When I learned to kayak, my instructor made swim the rapid. Even though I grew up with a pool in the backyard, I wasn’t a strong swimmer. And the lifejacket strapped to my body didn’t really comfort me, either. “Don’t panic. And take a big breath when the rapid shoots you out, because then it’s going to pull you back down again.” Sure enough, I panicked. Underwater, my arms flailed grandly as I tried to reach the surface. When my head popped out of the water, I took a breath — probably not as big as I should have — and then quickly disappeared underwater. When I came to the surface again, I was beyond spent and, to my dismay, headed straight for the next rapid. And I was desperately in need of a course correction. [Read more…] about Course Correction
After taking the month of August off to ‘rest and recharge,’ I’m easing back into a routine of sorts. I’ve always thought of September (or autumn) as the beginning of my creative cycle. It’s the time of year when I either start writing a new major work or begin rewriting a project that I’ve let rest for several months. And, usually, I bring boundless energy and enthusiasm to whatever I undertake. But this time, I’m coming at it all shaken and asking myself this: am I focused on what really matters?
Stopping Social Media from Stealing My Time
For me, taking time to rest means stepping back and slowing down, which is a real struggle at times. A big part of that is disconnecting from social media. In the early days of August, I tried not posting on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, sending text messages, or frequently opening WhatsApp. And I did everything to avoid the negativity permeating the news cycle. To focus on what really matters (at the time, that was preparing for the release of my next book later this year), it was imperative to keep distractions at bay. [Read more…] about Getting Back to What Really Matters
I have a confession. Lately, I’ve been a hot mess. I’d hope that ‘going off the grid’ would help me focus, let me work on the things that I thought mattered most. And, so far, that’s been kind of true. Except for those five days in January when I had the stomach flu, I’ve met or exceeded my goal of running 50 km a week. I made steady progress on two writing projects. Stuck to my plan of spending less time on social media and, as a result, reduced my screen time and how often I reached for my cell phone.
I’m a Hot Mess
I wasn’t satisfied with my progress. There were, still, too many days when other distractions crept in and stole the show. Picking up my post-run latte, I’d open the Starbucks app and see a new promotion to earn an extra 150 stars if I stopped in after 2:00 pm. Sure enough, at 2:01 I was leaving the condo for a drink I did not need. In the middle of editing, a flash to have burgers for dinner meant — right then — a trip to grocery story for buns. Watching an episode of Amazon’s Hunters during my lunch break easily turned into a binge-watching session (it’s that good!).
Dirty Little Secrets
Holed up in my London hotel room at the beginning of the month, I reviewed my goals for February — what I had completed and what I hadn’t. And I got mad. Mad! At myself. I was a hot mess because, when I was honest with myself, I wasn’t acting with intention. In fact, and despite what I wanted to believe, I’d been operating on autopilot mode. How many hours had I wasted watching reruns of Anger Management and The Shield? Too embarrassed to admit. How often had I thought about cleaning up my desk (it’s a perpetual disaster zone), but never took action? Hint: it still looks like it’s been hit by an atom bomb. How many times, twenty or thirty minutes into a writing session, had I been distracted by the clothes piled high in the laundry hamper or forgetting to turn on the dishwasher, and stopped writing to tackle them? Honestly, let’s not go there.
Here’s the thing… Every time I let distractions win, I never got my focus back. Over and over again, I lost the day to countless other tasks and errands that took me away from my focused and best work. The end result? Me constantly feeling unfulfilled, bitter and frustrated that I wasn’t doing more.
Something had to change. And at first, I wasn’t sure what to do. Then, opening my phone to play ‘Wordscapes’ — and to again give in to distraction — my focus landed on the icon of the Flexday app I’d downloaded in January. If you haven’t heard of Flexday, it’s a service that offers workspaces in restaurants, retail and hotels for drop-in productivity. Time to finally try it out (you receive one free pass when you sign up), so I headed to one of the participating restaurants in my neighbourhood. On that first day, I spent from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm working on the rewrite of my novel. With no laundry or TV or dirty dishes to distract me, I’d made more progress on my rewrite in those six hours than I had in the previous three weeks. And before I packed everything up for the day, I signed up for Flexday’s Core Pass (monthly subscription) that gives me access to 30-plus core workspaces. And here’s the best part. By the end of the week and after only four visits, I’d completed the rewrite of my novel.
