be slipped into books, and all of a sudden you’ll be invested in niche disciplines or topics you’d never given thought to before. After reading a couple kids’ books that mentioned synesthesia when I was younger (A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass and The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch in case you’re wondering), I became fascinated with it. That’s not exactly a common thing that people talk about a lot and I don’t personally know anyone with synesthesia, but I learned so many random facts throughout those few books I read. You never know what you’ll learn from a book, and often it’s not the most obvious things that will stick with you.

Reason #4: It helps you learn more about yourself.

I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s held true for me. When you write a lot, you’ll notice what sorts of subjects appear over and over again in your work. As you develop your voice in your work, that voice reflects who you are and what you want others to see you as. It’s kind of crazy what kind of magic can happen when you put pen to paper, and a lot of it happens subconsciously as you’re just thinking and going through the motions of making your ideas concrete.

Reason #5: It’s a good skill to have no matter what your future plans are or what you do for a living.

You can be a writer at any stage in your life, there are many different types of writing you can do, and it’s something you can take up as a side hustle. It’s a valuable skill to have, and good writing can even shine through in something as mundane as business emails. It’s definitely important in school no matter what class you’re in/your major in college and teachers will definitely be impressed by someone who has solid writing skills no matter what they’re writing about. In most industries/jobs, it’s important that you can communicate eloquently, and writing is a huge part of that; if you can write formally, you can definitely speak formally, as writing requires a lot more editing and thinking.

I hope this convinces any of you out there who need to force yourself to crack open a book. There are always going to be reasons not to, and it definitely can take a good amount of time to finish a book or write a story, but it’s so worth it and I guarantee you’ll learn something throughout the process. I continue to learn about both the world and myself every time I read or write something. Stay safe and healthy!

Brooke

Summer Writing Programs Update – COVID-19 & My Thoughts

Hello everyone!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember my mentions of applying for writing-related summer programs and awaiting my admissions decisions. I was waitlisted at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference in early March, and I was still waiting on my decision to the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. If you’re interested in hearing an update on that, as well as a general update on what’s going on with summer programs/activities in the time of COVID-19, keep on reading.

First, a quick disclaimer: I do not want to sound self-centered in this post and I am fully aware that there are people in much tougher situations than me/impacted by the virus a lot more directly and I do not mean to take away from that. I am just sharing an update on another thing that the coronavirus has impacted and how that affects me personally. As you might guess from the title of this post and the direction things have been going with the coronavirus, the Kenyon Young Writers Workshop was sadly cancelled for this year. I think the most frustrating part for me was just that they didn’t even release official decisions, so I don’t even know if I would’ve gotten in or not. I understand why they did this as it wouldn’t be useful to get people upset or worked up over a program that was cancelled anyways, but I worked hard on my application and would’ve liked to know what they thought of it.

I haven’t heard back from the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference as to if I got accepted off of the waitlist. In the original admissions decision email, the main date to watch for a waitlist acceptance was April 6th, so I think it’s safe to say I will not be attending. I’m assuming it will probably end up being cancelled anyways since so many other summer programs are, so I’m sorry to anyone who was lucky enough to get accepted and planned on attending.

I actually ended up applying to two more summer programs that I didn’t mention on this blog, simply because I’ve only recently applied to them during these quarantine times. I applied to the CSPA journalism workshop hosted at Cal Poly, and I actually found out only a week after I applied that I got in! I sadly was forced to decline my offer of admission since they needed a non-refundable deposit by April 6th, and I was still waiting to hear from Kenyon and possibly an update from Sewanee. Lastly, I applied to The Adroit Journal‘s Summer Mentorship Program. It’s super competitive (even more competitive than I thought when I decided to apply… yikes) but I love Adroit and it sounded awesome (and corona-proof since it’s all online and remote) so I just kinda went for it. I’m not sure when I’ll hear back from them, but my hopes are not very high.

