Reverb 10 – Days 2&3: Writing and Moment

I’m participating in Reverb10 and reflecting on the year 2010 as well as preparing for the year 2011. If you want to join this initiative, take a look at Reverb10’s website and sign up!

In this post, I’ll write on the prompts for Day 2 and Day 3: Writing and Moment.

Day 2: Writing

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

From January to June, I worked on the Artist’s Way as well as the Vein of Gold. One of the main exercises in these books is the morning pages — as soon as you get up, you write down whatever that comes to your mind for 3 pages. When I was good, I simply woke up and grabbed a pen and a notebook placed right next to my pillow and started writing my morning pages.

But I don’t write morning pages these days.

Now, I tend to take some time to start writing after I get up. This warm up time doesn’t contribute to my writing that much, because I know from my morning page experiences that I can wake up and start writing without any warm ups. In fact, the morning pages can serve as a good warm up for the day.

Let’s eliminate unnecessary warm ups, such as e-mail checking and coffee making, and bring this habit back again.

Day 3: Moment

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

There were some beautiful moments that made me feel alive this year. I’m grateful that I experienced them. But I will choose not to pick one moment and describe it in detail. There are two reasons for this: 1) I want to keep those moments private, and 2) I simply can’t choose one moment among those moments.

Instead of picking and describing one moment, I want to describe some common features that underlie those moments.

  • When a beautiful moment comes to me, it feels as though time freezes. All I need to do is to ask that moment to stop for seconds and to dance with me.
  • When I experience that moment, I feel warm and connected with the world in one way or another. Yes, that was the case even when I was all wet and frozen on top of Mt. Fuji.
  • Shortly after I experience that moment, I often think that my future self will randomly remember this moment. This thought makes me feel great as well.

I’m keen on experiencing such beautiful moments again in the year 2011 as well. I will focus on minimizing stuff and maximizing experiences more and more next year.

Are you part of Reverb10 as well? If you are, give me a yell in the comment section below and point me to your blog so I can read your stories! Even if you are not, I’m curious about your experiences in relation to the prompts above or this post in general. Tell me about it!


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Photo: Kyle Kruchok

Fundamental moves will take you further

When I was practicing tango with my dance partner last Saturday night, we noticed something. There was a part of this choreography that both my dance partner and I didn’t like. Our teachers had said nothing about this part being obviously strange or awkward, but to our eyes, there was something wrong about it.

This part involves us walking together. I stand right next to her and we walk. It takes only a few seconds… or 5 steps for this part. The problem was simple: We looked bored to death.

It wasn’t a new problem, but we finally decided to do something about it. We noticed the position of our arms didn’t look right. After we experimented for a while, we came to think it would be better if I stood on her left and behind her rather than standing next to her. That way, we could keep our arms in a better position. But, a new problem appeared. In that new position I had a difficulty moving my right leg forward, because her left leg would block it.

Then I remembered the most basic thing I learnt from my teacher: how to walk. When you walk properly in a tango way, you bring your foot forward and almost in front of the other foot. (If you are interested, watch this video.)  Before, I used to bring my right leg just forward and that was all. When I tried to walk in a proper way, I could take a step without getting blocked by my dance partner’s leg.

When I noticed this solution, I realized how important it is to work on this most fundamental move of all – walking. I only started learning tango since April, and there were a lot to learn. Compared to other moves, there’s nothing flashy about walking, at least when you look at it from a beginner’s perspective. I had forgotten about this most fundamental move. But luckily, I remembered about it.

Actually, I bet that fundamental moves like walking make a difference between the good and the excellent when you look at the whole thing from an expert’s perspective. I think this way, because I can apply my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experiences to this situation as well. I know from my experiences that the fundamental moves are more important than flashy techniques, and I know that many people neglect those fundamental moves, while getting distracted by fancy moves.

I have a few questions for you. What’s the most fundamental thing in what you are passionate about? Have you been paying attention to it? Or have you been distracted by some other things that look somewhat better than this most fundamental thing? If you’ve been distracted, perhaps it’s a good time to focus on the basic things.

Photo: notsogoodphotography

6 things I have learnt from NaNoWriMo so far

I’m participating in NaNoWriMo. There are six things I learnt from NaNoWriMo so far, and I want to share them with you.

1. There’s no reason why I should spend time and energy on kicking out my inner critic. While it would be great if he could leave me alone forever, I bet it won’t happen. Rather than spending time and energy on getting rid of him, I’d focus on what I need to do: writing.

