Monthly Archives: May 2016

Am I my own enemy or just a weird combination of a worrying parent and a curious child?

A note: With this blog post I am taking part in the Writing Contest “Writers Crushing Doubt” hosted by Positive Writer – See details at:

Something amazing happened on a bus trip to a fertility clinic back in the Fall 2009. The magic started at home. Pushed by an impulse, I grabbed the nicest notebook I had and three pens (just in case two of them would stop writing) and went on a one hour bus ride from Aalborg to Dronninglund through the beautiful and wavy landscape of North Denmark.

Thank goodness the mood dropping hormones were not starting their dark magic until later, so on the ride back home I finished my first short story.

Wow! This story took me by surprise. It was dramatic and captivating, being about wishing for children but not being able to have them and on the other hand having a son and then losing him.

The emotion roller coaster mixed with hormone cocktail and failure of the embryo implantation procedure crashed into the giving birth to something new — creations made out of words.

This was uplifting and at the same time absolutely scary.

“Can I create more of this?” something curious asked inside me.

Completely unrequested, another story started taking shape. But it grew bigger and bigger, so that it became clear: that story would not fit into two bus rides. Not even into ten. This looked rather as a book. But I couldn’t possibly write a book, could I? No, no, this was too hard and too dangerous! Because it was unknown. And I was a non-native speaker after all. Who would read an English book written by a non-native speaker coming from the former Soviet Union not even native to Russian anymore, or not that fluent in her mother tongue Romanian? Who in the world would read it?

“Right,” my brain answered, “nobody”.

In the quiet evenings, when no one was looking, I opened my notebook, peeked into it and re-read the story. Again and again. The story had its rough edges, which needed to be polished, but I still liked it. I gave it to my niece to read, and she loved it too. “I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to read more,” she said.

“Really?” I asked blushing.

“Yes, yes,” said a quiet voice in me in unison with my niece. “You should.”

“OK,” I said to myself. “Let’s try, but I will first read and learn how to do it properly.”

Magic of unexpected natural conception mixed with purchasing and reading tons of books on the writing craft.

Some of them confirmed that it was not that easy to be a writer. “You see!” a loud voice prompted. “You better concentrate on the good and real sides of life instead of pursuing something you were not made for.”

So I did concentrate on another dream of mine. Which became a reality. Being a mother to a small child.

This new reality, however, produced more hormones, more ups and downs, and more emotions. Why wasn’t I happy, when a long, longed for dream came true? This was all I wanted, wasn’t it? I had a loving husband, a sweet baby son, wonderful family and friends, and I had an interesting and positively challenging job. Besides I lived in one of the happiest countries in the world. So why wasn’t I happy? At least not most of the time?

Then on a book stand in an international airport, a butterfly captured my attention. I passed by and then came back. I took the book into my hands and read, “Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment” by Ariel and Shya Kane.

I stole a glance into the book and put it back on the shelf. “No, life isn’t that easy!” Again that loud voice.

But something quiet and strong pushed me back to the stall with the books and nudged me to buy the book.

After resisting several months to read this book by Ariel and Shya Kane, I read it and got caught by an amazing statement. There was nothing wrong with me! And I could experience happiness by simply being here, by being fully aware of the present moment.

“Hm,” I thought, “it won’t hurt to try, if I don’t have to do anything in particular and not work on something hard.”

Unbeknownst to me, my curiosity — this amazing and primary instinct we all have in us, but which is often silenced with years of indoctrination, prejudices and rules, as well as constant resistance to them — suddenly this curiosity of mine was made free.

Along with reading all the books by Ariel and Shy available then, and taking part in their workshops, something else started happening. A question started accompanying almost all loud “No’s” in my head. And the question was, “What if?”

The dialogue in my head went on then something like this, “No, no, I’m not a writer!”

“What if we don’t write a book, but just write some blog posts and see how they are received? We can stop any time, can’t we?”

After blogging for some time an unasked question was answered with a loud “No, no, I am not writing a book, and especially not about my father! His story of having lost his family during World War II, grown up in orphanages, and lead an unlucky search for his family is far too sad. Natalie Goldberg can say ‘to split open’ and others can do this if they want, but I won’t do that. It’s too much!”

“What if we only start and see what happens? We can stop and hide the book any time, right? Nobody will ever hear of it.”

As you can guess I wasn’t able to keep quiet. Instead I shared my first book even before finishing the first draft. The result: I was motivated and supported to write further.

