Keeping Your Vision Clear

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After the move, life has been busy.

It’s been busy with writing, having long conversations with friends at school cafeterias and establishing old routines at the new place. Life has been busy with thinking, reading books and finding peace with many different issues.

Time has simply flown by.

Many (but especially self-employed creatives) say that October and November are the busiest months of the year. It’s the time of the year that’s filled with work projects, deadlines, keeping up with hobbies and being social. Maybe it’s the darkness, the cold and a way to pass the time while waiting for Christmas and a new year to begin. But it sure is true.

Even for me, October and November have been filled with so many things that require my time. Especially November. However, I can only blame myself for setting a deadline for my first draft at the same time I have a deadline for the theory part of my thesis and, in addition to that I decided to plan and execute a surprise advent calendar as a Christmas gift to my partner. Oh, and then I also had a deadline for a couple of articles I’ve written for a magazine I’m the chief editor for.

In other words, I’m swamped.

Two Personal Reminders

It feels like these last remaining months of the year tend to fly by and become months dedicated to completing the eon-long to-do lists. They are also the months where experiencing and trying new things (fun things especially) get less time than they’d deserve. We are putting off what seems to be everything to complete the list in time – before Christmas and the new year. That’s at least how it has felt like for me.

However, two things happened last Saturday that were great reminders of why it’s extremely important to lift one’s head up from the messy soup of to-dos, to take a break from what one is doing, or even to break free from it:

  1. I met the team behind an association’s member magazine that I’ve been the chief editor of for the past couple of years.
  2. Me and my partner got a plant, an Euphorbia leuconeura, that is, the Madagascar jewel, as a house-warming gift.

What’s so special about these two things, you ask? Let me tell you.

Being a chief editor for an association member magazine doesn’t require that much face-to-face contact with the editorial team. It can be done from the distance full-time, if necessary, like I did when I lived in Ireland. This, can be liberating, of course, but it comes with a dark side (as many other things in life): the job can become very lonely and, most of all, uninspiring. After all, sitting alone at your computer in the middle of winter with only Whatsapp or Facebook as your social contact to the team, you are almost bound to lose focus, your interest in and motivation for the job.

And this was how I had experienced the job for the last six months or so. I hadn’t been inspired to create a truly good and enjoyable magazine – I had only worked enough to get the magazine done and published. Quite clearly I had lost my interest, and finally decided that being the chief editor for the magazine wasn’t worth of my time anymore. So, I resigned.

However, after meeting the team again after a long pause and getting to know some new faces, I felt a change in my motivation. Suddenly, the negative feelings I had had about the paper and producing material for it, disappeared. Instead, I was energized and somewhat motivated to ’start anew’ and put some effort into the work again. I felt that the team is nice, the atmosphere at the brunch/meeting was good, and that I did enjoy writing those articles when I finally decided to write them. Suddenly I saw no reason to quit the magazine – I was happy to stay on board as a part of the editorial team.

And the plant then! I’ve mentioned before that me and my partner are frequent movers. That means I’ve given up on investing in plants or in an impressive collection of spices since they tend to become problematic when the next move is around the corner. But now we were given a Madagascar jewel. But instead of being stressed about the future of the plant, I was quite thrilled.

Later that day, I sat down to observe the plant at close. There’s something about these green organisms. They bring different kind of life to the household, they bring color to the grey and dark landscape that we see from the window. This plant needs to be talked to in order to get its dosage of carbon dioxide (that’s the instruction we got from the gift-giver: ”It needs to hear some conversations!”).

The Madagascar jewel shows that one can survive in this part of the world where the sun hasn’t made any appearance in oh-so-many-days.

Nurture the Conviction

These two things made me realize the importance of taking care of oneself instead of getting swamped with a massive to-do list without an ending, instead of just living one day after the other without something fun that interrupts the day-to-day life.

It’s important to take care of your mental and physical well-being. But it’s equally important to take care of your conviction and your creativity.

I know my conviction, my passion. But what I’ve realized is that it’s not enough to know what you want to do and do it. Habits only get you so far – they automate the process or the technical aspects of creating. But what’s your fuel, what’s the oil in your system that helps the creativity to reach a state of flow? Anyone can do anything if they have the habit of doing it – but is what you’re doing fun? Is it energizing, fulfilling, exhilarating?

