overcoming writer’s block

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From personal experience, it seems writer’s block can come about for multiple of reasons. Maybe you just feeling particularly uninspired, or maybe you’re hampered by the stresses of life, far too distracted to focus.

Recently, I have been struggling through my own writer’s block, whether through creative writing or even on this blog. As I explored it, I realized that my writer’s block was coming from my own internal fears. I want my voice to be heard. I want my words to mean something. Writing has always been a crucial means of expression for me, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t want to inspire or empower someone with the stories I create. My goal this year has been to attempt to publish my novel, and as I venture closer to that goal, my fears, like demons, are swooping in to sway me. What if agents/publishers think my writing is amateur and crap? What if I never get published? What if my writing means nothing?

It wasn’t until I processed my writer’s block with my therapist that I realized the power my fears were having over me. When I was telling her of my fear of being rejected by publishers or criticized by people (and having something I held very close to my heart disparaged), she pointed out to me, “You’re already operating as if your fear will come true, that you will be rejected.”

But who am I to predict the future, when none of us can’t? Isn’t that the whole point of trying?

It also hit me that I was putting too much weight and pressure on myself. I’m not seeing the reality for what it is: that this is only an attempt. It doesn’t mean my writing is or never will be good enough. My therapist told me, “You’re acting as if you don’t publish now, you will never publish. Maybe you’ll publish now, or later.” She also elaborated to me that I was making my attempt to publish as definitive proof that I am a good, or bad, writer, depending on how people will respond. But just because one, or even several people, do not like it, does not mean that I’m a bad writer. For example, one person might cite Metallica as the best band ever, while another may describe it as raucous and horrible.

I’m putting too much stock in other people’s thoughts, and it’s getting to a point that their hypothetical words are stunting me. And so I don’t try, because by not trying, I don’t have to face it. I can stay safe… but at the expense of never reaching my dream. That’s the high cost to pay. So I’m faced with a choice: to stay safe, but live ruled by fear, or to face my fears and likely criticism/rejection, but have the chance to bring my 19-year-old dream to life.

I suppose the moral of this post is twofold. 1 – It’s very helpful to have a good therapist.  2 – Other people do not define your writing. Just as with any other mode of expression, your vision is purely yours and yours alone. It was through my processing that I saw that I was giving too much power to other people, of something that is 100% me. People may have varying opinions on what I have to say, but that doesn’t de-validate my voice, or the experiences and feelings I used to inspire me. All of that is and stays valid.

I think that’s a part of my journey as a writer… learning to let go of people’s thoughts and opinions, and their power over my writing. No one defines my writing, except for me. Of course there is always a time and place for constructive criticism, but it is important to also stay true to your vision and passion. I can’t let anyone compromise my vision. Not even myself.

words are things

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Maya Angelou once said, “Words are things, I’m convinced. You must be careful about the words you use.”

When I heard this, I sat on it for days and weeks, until I understood the power of that statement. The true power of words. Sometimes we throw words around as if they mean nothing, assuming that they are small and insignificant. And perhaps when we think of power, we think instead of sabers, kings, land, money… yet completely ignore the way that words have perpetuated these very things and concepts through time and space.

Words have the power to build someone up, or crush someone’s spirit. They can be fertilizer for our souls, inspiring us to grow and aspire. They can also wound us like long, shiny knives, lodging themselves into our hearts, shaped in the form of “bitch,” “ugly” or others… and stay with us and pass on, generation to generation. Words can awaken our slumbering minds like coffee, push us to see a new way, to dream as big as Martin Luther King, Jr. once dreamed.

And now I am convinced too. Words are things. They are versatile, shifting in shape and form. We carry them with us, and they bleed through our skin, the way we dress and wear our make-up. They form our body and how we walk. They are tools that mold our minds, and give us the means to mold others. We can do so much good with them, yet in that vein, so much evil. It is up to us how we choose to use words. With all that they can do, Maya Angelou speaks wisdom as she urges us to use their power carefully.

But there is so much beauty in words. It becomes clearer to me as I write this, that even when we have absolutely nothing, even if we may feel oppressed and lack money or privilege, we are never powerless. We will always have words; they cannot be taken away. People so easily dismiss them in favor of higher status things in this world, but we must be careful not to deny the power of words. They live as we use them in our minds, through our mouths, though our pens or the keyboard of our computer. We may be completely naked and without a single material possession to our name, and still have the power to effect great change in the world, with the most simplest of instruments.

