This Changes Everything Vs. My Life on the Road

For NaNoWriMo last year I wrote a blog post a day and one of them was about comparative reading. I think it is such an amazing concept and I wanted to do it again. It gives you a deeper understanding of what you have read, how certain writers tackle certain aspects, and how you can shift your focus when reading.

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book by Naomi Klein from 2014 which looks into the economic, social, and environmental aspects of climate change while also analysing how capitalism brought us there. It was a fascinating book and will probably be one of the main sources for my own project because it has so much wisdom in it.

Gloria Steinem’s memoir “My Life on the Road” was published in 2015. She describes her life as an activist, the people she has met and who have guided her throughout, and the issues women were and are still facing today. It was inspiring to read about a life lived so fully.

What I loved most about these two books was their inclusiveness, their focus on minorities and their unique struggles. Steinem writes about her experiences with people who have faced discrimination and how they dealt with them. What we can do about them. Naomi Klein is also very aware and she takes it a step further, linking these issues to climate change.

One aspect that made me look at “My Life on the Road” through an environmental lens in the first place was this one by Steinem in her interview with Emma Watson: If we had real equality between women and men, women would be able to decide for themselves if they want to receive children or not. They would have full reproductive freedom and would not have to have children they don’t want or cannot have. It would offer them opportunities to work, to invest in education, to live more sustainably. The effect of climate change also depends on global population size. This is why feminism should be one of the main strategies to conquer climate change. Naomi Klein adds to this as she says that every movement aiming for equality is a step in the right direction of conquering climate change.

Our environmental problems today are the product of hundreds of years of inequality, of exploitation, and expression of power over nature. In a culture where not everyone is able to work together because of prejudices and strong opposing opinions, there will be no unified action against climate change. One which we so desperately need. Gloria Steinem argues that these movements are indeed happening right now, though, and that she has experienced living right among them. Felt their power and the hope they radiate. This is also what I noticed in the end of “This Changes Everything”. There is a way to get through this. We have to transform our values and work for a more just world.

“My Life on the Road” examines how this is done in detail. Going around, talking to people. Listening to their struggles and spreading awareness. Giving talks to activists, forming groups, marching. These are the practical aspects of the great change Naomi Klein wrote about.

Since Klein’s book is researched to a great detail and could be seen more as a piece of journalism, it does not have as many personal stories in it as “My Life on the Road”. However, the part I loved the most, was her telling the story how she struggled to get pregnant and how her son was born. She wrote about the BP oil spill and its effect on the eggs and youngest fish in lakes and oceans. It was beautifully linked and thus all the more powerful. “My Life on the Road” as a memoir has all these stories and anecdotes which are linked to the pressing issues of our time. This taught me a lot: When writing my own book I have to connect my own stories to the issues I’m talking about. Otherwise, they will get too distant. I don’t want to be a preacher. I want to be an observer of the world, a storyteller.

Both books have changed my perception. After finishing “This Changes Everything” today I am a bit more hopeful that we can avert the crisis, but I’m also more painfully aware of the damage that we have done thus far. I feel physical pain in my stomach and heart when I read about oil spills, about devastating pollution, and the exploitation of people all over the world. Gloria Steinem assured me through the women’s movement that this can be changed. I have had the great amount of opportunities only through women like her. Once we recognise our power as a unified people, we can make a difference. Once we tell our stories and share our values, we will succeed.

Both of them showed me a journalism at its finest. Since it is a profession I could really see myself in, it was interesting to read about their lives. I felt a personal connection through the love of writing and the passion with which they dive into their topics.

What is the overall message of both books?
Be hopeful. Work harder. Be more inclusive. Listen and learn.


“I read a book about that…”

As I was just sitting in my Atmospheric Physics lecture (It’s complicated, confusing, and cumbersome), I could think of nothing else than getting back home to continue reading my new-found love: My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem, recommended to me by the lovely Stephanie ( When I told a book-loving friend of mine, she said: “Feminism. The classic. Obviously.” She knows that I spend most of my money on books. About climate change, feminism, and self-improvement. The classics. One year ago I could never have imagined reading about these topics. I would always prefer fiction over reality.

This year I started to cure my little life-crisis with books. Where do I want to go? What do I want to be? How do I get there? Everything was explained to me. In books. All the books my friend and I had read and talked about during our runs in the last months had paid off. We were teaching ourselves how to be good managers more than our study course did.

When I started working on my book on climate change, I also started reading books about it for the first time. Took everything I could get my hands on. You wouldn’t believe how many works there are in our library. Every time I now have a conversation with my dad about the topic I always add: “I read a book about that…” He now is able to interpret the look on my face and finish that sentence for me. Climate change and the media? Climate change and feminism? Climate change and refrigerators? Climate change and bearded trolls in Sweden? You name it.

Through all this reading I got a little overwhelmed by the scope of the project in front of me. I read myself into a writer’s block. Do you know who cured it? Gloria Steinem. I was so excited that even in my lecture I couldn’t stop taking notes. Which was probably not a good idea. Hydrostatic equilibrium? Adiabatic what? Again please?

