Seven years of blogging. Let’s level up together

It’s been seven long years since I started writing this little blog. And I started preparing to write this post by reading all of my other anniversary posts. 

Every year in the past I’ve been surprised that I’ve kept writing. But after seven years, I think I’ll go ahead and keep writing. I’ve proven to myself that I can do hard things.

What continues to surprise me, and what I’m still deeply grateful for, is that you’re still reading. That there are still people who want to follow along this journey with me. Who want to learn, or at least be entertained by me.

I am humbled by this every single day. 

Seven years ago, the realization that people were reading things I wrote inspired me to keep writing. Now, you’ve inspired me to level up.

I want to be a better writer. I want to write better. Those might sound like the same thing, but they’re not. Let me break it down a little. 

To be a better writer means to be more disciplined. To practice more. To treat my art like art and my business like business. To spend less time on Instagram and more on writing practices. 

To write better is to produce better stories. To learn my craft inside and out. To understand language, word choice, grammar, and world-building in ways that I don’t now.

How exactly I’m going to do this is still in the planning stage. But I’m doing what anyone does to get better at anything. Learning and practicing.

I’m taking all of the writing classes on Masterclass. I’m re-reading books about writing that inspire me, like Wild Mind and On Writing. I’m reading Writer’s Digest from cover to cover. I’m listening to writing podcasts like Writing Excuses and Ditch Diggers. That’s the learning part.

I’m freewriting and doing daily exercises. I’m creating a dedicated Writer’s Notebook. I’m thinking more about word choice. I’m thinking about why stories work and why they don’t. I’m making lists. That’s the practice part. 

This is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I love focusing on the words. It’s the hardest goal I’ve ever made. There’s no damned ruler to measure my progress. 

I can enter contests, and I do. I can track how many people follow me here. I can track how much of my content sells. But those are all measurements that are dependent on the opinions of others. And that’s arbitrary. I can never control other people’s opinions. I can only write good stories. Which is, again, arbitrary. 

What constitutes a good story? I don’t know, but I know when I read one. So I’m on a mission to know. To understand. 

I don’t think I’ll have a set of rules that will tell me if my stories are getting better. But I do think that if I keep at it, I’ll have a better understanding. And I think I’ll enjoy my work more.

So let’s make a deal. Let’s, each of us, commit to leveling up our art over the next 365 days. It doesn’t have to be writing.

I’ll post blog posts that will hopefully teach you something. I’ll also post more short stories, so you can decide for yourself how I’m doing. And you commit to doing one thing every week to improve your art, whatever that means to you. 

Let’s meet back here in a year and see how we’re doing. 

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Meet the AA Characters, Joan

Meet Joan

Played by Eve

Moving is never easy, let alone moving with two little kids. But for Joan, the move was necessary. Even if she had to leave behind her home and most of her belongings. Even if she had to give up her job. Even if she has to live in the spare bedroom of a human she barely knows. 

It’s better than what’s hunting her and her children. 

The only trouble is that the thing hunting them followed. All the way to Peach Springs.

You can hear about Joan in the first season of AA, starting on September second.


Meet the AA Characters, Jim

Meet Jim

Played by Jim Phonix 

Jim’s everyone’s friend. He teaches the kids of the community, helps out at meetings. He’s quick to led an ear when needed, or pick someone up from the train station. And he’s happy to make friends with Josey. Maybe more than friends. 

A transplant himself, Jim is one of the only members of the community to move to Peach Springs as an adult. But he’s found himself a member of the community anyway. 

You can hear about Jim in the first season of AA, starting on September second. 

My review of the Hero’s Journal

(This isn’t sponsored, but I was gifted a copy of Hero’s Journal for donating to Nanowrimo.)

I received a Hero’s Journal during Camp Nanowrimo. And I was pretty stoked about it. You know me, I love a good notebook. Especially (gasp) a goal-setting notebook that is specific to my writing.

