Happy Thanksgiving Day 2018!

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Another year has gone by. It’s now autumn, and I’m happy to say I can’t see the dark shadow of seasonal depression yet. I’m welcoming the cold with open arms. Summer was hot, and I’ve spent most of it gardening and taking care of our yard; now all that remains is to put things away for winter and snuggle up inside with a cup of warm decaf something.
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This past year has been tiring in three different ways: I was burnt out last winter, physically more active than usual over spring and summer, and now I’m back to being anxious about money (money is my nemesis). But in the end, I’ve made it through.

I find it important to make a list of thing’s I’m thankful for every year. It wards off seasonal depression and helps me focus on what went well and not on my current problems to solve. This year, I’m thankful for:

  • The improvement in my mental health. I’ve stopped taking my anxiety meds over Christmas. I’m still vulnerable, so I’ve been forced to stop drinking caffeine (which makes me anxious and unable to sleep), start yoga again (to deal with the pain in my neck caused by stress) and various other mildly annoying health improvements, but I’m proud of the work I’ve done to get to this point. It’s a small victory.
  • My husband. I know I’ve been stressed and not always so pleasant to be around, but he understands that my mood will never be as equal as his. We also got to spend a lot of time together this summer, both as a couple and as a family, and it was refreshing.
  • My friends. Since I work from home, the only people commonly I see in a week are my husband and my kid. If it wasn’t for my NaNoWriMo community, whom I chat with on a daily basis, and my other friends whom I see once in a while, I’d be a very lonely person.
  • The strength to push through in my writing endeavours. I didn’t use to be so driven; I used to be scattered and not to believe that I could ever escape the soul-crushing routine of day-jobs… Now at least I have hope, and it’s enough to keep me going.
  • Work. I won’t lie, this past year has been straining on that front. For the last 5 years, I’ve been alternating between burnouts and money issues due to lack of work; I’m starting to think that money will never cease to be a problem for us, but then again we’re lucky to have zero debts (no, a mortgage isn’t a debt).
  • My house. It might sound silly and materialistic, but having lived in a tiny, dark and smelly basement apartment, I know how much one’s environment can impact their mood. My house is nothing glamour, but I find it charming.
  • 20180806_094833cPeople’s generosity. My mother gave me over 30 varieties of plants from her garden just this year. My father built a rustic handrail from scratch for our basement staircase. My husband’s company refurnished their offices and gave away old desks, file cabinets, bookcases, chairs, monitor stands… I’ve fully furnished my home office with those. As a bonus, my new desk is adjustable in height and my new chair has adequate lumbar support, so I hope it’ll mean my back problems are in the past! My aunt offered us her old dining room set, which she’d used only a few years before she declared it too big for her kitchen… I jumped on the occasion, because our own was starting to fall apart, but also because it’s precisely the style I was looking for. It looks splendid in our dining room! From our neighbours, we got an entry hall bench and chest of drawers that we upcycled into a TV console (the TV used to be on a table the size of a nightstand). We were given most of the pieces of furniture in our house, so at present, it looks more like Molly Weasley’s house than Martha Stuart’s… but at least now the house is almost fully furnished, if not stylish.

All in all, 2018 has been more gentle on me than 2017. We’ve been very lucky. Of course, I wish we could have more stability, and the fact that the slow summer ate up the entirety of my “rainy days funds” is stressful, but considering the fragility of my mental health, I think we’re doing well enough.

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

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Am I Passionate Enough?

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

– Benjamin Franklin

Have you ever talked to an artist who seemed so passionate you couldn’t help feeling they had better chances than you of “making it”?
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During my second creative writing course, one of my classmates said he had an online writing friend who affirmed that she “couldn’t not write, that she needed to say things, to avoid complicity with injustice and fight for what she believed in, no matter the personal cost”. Intense, uh? In a market filled with that kind of writers, how can someone who only writes for the fun of it find their place?

I’ve known a lot of artists who feel like they’re not “real” artists because it seems to them like their passion doesn’t equate that of others—and they’re not any less talented or successful. That being said, most of the time, I don’t share that feeling. Of course, when anxiety kicks in, I might have an inch of doubt about my level of passion, but otherwise, I’m too busy trying to control my passion so it won’t burn me to ashes.

Passion is overrated.

