EMBRACE DIFFERENCES

Writing & Blogging: Guest Comment from 6/14/2020

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

First off I want to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing. I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out. I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Thank you!

Guest Commenter found in SPAM on 6/14/2020

Once in a while, I get a guest comment that is both similar and different to others about writing and blogging. It sparks my curiosity and gets me thinking about my writing process so that maybe I can answer the question.

In this case, the question also involves coping strategies for focus, anxiety, or writer’s block. Maybe it will also answer some other guest comments with similar questions. Everyone’s writing process is different and unique to them. But here is my strategy.

Free Writing

My mind is often full of thoughts and writing ideas. In the middle of the night, my alter personalities share ideas with everyone. But I don’t remember them the next morning. They come back when inspiration strikes, during meditation, or as I practice some free writing.

Most common example is Word Association style. Pick a word at random. Write down the first thing that comes to mind. Then continue writing about it until you feel more relaxed – i.e. the words start to flow easily.

Then go back to the topic you want to write about and try the same exercise.

There are other options for free writing exercises. Maybe try a few others to see what works best for you.

Refocus Your Thoughts

Sometimes, my thoughts are scattered and confusing as I sit down to write. Usually because there is something distracting me. Other times because I feel scared about the topic and am avoiding it. Once in a while, the anxiety overwhelms me and fear blocks the writing.

I use grounding and distraction coping strategies when this happens. Meditation and deep breathing may help, but it won’t stop the other ideas and so on bouncing around in my mind fighting to get out. Maybe this is true for you as well.

When you use a grounding technique (and no it does not have to be sensory grounding), you are bringing yourself out of wherever you were and into the present moment. The moment where you write about a specific topic.

Some other grounding techniques:

  • Remembering facts about yourself (birthdate, graduation date, parent’s first name, last name, etc.)
  • Remembering facts about the day: specific date (June 28, 2020), specific day of the week (Sunday), location (living room), time of day and so on
  • Remembering life milestones: college graduation 2004, first real job, 2006, first decade of recovery 2014, move across country 2016, and so on.

When you use a distraction, you have the opportunity to let out all the other stuff in your mind before you start writing. It’s a way to express whatever is stopping you from wiring about a specific topic.

Some quick distractions:

  • Practice a hobby: get creative and choose something that allows you to express yourself. Often, I get distracted by emotions or memories or associations my mind makes with the topic. So finding a way to express them helps
  • Make a drink or a snack and use it as a mindfulness exercise before you write. And if you don’t want to eat or drink, find something else you can use for a mindfulness exercise to clarify your thoughts
  • Get up and move: physical activity releases endorphins and helps you feel more connected to all parts of yourself. You also get the benefit of self expression here too. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy as long as it feels right to you
  • Change your location or routine. Try writing somewhere else or at a different time of day or different day of the week.

Be Kind to Yourself

Give yourself a break. Writing is difficult business, vocation, passion – whatever you want to call it. Lots of people have opinions about “how to write” and “what makes a writer” or even “how to be a writer/better writer”. They are both correct and incorrect because what works for them, might not work for you.

Maybe the 10-15 minutes you spend writing about other topics is part of your writing process. It’s how you clear your mind so that you can focus on your topic.

You can experiment with that idea by extending and shortening your dedicated writing time. Add 10-15 minutes. Try free writing. Then turn to a new page and start on your topic. Or end your writing time early.

Remember that you are a writer and successful because you put in the hard work to practice and improve your craft. Congratulate yourself for being where you are now and for how hard you work to be a writer.

Remember not to be so hard on yourself either. That is something I constantly struggle with because there is only so much in a day that:

  • I want to do
  • I need to do
  • I can do
Personal Story example:

I have a goal to write one blog post a week for my new blog and continue writing weekly posts here in between aromatherapy/herbal studies experiments, work, getting my business started, and self care.

But last week, I didn’t have anything to write about for my new blog.

This week, I don’t have anything to write about either because my experiments are still in progress. My rose petal and chamomile infused oil will not be ready until next week. The elderberry infused honey has 3 more weeks to macerate. I’m still testing the “soothe my skin” healing salve with homemade arnica infused oil to help with pain and scars.

And the conflict is: maintain my schedule by writing something low quality and maybe not useful. Or skip some deadlines until I have results and something interesting/useful to write about to create high quality content.

I’ve decided to skip a few deadlines so that I can deliver quality content with photos.