But there is nothing simple about words. I believe this to my very core. We can paint, draw, stick, crumple, or weave them together, and create something quite extraordinary.

the struggle for the dreamer

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As a dreamer existing in a “real-based” world, I find myself constantly up against the struggle of my imagination with reality. I’ve gone from completely rejecting reality to reside inside my mind, only to find that it increased my misery and disappointment… to now, where I am super practical about making decisions. Lately I’ve been feeling pressure from people around me to be “practical” all of the time, and because their advice made logical sense, I’ve been taking it. But at the same time, I’ve also been feeling depressed and unhappy.

I thought of a conversation I had with professor/mentor. I had been telling him about one of my possible dreams/goals, and how my brother was discouraging me from it due to practical, “realistic” reasons. It’s a difficult route, and you might not be able to handle it. You have to make sure you are really ready for it. You’ll be further in debt if you do. People have a really hard time doing it, so you have to be aware of that. As I told my professor my doubts, I said to him, “My brother makes good points. He wants me to be practical about this. He wants me to make grounded decisions.”

Then my professor stared at me for a few seconds, and replied with a straight face, “Is he making you grounded, or is he cutting off your wings?

Boom. My mind was effectively blown at that.

I realized then how right my professor was. After drowning in the misery and impracticality of basking solely in my imagination when I was younger, I have been working to live successfully in reality as a dreamer. But as a result, I am venturing too far on the other extreme, and losing touch with my dreams and idealism. I’m cutting off my wings.

As important as it is for us to be practical and realistic, I would argue that it is just as important (maybe even slightly more) to dream, imagine and create. I think of people like Steve Jobs or John Lennon, or of my own personal role models, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Maya Angelou–people who never held themselves back from their dreams, especially in the wake of antagonistic pressures, and instead pressed forward with their grand visions. They painted a new reality, they expressed their true, inner selves with courage, even if practicality at the time may have judged them as “odd” or “overly idealistic.”

So this is the struggle of the dreamer. Our spirit and soul must grapple with the dealings of earthly reality, as it sits inside our physical bodies. We have to pay the bills, chug along to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. And many times our high expectations do not match reality.

Yet we must also not give up our dreams. Because consider what I have been chewing on the past few weeks: what if our dreaming tendencies are our nature? What if that is a part of who we are? What if by being wired this way, we were given a particular, valuable gift of creating and re-shifting the world as we know it? Practical souls are just as valuable, as they maintain structures and keep stability. That is their role. But that does not mean all of us have to run around being like them… if anything, we need the balance in this world. We need the dreamers to ask questions, to think outside the box, to re-imagine a better place and tenaciously shake the status quo, just as we need the practicals.

And that is why I’ve been feeling depressed and unhappy… because I’ve been denying my true nature. I’ve been stifling my voice, my inner expression. I was made to be a dreamer. Yes, we certainly need to address the realistic concerns of living in this world. Perhaps it is a matter of being able to hold both reality and our dreams.

But let’s not reduce dreaming as childish and “impractical” as people are apt to do. Dreaming feeds imagination, inspiration, hope, love, light. We may encounter many obstacles in the midst of pushing our dreams forward; but then we should ask ourselves, are our dreams worth fighting for?

I’d like to think that the good things in life are worth fighting for. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.

So to my fellow dreamers: let us always stay true to our nature. Let us dream on.

blog crush

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I suppose this is what they would call a “blog crush.”

This is the first time in so long that I’ve been so enamored. It was by happenstance that I came upon his blog and within minutes I found myself engrossed in it…not only because it was written with a keen and descriptive eye, but it was open and genuine and so utterly captivating and heart clenching that I could not breath for many seconds. It was as if his words were a mirror into a hidden piece of me. A fellow believer, a ceaseless dreamer, whose words somehow threw the jubilant colors in my head into unbelievable degrees of color bursts. And I thought, “This person must have been birthed in the same pea pod as me,” for which you speak of, I see and know and can undoubtedly feel fanning inside me.

I fell in love with his words. It was drenched in soft poetry, with streaks of obscure humor, and scattered with beguiling dots of longing, hope, and regret. It yielded a certain beauty that I struggle to define but was drawn as a moth would flutter to a flame. At last I’ve found someone who rode the same odd yet enigmatic wavelength as me! If only I could meet him and tell him in person how much I enjoy his writing, and the wonderful images he paints. If only I could pick his brain, and converse with him about the bizarre and the silly, the beautiful and the ugly…about the smeared lights that linger over the winter skies, or about the universe and how odd it is that it is filled with tiny colored balls that circle ‘round and ‘round like God’s merry-go-round.

Perhaps in an alternate reality, we met at a mutual friend’s party. And then as I reached for the ladle sitting inside the ruby red punch, his hand knocked into mine and we embarrassingly and awkwardly apologized to one another. Then we talked, drank punch and prattled about gravity, birds, extraterrestrials, and the absurdity of catfish. And that pulsating feeling was there, charging our atmosphere, awakening our senses. We danced to the beats ringing in our heads, for they were one in the same. From that moment on, our lives were forever changed, because after many years of searching, we each finally found our musical, our life, our everything soul-mate in one another.

