The Stalling Before the Writing (Or, the Tragic Plight of My Poor Nails)

Your deadline is a headlight zooming towards you on a dark road. It’s speeding, angry, coming at you with music blasting, yet you find yourself standing there, in the middle of the road—shocked into a dumbness, unable to move, hypnotized by the light that’s getting brighter by the minute. You can see the crash happening, so why don’t you move? Why don’t you write?

Or maybe you don’t have a deadline. An external one, I mean. Maybe your deadline is simply internal, self-imposed; the usual tug of war between the procrastination troll that lives inside the crevices of your ears and the discipline fairy who’s ironically a pretty lazy fellow considering his purpose—he comes and goes as he pleases; he’s never there when you need him and when you don’t need him he’s hanging out on your shoulder, legs dangling, cracking jokes and eating grapes.

You sit yourself down to write but a million and one things are not right with the state of your work space. A million and one minuscule things that don’t matter at all. You begin to think of all the people you know and wonder why you haven’t reached out to so-and-so, and maybe you should send them an email, so you do. You’re so thoughtful.

You paint your nails (if painting your nails is something you do) to prevent yourself from biting them (if biting them is something you do) because the waiting and the stalling makes you ache with anxiety. You hate that you bite your nails (if that’s something that you do) and wish that you would stop, as you’re doing it. You wonder if this is what crack feels like. You start a story with a crack-addict antihero then stop before the first paragraph is finished because… it’s a crack story.

You check a few more emails. You eat a cookie. You decide you’re still hungry even though you ate a meal not long ago, and just ate a cookie. You start writing a blog post (ha). You check your phone for notifications of any kind. You’re mad when there are none.

This is the stalling before the writing.

But at least you’re in your place. At least the page is in front of you. At least you know what you have to do.

Why is it so hard to begin sometimes? Is it fear? Is it your over-caffeinated brain? (You over-caffeinated because you thought it would help jump start your writing. But it’s been exactly one hour and thirty-four minutes since you sat down and all you’ve accomplished is managing to stay put in your writing chair.)

But at least you’re in your place. At least the page is in front of you. At least you know what you have to do. At least.

You breathe. Try to harness your thoughts. You put tape over your nails to keep from biting them. You can’t type with the tape on your nails so you rip them off and feel disgusted with yourself. When did this nail biting habit even start? You dive into a google search. How to stop biting your nails. Why do people bite their nails. What do sloths eat.

You pull up your page again and suddenly the whiteness becomes a halo. Suddenly, you’re in a trance; you start seeing your words dancing… they’re inviting you to join them. You’re transported. You finally hear the music. You finally found the portal—the portal to the writing. The stalling has ended. The stalling has ended. You rejoice, but not too loudly lest you become distracted again. The writing begins. It’s happening!

But now you have to pee.

Finding Time to Write (and the horrible, inevitable consequence of not writing)

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Finding time to write is one of those struggles that really gets under my skin. It’s like there’s a tiny porcupine who lives in the slimy space between my skull and my brain who rolls around like a tumbleweed on the days that I’m not writing. This tiny porcupine causes me great discomfort as you can imagine, and the only way to make him stop rolling about like a menace is to sit myself down to write, because writing lulls him to sleep… and gives me relief.

When I think about what I’m so busy doing that keeps me from writing, a definitive answer never comes. Instead, my mind mulls over the generic I’m just so busy. And yet, we’re always going to be busy. There’s always going to be something that needs our attention right now. Do we revel in this energy of feeling needed? It’s hard to say. But I don’t want to be busy in the sense that I’m caught up in the rush of the weekday cycle, going through the motions of must-dos, and losing myself along the way.

“How’ve you been?”
“Good. Just busy.”
“Busy doing what?”
“Being busy.”

