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My 30/30 book writing challenge: Accountability log

The clock is running, I only have 30 days left on my 6-months sabbatical. I had wanted to finish the first draft of my book by the time I return to the office. I am not quite there yet (kidding, I am not there yet. Fullstop). But... I have a plan. And that plan is called that I challenge myself to write just 25 minutes a day, every day. And then I have 5 minutes of pause before switching to the next task (which hopefully is some more writing, but let's start small).

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I am cheering the many great women who are in this challenge with me and are tackling their own projects for 25 minutes a day: advancing on the MBA thesis, doing yoga, and writing their memoir. Let’s do this!

Table of Contents

Day 1: Ranting away at 9.30pm

When I set my timer to 25 minutes it is 9.24 pm. It is the first day of my 30 minutes a day – 30 day book writing challenge. It took me all day to finally sit down and do what I had wanted to do first thing in the morning: write on my book project for a full 25 minutes.

I did write e-mails, discussed with my terrific webdesigner how to go about translating my webpage into German (sigh at the amount of work), I posted this week’s blog on social media. I even signed up for a digital course academy! Oh and I had three children below the age of eight in the house plus the electrician. Ah yes, and my in-laws for dinner.

But now the day is behind me and I sit down to write. I write this. It feels natural to write this, I am in a flow. But hey! Wrong language! My book is in German. Switch brain, switch!

I need to recall where I left the story off some weeks ago, somewhere in Chapter 2. I don’t recall at all. I need to lay out my notebooks on the table and go through the chapter outlines to recall where to start writing. OK, it is too late for that today. Tomorrow morning, first thing, this is what I will do. Before I clean up after the installer and the electrician have been in the house all week. And before I start on translating my website. 

I have 17 minutes left on my timer. Oh, and of course, something big happened today: Queen Elizabeth II died today. My sister-in-law and I looked at each other in shock when we heard. An era has ended. 

I remember now an idea for a book scene that I had when hiking in the Austrian mountains last week: When my grandmother died last year I had one of those strange family encounters: my dad, my estranged aunt, and my mom. The mom my dad had left when I was three years old and from whom he had taken me away. It turned out to be a nice funeral. 

This thought leads me to a book I recently discovered in our tiny local library: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. These are:

  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
  • I wish that I had let myself be happier

Amen to that.

10 minutes to go. If you do this , don’t look at your watch! Focus on the writing. 

The timer rings. I spent the final 10 minutes reading through some of the notes I made over the past weeks. They are a gold mine. Tomorrow I will be ready for a real start.

Day 2: Chapter 2 doesn't work like that!!

I set the timer to 25 minutes and start reading through my notes.

I start typing random notes from my notebook, beginning with Chapter 2.

Something doesn’t work the way I have laid out Chapter 2.

No, no, no! Chapter 2 isn’t working like that. 

I think I just had a brilliant idea for the focus of Chapter 2.

That was not a bad second day!

Day 3: Is there a perfect writing place?

My seven year old daughter has gotten into Taekwondo. I am writing this as I am sitting in a smelly gym, luckily by the open backdoor. It is raining outside and cool. Fall is here. 

She is the little one in a pink shirt and pink shorts in the very back. The people in the gym are sorted from tallest (front) to smallest (back). 

Of course not ordered by size but by the color of their belt. The teacher makes sounds that sound Korean to me. I am suddenly in a foreign land. On a Saturday morning. And I am suddenly in an hour of writing wonderland. 

If my head just wouldn’t hurt so much. The birthday party of a dear friend in our favorite (and only) local little Italian bistro got the better part of me last night. 

The smell of the gym seems to compound the soft hammering in my head. Drinking and writing the next morning don’t go well together. They don’t go together at all. I know this. And still. Here I am. 

But there is something I can do with my writing time. I will be interviewed for a radio interview on Monday. The host sent me two pages worth of questions. I pull out my phone and start reading. 

