Overcoming Writer’s Block – Talking it Out

Last night I was sitting at my desk, wanting to create. There had been plenty of time for Netflix, for work, for social media, and relaxing. Now I wanted to produce. The creative process was calling out to me. But when I sat down to write something, I hit a complete blank. I stared at the screen, nothing coming to me.

After a few moments, I realized that I wasn’t having a dialogue the way I normally do with my ideas. So I started asking questions. What do I want to write about? Something about humans? Sci-fi? Philosophy? When I settled on writing something sci-fi, I started asking myself some basic questions:

  1. What is the world in this story like?
  2. Who are the key players? Why are they the way they are?
  3. What are the rules of this world?
  4. What is the major conflict or problem that needs resolving?

Those questions got the creative juices flowing.

An hour later, I was talking to my partner about some of the ideas. Telling her about them helped me flesh out this world even more. Then she started asking some questions I hadn’t even thought of. This was perfect. Answering those questions helped flesh this world out even more.

And then she and I started talking about the world, about the characters, and the more we talked, the more excited I became, the more inspired I was. Talking it out with her had sparked the creative energy that may have been missing. We had a great exchange of ideas, and her questions helped fill in the blanks perfectly. Our dialogue was exactly what I needed.

My point in writing this is that sometimes throughout the creative process, the roadblocks we face are created by ourselves. Sometimes we’re able to break through them by asking ourselves questions but the creative energy still doesn’t come back in full force.

During these moments, I’ve learned to talk out some ideas with someone. The exchange of information, being able to explain to them what it is I am writing about, and answering their questions can help spark the creative process yet again.

This isn’t surprising. I’ve found that some of my best ideas didn’t happen in a vacuum, but when I was interacting with someone. Having an outside voice can help trigger the internal elements that result in the creative flow of ideas.

What are your experiences with writer’s block?

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Compassion as Civilization

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes a civilization great. The more I think about it, the more I think compassion is the greatest aspect of a civilization, especially one which is as diverse as Canada is.

People come in many shapes and sizes and colours and cultures and beliefs. The ability to see self in others, and others in self, this is what true compassion is founded on. We can look at people who are fundamentally different from us, and recognize the many similarities. We see them as equals, as partners, as humans. We see them as people who are trying to make their way in the world.

A compassionate society is one that embraces differences as something that can be learned from, rather than something that needs to be oppressed. It is a society that realizes that every member within it offers a contribution to the greater whole.

This may be a difficult thing to do. Civilizations can be quite large. The egos in play can sometimes derail things. The gaps between people are accented when people focus on the differences, rather than the similarities.

But integrate compassion into the moral fabric of your civilization, and it will be great. It will allow more and more people of many different backgrounds to come together, learn from one another, and co-exist peacefully.

I can think of nothing greater that a large group of people with compassion for one another, and for the outside world. I’m very proud to be Canadian right now.

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Step Out Into Nature

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There is definitely something about nature that brings calm to us all. Maybe it’s because we live in concrete jungles, where we grow used to shades of grey, where we are bombarded by artificial sounds, and artificial air, and artificial light…or maybe there’s an ancient part of us which despite all of our technological development longs for simplicity from a time when having food, water, shelter, and family were all we needed to be truly happy.

Whatever it is, stepping out into nature once in a while is immensely rewarding.

I had the opportunity to do this early this morning when I stepped outside and looked out my backyard to the large trees that surround it. The sun was gently poking through the green leaves, the air was crisp and cool, and the faintest sound of young birds chirping, or squirrels starting their day, could be heard.

If you haven’t already done so, take a walk somewhere GREEN today. Let your lungs fill with the air around you. Do this every day until you have the opportunity to go somewhere away from the city, where you can allow your lungs the even better opportunity of non-city air.

Stepping out into nature can remind us of the things we have to be grateful for. Or at least provide us with a connection to the natural world around us.

For many of us, this little shift is exactly what we need to shake up the routine of the normal, and add a little mindfulness or gratefulness in our lives.

 

Your Turn: I’d love to hear about what your thoughts are on stepping out into nature. Do you find it relaxing? Calming? Does it make you think? Or do the many thoughts quiet down a bit? What are some of your favourite natural settings?

“All By My Selfie”

There’s just so much to relate to in Tiny Buddha Productions’ first short film (about 10 minutes long), All by Myselfie, which I encourage everyone to check out here.

