culture · international · life curation

Embracing The Year of the Ox

We recently saw the beginning of a brand new Lunar Year on February 12th. Somehow, I was a bit late this year, and I didn’t realize that the Lunar New Year occurred until two days after.

What can I say? It’s been a challenging year for all of us, and if I miss a couple of holidays, it’s only because this year has done a number on most of us.

Anyway, back to the Lunar New Year. I thought of the significance of this year’s animal, the ox. I reflected back on the last lunar year, the year of the rat. I think of mice and rats, and how these animals, while indicative of abundance (they are always in places with adequate food supply), can overconsume and leave desolation where abundance used to reside. I think the year of the rat, marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, was a collective wake-up call. We are abundant, but, as a society, we have taken too much from nature, and balance must be restored.

Enter the year of the ox. This hardworking beast of burden only consumes what it needs to sustain itself, and it’s purpose for existing is to produce through manual efforts. Unlike rats, whose body waste is toxic and often spreads disease, oxen are useful all the way down to their fecal matter, which can fertilize and restore balance to the soil. The ox is sturdy, reliable, and work-oriented. It is the animal that’s most representative of the attitude we need in these times.

I think this year will be a year of restoration and balance. Life will get back to normal, more or less, but what is considered baseline normal has changed. We’ve had roughly one year to stay close to home, spend more time doing domestic activities, and to closely examine what matters to us. Now, we have our work to do.

It’s time for us to produce. We’ve been incubating our skills and talents during lockdowns and quarantines: now is the time to put out into the world what we’ve been creating during our downtime. And yes, I understand that many of us were too stressed and otherwise limited to “create” in the traditional sense. But, our creations need not be tangible: they can be our musings, creative nudges or even inklings of necessary change in our personal lives or in society. We have all created “something” in the past year: now it’s time to unleash it.

May the year of the ox give you great favor and lead you closer to a wonderful existence.

That’s all for today. I’ll talk to you all tomorrow. Take care!

words of wisdom · writing

Summoning Muses – How to Find Inspiration

After discussing the problems that I’ve had during the editing process, I decided to reflect on some of the other “problems” that authors usually experience. Lucky us: two writing posts in one week!

One that I’ve heard other authors encounter frequently is lack of inspiration. I’ve written about this before, but I want to revisit the topic. I’ve written about how I like to let inspiration lead, and I stand by that. I don’t normally have this issue, mainly because I have multiple works-in-progress at my disposal at any time. If I feel “stuck” on one manuscript, I just pick up another one. It may not be as linear as I’d prefer, but it certainly keeps me from getting bored.

That, of course, is not the optimal plan for most authors. So I took some time to consider what I used to do when I needed inspiration. I went back to when I wrote my first book (which still hasn’t been fully edited!) and what I did to bust through those blocks that came up while writing. At that time, that was the only manuscript I was working on, so all of my energy and focus was directed onto it.

I recall going outside, taking a walk near my office, visiting museums, or sitting in parks, to help summon a muse or two. During a pandemic, some of these are not consistently available (museums may not be the most accessible places currently). Also, in the Northern Hemisphere, winter makes outdoor walks or times in public parks quite uncomfortable. So none of my usual options are optimal.


That being considered, what should a writer do when trying to summon the muses during the winter season during a pandemic?

Actually, I recommend everything that I have used to distract myself when I should be editing. Clean up your house, watch YouTube videos that have nothing to do with what you’re writing (I have a YouTube channel if you want to check it out), phone your friends, scroll through social media: basically, do anything you can to give your brain a break. Give yourself a firm time frame for indulging in non-writing activities, then relax a bit.

If self control is difficult for you, then go ahead outside and take a quick walk, even if that means trudging through the snow. It’s better to be temporarily chilled than perpetually distracted.

In all seriousness, the muses/inspiration you need is probably just waiting for you to take a break from feeling the pressure to be “inspired”. You ever notice how inspiration always strikes at the most random times? Yeah, it’s a thing. And it only happens when you aren’t “searching” for it.

