Category Archives: Thoughts

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing

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I’ve adapted a well-known quote for this post because originally it said good ‘men’, and I wanted to acknowledge that women have agency too.

I was motivated to write this post after the election of Donald Trump as president.

I was not as stunned as the rest of the world. I was hardened by the tragic results of the European Union referendum here in the UK recently, which no one expected to turn out as they did.

I witnessed firsthand the chaos that is wreaked by our modern media machine, controlled behind the scenes by big business.

Its big seller is fear, by constantly feeding the masses doses of terror, recession, and violence.

Actually, we live in a more comfortable time than we ever have, at least in the UK, some parts of Europe and the US. That’s how we’re able to operate under such a sophisticated model of media and business.

One that controls the masses tightly by promoting a societal order that benefits very few.

Don’t think of politics as isolated

I normally stay out of political matters and approach them indirectly through advocating for women in tech on my blog, or helping others to develop themselves personally and professionally.

Politics isn’t a separate area of society, however. That’s just a media construction.

Political matters are inseparable from our daily lives, and legislation affects every one of us.

You can make a difference ‘politically’ by involving yourself in organisations that promote social good, which aim to change society at a macro level.

For example, women in tech isn’t just about women in tech.

It’s about the idea of equality and respect for everyone, regardless of who or where they were born.

If individual women are empowered to pursue their dream careers in tech, this will also help them become more powerful individuals in society at large. This will benefit the causes of women overall.

I chose the title of this blog post because so many of the reactions to Trump’s presidency were from good people, the vast majority of whom do nothing.

Acceptance rather than fear

I know we have no direct power to influence the American political system from our sofas in Britain. Still, I’ve noticed that the most politically active people on my social media feeds were also the ones that preached acceptance and tolerance – rather than fear, hatred and division.

Ironically, the descent into name-calling and despair is exactly the fuel that Trump’s – and Brexit’s – campaigns ran on.

If people are afraid of and hate each other, then overly-conservative and divisive campaigns (under the guise of patriotism) can flourish.

At the risk of being as dramatic as everyone else, much of Trump’s campaign – the little I allowed myself to actively absorb – reminds me of Nazi rhetoric.

A return to a lost golden age that never existed, a revival of the great American society (where’s it gone?) which is a mask for the true social injustices perpetuated by those in power. Uniting against a common ‘enemy’ (non-Americans).

And of course, Trump is the charismatic leader, galvanizing the people by selling them a dream, playing on their fears and tempting their greed.

Good people stand up

But more fear and more division is not the right way. So that’s why I was motivated to write this blog post.

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for me to do nothing.

The opposite to Trump is not ‘not-Trump’ because that’s just Trump in a different form.

The true opposite to Trump and what he represents, the answer that everyone who was upset by the result of today’s elections is seeking, is more love, courage, openness and humanity, actively practiced by every human being.

That means every person needs to go out there and be more active in the causes that matter to them. That’s the antidote to Trumpism. Whether that’s helping inner city children learn to cook, or more women to succeed in tech, or get more homeless people off the streets, just participate.

Because it’s not like anyone was happy with the state of affairs before. The political climate could not have been called good.

We may now be reaching a point where it’s sufficiently bad that good people are motivated to speak.

It’s taken the election of a conservative government, the near-split of the United Kingdom, Brexit, the collapse of said government, the appointment of an unelected head of state, and, finally, the rise of Donald Trump, to get me onto the soapbox.

I hope this post reminds a few people that they aren’t alone. Lots of people who are normally silent are humane, compassionate and progressive. There’s always another election. There’s always time for change.

CatherineCatherine Heath is a freelance blogger and copywriter for B2B SaaS companies. She’s obsessed with the field of personality systems theory, and she also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash.com

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The only personal growth goal you’ll ever need

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There is so much advice out there about how to develop yourself that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, and come to think it’s easier not to change.

Far from being motivated, too much advice has the effect of paralysing you, and you may well end up doing nothing.

I read a lot of books, about personal development, spirituality, science, business, entrepreneurship, writing. And I always hold one value in mind when I am absorbing new information, which is to strive for balance in everything I do.

Balance in what I eat

For example, I want to eat healthily so I try to eat more vegetables, less meat and processed foods, limit sugar, and all that.

But, if I go towards the extreme of eating healthily, I end up becoming rigid and joyless, unable to enjoy a treat because I’ve labelled all foods that aren’t healthy as ‘bad’.

