The Shadow Journal

If you remember a while back, oh let’s say four years ago, I wrote about the benefits of keeping a Progress Journal.

The purpose of a Progress Journal is to keep track of your ideas for either a work in progress or an array of ideas you may want to use at another time.

Today I want to introduce to you a spiritual successor to it called The Shadow Journal. (And for those of you who have been reading since 2014, I sincerely thank you for your readership!)


Giving Your Shadow Side a Megaphone

This month I’ve been obsessed with confronting and integrating my shadow side and during my journey through, I also want to provide helpful writing practices that integrate your shadow.

When I first conceived the idea of The Progress Journal, it literally was used for freely expressing my ideas, both good and bad, in order to separate the wheat from the chaffe. Eventually, though, writer’s block reared its ugly head much more prominently the more I discovered ways to combat it.

While I only alluded to it in my 2014 post, I want to elaborate more on a simple, but profound idea now in 2018:

Write your most deepest, darkest, disturbing fears.

About yourself, your stories, and the world around you.

We all have doubts that hold us back from progressing in life and our passions, possibly due to an excess of pessimism, and often times it’s due to not acknowledging they exist. Maybe you’re like me and choose to overshoot the optimism in an attempt to override the pessimism. It’s obvious how dibilitating pessimism can be, but so can optimism when not balanced with reason and logic.

So instead of looking at pessimism as an enemy, maybe you could try welcoming it as an inconvenient, yet helpful ally. It may have valid reasons to prevent you from writing what you want to write, or maybe it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

Whatever the case may be, you may never know unless you take the time to confront your Shadow Side, the source of your resistance. Write down every single negative thought that it fills your head with and let it out of your system.

Maybe your Shadow Side thinks your story sucks. Maybe your Shadow Side thinks you’re not capable of writing something as good as you intend. Or maybe your Shadow Side just thinks you’re an absolute waste of life who has no right to write.

Now while I am here to be the guy to tell you that it is Your Write to Live, I think you can never truly appreciate life unless you come to accept that death is its eventual end.

Writing Prompt #1: For 10-15 minutes, or for however long as you need to, let your Shadow Side say all the nasty things it says to your mind on a daily basis. Don’t let it hold back. Let it say the worst possible things and give it the space to voice its opinion.

Confronting Your Shadow Side

Now while it is incredibly discomforting to do this, believe it or not, this is what I have to do every time I sit down and write my novel. I let all of my fears and doubts out on the digital page so that it no longer lingers in my mind.

If you’re familiar with Carl Jung’s theory on repression, many writers are actually victims of their own repression. It’s the reason why so many don’t get published, let alone even let themselves begin on a project.

So once I’ve let my Shadow Side say what it needs to, I allow it to make me feel like absolute crap, but only one last time.

Because then I examine its opinions and compare it to the evidence as I reasonably can. While there’s no way to ever objectively determine what the truth is about the world and myself, the most educated hypothesis, tested through and through, is the best shot we’ve got at making sense of the chaos of existence.

I’m not going to lie, there have been a handful of times where I truly believed what my Shadow Side said and ended up staying in my rut. I’ve written stand alone Shadow Journals and chose not to work on my novel at all because I truly believed in giving up.

But more often than not, I come out victorious because I confront my Shadow Side head on. I listen to what it has to say and maybe it’s right, maybe I do have to do the tough thing and start a chapter all over again, or even kill a character and remove their role from the entire story. Hell, it’s actually thanks to my Shadow Side that I’m on the fourth draft of It Starts: at Home since it tells me that I can do way better than my most recent attempt at a draft.

Hell even right now my Shadow Side says I shouldn’t be hyperlinking to my second draft chapter sample because it’s so baseless and contains little to no significant plot elements.

But then my optimism is hard pressed to remind me that it at least encapsulates the chemistry between my lovely young protagonists. After all, I have it up on my site for a reason as a comparison for what I am capable of writing now. It’s a sign of my growth as a writer to humbly remember where I came from.

So be tough, but fair with yourself.

Writing Prompt #2: Take that same Shadow Journal entry and consider what your Shadow Side had to say about you and your work. What things are they right about and what are they absolutely wrong about? Take what they’re right about and improve, and prove them wrong on every other front. I promise you will come out feeling stronger and much more confident with yourself…


…Until Tomorrow, Of Course

Now here’s some good and bad news:

A one time Shadow Journal entry is not enough to keep your confidence up.

You may have to do it once in a while or every day.

Whatever the case may be for you, I’d suggest accepting and appreciating this push and pull between yourself and your muse. Whenever your Shadow Side gets in the way, let it. Maybe it’s just a child conceived by yourself and your muse that simply needs a gentle guiding hand to comfort and civilize it.

