Saturday, July 16, 2016

Listen to YOUR Voice: The ‘End’ of Blogging

Ever since the shooting on 12 June 2016 at Pulse, a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, I’ve had difficulty penning a blog post. I’ve sat down to write one many times, but I didn’t know what to say. Actually, I knew what I wanted to say. I wasn’t sure I had the courage to say it, to admit it to myself. Now I do.

Tel Aviv. Orlando. Paris. Brussels. Baton Rouge. Falcon Heights. Dallas. And now Nice, France. These are but a few cities around the world where lives have been taken so senselessly. We live in a time when hate and intolerance are on the rise. We live in a time when love and understanding have been sidelined. We see only the differences that separate us and not the ties that bind us together. We live in a time of selfishness, where it is ‘I’ before all else. Whatever happened to “love thy neighbour as thyself?”

We live in a time of violence. A peaceful protest turns into chaos as bullets rain down overhead from a sniper’s weapon. Gathering together at church to pray, worshippers are killed by a man filled with hate. On an evening that should have been about celebrating a nation’s history with pride, a truck plows into the crowd, the driver then opening fire. So many lives senselessly taken away because of hate and intolerance and ignorance. And the question still lingers: Why? We live in a time when it seems that the very risk is in leaving the house in the morning, never knowing what may or may not happen.

We are a people walking with our heads down. I see it everywhere I go — London, Halifax, Frankfurt, Zurich, Montreal, Los Angeles. Hypnotized by our mobile devices, we cannot lookup from our cell phones as we walk down the street — oblivious to our surroundings. Do we even care about what’s happening around us? We can’t seem to get through a meal without picking up our phones. The ping of a new message sends us scrambling, like we’re afraid we’ll miss out on something. Are we no longer able to be mindfully present in the moment?

I’m a runner. When I first started running in 2008, I was living in Ottawa. In that city, and later when I moved to Sherbrooke, Quebec, there seemed to be a camaraderie among runners. Out on the trails, 95 percent of runners gave the runner’s wave as we passed each other. Now I live in Toronto. At least three times a week I run along the Goodman Trail. I can count on two hands the number of times, over the past three years, I’ve exchanged the runner’s wave with others. With music streaming into our earphones, when only tuned into ourselves, it’s like we’re running with blinders on. Lately, I’ve been spending more time in Port Colborne, visiting my mother-in-law. When I go out for a run, or when I walk my mother-in-law’s dog, I get a “Hello” or “Good Morning” from everyone I meet. There’s a spirit of community, a sense of connectedness.

I feel like, on some level, we are at risk of losing our humanity. We have made so many advances when it comes to science and technology. Smartphones. Driverless cars. Apps for almost every whim and desire.  Successful hand transplants. Probes orbiting Jupiter. Yet through all the years of wars and suffering we’ve inflicted on other — and continue to do so — it seems like we have not learned anything from our past. When it comes to how we treat each other, it’s as though, on many levels, we’ve regressed. Can we learn from our collective history? Can we learn to love and treat each other with respect?

My honest answer? I’m not sure.

What is this all leading to? This. The events particularly over the past few months, but also those that have occurred over the last couple of years, have reminded me of this: Life is short. That is why we must make the best of this journey. We must do what we love, be true to ourselves so that we can be the best we can be. We must make time in our lives for what it is we love, for the people we love, for what matters most.

Focusing on what matters most, this will be the last post for my blog, An Unscripted Life of Words.

I’m a writer. I love to write. I’m currently at work on two novels and a couple of short stories. Those forms of writing are what I’m passionate about. Since I started blogging in 2010, I’ve written 244 blog posts (including this one). I kept at it, not necessarily out of a great love for blogging, but because it’s what all the “experts” say you have to do to succeed as a writer. We’re told we have to be on this platform or that, we have to do certain things on one social media site and not on another. Now I’m changing the rules. If I’m going to succeed, I have to focus on what I love. That’s not blogging, which for me has become a chore — not something I’ve enjoyed lately and have succeeded at putting off.

