The Aspiring Writer

“I think I want to get into writing.”

“I’ve been working on a novel myself actually.”

“Oh, really? How long have you been working on it for?”

“A few years.”

“I only started this whole writing thing a few months ago. Nearly finished, then?”

“Fortunately, not that much. It’s in the early beta stages but I’ll get there. I need to do some more aspiring before I get to the writing.”

“Don’t you want to get it done?”

“No. That’s the best part. I am an aspiring writer. Not a writer. I don’t have to do any of the hard work but I’ll still look like I am. I can just say I’m working on it and by that I mean procrastinating.”

“Working means procrastinating in your world?”

“Yes it does. Working is procrastinating since it gives all the benefits without any of the honesty. My novel is really grand. It’s a story of a protagonist who is best friends with his opposite and gets jealous of how successful he is. The protagonist is me. The friend is imaginary just like my real life ones.”

“This is getting quite personal. Sorry if I’ve awoken any demons here…”

“Oh no, that’s fine. My demons are visible for everyone to see. In fact, I’ll probably write about them some day.”

“I hope you get round to that.”

“So do I. I’m sure it’d be a great read.”

“I’m not looking to write a novel. I think I want to write a children’s book.”

“I couldn’t do that within any deadline.”

“It’s going to be about a girl who wants to be a comedian but her parents thinks she’s too pretty to be funny. Then she’ll try making herself as ugly as possible by painting her face and wearing her brother’s clothes all the time.”

“Haha, sounds like a fun story”

“Thank you very much. I really hope it makes a statement about gender roles in society because it really needs to be said. But in a more light-hearted manner”

“When will you release your Magnum Opus to the world?”

“Oh I have no idea. I’ve just been busy.”

“Ah yes, that pesky busy-ness that seems to plague all of us. What are we even busy with? Coffees and ‘work’?”

“Don’t mock what I’m saying. I’ve just been busy – it’s on the back burner.”

“I get busy too. Facebook and twitter are just so blue. Like my feelings lately. Writing is just so torturous.”

“But you don’t write? You just ‘aspire’.”

“Yes, that’s what I meant. Thinking about writing is so torturous I don’t do any of it. It makes it less like torture and more like a romanticized struggle between pen, paper and a fleeting mind”

“It can’t be that difficult, can it?”

“Oh it really is. You just have to trust me. Are you going to finish your cake by the way?”

“No, please, help yourself. Can you continue the thought about struggles?”

“Yes I will. Just couldn’t pass up on a lonely triple chocolate muffin. Anyway, in its simplest form, I think a lot of my work is going to be rubbish so I don’t write anything. It gives me the excuse to hold onto the idealised form in my head and reminisce in what could have been had I actually had the desire to sit down and write.”

“Hmm. My work might be terrible and that’s really scary.”

“All aspiring writers know that it’s meant to be scary. We’ve all read On Writing by Stephen King a few times and still don’t want to face that fear. I certainly don’t. That’s not in my job description.”

“I’m not an aspiring writer. I’m a writer! And I haven’t even read On Writing. I read a lot of children’s books and cartoons for inspiration.”

“Sorry for offending you. I just thought that since you haven’t actually done any writing but say you want to, you’re an aspiring writer.”

“I’m far different from you.”

“You definitely are. Your hair is brown.”

“I mean about this whole writing thing. I’m actually going to write and you’ve made it very clear you don’t even want to.”

“OK, OK. I’ll believe you. You really want to write but don’t write.”

“Because I’m busy.”

“You’re busy.”

“I really am. I have a job.”

“So do I. You’re not too good at this whole spot the differences thing.”

“I’ve always wanted to write sto-“

“Write stories and books and even plays ever since I could remember.”

“Don’t be so rude. You know what I mean.”

“Apparently I don’t.”

“No. You don’t. Writing makes me feel like an armless, legless-“

“-man with a crayon in my mouth. Pity. I don’t want to feel like that.”

“And you never will since you don’t write.”

“Perfect.”

“I’m quite tired and should get going. I have some things to do. I think I’ll start my children’s book today. You’ve inspired me.”

“No no, I aspire. Not inspire.”

“I’ll get started tonight and send you my first draft.”

“I wish you the best of luck. You’ll need it as an armless, legless man. Do you want my email, twitter or anything?”

“When I finish it, I’ll find you.”

“I’m confident you won’t.”

“Find you or finish it?”

“Both.”

“Enjoy your aspiring.”

“Enjoy yours too.”

“I’m a writer.”

“And sooooo am I.”

I’m 20

I’m 20

Self-review can be difficult. Especially when it feels like the negatives from the previous year have become worse and the positives more rare.

