I’m three days into this exploration and I had a meltdown this afternoon. I woke up this morning feeling super negative. Strangely enough, this whole ‘going with joy’ was turning out to be anything but that. It almost seemed like an anti-joy exploration! When I stopped planning my days and decided to flow with whatever came up, little did I know that a torrent of negativity would come spewing out? It was awful. So instead of becoming chirpy, I found myself becoming pessimistic and frustrated.
To add fuel to fire, a number of things happened that triggered my sense that nothing was going right in my life and self-doubt crept in. My ex-cofounder messaged me to check if I’d be okay speaking with an investor who wanted to invest in the start-up we’d started together. That reminded me that the startup was on a great trajectory while I had no clue about where I was in life. Sure, I was doing this whole blogging thing and was exploring fiction writing. But I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out for me. I didn’t know how I was going to create a source of income! Everything was up in the air. That made my heart sink.
Then I thought about how I was supposed to be ‘following joy’ and wasn’t even feeling joyful. Instead, I was questioning everything and feeling pessimistic. Sure, I was doing some fiction writing these days but where was that going to lead me? It wasn’t even like I was a great fiction writer…I was merely taking baby steps! I was average at best at the moment. I had sent the short stories to my cousins aged 6 and 12 and while they said the story was ‘nice’, I realised that they reception was lukewarm at best. That made me feel crushed. After all my efforts, my work had turned out to be average. Was it even worth pursuing this goal, then? Was I just kidding myself by thinking that I could write fiction?
Everything seemed to be triggering a negative reaction in me. Yesterday I had a coaching call with friend Sky and we inadvertently touched upon the subject of my relationship with my father. I found myself getting angrier by the minute at the coach (who is also a great friend). And there was a part of my brain thinking, “I like this person! He’s a good friend! I shouldn’t be feeling angry!” But the truth was that anger was simmering in me. I felt like I’d just been through a police interrogation. By the end of the day, I was basically feeling like all my efforts and everything I was doing was inconsequential. “How am I going to make money?”, I worried. Was I even growing as a human being at the very least?
This morning, I found myself becoming super irritable with my grandparents and mother. I felt extremely frustrated that I couldn’t even give myself a week’s time to follow my impulses without whipping myself like a taskmaster. Was it my destiny to either feel overwhelmed or negative? If I planned my days, I felt overwhelmed. If I let my days flow, I felt negative. Was there no place for joy in my life? Was I not capable of allowing joy and flow? Was I destined to feel this low, negative, unfair, soul-sucking thoughts always?
I was just pouring all these thoughts out in my journal when my friend Dimi messaged me. He’s been coaching me and has been my rock of support throughout my foray into fiction writing. In fact, I would never have gotten started on this path if it weren’t for him. He and I had come up with the plan to do the 7-day ‘follow the joy/flow’ exploration. For some reason, seeing his message made my eyes well up with tears. I sent him a message, “would you be open for a quick chat?”
“You mean now?”, came the response. “Yes, let’s do it!”, he said.
So we did a WhatsApp video call.
In about two minutes, I was pouring my heart out to him as tears streamed down my face. “I’m finding this exploration so hard!”, I said. “I should be feeling joy and here I am, feeling negative. It’s as if clearing up space for joy invited a whole bunch of negativity in! Is there something wrong with me? At a time when I can actually let myself go and allow myself to enjoy a week of pure bliss, I just don’t seem to be able to let go. I don’t seem to be a normal person!”, I sobbed.
He listened to me keenly and said, “This is a normal reaction. I can imagine why such an exploration would be difficult for you. You’ve never done this in your life.”
“On a practical level, you can do a couple things. For one, you can listen to a lot of positive material that will allow you to quiet down the negative voices. For another, you can create a list of to-do’s if that makes you feel better. So long as you’re drawn to do that, I mean.”
“What has been coming up for you?”, he asked. “Maybe we can talk it out”.
I told him about the conversation with my ex-founder and the investor and how that had triggered a barrage of emotions in me. I shared that what bothered me the most was that I felt like I was floating in the middle of nowhere, with no clarity of the path ahead. I knew that I was doing this whole writing exploration, but where was it leading me, really? I was just exploring…I had no idea whether or not it would translate into anything such as a career path or a means of earning money. I didn’t even know if I was good at this.