This blog has been about my creative journey as a writer. I think it also became a bit more than that. I’ve written about the joys of success (having my short stories and first novel published) and the disappointments (rejection, procrastination and doubt). But I am grateful for everyone who has been a part of my journey — those who have been around since the beginning and those who have stopped by along the way. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.

I hope that you’ll check in from time to time. I’m active on Twitter (@MMarcusALopes), and would love for you to join me for #TwitterFictionTuesdays. You can also find me on Facebook ( I’ll be using those platforms to, on a semi-regular basis, continue this conversation on the writing life. I also love to cook, and you can check out my creativity in the kitchen on Instagram (mmarcusalopes).

Be well. Let us treat each other with respect and dignity. Love yourself. Love each other. Be kind. Make this life count.

Do what you love. Love what you do. Follow your own true path.

Be true. be real. Be yourself.

Wishing you peace and love!


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why I'm Consciously Unplugging from Social Media

The secret is out.

Actually, it's not a secret. We've all seen the impact the internet, and consequently social media, has had on almost every aspect of our lives. Most people have embraced social media while others have refused to go near it. I was, for the longest time, cynical when it came to social media. Why? Because watching how people around me approached social media and its use, I wanted nothing to do with it. What was it that scared me off? This ... People walking down the street, their gazes fixed on their cell phones as they text, unconcerned about what's in front of them or what/who they may bump into. Here in Ontario, despite a hefty fine, drivers still use their cell phones while driving. And I’m not sure which is worse, the distracted driver or the distracted walker …? Walking into a restaurant and looking at the people at the tables around me. So many of them are constantly checking e-mail or updating their status on Facebook and Twitter. The person in front of me in the checkout line talking on their cell phone and annoyed when the cashier asks them a question. When did everything become so important? What's driving us to be connected all the time? So, for as long as I could, I “ignored” social media, tried to live without.

There came a moment a few months ago when I realized that, as a writer, I could no longer ignore social media and decided to learn more about it. Specifically, how I should approach social media as a writer. OMG! There's a plethora of advice out there to be consumed. To be successful, we're told we must be on Twitter and Facebook, have a website, create trailers for our books, have a complete profile on social media sites, and more. The advice goes even deeper, telling us how often we should tweet and the percentage of our tweets that should be our own original content. We're told how to build our following, create a mailing list, or drive traffic to our blog, another must-have. We're encouraged to figure out the best time to tweet or post on Facebook to optimize our engagement with our followers.

Is your head spinning yet? Mine is!

There are many, many, resources out there, and many more individuals offering their expertise. I was, am, overwhelmed. I was eager to gobble up as much information as possible and often let myself be lured in by the offer of a free ebook. I'd click on the link and would then have to submit my e-mail address in order to receive the ebook. No surprise, I was also adding myself to someone's mailing list. Scouring the internet, of course my interest peaked when I stumbled across a blog post or article with a title like, “How to Increase Book Sales on [fill in the appropriate social media site]” or “How to Make Money from [fill in the blank]” or “7 Habits that Will [fill in the blank].” Those type of titles resonate because so much information I've read is generic; it speaks to the masses and may not be helpful in telling you what you have to do to generate more traffic, sales or revenue. You need to first set your own goals and objectives, and go from there. That may not even be enough. I was trying to sift through so much information, separate the relevant from the non-relevant, that it was always difficult not to sign up for that one (and there's more than one) ebook that promised to be the ultimate guide that will give you the secrets and tools to succeed. The lure is too good, so what do I do? One more time, I sign up with my e-mail. Does any of this sound familiar?

