Minimal Monday

If you believe that everything is connected, then it makes perfect sense that doing even one small thing can improve everything else.

Let’s just take the example of our home or work environment. If it is messy, chaotic or disorganized, it tends to make us feel lazy, lethargic or overwhelmed. Cleaning it up leads to clarity, and calm. If we feel peaceful and clear-headed, we do better work, make better choices, perhaps even eat better. We feel better.

While working to meet my writing deadline, I’ve let some other things go for a while; seemingly less important things like chores and organizing my workspace. I noticed this was fine for a few days in a row, but then I’d hit a wall. I needed to simply give time to the tasks I’d fallen behind on in order to have clarity of thought and continue being productive. Doing so felt like a shot of good energy to my creative brain. It was so worth the time it took to rewrite my writing task list, clean off my desk, put the laundry away, update my calendar and return the pertinent emails or calls.

Taking fifteen minutes, an hour or even a day to regroup can really recharge our mindsets, our energy, our motivation; it’s all connected.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I must admit, in light of Elon Musk’s recent shenanigans, I was happy to have the perfect excuse to ditch Twitter. It’s not as though I really needed an excuse, but until the quit-twitter bandwagon, I had been letting inertia keep me there. I was an inactive user (wait, is that an oximoron?) I had created the account long ago, back when I thought I had to do All the Things, and then I felt inadequate because I was too overwhelmed and inconsistent to actually partake in any meaningful way. I do appreciate that many people will miss the old Twitter; I am just not one of them.

I don’t want to do All the Things. I want to do a couple things well. I want to be happy with how my memoir is turning out, and once it’s published I want to do my part to get it in the right readers’ hands, those who will benefit from my story. I want to do this mindfully.

At a time when writers and other artists and entrepreneurs are being told to be heard, play big, and be seen, be everywhere, all I want to do is the opposite of that. More and more, I just want to be quiet. I want to keep writing and sharing my writing, but beyond that I want to be still. I crave to be in nature, and cook creative and healthy meals, and, borrowing from James Taylor, to shower the people I love with love.

It must be the act of writing memoir, the calling forth of my memories, regrets, and truth that is causing me to feel, I don’t know, reverent? Humble? I am at peace with the process but I require a lot of reflection, presence, and solitude to nurture this process and to allow the right words to come through me. And I am beginning to trust that this is enough for now, and that things are going to unfold as they should. I believe that my story will shed light, educate, and offer hope. I believe it so much that I don’t want to shout it. I want to whisper with my whole heart.

Or maybe I’m just lazy. But I don’t think so.

Perhaps it is partly due to the stage of writing that I am in, or my age, but I think it’s more than that, and I am curious to find out where this feeling takes me.

I know I am not the only one tired of all that steals our attention when we just need to be still. We are all finding our way to our balance, our sweet spot, the outer reflection of our inner worlds. It looks different for each person and it is never a linear path, is it?

Minimal Monday

One of my favorite and most challenging areas to simplify is my writing life. My memoir coach, the talented and magnificent Marion Roach Smith, has told me that every scene should move the story forward. (You can find Marion here: https://marionroach.com/)

The writing advice that we should kill our darlings, a phrase coined by William Faulkner, is ever-present in my mind these days. It means that writers “must ruthlessly eliminate any words, characters, side plots or turns of phrase that we personally love but that do nothing for the story.” Memoir should not be a recounting of everything we remember. It needs a theme, and the particular scenes that support that theme. Everything else needs to go.

Rather than calling it killing my darlings though, I prefer to say clearing out my writing clutter. It suits me better. And a major part of my revision process has been to do just that. Chapter by chapter, I am applying my love for decluttering, clarity and simplicity, so that every scene is poignant and nearly every word is necessary. Who would’ve thought my passion for decluttering and organizing would serve me so well in writing? I think Marion will be proud.

Minimal Monday

What I love most about a minimalist philosophy is that it can cover our inner and outer worlds, our belongings, habits, thoughts and defenses. It is not a mindset in adding, doing, changing, but rather one of uncovering. Simplifying is subtractive, not additive. It is stopping the critical thoughts, removing what is blocking your innate joy, peace, and authentic self.

Here is an analogy: If your diet was poor and it caused your body to feel bad, and so you added some healthy food on top of your daily junk food, that would not solve the problem. But if you first eliminated what was making you feel unwell, you’d start to feel better pretty quickly. That is an oversimplification, but you get the idea.

There is so much information available on how to improve ourselves, and information is good. But it also makes it easy to busy ourselves with strategies and distractions while avoiding what we need to stop doing, saying, thinking, judging, avoiding.

I think we are already amazing, powerful, creative and good. We just have to remove all that stands between us and our true selves.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I have a deadline of October 31st this year for completing the final edits to my memoir. I’ve got a lot left to do and now Halloween is hovering over me like a taunting ghost, as if writing down my deepest thoughts and memories isn’t spooky enough.

Fortunately, I have fallen madly in love with Cal Newport’s Time-Block Planner, a productivity system like no other. Newport is the author of Deep Work and he has created this tool in order to help us focus deeply in a distracted world. This unique planner is helping me to be intentional with every block of time in my day. It does not replace my calendar, or my regular “to-do list”, but it makes it simple and clear what will happen and when. The objective of the planner is to get the most out of the time and attention that you have. It is the best way I have discovered to Get. It. Done.

I was gushing over this planner so much to one of my daughters that she suggested I give it a name. So naturally, I’m calling it Cal.

And since my memoir is the most meaningful and in- depth work I’ve done yet, I am embracing this method every day from now until October 31st. If all goes as planned with Cal, I will surely be celebrating Halloween this year, ghosts and all.

Minimal Monday

Linda Cliatt-Wayman is a successful leader in education and is powered by her belief in the potential of all children. Her love, passion and unwavering focus on improving the future of children living in poverty is admirable and inspiring. I am not sure how I missed her acclaimed Ted Talk in 2015, but I am glad that I came across it this year. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe2nlti47kA.

She invoked powerful methods to transform a Philadelphia school and there were no tasks too big or too trivial on her watch. First and foremost, she made the school a safer place. Everyone knows children cannot learn while they are scared, uncared for and unloved. In addition, she upgraded the aesthetics of the school by recycling or discarding unused furniture and materials. The school went from chaotic and filthy to organized, orderly and colorful.

Doesn’t everyone deserve an environment that is safe and pleasing? How wise to recognize the importance of the physical environment in showing students – or anyone- that they are worthy human beings.

What a remarkable leader. If you have not yet seen her Ted Talk, I invite you to watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe2nlti47kA

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

I invite you to try on this belief: Your best, most authentic life and Self are lurking just beneath the clutter and baggage.

If that is true, what is one thing you could do today to excavate what is buried? It could be something big or small; give something away, delegate a task, clear out a closet, throw out the junk food, face the old wound, have the conversation.

What would you do tomorrow and the next day to keep the momentum going? It’s okay if you don’t know what you might find. Sometimes we have to get through some sludge before we feel lighter. Just stay curious and allow the treasure to reveal itself.

Happy Monday!

Minimal Monday

My husband and I are helping to move our youngest daughter out of one apartment and into another. Due to the nature of medical school, and now residency, this will be her fourth move in four years. Moving is a lot of work and the more stuff there is to move, the harder it is. She has learned how to make do with the essentials and not accumulate – and therefore move- more than is necessary.

It got me thinking, doesn’t it behoove us all to live like we are moving? I don’t mean that we should never get attached to a place, or that we ought to deprive ourselves of things we really enjoy. I just mean that if we thought about what we’d really want and need to bring with us if we moved, what would we choose to leave behind? Can we let go of those things now?

It’s a lot of work to move. Packing and unpacking forces us to face every single thing we’ve accumulated. How much freer would we be with less?

Minimal Monday

I have been very fortunate in motherhood with three wonderful, grown daughters whom I adore. Mother’s Day is a happy, celebratory occasion for me.

But last night as I was going to bed, I was thinking of all the moms who have been alienated from their children after a contentious divorce, as my mother had been when I was just four years old (the topic of my memoir-in-progress). I personally know a few of these mothers, and occasionally hear from others whom I’ve never met. They are loving, kind, deeply saddened mothers who desperately want to reconnect with the stolen hearts of their children.

I will not go into detail about ‘attachment-based parental-alienation’ because it is beyond the scope of this blog post (*It happens to dads too). But what I do want to tell you is that last night, without overthinking it or even pre-planning it, I reached out to a large number of these parents on a private online group, and shared my heartfelt thoughts with them. I just couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by without offering my understanding, empathy, and love. And they deeply, sincerely appreciated it.

What does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism? When we are doing our best to get rid of all that does not serve our best lives, including old beliefs, fear, and overthinking our heart’s desires and impulses, often what comes through are the most natural, aligned and effortless words and deeds.

Love isn’t hard.

Minimal Monday

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about creating structure in my life around certain goals and habits. If you missed that post, you can read it here: https://danalaquidara.com/2022/04/18/minimal-monday-10/

As of yesterday, I added some much-needed structure around finishing up my memoir. I am in the editing stages of my memoir, but have gotten stuck there for so long, I had to do something different.

I suspect the only one to take longer than me to finish writing a book is Joy Imboden Overstreet. I learned through the #amwriting podcast that she ended forty years of procrastination when she finally published her book, The Cherry Pie Paradox last year.   Yes, you read that right; forty years! Joy is in her eighties and described the great sense of relief she felt once she did it. Can you imagine? I can.

So to try and end my own procrastination, I joined a May Day Facebook group in which we authors will check in with each other every Monday for the month of May. It won’t be as motivating as hiring a book coach like Joy did, but it will help.

So, with the loose but added structure of my May Day accountability group, my task at hand for the month of May is to make progress every single weekday, whether I feel like it or not.  Clear and simple, day by day, I am committed to moving forward. I just know I meant to have my memoir out into the world before I am eighty.