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…

 

 

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Progress is Progress

If there’s a big goal you want to achieve, there is definitely an even bigger picture where it belongs.

It’s easy to be blinded by the bigger picture and feel lost in the tapestry of it all.

One way to break it down into tinier, more managable pieces, is to appreciate the progress you’ve made thus far.

This is something I need to remind myself of quite often because I constantly find myself getting lost in my journey. It has been a year since I quit my last job and decided to go full time with writing. Reminding myself that progress is progress has been the only refuge I’ve had available to me because although I may be poor financially compared to last year, at least nowadays I’m not as spiritually poor as I was when I was stuck building someone else’s dream.

It shouldn’t have come as a shock to me, but surprise surprise, starting your own business is incredibly difficult. And quite often it is hard to see any tangible results of my hard work other than my own self assurance that I try to keep as objective as possible (because let’s face it, I do want to keep my spirits up, but I don’t want to delude myself into thinking I’m succeeding more than I think).

Throwing away the steady and predictable paycheck is the cost entrepeneurs need to pay, and all the security that comes with it is something all of us need to deal with before making our big breaks. Some entrepeneurs are able to take off and create a steady income early on, while most of us, more often than not, need to work harder than we ever have working a 9-5 job in order to simply make a decent buck for ourselves.

Now despite all these challenges, and I am not deterred.

I am proud of what I have done so far.

I am happy with the choices I’ve made.

The choice to focus on finishing the third draft of It Starts at Home, and the much scarier choice of hosting creative writing workshops, have gleaned more spiritual, intellectual, and emotional “income” than I have ever generated working 9-5 jobs. I am not so flippant to dismiss the value of money as I do appreciate making the money I’ve made, since I spent the past 10 years buying books to educate myself at my own pace based on my own individual interests.

All I’m saying is that as good as it felt to made all that money, it feels a lot better to be creating value and giving of myself to the world. Sharing my gift and inspiring others. Whether they were coaching clients who I spoke to one hour a week to give them the space to geek out about their works in progress, or people who have attended to my writing workshops.

Rest assured, I finally feel I’m doing what I was meant to do with my life.

Hosting writing workshops has been a desire of mine for two, three, or even more years now, and to finally have done it feels like a nice big checkmark off the bucket list.

Before every single one, I’m a nervous wreck.

I wonder if people will even care about what I have to say.

I fear if no one’s going to show up.

Early on I had to remind myself to prepare for the best case scenario so I could stop driving myself crazy. The energy I carried with that allowed me to promote my events and present my work with confidence and it sure as hell felt good to have had amazing turn outs with several people coming to some workshops, and equally as good to have only a few people coming to other workshops.

Sometimes it felt too good to be true that this was happening. That people were coming and showing their interest in what I had to say, and it took everything in my power to not self sabotage.

To make a very long story short, the past three months have allowed me to feel incredible success as well as horrible failure. I had many fears about people not caring about what I had to say, tripping over my words, and the worst one of all; no one showing up to my workshops.

All of these things happened; I experienced what it was like to see someone show that they were losing interest in the workshop as the night went on. I tripped over my words, lost my breath, and had to take a moment to recollect myself. And even worse, there was one workshop where I had 0 attendance.

And you know what?

I survived.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt disappointed, maybe a little angry, but not as much as I thought I would when I ran those disaster scenarios in my head beforehand.

The way I see it is that this was my chance to work out the kinks of an ongoing process. Now that I’ve gotten used to the flow of creation, promotion, and presentation, I think I am better equipped next year to bring the Four Pillars of Fiction series back and try to reach a wider audience than I already have this year.

My numbers may not be as big as I first hoped in terms of income, attendance, and clients signing up for sessions, but it’s definitely a lot more than the resounding 0 I would have to face had I not tried.

At the end of the day, I am proud that I at least created my first batch of workshop presentations and don’t have to worry about making anything from scratch in the next go round. I am proud that I reached some people and got some noggins nodding whenever something clicked with them if I made a valid point about writing they hadn’t considered before.

To me that’s worth it.

To me that’s progress.

It may not be much in a conventional sense, but progress is progress.

Now enough about me, how about for yourself? In what ways can you acknowledge yourself and your progress? If your goal is still very far from reach, what accomplishments can you celebrate today to motivate yourself to continue tomorrow?

