Towards a More Beautiful Life

I’m heads-down on my revision. It is going well, and I am having fun again with my writing. There are several factors that contribute to the positive flow I’m experiencing. I believe  they are all things that can apply equally well to any endeavor – including the all-important endeavor of living a good life.

Witness Joy

In no particular order:

 Witness Joy

Earlier this week, I got to sit in on a Geology for non-Geologists class.  I’ll kick a rock down the road when I walk, but I don’t crouch down to check it out. The presenter at this class was a crouch-down-and-check-out-that-rock type of guy. He is passionate about geology. He is funny, knowledgeable, and a good presenter, but what shone brighter than all of those was his joy. It is a wonderful experience to witness someone talk about the things they love. It gives me hope that there is something warm at the core of what seems to be an inconsiderate and cruel existence. It makes me want to do things that matter to me. Witnessing joy enlivens my soul.

Give Back

At the beginning of the year, I decided I would write a GoodReads review for every book I finish in 2012. The reasoning was that not only would this help me be a better writer by learning from others, but it would also be a way to give back to the reading community.  In July, I was struggling with my WIP and falling behind in my book reviews. When I counted up the number of books I needed to review, I was stressed. Epictetus says, “Everything has two handles, one by which it may be borne, the other by which it may not.” I was grabbing my book review backlog by the wrong handle. I was looking at it as just another task, and not viewing it through the lens of my intentions. I am not just writing reviews: I am giving back to a community that I have belonged to for almost three decades. Sharing feels good. The simple fact is that feeling good is more beneficial to getting into a creative flow than feeling bad, so why not choose to frame situations in a way that make me feel good?

Fill Your Belly with KINDness

I am the Kind Bar evangelist! I love the sesame chocolate bar. I love the nutty crunch of the seeds enrobed in rich chocolate. It is a bit o’ rectangular heaven. It’s also healthy. I don’t live on Kind bars (mmm, to be so lucky!), but I do eat five small meals throughout the day, and include generous helpings of fresh veggies, seasonal fruit, yogurt – and yes, Kind bars. I have found that eating smaller meals more frequently has an amazing effect on my mood, concentration, and creativity. The sugar highs and subsequent crashes are bad memories. The late afternoon downslide of my mood due to hunger is a thing of the past. When I eat matters as much as what I eat. By sustaining my body thoughtfully, I can take on a lot more and still smile.

Be Intense

My time is fractured by demands that come in from all directions. Over the course of July, I realized that I was spending just as much time trying to switch between different tasks than I was spending actually doing the tasks. None of the tasks were things I was willing to drop, so I had to find a better way to manage my time. I tried blocking out sections of time within the day dedicated to different tasks, but the stress of working under constant mini-deadlines was stalling my productivity. What finally worked for me was to batch up similar tasks and pick a day in the future that would be dedicated to working through those tasks. The feeling of constantly struggling to keep up was replaced with a sense of control over how – and when – I get things done. I work, write, blog, love, laugh, read, and practice friendship in intense, single-minded bursts. When I go all in, the results are better than when I’m frazzled and fragmented. I hope this is a lesson I don’t forget.

Embrace Pandora

I was a write-in-silence kind of girl until I got stuck trying to figure out this WIP. All of my writer friends report great experiences writing while listening to music, and I bought some tracks from Amazon to play in the cloud (neat stuff). Those tracks came out of my book budget, so I can’t do that very often and still read. I ended up revisiting Pandora, the internet radio. I am not new to Pandora; I’ve listened to it for things like repainting my sunroom or scrubbing the house, but I’d never tried it while writing. It turns out that music does help me write. It pulls me through those dread blank pages, carrying me on the inspirations of other artists.

I’m working on learning to live a beautiful life. If I were one to believe in signs (and I am!), I’d believe I was on the right track. What else could seeing three shooting stars in one week mean?

May all your portents be good!

-aniko

 

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Reading the Bee Leaves

It is August. In January, I’d planned to have my book to my editor by July. It is not at the editor; it is not even complete.

If this book is a baby, then this is a breach birth. Everything is coming out backwards. My work in progress is the first in a series, but I didn’t realize it needed to be written until I had already completed the draft for the second book. That was inconvenient, but not as gut-wrenching as getting to the end of the first draft of my WIP and realizing that it is faulty.

Over the course of July, I found it harder and harder to work on my WIP. The more I wrote, the more confused I got. I started taking naps instead of writing. If you are ever me, and suddenly find you want to nap instead writing, I want you-who-is-me to know that means something is wrong. R-O-N-G, wrong.

So I stopped.

I stopped writing. I tried on the idea of not finishing my WIP, of having hours of time not dedicated to what I only half-jokingly call my “second job.” I even announced it to a couple of people, but I knew it was no use. I can’t decide to stop writing any more than a woman can decide half-way through birthing her child to just stop. The story’s coming out, one way or another.

Last weekend, I was panicked that I was stuck writing a stillborn book, depressed at the idea of all the wasted time I’d already spent working on it, and anxious to figure some way out of the mess. I also had a week’s worth of laundry to do. I took my heavy laundry basket and my heavy thoughts and went out to the garage. I opened the door to let in the sunlight, and started loading the washer as if filling it would stopper the wellspring of my dismay. It was then that I heard it.

A buzzing noise.

I focused on the sound, following my curiosity across the garage. It was a bumble bee. He was trying to fly into the opening of an air tool, but he couldn’t fit because he was holding a leaf. All six of his buzzy-bee legs were clutched around the tiniest, green leaf. He did not give up just because the path seemed insurmountable. He just kept banging his head and holding his leaf. I went to get Mr. Aniko, saying, “Have you ever seen a bee do that?” No, he hadn’t. And he pointed out that the bee had dropped several leaves on the workbench. They were not whole leaves, but sections that he had apparently cut –  somehow, improbably cut – and transported back to the power tool in our garage.

Maybe the bee had a purpose. Maybe he was just crazy. All I know is that by taking that pause, by allowing my focus to drift away from my problems with the novel, I had freed myself from the panic and doubt. So the novel wasn’t working? If the bee can keep trying different sized leaves, why couldn’t I just… try a different approach? Introduce a straw character earlier, give her meaning. Cut out the rambling (but fun!) scenes of people getting drunk on something purple. Take a break to plan what is missing and organize what is left to do.

There’s still a long way to go. The important thing is that I understand where the characters are leading me. This may not be an easy birth, but I have faith that it will result in exactly the book that is meant to be written.

In honor of that bee and his leaves, I give you Just Like Honey:


Just Like Honey, Jesus and Mary Chain

 

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