Minimalism And Relevance

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Some of us have never known a world without a computer, a smart phone or instant access to information.  As technology has advanced and access has become more prevalent, people are scripting their lives to prove how important they are and why you should care about them.  People are seeking validation and relevance from their titles, their possessions, and from strangers.  They are showcasing what they value - what they think makes them relevant.   

Cheap technology, disposable products, social-media-famous people, celebrity worship and gadget envy are quickly becoming the new normal.  I’m certainly no luddite (I am writing this on a MacBook after all), and lets face it, most of us have smartphones and laptops and are distracted by Instagram and Facebook probably more than we should allow.   I’m also just as guilty as the anyone for wanting  to justify buying a new gadget or wanting to throw money at a situation that planning, contentment or attention to detail could have solved.  However, technology does have it’s place.  It can provide access to information and events, or expose injustices that would have been hidden otherwise.  People from half a world away can inspire and guide us to become better versions of ourselves - people who we wouldn’t have had access to if it weren’t for our gadgets.  

Sadly, our society has become increasingly addicted to consumerism and superficiality and are using these as a benchmark for their own and other people’s level of relevance.   It’s tragic because despite having more money, more gadgets, bigger houses, more likes, more friends or more status, their level of unhappiness and lack of contentment has either stayed the same or worsened. So they buy more stuff or get more likes  or try to gain more popularity hoping that more makes them more relevant and hopefully, happier - like a dog trying to catch it’s own tail - you’ve caught it, now what?!?

What is relevance from a minimalist point of view?  The answer is as varied as the people who practice minimalism.  Obviously, a basic axiom of minimalism is the elimination of the need to have more for the purpose of having more.  Practicing minimalism opens you to contentment, to a happiness that originates from within,  and to the knowledge that you have everything you need and you value everything you have.  In turn, you can share this with the people you love, your community and the world around you.  Our relevance originates in who we value and how we value ourselves, not from our things or from social media.  When we’ve taken care or ourselves and have treated ourselves kindly and with love, when we strip away what’s superficial and what’s unimportant, we find relevance, we are practicing minimalism.  You make you relevant, not your things.

Our Independence



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Hello and welcome back.  We’ve been away for a bit but we haven’t been idle.  In our absence we’ve been learning to streamline our processes, focus our branding and sharpen our vision for Crescent Sol.  While we have many ideas for new projects we want to pursue, we are first and foremost, independent writers/authors who want to publish our own work.  We believe that indie-publishing gives us the most freedom with our work and, in our opinion, provides the most authentic and true representation of who we are.  Thank you for staying with us.  

So, why indie-publishing?  When someone writes a book, the author wants as many people to read it as possible.  Most people don’t have the funds that are required to distribute books nationally and internationally, so they submit their work to a publishing house.  The publishing house wants to make money like any other business so they don’t want to publish and promote a book that won’t turn a profit.  A lot of books are rejected.  A lot of good books.  The few that are selected are edited and often sections are reworded or rewritten to make the book more marketable.  Everything is subject to revision by the publishing house.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Weak sections can be strengthened by professional editors, professional graphic designers can create eye-catching covers.  There are professional readers, marketing teams, distribution teams, focus groups, etc….   But after all of the changes , is it still the same book the author envisioned?

So, what’s the difference?  Independent authors also submit their work to editors, they also collaborate with graphic designers to create their covers, they even hire PR firms to guide them on how best to market their product.  If the steps are similar, why take on all of the added work and responsibility by going independent?  For Tracie and me, it’s about having complete creative control over our work.  We want our books to be read by as many people as possible, but not at the expense of our autonomy.  We also want our selves to be reflected in our work when we reveal it to the world.  Our work will still be revised and polished but it will always be uniquely and completely us.

Desire

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

There are things you have thought about doing that would seem rewarding.  There are things you wish were different.  How many of those do you have a desire to change?  Thinking about doing something or wishing that something would change will not make it happen.  Discovering what your desires truly are is the starting point to achieving anything.

