Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently If I Had To Start My Writing Journey Over Again (Part 4)

Never Shoot Lower Than My Potential

Underperforming not helpful. I’m not from the camp of thought that one should take baby steps when you are clearly capable of much more. As I decided to take the time to learn about myself I realized something really important.

One, it’s against my nature to underperform. Underperforming is a sign that I now recognize as something I do when I’m overwhelmed, or I don’t like something or if I don’t like someone, or if I’m just bored.

This would often happen when I hung out with friends or roommates and they wanted to do things at a slower pace or maybe start at lower levels than what I was used to. Of course, I still tried to accommodate them for politeness sake, but I always felt like a dog on a leash that’s way too tight. And deep down it never felt right at all.

Now, I understand that there’s a time and place to be patient with others, but I’ve learned that I’m very much a person that needs the space to reach and surpass my potential regardless of whether I intend to or not.

Though being the smartest or most talented person in the room might feel good for the ego sometimes, but to me, it’s definitely a sign that I’m in the wrong freaking room.

And this is something I wish I would’ve known about myself much earlier because it would’ve saved me a lot of wasted time with things that just weren’t right for me.

Understand Why I Do Things

Every time I revisit the reason why I write my novels, I get fired up not just in body but in spirit.

But if you would’ve asked me about why I write it at different times of my life, you’d probably get way different answers.

I think as a young middle schooler starting out, I wrote because I thought it would help me be noticed. In high school, I wrote because it helped me cope with the stress I was going through.

In my first two years of college, I think it was more about ego and trying to be the best. In my third year when I was depressed, it was very much about trying to find the reason why I should stay on this planet. But in my fourth year, it was about growing as a person and having loads of fun with my new freedom in writing.

And now?

I write because I have to.

Not in the paying bills sense or because any outside pressure. Inwardly, I feel like I just have to. If I don’t, I don’t feel right inside. It’s something that I think is hard to explain to the average person or even the average writer because I find people tend to shy away from extremes. Its too “heavy” for them.

I’d call it an obsession, but I feel that’s not quite it. I’m not obsessed with writing in the mad scientist way people think of obsession. It’s more like determination to focus on something through to the end, no matter what it takes or what it costs.

But even more importantly, I think a lot of the reason why some people have so much problems with writing is because they don’t know or understand themselves enough.

Some people have the best intentions to write, but really they just like the idea of writing something grand. Some people probably could write that book, but they don’t see that what’s stopping them isn’t the writing itself, it’s the fact that they make thousands of excuses for why they didn’t do it when they probably could’ve finished it in the time that they gave all those excuses.

But what I’ve found that if your why is strong enough, you’re not going to make up reasons why you can’t do it. You are going to find ways around those blocks you’re having.

And I know I probably sound like I’m beating dead horses around here, but really I don’t know any other way to put it.

I know a lot of people out there will say that writing is hard, but I find myself starting to disagree with this more and more. I think writing is simple. The only requirement for writing novels is that you have some semblance of a plot, characters, some realistic basis, and passing a certain word count. (But if you’re writing a draft, you don’t have to pay as much attention to these! :D) However, all that writing requires of you is to sit down and type one word after another until something is done.

The problems that occur outside of being physically unable to write at a certain moment are usually self-made from our expectations on how things should go in our story. I find these go away when you just relax and let the story just be the story.

More…?

I’m going to keep this one short since my schedule is getting tighter and tighter.

But until next post~

Get back in that water!

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Meditative Monday: Decluttering The Mind With Morning Pages

Hey everybody, it’s Meditative Monday again and today I wanted to share something that I tried a while back and hopefully it might help some of you.

So today, we’re going to talk about Morning Pages.

The Barebones Basics

If you’re already familiar with freewriting, you’ll transition just fine. It is still writing everything that comes to mind, but you do it in the morning, preferably when you first wake up.

The twist is that you have to do three pages. It doesn’t matter if it takes you ten minutes or ten hours.