“A love letter to the books…
That make you jump up hyped to change the world.
That make you write your heart out.
That make you take notes in class with all the crazy ideas you have.
That take you back to your passions.
That make you daydream about reading on.
In which you want to underline every line because they are so true, so honest, so pure, so beautiful. “

My Life on the Road is such a book. I’m just into the first chapters and I’m already inspired. Her writing style is amazing and her sentences resonated with me even in the darkest minutes of my lecture when all I did is scribble down equations I didn’t understand, next to words I had never heard, and a professor who smiled briefly but coldly and said that it all was so logical. Of course. Welcome to uni.

In the midst of all that I remembered her words. They revived in me the wish to also be a journalist, a traveller, a seeker of stories:

“It’s as if attentive people create a magnetic force field for stories the tellers themselves didn’t know they had within them. (…) The simplest paths to deep change is for the less powerful to speak as much as they listen, and for the more powerful to listen as much as they speak.” Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road

Weeks after weeks had I tried to word in my book the need for people to listen to each other, to consider each other’s fates, and to be inclusive in all their talking. Who would have known that it could be said that easily…

As you may have noticed I am in love with this book. I will write a review once I have finished it. Until then I have some questions for you:

Do you know any good books about journalism?
Any other non-fiction you can recommend?
What was one book that made you jump in excitement, that inspired you?

On Writing – A Memoir of the Craft

Yesterday I finished reading Stephen King’s On writing. It’s an amazing book, it tells you so much about what being an author means. He included lots of useful tips I would like to share with you.

How to develop a story?

This is what resonated most with me. He describes the writing process as carving out a fossil from the earth. You have to be careful to not destroy it. You look for traces and follow the bones, you sometimes even work only with brushes. Don’t force a storyline on your characters. Throw stones on their way and let them overcome them. See how they react. This way the story stays interesting. You never know what will happen.

You should always write a first draft and edit out at least 10% in the second session. After writing the first one, you should take a break of several weeks. Work on something different. You will have a different view on your story afterwards.

I apply the same process to my paintings. I love working on portraits. I spread out thin layers of colour, start working on the eyes, switch to another part. Go back and forth. Layer by layer. If I don’t like something, I paint over it. Writing, like painting, is a craft.

What to cut?

Adverbs. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs,” he wrote. I know what he means. I always wrote these extremely descriptive tales with beautifully chosen adverbs that were fitting perfectly… Throw them out. Focus on the story. Focus on the characters.

Show, don’t tell. “Clean your room, for heaven’s sake!”, his mother shouted angrily. Do you think your readers are stupid? Of course she is angry! Don’t tell the reader that, he already knows. Leave the unimportant stuff out.

At the moment I’m editing all my texts from NaNoWriMo 2016 which is a lot of fun. I cut half of the words. These texts are much sharper now. Focused. The rhythm improved, the speed increased. I like them a lot better. If you want to see the results, just go back to my texts, I have written down how many words I deleted.

Write every day.

My plan for 2017 is to write every day. So far I have achieved this. It’s early in the year, though. A few nights ago I was restless and couldn’t go to sleep. I noticed: You haven’t written anything today! I sat at my computer for two hours and slept like a baby.

If you are struggling to summon the energy for writing: Listen to Hamilton, the musical. I am obsessed with it at the moment. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Gosh, that man’s a genius. I can’t understand how I haven’t listened to the songs yet!

“Non-Stop” and “My Shot”. These are the songs for all the desperate writers out there. Write day and night like you running out of time. Like you need it to survive. Go write. Then edit it. Throw the adverbs out. Get it out there. Open your door, let people read it. That’s what being a writer is. Do it for your love of words and stories.

NaNoWriMo 2016
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NaNoWriMo Day 28: My 2016 Reading Challenge

50 books in a year. That was my commitment for 2016. Along with a thousand other projects. Here is what I read this year. Here are the books that changed my life.

Opens goodread list. Scrolls down. Here we go. It feels like ages ago I read these books!

1. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium trilogy are probably the best crime novels I have ever read. I couldn’t put them down. I ate through them. Give me more! I shouted. Not only do these books have intriguing characters. They are alive. They have challenges to overcome, they change. They are ripped apart by their own doubts and passions. Furthermore, I love how the writing bits are portrayed in the books. You can be led by a good idea but you have to do the work. Blomqvist is a really good journalist but it takes time for him to craft his stories. When you read about him writing, you can see his head veins pulse as he sews word after word together. It’s political, it’s gripping, it’s amazing.

What did I learn? I absolutely adore writing. Journalism would be kind of cool…

2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini has shown me with his book A Thousand Splendid Suns that he is an astonishing story teller. This book, though… I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t get it. For me the story line didn’t work. However, there were parts that were heartfelt and strong.

What did I learn? A lot about the history of Afghanistan

3. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

I don’t know how often I have read this book in the last three years since I discovered it in the library. How often I have gone through its pages and admired the words. I just love this book so much. Just like with Harry Potter, I have to read it once a year. It gives me so much. Inspiration to travel, to learn a new language, to think deeply about life. The author is a philosopher, he gives lectures in Berlin. That explains a lot.