So, maybe you know what you want to do and have down the habit of taking the time to do it. But in addition to this, you need to take care of your conviction. It’s like the windscreen of a car – you need to keep it clean in order to see clearly, even if you know where you’re going. Because if you can’t see where you’re going – you’re likely to end up in a ditch in the middle of somewhere.

So, instead of keeping the eyes on the goal only – may that be finishing your first draft or your edits, completing editing a new video or learning to master Adobe Illustrator – one needs to enjoy the process as well. It could be meeting up with people who share your passion for the craft who remind you that working on your conviction and doing the thing you love is fun. Or getting a plant just because they’re colorful and full of life and remind you of the curious process of growth (even if you might need to give it away or throw it away in six months or so).

To keep you convinced of your own conviction, you need to do things that might not get you closer to your goal technically (for instance, sitting in a cafe with friends doesn’t automatically create new words to your Word-document), but give you new energy, new thoughts and a refreshed belief in what you do instead.

We people have a tendency to get blinded by what we should be doing, our lengthy to-do lists and our stressful deadlines. We forget that feeding our passion often happens outside of the physical in-the-making process. People-watching or meeting with friends give you new thoughts and ideas for you novel, but in order to do that you need to leave your computer at home and get out to see the world. Taking the time to enjoy a nice piece of cake or going to the art galleries is a way of taking care of your energy and motivation – taking a break once in a while in order to bring back the motivation, the conviction in what you’re doing. Because if you’re not motivated, your habit cannot be utilized properly.

So, last Saturday worked as a friendly reminder for two things: 1) living a minimalist life doesn’t mean one cannot invest in something that will only last for a while. If it brings you joy, it’s worth the trouble it causes, and 2) I already do things that I enjoy but every once in a while I need to refresh my memory of why I enjoy doing them.

After realizing this, I’ve been wondering how I might implement this on my creative writing and my blogging. Lately, I’ve been feeling somewhat unmotivated although I keep on writing six days a week. Would it be a cup of coffee and a croissant in a café that would get me going, that would energize and motivate me? Or meeting other people who share my passion for writing (in real life as well in addition to the Internet)?

What’s that something that would feed my creativity and my motivation for writing?

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How do you do it? How do you feed you conviction, your passion?

 

Using Shortcuts to Succeed

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Do you remember a game called Space Impact? It was an old-school spaceship war game one could play at least on Nokia 3310 if not on other cell phones as well. Another game I remember from Nokia phones, now the ones with a color screen, was Bounce where a red ball tries to get through a set of levels. Both games were highly addictive and I remember playing them over and over again, getting through the many levels and finally, finishing the last, most difficult level.

But what do these two games have in common except that they were both created by Nokia and could be played on Nokia phones?

They both had a magical four digit code that made you invincible.

The thing is, both games (but especially Bounce) required a good deal of practice from the player to get to the end of the game. Sometimes when I was feeling optimistic and motivated to complete the game with pure skill – but at other times I just wanted to play and focus on tactics instead of avoiding getting killed. When that feeling came over me, I decided to use the code that my friend had told me about.

(Fun fact: my grandmother still has a well-working Nokia 3310 with Space Impact on it so I can do a throwback to my childhood any time I want. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the code anymore so I’ll just have to get through the game with skill)

It was a great feeling – being invincible and able to complete the game without having to focus on not getting hurt or killed. That magical four-digit code was a shortcut to success, both in Space Impact and Bounce. But I also remember feeling that the winning at the end of the last level didn’t really feel like an honest, one-hundred percent win because I knew I had cheated. It wasn’t pure skill that got me through the game – the code did a good deal of the job.

Useful Shortcuts

There are many shortcuts in life that can be considered being extremely useful. For instance, finding the quickest route from home to the bus stop will help you save time in the mornings – give you a few minutes more to read the paper, drink your coffee, fix your hair and so on.

Another great shortcut is finding a lunch cafeteria with the best ratio between friendliness of the staff, quality of the food and length of the queue. This shortcut will save you time, energy and hopefully make your day better when you get to enjoy good food and nice service.

These shortcuts are pretty practical and make the daily life a bit easier. Even habits can be considered as shortcuts and they, if any, make the daily life more simple to digest. Shortcuts help us save time and energy on some things, and let us use that energy and saved minutes on the projects that require our time at the moment.

