Tag: My Books

A Full Moon on the World Poetry Day

Full moon

What better way to celebrate World Poetry Day today than by writing or reading a poem? I wrote this haiku a few days ago, on the night of the full moon.

full moon
watching its twin
In the pond


To read more poetry, click here.


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Faith and the Art of Writing

Seashells heart

I do not know whether I shall make progress; but I should prefer to lack success rather than to lack faith. Once again, Seneca hits the nail on its head. My writing mornings have become more and more torture sessions after the almost euphoric beginning. I write and write, one sentence after another, and I write almost anything, no matter how bad or irrelevant to the topic, just to record something in the log and say, See, I’ve written that much today. But do I believe in what I’m writing? Not anymore. I’m losing faith, and that’s about the worst. In survival situations, mental strength is the difference between who dies and who lives; in writing, between who finishes a book and who doesn’t.

I finish the daily quota and go for a walk, unsatisfied by the day’s production. A jumble of words, a bright spark here and there … how can all this become a book? How could I think I could write? But isn’t every author saying that you have to write, no matter how bad, in order to learn how to write? You’ll suck at first, they say, and you’ll continue sucking for a while; you have to make your peace with that. But with every word scribbled down in anguish, with every sentence excavated from the depths of your creative mine, with every doubt encountered but dismissed on the way – you learn. 

That is, you learn if you have faith and keep at it long enough to notice your progress. That’s the difference between those who finish a book and those who don’t. Learning how to write means learning how to live with inadequacy and doubt and how to keep going despite your mind screaming in protest. “What’s the use?” that traitor would say, “You call that writing? You’re lucky your life doesn’t depend on it.” You hear it scream, yet you continue, you endure it and write another sentence, and another one, and another one.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it”; Picasso’s words comfort me. Have faith and keep going. Never stop working; never lose faith. You’ll make it.


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Art is Warfare: A Status Report

Abstract photo in hues of blue by Mihaela Limberea.
Speed. © Mihaela Limberea 2021

Am I still writing a book? Sure I am. And I’ll tell you a secret: it’s good I’ve decided to document my journey publicly; it forces me to continue even when I’m tempted to give up, to be honest. I can’t think of a better way of staying the course as a writer. Only I wouldn’t give up, of course. Instead, I would write something different and much better, and finish the other book later. Oh, the lies we can tell ourselves!

Anyway, I managed to evade the siren calls of the new ideas and stay with The Book. (In an attempt to focus on the work, I’ve started now calling it The Book, using capital letters; any means are allowed to keep going!).

I’m now reading the last few research books and working on the lecture notes. I’m so fed up with reading books when my whole body screams to start writing. Hence, the lure and allure of the shiny new ideas. 

But I’m almost out of the tunnel, and I think I can see the light (unless it’s the train, as my old boss used to say). So I’ve allowed myself to start putting some meat on the preliminary outline. It almost feels like writing and keeps me happy, or, at least, calm, while I’m wrapping up the research.

So, not so much to report from the trenches, just soldiering on. I’m shooting for January 1st to start the actual writing. Art is warfare; Steven Pressfield was right.


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TMIS or The Too Many Ideas Syndrome

Remember when I was talking about my temptation to abandon my non-fiction book and start writing a different kind of book? Guess what? It happened again! No surprise there. It felt so good (it always does!), I almost started jotting down the first pages. Then reality set in, and I have, in fact, looked up that blog post just to remind myself that ideas are a dime a dozen

Most (non-writing) people think that writers need ideas for new books, but getting new ideas is seldom a problem. Quite the opposite, in fact. Enter TMIS, i.e., Too Many Ideas Syndrome. You have more ideas that you could possibly be working on. So beware: TMIS sounds like a luxury problem, but it can be paralyzing or make you jump from project to project, never finishing anything.

I have a pretty long list of things I’d like to write about, and – as you can see here – every now and then, I even convince myself that it may be worth abandoning whatever I was working on to pursue that shiny new thing.