What did I learn? I have to learn a new language.

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What did I learn? You can build your own beautiful world in your head.

5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

See 1. Guess why I started learning Swedish? I want to read these books in their original language some day… Well not only because of that but you get my point.

What did I learn? I have to start with Swedish.

6. Emma by Jane Austen

So seldom, we see strong female characters written in the time of Jane Austen. She really was a great writer and I love her stories. To be honest, I can’t stand most of the modern romance novels… When I do need a bit of that, I turn to Regency writers.

What did I learn? You should not try and marry people off. It always goes wrong.

7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

What did I learn? WW II was so traumatic that one can lose his mind and travel off to a different world of aliens. Plot twist! No but honestly, it is hard for me to process all these tales, to even understand who people could do something like that.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book completely blew my mind. The character building is admirable. I cannot understand how she made us believe so many things and then crash it all at once. You could see some cracks but you would never have guessed to what extend she turns everything around.

What did I learn? You should never trust in what you see. Or in what you think you know about a person.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

I cannot count the times I laughed out loud in the middle of the night. I couldn’t put this book down. Guy stranded on mars. It’s hilarious. The science behind it is well researched, it all makes sense. The best thing about this book is that this man retains his humour. It’s the most funny book I have read this year.

What did I learn? You can survive on Mars with only potatoes to eat. Also, you should never attempt to make water out of hydrogen and oxygen.

10-12. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I don’t normally read young adult fiction but these books… I loved them.

What did I learn? You should fight for your rights and rely on the people who were always there for you. One originally good person can become more evil than the most evil of them all… Be careful.

13. The Chamber by John Grisham

What did I learn? I was against death penalty all the time. Now I’m even more terrified and more against of this whole system. All this legal stuff takes a long long time.

14. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Oh, so… That is actually a thing. Matt Haig writes about depression in such an honest and loving way. I read this book in a day because I couldn’t stop. It comforts you because you are not alone. It opens your eyes. It is like a hot cup of tea on a bad day. It offers a lot of tips and stories, it gives you so much.

What did I learn? You should read this book over and over on bad days. You have a problem to deal with here.

15. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

What did I learn? All the worst things can happen at once. You should be prepared. Together, we are stronger.

16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was one of the first English books I have ever read. I didn’t understand a thing. The overall plot maybe. Now that some time has passed and I read nearly every book in English – I’m amazed! This is an absolutely brilliant work! Also very deep. I like that.

What did I learn? It’s difficult to be a teenager in a world of phonies.

17. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What did I learn? You can go high and fall very veeeery low in just a few moments.

18. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What did I learn? Prejudice, the killer of love since 1813. Be open-minded.

19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Re-read that one. You need some cheesy, heart-breaking fiction once in a while. And I do love John Green.

What did I learn? Some infinities are bigger than others. Your favourite authors can be douche bags when you get to meet them. Books can change your life. It hurts because it matters.

20. Deception Point by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s later works are a lot about symbology and religion. This one, though, is about science. That’s exciting! A meteor!

What did I learn? You should always be a bit sceptical about improbable scientific findings.

21. Alice in Wonderland Part 1 by Lewis Carroll

What did I learn? A tea party is an awesome thing. A story can help you escape a little in difficult times.

22. Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi

What did I learn? Psychoanalysis is so weird…

23. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I had loved the film but now I had to finally read the book. I enjoyed it. It was very healing.

What did I learn? Love what you do, love yourself and do a little yoga from time to time.

24-26. Harry Potter 1-3 by J.K. Rowling

Every year I re-read these books. I always discover new aspects of the story. What they leave me with is that feeling of not being alone. I can always go back to these books and feel comforted. The school descriptions and the snippets we see of Hermione studying- they are very motivating.

What did I learn? You should go study now, Hermione said. Community and a sense of belonging are important. When in doubt, go to the library. Hard work will enable you to go anywhere.

27. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

See 1, 5. It is the fourth novel. I was really unsure. Would I ruin my experience of the first three books? I didn’t, which is nice. He really did a good job.

What did I learn? There are some authors who can indeed make sequels to the great work of Larsson. It is better, though, to invent your own characters and just let it be.

28. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

How can I describe what this book did to me? I was in tears so many times. I loved it, I was moved by the writing, I was in shock about the story. It’s such an honest and true book.

What did I learn? Standing up for your rights can hurt you. You should always try, though.

29. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I read the first pages of this novel, I knew that Adichie will be one of my new favourite authors. Her ability to tell stories, to connect thoughts, to find the right words… It has overwhelmed me.

What did I learn? I didn’t know anything about the Nigerian-Biafran war and about its horrors. She couldn’t have done a better job to underline the importance to read broadly to me. To stay informed, to be curious.

30. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

She creates stunning female characters who fight for their rights, for their dreams with all they have. They crash, they have flaws, they are so real. Adichie is definitely my favourite author of the year. And my favourite female writer ever.