So, what does this all mean? I’m obviously disappointed that I won’t have the opportunity to get away from home by myself and experience the immersive atmosphere of Kenyon or Sewanee’s programs, but I know that there’s much bigger problems in the world and I’m privileged just to have gotten the chance to apply. I’m praying that coronavirus’s threat calms down by summer what with all our efforts to stay home and flatten the curve so that I can utilize one or multiple of the backup summer plans I originally thought of (summer job, internship, taking dual-enrollment classes at my local community college, volunteering, etc.), and just for the sake of everyone’s health and safety. That being said, if summer ends up being a big quarantine-fest as well, I guess I’ll just have plenty of time to write and blog, continuing the creative pursuits that I’ve been spending time doing so far.

For anyone who was lucky enough to secure their summer plan of choice or get accepted into their dream summer program, I am so sorry if it has been cancelled or impacted in some other way by coronavirus. That doesn’t diminish your accomplishment, and just know that your abilities or talent aren’t confined to a program or internship offer anyways. We’re all in this together, and we’ll all be finding alternative ways to pursue what we love at home during these strange and trying times. Stay safe and healthy.

Brooke

A Visit to Your Room – Poem by Me

the odor of dried sweat and moldy bread
is emitting from the towel you wrap
around your hair;
         you know, the one you use 
         to dry off and feel clean?

this room's always dirty but
from the doorway you can see
a tiny sketch of a half-drawn face

          staring into your eyes
          from its insignificant place 
          on your desk. 
too perfect with the plump lips and 
sporadic freckles on the stark white paper

i don't know how you spend so much
time in here, but i see that face
and it brings to my attention

mixed with the body odor and mold
it smells like you-
          vanilla candy, so sweet
          making my stomach ache

As always, I hope you enjoyed this poem! I thought it was fun to play around with the structure. Let me know if you have any feedback, suggestions, or challenges for me to use in my writing in the near future 🙂

Brooke

My Notebook – Poem by Me

if you want to get to know me, take a look
inside my tattered blue notebook

a hidden treasure in the back of my drawer
i whispered my stories to the pages-

they're dog-eared, words spilling out into 
the margins, pieces of myself perfectly

preserved on the paper almost like i
expected you to come across this

royal blue notebook of mine. if you've 
flipped through these fraying pages
                            you know the real me.

I hope you enjoyed this poem! It honestly isn’t my favorite, but I wanted to share it at some point and I wasn’t sure what else to post this week. Let me know if you have any suggestions, feedback, or challenges for me to incorporate in my writing in the near future 🙂

Brooke

How I Got Back Into Reading and Writing

Hello everyone!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might’ve seen me mention a couple times that I used to be an avid writer and reader when I was younger, but went through a dry spell for quite a few years. I really only got back into it a little over a year ago, halfway through my freshman year of high school. If something similar has happened to you for whatever reason and you’re trying to get back to your old book-loving self, or you’re trying to get into these two amazing habits for the first time, keep on reading to hear about my journey.

I think the biggest thing is just to treat it like any hobby that you have to make time for; just because you used to be super into it doesn’t mean it will automatically fall into your life and become an automatic part of your schedule again. If it does, that’s great! But don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t. That’s the most important distinction to make, but other than that, let’s dive into my story and tips.

In the middle of freshman year after my cheer season was over, I found myself with a lot more free time than I’d had since starting high school. I was evaluating what I wanted to do and how I wanted to spend some of my free time, and there were a lot of activities I was interested in doing- I started volunteering more, and I joined some other groups outside of school. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much time I used to spend writing random stories, and reading books. I’d read a poetry book or two in freshman year, but other than that I was only reading and writing in my classes at school.

I was also going through kind of a hard time, so I decided I would start journaling and just write about all the thoughts I was having. My journal entries turned into pages and pages of writing, and eventually I realized how much it was helping me to just get everything out on paper. I started writing poems that reflected my current thoughts and feelings as well, and just writing as often as I could. I applied to be on my school’s yearbook staff for the next school year with a writing sample, and I got in! Writing was becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life. I think the catalyst for me to really get into writing was starting this blog in June 2019. I knew I wanted to do something different and write in a new way, and I figured I would have plenty to write about on my summer trip to France and Italy, so I started the blog under the guise of covering my trip.

