[Transcript] Lakewood Public Library Author Talk: The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation

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Hello readers! I recently recorded a Meet the Author talk at a local library. It was so much fun and I loved being able to add a little more about current events that obviously weren’t covered in the book that was published a little over a year ago.

You can watch the video here:

The audio is a little quiet, so it’s best watched with headphones (I got the best results watching on my phone), but I also wrote out a transcript in case you’re more of a reader than a viewer or if you miss any of the audio.

Check out the full transcript below, sans all my “um” noises as I checked my notes. (Ugh).


Title Card reads:
Caitlin Fisher
The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong
Lakewood Public Library

Hi, I’m Caitlin Fisher, the author of The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation: How to Succeed in a Society that Blames You for Everything Gone Wrong.

I’m a local author, I live on the west side of Cleveland in West Park, and I have a bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Higher Education with a background in career counseling and marketing. We’ll talk about millennial job hopping later, it’s relevant. And I also write and teach about boundaries and emotional recovery after leaving an abusive marriage two years ago. So, a long and varied story like many millennials. 

About the book

I’m going to start off just by talking about how I got the idea for The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. It actually started as a blog post I wrote in 2016. I had been doing some research into emotional abuse, recovery, and trauma work. And I kept coming across the idea of gaslighting, which is a manipulation tactic where essentially you make people doubt their own perceptions or reality. So, they tell you their experience of something and you essentially say, “What, that’s crazy, that can’t be right.” 

The more I learned about this concept, the more I realized that’s sort of how we’ve been treating young people entering the workforce. So we were raised being told, you know, “if you work hard, you can do anything.” And then we leave college, or maybe we don’t go to college, and we’re putting in the work and working very hard, and we’re not getting anywhere. And the more noise we make about this, the more we’re told “That’s not really how it works, you’re being entitled.” 

And this book came from that. So after the blog post I turned it into a full length book, it’s got 12 chapters, and each chapter is titled “Millennials are Killing…” something or other. Topics range from the American Dream to Relationships and Marriage to the Economy. Anything we can be accused of destroying as dirty, entitled millennials, I tried to hit the highlights of. 

Why this book?

What I wanted to do with the book is not only address this concept of gaslighting, I wanted to validate what millennials have been through. I wanted to have space for those experiences and let people know that they’re relatable, they’re not unique and they’re not doing it wrong and messing it up, they’re not alone. There’s a mix of reassurance, unpacking why we’re being accused of being so entitled when we want basic human necessities, and then each chapter ends with practical advice to make sure you’re killing it, since we’re killing everything.

I also want to acknowledge privilege. I am a well-educated white person. I am queer but can pass for cis and straight, and that affords me a lot of privilege in society. Society is set up for people who look like me. So, as much as possible throughout the book, when I talk about concepts I know that not everyone views their experience in our society through the same lens that I did. So I try as much as possible to talk about how racism, classism, and ableism might affect people’s experiences throughout the book. Because I don’t just want to be speaking about my experiences, I want it to be relatable to as many people as possible. 

I am a millennial with baby boomer parents, so those are the experiences that I talk about a lot. I’ve gotten a little bit of commentary about how I skipped Gen X in the middle (Gen X is kind of used to it, unfortunately), but that’s not my lived experience. I can’t really speak to Gen X because I’m a millennial with boomer parents, so that’s what I’m writing about.  

Overall what I want people to take away from this book is that, one, they’re not alone in their struggles. Two, I want millennials to keep standing up and speaking out when they see that things aren’t right and aren’t fair. I love that about us, I love that we are pointing to problems in society and saying, “Hey, let’s maybe do something about that.” And three, it’s also a call for the generational blame game to stop with us. I want us to pave the way for Generation Z to come through and be as amazing as they’re already showing us they are. And so, I don’t want us to argue about the kids these days on TikTok and the Tide Pods and everything, because that’s just more in-fighting and it’s not helping us get where we want to go. 

Also, this is not a book that’s just for millennials. Obviously I’ve been talking about Gen Z a lot, and I think it could be a really helpful primer for them, especially as they’re finishing high school and entering college. And I’ve also had Gen X and Baby Boomer readers say that they’ve really loved it and appreciated the perspective it gave them about the millennial experience. 

How to read “The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation”

So, just to get into the content of the book, I wrote it in such a way that you can read one chapter if that’s a certain topic that you’re interested in, or you can read through the whole book. It’s definitely a book you can take chapter by chapter, it doesn’t have an overall narrative that has to be read in order, but rather each chapter is its own unique section. 

Part 1: Millennials are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks

It’s divided into three parts. Part 1 is called “Millennials Are Entitled, Disrespectful Punks” and that section talks about the American Dream, difficult parent-child relationships once millennials enter adulthood and they’re starting to connect with their parents on that level, and the tension that can arise there, especially if we had difficult childhoods. There’s a chapter about the workforce and career path of millennials. Like I mentioned, there tends to be a little bit more job hopping and mix-and-match career building. And then there’s a chapter about the education system. 

