May 1, 2011

Writing long texts: What you need to do

by caroanna

If you ever tried to write a long, thoughtful article, research paper, or maybe a novel, you know the common problems: Where to start? How to motivate? How to keep overview?

Eric Maisel came up with 7 essential steps to finish a long text in time and in good quality. In “Deep Writing” (1999), he tells writers how to accomplish the daunting task without losing the joy of writing.

Here are Maisel’s 7 steps in quick summary:

      1. Quiet the mind

No one can concentrate well when they’re distracted. Distraction doesn’t only come from external noise, such as chatter from neighbors, but also internal noise, especially thoughts that are not related to your work. Say “Ssh!” and quiet your mind before you start.

      2. Hold and follow your intention

Think about what you want to write, write an outline or project summary, and follow it by action. No intention is a good intention if we don’t actually do it.

      3. Make choices

What do you want to write? Think about the topic, but also your audience and your personal skills. The same topic can be written in very different ways, depending on who’s going to read it and if you know how to write about it. Decide what you want your text to be like.

      4. Honor the process

Writing is hard. Writing takes time. As much as writing is fun, it can be a daunting task sometimes. Some people think anyone can write, but if they sit down to actually do it, they realize how difficult it can be. Respect the work that goes into it, and pull through.

      5. Make the work your friend

If you reach one of those difficult moments where you just want to stop writing altogether, make it your friend. Every friendship or relationship has its ups and downs. If you treat your project as a friend, you’ll realize that every fight has its reconciliation.

      6. Evaluate

Few writers ever write good texts in their first attempt. If you set out to create the perfect text right away, you’ll never get there. Good writing usually takes a lot of editing and rewriting. Judge your words; here you don’t have to be nice to them.

      7. Do what’s required

As unromantic as it is, often writers just need to do what others want them to do. Learn to write whenever and wherever you can, not when “inspiration” hits you. While you’re waiting for your muse, others are practicing, creating and lauded for their accomplishments.  

For more explanation on each step, read “Deep Writing” by Eric Maisel. It’s a quick read, informative and entertaining. Get it on Amazon.com here.

April 10, 2011

How to be successful – in life

by caroanna

Success. Career. Money.

Not trying to sound like an anti-capitalist hippie, this is what our society seems to focus on. By society, I mean Western society because that’s what I grew up in. We are judged often by where we work, how much we earn, what we’ve accomplished materially.

Material success is desired, admired and envied.

Where did this come from? After all, human beings were born to survive, procreate and be with each other. How come we’ve put money before more admirable values like friendship, family and happiness?

Of course, not everyone thinks like that. We still cherish our family and know how important it is to spend time relaxing and talking with friends. But that is not what is admired. We don’t go up to other people and say, “Wow, you really like what you do! I envy that!” Instead, we would say, “Wow, you earn six-digits!” and “You’ve just been promoted! Good for you!”

I’ve recently decided to distance myself from this attitude. Who cares how much I earn or what position I have? No one else than me, because I’m the one who has to do the work. If management or finances was what people love, then they should pursue that to be happy.

But doing a job because it has prestige or makes you wealthy is not worth it.

After all, we spent most of our day working or commuting to work. Why wouldn’t we want to do something we truly enjoy? For more money, so we can spend it on things that won’t make up for a crappy job or a stressful life? Re-evaluate what is really important to you. If it’s difficult, ask yourself: When I’m lying on my deathbed and look back on my life, did I enjoy it and accomplish something I really cared about? Or had I rather done something else? If you’d rather done something else, it’s not too late. Do it now and enjoy what you have.

“A man can spend his whole life never learning the simple lesson that he has only one life and that if he fails to do what he wants with it, nobody else really cares.” (Louis Auchincloss)

April 3, 2011

Like your iPhone? It won’t make you happier.

by caroanna

I’m hooked on nature.

Not in the sense that I’m addicted to it in a negative way, but I love having living plants around me and walking around trees and grass. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t live in a tent or a little cottage in the woods (I was born and grew up in cities), but there’s a deep desire in me to be out exploring what nature has to offer and breathing some fresh air.