Conclusion

The ideas above are some ways I work through the focus problem as I write. The rest of it is simply this: first drafts are always messy and never reflect the final product – at least for me. So I give myself a break when writing something new.

When I am continuing on something I started a while ago, I will re-read and review what I wrote before to remind myself of what’s already been written.

But to be completely honest, I am not sure if my main strategy will help you at all. You see, my alter personalities do a lot of the writing for this blog. They compose many articles and so on inside my mind without ever putting anything in writing form. They do all the revising and drafting, etc. inside my mind.

Then, everyone decides what gets written down and published here. I/we type up the post in WordPress and then do some light editing/proofreading to catch the major stuff.

And publish the article as is. Whatever errors, etc. you find here are all ours.

So, if you have alter personalities and coexist peacefully with them, maybe consider letting them have a journal (or a few journals) and tools to express themselves before you start the rest of your writing. And if you don’t have alter personalities, it’s always a good idea to express whatever is going on inside to help you relax and focus on your topic.

Because feeling relaxed, confident, and present are the best tools to help you focus and concentrate on a task.

Thanks for reading.

Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties

Writing & Blogging: Writer’s Block, Affirmations, & Reader Comments

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the last post. I appreciate your kind words and suggestions. I read all of them just now and tried to at least “like” all of them even if I didn’t reply. Sometimes I’m not sure what to say…

Funny how sharing fear makes it less scary

After I wrote the last post and shared my fears, some of the block disappeared. Still have not written anything yet, but I did find 5 useful articles on PubMed and some interesting references in an aromatherapy chemistry book. Next step, read the articles and start the note taking.

Thanks all of you for reading my post and sharing your stories in the comments. I feel less alone and more connected to a community who can relate to my fears and struggles. That always helps me cope with the fear the crops up whenever I try something different.

Maybe (I hope) it helps you cope with some of your fears too?

Sharing some Affirmations – 2019 reader comments

Back in 2019, I finished a 365 days of Affirmations challenge but didn’t write about it much here. The challenge was a personal one to help me change my perspective about, well, everything going on between 2018 and 2019 when I felt stuck in negativity and trapped. I think maybe 4 posts were dedicated to this challenge and sharing about the “About Page” too, but many guests commented about wanting more posts.

I promised to write more, but not in 2019. The reason? My family of origin came back into my life, and finding balance with them took up most of my available time. Their stories were not something I could share here without permission, and everything I normally would write about was colored by our interactions together.

To make up for that, I’m going to share 5 affirmations from 2018 here. They are yours to borrow and use if you want. Definitely to share too. And, if you’re interested, you can use them as writing prompts.

Writing prompts? Sure. If you want to challenge your skills and your thoughts a lá Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you can use the affirmations as inspiration for journal entries, short essays, stories, poems, your own affirmations, etc.

Perseverance: I open myself up to the universal healing energy that surrounds us.

AlterXpressions

Rainy days give life to plants while making beautiful music.  I welcome all of nature’s symphony into my world.

AlterXpressions

I open my heart to universal unconditional love and compassion.

AlterXpressions

Cooking is an expression of self care and joy.  The combined aroma of cooking food grounds me in the present.  I immerse myself in the sensual pleasure of cooking.

AlterXpressions

I do my best to live within my values no matter what kind of stress fills my inner self.  Self compassion and kindness help me over come my mistakes with people.

AlterXpressions

Guest Comments

Many guests this week asked about my web site theme and Internet browser operating errors. They also asked for some tips about writing and blogging. Since I don’t know what platform you use as a web host, here are some general suggestions:

  1. Check your account’s help sections and resource pages for information. They often have useful articles about how to check for errors on your web site or blog and then fix the errors.
  2. Contact customer service. Sometimes the errors have to do with the platform and not your account. That happened to me a few times in the past.
  3. Review and update your themes at least 1x every other year. More often if you are still working on your design. There are many free themes with customization options to help you create something that fits you.
  4. When choosing themes, look for ones that include mobile browsing options. Both of my sites have the capability to convert their user view to fit a desktop, tablet, and other mobile devices. Not every theme (free and paid) offers this flexibility, so you have to include it in your search criteria.
  5. For Optimization and speed, learn the limits of your account and work within them. Adjust your settings and test them out – by visiting the site yourself or asking others to visit and test the pages/posts for you – and make adjustments. Once you find settings that keep your site/blog safe and allow for optimized loading speeds, etc. you can start pushing those limits.