You do those three pages.

Now I often hear that people should do it by hand. Personally, I don’t like writing outside my Writing Sketchbook so I don’t write longhand. Morning Pages and freewriting is not for other people to see, so how you organize yourself and arrange to do this doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is that you have a way that works comfortably for you.

The Good, The Bad, And The Eh…

I haven’t really found much that’s awful about it besides the fact that when you begin, it’s hard to fill three pages. It was especially hard for me because I’m doing it on a computer and I’d rather not cheat and use big fonts or any cheap tricks of the sort.

But as far as the benefits, it’s still a helpful warm up. And its also very cleansing to get rid of the previous days thoughts. Think of it like a shower for your brain. It’s particularly helpful for helping me get into the mood for my real writing session.

Often times the hardest part for me when writing is getting started, but I often find that once I get ten minutes into it the block that I had just goes away and its easy to just keep going. And I find that this exercise is even more helpful if I’m starting on the blank page of a new scene or chapter.

For me, Morning Pages has replaced my normal freewriting set up, but as with anything I say here how much or how little you want to use this is up to you. But if you have experience with it or if it’s helped you in anyway, I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Get back in that water!

Fast Flash Friday Prompt # 10

Hot. Heat shimmying down your back. Cold perspiration seeping from your pores, trapped under the itchy cotton of your shirt. Itching of your weave. A hot day. Hot and sticky. Humid. A day in the rice field. Back sore and sweaty from bending over. Feet wet by warm water.

Random Author’s Note: I don’t know why, but I just adore the picture of rice grain. Maybe it’s because I’m just a riceaholic. 🙂

Meditative Monday: A Day In The Life Of An Author/ Artist/ Musician: What Would You Write If No One Was Looking?

Hey everybody, today I wanted to do another Day In the Life post. And for today’s topic, I wanted to shift our focus inward and talk about something that’s been on my mind a lot these days. It’s this idea of being more honest when we write, draw, compose, or just create well…anything.

On Where This All Came From…

You see I’ve always had this feeling before I had the words to express them, but it was finally cleared up for me when I heard about artists that have sketchbooks that are made for the sole purpose of showing people and separate sketchbooks that are just for them.

I was listening to an artist named Sycra talk about how he doesn’t show anyone his sketchbook because he was afraid that it would turn into a thing where he would feel pressured to make his sketches good because people would see them.

And this resonated with me a lot because in both writing and drawing, I often feel the pressure to make things look good or make it seem really epic and huge, even when I’m working on something that no one will ever see.

In fact, I realized that it was hurting me as I was writing my current novel. I’d often mull over my sentences for a while and try to put down the perfect word even though this is just a draft that I know will get changed.

If I had to describe it in words, I’d say it always felt like someone was looking over my shoulder. I’d always imagine a reader’s reaction to what I was writing and this made me stress out over what I was doing even more. And that made everything even worse.

I had a bit of a rough period last week where I felt my writing wasn’t as exciting as it could’ve been. And I was getting sick of it and really discouraged.

So I thought about this for a while and I decided to take a new approach to writing my novel draft. Of course, most of you all already know that I’m a big advocate of writing what you love, so I thought about it from that angle and now when I sit down to write, I ask myself one very important question.

What Would You Write If No One Was Looking?

What if no one could judge you?

What if no one was over your shoulder?

What if no one would bat an eye at your book, drawing, or whatever you’re personal project doing? What if it wasn’t about money or fame or prestige? What if there was no rush for time?

What if it was just about you and what you love doing?

Would you write something extremely different from what you’re doing now?

If so, then there’s a big problem.

And this was a bit of an eye-opener for me. As I realized, that found at times I’d write something serious when I really wanted to write something funny or shocking. Or sometimes I wanted to stop and describe things, but I felt like I needed to move on.

I’m still finding a balance with this, but this approach is helping me get through things much better. And I find that my intuition is willing to chip in more with ideas when I free myself.

But also, in a way, that question is true. No one is looking over my shoulder and criticizing me. No one is ever going to see this draft. So really there’s no reason why I shouldn’t write whatever the hell I want.

But of course, there’s a big elephant in the room that I should probably address…

But My Work Has To Get To My Audience Eventually!

Yes, that is true. At some people are going to see what you create. And those people are going to form opinions about it, and some opinions are not going to be what you like or expect.

But here’s the thing…

When you go to the store to look for something to read by your favorite author, do you open their books and say, “Oh boy, can’t wait to see what I came up with in this book!”

No. Of course not. Because it’s their book.

People pick up your book, your art, read your article to hear what your have to say, not to hear you parrot the words of someone else. Otherwise, you’re just a cardboard copy.

And why get a cheap watered down version when you can just go look at the real thing?

If people are looking for you to be you, why pretend to be someone else? Even if you’re in a situation that’s not the best, there’s still usually a way that you can put your own spin on it. In fact, it’s almost impossible for you to not put your own spin on something, unless you’re following instructions strictly. But even that’s debatable.

So relax and be you.

Write the thing you’d write if no one could ever see it. And be the freest version of you that you can be.

And also get back in that water!

 

 

Fast Flash Friday: Prompt #9

Sitting in an ice-cream shop. Ice-cream Malts printed on blush pink and red striped wall paper. Whirling Fans hanging from the low ceiling. What ice cream flavors are on sale today? Green tea, mango, sherbert— behind the condensation on the glass. A cross-eyed teenager comes to the register, dark curls peeking under his Yuki’s Ice Cream hat. He rubs his hands together and stutters out a “W-what can I get for you today?” First day on the job I bet.

Meditative Monday: Everything I’d Do Differently If I Had To Start My Writing Journey Over (Part 3)

Develop First And Write Seriously Later

Of course, this can only apply to someone if they have and want to dedicate the time to do this, but I’m glad I had the luxury to just hole up monk-style, explore my style, try new things, and work on improvement.

In college, I was so hard-wired on finishing my novel to get it published to the point where my writing was all over the place, but I missed out on so much time developing as a writer. And my novel missed time on developing too!

These days I think of writing like cooking: if you rush, you ruin the dish. Parts will be runny or taste undercooked. Or worse, make someone sick!

No one wants undercooked food, but ironically we don’t think the same way when we write. If our story world skills or a character making skills are undercooked, it can completely fly over our head.

Of course we don’t mean to do this, but I’m willing to bet you that most writers out there do not practice writing the way a professional athlete practices for sports. But baffling enough, some still expect that they’ll put out the same work quality!

Sure you could argue that they’re “not the same”. Of course they aren’t. But playing a sport is a developed skill. Writing well is a developed skill. Skills get better with practice regardless of what it is.

But more importantly, because I did all this upfront, I’m not scrambling to “find a style” or to figure out what my writing is, or figure out how to portray or describe something. The heavy lifting is already out of the way so to speak. And this actually takes a huuuuge load of my work.

Though this is something that I do wish I paid attention to much sooner.

Do Away With The Idea Of Taking Every Shortcut

You might be thinking I’m mad for this one, but hear me out.

In my school years I used to always be so puzzled on why teachers would always teach the longhand version of things and then teach us the shortcut much later when the shortcut could’ve saved us so much time. And recently I finally understand why.

You see…a lot of shortcuts would be useless if you didn’t understand where they come from. If you’re skeptical, let me try to explain.

Remember in school when you had to learn your basic math? You know…adding, subtracting, and then you get to multiplication and division, etc.

Multiplication and division are pretty much just addition and subtraction on steroids if you think about it. But can you imagine if you were never taught how to add and just taught how to multiply?

You’d have a much harder understanding without that foundation. And even worse, you’d have some huuuuuuuge gaps in your understanding.

And this is what bothers me about products and people that try to sell you on fast ways to do things that take time. I’ve found that all the shortcuts in the world will not save ignorance and poor skill. Sometimes it can hide it, but you’re not going to fool anyone who actually knows their stuff.

Now, I try to always dig into the root knowledge of a shortcut to understand it completely. Or in the case of writing, I just make my own shortcuts so that I know where it all comes from.

And the funny thing is, when you do understand something fully, the shortcuts just come. The brain is good at figuring out ways to do something faster. It’s always trying to find ways to do less work. And when you make your own shortcuts, it strengthens your understanding too!

This is definitely a big one that I wish I knew and that I wish was more emphasized in our “quick and easy” culture.

To Not Rely On Teachers Or Institutions To Be Responsible For My Education Especially In Writing

Another big one.

I remember once watching a video once where a guy was talking and there was one sentence that impacted me a lot. It went like this.

“Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”

And from then on I realized that going to school and actually getting a real education are nothing alike. Sometimes they coincide.

And that I find is a very scary thing at times.

As you all know from last week’s post, I have mixed feelings about writing classes. Those mixed feelings are because of this. I made the mistake of thinking that school would make my writing better or “fix me”. I also made the bigger mistake of thinking that the school was responsible for making me a good writer and to an extent, that books should make me into a good writer.

If I could punch my past self, I would because that is wrong-o with a capital WRONG.

Don’t get me wrong, teachers and professors should teach you things because that’s what they’re paid for. And no teacher should ever get away with false information or flat out incompetence for what they teach.

But don’t pin on your universe on a teacher or a school or a book teaching you anything. You are responsible for what you learn and absorb.

And the other thing is, if you rely on everything a teacher says, you can only be as good as their level. If you learn all their tricks, you plateau and stagnate. If they don’t grow, then you don’t grow.

But thankfully, I was never the type of person to be okay with the idea that my growth  is in any hands but my own.This is why I learn from every source possible. I learn from people, life, meditation, and now I actually learn from my drawing.

For me, it’s really a great place to be because there aren’t any lesson plans, or fancy standardized tests, or checklists, or shiny pedigrees to distract me from the real helpful information.

To Push Until I Get Frustrated With Something

This is kind of goes hand in hand with the taking shortcuts thing.

If you come to a problem and you don’t try to solve it yourself or work with it, just getting the solution handed to you is not going to help. It’s like taking a math test. You might know the answer, but if your teacher specifies for you to show the work, the answer is useless.

But also, sometimes we don’t realize how close we are to the answer we need! It’s a lot more fulfilling to come up with it yourself.

At first when I wrote and I came to a problem, initially my first impulse would be to ask someone what they thought. But I actually grew to not like this method as often times I have to explain a situation to someone and if they misunderstand, I have to clarify.

And I’d often run into people not paying attention, or barely engaging in the conversation, or worst cutting me off and not getting things done at all.  It often made me feel like the people I were talking to didn’t actually care about helping me. And me having social anxiety made things hella worse.

And this actually all lead to the feeling that asking for outside help was more tedious than it was worth. Of course, I know there is still a time and place for it, but now I am much more reserved and much more selective about asking.

But what made this official was a Winnie the Pooh inspired meditation on Calm on the topic Wu Wei, which is basically the idea of allowing things to happen the way they should.

One of my favorite parts is when Tamara Levitt says, “When you work with Wu Wei you put the round peg into the the round hole and the square peg into the square hole. No stress. No struggle.”

This allowed me to go from asking for help to constantly asking myself, “Will this fix itself if I just relax and let it be?”

And since I started this approach, the answer has so far always been yes. It made me actually realize that a lot of issues in writing are self-imposed and caused by expectations that the story is supposed to turn out a certain way.

But more importantly because I work out the problems myself until I can’t go any farther, I now have a better idea understanding of what to do and why something will work and why something won’t work. .

And this actually makes writing feel more fulfilling to me.

More…?

Hmm… I’m actually not sure how much more of this there will actually be. But if there is really more, it will just be there I suppose.

So until next time…

Get back in that water. 😉