juggle

Ten Reasons Why You Should Do Everything At Once

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized

juggle

Today I was sitting in a lecture listening to my teacher bemoan the productivity of a colleague. This colleague (whose name I couldn’t bother to write down) is on the short list for the Nobel Prize, has written dozens of books in his spare time and holds down a demanding teaching job at a prestigious school while raising a family and participating actively in various leagues, committees and so forth. My teacher kept saying of his books, “He wrote that one IN HIS SPARE TIME! His SPARE TIME!”

Have you ever met one of these people? Someone who has many lives at the same time and they seem to be pulling them all off? They can do just about everything and with so much style and class we can’t approach their greatness even on our best days?

I look to these people for help. Right now (and for the last three years) I have taken on everything at the same time without any thought (or iota of caring) as to if this was healthy or not.

Oh, I’ve heard all the arguments. “It’s better to go in one direction at fifty miles an hour than five directions at one mile an hour.” and “Don’t be a jack of all trades and master of none.” I mostly ignore these arguments.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that I have a working DNA that, no matter how much good advice I get to the contrary, is not budging. For instance, I realized after years of trying, that I am not a morning person and waking up at 4 am is stupid for me. I now ignore all the studies and character assessments labeling early birds as the indomitable masters of reality. Screw them and watch the moon set, is my new motto.

I’ve also tried doing one thing at a time. That does not work for me. I need at least three pigs on the spit at a time, maybe four. I need at least hopes, three directions. This helps me in the following ways:

1. I never get bored. There is always way too much to do and I always have a direction. This is incredibly important to me. As Morrissey says, I am “Drawn to what scares me and scared of what bores me.”

2. If one direction is going badly (and this happens weekly) I have the hope of the other two. Today, I woke up at 6 am and wrote 3,000 words–every one of which stunk hardcore. But I had great sales and my classes weren’t too shabby. Hope remains. Tomorrow the writing will go well but my professors will throw a pop quiz at me on which I will do semi-terribly. Doesn’t matter because the writing will have gone great.

3. I am forced to become ridiculously efficient, or perish. I have to think of every cog and every slot of time and I have to think really carefully about how my systems work. I have to continually question assumptions and obliterate the ones that don’t serve my outcomes. A recent one had to do with destroying the belief that slow writing is great writing. This is not always the case, I am learning. Every day I am finding new corners to smooth out and new systems to implement.

4. I get to practice the art of “Intuitive Procrastination.” This means I may not have time this week for the dental appointment, so I have to put it off, but I do have time to finish the artwork on a cover because I cleared out the day for that task. I may not get to answering that annoying customer, but I will get a paper written. In all things I must assess the ocean of my tasks and determine which objects therein are rocks and which are sand. The rocks are hard deadlines, immovable. You don’t want to crash into them. The “sand” are tasks that time will smooth over and eventually become obsolete–things like dental appointments and naggy emails from corporations to update your credit card information. If I do them today or next week, it won’t matter much.

5. It obliterates depression. On weeks where I get a lot done and have a lot of great interactions, I feel like I have a purpose, and thus feel fantastic. The feeling of no direction is the twin brother to existential meaninglessness and sends me off a nihlist cliffside. Then I’m no good for anyone and tend to pin down friends and family with long verbal essays on the nature of existence and reality and the tragedy of being a thinking being without being an all-understanding being. This behavior horrifies everyone around me. It’s so much better to have a wall to paint or a typewriter to restore. If I am chasing carrots, there is no death.

6. They feed eachother. Oftentimes in my classes I have learned about a painter or artist and can therefore recognize their work, should I come across a print or poster or . . . gasp! The real thing. I hear about philosophical principles that I can work into some fiction. Today I met a guy who is in a fight club. He has califlour ears and everything. His knowledge will help me write my next non-fic book about argument.

7. Things take too long to pay off. I realized that even if I put in 10x effort at the beginning, I won’t get 10x outcome. Effort and reward are often terribly disproportional, mostly because systems are set up to keep newbies out. I can’t get a bachelor’s degree in a year, even if never sleep. The fact is, I can only sign up for 21 credits at a time. Sure, I could triple up by drawing credits from other schools, but most schools don’t let you do that past your generals. Likewise, if I open a new online store, I can list 2,000 items the first day, but I will not make many sales, if any. I have to slowly send out little advertising birdies and accumulate customers first. Because things can take years, I put in effort proportional to the current outcome, plus one. That plus one represents growth. In the random case that things pay off right away (and this has happened!) then, grand! I struck gold.

