Let’s Talk: Quality Over Quantity in Blog Posts

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to give you all a quick update on where I’m at with this blog and changes for the future. I know I’ve talked several times about sticking to a stricter posting schedule, but I always kept trucking along with my daily posts and various topics covered. Junior year has been overwhelming thus far and I want to make it easier on myself while still providing content for you guys. If you’re interested in hearing more about my thoughts on this and where this blog is going, keep on reading!

First of all, I would rather underpromise and overdeliver content for you all than overpromise and underdeliver. That’s why I’m somewhat disappointed but still going to say that for now, I will only be posting once a week on Sundays. Of course I’ll throw in bonus posts sometimes, but I want to have quality poems/other types of posts to share with you all, and right now that’s just not possible if I’m trying to post every single day. I’m also hoping this will motivate me to come up with new ideas for you all.

I’m choosing quality over quantity for the time being as I want to be proud of the work I produce for this blog, and this will honestly make it so much easier to write good content (or at least I’m hoping). I hope you guys are okay with that.

Additionally, I know lots of bloggers don’t actually post every day. I’m not trying to use that as an excuse, but it just makes sense that I would eventually scale back the amount of posts per week after over a year of posting almost daily and finding my direction on this blog. I don’t want to write half-hearted content just to get a post up, and I think I’ve been doing that subconsciously lately since I’m so short on time.

I’m so thankful for anyone reading this post (or anyone who has read any of my blog posts) and I hope you stick around to see what’s to come! I’ll still be taking requests and writing challenges as always.

This blog has been such a wonderful creative outlet for the past 15 months, and I know it will continue to be. I want to keep the content fresh and make sure I’m not burning out, and I hope you all understand that. Thanks so much for being here if you’re still reading! I appreciate you all. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Let’s Talk: How I Got Over My Fear of Zooms

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to talk about a topic that might seem kind of silly. When remote learning was first introduced somewhat clumsily in the first stages of quarantine this spring, I was terrified of participating in class on my Zoom meetings, and I didn’t like having my video on. Hours and hours of time spent on Zooms later, I’m much more comfortable with the platform and in some situations (definitely not all) I almost prefer it to meeting with people in person. Keep on reading if you want to find out what changed my mind and how I got over this silly fear.

Spoiler alert: the main thing that helped me get over this weird fear was just being on more Zooms. My writing workshop was held completely virtually on Zoom, I attended a leadership seminar also run on Zoom, my meetings for various extracurricular activities ended up being hosted on Zoom, I had to run my own individual Zoom meetings when I volunteered to tutor elementary school students, I had tons of Zoom meetings when I started my internship in July and have now led/helped lead Zoom meetings with a decent amount of people on them through that same internship, and now, of course, I spend my full school day in Zoom classes.

Originally, I felt so conscious about having Zoom classes. Would people be judging my background? Was my audio quality bad, or was there going to be a bunch of background noise from my family that would embarrass me? The idea that my voice would reverberate through everyone else’s speakers if I decided to talk freaked me out. I feel like in an in-person class, people don’t really tune in to other people’s answers unless they’re really engaged in what’s going on.

I now realize Zoom class is basically the same in this way (there’s even more opportunities to tune out), but in my head I thought that everyone would be hyperfocused on me if my face popped up on the screen and started talking. You can’t have casual side conversations with peers or teachers in a Zoom room unless you’re in breakout rooms- either everyone’s listening to you or they’re not.

Being in breakout rooms and nudging myself to participate during my writing workshop led the groundwork for being more comfortable in virtual settings later on. My goal was to participate once per day in the large group sessions during my writing workshop, but we all participated a ton in our small groups. With this experience under my belt, I couldn’t help but feel like a Zoom expert in my other meetings during the summer, and I was one of the first people to speak in my leadership seminar groups in many situations.

I’m one of those people who is super shy but around other shy people can easily make myself more outgoing/extroverted to fit that role in the group, and having previous experience with Zoom/virtual meetings in general made me more confident to lead them and participate in them as I would if I were in person. If I can do it, you can too!

