An Update on the Blog

Hey, guys.

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So I’ve been doing a pretty crappy job of writing here. I’m going to be straight with y’all. I don’t always have the most free time to devote to this site. Plus, these past few months have been extremely hard for me personally (maybe I’ll explain that more in a blog someday, but today is not that day). However, I still have a lot of love for this site, and not writing on Distracted Blogger makes me sad. So I’m going to be writing more in the coming weeks, and officially re-dedicating myself to this site in 2017. I’m so excited and READY.

But if you want to keep up with what I’m writing elsewhere, you can always check out what I’m doing over at Nerdist and Geek & Sundry. I’ve been writing about The Walking Dead over at Geek & Sundry, so I’d love for you to come and chat about this CRAZY season over there. I’m also pretty active over on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. So if you’re not hanging out with me over there, you definitely should join in on the fun.

While that’s all awesome, what is in store for Distracted Blogger? Well, I’m planning a lot more content on books, writing/running a blog, conventions, movies, television, and gaming–specifically talking about my newest endeavor: being a Dungeon Master! So stay tuned, kids. I’ve been off my game lately, but it’s time to get back at it! Let’s do this!

How to Deal When You’re Busy and Tired, And There’s Nothing You Can Do About It

Sometimes All the Things just pile up at once, and you feel like you’re in a constant state of running yourself ragged. Suddenly, you’re feeling very Bilbo Baggins-y, like butter spread over too much bread, and you’re haunted by one of your favorite Ron Swanson inspirational quotes:

Ron Swanson

But the scariest part of it all is that you can’t see a way to chop things out of your life so you can whole ass one thing. Sure, maybe you’re working towards a day when you can clear things off your plate, but for now you have to work as hard as you are. Maybe it’s working to pay the bills, maybe it’s hustling to make your dreams come true, maybe it’s just that stuff has all piled up and the only way through the pile is to plow through it, or maybe it’s something else entirely. The fact is, when people see you’re overwhelmed and tell you to just “start saying no”, sometimes you get to that horrifying place where you realize that you can maybe say no to additional projects, but for whatever reason, you can’t say no to anything you’re currently working on. You’re crazy busy, tired, spread thin, and exhausted, and that’s just how it has to be right now–and maybe even the foreseeable future. Slowly, you begin to resign yourself to your new normal.

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I get it, I do. I’m right in the middle of one of those times of my life, too. For me, it’s a mix of needing to pay bills and realizing that if I want to achieve my goals in writing and editing, I’ve got to up my hustle, so I work. A lot. I don’t always feel like I’m doing a good job, and sometimes I don’t feel like I’m just half-assing stuff, I feel like I’m straight-up failing.

So how do you deal when you can’t take stuff off your plate? How can you retain some sanity when you’re just going through an insane period of life?

Make Some Hard Choices With Your Schedule

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When you’re spread this thin, you’ve got to be incredibly picky about what you take on. You’ve literally no time to lose. Like I said before, I get it that sometimes you’re feeling overbooked but you also can’t knock anything from your schedule. However, sometimes for survival’s sake, you need to strike things from your calendar. Whether it’s saying no to upcoming opportunities, or canceling a few things from your month, sometimes making yourself really prioritize and make some cuts to your schedule can help free up some time and sanity.

Schedule a Time To Do Absolutely Nothing

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When you’re this busy, you’ve got to work in time to relax like any other appointment. Maybe you can’t go to bed at six like you’d prefer (maybe that’s just me), but even if you feel like you just don’t have a free hour (or even a free half-hour) you can work in a fifteen minute catnap or some other short break where you allow yourself to turn off your brain for a bit. Schedule it into your day so you can keep control of your time, but making sure to work at least one break into your day will help keep you mildly sane.

Eat Well

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So maybe…avoid the night cheese. But when you’re in a time where you have to push your body this intensely, you’ve got to do everything you can to keep yourself healthy. Of course trying your best to get a good night’s sleep is incredibly important, but it’s also not always possible. So do what you can to keep yourself healthy, and make sure you’re eating healthfully.

Go Easy On Yourself

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When you’re pushing yourself this hard, whatever the reason may be, you’re not always going to be perfect. You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re not always going to feel like you’re doing a great job at life in general. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Making enough money to pay bills, chasing a dream, starting your own business, finishing school without drowning in student loan debt, and all of those other challenges most of our generation faces is hard work and a steep learning curve. Just try to remember when you feel like you’re sucking at life or after you’ve made a mistake that you’re working to achieve a huge goal. That’s hard, and you can only give so much. If you’ve got to pull a Dane Cook and cry while looking in the mirror repeating “I did my best,” that’s okay too.

Ask For Help

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One of the things that always surprises me when I’m coming out of a tough time (tough for whatever reason) is how many people had no idea I needed help, and are a bit annoyed that I didn’t reach out to them when I needed someone. Whether you need to vent, need someone to actually get in the trenches and help you fix something, you need advice, or anything else, reach out to the people in your life! They can support you, help get you out of the hole, help lighten the load, or maybe help you see a solution you wouldn’t have seen yourself. That’s what friends are for, right?

The Ten Second Rule

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Of course, some times when you’re in a crazy part of life where you’re having to really scrape and push to achieve your goals, it can feel like there isn’t any way to make life more manageable. In those cases, channel your inner Kimmy Schmidt and remember that you can handle ten seconds of anything. Seriously. If you’re feeling crazy overwhelmed and the idea of taking it a day at a time is still too much, just take it in small bites. Whether you’re working through your to-do list or turning the Mystery Crank, you can do anything for ten seconds.

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Females are strong as hell…

Have you ever gone through a time where you felt like you were spread too thin that you were completely exhausted or generally sucking at everything? How did you deal? What didn’t work for you? Let me know in the comments! 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Amy Ratcliffe, Writer

it's totally a real job...

When I first started blogging, I went to a panel at Denver Comic Con 2014 called Women in the Geek Industry. One of the things that really stuck with me during that panel was Bonnie Burton telling the audience to reach out to those people that inspire them. She encouraged everyone to tweet at their favorite creators, comment on their pages, and do whatever they could to try to pick their brain–after all, social media has made it easier than ever to get in touch with our faves. I decided that I would do just that when I returned from the con, and one of the writers I reached out to was Amy Ratcliffe.

Amy was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing: she was writing, and she was writing for some truly kickass places. StarWars.com, Nerdist, and IGN. I HAD to pick her brain. What was it like to be a writer full-time? How did she get to write for amazing places like StarWars.com? How did she manage to make people actually pay her to write? Without expecting a response, I fired some questions off to her. I figured she probably wouldn’t answer, but I didn’t think it would hurt to try and reach out. Of course, because Amy is great, she responded and sent me back a really helpful, informative response on how to expand my network and ways to try to find paying work. So when I started this series, I knew that I had to include Amy, one of the people who really helped me begin to find my footing in the writing world, and a genuinely nice person to hang out with on the interwebz. I’m so happy to introduce you all to Amy!

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What does a normal work day look like for you?
I spent most days at my desk for many hours working through my list. I use an Excel calendar to manage my deadlines, so I start my day with making a handwritten list of everything I need to do that day (it’s repetitive, but I really like crossing things off lists). The first thing I write most weekdays is a round-up of television news for Nerdist, and then I work through any articles that are due – it can be anything from TV reviews, to cosplay galleries, to interviews – and check my email continually to take assignments throughout the day if I have extra time. There are occasionally phoners or meetings, but mostly, I sit at my desk and write. Sometimes I remember to eat lunch at a normal time, but usually I don’t remember until I feel cranky. Finally, I usually have to watch TV for review purposes or research.

You write for some pretty impressive places like Nerdist, StarWars.com, and IGN–just to name a few. How did you get connected to those sites?
It varies. In some instances, I made connections through Twitter first. I didn’t necessarily start talking on editors on Twitter with the intention of networking, just discussing things we had in common. In other cases, I spotted a job listing (also on Twitter) and applied with a resume an writing samples.

What has been the biggest challenge as you’ve launched your writing and journalism career?
The hardest part is to keep writing. When you have to churn out large amounts of content – which often feels necessary because writing for the web doesn’t pay amazingly well – it can be hard to keep motivated and to keep it from being dull. I’m constantly learning about how to convey news and facts while injecting some of my voice, and that helps stop things from feeling boring.

What has been the most surprising thing, good or bad, you’ve experienced as a writer?
I’m continually surprised by how many sites – and not small ones your friend is running – don’t want to pay for content. A number of places try to push “exposure” instead of dollars, and exposure doesn’t pay bills. There are instances in which working for free is worth it, but it usually isn’t.

What do you wish people understood about your career?
That it’s actually work. I’m fortunate and get to cover a ton of awesome events and interview people I admire. I recognize and appreciate all the cool things I get to do, but people don’t understand that it’s also work. For example, doing press lines and covering panels at conventions brings neat opportunities but also a ton of running around and skipping parties/hangouts in order to file stories.

With books like Sam Magg’s Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy and Kathleen Smith’s upcoming The Fangirl Life, we’re seeing a lot of geek girl bloggers turn to books. Do you want to write a book someday?
I would definitely like to write a book one day. My ultimate goal is to write Star Wars reference books. I’m also trying to toe more into travel writing, but a book in that area is a long way away.

What has been the coolest thing you’ve gotten to experience as a writer?
I’ve been able to combine something I love to do with the stories I love. My fandoms are often part of my job, and that continually blows my mind. The way they mingle comes with its own challenges, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Where do you hope your writing takes you in the next few years?
I hope to keep pushing myself and to write for new outlets and to write about new topics. I very much want to stay in the world of pop culture, but there are other corners to explore. I don’t want to get too comfortable, you know?

What is the piece of writing you’re most proud of, and why?
Hmm. I can’t point to one piece, but I am proud of most articles I write about equality and representation. It’s important to point out when film and television get it right and wrong when it comes to diversity, and I’m most concerned with gender diversity.

Did you always want to be a writer, or did that come as you grew up?
Sort of? I didn’t know what I wanted to be until quite late in the game – my late ’20s to be exact – but I’ve always enjoyed writing. When I was in junior high and high school, I loved writing essays and short stories. My enjoyment of writing fiction sort of died off around my first stab at college, and it took me a while to realize there were other types of writing that would satisfy me.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations?
Oooh. That’s hard because it changes. Today the answers are Neil Gaiman, Mo Ryan, and Cat Valente.

To be a successful freelancer, you have to have a pretty strong networking game. Does that come naturally to you, or do you have to work to network?
I’m terrible at face to face networking. Terrible. I’m not so hot at talking myself up or knowing when it’s even the right occasion to do that. I usually wait for work to come up naturally in conversation so I can find a non-pushy way to hand over my card, and maybe it’s cost me some work, but I’m fine with it. I see more than a few people who are constantly all “look at me, look at my work” and it’s incredibly obnoxious and doesn’t seem to really pay off. It’s a balance.

What are your tips for people who struggle with networking?
It’s hard but often a necessary evil. Do your best to be assertive but not aggressive, and if you’re better with emails rather than face to face, get a card and send a killer follow-up email.

What advice would you give for aspiring freelancers and aspiring journalists/writers?
Be prepared to write, write a lot, and write quickly. Start with your own blog and write a variety of articles and make sure they’re all as professional as can be. That way, by the time you start looking for paying work you’ll have a catalog of work and writing samples to send an editor. There’s probably something to be said for going to school for journalism too, but since I didn’t go that route I can’t offer advice in that particular arena.

