5 Reasons To Read Poetry

My love of writing started with poetry and song lyrics. Although I’ve been reading novels since I was kid, I branched out to read poems in my teen and adult years. I think all novelists should be reading poetry along with the books they read! Here are five reasons to read poetry, especially if you write novels.

Expose yourself to new vocabulary

Genre tropes mean you see a lot of the same language used for characters, settings, and conflicts. Poetry can span so many genres and topics, and playing with vocabulary is a key aspect of writing poetry. For me personally, I’m always looking for new words to add to my vocabulary. In all the languages I know, vocabulary is my weak spot. I struggle to use different words and get creative, so poetry gives me easy access to unique words.

Read styles different from genre fiction

If you’re like me and read a lot of genre fiction in the same demographic (YA fantasy!), you’ll notice that a lot of the writing styles are… very similar. Poems tend to have a strong voice, especially since there are so many styles of poems. Haikus, sonnets, free verse, spoken word—they’re all different. I love spoken word poetry and have a background in writing and performing it, and it shows in my fiction writing! Writing that can be read aloud has a different flow to writing that is easier to be read. So

Discover new writers

One of the best reasons! There are so many poets out there! It’s always a good time to find new writers whose work you enjoy. Poets need support and rarely become bestsellers, so hype them up and follow them online when you can.

Get out of reading slumps

Reading a new genre or form is one of my secrets for getting out of a reading slump. It’s an easy way to refresh my palette for reading. I outlined a few more ways I get out of a reading slump, but poetry and anthologies with poetry are some of the surefire ways for me to do it.

Read innovative writing

This is similar to the different styles, but I want to emphasise the innovation of poetry. Poetry can break all the rules of grammar and syntax. Metaphors, similes, symbolism, and imagery shine through in poetry. Innovation in writing craft leads to inspiration!

Here are a few recommendations for some poetry collections available online/digitally.

the secrets i keep by alex casso (Amazon)
bone by yrsa daley-ward (Amazon)
Various Collections by Elle (Gumroad)
Compasses and Other Ornaments of Direction by Coryl Reef (Amazon; I gotta promo!)

If you’re a poet and have some published writing (self-published, or self-hosted, or anywhere else!) feel free to comment below and I’ll be updating this post with them.

3 Ways I Beat a Reading Slump

Every so often—about every 4 months, actually—and lasting for a few weeks, I fall into a reading slump. There are books I want to read, but I can’t focus on any of them, even if I’ve been looking forward to reading them.

I’ve gotten very good at navigating reading slumps, since they happen so often and make me so sad. They’ve happened because of burnout from editing, or while I was doing my English degree and reading immense amounts of writing on a daily and weekly basis. There are a number of ways that I ease the pain of not indulging one of my favourite hobbies. But I’m sharing only three of them today!

These three ways of getting out of a reading slump focus on refreshing your taste for stories.

Indulge other storytelling media

If you catch me on Twitter posting about marathon-watching TV shows, I’m likely in a reading slump. I’ll also play video games or watch movies, but I’m less likely to tweet about those.

Movies, TV shows, audiobooks, podcasts, and video games are all different forms of storytelling that can help refresh your palate. As different as books are, they’re still written and words can get repetitive. Humans love stories, so get them in as many forms as possible.

If you need an excuse to marathon-watch a show, I give you your reason.

Read new genres

I have my favourite genres that I like to read. There’s nothing wrong with having a favourite, or getting intimately familiar with all the tropes in the genre. But sometimes, it’s better to branch out and try a new book.

When my reading slump in the fall came from reading too much fantasy, I switched to different genres. Try out a non-fiction book, a short story anthology, a literary magazine, a poetry collection, a contemporary romance–pick up something outside of your regularly scheduled reading.

Work on a project unrelated to writing or reading

As a creative person, I’ve picked up lots of hobbies and skills to flex my creating muscles. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand, so if my reading is sucky and flumpy, so is my writing. I read and write to stimulate my imagination, so other creative hobbies and projects can fill the void that emerges when I stop reading or writing.

I started the year with a big reading slump, so I got back into web development and created the new theme for the website! Coding, painting, drawing, photography, and more are all ways I can creatively interact with the world. Try doing something artistic, crafty, or design-based.

