Trust the process

Trust the Process writing tip stuck on windowRecently I sat down to write an essay. It started off okay, but the more I wrote, the more difficult it got, until I was contemplating dropping my laptop off the balcony just to be done with it.

The first thing I did for this essay was open a blank Word doc called ‘Notes on The Essay’ and write down all my notes and ideas about the topic, as well as quotes I might use, since the essay incorporated a book review.

When I was halfway finished the notes, I got impatient. I really had to get started writing this essay. I opened a new Word doc, named it ‘This Is the Essay,’ and started copying and pasting ideas and quotes.

I wasted a lot of time trying to write the opening. After much faffing, I started working on an idea that I figured would go in the middle of the essay, a part I felt I could dive into.

Which is what I should have done in the first place, but I got distracted by the empty space where the start should be, and tried to start at the start.

Things went well for a few days, but then my excitement dried up and I realised none of what I’d written actually sat together. It had no start and no conclusion, and a lot of the ideas hadn’t quite come together.

I had an almost complete first draft (I was already over the given word count), but it felt like the essay had died on the page. Every word of it was terrible, it made no sense and was nothing like the essay I’d first imagined.

The longer I sat looking at the dead essay, the more I felt like an idiot for thinking I could write about this challenging topic, that I had anything serious or worthwhile to say, that I could do any kind of justice to the book I was reviewing.

I felt like an imposter and a failure and an idiot. I tried to fix things, but it seemed like I was just making them worse.

When staring at all the half-broken sentences in my ‘This Is the Essay’ word doc became overwhelming, I opened a new document and named it ‘Temp’.

At this point I had three word documents going for one essay.

I copied and pasted a couple of sections into my Temp doc. I edited them in different ways. For some reason, it was easier to work on a section in isolation, outside of the main doc. Maybe because I didn’t feel the pressure of the entire essay in every change I made.

I also remembered that I’d never finished the notes document I’d started with. I had a process, but I’d gotten impatient with it. I spent another day copying out quotes from the book I was working with, developing my notes, looking for connections between ideas.

I thought I might be able to pull this together if I followed through on my process. I had to trust that I could bring the essay together as I worked through it, even if the early drafts were terrible.

Eventually I had 8000 words of notes for a 4500-word essay.

I invested a lot of time into those notes, and during that time was when my thinking developed for the essay. That 8000-word notes document is a chaotic mess of colour-coded highlighting, page references and all caps reminders, but that was all part of the process.

Once the essay was published, readers sent the kindest and most glowing feedback my writing has ever received. I wouldn’t have expected this. I think I was too deep inside the mental mess surrounding the essay to approach it with fresh eyes at that time. (Luckily the editor and I went through a couple of revisisions together, which certainly helped.) You can read it here.

My key learning from this experience is that I have a process that I’ve developed over a decade of writing:
– compile the ideas
– always start with the easiest part
– expect the first draft to die on the page
– return to the ideas
– revise one section at a time

When I feel overwhelmed, I just need to remind myself to trust the process.

(Side note: I learned the wonderful phrase ‘trust the process’ from this Sports Sports Sports episode of Reply All.)

Ashley
xo

PS. My fabulous monthly author newsletter is coming out this week, and there’s still time to sign up!

Like floating in space, but wet

My doctors advised me to manage my chronic fatigue recovery by taking frequent rests throughout the day. This is fine if I’m home, where there’s no people buzzing around, where I can put on my eye mask and if necessary, noise-cancelling headphones. When I’m not home, it’s harder to actually rest. And sometimes it’s not possible to be home every three hours.

One thing I used to find wonderfully restful was getting a massage. Technically I can still get a massage, but it will leave me as exhausted as if I went for a run. (Obvious conclusion: having a massage is a form of exercise.)

So I’ve been looking for restful alternatives. Which is how I discovered the sleep pod.
Sleep pod in a hotel business loungeI found this particular sleep pod at a Brisbane hotel. The hotel was so futuristic, my room didn’t have light switches (light switches are so 20th century). Instead it had a smartphone on which you could set ‘moods’ for your room. Except that when I arrived, the smartphone battery was dead, so the mood of my room was ‘put your makeup on in the dark’.

The sleep pod was in the business lounge. Sure, I could have rested in my actual hotel room, but the pod promised executive-quality power napping. This turns out to mean that you get in, the pod reclines and vibrates mildly, and some blue lights inside the pod bit imply that your nap is futuristic.