I hope you enjoyed hearing a little bit about my experience with this topic. Zoom is a key part of virtual learning, but it’s being used for so much more even outside of the education sphere right now, and I know it’s scary to some in the same way it was to me. Feel free to leave any feedback or your own personal experiences in the comments. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

5 Things I’ve Learned In The First Week of the Remote School Year

Hello everyone!

I started my junior year of high school on August 19 and am sitting down to write this after the first (half) week of school. There’s already been quite a few ups and downs, and this is definitely going to be an interesting year for everyone. I’m going to share five things I’ve learned thus far, so keep on reading if you’re interested in hearing about my remote learning experience.

  1. Patience is key. I know this might seem obvious, but it’s SO necessary that I need to include it anyway. As you might have heard from teachers and other staff, it’s difficult on their end too. We all have to be understanding and adaptable, as that’s what this situation is all about. Expect bumps in the road and that you won’t always be prepared for everything coming our way, but be willing to work past it.
  2. The phone needs to be out of sight. This might not be as much of a self-discipline issue for everyone, but I’ve found that I’m way more focused if my phone is away from my desk. I’m not even tempted to look at it or noticing notifications pop up if I can’t see it on my surface at all. There’s already so many possible distractions on a computer/whatever device you’re distance learning on, so extra devices definitely need to be put away.
  3. Zoom can be awkward, but it gets better if you actually participate. I used to be terrified of Zooms and having to speak before I did my writing program over the summer that was run completely on Zoom. That’s helped me so much in this distance learning already–although it was a completely different experience, getting comfortable with Zoom and being able to interact with people I only knew through the screen has made me more confident to participate in my Zoom classes.
  4. You have to reach out if you want to actually interact with your friends. There’s not a virtual equivalent to lunchtime or just walking from class to class with all your friends. Make sure to check in on your friends and see how their virtual learning is going, and just interact as normally as you possibly can.
  5. This is a very independent journey. Try to make the best of it, as you would with anything else. This will impact everyone differently, and there may be different pros and cons of this experience for different people. It will definitely test us and make us stronger, so try to make the most of that. Challenge yourself, but also know when you need screen time breaks or when things are getting overwhelming. Use this time to figure out what works for you and how you can build your schedule a little differently.

I hope you guys enjoyed these few little tidbits of things I’ve learned so far! I will make sure to do an updated one sometime soon. Although I’m definitely still focused on coming up with new writing content, I think it’s important to include some education related stuff, as it is the beginning of the school year, and this will be a school year no one forgets. Please feel free to leave feedback in the comments. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Let’s Talk: Struggling to Finish Longer Poems

Hello everyone!

Today we’re going to be talking about something I’ve had difficulty with recently: trying to work on longer poems/longer pieces of writing in general. Most of the pieces I post on this blog are fairly short anyways, but even outside of blogging I’ve gotten stuck after writing the beginnings of a ton of different poems. It might be a result of my scattered brain at the moment, but there’s more to it than that. If you want to hear more of my thoughts on this, keep on reading!

First of all, I want to make sure I clarify that it’s completely fine (without a doubt) if you prefer to write short poems or if you prefer to write long poems or if you like writing everything/don’t have a preference, or if you don’t like to write poetry at all! This is just a short commentary on my recent experience with the length of my poems, since I’ve been posting short pieces almost exclusively.

There’s so much on my plate right now with the school year starting and trying to transition my other activities/responsibilities to a virtual or social distancing-friendly format, and I don’t have as much built-in time in my schedule reserved for writing right now. I’m not happy about it, but it’s what has to happen in order for me to get everything done and not rush myself with necessary tasks. As a result, I’m having little bursts of creativity throughout the week that I’ll scrawl down.

