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Posts Tagged ‘writing’

He listens well who takes notes.
Dante Alighieri

Last weekend, I started a Book of Me. I had read Havi’s post about the concept before, and as I was reading her archives as a substitute for message boards that I gave up for Lent (and yes, there’s a whole other post on the topic of “how’s that working out for ya”), I rediscovered the idea.

And loved it, loved it, loved it. And then spent a few days agonizing over the format – after all, it’s a Book of Me, so it needs to be wonderful.

The Book

Then, last weekend, I was decluttering a stash box i.e. a storage container that becomes a graveyard for homeless knickknacks, and discovered a book.

I had bought it to be the guest book for my high school graduation party back in 2002. I bought it from a friend’s mom’s stationery shop that specialized in Nepalese hand made paper products. There were a few pages of guestbook entries from a few events, and then empty pages. Beautiful, empty pages.

I sat with the guilt of not using the book to the purpose it was bought for. I read through the entries. The well-wishes from people in a life ten years ago. The congratulations on the choices that were the only possible ones at that time, and ones that brought me to where I am today. The jokes from friends that are still friends, and from friends that are now distant acquaintances.

And then I took out the pages with writing on them.

I did stash them away, because I am not yet ready to let go of those memories. They’re no longer standing between me and my process of finding out who I am.

On the first blank page, I wrote “The Book of Me”  with colored pencils.

The only problem was that I didn’t really have anything to put in the book. A few thoughts, yes, but not too much substance.

A work in progress

On the list of things to accept and welcome:

– I am a work in progress. Therefore, The Book of Me will forever be a work in progress.

It will not have seventy insightful ideas from the get-go, and that’s all right. It’s a document of learning, much like my MA thesis. Coincidentally, I’m also often frustrated by my thesis data not revealing its results to me with 15% of the work done.

I might have a tendency of wanting to see results without putting in the work. Maybe.

Also, if I give in to my craving to have a book full of wonderful insights, they will not be insights. Instead, they’ll end up being a prescriptive list of things I think I should be doing. That has not been working so far, so it’s time to try something different.

– I am allowed to write and draw and doodle on the blank, beautiful pages even if I’m not 100% sure that something is true. Or that it will be true for me forever more.

See previous (the “work in progress” part). Also, writing in pencil makes the updating process just a teensy bit easier.

– Even though Havi and others address themselves as loves, sweeties and honeys in their Books of Them, I don’t have to.

I thought about the whole addressing thing. For some reason, it is difficult for me to call myself darling, love, sweetie or other caring pet names. Fortunately, because it’s The Book of Me, I get to decide how I want myself addressed.

And maybe put in a bit of self-inquiry about why that is difficult for me and how I could make it a drop easier.

The Book of Me – a work of art or science?

When it comes to the blog, one of the things I’m looking forward to is getting to use the whole experiential reflection-and-analysis cycle on myself and my own glitches. It’s one thing to journal about something, but using a structured and conscious process might yield something different entirely.

And the results of that – dare I say it – nearly scientific research are just the thing to collect in my Book of Me.

Furthermore, science progresses and findings are replaced by new, more accurate findings. This is generally not seen as a bad thing, but rather a sign of, well, progress. I might want to take a leaf of their book to mine. 🙂

One part of the process that I’m still looking for is revision. How do I remember to go through my findings and actually do what I’m told?

I’ve tried the whole writing-things-down-as-routines -thing, several times, and for some reason I don’t do what it says on the page. I might do it for two days in a row, and then on the third day things start to slide.

Some combination of routine and study mode is probably what I need. After all, if I’m reading scientific findings, it’s sort of like reading for an exam, right? Even if I don’t know when that exam comes and what it will deal with?

So if, for instance, the third page of my Book says something along the lines of “if someone offers you a job, tell them you’ll give your answer tomorrow, and then spend the evening thinking about whether or not you can actually handle the extra work,” the exam might be a call from a prospective employer. It might come two weeks from now, three months from now, or much later.

But in order for me to pass the exam, I need to remember the finding. Failing the exam, in that case, would be saying “yes” straight off the bat and then realizing I’m much too busy to actually perform the task.

And yes, failure contains the makings of learning something new. In my case, a failure did indeed contain the seed of that particular insighting.

