First Impressions of Full-Time Writing

In my last writing post, I talked about how December 16 was my last day working at my non-writing job (in a PT clinic where I’d worked full-time for nearly two years). Two days ago, I started my first official whole week in the freelancing world, and I am still processing my new transition.

My very first impression is that working from home is amazing. Everyone who has made this switch due to COVID probably figured this out long ago, towards the beginning of the year, but as a newbie, I have to say, I am a fan.

The switch to working from home has been a trifecta of positives coming into my life:

  1. I am no longer commuting for at least two hours a day. I love driving, but I also was getting burnt out with being on the road for a good portion of the day. Also, the number of oil changes I’ve gone through in the past two years have been . . . numerous. I am also going to be saving at least $100 a month in gas costs.
  2. I can spend time working on my writing and my personal life. Previously, I felt so tired from working my non-writing job, I couldn’t dedicate enough time to my personal life. When I opted to take care of personal things, that spilled into work time due to the commute and being so far from my job. I eventually felt like I was half-assing two things and didn’t feel good about my performance in either. Now, popping a load of laundry in the washer and writing while it’s running is no big thing.
  3. Writing is so much more fun for me. While I loved my co-workers at my previous job, writing has always been my passion. Give me something to write about, and I will be happy to give you a paragraph or a page. I’m a nerd when it comes to words, and I’m okay with that! I still can’t believe I get to wake up and write rather than going into an office.

With all the positives that have emerged, I’m working to make this new step successful. It’s clear that I am going to have to be incredibly self-disciplined to meet deadlines, find assignments, and keep focused.

I’m still figuring out my writing schedule. I’m learning that taking breaks between assignments is a good strategy for me that isn’t possible with an office job. For example, sitting and writing one or two assignments for an hour or so and then getting up for a ten or fifteen minute break to say, unload the dishwasher. When I sit back down again to write, I’m ready to go again, and I knocked out a household task that I’d have to do later.

Frequent breaks do stretch my writing schedule out a little longer, but since I’m able to do a few things around the house, it works out in the end.

Whether I stick with the same type of schedule each day (i.e., wake up at 8:00 AM and work straight until 4 or 5:00 PM), or just go with the flow and work the same amount of hours just at different intervals, that’s still to be decided.

I’m trying to track what days are most productive and want to mimic those patterns if possible for future weeks. The wonderful part of all of this is that I get the option to choose! How refreshing!

Not being completely exhausted by the time I turn to my writing assignments is also a bonus. For the last few weeks, I’ve been pulling morning and evening writing sessions around my eight-hour job, plus the two hours of commuting, and I was running on fumes.

Now, I’m happy to say 2021 is looking like it will be a healthier and more productive writing year!


What does your writing schedule look like? Are you working a non-writing job and fitting in writing when you can? I’d love to hear from other writers in the comments!

How Rejecting Writing Myths Helped Me Become a Full-Time Freelancer

A couple of weeks ago, I did it. I put in my two weeks’ notice at my current full-time (non-writing) job. Starting this Thursday, I am officially transitioning into full-time freelancing!

After almost two years of part-time writing work, this step is a huge milestone for me. There is so much to unpack with my decision. Since I was a kid, I wanted writing to be my career. For most of my 31 years, I have been filling up notebooks with happy words, angry words, confusing words, rhyming words – pretty much any writing you can think of. One of my earliest memories is of my grandmother and a cabinet she kept a stack of paper in. She’d let me “write” on the paper when I visited (I was three when she died, so that tells you how early and fundamental that memory was).

Although I wanted to write for a living these past three decades, I pushed it away for years. I believed the myths about writing that are so pervasive. The ones that say:

  • You can’t make a living writing
  • Writers are unhappy by nature
  • Writers need to have months of free time available

While I’ve been writing all along, it wasn’t until the last few years that I started changing my way of thinking about writing and jobs. Everyone’s journey is different, and my particular one took me through a rough patch a few years ago. I came out of it realizing what I was thankful for in life, what were healthy habits for me, and what I wanted to do with the remaining part of my life.

