Short Break

Goodbye, Puerto Rico

 

 

I’m moving to Georgia on Tuesday and I have lots of stuff to do, so I’ll be on a short break till July 22nd while I finish last minute touches here and get situated over there.

Today I had planned a post about What Avatar The Last Airbender/Legend of Korra Taught Me about  storytelling, but it was long and messy and I want to do it right, but ran out of time.

So instead I share you other blogs and articles that are awesome!

 

This article shows how its actually true that being in the moment and enjoying the journey is much beneficial than focusing on the destination:  How Goals and Good Intentions Can Hold Us Back

Everything at Terribleminds.com is just pure awesomeness and today it’s interview day with Lisa Cron, author for Wired For Story which teaches storytelling using science! Lisa Cron: The Terribleminds Interview

Also, everything at The Art of Non-Conformity is great too. Here’s a blog post about taking responsibility for making decisions about your life. This blog and his books started me on my path of really taking my life into my own hands: How to Make Decisions

 

There. Go. Read. Play.

See you next week!

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Fixing Mistakes

 

I read a lot about how we need to learn to say No, especially in the form of advice for writers. Not so much to writing job opportunities (especially in the beginning), but more to family and friends and commitments that don’t benefit us and cut into our writing time.

We need to say No to others and Yes to ourselves more often.

I believe this is great advice, especially for women.

It’s almost like it’s more okay for men to be selfish jerks than it is for women, mostly because girls often find that attractive. I don’t know why. It must be some sort of defect in our reproductive hormones.

But for a woman, it’s important to be self sacrificing, selfless, kind, and polite. And once a man is married and has children, then he is also expected to be self sacrificing, selfless, kind and polite. A selfish deadbeat dad is NOT attractive in the least.

The problem is, we take it too far. Soon, a lot of women and married men don’t say Yes to their own needs at all. It’s all for others, their families and friends and the company they work for, even if it costs them personally.

While I understand some sacrifices are necessary, usually there’s a balance. Sacrifice this, and you enjoy the happiness of your family and satisfaction of a doing a good, fulfilling job at work.

But what I’m talking about are situations that hurt you and your involvement isn’t absolutely necessary to begin with. Or rather, it’s not your problem.

Like when you know that giving that loan to a friend that you care about, but know in the past that he’s bad paying back money, is a bad idea and you give him money anyways. Or when you really need time for yourself without your spouse and children, but feel guilty so you stay at home. Or the girlfriend who’s dream job is in another city, but turns it down so she doesn’t lose her boyfriend.

Some sacrifices are damaging to the soul.

We shouldn’t have to give in to the pressure of always being the polite one, the kind one, the generous one.

Or rather be those things, be kind and generous, but not at the expense of being mean and cheap with yourself.

Treat others as you would treat yourself, and likewise, treat yourself as you would treat others.

But there’s something even more difficult than saying No, which is the true topic of this post.

Saying No when it’s beneficial to yourself (but denies another what they want) is one thing and can be challenging.

What’s even harder is going back and fixing the mistake.

Of saying, “I’m sorry I agreed to do this, but I can’t. It was a mistake and I need to take it back.”

That’s much scarier.

I know cause I’m faced with that situation right now.

A part of me just wants to live with my consequences and just suffer and let it go. But I know that is just me willingly and unnecessarily creating suffering for myself when I can just solve it by confronting the issue.

Rather than worry and experience pain in the future for my mistake, I can take action and resolve it now…even if it might piss someone off, someone I really don’t want to piss off.

I keep thinking, “If only I had been stronger back then and said No.”

I can be stronger NOW and take back my Yes, despite how scary it is.

I have a responsibility to my own well-being to listen to my gut when it tells me (painfully clear for once) I’m doing something wrong and need to make it right.

This goes for everyone else out there faced with this scenario. In the end, it’s probably better for both parties. They become more self reliant and you become stronger and healthier too. It’s the first step in learning from mistakes and not repeating them.

