Welcome to my mind!
In this precious corner of my website, you can witness my reflections first-hand along the bumpy road of becoming a freelance copywriter. To read all about the madness going on in my head under the title of Thinking, scroll down or...
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Busy Bee's struggles
I’m a no rush kinda gal. The type of person who’d rather arrive at work 30 minutes earlier than 1 minute late.
That's because when I’m in a rush, I get stressed. And when I get stressed, I fall apart.
My brain gets detached from my body, my legs and arms fall off my torso and I make unreasonable decisions. Like when I was running late for my hair appointment and left the ATM without taking the cash.
I try to avoid such situations as much as I can, but I don’t always manage. Just like this time.
I’ve found myself in a rat race where I’m trying to balance a full time job and freelance copywriting on the side. That means coordinating client calls on four different platforms from three different time zones, doing a round of laundry in between them, all this after a day of squeezing all the juice out of my brain. Oh, and the actual writing itself, of course, which is another story.
I quickly had to pull my body parts together to avoid this ending in a complete disaster.
So, I’m time-managing like hell. Not one of my strengths, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I even bought myself a paper-based diary from a brand called BusyB - very unlike me.
Here’s how Busy 🐝 is coping with the situation:
Early mornings before work: instead of staring blankly into space, I do some writing. Nothing too difficult though, my brain still doesn’t function at its full capacity. Maybe just scanning through something I wrote the previous night.
Commute to and from work: instead of my usual daydreaming ritual, I do research on a project or get some boring admin stuff done.
Lunch and coffee breaks: I write for client projects or I write these emails or look for writing jobs.
Evenings: instead of watching Breaking Bad or looking at useless but beautiful pictures on Pinterest… again, I do some writing or schedule a call.
Do I enjoy it?
I miss my little daydreaming rituals on the bus. I miss not being in a rush all the time. I miss me-time spent on Pinterest.
Is it working?
Never been so productive in my life. That, I really like.
That’s not to say it’s a perfect system. There are some occasional glitches. For example this morning, as I was writing the first bit of this email on my way to work, I realised that I’d got on the wrong bus. (Unfortunately I managed to get on the right one within minutes, so no more drama here.)
If you’re expecting some magic tips from me, I have to disappoint you. I have no secrets to share. I don’t even know how I’m managing this all.
But if I had to tell you something Coelho-esque, I guess that would be these three things: I really want this to work, I know that it’s only temporary and the support I get from others.
How long I’ll be able to keep doing this, I don’t know. But if you don’t see me in your inbox for a week, you can probably find me in a nuthouse.
Welcome back to hell!
6:30 this morning - my alarm goes off.
That’s right, I’m back to work. (Only two things can make me get up this early: work or a flight.)
I spend 30 minutes staring into space, plotting a heist so I don’t have to get out of bed earlier than 8am ever again. I soon realise that I was too ambitious, give up on the heist and crawl into the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee. Then I sit down and stare blankly for another 30 minutes while sipping on my coffee.
When my eyes are finally open, I try to figure out what to wear for the day. It’s supposed to be business casual, whatever the hell that means. Over the past five months all I’ve been wearing was lounge wear and sportswear, so as far as I’m concerned, a pair of faded jeans and a plain T-shirt should do the trick.
Another 15 minutes pass until I manage to pick something I deem to be office appropriate, leaving myself exactly 15 minutes to wash my face, brush my teeth and sprinkle some fairy dust on my head to make it look acceptable.
Now, as it’s my first day, I planned ahead which bus to take to get to the office at exactly 8:50. Not a minute earlier because, apparently, if I spend an extra minute waiting in the lobby, that could be fatal for humankind.
I had two options: number 7 or 31. But unfortunately they stop on the opposing ends of our street, so it’s always a dilemma which one will suck less.
After a careful consideration, the decision was made: number 31 it is, at 8:10.
8:08 - I arrive at the bus stop and confirm on the app: the bus should be there in 2 minutes. Excellent, I thought to myself, I nailed it! But 6 minutes pass, and still no bus. I check the app again: the next one is in 10 minutes.
How could I forget that 31 doesn’t show up if it doesn’t feel like it? Should I trust it to show up in 10 minutes? Probably not.
So I decide to check what time 7 comes. Luckily, there’s one in 7 minutes. If I run, I can still catch it.
Who said I’d have to give up running just because I’m working again?
As I’m heading to the other bus stop, the coffee starts to make its way up from my stomach. Looks like early mornings + coffee + running is not a combo I can handle. But I manage to keep it down.
