Valid Writing Related Activities

The concept of flexible discipline, (no idea where I took that from, I’m sure it is out there somewhere) inspires me. 

I have a full day of writing per week to apply such concept and have fun in listing what I feel I should allow me to do or not and still consider myself to have been productive…

  • Writing (obviously)
    • Writing items on my main list of goals is better than just writing anything
    • Writing useless emails are not valid, but writing complaints or anything that will free my mind of some annoying persistant thought is okay
    • Writing about writing
  • Research and preparation
    • Character building
    • Location research
    • Contacting people to be interviewed
    • Preparing Interviews
    • Reading short, specific material (broad reading is for other days)
  • Admin tasks that will organise the writing
    • Writing travel booking
    • Contacting story-related people
    • Keeping up blogs and sites and social media
    • Renewing domain names
    • Clearing email inboxes and organising calendar
  • Ideas building
    • Taking a nap thinking of something (preferable with conscious dreaming)
    • Walking meditation – focusing on something that needs solutions or ideas
    • Swimming, dancing in the living room, or bathing meditations
    • Cooking meditation
    • Catching the ferry or the train for writing while travelling (not travel writing)
    • Day writing adventures
    • Libraries visit writing
    • Toilet breaks – even many of them (they are great for sparking ideas)
  • Freeing your mind
    • Taking notes of ideas for writing
    • Cataloguing ideas for writing (blog posts? books? short stories?)
    • Doing small tasks that take little time and un-clot the mind
    • Organising the space before starting to feel ready to start
    • Writing any messages and booking any appointments early in the day and letting people know its the end of the conversation for the day
    • Regular breaks to refresh and get the blood pumping
    • Bobbing on yoga ball (for the same reason above)
  • Editing and publishing
    • Editing and proofreading
    • Layout creating and cover creation
    • Hiring freelancers
    • Sending material to publishers
  • Coffee…
    • “Coffee glides into one’s stomach and sets all of one’s mental processes in motion” Honoré de Balzac
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Weekly Author’s Day

I have recently started working four days a week to write one day. To make it work I have created a few structural strategies and some mental ones.

“If you do not fill your day with high priority actions that inspire you, your day will fill up with low priority distractions…” Dr. Demartini

My Structural Strategies:

  • Wednesday Writing Day — it was not only good for the company I work for, as my busiest days are Monday and Friday; it is to signal my mind that my day off the job is still a Working Day.
  • A day for Writing — it is NOT for laundry, for cleaning, buying groceries or lazying on the beach. I can go to the beach, for lunch-and-back, or to write there, or to plot about something I’m writing, but meaningful work has to be achieved.
  • Journaling — a list of writing-related tasks completed — that serves as an antidote to poisonous thoughts and create the proof that I have and am doing enough.
  • Physical Writing Space — a great writing space with a desk that allows for standing or seating, with a beautiful, large monitor and a super cute typewriter (just in case the world ends and the computers stop working, if that happens I can keep writing!).
  • No shoes, no bra — I wake up and make my bed, dress comfortably but in clothes that mean business, make my coffee and setup my computer at my workspace. I do make allowances though, unless I’m going out, no shoes, no bra are allowed.

My Mental Strategies:

  • Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries — nothing is permitted to invade my sacred space, not my shit, not anyone else’s.
  • No limits — I refrain from any commitments on this day, even lunchtime, early mornings or evenings, I never know when creativity will flow best, so I reserve the full day to allow for it to catch me at any time of the day.
  • Clear and achievable goals — keeping them visible and constantly in mind; focusing on them as primary objectives.
  • Flexible discipline  with a strong commitment to the process. I work first in my primary objectives, if it that isn’t flowing, I do anything related to the writing process: it might be creating ideas, researching characters, taking notes, writing about the process, keeping the admin tasks of the job in check. All work is valid, even napping while considering a narrative plot.
  • Break the resistance — try first, what you most want to achieve, start, put effort, if it flows, you just keep going; if not, do some other useful task; if the flow doesn’t come, it wasn’t resistance, it just wasn’t the best moment to write that part. (Based on Seth Godin’s ideas on “The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?”
  • Allow for changes in environment — make writing and researching excursions; change the writing location when the house is not the right mental space.
  • What takes me closer to my mission? — is the question that saves my sanity every time, whenever I am indecisive about something. Make choices, any choices are better than none, any word count is better than nothing, any writing related activity is valid.
  • Reward good work.

