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

Things to do on a Sunday (besides troll Facebook)

title

Who doesn’t love a day off? The chance to relax, unwind, and tick off many of the items on a to do list that have piled up over a busy week.

For some, it can also be a day of regret, however. Shattered from a long week, it’s not unheard of for the day to whizz by before anything substantial is achieved, leaving a feeling of hollowness in us that can’t be remedied until another day with a blank schedule is upon us.

But Sundays can be relaxing and productive. We all have our Sunday routines, and I’m sure many readers have a tried and tested formula for what makes their Sunday a day to look forward to.

For those looking for a little inspiration, or a break from their norm and an idea for something else, we’ve got your back!

Suuuundaaaaaay

Suuuundaaaaaay

Cook a big meal

Every nation has a national breakfast, though one of my personal favourites is the Fry Up! It is somewhat of an institution on the British Isles, and there is nothing I love more on a day off than to prepare one for myself or friends, from scratch.

If breakfast isn’t really your cup of tea, how about cooking a large batch meal that could save you time during the week for pursuits of leisure? Huffington Post has some great ideas for easy to make batch meals to last seven days. You could just cook an old family favourite such as chilli, or how about finally trying to cook Grandma’s secret sauce?

“I’ve been perfecting the grilled cheese for weeks”

Flaneur

A flaneur is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘a man who saunters around observing society’. The woman who does the same is know as a ‘flaneuse’. It was a popular pass-time in Victorian England; a hobby of the bourgeois.

Essentially, it’s walking. But, it’s walking for the experience of walking, not just to get from A to B! The writer Will Self is a proud advocate of the benefits of walking, often linking the peaceful stroll and it’s opportunity to appreciate his fellow humans in passing, as inspiration for his creative works. He also argues that walking through your town or city is important in the ‘fight against corporate control’ (The Guardian).

Aside from a gentle amble on a Sunday afternoon, there is also the night walk. This affords the walker a great opportunity to see the world around them in a different light, literally. With dim street lamps and eerie moonlight our only guide, we experience much more potently the smells, sounds and atmosphere of our habitat. Under the cloak of darkness, all cities emanate synaesthesia. Give it a try!

Under the cover of darkness, many things happen

Beware of the Victorian tavern wench

Catch up on Correspondences

Do you have an old friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Perhaps you are trying to network and are worried that some of your connections are drifting away? Whatever the case, sometimes it is nice to take the time to re-connect with others via letters or emails. The written form of communication, though on the increase in text message and phone app form, is declining in the classical sense. Our grandparents were often semi-Jedi in regards to their penmanship, and could craft wonderful missives that could be handed down from generation to generation.

Think how much of history we know due to the letters that have been left behind! What legacy are we leaving for our children; sneezing panda videos and Candy Crush high scores? Ok, so society is hardly in decline, and in truth technology has made it easier to connect in simpler terms. That doesn’t take away the sentimental value to others of taking moments from your day to fill them in on your happenings, especially with the effort demonstrated in a wonderfully scripted letter. Thoughtcatalog.com make a compelling argument for letters here.

Dear mum, weather is good. Lots love Jay. PS, send money

Dear mum, weather is good. Lots love Jay.
PS, send money

Practice a Hobby

Juggling? Diablo? Yo-yo? Cross-stitch? Fire-eating? Flea circus? We all have little hobbies we enjoy doing when the time is right, so why not use your Sunday to level up your hobby game and get closer to pro-status!

Never underestimate the benefits of practice

Never underestimate the benefits of practice

Spring Clean

A messy room means a messy mind, or so the saying goes. For those among us who already maintain an impeccable level of cleanliness on a day to day basis, how about a deep clean? Move the furniture and get scrubbing on the hidden nooks and crannies. You could even take the opportunity to de-clutter, and chuck away all the old receipts and paperwork that have been clogging up the house.

For the truly brave, you could tackle the ‘man draw’ – the black hole of used batteries, take away menus and half-empty pens.

Yeah, don't put it off for too long!

Yeah, don’t put it off for too long!

Try Something New

“Life is trying new things to see if they work” – Ray Bradbury.

It could be trying your hand at a new dish in the kitchen, looking for a new park to relax in, or even heading out to a live performance of something you’ve never experienced before; opera, jazz flute, Tibetan dramyin! Other activities worth having a go at include polka dancing, speed dating and orienteering. Challenge yourself to try something you’ve never done before, and just feel the sense of fulfilment overwhelm you as you access a new facet of your skill set!