Before I knew it, I had signed up for countless mailing lists because I was (and still am) eager to learn more about social media. At the same time, my inbox exploded with more free ebook or free webinar offers. Like I said, a lot of the information I've found is generic and repetitive, but it has helped me to gain insights into social media. I've also learned that nothing's ever free because at some point the sales pitch is coming. Case in point, the last three “free” webinars I attended. In each webinar, about 40% of the time was dedicated to the webinar's theme; the host used the remaining 60% to try and sell their products or services. Maybe that's fair, given that we're all trying to make a living, and maybe that goes part and parcel with today's marketing strategies. In any case, it's made me hesitant about attending future “free” webinars.

I sought out this information and attended webinars because I recognize the importance of social media for us, as writers (and as artists in general) to promote our books and our writing. In short, our brand. Learning about social media and implementing what I learned, I was quick to notice something. It was this: My productivity began to slide. I was constantly checking Twitter to see how a tweet performed. Did I tweet at the right time? How many retweets or likes did it receive? Did the hashtags boost engagement? How many new followers and unfollowers? I did the same for Facebook and my blog. I knew I was letting social media distract me, and tried variations on the Pomodoro Technique. Even so, my productivity improved slightly, and only temporarily at that. It never took long for me to relapse. Something had to give because to have books, and for that matter a brand, to promote, there's one essential task I must faithfully execute: I must write. Daily. Consistently. With love and excitement for each word.

There is something oddly addictive about social media, and I don't think it matters if you have 619 followers or 100,000 followers. It's like we're now, in part, trying to measure our success via social media. A high number of followers, or retweets, or likes, seems (erroneously?) like an appropriate measure of success. Or is it, perhaps, a warped sense of validation? As a writer, success to me isn't just about the next big book contract or topping the best sellers list on Amazon. Success is about finishing that novel, the series of paintings, the concerto. It's taking a goal ― whatever that goal is ― and seeing it through to completion. And being proud of what we've created. For me, that means choosing to either create or indulge in activities that distract me from what I really want to do, or what I tell myself that I want to do and achieve.

That's why I've decided to consciously unplug. I'm not abandoning social media. I'm deciding to use social media more mindfully. My conscious unplugging involves using the extension for Google Chrome called, StayFocusd. I'm limiting the amount of time I can spend checking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to a combined total of 60 minutes each day. Not just that. Those sites are completely blocked during my creative time, which is 6:30 am to 2:00 pm. And I love StayFocusd's nuclear option when I can restrict access to the entire internet.

I'm doing this, consciously unplugging, because while I'm generally happy with my life, I'm unhappy where I am creatively. I know I can do more, and do better. Removing the distractions that hinder my creativity and productivity are reinforcing other positive habits that are helping me to build a more effective daily routine.

I'm finding my focus. That means learning to be more mindful in my use of social media and knowing myself. I can read countless blogs and articles about how to generate traffic, promote my brand, gain more followers or even how long a blog post should be. Or I can write, create the products that will encompass my brand ― focus on what matters most. I think that's the first step.

This is the path I'm taking for myself. It's the best move for me. And, believe me, it's making a difference.

You'll have to choose the path that works best for you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, or that you have to do it this way or that way. Find your niche, create your own process, and hone it, make it your own and own it. It's the best way for you to be your best you.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Warning: “Doing It All” Can Kill

Maybe not kill, but it can definitely maim the spirit, bring you down.

That's what happened to me.

I just didn't know it until this morning, waking up to grey skies and damp streets, and feeling a bit humdrum about the day ahead. But by the time I ventured out to drop off my dry cleaning and to grab an early morning coffee Atlas Espresso Bar, the rain had stopped. The blue skies were mainly clear, the sun was shining, the air was warm. The weather had changed so quickly, and my mood along with it.

Ever since my computer crashed last month, I've been working to fix my daily routine. In a word: find my focus. I've cut out the distractions while I write, i.e., turn the TV off. I'm getting up earlier, around 5:00 am each day, to focus on my most important creative projects when I feel the freshest. I've adjusted my attitude, not letting myself be beaten down by my inner critic who was constantly asking me, “What's the point?” I can say, with a sense of pride, that I've been successful at maintaining these “new” work habits for the past month. My productivity has soared. I've taken action (hired an editor, set to work on a new website, began learning more about social media, written a strategic plan) hoping to move more confidently in the direction of my dreams. I should feel more confident about my creative journey, right?

