Monthly Archives: February 2011

A complete guide to minimalist writing

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart
~ William Wordsworth

This post is for all of my fellow writers out there – aspiring bloggers, authors, journalists, poets, playwrights. Even if you don’t call yourself any of these things, this post is still relevant to you because almost everybody writes something or should be creating or doing something with this wonderful thing we call language.

I’ve been riding a roller-coaster of writer’s block/flow over the past few months and have tried almost everything and anything (legal) to get back on track. Everyday, I like to sit by myself in a few moments silence in meditation. But my main problem is that as soon as I slow down for a few minutes, my mind gets fired up about things to write. However, when it come to actually sitting down and writing, I get the first few sentences down and then… I’m stuck.

“What’s next? Does this make sense? Should I write about that?”

As with most things I’m not particularly good at (like karaoke) I adore to do write anyway. I probably even find it more ‘meditative’ than actual meditation because there’s something about it that gets all of my thoughts ordered and my mind cleared up in a different way than practising Zazen does. Part of the reason why I’m minimalist is so that I have more time to travel, explore and write.  Being a ‘minimalist’ doesn’t mean that I do everything in smaller quantities, as long as I keep only the essentials, even posts like this can be as long as I like.

I’m no professional at writing, but some of the things I’ve learned from just simply sitting down and getting words out has amazed me. I’ve learned so much about myself just by answering prompts, or just digging into my mind and writing 750words on it. Other times, I just open up wordpress, stare at the blank box for a few minutes with my fingers hovering over the keys, and before I know it, I’m writing a post about writing ;). If you love to write as well, but find yourself without motivation or time or generally unsatisfied, hopefully this guide will help you get started.

a guide to minimalist writing

Why ‘minimalist’? I don’t know how other people create, but for me, writing is almost all or nothing. If I’m writing to publish, I don’t do a half-ass job about it. And if it’s a journal entry, I don’t hold anything back. I’m quite passionate about it, just like I am about my minimalist approach to life. And once again, I found that using a few minimalist principles, I was able to get my writing back on track.

Here, I’m not going to distinguish what you’re writing about, or go into how you do it – such as the pros and cons of handwriting or typing. It’s up for you to decide what you feel is best and no way is ‘wrong’ or ‘right’. What matters is that you simply just write.

1. Find solitude.

Language… has created the word ‘loneliness’  to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.
~ Paul Tillich

When you are alone, you realize things that you can never see if there are other people around to distract you. When there is nobody to please and no expectations, and you have a pen and paper or laptop or whatever your weapon of choice, you can write something, anything, without giving a crap about:

  • who will read it
  • grammar or spelling
  • what it’s all about

It’s extremely liberating to have the freedom to just be yourself. Finding the time to be alone is the first and foremost step towards writing a lot and writing well.

2. Create first.

Anything that creates a spark is going to start, potentially, a big brush fire.
~ Victor Hill

One you’ve found a little bit of peace and quiet, the next step is to simply create first. Don’t worry about how that sentence sounds or if you’ve used the same word twice. Don’t worry about if it’s too long or short or childish or difficult. It doesn’t matter how you should start or end. Just put those damn words on the page and worry about editing it later, nobody is going to read your draft, so why care?

At least once you have a draft you can cut and sculpt it later on, but without it… I mean, Michelangelo didn’t carve his statues out of thin air. The reason why this works is because as much as we like to think that we can multi-task… we can’t. If you’re thinking what to write and how to write what you want at the same time, you’ll end up with almost nothing.

So if you think you’re stuck in a rut, it’s because you’re already criticizing your ideas before you’ve put them down (“I can’t write about that/I think x person has already written about that/Hm, that doesn’t sound good enough“). Ignore your critical side and let your creative side roam free.

3. Pour your heart out.

There’s nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
~ Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith

Even if they don’t intend to, a lot of the time people write as if somebody will read it one day. It could depend what you’re writing – whether it’s a journal you’ll lock away or a blog post that you plan to publish. They’re scared that someone will think worse of them, so they hold back. But for me, either way, I pour my heart into what I write. True, I may be selective about what I write (you guys probably aren’t interested in what I had for breakfast) but for every blog post, I don’t hold back my conviction.

