Back on the Saddle and the Need for a Blank Slate

Sometimes, when you come to a halt, being that a physical, material, emotional, psychological, or spiritual pause, the need to start fresh arises. After change, a rock on your boat, or any kind of disturbance, there is that silent pause, a very personal and intimate moment that only I recognize, and the prelude to what comes next in action. It is not so much the defining moment but the silent moment that makes the next one possible – whatever I may or may not decide – choose – act. It may be a source for strength or not, because it depends on how I embrace change, view it, and the emotions/feelings that I associate or attach to it. From that silent moment on, I either get back on the saddle (even in the midst of change) or not.

It is at that moment of truth that the need for a blank slate presents itself, summoned by vision and attitude, faith and determination. Back on the saddle again, I resolve to start on a blank slate, or a new page. One thing I know for sure is to change the ink, to not write in old ink on the pages of the new journal of life. A blank slate is a wonderful start, even if it may not look it right away. Vision becomes clearer as the writing starts once more.

We are writers of our lives. Sometimes we write to slow, too fast, or scribble; other times, we run out of ink in the middle of a page – an important page many times – and we pause, refill, and continue writing the great novel of our lives, which is eternal.

 

Picking Up the Pebbles, Carrying the Rocks, and Embracing Boulders

Present Universe/Earth – The location

Human – The vessel

The Material – The physical state, the condition in the vessel

Change – Fuel, motivator

Target – The journey, the material experience in the vessel at the location

Goal – Growth through the experience, enjoyment, discovery, being, creation, union … to each its own journey, One as Many

Time/Space – Now (always Now, other measure of time is irrelevant)

Report – Ongoing

 

Although life might seem a weird experiment at times, it is a journey, a destination in itself, and a different experience for every person. It presents its challenges as a way to keep the journey going in the now. Without challenge, conflict, unfortunate events, fortunate events … without change, there cannot be movement, journey, growth. It is necessary as fuel to keep us going. Imagine a life of perfect harmony, everything goes one way – perfect, and nothing happens that will let you have/create a frame of reference that serves as a compass to evaluate your journey. If everything is as perfect as it can be, how would you know the difference? Simply put, without a compass/navigator you might be lost.

Many times, change (fuel) will present itself in various degrees of difficulty, as much fuel as we might need to propel us to the next level. I truly believe that. Sometimes, the size of a pebble, other times as a rock, or even a giant boulder. Sometimes even as the entire quarry. However, if growth is the goal, the natural way would be to keep walking the path, pick up the pebbles, carry the rocks, and even embrace the boulders, and if we have to go inside the quarry, may we find the message in its walls. And when we do, evolution continues.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

 

Time Lapse in Writing

Time is one of the trickiest subjects when writing a story. Not only does your world has to be convincing enough when writing fiction, the pass of time is something to keep in mind throughout the story. Depending on your story, you will have to keep track of the days that had gone by naturally, as the characters go about their lives – days, years, age, technology changes … It doesn’t matter if you are writing historical fiction or a modern romance, the pass of time is something to be aware of and keep track. If the protagonist went to work on Monday, and went to sleep that same day, but was meeting with someone on Wednesday, it would be unnatural to wake her up and take her to meet that person – where did Tuesday go? Another example is aging characters appropriately if the story demands it, as well as characters dealing with issues that are age related. In a series, time becomes tricky, and something to watch out for, as in the case of many years going by in the story, from the first book to the second book. You will have to age characters, but also technology in many cases. In addition, some people might not be able to come back because naturally they would be dead. I will use one of my novels as an example, and something I caught “on time” when writing it. It had to do with the pass of time – more than 20 years – and the mention of an aged character in the second book. In the first book, the character retained the title of Mayor, and referred to as Mayor Degan many times. In the second book, I caught myself referring to him as Mayor Degan, when he was at least 20 years older (no problem there, he was aged appropriately), however impossible to be retaining the title for that long. In my mind, the writer’s mind, he was still Mayor Degan, however I had to call him now by his name – Blake Degan. He was not even a character that interacted much throughout the story, but was a necessary one. Time affected even this character.

Supernatural characters might be able to play with time, but it still has to be mentioned in some way, as part of their condition, otherwise it might confuse the reader. Maybe they don’t age, or they can make themselves age according to time … somehow, the writer has to make this known to the reader.