8. Davinci, the bearded badass himself, was never just one thing, but had many careers, inventions, talents and directions. If I can be like him in any way, I’ll take it . . . Except the beard.

9. Time flies. If you’re waiting for spring. If you’re waiting for the ship to come in. If you’re in the waiting place at all, this is a good way to wait. You hardly notice the time flying. Now, our pseudo-Buddhist-meditating-spiritualist-snob culture extols the virtues of being “in the moment” but to be honest, I want to live in all the moments at once. Tried the whole “being in the moment” thing and I think it’s an idealist concept that never really materializes. Currently, I’m waiting for summer so I can hike again. I’m waiting for stocks to go up. I’m waiting for my next trip. I’m waiting for the end of the semester. I’m waiting for Sharknado 11.

10. I don’t have time for vice. I don’t have time to gossip with the neighbors. I don’t have time to watch the Real Housewives of Burly Idaho (though I’d watch the heck outta that IF it existed), I don’t have time to shop, I don’t have time to make mischief. I DO take time for myself, though, in ways that count harder. I do have time to think and vacation and hang out with people. I don’t have time to waste.

 

 

February 3rd, 2017

seat_taken

Sorry, This Seat Is Taken – Dealing With the “It’s Too Late” Fallacy

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice


seat_taken

Over and over again I keep hearing the following:

“Blogs are so 2005 If you didn’t start one ten years ago, no one’s going to read you.”

“Youtube is so 2010. If you didn’t start one six years ago, sorry someone else has taken your niche.”

“Podcasts are so 2008. If you didn’t start one eight years ago, sorry, all the listeners already have their favorites.”

“Kidlit fantasy reached its peak in 2007. No one is interested now.”

In other words:

“These seats are already taken!”

But let me ask you this:

How long has recorded music been popular?
How long have movies been popular?
Books?
Television?
Art?

“It’s too late” is merely a scary story. What it really means is, “You have competition.”

But competition doesn’t mean opportunity is lost. What might have happened if Ingrid Bergman had tapped Barbara Streisand on the shoulder in 1960 when the already accomplished singer aimed toward film and said, “There are simply too many leading ladies in Hollywood. If only you’d started in 1939, maybe you would have had a chance.”

We invent new mediums and the early adopters find early success. Mid to late adopters have to face a stronger competition. But does that mean we shouldn’t fight?

Banish the “It’s too late” lie from your psyche. It is merely Resistance offering you a cop out from doing your work.

There are always opportunities. There are always grassroots takeovers. There are a zillion cracks in the concrete to bloom in.

 

 

October 17th, 2016

There is always a way into the cool kids group!

How To Be One Of The Cool Kids

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

There is always a way into the cool kids group!

 

Those in power remain in power by following three steps:

 

1. Forming exclusionary groups of like-minded people

2. Creating exclusionary rules to keep non-like-minded people out

3. Executing on those rules consistently

 

This has been the practice in place since the dawn of humanity. It is practiced by corporations, governments, school children and churches.

The groups aren’t always sinister. Think of your family unit. In order for someone to breach the unit, they must vow that they will share the bulk of their resources for the remainder of their lives. They must vow that they will abstain from certain resource-sharing activities with any other persons. They must hold an expensive ceremony where rings are exchanged in front of everyone they know.

The price for entry into any family is extremely high. One could say it is the highest price you will have to pay for just about anything in your entire life.

The price for entry into any respected field can be equally high. One has to complete four to eight years of college, endure grueling residencies, work twelve hours per day.

Simple groups demand simpler codes of conduct be met. In the jungle of the Junior High school, certain groups will demand you own and operate a skateboard, like rare anime or have blonde hair. In other words, you must be like them to be with them.

At many times in your life, you will aspire to enter into a group that wields a power you need access to–in other words, you will aspire to be one of the cool kids. It will help if you understand a few important features of the cool kids’ dynamics:

 

1. The cool kids operate off of an ephemeral, yet all-important basis of trust. Can they trust you will deliver? Can they trust you won’t sabotage their efforts? Can they trust in your competence? Figure out what kind of trust someone needs to have in you and work on developing that skill and trust.