Feedback and critcisms are always welcome so feel free to tell me if this post, or any of my other posts have helped you out. 

Or maybe I suck ass and I need some “brave” keyboard warrior troll to remind me of that.

Either way, leave a comment below and I will see you guys next week!

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Trifecta of Tribulations 2: The 60:40 Principle

Welcome back to Part 2 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series! If you haven’t already, make sure to read Part 1 here to catch yourself up on the hefty history that has gone behind my recent revelation.

So in questioning whether or not my optimism was a complete ruse or not, I’ve come to learn something vital about it and its counterpart pessimism:

They’re both real and authentic expressions of myself, and that they are both valuable when one of them is needed more than the other.


Optimism in the Underworld

Ever since I read Awakening the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery. It sounds so bloody obvious now, but back when I first read his book, I was surprised by one section challenging me to try and think positively for a week and see what difference it makes.

As a teen, once again, pessimism was my default mode of operation, so to read this idea of “try to think positively for a week and start over again if you catch yourself thinking negatively,” was actually quite the life changer for me.

And so now for 10 years I’ve read a long list or self-help and personal development books, have gone to workshops, and journalled extensively to get a better sense of myself. For a long time I would write in my journal about how great life is or how great it could be so I can comfort that part of me that has long been withering and toiling away within me.

It took some work, but I think I’m in a place now where my optimism can bring hope in even the bleakest of situations. Whenever I am confronted with personal struggles whether with others or within myself, I try to see what the situation is trying to teach me and how I can grow from it, even when the situation is at its most painful.

Like the friends I mentioned in part 1–my creative accountability buddy and my lovely study buddy–having my disagreements with them were highly charged with emotion. Even though I was having such difficult conversations with them that drained me throughout the week, I stood firm trying to keep myself open to what they had to say.

One of my favourite rules from Jordan Peterson’s best selling book 12 Rules For Life: an Antidote For Chaos is “always assume that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t.”

So despite of how painful it was and how tempting it was to hold onto my positions, these two friends of mine revealed some glaring flaws in the way I was thinking, speaking, and behaving that I had to improve on. I could get into detail about those in a later post since they’re too complex to fit in within the context of this post–but that’s an example of how my 60:40 principle helped me survive.

These were difficult conversations that could have easily gone sour if I were to fight back and tell them off. But then I would be refusing to listen to anything what they had to say, thus missing out on what changed I needed to make within myself. Likewise, if I didn’t meet them in the middle, I wouldn’t have been able to return the favour to carefully show them where they could improve as well.

No matter how hard things get, I always try to keep a 60:40 ratio of Optimism over Pessimism so that I don’t lose my head, and so that I can focus on creating a more beneficial outcome than what seems possible at the present moment.

Pessimism in Heaven

Now by that same token though, I think it’s also important to engage a little bit of pessimism since it can also be helpful as I briefly touched upon in Part 1 of this series.

While it is easy to write off Pessimism for the obvious evil that is and how it can dibilitate you from taking any action in life, excess of optimism can also be a problem.

The way I see it is that Optimism and Pessimism are two sides of the same coin, or better yet two, sides of a pendulum constantly swaying side by side. The more you swing in one direction, the more you swing back in the other.

What happened to me a couple weeks ago was that I set my sights way too high and had an excess of optimism. I wanted to ignore all the challenges I’d be met with in navigating the writing of my novel and of course navigating some romantic feelings I was developing for a woman I’ve been studying Korean with and teaching English to.

Most pessimists will write off Optimism as childish naivety, and to some degree they would be right, but only when it is excessive and ignores possible roadblocks along the way.

So due to setting my optimistic sights too high I plunged even harder and deeper into the ground. I expected myself to start writing 5000 words a day like I was doing in March, even though realistically it took a few days to work up toward having that kind of resilience. And by then I had been struggling between 300-1000 words so how could I expect to make that jump?

Coupled with that I was expecting myself to become fluent in Korean to understand K-Pop lyrics and my language exchange friends, but then got upset seeing so many of my poorly constructed sentences corrected. And even though the whole point of language exchange was to help correct and improve each other, I started feeling down on myself for still not being as good as I could be.

Then of course there’s also the confusion around the feelings I was developing over the one study buddy I’ve been talking to day and night for about a month now, so there was the added challenge of us trying to express our feelings to and for each other in each other’s languages all despite our limited understanding of each others languages. Like dear God, what did I expect? In regular relationships between people who speak the same language sometimes kind of not speak the same language as they are prone to miscommunications and misunderstandings.