Something will always need our attention, be it work, family, personal hygiene, or the tedious chores of cleaning and laundry that — will never come to an end. When I analyze it in this way I recognize how easy it is to put writing on the back burner. And since not writing doesn’t offer any immediately visible dire consequences in the short-sighted view of our world, we continue to put it off. And our tetras game of priorities thus continues to blur our desire to write further and further into the background.

Not writing does not equal having no clothes to wear the next day. Not writing won’t cause ants to parade around your kitchen counter or flies to invade your garbage can. Not writing will not get you fired from your job (unless of course, writing is your job) — nor will it result in your kids going hungry or your dog peeing all over the floor. (At this very moment my dog puked on the couch, so I had to interrupt my writing just now to deal with that wonderful mess — seriously!)

So yes, it’s very easy to put off writing; there are so many excuses to choose from! Too many times have I been in bed at end of the day agonizing over another day of not having written, whispering to myself meekly and ever so hopefully, I’ll try again tomorrow. This cycle of busy is a death trap. It’s killed many would-be writers.

This is my warning to you.

And to myself.

The reason not writing doesn’t cause any immediate ramifications is because its effects are, well, not immediate. Not writing is the surest way to kill a writer… but it’s a slow, steady, crumbling death, peppered with phrases of procrastination, excuses, overwhelmed sighs, and denial.

Not writing is a poison IV drip — every drip representing a single day of not writing.

A recurring nightmare I have is a moment in which I admit to myself — from the deepest, most tucked away chambers of my heart — that I can’t truthfully call myself a writer anymore. I’m staring at my old, dusty, long-forgotten drafts and don’t recognize the words as my own, and suddenly at dinner parties I’m standing around with a wine glass in hand, and with that awkward dinner-party half-laugh, I recount to the semi-circle around me that I used to be a writer. And when I go home later, pop my heels off my feet, think about how I maybe should’ve stayed home to write instead of go to that party — I realize I don’t feel the tiny porcupine anymore. He dissolved into my brain a long time ago because of how numb I’d become to the treacherous feeling of not writing.

It’s a dark thought, I know. That’s why it’s a nightmare. But it’s a thought every writer struggling with time management should reflect on — if a writer is who you are and who you truly want to be. Are you dedicated enough? The title of Writer must be earned.

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e., do not cave in to endless requests to have “essential” and “long overdue” meetings on those days. The funny thing is that, although writing has been my actual job for several years now, I still seem to have to fight for time in which to do it. Some people do not seem to grasp that I still have to sit down in peace and write the books, apparently believing that they pop up like mushrooms without my connivance.” – J.K. Rowling

It’s so frustrating trying to carve out the time I need to write, like I’m trying to steal pennies from a piggy bank before somebody notices and calls my name. But the solution is truly simple. Writers write — we must write. In the same way we nourish our bodies with food and water, we must nourish the writers that we are and can fully become by making writing more of a priority in our lives.

Writing is hard; we mustn’t forget that. Not just the process of writing and what comes after, but the process of getting to the writing desk in the first place. Everything about writing is hard. And only real writers are up for the challenge — are obsessed with it. Love it regardless.

For me my solution comes down to time management. Clearly my lifestyle hasn’t been nurturing my writing routine, so I’ve begun to rise an hour earlier each day to use that extra time slot to write. Anyone who knows me will know just how much of an effort this is… I’m a night owl by nature. But I’ve decided that writing is too important to me, more important than my self-proclaimed love for the night, and that I’m willing to do anything I need to do to put writing in the forefront. Leaving it for the end of the day has kept my unfinished drafts at just that.

Because I think part of the problem is that I shouldn’t be trying to find time to write, I should be trying to make time to write. (Yes, for me at this point it’s still a matter of try, but at least I’ll be trying in the right direction.) I’ve realized I need to actively shape my schedule around writing, not just let my writing fall wherever it may.gloria-steinem

What it boils down to is priority. You make time for what’s important to you.

Being a writer may not be a choice, but the writing life — the writing life is very much a choice. It’s a choice you have to make every day, every time you sit down to it amidst the million other things that are shouting for attention as you’re typing away.