Lastly I keep reminding myself that there are no rights and wrongs in my writing days, there is only what takes me closer to my mission at that moment!

Delayed Achievements

I have achieved something that has been in my radar for many years. On 1st September 2018, I reduced my day-job journey to four days a week, to give myself one day a week of full time writing.

Right at the beginning I was organising my “Ideas for Writing” folder and found a list of writing goals I had set for 2017 and realised I had accomplished all of them by September 2018, one of them being the weekly author’s day. It was inspiring, even if there was a delay in the completion of the goals and it was a lesson that told me to keep establishing goals and not giving up on them even when they don’t follow my original timeline.

I can’t express how grateful and fulfilled I am feeling. Having one full day of quality time, fresh-brain, undivided attention to dedicate to my passion is unbelievably powerful. I am finding that not only I produce much more efficiently, the inspiration comes more powerfully, and the anxiety I used to feel over not having time to write has lost its grip on me.

I used to feel anxious every time I had an idea, and no energy or time to write it.

Another interesting aspect is that with the writing day in the middle of the week, (I chose Wednesdays for my Writing day) I get more done on weekends too. There is a momentum effect, by the weekend I haven’t forgotten what I have been working on, it just simmers under the surface, boiling new ideas and aspects to focus on…

I will never take this opportunity for granted, I feel grateful to each of the moments and aspects of my life that allowed me to get here.

When NOT to make a decision

Sometimes we are faced with the need of making a monumental decision about something in our lives. Something important, life changing and ripe with consequences that will affect not only us but most people around us. I’m talking about big stuff, migrating, getting married, divorce, changing jobs, that sort of thing. I’ve been through a few and the predicament of a friend reminded me of the feelings I’ve experienced at the time.

My friend said he was under a lot of pressure to make a decision about something and he felt paralysed; his story inspired me to write this.

The thing is, sometimes we need to trust ourselves NOT to make a decision, at least, not until it is the right time to make it. Everything has a consequence, and waiting might be painful, but when your being is so overwhelmed that you are paralysed you have to respect your soul and find other ways to deal with it, the more you try to force the situation the more likely you are to make the decision for the wrong reasons.

Since you cannot make the decision you need to make, you can move in its direction, and work on making yourself ready to make that decision. You do what you can.

Hindsight is a beauty and what I did at the time was peeling the layers of confusion from my mind until I found clarity. First step is uncovering your fears, the real ones, the huge, gigantic ones and having a good chat with them, going in depth into what is the likely outcomes of each of the possibilities. Take note of what you can live and cannot live with, and what is under your power to decide and what isn’t.

In these situations there are many times when the choices aren’t good. It is easy when you need to choose between cake or ice-cream, it is a lot harder when you must choose between a better quality of life or being close to your family, for example.

Dr. Demartini says that everything, absolutely everything, will have positives and negatives, and what is more baffling, they will be in equal measures. It took me years to wrap my mind around this concept but I get it now, and when you deal with your fears it is always useful to understand that all the results are going to have both the bad and the good wrapped up in them. Once you start seeing the good in the bad and the bad in the good you become balanced and can make a decision that is truer to your values rather than from fear… or guilt.

Guilt, that is a funny emotion, I can see the purpose in “guilt”, it keeps us in the righteous path, the fear of guilt makes many do the right thing. But for me, after the fact, guilt is mostly useless. Guilt happens when we are stuck in a past action, a past trauma, “past” being the key word here. So you start making decisions based on past experiences rather than present situations. I am all for taking responsibility, making amends, and more than anything, learning from anything wrong we have done, becoming a better person for ourselves and those around us, but not hurdling this gigantic baggage around. Once you have paid your dues, punished yourself, recompensed the ones you have wrong, you must be able to go ahead with your life, you need to allow your own soul to become present to the new situation around and see it without the influence of these past actions.

