I Have Options

Friends! Enemies! People who feel meh! Readers (ah ha! There’s the noun I’m looking for)!

Hello! It has been a very strange week! That is why I am overdoing the exclamations marks right now!!!

As long-time followers of this blog will know, I have been on the UX job hunt for a while. We’re talking since the end of 2019, approximately. Now though, for the first time ever, I feel like I’m close to achieving my goal!

I had an informal chat with a UX research company founder today and, within the space of about 15 minutes, it sounded like he wanted to hire me (if only all interviews were that straightforward!). I’ve given up trying to temper my hopes on this point because they’ve shot through the roof. To be frank, I have fallen in love with the potential of the flexible role he’s offered me, and I will be upset if I don’t get it. Caring so much feels a little terrifying, but I can’t stop myself!

I have options now. Multiple freaking options. There’s the role I’ve fallen in love with, I’m at the aptitude test stage for a graduate UX role at a huge company, and I’m at the digital interview stage for a graduate UX role at a different huge company. It won’t be the end of the world if things don’t work out with the role I’ve fallen in love with, but it is my favourite option out of those three right now. Not only is it within my niche area of interest, but the fact that the guy literally found me and set up our informal intro chat via LinkedIn suggests a huge level of flexibility in the role itself. I reckon I’d have a lot of freedom to be useful in the ways I want to be there, especially when I compare it to more regimented graduate roles.

I keep applying to graduate roles at huge companies because of the clear in-built support system that these roles have, and the fact that the sheer volume of applications such companies receive (especially in the current climate) forces them to make the application process relatively straightforward. To be clear, when I say straightforward, I mean that I don’t usually have to write a cover letter for the application.

Cover letters are the bane of my job seeking life, though I have grown used to writing them. I can easily introduce myself and my relevant skills now, the difficult part is writing what I call the Bullshit Paragraph (more politely known as the Flattery Paragraph). This is the paragraph I stick at the end of my cover letter to point out a specific thing I like about the company that isn’t how much they’ll pay me to work for them. The Bullshit Paragraph shows that I’ve done my research into the organisation and that I know how I’ll contribute towards their culture/ethos.

The Bullshit Paragraph is often a good test of whether I should be applying for a position at that company or not. I’ve found that it’s harder to write the paragraph for positions at big companies instead of small ones. SMEs are small enough that they have to know who their customers and niche are. These organisations do a clear thing and make it obvious on their website/LinkedIn page. Big companies, on the other hand, don’t do this so much. In fact, it can be very difficult to figure out what some big companies actually do beyond a too-vague-to-be-inspiring marketing quote.

I’ve been applying to big companies because it’s “easy” and helps me meet the Universal Credit criteria of spending 5 hours on job hunt activities. But, if I’m honest with myself, what I really want is the nerdy creativeness that comes from working in a small company or team, minus the worst of the higher-up bureacracy. It’s what I’ve done so far, and I like it. This UX research company seems like just that sort of thing. Also, the company founder wanted to talk to me one-on-one, and it was really nice to have that personal touch, to feel like he actually cared about me as a person and wanted to match his company to my desires (vice versa on my side, of course!). That is hugely appealing to me.

After so many months of rejections and being ghosted, it feels surreal for so many potential employers and recruiters to show an interest now. I’m exactly the same person as I was at the start of my job hunt. My determination to do a good job (should anyone give me the chance) has always been there, but I guess it’s not about that. This is about my experience. I have more of it now and, because of that, people are finally starting to notice me.

Half of me is excited by the attention and the other half of me is aggravated by it. That other half is sitting here staring at the messages I’ve been getting, thinking “Where were you x months ago?”, which is probably a silly, unfair thing to think when I didn’t necessarily have the experience to back up my personality however many months ago. My hard work is finally paying off and I should dwell on the euphoria instead. Everything that’s happening right now feels a bit overwhelming but it is, undoubtedly, good.

