My Writing Process (part of a blog tour!)

inspiration

A little while ago my blogging friend Amanda, from Notes From  Newlywed,  asked me to take part in a little writing theme that has been making its way around blogland lately, the Writing Process Blog Tour. Similar to Home Tours that allow you to peak into people’s private homes and get ideas or tips or to learn something new, this blog tour allows fellow writers to take a peak into other writer’s minds.  The idea is to learn about various thoughts on writing and the writing processes and to be introduced to new blogs and writers. 

I’m always happy to talk about writing, reading, and words with people who share my enthusiasm so I was very happy to participate. Writing has been a part of my life since my teenage years. Whether it’s keeping a journal, writing poetry or stories, or studying as an English major in college. I can’t imagine a world without books and writing.

We were all asked the same questions about writing and here are my answers:

What am I working on?

Other than writing for this blog, I do some freelance editing and writing for a small publishing company as well as the writing I do for my full-time job. At the publishing company we are currently editing the final touches to a non fiction book on how to fundraise for non profits. The book is written by a developement  industry veteran who currently teaches at NYU. It’s been interesting to get to know him and to learn all the ins and outs of the industry. He has some great and hilarious stories involving mob members, celebrities, and other awkward situations.  As a former employee of a struggling non-profit, I’m learning so much of what went wrong. Once the book is published I’ll share a link to buy it on Amazon – if you work/volunteer for a non-profit or if you job has anything to do with fundraising I’d recommend it!

At my full-time job my day is full of a lot of technical and promotional writing. Although this may sound boring, I work for a consulting company that specializes in creativity training. We teach people how to think more quickly and creatively on demand by giving them easy to use creativity tools. These easy to learn skills can very easily change the way your brain processes and thinks. It’s really amazing to watch the changes happen in our clients work and personal lives. Since I love the work, the technical writing is fun and I do get to be a little creative. 

In my free time I write this blog. My most favorite posts are those about trying to be the best you that you can be, like finding and using your voice, respecting your own dreams and goals, following your bliss, and celebrating you! I love writing reflective and sensitive pieces. Behind closed doors I write poetry and a little fiction as a stress reliever and hobby.  I use writing as a way to work through thoughts and issues. My blog has proved to be a very cheap form of therapy. In all honesty though, I hope I am relating to others in my writing and giving them that satisfying “me too” moment. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

The genre that is lifestyle blogs? Is there such a “genre”? I think not.

I think we all have our own individual voices and that is what makes blogging so appealing. No matter what “type” of person you are you will find a blog or blogger that speaks specifically to you. My blog tends to be a little bit more serious and reflective. I’ll never be one of those funny bloggers. I don’t set rules for myself in this place. In blogging I try my best for my writing to sound like my speaking voice as I like my writing to feel like a conversation I am having with you over coffee. I don’t write for everyone. I write for myself and for those that can relate to me. I truly hope to build a community with those that do. Some may not care for it, and that’s okay! 

Why do I write what I do?

I write to connect. Words make the world a smaller place. There is always at least one other person out there that can connect with the thoughts you are sharing. Your words may make them feel inspired, angered, uplifted, or happy. I write to feel human – to document my never-ending journey or learning and growing.

I’ve always been fascinated with words and the power they have over people. Words give us the power to inspire, to not feel alone, to connect with strangers, to provide hope, to believe in love and to change the world.

How does your writing process work?

I have a similar writing process for all the types of writing I do (creative, blog, technical, non fiction). I have a long list of ideas or thoughts that I want to write about. If I need inspiration I can find it by going for a walk, listening to music, or browsing the internet, but the most common way I find inspiration is through reading. I try to read about 2 -3 books per month. Once I have an idea my next step is to  find my writing spot for the day/afternoon/night.

First, I need complete silence, no music, no TV, no background noise. I can get very nit picky about this! Once I’m in a quiet space, I start with pen and paper. Always on pen and paper. I either curl up in bed or on the couch and write out my thoughts, usually just little snippets. I then try to find the main theme of what I’m thinking. After I have my theme I construct an outline of how I’m going to structure my post, article, story etc. Then I simply let it flow from there.

