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.


Deadlines and Goals

There is never enough time to do everything. We think that these organised people around us somehow make new time to do all things they love. They don’t. They just have their priorities straight. For effective time management – every book on that subject will tell you so – you need to set your goals. You need to see where you want to go, how you will get there, and when you will do so. That would be all fine if there wasn’t that nagging voice in the back of your head: Does it really matter RIGHT NOW? Couldn’t you just do it in two weeks time? Nobody will care anyway. Watch one more episode. Meet with your friends for dinner.

We put our tasks off until we can’t anymore because we have reached the ultimate deadline. Resulting in stress and bad outcomes. Why not invest more time in realistic planning before hand and then getting the job done? (Hint: we are lazy)

For all this wonderful planning (that I by the way adore) you need to know your goals in life. And then hustle. I just read Lilly Singh’s “How to be a Bawse” and it is awesome. So much practical advice on how to a) be a decent human being b) get shit done c) set your goals and d) grow and climb the ladders of life. You should really check it out. This book is a kick in your booty that was located lazily on the sofa. My booty has been in a very comfortable position lately. I told myself to write daily for this whole year. I made it until the middle of April. Then I stopped. Too much to do, I told myself. My dream – becoming a writer – seemed too far away. I had writer’s block on my latest book project and I just couldn’t get myself to add any more words. The mere thought was ridiculous. How could I write anything every anyway?

Instead I told myself that there was too much to do for uni and then ate my body weight in peanuts and watched youtube videos. Congratulations.

Goal setting for my blog hasn’t worked out that well in the past (look at the hundred’s of posts where I told you I was going to upload regularly. That went so well…) But it doesn’t help to complain about that. Let’s try again. Only talking doesn’t bring me anywhere. I need to do what I preach.

To kick myself in the booty, get away from all this “I am so stressed” nonsense, striving towards my goal of being a writer, I will post once a week. Please hold me accountable for that. Write me angry emails or comments if I do not provide a post every Friday.

Do you have a project you need to get done? Set yourself a deadline and tell your friends to check if you achieved it. Write me in the comments! Tell people about your goals and you are more likely to succeed. Let’s beat the monster of procrastination together!

Reneé Elise Goldsberry

Include women in the sequel. Work!

This kept me going in the exam phase. Hamilton in general. My obsession with this musical has kept going for four months now (And then I discovered In the Heights. I’m lost in musical theatre). I think I will dedicate a whole post to the effects it had on me, it is such an amazing piece of art. And Renee is wonderful. Obviously.

NaNoWriMo Day 25: How to Get Stuff Done.

Nanowrimo is really about time management in the end. If you start this project, chances are high that you know how to write. The really tough thing is to keep yourself motivated to make time for it every single day. Sometimes, it’s challenging. It’s already so late again, although I promised myself I would be going to bed a lot earlier today. Not happening. Who knew.

How do you find two hours a day in your already tight schedule? That’s the real difficulty here. Not the writing part. Easy peasy.

It takes 19 days to form a habit. Now that I’ve reached day 25, I don’t know how to stop. If I don’t write late at night, something is missing. If I get too much sleep so that I’m not that exhausted anymore, something feels wrong. My mum asked me today how I can do all this stuff. I go to uni, work, meet friends, go for runs, paint and play the uke…so many other things. And every night I sit down to write. Because I can’t stop myself. The word “Break” doesn’t exist for me while Nanowrimo is on. It’s a challenge. I accepted it.

Here’s how to do that.

1. Know your goal. You will get things done much more easily if you have an aim in your life. I identified my life’s purpose yesterday, if you want to read about that. Now that I have it in the back of my head, things are a lot easier. I will see the reason behind the exercises I do. I have to study this because I will need it. I sit down every night despite being tired and get the words flowing. Because I know I want to write. This aim keeps you going whatever the circumstances are. Write your goal down. Put it up on the wall over your desk. It helps, trust me.

