As many of you know, I've embarked on a full-time freelance career after more than a dozen years working out of a newsroom. It was definitely one of the best decisions I've made in a long time, and I wake up every morning invigorated, determined, inspired.
Which is why I wanted to learn more about the freelance and entrepreneurial life from a book recommended in a Seth Godin online course. Escape from Cubicle Nation is known as a classic book on finding your voice as a freelancer, no matter your beat. The 2009 book from Pamela Slim reinforced a lot of what I know already about shirking the cubicle life and hunkering down to devise a plan to be a self-starter, but it also enlightened me on a few light-bulb moments that I want to share with you.
First, she explains why we should avoid the cubicled life. She writes:
We’re not meant to sit in meetings for hours and hours, hashing out technical details that everyone knows will be changed next week anyway. When our job responsibilities call for us to perform a task that we find meaningless and trivial, we choke down our urge to say 'That is absurd, and I won’t spend my valuable time that way!' and do it anyway in order to be responsible and a team player.
When I first leapt into freelancing full-time, I wondered where I would find those daily social interactions that fuelled some of my creativity. Talking to people is a great way for writers to learn more about the human condition (says Captain Obvious). But when you're solo or at a work-sharing space, the atmosphere is a bit more lonerish. And that's why Slim's passage here spoke to me:
Begin to reconnect your emotional and intellectual selves by exposing yourself to creative environments or activities. You crave beauty and truth so find ways to express both. Nature is a great way for waking up the emotional self, same with art and music and really sensuous food.
I've promised myself this summer to write and read more in High Park and Trinity Bellwoods, and venture on day trips to go hiking. I also plan to spend a week in Montreal to expose myself to new people, fresh activities, new ideas.
I also want to highlight another passage:
We spend a lot of time on busy work that makes us feel like we’re doing the right things in our careers or business but often is quite unimportant. Develop some rigorous criteria for what you will work on, based on being true to our essential self. Look to work on things that will leapfrog you to new creative and personal heights, and not just plug along like an old tired and dutiful steam engine.
That's easier said than done. I like to busy myself with projects that I think will develop new skills in my journalistic or arts education business, but I need to be very hard-assed about what I dive into this year. I have two major poetry projects debuting in 2018 - a book and one-man show - and I have had to cut out some other pursuits that didn't contribute to those ends (or my bank account). It sure wasn't easy but sweet Jebus was it necessary!
To find those projects that awaken your bone marrow, Slim suggests asking yourself two major questions:
Will I be a better smarter more compassionate human for having attempted this, regardless of the outcome?
Will the world be a little better because of my efforts?
And the two writing projects I have ahead of me will definitely contribute to nurturing my creativity, feeding my curiosity, and definitely boost my compassion as both a writer and human. It's hard to predict how the world will react to my book and show, but I like to think they are unique enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace, and yes, if I pull it off successfully, they should definitely enhance the communities I hope to reach.
As noted before, I highly recommend Escape From Cubicle Nation if you have a fiery project you'd like to turn from Bunsen burner flame to blazing inferno.
I'm starting a new weekly list on my blog called The Friday 5, where I'll list 5 recommendations in a specific category, like podcast episodes (this week) or graphic novels (next week).
These five podcast episodes have been making me laugh, think, maybe even think-laugh! I'm interested to hear your top 5 podcast eps you've been enjoying recently, so hit me up in the Comments or on Twitter.
In no particular order:
It's a question I've thought about it for awhile, in light of several people I know on Facebook who use the platform to share the most intimate details of their lives. Many of these users express how depression and negativity is hurting them at that particular moment. I can't guess their motivations, but these posts elicit sympathy, pity, comfort, camaraderie and the kind of communal hug I don't see on any other website.
So what would happen to our relationships and our online community if Facebook suddenly went RIP? Or got hacked and we lost all our connections to each other via our Friends lists. I'm curious to see where we would go to share what matters to us most, to offer a consoling comment. On Twitter? In person?
