Day 23/30

Another day where the 4.30 or 5.00 am wakeup didn’t happen and I am trying to cram the time into the end of the day.

Tsk.

Today I’m trying an idea that I borrowed from The Write Practice, which is to write your own writers manifesto. In the article about self-doubt, author Ruthanne Reid says that when she is plagued by self-doubt that prevents her from seeing the truth that “[she is] a writer, and [she is] getting better, and if [she keeps] going, the story [she’s] trying to tell will take shape”, to help her hold onto that truth she has a manifesto. Hers goes like this:

  • I will write when I don’t feel like it.
  • I will write when it hurts.
  • I believe I can write, even if I suck a lot.
  • People want to read what I write. I know because I want to read it, too.
  • It’s okay if I suck right now. I will figure it out and get better.
  • I will not stop writing.

So today’s writing exercise is to come up with my own version of this that I can hold onto when I doubt myself and don’t want to write.

I don’t want to copy what Ruthanne wrote, but I like it. I went back to my 100 reasons why it’s important to me to write that I jotted down a few weeks ago to kick start this process. None of them really seem to fit a manifesto, so I’ll try a few out and see how they look.

  • I will write when I don’t want to.
  • I will write because I’m a writer.
  • I will write for the sake of writing.
  • I will write even if I’m scared.
  • I will write when the voice in my head tells me I can’t write.
  • It’s ok to write badly, because writing badly is better than not writing at all.
  • I will write because writing will make me a better writer.
  • I will write because it’s what I do.
  • I will keep writing.

There. That wasn’t so hard was it? Something else needs to go in there about what I learn from writing permeating my whole life. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s from the book Fearless Writing by William Kenower. I’ll look it up and add it to the post.

I think I’ve cheated my 15 minutes a bit today, but I sat down and did it and I didn’t get distracted. All of this is building my “focus muscle”, which is a muscle that needs significant development in my case.

So I will continue.

 

 

Day 22/30

It’s nearly 6 am and I have spent almost two minutes of my precious writing time setting up the post, waiting for the internet. I don’t think this has been spectacularly successful in terms of a writing experiment. The blog posts probably aren’t necessary. I don’t know what I thought I would achieve by this, but I don’t feel any different and I don’t see the point of what I’ve been doing.

I know. Part of it is the discipline of doing it, but that got wiped out by being sick for a week and writing at random times during the day instead of at the set time to try and build the habit. It’s also meant that the other projects I was going to work on during that precious time in the morning have been set aside, and they were supposed to be my priorities for the period of three months that we are currently in.

I feel confused and focus-less again. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing or even what I want to be doing any more. It’s like being sick has thrown me off course and I can’t find where I was to start making my way back there. I don’t want to start all over. I want to pick up where I left off, but I can’t remember where that was.

I need to exercise but I don’t think my body is ready for 4.30 am walks. (Well let’s face it, they were really 5.00 am walks weren’t they? I wasn’t getting up at 4.30, even though that’s when the alarm went off.) I have so much I want to do but my time in the morning is limited. I can’t get up any earlier without going to bed at a crazy early time that isn’t going to work for anyone. When I do go to bed early/on time, say around 10 pm, it seems like I can only get a good night’s sleep if I had a bad one the night before, so what’s the point?

I had goals for this three months and have done basically nothing towards them. Maybe they are too vague? But this isn’t the case. There are exercises to do and other things that are concrete. They are actual tasks. And I am a great one for rolling tasks forward in my task manager so I never do them. I need a system to deal with excess tasks rather than keeping them on my list forever. Maybe I need one of those “days of pain and suffering” to clear all my backlog.

I don’t wanna. Some days I feel like I’m getting nowhere. My meditation practice sucks. I’ve been doing it for 15 months, close to 18 in reality and I still can’t focus for more than three or four breaths. It’s horrible and I’m starting to hate it. I don’t know what keeps me going with this when there are other things I need to be doing that would actually have a tangible benefit to me that I don’t do and keep rolling over and over and avoiding.

Is this Resistance of which Stephen Pressfield speaks? Perhaps this is where I’m at. Something that I actually need to do I can’t or won’t and something that has no benefit at all I persist with for the sake of a green star on my profile.

Do I turn back to the Epic Quest and gameify everything? I don’t know. I’m confused.

Day 21/30

I’m writing this on my iPad because the internet on my computer is doing that thing where it’s on and off again. It’s so unreliable and frustrating. I’m sitting in the lounge room in front of the TV with the boy watching Masterchef. This is hardly ideal for writing.

I don’t know what to write about.

Something struck me this morning. To quote Gretchen Rubin, the opposite of a profound truth is also true. Our life is full of paradoxes. I am harder on myself than on other things people, yet I expect them to meet my standards in a whole range of areas. I love straight lines but I want to colour outside them and draw swirly whispy lines.

