Hand me a bucket?

Sometimes, it feels like you’re in a boat, floating along, and all of a sudden it springs a leak, and you’re in the unenviable position of trying to paddle, steer, and bail out water. And if you stop doing any of those, you’re going to sink. Life does that sometimes. And it sucks.

I’m currently in that kind of boat, feeling like I’m not making any headway at all, and barely keeping the water at bay. But I discovered something the other day. If I do have to stop doing any of them, the whole thing doesn’t actually instantly sink to the depths. I know, I was shocked too. Which got me thinking. If the boat isn’t really going to sink, what do I do about my need to do all the things at once?

Everything can be broken into smaller bits. Every task that needs to be done has steps, every project has stages, everything can be reframed to make it less scary. Sometimes you have to find a sandbar and just sit for a few minutes to let the desperate need to act go so you can think.

So, this week I’ve deliberately stopped and made time to have a break. Sure, there are still things I need to do, but by defining time as untouchable, I’ve found myself actually taking steps to get organised without even meaning to. Seriously, I printed out heaps of references for my thesis, and I’m getting through them at a reasonable rate that I hadn’t hoped to hit before I enforced the time-out.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay. You’re allowed to feel like that. There are times when the world really puts a drain on your mental resources, and all you can do is keep your head out of water. But try putting your feet down for a minute, make a cup of tea or something, take a walk around the block until you can breath again. Get out of your headspace and see if maybe when you go back it’s not what you thought at all.

Here is a picture of one of the things that makes it easier to take a break. Fun fact, studies show that pets increase well-being and decrease the chances of getting depression. And they’re really cute, I think that helps.

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Dream Big

When it comes to writing, there are very few things that suck more than struggling to find the time to write. It’s painful, being so aware every second you’re doing something else that it’s eating into the time you’re meant to be creating. But life throws things in the way, it leaps at you, like a toddler who believes in your absolute ability to catch them, and that’s all you can try to do.I understand that. It happens pretty much every time I want to get serious about writing. Every time. But, it can actually be helpful.

Sometimes, putting pressure on yourself to write, and write well, makes it impossible to put any words on the page at all. It gets in the way of even thinking about going back over work because you know it’s not as good as it could be and you don’t have time to fix it all. When that happens, step away for a minute or two and let yourself dream big.

Right now, my big dream is having somewhere closer to home to keep Bridget, and still being able to go up and see my family regularly. Getting bigger, I want to have two horses, and a float, so I can go for rides with someone just because. And I want to have the time for it.

Since admitting that big dream, I’ve slowly started to get back into the little habits that were so much part of my daily life I forgot they existed. I’ve started narrating things to myself, making up stories about things in my head. I’ve found myself wondering odd little things, like what would I put in this room if I were a character? These are all good little wonderings.

Every time you let yourself do a little ‘what if’ or ‘how come’ or ‘what next’, you’re stretching those creative muscles and getting closer to writing something that feels light and easy. At least in the beginning. Writing is hard, sustained writing is an endurance sport that starts with a sprint. I’m not sure if there are any real sports that are based on the idea that you go really hard at the start, and then try desperately to finish, but I could be wrong.

Getting immersed in the absolute here and now is sometimes necessary to sort out life enough to relax and find that happy writing space. But next time you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, and can’t get a word down, why not ask yourself to find a big dream? Don’t worry about how to get there, unless you’re a planner and that’ll help, just let yourself imagine something based around your life. After all, it’s the one narrative you know inside out, and you’re the protagonist.

And if you can’t figure out how to start, why not write it here in a comment? Just a quick one. My big, shiny dream is…

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Bridget, because she’s part of my Big Dream.

Free Write, ‘Smells like Home’.

I open the door, and the smell greets me like I had never been without it, and I walk into the room and close the door with relief. It is dark, because I haven’t turned on the light, and the smell wraps around me. I am not afraid of the darkness. As I make my way about getting ready for sleep, I breathe deeply, and the smell fills all the little places between stresses. It is good, it is welcoming, it is safe. Safe. The feeling washes over me, through me, and as I pull the warm blanket over me I pause. I could, as is my usual habit, pull it over my head so all that is exposed is a breathing space, but as I draw in another breath I close my eyes and rest my head on the pillow. The blanket is over my shoulders, tucked around my neck, and feels like I am wrapped all around in soft warmth. For a time I lay there, each steady breath easier than the last. I am home, I am safe, and I have never been so glad to be so.