This journal has been all over the internet. People, let me tell you, love this thing. And now that I’ve played with it a few weeks, I can see why. 

But I still ended up giving it away. So I thought I’d talk a little bit today about what I liked about the Hero’s Journal, and why it’s not for everyone. 

When the journal arrived, it came with fanfare. I opened the container to find it was packed in a delightful box covered in art that reminded me of the Bone comics. I was charmed right off the bat. 

Inside, I found the start of a journey, with a whole mythical motif. I started with writing out my goals, and actionable steps to reach them.

The next thing I found was the daily pages. And this is where I think the magic happens. There’s room for hourly planning, goals for the day. A good amount of room for notes.

My favorite part, however, was the space to consider your allies and enemies for the day. An ally is something that’s going to help you through the day. An enemy is going to stand in the way of your goals. So if I were going to fill out this section for a day, it might look like this.

Today’s Allies-

1. A good night’s sleep last night.

2. Good coffee in my brand new fall travel mug.

3. Monday vibes. (This post was written on Monday)

Today’s Enemies-

1. Overtime hours at my day job.

2. I have a ton of editing and posting to do tonight.

3. I want to read Hollow City and not be productive at all.

Taking some time to consider what might get in my way, along with what I can lean on to help me, has kind of been a game-changer. If I know what is likely to sneak up and bite me, I can prepare for it.

After 30 days, there’s a little review process. And you all know I swear by monthly reviews. No organization method is going to be half so productive if you’re not taking time to see where you are, and what’s working. 

I love the artwork that flows through the whole book. I love how it makes goal setting feel like a journey. It’s an adventure.

If you’re struggling to find a way to keep your life in order, get the Hero’s Journal. It’s a little extra fun and it will probably help you reach your goals. It’s got just enough structure and just enough free space.

Now let me tell you why I’m not going to be using The Hero’s Journal. It comes down to one thing.

It doesn’t do anything to me that bullet journaling doesn’t already do, or that I can’t incorporate into my bullet journal. But there are a lot of things that my bullet journal does that the Hero’s Journal cannot.

This isn’t to say that just because I don’t use it, no one with a bullet journal will find it useful. I just have already incorporated my writing journey into the rest of my life. They cannot be separated. I wake up, walk the dog, brush my teeth, sit down to free write, get dressed. I make my to-do list for the day, and it includes dishes, word counts, laundry, and blog posts. I am a writer, and after seven years I cannot tell you where the writer begins and the woman ends.

I consider this ideal, but it’s not for everyone. 

Honestly, I’d suggest giving the Hero’s Journal a try. Especially if you find goal setting rather boring. It’s a clever concept executed well. 

You can support Paper Beats World on Ko-fi.

Meet The AA Characters, Rose

Meet Rose

Played by J.M. Brannyk

There’s something in Rose’s past that her family doesn’t know. That even her best friend Stevie doesn’t know. Whatever it is, it’s made her less than happy to find a human has found her way inside the community. In Rose’s eyes, there’s no way Josey’s there for good reasons. More likely she’s a spy for the men in grey, just waiting to take the community out one by one. And Rose has got no intentions of letting that just happen. 

Not if she can do anything about it.

You can hear about Rose in the first season of AA, starting on September second.


Meet the AA characters, Heather

Meet Heather

Played by Jennifer Weigel

A truly type A person, Heather runs the AA meetings in Peach Springs. She’s quick to pull people into her inner circle, and to lend a hand when needed.

Heather is every organized cub scout leader mother. Someone needs a place to stay, Heather will find them a bed. Need furniture, she knows a guy. She’ll be the one at your house at seven at night with a casserole, still wearing high heels and a smile, Honey. 

You can hear all about Heather in the first season of AA, starting on September second.