Why doesn't it feel like enough? Why is it that I still feel a sense of disappointment?

Because I'm still trying to do it all.

I've been equating increased productivity with success without really taking the time to see if I'm working on the projects that do in fact matter the most. I haven't really understood that there are trade-offs, and time dedicated to one project/activity cannot be used for another. If I'm going to spend three to five hours in the kitchen every afternoon preparing a homemade meal, then I have to realize – and accept – that maybe it's going to take a little longer for me to write the first draft of a novel, complete the rewrite of a manuscript, or finish building my website. It's been that lack of understanding, ignorance even, about the importance and necessity of trade-offs that's made me feel overwhelmed, like I'm stalled. Oliver Burkeman says it nicely: “[...] we make enormous efforts to ignore the reality of trade-offs – and, as a consequence, deny ourselves the best chance of a maximally fulfilling creative career” (“Stop Trying to 'Do It All'”). I've been trying to rush, rush, rush ahead, letting myself be swept up in the hustle and bustle of life, and to what end?

I've been equating increased productivity with success without really taking the time to see if I'm working on the projects that do in fact matter the most.

I remind myself today that it's not a competition. Thanks to my strategic plan, I know where I want to go and by when I want to get there. I'll be better served, and so will my writing career, if I focus on a short list of tasks to accomplish each day. I'll bring the top of my game to each task, hopefully see the progress I'm making, and not feel overwhelmed. I see it now as the best way to weather the storm that is doubt and fear.

Already I'm feeling less overwhelmed, the restlessness beginning to ebb. It really is a matter of perspective. Sometimes, trying to push through the doubt and fear, it’s hard to see clearly the track that has been laid, how far along I’ve actually come. That’s why we can only take life one day at a time and, as artists, show up each day to do what really excites us. Let our passion fuel us, help us to love the moment in which we find ourselves, and give our very best to our work.

That, to me, is happiness.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

8 Days that Changed My Life

The Crash

Disk Boot Failure Insert System Disk And Press ENTER.

The shock incontrovertible, the panic thumped in my chest and, for the first time in about ten years, I took the name of the Lord in vain. I didn't have a system disk to insert, but I pressed ENTER anyway. Nothing happened. I tried pressing down and holding CTRL+ALT+DEL. The computer restarted, made a scratching sound, but the “Disk boot failure” message reappeared. Normally calm under pressure, I was thankful that no one was at home to hear the long sequence of expletives uttered until I was able to calm down and think.

Computers crash all the time and files are easily recoverable, right? Oh, I prayed hard that that was true.

Let me explain ...

My computer crashed on Monday, 11 April 2016, and the day before I had just finished a long and difficult rewrite of a novel manuscript. The week before that, I had run out of black ink for the printer and, as a result, had not been able to print out the last 73 pages of the revised manuscript. When the new ink cartridge did arrive, the less than one-year-old HP ENVY 4500 printer wouldn't read the ink cartridge. (What's the expression? The Lord doesn't give you more than you can bear? I was on the threshold!) Then I had to spend a few hours talking with HP Customer Support, who determined the ink cartridge was defective, and Amazon, who agreed to refund the purchase.

All of my writing was stored on my computer; I had older versions of some files stored on different USB keys. I thought, briefly, that I had lost everything and would have to begin again. That terrified me. When I did calm down, I did a Google search of computer repair shops in my neighbourhood, found one and raced out of my condo with my laptop. A week later, I had my computer back, and my files, which have since been backed up to the cloud. Lesson learned!