I kept writing for this blog throughout the summer (and throughout this year, and I plan to keep writing), but my next writing endeavor was signing up to be on the editorial staff at Polyphony Lit, an international teen magazine. I’ve learned so much about writing and read so many amazing pieces during my time as an editor there, and I even got a promotion a few months ago from First Reader editor to Second Reader editor (the level above)! If you’re in high school, I highly recommend checking out Polyphony Lit and the opportunity to be an editor; if you’re not a teenager, I just recommend checking out the publication in general because the work is amazing!

After being inspired by starting to edit submissions for Polyphony, I started to write more poetry over the summer. I would sit in a lounge chair in my backyard and just write, drawing inspiration from anything and everything and trying to make it into something beautiful. As I wrote more and more, I started submitting some poems to contests, and I had my first poem chosen for publication in the fall.

As you can tell from my journey so far, for me it was easier to incorporate writing back into my life first, and reading came shortly after. I realized that in order to improve my writing and develop my own style, I should read more and get inspiration from other authors. At first, I just reread some of my old favorite books to get my feet wet in the book world. Next, I asked for poetry books for Christmas and read a bunch of poetry. I signed up for Poem-A-Day to get a poem in my email everyday and get exposed to different authors and writing styles. I got books from my parents’ bookshelves and just started reading them, and I asked my English teacher for a couple book recommendations.

Now that we’re in quarantine, there’s more time than ever to experiment with reading and writing. Hopefully my story gives you an idea of how an inkling of wanting to read or write can eventually lead to a complete rekindling of your love for them, but if you’re looking for more specific tips, here’s a little list!

  • Sign up for Poem-A-Day. I know I already mentioned this above, but it is a great way to make sure you’re reading a poem everyday and getting exposed to so many different poems and writing styles! It’s free, and it’ll only take you a few minutes each day to read the poem.
  • Look up writing prompts or exercises. If you’re in a writing mood but aren’t used to writing or you’re not sure where to start, look up some writing prompts! Your creative juices will start flowing and it’s always great to practice.
  • Keep a journal. As I mentioned, starting to journal and get out my thoughts that way was one of the things that really got my writing going. When you’re putting pen to paper all the time, eventually the magic will happen or you’ll be inspired to write something else.
  • Ask your friends what they’re reading and read it. This way, you’ll have people to talk about the book with, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy it if the recommendation’s coming from a friend! It can be a loose/informal book club.
  • Read the book version of your favorite movie/TV show. This is something that’s overlooked- you already know you like the story, so why not read it and compare the differences? It’s always interesting to see what scenes/details aren’t translated to the film/TV version.

Hopefully this helps you all out or inspires you in some way. I’d love to talk to some fellow readers or writers, so let me know what you’re reading/writing at the moment 🙂

Brooke

Metamorphosis – Poem by Me

who knew what a talented artist you are
in the art of manipulation

your skill is unparalleled: the masks you
wear, the metamorphosis i've seen you undergo

like that of a caterpillar to a butterfly in that
you showed your true colors

but quite different in that i don't like what i see
i know you don't care, so i won't waste my breath

on lecturing you for your actions
i'll just watch you fly away

I hope you enjoyed this poem! I know most of the work I’ve posted lately is pretty short, so I’m hoping to experiment with different styles and some longer work soon. Let me know if you have any suggestions, feedback, or requests!

Brooke

A Silent House – Poem by Me

in this house that's not a home
the air is grey and thick. the fridge

is full but our bellies aren't; they 
crave love and genuine feeling.

voices are raised and the wind 
whistle, zipping through the 

dusty windows to egg us on.
silence settles in, along with our 

disdain for each other
in this house that's not a home.

I hope you enjoyed this poem! It’s kind of inspired by the poem I posted about a week ago called “Four Walls” (go check it out if you haven’t already!) so if it seems familiar or similar to that, that’s why. I feel like with quarantine and spending so much time at home, family issues and tension that’s been fairly buried for a while are bound to rise up. I wish you all the best- stay healthy!

Brooke

My Updated Study Plans for Online AP Tests – Euro & Psych

Hello everyone!