Writing was one of the things that hit all three of those points, and I dove headfirst into the writing world for the first time in my life. I learned that I’d been lacking in confidence in my writing, so I worked on addressing that issue. I discovered I was anxious about what others thought of my writing, so I stopped caring. Little by little, I was able to peel away all of the nonsense and self-doubt I’d been feeding myself (and letting others feed me), and here I am, making the big move.

You Can Make a Living Writing

“Writing isn’t going to pay the bills” is one of those myths most people have heard. The weird thing is, I know a lot of writers that do pay their bills with writing. And on time, too!

It’s amazing how once you realize something is possible, you can start to envision yourself doing it. I don’t know why art and writing are those clichéd “starving” jobs, but wherever the trope came from, it doesn’t have to be accurate. Once you find one person to pay you for some sort of writing (maybe it’s an editing job, a magazine submission, or a full writing piece), it’s like the poor-writer-curse has lost its power.

If one person is willing to pay you for your writing, surely there are many others? For me, the ticket was getting an essay accepted for a magazine and then landing my first client on Upwork.

Like Everyone, Writers are Emotional

Yes, I’ve been an unhappy person at some points in my life. I’ve also been a very happy person at many others. Just like everyone, writers go through a roller-coaster of emotions during life.

While it’s true writing carried me through the darker periods of my life, I’m fortunate that writing also happens when I’m content or, dare I say it?, outright happy. We’re fed the idea that writers have some mystical underlying layer, anguished and tortured souls, but honestly, I don’t know anyone, regardless of profession, that doesn’t have that layer to them.

Once you realize that you don’t need to wait for periods of supposed emotional turmoil to write, things get a lot easier. You can just as well write that short story while watching a rerun of Friends, and chances are, the outcome is going to actually be better since you’re not an emotional wreck while you’re writing it. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Writers Write

The thought of a month in a cabin, just writing away, is a dream I’ve kept for a long time. While I still hope for opportunities to hide away from life for a while and focus on writing, the older I get, the more I realize that those chances are few and far between.

I’ve come to terms with not being able to write in an old, abandoned hotel for a winter (and really, that didn’t end well for Jack Torrance, did it?). So, for now, I have to make do with the time I have.

While, thank God, my schedule is finally changing so that I can write during the daylight hours, for the past year and a half, it’s mostly been cramming in writing before the sun comes up or late in the evening. It turns out, writers write when we can, and that’s what we’re working with.


I am excited to have more time to update my blog in the near future! I love connecting with other writers, so leave your own blog links in the comments section. Keep following Paper Crow Blog to learn more about my writing journey!

Our Washington State Trip: Forks, WA and Ruby Beach

I’ve been meaning to continue my Washington State vacation posts ever since we got back from our trip, but there are simply so many things to say about it. I’ve had to wait until I had a good amount of time to sit and write about another one of our many excursions during that week.

So here I am on a rainy afternoon in North Carolina, exactly one month later, sitting at my writing desk while Alex is watching the Sopranos in the living room.

(As I think back to our trip, it feels so long ago and dreamlike that I can almost see the thought-bubble above my head showcasing all the memories, the edges of the background fading out into ripples . . .)

[Cue harp glissando]

After our adventures on the Spruce Trail and Hall of Mosses, Alex and I went off in search of a small, propane cylinder to use with our camp stove. We hadn’t been able to take ours on the plane due to safety restrictions, so we stopped at a little shop called Peak 6 Adventure Store in Forks for a bit of shopping.

The shop appeared to be run by a couple generation of women, and we meandered around for while, like the tourists we were. I had a great time talking with the bears out front and debating the merits of wearing a mask during an international pandemic.

“Yes, I assure you, good Sirs, you will still be able to own property even if you wear a mask. Yes, you can even still vote. Your rights are fine.”

Inside, the store was filled with typical tourist trinkets and a few camping supplies like bug spray and the propane tank we needed. I also used the opportunity to add to my earring collection, including these fantastic Tree of Life specimens:

Afterwards, we stopped by Blakeslees Bar and Grill, which was a restaurant just down the road. Our server was very kind, and the food was yummy. Alex got a “very good” elk burger that he rated an 8 out of 10 and informed me he would also recommend the Black Butte Porter to the general public.

