Places and people

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 9

Last year, I left for a working holiday in Canada. This year, I took a two week working holiday at home. No responsibility, no family, no clients, just me and my ideal work schedule in a town that was basically deserted. Two years ago, it was a week in the mountains during Winter, working and skiing.

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These three experiences have allowed me to pinpoint exactly what kind of location independence I want. All of them shared one common schedule: I worked for 3-4 hours in the morning and went to the slopes, the beach or just hanging with friends in the afternoon.

What matters to me when I travel is immersion in the local culture, meeting new people, spending time with them. I love encounters and enjoy being around people, at home and abroad.

Long journeys, what they look like

dsc02036When I imagine myself on a long journey in a foreign place, I think of my dream of being able to leave for three month, twice a year. I haven’t, yet, mostly for money questions (how do I pay rent back home while paying rent away ?) but also organizational ones. As a divorced dad, it’s hard for me to take my son with me (his mother won’t agree to it) and even harder to leave without him (I don’t want that).

When I imagine myself doing this, I imagine renting a home because I hate hotels, and I like the warmness that appears in my heart when I push that door and think “I’m home”.

Balancing work and encounters

As far as my work-life rhythm, I can’t imagine anything different from what I experience day to day. It just would be somewhere else. Working in the morning, going with the flow and working all day if I’m on a good roll, walking in the street, having coffee with strangers and friends in the afternoon

The Alps are one of my favorite places for work vacations
The Alps are one of my favorite places for work holidays

What I love most is to sit at terrasses, taking the local life in, contemplating the world while reading a book or writing in a notebook. I’d also get lost in the streets, wandering and seeing where my feet bring me.  I tend to stay away from touristy places. I might visit a city outside of the hot season, just to get a different feel of the place.

For me, independence is less about travelling as it is about being the master of my time and being able to spend the afternoon chatting with someone I just met and not worry about the time that passes. And I love to do that everywhere.

My next planned long vacation ?

I’d like that to be three weeks in Singapour or Honk Kong, next summer. I have the time. I just need to find the money.

Dadventure!

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 8

Yes, seriously, I dared use this bad bad portemanteau word (but is there any portemanteau that’s not ugly ?) to qualify my day’s highlight.

Parts of why I want more freedom is to be able to bring my son on new adventures, to confront him to new experiences, preferably ones I’m not familiar with, either.

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Last year, I joined a stage fencing club. I wanted to give more attention to my body by starting doing sports again. I don’t like the competitive aspect of traditional sports so I was thrilled to find an activity that was both physical and creative, that mixed storytelling with swords.

Father-son time

img_20160917_195909Several time a year, the club does shows, usually in castles or renaissance fairs. Tonight, there was one. So tonight, it was adventure time at the castle with my 6 year old. Dressed as a musketeer, he learned a few sword moves, helped a knight dress up in his armor and was impressed by a fire show with inflamed swords, whips and other accessories. There was even a horse.

To top it up, he got to stay up until midnight!

For the dad in me, this was an excellent bonding experience.

But not only

img_20160917_195643_editFor the man, it was an adventure in itself. As I stated in earlier posts,
asking for help gives me a hard time. Since I don’t drive, I had to ask to be driven. As a former introvert, it is still uncomfortable for me to hang with people. One of my current areas of self development is about making new friends and learning to be around people more.

So there it is, my adventurous day was about showing something new to my son and forcing myself to be around people.

Cutting loose of limitations

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 7

Pff, this is so not for me!

“I’m not a procrastinator. When I want to do something, I get it done. I am past this hurdle”

That was my first reaction to Natalie’s question, today. Then I thought: “Come on, there must be something, don’t be so self-righteous!”

I realize that this is my first reaction when I’m facing something challenging: “ah, I’m not like that, this doesn’t concern me” and, upon more cautious study, I see how there is something – there usually is.

I was probing my mind and coming back with nothing: “nah, I write everyday and don’t suffer from perfectionism on that” ; “nah, I publish as soon as a story is ready and I’m not a perfectionist on this” ; two days ago, I sent an invite for a webinar of which I still don’t know the topic, so I’m certainly not a stranger to “jumping before you’re ready” or “an imperfect action is better than no action” thought process and practical philosophy.

Aha!

Several hours and a few encounters later, I realized, as I was preparing my son’s snack, that there was one spot on which fear of failure and success was preventing me from acting. I have a thousand good excuses not to do it, several of which are a version of : “I’ll do it when I’m ready” and that is marketing.

Whether it is marketing my school or my coaching, or – even worse – my fiction, I always have something better to do than market. I used to tell myself: “once I have something to market, I’ll do it” but I have several things that are good and that are ready to get shown to the world.

I hate rejection. Exposure to more people (which marketing is) means more rejection which might be why I’m not trying harder.

Action time

So here’s the thing I will do. I have already begun posting on my Facebook page more. Now it might be time to do it on my profile as well, but mostly, I will identify literary bloggers and contact one a day, showing my work, pitching my short stories, and asking for help in spreading my work.

Contacting one blogger a day for 30 days will definitely have an impact. I have no idea what impact and I don’t really care right now. Life is all about learning and exposing yourself to new experiences. I’m learning to free myself from outcome dependency (a term I first heard on a *ahem* seduction advice video), so this will be a triple benefit exercise:

  1. I’ll learn to detach myself more from my fear of outcomes
  2. I’ll train in showing my work and asking for help
  3. I might expand exposure to my work

It might also push me to write more and faster as I develop a bigger audience.

In short: never stop at your first impression that you might or might not need an exercise. And always go for the most uncomfortable action in your list of undone actions.

Going on despite beginner’s doubt

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 6

People help define our reality. This is an exercise that is difficult for me because it is about asking for help and I don’t like asking for help. I always feel like I’m burdening people when I do. Amanda Palmer’s book is scary for me.

Today’s task, on Natalie’s blog challenge, is to figure out who two ideal mentors would be. I didn’t think the exercise would be difficult. I mean, people who are already where you want to be, who can give you tips, how hard is that to find ? I realized I was stuck. It was not that I couldn’t think about people I want to resemble more, it was thinking of them as mentors rather than models that proved difficult.

I ended up choosing people who have reached the artistic career I’m aiming for. I don’t know if that’s the smartest thing, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d choose to aim low ?

1.Neil Gaiman

Not only is he a great writer, Neil Gaiman is also a model of authenticity. He built his reputation and career around his very own universe, always respecting his own voice and imaginary world, never compromising.
For a long while, I was looking to be the person I thought people wanted me to be, especially in writing. I was trying hard to decode what I was expected to be, until the point when I understood that the only thing that I was expected to be was me.

If I had a chance to meet Neil Gaiman, I’d ask him how he managed to remains so true to himself, so respectful of his personal universe. Was there any fear along the way ? Did he doubt himself ? (he says he still does) and how did he deal with it ? I wouldn’t ask for writing advice or regular “how do you get published advice” but for advice on how to keep going when you’re beginning, when no one knows who you are, when you’re overridden with doubt.

2. William Sheller

In 2016, this french musician, composer and songwriter received a lifetime award for his forty-year career. His whole artistic life has been centered around making his own music, often experimenting with genres, from rock to classical, from a psychedelic opera to a japanese inspired epics. His songs are highly story-focused and he has been doing pretty much what he’s wanted to do for forty years.

This is – in music – the career I want to achieve in books and movies. His songs have been part of the soundtrack of my childhood and a lot of his lyrics have become personal mantras. This seems to be a man who’s defined his own life and has lived it without drama, discreetly, pouring out song after song and gathering a loyal following.

If I was to meet him, I’d just want to ask him about his creative process. Is it fluid ? Is it convoluted ? How did he keep evolving through time ? Was it a deliberate research or did it happen ? How does he live ? How was it when he was beginning ? Did he struggle ? How do you keep going on through the struggle ?

Insights

My need for a mentor right now seems to focus around the question: how do you keep doing your work when you haven’t broken through, yet ? Where do you find the drive, the energy, the faith to go on ?

Success is not an accident, it is a plan

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 5

Every day, I’m building up and executing my habits. I keep them simple: writing and marketing.

1. Writing

Writing1 is easy. It is the first thing I do in the morning, because it is the most important since, without words and stories, I have nothing to offer to the world. I do it for an hour or two. At least, twenty minutes. On the worst day, I’ll write only one sentence but that sentence is powerful. Breaking the habit kills momentum and lowers my faith in myself. When my day comes down to one sentence, it has been a challenging day and I had to fight hard against resistance. Managing to write that sentence on a day like this is a more powerful victory than every word I write on “in-flow” days.

1Some days, writing will mean adding words to a text, on other days it will be editing or structuring.

2. Marketing

Marketing is harder. I find it tedious and shallow. I understand its necessity for long term freedom and I can find pleasure in it, but I tend to be reluctant when it comes to sending emails, or posting on social media. William Gibson once wrote “If I’m doing this [blogging] I’m definitely not writing a novel”. I agree with him but I’ll keep my social presence somewhat active every day, either by posting on my blog, or on Facebook and Twitter (via social posting apps that prevent me from being distracted by the flux), or answering email (also mostly a distraction).
So, everyday, twenty minute of some kind of marketing.

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3. Focusing

The hard part is not to isolate the actions, it is to stay on-track and stay focused. I have found that the more I respect the habit, the stronger it is. It is very hard for me not to write when I’ve been writing every day for a month. But it is, at the same time, very fragile. Lose one day of momentum and it is almost like you’re starting over from scratch.

Jerry Seinfeld has this technique where he will cross on his calendar every day he has written. His only worry is not to break the chain. He knows that breaking the chain makes it harder to continue going on.

So, once I have my action goals set for success, the only thing I’ll worry about is to execute on them. No matter what. Don’t. Break. The. Chain.

My super powers

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 4

Today, I have been giving some thoughts to what my super powers are.

I know writing is one. I am good and fast at it. I love doing it. And I don’t mean kind of love but LOVE! This one is too obvious, though.

Listening and connecting with the emotional truth of stories

In order to write good stories, I need to be able to collect them. My best superpower for this is listening. I am a great listener in that I know what questions to ask to get to the heart of the story and see its different angles. This power is useful in realizing my vision because my writing comes from the emotional truth of people. It is also what I want to offer to my readers: the ability to connect with their emotional realities and open up to others.

Welcoming discomfort

The other superpower that I believe to be super useful in my quest for freedom is my ability to face discomfort. It is a fairly new super power, one that I’ve explored in the last year and that I’ve become more and more able to use. Showing your work, being your most authentic self in your art, is uncomfortable. A lot of my friends quit their freedom dream because they feel like they don’t make enough money, or they don’t know how to push themselves through the beginner’s phase, which is when you must be okay with looking like a fool because you’re just figuring things out and making every mistake in the book.

I am not fine with the beginner’s phase or the judgement calls, the unsolicited advice and the exposure of my truest being. But I am fine not being fine. Discomfort is part of the process. It might not be pleasant but it is a necessity. And being able to welcome it is a Superpower, especially since I hate rejection.

Being perseverant

I never give up. It might take me ten years to reach my goal and I might take a thousand side roads, but I’ll get there. When you’ve set your course in the margins of the norm, perseverance and resilience are two powerful superpowers to have since without them, giving up would become too easy.

With these three superpowers, I am armed and ready to get going, climb the mountains and succeed at living life on all my terms, making no concessions and taking no prisoners!

My ideal day

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 3

My ideal schedule

7:30 am. I get up with no alarm. My son is waking up on his own while I prepare his breakfast. We chat about life, our day to come, enjoying each other’s company.

9 am. I’ve dropped him to school and am pouring coffee in my mug. The smell of freshly ground grains excites my neurons. I’m already thinking about the text i’m working on that day.

1 pm. I stir. I’ve spent the last four hours in hyper focused mode, exploring the story and writing it. Time to fix myself a healthy salad and take a break.

2 pm. It’s time for the unplanned. Maybe I see friends, or I nap, read, watch a movie, walk around the city, play a video game, see my coach, train in sports… whatever activity i’m pursuing or whatever mood i’m in, i’ll follow.

4 pm. I’m in front of the school, waiting for my son to come out. We have two hours for ourselves. Reading or playing together, chatting, or doing our own stuff, it doesn’t matter but it starts with a nice snack.

6 pm. Back to work. I blog, check emails, write some more, deal with administrative duties…

8 pm. I cook and we eat.

8:30 pm. Time for our good night ritual.

9:30 pm. I write some more, get online with my coaching clients, or just enjoy a relaxed night if I have no pressing deadline that day.

1 am. Time to sleep.

The ideal day, it’s not just about activities

More than the specifics, i’m interested in depicting my strategies for an ideal day. Sure, the details of places and activities are important for visualization but I believe mood and mindset matter equally. What makes a perfect day is my awareness that something exceptional is happening: I’m alive, the master of my time, the sole permission giver. I think about all the people trapped under a boss, forced to ask permission when they want a day off, feeling abused when they work extra hours.