However, this time I was ready and stayed the course. I followed my own advice (something I should do more often, I always think) and archived that shiny thing in the slush file. With a sigh and some heartache but I did it. If nothing else, I hope it’ll make me finish this book as soon as possible; then, I can start working on the new one. Win-win!


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A Few Steps Further Down the Road

Deep blue sea. Photo by Mihaela Limberea

I work slowly but steadily on my book—word by word, pebble by pebble. In fact, I’m not writing that much at the moment, mostly research notes, as I’m working my way through the research books; and morning pages, of course. 

I read, I take notes, I read some more. Days blend into each other. My hand hurts. My head hurts even more.

Will I ever get there? The end product, the book, seems so far away. I try not to think about it; it’s so overwhelming at times. I feel I’ll never get there. It’s just so … much. Too much to think about, too much to read, too much to write. Like rowing a small boat across a vast ocean with only a flimsy map and an old compass to aid.

At times you may see something on the horizon. Maybe the coast, or maybe the gathering storm clouds. Hard to tell. You keep rowing, blistering hands on the oars and eyes on the horizon. The vision at the end of the ocean is the only thing that pumps your muscles and keeps you going long after you’re all spent.

Sometimes you see a sailboat, swiftly gliding away in the sunset, ahead of you. Tanned people with big smiles waving happily at you as you toil alone and exhausted in your rickety boat. You envy them, their seemingly effortless travel and happy faces.

Grudgingly, eyes off the happy vision, you grab your oars firmly once again and keep going. That’s the only thing you can do. Keep working, keep trusting the vision in your head. Work and have faith. Do your best and hope you’ll cross the ocean unscathed and find the treasure at the end of the rainbow.

There is a certain satisfaction in having done your best. Maybe your best is not good enough; you’re not always the best judge of that. Even so, you know that you’ve done the best you could at that moment. Right now, right here. You can try again, do better—step by step, day by day.

Happiness is this moment now, the sense of quiet accomplishment at the end of the day, the string of tiny moments, a task well done.

I put my books and papers away. Another day, another page, a few steps further down the road. Closer to the rainbow.


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You’ll Always Have More Ideas Than Time

Coffee mug and notebook near a fireplace.
Photo by Rafael Leão on Unsplash

While I am working diligently on my research, I’m fighting this sudden urge to abandon the book I’m toiling on and write another book. A very compelling idea came my way. It feels so right that I’m ready to jettison the current material and just start again.

It’s a huge temptation. But is this the right thing to do?

I know it’s not. How do I know? I’ve learned it the hard way. *

A bright new idea makes current work seems dreary compared to whatever I’m working on. Naïve me abandons said dreary work to jump on board another project, so full of promises and hopes that it’s only right to do it. I enthusiastically start, work for a while, and realize that it’s become, well, dreary as time goes by. Then, I have an idea. Again. I feel stupid, but I’m not willing to cut my losses. Yet. I’ve invested in the first project, discarded all that work, started again, put in more time and effort – should I abandon this as well?

It’s a vicious circle. You’ll always have more ideas than time to execute them. It takes a lot of discipline to resist the pull of sparkling new ideas; the brain loves shiny bright objects, the rascal (this is the novelty bias at play).

I cannot afford to be seduced by new promises. It feels good in the beginning, then reality sets in, and I’ll be back to square one in no time.

Reluctantly, I write down the new idea in my Future Projects-list and go back to work.


* Remember when I said that I’d write a short story instead of the SF novel I was working on? Guess what? I didn’t finish it. Nor did I continue with the novel. Instead, I got a new idea! A non-fiction book! It’ll be great! Leave the dull stuff behind; let’s do this new, cool stuff instead!

This is why I started documenting the process of writing my book here on the blog. This serves a dual purpose: first, I’ll be less prone to chase new ideas, and second, I’ll have to finish it. Don’t underestimate the power of social accountability to keep your promises.


