Category Archives: Contemplations

My favorite story collections

I read many story collections in my life. Many of them were very good and enjoyable to read. But there are only two I could name by their titles and which are the first to pop into my mind when speaking of inspiring stories. These are Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment and Being Here…Too: Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment by Ariel & Shya Kane.

In fact, reading of the first book ignited a turn in my life I have never thought would be possible. I might not have dared to write books or anything else as daring, have I not read that book and all other books by Ariel and Shya Kane, listened to their radio shows and participated in their live seminars.

I first saw Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment when an online retailer generated a recommendation based on my previous orders of self-help and motivational books. I read many self-help books before and still felt lost. So after buying and receiving Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment, I resisted reading it for almost two years. But my sight kept being captured by the beautiful butterfly on its cover, and even by its spine when I tucked it between the other books on one of my bookshelves.

At some point, I surrendered and read it. I learned about a unique approach called Instantaneous Transformation developed by Ariel and Shya Kane. And with time, I learned and experienced the three revealing principles of this approach.

First, I realized that if I resisted something or tried to get rid of something – a thought, a habit, a person, a task, a book (see above 🙂 ) or anything else – I didn’t get rid of it at all. This person or thing just kept on sticking around, dominated my life and often became overwhelming.

Then, I learned that I couldn’t be anywhere else or anyone else at any given moment – I could only be who and how I was (or wasn’t), whether I liked it or not. And whether I judged my situation or not.

Finally, there was the Kanes’ third principle – anything that I allowed to be exactly as it was without judging or trying to change it, completed itself in an instant.

As I read Ariel and Shya’s books and articles, listened to their Being Here internet radio show, and participated in their live seminars, I experienced what it meant to let myself and others be just as we were. I discovered how to breathe and savor my life moment by moment, completely and freely. I came to understand what I truly wanted, what was my heart’s desire.

Yes, reading Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment was the moment when this beautiful journey I am now on began. It was a journey of curiosity about what was happening at any given moment of now and what could happen if I surrendered to my wishes and did what my heart called me to do, instead of what I thought others wanted me to do.

As I practiced transformation, being in the moment, I discovered again and again that kindness and honesty were mutually inclusive, not exclusive. That allowed me to start observing myself non-judgmentally, in my life and also in the process of writing, teaching, and consulting.

I was delighted when I heard of the successor of one of my all time favorite books and of its concept. Being Here…Too: Short Stories of Modern Day Enlightenment is unique because the stories in it relate the magic of being here. These true stories were written by fantastic people of various walks of life, background and beliefs.

If I try to summarize the new book in three words, then these will be: Inspiring, empowering, brilliant. (You can read my full review of this book here.)

I strongly recommend reading and re-reading both books. You will laugh, smile, feel inspired, uplifted, utterly well in yourself and discover each time some new aspect of every story, which you didn’t notice during the previous read. They are that multidimensional!

#transformationmadeeasy #arielandshyakane #shortstory #truestories #inspiration #motivation #compassion #beinghere

Every New Book is the First One

I used to think that if not writing itself then at least the rest of the process of bringing a book into the world will become more and more routine with each new book.

But it doesn’t look like that at all. I am working on my books nine, ten and eleven these days and I must say the work on them differs very much from those before and between each other.

One of the books I work on this year, and which is being edited by a professional editor right now, took me four months to write and one whole year to revise it.

It is not my first non-fiction book and not my first work where I made research, contemplations, and developed concepts. However, every step in creating this book, both writing, and editing felt like it was the very first one. Every bit of the process requested me to think out of the box, made me feel creatively uncomfortable, and made me exclaim, “It was never that way before!”

The paradox of wishing some calm of known, of a routine and at the same time longing for new and exciting accompanies me every time I work on my books.

I do feel challenged and feel an urge to complain. But when I slow down and look honestly at what is happening, I don’t want the whole process to occur in any other way.

I want each book to be new and exciting. In truth, I want it to be unknown, however scary this process might be.

And as long as I want it this way, I guesstimate that it will be like that.

What about you and your writing projects? Does each of them surprise you in any way? If yes, then how? If no, did you look close enough? Or non-judgmentally enough?

Picture: My children never stop surprising me. Here is my sweet little girl at the past New Year’s Eve party, claiming that the hat she was wearing was a bike helmet.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Cheerleading for Writers: Y – Yearning and Yawning: The Alleged Yo-yo Effect of Curiosity

Here is one of the dialogs I had with myself about the powers that inspire us and bring us to places we had never expected visiting, before we dared to jump into the ocean of creativity.

“Passion, curiosity, searching and keeping an open mind for wonders, these all help us wake up in the morning and step into our days with enthusiasm.” The worrying me draws her brows together in spite of the positive statement she just made. She seems to need this facial movement to let her fully express what she is going to say next. “But what about those moments when we yawn, when we have had enough, and simply need a nap or another kind of break from our curiosity driven natures?”, she asks.

“What about them?”, the laid-back me raises her brows.

“Do they bring us back to the points where we where at the beginning, just like a Yo-yo does after reaching the top?”

“I don’t think so.”

“But it does feel like that all the time!” The worried me pulls her shoulders up. “We are often knocked off with exhaustion after reaching the top. All that elation lasts maybe a second, and then, Boom!, the head is empty again. Aren’t we supposed to move forward?”

“Hmm, it’s a good question.” The laid-back me leans back in her chair and puts her hand around the espresso cup standing on the table in front of her.

“I know!” The worried me leans forward and seems to want to crawl into my computer in an attempt to make the things go faster.

The laid-back me sips her coffee and says, “I have an idea. What if the creativity and the achievements connected with it are like a great cup of coffee? What if after drinking it up, you feel so wonderful that you are already looking forward to the next one. This is the next step you’ve been talking about.” The laid-back me takes another sip and continues. “At the same time you are aware that the coffee in a dirty cup with cold coffee stains won’t be as good as the one you just had. So you go and wash the cup. This is what the elation and euphoria about your achievement do. They wash and free your mind for the next portion of creative challenge. But before you, the cup, can have another coffee, you need to dry up and get warm again for the next portion of coffee.” The laid-back me finishes her espresso and stands up to wash her cup.

The worried me opens her eyes wide and notices herself leaning back in her chair.

Epilogue: Yawning is not an enemy of yearning to be creative. It is rather it’s partner, making sure that we get a break, get “washed”, warm and ready for the next creative leap forward.

P.S. Yawn became one of my favourite words after I read, at 24, a sweet tale in German, where a little baby yawned and caused the whole world to yawn, which according to the author was a good thing because on this day all went early to bed. This was the very first story I read in full in German language and it immediately became one of my favourite. Before this story, I thought of yawning as something unnecessary or even annoying, but after reading the story, which made me smile and feel unexpectedly and extremely happy, I now enjoy when people yawn around me.

Picture: Speaking so much of yawning — of course I had to search in stocks online for a picture of a someone yawning. I found this sweet puppy.

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

Cheerleading for Writers: X – X-ing Out (Or a How to Face Self-Edits)

In the article starting with an E, we’ve talked about editing, and what emotions might rush through us when we open a file with our manuscript sent to us by our editor.

Recently I have found myself struggling with self-edits. As I write this article, I am in the process to incorporate the second self-edits of my soon-to-be-published book on business rules, mainly targeted at small businesses. The self-edits on paper went on some days easily and a bit slower on others. But they didn’t stagnate for a few days in a row. However incorporating them into the manuscript on my computer did. For more than three days in a row.

The reason was simple. The pages were full of hand-made notes. In case of some pages it seemed sometimes that changes needed to be made on every row. Apart from that I realized two chapters had to change places. This would mean at least some modifications of the text inside those chapters, but maybe also those adjacent to them.

I didn’t expect so much change to come in the second self-edit. I thought something like that came in the first self-edit, not the second. Today, I am actually not quite sure which of the self-edits was harder for my previous books, but my brain had this idea of self-edits gradually becoming easier with each new edit. I guessed wrong. At least for this mentioned non-fiction book.

Was this erroneous expectation the reason for my procrastination? I don’t know now, I didn’t know it at that time and it probably didn’t matter at all.

What mattered was how to move from there.

Inspired by my “gamified” style of work — my notebook with to-do lists carries the name “Victoria’s Game Book” — I came up with the following idea. “Why not give myself a point for implementing each change, whether it is a X (deletion), insertion, or both, in the text?” I thought. “If I do so, then I would concentrate on each step, because points can only be gathered one by one in this case. While working on one of those changes I might forget about the daunting appearance of the whole project and just be busy gathering those points.”

I can report now, this approach helped. I stopped counting the points for each edit and incorporated change at some point, but this approach did let me step over my procrastination and reclaim fun in working on every stage of my projects again.