What did I learn? You should go out and find your path, but know that you always will come back in the end. A more balanced, knowledgeable person than before. Invest a little more time in your blog.

31. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Part 1 by L. Frank Baum

I always read this one my phone when I was going somewhere by train. It’s a pretty little story, a beautiful fairytale.

What did I learn? If you don’t think you are smart but solve all the complex riddles you and your friends face… Chances are you are actually smart. Embrace your cleverness.

32. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

What did I learn? You should call yourself a feminist. Here, rip of these glasses that patriarchy put on your eyes. Do you see? Yep, that’s inequality. It’s EVERYWHERE!

33. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Such an inspiring read! It taught me were to seek for ideas, how to be creative. It tells the stories of books she has written herself and of other people who struggle with creating. Many of my self-doubts were addressed in this book and it really helped.

What did I learn? Ideas fly around, you just have to be open and catch them in the right moment. Keep going.

34. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I love unreliable characters. They add that bit of extra spice to a story. I love the setting of the novel, the characters, everything. It was brilliant. Second best crime novel this year.

What did I learn? You should maybe not trust the brain of a heartbroken alcoholic on a train.

35. De ensamma by Håkan Nesser

These Swedes do have a special love for incredibly dark tales, don’t they? I read this book while the ocean roared behind me.

What did I learn? If two murders happen at the same place with decades between them, possibly the same people were involved. Also, read some Kierkegaard.

36. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

What a beautiful little story. I read that when we were at the Baltic Sea, camping in the woods. The perfect atmosphere. It’s so beautifully written and the descriptions are great. You can feel the pain of these dogs. You can see him transform slowly back to what he always was- a wild animal.

What did I learn? You cannot deny your origin. Where you really come from. It will give you strength to endure anything.

37. The Starch Solution by John McDougall

This is the book that made me become a vegan. Consequently, this must be the most life-changing book this year. Afterwards I binge-read all books I could get on veganism and vegetarianism in my library. The Starch Solution explains everything you need to know if you want to be a vegan. The nutritional facts, the environmental ones… It’s great as a start package.

What did I learn? To become a vegan.

38. Der Tod in Venedig by Thomas Mann

What did I learn? The way from success to falling can be so quick.

39. Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum

What did I learn? How to be a better teacher. Oh, Mr Keating… You have taught me a lot of useful lessons for my students.

40. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This was the starting point for my obsession with non-fiction books this year. I have read other books by Foer but this one is especially interesting. He knows the facts. He’s a great researcher. After this book, I wanted to change people’s minds about eating meat.

What did I learn? Here are the basics to win nearly every argument about factory farming.

41. Anständig Essen by Karen Duve

What did I learn? The marzipan chocolate in my supermarket is vegan! Being vegan isn’t actually that hard.

42. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Atmospherically a wonderful novel.

What did I learn? Books are amazing. Bookshops are even more amazing. Never try to build one in a city where the people hate to read.

43. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

This book moved me so much. I never knew the whole story of Malala. All the things she did left me in complete awe. She is such a strong, intelligent woman and she already has changed the world.

What did I learn? Stand up for your education, you are so happy to have one. Go study, girl!

44. A Thousand Country Roads by Robert James Waller

What did I learn? Sometimes memories are better rested in your heart than revisited again after years.

45. Das Urteil by Franz Kafka

What did I learn? Well, that Kafka was weird, wasn’t he?

46. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I’m so ignorant! I know so little! In every essay in this book, Roxane Gay showed me how little thought I had given any media I consumed or anything I said. She discovered racism and sexism in places I would never even looked for them. It made me feel a little ashamed, to be honest.

What did I learn? Look deeper, read more critically.

47. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

What did I learn? Becoming a vegan can break apart your whole family. People are ignorant, you have to deal with this. Also, artists can be really strange people…

48. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

What did I learn? Even the president has doubts. Work for the well-being of other people. Find your origins, make your family’s stories yours.

49. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I talked about these last two books in yesterday’s post. Be sure to check that out.

What did I learn? Be courageous, follow your personal legend.

49 Books. 49 messages. So many things I’ve learned through reading. It made me a more curious person, a more considerate one. A more open one. It made me realise the important things in life and what I want to do with my own.

I’m aware that I didn’t do all the books on my list justice. I would have loved to write an article about every single one of them. It would take me another hundred pages I suppose. That’s why I broke it down a little and only talked about the most important ones to me. I hope you liked my book record.

One more book left for my challenge, it will be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Next year I will attempt to read more books from all over the world. Broaden my experience. Learn even more. It will also help me with my writing because in the end… Writers only copy each other.

Which books have touched you this year? Did you read any of the ones I read? What are your opinions on them? I would love to know!

Current Word Count: 48048

NaNoWriMo Day 27: Your Personal Legend

Today I finished reading two books: Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” and Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”. On November the 15th I wrote about the concept of comparative reading, which is quite interesting. Normally, you take two books about the same topic or person and read them at the same time. Notice what is left out in one, what is stressed in the other. Focus on how the voices are different telling these stories.