When I write a blog post, I pour all everything I have into it. I’m here, right now, writing. There’s nothing else I do except using words to create, convey and communicate. There’s nothing left but to do it to the best of my ability. In that moment, writing and breathing is all I do.

If you haven’t already, I implore you to try my sanity saviour 750 words (I’m going to keep pushing because it’s worth it). Pour your worries and hopes and thoughts out once in a while, your heart will appreciate it.dc

4. Don’t wait for motivation.

Unfortunately, (or rather quite luckily) the ‘perfect’ time to do something is often when you’re already doing it and there’s no turning back.

People often use an excuse like ‘I don’t have the motivation today to do x‘ which is sadly usually followed up by ‘…I’ll do it tomorrow‘. When you think you’re out of motivation, you have two options. You can a) quit or b) can push on without it. Quitting achieves nothing, so if you’re okay with that then fine. But if you’re not satisfied with having written nothing, well then you do have some motivation after all! So if it’s there, use it!

And if you need more, entice it to come out. How? Hunt down some awesome inspiration. Go read some great blogs or read that book you love again, then come back and start over. You’ll find yourself wanting to emulate the writers you admire, or at least knowing that it’s possible that anybody can create something amazing.

If that doesn’t work, don’t give up just because you ‘don’t feel like it’. Sit still for a few minutes and try to clear your mind of distractions, what’s on your ‘to do’ list and so on.

Search deep inside for the writer within you, what does he/she want to say?

5. +3 Geek.

If you’re really desperate, you can totally geek it up by using various software to help. The best kind are plain and simple – no fancy fonts, borders or backgrounds. Just you, the page, and good sweet words. Sometimes a word counter forces you to write at least a certain amount, or some kind of calendar to make sure you’re writing as many days as you can. Apart from 750/NaNoWriMo, you can alternatively try completely disconnecting from the internet, and for that there’s Darkroom, Write or Die, and even trusty old notepad. Once you’ve eliminated social distractions and opened up a writing program, you’ll have no choice left but to write or give up. It’s all or nothing from here.

Now stop reading, and write something! (Start by leaving a comment!)

And if you enjoyed this post, help me out by tweeting it up!

Related Posts

Happy Birthday to you

Chances are, it isn’t your birthday today. (If it is, then happy birthday!)

Birthday’s are great because people do things on this special day that they wouldn’t do otherwise. Mainly, they have fun.

They’ll go out of their way to throw a party, gather with family and friends or do something that will make everybody laugh and have a good time.

So my question is, why do we limit this to people’s birthdays?

Why wait until one day of year to get out and do something amazing?

If we only treat every 365th day as special, aren’t we pretty much wasting the other 364 days? What is a birthday really if not a celebration of your life? Why not make every day special, or 10th, 50th or even 100th day?

Okay, so we can’t go out drinking or booking expensive restaurants or buying birthday gifts and cake everyday, but we can do the other main part, which is to do something amazing. It’s funny how we forget to have fun until a special day comes along to remind us to do so.

make every day special

1. Birthday. For one day of this week, pretend it’s your birthday! Do something fun and spontaneous with your friends, have a great time! (You don’t have to tell them you’re pretending it’s your birthday – they might think you’re the Mad Hatter 😀 ). It doesn’t have to be fancy – how about a movie night, or a cake-baking day, or even something really wild.

2. New Years. For some reason we suddenly decide that because it has become January we want to lose weight and get fit or read more books or quit smoking or any other kind of resolution. What’s wrong with the other months of the year? Who cares if it isn’t January, make a resolution right now to accomplish something you’ve always wanted to do.

3. Anniversary. Don’t wait for a special day to show your appreciation for someone. Do something special now for someone you care about, it could be your partner, friends, parents, kids or teacher. Write them a note or make a card or even pick some flowers thanking them for being there for you.

Don’t wait ’til you have an excuse to have fun, every day is a miracle, let’s celebrate it!

Simple Philosophies – Live like you’ve only got one chance

You only live once… but if you make it worthwhile, once is all you need.

Right now, millions of people out there are so busy working to buy more and more stuff, they forget that they’re wasting something so precious that they will only ever have one of it, no matter how much money they earn or things they own.

Their life.

If there is ever a clearer demonstration of how wrapped up people can get in their material lives it’s that they don’t even realize this one plain truth.

One. That’s it. No exceptions.

Even if you believe in souls or reincarnation or heaven, all of them still mean that you will only have this life, right now, only now.

If you don’t use this chance to do that one life-changing thing before it’s too late, I’m sorry to tell you that it simply won’t be done.

It seems so easy to realize this, but then why are people wasting their time away doing things that makes them upset or miserable, or doing things that don’t matter to them or simply ‘killing time’?

Oh, killing time. I know that watching TV isn’t evil. Even I do it from time to time, but there’s a line that marks the difference between a little entertainment and then just plainly wasting time. After another rerun or trashy program or commerical, it all just becomes a meaningless way to waste life. Did you know the average person living in a first world country spends at least 10-12 years of their lives watching TV by the time they’re collecting their pensions? I know a few people who could only dream a deceased loved one had lived that much longer.

Having a job and/or saving money isn’t a bad thing either. It’s real life and planning for the future. But constantly working to accumulate more money so that one can buy a bigger-slash-better ‘x‘ every other year or just for the sake of ‘having a lot of money’ is totally defeating the point. Money is earned to be used. Now, I’m not saying you should splash out on a mansion or get into debt or anything (after all, this is a minimalist blog) just keep in mind that you can’t take that money with you when you go, so perhaps using it for something meaningful is the best thing to do, or something that makes you, or someone you care about, genuinely happy.

There are other ways of wasting your one chance at life too. Such as constantly complaining, having a closed mind or being persistently pessimistic about everyone and everything. Even if it’s genuinely not the best, at least you were granted a life – it’s Mother Nature’s greatest creation. Even if things aren’t going to well, each day that you’re alive is beautiful, and we should embrace it.

a minimalist’s paradox: happiness-maximizing

What does ‘worthwhile’ mean anyway? Well, the answer is that I don’t know – because everyone has their own ideal life, stored somewhere in the back of their minds. I can’t tell you what ‘worthwhile’ means to you. This isn’t a cop out, it’s true. I don’t want to declare that only travelling makes a life worthwhile, that’s just me. Others think a raising a happy family with kids is worthwhile. Others actually enjoy their work and want to advance in their careers. You may think the same or differently.

But generally, I like to think of a life well spent as one that creates the most happiness – whether it is in oneself, other people or even in the world. Everybody individual has a different way only they can offer to achieve that. Those that use their one chance well are those who bring their worthwhile, happiness-maximizing life closest to reality.

so what was the point again?

Happiness-maximizing has become something that I’ve been pondering about a lot lately. There are plenty of tips about how we can please other people, but what about making ourselves happy? And I don’t mean the artificial materialistic ‘happy’, I mean the minimalist, no-frills, genuine Happy.

My minimalist journey started out really as a pursuit for the meaning of happiness. It’s easy to get caught up in desk-decluttering and other minimalist tips whilst forgetting what the real purpose of minimalism actually is. I’ve written about some of the bigger challenges we have to face and battles we forgot to fight, but now I realize that I’m still searching for the answers.

Last week I mentioned I’m going to shift the content slightly, and here’s how it’s gonna go: I’m moving a little bit away from the how of minimalism – because I think many of you already know that, and if not, there are the MS archives and some really great blogs out there that can tell you – and more towards the why. I’m still going to talk a lot about minimalism but I also want to ask the bigger and harder questions and explore a different kind of how – mainly how can we live a happy, fulfilling life?

How can we make our one chance worthwhile?

I’d love to know what you guys think! (At least don’t knock it ’til you try it?) 🙂 Thank you for all of your feedback about the redesign, I took all of them into consideration and more changes will be made soon! In the mean time, you can find me on Twitter for daily updates, subscribe to MS via email or leave a comment below!