And I think everyone has that desire to some extent because we were born into and evolved in nature for so many years, before we distanced ourselves from it so quickly. But some people decide to ignore that desire.

 

Living in an artificial world

The more advanced technology we got, the more we got sucked into a world we’re not made for. If you look back on how humans have lived in the past thousand years, you’d never thought we would sit in our safe houses, look at a screen, or several, for hours and wash the outside dirt from our clothes as soon as it’s there.

Sure, we’ve evolved before and we’ll perhaps be able to adjust to our new, self-made circumstances. But that is not done in a few years. Until then, we’ll get less and less human and more and more stupid or alienated. Too harsh? Maybe. I’m not advocating a radical turn away from civilization. I’m in favor of technical progress. But what I favor even more is life itself and what we make of it.

What makes us happier?

No technology or clean environment will make us happier and feel more human than seeing the wide ocean in front of us or looking at the skyline of a mountain range.

If you don’t have those in your neighborhood (neither do I), try going to the next meadow or park and observe how the tree moves in the wind. Watch the grass moving when you touch it with your hand. If there’s a pond, look at the little waves the water makes when you throw a stone into it. It’s worth taking that time out of your busy, busy day.

March 28, 2011

Walking a new path…without shoes

by caroanna

We all want to keep our life interesting and try out new things. They can be small changes or they can be bold. I think my last one was a small one, but I know that for some people, this would be unacceptable: I walked barefoot to campus.

And I plan on doing that again. A lot. It was absolutely amazing!

I must add that it was an unusually warm day and I’m not one of those hardcore barefooters like Leo Babauta from Zen Habits, who would probably even walk without shoes through snow. I admire that willpower, but it’s just too cold for me.

However, summer is close and I’m ready to leave my shoes at home and start feeling what I’m walking on. I noticed that I’m always barefoot when thinking about walking somewhere in my meditations, so why not try it in real life?

It was odd, at first, and hurt a little. But the more I walked, the more I rejoiced. I felt all kinds of things under my feet, from different stones to grass to pure earth…I was very aware of myself, my walking and my surroundings (also because I had to be careful not to step on glass…).

Sure, shoes have their advantage. They warm you, they protect you, they look good. But turns out there’s nothing better on a warm summer day than feeling (not losing) the ground under your feet!

After a while, you start to ignore the odd looks on other people’s faces. It only shows they care.

By the way, I got some helpful tips on walking barefoot, esp. in cities, on barefooting.eu and from the FAQs on Libaware.

February 12, 2011

Turning over a new leaf

by caroanna

Going back to the roots.

What I noticed recently in my own life is true for this blog, too. It started out as an experiment in blogging and thinking publicly about life, hence the telling and truly important title “carpe diem.”

However, as did my life in the recent years, it transformed into a potpourri of opinion, advice, smart-assing. And wasting time.

So I’m turning over a new leaf.

There were a few events last year that have thrown me back a few years, to the person that I was supposed to become, instead of the person that I transformed to instead. I was not a bad person; I just had the wrong motives and lost track of myself. Which turned out to be a dangerous mixture.

So, let me introduce myself as the me in 2005.

This action in itself is a new leaf, because I never wanted to let too much be known of me on the Internet. Who knows where this information will end up? And anyway, sharing too much is never a good idea, you need secrets, right? Whatever.

We share parts of ourselves in whatever we do. It might not be explicit, but every action tells us who we are and what we do. So I say: damn you lies and secrets! Be honest. Be genuine. Be you.

Back to me in 2005:

I just graduated from high school. I was applying to acting schools. I enjoyed the moments I went on stage more than anything else. I was working odd jobs as a cashier and waitress. I was reading a lot of drama. I didn’t have detailed plans for the next few days. I was not afraid of what’s to come. I was not concerned about the future.

