Category Archives: Cheerleading for writers

Cheerleading for Writers: Z – Zeal

This is the last article in “Cheerleading for Writers”. I hope you enjoyed the blog collection (which will become a book soon). It was a joy for me to write it. Writing it boosted my energy to work on my other projects.

For this last article I have chosen the word zeal.

Here is what Oxford Dictionaries (https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/zeal) say on its definition online, “Great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective.”

And I think there is no better word to end this (future) book with.

Because this is what cheerleading is meant for: to motivate in finding, discovering, tanking this great energy and enthusiasm to pursue what we love to do.

I hope the articles in this series made you smile, helped you see how strong and amazingly creative you are. And especially, how unique! There is no one like you and no one can write your stories like you do. Only YOU can. Even somebody else’s stories, like fairy tales, if you tell them and put your perspective, your feelings, your thoughts into your retelling of them, the stories will be completely different. They will become your stories.

So, go on, soak up the life, its stories, its colours, take it all in, experience it, and share it with the world how you see and percept it. The light generated by your prism of seeing (and feeling) is one of a kind.

Happy, happy writing, dear writers friends!

 

Picture: Sweet poppy blooms in October. Plants are definitely some of the most zealous of creatures.

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“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: Y – Yearning and Yawning: The Alleged Yo-yo Effect of Curiosity

Here is one of the dialogs I had with myself about the powers that inspire us and bring us to places we had never expected visiting, before we dared to jump into the ocean of creativity.

“Passion, curiosity, searching and keeping an open mind for wonders, these all help us wake up in the morning and step into our days with enthusiasm.” The worrying me draws her brows together in spite of the positive statement she just made. She seems to need this facial movement to let her fully express what she is going to say next. “But what about those moments when we yawn, when we have had enough, and simply need a nap or another kind of break from our curiosity driven natures?”, she asks.

“What about them?”, the laid-back me raises her brows.

“Do they bring us back to the points where we where at the beginning, just like a Yo-yo does after reaching the top?”

“I don’t think so.”

“But it does feel like that all the time!” The worried me pulls her shoulders up. “We are often knocked off with exhaustion after reaching the top. All that elation lasts maybe a second, and then, Boom!, the head is empty again. Aren’t we supposed to move forward?”

“Hmm, it’s a good question.” The laid-back me leans back in her chair and puts her hand around the espresso cup standing on the table in front of her.

“I know!” The worried me leans forward and seems to want to crawl into my computer in an attempt to make the things go faster.

The laid-back me sips her coffee and says, “I have an idea. What if the creativity and the achievements connected with it are like a great cup of coffee? What if after drinking it up, you feel so wonderful that you are already looking forward to the next one. This is the next step you’ve been talking about.” The laid-back me takes another sip and continues. “At the same time you are aware that the coffee in a dirty cup with cold coffee stains won’t be as good as the one you just had. So you go and wash the cup. This is what the elation and euphoria about your achievement do. They wash and free your mind for the next portion of creative challenge. But before you, the cup, can have another coffee, you need to dry up and get warm again for the next portion of coffee.” The laid-back me finishes her espresso and stands up to wash her cup.

The worried me opens her eyes wide and notices herself leaning back in her chair.

Epilogue: Yawning is not an enemy of yearning to be creative. It is rather it’s partner, making sure that we get a break, get “washed”, warm and ready for the next creative leap forward.

P.S. Yawn became one of my favourite words after I read, at 24, a sweet tale in German, where a little baby yawned and caused the whole world to yawn, which according to the author was a good thing because on this day all went early to bed. This was the very first story I read in full in German language and it immediately became one of my favourite. Before this story, I thought of yawning as something unnecessary or even annoying, but after reading the story, which made me smile and feel unexpectedly and extremely happy, I now enjoy when people yawn around me.

Picture: Speaking so much of yawning — of course I had to search in stocks online for a picture of a someone yawning. I found this sweet puppy.

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“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: X – X-ing Out (Or a How to Face Self-Edits)

In the article starting with an E, we’ve talked about editing, and what emotions might rush through us when we open a file with our manuscript sent to us by our editor.

