I Don’t Feel Like A Writer Anymore.

Since I was little, I have always wanted to be a writer. I grew up reading Blyton, Lindgren, and Hitchcock, wanting to be just like themhaving the ‘superpower’ to create a parallel world and transport people to experience different lives and undergo different adventures. I spent my teenage days writing stories. During the weekends, I typed and typed and typed, only went to bed at around 4 or 5 am with a jittery feeling of not knowing how the story will end.

When later in life some of my short stories and travel narratives got published in an omnibus by two of Indonesia’s major publisher, I was so proud. It was like an achievement in itself: a dream come true. When I caught a glimpse of those omnibus on the shelves of a bookstore, I thought to myself, “Now I can really call myself a writer!”

But here’s the thing: I don’t feel like a writer anymore.

I posted a question on Instagram a few days ago as I was pondering about this issue, and I’m so relieved that some of you are kind enough to let me know that you are also facing the same dilemma and even share your struggles.

Have you ever felt trapped by the label you gave to yourself? Have you ever felt as if you’ve outgrown the label?

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Have you ever felt as if you've outgrown the label you gave to yourself? For instance: you have always thought of yourself as a blogger/writer/vegan/runner/director/manager/mother/daughter/traveler/entrepreneur/(whatever label you've glued unto yourself), but at some point in your life, you feel uneasy because either: 1. this label doesn't suit you anymore/doesn't portray who you are now, or 🎈 2. you feel like a fraud (not being honest with yourself) by carrying this label, or🎈 3. you feel trapped/suffocated because you've outgrown that label and you want to do more/expand, or 🎈 4. you don't like the way people associate this label with a trait/strereotype/certain group, or 🎈 5. you used to think you ARE this label, but now you realize that you don't want it anymore 🎈 I am pondering about this question today (both personally and professionally). I am planning to write a post about it this weekend to share how I feel/think. So, if you have ever experienced/felt something similar, I'll be happy to hear from you! What kind of label you've outgrown in life? Which label would you like to strip away? Why?

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I didn’t know when the label ‘WRITER’ started to bother me, but it must have been getting on my nerves for the past few years. Not that I am not into writing anymoreon the contrary, I am still writing and I can’t stop thinking of future book projects (something is brewing for the end of the year!). However, oddly, these days the ‘writer’ label I have glued unto myself feels somewhat suffocating. When I have to speak in front of an audience or delivering a workshop, when the organizer introduced me as a writer, I feel like a fraud, a liar.

“But, why?” you might ask.

I don’t know. I can’t precisely pinpoint the reasons: maybe because I don’t feel like I have been productive. Maybe because I have experienced the feeling of ‘being a published writer’ and now that I have known the feeling I was no longer curious. Maybe because I wanted to do more than ‘just writing’. Maybe because I’m a little bit bored with this whole ‘writing thing’. Maybe because I have just started expanding my creative expressions to drawing and filming. Maybe because that label feels too limiting and doesn’t give me enough room to experiment in life.

Whatever the reasons might be, it’s not about reasoning at all. It’s more about how I feel; no matter how irrational it might sound.

The thing is, lately, I have learned to trust my feelings and rely on it more. I mean, who am I to call myself a ‘writer’ when I don’t feel like one?

Only then it dawned on me that I was the one who gave this label to myself. Even if the label was attached to me by someone else (publisher, workshop organizers, etc.), I was the one who decided to embrace the label, voluntarily. Thus, I actually have the power to ditch the label when it no longer suits me. I can bid the label farewell. I don’t have to walk around carrying the label on my shoulders when it feels too heavy. When I decided to drop the label, I don’t have to conform to what other people might expect from that particular label.

So, I decided to do it today: to drop the label and not to think of myself as a writer anymore.

I was feeling a bit scared, actually: should I do this?

But then I realized that this is a label I created or embraced for myself. It’s only a label. Just because I decided not to call myself a writer anymore, it doesn’t mean that I can no longer write. Maybe, I can even write more and better once I am done associating myself with the label.

