The Write Positivity; How To Stay Positive When Writing

positivity-title

We all get a little blue from time to time. It’s natural.

Sure as the sun will rise and set, or the moon will gleam on a clear night, you’ll get a case of the Mondays, the moody Maggies, or the melancholies from time to time.

And any kind of art, anything that gets you to put your heart on your sleave can leave you feeling vulnerable, exposed, or even weak. Emotions run high. We get defensive, or cuts slide a little deeper than they should.

When it creeps in and takes hold, a negative thought can develop a certain gravitas that enables it to overpower our usual motivations and patterns of behaviour.

At best, this could be an inability to write the words needed for a daily target. The block of writers. Yes, that pesky possum in the pipes of your creative plumbing. One that you flush on the morrow.

At worst, it could mean you trash a great idea as your internal bleak brute wrestles you into submission with utterances of you’re not good enough and this is crazy, or even what are you thinking?

We need a certain amount of confidence to even try these wacky ideas. Breaking the mould and pushing for originality requires us to break away from convention. This is something that a lot of us are naturally resistant to. We want to fit in. We desire success. We crave props and kudos.

Some just long to follow in the footsteps of their heroes.

None of this can be done without the self-assurance that comes from the freedom of having confidence in yourself, and a positive belief that what you’re doing will work.

So negative thoughts can be cancerous on our creativity if left to fester.

With that in mind, let’s look at some easy ways to keep yourself pumped up and positive, even if you feel yourself pulled into an ocean of negative notions.

 

"Listen to your computer"

“Listen to your computer. It knows things about things”

 

Pat Yourself on the Back And Stay Realistic

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be ridiculously hard on yourself about small things because you want to be the best. That’s fine, so long as you put the same energy into the good too. To demosntrate this point better, let me give two examples from heroes of mine: Jurgen Klopp (current football manager of Liverpool FC), and Shad (a Canadian rapper).

Jurgen Klopp, in a recent interview after winning a game 4-1, was asked whether his decisions before the game were ultimately responsible for the win. Klopp, in characteristic nonchalance, responded that when his team lost the week before, the decisions were still his. He believed in the same system, the same characters, the same ideology. He was lambasted by his critics. Yet here, a week later, that system, characters and ideology were being lauded as groundbreaking. Did he want to take credit? No. That’s for the players to enjoy. He doesn’t give himself a hard time when they lose, and so he doesn’t give himself a high five when they win. He focuses on the journey, and the bigger picture. Are they playing the kind of football he likes, win or lose? Yes. Then really, what more could he ask for? Any lucky person can win, and any unlucky person can lose. But to sustain a vision, an identity, and a philosophy in your output, that is what really matters.

Shad, through his song Rose Garden (watch the video here) utters the lines:

You never question when you get the blessings
So don’t get vexed when your life is stressed

Basically, you don’t waste time overthinking your blessings, so why do you spend so much time on the negative elements?

 

"Don't be so negative. Honestly, I don't know where he gets it all from"

“Don’t be so negative. Honestly, I don’t know where he gets it all from”

 

Diversify Your Attention

In my life I’ve held various management positions. Part of management is recruiting new staff. And one thing that always made me chuckle was the ‘hobbies’ part of the CV. Pretty much every single resume I’ve ever seen lists travel, reading, and socialising as hobbies, with little else.

Why? We’re all pretty interesting people, with plenty of things we do for leisure. Life is more than a paycheck your TV. Make time for yourself and your pleasures.

Writing, though for most of us a passion and something that inspires giddiness, should never be our sole source of such whimsy. Allowing this will mean all satisfaction and sense of well-being will come from this one, cruel mistress.

So make time for other pursuits. Walk. Pump iron. Read. Play Squash. Jam on the harpischord. Skype family. Play boardgames. Volunteer. Paint. Whittle.

Whatever it may be, find other ways to stimulate yourself and blow off steam. Your writing will thank you for not being your only source of release. You’ll cherish those moments spent at the keyboard / pad / quill.

For some ideas for what to fill your free time, see our article Things to do on a Sunday (Besides Troll Facebook).

 

"I like high fiving. That's a thing, right?"

“I like high fiving. That’s a thing, right?”

 

Devote Time Though

No matter what you do, make time for your art. Knackered after work? Just remember; you’re tired because you worked hard for someone else to get rich. Now you’ve done that for them, do it for yourself too. Everytime you go home and veg in front of the TV, ignoring your art, you’re giving someone else the fruits of your labour, and robbing yourself.

Forget this at your peril!