This kind of shortcuts are widely accepted, even recommended. Life is too short to walk the longer routes to the bus stop or deal with angry customer service. Instead, life is about doing what you enjoy, and if you can enjoy life a little bit more by choosing the shortest route to the gym or the restaurant with the best food – go for it.

But what about other shortcuts?

Creative Shortcuts

As I’ve become more and more interested in writing, photography and filmography, I’ve learned many rules or tips on how to create enchanting, well-functioning products.

For instance, in photography the two rules for composition are the golden spiral and the rule of third. They are widely used in photography and photos that use one of these rules tend to be perceived as good photos.

In filmography, one can find many rules that help to create visually pleasing content. Switching between three different frames (full shot, detail shot and something in-between), using the 180′ rule, the Hitchcock rule… All these things help the film become more interesting, pleasing to look at and enhance the storytelling.

And in the world of novels there’s the classic storyline, the hero’s journey. A simple storyline many films and novels follow that creates a familiar adventure, sweeping the viewer or reader into the story. Reading stories that follow the hero’s journey is almost always nice because it’s something we are used to – we know what’s going to happen, we just don’t know how and what all the consequences will be.

These creative shortcuts are effective and help create pleasing, easy-to-take-in kind of content. The way the products are formed feels familiar to us consumers and therefore we enjoy them. Similar shortcuts can be seen everywhere. For instance, in journalism and the newspaper world there are several rules/guidelines for creating headlines that trigger curiosity in the reader, or what are the best ways to structure the article so that the reader will read the whole news story instead of just the headline.

One might not think of them as shortcuts – they can be described as well-functioning patterns or as recipes with certain ingredients that guarantee your cake will rise in the oven. And getting to know these rules, these shortcuts, the recipes, help anyone to become a better creator.

But are this kind of shortcuts as accepted as the practical, life-simplifying shortcuts?

A Creator Using Shortcuts

Somehow it seems that almost everything today has some sort of hack, a magical four digit code that will function as a shortcut to success. Using the rule of third or golden spiral you can create intriguing photos; switching between three different frame sizes in a film keeps the tempo up and the viewer interested. A novel with a structure like hero’s journey will help one create a good structure and tempo that will make the book more pleasing to read.

To me it feels like everything is possible and you can create your own success – if you know the code. I realized this on a whole other level when I read an interview with the author Ottessa Moshfegh. Her successful novel Eileen was ”a deliberate exercise in playing with the format of commercial fiction to get the attention of a big publisher.” She hacked the system, found out about the four digit code, and made her writer dreams come true.

The interview made me realize that anyone can write a novel. Anyone can write a best-selling novel, as long as they know the recipe. And as a writer hoping to become a published author…

I feel confused. I feel a little bit disappointed as well. Aren’t published authors supposed to be true fighters, true talents? Aren’t you supposed to feel lucky if a big publisher wants to take your book under their wing?

Apparently not – because here’s someone claiming that anyone can write a best-selling novel and has actually proof of it, her own work.

Honestly, after learning this I’ve had some trouble feeling encouraged. It feels like I’m out there, on the battlefield with all these other writers, hoping to get published. But suddenly there isn’t only 200 of us – there are 2,000 writers, all trying to claim that same space as I am. And the one with the best ingredients, the best ability to take in that recipe and follow it, will win.

It’s like authorship isn’t anything as glorious as it used to be. Like children who learn that Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy isn’t real – it feels like my belief in the glorious authorship has been broken.

Finding that Optimism

But the tone of this blog post is getting somewhat cheerless and depressing – so let’s get back to the intro of this blog post.

I wrote that winning Bounce or Space Impact with the help of the four-digit magical code didn’t make the victory feel like a real, honest win. It was more like thirty percent skill, seventy percent cheating. And I would like to think that the same sort of ratio goes for the creative content we produce. At least if we do it according to a certain type of shortcut/pattern/recipe.

The storyline in my first draft of Yellow Tails doesn’t consciously follow any tips, structures or recommended beats. I’m a pantser, planning as I go (although I’ve had the ending clear in my mind from the very beginning). I’ve felt the temptation to order books that give tips on good writing or help one structure the story in the best possible way, but for me it feels like I would be cheating. If I would start writing my book according to certain rules and guidelines, it wouldn’t be my story. Not entirely.

