It's that time of the year again, and I'm soooo ready! My tree is up, and if you look to the below right in the picture above, you'll see my cat's tail. She's really happy the tree is up!!!
My house is decorated (well, as much as I decorate), and the shopping is underway as is the wrapping. Alexa is keeping Christmas music blaring, and the eggnog is nice and cold. On top of that, it's getting chillier here so it's time to break out the boots, sweaters, and tunic tops!
While I don't wish it could be Christmas year round, I do adore this time of the year. I can never wait until after Thanksgiving to decorate or start to shop even though I do love Thanksgiving, too.
What about you? Is your house ready for Christmas? Are you?
I create a lot of graphics...and I mean a lot, and while using only one program would be easier, not every program has what I need it to do. Some only allow you to upload already created pictures. Some are just images that you can add quotes to. And the list goes on.
At any rate, since I've been using these programs for a while, I thought I'd share some of my favorites that really help me with social media and spreading the word about everything I want to share.
Picmonkey will always top my list because you can do practically anything with it. It has templates galore for Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. And it's a fairly easy program to use. You can also create ebook covers, flyers, and so much more. There is a free version, but you won't get as much out of it as when you upgrade.
BeFunky is a cool program if you like to turn images into cartoons or other artistic creations. The effects are a lot different than ones you will find on Picmonkey, but that's a good thing. I tend to create with one program and use another to make effect changes. It's not as easy to start an image from scratch here as it is with Picmonkey, though.
Bookbrush is a perfect program for when you need to announce a new book release or a sale. The graphics are already pre-defined, and you only have to upload your book cover. It also has some cool cover reveal templates. It has a free program, but you can't do as much with it like the cover creator. Though you can't actually create the cover itself. You can upload the front, back, and spine of a cover you've created in another program, input the size, page count, etc, and it will compose the pdf for you that will work with KDP and Ingram Spark. I use Picmonkey to create the cover images and then use Bookbrush to put the complete cover together. You can also create a video for your book, but that costs a bit more yearly.
Crello is fairly easy to use, but it uses photo filters instead of effects so it's much like using the Instagram app on your phone. It does have many, many premium images you can use for free, as well as music, and you can create videos
All of these programs have a free version, but there are so limited that it's worth the investment, especially if you create a lot of graphics for social media or want to create your own book covers.
It's too easy to hate nowadays, to scream at the people who disagree with you, to label them out of frustration or because everyone else is doing it. Once upon a time, it was easier to be kind.
I grew up in the seventies and eighties, and no, neither decade was a utopia, but we didn't have the internet or social media so much of the vitriol we see now we didn't see then. Yes, it probably existed, but it wasn't shared like a bag of popcorn at the movies.
Now, it seems to be perfectly normal to call someone a name like "idiot" or "stupid." I've dealt with it a lot more since starting to write for Red Shirts Always Die. Make one mistake in writing a post, and fingers start pointing. I've been called so many names, I've lost count. Simply because I made a mistake. People are quick to point out those mistakes and question whether I know what I'm doing or have the knowledge to write about the topic.
People still make mistakes. Does that mean those people should be vilified? Is it no longer allowed for someone to say forty-two when they meant fifty-two? Or Maine when they meant Massachusetts? If I put the wrong date in my calendar and show up for my doctor's appointment a day early, is it okay to call me an idiot? If someone doesn't understand something as well as you do, is it okay to call them stupid? If I think differently about something than you do, is it okay for you to call me dumb?
Years ago, parents and teachers told school kids not to call one another names. (They may still do that, but I haven't been in school in a very long time.) But now, we have adults calling each other names because there are no parents or teachers to correct us which, apparently, we still need.
We talk about the need to quell bullying, both online and off, but that only applies to children and young adults. Apparently, it's perfectly acceptable to tell someone they have low intelligence because they don't know as much as you do...or, at least, that's what you think. But, honestly, if someone isn't as familiar or knowledgeable about a topic as you are, that doesn't make them stupid. Perhaps it simply isn't a topic that interests them.