As someone said, if you don’t learn from your mistakes, they’re a waste of time. Writing things down reduces the risk of more time wasted on something you actually knew but didn’t remember.

Do you have a Book of You? Is your approach scientific or something else entirely? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

For more scientific self-help shenaningas, subscribe to the feed and join me again in chasing down some juicy insightings!

Love,

Sari

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The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
Kahlil Gibran

When I was a teenager, my deepest desire was to be Someone Special. In my journal, I’d rant and rave about how I was ordinary, average, mediocre, boring, and how I hoped something – anything – would happen so I’d be exceptional.

Today, I still feel I’m ordinary, average, mediocre and borderline boring, and I’m pretty content with that. On some level, I do realize I have skills and characteristics that are not average for my age group and social context, but I always relate them to the global context as individual traits – “it’s not like I’m the only student mom out there”.

This view of being ordinary and average sometimes cripples my blogging. I’ll come up with an idea, and then not blog about it because I’ll think it’s already painfully obvious for everyone else but me. By blogging about it as if it were a whole new concept, I’d effectively reveal my true, average, ordinary and boring self to all the world and Internet to point and laugh at.

Because, let’s face it, the one time I end up blurting out something embarrassing is when everyone decides to visit my blog and leave a *facepalm* in the comments, right?

The thing about the painfully obvious is that it’s not, well, universal. If it were, I doubt the world would have as many wars and conflicts going on as it does. Instead, it’s all in the viewpoint.

A tree standing in the middle of a field is only obvious to those standing at the edge of the field. If someone is standing in the woods and peering toward the field, they might see the tree or they might not. If someone is standing at the edge of the field with their back to the tree, they’ll most likely not see the tree. If there’s no-one to tell people to move away from the woods or turn around, the tree will remain hidden.

And this is where we get to the part of me being ordinary, average and boring. Sure, there are other student moms out there. Other nearly bilinguals. Other Shivanauts, other drama students, future teachers. It’s the combination of those that gives me a unique viewpoint into the things that I’m interested in.

It’s your unique combination of characteristics, skills and traits that gives you the viewpoint where something is painfully obvious to you but still needs voicing, just in case the rest of us are standing in the woods.

For me, this is intimately linked to the “be boring” instruction in Johstone’s theatrical improvisation. Trying to be creative and individual often means you come up with the same jokes, puns and situations countless others have already come up with.

That which is painfully obvious to you is actually the most unique and creative thing you could come up with, because no-one has your exact point of view on life. The shared aspects give us the common ground we need to understand each other, and the differences allow us to expand our individual points of view.

Help us all out of the woods and face the field, so to speak.

Thank you again for stopping by! Keep catching your own unique insightings, and if this post inspired you, I’d love it if you shared some of your thoughts!

Love,

Sari

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Authenticity is invaluable. Originality is non-existent.
Paul Arden

To honor 10/10/10, I created my five-year-plan i.e. the Time Capsule. I started writing my Time Capsule by writing my name and the date five years from now in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. I’m totally a mind map kind of person, so the format was a no-brainer. I didn’t really want to focus on practicalities at all, so I started with a basic question – what do I want to fill my days with in five years? The answer consisted of four key verbs that became the nodes of my mind map and a series of four posts.

The first node, I Teach, was the topic of yesterday’s post. The next node that blossomed on the paper was the green one.

I Create.

At the moment, the biggest creation I’m brewing is my MA thesis. Despite all the drama, trauma and self-work associated with it – or maybe because of them – I really want to do some amount of research after graduating, too. There’s a certain appeal to processing volumes upon volumes of information and data, slicing it, sieving it, and distilling it into a bottle of This Is What I Found Out.

In my thesis process, I’m knee-deep in analysis. I can’t see the bigger picture yet, but some shapes and flavors are starting to emerge. The creative process is bubbling within me and within the data, and the scent of something not-quite-finished-but-on-its-way is almost tangible. It’s frustrating, it’s hard work – it’s a prime example of the boulder (the video contains the kind of vocabulary teenagers invariably learn first in whatever foreign language they choose to take up) that has to be pushed up the hill.