I am having fun trying to find a new label that might fit me better at this stage. Some of you might say, but what’s the point of ditching a label to attach a new label unto yourself? Why can’t we just be humans without labels?

To which I would say: I am trying to get there. To be who I am, no labels attached.

However, for practical reasons, I still need to label myself with something (new). At least for myself, so I won’t feel too lost. Then, of course, to introduce myself to potential clients during meetings or networking events. (Do you know that since I quit my job and work independently, I haven’t printed my name card because I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to put as a title?).

So, after listing down the things I’m doing now (personally and professionally), plus listing down the things I would want to do in the future (personally and professionally), I am happy to attach a new label unto myself.

I am a creator. A creator of experience in life, a creator of content in the digital world.

I think, for the time being, I like the label. It fits me nicely like a new pair of jeans. Surely, just like a new pair of jeans, it’s still a bit stiff (and, you do know that faint smell of ‘the store’, don’t you?). I would need to wear it more, so I can wash it and crack it a little bit to make it even more fitting. Oh, and in the next few days, I will also need to adjust my bio/profile here and in other social media platforms. Indeed, more work and adjustments, but it’s okay.

So, here I am, with my new label, intending to create more playful and meaningful content (or experience) on and off the Internet. When it comes to work, I could say that I help my clients to do just the sameand during workshops, classes, or retreats, I am basically sharing about the same thing.

On another note, maybe I’ll also get tired of this label one day and granted myself a new one in the next 3, 5, or 10 years. Who knows? However, I guess that’s the point.

Life is about forever rediscovering something new about ourselves. It’s about growing and evolving. And why should we feel bad about retiring an old label? We’re not supposed to feel bad when we’re retiring a piece of clothing that has become too tight or too worn out for us, aren’t we?

With that being said, maybe I can start designing my name card and get them printed out next week.

Hanny Kusumawati

 

 

PS: If you could drop a label that has burdened your life lately, what would that label be, and what would you embrace as a new label?

Journaling: Keeping and Designing Your Time-Tracker Journal

Reader’s Question:

How did you start journaling in the first place? How do you split your time between other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.) and journaling? How do you design your time-tracker journal, and how can I create my own?

— from Instagram comments

***

When I uploaded an Instagram story about my time-tracker journal and an Instagram picture about my planner a few weeks ago, some of you asked some questions about journaling and making a time-tracker journal for yourself. Since it would be such a nuisance to type the answer on Instagram’s comment section, I decided to respond to those questions via this blogpost. Hope this helps.

How did I start journaling?

I started journaling since the 1st grade of elementary school. It started out when my mother bought me a diary with a lock (the cutest thing!) and since then, I never stopped writing in my journals. I have quite a huge pile of journals at the moment, all those handwritings from early elementary school days throughout the rest of my childhood, from my adolescent to my twenties. And sometimes, I reread them: amazed on how much I’ve grown throughout the years.

I guess writing (and mostly journaling), has always been my go-to outlet for self-discovery. A few years ago, I wrote this post about why I write and why it has such a profound effect on me, so you can visit that post if you’re interested to know more about how I chose writing as my outlet of expression (or, on how writing chose me).

How do I split my time between journaling and other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.)?

Okay, here’s the thing: journaling, writing, and other creative pursuits—whether it’s drawing, painting, learning how to make illustrations–are the things that I need in life. When people talk about self-care, they might talk about taking a vacation, traveling, pampering themselves, eating healthy food, going to the gym, having a wonderful time with friends and families, or doing other things that make them feel happy and fulfilled. For me, having the time to be creative (and to create) is my way to take a good care of myself. It feeds my soul.

When I’m stressed, sad, facing problems, agitated, or not feeling well, having my creative time is the thing that lifts me up. It could be as simple as reading a good book, trying a new recipe, drawing, writing a poem, or simply journaling and dumping my thoughts and feelings on the pages. For me, creative time equals self-care, and having my creative time makes me feel happy, empowered, (somewhat) artistic, and productive.

Having the time to be creative is my way to take a good care of myself. I need it. It’s crucial for my well-being.