Where can we find you online?
Right now I’m most active on Twitter at @amy_geek. I contribute to Nerdist, StarWars.com, and IGN regularly and occasionally post at my personal blog Geek with Curves.

A HUGE thank you to Amy for taking time to do this interview. Now go forth, you aspiring writers, write and create a space for yourself out there! Don’t forget to check out the other amazing women I’ve spoken with (like Jordan, the creator of the amazing Jordandene fashion lineKathleen, author of the upcoming book The Fangirl LifeMari of Sent From Mars, the Geek Girl Brunch founders and Meli from Melificent) in the rest of the series, and stay tuned here every week for another women who proved success doesn’t always come in a cubicle. And if you want to continue the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtag #RealJob. 

Goals for 2016

I can hardly believe that we’re almost completely done with 2015. The end of this year is flying by with the Nutcracker, visiting family, girls weekends in the mountains, the Nutcracker, family visiting me, work, The Nutcracker, blogging, and….did I mention the Nutcracker? I love all of the wonderful, crazy things in my life, but ever since I started this whole ballet thing, Christmas time has become a whirlwind of rehearsals, leotards, tights, sock buns, listening to the same song over and over, sore bodies, minor injuries, potentially significant injuries that you refuse to worry about until after the show (I’ve read…I definitely don’t have any of those myself…*limps away*)…it’s a blast, but it’s a LOT.

Despite all of that, I definitely don’t want the end of the year to go by without allowing myself some time to reflect on the year and make plans for next year. I spent a lot of this year trying to decide what I wanted to for myself, and I think I’ve finally got a firm enough grasp on all of that to set some goals. So here’s what I’m planning for 2016:

Get Serious About Starting My Own Freelancing Business

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This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while, and I have even talked to a web developer friend of my to revamp mine ol’ blog over here. But it just wasn’t in the cards for me to really kick things off in 2015. So this coming year, I really want to push to make my freelance editing and writing an actual business. It’ll take time for it to grow into something substantial, but it can’t grow into anything until I take that first step.

Try Out Starting a Youtube Channel and/or a Podcast

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“What’s your podcast gonna be about? What’s your Youtube channel gonna be about?” Dude, I don’t know. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head, but I haven’t landed on anything yet. However, I do want to try it out, so I’m going to flesh those ideas out a bit more, and give podcasting or Youtubing a go. We’ll see what happens, but I’ll never know what I think of podcasting and Youtubing until I try it.

Get Better At Keeping A Schedule

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My life always feels more calm when I’ve got a solid schedule. So it’s surprising that for someone who thrives so much under a well-kept schedule that I so frequently don’t have a solid schedule. That’s gotta change. I’ve gotten better at scheduling, but I can still grow in that area. I got myself a Passion Planner for 2016, and am going to get really serious about mapping out my days more efficiently.

Really Focus On Getting Healthier

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The “lose weight” resolution is one that I have almost every year, and I’m rarely successful–it also comes with a lot of baggage for me. So instead of focusing on a number on the scale, I’m going to focus on getting stronger and healthier next year. Get stronger arms, a stronger core, strengthen my legs (and my feet–#ballet), and I’d really love to pick running back up. I just feel better when I’m focused on my health, and this has been a year where I was really focused more on keeping my self mentally and emotionally healthy–which is important. However, I feel like I’ve gotten myself to a good place this year, so 2016 is the year to get physically healthier.

Go Easier On Myself

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This year I really crammed my schedule with All the Things, and I didn’t do a great job of scheduling (see above), and I did an even worse job of saying no to things. So this year, I’m going to go easier on myself. I’m going to let myself say no to things, I’m going to do a better job of working days or nights off into my schedule, and I’m going to remind myself that there’s value to letting myself just spend a night by myself or with my husband, friends, or family.

Those are my goals for 2016, what are yours? What have you learned about yourself from 2015? Let me know in the comments! 

It’s Totally a Real Job: Melificent, Blogger

it's totally a real job...

I’ve gotten to meet some amazing women since I’ve started blogging, and one of the coolest women I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with is the lovely Meli from Melificent.com. Meli has managed to create a blog that celebrates her favorite forms of fandom and geekery, but she also brings her signature style in with some amazing and inspiring fashion posts and writes about her newest adventure: parenting (geeky parenting, of course). She’s created a brand and a true community with her readers, and it’s not only inspiring for someone like me who’s also trying to create a brand and community, but seeing her build something and truly succeed is inspiring to anyone who comes in contact with her. Even more awesome, her hard work paid off in October when she was given the Geekie Award for best website and blog. I’m so excited to start off my newest series, It’s Totally a Real Job with her. Meli has been a huge source of inspiration to me in my writing and blogging, and I know she’ll inspire you, too. So without further ado, let’s chat with her!

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What were your big dreams for Melificent.com when you first started your blog?

That someone would actually read it!
No, seriously – I didn’t know what I actually wanted when I started the blog other than to share. I had always had some sort of blog, whether it was a Livejournal account or a blogspot. At that point in time, I was just using blogs to chronicle my life so starting a “big girl blog” was a little daunting. I also started it without much of a focus, but I always knew I wanted to connect with others – something I had always loved about blogging and the Internet in general.

Did you always have an interest in fashion, or did that develop in time?

I had always loved fashion, playing with patterns and colors, and expressing myself through my wardrobe. I decided to start posting outfits as part of a 30-day challenge a few years ago, and I got such good feedback that I started incorporating them into my blog. Before I knew it, I had a fashion blog!

You recently won the Geekie for Best Website/Blog. Did you ever imagine getting an award like that? 