Being a writer is not about writing when it’s convenient, it’s about making sure you’re writing no matter what — because if you don’t, you’ll live out the rest of your life feeling incomplete and resentful of everything and everyone around you. And your unwritten stories will haunt you.

Not writing may not keep your life from falling apart in the immediate sense, but it sure will cause the writer in you to die a slow and untimely death.

And I don’t want to go out like that.


What strategies do you use to maintain an active and consistent writing routine? What sacrifices or adjustments have you made in the name of writing?

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Don’t Let Life Pass You By

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It’s easy to get lost in the folds of everyday. The countdown to the weekend seems to rule our lives. It’s a vicious cycle that blurs together days and weeks and months, until you forget how old you are on your birthday, and you no longer want to celebrate.

To-do lists are endless highways, as though life were a road trip, and you stay up all night just to get to where you want to be, and by day you’re too exhausted to enjoy the views. Attempts to workout or eat right or quit that habit or say the right words or commit to that perfect routine seem to follow you like a recurring daydream (or nightmare). Then you wake up one morning and realize six months have gone by (or worse — years), and you still haven’t taken the steps to accomplish all that your heart wants to do. Your passions are hanging on a hook behind your bedroom door. I’ll get to it tomorrow, you say as you make your usual exit, walk down the path of your usual routine. Because first things first: bills need to be paid, and your boss is expecting you to be somewhere on time — on their behalf.

And all the while your dog is getting older as he waits for you on the couch each day. You are getting older. The days continue to dissolve and you continue to put off calling up that friend or family member whom you haven’t seen in ages. You don’t remember what you did last weekend because every weekend looks the same, and it doesn’t matter anyway. You seem to be constantly saving for something and constantly broke. Not because you don’t have money, but because you’re worried that like time, you’ll never get back what you spend, so you tuck it away hoping something worthwhile will come along, something that will give you a good return on investment. And you’re constantly searching for that one thing that’s certain. Because better safe than sorry, right?

When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I remember having what was probably my very first moment of clarity. I was sitting at the dining room table eating alone, looking across the room to the wall that held a round-faced clock. I remember staring at the second hand, focusing every thread of my being on its incessant ticking, its endless quest to move forward, to keep going. And for some reason, I remember feeling an immense sadness at the sudden, stark awareness that seconds were falling away from me. Falling away as I sat there on that table with a spoon in my hand, into a place I could never visit. It was the first time I realized that time is irretrievable.

We all have things that we want to do and things that we must do — sometimes those things align, sometimes they conflict. But no matter where those things fit in your life, I’ve learned that it’s important to prioritize what makes your heart catch fire. To do what makes you feel alive. Too many of us walk around drugged by coffee and obligations — utterly subdued into mindless routines that undo the threads of the heart by night and numb the passions of the soul by day.

Until you wake up and your skin is stale, and the pages of the novel you’d never written are sitting on your bedside table, yellowed by years of neglect. And your boss doesn’t exist in your life anymore, and you don’t remember how old you are, and it doesn’t matter anyway. Suddenly your life’s priorities involve getting to the bathroom before you let yourself go, and making your doctor’s appointments on time (they’re very busy so it’s important to be on time) because those shiny-eyed doctors with their sympathetic nods hold the answers to elongating your life (at least that’s what your mind has you believe) — though you’re unsure what you would do with your time if you did live longer. Because by that point, your best years are gone anyway (at least that’s what your mind has you believe). And dreams are for sissies anyway. Dreams are for street musicians and artist hippies and young inventors and college students who think they can change the world. Who are you to dream? Who are you?

5 Reasons I signed up for a TRIATHLON

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I signed up for a sprint triathlon recently! .5 miles (.8k) swimming | 13 miles (20k) biking | 3.1 miles (5k) running.