Unlike my classmate’s friend, I wouldn’t say that I’m “fighting” for anything, as in: I don’t have a grand political agenda. I need to write to make sense of the world, to understand how other people think and feel, and to express all those emotions that, despite my knack for words, I am unable to express in any “direct” way. I can only express those subconsciously, with metaphors and symbols, much like in a dream…

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I haven’t always felt that way. I’ve had to go through a lot to realize how strong my own passion was. I used to think that I could just give up writing, like I gave up drawing or swimming… but when it repeatedly resulted in my losing a sense of purpose in life, I finally got the point. And that was two years after my depression, during which I became suicidal and the only regret I had contemplating my own death was that I’d never finished a novel. Yeah, I have the emotional quotient of a robot.

Unrestrained passion can be destructive.

Through my own experience and that of all the passionate people I’ve met, I know that too much passion looks very much like an addiction… an obsession. It can get in the way of your personal life until your passion is all that’s left. But you can’t live on passion alone; you need to take care of your body, to have people around you for moral support, etc. Having a job is already not so fun, but it’s a nightmare when every single one of your brain cells screams that it’s a waste of time. Not to mention that you don’t feel too good about yourself when you finally manage to make time to be with your loved ones, yet you feel like you’d rather be writing.

Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood describes very well how some artists sacrifice themselves on the altar of their craft, and how it sometimes end up in a suicide.

Passion is fuel.

Use it well, and it will be a valuable tool; misuse it and it’ll explode in your face. Use your passion to fuel your work, but don’t let it consume you. When it comes down to it, what really matters is putting in the work. Mozart might be considered a genius, but he still worked a lot. Bach wasn’t a genius… he worked even harder. In the end, the non-genius achieved a comparable level of greatness as the genius. Isn’t that inspiring?u20a

Go write now, you hard-working bundle of passion and creativity.

“I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.”
– Johann Sebastian Bach

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Confession of a scatterbrain, or how to fail fast

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What my pile of projects end up looking like…

It always starts with good intentions. “I’ll focus on this one book,” I think. “Plus my blog. This one book and my blog, I can manage that much! Well, that plus a creative course once in a while. Oh, but here comes a short story challenge! I want to try that too! Just one short story per month, I can manage that much! And what a nice – free – writing contest! I want to try!” Urgh.

I get exhausted. I miss blogging weeks, I neglect my novel.

I translated something a few weeks ago on the concept of “failing fast” in business: you try new products, give up quickly those that don’t work and pursue the ones that do – it’s often more cost-effective than extensive market research. At the time, I failed (haha) to see how I could use it in my own life; it seemed more of a business-oriented concept. Plus that implies… you know… actually failing. I hate failing more than the average person. I hate failing like only a perfectionist can. I’ve been to unreasonable lengths to avoid failing.

That’s plain stupid.

In February, I said how Joanna Penn’s How To Make A Living With Your Writing inspired me to make a plan for my writing career… Career. I’ve always been disgusted at the idea of considering writing as “work” because, for me, work was inherently boring and repetitive, and something you’d never do if you were rich enough. I could be a billionaire, I wouldn’t stop writing. Writing is what I live for. I want to write for a living only so I can have more time to write. But now might be the time to change my mindset regarding work.

Because if writing is work, then I am allowed to fail any writing project. In fact, sometimes it could be desirable that I do. So, here’s me failing fast (and publicly) at the 12 short story challenge and the writing contest. I tried those on a whim, they got in the way of my novel and my blog, so they’re a failure and I need to let those go. And you know what? I don’t feel like I am a failure like I thought I would.

I feel free.

Now I can focus on what really matters right now: my novel and blog, and nothing else (writing-wise, I mean). Maybe a creative writing course in May if my finances allow it. Two projects plus my continuing education. Right now, with work and a preschooler to raise, that’s all I can manage, and it’s okay. Time is a precious – and limited – resource so I need to use it sparingly.
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But I know very well that I’ll still want to take on new projects… Hanging loose, they’d fly round and round my head and keep distracting me. So I made a list of those projects that tempt me the most. It’s an adequate cage for such creatures; I can go on my merry way, knowing that I can come back later, when I have more time, and pick one up without being scared of them flying away forever.

I failed and it freed me.

Of course, applying the “fail fast” strategy will be an ongoing journey, but I’m confident now that I can stop my hatred of failure from interfering with my productivity.