Not in my wildest dreams!!!! I’ve been blogging for so long, and have worked so hard to make my content original and special, that it was incredible to finally be recognized. When I got the news, I seriously thought I was dreaming (granted, I was on a couple of hours of sleep right after my daughter’s birth). 😉

One of the tough things about starting a blog and website, especially when fandom is involved, is finding your niche. It’s tempting to write about all the things and have a crazy, scattered site. Obviously being a geeky mom came from being pregnant, but even before Luna, how did you manage to settle on a theme and idea for your blog?

This was very tough for me. As I said, I’ve been blogging for a very long time, but I could not just focus on one topic. My blog was everywhere. The biggest criticism I received when asking for advice from other bloggers was that I needed a focus, but I didn’t believe them. Boy, were they right.
One day, I realized that I had ventured down a road that I was unfamiliar with. I felt disingenuous, which was the last thing I ever wanted to be. It was then that I sat down and thought of what I really love and who I really am. That’s when the Melificent you all know and love was born. I’m geeky. I like geeky things. I’m a fangirl. I love fashion. It’s incredible how easily posts are written when you are focusing on something you absolutely love.

Not only have you set yourself up as a reliable voice in “geek chic” and being a geeky mom, you’ve really created a Melificent.com community. What is the thing you want your readers to take away from your site? 

Aw, well thank you!
Most importantly to me, I want to be real. I want to help others, whether it be in superficial ways, like putting together a great outfit, or delving a little deeper, like sharing my experience of loss and growth. I don’t want to present a facade because I feel like that’s too prevalent in the blogging/social media culture. No, my life is not perfect. No, I’m not perfect, but that’s OK.

What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting your site? 

That working hard pays off. No matter if it takes 2 days or 2 years. You will see the payoff.

You also work a “normal” 9-5 in addition to your work on your site, correct? How do you balance a job, a life, and a site? 

I get asked this constantly!
It really isn’t hard work for me, and I attribute that to being a little OCD and anal about scheduling. I have, and always have had, excellent time management skills. My 9-5 is also not necessarily 9-5, which makes it easier for me to keep up with writing posts. I’ve realized that if you love something, you truly will make time for it. I was worried about falling behind when I gave birth to my daughter, but I found it pretty natural to fall into a routine again (aka; blogging during my late night/early morning shifts). I’m sure the same will apply when I have to go back to work after maternity leave. If you want to make it happen, you will.

What mistake did you make in the formative years of Melificent.com that you’d like to help other aspiring creators avoid?

Write about whatever you love. Do not start a blog (or anything for the record) because it seems to be working for other people or is popular. Follow whatever you are passionate about. You will always speak and create from the heart.

If you could impart one piece of advice to others aspiring to follow in your footsteps, what would it be? 

Similar to the above, be yourself. You’ll never go wrong. 🙂

Where can we find you online? 

Facebook, Twitter: @somelificent, Instagram: @melificent, or Pinterest.

Thanks so much to Meli for taking the time to answer these questions. Be sure to check her out on her blog and follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Her OOTD posts alone are worth the follow! Have questions for Meli or other geeky girlbosses I’ll be talking to in the future? Let me know in the comments, or ask me on Twitter with the #RealJob hashtag! I’ll be back next week with another awesome woman talking about her unique path that is totally a real job. 

How to Manage Full-Time Work and a Blog Without Going Crazy

I work full-time, I take ballet at least twice a week (though now that it’s Nutcracker season I have it four times a week *crazed smile and laugh*), I have friends and family that I occasionally like to interact with, I sleep, I eat, I try to work out, and I run a blog and write for at least two other sites (sometimes more). Suffice it so say:

Busy

The biggest question I get is how do I have time to do All of the Things and still maintain my sanity? Friends, I’ll be honest, I am regularly precariously perched on the precipice of busy and fulfilled and crazy overwhelmed. I’ll be honest some more and say that I frequently get it wrong, and find myself plunging into the depths of overwhelm. So what do I do to keep my sanity? Even if I do plunge into being overwhelmed, how do I pull myself out? Well, I’m by no means an expert, and sometimes I feel I get it wrong more than I get it right. However, here are a few tips I have for maintaining a busy schedule while still making time for those projects that give you life.

Get. A. Planner.

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If you remember one thing from this post, remember this point. You need a planner. It can be digital, it can be paper (if you’re into paper planners like I am, might I recommend this one?), but you need to get a planner in your life. If you’re like me, I use my planner to sort out my blog stuff. I know I’m gonna be at work every day from 8-5, so there’s no need for me to log that. But planning out what I want to write here for the month and keeping track of my various Geek & Sundry deadlines? I need help there. So however you use it, whatever form it takes, just remember: PLANNER.

Learn when to say no

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As I’m writing and gearing up my freelance hustle, one of the hardest things for me to do is say no. Though I do a lot of freelance writing, I also freelance edit. One of the crazy things you’ll find when people find out you’re an editor is how many writer-friends come out of the woodwork. Some of them are actual friends of yours (so you probably already know they’re writers), and some of them are long-lost friends. Usually the latter will ask you to edit their stuff, for free, and will say things like, “I hoped you would look at this so we don’t have have to pay a real editor”. Still, if you’re like me, saying no to anyone remotely close to you can be hard, and saying no to something you physically can’t swing can be hard when you know it will pad your resume. But if you’re going to maintain your sanity, you’ve got to learn to refuse projects from time to time. Define your own boundaries. Do you only want to do paid writing? No editing romance novels? You’ll only do writing for your blog? Whatever your boundaries and standards are, figure them out, and stick to them. Trust me, you’ll be thankful you did (oh the stories I could tell you from projects I wish I’d refused to do…)

