Sunday Scribbles — June 17, 2018

I haven’t been as consistent with Sunday Scribbles as I hoped to be. The truth is, I actually do quite a bit of private journal writing on another platform. So, when Sunday finally comes around, I don’t always feel an urge to write. On the other hand, because I do catalog my daily life, it is easy for me to reference journal entries from throughout the week. I can then reflect and share those reflections with you.

Highlights of the Week

Yesterday I uploaded the latest installment of Scar Tissue. This chapter is titled Comrades. Here, I discussed a little bit about the significance of having strong allies. Although I have written a lot about unity in the homeless community, I haven’t told you why it was, and still is, so important in my story. It is also a tribute to an old friend, Rango, who was very much a lifeline when I lost everything. He connected me to my allies.

Earlier in the week, The Self-Centered Routine found it’s place in the Writer’s Corner. This is actually an older piece that was written sometime last year. I gave it a good polishing and finally turned it over to you. I follow a creative routine closely. Without it, I probably would not write as often as I do.

Honestly, I really surprised myself this week! Although I had a very busy, very tiring week, I was able to push out some really good writing. As I mentioned in the last Sunday Scribbles, I just started working at the local university. All I can say is this: I am where I am meant to be.

At the beginning of this year, while we were on our way out of the shelter, I briefly worked on a gratitude journal. In it, I explored a few journal prompts that challenged me to answer a variety of self-discovery questions such as: What do I want to contribute to the world? Why am I here? Where do I belong?

Next, I came up with goals and the steps needed to reach those goals. Tonight, I decided to take a look at my progress, and was stunned by the amount of progress I’ve made in just a few short months. My biggest and most pressing goals include: acquire job in academia, make an impact, launch Soul & Scribble, write Scar Tissue. Now, my life actually encompasses all of these ambitions.

This redemption. I still have no words.

The shackles. They are coming undone.

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Scar Tissue | 18.) Comrades

It must be all the video games, because sometimes I hear the sound of hammer striking hot metal. Bang, bang, bash against an anvil. Perhaps I’m always preparing for a battle that will never come. Maybe the war is already here, but I am stuck cowering behind this anvil, stuck in an endless cycle of patching and reinforcing. Maybe I really want to fight, but I don’t know how to fight this fight.

In the final days, while we awaited the sheriffs, while we awaited our fate, I’d meet Rango in Cyrodil* and we’d hang out until 4 am. We’d lay waiting, crouched atop a tall hill, and snipe each poor passerby as they made their way towards the fight. Me? I’m generally not one to run in the direction of fire and catapults. I don’t like to see blood. I don’t like melee fights. I throw spells, shoot arrows, and keep my distance.

I’ve always fought many of my battles at range, many of which, with a pen and keyboard. I have a way with words, you could say. In fact, well placed words have gotten me out of some very sticky situations, as well as into a few beautiful ones, too. Cover letters, college application essays, emailing customer service representatives — you get the idea.

Rango was a fighter too, and he also preferred ranged attacks. When he uncovered my story, he immediately went to Reddit with it. He didn’t expect solutions, and neither did I, but he wanted me to find allies. He didn’t want me to feel like this fight is my fight alone. He didn’t want me to walk through the fire by myself. He knew I was going to be homeless, and he knew there was a possibility that nothing I could do, anyone could do, at this point, would prevent it, but he didn’t want me to do it alone.

As Rango went to Reddit, I went to Tumblr. The out-pour of support undoubtedly saved my life. As I hurdled through the first few weeks, my lock screen filled with notifications.

You don’t know me, but I just wanted to make sure you were okay.

Do you have a Paypal or a donation link?

I’ve been there before. Feel free to reach out anytime.

Do you need help connecting to services?

Is there anything I can do?

Feeling invisible is sort of a death sentence. Before long, the walls close in, darkness surrounds you, and there is no one left. You can’t breathe. You’re drowning. You’re alone. So alone, that you eventually disappear. That is what homelessness feels like to me. Disappearing.

Rango took a flash light and pointed it at me so I wouldn’t disappear. He kept it there, chasing away the darkness, until I was able switch on the lights.

 

 

 

 

 

*Cyrodil is a player-verses-player zone in the online game, The Elder Scrolls Online.

 

 

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city. Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another. I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Writer’s Corner | The Self-Centered Routine

Prioritize You

Terrible title, isn’t it?  Here are two totally bad words, self-centered and routine, and I’m asking you to consider rediscovering the meaning for both. The truth is, it’s okay to prioritize you. You should be at the center of your life. But, what exactly does it mean to be at the center of your life? It does not mean to dismiss or not care for others. However, it does mean that your visions should come before the visions of others. You should be investing majority of your time in yourself — not others. I like to think of myself as someone who passionately serves others, and makes it a firm goal in my life to actively do so, however, the one person whom I serve most of all is myself. Additionally, having a routine doesn’t mean your life is suddenly void of any ounce of fun or impromptu excitement. Although I am far from mastering the routine, I do put myself at the center of it, each and every day, and, although my routine, alike all self-improvement techniques, is a work-in-progress, I realize the power of putting my dreams on a pedestal. I realize there is real magic in putting myself first.

