Spring 2016 Goals

Goal Results: Spring 2016

So, it’s finally the end of the Spring 2016 Semester. I figured it was about time to go over my goal results with you guys. So here goes.Spring 2016 Goals


  1. Put energy into my friendships. Schedule at least one hangout time a week.

    This has made all the difference in the world. Making time with friends a priority, has built an awesome support system for me. Success.

  2. Be hydrated! By the end of the semester, be drinking 64oz of water per day. Preferably before the end of the semester.

    Really really bad at this one…

  3. Write and post at least twice a week on Sara Strives.

    Most weeks. Success.

  4. Make more As than Bs.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful this time around. I let myself get lazy as the semester was finishing. I made 2 As and 3 Bs.

  5. Follow a study schedule to increase productivity and increase goals.

    I found the study schedule to be too constricting for me. I’ve just been working quickly and working as soon as I can instead of putting it off. I will likely try a less specific schedule next semester because I have 3 online classes that I’m taking.

  6. Eat vegan, or at least vegetarian for most meals. One to three cheat meals per week. This is primarily for health reasons which is why I am allowing myself “cheat” meals.

    This hasn’t worked as well as I hoped, mostly because of availability. The vegan cafeteria is all the way on the other side of campus and closes at 7pm which is when I usually get hungry for dinner because I eat lunch at 2.

  7. Find a study spot that isn’t my dorm.

    I was using the time I’m at work to do homework, but I’m finding I don’t have the motivation to do that right now. I should probably find a new space. I didn’t end up finding a new space…

  8. Put 10% of income into savings.

    I didn’t end up doing this towards the end of the semester.

  9. Get rid of excess stuff for a tidier and less stressful room.

    This has been great. I feel like I’ve cut down quite a bit. Success.

  10. Take a minimum of 10 minutes of quiet/prayer/bible reading time 5 days a week.

    I haven’t done very well with this one. I let myself get swept up in the busyness of school and work. If anyone has suggestions for making sure I make time for this, let me know. I did make quiet time for myself, not much time in the Word though. Half success.

  11. Find a way to take lecture notes that works for me.

    I think I’ve done fine with this. I made a B on one test and an A on another. Success.

  12. Make my bed every morning. Again, for a tidier and less stressful room.

    This hasn’t been happening and it makes my room stressful. I’ve been oversleeping a lot. I want to get back into this. For the majority of the semester, success.

  13. Read one fun book!

    I haven’t really been working on this very much. But I have a book started. I haven’t finished it, but I ended up buying a different book the last week of school that I am very excited to read. Half success.

  14. Submit my degree plan.

    I submitted my degree plan and have gone to all my meetings. I now have my official degree plan in hand! Success.

  15. Find a cleaning schedule, whether alone or with a roommate!

    I have been cleaning on Sundays mostly. It’s a nice quiet time to get ready for the week. Success.

Ultimately, I didn’t do as well as I wanted, but I learned that it’s okay not to meet goals sometimes. Especially when a class might be more difficult than you expected. Or a diet doesn’t work for you. How did your goals turn out? Anything you would do differently next time around?


College Critiques

College Critiques: How to Accept Criticism and Give It

So excited to give you another post from Margaret! This one is about critiques. Accepting criticism as an artist is extremely challenging. And this article is a perfect guide to accepting criticism and giving critiques.

Greetings! Margaret here again. I hope you’ve had a fantastic week and that failure isn’t as frightening as it may have once been. I couldn’t be more grateful to Sara for hosting me again, and she has been as patient as a saint. Did you know I moved this weekend? I feel a little beat up, so it’s nice to sit and write, and not do anything related to lifting or running up and down stairs.

College Critiques

So let’s get to it! This week I’d like to talk to you about critiques. Sheesh, there’s nothing more trying than getting up with a piece of artwork you’ve worked on for weeks and taking everyone’s criticism–constructive or otherwise.


At least that’s how it was in my art classes. You’d have to display your work and stand beside it, mouth shut, while everyone pointed out what was working and what wasn’t. Sure, I’ve received a lot of critiques as a fiction writer–and I’ve given them as well–but I developed my thick skin for critiques in art class.