I started the book off here because I think these are some of the biggest, most impactful claims that people make about millennials and about how we are up-ending the status quo, which I personally think is a good thing. 

The American Dream

The American Dream chapter really tackles that avocado toast headline, where it says “if millennials want to buy a house, they need to lay off the avocado toast.” So this chapter tackles the assumption that we can’t be home owners because we’re too busy spending frivolously on brunch. And I really address the structure of the “American Dream” — air quotes — and the fact that it’s really built on that idea that if you work hard you’ll achieve it. The American Dream being a stable career, retirement savings, a nice house, marriage and kids if you want that. But what’s sort of sinister about the American Dream is that if you tell everyone if you work hard you can achieve it, anybody who hasn’t achieved it, there’s this easy finger-pointing we can do to say that they’re obviously not working hard enough. 

And then millennials are coming in to ruin the day once again and they say, “How can we buy a home? It’s not the avocado toast, it’s student loans, it’s the fact that the minimum wage hasn’t been raised since 2009, it’s the fact that we can’t afford rent and retirement and healthcare.” So we’ve started to see the American Dream fall apart around the edges. 

And we really need to acknowledge that the original American Dream is only accessible to a privileged few. People who can afford to go to college without too much debt, or no debt. People who don’t need to work two or three jobs to make a living. There’s definitely a lot of privilege involved in the American Dream and I think that millennials on the whole are realizing that and pointing it out. And so that gaslighting effect comes in when they say “Hey, this seems kind of messed up, maybe we should change the way we’re doing things,” and the establishment says, “We don’t talk about that, just keep working hard and you’ll get there, I promise.” And we’re starting to see that that’s not necessarily the truth. 

Millennial career paths and company culture

So, related to the American Dream is the career trajectory of millennials. So I’m going to speak a little bit about that workplace chapter. As I mentioned earlier, I have a bachelor’s in Psychology and then I went to grad school to work in Higher Education. I ended up doing purchasing and was doing freelance marketing also, and now I do full time marketing. So none of what I studied in college is necessarily relevant to what I do as a career now. And you find that a lot, I think, with millennials. 

So your classic career path for, let’s say, a baby boomer, is you get an entry level job, you put in time, you get a promotion, you put in time, you get another promotion, you put in the time, and then you retire comfortably at 65. Obviously not everybody, and obviously there are barriers and struggles across generations, but that’s your typical ladder — they call it the corporate ladder for a reason. 

And millennials are coming in and they are leaving jobs without putting in all that time because they want a better work life balance, they want a better culture fit.  And this is really forcing companies when they’re hiring new talent to consider what millennials want. Millennials now are basically adults under 40, so people are hiring millennials, and millennials want flexible hours, they want flex time so they can go to a doctor’s appointment, we really like remote work, which is now especially relevant in the COVID pandemic because we found out pretty quickly that most office work can be done from home without losing any productivity. So I think what we’re going to see post-COVID is that there will be a lot more companies offering remote work as a flexible perk when they’re hiring people, and that’s going to attract the millennials because we like that flexibility and we like the work life balance. You know, when you don’t have to get up super early to get ready and commute, and then commute home before you make dinner, you get a lot of hours in your day back that you can spend on things that make you happy, such as sleeping or having a hobby.

And we also want better paid parental leave when we have kids, better vacation time, wages that are more in line with the cost of living, and even union protections. And once again we say, “Hey, what about these things, they do them in other countries, they’re working, people seem really happy over there in those other countries,” and we’re again told, “No no, don’t talk about that, don’t question it, just keep working, you’ll get there.” And again it’s this cultural gaslighting. 

Just some stats out of the book, a 2014 study from Bentley University reported that millennials would take a pay cut of $7600 a year to take a job with a better work-life balance, better company culture, or that they felt was more purposeful. So, we don’t like work that just feels like droning along for somebody else’s dollar. We like work that makes us feel good about ourselves and the work that we do as well as what the company as the whole is doing. So we want to do work that we feel matters. And I think we’re going to see this also with Gen Z as they enter the workforce. 

So I think that companies are going to have to adapt as we continue. Because if you can’t lure in the talent with money when you have a bad company culture, you’re going to have to adapt your company culture. Which I think is a good thing! 

I do resume and cover letter writing and help people find jobs as a side business (because millennials have to have four businesses, I guess), and I’ve noticed that job descriptions that are being posted by companies now have a really big focus on what it’s like to work there and what the culture is like. So we’re seeing a lot of “one Friday a month we do a team outing,” and they’re really trying to showcase the ways that they value their workers, and so that’s going to attract the millennials that want that sort of more fun, more purposeful, team oriented work. Which I think is exciting! 

The education system – do we need college?