The Daily Routine

The greatest creative visionaries of all time had a secret weapon. Their secret weapon, the rule that both Woody Allen and Ernest Hemingway adhered to, was in fact the daily routine. Hemingway wrote 500 words a day, rain or shine. Allen once said that success is 80% showing up.

If you want to create something worthwhile in your lifetime, if you want to write things, make things, do things, be things – you need not wait for inspiration to come knocking. Honey, you break that door down. You show up, and you work.

Habit and Discipline

I often whine to friends about my creative dry spells. For years, in fact, I did not write, and you know what? I hadn’t done a damn thing about it.

Today I know that it wasn’t inspiration I was lacking, but habit and discipline. In fact, I wrote over 100,000 words in 2017, more words than I have written in my entire life, and I did most of it at a Starbucks — a block away from the homeless shelter I was sleeping at.

So, clearly, I wasn’t lacking creativity, I was lacking the sheer will to write. The hardest decision then becomes not the writing, the making, the doing, the being, but the prioritizing — prioritizing it over everything and everyone else.

In my second year of college, I wrote and published my first book. During this time, I had few responsibilities. So, naturally, it was easy for me to say, “Hey, I’m going to write this book, and I officially don’t give a shit about anything else until it’s finished.” I had a similar reaction when I became homeless in 2017.  I thought, well, I could sit in this shelter, I could stare at these four walls for another hour, or I could get off my ass, walk over to the Starbucks, and write. And, so I did. In both cases, I did almost nothing but write for days on end. I was so immersed in my work, that I didn’t care very much about anything else. The second time though, it probably also saved my life.

Now, more than ever, I realize habit and discipline are the true keys to any craft, to any vision, to any goal.

Become Completely Unavailable

All you have to do is pick a few hours out of your day where you become completely unavailable. For a few hours, at dawn or dusk, you simply fall off the face of the earth. No phone, no e-mail, no social media – you become completely unavailable.

I promise you, you won’t miss a thing. That text message isn’t dire, neither is that e-mail. I’m sure by now you’ve realized just how unpopular this decision will make you. Listen, they will survive without you for a few hours, and if they’re sensible human beings, or give a single crap about you, they’ll understand. Worrying about the priorities of others makes you miss out on your own.

 

If you can sit down and write that novel, even for 15 minutes, you will inevitably finish that novel. Making that commitment, each day, no matter how small, is what leads to results. Even the smallest of efforts eventually turn into big results.

You’re Not Actually Showing Up If You’re Not Working

How will you make the most of those precious 15 minutes? Yes, although 80% of success is showing up, you’re not actually showing up if you’re not working. But, you can show up, each day, with a stellar game plan, regardless if you’re there for 15 minutes or 15 hours. You should probably take breaks though, if you plan to take the 15 hour route.

Time Management

Although planners are a great investment, they’re really only effective if you use them well and often. I love planners, but I am not consistent with them. I actually believe that things naturally get done when you’re disciplined, and a planner can’t help you shake the lazy. Although planners do serve a purpose in my life, they’re no more than a fancy to-do list.

In my opinion, all you really need is a cheap notebook and a pen. All you need is a short list of goals for the day. On this list, everyday, you will include your creative work. I wholeheartedly believe that most things can wait until tomorrow, and there is really no purpose in doing things before they need to get done. There are more important things to do than what can be put off until tomorrow.

Set Firm Edges

This section is all about why I think multitasking prevents us from reaching our ultimate potential. Give everything you do your full attention. This is not to say that multi-tasking doesn’t have its own place, but the work that we’re doing – creative work – it has no place.

This is not your office gig. This is not data-entry. To create something remarkable, you need to be at your best, bring your best, and focus your best — all of your energy into your work. A great thing requires all of your attention.

This is essentially why setting firm edges is too important to ignore. What do I mean by firm edges? You need to be strict about when you make time for creative work and the quality of the work you’re doing during this time. Nothing is to bleed into the next section, or into the one you’re currently working in. You begin when it’s time, and you stop when it’s time, and you do nothing but what it is intended to be done during this time. In short, do not multi-task.

Energy Levels

Most of us have a time of day in which we’re most alert and energetic. This is the best time for creative work. This is not the time for data-entry! Or washing dishes. You may not realize it now, but these are truly the most valuable moments of your day. This is when you’re at your best, so anything important or difficult that needs to get done, should be done at this time. I find early mornings to be the best time for work. Preferably before the rest of the house has awoken. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and open your favorite word processor. You need to find a space where you can be with just you and your creative mind for a few minutes, or hours. Mastering this part has a lot to do with getting to know yourself. The same can be said about the next, and last section of this post.

