October is quickly drawing to a close, and that means National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner! (Find out more here.) I had intended to try Planning rather than Pantsing this year, but here we are a week away and I haven’t planned a thing.
I suppose that’s not entirely true, as I have decided on a general concept based on a short story I wrote a while back. So that’s already far more planning than I had last year!
Whether you’re a writer or not, or planning to join in NaNoWriMo or skip it, this is another opportunity to begin a project that you’ve always wanted to accomplish. From past NaNo experiences I can tell you with certainty that there is no “right time” for such things. November is never free and clear to write a novel. Ever. There are always other aspects of life “in the way.” But these bits of life are not actually in the way at all. They are what make up the way. They are part of the experience that add to what makes you you. Embrace them, but don’t think for a moment that they will one day vanish and leave you with the perfect opportunity to start something you dream of starting.
The planets never align. Things never really slow down. The right time is now, in spite of the craziness of life.
If you want to get something done, set a deadline. This is simple advice, but we often overlook it with our own projects. Adhering to other people’s deadlines is much easier; we feel responsible to meet their expectations.
I have been working on tidying the house, but I have set no deadline for it. I’m excited to reach the end, but the end will never come if I don’t set a target goal.
I have several new books in various stages of development, but none are being completed because there’s no sense of urgency. Having published a book, I know the thrill that comes from finishing, so I’d love to shoot for that again.
I began writing a dozen songs, but have none completed to share with others. Instead I just keep beginning new songs.
Today, pick a project or goal you have and think about when you’d like it to be finished by. Then start working to meet that deadline. Hold yourself accountable to it and you’ll no doubt find you will be a lot happier when that day arrives and you have a completed project in front of you.
As I previously mentioned, I’m currently going through every item I own one by one to determine what really adds value to my life and what is just clutter. This process has lead me to gather all the papers in the house (bills, drawings, old receipts from the grocery store that I’m unclear why I kept for the past six years, etc) and pile them in the living room.
I managed to take several dozen boxes and condense it all down into one, but I’m still rather torn about the contents. Some of the papers in the keeper box do bring me a lot of joy. I found a comic I did about my first Dungeons and Dragons experience, and it brought back wonderful memories and had me laughing to the point of tears. (All inside jokes, mind you, or I’d post it here. It would not be amusing to anyone but myself and my old Dungeon Master.)
Unfortunately (fortunately?) there are a lot of papers that fall into a different category: Creative ideas. In my book, I talk about writing down ideas, prior to judging them, regardless of whether or not you plan to use them. What I didn’t take into account was the fact that decades worth of ideas scribbled on every conceivable type of paper possible (I have several scrawled on restaurant placemats) takes up room. A lot of room, as it turns out. I just had never noticed that before I began this tidying process.
While letting go of some material possessions is difficult for me, the knowledge that I could – technically – reacquire nearly each and every one brings some comfort. The fact that even the hard-to-find ones are not one-of-a-kind means letting go is a lot easier. This does not apply to my reams of ideas. These are concepts and thoughts that will never come to me again. I can’t rebuy them, nor can I relive my life to stumble across them a second time.
I am not sure what to do about this.
My wife suggested that I buy a journal and copy the box full of ideas and brainstorming into one place. That seems like a wise course of action, so I’ll give it a try. I’m not sure if it will work, but there’s hope there.
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on what to do with years and years worth of ideas? I doubt I’d have enough time in my lifetime to accomplish them all, even if I wasn’t as lazy and sluggish as I am. If you’ve been through your own collection of scribbled dreams, please let me know how it went and if there was anything that helped you along the way!
This book does not exist. Well, it does to a degree. The picture above shows a prop I made for a video introduction I once had to do. The actual book itself is an old encyclopedia that I pasted a new cover and spine image on.
I found this prop as I was going through every book I own one by one. Given that the requirement for keeping a book during this process is “does it bring me joy?” I had to conclude that yes, this weird pretend-book brings me a great deal of joy. Not only does it remind me of the class I made it for (of which I have fond memories) but just seeing it on my shelf makes me laugh.
