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A Heartbroken Symphony

A heartbroken cry sounds in the night
In the city of light darkness arrives
A heartbroken human symphony begins to play
The world mourns
The world weeps
The world needs peace
Quiet descends
The conductor begins anew
A new symphony for a troubled society
A heartbreaking symphony
A sad requiem
Will life ever be the same?
We are left to wonder
What madness is this
When we cannot live without war
When we cannot live without peace
Simple lives made more difficult
Resonating to the same sad song
And once more
The heartbroken symphony plays on
In a world of chaos and confusion
I question the world that we live in
Hoping for resolution
But have little reason to believe
That anything will be the same again
And so I am immersed
In this everlasting symphony
When terror has struck
We are left scared and scarred
Emotions at play
Let the conductor play his song
And one day may we unite as one
For a moment or two
And listen to the symphony together

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The View from Up Here

Sometimes when I look out
And see the world around me
I marvel at the beauty and quiet in this suburban street
Life can be so crazy, chaotic, and messy
But the view from up here
Masks the commotion outside
Looking out this window so high up
Makes me realize how fortunate I am
To have such a luxury
Blue skies and bright sunshine
Illuminating the street below
It is just so magical and mystical
Watching life unfurl from this perspective
I wonder if I’m the only one
Who feels this same way about the world?
Can it be possible to admire something you’re not a part of?
Looking out from the heights
Makes me wonder what’s going on in the world
I hear the sounds of the outside world
Want to be involved but I’m transfixed
I was never the outdoorsy type anyway
Just look for yourself
And you’ll see what I mean
Just look out your window
And you’ll be amazed
At the sensory overload
And the things that you’ll see

My Take on the VMAs

This year’s Video Music Awards was once again an unpredictable affair with the eccentric and provocative Miley Cyrus hosting the show. She wore an ever-changing wardrobe of very revealing outfits that seemed to be all for shock value. She was the wild Miley Cyrus that we’d seen a couple of years ago when she was twerking during a performance with Robin Thicke.
Miley was the focus of an acceptance speech by Nicki Minaj who opened the show in a great performance with Taylor Swift. Nicki called Miley out on her comments on her in the media and Miley tried to brush off her criticism by saying that the media likes to manipulate stories. Nicki was much more gracious to Taylor Swift despite the fact that they’d also had somewhat of a social media feud. They definitely seem to have buried the hatchet with their opening performance together.
I have watched the VMAs since I was twelve and while I do love the outrageous behavior and craziness that goes on I am a huge fan of the amazing performances I have witnessed. This year was no exception to this with great debut performances by Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, and the Weeknd. They demonstrated that they can truly perform well live and their performances were some of the highlights of the show.
This year saw the return of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to the VMAs in their downtown LA set when he performed his fantastic new single “Downtown” that made me want to download the song immediately after hearing it. He has always brought an innovative sound to rap and hip hop that is ideal for music lovers who are not as into very hardcore rap and hip hop jams. I think he is certainly still an artist to watch.
Acceptance speeches could always be entertaining as well with Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, and Taylor Swift having some interesting speeches. Kanye was his usual egotistical self when he declared that he was going to run for president in 2020 during the acceptance speech for the Video Vanguard Award which is MTV’s equivalent of the Lifetime Achievement award for contributions to music. He is someone that craves attention and while I don’t always like his antics he has made some solid contributions to music. He helped pave the way for emerging artists to break into the spotlight.
Overall, this was a very interesting year for the VMAs where Taylor Swift captured four Moonmans and allowed the director of some of her best videos to speak when she accepted the award for “Best Female Artist.” She brought her ever-growing squad with her and although there had been whispers of tension between her and Selena Gomez; they seemed to be quite friendly with each other during the show. Taylor Swift showed with her success at this year’s awards that she has successfully evolved from a country star to being one of the most popular pop artists around.
What I disliked the most about the VMAs this year was the uneven hosting by Miley Cyrus. She seemed to stretch the boundaries too much with her antics on stage and although it was all done for the attention I thought it detracted from the rest of the show. The rest of the show was solid and I just wish that she didn’t have to steal attention away from some of the other musicians there. She just seemed to be weirder by the minute and although I have liked some of her recent music I didn’t like having her as the host of this awards show.
I think the breakout stars who performed this year like the Weeknd and Tori Kelly definitely may have gained some new fans with their performances particularly the Weeknd. The Weeknd’s performance was my favorite one as he danced in the midst of fire when he sang the extremely catchy “Can’t Feel My Face.” It was very cool and everyone in the audience seemed to really be swept up by the energy he brought to the stage. He’s definitely someone who will go far in his quest to become the next big pop and R&B star.
I’d have to say that my take on the VMAs is that it was a good show with plenty of excitement and drama. It was everything that could be expected from MTV’s annual spectacle and while nay-sayers always complain about MTV and their lack of emphasis on music videos (I can agree with that wholeheartedly) I think that there is something to be said about an awards show that has been aired since the early 80s. Obviously something’s working if it’s been on for so many years. It pushes the boundaries of what is accepted socially and it is one of the most hotly anticipated awards shows of the year.
I don’t think Miley will be a host again but I do think there has been some fresh interest in some of the musicians who performed this year. Will I continue to watch the VMAs next year? I think I will because music has always been a passion of mine and I always want to see who’s going to change the landscape of music. We’ll have to see who will really become more successful after their appearances on the VMAs this year and who will lose fans due to what they brought to the show.
As a music lover the VMAs are certainly worth watching. You may not like MTV but they put a lot of effort into producing this show year after year. You may not even know some of the performers but once you listen to them your opinion of them may change. In regards to the VMAs and music I think that MTV really puts the artists who may not have a big following out there and get more people to want to listen to them and that is something I really appreciate. Just remember to always expect the unexpected when you watch this show.

