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Many writers will tell you that you need to write every day. It’s something I beat myself up about regularly. (Just add it to the list. I’ll do anything to procrastinate a little longer.)

A perhaps slightly lesser known piece of advice is to begin typing something that’s already been written. You know, you grab a piece of writing – yours, or a copy of War and Peace you happen to have lying around – and you simply type it out. The idea is that eventually your mind will begin to wonder towards its creative side and you’ll start typing some new words. Your new words.

I guess it’s a kind of, ‘if you build it they will come’ thing. You’re saying to your brain, ‘Okay, I’m here at my desk. My fingers are typing away. Now bring it on.’

On most days I do write a lot of words, but very few of them are for me or my creative works. But you know, somehow, even the act of writing and editing technical documents, business copy and all the rest of it does help me in my own daily writing. I mean, I don’t want to pump out garbage on any job I’m doing. So I try to be as creative as possible within the confines of the work. And by taking this approach, it means I rarely have the problem of sitting down and confronting a blank page.

When I reach for my creative work, all those hours of writing other people’s stuff have been my training. My mind and body have been here before. They know what has to be done.

You can do it too. The secret of success is it to keep it simple and start slowly.

If you hadn’t walked further than your letter box for years you wouldn’t expect to compete in a marathon. Writing’s no different. If you’re a really unfit writer, use somebody else’s words to get you going and get your body used to the idea of sitting and typing words.

It might be the ultimate cheat, but hey, whatever works – right?

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Of course we all know about November – nanowrimo – a month to write a novel. Who the hell’s got time for that?

But perhaps we can use it for something else. Like kick starting our blog. Or dusting off a draft. Perhaps arranging dinner and drinks with your writing group, you know, just for giggles and a bit of writing talk if you’re into that type of thing.

Nanowrimo’s a great idea but it’s not for everyone. Some of us already know how our writing works. We don’t want or need to cram a novel into a month.

I’m using nanowrimo for my own purposes. I’m giving myself a push to get blogging again. What will you do for your writing life this month?

 

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We’ve got a challenge for you for 2010. But don’t feel like you’re alone in this… we’ll be doing it too!

The challenge seems quite simple. All you have to do is keep saying “I am enough” – but we know you’re going to find that hard to say, let alone believe.

And what’s the point? It’s about changing the way we think about ourselves and to shut down those annoying voices in our head. And that means we’ll be able to relax about ourselves and get on with living – instead of trying to fix stuff about ourselves all the time.

We’re sick of thinking about all the ways we’re not quite good enough – and we reckon you are too. You know what we’re talking about… “I’m not funny enough, smart enough, tall enough, pretty enough, slim enough, young enough, fit enough, assertive enough” and the list goes on.

So what’s the real word for this ‘not good enough’ feeling? Fear. We are afraid of not being pretty, slim, or young enough because that might mean we’re invisible or unloveable. We’re afraid of not being assertive enough because people will walk all over us – and that hurts. We’re afraid of not being smart enough because people won’t respect us, admire us, listen to us, promote us.

We’re afraid of not being fit enough because we might not be able to keep up with our friends and our kids, or be able to play the sport we love, or we’ll look floppy and uncoordinated, or…

We’re afraid of not being good enough (writers) because we won’t have our manuscript published, or when we do it’ll fall into oblivion or get torn to shreds by the critics. Most of all, we’re afraid that we won’t cope with stuff because we’re not enough.

Whatever our fears are, they’re often masquerading as ‘not being enough’. And the only thing fear does is stop you living. And trying. And breathing, mostly.

So in 2010, we’re going to be practicing ‘being enough’. We hope you’ll take up the challenge too.

cheers reindeers

Lou and Sandra

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One of my friends recently gave me a nudge. She said I didn’t take compliments well at all. She’s right…

“That’s a great dress. The colour really suits you.”

The reply? “Yes, it hides my flabby belly” or “Thanks, but I just got it on sale”.

