AH: Balancing Life and Writing

Hullo, world!

This week has been really busy for me and it felt as though last Monday was yesterday. Of course, I’m glad it’s Saturday now despite my piles of assignments because I get to have an excuse from them and blog. ꒰ ∩´∇ `∩꒱

And today, I’ll be talking a bit about that business in life–whether it’s school, work, or something else, it’s generally known how challenging it is to balance everything and writing. 

So, without further ado, I present to you Author Health: Balancing Life and Writing

1. Temet nosce–Know Thyself

If you are time-pressed and the only thing you can take away from today’s post is this, that’s okay…

And that’s how important it is to know yourself. 

It’s an obvious point, but I think it’s the ones that are too fundamental and we tend to forget about it. Take a moment to ask yourself, Where am I? Are you at a place where your creativity feels mentally stuck? Do you feel a bit overwhelmed with everything that’s going on? Is there a story you desperately need to tell now? 

Even if it feels like there’s a lot going on, chances are, if there is a story that you desperately need to tell, you’ll be able to make time to write. But if not, maybe it’s a season of rest. 

2. List things up

Once you have an honest assessment of where you’re at with writing, list up all the things that are occupying your time. For example, if you’re a full-time student, write down all your classes and an estimate of how much time you need for each class. You might be working part-time or full-time. That should go on the list as well. Any other activities you do like sports or housework can also count. 

Then, sort them into priorities–this gives you a clear idea of what you absolutely have to do and how much time it takes. 

This is where you enter writing. 

Think about where you can potentially carve off time or exchange it for a writing session. It doesn’t have to be long–think anywhere from five to thirty minutes. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a slot of time for writing. 

3. To write or not?

When you have a clear idea of when you can write, the only thing left to do is to actually do it–that is, write. 

But often, this last step is the one that takes the most effort. One thing that has made it easier for me to write consistently is by choosing days when I’ll write. It’s likely that it won’t fit into your schedule or energy to write every single day. I’ve tried to write every day in the past and I know that it requires a lot–mental energy, physical energy, time–which you might not have when there’s a lot on your plate.

So, choosing my “writing days” and scheduling writing sessions ahead of time has helped me a lot. Since I have a full-time course load this term, my day is quite full. Add in work, housework, and extracurricular activities, there’s no chance for me to sit down and write during the daytime. This means I can only write in the early mornings (since evening does not work well with my body rhythm). And because that’s the only time I know I can immerse myself in writing, I find that I’m more focused and not willing to waste time doing other things. 

It’ll probably look different for you; just know that every day, we make a conscious choice–to write or not. Whichever choice you make, it’s possible to find a balance between writing and life. 

Additional thing that helps me in my writing session:

  • Sound-blocking music/earphones. I don’t think there’s an easier way to get back into my writing mood than my heist music. (   ¯꒳¯ )b✧
  • Designated writing space. I usually write at my desk, dining table, or on my bed. Wherever it is, it’s the place that I know I won’t get distracted by myself or someone else. *totally not looking at my siblings*
  • Writing journal & WIP notebook. I’m an analog person, so I find it useful to write some of my notes in a physical notebook. I also have a writing journal where I track my progress, designate writing schedules &c. 

Lastly, be prepared to be more lenient towards yourself even if things don’t always work out the way you hope they do. Writing is a dependent variable that’s affected by life–to some extent. It’s okay even if you take time. The thing that matters is the process. ଘ(੭*ˊᵕˋ)੭* ੈ♡‧₊˚

And that’s it for today!

Thanks for reading! Where are you in your writing right now? What are some things that help you stay focused on writing? Do you have a story you’re dying to tell? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: The Art of Slow Writing

Hullo, world!

It feels like such a long time ago since I typed those words, it’s honestly making me feel elated and despondent all at the same time. Well, I’m officially back from my hitouts and hope to stay back, so thank you for being patient with me!

Some highlights (?) since I was gone:

  • I did not win NaNoWriMo…I wrote a grand totalé of 8,848 words. Some of them were hand-written, some of them were typed. 
  • I’m almost done with the first term of uni! I have a final exam coming up, except it’s quite sacrilegiously on a Sunday morning. *insert mega-gasp* 
  • I turned twenty! I’m legally an adult now in Japan and in Canada. (I finally get to say, “I’d like to stay and taste my first champagne”!)