I get to the bus stop, check the app and note, relieved, that the bus should arrive in 2 minutes. Victory! Except that in 5 minutes there’s still no bus. So I open the app to see what in heaven’s name is going on again.
Turns out that the next bus is due in 14 minutes.
It’s 8:25 at this point. There’s no way I can make it on time even if a bus shows up right now, let alone in 14 minutes. I can’t be late on my first day! There’s nothing left to do but order an Uber. I proceed to confirm the ride and wait.
And while I wait, guess who shows up around the corner...
...that’s right, my friend number 7.
AM I ON CAMERA OR WHAT???
But since my Uber is confirmed there’s not much I can do. I stick with it.
8:46 - I finally arrive at the office. My energy levels are miles below the ground. I’m ready to jump into my PJs, crawl back to bed and call it a day.
If I’m actually on camera, may I suggest a name to the show: “Welcome back to hell!”
Exercise made as easy as taking a shower
Lockdown hit me like a bowling ball.
While I was working from home, I admit, I loved it. No herring party on the bus, no battling with horizontally pouring rain, no unnecessary contact with other humans.
But two months in, I was furloughed and left with infinite time on my hands in a city where pastime options were limited for months. Namely: you could go to the supermarket or to the pharmacy. Insanity guaranteed.
To add to it, that’s when I started learning about copywriting.
Result: the normal lockdown syndrome of “I don’t know what to do with my life, I’m useless and I can’t even go to the pub” was accompanied by “I’m not good enough, what if I fail, I won’t be able to do it.”
I needed something to clear my mind when I got overwhelmed, and I only had one option at the time: running.
Initially, I had to trick myself into doing it. I had to set reminders, and consciously kick myself out the door whenever I started to feel off.
Today, a few months later, I do it automatically. No tricks needed. When I feel overwhelmed, my mind is triggered and there’s no way back. Unless it’s raining horizontally.
The results are pretty cool. Most importantly, I didn’t go insane and I didn’t quit copywriting (which I would have probably done if it wasn’t for running.) Bonus: I lost weight and I’m more toned. Yay!
I’ve already written about how I managed to increase my running time from 3 minutes to 30. But I’ve not been thinking about why it comes so naturally now, when back in May it took me hours of messing around to convince myself to get my butt out. Deep down I probably thought that I was gifted with some superhuman abilities.
Until a few days ago, when I listened to a podcast with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee who explained what had actually happened.
Spoiler: I didn't get superhuman abilities.
Dr. Chatterjee is a British physician, author and TV presenter, and in this podcast episode he talks about his most recent book, Feel Better In 5. The book is about how to make sustainable changes to our health and to our lifestyle.
Very briefly: by creating new habits that stick. (Healthy habits, obviously.)
And that’s what I did with running, unknowingly.
Just think about taking a shower. You don’t have to remind yourself to take a shower. You don’t have to set an alarm or put it on your to-do-list. You just do it, because it’s a habit. And you do it everyday over and over again. Hopefully.
So if you can get to that taking-a-shower-everyday-level with your new habit and stick with it, you’re going to kick some ass. Or simply just feel better - as the book's title suggests and just like I did.
How to get there and hold on to it?
That’s what Dr. Chatterjee explains in the podcast, among some other interesting stuff. Such as why you’re not a failure if you can’t do three 40-minute gym sessions a week, and what you could do instead that doesn’t require blood, tears and half a kidney to complete.
If you’re interested, you can listen to the podcast on the link below:
Here's to embarrassment
If you ever think that you are the most embarrassing, awkward, lame-ass human - or any kind of - being on this planet, then watch and learn!
(If you never feel like that, please teach me.)
It happened last year around April time.
I had just left my job as a hotel receptionist, and finally managed to organise a dinner with a friend I used to work with at the hotel. We’d been planning it for ages, but we were working shifts, and he has a family, and I… have a flair for making up excuses when it comes to going out.
After a lot of back and forth on WhatsApp, we agreed on a Thai restaurant called Dusit. Thursday 7pm.
I went ahead and booked a table. Thursday came, and I headed to the restaurant after work. I arrived 10 minutes early. I took our table, and ordered two glasses of wine: one for myself and one for my friend. I texted him to say that I arrived and got him a glass of wine.
The waiter then came up to me asking “Miss, you ready for order?” “No” I said “I’ll wait for my friend to arrive, and we’ll order together.”