Creative Triggers

Believe it or not, familiarity can trigger creative energy far more easily than new landscapes. When we put ourselves into a routine, giving ourselves surroundings that are familiar, it sends a trigger to our brains that says, “Hey kid! It’s time for work!” It is also comfortable and puts us in a calm state of mind. We are not busy processing and taking in all the new multi-sensory surroundings, therefore, we can focus and get to work.

The Hardest Part?

Figuring out what makes you tick as an artist is only half the battle. Consider that you found your routine, you honed your craft, and you mastered your practice. Unfortunately, it’s not over. Believe it or not, the actual hard part has not even begun yet! An artist’s primary goal is rarely ever monetary gain, but it is often exposure.

More so, the ability to connect and relate to their audience. I think artists specifically want to reach people, and lock hearts and minds with another, even for just a moment. The problem is, in order for an artist to do this, they must actually become salesmen. They sell their ideas, their words, and, of course, themselves. This requires the artist to become brave.

Do you want to know what’s even harder than that – what’s harder than the hardest thing of all? It is the fear of being criticized and deemed a fraud. It’s actually *not* being a genius or the world’s most extraordinary undiscovered artist. This is a shared concerned by me, you, and everyone else on earth.

You and I, we’re telling the world, “Hey! I worked super hard on this! I poured my heart, soul, and literal brain into it – I kind of, sort of, believe I might be good at this. Maybe, just maybe, I know what I’m talking about.” When in fact, you’re learning, like me. You’re just trying to do what feels right. You’re just doing your best. I am no expert. There are no true masters here. We are all learning. We’re all getting better. We’re all doing extraordinary things.

But there is one thing that I do know: Successful artists work hard at their routine, and at their craft, but even more so, accepts they have much to learn. They know we can all become a little bit stronger, a little bit better, a little bit smarter, by opening our eyes and ears to each other.

Scar Tissue | 17.) Hope

Shay’s 21st Birthday

“If it weren’t for you guys being in my life right now, I just don’t know. Seriously, if it weren’t for you guys, I just don’t know, girl. I might be dead.”

“Shay, you are so loved. We are all so grateful that you’re here — that we get to see that smile every day. I care about you so much, and I hope you know that. Right now, it’s really hard to see the future, but, girl, there is a future.”

“It’s just so fucking hard.”

“I know, but it’s not over yet. You’ve got to hold on, OK?”

Shay pulled her shirt up to her face, wiping tears.

“I’m doing my best.”

“I know you are.”

“Oh my god! You know what we need? Candles!”

“Yes, girl! Let’s see. Here’s a “2” right here. See if you can find a “1”.”

 

 

 

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city. Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another. I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

The Magic of Mutual Aid: Solidarity and Direct Action in Activism

I was a senior in high school when I first started writing extensively about race relations and income inequality — two things that were very influential in my life. I was a mixed-race kid who fell in love and eventually married another mixed-race kid. I had homeless peers who I went to school with everyday. Now, nearly a decade later, political thought is still a big part of the writing I do.

Like the undercover journalist I am, I have written nearly 100,000 words documenting homelessness in New York City. From the moment my ex-landlord illegally doubled my rent in 2016, until now, 3 months after exiting a Manhattan homeless shelter, I have been documenting my journey.

What was once the butt of a joke, these keyboard-smashing warriors, has evolved into what I believe is the fastest growing political movement.

We’ve entered the age of technology where we can send a stranger $5, in a matter of seconds.

Young people crowdfund first-aid kits through Prime Now to supplement a political march, literally, in real time.

Young people send other young people money to pay off college debts so they can go back to school and finish their degrees.

They pay each other’s co-pays on their anti-depressants.

Think about that for a second.

What makes these young people stand out is how strongly they believe in direct action. They’ve stepped into their power and aren’t afraid to wield it. Through their unwavering dedication towards solidarity, they have entertained the idea that, perhaps, there is another way, a better way, and a quicker way to help other people.

I’ve seen this phenomenon exercised greatly in the homeless community, as well. My dearest friend, Franky, lives it everyday.

No longer do we trust a broken economic and welfare system. Instead, resolutions occur, even in seemingly insignificantly ways, through this newly discovered economic power. There is something very liberating about engaging with other people to reduce the reliance on political and economic machines. There is something phenomenal about admitting that, yes, the system doesn’t always work, and because of that, I have taken up responsibility for my peers.

