Life

Happy New…Beginning?

Well folks, here I am, 2020. It’s a good way into January and I just managed to get myself sorted into the new year. The stay at my mom’s house for most of December contributed to it, and the medical issues I had did not help matters any, either. I know every “new year” is supposed to feel like a “new beginning”, as cliché as it sounds, but personally I have never actually felt that way. During my school years I’ve always associate September with new beginnings. But this year it was different. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a new decade on top of the new year, perhaps it’s that I physically was somewhere else during the turnover and the flying across country made the change more pronounced. Either way, it’s a new year, and I, for once, actually feel like I’m starting anew.

I’ve spent the past two days getting over slight jetlag and getting my life in order. Mentally I’m prepping myself to face what looks to be a fairly difficult time – I’m facing a lot of medical procedures and my writing career really needs to get itself in shape or I might just give up on it. Not something I want to utter this early in the year but we gotta face the music, so to speak. My house is a mess and needs a thorough cleaning – not just dusting and vacuuming but going through every room and sort out the junk from the important papers. The shelves are overflowing and just thinking about it makes me cold in my stomach. It’s long overdue and I just never had the motivation until now. And this journal needs to be updated more regularly; I keep on saying this yet never actually do it. Well, that’s not going to continue anymore. I’m determined and afraid but you know, life goes on and I’m not going to be around forever. Again, a morbid thing to say, but sometimes our own mortality is the only drive that keeps us moving forward. I feel like I’ve wasted enough of my life – I’m not going to do that any longer.

Life · Writing

Silver Lining

I had the worst case of food poisoning a few days ago. I couldn’t remember the last time I threw up – I don’t tend to throw up when I get sick. Well, this time I pretty much projectile vomited the whole night, and was basically bed-ridden for three days afterwards. I could feel my stomach being all knotty from hunger but had zero appetite, and zero energy to boot. It was an ordeal.

On the third day I had enough energy to stay awake but not enough for anything else. So I spent the portion I wasn’t drifting off to sleep thinking about life. (Isn’t it weird that we never think about living until we feel like we’re dying?) Specifically, what the hell am I doing with my life and why is it the way it is. Where am I in my life? Am I happy? If I’m unhappy, why? If I know why I’m unhappy, what do I have to do to change it, and what’re the concrete changes I have to do? It’s one thing to realize I need to “work more” but what exactly does that entail? Write more words every day? Write more words more consistently? Install a page blocker so I don’t get distracted by social media and waste precious hours while I’m in my “work” time? Things like that.

And I think I made sort of an epiphany kind of break through. (Yes, super cliché, but it is what it is.) I had a vision of what ultimately should happen, where I want things to be eventually (finish book, publish book, write more books until I die.) But I don’t have a vision of what should happen much sooner. When you’re working by yourself, sitting alone in the house (with a million everyday chores and other living distractions), with goals you yourself set and no real “punishment” if you don’t meet them, it’s very, very hard to gauge how much progress you’re actually making when your goal is six months from now. There’re no regular check-ups and reports, no meetings to attend to discuss your performance, so how do you know if you’re just lagging impossibly behind or right on track until, well, six months have passed and you see where you end up?

Short answer: you don’t. Or rather I didn’t. I’ve been told that writing’s a marathon, not a race, and that’s true, but you have a pre-plotted road and known miles for a marathon. Writing you have nothing. You don’t know exactly how long your novel will be – ballpark, yes, exact number to the tens digit? Not really. So what do you do? Well, for me, I realized that I need to have a clear goal for every day. What I’m doing now is basically write something everyday and hope in six months it’ll all come together from sheer perseverance. That doesn’t work for me anymore (may have never worked for me, actually.) I need to set a vision, a concrete “what percentage of this project will you be at by the end of today?”, and then set out to do it. And it needs to be very specific, not “I’m going to wrap up as much of this section as possible” but “character A will be at place B and the last sentence will be —” It’s like a mini finish line for every single day. That’s the most useful way for me to progress forward, I think.

This may sound a little like semantics or a ‘duh’ moment, but it’s actually quite a radical change from the way I usually work. It’s like a smoker instead of smoking a pack a day, he smokes just one cigarette short of a pack. To others it’s 24 cigarettes instead of 25, but this smoker has been smoking a pack a day, every day, for 5 years straight. That one cigarette short is a significant change in behavior. I’m only hoping that I can achieve the same.