“Is there a perfect writing place?” I look around and smile. And then I write.

Day 4: My daughters pre-puberty day

I still need to get over this experience of my 7-year old suddenly turning into a wild monster. I plan on writing about this day with a few days of distance 😉

Day 5: September 12

Since I started blogging a few months ago I have followed the tradition of posting 12 pictures on every 12th of the months. I have done July and August

Today I forgot! I completely forgot that it is September 12! I did not take a single picture of my daughters first day in second grade. 

Or me being interviewed for a regional radio station this morning.

Or my daughter and I taking the scooters to pick up my son und the three of us having ice cream before the weather turns cold tomorrow. 

Here I am, sitting on the terrace, answering emails. One email is from a lady who is signed up for my weekly newsletter.

She writes:

Dear Stefanie, 

Hope you and yours are going well. As I mentioned before my work and my duty as Mom are too heavy this time with the starting of the school year. I may lie if I say I have one minute for myself, but that’s it….
This new week I have better organisation of my tasks so hopefully I could write 25 minutes 🙂  😊 🙃 
I love what you do, I want to start first and progress slowly.
To be frank, last week I was exhausted to prepare and do an interview for a new position. 
But anyway I am happy to have you and our plan on writing ✍️
 
Thank you so much dear V. for this message, I truly appreciate you letting me know how you are doing! 
 
As for my own writing, the day is not over yet… 😇

Day 6: 4.30 am

It is 4.31 am when I sit down with a warm cup of water with lemon and honey.

It is 5:28 when I type these words.

And in between? Nope, I did not get up. Nope, I did not check my e-mails (apart from reading a comforting phone message from a friend that it is not too late to snap that “first day of second grade” picture that I missed yesterday ❤️)

I actually wrote! Feels so great. Now I am ready for the day, for catching the train to Vienna and celebrating my friend’s birthday! I will be back home tomorrow 👯‍♀️

  

Day 7: Just today: Business before book

Today I have not written. I could have, on the train ride back home from Vienna. But I was listening to a training session. I have built the foundations of The Writing Flow over the past months, but I am only at the beginning and there is so much to learn. I rush home to take my daughter to the dentist. Then we pick up her brother at kindergarten and crash at our favorite little Italian place for an impromptu espresso and some ice cream. It is a good day, but I am tired from going to bed late the night before. I am not really cut out for this anymore.

Day 8: Artist Date

When I was a child (and to this day), every Christmas, the Sissi-Trilogy about the Austrian Empress Elizabeth aired on TV. Romy Schneider. Stunning dresses. Ballroom dancing. After watching it with me for several years, my mum went on strike. My dad kept watching it with me. Now my husband does. Actually, these past years I have fallen asleep while watching and he kept going…
 
Today I visited Sissi’s summer palace in Bad Ischl, the Kaiservilla. She used to spend July and August there. After a guided tour of the palace, a group of women from my town and I headed up to a smaller palace in the park of the Kaiservilla, where Sissi used to spend her days writing and reading. After touring the Dirndl exhibition we arrived in the last room. And there it was: A Dirndl like Sissi hat worn in the movie, and the movie running next to it. My girlfriends and I burst out in laughter and stayed watching for a bit.
Childhood memories

Guilty as charged. Not for liking Sissi. But for not writing. BUT, today I was on my artist date. Julia Cameron recommends to go on a so-called artist date once a week to fill our inner well of creativity. Loved it!