All in all, life has felt like it was being conducted in cut-time with one stroke, and it has made me realise the importance of taking things one at a time. I’ve been slipping back into my toxic, workaholic self the past few months, thinking, “I need to balance school and life. I need to hand in A+ papers, ace midterms, write every day, join student council, and, and…”

Obviously, I had to stop myself. (Although I did join a student council.) Sometimes, we’re tempted to do everything, when, in reality, we’re really doing nothing that matters. 

And so, I wanted to share a book that I recently picked up at the library. I haven’t finished reading it yet, so I feel weird about recommending a book I haven’t “read”, but I’m trusting my gut instinct that this book will be so much of a comfort to you. 

Without further ado, let me present to you, Author Health–The Art of Slow Writing!

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The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity

In a series of conversational observations and meditations on the writing process, The Art of Slow Writing examines the benefits of writing slowly. DeSalvo advises her readers to explore their creative process on deeper levels by getting to know themselves and their stories more fully over a longer period of time. She writes in the same supportive manner that encourages her students, using the slow writing process to help them explore the complexities of craft. The Art of Slow Writing is the antidote to self-help books that preach the idea of fast-writing, finishing a novel a year, and quick revisions. DeSalvo makes a case that more mature writing often develops over a longer period of time and offers tips and techniques to train the creative process in this new experience.

I: “Slow writing is a meditative act: slowing down to understand our relationship to our writing, slowing down to determine our authentic subjects, slowing down to write complex works, slowing down to study our literary antecedents.”

DeSalvo first introduces this idea of “slow writing”. She highlights various authors, famous and more local, but points out the importance of not rushing. Steinbeck called writing “a delicate thing”. I’ve already talked about how one of my favourite authors, Donna Tartt and J. R. R. Tolkien, took over ten years to complete their works. Reading this book has made me realise how much I was trying to rush the process when it doesn’t work that way. Process is an ongoing thing, like taking a walk. You don’t expect to arrive at your destination five kilometres away in five minutes if you’re walking. (FYI, it takes about an hour. More, if it’s me and my siblings walking since we dawdle and take detours.) 

II: “The most productive writers and creative people I know realize that dreaming and daydreaming are important parts of how writers work. We might not know, now, what to do with the images our dreams or daydreams provide, but one day, if we continue to try to unravel their meaning, as Naylor’s process illustrates, we will.”

One of my favourite activities is dreaming. No kidding, since my name (my real name) also means “dream”. I have kept a dream journal since age twelve or thirteen, and although I don’t write as often in it now, I make sure to write a dream the instance I wake up if it’s something I don’t want to forget. A lot of my stories come from dreams…in fact, most of the major WIPs I have now (actually, all of them) have started with some sort of dream or daydreaming! When I can’t write, I “write” in my head so when I sit down, it’s all there to be translated into paper. ଘ(੭ˊ꒳​ˋ)੭✧

III: “Publishers now act as if writing is the same as typing.”

This speaks to another aspect of writing. While I love writing challenges (like NaNoWriMo, even if I keep failing the goals), I think a lot of people are so hung up on word counts (including me). In this age where we are over-saturated with information, I think it’s so vital that we take a step back and actually think about what writings do–what is the purpose of a novel, as my professor would say. 

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IV: “Getting back to writing is hard. So what. King had to relearn how to walk; he had to relearn how to work. That’s life. To expect that we can stop writing and then start again any time we want without some ‘writing rehab’ is to engage in an act of hubris.”

DeSalvo talks about Stephen King (which I do too on this post, 15+1 Lessons to Learn from Stephen King’s On Writing) and how he had to learn to get back into his writing life after his accident. I think that admitting to yourself that writing is hard is the first step towards integrating writing into your life. Unless we know where we are, it’s impossible to see where we’re going. 

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V: “Woolf penned roughly 535 words and crossed out 73 of them, netting her 462 words for her day’s work. Let’s say she worked for three hours. That’s about 178 words an hour including the words she deleted—and Woolf was writing at the height of her creative powers.”