I always feel the most productive when I am having my creative time. No matter how busy I am with work, no matter how excited I am about my professional achievements, no matter how many to-do lists and responsibilities I ticked off, at the end of the day, the thing that matters the most to me is how I’ve spent my creative time and what I’ve created that day.

I’m not saying that professional achievements or performing well at work don’t matter as much, but it’s also crucial for me to know that there’s an achievement that is mine; and mine alone. It’s not about being (or looking) busy, getting a praise, a salary, a bonus, contributing to a team, or pleasing a client. It’s about exploring my creativity and be content with that—knowing that I am the only person who knows what I have done today, or how much I have grown since yesterday.

With that being said, let’s move on to the question: how do I split my time between work, daily tasks, and journaling?

In the old days, this was how I would do it: when planning my day, I would list down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, appointments, etc. and then, when I could find an empty slot of time, I would allocate that slot for my creative time.

Of course, this approach didn’t work for me.

Magically, I would always have more things to do, more emails to reply, more work stuff coming in, more dishes to wash… and even if I could find an empty slot of time that day, usually I had been so exhausted from fulfilling my duties and responsibilities that I didn’t want to do anything else; let alone ‘being creative’.

So, these past few years, I changed the way I plan my day. Instead of listing down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, or appointments to then find an empty slot of time for my creative pursuits, I did the opposite. I would block a slot of time for my creative pursuit first (could be for around 30 minutes – 1 hour), and only then the rest of the empty slots can be filled with my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, or other appointments.

Usually, I block my early mornings for my first round of creative time (I called this time of the day my miracle morning, based on the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod; and I think you should read this book as well!). I don’t mind waking up a bit earlier to have my slow and miraculous morning: making a cup of coffee, doing a 1-minute meditation, reading a book about drawing, sketching and doing some character studies for my illustrations,  journaling, watching uplifting videos, or simply writing about the things I’d like to do/achieve that day.

I plan my day around my self-care, not the other way around. My commitments and responsibilities will fit themselves around it.

Surely, if there are still more unused time slots after this, I can use the time for whatever I want—but planning my day around my creative time (instead of planning my creative time around my day) does the trick for me. By doing this, I can make sure that I stay happy and creative, knowing that I will always have (and make) the time for my self-care routine, and my other responsibilities will fit around it.

Does it sound selfish?

Probably, but I see it this way: when I’m happy, I can also fulfill my responsibilities better. When I’m in a good mood, I am more energetic. I feel inspired and I feel more creative. So whether I’m working on a deadline, talking on the phone for a remote meeting, or doing house chores, I am doing those things in a healthy mental and emotional state. Thus, for me, it makes sense to always put my well-being first, which in my case, is about having my undisturbed creative time.

How did I design my time-tracker journal, and how to create your own?

I designed my time-tracker journal because I want to know whether I’m really busy or just busy being busy. I want to know how do I use up (or waste) my time in a day and what are the things I can achieve mostly from 6 am to 11 pm every day. Where does exactly my time go in a day?

Another thing was that I also want to track the time when I feel most productive and the time when I have an energy slump so I can plan my days better. By keeping a time-tracker journal for some time, I also hope that I could find out if there were some correlations between how I spend my time with my energy level and my overall mood.

For instance, there were days when I feel so tired and sleepy at around 2 pm – 4 pm, but there were also other days when I go through these ‘sluggish hours’ being productive, feeling inspired and energetic.

I wanted to know why this happened, and once knowing that (or at least have a good indication about why it happened), I wanted to know how I could have my productive 2 pm – 4 pm more often. By tracking my time, I wish I could see how to manage my energy better. (If you’re interested in the concept of managing energy to improve your performance, I would suggest the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz).

I created my time-tracker journal on a weekly insert I bought here, and stamped the hours with this stamp set. Because I wanted to measure the correlation between how I spend my time and how it affects my mood and energy level, I decided to color-code my time-tracker with my KOI coloring brush pen.