“You look so fit and strong.”

“Looks are deceiving. I blow like an old horse when I run.”

“You look radiant.”

“…it’s the makeup. I had to trowel it on to hide the bags.”

“Thanks, but…”  Why the disclaimers? It’s almost like I’m channelling my inner-critic – the narky little voice in my head that tells me I’m not really good enough. I’m a fake and someone will find out sooner or later – so I may as well admit it all upfront.

I’m not alone. Accepting compliments is difficult for many of us (especially women!), and it’s an art we need to practice. It’s very simple to do. All we need to do is smile and say ‘thank you’ and leave it at that.

I’ve been very conscious of it lately and it really does make you feel better. I admit, I have bite marks on my tongue, but it seems to be working! The funny thing is that I’m noticing how many women just can’t take a compliment without adding a disclaimer.

But a compliment is a gift we can accept graciously. It will lift you up, if you let it. Just think about those days when someone says, “you look tired today”. How do you feel? Suddenly tired (or more tired). A compliment has the opposite effect .

Thank you. Smile. Thank you. Smile. If it takes 14 days to form a habit, I reckon I’m almost there…

So instead of admitting you got your fabulous dress in a closing down sale, or pointing out one of your flaws to counteract that great attribute someone just pointed out…smile and say thank you. It could just make your day…

cheers

Lou

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I can’t remember a time when I felt I was okay just as I am. I’m guessing I’m not alone in thinking like that. We are who we are, but most of us aren’t particularly satisfied with that – and we let it hold us back.

We think we’ll be okay once we lose weight, or get a better job, find a partner, have a baby, get published, get famous, win lotto… The problem is, like getting cosmetic surgery, we’ll still wake up and be looking at the world through the same eyes. And we’ll be looking for our next feel-good fix.

But what if we took a different approach? What if we said – hey, this is what I am. Now how can I work with that? And I’m talking about working with our flaws, instead of against them.

Because if all we focus on is the bad stuff – the things we’re not – the less we’re going to get out and give things a go. The less we’re going to put ourselves out there… until we’re all fixed and perfect.

Think about a civil engineering team who have the task of building a road from A to B. Except between those two points are a mountain, a river and a floodplain… and lots of other hard stuff to contend with.

What do they do? Do they say… oh, there’s a mountain there, and that floodplain isn’t great. Let’s not bother. No, they sit down and identify all the issues – the realities. Then they find a way to work within those parameters, and figure out what they can do differently or better so they get that road built.

And when it comes to who we are, I reckon we have to do the same thing. Work in our strengths. Work on our weaknesses. Not throw up our hands and say I’m just not good enough, or pretty enough, or funny enough, or fit / wealthy / intelligent / creative / tall / young enougj0435251h…

So face your life like you’d face a project. Work out exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are. Then ask: how can I work with what I am to get where I want to go? And when you’re on the way, and your confidence is building, start working on your weaknesses.

Because if you wait until you’re ‘just right’, life will have whooshed past you – faster than you’ve ever imagined.

Okay, I’d love to hang around chatting all day. But I’ve got project work to do!

🙂 lou

P.S. Take a look at incredible paralympians like Chinese amputee He Junquan , cyclist Barbara Buchan, and so many others. And when you think you can’t do something, think about a man with no arms who became an elite swimmer… now that’s inspiring.

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CBR003054Have you ever asked yourself  ‘What do I really want?’ and come up blank – because it’s been way too long since you had time to think about it. I have.

But yesterday I discovered that finding out what I don’t want can be quite illuminating.

Recently an opportunity presented itself – one I’d tell anybody else to jump at – but (after much soul searching) I didn’t grab it with both hands.

Yesterday, I said ‘no’ to it. And it wasn’t out of fear. I actually felt it would take my life in a direction I didn’t really want to go in right now.

When I thought I should go all Nike inspired and just do it, I felt a huge sense of loss – especially of the freedom I feel I’m getting now, to create the life I’ve imagined. Yes, the opportunity was indeed fabulous – but it just didn’t feel right for me.