One amazing thing

by Jessica Dang | Twitter

The average human life span is around 80 years. In that time, we can achieve many things – from getting a nice house, a collectable car, or reaching a million dollars, to raising good children, having our own business, or doing some good in the community. Most of this stuff is pretty regular, some good, some not so good – all pretty ordinary.

But for some of us ‘ordinary’ is simply not enough. There’s something missing.

what the hell is a magnum opus

All of the men and women that have gone down in history, to be remembered after they have died for hundreds of years or more, all have one thing in common.

They did something extraordinary.

Some did extraordinary things, some created them. How they did it or how they got there is another story, but nobody can say that Martin Luther King Jr. doesn’t deserve to be remembered for his commendable leadership and world-changing speech or Shakespeare would have been remembered today if it wasn’t for his plays and sonnets that have stood the test of time.

A Magnum opus is defined as ‘a great or the greatest work of art‘ a writer or artist can do. But you don’t have to be a writer to achieve something extraordinary. Any of us can do something, all we have to do is realize how much it matters to us that we do something world-changing.

What it could be depends on you. It doesn’t have to be a big change and it doesn’t have to be the best, or the brightest, or the most of anything. You don’t need to make a million bucks or become famous. It just has to mean a lot to you. But don’t underestimate yourself and set your sights too low either, it’s going to be your life’s work after all.

It can be a single object you can make or an aim you want to achieve, or a set of them, it’s up to you.

So in our little lives, if only we could choose just one great thing, to pour our effort, energy and most importantly, limited time into, maybe, just maybe, we can really do it.

Only you can decide what matters to you and how far you will go. Even if you don’t know right now, that’s okay, because if this all sounds pretty amazing to you then you’ve taken the first step. Now ask yourself:

What is your magnum opus?

Whatever you decide, stick with it, because your greatest work is waiting for you.

Maybe Minimal Student is my magnum opus? It’s been redesigned, so check out the main site if you haven’t visited  lately, it’s a little more simpler and cleaner, I’d love to know what you think! If you liked this post, great news – content has been shifting a little too, stay tuned to find out more!

making a not so small difference

Back when I was vegetarian (I’m currently on a teeny break whilst in Japan), one of the biggest criticisms I got was that by myself, I probably won’t make much of a difference to the animals or the environment, so what was the point? Why was I putting myself though all of those ‘inconveniences’ when I hardly made any changes to the very reasons why I was doing it?

But carried on being vegetarian anyway. And it wasn’t always easy, but I didn’t mind.

Why? Because I didn’t care that I didn’t make a big difference on my own. What mattered for me was that I wasn’t the one contributing to the things that I stood against. I may not have revolutionized chicken farming, or saved the world from global warming, but at least I wasn’t the cause of the death of a dozen chickens or however many gallons of pollution or waste that would have happened because of me.

The same goes for the reason why I choose to ride a bike instead of driving a car even though I can afford to. Or why I recycle even though it would be easier for me just to chuck everything in one bin.

Or why I’m a minimalist, not an over-consumer, even though it seems that the rest of the world is. People might ask how much of a difference do I think I’m making, living out my life this way. Do I really think just by doing this I can change the world?

Yes I do. In my own little way, I’m doing my part. Even if it doesn’t seem to be making a massive difference, that doesn’t matter to me. Just knowing that I am a part of it, is more than enough.

And let’s not forget to mention how much minimalism has changed my own world. It may not have made too much of a difference in the big wide world (yet), but in my own personal life, it’s taken me places I could have only dreamed of.

Real change doesn’t always mean a big flashy impact that will change the face of the world and humanity as we know it. Some of the strongest movements in history were done quietly, almost without anybody noticing.

First, I buy/drive/hoard a little less, then my friends notice I seem a little happier, so they give it a go. Then their friends do and then their friends and family do. Soon, entire pockets of people are leading a more minimalist lifestyle, in their own little way, without even realizing where it all started (I don’t even really know where it came from for me!). And before we know it, the tipping point comes and the world has changed for the better, even if just a little.

It’s good to know you don’t have to save the entire world to be a hero.

Check out my Twitter which I now update daily with what I’m up to, minimalist tips and awesome links! Also, did you know you can subscribe via email too?