Create Your Own Challenge #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop #Writing

As I’m writing this piece, I’m in the middle of a 30 day challenge I created for myself.

The idea was rather simple: could I find a way to write — actually physically type — on my laptop some of my thoughts from my morning journal? See, I write — hand write — every day in a journal. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. And I keep those journals, which are black hardcover bound sketchbooks, and that’s how I came to write my first book. It wasn’t my intention but it was time to shred all of those sketchbooks I had in storage. So many boxes and taking up too much space so one day, I started randomly going through them. Some, if not most it, felt like junky writing — because, let’s face it — that’s what journaling is all about, writing anything and everything. But then I found these pieces. These moments in time. Scenes that made sense. They were heart-warming and poignant. The book Canela formed almost instantaneously.

I shredded about 25 boxes of journals.

For whatever reason, habit really, when I wake in the morning, I have to write. And sometimes that stuff is so good! And I keep thinking, “If I could just write like THIS on my blog, maybe other people would enjoy this or have feedback or help me with ideas…” or whatever. The point is, I always want to share parts of my journaling but I can’t. I just can’t.

And I had to ask myself why?

The biggest reason is because once I know I’m writing for someone else to read, OTHER than myself, my hand-writing changes. The other problem is that something’s lost in the translation. I write in English, so it’s not a language thing. But if I start typing out what I wrote by hand to put it up on my blog, I start editing, I start “fixing” sentences and hell, it just becomes such chore.

So, I wanted to see if I could change my habit and/or just challenge myself. I decided to try and share my thoughts with my blogging friends but instead of sharing my morning journal-therapy session with everyone, why not instead try to share something else? Why not type directly in WordPress at the END OF DAY and see if that churns up any decent thoughts.

I didn’t want to put too many guard rails on it. I wanted to feel like I could write about absolutely anything at all. One thing I do before I go to bed anyways is a recap of my day. It’s not a writing thing, just a thinking thing. I never to go to bed angry, so I always try and find something joyful to pull from my day to remind myself that no matter what’s happened, that the day had a piece of joy in it, worth remembering (actually this works, everyone should try it!).

So why am I telling you all of this? Because I think I’ve grown as a writer these past 15 days. I’m half way through my personal writing challenge as I’m writing for this #AuthorToolboxBlogHop and I’ve changed. How? Well, in the simplest way, I’ve been able to write more easily using the keyboard verses a pen. Clearly that’s a ME “growth” thing and most people probably don’t have this issue. But my morning journal is still my therapy, my private ramblings, but my evening writing has been this newfound voice and joy… That’s the second way I’ve grown as a writer! There’s a freedom in my writing that I hadn’t felt before this challenge. I’m excited, in a different way, to share. I still have the second half of the month to go — so who knows what else I’ll learn, but I do know this: it was a great idea to just challenge MYSELF instead of jumping on some other formal “competition” or “writing program” or another blog hop (I love this blog hop, I’m just saying).

Challenging yourself to something different in how you write just changes things up a bit. It’s like a refresh button. Or maybe a reSET button? I once challenged myself to only write a paragraph every day for a week after blindly picking a random word from a dictionary I had on my bookshelf. That was so hard! I remember being baffled by it. Most of the time I didn’t really understand the word’s meaning I picked. Ha! But it was a good challenge to change things up a bit. I’ve also done the normal kind of challenges where you try to write from a different perspective or tried different types of writing… I attempted to write poetry once. Uhem, so not my thing!

My point is simply this: Do something to challenge yourself. Stretch those writing muscles! Do it for a couple of days, a week or a month. But if you’re needing a little “pick-me-up” and/or you’re feeling like you could use a little change of pace to brighten up that old trusty writer’s brain or you suffer from that age old term, “writer’s block”, then give it a try. Try a little challenge of your own. Oh, and if you do, please share!

#30 Days Trying to Find Joy Challenge – Day 3

Saturday, March 7th, 2020 8:37pm – Bernie Bro Conversation Surprise.

The best thing that happened today was something small but rather unexpected: I got into a Twitter conversation with a Bernie supporter — a man no less, yes, a White man — and… wait for it…I didn’t actually lose my mind! In all fairness, to those of you who don’t follow politics or understand what a “Bernie Bro” consist of, suffice it to say that in this context, generally speaking a “Bernie Bro” would be someone who gets real nasty and negative if you dare say one bad thing about the candidate, Bernie Sanders. I tend to stay away from people who support the Senator for so many reasons but this was a little different and I’m glad I interacted.

