Walking a Tight Rope

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Tight rope walking or Funambulism came to my mind recently as I recalled my previous jobs. This new career in writing that I am currently embarking on naturally reminded me of what I am giving up: a steady office career. Although my decision not to join the workforce is still flexible, a huge part of me really wants my writing career to take off. Starting from scratch is demanding and requires us to push hard against circumstances. It includes re-learning skills that were neglected. Yet this new start also allowed me to tap into that closet in my mind brimming with creative stories just waiting to be unleashed. Best of all, writing makes me look forward to growth by going out of my comfort zone.

One of the main reason why I looked back at those previous stint is to evaluate if the efforts, resources and time that I put in really bore fruits. It’s hard to say since nobody in my previous workplace could randomly give me a post-performance review. (Haha! Wouldn’t that be something?) Is it selfish of me to wish that I left a legacy? I think we all have this sophistry because it means all our hard work accounted for something. In all honesty, just remembering all the demands and stress while working in our overwrought small department made me realize I couldn’t put any value on my hard work. It is truly the relationships developed with the people I worked with that was my most important takeaway. What is yours?

Here are a few questions I asked myself when I reexamined how I value hard work:

1. What drives me to work hard?

2. How am I reaching my goal or mission (in life)?

3. What am I willing to sacrifice for my hard work?

I’m sure there are many life coaches who can add more questions here but these are just a few questions that I reflected on. To fully enjoy our short life here on earth it is best that we focus our time, energy and efforts on what really counts. Don’t let others make you forget what your real goal is, otherwise they will just lead you by the nose making you deviate from your path in the end. You should define how you are going to live a full life even if that means turning down many things, including turning away people who don’t add value or hinders you from reaching your goal.

Story Update: Character Development

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Character development in a story is not letting your hero or heroine wear a mask. Their personality shines through and the author is like a parent who gets to distinguish their children. The heroes and heroines may be caught up in war, blood, mud and impossible situations but it doesn’t stop the author from embracing them. Their growth is the allure that makes us follow them.

As a fledgling author, my resources comes in the form of books or e-books.  There are too many at times and the numerous choices can cause a slight anxiety. There is just not enough time to comb through the haystacks and ascertain that you’ve found the right needle for the job. So far my writing coach have addressed the topic on the guild and has interviewed author who address this.

I have also canvassed several good books online, mainly in Amazon. Here are some books I have been eyeing: K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs, Characters & Viewpoints (Elements of Fiction Writing) by Orson Scott Card, and Characters, Emotions and Viewpoints by Nancy Kress. Another extremely good resource on the topic of Character building and development is the Writer’s Digest website.

My current heroine perplexed me. Her situation and struggles could happen to anybody I know: a relative, a close friend or even a new acquaintance, and even to me. The pain she’s going through pulsated within me. Her experience and action is recognizable. Then in the midst of watching my character go through the struggles, I realized she is nobody I know. She’s not a relative, or a close friend or any of my new acquaintance, nor me. She’s a unique individual with a different outlook of life. All I could do is write her as I witness her.

Afterwards it hit me. I finally realized why my heroine felt so familiar. I formulate or imagine stories when I was younger and there would be one or two characters that would populate the scene. My heroine was one of the minor character on another story. She may have been slightly younger or immature back then but it is definitely the same person. It made me wonder how the same person emerge in a totally different story? Is it a certain trend when I write or formulate story that I just noticed now?

This is similar to seeing actors portraying different characters onscreen. You end up looking for some kind of distinction that would separate one image to the other. Which image would pop up right away when I mention the actor Hugo Weaving? As Mr. Smith in Matrix or as Elrond in the Lord of the Rings? Having an actor-kind of character is what I don’t want to happen when I write stories. Will the same personality shine through but in a different setting? Is this character just putting on a mask and acting as another person?

In the end, I could only continue writing and worry about future character formation later. Perhaps, even take the time to read and research on this before starting another project. I have to go find all those needles in the haystacks.

The Writing discipline

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I want to write. I want to create the world and characters in my imagination and make them come alive in pages. Books don’t get produced on a whim; they were the results of ingenious ideas and edited pieces. Among the chief thrill of writing is the inspiration that surge in me. I have to give chase.

Dear Readers,

Do you know that walking many paths does not take you anywhere? It takes a sincere dedication on following one path that allows you to master it. Even though some may seem to have been walking several paths and succeeding in it, they couldn’t match the time and effort given by a real master.

I’m talking about discipline.

To be a writer, one must write. To be an author, one must produce his or her written works to the world. This is the path faced by writers and authors.  I have several friends who write well about tons of topics and I join them in their quest to share their knowledge and ideas even though there are so many books out there to read.  I do like novels and even though I don’t give raving reviews on all of them, I truly appreciate them for bringing me to different worlds and introducing me to such wonderful characters.

Perhaps that is why I’m forlornly looking at the NaNoWriMo website. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month and it started the first of November. You have 30 days to finish writing 50,000 words. Of course, the preparation starts in October or even earlier. Reading through the many testimonials and seeing the many participants all over the world made me wonder about the writing discipline. As of now, you dear readers are reading roughly over 200 words. Of course, 50,000 words would mean several chapters but to finish all that in 30 days requires one to be self-controlled, regulated and organized.

I heard that confessing is a good practice, well here is mine: I rarely finish work that I started at a short length of time. I drag things, I productinate (see its meaning at Urban Dictionary), and I have a tendency to neglect or pass it along. It is such a bad behavior that I get upset looking at the piled-up tasks on my Journal or my desk. If I really want to accomplish it, what is stopping me?