So I published that book. And I wrote another one, and published again. Then another…

And through practicing true listening, as recommended by Ariel and Shya, listening as if from the other person’s point of view, I was able to find out who were these two chatting in my head.

“When you leave home,” I remember Ariel and Shya saying at one of their seminars, “You become your own parent. You tell yourself what you should and should not do. And then you rebel against those instructions.”

That was one of the brightest light bulbs of recognition. Yes, I did become my own worrying parent, afraid her child to fall and hurt herself. And I was still that curious child wanting to get what she was after, whatever the cost might be, and with time learning to talk the parent into allowing her do it.

So am I my own enemy putting barriers into the way of my own success? Today, after experiencing and often practising awareness and instantaneous transformation approach developed by Ariel and Shya, I don’t think so. Now I realize that nothing could have happened differently in my life up till now, but many exciting things can happen in at least somewhat safe way if I just help the parent and the child in my head being kind to themselves and each other and make the most appropriate to their best ability and any given circumstances choice. They brought me this far, and they can bring me much, much further.

Picture: When I wake up from those debates in my head I am the most productive and also the most capable to discover beauty on the paths I walk.



Cheerleading for Writers: N – Novels, Novellas, Novelettes, and Short Stories

It’s quite curious how unsure in ourselves most of us human beings are. I guess I am not alone in having exact ideas of what I am NOT able to do, at the same time being sure that those non-abilities are more significant than my abilities.

In respect to writing these thoughts of mine had been changing progressively with time.

First I thought I couldn’t not write a book. Then when I wrote my first book I was delighted to have reached the word count that could classify it as a novel. I have reached 55 thousand words. Wow. I hadn’t reached the 100 thousand then yet, as the typical novels by famous contemporary authors often did. But I was an apprentice, wasn’t I?

To my utter horror, on April 29, 2015, only one month after self-publishing my novel, I read an article “Shorter is better” by Joe Moore on The Kill Zone blog saying that novels started at about 60 thousand words. “Oh no!” I thought, “my first self-published novel was a mere novella!”

I have even expressed my dismay openly. Here is what I have written in a comment to this article, “Oops, so my first novel is a novella. I thought that novels start with 50000. I have 55900. But I guess the count does not matter very much.
“I found very interesting what Jim
[I referred here to an article by James Scott Bell on the same blog] said some time back or in one of his books on writing is that a novella has only one plot-line and not several as a novel could have.
“What I found with my writing is that I just go ahead and write (or plot) and the story develops itself into something whether short or long. One short story I planned turned out to become a novel. And I need to do a lot of research there. It is definitely worth it. Or a novel, which I write now turned out to be a series, probably of novellas, because it contains separate stories and plots. So far five are planned. Who knows, maybe more are to come.
“I guess the surprise the stories bring with them is one of the most exciting aspects of writing.”

As you can see, I did try to calm myself down and to silence my thoughts claiming that shorter works of fiction were of less quality than longer pieces.

This is what Joe Moore answered to my comment, “Victoria, unless your publishing contract specifies a definite word count, just write the best story you can. That’s all that matters.”

I was delighted for such motivation and replied, “Thank you for answering my comment, Joe. I’m a self-publisher. So I have a contract with myself. I am learning to be less critical every day. ;)”

But even Joe’s reassuring comment and my own attempts to be kind to myself didn’t reduce this fear, the fear of being worse than others because I was not able to write longer pieces than something around 50 thousand words.

So the next step was to find excuses. The short stories were not for me. They were reserved for special masters. Who could possibly repeat the famous 6-words-long short story by Hemingway. No, such apprentices like me, shouldn’t even try to write one. (A short side note here: by this time I have written and published on my blog a couple of short stories. And they did get appreciative comments. But my brainy brain knew of course better.) As to novels, I decided that I didn’t like reading long descriptions. I liked reading novellas, actually, I thought, trying to ignore the short stories, novels and epics I’ve read and loved (including many brilliant long descriptions). “All these are exceptions!” my brain shouted. “I am more into novellas!”

And on and on this went. Not all the time though.

It was instantaneous transformation, an amazingly effective, efficient and kind approach developed by Ariel and Shya Kane, which again helped me to shed light on what was going on. I realized that these thoughts came mainly when I wasn’t writing. When I was putting my stories on paper or on my computer screen, I didn’t hear them. I guessed that I had them, but the stories seemed to sweep me away from worries.