These two books I read are not in any way about the same topic, and yet… They both had a great impact on my thinking. Books always resonate with me for a few days, sometimes months. In rare cases years. They have to be either very good or very bad. However, I have only read two books in the last three years that I really didn’t like. That’s fortunate.

Let’s dive into these two tales and extract some of the things that left me in awe.

I started to read Obama’s biography of his earlier life in an attempt to understand what his story was, what is behind this man who became the president. Where did he summon all this energy from, where did he found his beliefs and values? He is a fantastic writer and the most touching part for me was the one when he described his social work. The challenges he had to face. All the people working against him on his path to try and give people better lives. All the doubts he had, that I suppose everyone after school is facing. I often said aloud to my book: Look, it’s going to be fine. You don’t know it yet but you will be the president. Just keep on working.

Just keep on working. He has such an endurance and strength that I can only admire. Which is essentially the message of “The Alchemist” in the end. Everyone has a personal legend that one has to follow. If one has this desire, this mission, the universe will help with all its power to ensure it comes true.

There is an underlying language in this world which everyone understands. In “The Alchemist” it is love, so says Santiago to the wind and the sun. It’s a reoccurring theme. The Englishman in the book has learned the “world language” Esperanto and yet, he isn’t able to understand the voice of the world. Because it is not in words that these messages are spoken in. The alchemist always tells the boy to look deeper and listen to his heart. “Wherever your heart is, there you will find you treasure.” Isn’t that beautiful? Through listening to his heart, the boy begins a journey that goes along the way of his personal legend. He overcomes many obstacles and in the end… he arrives home again. Maybe that’s the place where we belong after all our journeys.

You can see that in “Dreams from My Father”, too. He always searched for the place he belonged, for the stories of his family. Who his father really was. He thought about traveling to his family all the time when he was working in Chicago. His entire life, really. Just before Harvard, he went to Kenya to meet his family, to finally get to know the stories that he always wanted to know. With this knowledge, he could return home. A more complete man than before, because he had found a different part of himself.

I’m moved by these two books as they tell the stories of dreams and passions, of roads to success and personal happiness. They are positive books, showing that change is possible. That one can find a purpose in life and follow it. Despite the odds which are never too difficult to overcome. It’s sometimes nice to believe that a path has been set out. That we just have to follow it. On the other hand, that can also be limiting. Led by our own curiosity we will, sooner or later, find our personal legend. If we are brave. Coelho pays a lot of attention to his descriptions of courage in the book. They appear in the little things: Santiago leaves his sheep behind to search for a treasure. He has the courage to stand up for his own words, what he has seen in the desert. This leads the alchemist on his path. His courage is valued, only through its power, he is able to go on. Complete his journey.

“To be creative you must have courage. Do not ask for opinions. Just do it.”

That’s a quote from Coelho that I as an artist enjoy particularly. He is so right. How often have I discarded projects simply due to fear? How often have I wondered what others might think? How often ripped sketches in pieces, how often deleted words and pages already written…

If we let ourselves be overcome by fear, we don’t see our paths in front of us anymore. We have all experienced that. Fear turns you blind, it makes you run with your eyes closed. In the completely wrong direction. Fear is not a good leader in life. It drives you forward of course. The fear of failing, of embarrassing yourself, the fear of dying. The fear of being alone. There are many fears we have to face in our lives. But they are not there to lead us but to be overcome on a greater path. We should be driven by our love, by our passions, our curiosity, our courage. Those are the companions you would like to have on your journey. Those are the friends to search for. Fear always comes back to us, we don’t have to search for it. It’s humane to live with fear. It shouldn’t consume us, though. If there is too much fear, we will stand still. Anxious of taking another step. Start moving backwards, retreating. Do you want your life to be a hide-and-seek game with your own brain?

Showing the world love always guides love back to you. Believing in yourself, in your luck will always help you achieve wonderful things. There was a line in “The Alchemist” that struck me: There was a monk who the alchemist gave some gold for his hospitality. The monk said that it is far too much for his services. The alchemist answered: Don’t say it was too much because life might listen. And the next time you will get less.

This is not a demand to be selfish. He is telling us the importance of acknowledging our own value. A friend told me that you let yourself be hurt by others just to that extend in which you harm yourself. If you are very insecure, you don’t stand up to the ones that hurt you. Because you see your own value too low to be able to fight. That realisation hits deep. I’m guilty of lowering myself, having huge insecurities. It’s fear in its most tragic appearance.

What do we take from all this? Find your dream, find you personal legend. Do whatever it takes to identify it and then follow it. With every last bit of courage you can summon. You would not want your life to be dominated by fear. I know it seems unbelievable but there is always a way out. However difficult all the challenges seem you face, there are always people there for you. Who will lead you through the desert to your own treasure. Who will wait for you to come back home. Who will cheer for you on your paths and who will walk together with you for a while.

In his book, Obama described his rebel teenage years. Where he didn’t want to go to school, was discouraged and hopeless. Lost. He found his way again. He found his family. He made their stories his own. He followed his path to help people. He worked hard despite fear and people not valuing his work. Then he became the freaking president of the US. That’s a life path!