 

Author’s Note: The above is as originally written, it has not been edited. This is deliberate. Freewrites are not designed to be perfect, they’re designed to take something and run with it, to be creative in a short burst about something that may or may not be related to anything you’re working on. Today, I needed to do something creative, and here it is. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t sparkle, it’s just another little piece of motivational mass, sitting there waiting to be used somewhere later. I put this up, as is, because I wanted to prove that while it’s hard and scary, being able to look at your work honestly, in all draft and creative stages, can be done. Now that it’s here, I might come back and edit it, I might take this moment and put it in a longer piece. I might just read it over a couple of times to get an idea of how I naturally write, before the Inner Editor gets hold of me. This is a sort of starting point, a look at the raw materials or an initial exploration, what it could become is unknown and full of potential. After all, if it’s not on the page, it makes it very hard to edit, doesn’t it?

One of Those Weeks

So, ever had one of those weeks where everything seems to just explode when you touch it? If so, I think we should get together, form a club, and make pretty badges with some cool picture and a witty saying on it.

One of those weeks makes you wonder what the universe is trying to tell you, and when there doesn’t seem to answer it’s just worse. And all the time, all the things are piling up and demanding that something be done, while it’s like climbing up a hill, in the fog, in the dark, with someone randomly adding things to the load you’re carrying. Which is to say, it’s cold, annoying, and makes you want to swear in all the languages you can Google translate.

In weeks like this, the only thing to do is break everything into small steps. Need to get up that hill, just take one step at a time. Eventually, you’ll get there. Have an essay to write? Read one sentence at a time, and you’ll get through the references so you can write it, one word at a time. This post is being written one word at a time, and I’m hoping that when I put it together, it makes some form of sense.

Another thing to try during one of these weeks, that may stretch into months, is to find something that you can do. Like read references, or books in the genre you’re writing, or looking up pretty pictures or good songs that make you feel like doing something. I am planning on watching some particularly good series for their incredible romantic tension, so I can work out what makes it work and try and imitate it when I take a look at Book 1 again.

Don’t be too hard on yourself during these times, because that’s the easy option and makes it all the harder to get up and get things done. Do the hard thing, give yourself something you can do, because not only will you feel better about it but you’ll be making the best out of a frustrating time. Be kind to yourself, be aware of what you can do, and let yourself build up gently. It’s hard, but it does help a lot. And it stops me wishing I could curl up in a ball and not come out until someone provides me with a kitty or a horse.

There would be a picture, but part of my week was my trustworthy laptop dying, so this is post was written on my new one, and it doesn’t have any pictures on it yet. I’ll have to work on that…

Block it in

Today I realised that as much as I had been heading in the right direction, I had forgotten one of the key things I had learned from doing far too many NaNos. Block in writing time.

For those who don’t know what NaNo is, it’s officially called National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and is a 50k word in 30 day challenge. They run from the official websites, http://www.nanowrimo.org and http://www.campnanowrimo.org, every year and are a great way to get words on paper. Or screen, whichever you prefer. They’re great, and I highly recommend the official books too, if you don’t want to write during the challenge months.

But I digress. One of the things that NaNoWriMo teaches is that writing time, valuable, precious writing time, can be squeezed in much more easily than it seems. Which means that as I am sitting staring at Facebook and wondering what to randomly search for next, I could actually be giving myself writing time. Which is precisely the thing I had forgotten to do despite looking for ways to build Motivational Mass. Sort of accidentally undermined the whole process there…

As with all goals, once you break it down into steps, the next thing to do is make time for it. Stationary supply shops seems to have endless ways to make blocking in time easy, wall charters, weekly planners, all sorts of things. I have a small calendar with horses hanging next to my desk, and a blank weekly planner on my desk so I can keep track of what I’m up to.

This week, block in some time for writing, and don’t do anything else even if the words aren’t going anywhere. See what happens when you give yourself the time and permission to do it, I’m finding it easier already.

All I need now is a cat on my lap, like this cutie, and I’m set!

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