On Writing

Writing is not always the easiest thing for me to do; especially writing in public. Writing, telling my stories, always makes me feel vulnerable. It’s better to stay quiet. “Don’t rock the boat”, they always said. “Keep your stories to yourself”, they always said. “Who do you think you are? Nobody wants to hear you”, they always said.

But you know what? My life has been saved over and over by the stories that people tell. I admire the brave men and women who tell their stories, sharing their vulnerable moments, their struggles, their sweet victories, and their painful failures. Their face down moments in the arena.

I think, the most powerful words are “me too”. They somehow make me feel less afraid, less lonely, a little braver, and a little bit stronger.

So I will keep on writing, even though it’s very scary at times. And I will keep on sharing my stories, even though it’s very scary at all times.

Because I would want you to do the same. I want to hear your stories. I want to get to know you. All of you. The real you. Not the mask you’re wearing.

Because when we stop hiding and start showing up; when we start telling our stories, we will realize that we’re not alone. We will see our connections to one another. And we will find with delight, those moments when we realize, “you’re just like me”

Two excerpts that I always go to when I feel particularly terrified to write and to share:

  1. Talker’s Block – Words by Seth Godin

No one ever gets talker’s block. No one wakes up in the morning, discovers he has nothing to say, sits quietly, for days or weeks, until the muse hits, until the moment is right, until all the craziness in her life has died down. Why, then, is writer’s block endemic? …

… Writer’s block isn’t hard to cure. Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

I believe that everyone should write in public. Use an alias if you like. Turn off comments, certainly–you don’t need more criticism, you need more writing. …

Seth’s Blog : Talker’s Block

  1. Climb the Right Ladder – Words by Chris Guillebeau

“It’s better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb than the top of the one you don’t” – Stephen Kellogg

… compared to a traditional career that might have offered more security, Stephen’s struggle to play his own music and cultivate his own fan base made him far happier.

When I asked what had changed after 1,200 shows, he said something else I liked:

“I’ve grown from a boy with an inclination into a man with a focus. It all started with a dream, but then I FOLLOWED that dream. Following the dream made all the difference.”

I felt the same way when I started writing. The early work I published wasn’t very good (and the work that I didn’t share was worse), but it still felt good to be doing it. When I woke up in the morning I immediately thought about what I’d work on for the next few hours. At night I’d go to bed thinking about how I could improve the next day.

When I started speaking at events, I was terrified – but in a good way. When I got the chance to write my first book, I was thrilled! I, too, felt like I’d found the right ladder to climb, even if I was at the bottom, and even though I had a long way to go.

If you’re doing something you love, it doesn’t matter that it’s challenging. You can keep going for a long time as long as you’re motivated – just make sure you choose the right starting point.

Page 163 : The Happiness of Pursuit : Chris Guillebeau


Connecting the Dots

I never really understand what art is or what it’s for, until I read this. This makes sense to me. I want to share it with you. Words by Amanda Palmer.

“You may have a memory of when you first, as a child, started connecting the dots of the world. Perhaps outside on a cold-spring-day school field trip, mud on your shoes, mentally straying from the given tasks at hand, as you began to find patterns and connections where you didn’t notice them before. You may remember being excited by your discoveries, and maybe you held them up proudly to the other kids, saying:

Did you ever notice that THIS looks like THIS?

The shapes on this leaf look like the cracks in this puddle of ice

Which look like the vein on the back of my hand

Which look like the hairs stuck to the back of her sweater …

Collecting the dots. Then connecting them. And then sharing the connections with those around you. This is how a creative human works.

Collecting, connecting, sharing.

All artists work in different mediums, but they also differ when it comes to those three departments. Some artists love the act of collecting …

Some artists devote more time to connecting the dots they’ve already collected …

… Like most stage performers, I’ve always been most passionate about the final phase: the sharing.

There are lots of ways to share. Writers share when someone else reads or listens to their words in a book, a blog, a tweet. Painters share by hanging their work, or by sliding a sketchbook to a friend across the coffee-shop table. Stage performers also collect and connect (in the form of experiencing, writing, creating, and rehearsing), but there is a different kind of joy in that moment of human to human transmission : from you to the eyes and ears of the audience, whether fireside at a party or on a stage in front of thousands. I’m a sharing addict. But no matter the scale or setting, one truth remains: the act of sharing, especially when you’re starting out, is fucking difficult.

There’s always a moment of extreme bravery involved in this question:

“…will you look?”

It starts when you’re little. Back in the field: the veins of the leaf looked like your hand, and you said it, out loud, to the kids walking next to you.

You may have seen the lights go on in their eyes, as you shared your discovery – Whoa, you’re right! Cool ! – and felt the first joys of sharing with an audience.

Or you may have been laughed at by your friends and scolded by the teacher, who explained, patiently:

Today isn’t “looking for patterns” day.

This is not the time for that.