I got the Irish nachos which were also good, colorful tortilla chips with sour cream, lots of cheese, and just enough bacon to remind me I was on vacation.

We also made a stop at Forks Outfitters Thriftway and ACE Hardware, which is apparently the place to be in Forks no matter what walk-of-life you take. If you can imagine a cross between a grocery store, ACE hardware, and a Wal-Mart in a vampire-filled town, you can probably get an idea of what the store sold – everything. So it isn’t surprising at all that we were able to find a rental bear box to store our camping food (and for just $2 a night and a $65 refundable deposit!).

As a side note, we saw a car in the parking lot that was decked out in Twilight merchandise and writing on the windows that mentioned the drivers were on a Twilight road trip. Even though the books weren’t my cup of tea, I love how much joy they obviously brought to the people traveling in the car. And how much fun to go on a road trip like that!

After our shopping spree, we decided to go down to Ruby Beach and relax (i.e., digest) for the rest of the afternoon. Ruby Beach is a beautiful, rocky beach with a great opportunity for sunset viewing (though our own weather was not ideal for it). The beach was covered in smooth, polished rocks that were easy to walk on. We passed an artist painting on an easel and a few photographers with tripods, so were not the only ones that enjoy the landscape.

There were some sections of the beach marked “impassable” on our map, as some parts of the shore that are accessible during low-tide wash out during high-tide. We didn’t have any issues, but we also didn’t stray too far from the crowd. Further ahead, we could definitely see some areas that the tide started covered during our visit, though. As black bears frequent the beach areas, we were especially keen on not getting stuck on the shore.

About 20 minutes before sunset, a huge crowd of people started drawing together (in a social-distanced way) to get a good view of the horizon. At the exact same time, the wind began picking up, and I suppose this is where the vampire thing came about. Within ten minutes, the temperature had dropped several degrees and a thick, lovely, and suspiciously-British fog started rolling into Washington State, darkening the skies dramatically.

The sun completely disappeared in a matter of minutes, and so did our hopes of viewing the sunset, but we still stayed on the beach until dark, enjoying the beach’s foreboding beauty,

That night, we camped again in Bogachiel State Park. We moved our campsite in hopes of a more secluded spot near the river (Site #38). I later deemed this specific site a definite “do not recommend.” If I thought the first night in the park was loud, the second was as if we were sleeping below an underpass yet somehow also in the midst of a college party. We didn’t mind too much as, again, we were so exhausted that we fell asleep quickly, but I think both of us would prefer a quieter location for our next visit.

The next day, we set out for our “big” (18 mile) hike. Details of which will be in my next blog post!


Have you travelled to Forks, Washington or Olympic National Park? I’d love to hear your own stories, with or without vampires :).

Why This Fall is the Perfect Time to Write

I’ve noticed something very strange happening this year. With the onset of fall, I’ve actually felt happy about the season changing. Yes, I, the woman whose freezing point is 74 degrees Fahrenheit, is actually grateful for fall this year.

I’ve been trying to work out why this particular year is the first time I’ve really appreciated the season. After much consideration, I’ve decided it is mostly due to the general madness of 2020.

Thanks to the pandemic, this fall is a welcome sign of change from the slight sadness of Summer 2020. Summer is typically my favorite time of year, but since nearly all social events were either cancelled or significantly altered (Virtual Seafood Fests, anyone? Yikes!), it seemed especially cruel to have nice weather but nowhere to really enjoy the season – and no friends to safely enjoy it with.

Now that fall has arrived, however, it is much less abnormal to hole up in the house with my fiance (!) and spend hours reading and cooking warm meals. It’s as if we are all finally able to tell COVID, “Well, this is what we’d be doing anyway, so you don’t win on this one!” Cooler weather, cozy blankets, hot chocolate – it all sounds wonderful.

Photo by Maria Shanina on Unsplash

While spring was defined by the initial shock of COVID, and summer was marked by my utter chagrin at the ridiculousness of the year, I’ve finally reached the acceptance stage this autumn.

