<![CDATA[Jessica L. Harris - Home]]>Thu, 05 Oct 2017 04:31:28 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[GO AWAY...Alone! 3 Tips for Embarking on Your Solo Adventure]]>Tue, 14 Feb 2017 22:13:28 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/go-awayalone-3-tips-for-embarking-on-your-solo-adventurePicture
“Estás sola (Are you alone)?” asked the tour guide who helped me into a swaying water taxi in Panama. “Who are you traveling with?” asked the customs agent upon my return to the US. “I’m alone,” I responded. “Were you visiting family?” “No.” “Friends?” “No.” “You went to Panama alone? Without knowing anyone?” “Yes.”
 
My upcoming trip to Columbia will mark my 4th time leaving the country alone. I know people who’ve backpacked through Europe by themselves and others who refuse to go to the movies in their own neighborhoods alone. So when I tell someone I’ve traveled alone in the past, plan to continue to do so in the future, and actually enjoy my solo adventures, people have a lot of different opinions. I’m a firm believer of people “doing them”. If you’re the type of person who is nauseated by the thought of getting on a flight alone and knowing no one once you land, this post is not for you. If you’re a global couch surfer, this post will put you to sleep. If you’re someone who loves and desires to travel, but thinks you can’t do it alone, it’s easier than you think. These three tips helped make the process less overwhelming for me.
 
1. It’s not as expensive as you think
 
While sharing a room with a couple of friends seemingly cuts down on lodging costs, travel apps are making staying solo more affordable. Whether you’re comfortable sharing space in someone’s home or prefer having someone else’s home all to yourself, Airbnb is often cheaper than paying for your own hotel room. Check the reviews to ensure the space truly reflects the description and pictures. Still not ready to make the home sharing leap? Prefer the comfort of a hotel? The Hotel Tonight app is a must! Hotel Tonight allows you to book last minute rooms for a fraction of the cost. I once booked a room in San Francisco right before my flight left New York, and got it for over 50% off. You can only book up to a week in advance. Read the fine print for room details and extra fees the hotel may charge on-site.
 
2. Practice Makes Perfect
 
Still unsure of how you’ll fare alone in a different location? Practice before you go. Start small. Take yourself out to dinner in your own neighborhood. Sit at the bar and make a new friend. It’ll help you get a feel for doing the same in a new location. Traveling for business is another way to practice. If your job sends you away for a couple of days, request to leave early or stay a little later. When my job sends me to another city for work on a Monday, I usually request to fly out on Friday so I can spend the weekend exploring. It’s a great way to save on airfare and test the waters in a place that’s a little farther from home.
 
3. Travel with strangers
 
If you don’t like the idea of traveling all alone, consider going with “strangers”. Sites like Travel Noire provide solo travelers with a group of like-minded folks to travel with. Another option is connecting with people in your destination before you land. The first time I went to Panama, I enrolled in a Spanish school and set up a homestay. This helped ease my fears and assured me I’d at least have a friend in the woman I was staying with and the people who worked at the school.
 
My solo travels have blessed me with friendships I’m not sure I would have made if I’d gone with a group of friends. You tend the see the world in a different way when you’re forced to do it without distractions. Traveling alone has also helped me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. There are a million opinions about why you shouldn’t travel alone. The only one that matters is yours! Happy solo travels!

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<![CDATA[The Journey of a Self-Published Author:  3 Simple Suggestions for Putting Words on Paper]]>Sat, 10 Sep 2016 21:28:35 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/the-journey-of-a-self-published-author-3-simple-suggestions-for-putting-words-on-paperPicture
As I continue to blog, attend writing groups, and sell my book Home Sick at events, I’m inspired by fellow writers who dream of publishing books. Many have asked about my experience writing, publishing, and marketing my book. Because of this, I’ve decided to start blogging about my journey as a self-published author.