Who knows what will happen by the end of next week? The only thing I know for sure is that I need to sort out my freelance “schedule” a bit better so I can strictly say when I am and am’nt free the next time someone asks. Here goes nothing!

Brotherly Conversations

Whenever my brother comes up in conversation with my parents, we revisit the same topics:

  • Dad doesn’t like how my brother spends money at uni. This is hypocritical coming from dad, who gets defensive and doubles down whenever someone deigns to point this out, but he does otherwise have a point.
  • Neither of my parents like the fact that my brother is happily living off microwave meals. Mum’s worried that he’s going to come home malnourished, and Dad doesn’t understand why he won’t spend money on ingredients for cooking cheap meals. It’s not like my brother can’t cook. I haven’t decided where I stand on this topic yet.
  • Mum is worried about how my brother’s module retake is going. She doesn’t know what he’ll do if he fails the module again and gets kicked out of uni. My response to this is generally: we’ll deal with that if it happens. And it hasn’t. Happened. Yet.

As for me? I’m sick of these conversations. I’m sick of feeling like I need to fix something I have no control over. My brother is an adult at university. I can’t swoop in and force him to sort his shit out. All I can do is be there for him and repeatedly tell him to hurry up and get therapy already.

I do like to talk to my brother about non-mental health stuff you know, but then he’ll go and send me a picture of his breakfast/lunch/dinner in one meal because it’s dinnertime and he hasn’t eaten yet, and it’s a microwavable curry from Morisson’s, and I know I should say something, but I don’t have the energy to turn an otherwise pleasant conversation into the conversation I know someone needs to have with him about his future and self-care. I’m tired of being the person who has to deliver that conversation. Why can’t it come from a neutral non-relative? This is exactly what therapists and personal tutors are for! I am neither of those things!

I’m also tired of watching the same brother-related conversations peter out around the dinnertable. Dad gets irritable and mum gets sad and I end up playing peacekeeper or carefully extracting myself from the room depending on where my emotional agh tolerance is at. It doesn’t happen a lot, but every time it does it feels like we’re stuck treading the same water on the subject.

I can’t make anyone do anything. In fact, I’m trying not to for once, because it’s not my job to fix things. I’m so done with this sense of responsibility for things that are not mine. I don’t fucking want it.

You know what I do want?

I want to land a 9-5 UX job in a place I’ve never been to before. In a place where I can explore and learn and challenge myself. I want to earn enough to move out of my family home. I want this pandemic to be over so I can finally hug my friends hello.

I also want my brother to see a therapist or the university careers person or someone! Whoever works and is not me! I do not want to be the person withholding my feelings again as I gently tell him to consider x, y, and z factors of his life while he lives it.

I’m so resigned to being responsible and checking in on him and doing the older sibling parenting trick, and it’s never felt like I’ve had a choice in the matter. I am the big sister and it is what I do. But I can’t fucking do this. I can’t have that conversation. I won’t. I refuse. I don’t know what that conversation would look like and I certainly can’t do it over messenger.

Then again, it doesn’t necessarily need to be about something as scary his future; it could literally just be “Job = money. You want that, right? You could have a chat with your nice supportive careers service if you want. Try a few things and see what you like”.

But those bigger points still stand, and I think someone has to have that conversation with him. I’m afraid that I might be one of the few people he’ll listen to about it, though. The alternatives that come to mind are his friends pointing it out to him, or me somehow training our parents into doing the conversation in a way that I think might work. Again, I don’t know how to start the conversation either.

My brother is reasonably self-aware about his issues, but he’s at that stage of life where a post-uni future doesn’t seem like a tangible concept yet. He’s a student and he’s living his life in the student moment. He’s not thinking about what will happen after graduation and maybe he doesn’t want to. He doesn’t know what he wants to do post-uni, let alone for a career, and that’s fine. But I can’t conceive of a single way out of his degree that won’t impact significantly on his mental health, given how stifling I know he finds our small hometown.

