a new, intentional way of living

On the joys of progressing at my own pace while living fully

a new, intentional way of living
Photo by Ling Tang on Unsplash

Yesterday was a long day.

We had an appointment for a travel application.

So we first drove 80 km to Toronto, a journey that took us an hour and a half, then spent two and a half hours waiting for our turn at the application centre. It then took another hour for our applications to be checked and submitted. Finally, the drive back to Burlington took me just a little over an hour because I was driving at about 140 km/hr almost the entire route.

We reached Burlington just in time for me to drop KrA at the eye doctor's where he had an appointment for an eye infection, and then made my way to pick up little D from school. Then we made it to an Indian restaurant for dosa, paav bhaji and Nutella milkshake. No illusions about our capacity to go home and cook a gourmet meal after having spent the entire day outside, driving and waiting.

Finally we returned home, overstuffed and hot and knackered. I switched on my laptop for long enough to check email and upload a couple of documents (again for that travel application). A warm shower, and then I was in bed with a book.

I did open the manuscript to see if I could manage my 500 words of fiction for the day, but the words I had typed swam in front of my eyes. I went to bed quite early and thought if I woke up at an odd hour, I'd do well to return to the manuscript and start typing instead of staying in bed, restless, tossing and turning, an endless stream of thoughts running in my head.

Funnily, when I first woke up I thought it was already 6:30 AM. I made to wake up KrA, then realized it was only 5:30 AM. A moment's hesitation, and then I wondered 'What if?'

What if I went and opened the story I'm writing and see what happens?

What happened was that I spent a delightful hour writing more of the story and enjoying it every bit. I've already met today's word count goal and more than made up for yesterday's missed day.

I was sorely tempted to keep writing this morning after dropping D off at school, but I know what lies that way.

Slow and steady. I'm in no rush. I'd much rather maintain a steady pace daily than crash and burn by trying to do a whole lot in one day.

There is so much I want to say about my learnings from this experience, so I'm trying to put my thoughts in some semblance of order.

But the thing is I need a lot of real-life experience to feel alive and joyful as a person, which then feeds into my writing.

I'm simply not the kind to sit in a room and write for 6 hours at a stretch, day after day after day. I'd probably be able to do it for one day and then never want to write another word for the next several weeks!

It's because I feel most alive when I'm out in the real world, doing real-life stuff. Like dropping off D at school and picking him up. Playing with him. Being silly with him and KrA. Chatting. Reading books. Cooking. Cleaning. Doing a last-minute shopping run before D's upcoming birthday party. Meeting friends. Taking an interest in other people. Going for a walk. Filling petrol in the car. Doing a library run. Filling out travel application forms. Filing taxes. Sending necessary emails. Planning for and going on long drives. Exploring new places with D. Having a shower. Doing the laundry. Folding clothes. Giving D an oil massage.

None of these are distractions from writing. Writing is not more important or less important than any of these things. In fact, neither of these things are any more or any less important than any of the others.

I've come to see that it is only when we make some things important and others less so that we fall in trouble.

If writing is important and doing the laundry less so, then my attitude towards laundry is one of resentment and angst. I keep putting away laundry for as long as possible, until one of us runs out of clean undergarments. And then I spend almost an entire day loading and unloading the washing machine and the dryer — usually 3 loads' worth — and folding clothes at the end of it all, all the time resenting how much time this is taking away from my writing.

Setting a seemingly modest word count goal of 500 words of fiction per day is not only helping me write that much and more, but I'm also able to go about necessary life tasks with much joy and ease.

Time doesn't feel like a scarce commodity anymore, and there seems to be enough time to live a full life.

Another unexpected gift I received from the Universe yesterday came in the form of a blog post by Dean Wesley Smith, busting many of the myths of indie publishing, and some very valuable comments from readers.

I had bought into some myths of what a successful indie publishing career or journey should look like.