I am “into” politics. Always have been. But I tend to lean more to the middle – left a center just a tad, but mostly middle-of-the-road. I think most people actually are – more in the middle – but our polarized politics makes it hard not to be extreme — especially since technology has made it so easy to spew negativity from behind a keyboard, most times coming across as cruel and mean just to make a point. Bernie Sanders has never been of any interest to me and I hate him. Yup, I said it. I hate him. People throw the word “love” around like no big deal, I have no qualms using the word “hate”. There are so many reason why I dislike this man and honestly, not the point of this post — but if I have to vote for him because he becomes the Democratic nominee, then so be it. I’ll be first in line to vote Trump out of office anyways in November. I can’t wait.

But, today, a Twitter follower – Bernie Supporter – responded to one of my tweets and dialogue began. We’re both on different sides of who to vote for – hes’ a fan of Bernie, I’m voting for Biden and the conversation revolved around all of that. It was kind, cordial, educational and pretty fair. No one changed sides or anything, but it was a good Twitter exchange for as long as it lasted. And I have to say, it’s been a long time since that’s happened at all.

That’s definitely a good thing that happened today. It may seem small, but in our toxic social media world, it really is rather rare and surprising, at least for me. And I feel like there’s hope for all of us on social media. If we can learn how to “speak” to each other in tweets, understand that tone matters and not over-react to anything and everything someone says in a few words, maybe, just maybe there’s hope for all of us yet. At the very least, I had a good morning. And that set up the rest of the day pretty brilliantly. No complaints for today. It was a good day.

Therapy Session: Life Changes

Therapy Session: Life ChangesZuma Beach 2017

Carmen: Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong. Everything. Nothing. On the one hand, I know I have nothing to be complaining about. On the other, all I want to do is scream. It’s all just jibberish. Never mind.

Dr. Mei: How about if you stop over-analyzing what you’re going to say, and just say it?  Let me hear it and I’ll tell you if I think it’s jibberish or not. Deal?

Carmen: Okay.  Deal.  Uhm. Well, simply last week I was sure I’d be pitching my TV drama idea based on my book but I didn’t finish it. You know, detailing out all the characters and such. I wanted to be so organized, so ready and I’m not. Then, I got it in my head that I should pitch an idea I had on cultural criticism to a magazine that’s looking for new writers and so I started working on that.  I’ve outlined my second book – and started writing another chapter — I saw an audition online and wondered if I should submit – then I thought I should contact my agent to start sending me out or get a new agent because –  what the fudge, right? They haven’t sent me out at all. It’s annoying. Uggh.  I applied for a grant a while back and decided to follow through on the play part of the proposal. Plus it’s still something I want to do.  I “owe” two podcasts – based on my self-imposed schedule – I mean, what is wrong with me? Why do I think I can do all of this? And why can’t I do all of this?  Why am I feeling overwhelmed when this is everything I’ve been asking to do all along?

Dr. Mei:  First, take a breath. A deep breath.  Good.  Now, it seems like a lot, but why do you think you’re not doing it?

Carmen:  Well, if I’m being honest, I realize for the first time in my life I’m living my dream. For all these years I’ve worked a job I hated – yeah, I’ll say hated, without hesitation.  Even more than the work itself,  I hated the people I worked for.  I mean, now that I can look back, most of the people I handled money for were bitter, old-minded, entitled privileged lazy people. Ungrateful. And constantly complaining about how hard their life was and the worst:  they always “announced” how much they did for everyone else – which for the record, was write a check. Write a check from money they never had to earn by the way.  Anyone can write a check if they have money.  But it takes a real kind of person to take credit for doing bullshit.  I think I hated that the most. The god-damn boasting about how much money they gave to such and such… But I digress. I ultimately hated the work itself.

So, here I am, now, getting up every day working as a creative entity. I wrote my book, I’m doing some speaking events, I’m writing — exploring every day what it feels like to be a writer.  I can’t lie, it’s taken me some time to get into the groove of things. I mean, when I rehearsed as a kid, as a dancer, I was on schedule.  And, it’s taken me some time to FEEL like this is right, but I can’t lie. I’m scared.  I just am!