I was peacefully sipping on my wine, looking at the menu with a scientific expression on my face, when I received a text back from my friend:
“Um, I’m in Spain visiting my parents. I thought I’d told you that I was going home this week. I meant next Thursday.”
*drinks up both glasses of wine*
For the record: he did tell me about his trip. But I was probably lost somewhere in Liza Land and didn’t put the pieces together. To hell with those long WhatsApp conversations!
I had two choices at that point:
1. Go home, humiliated and hungry.
2. Stay at the restaurant, humiliated, and have a nice meal at least.
Since humiliation was a non-negotiable, and because I’d just drunk up two glasses of wine, I opted for the second option and called the waiter to order.
Liza: “Can I order, please?”
Waiter: “Ah, no friend?” looking confused.
Liza: “No. No friend, I’m afraid.”
Waiter: “Oh, I’m so sorry, miss.” with pity on his face.
Liza: “Don’t worry, it’s ok. It’s not a date, I was meant to see a friend.” (Like anyone would believe that…) “Could I please get a Tom Kha soup with prawns, a Bangkok duck and a rice pudding? And another glass of the same wine.”
I spent the rest of the evening (other than enjoying my feast) entertaining myself by texting all my friends and family about this little incident. And laughing at their reactions. As if it wasn’t embarrassing enough already…
And that’s the story of how I spent a romantic evening, and nearly £60, at a Thai restaurant by myself. (I wanted to treat myself after all I’d just been through, okay?)
I have no conclusions or lessons for today, so if you can think of anything other than “you’re an absolute moron”, let me know.
A 4-year-old's "trick" that made a client tip me 3x the price of my gig
When my little sister was around 4 years old, she asked me a thought-provoking question:
“How do flowers pee?”
I found it funny, but it totally made sense for her to ask this. She’d seen humans pee before. She’d seen animals pee before. But she’d never seen flowers pee. So she asked, and she didn’t feel ashamed.
Today she knows that flowers don’t pee and also that they don’t eat and drink the way humans or animals do. Of course, she knows a lot more than that.
Sometimes even more than me, for example how to create a product design. Or how to manipulate our parents into paying for her 98th pair of shoes. (It has nothing to do with this post, I’m just a proud sister who wanted to brag.)
Back to kids and questions: until the age of 6, they ask about 75 to 100 questions daily.
But once they start school, this number significantly drops. Richard Saul Wurman, creator of TED Conference, seems to believe that it’s because in school, we are rewarded for having the right answers, not for asking good questions.
And so as adults, we think that we’re supposed to know the answer to everything and that we’ll look stupid if we ask questions.
I felt the same way when I started working with clients. I always have millions of questions. Well, all the four times I’ve worked with clients I had millions of questions. And it felt intimidating to ask. After all, they hired me to make their lives easier, yet here I am asking how flowers pee and all (not literally).
But I asked them anyway. I needed to know the answers to do my job, so I put the discomfort aside, dug deep to find the 4-year-old in me and asked shamelessly:
“Am I right in thinking that your prospects’ biggest pain point is that they can’t calculate ROI on their sponsorship expenses?”
“Here’s an idea, what do you think about it?”
“I don’t completely understand what’s included in this package, can you please explain?”
“I’ve written up a first draft, do you think it’s a good direction?”
“Do you think the use of technical terms would make you look professional in the eyes of your prospects, or would it make them go huh?”
Most of the time I feared that they’d see me as someone who can’t work independently. But, to my biggest surprise, I noticed a pattern in my reviews (three makes a pattern, doesn’t it?):
They all mentioned my questions, one way or another. They loved that I asked so many. One guy even tipped me three times the price of my gig. To be fair, it only cost $5. I imagine he wouldn’t have tipped me 150 bucks on a $50 gig. But still!
(Also here: if you want to hear my questions in exchange for $15, do not hesitate to let me know. I can even make up funny ones like my sister’s.)
That said, I think asking questions can also go wrong. Actually, I think I just scared a potential client away like that. I’m telling myself that it wasn’t meant to be. That it wasn’t written in the stars.
But perhaps I just asked too many dumb questions. That’s also a possibility.
Obviously, this is not a representative sample. I can’t even say that it’s based on a lot of experience, and it might all just be coincidence. But here goes my scientific conclusion:
Most clients appreciate it if you ask questions. And they appreciate it even more if you ask a lot of relevant ones.
You know the feeling when Facebook brings up something you posted in 2011, and you just want to go back in time and slap yourself in the face? I call that the ultimate self-cringing.