Desire is where change begins.  To change is to be in almost perpetual motion.   Sometimes in a single direction toward a well defined end,  sometimes an any direction to find what does and doesn’t work.  True desire, not wishes or dreams, stay with you and can drive you even at the inconvenient times or when you’re the least motivated and inspired.

As I’ve been writing these posts about change, I’ve been looking at myself physically, mentally and intellectually and making comparisons between where I am and what I want.  Some things have not been matching up and change is long overdue.  I’m confident I’m not alone in this.  It’s time to get a pen and paper (or laptop) and write down what   you truly desire.  I’ll share mine in the next blog when we talk about mindset - believing you can change. 

What do you desire to change in your life?  What have you put energy into to affect your current situation and your life?  Let me know in the comments.

For Fear Of Great Change

from the yellow sofa

By: Carl Nickles

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To make a any change in your life, no matter how small, you need key ingredients - Desire, belief, planning, discipline and progress.  They are all interconnected and they can all be destroyed by fear.  Fear can alter your belief in yourself and it can kill desire preventing it from growing into passion.  Fear can sabotage your  plan which prevents you from being disciplined. Without discipline and consistency, progress is nearly impossible to attain.


How do we eliminate or manage fear, particularly when it comes to writing? A suggestion I read in Brenda Ueland’s book called “If You Want To Write” reads “I’ve found that many gifted people are so afraid of writing a poor story that they cannot summon the nerve to write a single sentence for months.  The thing to say to such people is:  ‘See how bad a story you can write.  See how dull you can be.  Go ahead.  That would be fun and interesting.  I will give you ten dollars if you can write something thoroughly dull from beginning to end!’  And of course no one can.”  

If your desire is to write, then make the plan to write often (daily) and believe that you can do it.  Show up and watch yourself improve.  Write freely, fearlessly, and even horribly.  Above all, shed light on your fears and kill them before they derail you.  It won’t always be easy or “fun”, but great change rarely is.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  What are some ideas and methods you use to get past the fear of writing?  Let me know in the comments.

From the movie After Earth:

“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. That is near insanity. Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.” - Will Smith


Changes

From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles

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All of us at one time or another have wanted to change something about ourselves or set and reach a new goal.  Most of us have many things we would like to accomplish or change.  One of the quickest ways to failure and frustration is to attempt too many changes simultaneously, especially with no plan in place, little belief that you can change and no discipline and consistency.

Is focusing on one small change or maybe a couple of changes that are tied together give you a better chance at succeeding?  Or can you be successful at a complete makeover - tackling all of your changes at once?  How do we get there?  Why do some people fail and others succeed?  In the coming weeks, I’ll take a look at what it takes to change and the roadblocks along the way using some of my own personal goals as an example.  Writing will be the topic of most of my examples, but here is the short list of what I’d like to accomplish:

  • Building my business

  • Writing and completing my novels/books/blogs

  • Learning how to design websites

  • Learning how to play guitar

  • Exercise consistently

  • Practice meditation consistently

All of this while continuing to perform at my day job and nurturing my relationship with my amazing partner, Tracie.  So, what changes have you made in your life recently?  How did you get there?  What were some of the roadblocks you encountered and overcame? Let me know in the comments.

How I "Won" NaNoWriMo

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles


NaNoWriMo officially ended on Nov. 30.  While I didn’t “win” by completing the 50,000 word count by the deadline, I won in other ways.  This may seem like a petition for a participation trophy, but I think the lessons I learned along the way were as important as the number of words written.  

Winning for me was writing more in the last 30 days than I have since since college.  It was doing something that until recently I thought was reserved for people with years of experience and training or for people who’s entire life had always been a continuous flood of words and ideas.  I  won because I created people, scenes and a world from practically nothing.  