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Nothing Is So Intimate as Writing a Book

An open notebook
Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

I know I’ve been secretive about the book I’m working on, but I can’t help it. It’s too fragile a thing to be exposed to the world. A small plant, a tiny greenhouse flower that still needs nutrients, and water, and a lot of tender care and protection before it’s ready to be planted in the garden to stand on its own.

Maybe I doubt it’s a good idea after all, and I don’t want my bubble to be burst yet.

Maybe I’ll change my mind and go into a different direction.

Or maybe I’m not ready to bare my soul yet. Nothing is so intimate as writing a book, pouring your soul on the page, and sending it out in the world, alone and vulnerable. 

As Vita Sackville-West said, “The book the one is writing at the moment is really the most intimate part of one, and the part about which one preserves the strictest secrecy. What is love or sex, compared with the intensity of the life one leads in one’s book? A trifle; a thing to be shouted from the hill-tops.”  (in a letter to Virginia Woolf on July 24th, 1929, from the book The Letters of Vita Sackville -West and Virginia Woolf, edited by Louise DeSalvo and Mitchell Leaska).


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How to Create a Project Plan for Writing a Non-Fiction Book

A pile of books, an open book, and a cup of coffee on a table.
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

I should probably have started my book writing log with this post, but hey, better late than never!  This post is about creating a project plan for writing a non-fiction book.

At Microsoft, I used to manage large global projects, and I always used a project plan. So, when I wanted to write my first non-fiction book, my first step was to figure out what I needed to do by when. 

I spent quite some time on this. Managing large projects has taught me that careful planning is essential. It’s well-invested time. Later on, when you have a lot to do, and life starts whirling around you at lightspeed (as it will do), you’ll be thankful that you don’t have to think about what’s next. You’ve done all thinking in the planning phase, so you can just have a look at your plan and go do the next tasks. Easy.


How to Create a Project Plan for Writing a Non-Fiction Book

I used these two books: Robin Colucci, How to Write a Book That Sells You and Tucker Max & Zach Obront, The Book In A Box Method; they complement each other well. 

Robin Colucci offers a checklist on her website, and I used that as my foundation. It didn’t include the research part, even though she talks about gathering your research etc., in the book. I’ve read a lot of books on writing non-fiction, and not one mentioned research at all. 

I searched online, and Cal Newport’s article on how to build a research database was best in its simplicity. Read my earlier post about my research database; you can download my database template if you’re interested.

Anyway, I built on Colucci’s template, added the research part, more on editing, and created new sales and marketing sections. Her book didn’t look into that at all since she assumed you’d want a publisher. I’m not sure which way I’ll go, so I’ve added those sections but didn’t go into great details. At this point, I’m focused on writing the book, not dreaming about sales. There’ll be time for time once I start editing.

I’m still wrestling with the research part. I feel it should come before outlining the book because, although I’m clear on what I want to include in the book, changes may be needed once I’ve read the research books. I’ll update the template once I’ve been through the process and learn more.

Here’s my template. With a column for Comments, of course. Feel free to use it. And do let me know if you have any questions or feedback!


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How to Build a Research Database for a Non-Fiction Book

Library Index Cards Drawer to illustrate a research database. The State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Photo by Mihaela Limberea
The State Library of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Of course I visit libraries while on vacation! You don’t?

As mentioned in my earlier post, I’ve started building the research database for my non-fiction book. 

I had looked around on the world wide web earlier and found several good articles on how to do that, all more or less complicated. I’m a gal of simple tastes, so I was looking for something not too complicated or relying too much on technology. I wanted a simple solution, sustainable in the long run. I’m planning on writing more books.

Cal Newport had a great article on building a research database, and I followed that process and kept it simple with an Excel file. Newport’s article focuses on writing an academic paper, but I found it useful for a non-fiction book too.

There are more advanced ways, but I feel an Excel file meets my needs. I don’t want to over-complicate things. Apps come and go; Excel remains. Simplicity is the essence of happiness, as Cedric Bledsoe said.

