How I Stay Productive, or My Love Letter to Google

I originally wrote this as part of my welcome email series for the Guestlist but as I kept throwing thoughts down, I realized it would better serve my readers here.


I wanted to share how I get my day done with you, coming from a technologically-inclined writing geek such as myself. I’m a big fan of Google products. I’ve tried a lot of different programs over the years but somehow Google comes up with products that are similar to and exceed them. What’s great is that these programs are all free (save for Grammarly).

I welcome our Google overlords.

Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Slides, Tasks, Keep… they help me run my sites like a pirate ship.

There’s lots of colorful cursing, heavy drinking, and I’m either lost in the Bermuda Triangle or being hijacked by the Davey Jones-like figures in my life. 

Email program: Gmail


Web-based Gmail is my to-go program, but I also have the app on my smartphone to check emails on the fly. It’s the first thing I open when I get online.

It’s a fully-fledged workhorse for me.

I’m able to send and receive emails sent to my business email through it. That’s a godsend because I maintain several domains and I like to have matching emails.

Time management: Calendar


Calendar is the easiest thing in the world to use. Color coding calendars gives me LIFE.

I love setting it up with alerts to remind me to submit my work for literary journals and contests. I have the birthdays of my family and friends on a calendar. I like seeing how my day, week, and month are shaping up with the click of a button.

I tried to do it in a proper planner type deal but I change my plans constantly. A hardcopy planner would just be events crossed out left, right, and center. That would bug me!

Cloud backups: Drive


Drive is where the magic happens. Everything in my life that needs to be saved ends up here. I’ll need it again eventually. Call me a digital packrat!

I’ve got my works-in-progress stored here, copies of my thesis, the backup files for my sites, freebie PDFs from the gang of masterclasses that I’ve attended over the years, my school transcripts, the list of my allergic reactions… the works!

Any writer worth their weight should have multiple backups of their work. Even if it exists in the cloud, FIND a separate backup option. If you use the Backup & Sync from Google, you’re able to keep physical copies on your hard drive too.

Full disclosure: I do pay $19.99/yr for their 100 GB storage plan, which is an option for you if you find you have a lot of data that needs to be backed up. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

Furthermore, the seamless integration of Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms makes my job doing what I do that much easier!

File creation: Docs


Speaking of Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms, where would I be without the ability to format the hamster wheel of thoughts in my head into something useful for you?

Not here, I can tell you that!

It’s so easy to make something in Slides and export to PDF. That’s how most of the content in the Repository is formatted. I can draw up a survey in Forms and boop! Send it off to collect responses. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

To-Do List: Tasks


I don’t know where I’d be without Tasks. I have so many ideas that branch off into other ideas and it’s hard to keep them all straight sometimes!

Remember, there’s a hamster wheel in my head.

It’s so easy to have a task and include all the branches in one easy, viewable place. This is mainly an app to use on your smartphone, but you can access it easily from Gmail. So useful! 

Note Taking: Keep


My next secret weapon is Keep. EVERY single thought dump I’ve ever had goes there first. I get it all out of my head and sort through them later.

They make it super easy to export your note as a Doc to Drive to do what you wish.

Similar programs exist, like Evernote, but I couldn’t justify that price or sit through another day of constant harrassment to upgrade. 

Writing assistant: Grammarly


I use Grammarly for grammar checking and it integrates seamlessly within Chrome to edit my docs too. Chrome is my browser of choice simply because of the ease of use with these other programs.

It’s where I’m able to get most of my work done. This is insanely helpful because even with my eagle eyes, things slip through sometimes. I’m a human, not A.I.

Let me know in the comments what programs you use to manage your daily life. Maybe you’re using a physical planner; that’s cool too! I love to see how other people do it!

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conferences & retreats

AWP 2016

AWP is an annual conference for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. I went to my very first one while in my grad program.

It was a learning experience, to say the least. It was an onslaught of information and positive vibes. It was so inspiring, humbling, and cool to see people from all walks of life actually doin’ the damn thing and writing and publishing.