2. You can buy your way into some groups. Many gym memberships operate on the pay-us-paradigm. Having to shell out money raises your price of entry and  keeps the dilettantes and vagrants out (i.e. poetry contests where you have to pay $15 to enter, typically get only a few hundred applicants as opposed to thousands for free contests). Paying for entry is fine but because the rules are only monetary, the opportunity for reward will be in proportion to the price of entry.

3. That said, in the case of institutional groups, serious power and money can get you in the door when others can’t even get into the building.

4. Work long and hard enough and the group will seek you out. This generally happens when someone leaves the group or there is a new market to tap. This is how the passive generally gain access to any opportunity.

5. Circumvent the risk for experiencing rejection by starting your own group. Convince others to join. Systematically raise the bar to entry as your power and contribution grow. Execute on these rules consistently.

If you follow the trajectory of any successful person’s life, they used one of the above five strategies to gain access to a group.

Which one are you using?

 

 

 

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August 24th, 2016

Jurassic park t rex

Is It Possible To Go Back?

Craft Of Writing // Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized

jurassic park2

Sometimes you will wonder if it’s possible to take it all back.

Deconstruct, destroy, take stuff down.

Maybe the work is scaring you. Maybe you don’t know the next step and nothing is working. Maybe people are ignoring you, being mean to you, not taking you seriously, disrespecting you. Maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe some other shiny thing beckons. Maybe its boring. Maybe you secretly feel safe wallowing in anonymity and failure.

In every story, the hero reaches a point of no return. This usually happens at the end of the second act and is typically called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” At this point in the story, the character is deep in the mess of things and, like it or not, he has to go forward or he will be killed by the forces of antagonism aligning against him.

In the first Jurassic Park, this moment takes place in the visitor’s center, when deadly dinosaurs have completely taken over. Everyone is trapped. They can’t get on a helicopter, they can’t get inside the safety of the car, they can’t contain the monsters. No escape! If they don’t do something clever soon, they will surely all die.

Death can come in many ways. Social death, career death, spiritual death, death death.

In order to defeat his foes the hero has to grow. Growing is scary and hard, so we wonder if it’s possible to take it all back.

Here’s something to keep in mind:

If it is possible, you haven’t gone far enough.

If it isn’t possible, you might get to where you going very, very soon.

 

 

 

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August 23rd, 2016

Are You Darling

Lessons On Being A Darling

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

Are You Darling

When one is playing the darling, everything is going one’s way. Needs are taken seriously. People listen. One’s strangest thoughts are given due consideration, even merit. Compliments come in bushels. One feels special and worthy. Other humans who do not know the darling very well wish to know them better.

In contrast, when one is not a darling, things can get quite dark. No matter how much one hustles, no matter how much one struts, people fail to notice. Humans fail to care. Depression and fear move in and put their grimy horse-hooves onto the kitchen table and demand cooking. Debts are called in, everything comes due at once and the sun will not come out tomorrow, no matter how loud the orphan sings.

For those stuck in the mire of the non-darling, let’s examine how darlings come into being, and what one has to be and do in order to be counted among them.

1. Children are Darlings

When one is a child, every tiny thing one does, from walking across the room, to defecating in the toilet, is met with smiles and cheek-patting. The meagerest of accomplishments are hugely rewarded with candy, gifts and the adoration of others. In addition to this wonderful state, a child’s discomforts are taken very seriously. Every boo-boo and cut is met with Spongebob Bandages and kisses. Strange aunts from distant lands give you birthday presents. The odd cousin lavishes attention on you at the family party. The world, it seems, revolves around what you want.

2. Single People are Darlings

When one is single, and fortunate enough to be even mildly attractive, one can draw the same kind of attention, devotion, and cheek-patting as a child does. When someone is interested in a single person, they listen attentively to every story, validate every idea and compliment even the smallest of actions. Annoying traits are labeled as adorable. Hobbies, even odd ones, are given top Saturday afternoon slots. An interested party can become a chameleon, patterning their actions after their lover in order to seem like the perfect match.  In the early stages of any fledgling relationship, one can be many people’s darling.