2. If you don’t know what your aim is, you can be driven by your inner critic. So, make it clear to yourself what your aim is. For me, it’s simply to write 50000 words of something. Yes. Something. In fact, it’s more like a playground for myself rather than a novel for someone else to read, really.

3. My inner critic tells me that what I’ve written so far doesn’t make much sense, but that’s fine. I’ll keep writing anyway. I’m happy to let my storyteller of this novel be imperfect. We make mistakes and forget things sometimes when we tell stories; why should we expect our storytellers to be perfect?

4. By “focusing on writing”, I mean what it means. I will do no editing when I write or during November. So, it’s pretty much as though I’m splashing words inside me onto a digital scroll of paper so I can have fun spotting something actually nice and pretty on it.

5. Discipline is important. I have been writing everyday, but I need to have a better discipline. For example, I’m writing this blog post on a text editor, and I’ve got 8 tabs open on Firefox; they are completely unnecessary and irrelevant to this post. I tend to do that when writing for NaNoWriMo as well. If I had a better discipline and focus, I would be able to focus more on writing.

6. It’s fun to spend my time on writing. I used to think of stories and wrote poems when I was much younger. I spent the last 8 years on academic writing, including my honours thesis and master’s thesis. Writing these (philosophy) theses helped me sharpen my writing skills in English, but I hardly wrote for fun. I came to love writing through this blog as well as NaNoWriMo.

At the time of writing this post, I wrote 6009 words. I’m slightly behind, but I’ll try my best.

If you are part of NaNoWriMo, how are you going with your project? I’m sure you have something you learnt no matter whether you are a first timer like me or an expert. What did you learn so far? I’m curious about your experiences!

The art of writing shitty first drafts

I don’t have a plot. I don’t know who my characters are. I don’t have anything ready. I’m worried that I’m behind if I compare myself with other participants. All I know is that I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo and that I’m going to spend the next 30 days writing… a lot.

NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is a month-long writing marathon in which participants write a novel of 50,000 words. What’s important to note about NaNoWriMo is this: What you’re asked to produce is a shitty first draft rather than a well-polished masterpiece that’s ready to be published. Quality doesn’t matter. Quantity does. (You can read the details here. )

Last month, I realized that I want to focus on creating. So, the timing of NaNoWriMo was perfect for me except that I got reminded of it only few days before its first day. At the time of writing this post (5am in the morning on 1 Nov), I can safely say I’m not ready at all, if by ‘ready’ I mean ‘having story materials handy’. My inner critic loves to pick on this point and insist how unprepared I am.

Here’s what my inner critic’s voice sounds like.

“Dude, you don’t have any plot. That’s horrible. You aren’t going to write a great story without it. It’s very likely that you’ll waste your time. Don’t even start it. Whatever you’re going to write is bound to be crappy.”

My inner critic may sound right. But he’s wrong. Sure, I don’t have a plot. This plotless state of affairs is probably going to make it difficult for me to write a consistent, non-crappy story. I’m not going to worry too much about it, because he is trying to mislead me. My aim is to write 50,000 words of a crappy draft and not a best seller novel. It’s totally fine and even apt for me to produce bad, boring boo boos.

Having said that, it’s scary to accept and to embrace this plotless state of affairs. This is the first challenge I need to overcome in NaNoWriMo. Can I accept my current situation and simply start writing anyway? I say I can. The first sentence of my novel is most likely to be “I’m going to tell you a story, but I have no idea what the hell I’m going to tell you”, and that’s OK. This attitude, I believe, is what underlies the art of writing shitty drafts. If I don’t write anything in the first place, there’s no way I get to write something brilliant. Embrace imperfections and dive in.

By the way, since I don’t know what stories are buried inside the treasure box in my mind, I can’t judge whether they can be good or bad.

Either way, I believe in the power of writing them down.

If my stories stored in my treasure box are indeed rubbish, I want to take them out of the box by writing them down so I cam make some space for new stories, which might turn out to be better than the ones I have accumulated. There’s no reason why I should keep old ones when I’m aware that they are rubbish.

Of course, those stories might turn out to be great as well. If that’s the case, there’s no reason why I should keep them only to myself either; writing them down and sharing them with the world seem to be a better way of handling them.

Through out November, I will make sure to report my progress on this blog as well. I want to share some lessons I learn through participating in NaNoWriMo with you too. Stay tuned.