At the college level, critiques should be more in-depth. It’s no longer enough to say you like something or you don’t like something. Classmates–and you–need to be able to articulate why you like it. But even to say “I like this because…” isn’t substantial enough. It’s too subjective. Critiques should be objective, and that can make them hard to receive.


They sound cold and impersonal.


The truth is, that’s okay. They should be impersonal. If your painting doesn’t work for some reason, it doesn’t matter if you’re the nicest person in the world. It’s the same for fiction.


I was working on a book in third-person (He went over there, for example), and I was having difficulty getting far enough into my narrator’s headspace. My fellow students told me the story was interesting but it just wasn’t grabbing their attention.




For a writer, there’s nothing worse than not grabbing your reader’s attention! After all, that’s what keeps them turning the pages. The most constructive critique identified that my reader felt too far away from my main character and narrator.


I switched to first person (I went over there, for example), and it revolutionized my story.


So here’s your choice when faced with a tough critique: Let your feelings get hurt and take it personally, or learn to develop a thick skin and begin to crave constructive criticism.


What about giving critiques?

Believe it or not, giving a good critique is easier than it may seem. Keep in mind that your professor might have additional or different guidelines that you should always follow, but if you’re not given guidelines or they’re loose, here’s a good template to guide you.


The Sandwich Critique

  1. Say something that works about the piece. Don’t just try to be nice, really look for something that works well. Try to drill down to details. For example, does the composition carry your eye through the piece? Maybe the colors or textures create energy for the viewer. Be as specific as you can and don’t make it personal.
  2. Suggest something that might be improved upon. Just as almost every piece has strengths, so too is there often room for improvement. Again, be as specific as you can. Don’t just say, “I don’t like the colors.” Instead, it might be more appropriate to say something like this: “The brown, gray, and red color scheme create a dull, muddy tone when your subject matter suggests something more upbeat. Was this original? If not, you might consider choosing different colors.”
  3. Say something that works well again. Not only will this allow the recipient of your critique to feel empowered and positive, but it shows that you’re not just looking for the negative.


Additional Tips

What else can you do to improve your critique experience?

  • Listen to others when they give you critiques. Keep eye contact and don’t interrupt. Don’t defend your work. Remember they’re just trying to help and you are not forced to take their advice.
  • Study each piece and take notes before you critique, if possible. Jot down some quick ideas of what works and what doesn’t.
  • If someone else says what you were thinking for a piece before your turn to critique, that’s okay. You can agree with them and even add to what they said.


I know critiques are difficult. I know it. I’ve encountered them for fine art and for writing. I can’t make promises that they will get easier, but they did for me, and now after earning my master’s, I can say I crave a good critique. When someone just tells me what they think I want to hear, I feel let down.


Good luck, and always remember that it’s about improving the piece, and that a critique is not personal.

Failure: Friend or Foe?

Hello! I am so excited to have our very first guest writer today, writing all about failure. Margaret has 4 posts planned, one to be posted every Monday this May. So, here it goes! -Sara

Failure: Friend or Foe?


As a writer, failure–usually in the form of a generic rejection letter–is something I face every time I submit a short story for publication. At first, the prospect of a rejection letter was almost crippling. The idea of putting my work forward for strangers to judge once made me sick to my stomach.

Then it happened: My first rejection. I’d submitted a story to Glimmer Train, which is a well-known literary magazine that I’d had my sights set on for awhile. Publication in Glimmer Train commands a certain degree of respect.

I won’t lie–the rejection stung at first, until I realized that it wasn’t a personal affront. They in no way said my writing was lacking, only that the particular story I’d sent in did not fit their vision for the upcoming issue. They (the magazine is edited by a pair of sisters) invited me to submit again in the future.

So I have. I’ve submitted three times so far, and received a rejection each and every time.

I’ve learned something with each rejection. Market research can only take a fiction writer so far. Sometimes the process of elimination–even with one’s own stories–can be more educating than reading back issues. Each rejection takes me one step closer to acceptance, because I am honing in their ideal story.

Right about now, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with art. The thing is, the “writer’s life” isn’t all that much different from the artist’s life–we just use a different medium.

I have studied the fine arts, as well. In my younger years, I earned my BA in Art History, but before then I intended to pursue Art Education. The Arts had always been a staple in my education. As a high school student I attended the Center for Creative Youth (CCY), a five-week intensive art education experience at Wesleyan University.