 

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y'know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

Pictured: You not following your dreams (y’know, if you happen to be a brunette lady)

 

Ask for Answers…

Seek feedback, and share your work. Often you’ll see different perspectives, both positive and constructively critical. Engage in a writing group, or start your own. Do NaNoWriMo and meet other budding authors. Write stories for friends as birthday / Christmas presents. Start a blog. Anything that gets people to give you opinions on your work opens you up to getting some alternate perspectives on what you’re doing, and can give you that much needed satisfaction.

Also, having to answer to an audience and justify your work will help keep you focused on your voice and your craft.

 

"How's it gonna sound?"

“How’s it gonna sound?”

 

But Adapt Your Perceptions to Fit Them In

That said, don’t take everything to heart. People’s opinions are incredibly diverse, and you’ll never please everyone. Take in what is useful (both good and bad) then discard the rest.

Accept that you won’t be adored by everyone. Those that are overly critical or rude will often be speaking from a place of jealousy or projecting some of their own negativity on to you. Eventually you’ll find a group of people who’s opinions you cherish, and who’s feedback you can use productively; both their criticism and their praise.

Defending your work can also have the added affect of making you closer with it. We all had the odd disagreement with our family members when we were growing up. Yet the minute someone else started having a go at them we’d leap to their defence. Your writing will become a sibling, or a child. You’ll find yourself seeing the good and the bad in it, and learning to accept it (warts and all) as you chisel away, always looking to upgrade and tweak.

 

"Now pay attention"

“Now pay attention”

 

Cut Out Extremes

Life isn’t just a series of the amazing and the devastating. There are bits and bobs in between. The normal. The average. The ok, or so-so.

Embrace that.

Just because the thing you wrote today isn’t going to melt the faces off your readers, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth celebrating. And just because you’ve written something that reads like a brail stop sign, it doesn’t mean you need to renounce your writing forever and jump into an estuary with breeze blocks on your tootsies!

Peaks and troughs, ups and downs, lefts and rights. Life is full of ’em. Keep that in mind when you’re feeling a little glum or sullen. The world will keep turning, and you’ll be back to writing soon enough.

When you feel like giving up, keep going.

 

"No pain no sprint. Life's a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don't be a quitter, alright?"

“No pain no sprint. Life’s a marathon not a gain. Whatever. Just don’t be a quitter, alright?”

 

Ultimately, Find Your Rainbow

Trust me, there’s always one out there somewhere. The onus is on you to find it. So look for the wins in your losses. You might etch a story and the plot hits a brick wall that you can’t break through. In that scenario look for the character, scene, setting, voice, technique or twist that worked well and then develop that separately. Or accept that practice alone was another step in the right direction. Or that being dedicated enough to write something should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Don’t wait for other people to point it out to you. Find it in yourself, and look for the things to cherish.

In the long run, you’ll thank yourself for it.

 

"Fuuuuuuuuuuudge!"

“Oh yeah, and autosave. Always autosave!”

 

Special thanks to Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, patrisyu, phanlop88, stockimages and Sura Nualpradid @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

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New Year, No Fear!

logo taxi

Happy New Year! 新年快樂! Feliz año nuevo!

Let’s all just take some time to reflect on 2015. It had its share of drama. Good things came and went. Terror and division became all too common in the headlines. Hopefully, yours was one to cherish, but if it was a bad year, at least it is over now. These barriers in our mind invisible yet so important, of the moving from one calendar to the next, can be an important psychological step. Move from the old into the new. Close the door on 2015, and try to take the lessons it offered with you on your journey into fresh moments.

Now we turn the page and begin a new chapter. What wonders does this coming term hold in store? Perhaps you are lucky to already have things to look forward to; a wedding, a holiday, a graduation, or a baby. Perhaps what’s coming up for you doesn’t fill such generic milestones, but slots into an alternative bucket list; first marathon, first solo skydive, getting your PADI, or climbing Everest.

Hell, it might just be you’ve decided to start eating crinkle cut instead of regular crisps with your Netflix sessions! It all counts!

A new year is a great opportunity to turn your gaze to new horizons. I know it’s a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. With so many others basking in the positivity of a new beginning, the energy is all around you. Tap into it and exploit it for yourself. This is your time!

So for those of you still without an idea of what you might want to do over the coming year, here are some goals you may want to use. Or adapt. Or ignore. This is your year. Go out there and own it!

imagerymajestic

“Come here!”

Learn about a new topic

The internet is bloody marvellous. Not only does it offer 24/7 access to news, games, and other people, but it also connects you with the wealth of human knowledge, and the shared library of wisdom that humanity has assembled in the last 8,000 years.

Thanks to websites like coursera and Khan Academy, you can now sign up online for free learning!

Ok, I’ll let my inner nerd quieten down for a bit. But truly, this is something wonderful that should be celebrated and enjoyed.