Meet The Characters from AA, Stevie

Meet Stevie

Played by Maity

Stevie is called when there’s trouble. And trouble has come to Peach Springs in the form of the illusive men in grey. She plans to be there only long enough to find out why this quasi government agency has their eyes on her community. But when she finds Josey, a human, has woven herself into the meetings, she decides to stick around for awhile. 

Stevie is trained to spot and deal with trouble. She hasn’t decided if Josey is trouble or not. For Josey’s sake, Stevie had better decide she’s trustworthy. 

You can hear all about Stevie in AA, starting on September second.

Meet The Characters from AA, Josey

Meet Josey-

Played by me.

When Josey moves to a new town, she thinks her life’s going to get better. Then her new job falls through. So she finds herself working two jobs to afford an overpriced apartment. But it’s the divorce papers sent from her ex that really sends her past demons back to haunt her. 

Josey needs to find a meeting.

What she finds is a community of aliens hiding in plain sight. 

You’ll be able to hear Josey’s story starting on September second on Haunted MTL.

My Review of Notion

So I’ve been using Notion for a couple of months now. I started using it after watching an Amanda Lee video on YouTube. She just made it seem so cool, I had to try it.

I have a bad habit of trying new software and apps, spending hours moving all my notes and info over to them, then dropping them like a hot coal a few days later. The reasons vary. It didn’t do what I thought it would. It’s redundant. It’s just one more bloody app to check in the morning. It’s not easy to use. Something new and shiny caught my eye. You get the idea.

But I’ve continued to use Notion for long enough now that I think I’m ready to share it with you. (Not a sponsored post.) 

So, if you don’t know what Notion is, it’s a note-taking app. Think of it as a virtual notebook. I tend to use it as a virtual bullet journal. You can keep to-do lists, pictures, documents. if you have a paid account, you can share access to all of those things.

I don’t work with a team, so I don’t have a paid account. And I have to say, I use it almost every day for both my personal and my writing life. 

Here’s what I use it for. 

Social media plans- Pretty self-explanatory. I keep a little chart of ideas for Tweets, pins, Instagram posts and the like. I hate sitting down to plan a day worth of social media and having no ideas. Why do I have all these pithy thoughts until I have my keyboard under my fingers?

Meal prep plans- Whatever makes my brain go blank when I’m trying to write social media does the same damned thing when I’m trying to figure out dinner. Even when I try to write a shopping list, I forget every meal I have ever made. So having a list of meals I make, or that I want to try, is a huge help.

Utility info- Another pretty self-explanatory thing. This is the information I need if I have to deal with any of my utilities.

Savings info- I know everyone suggests having separate savings accounts but I don’t have time for all that nonsense. So my savings account has just one chunk of money. Then I keep track of what money is for what on this Notions page.

Expense trackers- If you’re not tracking how much your bills usually are, you should be. 

Address book- Again, pretty simple. Nothing’s worse than fumbling for the vet’s number because Oliver swallowed something he ought to know not to.

Rolling to-do list- While my daily goals are in my bullet journal, I like to keep a rolling list of things I need to get to. This gets slowly moved to my bj as I can manage these tasks. Nothing gets forgotten, but I’m not looking at a list of things that no one could do in a day.

Contests- I have a bad habit of entering too many contests. I like to have a place to keep track of them. Due dates, word requirements, all the rules, links to pages. It’s super useful to have all of that in just one place.

Project pages- This is especially useful as I get into more forms of storytelling. As I work on AA and other podcasts, there’s just a huge amount of info to keep track of. And Notion is where it all goes. 

Blog post schedule- Finally, I keep track of all my blog posts for here and Haunted MTL. I keep notes, links, info, calendars. 

Now, you might be wondering if I still use a bullet journal. The answer is yes. I use Notion for long-term planning and things that need to stick around as I switch from book to book. My daily and weekly planning are more in the moment. Even my monthly goals to a degree. And of course, there’s also the memory capturing part of a bullet journal that I don’t want to convert to virtual just yet.

