Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

I've recently weathered some setbacks, and stormy times, but today I was reminded by someone that Thomas Edison made more than 10, 000 different attempts before he was able to create the incandescent light bulb.

Now how many people would have given up after 100 tries, 50 tries or even 10 tries?

Over the years it is this sense of "faith" or "determination" that has made me refuse to give up and throw in the towel. I am referring to my current writing project which I started in 2004. The actual writing did not start until a few years ago after interviews and translation had been done. Today I also picked up Think and Grow Rich and as I flipped through it, I found some inspiring quotes, like this one:

"Faith is the only known antidote for failure."

I hate to admit this, but lately I have gone from energized and engaged to exhausted and overwhelmed. I am most definitely not giving up, but I have been forced to reflect and take a hard look at where I am now, how I got here, and where I want to go. I have realized that I need to focus on where I want to be in clear detail, and to stay on track to achieve it. The question is, how do I get back to being energized and engaged?

In answering this question I've thought about how I became exhausted and overwhelmed. Indeed, it has already been a very long journey (I started working on this project idea in 2004). I've been working on writing a biography and so first few years of the project involved interviewing the subject of this particular book. Once most of the data was collected, I ended up translating the interviews (which were done in Taiwanese). I choose to do the translation primarily myself with the help of others, rather than paying a translator. I did this because I felt that working on the translation myself was part of the writing process. After all I was the one who had conducted the interviews and knew the line of reasoning behind the questions asked in the interviews. Translation can be very arduous and it is certainly NOT my forte since my Taiwanese is not all that strong. I almost always had a native Taiwanese speaker with me at each interview. Going through the translation and transcription process felt mind numbing to me, and definitely does not seem to stimulate my creativity. While in that process, I found myself nit picking about word choice and wrestling between literal translations, ones that flowed better or those that captured the essence of what the speaker said. In going through all of this I think what happened is that I moved away from the joy of telling the story. I had become exhausted by all of the translation work. There is less of that now, so I need to shift my mindset to focusing on enjoying the process of making this personal story come to life. This is where the creativity happens, though with works of nonfiction, there are of course certain parameters to be respected.

I've also realized that negative thoughts and a sense of defeat- from my inner critic and others- have influenced me and more specifically my state of mind. I had gotten stuck in the cycle of Automatic Negative Thoughts (aka ANTs). It's only human. I suppose to some extent most of us are susceptible to the influences around us good or bad. What's important is to recognize that if this happens, you can decide how to react to them and to not focus on them. I'm working to challenge these ANTs by asking myself where they are coming from, what they mean and whether or not they are actually true. Here's another quote from Think and Grow Rich that speaks to this:

"The subconscious mind will translate into reality a thought driven by FEAR just as readily as it will translate into reality a thought driven by COURAGE or FAITH."

So one thing is clear, I can and should choose what to focus on. I may not have control over a lot of things in life, but I do have control over one thing, that is my thoughts, perceptions and reactions.

I will end with this final quote and thought:

"Just keep in mind, and remember when your plans fail, that temporary defeat is not permanent failure."

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