What a difference half a day makes

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Normally when I travel to work instead of working from home, I’m away for a total of twelve and a half hours. And normally I try to actually work all that time on the bus and the train, so as not to waste it. Needless to say, I’m exhausted when I come home, and there’s nothing of the day left. All I have time and energy for is dinner, an episode of a TV series, and bed.

Today, inspired by the new insights my bullet journal is giving me, I decided to change it up. I mean, is it worth it to run myself into the ground just to be able to shave off a few hours on Friday? No. So today I worked an ordinary eight hour day instead, and the results were amazing.

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I had so much time! I could photograph, and edit, and write, and all sorts of creative stuff that really is my lifeblood. And as if to cheer me on, the sun came out the moment I came home, and it stayed out while I strayed through the woods and snapped my photos. It felt like I was out there for an eternity, and yet only two and a half hours have passed!

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No matter how tired I am, the forest always manages to rejuvenate me.

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I can never get enough of these seeds!

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I’ll be honest: once I got home again and started loading all my photos into the computer, I did feel a teensy bit tired again. I mean, I did wake up at 4.30 this morning. It’s just that I forget about being tired while I’m out there in the forest, crouching in the moss to capture those backlit leaves.

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But being tired is fine, because you know what? Tomorrow I’m changing it up again and taking the 8.40 bus instead of the 5.35 one and staying later at work.

Variatio delectat!

No tasks done, no pretty planner!

DSC_0190_01.JPGSo I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately (grief, cloudy weather, incessant car problems, broken mobile, thyroid issues, and back pain can do that to a girl), and I almost felt like my post the other day was a total lie. It sounds like the bullet journal means I’ve got everything figured out. I don’t, but it does help. I think that without it, I would have been completely under the weather, but with it, I’ve managed to take one step at a time and accomplished a few things.

Like today! Today I had a brightish idea. I’ve been devouring images of other people’s pretty mood trackers, and their creative ways of ticking off each day prompted me to try something new with my “task boxes”.

To begin with, they looked like this:

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Simple and plain. Tick each box as I do the task. But it wasn’t very motivating, just demoralizing when I didn’t fill them in and the row of empty boxes stared at me accusingly at the end of the day.

Enter prettiness!

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Today I didn’t allow myself to really decorate my daily spread until I’d done my tasks. I decided that one task (student assignments I had to grade) would be a purple garland – purple is my colour code for the course in question, and the garland felt like a nice addition to the “g” in the Swedish word for Wednesday in my planner. And the brightish idea I mentioned above was that I couldn’t add my garland until I graded the assignments!

To begin with, I drew each leaf as I opened a new student document and then filled it in once I’d posted my feedback. I could have drawn them all first and then filled them in as I went, but seeing all my unfinished tasks felt too stressful, so I concentrated on one at a time. Towards the end, when I realized I would have the energy to complete them all, I drew the final five leaves in one sitting.

So the natural response to something like this is “Good god, girl! This way everything you do takes five times as long to complete. How does that help your productivity?”

And the answer is, well, the alternative is I don’t do it at all but sit in a corner and whimper, okay? 😀 Some things in life you have to do even though you hate them, and one of those things for me is to tell others how to write correct references according to the APA system. I hate writing references myself, and I hate telling others what to do, so when you combine these two… you get the picture. So really, having a system like this where I get a silly little reward for each time I point out that someone missed a comma here or should have italicized that, it really helps!

Oh, and I also completely drowned my October cover spread in Too Much Stuff, so it went from this

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to this!

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Ace of Cups

Joy!

Overflowing, directionless, almost numbing in its intensity. It came from nowhere and now it’s bubbling up inside you, unstoppable. It courses through you, out of you, into you. It splashes on everything, and it shines with a light that seems impossible.

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What are you going to do with it? Can you use these feelings for anything – share them, verbalise them, paint them? You have been given a gift that you can keep or pay forward – but even if you just bask in this flow of inexplicable happiness, the people who see you shine will reflect your light: owning it is the same as giving it away. The more you pour into that cup, the more there is to pour.

Enjoy it!

Fourteen years and counting

This post and some of the links in it contain advertisements for my books.

The fourth of July means a lot to some people, and I’m one of them. Because July 4, 2003 was when I met my nemesis – no, sorry, love of my life!

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Now I’m a complete romantic fool. Maybe that’s why I write romance books. But my idea of romance isn’t always that… uh, romantic.

You see, I’m an INTP, which is a personality type according to the Myers-Briggs typology system (if you’re unfamiliar with the MBTI, this is an awesome site for information on it). Anyway, INTPs tend to be unsentimental about things, or at least that’s the stereotype. Think Sheldon in Big Bang Theory (or so I’m told, I don’t watch it). INTPs love ideas and finding out how things work and logic and systems. Flowers and champagne? Not so much.

Yet here we are.

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Chin-chin!

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So what gives? How can this purple prose Angst Queen who photographs backlit flowers profess to be an INTP? Well, because the stereotype is a, how shall I put it? Stereotype. Yes, INTPs love systems and ideas, but that doesn’t mean they’re all mathematical geniuses. Ask my primary school teacher what my math book looked like. We had a meeting about it.