I guess self-care should be the thing to tackle first. Make sure he’s got his bases and coping skills covered, and then get onto the big, scary, abstract future things, if I dare. Ask him what he’s eating, how often he’s eating it, probe for the why behind that behaviour, make some gentle suggestions about how he could eat healthier and/or more regularly, and ask what his friends think about it (the friends thing is particularly important, I think. He’s affected by what they think). The same methodology can probably be applied to his spending habits.

Fuck. I’m doing it again.

I am EXCITED

Guys! GUYS! I need to tell you something! Oops, that’s not very gender inclusive of me…

FRIENDS! I HAVE SOME GUSHING TO DO OR ELSE MY BRAIN WILL EXPLODE!

I had a phone screening for a job today. The recruiter approved of me and has put me through to the next stage of the application process for a graduate UX role!

The application process is stupidly long-winded. It goes like this:

  1. Submit my CV for the role
  2. Answer some additional application form questions
  3. Screener phonecall with the recruiter
  4. Aptitude test
  5. Half hour phone interview
  6. Final interview where I have to do a presentation.

I’ve passed stage 3 so the aptitude test is up next. I have yet to pass one of these tests so I’ll be interested to see how that goes. I’m not ride or die about the company and my expectations of anything job hunt-related are very low. I won’t be disappointed if I fail at stage 3 (though I will be a little miffed about all the time I wasted on interview prep).

Nevertheless, regardless of whether I pass the test or not, I’m happy to finally get results from something. Apparently I was selected out of hundreds of applicants to reach the HR phonecall stage!

But that’s not the truly exciting news…

I have my first UX volunteer meeting this evening! I decided to do a peppy LinkedIn post about how excited I was for the kickoff meeting, and the post started to get reactions. More reactions than my posts normally get. I was receiving compliments in the comments section from UXers I only sort of know (as in, I’ve seen their name at meetups but haven’t properly spoken to them, or we have a connection/LinkedIn group in common but have never spoken) and connection requests from people that I didn’t know at all.

Then, after going on a long-ass walk to decompress from the HR call, I got home to see a connection request from a guy who has a UX COMPANY AND WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A CHAT ABOUT ME WORKING WITH HIM!?

The guy seems legit and has a lot of experience in exactly the kind of stuff that I find interesting. I have no idea why he wants to talk to me though, given how new I am to all of this. Maybe he needs some UX grunt work done and wants to bulk up the company with eager beaver juniors, like myself, to boss around. I wouldn’t mind that if the orders come from someone with his level of UX experience.

I replied to the connection request. He knows when I’m free for chat purposes. Now I just have to wait and see if he ghosts me like every recruiter connection request I’ve replied to up to this point. This guy is not a recruiter. He’s a literal researcher and company founder who, for some inexplicable reason, wants to talk to me. Maybe he’ll be different.

I’m a little weirded out by how many recruiters have found me on LinkedIn lately. It’s a good thing, but it does make me wonder what changed. My theory is that the LinkedIn recommendation from the IGD employability lady has made me more visible within whatever search algorithms recruiters use, but I don’t know for sure. Maybe it’s because I have the world “Consultant” down as a job title for some roles and that makes me seem like I know what I’m doing (I don’t. That’s part of the chaos/fun!). Maybe it’s because I’m trying to do LinkedIn posts on a weekly basis. I don’t know.

It’s exciting though!

The Power of Volunteering

Breaking news in the world of me (I assume you care about that sort of thing if you’re following this blog)!

I GOT THE VOLUNTEER ROLE!

I am going to be a Junior Researcher on an official UX project! Everything I do for the project can go into my portfolio, and I’m going to be working with fellow UX volunteers in different time zones. I AM SO EXCITED, regardless of my opinion on the ethics of doing unpaid UX work (not a thing I can be arsed to write out right now). I’ll take what experience I can get, and this is what I’m getting right now. The fact that I’ve finally got something that seems supportive and encourages collaboration is cause for celebration!