I fear I’m going to do all this work and nothing will come of it.  I mean, that’s not why you’re supposed to do ART in the first place, right? You’re supposed to create ART authentically because you can’t do anything else. But what if I share all of this, what if I pitch this or that or write a second book and no one cares?  What if I put so much into all of it and I get rejected, dismissed – or worse, what if I hear nothing at all?  What if I do all this and I still can’t pay the bills? What am I thinking?

I really can look at my entire life and see it that way. Nothing I’ve wanted has ever come to fruition. I’ve failed at everything I ever wanted even if I succeeded at everything else.  My entire life up until this point has always been to do the right thing. To be the good girl. To never be a bother.  And even still – with all of my effort of always being of service to others, of always being honest and kind…why haven’t I succeeded in all the things I’ve wanted?  Why try this? I’m just setting myself up for more heartache, right?  And which one of these things should I be pursuing?  What is wrong with me that I think I should be doing 5 things at a time?  And have I lost my mind? Do I think money grows on trees somewhere?

Dr. Mei:  Well, two things come to mind that I’d like to share.  Maybe three. First, take a breath.  I’m not saying that because it’s what I tell everyone – I’m saying that because I don’t think you notice how you hold your breath and tense up when you speak.  Your passion, your concern are formidable, but that stress is mounting and I can SEE it in you.  So first, take a nice long deep breath.

Second. I love how you said you’ve “failed”.  You realize you’re not done, yet, right?  You get that it’s not over yet.  As I know you, as I’ve read in your book, you haven’t failed at anything that was put in your path.  Most people see you as a success.  But you feel like you’ve failed at the things you want in life. I get that. But you’re wrong.  The problem isn’t that you failed Carmen. The problem is that you haven’t even started yet. 

You feel like a failure because you’ve been pursuing other people’s needs and joys.  You’ve never followed your true North.  You moved to Los Angeles and took a job doing bookkeeping because you knew it’d be better money than being a waiter, plus you’d never last waiting on people.  But it was the plan till you could get yourself stabilized to pursue your creative career.  Things continued on from there and the jobs got more important and impressive – and they got even more miserable with every day that went on.  My goodness, you wrote a book in the midst of so much misery in the job you had while working through past pain of your childhood!  That’s pretty remarkable. I can’t wait to read the second book for that reason alone!

Third, and maybe most importantly, you’re here now.  THIS was your path to get here.  You needed to travel that road to get to THIS point.  None of it was a waste of time – and none of it was really in your control.  This is LIFE happening.  You can only do what you know how to do when you actually KNOW how to do it.  You couldn’t be anything else other than who you were then, to be who you are NOW. This is the journey you’re on.  And so far, it’s been pretty interesting to say the least. Aren’t you excited to see what’s next? I am. I can’t wait to see what you do from here.

Let’s talk about rejection.  Or my other favorite quip you said, “…or worse, hear nothing at all.”  Whatever it is, fear of being rejected, to make a mistake, to let people down, to not make enough money to make a living, whatever.  Rejection is hard.  Doesn’t matter how many times you’ve gone through it, doesn’t matter how used to it you think you are – rejection is difficult.  Got it?

By the way, welcome to the club.

Yes. It’s a club.  We’ve all been there at least once in our lives.  You’re at a crossroad and instead of choosing which path to take, you’re standing at the head of all the choices in front of you hoping someone will you push you down the “right” path.

Look, everyone wishes Steven Spielberg will run into them at the local coffee shop and be so stunned by their mere presence that he asks you to his office because you’re his next lead in his upcoming movie.  People dream of Oprah calling them on the phone and saying, I read your book and you’re one of my favorite things… yes, we all want that. Someone to validate us, someone to walk us through.  It would be easier…

I’m not Steven Spielberg, but let me help shove you down a path anyways.  Write the TV Script, do the pitch, write the second book, do the acting, the podcast, the blog, do the magazine cover – DO ALL OF IT!  Do the speaking events, teach, write, dance – all of it IS WHO YOU ARE.  It’s who you’ve always been even while doing everything else.  That’s what’s so impressive.  IT’S YOUR TRUE NORTH Carmen.  You’re a story-teller, a performer.  Do you need evidence? Okay – here’s some off the top of my head:  Steve Cadwell said, “You write like Hemingway: every word true to the bare bone fact of how you experienced it. Compelling!”  That was October 21st, 2018.  Right?  You sent me the email because you were so happy.