Which leads me to my exciting discovery: This fall is perfect for writing due to COVID.

Think about it. As writers, what are some of our top complaints?

I don’t have time to write. Oh, yes, you do now. You also have time to try to debate the cost-benefits of cutting your own hair, time to reorganize your bookshelf for the third time this month, and time to re-watch that Gilmore Girls episode where Lorelei’s beeper goes off as she’s in freeze-frame as the Renoir lady.

I can’t focus. If you are like me and my friends, you’ve had several months by now to perfect your art of focusing. You can finish a book with ease and paint-by-numbers an intricate depiction of a lion within hours. You have found enough focus within your soul to finish not just one game of Monopoly, but also countless re-matches.

I’m not good at writing. You have so many opportunities to practice now. With virtually no social events going on, you can practice your poetry writing about how much you miss them. You can practice your short story skills by finally finishing just one story, from start to finish. And, you may just get so bored that you decide to share your writing with someone who reaffirms that yes, you are good at writing.

Writing is lonely. While writing can indeed be lonely, it doesn’t have to be. Consider participating in NaNoWriMo this year, whether you have done it previously or not. For writers new to the challenge, National November Writing Month is an annual event where thousands of writers attempt to write 50,000 of their work during the month of November. There are countless forums, online chats, and virtual workshops to keep your writing spirit going strong this fall.

I hope all of you writers out there find ways to jumpstart your writing and creativity this fall, as well. Even if you’re not a writer, this fall is still a great opportunity to reflect on how you’ve improved this year, and where you can go from here.


How is your fall writing journey going? Do you anticipate writing will be easier or more difficult for you this season? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Trails: Exploring the Fairy Tale Trails in the Hoh Rain Forest (Forks, WA)

On September 10th, Alex and I packed a daypack and headed over to Hoh Rain Forest, a temperate rain forest region about 30 miles southeast of Forks, Washington (If you’re trying to remember why you have an unexplained association with Forks, it is because that was the setting for the Twilight series).

The rain forest is named for the Hoh (pronounced “hoe”) River, which is formed from glacial runoff from Mount Olympus down to the Pacific. According to the National Park Service website, the origin of the word “Hoh” is still up for debate, but a possible source is from the Quileute word for “snow water.”

As the rain forest is in Olympic National Park, we were required to pay the $30 entrance fee, which is good for seven days. The extended validity is convenient when you are visiting for several days (as we were) since you can leave and return as often as you like.

We parked near the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center and made our way up to some of the short trails that begin just past the Center. We’d heard the area gets very crowded so we arrived early, around 10:00 AM. Luckily, we seemed to beat most of the crowd, which started trickling in around lunch time as we were heading out.

Everyone we did pass was very conscientious of wearing face masks and social distancing, and we abided the de facto COVID trail procedures of covering our faces when passing someone, and then uncovering them for a few minutes when no one was around so we didn’t pass out from the heat. It was in the high 80s, which was much warmer weather than we expected, especially with a mask.

There are a couple of small trails that radiate from this spot, and we started on the Hall of Mosses trail, a short, flat walk no more than a mile long. This loop trail takes you through a gorgeous forest that is covered with – you guessed it – moss. Beautiful, flowy, elven, fairy tale moss that I resisted the urge to cover myself in and run through the woods like Queen of the Wood Fairies.

Specifically, the plant is called clubmoss, and according to the signs around the park, feeds on air and light, so it isn’t harmful to the trees it envelops. Moisture and nutrients for the clubmoss are provided by the rain forest’s atmosphere.

This section of the forest was the most crowded, but for good reason. The trees were gorgeous, and I, like everyone else, couldn’t stop snapping pictures.

All around us, we could see the forest both growing and decaying. I learned a new term (“nurselog”), which refers to a fallen tree that serves as nutrients for new trees. Nurselogs are common in the rain forest, and once I knew what to look for, I realized so many of the trees around us were able to grow from the nutrients provided by the dead trees.