3. The Rich are Darlings

Fortune, even the artificial kind obtained by credit, can make one a darling. It is well-known in our culture that one is not only worthy of darlinghood by lining up enough fortuitous circumstances and obtaining money, one is also moral. To obtain money implies one has been clever, creative, trustworthy and intelligent. That kind of person, we assume, could help us along our path, either by imparting wisdom or parting with a little cash. Just like single people and children, these rich darlings are given serious attention because of the financial power they wield. An undercooked chicken is whooshed back into the kitchen. A slightly out of square tile is cause for the contractor to miss his lunch. Paradoxically, free things are given to the very rich in order to secure sponsorship or at the very least, a loyal customer. To that wealthy man or woman, everything is always coming up Millhouse.

4. The Accomplished are Darlings

“Accomplished” is a word defined as, “A person who has done something that others find valuable.” It goes without saying that if the culture has judged your works to be fine enough, then money and prizes are soon to follow. It is an important distinction to show that other people have vetted your “something” and have decided unanimously that it is worth pushing above the chaos of human creation and into its elevated and exhausted state. This elevation comes in many forms; it could be an Academy Award, a fancy corporate title, a slot on the New York Times Bestseller list, or a plaque on the wall of an elementary school.

The accomplished are free to enjoy their darlinghood because, no matter where their star may fall in the future, at the very least they have reached a height that the normal and boring masses cannot reach.

It is the nature of human beings to attempt to stay in a state of darlinghood for as long as possible. Some attempt to prolong childhood well into their thirties by adopting childish hobbies and keeping their company young. Some couple up and break up almost as fast as the turnstile swings so they can practice darlinghood over and over again on new partners. Others go to the fancy schools and endure the 60-hour workweeks to buy the house in the right neighborhood and drive the right car. Others sacrifice their social health, their sanity, and their entire life to the god of accomplishment, hoping the darlinghood will shine upon them again.

One last brand of darling remains.

5. The Giving are Darlings

One can be a child and give. One can be accomplished and give. One can be rich and give. But another breed of person has none of these things. Their resources are limited, they have little protection against the whims of fortune. They are often poor. Often, they are all alone.

But this breed of darling gives anyway. They give to people who need care. They give to friends who need encouragement. They give knowledge to those who are ignorant. The giving darling does not rely on external validation, approval of others, ephemeral cash, age or relationship status. The giving darling is held in high esteem precisely because they don’t have those things. The giving darling simply chooses to give plus-one to others in order to give plus-one to themselves.

If you cannot, for reasons entirely out of your control, become one of the first four darlings, make sure to be the last.

 

August 13th, 2016

Cheap Tricks Are Good

Great Things Are Achieved One Cheap Trick at a Time

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

Cheap Tricks Are Good

Success is achieved one cheap trick at a time.

What is a cheap trick? It is something juvenile, offensive, silly and embarrassing aimed at carrying you past resistance and into a state of done.

It takes years to find your cheap tricks and as far as I can tell they are different for everyone. Some more common ones include:

1. Self Bribery

Get to the last page and you get to go to Target and buy a new dress. Finish this last hour of a task and you get a candy bar. Do something incredibly hard this week and you can take next week off. Self-bribery is often frowned upon because it often contributes to stressed resources and bad habits. You don’t need a new dress because you have a lot already, and besides you spent every penny of your last paycheck. You don’t need the candy bar because you are watching your weight. A whole week off would spell disaster to your momentum.

But getting something for our efforts is a long-held tradition and should be respected, even if it stretches other areas of our lives. Is it better to finish and indulge or not finish at all and abstain?

2. Setting Timers

A timer is a witness. It’s a race. Set a timer for ten minutes and you know that the pain of execution can not last forever. It has a finite end. From an early age we have enjoyed the freedom of not having to choose when its time to be done, adults did that for us to nice effect. Timers are a cheap trick because they shouldn’t work, but they do.

3. Asking others to participate

Two friends sitting down to write may turn into a bitch and moan session about jobs, teachers, parents. But if both parties promise to stave off those delights for approximately one hour of focused, silent work in each other’s presence, they may turn a valuable corner on their project.

4. Public pressure

The public as you know it may not really care if you put out another video, as is evidenced by the half-dozen views on your previous videos. But the idea that someone out there may tune in is an added incentive against flakiness.

5. Isolation

Leave your computer and phone at home. Drive to a coffee shop and hand your car keys to the guy behind the counter with instructions to keep them for two hours. Take out your legal pad and finally finish plotting the second act.

6. Unhealthy thinking

Create a mental list of your enemies. Those who looked at you askance when you spoke of your ideas. Those who warned you against pursuing them. Those who told you your ideas suck and aren’t original. Keep them in your mind and plan your revenge. Get good and angry. Get it done.

7. Anger

Speaking of. Anger can be one of the biggest motivators. We get frustrated over things every day. Anger and frustration, properly channeled are the gossamer of creativity. Sit down and create against your anger. Get riled up. Fix the problems and destroy the pain.

There are hundreds more cheap tricks out there and they are as varied as the fingerprints on a subway banister. Find your cheap tricks. Keep them in a tool belt and pull them out when ambition is low, emotions are high, bodies are tired and payoff seems uncertain.

How are things achieved? One cheap trick at a time.

August 10th, 2016

paranoid (1)

69 Ways to Become a Paranoid Writer

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

paranoid (1)

1. Go to the bookstore and see what’s popular now. Write that.

2. Agent stalk via Google. Believe they are the father/mother who never loved you.

3. Read stories about people you have never heard of getting six-figure deals.

4. Believe in six-figure deals.

5. Wait to be picked.

6. Wait a bit longer.

7. Go to writer’s conferences and approach the keynote speaker. Try to make a good impression. When they reject you, cry all night in your hotel room.

8. Go to writer’s conferences.

9. Tell lots and lots of people about your book. Let their apathy or open disdain sit on your heart.

10. Believe platitudes spun by editors about not using adjectives and adverbs and never using slant rhyme.

11. Wait a bit longer.

12. Google stalk editors. Feel rejected by them already.

13. Wait endlessly for your agent to get back to you.

14. Keep finished works tightly locked in drawers.

15. Believe that writing is your identity.

16. Believe that your writing is incredibly important.

17. Listen to podcasts by non-selling writers who “know how it is.”

18. Labor over each sentence.

19. Believe that sentences are important.

20. Tell non-readers about your ambitions at dinner parties. Feel crushed when they treat you like a five-year-old.

21. Wait even longer. The agent will surely call. Surely.

22. Submit to one place at a time “just in case.”

23. Compare yourself to god-like and unattainable successes like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and Stephanie Meyer.

24. Write about ethnicities, genders and cultures that don’t interest you in order to follow trends.

25. Frown upon self-publishers, even if they are making monthly income.

26. Show people your writing before it’s ready.

27. Expect your friends and family to read your 600-page novel. When they don’t, hate them forever.

28. Believe the praise.

29. Believe the rejection.

30. Freak out when your main character appears  in the latest blockbuster hit.

31. Do a writing MFA program at UC Berkely.

32. Write only when the mists of serenity descend gently and cozily upon you.

33. Believe that anyone, especially editors and agents, can tell the future.

34. Believe you can write the next great thing and then crumble daily under the pressure.

35. Write about things you don’t care about.

36. Worry your not young enough, cool enough, ethnic enough, good enough, rich enough, poor enough.

37. Refuse to market until you are “ready.”

38. Wait for your spouse/lover to care.

39. Keep repeating your successes to your friends. Wonder why they stop calling.

40. Believe in the red carpet.

41. Cultivate the practice of perfecting each sentence as you go.

42. Refuse to write crap.

43. Refuse to write less-intelligently.

44. Refuse to write plainly.

45. Believe in your own specialness.

46. Believe in other people’s specialness.

47. Believe in such things as original ideas.

48. Track rejections.

49. See writing as the panacea to all past playground bullying, rejection and lack of love.

50. Plan a six-part book series before you write one word.

51. Believe anyone outside the writing world cares about agents, bidding wars and contracts.

52. Facebook stalk your ex and see how successful/happy they are and how much they have achieved in other fields. Merrily compare.

53. Listen to interviews and try to recreate the path other writer’s have walked.

54. Cultivate an addiction.

55. Refuse to fail.

56. Join writer’s groups where negativity and inaction are rewarded.

57. Come up with an elevator pitch and perfect plot before you write a single word.

58. Endlessly check stats, friend counts, follows, likes. Believe these numbers matter a great deal. Brag about them a lot.