I’m far from an expert and continue to learn as I go along. Therefore, I’m hoping this will become a community in which we share ideas. What this is NOT, is an expert imparting some magic formula for becoming a best selling author. My book has eight reviews on Amazon, and I’ve spent more money on my book than I’ve made at this point (I’m confident that with some hard work and perseverance, that will change). While I’m not a best-selling author (yet), I have written and published a book and do have at least some experience. With all that said, if you’re looking for professional advice from a New York Times best-seller who has it all figured out, you can stop reading now. If you’re interested in writing and publishing a book, and are interested in hearing the experiences of someone who’s done it and is striving to do it better, this series is for you. Let’s get it started.

Put words on paper. It seems simple and obvious. For me, not so much. This has been one of my biggest challenges. How many of you have entire novels in your head, but not a single word on a piece of paper? If that’s you, trust me, you’re not alone. You could have fantastic, creative ideas. You could read a million articles and/or books about becoming a published author. You could attend dozens of conferences and network your butt off. But if you don’t WRITE, you will never be a published author. Because the thought of writing an entire novel can be incredibly overwhelming, here are three things I do to help me put words on paper: 

1. Set a Daily Word Count (WC) Quota: A typical novel is anywhere between 50,000 and 80,000 words (writers focus on word count, not pages count). To finish Home Sick (which started as a short story btw), I gave myself a daily quota of 2,000 words. Some days, 2,000 words seemed impossible, inciting the desire to rip my hair out-- strand by strand. Other days, I was shocked as the words poured onto the page. No matter how I was feeling, I had a quota to fulfill and tried my best to stick with it. I’m currently writing the screenplay for Home Sick. I have a full-time job. 2,000 words a day isn't realistic for me right now. Therefore, my daily WC quota for this project is 500. Writing 500 words a day is my sweet spot. It's not overwhelming but also keeps the project progressing at a comfortable pace. I keep a simple writing log with the date, WC start, WC end, and WC total. Simple. Sometimes, I write a prayer before I begin and notes about my writing session when I'm done. If writing 500 words doesn't work for you, start even smaller at 100 words a day. I need to mention that it's very important to begin each session by writing. DO NOT re-read and edit what you've already written. This is tempting and detrimental to the process. I'll devote an entire post to this topic in the future.

2. Stop Waiting for the Perfect Conditions. “If I didn’t have this demanding full-time job, I’d have the time to write.” “If I only had a home office, then I could get focused enough to write.” “I need to be inspired.” “If I had a sitter for my kids...” I could go on and on, and I’m sure you could add a hundred more. Here’s the point: Stop waiting for the perfect time, conditions, or place to write because they will almost never materialize. Conditions could always be better. Whether you are in the library, sitting at your kitchen table, writing during your lunch break at work, or stealing time while your kids are watching their favorite television show, don’t let your conditions prevent you from writing your masterpiece.

3. Use Writing Prompts: Writing prompts are a great way to get in the habit of writing on a daily basis. They can also serve to inspire and generate new ideas. There are pieces I never would have written without the use of writing prompts. There are prompts all over the internet. We're going to start using them today. I pulled this prompt from 365 Days of Writing Prompts by The New York Post.

Grab your writing log. WC quota: 100. WC start: 0 WC end/total: ____. Sit comfortably in your imperfect setting and get writing. If you’re feeling brave, post the response to the prompt in the comments section below; I'd love to read them. Happy writing! Here’s the prompt: Write a six-word story* about what you think the future holds for you, and then expand on it.

*Six-word stories tell a story in exactly six words--no more, no less. Therefore, your first sentence should be exactly six words. 


Here’s my response:

It’s the first day of auditions. I take the last empty chair at the long table in front of the room. I’m not sure who’s more nervous, me or the young woman waiting to read. I sold my screenplay, with a few conditions. I was open to some changes to the script, but I had to be involved in casting the actress who would play Gia. The assistant has already given the young woman her lines. I say a silent prayer, thanking God for answering a prayer I prayed in the recent past. I nod,smile, and hold back tears as the actress reads my lines.