When I was making an important decision in my life I had to examine what I felt guilty about and had to deal with what that was causing me. That was one of the layers that was keeping me stuck. I had to let go not only of the feeling of having “wronged” people but I also had to let go of the idea of being responsible for other people’s actions. You cannot control and cannot be held accountable for other people’s actions, you are fully responsible for yours. You can do what is your very best, and hope they do what is their very best. You can offer support, comprehension and love, but believing that you can “control” what is going to happen is a fallacy. You can only control your own actions, that is all you can do in and at every moment of your life.

At any point you can die, someone else can die, you can win the lottery, we can be invaded by aliens or be overcome by the artificial intelligence and all that you hold as secure will be made completely irrelevant.

It often helps me when I’m making big and small decisions to think about what I would do if I won the lottery, if I had only a month to live, or if there was an apocalyptic event on Earth. I find it shows me what is important for me. My answer, time and again, to all the questions is “I would write” which shows me I’m going in the right direction, more and more in my life I write.

Another layer to peel is the one about “values”. To make a decision that is pure and based on your core you must uncover YOUR true values, not what others think should be important for you. You need to examine what you truly believe in and what are your main reasons to be alive. “Freedom” is one of mine and it drives my choices every day, from choosing stretchy clothes that allow me freedom of movement to migrating to Sydney where I feel safe to walk all day without fear. Australia is a place with similar values of freedom, people are free to be who they are, believe in whatever they want, express themselves, we are about equal opportunities, gender equality and fairness in any personal choice people make. That resonates immensely with me and played an important part in my decision to make this my home permanently.

Your values will most probably be different from your family’s values, from your parents, children and spouse, so finding them for real might require some digging. And dig you must, in order to make a decision that is true to you and not to anyone else, because when we betray ourselves we create unhappiness around us and that is a bad decision for everyone in the end. It might appear to be the right thing at first, but in the end it only postpones the inevitable. It is programmed into human beings that they will always follow their values; it is unavoidable. You better catch on with these and work for it consciously evaluating the pros and cons and knowing what will really happen than deceiving yourself and others only to go back and messing things up even more at a later date.

Lastly, to make a proper decision about anything, we need to evaluate our patterns of behaviour and find out where they come from. In life, we tend to do the same things, over and over again, unless we uncover where these behaviours are coming from and discard what doesn’t serve us anymore. These set ways of doing things, usually come from beliefs we instated in early life, absolute truths that when you bring to the light of day, don’t really make sense. They do make sense when you first come up with them, but in your new circumstances in life, they may not apply at all. These are things you make up to protect yourself and deal with trauma, big and small, and they are the elements that bound together are the make up of your personality. But some of those things may not be useful for you anymore, and unless you examine and look at them you will carry them around forever.

A practical example from my life is a family pattern that help and plagues most of the people who share my maternal DNA. The imperative is “work hard”, it is one that bring many positives, we are hard workers, dedicated people, who put their heads down and just get to it. As my boss would say “we get shit done”. But this imperative also has a considerable and sometimes hidden downside: it is not particular, it is broad and orders you to work hard in all situations, impeding you to apply common sense and find the easy or simple path to things. If all you think about is working hard, you may not even see that there are easy solutions to some problems, ways of doing things that will be much simpler and allow you to put your energy in other, more productive or efficient areas of your life. By finding this pattern in my behaviours, and challenging its veracity, I am now able to only use it when it actually applies and when it will be a benefit to me and others, not an indiscriminate need to work hard no matter what.

This sort of thing is what I’m talking about when making important decisions, you cannot decide on something based on old and indiscriminate pattern of behaviour. You must be able to adapt to current circumstances and the present environment and not old paths.

In the end, this is why I think that NOT making decisions when you are confused is very important. I recommend pealing the mess out first. When all the crap is dealt with and you are present in the reality, your soul will decide without effort, it comes as a consequence and not by force, and it will be much more likely to be a lasting and positive decision for all involved.

How to peel the mess? Go through the layers? Everyone takes different paths, I went to self-development, self-discovery courses, meditation, that sort of thing, and a lot of talking to my friends and family. I think whatever you choose to do it is worth it, it can be talking to people, councillors, psychologists, psychiatrists, help groups, churches, oracles, it is all good, as long as you do something and think about things, feel for your truths, and move in the direction of making your decision from your core, nothing else matters.

The other thing you can do, and must do, is take the best care of yourself that you can. Eat well, move well and sleep well to the resources you have. This way, you make your body have energy to do all the thinking and feeling you need to do, leaving you with physical fuel for your emotional journey.

When all is done and you come to the place where you can see the turmoil and understand where it all comes from and what is really the ground under your foot, you will be in the eye of the storm and decisions will come to you, clearly and with no doubts whatsoever. There will be turmoil before and after, but they will be just about dealing with the consequences and changes that will ensue; and as much destruction, and change that can happen, it is still much less painful than being unable to make a decision. The state of indecision is one of the most painful states I’ve experienced and this technique of not pressuring me for a decision before I’m ready for it brought me many positive results.

In summary, when in doubt, don’t force yourself to decide, force yourself to make yourself ready to decide!

When did I Start Writing?

At a certain point in my life I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a writer. I find  it hard to remember how or when exactly I got to that point. Probably, a turning point happened when I was about 25 years old and I wrote a short-story that was selected as a finalist for an anthology book. By then I had decided that being a ballet dancer wasn’t for me after all. At 17 I had dropped out of my dance uni degree and moved to advertisement and marketing. At 25 I had been working at a large multinational corporation that was draining my blood.

One day I was driving alone to work, from the car radio I heard a voice saying:

“Writing is your major gift”. I’m aware the phrase is a bit strange but I cannot change the voice from beyond just to fit the English grammar, so I will leave it as is, the closest translation.

That moment I made a decision (based on a voice I imagined because I was delirious of boredom, most probably, but who cares, right?). I had been trying to write more and more and I realised I had to find a way to have a good quality of life to have energy left for writing. If you check the post “why Australia?” you will see how that brought me to Sydney’s beautiful shores.

Although, the decision was made when I was an adult, the more I search for when I started actually writing, the further back I go.

My best friend pointed out to me that none of her childhood friends wrote a story about the time they caught the maid making out with the security guard. I was telling my friend how terrified I was of this maid because she found my story and was very upset at me. Lost in my anguish cause by the upset maid I didn’t realise that most kids don’t write about stuff like I did all the time.

When I first learnt what poetry was, I also sold some poetry to my grandfather which I never delivered because I was then as I am now: hopeless at poetry. I did try though, ended up writing a few lines without an end. I ate my payment in candy and that was that.

I remember the look in the face of my fourth grade teacher when instead of delivering a writing assignment with one page, as I was supposed to do, I delivered twelve pages. Just because I couldn’t cut the story short, stop it in the middle, I had to take the character walking all the way from school to work… Poor teacher, she was a mean one but I’m not sure she deserved that punishment.

A few years later my beautifully-bummed high-school teacher published a book with short-stories, I had a story there. (Beautifully-bummed because as a Brazilian teenager, like all other Brazilian teenagers, I was obsessed with the roundness of people’s behinds around me and such youngish teacher had very nice buttocks that would shake firmly when he wrote on the blackboard.) [Two more notes: I’m still obsessed with round buttocks and at the time it was an actual back board, where you make all that effort to write with chalk.]

While I was on my dancing career path I only thought I would write a book when I retired, I wasn’t really thinking, probably from lack of food, the brain didn’t work very well. I’m grateful to say that I added things up before starving to death and changed my mind. This is my reasoning:

I am not flexible enough to be a prima ballerina + I live in a third world country quite worried about food and health, not art + I can never eat + I am always fat = bad idea.

Once I stopped dancing professionally — I still dance for pleasure — I started writing more, I’ve always had ideas, many, many ideas for being so, even if I had to give up writing about the maid’s kisses.