When the Hall of Mosses looped back around, we picked up the Spruce Trail, a 1.25 mile loop that was also fairly flat, though with slightly more elevation in some places. It was still easy enough for plenty of families with small children, but the area was much less crowded than the previous trail.

The trail follows a former river bank and is mostly shaded, which was helpful as the afternoon sun was climbing overhead by the time we started our walk. The temperature shifted a lot as we walked, and I was glad I brought layers. It was noticeably cooler within the forest itself than it was near the banks of the Hoh River, which winds around a section of the trail.

Big leaf maples and Sitka spruces dominate the landscape, and there is no shortage of information about the plants in the area. We saw countless mushrooms which understandably grow abundantly due to the rainfall. Apparently, the rain forest gets around 12 feet of water each year (although we did not see a drop of it the whole time).

Alex does not share my appreciation of fungus. He said this one resembled a bloody tooth, but I guess he isn’t wrong.

We spent several hours walking around, taking our time. Both trails were peaceful, and the size of the trees around us recalled how old the forest is (some of the trees are hundreds of years old). Here is a picture of me standing beside one of the trees for perspective. A majority of the trees were of the same size, and even just looking back at the pictures, I am still blown away by the sheer age of it all.

Ferns are also incredibly prolific in the area, and some of them were even taller than we are. I found myself wishing I’d brought a guidebook for plants of the region or downloaded a good plant-identification app before my trip. Every few steps, I was wondering about the next plant I saw. Next time, however!

Even the scent of the area is relaxing, and we probably looked like the strangest East Coasters, as we kept sniffing the trees and plants because everything was so fresh and fragrant.

In case it isn’t apparent from all the pictures I took, I would definitely recommend this spot to anyone travelling in Washington. These two trails are perfect for a casual stroll one morning or afternoon.


Thanks for stopping by! Feel free to leave any questions or comments about the trails. I will do my best to answer any questions, but you can visit NPS.gov for more information about the Hall of Mosses and Spruce Trail.

Washington Trip: Flight to Seattle and Bogachiel State Park

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of days now, but life, as usual, has been a whirlwind.

Alex and I flew out of Raleigh on September 9th, headed to Seattle to start our vacation. Flying during COVID was an experience, but all in all, our air travel was uneventful. There were obviously many masks, a lot of disinfecting, and (predictably) testy passengers, but we felt adequately socially distanced from others, for the most part.

The airports were noticeably empty, which means we made it through security in record time. Ever since I missed my flight coming home from Denver a few years ago, I’ve sworn I will get to the airport hours early every time from now on. RDU and SEA were both a little eerie, though, due to how desolate some parts of the airports were. There were also several stores and restaurants closed indefinitely due to COVID cuts.

Both the RDU to ORD flight and the ORD to SEA flight were lowkey. I actually love the flying experience, and I am completely content with my tiny seat space among people from literally all over the world. We flew American Airlines, and due to COVID, the flight attendants gave us little goody bags of sanitizing wipes that resembled condom wrappers (SANI-X even sounds like a condom brand), the standard bag of brandless pretzels, and bottles of water.

I kept myself entertained on the flights with a notebook I’d brought to scribble notes in. I also used the opportunity to try on my Darn Tough hiking socks (super comfy and warm) and to finish up some freelance projects offline.

I originally intended to update my blog on the plane, but the in-flight WiFi prices were exorbitant (over $20 for each flight, and we had to take two planes each way). My cheap self couldn’t justify paying $40 for a few hours of internet, so I pestered Alex most of the way through his countless albums.

When we landed in Seattle, we picked up a rental car and drove to Bogachiel State Park, a small state park a bit west of Olympic National Park. Along the way, we stopped in Montesano at El Rancho for some Mexican food.

Los Charros, our favorite place to eat in our hometown, serves as our North Star for Mexican food. We compared the two restaurants, and pitted against one another, the rice, beans, and chicken flautas at Los Charros won hands down, but the steak flautas at El Rancho came out on top. (Sorry Los Charros, we still love you!)

The drive to our campsite took about four hours from the airport, and by the time we arrived in Bogachiel, we had been traveling for 17 hours that day. Needless to say, we set up the tent as quickly as possible and fell right asleep.