Need more? I can rattle off the names, the people – some you know, some you don’t who have already told you about your writing.  But just looking at your face I can sense your disbelief.

Tell me what you’re thinking right now.

Carmen: I’m thinking they’re all just being nice. Overly generous.

Dr. Mei: Okay. Let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that all the accolades thus far have been people “just being nice” to you.  For the record, that’s a complete untruth, but let’s just go with it.  So what?  Then just do it because it’s what’s next.  Do it because you have no reason NOT too. Do it because you’ve been given numerous “signs” that you should.  Do it because NOT doing it guarantees failure and regret. Do it because it makes you happy. Do it because I’m telling you, this is so much closer to your true North than anything else you’ve done in the past 20 years. Do it because even when you talk about the struggle of it, you still sound lighter and happier than any time you’ve talked about any other work you’ve ever done.  Do it because the worst possible thing that can happen is that you took the shot, it didn’t work out and you go about and do something else.  I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.

Carmen:  Yeah. I know. Everything you said, is true. I know all of this. The weird part is, I’m excited. I’m excited about all of it.  And it’s mixed with a tinge of fear. But when I think of going back to my old life – the only word I can come up with is dread.  Absolute dread.

Dr. Mei: You’ve already leaped Carmen. You’re in the air right now –in the midst of it all.  Don’t worry about how you’ll land.  Stop looking to land just yet.  For now, keep doing the work. Keep flying high on the joy it brings you. No matter how you land, you’ll be fine.  My guess is, you’ll be better than fine.

Carmen:  You know what’s so funny and sad at the same time? I went and saw the new Avengers movie and there’s a line in it that made me wince – I just couldn’t believe I had just heard this. I promise, no spoilers. Have you seen it yet?  It doesn’t matter.  This line gives away nothing to the movie. But the character says something like: “Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be. A measure of a person is how well they succeed at being who they are.”

What I really thought in that moment:  I’ve gone mad crazy. I’m so ridiculous I’m even getting “signs” from action movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, it’s just…crazy, right?

Dr. Mei: Well, that’s one way to look at it. Or, the way I see it – the universe is trying to push you down a path in every way possible.  And if not the universe, then you’re inner-self for sure. You’re seeing what you need to see.  You’re hearing what you need to hear.  Whether you choose to listen is another thing. It’s like that clip you like in the show the West Wing. The episode is Take This Sabbeth Day, remember?  It may be a bit too religious for this moment, but it’s on point. Choose to take all the signs your getting – the most important sign is that YOU want to do all of this. If you had all the money in the world, THIS is who you’d be, right?  Failure wouldn’t be such a big deal then. It’d be just a bump in the road to still doing what you want to do.  And seriously, when have you EVER allowed money to be the reason you chose to do anything at all?  To define you?  To stop you from doing what you want to do?  Don’t start now.  This is the best part!  Enjoy the ride. It’s just getting started.

Carmen:  Yeah!  You’re right. Oh my goodness. Yes!

Dr. Mei: Till next time, then?

Carmen: Yes!  Thank you so much.

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West Wing Clip: Take this Sabbath

Writers Block: Never Experienced It

I’ve never experienced writers block.blocks-bricks-brickwall-761142

I know –  I was talking to a friend yesterday and we had a whole conversation about writers block and she didn’t believe me AT ALL.

[Please continue reading the lightly transcribed post below or listen to the podcast here] 

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But the truth of the matter is, long, long ago I used to have the same experience as a dancer where I would keep making the same mistake over and over and over again.

And I had this amazing coach (and instructor) who would just tell me, “You know what? Enough. Just stop!  You need to just sit down!”  And so I would do that.  I would be forced to just sit down and do something else.

I would go take a walk around the track.  Or I would go sit on my knapsack – or whatever.  The point is that I learned early on that when you get stuck – when you get into a place where you can’t  do what you need to do as a dancer,  then you need to stop and do something else – because you’re just repeating the same mistake over and over again.

And I think in a lot of ways I’ve incorporated that into my life as a writer – and just in my life in general.

When something isn’t working, I stop doing it.  I try to do something else.  And then I come back to it.

I also think because I learned this at such a young age, I don’t see “writers block” as a negative thing.