The panels I attended all advised pretty much said the same thing: write, write, write, read promiscuously, and send your stuff out. Rejections are a part of life. These journals and agents and publishers have limited time, space and money. So whatever you want to publish, make it count.

That’s the worst feeling, though: being rejected. I wish I had a thicker skin in my younger days. I most likely would’ve published earlier and more often, if I hadn’t let the fear rule me. But I didn’t have any mentors. No one I knew growing up was ideal for that, meaning I didn’t know anyone who was in the industry.

They were supportive but not the way I needed. Now I have mentors, and I have resources. I plan to exploit them, completely. I also feel more comfortable with my voice that I’m ready to share it with the sick, sad world.

On Friday, I attended the following panels:

  1. Hybrids, Bastards, and Half-Breeds: On Writing Hybrid Forms
  2. Are We There Yet? Revising Towards a Finished Draft
  3. Angry Asians: A Hyphen Magazine Reading Dismantling the Model Minority Myth
  4. Women Writing Fiction in a Post Feminist Era

My senses were on complete overload this first day. Overloaded but energized. The whole conference and the decision on panel attendance is almost an echo chamber, isn’t it, reflecting back to you what you already should know. If not, maybe it opened some eyes, but not mine. I felt more resolute that this writing thang is what I’m meant to do.

On Saturday, these are the panels I chose:

  1. The Poetic Past: Crafting Poems Through Historical Material
  2. Everyone’s a Critic: The Need & Opportunities for Professional Book Reviewing
  3. In the Realms of the Real and the Unreal
  4. Women Publishing Women: The (Under)representation of Women in Print and in Publishing
  5. Slouching Tiger, Unsung Dragon: The Next Chapter of Asian American Writing

I missed some of the Poetic Past panel but I think it was fascinating, what I heard. I hope there’s a historical figure out there whose story I can tell through poetry. I think book reviewing might be a nice side gig, at least based on the panelists’ own career paths. They were all writers to some degree with reviewing on the side. The Women Publishing Women panel got a bit heated during the Q&A section because a lot of the older women in the audience felt slighted that some of the panelists were skewing towards the younger crowd.

Overall, the Asian American panels didn’t bring me clarity. That’s not their fault. But it was nice to know that the struggles I face as a writer of Filipino descent were all the same as the other panelists. I’m aggravated that we don’t have a voice in mainstream literature. It infuriates me.

I guess my struggle is that I don’t want to be known as only an Asian-American writer. My siblings and I didn’t have the typical immigrant experience either. My dad was born an American citizen because a) the Philippines was still under the protectorate of the United States when he was born, b) he further gained it through my half-Filipina/quarter French/quarter German grandmother, even though he was born and raised in the Philippines.

I decided recently that hyphenating my identity because of that didn’t ring true for me. I’m Filipino adjacent. My dad served in the US Navy, so we’re as American as apple pie, as I like to say. We don’t speak the language (thanks Kuya!). I make a mean sinigang though. My pork adobo is pretty awesome too. So I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I don’t write to be seen as an Asian writer. My stuff is cinematic absurdism. It’s off-kilter, multiversal, on par with the Twilight Zone.

But I know my Asian-ness is what people see when they see my slanted eyes and unevenly tanned skin, or when they read my Portuguese surname. I feel conflicted like maybe I should write to give voice that part of me because it is me. I don’t want to deny myself. I want to be like Dionysus and enjoy the bacchanalia of my identity by gorging on the good, the bad and the ugly.

Being of Asian descent in America is an uphill battle. I don’t know if I have the answers but the more voices that are in the conversation, the more the dialogue will educate the masses. We shouldn’t have to hide in our bubbles anymore. It’s time for us to headline the show.

All in all, a great first experience that I haven’t forgotten. Truthfully, attending the conference was only possible because I received a student discount AND I road tripped there. If AWP was a bit more affordable, I would’ve gone again. But I have not.

I think it’s presumptuous to assume that working writers can go to these things without a little monetary assistance. We’re all poor! The entrance fees to conferences and even writing contests feel like gatekeeping and a flagship conference like AWP should reflect that.