A lot of times, these bursts of creativity come in one or two lines, or an image I want to incorporate. I’ve been writing them on a fresh page of my notebook, taking them as far as I can before I lose my train of thought, and then just leaving them to sit until I can revisit them. By the time I can revisit them, it often feels disingenuous to engineer an ending to my thoughts, and I often want to leave them as they are, a few dainty lines dancing across the page with possibility.

Maybe the perfect endings to these ideas will come to me just as the beginnings did, but for now, I’m not really in a place where I can brainstorm and spend hours deliberating on what direction to take the pieces in. I’m missing my summer writing workshop and the hours we spent discussing and cultivating writing… regardless of that, I don’t want to stop writing until I have time to work on it more seriously, as writing keeps me sane and is sort of a coping mechanism even when I can’t do it as much as I would like to.

In the first phases of quarantine, I had sooooo much time to write and think and edit and deliberate on more writing, and I kind of miss that. Isn’t it crazy how different our quarantine situation has become over time? I would love to hear your thoughts on this and what your writing headspace/situation is at the moment.

Please feel free to leave feedback and writing challenges in the comments. I would love to hear from you! Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Let’s Talk: Unfinished Pieces and Revising Your Writing

Welcome back everyone!

Today I want to talk a little bit about leaving writing pieces unfinished and revising your writing. These are two things I’ve struggled with a lot in the past (and still do!) so I thought it might be relevant to others as well. I also recently learned a lot about revision through my time in the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference. If you’re interested in learning more about my experience with these two issues, keep on reading!

I often have an idea for a poem or short story (or even novel if I’m feeling ambitious) that I will start to run with, get stuck, and just kind of leave there. There’s nothing wrong with this, and a lot of great lines or portions of pieces can come out of just putting pen to paper when you have an idea. However, it can be difficult to shape these half-pieces into something you like or something that’s actually meaningful.

In a way, I think having that time away from the piece is really important to preventing writer’s block. However, you want to make sure you don’t take too much time away from the piece to the point where you forget what you were actually thinking about or trying to say when you wrote it. Also, try to spend your time mulling over possible directions to take it once you come back and work on it again.

If you end up just abandoning a piece completely, that’s completely normal and totally fine. I just recommend looking it back over to see if there’s any sentences/lines or whole excerpts you think could be useful for other pieces you’re currently working on or something you might want to write in the future.

I always feel like I’m missing out on something or losing something if I don’t see a piece out to its end, but it’s important to refrain from pressuring yourself. You most likely won’t be happy with what you write if you’re putting pressure on yourself anyways. If a piece isn’t working for you, listen to your inner writing voice and don’t worry about leaving it behind. Like I already mentioned, you can always come back to it later if you’re inspired to do so.

As far as revision goes, I had no clue how to actually revise my work in an effective way until learning more about that in my writing workshop. I would always use spellcheck and edit my grammar as well as sometimes tweak a few words for the sake of diction, but I never knew how to really dig deep and take a piece further.

In the workshop, I learned it’s normal to go through tons of drafts in the revision process, and generate lots of new lines and content to see what sticks. It might take a few drafts to figure out what you’re really trying to say and what made you decide to start your piece. Sometimes we’re not ready to put that into words yet, and that’s when you might find it beneficial to step away from the piece a little bit.

These are just a couple things I learned as a result of my writing workshop and my personal experiences lately, but I hope they prove helpful to you as well. Let me know if you have any questions, and please feel free to leave feedback and/or post requests in the comments. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

My Poetry Writing Process For This Blog

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to be giving a quick overview of my writing process for the poems I post on this blog. It’s a little different than my writing process if I’m writing poems for myself/for another purpose and obviously it’s somewhat similar to my normal blog post writing process (I’ve written a post on that before as well!) so I’m not going to go into too much detail. Keep on reading if you want to find out how I write the poems I post each week!