And then, on your way to those jobs we need to talk about education. And the education chapter not only talks about college but starts in preschool. Your school experience can add a lot to your struggle or can add a lot to your privilege, which is important to recognize. 

So a big question that comes up is do you need to go to college to be successful? What does it mean to be successful? Does it mean having a degree, does it mean having a certain income, does it mean being debt free, does it mean the American Dream? Only you can decide what success means for you, which is good and also sometimes a struggle, because you look into the void and you don’t know what success means to you and there’s a little existential crisis sometimes, but I think that college is not always necessary. I think we put a lot of pressure on very young people to decide what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives, and at 18 if somebody’s not sure they want to go to college, I think it’s irresponsible to force them into debt because college is just part of the process. 

I think it’s completely valid if you want to take a couple years off to decide what you want to do, or if you want to go to trade school instead, or if you want to go to school part time, or you end up in your 40s and decide you’re ready to get a degree now. So however you want to do it, whenever you decide you want to go to college, I think it’s really important that we don’t put so much pressure on “the way you’re supposed to do it.” Which I think is pretty important. And you’ll even have people making their own businesses, whether or not they went to college. There’s all sorts of lists of “careers you can get without a college degree” and that’s super valid. And that’s what I explore in the education chapter. 

Part 2: Millennials are Destroying Society

Next up in Part 2, Millennials Are Destroying Society, there’s a few chapters but what I really want to talk about is the chapter about the economy. Because there’s headlines like “Why aren’t millennials buying diamonds?” and “Millennials aren’t saving for retirement” and “Millennials have killed the mall” and I once again think, that’s a little unfair to blame all of that on the millennials. 

We don’t need malls because all those stores are online, and we don’t buy diamonds because we have found out that diamonds can be very unethical. And also, we have to pay rent and healthcare, so we don’t have a lot of diamond money laying around. So we can’t afford those luxury items — it goes back to the minimum wage issue, goes back to housing costs, goes back to wealth in general. 

The latest numbers from the Federal Reserve say that baby boomers have 56.8% of the wealth in the US, and millennials have 3.4%. So, were not buying diamonds or (insert industry) because we don’t have the funds to be doing that. We’re basically just trying to survive. Especially during COVID right now. 

Living paycheck to paycheck

This chapter also tackles poverty and the poverty line. Millennials are the most impoverished generation, as of 2016 data from the Pew Research Center. I could not find more recent data, I tried, but that was the last big report that came out. So in 2016, we had 5.3 million millennial households under the poverty line in the US. Obviously this affects other generations as well, there were 5 million baby boomer households and 4.2 million Gen X households under the poverty line also. 

And it’s important to talk about this in relation to that American Dream, in relation to the economy and the workforce, because while we do have security measures in place to help people under the poverty line, like food stamps, housing assistance, daycare assistance, things like that so that people can go to work and work hard for that American Dream, you can get a 25 cent pay raise that loses you eligibility for your benefits and then you’re worse off than before you got a raise. So our systems are set up to keep poor people poor. And the more we point that out the more everybody says “Hey we don’t talk about that, be quiet, you’re starting to sound a little crazy and entitled” — gaslighting. 

So definitely my intention here is to let people know, again, that they’re not crazy for saying “This is my experience and I’m working hard and it’s not getting me anywhere.” You know, the expectation is that that should make you successful and if you’re not successful by American Dream standards, and you think you’re doing something wrong and other people think you’re doing something wrong. So we’re creating this us vs. them thing of “Well, people who don’t have these measures of success must not be working hard enough, and those things will never happen to me because I work hard.” 

But 40% of Americans are one missed paycheck away from the poverty line. We wouldn’t know what to do, we’re paycheck to paycheck in this culture. And we’re so much closer to being homeless or jobless than we are to becoming billionaires, but if the billionaires keep us arguing amongst ourselves then we don’t notice the billionaires telling us not to worry and that everything will be alright. 

So I am apparently slowly radicalizing people with this. Or just pointing out that there’s issues in society and it’s okay to talk about them, and we should talk about them and we should make change. 

Part 3: Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now

So that’s my hard hitter from Part 2. And then in Part 3, Millennials Are Just Making Stuff Up Now, I talk about gender identity, the Me Too movement, the relationship escalator, how we’re killing marriage by not necessarily going dating-marriage-babies, we’re turning all that on its head. Millennial parenting, which I had to consult with millennial parents about to make sure I knew what I was talking about. And then just sort of a call to action, once again, to stop turning it around and blaming it on the next generation when they show up and they start making this noise too. 

Millennials and Gen Z activism

I want millennials to cheer on Gen Z, which so far we’ve really been doing a good job of. Transitioning out of talking about the book and coming into the world of 2020, there’s so much going on since I wrote this that I really want to talk about. And that’s especially the fact that millennials and Generation Z are so active politically and in activism and advocacy work. 