A Wish for a Simpler World

I was born in 1990 and had an idyllic childhood where I played outside, went on family adventures, and enjoyed a life often without the use of technology. It was a simpler time where I didn’t spend most of my time using technology and didn’t feel like I was always connected to some device. The next generation will spend most of their time feeling like they’re connected to something with the abundance of new devices out there today.
This isn’t all about technology though. We are also faced with the onslaught of new tragedies that seem to occur on a regular basis now. From this week’s shooting in the Chicago area to the shooting in Texas of a sheriff’s deputy, it seems like the world has continued to evolve into a much more complicated world. What has contributed to such drastic changes in the world? Why is the world such a scary place now?
I think what’s made the world scarier is the fact that we simply can’t manage to get wrong with one another. Some people just can’t use basic courtesy with one another which is something I see frequently at my retail job in a major department store. Countries seem to have vendettas against each other and it seems like wishing for world peace is a fruitless endeavor. Nothing short of a miracle can make the world into a better place for today’s children to grow up in.
I know this sounds very cynical but it’s just that I feel such uncertainty about the state of the world today. I wish the world could be the same simple place it was when I was growing up. We can’t even travel anywhere without doing careful research on the places to avoid when visiting a particular destination. In airports you can’t go anywhere without going through security and having your bags thoroughly checked. It’s been that way in the United States since September 11th and I think it’s going to continue to be this way in the long run.
I have a two year old second cousin and I worry about the world she’s being exposed to. It seems tragedy can spark in the most unlikely of places and that life is just so different than it used to be. My one wish is that one day we can come to some sort of peace with each other. We were always taught in school to treat others with the same respect that they treat us and I just don’t see that as often as I’d like to.
Is a simpler world possible? I think that it could be if we learn to be present with one another and not stay glued to our devices; we would be better off. We could figure out solutions to today’s problems by being engaged and motivated to enact change. We are a generation that can make the world a better place for everyone to live in no matter what their race, class, sexual orientation, or physical condition is. We will be a generation that changes the world and makes things so much better than they are right now.
Already I’ve seen some young game-changers who have done some great things like advocating for a world without gun violence and pushing for gender equality which is still not completely a reality today. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done so that future generations will not be left to survive in a world full of chaos and complex conflicts. Is there a possibility that we can be the generation that makes the necessary changes the world needs? I believe we can be because many of us are well-educated and knowledgeable about the affairs of the world.
Just give my generation the right opportunities and we’ll prove to you that we can be the peacemakers and innovators that are essential right now. We have ideas and thoughts that may surprise you. We are not just people glued to devices that seem to only be interested in celebrity and what’s going on in the world of social media. We are people who genuinely care about the world and want today’s children to grow up in the same simple world that we did.
There have been some interesting initiatives to push youth into becoming more socially engaged and I think that anything that can increase awareness of what needs to be done on a community level is truly a great thing. We can then transcend our community awareness into a greater sense of global awareness. Perhaps we may even consider travelling to areas plagued by conflict and try to change things for the people who live in such regions.
What I think needs to be done first is some introspection and reflection on what matters most to us. We need to find our passions in life and figure out what we want to do with the talents that we have been blessed with. For example I am a writer who can write pieces that can strike people with the words that I use and others are artists, philosophers, and scientists. We can make the world into a place that we all want to live in and we need that sense of empowerment to shape our world into an ideal place to grow up in.
My urgent plea is for us to wake up and realize that anything is possible if we put our minds to it. I never thought that I’d be in the place I am today as I have disabilities that have hindered me in some respects. I have managed to do some great things though and I think that everyone is capable of achieving greatness. We just need to think about what we want to accomplish and soon enough our ideas will come into fruition. Don’t just sit on your good ideas—go out there and turn your ideas into reality. You and many other people will be better off for it.