I don't have an answer for this question, but instead I'd like to learn from you what connection you have with Facebook that would be severed if the social network suddenly went all Friendster. What would you lose? Or would you gain a newfound sense of freedom and interact with your true friends IRL?
As many of my blog readers know, I'm a TED Talks nerd. I watch a talk almost every day, whether I'm curious about business issues, tech advances, inspiring stories, the creative process.
A recent TED Talk attracted my attention recently: Know Your Worth, And Then Ask For It, by pricing consultant Casey Brown. In only 8 minutes, she was able to perfectly sum up what many of us have surely been wondering for awhile: I'm definitely not getting paid for the value I provide to my boss/clients.
I won't get all Coles Notes on you and bullet-point her talk, so I've embedded it below. Definitely worth a watch if you've wondered how to boost your value as an employee or entrepreneur, especially if you're a woman who feels cheated by the pay inequality in the world today:
My Raptors nerdery will be on full display in this post. You've been warned.
As a diehard Raps fan, I'm wildly excited for the Eastern Conference SemiFinals pitting Toronto's finest against the Cleveland Cavaliers, whom Toronto fought in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.
Whether you're neck-deep in ball or you're a casual fan following this playoff run, this post is for you. See below for the top 6 things to watch in this highly entertaining matchup:
As I sit here in a Kensington Market cafe in Toronto, I'm reminded of why I'm drawn to this downtown hub resplendent with tasty empanadas, dogs off leash, random art on the sidewalks.
Kensington emanates an energy I have rarely seen in Toronto, or any other city for that matter. Maybe I'm biased because I used to live five minutes from the Market, but I recall many newcomers revelling in all that is Kensington.
It's the smell of grilled fish. It's reggae seeping from storefronts. It's the waft of marijuana smoke coursing above our heads. It's a smile from a stranger, it's the yippee from a kid who spots that iconic Garden Car.
When I'm looking to get some writing done, I don't always head to my work-sharing space. Rather, I walk 30 minutes south to the Market where I can feel the bustle of a community unlike any other in the city. And more often than not, I'm filled with inspiration that tickles me every time, like it's a feeling I'm experiencing for the first time.
"The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour of and let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, "Well, so what, Mr. Poppy Pants?" you let her....If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those crazy six pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you are supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go. But there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages."
I'm reading an engaging book called Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim, and I come across this passage Slim cites and I'm forced to pause. Read it again.
Slim references a book by Anne Lamott called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, first published in 1995. I've never read it, but after relating so strongly to what Lamott writes about just fuckin doing it...I just ordered Bird by Bird off Amazon, true story.
I have issues with forcing myself to write poetry if the inspiration is coursing in my veins. I didn't used to, in fact, but once I focused so intently on making writing my profession, the creative discipline buckled. And my output slowed.
But that has to change, thanks to two major poetry projects I have ahead in 2017 (more on that in another post). And I'm going to be mantra'ing Lamott's passage for several weeks in order to get my tuchus on that seat and my fingers dancing on that keyboard.
Do you ever catch yourself watching yourself? When I was waiting for a bus recently in downtown Toronto, my hand itched toward my jacket pocket, pulled out my phone, I checked Facebook, put the phone back, 10 seconds passed, and I took out my phone again to check The Score app to see which NBA games were on tap that night.
I put the phone away again, and just looked around the cold street, barely any traffic, barely any people. I wanted to keep my hands from creeping toward my phone again, but I felt almost strangely powerless. It's as if being still ran counter to what my brain demanded - a quick glance at Twitter, for some dumb reason.
I'm sure I'm not the first to realize it's dangerously difficult to just be motionless. To simply breathe and take it all in. To be present, not to pull your attention to screens and sports scores.
It does sound Grampa Simpson of me to say, but I crave those phone-less days when the entire appeal of standing was, well, being able to pace for the sake of movement. We didn't look down and bury our stillness in a sloppy glow. We actually liked doing nothing for once.