WC quota: 100 words
WC Start: 0
WC End: 107
Total Words Written: 107
Notes: Success! Wrote 7 words over my quota. Feeling inspired by writing about a successful future in which my dreams have come to fruition. Save for use in memoir or expand upon when feeling doubtful about reality of a career in writing.
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<![CDATA[Pursue the Passion, Not the Profit]]>Thu, 26 May 2016 19:55:30 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/pursue-the-passion-not-the-profit
I'll take the risk of trying and failing, but I refuse to risk never knowing what could have been because I was too afraid to try. 
Pursue the passion, not the profit
This is my latest mantra. I've clung to it ever since participating in a webinar on writing and maintaining a successful blog. Instead of feeling empowered to follow the steps outlined in the webinar, I channeled my energy into visions of throwing my laptop across the library and expressing my frustrations to the company that provides my website hosting. I became overwhelmed by uncertainty about how to market my book. I'm a writer. I enjoy the process of creating and sharing what I've written. I feel accomplished when readers enjoy my work. But as a self-published author, I'm an APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. As an author, I write. As the publisher, I hired a designer to create my book cover and an editor to edit my manuscript. As an entrepreneur, I design and manage my website and social media pages, schedule events, take and fulfill book orders and am fully responsible for the marketing of my book. Not too long ago, the thought of managing these drastically different roles sickened me. On the verge of quitting, I decided to change my perspective and was reminded of why I started writing in the first place - because I love it. Rather than complaining about having to do things I labeled myself as "not cut out for," I decided to pursue the passion, hoping the rest would fall into place.
Making an Investment 
My new perspective fueled me to make the first big investment in the marketing of my book. About two weeks ago, I was an exhibitor at a large expo in Atlanta. When I initially contacted the expo about becoming an exhibitor, I nearly lost my breath at the mention of the price - $950. This did not include parking, transportation to and from the expo, signage, my books, business cards, or any other promotional materials. This was no chump change, especially since I'd been out of work the previous four months. I'd have no problem spending that amount of money on a vacation and I'd just received a tax return that would cover the cost. Still, I was hesitant to spend so much money on something I wasn't entirely sure was worth the investment. What I truly feared was being vulnerable in front of thousands of strangers. After praying and talking it over with family and friends, I made the decision to do it. Before the expo, I decided I would not measure my success by the number of books I sold, but rather the relationships I formed with the people I'd meet. Because of this, the expo was a success. 

Profit 

In speaking with other (more experienced) vendors, the expo was a dud. The logistics were unnecessarily messy and sales were abysmal. I didn't make a profit and came nowhere close to breaking even. The money I made probably covered my parking, gas, bookmarks and business cards. None of that matters to me.I met hundreds of women (and a handful of men), who were not only interested in my book, but also my journey. Many congratulated me on my accomplishments. Others asked me questions about self-publishing. Some participated in my creative writing station.The conversations I had with the people I met touched me in ways that are difficult to describe. "You're only the 2nd author I've ever met. Can I take a picture with you?" "If I leave the expo right now, I'd be content because talking to you was worth it." "If I had done something like this in school (referring to the creative writing station activity), I probably would have done better." A young woman even began to cry as she described her desire to major in creative writing, despite the opinions of others. I made friends with my booth "neighbors" who included beautiful twin sisters who create and sell dessert candles, and a CEO of his own wealth management company - all of whom are African-Americans in their thirties. The experience was my profit. I left the expo feeling validated, encouraged, hopeful and successful. My definition of success is not contingent on the number of books I've sold or will sell. It has more to do with the effort I'm putting forth, improving with each new experience and the people I meet along the way.

I'll take the risk of trying and failing, but I refuse to risk never knowing what could have been because I was too afraid to try. 

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<![CDATA[Book #2 Excerpt ]]>Mon, 09 May 2016 00:23:23 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/book-2-excerptThanks for reading last week's post Choosing to Love. Many of you shared your thoughts and personal experiences. I really appreciate that. As I continue to write the blog, I'm also working on Book #2! It's a love story that ties into last week's post. I think good fiction allows readers to escape and connect to the real world. One of the most common questions about Home Sick has been, "Is this based on your life?" My response is that my fiction is fiction, with injections of small pieces of my life that have been disjointed, distorted and pumped up on steroids. Book #2 fits this description with a slightly different perspective. Here's the draft of the prologue of Book #2*:
​She wasn’t Lila. She wasn’t as beautiful and nowhere near as smart.
 