I consider myself an intelligent person, but if my car breaks down, I can't fix it. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Does that mean I'm stupid, and the mechanic is of higher intelligence? No. It means we both have different areas of expertise.
if I don't agree with your point of view or your beliefs (that have nothing to do with human kindness), that doesn't mean I'm wrong, and you're right. Neither does it mean the opposite. It means you believe something based upon your understanding of the topic, and I believe something different based upon my understanding of the topic. And because we disagree, does that mean we have to be enemies?
For example, I believe in God. If you don't, does that mean we have to be against one another? If you think the Earth is flat instead of round, does that give me the right to call you stupid? If someone believes in life on other planets, and I don't, does that make them an idiot?
How do you think this world would change if we just accepted that we are all different? How do you think things would be if we could acknowledge that I'm me, and you're you?
Just some things to think about...
I made it! I completed six ten-day challenges, and two of the challenges I am still continuing. I can see myself staying with one permanently which is drink a 16 oz. glass of water first thing every morning. I like getting the fresh water before I do anything else.
The other one is no eating out or ordering in, and I'm on day seventeen of that one. Anyone who knows me knows that this one was tough for me. I chose this challenge because I absolutely hate to cook, but I was eating out two to three times a week which added up to a lot of money. So I knew this was really going to be a challenge, and I'm proud of myself for completing it and continuing it.
The first few days of the challenges were the hardest for me, but once I got into a rhythm, it became easier, much like when I set myself a goal to write every night. I've been doing that so long that I can't imagine not doing it now.
Completing a challenge, no matter how small or large, gives you a sense of accomplishment so I'd encourage you to give it a try, even if it's just for three days. Pick something you never thought you could do as one, like I did for not eating out. Really challenge yourself. You'll probably find it easier than you think.
Most challenges are for thirty days. Go thirty days without spending money or without eating out. But the challenge of a thirty day challenge is that it is, well, a challenge. Some of us, like me, need to take our challenges in small increments. Thirty days seems too long which is why a lot of us don't make it to the finish line. And not making it to the finish line can be hard on those of us trying to change.
So I'm focusing on changing my life ten days at a time. I know it takes longer than that to build a habit, but I also know I'll never build a habit if I don't start somewhere. And if I make it through ten days, I'll keep going, depending on whether or not it's really something I want to add to my life.
For instance, one of my new challenges is to listen to or watch a Ted Talk every day. I really enjoy motivational and educational speeches, but I'm not sure if I want to watch one every day forever. So we'll just see how these next ten days work.
I'm starting with three separate ten-day challenges so I don't overload my brain. If I'm feeling too stressed out about it, I'll drop down to two or even one. When I get to the end of the ten days, I'll feel like I accomplished something. And I will have.
Over ten years ago, I challenged myself to write every day. It wasn't about word count; it was about getting words on a page. One day became five which became ten, and before I knew it, I'd written every day for thirty days. Then I kept at it. I have not missed a day of writing in over ten years...even when I was in the hospital. (I had to ask the nurse for a piece of paper and a pen!)
So if you're thinking about undertaking a challenge, but you're just not sure about sticking to it, aim for a bite-sized challenge. Three days or five days even. You might discover that you really enjoy doing what you're challenging yourself to do, and before you know it, it'll become a habit.
I'll let you know how my challenges turn out on August 19th. I'm not guaranteeing I'll make every one, but we'll see!
The above-referenced quote was taken from Star Trek: Voyager, and it came on the heels of Commander Chakotay being brain-washed into hating a group that had never done him any harm. Because of how he was trained, he had a hard time overcoming the hate even once he realized they weren't his enemy.
When you're trained to hate, it's difficult to retrain your brain. It takes effort, but you have to want to make that effort. It's an investment of time and learning, of realizing that hating someone because they're different only makes you an angry and bitter person.