Technology is another issue, not only in the topic of time, but on location as well. As an example, if internet connection is being used as part of the story, it is obvious that the internet speed is different in New York City than in a remote country location. These small details might not seem important, but they are.

The phrase “Time will tell” comes to mind.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

 

After the Series – What Now?

What now? or What’s next? These are questions that I will answer after I write the last book of The Dinorah Chronicles series. At the moment, I’m ready to start the third re-write of The Book of Sharon, book 2 of the trilogy. If I’m lucky, I’ll have the first draft of Sunrise Souls ready by the end of the year (9 months left). What have I learned?

Moonlit Valley inspired the writing of The Dinorah Chronicles. I never intended to write a series, but it developed as a natural process, so I let it be. I have found that writing a series gives me a bit of comfort in the sense that I am navigating known territory, as opposed to writing a new story. However, I have to admit that I enjoy the process of writing a single story more than writing a series. I never say never, but I think that in the future, I will focus on single stories rather than writing a series (unless I’m inspired otherwise). This took me to ask, What’s next? The answer is not as simple as I thought.

As an indie author, I have the flexibility to do pretty much what I desire. I don’t have contracts to fulfill, or lined up books/deadlines, or commitments abroad. The deadlines are the ones I imposed on myself. My commitment is to the story and to the reader. When I asked myself – What’s next? – I understood that many roads were right in front of me, and the one I take is not so clear yet. Why?

The writing industry changed so much in the last few years, and as an independent author, I need to balance my energy and efforts. It means that I do all the work, and any assistance hired is tied to funds available (if any). Also, it means that it does not make sense to follow trends if I don’t love the process. So naturally, my attention will hover around those projects that I am ready for and will enjoy. These days, the speed of publishing and everything else that surrounds it has multiplied, and indie authors are bombarded with many choices and possible projects that they might feel obligated to undertake to follow the developing industry and current trends – podcasts, audio book, channels, speaking/teaching engagements, the translation of their books, and many other endeavors. I admire indie authors who have the energy and focus to have many of those endeavors developing at once; I called them the Super Indies. They are an inspiration.

All the above considered, I sat down with pen and paper at hand, and thought hard about where I am on my journey, and tried to answer the question (now). I felt that my next natural step (after finishing the series)  would be to write a new single story, and focus on the Spanish translation of my first book, and possibly the series. Any other components of marketing books, gaining exposure, or other writing-related projects will be assigned secondary status (as far as focus and effort). This is a prelude, a peek, an early answer to my question, but of course, it all may change. What’s important is that I challenged myself to think about it and took a glance at the possibilities. It also helped me measure my level of readiness according to where I am on my journey. It was worth considering.

As an indie author, how do you feel about balancing current trends and your own journey?

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

photo by Maria Antonia Diaz

 

2014 Reading Agenda

I think that life is too short, not long enough to read everything that I want to read. I have a large backlog of books that I want to read, from new authors, classics, and topics that I want to explore in-depth. This year I have a few books in mind, some of which are of new indie authors, other are inspirational books, and so on – a mix of everything. I would love to get to all the ones I have waiting for me in electronic form as well – tons. So I force myself to prioritize just a few.

Currently, I am reading How to Market a Book by successful indie author Joanna Penn. So far, I am loving it, and I think if you are considering making the jump to become an indie author, you should read this one.

Next in line is Break Out by Joel Osteen (five keys to go beyond your barriers and live and extraordinary life) – and inspirational book. This one, followed by Count Lucanor by Prince Don Juan Manuel.

I am planning to read Time Flies by Claire Cook. Followed by Libre de Saviesa by James King of Aragon.  Also from James I King of Aragon – The Chronicle. In addition, I want to try to get to The Complete Writings of St. Francis of Assisi.

After that one, I would love to read three indie books that I’ve wanted to read for some time now – God’s Whisper, a book by Margaret Long, Exceptions and Deceptions by Cliff Burns (collection of short stories), and Galapagos Man by Kenton Lewis.

I am dying to read Confessions by St. Augustine, and Letters from Father Christmas by Tolkien. Also, if I can get to it – Twilight of the Gods by Adam Pfeffer.

These are my must read this year, but the list is very long, and I wish I can get to many more. As it usually happens, some books may come out in 2014 that will grab my interest and derail me from my mission. A bit of everything, I describe myself as an eclectic reader.