In one of their video mini-sessions, Ariel and Shya pointed out that it could be valuable to notice having these thoughts, because sometimes they come unnoticed and draw us away from the current moment of our lives, increasing the feelings of stress and discomfort. If we notice them, without judging what we see, we can find back to the current moment and to being truly alive.

And surely enough, when I paid more attention I started noticing these thoughts also while I was writing, how my hands hovered over the keyboard without typing, how I worried whether that particular story or article would be good enough, or liked and appreciated by its readers.

The final (up to this moment) exposure of complete untruth of those thoughts claiming that my current affinity to write relatively short works of fiction and non-fiction might be the evidence of their poor quality, or that it could be dictated by some kind of modern fashion, was when I looked at the following list compiled by Colin Bulman in the article titled “Novella and Novelette” in his book “Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing” :

“The following are some notable novellas:

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958).

Joseph Conrad, The Heart of Darkness (1902).

Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (1952).

Aldous Huxley, The Genius and the Goddess (1955).

Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis (1915).

George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945).

Robert Louis Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886).

H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898).”

This list was the final needle to let the hot air out of my balloon full of worries about the length of my writing.

But what shall I fill with the time which is released from these worries? I guess, I could use it for some creativity. 🙂

What are your thoughts about writing that fill the spaces when you don’t write? And talking about word counts, have you ever considered or judged in any way the length of your stories? Do you think there must be a standard for certain type of stories or articles, or does the standard establish all by itself, like in the articles of this resource (book), as I recently discovered to be around 1000 words without any planning beforehand?

Picture: As I worry less, I notice more and more beauty around me and my phone fills with, for example, this kind of pictures — a little poppy in the sea of green in our garden after a longer gentle-rain period in Aalborg.


“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Are you up for a fun game? Countdown to a fun non-fiction book: with the book cover revealed and a unique possibility to obtain a free copy

I have a special offer for you, if you are a subscriber to this site and if you claim it before June 1st, 2016.

This offer is about my new book “5 Minute Perseverance Game: Play daily for a month and become the ultimate procrastination breaker”, which I will self-publish in the coming few days.

The offer is to receive a free copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review on Amazon (and/or Goodreads). If by the end of reading the book you will say that it goes against you to write the review for it, then no problem at all. You don’t have to feel obliged to do so. You can also un-subscribe from my blog and news any time.

But let me try and catch your attention with two more details. The cover and the description.

My wonderful editor and cover designer, who is also a brilliant illustrator, Alice Jago, as always did an amazing job, both with the edits and the cover. I sent her the photograph with dices, I purchased from, with white background, the one you can see below on the left, and the result of her work is on the right. I also told her about my wish for a dark background and yellow letters. The idea I had was dark red for the background and some kind of yellow-golden letters. But she simply nailed the character of the book, by the way she designed the cover. The cover is playful and fun, just like the creation of the book and everything about it was and is for me.

5 Min Game Cover





And here is a short description of the book:

“Is there something you would like to do but you simply don’t have enough time or strength of will to do it? Is there a book you want to write, an instrument you want to play, a language you want to learn, or something completely different that you’ve wanted to accomplish for as long as you can remember?

If you really and seriously want to succeed in this dream project of yours, then play a game. Not a serious game. But a fun 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

This short, personal and humorous game description will help you to melt your procrastination and become an ultimate procrastination breaker.

So don’t wait any longer, read this book and invite your procrastination to a round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

Bonuses: A PDF-version of the book and a community to join, be motivated by and supported in persevering, and having fun with seemingly daunting projects.”

So if you would like to be one of the very first to obtain a copy of this e-book and obtain it for free, then subscribe to one or all blogs and the news here, if you haven’t done so yet, and send me an e-mail to with your request for your free copy of the book, and please let me know which format you would prefer: PDF, MOBI, or EPUB. And please do this as soon as possible, but latest on May 31, 2016.

Oh, and don’t forget to download the free e-book “Turn Your No Into Yes: 15 Yes-Or-No Questions to Disentangle Your Project”, when you subscribe. It will help you identify what to do during the moves of the fun 5 Minutes Perseverance Game. You can read an opinion about this e-book here.

Cheerleading for Writers: M – Magic (or Remembering what Started the Realization of a Dream)

As many parents do, my husband and I read bedtime stories to our children. A few days ago I read Cinderella to my five-year-old son, Niklas, and I recalled that this fairy tale had a special meaning for me. I mentioned this to my son and after reading the story, I told him why this story or rather how one of the films based on it helped me officially start my writing career.