I might miss out on something for not taking in all the tips and guidelines. I might make it harder for myself to get my book published and actually making it. But for me, this feels like a road I’m supposed to take. The road where I do it the hard way and where I learn from my mistakes and, eventually, become the master of my own work.

Although, after saying all of this, I don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with reading these guide books. I believe there’s a good deal of practical shortcuts that help one focus on the things that matter the most. But I don’t want to read them – not yet. Maybe I’ll pick one of the books up after reading the first draft for the first time after finishing it, if it feels like it. However, at the moment, I’m happy where I am. I’m satisfied with my own thoughts on how Yellow Tails should look like, at what pace it should go forward, how my hero’s journey will turn out and what the cover should look like.

What are your thoughts on (writing) guides and other helpful rules/shortcuts? What tips have you found useful or do you experience that the information makes you to create differently than you’d like to?

The Right Kind of Ratio

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What is consuming?

What is creating?

Do we need to do one in attempt to do the other? Or can we stop consuming altogether and only create – or vice versa?

I contemplated this already on Tuesday – how to balance between the right amount of consuming and creating. To me it seems like both are required if one wishes to hold on to the qualitative creative flow and be able to generate new ideas. But it also seems that maintaining a balance between the two can be more difficult than thought. This, because I believe we humans tend to draw us to the easy, almost lazy alternatives instead of pursuing the tougher path. Or then we get too fired up about some project we have and keep on working until we are completely deflated, having burned all that creative energy.

But there has to be a balance somewhere in between those two extremes. A place where the right kind and amount of consuming gives you new ideas and helps you keep the creative work going strong. And where you are able to create the right amount in order to be happy about what you are doing and make real progress instead of getting burned out.

My question is this: what is the right kind of balance between consuming and creating?

Finding the Golden Ratio

I remember a conversation about the ratio between consuming and creating I had with my partner a few years back. We are both creatives which means we consume a good deal of information in order to get inspired to create something of our own. I wasn’t creating nearly as much then as I do today but still, it was a relevant topic to discuss already at the time.

We ended up in some sort of conclusion that to be able to create one needs to consume a great deal of information. I proposed a ratio of 80 to 20 – 80 percent time spent consuming in order to spend 20 percent creating. It felt like a balance at the time: consuming and gathering as much information as possible in order to create one small thing. Like going through one hundred photographs to take one photograph yourself. Read one hundred books to write one novel, three hundred paintings to create one painting. Spend hours and hours thinking to create one new original thought.

But today, as a great amount of my day goes to creating, I’ve been thinking this ratio again. Is it really necessary to consume that much to create so little? Does it have to be 80/20 or could it be 50/50 – or even less? If I put it like this: every day I’m awake for about sixteen hours. Eighty percent of sixteen hours is 12,8 hours. This means that according to my 80/20 rule I would be consuming information almost thirteen hours every day and create for the four hours that remain of the day.

That feels like a lot of time put down to consuming.

Maybe the 80/20 rule isn’t as applicable as I thought it was two years ago. But what is the golden ratio between consuming and creating?

Too much consumption leads to deflation and numbness where nothing gets created. It’s like being a painter with a blank canvas and all the colors in the world to use but no clue, no object to paint. Or everything that the painter tries to put on that canvas turns out wrong.

The same with creativity: too much creating leads to deflation and numbness as well. As if you’ve given everything you have, the towel is dry, the grapes have no juice left to press out of them, the battery is out.

If you don’t recharge your creative batteries often enough (by consuming), you’re making your creative flow suffer.

A Symbiosis of Two

I believe that for overall wellbeing both are required. We humans are curious to our nature and want to figure things out. How does this thing work or why does it do like that? What if I tried doing it like this? In order to figure out things and by that quench our thirst of curiosity, we need to create.

But to be able to do all of this we also need to consume. New things, innovations and creations are born from knowledge that was acquired before. Creativity comes from what we see, hear, feel and smell. Creativity feeds on information and knowledge, even on memories. It’s like research one needs to do to be able to create something new.