We’re seeing a demand for more transparency from brands and businesses. We’re seeing that millennials and Gen Z consumers expect brands to stand up for social justice issues. And we expect to see more about their business practices. 

Nike did an ad for Black Lives Matter that said, “Just this once, don’t do it,” as in, don’t turn your back on racism, don’t look away. And the millennials and Gen Z were like, “Cool, well we buy Nike now” and that got them a lot of brand affinity. It’s a good business move now for brands to be chasing that millennial and Gen Z approval because those are the fastest growing generations with buying power. 

We also are voting with our dollar, shopping locally and with small businesses, trying to keep local businesses afloat especially during COVID. I know a lot of my friends are not eating out as much because we’re tipping higher when we do eat out. So with that restaurant budget, we’re trying to keep restaurants that are locally owned afloat more because we don’t know what it’s going to look like by the time whatever’s happening with COVID is done happening. 

We’re also seeing millennials and Gen Z, and the older generations too, purchase from Black-owned companies and crafters, and queer-owned companies and crafters. We’re saying “I want to support these communities that are typically marginalized and held back from businesses” so we’re spending what money we do have in ways that align with our morals, which I love about us and Gen Z. 

I specifically want to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement, just because that is so important to discuss in 2020. We’ve seen protests happening since May and it is now August and they’re still happening daily, they’ve been happening across the world. And there was some data from Y Pulse that came out this June, that said 50% of Gen Z and millennials have participated in Black Lives Matter protests or awareness, and 69% think that brands and companies should be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, going back to that Nike story. 

Business Insider also reported that 90% of Gen Z supports the Black Lives Matter movement, 77% of them have been to a protest, and 62% are willing to be arrested at a protest. So Generation Z is not holding back, they are showing up, and I love them for it, and I’m so excited and can’t wait to hear more about what they’re doing. 

But that really starts with us as the millennial generation. We’ve been recognizing and pointing out “this isn’t right, we need to change the way our society is set up” and everybody older than us is saying “No, just pipe down, just put your head down and work hard and you’ll get there.” We need to keep saying that we need change, and then we need to give Gen Z the space to show up and have that 90% of them supporting really important justice efforts. So we can work with them or we can turn around and be our crotchety elders and I’d really rather we be the awesome generation that I know we are. 

Get a copy!

Buy The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Target, or anywhere else books are sold!

Or borrow from the Lakewood Public Library (or any local library) as a hard copy or virtually via Hoopla, Libby, or your favorite library app. 

 

When Art is Your Love Language

When I’m so happy and satisfied and moved and full of love about something or someone, I make art about it.

I write poetry or love letters. I paint. I create little cartoon portraits on internet apps.

As children and still as adults, long afternoons and evenings were spent with my brother and sister, reaching over each other to get a tube of the next color we needed, trading brushes, just creating together. It led to a lifelong love of creativity and art as an expression of love, affection, and closeness.

When I love someone, I show it in art.

In April, coping with the early days of socially isolating due to the COVID pandemic, my partner and I sent letters to each other to get through the long stretches without seeing each other. I sent him six small watercolor paintings with my letters, and the last letter was a poem.

When my friend lost two pets over the summer, I thought “I should paint them a portrait of those pets.” I haven’t done it yet, but I’ll get there. Sometimes the art has to percolate.

My partner and his roommate love Skyrim, so I painted them a scene of a dragon flying among snowy mountains and a forest. I plan to paint my sister a similar one for her new home when she moves in with her fiancé.

An ex partner loved mermaids, and I painted her a scene of a mermaid looking out to sea at sunset. The mermaid had a back tattoo and a fin mohawk, and the sunset and water were the colors of the bisexual pride flag.

If I love you, I show it in art. In colors. In words.

I’ve tried selling art before, and it doesn’t always feel the same. It’s hard for me to get the art moving without that love behind it.

It’s okay to just enjoy your artistic hobbies and not try to monetize them — it’s a capitalist pressure to think we need to only do things that can bring in income.

Creating for the sake of creation is a radical act, and we should do it more often.

I’ve also made art for people who it turned out weren’t safe for me.

This art feels like a betrayal. Short stories I wrote for an abuser. A painting. A story recited in public about how real and true love and friendship could be.

That lost art was part of me, and undeserved by them. If I had a time machine I would write a different story. But I told that story — even if the story isn’t the truth anymore.

It hurts to know that I put that part of myself on paper or in words, when I later wish I never had.

I can’t take it back, but it hurts to feel like I wasted it.

When I’m feeling blocked creatively, is it because I don’t want to “waste” art on people?

In “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo says that it’s okay to discard (throw away, donate, or otherwise re-home) gifts from others, because sometimes the joy of the item was in the moment of giving. If it no longer gives you joy, it’s okay to discard.

Can the same be true of art?

In the moment, the creation of that art was joyous and full of love. In the moment, the art was pure. The words, the brushstrokes, the art, the love — it was all real.

And the love being real doesn’t mean that the pain wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the abuse wasn’t real. The love being real doesn’t mean that the betrayal wasn’t real.

I can be at peace with the fact that those people received my art, and my love.

The authenticity of my love, and my art as an extension of it, is about me. Not them.

And I will keep making art.

And I will keep loving.

How to Make Any Criticism Constructive

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Criticism is hard to hear, because no one wants to hear that they’re doing something wrong. But criticism can be a gift, if you know what to look for. 

We often hear about “constructive criticism,” which is meant to help us improve (that’s why it’s constructive). But even well-meaning criticism can feel bad, because it makes us believe negative things about ourselves.

How to Break the Criticism Cycle

Criticism makes us feel bad because we believe that if we were doing things right, there wouldn’t be anything to criticize. Therefore, criticism means we did poorly, and we believe it’s a sign of our failure.

Criticism does not mean failure.

Every final version of something you see has gone through the process of critique and editing. Sometimes we self-edit and critique, and sometimes we ask others to do it for us, like a proofreader, a workshop group, or sending it to a friend and asking for their thoughts. Sometimes we receive criticism we didn’t ask for, and when criticism comes as a surprise we often feel defensive and hurt.

Each time we receive criticism, whether it’s asked for or not, we have an opportunity to learn from it and turn it into something constructive and helpful.

Taking Constructive Criticism

When faced with a criticism, get curious instead of defensive. Ask yourself some questions about it, like: 

  1. Is this criticism true?
  2. Is this criticism something I need to change to improve myself or my work?
  3. Can I use this experience to learn something?

Is it true?

Sometimes people will criticize you and it’s something you should change to be a better version of yourself. But other times, criticism may not actually be relevant. 

When criticism hits us hardest, it’s usually because we already believe a negative thought about ourselves about a similar thing. If I feel like someone is criticizing my writing, it hurts more if I already believe I’m not a good enough writer and they’re echoing that negative belief.

But ask yourself, really deeply ask, if the criticism is true.

And also ask if your interpretation of the criticism is true.

They said I’m a bad parent. Did they say that? Or did they point out to you that your car seat wasn’t installed properly? Is your car seat installed properly?

They said I’m not qualified as an expert on the subject I talk about. Did they say that? Or did they make a broad statement about your field that you took personally? Are you qualified?

They said I’m not good at my job. Did they say that? Or did you get feedback in a review on areas that need improvement? Do you need to improve those areas of your performance?

But if it’s criticism that can help you improve, here’s how to sift out the constructive bits.

Is this something I need to change?

Once you determine if something is true or not, the next step is deciding if it’s something you need to change.

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. If this is true, do you need to change it? Absolutely, yes. It’s a safety concern. Go fix your carseat.

They said I’m not qualified. Is this true? Make a list of the reasons you’re qualified to do your work and if you actually are qualified, move along and get back to work. If you determine that you really aren’t qualified for something, then make a plan to get what you need in order to feel confident in your qualifications.

I got a negative review at work. Is the criticism of your work performance true? If so, make a plan with your supervisor to check in on your improvements over the next several months so your next review is outstanding.

Can I learn something?

Whether or not a criticism is true, can you learn from the experience?

They said my carseat wasn’t installed properly. In this example, you learned about proper carseat installation. This is great information to have for the safety of your kids.

They said I’m not qualified. In this situation, you learned about all the things that do qualify you and add evidence to your list of reasons to feel confident when you’re facing imposter syndrome. In your research of additional qualifications, you might have also learned some easy ways to up your credentials to feel even more confident.

I got a negative review at work. In this example, it’s a great time to commit to learning new things at work to take your performance to the next level in your career. The things you improve and learn will be great for your resume too.

Being Vulnerable to Criticism

Criticism feels so uncomfortable because it makes us feel vulnerable. Putting yourself out there into the world as a writer or artist can feel extra vulnerable and intimidating simply because it means people will critique our work.

Someone left a comment on a review of my book that I’m capitalizing on millennials’ insecurities. 

This commenter is criticizing me – but is a book that targets millennials’ insecurities something I need to change? Actually, no. Because my book helps people overcome those insecurities. 

This criticism gave me some clarity. I do hope to attract millennials with insecurities to my book. Because my book is here to help them. 

However, I also received criticism that I didn’t push far enough on certain topics in my book, and this is relevant criticism that I would change next time. I was too timid and didn’t want to make waves with divisive opinions. I value this criticism and will address it in my next book, or a later version of Gaslighting. 

Is There Non-Constructive Criticism?

Absolutely. Sometimes, people’s criticism truly is just bullshit that’s about them.

People who criticize you for not being part of their religion, not living up to their standards or expectations, or not trusting you to make your own choices are people who are criticizing you to control you.