To find a balance, I would also make sure I allow myself to enjoy crisps, or some cake, a fizzy drink or whatever. But if all I’m eating is chips and nuggets, I’m going too far the other way towards eating junk food and not looking after myself.

All things in life have a balance between opposites at their heart, conceptually speaking.

Truth in opposites

This is because all truth resides in reconciling opposites, just like demonstrating great power is a positive trait in a leader but must be combined with humility and vulnerability, to avoid sliding over into tyranny.

The strong and the weak are one, because at the heart of weakness lies strength’s greatest power. At the heart of strength lies weakness: a fear of vulnerability.

So when I’m freelancing, I strive to learn and grow, building my confidence and my experience in order to grow stronger.

But I consciously allow myself to be weak, not to beat myself up for feeling scared or stupid, and even openly admitting my insecurities to others, to keep myself in balance.

Conscious living

Always striving to find a balance in everything you do means you can never go on to autopilot, because momentum means that we’re constantly prone to swinging to extremes.

Once you’re moving in a certain direction, it’s far easier to keep moving than it ever was to just get started in the first place.

So when you’re moving through life, and you’re considering yet another piece of advice from another guru, claiming the next quick-fix to help you improve your life, consider whether it will help you achieve balance or not.

Over time, you will instinctively keep adjusting your path. And that’s not to say that you will never find yourself losing your balance or swinging to another extreme. Rather, it means finding balance will start coming more and more naturally to you, and it will become easier and easier to keep finding the right path again.

Read more about how personal growth is the way to happiness, or find out more about my freelance writing business

CatherineCatherine Heath is a writer and digital communications professional obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes drawing, yoga, meditation and being in nature. 

How freelancing is a lot like dating

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I thought of this analogy a long time ago when I was first learning how to interact with clients and pitch to them.

Freelancing is not only like dating, but it’s like being a man playing the dating game. And as I’m not a man, it was a really hard thing to get used to.

I gained a renewed sympathy for how hard it is to be (a heterosexual) male and looking for love in our society, because all the pressure is on you to go out there and ‘attract’ a woman – and all the while, without coming across as too aggressive or desperate.

Hunter-prey dynamic

I’m not saying it’s right that we have such an imbalance of power in the dating game, but it does obviously arise from ancient hunter-prey dynamics fuelled by testosterone.

But in some ways, taking on the ‘hunter’ role was also very empowering, and I became a little jealous that men get to be the ones to come up with all the little strategies to attract the object of their affection.

As a freelancer, I have to attract clients effectively, and without showing them my desperation, which would make them run a mile – especially when I was just starting out and had absolutely no clients!

How to attract clients (or dates)

The only answer to the conundrum of attracting clients while not feeling your best is to build confidence, which can be applied in many areas of life.

You build confidence by trusting that the universe will provide what you need, and also applying proven techniques to draw your clients to you.

And it works – I now have twelve regular clients.

Hopefully, as a male in the dating game, you wouldn’t end up with twelve lovers, or that may require a trip to the sexual health clinic. In that way, freelancing and dating are different.

But here are some ways where freelancing is like dating:

  1. You have to present an attractive image of yourself that clients/dates will like
  2. You have to narrow down your market to attract a certain kind of client/date
  3. You have to make the effort to reach out to people or they will never know you’re in the market (for clients or dates)
  4. You have to risk rejection and failure to get who you want (clients or dates)
  5. You have to try many different platforms to ensure you’re reaching out to as many people as possible (sending cold emails and attending networking events, or going on Tinder and to speed-dating)
  6. When you finally land someone you want, it’s the best feeling in the world
  7. If you don’t hear from your client/date in a while, you start to panic that they’ve forgotten about you
  8. If someone goes quiet, you have to make the effort to follow up with them a couple of times, but then if you don’t hear from them, LEAVE THEM ALONE (some men should take note of this)
  9. Hopefully, if you’re both suited to each other, your client or date will turn into a satisfying long-term relationship

And that’s it!

The conclusion of this piece is that we can all learn a lesson from freelancing.

Heterosexual men trying to attract women can be emboldened by the fact that they’ve got a lot of pressure on them, and even if they get rejected, can take heart from the fact that at least they’ve had the courage to put themselves out there.

Heterosexual women can realise that they can take a bit more responsibility to become the ‘hunter’. It seems terrifying to put yourself out there but even if you get rejected, you’ll still be on a high from the fact that you tried.