A new food recipe is developed from a mix of different flavors snapped up from foods that already exist. A musician gets inspired by songs and melodies that already exist, and in the book world every plot is already out there – you just pick your favorite, come up with a new story with own characters and there you go – you are creating something new. Nothing we consume is really unique anymore – everything exists already. We just come up with new versions of these things and it never seems to grow old.

So – we need to consume in order to create. But what about the other way around? Do we need to create to be able to consume? I guess the answer here is quite simple: if we wouldn’t create anything we wouldn’t have anything to consume. Therefore: yes, we need to create to be able to consume.

Consuming and creating go hand in hand in this universe. A balanced life is a symbiosis of these two, where they create a mutually beneficial relationship and feed on each other, creating balance.

Because if you think about it – what would the world be like without the one or the other? A world of only consumption or creativity would lead to some sort of dystopia, an alternative universe where contact between nothing exists. Where no one would be in contact with anyone and everyone would live their own individual life in solitude, in isolation, in an empty environment free from stimuli.

Creating One’s World

Consuming for entertainment, inspiration and information is okay as long as one balances it out by creating. But lets get some clarity on this thing: what is creating, really?

I’ve always thought that creating for me is writing, creating new things to read. Whether it is about writing a journal, blog posts for this blog or Yellow Tails, I’m creating. But today I think creativity is so much more than just writing – it can be seen as things that help to create one’s career, build on one’s own social environment, one’s world. So even the small things, like updating Instagram and commenting and liking other people’s photos, can be seen as creating. Or sending an email, putting down a few hours to improve the blog, meet up with friends or have a date night with one’s partner. Everything listed here is a part of the creativity process, it helps you develop your creativity, your career.

In contrast to the conversation I had with my partner a few years back, I’d like to propose a ratio of not quite 80/20 but maybe 70/30, and this ratio reversed – seventy percent put down to creating and thirty percent to consuming. From day-to-day this probably shifts according to mood and energy (as my non-creative Wednesdays show) but the overall ratio could be seventy to thirty.

We are allowed to both consume and create. But to boost our self-confidence and happiness, I’d say we actually need to create a lot more than we consume.

Beating the Resistance

The last question I have for this particular blog post is this: when do we know when a break from creativity is actually needed, and when we are yearning to consume because we are procrastinating?

I’ve learned that procrastination is a part of Resistance, the imaginary but real thing that keeps you from doing what you really want to do. In order to learn more or less everything about Resistance, I would recommend you to read the too-good-to-be-true The War Of Art by Steven Pressfield. After reading this book on Resistance and creating, you’ll know when you are procrastinating. But I’ll give you this quote:

The amateur, underestimating Resistance’s cunning, permits the flu to keep him from his chapters; he believes the serpent’s voice in his head that says mailing off that manuscript is more important than doing the day’s work.

The professional has learned better. He respects Resistance. He knows if he caves in today, no matter how plausible the pretext, he’ll be twice as likely to cave in tomorrow.

The professional knows that Resistance is like a telemarketer; if you so much as say hello, you’re finished. The pro doesn’t even pick up the phone. He stays at work. (p. 82)

 

So, okay, check on beating that Resistance. But how do you know when you need a break from creating?

I guess the knowledge will come to us through practice. Keep on creating (and beating that Resistance/procrastination) until you start to notice the pattern. When do you feel depleted, when do you need to recharge those creative batteries? When do you notice a lack of ideas or inspiration? That’s when you might need a break from creating.

But the ratio, the balance – it’s personal. Only you will know when you’ve created enough, when you have consumed too much, when it’s about procrastination and when it’s about creative fatigue.

Do you know your balance?

Non-Creative Wednesdays

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Why is it that some days nothing seems to feel right? That you feel like doing absolutely nothing? Has it something to do with the balance in the universe, one’s hormonal cycle, or what kind of mood everybody else in the society are?

A few Wednesdays back I woke up, did my morning routine, took a shower and ate my typical muesli-with-milk breakfast. The usual drill, the things I do every morning from Monday to Friday. But as I was drinking my morning coffee and watching a Youtube video (also a morning habit of mine), I just felt as if I could sit in that armchair the whole day doing nothing but consuming things. Never getting up (except for food or water or because I would need to go for the toilet), and just read, watch and scroll.

I felt the yearning for simply consuming things the whole day, letting someone or something else consume my time and not the other way around. Instead of creating, writing and thinking, I wanted to take a break from every single project I was working on.