 

How to Thrive During NaNoWriMo

Today is the day writers all around the world take part in National Novel Writing Month, an annual event that challenges them to write 50,000 words all within the glorious (or grueling) 30 days of November. Whether they are glorious and/or grueling is completely up to you. I know this from experience.

I’m not going to pretend I have an on going track record with NaNoWriMo as I have only done it once last year when I rewrote my YA novel, It Starts at Home, completely from scratch a third time in a row. My advice is drawn more from the past decade of novel writing, things I’ve observed about myself, that in turn I hope you can relate to and glean some value from.

So without further adieu, here is how I learned not to beat my head against the wall during NaNoWriMo:

1. Remember Your Why

Amidst the commotion of trying to write 1667 words a day, remind yourself why you write in the first place. Perhaps there are some injustices you want to expose through your fiction, or you simply want to entertain. Whatever your reason, it has value because you want to provide value through it or at least have something burning inside you, urging you to express it. Let the call to adventure ring loud and clear. Make it more about the message than about reaching a quota.

2. Don’t Make it About Word Count

Sure, it’s important, as it is a measurable guage of how much you’ve done, but don’t sweat it if you can’t reach 1667 a day or the 50,000 at the end of November. Word count is important, but it shouldn’t take precendence over expressing yourself and possibly spreading your message. Especially if you have controversial topics to cover in your book, accept that it’s not going to be easy, and the fun is in the challenge of finding ways to convey your philosophy through fiction.

3. Don’t Find Time, Make Time For Writing

This is something I hear often from working parents with children, and anybody else with very busy working schedules. It’s important to know that no matter what obligations you’ve got going for you in life, whether you show up or not is completely up to you and it is your life to manage. No one else’s. Don’t find time to write, make time to write. Make it a priority. You don’t have to do a million things in your life. Yes, pay bills. Yes, feed your children. But if you have the free time to sit around and play Candy Crush, maybe make time to write and see that as your leisure time. Scratch that. Writing is leisure time, no matter how difficult it gets at times.

4. Keep a Progress Journal

Give yourself 10-30 minutes a day to free write about your book, detailing all your progress and intetions with it before every session. You gotta warm yourself up to writing and what could help is giving yourself the opportunity to write whatever’s on your mind will free up space in your brain to focus on the narrative. This works especially if you’re stuck at certain points. The more stuck you are, the longer the progress journaling session should be. Progress journals are also where you can remind yourself of your why in a more concrete way than just repeating the mantra in your head.

5. Let Yourself Write

This is a no brainer, but basically what I mean is to not get caught up in syntax and style. If you have trippy sci-fi or fantastical fantasy concepts in your story, that’s fine, but don’t let all your wordiness get in the way of simply telling a story. And who cares if it doesn’t make any sense or if it isn’t eloquent? This is most likely just another draft to be improved on later. So let yourself write to your heart’s content and kick perfectionism to the curb where it belongs!

6. Write in Tiny Bursts

If you can’t stomach 1667 in one 20-60 minute writing session, do little by little throughout the day. It doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. Do 500-600 in the morning, another 500-600 in the afternoon, and the final 500-600 at night. Before you know it, you’ll reach the daily quota without burning yourself out from one intense writing session in the day.

7. Let Yourself Fall Behind

It could happen. In fact it happens to a lot of writers, even published ones. Let yourself fall behind and be okay with it. Despite what I said about making time to write, sometimes life gets in the way, or worse, our egoes prevent us from putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). If and when that happens, accept it with grace and don’t let it deter you from getting back into the groove. You never know, you just might write 3500 words in one day to catch back up with the daily average.

8. Exercise

Writing is a very physically limiting activity where you are confined to a chair all slouched over and giving your mind a massive work out. Don’t forget to give your body a work out, too! Exercise can help release some muscle tension as well as clear your mind when you focus on the sensations your body goes through during exercise. Go for a run, lift some weights, or do some yoga. There’s an endless amount of options for physical activity, and often times it is due to physical stagnance that our minds also refuse to work, so go and create a little communion between body and mind.