The other day I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, all the way back to 2010. What can I say, I love torturing myself. My feed was so abundant in embarrassing posts that I decided to run a little contest to pick the most cringe-y one.
It was a stiff competition.
But there was one that particularly screwed up my cringe-o-meter:
“unbelievable. stupid, idiot snow. I hate this f*cking weather.” (Expertly translated from Hungarian.)
I just revealed a dirty piece of my past here, I hope you appreciate it. Although, I don’t blame you if you see me in a different light.
What I felt when scrolling down my Facebook feed was completely normal. Everybody cringes at their past selves, there’s no news there. It's proof that I’ve improved over the years and I know better today. Or simply just got less awkward.
Today I discovered that I didn't need years to develop this feeling. Woohoo!
This morning I opened an email copy I’d written for a client about a month ago. I thought I could use it as a sample. Oh boy, was I wrong! I cringed like never before. (That’s a lie, my old Facebook posts make me cringe more. Still, eww.)
I remembered it as a good piece. The client was happy with it. But probably only because it was cheap and I was very accommodating. I’ll be honest, I was heartbroken.
Up until I realised that it was actually good news.
It means that in just a month I learned enough to say that it was complete crap.
Could I rewrite it to make it better? I don’t know. I did try, but maybe it’s not any better. Maybe I’ll look at it in a month and want to come back to slap my present-self in the face.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that cringing at an old piece of work is not an uplifting feeling, but it’s a sign that you’re on the right path. So don’t be a silly goose and embrace it!
Potential war turned into a profitable alliance?
A few days ago Aldi’s new unbranded beer named “Anti Establishment” IPA went viral on Twitter.
Its uncanny resemblance to the design of BrewDog’s best selling beer, the Punk IPA. Twitter users found the discount supermarket’s take on the name “Punk” amusing and “legendary”. And, if this is not hilarious enough (I mean, Anti Establishment IPA?! I nearly died when I first saw it)...
...then watch how James Watt, co-founder of Scotland-based brewery and pub chain, responded in a post: “Inspired by ALDI’s take on Punk IPA from yesterday, we are making a new beer. YALDI IPA is coming soon! Maybe our friends @AldiUK will even sell it in their stores?”
(Yaldi is an interjection in Scottish slang used to express excitement or joy.)
Watt also posted a picture of a mock-up design for Yaldi IPA with an unmistakable Aldi-style.
Aldi, master of creating replicas of other brands, didn’t hesitate to come up with a more suitable name for the beer, which Watt happily agreed on: apparently, ALD IPA is now in the making and should soon be on the shelves of the supermarket.
Although some seem to think it’s all just a social media banter, I really do hope they’ll see it through, because I’d love to see the results of this unplanned marketing campaign (or is it?). If they end up selling ALD IPA, I personally think it’ll be a hit in the UK, especially in Scotland.
But who am I to make such predictions?
Maybe you’re smarter than me and maybe you think otherwise. But I'm confident and even willing to take bets on it. So write me, place your non-money bets and let’s have some fun, yaldi!
Why anti-talent is an advantage
Early this year I realised I’d lost three years of my life.
It was an average day in the office. Primary school teacher yelling at me on the phone (many of our clients were schools), the system freezing every ten minutes… when we received a call from France.
I was the lucky one to take it, being the only French speaker in the office - or so we thought.
I answered the call: “Bonjour, how can I help you?”
Well done, moron.
I gathered all my courage and had another go at it, hoping that this time I could put together at least a semi-decent sentence in French. You’d think so, given that I’d spent three years studying the ins and outs of the language at university level.
But you’re wrong.
A mix of French and English words left my mouth, with a trembling voice, in a variety of accents including Spanish, Chinese, Swahili and God knows what else.
As unbelievable as this might sound, I’ve always been good at languages. I’ve always enjoyed learning them and I never needed much effort to get good grades at school.
It comes quite easily and naturally to me. Although calling myself talented makes me cringe, let’s just say, for the sake of simplicity, that I’m talented at learning languages.
I suppose that’s why I carried over my good old habit of not-putting-much-effort-into-learning to my university studies.
I was doing fine with minimal time and energy investments. I wasn’t an A+ student, but I was still better than the majority of my classmates. I never spent long nights studying, spoke to anyone in French outside of uni or took part in extracurricular activities (unless cheese and wine tasting counts).
Why would I do that? I’m good at this, I don’t need to.
One of my uni classmates - let’s call her Emily - had a different approach.