  1. Do the normal blog set-up. I figure out what I’m going to write a poem about based on inspiration/prompts/feelings from the day, choose my tags, find a matching picture on Unsplash.com, the works.
  2. Sometimes I come up with a title before writing the poem, and sometimes I come up with it after. I also might tweak it after finishing the poem– it all depends how much I have planned in my head when I start writing.
  3. I write the poem! I experiment with a few different structures of poems on here, but I start out just doing a free verse outline of what I want the poem to be. I try to get out all my thoughts quickly and edit them afterwards. I make sure to write it in the “Verse” block on the WordPress editor.
  4. I edit the spacing/line breaks of the poem to my liking.
  5. I check the poem for possible confusing lines or grammar mistakes. I honestly don’t revise my poems on this blog beyond that, as it’s kind of a spur-of-the-moment free write thing. I recognize that lots of the poems on here are far from perfect, but I think there’s something beautiful in that as well. Feel free to disagree: I fully believe there’s still a time and place for raw, unpolished writing, and on a small personal blog this is one of those places. 🙂
  6. I write the little blurb after the poem. Sometimes I’ll explain the backstory/inspiration to the poem, sometimes not. It depends on how much clarification I think it needs. I’ll also do my normal call-to-action asking for feedback and writing challenges, and send you off with well wishes.

That’s all there is to it! It’s definitely not as intense of a writing process as when I’m trying to write and polish a more serious, longer piece. I love getting creative on here and writing little image poems, but I do plan on posting some longer and experimental poems in the future. Please let me know if there’s other types of poems you would like to see me explore. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Poems I’ve Read Recently That You Should Too

Hello everyone!

Today I’m going to be sharing some poems I’ve recently read and enjoyed. All of them are works I’ve discussed in my writing workshop last week, since that’s what I’ve been doing this entire week. It’s been an amazing experience and you can definitely expect a whole separate post on that sometime soon. If you’re interested in reading some awesome poems and possibly discovering new poets, keep on reading!

I hope you’re inspired to check out some of these poems! It’s been such an amazing experience to take part in a writing workshop and get exposed to so many different authors and types of poetry. Please let me know if you have any favorite poets or poems you think I should check out. Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Let’s Talk: Receiving Feedback On Your Writing

Welcome back everyone!

So, you’ve posted a piece of writing (not necessarily creative writing, we’re talking about anything here) or submitted it for publication, and you get some feedback. Even if the piece is jaw-droppingly amazing, there’s probably still going to be some critiques in any feedback you receive. Today I’m going to give you a little overview of how to respond to feedback, how to get better at reacting to it, and how to actually take it into account. If you’re interested, keep on reading!

There are a couple different ways and places I receive feedback on my writing: comments on this blog, responses from literary magazines I submit my pieces to (Polyphony Lit specifically is an international teen lit mag that gives every submission 3 rounds of feedback sent back to the author), and just simply sharing my pieces with other people for peer review. I don’t get many comments on my work here on this blog, so I’m able to respond to every one that I get and think deeply about the feedback given. Most literary magazines/publications don’t give you too much feedback other than acceptance/rejection, but in the case of the ones that do, I try to comb through the feedback for points I may not have thought about before and am willing to actually rework and change in my piece.

As far as sharing my pieces with others for peer review, I’m very weird about sharing my writing (I made a post about this not too long ago) and I don’t do this as often as I should. I know it’s one of the most helpful things you can do to get feedback on your work in a more gentle manner, but I’m still working up the confidence to do so. I will actually be doing a lot of peer review very soon in the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference these coming weeks, and I will surely give an update on how that goes.

When someone provides you with feedback, no matter the case, make sure to thank them!! This is crucial because you want to show that you are gracious for their time in reading over your piece and telling you how to make it even better. Please do not get discouraged by a lot of criticism or negative-seeming feedback. It is all in your best interest to hear the perspectives of others and how they may have interpreted your work.