You might discover your new favourite pass time!

You might discover your new favourite pass time!

Play a Board Game

My favourite thing about Christmas is sitting down with the nearest and dearest to play Monopoly or Risk; the most epic of such memories is of a 36 hour stint of Risk (I defiantly held Kamchatka for the final four hours before succumbing to defeat).

Of course, practice for these epic showdowns is a must, and what better time to do this than on a Sunday?

That said, there is no reason why you can’t just enjoy the feeling of detaching from the TV and other electrical devices and reconnecting with your analogue self. Your eyes and, probably, your mind will thank you.

Be careful with children - they cheat...

Be careful with children – they cheat…

Read

We’ve spoken before about the advantages to reading regularly for pleasure, and also how to find time to do so in a busy schedule (find it here), so why not use your Sunday to get nose deep in a gripping tome, zip through a riveting novella, or even just dip into the autobiography of your hero?

Giving your eyes a break from a screen will do them the world of good, and using a Sunday to reconnect with written text will be an experience you won’t hate yourself for. Plus, who doesn’t love curling up with a good book if the mood is right?

Too many books, not enough time

Too many books, not enough time

Nap

We are very much advocates of napping here at Itchy Quill, and we’ve spoken before about it’s positive effects here. A lazy Sunday is a Sunday well spent, especially if you live a life with few commitments and have the freedom and space to dip in and out of the world of slumber at will.

Not only is there strong evidence that napping is actually part of a more natural sleep pattern for humans, but it also feels darn good in its own right!

“Oi lazy boots, you have to get up before you can nap”

Exercise

This doesn’t have to be an intense two hour work out at the gym, busting sweat and building gains. Why not take a pleasant jog in the park; flaneur on fast forward? Or maybe take a bike ride? If you’re lucky enough to live close to some natural areas such as rivers, lakes or forests then why not go exploring for a day? Any physical activity that raises the pulse is essentially exercise, so use that definition to embrace a healthy day to yourself (or even with others) and explore the wonders of the world around you!

“I prefer the medium of improvised interpretive dance”

Volunteer

Providing a service to your fellow humans is one of the most satisfactory experiences one can have. Knowing that your actions, no matter how seemingly small, have benefited a member of your community, can  really give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that your time has been well invested. Who doesn’t love having a positive effect on the people around them?

Suggestions for things to do: go to work at your local soup kitchen, go and walk some dogs at your local animal rescue shelter, or even go and visit a retirement home and play bridge for the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be anything back-breaking or spectacular, sometimes merely spending some time in someone’s company can be enough, or offering to do things for those who cannot help themselves (like tasks around the house for an elderly neighbour).

You’ll make the world a better place! Not bad for a Sunday, eh?

“Pay it forward, you’ll thank the universe later in life”

Learn a Language

Hola! Bonjour! Terve! 您好! здравствуйте! If you don’t understand any of these, perhaps a new language would be a great way to spend this weekend. I’m not talking about total fluency, but learning a few key phrases can benefit you in many ways; for work, for travel, for friendship, for movies, or for the health of your brain. There is evidence to suggest that being bi-lingual can help to stave off dementia in adults, so get a jump-start on your studies now!

Practically, the best motivation many have to learn a language is if they know they are going to be visiting a place where the language is spoken. The way we understand that sentence here at IQ is that we should go and book ourselves a holiday and then use that as motivation to spend this Sunday learning a language. Join us!

“I learned Swedish because, you know, stereotype”

Call Family

The big one; the phonecall to the ‘rents. As time marches on, we still need to reconnect with family as often as possible, no matter how much life tries to get in the way. Maybe you’ve got a younger sibling who’s off in the city and might appreciate a little chat, or a grandparent who’s retired and spending a lot of time gardening but might fancy a little chin-wag. Don’t forget ma and pa, who I’m sure will always appreciate a chance to chew the cud with their spawn.

“Don’t forget all that your family did for you”

What do you like to do on a Sunday besides veg out in front of a computer or TV? Do you feel something essential is missing from this list that you can’t stand? Or is there something here you think is utterly ridiculous. As always, comments are appreciated.

Let us know what you are planning for this Sunday!

Special thanks to anankkml, arztsanui, Feelart, Gualberto107, imagerymajestic, khunaspix, Serge Bertasius Photography, stockimages, tuelekza, vectorolie, vegadsl and Witthaya Phonsawat @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015