I'm doing test runs this week in preparation for the writing challenge that is scheduled to begin on 1 April.
Yesterday, I wrote down the reasons I wanted to participate in the challenge and also made a plan to succeed.
Accountability, and the definition of consumable words that includes non-fiction (which means blog posts too) are the two main reasons I listed for participating in the challenge.
And in planning for success, I wrote down a few things to bear in mind:
- writing first thing in the morning
- maintaining presence
- showing up everyday in a healthy manner, and
- accepting zero-output days
I forgot to add the most important aspect to this list.
- having fun!
what gets in the way of having fun?
Dean Wesley Smith often says that the key to having a long-term career in writing and publishing is to have fun.
As with almost every other nugget of wisdom in my life, I understood his words intellectually but failed to see how I could apply it to my life, especially on days when the words wouldn't come and my mind was quick to condemn everything I've written and chose to run, completely naked, purely out of habit, down that oft-trodden path of self-flagellation and self-inflicted misery.
This kind of thinking not only showed up in writing but also in parenting and, in general, in everyday life. For instance, the first sensation I'd experience when I woke up in the morning, eyes still closed but my body and other senses alert and waking up, was almost always that of dread.
The endless train of thoughts that I woke up with were something like these. "I don't wish to get up." "When will this day end?" "How am I going to get through this day?" "I don't feel like looking at the manuscript." "Why is it so hard to write?" "What if I never make money as a writer?" "What if we all end up homeless?" "Why am I so depressed?" "Will D grow up to be anxious and depressed seeing me like this?"
Needless to say, none of this was helping me get up and look forward to the day on hand. I had also grown extremely bitter about writing stories and every day I'd wake up deciding I no longer wanted to write.
I had grown so sick of this kind of negative internal monologue that I sought out a therapist earlier this year, and seeing her has made a lot of difference in how I think and behave, especially when it comes to tackling anxieties pertaining to the future.
positivity as a strength
The biggest impetus for me to change how I think and stop myself from falling into those fear spirals came when I unlocked my CliftonStrengths report as part of a workshop I was doing at Better-Faster Academy.
Gallup's CliftonStrengths assessment essentially tests for how your brain is wired based on 34 themes and gives you insights into how you function and how you can use your unique strengths to remain in alignment with who you are and create success for yourself.
Imagine my surprise when my #7 strength was Positivity. It implied that I had infectious energy and enthusiasm, that I held an optimistic outlook on life, and that I am upbeat and can get myself and others excited about what we're going to do.
I cried when I read that because for the longest time I had felt anything but optimistic. Racked with anxieties and worries about the future, I had been stewing in a nightmare of my own making, unable to see any way out.
I had long lost the art of having fun as a parent and having fun as a writer. I had come to loathe school days off as well as days of working on the manuscript.
How could I, this person who dreaded waking up each morning, have Positivity as one of her Top 10 Strengths?
It reminded me of what a completely different person I had been years ago, in a different phase of life. Surely, I was capable of creating joy in my life once more, wasn't I?
I asked this question in a coaching call and was told that given how saturated and unpredictable the market is, the best way to weather these ups and downs is to find ways other than book sales to feel positive about in our writing.
the possibility mindset
Last week, D was at home as schools were closed for March Break. After years of trying to write when he was at home, I've come to see that it is best if I manage to wake up in the morning and write or forego trying to write during the day.
There's nothing right or wrong about it, and now that I have come to accept it, it's been liberating. Last week was nothing but joyful, because instead of worrying about all the words I wasn't getting in, I put my energy and time in planning fun trips out with KrA and D. And we all had such a blast!
One thing that changed was this. Every morning I woke up with that all-too-familiar sensation of dread in the pit of my stomach, but instead of lying in bed and stewing over how I was supposed to get through the rest of the day, I changed the monologue.
I started saying to myself things such as these. "I'm really grateful for this day." "Today is going to be an awesome day." "I'm really glad I can wake up and have a lovely time with KrA and D." "It might feel hard right now but I've got this, I can do hard things."
When I became my own cheerleader, something flipped inside my head, and I began to jump out of bed with much joy and delight and our days were filled with immense happiness.
Of course, that feeling of dread tends to crop up, especially when I'm supremely tired or not paying attention, but now I know how to address it and not let it derail my moments, my days, my life.
So now as I prepare to join the writing challenge, the kind of which I've never attempted to date, I can adopt the same attitude of positivity and a mindset of possibility, which I know I am inherently capable of, which is already one of my innate superpowers, and approach my manuscript with much joy and delight, with much eagerness and rapture, curious to see what turns the story will take, what the characters will show me today, where they will take me in their story.
Because this is the life I have always dreamt of living. Writing. Loving D and KrA. And now that I have it, why am I, myself, standing in the way of my own happiness?
Because this is what life is made of. Moments strung together to form a day, days seguing into each other to compose a life.
When I'm not moaning the past or dreading the future, I can show up wholly, fully to this present moment.
And that is all there is to life. This moment. And then the next. And then the one after that. And so on.
And that is all there is to writing stories as well. This word. And then the next. And then the one after that. And so on.
The goal of adulthood is to let go of the other possible existences and to make the best of the one.
A successful adult is one who understands that it doesn't matter which life you ultimately pick, only that you live it well.
The same potential for, say, happiness exists whether you are a construction worker, porn actor, or wealthy industrialist.
~ Physician Chris Ballas, The Last Psychiatrist
For this is my life.
The one I have.
Not the one I wish I had. Not the one I see other people living.
But this one. This precious, beautiful one.
It is all mine.
And it is entirely up to me how I choose to live it, how awesome I can make it for me and for all those who drift in and out of it.
It is entirely up to me how much fun I have living it.