Let yourself do nothing productive…for a set amount of time

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One of the best ways for me to recharge my batteries is some solid, quiet, Kendall-time. Whether it’s questing around Skyrim, watching Netflix, or even taking a nap, having time where I don’t have to interact with anyone or do anything charges me back up. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and anxiety-filled, my body goes into emergency mode, and shuts my entire body down, forcing me to do nothing. This is often not great because usually those emergency shut down periods happen when I really need to get stuff done. So, to avoid your body forcing you to stop, give yourself time to recharge, however that works for you. Let yourself do something thoroughly unproductive, just set an end time to it. Something like, “I will let myself watch two episodes of the IT Crowd, and then I’ll get back to work.” Whatever gives you energy, do that for a bit, and don’t let yourself feel badly that it isn’t necessarily “productive”. After all, if you’re not healthy, you can’t get anything done, so it’s better to take care of yourself than have to deal with the consequences of neglecting your health later.

Plan out specific time for specific tasks

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When you’re balancing so many tasks, you’ve got to be intentional with stuff–especially those tasks that aren’t necessarily your favorite. Like I said earlier, I just know that I have to go to work everyday, so I don’t ever worry about “scheduling” it. However, I have to be intentional about literally everything else. Ballet at 7:30. Blog planning on my lunch break. Writing time on Sunday at 9:00. If I make schedules and plans with myself, it’s much harder for me to forget or blow off responsibilities. It also helps me see either that I have done a good job managing my tasks, that I have a bit of extra room in my schedule for another project, or if I need to back off a bit. In my experience when I say, “I’ll write tonight,” rather than, “I’ll write from 9:00-10:00,” I usually don’t start writing until I’m ready to go to bed (usually because I haven’t been taking care of myself, so I’m worn out and overwhelmed, so I felt I needed to take time for myself), so I get stressed, I write, I stay up late finishing whatever writing needed to get done, and I wake up tired and cranky. When I make plans and schedules, everything works so much better.

Let yourself stop if your heart’s no longer in it

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The thing about blogging, freelance editing/writing, and any of those entrepreneur/hustle type projects is that your heart has to be in it. This is even more true if you’re blogging for fun, not money. If you get to the place where your heart’s not in it or if the entire situation fills you with dread or anxiety, be okay to bail. Maybe freelancing isn’t for you. Maybe blogging isn’t for you. Maybe trying to start up your own business isn’t for you. Or, maybe that stuff is for you, but it just isn’t the right time. Either way, it’s okay if you decide you’re done. Let yourself be done. You can always come back to the project, the blog, the business, or whatever when you feel more ready to tackle it, but if you’re forcing yourself to blog–again, especially if you’re doing it just for the fun of it–or if you’re forcing yourself to manage a zillion projects at once, you’re asking to crash and burn. Blogging, freelancing, starting your own business, or whatever in addition to an already full schedule is tough enough. Don’t make your life more challenging by trying to force something on yourself that simply isn’t working for you.

It’s tough to manage a full schedule while making sure you have time in a day to also work on your passions (especially because those passions often don’t pay the bills), but it is far from impossible. The key is to take care of yourself and do what you can to stay organized–you can do it, you just have to work a tad harder than the average person. But if you’re heart’s in it, it’s totally worth it. Because of my own interest in following your passions and starting something where nothing existed before, I’m going to be starting a series called “It’s Totally a Real Job” here on the blog to discuss being a geeky girl boss and carving your own path in the business world. Stay tuned on the blog and Twitter for more info on that, and leave any time management tips you have in the comments!  

Advice You Don’t Hear When You Start a Blog–But You Should

I, like many of us, started blogging in the magical world of Livejournal and Xanga, offering up to the mystical world of the internet my adolescent musings and pubescent tales of love and embarrassment (often the latter). I have always loved writing, and even though the idea of putting my own words out there for just anyone to stumble upon terrifies me if I think about it too much, I’m still obsessed. For better or for worse, writing–blogging, especially–is one of my favorite things. It’s like Walter White says:

I did it for me

Blogging, that is. Not running a powerful meth empire and single-handedly destroying the lives of myself, my family, and a former student…

After the Xanga/Livejournal fad died out, I piddled around with the idea of having my own blog for a long time, and I even kicked off a few blogs that died incredibly quickly. Then one day I decided to really, really focus and make a blog–called Distracted Blogger, just in case I became too distracted to care for it. While it did undergo a major theme change at the start, I never abandoned it–I mean, obviously.

It didn’t take me long to realize how ridiculously steep the blogging learning curve is. Blogging is a weird world, and what works for one person might not work for you. So while there is no magical formula for making your blog successful (mostly because what a “successful” blog looks like is very different for each blogger), there are some things I wish I heard when I was kicking off my journey into blogging. I’m far from an expert, but like I said, the learning curve in blogging is ridiculously steep, so you learn a lot very quickly. Here are some of those things I learned, that I wish someone had told me when I started:

Blogging is harder than you’d think, and that’s okay.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Writing is hard

It doesn’t seem like it should be a challenge to fill up a blog post with words on your favorite things, but it totally can be. Sure, maybe you manage to write a post about missing out on San Diego Comic Con that you completely love, but then a year goes by and you find yourself missing out on the con again. What do you do now? How many times can you write about a convention? How many different ways can you discuss your favorite TV show? Finding content ideas, new things to say, and a good way to convey those ideas can be hard. Finding your writing voice is hard, too. It’s okay if you have to flail around a bit before you nail it down.

Sometimes the best way to overcome a block is to just write–even write badly…

ron swanson typing

Not sure what you want to do next on your blog? That’s what draft posts are for, baby. Just grab hold to an idea–however weak that idea may be–and write through it. It might suck a little, but really shine after a good edit. It might suck a lot, and you might have to kill it with fire. But remembering that you don’t have to publish everything you write can take the pressure off, and give you freedom to explore ideas and techniques.