Because this particular INTP (pictured above with romantic interest, flowers, and champagne) is interested in human systems. Language. Psychology. Sociology. Physiology. The hard sciences are meh, but anything that helps me figure out what the hell makes people tick? Count me in.

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(Last Communion)

You can see this again and again – in a romantic context – in my books. In All You Can Eat, I explore not only the psychology behind eating disorders, but also the way we sometimes try to scare off people before we let them in: the old princess-guarded-by-a-dragon-of-her-own-making mechanism.

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In Not Safe For Work, the hurdle to overcome is other people’s expectations and not being allowed to make your own decisions because the script has already been written by other people. A mindfuck I really enjoyed torturing my poor boys with – especially because of the added breathless stress of having that script spreading like wildfire across social media!

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In Rival Poet, I go full INTP and have my protagonists find each other through their writing. Sometimes you can hardly separate their creative collaboration from their lovemaking – because that’s what makes it romantic from my point of view: working towards a common goal, admiring and enjoying each other’s talent and intelligence.

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The same goes for the Pax series, where play-writing is replaced with musicianship. During the long and arduous periods where Jamie and Michael are unable to talk to each other about their feelings, their music talks for them.

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So I guess this all sums up my view of romance. I’m a sucker for one-to-one-ness, for the concept of soulmates and the one person who understands and appreciates you. But I don’t have my characters yell “I love you, honey” at every possible moment, and I don’t think any of them has bought the other flowers or chocolate. The closest I ever get to a Hollywood moment is this type of confession from Rival Poet:

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!

When Kit spoke, his voice was the mere wisp of a sound. “You’re going to hate this,” he prefaced. “Or laugh at me. But…” He stopped to breathe, to gather his courage. “I’m in love with you, Will.”

Will froze. Stared into those hypnotising eyes, that unique golden colour. In love? His whole upbringing rebelled against the words. They didn’t make sense. Loving someone was one thing, but being in love… that was just possible when one of the two was a woman.

Only… when Kit said it, it did make sense. In the secrecy of this room, in the greyness of predawn, with just the two of them present to hear it, it made perfect sense.

Will breathed in. “If it’s something you can be,” he replied slowly, “Then… I am too.”

Well. I guess that is kind of mushy. But if you’re not allowed to be mushy about the kiss at the end of the rainbow, then what other opportunities are there really?

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Chucking the ballast

What are you carrying around that prevents you from picking up new things?

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If there’s one tip I should take to heart – not only as related to writing, but other stuff as well – it’s that sometimes in order to move forward you need to chuck things out. Even though you’ve put in a lot of work on them. I mean, I’ll keep snippets of deleted scenes for years, trying again and again to include them in new stories – and it never works, because the tone is off, or I’m not thinking through how the old scenes fit into the new timeline.

I know this, and yet I keep making the same mistake. I’m so loath to throw away things I’ve toiled over for hours and hours, but sometimes… you just have to. Put it down to a learning experience and move on.

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I don’t know why I don’t do this more often. I mean, I love writing, and yet it’s like I avoid writing by reusing old stuff. As if I can’t trust myself to come up with new words.

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Or is it just laziness? I don’t know. But today I came across an amazing writing tip on Tumblr that really spoke to my fetish for logical hierarchies, and I decided to try it out. START FROM SCRATCH for once, instead of trying to squeeze a stagnated WIP into a new structure and ending up with an even bigger mess than before.

So. I brought a pen and notebook into the garden and got to work the old-fashioned way. And after ten minutes or so I had to run inside and continue on my laptop, because my longhand couldn’t keep up with all the brand new ideas that kept popping into my head!

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At the end of the day I had an entire new novel mapped out, and it turns out that I can actually use minor scenes from one of those pesky WIPs in this new story. But the thing is that this time I started with the structure, with a departure and an arrival point that guided everything else, so when I use old material I know exactly where to put it for it to make sense in the dramaturgy instead of just cramming it in any old where.

Now, I won’t lie and say that structure is everything. It’s a tool that takes you some of the way, but not all the way. Sometimes you need to break the rules you’ve set up to move forward. The plot is a map that guides you, but sometimes you need to ignore the map for a while and trust the terrain. The whole process is like a pendulum that swings between structure and anarchy. Use the tool until you get stuck, then chuck the tool and improvise until you get stuck, etc.

That’s how you build a story.

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Just a few more lilacs

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There’s a Swedish saying – “between hawthorn and lilacs” – which means a really, really short time. Legend has it that a Stockholm cobbler put a sign on his door that his shop was closed between hawthorn and lilacs – maybe to enjoy this brief but heavenly time of changes and delicate foliage just before summer settles like a green and sleepy giant.

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It’s such a transient beauty, and maybe that’s part of the charm. The lilacs explode on the trees in white and pale purple, and then wilt within days. But while they flower, nothing smells more divine. Well, apart from the man in the pic below. 🙂

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