Category: GFM’s Guide to Life

My Epic Summer Vacation

Every summer for the last few years, I have had 8 weeks of vacation. And every summer for the last few years, I have felt compelled to fill every single second of those 8 weeks off with some kind of work, job or project. I’ve felt this intense pressure to have a great story of what I did with my time off to prove that I was somehow worthy of this time off. I break out in cold sweats just thinking about having to face my coworkers and their ‘So, what did you do over the summer?’ questions. It’s almost not worth the anxiety vacation causes.

It’s been pointed out to me that maybe this isn’t the point of vacation and maybe I’m projecting. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe my coworkers don’t care and are just making small talk. They’re probably not judging me at all if I don’t have a justification for my time off. Maybe I should calm the hell down.

But here’s the thing:

I am often very hard on myself.

I don’t listen very well when I’m not being told what I want to hear.

I am very stubborn.

I have anxiety.

It’s not uncommon for one to be hard on one’s self. Often we are our own worst critics and I’m no different. It’s also not unusual to not want to listen to someone when they’re telling you something you don’t want to hear.

Why can’t each and every person in my life just blindly enable me to do what I want, by telling me exactly what I want to hear?

I am stubborn. Very stubborn. Which only exacerbates the fact that I’m both very hard on myself and don’t want to listen to people who don’t want to validate my criticisms of myself.

And lastly, I have anxiety. Anxiety likes to focus on something small and grow it into a big, paralyzing problem. It doesn’t have to be rational. It usually isn’t.

It’s a frustrating combination.

At least I’m willing to admit that?

Anyway. What is my point here? My point is that maybe it’s okay to take a break. Maybe you can just enjoy vacation time and not feel the need to defend the fact that you’re taking things easier.

Maybe I don’t have an epic story of how I remodelled my kitchen, built a nature sanctuary for donkeys, or hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. But that’s okay.

We all work hard. We’re all doing our best. And we’re all surviving through the darkest timeline right now.

Like, have you watched the news for longer than five seconds? Because I haven’t. Anything longer than 2 seconds shoves my anxiety into overdrive.

So I’m going to try to not guilt myself into having to prove that I made good use of my vacation time. I’m not going to be baited into feeling like I need an epic story or example of how I spent summer vacation.

I’m planning on a summer vacation that can be just that: vacation. And that’s okay.

 

 

My Writing Process: 8 Steps for Creating a Winning Writing Ritual

I’ve had some questions about my writing process, so I figured I’d give you a behind the scenes look at how I create the perfect atmosphere and mindset for writing. I hope this is helpful!

Step 1: Finding Inspiration

The hardest part is getting started. I like to start by gathering lots of inspiration. Spend time researching, browsing and brainstorming. Always carry around something to jot ideas down in, because you never know when something might give you inspiration. I find my best ideas come to me in the shower. It’s probably because that’s truly the only time my mind is mostly switched off and focused on one task. That’s also when the anxieties come to get me. But the ideas, too.

After spending weeks or months careening about your daily life, trying to find inspiration, it’s time to start to seek out inspiration with a bit more intention. Browse websites for ideas. My go-tos are Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr. Twitter for the hot takes, Pinterest for the pretty pictures and Tumblr for everything else.

Next, try reading. Books. Articles. Blog posts. I try to overload my brain with content.

When those things don’t seem to work, try aimlessly flipping through TV channels, watching the news and current affairs shows. Listen to music. Then try combinations of watching tv, listening to music, while browsing and reading.

Finally, you’ll find that you can start to piece together some ideas. Time for step 2!

Step 2: Fleshing it out

Next, take your tiny, wisp of an idea and start to flesh it out. Build an outline to help frame where you’re going with your writing project. Writing down all of your main points can help you stay on track and figure out if there is enough meat to the project to make it worth writing.

Step 3: Getting down to it

Armed with your notes, outline and any research, it’s time to get down to writing. Some people can work with a lot of distractions, but that’s not for everyone. Listening to music can help tune out the noise around you, or if you need quiet, pick a spot where you can work in silence.  Make coffee or tea and settle in somewhere comfortable and get down to work.

Step 4: Letting doubt creep in

Sitting in front of your laptop, whether you have a completely blank page or a few paragraphs started, it’s time to start questioning the relevance, interest or humour of your writing project. Browsing through notes and your outline, you’ll find the doubt starts to creep in. Then come the questions. Is this a stupid idea? Will anyone care to read this? Why am I wasting my time and life at this? Do I suck at being a writer?

Before you start thinking too hard about those questions, it’s time for step 5.

Step 5: Procrastination

The next step in perfecting your writing ritual is to put off writing at all costs. Because what you’re writing is probably shit, anyway. There are many options to help achieve peak procrastination. Long-neglected house chores, exercise, calling friends or relatives that you haven’t spoken to in a long time are great ways to procrastinate. Playing with your pets or kids if you have them, or go out and find someone else’s pets or kids to entertain. You can stare out a window, try to find matches for all your socks, or learn something new. These are all good methods of procrastination. And once you’ve exhausted all of those options, sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest are great, too. There are so many rabbit holes to fall down, you’ll be lost for hours. In the case of Pinterest, sometimes you can loose days and weeks. As long as you’re not actually writing, you’re winning. Get creative.

Step 6: Panic

The thing about procrastination is that it gives you plenty of time for that doubt to fully take hold and bring about full-blown panic. You may be questioning your choices in life that brought you to the decision to write in the first place. Maybe you’re wishing that you had listened to your parents when they told you journalism was a dying industry and don’t waste your money on that journalism degree. Maybe it’s more of a general panic that makes you question everything and anything you’ve ever done, made or said. Now you have the perfect set up to move on to step 7! Well done, you!

Step 7: Abandoning the project

After spending days, weeks and maybe even months trying to make your project work, you realize this just isn’t what you first envisioned it to be. You abandon your project to sit in your drafts folder forever and ever.

It’s okay. Maybe your next idea will work out better than this one.

Step 8: Starting over again

It’s been a while since your last (failed) attempt at getting a writing project finished. Maybe you’re feeling the itch to write again. Maybe you desperately need to pay some bills. It could be an assignment for school or work. Maybe you’re stubborn. Perhaps you have a spiteful God. Maybe you hate yourself a little bit. But whatever the reason, you’re faced with the task of writing something again.

Since you clearly haven’t learn your lesson, you set to it again, getting ready to write again. Time to start again. Back to step 1, my friend. Start from the beginning. Rinse and repeat.

 

Did any of my tips help you? What steps do you take to create your writing rituals? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Friends, don’t fuck this up.

Oh my god

I am so very happy to see that November 8th has finally arrived. And I’m not even an American. I will not be voting today. I will not be getting a new leader of my country today.

But the American election season has been an ugly, triggering mess ever since a certain individual declared his candidacy and I am so glad to see the end of it.

When I look at the two candidates, I’m confused as to how this is even a race. Now before you start in on your tired argument…

hold on

Yes, Hillary is a politician and has probably been involved in questionable stuff. And yes, she’s a woman and some people don’t like that. But like, guys. Guys. Look at your other choice.

dumb people

Seth Meyers did an excellent job of spelling it out:

 

…How is this a choice?

Get out and vote today, American friends. This is a big one, and it’s an election you don’t want to sit out or throw away by spoiling a ballot.

You guys can do it. I have faith in you, because President Melting Hunk of Uninformed Apricot Jello doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue:

And I only have so many guest rooms if this doesn’t work out for you all.