2. Write everything down. I keep a bullet journal. That means I make a planner from scratch and have a little to-do list for every day. I add inspirational quotes and pictures, little drawings and lots of lists. I love planning. It keeps my head clear for the important stuff. If you have written down what you want to achieve that day, it is a lot easier to actually do it. You can learn a lot more about this technique here:

I love bullet journaling. It is both creative and productive. I can write weekly aims down, what I need to do. Transfer them to another day or week. I have monthly overviews with important events. If you have a hard time motivating yourself to do anything, write down “have breakfast”. It looks nice if you have accomplished something that day. All the other tasks will be easier for you. Start easy on yourself.

3. Prioritise. That’s a vital part of planning. Over time you will know how many hours you need to do certain activities. For example half an hour to clean the bathroom. 7 hours to do statistics homework. … Yeah… Write it down. Sort your assignments for the day according to the time you are going to need to finish them. Start with those which take the smallest amount of time. They will keep you going. Go on to the more demanding ones with the feeling that you already have accomplished something.

Furthermore, it is important to note when those tasks are due. If you have to hand in an essay tomorrow, or write a report for you boss, do it now. Do the most important pieces of work first, so that they are out of the way. If you do not face them, you will have them in the back of your head the whole time. That makes realising other projects more difficult.

4. Find a great workspace. If you love your kitchen table but the temptation to go to the fridge is high, don’t sit there. If your neighbours are annoying or too loud, get out of the house. Find a spot where it is silent and you can focus on your work. Switch your phone off. I can’t stress that enough. With the notifications of modern mobile phones, productivity is impossible. I like to go to the library of our uni because there are so many people studying, who keep me motivated. Also, I just leave my phone at home. Then I have no chance but to work.

If you get on with the work, stay hydrated. Allow yourself breaks after each half an hour. Stretch a little, move. Concentration leaves us after 1.5 hours because our glucose levels are too low. You could eat an apple for example to get your brain going again.

5. Focus. That’s one of the hardest parts. To not let your mind wander, to not let yourself get distracted, to not start day dreaming. I have put a little note on my desk with “Stay focused” on it. That sometimes helps. I’m the person who puts sticky notes everywhere.

6. Keep going. The most amazing tool for productivity is “Pomodoro” for me. That’s an app that basically works like an egg timer. It’s usually set for 25 minutes of work, 5 minutes break, 25 min work, 15 min break. These intervals work very well. You get so absorbed in your work in these 25 minutes, it’s great. The app tracks the time you invested in certain tasks. It’s always nice to see how many hours you have worked that day on a specific project. That’s also what I write down in my bullet journal. How many pomodoros it has taken me to complete the exercise. Consequently, planning gets a lot easier.

7. Don’t multitask. If you started with one topic, finish it. If you focused all you energy that day on one project, keep going until you can’t go on anymore. Don’t try to switch between tasks, that’s not going to work most of the time. It’s like reading books for me. If there are only a few pages left, I will finish it, no matter what time it is.

8. Know when to stop. If you are facing a particularly different challenge, it maybe nice to have a break to clean or tidy something. To go for a walk. Give yourself some time to recover your mind. To lift the pressure off you creativity. Our brains are hardworking organs and we have to be kind to them. It’s so easy to destroy a day of hard work within just moments when you are tired and unmotivated. Don’t let that happen. Listen to the signals your body is giving you.

9. The 80-20 rule. Being a perfectionist is hard. Especially in a time, where we have so many different things going on in our lives. If you want to do everything perfectly, the possibility that you never get anything done is high. The 80-20 rule says, that you do 80% of the work in 20% of the time and the remaining 20% of the work in 80% of the time. Just go until 80, that’s enough. The reworking parts are the most time-consuming ones. Here’s a tip: Start to work on a project and do it until you are fine with showing it to others. Do something completely different. Then go back to your project and see if your work was enough.