I’m off to fix my mistake and become a stronger person.

How about you?

Anyone else done anything they regret in the past week? Is there any way you can fix it?

What The Job I Hated Has Taught Me…

A change of pace today, but still somewhat related.

I wanted to write this post months ago, but I was afraid of someone from work reading it and criticizing me. So instead, I waited until I quit and wasn’t working there anymore.

I guess the time has come.

***

My job was not at all glorious in any sense of the word. I worked in fast food and let me tell you something…

If you need a job, fast food will always have an opening…because working in fast food is hell on Earth. Everyone quits the moment they get the chance. Or at least the smart ones do.

The job demands that you work very hard for the absolute minimum the company is willing to pay you, with barely any recognition of your hard work, and be scolded for what you did wrong, even when whatever it is you did wrong was completely unavoidable because either what they asked you to do was impossible to begin with or you didn’t even know the proper way of doing it because no one taught you how, but somehow you were supposed to know anyways.

There’s no training in fast food. At least, not at my job.

You learn as you go. Kind of like life.

Usually when I do these posts, I make a list of all the things something has taught me. But this time, I only have one important thing my job has taught me.

Something that really opened my eyes.

When I first started working there, I didn’t like it very much. I was slow and made lots of embarrassing mistakes.

But the thing I hated the most was working the drive thru.

There are more or less three steps to working the drive thru.

Take the order, prepare the order, charge the customer, serve the order, repeat.

Now, on a good day, you have one person charging the customer and serving the order, and another taking and preparing the order.

But that’s during the day. At night, it’s usually just one person. Just one. Who has to take the order. Prepare the order. Charge the customer. And serve the order.

It wouldn’t even be that difficult if preparing the order didn’t involve traveling from one side of the kitchen to the other.

Oh and by the way, you’re timed.

I hated it. When I first started working, I dreaded the days when I was assigned the drive thru.

I  believed it was impossible. That what they wanted me to do was impossible for any human to do and the people who devised this were sadistic sons of bitches who enjoyed torturing desperate, broke people who’d do anything to pay their bills.

But the reason I hated it wasn’t because it was impossible, it was because I sucked at it.

I was horrible. And I hated being bad at anything. I was/am a perfectionist after all.

But time passed and even though I wanted to quit, I knew I couldn’t. Or at least I convinced myself I couldn’t.

So I stopped thinking how impossible the job was or how sadistic the bosses were, and actually tried to figure out how to do better.

It got easier.

The first time I did an entire night shift by myself without needing help felt great. Accomplished even.

I was making progress.

At the time when I quit, it was my favorite position. It was easy. It was to the point I sometimes enjoyed doing it by myself more than being helped (once I got a rhythm, other people just ruined my flow).

The lesson here?

No matter how hard or impossible learning a new skill seems to be, never quit. The initial discomfort and hate will pass and soon it’ll be effortless.

This applies to EVERYTHING.

I should have noticed this sooner. Years ago,  before the Air Force, I couldn’t run a single lap without stopping. It felt like dying. When I graduated boot camp, I could easily run a mile (the threat of repeating boot camp was a great motivator to stick with it).

I rarely noticed this in other parts of my life because since I wasn’t being paid and hadn’t signed a contract, I often quit before I got past the OMG I HATE THIS period, thinking it was a sign that this wasn’t for me.

I quit drawing. I quit the violin. I quit filmmaking (and I didn’t even try, the mere idea made me extremely uncomfortable).

I wonder what would have happened if I stuck with it even during that “I suck at this!” phase and kept going like I did with my job?

What will happen now as I stick with writing, get back to art, and try my hand at filmmaking regardless of my discomfort?

What would happen if we applied the same level of discipline and integrity to the things we feel we have no choice about to the the things we actually want to do?

Lets find out, shall we?

 

(Points to anyone who notice how my thoughts/thinking created my reality in my drive thru hell scenario. I highlighted some clues in case you missed it).