Recently I have found myself struggling with self-edits. As I write this article, I am in the process to incorporate the second self-edits of my soon-to-be-published book on business rules, mainly targeted at small businesses. The self-edits on paper went on some days easily and a bit slower on others. But they didn’t stagnate for a few days in a row. However incorporating them into the manuscript on my computer did. For more than three days in a row.

The reason was simple. The pages were full of hand-made notes. In case of some pages it seemed sometimes that changes needed to be made on every row. Apart from that I realized two chapters had to change places. This would mean at least some modifications of the text inside those chapters, but maybe also those adjacent to them.

I didn’t expect so much change to come in the second self-edit. I thought something like that came in the first self-edit, not the second. Today, I am actually not quite sure which of the self-edits was harder for my previous books, but my brain had this idea of self-edits gradually becoming easier with each new edit. I guessed wrong. At least for this mentioned non-fiction book.

Was this erroneous expectation the reason for my procrastination? I don’t know now, I didn’t know it at that time and it probably didn’t matter at all.

What mattered was how to move from there.

Inspired by my “gamified” style of work — my notebook with to-do lists carries the name “Victoria’s Game Book” — I came up with the following idea. “Why not give myself a point for implementing each change, whether it is a X (deletion), insertion, or both, in the text?” I thought. “If I do so, then I would concentrate on each step, because points can only be gathered one by one in this case. While working on one of those changes I might forget about the daunting appearance of the whole project and just be busy gathering those points.”

I can report now, this approach helped. I stopped counting the points for each edit and incorporated change at some point, but this approach did let me step over my procrastination and reclaim fun in working on every stage of my projects again.

I read recently that playing games at work might be very motivating but also with some negative by-products. One of these negative side effects was the apparent decrease in productiveness after the motivating game had finished.

But what if we don’t stop playing? What if we take every step in the projects we pursue as a draw or turn in a strategic game?

Do you remember the famous quote by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

We don’t have to stop playing at all. Life is a fun game. Let’s play it. Let’s stay young.

Each project has of course its game rules and we are the game designers, who develop and adjust them. The main adjustment we have to make is how to bring the fun factor into the project we have to carry out. And remember, we ourselves, are also the customers, the players of these games we design and develop.

Gathering as many points I can for the given project is definite fun for me. Once I managed to gather 15 points in a day, by addressing many small and urgent tasks. I felt extremely elated by the end of the day.

Now I am off to my next project game of today, which happens to be the self-edit work I mentioned above. As I edit and post this article for the Cheerleading for Writers, I gladly report that I have a good chance of finishing this previously seemingly daunting second self-edit today.

And what’s your next project game?

Picture: I saw this dress a couple of weeks ago while walking down my favourite pedestrian street in Aalborg. I guess wearing a Pokémon dress would definitely gamify one’s day. How can you be possibly be overly serious wearing that dress? 😀

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“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: W – Wonder and How We Find Our Way to It

In dedicated chapter I – Ideas and Inspiration, we’ve talked at length about finding ideas and inspiration. The conclusion was that we can’t control of how the ideas appear. It can be anything, and they can appear anywhere. Completely unexpectedly.

This could be the clue. The unexpectedness of it all.

But where does the unexpected starts? How do we find a way to the point where we exclaim or whisper, “Wow!”?

How do we find the beginning of the path, which leads to that moment when we are taken with this power of wonder and into the momentum of passion?

One of my favourite writers, who has been quoted many times in this book, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the following brilliant words in her book “Big Magic: Creative Leaving Beyond Fear”:

“I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times — a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion. Passion makes you get divorced and sell all your possessions and shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.

In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?’

Anything?

Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?”