On my artist date

Day 9: Above the clouds

My stomach flutters. I am looking out the tiny window that constrains my view of my surroundings. Fog and mountains. I feel my husbands arm on the armrest between us. I see abandoned warehouses and greenhouses and wire. “Cabin crew, prepare for departure”, a deep voice says through the microphone. The plane makes a turn for the runway. I see the sun coming through the heavy grey clouds. I am being pushed into my seat. A loud noise in my ears. Buildings shoot by. And up we go. Houses are getting smaller. Trees, cars, traffic lights. The engine roars in my ears. I have not been on a plane for the past two and a half years. Before that, I used to fly once to twice a month. Higher and higher up, below us green fields and trees and red roofs. Idyllic. We are departing Salzburg and heading to Copenhagen, via Frankfurt. A wedding of a family member that had to be postponed for two years. The kids home with their grandma. There, real blue sky behind this bout of light grey clouds. I have always loved the thought of my body being in the clouds.
*”Über den Wolken” is a popular song by German singer Reinhard Mey.
 
On the way to Gate A50 in Frankfurt I bring up our new joint blog. We already have a title: He cooks, she eats and writes about it.
„What language shall we write in? English or German?“
„English“, my husband responds.
 
20 minutes later, I pull out my iPad in the bus that will bring us to the plane.
„So, how does it start?“, I ask.
„8 Steinpilze“, he says.
„What is that in English?“, I ask.
„Porcino. Hm. Perhaps we should write in German instead“, he says.
And that is it. Our new blog in which we combine our passion for eating and cooking and writing will be in German.
 
And here it is, the first blog article in our new series, written on the flight Frankfurt to Copenhagen. Volume #1: Porcini mushrooms with egg noodles. Sorry to all non-German speakers!
Above the clouds

Day 10: Love song

The wedding of my cousin and his now wife was beautiful and spectacular. What touched me the most was the love song written by the groom’s mother. She went all in, 13 verses, adapted to the melody of a romantic Danish song. We all joined her in song, a smile on our face and a tear in our eyes.

It was a song of love, for her son, his wife, and her two grandchildren. She just let her heart speak, and the words were written straight from the heart. That is creative writing at its best! ❤️

Yes I do!

Day 11: Lost in translation

I am so happy for A. who has sat down to write on her memoir the past 8 days out of 10. This is just so fantastic!! And, she is beating me to it! 

Today I did not write anything original, I translated. I translated my website from English to German. I found this amazing translation tool that really does a superb job. The problem is: even though the meaning is spot on, the words sound wrong somehow. Not natural, not authentic. Not what I want to say really. 

I love languages, but I really don’t like translating, I feel constrained by the words already written.

 Plan for tomorrow: Write out what I truly want to say on my website in German, no matter that it doesn’t match the English version. Good plan.

Day 12: Next stop, Traunkirchen

Today I took the train to Traunkirchen. I worked on the German version of the website and almost missed my stop. When I stepped onto the platform in Traunkirchen the air was moist and cool. A perfect day for visiting the room where I will be holding my first 3-day fun writing workshop next weekend. 

A lovely group of women and I will be diving into our memories and dreams with techniques from life writing, expressive writing, and creative writing. Check out the details here.

I simply love this place!

Day 13: A perfect moment

There was a moment today when everything fell in place.

I was sitting at the table, writing.

My daughter was sitting on the other side of the table, doing her homework (finally, after all the tears and shouter for the past weeks, her pre-puberty phase seems to have passed. For now). 

My husband was sitting next to my daughter, writing an e-mail.

And, for the first time ever, my son had homework of his home. The previous day he had started playing the flute in music school, and he was standing at the table, next to meet, and very seriously practicing his first song. 

A perfect moment, enough for my 30 minutes of writing today.

Day 14: Friendship revival

I am starting to think that since I am writing so much I forget to take pictures. I don’t need them, as the moment is in my heart and on the page.

This morning I took the train to Vienna and headed straight to a shop called Jux Witte, where I bought a feather head piece for a 1920-themed party I was planning to attend in the evening.

I stood outside the store for 20 minutes, waiting for a ghost to appear. Or almost a ghost. A friend I had not seen since December 2007, when I left Barcelona for good, with a fresh doctor title up my sleeve. For a moment I was wondering whether I would even recognize him. But that was a silly thought. Of course I would, among a million people.

