When I was very young (we’re talking, like, elementary school), I remember one of my teachers complimenting me, saying that I had “more creativity in one pinkie than [she had] in her entire body.”
Well, while that doesn’t actually make any sense because every human being on Earth has the ability and propensity to be creative — and we all create our realities through the actions we take every single day — it does point out that some people are a little more in touch with the special spark of creativity within themselves. I feel that in many ways I have been one of those people. Lately, I am also often not one of those people. Before I knew how to do anything, all I did was draw. I drew and drew and drew until I learned to read, after which you could never find my nose out of a book. I went to the bathroom with a book, ate with a book. (To this day, you will rarely find me anywhere without reading material. I have to convince myself not to take books or magazines with me to social engagements, calming myself down that if all else fails, I do have my Kindle app on my phone. Yes, I am that girl.)
By the time I was 10, I fell so in love with my first favorite book, Matilda by Roald Dahl, that I memorized the entire first chapter I read it so much. (Is it any shock to anyone my contact lens prescription is over -10?) To this day, I still know the first sentence. I also wrote my first book, constructed out of wide-ruled looseleaf paper bound by those brass clasps that no one uses anymore. It was my first (and only) piece of fanfiction, a sequel to Matilda illustrated and colored in the style of Quentin Blake, Dahl’s own illustrator. It was legit!
I have no idea where that book is now, but I would pay to have it in my hands today. Because it was that book that first established in me the belief that I was a writer. From fourth grade on, writing became a part of my identity. I soon partnered up with a schoolmate who also liked to write and we would encourage each other to keep producing our work, every single day. Of course, our work was crap, but the important thing was that we believed in it enough to work on it consistently.
High school was an interesting time. Because I’ve been working on deleting the H-word from my daily lexicon (you know, the one that rhymes with late), I’ll just say that high school was a strongly challenging time for me emotionally. I have always been, although seemingly strong and confident of myself, rather soft and fragile on the inside (for this, my Taiwanese mother frequently calls me a “strawberry.”) So after all of my closest friends “abandoned” me (is there a more self-centered time than teendom?) for other schools — either private schools 20 minutes away, or in the case of my best friend, boarding school in Connecticut — there was just this feeling of profound loneliness and being lost. Yes, there were many new friends to be made, but I was in a very disempowered state back then, and my one daily salvation besides phone calls to friends I couldn’t see was to throw myself into my writing as soon as I got home from school. Every. Single. Afternoon.
I wrote my first (and only! So far, anyway) novel at fourteen. It was a POS rom-com-inspired YA novel called All That and a Cup of Milk. (I know.) I was so proud of it I even printed it out and bound it in a more sophisticated fashion than I did in fourth grade: I punched holes in it and put in in a clear white three-ring binder. Then, I went through my piles of Seventeen and/or Teen Beat magazines and cut out photos of random models that I decided looked just enough like my characters and created a collage. I then invented different handwritings (one of my favorite things to do back then) for each character and wrote their names down next to each photo.
The result is a VERY teen-worthy pseudo-book published under the name “Ex-Press Books, Inc.” (yeah, I don’t know why). I was even dork enough to create fake Library of Congress information on a fake copyright page. Fortunately, I still have it (otherwise I would have conveniently forgotten all this delicious detail.)
By the way, I know these photos suck. But it’s LATE and I’m HUNGRY.
While the book is terrible and ridiculous and is zero representation of my writing today, I still keep it as a reminder to myself that I am capable of writing a novel from beginning to end. A novel! If you didn’t already know, a novel is at least 50,000 words. Mine was 16 chapters and 108 pages (single-spaced).
I don’t care how horrendous the writing is (the grammar is still impeccable, I’ll have you know!); the fact that I wrote it is the one thing that I remind myself of every day that I don’t progress on my own writing projects.
Here’s the thing. If you’ve been following my Rehab Revolution blog, you will know that in a few short weeks I’ll be at the annual UW-Madison Writers’ Institute conference for the second time. It is my goal to at least have a finished manuscript of my memoirs I started in 2008 to take to that conference, and to be able to practice a pitch to an agent. Practice a pitch, not actually pitch, because the idea of publishing, while exciting, is still scary as frac to me, and I need the time to mentally prepare for that.
The other thing you’ll know is that part of the reason why my memoirs are still in progress after starting it in 2008 is because I stopped working on it. Many reasons come to mind, such as:
- fear of failure
- fear of success
- fear of rejection
- fear of judgment
- lack of time management
- lack of good prioritizing
Oh, and, ironically enough, I also think that I have let it fall by the wayside because of a rather insidious self-created enemy. Fact is, I FEEL UNSETTLED WHEN I DON’T WRITE, but I’ve been writing all along. My hidden saboteur?