Although I’ve never read Woolf before (she’s on my TBR list), I really appreciated how DeSalvo put it into perspective how much one of the famous writers wrote in an hour. It made me realise that crafting words is a very sensitive thing, and each person has their own way of doing it. C. S. Lewis was a relatively fast writer compared to J. R. R. Tolkien. But Stephan King would have probably written more compared to Lewis. What I guess am trying to say is this: Writing is relative. Some people write fast, some write slow. Someone would love your work, someone would inevitably hate it. But we still write–because it matters to us. 

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And so, as we step into this Christmas season, I just want to remind you that it’s okay even if you’re not writing like your writer friends. We each have our own pace and time in life. We have a season that God ordained for us. 

Slow writing, friends! ꒰◍ᐡᐤᐡ◍꒱

Thank you for reading! What did you think about the concept, “slow writing”? Do you write fast or slow? Are you more inclined to take writing a little slower? (Or not?) Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

AH: Bird By Bird

Hullo, world! 

It’s been a rainy grey week here in Vancouver, but yesterday we saw some sunshine which was a relief. I got a chance to go out with my wotaku friend, which always cheers me up…

But to be honest, this week has been rough. I don’t know why. I cried a lot, stared at a lot of blank screens, skipped more meals than I should, and have overall been in a tough place. (Not to mention I didn’t post last week. I do so apologise about it!!)

Insert Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

A book that’s been on my TBR and also one that’s been recommended to me by my friend, Bird by Bird was the writing book I thought I knew about…yet didn’t. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

by Anne Lamott

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said. ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

With this basic instruction always in mind, Anne Lamott returns to offer us a new gift: a step-by-step guide on how to write and on how to manage the writer’s life. From “Getting Started,’ with “Short Assignments,” through “Shitty First Drafts,” “Character,” “Plot,” “Dialogue.” all the way from “False Starts” to “How Do You Know When You’re Done?” Lamott encourages, instructs, and inspires. She discusses “Writers Block,” “Writing Groups,” and “Publication.” Bracingly honest, she is also one of the funniest people alive.

If you have ever wondered what it takes to be a writer, what it means to be a writer, what the contents of your school lunches said about what your parents were really like, this book is for you. From faith, love, and grace to pain, jealousy, and fear, Lamott insists that you keep your eyes open, and then shows you how to survive. And always, from the life of the artist, she turns to the art of life.

I: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.” 

This, I think, is so central to this book. So often we get hung up on finishing the book, we don’t think it has a beginning. But what’s more important is to start somewhere, every day. (୨୧ ❛ᴗ❛)✧

II: “Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.” 

I love this quote so much! I more often than not struggle with perfectionism (in writing, in studying, in every part of my life) and think there’s something I should be doing, something I could be doing to not die (according to Lamott). Which, very obviously, isn’t true. 

III: Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.” 

This is the kind of why we write and read. Lately, I’ve been reading (and working on a 2K essay) on Plato’s Republic, and I had to go back to the why of the Art and Artists…does it matter? And if so, why? 

IV: “E.L. Doctorow said once said that ‘Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard.” 

I heard the exact same thing about faith walk somewhere and I think it illustrates both cases perfectly. So often we have no idea where we’re going in our stories (even when we have a detailed outline) and it makes us nervous. And yet, when we’re driving a car at night, you just have to keep stepping on the gas…and eventually, you’ll get there. ꒰ ∩´∇ `∩꒱

V: “If something inside of you is real, we will probably find it interesting, and it will probably be universal. So you must risk placing real emotion at the centre of your work. Write straight into the emotional centre of things. Write toward vulnerability. Risk being unliked. Tell the truth as you understand it. If you’re a writer you have a moral obligation to do this. And it is a revolutionary act—truth is always subversive.”

This sort of links to the third quote about books. Plato talks a lot about the form of truth and how it may manifest itself in many iterations (or imitations) but the form is what matters & there’s only one of it. There’s always a universal truth that matters to us. So, continue writing it, just the way you see it. 

“My job is to paint what I see, not what I know.”

J. M. W. Turner

That’s it for now! Thanks for reading. What did you think? Have you read Bird By Bird? Or do you have any other favourite books on writing? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!