So what the hell kind of romantic relationship did I expect when the both of us still have to rely on translators most of the time to understand each other? Not to mention how poorly translators are in their word choice accuracy which can sometimes cause some hilarious moments, but in our case it caused some serious harm to our relationship due to just two words that were poorly translated from English to Korean.

Again, that’s a whole story for another time and I would only share a few more details about it if I got her permission first as to how much I could share. But in the context of this post, the way I see it is this: it felt like Heaven to have someone to talk and flirt with on a daily basis, and I ended up taking it too seriously than I should have.

Realizing how hard I was falling for her, it actually helped to engage a bit of my Pessimism. It reminded that we live in different time zones, we barely understand each other’s languages, and aside from all the teasing we do, there’s still a huge gap between that and simply having small talk for language practice. It’s a cold harsh truth that the chances of us meeting anytime soon or if she would even want to are pretty slim and again, I’m practicing the necessary humiliation that comes with listening to views that don’t align with what’s convenient to me.


The 60:40 Principle

So thanks to all this I have developed a principle for myself to live by, which is to carefully swing between 60:40 Optimism over Pessimism and 60:40 Pessimism over Optimism whenever either one is necessary.

This means that if things are going horribly, it helps to have 60% Optimism so that I can see the positive outcomes possible for myself. The number 60% is a reasonable median above 50% so that I have just enough of a push forward to seek a positive outcome, while also not being too optimistic as to put all my eggs in one basket. The 40% Pessimism is to remind me that things can take a worse turn and I need to be prepared if it has to come to that. This way I don’t get too disappointed if my first few attempts at solving a problem don’t go the way I plan.

Then on the flipside, whenever things are going too well, I learned to maintain 60% Pessimism to truly appreciate whatever happiness comes my way since it’s ever fleeting. This could be seen as possible self sabotage which is why I try to keep it at 60% as opposed to 70% or 50%. Any higher than 60%, then I would self sabotage, and any lower, then I’m just stagnant. For me 60% is just right. The 40% Optimism is what allows me to maintain the positivity flowing in the present moment, and the 60% Pessimism is what helps me accept that it can be gone at any moment so I don’t get too hurt if it comes to that. This way I don’t get too comfortable when things are going well because I know I will always have more ways in which I can grow and that’s only possible if I allow challenges into my life.

To Be Continued…

Alright, these posts are getting longer than I expected, after all these years of trying to keep them down to 1000 words or below for more digestable experiences.

To take the principle in this post 60% of me is Optimistic that my writing is engaging enough to continue reading and glean value from, but for 40% of my Pessimism is also considering the possibility that I may have bored you with how long winded this was.

Either way, as always, I do hope you have gained some value from reading today’s Meaningful Monday post!

Let me know what you think as I’m always open to any compliments and criticisms, and I’ll see you next time in Part 3 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series…

Playing Tag With Your Shadows

It’s Recess Time and We Need More Players!

Earlier this week, For Meaningful Mondays, I wrote “a little bit” about how I’ve been learning to integrate my shadow.

Today, I will share how Playing Tag With Your Shadows can inform your writing.

More particularly, how you craft your characters so that they can become multi-dimentional beings that pop out of the page.

Whether you’re writing a protagonist or antagonist, it is important to give them a dark side that isn’t dark for the sake of being dark. You want to make their malevolence understandable and rooted in believable reasoning–no matter how horribly they will behave in your story.

Audiences these days are starting to catch on to how lazy and boring stock villains are. You know the kind, the ones that wake up in the morning and wonder if there’s a cute little puppy somewhere out there that they can kick for sake of being evil. There’s a time and place for such a generic villain, but the villain (or even protagonist) that I will help you create today could massacre that generic villain into oblivion.

So be prepared for a very unconventional type of writing exercise that isn’t your run of the mill plot graph or haiku practice. We’re going to dig deep into your discomfort, and use all those disgusting and disturbing feelings inside you for your benefit. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be grateful that you even have them in the first place!


Tag, You’re It!

The most common writing advice is “write what you know,” and so in regards to crafting a malevolent and sympathizable villain, or even a flawed hero, you need to guage how well you know yourself. Here’s how you do it:

Keep a journal, if you don’t already. It’s a useful tool in taming the chaotic mind.

In order to create genuine darkness in your characters, you need to first understand the darkness that dwells within you. What kinds of disgusting and disturbing thoughts enter your mind on a daily basis? What causes them? Are they of your own making or are they reactions to circumstance?  These are the kinds of thoughts that you usually keep to yourself and have, for better or for worse, not told anybody if not for a handful people (possibly even a professional clinician).