I've started to meditate, which I've blogged about before, and I'm learning to find my breath again, by which I mean remembering to focus on deep breaths during moments of aloneness.
It would be hypocritical to rail against mobile tech as the destroyer of all things meditative and peaceful. I'm all up in my Scrabble game, my Insta posts. But when I had that week without a phone due to it getting ol RIP on me, that was transformative. That phoneless week got me thinking of what I found so refreshing of being free of notifications buzzing my hip: I could do what I wanted, instead of responding to whatever this toy was bleeping.
I don't wish ill on my phone again (forgetting to backup photos is so damn painful) but instead I will work harder to finding that pocket of stillness in a day that is all Messenger dots, RT alerts, funky filters.
For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with drinking water. I used to have a Life-brand plastic water bottle by my hip in high school, before my more enviro-friendly friends kept pushing me to get a metal bottle to house my hydration.
Ever since, my water bottle rolls me with wherever I go, and it's one of the best health decisions I've ever made.
And the second best? Cutting out juice and pop from my diet several years ago. I used to think that in order to vary up my bevvies, I'd get for my fridge some Tropicana orange juice or grape juice or Nestea or pop. Sure, I love water tons but I was open to bring some different flavours to my buds.
Then I realized, after doing some research, that tons of sugar is poured into juices. I was drinking my calories on my respites from chugging back water. No more, I told myself then, and cut out juice from my diet. Four years earlier, I banished pop to its sugar-water abyss where it belongs. It never really did anything for me, all that sugar and fizz.
Now I drink water at home, when I'm not home, and I vary it up with tea, coffee, some lemon spritzed into my water. I'm done with drinking garbage that will only bruise my body.
And I encourage anyone looking to tweak their health habits for the better to do the same.
If you're on Twitter, you've likely experienced the eye-bleeding mess of its new @ reply design. If not, a quick recap: the redesign removes handles from a tweet's character length, allowing users to add up to 50 handles in a thread. It's onerous to untag people from threads, where back in ye' ol' days of March 2017 and earlier you could simply delete a handle from a tweet if you didn't want to include that person in the conversation.
Now, there's no "Select All" or "Untag All" button, which would have been intuitive. But Twitter's not about that.
For some reason, Twitter built a product that's as cumbersome and counter-intuitive as anything it's rolled out. And I'm not the only one hating on this redesign. Twitter users are pissed, and this tweet sums it up:
Motherboard's Sarah Jeong also expressed the frustration that we all felt this week: "Did anyone ask for this? Did anyone respond well to this in testing? What are their names and where do they live?"
Twitter shouldn't be head-in-the-sanding this weekend. They shouldn't ignore the feedback. What I'd like to see is a social media giant responding to overwhelmingly critical feedback to a new feature and making a smart decision to reverse course. Maybe it'll upset investors to look weak; but to me, undoing the damage is a savvy move for a company that should listen to its rabid audience closely. Without active users, Twitter is just spambots and dormant egg avatars.
Twitter had a chance to change its strategy during beta testing. TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino wrote about this terrible feature in an October 2016 post, dubbing it a mess and pointing out how the replies tweak is actually hurting Twitter's mission to combat abuse:
Twitter, which has an enormous amount of problems with abusive tweets and trolling, has decided that it is a good idea to make it harder to see if someone who has been trolling you is in a reply chain before you respond to a tweet. Just as in regular conversation, you should be able to be fully aware of who it is you’re choosing to speak to before you do so — not as some sort of surprise jack-in-the-box of sadness and misery.
What's wrong than releasing a terrible new feature? Not doing about it when your customers overwhelmingly despite it. Twitter has a chance to sway its users back to their side, and it's time for Jack and company to embrace a flexibility rarely seen in the tech world.
About David's Blog
My musings about the arts, Toronto, technology, journalism, sports.