Permission to Thrive?

“Are you giving yourself the permission to thrive?”

It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately.

Sometimes we’re not held back by the fear of failure, rather we’re held back by the fear of success! Crazy, right? Let me explain.

I can’t speak for everyone else but myself, so I’m going to share my experience and you can let me know if it resonates with you. As a kid, I was constantly told by my parents and teachers that I wouldn’t amount to much in life simply because I had little to no interest in school.

Their basis for me living a successful and happy life was me getting good grades to get into a good college in order to get a good job, and because I refused to do homework or go to school for many periods in my life, it meant that I was doomed to fail.

For a long time, I believed all the crap they fed me. I bought into this narrative of me being a lazy failure of a person, so whenever I get close to possibly succeeding at something, I get scared. It feels uncomfortable and unreal to be competent, let alone productive.

I grew up believing in the opinions of authority figures who knew nothing about me because they took little to no time trying to understand me. They just wanted to force me into their little box of what they thought I should be.

It’s why that even to this day I have to constantly remind myself that I’m not lazy, that I’m not a failure. That if I take more opportunities to engage in activities and interests I actually cared about, I can actually excel at them. No matter what I’ve gone through in life, and no matter what level of interest (or lack thereof) I’ve had in school, the one constant has always been writing. I’ve always managed to keep the interest in writing alive and get good grades in English class, even if I had skipped several weeks of school and neglected every other subject.

Fast forward to today, after 10 years of working for other people, I quit my last day job and am now fulfilling my decade long dream of working for myself. It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I had an asshole for a boss at my first job outside of school. Every other boss after has been okay for the most part, but this one particular douchebag was the pinnacle of potential killing authority figures I couldn’t stand, rivaled only by some teachers I’ve had throughout my years in school.

What all these authority figures had in common was the demeaning and forceful way they got me and my classmates and co-workers to get our work done. They would yell at us, call us names, get upset over the tiniest things. And whenever the pressure got too much, I would usually be the only one to yell back at them. I look back now and realize it wasn’t always for the best, but there were times where my pride was hurt far too much to let some scoldings slide.

I grew up so used to this dynamic of fighing back that I find myself becoming an authoritarian figure to myself and end up…fighting with myself.

I know it may sound crazy, but it does feel like I am split into two: the master and the slave. I guilt myself out when I don’t work as much as I could and “should” be working on my business. I bully myself into compliance and only end up working on stuff I’m passionate about with the same resistance and resentment I would with my homework.

It’s so messed up, I know!

The key fix for me is first of all, to notice how messed up this dynamic is. Then second, it’s to remind myself to not even worry about the success aspect, and focus more on the aspect where I get to create value for potential readers and clients by enjoying the creation process.

All these authority figures made any form of work seem like a chore because they focused far too much on how we would be perceived by them and the rest of society, especially by a grading system that I think is outdated. As if letters from A-F or scores of 0-100% were the only basis on which to measure your merit as a human being.

We’re more than test scores.

We’re more than what all the naysayers have made of us.

We are made to not only survive, but thrive.

Are you giving yourself the permission to thrive?

 

 

 

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Taking it Day by Day

Have you heard of that cliche that you should take things day by day? It’s cliche for a reason because I often find myself overwhelmed by the bigger picture. I’ve had my worries about the future for most of my life and I don’t know if it will ever truly go away, but one of the things that helps me maintain my sanity is taking things day by day.

I’m at a very exciting, albeit difficult, time in my life. For the past 10 years I have ignored my life’s calling to pursue writing with the bullshit excuse that it’s not very profitable or sustainable as a career, and that it’s “unrealistic” to find any success with it. Always worried about having enough money to survive, I’ve limited my choices on how to earn it, along with my happiness.

So what I’ve done is settle for typical 9-5 jobs working at warehouses and retail stores, and although I got my financial needs met and that anxiety would go away when I can see several digits in my bank account–I’ve always ended up feeling empty when I hit a certain point.