However, even before my computer crashed, I could feel that something was happening. A shift. A change. Something. But it didn't have a name, couldn't be pinned down. It wasn't clear and was slow to come into focus ― like waking up, breathless, from a bad dream in the middle of the night and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. But it was real. A sort of transformation, or realization. Have you ever felt like that? Like something was happening but you weren't sure what?

There were signs, too, of the shift that I ignored. I was anxious. I couldn't focus. I had trouble sleeping though the night, and was often awake and up by 3:30 or 4:00. It took my computer crashing to make me see what was in fact happening. I was in crisis.

The Reboot

If you've read my blog posts before, you know this about me: I'm a writer. I write every day. My short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in Canadian and international literary magazines, both online and in print. In 2011, my debut novel, Freestyle Love, was released by Lazy Day Publications. I worked hard at my writing and it paid off. I had a dream ― to have a novel published ― and I succeeded.

But there was something I didn't know, then, how to handle, something I wasn't prepared for: Criticism.

Naturally, when Freestyle Love was published, reviews started flowing in ― good and bad. And, wanting to know what readers thought of my book, I read them. It wasn't until recently (when I realized I was “in crisis”) that I understood that I had, unwittingly, let one particularly bad review throw me completely off course. Back then, I took the criticism personally because of its savage nature. Taylor Swift's album, 1989, wasn't out yet; I didn't have that much of an online presence and didn't know just how much “Haters gonna hate.”

What has lingered in the back of my mind since was that savage review. I let it stick to me, couldn't let it go. That had me repeatedly asking myself, “What's the point?”

The point is this: I had to “Shake it off.” I mean, before and since the publication of my novel, I've shown up every day to write. I haven't let go of my dream ― to see the spines of my books lined up on bookshelves. So I know I needed to make some changes if I wanted to get my game on. My computer crashing helped me to reboot my life.

The 8 Days that Changed My Life

I was without my computer for eight days while it was being repaired, and that turned into a quasi timeout from social media. (I have an iPhone 4 with iOS7.1.2., and can't do much anymore since most apps require iOS8 or later.) Those eight days changed my life. Here's how:

Attitude Adjustment: No more “What's the point?” thinking. Writing is what I love to do. As more of my writing enters the public domain, I'm better prepared for handling criticism1. Haters are going to hate no matter what (are they too afraid to share their own creativity with the world?), so let them. My job is to create; I'll leave the judging of my work to others. And each day I carry with me the advice of my good friend, Adrienne, to “stay grounded in your conviction that you're doing what you want to do and feel called to do.”

Eliminate Distractions: I've learned to dedicate focused blocks of time to my creative projects each day, and my productivity has soared. Why? I'm no longer giving in to distractions. Settling in to work on a new novel, short story or blog post, the TV and computer are off (I write all first drafts longhand), and the cell phone is out of reach. There's no temptation to “quickly” check social media sites or e-mail. And I'm also doing my most important creative work first thing in the morning, when I'm at my best2. I feel the momentum and, day by day, I am laying track.

Take Action Now: The publishing would has changed, and continues to evolve. If I believe in my writing and its worth, I don't have to wait for someone else to “accept” it or deem it worthy. I can share my work with the world, and that's what I'm working on. I'm building a new author website. I've hired an editor to edit my novel manuscript. I've written a strategic plan3 for my writing career over the next seven years. I'm on fire!

I think Anatole France said it best: “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.”

1 A good read on how to handle criticism is Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, by Mark McGuinness.

2 Great tips and inspiration from, “Scheduling in Time for Creative Thinking,” by Cal Newport, and, “Laying the Groundwork for an Effective Routine,” by Mark McGuinness in Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei.

3 Strategic Planning for Writers: 4 Easy Steps to Success, by C.S. Lakin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reclaiming My Day-to-Day

It happened. Not the way I wanted it to, not the way I imagined. Not only against my will but in spite of it. At every turn I resisted, yet resistance was futile because it had to happen. And it did, happen, in a way that shook me to the core. Everything I thought I knew and all my ways of doing things called into question.