It’s not just this one — it’s Rehab Revolution, it’s Premier Pamela, and on a rare day, Mei Shung blog, or on a SUPER rare day, Wednesday Arts Section. In an indirect sense, it’s social media at large.
Who the hell has five blogs??
Are you kidding me? No wonder I don’t go to bed every day feeling like I haven’t put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, more accurately) in decades. This is also probably why I keep forgetting to journal!
I have a confession to make, as well. And getting this out is so urgent that it is 5.20pm on a Tuesday and I am still in my bedroom in gym clothes (for my theoretical “morning cardio workout”) without having eaten a thing yet today typing this. I think I may have announced on Facebook (and told everyone I encountered in real life) that converting to daylight-saving time is disgustingly difficult for me. Like, take-a-week-to-adjust-to-it difficult. What’s made it worse is my sudden and inexplicable new addiction to Jenna Marbles YouTube videos.
Now, if you know me, Jenna Marbles is an unlikely source of entertainment for me. She talks like a sailor and is obnoxious as hell, but I’ve decided that I love her because despite those unsavory (to me) qualities, her intelligence and unique brand of cleverness really shines through. To be fair, I won’t watch all her 130+ videos, and I often end up clicking off to a new one when I get tired of one I’d chosen in bad taste, but on the whole, I give her a thumbs up for a multitude of reasons. This girl, only three years younger than I am, is more educated than I am (she has a masters from Boston University) and has exceeded a billion(!) views on YouTube.
She is entertaining, unexpected, and what I love is that she never apologizes for who she is. And although much of her audience is equally as lewd or even angry and disrespectful, she is a loving person who respects and embraces herself. And that is rare. And refreshing.
Anyway, I bring this up because for the past two nights I have done the cringeworthy: I’ve stayed up till 4am watching an endless stream of Jenna Marbles videos. Perhaps at that hour I’m so slap-happy that I think she’s even funnier than she actually is? Or perhaps she is some kind of sensational genius.
I subscribe to many channels. Generally, I follow some amazing business leaders and life coaches, like Marie Forleo or Katie Freiling. I’ve discovered that YouTube tends to also suggest videos to me based on the channels I’m subscribed to, so in my addictive fog of Jenna Marbles comedy, today I was also suggested this video by Kyle Cease: The Greatest and Worst Time Ever.
Basically, he talks about how addictions like crack or anything else equally as obviously destructive are far less subtle than our micro-addictions that contribute to distracting us from our true desires and accomplishing what we want to do and being great. Read: casual Facebook updates or status checks, which apparently we do on average of 70-80 times a day.
*Raises hand* I am guilty. So guilty.
So I had a bit of a revelation today while I was finally getting gym-dressed (of course, with a video playing). Jenna Marbles has hit a billion views on YouTube because she releases a new video every single Wednesday and probably has done for the three years or whatever she’s been doing videos. Sure, her content is clever and provocative, but the nugget here is CONSISTENCY.
The difference between the people who accomplish anything (even a crappy made-for-teens-by-a-teen novel that the author herself won’t bear to read 10+ years later) and people who sit around complaining that they have nothing to show for their life and desires is being consistent.
Being consistent is the ultimate practice of delayed gratification. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” they say. “An inch is a cinch, but a mile takes a while,” says motivational speaker Scott Smith. “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step,” said Confucius.
I’m sure there are infinite other quotes about the nature of adding to your projects the incremental progress that eventually leads to completion, and that inevitable spin you take to marvel at your own work, that sigh of accomplishment.
This is getting long-winded, and I’m sorry. But the point is, if I want to put love over fear and embrace my inner creativity that has gone untapped for so long, I need to stop whining and apply some consistence to what I want to do.
Can I finish my book by 11 April? Absolutely. But am I willing to dial down the Facebooking, tweeting, jewelry “businessing,” working out, going to bed at 4am, etc.?
Yes. And no. I cannot rightfully say that my book is my number-one priority in life. Especially right now, when I have my taxes to do OR ELSE as well as my health/fitness/rehab to think about. Making money would also be nice. (No one pays you to sit at a Starbucks to churn out a book — even J.K. Rowling had to wait till her books were sold to see any return on her time investment!)
My plan now is to severely “trim down the fat” of my days, as Anthony says virtually every week. Facebook time will be limited to two ten-minute breaks each day. One will take place in the morning and the other, not until I’ve gotten the writing accomplished for the day. I will have to seriously develop an action plan that includes everything I only want to do in small enough doses that I can focus most of my time on what I want and need to do.
And don’t get me wrong; my book is going to be far from perfect once I finish it. It’ll probably horrify me only slightly less than All That and a Cup of Milk, but will require a huge amount of rearranging, rewriting, and reworking of different sorts.
I already feel liberated. While I do love Facebook and YouTube and e-mails, I’m going to force myself to get back in touch with my creative self. This means that for my first meal, even though I’m starving, I’m going to properly cook something.