While I consider myself a fairly athletic person, my relationship with working out ebbs and flows depending on the season, and I’ve never before done anything like a triathlon (I ran a 5k two years ago but that’s about it). I’m just your average person with a gym membership who sometimes goes and sometimes doesn’t.

I don’t dislike working out. When I’m in the zone and on a roll, I actually enjoy it. Working out does wonders for my mental health and stress levels. I love how light and strong it makes my body feel. But like many people, I struggle with self-discipline. So…

Despite my self-doubts and am-I-crazy’s, I decided to give myself the ultimate physical and mental challenge of training for and competing in my first-ever sprint triathlon… and here are my 5 reasons why:

1. To reconnect with my inner athlete

I was a competitive swimmer from ages 5 through 14. I loved to swim (still do!) and was great at it too (still am!). In addition to competing with other teams within my city, I got to travel with my team to neighboring cities to compete when we made Nationals. So it was serious business, but always so much fun.

Those years made an impact on me. And though I lost touch with the pool as I moved on through life and into adulthood, being in a pool always filled me with nostalgia. And the amazing muscle memory in my arms and legs whenever I did swim always reminded me that my inner swimmer had never left me. Athleticism… it’s in me. And I sort of miss it. I want to relive the thrill of the race, a race that involves swimming.

2. To practice turning my thoughts into actions

7dcdc6d27bfca5eba2bca65827f5b4a6In my About page, I say that I’m a thinker trying to be more of a doer and that’s exactly true. My tendency to over-think has impacted many aspects of my life and is actually one of the reasons I started my blog—I needed to turn my thinking about starting a blog into actually doing it (even if I didn’t know what I was doing).

On that same note, instead of thinking about how I can be more of a doer, I decided to fling myself into a doer arena, one that will require fierce commitment and training.

By training for this triathlon, I am practicing setting a goal—a tangible, straight-forward, challenging, but attainable goal—and seeing it through to the end. Seeing it through until it is done, instead of just thinking and daydreaming about it.

I hope this experience of doing—of practicing dedication and persistence—will inspire and teach me to spread this energy into other aspects of my life. Because let’s face it, only doers get things done. It’s work ethic—not just talent—that takes you places. Thinkers linger, and I’m tired of watching from the sidelines with all my mental notes. I need this certificate of completion to prove that a life of doing is possible for me. I have my mind set on plenty of things… I just need to practice the action part.

3. My strange phobia of indoor pools

I don’t remember how or when it started (and I certainly don’t know why), but I’ve always felt uneasy about swimming in indoor pools. Does ANYONE out there feel me?

Back in my swimming days we swam in outdoor pools. The bright yellow sun, the dry heat, it was all so perfect. I could see through the water. There was no dimness, no murky, chlorine-filled smell, no stuffy enclosed feeling. There was just light.

What makes me uneasy is the dark water: the lack of natural light, the inability to see clearly through the water, the shadowy dimness ahead of me as I’m swimming, and my insanely active imagination (think creatures of the deep coming out of the murkiness). It’s stuff of kids’ nightmares; it’s nonsense and silly, but it’s how I feel, and it can be crippling.

It’s worse when it’s just me in the pool. I feel “safer” when there are others around, when I feel presence with me in the water. Many times I’ve even cut my swimming short if I see that everyone in the pool has left. Maybe I had a traumatic experience in an indoor pool that I’ve suppressed? Maybe I should blame it all on my  dramatic imagination?

I’ve learned to tolerate swimming in indoor pools over the years, but it continues to be an issue for me. Training for a triathlon is forcing me to face this strange fear and unlikely discomfort head-on.

4. To prove to myself that I can (because I can)

Self-doubt will be the death of me if I don’t kill it first. I don’t consider 34e3dfa6d33dd57c8b182655cb94175bmyself particularly low on confidence—I have my moments like any person—but it seems that I hoard massive amounts of self-doubt whenever I face a personal challenge. Whenever I face… myself, really. And it’s debilitating. And probably connected to my tendency to over-think things.