Be courageous, admire the wonders around. This earth is so beautiful! We only have that single one. Stop for a minute in whatever you doing and say in your head, what you are grateful for in this world. Who has guided you, who has encouraged you to go on. Write them down and look at them every now and then. You are a wonderful human being and you deserve all the love you are given.

If you feel discouraged, listen to Florence and the Machine and let her tell you:

“Hey, look up. You don’t have to be a ghost here amongst the living. You are flesh and blood. And you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given. And oh, how much!”

Oh, how much…

Current Word Count: 45257

NaNoWriMo Day 8: Intersectionality and Feminism

Privilege. The thing you don’t notice, when you have it. You get so used to it. You open the tap and water comes out. You don’t think: “Holy cow, there is actual clean water coming out of this… thing… and I can drink it! I don’t even have to leave the house for it!” Many things become natural. Let’s take a moment and think about those.

I am an extremely privileged woman, I had a fabulous primary school education with people who were encouraging. My secondary school was great, there were people who were supporting me, getting me into writing, I started drawing. I have wonderful friends who are always there and whom I love dearly. I have amazing parents following my every step and whom I am so grateful for, I just became a bit teary. Now I’m studying. I can go to uni and have a further education, I can pursue my dreams and follow my passions besides it. Art and writing. My loving family who never fails to make me smile, my friends who are so kind and hard working and I just want to hug them every minute of the day.

Privilege comes in so many different categories. I’m reading “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay at the moment. It’s an absolutely fantastic book. In a chapter about privilege she mentions that it is important to acknowledge you are privileged. That, however, does not imply that a) you have to change anything b) you have to apologise c) you cannot raise your voice d) you cannot have an opinion and most importantly e) that it hasn’t been hard for you too. It simply means that you are aware of the benefits you received based on certain aspects of your life.

You might be male/ cis-gendered/ straight/ able-bodied/ white/ highly educated/ with high income/ etc etc. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the ability to talk. To make decisions. The implication is just, that you should listen to other people who are not as privileged as you are. To see that there are other people out there. Because your combination of privileges makes up such a small portion of this earth you shouldn’t speak for all of humanity in that position.

There is the concept of intersectionality which was initially founded by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate, in 1989. Intersectionality is often mentioned together with feminism and is a big part of it. The basis of it is privilege. There are so many different ways in which you can be discriminated against. For example, black women are not only facing sexism but racism and these two intersect. Therefore, not every woman, feminism wants to support, faces equal oppression. Feminism is a great movement but it normally doesn’t take all these aspects into account. A good example is that feminism brought in many countries the right for women to vote. But only for white women most of the time! Which is why we need intersectionality. I do not call myself an intersectional feminist because I do not face discrimination on another level than being a woman. I do not have the experience to talk about these issues but I’m very determined to educate myself and listen to other stories.

I am privileged, is what I am saying. It wasn’t easy but it was never hard! And this is where I would like to start my argumentation. On my blog I am telling you my opinion on the problems of the world. Problems that we all face. Sometimes I might even suggest solutions. As already mentioned, I do have the right to speak out even if I’m privileged. However, I often doubt if I’m doing the right thing. Who am I to tell you? I, whose life is so easy with all those people and institutions around helping me all the time. Who am I to cure the world? What annoys me sometimes in the news is people trying to fix problems they don’t even know about. Talking about global climate change and how they should reduce emissions… “We don’t even have a properly functioning sanitary unit”, they might answer, “clearly we have different problems”.

Another point I want to emphasise on is that I’m not an angel. When I am talking about reducing plastics consumption or something like that: I am also drinking out of plastic water bottles sometimes! Maybe I am a hypocrite. Maybe it makes me a bad person talking about things that I do too. However, you might also argue that it is at least good that I recognise it. It’s the first step, it was taught to me by my study course. Recognising that we all have flaws and we do not act morally all the time. We try, though.

(We had a discussion a few days ago that it always should be allowed to state constructive criticism, regardless of the position you are in. The person facing that criticism has to think about reacting to it or not. Criticism is always the beginning of a conversation, even if it has no basis that the other one supports. I think it is important as a decent human being to listen to people and think about what they say. Communication is after all what makes us people.)

Because we are flawed humans, we cannot expect feminism to be a flawless movement. People who are representing it and “fail” are thought to be damaging the concept. Which is simply not true. We are all humans and we need those advocates for equality. As women we need more representation in the governments, in the media, basically everywhere. Not only white women again. Women of colour, women of other than heterosexual orientation, women who maybe didn’t have the best education possible. We want them as main characters and not only side products in films made by men. There is a reason for the existence of the Bechdel-Test. It measures film on the amount of times women are picture talking about something different than a man. 58% of the 6500 films (on listed did not pass that test. An argument was that there would be even more failing if conversations about babies and relationships were not counted. Half of the Academy Award nominees for Best picture wouldn’t have passed the test! In the entertainment business that lack of female contribution is clearly visible. We want representation!