Whether you feel guilt, shame, or embarassment, write them down and explore them. Take the time to understand why you may think and feel this way at times. Most importantly, don’t hold back on saying what you really want to say. If you feel yourself thinking “that’s too harsh, I shouldn’t say that,” then actually say it. Give your shadow the space to express itself.

Maybe you’re grieving the loss of somebody you loved, or even hated, and have yet to process what your relationship to them has meant to you.

Maybe there’s somebody in your life that you love, but for some reason often get frustrated with because you either haven’t told them why or you don’t even know why yet.

Or maybe somebody wronged you in the past. A family member, a friend, or a lover has hurt you and you hold a grudge against them.

Writing Prompt #1: In your journal, write about a person or situation that often stirs up negative feelings in you. What kinds of irrational and dangerous things do you fantasize yourself doing in order to have your emotions be known? Don’t actually do them, but write them down no matter how horrible they may seem. The worse, the better.

“Tag. Now You Are the One Who is It”
“Understood…”

If you thought understanding your own dark and disturbing thoughts was hard enough, try this even more difficult exercise:

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has hurt you, or someone who you simply cannot stand for hurting others. Or maybe they haven’t hurt anybody at all, and it’s just their entire mode of being itself that disturbs you (like US President Donald Trump).

These are real everyday people just like us. They have their own troubles and concerns, and in their minds, they too are the heroes of their own stories. Whether we agree with them or not is not important, but what is important is understanding where they’re coming from.

Everybody has their own reasons, no matter how rational or irrational, for doing what they do. Everybody is driven by their own goals and motivations, and often times those goals and motivations just so happen to be misaligned with the opinions and values of others. Everybody hurts; everybody gets hurt.

You know the saying, “bad guys are just sad days.”

Or better yet, to quote one of my favourite lines from Netflix’s Daredevil series, “you’re just one bad day away from becoming me.” It’s what The Punisher says to Daredevil when Daredevil argues for why he has never and never will murder criminals.

So maybe these people you can’t stand have been hurt themselves and are acting out their hurt in a way that’s inconvenient, if not downright disturbing to you. Maybe they get on your nerves because they lack basic self-awareness of how undesirable their behaviour is. Or better yet…they remind you of yourself.

Sometimes the criticism we have for others is criticism we need to apply to ourselves so can ultimately improve. After all, it’s so much easier to see fault in others and wish they would change rather than admitting to our own faults and actually doing the work.

Writing Prompt #2: Put yourself in the shoes of someone you dislike despise. Try and see if you can understand why they might have done what they did to you or others, or simply why they might be the way they are. Again, the worse they are, the better. And if you can ascribe understandable reasons on their part, whether they are close to the possible truth or not is not what’s important. The important thing is to see if ou you can empathize even with the worst of people so that you can create villains who people will understand.*

*Understanding where someone’s coming from is not condoning their actions. It’s simply the difficult, yet very important practice of admitting to our own human follies. That we are all flawed, make mistakes, and misunderstand things at times.


Game Over, Man!

I originally intended on a third writing prompt, but I think keeping it at a more local and personal level was the best way to go about this Workshop Wednesday. The third method of integrating your shadow in your writing is a lot more abstract and impersonal, and you can feel free to request it of me for a future article, but for now this is what I impart to you:

Dig deep into the darkest parts of yourself and understand it, and on the flipside, take the time to understand the people you usally perceive as disgusting and disturbing. Maybe you’re more alike than you think, and that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe they reflect parts of yourself that you repress and being aware of these parts can help you keep them under better control.

If you found this lesson helpful, please feel free to share it with others who you think can benefit from it and leave a comment below if you have any feedback or criticisms!

 

 

Trifecta of Tribulations 1: My Shadow Side

Introduction to My Trifecta of Tribulations

I’ve been having a difficult time recently, and admittedly, most of it has been self induced.

It all started with a dream I had a couple weeks ago where I was watching a Simpsons movie centered around the loveable goofball Ralph Wiggum.

At one point in the movie he said, “I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad.”

My dream self proceeded to ugly cry at this confession of Ralph’s, so much so that I can remember feeling my dream (or real?) heart begin to hurt a little. I don’t recall if there was anything else before or after this one scene, but when I woke up I was perfectly fine. No tears, no sadness in my heart; just confusion and curiousity.

As you know, I love interpreting my dreams to see what meaning I can extract from them. I even suggest to people that they should keep a Dream Journal so they can retain their dreams in the best memory they can possibly manage. In turn, they can pick their dreams apart and see how any of those nonsensical events and elements relate to their lives in the waking world.