I can do both. I can write for me and I can write for a potential audience. I do this anyway. I write my journal for myself, I write at work for my employer and I write a blog both for myself and for a potential audience. There is no conflict here. I write and I write and that is all.

Now that we have that cleared up, what am I doing today.

I have learned that I need to take more responsibility for the things that are on my watch. I need to set out dates and targets and monitor and review against them. I really need to get organised and serious. I let things get away from me and this has to stop. I might need some help in this but I don’t know who to ask.

I need to become more professional. And I need to implement what I am learning in the productivity course.

And that is all for today.

Day 20/30

Today is a bit different.

For a start it’s 7.48 pm rather than 5.30 am, so I have really missed the boat on the morning words today. Not to worry. I’m doing it. Hooray.

I listened to an interview with Marc and Angel as part of some material I am looking at for Asian Efficiency while I was getting dinner ready. Marc raised an interesting issue and I’m trying to scroll back through the video to pinpoint the exact words. They are discussing knowing your “why” being important in being able to focus and get things done. They are asking  if you can align what you do now so it’s more in line with your purpose. If you don’t know your why, it’s easy to stop doing something if an obstacle comes up and distracts you.

Angel’s saying there is no end – it’s just a journey, you continue to build on it. Marc says you have to be in love with the why and you have to love what you’re doing. He says you don’t do things to do things, you do them to get things done. And the steps that you take to get your goal are more important that getting to the goal.

He’s talking about when they started writing their blog, they started out writing for themselves and they had no readers – they weren’t writing for anyone, but they wrote anyway – their purpose was to write for themselves. So you need the alignment to your why – you have to be doing it for yourself, not to get feedback from others. It has to be for you and there has to be a reason why. If you’re a writer you have to write. If you’re a runner you have to run. You don’t stop.

I think this is very much along the lines of Catherine Deveny’s position – you write for yourself. I have to pull her book out and take a few notes.

How does this balance with the writing tutors who say that you have to write with your reader in mind? For example, in her book How Writing Works, Associate Professor Roslyn Petelin says that you have to make sure your writing is:

  • legible for the reader
  • aesthetically attractive to the reader
  • interesting to the reader
  • understandable to the reader
  • able to be acted on by the reader (page 21)

Writing is a form of communication. So my question is, are you communicating if you aren’t writing for anyone? You’re communicating with yourself perhaps? In her book Use Your Words, Ms Deveny says that “writing changes the world. It connects people”, which implies there is a sense that when you write, somewhere in there is the thought that someone will read your writing.

Associate Professor Petelin goes on to say that “when people write about something they understand and learn it better” and that many creative writers “don’t know what they’re thinking until they start writing about it”, which is almost exactly what Ms Deveny says in her book:

We write because it empties our brains, lightens our emotions and helps us feel more deeply, see more clearly and sleep better. We write to give our thoughts order and explore our emotions. Because it makes us feel more like ourselves; it’s our way of making sense of the world. Most importantly, we write for the same reason we exercise, eat and sleep: it makes us feel better. (Use Your Words, page 24)

I’m sure there is an answer to this dilemma.

Or maybe it isn’t a dilemma at all. I write a journal every night with no expectation that anyone other than me will read it. Writing for me. That’s writing. I’m a writer; it’s what I do.

I write a blog post occasionally and expect that some people might read it and someone might get something out of it. Writing to communicate. That’s writing. I’m a writer; it’s what I do.

But what about “writing” a vague idea that one day I might write a thing that might or might not be deemed by someone to be publication-worthy in a forum smaller than the world of my blog? Do I write with that end in mind when I begin?

Catherine Deveny says no. “Write as if no one will read it,” she says.

I disagree with advice to write with your audience in mind. First, the audience don’t know what they want and never have. People just read, hear or see something and think, “That, yes, that!” Second, if you write to accommodate what you think the audience will want, you will miss out on what your idea or story really is. All this second-guessing will pull you off course and you will end up creating something that’s a response to your assumptions about others, not what you really want to say. (Use Your Words page 30)

It’s hard to argue with that logic.

And now all I need is to find my own why.

Or should I start writing for the sake of writing? Because it’s what I do?

 

Day 19/30

So I have no excuse not to go to work. I feel human enough, I have three antibiotic capsules left and Siri please remind me to cancel my doctor’s appointment at 8.30 when they open. I think I have set three reminders on my phone to do this and it still isn’t in my head that I need to remember to do it.

I half have it in my head that I should go anyway and ask her to sign something to give me so that I only have to work half days for the next week or so, so that I don’t overdo it, but I have part-time hours so I think that will be fine. Today’s my longest day anyway so if I can get through this, the rest of the week will be fine.