The feeling of restlessness was there in me right from the beginning of my morning. It was a familiar feeling from before, for sure, having had these lazy days every once in a while, but this time I actually questioned it. Why does that feeling of I don’t feel like doing anything come to me? Where does it come from?

Most days, when I see the bottom of my coffee mug in the mornings, it means that the work for the day is beginning. I start by writing my journal. After that I continue with my writing projects that are either this blog or Yellow Tails (most often writing 1,000 to 1,500 words on one project per day). But lately I’ve noticed some sort of feeling of fatigue if I write and create like this from Monday to Friday every morning from ten to twelve. As if I drain all my energy by writing these different projects as much as I do.

So, two weeks ago, in order to keep my creative flow and qualitative writing in order, I decided to try shortening my to do -list for Wednesdays. The day in the middle of the week that kind of divides the seven days into the beginning of the week (when I write blog posts) and the end of the week (when I focus on Yellow Tails). And for me, that day is now a day for not really doing that much. I proofread the blog post for the next day and then focus on my thesis, but otherwise, the Wednesdays are now free from creative writing.

And I have to tell you this: it’s been working out great. I haven’t had the same negative I don’t want to do anything feeling in the same way as before – because now I have a day dedicated specifically for not doing that much!

For some reason, I seem to need a non-creative day once a week (at least in my current situation of life). It’s a day when I let myself consume a little bit more Youtube, scroll a few minutes longer on Instagram, read a book or even watch an episode of something. I let myself, I let my time be consumed by these things – by the photos and videos, and by the people who have created them. It feels like I let my mind rest a little bit before I get back to my projects the next day.

However, as great as I think it has been working out for me, I can’t help getting a somewhat bad conscience about my non-creative Wednesdays. I notice this constant feeling of I should be doing more, that I’m wasting my time on these consumable things like social media, and should instead be working, creating, writing and thinking more. It’s as if I’m lazy – although I know I’m not. As if the two sides of my brain are in conflict with each other on Wednesdays.

I’m trying to work with the feeling, as I’m recognizing it to be a symptom of a HSP, and tell myself that it really is okay to take a break from creative writing in the middle of the week. But being a high-achiever and an efficient worker makes it difficult.

Finding the balance between consuming and creating is a tough one – it tends to become a thing of what one should do or what one shouldn’t do but I guess the right path can be found somewhere without the word should. There’s a need for both consuming and creating in life but finding the right amount of both is the thing that I obviously would benefit from the most.

It seems to be, once again, about self-development. Who knew? Or rather – was someone surprised by this information?

Writing: A Project Update

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On my Author-page I declare clearly (and loudly, I’d say) that I plan to become an author. I have also written a couple of blog posts about becoming an author: you can find a fun description about my early works here and a post about how one becomes an author here.

But today I would like to give you something more concrete, and that means an update on my work-in-project! A little sneak peek of my lengthy Word-document that will become a book one day.

The Legendary 50K

On Friday the 14th of September, I hit the legendary word amount of 50k on my work-in-project. To be precise, 50,250 words. When I sat down at my computer that morning, I didn’t even realize I was going to hit 50k that day because it didn’t really matter to me, as long as I would write. But when I did hit that mark, it felt great. It felt better than I had expected because it felt as if had reached a new state writing: I had never written that many words for one project, ever.

You see, when participating in the National Novel Writing Month, the ultimate word goal one is trying to reach is 50,000 words. And when you hit 50k, you have done it. You have written a novel! But then, November 30th, the month of crazy writing is over and you don’t have to challenge yourself to reach that word goal of 1,667 words every day. Instead, you can take a break, let your novel take some deep breaths and rest for a while.

That’s at least what you might think. ”I’ll get back to that project in a few weeks. Then I’ll continue writing it/start editing it.”

However, the thing with NaNoWriMo is that when you hit the legendary 50k, you will feel deflated. No matter how motivated or inspired you are about the story you are telling or how in love you are with your characters – you won’t be eager to finish the story. That’s, at least, how I’ve felt every single time I’ve reached that magical word goal. Somehow, pushing myself to write 1,667 words every single day leads to deflation in the end of November. And that means that I never finish those stories, never edit them, never do anything with them.

