April 6th – “You know intuitively that things are going to go your way, even if all visible signs point in the opposite direction.”

Do I know that things are going my way? I don’t feel very sure about my writing project.

The new thing I’m trying to do is to clock in a certain number of hours each week for writing. Ideally it would be 20 hours. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not a crazy number for me. For years, I wrote 20 – 30 hours a week in addition to working a day job. It’s going to take a while to build that habit back up, so I’m not expecting it to happen overnight. It will likely take a few years.

Two weeks ago, I decided to set up a reward system for myself. For every 5 hours I write, I get to do 1 hour of another creative activity (i.e. painting/reading). So far, I’ve only accumulated 1 hour of fun time. I made cat yoga cards from an old calendar I wanted to upcycle:

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I know from experience that there will be many hours “wasted” and I will not have added too many words to the page. My tarot reader also confirmed this and said that I should just sit there. Does that happen to you?

I’d like to believe that all hours I’ve spent writing have been productive. That’s not true at all! There have many days and nights…even weeks when I worked on writing just 1 page. There have also been many times where I’ve written 25 pages in the course of a night. It’s very unpredictable.

It’s funny that how easily how nostalgia can distort reality. In my mind, I only like to remember all the 25 page nights, not the hours that I spent sitting in a coffee shop trying to string up 25 words to make up a sentence.

Are things going my way, even if I only have a few pages to show for it? I’d like to think so!

February 23rd – “You will tend to scatter your efforts in all directions, and this could only bring you trouble.”

I didn’t want any trouble, so I followed my horoscope. There were several moments in the day when I was close to getting distracted by the possibilities of new fun projects. At one point, I wanted to make board games! I still have 2 projects which require a some of my attention and 1 project that requires more focus.

The big project is practicing creative writing. I know I just called it a project, but it’s really a routine. What makes it a routine is that I hope to make it a habit and eventually be able to get myself accustomed to writing a few hours each week, no matter what’s going on in life.

Routines are much harder than they appear. Some “studies” say that it only takes as little as doing something 17 times to make it a habit. What’s not explained is how much time can elapse in between times that you are taking action. It took me a few years to maintain a fitness routine (which I’ve been doing for 20 years now!). It required a lifestyle change and training myself to act in a different way until it became intuitive.

The way to test if you’ve created habit or not is to see how long it takes you to get back to the habit after an interruption. Interruptions include any extenuating circumstances like personal issues, vacations, starting/stopping a job, beginning/ending a relationship, etc. Things happen in life and it’s necessary to put those fires out. If a handsome/beautiful stranger asked you out on a date, are you really going to say “no” so you can spend your time at the gym or stay at home writing alone? Of course not! Well, you might, if you’re REALLY into your routine. That’s okay too! The point is, we don’t know what comes our way and have to be ready to be flexible when opportunities/situations arise.

If you can get back to your routine after a vacation, congratulations, you have a habit! If you aren’t able to get back to your habit right away, it’s likely that you didn’t create a habit. When you’re committed to a habit, you bounce back well and can easily adjust your routines to make room for anything.

That’s enough lecturing from me for now! Back to my habit.

I’m somewhere in between with building my habit. I had a few weeks off from adjusting from a 2 cat household to 1, getting ready for an interview, and planning an unexpected trip to Italy. I’ve mostly put out these fires, so it was time to write again.

I opened my chapters last night and was surprised to see how much work I had already done. I added 2 more paragraphs to one chapter before calling it a night. It’s not much, so the real test will be this weekend. I don’t have any big plans for the weekend and have lots of time to write. Wish me luck!

January 4th – “Fitting in is important, but your dreams are much more important than that.”

Fitting in has rarely been my priority. In the few moments of my life when I did try to fit in it didn’t work out anyway. Fitting in means not being creative, not thinking for yourself, and not trying anything new. If we all fit in, the world would be devoid of cronuts, cruffins, and kouign-ammans! Do you want to live in a world like that?!  It also meant that I had to bite my tongue and not speak up about things I disagreed with. That was not okay with me!