You can find sites for everything, from guitar lessons to 6th grade maths, traditional Chinese to coding. Go ahead, Google it.

See this article from Observer Innovation for links to a variety of different courses to get you started.

For those of you interested in learning a new language, check out the Itchy Quill guide to the best sites and apps for language learning here.

 

nenetus

“Boom. Knowledge”

Learn a new skill

But life is not all about sitting in front of a computer now, is it? Some of us are handsy people, veritable artisans who respond much better to the kinaesthetic pleasure of holding and handling, not merely studying.

For those, there are plenty of things to try your hand at. Jewellery making, woodcraft, pottery, baking, fencing, knitting, painting, driving… the list goes on.

Most colleges run night schools that offer affordable courses in a whole range of vocational activities. There are also websites like meetup.com which offer you a chance to find similar minded people and talk about/establish events about your chosen area.

What’s stopping you?

 

David Castillo Dominici

You know, apart from the obvious stuff like commitments and generally being an adult

Start a new hobby

Or maybe you just want a new way to relax? You could look into a new sport, or another way of channelling your competitive streak.

How about another income stream? I’ve got good friends who make a healthy income from eBay. They trawl the charity shops and boot sales looking for gems. With the power of a smart phone in your hands, you’re seconds away from a valuation, and an idea of whether you can make money from something.

Of course, there are the classic hobbies such as stamp collecting and fishing out there to be tried too.

For more ideas, check out this list on the Art of Manliness.com – though these don’t have to be hobbies for men. They’re not gender specific, after all…

 

Bill Longshaw

… unlike some things

Pay it forward

Do something for someone else, like help out a friend or neighbour. Maybe someone is moving house, or they need a hand with their kid? It doesn’t have to be a massive task, but it’s always nice to help out someone without expecting something in return. You could make their day!

If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, what about volunteering? Here in Taipei, it’s common for foreigners who cannot get pets in their own apartments to help out at local dog shelters by walking dogs after work. There are a lot of refugees kicking around in Europe at the moment, and I’m sure you can imagine that local authorities are swamped. Why not see if you can help out? Or start collecting old clothes together to be sent to displaced peoples.

Or, you know, just help old ladies across the road or up the stairs with their shopping…

 

graur razvan ionut

“Do I look like I need your help young man?”

Catch up with old friends or distant family

Sometimes it’s easy to lose track of time. I’ve been out in SE Asia now for over two years, and I’m not the best person at keeping in contact. Out of sight, out of mind.

But I know that for some, it really means a lot if you reach out to them. It lets them know you haven’t forgotten about them, and that you are thinking of them.

So call up grandma, or send an email to Judith and the kids, or just write a letter to your mate Shaggy Dave.

Who knows, you might be just the person they need right now…

 

Stuart Miles

“Come on dad, it shouldn’t take 15 years to get a pack of cigarettes”

Visit a new country

Bit of a no brainer this, but with the summer still a healthy half a year away, it can feel a little dull sat there in a cold apartment watching the mould climb up your walls. What better potion for your ills than warmer thoughts of a sunnier summer, and the chance to hop abroad?

Kamchatka? the ‘Stans? Timbuktu? Tuvalu?

Throw a dart at a map, and book your ticket now before the summer rush. Then you’ll know you’ve got a solid six months of saving time to scrape together some cash, some research, and all the bravery you’ll need to take the plunge into a new adventure.

Hell, I’m doing it myself right now…

 

Ambro

“See?”

Set yourself goals, and challenge yourself

I managed to read 33 books last year. For me, that was decent. I’m no Good Will Hunting, I need a bit of time to get through a book (though I love reading). This year, I wanted to read more. So, I set a target for 35 books. Nice enough, I thought. “Where’s the challenge in that?” said a friend. “If you really want to challenge yourself, put 40.”

So I did.

Lord knows how I’ll find the time. 33 was a struggle. But having that target, that goal, gives me something to drive for. If I fall short, I’ll still have probably done better. But if I achieve it, well, I’ll have done something awesome.

And this mentality applies to anything. Pick a local marathon, sign up, then train your nuts off to be ready for it. Even if you end up crawling over the finish line, the positive effects of trying to prepare and then actually doing it will be myriad.

What challenge will you set?

 

stockimages

“Fightin’. This year, I’ll do gooder at fightin’… and stares”

Cut out the negativity

Some people suck the life out of us, and similarly so do some situations and environments. Make this year the year you finally put some distance between yourself and those things that drag you down.

Have you got a negative habit perhaps, such as smoking, eating unhealthily or drinking more booze than a ship of sailors? Make this the year you take steps to make your life that little bit better.