She didn’t turn up the corners of her lips and clench the muscles in her throat at the first sip of her drink. He never understood why Lila did that. The drinks she ordered were never any stronger than apple juice a couple days passed the expiration date- Midori and Amaretto Sours, Blue Hawaiians. The strongest thing she’d ever ordered was Chardonnay.
 
He laughed thinking back to how she’d pretend to be tipsy after having one glass.
 
“What’s so funny?” the girl who wasn’t Lila asked. She sat in the stool next to him with her legs crossed - her tight mini riding up her thighs and hiked higher than he thought humanly possible. He peeked at her neon blue panties, which were now visible to anyone who cared to look.
 
Lila always left something to the imagination. Sean was the only man lucky enough to not have to rely on his imagination to see Lila’s complete beauty. Even in his most lucid dreams, nothing compared to the beautiful reality of Lila.
 
“Hello!” The girl said snapping her fingers in front of Sean’s face. “Anybody home?” she asked.
 
“What up?” Sean rubbed his eyes, attempting to wipe away his daydreams of Lila.
 
“I asked you a question. What’s so funny?”
 
“I like the way you…laugh,” he said, hoping it didn’t sound like as much of a lie out loud as it did in his head.
 
“Oh word?” she asked.
 
He’d wished he was a better liar. Truthfully, he hated her laugh. But he loved Lila’s. Lila’s laugh was invitingly infectious. Too bad he hadn’t heard it in over a year.
 
“Well, maybe you might like the way I do other things too.” The woman who wasn’t Lila reached into her drink, pulled out the cherry and sucked every last drop of green apple martini off of it.
 
This was getting old. Sean downed the last half of his Corona, hoping to strengthen his buzz- hoping to make it all new again.
 
He raised his index finger and yelled, “Check please,” to the bartender. He didn’t want to pay for her drink but figured it was the price he’d have to pay to get her in bed.
 
“Come on. Let’s get out of here,” he said to the girl, without looking at her.
 
He used both hands to lift his injured leg off the stool. He limped toward the door and watched her in its reflection. She got up and lost her balance. Lurking like vultures, a group of guys studied their prey, ready to devour her should she fall.
 
Sean heard her laugh. Ugh- that hideous laugh. He rolled his eyes and hoped she didn’t laugh like that during sex.
 
Exiting the bar, he glanced over his shoulder. Like a boat on choppy waters, she swayed side to side, floating behind him.

*Jessica L. Harris is the legal copyright holder of this material. 
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<![CDATA[When You're Told You Can't Vote: 3 Ways I Intend to Become a More Educated Voter]]>Wed, 20 Apr 2016 17:29:09 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/when-youre-told-you-cant-vote-3-ways-i-intend-to-become-a-more-educated-voter
Yesterday was the New York Primary. In all honesty, it was the first primary I’d actually felt the need to vote in and was excited about. But I didn’t vote yesterday and this is why…
 
Back when I was 18, I had no clue about politics (over 15 years later, I still feel pretty lost most of the time). Still, I knew it was important to register. At the time, I didn’t understand what the different parties stood for or what it even meant to register as a democrat or a republican. The only thing I remembered learning in school (the 7th grade to be exact) was how the Electoral College works. My parents rarely watched the news or talked politics at home. I registered as an independent thinking that meant I didn’t really have to choose a side. Because this allowed me to vote in most elections, I didn’t think much of changing it. Fast-forward to yesterday’s primary.  


​In the state of New York (and these rules vary from state to state), we have a closed primary. What that means is if you want to vote democrat, you must be registered as a democrat. I read conflicting information about the deadline for changing my registration information. Last month, I called New York State’s Board of Elections and was told the last chance to update my information was in October. The conversation ended with the woman telling me I couldn’t vote.
 
Although I will most definitely vote in the general election in November, I’m incredibly disappointed that I wasn’t able to participate in yesterday’s election. This caused me to reflect on my track record as a voter. As previously mentioned, I registered to vote as soon as I turned 18. Since then, I’ve failed to vote in at least one presidential election (more about that to follow), every presidential primary, and countless local elections.
 