As for homosexual men and women… I can’t even imagine how hard that must be!

If you’d like to find more about my freelance writing, you can check out my women in tech blog awaywithwords.co

Image: Adriana Velasquez, Unsplash

How to become a writer in the 21st century

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We have a lot of preconceived notions about what it means to be a writer, not all of them related to the 21st century. Many of these images stem from the past, when vastly different technologies dominated our society. The typewriter, for example.

This fact is important, because as someone who’s life’s ambition is to become a writer, the job opportunities must be clearly defined in order for me to realise my dreams.

Writing myths

There are a lot of myths and stereotypes attached to being a writer, not least because it’s a ‘creative’ career but also the fact that it is a ‘profession’. Because of these associations, only certain people seem like they are allowed to become writers.

And then there are the thoughts, what if I’m not good enough? What if no one likes what I write? What if they do?! Then what?

In school, you’re encouraged to study subjects at A Level that you’re good at and you may want to carry on to university. In some schools (not mine), children are encouraged at quite a young age to start building careers as doctors, politicians, bankers or journalists.

In my school, they were happy if you went to university, it being a relatively under-funded comprehensive school.

Gathering dust

So with the focus on just getting people to pass their exams, I never really grasped how I would pursue my dream of becoming a writer. It began to gather dust, especially as I went to university, had fun, and learnt about academia.

But then I graduated and had to make a decision about life, so I moved to London with vague plans of becoming a writer. Ha!

All my plan involved was wandering around tree-lined North London streets with a notebook, musing, and people raving about my genius – you know, Virginia Woolf style.

Real adult life was a rude awakening, to say the least. It took me five years, a lot of disappointment, frustration and depression, to get to where I am now.

Lessons learned

I’ve learned it’s not enough to vaguely say I want to be a writer. I’ve got to plan for it in a way that society will pay for, so naturally my thoughts went to becoming a
journalist.

But I didn’t want to play that game. I didn’t have the money to spend on another postgraduate qualification, especially after my ill-advised masters. I didn’t want to keep my finger on the pulse of all the trivialities and tragedies that we call news. I didn’t want to work long, anti-social hours.

Other types of writers are novelists – but it doesn’t pay the bills when you’re writing your bestseller for several years. Also, I don’t want to write a bestseller – I want to write a
classic. This is going to take many years and I’ve already been working on my fantasy novel for more than a decade – I started it when I was fifteen!

I worked in communications, but ironically I wasn’t officially allowed to do any of the writing. I had to work on the technology side of things instead.

Which, amazingly it turns out, launched my career as a freelance blogger (among many other things, of course).

The power of the internet

I learned how the internet is an incredible medium for people to connect with audiences.

I’d long been exposed to derogatory opinions about the internet from journalists writing in the newspapers I read, I imagine because it was threatening the model of traditional print media and its monopoly on ‘the news’.

Well, that ship has sailed now. In just a short few years, the internet has blazed like wildfire through our society, with some good and bad consequences.

A good consequence is that it’s possible for you to make up your own job. No, really. As long as people will pay you for it, you can use the internet to connect with them at relatively low-cost. The barriers for entry into business have been drastically lowered.

Try to wrench your mind away from precocious YouTube stars and celebrities on Instagram. Of course, competition is stiff, but that’s where persistence, experience and defining a niche comes in.

Getting paid to write

I love freelance blogging because it is amazing to have so much fun and get paid for it. I’ve chosen clients in a niche that I love, which is technology, and often focus on issues affecting women in the technology sector, which I feel really passionate about.

I run my women in tech blog, Away with Words, partly to showcase my abilities and interests for professional reasons, but I genuinely love thinking of and writing new posts. It’s so rewarding when people engage with them and give me their feedback.

So, being a freelance writer in the 21st century looks a little different from when Samuel Pepys was writing his diaries as London was burning, or John Keats was penning his sonnets during the time when women weren’t even allowed to vote.

Avoiding pitfalls

Of course there is still space for the traditional journalist, but this is not the hallowed career it once was. Journalists must manage the interests of the business that owns their paper, limiting their capacity for true freedom of expression. The weakening of unions means that they’re not protected from losing their jobs if their writing is dissident from established values.

And novelists must write for the mass market, unless they’re Jonathan Franzen. Communications professionals are contracted to write the views of their company.