There’s nothing wrong with a reading slump. Sometimes we can’t pick up a book or partake of something we enjoy, and that’s just life. Remember: the slump will pass. You can be bookish and not be reading all the time!

Bullet Journal Breaks: Starting and Ending Them

At the end of October, I took a break from my bullet journal (and most parts of life, let’s be honest). Recently, I took an unintended break at the end of March that last through most of April.

These two recent incidents aren’t the first hiatuses I’ve taken from my bullet journal. In fact, it’d be rare for me to commit to bullet journalling with the same motivation and dedication for more than 6 months.

Sometimes I feel guilty for setting aside my bullet journal. I should use it daily and rely on it. But there was a time before a planner and it wasn’t as bad as it might be in retrospect.

When you use a planner, it isn’t as if your skillset stays with the tactile book or software you use. A planner, whether it’s a bullet journal or printed agenda or an app, will strengthen your time management skills even when you’re not using it. That’s what a habit does, after all. So taking a break from your bullet journal won’t always be because of chaos or cause chaos.

My tips for taking a break from a bullet journal—whether it’s intentional or not—are similar to the ones in my post on how to take breaks from writing.

You might need to take an intentional/planned break from your bullet journal if you’re experiencing any of these:

  • getting distracted from your journal
  • feeling bored by using it
  • forgetting to use it at all
  • overwhelming pressure to create something (a nice layout, collections, spreads) despite not wanting to
  • “burnout” of any kind

Tips To Take A Break From Bullet Journalling

Be kind to yourself.

There’s nothing wrong with putting aside things. A bullet journal isn’t a primary necessity in your life, like hygiene, food, or sleep. You can account for its disappearance in your daily routine if you need to take a break.

Pick a time to break from the bullet journal.

My last break, at the end of March, was just then: at the end of March. I noticed the above signs (all of them) on top of my priorities and mental health changing. I started a break from my bullet journal in the beginning of April.

A good guideline for starting and ending your break? Make them the same amount. If you’re start your break at the beginning of a month, have the break last a month. A week, a day, whatever suits your flow. If you notice you’re naturally stepping away from your bullet journal, take a look and see if you can extend the break mindfully.

Aim for a length of time to take the break—but make it flexible.

My month-long bujo break wasn’t exactly a hard-and-fast, cold-turkey disconnect from my bullet journal. I was barely using it for the first 3 weeks of April. During the last week, I needed to use it again, though not to the capacity I had previously been using it. My plan was to break for a month, but when necessity kicked in, I had to adapt.

Returning To The Bujo

My last point in taking a break mentioned necessity. When necessity kicks in, I use my bullet journal.

Signs it’s time to start planning again:

  • feeling disconnected from your activities
  • taking on more projects
  • increasing workload (personal work, professional work, housework, etc.)
  • making to do lists on scraps of paper, in your phone, anywhere

Tips To Start Bullet Journalling Again

Be inspired to create again.

You can look at Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook groups, and your own spreads to get jived to make something in your bullet journal again. My favourite way to get inspired to make a new spread is to look at new ones. Most often, my breaks happen because I’m bored of doing the same layouts.

Assess what needs to go into your bullet journal.

At one point, you may have had a habit tracker for every habit—a dozen or more—or you had an elaborate monthly calendar with quotes and routines all over it. Do you need that now, at this moment, to get planning again? You don’t have to set it aside forever, but is it what you need now? Think about what you need to write down, rather than what you want to look at later.

My recent return features a calendar, a sleep tracker, and 3 habit trackers. I thought that’d be good enough, but then I started making to do lists and… well, I’m bullet journalling again. But I’m doing it in such a way that leads me to my final tip for restarting.

Start simple.

Keep the pressure off yourself by making a simple spread first. This is always a good chance to go back to the roots of bullet journalling and look to Ryder Carroll’s system. The central concept for a bujo is adaptable and simple. It’s meant to be a quick and effortless way to plan, track, and remember your time. You may love doing calligraphic flourishes, or pretty headers, but ease back into them.

Incorporate the bullet journal into your routine again.

I like to look at my bullet journal once before bed, and after I’ve woken up and eaten breakfast.

