J. Frances De La Rosa
I am writing this as a way of self- improvement. I often do this. It’s how I think things through, how I process most mental dilemmas. I start by writing out what the problem is, work towards understanding where it stems from, and then figure out ways in which to resolve the issue.
When I think about what it will take for me to be a truly successful writer, I know where my biggest fault lies. It’s not what I write or how I write. It’s not my bad grammar or my constant bounce from past to present to future tense. I know that as far as the writing goes… I can do it. My fault lies in follow-through. But, where does this fault come from?
For most of my life I have been a quitter. (Here lies one of my strengths—humility. I am not afraid to admit my faults, to face my fears.) No one wants to be called a quitter. No one wants to be a quitter. We all want to have the virtues of consistency, of follow-through, of courage and perseverance. But, whether we like to admit it or not, we all quit sometimes. There are plenty of things that I finish. But when it comes to my writing, I never seem to get it all the way done. Even if the piece is polished, you have to find a place to submit it and go through the process of doing so. I know it stems from some fear. Most likely just the fear of failure. This is something I work on constantly. I cannot quit before I’ve ever truly begun.
I write something out. I revise it. I edit it. I get frustrated with the constant need to go back over it. Over and over and over. That is the part that makes me throw up my hands and walk away. But even when I do go back and I do finish, then I need to give it away. To be an author, you must publish. And this is the ultimate goal for me, to be a successful author! So, obviously, the need to submit my work is extremely important.
What is it that makes me stop? What is it that keeps me from following through? It’s not the fear of the solitude it will require or the time needed to get it done, the amount of effort. I’m not afraid of the work. Or am I? Do I think that it will be too hard? Is this what makes me quit before I have even begun.
So, what’s the thing to do? How do I go about conquering this problem? For every problem there is a solution. Right?
Here’s what I’ve come up with:
Think of it like going to the gym and eating healthy. Find a fitness buddy, make a plan and force yourself to do it. Yell at yourself; fight with yourself; force yourself to face your fears by whatever means necessary. It’s like meal prep. Get everything together ahead of time, organize it, schedule it, and then find someone or something to help yourself stay accountable.
So, what am I doing today that will make a difference for me in the future? How will I go about with the follow-thru? I have found friends who will help edit my work and are constantly motivating me. I have given myself deadlines, assignments that must be finished- turned in. I have learned that the only thing that will truly make me feel better is doing the work. And here I am.
Were born into a brightly lit and invasive world, crying babies pulled from the soft, warm, dark wombs of our mothers and thrust into chaos. From the moment of conception, everything about us starts changing, and change never stops until we take our last breath.
Your mind settles into the pattern of your repeating days. How often do we hear “everything changes?” Of course, it does. Between the everyday repetition and the immense change—you deal with life somehow. It is also true that many people hate change even though change is the basis for our lives.
From infancy to the freedom of childhood to trying to live a good adult life all the way through to death, we try to make the most of our lives—our often repetitious and even sometimes humdrum lives. Whether you get up each day at the crack of dawn and work until dinner time then go home to the wife and kids or if you never marry and are always on the move, we have patterned lives. We do the dishes and the laundry, sweep the floor, and feed ourselves in regularly spaced out intervals. We try to keep ourselves feeling good, try to educate ourselves, better ourselves little by little, hurdle over hurdles. We watch the news and the neighbours. We judge and compare and conform. We switch out our wardrobes and move the furniture around in order fight against the monotony. Some of us have children and find it is in their lives that our own are so transformed. All the time, we are consumed with day in and day out repetition.
Many of us only have a short chance at a life of frivolity or spontaneous adventure. How strange the life of a single man and/or woman is and even then, how much rarer is the human who never settles. The gypsy, on the constant move, has always been somewhat taboo. We feel sorry for them. No home to fall back on. But at the same time, we are a little jealous… as we all innately crave freedom. Freedom: the very thing we pride ourselves on as Americans, waving our flags and shouting our points of view into the wind. What we believe, who we believe in, and what is the right way to do it.
And then we eat and do the dishes, and we eat and do them again and all the while, in between, we change. Just think of how often our lives are completely transformed. It seems to me that just about every seven years, our lives are completely overhauled and yet we don’t even notice it as it is happening.
Jessa De La Rosa
Olive Press Editor
My mom always said, “To thine own self-be true.” There is something so wonderful that comes when we learn how to love ourselves. When we can face ourselves in the mirror, when we have looked our pasts straight in the eye and accepted them, taken them in and forgiven every single mistake, every stumble and then moved forward anyway, then we discover the strength involved in self-acceptance. When you feel that strength—when you feel that power—nothing can stop you. Take that power and use it. It’s like magic. The only real magic I have ever felt in my life is the love I have given to myself. No love you ever receive from anyone else is quite like the love you give yourself. No one can make you happy; your happiness is up to you.