Emily wasn’t particularly good at French. In fact, she struggled through the course, even though she spent significantly more time preparing for classes and tests than me. I remember, she even failed the end of course test that would qualify us to submit our dissertation and take the final exam.
She had to wait another year to graduate. But that didn’t put Emily off.
She went on Erasmus to Montpellier. She made friends with native French speakers. She came back home, went to discussion clubs regularly and surrounded herself with French speakers.
Today, Emily lives in France, has a French boyfriend and works for a French company. I haven’t spoken to her in a long time, but I’d imagine she speaks the language fluently.
As for me:
Well, you read the beginning of the post. I didn’t share how exactly the conversation went with that French person - for good reasons - but I’ll tell you one thing: it wasn’t the most glorious moment of my life.
That’s where I’m at with my French right now, five years after graduating.
I’ll just say that sometimes anti-talent pays off better than talent - if you’re willing to put in the work. The rest, I’ll leave up to you to figure out.
Do you waste your time doing this?
I just finished watching BoJack Horseman, the TV show.
My favourite episode was the one where BoJack gives a eulogy at her mother’s funeral. (I have a very particular taste…) A few minutes into the episode, it becomes obvious that it’s actually BoJack’s monologue, mostly about his relationship with his mother.
There are a million things that struck me in his speech but I’m not going to talk about any of those in this post... no need to make all my ten readers depressed.
Instead, I will share one *shocking* thing with you. Just kidding. I’d never use this word non-ironically. But still, it’s something you might not realise you are doing, and actually waste time doing.
In the eulogy, BoJack talks a lot about the moment his mother died. He was there with Beatrice - that’s the mother’s name - at the hospital, and Beatrice’s last words to him were: “I see you.”
BoJack makes some lousy attempts in his speech to unravel the deep meaning behind those words.
Side note: BoJack’s relationship with his mother was as good as milk left out on the table in the middle of summer.
Anyway, he tries to crack the code for Beatrice’s subtle message:
Did she just recognise him as another person in the room, without a statement of judgement this time? Like:
“Hello there, you are a person and I see you.”
Or maybe it was a different I see you. As in:
“You might have the rest of the world fooled, but I know exactly who you are.”
Or did she literally just mean “I see you. You are an object that has entered my field of vision.”?
But possibly he’s just hallucinating it all, and Beatrice wasn’t even talking to him.
He then returns to this moment a couple of times during the speech. A few minutes before the end of the episode he goes:
"I keep going back to that moment in the ICU when she looked at me, and… I-C-U. I...see...you. Jesus Christ, we were in the intensive care unit. She was just reading a sign.”
If the above scenario could easily take place in your mind and you keep thinking that life is a Dostoevsky novel where even a shoe sole has some hidden meaning...
...then welcome to the club of overthinkers.
The truth is, we all tend to overthink to some extent. It’s human nature. But if it becomes chronic, it has more than unpleasant effects on our lives.
Let’s take BoJack as an example:
He spends about 4 minutes of his 20-minute monologue trying to figure out the meaning of Beatrice’s last words, only to find out that there was no meaning. That’s 20% of the speech. 20% for nothing.
These are of course not findings of some Oxford research, just my own humble speculations. I have no idea how much time I or fellow overthinkers waste on ruminating unnecessarily, but I do know that it’s a looot in my case. And I suspect I'm not alone.
But say it is actually 20% of your waking time, and say you sleep 8 hours a day. That’d be about 3 hours a day doing something neither useful, nor enjoyable, just purely frustrating.
In three hours, you could watch two movies. Or you could make your own pizza dough. Or sleep more. (That’s where my vote goes.)
But wasting time is not even the worst thing about overthinking. It also has some psychological consequences, which I'm not going to preach about, as I’m not an expert.
Instead, I’ll share an insightful article I recently read on the topic. It even gives some tips on how to defeat overthinking, whether you are a pathological case or just a hobby-overthinker.
All right, I’m off to implementing these tricks, I’ve got no time to waste. If you want to do the same, you can check out the article on the link below:
Nothing's wrong with you (I have a scientific explanation)
Times change and so do we.
One day you are trying to max out your purchase’s value for money in the alcohol section of a supermarket (read: buy whatever gets you the most drunk the cheapest)...
...the next day you are looking at pillows costing £150 on Amazon, because you need a thickness of exactly 5.95 inches, so that you don’t wake up looking like Quasimodo every morning. Not one inch less, not one inch more.