Handling Trolls and Haters

Trolls and haters lurk in the depths of social media networks and their comments and actions can lead to a variety of emotions including anger, annoyance, frustration, and even hurt feelings. There is a distinction between these two terms that should be clarified. Trolls are often spam artists and input comments to social media posts that are often not even related to the topic at hand. Haters are those who are out to insult the work of other people and inflict their hatred in social communities and forums among other places.
The various ways that trolls and haters represent themselves online were explored in a blog post by a blogger who wrote for a blog managed by a start-up whose focus was to improve the civic process by leveraging modern technology to allow more people to become involved with better information. The author described the ways that haters represented themselves in a list:
1. They always find fault and focus on the negative
2. They express themselves harshly and dismissively
3. They often characterize what others say in broad terms presenting a straw man argument which they then cut to shreds
4. They don’t acknowledge information to the contrary, they do not give thanks when given what they want
5. They are never satisfied
Trolls were described in the post as people who “outrage and then tease the gullible into trying to save them, argue with them, prove them wrong, or whatever.” Their representations were enumerated in the following list:
1. They get personal
2. They insult and attack and provide a direct emotional response
3. They escalate to keep the fun going
4. They will never stop unless something more fun occupies their attention
There are different methods that can be implemented to reduce the influence of the haters and trolls that infect your social media channels, post reviews about your writing, or affect your personal life. A freelance writer, Andrew Hutchinson, wrote an article, “Bullies, Trolls, and Haters: Dealing with Negativity on Social Media” on LinkedIn that explored methods for resolving issues that arise with these types of individuals. These methods included:
1. Listen to all feedback
a. Analyze what has been said about you and your writing, absorb it, and take from it any useful advice.
2. Seek to improve what you can (in line with your mission):
a. Know what it is that you were trying to accomplish with your writing and be confident if you know that you achieved your goal with your writing
3. Accept that you can’t please everyone:
a. Not everyone will like what you produce and thought it may be difficult, it is important to accept it, live with what they said, and try to move on
b. If you understand the path you’re on and what you need to do to achieve your goals, you’ll be more resilient and able to accept the opinions of other individuals
He did provide good insight into being empathetic towards individuals who dislike or insult your work. He said,
“Be empathetic—everyone has issues in their life, complications that affect them in ways you can’t possibly know or understand. More often than not, negativity is not about you, keep that in mind and respond with kindness where possible. But also know that some minds can’t be changed. Sometimes you’re better to cultivate the community you have than expend effort on resolution you’re never going to achieve.”
Some propose that the best way to handle trolls and haters is to take a step back and be polite when addressing these people. You should never stoop to their level. Do not confront them but instead respond in a way that shows that you have understood their message and will resolve to address the issues they may have with you or your writing.
Haters and trolls may impact your professional life as well. I have had coworkers that have belittled me and insulted my intellectual abilities and although their words and actions did hurt I was eventually able to move on and realize that perhaps these were not the types of people I needed to have in my life. I realized that I wanted to surround myself with more positive individuals who knew how to support me and accept me for who I am.
It can be very difficult when there are negative individuals in your life but it is important to remember that not everything they say about you is true. Try to be confident and rise above the criticisms and insults they hurl your way. As was mentioned previously, see where they are coming from and the issues that they may be coping with in their personal life.
One excellent quote by Jane Roberts that succinctly summarizes what your approach to handling haters and trolls should be is the following,
“You should tell yourself frequently, ‘I will only react to constructive suggestions’. This gives you positive ammunition against your own negative thoughts and those of others.”
Negativity is an ugly fact of life that we all must cope with at some point in our lives. The key is to try to refrain from letting it impact you in such a way that it takes hold over how you live your life. Life is too fleeting to let it overshadow the great things that you know that you are capable of accomplishing. I know from personal experience how words can affect you and have learned from others that you can’t let the haters and nay-sayers affect how you perceive yourself as an individual.