Even so, I often wonder what I’d put in a real “The Life and Times of J.K. Riki” book. If I were to pen a memoir or autobiography (not exactly sure what the difference is), what would I fill it with? Would anyone want to read it? Would I want to read it?
If we take a moment to think of our own lives as a story, written or otherwise, we can come across a great opportunity to determine if we’re spinning an interesting tale or not. It can wake us up from the day to day we’ve fallen asleep into and remind us that today is a perfect day to start a whole new chapter. Literally, if you were to write a book about your life, you could start something today that would begin a fresh chapter of that book.
What would that chapter look like? And would you want to read it?
No blog post this week, due to traveling in New York City. Till next Monday, be well!
Over the weekend I stopped at the library and a little squarish book caught my eye.
I had never heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before, but you may have. Apparently it’s become quite popular. At any rate, I took Marie Kondo’s book home with me and read it straight through in one go. It is rare that a book captivates me in that way, but not only was it well written, the information inside was right up my alley.
I recommend taking a look at this book. I won’t go into a full synopsis here, because there are plenty of places online that do that and frankly I think reading the book is going to be far superior to any breakdown you might find. To summarize, this book presents a method for organizing and decluttering the material possessions in your life so that you will never have to deal with clutter ever again. It sounds unreasonable or too good to be true, and yet the method makes a lot of sense once you reach the last page.
It’s difficult, as most worthwhile things are. However if living without clutter ever returning (which is, in my experience, the downfall of all organization methods) sparks your interest, consider hitting your local library or ordering a copy of this book online. I am in no way affiliated with the book; this is just a personal recommendation based on finding something I really enjoyed.
And now I’m off to start the process, to see if it really works. I have a feeling it will, so long as I see it through to the end. That will be the real challenge.
Two things I know well about human beings is that we quite enjoy judging others and really, really dislike judging ourselves. It doesn’t take much foresight to see how this can cause some problems.
For starters, that attitude means our natural assumption is “we are right and they are wrong.” We aren’t generally as critical of our own opinions the way we are of others. We can find holes in their logic until the cows come home, while our own thoughts seem water-tight. We just don’t see how we could be wrong. (This is a good case of “you don’t know what you don’t know.”)
Another challenge that our it’s not me, it’s you point of view can dredge up is that we focus on the faults of others while ignoring our own. This is the sort of thing that quickly degrades to destructive internal thoughts like “At least I’m not as bad as X.” While you may not have committed the atrocity (or perceived atrocity, as the case may sometimes be) that Person X did, yours and my hands are hardly clean. We all make mistakes. We just like to judge the mistakes of others as more severe than our own.
I find remembering this helps to bring some much needed empathy to my life. Certainly it does not excuse the horrible things others (or myself) do, but it tempers my judgment of it. It pokes me with the reminder that I’m just-as-if-not-more broken as my fellow human beings. It implores me to look deeper and consider what could have happened in my life that would have led to me taking such actions or making such mistakes.
The truth is, we all have inside us the capacity for amazing and/or horrific things. A big mistake we can make is to believe we are incapable. There is a situation, though it might be extreme and different than what causes someone else to fall, that would cause us to act in a similar way. I may think it’s horrific that terrorists are killing people in the name of their beliefs, but put me into the lives they’ve lived instead of the one I have now and I very well might walk the exact same path. I’m not above it. I’m broken inside too. I had racist family members of previous generations. It would not have been difficult to sync up to their views and join them, especially at a young and impressionable age. Alcoholism runs in my family as well. With a few different steps during the walk of my life, I know full well I would be in that boat.
When we know we love judging others and hate judging ourselves, we can temper our natural instinct and turn our attention back where it belongs: on us. As I’ve said before, and will no doubt say again and again in the future, our job is ourselves. It takes a lifetime to fix what’s broken inside us; we don’t have the time to go trying to fix other people first.*
*This of course does not mean we can’t help others as we go through life’s journey together. The focus, when it comes to judgment, should just remain squarely on what’s inside our own hearts. We have a lot of work to do as it is!