59. Believe your byline, residuals and best-seller list status is the true measure of your moral worth and character.

60. Reject the idea that luck and favorable circumstances are the true arbiter of our fortune.

61. Believe in the almighty “New York” of everything.

62. Equivocate.

63. Rewrite your novel for ten years.

64. Believe you are immune to the misfortune experienced by other writers including orphaned contacts, dropped series, marketing neglect, agent abandonment and failure to pay as per contract.

65. Take short cuts.

66. Fail at relationships in order to succeed at writing.

67. Believe in finally “making it.”

68. Cultivate a healthy cynicism.

69. Wait a bit longer.

 

August 9th, 2016

What_Cycling_can_teach_us

What Cycling Can Teach Us About Writing

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

What Cycling Can Teach Us About Writing

Right now, hundreds of sweaty cyclists are bearing up red rock canyon hills on $15,000 bikes, wearing skin-tight bibs and sipping down increasingly warm water bottles filled with Perpetuum–an athlete endurance drink that tastes something like watered down sour milk. They are doing this in a packs of eighty or so, using each other as alternate windbreakers in the same way geese do when flying in formation. It is known as America’s toughest stage race.

At this moment I am sitting in my robe, having woken up at 10 a.m., well past my regular wake-up time. I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. doing research. I feel well-rested and peaceful. In a few hours, I will drive 11,000 feet up a windy but gorgeous mountainous canyon to pick up the sweaty remains of my husband, who rode the Ultimate Challenge, a bike race encompassing 110 miles up steep mountain passes and sun and wind facing flats.

During the summer I act as the support crew and cheerleader for my husband during his many bike races. I wait at designated support zones and hand out fresh water bottles, half-bananas, Sport Legs salt pills. I will wave at all his biking friends as they pass by, heading up another huge mountain to suffer.

JUST BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT, DOESN’T MAKE IT HURT LESS

I have often been perplexed at this. Why do they do it? Why do they choose to hurt so intensely? It has been the subject of many conversations and my husband’s answer is always the same:

“Because I enjoy it so much!”

“It isn’t painful?”

“Its extremely painful!”

“But why do you do it?”

And the conversation circles. I have watched for years in both fascination and admiration at the feats of endurance he will suffer because he loves it. I keep probing him, over and over for a different answer.I have asked his friends and they say the same thing.

It hurts like hell but they love it!

Is writing any different? Don’t we have to carry our minds up steep hills of rejection and apathy? Don’t we have to carry our stories past the messy middle, the red editor pen marks, the ever present eye-rolling from our parents and siblings who think we are juvenile for even trying?

It hurts like hell, but we love it.

And that’s how it should be. If it didn’t hurt, there would be nothing to stop everyone from doing it. Writing is not a convenience store snack. It is an endurance race.

YOU NEED A SUPPORT CREW

At the end of a race, each rider has dozens of family members waiting to greet them. There are a lot of pats on the back, a lot of smiles and a lot of friendly teasing. Along the toughest climbs people will camp out with lawn chairs and coolers, douse the suffering cyclists with cool water as they pass and call out encouragement. Sometimes supporters even dress up in costumes and chase the cyclists with hot dogs and doughnuts.

I have done similar things. Last year, my three daughters and I drove up and down the canyon, blasting “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey and shouting encouragement and giving thumbs-up on the worst part of the climb. The cyclists, exhausted, would muster a half smile and a wave.

But can this similar thing be done with writing? I have often thought it would be amazing if we could figure out a way. Imagine the writer, stuck in the middle hell of a book, trying to write themselves out of a dark corner. They are alone and frustrated. The internet beckons. They suddenly feel like it would be a great time to organize their hat collection.

In other words, its the 11,000-foot climb and no one is there to cheer us on.

I used to feel righteously angry at the fact that organized sports (which are not my favorite thing) has enjoyed so much familial and cultural support, whereas the arts are left with the crickets, singing in the night, hoping someone might notice them. I used to go off on rants about our culture of sponsorship and playing cards and jerseys. It just wasn’t fair that artists didn’t get similar enthusiasm, even at the beginner level.

Then I realized that I simply haven’t asked anyone to care. I simply haven’t sat someone down and said, “Look, I’ve been working on this novel for five years now and I’m really afraid I might walk away from it right at the 99% mark. Please cheer me on, please don’t let me stop writing!”