At night, I review how the day went and see what needs to be done still. For an incomplete task, I add an arrow and write out the task again for the next day, or I look at a list of important, but not time sensitive, tasks that I’ve put in my spread. I also flip back to previous spreads to fill in habits and other places I need to touch base (bookmarks are handy for this).

In the morning, I assess how I’m feeling and how much time I have for the day. That way, I can accommodate any leftover tasks that I didn’t complete. Throughout the day, I occasionally check my bullet journal for what I need to do, especially if I find myself losing track of time.

But to start out with, I check in to my bullet journal at the end and beginning of the day, when it fits into my routine. I’m more likely to remember my bullet journal at the start and end of a day, so I make an effort to sit with it, undistracted, and adjust to changes in my time management. It’s okay to have unfinished tasks!

(An upcoming layout spotlight will feature the weekly + daily log combination I’ve loved using since the beginning of my bujo return.)

My Biggest Piece of Advice?

For both taking a break and returning from a break, I have one, single, be-all-end-all tip:

Don’t force anything.

Planning for something isn’t the same as forcing something. When you plan, you’re making space to accommodate the change. When you force, you’re trying to apply it when the time or circumstances won’t allow. Don’t force a cold-turkey break, or aim for an aesthetic if they’re things you can’t accommodate.

Happy bullet journalling, folks!

Writing Resource Roundup: Revision

Since I started revising my own novel a few weeks ago, I figured the resource roundup for this month should go in line with whatever I’ve been looking up. I may be an editor, but editing your own work is entirely different from editing someone else’s work. These resources are for your own self revision! There will only be a few resources, though, since most of the advice intersects from each of the individual posts and articles.

How to Edit Your Story Like a New York Publisher by Pamela Hodges from The Write Practice

5 Key Questions Writers Should Ask When Revising Writing by Debbie Harmsen from Writers Digest

How To Revise Your Plot in 3 Easy Steps by Tomi Adeyemi

The Best Way To Revise Your Novel by Tomi Adeyemi

I have been obsessed with Tomi’s resources since I discovered her site, and these three posts are so helpful with revising. I also recommend checking out her worksheets and resources for writers!

Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This book has ample information on editing your own fiction. I will say that it’s less developmental and substantive editing, and more focused on line editing, but I believe it’s still an invaluable resource for writers in any phase of their writing.

Also, here’s a sneaky self-promotion: I have written on developmental edits and line edits!

Do you have any resources and tips for your own revising?

Self-Editing Tips: Line Edits

Often, people are confused between line editing, copy editing, and proofreading. Line editing is the most “creative” of the three: it deals with how the craft carries the story.

Line edits are typically what I myself get caught up in while writing, when my inner editor is more in control than the writer. I stress over word choice, phrasing, and always ask, “Is this the right way to write this?”

Copy editing and proofreading are separate from line editing, and they’re vastly more technical than line edits.

So how to do line edits?

First, you must read through your story. You should already have done this in your developmental edits—which come before any line edits—but reading through after the revisions is key for line editing. How you read the story is up to you: you can do a cold read-through, use digital formats, print off your text in order to attack with a red pen, make notes on paper or voice recording…

However you read through your post-substantive-edits story, you absolutely need to read through it. Either during or after your read-through, remember the tips below.

Remember your audience.

Demographics are important to your book. Age ranges have varying levels of diction. Picture books have a language level to them, as do adult fiction. While you read through your story, remember who you’re writing for. The level of propriety is up to you and your own factors, but line edits are the time to consider how your target reader will read your writing.

Consider your voice (but don’t force one).

When you read through your story, notice the lines that jump out to you—in a good way. These tend to be emblematic of your voice. When they jump out at you, it’s yourself waving back. You feel a connection to them. You can analyse however you like, but as long as you can recognise a sentence that feels like “you” and your writing, you’re on your way to developing your own writing voice. Don’t try to create a voice for yourself based on your preferences or an ideal style. We all have our own patterns in language and those fall into our writing and speaking.

Ask yourself, “What is this phrase, paragraph, or scene trying to convey?”

Your writing always has a purpose. It doesn’t have to be a grandiose or epic purpose of high stakes and emotion. While you do line edits, be aware of sentences that feel empty, rather than adding to the scene. These sentences are usually repetitive of earlier writing, or purely filler in order to get more words in.