Whether it was a certain amount of money or a level of mastery at the jobs I had, I could never ignore this sinking feeling inside me that I’m missing out on something big. A sinking feeling that has paradoxically woken me up every morning while also pinning me to my bed with dread.

Even when it came to the jobs I loved at first, especially the ones I had most recently, there was a certain point where I would resist going to work because I’ve grown tired of it.

As of this post, it’s been 11 months since I quit my last job managing a friend’s business. I took plenty of time off this year finish the 3rd draft of my novel, play video games, and continuously expand my music library thanks to my discovery of K-Pop. I gave myself the privilege, that not many people allow themselves, of living hedonistically without shame. That is to say, everything I did was meant to please me and only me, as that was my primary goal every single day.

Why?

Because I have spent my life in service to others whether it was through my caregiving jobs or retail. Even more notably was when I managed an escape room hosting 20 people an hour on an almost daily basis, only to come to home to have my sick grandmother to look after when she was still alive.

Needless to say, I lost connection with myself, and when she died, it gave me the proverbial shock of realizing how short life really is. I kept managing the escape room place for a couple months after her death, and I never felt the same. All the high energy and genuine interest in giving my guests the best experience possible started to become fake until I couldn’t fake it anymore.

I lost my patience. I lost enthusiasm. I lost myself.

I had to quit and give myself all this time to reconnect with myself to remember what has been the most important thing in my life all along; writing.

No matter what I’ve been through the past decade, writing has always been there to keep me sane and possibly from giving up on life. Whether it was writing a novel, going to school for creative writing, or even doing BSBS Reviews last year, anything to do with writing has kept me from giving up.

Nowadays I find myself shedding the hedonistic shell I built for myself this year, and once again want to be in the service of others. Only this time, I am sharing my true gift, which is the wealth of wisdom I have acquired from my many years of studying the art of writing.

I am hosting bi-weekly writing workshops at a cafe I love frequenting, and no matter what the turn out is, I am happy to just be doing something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time and that’s to teach other writers how to improve their craft. Another cliche they say is if you wanna learn something, teach it because that’s how you can reinforce what you’ve learned while also improving on it within yourself.

I don’t know what the future holds.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get a sold out workshop.

I don’t even know if I’ll ever wow anyone enough at these workshops to inspire them to hire me as their writing coach.

In fact, tonight being my third workshop ever, the feeling of wanting to run away has yet to leave me. I’m scared of failing, but I’m also more scared of succeeding because I’m not used to this. I’m not used to putting my all into something I love and having it be my primary source of income, let alone activity. Writing has always just been a side hobby until now.

One thing I know for sure is that I made a committment to show up. Rain or shine, empty or full attendance, money or no money, I want to get up there and present my knowledge to the world for as long as I need to because I have a yearning burning desire to do so.

I’ve been booked from September to November to host bi-weekly workshops, and as much as I want to run away and cancel all of this, I remind myself to take it one day at a time. To enjoy all those days and hours I spend perfecting my presentations, writing and rewriting what points I want to deliver. To enjoy all those days and hours I spend stressing over whether or not enough people will come.

 

Your Novel in One Chapter

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When I go shopping for a new book to read, I like to open potential purchases to the halfway point and read whatever I stumble upon. Why that’s madness, you must say, how will you know what’s going on dropping in the middle of all action? You need to start at the beginning! 

I assure you that I at least flip a few pages back to make sure I’m reading at least the beginning of that midway chapter. I’m not a monster.

My reasoning behind this is because I want to know if the author is able to maintain a strong focus on theme, characters, and plot throughout the entirety of their novel. Something always needs to be happening that not only progresses the story, but also encapsulates the spirit of all that has transpired so far.

Simply put, every chapter in a novel should encapsulate the entirety of the novel in and of itself so that if you were to isolate any chapter from the novel it belongs to, it can read like a self contained short story.

One of my favourite books actually started off as a short story that then became a much later chapter in the full novel of Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. It’s the chapter where The Narrator shows up to work with cuts and bruises on his face after having fought in a fight club the night prior, and nobody at the office has even the slightest nerve to ask what happened to him.