Today’s been a good day for work things. I can say that, now I’m at the end of it and can see the positives. I wrote a LinkedIn post about my lockdown reading (which got some good engagement!), I got a step closer to getting somewhere with the garden database project, I received the LinkedIn recommendation that I asked the work experience week employability lady for, and then I saw the announcement on the volunteer organisation’s Slack channel! I should do a happy LinkedIn announcement of my own once the organisation goes live with volunteer positions on social media.

It feels silly to think that I was worrying about not having anything to post on LinkedIn only a few days ago! I was definitely over thinking it. Today’s successful LinkedIn post has taught me that I can post about literally anything so long as it’s interesting/vaguely topical and I encourage some sort of interaction at the end. Responding to LinkedIn news articles seems like a good way to go when not much is happening in my life, though stuff does seem to be happening now!

It’s stupidly nice to feel excited about something again. I’ll have to rewrite/update my CV for the millionth time because of it, but I don’t care (tweaking my CV is a pain but it’s also a nice ego-boost!). The only thing I’m not looking forward to is trying to hide the news from the Universal Credit lady next week. I won’t lie to her; I shall merely refrain from saying that I’ve chosen to dedicate around 3 hours of my working day to volunteer work.

According to the expectations of Universal Credit, I’m supposed to be spending 5 hours a day on job hunt/work stuff – an expectation I stopped paying attention to when I realised how miserable it was making me. I’ve actually spent the last few weeks trying to train myself out of lifelong workaholism, believe it or not. I took weekends off, I scheduled in post-dinner hobby time, and I’ve been actually been getting somewhere with fixing my shitty sleep schedule. I was trying to be happy and productive by living my life via the awareness that happiness influences productivity instead of the other way around, for a change.

It was working (I might even be able to get through ALL the 200+ unread emails in my inbox soon), but then I found out that I have to do this Universal Credit commitments thing next week. Part of me was scared that I was going to undo all my good, uh, not-work (?) by ramping up all the things I hate again. I didn’t want to go back to that constant feeling of apathetic lethargy. It’s so much easier to motivate myself when I don’t feel tired and guilty all the time. Fortunately, I think that this volunteering role may be exactly what I need to negate the negative emotional effects of whatever I’m about to experience with Universal Credit. I have an emotional bullshit buffer now.

The Universal Credit lady does not necessarily need to know about the buffer’s existence, though. She might think that a volunteer role is detrimental to my time and energy levels in regards to the job hunt, but I swear to god it won’t be. Having something to look forward to, especially something with new people and external time constraints, will be great for my motivation. It’ll give me something more to structure my day and week around. I’ll be busy again! Busy is fun with the right constraints.

Because I’m self-employed, the Universal Credit lady checks up on me every 2 weeks. She means well but her end goal is to get me off Universal Credit and into work by any means necessary. She doesn’t know much about the creative industries, self-employment or the digital/tech/design areas I’m interested in outside of what I’ve told her (tbf, this is true for a lot of people), and I sense that her patience with my general pessimistic flailing (as evidenced on this blog) is beginning to run out.

Honestly, not telling her about my new volunteer role should be pretty easy. I get the impression that the Universal Credit lady only gets to spend a 10 minute phonecall with each job seeker (which is probably why she always phones me late), and I have opted for being strategically silent during these calls. In practice, this means that I try to say as little as I can get away with (if you’re talking to someone who’s chatty, this is very easy to do). My theory is that this reduces the chances of me accidentally saying something I’ll regret later.

It’s not like I think I’ll swear at the Universal Credit lady or anything (I get that she’s trying to do her job in difficult circumstances); it’s just that we have very different understandings of the world of work. I reckon the less this woman knows about what I’m actually doing, the more I can fall into her assumptions of whatever it is she thinks I’m supposed to be doing. I know that she already thinks I’m proactive, cooperative, and trying, which works in my favour. 10 minutes is not enough time to explain the multitude of things I do and why I do them without accidentally badmouthing myself in the process.