Another thing to consider is you don’t have to take all feedback into account when revising your piece. Definitely read it all, but if changes are suggested that would alter your piece in a way you’re not willing to or would take away from your intended meaning, then don’t make those changes. It’s completely okay to listen to parts of someone’s feedback and not all. That being said, if the source of the feedback is someone you trust and/or someone with a lot of writing experience and knowledge, you might reconsider ignoring what they say. I know it probably sounds like I’m contradicting myself, but I promise I’m not! This is just how it goes– as a writer, you’re probably already used to looking at everything from both sides and all the angles in between.

You may be wondering, how do I actually implement the changes suggested in the feedback I’ve gotten? I would first comb through all the feedback and highlight the points that you agree with most/want to rework in your piece. If these are more specific, I would just start attacking those parts of your piece and implementing a first round of change. If the feedback was more general, you could read through your piece and highlight portions that relate to what you’re trying to change. After you’ve done that throughout the whole piece, start working on those.

When you’re done with that first round of reworking, take a break. Come back and look at the piece later, and see if it reflects the changes suggested in the feedback and the changes you wanted to make. If so, pass it on somewhere else for feedback again. If not, go through another round of reworking yourself. Repeat. This is what I do, and it tends to move the revision process along pretty quick.

I hope this helped you with anything related to feedback on your writing! Please let me know if you have any questions, and feel free to leave some feedback on this piece 🙂 Stay safe and healthy out there.

Brooke

Should You Take An Online AP Class?

Hello everyone!

AP testing is almost over (to anyone who has an AP test tomorrow, best of luck!) for this year, and you probably have already selected your courses you’re taking next year. If your school doesn’t offer a lot of AP classes/a specific AP class you want to take, or your school limits when and how many AP classes you can take, you might be considering taking an AP course online through an accredited provider.

I did exactly this with AP Psychology since I didn’t have room for it in my schedule at school; I took a self-paced online course through BYU Independent Study during the summer, and then basically retaught myself everything before the AP test. This path might not work for everyone, so keep on reading if you want my advice on whether it will work for you.

Keep in mind that this is all based off of my personal experience and I am not a teacher or education expert! Make sure to talk to your parents and/or counselor to see if they think online AP classes are a good fit for you.

You SHOULD take an online AP class if:

  • You have the funds. Online AP classes are expensive unless you live in a state like Florida that has a program where you can take them for free (use FLVS!). I live in California and we don’t have a program like that, so I had to make sure my parents were okay paying for a class. BYU Independent Study was the most affordable choice for AP Psychology at least, but it’s overall expensive
  • You’re self-motivated and will get the work done. Don’t pile extra work on yourself if it’s just going to stress you out more and you’re going to procrastinate doing it. You’ll have to hold yourself accountable, and no matter how good the teacher of the online class is, you’ll still end up being your own teacher in a lot of ways.
  • You can get an A (or B) in the class to boost your GPA. These classes are super helpful for bumping up your GPA as long as you get a good grade. Make sure your school will accept the credits and put them on your high school transcript if that’s what your after- my school also has a limit on how many online classes you can take, so make sure to check that out too.
  • You’re genuinely interested in the class (or you need it to graduate). Unless you need to take the class or you really want to take the class, it probably will just be a burden and something you dread doing. I was genuinely interested in psychology and didn’t have room in my schedule sophomore year to take the class at my school, so it was worth it for me to take it (especially because of the GPA boost).

You SHOULD NOT take an online AP class if:

  • You want to take an ‘easier’ version of an AP class. Although some online AP classes can be easier than others or the in-class version, this still isn’t the best attitude to have. Most of the time, you’ll still need to put a decent amount of work in, so make sure you’re willing to.
  • You’re mainly taking it to pass the AP exam and get college credit, not because of interest in the class itself. It might be a waste of money to do this. If you’re motivated enough to take extra AP classes/tests, you’re probably motivated enough to self-study the material and take the test without paying for the class you don’t actually care about. I personally didn’t want to self-study since I actually wanted to take the class and I didn’t think I would be self-disciplined enough or have the resources to self-study, but lots of people do it successfully.
  • You have the opportunity to take the same class at school. Unless there’s a scheduling conflict or another reason you’re not able to take the class at school, I would highly recommend taking the classes in person if your school offers them. You’ll have a lot more support leading up to the AP test, and it will overall usually be a better, more complete learning experience.

