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An update to my Writing Goals for 2017 [#yearofwriting]

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When 2017 started, I deemed this my #yearofwriting and gave myself some serious writing career goals for the year. I created a basic business plan, hired a writing coach to take my career to the next level (which she did), organized my published clips and planned to do five *major* things this year.

My BIG goal for 2017 was to be published in 17 publications, and I am THRILLED to say that I accomplished this goal! It was actually done by August, thankfully. Here is what I wrote per publication:

Other than my goal of being published in 17 different publications in 2017, I also planned to save for taxes, launch a newsletter, write #52essays2017 and finish a book proposal.

But as the year wore on and I was accomplishing my #1 goal, my priorities start to change and shift. For one, I wasn’t really writing my 52 essays… and I’ve basically given that up now. I also didn’t really have time to focus on the newsletter or book proposal… and we used my tax savings to pay off a hefty credit card bill.

So you would think that I was kind of failing at my writing goals, right? Well, the truth is that I wasn’t so much failing as I was realizing that I wanted to shift my goals and give myself something new to accomplish. In this vein, I gave myself some adjusted goals.

I still plan to save for my taxes (which I “paid back” with some of my extra income from those 17+ articles), but now I am actually working on my book proposal. For my third goal, I wanted to still launch my newsletter but am holding off until the end of the year to do that. And for my last two goals, which are the ones that are new, I want to earn $2,000 per month in freelance income and I want to write five travel articles.

The freelance income quote is in order to make up for the money that I am no longer making since I let go of my gig at Romper at the end of August and the travel article bylines is because I have decided that I’d like to do more travel writing in general (especially since I just came back from a wonderful 2-week trip).

The main thing I learned by adjusting my writing goals is that I need and want to focus more on my freelance career rather than the writing I am doing at home. When I was setting some of those goals at the beginning of the year, I hadn’t yet realized that I do better with outer expectations than inner expectations. But thanks to me following the writing of Gretchen Rubin, in particular her work with The Four Tendencies, I now know why I do better with work deadlines and how crucial it is for me to make sure I get them (from others).

Basically, I was setting myself up for disappointment by saying that I will do all this writing for myself, including the #52essays2017, my newsletter and my book proposal. Instead, I am now focusing on goals that are actually achievable for me: Earning a higher income with freelance writing and doing more travel articles.

So far I actually have my first travel byline, WOO HOO. It’s an article I wrote for HipLatina that I am very proud of: 7 Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale When You’re Tired of SoBe.

And now… to tackle all those other writing goals in these last three months of the year!

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I love brunch and he loves pizza, so let’s get married!

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When Adam and I first met, I discovered that my date absolutely LOVED pizza. So, for our fourth date, I made us pizza for dinner after a rousing two rounds of mini golf (I lost both times).

Shortly after, Adam discovered how much I loved brunch and took me to his favorite breakfast café—where we still go back time and again.

And so, our first inside joke began: He loves pizza, I love brunch.

As we learned more about each other, my adventurous foodie spirit and recent move out of NYC led me to joke that I was going to start a blog devoted to my love of brunch and his love of pizza. In my dreams, the blog would be all about exploring my new life in southwest Florida with my partner where we try new pizza and brunch places every week.

Unfortunately, that blog never materialized and trying two new restaurants a week turned out to be unsustainable. But that adventurous foodie spirit won out and we did get to and still continue to try new pizza and brunch restaurants when we can. (Well, and other things on occasion too, of course…)

Earlier this year, Adam and I began to plan our wedding long before we became officially engaged. We talked about what we wanted (a small wedding), where we wanted it (in Chicago where Adam is from) and what we wanted to do for it. After announcing our plans to marry to close friends and family (and eventually on Facebook), we started to make the plans… or not.

Because we had already decided that we wanted a small, casual wedding, I didn’t initially feel pressured to begin the “wedding planning” process. The most I did was occasionally look at pretty dresses online and listen to the Bridechilla podcast.

Sometime over the summer, I was in a DSW and found an adorable pair of shoes that I instantly decided were the shoes I wanted to wear on my wedding day. Shortly after, I had a gift card to TJMaxx and bought some lingerie. After that, Adam and I gathered the emails of everyone who we planned to invite to our wedding (we had the guest list planned before we “announced” our engagement) and I sent out our Save-the-Date emails. Since our wedding will be small, hopefully cheap and we want to make it environmentally conscious, we didn’t really feel the need to do things like take engagement photos or send out paper Save-the-Dates.