I’m not saying that volunteering and a lie of omission will solve all my problems. I’ve been working hard to get better at being a happier me, and that means fiddling with an accumulation of things. Being tired and/or hungry affects my mood, walks and talking to people is generally useful, and it is so much easier to motivate myself when that’s all well-balanced.

Self-care is an ongoing experiment that I’m not going to master in my twenties, but at least now I know what to tweak and what seems to work for me. I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere!

Tracking My Life

I’ve been using a mood tracker app called Bearable recently. I use it to track my hobbies, sleep patterns, work activities, and RSI symptoms. It’s a good way to prove to myself that I am being productive on a daily basis, and to highlight when I need to indulge in my hobbies.

I thought I was doing pretty well at first. I did a couple of work things a day and still had time for hobbies in the evening (not letting myself work after dinner or on weekends has been helpful in that regard). I’m trying to sort out my sleep schedule so I have more time in the day to do stuff like: working on my existing UX projects, going through my 400+ backlog of unread emails (most of them are job newsletters), and applying to jobs.

I am trying to reset myself to a default state that resembles a healthy work-life balance, instead of burning out from constant work and perfectionistic guilt. I thought I was doing okay until I had my Universal Credit appointment today.

Now, I think I need to start doing job stuff at the weekends again because it turns out that I’m still not doing enough work. They expect to see 35 hours of work-related activity a week and, even though my work coach knows I’m trying, she’s going to make me set commitments next week. I have no idea what that means or entails but, with the way she phrased it (saying that she hadn’t done it yet because I’ve been very cooperative), I think she may start jamming mainstream minimum wage jobs down my throat harder than before.

This feels silly to me because I already have what I think of as a minimum wage job: I have my remote transcription contractor work. The problem is that even my passive and contracting income streams (of which there are several) put together don’t add up to enough income to get me off Universal Credit. On top of that, I’ve been rejected or ignored by pretty much every company I’ve applied to for tech/UX roles that would pay me consistently.

It doesn’t help that:

job application process + imposter syndrome + RSI flare ups = emotionally draining.

I know I should be applying to jobs more frequently than I am (I currently apply for a job every 10 days on average), but it feels like I’m trying to perform an impossible balancing act. On one side there’s the creative work I love but few people pay me to do, the meh work I do because income/experience, and the emotional work I have to do to keep my physical and mental wellbeing in check. On the other side, there’s applying to jobs. The balance is way more precarious than it should be.

The obvious solution is to up the creative work aspect of things. I can potentially get paid well for enjoying myself that way, but that also means overcoming a lot of my fears and weaknesses in the process. These include but are not limited to: selling my skills to strangers, managing client expectations, negotiating pay, and trying not to come off like a nervous wreck in the process. I don’t know how to do that and it terrifies me. This is why I don’t want to be a freelancer.

I guess the reason I am a freelancer is because my creative work so far has rarely been with strangers. Dealing with people I know dampens my anxiety somewhat, but it also means that I’m probably lowballing my rates a lot of the time because they know me and I feel bad for charging them the industry standard amount (£200 a day at minimum for UX work) when we both know that I don’t know what I’m doing.

But none of that matters right now because I’m supposed to be thinking of minimum wage jobs that I might be able to do without freaking out. I’m good at organising things, so maybe a receptionist type job would be okay. I mean, I’ve kinda learned to hate being an organisational crutch, but if I’m getting paid for it maybe it’ll be alright? Receptionist-ing will still involve dealing with potentially difficult people, but at least there’ll be a desk or a phone line between them and me.

It would be super nice if one of the 16 potential employers that haven’t gotten back to me yet would actually accept one of my job applications though.