This is how I started my very first writer’s blog post back in 2013 :

“Those of you, who grew up in the former Soviet Union will remember the old production of Cinderella from 1947. If I am not mistaken it was first produced in black-and-white and later coloured. I think that this is the best production of Cinderella ever. But I guess, everyone thinks this of their favourite movies from their childhood. The reason I mention this is that in this movie, the most wonders are not done by the Circe but by her pupil, whose name was simply ‘Boy’. Every time he was told to work a miracle, he looked apologetically at Cinderella and said: ‘I am not a wizard, I am just learning!’ and did the most wonderful things.

So, now you know: I am not a wizard or a fairy, I am just learning. I am learning to create magic with words.”

Starting my very first blog was a huge adventure and daring for me. Even three years later, after having published three books, offering two more on my site, and with four other on the way, I consider myself being an apprentice in writing. And more so then. That is why the headline of my very first blog said, “I am not a writer, I am just learning.” Seven moths later I changed to “I am not a wizard, I am just learning”.

My friends and family read and sent me their feedback on my blog posts. And I found new and dear to me friends through my blog (as you might have learned in the article “The story behind this project” in the “Cheerleading for Writers”).

Here is what my dear friend and writing teacher Menna van Praag wrote in respect to my blog and its headline. She said that she very much liked what she had read so far, but there was something she didn’t agree with. And she let me know what that was. She didn’t agree with the words in the headline. “But you are a writer! And a magician.” she wrote. “You create magic with words.”

Menna’s words made me catch my breath…Another four moths after that, my web-site’s headline said, “Creating magic with words.”

Fast forward three years, to my son’s room. Sitting with Cinderella’s tale on my lap, I had to smile at myself, as I observed how childishly proud I was telling this story of my writing dream to my son, and how he smiled at me very much like a parent would at their child showing proudly a drawing of hers.

This experience reminded me of something. It reminded me how I sometimes worry if my writing endeavour is worth to follow, whether it is not a waste of time to chaise one’s dream.

I truly love what I do and my day is not complete if I haven’t written something new on that day, however little. Yet still the fear is there: have I chosen the correct path? What if more and more people would criticize me? “Some dreams are right for some people,” I thought, “and the same dreams might be completely foolish for others.” Am I, a non-native to any of the languages I speak, not a fool to write and publish in English, or in any language for that matter? Am I not a fool to chase a dream of being a writer?

And then, when I recall my very first exposure as a writer and reactions to it and my subsequent creations, I realize that I’m not chasing my dream, I am living it. Right now, in this very moment.

In the process of writing this post I recalled another reminder I bought for myself to remember that I am living my writing dream. This is a chain and a locket in form of a book, which has words “fairy tale” on its cover. I wear this chain and the locket very often, but with time I forgot the reason why I bought it. And which thoughts I had when I bought it.

I saw this locket in a jewellery shop at the Copenhagen international airport, right after I wrote a couple of pages for my first novel, while waiting for my plane home. As soon as I saw this metal bead shaped as a small book, I thought, “Wow, I am writing a book. I am a writer. I can’t believe this. This is a fairy tale!”

So I live my fairy tale now. I am right in the middle of separating ashes from lentils. I am not at the “…and they lived happily ever after” yet, because this would mean me being at the end of my fairy tale. Do I want this? Definitely Not! Then I will just enjoy every moment, whether it is removing the ashes or dancing at a ball.

What are your reminders of how you started to write? What inspired and helped you to put your first stories, articles, blog posts into words?

Pictures: Cinderella and the fairy tale locket.

IMG_1104 IMG_1106

Credits for illustrations on the photographs above: They are from a shortened version of most famous fairy tales, retold in German. Title: “Komm, wir gehn ins Märchenland”, Illustrations: Betina Totzen-Beek, Text: Rosemarie Künzler-Behncke.

“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: L – Life, Libel, and Liability

Since topics of the articles (futures chapters) in this resource (book) follow the alphabet, every time I start writing a new one, I search in a glossary for words starting with the next letter I had not covered yet.

Liability caught my eye, when I looked for words starting with an “L”. I wondered how I could I write something cheerful and motivational for my fellow writers about liability.

“The word life,” I thought, “is different. You can show positive things about life, but how do you want to show something positive about liability?”

This sounded like a curious challenge. And both words life and liability started dancing in my head.