How different would it be if we simply asked for support instead of being upset that it hasn’t fallen in our lap.

THE STRONGER YOUR MIND, THE BETTER THE CLIMB

Recently, my husband admitted to me, during one of our many dozens of conversations about biking in any given evening, that he could never have done a certain hill climb when he was 19, he simply didn’t have the mental fortitude. He said he often quit and turned downhill when things got too painful.

Like writing, cycling is heavily dependent on conditions. Here in Utah, it can get up to 100 degrees during the peak biking hours. In the winter one has to deal with slick and dangerous roads. Deer leap out from trees with the intent to kill. Strong headwinds make the ride punishing. Motorists all seem to have something against cyclists. Let’s not forget the pain of a 12% grade up a sun-baked hill.

In writing the conditions aren’t necessarily environmental. We sit in comfortable, safe places, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, sipping lattes. We aren’t sweating or sore. We haven’t had to fuel ourselves with a jelly-like goo in order to keep going. Our electrolytes are fine.

And yet, we stare at the blank screen, unable to start typing.

It’s the inner storm that plagues us. We may be wondering how we can get everything finished at work and still do a little writing. We might feel guilty that we haven’t had a good conversation with our teen in weeks. We might be ruminating over a terrible past mistake or wonder if anyone cares if we do this at all. We are thinking about how we probably aren’t that good or how we wish we had finished college or how the bank account is looking dangerously red.

We may as well be trying to push a bike up a 12% grade in the heat.

Yet, like my husband, I have noticed that with practice and age, these thoughts have lessened. The worries have to work a lot harder to get me down. I have developed numerous tips and tricks to help me finish what I start and they are all there, like bottles of Perpetuum, to help me pull through.

The act of daily writing really does help with the hard spots. It does get better.

CELEBRATE THE FINISH LINE

I will wait for several hours at Snowbird basin, watching cyclist after cyclist come up the mountain, squinting, trying to figure out if that’s my husband. From a distance, all cyclists look exactly the same. One kit looks like another. Bikes are a blur.

He will arrive unexpectedly when I am looking down at my phone or paying attention to a painter, who has set up a plein air station. They will call his name over the speakers and I will be filled with relief. He somehow did it!

Those 100 miles will have kicked his butt. He will look like someone sucked his marrow out with a straw. He will be low on salt and hungry. He will want desperately to get out of his biking shoes. He will crave anything but his recovery drink, which he must have to prevent lactic acid buildup.

We will go get pizza and talk about the race. We may ride the tram up to the summit. Whatever we do, it will be in celebration of the finish. There won’t be Boom Bands playing. There won’t be trophies. There will be a quiet satisfaction of a job well done and the silent planning of the next race to come.

Celebrate your finished work as you would the end of an endurance race. Have pizza and talk of the next story you are going to write. Watch the squirrels chatter at each other in the trees. Go to the top of the summit and look down on the valley and realize that mountains are there to be climbed and races are there to be won. Without them, we wouldn’t suffer and we wouldn’t love it so much.

 

August 5th, 2016

The Song of Burning Souls

Free Story on Wattpad! The Song of Burning Souls

Book Recommendations // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized

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I am thrilled to announce that I have posted a new novella/digital short on Wattpad! The Song of Burning Souls launched this week and I will be adding chapters slowly throughout the next month! You can read it for free here. For those of you who don’t know, Wattpad is a free online platform where writers post their novels and readers can devour them for free! What a deal!

Here’s a quick synopsis:

The song haunted Andrew’s dreams. Then he found the singer: Lithe-a girl made of flame who lives in the vents of his apartment building. Slowly, she shows him the fire world, a brilliant place where there are no lonely winters. But these glimpses are as dangerous as they are tantalizing. Soon, Andrew can’t stop craving the heat.

But someone doesn’t like Andrew’s friendship with the fire girl. Someone who lives deep in the basement amid boxes belonging to other lost children. Someone who will stop at nothing to devour them both.

What is this creature? Why has he trapped Lithe? Most importantly, can Andrew play with fire without getting burned?