Leap of Faith

 

When I was little, my mother used to tell me I could be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. I took it deeply to heart.

Years later, I remember having an argument with her and while I don’t remember the specifics, I do remember me bringing up how she used to say that to me and her reply was, “I wish I never said that.”

It didn’t matter. It was too late. The idea that I could do anything I wanted was engrained in me. But her words of regret for saying those words also stayed with me. I had a lot of problems. I wanted to spend my entire life telling stories. I specifically wanted to be a filmmaker, but didn’t have the support or confidence to go to film school.

I stubbornly refused to become anything else, but at the same time…I doubted.

As the years went by, I began to settle. I decided to be a novelist. I went to school for communications with the idea of getting a job in the movie industry as something else and work my way up. But unfortunately, I had no interest in classes that had nothing to do with storytelling. I could pass them with flying colors if I cared enough to do the work, but I didn’t. It caused a whole lot of anxiety.

I held back. I was too afraid to truly go for it. I kept putting off my creative writing because I was terrified of being proven wrong: that I can’t do it, that I can’t be whatever I wanted. By putting it off, I spared myself that horrifying realization. It was a way to protect my ego, my identity.

Fast forward to today, five years of college later. I dropped out and been working part time in fast food for nearly 2 years.

In my attempt to protect my secret belief, my secret wish that I could be whatever I wanted, I ended up living a lie. I haven’t actually done what I truly wanted to do in years. What was going? How did I fail to notice I was ruining my own life? Because I didn’t want to notice. It was too painful. My fear became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Not anymore.

Yesterday, I handed in my resignation letter. July 3rd I will no longer be working in a job I hate. I’ll be truly on my own for financial support for the first time in my life.

I’m going to do what I always wanted to do.

I’m going to write a book.

In three weeks, on July 3rd, I’m going to put it up for sale on this website.

What will it be about?

It’ll be nonfiction. Every post over the course of these three weeks—including today’s—will be a piece of that answer.

This book, despite not being a work of fiction, is another dream of mine. Something I wanted to do, but thought I had to wait till I was old and gray and retired before having the credentials to write such a book. But I think I’ll do it now and see what happens

It’s time to finally face my fears and answer my doubts.

Can I really be anything I wanted?

Can I really be a writer?

 

 

 

 

 

(Yes, you can. So go for it).

Balance

“The Juggler” 1981 Oil on Panel by Michael Parkes
The Juggler by Michael Parkes

 

I feel the greatest factor in order to maintain consistency and focus is balance.

It’s about skillfully balancing practicing your passion while juggling all the necessities of life.

I’ve learned that it is very, extremely unproductive to compare myself to others who don’t share the same situation as me. I have the bad habit of being a perfectionist and wanting to be the best at everything I’m into. So when I hear people write or draw or study those things six to eight hours a day, I feel like I need to do that too or even more.

But most of those people either figured out a way to balance their life or sacrificed or just simply have the time to make that work.

I know I’ve allowed myself to feel bad by an aspiring artist friend of mine. Drawing for three hours a day is slacking off in his book. And often he’s lectured me about my inconsistency….which I cannot deny.

I am extremely inconsistent. I’m very much aware of it and if there’s one thing I want to change most about my behavior, it’s that.

But I also have to face reality.

I’m living with my 17 year old brother (I took him back in. Inconsistent, I know) with a house that is falling apart, working a part-time job. I have to pay the bills, do the laundry, stock up the fridge, budget my spending, clean the house, monitor my brother’s whereabouts, drive him to places, go to work, make sure my brother is taking care of his pets, etc…

AND pursue my dreams and somehow start a career.

Needless to say, writing and drawing eight hours a day isn’t going to work.

For me, it’s very easy for me to freak out and lose focus, especially with a history of crippling anxiety and depression since I’m way too hard on myself.

Balance is the key.

Flexibility and sacrifice helps in creating Balance. It’s like juggling. You need flexibility to catch everything and sacrifice items, juggling less than you’d like in order to make it work.

