I hereby declare 2021 the year of self

A young woman jumps freely by the water.
A young woman jumps freely by the water.
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For many, 2020 can’t be over soon enough. But as much as the year’s events brought hardship, pain, joblessness, even hunger to millions across the world, there’s something it also provided: excellent life lessons.

As we stayed home during lockdowns, many of us found new ways to discover an appreciation for friends and family. Some opted to fix lingering issues around the house, while others learned how to streamline their financial budget.

The year 2020 was the year I decided to shift some priorities and put myself first. I decided to write more for myself than in previous years. I also opted to restructure how I maintain my writing and publishing calendar. …

Defense mechanisms are often unconscious, learned behaviors.

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He who has the loudest voice may be able to talk over everyone else, but that doesn’t mean anyone is listening.

It seems everyone has something ultra-important to say these days. You’ll find lots of advice — nay, demands — on the internet, primarily on social media.

“Say it a little louder for the people in the back,” proponents chant, which leads to the notion that speaking over others will get one’s point across. But, not so much.

He who has the loudest voice may be able to talk over everyone else, but that doesn’t mean anyone is listening.

Survival instinct

The urge to yell stems from our survival instinct. When the brain’s limbic system — the “emotional” center — perceives an external event as threatening, it activates the hypothalamus. At that point, the sympathetic nervous system triggers our “fight or flight” mode. …

We expected the nightmare to be over, yet here we are still.

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Like most people, I eagerly awaited the ball to start dropping at 11:59 pm on December 31st. I could hear the countdown in the distance as I sat in a retail shop with my husband. I visualized a classic Times Square moment, Dick Clark’s voice swarming around my brain.

The last hour of 2020 was nearly unbearable, partly because I couldn’t get all the year’s dramatic events out of my head. But I was also asking myself all the “what ifs” imaginable.

What if things don’t get better? What if the next year is worse? …

If you want to reach your full potential, focus on evoking emotion

Woman holding a book, scratching her head in confusion.
Woman holding a book, scratching her head in confusion.
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Whoever first said one- and two-sentence paragraphs are the way to win online failed thousands of writers. It sounds crass, but it’s true. Paragraphs should be as long as they need — no more, no less.

There’s a rule of web design that, when broken, wreaks havoc. It’s this:

Do not compromise usability for design appeal.

Sometimes you have to sacrifice flashy features to ensure visitors can navigate and interact with a site. This is why website graphic designers need to work closely with engineers and coders; the marketing department should also be welcome. …

The future of the internet should concern us

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In a single weekend, social media platform Parler was struck down by the tech industry’s most prominent players. On Friday, January 8th, Google pulled the Parler app from the Google Play store. On Saturday, as Parler sat in the #1 free app spot, Apple yanked it. Amazon followed suit, shutting down Parler’s cloud hosting account late Sunday.

The move was sparked by an attack on the US Capitol, during which two people were killed, and others died due to medical emergencies. Media reports surfaced, suggesting people used Parler to plan an act of terrorism.

According to several interviews, Parler CEO John Matze revealed that the company’s existing and potential vendors followed big tech’s lead. No one would work with the privacy-focused free speech network. …

The biggest aren’t always the best at bringing you lots of genuine readers

A short-haired woman sits on the grass, typing on a laptop.
A short-haired woman sits on the grass, typing on a laptop.
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I love large publications. They have a vast following and tend to make quality a top priority. But unless you’re a branded writer, it’s not only difficult to have drafts accepted, it’s even harder for your story to be seen on the home page.

On Medium, there’s something prestigious about having stories on your profile display in [enter a big publication name here]. But, at what cost?

When it comes to large publications, the average writer’s story winds up in the archives. If the home page has a latest feed, stories typically scroll off the page quickly.

A number of Medium’s prime publications launch dozens of stories each day — some 50 or more. As a reader, it’s difficult to keep up with them. As a writer, it’s no wonder that 8-minute gem has only been viewed 126 times over six months, despite being curated by Medium editors. …

Don’t let correctness issues get in the way

Young boy wearing a collared shirt & tie, carrying a notebook. He’s irritated.
Young boy wearing a collared shirt & tie, carrying a notebook. He’s irritated.

Editing — no matter the content — is no easy task. So it makes sense for writers to make the editor’s job as easy as possible. And it starts with submitting work that is virtually free of grammatical errors.

I say “virtually free” because no one is perfect, and no writer should be the sole editor of their own work. When human intervention isn’t possible, there are simple steps writers can take to decrease the amount of red-penning by editors.

In the final days of 2020 and the first two days of the new year, I rejected most submissions across four publications. Ninety percent of rejections were due to correctness issues easily caught by tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. …

How we stepped out of our comfort zones to learn something new

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Years from now, 2020 will be known for many things… The year scientists rushed to develop a vaccine to combat a coronavirus strain. The year an officer knelt on a Black man’s neck, encouraging millions to take a stand against racism and police brutality. The year the media — including social platforms — inappropriately censored content while force-feeding society slanted information.

Above all, though, 2020 should be remembered for how it changed how we worked, lived, and dealt with hardship. Most notably, as the year of the autodidact.

If you self-learned a new trade or hobby during stay-at-home orders, be proud. …

Don’t miss the final step toward being published

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Beyond following publication guidelines, style guides, and writing rules, creators need to be responsive to an editor’s needs. Most writing platforms send updates based on many activities, including requests for fixes.

As much as writers get antsy over lengthy acceptance or rejection notices, editors don’t like holding almost-there submissions in the queue. That’s no bueno when you want your work to reach the masses.

Turn on platform and email notifications

I get it. Spam and marketing emails get in the way. But ignoring notices from editors can cost you readers and money. …

Every other reason is secondary

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Ask a thousand writers why they write, and you’ll hear plenty of varying answers. Among them will be terms like “side hustle” and “to help others.” But there’s really only one reason to put pen to paper — ehh, fingertips to letter keys — because you must.

I started Write, I Must to arm passionate storytellers with insights and tools they need and as a place for writers with others who feel the same need to get words out of their heads. There are thousands of books on the art of writing. …


Pamela Hazelton

Avid writer, marketer & business consultant. // Reward yourself a little every day. 🆆🅾🆁🅺 + 🅻🅸🅵🅴 🅱🅰🅻🅰🅽🅲🅴

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