Being Present

 

Credit: Pinterest

Last week I came across the above quote and it really spoke to me. Being physically present and being mentally present have two completely different definitions. Lately I have been feeling the absence of deep, meaningful conversations in my life and I yearn for that void to be filled.

I cannot remember the last time a phone wasn’t pulled out at some point during a conversation. When hanging out with a group of friends all it takes is one person to pick up their phone and everyone feels obligated to check theirs too. We have grown accustomed to the presence of technology and it is getting harder and harder to be fully present in day to day life. The truth about technology is saddening because no one my age knows how to entertain themselves without a screen. Someone whip out Yahtzee or Pictionary, PLEASE.

It may seem ridiculous to live without technology but pulling back from constant screen use is a great way to slow down your brain. Lock your phone and instead pass some time by reading, journaling or drawing…unleash the creativity! Once enough time is focused in a more constructive place than the depths of someone’s Instagram page a feeling of relaxation arises. There will always be time to be engrossed in social media but I hope more than anything that young people can learn to stay present in the more simple joys of life.

When having a conversation, I try to remind myself to continuously look someone in the eye and ask questions about what they are saying. That is the best way to show your true interest in another person. It is just too easy to get lost behind a screen when the world is going by around us. We walk around engrossed in the latest Tasty video or Snapchat story, completely oblivious to the beauty passing by with every step.

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Giphy.com

It may seem impossible to go a full day without your phone but the experience will allow you to see the world a little differently. You don’t need that perfectly staged Snapchat video or Instagram story to show that you are having fun with your friends. There is definitely pressure in our world today about posting constantly to ensure that your followers know you are maintaining an interesting life. Your friends that you are hanging out with already know how much fun you are. Pictures and videos are great, but soaking in the memories with your eyes and ears is more organic and fulfilling.

It is always great to snap some pics of a new place or some cool food, but save the editing and posting until after in order to enjoy the rest of the day. People always seemed surprised when I say I left my phone at home for the day or night; it’s like a security blanket that is thought to be a necessity when I can function just as well without it.

Right now you are looking at a screen, as are billions of people around the world. Try taking a breather from all the screens and pay attention to the beautiful details all around you because the world is a lot more interesting than the Instagram popular page.

I snapped this pic before embarking on a beautiful walk down the beach a few weeks ago. Left my phone in the car (:

 

Helpful Writing Sites

Whether it’s a research paper, a chapter of a novel or a short story, I know how hard it is to get the creative juices flowing and write. Sometimes it’s due to a lack of ideas or lack of research, and sometimes it’s just hard to get the words out. Here’s a list of websites that I find helpful when the words aren’t coming or I’ve finished writing and need to touch up my work. Whatever it is you’re writing, and whatever stage you’re at, these sites are sure to help.

Zen Writer

Zen Writer is a program you can download that makes it easier to block everything out while writing. The program takes up your whole screen so that there are no other distractions. There is a pre-downloaded menu of music to play or you can download your own, and the same goes for the background that is present while you write. It is very simple, but it’s a good tool if you have a hard time blocking out distractions.

750 Words

This website shows that consistency is key. This website’s only goal is to get you to log on everyday and write 750 words. The website is very simple and has a plain white background that you write on. Once you reach 750 words, you can stop or keep going and the website logs your progress. One of my favorite things about this website is that after you reach 750 words, a map shows up that organizes data from your writing. It shows the overall mood of your passage, your most used words, and other things. The biggest con of this website, however, is that after thirty days, you have to pay $5 a month to continue, so you may not wish to use this website if you don’t want to pay for a membership.

Written? Kitten!

This is another website that is very simple, but fun to use. The goal is to motivate its users to write, by using positive reinforcement. For every 100 words that you write on this website, a picture of a kitten pops up next to your screen. To get a new picture, you need to write 100 words. If you want to motivate yourself even more, you can increase the amount of words you have to write before you get a new picture. Plus, if kittens aren’t your cup of tea, you can select an option to see pictures of puppies or bunnies instead.

NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo  stands for National November Writing month. You can sign up and pledge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. The site tracks your progress and you earn badges for completing different tasks. I’ve always found that November is too busy for me to sit down and write, so now NaNoWriMo has Camp NaNoWriMo which is the exact same as the original site, but in the summer.

Keep Me Out

Keep Me Out is great for any type of writing or work. It’s a site where you can set a time frame and add a list of sites you want to stay off of. Keep Me Out will warn you if you go on those site more than the amount of times you selected for that time frame. It’s perfect for staying focused when you need to complete something.

Hemingway App

This website (it’s not actually an app; the name is misleading) is helpful for just about any type of writing. You copy and paste your writing into the text box and it tells you how many adverbs you used, how many sentences are hard to read, how many sentences are very hard to read, which phrases have simpler alternatives, and how many uses of passive voice there are. Each parameter is highlighted in a different color so it’s easy to tell what’s wrong with your piece of writing. It even tells you what grade the text reads as so you know how complicated your writing is.

Google Docs

Even though this isn’t just for writing, and a lot of people already know what it is, I put it on this list because I find it very helpful. It’s a very good tool to use when you need someone to edit your work. All you have to do is share the document with them and they can edit it while you look at it as well. It’s also helpful for group projects because multiple people can edit at once. I use it a lot when I need things to be edited so I don’t have to keep track of multiple drafts, and if I send something to multiple people I can keep all the comments in one document.

Evernote

Evernote is great for someone who is constantly writing across multiple devices. You can write on a normal computer, and then download the app onto other devices so you can write when you’re away from your laptop. It’s great if you’re traveling and can’t be at a computer because you can use your phone or other device and then sync it your computer later. Evernote is also great because it accommodates Apple, Android, Blackberry and many other devices, It’s layout is also simple to use!

Awesome Note

Awesome Note is very similar to Evernote in the sense that it allows you to write across multiple devices. I actually prefer it because I think it allows you to do much more than Evernote. It is a very good tool for journaling because it’s very easy to add photos, and it even has a type of note that adds in the date and allows you to select your mood and the weather for that day. There are different types of notes like to-do lists and reminders. There are also a ton of different themes you can select for your notes. It’s easy to use and very convenient. The only downside to Awesome Note is that is only available for iPhones, iPads and the Galaxy Note. However, there is a feature to export your notes to GoogleDocs so you can use it across other devices as well.

Writing.com

Writing.com is a site that allows you to share your writing with other writers and receive feedback. There are forums for you to join so you can connect with other writers and discuss your writing together. It’s a good website to get different perspectives on your writing instead of always asking classmates, teachers, friends and family members. There are also contests and writing tools on the site that all of its users have access to. One feature that I really like is that its app provides writing prompts. It’s a very simple app and it’s very helpful to get rid of writer’s block or explore different topics.