What with the rescheduling and completely new format of the AP tests for this year to accommodate quarantine and coronavirus conditions, we’ve all had to reevaluate our study plans. For people taking the APs in class, this is frustrating and seems to undermine your year of hard work. For self-studiers, this is a bad thing and a good thing all at once, as there’s less to study but no one to guide you. Today I’m going to be sharing my study plans for the two AP tests/classes I’m taking this year (AP European History and AP Psychology), so keep on reading if you’re interested.

First, I’ll start with AP Euro, the AP class that I actually take at school. Since the test is just composed of a DBQ and nothing else, my teacher has come up with sample DBQ prompts for each week. We don’t really have any other online assignments besides figuring out how we’re going to study for the test, and making sure we keep up with his posted updates about test information/when he ends up grading our practice DBQs. That being said, that means I’m kind of my own to self-study for this test as well. However, we had almost finished all the content for the class, and we already finished through the period that’s being tested a month ago, so I’m thankful for that.

AP EURO STUDY PLAN

  • The aforementioned practice DBQs. My teacher is posting a huge document of prompts/documents and suggesting we do one to two practices a week, particularly focusing on pacing. He’s kind enough to look over our work and give us extra pointers if we ask for them, but they’re optional and not being graded yet (it’s a long story, but my district isn’t allowing any of the online work we do to be graded yet).
  • Watching the AP review sessions that College Board is putting out. I’m not going to watch the ones that cover topics not on the test since for the most part, my class was ahead and already learned about them, but I’ll watch the ones that review content tested. It’s always good to learn from someone new and hear a different voice on the topic, and the teacher in the video might focus on little details or events that mine didn’t.
  • Reading my review book as a cram of information. I already bought a Princeton Review prep book at the beginning of the school year, and I don’t intend to let it go to waste. I’ve used it as a resource for summing up major events in general a couple times throughout the year when cramming for unit tests, and I think that will still make it helpful in this case as well.
  • Rewriting/organizing some of my notes. I take pride in my Euro notes because they’re very detailed, but they’re not the neatest. Since the test is open-note but also on a major time constraint, I don’t want to have to flip through a bunch of messy, tiny notes where words are shoved in every square inch of the paper. I plan on organizing them by unit, and maybe typing them up so they’re easier to read, and highlighting major events or details.

AP Psych is a bit different because I took the class online over summer, so the information’s a bit fuzzy in my head. I’m kind of glad I don’t have to re-learn every single detail, but it’s still difficult because I know the multiple choice would’ve been easier to study for. I’m lucky enough to have a couple friends who are also taking Psych, so I’m hoping to get some study tips or help from them as well.

AP PSYCH STUDY PLAN

  • Watching the College Board AP review sessions. I’ll probably watch all of them, even the ones that are on topics not tested, just because I find psychology interesting and feel like I didn’t learn everything from my online class. My reasoning for doing this is the same as with Euro though, so I won’t explain further.
  • Using my resources. I bought the Barron’s flashcards and a Princeton Review book a few months ago in preparation for self-studying, and just like with Euro, I’m going to make the most of them. I still need to brush up on content, so reading the review book and testing myself with flashcards will still be helpful, even though there’s no multiple choice.
  • Going over FRQs I wrote for the class. Since the FRQ format is still the same, I can look at all the graded FRQs I wrote in my online class over the summer. I know that the two FRQs on the AP test are going to be specific types of questions, so I’ll try and find if any of the questions I did were comparable.
  • Practicing tons of FRQs!! – At this point, that’s really the main thing I should do once I brush up on the actual content of the class. I’ll focus in on the specific types of questions they’re asking and try and find as many sample questions as I can. I’ll probably ask my friends in Psych to look over them if they’re willing.

I hope these study plans help you out if you wanted to know what a fellow student was doing, or if you just wanted to get motivated to start studying now. I know this is a weird change, but hopefully it works out in our favor. I know the shortened test seems to cheapen the value of how hard we’ve worked all year, but at least test days will be shorter and it might be easier to do well on the tests. Above all, we’re all in this together 🙂

P.S. Screw the College Board!

Brooke