I have a lot on my plate, but the thing is—I put it there. Every little morsel of it is there because I have picked it up off life’s buffet table and placed it on my plate. Your decisions determine your destiny. I have three children because I wanted to be a mother. I am married because I wanted to get married. I am going to college and getting my degree because I have a plan for my future that requires me to be educated. As a veteran, I am using my GI Bill. I have only thirty-six months to get my degree and because of that, I have to take at least 18 credit hours per semester. I get asked all the time, “how do you manage it all?” Well, it’s simple enough. I make it happen.
There is no outside force that pushes me toward my goals. It all comes from within. “An empty pitcher can’t pour milk,” mom always said. “You must take care of yourself or you won’t have anything to give.” So, I eat right, and I exercise. I wake up early in the morning, just like my mother always told me I should, and I start my day off with a determination to do my best with the day presented to me. I work out for an hour, come home, and sit with a cup of tea (these small breaks with thoughtful contemplation are a must for me). The kids need dressed and fed. Lunches need to be made. Once they are off to school, so am I. I pay attention in my classes and speak up. I eat healthy foods in-between, all my fruits and veggies, just like my mother always said I should. I give myself fifteen-minute breaks to watch the clouds float by or just to sit and talk with a friend. I use my spare time to accomplish tasks and you will often catch me doing two things at once.
“Make yourself a to-do list,” my mother always said. I don’t put things off. I make to-do lists and put them in order of priority. One at a time I get them done, no excuses. Every time I mark something off that list I let it make me feel good. This is an important step, letting myself feel good for small accomplishments. Most of the time it surprises me how quickly I can get things accomplished. It’s not that I don’t watch a little tv or take time to have a picnic in the park with my daughters, but I make sure that my list is being constantly worked at.
When the kids get home, we get snacks and do homework. I make sure to spend time with them. I make their dinners each night with their help and then have them help me clean up after. Because of this, I can feel good about myself as a mother and also get things done around the house. I read to them each night, sing lullabies, and give plenty of kisses. Once the kids are in bed, I put myself down and read. A lot of my classes require reading, and this is the perfect time for me to do that.
Life is distracting.
Things happen that catch us off guard. It’s not easy to keep yourself always heading down the right path, always moving forward toward the success we hope to reach. Being focused is just as much work as the work we are doing itself if not harder. We meet people that throw off our concentration, family issues arise, our health fails, our cars break down. Perseverance is key in almost every situation. Sometimes we fall in love. Sometimes we get our hearts broken. Sometimes, someone, we love dies. These types of circumstances are the hardest to keep working through. When things like that happen, we want to quit… sometimes all together. We want to lie down and throw our hands up, done. Too tired to continue or to move. It’s not easy to pull ourselves out of that mindset. But, if we do, if we keep fighting even when it’s hard, that is when we will see the success we set out to find. Always, keep the goal in sight, always put your best foot forward. It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s not always going to be hard either. Look up into the sky, stop to breathe and center yourself, ground yourself in the earth and remember who you are and why you are doing what you are doing.
Everything changes. Nothing in this life is permanent except for the fact that things will change. My mom always said, “This too shall pass.” So, remember that with each passing moment. Remember that every time you feel like you will never get through the next hour, the next day, it will pass. If you believe you can do it, if you love yourself, you will.
J. Frances De La Rosa
Olive Press Editor
Writing is hard work. The challenge of craft never seems to diminish. So I look for inspiration to keep going.
I’ve long admired Julianna Baggott. Her poems and novels have been threaded through my life. I often turn to her blog when I need something to boost my writing spirit or to help me see a new possibility.
In a post dated May 9, 2017, she turns the challenge of point of view. How and why first person can work in some situations and how and why third person is better than others. In this particular post, she pulls in the significance of humor. She shares this insight: “I should say that in first-person I always allow my characters to have a sense of humor — if nothing else than a realistic coping mechanism and how I personally process — and it can really high-jack a scene. I’m not saying that humor is bad in horror or thrillers or drama. The opposite. It’s necessary — for realism and, when used the right way, it’s a great counterpoint and it can make the scene even darker. But it can also fight you line by line, letting the reader off the hook, letting air out of the scene. One way to ease the effect is to go more retrospective. Past-tense and widen the time gap. This allows for a little softening of the lens, nostalgia, less flattening of the scene and more control of how it’s being read because of meddling from the narrator who has a stronger vantage point.”
In an earlier post, dated April 4, Baggott discusses the difference between form and formula especially as it relates to the novel. She writes, “And, look, structure is often something novelists do have to create by hand — and often it’s a brutal process of the story pushing its form into view. We have to chop through the jungle with machetes. But paths exist. They just do. We’re in the same jungle that other novelists have been through long before us. If you can start off as a writer on a path — in a structure that already exists — all the better. You can keep your eye on other things, like your sentences.”