That’s why I love being a freelance blogger. I choose the clients I work with, and they seek me out based on my blog, so we have similar values. I don’t write anything that makes my skin crawl.

Contact me on catherine@awaywithwords.co if you have any questions about becoming a freelance writer, or anything else.

Lessons I’ve learned from freelancing

 

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I recently quit my job to become a freelance blogger and content writer. I just published a post entitled ‘How I feel about quitting my job‘. This is Part II of that post series.

This is what I’ve learned so far on my journey into freelancing.

  1. Putting myself out there is really difficult.
  2. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there.
  3. It’s easy to get side-tracked but you need to learn the value of letting some “opportunities” pass you by.
  4. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and make impulsive decisions.
  5. You need to consider a plan from all angles and carefully decide how to proceed.
  6. Take time out from your “productivity” to regain your centre and reduce anxiety.
  7. One must develop a public persona that matches with their private core.
  8. One must not compromise themselves for the world, neither must they be afraid to bare their soul.
  9. The insecurity will always come raging back but we must blindly feel our way, one step lit up at a time, and no more.
  10. It’s hard to stray from the beaten path because there is no roadmap, nothing to tell you if you are going the right way. Don’t panic, though, because others have been here before you.
  11. Try not to think about all the precocious success stories who make it barely seem worth trying. There’s a middle ground between that and abject failure – which is moderate competence, and that’s the path we aim to walk.
  12. There will be many failures as we try to learn new things in the world at large, actualising by experiencing and it’s going to hurt. But we must remember that everything is going to be okay.
  13. You have to physically embody your creative dream and not be afraid of how others will judge you.
  14. Try to ignore all the thousands of past opinions weighing down on you and remember that there is no reason why you can’t succeed.
  15. You just need to calm down, look around you, and find a way to make it happen.
  16. Forget everything you think you’ve been told about “the way to do things”.
  17. And sometimes, stop looking.
  18. Integrate all experiences as having some value.
  19. And, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. You need to ask for the working arrangements you want and believe you have a right to fulfilment and satisfaction.
  20. Don’t rush things, be patient, but at the same time commit to deliberate action.

I’ll write more posts on this topic as they come to mind. If there’s something specific you’d like me to cover, email me at catherine@awaywithwords.co. 

You can also check out my women in tech blog, Away with Words

imageCatherine Julianne is a blogger and content writer obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes tech, visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

 

Image: Brooke Cagle, Unsplash

How I feel about quitting my job

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I haven’t posted on this blog in a while, mainly because I started a new women in tech blog, Away With Words.

This new post is for all the people who may be thinking about doing something scary, or are struggling to find a new path for themselves.

Why I quit my job

Though I’ve wanted to be a freelance writer ever since I was mature enough to understand I need to have some kind of job, actually quitting my full-time job was something I thought I’d do in my late thirties, or maybe never.

Being just your average person, I settled for getting a job in an office (my ultimate nightmare!) and this was mainly because I didn’t have a clue how to become a freelancer.

It turned out that working in an office is nowhere near as bad as I thought it would be (well, my first proper job was, but you live and learn). It was actually kind of fun at times, and of course everyone is lovely.

But something nagged at me, telling me that I wasn’t fulfilling myself. I didn’t feel I was ‘complete’ by doing the work I was doing, and I always wondered about what else there was ‘out there’.

Overcoming a lack of self-belief

Since I didn’t believe it was possible for me to become a freelance writer, I didn’t even try to look for other work.

Instead, I did a lot of volunteer writing, which taught me a lot. I also wrote on this blog, and some very kind people gave me great feedback about the posts I shared.

Finally, one day in April 2016, I’d had enough.

I had been searching for my next step on the career ladder, and I got rejected after having an interview for another job. I was really annoyed and decided to throw in the towel on the whole career ladder thing – extreme! This was because my heart wasn’t in it.

I spoke to one of my friends about how he’d managed to quit his job as a recruiter (grueling!) and started travelling the world while running his own business. His words of encouragement were resounding, and they started me off on my journey.

I was also emboldened by another friend, who had to cope after losing his job. My worst nightmare had evolved from working in an office, which I was already doing, and turned into getting fired, but their triumph and grace made me see that the worst is never really that bad.

That it’s always me and my own fears that are holding me back.

So, after trying out freelance writing for a couple of months, it turned out I could make quite a bit of money out of it.