—————–

This story was inspired by true events! A few years ago I moved into a very old house with large hot air vents on the walls and a cantankerous furnace. One evening, as I was drifting off to sleep, I glimpsed a light behind the grate in my room (the grate on the cover is an exact likeness of the one in my house!) The light grew brilliant and bright for a brief moment, then disappeared. I pried the grate off the wall and poked my head down there but saw no light. I was alone in the house and far too scared to go back to sleep so I got up and wrote the first draft of this story. To this day I have no idea where the light came from. Maybe it was the light of inspiration!

I’ll be posting a bit more about this in the coming weeks but for now I hope you enjoy!

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April 22nd, 2016

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Be More Weird – Stop Trying to Impress People

Encouragement & Philosophy // Erika Viktor // Uncategorized // Writing Advice

To continue on my 2015 theme of “Be More Weird” I would like to highlight a great habit to get into if you wish to level up on your journey of being the unique person you are.

Quick—who are you trying to impress?

Name five.

Dad? Friends? A girl?

I want you to literally make a list of five people you are trying to impress.

It is my belief that these people should have no part of your life. The reason why you are trying to impress them is because THEY ARE NOT WEIRD LIKE YOU.

To continue on my YEAR OF WEIRD, I propose that we shed trying to impress anyone.

Just stop it.

(((Anecdotal Interlude)))

One day, when I was in Junior High, I shaved off my eyebrows.

No, this was not an attempt to be counter-culture. Back then I was still playing with My Little Ponies. This was an attempt to impress people.

The Universe doesn’t like it when you try to impress people.

You remember the universe! The super evil mass of space and dust that attempts to destroy our lives if we get too lame.

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Here’s how it happened.

I was perusing a catalog filled with greeting cards. This was the era where this type of image was really popular:

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I saw a painting of an Native American maiden that was so beautiful I almost couldn’t breathe. I studied the picture “Why, oh why is she so beautiful?”

Then I figured it out! She had eyebrows that were very, very close to her eyeballs.

“I must have these eyebrows!” I declared. “Then, surely, I will impress people.”

The problem was, my eyebrows were not furniture and I could not move them. So I tried to furrow them. It only made me look terribly worried.

Finally, I figured out the solution (all that furrowing does eventually pay off!) I had to but shave them off and then redraw them!

Amanda Palmer, anyone?

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Well, I couldn’t quite pull it off in Amanda Palmer style. I frankly, looked like a bald seal. I did not look like a beautiful, majestic Native American woman.

I panicked. I ran around the house. WHAT HAD I DONE!?

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To cover my embarrassing gaff, I lied about it. Repeatedly.

“See, I fell asleep in gym class and some chucksters totally took the razor from the shower, see cause we were in gym class, and shaved my eyebrows and I didn’t even wake up because when you are in gym class, you fall asleep and its really hard to wake up, so . . .”

After this, I stopped trying to impress people. Because that makes Native American’s cry.

End Anecdotal Interlude

Reasons you should stop trying to impress people

1. It Requires Massive Amounts of Energy

People rarely think of things they embark on in terms of energy expended. To totally remake yourself for just one person? That can be seriously nap-inducing stuff. As a human being with finite energy resources, you have to carefully manage how you wish to spend your energy. Do you really want to waste it on people who do not find you superawesomefantastic right away?

2. It Reveals on Off-Balance Sense of Self

Cultivating a strong sense of self is one of the most important things you can do with your life. A strong sense of self recognizes where you stop and others begin. Humans are not chameleons and if we change for people, we can end up compromising who we really are. This can lead to a confused state called “fence sitting” where you are on neither side of the fence and must try to balance the middle. That balance takes away from everything else in your life and can even cause depression.

3. Some People Are Never Going to be Impressed

Will Smith said “Don’t Chase People.” This is a great mantra for happiness. Chances are pretty good that if you are trying hard to impress someone, you are chasing them. But we have to face the cold, hard facts of life: some people will never, ever like you. It doesn’t matter how many cookies you bring, how many smiles you give, how many compliments, presents and ponies. They will never, ever give you what you want.

But there is an entire world full of people who could and will. And you don’t have to chase them, they come to you!

4. You Have More Important Things To Do

Sometimes trying to impress people is just an activity that masks the activity you desperately know you must do instead. It is a form of Resistance on a large scale. That energy you are expending can be better spent on being your weird self!

Have a story about trying to impress others? Share it in the comments below!

September 2nd, 2015

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