Somedays it takes me a whole month to craft and polish a post. Others I write on the spot and throw it out there, errors and all as it was something I needed to simply put out there. I never guarantee perfect grammar or spelling all the time, I’m only human, and this is only a personal blog.

That said, my favorite posts are those that I take time to craft and mull over. I follow the advice of Coco Chanel. She famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”   I try to do that with my writing, omitting and rewriting until I feel my writing is ready to walk out the door. Brevity is an art form and one I struggle with. My blog challenges me and I strive to continue to develop and strengthen my writing skills over time. I’m so thankful for all my readers who have come along on this adventure with me. 

Continue Your Tour!

Now I’d like to pass the torch onto another writer. Please continue your blog tour withAllie at Everyday Adventures 

allie 


and Lisa at Two Martinis

lisa

and hear their thoughts on writing and their writing process.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing and writing processes. Please share them below to start the dialogue. 

xoxo Katie

 

Illiteracy in the U.S. and the Impact of Reading

beach1

I can’t imagine a world without books. Reading is the fuel for my heart and my brain. It provides me with so much joy, knowledge, and feelings of calmness. I believe not being able to read would leave me feeling displaced – as if I suddenly lost one of my five senses.

I love that I am instantly transported to a different world where I get to live in someone else’s shoes, discover a different culture, religion, point of view, or time period. I’ve written about my passion for reading and the many life skills being an English major has given me. My mom, a former first grade teacher, instilled the love of reading in me at a young age. I have fond childhood memories lying side by side on our bellies flipping through picture books and as we got older, chapter books. Books were everywhere. It was the quickest way to take a vacation, to escape, and to open the doors of my little home to the great big world. 

The studies don’t lie. Reading delivers huge benefits through all periods of your life.

Stress Reduction: reading even beats out listening to music, sipping tea, or going for a walk!

Mental Stimulation: your brain is a muscle and reading exercises it. Reading keeps your mind active and can help prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Improved Focus and Concentration: a major bonus in our busy, distracted, internet crazed world.

Lifelong Learning and Knowledge:  better equipping you for any challenges you may face in your lifetime. 

Vocabulary Expansion: making you more articulate and well spoken and a better communicator. Not to mention a better writer! 

Stronger Analytical Thinking Skills

While thinking about the impact of reading on my life, I began to think about the negative side effects of NOT reading.

The data that I found on reading and illiteracy in the US shocked me.  I believe that this topic is completely ignored and covered up.


The data:

Total percent of U.S. adults who can’t read  – 14%

Number of U.S. adults who can’t read   – 32 million

Percent of U.S. adults who read below a 5th grade reading level  –   21%

Percent of high school graduates who can’t read  –   19%

Total percent of U.S. high school graduates who will never read a book after high school  –  33%

Total percentage of college students who will never read another book after they graduate   –  42%

 Total percentage of U.S. families who did not buy a book this year  –  80%


 Are you as shocked as me? 

Even worse, many of the U.S.’s social and economic problems are directly related to illiteracy, yet very little is being done about it. As we move forward with the current educational standards (heavy testing ahem), the focus on reading is not valued. Our entire country is being threatened and the U.S.’s knowledge bank is decreasing immensely.


 The statistics below show the direct correlation between reading and success: 

• One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.

• 90% of welfare recipients are high school dropouts

• 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. 

• 85% of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate.

• More than 60% of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate.

• 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of the 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare.If they cannot read proficiently in the 4th grade, he or she will have approximately a 78 percent change of not catching up. 

• Penal institution records show that inmates have a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per year per inmate and nearly double that amount for juvenile offenders.

• Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. In the same period, more than 6 million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. 

•  Over one million children drop out of school each year, costing the nation over $240 billion in lost earnings, forgone tax revenues, and expenditures for social services.  

• Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. 

• In 1999, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line. 

• Students who reported having all four types of reading materials (books, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedias) in their home scored, on average, higher than those who reporter having fewer reading materials. 

• Approximately 50 percent of the nation’s unemployed youth age 16-21 are functional illiterate, with virtually no prospects of obtaining good jobs. 

• 46% of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. 


 The fate of our country is at risk. What can you do about it?

Continue to read. Continue to discuss books. Read the book before you see the movie. Buy books. Share books. Give books as gifts. Support teachers. Support authors. Donate books to schools, to daycares, to donation centers, and to shelters.  Read to children. Have children read out loud to you. If you can, become a literacy volunteer or a tutor to adult or child students.

Most importantly Read, read, read. 

xoxo Katie

 

 

 

In Defense of the English Major

  in defense of the english major, Katie a beautiful little adventure

I was an English major in college. No, I was never a teacher, nor did I have any great works published. I simply love to read, analyze, think about, discuss, and write about literature. Being an English major forced me to think critically and abstractly on a daily basis – uncovering themes and tropes as well as applying these thought processes to myself and the world around me.

We English majors get a lot of flak. During college the first response when I informed people what I was majoring in was, “What are going to do with that?” or “That sounds like a  waste of money.” Now, 9 years later, people still ask, “Are you actually using your English degree?”, “Was your degree a waste?”, or “You’re writing, but are you getting paid?”. It’s very rude!

I chose to study literature and still love it today because literature is a study of life in all its greatest forms. You get to experience life through the eyes of the greats from all time periods and doing so heightened my awareness of the human experience.

Additionally, it has broadened my perspective and has helped me become self-aware. I know I drive Ryan and my friends crazy by over analyzing every word, every moment, and every episode of Mad Men (or even  things like pop song lyrics and The Walking Dead). I can’t shake it, it’s part of who I am.

Being an English Major not only primed me to think differently about the world – it has also provided me with valuable tools to use in the workforce. Yes, it took a couple of years to figure out how to hone these skills and use them to my advantage. I couldn’t tell you how many interviews I went to where people stared dumbly at my resume, “so…English major eh?”.

Yet, I feel the my major has allowed me to possess and master certain skills sets that make me a desirable employee in many fields.  Skills like critical thinking, analytical thinking, writing skills, interpersonal skills, synthetic thinking, lateral thinking, creativity and most importantly communication skills. If you can communicate with varying audiences effectively, you can do pretty much anything.

But my choice to be an English major had nothing to do with the skills it would equip me with for the post-graduate job force. As a bright-eyed 18-year-old, I didn’t even consider those skills. I decided to be an English major because I loved to read. Reading allowed me to become other people, to see the world through the eyes of Bronte, Hemingway, Yeats, Milton, and Joyce. It wasn’t a form of escape, it was a way to live a life outside of my own. To experience the world and meet new people outside of my small college campus.

With each piece of literature I was invited to question our society, examine our culture, and analyze the world we occupy. I learned to step behind the lens of varying perspectives and to stretch my mind while nurturing my own opinions and spirit. By doing so I became more part of the world; more human.

People may ask, “So? Why would you become an English major? Why is that so important? How does that make you valuable to the future and the workforce?”

My reply?

Can you imagine a world without literature?A world without stories, letters, poems, plays, movies, song lyrics?

What would be the purpose to life? To simply work, produce products, sell, consume, and die? That would be proposing a life without art, a life without symbolism, a life without humanity.

Civilization is built upon stories and texts and analysis of history. We learn from the past and history is written and told; why else is it called history? From these stories we learn to endure and to grow and to live.

Our existence is meant for more than simply working and producing in order to survive. We are born to create and to enjoy and to share.

I believe all students can mutually agree that they learned more about life than about earning a living during their four years at college. I am fully in support of English Majors.  I can’t think of any better major to personally equip me both mentally and spiritually for my tenure as a human on earth.
xoxo Katie