Being a doer.

She looks like she might be worrying, and procrastinating. So much so she’s turned to stone. Don’t let this be you!!

With the #Writemotivation May Goals, I’ve been thinking (see that? Already! Thinking and not doing…) about just getting stuff done rather than deliberating, contemplating, and just generally faffing. If you don’t know the definition of “faffing”, I do think the word is very nearly an onomatopoeia.

And as this blog has been keen to announce publicly, I am a worrier and it is my great goal in life to stop this ridiculous, futile habit. Yesterday I read a great little devotional by Max Lucado about being a “worry-slapper.” He compares worries to mosquitos – and I’ll go one step further and compare it to midges, which if you’ve spent any time in the Scottish Highlands, or Scotland in general, you will know how infuriating these insects are.

Lucado points out that when a mosquito lands on you, you don’t watch it land and think about it. You slap that bugger away immediately. Worry should be no different. Letting it sit and stew and dig its claws into your skin, making it harder to extricate later? No good. As one of my lecturers at Falmouth sagely offered, with regards to plagiarism come dissertation time: “Plagiarism. Crack cocaine. Just don’t.” With a mosquito, you don’t say, “I’ll take care of that in a minute.” You immediately remove it! And anxieties are the same.

Don’t waste an hour wondering what your boss thinks; ask her.  Before you diagnose that blemish as cancer, have it examined.  Instead of assuming you’ll never get out of debt, consult an expert.  Be a doer—not a stewer!

Not just about worry, this topic. Last night I finished reading the second OUTLANDER book by Diana Gabaldon. I meant to go to bed around 10pm, feeling like a cold was coming on, but I had reached 90% of the book on my Kindle and decided I needed with every inch of my being to know how it ended. So I read until 1:30am. I’ll need to write a blog post about Diana’s writing at a later date, but the way her characters have leapt off the page at me (partly thanks to the Scottish setting and historical deliciousness) has gripped my heart and I WOULD. LOVE. TO. WRITE. LIKE. HER. She is fascinating and has such a strong voice for each character, and her writing voice is just brilliant. Like the sun. I’m in love. (And I’m so not a Harlequin/romance fan, at all. I kinda have to breeze through those passages, but they’re still so well written. I just don’t do romance, but her books are not defined as such. They’re too much else.)

It inspired me even more – one more massive block of fuel to the fire under me to write. Just write, as much as I can, as inspired as I can, and stop spending hours a week reading *about* writing. Just GET GOING.

So. Get going 🙂 Don’t let that midge sit around and sink his fangs in. Slap that procrastination–that Pinterest, that Facebook, that pile of dishes that really can wait until 5pm–slap it all away and get moving.

Share Button

Time & energy are precious commodities

Castles. I like castles. I’m excited for my wedding in this one. I’ll focus on that instead of the people who want to tell me I should do x, y, and z at said wedding.

I don’t “like” a lot of celebrities/public people on Facebook. Facebook used to be a place where you simply listed the things you liked, but it turned into a thing where everything you could possibly like has it’s own page. That means if I “like” Gary Oldman, then it will link me to his page. If I like avocados, it will link me to an avocado page. If I like lint balls, it will probably link me to a page for that. I’m not a fan of this set up, so I stopped “liking” things for the most part. But every now and then I think it’s worth it to be kept in the know of whatever I’m “liking”.

I recently read through the majority of books by a certain author and I’ve really enjoyed them and been inspired by the author’s success, as the genre is similar the the genre of my first complete manuscript. The books are easy reads and remind me it can be done, and they’re enjoyable, so I decided to “like” the author. I know little about her personally. What I like are her books, not necessarily her, and come to find out, given her snarky comments of late, I don’t think I like her. At least, not the way she’s portraying herself via her platform.

This is no biggie. I’ve “unliked” her. I still love her books and will continue to buy them, but the fact is her comments on her FB page are childish, so I’ve moved on. No harm done. But it got me to thinking… the hundreds and thousands of comments her snark has generated made me stick in my own $.02 (probably for worse, not better). What I said was this:

How about don’t spend your energy on things or people you don’t like. Simple as that. Move on. Time is limited on this earth and it seems a silly thing to me to spend it dwelling on things that a) don’t involve you and b) don’t appeal to you. Bizarre concept otherwise.

This wasn’t aimed purely at the author, but moreso at all the commenters who felt the need to vehemently agree with the author (my guess, so as to do a bit of ass-kissing). Lots of bickering going on. You know the drill, on any online forum where the public can make asses of themselves present their opinions. 😉 It was aimed at me, too.

Time really is limited. It’s the most precious thing we have. The energy we have to spend in this time, and the amount we have is numbered. As my favourite quote goes, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us” (Tolkien). Only God knows what that number is, and we can’t even afford to spend time guessing.

It’s a lesson to me, more than anyone. I’ve done what this author’s done, what these commenters have done. I’m as guilty, if not moreso. But I don’t want to waste any more time dwelling on things I’m not happy about, people who have upset me, things that don’t appeal to me. Everyone does it — it’s so hard not to! We see something controversial in the media and we gripe about it for days… or even just a few minutes, which is still pointless. Turn the channel! Read a book! Cook dinner! WRITE! Sure, we all have our opinions, but sometimes I find I let those opinions–or hurt feelings, or offended sensibilities–take over and distract me from something positive I could be doing.

I don’t just mean in regards to what People magazine says about celebrity X, but I’m talking about friends, co-workers, family. It’s very hard and I doubt anyone does it perfectly. But it was a good reminder, especially in the midst of upcoming nuptials where there are likely to be more opinions shared with me that I would rather have nothing to do with. Time is limited.

Challenge today, for me and you, if you so choose 🙂 Hear something you don’t like, or someone brings up a topic you’re not interested in, or offended by? Don’t dwell on it. Deal with it insofar as it impacts you or is directed at you, then use your precious energy for the things you DO enjoy/love/appreciate. Easier said than done, I know.

Share Button

Down to business

That door could go *anywhere*. Imagining where it’ll lead is fantastic. But eventually you have to get off your butt and find out.

After months of editing, re-reading, editing, and re-reading some more until I find another 200 things to edit, I’m setting my first manuscript aside. I recently changed the tense from past to present, and in doing so, believe I found lots of areas in which to strengthen the story. The characters, their motivations, and the story arc. I’m sure I could work on it til Kingdom Come, but the truth of the matter is, there are way more stories in me. As much as this first (completed) one is my baby, it’s time to get moving on another.

WIP.

It’s been on the backburner for months. I came up with the basic premise last March, and now a year later, it’s only a halfway-done draft. If that. I worked on it extensively during NaNo this year and reached the word count, but it still has so far to go. It’s weird. I feel the same way about working on a painting: I am so excited to see it done, and I have such hope for where it can go, and really feel it can be something special. But it’s the actual sitting down and working on it that I find so difficult.

Why is it sometimes SO hard to do the very things we want to do the most?

To anyone reading this, I wish you the best in tackling that project – whatever it may be – that you KNOW can be great but you’re almost afraid to focus on it, as though your attempts might not live up to your projected hope for it. Don’t let those nagging, evil, bloodthirsty hurdles stop you from just sitting down and working. Because the only thing they want from you is to stop you doing it at ALL. Don’t listen to them. 🙂 I’ll try not to, too.

Share Button

A trouble shared is a trouble halved.

There's a light in the distance! Okay, really, I just wanted to use this shot because it's pretty. But it is relevant, in an ultra-cheesy way.

I know the saying is “A problem shared…” and I know too that sometimes this isn’t the case. Sometimes sharing your problem just upsets the other party and now instead of just yourself, you’ve also got the problem of a worried-sick mother, or a partner who feels helpless, or a friend who nervously changes the subject, and so on.

But in the case of the peace that comes from knowing others understand and sympathise, it goes a long way towards propelling you through the trouble. A cloud can hang over a situation in our lives for months, or even years. We may have a long way yet to go to get through it. But each time someone genuinely reflects on the subject, or shares their similar experiences, it can be just that little nudge you need to get you through another week, or another day, or even another hour. These nudges along the way, whatever their stature, are fuel for the journey.

After commenting on some tweets from the Guardian Careers’ Twitter account, I was invited to share my experiences of being an unemployed mature graduate with a 1st class degree. Of being both “over-qualified” and “under-qualified”, according to employers.

The Guardian’s careers articles, Q&As, and series of guest posts are comforting and enlightening, and I highly recommend taking a look around their archives. Job hunting and its related soul searching can be a very solitary, lonely experience. Even if you have supportive loved ones around you, unless they’re in the same boat, it’s not always easy to relate. The self doubt, the what-ifs, the state of looking backwards so often you need a rear view mirror attached to your head. I often feel cut off from the rest of the world in this matter. So it’s refreshing to read about others’ experiences, some reflecting my own, some with different outcomes, but all insightful.

All of my friends save two are in stable jobs, some in very healthy career paths, so there are few people with whom I feel at ease discussing this topic. The truth is, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there unemployed, and thousands of mature graduates who’ve either been in my shoes, or are in them now. And really, I know I can talk to my friends about this topic, but my self-consciousness keeps me from dumping it all on them when there’s little they can say to make it better. It can be awkward to shine the light on the lopsidedness in friends’ situations, and I never want to make anyone uncomfortable. So it was with great relief I read the comments on my post today.

Simply put, there are some amazing, lovely, empathetic, intelligent, eloquent people out there who are either in a similar situation, or know a loved one who is or has been, or can simply just see the state of the job market and feel for those of us struggling to find a place in it. To all those lovely people, a massive hug and thanks. I want to add you all to my Twitter and Facebook and read your blogs and encourage you that while we may be in a rotten time for chasing dreams and wondering if there’s any value in doing so, I believe persistence is key. Don’t give up.

Knowing that we’ve had to work a lot harder to get somewhere we want to be, in the end–even if it takes years–we’ll appreciate it infinitely more than those who slid easily into jobs pre-2008. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I feel like whenever this recession starts to ease up, we’ll be able to put a big, fat bullet point on our CVs that reads DETERMINED and COMMITTED, skills honed not on the job but while seeking one. And determination on the job is much easier when you know there’s a paycheck coming, so those of us able to keep that determination alive in the mean time aren’t wasting time.

Thank you for reading! Your time and thoughts are valued!

Share Button

People-Pleasing: Just Say No (nicely).

That was me, far right. While I love playing bass, I think more often than not I wasn't pleasing other people with my performance--especially my band mates 😉 Joke. I wasn't that bad.*

My characters have become unintentional catalysts for learning about myself, and the things I need to work on.

I didn’t sit down to write manuscript #1 (or #2, my current work in progress) with the intention of “finding myself” or examining my own neuroses. Writing is about putting the stories in my head down on paper, and I was simply trying to build character traits, flaws, and interesting bits into the characters who make up the story I want to tell.

But life doesn’t usually work out the way we intend or expect.

In my last post, I talked about this simple yet earth-shaking realisation: No matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone and you can’t make everyone like you. Humans are fickle, myself included. I can spend my life bending over backwards and apologising for my existence at every turn, but I still won’t win everyone’s approval. So finally, after 33 years, I’ve decided I need to stop. I need to be me—confidently. I need to stop apologising for every move I make. And I need to stop being so anxious to fulfil everyone else’s expectations, and not be afraid to say what I really think.

That’s not to say I’m endorsing narcissism or bad behaviour! But all I can do is try my best, be respectful and kind, try to treat others as I would like to be treated, and the rest is up to them. If I don’t live up to their standards of perfection & acceptability, there’s not a lot I can do about that.

I’ve come to see that I’ve spent – no, WASTED – so much time in my life trying to be what I think other people want, saying “yes” to every request, in the hopes that other people will like me, will approve, will include me, and will not be angry at me. I’ve used up so much energy trying to keep on top of all this that I inevitably lose sight of what makes me happy, let alone what’ll make someone else happy.

My MC has this problem. She didn’t at first – she had a host of other issues that got her in the predicament that incites the plot. But revisions have revealed that, at her core, she’s a people-pleaser. She will never win trying to juggle the approval of everyone she meets. Not just friends and family, but acquaintances, teachers, employers, customer service reps and delivery men. She elevated the opinions of everyone in her life above her own, to the detriment of her self-esteem and her relationships with those people.

I didn’t write this trait into her because I wanted to write about me. I wrote her this way because it’s how her character evolved, based on herself and the situations around her. And afterwards, I realised that’s how I’ve been living most of my life. While researching this topic, I found this: (from Jen Smith’s blog)

…It is a fact of life that you can’t make everyone happy all the time. What you can do is be authentic and do what you feel is right. We all upset others at times. It is inevitable. Sometimes people are jealous; sometimes they don’t like other people being happy or successful and sometimes they may be upset with you and they just don’t know why! You cannot be responsible for other people’s happiness but you sure as hell are responsible for your own. Start being confident about your decisions and what you want to do.

I think it comes down to say what you mean, mean what you say, and if it’s not said with ill intent but respect, then other people can either accept you, or move on. And the ones who stick around are the ones whose opinion you should count as meaningful in your life. (Isn’t that what Hanson’s “MMMbop” was all about, after all? LOL).

But seriously, you can’t ever base your life solely on others opinions. That’s when it becomes approval addiction, and you end up making yourself and the other people unhappy anyhow. I’m responsible for my own happiness, and while I always want to make everyone else happy, that’s just not in my power. I need to be confident about my decisions, communicate more clearly, and then just accept that other people are responsible for their own happiness as much as I am for mine.

Some people just aren’t going to like me for whatever their reasons (which they’re totally entitled to), and that’s fine. This is when I need to stop losing sleep over whether some random person on the street likes me, or the not-so-random person whose standards of excellence I’ll never achieve is happy with me. Tough. That’s life. Next!

And the side note to all this has actually become Important Point #2. I’m realising that both my MC and I need to have this enmeshed into our skulls: Only you are responsible for your own happiness. Others may want you to be happy, and make efforts to help you be happy. But you have the choice in the end, and if you choose to be miserable, grumpy, judgemental, or pessimistic (as we all choose now & again), that’s completely up to you. But we can also choose to be positive, forgiving, hopeful, sympathetic, and so many other, better, things. That’s my goal, anyhow.

* Photo credit: unknown. I apologise. I was given an 8.5×11 print of this performance, which was a benefit show put on by Fido coffeehouse (where I used to work) in Nashville, Tennessee at the Belcourt. Many a better performer has played that stage, but that was an awesome time in my life. But I am not an amazing bassist. I just had an amazing teacher and fantastic people around me 🙂
Share Button