Women bring so much to the table. We have different approaches to problems, we are generally more concerned for the environment. We birth children and therefore miss out on so much because we want to be there for our families and also have jobs. When men talk about their successes, they usually state that it’s because they are great. When women talk about what they accomplished, they are more likely to attribute it to other aspects, not themselves. They had exceptional help, worked hard, had good opportunities…

We need more women in high positions to be able to bring change. As heads of states. There are only a few more than 10 female world leaders at the moment. Today, in the US you have the possibility to elect one more and to hopefully thereby bring change in other countries too. Hillary Clinton is a woman I admire for her strength and endurance and her experience. You are able to contribute to your first ever woman becoming the head of state.

From an outside perspective we are like the annoying neighbours always watching you over the garden hedge. We are deeply troubled by what we are seeing. We are not involved, though. As a person involved in environmental protection, as a feminist, as a woman, I cannot believe, though, there is a candidate who stated that climate change is an invention by the Chinese and who bragged about raping women. This election is not only vital to the US but I think to the rest of the world. It sends a message, after all. It would send a message to women to step in and demand the right to represent half of the earth’s population. It would bring change the focus and underline the challenges women are facing all over the world. It would bring different ways of dealing with problems to the political environment.

“Then we’d come a little bit closer to a balance of women and men in leading positions,” our chancellor said and Norwegian’s president Ms Solberg added that it would be “inspiring for many young women to see politics not just as something that belongs to men”. I think that that is an important part of this election.

This text isn’t about politics, though. I just wanted to share with you some additional aspects of feminism that are important to consider. There are a few points where it gets difficult.

1. When it’s “we” and “they”. I also did it, I excluded myself. This is what we do as humans. We want to be different. Global issues, however, should be discussed as a whole society. Because it matters to all of us.

2. When it is one person trying to find a solution. A person who is not able to listen. Problems are always fixed by the person who knows the problem best and has the adequate measures to fix it. Have you ever tried to tell a friend how to fix their relationship? Yeah, of course you have. We do it because it is so obvious what they are doing wrong. In the end, something completely different worked. We didn’t listen.

The goal in my life is to make this earth a better place than it was when I was born. I want to make voices heard that are normally not and I want to broaden my perspective. I do not want to sit here on my pile of privilege, ignorant and with my sunglasses on, seeing nothing of the world. I want to be in the world and with the world. I want to analyse and think, I want to discuss and review, I want to suggest and expand my knowledge. This is for all of us. A place where we can have that little spark of hope. A spark that may cause change at least in tiny bits of our lives.

Current word count: 14 420

NaNoWriMo Day 2: Frankenstein – A Review

Yesterday evening I wondered if I’m out of my mind. My friends wrote me: “Really?” I don’t know if I can rely on my creativity. Do I trust myself with this project? It is a lot different now. All those words that I’m writing will be out there the same day I wrote them. That’s terrifying. But I know you are a gentle group of readers.

Last night I finished “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley. What a book! I was impressed by it, I loved it. It fits quite well with the season. I spent most of Halloween listening to the audiobook. It created that amazing spooky atmosphere. Now let’s get into depth.

The book opens with the letters of an Arctic explorer, Walton, who writes home. He sees a man on the ice with a dog sledge – Victor Frankenstein. Yep, Frankenstein is not the monster! Turns out that even on the book’s cover, Frankenstein has power over his monster.

Frankenstein begins to tell his friend about his journey and a new narrative perspective is introduced. He grows up in Geneva in a loving family and moves out to go study. His interests are in old science books and knowledge that is not valid anymore. His professors laugh at him. He begins studying chemistry and the human body. In his lab he collects body parts and with the help of electricity turns them into a functioning creature. He is overwhelmed and disgusted by his monster. He runs away and falls ill for a long time. When he finally returns home he finds that his younger brother was killed and he knows that it was his monster. Justine, a woman who the family had brought up because she was not wanted by her own family, was accused of the murder. Frankenstein does not speak up. Justine is hanged.

Frankenstein meets his monster in the mountains and is surprised that he is able talk. The monster tells him his own story and opens up the third narrative perspective. It is the longest one and the most interesting. When he discovers his senses, he is filled with love and joy but when people see him they run away or threaten him. He hides in a small stable and watches the inhabitants of the nearby house for a long time. He learns to speak and read and confronts them. First the old blind man to get the respect of the family. When the others come home they are terrified and chase him out of the house.

In his rage the monster tries to find one living soul to love him. He does not find anyone not even Frankenstein’s little brother. He kills him. His demand to Frankenstein is to make him happy, to give him a mate. His words are convincing and Frankenstein agrees to do so. He leaves for England with his friend and after long journeys he settles down on a small island to make a new creation, this time a woman monster. For the first time he thinks about the consequences and rips his work into pieces while the monster watches. The monster kills Frankenstein’s friend. Devastated, Frankenstein returns home and marries his cousin who is killed that very night. His whole family is destroyed. Frankenstein chases the monster around the whole world, ending up in the Arctic Sea, where the tale ends.