This is such a great story in itself because it raises so many questions and depicts something completely out of the ordinary. Despite it being very minimalistic in its narration, it is actually a very jam packed experience.

What I personally love about Fight Club and Chuck’s work in general is the ability for his stories to tell a lot without saying much. It’s pretty much implied how bored The Narrator is with his 9-5 job and life in general if he’s willing to get beaten to a bloody pulp at a late night underground fight club, and not even call in sick the next day.

Encapsulating a Novel Into One Chapter

Basic Plot

 

So this is a very basic plot line graph commonly used to organize the entirety of a novel. It helps you introduce your characters, settings, and themes, and build toward a climactic moment that defines the whole story. This allows you to easily detail the story into three acts: beginning, middle, and end.

What I’m proposing is structuring your chapters in the very same way as if that chapter defines your entire novel if it were to be taken at face value. This way your story has a strong emphasis and focus on what it’s all about at all times, with very little time allotted for the story to drag for a moment.

And that’s not to say that pacing wise stories aren’t allowed to slow down, of course they are, that’s when some details get the time to sit and simmer with the reader. Likewise, if a chapter is short and quick paced, the very little details you provide should still be just as fleshed out with knife like concision, very much like the original short story that later gave birth to Fight Club.

In order to create a well focused chapter, even to you pantsers out there, I highly suggest using a chapter graph that divides chapters into three scenes, and even having those three scenes divided into three mini acts of their own like this:

Chapter graph

Every chapter you write won’t have a clear cut structure like this, and like some rules, you might break these guidelines from time to time, but generally this is the structure that ensures your chapters can also function as self contained short stories.

Click here to download your FREE Chapter Graph!

 

 

Our Write to Live

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Before I begin, I want to extend my massive thanks to everyone who has read my first two posts in this series; My Write to Live and Your Write to Live, which detail the importance of writing in my life, as well as the importance of storytelling in the world at large.

That first one was incredibly difficult for me to write because of how vulnerable I had to be about some painful parts of my life, all the while summing up decades worth of stories as to not get derailed from the main point I wanted to make, which was how important writing has been in my life.

Wrapping up this series, I want to take the time to write and send this love letter to past and future coaching clients alike. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for sharing your stories with me. Whether it was your autobiography or the workings of your imagination, thank you for opening up and revealing to me who you are and what you value solely through the ideas we explored/will explore together.

Being a writing coach has been a dream of mine the past couple of years ever since I became aware of how naturally curious I am about the story ideas invented by my friends and family. And if my Askaholic Mode moments weren’t about stories they were creating, they were about the stories they’ve enjoyed in books, shows, or movies, endlessly wanting to know why certain stories resonated with them, and why the ones they create are the ones they create.

I think a quick glance at anybody’s book or DVD shelf can reveal what kinds of things they value, whether it’s romance, sci-fi, or spirituality, our personal preferences say a lot about who we are. Love, truth, justice, and other human concepts that we make real through our belief and experience–all of these concepts and ideas are repeatedly validated through the various mediums of storytelling.

From the word of mouth to the major motion picture, once again stories connect us. And for those who want to hone in on a specific concept and craft an elaborate story that explores these ideas,  let me just say congratulations first of all, for having a mission and a message to share with the world.

Second of all, I want to be your ally in the fight for truth and justice. Whether you’re self-disciplined and can pump out 2000 words a day, or you struggle to write because you don’t know where to start or struggle with motivation, I am your ally. Whether we agree on the same values or not, I am your ally. Because as a fellow writer, even if we don’t agree on the same things, the number one thing stories have taught me is to consider alternate points of view.

Where there is disagreement, there is the opportunity for the deeper understanding of another. Stories have shown us time and time again what the consequences are to holding contrary opinions and refusing to understand the other.

All I’m saying here is that as a writing coach, I am in love with understanding others through their stories.