Hahaha. Remind me of this when I crash and burn on Wednesday. I still feel a bit congested and my head isn’t 100 per cent OK, but compared with last week, I feel alive again, so that’s a good thing.

What’s in my head?

Not a lot. I’m annoyed about the pea and ham soup not cooking in the slow cooker yesterday. What a pain in the arse that was. In hindsight I should have either put it on high  or transferred it to the pot as soon as I got home. Or used hot water in the slow cooker. I don’t know if you can do that. I don’t see why not.

I see that my Toggl session for sleep is still going on the website, even though I stopped it on my phone. Lots of distracting tabs open on my browser. I should shut them all down. There’s not much point in going fullscreen if I still have all the tabs open is there?

I seem to have some dried bread dough stuck to my jumper. I need to do a good wash of all the things I’ve been wearing while I’ve been sick. Note that down somewhere will you? All those days I stayed in bed most of the day and didn’t have a shower and wore the same clothes. They need to be rid of the sickness as much as I do.

Hahaha look what I wrote there. My clothes need to be rid of the sickness. Hahahaha. Next I’ll be talking like Marie Kondo and talking to them. Oh dear, this will never do.

Still a bit congested. I wish it would stop. I’d like to feel 100 per cent again. I suppose that will take a few more days. Maybe weeks. I’ve been tossed around a lot so I need to take time to recover. So no walking just yet. No working out or anything. I need to pause my Nerd Fitness emails. Maybe I respawn again and work through the early weeks.

No that would be boring. I was itching to get out and do something. Maybe I just work on the nutrition and mindset modules and forget about the workout ones. I think that’s it. I’ll keep working through them and leave the workout ones for now. I think they say that nutrition is 90 per cent of getting in shape, so if I don’t work out for a few more weeks, that shouldn’t matter and I should be able to see noticeable changes just by concentrating on my food and mind. Circle back to modules 1 and 2 of Replenish 365, which are now finished, but that’s where I need to be. Ok so what’s the plan? Actually the Rest pillar is on now, so maybe that’s a good place to start.

Day 18/30

I’m not sure this experiment has worked. I mean the idea was to write for 15 minutes first thing in the morning, either before or after my walk, and for the last week I haven’t gone for a walk in the morning because I’ve been sick, and have spent most of the day sleeping. So I’ve squeezed in 15 minutes during the day when I could to fulfil the obligation rather than to cement the habit.

It’s not what I wanted. I’ve done the task to some degree but not the way I wanted. I know! Perfectionism rules right? Is it better to have done it but not the way I intended, or should I have stopped and started again once I had my morning routine back in place? How long would it have taken to get my morning routine back in place? How long will it take?

Today I feel better. I still feel the remnants of my cold, and I know I’ll have to take it easy over the next couple of weeks to ease back into things. I think that means in the interests of my health and in staying warm I won’t go outside and walk. I don’t think this would be good for me in my current state. The danger here is that I’ll get used to not going outside and, when I’m fully recovered, will find any excuse not to do it. I’m sure I’ll use the “sinus infections can take 12 weeks to fully resolve” as an excuse not to go walking until September, and then I’ll find another excuse not to do it then.

None of which is helping me with my writing. Perhaps I should focus on that instead. Build back the meditation habit and build in the writing habit. What if I started with some indoor exercises – some yoga or stretches that I can do without pushing my body so that I don’t lost the physical momentum altogether? Perhaps that’s a way forward.

I was saying to my Nerd Fitness buddy yesterday that I had intended to do some stretches every night before bed, wrote it into my habit list, but never did it because what I was planning was too vague. What I needed to do was set out exactly what stretches I would do, when and where. So this is what I need to focus on. Defining some gentle exercise that I can do in place of walking in the cold until I am fully recovered.

So am I rebuilding my morning routine? I still need to fit in meditation, writing and my 30-minute focus work, which, too, has been sadly neglected in my weeks of illness (and even beforehand, as I wasn’t getting up early enough to fit them in with my new writing habit). I need to get up at a sensible time and get to bed at a time that allows me to do all of this, because lack of sleep too is a contributing factor to inflammation (as I believe it stops the body healing itself and calming inflammation). So I think I’m basically going to have to start again from scratch.

11pm bedtime and 4.30 wakeups are unsustainable long term, and perhaps this illness has been a (figurative) wakeup call to that. But I have to get up before everyone else or I will get interrupted (like I just have been, even with the door shut) and won’t be able to concentrate (like I’m not now).

Ok so the challenge for this week is to reset. Let’s go.