Our tiredness turned out to be a good thing since we slept relatively deeply. When I did wake up, it was to the sounds of semi-trucks seemingly driving into our site. It turns out a main road borders an edge of the park and couldn’t have been more than 50 yards from our tent.

Despite the noise, we slept through most of the night, but I’m not sure that would have been the case if we weren’t so tired.

We also used our inflatable sleeping pads because the ground was extremely hard and covered in gravel. I tried out my new REI Joule 30 sleeping bag for the first time, and it worked wonderfully. We even slept with the rainfly off, and I didn’t get cold, despite the temperature getting down to 49 degrees. I am extremely cold-natured (73 is chilly for me), but I was incredibly comfortable.

While I’m not sure I would choose to stay at Bogachiel State Park again due to the road noise and lack of privacy with the campsites, we were grateful to have found a site to sleep in for two nights. There are dozens of campgrounds in the area, but the ones that visitors can reserve were completely booked throughout our stay. The Bogachiel sites were about $40 each night, which were possibly the most we’ve ever paid for a campground, but there were clean restrooms, token-operated showers, and water spigots everywhere.

On the morning of the 10th, we went to the Hoh Rain Forest, which I will write about in my next post, so stay tuned for lots of pictures of . . . moss and ferns!

The Countdown Begins: Finishing Up Last-Minute Writing Projects and (Still) Dehydrating Hiking Food

Olympic National Park via Jake Blucker on Unsplash

This three-day weekend has given me a little extra time to prepare for our camping trip. It is amazing how one extra day to ourselves leaves us so much more time for self-care and our personal lives.

I am still working on dehydrating food for our Washington trip. I am currently dehydrating orange creamsicle fruit leather and berry breakfast smoothies so that we don’t have to worry about venturing out for food while we are hiking. As Alex pointed out, our kitchen smells like a bakery since the dehydrator has been running fairly steadily for three days now, piping out berry smells at 130 degrees ’round the clock.

The recipes are taking a little longer than the instructions say (going on 15 hours for the smoothies), but I think they are going to be really good. I would definitely spread the mixture much thinner next time, as I think that is the reason they are taking longer than the recipes call for.

The “very berry smoothies” in their liquid form. Reminiscent of Ivan Ooze’s slime from the Power Rangers movie . . . but yummy.

I also made some simple granola bars with gluten free oats, coconut oil, and a few other ingredients, following this recipe. It is easy to modify, so I tried to steer away from the sugary add-ins and opted for macadamia nuts instead. The recipe also calls for butter which I’ve used in the past, but I substituted coconut oil to extend it’s “shelf” (i.e., backpack) life while we are in the damp forests of Washington State.

In terms of my writing projects, I’ve been busy trying to finish up my freelance projects this week before heading out for vacation. Last night, I submitted a 2,000 word article on the Eno River State Park in North Carolina which I had a ton of fun writing. If you’re ever in NC, it is worth spending an afternoon walking its trails. I am so happy to be working with this client, as I am able to write about hiking, animals, plants, and the fresh air as much as I want.

I’m also planning to complete three 500-word wellness posts for a client, so I will be working on those tonight to send to her. Wellness is also a topic that is near-and-dear to me, so these pieces hardly feel like work at all.

For my personal writing projects, I am still outlining my Olympic National Park pieces. I am realizing a conundrum with writing while traveling, as I normally prefer writing on my laptop since it is much easier to edit as I go.

Obviously, hauling a laptop around everywhere is not ideal when backpacking, so I’m debating bringing a notebook and pen (which can be heavy as well, even when they are on the light end) or using a writing app on my phone. The phone would be an obvious choice except we also need to conserve battery charge, so paper and pencil is most likely going to win out.

As the days creep by, I am getting more and more excited. I will keep this blog updated with more of our preparations as our departure date gets closer.

Happy Writing (and Hiking!)

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Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts/suggestions/advice on writing (or hiking)!

Preparing for a Week of Hiking/Writing in Olympic National Park

My boyfriend and I have always loved to hike together. With 2020 throwing our lives upside down, we have not had as many opportunities to go on hiking trips together. A few months ago, however, we both requested several days off of work for September, planning to hike a segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in our home state, North Carolina.