Aim for specifics over flourishes.

The difference between creative phrasing and purple prose is one of specificity. When a writer can use a specific word in place of a lengthy, flowery phrase, they are able to focus on smaller, concrete details. Use specific words and you don’t have to overcompensate with more words than necessary. Filler words (like conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs) all add bulk instead of meaning. The passive voice is one way to add more words. Look for places in your writing where you over explain or over describe. Can you get more specific with your words?

Use minimal passive voice and “to be” verbs.

As mentioned before, filler words add bulk that muddle the writing. Passive voice, the elusive beast, thrives on them. Passive voice has a slow rhythm whereas active voice has a quick one. It’s up to you when you use active or passive, but remember how they flow. Here’s an example:

Active: Passive voice syntax needs more filler words.
Passive: The syntax of passive voice is filled with more words.

Your writing will need “to be” verbs (is/was, are/were) at times, but often, they are written in the passive voice, and are replaced when a sentence is rephrased. Let’s try that again: They show passive voice, and strong verbs replace them when writing is rephrased. A professor of mine described “to be” as an “equal sign” in the sentence. “X = Y” is the same as “X is Y.” See if you can change the verb or rephrase the sentence to remove “to be” for a more multifaceted sentence, and a verb that does more duty than an equal sign.

Read aloud.

You don’t need to do a dramatic reading. Even mumbling to yourself while you read will help you catch the flow of your words. We learn to speak before we learn how to write, and how we hear influences the way we read.

Reach out for opinions of other readers, writers, and editors!

This last tip doesn’t mean it should be after you’ve done everything else. Take to Twitter or a trusted friend and ask them about phrasing. Often, you’ll receive feedback you’d never have considered. For instance, due to my background in linguistics, I love giving feedback for my preferences in syntax, which is something not ever writer is in-tune with.

Your line edits look at word choice, sentence structure, paragraph structure, tone, and how you craft your writing. Ultimately, you’re editing in order to say something the best possible way.

Do you have any tips or tricks for how you do line edits? Share them below!

Bullet Journal 101: Finding What Works

I started my bullet journal in February of 2016 (which, incidentally, coincided with me starting short-term therapy), so I’ve been in the bujo practise for over a year now.

It took me a while to find what works for me. Before I found layouts and modules that helped me be more productive, mindful, and happy in my bullet journal, I was confused. There were so many spreads for me to choose from, and I felt more disorganised than ever while I tried to find methods that were right for me. I think I spent about 6 months in bullet journal/planner hell before I realised there was a way to find what would work.

Trying new things can be absolutely terrifying, so I can understand if you’re nervous to put lines on pages that you might never look at again. I know I’m a perfectionist, but perfection is a subjective illusion, and I can decide what’s perfect, what isn’t, and when “perfection” is even necessary.

Here are my tips for finding what works and what’s right for your bullet journal.

Start with the basics.

Don’t jump into fancy and complicated layouts. It’s always easier to add modules, lettering, stickers, colours, washi tape, and all the extra embellishments. I started with simple layouts and lists, like the original creator focuses on. I wrote out my tips for getting started in a bullet journal, and they’re techniques I use if I need a soft reset.

Review what you’ve already done.

You don’t have to make a bullet journal spread for your review, like some people, but you can use a sticky note, or even type it up in a document. Ask yourself questions like, “What did I like? What did I dislike? What did I use? What did I neglect?” Some weeks, I write out my review—these tend to be near the end of the month in a larger monthly review. I focus on what I used versus what I didn’t, and that helps guide me. I also think about what I need to add, if I found myself forgetting about parts of my life, such as goals and habits.

Start with a hypothesis or a curiosity before trying something.

“If I add a habit tracker to my week, I’ll see it more often and be more aware of the habits I want to improve.” This is what I asked myself before I started adding a small habit tracker to my weekly, always-seen spread. The monthly habit tracker is nice, but I don’t see it all the time and I get lazy and neglect myself. My hypothesis was right: by seeing the module more often, I’m more aware and motivated. When you review your complete (or incomplete!) spreads, these are great questions to keep in mind. Always ask how something can serve you in your bullet journal, whether it’s adding, adjusting, or removing something.