So I’m training for this triathlon to kill the voices of self-doubt, and to celebrate and appreciate my body, its strength, its potential, and its abilities. And the essence of Yes I can.

5. An ode to my 20s

I turned 29 recently. It’s a bittersweet number this 29. Filled with hope and excitement for a new decade on the horizon, it’s also the almost-end of a pretty intense chapter.

And so I thought, what better way to end the turbulent, exciting, eventful, thrilling, unforgettable years of my 20s than to conquer myself—mind and body—by way of a triathlon challenge? The ultimate cherry on top! first-inspirational-running-quotes-wallpaper

This triathlon will be a celebration of all the wonderful and life-changing years that have shaped me over this decade. The friendships I’ve made, the love that I’ve found, the hardships I’ve survived, and all that I’ve accomplished, learned, and seen and felt and explored throughout my 20s. Because triathlon training requires patience, commitment, sacrifice, pain, determination, will power, confidence, strength, endurance… I could go on… and all of these things I have tackled in my 20s, and will no doubt continue to.

But when I’m standing at the cusp of my 30th birthday, I would love to look back at my triathlon experience and be able to say: if I made it through a triathlon—and the roller-coaster decade of my 20s—I can make it through almost anything.


So have you ever competed in a triathlon? If you have, what were your reasons for signing up? And do you have any tips for me? I would love to know!

My triathlon date is June 14. Wish me luck. 🙂

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Deciphering Happiness

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I watched this documentary recently, simply titled: Happy. It’s a thought-provoking examination of life’s most valued human emotion, happiness, and really is a must-watch for everyone. It grapples with the questions: What makes humans happy? And how can we cultivate lasting happiness in our lives?

I learned there are two types of happiness: intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic happiness has to do with the fulfillment of your soul’s needs. Fulfillment through personal growth, living your passion, knowing your values and aligning your life’s work to them, forging and maintaining meaningful relationships, giving yourself to others (which goes back to the importance of community), nurturing self-esteem, health, and well-being.

Extrinsic happiness has to do with the fulfillment of your ego’s needs (what your mind tells you you want). Fulfillment through obtaining something external (mostly tangible desires): money, success, status, recognition, any kind of “object” that you perceive will make you happy if you could only have it.

Come to think of it, extrinsic happiness is what I realized I was referring to when I wrote “happiness is a unicorn”; it comes from gaining something that you feel was missing from your life—the type of happiness that shapes the attitude: I will be happy if or when I have this.

With extrinsic happiness, we are chasing something outside of ourselves instead of looking inwards. Hence the plight of the human: we always want what we don’t have. Because of this, extrinsic happiness is fleeting. It’s not something we can ever keep or hold.

“Man is a fool. When it’s hot he wants it cool. When it’s cool he wants it hot. Always wanting what is not.”

Intrinsic happiness, on the other hand, stems from the idea that we are the source of our own happiness (“i am the compass”), and that only we can be responsible for our own happiness. As I see it, extrinsic happiness satisfies the ego while intrinsic happiness satisfies the soul. Interestingly, they directly oppose one another, and therein lies the great paradox that we experience in our hearts.

Before watching Happy, I didn’t think real and lasting happiness could be achieved in life; it seemed to me that, like every other human emotion, happiness could never be constant. I believed that happiness was a temporary high, rendering us unable to find a permanent sense of fulfillment, so that we’re constantly on a search for our next dose, the next thing that will make us happy. Each of us carries a hole in our hearts that we try to fill in some way.

But now I see that I was only thinking about extrinsic happiness. Now I see there is a constant happiness that we can achieve in our lives—one that comes from centering ourselves, knowing and being true to ourselves, and giving ourselves to something bigger than our own personal desires and ambitions. Gratitude, appreciation, purpose, a sense of connection with yourself and others… all these things cultivate a steady flow of intrinsic happiness.

