To Be KonMari Clean (Day 0)

A Stranger at The Bar Made Me

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie KondoForced to sit at the the bar because there were no other seat, my next stool neighbor chatted up with me and the barkeep. The barkeep was about to get married and they both had to downsize.

The bar neighbor, Ron, made us promise to read this book. “It will change your life!” He was so passionate about it, I agreed and got on the waiting list at the library.

Awaken by Synchronicity

Months passed, right when I was dealing with super heavy workload and personal responsibilities, it became available to me. (Have you noticed many good things often show up just when we are ready for it?)

I opened book tired and needing a nice break but it woke me from my self-imposed slump of material prison.

Unstuck Myself

For many years now, I’ve been complaining about never having enough time, I can never catch up with people’s demands. “Why are you wasting my life?” I often wanted to shout.

When I read that the author, Marie Kondo, was angry with her family members for not keeping the house clean, I knew how she felt. Then she realized things didn’t change because she still had things in her room to tidy away.

OMG! Exactly why I am still spinning my wheels in my own mud.

I was stuck because I blamed everyone and gave away my power to fix things.

What you don’t love (in your room) hurts you

Marie KondoMarie advises us to visualize the end result before we even touch a thing.

A flash of myself in a corner of my room jumped out at me and I am readding in a cozy sofa chair with my feet on a matching ottoman. And on the wall next to me has a large Zentangle drawing I did myself.

Then I knew why I have to leave my house everyday. It’s not only because I don’t want any distraction when I write, it’s because I have no place to be by myself in my own house. My room is by no mean stuffed to the ninth but it’s still oppressive all the same.

I don’t even have a place to just sit and day dream in my room and that is detrimental to a writer.

I am so tired all the time because my things are sucking the life out of me. Why on Earth do I think I am a minimalist? I was kidding myself. No wonder I don’t have the energy to pursue my dream of writing novels.

Operation KonMari Clean

Tomorrow, I’m staring with clothes as Marie stresses that the order of the process is VERY important. Here a few notes though…

Work by sub-category

To avoid family members from “repurposing” things (i.e. into their slumps) I need to pile the clothes in my room when I sort them. I already know I have way too much to pile everything piece of clothing into my room and still have the room to sort them. So I’ll have to do this by the sub-category. Tops being most of what I own anyway, I am sure I will still be horrified by my pile.

No radio, no music

When I was recovering from a near breakdown last year, I found myself turning on the radio or TV then ignore it. One day I decide to keep my car radio off while I ran errand, my irritation went down, I became a better and more caring driver.

So, silence only for me while I ask “does this spark joy?”

I can’t wait to get started! I don’t remember the last time I wake up all excited about the day to come. May my inner spirit guide me well on this journey.

Be A Better Writer by Reading Less?

Okay, I really mean reading less of what you don’t like.

Halfway through a thick dystopian novel I thought…

Why am I wasting my life? It is not a textbook for a class I’ve paid for. I won’t flunk life or even novel writing if I just stop.

But I’m half way through, the effort of reading those pages will go to waste.

Wrong, SELF, it has already cost a part of your life, finishing it will just cost your more. Forget it and move on.

I am not sure. It feels like giving up.

No, it’s called getting better with time management. Don’t you want to top your 2014 reading record in hope of catching up with Stephen King (70-80/yr)?

I do.

So, I returned the epic dystopian the next day.

Dear fellow writers,

Life is too short and many intriguing books await. If you promise never forcing yourself to finish a drag of a fiction. I promise I will stay away from thick dystopian books.

Better yet, I also promise to never try to finish another book just because I read the first 25 pages.

p.s. There’s nothing wrong with dystopian tales, it’s just not for me.

The Rosie Project: More Than A Book Review (3 of 3)

(continued from part 2)

The Rosie Project paperbackHow will I change after meeting Don Tillman?

  • Acknowledge my own improvements

    Don always notice it when he did something better or new and I hope to do the same for myself.

    Instead of feeling anxious and guilty when I can’t work on my books, I will give myself credits for every book I read and every piece I wrote, project related or not.

    Being someone who could not pass English in junior high, anything I do in English is an achievement.

  • Changing in behavior is not equal to changing as a person

    I don’t yet know how to implement this but realized it as something crucial for interpersonal relationships.

100 stars out of 5

Who’d ever thought reading a rom-com would change my life more than any self-help book. (This is how I want my book to do for my readers, by the way) I learned more about myself, about the Asperger’s syndrome and not having to be drenched in sadness and conflicts but in the interaction and growth between the in the characters. All the while being carried along by the romance and the mystery.

100 stars for The Rosie Project, given as a human being and as a writer.

The Rosie Project: More Than A Book Review (2 of 3)

(continued from part 1)

The Rosie Project paperbackWhat I learned from Don Tillman

Later on in the book, Don began to adjust to the change by shifting to a “new mind configuration”, like from the scheduling mode to the adaptability mode, and that is how he is able to experience a fuller life.

As a super nervous traveler, trips is full of the unknown, I am encouraged to shift into the “fearless adventurer mode” for my next trip. I want to use my energy to enjoy the time with my companions and not waste it on my irrational worries.

And for things I did not plan for… How will I know I’m in the wrong mode? When I feel frustrated.

I’ve known it’s not helpful to add negative emotion during problem solving. With this method, it is now a concrete step to help me execute the solution with efficiency and without the self-imposed turmoil.

That means things may change but I now know how to shift into peace.

Other traits I share with Don Tillman

(Don Tillman wouldn’t think of writing this review without at least one list)

  • I value directness

    Though I might be better at reading social cues and capable of using flowering language, I much rather not having to guess or having others guess the meaning of what’s said. It seems a waste of time and energy.

  • Socially challenged

    In 6th grade, my classmates called me weird. I was aware that I am not like others but never thought it was a problem. Come to think of it, I did not have many friends then.

    In junior high, by accident, I became the class clown on several occasions.

  • My intensity is misinterpreted as mania

    I am curious by nature and love asking people unusual questions. Sometimes my intense interest scare people away.

  • Solving issues by books/research

    I, too, tend to go for books or do research when I encounter a problem. Even when it’s related to spirituality and mental wellbeing which might be better solved by going through experiences.

    Over the years, I was lucky enough to add intuition and self awareness to my toolbox.

  • Living by projects
  • When I have a goal, I plan the steps necessary, then set out to finish each no matter how long it takes. I didn’t not know before reading this book but I was living by projects.

    Right now I have:

    • A book project (a soft sci-fi fiction)
    • A metaphysical project (for evidence of a Buddhist belief that mind creates all and as related to the “observer effect” in quantum physics)
    • Cooking projects (retry on various steam buns and thin-style dumpling skin)

(more reactions to reading The Rosie Project)

The Rosie Project: More Than A Book Review (1 of 3)

The Rosie Project“A romantic comedy, a mystery, and an entertaining teaching aid all rolled into one” is an gross understatement of what The Rosie Project (by Graeme Simsion) turned out to be for me.

Other than the occasional itches, I haven’t been reading many romance novels. When my sister recommended this book, I had confirmed its quality by the super long waiting list at the library and decided that it’s likely that I won’t be waiting my life. And that is exactly what Don Tillman, the hero of the book, would do in my situation.

Could I have Asperger’s, too?

I was astonished to find out how many traits I share with Don, such as the dislike of time waster, inefficiency, and lack of planning. And I always have a project or two on hand and the one-track mind to get them done. At some point in the book, I understood the reasons behind all the weird looks I have gotten so far in my life.

Digitized drama queen

Unlike Don, I was a drama queen as a child but some how it was stamped out of me along the way. Perhaps it was the pressure to measure up to more successful peers or the stress to survive in a strange land with a new language, my mind had installed virtual mechanical gears into my head and keeps me on zeros and ones most of the time. In fact, I learned to code before I could communicate in English. It can not be a coincident that Don Tillman’s first career attempt was with computer, too.

Somehow, when my super emotional, unorganized, learned by whatever made sense to me methods was no longer acceptable, logic and discipline became the tools I utilized to earned a college degree and my first career. The same tools have served me well in my life but the awareness of the need to change and grow has always remained. And that is what led me to the design field and now as a writer.

Coping with the unexpected

Writing a book, as I had expected, turned out to be a long-term project. I didn’t and still can’t read fast enough to make me the best selling author of the next month and in my case, it might take years but I was ready for it.

What I didn’t expect was life’s many interruptions that doesn’t allow me to be rigid with my schedule. The unpredictable work requests, the needs to care for others, all the real-world responsibilities had turned me into the time waster I detest. I was frustrated and stressed out because nothing (an exaggeration, obviously) seemed to go according to my plan to finish my novel.

Don schedules everything down to the minute and enjoys the peaceful and predictable outcome like I’d like my life to be. Though he was flexible enough to change his plans for the unexpected, he also needed time to let the stress of making the adjusted out of his system.

My symptoms for not having the “flushing out” period results in agitations and anger spikes, then all added up to a complete burn-out, which seemed more pronounced as my expiration date gets closer. The fact that I don’t know when that would come only adds to the urgency.

(more reactions to reading The Rosie Project)

Books I Read in 2014

Here are the books I’ve read all the way through and it includes some I read, more like studied, for work. Books I gave up reading are not listed.

  1. Messenger (3 of 4) in The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
    [ Though it was a shorter book compared to the first two, it was more powerful. As I read it, I couldn’t help but reflect on the current state of things on Earth. ]
  2. Gathering Blue (2 of 4) in The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
    [ Lowry doesn’t need big action scene to keep you reading, my concern for the main character rushed me to get to the next page. Her stories are powered by her intention to show us how we may choose to live. ]
  3. The Giver (1 of 4) in The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry
    [ This is a book that requires your full attention, otherwise you’d lost the subtle and thoughtful messages. An image of a full restaurant full of screen-backlight-lit faces comes to mind. ]
  4. An Instrument of Slaughter: (Home Front Detectives) by Edward Marston
    [ I did not like this as much as Five Dead Canaries (newer in this series). For some reason it seems more wordy than I’d like but my schedule was pretty full… ]
  5. Days of Rage (Pike Logan Thriller) by Brad Taylor
    [ It still amazes me how Brad could thread so many different things together to tell a complete story. ]
  6. The Night Searchers (A Sharon McCone Mystery) by Marcia Muller
    [ McCone is the one series that I have not gotten tired of. My writing skill seems to improve every time I read her book. ]
  7. The Ultra Thin Man by Patrick Swenson
    [ Like the friendship between the two detectives, appreciates the absent of overly graphic scenes. Interesting Sci-Fi idea. ]
  8. Monster’s Chef: A Novel by Jervey Tervalon
    [ The characters in the book are confused but the author is not. I did not like the craziness in them but still wanted to know how the hero got out of it. Quick and interesting read. ]
  9. Five Dead Canaries (Home Front Detectives) by Edward Marston
    [ Plenty of twists and turns. Love learning about WWI England via the people and places in the book. Did not like the choice of the murderer, seemed out of the blue somehow. ]
  10. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King.
    [ The short stories here are dark, as title had promised. Too dark for me. The writing is great though. ]
  11. I Think I Love You by Stephanie Bond
    [ Great read! Well built, interesting characters and their relationships. Well threaded clues, real and false, with twists that kept me turning the pages. A romance mystery that will stay with you for a while after you put it down. ]
  12. Wired by Douglas E. Richards
    [ Love the bio-engeering base plot, interesting characters. Though I’m still a newbie writer, I noticed my reading was interrupted by uses of adverbs and other writing issues. ]
  13. After Life by Rhian Ellis
    [ Though I didn’t like the moodiness of the characters, I was still drawn to get to the end–sign of a skilled writer! ]
  14. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: A Flavia de Luce Novel by Alan Bradley
    [ I’ve read every book in the series and it’s getting even better. Flavia intrigued me when she, at age 11, plotted to poison her sisters using her self-tought chemistry skills. ]
  15. Cathedral of Dreams by Terry Persun
    [ Can’t seem to get into it, not a reflection to the writing, may just not be the book for me. ]
  16. Hollow City (2nd in the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series) by Ransom Riggs
    [ The children risk everything to save their caretaker while avoiding WWII bomings and their own hunters. Even better than the 1st book. ]
  17. The Polaris Protocol (Pike Logan Thriller) by Brad Taylor
    [ Still amazed by Brad’s skill in threading so many things into one satisfying ending. ]
  18. The time keeper by Mitch Albom
    [ Only literary fiction I’ve ever finished, simple words, deep meaning. ]
  19. Don’t make me think by Steve Krug
    [ Work–designing web sites for the best user experience. ]
  20. Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children (1st in the series) by Ransom Riggs
    [ Fantasy in WWII setting, no flat characters here! ]
  21. The widow’s strike (Pike Logan Thriller) by Brad Taylor
    [ Love every book in the series, first read for character research. ]
  22. The marriage trap by Jennifer Probst
    [ Romance, warm, funny, moving, read for stress relief. ]
  23. The burglar in the library (Bernie Rhodenbarr Mysteries) by Lawrence Block
    [ Funny with interesting heros. ]
  24. Crashed (Junior Bender Mystery) by Timothy Hallinan
    [ Junior Bender is a thief AND a good guy?!}

Pressure

Shapeless. Tasteless. Scentless.
Though it carries an enormous weight.

Pushing down on your shoulders, your heart.
Squeezing the energy out of you,
acting out like an oil press.
Feeding the greedy entities around you,
sucking up your spirit into a black hole.

Be warned, be watchful.

Drain away the build-up before it overflows and floods all over your life.

(Dedicated to writers struggling to hold on to their dreams while trying to keep all their balls up in the air.)

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen KingA friend recommended On Writing by Stephen King after I shared my challenge with plotting out the rest of my first book. Though I never read any of his books, I know he must be pretty good to keep his readers asking for more.

He shared two things that surprised me the most.

He is a slow reader

Since English is not my first language, I’ve always thought being a slow reader is one of the main reason why I may not ever be a good writer. I guess he just kicked the crutch I’ve been using to drag myself down.

He reads for the fun

Almost all the writing books tell me to “study” other books for the plot structures or the writing techniques. Something I could never do. If the book is good, I just want to read it, If the book is uninteresting, I’d stop to save myself time for work or another book. It’s good to know Stephen King, a great writer, reads for fun, too.

Some reviewers of this book did not like that Stephen spent good part of the book on his life journey to be the writer he is today, instead of going straight into the how-to-write part. I thought it is good to remind people to look further back than his successful career.

A Writer in Big Trouble

I’m in big trouble.

As I work on my plot,
I sense the story feels flat.

This morning,
I realized I am in big trouble.

I can’t stand seeing my heros in pain,
as if I’ll be in pain as well.

But in the end,
if my heros don’t suffer,
I, as a writer, will.