This is not constructive criticism, this is a boundary violation and manipulation tactic. You’re free to simply ignore them and take distance from people who criticize to hurt you.

PS. You can buy my book here!

 

Can You Run Out of Motivation?

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Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Do you ever panic that you need to achieve all your dreams right now, or you’ll run out of motivation — or time? 

I spend a lot of time reminding myself that going slow and being deliberate is part of the process. I have to remind myself that my ideas are good and worth pursuing, even if I don’t pursue all of them now. 

For me, trying to do a little of everything is a recipe for zero things getting finished. 

It’s why I try to focus on one thing (or two) at a time, and I make note of the other ideas as they come to me. I’ll get to them later — but I need to focus now so that I can prove to myself that diligence and focus pays off, and that my motivation keeps showing up time and time again.

Maybe I’ll write more books. Maybe I won’t. But what matters right now, even with all those possibilities out there, is that I focus my energy on being the best author of my current book. Which means I can’t just chuck it in the trash to chase my next shiny book idea. 

I have to trust that those other book ideas will still be waiting for me even if I commit to put in more time being the best author of my first one.

How can this relate to your life?

Maybe you’re focused on learning best practices in your job and you’re so worried about optimizing every process at once that you’re losing sight of doing one thing, measuring success, and then moving on once you’ve mastered it.

Maybe you’re learning a new art medium and you’re tempted to quit after you don’t get the hang of it immediately.

What would be possible if you stayed here a little while longer and gave it more of your focus?

I learned a lot from my first book. I learned how to make myself focus when I wasn’t in the mood. I learned how to make little superscript reference numbers and put together a reference list. I’m learning how to market my book. And I’m learning how to let negative reviews roll off me. 

Most importantly, I learned that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and some people aren’t going to like my book or me. 

But that does not, for one single moment, mean I am ever going to stop sharing my message and writing. Because the people who do enjoy my message are the people I am here to help. 

What can you focus on right now? What is your one thing? You have to be willing to put the focus in on one thing to prove to yourself that your idea is worth finishing before you pick up the next shiny object.

Your possibilities are endless.

PS. Besides my book, launching my online class teaching folks how to revamp their boundaries after trauma is my main priority! (I did say that sometimes I pick two things). Email me to reserve a spot in the course at 50% off list price.

How I Check My Email to Be a Better Writer

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I aspire to be a person who goes to sleep with zero unread emails every day.

It doesn’t always happen that way, because I’ll end up saving something as a to-do and then before you know it, that little red bubble on my phone says I’m slowly piling up emails again.

But I need these.

These are my Medium digests, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are emails from workshops, coaches, and courses I’m in, with important information I need to be a better writer.

These are fourteen thousand emails from Shaunta Grimes.

These are business expense receipts, submission deadlines, and form submissions from my website.

These are, okay, that one is just a reminder that I need to skip this month’s MeUndies order.

Getting started

I set myself a timer and decided I wouldn’t check my phone or Facebook until the timer went off. Until then, it was just me and my inbox.

I powered through about 80 emails in 40 minutes and that little red notification bubble has (temporarily) gone back to hell where it came from.

To get started, I opened the following tabs in my browser:

I ended up opening a budget spreadsheet and WordPress as well, which I explain below.

I just started at the top of the email list and went through one at a time. And I took an action with each email.

  • Medium Digests: I opened each article that I wanted to read later and saved it to my reading list within Medium, then deleted the digest email
  • Mailing Lists: I unsubscribed if no longer relevant or simply marked as read if I wanted to stay on the list
  • Bills: I paid them, opened my Google Sheet where I track bills, and recorded the payment
  • Submission Calls: I put a card in my Shiny Object List describing the submission along with the deadline and link to submit — if I have time for shiny objects, I’ll submit during my next Shiny Week
  • Guest Posts: I get inquiries to submit guest posts to my website, so I responded to these with a no thanks or a tell me more
  • Account Confirmations: If I needed to click a button to confirm my email or reset a password, I took care of it in a few seconds and moved onto the next email
  • Valuable Emails: Emails that I want to keep handy but don’t have the focus to deal with right now got a label applied in Gmail so I can find them easily later

I also realized that I received a guest post inquiry through my coaching client inquiry form, so I hopped over to WordPress to adjust the verbiage and hopefully make it clearer what each form is for.

Building the new email habit

My goal is to handle my unread emails in this manner once or twice a day, but I’m not hung up on the zero as a marker of my success. What I want to get from this habit, however “successful” I am at keeping my inbox at zero, is a more intentional approach to my email inboxes and professional development.

It does me no good to be on mailing lists for writers and saving articles about writing if I’m not taking the time to read them, learn, and implement what they teach me.

Handling my email inbox is the first tiny step toward building the habit of improving my writing.

PS. You can get my book in paperback, audio, or ebook so you can read it however works for you!