At first I didn’t know how to approach them. There was a wish to address them, as well as thoughts of taking responsibility in what we do started emerging, just like they did in the article about Knowledge.

I felt that there was something else coming to the surface, which was important to me and where I made some important to me experience but didn’t find it yet. So I continued researching.

I looked into the “Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing” by Collin Bulman, which is also structured in alphabetic order and where I search for inspiration for one or another article in “Cheerleading for Writers”.

From all the words starting with an “L” that Collin Bulman had addressed only the word libel related in any way to the word liability. I heard of what libels were, so I somewhat reluctantly read the article.

And as I read the article and thought a bit longer about libels and why I seemed not to be able to let this word be, I understood that the word libel was a missing member in the chain I have created from the words life and liability.

I realized that this surfacing and important topic, which was especially important to me in 2013 when I explored what it meant for me to write my first book, was the fear that the result of my writing could be considered by someone as a libel. Even after discovering the quote by Natalie Goldberg and after starting to “split open”, or actually especially after I started writing the most stirring me at that time story, that even though I told the truth in those bits exposing the true story, such as in “The Truth About Family”, I got utterly scared to be judged and claimed that I defamed someone or a person close to them.

Yes, this fear even kept me away from writing, or at least had slowed down the writing of this book considerably. But as I took a step backwards and considered the whole situation non-judgmentally, this fear surprised me by helping to ask myself why the writing of this book was important to me? What did I want to achieve with writing a book about my father and his story?

The answers were revealing and uplifting. I wanted to show — especially to his grandchildren, my sister’s daughter and my children, who never had a chance to meet him in person — what made my father the wonderful person, those who knew him claimed him to be. And all this including his challenging childhood as an orphan of the World War II and as the person who faced bitter rejections in his life.

I discovered that writing this book was not about making someone guilty for the words and events, which cut deeply into his soul and heart and which made him stop the search for his family. No, I realized that there were also people who welcomed him, who pushed him forward and helped him along the way so that he could study at a university and succeed in life. That there were also people who made him feel at home and made possible for him to spend those holidays (which were meant to be spent in a family) with a wonderful family, and ultimately create a family of his own, into which I’d been lucky to be born into.

Yes, I wasn’t after a documentary, I was after “resurrecting” my father’s kind heart — and the story of its growth —, which I’ve been fortunate to get to know and remember from my early school years.

This goal helped me shape the characters and also choose a photograph of my father for the cover, as well as keep some of those uncomfortable events in the story, because they also contributed to shaping my father’s character and the way he went in his life. It also helped me find at least some understanding how those uncomfortable events could have happened as well as for the people who induced them.

While I was finishing my first book I went onto writing my second book “A Spy’s Daughter”, which is completely fictitious but uses a lot of true events from my life as LEGO® building blocks into something complete new by adding quirky bits of my imagination. While writing this book I realized how much of me was in the book, in spite of it being pure fiction and a wild mixture of truth and imagination.

And I realized something else, which was confirmed by the reviews and opinions this book and also my first book have received. I learned that the balancing act of writing what I know with taking care that my writing didn’t offend anyone actually made my books better, because they lacked bitterness and anger toward something what went against my preferences.

Writing and especially this taking care of all, others and myself, during the writing process, helped me stop moaning about the fact that my father died, or about any other “misfortunes” in my life. Instead the slow and conscious process of putting words on paper and weighing what they could mean for me and the readers, helped me tap into those enriching moments of support and inspiration.

And along with many inspiring people in my life, writing the truth and being kind, both in fiction and non-fiction, helped me find my mission. And find what I wanted to be remembered as. I discovered that I wanted to be thought of and remembered as Optimist Writer.

But what will I do if someone will feel offended by my words? If someone will want to make me liable for what I have written? I don’t know what I will do in any particular case, but I know that I will try to be attentive and compassionate to the wishes and feelings of others, as well as to my own truth. So I will ultimately let life lead me and show me the way.

What were your experiences with writing the truth but still taking care that no-one had seen your writing as a libel? What balancing acts did you have to do in your writing? And how did this creative discomfort felt for you?

Picture: An amazing balancing act between nature and artificially created objects. Yesterday, we’ve visited a kite festival in Blokhus, a little holiday town on the Danish west coast about 30 km from Aalborg away. This wall of kites, seemingly made fast with an invisible nail in the sky, impressed all who came and witnessed the sky sprinkled with kites of multiple shapes and colours. It was amazing and very inspiring!



“Cheerleading For Writers”, copyright © 2016 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels