Writing is discipline

As you approach the task of publishing writing, accept that practically everyone strives at it. Remind yourself that writing is a “plastic art” (Smith,  1994 )

It’s been almost 10 days that I have not written anything. Not because I didn’t want to; not because I didn’t have the time but because I had a lot on my mind. I felt as if I wrote when I didn’t feel like it, I would be doing myself a big disservice. With writing, as with physical exercise, there are some who can never seem to “find the time” to do it, some who do the minimum(like me), others who make it part of the daily routine, and still others who are positively addicted to it.

Writing can be shaped to your emotions they say though I feel vulnerable to pen down. to improve as a writer one needs to put all that they go through on paper, and that somewhere amongst the thousands of outlets, there is a place where you can publish a well-conceptualized and carefully prepared manuscript.

So instead of assuming that widely published authors write with ease, realize that they are comparable to athletes who compete in the Olympics; they have trained extensively, built endurance, worked with expert coaches, and learned the rules of the game.

When the challenges of writing are under discussion, people are much more curious about possible shortcuts to fame and fortune rather than the drudgery part, just as most people are more interested in seeing the gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded to Olympians than to watch athletes’ practice sessions.

Expect that you can become a successful writer, but, as the Latin motto on the gates of the Govan Shipyard in Scotland so succinctly states,  Non sine labore , not without effort.      

Carl Jung’s “The Undiscovered Self”

In the winter of 1913, noted Psychologist Carl Jung embarked on a process of self-experimentation. He deliberately gave free rein to his fantasy thinking and carefully noted what ensued. He later called this process “Active imagination.” He wrote down these fantasies in the Black Books. These are not personal diaries, but rather the records of a self-experimentation.

When World War I broke out, Jung considered that a number of his fantasies were precognitions of this event. This led him to compose the first draft of Liber Novus, which consisted of a transcription of the main fantasies from the Black Books, together with a layer of interpretive commentaries and lyrical elaboration. Here Jung attempted to derive general psychological principles from the fantasies, as well as to understand to what extent the events portrayed in the fantasies presented, in a symbolic form, developments that were to occur in the world.

In the aftermath of World War II, with the advent of the Cold War, the erection of the Berlin Wall, and the explosion of the hydrogen bomb, Jung found himself once again confronted with “An apocalyptic age filled with images of universal destruction,” as he had been when he composed Liber Novus during World War I. Articulating there a direct linkage between what took place in the individual and in society at large, he argued that the only solution to the seemingly catastrophic developments in the world lay in the individual turning within and resolving the individual aspects of the collective conflict:

” [T] he spirit of the depths wants this struggle [the War] to be understood as a conflict in every man’s own nature.”3 In his personal confrontation, Jung’s endeavor was one of resolving the conflicts that were reflected on the world stage within himself. In 1917, he wrote, This war has pitilessly revealed to civilized man that he is still a barbarian. . .. But the psychology of the individual corresponds to the psychology of the nation. What the nation does is done also by each individual, and so long as the individual does it, the nation also does it. Only the change in the attitude of the individual is the beginning of the change in the psychology of the nation.”

Most people confuse “self-knowledge” with knowledge of their conscious ego-personalities. Anyone who has any ego-consciousness at all takes it for granted that he knows himself. But the ego knows only its own contents, not the unconscious and its contents.

People measure their self-knowledge by what the average person in their social environment knows of himself, but not by the real psychic facts which are for the most part hidden from them. In this respect the psyche behaves like the body, of whose physiological and anatomical structure the average person knows very little too. Although he lives in it and with it, most of it is totally unknown to the layman, and special scientific knowledge is needed to acquaint consciousness with what is known of the body, not to speak of all that is not known, which also exists.

What is commonly called “self-knowledge” is therefore a very limited knowledge, most of it dependent on social factors, of what goes on in the human psyche. Hence one is always coming up against the prejudice that such and such a thing does not happen “with us” or “in our family” or among our friends and acquaintances. On the other hand, one meets with equally illusory assumptions about the alleged presence of qualities which merely serve to cover up the true facts .

Carl Jung’s concepts are definitely not everyone’s cup of coffee but understanding them is definitely something that I am giving a try.

Too old or too young?

(Girl’s name) and (boy’s name) sitting under the tree or on a beach.

K-i-s-s-i-n-g! (spell it out, more sound effects please)

First comes love.

Then comes marriage.

Then comes baby in the baby carriage!”

This particular scene in various movies & series has set the tone for this write. I have been teen aging currently and binge-watching K dramas and damn they are making me paranoid about my own timeline.