For me personally, I know it works. Not only does it work, but it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of this phenomenon, and it has now become a huge part of my life. I’ve seen how a few bucks from a handful of generous strangers can turn into a week of meals. Standing in solidarity, with say, the homeless community, or the black community, does not only save lives, but it also changes minds. It changes, not only their circumstances, but also the hearts of all those involved, at risk, and those who wield the power of change.

Honestly, I think we’re on to something here. I think we’re more than capable of shaking things up.

If we stand together, stand up for each other, united, we can change the lives of others.

Through our actions, we can change the way we help one another.

Writing From Your Compost Pile

Writers are often asked where they get their brilliant ideas from. And, still, there is this assumption that the best and most imaginative writers were born with it, when in fact, brilliance didn’t happened by accident — it was an intentional result of a practice and hard work.

Much like sex, it starts as a desire, an urge, it’s raw — a most natural act.

It is not thinking, it’s more like breathing.

When you’re in love, you don’t plot your sex life, do you? You don’t know what works until it’s discovered. You don’t make a schedule with your lover.

If you submit yourself to your writing life, as absolutely ridiculous as that sounds, the less you will worry about your ideas. By submitting yourself to the writing life, you’re inadvertently sifting through your compost pile.

That is where all of your material brines. It’s your history marinading in the backyard. This is all those parts of your past you tossed, it’s the stuff you keep covered, you filed away, sometimes to never look at again.

Everyone feeds their compost pile differently. Some, never at all. Eventually, it becomes fertilizer — it’s just for some of us, if you never touch it, you’ll be dead by the time it’s ready.

Me? I eat cake, write poetry, and play a shit ton of video games to digest mine. You can go to therapy to digest yours, or the amusement park. I recommend all of the above.

If you’re looking for the next big idea, stop going across town.

Importing stories that aren’t yours will not help you write. They won’t be authentic, and you’ll know it. Look towards your personal history, your passions, your concerns, your obsessions, and all these little details that shape your life.

I’ve often said write what you know, and I believe this wholeheartedly.

Thing is, the only thing you truly know is what you’ve lived.

This doesn’t mean you can’t write a stellar science fiction novel. Because you can, and even then, the story will be bits and pieces of who you are. Your novel will be a mix of your home life and your favorite stories. Each character you build will be aspects of your personality or the personality of people in your life.

While you’re sifting through your compost pile, consider that it takes a while for all of that to sit well — to ripen and mature. Sometimes, you’ll need to walk around in it for a while — Read, take some notes, and have a conversation.

You may not be able to write about events that happened yesterday or last year, depending on how painful it was.

Sometimes I’m in immense pain writing Scar Tissue, but I know that telling my story — talking about poverty, homelessness, and class warfare in America it’s equally good for me as it is for you, and that makes it worth it.

Write from your compost pile. It’s worth it.

 

Sage Editing | Commissions Open For June!

Sage Editing provides affordable editing, proofreading, beta-reading, tutoring, and writing consultation services for students, authors, and professionals!

Not only can I provide a variety of editing services, but I can also join in at any point during the writing process to brainstorm and provide feedback!

 

Line Editing

Last-minute polish?

  • Improve sentence structure and tone.
  • Check for consistent style and format.
  • Correct grammar and spelling, while also monitoring word usage, meaning, and voice.

 

$5 per page, Time-frame: 14 days

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Developmental Editing

Need conceptual input? Advice on direction? At any stage, from brainstorming to full draft, I can provide assistance in:

  • Development of concept, outline, and draft.
  • Provide suggestions about content and organization.
  • Identifying problems of overall clarity or accuracy: organization, focus, redundancies, tone, wordiness, and unsupported claims.
  • Ensuring thesis and key topics are thoroughly developed.
  • Identifying missing transitions, confusing concepts, extensive description, over-quoting, etc.

 

$14 per page, Time-frame: 14 days

$32 per page, Time-frame: 48 hour turn-around

$14 minimum order

 

Beta-Reading

Need a pair of eyes on your finished manuscript? I can provide developmental feedback on your finished manuscript for a fair price. Please contact me via my Contact page for rates.

 

Students

In the middle of a research paper? I can provide a variety of tutoring and editing services for your academic paper or college essay. Whether you’re in the process of gathering scholarly sources, or you’re unsure of structure and formatting, I can intervene at any point in the writing process to provide assistance. Please contact me via my Contact page for rates.

 

*FAQ

  • How do I order a service?

    Once you have decided which service your work requires, please contact me via my Contact page. There we can discuss your project and establish exact fees and availability. Once everything is confirmed you will then receive an invoice through PayPal. Once the invoice has been paid and project received, I will begin.
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    Although I will always make it a goal of mine to be on your side and follow the truth of your story or academic idea, sometimes you might not be happy with the feedback you receive. My advice is to put it aside from now, and return to it at a later time. Sometimes putting some space between you and your project can provide a fresh perspective.
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