I spent the weekend – all weekend – helping someone move, and am exhausted! So here is a tweet from earlier today, and I will rest up and return to regular lengthy updates next week. (Though there’s something to be said for keeping it short and sweet!)
Sometimes I write blog posts for others, and sometimes I write them to work through my own challenges. This is a “my own challenge” blog post, so feel free to read it or skip it depending on your interest level.
In life you’re going to encounter road blocks as you progress towards your goals. This is inevitable. (The alternative is you reach no road blocks because you are not moving forward, and that is far worse.) At these points on your journey it can be extremely beneficial to determine what the roadblocks are telling you.
The first option may simply be that you’ve encountered a normal hurdle you need to get past. Meaningful work is hard, and requires you to put in effort to accomplish what you’ve set out to do. If this is the type of roadblock you’re facing, buckle down and push on. You’ll get past it, eventually.
The second possibility is that the roadblock is there to move you towards a different direction. For example, I’ve encountered nothing but misery since working full time on the game I’m trying to make. I’ve hit wall after wall, and through sweat and tears gone past them to find yet another wall waiting. More and more it seems that these roadblocks are telling me to do something else.
How do you tell the difference?
That’s the tricky part, to be sure. I’m not certain there is a single answer. Some of it may be instinctual. Of course, instinct can be a liar at times. Giving up because you’re worn out from all the roadblocks and you convince yourself it isn’t the right path doesn’t mean you’re definitely experiencing “Option 2.”
What I’ve seen through this particular experience is that I’ve never truly felt called to make this game. It was something I just decided to do. I’ve felt much more that subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) tug inside to write, and animate, and draw, and help others. I have never felt that tug to program. I’ve ignored other tugs in order to try and force my way into programming. What has become clear is that the interruptions I encounter while working on the game have been far more fulfilling than the game development. These interruptions are not inherently “easier” but they are in tune with the gifts I have, rather than this programming which seems to function opposite of how my brain works.
I need to change course. That isn’t to say “give up” because I still feel very compelled to finish a goal I set, in this case. However all the road blocks I’ve faced in the past two weeks regarding this game seem to be pretty clearly pushing me towards finding the right people for the tasks at hand. I do not believe I am the right person to be coding this game. It’s time to find a wiser solution as I continue towards my goal. The roadblocks seem to be telling me that very clearly indeed.
How much we want something is a good indicator of how hard we’re willing to work, and vice versa. Right now I am working on making a game app for (hopefully) some future release. It is very early in the process. I hate the process. Programming leaves me drained and infuriated. It often makes me physically ill and certainly emotionally stressed. I don’t like programming, and I’m relatively sure it doesn’t like me.
Why continue? Because, similar to my previous dream of writing a book, I have always wanted to make a game. It is a goal of mine. Clearly it is a goal I want enough to suffer for, as here I am, watching tedious tutorials on coding that I can hardly make any sense of.
The Olympics are going on currently. Here are human beings who are so focused on a goal that they spend almost every waking hour working towards it, merely for a once-in-four-years shot at an attempt of achieving it. Success is hardly guaranteed. In fact, it’s unlikely. More athletes don’t win a medal than do.
Today is a good day to look at your own life, and your goals and dreams. What are you working towards? Where do you put the most time and energy? Those are the things you want most. Your actions will show you this clearly.
If the reality of what you’re working on doesn’t match the goals in your head of what you think you want to pursue, today is the day to start down the path you’ve been dreaming of. If you don’t, well, you probably didn’t really want it as much as you thought.* I’ve spent a good number of years doing that myself.
*What about day jobs, though? Many people are “too busy” to follow their dreams, right? The thing is, you’re still choosing where to put your time and energy. Your “things you want most” may be financial security and a paid-on-time electric bill. That’s not a bad thing, it is simply what you need to know. Own that decision instead of thinking you’re forced into it. It makes life a lot better when you’re honest with yourself about why you do what you do. There is no shame in choosing to put your energy towards a regular paycheck, so long as you aren’t spending that time wishing you were somewhere else!