He smiled and asked, “Has there ever been a time in your life when you’ve put a lot of effort and passion into something and it hasn’t given you something back? Look back at your startup or dance or meditation. You invested a lot of time into them. Didn’t they lead you to something amazing and get you great results? It just can’t happen that you pour yourself into something and it doesn’t bring you results.”
He said, “Also, if this thought about earning money keeps coming up, honour that. Don’t try to push it away. Listen to it, acknowledge it. Make a note of it, letting it know that you will come back to it and address it after the week is over.”
“What did you want to do before you started exploring fiction writing? What were you going to do?”, he asked.
“I was going to figure out a way to make money from my website. From what people have told me, it seems like generating passive income is going to take time. At least 1-2 years. So I wanted to make sure that I started the process right away. I wanted to apply that steadfast effort so that I start seeing results in time. If I start doing stuff that can help me make money only after a year, it will take another year or two to get to that place of stability. I didn’t want that. I wanted to start the process now.
So I decided to do two things: a) start guest posting to drive traffic to my site and b) look at how I could write and sell books. I even bought the Authority Pub course to that end.”
“That does make sense”, said Dimi. “You didn’t want to spend a full year exploring writing only to wake up a year later and see that you didn’t make much progress on the money front.
It seems to me that it would be great if you could somehow combine writing and income generation. We can look at how we can tackle this head-on if you’d like. We can come up with a list of 100 ideas on how to generate income. In my experience, it’s easier to generate income if you already have a product. It could be anything. Books. Courses. But as soon as you have a product, the traffic you send to your site will actually amount to something (sales). So the first step would be to create a product. Courses seem to work way better in my opinion since you can sell them at a much higher price point and all you will need is one sale a day. You can create a course on virtually anything. You can easily put together 10 videos and create a mini-course.”
I said, “I would love for writing to lead me to income. However, I’d like to decouple writing fiction and making money at this point. I feel like I’m putting too much pressure on myself by doing that. I did a visualisation exercise yesterday with Sky and what came up was that I’d really like to write fiction…for the sake of writing it. With one simple motivation that I want to write it. Also, I feel like I’m taking baby steps with fiction writing right now. I want to allow myself the space and freedom to just explore and write for the sake of writing. Just for the joy of it. No other expectations. If at some point that leads to something commercial, that’s great. But that’s not my end goal. I want to do it because I want to do it.
Yesterday, I was taking a walk. It was twilight and the sky was cobalt blue. I felt at peace. In that state, a thought came to me. That I could immerse myself in fiction writing every day for 3 hours. It could be first thing in the morning. To just go into that bubble and enjoy that world for 3 hours. Then I can do whatever I want for the rest of the day.”
“So why haven’t you done it yet?”, asked Dimi, laughing. “I got that thought last evening! I will do it today”, I replied, laughing too. He had a point. I should act on my inspiration when it presents itself. That was the whole point of the exploration anyway.
He said, “Keep writing down what comes up for you during this week. We can look at them once the 7 days are done. And honour whatever comes up. Don’t beat yourself up for your reactions. It’s a good thing that these reactions are coming up because it means that you’re doing the exploration right. After all, it is about seeing what comes up and following that. You seem to be putting a lot of pressure on yourself right now to feel joy and flow and getting frustrated that it’s not happening. That’s not how you want to go about this exploration. You can’t dictate the muse! You can do your part and show up. You want to allow whatever is coming up to come up. Even the negative thoughts are just thoughts. You don’t need to judge them or yourself for having them. Also, you are not your emotions or thoughts.
So you have 5 more days including today and Friday. How do you want to approach this challenge?”
“I think you’re absolutely right. I’ve been putting way too much pressure on myself to feel a certain way. I want to approach the rest of the days with curiosity. Whatever comes up, comes up. Whether it’s positive or negative. If something negative comes up, I’ll try to do something else in that moment like listening to an audiobook. If something comes up that I really feel like doing, I’ll go ahead and do it”, I said.
He added, “And remember: no pressure. No expectations. Just do what you want and see what shows up. And if you don’t like what shows up, note it down so we can look at it later, then switch to doing something different. Give yourself the permission to do what you want to do. I give you the permission to do what you want to do if you find it hard to give yourself the permission! So if you want to take 2 days to just read, go ahead and do that.
Let me know if you ever need another “recalibration chat”. I’m here for you!”
We’ll see how the rest of the days go.:)