  1. I thought I had to keep churning out 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 words per day if I were really passionate about writing.
  2. I thought I had to spend many hours at my desk, writing, and not be burdened by life tasks such as the ones I mentioned above, including looking after my child for more hours in a day than is necessary.
  3. I thought I had to start earning money and ramp up my income quickly by publishing and selling as many books as I can, as fast as I can, if I were to make this a full-time career.

In yesterday's post, Dean wrote the following:

In indie publishing, the blogs and articles are full of “You must…” commands. And poor beginning writers believe that once they have started a series, “They must…” write the next book and the next and so on and faster and faster and faster. All with the excuse that their fans will be angry at them.
This type of writing to order is deadly as well for indie writers, and much quicker death than the slow, painful death of traditional writers trying to chase a moving market that no one understands. Indie writers with this kind of belief in the myth of writing to market just flat burn out.
~ Dean Wesley Smith

And these lines below hit me smack in the middle of my forehead and made me realize how much I had bought into these myths of rapid publishing to earn a lot of income right off the bat to establish myself as a full-time author.

The truth that is in indie you can write what you want, as fast or as slow as you want.
If you can ignore the myths that swirl around this craziness and write the books you want and sell them wide, all over the world, you have a great chance at long-term success. It might be slower in the start than those who flash and burn out. But you will be at least happy.
~ Dean Wesley Smith

That was me, alright. Burnt out and desperate to do anything other than writing fiction for the rest of my life.

The comments to the post are just as insightful, and one of the commenters by the name of Philip had this to say:

Another Indie Myth: Success for everyone means quitting your day job, and quitting it as fast as possible, to become a full time writer.
Writing is my passion and hobby. I just happen to monetize. Don’t get me wrong, I do hope it grows into a very healthy income supplement in 20 or so years when I retire, but I don’t burden my Creative Voice with the panic that everything I write must be a blockbuster hit to change my life overnight.
I write for fun and I write because I have to. My soul needs it. I’m in it for the long-term. $50,000/year starting 20 years from now would be just fine. I just want to share my joy with readers.
~ Philip commenting on Dean's blog post

I feel so liberated after reading this post and this comment. So free of the burdens I had placed on myself to make a living from my writing.

Everytime I'd send out my monthly newsletter, I'd be disappointed thinking of the handful few I'm sending it out to. Newsletter analytics are also pretty unreliable now, what with email spam bots and such.

But everywhere I turn, there are books and 'how tos' on sending a newsletter, setting up a welcome sequence, giving away books for free ... I've downloaded so many free books in a frenzy over the past several months and I haven't opened a single one of them so far!

There are so many things going on, so much advice being doled out, but very little resonates with me. And that had led me to keep doubting myself, berating myself to be someone else, following the herd, doing what the experts are goading everyone to do.

I am very lucky to be following Dean and that he's doing these blog posts now on busting writing myths. Such eye-openers. I've also been loving the comments posted by Philip; they are just as eye-opening and insightful and wise.

I never liked the angst I kept feeling these past couple of years when it came to writing and parenting and living. It always felt as if I was doing things wrong.

What I'm now beginning to see is that I was trying to do a lot more than I possibly could in a single day, and was in a crash-and-burn cycle. I had also deemed some kinds of work as more important than others — I had become an art monster, as Rachel Friedman said in And Then We Grew Up — which filled my day-to-day existence with a lot of resistance to life and its simple beauty.

Now, giving up all those myths and being able to see how alive these day-to-day experiences make me feel has been one of those life-altering shifts in perspectives I'm experiencing.

Thank you, Universe. I am grateful for these lessons.

The other realization I've had is the power of intention.

Last night I went to bed thinking that if I woke up at an odd hour, I'd return to the story and write. I think sending that message to my subconscious made it easier for me to actually get to the manusript when I woke up at 5:30 this morning and had a full hour to spare before it was time to start prepping for D to go to school.

I usually have enough visibility for the following day, so instead for a week in advance, this simply act of setting an intention for just the next day seems to be a great tactic.

Small, modest goals for me.

Small, modest plans for me.

Day after day after day after day ...

That's all it takes.

Moment after moment after moment.

Day after day after day.

It is a wonderful way to live!