I see it as a way in which my body tells me that I need a rest.  That I need a break.  Just like as a dancer,  I would keep making the same mistake over and over again – and then I’d realize that the reason why I was making a mistake over and over again was because I was tired.  I was exhausted.

Well when you write it’s not any different. We get exhausted. Our mind gets exhausted. We may not readily see that,  or experience it,  but the way in which I view that moment in time when I’m writing and I can’t really stop thinking about other things —  or I can’t seem to keep myself focused,  I see that as my body trying to tell me that I need a break.  And so, I’ll go listen to music, or I’ll go take a run, or I’ll just go watch television for a bit and then I’ll come back to it.

And sometimes it’ll be 5 minutes later and sometimes it might be a day later.  But what I don’t do is beat myself up for needing a break.  And I definitely don’t call it a “block” —  I don’t call it a “writer’s block” —  I just call it a time for me to take a break.

I think if we see that as a positive —  as resting period – as an ability to kind of rejuvenate –  it becomes a much quicker thing to notice Number 1,  and a much quicker thing to get through Number 2. Which means you can then get back to work!   Usually with fresher eyes and a rested soul.  And with much more enthusiasm to get back to your creativity — instead of beating yourself up for having “Writer’s Block”.

So, I just wanted to share that.  I would love to hear how other people deal with this writer’s block phenomenon….

Thank you so much for stopping by —  I appreciate it so much —  and I hope you have a sweet day.

I’ll be back again soon.

Carmen

Tell Your Story: Part 2 How To Create

TELL YOUR STORY: HOW TO CREATE? 

So, if you’ve decided to tell your story, how do you go about doing it?

How do you go about writing, or sculpting or filming or whatever it is bitmoji-20190402030809you’re going to do – to write your story — How do you go about doing that?

[Please continue reading the lightly transcribed post below or click on the podcast and listen to the recording]

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Well, the truth is – there is no right or wrong way to do things. But I will say this – especially as a writer – I always think about when I danced. I was an bitmoji-20190402030846amazing dancer.  It’s something I was born with as a kid.  And I loved to dance.  I was passionate about it.

I can remember people who would come up to me and try to copy me.  And they would always look the most awkward and the weirdest — because they were trying to copy something that I was doing. They were complimenting me — they were saying, “oh you’re such a great dancer I want to be just like you.”

So that was a very flattering thing — but they always looked out of place – out of sorts.

The people that looked the best, the people that I always admired, were the people that got up and danced any way. They did it their own way.  It didn’t matter if they were in rhythm or if they were out-of-sorts, or if they were just doing these strange and interesting hand movements and their feet were all awkward — I always loved this ability to be an individual.  And to be dynamic. And willing to just do it your own way. They will always the happiest dancers, the best dancers and everyone was paying attention to them.

That’s what I think the creative process is like.

That’s why I think — whatever it is you choose to do to tell your story — however you choose to do that  is going to be right if you do it from your own inner place of joy and happiness.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t some technique involved. It doesn’t mean there aren’t some better ways to do things – but you know, that’s what an editor is for.  When it comes to writing…when I started writing, I just wrote and I let it all come out.  And then I let the story mold itself.  And I figured out ways to thread things through so that the story would have “connection”.  But at the end of the day I still had somebody else read it.  I had an editor go through it — and that person goes in and looks at it and says, “Hey you know what? This is a great idea…”  or “This works here and here, but this doesn’t make sense…”.

So don’t worry about all that stuff afterwards.

Just sit down and sculpt whatever you’re going to sculpt.  Do it however you going to do it. All that other stuff will come through.  All the other possibilities to kind of refine it and touch it up or fix it  —  so that your voice can be heard the way in which you intend.  We’ll get there — you’ll get there after you have that base part.  Because I have to tell you, all those people that danced the way that they wanted to dance they were feeling the music! They were in joy! They were happiness! And afterwards, they were the people I wanted to talk to.  They were the people I wanted to learn from.  And it has nothing to do with dancing, and everything with being an individual and being unique and being strong and having courage.  And to me, that’s what the creative process is.  It’s all about us finding that inner strength,  that inner courage,  that inner love,  that inner joy —  and sharing it with the world.  bitmoji-20190328073700

Because at the end of the day, I feel like that’s what we’re here to do.  To share the best parts of who we are with everyone and hopefully along the way that will help someone else too!

As always, thanks for stopping by. Have a sweet day and I’ll be back again soon.

Bye.

Carmen