We were hoping to get some fresh air and time away from the craziness of work, but as we started planning out our hike, it became apparent that the campsites we needed to stay at along the way were not open. They had all been closed due to a series of unfortunate events, including a lightning strike, burst water lines, and COVID closures.

Although we were disappointed, we ultimately decided to postpone that particular hiking trip. However, we then used the opportunity to think bigger in terms of our experience. I am actually glad our original trip wasn’t possible, because we came up with an even better idea.

We tossed around several trip ideas and decided on camping and hiking in Olympic National Park in Washington State, a few hours west of Seattle. Neither of us have been to any part of the Northwest, so we are thrilled to have the opportunity to explore a new region of the United States.

I decided, too, that I am going to use the opportunity to do some travel writing about the park. I recently started a freelance gig that involves writing about state and national parks, so I’m using this trip as a chance to do some freelance research.

Alex and I checked into flights to Washington and found a phenomenal deal on a flight/rental car combination. Flying during COVID times is of course a concern, but the airline is taking the right precautions that we feel comfortable with. People I know who have taken flights recently mentioned how empty the planes and the airports are. I honestly feel better about flying right now than walking into our local Wal-Mart when half the town refuses to wear masks.

Last Minute Purchases

Today, we spent a good portion of the day stocking up on items at the local REI, since they were having such a good Labor Day sale. We bought a few odds and ends, including a map of the area. I needed some good hiking socks, especially since the last time we went on a major hiking trip (Section 10 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail), I got phenomenal blisters that left me hobbling for weeks after the hike.

Seriously, I had blisters on top of blisters and had to stop at mile 65 because I literally had no skin on the bottom of either of my feet that was not blistered.

Alex is insanely brand loyal to his camping gear, and seeing as he somehow managed to hike all 77 miles of the Section 10 segment without a single blister, I took him up on his suggestion of buying Darn Tough socks. Here’s to hoping . . .

Meal Preparation: Dehydrator Recipes

I am currently working on dehydrating some meals and snacks for us to take on our trip. We bought a dehydrator a while back and have only used it for a few super simple things like drying basil leaves from our garden and drying bananas. We’re using this hiking trip as an opportunity to get more creative with dehydrated food.

Dehydrated meals are a great option for us because they are incredibly lightweight, cheap, and easily customized. I am gluten intolerant, which means I have a pretty hard time being able to find prepackaged meals I can eat, so making my own meals is by far the preferable option for me.

I prepared a wild rice and red bean pilaf in the pressure cooker earlier today and dehydrated several trays of it. I followed this super simple recipe from ThruEat and made a few modifications like using tomatoes with green chiles (my New Mexico years still live on through my palate) and using beef bouillon rather than chicken since that’s what I had in the pantry.

Not too pretty dried out, but tasty once re-hydrated!

For an easy snack, I am also making some trays of dehydrated cinnamon apple chips using a recipe on Trail.Recipes. It’s just sliced green apples topped with brown sugar and cinnamon and dehydrated for half a day. Most dehydrator recipes take at least six hours, but you don’t have to watch the food too closely since it dries out so slowly, so you can put it in the dehydrator overnight while you sleep.

Technically I was supposed to “sprinkle” the topping. But I really like cinnamon. And I *love* sugar.

So far, this Labor Day weekend has proven to be quite labor-intensive, but it is worth it. I can’t wait to update the blog with our plane trip (an adventure in itself) and the actual hiking/camping.

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Share links to your own travel writing pieces or camping recipes in the comments! I love hearing your thoughts!

Returning to Reading in 2020

This past month, I found myself revisiting one of my lifelong pleasures more than usual – reading. I’ve always loved reading, but the older I’ve gotten, the less time I’ve dedicated to it.

As a child, I read voraciously. I secretly read fiction books under my desk during math class, read from my seat on the school bus, even read into the early morning hours of the day when I should have been sleeping. Reading was the classic escape, a way to numb my mind to the anxiety that my life dealt me. In the most difficult years, I skipped class a couple times, hiding in the library to read, either unnoticed or understood by the school librarian.