…and sometimes you need to just step back. 

ron swanson computer

While there are some blocks that you just need to push and write through, don’t be afraid to just turn everything off for a bit to recharge. Unless blogging is actually paying your bills (and if so–teach me your ways), running a blog should be, first and foremost, fun. If it becomes a chore, give yourself a little grace and take a break. You can re-run some of your favorite older posts, ask others to guest for you, or just go on radio silence while you recharge; whatever works best for you.

Keeping a schedule–whatever that looks like for you–can help you keep sane. 

liz lemon schedule

Personally, I have an 8-5 office job, I take ballet class twice a week, and I have a church obligation on Monday nights. That means my only free night during the week is on Wednesday nights. So with all of that plus running my own blog and guest posting on other sites? I often feel like this:

scrubs busy

When the weekends finally roll around, I really, really try to commit to getting my blog set for the week to come. However, that doesn’t always happen. While pinning down a specific, recurring time in my week to work on my blog doesn’t work for me, I’ve found is keeping a planner really helps me keep my blogging ducks in a row. Maybe you can’t get yourself to wake up an hour earlier each day to do blog work, and maybe you can’t say that 5-6 every night is “blog time”. However, figuring out a way to keep your post ideas, some sort of an editorial calendar, and any due dates straight in your head is key to keeping your sanity and making sure you don’t feel like things are spinning out of control.

Experiment with monetizing.

scrooge mcduck

Making any real money blogging is a tough nut to crack. Apart from finding a paying gig for your writing work, it’s hard to figure out the best ways to make your blog earn money. Try out different monetizing strategies, and see what works for you. Chances are you won’t be able to find anything truly lucrative for a while, and you may never. However, it’s worth experimenting with. If anything else, you could find a way to add a few bucks to your monthly income, which is always nice.

Don’t go it alone. 

liz lemon friends

To get the most out of blogging, you need to find friends online. Whether you join an online group (like the Female Geek Bloggers G+ group I’m a part of) or reach out to people on social media, it’s important to network and make friends. They can help you hash out ideas, you can bounce questions off of them, and your new online friends can help you as you network. When I began blogging, I set a personal goal to someday write for Geek & Sundry. Happily, I’ve been able to land that gig, and the only reason that was possible is because of friends and connections I made through the FGB group. Even if online connections don’t land you a job, give you sage advice, or help you grow your site, blogging can be a very isolating activity, so reaching out to others online–however online friendship works for you–can help you feel less isolated and alone.

What are some things you’ve learned from blogging? What kind of advice do you offer to new bloggers? Let’s talk about it in the comments! 

5 Fandom Friday: Blog Goals for 2015

fandom.5.friday

Things have been scarce around here, and I am so sorry about that. With work, my studio’s production of The Nutcracker, and starting my first official month as a writer for Cinema Blend, I’ve had next to no free time. However, things are finally starting to re-calibrate for me, so things will get back to normal here on mine blog. So I thought this week’s Fandom 5 was the PERFECT post to usher me back into the world of normalcy. This week’s list is all about blogging goals and resolutions for the new year. Here are mine:

1. Schedule and plan posts better. For a while there, I was pretty good about keeping a schedule and planning my posts ahead of time. grinch scheduleHowever, that just kind of randomly died out with a whimper. In 2015, I really want to be intentional about visualizing what I want the coming month to look like at Distracted Blogger, and planning/scheduling posts to meet that vision.

2. Promote more. Y’all know I hate this, but if I want to grow my readership and the DB community, I need to be better at promoting. During my season of good scheduling, I feel like I was doing a much better job at pulling in readers…

cumberbatch wink

…but once the scheduling fell to the wayside, so did the promotion. In the coming year, I really want to focus and plan ways to find more readers to add to the existing bunch of awesome and amazing readers that are already here!

3. Engage in online communities better. I’m a part of an awesome Google+ group called Female Geek Bloggers, and it’s really helped me find some other awesome, fun geek blogs. I need to do a much better job of reading and commenting on those blogs, engaging in the FGB group more, and just generally reaching out and engaging with other bloggers in the geekosphere. I’m so very introverted, both in real life and online…

awkward

..which means I have to be really intentional when it comes to engaging with other humans. I plan to use 2015 to really plug in to the geek blog community. Besides, I genuinely like the women who populate the Female Geek Bloggers group, so I’d like to virtually hang out with them more.

4. Update the blog’s look. I don’t know what I want specifically, but I’m always trying to see what I can find to make the site look more slick and more professional.

tina belcher hair

While I don’t think I’ll ever have the perfect page, I want my site to continue to grow and evolve, both content-wise and in how it looks. Last year I got the awesome Kerry from Kerry’s Nerdy Habitat to design me some logos and banners for the site, and that really added a touch of awesome. So I’m really going to have to get creative if I want to top Kerry’s amazing work on my site!

5. Add more of me into my blog. I write a lot of news stuff and opinion stuff, and I like writing that. However, I’d like to find a way to infuse a bit of me into the blog as well. I’m not sure what exactly that will look like, or what I’m even trying for here. I don’t want this to turn into my own personal diary of a blog by any means. However, I’ve often wanted to talk a bit about stuff I geek out about apart from your traditional geekery. Namely, I’ve wanted to talk about my ballet endeavors around here, but I haven’t really found the best way. In 2015, I’d like to figure out some sort of a monthly or every-other-monthly “ballet break” of a post. I don’t know what it will look like, but I think it could be cool. I do tend to talk about ballet more on my Twitter and Instagram (like my pic below from this year’s Nutcracker). So if nothing else, I’ll at least have some ballet stuff there.