But it’s fabulous. It’s a chance to actually create new ways of thinking so others don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Furthermore, it’s learning in the most profound way you could imagine. And after learning whatever there is to learn in the data, you have to write a research report to communicate your new knowledge to the scientific community. Awesome.

Creating through research is also intimately linked to teaching. First, by learning through my research I will become better at my chosen profession, assuming I keep researching the teaching situation. Second, the process of planning what to teach and how is very much a creative one. And finally, if I manage to get a position as a postgraduate student at the university, my job description will most probably include lecturing and teaching, too.

Besides research and teaching, I’d love to be able to create on the fields of music and drama. For the most part, I’m drawn to improvisation. Over the years, I’ve become more or less addicted to the carpe diem effect that comes joining an improvisation, whether dramatic or musical. There is something about a good impro that heals the soul. I wouldn’t mind performing, either, but I’d be surprised if I ended up earning my keep as a professional musician or actress. Happily surprised, mind you. 🙂

One more important channel of creativity is my writing and especially the blog. I’m so happy I’ve managed to recreate a relationship with the blog, since there was a long period (at least in Internet time) of blocks and not feeling like writing anything much at all. The blog allows me to process things out loud and come up with new ways of thinking, much like research – but without as much bibliography or analytical rigidity. 🙂 It is a space for me to spitball, as it were, about phenomena that I find fascinating.

(Some of the areas in this node will hopefully become Contribution ones. While doodling my Time Capsule, I was acutely aware of the fact that all the passion in the world won’t pay the mortgage on its own. Since making “I Earn Money” a node in itself was not an option, I drew a yellow bubble between the I Create and I Help nodes. The yellow bubble represents the money people are willing to pay in exchange for the value my contribution creates in their life.)

Why teach? Why create? There’s a strong undercurrent of wanting to help others. Quite naturally, the following node was I Help. More on that in a few days.

Thank you for tuning in! And, as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take, I’ll be watching you

The Police: Every breath you take

Yesterday, I was driving to visit an acquaintance, and my daughter was sitting in her car seat in the back. We normally take public transit if it’s just the two of us, so she doesn’t have a lot of experience of being alone in the back seat. This time, however, circumstances favored us taking my mom’s car.

Normally, she really likes it in the car. It hums, the scenery changes, and most of the time there’s someone next to her, keeping her company. This time, though, she was alone in the back, and I don’t know if it was that or some other reason, but she was really unhappy and voiced it very loudly. Since I’m pretty averse to letting my child cry for lengthy periods of time, I pulled over and went to the back seat, tried to calm her down and gave her the pacifier. She settled down for a moment, and just as I was starting the car again, she began to whimper. I started singing a simple lullaby that we’ve been singing to her since she was a few weeks old, and that seemed to calm her down. I ended up singing the song over and over until we arrived at our destination.

Apparently the sound of my voice and the familiar song were strong enough messages to convince her that she was not alone and that I was close by, even when she couldn’t see me. As far as I understand, developmentally she is yet to realize that things exist even when you can’t see them.

“I’ll be right there!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about presence ever since I read an article on a study concerning babies’ stress when they are ignored. The babies in the study were six months old, and in the study, their mothers played with them normally, but “froze” for two minutes at a time every now and then, staying in the baby’s sightline but ignoring the baby and staring at the wall. The babies showed elevated stress hormone levels on the following day, when they were brought back to the research facility, even though there was no ignoring on the second day.

I found out about the study on an online message board, and there was (unsurprisingly) some discussion as to what the practical applications of this study are. Some people thought it more or less chains mothers and infants together and lays a guilt trip on anyone who dares to go to the bathroom with the door closed if their child is left alone for that time. Others saw it as a defense against “just let the baby cry it out, it’ll be all right” type of advice.

Personally, I do think that babies need their mothers close by. If a child voices a distress and it systematically gets no response, it will eventually stop voicing its distress because it’s just no use – no-one will answer anyway. However, a response may well be something along the lines of my car-ride lullaby. If my baby hears my voice, it knows I’m not far away. I haven’t disappeared from the world, even if I am currently invisible.

Furthermore, she knows she is not invisible – I can hear her, I can vocally respond to her cries, I can take eye contact when I get closer and I can pick her up when I see she’s in distress. My presence and interaction with her convince her that she exists.

The online presence

In many ways, the online world reflects this “someone please tell me I’m not invisible!” line of thinking. Establishing a presence online – whether in Facebook, on message boards, in the blogosphere, on Twitter – really requires time, effort and reciprocity. There are a few online contexts where I’ve managed to create a presence, and others where I’m really only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it face in the crowd.

Creating that presence takes time. Reading (because most of the presence is in text form) what others have contributed, finding interesting tidbits to share, regularly coming back to see what others have added since your last visit. It takes effort. Figuring out your opinions (on more serious matters), grafting your message so it’s easy to read, wording your jokes, timing your responses so you stay on the pulse and don’t comment on ancient topics.

And it takes reciprocity. Commenting on what others have already said, taking it a bit further, reading the responses you get and possibly repeating the whole cycle again. It’s the online equivalent of the eye contact: “Yes, I can see you, there you are, you exist in this world.”

Degrees of presence

For our daughter, I’m probably the number one presence in her life. The head honcho, the one who hardly ever leaves her side. My husband is a close second. After that, there are the grandparents, the godparents, our friends, and so forth in descending order.

It’s interesting to see how the degrees of presence show in her behavior towards us. Since I’m nearly always there, my presence borders on boring. It’s safe, but it’s also something she doesn’t make a big deal about. The few exceptions are the times when she wakes up from her nap, and sees me coming in the room if I was somewhere else. The smile on her face says “Awesome, you were gone and now you’re here!” My husband, on the other hand, seems to get all the giggles. 🙂 He is a safe presence, but not quite as predictable as I.

Then there are the interesting visitors, the ones who ring some kind of a bell but aren’t daily contacts, people like my mom and some of her godparents. There has to be a grace period of her reacquainting herself to these visitors from the safety of my or my husband’s lap, before she is secure enough to cuddle with them.

Online, the degrees or presence became evident on another message board, when there were several cases of sad news in a short while. Since the people in question were “big names”, it seemed that everyone knew what was going on in a heartbeat. Similarly, “big names” leaving or taking a break would be a huge deal in an online community – just because so many people are so used to their presence. It’s safe. You can count on their “it’s okay, honey, I’ll be right there”.

When a small-time presence disappears for any length of time, you hardly notice – until they return, or until someone points out they are gone. I’m fairly confident there were less than a handful of people who wondered why I’d been a lazy blogger, and most of those people were real-world friends. 🙂

A shift of sorts

Since creating an online presence (and a real-life presence, too) takes time and effort, you can realistically have a limited number of really influential presences in different social communities. At the moment, my most influential presence is in the context of my family, but there are other, smaller ones in the background.

I’ve noticed I need the feeling of being a strong presence in social communities. Possibly for the “someone sees me, therefore I must exist” reason. This is probably why I’ve originally liked being a group leader or a teacher – there are more pairs of eyes to strengthen my existence. 🙂 Being a quiet onlooker in the sidelines has not been a suit that fits.

Until now.

I don’t know if it’s the arrival of the baby or something else, but there has been a change in my relationship towards social situations, whether live or online ones. Before, I’ve felt like I need to open my mouth, to contribute, to be a presence in order to “buy” my foothold in the community. Contributing has been the currency of being seen.

Now, I feel like contributing has become the primary force. I want to contribute when someone needs help, thoughts, entertainment or ideas. Or when I have an idea that needs voicing. If someone sees it and benefits from it, wonderful. If they comment, even better. But I don’t feel like my contribution was a failure if it’s met with silence.

Furthermore, I enjoy just observing a situation without feeling the need to contribute. If something comes up, I’ll express it, but I don’t feel like I’ll be thrown out of the room (or off the Internets) simply because I just observe. I love going to a moms-and-babies meetup, sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and just listening. And my worth as an online community member is not determined by my post count. 🙂

As is appropriate, the writing of this blog post was interrupted a few times by the cooing of a napping baby who needed my presence. 🙂

Thank you so much for popping by again! If any thoughts came up (and you feel the need to contribute 😉 ), feel free to share in the comments! If not, it’s okay to just sip coffee and observe, and possibly catch your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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I choose things by how they resonate in my heart.
Rita Coolidge

[I’m having a hard time figuring out how to start this post and not make it a “I haven’t been writing, but see there was this thing…” post. The thing is, though, that’s exactly the kind of post this will turn out, so I’ll just go ahead and start it.]

For a long time, I didn’t feel like blogging. There were a lot of things tangled up, keeping me from logging into my Dashboard and typing something, anything. In the spirit of experiential learning, I’ll try to reflect on that experience to be able to learn something from it and transform my immediate experience into something more theoretical, more general. You’re welcome to join me. 🙂

The Changes

Last August, two things happened. One, I started working full-time. Two, I found out I was expecting a baby. Both of those changes came with an abundance of learning moments and interesting communication incidents. In other words, I had lots of material to ponder.

These changes brought with them other changes, though. I fell off the Shiva Nata wagon due to changes in my daily rhythm as well as pure fatigue. Pregnancy totally kicked my behind when it came to mental and physical resources. I waited too long to cut back on activities that I’d scheduled when I was not pregnant and not working full time. No surprise, then, that I almost burned out during the winter. Blogging and Twitter were among the first casualties when I had to streamline my schedule.

All this could have been a fruitful source of blog posts, though, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was stuck.

*twang*

The job I was working for the past fall and winter, right up to my maternity leave, had plenty of great features. As far as timing goes, it couldn’t have been more perfect. The hours were great, the colleagues were great, I had responsibility and a pretty free reign to develop my area and improve my skills.

The only problem was I didn’t really resonate with what I was doing. I was relatively good at it, I did get a kick out of succeeding and meeting the goals I was aiming to meet, but it didn’t make my heart sing. And to someone who’s spent the past six years at the university, turning more and more towards really inspiring courses and modules, that was a huge deal.

The fact that I didn’t really resonate with my job meant that I didn’t really talk about it when I was not working. I might think about a case or go through my todo-list in my head, but it really wasn’t something I shared with others. And that really clogged up my mind, which exhausted me even more.

And then there was the fact that a lot of my other projects were causing a lot of stress, guilt and extra work. Being all clogged up from work stuff, I hardly shared my extra-curricular stresses and guilts with anyone, either, and that clogged me up even worse. I’d go through the day feeling all these emotions – stress from work, joy about the pregnancy, worries about my own health, guilt about other projects, longing for a connection with my friends – and not really doing anything with them except boiling them in a pot inside my head. Nothing was resonating, nothing was flowing in or out.

The only emotions I really could talk about were the feelings related to the pregnancy. At some point of the past year, my pregnancy and marriage seemed to be the only two things that were bringing me real joy. (In hindsight, I’m grateful that I managed to keep the resonance with my husband. Then again, that’s one of the reasons I married him. 🙂 )

Resonance and flow

Energetically, I feel that being pregnant is more about containing, nurturing, maintaining and protecting than about constant flow (if that makes any sense). My body was in a “hold, keep, stay still” mode for nine months, which is excellent – a “letting go, setting free” mode might have meant problems with the pregnancy. I don’t know if that had a lot to do with my mental blocks, or if my creative powers were just being spent on growing a new life inside.

I do believe, however, that the resonance factor affected my creativity immensely. I didn’t notice it at the time – I just felt really really tired, and thought it was because of my schedule changes and the pregnancy hormones. The fact that I wasn’t resonating with my life, though, meant that I was spending all this energy holding on, keeping up, and staying on the ball.

Imagine riding a public transit bus that’s packed full, and you have to stand. You’re holding on to a railing, and the bus bounces and jerks as the driver navigates through the traffic. If you hold on tight and stiffen up your entire body to remain upright, you’ll bump into your fellow passengers, dislocate a knee, or fall and hit your head. If, on the other hand, you relax and try to surf the bounces, you’ll be much better off.

This past year, I was the stiff girl. I didn’t resonate with the ride, and my response to the bumps and bounces was to stiffen up some more. All my energy went into staying upright and not falling down. No energy for creativity, for blogging, for sharing. Paradoxically, though, sharing could’ve helped me find the resonance. At least that’s what it is doing right now.

At the moment, I resonate more with my life than I have in a while. My days are filled with taking care of our daughter, reading, doing crafts, taking care of the home and writing my Master’s Thesis. As a result, I’m finding it easier to share my thoughts and feelings on my life, even if they are tiny, mundane ones. The fact that I’m striving towards resonance also means I can adjust to the little bumps and bounces life throws my way, whether positive or negative. Going with the flow, if you will. 🙂

Thank you for joining me on this insighting-catching journey. Have a wonderful day, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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It’s always further than it looks.
It’s always taller than it looks.
And it’s always harder than it looks.
The 3 rules of mountaineering.

As the final step of my MA degree, I’m finally working on my Master’s Thesis (or pro gradu thesis, as it is called in Finland). The thesis seminar started in January, and so far I’ve written a few pages on secondary material and my research plan. In the paper, I’ll investigate teacher discourse in a drama-influenced foreign language class. (I’ll most likely end up posting something or other about my thoughts on teacher discourse later on during the summer.)

The target length of the thesis is between 50 and 100 pages, so it’s the most extensive piece of academic writing I’ve ever attempted to conquer. Since most university students graduate with Master’s degrees in Finland, the gradu is a big deal and there’s a lot of hype about how working on your gradu is about as exhausting as climbing Mount Everest. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to be at this stage of my studies – working on my gradu literally means I’m pretty close to finishing my Master’s. On the other hand, I can’t help buying into the “oh, it’s just so grueling” frame of mind.

Ironically, the Mount Everest metaphor actually helps me with working on my gradu. It’s a big undertaking, sure. But there are similarities I can leverage to my advantage. Not that I’ve ever climbed a mountain in my life, either. 🙂

Practice, practice, practice

Quite like conquering Mount Everest, you wouldn’t start writing your gradu without some preparation or practice. I don’t think there are many people for whom Mount Everest is the first peak they’ve climbed.

My first shot at academic writing was my tutorial essay on my freshman year. It dealt with learning motivation. If I read it today, I’d probably cringe so much I’d dislocate my jaw, so I won’t. 🙂 After that, I’ve written several papers for different courses, not to mention exam answers and other smaller works. Each of them sucked just a little bit less than the previous ones.

When reading other seminar participants’ contributions, I’ve been able to spot points to improve on and questions to consider. That, if nothing else, has showed me that I have indeed developed an understanding of what a piece of academic text should be like. Even if I can’t write fabulous academic text the first time around, I’ll at least be able to see where the biggest gaping holes are.

Support network

Reinhold Messner climbed Mount Everest alone in 1980 – and without any extra oxygen. The thing is, though, that he’d climbed a fair number of mountains before that, and even conquered Mount Everest once before with a companion. In other words, he’d had enough practice to attempt going solo.

For the rest of us, attempting to conquer a huge goal without support from other people would spell disaster. That’s why pro gradu theses are most often written during seminar courses, where the teacher and other participants offer their feedback and suggestions. You have to be able to think of them as helping you instead of judging you, though, for the support to work.

I wrote my research plan on the day of the deadline. I knew the deadline and had most of the material long before that, but for some reason (i.e. pregnancy brain and then fatigue caused by taking care of a newborn) I didn’t get it done. Furthermore, I didn’t even get it started until the week of the Friday deadline.

The reason? My perfectionist mind insisted that I have to create a beautiful, finished piece of text for the group to admire. It took the looming deadline for me to realize that any piece of mediocre text commented by ten people is infinitely more valuable than a fine-tuned text handed in late so no-one has time to read or comment.

Showing up

Nine months pregnant, with hormones fogging up my brain, I gave myself permission to not fret about the thesis too much. After giving birth to a beautiful little girl, I gave myself permission to spend the rest of the spring taking care of me and her, and not fret about the thesis too much. “Come June, I’ll really get serious with the gradu,” I told everyone. And myself.

Two days ago, I noticed it’s June. I managed to stick to my decision and spent 15 minutes working on my thesis. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes, and today I managed to squeeze in a whole 45 minutes in 15 minute increments. My husband has promised me he’ll take care of the baby during the times I’m working on my thesis, so I won’t have to interrupt the 15 minute focus.