If you are reading this post on 1 or 2 Nov, it’s not too late. If you’re curious, why don’t you give it a try? Your inner critic might tell you all sorts of things, but remember, your inner critic is trying to mislead you and to scare you away. (This whole thing reminds me of my post, Cat vs. Curiosity. Check it out if you liked this post.)

My account name on NaNoWriMo is Masafumi. Feel free to add me as your writing buddy on the site. Happy writing!

Photo: Ernst Moeksis

Cat vs. Curiosity

Curious CatWhen I was working on the about page of this blog yesterday, I got an amusing thought.

Cat vs. Curiosity.

Imagine a cat fighting against a giant monster named Curiosity. Well, in fact, Curiosity may well be invisible. When the cat seems to be playing, he may well be fighting against Curiosity.

A bloody battle.

Wait, what’s so bloody about it? The cat seems to be amused as if he is playing with Curiosity!

But, we are told that Curiosity killed the cat. Surely, the cat must have been fighting against Curiosity before his death. Let’s assume Curiosity did kill the cat… What does that mean? The cat shouldn’t have been curious and invited Curiosity to him at all?

After being amused by this thought on Cat vs. Curiosity, I tweeted:

Curiosity killed the cat? Nonsense. Curiosity made the cat’s life awesome. Even if the cat did die due to curiosity, the cat died happily.

To my surprise, 23 people retweeted it (at the time of writing this post) and it’s the most retweeted tweet I made so far.

That makes me wonder. I can understand that the positive nature of this tweet might have made those people want to share it with others, but there must have been more to it. My guess is that it depicted a story, like the one I told you in the beginning of this post. I knew about the importance of storytelling, and this Cat vs. Curiosity tweet made me feel it.

Speaking of storytelling, let me come back to the story of Cat vs. Curiosity.

I never know what happened to our cat. All I can tell you is based on my speculations. Actually, I don’t want to believe that the cat died at all.

Perhaps we were talking about a different cat, because our cat died happily or he didn’t die.

My bet is this: If the cat was killed, 1) it was another cat and 2) it was Fear that killed the cat. Not Curiosity.

Why not Curiosity? That’s a very good question. Curiosity is a good fellow. It won’t kill anyone (or any cat). It might look like rough and tough at times, but Curiosity makes sure that you get to have awesome experiences. I believe Curiosity was just playing with the cat as you do with your awesome friends.

My theory about the other cat that died not quite happily is the following. Curiosity did visit this cat, but Fear told him not to go with Curiosity. Fear is quite clever and good at convincing people (or cats) about this kind of stuff.

How did Fear convince this unfortunate cat? Here’s what he might have told the unfortunate cat.

“Curiosity is a dangerous monster… He killed other cats. If you stay here, you can be safe! It’s warm here and you won’t starve to death. Join me and other cats that managed to escape from Curiosity!”

OK, I’m not sure if I’d be the go-to-guy for working on behalf of Fear when he’s sick, but I suppose he’d be saying things like that.

I’m not in a position to judge that this cat made the wrong choice. Probably he got what he wanted anyway. However, if he did want to play with Curiosity and chose to go along with Fear instead, I’d say he did make a mistake. That’s a recipe for an unhappy (cat) life.

What if you were a cat and met Curiosity and Fear? What would you do?


Photo: stalkERR

What fascinates me: Hooping tribe

My encounter with hooping was through my rad friend Kristen. I’ve known her since January and we read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way together for 12 weeks. Kristen organizes a monthly hoop gathering “4th Sunday Spin” at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo. That’s where I got my first hooping experience as well. I am fascinated by hooping and hoopers, but what I really want to talk about in this post is… or I should say whom I really want to talk about is… Kristen.

Kristen choreographed a dance for this year’s World Hoop Day – October 10. She made tutorial videos and they look totally fabulous. But what’s more fabulous is that hoopers around the world recorded their World Hoop Day dance and uploaded these recordings online. Correct me if I’m wrong, Kristen, but what’s going to happen is that Kristen will edit those videos and put them together. I think that’s really, really cool.

I guess the reason why I’m fascinated by this whole thing is partly due to the fact that I witnessed how Kristen got rid of her creative blocks by working on The Artist’s Way.

And connecting people with hoops and social media! It’s a great example of sharing your passion with others and creating a tribe… creating a culture.

In fact, it’s so cool that I will quit being an irregular hooper and become a regular hooper. It’s a matter of time, ladies and gentlemen.

I recommend you to pick up a hoop as well! It’s a great way of having fun and doing exercises.

photo: nizzzat