I even went so far as to buy my wedding dress (off the rack and it fits *perfectly*) over the summer and most recently got a pretty headband because I figured out how I want to do my hair.

All in all, though, wedding planning has been pretty quiet. To be honest, our summer was mostly filled with other things—such as planning for our  dream European vacation that I am calling our “engagement moon.” Because our wedding was so far away, there just wasn’t much to do.

And now… We’re just over six months out and I feel like I haven’t done a thing.

But I am determined not to be one of those people who spends the next six months talking only about my wedding and obsessing over it. I don’t want to be a bride who loses weight due to stress (in fact, I am perfectly happy with my weight as it is) and I don’t want to end up fighting with my fiancé because all we do is wedding planning. I refuse to be one of those people, period.

So when we got back from Europe a couple weeks ago, I knew that I wanted to start wedding planning—but where to start?

Being one of those stubborn people that believes that our wedding should be ours and ours alone to decide, I went back to the beginning of what we loved: pizza and brunch.

From the very beginning, we both knew that we wanted to do something at his family’s favorite pizza place, Lou Malnati’s. So that was fairly easy. Then one evening, I thought: “What if we also do brunch?!” and it all clicked into place.

Once I told my idea to Adam, he completely agreed that it seemed very “us” to include these two things that we both love, that we loved individually before we met and now love as a couple, in our wedding.

Although we still haven’t booked anything, I feel good that we came to a mutual decision about what we truly wanted to do at our wedding. And although there might be some people who may not be as into the idea, it is very special to us.

Though I admit: I still had a few doubts about our decision to do a “pizza and brunch” wedding, so I joined some Facebook communities for brides and posted about our plans there. Quickly, I received responses from many who said that our wedding plans sound lovely… And, okay, maybe I shouldn’t need someone else to tell me what I already know, but that’s just my anxiety talking.

The point of this is that I am so proud that Adam and I are able to talk about, and agree upon, what we want for our special day. We also constantly acknowledge that this will be just one day in the rest of our lives together and, although we want it to be “special”, it also won’t be the Best Day Ever.

Instead, it will be a lovely day where we are hopefully surrounded by all of the people we truly care about… all while eating some pizza and brunch, of course.

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How moving out of NYC was great for my mental health

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When I was younger and growing up in Southwest Florida, I got it in my head that I wanted to live in a big city because I was SO very bored with my life back then. I set my sights on New York City (the biggest city in the U.S.) and moved there for college with the plan of staying there forever.

Everything was going according to plan until, almost twelve years after I moved there, I left New York City for good. Although there were some weird parts about moving out of the city I loved, I know that I made the right decision because, ultimately, leaving NYC has been good for my mental health.

Here’s the thing: A part of me feels like a failure for saying that. I feel as if the city was “too much” for me and that I ultimately “couldn’t make it.” But the truth is that living in New York is a lot more complicated than just making it there and being happy forever.

When I was in NYC, I had a successful career and a ton of friends I loved. In fact, I had a very happy life and am still in touch with most of my friends from New York… but I was also constantly busy and overwhelmed. And, even scarier, I never realized how much being constantly busy and overwhelmed was damaging to me.

What I didn’t know at the time is that I suffered from anxiety. I also didn’t realize that I was putting a LOT of pressure on myself to always be perfect and successful and how that eventually led to overload. When I started what I thought was my dream job, things quickly spiraled. The pressure that I put on myself to do THE BEST JOB EVER eventually led me to calm my fear of failure anxiety with alcohol.

I’m still figuring out all of the things that let to my alcoholism, but I know without a doubt that feeling overwhelmed at work and being busy all of the time was at the very top of the list.

In fact, I recently talked about how being busy all of the time damaged my mental health and the steps I have taken since to calm the F down.

One of those steps was leaving New York City.

To be honest, leaving NYC was a difficult and easy decision at the same time. For a very long time, New York was the only city that I could picture myself living it. I was a total stereotype in that way, but I felt (and still sometimes feel) that the world revolves around NYC and I was A-OK with that. I loved being there because I loved my career, my friends and the plethora of opportunities that NYC provided.

Working in media was a lot easier because I was in the media capital of the world and I won’t lie and say that sometimes things aren’t difficult because I am no longer at the epicenter of journalism.

But I’m not… and I am so much healthier for it.

I didn’t really realize how busy and overwhelmed I was when I was still in NYC, but when I left, I felt better. Although I still sometimes feel as if I am a failure because I couldn’t “make it”, I know that building a happy life in the city that I loved for almost 12 years was definitely making it. My career wouldn’t be where it is today if I didn’t start in NYC, and I am eternally grateful for all of the years I spent there.