It’s all about doing whatever it takes.

How do you achieve balance in your life?

Love the Journey, But Don’t Forget the Destination

I took a good look at my surroundings and realized I lost my focus.

I lost my goal.

I lost my Destination.

It got lost due to new plans, setbacks, mini crises, and non!hiatuses. I’m still determined and committed. I’m not out of the game, but now my writing and drawing is only for the sake of writing and drawing, with no end game in sight. Well, that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing…though without any purpose, I seem to have lost some drive.

In other words, my productivity and consistency are still lacking.

We’ve all heard the many different yet still wise quotes about how important it is to enjoy the Journey and how little important it is to obsess over the Destination.

But now I’m starting to believe that regardless of how less important the Destination is, it’s still pretty damn necessary to at least have one.

Thus, it’s time to recommit and clarify my Destination—my short and long term goals.

What a better way than to list them all here where everyone on the internet can see and judge me if I don’t complete them in a timely way! Oh joy!

Writing Goals:

  • Finish Prophecy of the Eternals First Draft Outline
  • Complete Studying THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST by Donald Maass
  • Complete my many writing courses I participate in online (HTTS, HTRYN, LRWG Novel Course)
  • Receive a Positive Rejection with Comments from an admired Literary Agent (BREAKTHROUGH GOAL)
  • Finish rewrite and final draft of Prophecy of the Eternals
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of Blood of the Eternals (Book 2)
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of Avatar of the Eternals (Book 3)
  •  Finish Eternals Trilogy (BG)
  • Acquire a Literary Agent (BG)
  • Finish first draft, rewrite, final draft of BEASTS (Book 1)

 

The list can pretty much go on forever when it comes to my writing goals, so I’ll just leave it there. That’s good for the next ten years or so. …Damn, mortality is a bitch.

As for my art goals, since it’s a more recent path I’ve chosen, I’m not exactly sure where I’m heading. So here’s just a few I can think of.

Art Goals:

  • Get a paid commission to do fantasy art.
  • Win Crimson Daggers Golden Boy Award on ConceptArt.org Forums
  • Finish Art School
  • Get accepted to do a page for GUTTERS webcomic
  • Get a Job storyboarding, doing concept art for film or television or art for a comic
  • Get a Job as drawing fantasy novel book covers.
  • Get featured in an art magazine like ImagineFX (BG)
  • Freelance for Magic the Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, Whitewolf, or similar (BG)
  • Get a Job doing storyboards or art for a major film/show or art for a major comic book or graphic novel (BG).

 

All of these are probably too far reaching, but honestly until I can think of small steps, I shall leave it like this for now.

Note: All goals are subject to change.

Nevertheless, the Journey is still the more vitally important of the equation. After all, we spend more time journeying than reaching the destination (and we might not even reach it in the end anyways), so we may as well enjoy ourselves as we go.

Perhaps then, the Journey should dictate the Destination.

Something like…

“Since I want to spend my life doing *insert activities and events I want to occur in my life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis*, then the best direction for such a life is *insert goal/destination*.” 

Like, since I enjoy writing, drawing and daydreaming about my own stories and characters, then having goals such as finishing and selling novels, and going to art school and being paid to draw, are goals that will allow me to have a life, a Journey, where I get to do the things I love on a daily basis, and not just when I’ve finally achieve a goal.

This is probably the reverse on how most people plan their goal lists. The common way is to have the goal, then figure out what you need to do every day in order to achieve it.

I’m saying do the opposite.

I think it’s a good way ( or at least makes it more likely) to create a satisfying life we can enjoy right now instead of in the future, where each moment become mini-destinations and bad days aren’t so bad.

Life is short and my goals are lofty. I doubt I’ll reach all of them or even most of them, but at least I can be happy, enjoying the moments leading up to the Destination…for the most part.

Tell me about your Journey and your Destination(s).

What are your goals and the daily activities you’ve added to your life in order to reach them?

