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!

2022 Goals & Aspirations

Hullo, world!

(And Happy belated New Year!)

As you might already know, I’m the kind of person who generally enjoys goal-setting. *tries to hide my stack of journals and planners in a closet* Last year, I did a similar thing where I shared a bit about my goal-setting process. Reading back, I do have to admit I still follow a somewhat rigorous goal-setting method, but I’m learning to simplify more. If last year taught me anything, it’s the need to focus on the heart of things, not the result. 

So for this year, I’m going to take a step back, relax, and perchance pour myself tea as I walk myself–and you, dear SJ readers, through my 2022 Goals & Aspirations

Reading 

Depth. Since my terrible reading year in 2020, I’ve become more sensitive to the kind of books I read. With the start of university last fall, I’ve had to read books I don’t necessarily a) enjoy b) agree with c) or would pick up, period, but it’s led me to realise I should not be only reading books I like. Which inevitably led me to re-examine my reading life. (Some of you will recall my Rethinking Reading Ethics post.) 

Well, I’ve been developing my reading ethics since then, and have updated it to groups of somewhat organised reading lists. So far, I’ve been able to keep it within ten categories (I know, it still sounds like a lot) that I’m happy about. Of course, I’m thinking I might change it up as I go on, but for now, they are as the following:

  1. Theology/Philosophy (a long-due list of apologetics books & c.)
  2. Academics (mandatory readings I can’t escape from)
  3. C. S. Lewis (all of his works I haven’t read yet)
  4. Classics/Dark Academia (def. One of my favourite lists)
  5. Political Science/History (similar to academics, but more for fun)
  6. Haruki Murakami (almost all of his works, idk?)
  7. Re-Read (books I desperately want to re-read but haven’t)
  8. Omnibus/PHC (still trying to finish this one…)
  9. Japanese Nonfiction & Literature (somehow I can read them faster than English works??)
  10. Others (anything else that doesn’t fit but suits my fancy, or have been recommended to me)

Also, I’m trying to impose a ten-book library limit on myself which is not working so well… And you know, it’s probably the library’s fault for letting me take out up to fifty books in the first place. (ˉ ˘ ˉ; ) 

Writing

WIPs 

Focus. I’m not as hell-bent on getting traditionally published young anymore for several reasons, one of which is that I’ve realised it’s okay not to have “made it”. Publishing isn’t my only goal when it comes to writing, and the biggest reason I write is for fun. I love writing. I’ll probably keep plodding away at words, slower than I’ve been doing in the past, yet definitely for sure. 

From last year’s experience of project-hopping, I know I cannot multitask. (Which, by the way, is no brainer, but still! I thought I was that one in a million!!) So for the year 2022, I’m going to focus–I’ll be working on one WIP at a time, and will stay at it. I tend to have “seasons” for all my WIPs, so I’ll be sticking to that in a roughly two-or-three month cycle.

Example:

SeasonWIP
Dec~Jan, (maybe) MarchOsthauptstadt
Feb, NovElijacomb
March~May, (maybe) Nov?Woodstone Abbey
May~JuneJuliet (revision)

There are a few WIPs out there that I’m still debating about working on. I have terrible lapses during the summer, and *whispers* I might be travelling for my best friend’s wedding, so I’m going to keep it open. And even if I do work on another WIP, it’ll be only one, and something that’s in progress. For now, though, I’m going to keep it to these four. 

Another fun thing I’ve started is a writing journal. No, it’s not a tautology, in case you’re wondering. I love my bullet journals & planners to pieces, and I thought, “Why not start a journal for my WIPs?” Reading DeSalvo’s The Art of Slow Writing has made me realise how much writing is heart and process. So far, I’ve had encouraging days and less than encouraging days, but the good thing is that I can more easily reflect on where I’ve been–and where I’m trying to go. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝

A glimpse of what my writing journal looks like

Blog

I kind of debated whether or not to include this section in this post. Alwith, given how things went last year when university started, I think it’s relevant. 

In the previous years since I started my blog, I never doubted it. Okay, that sounds kind of strange, but when I started blogging, I never really thought about quitting or taking a break (a long one) or how long I’d actually do it. It just…came to me as another aspect of life. 

Through last year’s experience and looking back on my senior year in high school, however, I think it’s better if I established a more lax schedule around my blogging. Please don’t get me wrong. I love blogging, and now that I am thinking about this, I don’t think I ever want to stop. But I know that once university starts again, I will have weeks when I’m flooded with assignments and/or exam preps and won’t have the energy to get to blogging. 

So, for now, I’m going to stick to the roughly once a week routine. You’ll probably still see an Author Health post at the beginning of the month, Writing Life in the second week, Reading in the third, and Afternoon tea at the end of the month. But, I’m not going to be too rigid in the structure of my blog. They’ll serve as guidelines, but I hope SJ Barnard will be a place you can step back with a cup of tea to relax. And I’ll continue writing to that end. (୨୧ᵕ̤ᴗᵕ̤)

That’s it for today! 

Thank you for reading the post. How was your New Year? Do you have any goals for the year 2022? What are some of your aspirations for this year? 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!