mindset

Struggle as a Mindset

We’re always struggling, aren’t we? Whether it’s to get out of bed early enough for a productive day, to go to bed early enough at night for a good night’s sleep, or everything in between, we’re struggling. But it doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. The best way to handle it is to shift your perspective regarding the connotation of the word struggle. Rather than an obligatory, negative, and isolated experience, choose to see struggling as a positive and consistent lifestyle which gets results.

Think about the first time you tried riding a bike. It was probably pretty tough figuring out how to maintain your balance sitting on a little seat above those two skinny wheels. But after a struggling to figure it out, you eventually got it. Now you’ve probably gained enough skills that you don’t even have to think about how to balance. Heck, you could pop-a-wheelie on your bike if you wanted to!

Remember when you first started learning to drive a car? There was so much to pay attention to! You had to learn how to start the car, shift gears, turn on the blinkers and windshield wipers (and remember to turn them off again, too). You had to know how intersections and lights work. Oh, and don’t forget about learning the meaning of symbols on road signs and watching out for pedestrians and know what was considered an appropriate parking spot. Now I bet you make it all the way to work without even thinking about more than one or two of those things, if that.

Sure, some struggles are longer lasting and much more painful. Think back to the first time you fell in love. Or the first time you fell out of love. Perhaps you’ve had an injury that required time and attention to heal. Maybe you’ve received a diagnosis that you’re still having to give time and attention every day. It’s possible you’re struggling to figure out how to pay the bills this month or how you’ll have enough money for retirement.

The point is this: no matter what stage of life you’re in, you’re struggling with something. Whether or not you have control over the matters of your struggle doesn’t matter; what does matter is your mindset.

Use your mind as a tool that serves you. Don’t let it be an obstacle that gets in your way.

book review

Review of Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company     

Published: 2019  Pages: 388   

Books that help me to better understand the complexities of being human, and sometimes the surprising reality that we’re more predictable than we think, are my favorite. My hope to learn more about being human and interacting with others is why I began reading Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Why can’t we tell when the stranger in front of us is lying to our face?

How is it that meeting a stranger can sometimes make us worse at making sense of that person than not meeting them?

Readers begin receiving some help answering these questions from Gladwell in Part 2, when he demonstrates how people are hardwired to default to truth. Even CIA agents, police officers and judges, people we often think should be experts at reading strangers and interpreting their intentions, are as susceptible to erroneous interpretations as the rest of us, especially if the subject of scrutiny is standing right in front of them. Gladwell analyzes how Bernie Madoff was able to pull of the largest Ponzi Scheme in history as well as the Jerry Sandusky trial to support his claims.

In Part 3, the author answers the second puzzle he posed to readers in Part 1. He demonstrates how people’s actions and behavior don’t always align with what’s happening internally. He uses the body language of facial expressions as well as analyzes the Amanda Knox case and that of Brock Turner to prove his point.

Readers are cautioned to “accept that the search to understand a stranger has real limits” in Part 4. Gladwell assures readers that “the harder we word at getting strangers to reveal themselves, the more elusive they become.” This is supported by real world examples of trying to force the truth out of people by drastic measures such as waterboarding. When dramatic approaches are taken to pry the truth from someone, they may well lie due to the perceived existential threat. We are taught that “the right way to talk to strangers is with caution and humility.”

Part 5 of the book delves into the relationship between context and behaviors, labeled as Coupling. We learn about the suicide of Sylvia Plath, a famous American poet and writer. Gladwell hands readers evidence to suggest that were the contextual reality surrounding Ms. Plath’s suicide different, she may not have succeeded in taking her own life. he argues the same is true for areas of high crime: the context in which it takes place matters and can be targeted in order to reduce crime in major cities such as Atlanta and Minneapolis.

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell continues his ability to write books that are fascinating and easy to read. If you would like to improve your understanding of how we talk to strangers, or rather how to avoid traumatic experiences like that of Sandra Bland, I encourage you to read this book. It is one of the most relatable, insightful, and practical books I’ve picked up in ages. 

writing

Developing Your Author Brand

This is the second post I’ve written about what I learned from the Atlanta Writers Club December 2019 meeting that featured literary agent Caroline George as a guest speaker. The first article covered her talk about pitching to literary agents. This time, I’m covering her second topic of that day, entitled You, the Protagonist: Developing Your Character (Author) Brand.

The conversation began by Ms. George asking the audience to recall their favorite protagonist. Looking around the room, I saw eyes flicker and smiles appear as she encouraged us to share aloud some positive attributes of that character.

We shouted adjectives such as brave, empathetic, quirky, and relatable. Next, Ms. George postulated that we all embody those endearing qualities ourselves. And just as we appreciate the idiosyncrasies of our favorite character, so too will our audience appreciate our own unique characteristics. My takeaway from this activity: an author should be intentional about creating a brand which authentically shares who they are with their readers.

Aspects of a brand

Ms. George went on to explain that an author’s personal brand includes more than a unique voice Continue reading “Developing Your Author Brand”

book review

Review of Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood

As we enter into a new year, even a new decade, many of us are reflecting on what we learned from the past as well as how we want to change for the future. For me, the first words that come to mind when describing the last decade are a hot mess.

From the very beginning of the previous decade, I felt like I was hit over the head with tough lessons and massive obstacles to overcome. For the most part, I was able (sometimes barely) to keep my head above water. I struggled and staggered and persisted. In the end, I stumbled out of a decade in the trenches with a much clearer understanding of the world and my place in it. After having spent a lot of time wrestling with big picture stuff like health and wellness and love and relationships, I’m ready to shift my perspective to the small daily changes I can incorporate that will have a large impact on my productivity and growth in the new year and decade ahead.

It was with this mindset that I picked up Good Habits, Bad Habits by Dr. Wendy Wood, a Provost Professor of Psychology and Business at the University of Southern California. It’s a 300-page look at “The Science of Making Positive Changes that Stick.” The book is divided into three parts: How We Really Are, The Three Bases of Habit Formation, and lastly, Special Cases, Big Opportunities, and the World Around Us. Continue reading “Review of Good Habits, Bad Habits by Wendy Wood”

writing

Prescriptive vs. Narrative Nonfiction

As I continue along my journey down the path of writing my first book, a memoir, it’s taken me months of trial and error to figure out how to do it, and although I’m still struggling, today I made real progress.

You see, back when I first started trying to figure out how to write my book, I thought I’d begin by reading similar books in the memoir genre in order to understand their structure, conventions, and obligatory scenes. 

My first choice was Becoming by Michelle Obama. I admire her greatly and would love to read about her life. 

Enter problem #1…

Continue reading “Prescriptive vs. Narrative Nonfiction”

writing

Five tips for pitching to literary agents

As I struggle to better understand the world of writing and publishing, I frequently encounter the topic of pitching.

What’s that?” you ask.

A pitch is the author’s means to persuade an agent or editor that her book is marketable and worthy of their time and effort to get published.

Recently, the Atlanta Writers Club facilitated a seminar titled “Pitch, Please: An Agent’s Guide to Pitches and Queries” by Caroline George, who is an Associate Agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite.

I enjoyed Ms. George’s seminar because, in addition to sharing a loads of useful information, she was funny, relatable, professional, and encouraging. She definitely came across an agent with whom most people would want to work.

The statement she made which I appreciated most was this: If you stay in the (writing and pitching) game long enough, you will be successful.

So here are my takeaways from Ms. George’s seminar about pitching to literary agents:

Continue reading “Five tips for pitching to literary agents”

writing

Ten things I’ve learned as I struggle to write a memoir

Oh boy, this is so much harder than I imagined it would be. I figured after returning to the U.S. from four years living in Qatar, I’d whip out the story of my experience and voila! Book. After all, I am an English language specialist, a grammarian of the pickiest kind (yes, you need to use the Oxford comma; no, you cannot place a semicolon where a regular comma belongs unless…). Writing a book should be pretty easy, right?

No, so much no.

1. There are loads of different genres within memoir

Love, grief, coming-of-age…. Who knew that all of these genres have obligatory scenes that must be included for the book to work? Who knew that metaphors in writing can be considered “too happy” in their connotations for a dramatic scene to work (laying at the bottom of a stairwell like a broken Christmas cookie left on the baking sheet: too happy to show rock bottom).

2. Transcendence is everything.

A memoir has to show how the writer transcended during the main event of her memoir. She has to be a changed person, for better or for worse (and both draw readers). So how was I changed by my experience in the Middle East?

For starters, I’m definitely a better teacher. The quality of colleagues I was working alongside and projects I was involved in made that happen. Also, I know I’m a better person because I’ve re-evaluated some of my personal values regarding relationships thanks to a hard lesson learned.

What else?

Continue reading “Ten things I’ve learned as I struggle to write a memoir”

mindset

My Current Struggles

We’re all struggling through life. The truth is, not one person out there has it all figured out; Some people are just better at hiding it than others.

That’s why Struggling through it was created: to build a space where we share our challenges and declare our determination to find a way through them.

struggle [ struhguhl ]

to contend resolutely with a task, problem, etc.; strive: to struggle for existence.

The word struggle is a verb that communicates effort, intention, power, and force. A verb form which ends in -ing shows the actor is in the process of the action at the moment. For example, at the moment, you are reading this blog post.

Struggling is battling something right now, and through it shows forward momentum.

Whatever we’re struggling through, our desire is to forge ahead and build momentum so that we overcome the obstacles between us and our goals. We’re not giving up. We’re not idle and apathetic. We are determined and active.

Notice the emphasis is on movement, on putting forth effort, on battling to make progress. It’s deliberately grappling to reconcile where we are now with where we want to be. In the end, our reward is the growth that accompanies discovery what lies on the other side of struggle.

My current list of struggles are as follows, in totally random order:

  1. I’m struggling not to pee my pants every day. Literally. Every. Day.
  2. I’m struggling to write a book that works.
  3. I’m struggling to compromise with my long-term boyfriend as we begin living together.
  4. I’m struggling to walk longer than 30 minutes without tripping and falling.
  5. I’m struggling to figure out how to start my own business as a freelance writer and editor.
  6. I’m struggling to understand where a unified American identity has gone.

This list could go on forever, but the goal isn’t to air all of my problems. It’s to choose which battles are worth fighting for.

Right now, I’m identifying these five as worthy of my mental and physical energy. I’m going to write about each struggle I’m facing, the actions I’m taking to work through them, and what I’m learning in the process. Hopefully you can find a nugget of value in my struggles that applies to, or is relatable in, your own life.

Are you currently struggling with similar challenges? Do you have something completely different you’re trying to get through? Be sure to comment below. Let’s get the conversation started!

Uncategorized

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me! Struggling Through It is my latest attempt to make a positive contribution to the world. My intention for this space is to create a community where we have conversations about being proactive in our struggles to figure out how to get the most out of life. This is NOT a place where negativity is encouraged. Instead, this is a place to:

  1. acknowledge a struggle you’re currently wrestling with
  2. explain what about a particular struggle makes it most challenging
  3. describe how you plan to move ahead through it
  4. take action on your plan
  5. reassess or pivot from the plan when necessary
  6. share what has and hasn’t worked
  7. support others by sharing resources or words of encouragement

The goal of this blog is to promote the positive value of a commonly unpleasant emotion: struggle. As we share our struggles with others, we’ll feel less alone and more connected. And hopefully, our shared efforts to struggle through challenges will encourage and motivate us to keep on going.