10. Time for yourself. You need to sleep, to eat, to meet people, exercise a bit if you want. Treat yourself. If your whole day is packed with work, you won’t last very long. We are not made to be under pressure the entire day. (In whose head did Freddie Mercury sing this line right now? :D) Make yourself a cup of tea, sit down for a while. Read something. Watch a video. Talk to a friend. You need time to calm your mind and gather all your energy. It doesn’t help to freak out about all the stuff you need to do and in your panic do everything wrong. (Oh, all this lovely maths homework… I know what I’m talking about…) Don’t push yourself over the limit, just gently touch it and then let yourself fall down again. It’s great to test how far you can go. That’s also the kind of experiment I’m doing right now. How much work can I do in one month without completely losing it? I’m still fine, you see.

These are my top ten tricks how to manage your time effectively. I love to manage. To pass tasks around and to bring people together to work on a project. It’s just a process that I really enjoy. If you have other tips, please tell me, I would love to know! What works for you? How do you motivate yourself to get things done?

Current Word Count: 41 666

NaNoWriMo Day 9: A Message to the Hopeless

I didn’t think that it would happen. Hardly anyone did. Only yesterday I wrote a passionate essay about feminism, about women’s rights and how there finally should be a female leader of the US. In our study course we were all faithful, hopeful. We didn’t even think of the possibility that Trump might become the president. Now our hope is found sobbing on the floor. Blinking and trying to see if there exists an alternative reality. Knocking it’s head on the ground and crying “No, no, no…” until it get’s only a silent scream because there is no more energy left.

This morning I looked at the first results and I was shocked to see that Trump had already got more votes than Hillary. A lot more. I think a lot of people had the same period of disbelief. When a classmate of mine came into the room this morning, she hadn’t looked the result up yet. We told her. She blinked. She shook her head, she tilted it to the side as if we were kidding. She asked: “Really? You are not …“ A long silence followed. “No, I refuse…” “OMG. No. NONONONONO. How? Why?” finally “Shit.” There was nothing more to say.

It took an hour to completely shatter all of my beliefs on the ground. I really didn’t think that was going to happen. Our disbelief! Our speechlessness! In our study course we sent each other lots of messages. They were anxious, filled with anger and deep despair. It’s unfathomable. Fear also played a vital role. The whole candidacy of Trump was based hugely on fear. You always get people by their fear. It’s not something we can control effectively. If we fear something, we will either try and hide or run away.

We, who believe in democratic standards, in human rights and equality. We, who value all love over hate. We, who think that we have to work together as a global community to bring change. We, who believe that this earth, our environment, can be saved. We, who study to make that happen. We, who have dedicated our lives to make this world a better place. We, environmentalists, feminists, pacifists and so much more. We, the future of this planet. Our hopes have been crashed. The hopes of many on this earth. Especially in the US. The US is not a small country and even if its political decisions do not matter to us in Germany, then at least their culture. If it creates a culture of divisiveness, though, of hate and anger – the rest of the world is affected, too.

Furthermore, environmental decisions concern us all. Everyone. Because we cannot escape this earth and we shouldn’t. If a person who doesn’t believe in the undeniable science of climate change becomes a world leader, we are in big trouble. Someone said: “Well, let’s stay positive, at least we have got many job opportunities now”. We have got a lot of work to do. We will face a lot of barriers. But that will not bring us down.

The reality hasn’t totally seeped in yet. I still haven’t understood what this will mean in the future. Because who is able to predict what will happen?

There are five stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

First thing in the morning I couldn’t believe it. There had been a little voice in my head: “You didn’t believe the Britons would vote for Brexit, right?” We all thought that it wouldn’t come true. But it did. In the Berlin elections, the right-wing AfD won nearly 15 percent. I couldn’t believe it. Now we all hoped that this would be different in the US. It wasn’t. I’m so scared to look in the news every morning.