You don’t climb a mountain by hanging out at base camp and talking about it. It takes muscle work. Sure, you need to plan what to do, but in the end, you have to put in the effort. On the other hand, there are days when you just have to rest so as to not injure yourself or burn out. And even then you’re showing up if you’re not packing your bags and heading on home. 🙂

As for the quote at the beginning of this post, I’m sure it applies to my Master’s Thesis as well. Every single time I open the file and spend 15 minutes working on it, my todo-list expands as well. For every paragraph I finish, I find a few points to elaborate on somewhere in the text. But the summit is there, somewhere in the distance.

And once I get to the summit and finish my Master’s Thesis, I’m done with my Master’s degree, and the next step is graduating and getting a Real Job. But I try not to think about that too much. I might get vertigo. 😉

Thank you so much for reading again, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.
Plato

Background: I’m Finnish. Stereotypically, Finns only speak when there is something so important to say they just can’t bear the silence anymore. Continuing with the stereotype, a Finnish form of small talk is sitting in a circle (or a line, better yet) and silently nodding without eye contact.

I’m a relatively outgoing and talkative Finn – some might even call me social. 🙂 I’ve noticed, though, that there is something about the written nature of online communication that reduces me to a stereotypical, silent Finn. To me, that’s something worth exploring.

Silence is golden and all that

I’ve noticed this behavior in myself on Twitter, on Facebook, or when reading other people’s blogs. I even do it on my own blog every once in a while. I come up with a thought about something, I start writing, and halfway through my text a small inner critic crawls out of its cave:

“You don’t honestly think they’d want to read that?”

And then I really really have to consider whether or not this is just a random tidbit or if it’s something that Truly Provides Value.

Providing Value was something I really struggled with before I started my blog. I wanted to start writing way before Insightings ever went live, but I wanted to create something that would really have some kind of a focus.

There are a million and one blogs online. At least half of them (it seemed when I was starting out) offer advice on how to create a great blog. Rule one:  provide value. Don’t rehash content. Have a focus.

You can imagine how that created performance anxiety for a perfectionist.

Same thing with commenting on other people’s blogs. I still do it: I read an entry, love it to bits, and just before I scroll down to the comments box the critic jumps up again:

“You honestly think you can contribute?”

Most of the time, my unposted comments are along the lines of “nice post, enjoyed reading it, have had similar experiences myself.”  Not really contributing to the conversation, is it? (That’s my inner critic snarking away.)

Even scarier than the thought of not contributing, though, is the thought of downright spamming people’s comment threads. It doesn’t matter that I know my own intentions to be pure, I’m afraid my “nice post, thanks” -comments will flood the Internet and get me eternally banned from all of the cool blogs I love reading.

Getting to the root of the phobia

Just now, inspired by the fact that I’ve dug out this fear (dressed as the critic) out of its hole, I’ll follow in the footsteps of so many great bloggers (Havi, Joely, and James, to mention a few) and have a real heart-to-heart with my fear. I haven’t done this before, so let’s see how it goes. 🙂

Me: Hi, you must be my fear-of-getting-banned-from-the-internet, right

Critic / fear: Umm, yeah. You caught me. (trying to hide behind itself)

Me: Don’t worry, I’m not going to hurt you or drive you away. I just want to know what your job is.

Fear: My job is to stop you before you make a fool of yourself online and accidentally reveal who you really are.

Me: I see. What do you think would happen if I revealed who I really am?

Fear: I don’t know. They might see that you’re not really smart, that you just think really hard before you say something.

Me: Okay. You’re saying that people might notice I’m not really smart?

Fear: Yes.

Me: But I am smart. You know that, I know that. If I say something silly, it doesn’t instantly make me less smart. Or do you disagree?

Fear: Well… no. But people might not like you if you’re not smart all the time.

Me: Oh, honey. You want me to be safe from not being liked, is that it?

Fear: Yeah, kind of.

Me: Could we figure out some way to make sure I remind myself that people really do like me, smart or not, so you wouldn’t need to censor my online writing?

Fear: I guess we could…

And with that, the fear went away. Curiously, it took with it the need for reassurance as well. I tried to think of a way to remind myself that people like me, and I couldn’t come up with anything that would’ve made me feel any better – because the need was gone.

Interesting.

Let’s see how this conversation channels into my online presence.

If any of this sparked any ideas, have a quick heart-to-heart with your own inner critic, and if you feel safe enough, I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.

And as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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