What do I really want? Finding out what I don’t want just brought me a lot closer to knowing…

I’m talking in riddles, because it doesn’t really matter what the opportunity was. For me this time, it was a brilliant job in another state/city – but what mattered to me was that I no longer feel I have to jump at every opportunity, even if that’s what I’ve always done.

I’m beginning to understand what I value and I feel like I’m getting closer to my true self. And I know that, because when I said ‘no’ I suddenly felt free again. Free to reinvent myself in whatever way I choose to. I followed my heart – not my ego or the fear of missing out or the $$ signs.

And, I’ll admit it, the $$ signs were starting to dictate my life, thanks to the GFC. No wonder I was feeling off centre.

I’m usually an advocate for the ‘leap and the net will appear’ theory. But that’s about following your heart, your instincts. And it means you’re pretty convinced that leaping (into whatever it is) feels right for you.

I’ll never know for sure if I made the right choice, but I believe I did and that’s enough. So maybe, for me, it’s about passing up a great opportunity to make way for a better one that’s hot on its heels! (Bring it on!)

What do you really want? Find out what you don’t want, and what you do want will become clearer.

Lou

If you liked this, you might like these Art of Moi posts:

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My mother is old enough to have stopped counting. About four decades ago. We were talking today about something she’s never forgiven herself for.

It happened in the last five years and it’s something most of our generation would celebrate… not flog themselves over. Not my mum.

When I said she should forgive herself, coz it’s dragging her (way, way) down, she looked at me as if I was mad. I am, but that’s not my point. To her, forgiving herself was beyond imagining.

I get the sneaking suspicion we are all a bit like that. We’ll forgive most people for most things, but we are so damn tough on ourselves.

So, I now know where I get it from, what’s your excuse 😉

The next time you start to beat yourself up, stop and think:

  1. There’s not a single person on this planet who hasn’t made a mistake. I think even the Dalai Lama would agree with that. We are not perfect. We stuff up. We get it wrong.
  2. You can’t change the past, but you can step in the future – and work on not making the same mistake again (although you’re bound to make different ones!)
  3. If it involves someone you’ve hurt and they are suffering for it, acknowledge your mistake (without making disclaimers!) and ask for their forgiveness.
  4. Don’t spill your guts to an unknowing person just to make yourself feel better – which will effectively pass the pain on to them!
  5. Chances are, that thing you said or did is long forgotten. We tend to have a very powerful magnifying glass when it comes to ourselves…
  6. Admit (to yourself) you did the wrong thing – and make peace with yourself.
  7. And if you’re religious like my mum, make peace with your god
  8. Then…Stop flogging yourself. Take a deep breath. Be kind to yourself.

I don’t think it will work for my mother. Old habits die hard. But it might work for you if you start now.

Coz, wow, by the time you get to be carrying around seven-or-more decades worth of making mistakes and not forgiving yourself, you’re going to need an emotional wheelchair to get around. 

So let’s all be more forgiving. Of each other – and ourselves.

Lou x

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clover

...looking for luck

 

No matter how many disappointments I have in life, I’m still not that great at dealing with them. 

I go through my day afterwards, looking a bit vague as I have those ‘what if’ conversations in my head!

 

You know all about that head-chat, I’m sure! You go ’round and ’round, thinking about the things you could’ve done differently, the cool or smart things you could have said, the dumb things you actually did say…

Thank goodness for all those fabulous, uplifting quotes, truisms and other isms (optimism springs to mind). Most involve picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. Like these:

  • When one door closes, another door opens – or a window. Usually high up and small, and you’ve got to scramble through. But it’s there.
  • When opportunity knocks at the front door, don’t be out the back looking for four leaf clovers. Or sitting on bees. Which also like clover.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. Except if you’re a stalker. Then you should stop.
  • Failure is not in falling down, it’s in not getting up again. But if you’re 25 metres from the marathon’s finish line and you’ve collapsed with dehydration, don’t feel bad when they bring the stretcher. (PS. For me it would be 25 metres from the start line)
  • If you’re going through hell, keep going. Also when walking on hot coals.
  • Face the sun, so the shadows fall behind you. But don’t forget the sunscreen.
  • Experience is the toughest teacher because she gives the test first, and then the lesson. Is it playtime yet?
  • Only those who risk going too far can possibly know how far they can really go. This is really annoying when you miss the exit on the freeway and end up at Gympie.