On another note, I’ll experiment with deadlines for publishing my blog posts in the following weeks… Mondays have been especially busy for me these last few weeks, so one less thing to worry about on that day will be much welcome.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
– J.K. Rowling

Love yourself!

BearYou are kind,

full of respect

and compassion

for mankind.

Against aggression, you take action!

You won’t let your friends be treated unfairly!

So why do you bully

yourself?

I am intimately acquainted with self-hatred. When I was at my very worst,  I believed myself even too incompetent to live. One shrink got mildly angry at me and said I wasn’t even trying to help myself. I told her that I was beyond hope and that I was sorry I was wasting her time.

Of course, that was the depression talking.

Eventually, I got better and regained some self-love. I created that persona of mine, bought pretty clothes, took care of myself. I started doing more of what I loved the most. I tried hard to love myself despite my faults, but I would still have episodes of acute self-hatred.

Last week, this interview made me realize I was still doing something wrong: the thing is not to love myself despite my faults. It’s to love myself with them.

If a person was a painting, then their personality traits would be the different colours.  When looking at the picture, you don’t think “this colour is good, this one is bad”. You look at how the colours interact and see what they portray.

You’ve got only one picture. It’s not finished; it’s a neverending work-in-progress. You can keep adding to it. But it is much easier to do if you don’t try to change it completely and then beat yourself up when you don’t succeed.

Learn to love and respect your picture the way it is. Identify what still needs works, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. These things take time, so be patient. Take breaks. When you screw up, wipe and start again.

I find that the more I love myself, the more confidence I have, the more I feel in control of my life and the happier I feel. These are all interconnected.

Do something you love today. Take care of yourself. Don’t beat yourself up: that never helped anyone. Here’s a nice post by Jason Connell on how to love yourself.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Enjoy the chocolates.

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*By the way, I’m aware that my poem is amateur-ish, but I love it anyway.

Overview of 2017 and resolutions for 2018

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Happy New Year everyone!

I hope you were able to relax a little during the holidays. I have, and now I’m ready to start the new year head on.

However, before I make any resolutions I’d like to reflect on the past year: where 2016 was a year of breakthrough and dreams, 2017 was one of “reality check”. The first quarter of the year was marked by anxiety and frustration due to my lack of income. I also a hard time trying to edit my first novel, which led to the dispersion of my efforts.

Early April, I started working again with a revenge, some 50 and 60 hours a week, which I sustained surprisingly long before I burnt out in September. However, that didn’t prevent me from getting a sense of direction and starting the rewriting process on my first novel. In fall, I also took a creative writing course, which I think helped me improve my skills considerably, and got the amazing opportunity to beta-read Marnie Shaw and the Mystery of Yapton Farm by Deborah Wallace.

In November, I participated to NaNoWriMo, though I also took care not to exhaust myself again. In December, I slept a lot, did a lot of house cleaning and spent a lot of time with my family in order to start the new year in the best conditions.

I checked 5 of my 13 resolutions (#4, 7, 11, 12 and 13) which isn’t so bad considering everything that happened. Also: more important than those goals was “finding a source of income”, which I did.
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For 2018, my theme will be: the warrior’s training. Being a writer, I see my own life as a story (or a series of stories). If I gave up writing early 2016 and then went back at it with a revenge by mid-year, but was slapped in the face in 2017 by reality… I must be at that point in the story where the hero, after having been defeated, needs to train much harder than ever before to vanquish his enemy. That could also be the moment where the hero gets a mentor using unconventional methods.

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In other words, I intend to get out of my comfort zone this year. I’d love to try variants of the exercises I did during my creative writing course (poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction). I have no plan yet, but something like one short piece every 2 weeks a sounds acceptable, though most likely, I’ll only start in April. And if I can gather enough courage, I might even publish some of them online.

Reading-wise, this year I’ll allow myself to indulge: I’ll read whatever I want whenever I want. Last year, I tried to read more modern novels, but though most of them were good and some even excellent, I often found myself wishing I was reading something else. That might explain why even just reading 13 books took some effort. I’m starting the year with Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. ♥

Besides my theme, I’ve also set a few goals for the year:

1 – Rewrite my first novel

2 – Continue blogging weekly (or almost weekly) and being active in the blogging community

3 – Read at least 13 books

4 – Take another creative writing course

5 – Experiment with poetry, short stories, creative non-fiction… maybe even comics!