I want to be a disciplined author. During a live-chat with Jerry B. Jenkins, I asked what he would do when an idea hits him hard while currently working on a novel and his response was to simply jot it down and “focus” on the novel at hand. His answer hit me hard right where it should: my lack of discipline.

To truly change, one has to work with your whole being. Do you think it’s easy to immediately be disciplined? I recall my military training (yes, I did have that back in high school) and the first thing we got drilled on is physical training.

Did you just slack off there, soldier? Well, give me another 50 push-ups.

You can’t do that, soldier? Well, your buddy here won’t share your load and neither will I so move it!

It put tremendous stress physically and mentally but it did put you in a certain tune: Obedience. The body does just what you tell it to, pushing itself to the limit and with obedience your mind becomes more focused. Once you’re leading your own squad you know you have to pass on the same kind of discipline because you are teaching them to make their mind and body obey.

One of the very first things that I had to do when I moved here in Germany is to set a schedule or routine for myself because once I’ve uprooted myself from Chicago, everything was unfamiliar. In retrospect, I should have done many things in the beginning. I should have created a schedule, a routine and disciplined myself to do something productive right away. Instead I allowed my confidence and dream to deteriorate.

My French friend, AC, has been such a good influence on me lately and helped me think of my future. She even allowed me to assist her on the project she’s working on. This took me out of the rut I’m digging myself in. Previously, I would often speak with family members and friends on what I should do, what I can focus on, and my various (winning) skills. At the same time, I would often tell my husband how lost I felt because there are so many paths before me. In the end, when AC asked me what I really want to do it became crystal clear: I really want to write. That means I need to have a (published) writer’s discipline. So, I aim to do just that by continually blogging about my pursuit.  It is not going to be easy and there will be times I would fail but I hope to have the same discipline during my military training days.

If you’re still reading at this point, I am especially grateful because that means you allowed me to exhibit a glimpse of my life and almost at 900 words you’ve been patient with what I shared  Please look forward for more updates and I would enjoy hearing from you

A repeated Lesson: The proper response

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Properly responding to someone who drives you mad and crazy needs preparation. Let’s face it, everyone is faced with such moments. This might just be one of your melancholic readings for today but read on to know the how-to.

Have you ever been in a situation where you got so upset you were left speechless?  I have… too many times!

A friend

An incident some 7-8 years ago happened with a so-called friend who slandered me. I was not there to defend myself and heard only through our mutual friends afterwards what she said. They have no idea what really happened between us and only heard her version of the story. Even though I wanted to defend my stance to them, my real target was her and there is no way for me to reach her. I’m not able to tell her off—I kept my silence and just severed our ties.

A family member

One summer while visiting family, I encountered the same incident with a female relative who crafted stories about me and and spread it among her friends–some of whom haven’t even met me or was briefly acquainted. On the last day of my visit, I called her to try and reason out why I withdrew, cut off communication and would not acknowledge her presence when she’s in the room. Instead of listening to me, she yammered on and on trying to make her self-made story sound even more authentic. She was neither regretful nor concerned of our situation. What mattered to her was how good she felt with the attention and her stories.

Have you ever been placed in this situation where you physically felt the pain from the inside? I couldn’t sleep properly and if I did it was restless. I was having stomach cramps and my breathing felt very shallow. My face was forever in a frown.  I was distraught, upset, angry and horrified that here were people who could easily betray me and my confidence. All I could talk about for a while was my friend or female relative and the circumstances.

It felt like I was back to square one on this life’s lesson. How was I suppose to respond? Why should I suffer through this again? There were plenty of tears shed and some wondering on who to really trust. This is where my Emotional Intelligence failed me. Even now, I still consider my reactions to both incidents inadequate. It felt like I took the blade from the hands of the instigators and struck it straight to my heart.

How to respond

A couple of weeks ago I watched a video of Marisa Peer’s TEDx talk on “How to avoid rejection and get connection.” She gave five ways to deal with rejection. These five ways showed me the proper response. They are as follows:

  1. Thank you for sharing that.” (Is a statement to not let the rejection in but still allowing them to speak their mind)
  2. Would you repeat what you said more slowly?” (Allow them to self-reflect on what they said)
  3. Are you trying to make me feel bad about myself?” (Allow them to explain themselves and give yourself an emotional distance to what they said)
  4. That’s not going to work because I am not going to let it in.” (State specifically how  you will not allow yourself to be hurt by what they said)
  5. Do you know that critical people have the most criticism reserved for themselves? You are showing me and others how dissatisfied you are with yourself when you behave like this.” (It’s important to say this without sarcasm because you are calling the person out for what they are doing, which is hurting themselves.)

She ended her speech with a metaphor of a holy man with a journalist who doesn’t like him and kept verbally abusing him. The holy man kept smiling the more he was abused and finally the journalist asked the holy man why he was smiling. The holy man’s answer was If you gave me a gift but I didn’t take the gift, who has the gift?”  This thought was extraordinarily liberating because it provided me with a beautiful perspective.

If you gave me a gift but I didn’t take the gift, who has the gift?

Having the proper, level-headed response in any given situation is what I needed to prepare myself for. My answers should not be based on the emotional burden of being rejected or the circumstances I am placed in but to call the person’s actions out for what it is. Oh, I know how easy it is to just say these things but SO difficult to execute in such strenuous and emotionally-charged situation. I know it too well.

As Maya Angelou once said, “do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” 

I will definitely try my best to give the right response because now I know better.