I often think back to the 2008 presidential election. I was ecstatic to hear that our first African-American president would be inaugurated in the following months. I was excited. I was proud. I was hopeful. But I was also slightly disappointed, knowing that I didn’t participate in the most historic election of our nation’s history. I was out of state at the time. I failed to do my due diligence in casting my vote via an absentee ballot.
 
For the next election, I made sure all my information was correct and up to date. I knew the location and hours of my polling place. At a small elementary school in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, I waited patiently in a line that wrapped around the block to cast my vote. I chatted it up with my neighbors, many of whom lived in the public housing that surrounded the school. I felt a sense of pride and community as we all stood together waiting to exercise a right that so many before us were denied.
 
Fortunately, “You can’t vote,” was something I’ve only heard once and will likely (hopefully) never hear again. As an African-American woman, had I been born in an earlier era, this is something I would have heard on a number of occasions. On a recent visit to Selma, Alabama, I was reminded of the individuals who worked tirelessly for my right to vote. On March 7, 1965, over 500 civil rights demonstrators attempted to march between Selma and Montgomery to promote Black voter registration. They were met by state troopers, nightsticks and tear gas. Over 50 demonstrators were badly injured and suffered concussions, fractured bones, cuts and bruises. The brutal attack delayed the group but didn’t deter them. Only a few weeks later on March 21st, the group (+2500 additional participants) reorganized and marched again. Honored and inspired by their perseverance, rather than blaming a flawed system, I choose to focus on my individual efforts. I plan to take a slightly different approach to voting than I have in the past.
 
1. Abandoning the idea of being “the perfect voter”- The idea that in order to vote, I must know every single thing about every single candidate on the ballot is overwhelming. While I plan to do my research and stay informed, I will not allow a flawed perfectionist’s approach to voting keep me from voting.
 
2. Keeping on top of voter registration- It’s not enough to simply register. I can and should contact my state’s board of elections with questions when I don’t understand something. When I did this recently, a very friendly woman answered my call and questions within minutes. I will also need to do a better job of keeping on top of my own “paperwork”-knowing deadlines for making changes to my registration, absentee ballot information etc.
 
3. Engaging with the process year-round- A close friend of mine is a news junkie. I often make fun of him for it. In being forced to watch the news with him, I’ve realized how little I know about our political process and the people involved. This no longer sits very well with me. Rather than taking the binge-watching, cramming for the upcoming election approach, I need to watch and read the news on a more consistent basis. Also, once officials are elected, it’s our right to engage with them on issues that are important to us. Even in taking a pretty relaxed approach to this, I’m surprised at how many politicians I’ve been able to meet, call and/or speak with over the years. If there are political events in my state, city or neighborhood, I can make a better effort to attend them. I’m fortunate to have colleagues who are already very involved and very much in the know when it comes to this.
 
All of these things may seem very idealistic, but they are not impossible. If I can find the time to be sucked into the black hole of Facebook cat, baby and dance videos, surely I can find the time to participate in my country’s political process. Here are some of the resources I’ve used over the past couple of months. This list is pretty thin as I’m still very much learning when it comes to all of this. Feel free to add additional resources (I’m especially interested in good news apps) in the comments section.
 
New York Board of Elections: http://www.elections.ny.gov/   #: 518.474.6220
http://votesmart.org/
 
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<![CDATA[Jo Ann Gibson Robinson: The English Teacher Who Made a Big Impact on American History]]>Fri, 08 Apr 2016 21:53:28 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/jo-ann-gibson-robinson-the-english-teacher-who-made-a-big-impact-on-american-historyPicture
I took this picture at the Rosa Parks Museum in Montgomery, Alabama. I was inspired by the story of Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, an English teacher who was instrumental in leading the Montgomery Bus Boycott. We all know of Rosa Parks, but how many of us have heard of Jo Ann Robinson? Like Rosa Parks, Mrs. Robinson was verbally assaulted for sitting in an empty, white section of a city bus. If we compare her actions following her assault to those of Rosa Parks, we'll see something very different. Different - NOT less significant. As I recount the little known narrative of Mrs. Robinson's role in the Civil Rights Movement, I'm inspired by what she did. I'm equally as inspired by what she didn't do. Here's what I mean by that. 