The film is about a young woman who has just moved to Los Angeles, and finds herself struggling to connect with new friends, through a series of missed opportunities. As someone who has moved several times, this hit home, and offers a very accurate cautionary tale about ‘missed opportunities’.

I wanted to briefly touch on this theme because of its relevance in an ever-connected world. For many of us, the screen is our primary means of connection and contact with the outside world. We text friends, we like items on Facebook as a declaration of ‘Hey, I’m alive and I like this!’…but we sometimes place greater emphasis on this, than on picking up the phone to make a call, or meeting with a friend face to face.

We’ve sacrificed connection and quality for convenience and quantity.

And I wonder if this has had an adverse effect when it comes to our ability to forge new connections. After all, when you’re so accustomed to reinforcing the connections you already have online, new connections in person can seem daunting. And it seems like more and more people are struggling with anxiety, often in a social setting.

I’ve been there, the protagonist in the film has, and I’m sure many of you have as well. We see a person we want to connect with – but don’t. Why? Here are just some of the thoughts that bounce around in our minds, feeding into our anxiety:

  • They look busy.
  • What if they don’t like me?
  • What if we run out of things to say?
  • What if they think I’m a creep?
  • I don’t want to intrude.

 

In a mixed attempt at being courteous, afraid, or shy, all at once, we often refrain from making the connection. And then we’re left with a kind of relentless regret (some of us who are harder on ourselves anyway). Over time, more and more connections are missed and we all lose out on the opportunity to create new and meaningful connections with the people around us.

Having experienced that regret first hand several years ago, I vowed to fight back against all those thoughts, replacing them with other ones. Here’s what I mean: take each of the above thoughts, and push back.

They look busy/I don’t want to intrude – I can always ask if they have time to chat just to be sure. And if they look distracted, just wish them well and be on your way.

What if they don’t like me?/What if they think I’m a creep? – What if they do like you? What if you get along wonderfully? You won’t know until you try. Most people are generally polite anyway, even if they don’t like you.

What if we run out of things to say? – Awkward silences, the big boss of social anxiety (at least it is for me). Silence has been something that I’ve had to grow accustomed to. We often try to fill silence with small talk just to keep the conversation going. But it’s not a bad idea to let the silence linger just a moment. Odds are, the other party (who likely also hates silence) will say something. But beyond this, the best way to combat running out of things to say is to ask open ended questions and show genuine interest. Don’t ask simple questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Ask about their thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their favourite ________, and WHY. Be curious!

As a general rule, and speaking from my own experience, we always exaggerate the worst that can happen. We amplify how horrible a silence can be, or how embarrassed we may become, or how rude a person may be in reply. We also downplay people’s desire to be civil and non-confrontational. I’ve found that as long as you’re civil and kind to people, they’ll likely be civil and kind back.

So what is the worst that can happen? You realize that a connection cannot be made, you part ways, and you never see each other again. Compare that with the lingering sense of regret that will follow you. Fear, like any other emotion, can be experienced and used in a positive way. It could be an excellent motivator. Try overcoming a fear of making a connection, with the fear of regret that could haunt you forever! In a strange and unexpected way, it worked very well for me.

And anyway, if they’re really a jerk, odds are you don’t want to connect with them anyway! That’s the most likely worst case scenario.

But what about the best case scenario? What if you find someone you connect with or make a new friend? Isn’t that worth the risk of awkward silences, or interrupting someone briefly with good intention? The potential long term gain is massive…but the short term loss (if any) is minimal!

Every single friendship likely started with a connection. Maybe it was a “Hello”, or a question. But these are the seeds that could lead to something truly wonderful.

Why be all by your selfie, when you can be all by your selfie…with friends?

All By My Selfie” teaches us all of these things, and so much more. It’s real. It’s raw. It’s so human. It’s all of us. Check it out. You won’t regret it.

Gratefulness

A short while ago, I was going through a difficult time in my life. Every day seemed worse than the previous. I kept wondering “when will it end? When will I catch a break? When will I be happy?”

I was still reading all of the wonderful blogs I read today, looking for something that would help. Of the many websites I’d visit and read discussing self improvement and growth, something called a ‘gratefulness journal’ kept popping up. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. Just another thing to add to my morning routine.

By this time, I’d tried many different variations of morning routines and not many of them had stuck. Trying this gratefulness journal seemed like another thing to try…why not right? After all, things couldn’t get any worse BECAUSE of this right? And somewhat of an optimist, I figured it was worth a shot.