Now I may not be published and haven’t done any speaking events yet (they’re in the works), I will openly admit that those two facts make me feel like I may not have sufficient credibility to help anybody with their work. After escaping the conventional workforce and deciding to become a writing coach full time, I’ve become full of equal parts fear and excitement for the future.

But then I reflect on the past year I’ve spent finishing the 3rd draft of It Starts at Home. I may not have a fancy degree in teaching or writing, but what I do have is determination and openness to take in life and all it’s curve balls.

For months, I’ve struggled with my own sense of motivation and purpose, even doubted that I could ever finish this draft. Constantly thinking that maybe it’s too risky to take this whole writing business full time, I’ve come close to deciding to just go back to my day job where I’m safe and secure.

In the end, though, I was able to finish my 3rd draft and am now on the process of editing it as much as I can before sending it to a professional editor for an outsider’s opinion.  This whole time I’ve been fearing if I could ever be good a writing coach to anyone, and somehow I managed to coach the most stubborn and resistant person I know; myself.

What would make me a good coach to anyone is the fact that I’m just your everday average joe who has rose in the ranks of his own personal development. Where I once resisted the difficulty of writing, I’ve embraced the challenge whole heartedly and came out on top. Where I once saw it as a chore to finish what I started, I reminded myself of the higher purpose and reasoning as to why I write in the first place.

Fuck all that self doubt and self denial. This book is bigger than me and my petty feelings of inadequacy. If you’ve ever felt the same way I have, then I want to extend my hand and say you’re not alone.

As your writing coach, we can overcome writer’s block together and smash with the bulldozer of our convictions.

With no published book, no track record of speaking events, and especially no pieces of paper to certify me as some literary genius, all I have is my conviction. My conviction to understand my clients and inspire them to reach their full potential, to convince them how equally important their stories are to the ones that already exist in the world and the ones that are simultaneously being crafted on paper while theirs remind locked in their psyches.

It is, and would be, my honour and pleasure to join you on your journey to wholeness and self expression.

It’s Our Write to Live.

What I Learned From Being a Spy

First off, if I were an actual spy, I’d blow my cover easily by writing this post.

What I’m actually talking about is how I’ve gotten my spy on this past month by revisitting the hit series Nikita and playing a whole lot of Invisible Inc on my free time. I don’t normally hunt for achievements on Steam or Xbox360, but I love this game so much that I woke some completionist part of me to get as many achievements as I can.

One of those achievements, of course, is one you can get for beating the game in Expert Plus Mode, THE hardest difficulty of an otherwise already difficult game.

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Spyin’ Ain’t Easy!

Invisible Inc. is a turn based strategy game where stealth, strategy, and perserverance are the keys to survival. You play as the operator of secret agents, commanding them to infiltrate corporations in order to steal their weaponry, technology, and many other useful resources to help rebuild and relocate the agency of tactical espionage.

What’s awesome about this game is that there are several mission types and every map is randomly generated so that you get a fresh and new experience every time. And you only uncover as much of the map as you explore, otherwise the unexplored remains unseen (kinda like life!).

There’s also a huge roster of agents all with their own unique abilities, personalities, and synergies depending on which ones you choose at the beginning, and the ones you rescue in recovery missions. It’s up to you how to play their strengths and weaknesses together to formulate the perfect team.

The possibilities are endless!

As you command your agents to infiltrate these corporations, you have to be careful not to blow their cover and be seen by the guards. In most video games, your initial instinct is to inflict as much violence as you possibly can and stun or kill all the guards you see, but that can only work against you and make things unnecessarily harder than they need to be.

When guards wake up from being stunned, they’ll suspect someone has broken into the building and begin to hunt for you, thus making it harder to predict where you can safely venture out to.

If you kill any of them, it significantly advances the alarm tracker, and the higher it gets, the more obstacles get generated. These can include higher firewalls for devices (making them harder to hack), spawning extra guards, and turning on extra surveillance cameras.

So I’ve been playing Expert Plus Mode where all of these already daunting aspects of the game get even more challenging, and I gotta say, it really pushed me to my limit!