Over the past few years, my attention has shifted in other areas, too: From burning questions, such as “Do I really need 8 hours of sleep or can I go to that boat party and pull off a 12-hour shift after a 3-hour sleep?”...
...to less enticing ones like “Why the hell do I suck at all my jobs, and why do I hate them to an even greater extent?”
To be fair, I’ve only had two grown-up jobs so far, but I hated and sucked at both.
Before those, I’d worked at a party hostel in Budapest. It was all about the fun and…well parties. Then I moved to Scotland, where I got a position at a fancy-ass hotel reception, and found out that not all jobs were fun and games. Shocker!
If you don’t believe me, here’s a taster of my typical day at the hotel:
200 people at a wedding reception getting hammered, thinking it’s okay to pee on the carpet, while I’m trying to check in a bunch of normal people (AKA people that are not hammered and are not peeing on the carpet). All this accompanied by the soothing sound of a bagpipe every single time a wedding guest sets foot in the lobby, and by a crazy woman yelling at me, demanding a refund for a booking she made at another hotel.
Alright, I might be exaggerating here. But most shifts did feel like this.
After 2.5 years, I decided that I didn’t want to see any more human beings for the rest of my life, and got an office job.
It was good in the beginning. No peeing, no yelling, no bagpipes. But soon I ended up dreading it, too. My biggest horror came every Friday: the weekly Zoom call.
Let me paint a picture of the environment these calls took place in:
Phones on fire like the Amazon rainforest, Greg and Paola discussing last night’s GOT episode over my head, and Carolina, right next to me, shouting to someone on the far side of the office.
But the best is yet to come:
The headset. It was the cherry on top. The fly on dog poo. That last shot of tequila that makes you throw up. It provided a stereo experience. I could hear everything going on in the office as usual, plus the same coming through the mic of my headset.
I could never contribute with more than a couple of sentences, because I was too focused on keeping my brain from exploding. After a 1-hour call, I’d be more drained than the water in my tub after I take a bath.
In these circa 3.5 years, I was about as social as a Buddhist monk. I was known for bailing out of most parties and for falling asleep on company outings (no kidding).
I didn’t expect to be so exhausted all the time in my mid-twenties, so I was getting concerned about my health. It was about this time that I started reading a lot about psychology and mental illnesses. At first, I thought I had issues with my mental health, something like social anxiety. Then I came across an article, and suddenly it all made sense.
Here’s the deal:
Nothing’s wrong with me or my mental health. Turns out that I’m just an introvert. At least I lean towards the introversion end of the introversion-extroversion scale.
An introvert, by definition, is someone who prefers minimally stimulating environments and needs alone time to recharge, as opposed to extroverts, who refuel by being with others. It’s due to differences in their brain chemistry and their nervous system, which results in introverts getting overstimulated from less stimuli than extroverts.
It’s all science, baby!
It explains why I found those jobs so draining and why I wasn’t exactly the ideal person for either. They were both good fit for outgoing people with high energy levels, but not for those who get stressed when there are no self check-out cashiers at the grocery store, and they have to interact with a *real* cashier.
So if you feel the same, don’t beat yourself up. You might just be an introvert trying to fit in the scary world of extroverts. But the good news is, there are many areas where introversion is a huge advantage, you just need to find the one that suits you. For one, there’s writing.
And remember: sometimes, the best place to be is in your head, and the best company to have is yourself. If you’re asking me, that’s the case most of the time.
Beat this villain disguised as a hero
*Spoiler alert* In today’s post, I’m going to talk about the Spiderman movie, Far From Home, so if you haven’t seen it and it’s on your list, you know the drill.
In the beginning of the movie, Mysterio is introduced as a superhero combating all sorts of villains. He then teams up with Superman to beat them.
Later, it turns out that those villains he was fighting were just holographic illusions he’d created himself, and the bad boy was actually him, disguised as a hero. He only created the illusions to gain the trust of Spiderman and to eventually stab him in the back. Savage.
Believe it or not, you also have a sneaky little Mysterio in your life.
It’s the demon telling you that he just wants to protect you from failure, humiliation and boredom. That voice in your head (no, not Miralinda, your childhood imaginary friend, the other voice), whispering “you better get your sock drawer re-organised before you start writing that essay due tomorrow.”
Or “hmm that documentary about insect mating looks interesting, you should probably check it out before you get the laundry done.”
Yes, it’s your good ol’ friend, procrastination.
A 2013 study found that procrastination has nothing to do with poor time management, laziness or self-control. (Yay!) In reality, it is an emotional self-defence mechanism to avoid negative moods and emotions associated with a task, whether that be boredom, anxiety or self-doubt.