In this reality, it is unlikely that our paths will cross. But in a lingering dream, I imagine that we were once connected to a large puzzle that broke into billions of pieces, and were scattered upon the earth.  Maybe in another time, we will be pieced together once again.

finding your path

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Camus once said that life is the sum of all your choices.

A dream I had two nights ago really shook and inspired me. In my dream, a teacher in class asked us to draw a picture of what it means to become an MFT. The picture I drew was of a windy path leading into the horizon, where the sun shone big and bright. I could not see the rest of the path, only where I had been and where I am at. The path in front was cut off at the horizon, unable to be deduced. I felt that it was symbolic of perhaps where I am at in my life, and of life in general. We cannot predict the future with complete certainty… it will never be within our view, until it becomes the present. I could only see one thing ahead… and it’s the dream I want to eventually achieve, shining brilliantly in the distance.

The dream made me think of all the things we do not know, the things that will happen that we could never predict. And what if we do not know where to go? What if there are multiple paths to take, a fork in the road? We can never tell with complete certainty which path is better… we may be able to deduce or predict based on probability, but if there are few truths in life, one of them is that life holds no absolute certainty. So then how do you choose? Maybe you make the choice by predicting what provides the best outcome, or by following your value system. Actions come with consequences, both good and bad ones. You may not know everything, but you do your best with the information you have at the point you are at.

If there is anything I learned about Camus/existentialism in my AP English class back in high school, it’s the concept that meaning is created. There is no ultimate meaning, and we have the power within our perspective to create meanings in everything in life. To a certain extent, I see this playing out in our paths. What makes you happy? What are your dreams and what would it mean about you if they came true? A different answer will arise with each person you ask, because we all hold our own meanings/value system. That is why I think that more than comparing your path to another and “figuring it out” that way, it is best to discern what individual values you run by, what makes you truly happy and if the path you choose will be in alignment with that.

Which leads me back to Camus’ quote. Life is the sum of all your choices. The more I think of it, the more I see it playing out in every area of my life. We have the power to create the life we want (or maybe, don’t want) with the choices we make.  Sometimes we expect life to happen to us, and we sit and wait, instead of seeking. While there is nothing wrong with that, if Camus is right, then I see both the power, and responsibility, we hold to create the life we may desire. So what path will you choose? And if you haven’t chosen, what is holding you back?

dream analysis

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Carl Jung argues that dreams are ways our subconscious self attempts to articulate and reveal parts of ourselves that we keep buried (often away from our conscious self). Dreams are symbols, reflecting different aspects of ourselves that may not be readily seen if we are taking the dream at face value.

I usually never remember my dreams. Before I didn’t really care for dream analysis and would frequently take the “scientific” approach to understanding why dreams occur: “They only come about because of the neurons firing in our head; we’re organizing information within our memory as we sleep and dreams are just a byproduct of that.” But lately, I have been remembering the dreams I’ve been having. I have been having dreams about someone in particular, including last night. Waking up this morning, it almost felt as if I had been living in a different life or different consciousness within my dreams… and those residual feelings from that different consciousness were with me when I woke up in Reality. As is my habit, I went straight into analytical mode: Do these dreams mean something? What are these feelings I have? Why do I keep seeing you in my Dream life, so different from the Reality that I know? Why do I feel so vindicated, as if this was some sort of catharsis?

I took to my books, textbooks, the internet, anything to give me some clarity. Taking heed of all the theories/understandings of dreams I had, I sat down and asked myself: What is the theme of these dreams? What do they say about me or a part of me? And it was by asking these questions and taking my dreams apart that my mind was blown. I came to realize the parts of myself I never paid attention to, or even clearly tried to disconnect from in my Conscious life. It was as if my Subconscious Self wanted to process something that I have been failing to do in my Consciousness, and urging me to see those parts I fight to ignore in my waking life.

By the end of my self dream analysis, I was left with an odd feeling. By remembering my dreams, my reality shifted drastically. It was as if I was staring at myself in the mirror and noticing things about myself I never even saw before. Maybe dreams are just a product of random neurons firing in our heads, but if Carl Jung is right, then my Subconscious Self sent me a very moving message. It makes me wonder of all those dreams I cannot remember, those messages my subconscious may have been trying to give but I could never recall. Looking at these parts of myself now, I feel more vulnerable and bare. Perhaps before, fear was masking my eyes from seeing entirely. But now that I am beginning to see, I am realizing how fear ties us down and keeps us blind… and how facing our true, real and entire selves frees and opens us to a new, authentic way of being.