I read recently that playing games at work might be very motivating but also with some negative by-products. One of these negative side effects was the apparent decrease in productiveness after the motivating game had finished.

But what if we don’t stop playing? What if we take every step in the projects we pursue as a draw or turn in a strategic game?

Do you remember the famous quote by George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

We don’t have to stop playing at all. Life is a fun game. Let’s play it. Let’s stay young.

Each project has of course its game rules and we are the game designers, who develop and adjust them. The main adjustment we have to make is how to bring the fun factor into the project we have to carry out. And remember, we ourselves, are also the customers, the players of these games we design and develop.

Gathering as many points I can for the given project is definite fun for me. Once I managed to gather 15 points in a day, by addressing many small and urgent tasks. I felt extremely elated by the end of the day.

Now I am off to my next project game of today, which happens to be the self-edit work I mentioned above. As I edit and post this article for the Cheerleading for Writers, I gladly report that I have a good chance of finishing this previously seemingly daunting second self-edit today.

And what’s your next project game?

Picture: I saw this dress a couple of weeks ago while walking down my favourite pedestrian street in Aalborg. I guess wearing a Pokémon dress would definitely gamify one’s day. How can you be possibly be overly serious wearing that dress? 😀

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

Cheerleading for Writers: W – Wonder and How We Find Our Way to It

In dedicated chapter I – Ideas and Inspiration, we’ve talked at length about finding ideas and inspiration. The conclusion was that we can’t control of how the ideas appear. It can be anything, and they can appear anywhere. Completely unexpectedly.

This could be the clue. The unexpectedness of it all.

But where does the unexpected starts? How do we find a way to the point where we exclaim or whisper, “Wow!”?

How do we find the beginning of the path, which leads to that moment when we are taken with this power of wonder and into the momentum of passion?

One of my favourite writers, who has been quoted many times in this book, Elizabeth Gilbert wrote the following brilliant words in her book “Big Magic: Creative Leaving Beyond Fear”:

“I believe that curiosity is the secret. Curiosity is the truth and the way of creative living. Curiosity is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. Furthermore, curiosity is accessible to everyone. Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times — a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God. But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity. The stakes of curiosity are also far lower than the stakes of passion. Passion makes you get divorced and sell all your possessions and shave your head and move to Nepal. Curiosity doesn’t ask nearly so much of you.

In fact, curiosity only ever asks one simple question: ‘Is there anything you’re interested in?’

Anything?

Even a tiny bit?

No matter how mundane or small?”

Curiosity was what made Liz, as Elizabeth Gilbert and her friends call herself, try out gardening, which later made her curious about plants and their origins, and then about the history of botany, and finally ignited a passion of writing an epic story of a woman passionate about botany and discovering through botany it secrets of the world. Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel “Signature Of All Things” was an amazing best-selling work of creativity, which in spite of it being fiction, has been nominated in Great Britain in 2014 for The Welcome Prize, an award for achievement in writing on a medical subject. “The Signature of All Things”, or SOAT as Liz Gilbert loves referring to her now famous novel, was the only novel on the list of nominees, alongside works of recognized scientific authors Andrew Solomom and Oliver Sachs. (You can read about Liz’s excitement on this nomination on her side following this link: http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/so-honored-dear-ones-the-signature-of-all-things-has-been-nominated-for-a/.) I am sure this nomination was made due to the amazingly meticulous research clearly visible when reading this novel.

Many would agree that such an achievement would not be possible without passion.

But the passion came later.

For her, and I dare to say for all of us, the magic of any passion starts with curiosity.

Curiosity was also the one that helped me to make the first steps in writing. My fear was to big to let me see the looming passion for writing inside me. But curiosity was a gentle friend. “Don’t worry. Just try it out. You don’t have to commit to anything.” It said, “Taste it and if you don’t like it, spit it out.”

After writing my first short story in 2009 in a notebook, which I still have today, I didn’t spit it out. I liked the taste too much. And still love it.

Yes, I am sure curiosity, this gentle friend, will help me out in the other daunting beginnings. “Let’s see what we can do today”, it will tell me.

Dear, writers friends, let’s continue our journey to the wonder of creativity, and let’s start by looking around and looking closer at what we say to ourselves or out loud, “Hmm, this could be interesting.”

Picture: Autumn treasures discovered on the way home from Niklas school. Nature will never stop being amazing.

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