The story was written by 18 year old Mary Shelley when she, her husband, Lord Byron and some others spend the year without summer together in a house. Locked all the doors and wrote spooky stories. What is it that you did when you were bored in the 1800s? Write a book. What is it you do when you don’t have that much free time and have many other interests in the 2000s? You start to write a book in a month.

When many try to find the interpretation on a biographical basis, I want to focus more on the questions the book leaves open. I want to describe to you what I loved about the book.

There are three different narrators. They influence each other in a significant way. In the beginning one might think: This is about Frankenstein, why is there an Arctic explorer? He is on the same quest as Frankenstein was. The search for knowledge. He wishes to explore these regions, come home, be celebrated. They both fail in their searches for wisdom. Walton returns home and Frankenstein dies, terrified by his monster.

It is important to acknowledge that it is a very one-sided tale. Frankenstein doesn’t know anything about the feelings or thoughts of his monster. When he gets to know them he feels sympathy for him. He finds it much harder to hate the monster once he has heard his story.

We do not have the capacity to look into each other’s brains and therefore we have to ask! We have to talk to people about their feelings to make decisions. It’s an essential part of being human. Otherwise, we think of anyone different than us as a monster.

The most inspiring and interesting part for me is when the monster learns to speak and write. He sits in a small shed the whole day and watches a family. He learns their words and manners, their values and actions. Just like a child. Frankenstein fails to be a “parent” for the monster. The monster has to search for it somewhere else. He is patient and learns a little more every day. However, he is still not recognised by the family. As his speech and reading skills develop, his only thought is that he wants to be part of this family. He wants their respect. Isn’t it fascinating how through seeking knowledge and the ability to talk, even monsters become human?

In the beginning the monster just feels happiness, he says. He is rejected by society again and again. This creates the real monster. Frankenstein did not. Which leads us to the question of nature vs nurture. How much did he put into the body of the monster? How much is upbringing? People are terrified by his looks. However, the old man, who does not see him, respects him. What does that say about society? Isn’t it also applicable to today’s society? Where you can be discriminated against when you are different?

The moral status of the monster changes. In the beginning, one might feel sympathy for him. No one loves him. He tries so hard. He reads books! He doesn’t even have a name! It changes when the monster becomes violent. Kills other people. But we can’t hate him. It’s not his fault! Frankenstein neglected him! The monster says that it didn’t like the killing. He is self-reflective, especially in the end when he apologises to Frankenstein. Which is too late. But the strength of his words has the power to impress others.

Let’s look at another moral challenge. Frankenstein’s bondage to his monster is the end of both of them. The scientist creates something and soon realises what he has done. He wants to build a female to save his whole family. He becomes aware of the consequences. He will create a whole family of monsters who might destroy the earth. The monster might not be honest. It is family vs society. Who does he want to save? He decides for the sake of mankind. His family is murdered and he also dies. Nevertheless, he saved the world of monsters! Which he created… Was it his responsibility to act in that way? What is the relationship between creator and creation? Does he have the right to destroy his monster because he made it?

Another central question is what made him do it. Why did he create such a being? He wanted recognition, he wanted to seek knowledge. What are the responsibilities of a scientist? Where does curiosity end and where does he have to stop? In Walton’s case it is exploration vs death. In Frankenstein’s case it is creation vs death of his whole family or society. When the crew on the ship wants to turn around and go back to England, Frankenstein appeals to their honour and courage. Is that worth so much more than life? For Frankenstein it is. He wants to chase his monster until it dies or he himself does. He has nothing to lose.

One of the most impressive scenes for me was when the monster approaches the little brother of Frankenstein. He is alone in the fields and thinks to himself that this small boy can’t be spoiled yet. He doesn’t know about whom to respect and whom not to. But the monster is wrong. The child is terrified of him and threatens the monster to tell his dad. Education starts early on. We learn from what our parents do, we imitate their actions. It is therefore not surprising that the little boy is frightened. He has learned to react that way. The killing of the boy is wrong, no doubt. Killing is always wrong. However, it was not the boy the monster wanted to kill. It was a projection. In that child he saw what he had experienced from every human he ever approached. Hate and fear. Which made him the monster that he is.

The question remains – who is the real monster here? The one who created or the one who killed? The one who abandoned or the one who sought happiness? The one who sought knowledge and fame or the one who could have destroyed whole mankind? The one who was acting irresponsibly or the one who killed a family? It is a difficult question and I don’t know the answer. Maybe both of them.

The descriptive language of the novel creates such a contrast to the narrative of the story. The alps and rivers, the tales of the journey… Romanticism is a wonderful period of literature and its moral questions are still applicable today. It got me thinking a lot and this is when books have served their purpose, I suppose. Making us think about us, about society and actions, about morality and responsibility.

The story reminds me a lot of the drama “The Physicists” by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, one of my all time favourite dramas. I’ll probably write a little something about it soon.

See you tomorrow,

Happy writing!

If you are also taking part in Nanowrimo, please tell me! I would love to hear from you!

Current word count: 3739/ edited 2910