My writing goals for 2018 and the
future of #yearofwriting

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Well, it’s a new year so HAPPY NEW YEAR and all of that!

I’m starting off 2018 in a pretty exciting way, to be honest, by spending most of the beginning of the year by celebrating my new marriage to the love of my life and the most supportive partner I could ask for. After getting married a few days ago, Adam and I are off on a honeymoon cruise to Cuba tomorrow… But, in the meantime, I am taking some time today to think about how 2017 went and my plans for 2018.

All in all, 2017 went really well. Although 2016 was a rocky year for most of the nation but a very happy year for me, 2017 is my first full year of being a full-time freelance writer and editor and I had some hefty writing goals for myself. Towards the end of the year, after I accomplished most of them, I revised my writing goals and set about accomplishing them.

As you can see by my final #yearofwriting report for December, I did! I even did the math on how much I wrote (277,899 words), how much I made ($62,381) and how much I pitched (92 sent out and 16 accepted for a 17% acceptance rate). So, all in all, my #yearofwriting went well… But now what?

Well, I thought long and hard about this during the last month of 2017, but I’ve come up with some new writing goals for 2018. Here they are:

1. Write regularly for Latinx publications: At the end of 2017, I had started to write a lot for HipLatina and really enjoying everything that I was doing there (from the newsy posts every day to the personal essays to the well-researched pieces). I also am continuing my work with MamásLatinas and seeking out new opportunities to write in this space. Although I will continue to freelance for other publications, too, this is going to be my major focus for my writing in 2018.

2. Save all freelance income for L.A.: One of the BIG things that my (new) husband Adam and I want to do in the long run is move to Los Angeles. We’re not yet sure when that will happen but another goal for me this year is to FIRST pay off all of our current credit card bills (with my freelance income) and then put all of that same money towards saving money for the move. Even though I’m not sure when I will officially be a West Coaster, I’m excited to start taking real steps to making it happen someday.

3. Get an agent and sell my memoir: Last year, my goal was to finish writing my book proposal. And I did it! I still have to do some editing on the thing, and get a professional editor to take a look too, but after that… I am going to be going out to agents hard. Basically, this means that I think Moscow Chica: How Growing Up In Russia And Cuba Made Me An American is soon going to be ready to see the light of day—and so I am making this a huge focus too. Get ready for 2018, cause my memoir is coming!

To be honest, I actually decided on most of these goals a few weeks ago. As the year was ending and I was reflecting on everything that is going on, I knew just what I wanted to make happen in 2018. As Adam and I talked about our marriage and what we wanted our mutual goals to be, I knew that I wanted some of that reflected in my writing goals for 2018 too (such as the L.A. savings). And, most importantly, I wanted my goals to reflect a certain kind of focus that they didn’t have the previous year.

Having just three writing goals for 2018, I think, will make some things a lot easier for me. I know that if I begin to go off of any of these goals, it will be easy to spot. I know that if I start to look at other forms of income that, say, aren’t Latinx publications, I need to make sure that they’re not taking attention away from my main focus. And I know that I need to put some serious time into doing whatever needs to be done for my baby, my memoir Moscow Chica, and to make sure that I keep my promise to myself about getting the thing edited and in tip-top shape to send to agents.

As for the #yearofwriting… Well, I want to continue documenting my progress in my freelance career, so you can expect to see more of that here. Although they won’t be quite as extensive as they were in 2017, I will still be tracking what I wrote every month and how I am doing on my writing goals. There’s a lot more to say here but for now, let me end it with: 2018, here I come!

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Why do we still tell women that their lives begin when they get married? [Married Feminist]

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“Tomorrow my life begins.”

I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard this phrase uttered on the various wedding blogs, websites, and groups that I have been a part of ever since getting engaged earlier this year.

Although, as a society, we are getting married later and later, the notion that a woman’s life truly begins the day that she puts that ring on her finger remains. There are a lot of reasons for this that I don’t particularly want to get into at the moment (the patriarchy, obviously, being one of them) but let me say this: Tomorrow I am getting married. But despite tying the knot with the man that I unironically call “the love of my life” and being VERY excited about spending the rest of my days with him, I don’t think all that much is going to change. And I certainly do not think that my life will begin after we say “I do.”

