, ,

How Doing #NaNoWriMo is Actually Reducing My Stress

National Novel Writing Month reduced my stressI hemmed and hawed about whether to participate in National Novel Writing Month this year. The idea of this challenge–writing a 50,000 word novel in a month–has always appealed to my overachiever side, but I’ve never pulled the trigger, until now. This year, since I’ve been working my way through some doozies of personal emotional shit storms, like my hometown literally burning to the ground, not to mention our shared trauma over numerous international and national tragedies and natural disasters, I decided this was the perfect time to push myself to commit to starting my novel. Why not pile on more, right? 😛

Why in the hell would I commit to this insane writing challenge now, during a time in my life when I’ve been especially busy and stressed? Because I needed a g-darn creative outlet that is ONLY for me.

As a creative entrepreneur and bleeding heart, I don’t always give myself the time and resources I need for self care. Shocker, I know. I go through phases where I’m really good about practicing the gospel of self care that I preach, and then there are other times when life hits hard and I feel like blob of flesh with a spinning top for brain. A slow, wobbly whiligig at that.

I look at the beautiful Instagram feeds of folks I admire like Glennon Doyle, Lewis Howes, and Tim Ferriss and see how “on it” they are with fitness and general well being, and then think, what the heck is wrong with me? Why don’t I have it all together?

For most of us, real life isn’t so curated, or expertly executed. (At least I hope it’s how most of us are and not just me and a few people I know.) There’s this myth that we too can “have it all together.”

But there’s a limit to our personal bandwidth.

I’m going to be asshole here and go ahead and say that it’s not really possible to have everything perfectly aligned in your life–or at least not for more than a short period of time. Life is seasonal, with good times and bad.

We have to stop pretending like perfection and balance is attainable.

Now, before you think I’m a total pessimist, know that I’m not saying we can’t improve our lives, or even have damn great lives. I just think we hold up this model of being wealthy, healthy, perfecto human beings like if we just work hard enough, are disciplined enough, or eat paleo, everything will change. We’ll have achieved nirvana here on earth. And because we believe this, we compare it to where we are now and push and press ourselves to the point of exhaustion to get it. Then feel like failures when it doesn’t happen.

We forget that progress takes time, or that many of the celebrity-lifestyle-gurus who are doing great things also do not live perfect lives, despite what we may see in their Instagram feeds.

No one knows the personal challenges you face like you do. People may try to understand (or not) but remember no one really knows what’s going on in that old brainpan of yours. Some of us have taller hurdles to jump, or mountains to climb.

Give yourself a break and take the time you need to figure out what will work for you. Stop frantically trying all of the things. Get alone time and think on what will help you change and improve your life and career.

So what does all of this have to do with me doing #NaNoWriMo and it actually helping my stress levels? I’m so glad you asked. 😉

I do creative work and strategy work for a living and I love it. But it also drains my creative well (as Julia Cameron would say), so when it comes time for downtime sometimes I go into blob mode, incapable of making a creative decision–even if that’s just what I should make for dinner.

With all of the major disasters and events in October, toward the end of the month I was feeling like El Blobo, bigtime.

Thank god though, I was able to actually listen to this little nagging voice that kept saying, “Hey, maybe you should start on that novel you’ve been wanting to write…maybe you could use #NaNoWriMo to get your butt in gear?”

I told my accountability buddies I was thinking about doing NaNoWriMo and how I felt a little crazy to be thinking about it since I was already juggling so much. But this voice inside assured me that if I could figure out a way to fit it into my life, it would be a good thing, a restorative thing. So I listened. And my accountability buddies decided they’d join in too.

Here’s how I adjusted my goals: The traditional approach is to write 1,667 words every day so that by November 30th you’ve got 50,000 words written. I knew this was way out of my feasibility at this time. I settled on just 500 words per day.

This little chunk of words–which I can sometimes finish in as little as twenty minutes (this is shitty first draft status, so don’t freak)–feels like a treat rather than an obligation or responsibility.

