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

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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.

Fox

*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!

Fathers are underrated

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In parenting and in children development books, fathers are awfully rare. Those books all about the mother and the child. I guess historically that was mostly true; maybe it still is in some cases, but not in ours.

My husband is the one holding the family together. Without him, I don’t know what I’d do. I don’t think I’d be able to be a single parent.

He didn’t have it easy, either; my postpartum depression was has been almost as hard on him as it’s been on me. For months, he had to take care of a baby and a very sick spouse. He still feels emotional whenever he goes to a hospital to see a doctor, whether it’s for himself or for our daughter…

Even after I was out of the hospital and working again, he was almost our daughter’s sole caretaker for another year. Even now, when he’s there, he’s mostly the one watching over her. No wonder our daughter goes to him for emotional comfort.

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A father is also, most of the time, a spouse, and he does a great job at that, too. He’s the one holding my feet on the ground when I’d otherwise get carried away with the wind. I’m sometimes so lost in my own fictional world, that I start considering life decisions in terms of what would be interesting to read about instead of what’s best for me.

He’s also there to remind me, among other things that I’m human… Metaphorically, of course: I tend to forget that, like anybody else, maybe even more than most people, I need breaks and days off to remain mentally healthy.

Whenever I have a mildly important decision to make, I always seem to want his approval. It’s not like I actually need it or like he’d lash at me for not asking him first, which I wouldn’t tolerate, it’s just… I know he sees things differently than I do and I feel like we need to communicate each other’s points of view so that we have a full 3D view of the situation.

He has his own faults, of course, but in the end, I don’t mind those so much because my own qualities more than make up for them. I don’t believe in such a thing as soulmates, but  what I do believe is that there is nobody in this world whom I’d rather have as a husband.

Happy Father’s Day to the love of my life, and to all other wonderful fathers whose work is so underrated.

Confession of a hopeless hobbyist

I’ve talked in several posts about how I gave up most of my hobbies to focus on writing, but that just made room for new hobbies to appear.

Remember in February when I said I had learned how to knit? Well, in March I accidentally learned how to crochet. Late April I’ve started practising the piano regularly again and am even shopping for an actual piano (I only have a cheapo keyboard). And now I’m considering taking horseback riding lessons and trying my hand at woodwork. Not to mention there’s a dress I really want to sew (sewing being an old hobby).IMG_20170209_161210b

Sigh.

There are some definite advantages to being like this: I am fairly polyvalent. Reading a makes me an open-minded and knowledgeable person. Writing keeps me sane by helping me express feelings I would otherwise no know what to do with.

I’m glad I’ve learned how to sew, knit and crochet. They’re both useful and anti-anxiety. That’s also the case for gardening, and I’m sure I would find woodworking extremely useful as a homeowner.

Jogging, cycling and yoga are also useful hobbies for my health. Karate, Judo, Aikido and Muay Thai contributed to making me able to defend myself if I ever was attacked. Swimming and dancing kept from becoming way overweight when I was in high school and ate a lot of junk.

Lolita fashion helped me stop apologising for who I was and feel better in my own skin. Donjons and Dragons is my one regular activity with friends and that is tremendously important, considering I’ve never been so close to being a shut-in.

Even watching TV, while not super useful for most people, is okay for me as a writer. It’s also one of the few things that still brings my husband and me together. However, I don’t tend to indulge too much in it, because it’s too closely related to reading and writing: it triggers pop-ups in my brain regarding the different stories I should be reading or writing instead.

However, I fail to find a tangible usefulness to my learning Japanese, Russian and Korean (I mean, I have no ambition to work for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or anything), collecting BJDs (dolls like the one modeling my handmade scarf above) and Lego bricks, drawing, playing guitar and piano, playing video games, etc. I guess they help build my general knowledge and can also be anti-anxiety, but… so would a much, much handier hobby like cooking. But for the life of me, I cannot stay interested very long in that. It takes too long, and it bores me, and I don’t even like eating to begin with.

cloud-2I know that this, like my perfectionism, can be as much of a quality as it can be a fault: it’s a quality because it makes me a very polyvalent person, but a fault when it makes a scattered person. It makes me resourceful, but it’s also a sign that I have my head in the clouds when I not-so-secretly wish I had my feet on the ground.

I’ll have to accept that, too, and just focus on keeping some balance.

Besides, knowing a little about a lot of things can come in handy when writing stories. Actually, I’m sort of planning a story about a woodworker and a… not sure what the guy’s occupation will be.

Thank you for passing by, and please feel free to share about your own hobbies: I’d love to read about them.

On a side note, I’ll now post on Mondays, instead of Sundays.

Related post: Confession of a recovering book snob