  • Pink is for my productive time, when I feel creative and energetic. This includes the time when I work, replying to business emails, reading a non-fiction book, learning languages, drawing, exercising, writing or doing other creative stuff. My creative time is counted as my productive time.
  • Blue is for my non-productive time, when I feel tired, sleepy, or lethargic. This includes the time of scrolling social media feed mindlessly, following threads and comments on a controversial Facebook status, taking a long nap, or feeling down, miserable, uninspired, or sick.
  • Yellow is for my social & commuting time, when I meet people, get on a bus, hop on a red-eye flight, attend a dinner party, have a catch-up lunch with friends, or delivering training and workshops.

This is how I formatted my time-tracker journal, but of course, you can do it however you like and adjust it to your needs. For instance, you can choose a different layout using a normal notebook, list down the hours from top to bottom, and write down the things you do next to it. You can also use color coding to track other things you want to track in your life. It just happens that I want to track my energy level, so I decided to go with this tracking system.

Then, basically what I do with my time-tracker journal is as simple as writing down the things I do at a particular time of the day, and color code the hours with pink, blue, or yellow.

After keeping the time-tracker journal for more than 2 months, I can already see some patterns, such as:

  1. When my morning starts with a blue (i.e. I woke up feeling sluggish/tired/grumpy), 80% of the time, it will lead to more blues in the afternoon/evening. Knowing this, when I woke up with a blue, I put extra efforts to fix it: maybe treating myself to an extra hour of drawing instead of immediately replying to business emails, listening to cheerful songs to lift up my mood, or making a pretty-looking oatmeal for breakfast.
  2. When I have a big lunch followed by a passive activity (reading, watching videos, etc.), I would also get blues between 2 pm – 4 pm. However, when I have a light lunch followed by hours of doing things (working, washing dishes, tidying my drawer, planning my to-do lists for the next day, journaling, etc.) I would not hit the blues.
  3. When I have loads of yellows on my day, 90% of the time, it will lead to a few hours of blues the next day. When I had to deliver a 3-day workshop a month back, I found out that the next 2 days following that 3-day workshop was filled with blues. I have always known, instinctively, that although I love meeting people, those interactions drained me up. I always feel the need to clam up and recharge before being able to be a social butterfly once more. The time-tracker journal confirmed this need. Thus, when I know I will have have a big day full of work deadlines, I would decline any social get-together the day before. Or if I know I will have a full social calendar on the weekend, I would not set up a project deadline on the following Monday or Tuesday; knowing full-well that I would need to recuperate.
  4. When I work on a creative project from around 6 pm onwards, I would not feel hungry or crave for a big dinner. Most of the times, I forgot about dinner altogether because I was too absorbed in the activity.
  5. When I go to bed after 11 pm, 80% of the time, I would wake up with blues the next morning.
  6. When I spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on social media (more than half an hour), the following hours will be blue.

I found it interesting (but would also understand if this sounds boring to some of you!), and couldn’t wait to see what other ‘revelations’ I could get in the next 2-3 months of keeping my time-tracker journal. For me, the journal also serves as an activity tracker, a mood tracker, a productivity tracker, and a tiny summary of my days.

Are you thinking of starting a time-tracker journal of your own? Why do you think you would need one? What are the things you want to track? How do you think you can get to know yourself better if you can track the way you spend your time every day? I would love to hear from you!

Hanny Kusumawati

 

 

 

Intuitive Journaling for Closure & Forgiveness

How to use intuitive journaling for closure & forgiveness

Some refer to it as free writing, or automatic writing. The idea is to set a timer for a certain period of time: one minute, three minutes, five minutes, up to you. As the timer starts, begin writing (with pen and paper) on your journal, without really thinking, without really stopping.

Write whatever crossed your mind.

It doesn’t matter if things appear to sound weird, funny or senseless. The idea is to translate your tangled and busy mind into the paper.

Here’s the secret: DO NOT stop as you write, not even for a split second. Do not think. Just write until your time is up. Follow the chaos of your mind and write everything down. Everything.

You could even write something like, “I don’t know why I am doing this, oh, I’m so hungry, like so, hungry and my foot itches and what should I write this is strange really…”

It’s OK.

Keep writing.