Here’s why: I am currently 31 years old and just a few months shy of my 32nd year on this glorious planet. I am a pretty confident, independent woman who has failed a lot and succeeded a lot. But most of all, I learned a lot about myself throughout my lifetime. Although I have definitely learned plenty of things about myself since meeting my partner (and, sometimes, with his help and/or unwavering support), there was also a whole lot of growing and learning and being me that I did before we met.

Don’t get me wrong. I definitely am a very different person today than I was when I walked into the coffee shop where we had our first date, but I’m also not THAT different. I am still pretty loud. I still love to wear red lipstick. I still write for a living. And I am still attracted to women. (That’s right, being in a committed relationship with a man didn’t change my bisexuality.)

However, I am definitely calmer, practice more self-care, and can recognize when my anxiety is about to get the best of me — all things I learned thanks to Adam. Oh, and I eat a lot better, too.

So why is that I don’t think my life will begin on December 28, 2017, the day of our wedding?

Well, to be honest, it’s mainly because I have had a pretty good life up until this point. Despite some of my utter downs in the past (alcoholism, work failures, etc.), I am generally pretty satisfied with where I was when I met my soon-to-be husband and I am even more satisfied with where our life together has led since then. To say that my life begins on the day that I got married is to discount all of the hard work I have put into my life so far, including growing graduating from a great college, growing my career, developing great friendships, and taking care of my 11-year-old grumpy old man cat.

How can I just say all of that doesn’t count?

I can’t is the answer, honestly. And it would be the same for him, too. I don’t expect Adam to all of a sudden wake up tomorrow and tell me that his life has suddenly begun because we are now legally bound by a piece of paper that allows us to do things like buy a house together and get some tax breaks. But of course, society never says this phrase to the man.

Although I’ve had many male friends (both gay and straight) get married in the past several years, not a single one of them has ever said or implied that his life will begin when he is married. Why is that? Why do we consider that a man’s accomplishments before his marriage — his career, his friendships, his various successes and failures — don’t get a clean slate? Why do we still devalue what a woman has done before marriage — the same successes and failures in career and friendships and life in generall — and tell her that she isn’t complete and her life hasn’t truly begun until she is legally wed?

Well, I’m not here for that shit. So, in an ironic twist of fate, I have decided to start this blog on the day before my life supposedly “begins”. I want to do this because I want to showcase that a woman’s life isn’t worthy simply because she is married. However, I do believe that marriage can be a beautiful and important part of one’s life (hence why I am entering into the whole thing) so I won’t be discounting that either.

I will use this space to talk about these things: Marriage and feminism. Because I think they are important topics and important parts of our lives. At least my life, anyway.

Before meeting Adam, I was a fairly independent woman and I plan to remain that way. Of course, being married will also mean that I depend on another human being for some things (just as he will depend on me for other things). It might sometimes get a little bit complicated and it might sometimes go much smoother than I think. And other times, I will use this blog to talk about the overall experience of being a woman in today’s world.

If we’ve learned nothing else from #MeToo these last couple of months, it’s that sexism is alive and well. And I’ll want to talk about that too. Along with stuff happening in my life, stuff happening in my marriage, thoughts and wonderings on marriage/life/love in general, and a lot more. And if all goes well, maybe this will even be a podcast someday.

For now, though, I want to challenge the thinking that a woman’s life is only deemed worthy after someone else has put a ring on her finger. Although I am supremely excited for the next chapter of my life, it’s just that: Another chapter. Okay, so maybe it’s more like the start of a new Act — likely one that will alter the rest of the course of my life. But those other chapters and Acts happened, too, and they deserve to be recognized because they made me into the person I am today (and the person that Adam fell in love with).

So here’s to celebrating a new Act… while remembering and honoring the ones that came before. Happy wedding day to me.

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Image via Petr Ovralov/Unsplash

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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