I don’t mean to say that personal ambition is wrong or bad. Only that we need to find a balance between fulfilling both mind and spirit. Happiness, as I understand it now, is not just a fleeting human emotion, it’s a state of being, an attitude, a way of life, a deliberate choice to focus on certain aspects of life over others.

The documentary Happy inspires a clairvoyant understanding of this emotion that we all crave and seek. We all want to be happy. We’re all trying to figure out how to be and stay happy. We all think we know what will make us happy. Many people believe the goal and purpose of life is to achieve happiness.

But I don’t believe happiness is a goal or a prize—I believe happiness is a by-product emotion that springs from the heart, that can be achieved and maintained through actions that are driven by the heart. We become what we do every day.

Do what makes you happy and you will be happy; no action or thought is too small to inspire a sense of happiness. Chase what makes you happy and you will forever be in a chase; everything eventually loses its novelty. So what are the things that your heart longs for? And what are the things that light up your heart from the inside out? True happiness is not something to covet, it is something to be.

Watch the documentary and let me know what you think! 🙂

Celebrating small victories

sunflower_on_blue_sky_by_stock_by_kaiI’m hard on myself when it comes to my accomplishments. It’s good to have high expectations for yourself, but not to a degree that makes you dismiss your small victories. My friends and family tell me I never give myself enough credit for anything I do, and they’re right. In my mind, many things that I’ve achieved have simply been “not enough”… in comparison to the bigger picture of what I hope to accomplish.

I have a hard time celebrating my small victories because I am a person who always strives to keep her mind on the bigger picture—and usually that is a good thing. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture is calming to me, most of the time. The bigger picture offers perspective, reminds me that in the grander scheme of things, I will be okay. All will be okay. The bigger picture helps me align my priorities. It keeps me in check.

But I’m slowly realizing that my bigger picture is also casting a shadow on my small victories. The bigger picture can be overwhelming. Like the sun, it can sting you if you look at it for too long. It can make you lose sight of the smaller pieces that you’ve put together that ultimately… make up that bigger picture.

There are so many things I want to do—dreams I want to see to fruition. And in this context, the bigger picture of all that I hope to accomplish ends up paralyzing me instead of motivating me. It all becomes so overwhelming. There’s just too much to do!

So I retreat.

I camp outside my mountain of dreams because the mountain hovers too high. I can’t imagine where on earth I would begin my climb, or how I would even survive such a climb.

Well, needless to say, that approach has gotten me nowhere.

I woke up one day and realized that my small victories had gathered like dust in the corners of my room. And instead of using them as building blocks, instead of seeing them as reminders that I’m on the right track, that I’m doing something and there’s still more to do, I left them there to dry… to blur into the background of my life.

Celebrate your small victories! Make a big deal out of them. (Maybe not to the extent of throwing a party and inviting all your friends, but…) In your mind, they should always represent a check point on your road to your bigger picture, your vision of your success. Small victories are evidence of growth and progress. Evidence that you are an active member of life.

And realize that you should always have a vision of your success—there should always be something you’re chasing, something that will push you and inspire you to do better and be better. There’s no such thing as “arriving” at your success. People who “arrive” at their successes and decide to kick their feet up only get passed up by the rest of us who don’t stop moving forward. And I don’t mean to say that life is a race and that we should compare our successes to other people’s—no. What I mean is that once you lift from your mind this idea that success is a destination, you will be able to relax to a degree and appreciate your small victories.

And it’s not easy. We see our goals, our hopes, our dreams… we see them as shimmering palaces in the far distance, and we become weary wondering if we’ll ever find our way there. But life is not a prize to covet, it’s an experience, and so it is with success and accomplishment. Small victories, like memories we accumulate over the years, are a part of your bigger picture, a part of your experience, a part of your success, a part of your story. They are significant.

So celebrate your small victories; don’t just keep your eyes on the prize, on the big mountain of your dreams. Without your small victories, there would be no mountain… and your dreams would just be wishes in the wind.

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