I’ll leave you with these wise words from Yoda: “Do or do not there is no try.”

My case I rest.

🙂 Louise

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chocolate haters

In light of yesterday’s blog re chocolate, I was surprised to find a number of chocolate haters out there.

I have nothing against them, but it appears they can get a bit prickly when it comes to chocolate appreciators. Or perhaps it’s just when appreciators get all prickly at them? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would try to force chocolate onto a non-chocolate eating person – less for us!

All I can say is, if you’re a chocolate hater… find your friends here.

S.

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...hounded by the black dog [Photo: Ashleigh Ralph]“]
…hounded by the black dog [Photo: Ashleigh Ralph

There are times when you can take on the world. You’re bursting with energy and nothing seems too hard or too ambitious.

You know you can finish (or start) that best selling novel, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, pack up and move to France, finally shed those 5 kgs, or just get those pesky cupboards sorted…

Then there are those days when the black dog is sitting just watching you. Or the Planets are converging – on you, apparently.

You wonder how you’ll pay your mortgage this month or finally shed your credit card debt – or all those other bills that hang over your head like an axe. The work stuff you sailed through last week is an anchor pulling you down this week.

And you’re taking everything personally, because your sense of humour just evaporated. Cracking up laughing is out of the question when cracking a smile is impossible.

I used to believe those emotions were real, based on the stuff in my life that I couldn’t deal with (aka being a victim of my own life). But then I realised not much had changed since last week – or yesterday. What had changed was something in me.

Often it was associated with PMT (another black dog – this time, the Rottweiler with lipstick). Which  made me realise the thing that changes is the chemicals flowing through me – which dictate my highs and lows.

Chemicals help you go to sleep and wake up. They make you smile or cry about the same thing. They help you cope, or knock you flat. They keep your body functioning, actually.

My Buddhist friend tells me they see feelings as part of an impermanent or unstable inner landscape. I found this article on it today: The contemplation of feelings in Buddhism…

So these days when I feel the black dog breathing down my neck, I don’t immediately scour my life for all the reasons why I feel like crap. Instead, I take it as a sign… that I need to slow down and carve out a bit of me-time. Even when I’m too busy. Especially when I’m too busy.

I’m not talking about sitting on a cushion contemplating my breathing patterns, because I really suck at that (besides, it makes me hyperventilate and that’s probably counterproductive!). But I do soothing things, like making a nice brekky for myself, or a coffee, tea or vino (depending on the time, of course!). Or I just get outside.

It usually hits me in the morning, so sitting in the garden watching the day unfurl around me really works. I watch my curious cat chasing a bug I can’t even see. I hear the crows talking. I watch the bees sucking nectar from blossoms. I hear the tradesmen shouting at each other as they renovate the old Queenslander house next door. Okay, that’s not soothing.

Some days I’ll find something to read that makes me feel good – like an article on confidence or happiness, or a book I’ve been meaning to get to. Or I go all Zen and start thinking about all the stuff I’m grateful for. Often, I’ll do a ‘brain dump’ in my journal, and sometimes I even write blogs…

For the day to day highs and lows, it really works. Because I know this will pass. And soon I’ll be ready to take on the world again!

And let’s face it, if you haven’t got time to fall apart, then you can’t afford not to take the time to look after yourself.

cheers, Lou

If you liked this, read Bistaari Bistaari, Slowly Slowly

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