Curiosity was what made Liz, as Elizabeth Gilbert and her friends call herself, try out gardening, which later made her curious about plants and their origins, and then about the history of botany, and finally ignited a passion of writing an epic story of a woman passionate about botany and discovering through botany it secrets of the world. Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel “Signature Of All Things” was an amazing best-selling work of creativity, which in spite of it being fiction, has been nominated in Great Britain in 2014 for The Welcome Prize, an award for achievement in writing on a medical subject. “The Signature of All Things”, or SOAT as Liz Gilbert loves referring to her now famous novel, was the only novel on the list of nominees, alongside works of recognized scientific authors Andrew Solomom and Oliver Sachs. (You can read about Liz’s excitement on this nomination on her side following this link: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/so-honored-dear-ones-the-signature-of-all-things-has-been-nominated-for-a/.) I am sure this nomination was made due to the amazingly meticulous research clearly visible when reading this novel.

Many would agree that such an achievement would not be possible without passion.

But the passion came later.

For her, and I dare to say for all of us, the magic of any passion starts with curiosity.

Curiosity was also the one that helped me to make the first steps in writing. My fear was to big to let me see the looming passion for writing inside me. But curiosity was a gentle friend. “Don’t worry. Just try it out. You don’t have to commit to anything.” It said, “Taste it and if you don’t like it, spit it out.”

After writing my first short story in 2009 in a notebook, which I still have today, I didn’t spit it out. I liked the taste too much. And still love it.

Yes, I am sure curiosity, this gentle friend, will help me out in the other daunting beginnings. “Let’s see what we can do today”, it will tell me.

Dear, writers friends, let’s continue our journey to the wonder of creativity, and let’s start by looking around and looking closer at what we say to ourselves or out loud, “Hmm, this could be interesting.”

Picture: Autumn treasures discovered on the way home from Niklas school. Nature will never stop being amazing.

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“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: V – Voice (Discovering It in Each Moment Rather Than Finding It)

This article might end up being one of the shortest in the book. This is because there is only one message to deliver, which is already reflected in its title. It is something I realized recently about an advice on writing I heard many times, my perception of which – as I realize now in retrospect – encouraged me to think too much about the quality of my writing and even impeded me to simply write.

This statement or advice is given often to aspiring writers. They are often told to, “Find your voice.”

They are also told to imitate, practice, try and try again until they find their voice.

The fear that I experienced when trying to embrace and follow this advice was the thought, “What if I don’t find my voice? What if it will sound like anyone else’s?”

A strange thing happened when I actually sat down and wrote without much thinking. Just after letting be led by the ignition of an idea or a first sentence given by an exercise or simply imagined. Then seemingly out of nowhere words appeared. And there was a voice there.

Each of us has a voice. Since the day each or us was born. This voice inside every one of us changes over time. I discovered my voice being sometimes sad, sometimes merry, sometimes utterly strange and crazy, sometimes understanding and kind. Fortunately, it is very rarely aggressive or attacking in any way (although it of course must happen time to time, in order to make the antagonists talk).

I considered what made me unconformable with the advice to find one’s voice. I realized that I stumbled over the word find. Finding voice sounds somehow that the searching should be outside of oneself. But we have already a voice. We might not know it, but it is there.

Another problem I see with wanting to find something is the absoluteness of this statement. It sounds like if you find it you made it and that’s it. But a writer’s voice is not static. Depending on the mood, on the genre, on the circumstances, the voice absorbs the outside and inside world of a writer like a sponge and creates an incredible and always surprising cocktail of thoughts, emotions, and impressions.

So my advice to you and myself is to sit down, just write and discover your voice in the process. And Yes, read, go to the movies, talk to your loved ones and people you don’t know, go for a walk, engage in exciting discussions, enjoy your meals, and absorb all this. Absorb also what you feel inside at any given moment. Observe your feelings without judging them. And then sit down and write again, and again. And again.

Then after some time take what you have written and read it. Discover your voice from that particular moment in the recent or long gone past. Experiencing the feelings generated by this reading, as well as the anticipations of new creations to come from the near or farther future, will lead to a new shade of your voice in the present moment.

Picture: A moment in fall’s time of the year 2016. Impressions expressed in colourful voices of a 5 to 6 year old children. This one by my sweet son Niklas. After I took this photograph, Niklas has pointed out an important detail on his picture. He has drawn the leaves fallen down into the grass. Yes, those sometimes not immediately seen details add a special and unique flavour to our voices.

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“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels