The everyday struggle… especially toward the end

Today was a struggle for me.

I woke up this morning and wrote down my To Do list for the day as I always do. Each day, the list includes one essential item: Write. Most of the time, that item comes so naturally that I’m not even sure that I need to include it. Still, I love checking things off of the list, so I add it in for that little extra bit of pleasure when I can say that I accomplished it as part of my daily goals. Unfortunately, today was not like most days. I felt an impending urge to do anything but write all morning and into the early afternoon. Luckily, it was a light day in terms of other commitments so I gave myself some room to slack off. I’ll sit down and write later. I’ll get to it eventually. I found myself all kinds of things to read and procrastinate with.

The power of the To Do list is such for me, that several hours later, I did get to it. At almost five in the afternoon, I finally sat down and put in my minimum word requirement for the day. Initially, the process was slow and miserable, but as I got more into the scene that I was working on, the words started to come more easily. Eventually I got through it and I am even closer to finishing the first complete draft of this book than I was on Friday.

Now that I’ve gotten through it, I find myself reflecting on why resistance was so much more powerful today than it was the last time I sat down to write on Thursday. I’m reminded of a saying one of my friends uses: “It takes three weeks to build a habit, but only three days to break it.” I took the day off of writing on Friday to be at the Baltimore Book Festival. Instead of my normal two days off of writing for the weekend, I had three days away from it, although Friday was an intense and exhausting day. That extra day took away some of my momentum – I found it harder to trace where my scene was heading and I spent some time trying to retrace the plans that I had made for the scenes remaining until the end of my book. While the extra day off was justified in terms of how busy the festival was, I paid the price for it today. I would gladly pay the price again, but next time I take an extra day off, I plan to remember this experience. Expecting the increased resistance would have made me feel more in control of the emotions that I was feeling and would have helped me to tackle it appropriately. Knowledge about the enemy that I am facing would have shifted the power dynamic in my favor.

The other side of the issue that I ran into is feeling the need to celebrate before I get to the end.

I’ve experienced this sentiment before. When I was a teenage competing on the ice skating rink, I was always a great competitor. Moves that I could perform only inconsistently would come together on the day of the competition. I could go out on the rink and skate a flawless program, landing all of my jumps and completing all of my spins with speed and precision. Until the last one. At the end of a program, my coach and I would always insert a move that I could do consistently. My legs would be tired and I would be trying to catch my breath so it seemed like the best plan. Use an easier move at the end to finish the program with flare. But this tactic never worked well for me. I would accomplish all of the hardest elements in my program and then falter on the last spin – the layback, easily my strongest element on a normal day. This would happen because I would be so close to the finish that I could see it there ahead of me. Because I was almost there, I imagined myself to already be there and I would make a stupid error in my setup that would result in mediocre or failed execution of that last move.

Years later, I find myself back there, in the home stretch. My next novel is almost finished. I’ve been running the 10K and the finish line is less than half a kilometer away. I want to relax, I want to celebrate. I know that the worst is behind me, but yet the finish line seems to elude me. I’m so close that I want to stop and revel, but I’m not there yet.

I am of course trying to learn from a mistake that I made over and over again in competition. I won’t allow myself to celebrate until I can actually write the words “THE END” on the last page of my manuscript. Even with the reminder, I can still feel that impulse. I will probably keep feeling it at the end of each writing project I work on. Today I fought against the urge and won, but the rest of the home stretch remains in front of me. All I can do is to keep up my habit, one day at a time, until I get to the finish line. It’s close and getting closer, but I’m not there yet.

Please tell me your thoughts. Have you experienced anything similar when you are close to the end of a project? Or when you are trying to build up or maintain a regular practice (be it of writing, reading, exercise, painting, or anything else)?

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

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Baltimore Book Festival tomorrow

I’ll have a table in the Authors’ Tent at the Baltimore Book Festival tomorrow. Check it out if you are nearby:

McKeldin Square
Baltimore Inner Harbor
12 – 8 pm

I’ll also be presenting on the inspiration for my book AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION and doing a reading on the McKeldin Stage at 4:45pm tomorrow.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Review of LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming

LIVE AND LET DIE by Ian Fleming is available on Amazon at http://bitly.com/ZOXqku.

I didn’t get the same feel from this book as I did from Casino Royale which I thought was brilliant. There were moments when it was truly gripping, but others when it was offensive and easy to put down. Most of the time when I read suspense books I find myself glued to the page, but this book was rather disappointing.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

Writing of AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION

Writing my first book, AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION, has been a journey for me. The inspiration for this story is what led me to writing in the first place, and now that I have discovered it, my life has changed completely.

I spent much of my childhood and teenage years with my nose buried in books off of my father’s bookshelf. I read everything that I could get my hands on – from classics, thrillers, science fiction, and literary dramas, all the way to fantasy. Amongst all of these genres, I developed a special fondness for thrillers. I remember that I procrastinated studying for my exams in high school by reading thrillers such as Frederick Forsyth’s ICON and John Grisham’s THE PELICAN BRIEF.

I first thought of the idea for AHRIMAN when I was visiting my parents in Kuwait in late 2008. Kuwait has some interesting nuances in its political systems and I was in the midst of rereading one of my old favorite novels, when an idea occurred to me. One of the strangest features of the Kuwaiti government is the fact that democracy often stands at odds with civil liberties and women’s rights – what we generally consider to be progress. The monarch, or Emir, is generally far more progressive than the National Assembly which has a strong conservative and Islamist faction. I observed this clash firsthand as the royal family fought for women’s voting rights while Parliament stood against it for many years until the law finally passed in 2005. Recalling this standoff gave me the central idea for AHRIMAN – an assassination plot against the Kuwaiti monarchy, originating from within the government itself.

The idea for AHRIMAN came to me at a moment’s notice, without much effort. The process for writing the story required far more time and discipline. I wrote some thoughts down from time to time, but I kept putting it off. I don’t have time for it right now. I’m supposed to do XYZ. I had all kinds of excuses back then. Things started to change when a friend of mine suggested that I enroll in the National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo), an organization that supports writers as they aim to write fifty thousand words of their story in thirty days during the month of November. By that time I was in graduate school in London. I looked into the organization and I thought, there is no way that I can do this. How could I possibly write that much in one month? I decided to enroll anyway. I figured that even an attempt at reaching that goal would be a valiant effort. My story was still very much unfinished and I hoped to at least move it forward a bit. So I began writing again, this time with much more discipline.

Once I enrolled in Nanowrimo, I decided to commit to the process. I wasn’t sure how I would manage to write that much, but I gave it an honest try. I wrote while traveling on the train from London to Paris. I wrote more of my story at all times of the day. I even spent time writing in many of my classes, while I hid out in the back to make sure that the professor didn’t call on me those days. At the end of the month, I had reached my goal of fifty thousand words and I was a little over half way through my story. I kept going with it, albeit at a slower pace. A few months later, I had a few weeks off of school to work on my master’s thesis and I finally finished the first draft.

After the first draft I went through a number of edits, with comments from friends, family, and anonymous beta readers, until AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION was finally published in June of this year. It still seems pretty surreal. I can’t believe that my work is out there – available for anyone to find. I am slowly learning about the marketing process and have started doing occasional events. One of the most exciting things now is how I’ve found readers and fellow writers in the strangest places. At a taxi stand in Cincinnati, I struck up a conversation with the staff person and discovered a voracious reader in the process of writing her own novel. Another day I sold a book at the Fedex office when I went to send a copy to a reviewer in Ireland. Each of these moments is a little reminder of how lucky I am to have gotten this far. I have so many ideas for stories and am committed to a disciplined process, as I put in time for my writing every day. At the moment, I am hard at work on the sequel to AHRIMAN and hope to have the first draft completed by the end of this month. I’ve also written another book – a family drama – and am going through the editing process now. Both books should be out by the end of next summer. In spite of the time I am now spending on marketing, I want to make sure that writing remains the focus. I was lucky enough to discover my calling during a chance vacation and shirking on that commitment would be the same as relinquishing part of my identity. So each day, I set time aside and write.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Ahriman on ALLI Wednesday showcase

Check out my first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION featured in the Alliance of Independent Authors Wednesday Showcase http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/alliance-of-independent-authors-members-showcase-bulletin-84/

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION is available for sale as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS

Writer’s block: A form of procrastination

Since I published my first book in June, a number of people have asked me about how I handle writer’s block. The answer is simple. Writer’s block may be a phenomenon that is only associated with the writing community. In reality, it’s something that each and every person grapples with, often on a daily basis. To put things simply, writer’s block is a form of procrastination.

In Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art, he refers to the writer’s block phenomenon as “resistance.” The thesis of his novel is that we feel the most pressure to not do the thing that we are meant to do. For writers, this of course is writing, but the same principle can be applied to starting a business, painting, or any inner calling. Writer’s block is an excuse that prevents us from sitting down to write by saying that we are not inspired. We can come up with any number of reasons for this if we let ourselves. We tell ourselves that now is not the time to start on that project because of ongoing family drama, commitments at a new job, or any of a slew of tasks that we have to complete. Resistance – writer’s block – procrastination – we battle with these every day when we venture near the “work” that should be central to our lives.

Before I listened to The War of Art as an audio book, I had dealt with these issues but was unable to name them aptly. I came up with excuses such as, “My day job is too intense to start writing, I’ll take a few weeks off and write then,” or, “I just need some time to recuperate from the week. Writing takes too much mental energy.” Listening to Pressfield’s book changed everything for me. I realized that I could come up with an infinite number of excuses about why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be writing. The hard part of writing though isn’t actually putting the words down on paper – that part is easy. The hard part is sitting down and putting all the excuses aside long enough for the words to start flowing. When I sat down to write keeping that thought in mind, the words started to flow. That isn’t to say that every day I sit down in front of my computer the words come easily – certainly not. Some days the words flow with minimal effort, while on other days each sentence feels like pulling teeth. Still, even the most difficult days move the story forward. I don’t write them off as “writer’s block” because I believe that that is a construct of our own minds. As I said before, it is a form of procrastination. The very worst form. Writer’s block is a way of justifying procrastination. When we put off tasks like going to the bank or running an errand, we procrastinate, but we don’t necessarily justify that. When a writer says that they are experiencing writer’s block though, I believe that they are condoning resistance as something that all professionals experience and succumb to from time to time.

To be sure this is my personal point of view, and there are others who would disagree with me. I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Still, even if you disagree, I urge you to read or listen to The War of Art. It changed my perspective on writing and resistance has a much weaker hold on me now than it did before.

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.

Book trailer for AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION

Check out the book trailer for AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OL7tgGSuy0k

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Learn more about me at my website www.pujaguha.com.
Sign up for my newsletter for a free ebook, contests and more!

My first novel AHRIMAN: THE SPIRIT OF DESTRUCTION (Book I of The Ahriman Legacy) is available as an ebook at all major retailers and a paperback at Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00L1ISEUS.