Worries, self-doubt and pigeon sh*t

Imagine yourself walking along the beach. 

The sun is shining, a light sea breeze is playing with your hair, it’s peaceful and calm. Sure, you can hear a few seagulls yelling at each other while fighting over food, but that’s just an integral part of the scenery, nothing to be annoyed about. 

It’s a beautiful day. You’re in no hurry to get anywhere in particular. All you’re happily concerned with is inhaling some fresh salty air, and enjoying the look and feel of the sun rays as they caress your skin and beautifully reflect off the blue surface of the sea.

You keep walking, and you find a stone. It’s covered in bird poop. You pick it up and slide it into your pocket.

That’s your worries. Something that makes you agitated every time you think about it. Something that even gives you anxiety. Something that is now resting in the pocket of your favorite jeans, while the dust and bird excrements are rubbing against the material. 

You keep walking. You find a bigger rock this time, one that’s even dirtier. You pick it up and run your fingers along its filthy surface. With a gentle smile playing on your lips, you put it carefully in the other pocket. 

That’s your self-doubt. 

As you continue walking, you start feeling the discomfort of the rocks rubbing against your leg through the thin lining of the pocket. You cringe, but keep walking, looking under your feet for more rocks. 

There are lots of them in the sand. Offense, negativity, fears, I-can’t-s, what-if-s, I-should-have-s, I-shouldn’t-have-s, I’m-not-good-enough-s. All peppered with seagull and pigeon shit, some with a dry piece of stinking dry seaweed stuck to their surface. 

Your pockets are getting heavier as you keep filling them with rocks.

It’s not that easy to walk anymore. The rocks are in fact pulling your jeans down, and you glance around to check if anyone can see that you are about to lose your pants.

But you keep walking, and picking up new rocks. The pockets are full, your hands are full. The smell is becoming more and more distinct. 

You can’t let go of the rocks though. 

You’re barely dragging your feet through the sand now, and you need to keep pulling those jeans up all the time. 

Suddenly you remember that somewhere in the bottom of your pockets, you had some beautiful tiny seashells that you had picked up earlier. And a few pieces of beach glass, bright green, perfectly polished by the sea, looking like emeralds. 

Your achievements. Your blessings. Results of your hard work. Things that are supposed to bring you joy and sense of fulfillment, were they not buried underneath a pile of dirty rocks. 

You decide to sit down on the sand and empty your pockets, when a seagull bombards you from above, shitting all over your baseball cap. 

That’s public opinion. 

You take your cap off and study it for a minute, looking at it closely, inhaling the smell of fresh bird poop, and then you put it back on your head. Carefully, trying to make sure that all of it stays and nothing is smudged accidentally. 

You then go through the contents of your pockets, putting the dirty rocks to one side and the shiny glass to the other. 

You look at both piles, and then you look at the beach around you, thinking of how much easier the walk would be if you left those stones on the sand. Oh, and there’s a trash can nearby, where you could leave the dirty hat, because you’ve got a few more at home, and the shops haven’t run out of them either. 

The emerald green beach glass is sparkling on the sand. You pick it up and hold it against the sun. The smooth polished surface feels so great between the tips of your fingers. You enjoy the beauty for a moment or two, and then toss the glass aside. Then you start filling your pockets with the poop-covered rocks, making sure you don’t miss a single one.

You get up clumsily, pull up your jeans with a familiar gesture and continue dragging yourself through the sand. 

The sun hides behind the clouds. 

The seagulls have the most annoying voices. 

The contents of your pockets stink.

You sigh and head back home, holding on tightly to your newly acquired “treasures.”

Does any of this look or sound familiar by any chance?

Her Majesty Consistency

“If Content is King, Consistency is Queen”.

This phrase has become really popular lately and you probably have come across it many times. 

When it comes to writing, I can tell from my own experience that consistency is indeed a very important factor in achieving success. 

I have to admit, I have never been good at self-discipline. A lot of my attempts to do/learn certain things on my own, at home, without a strict teacher standing over my head with a ruler, have failed. Too many times. I lost count of things I wanted to pick up and master, but eventually would give up because I was not disciplined enough. All those fitness classes I used to start, only to come up with a thousand very valid excuses to not show up the next time…

When I realized that about myself, I started looking for ways to change it. If I was to pick a new gym/yoga class, I’d look for options that left me with the minimum opportunities to find an excuse to quit. It finally resulted in great success, when I signed up for a body flex class in a yoga studio that was across the street from where my mom lived. I told myself – “you know what, now you can’t complain that it’s too far or there’s no parking there. You go there every other day anyway, and you always find a place to park, so shut up and go change into your yoga pants”.

And guess what – it worked. It resulted in me successfully joining the group, finding an amazing trainer, losing quite a bit of weight and a couple dress sizes in just two months, finding out that I actually do have abs (so what I used to experience in other gyms before weren’t phantom pains), but most importantly, developing a habit. A habit that stayed with me for years. Motivated by how successful my experience was, I later started working out at home, every day, on my own, without the need for any additional ‘kicks’ from anyone. I also inspired a few of my friends and even taught a body flex class at home.

Apart from finally getting into the shape I used to dream about, I learned something really important about myself. I learned that I wasn’t that lazy after all. And that I actually knew what self-discipline was. And that it wasn’t that hard to create a healthy habit, with some effort and the right motivation. 

Which leads us to the next important factor – Motivation. Consistency is fuelled by motivation. It’s much easier to invest consistent effort into something when you know exactly why you are doing this. What it gives you. What it makes you feel.

Using the example of my “miraculous” weight loss, here’s how it worked for me. First, I gave myself a kick to start the class. For a month, I would go there only twice a week, for a 40 minute workout. 

And then it started bringing results. I liked those results. I liked the way it felt, the way I looked, the way my trainer was saying how I’m one of her best students (yes, I’m like that, some praise can really do wonders for my productivity). So next month I decided I’d start going three times a week. And also do some exercise at home. Just a little bit, sometimes. 

Later, when the circumstances changed and I couldn’t attend those classes anymore, I continued at home – but I started exercising every day, 40 minutes a day.

I proved to myself that I could be consistent and disciplined. 

And it felt good.

A few years later, I decided to pursue my life-long dream and start writing (yes, we’re finally going back to the writing part!)

When I wrote down a rough outline of my novel, my younger son was less than 6 months old. I’m mentioning that just to give you an idea of how many excuses (those very valid excuses, of course) I could come up with to not continue writing. I mean, I had a baby on my hands. That usually means “zero free time to do anything at all.” Or so it may seem.

On top of that, I had so many fears and doubts getting in the way, from “I’m not good enough” and “There’s too many writers out there already” to “I can’t write in English, it’s not my native language.”

But I continued. 

I started uploading my chapters on Wattpad weekly, which gave me a schedule that I needed to stay disciplined. Not that there were hundreds (or even a handful) of people waiting impatiently to read my new chapters. I just set those deadlines for myself and was following them. 

And I still wasn’t consistent. 

Why? Because I was operating on deadlines. Tuesday was the “publishing day” that I set for myself. And eventually I got into the habit of writing the next chapters… yup, exactly, on Monday evenings. Then I wouldn’t write for the whole week again. Then something would come up (you know, life) and I wouldn’t write for another week. But I’d try to write two chapters to make up for what I’d missed.

The problem was, I was losing the flow and I was starting to feel guilty. Now, guilt is the enemy #1 to your productivity. Trust me, I know that from personal experience. This whole thing ended up with me skipping more and more Tuesdays, getting caught up in a million other things, feeling too guilty to even try to go back and pick up my writing again.

Besides, this once-a-week writing schedule was detrimental to my story in general, because I would easily forget where I was when I finished the last chapters, so I had to go back and check some facts, etc. It was slowing me down and definitely not contributing to the quality of my writing. 

I took a break of a month or so from writing. I was feeling guilty, demotivated and deflated. Until one of my writer friends gave me a nudge to continue. She was experiencing somewhat similar issues, her book was stalling and she was unhappy about it. So we decided to keep each other in check. We’d message each other every day asking “So, how many words did you write yesterday?”

That changed everything. I started writing every day. A little bit, as much as I could squeeze in. I’d write on my phone, late at night, when everyone was asleep. I’d write on a bench in a park while on the walk with my son. Sometimes, I’d just write down quick ideas in notes on where to take the next chapter. Sometimes, I would write over a thousand words at once, finishing at 2 a.m. Sometimes, I would drop my phone because my fingers were numb and couldn’t hold it anymore (not kidding, by the way). 