And then I quit.

Well actually, I tearfully told my manager I was going to quit and then I went on holiday.

Then, I quit.

How I knew what to do

It’s been really sad but I know I’m making the right decision. The time is right to leave.

I learnt so much from my job and it is a hugely contributing factor to how I’m able to become a successful freelancer. I met wonderful, helpful people and learnt about business, marketing and workplace culture.

Telling everyone I know about my decision has been an ongoing process, and I’m stunned to be able to say that every single reaction has been positive. No one has asked me if I’m crazy, or what I’m going to do if I fail.

Everyone has been wholeheartedly supportive (at least to my face!) and been excited for me. Maybe it’s because I am an extremely cautious and sensible person so they assume I know what I’m doing (heh…). Or maybe everyone I know is also crazy.

Now what?

I’ve learned that there are many things you can do, even if you lack self-belief. You can build up that belief – you just have to work up the courage to take that single first step. That is the turning point between complacency and exhilaration.

So, if anyone else is thinking of making a big leap, I’d be happy to talk to you about how I dealt with the anxiety I felt (and still feel), and how I have systematically taken calculated risks to ensure I stand the best chances of success.

My next post will be about what I have learned from being self-employed. 

Image: Phoebe Dill, Unsplash

 

The secret of productivity

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There is really no secret of productivity except engaging in meaningful work. If you are motivated to complete the work you have set out to do, you will procrastinate less and work faster.

Nevertheless, here are some tips to help you be more productive:

  • Don’t do anything you don’t love (beyond normal life obligations) because then you will feel a sense of “not enough time” as you’re not spending it on the right things for you.
  • Don’t waste time imagining negative futures or living in idealised pasts because all you will ever have is now, and anything else is a waste.
  • Get your priorities straight because then you will easily be able to decide how to spend your time. It’s a fact that you won’t be able to do everything.
  • Establish a stable routine which will keep you balanced and reduce emotional stress, therefore making it easier not to waste time on negativity which is draining. Negativity is anything that doesn’t promote your own joy, growth and expansion.
  • Honestly get up earlier, it’s easier to get things done in the morning. Who feels like doing anything after a long day at work?
  • Don’t make the first thing you do one of obligation, like going to work.
    Have at least an hour per day devoted to your favourite activity, such as writing, watching a film, sketching, reading a book. This will set the tone for the whole day, if you start off with wonderful things you will seek wonderful things.
  • Reorganise your mind’s schedule to two weeks instead of one – seven days is a fairly arbitrary number and not enough to get through a full cycle of everything you want to do.
  • Keep your mind very well organised by prioritising everything you want to do. Make regular life plans, from 6 months to 6 years. You will subconsciously keep adjusting your course with less active effort involved, saving time.
  • Don’t try to multitask because this is literally impossible and you end up splintering your attention, reducing your joy in the task. Why do it if it’s not important enough to focus on? Also, you might make a mistake and have to correct it later, wasting time.
  • If you still feel like you don’t have enough time, cut out some less essential things. If you want to be a great artist, maybe your home can suffer being a little messier.
  • Really take time out. Time has a funny way of stretching when you counterpose periods of activity with periods of repose.
  • Make spreadsheets. If it’s making you feel stressed, it’s probably too complex to hold in your mind, so you need to break it down and structure it.
  • Meditate regularly. This breaks you out of the hamster wheel of endless conscious thought, and helps you enter a more relaxed state of mind which is more conducive to real productivity (rather than busywork).
  • Do a monthly online shop to stop you going to the small supermarkets every day.
  • When making to do lists, make sure you write down the concrete steps needed to complete the task. So, rather than “clean room” which is quite abstract, maybe write: hoover, put clothes away, change bedsheets, so you feel a sense of completion when these have been done.
  • Put everything that you may not naturally remember to do in your digital calendar – eg Google Calendar. This frees up valuable mental space to focus on other things, and reduces the stress caused when forgetting to do important tasks.

There really is honestly no secret to productivity apart from having what you want to achieve most at the top of your priority list. If you’re willing to devote the time to writing that book, making that video game or drawing that graphic novel, you will. If you always forsake dedication to art and spend your time on other tasks, you will never achieve your goals.

imageCatherine Julianne is a writer and digital communications professional obsessed with the field of personality systems theory. She also likes visual art, Eastern practices, adventures and being in nature. 

Image: Unsplash