2014 Writing Goals

I have set two major writing goals for this year, editing and publishing The Book of Sharon before the end of the first quarter, and writing Sunrise Souls before the end of the year. If I get to the editing of the last one, I will be very happy, but for now, writing it is all I am expecting. In addition, I am hoping to develop my author website a bit more; it has been under construction. As far as this blog goes, I am hoping to post at least three times a week. Those are my only writing goals for this year – few and clear. My main focus will go towards regaining my health. Other projects will be on hold for now.

Today, my nephew sent me an email that had an Allan Watts short video about one of his lectures on meditation. One thing caught my attention immediately – his definition of meditation. He views meditation as a way to bring you back to reality (to the real world, to the life that we live in a daily basis, to the now, to be present …). When I thought about it, I realized that my concept of meditation was at conflict with this definition. I viewed it as a way to relax and step out of reality – a way to alleviate stress or any present inconvenience. This view is opposite to the purpose of meditation. I found this interesting, and I think that many people think of meditation as a way to escape reality instead of getting back to it. I thought this was brilliant.

As writers we tend to retreat; we spend long hours alone dipped into our own worlds and thoughts, and many times far away from reality. Meditation may be a good tool for writers, that is, as a way to bring us back to life into the now.

The Perpetual Planner

Although this year I’m living it at 000, each day anew, I understand the importance of healthy planning. We are starting a new year, so I want this post to be about planning in 2014. Are you a perpetual planner? Do you love goal-lists, to-do lists, and planning? I know I do; however, I have to keep myself in check (pun intended) otherwise, I may become a perpetual planner, a living-breathing human calendar, and we all know that is not good. Why? Because you run a thin line between perpetual planning and procrastination by it. Too many To-do lists and planning may keep you from doing. Whether we use planning as a good tool to advance us or as a safe heaven to keep us from jumping into the next step is up to us. Here are a few tips.

  • Research the goals you have in mind. You need to have as much information to clarify your goals. Warning – don’t run into perpetual research mode.
  • Clarify your goals (know what you want and why).
  • Think of a time-frame to achieve the goal (when).
  • Think of a way to do it (or ways). This is the How.
  • Once that is clear in your mind, it is time to put it in paper, bits at a time, following your calendar schedule for the year. Time to be specific.
  • Avoid the double plan. This is not about plan 2; it is about over-planning or making lists on top of lists that end up confusing or derailing you (believe me, I know). Stick to a clear black and white plan stated in simple terms. Gray areas might open doors to exploration, which may lead to over-planning or derailment. This is why you make a clear plan and stick with it. Don’t get me wrong, exploration and spontaneity are good, as long as they don’t open the door that will take you away from your main focus.
  • Always have a plan 2. If plan 1 (yes, I’m tired of the phrase plan A or plan B) doesn’t seem to be working modify it without changing your main goals, that is unless you find out that it is not a goal for you anymore, and in that case, this is why research helps in the beginning. But we are human, and we change, so if by the first quarter of 2014, you find that you are not sure you want to do what you set out to do, don’t drop it yet; do a little more research, and then, decide (exploration and spontaneity may help here). Sometimes, a bit more clarification is what you need to put you on track.
  • Acknowledge your efforts, and celebrate each milestone during the year. This is very important. I used to ignore this step, and because of it, my sense of progress was clouded, opening a door for frustration. When you go back and see how far you’ve come (quarterly is a good way to do it), then, it is as a fresh breath of air that propels you to the next stage (even when you might be your own cheerleader). This is necessary but human nature will tell you to skip it and propel ahead – don’t.
  • Evaluate your steps every quarter (or whatever works for you) and readjust your plan as needed, but not by over-planning.
  • Whether you achieve your goal or are almost there, realize that you are closer to it thanks to your healthy planning, and congratulate yourself. If you hit your goal, celebrate! Understand that you are human, and you might have it all down on paper, but life gets in the way sometimes, and after all, living life is what you do best, so don’t be too hard on yourself.
  • Be grateful every step of the way.

Best Wishes for this year, and may you carry out your 2014 dreams.