The only thing that I’ve added is an extra column for Comments. Everyone with whom I worked on a project at Microsoft would recognize it. No project plan of mine would ever miss this column, ha, ha! I simply find it so useful for recording bits of information that you may need, for instance, a link to a relevant site. Once a process improver, always the process improver, I guess.

Here’s the file if you’re interested. Feel free to download it, and let me know if you have any feedback or questions.


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Progress Report. Or Lack Thereof

So much for building my research database. I didn’t make as much progress as I thought with it. I did get started as planned, but it’s slow-moving.

Oh, there are reasons. Of course. There are always reasons.

We had to pick up the artworks we left for framing and pick frames for the next ones. Because of the pandemic, there’s no drop-in, you have to make an appointment, and we cannot always control the timing. It seems everyone is framing pictures on Lidingö these days; the place is bustling.

A framed picture of three drawings by Keith Harrington.
Exhibit no. 1: one of the framed pictures I had to pick up.
It consists of three large Keith Haring postcards from the Haring exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne 2019.

The new desks for the home office were finally delivered, too, and I had to vacate the office to have them assembled, then re-decorate the room.

The cat had her final X-rays for her broken paw, and we had to go to the vet one more time.

We had a lot of home deliveries too.

The deer knocked off the bird feeders.

The dog ate my homework.


Life happens. There’s always something, and if I have to wait until everything is in order to write, the right planets and stars aligned, I will get nothing done.

I have to work through all this. Despite all this.

I’m also plodding, like competing-with-a-tortoise. Once I pick up speed, and I’ve got going, it’s smooth sailing, but I have a long start sequence. Too long.

The smallest disturbance or interruption derails me, and the restart is slow. I need to work on my attention and my focus. I was spoiled by working at home alone for over ten years, comfortable in my routines, and free to work and take breaks as I pleased.

With my husband working from home too now and sharing an (albeit large) room, I find the smallest interruption disruptive. I need to shift my mindset to allow that I’m no longer working alone instead of trying to recreate those ideal conditions that no longer apply. I realize now that I was set in my ways, trying to force this new life into the mold of my old one.


The last couple of weeks has been better, in fact. I try to compartmentalize things and think, “oh, new compartment,” when there’s an interruption. Then I get back to work by switching to the “work compartment.” It does take a few minutes to shift my focus back to whatever I was doing, but it’s better than the muttered resentment and the longer focus loss. It’s still a work in progress, and I think I like the progress if you’ll forgive the pun.

Anyway. I’ve started building my research database. Yawn. Before I started, I was looking forward to working on the reading list, because, you know, books! But once I started, the boring emerged, and I started to fantasize about reading those books, not merely writing a list. Why is the promise of future work more appealing than the work you’re currently doing?

Close up of a vintage-style typewriter with the words "Just do it" typed on the page.

Mindset. It’s all about the mindset. I need to work on the list so that I can read the books. As simple as that. Just do it.


By the way, do you know where that Nike slogan comes from? It’s a pretty morbid story. Facing execution for murdering two people, Gary Gilmore’s last words were, “Let’s do it.” That was 1977. A decade later, Dan Wieden, an advertising executive, pitched the slogan “Just do it” to Nike and, eventually, succeeded. The slogan, inspired by Gilmore’s words, aired in 1988, and, at the time, struggling Nike became the sport and fashion giant we know today.

And here’s another example of me going off on a tangent instead of working on my list. I admit it was far more rewarding checking the internet for a murderer’s last words than working on my Excel file. Now I understand why people kill their internet and delete all the apps on their phones. I’m not sure I could go that far, but I’d better go back to work.

Do you know what happens if you type “go back to work” on Google? You’d see all these Covid-19 related regulations about returning to work after a lockdown.

Results of a Google search

Right, I’ll go back to work. For sure. Right away. Just give me a sec. Any time now.


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