The big reason why I started using Notion is that I had things that either changed too often or not often enough. Things like my blog schedule, which might switch on a whim, are a pain to do then redo on paper all the time. Things like what recipes I like to make for dinner don’t change so often that they need refreshed every three to six months when I get a new BJ.

I do appreciate that I can pull Notion up on any device. My tablet has the app, of course. And I can pull up the website on any computer. I like that I can access all of my notes, for both home and writing life, no matter where I am. 

The fact that it’s cute doesn’t hurt. 

Have you tried Notion? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Don’t Dream Low

Storytime, guys. Once upon a time, right before I started this blog, I managed a shoe store. And back then, I’d worked hard to get that position. I’d put in intense hours, said yes to abusive things. I did something I’m still pretty proud of and worked with several cheer squads to provide their shoes. That alone brought in thousands in revenue for my store. I could go on, but you get the point. I wanted to be the manager.

And I got it. 

Funny thing about wanting something and working really really hard for it. You often get it. And you think that’s going to make you happy, right? 

I got the manager job, and I did a happy dance around the store. And if I was committed before, I was doubly so after. I was so proud. 

It took me months to realize I was struggling emotionally. To realize that I hated the damn place, the job and everything about it. 

For a long time, I tried to ignore that feeling. I beat myself up over it. I told myself that I didn’t have any right to be unhappy. Isn’t this what I’d worked for? A poisoned mantra was imprinted in my mind, and I couldn’t get rid of it. I didn’t want to get rid of it, because it served me. It made me get up and go to work every day, even when I’d rather have died.

I’ll never be happy if I’m not happy here. 

The realization that something had to change didn’t hit me all at once. It came in trickles. Moments that, when looked back upon, should have been my wake-up call. (Like the time I got a bad kidney stone. I was in so much pain I thought I was going to have to be hospitalized. And I was scared to take a day off of work.) But there were so many, many reasons to ignore them. Really good, adult reasons too.

This was the best job I’d ever had. 

I was making more money than ever.

This job was way better than any my mother had ever had.

I had a family relying on me.

I loved most of the people I worked with.

Our rent was high.

I didn’t think I was qualified for any other job.

I didn’t think I deserved a better life. 

I’d worked so damn hard to get there. What if I threw it all away and I still wasn’t happy?

I would love to tell you that I eventually made the leap and improved my life all on my own. Sadly, I didn’t. But I did start writing again, after not writing anything for years. And this helped, for a time. 

I thank God that I got fired from that job. Honestly, I don’t know if I ever would have been brave enough to leave on my own.

From there, everything changed. I got another day job, something I never thought I was good enough for. I wrote more and got published. I worked hard, again. I got what I wanted again. Thank God, I liked it a lot better this time.

I’m telling you all that to tell you another story. The manager at my current day job, the one I didn’t think I was good enough for but went for anyway, just left. She got a better job. Which isn’t to say, at all, that this job isn’t good. Just that she could do better, so she did. 

Right now I have a day job that I like. I help people, that has value to me. I respect the company that I work for, that has value to me. I feel respected, that has huge value to me. I have a nice home. I have a job as a critic on Haunted Mtl. I have several published books.

In short, the life I live today has exceeded my dreams from before I started this blog. I am happy. 

But I will never, ever let that poisoned mantra come back. 

We can do better. Obviously, I don’t just mean our day jobs. I mean, more than anything, our art.

If you have a job writing, or you’ve been published, that is freaking amazing. Pop some champaign, do the Snoopy dance. Then, decide what your next step is. Because I told you all that to tell you this. While I didn’t let that poison mantra return, I did plateau over the last few years. 

So I’m working on that. I’m going back to the basics. I’m working on really improving my writing. I’m trying to get an agent, trying to join SFWA. 

I never want to learn this lesson the hard way again. There is always another level to reach for. I can always be a better version of myself. I can always surpass my goals, my dreams. 

Dream high, guys. You are capable of so much more than you think. 

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