So, on that Friday, when I hit that legendary 50k, I was excited. Instead of feeling deflated, unmotivated, tired or any other feeling of the kind, I was extremely motivated to continue the story. I am still inspired by my plot line, my characters and I’m eager to describe their journey. And that feels really good.

Okay, So What’s It About?

I’m afraid I won’t be giving too many juicy details about my plot before I’ve finished the story. Somehow it feels like I’ll jinx the story if I reveal too much about it (anyone else familiar with that feeling?). However, I can tell you this:

The story is about change (and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you might not be that surprised). It’s also about how a long-lasting life-changing change can be done.

It’s about the cooperation between the rational brain, the willpower and motivation, and the physical body, except that I’ve given all three parts a character: one is a cat, one is a human and one is a squirrel.

And that’s all I’m revealing about the plot to you – for now. However, I will share with you:

Some Fun Facts

Fact Number One

Right now my Word-document is about 129 pages long and has 52,792 words in it. I have written about two-thirds of the whole story so one-third remains. This means that when I reach the end of the story, the total amount of words will be somewhere between 70k and 80k. That’s a lot of words, especially for someone who has always quit the writing project somewhere around 50k, but apparently 70k is a pretty common length for a book, so I have nothing to worry about. Maybe it’s just me who is most surprised and a bit scared for aiming for that amount of words?

Fact Number Two

A comment-thread on Instagram helped me realize who the audience for my book could be. This is how the conversation went:

@uninspiredwriters: Tell me 3 things about your main character in you current project!

@thingsinfocus: My main character is called Jello (he’s a cat) who 1) has eaten food to comfort or reward himself for 10 long years, 2) is an excellent party host and 3) is unsure if he wants to change his way of living or not. I love having a human-like cat as my main character, nothing seems ordinary that way!

@uninspiredwriters: @thingsinfocus love that! Very unique, allows you to write a perspective that’s a little different.

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus Jello may be one of the cutest characters I’ve read about so far. Are you writing a children’s book? My 4-year-old would love this story!

@thingsinfocus: @msmariawrites thank you for your lovely comment! Made the rainy day in Finland so much brighter! I think my book will be a children’s book for adults with a deeper thought between the lined. However, I’d say even kids could find it interesting! Have to test the story on a younger reader to find out!

@msmariawrites: @thingsinfocus that’s even better! Children’s books for adults has an awesome ring to it! Can’t wait to read all about it!

And this is how I realized I’m writing a children’s book for adults that even children or young adults could find interesting and entertaining. It has certainly made me even more motivated now that I have a picture about the potential reader in my head.

Fact Number Three

I have had a name for the book since the beginning of writing: Yellow Tails. And last week, as I was diving deeper into the theme, I came up with an idea for the cover of my book. Because change is about cooperation and balance, the cover would have an old-school scale with my three main characters balancing on it. Makes the whole Word-document-turning-into-a-real-book-thing seem like it’s actually possible!

And The Project Continues…

As I reached the legendary 50k and kept on writing, realized my main audience for the story, and came up with a cover for my book, the work in progress has become much more real than it was in the beginning of March when I wrote the first words on that Word-document. I have a long way to go, for sure with the last 20k to write, the editing, the beta-reading and finally, sending it to a publisher but every day I feel motivated to continue the story, keep on writing those words, believe that it’s a story that deserves to be told.

This is the biggest and longest project I’ve ever had. And that’s also a good reason to finish the story – because if I can finish the story, that means there’s a whole lot of other things I can start and finish as well.

 

 

Still Life Sunday: Ice Cube Rebellion

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10 Ice Cube Rebellion

As the train slows down and pulls to the station, she looks out from the rain-covered window and smiles. This is a town she knows.

When the train comes to a full stop, she takes the step from train to pier, her feet automatically guiding her to a familiar street that leads to the school she attended the year before. Everything feels familiar, nothing seems to have changed. She fits right in, as if she was never gone.

At school, a familiar face greets her in recognition, probably thinking that she still lives here, is a part of the establishment. No one seems to have noticed that she’s been absent for several months and is, even now, only visiting.

It’s as if nothing’s changed. But for her, everything has changed.

She might have the same hair, the same smile and style of clothing, but on the inside, nothing’s the same. If that person who just greeted her had asked her how she’s doing, the change might have come up. But only a short and cute ‘hey’ doesn’t give away anything of value. It doesn’t reveal how you are or who you are.