What to Post on LinkedIn

I need to stop scrolling through my LinkedIn feed when I’m tired. It makes me feel sad or mad half the time, because it’s a bunch of professionals trying to seem accomplished and/or relatable, and here I am, sitting in front of my phone like a fucking lump, trying to force myself to regularly indulge in my hobbies and a sane sleep schedule. I am trying to master the basics of life in the hope that it’ll make the not-basics come easier, but it’s too early to tell if it’s working or not. Locking myself out of my phone from 2-5am seems like a good idea, but I’m not sure if it’s making me fall asleep any faster.

Also, some LinkedIn posts come across as cheesy but genuine, some are heartwarming, and plenty of the job seeker posts on there are painfully relatable, but the rest? Ugh. Don’t get me started.

I never really know what to post on LinkedIn. I just know that you’re supposed to post there to increase your professional visibility, especially in networking-heavy disciplines like UX. I follow a guy who posts every day about some random part of his WFH life and has recently launched his own recruitment business, for example. His kids are very cute.

I have nothing to post about right now. I refuse to post about my life’s purpose because that’ll fucking make me cringe, I don’t want to post about the garden database project I’m working on until I’ve figured out how to dig my way out of a very frustrating mistake I had no way of avoiding, and if I try to post about mental health it will turn into a very angry rant. The only other things going on in my life right now are the job hunt, casual usability testing (which I’ve posted about before), and story writing. I don’t know what I could say about the story writing, especially not when I spent half the weekend writing a scene where one character gifts her love interest a dead baby magpie for Reasons.

I guess one thing I could write about is the insane amount of reading I did while sleep procrastinating over the last few months, except the books I read were a pile of comfort fluff. I don’t have a lot to say about them and, if I did, I’d much rather say that sort of thing on here where I can actually talk like myself.

That’s the crux of the problem I guess. I don’t know how much me should go into my LinkedIn feed. I am a relatively private person and I don’t know how much me I want to put into it either. Professionalism as a creative freelancer is this strange invisible line. I have no idea where it is or if it’s even a hard line. I’m supposed to be positive and sociable and hard working and then I have to tell everyone about it in a way which doesn’t make me sound like the anxiously furious pessimist that I am.

It’s difficult to be positive without falling into the toxic positivity hole sometimes. I don’t believe in saying things that I don’t believe in, if that makes sense. I know I’m lucky to be where I am, I know I have decent friends in and outside of the UX industry, but I’m tired anyway.

I’m tired of receiving auto-rejection emails from online assessments that seem to understand my strengths but misinterpret my weaknesses (the last one claimed that I wasn’t curious enough. Um. A UXer’s work is ALL ABOUT ASKING QUESTIONS??). I’m tired of being phoned up every 2 weeks by the Universal Credit lady (because I’m self-employed) to be gently nagged into doing exactly what I’m already doing. I’m tired of living with my parents in this small town I know like the back of my hand, and I’m tired of people dying.

But I guess the only way to solve this kind of tiredness is to go to sleep and deal with it tomorrow. I’ll probably feel better about everything in the morning.

Figuring Myself Out

A few months ago, I decided to invest in a book by my favourite designer, Meg Lewis.

I came across Meg during the hell year of 2020. She hosted the Dribbble Overtime podcast that year and hearing her voice every week felt like a breath of fresh air. She always sounds happy and random, and it always cheers me up!

I pounced on her “Full Time You” workbook (complete with accompanying comedy video series) when I saw it was on sale on her Instagram. It was not cheap and it took several months to arrive (because pandemic + Brexit = CHAOS), but I am very happy with my investment. The book is designed to solve all the personal branding problems I’ve been experiencing as a creative freelancer.

Going through the workbook has so far involved really diving into myself. I’ve listed my top 3 strengths, values, unique qualities, fulfilling activities and so on. Then you draw that stuff together into a 1 or 2 sentence long life purpose and come up with an action plan that’ll help you achieve that purpose in your everyday working life.

So far, going through the workbook has been stupidly insightful. There’s nothing like a serial self-reflection exercise to make you recognise how little you know yourself! A lot of my answers to the questions surprised me.