The 9 Books That Defined My 2019

Part of being a good writer is being a good reader

After what can only be described as voracious reading of fiction and fantasy as a child, I lost reading for pleasure as an adult and switched only to “productive” reading. Self help. Motivation. Business building. Personal development.

After several years, I let myself read fiction again. I read Outlander for a book club and consumed the rest of the series, my childhood appetite for fantasy rushing back.

I switch back and forth now in a relatively 50/50 split between stuff to make my brain smarter and stuff to make my brain relax and have fun.

They’re both necessary for me to be the best writer I can.

These are the books that defined my 2019

  1. The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner 

This book was the single most important book of the year for me, and honestly for every single person in the world. Go read this book. Caroline’s work changed me. I finally stopped hurting myself in the name of weight loss and thinness. I understood fatphobia and diet culture in a way I never had before. This book may have literally saved my life.

The F*ck It Diet provided the paradigm shift I needed to see the truth about my body and the fact that it’s okay to exist in it.

2. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Ph.D.

Before and after TFID arrived at my doorstep, I decided to read up on other body positive books. Health at Every Size helped solidify what Caroline Dooner had already begun to teach me: my body isn’t inherently unhealthy because it’s fat. I remember calling my sister in a rage while I was listening to it, angry at the lies that had been told to me as fact about my body for 30 years. Everyone should read this book.

3. Dietland by Sarai Walker

I heard about Dietland on the Unladylike podcast and felt compelled to read it right away. This fiction novel follows the life of Plum, a lifelong dieter who is saving up for weight loss surgery. She goes on a whirlwind adventure and makes a bunch of new feminist friends, while the narrative weaves back and forth between Plum and a series of murders that appear to implicate a new friend. It was a delightful read (even with the murdery bits) that has stuck with me all year. Highly recommend.

4. Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.

Like TFID helped me see the ways I was stuck in diet culture self-talk, Getting Past Your Past helped me see the ways my trauma manifests in repeated patterns linked through a lifetime of unprocessed memories. Francine Shapiro, who died in June this year, developed the EMDR method of trauma processing therapy. Just reading the book helped me start viewing my trauma in a new light, and entering EMDR therapy has helped me process my eating disorder, my abusive marriage, and traumatic memories from childhood emotional abuse.

5. The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher 

In 2016, I wrote a blog post about an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: The idea that millennials as a whole were being systematically gaslit by older generations and the capitalist systems at play in our country. In 2019, I published my debut book of the same title. Each chapter highlights an aspect of society that our generation has supposedly undermined and destroyed, with advice on how to keep killin’ it on a regular basis.

Maybe some parts of society suck and deserve to be dismantled.

6. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk 

Shockingly, this book is also about trauma processing. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author discusses the physical ways that trauma manifests in the body as chronic pain and illness. It turns out that neglect, emotional abuse, and other traumas can have lasting effects not only on the brain but on the entire human body. It was eye opening to learn about and helped me get a diagnosis for my fibromyalgia this year when I acknowledged the physical pain I had been ignoring in my body.

7. Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey 

When I was married, I read the first three books of a great sci-fi series, The Expanse. And then I didn’t read any books or watch any television that I had ever associated with him for eighteen months. No Expanse. No superhero shows. Not even the shows I had enjoyed by myself when I was with him. I was on media lockdown.

But in 2019 I met a friend who also loved The Expanse and he encouraged me to get back into the series. Reading Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in the series, was my first contact with husband-related media in a year and a half, and despite my fears it felt safe. I’ve continued to work through the rest of the books in the series this year and I’m all caught up on the TV adaptation as well.

8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I have a list of things I’m going to do with my life, and they are: foster kids, rescue dogs, buy a house, and hug Brené Brown. Her work on vulnerability and shame helped me realize that I’m worthy of love and belonging right now. Brené Brown also taught me to play and have fun (which helps me read fiction and schedule socializing with friends). Whatever way you can get your hands on any of her content, you should do so immediately.

9. The Animorphs Series by K. A. Applegate 

Re-reading this series that I adored as a child is doing some kind of healing in me that I don’t fully understand. I am amazed that I still remember major plot points and even lines of dialogue decades after reading them once or twice each in elementary school between fourth and sixth grade.

As an added bonus, reading them has strengthened my resolve to start a young adult science fiction series. I’ve allowed myself to return to the parts of YA sci-fi that I loved as a kid, and my brain just tossed a fully formed idea at me in the shower, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

My 2020 reading list

Looking over my 2019 list, I realize that I need to start branching out. Last year was about survival, this year was about laying the groundwork to heal, and next year is about becoming an improved version of myself. This will mean some of the same type of reading (and writing!) as 2019, but I also feel a deep need to read from more diverse authors.

I want to help all people, not just people who look like me and have similar experiences. And I am aware that I haven’t always examined my privilege closely and critically. In 2020 I want to open myself up to listen to the experiences of others so that I can be more aware.