A year in this town was an intensive time. She liked to think of that year as an ice-making process

In the beginning, she was liquid water, poured into an ice cube form to become something else. Slowly, she started adjusting to the square formed nest, as was expected. Soon after that, as if placed in a freezer, she started to form, intensifying in essence, the edges of the square holding tightly to her. Tighter and tighter, the form would become her or she would become the form, until – –

A time, a process, had come to an end. The liquid had turned into hard ice, and was popped out from the form. What had seemed almost impossible at first was ridiculously easy in the next moment, and she was free. Now formed like a square, fitting in, just as designed. Perfect.

She left the town, ready for the next thing. What she didn’t know was that if she wanted to return, she shouldn’t have left.

She thought it would be easy to return to the same town. After all, the square formed nest had given her some comfort and hadn’t been all that bad. Life there had been easy as an ice-making process. But she should have known that once an ice cube leaves its form, it changes and won’t fit in any more.

After being away a few months and now wandering through the corridors of the school and the streets leading to city center, she realized that. She understood that she wouldn’t be coming back, she couldn’t come back.

She didn’t fit in anymore, she was no longer an ice cube, formed like a square. She had become more like liquid, free to transform to mist or rain or ice in a different form. She had become unfit for the existing form and she needed to seek her place elsewhere.

Her place wasn’t here, not in this town, no matter how familiar it felt and how easily she might be able to fit in again. She had already said goodbye to the linear streets, the sharp wind and the rain. She had let go of the ice cube form, its hard grip of comfort.

What would come next?

True Progress: Life After Quitting

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Tuesday one week ago would have been the last day of my summer job as a radio journalist. When I saw the marking in my calendar (Last day at work!) which was, of course, struck through, I felt incredibly satisfied.

If I had carried through the whole deal, which means I would have worked for thirteen weeks from June to the beginning of September… well, I don’t know how I would be doing.

I know I would still be in this town, living in this apartment and would have a bit more money on my bank account. But how I would be feeling, what would I be thinking, what would the overall mood be like?

First of all, many of these blog posts wouldn’t have happened. Honestly, I don’t think a single one of them. For instance, although some of the Still Life Sundays existed before starting out H.E.R., many of them have been born in the progress.

I wouldn’t have read some of the great books I have come in contact with (latest one being Butcher’s Crossing by the amazing John Williams) or written my own book project (which now has more than 47 000 words and 111 pages – and is still going strong).

The hikes we’ve done, the weekend of sailing, all the thinking I’ve done, the creative ideas I’ve had… I have a hard time believing any of them would have happened if I had stayed at the job.

As I looked at the Last day of work!  mark in my calendar, I felt the satisfaction that comes from making a good decision. That day, on Tuesday, I had had a very productive, creative and fulfilling day, instead of being at work and doing something I wasn’t enjoying (although for that day I’d probably have baked a cake to celebrate my last day, and cake is never wrong, but let’s not shift our focus here).

By five o’clock that day, which would have been the time I usually was done with work and would have been on my way home, I had done following things: my morning yoga routine and a short muscle workout, written 1,5k on my book (which always gives me the greatest boost of calm and satisfaction), eaten a good lunch in nice company, read thirty-something pages of a well-written book, published a blog post and accepted the invitation to join a few friends for a beer that evening.

And that day was more or less the definition of how I’d like many more of my days to look like. Of course, every day won’t be a successful day of writing and so on, but the structure of that day was functioning and satisfying. It made me happy.

Last Thursday we had a go-through of the internship with rest of my fellow journalism students. We were asked to come up with three things we liked about our internship, three things we didn’t think functioned very well and an aha-experience (i.e. a realization) we had had during our internship.

Before the go-through I was actually pretty nervous, wondering if we were going to talk about me quitting my job, or if a cloud of disappointment would hang in the air through the whole thing.

However, no one seemed to judge me for my decision. As I presented my list of likes and dislikes and my aha-experience (how it felt like I really learned how the working life of a daily news journalist looks like), I felt pride and strength in my decision. I knew I had done the right thing and no one could make me change my opinion about that decision.

It was as if I had already moved beyond that, like I was already on the next step while everyone else were still hanging out on the previous one. It felt like true progress.