How to Write Faster: Writing a Million Words in a Year

We all know about prolific writers such as James Patterson and Stephen King that are somehow able to produce five to ten books or more in a single year. Are there tricks and techniques that they employ to produce books at such a high rate? This article will enable you to learn how to become like these authors and possibly even write a million words in a year.
A blogger, Karen Woodward, summarized the techniques used by one author, Chuck Wendig, who was committed to writing 3,000 words a day in a blog post featured on her blog site, http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/05/chuck-wendigs-9-tips-for-writing-a-million-words-a-year.html His tips included:
1. Doing your writing in the morning. He wrote, “Writing in the morning has more potential than writing in the evening and here’s why: writing at the end of the day means the candle is burning down. The timer is ticking. You’re watching the horizon eat the sun and with it, the remaining hours before sweet, sweet slumber. Write at the end of the day, you’re racing the clock. Write at the fore of the day, you own the clock.”
2. Waking up an hour earlier. Woodward explained that waking up earlier results in greater productivity. You should also make sure to attain at a minimum seven hours of sleep a night.
3. Drinking coffee in moderation
4. Using your time to write. Wendig stated, “If you’re going to write a lot, you’re going to need to feint and duck, stick and move, and reach in to grab fistfuls of time-flesh and use it for your own sinister purposes: in this case, writing. Got a lunch break? Write. Sitting at a long stop light? Take a few quick voice notes on your phone.”
5. Maintaining a schedule with the amount of work you’ll need to complete each day to meet your deadlines
6. Outlining the content of your manuscript. Wendig wrote, “If you start the day with a mission statement already in play thanks to an outline, you can jump in, eschew any planning the day might require, and just start writing. The goal is to give as much of your time to actually telling the story as you can.”
7. Asking your loved ones for the time you need to write.
8. Finishing your first draft without editing as you go.
9. Do not doubt your ability to produce a great story.
The origin of the challenge to write a million words in a year is credited to Raymond Chandler who had the idea that to make a living; pulp writers had to produce a million words a year. A key component of writing this quantity of words is keep track of your daily word count. One blogger, Alasdair Stuart, wrote though that this method only made him more anxious and finally succumbed to the fact that he could not produce a million words in a year. He wisely stated:
“What’s important is the willingness to try something new that will push you and shape you and make you stronger coming out the other side.”
However, setting word counts did work for one writer, Anthony Trollope, whose goal was to write 250 words every fifteen minutes. His method of writing was detailed by the writer, William F. Buckley, in an interview with the Paris Review, when he stated,
“He had a note pad that had been indexed to indicate intervals of 250 words. He would force himself to write 250 words per 15 minutes. Now, if at the end of 15 minutes he hadn’t reached one of those little marks on his page, he would write faster.”
In an article published on Slate.com by Michael Agger, strategies for writing faster were explored. He wrote, “Since writing is such a cognitively intense task, the key to becoming faster is to develop strategies to make writing literally less mind-blowing. It’s obviously a huge help to write about a subject you know well. In that case, the writer doesn’t have to keep all of the facts in her working memory freeing up more attention for planning and composing.”
Another strategy for increasing your volume of writing is to write in longhand. An author, Karen Dionne, wrote an article for Huffington Post, describing why this method is so successful when she wrote,
“When an author working on a computer makes a typo, as I just did by typing “Whey” instead of “When” at the beginning of this sentence, they stop and fix it. Why shouldn’t they? The mistake will have to be corrected at some point, the author has noted the error in the here and now, and it only takes a second to correct it.
When I write in longhand, I don’t write “Whey” when I mean to write “When.” Occasionally, I cross out a word or a sentence, but there are no distracting typos, no time consuming regressions.”
Five tips for improving writing speed were examined in a blog post on the website of Hootsuite, a social media management application, with these strategies:
1. Skip the Introduction—Write your piece without the constraints of a planned introduction or lead.
2. Don’t Get Caught Up in the Wording—you have to maintain a rhythm while writing and keep the momentum going. Leave placeholders when you have difficulty figuring out what word to use in a particular context.
3. Keep Your Research in the Document—Copy any quotes, information, or statistics at the bottom of your document before you start and put a line across the page to distinguish between your writing and the research you’ve compiled
4. Write What You’ve Got—be concise and make your writing easy to digest for readers.
5. Talk It Out—ask a colleague for their perspective on your topic as they may offer a perspective that may alter the direction of your article
It is now evident that writing faster is a topic that is has been discussed frequently by writers. The tips and tricks discussed in this article can certainly enable you to become a more productive writer. An important thing to remember though is to never skimp on the quality of your work when you increase the speed at which you write.