The Revival of the Morning Routine

 

I think I’ve done a million of posts on this subject, but I keep coming back to it for some reason.

Perhaps it’s because for the first time in a while, I actually managed to get up – actually leave my bed and be in front of my computer – at 4am to work on my writing.

I haven’t done this since the Golden Age of Writing ™.

(In case anyone’s wondering, the Golden Age of Writing was November 9th – 30th of 2008 when I wrote and finished the first draft of my novel. I may be a tiny bit proud of the achievement.)

Needless to say, I’m excited.

But on the subject of routine and discipline, I’m starting to realize something interesting.

I can get up, fully energized with little sleep as long as I’ve prepared myself the night before.

As I write this, I’m only on about 4-5 hours of sleep. I’m totally awake.

But wait, doesn’t the body need sleep?

Apparently it doesn’t if you’ve pumped yourself up the night before! I think it’s the same as when you were a little kid, the night before Christmas. You were so looking forward the next day that you barely slept the next day.

I think the same goes to waking up early to do anything else.

Well, this all sounds like common sense, but I know for a fact that people often say they were gonna get up at an insane hours and do the work, whether that be writing, exercising, drawing, whatever, but often fail to do so.

Hell, I’ve done that at least twenty times before now (…and honestly will probably do it twenty more times in the future).

The key is not the TIME you go to bed, but more the STATE you’re in when you go to bed.

Well, okay. True, getting to bed at an earlier time would make it easier.

But nine times out of ten, if I “prepare” for the morning before going to bed, even if I go to bed at 11PM and get up at 4AM, it’s a lot easier than say, for example…

…I left my office a wreck of a mess and went to bed at 9PM with the intention of waking up at 4AM to clean it then.

Most likely in the situation I’d just roll over and go back to bed because I’d be DREADING entering that mess instead of being excited to get to it.

But if I spend a measly 30 minutes, prepping the station for work the next morning, suddenly I have something look forward to, a place that is expecting me, a reason to get out of bed and get to work.

So, in case I never do this ever again or forget this obvious piece of advice, I lay it here on my blog for others or perhaps myself to look over again in the future (hopefully the distant future cause I won’t need it!).

Does anyone have a before bed routine that helps you to get up in the morning?

Your own personal tricks on maintaining discipline?

Being Okay With Doing Your Best…even when your Best is Lacking.

Brenton Brother and Sister Classical Oil Painting
Brenton Brother and Sister by William-Adolphe Bouguerau

 

I really got to find variety with my posts…

Anyways, a little bit about myself. *everyone groans* Just a bit more!

I’m not quite sure if I mentioned this before, but my 17 year old brother lives with me. It’s my responsibility to make sure he has everything he needs to be happy and take him to school in the morning. ….It’s not as easy as it would seem.

Let me tell you something. Ever since I my mother died, I wanted children of my own. I wanted three boys. I even picked names for them and everything.

After these last couple of years living with my brother, I’m having second thoughts. At least one thing is for sure…

When my sons turn 13, they’re going to boarding school!

Was I ever this difficult when I was a teenager? I don’t think so. Back then, I thought everything I did was wrong and every thought I had was flawed. My mother’s word was Law. But my brother is like the opposite. He knows EVERYTHING. Way more than me. I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about.

It drives me crazy.

What’s even worse, he’s half right. But only half. True, I don’t know half of what the heck I’m saying, but I know for a fact he knows even less.

But still, I love him. I want to help him. But here’s the problem. I don’t know how. He’s almost rebellion incarnate! His concept of reality is far more twisted than mine. At least I’m on the opposite side of the spectrum, where love and goodness will eventually bring about world peace. I don’t even think he believes “good” exists. When I talk to him it’s like talking to someone who lives on another planet and is still living there.

Perhaps that’s also why it’s so difficult for me. We have conflicting personalities.

We’d make great main characters for a novel.

But this isn’t a novel. It’s real life.

