Sunday, July 20, 2014

Personal Progress

What a week!

This has been a huge week for me from a personal development perspective. My approach to life, the universe, and everything has shifted allowing the unexpected (or long awaited depending on your view) to fall in place.

I am a believer in Myers Briggs typing. Yes, there are limits to any tool's effectiveness, that said, I have found the MBTI to be incredibly useful. In fact, this week it was game-changing.

I think I may have said before that I am an INFJ (introvert, intuitive, feeling, judging). I knew this, but I hadn't really taken that information to a useful place because I had no circumstance in which to apply it (not in my estimation, though that was probably a false assumption). My husband had taken the test several times and always came out differently so I was unable to use the information.

Then I got a crazy idea.

What if I took the test for him?!

I accepted the fact that whatever results I got would have to be taken with a grain of salt. The numbers probably wouldn't be accurate but at least I could uncover his type.

Now had I ever read all the types, I would have pegged him in a second...but that isn't how I roll.

Needless to say, Christian came out unsurprisingly as an INTP (introverted, intuitive, thinking, perceiving). Knowing Christian and reading what INTPs are like, I didn't have to retest. Because of the apparent accuracy of this result, I eagerly began devouring and sharing information about our types with Christian. Suddenly our differences and compatibility came into sharp focus. This blew our minds, especially when we read about relationships between our types.

It was like reading about ourselves.

While this opened up possibilities for growth in our relationship, that is not what I want to share here. Instead I want to point out a few things that I discovered about myself in the process.

Firstly, my type is sometimes called "the confidant" or "the counselor" or "the author." No joke.

Secondly, in case you weren't clued in by the above, some of the careers INFJs are suited for are writer, teacher, and counselor.

And thirdly, all of these things - info about my type, relationship issues, and my personal circumstance - brought back some other questions about life direction.

Our family cannot live on one income, not with present circumstance. I cannot stay at home all day because I go crazy. I have to work. I really love my baby, but in order to be a role model and provide for him I need to do what is best for my emotional health, our finances, and my professional goals.

Sometimes the old plan is the best new plan. Or maybe it isn't a plan, but at least a possible direction (I'm working on my spontaneity.).

When I was still in college I very strongly wanted a doctorate. The idea of putting the letters behind my name appealed. I liked the idea of being incontrovertibly equal with men (and surpassing others). It helped that "doctor" would further androgynize my name as Alexis can be male or female. The problem was I wasn't sure what I would do with a PhD or what I would study. I couldn't justify the resources on an unknown.

Recently a friend mentioned fully funded programs and suddenly it became a possibility again, or at least a consideration.

Other thoughts came to the fore. I am a good teacher. It feels like performance in the best way. It allows me to use all my strengths with purpose. I enjoy teaching, particularly adults. I really enjoy teaching adults subjects I love - like art, or public speaking, or writing.

Oh my GOD that took a long time to get there!

Yes. I could be a professor of literature and writing! I could hone my craft, teach, and be a mom. The variety of tasks and responsibilities suits my work style and temperament. It is something my parents have urged me towards for years.

Probably worth a gander at least.

So these next few weeks I plan to explore the possibility of a doctorate and all that will mean. It is an idea, not a plan, not for certain - just a good idea. We shall see how it pans out.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writer: The Irresponsible Student

Is it irresponsible to write about something which you have not mastered? Perhaps this is true for very select subjects - success maybe? But even there I am not sure this is strictly true.

I can take this question literally and say I am being quite irresponsible by not having mastered "werewolves." I have written 2 books about them and yet... am I adept?

Or what about gods? Have I mastered them? Am I irresponsible for writing my Khloe series?

This question ignores one of the principle purposes of writing - writing to understand. If we follow the now predominant held belief that mastery occurs with 10,000 hours of work, it is likely that only the obsessive and the old can be masters and therefore, writers.

This, however, is a ridiculous notion.

I write to discover. I write to understand. I write to organize the thoughts of my chaotic mind.

In some ways, we can never truly become masters. We are perpetual students because there is always more for us to learn. There is always more to discover, puzzle out, clarify, and connect.

This is the work of idea-makers, dreamers, and wordsmiths. This is the forge of the mind.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mastermind Groups, Mentors, and Grunts - Oh My!

Recently I've begun listening to binaural beats, relaxation tracks, and subliminal affirmations.

I know. Hooby dooby shit. But stick with me on this.

As I wrote earlier this year, life has been generally sucky. In fact, it's been so sucky, I decided (with the prompting one can only get from a meditative state) to write about this experience and the lessons I've learned from it.

That, however, is a different story.