And then I saw him on the other side of the street, and it was as if we had only seen each other yesterday. I am truly grateful to now have such a dear friend living in Vienna with his family.

We forgot to take a picture of our reunion, but it does not matter. And anyway, we had so much more hair back then anyways 🤣 

Here we are, back in Barcelona in 2006

Day 15: Bookstore, my love

At 7:15 am I am leaving my hotel room and begin to walk on the streets of Vienna. I love it! The early morning calm. The anticipation of meeting my girlfriend and writing pal Maria for breakfast. 

Last night I was celebrating the 20th birthday of the writer’s studio with fellow writers and writing coaches. The day I read the add for a year-long passion writing workshop in a self-care magazine was the beginning of a truly great adventure, and I am so grateful to the wonderful women I met at the writer’s studio for their inspiration and friendship!

After hugging Maria good-bye I head down the street to a tiny bookstore. I only have a few moments before I need to catch the train. I head straight to the section that has been attracting me lately. No, not the book on how to leave your Ehemann (husband) 😜 But the one right next to it: Female Choice by Meike Stoverock.

I start reading on the train and then my Gordian knot begins to loosen.

Books, books, books

Day 16: On the radio

I was on the radio last night! Recall the radio interview that was recorded on September 12? Last night it aired on my favorite station: Freies Radio Salzkammergut. You can find the link to the recording here.

Today we are visiting the kids paternal granddad in Bad Ischl. Remember Bad Ischl (Day 8)? 

No need for watching TV today

And remember Sissi? What a cool Sissi-Frida Kahlo portrait, which I found hanging in the restaurant Hubertushof. 

We arrived home after 5pm and the kids were sleeping by 7.30pm. I settled down to read my new book, Female Choice by Meike Stoverock.

Today I did not write. Tomorrow I will not stop.

Sissi meets Frida Kahlo

Day 17: How to explain creativity?

Today is Sunday. My daughter is in and out the door with her neighborhood friends. My son sits next to me with a puzzle and asks for my help. I am sitting with my laptop next to him, I pick up a few puzzle pieces, I type a few sentences.

At the end of the day I will have written four pages on my laptop, corresponding to three blog articles.

Two days ago I told you my Gordian knot is loosening. And loosened it has, almost overnight. 

I made two discoveries that have suddenly unleashed a flow of words.

While I was writing, my husband was sitting in his chair and reading A Work in Progress: A Journal by the world-famous chef of the restaurant Noma, Rene Redzepi. “Interesting”, my husband says. “Here Redzepi tries to explain the concept of creativity.” After a dry-period of several months, in which they weren’t able to create anything new, the Noma team travelled to London to pick up the prize for their number one spot on the list of the World’s 50 best restaurants. The two weeks following the award was like a fireworks of ideas. They hammered out new creations every day.

Oftentimes creativity comes after a dry period. I don’t know if you noticed from reading my accountability log. But I have not written every day. And the days I did write, I did not write much that contributed to my book project. It felt like I was writing in the dark.

But today all this changed. It started last night, when reading Female Choice. 

Today I am able to formulate the thesis of my book. A huge progress. Huge.

And today I figured out how I will continue writing from now on: in the form of blog articles. I have no problem whatsoever in writing these blog articles, but I am blocked when I want to sit down and write “my book”. From today on I will change this and I will write blog articles instead. One day they may, more my not, turn into a book.

A once in a lifetime experience at Noma in Kopenhagen, back in July

Day 18: Proudly presenting

This morning my daughter left the house at 7 am to walk to school with her neighborhood friends. My husband left shortly after her, to take the train to Vienna. My son and I took our sweet time and when we left the house to walk hand in hand to kindergarten, he talked nonstop.

“Mommy, this is the third time you and I we walk by ourselves to the kindergarten. Isn’t it great?”