Jo Ann Robinson didn't refuse to get up from her seat. She fled the bus out of fear that the driver would hit her. However, she didn't allow that fear to immobilize her. She was the president of the Women's Political Council, worked with other civil rights activists and met with local politicians. When Rosa Parks was arrested in 1955, Mrs. Robinson didn't allow comparisons to incite jealousy or feelings of inferiority. She didn't minimize the importance of Rosa Parks' actions. Instead, she exhibited immense empathy. She also didn't view herself as some lowly teacher who couldn't affect change. Instead, with the help of her students, she created fliers that were responsible for mobilizing thousands of people to boycott the Montgomery bus system.

Imagine if Mrs. Robinson had thought the following of the actions of Rosa Parks: Get over it. The same thing happened to me. It's just the way things are. Or, if she thought of herself, I should have refused to give up my seat when the same thing happened to me. I'm just not as brave. OR I'm just an English teacher. I can't do anything about it. I imagine her thoughts towards Rosa Parks to have been: When the same thing happened to me, I was humiliated. I empathize. Something needs to be done. Her thoughts about herself may have gone something like this: I'm an English teacher. Let me use the resources I have to do my part. 

Because of her refusal to succumb to some lame and unwarranted inferiority complex, she used her unique talents and resources and took action. As a result, she created 50,000 fliers that encouraged the citizens of Montgomery to boycott the buses. Ultimately, the laws changed and so did the lives of millions of people.

In learning of Mrs. Robinson's role in the Civil RIghts Movement, I thought of how often I let silly comparisons and self doubt limit my potential. What if I change my narrative? Instead of: I'm only  _______________, so I can't _____________, like Mrs. Robinson, I thought:
I'm ________________therefore I can (and will) ______________.

Click here to learn more about Jo Ann Gibson Robinson. 
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<![CDATA[Perfectionism, Procrastination and Panic Attacks: Why it Took Me Over a Month to Write this Post]]>Wed, 30 Mar 2016 21:12:43 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/perfectionism-procrastination-and-panic-attacks-why-it-took-me-over-a-month-to-write-this-postLast month, I had an amazing experience visiting The Civil Rights Trail in Alabama. I took tons of pictures, wrote a handful of journal entries, and processed about a dozen different emotions. I was ready to share all of this with you until something really frustrating (and pretty embarrassing) happened. My pictures weren't deleted by a vindictive cell phone. My dog didn't chew up the pages of my journal. My emotions were still very present and raw. Instead, perfectionism got in the way.
I manage and design (and I use that term incredibly loosely) my own website. Once I'm a best selling author with multi-million dollar movie deals (I'm just going to go ahead and speak that into existence), I'll pay someone more qualified to design my site. Until then, I'm dragging, dropping and hoping there are words on a page for you all to read. When I sat down to write my last post, I became obsessed with social media share buttons. Here's what I mean by that. I use Weebly drag and drop to design my site. For blog posts, I can't drag and drop the social media share buttons in. Instead, I have to embed code. I have zero experience doing this. So I jump down the Google search rabbit hole and look for answers. I find one. I follow the directions step-by-step and voila! NO SOCIAL MEDIA SHARE BUTTONS. So instead of being rational and writing the post without the stupid buttons, an obsession ensues.

How will people share my post if they like it? If people don't share my post, how will others read it? If others don't read it, how will they be inspired? If they're not inspired, they won't continue to read my writing. If they don't continue to read my writing, I'll never succeed at this. If I'll never succeed at this, what's the stupid point? Sounds ridiculous right? Well, it was my reality. It didn't only affect the writing of my blog posts. I'm also in the process of revising my second manuscript. After this episode, it also went untouched for over a month. 

Perfectionism should never be the goal because it's unattainable. Rather than pushing you to produce something amazing, it causes you to criticize and question every single thing you attempt to do. It causes me to procrastinate and at times, completely blow off my responsibilities, goals and dreams.

According to Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to be and Embrace Who You Are, "Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis." I agree. So what can be done about it?