There are many people in this world whose ideologies I don't agree with, but I don't hate those people There are many people who seem to be angry all the time and hurl insults at random on social media, but I don't hate those people. Because I'm not going to hate anyone. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."
I don't want to walk around with hate in my heart. Why should I? It weighs much too heavily on my soul. I know because I've done it in the past. Now, I refuse to hate. I may not agree with someone. I may not like what they're saying. I may disagree with their politics, their religion, and their beliefs, but I don't have to hate them for it.
Maybe I'm wearing rose-colored glasses, but I like to believe that over time, more people will realize that the vitriol they're spouting, the names they're calling people whose opinions differ from their own, and the attacks they are making are senseless. No one's life has ever been improved by hate, but it has been improved by love.
Yesterday, I lost someone I love. She wasn't a member of my biological family, but I considered her family nonetheless. Her daughter calls me sister, and her grandchildren call me aunt. She was only 67, far too young to die, but that wasn't our decision to make.
When you lose someone you lose, it starts a pain in your heart that seems never-ending. I hurt for the loss, but I also hurt for my sister and her children. Their worlds have changed irrevocably. And they're grieving now, considering the days ahead without the person they called mom and grandma.
Grieving takes time
In time, the pain will lessen, giving way to memories of times past when there were no tears. Minutes of smiles. Hours of laughter. Moments they didn't think about what might happen in the future. Because that's the way we live our lives.
But when you're grieving, those moments, minutes, and hours disappear, hidden behind a wall of pain. It's difficult to see beyond the tears. I don't know when they'll see the light instead of the darkness, but I do know it's there. I've seen it. The yawning abyss of night can be unbearable, suffocating when you're grieving. Holding on is difficult, The belief that the grief won't last forever is the only lifeline.
Once upon a time, when I felt like my life was crashing down around me, I would fall apart. I didn't know how to handle the little things in life much less the big things. It took me quite some time (years) to get to the point where I didn't crack at every roadblock. But getting there and staying there are two vastly different things.
Most recently, when I was getting a bit stressed, someone reminded me to take the time to be grateful every day. I used to do that, and it did help. So a month ago, I started writing three things I was thankful for that day. And, once again, it's been a blessing.
Sometimes, if it was a particularly trying day, I might write that I was thankful for the comfort of my home where I could shut out the world if I needed to. Or that someone had paid me a compliment. And, one day, when I was struggling to get anything accomplished, my end of the day list included that I had gotten my new modem set up. And it made a difference. On a day where I felt like nothing was getting done, I proved that something had gotten done. No matter how small.
Being grateful for the little things makes me more appreciative of everything in my life. As crazy as it may sound, I can even be thankful I didn't break a bone when I fell. So it's a different way of looking at the times in my life that aren't the best. And I'm thankful that I was reminded to resume this habit.
So many writers are interested in getting started freelance writing. They want to know if there is an easy way or how do they take their first steps. One of the places I will point every writing to is Make a Living Writing. Carol Tice, who earns six figures a year freelancing, started this site to help other freelancers. To me, this is the best place to get started. There are over 1200 articles to peruse for the beginner all the way up to the advanced writer. So if you're interested in taking the step toward freelancing, this should be your first stop.
And that change is brought about by a hard decision I decided to make regarding my writing. As much as I love writing books, my focus doesn't seem to be there anymore. I can get started, but then I lose steam halfway through and can't drum up the energy or desire to go back. But I'm always excited to write an an entertainment article, an essay, a writing article, or a short literary piece. So that tells me that, for now, I need to give my complete focus to that.
Mostly likely, I will be changing my website around to highlight this focus. Does this mean I'm totally abandoning my books that have been published? No. They will remain available for purchase, but there won't be any new releases unless they are novellas. There will be no book-length fiction in the foreseeable future. I don't know when or if that will change. But I'm happy where my writing is taking me right now, and that is more important than struggling to write something I have no interest in!
My thoughts, experiences, challenges, and goals. Right here. At least once a week or so. Oh, and opinions, too. Those will definitely come in. Join me!