Another aspect of online AP classes I would like to address is the timing of taking the class. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking an online AP class over summer like I did. Although it was useful to get the course done at my convenience in a short period of time, it was much more difficult for me to reteach myself the material and study for the AP test. Taking an online class during the school year might pile on even more to your normal school workload, but it also might be easier when AP tests come closer. This is something you’ll want to consider when deciding to take an online AP course; it’s important to choose the schedule that works best for you.

Lastly, if you’ve decided you for sure want to take an online AP course, here are some reputable providers:

  • FLVS (free for Florida residents like I mentioned, but available to anyone with a price)
  • Apex
  • BYU Independent Study
  • Virtual High School/VHS
  • Laurel Springs
  • UC Scout
  • Johns Hopkins CTY (I think you have to apply first? they’re also extremely pricey and rigorous but are very highly rated by those who take them!)

I hope this helped out anyone considering the pros and cons of online AP courses in deciding whether they would be a good choice for them. I personally plan on taking AP Art History this next year, as I need an art credit to graduate and I don’t have room in my schedule to take the class at school. We’re all in this together! Please let me know if you have any further questions. Stay safe and healthy.

Brooke

How I Write My Blog Posts

Welcome back everyone!

Today I’m going to be sharing my blog post writing process, from start to finish. In case you’re new to my blog, here’s a little bit of background: I pre-write and schedule all of my posts a week in advance on weekends, so I write seven blog posts each weekend. Usually about half of those seven will be sharing my poems/writing, and the other half will be related to school or some other topic. If you’re interested in learning what goes into each of my posts, keep on reading!

First, I start with what type of post I want to write. Usually for this, I simply make this distinction: is it going to be a writing post, or not? I usually have a supply of poems I want to share on this blog, so if it is a writing post, I can easily choose one. If not, I have to do a bit more brainstorming before I start writing.

I actually usually title my posts before I start writing them, but I sometimes change the title before I’m done if my writing takes a turn and I think a different title would better reflect the post. After I title it, I choose the time I want it to be posted, I select the category I want it to be posted under, and I write three tags for it (usually one is always “wordpress”). I find an image that reflects the content of the post on unsplash.com since they offer free high-quality images, and then I get to writing the actual post.

My posts tend to be on the shorter side unless it’s a rant/opinion type post, so it takes between 15-45 minutes for me to write it from start to finish. I’ll have a little introduction paragraph, the bulk of the post, and then I’ll have a really short conclusion where I let readers know that I’m always open to suggestions and answering questions. I also always sign my name at the end (not even sure why- I don’t really think it’s necessary, but it’s a habit).

After I’ve written out the full post, I’ll read it over myself and edit anything I think needs to be changed or fixed. If it’s a poem, I’ll make sure the formatting is in “verse” rather than paragraph so the line breaks are where I want them to be. Another thing I do differently when posting poetry is I write an excerpt, since I don’t do an introduction paragraph for those posts; I go straight into the poem when you open up the post.

It’s a pretty simple process, but here it is in steps:

  1. Decide what type of post I want to write (writing/education/organization/review, etc.)
  2. Brainstorm post idea.
  3. Title post.
  4. Adjust all the settings- choose the pre-scheduled time to post, select the category I want the post to be under on my blog, add 3 tags.
  5. Find a picture to go with the post on unsplash.com that will be the featured post image.
  6. Write the actual post. Introduction paragraph, content, conclusion, sign-off.
  7. Read the post over and make any necessary changes.
  8. Press “schedule”!

Hopefully this shed some light on the blogging process if you’re a new blogger and wondering how other bloggers get their posts up, or if you’re just curious on what goes into each post. Let me know if you have any questions, as I’m happy to answer them in the comments.

Brooke