Don’t focus on making things pretty.

The ~*~aesthetics~*~ of a bullet journal are entirely individual. I will, in the future, write a post on the basics of decorating and personalising your bullet journal spreads. But at this point, when you’re trying to find layouts and spreads that work for you, not what looks Instagram-worthy, the aesthetics and style aren’t as important. If you find yourself gravitating toward the layouts that have a nice colour palette, then consider taking some time to add decorations. I prefer a bullet journal spread that has colour in it, but it has to be minimal. I don’t want to spend my planner time decorating and fussing over the style of my spread. I want to use the bullet journal for organisation, reminders, and mindfulness.

Adapt to changes in your lifestyle and needs.

While I was in university and attending classes, I needed daily logs to help organise all the material I needed to read and places I needed to go. Now that I’m no longer in school, I don’t need daily logs anymore. I didn’t force myself to continue using daily logs just because they used to work. Changes in your lifestyle, like your job, school, home, and family, will necessitate some rearranging in your life. Your bullet journal is included in that rearranging. This is where the practise of reviewing your journal will help you.

And most of all… Permit yourself to experiment and fail.

You’ll never find what works if you don’t search for things. I looked at inspiration online and copied layouts. I sketched out small outlines of what I wanted to try. I needed to try changes and new spreads entirely, as well as allow myself to dislike what you do. The beauty of a bullet journal is a lack of commitment. Unlike printed planners and agendas you can buy, you aren’t stuck with a set layout in a bullet journal. The day, week, or month will end. Time passes. Your bullet journal, and the pages you don’t like, only exist for as long as you keep it. You can recycle the whole book if you want! The majority of my spreads in the middle of 2016 were awful and I hated them. But they helped me learn what I need to avoid. I’m in my 3rd bullet journal now: the 1st one was never filled in all the way, because I hated the notebook I used.

Let your bullet journal be the one place you can fuck up however much you need to. Let it be a place for you to explore. Let it be something you play with, rather than create. Let yourself mess up while you find what works for you. Remember to explore and consider what serves you, what might serve you, and what doesn’t serve you.

Self-Editing Tips: Developmental Edits

A book, latte, and pen on a wooden table with text overlay reading Self-Editing Tips: Developmental Edits

So, I recently finished a rewrite of THE PILGRIMAGE. This is the draft I’ll be revising in a few weeks, and I figured I’d share some self-editing tips, both for my own reference and for yours! In case you didn’t know, I edit stories. I’ve learned a lot through editing other people’s stories, as well as tons of workshopping in my university program.

When you first start revising a book, you must start with developmental edits.

Developmental edits are concerned with the skeletal issues with your story: plot, character, and structure. (Theme is also included, but that can be tweaked through every stage of edits.)

Here are some of my tips for doing your own developmental edits!

Do a cold read-through and make notes.

Before you even start revising the story, read through it and make notes on plot, character, and structure. Don’t do any edits yet—instead, see where you have plot holes, where the conflict lessens, and how much you’ve characterised your cast.

Pin down your story as either plot-driven or character-driven.

Knowing the priorities for your story will help immensely. A plot or action-based story will necessitate different focuses than one based on the characters. To figure out which one your story is, ask yourself the question, “What is my protagonist’s goal?” If it’s something personal, your story is character-driven. If it’s something external, your story is plot/action-driven. For example, if the goal is “Successfully navigate high school,” then it’s personal: it deals with just the protagonist. But if the goal is, “Successfully save high school from demons,” your story relies on action. Character and action will both be important, but at this stage, you need to figure out which one will help you plot out the conflict.

Consider beta readers or critique partners.

Feedback from outside sources is invaluable for revising your story. You know the story in a way that’s completely different to your peers: there’s more in your head than on the page. I highly recommend taking on a few beta readers and critique partners to help give you opinions on character, plot, worldbuilding, stakes, conflict, etc. Sensitivity readers are also recommended. They look for specific problematic content that you can’t experience in your identity.

Resist the line edits!

Developmental edits are for the big picture. Who cares about your typos or sentence structure right now? It’s hard to avoid tweaking details in order to feel like you’re making progress to the finished draft. However, you must consider the broad strokes of your story before you look at the finer, smaller elements.


You can get through this. Your story was drafted over a period of time where you were inevitably growing. You need to remember that you changed as you wrote the story, and you’re working to get it to the best quality you can in the present.

Look into editing resources.

Other writers have written about their processes, and it’s always helpful to find more information on how to do it!

KM Weiland has a wonderful 15-step self-editing process she uses for her fiction.

“How to Self Edit Your Novel” from Fantasy Scroll has suggestions for your self-editing (and has a differing point of view to my list, with their first suggestion being typo fixing!), and also includes more resources and references.

Now Novel has a handy infographic for self-editing.

The book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers has been highly recommended to me. It’s on my TBR!

And finally…
Contact your editor.

If you have hired an editor to help with your project—which I also recommend—keep in touch with them while you work on your edits. I strongly recommend hiring an editor. Beta readers and critique partners are helpful, but they often look at your story through a reader’s point of view. While this is helpful, experienced editors have a more intimate knowledge of craft and the skills to impart that knowledge to you.

I wish you the best of luck in self-editing and making it through developmental edits! It can feel like your story is a pile of trash and has lots of problems, but you can fix them and make your story the greatest it can be. (I’ll have to remind myself of this when I get to my own novel in a few weeks… *gulp*)

How To Be An Untidy Student

This week, I return to university… for the last time.

I’m so excited. I can’t wait to be done. But before I go, I want to impart some wisdom. (Anyone who knows me even remotely should know that “arrogant” indeed applies to me.

If you’re a student—whether a first year/freshman, grad student, or in between—there’s always more to learn. After all, you wouldn’t still be in this institution if you didn’t believe that to some extent, right? I’ll be posting these types of post during my last semester, and probably in the months before I graduate in June, in the hopes that someone will find something useful.

I have lived all of my university experience off-campus and I would not have it any other way. My first year, I moved 5 hours away to live with some strangers in a house. Most of my tips will apply to people living off-campus. Based on my experience, and the experiences of some peers, I would strongly suggest you find somewhere other than campus residence to live if you’re independent or introverted.

Anyway! Here we go! How to be untidy!

I pride myself on being a relatively tidy person. We can’t be at our 100% best 100% of the time. Sometimes I fall prey to these things, but most of the time, I don’t. Being a tidy person requires constant maintenance. Entropy is the main factor in untidiness. Idleness is not tidiness.

Untidy: Put things in the nearest spot.

I’ll find it again eventually, right? There aren’t many places for that receipt to fall, and all of my laundry is piled up in the same spot, so a t-shirt should be in there, too. I know it’s around somewhere, so I’ll look for it when I need it.

Tidy: Give everything a place.

I put my backpack on one section of the floor near my desk. I know where it is when I need it and I know where it goes when I don’t need it. I haven’t given it a pedestal, a door, a box, or a hook. I’ve given it somewhere to park itself. It’s not pretty or elegant, but it’s functional.

Untidy: Scramble to do everything in the mornings.

My keys are on my dresser, I can do my hair after I shower, and I’m pretty sure I’ve written a to-do list for my errands. I may sleep late tomorrow morning, or I may wake up to my alarm’s first call. I’ll have enough time, and I can speed up or skip certain things in case I run behind schedule.

Tidy: Reset your space at night.

For my evenings before I go to bed, I have to hit a certain number of areas. If I have classes, I prepare my bag for the next day and sometimes leave notes to get other things that I can’t get yet or will be using before putting in my bag. I wash my face, and brush and floss my teeth. After I check the weather, I pick an outfit for the next day and put it on my dresser, since that’s the designated spot. I do a general tidy-up to make sure things are in their places—this covers my dresser, my desk, and all the laundry that is inevitably lying on the floor or in my closet (and not in hampers—which is the laundry’s place). I check my planner and put in everything I need. The mornings are a lot easier when my environment and my mind and body are reset at night.

Untidy: Don’t wash OR put away dishes

Okay, I don’t have a reality for where this would make sense. There is no way I can rationalise leaving dirty dishes lying around. Clean dishes, sure, but dirty ones? Gross. Gross. Gross.

Tidy: If there are clean dishes, put them away.

If I need to wash dishes, I decide on a point in time that day to wash them. I don’t say “tomorrow morning” or “when I have time.” I pick “while dinner is cooking” or “before I head upstairs for the night.” Part of my nightly reset is making sure I’ve cleaned up as much as I can so I don’t have to deal with it the next day. Admittedly, I do leave my dirty dishes, but I have a rule of not leaving them for more than 24 hours. I also rinse any dishes if I know I’m leaving them for a while. Scrubbing dried food and sauce is the bane of dishwashing.

Also, if there are clean dishes, get them out of the way. They’re clean, but they aren’t in their place.

Untidy: Assume you have time.

I’ll be able to get everything done. Studying for an hour really is one hour, so that leaves me many more hours for other things. Might as well allocate time for everything, right?

Tidy: You never have enough time.

I won’t be able to get everything done in the span of time I think I’ll get it done. Sometimes I finish something sooner than I thought I would. Sometimes I finish something way later than I thought I would. I often bump tasks from one day’s to-do list to the next day’s to-do list. I’ve given myself enough time to buffer for the fact that I don’t have enough time. (This tidy tip is also known as “plan ahead” because giving yourself more time to make up for not having enough time means you need to think into the future.)

Becoming tidier and more organised isn’t easy. It takes effort. But so does everything in life. If something matters to you, you’ll put in the effort to care for it. If you care about yourself, you’ll take care of yourself. Relationships. Bedrooms. Clothes.

If it matters, it needs maintenance.

Literary Tips: Symbolism

A symbol is a word or phrase that signifies an object or event which in turn signifies something or suggests a range of reference beyond itself. Symbolism is the collection of all these symbols or other symbolic elements.

More simply, a symbol is something small that reflects on something bigger than itself.

Symbols are a key part of everyday life, in a broad sense. Marketing firms use symbols inherent to the culture to pitch products. Symbols appear as icons on road signs, public transit, your phone. The letter “A” can symbolise so much: the best of a list, the best effort, the beginning. Canadian symbolism would likely use a goose to symbolise aggression; a beaver for hard work; forests for industry. They can be single words or images or animals, or they can be phrases—the Stars and Stripes is a symbol. When you get down to specific cities, more symbols can arise. It’s impossible to escape symbolism.

The symbols and symbolism I most enjoy, from a reader and writer’s point of view, are called “personal” or “private” symbols. These are built throughout a poem, a short story, or a book. Personal/private symbols are made by building associations to a symbol by giving it meaningful attributes that add to the symbol’s reference. Like taking an ant, putting a tie on it, and looking at it through a magnifying glass. The ant is the symbol, the attributes are the tie, and the symbol’s reference is the view through the magnifying glass. An ant could symbolise hard work, but adding the hat adds another attribute—let’s say business and commerce.

A personal symbol takes a symbol, but adds or changes something about it to make the symbol reflect on something different from the norm.

Let’s take the example of the lion. It symbolises pride and courage. So what other associations can be made to the symbol? It is an endangered species, faces habitat destruction, and is a victim of poaching. How can those meaningful attributes add to the symbol’s reference—how can it add to pride and courage? Destroyed pride. A threatened ego. The lack of courage and bravery.

In one of the books I recently read, the protagonist is directly associated with juniper—a type of tree—instead of a flower, like her mother is. Later in the book, in a separate instance, the love interest scrambles through a patch of juniper. Boom. Symbolism. The common association of flora (plants and flowers) to women implies they are delicate, beautiful, and to be looked at; but contradicting the flora with further description (the juniper) changes the symbol. The author adds meaningful attributes that alter the reference.

The lines between simile, metaphor, extended metaphor, and symbolism tend to get blurred. But when it comes to symbolism, it looks at something small that generally relates to a bigger picture, idea, event, or concept. The lion symbolises an abstract emotion or quality. The juniper symbolises a character. A letter (“A”) symbolises status and starts.

A recurring theme or topic in your writing can be tapped into more when you use a symbol to refer to it. If you can find something concrete and smaller than the abstract, use it as a symbol throughout the book or poem! It can help link together all of your writing and reinforce the thematic elements.

Literary Tips Symbolism