Constructive

Some time back, I read an article in The Guardian about their pilot project to “see how readers would respond” to good news. They wrote more than 150 pieces highlighting the “good things happening in the world”. 

They discovered that the number of readers “for this kind of journalism” was “remarkably robust”. They found that “almost one in 10 readers” shared these stories on social media. (They don’t mention how this compares to the sharing of bad news.)

In a world where bad news seems to get the most sensationalised — I’m thinking about my Facebook feed and WhatsApp group chats — it’s refreshing to read uplifting news. 

Rather than switch off completely, which is what I’ve seen some self-help articles suggest to shield one’s self from the negativity, perhaps it could be a good thing to read about what’s going right in the world. Or to read a more constructive take on a negative issue. 

“If people just shrug at news because they feel there is little they can do, nothing will change,” Mark Rice-Oxley writes. 

While most people expect journalism to be just reportage, perhaps it may need to evolve to become something more. 

It doesn’t need to give solutions, but perhaps can provide a well-rounded list of suggestions that readers can use to make the world a better place. 

Clone

I recently read a hilarious piece of flash fiction titled ‘Taylor Swift’. 

In this weird alternative reality, anyone can purchase clones of Taylor Swift. Each clone knows all the songs, of course, and can sing them “just for you”. 

There are basic clones, and then there are others that are fitted with accessories like wings. 

One of my favourite things about flash fiction is that it can say so much in such a small number of words. 

For example, what kind of a world are these characters living in, that it’s possible to buy a live clone of a pop star with just a few swipes on your mobile phone. How cheap are they that some people can own multiple clones? 

Has capitalism grown into such a state that live Taylor Swift clones can be produced at such highly efficient rates? 

Besides being a “meditation on capitalism, fame and consumer culture”, it’s also a story about being a teenager. How emotions like love and rage seem so much bigger, and yet, you can switch from one emotion to another in a flash. 

At its core, Taylor Swift is a love story. To me, anyway. Or perhaps more of a story about love — wanting it, finding it, figuring out how to get it. 

Noshings #10

I’ve always been attracted to minimalism and in the last couple of years, I’ve been working on reducing my possessions.  

In his article about minimalism in the real world, Tim Denning provides a guide on how to maintain a mindset of minimalism, without having to live out of a backpack. Although I probably won’t follow all of the guidelines, I like the idea of establishing what minimalism looks like to me. It’s about deciding what I value most in life. 

Which is why I really love this email auto-responder that Josh Spector shares in For the Interested. Although it’s an auto-response, it’s thoughtfully written and is a reminder that one doesn’t have to be “busy” to be successful.

When it comes to achieving goals, sometimes success isn’t because of external situations. Sometimes you may not just be trying hard enough. I thought the four questions in this article was a good way to examine myself and whether I’m trying hard enough to achieve my goals.

In this essay that was written in 1963, Isaac Bashevis Singer questions the need for literature. Even then, literary fiction had begun to compete for attention with radio, film, press and television. With how accessible all those things have become in 2019, it seems like there’s even less need for literary fiction. People who need it would be those with “strong interest in human character and individuality”, he wrote. Perhaps this applies even moreso today. 

On my to-do list for food projects is making these gel-encased cocktail capsules. My degree finally has some use. I finally get to use more of what I learned in Chemistry classes. 😂

Fight

“Stoicism is not resignation. It is, in fact, a philosophy that shines brightest when the outlook is darkest.” 

This was one of the lines in the Daily Stoic email newsletter from November 18, 2019. It’s one of the reasons stoicism draws me in. 

In the hardest of times, in the most stressful of times, my practice of stoicism has helped to remind me that as long as there is hope, I can find the strength to keep going. 

That as long as there is something I can do about a situation, all I have to do, is do something. 

This issue of the newsletter highlighted the Spartans, during a moment when King Phillip of Macedon threatened to attack. He demanded their submission, saying that: “If I conquer your city, I will destroy you all.”

The Spartans refused to submit anyway, because the one word they heard was “If”. 

