When I left for the writing workshop and retreat at Limnisa on the Greek peninsula of Methana two weeks ago, I was hoping that the trip would give me new inspiration to work on my writing. However, me being who I am, I was also overcome with feelings of anxiety and apprehension. What if, despite these ideal circumstances, my mind remains trapped within this barren landscape devoid of ideas and fantasies and I still am not able to make any significant progress with my writing? Am I then forced to conclude that the noble art of writing is not suitable for one the likes of me after all? And what if I can’t get along with the other people, or more likely, what if they can’t get along with me because I’m being such a bore? Sigh… in other words I was overcome by the same worries that always trouble me no matter what I’m doing. You would have thought I would have learnt by now. Fortunately, these worries did not offset my initial enthusiasm, and with the power of hindsight, I can now safely say that these were completely unwarranted, and that the last two weeks have exceeded even my wildest expectations.
I have struggled a lot with feelings of anxiety during the past few months. Lately I’m slowly getting back to the belief that anxiety is not an affliction but is very much a part of ourselves, a sign that we actually care deeply about something (partly thanks to this article). So in light of this, and highly inspired by the charts from the brilliant Elisabeth Fosslien (here and here), I decided to poke a little bit of geeky fun at my feelings of anxiety by creating some charts that express them. Sometimes a little bit of humour is the best remedy against feeling sorry for myself.
How it works is that there I always first show the ‘ideal’ situation, after which I show the actual situation in 3 important areas of my life: work, writing and love. The point is that the actual situations often deviate quite sharply from the ideal situation. The actual situations are not fixed however. Through personal development and life experience, we hope to approach the ideal curve in the end.
I hope you’ll have fun with these charts. Who knows? Perhaps you will even gain a little bit of insight 😉
P.S. Click on the charts for a larger view.
What is the Correlation Between Passion and Anxiety?
The writing and love curves consist of dotted lines instead of an unbroken line. This is because that even though the curves cover the entire x-axis, it is impossible to go below a certain threshold of ‘caring’. Thus the dotted lines are to represent that not all the points on the curve are within the realms of possibility, but are hypothetical instead. (Does that make sense?)
How do I spend my time?
The Comfort Zone
Someone shared this diagram on Facebook the other day. As much as I like this diagram, for my own purposes I’m going to look at it in a slightly different way. I like to imagine that we are able to expand and move our comfort zone as part of our personal development. Where our comfort zone overlaps with the magical stuff, that’s where magic becomes reality.
I also want to extend the concept of the comfort zone to include the state where you (pretend to) stop caring anymore in order to get rid of your feelings of anxiety.
I have been tagged by Bryna from Everyday Epic for the Lucky Seven Meme.
Here’s how it works:
1. Go to page 77 of your current manuscript or work in progress
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines – sentences or paragraphs as they are written. No cheating!
4. Tag 7 authors and let them know.
The problem is that all I have currently are scraps of writing instead of something that can be considered as a whole, so I don’t actually have a proper manuscript or even a longer work-in-progress (um… yes, I should really start focusing on one single project). I do not have anything close to page 77 yet, although I do have a story of which I have some material, even if they are not all sequential and are contained within different notebooks. So I have to improvise. This is ‘more or less’ starting from line 7 from page 7 (instead of 77) of the notebook I am most recently working in, and it falls in the middle of a semi-long monologue. Enjoy (hopefully)! And for the non-writers among you, please understand that this is still very unpolished 🙂
“But there is a different type of man who possess the fortitude to withstand the winds of fate. Men who are not content of drifting wherever these winds blow. Men who have the ability to change the directions of these winds so that they create their own fate, as well as of those around them. Men like Lord Robert. Men like Sir Bruce. Men like me.
“You realize that I could have easily have you executed if I wished. You may think you are behaving like a great knight when you decided to defy me, to remain angry and to contemplate vengeance for the sake of your companions. But all that bravado would have amounted to nothing with a single command from my side.
Well, that’s it! Thanks to Bryna for tagging me!
Even as I am writing this, I still have no clear idea what it is I’m going to write. Everything I can think of to write about seems futile and banal. These thoughts and words swirling inside my mind do not seem to make sense at all. I truly do not know what I want to write about.
However, what I do know is that I just have to write something… anything at all. It has been more than 3 months since I’ve last updated my blog. Since then it has been languishing away in a remote corner within cyberspace while I purposely avert my gaze and try my best not to think about it. But for days — weeks even — I can sense it calling out to me, gnawing slowly upon my guilty conscience until I could ignore it no longer.
“Come back to me,” it whispers. “Feed me with your thoughts. Nurture me with your words so that I may prosper once again.”
“How? How can my words and thoughts possibly do you justice?” I respond.
“How can your silence and negligence possibly do me justice?” it replies.
So I finally concede. This is why I am here once again typing these silly words on my keyboard. This is why I am here once again to reveal my foolish thoughts to the world (or more specifically the few people who read my blog).
“See, this doesn’t make any sense at all!” I cry out in a last-ditch attempt to stop writing this.
“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have to make sense. Sometimes the only way to make sense is to stop worrying about making sense.”
“Argh! I give up! I can’t argue with you any longer. There! I just published this stupid post. Happy now?”
I was working on a scene in my short story this past weekend when a very strange thought struck me. Do I really want to use this scene in my short story already? I mused to myself. Perhaps I should save it for the future, when I finally start writing my novel. Ok ok, so it was a particular passage that I liked because it reveals a lot about myself, but come on, it wasn’t even that good to begin with. Isn’t that weird? And this wasn’t even the first time that the thought had occurred to me.
I wonder which part of my perfectly flawed personality is responsible for this most curious thought. Is it the part of me which is so delusional and detached from reality that it borders on megalomania? I’ve never written anything more than a few pages when it comes to a novel, which is why I even switched to short stories in the first place. At this stage I’m just learning to be productive and gaining experience in my craft and I’m really just happy to write anything at all. I have absolutely no right or any logical basis to want to ‘save’ a particular piece of writing which I may or may not use in a novel which I may or may not write in a future which may or may not occur and imagine how delightful it will sound to my readers which may or may not exist.
Or perhaps it is the part of me that is constantly insecure and which has very little faith in my own abilities? This is the best that I can do! Oh my god, I suck! And so I feel like I need to hoard every single piece of writing which I even remotely consider to be any good at all, and in the hope that one day I will end up with enough good material to piece together a novel. Come to think of it, this part of me is also pretty delusional, but mostly out of fear. There’s no need to fear of course. If there’s one thing I should know by now is that I am constantly improving as a writer. There’s no reason to believe that I won’t become a better writer in the future as long as I keep practicing.
Whatever the reason, can I agree with myself that this line of thinking is complete and utter nonsense? It not only hinders my progress, but it is also detrimental to the quality of my writing if I start worrying about whether I should use a certain passage not because I worry if it fits within the story but whether I should save it for the future. Besides, it implies that the story I am working on right now is somehow less important than this non-existent novel I am yet to write (or not). If the story I’m working on is really that unimportant, then why do even I work on it in the first place? And why do I think about it every day?
Now, let us ignore these absurd thoughts and just write the damn thing, shall we?
2011 is slowly drawing to a close and since it is never too early to start thinking about resolutions, I have decided to make up my own list of rules that I need to adhere if I want to become a more prolific writer. This short list is mainly based on other pieces of writing advice as well as observations on my own writing habits. After some thought, I believe these are the rules that make the most sense for me personally. Some of these may be painfully obvious when you read it, but just because something is obvious doesn’t mean that I will necessarily do it, so it’s always good to write them down as a reminder. Speaking of obvious… Continue reading