So if you feel stuck in your writing or if you’re simply looking for a little inspiration, take some time with the writers you admire. Have they shared insight into the process? And if so, what can you take to breathe new life into your work and habits?
I ask my myself why I changed.
Why did my smiles stop?
There were no tears,
No aching sadness,
Just a missing smile.
Silence and loneliness clings to me
Like darkness hugs all during the night.
The sun chases away the darkness,
Still I remain standing in the dark,
No light comes to rescue me.
People come and go —
Laughter comes and goes.
The silent, lonely darkness remains.
My ever faithful companion.
Still there is no sadness.
I wondered did this happen to other people as well?
And then I realized,
I am only ever as alone as I allow myself to be.
I decided that while the darkness may be a part of me.
It would not rule me.
I let the sun bring me into its warm embrace,
And my smile shines as bright.
The need to find sadness is gone.
I can smile.
Sara Horton is a Founding Editor of The Olive Press
Want something different to read? Rogue Agent is a journal that is worth looking at if you enjoy poetry. Jill Khoury, Editor in Chief of Rogue Agent, wanted to create a space for poetry on embodied poetry–poetry about the body. The poetry addresses gender, race, heritage, queerness, dis/ability, mental illness, motherhood, the impact of religion on the body, and the impact of societal expectations on the body. What makes it even more interesting is that the poetry published is on the author’s individual experience and not other’s experiences. I love reading poetry from the author’s point of view, this helps me gain a better perspective on relevant issues. Rogue Agent only publishes ten poems by ten poets a month, as well as interviews and art features. So, if you want poetry that is unique and about the body, go read some of the awesome poetry in Rogue Agent.
Jennifer Burnside is an editor for The Olive Press.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is a story of revenge and the consequence of revenge. At least that’s what you think it’s about. Reynolds main character Will lives by three simple rules: no crying, no snitching, and always revenge. The premise of this novel is based on a true event from Reynolds life. At 19, he had considered taking revenge himself for the murder of his best friend at the time. What he did instead was to write a book about gun violence that just might break the mold and actually change some minds. Reynolds says that he tried to write this book in a three dimensional way in order to really hit home with people. He is not trying to teach the reader a lesson. He is simply trying to make reality jump off the page. However, this is not the most surprising thing about this book. This novel is not like most novels because it’s written as poetry. Reynolds said that he knows that many communities and people struggle with literary challenges, therefore he wanted to write a book that someone could sit down and read in 45 minutes and walk away understanding the message.
Sara Horton is a founding editor of The Olive Press.
As December begins, I feel the rush toward the end of the year pick up. It is an inner frenzy–all those things I had hoped to complete this year, my need for plans in hand, the lurking pressure of the holidays.
This sense of pressure makes me appreciate those mornings when I don’t need to worry about an alarm, when it is enough to let the sun break through the blinds, allowing the increasing brightness to shake me into the world.
Today, while browsing and reading online, I came across a poem by David Whyte titled “What to Remember When Waking.” It concludes with these lines:
“Now, looking through the slanting light of the morning window
toward the mountain presence of everything that can be
what urgency calls you to your one love?
What shape waits in the seed of you
to grow and spread its branches
against a future sky?
Is it waiting in the fertile sea?
In the trees beyond the house?
In the life you can imagine for yourself?
In the open and lovely white page on the writing desk?”
So here is my hope, that we all find the quiet and still mornings that allow us to look outward and inward, both and find what is calling us into the world this day.
As college students, we don’t often get the opportunities to read for pleasure. But lucky for us, we get this lovely thing called Fall Break where we get to relax for about four days. Lucky for me, I stumbled across some free books in the hallway on my way out of the building. So naturally like any English major, I scooped them up and made my home to read them for fun. One of the books I found was titled Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. Now this was a shocker, I thought he only wrote mystery/thriller books. As a hopeless romantic, I love to see relationships blossom within the story, and I also have the slight habit of becoming attached to the characters—which means, DON’T KILL OFF MY FAVORITE CHARACTERS. So with that thought in mind, I took a deep breath and mentally prepared myself for what lay ahead. To avoid spoiler alerts: I enjoyed the book. James Patterson did not disappoint. Upon turning to the first page, you might be slightly confused and might dislike the male protagonist of the story but keep reading. I promise things will make sense after a few chapters. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives; James Patterson handles this very well. I was also surprised(in a good way) by his interpretation of what goes through the female mind. There is a definite plot twist, and you should definitely without a doubt check this book out. Take some time out of your busy day and read this book.
This book review is brought to you by Sequilla Arita