Now I’m only a week or so in, so you know, count that for what it’s worth, but I have been enjoying this writing like I haven’t for a long time. See it’s not an emotional rollercoaster like writing my memoir or essays about single motherhood can be. And while that writing is important and I will go back to it, this feels like pure fun!

Not only does it tap into the pleasure of just writing with my imagination, but I’m writing a novel set in the 1800’s so it also hits my history-buff-research-aholic pleasure center as well.

I’m telling you all this, not because i think you should jump on the NaNoWriMo bus, but because I hope it will spark some ideas for you on how you might refill your well with something you love–utilizing a tool that will keep you accountable.

Speaking of that, I registered on the Nanowrimo website and set my personal goals, but the site also tracks your progress compared to the standard 1,667 words/day standard as well. And so, here’s where that impossible ideal of comparison rears its ugly head. And I choose to ignore it.

Here’s a recent screenshot (of my hackneyed tracking on the site):

my nanowrimo progress

I’ve also been tracking my progress by posting on Instagram, and forgot to enter my words on a daily basis on the site. So basically, I already screwed up my tracking part. LOL. But I don’t care. I’m doing the writing.

I don’t care that other people are writing more, or not. I don’t even care about the quality of what I’m producing.

I do care that I found a creative activity that is purely selfish, in the best way possible.

And guess what? That makes me better at everything in my life. A happier mother, girlfriend, dog-mama, friend, consultant, designer, marketer, brander, etc. You get the idea. And that, my friends is the stuff of real, positive change.

My challenge to you is to think about what you might do to nurture your own creative spirit.

How can you slow down enough to be able to hear that little voice inside you telling you exactly what is needed to heal your overworked, stressed, yet pressing on soul?

And hey, if you figure it out let me know! I’d love to hear what you decided to do for yourself and how you plan to keep yourself accountable.

Remember, you have something(s) amazing to contribute to this world, but you ain’t going to make it if you’re feeling like a blob with a spinning top for a brain.

Go find that restorative thing, hold yourself to it, and love your badass self.

, , ,

Forgot My Own Anniversary

On March 6th, two years ago, I started this here blog thang. But truly what I did was commit to my dream of becoming a writer. And this March 6th I totally forgot to post something to celebrate. Doh!

To those of you who have read my posts I thank you from the deepest part of my soul. One of my greatest joys in life is to connect with other people. I hope that you’ve been entertained and inspired by some of the things in this blog.

My purpose in this project was and is to be honest about the process of pursuing one’s dreams. Too often we see the successful folks put on a pedestal and we think perhaps we just don’t have what it takes to get there. And while, yes, I’m still not a best-selling author (yet), I am on my way. (And I’ve had some great victories this year [rec’d the UCLA X Writers’ Program Scholarship & I’m nearly done with my UCLA X certificate program]).

This post is pretty unpolished and unedited. But if you can look past that, what I want you to know is this: If you commit to your dreams, it may push you harder than you’ve ever been challenged before. You will feel like giving up, like you’ll never be any good. You will feel the pressures of money and family, friends and obligations threatening to overtake your dream. But even if you can just whittle out ten minutes a day for your dream, do it. It is insanely fulfilling to know you’re actively working on your dream.

Our goals can often seem enormous and unattainable. But take some time (and this is a reminder for me too) to block out all the noise and just imagine where you want to be. Be like a child, if only for a few moments every day. Notice the beauty, wonder and possibility that exists when we don’t put our dirty human hands all over it.

I haven’t been published in a literary journal yet, but I’m working on it. 😉 In the meantime I wanted to give you a present.

A Thank You for being among my first readers:

This is a flash fiction piece I did for a contest that I did not win. I still think it’s worthy of a read, even if perhaps it isn’t perfect. I hope you enjoy it.

{  “Iris” (click here to read)  }

, , , , , , , ,

The Push

First, I want to just give a shout out to all of the wonderful people in my life who’ve encouraged and supported me through this first year – especially my soul mate, my boyfriend, Derwin. Thank you all! And thank YOU, for actually reading this! I’m humbled and honored that you’d even want to read it. I hope it inspires you in your journey. 😀

I started this blog one year ago, today. I’ve been wracking my brain for days/weeks trying to figure out what to say, how to update you on this past year’s progress. I’d love to tell you that I’m now a best-selling author and I’m touring the world inspiring others. But of course, real life is so much more complex than that. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m decidedly not a best-selling author, yet. 😉

I’d like to share a story with you.