Day 17/30

Today I have no excuse for not writing this morning. Other than I didn’t get up when I could have. I suppose technically I still should be resting. I’m on Day 5 of the antibiotics and one of my new online friends, who gets sinus infections every couple of years says it takes until Day 5 to feel human again and that I’m right where I should be.

I guess this is a good thing. It’s the best I’ve felt since Monday. Possibly even Sunday. I don’t know. Definitely when I thought I was getting better anyway. Before I came crashing down in a heap.

This is hardly inspiring writing. Maybe I should start writing a story.

Katie looked up. She hadn’t expected to see the

The what? The who? Where the hell is this going?

She hadn’t expected to see that more than four hours had passed since she’d started work on this painting. While at the beginning it had been hard to get her rhythm, after a few false starts, she’d found herself swept into the process without even realising it.

She stepped back and surveyed her canvas.

What she saw was nothing like she’d expected. It was the result of four hours of her pouring out her frustrations, anger, grief and sadness from the past six months. There was nothing beautiful about this work. It was bold, dark and heavy. Fiery slashes of red punctured pockets of solid blackness. Dark spirals weaved their way down the page, giving the impression of deep despair and hopelessness. Arrows pointed downwards and silhouettes of figures mourning, grieving, screaming gathered in groups of two or three, together yet separate.

Day 16/30

Why write?

I guess this is the question. Why write? Is it just for the sake of writing? To get my words out of my head and onto the page, with no real intention that anyone read it? Or to get my words and my stories out of my head first, with potential for people to read it later?

If so, then is this the approach proposed by Ms Deveny? To sit down and write, not matter what it is or how good it is, just because you want to write? So you don’t learn to write by reading and analysing the text of others, or by studying the structure of language. You learn simply by doing. Is that what she’s saying? I think I need to re-read the book again to be sure on her message.

Do I write because I am a writer, and it is a craft I wish to master? Do I wish to study the work of writers whose work I admire to find out what it is that appeals, to study how language works and how to best use words to convey my message. Is this a different type of writing altogether than than promoted by Ms Deveny? By seeking to become a true master of the written word, to seek critical feedback that would enable me to be a better, more skilled writer, to develop a valuable skill that could set me apart from others? To develop a craftsman’s mindset.

Is there value in doing this? I mean anyone can write. Anyone can sit down at a keyboard and type out some sentences that make sense, and that tell a story. Is there value in refining one’s writing such that it becomes “better” than “I’ve sat down at the keyboard and hammered out a story”? Is there value in taking the time to hone the skill?

If I just want to tell the stories, perhaps there isn’t. Especially if I have no real intended audience.

What I’m trying to establish is whether people appreciate a well-written story told by a craftsman more than they appreciate something that’s been written by a less skilled writer.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. It’s really just ideas floating round in my head. To a “write for the sake of writing” writer, learning the craft in detail might seem a lot like perfectionism – I can’t write anything until I know the ins and outs of style and of how to structure a sentence. I’m sure that isn’t the intention. You still need to write. You need to put the skills into practice, so that the study doesn’t become paralysing. Learn. Write. Polish. Reflect. Learn more. Write more. Repeat.

 

 

Day 15/30

A quick check in here. I have been struck down by a vile sinus infection that hit me after last week’s head cold, and I cannot ever remember feeling as bad as I do now for so long. I’ve been off work for three days. I’ve only been out to take my son to school and pick him up (on the bus, which takes a lot longer than it would if I had the car) because hubby has been away this week. Otherwise I’d have gone nowhere, apart from the doctor.

Usually when I’m not well I can rest a bit, read a bit, rest some more, catch up on some easy personal stuff, rest more. But this time I’ve felt so bad, I haven’t been able to do anything except sleep.

My demanding brain keeps pointing to my to-do list and telling me all the things I should be doing. My sensible brain is telling it to shut up and I need actual sleep, not just rest, and while reading/pottering about might be ok when I’m not super-sick, this time I am super-sick and I can’t do that stuff.

So letting go of the need to be doing stuff, listening to my body and doing what it needs has been a big challenge for me this week.

I’m really frustrated, because in the last few weeks I had been finding myself in a really good place. I was starting to finally realise where I was heading in a couple of areas in my life and starting to put things in place.

But this week it’s like my body has said, “Hey there, you’re not changing anything, you’re gonna stay right where you are. What can I do to stop you? Ooooh I know, massive amounts of pain, fuzzy headedness and the inability to do anything other than sleep. That’ll stop this nonsense! Ha. Just you try and move things forward. I’m not letting you.”

I feel like I will never get over this (it’s been three days, feels like forever) and I’m scared that when/ if I do, I will have lost all motivation to get back on track.

So there’s my pity party/complaining/moaning moment for the day.