However, there is nothing wrong with this difficulty. This year has been tough but there’s little value in either trying to show a false persona (whether the portrayal is happy or sad) nor would I benefit from ignoring it completely.

I’m turned 20 a week ago and here’s the review of my past year.

What’s happened in the past year?

Writing

My journal has continued and become an even more important part of my life. I started when I was 18 and it’s still going. I’m nearly at 500 days with over half a million words. Even if it just tends to be personal rambling, it shows the usefulness of consistency. In the early days, there were times when I just didn’t want to write anything. Either because I’m too tired or I’ve had a bad day. Now, I don’t do it based on how I feel. It’s just something I do. It’d be weird if I didn’t write every day. I’m pretty sure journalling is more regular for me than eating breakfast or sleeping for 8 hours.

It’s a wonderful habit which has slowly proved itself as a much needed anchor throughout my day.

On the other side of the coin, my blog has been inactive. I will explain why later. I did have a productive month in March but I can’t explain to you why that was the case! The same thing happened last year. Maybe March is just the best month of the year.

I have a few favourites though. My post on living with chronic pain is the best explanation of my current problem. I also enjoyed writing about comparing yourself to others and why we should listen.

University

I study Philosophy for those who don’t know. I’m still at university and it’s not the worst thing in the world. I’ve kept and made new friends. I don’t actually know if I’m any better at philosophy at the moment but I have gained new interests in the field. The main one being about global justice and health.

The course is based on what can and whether anything should be done about healthcare in countries around the world. Currently, there is a great inequality of healthcare around the world and it’s something we all know. However, we are also much less likely to actively do anything about it and much less likely to claim responsibility for all the poverty-related diseases in the world. Questions such as ‘Does Aid Work?’ and ‘Are all humans moral equals?’ were central to the course. I feel the course has made me much more compassionate and at the same time, it’s made me feel like my arguments are actually increasing in relevancy instead of being dismissed as useless.

For anyone reading this who know me in real life, I’ve gone on and on about this course. I apologise for nothing.

Depression and Health

This is what I wrote last year:

“Being in pain every day for over five years has started to take its toll on my mental health. My various coping mechanisms are struggling to handle just how prominent all of these medical problems are in my life.”

Unfortunately, nothing positive has developed. My depression is much worse and my pain continues without change in intensity.

I could write for a long time about this depression but I won’t bore you with the rambling. Depression makes me feel alone in the company of my best friends and sad when I’m surrounded with happiness. It has sucked out any motivation I’ve had for the things I used to enjoy and made it difficult to just do normal things. For a while, even during my exam period, I would just lie in bed doing nothing of value. But it’s not like I would sleep either for I also have to deal with insomnia. I’m also still using a walking stick. Which clearly doesn’t help this whole situation.

As you can guess, this year has been filled with a lot of frustration which is often directed at myself. I still meditate but I’ve struggled to find any kind of peace. The days when I would walk outside and just appreciate the sounds and sights are far and few between.

Very recently, I was actually told I can’t have anti-depressants yet because I needed to test stronger painkillers! That seemed to just highlight some of the absurdity of the whole situation.

But that’s ok. Things like that happen to people all the time. I’m not alone with this depression but I don’t know how much comfort that brings to me any more.

So that helps explain why I haven’t written that much over the past year and my current difficulty with university.

I’ll get better. I haven’t lost all hope in the world. I need to get to a million words in my journal, after all.

Looking Forward

To every psychologist I’ve spoken to, they’ve asked me: What are your goals for the end of our sessions?

I have to filter out the standard “I don’t want to be depressed” answers because it isn’t that useful.

To all of them, I have said in response “I want to be ok with how I’m feeling”. That doesn’t mean that I have to feel happy all the time. It is centred on finding peace with myself and mindful of who I am. And really just being involved in my own life rather than being a passive spectator of the days that come and go.

Aside from the standard goals of becoming a better writer and developing new skills, I’d say that is the most important. If that means that I’m not on a walking stick when I’m 21, all the better. If I still have to deal with chronic pain, hopefully I’ll still be able to find some peace in my day.

And that is it. Here’s to a better future.

 

Writing every day for a year

On January 29th 2014, I decided to start a journal. My main motivation at the time was to get better at writing. To get better, I’d need to practise regularly. I’m not sure how much improved over that time but I feel that I’ve learned a lot about habits, writing and myself.

1. Consistency is incredibly important

At the moment, I’ve written over 380,000 words. A year ago, that would have sounded like an impossible task. “380,000 words of what? That’s over 1000 words a day!” Thankfully, I’ve shown myself it isn’t impossible. In fact, it wasn’t very difficult.