When I was 10 years old my family threw a party at our local water-park, Windsor WaterWorks. It was an uncharacteristically gloomy August day in Sonoma County. Gray clouds covered the sky and threatened rain with occasional random drops here and there.

“It’ll clear up,” my dad said, as we packed our car and piled in. It was a special occasion, a joint 6th birthday party for my cousin Vincent and my brother, Luke. We were not about to let a few clouds get in the way of the celebration.

The clouds began to dissipate a little as we arrived at the park. Before the adults could set down the bags of party supplies at the picnic tables under the oak trees, we kids started begging to go on the water slides. I was so excited. We had driven by this freeway-side water park so many times and now there we were, about to actually glide down the water slides into the pools below. Vincent, Luke, Aunt Victoria, my Mom and I headed toward the first tower of slides. At the bottom of the wooden staircase an attendant handed us flimsy, blue foam mats.

“Which slide do you want to go on first Andrea? Level 1 or Level 2?” my aunt Victoria asked, her hand on my shoulder. Mom stood just behind her, an inquisitive smile on her face.

“Let’s do Level 1 first and then I want to try all four slides!” I bubbled excitedly. I could picture myself sliding down, feeling the wind in my hair, the rush of the water splashing my cheeks. My mom and aunt followed close behind as my cousin and brother hurried up the stairs ahead of me. As we crisscrossed back and forth, going higher and higher, I looked down. My heart jumped up into my throat. Oh, god what had I gotten myself into? We were up so high. The wooden beams didn’t seem so strong now. As we walked under the blue fiberglass slide it would shake and sway a little as the shadow of a person slid quickly past. When we reached the top I could see the twists of the blue tube and the small pool below. It didn’t look nearly big enough to catch a person flying down the slide at those speeds.

At the top, my cousin and brother flung down their blue mats with ease; one after another sitting and scooting themselves off into the tube slide. It was my turn. I stepped into the little pool of water at the top of the slide. I could feel the water pulling, rushing past my legs and down the slide. The attendant waved for me to put my mat down. I looked back at my mom, eyes wide, face contorted with utter dread.

“It’s ok hunny, you wanted to do this, remember?” she attempted to reassure me, with a smile.

“It’s ok, Andrea, just sit on your mat, you’ll see it’s not that bad.” my aunt said. She stepped into the pool beside me. I laid my mat down on the platform carefully and held my aunt’s hand as I positioned myself on it.

“I can’t do it, I’m too scared,” I squirmed, realizing the error of my ways, as the water rushed past my hands.

“C’mon, Andrea, if Luke and Vince can do it, you can too. We’re coming down right after you.” Mom pleaded. The attendant grimaced at us and impatiently asserted for me to go. The line was backing up behind us. I looked down at the tube again.

Unbeknownst to me, Mom motioned to Aunt Victoria to just go ahead and push me, that’d I’d be fine.

“Trust me,” she whispered to my aunt. All of the sudden I felt a firm push on my back and I was sliding into the tube. I screamed, flung my legs out to the side and slowed down a little. I hung on to my little blue mat with a white-knuckled, abalone grip. Taking a breath, I realized I was actually having fun. I splashed into the little pool at the end of the slide. Surfacing, I blew the water out of my nose, and swam to the side.

“What took you so long?” my brother whined, hand on his hip, smile stretching across his face. His white-blond hair swept back by the water.

For the rest of the day I rode that slide, and only that slide, nearly non-stop. Mom knew best.

Last year I was able to push myself to start pursuing my dream before I was ready to. (Thanks for the lesson, Mom) It was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. I flailed about in the beginning, trying to get my bearings. But let me tell you, now, I am having such a good time! I am so excited and fulfilled, knowing I am actively participating in crafting my dream. I don’t have the guilt nagging away anymore. That “I really should start that book someday” feeling is gone because I started it, and I’m doing it, day by day, making my dream come true. Every day is not a cake-walk, but it’s so much better than before.