I didn’t care about making money. I was willing to sleep on the floor in a tiny apartment for years until I got better roles to play. I didn’t care about security. I was willing to go anywhere, as long as it’s always new. I wanted to see the world. I was running a lot. I couldn’t believe I actually sang in front of people in a tower. I was happy.

In only a few years, that’s what I turned into, from 2008 to 2010:

I wanted to work in the media. Maybe reporter. Maybe PR. Maybe doing media research. Maybe a PhD and being a professor. I was ambitious. I worried about my resume. I wanted success. I was thinking about well-paying jobs. I felt guilty about enjoying myself instead of working. I made detailed plans for the next day. I worried about my future.

I developed a panic disorder that made me a prisoner in my own apartment. I had to fight myself out of it with the help of therapy. I drank vodka before a class presentation. I could’ve died after I filled myself with tranquilizers to get through a wedding and then was stupid enough to drink alcohol. Sometimes, I could look at a white wall for hours, unable to do anything else. I was afraid of traveling. I suffered through the worst break-up of my life. I was dating that person for a while after that.

I was drinking a lot. I wasn’t writing very much. I didn’t exercise or I exercised until it hurt. I didn’t eat or I ate until it hurt. I liked the pain. I cut myself to make me cry and then enjoyed the pain for the following days. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to be alone.

Now, after I hit rock-bottom, in 2011:

I like long mornings. I want to write, every day. I still want to be a journalis, but I also like to write fiction. I keep a journal where the characters have fictional names and places because I think only the feelings count in a journal and I don’t want someone to read what I wrote about other people. I do yoga every day. I meditate. I eat mostly organic. I think about what I could do to help other people.

I try to live simply, with only the things I think are essential or really make me happy. I’m aware that I will never be the perfect person I want to be because that person has changed a lot over the years. I have several answers for almost every question and I think that’s the only way it should be. You can ask me anything. I want to see through other people’s eyes.

I sing a lot. I bought a guitar and learned to play. I take time off and really enjoy it. I believe there are good people and I am one of them. I believe there is love so strong you can’t believe it. I want to have that love. I accept anything that happens. I don’t have plans for the rest of the year and I think that’s awesome. I try to feel good every day. I want to see the world.

See the change?

Of course, these are examples and there were both positive and negative in all phases. But those lists are what I remember most from those times. And my memory is the only reliable source in this case.

So, what does that have to do with this blog? A lot. After all, what I know and have been through shapes my view on things and my writing. I won’t write posts about my personal life or things that happened to me, but they may creep into some posts.

In particular, I was inspired by other bloggers who have the courage to be themselves in public and share with others what they think is a good way to look at the world. Some of them are: RowdyKittens, zenhabits, the middle finger project, far beyond the stars.

What to expect now from the following posts?

  • you’re gonna be challenged to think and see things a little differently
  • you’re gonna want to try new things
  • you’re gonna have to open your eyes
  • you’ll be surprised
  • you may think that I’m weird
  • you’re definition of normal might change

Bold claims, I know. If I don’t meet all those expectations, forgive me. I’m also just human.

November 26, 2010

Remembering the simple life of Leo Tolstoy

by caroanna

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), famous Russian novelist, died 100 years ago. As with any anniversary (although I don’t like celebrating someone’s death), we remember what made the person important to remember even long after their death.

Leo Tolstoy (source: http://www.guardian.co.uk)

I’d like to remember Tolstoy for embracing the simple life. Although, or because, he saw the world as it is, he wanted to make it better. He was a realist with idealist ambitions, just like I consider myself to be. That’s why Tolstoy is dear to me.

 

 

 

 

“The aim of an artist is not to solve a problem irrefutably, but to make people to love life in all its countless, inexhaustible manifestations.”

– Leo Tolstoy

He advocated universal love and appreciation for life exactly as it is, but at the same time changing what could be better. He was a pacifist and preferred to live in poverty. I’m not advocating the life of poverty as extreme as Tolstoy did, but learning to be more content with less gives life more meaning than any stuff or wealth you can have.