Exploring the dream alone and with a friend, I managed to formulate a few theories as to what this dream meant to me. For the next little while I will be sharing the Top 3 Things I’ve Learned during my Trifecta of Tribulations. So buckle up and be prepared as it might be a very emotional experience as I bleed this out for you in the vain hope that you, too, can walk away from this blog series with some value.

My Mind Over Matter and the Matter Under My Mind

As a teen, and basically for most of my life, I have been a very pessimistic person. I had 0 hope or joy for a long time until I started this journey of self knowledge throughout my 20’s that still continues to this day at the ripe old age of 30.

Ralph’s words, “I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad,” hit me really hard. It made me realize just how much of an effort I need to expend in order to remain happy and sane. And this is no joke, as I am prone to depression and often feeling exhausted in life. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and ADHD at a young age, and I’m still skeptical about their existence in reality, let alone within myself–but that’s a whole other story for another day.

The point is that despite these diagnoses on me, I refused to take any medication for them. In turn, I have developed a ton of pride for being able to function the best I can in spite of these diagnoses. I basically try to operate as if I don’t have depression or ADD, and I can usually get away with succeeding at it.

Until I can’t.

And that’s where my self assurance morphs into tremendous self doubt.

There ends up being so much self doubt that it edges on turning into self hatred.

It usually only edges to self hatred until I snap myself back to reality, but this time around, it turned into complete self hatred and extrenal hatred.


Self Deception and External Reception

When discussing this dream with my friend, she suggested that maybe I should dial back on my optimism if I feel like I may be trying hard. The issue I think I had was the possibility that my optimism is as overbearing as Joy’s forceful optimism in one of my all time favourite movies Inside Out.

While it was a reasonable suggestion from my friend, in accepting it, I ended up overshooting it by completely engaging my shadow side.

To make a very long story short, a friend of mine was going through some internal conflict and I had helped out, but had been left feeling drained because of how much worse his usual pessimism has gotten over a specific topic.

Now, while I do try to listen to people and not give advice, knowing that they just want to be heard and understood, there comes a point where I feel that their pessimism gets a bit much and that’s where I tend to come in with my excess optimism to try and make up for it.

Coupled with the energy it took to help this friend out and even take a break from their presence, I was also dealing with some self doubt over the completion of It Starts: at Home’s fourth draft, and my progress in learning the Korean language. I was having a difficult time even after I made a post about Taking Stock When You Feel Stuck.

When I realized I could barely take my own advice, I began to wonder if my all of my optimism was a complete ruse.

Have I been lying to everyone?

Have I been lying to myself?

Am I actually clinically depressed, and have I been deluding myself about how happy and capable I am this whole time?

Plunging Into the Underworld

That same friend I helped out reached out to me a few days after my Ralph Wiggum dream, and for a while it seemed like our friendship was back to normal. And since we helped each other out tremendously two years ago by keeping each other accountable for 75 days straight (to make sure the other works on their respective craft), I thought that maybe it would be a good time to request that he kept me accountable again with completing my fourth draft.

When the day and time came he was supposed to keep me accountable, I felt disappointed with the lack of engagement and encouragement he offered. I had expressed this disappointment very harshly and even though I knew how bad I was being, I chose not to care and went full force. I really let him have it, and while it felt good in the moment, I feel horrible in retrospect.

At the same time all of this happened, I was also conflicted about how I felt toward a certain study buddy that I have. Her and I share a passion for learning each other’s languages, and sometimes in praising each other’s efforts, we get a little playful and flirty.

This had lead to some confusion for me in regards to what our relationship is supposed to mean and how difficult it would be to evolve toward anything romantic since we only know each other online.

It’s silly, I know.

But it’s 2018 and the stigma toward online dating has lessened since the catfishing days of yesteryear.

Yes, I know it still happens, but moving along!

Feeling disappointed in my friend and feeling confused about my #1 study buddy, I felt all twisted inside. I felt lost about what I was doing with my life and how to proceed if I have been completely full of crap all these years. I took it as a shot at my pride to be so fickle as to depend on someone else to motivate me to write, and to feel stung by having some of my affections ignored from someone I admire.

Engaging My Shadow Side

“This is it.

The end of the road.

Everything I worked for was all a lie.

I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad. I am so full of shit. How dare I try to help anyone else if I can’t even help myself?

My book sucks and it will never be published because I’m a shitty writer. I’ve wasted thousands of dollars taking courses and studying writing guides the past 10 years. Even worse, I’ve wasted thousands of hours writing a bunch of crap that no one has read, and no one ever will read because it’s too crappy to share with anyone anyway.

I don’t deserve to be published.

I don’t deserve a readership.

I don’t even deserve to write.

