April 20, 2020

Discourse of a Defeated King to his Victor

Caratacus giving the speech of his life before Roman Emperor Claudius

"If the degree of my nobility and fortune had been matched by moderation in success, I would have come to this City as a friend rather than a captive; nor wold you have disdained to receive with a treaty of peace one sprung from brilliant ancestors and commanding a great many nations.

But my present lot, disfiguring as it is for me, is magnificent for you. I had horses, men, arms, and wealth: what wonder if I was unwilling to lose them? If you wish to command everyone, does it really follow that everyone should accept your slavery?

If I were now being handed over as one who had surrendered immediately; neither my fortune nor your glory would have achieved brilliance. It is also true that in my case any reprisal will be followed by oblivion. On the other hand, if you preserve me safe and sound, I shall be an eternal example of your clemency."

King Caratacus of the Catuvellauni tribe
1st c. AD
Speech to the Roman Senate after 
being taken to Rome as prisoner.
He'd been captured by Queen Cartimandua
who handed him over to the Romans.
This speech saved his life.


April 16, 2020

When The Initial Meaning Gets Lost - An Anecdote

Today, we shall travel to France, in the second half of the 19th century...

We see General Boulanger, a dashing military and political man with a well-maintained red beard, pass in front of a dark hallway inside the War Ministry's buildings. Thinking to have found a shortcut, he decides to take it, when a senior officer stationed there stops him.

"I'm sorry, General, but you may not enter here."

Confused, the general asks, "Whyever not?"

The senior officer shifts uncomfortably from one polished boot to the other. "I do not know, General. But it has been the case for as long as I remember. And the order is clear: we cannot let anyone through under any condition."

Intrigued, General Boulanger had the War Ministry's archives searched for the reason for that order. And, finally, after days of search, they found it.

The order had been given in 1839; forty-seven years prior, to not let anyone into the passage as it had just been repainted. They simply forgot to issue new orders once the paint had dried...


Interesting tidbit, to me, about General Boulanger, is that he died here in Brussels! Wonder if I can find his tomb at the Ixelles cemetery...

April 10, 2020

Getting Yourself To Work On Your (Dream) Project

But being a couch potato is sooooo tempting!
Image by Alexas Fotos
I have a confession to make: I am the queen of Procrastination, the Duchess of Laziness. I once told to my dad (must've been around 7 or 8) that "going to Harvard is good for the brain, but working is so hard!" (And before you ask, nope, did not go to Harvard...though I did work my butt off in college :) ).

Add to that the fact that (1) I've had some pretty bad illnesses which have forced me to be careful (no burning the midnight oil all the time) and slow down (sometimes stopping all activity for weeks at a time), and (2) work at the day job...makes it really easy for me to make up excuses not to get any writing done, if I don't want to.

Worse, I oftentimes end up not enjoying this unplanned time off away from my writing projects. I go to bed feeling restless, like I don't deserve to set my head on the pillow. This means this R&R time, which is supposed to be enjoyable, further drains me of energy (unlike planned time off, where I give myself the freedom to enjoy not doing anything, and therefore relieves me from the stress of guilt). A drain that further entrenches me into my inaction (hello couch potato!).

Here's the interesting point I have noted, however: If I get myself to get off my couch/bed/other to actually do something a little more active (work on my stories, do some art, go for a long walk 'cause, you know, being a couch potato doesn't help shed those extra lbs), I find myself recharged.
Image by GraphicMama-team

And lo and behold, I'm suddenly motivated to get some work done again!

With this observation, I know I need to fight down my natural proclivity to procrastinate, and be disciplined on my working on my storytelling. Every. Day. As they say, a rolling stone gathers no moss, and it's oh-so-very true. The law of inertia exerts extra pressure on me when I've reverted to my couch potato mode.

So yeah, discipline.

Here's what author and entrepreneur Kristine Kathryn Rusch says on the subject:

Gaining discipline is a series of mind games. Your mind will find good and effective ways to stop you. You have to figure out ways around them. (...) Discipline is not about forcing yourself to improve. It's about wanting to get better.

One way she and I both find helps in being disciplined with our pursuit, is to make sure we don't start on something that we know is going to distract us (reading, watching TV, playing video games) before we've done what needs doing first (like writing).

The key, like the frog-eating guy has stated, is to handle what needs to be handled first (and it's usually our "ugliest frogs" aka the Most-Import things the gods of procrastination often tell us to do last...such as working on my stories, in my case). And if we do that, repeatedly, we'll find success at last, and feel much better about ourselves.
Picture by OpenClipart-Vectors

In fact, according to Eat That Frog!:

The ability to concentrate single-mindedly on your most important task, to do it well and to finish it completely, is the key to great success, achievement, respect, status, and happiness in life.

So, what important project do you need/want to accomplish? One that will, despite the hard work, make your soul soar and make you proud of yourself?

Now make sure you work on that project first thing in the morning, before Life gets in your way.

For instance, I wake up extra early to get some writing done before going to the day job. Or, if that isn't possible, work on that project before you start other activities when you finish work. Perhaps stop by another place before you head home (that's what I need to do, when not in confinement, because if I sit in my couch, I know it'll be Game Over for me), or even stay in your parked car an extra 5-10 minutes to work on your project before you get inside your home.

Image by Alexas Fotos
Have fun creating! :)

PS: A small tip--if a task seems overwhelming, breaking it into smaller, bite-sized tasks helps. (1) You're less likely to freak out and have a sort of fear-paralysis. (2) When you finish it, you'll release some dopamine in your brain (rewarding hormone), feel good about yourself, and more often than not, get the boost to move on to the next task. And before you know it, you'll have accomplished a lot more than you thought!

PS2: Kristine Kathryn Rusch has extra notes on how her brain tries to trick her into getting her away from her core business of writing, particularly when the work is getting tough (which it inevitably does at some point or another). Highly recommend you read it here.

April 1, 2020

April 1913 - Chronicles Of The Year Before The Great War

Vienna State Opera House by A. Hitler
The Woolworth building, the tallest building in the world (and will remain so for nearly 20 years), is finally completed after three years of construction. "At exactly half-past seven in the evening of 24 April, the American President, Woodrow Wilson, presses a button on his desk in the White House and sends a telegraphic signal to New York. This triggers the simultaneous illumination of 80,000 light bulbs in the newly finished building. ... Thousands of onlookers are waiting in the New York darkness for the moment of illumination. The tallest lighthouse in the world can be seen from far inland, and by great ships up to a hundred miles at sea."

In contrast to this moment, across the Atlantic ocean, Adolf Hitler's seen his 24th birthday come and go in the dingy, dark insides of his small bedroom. He's been rejected by the art academy, his dream demolished. "But when the talk turns to politics, a spark rushes through him. He throws his paintbrush aside, his eyes flash and he holds blazing speeches about the immoral state of the world in general, and of Vienna in particular. It can't go on, he screams, there are more Czechs living in Vienna than there are in Prague, more Jews than in Jerusalem and more Croats than in Zagreb. He flings back his strand of black hair. He sweats. Then, all of a sudden, he breaks off from his diatribe, sits back down and turns his attention to his watercolors."

Source: Florian Illies's 1913 - The Year Before The Storm