Naturally, as a budding artist, I enrolled in Drawing 101 and Drawing 102. Drawing 101 was fantastic–it was difficult, but fantastic. Every night we had to draw our hand in a different position for homework. My early attempts looked like blind contour drawings, though there was nothing blind about them.

By the end of that course, my hand was popping off the page. The semester ended and I practiced my newly refined skills over winter break.

Then the spring semester began. I could make excuses and say that my instructor was an egomaniac whose ideas about how to teach drawing were off-base. But the fact was, he asked us to complete what seemed like a simple task, and I utterly failed at it.

We had a twenty-four-inch wide piece of paper, clipped on the easel. Our task? Draw a straight vertical line, dead center, with willow charcoal.

I admit it was not my most eco-friendly month. The only thing I managed to produce was a pile of discarded newsprint sheets and plenty of frustration. My classmates were in the same boat. We grumbled about the task, about his methods, and about his “You should feel fortunate to have me as your professor” attitude.

The fact was, we were all failing. We never did manage to draw a perfectly straight line down the absolute center of the page (no rulers allowed!), but we were learning to accept failure. To learn from it. To rely upon our determination rather than our frustration.

Fine Arts or Fiction, failure is not our enemy. We need not fear failure–the only thing we need to fear is giving up out of frustration.

10 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break


Hey y’all!

So, I don’t know about y’all but my first thought when realizing how long of a break I had between semesters of college was “What am I going to do with all this time?” Here are some ideas to fill those hours with something besides Netflix and sleep!10 Ways to Make the Most of Winter Break

1. Spend time with Family

Seriously! You’re home. Spend time with your family and catch up. They care about you a lot. And! It’s likely they’re paying a good chunk of your tuition. 😉 So, just give them that quality time! Eat your meals together and set down your phone for once.

2. Catch up with your high school friends

Catch up with your high school friends while you’re home. I’m sure you miss them as much as I miss mine. Maybe you can team up with them on some of the other suggestions I have listed.

3. Apply for Scholarships

As I mentioned above, tuition is a pretty penny. Spend some time applying for scholarships. I like Fastweb to find credible scholarships. There are a ton of scholarships that don’t require essays and there are a lot that require similar essays. It is definitely worth a try. I would also check your school’s website for any opportunities.

4. Try and get a seasonal job

A lot of retail stores hire for the holiday season, try to pick up a job to make some extra cash. Or, try to get hired back at your summer job. Either option might fill your time and your wallet.

5. Volunteer

Volunteer! It’s a season of giving so go for it! You can volunteer at animal shelters or homeless shelters. I plan on volunteering in my old high school theatre department over the break.

6. Relax while you can

Don’t work too hard. This is your rest time before another stressful semester. It’s okay to spend A LITTLE time on Netflix. Just a little. 😉

7. DIY!

Spend some time getting your creative juices flowing and make something! You can DIY Christmas gifts or really anything. I like to scrounge Pinterest for face mask recipes and cake in a mug recipes!

8. Make some goals for next semester

Set goals! I plan on doing an academic series on this blog, following my goals and the steps I am taking to meet them throughout this next semester. I would refer to this blog post from Just A Girl and Her Blog for a guide to setting goals. There are a lot of other awesome articles on this as well. Just search “goal setting” in Pinterest!

9. Make a study schedule for next semester

I am going to be making a study schedule for next semester so that I have more of a routine. I hope this will help me in being successful with my goals. This post from Candid Caroline explains how to make a a study schedule very well. More on this later!

10. Clean out your stuff! You’re getting a bunch of new stuff anyways.

Seriously guys, we all have so much stuff! I bet you couldn’t name most of the stuff you have hidden in your closet. You’re probably getting a lot of gifts for Christmas, so clean out what you aren’t using now. Donate stuff, re-gift, and throw away! A fresh start for the new year will be such a relief.

What are y’all using your winter break for? Please leave requests!


My Spring 2016 Goals: February Update

Spring 2016 GoalsHey, here’s an update on my spring semester! Let’s just jump right in.

Continue reading “My Spring 2016 Goals: February Update”