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Repetitive Failure Can Only = Future Success

As you can see here, I have two agents hiding from possible detection. The red tiles indicate the vision range of the guards, and in the earlier difficulties of the game, you can see them so you can plan out where to tread. In Expert Plus Mode, the danger zones are not shown unless you can see the sources (guards, cameras, turret machines).

That means you can easily walk into a safe looking area, only to find out that a structural intrusion originally blocked your sight from seeing a guard that’s ready to shoot your agent down on sight.

I must have restarted my agency 20+ times because of how hard this mode is, and when you get caught and have all of your agents killed on a mission, you lose ALL of your progress and have to start from scratch.

Your stat boosts, all that high tech gear, and all that money you acquired can all be thrown away due to one mistake. Something as simple as not closing a door, causing a guard to see you snooping in the next room, could easily mean death.

And I’ve made that mistake. Along with many others. Several times!

When I said I loved this game, I wasn’t just speaking from the geek within, but also from the very depths of my entire being. What I learned from playing this game is learning to maintain composure in pressuring situations and to approach challenges with determination.

I think that when you love something or someone–this could be building your business or dating your possible future spouse–you learn to take the good with the bad, the easy and the challenging, and embrace it all with all you’ve got.

So many times I’ve had agents die and require reviving just when I was about to exit the level, or needing to rescuing them from a detention center in a later mission while having an agent fly solo. And trust me, you want to have at least two agents at a time to uncover as much of the map as possible and to help each other out in a bind.

So many times I had acquired some of the best gear during the highest security levels, surviving the mission by just a hair away from detection and death.

So many times I had upgraded my agents’ stats and equipment, only to lose it all because I got greedy for more credits and equipment during a mission, instead of heading for the exit when I had the chance.

But still. I kept shrugging it off and starting over, because that’s what you do when you’re committed to something. You do everything you can to maintain your standards and continue reaping the benefits of your hard work.

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Gotta Lose a Lot Before You Gain a Lot

And in some cases…you also need to learn to let go of everything you’ve built if it means a better start later. That was the case with this particular screenshot. When you’re surrounded and have nowhere else to go, you can make an agent speak some final words before they’re shot to death.

Nika’s spoke my mind perfectly after a campaign that took 5 hours to build.

“Just get it over with.” That was my mantra when I got surrounded and really had no way out.

There was even a time where I lost so much progress that I kept starting over only to fail early on because I was playing on tilt. I was impatient and deliberately making the same mistakes I knew were horrible, but I was just so frustrated with the game.

But then I remembered what I wrote about in my Gamer, Know Thyself series and reevaluated my approach.

I started playing more vigilantly and more strategically.

I stopped trying to get extra credits from safes or items, and started taking guaranteed exits when I saw them.

I stopped walking into danger zones and started ensuring visibility of the map before moving onward.

I stopped stunning and/or killing guards and started to save the violence for when it was absolutely necessary.

Otherwise, I avoided violence as much as I could to mitigate the ramping difficulty of each turn taken. As I mentioned earlier, KOing or killing guards advances the tracker. Yeah well, so does taking a turn, but it doesn’t advance the tracker as much as committing acts of violence do.

Most importantly, I learned from all my mistakes and kept in mind what were some good or bad things I’ve done in previous campaigns in order to survive longer in each passing attempt.

Hell, I could have easily allowed myself the option to use the REWIND function where you can rewind to a previous turn in case you make a mistake.

Nope, I played hardcore Ironman Mode along with Expert Plus so that I can be even more responsible for any missteps taken.

In the end I achieved this:

EP+ Completion screen

With these stats and equipment per agent at the final mission:

I normally try to max out their stats, but I had to make do with what I got in the end and it was more than enough to complete the final mission.

As I’ve said before, video games are a good source for self-knowledge, and now having experienced what it was like to really love and commit to something to this degree, to something as simple as a video game (or in this case, NOT so simple video game) it’s time to apply that attitude to real life!