I was writing down my word count every day. That worked as a great motivation to continue. I’d look at the note in my phone with dates and numbers in it, and think – “I’m doing good! Considering that I have a one-year-old and a never-ending list of things to do around the house…”

Consistent writing, combined with accountability and support from my writing buddy, resulted in me finishing my first draft in a couple months. What I originally thought would be a 50000 words book (I honestly didn’t plan/hope to write more than that when I was starting it) turned into a 82000 book (it’s over 90K now, after the first round of revisions). 

If I had more time during the day, I would’ve finished even sooner. But it’s not about the what-if-s. It’s about what you can do with what you have. And believe me, almost always we are capable of doing much, much more than what we think.

Sometimes it only takes 15 minutes a day. 15 minutes less of scrolling through Facebook, 15 minutes less of sleeping, 15 minutes less of being too hard on yourself for not doing enough… Just find those 15 minutes, and then do it again the next day. Rinse and repeat. Before you know it, you’ll have a new habit formed and a new motivation to keep you going!

7 Simple Things To Help You Write

I have wanted to write for almost 40 years, but I only started to actually do it last year.

When looking at it like that – 40 years vs 1 – it feels like such a waste of time, doesn’t it? But it isn’t, really.

Sure, I could say that had I started writing decades ago, I would have most probably achieved a lot more by now. The thing that I realized, though, is that I can still achieve everything I want and even more. Besides, I believe that everything happens for a reason. That means that I had to go through everything I went through, I had to gain that experience, I had to develop a certain mindset, in other words, I had to become who I am today. And having done all that, I am now ready for this new exciting journey. So, no regrets.

Continue reading 7 Simple Things To Help You Write

How I Started Writing

I have always wanted to write, since I was a kid. I used to hear a voice in my head that was narrating everything I saw (of course I didn’t tell anyone, even now as I’m writing this I realize how crazy it sounds) – the voice was addressing me in third person, as if I was a character in a book. Describing what I was doing, where I was going, etc.

As soon as I learned to read (about 4-5 years old), I started reading A LOT. I read pretty much everything I could find. Thankfully, we had an extensive collection of books at home. I loved books. I adored books. I remember asking my grandpa if he had read all the books that we had at home – and just to note, our bookshelves were stocked from floor to ceiling, seriously! He said “Yes” – and that was something that made me admire him even more. I was trying to imagine how much knowledge and wisdom a person would obtain when he read all those books. I’m pretty sure if he was still with us he’d be so proud of me for writing. He would be one of my greatest fans.

When I was about 10 or 12, I tried writing poems. About love, of course. And life in general. And autumn in particular. Sad and philosophical and romantic, you know the kind, I’m sure.

And then, at the age of 13-14, I moved on to prose. I tried different genres. I even started writing Terminator 3 (I was absolutely obsessed with those movies at the time, and crazy about Arnold Schwarzenegger too.) Who would have known we’d lose count of them at some point… But then again, what if mine would be better? And no, back then I didn’t know that fan-fiction was even a thing.

The problem was, I used to start writing different things, but I would never finish anything.

Next couple attempts to write happened in my early twenties. They again didn’t lead to anything – I have lost some of the self-confidence along the way and was too busy with everything else. One thing I’m really good at is keeping myself busy.

And then at some point – maybe, by the age of 30 – I gave up. Life was a rollercoaster, there were unexpected twists and turns, something was always more important, so eventually I put the dream of becoming a writer away. I hid it in a far corner of my mind for many years. Like those things in old shoe boxes that you put on the top shelf in your closet and leave them there for ages.

So my dream of being a writer had been collecting dust on that shelf until last year. The year when everything changed. When motivated and encouraged by my husband I dug out that shoe box, wiped off the dust, retrieved my life-long dream and decided that the time had come. The time to do what I was meant to do. To write my stories. And before the year was over, I finished the first draft of my book.

It’s not always easy. There are ups and downs. Sometimes I get stuck, sometimes I struggle with self-doubt and imposter syndrome. And I never have enough time – because I’m blessed to be a mom of a very adorable and very active 1,5-year-old.

But it feels right to be writing. It just feels right.

And it means that I am on the right track. I’m finally doing what I should be doing.

It’s never too late to start pursuing your dreams. I’m turning 42 next month. And I have a whole new writing life ahead of me. I have so many things to learn, so many stories to tell. I’ll just follow my dream from now on and see where it leads me.