I’ve only managed this because of consistency. Every day, I sat down and had the goal of writing 750 words. It was a fairly small starting point that could be spread over the day so I didn’t feel overwhelmed at the idea. Then the next day would come and I’d do the same thing again. At the end of the month, I had written over 20,000 words.

When you start something, every step forward brings you closer to your goal. Even if the step is extremely small. At times, the end might seem extremely far away. But after a while, you’ll be a quarter of the way there. Then halfway. Then you’ll have reached it.

Keep walking forward and eventually you’ll get to the finish line.

2. Habits will get easier

Nowadays, not writing every day feels extremely weird. It’s become a normal part of my life.

However, I remember the first weeks when I found writing daily difficult and exhausting. There were days when I wouldn’t want to do anything let alone write. It was out of the ordinary and required a lot of energy.

This process is the same for many lifestyle changes. When you’re trying to lose weight, junk food has an almost seductive pull on us. When you’re trying to read regularly, watching TV feels like an ice cold drink on a hot day.

Falling back into previous habits at the beginning is really easy to do because we’re so used to them. We aren’t used to the challenge.

Getting past the initial challenge of any lifestyle change can be difficult. The first month of a habit change are the days where people give up. Making it your goal to get past the first week and month will mean the remainder gets steadily easier. You’ll get used to the habit and it’ll no longer feel like a chore. You’ll probably begin to enjoy it.

That isn’t to say every day will be easy after a month. There will be some days where you’ll find the habit difficult or even frustrating. You won’t regret pushing past that difficulty as you’ll keep your streak going and later feel empowered by the fact. If you do slip up, that is no reason to quit completely. Just dust yourself off and get back on it the next day. You’ve shown yourself you can make some progress, so set yourself the challenge of doing even better.

The knowledge that habits get easier is helpful when we decide to start other habits. If we’ve experienced making one habit a regular thing, that transfers to other areas of our lives. Going to the gym regularly might actually happen!

3. You can be proud of something

Perhaps one of the most satisfying takeaways from keeping this habit going for so long is that I’m proud of what I’ve done. I can say to myself “I’ve written every day for a year without fail!” 

The old adage “The best time to get started was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” holds some truth. Keeping a positive habit going for an extended time is something only you can do. Other people can’t do the habit for you. That’s what makes it so wonderful. It’s a demonstration of concentrated effort and persistence.

Take any goal or project you want to make progress towards. Now imagine you’ve been working on it for a year already.

That’s a lot of progress right? Especially in comparison to doing nothing at all. You’re capable of working on something for a sustained period of time if we start small and take small steps forward. Always keeping the big goal in mind need not be overwhelming if we just focus on what we’re doing at the current moment. Writing 750 words a day is far less daunting than writing half a million words in two years.

4. Writing is human

Spending so much time journalling has granted me the opportunity to make some observations about it. Writing is one of the most beautiful yet difficult ways for us to express our thoughts and emotions.

It’s extremely unlikely we’re going to feel exactly the same throughout the whole year. Spending some time writing every day is an implicit log of how you might feel during that day. Even if you’re not writing about yourself. I’ve observed a lot of change this year with how I approach myself, other people and my days.

I’ve felt extremely happy. I’ve felt at peace. I’ve felt just ok. I’ve been so sad I can barely concentrate on anything I’m writing. I’ve felt a lot of things. You probably do too. Being able to witness that change is interesting and somewhat humbling. At the moment, my health isn’t too great and my feelings of despair has frequently shown itself in my journal. However, the fact that I’m still writing through difficult times shows that I’m able to have a conversation with myself. The habit of writing has continued in the background and is not too dissimilar to the teddy bear we had when we were younger.

Writing is so very human. I recommend regular journalling to everyone. 

***

I journalled on 750words.com. It’s a simple and useful site that logs things like how many words you’ve written and how fast it was done. Unfortunately, it’s limited to 30 days of writing and you have to pay for a membership if you want to continue. If you want any alternatives, just let me know. But, you can start journalling with a pen and paper! That’s how I started :)

I wrote a post on my thoughts of writing every day after a month so if you want to know what I thought at the very beginning, you can read it here.

I’d be interested in knowing your thoughts about habits, writing or this post in general. Do you write regularly? Do you have a habit you’re proud of?

I’m 19

Yesterday was my nineteenth birthday. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my thoughts on the year that’s just passed and things I have planned for the future. It probably won’t all be positive but that’s ok. Reviews are done so the future can be improved.