I've already read books and articles about this topic. I've watched and shared Youtube videos about it. Because finding and writing the complete and perfect answer to this question would cause me to stop writing this post, prevent me from posting it, make me feel guilty about not blogging for another month, and cause me to give up on my dream of being a full-time writer, I refuse to consult Google on this one. Instead, I'll give you the simple, imperfect answer. For me (for now), it's just doing it! Just whipping out my laptop and getting some words on the screen, proofreading 5 times instead of 20 and being completely content with what I've produced and happy knowing that I will improve over time.

I'd love to hear from you. Comment below (hopefully underneath those pesky, yet important, social media share buttons). Do you struggle with perfectionism? If so, how do you push past it to be productive?
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<![CDATA[Affirmations: How to Talk Positively to Yourself About Yourself]]>Thu, 18 Feb 2016 20:56:28 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/affirmations-how-to-talk-positively-to-yourself-about-yourselfPicture
When I see the word affirmation, I immediately think of the Stuart Smalley SNL skit. "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me." Other than that, I haven't thought much of affirmations until recently. A book I'm reading suggests that affirmations imprint positive messages onto your subconscious which can reprogram your negative thoughts.

In order for this to happen, the affirmations need to be spoken in a language that your subconscious understands. According to dummies.com, effective affirmations are written based on a negative thought you have about yourself in mind. You then write the positive opposite of that thought. The affirmation should be short, begin with "I" or "my," written in the present tense and as a positive statement- don't include words /phrases like "am not," "don't," "am stopping" etc.

In an ongoing effort to proactively manage my anxiety, I've decided to give this a try. As I started to think of the negative thoughts I have about myself, Bible verses popped into my head as the positive opposites. Therefore, my affirmations will be rooted in Bible verses. This is my first time trying this. I'm no expert. Therefore, if any of you have experience doing this and I've missed the mark somewhere, please comment below and steer me in the right direction. Here it goes:

Bible Verse: 
Philippians 4:8(NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
My Affirmation: I choose to think of things that are true, noble, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

Bible Verse: 
Psalm 139:14 (NIV) I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful. I know that full well.
My Affirmation: I know I am amazing because I am fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. 

Bible Verse: 
Romans 12:6-8 (NIV). We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement;if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
My Affirmation: 
I am a good writer and teacher. I know I am good because God continues to bless me with these talents. I am using these talents to serve and bless others. 

Bible Verse: 
Romans 8:28 (NIV): And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
My Affirmation: I am well taken care of and secure because God is working everything out for my well being. 

Bible Verse: 
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV) Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
My Affirmation: I am calm, confident and thankful. I pray to God and he answers. 

Let's see how this goes. I imagine that later on I'll write more. These are sufficient for now. Have you tried affirmations? Have they worked for you? Comment below. 

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<![CDATA[Mardi Gras on the Anniversary of a Miscarriage: The Picture Social Media Didn't Paint]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:34:45 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/mardi-gras-on-the-anniversary-of-a-miscarriage-the-picture-social-media-didnt-paint
"Resilience means the ability to return to a prior form. But when communities experience trauma, such as a war or natural disaster, rarely do they return precisely to their normal way of life. More often, people adapt, debate, innovate and try new approaches as they reconstruct their lives. They change the game." ​
"Resilience means the ability to return to a prior form. But when communities experience trauma, such as a war or natural disaster, rarely do they return precisely to their normal way of life. More often, people adapt, debate, innovate and try new approaches as they reconstruct their lives. They change the game." I found this quote (as seen in the picture above) at the Louisiana State Museum's Hurricane Katrina exhibit on the last day of my trip. It refers to the amazing resilience exhibited by the people of New Orleans after the hurricane. It also made me think of personal issues I’d been battle during the trip and the past three years.

Prior to my visit to the museum, I’d spent the previous few days enjoying the infamous New Orleans Mardi Gras festivities. During the day, I attended the parades, danced in the streets and was a little too excited to catch and adorn my neck with cheap, plastic beads thrown from passing floats. In the evenings, I sipped cocktails and danced with my cousin and new friends. Being that I’m about halfway into my “dirty thirties”, my 10 p.m. bedtime applies both at home and on vacation. This trip was no exception. I left the partying ‘till the crack of dawn to the twenty-year-olds and hit the bed before midnight.