I give the sleep pod a D+.

Next I tried a float tank, also called a sensory deprivation tank. Float tanks are filled with salt water, so you can float like you’re at the Dead Sea, except without all the slick mud and tourists taking photos. So maybe it’s more like floating in space, but wet.
A float tank in a float tank centre
You spend an hour in the tank, floating total darkness and blissful quiet, trying not to get salt water in your eyes.

I give the float tank a B+.

Is it more relaxing than napping in a sunbeam on my own couch with an eye mask and noise-cancelling headphones? No. Sunbeam naps at home are a solid A+.

If I’ve become an expert in anything in the past few years, it’s napping, and this is my expert recommendation. Nap at home, in your pyjamas, with the whole world blocked out by eye masks and headphones and layers of blankets, even if it means you’ll spend far more time there than you ever expected or wanted to.

 

 

2017’s Hottest Fashion Trends

Ashley Kalagian Blunt hottest fashion trends

  1. Habanero sauce, rubbed everywhere
  2. Skirt made from rings of fire
  3. Miniature Hadron Collider vest, set to 9.9 trillion °F
  4. Actual fireplace strapped to your waist
  5. Paper mâché volcano hat
  6. Suit made of quasars (they’re very hot)
  7. Full-body skin suit of 2017’s Sexiest Man Alive
  8. Gloves that are actually Carolina Reaper peppers
  9. Dwarf star fascinator
  10. The Hope Diamond, after you stole it
  11. Flame-shooting bra
  12. Suit of toast fresh out of the toaster

 

My opinions on dog names will eventually result in divorce

Unless they’re the children of celebrities, human babies are generally stuck with boring people names. But dogs can be called any sort of amazing name at all. It’s insultingly uncreative to give a dog a human name. Like a french bulldog I met, who was named, of all things, Gerald. Gerald could have been named Clams or Seven or Sir Snotsalot or anything other than Gerald.

My husband disagrees. I told him my dream was to have a sausage dog named Saucy. ‘It works on so many levels!’

‘What levels?’ he said.

What levels? Obviously the sauce/sausage connection. Also the fact that saucy sounds like ‘saussie’, an Australianised shortening of sausage. And then imagine if the dog had a saucy attitude. Just imagine.

 

5 life hacks you absolutely must follow or you’ll be dead by Friday

1. Taupe is your colour. That’s right, taupe.

2. Attach paperclips to a hanger, then put in your freezer to avoid thinking about your credit card debt.

3. If you’re driving in snow and spin out, pour a bucket of hot water under each tire. Seriously. Your neighbours won’t laugh at you.

4. Put a piece of white bread inside your shirtsleeve to soak up sweat.

5. Get 37 people to retweet you within exactly 29 seconds, and a unicorn will appear to grant you one wish.

Your muscles: a user’s guide

A user guide to your muscles.png
Hello and welcome to your new muscles! They’re not really new, of course; you’ve had them for 30-some years. But because the only greens in your diet are lime-flavoured jellybeans, and you’ve spent approximately 97% of your waking hours hunched in front of glowing rectangles, your muscles have entered a new phase of deterioration.

The following FAQ will help you understand exactly how terrible the rest of your life will be.

Why are my muscles in constant pain?
You have to understand that your body has upwards of 850 individual muscles and each one of them hates you.

This is how I would have expected to feel at, like, 60.
Yes, your body has effectively given up, which has accelerated your aging process. By 35 you’ll feel like you’re 80, and by 40 you’ll feel like you’re 127.

I see other people doing things like sitting on picnic blankets and carrying everyday items including books, groceries and purses without this seeming to cause them serious pain. Is it appropriate to stare at them as though they’re three-headed aliens who teleported here via a ring of purple fire?
Sure, I guess.

What can I do to make this better?
You can pay a hipster osteopath $97 to stab you in the leg with a needle and call that ‘acupuncture’.

Uh-huh, so you’re saying there’s nothing I can do?
You can spend thousands of dollars and several futile years with physios, massage therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, yoga instructors, pilates instructors, doctors, reiki masters and a man who believes that muscle trauma can be healed through immersion in pickle brine.

Will any of that help?
The pickle brine guy has a lot of positive Google reviews.

What if I just have a nice hot bath?
Most bathtubs were purposefully designed to fuck up your neck.

Maybe I should just spend the next fifty years lying down.
Lying down causes your lower back to seize. Also, you still haven’t found a pillow that prevents your neck pain. Here’s the secret: no such pillow exists!

What if I ate some broccoli?
As if you’re going to eat broccoli.

No really, I found this soup recipe and also green smoothies are a thing.
And? How is it?

OMG it’s like chewing a pine tree why does my body even want this?
Your taste buds also hate you.

7 tips to stave off divorce

wedding

Don’t go to bed angry
Instead, stay awake fighting for days, ultra-marathon style. A mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Marital Showdown is a sure way to reignite the flame.

Spice up your love life
Cardamom. Paprika. Basil. Turmeric. These are all things you should not put on your genitals, unless you are aroused by emergency medical fees.

Listen to each other
Sure, you’ve been hearing this person drone on forever about the refrigerator’s mould situation and the way Helen in accounts payable cracks her knuckles during staff meetings and that one ingrown toenail. But tuning out means you’ve given up on your spouse’s ability to surprise you. Make the effort to really listen: it may turn out the refrigerator is also leaking freon, or Helen in accounts payable has been replaced by a man whose nose hair touches his upper lip, or the doctor said that toenail has caused an infection, leading to life-threatening septicaemia. By paying close attention, you will learn intimate details that could distress and haunt you for the rest of your life

Have a regular date night
Why argue at home when you can take that shit public?

Communicate
With so many avenues of communication available, there’s no excuse for poor communication with your spouse. Don’t limit yourselves to Facebook and Twitter: get creative with Snapchat, Pinterest and Vine. By sharing every waking minute, you’ll not only know exactly what’s going on with each other, you’ll also create an archived testament to an incredible marriage spent mostly staring at your phones.

Avoid seeing each other naked
Seeing your spouse naked too often can dampen any excitement this once provided. Except for your semi-annual mutually unsatisfying horizontal romp, work together to hide yourselves and maintain the mystery of exactly how much your youth has deteriorated. Stables sell horse blinders.

Agree to disagree
And make a really big deal of it.

All-natural house cleaning through Satanic ritual III

“Like Hell” All-Purpose Cleaner and Deodorizer
½ cup baking soda
½ cup rock salt
2 cups warm water
1 or 2 drops of orange essential oil (optional)
chalice carved from basalt or white gold (the evil gold)
5 candles

  1. Place baking soda, rock salt, water and essential oil into the chalice. Cup hands over the chalice and sway back and forth while chanting, “In the name of Lucifer, Lord of Earth, and Leviathan, Lord of the Seas, and Mr Clean, Lord of Sparkle and Baldness, I bless this water in thy names!”
  2. Arrange the 5 candles to form a pentagram. Place your open palms over the flames and sway back and forth while chanting, “Satan, Lord of Fire, I call on to you to cleanse my home of impurities be they angels of ill-will or mildew.”
  3. Pour chalice solution over kitchen or bathroom counters, into dishwashers, refrigerators and bathtubs. Scrub with dark reverence and wipe with a damp sponge.

Devilishly effective! Greasy Stain Remover of Hades and Satan’s Glass Cleaner

 

Career advice for the pre-foetus

babyYour career considerations should begin well before you’re conceived. It’s important to be born to at least one parent in your desired field, preferably two. Other factors to consider are your potential parents’ projected income levels and stability. Your prospects decrease if your dad leaves your mom after she loses her cheese-sprayer job.

However, research shows that if one of your parents dies while you are between the ages of 9 and 14, you’re more likely to achieve greatness in your chosen field (this information can be difficult to obtain in advance).

Good looks and height a have significant effect on your income, so be sure to get the best genes. Unless you’re a woman, then you don’t want to be too good looking – like, pleasant but not hot enough to incite female colleagues’ jealousy … actually, you know what? Just go for male genes: less complicated, much larger salary potential.

Also: ensure you’re born into the right community! This is essential because there are a lot of communities out there that are, frankly speaking, doomed. Rich, white and Western is a classic combination, but also check out new opportunities arising in Asia. Singapore is a hot choice right now.

Finally, if you’re interested in competitive sport, decide now! It’s essential to time your conception for birth early in the calendar year, ideally January. Time this right and by the age of five, you’ll have the physical advantage of several extra months’ growing time on the other kids in your age group. This is the key to showing “early promise” and receiving the extra training, coaching and parental support required.

Don’t wait: set your career plan in place well before you’re conceived – figuring it out after is a lot harder.