If nothing else works, take a shower. Something about the water always makes me feel a little more brilliant (Dr. Henriette Anne Klauser discusses this in her book [and one of my favorites!] Write It Down, Make It Happen). The Archimedes Principle, a physical law that has proven consistent over time, legendarily happened when Archimedes was taking a public bath. Now, if he can get strokes of genius while being naked in front of his countrymen, imagine what you could do in the privacy of your own shower!

And if you need a serious kick in the pants, read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (I wrote about the book here). This book always makes me realize how much of Octavia Butler’s thoughts were true, as regards inspiration. She famously said, “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” Pressfield concurs with Butler, and while I always feel a little ashamed after thinking what I could have done differently as regards my writing, I always feel a little comforted when reading Pressfield’s work, as it reveals that, as far as authors go, I’m not the only slacker.

Do you all have any recommendations for getting inspired? I’d love to hear all about it!

This post contains affiliate links.

life curation

Feeling Uninspired?

During this time, I’ve seen a myriad of articles (heck, I’ve even written a few posts!) that assume that being in quarantine automatically means that we have both time and inspiration to finally go after the things that light us up. It’s assumed that (prior to COVID-19) the only thing that was missing from our big dreams was the time to pursue them. And, for some of us, that is true.

However, there is a far more insidious culprit that many of us face when it comes to pursuing our dreams. There is a not-so-small group of us that have lots of time due to being quarantined but almost ZERO inspiration. Oh sure, we see something cool and inspiring online, or we get fired up when we listen to our favorite podcasts. But, when it comes to actually implementing our OWN ideas, we find ourselves feeling stuck and not particularly interested in walking that path just yet.

Some of us aren’t feeling very inspired at all.

I have a couple of theories on why that is, and I’ll share those in a moment. But first, let me state that even though I’m currently working on a side project that I adore, I did not feel inspired when quarantines were first implemented. I was still dealing with managing my fibro symptoms (which were intense at the time) and trying to find a compromise between my need to earn a living and my physical limitations. To say that I was uninspired would be an understatement.

But, something changed. My grandmother and her sister began staying with me, so that I could care for them while the world dealt with coronavirus. I found myself hearing stories that I’d heard before, but I was hearing them as an adult, and gleaning new lessons from them. In the midst of these conversations, I found my new inspiration. The unexpected effect has to be the single most motivating thing that has occurred in the past few years.

Now, back to why many of us aren’t motivated. Most of us are TIRED! Think of the intense schedules that most of us had pre-COVID; we needed some time to decompress and finally BREATHE after living hectic lifestyles. At this point, the only thing that can lead us to inspiration is giving ourselves room to rest and just take care of ourselves. If you are taking care of yourself, you are already doing enough. Give yourself credit and don’t worry about “inspiration”: inspiration comes in when you have room for it. It’s difficult to make room when your basic biological needs (like rest) haven’t been properly met for an extended period of time.

Exhaustion can impact our ability to create and be inspired

Another reason why many of us aren’t motivated and inspired is due to the fact that we feel anxious about the current state of the world as well as our personal well-being. This goes back to biological needs (think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs pyramid): security is a basic need. If we don’t feel secure, it can be challenging to ascend to those higher levels of the hierarchal pyramid (which is the space where inspiration usually resides).

Yes, it is possible to be inspired by feelings of insecurity and exhaustion. There have been many products developed out of these emotions, and those products have been wildly successful. But it’s important to note that inspiration – the spark that makes you want to get up and do something incredible every day – doesn’t play well in spaces of insecurity, exhaustion, anger or depression. Not to mention, these emotions tend to deplete your energy, while inspiration tends to fuel it. Basically, the energy of inspiration runs counter to the “lower” feelings that you may experience. I’ve found that I’m more inspired when I’m feeling calm, healthy, and secure. However, that’s been my personal experience: if you’ve experienced something different, then completely disregard when I’ve stated and continue doing what works for you.

So, if you haven’t feel feeling inspired, give yourself a break and a little grace. We’re all doing the best we can. Eventually, our world will return back to the hectic, exhausting place that it was before (albeit with additional safety precautions) and we may not have another opportunity to truly GO SLOWER and take time to appreciate what really matters. So enjoy this time and continue doing your best: that’s inspiring enough.