I realized that the main distraction in my life wasn’t the laundry or dishes or even my cluttered desk. It was my condo. Sharing seven hundred square feet with my partner, and wanting it to be both a refuge from the world and a workspace wasn’t working for me. Not anymore. If I wanted to do focused work and make real progress on the projects that matter most to me, I had to physically remove myself from that space. At least for now. And it’s working. (I’m writing this blog post from the restaurant Marben, which, here in Toronto, is the Flagship Flexday Workspace.)
One Day at a Time
I no longer feel like I’m a hot mess. One day at a time, I’m intentionally curating the life I imagine for myself. And better still, I’m staying focused on what matters most. Writing in an environment, where I’m surrounded by other entrepreneurs and creatives who are upping their productivity game and taking advantage of these inspiring workspaces around the city, inspires. And just like it says on the Flexday website, it really does “beats working from home or the coffee shop.”
Are you being intentional about how you spend your time? Are you curating the life you imagine for yourself? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
What if I could get up a few minutes earlier to write? What if I met that one person who’d love me just as I am? Or what if I could get ten more likes on Facebook? What if I could just be more like…
What if has been ‘killing’ me lately. With the release of my next book now just three weeks away, doubt is creeping in and trying to have its way. I’m asking myself why it took so long to write this book? What bad habits got in my way? Did I have the right mindset? And while those questions may be important, there’s something else going on. I’m comparing myself to others — especially other artists who are farther ahead, and more successful — on their journey than I am.
The Comparison Conundrum
As a writer, it’s hard not to compare myself to others … even when I know I shouldn’t. But I want to be successful and productive. That always has me looking to others to see how they work and if there’s something in their routine and habits that may help me. What if I were like Somerset Maugham, who set a daily requirement of 1,000-1,500 words?1 What if I could be like Igor Stravinsky and work without a break from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm? 2
The thing is … I’m not Maugham, Stravinsky or anyone else. I’m me. And the best I can do is remember that it’s always been for me more about the journey than the destination. I’m doing the best that I can, with the time that I have, to focus on what matters.
Banish ‘What if’ from Your Vocabulary
Asking ‘What if’ is a sure way to let doubt into your life so it can have its way. It doesn’t change where you are or how you got there. It only makes you forget all that you have achieved and how far you’ve come. Remove it from your vocabulary to maintain control and focus on what matters.
Set your goal and get about the business of doing it. Don’t worry about how others are doing or what they think. Be yourself and enjoy the journey.
Do you ever find yourself asking, ‘What if…?’ How do you cope with the feelings that it evokes? Any strategies you’d like to share? Click Reply to let me know. I love hearing from you!
Coming November 21, 2019
When Scott Davenport moves into the university dormitory, it’s time to start over.
Free from his overprotective and ‘devout’ mother, he’s hungry for love and eager to chase dreams that are, perhaps, wrapped up in uncertain ambitions. Frustrated with the other students who don’t understand him and unable to ground himself in the new city he calls home, it’s a chance meeting with Troy Muir — his mild-mannered and attractive dormmate across the hall — that forges an unexpected yet powerful friendship. So close, so committed to each other, they can’t envision a future where they’re apart … until two life-altering events have them challenging deeply held assumptions about each other and themselves.
Raw and rich in emotion, Broken Man Broke is a thought-provoking coming-of-age story about identity and belonging. Lopés reminds us that not everyone sees us for who we are and that sometimes — amid the chaos threatening to destroy us — we’re not sure who we are or what we stand for.
I wish you could have been there with me. But if you’re like most ‘normal’ people, you were probably still sleeping.
It was Saturday, 28 June 2019, and at 5:30 am I left my condo for my morning run. When I hit the Martin Goodman Trail, and even though the sun was on the rise, I could only see a couple of hundred yards ahead due to the thick fog. Running away from the downtown core towards the Humber Bay Arch Bridge, the view was spectacular. The fog blanketing the city rendered the CN Tower — all the buildings, actually — invisible. I usually run without stopping, but this time I planned to stop and capture the view. [Read more…] about After the Fall…