Short Fiction: “Petty Criminal”

There I was, just standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden. I had the option to potentially commit a felony or go home and I decided to commit the felony. What were my friends and I going to do? We were going to attempt to shoplift from Rodgers, the major department store that we deemed easy to steal from as what we planned to steal was considered not particularly difficult to take.
One of my friends, Ella, would be the lookout while I went with my other friend, Jessica, to track down the items that we wanted to take. I did feel a pang of guilt when I thought of what my mother would think if we were caught. She would be so ashamed and disappointed and wonder how she could have raised a petty criminal. The thrill was so enticing though so I put aside those underlying feelings of guilt and went all in.
I slipped some earrings into my purse first before grabbing some necklaces and bracelets while Jessica stuffed a bra into her pocket book before we furtively exited the store. No alarms went off and Ella, Jessica, and I hopped into Ella’s Lexus before speeding away from the scene of the crime.
We thought we were home free until later on when blurry pictures of Jessica and I surfaced online with a message requesting help to track down the brazen thieves who had stolen expensive jewelry and other items from Rodgers. Jessica and I had to figure out what to do with what we had taken and we decided to dump the items in a wooded area by the local high school. Ella got us latex gloves from her dad’s stash and we put them on before grabbing what we’d taken and setting off deep into the woods. We dug a hole and buried the items before quickly leaving out of the woods.
I was really anxious that we’d still be caught and sure enough we were that night when the cops came to my house. My mom was horrified and tearfully asked me if I had actually done what the cops had accused me of doing. I couldn’t lie to her and confessed my guilt.
“Where is the stolen merchandise?” Officer Thompson asked me sharply.
“My friend, Jessica, and I buried them in the woods by the high school.” I replied truthfully.
“How could you do something like this?” my mom asked, “Did we do something wrong when we raised you? We always taught you that nothing in life is free and that you needed to pay your way through life. I think you need help and I’m not just going to stand by and let you continue down a path of crime.”
She let Office Thompson arrest me for shoplifting and I was taken away in the police car. I was terrified wondering what was going to happen to me and I was placed in a holding cell in the local jail. Jessica was eventually escorted in and gave me a sad smile. I knew that now my life was in the hands of the police and I regretted committing the crime in the first place.
Jessica and I were kept apart from one another and I knew that my mom was not going to bail me out of jail. I was led to my own cell later on and on the hard bed I put my head in my hands and began crying hysterically. All my life I had always tried to do the right thing and now I was in jail for something so stupid. I was so ashamed of myself as I had always envisioned myself having a bright future. Now this felony could jeopardize any chance I had for a good career and stable life for myself.
My trial was held a week later and my mom begrudgingly had her lawyer defend me. I guess she wanted me to have a fair chance at a good defense. I was guilt-ridden and hung my head in shame when I saw the expression on my mom’s face in the courtroom. She could barely even look at me and I wondered what kind of sentence I would receive as a first-time offender.
My lawyer spoke to me and I told her that I wanted to plead guilty and be subject to whatever sentence the jury deemed was suitable for me. She wasn’t thrilled with that but knew it was the best decision in the long run. After my lawyer defended me and requested clemency since I was a first-time offender the jury deliberated and finally sentenced me to six months in jail since the value of the items I had stolen was under $200.
I was escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs and when we arrived back at the jail I was placed in the same isolated cell I’d been in before. My reputation was tarnished now and it would take time to redeem myself to my family. While I hadn’t committed a violent crime I still had done something that was worthy of imprisonment and felt numb thinking of the future I had destroyed with one major lapse in judgment.
There was very little to do in my jail cell as there was only a small TV with a limited number of channels and a bookcase that contained old magazines and books. I wondered what I would do for the next six months and whether my family would even consider visiting me in prison. Why would they though now that they realized I was a criminal?
I contemplated suicide as a means to an end as I felt that I couldn’t possibly handle such a long time in jail. Six months was almost an entire year and I thought of all the family events I’d be missing out on and the time I could’ve spent with my friends engaged in fun social pursuits. All of that was out the window now and I knew that I was a lost cause.