This is the time to get back in line, to fill in your worksheet, to answer the correct questions.

But your urge was to connect the dots and share, because THAT, not the worksheet, is what interested you.

This impulse to connect the dots – and to share what you’ve connected – is the urge that makes you an artist.

If you’re using words or symbols to connects the dots, whether you’re a “professional artist” or not, you are an artistic force in the world.

When artists work well, they connect people to themselves, and they stitch people to one another, through this shared experience of discovering a connection that wasn’t visible before.

Have you ever noticed that THIS looks like THIS?

And with the same delight that we took as children in seeing a face in the cloud, grown-up artists draw the lines between the bigger dots of grown-up life: sex, love, vanity, violence, illness, death.

Art pries us open. A violent character in a film reflects us like a dark mirror; the shades of a painting cause us to look up into the sky, seeing new colors; we finally weep for a dead friend when we hear that long-lost song we both loved come unexpectedly over the radio waves.

Artists connect the dots – we don’t need to interpret the lines between them. We just draw them and then present our connections to the world as a gift, to be taken or left.

This IS the artistic act, and it’s done every day by many people who don’t even think to call themselves artists … “

Page 15-17 : The Art of Asking : Amanda Palmer

Caged Bird

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

  • Maya Angelou

Always let your conscience be your guide

Learning how to live, like preparing to cut wood, takes time.
Learning how to live takes a lifetime.

U can’t be an observer of your life, U have to be a participant.
My responsibility is not to be the best in the world, but to be the best I can be.

We can’t waste time in life.
We can’t keep wasting our days.

Make today a mini life.
U’ll be amazed at how much U can achieve, how many books U can read, how much U can really get down.

Respect yourself. U are unique.
I respect and love life,

And as often as I can, I pump myself with the thought that I must live life to the fullest,
Fill the databank that is my brain with all the knowledge it can handle.

I believe in the Olympic Ideal – that I must work hard to achieve what I want to achieve.
That Gold Medals in Athletics OR Life don’t come overnight.

I believe that I must always try, always attempt, no matter how small or large the task.

I will make those calls,
Write those letters.

I must strive. I won’t go along with the naysayers, with those who don’t give a rip.
I will dig down deep, to strive, to push myself.

A short essay by Peter Legge. I worked in his company, Canada Wide Media, as a database technician for a year. This man is amazing. He came to Canada with almost no money in his pocket, married the girl he fell in love with on the ship that he was working at as a stand-up comedian, and ended up building a company that now is the biggest publishing company in Western Canada.

During my time there, what I really like about him and this company was how it made me feel like I’m part of a big but tight knit family. Definitely one of my best experiences working in Canada.

To start …

Hi, I’m Sophia.


Nice to meet U :). Thanks for stopping by.

For the curious ones, here’s some facts about this blog.

What is www.livingkaizenly.com ?

The word “Kaizen” is Sino- Japanese word for “Change for Better”. I first learned about it when I was studying biz history. The underlying philosophy is “the practice of continuous improvement“.

kaizen1 source

During the class discussion on Edward Deming and Lean Manufacturing Practice that followed after, it HIT me. This is what LIFE is all about.

I was struggling as a child with a learning disability. I actually quit school in grade 3, because I was bullied so bad. It was my grandmama who saved me. And she did it by telling me stories. Every night before I go to bed, she would be telling me stories about fairy, princesses and knights. But they’re not typical bedtime stories. I remember that the knight didn’t “save” the princess. But they save each other and work together. Many different stories, but always the same theme.

Then one night she told a story, a fable, about an ugly rough stone, a useless coal, who turned out to be a diamond.

rough diamond photo credit

It was something like this:  The stone must go through many obstacles, pressures, and hurtful cutting processes and polishing periods, before it becomes the precious diamond.

7924781-diamond-on-black-background_4611689_lrg photo credit

And I remember she said this to me, “Sophia, U are just like this stone. Your brain is. Right now your brain is a rough diamond. But a diamond is a diamond, no matter how dirty it looks now. A diamond can fall into a mud puddle or inside a dog’s mouth, but it will still be a diamond, that can have the potential to shine. But we need to work on it. We need to polish your diamond. We need to polish your brain.”

polish2S photo credit

I agreed to go back to school the next week. But I asked my Mom to transfer me to a different school.

It took 7 months before I started to catch up with my other classmates, during that period, my grandma work with me, tutoring me every night. Not long after, I started showing great progress, and ended up graduated at the top my class (the big 5). I constantly won awards and scholarships after, and it all started with one amazing lady and her stories.

www.livingkaizenly.com is a place for me, and my friends, and anyone of U who wants to share stories about life, love, and living.

U can take and share the stories from this blog,  but please give a link back / attribution to the original source.

All through my life, I learn more from people’s stories than from any other methods. And just like my grandmama said, stories are to be told … to be shared, not to be kept.

That’s how the stories will live.