 I won because I have accepted the hard truth that I am, and will always be a planner.  I don’t know how people write 50,000 words of a novel without a detailed outline (I’m jealous), but I apparently need to plan.  Planning has helped me firm up how I want my novel to begin, evolve and end.  

Most importantly, I won because I have written.  Maybe not 50,000 words (not even close), but more than I would have had I not entered the NaNoWriMo contest.  As I alluded to in a previous post about writing, you (I) have to write.  It’s the only way a novel will be completed.  It’s the only way to become a better writer.  I plan on entering next year and I hope I participate every year.  The goal will always be to get the word count to 50,000 but the truly important part will always be the journey of belief, creation, discipline and inspiration.   It’s the little things you learn along the way that matter most.  Those experiences are the “wins”.

I can’t thank everyone enough both inside and outside of the writing community as well as the other participants of NaNoWriMo for their support and encouragement.  If you participated in NaNoWriMo this year but didn’t make it to 50,000 words, do you still feel like you have won (I hope you do)?  Let me know in the comments.

We Buy Black Convention - Atlanta, GA.

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From The Yellow Sofa


By: Carl Nickles


Last week, Tracie and I attended the We Buy Black convention in Atlanta, GA.  The inaugural 2 day event hosted black owned businesses from across the country.  The event featured a live marketplace where owners could showcase their products and speak directly with their customers, business workshops where people could get help with their own business ideas,  and a chance to sit down with business consultants and receive free guidance on how to grow and promote their business.   

There were a wide variety of vendors with products ranging from soaps and lotions , beard and skin care, to laundry detergent, clothing, coffee and even hot sauce.  Tracie and I purchased a few (ok, a lot) of these products.  The vendors were more than happy to talk about their products and even tells us a little about how they got their start and some of the lessons they have learned along the way.

We Buy Black’s mantra is “Remove, Replace, and Rebuild.”  To paraphrase the founder and creator of We Buy Black, Shareef Abdul-Malik: Remove ourselves from depending on other communities for our survival and basic needs, Replace items with products we produce, control and own, and Rebuild our communities to a level worth respecting and protecting.  Their website, webuyblack.com serves as a storefront of a variety of products all produced, created, owned and sold by black entrepreneurs.  

For more information, visit webuyblack.com and take a look at what they have to offer.

Writing - Why Write?

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From The Yellow Sofa

By: Carl Nickles


Golf.  I’ve never played, but friends tell me that at times, there is an incredible amount of frustration compared to the small amount of joy/success in the game.  The same could be said for getting involved in a land war in Asia (thank you “The Princess Bride”), explaining Star Trek to non-science fiction fans and bathing cats.  Why do them at all?  Striving for a hole in one, debating TOS vs TNG or risking your life by placing a cat in water all sound exasperating.  The same could be said for writing.  So why write?

With writing, there is an entire theme park of frustration and challenges awaiting you.  Finding stories worth writing that are not only interesting to you but to your potential readers, rewriting, revising, editing, rejection letters, criticism (especially from non-writers) and the never-ending work of promoting your story.  Despite all of this, you power through for the hope of one day enjoying a little notoriety, a little money from sales or seeing your book in print.

You may never make a penny off of your writing, you may never be published, so why write?  In spite of all of the people that inhabit this planet, in spite of all of the stories they have told, they haven’t been told by you.  No one else sees the world you inhabit or create exactly like you do.  Telling your story, whether it’s a paragraph or a novel in your voice can be the hole in one , your success, your joy.  That little victory can be worth all of the frustration you endured to obtain it.  So write.

Reflecting On NaNoWriMo Week One

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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It’s been a week since NaNoWriMo began and I am definitely behind on word count and content.  I’d be lying if I said that it wasn’t just a little discouraging.  However, I have made progress and I’ve been happy with the progress I have made.  But there are a few things that I’ve learned in this short amount of time:

1. I wish I had been more prepared.  Preparation has always worked for me in the past.  I believe it would have worked for me now (had I done it).  Writing by the seat of my pants is unsettling.  There are certainly lessons to be learned from this process, but it is definitely not my ideal method.  There is enough that I DON’T know about my story at this point without having a plan/outline from which to work.