In my perfect day, I remember how grateful I am to my older self to have created this life for me. I enjoy every minute even when I struggle, because I wish to live no other life.

When the unexpected threatens the ideal

I deal with the unexpected with my coaching tools, welcoming every emotion and then asking myself what is the best way to deal with every situation, good or bad. In my perfect day, my circumstances don’t  affect my mood or my determination, they’re data that needs to be dealt with, feedback that requires to be processed. Even the most annoying road block can’t affect my faith in the project.

In my perfect day, I am the best listener, caring of others and of myself, efficient in work and relationships, loving and I bring solution to conflicts instead of stirring the fire. Oh, and I am free of approach anxiety and outcome dependency!

I, the explorer

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 2

I’ve always felt as an explorer. Always been sad that all of Earth had been found. Never interested enough to become an astronaut. Instead, I explore perceptions, frames of reality, ideas, relationships.

It is my duty to share my discoveries with the rest of humanity. What other life models are possible. What different moral systems exist. How techniques like NLP, hypnosis or even simple philosophy open our minds to different understandings of what it means to live together, to be, to define ourselves.

Bringing back my discoveries

As a coach, I use these techniques to help clients look at their breakups or their relationships differently. To heal by opening up to different versions of their reality.

As a writer, I transform into stories the discoveries I make. Through the emotions carried by words, I create meaning disguised as entertainment.

Gathering experiences, sensations, concepts, I need both time and space to study and experiment. Both the flexibility to follow the trail of an encounter and the emotional availability to receive the surprises carried by life. I need to have enough time for ideas and experiences to pollinate each other and give birth to new ones. The worship of immediacy we live in doesn’t work well with the birth of deeply researched work. Freedom is the tool I use to tear myself away from that cult.

I am multiple

My rhythm is not linear. I alternate between phases of deep immersion in writing, where I work 12-15 hours a day, bashing words on my keyboard, producing at high speed.

I can only achieve these frenzied stages if I have spent time buzzing around, flying from flower of meaning to flower of meaning, getting lost in confusion and stumbling my way out of it.

I never know when an idea will be ripe, when it will hit me with all its strength and pull me into the woops-a-week-went-by-and-I-didn’t-notice stage of my life.

Freedom is a necessity. Without it, I can’t be the explorer I am meant to be. I can’t gather the material I then use to craft stories and bring healing.

Without freedom, I can’t do my true work.

My 3 challenges

This blog post is in response to Natalie’s 10 Day Freedom Plan Blog Challenge Day 1 : http://suitcaseentrepreneur.com/10-day-blog-challenge/10dbc-day-1

My ideal lifestyle is pretty much writing fiction all day, taking two three-week long retreats a year somewhere in the world and earn my whole living thanks to fiction. Natalie asked me to think about the 2-3 biggest challenges that prevent me from doing it (time and money excluded).

1. I hate rejection

It’s not that I fear it. I know some people will not resonate with what I write. I know some will hate it and feel offended by it. It’s already happened and I hate that feeling. As Seth Godin says it, for some reason we give less weight to ten good critics as we do to one bad.
The emotion that comes with rejection (that pinch in the heart, that swirling brain) is on my top-5 list of most painful emotions. Because I anticipate it and I hate it, I tend to delay writing and publishing my work.

2. Promoting

“Fiction is too fickle to follow as a lucrative career path”, one of my marketing mentors once told me. Although I don’t agree with this affirmation (or at least, don’t agree with the shortcut that a non-lucrative = bad career path), it is true that fiction is a nightmare to promote.

Figuring out how to profitably advertise my stories is still a big challenge. As a no-name-yet self-published writer, I still have to crack the code for bringing enough readers to my books to create a sustainable business.

3. How to be authentic ?

I’m a big advocate of the idea that true writing has to be authentic, or it lacks strength. Writing, living, loving, all are about authenticity. I believe authenticity comes with a form of daring. Daring to be yourself, daring to experiment new things.

How do I know I’m being authentic enough ? Figuring out the answer to this question often takes time away from my publishing goals as I ponder over whether to write this or that story. Natalie’s post on “tackling the right challenges” resonates highly with this question.

As an author, I want to tackle this authenticity problem. As a writer, I want to get as many stories out there that I can. How do I reconcile both sides ?

Thank you for reading

I’m a writer and a coach. I welcome you on this blog about emotions, relationships, and vocations. In the next 10 days, I will be exploring my authenticiy, my big vision for freedom. I hope you’ll hop in and share your thoughts !