On the fifth day of each month, 5 on the 5th shares five of something that I like or recommend to readers. Whether it’s five items that share a common theme, or five reasons why I like the topic at hand, this monthly meme gives us an opportunity to talk about other subjects that aren’t normally discussed here at the blog.
This might sound like a more appropriate post for New Year’s. But when I launched 5 on the 5th earlier this year, I realized what I was setting myself up for in September. And… well, I’m not the kind of person who runs around announcing her birthday to the world. (FYI: I HATE being sung to by a wait staff at a restaurant. It makes me want to curl up and hide.)
Last year’s birthday, however, was a milestone as well as a day of reflection. I thought back on the things I was grateful for, the lessons I’d learned, the goals I’m working towards – and it evoked a sense of wonder, excitement, and bravery for the future. I’d like to do that again this year through this month’s 5 on the 5th. Here are five things I’ve learned in the past year.
Lesson #1: Investing in your passions is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.
One of my resolutions for 2015 was to attend literary conferences as they fit into my schedule and budget. Now, after attending Muse and the Marketplace in May and Writer’s Digest Conference in August, I’m tincredibly grateful that I made that decision. Not only were both events among the best learning experiences I’ve ever had as a writer, but they helped me break out of my introverted shell in comfortable environments where I felt like I could truly be myself. (When a writer is surrounded by other writers, it’s hard not to feel that way!) Both conferences also taught me to keep investing in my writing career. I can’t wait to put the knowledge and skills I’ve acquired so far into practice – and there’s still plenty more I have left to learn. And yes, I already know I want to attend Muse and WDC again next year. 😉
Lesson #2: It’s good to step outside your comfort zone once in a while.
Going to Writer’s Digest Conference was a huge step in other ways. It was my first time traveling on my own – which made the trip thrilling (riding the train, exploring the city, meeting new people) and nerve-wracking (keeping my anxieties about expenses, getting lost, etc. in check). But by preparing everything well in advance and remaining calm and level-headed, I enjoyed my time in New York City so much more than if I hadn’t done either favor for myself.
What I didn’t expect was that the trip would awaken an adventurous spirit I’d never had before. This isn’t limited to travel; I’m now itching to try some new hobbies. I’m taking my first archery lesson soon, and planning to research local stables where I can learn horseback riding next spring. Would I have dared to consider either activity 5 or 10 years ago? Probably not. But I doubt this bolder side of me popped up out of the blue. Instead, it’s been slowly growing with time, and it needed a push in order to fully unfurl – and Writer’s Digest / NYC turned out to be that push.
Lesson #3: Know when to keep your excitement under control.
I have a habit of getting overzealous about new projects. That couldn’t have been more true when I joined A Bibliophile’s Reverie last year as their tea reviewer. I was SO excited about trying more teas that when the time came to query vendors about reviewing samples, I sent… oh, maybe half a dozen emails. Which doesn’t sound like many, but when three responded and sent 5+ samples each, and then a couple other companies got in touch with me via email or Twitter and I couldn’t say “no”… Yep. I was so enthusiastic about the tea reviews that I let my stash get out of control. And since I post only two reviews each month at ABR to avoid detracting from its book reviews and literary discussions, I haven’t finished going through all those samples yet.
In hindsight, I’m grateful that the tea sample inquiries were the catalyst for this lesson. The results were not only overwhelming, but tangible. The unused samples now stare back at me from their shelf whenever I open my pantry closet. (*oops*) This taught me that I need to approach new ventures and continue present ones with a tamer enthusiasm, which should lead to a more manageable (and less stressful) outcome. There’s nothing wrong with only sending two inquiries and waiting to hear back before I consider emailing other vendors – or with politely turning down offers for more samples until I’m ready (and with the promise that I’ll contact vendors in the future).
Lesson #4: Natural / home remedies really do work.
Over the past year, I’ve become jaded with certain prescriptions my doctors stressed I should take for temporary or long-term health conditions. It led me to wonder how these issues could be treated in a less expensive or more healthful way. So, I asked friends and co-workers I trusted, and bought a book about natural and home remedies. The results have been eye-opening and effective so far. For example, did you know that a rinse of warm salt water can help treat cankers and other mouth sores? Or that ginger tea is excellent for indigestion?
The most encouraging remedies I’ve tried have been for hormonal acne, which I’ve battled since college. (Proactive and similar products never worked for me.) When my dermatologist recommended that I go on antibiotics long-term along with the two lotions and medicated facewash I was already using, I refused and looked elsewhere for answers. They came unexpectedly during a conversation with the aesthetician at my local salon. Five months later, I’m off all the acne-related prescriptions; and I use a new facewash, facial wipes from Burt’s Bees, and (*drum roll*) lemon juice. Yes, dabbing a cotton ball with a couple drops of lemon juice after you wash your face helps kills the bacteria that causes acne. And now, my skin looks healthier, and any flare-ups are more manageable and don’t last as long as they had before.
Lesson #5: People are kinder and more understanding than you might think.
I’m not an offensive person by nature, but sometimes I share beliefs or views here that readers might disagree with. Anytime I prepare a post that falls into this category, my brain starts cycling worst-case scenarios. What if someone IS offended by or critical about what I write? What kind of backlash might I receive as a result? How should I handle it if it does happen? The same concerns plague me when I’m beta-reading another writer’s manuscript. I tend to give a thorough combing, which can lead to a lot of questions and suggestions. And no matter how strongly I stand by my comments, I still worry about what the writer will think when they read my response.
Nine times out of ten, though, those worries are unjustified. Readers respond to the “controversial” posts with understanding and acceptance. The writers for whom I’ve beta-read still tell me how grateful they are for my feedback. In both instances, I sigh with relief and marvel at how utterly wonderful people can be. The key is remembering that kindness is a two-way street. If we send or write messages in an honest yet respectful manner, the chances that the receiver will respond positively increase tenfold. That’s how I try to conduct myself no matter how I communicate with people – not because I want to show my “best face,” but because that’s who I really am. So, thank you for understanding, and for helping to make this corner of the blogosphere a warm and welcoming place. 🙂
What have you learned since your last birthday, or so far this year? Share your wisdom in the Comments section below.