Here are just some of the things that have changed since I committed to following my dream, one year ago:

  • The universe has aligned in ways I can’t be specific about yet, but I am blown away by how things have fit together and worked out this year. I feel like I have a new life.
  • I left two jobs that were no longer right for me.
  • I started going back to school –and I LOVE it!
  • I did several personal writing challenges – writing every day for 30, 60 & 90 day increments
  • I met some amazing new people who share the writing lifestyle
  • I started reading and doing the exercises in The Artist’s Way, as well as other creativity-building activities.
  • I write every day, except weekends. (But sometimes those too)
  • I feel happier, more peaceful and more fulfilled.
  • I have learned so much about writing, and how there is so much more to learn. Ha ha.
  • My relationship with my children has deepened – no easy task with teenagers.
  • My relationship with my boyfriend has deepened.
  • My children are happier and more actively pursuing their dreams.
  • I started actively writing the memoir I have wanted to write for the past decade.
  • I can now see the vision of my dream coming to life in vivid lines and color. And boy, is that a good feeling.

So, I’m not telling you all of this to toot my own horn. Far from thatI want you to know that no matter who you are and where you are in life you can start making your dream come true – today. But the key is you have to START and fully COMMIT to it.

For some it might be baby steps and others may have tons of time to devote to it. But I share this with you to show you that it’s not necessarily going to happen in an instant. It’s a hard, fantastic road, and you may, like me, not make it all happen in the first year (or more). But that doesn’t matter. It will happen. When it is meant to. But know this, even if things aren’t going great, when you’re doing all you can to pursue your life’s purpose, there is a peace and happiness that transcends the fear.

If you haven’t started yet, consider this your push!

(Oh & hey, if you still aren’t sure what your dream is that’s ok, keep exploring, it took me years to finally realize what my dream was.)

Hugs y’all,

Andrea

[Curious how it started? See my first post.]

,

It’s Almost a Year!

It’s been almost a year since I started this here little blog…I’m working on some fun stuff for the coming months.

I’m excited to tell you that I just launched the new blog design last night and I’m still working out the kinks, so bear with me if some things look a little odd.  Hope you like the new streamlined (mobile friendly) look. And, as always, let me know if you see something that needs my attention. 😉

Dream on!

-andrea

, , , , ,

A Sobering Thought…

Yesterday my family & I played the roles of treasure hunters at the Rose Bowl Flea Market.  Little did I know I would find this unexpected gem.   Each of us  focused on our goals,  my primary aim was the perfect coffee table, hiding somewhere in the sea of booths.   We traipsed aisle by aisle, in 90 degree heat to look through antiques, records, glass bottles and other curiosities.

The first thing I noticed about Matt Wilcox’s booth was this hard-hitting, laser-cut plaque:   

dreams-board

 In case you can’t read the text (the pic isn’t the greatest) and because it’s worthy of a repeat:

“If you don’t build your dream, someone else will hire you to help them build theirs.”  

-Dhirubhai Ambani (or Tony Gaskins) [this quote seems to be accredited to both guys]

This quote hit me like a punch to the chest.  I almost bought it on the spot, but was saving my cash for a coffee table – which I scored later.  

Thanks Matt for reminding us that we need to make OUR dreams happen (or be content working for someone else’s)!

(Oh and I will be ordering  soon, Matt!)

Visit Matt online:  wilcoxart.etsy.com or facebook.com/wilcoxart

 

, , ,

Confessions

I have a confession to make, sad but true. I haven’t been writing. On April 9th I wrote that I would be scaling back my blog writing to 3 days per week, but writing every day. I have not held my word on this.

It’s amazing how the discipline of the first month propelled me to keep up with daily writing. Then once I gave myself too general of a goal I basically used it as an excuse to put it off – for weeks.

Of course a lot has also changed over the past few weeks – I am working my jobs but have also received a wonderful influx of side work, kids have a ton going on and to top it off we just moved. Oh & we have a big trip in a couple weeks. So as my wise boyfriend told me – “wait til you’re back from your trip to recommit to a more disciplined writing schedule again.”