When I grew older, reading became more difficult as I found it increasingly hard to focus. It was no longer a cure for anxiety, and I would find myself reading the same page over and over, not comprehending. For a long time, it felt like I’d lost my gift for reading, a part of myself.

Happily, that issue was temporary. I’ve regained my ability to concentrate as an adult, although I don’t typically devote as much time to reading as I would like. That’s why, when COVID life started lending me more downtime than normal, I naturally turned to reading again.

I’m reading much more than I have in the last few years. Without many social activities available, I am reaching for books more often on the quiet weekend afternoons. Weeknights, after work, I am reading before going to sleep, finding it a good way to relax and clear my mind a little.

I signed up for the Book of the Month, which gives you a handful of newly released titles each month to choose from for $14.99. I’m not a huge fan of online shopping, but I do look forward to my monthly book arriving in the mailbox (and the packaging is minimal, basically a small cardboard box, which I – and the environment – appreciate).

My friends and I are still doing our virtual book club. This past month we read Gods of Jade and Shadow which I’ve been raving about to anyone who will listen. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has a gorgeous writing style that is full of metaphors and symbolism, and I found myself eager to finish the book when I had spare moments in the day.

Once again, I’ve found myself thankful for my ability to read, grateful for all the talented writers out there in the world, and inspired by the stories I’ve experienced.

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Are you catching up on your “To-Be-Read” pile? Do you have any COVID-times book recommendations? Leave me a message in the comments section. I’d love to hear from you!

Cultivating Creativity: Steps I Am Taking to Weed Out Writing Barriers

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Photo by Simon Hesthaven on Unsplash

Here we are in the midst of summer. While certain things like our squash plant and our tomato plants are growing at exponential rates, I’ve found that in the last two months, my creativity has wilted. COVID has inched its way into my world, a garden pest that latches onto one part of my life and drains energy away from the other parts.

Luckily, like many things in life, I’ve found that with a little extra attention, my creativity has begun to perk back up. As I’ve done in the past, I’m beginning to reassess my current situation and determine how to keep my life filled with writing.

What steps am I taking to help my creativity grow strong during the pandemic?

  • I’m taking care of my mental health. – This step includes limiting my workload. While I am happy to have picked up some regular freelance writing opportunities over the last few months, I am still working my full-time day job. With much of our staff on furlough or laid off, my day job responsibilities have grown.

In the midst of this change, I started receiving more writing jobs and was accepting them left and right. I am now at a point where I am choosing to slow down and acknowledge that there are only so many hours in a day, and yes, I actually do need to sleep more than five hours. I will limit the amount of work that I am taking on so I have time to foster my own creativity. In doing so,  I will prevent my forever friend, Anxiety, from visiting.

  • I’ve begun journaling in the mornings. – I’ve been trying to go to bed at reasonable times so I can get up a little earlier in the morning. I squeeze in some journaling time, usually about 15 minutes, while drinking my coffee. It helps me to slowly wake up my thoughts and to develop a focus for the day ahead of me.

I curl up with a blanket and my dog and write on the couch, rather than at my desk. Instead of seeming like “work,” my journaling time has again become a quiet retreat, which is why I started writing in a journal in the first place.

  • I’ve joined a (virtual) book club. – I miss my in-person writing sessions with friends. I’ve tried writing online with others, but it doesn’t have the same effect for me. However, creating a virtual book club has been a helpful alternative.

The members of the club all suggest titles we would like to read each month, and then we vote on them. So far, we have read:

Verbalizing why I did or didn’t like certain parts of books helps me better understand what writing styles I appreciate. I also enjoy hearing my friends’ commentary because it gives me other readers’ perspectives. I can use this knowledge to inform my own writing.

Accepting that life will not be the same for the foreseeable future has been a relief. I wanted to cling to last year’s writing patterns because they were so effective for me, but I have entered another season of the times, along with everyone else.

I hope you other writers out there are finding your own ways to cultivate creativity! Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments section.

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