I like to call this technique ‘intuitive writing’ or ‘intuitive journaling’ because after doing this practice for a while, you will notice the magical moment when your intuition starts talking to you from the chaos of the page.

The Steps

Here’s the thing: closure is not about something we need to resolve with another person, but something we need to resolve with ourselves. We need a closure not to bridge the gap between our significant other and us, but to close the gap between our beliefs, our values, our inner guidance—and us.

Thus, we can create our own moments of closure, and—hopefully, in time, forgive:

  1. Prepare a piece of pen and paper (or you can use your journal pages if you like)
  2. Prepare a timer and set it to 5 minutes
  3. Now think of a moment/hurtful experience you want to have a closure upon. While doing this and letting your feelings being stirred up, bring to your mind the image of the person who caused you this hurtful experience, imagine this person as a 4 year-old kid and then as an 80 year-old.
  4. Next, get ready with your pen and paper to do your intuitive journaling. Activate your timer, and for 5 minutes, without stopping, without thinking too much, write a letter of apology from that person to you. It may sound weird at first, but just trust your intuition and write loosely, not stopping at all—and if you’re true to the rules, at the end of the exercise, you’ll find a letter with a voice that is a bit foreign to you: the voice of the other person. Just write whatever crossed your mind. Do not try to think or analyze the person, do not try to correct or edit yourself by saying, “No, he or she won’t be saying this.” If you find it difficult, start the letter with Dear ___(your name), I am sorry for _________ and let your intuition roam free from there.
  5. Trust, and write as fast as you can without thinking until the time is up.
  6. When the timer rings, you can stop writing. Or if you feel the push to keep writing mindlessly, continue for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. When you’re done, you can: 1) mail this letter to yourself or 2) read this letter whenever you feel hurt/emotional as you remember a painful moment/incident involving this particular person.

I don’t believe in the saying that we should forgive.

I don’t think that the word should and forgive go hand in hand together.

Of course, we could always say, “I forgive you,” or “I accept your apology.”

But does saying it means we have truly forgiven someone—or even ourselves?

When we try so hard to forgive, it feels even more difficult. Because when we are thinking about forgiving, automatically, we are thinking about the things that need to be forgiven. We’re thinking about what our significant other (or ourselves) has done that needs to be forgiven. Those thoughts are not necessarily beautiful.

Thus, it feels contradictory.

Saying I-forgive-you is easy.
Forgiving is not.

Many said that forgiveness is the key to closure. And it’s true.

However, we should not push ourselves to forgive when we are not yet ready. To forgive, we need to go through a process of understanding our heartaches, our feelings, and ourselves.

Most of the times, forgiveness doesn’t come the moment we say I-forgive-you.
Forgiveness, often, arrives when we least expect it.

There will be a day when we feel light, happy, and carefree. The day when we’re doing the things we love, having fun with the people we adore, and feeling good about ourselves. And right there and then, we will experience a flashback of an uncomfortable moment we had with someone who (either knowingly or unknowingly) hurt us.

And when that moment comes, we will feel fine. The memory stays, but it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t bring us down. It doesn’t make us doubt ourselves. It is only a memory.

That is the moment when we experience forgiveness.

We forgive when we can access the memory of something unfavorable that once happened to us—and feel okay with that. We know it’s a part of our lives, but we don’t feel the rush of feelings or emotions associated with that particular memory any longer.

We don’t forget. We remember.

But we remember the memory as a moment, not as a feeling.

So, say I-forgive-you if it feels right. However, there’s no need to push ourselves to forgive and forget when we are not ready. For the time being, feel the feeling we need to feel. Take good care of ourselves. Build an intimate relationship with ourselves and our closest ones. Focus on improving ourselves. Focus on our growth.

And bloom.

When the time comes, we know that all that needs to be forgiven has been forgiven.

Happy journaling,

Hanny Kusumawati

PS: More exercises on intuitive journaling can be found on my book, BREAK, HEARTS: AND BE ALRIGHT—a playbook for creative people to deal with their heartbreaks. You can get your copy by emailing my lovely book keeper, here.