Walking the Writing Path

I can pinpoint a big change in my life to the day when I was walking through Mosman’s #HeadlandPark and realised that many companies had been stablished in the business spaces I had once seen and wished to work at.

This was many years ago, when I took pictures of all the companies names and sent them my resume, asking for a job. I’m an Office Manager/EA, when I’m not being a writer, and that is a position that exists in many companies.

The Alive Mobile Group had just lost their person in that role and hired me. Alive would later transform and become part of The Mirus Group and move to Pyrmont, and it is where I still work (still a beautiful water-views office!)

At that time, the company was in Mosman, and I lived in the area. The office was phenomenal, with harbour views and my walk to work was incredibly inspiring, meandering through the cozy village and the paths of the Headland Park. I loved the company, the place and the culture (still do). The one thought that distracted me sometimes was that every day I would walk to work and wish I could write on the way, stop at the amazing locations and just sit down on a bench, or at a cafe, and write my heart out.

Alive Co. in Mosman

Alas, I had to get to work on time, and even though I did write before and after work some days, and took to write  during some lunch hours, I had this consistent desire for more time.

Last week I was a bit disappointed because my writing day hadn’t been the most productive and suddenly I had this idea, that now, with my Writing Wednesdays, I could do exactly what I had wanted to do all those days while I was working in Mosman, I could walk the path, and stop for writing along the way… All day long!

It was an incredible experience, I left early with my writing gear, down to Balmoral Beach and all the way alongside it, crossing the Balmoral Park Oval and up the steps (many, many, very steep steps). I stopped at Frenchy’s Cafe for a couple of hours of writing. 

Then I took the track behind the cafe through the Artist Precinct and found the bench with the most beautiful view in the world! Quite predictably, I sat there for another writing sprint… I watched while a guy — who must have a pretty great job — removed weeds from the bush.

When the sky started showing signs that it would fall on me, I continued my walk, and took this picture, bombed by a brisk walker.

By the time I got home, just before the rain really started falling, I had accumulated thousand of steps and, even better, thousands of words!

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

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!

Inspiration Outside of Me

I have finished a Masters in Arts, Creative Writing, at UTS, in June 2015. At the time I didn’t feel the accomplishment, the excitement in finishing up, just a bit of relief. I loved the course most of the time, I loved almost all classes and felt inspired throughout. At the end I was feeling it was just a bit too much outside input into my writing and I was loosing myself.

When I completed the final assignment I was left with more questions than answers. I started the course to gain technique to write in English, but more specifically, the project I used throughout the course: my non-fiction, written like fiction, comedic, novel, about my friend who is a Brazilian, migrated Australian, who has been a belly dancer in Sydney, performing mostly in the middle Eastern Communities of the city.

As you can notice, it is a complicated project and I needed help to set it up. The inspiration and the stories are not a problem, how to link them, present them and frame them is my challenge.

I had hoped that by the end of the Masters I would have found this structure, but I found only the questions I need to answer in order to find this structure and a bit of a sense of being lost.

I gained a lot of technique and believe I am much better equipped now then before I started. I have a thicker skin and a knowledge of where to look for information too.

By the time the Graduation Ceremony arrived I was able to release the impressions of not getting as far as I wanted and had the most beautiful day  with my sister and my friend (the Muse, the Character).

The following day, it was Elizabeth Gilbert who made me realise why I felt and should feel happy and accomplished. We have TED Tuesdays at work and we watched Elizabeth’s talk that day.  She explained that a valid idea is to think of  divine inspiration as, well, divine, as is coming from outside you.

I remembered that when I was in classes no teacher would say: you chose the voice, the tone, the verbal tense, define the character and then you pray, or talk to your daemons, or to your genius, and ask for guidance. As it would be expected, we are taught to control, to wrestle with our internal intellectual gifts and bend the words into shape.

I realised that was the one thing I forgot during these studies, the thing I lost connection with, the part that lives outside of me: the sudden, potent, and magical inspiration that makes a text become funny with a few twists of words, or that make people love what you wrote even when it is imperfect.

When I heard Elizabeth talking about this part of the creative process that is not my own I was relieved of the responsibility to do it all alone, by myself, with my second language, happen. I was given the solution to all my problems and the certainty that it will come to me, and the book will be able to carry the immense fun that the stories are.

I have a super-power, an intuition capable of seeing through the veil of what is hidden to the naked eye. Sometimes I know things without an explanation and most times, when these things can be confirmed, they are as I predicted. I have an intuition about this book, I think it will be important.

The second thing the talk gave me was a confirmation of why I was feeling accomplished. Elizabeth explains that artists have one responsibility: keep doing what they love, keep sweating and showing up to their art. That is the only way your genius will find you. I also concluded that honing your technique and getting better and better at it will allow you to transmit the divine inspiration into shape. Imagine what would happen if Van Gogh was able to see the sunflowers in his mind but didn’t know how to paint. His genius would have gone somewhere else.

With these two thoughts — that an artist has to show up to her art and that technique allows you to make real your ethereal inspirations — I saw my new testamur as the proof of how much I am so committed to this art and that I am doing my part, I am showing up to my writing.