My dreams have definitely been much more important than running with the pack. Had I followed the pack, I think I might be a dentist or be some sort of analyst. Oh, the horror! I can’t even envision myself in that type of scenario!

It’s not that I have a naturally rebellious spirit or a strong desire to be different/unique/special. A teacher once told me that I was “special” and I wanted to throw up. At that moment, I realized that there was so much she didn’t understand me and that our mentor-mentee relationship was doomed. In fact, there have been many days when I wished that I was just like everybody else. I could go to work, take home my paycheck, and call it a day. No worries whatsoever. Every day is the same. That sounds really nice and simple.

But no, I’m wired a little differently than some others. I’ve never really fit in and trying to wouldn’t feel right. It would probably suffocate me.

Not caring about what other people think and doing my own thing has helped me come a long way. In all of the decisions I’ve made by disregarding how others would perceive me, I have not had a single regret.

I’m thankful for the reminder from my horoscope today because it’s just the pep talk I needed. I’ve been doing too much research on fiction writing and need to stick to my guns. I have faith that my novel will work itself out even if I don’t know the plots for ANY of the characters of the stories yet. If I did know, it’s probably not a book worth writing!

December 13th – “Utilize your imagination to solve a confusing problem.”

Without imagination, the world would be a very boring place. Imagination brings beauty, art, and magic into our everyday lives. Imagination allows us to travel to any past, present, or future we wish. It helps us see beyond what the concrete world offers us.

Lacking imagination is rare state for me. In fact, having too much imagination is my main problem! When I can see so many great ideas and so many choices that I can make, it becomes difficult to decide on one fantasy to live out.

I’ve been considering three types of writing I want to try out: fiction, non-fiction, and academic. Since logic can’t play a role in my decision making, I have to rely on my intuition. Working on any of these writing projects will yield no financial reward for me. It’s purely for the sake of doing it.

After thinking about this in my head for a couple of weeks, I have not felt any clearer about the situation. I decided that it would be a good time to really let my imagination take over. I went through each scenario in my head to see how these options would play out.

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I imagined:

What would I write about?

Who was my audience? How did they look like?

What would my book cover look like?

How would my talks go? What weird questions would I be asked?

Where would I live? Would I be travelling a lot?

Will I have time for baking? What new almond croissant bakeries will I try?

How many more cats would be living with me? What are their names?

What new friends would I make along the way?

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Fiction was the form that I most clearly saw myself doing. This is strange because it’s the thing that I have the least experience doing. Perhaps it’s the newness of the situation that I am drawn to. There are no strings attached to this option because I have no idea what I’m getting myself into! However, in this vision, I did see that I would still be doing academic writing. There’s a lot that can be expressed in fiction, but it doesn’t offer me all the tools I want to express myself.

Oddly, in all three of my visions, there was one thing that it all had in common. I didn’t want to do any publicity for my work. It’s not that I have a fear of public speaking. Okay, I still sort of do, but I’ve worked that one out already! No. What I feared was to be a public figure of any sort. I don’t want to be known. I’ve been hiding out and would like to remain that way. It seems that my imagination has helped me see what’s been holding me back. My indecisiveness wasn’t the problem at all.

Until I let go of this fear of being known, I won’t be able to move forward. When I approach things with fear, it stops me from fully investing in what I’m doing. That’s no way to live!  If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail BIG, knowing that I’ve tried my hardest!

It’s amazing what a little imagination can do. I never know where my imagination will take me and it has not disappointed me yet!

October 11th and 12th – “Get all your ducks in a row prior to launching a new project…You may need to take a step back to see what’s working and what isn’t.”

I’m beginning to think that these horoscope and zodiac readings really are signs! Once again, they pretty much say the same thing. I’ll have to start keeping a tally of how often the two match up.

