Monday, January 28, 2013

On writing when you're busy

Everyone I know has a fairly busy schedule. It's been difficult for me to feel efficient when it comes to my writing in the midst of day to day momentum. There's always more to edit, more to expand on. After typing up how many medications a patient is on or when he or she was diagnosed with liver failure, sometimes the last thing I want to do is gaze at another lit screen. 

Here are some things I've learned the hard way when I'm especially swamped:

-It might take a long time to get back in the proper state of mind for writing.
When my days are crammed with science---drugs, diseases, Powerpoints---it can be difficult to shift into writing mode. It's important for me to remember to set aside that time in order to avoid frustration later. 

-Every day should be filled with some hint of creativity.
This might mean reading a quick poem, an insightful quote, or re-reading old edits but each day has to have a peek into the writing world. Otherwise, I tend to get too caught up in my surroundings and it's a slippery slope from there. The point is, even creativity can wither without use. 

-Reading things from an entirely different genre helps.
There's a level of novelty that keeps our own mind on its toes. The unexpected is where growth happens. 

-Free-writing can be the answer
Whether it's in a journal or on the margins of hospital notes, I find that my thoughts can always take on a life of their own if I allow them. Keeping a notebook nearby is always helpful (a lot of people also like the notepads on their phones).

-Being surrounded by books gives motivation
Any book, whether you think it's wonderful or terrible, took a lot of work for the author. That person deserves credit for finishing such a task and finding a home for it in the world. Learn from their persistence and drive.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

When Do You Feel Most Like Yourself?


Over the past few years, I've learned that part of finding gratitude in each day, part of evolving and learning, comes from introspection.

While sifting through a magazine, I came across this question:

When do you feel most like yourself?

An array of answers came to mind:

-At the end of a hot yoga class, when I'm pressed against the mat as my muscles and thoughts relax
-In front of a computer with a blank Word document and a cup of strong coffee by my side
-On monthly phone dates with friends who always inspire, encourage, and support
-While I'm learning about someone's struggles and coming up with ways to help, whether that's medically or emotionally
-When I'm perched onto the island in my parents' kitchen, my siblings snacking on potato chips, my father snapping pictures of us on his iPhone, and my mother turning up the volume on a dance song
-Sitting in coffee shops alone
-Pumping frozen yogurt into a paper cup and then sticking in two spoons, one for Samir, one for me, before we walk through New York
-Opening a new book to learn about a character or cause to root for


When do you feel most like yourself? Which daily moments give you gratitude?  


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Some things are hard to write about


“Some things are hard to write about. After something happens to you, you go to write it down, and either you over dramatize it, or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones. At any rate, you never write it quite the way you want to.”



“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still”






Sunday, January 6, 2013

Very Belated IWSG Post: Measurements



Sorry I've been terrible about posting for Alex's amazing blogfest!  

With writing, one of the most challenging things for someone structure-oriented is the lack of tangible measurements. When you're starting, there are no external deadlines, no grades, no red lettered feedback. 

Throughout many of my writing days, I'd churn out words and with a round of editing, cut them. Often, it felt as though I wasn't making progress. Once my novel was finished, I was cutting entire chapters. Even when an entire book was "done", it was nowhere near ready to be sent anywhere. (My first manuscript will always hang out where it belongs: in the safe folders of my computer.) 

When will I know I'm done? I wondered. When will that mental checkpoint be fulfilled? Will I always be a person who loves this without producing anything? 

As someone who enjoys physically crossing things off of a list, this became frustrating at times. 
It took time for me to realize that I'll never technically be done. That's the intricacy of art. I couldn't think of it the way I did science. Art can be revised forever, if allowed. Once I've gotten more skill, with the help of critique partners and an agent, maybe I'll be able to gauge when something is good enough to see the light. 

Measurements aren't the point.  Even sitting in front of the computer, trudging through those blurry, mental cobwebs, is something. 

Sign up for Alex's blogfest here!
http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/p/the-insecure-writers-support-group.html

On compassion, forgiveness, and letting go

"Someone only gives what they have plenty of," my grandfather noted. "If they give hurt, it's because they have an abundance of pain. If they give compassion, it's because they have a lot of that within."

We were seated across one another, sipping chai. The sky wasn't lit yet and our voices were hushed. India was still asleep. The only sound was the clunk of the vegetable lady's cart outside.  

He and my father always had the ability to shake off any form of malice from others---patients, friends, strangers. It's in my DNA to see the best in people, even when it puts me in danger of being taken advantage of. My family's dealings with people have taught me from a young age that the famous quote is indeed true: everyone is fighting a hard battle. 

"Sometimes we will hurt, too, without meaning or even realizing it," he added. "Don't ever try to retaliate. Retaliation is progressive and never ends." 

It was there, in his lessons on hurt and compassion, that I uncovered more on forgiveness. I've been hurt in small and large ways in the past few years, as all of us have. I'm sure I've hurt as well. 

We know that forgiveness is the step to inner peace and I've been able to add to the definition. It's the absence of needing retaliation because you don't even care to react. It's being able to think: Hey, I truly wish you the best and hope you are fulfilled and content.  

It's, most of all, letting go. One day, you realize that your life is bursting at the seams with love and promise and nothing else matters. If the hurt crosses your mind, it's okay, because it just as quickly leaves without ruffling your feathers. You've been too full with other facets, with the forward motion of time, to be concerned with the irrelevant insecurities of others. Then, with a level of detachment, you realize you've already been exhaling it: forgiveness.