Who do I think I am trying to write a book about family issues and child abuse when I haven’t even solved my own familial issues? Or worse, when I barely have any patience these days for my God-daughter who I peacefully parented through her formative years? Did I really care about her or did I go this peaceful route to spite her parents and mine for their more abusive mindsets toward child rearing? Because let’s be honest, there are sometimes where even you wanna smack her, right?

Oh, but you don’t because you’re too much of a pussy to betray your values, is that it?

Pathetic.

As for learning Korean…what the hell am I doing? I still can’t understand K-Pop lyrics, K-Dramas, let alone my foreign friends without heavily relying on translations. After one year, you would think I’d get some amount of fluency, right? Well where the hell is it?

Furthermore, am I out of my mind to narrow my romantic choices down to a single ethnicity of people? What am I, a racist asshole? Clearly I’ve been watching too many K-Pop groups and going gaga over these girls like a stupid horny 14 year old.

What a waste of time and money all this study material has been. For both writing and learning Korean. Childhood development and peaceful parenting? You’re never gonna get married and have kids, so you’d better get your head out of your ass, you stupid piece of shit.”

All these harsh words and phrases?

This the abridged and slightly censored version of what I was telling myself.

After all these years of learning how to reassure myself that things will be okay, and everything I go through is all just growing pain.

“No,” I still hear my pessimism say. “It’s not growing pain. It’s the pain you feel for realizing how full of shit you really are!”


Conclusion: Share to Shed Your Shadow Side

Even as I read back these semi censored and semi editted words, I begin to cry. My self talk was much much worse and much much longer when I recorded a lengthy audio journal to verbally beat myself up with. When I was finished, I couldn’t believe how horribly I was denouncing all the things in my life that I held dear: my writing career, my Korean studies, and worst of all my relationships with with friends and family.

After 10 long years of readjusting my mindset and mode of operation, I felt like I lost it all in a single night with how naturally and powerfully I denounced all of my progress in life.

The friend that helped me interpret my Ralph Wiggum dream pointed out that I may be putting too many expectations on myself and it’s no wonder I get devastatingly disappointed with the results when I don’t follow through with my own plans, or whenever things don’t turn out the way I prefer.

In true perfectionist fashion I over compensated for the optimism I’ve developed by plunging right back into the pessimism that felt like a natural way of behaving in my teen years.

In retrospect, no matter how painful it was to denounce everything I loved, I think I have come out stronger and smarter because of it. I’ve been suppressing my shadow side for so long, trying my best to remain the most positive version of myself possible, and sometimes more for public appearance than my for my own actual benefit.

Engaging my shadow side, as nasty as it was, taught me to have a healthier detachment from the things I value in my life.

It’s good to hold certain things as ultimate value structures that keep your life in order, but you can not depend on them to fulfill you or keep you happy. Things are always in a constant flux of repair and disrepair, there is no end to it. Sometimes they take you to greater heights while sometimes taking you to the Underworld as it has for me.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to complete my fourth draft faster than I completed the third draft.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to become fluent in Korean so I can understand K-Pop lyrics, K-Dramas, and my foreign friends.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to be a good friend and member of the family by selflessly staking my own well being to be there for others.

All of this had lead toward resentment and self disgust, and knowing that I was going to fail at all three things in my life fed the negativity even more.

But now I think I get it.

Love the things you love, but don’t expect too much out of them.

So listen to your shadow side with a grain of salt. It may be a horrifying and grating voice that makes you want to do you own head in from time to time, but give it a chance to speak before it develops the desperate desire to scream at you. It has valuable lessons to teach you in regards to having healthy detachments to your desires and intended outcomes, which ironically make you feel much freerer to fail and eventually succeed in what you want to accomplish.

To Be Continued…

This might be the longest blog post I’ve ever written and I’m sorry to those who didn’t have the patience to go through all of it for whatever reasons they had. Maybe my writing sucks that bad as my shadow side says. Maybe it’s too good for those who can’t introspect. Or maybe there’s nothing personal and that’s okay.

For those of you who have read it this all, I want to extend my tremendous thanks for hearing me out. This is the kind of thinking I often wrestle with and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this as I’ve met several other people who I once thought as immortal and powerful that so happen to go through such phases of their own.

I can’t wait to continue writing about my little trip to the Underworld as I have learned two more valuable things I will share in part 2 and 3 of this blog series.

Stayed tuned for Trifecta of Tribulations Part 2: The 60/40 Principle…

 

 

Taking Stock When You Get Stuck

Have you ever pursued a goal for so long that it felt like you were going nowhere fast?

How about having no goals at all and going nowhere even faster?

Whichever one you’ve experienced, I hope this Meaningful Monday post can help you!