 

Little Tree – The Simple Things

It is the simple things that make me happy. For many people, the end of a year presents an opportunity for self-evaluation, and for thinking about areas that need change or improvement, or even things that have to be eliminated from one’s life. Every year, I welcome this season and think about the course of the year, set new goals, and set aside some time to really look at what can be simplified.

I am a planner, love lists, and crave organization and structure – a character trait that serves me well but can become overwhelming at times. Such are the times when I tend to overanalyze, make more lists (on top of lists), and when I am hard on myself for not performing as expected (by me) despite giving more than 100 percent in effort. It is then when I need the simple things to help me refocus, and to bring me back to living the simple life – the life that happens in the now, does not follow lists so much, and focus on the beauty and good things/blessings that are present. One of those things is the Christmas season.

Last year, I adopted a little tree that I came across while at a farmer’s market, and I named it Little Tree. I even blogged about the unusual circumstances that surrounded that day. You can read the post here – The Little Tree That Could. Today, and a coincidence at the writing of this post, happens to be a year since I brought Little Tree home. It has grown a bit, and I want to share before and after pictures of it.

Little Tree before, last year.

Little Tree before, last year.

Little Tree this year.

Little Tree this year.

As you can see, it has grown a few inches, its branches have taken a darker hue and spread out. If it wasn’t for the 2012 picture, the changes and growth would have escaped my mind because its growth has been slow but steady. Maybe Little Tree has a message to share, after all.

 

When Your Inner Critic Befriends the Naysayers

Boom! This is an explosive combination. Inner Critic + Naysayer(s) = Dangerous Liaison. If you are human, you have an inner critic living inside you. It is a ruthless, sneaky, negative, tricky, hopeless saboteur who celebrates doubt, chaos, fear, weakness, and illogical self-punishment. It creeps when you least expect it and creates the perfect environment for growing failure.  It sucks that you have to live with this innate character 24/7 but it does not have to be like that; you, the real you – the positive, enlightened, spiritual, self-assured, divine, and blessed soul who happens to live next to it, have the total control and will to overpower the inner critic. Because the inner critic knows this, it has to find outside help to validate itself, to become stronger, and to overpower the real you. It is when it welcomes any naysayer available for grabs. The inner critic delights in such presence and input; it is the perfect companion to build together an environment fertile for growing the fruits of failure – the enemies of the spirit. Because of this, you have to be vigilant and smart about the kind of company you keep, as well as the kind of conversations you encourage. Too much of it will weaken you, and will lower your defenses. It will dwindle your faith and will consume your inspiration. It will slowly envelop you in a fake comfort-blanket of self-pity and lethargy that will keep growing until it destroys you.

It is normal to have doubt, fear, even a bit of self-pity sometimes; after all, we live in blood and flesh bodies in a material world. However, it is when you allow the inner critic to form the above equation that you empower it.

Photo by M.A.D.

Photo by M.A.D.

 

Answering Your Calling – Enjoy the Process

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA...

Animation of the structure of a section of DNA. The bases lie horizontally between the two spiraling strands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Life is full of surprises, of twists and turns, of straight roads, of the predictable, of the inevitable, of the good, and of the not-so-good … life is a miracle. It seems short many times, too short; other times, it may seem as an eternity, depending on what chapter are you living or reliving. When we are young, we live day by day, as if life is eternal; with the pass of time, we realize that it is not, and so our search for meaning begins. We experience mid-life crisis, moments of enlightenment, moments of despair, epiphanies, and absolute sense of loss. Time becomes important, precious, our best ally, and our worst measure of self. We come to a halt; suddenly, we need more, meaning and purpose – we want to find our calling. So we set on a journey of discovery, introspection, and awe. A journey that is different for every human being. To each, its own, says the adage. We focus on finding, and we search and question, ponder and wonder … and we become exhausted. We have not found our calling. Maybe, there is nothing to be found. How can we find what is already there?

We don’t have to find our calling, we have to answer it. Each human being is here for a reason, an important and unique (as DNA) purpose. It is engraved in us, and no matter how much time goes by, the calling is still there. Our searching is part of the process of discovering to be able to answer when we are ready – in perfect synchronicity, in harmony. Instead of enjoying this process, we become frustrated, impatient, sad, lonely, angry, desperate, hopeless, doubtful, without faith … we forget about the now, the moment that is part of the whole that becomes the calling. When we become aware of the now, we begin to answer. Wonderful and magical things happen as we become present.