Looking back on the past year 

  • University

I started university last September and began studying philosophy. I’ve had to learn to become much more independent and proactive. Simple things like no longer having a structured school day could have resulted in excessive procrastination because I have so much more freedom from things. I’m no longer told to wake up at a certain time or even read relevant books. All of that is up to me now and I think it’s been more of a positive than a negative. It’s allowed me to break the basic monotony of going to school then completing homework. Now, I can travel around London whenever I want or sleep in then order pizza. The new found freedom has been nice but it does have its downsides. It requires a lot more self control since it’s much easier to travel in the right direction when there are signs everywhere but now there aren’t. I’m meant to be an adult now. I’m not. But I’m meant to be. I’ll get there eventually.

  • New Habits

I’ve also started writing and meditating regularly. These two habits have been the most beneficial things I’ve started doing and I hope to continue them with increasing volume over the next few months and years. Writing for this blog and my private journal has taught me a few important things. I know that I enjoy writing and researching articles related to personal development and similar areas. I know that I have many more ideas than I once thought I did about the world. Even if they’re based on poor information and faulty arguments, it’s something that I’ll slowly develop and work on. For the better ideas I have, writing about them is improving my ability to express myself clearly and effectively.

  • A Few Negatives 

Unfortunately, this year hasn’t gone without the bad. This year marked the 5th year of my chronic pain and leg injuries. That’s a difficult thing to say because of how normal it sounds. Over the years I’ve met a lot of new people and this means that nearly all of my friends at the moment know me as the person who is always on crutches. The pain appears quiet but it is as loud as the moment I first noticed it. Being in pain every day for over five years has started to take its toll on my mental health. My various coping mechanisms are struggling to handle just how prominent all of these medical problems are in my life. This year alone I’ve had two operations in the space of four months. It’s difficult and definitely hasn’t been the brightest part of my year but I’ll remain optimistic about there actually being an end to all of this even though the tunnel could not seem more dark.

Looking forward

I have a few simple goals for the next year. For now, they’ll be vague. I have reasons for that and I’ll say why in a future post (if I remember :D)

  • Writing 

I have a whole summer ahead of me and I hope to take writing, for this blog and possibly elsewhere, much more seriously. I say ‘seriously’ to mean I’ll dedicate more time to it, not to mean I’ll suck out all the possible fun from it in order to make it profitable or anything like that. I have been thinking about a number of posts I’m excited to write about and you should enjoy reading them too. One of the biggest posts (which will probably be a small series) is about why the world isn’t as bad as it may appear. For a long time I’ve had the desire to explain to myself and others why it’s better to put your money on the world improving as a whole rather than it getting worse. Another one is to expand on what it’s like to live with chronic pain. It will be personal to me so it won’t be a universal guide for people who haven’t experienced it but wish to learn more. Nonetheless, I still hope it’ll be useful, if not engaging, for some.

  • Personal projects 

The desire to learn everything can be infectious. However, I have narrowed that desire to a few things. Those being, computer science (mainly programming but I wish to eventually learn more about artificial intelligence) and learning languages (Polish and German). Those two areas have stood out to me the most because they are the most interesting and useful.

  • Health 

This will probably be the most ambitious of my hopes given my past track record but it’s worth a shot.

I hope to be walking normally again before I’m 20 and spend a whole week without worrying about my chronic pain. If I had to say which one was more probable, it would be the end of my chronic pain.

Overall view

This year has definitely had its difficult moment but it hasn’t all been terrible. Hopefully, there will be much better content to come and it’ll be a good year for all of us.

I’ll add that the inspiration to do this post came from Scott Young at scotthyoung.com. If you haven’t read any of his stuff, I strongly recommend it.

 

5 short lessons learned from 750 words

Over the past month I’ve been pretty busy with work and recovering from an operation. However, I’ve managed to keep a daily journal going for 30 days and I’d like to share a few things I think I’ve learned from it.

1. I have something to say

This might be an odd one but when I started writing I thought I’d never be able to reach 750 words or more without really struggling. As I continued, it didn’t feel like I was straining myself to write a lot. Even if a lot of what I wrote wasn’t great, it was still something that could be improved if I wanted to.

2. Writing daily is relaxing

In addition to daily meditation, just sitting down and writing about whatever I want is relaxing. It gives me the chance to slow down my day and just think about what’s happened throughout the day or work on an idea I have. It isn’t demanding and lets me spend time with myself and my thoughts.

3. It helps create ideas 

Since the 750 words are just a brief platform for me to write about anything, it gives me the chance to write about any ideas that I have written down or thought about. When I was writing essays, I would often just think about any arguments I could use and expand on them. Or I would think about general articles that I want to write. Writing my thoughts out makes them a bit clearer and much more likely to actually write about them in full!