Honestly, I contact WordPress customer support at least 2x a month with questions when I make changes to either site. In between that, I take the free classes and read the articles to try and figure things out myself first. But I know my limits and the chaos that ensues when I try to fix certain things myself. Lesson learned: know when to ask for help and ask before you make things worse.

If you have suggestions or affirmations you want to share, please write them in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Writing & Blogging: Writer’s Block from a fear & flashback POV

Flashbacks

This is not your typical “here are (x) number of tips to help you write” post. I’m sharing my fears and vulnerabilities about how the trauma and PTSD affect my writing. You will read about the challenges and the background. But this time I don’t have any coping strategies or techniques to share. If this interests you, please keep reading. If not, thanks for visiting.

Writing & Blogging: Excerpts from the Scent Reflections Newsletter March Bonus Booklet

Disclaimer: this is a place of learning, safety, and hope. Take what you want from the post and forget the rest. Maybe this will help you. Maybe it won’t.

Dear Guests,

Earlier in March, I wrote a post about newsletters and updates. In that post, I promised that my guests here at Untangled Connections would get access to any writing and blogging content exclusives that I shared in the Scent Reflections LLC newsletters. But only writing and blogging-related content.

The newsletter is coming out on March 31st, so I’m sharing 2 excerpts here for you to preview. One excerpt is the same as I posted yesterday on Scent Reflections. But the second excerpt is different and more directed to the audience here.

No, you will not have to subscribe to the other newsletter to get the booklet if you are interested in reading more. I will, as promised, make the PDF file available here for guests to download for 2 weeks. After that, you will have to subscribe to the newsletter to get current past bonus content.

Exclusive Excerpt from the “Introduction”

This guide started as a conversation between myself and the young woman cleaning my apartment. We started discussing education based on a mutual love of plants, herbs, and aromatherapy. I felt compassion for this young woman and related to her frustration about finding better paying jobs without a college degree. At the time, I was looking into alternative education tools for my team.

~TJ Hom at Scent Reflections LLC

Exclusive Excerpt from “Types of Resources”

Non-profit, Outreach, Community Centers, and Volunteer organizations

Personal Finance

Back when I lived in Massachusetts (2013 approx), I realized I needed help learning about personal finance and budgeting. My life and finances got messed up when I separated from my family and lacked resources to ask questions. But I didn’t want to fall into the debt hole like so many others did because of living expenses and medical expenses being more than my paycheck could handle.

So I looked around for free financial advice programs that didn’t require me to be in a classroom. Many of the free programs were for people within a certain financial threshold. The rest required payment and a commitment of some kind. Or that I attend their in-person classes.

Eventually, I found a non-profit organization whose financial requirements and lifestyle restrictions I did meet and spoke with a tutor for 1 hour a week over a course of several weeks to get help. This person taught me how to understand personal finance, organize my bank accounts and track spending, and create a budget that made sense to me while also building my confidence and encouraging me to continue learning. I really liked the tutor even though I did not like the other people who communicated with me via email as much.

Safety, Security, Communication, and Legal help

But those communication problems were partly my fault too. Around the time I completed these sessions, I realized that I needed more help to start fresh. That included changing my legal name, getting protection from people tracking me via mail, credit cards, and utility bills, and opening up to different trauma recovery resources that appeared closed in the past.

Up until 2013-2014, I struggled with the fact that I was a victim of abuse, especially domestic violence, because I didn’t fit the criteria listed in many of the “warning signs” documents available through other nonprofits and government organizations. Plus, inside my mind was a little voice telling me that I didn’t deserve help and would get hurt worse if I tried to ask for help. But then I stopped sleeping again. And it was on one of those sleepless nights that I finally accepted being both a victim and a survivor. That one didn’t negate the other. And I deserved to feel safe and secure even if that meant putting my pride aside and asking for help.

So I did ask for help. I reached out to a domestic violence shelter who got me in touch with an attorney who helped me go through the legal name change process and get me enrolled in an address confidentiality program that kept me relatively safe for 2 years. Then I walked into the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and asked for help because my life felt like it was spiraling out of control. They assigned me a case manager and helped me get individual counseling too.

Through the case management program, I was connected to a scholarship program for survivors, a non-profit moving service, and limited government disability support that allowed me to pay the required legal fees for a name change, move to a new apartment, and feel safe enough to make future plans. Plans that included moving out of state for a fresh start.

In case you’re wondering, all these experiences contributed to me starting Untangled Connections.

~TJ Hom at Scent Reflections LLC

Thanks for reading