All I can do is my best, even if its lacking…because I really have no clue what I’m doing.

This is the sort of life lesson that can be applied to writing, or pretty much anything you’re trying to accomplish.

Your best might not exactly be the best in the beginning. It’s even worse when you reach that point in your learning, something that’s called “conscience incompetence” or something like that, where you become aware of just how much you don’t know when trying to do whatever it is you’re trying to do.

I’ve become very aware of how much I don’t know when acting as my brother’s guardian. I’m even more aware of how much I don’t know in terms of storytelling….which can be crippling at times.

But this is nothing compared to back in the day when I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know…you know?

Anyways…the point is…

Just keep doing your best.

It’ll all work out in the end.

I promise.

Feel free to share your own experiences of realizing your best isn’t where you’d like it to be, but you persevere anyways.

Relapse

Bacchus (Dionysus) by Caravaggio
Bacchus by Caravaggio (Bacchus is also known as Dionysus, God of wine and ecstacy among other things)

 

Hello. My name is Amber J Gardner and I am an addict.

*pauses for applause*

But my addiction isn’t to any type of substance. My addiction is embarrassing.

I’m addicted to stories.

I am serious.

Like any addiction, even one that doesn’t directly damage the body, it’s still bad.

This time it was a mix of anime and manga. Triggered by anxiety and feelings of failure, I went on a 48 hour binge, maybe even longer, meaning I spent practically two days doing nothing but sitting at my computer reading Japanese comics and watching cartoon shows/movies.

This is bad because I haven’t done any writing in the past week (or cleaning for that matter). This is also a serious blow to my self-confidence because I really thought I had this addiction beat. I hadn’t read manga this obsessively in months. It was supposed to be taboo to access any manga or anime sites, but still, it happened.

Relapse.

I know it doesn’t really sound that bad or serious. It really is. I call it a story addiction rather than an anime/manga addiction because I haven’t done this with JUST that form of entertainment.

Back when I still trying to make college work, I spent an entire Thanksgiving break playing Final Fantasy 12 when I needed to work on a research paper I was ignoring (I barely submitted it in time).  I literally spent an entire day, from one morning to the morning of the next day, with my butt glued to that couch, controller in hand (and I STILL didn’t beat the damn bastard of a game).

Another time I spent an entire month reading three fantasy trilogies, earning myself failing grades for all my classes that semester. For four weeks (possibly more), I remained locked in my room, barely eating or drinking, without showering, my face stuck in my books.

A bad side effect of this damn obsession is I often feel disappointed when reality doesn’t play by the same rules as the worlds of the stories I read. I don’t mean magic or any of that. I mean love and friendship and all that lovey-dovey stuff. Most of that stuff doesn’t work in the real world the way it works in the worlds of movies, video games and anime, which is disappointing…and also gives me this weird feeling of being… disjointed from reality.

A feeling I don’t appreciate.

This addiction has really made a mess of my life.

But I have to give myself credit that I’ve improved greatly. Despite my relapse I managed to snap out of it fairly quickly (hopefully), or at least quicker than I used to, with no residual depression.

I suppose the hardest thing about kicking a bad habit or addiction is how to handle when you relapse, how to not let that get to you, to remain positive and still have faith in yourself and your dreams.

This is true for creating productive routines and habits too, like writing or exercising every day.  You miss a day or a week and you feel like crap.

The key is not to let the small failure to get to you and to get back on the horse.

By now, I’m covered in the scars of how many times I’ve fallen of that damn horse. Hell I was off the damn thing this very morning. But now, gently, carefully, I’m back on it.

The past is the past. It’s long gone. All that matters is what you do in the moment.  The future depends on what you do now, not on what happened yesterday.

It helps when you have people looking out for you and people you really don’t want to disappoint.

So here I am. Back in the saddle, ready to try something new (anything new) to stay on it this time.

Does anyone have any strategies or ways to get back up after a setback or prevent one from happening in the first place?

How do you stay on track on your dreams?

 

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