I think I’ve recently started to crack the code on how to handle Goal Setting Anxiety. The key words here, of course, are “started to,” since I don’t think it’ll ever be a fully solveable problem, just a problem in which you can equip yourself with the most tools as possible.

Whenever I feel stuck in an aspect of my life I try to take stock of where I’ve been. It helps put things into perspective when you appreciate all that you’ve accomplished thus far, and the whole journey that has lead you up to that very moment of doubt in which you wonder if any of your hard work and toil will ever amount to anything.


For example, when it comes to writing my novels, I often feel like I may have wasted 10 years of my life not having published anything yet. It makes me regret the time I’ve spent writing several novels and drafts, and not to mention all of the pre-work that goes into writing even a single page word on the actual manuscripts. This includes chapter charts, character graphs, and most especially; all of the time I’ve spent trying to psych myself back up after burning out.

This usually involves a long and intense Progress Journal in which I take stock of what I’ve accomplished so far as to not get too intimidated by all of the work that lies ahead. And the tricky thing is using the exact same thoughts that give me anxiety and transform them into reminders of the time I invested in my work, as opposed to wasted.

It’s not a waste that I did all this work and am still not published. Many writers write for decades before they get published, let alone feel like they can have something worth publishing.

Nowadays I often remind myself to take stock of the fact that while I could have been blowing all my money on mindless hedonism and lied around my house doing nothing, I actually paid for my own education for the past decade. My bookshelfs are chock full with writing guides that cover the basics such as plot structure, to more sophisticated aspects of writing such as style and prose, as well as how to write more emotionally meaningful and impactful stories.

It’s thanks to all those days and nights I’ve spent studying at cafes, libraries, or at the comfort of my own home that I can no longer experience stories the same way as a passive participant. Any movie or TV show show I watch, any book I read, hell even any video game I play that has a story–my experience of stories have been greatly transformed thanks to my studies and make me want to dissect every other story to their core.

In turn, I get to critically view my own work and know what can work better based on what I’ve come to love in other stories.

And furthermore, it’s no joke that I’m writing a novel.

It’s hard work!

I’m on my fourth draft and my fourth year of writing the same novel from scratch.

I could easily waste time worrying about how I haven’t “gotten there yet,” and maybe a bit of anxiety towards that is healthy to make me want to plunge myself forward. But without taking stock of where I already am thanks to my past self putting in those countless hours, I may very well stay stuck where I am, paralyzed by my fear.

 


I think a healthy dose of fear and pride can help you moving forward.

You want to be proud of everything you’ve accomplished thus far and be honest about how hard a lot of it has been. Take pride in the fact that you’ve survived it all and have grown from the experience. But you don’t want to be so proud that you think you’re perfectly fine where you are. Instead, you take where you are as a marker of your capabilities.

Then you also want to be a little afraid of not being where you could be. Know that you have long ways to go to achieving your goals and the zig zagging path’s been laid before you the moment you’ve accepted the challenge. Be fearful of how much regret you might feel in the future if you never give yourself the opportunity to thrive. But you don’t want to be so fearful that you feel like you can’t do anything at all and you’ll never get anywhere. Use your fears as helpful antagonists that push you further and further away from your dangerous comfort zone.

Whenever you feel stuck in life, take stock of where you’re at.

Recognize your greatness that has taken you this far.

Recognize how much more work there is to be done and trust that you can do it.

 

 

How to Make Small Talk (In Fiction) Interesting

Most writers could attest to associating small talk with pulling teeth (or any other painful experience). This is because we as writers are attuned to the sole fact that good stories are jam packed with meaningful and life changing conversations between characters. The kinds of conversations people rarely have in real life, but if were to summon the courage and honesty they require, their lives could also be drastically changed.

In turn, this is one of the biggest reasons why I think people gravitate toward fiction. The Very Heart and Soul of Fiction is the relationships between characters and readers love to live vicariously through them to experience what it’s like to speak from the bottom their hearts.

So it’s no wonder that small talk and in real life are painfully boring to sit through. Imagine the following passage to be from a novel and then tell me if you would keep on reading.

“Hey, how have you been?” Martin asked.

“I’ve been okay,” Sonya replied. “How about you?”

“I’ve been good.”

“That’s good. What did you do today?”

“I just worked and studied, how about you?”

“Me too.”

*snore*

Next!


Now normally I think such a conversation in real life and in fiction would be incredibly boring, but I’ve come to step down from my high horse of the Meaningful Conversations Only or Go Away mentality and have come to understand the importance of small talk. And yes it is actally important.

Why you ask?