But I am also grateful that I was forced to leave.

Leaving New York made me face up to the way that my lifestyle was affecting my mental health, the way I was constantly allowing myself to be busy and thus not taking care of me.

Once I left, I was able to face up to some serious and much-needed changes. In fact, I was forced to enact some serious changes in my life. Not having a busy lifestyle (because I was back in my hometown with very little to do and very few friends) allowed me to take a breather and recognize what was happening with my mental health.

A year before I left New York, I lost that “dream job” and went to rehab shortly after. Although eventually I came back to NYC, it wasn’t long before I was back to where I started—overworked and overstressed. I did start therapy during the eight months between coming back to New York and leaving again, but I needed more. I needed a change of scenery and it wasn’t until I got it that I realized that’s what I needed.

And so, in April 2016, I left New York and moved back home… It was difficult because I was basically single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk but things slowly go better.

I met Adam a week after moving, decided to become a full-time freelance writer and editor (instead of seeing another office job), eventually moved in with Adam, paid off some debt (though I’m still learning how to save money), inadvertently lost weight when I became a PT vegetarian and haven’t had a sip of alcohol since before leaving NYC.

Being outside of New York allowed me to de-stress and be less busy, which ultimately helped me to realize what a toll those things were taking on my mental health.

Although I still see my therapist on occasion (which is definitely not a bad thing!), recognizing when anxiety is striking has been an important part of my recovery and mental health. These days I am able to see it coming from a mile away and, even when I can’t fully prevent my anxiety, I am able to deal with it so much better.

Having the support of a loving partner and a great therapist definitely helps, but living a more stable, peaceful life outside of the “always busy” mentality of NYC has been what really counts.

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Why you should treat blogging like going to the gym

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As a full-time writer and editor, there is something that I am constantly struggling with: Should I write a blog?

Back in the day when blogging first started, it was great for any and all aspiring writers. It gave any person the chance to become a writer through the power of the internet. Anyone could do it and, so, it seemed as if everyone did do it.

Eventually, we got to the place we are today: There are tons of people we know who are famous and popular bloggers, those who have made their living reporting on the news, writing about their anxiety, talking about their parenting woes, or posting their latest food creations online. Most of the people I know who are “popular” and making a living with blogging have been doing it for over five years.

As a professional writer, I’ve heard the question “How do I start a blog?” from many friends over the years. I would usually send them to the countless free resources they can find online and encourage them to sign up with the free WordPress.com service. If it was a closer friend, I would give them more advice on how to make their blog great, how to take good photos and what to do if they want to share their content with others. All great advice (at least I think so) but I have rarely taken it for myself.

Why? Because I consider myself a writer, not a blogger.

My career began began before the blogger boom. I went to journalism school, had six internships before graduating and promptly started working in women’s magazines. Since then, I hopped from one women’s publication to another in order to grow my career and, most recently, became a full-time freelance writer and editor.

Of course, I wasn’t immune to blogging either. When I was bored at my first job and seriously job hunting in 2009, I experimented with many blogs. I think at one point I had somewhere like six blogs… Not a good idea, clearly. I couldn’t keep up with any of them, though I did learn a lot and it led to me transitioning from print publications to digital.

After that, I had a single healthy living blog, then a Tumblr blog and finally a food blog called Healthy Latin Food. Every single time I started a new one, I thought I had found THE ONE. But I didn’t. I always changed my mind, let it go, said I didn’t have the time… Which is true, due to a heavy workload, and not true, due to me not being good about keeping up with my own personal projects.

But anyway, the point is: I’ve always been interested in blogging and have appreciated the people I know who do it, but I wasn’t one of those people.

Blogging seemed like a very serious commitment and not one that I was able to invest my time in. Plus, now, as a full-time freelancer, time is money and I didn’t feel as if I have the time to do it… especially when most of my time is taken up by paid assignments (like my PT food editor gig at Brit+Co or my contributor role at HipLatina) or looking for paid assignments (as in, pitching other publications). At the end of the day, it feels as if investing time into blogging, when it is unlikely to bring in any money, is a bad idea.

And then I realized: Maybe blogging for money isn’t the point.

Recently, my friend BJ Mendelson posted about why you should blog more.

We had recently had a conversation about this topic and he made one of the best points that I had never thought about: You should be treating your blogging like going to the gym.

