It’s the best decision you’ll ever make.

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Image courtesy of Canva Stock Media and P.J O’Brien

2020 has been a year to remember for many, obvious reasons. It has been a year of great loss, and we should never forget that. That being said — and I hope you know that it is not my intention to ignore our continuous loss — but it has also been a year of self-reflection. We have never had more time to consider what is important to us, to ask ourselves how we can change for the better, how we can grow as people.

The road to self-reflection began, for me, before the pandemic gripped the United States. My job in politics had come to an end and for the first time in a while, I found myself out of work. …


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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

I recognize what is at stake for me in this election is not necessarily what is at stake for others. I am not immune to the ramifications of economic, healthcare, and education policies. No one is immune to the dark shadow cast by this ongoing pandemic, nor to the immense pain that injustice and inequality has brought upon the heart of our country.

But entire livelihoods hang in the balance for far too many — especially those who are continuously met with the worst this country has to offer for no reason other than what they look like, who they are, and who they love. …


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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

If you haven’t noticed by the uptick in Medium stories around it, NaNoWriMo is upon us. This year will be my second go at the daunting 50K word challenge, but this time around will be different. This year, I have found myself a writing buddy.

Actually, my writing buddy and I began our writing friendship before knowing we both intended to partake in NaNoWriMo. I won’t go into how we found each other, but as we tried to decide how our partnership would work, we both were on the same page (writing pun?) when it came to what we were looking for out of having a buddy. …


Excerpt from the novel “Common Birds From Other Dimensions”

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Photo by Victor ZH on Unsplash

The only grandmother I’ve ever known likes to say that when things or people die, they are not gone or lost forever, but traveling in another dimension. She likes to say this about everything: Pee-Pop (my mother’s father), fallen birds splattered across the blacktop, even the monster I used to think lived inside our washing machine. The day the machine finally went quiet I remember telling her how happy I was because the monster was gone. “Not gone, just traveling in another dimension.” That terrified me. I hoped to never find myself in THAT dimension.

I like to think I’m traveling in another dimension when I’m dreaming. I often dream of better days — warm birthday candles, simmering kindling catching fire, smells of funnel cake floating across festival grounds, bright burning suns bearing down on sunburnt heads, cool breezes beneath beautiful bombs against the black night sky, ghost stories in the granaries, sounds of sleeping crickets scratching themselves in the cornfields. Foreign days full of freckled cheeks and loose teeth, far gone, left only for me to dream of. Easy days, when seconds, minutes, and hours are infinite. Days I am merely a child, graced with innocence and potential. Days I don’t have to worry about money or inventory or timeliness; children don’t concern themselves with such passing things. No, a boy’s responsibilities are to himself. I’m still only a child, and serious thoughts such as these are too serious for a boy not yet thirteen. …


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Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Let’s jump right into it. Here’s what I’ve learned now that I’ve published ten articles on Medium:

1. No one holds all the secrets

You've read this before. It doesn't matter how many followers someone has, or how many claps their articles get. There’s no one road to success on Medium (or in life for that matter), and if you’re naive enough to believe every headline or story you read, you’ll only set yourself up to be frustrated. But here’s my advice: read them all. Formulate your own methods, test them out, see what works. Write what you care about but also what others are writing about. …


A brief word of advice.

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Photo by Reimond de Zuñiga on Unsplash

Politicians — especially the seasoned ones — are practiced communicators. They often know what the people they are speaking to want to hear, and so they say it in order to achieve success. Their success is measured in support and acceptance. That is why many politicians work very hard to keep their support by sticking to talking points and not straying too far away from what is expected of them. They fear if they say the wrong thing, they will fail, and therefor risk losing what power they have accumulated.

In writing, there is power too. It can be won and lost just as easily. But in every sense of the word a writer cannot not fail, because they cannot lose the ability to keep writing — whereas a politician who fails cannot continue to hold power. Writers are not politicians — well, some are, but you don’t have to be. …


See the forest for the trees and start helping people.

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

We O’Brien boys like to talk. In fact, it might be our favorite past time. Often my brother and I get together just to talk. In my brother’s case, he even schedules it on his calendar. What we talk about tends to vary — i.e. sports, family, articles we’ve read — but after we’ve settled in, our main focus turns to making a difference, and how we, just two ordinary people can find a way to do it.

Our problem has always been our impatience. Truthfully, it’s what other people may call a problem, but what we consider an asset. We don’t like to be held back from getting good work done. We don’t take kindly to rules and/or norms. We especially don’t give two s**ts about bureaucracy. As we both charted out careers in government/politics, it is what propelled us into “important” roles, but it also is what ended up convincing us to leave them. …


Why practicing them will make your life 10x easier.

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Photo by Luis Villasmil on Unsplash

Becoming a first-time homeowner can be incredibly exciting. It can also be extremely stressful. Nevermind the stack of papers they stick in front of you when you go to settlement that makes you feel for the felled Californian redwood it took to produce so much paperwork. Once you walk in your new front door for the first time and realize everything around you is yours, that’s when the real fun begins.

We took the plunge this summer and I can tell you from my limited experience, being a new homeowner takes a lot out of you. Consistently keeping the place clean is just something you’ll never be able to stay on top of, and that’s only the bare minimum. Everyone is eager to make their new house into a home full of their personal tastes and comfortability. The process of accomplishing this is never-ending but rewarding.


How I’ve learned them the hard way.

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Courtesy of Canva Stock Media & P.J. O’Brien

When it comes to writing, we are our own worst enemy.

A lot of the roadblocks we find ourselves facing in writing have often been placed there by us. When we think if we can’t spend eight hours a day writing then we shouldn’t be writing at all — no one else is telling us to think that way. When we tell ourselves we can’t write without the perfect weather, the perfect desk, the perfect notebook — where is that rule written? The answer is in our heads (unless you actually read that in a book somewhere, in that case, throw that book out the window.)

The idea that we create our own roadblocks and how we alone can overcome them is an idea I have come face to face with, as I’m sure you have to. It is an idea I defeated when I finished my first novel-length manuscript this year. That’s what happens when we see a project all the way through — not only are we living up to our potential self, but we are defeating our worst self, the self that whispers negativity into our ears, the self that holds us back out of fear.

About

P.J. O'Brien

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