“They weren’t going to lay down their arms without a fight—you were going to have to come and take them,” says the Daily Stoic. 

There are times in my life when everything feels bleak, when it feels like I’ve fought as hard as I can and am still fighting. There are times when I’m tired — not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. 

Stoicism reminds me to “focus 100% of our energy on what is in our control”. 

It reminds me to stay alive, to keep fighting. 

Advertising

I’m always fascinated by the ads that Ryan Reynolds comes up with and this time was no different. His latest stunt is a gin ad in his Netflix movie ad in a Samsung TV ad, which Fast Company calls the “turducken of advertising”. 

In the article, the writer also comments on Reynolds’ “ability to mock pop culture while simultaneously creating it”. 

I love his ads because Reynolds is always on-brand. This style (or shtick) of his works because as an audience we know what he stands for as a brand. Would the same kind of ad work for someone else like, say, Hugh Jackman? 

I don’t know the answer to that, but it’s a question to think about. 

This, I guess, comes back to authenticity. 

Authenticity isn’t always about being the most earnest, or coming up with a message that will tug at heart strings. It’s about staying true to who you are, to what your brand represents. 

When Ron Swanson from the TV series Parks and Recreation sets up his business, he called it “Very Good Building & Development Co”. 

As background, Ron is no-fluff, no-nonsense type of character. And when he cares about something, works on it to the best of his ability. He’d rather have less business than compromise the quality of his work. 

The quality of his work is what sells. And when he needs to create a commercial, I think mainly to tell people that he exists, he goes straight to the point as well. 

For your viewing pleasure:

Noshings #9

Some days, a part of me wishes that I could get a job that just involved heaps of reading and reading (preferably fiction), and writing. So it makes sense I guess, that I read a number of articles about reading and writing. 

Authors Publish’s article on How to Read Like a Published Author has some tips on how to stay abreast of what’s going on in the publishing industry, and how to read fiction as part of one’s research. Much like any other industry, working as an author means knowing what’s trending in the market, as well as understanding why someone is good or not. 

Sometimes when I’m exploring better ways to combine content and commerce, I come across articles like 5 Top Tips to Turn a Blog into a Six-Figure Business. Carol Tice’s “three-prong strategy” is something that many articles recommend using various other names. Finding the right niche, optimising for search, and looking for ways to increase readership are all important if a person wants to make money by blogging. 

When it comes to blogging, the other thing that’s important is having an editorial calendar. Coschedule has a great strategy for coming up with a blogging schedule that one can stick with.

I always look forward to Ryan Holiday’s monthly reading list email, which has book recommendations that range from obscure philosophy books to popular non-fiction. Holiday reads widely and I almost always find myself adding his recommendations to my to-read list.  

One of the things I do that helps me keep productive, while still having time for myself is to maintain a system of “untouchable hours”. These are time blocks that I add to my calendar, during which I am mostly unreachable and I use it to focus on the scheduled activity at hand. 

Tranquility

I have been experiencing a high level of anxiety for the past week or so. There are periods of time when I am particularly high-strung. I’m learning to recognise these moments. 

I’m learning to develop strategies to deal with them. 

The Nov 12th issue of the Daily Stoic email newsletter spoke about tranquility and was a good reminder on building my “inner citadel”. Marcus Aurelius cultivated his by journalling. 

Ada Palmer (a historian, professor and novelist), who was highlighted in this issue of the newsletter, uses a strategy that requires “stopping, reframing, changing perspectives”. 

She sometimes imagines life as “being a guest at a banquet”. 

“Many great platters are being passed around for you to take from, but occasionally one arrives already empty, everyone else has already taken it all,” she says. 

She reminds herself that the food “was a gift” from the host, that “you didn’t really need it, there is plenty of other food”. 

“Sometimes just thinking about that can make me less upset by something,” she says.

“Cultivating your inner citadel doesn’t mean reaching a point where one is immune to life’s disturbances,” goes the Daily Stoic. 

“It’s about having your systems in place, your battle-tested line of defence ready to fend off those disturbances when they inevitably show up.”

I’m trying to improve my systems.