This game and many others are great and safe training grounds for such mental fortitude, and if more gamers transferred that dedication to real life pursuits, the results would be astronomical.

My Little Mecosystem: Introduction

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d know by now that there is a huge cultural phenomenon of adults (mainly males) who are giant fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a show that was originally intended to promote a little girl’s toyline.

Oh, but this popular kid’s cartoon promotes more than a 30 year old toyline; it also promotes friendship, virtue, and honesty. There has been other iterations of My Little Pony cartoon series, but this fourth and current generation has had a huge impact in our society, and that is much thanks to the series creator Lauren Faust who has succeeded in setting out to make this series more than just a 20 minute toy commercial.

Aside from the amazing animation, adorable wit, and side busting hilarity, what I love most about this show is the heartfelt and clever writing. The writers have a great grasp on how to make an ensemble cast relate to each other and the world around them, thus ultimately connecting with us the viewers.

One of the biggest factors that draw people in to the show, including myself, is the character development amongst the Mane 6 cast. So this week I will be writing posts specifically about each pony and how I relate to them based on the hardships they’ve faced, along with similar personal insights I’ve had that paralell theirs. But for now, I want to share with you how I first got into the show.



 “But isn’t My Little Pony for little girls? What’s WRONG with you?!”

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Lots of things! I mean…

One night when I was playing Soul Calibur V online, I was in a player lobby with one of my friends, and he was using custom characters that all had unicorn horns attached to their foreheads. A random person who had joined our lobby asked him over the mic chat if he was a Brony.

I asked, “what the hell is a Brony?”

And he went on to explain that a Brony was an adult male who was into the show My Little Pony. Naturally, I laughed my ass off and thought I was being trolled. But despite of my bafflement and surprise at such a statement, I am still an open minded enough person to have let this friend of mine make the case as to why he was into the show.

He first began commenting on how well animated it was, and how it was all done in Flash. I’ve tried my hand at Flash animation when I was younger, and only to a small degree was I impressed with the idea that an entire show could be animated with, what I perceive as, such a hard program to master.

Then he went on to talk about how funny the show was, and by this point I really thought he was messing with me. How could a little kid’s cartoon possibly be funny?

I even asked if the show was graphically violent despite of its colourful look and that’s why people actually like it–but he assured me that it has minimal violence as the focus is really on peaceful conflict resolution.

What finally got my full attention was when he talked about the character development, and ya’ll know me as a sucker for character development!

I was intrigued by his enthusiasm towards the over arching character development amongst the Mane 6 cast and figured I should go give the show a chance.

At first I started reading articles about MLP, some of them in defense of, and some in offense towards the show. I was bombarded with propaganda to say the least.

A lot of stigmatic shaming loaded the slander articles, and for the sake of the cleanliness streak of this blog, I’ll spare you the details on what kind of nasty assumptions are made of the Brony fandom as a whole.

I then looked for compilation clips of the funniest moments, and even the darkest moments in My Little Pony until eventually I realized that the only way I can form a real opinion on the show is by actually watching an episode.

So I put on a random episode where the athlete of the group, Rainbow Dash, injures her wing, and has to stay in the hospital to recover.

Her nerdy bookworm friend Twilight Sparkle suggests for her to read a book called Daring Do to pass the time, and Rainbow Dash’s pride prevents her from actually cracking the book open at first.

Eventually, she gets bored enough to take a gander at the Indiana Jones inspired story–and her scepticism about reading books began to mirror my scepticism about the show.

Little by little, Rainbow Dash became comfortable with the idea of doing what only “egg heads” do and enjoy reading, meanwhile I was slowly becoming comfortable with the idea that I was beginning to enjoy a show that was originally “made for little girls.”

I was impressed by the action set pieces and how well animated they were, the character arc Rainbow Dash went through in the episode, and just the overall surprising enjoyment I got out if it.

I let it sit for a few days, and then I had the urge to start watching the series from the very beginning of it. Before I knew it, I found myself invested in the ongoing journey of these little ponies.

And the rest, you might say, is history…