Strategically I decided to start the following morning because then I would have a day to reflect back on (I say strategically because I think it was a sneaky way to procrastinate until then). I decided that having AT LEAST ONE thing that I was grateful for would be a good goal to start.

The first day that I sat down to write, I found myself at a loss for words. What was I grateful for from the previous day? I really had to think…

Now, at first I thought that there wasn’t much to be grateful for because the previous day had been hard. All I could think about was how the internet had just kept cutting out, or how some of my files had imploded and reached new levels of high conflict….But then a few little things came to mind:
– sitting down to relax and realizing I didn’t have to cook (dinner was made the night before)
– a hilarious email a friend had sent
– a client thanking me for handling the chaos that had unfolded

Little things. It was all little things. But these little things stood out as diamonds in the rough. So I wrote them down.

A month went by and I had stayed true to my word and written down at least one thing to be grateful for every day. I noticed that every day it became easier to appreciate all things I had to be grateful for…so much so that there were days where I found myself making long lists (some of which were repeats, but that had made me smile the day of).

My attitude also began to slowly change. I found that when things in the day were going rough, little things would stand out more. It was easier to focus on them instead of dwelling on the negatives. Day by day, this practice of gratitude became easier and easier.

Today, things aren’t much ‘easier’. But I find myself much happier than when I originally started the gratefulness journal. Rather than extending a 5 minute bad happening to an entire day, I find myself instead extending something short and sweet to keep me motivated throughout the entire day.

The gratefulness journal is one of my favourite morning routines, and although I’ve changed my routine up here and there, the journal has still remained. A few months ago, I also added a ‘daily lesson’ section where I would quickly jot down some wisdom the day have brought. Many of those, I share on twitter every morning at 7am.

So take a moment and pause. Right now. Take one minute to close your eyes and discover at least one thing you have to be grateful for. Maybe it’s the smell of coffee. Maybe it’s someone who smiled at you. Maybe it’s just the fact that you have a home to go to, family to hug, or people who care for you. Whatever it is, appreciate it, and be grateful for it.

There is much to be grateful for these holidays. There’s no time like the present to express and appreciate some gratitude. Whatever you are doing this holiday season, take a moment to pause and reflect. If you can, write it down. Collect the little things that you have to be grateful for.

In a world where so much can throw us off our grooves, this collection of gratefulness can really bring light to our lives. At least it did for me. It’s worth a shot…right?

Wishing you, your families, and loved ones, a happy holidays, with many many things to be grateful for!

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The Gods Envy Us

Happy Wallpaper Wednesday everyone! This week’s Wallpaper was a perfect way to inspire and set the tone for a wonderful day. See my thoughts below the image:

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Regardless of what you thought about the movie, Achilles in Troy is making a very good point. Gods are immortal. They live forever. Nothing can kill them. But at the same time, they lack the contrast of life and death to help motivate them to really appreciate the world around them.

True, that the beauty of something is not measured by the fact that it ends, but a subtle reminder that not all things are forever (life included) can act as a motivation not to waste the few precious moments that we have on this planet.

Here we are, this moment, right here…and there is so much beauty to appreciate, to love, to embrace in. Close your eyes…what do you hear? Look around…what do you see? What do you touch? What do you feel? Take a few seconds to really appreciate the beauty around you…and this moment. Because this moment is going to end in the blink of an eye, replaced with another. So take advantage and be mindful of the here and now.

It is fleeing. It is already disappearing. But you can appreciate it, and life, before it does.

With No One Challenging Me, I Choose to Challenge Myself

Happy Monday everyone! This week’s Monday Mantra is “With No One Challenging Me, I Choose to Challenge Myself“.

The inspiration for this mantra came from a brilliantly written comic about school and learning. The mantra reminds us to keep our gaze on ourselves, especially when we don’t feel the outside world challenging us.

It is always better to challenge ourselves and aim to better ourselves in comparison to one person and only one person: ourselves. There are so many people out there we could compare ourselves to, sometimes with positive results, other times with not so positive results. But when we strive to be better than who we were yesterday, or last week, or last year, the path to self-improvement becomes much more clear.

Aim to have a vision of yourself at your best. Then do everything to reach that goal. Do not worry about the others, or their growth, or whether they are ahead or behind you…focus only on that vision and use it to CHOOSE to challenge yourself to be the best you can be.

We can be our own worst enemies…but we can also be our best allies.

Make the choice.

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