It’s because small talk is how we gauge each other’s level of engagement with life and with others. When people talk to each other, what’s more important than what they talk about is how they talk to each other. Or put more succinctly, how they can make each other feel as they talk.

So my proposal is that if you have a work in progress that has a scene you fear might suffer from too much small talk, here are some ways you can beef it up to make it interesting:

1. Add Meaningful Action

“Hey, how have you been?” Martin asked offering his hand to shake.

2. Add Meaningful Re-Action

“I’ve been okay,” Sonya replied, resting her hand in Martin’s. “How about you?”

“I’ve been good, too.” Martin stroked the back of Sonya’s soft hand with his thumb.

3. Add Context and Tension

It has been a few days since they last spoke. Even though Martin and Sonya had only met a couple weeks ago, speaking every night and day for two weeks straight–only to suddenly and have weekend of non-existant correspondance felt like an eternity for them.

Martin and Sonya, at this moment, both felt the urge to note the individual voids they respectively felt over the weekend without each other. But Martin did not want to come across as too desperate for her affections, while Sonya held her tongue back because she had been taught by her parents to not be too inviting toward men.

And so an awkward, yet comforting silence passed as they held hands and stared into each other’s eyes.

4. Express Emotions Through Action

“That’s good.” Sonya wiggled her hand free from Martin’s grip and giggled. She pursed her lips and looked away. “What did you do today?”

Martin scratched the back of his head and looked around, pretending to be curious as to what caught Sonya’s eye. “I just worked and studied,” he said. He clenched his fists and bit his lip a bit, shoulders rising to his neck.

5. Add Suspsense

Sonya watched as Martin’s eyes darted around the room. His normally calm demeanour had transformed into a jittering mess of ticks and stutters today. A part of her worried what could possibly be wrong with him. Did she say something wrong the last time they spoke? Did something happen to him? Or is he actually a strange and unstable man and that she should find a way to get away from him immediately.

As she continued to stare at him as if he was having a stroke, Martin fought the urge to mention that he’s been thinking about her all day. No matter how much he had invested his time and energy on his job and on his studies, Sonya came to mind, and he wishes he could just tell her that mere fact.

Martin cleared his throat. “How about you?” He finally asked, trying to ignore how bland and boring it was to say that all he did was work and study.

“Me too,” Sonya said, grabbing his trembling hand.


Well I hope you enjoyed my cheesy attempt at writing a romantic scene between star crossed lovers (never have I ever claimed that romance was my forte)!

Let’s recap why this scene was so much better by adding these five ingredients.

Meaningful action adds to small talk to show that what is not being said is more important than what is being said. A meaningful reaction from the other character(s) will show the level of their awareness toward the current vibe and situation. Adding context and tension will make some of the discomfort more bearable to the reader because then their curiousity will be piqued about why small talk between these characters is so much more uncomfortable than everyday small talk.

Once all these things have been established, you have the opportunity to express each character’s emotions through the non-verbal cues they provide to each other and to your readers. This makes them more susceptible to holding their breath and wanting to know how it will all turn out if you also add suspense to see if the discomfort will dissipate or detonate.

So that is how you make small talk in fiction more interesting.

As for real life?

I have no damn clue.

Write What You Like

It’s so bloody obvious and simple, yet it’s hardly ever uttered: Write What You Like.

A lot of writers, especially myself, often contend with the creative process like it’s a wild dragon to tame. We get so obsessed with deliberating our ideas that we forget to experience our own creations in the shoes of our potential audience.

Write what you know is common advice, even better advice is write what you don’t know as it would give you a reason to explore an idea you’ve yet to educate yourself on. After all, what is a story but an educational experience disguised as entertainment?

To complete the trifecta you should also write what you like.

That means writing in such a way that if you were not the creator of your story, but a customer in a bookstore looking for the next best read, you need to consider what it would take for this other you to bring that book to check out counter.

Sounds easy, but how do you actually do this?

You start by becoming acutely aware as to why you love the other stories you love; from books, video games, and movies/TV shows. It’s easy to know that you simply like it, but it’s actually quite difficult for people to define their reasons as to why a story resonates with them.

Then on the flip side you also need to understand why you have certain dislikes in other stories, if not things you outright hate (like Mary Sue characters or forced love triangles for me). Whatever your dislikes are just don’t put them in your work unless you’re putting a unique twist on a dislike to transform it into something likeable.

The last thing I would suggest is being as objective as possible about your work as if it’s somebody else’s. Be hyper critical about what you know is not working and kill it off, and in the same vain milk all you can from things that are working in your story during the editing process.

So write what you like, and only then can you tame the dragon and ride it to leave a blazing trail in your wake.