2017 Year in Review: Career

I put off this edition of my Year in Review for last because it’s the hardest one to write. It means admitting failure, something I hate doing. That hardly makes me special; nobody likes feeling like they’ve fallen short.

And yet, here I am. I have a pile of W2s waiting for me to do my taxes. Let’s find out why.

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On Writer’s Block and “Serious Writing”

Almost two months ago — yikes — I was working on a blog post for Treat Yo Self Day (which I celebrate whenever the mood takes me, tbh) when Northern California caught fire. Here I was, writing about bath bombs and shower beers while one of my best friends couldn’t sleep because he was constantly being evacuated, allowed to go home, and told to evacuate again.

(He and his family are fine, in case you were wondering.)

“How can you write about such frivolous things when people are dying,” scolded my Inner Critic, better known as my Inner Saboteur. “Don’t you want to be a serious writer? Don’t you care about real issues?”

With that, I lost all desire to write anything fun. I buckled down and focused on writing for work because I was a serious writer.

And I seriously hated it.

Here’s the thing: there are always terrible things happening. Sometimes they are as close to home as Santa Rosa. But most of the time, that’s not the case. Writing about terrible things doesn’t make wanting to write about fun things less legitimate.

If anything, it might be more important. I can’t get on Twitter without wanting to throw my phone at the wall. I can’t listen to NPR without screaming at my poor defenseless car radio. Small victories like figuring out my personal style and finding pants that fit me are more important than ever. Terrible things happen every day, and sometimes I will write about them, but there’s no reason not to write about my everyday life and its little joys, too.

So here’s to being a serious writer who happens to write about fun, frivolous things. Because the alternative turned out to be not writing anything, and that’s the worst outcome of all.

Summer of My (Dis)Content

Last month, I decided to take a week off from blogging after Portuguese school ended so I could focus on hosting the Argonauts vs. Phoenix MLQ series. Then, I took another week off to relax. Then another week, and another week, and then suddenly it’s over a month later and I’m wondering where the time went.

I hated thinking about it because I was looking at it as time wasted. Then I would put off writing some more and keep digging myself into a hole, et cetera and ad nauseam. My infuriating tendency to make the perfect the enemy of the good has left me with a pile of drafts that I’ve started and (mostly) abandoned. Even the stuff I have managed to finish and get published lately feels stale, like a shadow of myself.

There’s this drive to maximize every opportunity, to grab it by the scruff of the neck and drain it of every drop of potential. That’s especially true in the world of online content, a voracious beast that is never satisfied and demands timely, digestible tidbits. When you miss out on publishing during windows like the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter (RIP that draft), you kick yourself for not planning ahead.

Worshipping this idea of hustle, of #cantstopwontstop, and of making every moment productive just isn’t healthy. It makes you fixate on the things you aren’t doing and overlook the things you are doing. It makes you over commit and eventually burn out.

And by “you,” I really mean me. Burned out is not a good look on me.

Are you sick of my excuses and self-flagellation yet? Because I am. I’ve decided to make things a little easier on myself. Instead of demanding perfection, I just want to publish something good. Twice a week, Tuesdays and Fridays, sounds like a sane schedule and something I can balance with work, volunteering, and a personal life. Consistency is something I’ve struggled with but I can come up with two good things a week. Sometimes they may not be as good, but on the other hand, sometimes they might be great.

Anyway, thanks for reading. It’s been nearly a year since I bought this domain and made Barcelos Knows a reality. There’s still so much that I don’t know—but I’m working on it.

Looking ahead…

Not all of those drafts have been buried in the graveyard of abandoned ideas. Here’s a handful that I’ll be bringing back from the dead in the coming weeks.

  • #BarcelosClothes: The poll on my next experiment is now closed. The winner is… cold shoulder tops. Ugh.
  • I managed to tie together quidditch and Portuguese poetry and let me tell you, I am excited.
  • If you’re a fan of my rants taking on shitty behavior and institutions, you are in for a treat.