Simply put: It’s time for me to stop focusing on reading work from white people.

Rather than continue to ask people of color to educate us about how we can better understand their experiences and be allies, we have to do our own work. Here are some excellent titles I’ve started researching that are on my 2020 reading list for a start:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

How do you measure a year?

In books, in words, in reconnecting with characters you thought you left behind a long time ago.

How to be a blogger

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Well, this is embarrassing,  you guys.

I haven’t written a post in four months.

That’s about the time I decided “I’m going to get serious about writing and really be a blogger.” I decided to live my dream. The process has been looking a little bit like this:

  • Should I make my own website or continue using WordPress as my website?
  • Can I write about non-minimalist stuff on my “Born Again Minimalist” blog?
  • Is “Born Again” too religiousy, causing me to miss out on target audience?
  • What’s my brand?
  • Do I need a logo?
  • Is the lotus thing overdone?
  • Should I offer additional services or products to people?
  • I should write a book, or a free PDF report, or something, to offer people.
  • I need a podcast or newsletter to stay in touch with people.
  • How many blogs per week should I be writing?
  • What is my MISSION for blogging?
  • How can I turn my blog into a business?
  • What’s my goal for blogging?

I was overwhelmed. That is a lot to think about.

In the process of asking all these questions, I became paralyzed with the fear of not doing things right. Of not doing things perfectly. Four months and a lot of personal development books later, I realized a couple things:

  1. Some is better than none.
  2. Done is better than perfect.

In realizing this, I have come up with the million dollar idea! A simple two-step process to being a blogger. I am going to rock your world with this, are you ready?

The two simple steps to being a blogger are just below…

  1. Write a blog post.
  2. Publish it on the internet.

I know, right? How am I not a millionaire with this kind of imaginative, creative, think-outside-the-box type advice? I’m on fire today.

That said, there really are more things to think about when it comes to being a successful blogger. First of all, what defines success for you? How will you measure it?

Success can be measured in all sorts of ways, depending on your goals for your blog or website.

  • Number of newsletter subscribers (I will be successful when I have 1,000 subscribers)
  • Number of blog subscribers (I will be successful when I have 100 blog followers)
  • Number of people who purchase a product or service (I will be successful when I help 50 people with my service)
  • Number of Facebook Likes, Shares, and Comments (I will be successful when 50% or more of my audience engages with my posts)
  • Number of posts per week (I will be successful when I consistently publish two blog posts per week)

Those are some examples. My current success metric will be consistently posting to this blog at least once per week. At the same time, I will be actively working on answering all those other questions posed above, in my overwhelm. But in the meantime, I can’t say I’m a blogger if I’m not actually blogging.

In conclusion: I apologize for my absence! I have really missed engaging with my regular readers and I feel like I have been neglecting you all.

If you’re on Facebook, you can check out my new “Like” page – Happy Fit Soul – Caitlin Reed, Coach!

My end game will be to provide services and tools for various aspects of life “fitness,” including health and nutrition, personal finance, personal relationships and communication, and careers, among other topics as I see fit.

(Ha! Get it? See fit? Because… fitness?)

I totally still got it.

See you guys again real soon!

Careers and cookies

I wrote before about quitting, and how it can be a freeing and incredible experience.  It’s very tempting to leave behind the daily grind and step outside the box, whether that box is a job, a relationship, a location, a booked calendar, or anything else.  It’s freeing to quit and do something that brings us more passion.

The reason this is relevant to me today is because I recently found myself on a call with a freelance client, for whom I write posts for several blogs and content for several websites.  And during this call, we talked about my ability to pick up some more hours of writing.  Because, according to the words that tumbled forth from my mouth, “I’d like to be writing full time.”

OH WOULD I?

Yes.  Yes I would.

We talked about hours and about my timeline (I imagine I would be at my current full-time place of employment for at least another year, but who knows?) and about my goals.

I had a real conversation about a very real career change.

When I have conversations about writing, picking up more hours, getting increased responsibilities, or even brainstorming new things to write about, I feel charged with energy.  I love to write.  I never thought I would be a writer.  But I never thought I would be a purchaser for a chemical manufacturer, an administrative assistant for a real estate company, or a career counselor either, and I have done all of those things.

I try not to get too caught up in goals, but this doesn’t feel like a goal.  This feels like a need.  At the very least, this is a strong desire that I think will bring me joy and passion and satisfaction.

Some of the articles I write for this client are about work-at-home parents, and the more I research and write about the topic, the more interested I am in becoming one of these work-at-home parents. I have recently been thinking very hard about my parenting desires (though, admittedly, children are not on my immediate to-do list) and I have realized that, by the time I have children, I would like to have enough income from my freelance work that I don’t have to return to the workforce outside the home.

I’d also like to point your attention to the two fortunes wrapped into one cookie that I opened recently when I treated myself to Chinese food for dinner:

Seriously.