It happened ... My day-to-day routine fell apart, driving me to distraction. Maybe it was the universe's way of speaking to me, but now I'm working to rebuild my day-to-day routine, to find my footing again.

Sunday, 10 April 2016, was a big day for me. No, it wasn't my birthday. That was the day I finished the rewrite of a novel. According to my notes, I started the revision process on 22 September 2015, with an aim of finishing it by the end of December 2015. Obviously, that didn't happen.

However, working on this particular writing project showed me (even though I didn't want to see or acknowledge it) what I had long known. My daily routine was broken and in desperate need of a reboot.

I'm a morning person. I have always been at my best in the morning, and that was when I often tackled my most important projects. This project was no different in that each morning, after completing my Morning Pages, I'd set to work on it. What was different was how easily I let myself be distracted, losing my focus and unable to get it back.

I was writing with the TV on in the background. I took frequent breaks to check e-mail or see if there were any views/comments on my Facebook or Twitter posts. I'd “break” to flip through cookbooks to figure out want to cook for dinner. I told myself, “Get some fresh air, it'll do you good,” and went for extended coffee breaks. No surprise, my productivity plummeted. By lunchtime, on any given day, I was lucky to have written 200 words. I wasn't making progress, wasn't moving forward. And by early afternoon, I didn't have the energy or focus to do good work. Distraction ruled the day. I did have good days when the work flowed and I stayed focused; and it was those good days that allowed me to finish rewriting my novel. Those good days, however, became the exception, not the norm.

Sprinting towards the finish line of this last rewrite, my focus became unbendable, my mind alert. The end of the project was in sight. I could see it and was determined to finish it. These were good days where I had gone back to my good working habits that kept me focused, disciplined and productive. That was when it happened, when I realized that, if I wanted to actually finish something be creative — my day-to-day routine needed a hard reset.

So I've again hit the reset button, this time a little more forcefully. With insights from Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei, rebooting my daily routine means:

Making the best of the morning: Like I said, I'm a morning person, so I'm going to set aside the first part of my day to work on my most important projects.

Unplugging: I struggle with social media because it easily overwhelms me. Another bad habit I had was, as I rolled out of bed, reaching for my phone on the way to the bathroom to check e-mail. New goal: Check e-mail and social media sites after completing my morning work session. It wasn't just about when and how often I was using social media, but also about how I was using it. I want my use of social media to be purposeful and to not simply be a means of distraction.

Letting myself play: While I'm passionate about writing, I also love cooking, baking, running, reading and music. I will work to build those activities into my day as well. I don't want my life to be all about the work.

This is a start, and I hope that making these changes, to begin with, will help me to stay focused in what can be a chaotic and distracting world. After all, some of these changes aren't new; it's how I worked in some of my most productive periods over the years. Now, with this hard reset, I guess I'm just getting back to basics.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Soft Reset

I’m not the biggest TV enthusiast. When I was twenty-one and living in France, I didn’t watch TV for the entire year (1994-1995) that I was there. That changed how I saw television, changed how I lived. And for the three and a half years (2010-2013) I lived in Sherbrooke, Quebec, I didn’t purchase a cable package. My day was structured around my writing, painting and music, and crossing things off my Bucket List. It was a heady time that I will never forget.

Now, living in Toronto, I have cable, and my favourite form of escapism — when I need to completely check-out — is watching AMC. Each week, for about the last month or so, I’ve been able to catch one of the Bourne movies on AMC. (Just yesterday I watched The Bourne Identity.) While the movies are very loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s books, I do enjoy watching them. That’s because Jason Bourne is on a mission — trying to discover who he is. He’s skillful, determined and meticulous. He has a plan, but adapts as circumstances change.