So that’s the plan. I’ll be back more consistently, with some nice juicy posts I’ve been mulling over, probably mid to late May.

In the meantime though I do want to tell you that I am seeing some awesome things happen in my life since I took the leap of faith to pursue my dreams. It’s amazing how the universe (God) steps things up when you set your intention on what you were made to do.

I look forward to sharing more about those things with you very soon.

Oh & while I’ve slacked off on writing I have still been attending Toastmasters! Still actively working toward my dreams…just a little slower at the moment.

, , , ,

A change

So I have been thinking…
While writing every day has been great for me I feel like I am not writing the quality I would like to.

I don’t get time to do much more than a first draft usually. I would like to delve in a bit more than that so I will be posting at least 3 times per week, but still be writing in the background every day.

“At one time I thought the most important thing was talent. I think now that — the young man or the young woman must possess or teach himself, train himself, in infinite patience, which is to try and to try and to try until it comes right. He must train himself in ruthless intolerance. That is, to throw away anything that is false no matter how much he might love that page or that paragraph. The most important thing is insight, that is … curiosity to wonder, to mull, and to muse why it is that man does what he does. And if you have that, then I don’t think the talent makes much difference, whether you’ve got that or not.”
― William Faulkner [Press conference, University of Virginia, May 20, 1957]

“He who works with his hands is a laborer.
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”
― St. Francis of Assisi

, , , , ,

1 month old!

It was one month ago (March 6th) that I started this blog and publicly committed myself to living my dream (& writing here every day)!!  Wow, it’s been an interesting journey so far.  There have been moments where it was more challenging than I thought, areas of my life that were challenged more than I could have imagined.  There have been some great rewards already – like being able to help some friends, getting in to better habits, writing every day (even if it’s not a lot, on days when I’m exhausted) and I also got back in to Toastmasters.

I really appreciate the support I’ve received from so many friends.  I feel very blessed by you.  I’m excited about the direction of my life and I definitely have a clearer vision of what I want to achieve and even some directions as to how!  I’m so excited!

In the coming weeks, I may be changing a little bit of the format of the writing of this blog.  To improve the posts, I may end up posting a little less frequently.  I feel like a lot of these posts are, as Anne Lamott would say, shitty first drafts.  But hey at least I’m writing and staying accountable in my journey to fulfill my life’s purposes. I’ll let you know when I finish deciding how to  proceed.  For now I’ll still be posting every day.

Thank you for reading, I am beyond blessed that anyone would even like to read along this journey with me.

<3, Andrea

habits

, , ,

Checking In

Boy I tell ya, I have about a thousand different things fluttering through my head tonight.  It’s hard to pick a topic.  This won’t be much of a post, but it’s something, about all the effort I have at the moment.  Wow, I’m really enticing you to read on now, huh?  Well here’s a little update anyway.

I will tell you, I have not met my goal at all this week of going to bed early/getting up early.  Lame, he he.  I will be planning further ahead next week in order to do better with this goal. But, I have done better in keeping a positive attitude, despite adversity, as well as sticking up for myself – two things I have been working on.

It’s a marathon my friends, and I shall be the tortoise. I hope you will too.  Keep up the good work.  Love yourself through the struggles and know that goodness awaits on the other side.

To my dear friends who struggle tonight, I love you and know I have been there too.  It WILL get better, ask for faith and strength when you have none.  I am praying for YOU.

And now, a nice quote:

“Like success, failure is many things to many people. With Positive Mental Attitude, failure is a learning experience, a rung on the ladder, a plateau at which to get your thoughts in order and prepare to try again.”
–W. Clement Stone

 

, , ,

Oops

I totally had it in my head to write (yesterday), but I got carried away in my day & forgot.  So I’ve pre-dated this post so it “appears” published on the correct day.

 

But just so ya know I’m totally calling myself out for missing a day & making sure that callout correlates with the correct date.  Accountability = Awesome

 

🙂  [this post written on March 17, 2013. 11:54pm]