As I crawled into bed, the music from the floats faded and I was left to deal with my own thoughts. Concealed behind the walls of my hotel and buried underneath the covers, I was no longer the happy and carefree woman plastered across my social media timelines. I was depressed and mourning the baby I lost three years ago. 

In February of 2013, I found out I was pregnant. I was 31 and felt secure in my job and life in general. Unfortunately, my boyfriend at the time did not feel the same way. What I'd always envisioned as something I would celebrate was in actuality a nightmare, as the man I’d once trusted tried to convince me to terminate a life I'd already grown to love. I refused and instead terminated our relationship.

Determined to be the very best single mother I possibly could, I moved forward, focusing on the health of my baby. At about nine weeks pregnant, I went to the doctor only to find out my baby's heart had stopped beating. My doctor scheduled an emergency surgery for the next morning. Alone, I took the subway to the hospital, cried with the nurses, and woke up to my best friend standing over my bed in the recovery room. The whole experience left me feeling angry, bitter, guilty, hopeless and confused. 

A month after the miscarriage, I went to London and Paris. Trips to Brazil, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Miami and Cameroon followed. As a result of sharing the good times with social media friends and followers, I often heard, “I want your life. I wish I could go all the places you’ve gone. You’re so lucky you can do this. Once you have kids it won’t be as easy. Enjoy your life now.”
 
Many of these statements came from a place of comparing what seemed to be so wonderful about my life, to what they considered to be challenging about theirs. Those same people might be surprised to know that I was in fact envious of parents who held children on their shoulders in helping them to catch beads and other things thrown from floats. Or that I would have preferred to build sand castles with my baby on the beaches of Brazil, Panama, Miami or the Dominican Republic. 
 
Most times, my Facebook and Instagram have showed the “pretty” side of my resilience- travel, encouraging Bible verses, outings with family and friends etc. But what about the “uglier” moments? There are no selfies of bloodshot eyes or snotty, runny noses from crying. There are no status updates about feeling so angry that I could punch a hole in the wall. I’m beginning to understand that the ugly moments we typically try to conceal are just as beautiful and important as the pretty ones. All are a part of the process. And no matter what it is that you’ve gone through or are going through, you are alive and well enough to read this. You are therefore, by definition, resilient.
 
 
 


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<![CDATA[Travel Blogging with Transparency]]>Fri, 05 Feb 2016 20:11:25 GMThttp://jessicalorettaharris.com/home/travel-blogging-with-transparency
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I blog about my travels. I post pictures to my Instagram and Facebook of good times in exotic locations. I often hear, "I'm living vicariously through you." That statement is both flattering and disturbing. The quote comes from a place of love and excitement from family and friends. While I embrace the support, I can't help but wonder if I'm painting a false picture of my life on social media. 

My blog posts about my experiences in Cameroon seemed to resonate with a lot of you. I think that was because I shared experiences that were unfamiliar AND transparent. Transparency about my feelings and failures caused many of you to share your own experiences as words of encouragement. As a result of that, I felt incredibly connected. Writing with transparency is also very therapeutic. It lifts the burden of perfectionism and helps me to process my feelings. There's something very refreshing and humanistic about revealing my shortcomings. And if that means deeper connections with those who read my posts, that's the direction of this blog, moving forward.

As the quote states, transparency makes you vulnerable. No one I know likes being vulnerable. And I might end up regretting this. However, this is just what feels right. So here it goes. I'd like for this to be a travel blog that does more than superficially talk about where to stay or what to eat. Part of the reason I'm addicted to travel is because it helps me to learn about myself and grow. If I'm going to share the good, it's just as important to share the "bad". In a couple of days, I'm off to another exotic (this time domestic) location. It just so happens the trip is on the anniversary of a huge, life altering event. It's impossible for me not to think about this event, regardless of where I might be geographically. Hopefully blogging about it will provide some personal healing and encouragement to someone else. Stay tuned.



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