2. Write everyday and don’t edit along the way.  I published a blog about writing crap.  That’s arguably the majority of any first draft.  A first draft is typically what is being written during NaNoWriMo for many participants.  This is the time for writing, not editing.  The time for cringing at what you have written and then rewriting it comes later.

3. Don’t stress over word count.  It’s always helpful to have a goal - healthy in fact.  Stepping up to challenges help us expand what is attainable that at one time we thought was impossible.    NaNoWriMo, in my opinion,  is a way to get writers writing with the benefit of having an army of other writers by your side.

I have a lot of work ahead of me, but that would be true even if I had planned ahead anyway so I plan on enjoying the process and learning more along the way.  How is NaNoWriMo going for you?  Let me know in the comments.

NaNoWriMo

From The Yellow Sofa

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By Carl Nickles

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month is a contest beginning November 1 where participants endeavor to write 50,000 words of their novel by November 30, 11:59pm.  On the official website, nanowrimo.org, you can find links to more information about the contest and track your progress as well as links to forums, pep talks, virtual write-ins, and information on meet-ups.  

To write 50,000 words in 30 days, you would have to write 1,667 words per day.  That seems daunting.  For a new writing like myself, that sounds terrifying.  So, I’ve decided to sign up.  Tracie will as well.  Tracie has already written 3 books and is working on a couple more.  I’m currently working on 2 - and by working I mean thinking about them a lot and writing blogs instead of actually writing books.  I only have a couple more days left of October to think about, outline and otherwise prepare (October is also known as Preptober) for NaNoWriMo so wish me luck!

Are you going to participate in NaNoWriMo?  Let us know in the comments.  Tracie and I will be providing updates in our stories on Instagram (@carl.nickles and @tracie.chavonnne)  Check it out.

Writing Crap

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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I’ve been learning how to write for the past 4 years.  And I write crap (starting a sentence with “and” doesn’t help).  Like anything else, to become good at it, you must practice.  As you practice, you’ll make mistakes.  If you’re practicing piano, you’ll hit wrong notes.  If you’re writing, you’ll make errors and you’ll write crap!  I’m writing crap right now and I’ll continue to write crap as long as I continue to write. The crap I write a year from now will read better and take less time to edit, but it will still be crap.  

And thats ok.  

Improvement comes by trying and failing, trying and getting rejected and trying again.  You will eventually get more “right” than “wrong”.  Other people will still tell you that you write crap.  People who have written little more than their name since middle school  will tell you that you write crap.  Some other people will read your crap and tell you your crap is great, fantastic, inspiring and life-changing.  

That’s kinda cool.  

 Keep practicing, keep writing.  Let me know in the comments how your writing is going by clicking on the title of this post.  Also, check out our collection of books written by Tracie Chavonne.

Minimalism

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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When I first heard about minimalism, what immediately resonated with me was the idea of not having so much crap!  I grew up in a middle-class suburb in a 3 bedroom home with a full basement.   The house was never dirty or visibly cluttered (due to weekday and weekend chores for my younger sister and me), but there were drawers and closets that were stuffed with things were never or rarely used.  For example, there was (and still is) a large utensil drawer in my parents house with multiple spatulas, carving knives, icing spreaders, and mixing spoons acquired over the years.  Only a handful were used regularly.  Fast forward to my own home after moving out.  Different surroundings, similar situations.  After living on my own for a time I  attempted to implement minimalism’s most tangible tenet - getting rid of clutter. Over time, I began to discover how minimalism could benefit me in other ways besides just having less stuff.