Unlike Jason Bourne, I know who I am. I’m a writer. I’ve had one book published, as well as several short stories, and I hope to see more of my books in print. So like Jason Bourne, I’m a man on a mission. And now I have a plan, although it’s still a little rough around the edges, but a plan nonetheless. In 2011, when Freestyle Love was published, I was a new author, very naïve, and didn’t have a plan. I didn’t really know what it would take to move forward, to succeed in the way I imagined.

Now, almost five years later, I get it: I have to build my brand. That doesn’t come easily to me, an introvert, who wants to succeed but struggles with the idea of self-promotion. But since I don’t have an agent or the machinery of a publishing company to do the heavy promotional work for me, it’s all up to me.

So, in a manner of speaking, I’m hitting the reset button. I am here, at the “beginning,” working slowly and meticulously to move forward. It’s not a rush or a race. And moving forward, for me, means getting back to basics and staying focused on my writing. A keyword there is productivity. I have to write, daily as I do, and not be afraid to showcase my writing on my own if I can’t catch the eye of traditional publishers or literary journals. As Henry Ford said, “Failure is just a resting place. It is an opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” I hope to succeed, but if I fail, I will take out my plan and make the necessary adjustments, once again beginning more intelligently.

And, here, at this “new” beginning, as I strive to create and reinforce my brand, I understand now why I was so resistant to social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. The resistance was threefold: 1) As a writer I didn’t really know how to leverage social media; 2) I was afraid that social media would be all-consuming, leaving me little time to create; and 3) Social media intimidated me. So much advice focuses on building an audience or promising you the secret to making your tweet or videos go viral, ergo increasing your number of followers (when all they really want to do is sell you something). It can seem like pretty generic advice. It’s taken some time — almost a year in fact — but I have finally been able to balance my use of social media with my creativity. When it comes to social media, I’ve learned that I don’t have to be on every site all the time, and I’m learning to leverage social media as it relates to where I am creatively. (I’m not J. K. Rowling or Drake or a Kardashian, and I can’t expect to have that kind of influence on social media … yet; that type of expectation would undoubtedly drive me into a depression.)

Yes, I’ve hit the reset button. I have a plan, the biggest piece of which is to write and finish something. And to be of good courage. With this plan I will go slowly and be meticulous in its execution. That will, I hope, set me up for success.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Power of Doubt

The calendar may say it’s March, but here in Toronto it feels like spring. There are patches of snow on the ground, but most of it has melted away. We’re moving forward, moving closer to the real spring season (Daylight Savings Time kicks in this Sunday), and away from what could be described as a fraudulent winter (we had very little snow and often above seasonal temperatures). Today, I feel like there’s a sense of momentum building, like there’s a spring in my step. That’s because I’ve been doing my best to keep on keeping on.

I’ve been hunkered down on a writing project that both excites and terrifies. It excites because the characters have come alive, the writing is assured, and showing up each day to work on it, I’m moving closer to finishing something. It terrifies because some days I get stuck, don’t know how to move the story forward and start to panic. Like I did yesterday. So I put the project aside and worked on something else.

Yesterday I got stuck, and as a writer that’s not new terrain for me. But feeling stuck — feeling like I don’t know how to move the writing forward — allows doubt to make his grand entrance. Doubt, while it scares me, also reminds me that I am on track and on the right path. This time around, however, doubt isn’t bringing me down. It’s lifting me up, putting that spring in my step. Doubt is my muse.

Today, doubt strengthens my resolve to be the best writer I can be. Doubt has me focused and committed to my writing dreams. Doubt has me determined to succeed, to never give up on my dreams.

Yes, I have learned to keep on keeping on by weathering the storm of doubt that often tries to derail me. I’m staying focused on the work, showing up at the page, day after day, and letting the writing move through me. Resigned from competition, I can’t worry about who’s doing better than me or if my Facebook or Twitter followings are growing fast enough. To succeed, I must write, and that takes courage — the courage to do what I love to do and being completely wrapped up in it, giving it my best. Always. When I do that I know I can, just for today, keep on keeping on.

And again, today, I will begin where I am, and the rest will follow.