Through the anger stage I moved pretty quickly because I know it wouldn’t help. The hope that they find out that something went wrong in the election – that is also long gone. I moved through the bargaining phase. My current mood is between depression and acceptance. I am determined to bring change on this planet, on an environmental level. It’s going to be tough, our job. We live in challenging times. To give up is not an option.

I’m a person who generally fights. I’m not a quitter. (I wrote a novel last year. In a month!) Until I see that it is a lost case. Sometimes until a bit after this stage. This time, there will be no lost case. My fight is concerning our earth and we can never give up on that. Our life-support system will always have to be supported by us, too.

We have always had times in history when there was a step back. Concerning human rights, concerning the environment. We as humans, though, are made to always go back into the game. If not, there will be new people with new ideas and they will bring the change we need. An incredibly high percentage of millennials voted for Hillary and I think that is a good sign ( We are the future. We can bring change.

This might be a black day. I certainly know it was for me. I’m still shocked. This might be a frightening, a terrifying day. This might be a day which contradicts all that we stand for as humans. However, this has been an election that is binding. There will not be a miracle. This is not a joke. People have decided and there are obviously enough people to have brought this outcome. To believe in the values that this man represents. Acceptance is the first step to change. Not accepting a reality is not going to change it. Humans are the agents of change.

It is now our obligation to step out of our shock and do something. Apathy plays into the hands of those who base their governance on fear. We must roll up our sleeves and go to work. Work harder. Now more than ever. In my bed this morning, when I read the news on my phone, I couldn’t get up. I just didn’t see any point. Then I realised: I need to get myself to uni. Quick. I need to absorb as much knowledge as I can, need to meet as many people as I can to be able to do a decent job in saving our environment. Now more than ever, we need people who recognise problems and work on them. Now more than ever, it is essential to speak to people where they need help. I need to get myself educated, that’s the least I can do.

There is this beautiful sentence by David Orr: “Hope is a verb with its shirtsleeves rolled up.” I deeply believe that to be true. Hope is important in the times of despair and utter horror.

By stepping back and saying we cannot change anything, there will be decisions we might not like. Only by giving our best, working harder than ever, we can make things happen. If it doesn’t succeed, at least we have tried.

It is hard to say how this will all unfold. What political implications this election might have. I’m a German citizen and therefore not that knowledgeable in US politics. However, as a citizen of this world I do care tremendously. Lasting environmental decisions are made on an international level. When I’m reading through all these treaties in my law class, I’m amazed how many climate regulations there are. How much we already have achieved. It isn’t anywhere near enough yet. Implementations are still lacking.

Maybe the world wasn’t that far yet. It is definitely time for a female president. It always was. But maybe people weren’t ready for that to happen. Your vote counted but even more it counts what you do with the outcome of this election. We cannot change the result anymore but we can decide on what we do with it. An election is an indicator of people’s opinions. We have to work on those first! Work on the social climate as well as on the atmospherical one.

Look at the American films. They always have a positive ending in some way. You are a hopeful nation. We also want to be as hopeful. Take for example French films, they are dear to my heart – they mostly end in a sad way. But it was a US election not a French one. We should act like the people in the films do. Bring this whole drama to a fortunate ending. Yes, that will be difficult. Yes, we share that burden together. Yes, we will unite and be stronger together.

So my message to you today is this: Keep going! Keep fighting! Keep working! If you believe in a better world, a united one, make it happen. Changes are made by people in the end, not by leaders. Generally not by leaders themselves either but by the advisors. Or the lobby behind them. There can be decisions but the ones who implement them – are we! Most importantly, do not lose your hope. Hope is our call to bring change. Hope will be our motivation to get up in the morning. If you believe your children should live in a better world, make it happen! I refuse to let my hope be taken from me. Because it is our choice. Speak up and go on.

Current Word Count: 16 000

A sketchbook to fill: Part 2

Today I continued working on my sketchbook with a little water colour painting of Hamburg… It may be not the best thing I’ve ever made but for a monday … 😀

sketchbook 2