I’ve discovered that minimalism is not about not owning furniture and displaying bare walls.  Reducing the physical excess clutter is the beginning of minimalism in my opinion.  The journey continues with detaching from the idea of having things just because I can or thinking that I have to have them.  Minimalism can be about finding freedom from not only the physical but the economical (rat race), mental and emotional clutter.  Minimalism can inform how I think, how I view my surroundings, my life, other people, finances, even what I eat.  It sounds overwhelming but it’s not. 

With all of the forms minimalism can take and how it can positively influence my life, it makes it more than just something to be into because it’s trendy.  It can be a lifestyle that can grow as I grow, mature and change.  I can see myself as being enough and my decisions and emotions can  benefit me and people close to me.  I can be mindful of the future and be free of anxiety while living in the present.  That’s not to say that I’m free from the pressure to conform and consume.  American society in general and the black community in particular can exert a great deal of pressure to consume and “keep up”.

While it’s important to find your own path and to discover what minimalism means to you,  it’s helpful to know that there are others out there like you, who look like you and who are learning and experimenting as well.  Here are some people who have made it their mission to share the benefits of minimal living:

“The Afro Minimalist” (@afrominimalist), curated by Christine Platt. Christine shares her experiences living in and decorating a 630 square foot apartment and even provides a tour (follow the link in her bio on Instagram).  Christine Platt is also a published author and the Managing Director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center (@AntiracismCtr). 

@blkminimalists (blackminimalists.net) is the creation of Yolanda Acree, Kenya Cummings, Farai Harreld and Anekia Nicole. The current members are Yolanda, Kenya and Farai.  On their site you’ll find interviews, personal essays from the founders, a space to share your own personal journey and they even host a pod cast. They also provide an e-course which provides an introduction to simple living with the help of videos, worksheets and links to other resources. 

Also, check out E and Roe of “Brown Kids” (@brownkids) on Instagram and take a look at their posts about minimalism and intentional living, enroll in The Jar Method Visual Workshop which will show you how to save money and reduce/eliminate food waste and their stories featuring their Debt Diary chronicling how Roe had paid down her debt.

Minimalism is about so much more and there is so much more for me to discover.  Feel free to share your own journey with minimalism or ask questions by clicking the title of this blog.  Also feel free to leave any other comments.  Live free.

The Measure Of A Life

FROM THE YELLOW SOFA

By Carl Nickles

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What is your focus and vision for your life?  Are you consistently working on what you want to accomplish, or have you allowed "stuff" such as tasks (urgent but not important or vice versa), poor planning or relationship drama sidetrack you?  They all need attention to some degree, but there needs to be balance.


Focus can help filter out the “stuff” and make room for a purposeful life.  It can aid you in finding the things or people that inspire you.  Focus can make it a little easier for you to resist a difficult situation, walk away from a relationship that no longer serves you, or a busy, reaction-driven schedule that robs you of time.

Strip away the “stuff” and watch your pursuits and the people you choose to make a priority become a testament to a meaningful life.  While the journey is the roadmap of your focus, the vision is the destination in the distance - the end result and your success in your endeavors and the sense of accomplishment.  Over time, with consistency and practice, it will become the narrative of your life.

Make time to focus on yourself every day - This is one of the most unselfish things you can do for yourself.  What do you need for yourself and from yourself?  Focus on what you want - what you really want and pursue it.  Create a vision with the end in mind.  

Repeat.

An Introduction

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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This post is long overdue, but I wanted to introduce myself and officially welcome all of you to our blog space here at Crescent Sol. In the coming months, we’ll be posting about a variety of different topics ranging from changing habits to exploring minimalism. We’ll also be throwing in the occasional book review as well.

As for myself, my interests include writing, science fiction, music, coding, minimalism, flying - which is my day job (more on that in a later blog) and of course Crescent Sol. I’d like to touch on all of these subjects and more and share our successes (and failures).

While we are primarily a publishing company, my personal goals for our company are for it to grow into an organization that produces relevant and timely content and promotes other writers, thinkers, artists, technology, mindfulness and purposeful living. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy what you see.