6 – Take care of my physical and mental health

7 – Furnish my house (at least one room)

Quite a bit fewer resolutions than in 2018, but I’m aiming for 100% success this year (or at least 85%)! I’ll print this list them and paste it on my wall to keep it in sight all year.

Do you make New Year’s resolution? Do they help you reach your goals?

Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

AutumnCritters_5aToday is Thanksgiving Day here in Canada. This year has been a rough one for me. I don’t really feel like being thankful right now, so it is all the more important I do my yearly exercise of “counting my blessings”.

I am thankful:

  • For having been offered work at the moment when I most needed it. Without it, we would have been in serious financial trouble. I’m thankful, too, to have had the freedom of refusing to take more work when I felt I was burning-out;
  • For my husband getting a job in his field after four years of doing odd jobs. It’s a temporary job, but I hope that’ll help him reintegrate the industry;
  • To have found a way to rewrite and edit my novel, despite my recent lack of time and energy to actually do it;
  • To have had the perseverance to post blog articles almost weekly – that’s the same stubborn perseverance that made me burn-out instead of “taking it easy for a while”, but hey, nobody can have everything;
  • For my NaNoWriMo community, that has become a year-round writing community. The members are fun and supportive and I love them all;
  • To have learned how to knit: it helped a lot to get my mind off things when I started my burn-out leave and improve my mood – plus now I have stylish hand-knitted mittens that fit perfectly;
  • For my daughter, my little hyperactive and hypersociable princess, becoming more independent every day;
  • To have had the means of taking a creative writing course, which I am loving so far;
  • To have had to opportunity to beta-read Marnie Shaw and the Mystery of Yapton Farm; it was an interesting experience and I think the book has great potential.
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Everything considered I guess my year wasn’t that bad. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that I’m currently burned-out, but it helps put things into perspective. In a year, that will only be a small bump in the road… not to mention that it might help me find a more sustainable solution.

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians!

One Year Blog Anniversary!

anniversaryOne year ago, I started this blog on an impulse. I had become more serious in my writing and was well on my way to finishing my first novel, so I got overly enthusiastic. I didn’t really think I’d last more than a few weeks. I have missed a few weeks, especially since I started working again, but I am still here, and I have no intention of giving up anytime soon.

Statistics

Don’t you looooove statistics? I do! So here are some of those I thought might interest you: I have published 43 articles this year (this post is the 44th): 17 posts on life and personal development, 14 posts on writing, 11 book reviews, 1 short story. The most popular of them were A persona of myself, Confession of a hopeless hobbyist, What’s the worst that could happen, Declutter your text: use modifiers in moderation and Declutter your text: narrow your scope. My posts were liked  1,204 times and received 620 comments (221 of which were replies from me)

My blog gained a total of 350 followers over the year and was viewed 4,090 times, by 2,251 visitors. My best month was April with 570 views and 298 visitors. Most of my audience was from the United States (1,548 views), followed by India (619 views), Canada (483 views) and the United Kingdom (384 views). My top three referrers were the WordPress Reader (1498 views), the Community Pool (477 views) and Search Engines (156 views, 129 of which originated from Google).

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Highlights

One of the best moments this year was when an acquaintance told me something like: “I got lost on your blog instead of working. Oops.” I was happy to know I could keep someone reading my different posts to the point they forget they have things to do. I had the same feeling when complete strangers would “like” several posts in a row then “follow”. It doesn’t take away my insecurity, but it soothes it a little.

Another thing that amazed me was seeing how I reached people from all over the world. I received views originating from 85 different countries!

Next Steps

Now that I have a fair amount of posts, I want to make them more easily accessible. I’m planning to create pages of links, sorted by category and theme. I’ve also drafted a new self-introduction, which I intend to upload soon.

I’d like to find new ways to interact with my audience and my fellow bloggers, like running contests and featuring or writing guest posts. I’d also like to publish more fiction, either short stories or a series of short stories. Finally, if I can get out of my financial difficulties, I’d like to get myself a camera and take a bunch of pretty pictures to “decorate” my posts.

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That’s all for today. Let me know if there are any other statistics or facts that you’d like me to share!