NaNoWriMOh Yeah, I Was Supposed to Be Doing This

Let me start with what y’all really care about: my word count. Even having made things easy on myself, I only wrote a paltry 15102 words. (Plus however many words this post ends up being.) I’ll give you a moment to heap shame upon me.


This never gets old.

All done? Okay, cool. Let’s break down why this was such a failure and why I don’t actually feel bad about it.

Like I said in my initial NaNoWriMo post, you gotta know your points of failure when taking on a big project. I planned for accepting that I was gonna write some shitty drafts and that I’d have to post them to hit my word count. I got off to a decent start doing just that.

Then the election happened. I can plan for things I know I can’t control, but I can’t plan for things that I don’t know that I don’t know. Unknown unknowns, if you will. (Ugh, referencing Trump and Rumsfeld in the same post makes me sick.)

The election was a double edge sword, content-wise. It gave me the idea for the Darkest Timeline series, which I’ll be continuing. Letters to Myself will become a regular feature, too. But the thing I couldn’t plan for was how much it would sap my motivation. For every day that I was fired up to write about how fucked up things have gotten, I probably spent five not wanting to do anything at all, let alone write.

So, let’s call those 15102 words (and counting!) a victory in the name of writing in the face of unforeseeable despair. I will, at least.

I end this month with a few more wins for Elizabeth Barcelos, Professional Writer. My editorial internship was set to end along with the year, leaving me with uncertain job prospects. Last week, they decided to keep me on going into the new year. I accepted another regular freelancing gig on the same day. I have pitches that I didn’t have at the beginning of the month, work that I can send out so that I can keep writing about what I know, get paid for it, and see my name in even more publications.

I may not have won NaNoWriMo, but I’ll take my wins wherever I can find them.

NaNoWriMoh My God, What Am I Getting Myself Into?

I’m a project-oriented person. No, that’s not just resume-speak. I genuinely enjoy planning things and making them happen. The bigger the vision, the more I get my rocks off when I eventually pull it off. I may hate it sometimes, it may add to my white hair count, but it’s what I do.


Any reason is a good reason to use this gif.

Or at least, it’s what I used to do. Normally, I’d be planning tournaments and wrangling wayward quidditch teams this time of year. Instead, I’ve set that aside to focus on an even unrulier project: self-improvement. Mothering other people is easy; disciplining myself is harder.

Enter NaNoWriMo. Not only does it fulfill my need to tackle an ambitious project, but it also provides the structure I’ve craved since I graduated from college. It’s an assignment, there are parameters to be met, so go get em, tiger!

The important thing when starting a big project is to know where your potential points of failure are. In event planning, your enemy is other people failing to meet expectations. You make backup plans for things like teams dropping. In this case, my only enemy is myself.

Specifically, my tendency to let perfection be the enemy of good. Or good enough, at least. I have piles of half-finished notebooks and a bunch of unfinished drafts sitting in WordPress and my Google Drive because I didn’t feel like they were good enough.

For NaNoWriMo, perfect doesn’t matter. Meeting the word count of 50,000 words does.

I’m also going to be kind to myself and make a few tweaks. My goal isn’t to write a novel; it’s to hit that word count in spite of my crippling perfectionism. It’s to turn those abandoned drafts and half thought out ideas into something I can send out into the world.

This is what I’ll be counting towards my 50,000 words instead of a novel:

  • A collection of short stories, tentatively tied together by a Portuguese-American theme. I think it’s an underserved genre and I know I can contribute to it.
  • Posts to this blog. It’s time to clear out my draft pile.
  • Pitches and articles that aren’t for work. It’s time to boost my list of publications so I have a solid portfolio by the time my internship is over.

In the spirit of being kind to myself, I’m counting today’s blog post because I already know a full day of work + Portuguese school tomorrow is going to put a dent in my writing time. 50k is an ambitious goal, but I want to set myself up to succeed.

I also don’t want to do this alone. Are you taking the plunge for the first time like I am? Are you a NaNoWriMo veteran coming back for another year? Add barcelosknows as your writing buddy. Let’s do this together.