This week, I investigated ways to get published. I did a pretty thorough internet search, but as usual, the results were varied and gave me more information than I could handle. Oh, how I love and hate you internet!  I did find some “good sources” (i.e. writers who have published more than a few books with well-known companies) and they provided some deep insights into the world of popular publishing. While I appreciated their suggestions, I realized that I was more discouraged than encouraged to know the ins and outs of professional publishing!

Writing and publishing are two very different things, and it helped me see that I needed to work on my material first before worrying about the challenges of marketing or working with a publisher. Eventually I would have to deal with all of that, but for now, I should get all those ideas out of my head and onto paper.  One of the things that I will work on is reading more. The more you read, the better your writing gets. I’ve experienced this first hand and know others who can attest to it as well. I do read a lot now, but lately it has been more of short articles online than books. If I want to write a book, I better start reading books!

I have many unread books on my shelf like Hegel’s Philosophy of History,, but maybe that’s not the best place to start. I like philosophy, but I think I would need to take a class or two (or TEN, let’s get real) to be begin to understand dense works like these. I’m also more interested in writing about popular culture for a larger readership.  This book below caught my attention last week:

What Philosophy Can Tell You about Your Cat edited by Steven D. Hales

It’s actually a collection of essays written by different authors, but it’s still useful to see how these different perspectives can work together to form (or not form) a cohesive book. It is philosophy-lite , so I think I can handle it. From the chapter I previewed online, it’s a great book for cat lovers, but might not be a friendly read for a dog or horse person. Be warned dog and horse lovers, you might find this book offensive!

October 8th – “You’re focused on your home right now, so hang out with roommates or your spouse.”

My significant other was away for the day, so I spent some quality time with my cats. We spent the morning in the garden and the rest of the day inside.

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I ground up cat food in the food processor, asked the cats how they liked the new cat litter, and gave them lots of head massages. We even watched a couple of episodes of My Cat From Hell together.

My Cat From Hell follows Jackson Galaxy, a cat therapist, who helps people cohabitate with cats. In many episodes the humans on the show believe that there is something wrong with the cats they live with. By the end of the show, Galaxy usually successfully retrains humans to change their behavior which makes both cats and humans happy.  One of ideas Galaxy regularly uses is the challenge line.

The challenge line is what a cat’s limitation is. Sometimes it can be measured physically – i.e., by how close two cats can eat together without fighting. While Galaxy is talking about cats, the challenge line can be practiced by humans too. He asks some important questions:

Where is your cat’s challenge line?

Is it about people? Children?

Where do you feel sorry for them?

Where is that place where you say, “Oh, c’mon, you can do this”?

The third line, “Where do you feel sorry for them?” really hits home. I don’t ever want anyone to feel sorry for me! It’s a terrible feeling to be on the receiving end of pity. This has happened to me on a few occasions. Many people are surprised when I reveal to them that I suffer from depression and had an abusive childhood. I am highly functional at work, generally exhibit a friendly outgoing personality, and don’t walk around looking like I have a rain cloud over my head. The reaction is often shock, but with a sense of understanding/empathy. Most people have gone through their own hardships or know other people who have. On rare occasions, the reaction is shock and pity/sympathy. I don’t know how to best way to handle these situations yet, but I am working on it. Since I have such a strong aversion against anyone feeling sorry for me, I better work on moving that challenge line!

Writing has been a challenge for me over the past few years. I have successfully completed a 200 + page manuscript filled with footnotes, research, and lots of hard work. However, I have not been able to do anything up to that level. I would like to complete and publish a book project of some sort. It could be fiction, non-fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, or really anything that impresses me!

My journey so far:

September – 2015 – started writing short poems

January 2016 – completed writing short self-help book in poems and sentences

July 2016 – completed 1st draft of illustrations for self-help book; sent book out to 2 publishers, rejected by 1

September 2016 – started writing short blog entries

October 2016 – writing blog posts every other day

I thought I had done nothing this past year, but that’s not really true at all! My writing is going slowly, but it is going. I have pushed past my challenge lines before and will continue to do so.