Finally have a (mostly) finished costume for my pointe piece!!! Love it! #Nutcracker #ballet

A photo posted by Kendall Ashley (@kendallashley_0128) on Dec 12, 2014 at 7:57pm PST

Bonus Point: Add in some nerd-crafting. I have like five different projects that I want to accomplish, If I can get myself on any sort of a crafting schedule, I would really like to have a nerd-crafting section around here. We’ll see though…

What are some of your New Year’s resolutions, blogging-focused or otherwise? What are some things you’d like to see here on the blog? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, be sure to check out my other Fandom 5 posts, and see what other bloggers are resolving by following the hashtag, #Fandom5.

Women in Geek: Christina Janke

Women in Geek Christina Janke

It’s my third post in the Women in Geek series. If you’ve missed my first two posts with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings, go here to check out their Women in Geek posts! Today I’m talking with the amazing Christina Janke; you might know her from places like Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek.

christina janke

What do you do in geek culture?

Currently I act as Editor in Chief and writer at Agents of Geek, an entertainment website (we branched out from Screen Invasion almost one year ago now) that highlights pretty much anything under the geek umbrella such as movies, tv shows, video games, books, cosplay, etc.

However, I first started creating my “geeky” presence 4 years ago as a regular member of a podcast my friends and I started called Shauncastic. It’s pretty much a bunch of friends getting together and talking about the things we love. A lot of the time it’s a love fest, but other times it a brutal barrage of disagreements…in a friendly way, of course. LOL.

From there, the founder of Shauncastic, Shaun Rosado, gave me my own segment titled Intro to Geek. Being the youngest and resident “new geek” in the cast, I was tasked with reviewing essential media in geek culture. This can be anywhere from movies like The Last Starfighter to 80’s arcade games like Tron. The goal of Intro to Geek is to “get myself learned” as well as convey to other new geeks whether or not it’s worth their time. Yes, there are stinkers that were once considered totally awesome and rad, but do not hold up at all.

Do you have a day job, or does this pay your bills?

I would totally love it if being a geek on the internet gave me some money to make a living! But for now, I work as an office manager at residential care facility for the mentally ill. My family owns it… Actually, they are the only people who would hire me after quitting the local movie theater. The job market isn’t fun, kiddies.

How did you get started in this?

I was always a little connected to the geek world growing up. I watched Star Trek: TNG every week with my dad, played video games whenever my head wasn’t stuck in a Harry Potter book or obsessing over Sailor Moon and Fushigi Yuugi, I read comic books off and on in college…but all of that was more or less a passing fancy. Excluding Sailor Moon, I never went any deeper than what I watched on TV or read in a book. My real plunge into “geekdom” didn’t start until 2010 while I was interning at a local newspaper.

I caught wind of a small comic book expo in my town. The paper wasn’t too interested in covering it, but I was curious enough to check it out anyway. There, I met people who would later become some of my closest friends — one of them being Shaun Rosado and his wife.

After that, I started hanging out at the local comic book shop on a weekly basis, and Shaun introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, a level of nerdy I had once made fun of while I was in high school upon discovering that a friend of mine at the time played it. You can say Shaun was a gateway drug for pretty much everything I’m involved with now. I just love the community, freckles and all, that geekdom creates. Sure, we have our fair share of the occasional troll and butt-hurt fanatic, but that comes with any territory.

In college I studied English as a major with some emphasis in business writing and a bit of journalism. The two programs merged together after losing a couple key teachers and not enough interest from students, so I had to make due with what I had. I knew I love writing; I had a strong appreciation for the written word and the level of understanding one has to put herself through just to be able to convey a thought or emotion. However, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be a writer even when I was already an English major, and an editor in school publications. It took a series of unfortunate events to make me realize that I, indeed, want to write for a living — I was homeless during my last semester in college, I could not find a job for a whole year after graduating, and one of my biggest mentors growing up, who supported my wanting to become a writer, died.

In 2012, Shaun had this bright idea to do a high quality calendar featuring geek women in cosplay. That whole story escalated pretty quickly as you’ll see in this documentary:

Soon I found myself hanging out with the likes of Satine Phoenix, Misti Dawn, Brooke “Dodger” Leigh, Jenna Busch, Sandy Bergeron, and Chloe Dykstra. Jenna in particular was/is a bit of an inspiration to me. She’s the kind of geek entertainment writer I aspire to be. She gets to interview celebrities face to face. Hell, she co-starred with Stan Lee on a YouTube channel at some point!

My getting started with Agents of Geek just sort of happened. My Intro to Geek blog caught the Jim Napier’s attention — he’s the founder and managing editor of AoG — and he offered me a writing position on Screen Invasion where AoG was housed at the time. I became Geek Editor the following month. After Jim and I broke off from Screen Invasion to start our own website, I took on the role as Editor in Chief. It all fell into my lap, in a way.

Do you have a goal you would like to achieve with Agents of Geek?

AoG kinda feels its like my baby now even though Jim is the one who started it all, who continues to handle the business side of things. Of course I want it to do well. We’ll never be on the same level as Polygon or IGN or The Mary Sue, because we’re barely a year old and we’re an independent company. My goal (right now) is to just have fun content people will want to read or watch, and to be one of those sites that people go to after they search through those other big sites. I’m working with some fantastic people, and I want as many people as we can get to notice the great work they do.

Who are some of your female geek role models, and why?

I already talked about Jenna Busch, she’s so fun and enthusiastic about what she does. She genuinely loves her job and it shows. I also like to think I channel Tina Fey as another great female writer who has made it in an industry of dominated by men. Most of the time, though, I think I’m emulating Liz Lemon more than anything else.