9. Write a Crappy Story on the Side

More often than not, the novel you choose to write for NaNoWriMo is “The Big One,” and that’s all well and good. However, with that comes the pressure to make sure it’s done right, even if you follow tip #5. In addition to letting yourelf write, I propose you let yourself write crap. Yeah, if you feel stuck with your main work in progress, go start a side story that you write for the express purpose of writing as poorly as possible. This is a sure fire way to pump out 3000 meaningless words before hunkering down and writing your finely honed 1667 main manuscript words for the day.

10. Reward Yourself

When it’s all said and done, be sure to reward yourself. The time it takes to write may seem like a huge price to pay with little to no tangible, immediate return on investments, so it’s best to make one for yourself. This can be treating yourself to a bath, a Netflix binging hour (or five), or if you’re a gamer like me, a gaming session could feel incredibly better after having written. In the wise words of my cousin, after all your hard work you gotta “treat yoself!”

11. Sleep!

And as a bonus tip: sleep! We live in an unhealthy culture that rewards and promotes the notion that “sleep is for the weak,” and busy bodies often proclaim that they’ll sleep when they’re dead. I sure as hell hope you don’t buy into mythology, as sleep is a very important human function. Yes, it sucks that eats away the time we could be doing more more more with our lives, but deal with it, sleep is a fact of life. You need to recharge your batteries in order to operate better than you would hopped up on caffeine and a single muffin.

What all these tips come down to is: treat yourself kindly.

Happy writing!

 

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.

 

My Write to Live

blood on paperWhen I was a teenager I had suicidal thoughts, and on some unfortunate occasions, suicdal tendencies. I was bullied by the other kids and wanted to turn to the school staff for help, but most of the teachers I had were authoritatian tyrants or simply uncaring of my well-being. A vice principal I once had talked at me with throwaway advice without taking any time to understand how I truly felt. That same vice principal would later in the year fail to prevent a fist fight I got into, even though I had provided him a ton of evidence it was going to happen. Needless to say, I didn’t have the school staff’s trust because whenever I would defend myself from bullies, I would be the one who would get in trouble and shamed for my behaviour, for my emotions. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, not even my own family, I felt completely and utterly alone.

Or so I thought.

One of the few things I would find solace in was the music of Korn,along with other angsty nu-metal bands, but Korn was my all time favourite since I was a kid. I related to the raw frustration Jonathan Davis’ lyrics were written with and they inspired me to write some of my own in the same vain. Whether the lyrics were about the bullies I wanted to take down, the girls who rejected me, or the general feeling of emptiness by the end of the school day, I wrote lyrics to release these feelings somewhere safe where I wouldn’t get in trouble or be shamed for my behaviour, or my emotions.

Fast forward to my adult years, there was a time where my life was falling apart far worse than I had experienced in my teen years. To name very few issues I had out of a myriad of others, I was getting into intense fights with my family, had to leave a writing critique group due to fundamental philosophical differences, and worst of all found out that an ex-girlfriend of mine had committed suicide.

It was August 2014, I was unemployed and directionless. I had very little money left from a caregiving job I was severely underpaid for and felt empty. Now having grown up and survived my adolesence, I no longer contemplated suicide, especially considering the tragedy of my ex-girlfriend. I no longer cut myself and no longer imagined myself beating my chest until my heart gave out, but I still felt like my life was meaningless and that I didn’t have much reason to live.

Not until I journaled about everything that has been going on for me at the time. Not until I remembered that I had a half finished 2nd draft of a novel just sitting on my computer left untouched for many months. That novel of course was It Starts at Home, the very same anti-child-abuse themed novel that I had fundamental philosophical differences about with my writing group, likewise with my family, both of which, of course, are stories for another time.

For many months after leaving my writing group, I felt discouraged from ever writing again. But when I got back into it and got on my way to completing the second half of the 2nd draft, those feelings of inadequacy and meaninglessness disappeared. Those feelings of regret over my existence were all gone as well, for I rediscovered the joy and meaning I found in writing this story. Sure I picked myself up, applied for work, and got two jobs I put a ton of passion into, but they could never compare to my true calling. My true calling that I drowned out with the noisy distraction called “work.”

Of course! The answer to the question “what am I gonna do with my life?” has been right in front of me all this time, right under my nose, hiding in plain sight: I need to write.

And I stress the word need because writing is a necessity to my life just as much as blood is. To me there is no difference between the blood that drips through my veins, and the ink I bleed on to the page.

I was born a writer. Even when I was as little as seven years old I would skip school to write stories and draw comic books. I’m in love with stories. Whether they’re acted out in a TV show or film, printed in a book or set of lyrics, stories are what makes my life worth living. Not to mention the stories of our lives as I also find a great interest in the real life stories of those around me. All of our lives on this planet are a bunch of stories complete with their own twists and turns, character development arcs, and crossover narratives.

Stories, in any form, help me feel like I’m not alone. To know that others feel the same way I do about life and the human condition, that makes my habitual confusion and anxiety managable. From the lyrics and books I’ve read, movies and TV shows I’ve watched, all my favourite stories have resonated with me on an emotional level. They put the storm in my head into words and action, sequenced in honely crafted narrative that express the growth of character and the universal human desire to overcome life’s many obstacles.

As a writer, this is what I want to achieve. I want to strike a chord in those who read my lyrics, comfort those who will read my books, and let them know that all these confusing and conflicting emotions are all part of simply being human, and although there is no cure to them, they can be managed and understood.

As a writing coach, this is what I want to inspire in other writers. I want to help other writers, as I’ve painstakingly helped myself, to realize the power they have in putting their innermost vulnerable thoughts into the written word. The power to make readers, like myself, feel a lot less alone when life gets them down and when meaning seems all but lost.

The written word is My Write to Live.

It’s Your Write to Live.

 

The Progress Journal

Have you ever been so consumed by a project that you can’t stop yourself from writing? It’s one of the greatest feelings a writer can have, knowing that you’re tapping into your potential and expressing yourself in the fullest. It mostly happens when you’ve found something you’re passionate about and it’s so important that you need to get it all out of your head and all on the page or it’ll keep you up at night.

medium_Writers_Block_ComicThen comes the point where the dreaded Writer’s Block stumps your motivation and creativity. It happens to the best of us. We all lose steam and start slowing down how many words we can write in a minute, and even drop in our daily word count goals. (If you don’t already have a word count goal, you should, and I’ll make a case for its importance in a later post.)

Following in one of the principles taught in The Free Fall Journal, the Progress Journal is the same in that you set a timer for 10-30 minutes and write as much as you can without stopping until the timer is up. The vast difference is a Progress Journal is project specific. So that means focusing on nothing but the project you’re stuck on and why.

If it has been days since you wrote a single word, or you pre-emptively feel a slow down coming on, set 10-30 minutes for free writing about your current project. Even if the first sentence consists of, “I don’t want to write,I don’t want to write, I don’t want to write…” Of course you do, you just need to take the time to explore why you’re not writing.

The purpose of this exercise is to get you into the groove of writing so that when you open up your project, you’ll feel more confident in continuing it. It has been my experience that thanks to keeping a Progress Journal, I have accomplished the following:

  • Planned the next chapter when I thought I had no idea what had to happen next or why
  • Discovered the intellectual or emotional reasons why I didn’t want to continue
  • Got back on track after a TWO MONTH long break from writing
  • Doubled and sometimes tripled my daily word count
  • Considered more plot points and character developments for later

I would suggest that the longer the break you’ve taken, or the more doubt you feel, the longer you should set the timer. It doesn’t have to be a full 30 minutes, but set the timer to 30 minutes and keep writing until you feel compelled to hop right onto your project. If you don’t, that’s okay too because as long as you’ve actually written about your project–making plans and obtaining insights on it–you’ll always have the Progress Journal entry to keep vibing off of until you are compelled to continue.

Even if you’re already writing everyday, a 10 minute Progress Journal entry is a sure way to connect with yourself and your project, keeping Writer’s Block at bay for yet another day.

Real Life Application and the Importance of This Exercise:

Keeping a Progress Journal is not exclusive to writing. You can still make one based on any other creative endeavours you have going on like a work or school project. It will help you get your bearings on what you need to do and how to approach it. Even at the personal level, you can use a Progress Journal to keep track on the habits and thought processes that permeate your daily life. What gets tracked can be observed, and having a Progress Journal to refer to can help you determine where you’ve been stuck before and help you avoid similar mistakes by recognizing how you got past hurdles before.

Do you have other motivation maintaining tips? Feel free to comment below and share the energy!

Save $20,000 on Therapy by Buying a $20 Journal

Gotcha! There are no shortcuts to self-knowledge.

Obviously you can not achieve the same results you would in therapy through journaling alone. However, there is still a goldmine of value you can gain from jotting your thoughts down on paper.  You can potentially save a sum of money by doing your own self-work before hand, but let me make this clear: I am not at all claiming that therapy should be replaced with journaling. Put together, both tools go hand in hand like different instruments in a band.

If you can’t afford to go to therapy or just don’t feel comfortable with opening up to a stranger you may or may not connect with, journaling could be an affordable and more comfortable alternative to dipping your toe into self-knowledge.

Journaling can be used in a variety of ways including outright emotional release, decluttering your mind, and organizing creative ideas to name a few–but for the express purpose of this post, let’s focus on pursuing self-knowledge through this practice.

Following in the principle I provided in The Free Fall Journal, you need to feel comfortable with writing down your thoughts and feelings, most especially when you journal for self discovery. It’s an invitation to have an open and honest dialogue with yourself, after all.

Now, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of that crazy guy you saw downtown arguing with himself at the street corner that one time, but I assure you it’s nothing like that. In fact, the reason why this man lost his mind enough to shamelessly berate himself in public is because he never learned how to keep it to himself and journal it out.

Just kidding!

Though within every joke, there is a hint of truth. We are not all that different from that guy, you and I. We all have an inner dialogue that runs through our heads all day, he just chooses to express it out loud, albeit in an unfiltered and frightening manner.

Keeping your most distressing thoughts and feelings to yourself doesn’t make them any less frightening unless you choose to write unfiltered. When we write about our experiences, we provide evidence to the contents of not only our minds, but most importantly the expression of our hearts.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates

You can just as easily journal for the sake of emotional release, but when you pursue self-knowledge through journaling, it’s important to also examine the evidence so you can understand yourself better. Self-knowledge is all about understanding what sets you off and gets you off (your couch 😛 ).

Having the luxury of reading back what you’ve written, you’re bound to notice a few patterns. When you recognize certain patterns in your thought process, you can then spend the time to explore why you may have them, and then decide on whether or not to break them.

That’s not to say that all patterns are negative, but generally speaking, the ones that fill us with the most doubt and distress are usually the ones that require more than one entry.In fact, some of the best journal entries are the ones that span beyond different dates, either in chronological order or streamlined between other topics. If you find yourself revisiting certain events or themes in your life, it just means that you’re comitted to understanding that aspect of yourself.

“Pain demands to be felt.” – The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I cannot promise your entire life will be saved and understood through journaling, and I can not speak much for therapy in that regard, but the only guarantee I can offer is that if you commit to this practice frequently, you will develop a better relationship with yourself. It doesn’t have to be everyday, sometimes you need the break, but come back to your journal frequently and you will notice that you gradually become more honest in your writing.

Be sure to have compassion for yourself when you come across things you may not like re-reading, especially immediately after writing. Those are indicators that you might need to make drastic changes in your life, or at the very least, learn to play the hand you have been dealt.

Keep in mind that your journal is a safe place for you to express yourself authentically. So just like free fall journaling, do not worry about poise or eloquence in the way you write. Sometimes I decide not to separate paragraphs and write in the most unreadable chicken scratch possible (take THAT, would be invaders of my private journal!)–vulnerability is expontentially more important.

It has been in my experience that the less I filtered myself, the happier I became. I used to just reiterate what I learned from the plethora of self-help books I read with the intent of simply reprogramming myself to think positively. Although it helped in the short term, it only masked the pain, rather than helping me understand and heal it.

When I go back to my old initial journal entries, I can sense how inauthentic it was to cover up my pain by forcing myself to think positive, just for the sake of faking happiness. I don’t doubt that thinking positive can have its benefits, but there’s a disconnect between mind and heart when it’s not genuine. When I realized this–and wrote from a place of truth instead of falsehood–that’s when I finally got to experience what authentic positivity feels like.

 

Do you journal? If so, how has your experience been?

If you’re new to journaling or thinking of trying it out, what do you look to gain from it?