Well, it’s mighty big of him to try and protect you, but you know you’re better off without him. You know that if you listen to him, you’ll end up being awake all night until 8 in the morning writing the essay, with no clean clothes to wear, and then beating yourself up because you gave in to him. Again.
In case you are wondering: procrastination + me = amigos. Big time.
And I’ve got a little trick for ya if you’re in the same sinking boat.
A while ago I came across a YouTube video on the topic. It recommended a technique to overcome procrastination, called “throwing the ball over the fence” - the ball being the reward and the fence the task you’ve been putting off.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that ball isn’t all that tempting, and that fence is way too high. I don’t even need the ball and I don’t have an urge to get the ball. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
I started thinking about what would make me jump out of my skin and climb. I came to realise that it would have to be on my side of the fence. In other words, a threat rather than a reward. Something like a hungry lion or puma. Or a balloon. Balloons scare me to death. That sure as hell would make me run and climb.
So here goes my advice:
Find your lion or puma or whatever you fear the most. But a spider won’t do it. You have to dig deeper to find your biggest fears. Down where failure, judgement and humiliation hide. Now we’re talking!
Note: it probably won’t work with mundane tasks such as the laundry. Unless you have deep fears attached to your laundry not being done. (If you do, I don’t judge you. I have deep fears attached to my flat not being clean.)
Anyway, back to the point. As an example, here’s what I’m doing right now: I told everyone I could about my plans. Friends and family, lovers and haters, the neighbour’s cat, the postman... Because I don’t want to seem like a failure in their eyes and I’d hate to disappoint them. Especially the cat.
And to avoid that, I have no other choice but to write regularly.
In fact, this blog is the result of my little exercise and you are my lion. So please keep chasing me with those scary teeth of yours, and I’ll keep mounting the fences and deliver content to you.
Non-native English speakers, this one's for you
I decided to celebrate my redundancy with a trip back home to Hungary. Nothing soothes my nerves like a gin & tonic party featuring Gran.
About a week ago I was queuing at a sandwich bar. I was waiting for my turn and I only had one guy left in front of me, when all of a sudden, I spotted another queue in the making. My heart started to race faster than people running to the toilet after eating sugar free Haribos.
Why would you do that when there’s a perfectly fine queue already? WHY?
On top of that, the cashier lady, once finished with the guy in front of me, started serving people in the other queue. Can’t she see that I was there first??
(That was a rhetorical question. Of course she can. She just doesn’t give a tiny rat’s ass.)
Also, what’s wrong with me, why am I getting so irritated? I never used to care about things like that. So I’ll have to wait a couple of minutes longer, big deal.
Then I realised: OMG, I'm becoming British! We all know the stereotype about Brits and their queues. It’s true. The Holy Queue must be respected at all times. And I’m all for queues now. Go Team Queue!
Oddly, that was a happy moment. I’ll tell you why in just a minute, but before I do, I wanted to talk about a less joyous occasion. It happened a few days before the queue incident.
I almost quit.
No news there, the devil sitting on my shoulder wants me to quit every other day. But no need to panic! Brian Tracy gal is still with me in my head to keep me going. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out my previous post.)
I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, when I came across some blond lady advertising a copywriting course. I watched her video. She has the most annoying fake-bubbly style that I can’t stand, yet, she almost convinced me that it was a good idea to buy her $500 course.
I didn’t buy it in the end but I checked her website and subscribed to her emails. (She must be good if she almost convinced the unemployed me to buy a $500 course, right?)
Out of curiosity, I also checked the comments under the ad and I came across a question that had been bothering me too: “Would you recommend it to non-native English speakers?”
Her answer: “No, we wouldn’t recommend copywriting to non-native English speakers. Even if you’re fluent, you wouldn’t be able to understand the nuances of the language.”
For a moment there I froze, and the drama queen inside me came to the surface. That’s it. This is the end. I threw myself to the ground like a football player when an opponent pokes his shoulder with his pinkie.
But it wasn’t enough for me. It was like lukewarm water and I wanted the hot and stinky contents of the cesspit. Gimme the dirty stuff!
So I went ahead and googled “copywriting for non-native English speakers”. Well, I got what I asked for. You know when your toe is sore, you google it and immediately self-diagnose with toe cancer? That’s what happened.
I found some juicy pieces of meat out there like:
“Non-native English speakers are the worst, their work is always full of spelling and grammar mistakes, it always has to be edited.”