You cannot predict when you are going to meet the love of your life. You cannot predict when you will land your dream job. You cannot predict when your business will take off. You cannot predict when you will take that dream trip. While I haven’t accomplished the milestones I planned, I know my inability to meet these expectations at a certain age has no reflection on my potential to reach them in the future.

The year I turned 30, I was invited to more weddings than I had ever attended… in my life. I looked up and all my close friends had checked many of the major life boxes (soulmate, wedding, three-bedroom house, baby) while I hadn’t even started. That was the first time I felt the pressure. That year was so hard. I had to continually remind myself to be happy for my friends rather than using them as guidelines for what my life didn’t have. And even in the midst of the comparison game, I truly hated that I felt that way. I hated that I was looking at my wonderful life and seeing it as less.

While some of my friends are buying homes to settle down, there are others who are buying plane tickets to travel solo. Even though we’re all similar ages, our lives are different due to our personalities and the priorities that form because of them. Why? Because our ages don’t necessarily have to dictate when we achieve specific things in life.

When things do not go according to the timeline that you made up for your life you feel like a failure or like you are missing out. Even worse you feel that your time has passed. Creating a timeline for your life is not the issue. The problem is that there isn’t necessarily a road map for how to do that. And that’s where the problem comes in. That’s where the anxiety comes in.

But that’s the thing: “too old” or “too young” is all just part of this timeline narrative I’m refusing to accept any more. I’m excited to experience life on my own timeline… exactly how it was meant to happen. For any women out there reading this, know that your timeline is your own. No matter how different it may look to everyone around you.

Remember there is no timeline.

Last but not least I encourage you to watch this video.

Deep Work Update

Can you focus on more than two activities and still ace at it?

I wanted to update you on my experience with Deep Work so far. Sorry to break it to myself but multitasking doesn’t work for me but how about you? Summarizing my observations as below

  1. There is a cap of 2 different tasks that you can do within a single day. I learned that it’s not the work that exhausted me the most, but the switching between different types of work.
  2. Workweek should be for work. And personal projects should be taken care of on my own time (e.g., on weekends and holidays).
  3. The more creative a task is, the earlier you should work on it. I am a morning person, so I strive to write before breakfast.
  4. Stillness breeds focus. Just telling yourself to do a specific activity five minutes longer than usual can help create stillness, and it leads to high-quality focus.

That’s all, for now, let me know if you have any interesting views on your deep work experimentation.

Page by Page on Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird

“For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.

Anne Lamott,Bird by Bird

I wouldn’t call this a Book summary but rather my notes on Anne Lamont’s “Bird by Bird” so please bear with me if this post appears to be too long. I couldn’t help but include the many gems that I want to be reminded of and which hopefully will also benefit you.

From my perspective as a person trying to make writing part of my daily life, I’d say Bird by Bird is more of a pep talk for writers. Sitting home alone writing can be more than a little crazy, so it’s nice to have some reassurance that the craziness is normal, along with some tools for getting to the next day or to the next page.

On writing shitty first drafts

“We all know we’re going to die; what’s important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this. All you can give us is what life is about from your point of view.”

Writing reveals itself through writing. As you write, you uncover the hidden gems inside you that you didn’t even know were there. Words come to you, characters reveal themselves, and dialogue forms that shows who these people are. It pretty much always works this way: you have to write to figure out what you’re writing about. Ask people around you to help you with your writing. Call on them for their expertise. If you want to write about gardening or include a garden in your writing, but you don’t know the first thing about gardening, then ask someone who does. Enlist the help of others to make your words come alive.

On writer’s block and inducing creativity

For me, the most important tip Anne Lamott shared is to carve out some time every day to write, preferably at the same time. When you do this, you train your unconscious mind to kick in for you creatively. So instead of waiting for the muse to show up, you kindly invite her over every day at the same time.

Write first, Polish later.

Perfectionism can be your enemy when you get lost in the details. Anne urges us to make a mess and clean it up later. You’ll be more likely to discover interesting new directions and insights with your story and characters if you let loose. And hey, your first draft is just for you. So only please yourself as your first reader.

Thoughts on Character & Plot Development:

“Knowledge of your characters also emerges the way a Polaroid develops: it takes time for you to know them.” — Anne Lamott

When you want to map out your character’s world, traits and beliefs, write it down. What are their habits? What is their background? Are they very expressive/emotional? What do they believe in? What makes them tick? What relationships do they have with family and friends? What is their profession? What are their mannerisms? Whom would they have voted for? What do they look like? Etc. Sometimes you pour in facets of yourself or people you know. I do at least. Most characters are blends of me, friends and family. Sometimes even my perception of celebrities, politicians or just people I meet. Copy and paste habits, and looks.

“Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.”

This lesson is related to avoid getting stuck or reaching a dead end. If you write about a subject you are interested in, something about which you care passionately, chances are you have a lot to say and you’re more likely to finish the story.

“You need to put yourself at their centre, you and what you believe to be true or right. The core, ethical concepts in which you most passionately believe are the language in which you are writing.”

Your reader will notice when you write about a subject matter you care about and he or she will likely be able to recognize pieces of his or her own life in what you have to say. So, be emotional in your writing, chances are you hit more nerves and tears

“Get to know your characters as well as you can, let there be something at stake, and then let the chips fall where they may.”

Here’s what Anne says in Bird by Bird: “Find out what each character cares most about in the world because then you will have discovered what’s at stake. Find a way to express this discovery in action, and then let your people set about finding or holding onto or defending whatever it is. But something must be at stake or you will have no tension and your readers will not tum the pages.”

The only thing I have to add to that is that you must make sure you invite the reader in. Why should they care about the journey of your characters?

“The development of relationship creates plot.”

Make sure your characters move forward, towards something. Traditionally there are three acts: A setup, a build-up, and the pay-off. This system exists for a reason. Sometimes you have your ending in mind at the start. Sometimes you find your plot while interacting with your muse every day and scribbling away your first draft. Some character needs to have changed when you reach the end. But whatever happens, we need to feel that it was inevitable, that even though we may be amazed, it feels absolutely right, that, of course, things would come to this, of course, they would shakedown in this way.

So this book is not only a book full of advice for writers but a book that encapsulates what it means to be a writer. Simple, clear, and truthful exploration of the writing life. I loved hearing her encouragement to aspiring writers, and I loved how she emphasized the importance of truth in writing. To become a better writer, you have to write more. Writing reveals the story because you have to write to figure out what you’re writing about. Don’t judge your initial work too harshly because every writer has terrible first drafts. The point I’m going to add here that really impacted me was Lamott message not to worry about what people think of you, but to worry about not finishing your writing.

My Key Takeaways:

  1. You should be able to identify a character by what he or she says. It’s a given that each should sound different, look different, and have different backgrounds and mannerisms but this simple advice hit home because I thought, “If I didn’t write-he said/she said-after this quote, would they know it was from this character?”
  2. A formula when writing a short story, which goes ABDCE, for Action, Background, Development, Climax, and Ending. You begin with action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more. The background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story. Then you develop these people so that we learn what they care most about. The plot, the drama, the actions, the tension will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the climax, after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way.
  3. I loved the description of rewriting and tucking the octopus in bed. The legs that keep popping out from the bedsheets, and just when you think you have them tucked in, another pops out.
  4. Now I am interested in reading E.M. Forster and John Gardner’s advice on the plot which Lamott mentions as great reads.
  5. The advice on having someone read your first drafts was really good, it helps to know if you’re on the right path. Common sense indeed.
  6. One of the life lessons I loved was about not wasting your time on people who don’t respond to you with kindness and respect or wasting your time with people who make you hold your breath. “You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath, and writing is about filling up when you’re empty. Letting images, and ideas, and smells run like water.”
  7. Write about yourself, and making yourself the main character and trying to throw everything you love in your first book, short story, whatever. At least I’m learning I’m not alone 🙂
  8. Letters are an amazing idea as well. Writing a part of your history, a part of a character’s history in the form of a letter that the informality might just free you from the tyranny of perfectionism, and even address it to someone. I loved this idea and I can see how several of my favorite articles or essays could have been written using this method, at least as a first draft or to brainstorm.
  9. The idea of carrying an index card and pen in your back pocket when you walk your dogs or travel is also a lifesaver.
  10. Live life like it was your last day and re-filling your imagination can fill back up. “Any of the things you love to do will fill you with observations, flavors, visions, ideas, and memories.”
  11. Think of what you want to say and if anything else has been written on the subject but tell your story as someone else.
  12. I loved the quote by Toni Morrison that Lamott uses, “The function of freedom is to free someone else. We write the unexposed. If there is a door in a castle you’ve been told not to go through you must.”
  13. You need to discover your true voice, and you can’t do that if you think your parents are reading over your shoulder, so write in isolation.
  14. Think about who your writing for, dedicate it to your favourite author as a gift to give back to them for influencing you. I love the idea of writing a present for someone.

There were moments when I was moved and made to think about writing, so maybe one day I’ll read Bird by Bird again and see if I can revise this first impression. Amen!

Please look after Aai

If I know what love is, it’s because of you.

In the Famous Korean Novel “Please Look After Mom” the daughter realizes how much she loves her mother only after her mother goes missing. In an interview, the author, Kyung-sook Shin, said that she had been planning the book for a long time but couldn’t get it quite right until she changed “mother” in the title to “mom.” The novel ends with the daughter on a trip to Vatican City. The daughter lays a rosary in front of the Pietà, an image of the Holy Mother embracing the dead Jesus and prays, “Please, please look after Mom.”

After staying at home with my mother for the past two months, I have realized that my existence cannot have meaning without her. She was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy and it broke my heart to look at her beautiful face lose its symmetry. My heart was filled with sadness and remorse and I found myself summoning my childhood memories filled with her warmth, love, and commitment towards our upbringing. My life would have served its purpose if I am 10% of what she is.

I feel sad to see how much older my parents have become, especially my mother. Many grey hairs have sprouted on her head, and she is not as active as she used to be. It is distressing for a daughter to see her own mother becoming old. Although I know that everything in this world is impermanent, I cannot help but wish that my mother might be exempt.

I am a lot like my mother or so I would like to believe. She is an introvert, but with a bright and warm personality. She loves music and art and enjoys reading books, just like I do. If she hears or thinks of something insightful or interesting, she likes to write it down and share it with her family and friends. She is a great cook and not just my family but everyone who has tasted her food comes back to taste more. She can be patient and strong in the face of difficulties, which I aspire to be. I am proud and grateful for everything she has done for us.

Thanks to the lockdown, I could drop everything and tend to her. I have been neglecting my own parents but now I will do better. We regret that we have not spent enough time with our loved ones because we are too busy. Though we always wish our loved ones to be happy and healthy, we often do not express it, assuming that they already know how we feel.

But today a sentiment rose up from the abyss of my heart: “Aai, Aai, I love you so, so much.” Without realizing it, the word “aai” came out instead of “mom.”

And then she resolves to become healthy again, not just for herself but also for her daughter.

Closer?

Today was a rest day for me despite being a Monday and I wonder how many such Mondays I will be blessed again with.

Here’s to appreciating the break in between the work,the creativity,the chaos and the burnout.

The break to breathe, the break to Live.

Are we getting closer to ourselves?

Are we getting Closer to what means the world to us?

Are we getting Closer to what makes our heart sing?

Are we getting Closer to a better version of ourselves?

Are we getting closer to the people who mean everything to us?

Sharing with you guys a song that I have been listening on a loop. Yes Closer.

We are never getting Older 😉

Source: Limerencehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khlXvBquWUk

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Source: http://www.Linkedin.com

“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” – Abraham Maslow

I should have listened to Abraham Maslow. In 1943, this American psychologist explained individuals can be happy only if they can express themselves and achieve their potential. These were all things I wasn’t doing. If you’re a singer, you must sing, if you’re a writer, you must write down, and if you’re an artist, you must fill the plain canvas.

Maslow called this “self-actualisation” and cautioned “the story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” Don’t sell yourself short.

If your main gig isn’t giving you enough time or space to write, draw, paint or play, if you spend your nine-to-five responding to the demands of others, or if you work on projects only because they pay the bills, you need a side project. Hell, even if you love your main gig, a side project will prevent you from becoming burnt-out, and it could put food on your table down the road.

Recognising Side Projects:

  • When you’re messing around, when it’s just for kicks, when nobody gets hurt, gets paid or gets laid, it’s a side project.
  • When you’re working alone with an idea and an editor isn’t screaming about deadlines, it’s a side project.
  •  When it’s an idea for a book you carry on every day and pull out when you’ve got a few free hours, it’s a side project.
  • When it’s a band you play with for fun after your main gig is done, it’s a side project.
  •  When you take pictures for hours at the weekend and stay up late at night fretting about white balance and colour compositions, it’s a side project.
  • When it’s a haiku you write on the back of a white envelope in between boardroom meetings, it’s a side project.
  •  When you’re bored and sitting on the train or waiting for a plane and you’re doodling on the back of a beermat, it’s a side project.
  • When you can’t bring yourself to throw it away, it’s a side project.
  • When you’re stuck, blocked and procrastinating, when your main thing is the painful thing, it’s a side project.
  •  When you think you’re messing around, and something unexpected happens, it’s a side project.
  • When you knock your big ideas off each other like billiard balls, it’s a side project
  • When they produce an unexpected little idea, it’s a side project. When it’s the fun you have when all the other work is done, it’s your side project.

Switch to Your Side Project When You Need a Break

I love creative side projects because they help me procrastinate and still get things done. They help me avoid feeling like I want to pull my hair out when I’m working at my main gig. They also help me cultivate new creative habits without taking massive risks or investing a lot of time and money into a single idea. The next time you’re struggling with your main gig and think, “Oh God, I just don’t have the energy, the passion or any good ideas to face into this today,” pick up your side project and work on that instead. Do it for five minutes, do it for an hour, or do it for an entire day. Then return to your main gig with the energy of someone who’s just back from a refreshing holiday in the sun. If you’re lucky enough to love your main gig, switching gives you a much-needed break from a troublesome idea and enables you to practise your creative skills in a different way. You could even be nudging your career along like Weiner did.

Experiment Without Expectation

Consider your side project a creative experiment that will give you a new perspective on your craft. Practise accepting the discomfort of having an open loop, an unreached decision or a final cut: all luxuries you probably don’t have while at your main gig. Use your side projects to practise facing your fears. Avoid pressing hard for a great idea or for something you must use. You’re free to abandon reason, logic and even clarity. Be reckless and bold with your ideas. If you fail or if the experiment blows up in your face, this isn’t a catastrophe because you haven’t invested all of your emotional, financial or creative resources in your side project.

Break It Down You shouldn’t feel intimidated by the scale and ambition of your side project. If you do, break your side project down into little treats you enjoy or that offer a relief when your main gig is turning sour. Today, it’s enough to read up on the background for your television script. Tomorrow, it’s sufficient to transcribe your notes. It’s enough because there are no expectations. It’s only you and your ideas. Here’s a caveat: You must progress your side project in some small way and not just hold it in the back of your mind or talk about it with friends over a beer. Matthew Weiner would never have filmed Mad Men if all he did was tell his friends he had a great idea for a television show and that he’ll get around to working on it someday.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Yet) Do you have bills, small kids or a spouse to provide for? If you quit your job because you want to spend all day alone with your side project, expect to hear from your bank manager. Here’s the thing: Your main gig is giving you a fantastic opportunity to play with a side project early in the morning or late at night. Even if it doesn’t fire you up, it’s keeping the lights on at home. You have freedom and licence to work on your side project without fear of failure because your main gig is taking care of business. But what if you can afford to quit the day job and work on your side project all day? Once you do this, your side project becomes your new job. You’ll have to finish it, ensure it pays the bills and keeps the lights on. You won’t be free to take as many creative risks or experiment, and there will be things about your side project that you won’t enjoy, but you’ll have to do them if you want to feed your family..

Creative Takeaways

Start a side project today and give yourself permission to fail. Is your main gig turning your hair grey? Take out an old idea, dust it off and play with it a while.

What you practise for just an hour or two today, could change your life tomorrow – or in seven years. Remember that burnout can happen to you even if you enjoy your job or career. If you feel exhausted, irritable, or cynical about your work, re-invigorate yourself with a side project. Think of your side project as a long-term investment. Although it might not pay out today or tomorrow, you could reap rewards down the road as.

If you’re a musician in a group, experiment with your solo work in your free time. If you’re a nonfiction writer, work on your fiction in the evenings. If you’re a filmmaker for a hit TV show (Congratulations!), work on whatever else inspires you early in the morning or late at night. What you have on the side today, you’ll dine out with tomorrow.

Combining Your Experiences Work on different things at the same time, and you’ll connect them in exciting and unexpected ways. You’ll form these connections when you’re dreaming, exercising, meditating, eating, listening to music, in the shower, and so on. All you have to do is be open to capturing these connections when they occur to you. When a connection bubbles to the surface of your mind or when a breakthrough in your side project occurs to you while you’re working on your main gig, write it down in your notepad and carry on with your job. Your subconscious will take care of the rest. At the very least, use your day-to-day experiences on the job to lend credibility to your art.

American writer Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) spent much of his early life working at a menial job he hated for the United States postal service. He turned many of his experiences on the job into source materials (characters, anecdotes, descriptions) for his breakout 1971 novel Post Office. His protagonist/alter-ego in that story even says while bored on the job, “Maybe I’ll write a novel…And then I did.