Do you encounter any negativity based on your gender or your appearance, or find that your readers are more critical of your opinions because you’re a woman? How do you handle, if you’ve encountered it at all, the negativity against women in geek?

So far I consider myself lucky that I don’t get as much vitriol as my other friends and peers. I attribute that mostly to the fact that I’m just not as known yet. That said, I’m not entirely without “criticism” from faceless trolls. A favorite story I like to tell people is when I played on the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer.

I don’t normally interact with other players in multiplayer; I already know what might be in store for me if the guys with microphones knew I was woman. One such gamer, however, found out I wasn’t born with a penis because he correctly translated my quirky yet feminine GamerTag. “Congrats, bro, you know a little German.” After that, he as his buddies ganged up against me, calling me names and making me feel like the most worthless female gamer ever. Never mind the fact I was sniping head shots left and right, making sure they didn’t get fragged. This went on non-stop for three waves. After that I had enough. I managed to attract a small horde of enemies over to where the douche bags holed themselves up. I stepped back and watched the carnage for a few seconds and then logged off. That how I handle things, LOL!

Another time, I had just got done talking about giving my five and six year old nieces their first comic books. Some troll on Twitter made it his mission to send death and rape threats directed at my nieces. That was probably the only time I lost it my mind on a troll. If words could be manifested into fists and then transported through the internet, I’d imagine that guy beaten to an unrecognizable pile of mush.

When I do see my friends come under fire for no particular reason other than the fact that she’s a woman with an opinion, I do get upset. Sometimes I take to Twitter and air out my frustrations, other times I get invited to join a podcast to talk about it.

What is the best thing about your line of geeky work?

My absolute favorite part is when I get to interview actors. I don’t get to do it often because a lot of the opportunities AoG gets are scheduled for the afternoon and I work during the day. But the ones I do get interview are so much fun. The highest profile celeb I interviewed is probably Jessica Chobot. Without meaning to, we talked for an hour. She’s so chatty, it was wonderful. My second favorite interview is with Steve Lund. He plays Nick Sorrentino on SyFy’s Bitten. We bonded over our love for Indiana Jones.

What would you say to someone who would look down on being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger? What do you find that is meaningful, special, and/or valuable about what you do?

This is where I become a hopeless romantic. Being a geek blogger/podcaster/vlogger is something I love doing. The community is so huge now, and a huge part of that is thanks to everyone’s willingness to share their passions with other people. Being a blogger, or whatever, gives us the opportunity to share our love of certain things with a lot of people all at once while trying to be as informative as we can. If I can make what I’m doing now into a paying career one day, then it’s definitely something worth fighting for. We geeks aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

There are lots of women out there who want to break into the geek industry, be it comics, gaming, writing, or fashion. What kind of advice do you have for them?

I’ll tell you what Jessica Chobot told me. It’s already so incredibly hard to get into any of these industries. You have to keep working, working, and working, improving yourself on where you think you’re lacking. Also network. you’ll have less of a chance making it anywhere if you don’t make yourself known to peers or higher. Putting yourself out there is a vulnerable feeling, but it’s necessary to get yourself out there and talk to people. Plus it doesn’t hurt to expand your horizons with other people in the same boat as you, trade little tips and the like.

There will be people trying to bring you down. You’ll just have to get thick skin and remember you’re doing what you love. And what do you do with things you love? Let it grow and expand.

What inspired you to start with Agents of Geek, and what is the coolest thing that you’ve experienced since you’ve started it?

AoG kind of fell on my lap thanks to Jim Napier noticing my enthusiasm online. It’s become a home to be myself and share all the cool things with the people I like and then some.

We’re only a year old now, so I think the coolest things are yet to come. So far, it’s getting to meet other bloggers and getting the confidence to converse with other writers and artists in the gaming and comic book industries.

Have you always felt at home being a part of and creating in the “geek culture” or “nerd culture”, or was it something you grew into?

I think because of Intro to Geek, I was kind of thrown into a part of nerd culture I never experienced before. I seemed to have taken a shine to it, obviously, and I suddenly find myself being invited to different podcasts, panels at conventions, etc. I don’t know when people started considering me a video game expert, but I like the sound of it. I’m going to hold on to that title for as long as I can. LOL.

What do you wish people knew about what you do? Are there common misconceptions about what it means to do what you do?

I face these types of questions all the time with just my uncle. He knows absolutely nothing about geek culture, science fiction, or fandoms in general. Come to think of it, my mom constantly wonders what I do even when she sees me doing it. I try to attribute my work as something they watch everyday. I’m equal parts the news, The Talk, Entertainment Tonight, and the E! Channel, but without all that boring celebrity gossip. I think they get it… LOL!

As for serious business types, well, I’m still learning. I’ve applied to a lot of firms, advertisers, papers, and publishers where I live. I even tried out for police academy at some point. They start turning up their noses once they find out I write about “kiddy stuff.” No joke, that’s a response I got from someone who rejected my application. It’s like no one in the “professional” world likes fun. Or imagination. I wouldn’t be surprised if all they read were inflated memoirs of a CEO or a former president.

Never mind that as JUST an editor and writer I organize and plan assignments and interviews, edit other people’s writing, make sure the website’s layout looks good and is in working order, cover major events, review movies/tv shows/books, network with people online, over the phone, face to face, learn some coding, consult, and work with advertisers. I know there’s more, but that’s all I can think of off the top of my head at the moment. The subject matter just happens to be something we’re passionate about, just like other writers and magazines like cooking, politics, and pretentious foreign art films.

Be sure to check out Agents of Geek and Intro to Geek if you haven’t done that yet. Stay tuned here for more amazing women in geek, and click on the pictures below to check out my interview with Sarah Rodriguez and Lindsay Cummings.

Women in Geek Lindsay Cummings Women in Geek  Sarah Rodriguez