The Season of Self-Help (Books)

Two things should be said from the start.

Firstly, I can’t say I’ve arrived at any sort of an Answer to any of my questions about life, universe, and everything. But I feel that I’ve done my research, which means I can stop devouring the self-help books crowding my shelves and my Kindle – and I can start the Work. As in everyday practice of meditation, and being present, and being grateful (pretty much EVERY book I’ve read tells you to do so.)But first, let’s look at the second thing.

The second caveat is that ‘season’ is quite a loose term here. It’s been quite more than a season. I’d say it all started in March with my usual restlessness (I’m tempted to capitalise this word. It’s such a prevailing emotion in my life, the old mate Restlessness of mine; and it has so many facets that it’s almost a character I could put in a book). And then I saw the Marie Kondo series on Netflix… and I thought that perhaps it’s not Restlessness. Maybe, I was just Cluttered.

It took me 21 days. I donated 29 oversized garbage bags of clothes, 14 boxes of what Maries calls ‘komono’ (my collection of mugs; books; knickknacks; sofa cushions; pens, pencils, and whatnot); de-cluttered every single shelf in my house, and reorganised my art.

Behold my sock drawer and my tea/dish shelf!

And then I drew my first acrylic painting. A doughnut of all things. ‘Hm,’ I thought. ‘Interesting.’

‘Maybe there is something to this whole ‘”free space in your life and mind” thing,” I thought, “and maybe inspiration will flow, and your muse/daemon Elizabeth Gilbert style will sing to you and play a lyre and you will write your masterpiece.’ I think I should remark here that I still practice with Headspace (almost) every day as I’ve mentioned in my previous post. So, there’s a bit of space in the good old noggin of mine. Acrylics were a surprise, though.

The high lasted for about a month, and then my Restlessness was back. And that’s when the first batch of self-help books travelled from McNally and Robinson Booksellers to my bedroom.

And then some more came.

And let’s not forget the Kindle ones on my phone. I do spend a lot of time riding a bus.

So, now that the books have been read, notes have been taken, charts and graphs drawn, and the schedule 7 Habit of Highly Effective People style is made every Sunday…

By the way, I can’t recommend the 7 Habits book enough. It answered about 76.5% of my questions about the topics less encompassing than the aforementioned life, universe, and everything – at least the ones I could form to ask. It has little to do with effectiveness as it’s understood at work in terms of productivity and salary – and has everything to do with being a decent human being.

For me, the main point of the book (and all of them are worthy of exploration, in my humble opinion) is prioritization. I am definitely a person who has trouble choosing my battles. That’s why in the last five years I have started and abandoned a couple dozens stories, have tried my hand in pretty much every art medium, and have at some point considering learning punch needling, photography, and maybe professional gel manicure. But even The Renaissance Soul book (see above in the Kindle list) who defends the scattered and the ever-distracted like me insists on choosing several projects to concentrate on. Not all of them. Because we’re human and there are only 24 hours in a day. And I do work full time in a room with 8 babies under 18 months. And I have a kid. And I have to cook for three people with radically different diets (one is vegetarian, one is lactose and gluten intolerant, and one is a picky eater North American style, i.e. a pizza and hot dog lover).

The 7 Habits book tells you to schedule your week, not your day; and it tells you to base your schedule on the roles you play in your life. For me that would be:

  • a mom (Recently, Gregory and I started to do one art project a week. I, as usual, took it too seriously. I bought books and did my research on Pinterest because, you know, you have to ‘develop your child’ and so on… and then I chilled the F off. Last week we baked chocolate lava cakes in a mug in our microwave, splattered sticky batter everywhere, ate literally ad nauseam (it might have something to do with the amount of whipped cream on top of those mugs), and I have to tell it was much more rewarding than making a rocket out of recycled boxes, Karen.)
  • a person with a job (I think I will write about my struggles of being paid 12 CAD an hour in my next blog post. I am planning to blog regularly these days. It helps me stay sane. It reminds me of the ‘morning pages’ from The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The Bible for the artists (which is literally everybody, if you believe Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, which is almost like the Bible to me), The Artist’s Way suggests you de-clutter your mind every morning by writing at least three pages by hand. I think, slightly editing and organizing my thoughts and sharing them on my blog might be also beneficial for my artist’s mind – and might be marginally interesting to read to some people. After all, people do go to circus to watch clowns and monkeys, which is what my mind’s inner workings remind me of.)
  • a writer (All hail Liz Gilbert and Pam Grout and Julia Cameron and half a dozen other writers, including Stephen King whose On Writing I borrowed from the library, and who let me know it’s OK to stand up and say: I am a writer. They say to say it loud and proud (I might have squeaked it out, but baby steps, my friends, baby steps…) and remember, the only thing that makes one a writer is the fact that you write. So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m writing. I sit down, say a short prayer to my daemon, and then I work my a** off. )*

*Alright, this needs a caveat of its own. I only started sitting down and working my a** off last week. I updated my ongoing fanfiction story and I posted a new chapter of my cosy mystery on Wattpad. And I cleaned up my blog and my FB pages. And I went back to editing Blind Carnival. And recorded a Youtube video. So yes, the a** has been definitely worked off, but that’s just week one. Let’s see how long I’ll last.

And yet. Something has shifted. I feel it in the air. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air… Oops, that’s LotR. Nevermind.

I think what has changed is the End. As in the 7 Habits‘ Habit 2: ‘Begin with the End in Mind.’ What do I want from my writing in the end? I want to enjoy the process. I want to write and feel light, and mad, and tired, and inspired, and sometimes stuck and frustrated, and rewarded, and recognised, and… me. I want to be Katya Kolmakov, a writer. I don’t expect much income from my writing, but I want to sell my books so people can read them. I want to talk to people about my writing, so I’ll be recording videos and answering to comments under them and I’ll be writing webserials on Wattpad and answering to comments there – so keep them coming!

Also, I want to blog/YouTube. I want to talk about what it’s like out here in the savannah of the writing life, and maybe someone will want to hear about it.

Martha Beck in her Finding Your Way in a Wild New World (a super new-agey book, but I think I might have read it at the right moment, so I managed to tolerate the preachy tone and actually got through it, and found it oddly inspiring) proposes that hackneyed mental exercise of imagining what you’d do if you had no limitations. And so does Latte Factor. And pretty much every person who writes a book to teach you how to live your life. And one of them (don’t ask me which one, there have been too many) asks what you’d do if you had 36 million dollars (oddly specific much?) I think I’d just write all day. And paint and draw, just for fun and because when I have a brush or an ink pen in my hand I experience flow.

The other day I found a weird marking on my skin under my right breast. I promise, I’ll have it looked at next week. But my first thought was that if it’s something serious, I’ll quit my job and I’ll be writing between my hospital visits.

This does tell you something about my priorities.

OK, that’s it for now, folks. I’ll go cook for the week. Talk to you very soon.

Oh, and here’s my first YouTube video. It’s hardly good but I have no regrets.