I learned that:

  • I have more requirements for my ideal working environment than I do for my dream job.
  • Success for me is partly about being trusted to get on with things (cause that means I must know what I’m doing!).
  • Being a nitpicker is a good thing sometimes.
  • Storytelling is one of my strengths, as is fast learning.
  • I value reliability.
  • Catching up with friends, making stuff, and learning new things make me feel fulfilled.
  • I can offer the world my uniquely open creative flexibility.

The biggest surprise was my life’s purpose. It’s to help people understand stuff and help people be/feel understood. Admittedly, this is only the first draft of my purpose. The statement, at the very least, needs refining into less convoluted English.

Now I have to reframe how I approach my life so I’m meeting that purpose. The aim is to feel all fulfilled and stuff. Let’s see how it goes…

Reading at Bedtime

I have come to the conclusion that the only thing which successfully calms me down at bedtime is reading. In a fashion.

The problem with me and sleep is that I think too much to sleep fast. Bedtime is when I realise how little I’ve got done, or how much I have to do, or I remember random awkward stuff from years ago that are a non-issue in the present day but still make me cringe and swear at myself. Reading, I’ve found, is the only thing that fully mitigates my on-edgeness come bedtime.

This means that I have the Kindle app on my phone. I have a tendency to splash out on a story that will stop me thinking for a while at 2 AM. Next thing I know, it’s 4 AM, a book has been read, and I will either be satisfied or mildly disappointed. It doesn’t matter how I feel about the book; the point is that I can stop thinking long enough to sleep. I’ve read 13 books in 2021 so far.

I found the reading insights section of the Kindle app. My record for days in row spent reading is 14 and my record for weeks in a row spent reading is 21.

I’ve spent nearly £50 on books in the last month. I can afford to, thankfully (it’s not like I spend money on much else), but if I’m not careful I’m going to become nocturnal in the process.

Fortunately, there are several things I can do about this.

  1. Invest in Kindle Unlimited. I need it.
  2. Start reading EARLIER in the evening so I’m done reading before 4 AM.
  3. Select my reading choices in advance of my pre-bedtime reading.

Step 1 is, in theory, easy. Steps 2 and 3 will be harder. I can’t do moderation but, somehow, I have to find a book I like and then stop myself from reading it till evening.

I’ll also have to stop whatever sociable thing I’m doing with the rents prior to midnight, ideally. We are a family of night owls who thrive on shared TV experiences. I don’t know how to cut myself off early with that but I guess I’ll have to figure something out.

I have to make some changes but this is honestly the first time I’ve felt like the changes are feasible enough to work. I function best when I can trick my stress – no, let’s not beat about the bush – anxiety (because stress is normal and functional. Getting stupidly apprehensive about every single important social interaction I have is not) into thinking I’m about to do something fun/exciting. Not scary or exhausting or frustrating. Fun. Reading at bedtime is fun. Ergo, bedtime becomes tolerable and far less boring and sleep happens sooner.

Let’s see if this works.

Realignment

It’s funny how much easier things get when you start trying to do the things you like, and stop forcing yourself to do so much of the things that you don’t. My sleep schedule is still crap, I still have lockdown brain (don’t we all at this point?), and I’m a self-employed job seeker who doesn’t talk to people as much as I probably should. But still. I think I’m doing okay, all things considered.

Instead of trying to not work on weekends (and then feeling guilty when a stray deadline means I inevitably must), I’m trying not to work after dinner except in emergencies. I define work at this point as anything not fun or too practical. I can browse LinkedIn for jobs but I won’t let myself apply until the following day, for example. It’s good to have a point where you can draw the line and stop working in a 24 hour period without feeling guilty, y’know?

I think I’ve also finally solved my hatred of my professional Instagram account. I have no idea if any of my followers convert to customers or clients, so why should I fuck up my arms and worry about constantly scheduling posts in? Instead of going for the full self-promo marketing hog that makes me want to rip my spleen out or whatever, I’ve decided that I will post one thing a week that I’ve made/done and am proud of. I can post stories at the weekend but not posts. Post ideas that I come up with at the weekend will get scheduled for the following week.

