Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Small Stuff

I've written about kaizen - making small, continuous changes - in the past (see How Kaizen Can Motivate Writers and Kaizen in Writing), but lately I've been noticing how little things can have a big impact; without much effort or conscious thought put into building on them. For example, I decided at the beginning of last year to use body lotion at least once a week. Why? Because my legs and elbows were getting dry and sore. However, paying more attention to my body has been instrumental, I believe, in helping me to make healthier choices.

I found confirmation of my observation in a book I've just started to read, You Can Change Your Life by Rob Yeung:
"Introducing even small tweaks into our lives can create a virtuous cycle, an upward spiral, a self-perpetuating process of fulfilment and further change."
Yeung is a psychologist and everything in his book, he assures us (I don't know - I'm only a little way in!), is backed up by scientific studies. So my body-lotioning may well be behind my recent improvements in health fitness,

After reading this, my first thought was "how can I use this to help my writing?"

Then I realised I already am helping my writing by making small changes. The most obvious one is that I'm making an effort to submit my stories to literary journals and competitions. This has made me take my writing more seriously and forced me to act like a professional writer by resubmitting work that gets rejected, whereas I used to abandon rejected work assuming it simply wasn't good enough.

Similarly, when I make an effort to write every day, I tend to write far more than I do by writing nothing some days and "bingeing" on writing a few days a week. By the way, the binge-starve cycle doesn't work for losing weight (and maintaining it) either - I learnt that the hard way!

So now I'm wondering what small changes have had a large, perhaps unexpected, impact on other people's lives. What "tweaks" have sent you on an upward spiral? What changes have had unexpected, positive side effects in your life and writing?

Friday, 16 May 2014

Getting Back into the Swing of Things

My eye operation went well: I am neither blind nor dead. My left eye is still a little blurry, but it's getting better and I'm back to reading with both eyes open. I didn't expect the general anaesthetic to have the effects it did...

My side-effects included headaches, a sore throat that has finally subsided and an overbearing exhaustion that reminded me of having the flu or the worst periods of my depression. I've spent over a week on the couch and for the first 4 days, I was too tired to read or even watch much TV. After that, I was more motivated to do stuff, but too tired to do much at all. I was bored and more frustrated than usual!

But now I'm alert enough to blog, read and join the world again, I think my enforced downtime was exactly what I needed to recharge. Yes, I hated being so unproductive, but it made me think about how much I love writing and what I plan to do over the summer. I'm kind of excited to resume writing.

I've still got to take it easy, since I'm not back to 100% yet, but I never thought that feeling like crap for a week could make me more dedicated to my writing career!

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

A Different Way of Looking at Things

I'm having an eye operation tomorrow. It's not very exciting  the hope is that it will stop a condition I have, keratoconus, from getting worse. They shine a light in my eye for 10 minutes to strengthen the cornea, which is getting increasingly cone-shaped. I will be under general anaesthetic, since my anxiety might prevent me from staying still throughout the operation. I'm a little bit terrified.

I know that the likelihood of something going wrong is small, but I could end up blind in my left eye. I've had general anaesthesia before, many years ago, but that doesn't mean I won't have a bad reaction this time. It throws everything into perspective.

More than anything, it reminds me of how much I want to achieve my goals. 

The thought that I could die tomorrow (improbable as it is) makes me feel annoyed. I've only just begun getting my life back on track! My 30th birthday is in 2 weeks! I want to go to my friend's wedding in June!

Not so long ago, when I was very depressed all the time, the idea of death was a relief. I wanted to die. But now, I want to give life a chance. I want to see if I can earn a living through writing, get super-fit, speak Italian fluently, go skydiving... I don't have a zest for life as such, but I definitely have the motivation to live.

I understand that this sounds strange to anyone who has never experienced mental illness, but it's a huge departure from what I thought of for many years as 'the norm'. Even the enforced downtime as I recover from the operation is frustrating: I can't run for a week and when I do, I have to wear a sweatband so sweat doesn't go in my eye. I don't know how long it will be until I can read and write for long periods of time. The courses I'm doing will be put on hold.

I hadn't realised I was so invested in all of these things. It makes me more determined to achieve my goals. Wish me luck  for the eye op and beyond!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Fabulous Rejections

You may remember from my post Positively Productive Writing that one of my favourite things about Simon Whaley's book, The Positively Productive Writer, is his attitude to rejections. He encourages writers to write booster cards, which may include the phrase 'I am a writer  I get rejections!' 

The point is, if people are ever going to read your writing, you need to be published. If you're going to be published, you need to submit work to competitions, journals, etc. If you submit your writing, you will get rejections. 

If you submit lots of work, you will get lots of rejections  and that's wonderful!

I'm serious. As much as I love sarcasm, I am definitely not being sarcastic. Honest. Gaining the confidence and courage to submit your writing is a big deal. It's something I've avoided, until this year. Sure, I might have entered the odd competition, but I wasn't systematically sending out stories.

This year, I've been making more of an effort to put myself 'out there'. I've already achieved my modest goal of submitting 12 pieces of writing in 2014, despite being only a third of the way through the year. I cannot over-emphasise how weird this is for me!

And now I've received what I thought was an urban myth: personalised rejections.

Yep, I'd heard of writers getting a rejection that refers specifically to their submission, as opposed to a general 'not right for us' comment, but I didn't think it happened often. Especially not to me. It seems that my stories are actually being read, not discarded after the opening sentence.

One personalised rejection gave me a valuable critique of my story's ending. I'm not sure whether I will change it, because other people have liked the ending, but I was thrilled to get this advice. I will probably try my luck a few more times and see if I get similar responses.

Another was not only specific my story, but apologetic! The editor of an anthology liked my story, but it simply didn't fit in with the anthology. He wished me luck in getting it published. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

I'm trying to be a more assertive writer (see this post), but it can get demoralising when your inbox fills with emails that say the same thing over and over. My recent rejections have confirmed to me that:
a). My submissions get read
b). Some editors quite like my writing
c). Rejection is not personal

So now I have no excuse, I'm off to re-submit some stories!