To him, going to the gym is just the necessary maintenance of being a human. It’s one of those things that you may not always enjoy doing but that is important to do in order to keep your muscles flexible and strong. So when it comes to blogging, he takes the same approach: It keeps your (writing) muscles flexible and strong.

After chatting with him, he advised me to do one major thing: Delete Google Analytics from my website.

The reason that all writers should be blogging, according to him, isn’t because you might earn money with it or because it may make you famous, but because blogging is simply a good way to practice some of your writing ideas. It gives you a chance to let your personality shine, talk about some of your projects and give readers (and potential editors/publishers who want to hire you) an insight into your work.

Treating blogging like the gym, meaning that it’s simply there to flex your writing muscles, is a great idea.

To be honest, it would have never occurred to me to think of it this way—probably because I absolutely hate going to the gym. You can ask my fiancé and partner Adam: He’s been trying to get me to join him at the gym pretty much ever since we met. Although I have gone on occasion, in general, I don’t enjoy working out. It’s something that I continue to struggle with in terms of my weight loss maintenance. But anyway…

If you want to start a blog and you are a professional writer, you should do it because it is a fun way to do more writing.

I realize now that blogging isn’t about statistics, fame or money. It’s good for me simply for what it is: Blogging is a way to do some more writing because I enjoy the act of writing. As I have recently joked to Adam, writing is both my job AND my hobby—which means that it is something that I am basically thinking about 24/7. I don’t really have many other hobbies or the ones that I do (such as reading audiobooks) are very much tied to my writing, too.

So when it comes to blogging, I need to do it more.

Per BJ’s advice, I have deleted GA from this here website and plan to go to the gym more… I mean, I plan to blog more.

I don’t want blogging to get in the way of my other writing and editing, but I do want to enjoy it. I don’t want blogging to be too stressful, but I do want it to be fun. And, last but not least, I don’t want blogging to be adding an unrealistic expectation to my plate.

But I am very much hoping that it won’t be that. Instead, I want to treat blogging like going to the gym: Something that I want to do because keeping my (writing) muscles flexible and strong is important to me.

Now if only I could get myself to the real gym…

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September Writer’s Life: Hurricanes & a real vacation [#yearofwriting]

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What can I say about the month of September? To be honest, I don’t even know where to start. The truth about this month is that I almost didn’t work. First of all: I had a pre-planned vacation for a good chunk of the month.

My fiancé Adam and I had been planning our trip to Europe ever since I surprised him on his birthday with concert tickets to see one of his favorite artist who was going to be giving a once-in-a-lifetime concert in Tilburg, The Netherlands in September. We decided to visit Amsterdam for a week and pair that trip with two cities in Germany: Cologne and Frankfurt.

Other than that, however, Hurricane Irma struck our hometown in Southwest Florida and threatened not only our home but also our travel plans. Thankfully, our home was mainly unscathed and we made it to Europe as planned. The only problem came in that, because I was so busy and overwhelmed by hurricane prep, I had no time to do any kind of writing in the week and a half before our trip. And, of course, the two September days after we got back were primarily spent catching up on everything.

So what I am saying is this: Excuse me if this month seems less-than-ideal in terms of my #yearofwriting progress.

What was published: 

Basically, all of the pieces that were published under my name this month were all things that I wrote the month before. But that’s okay. When you’re faced with a hurricane and a two-week vacation, life happens. And it’s really important to let life happen, I think.

I did write one piece, the 12 Foods Every Cuban Grew Up Eating for HipLatina, in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month (which runs from September 15-October 15). Definitely proud of that one!

How much I wrote: 3,749 words

How much I made: $100

The one great thing that came out of writing this month is that, encouraged by my incredibly supportive partner and fiancé Adam, I made some real headway on my memoir, Moscow Chica. He basically forcefully encouraged me to spend Labor Day weekend on the project, which I did. Happy to report that my book proposal is close to being done. And I definitely could NOT have done it without his not-so-gentle nudging.

Pitches sent out in September: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 0
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 0
Pitch acceptances: 0

Obviously, since I had NO time to write, I also had no time for pitches this month. Oh well. I think I can just shrug this one off and tackle some SERIOUS pitching in October, which will be my first full month of being back on the full-time writing horse. (Um, is that a weird thing to say?)

Quarter 3 totals: 

How much I wrote: 61,336 words
How much I made: $3716
Pitches sent out: 4
Pitch acceptances: 1

Here’s to the end of the year going MUCH better than Quarter 3!

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