It’s made a huge difference to how I feel about the whole thing. Instagram only mildly irritates me now and posting on my professional account. doesn’t feel forced anymore. I think what I’m posting is a far more varied and accurate reflection of what I’m like anyway. People buy from and support people, so there’s that too I guess if I really want to look at it through a marketing lens.

In other news, I’ve realised that putting my guitar next to my bed is better than having it in the music room. I have to make a conscious decision to go into the music room and pick up an instrument, but now an instrument is next to me as soon as I get up, watching me. Waiting for me to play it. So I do.

Also also, the weight loss is going reasonably well. I’m trying to maintain an equilibrium now instead of just losing lbs, but I like the way I look a lot more than I used to. I can fit into a pair of jeans that I previously hadn’t worn in 3 years (because the button breaks under the slightest amount of strain and I don’t know how to fix it), and I can poke bits of my ribs now!

I’m still chugging away at the transcribing, writing, and job applications, as well as trying to get myself to work on the garden database project that I’m severely slacking off on (if the client was anyone other than my mum I’d be freaking out right now). I haven’t got my life figured out by any means.

I still don’t know how to motivate myself or prioritise or get up in the morning and go to bed at a sane time. I don’t know how to manage my time either, and a part of me feels guilty for still living with my parents at the age of 24, despite the fact that there’s a global pandemic on, the job market is shit, and it’s not exactly unusual to live with your parents at my age anymore. Plenty of my friends do and I don’t judge them for it.

I don’t have a 5 year plan for my career, let alone my life. I don’t do long-term planning. I’m a firm believer in the idea that life is not something you plan; it’s something that happens, and you do your best to work it to your advantage.

So here I am, working it.

More Writing

I did some plotting today with the help of a few random friends and now I desperately need to gush about my WIP. To avoid repeating myself too much, I figured I’d best do it here.

The latest plot updates are as follows:

  • The magic supercouple owe their gossipy lawyer neighbour at least one favour for the legal help she’s given them in the past. As a result of this, they hire her grouchy grandson to help out in the shop.
  • After gaining his title, The Vanquisher got promoted to in-universe cop. He resigned near immediately because of police brutality and the fact that he was dealing with PTSD from the whole event that got him known as The Vanquisher in the first place, and it was only after he resigned that the media decided to vilify his title. He’s been kinda vigilante-ing (AKA hunting) with his husband ever since.
  • The heroine likes reading and hunting to the point where she starts being known as The Huntress. Will she pick up media attention for that? Will the coverage be any good, given who her foster dads are? Only time will tell…
  • Love interest number 1 is now a character that exists. Poor girl. She gets her heart broken by the heroine but, on the upside, at least she does manage to survive the wider story.
  • Love interest number 1’s brother (the grouchy grandson) finds out that their father is having an affair with the family poltergeist (there are some straight characters in this story, in case anyone *cough* my brother *cough* was wondering). This only comes as news to him and his sister.
  • One of The Vanquisher’s Combat students is a chill redhead who’s determined to improve the in-universe police force from the inside out, though The Vanquisher really isn’t convinced that it’ll work. She’s also bi (cause I realised I didn’t have any bi characters in this story yet and why not, y’know?) and the heroine has a crush on her for a brief period of time. I haven’t decided how much success this woman will have with the whole police brutality thing yet.

I’ve realised that I write best when I only have a vague idea of where I want to go with something. This essentially means that I can only do short-term plotting. I have to know the steps/scenes of how my characters will get to a certain plot point, but I can only determine that by how my characters react to events within a scene. I can’t plot too far ahead for that precise reason. Sometimes my characters take me by surprise, and then the whole narrative trajectory needs adjusting.

Anyway, I did not expect my random fantasy novel to be quite so coming-of-age themed. I look forward to the next narrative surprise!