It is wonderful indeed! I enjoy this moment and I have all day for my own writing. A few minutes later it starts raining and when we arrive to the kindergarten I have to help him with a change of clothes. I walk back in the rain and laugh. Life is so wonderful at the moment, not having to be anywhere at a certain point in time, not answering to anyone but myself. 

Here I am, almost 6 hours later and I am so proud of myself! I am not hiding my book drafts in a drawer. I am putting them out here in the open. This is my way of writing. 

And here it is, Blog number 1, the beginnings of Karriere, Kinder, Krieg-in-mir. The translation would be: career, children, war-inside.

Day 19 - Day 21: Three days, three blog articles for my book!

Day 22: Don't cry over spilled milk

Remember last week’s blog article? Spilled milk. Crying child. Inner child. Love.

“Milk and citrus fruit don’t go together!” I remember my grandma saying. Well, I never really listened to that wisdom of hers. “When live hands you lemons, make lemonade”, they say. What happened?, you might wonder. 

It started last Monday. My son and I walked to kindergarten, hand in hand, laughing in the sudden rain. I was on my way home and stopped to buy ginger tea and gluten free cookies for my three workshop participants. My first three-day writing workshop in the most beautiful setting: a cloister in Traunkirchen at the Traunsee. A magic place where my husband and I had married nine years ago. As I stepped out of the story with a bag full of writing supplies for the workshop, I get a text message: One of my workshop participants is down with Corona. I call her on the phone and wish her a speedy recovery. Then I walk home, not knowing that this is only the beginning.

The next day my mom sends me a text: She is sick. I tell her to rest up and drink tea. Two days later she is still too sick to travel. Lucky for me, my mother-in-law is home this weekend after all. My husband is traveling this weekend and so is my father-in-law and my mother-in-law was supposed to be going with him. 

Perhaps you see where all this is going. Come Friday morning, the workshop is starting in the late afternoon. I am ready, I am prepared. I am so looking forward to the workshop, where we will be writing about our lives, our memories and dreams. 

Text message.

Appendicites.

Two out of three participants out. 

I take my cup of coffee down to my mother-in-law and take a deep breath. Then I call the hotel, the wonderful staff lets me cancel the room in the cloister at this very short notice. But my hotel room is booked solid. After speaking to participant #3 we decide to postpone to a date in the spring. 

I take the train to Traunkirchen and as I walk down the hotel hallway with a keycard in my hand, I walk in disbelief. Room #7 at the end of the hall. I know this room. I was in that very room nine years ago: The wedding suite. And just like that I am holding a glas of lemonade in my hand.

Day 23: Sparkling tea

I wake up at 5:30 am. My head is clear. Last night at the hotel bar I had two glasses of sparkling tea. Loved it! And best of all: I have all day to myself. I have all day for reading, for writing, for going for a walk, and for spending time in the sauna.

18 hours later. What a day! I have filled countless pages in my notebook and I have finished reading the most amazing book: Female Choice by Meike Stoverock.  

I have jumped into the ice-cold Traunsee several times. 

And I went for dinner with great friends. A truly wonderful day.

Yes! A dip in the ice-cold lake

Day 24 - Day 27: Four days, four blog articles for my book!

Risikogeburt

Die Nanny

Mit Kind und Kegel

Die Zeit am Ende des Tages

Only three days to go. I have made huge progress on Chapter 1 🥳

Day 28: Introducing: thewritingflow.com/de

I started blogging in June and have published and shared one blog article a week. That is a lot of blog articles, and this one here is by far the longest! 

By now, my father-in-law has stopped asking me daily why I blog in English and why my website is in English.

By now, my mother has figured out how to automatically translate the blogs into (poor) German.

By now, my other mother has brushed up her English skills and is following the meaning of what I write.

By now, I could just keep going the way it is.

But now I have actually translated my website into German. Take a look: https://thewritingflow.com/de

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Dr. Stefanie Koettl-Brodmann
stefanie@thewritingflow.com