The other more interesting and helpful prompt I received was about a mastermind group. Actually, I was thinking about ways to help my husband out of his funk and in the end, I came to realize it was a route for both of us.


 What is a Mastermind Group?

A mastermind group is a small group (maybe 6 at the max, but generally 3-4 people) of peers committed to helping one another achieve each other's goals. This is primarily self-work in the career area, but it doesn't have to stay there. If the group decided to take a session to brainstorm about ways to get their dream houses, I'm sure that would work just fine. It is really a tool for the group, so whatever the group decides, that's how it will work.

Ideally each group member brings different things to the table within a given area. You might even be a member of several different groups that focus on different areas. In my ideal world, I'd probably have a mommy-blogger group and an indie genre writing group (and by ideal world, I mean by the end of August...hint hint!).

But this mastermind group is only one transformative tool - granted an awesome one - but still only one. I feel that both my husband and I need a little more...

 O Mentor, Where Art Thou?

In comes the idea of mentor. Now I've wanted mentors - explicitly - for some time. I just had no clue how to go about courting someone who would spend the time on someone like me (I imagine this is a common problem for people.). Of course, my little meditation prompt led me to the perfect website that had the exact information I needed to read.

Just ask.

I mean, don't ask something like (insert Mr. Rogers' theme), "Won't-you-be-my-mentor?" but instead ask specific questions to people who you admire and think would have helpful answers. These are the kinds of people you want around you anyway - helpful people. Accessible helpful people who actually look at their Twitter mentions or their Facebook pages AND make seven figures annually are kind of amazing and perfect to answer your questions.

Yes, you can wade through thousands of websites and forums trying to find the information you seek, but wouldn't it be nicer just to go straight to the source? The idea of that kind of tedious research gives me a headache. Hell, just searching for people to ask questions of gave me a headache.

The Right Steps

Now that I have a plan of action, I have to put it into action. To be honest, just figuring this out today was a huge step in the right direction. Researching people was tiring, but again, a huge step in the right direction. And now? I need a break.

Even God rested. I'm just saying.

So what will I do the rest of today? Obviously I'm going to listen to my meditative tracks because clearly they're making a huge difference for me. I'm also going to write at least 1000 words because I really need to for my sanity. And then I'm going to listen to Jackson Browne because I'm supposed to be performing in a few weeks at a tribute night to the guy and he might show up (he does live around here).

Phew. I need to get realistic here; there's actually no rest for the wicked...

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Benefits of Travel Journals (GSRG Blog Hop)

This was supposed to be here technically on July 12th, but I had a very traumatic and scatterbrained July 11th, so it ended up getting posted several hours sue me. :-P

When I was eight years old, my parents took me out of school for a week in October. Though we would be on vacation, my mother, diligent as she was (and is to this day) didn't want me to fall behind in school. She asked my teacher for a packet of materials and negotiated a few special projects for me to complete, including a daily journal about my time away.

I still remember sitting at the wooden desk in the shore house writing in the tiny manila journal. I remember struggling for things to write and in the end, writing about even the most mundane parts of my day.

23 years later, I still journal when I travel. My journaling helped me process my unexpected and silly experiences while studying abroad in Hungary. Journaling helped me make sense of the paradoxical India while I lived there for six months. I journaled when I went to Great Britain with my family and when I went on a mission trip to Central America. Journaling helped me figure out my college experience away from home.

Why is it that decades after my week at the shore, I still choose to journal whenever away from home? Journaling offers an avenue for memory. Of course I can record anything and everything that happens during my time away. If I can't recall exactly what happened, I can always go back to my journal and see what struck me about the day or the week, or the month. I can remember the specific smells, sounds, and colors. I can remember the tour guide's name.

Another draw of the travel journal is introspection. Sometimes during travel strange things happen (like when the Chinese guys asked for English lessons in Hungary). Sometimes I experienced culture shock (like when the waiters didn't bring everyone's food at the same time in England). Sometimes I would find myself in situations and I wasn't sure what I thought or felt (like when I was being told I was getting married the next day in the Himalayas). It wasn't until I was seeing my words on the page that I was finally able to understand my response to my travels.

Of course, as a writer, there is an additional benefit to the travel journal that draws from the previous two. The travel journal is source material - glorious, raw, fantastic source material. Whether I use specific lines, situations, or locations, I can always check my impressions from a given place and time. I can always reference the things, though place them in a different context (especially when writing fiction). And there's the final potential use which is of course, the non-fiction book.

Even for non-writers, the benefits of the travel journal cannot be overstated. Years later, I still find myself rereading my journals - laughing at my folly or wondering how I survived the wilds. If only I still had my third grade journal. I wonder how much my writing has changed...