I quit smoking at the end of 2014, and I’ve now gone a full year; no patches, no slips, no consequences. I’m just a year healthier than I was as a smoker.

Believe in yourself, and start thinking about what you can do.

satit_srihin

Make this the year you follow your dreams

You may have had something you’ve been putting off for ages. I did. Mine was a novel (and now it’s nearly done!)

No more excuses, let this be the year. You’ll make time for it if you really want it! And you want it, don’t you? Of course you do!

Go out and get it!

see god

Special thanks to Ambro, Bill Longshaw, David Castillo Dominici, graur razvan ionut, imagerymajestic, nenetus, satit_srihin, stockimages & Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2016

Lesson From NaNoWriMo; Challenge is good. Fear is good too!

Wro Title

That’s it. The curtain falls on the last day of November, and with it comes the end of the great journey that is NaNoWriMo.

And some good news this end, as I managed to win! Wahoo! Finishing 88 words over the 50,000 target, a weighty tome of life, love and laughter (and rock n roll and travelling) awaits. Watch this space, it will be available to read after some editing and a bit of down time for the author.

When I started out 30 days ago, I had no idea how much I’d do, and how much I’d have to dig deep to get it done. 50,000 words seems like a pretty small amount (most stories are more like 60k+), especially when broken into daily chunks of about 1,660. But by the end of the first week, I already knew it was going to be a lot tougher than I anticipated.

Life has a habit of throwing things at you in bursts, and so it was for my November. I’ve been ducking and diving through my other commitments, and yet somehow I still managed to finish a novel. A god damn novel! It’s god awful, I’m not lying. But there’s something there. Something horribly unpolished and woefully rushed. But it’s there for me to look at and pat myself on the back for. It’s there to hold, to stare at, and to edit and re-edit.

Like any experience, it’s what you learn from the act of doing it, not just the feeling of it being done, that makes it special. And NaNoWriMo is no different.

So, with that in mind, I wanted to share the reasons why I found it so useful.

imagerymajestic

“Great!”

It’s nice to do something hard

Life isn’t easy. Then again, I’m not sure it is meant to be. Having something to focus on for the past thirty days has made me acutely aware of how much I can get done if I prioritize my time. I’ve not had to make huge sacrifices, and have missed out on little (I took a five day trip to Hong Kong and Macau in the middle of November), but I’ve managed to add to my out put for the month.

Could I do it every month? Woah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This was still hard work. But that was nice. I work hard all day in my job for someone else. It’s nice to work hard for myself when I get home too.

Ambro

“Workin’ hard, or hardly workin’?”

I’ve broken through Writer’s Block

Multiple times in fact. There were a few days when I sat staring at the empty page and felt more than a little despondent that ideas were not forthcoming. Especially when, through discussions with other NaNoWriMos, I realized this isn’t the case for everyone.

Yet I managed to dig deep and find my own ways through these veritable Mines of Moria, and that was refreshing to know. I’m sure I’ll come up against a void of inspiration again in the future, but hopefully I can be buoyed and spurred on by the thought of knowing I’ve overcome this particular demon before.

vectorolie

“God dammit, not again.”

I wrote… a lot

Not just the finished product, but a lot of other things to get me going, such as using Copy Work as a way of warming up (see an explanation of what Copy Work is here). It gave me the chance to delve back into some of my favourite writers, before switching into my own work (and seeing how far off the benchmark of quality they have set I am).

Not only that, I saw for myself how easy it is to adjust your daily routine to fit in some writing. After all, if you don’t make time for your passions, you’re selling yourself short. You can fail at something you hate, so why not give failing at something you love a try?

fantasista

Don’t ever let anyone tell you it can’t be done, or that you can’t be something

I fell into ‘the zone’

Writing everyday got me into a place where ideas, when they came, were coming thick and fast. From the past thirty days I’ve had enough bad ideas to keep me writing for the next decade, easy.

A few of those, with a little more thought and a little more focus, could grow into something. What, I don’t know, but something. I guess we’ll see, but it’s exciting, right?

Ambro

Ahem, moving on

I conquered fears

Sometimes the fear of starting gets in the way, but I replaced this with a fear of not finishing. One stops you beginning, the other propels you forward. Manipulating your fear, or rather ‘re-imagining it’, is one way of taking back the mind-space and energy fear requires and utilising it in a positive and productive way.

Fear Harnessed

What did you learn from your November? If you didn’t get a chance to do NaNoWriMo, what do you think you might gain from it? Have you challenged yourself to do something recently and taken something away from the whole experience? I’d love to hear about it…

NaNo Stats

Special thanks to Ambro, fantasista, imagerymajestic & vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015