4. We can make boring things interesting 

I’ve written about why slippers are interesting. They aren’t. But I made sure they were for my daily words.

5. I can create a habit

This is probably the most important. I managed to stick to something for 30 days and I feel like continuing. It wasn’t that difficult. I realised that I was probably just fearing a situation that didn’t exist. That being: ‘Writing daily would be really difficult and there’s no way I’d have time to keep it up.’

That wasn’t true in the slightest. When you get started, it doesn’t need to be extremely grand. Start small and you’ll find the process much easier.

I’d recommend starting a daily journal. It can be done on 750words but you can use the traditional pen and paper or just a word document. The word count isn’t the main focus. It’s the act of spending time with yourself and writing.

Plus, it’s pretty fun!

Do you keep a journal?

Why should I write?

I’m not a writer but I write.

My attitude towards writing has changed a lot over the past few years. I’m glad it’s evolved because it’s far more accepting and positive than it was before. In primary school, I hated nearly everything to do with writing. Writing stories, letters, diary entries – you name it. I didn’t like it. I found it boring (and probably difficult) so I never cared about improving it deliberately.

I’m not going to lie to you and say that writing is now my undying passion. I don’t wake up, jump out of my bed and thank Zeus that I have an opportunity to write. I can’t say I’ve found a passion for anything yet. However, that doesn’t prevent me from saying I’ve grown to appreciate writing much more.

Writing is important is because it improves your thinking. We go from a state of confusion to clarity when we write ideas down and change them. We share them with other people and makes sure that our ideas live longer than we could ever hope.

Mastery of the art is difficult. People put hours and hours into improving how their work reads, how their characters develop and how they present information. Sometimes you dislike the process because ideas aren’t appearing as quickly or the sentences read poorly or the perfect word eludes you. But looking back on the final draft on whatever we’ve done is almost relaxing.

We’ve shared our thoughts with other people instead of keeping them locked inside our heads.

I began thinking about this issue because I want to improve my writing. I find it amazing how some writers can approach important issues respectfully while remaining entertaining. Some news reports can change a person’s mind on an issue convincingly or just illuminate an area that we never considered. Academic books and articles can do the same, although they seem to have a limited audience due to the complexity. Retelling stories about places we’ve visited or things we’ve done give us permission to relive the memory. Even if we can’t get the words completely correct,

Writing is beautiful because our minds are. We can help others, inspire them, make them cry, make them laugh and give them the opportunity to learn.

I write because it lets me connect with other people and, perhaps most importantly, it helps me understand myself.

And it begins

For those who don’t know, I’m studying philosophy at university. Well, it began a few weeks ago but we can ignore that.  I have a few plans for my time here with regards to personal development and writing in general. I won’t bore you with all the details. Only  a few of them.

So far, it’s not too bad. I haven’t met anyone I can say I don’t like. I’ve tried my best to be social and set a decent routine for work. Y’know the normal stuff. I might expand more on what’s happened but it’s not all that interesting. However, I realised that getting soaked after buses drive through puddles isn’t something that only happens in movies and to other people. The good news about university at this point is that it’s progressed from ‘What’s your name? What are you studying?’ to ‘I’ve forgotten your name but you’re on my course. Hi, this lecture is boring.’ Variety is the spice of life.

Here are a few things that I want to try doing over the next few weeks, months and my first year in general.

  • “Small philosophers”

This is a series I hope to start and keep consistent. It’ll involve me explaining what I’ve learnt in lectures and through reading. Hopefully, I’ll be able to make it entertaining for those who have no interest in philosophy and helpful to those that do. Though, I offer no guarantees because some of the things I’m studying are either too complicated for that or just plain boring. Plus, I’m not an entertaining writer.

It should also help solidify my understanding of the material if I manage to do it correctly. If I do enough, I’ll transfer it to another blog. Update schedule? Hopefully weekly.

  • General self improvement

The whole point of this blog! There are definitely a lot of areas in my life I still want to improve. For example, fitness and work discipline. I’ll keep this part short since you’ll see how I progress as a person as I update the blog.

  • Blogging

Yes, I’m including blogging in the list of things I want to do on the blog. I still want to maintain it. My update schedule will probably be less frequent as university progresses but it’s still important for me to improve my writing beyond philosophy essays and summaries. I’ll try to continue the random stories that I write because they’re fun and being received well.

I did say that I won’t bore you with all the details, so I won’t. This is mainly to let you know that I haven’t abandoned my blog. It’s only just started. It’d be sad to just stop so soon.