Or “I would never have my copy done by a non-native English speaker.”
That was a punch in the stomach. There were some positive opinions, too, but I don’t care about those. (Why would I? That’d just make me feel better...)
Anyhow, I found something more interesting. Some comments mentioned the cultural factor: if you didn't grow up in the specific society you want to write for, you won’t understand its cultural references and won’t be able to produce effective copy.
It’s not so much about the language as it is about the culture, apparently. Well, I certainly can’t prove the contrary.
But if you live in a society long enough, you can definitely pick up on some of its cultural cues and even make them part of your identity. Like I did with the queues. There is hope!
Is it going to be enough for effective copywriting? No idea. But I guess I’ll find out at some point.
PS. just to close the loop on my insecurity about the language barrier… a few days ago I read something from Kevin Rogers, founder of Copy Chief - whose emails I’d subscribed to before that lady's and am still subscribed to - where he answered the same question: it is absolutely possible. It might be more difficult for non-native speakers, but they can even turn it to their advantage.
Conclusion: sorry, annoying blond woman, but I’ll stick with the Chief. And the queues.
All hail Brian Tracy gal, my saviour
I caved. I gave up my principles. Shame on me!
No, I didn’t sell a cure-all detoxifier device to an elderly lady for $1,000. I just downloaded a running app.
I used to be against fancy running apps. If I really want to run, I’ll just go and run, that was my philosophy. I never understood why I’d need an app for that.
Until I really wanted to run.
I’d tried it before, but it would always turn into a walk of shame after a 3-minute performance of me gasping for breath like a dementor. So I finally gave in to the pressure and got one of those apps, around about the same time I started learning about copywriting.
Fast forward six weeks: I could run for 30 minutes straight. Okay, you got me, I stopped once. But only because I had to, at a crosswalk.
This could be a sneaky promotion for a running app, but unfortunately, nobody pays me to write this post. Although, something good might still come out of it. What I want to share with you is the lesson I learned from this mighty app. A lesson that helped me through the moments I wanted to give up on copywriting.
So there I am with my fancy app, cranking up my awkward workout playlist (the first song on it is Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination) and hitting the start button. All of a sudden, a woman starts talking to me. I mean, in the app.
Whoa! That was unexpected.
Anyway, I roll with it because she is saying nice things to me, like “You’re a running superstar, you can do it, you are strong.” I’m totally buying it. It’s like having my own Brian Tracy in my head. Except that this one seems to be working.
But I suspect that it’s not the motivational crap that did the trick.
Later it turned out that it was a 6-week 5K program within the app. It basically builds up your endurance gradually, week by week. In the first week, you do 1-minute running intervals followed by 2-minute recovery intervals. Then the duration of the running intervals increases, while the recovery time drops, all the way until week 6, when you should be able to run for 30 minutes without stopping.
Actually, I was wrong. There was one motivational thought from this Brian Tracy gal that I found useful: “Take one step at a time. One interval at a time. One workout at a time. Focus on achieving in the now, and you’ll have time to focus on the future once you’re there.” (Not word for word, but that was the gist of it.)
Cheesy? Maybe. But I find it 100% relatable.
And if you are anything like me, you will, too.
The thing is, when I get excited about something, I want to know all about it. I dive in like Winnie the Pooh dives into honey. I can’t get enough. Until my brain decides that it’s too much and I get overwhelmed.
That’s when I usually quit.
Not because I’m not capable. But because I compare myself to people that are at workout number 241 while I’m at workout number 2. And that's not exactly a self-love retreat. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what I do.
All hail Brian Tracy gal who came to my rescue this time and saved me from giving up again. For now.
A personal development lesson from Rachel Green
I am a crazy Friends-lady. I've seen the entire show hundreds of times, and will probably watch it another few hundred times.
Although, I must admit that nowadays I only turn to it when I seek comfort. And over the past few weeks, I needed a lot of comfort. Freelance copywriting is not a piece of cake. Not in the beginning, anyway.
The other evening I was watching the One Where Phoebe Runs. In this episode, Rachel moves in with Phoebe and they decide to go for a run in the name of roommate bonding. This little bonding exercise ends up separating the two friends. At least for a while.
Phoebe, the flower child, runs like no other human on planet Earth. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant running, that’s about it. Except that she also has two hands she can lift in the air and wave around, adding to the experience.
She finds it more fun this way.
Princess Rachel doesn’t.
She finds it a tad embarrassing. She ends up pretending to have a sprained ankle to avoid having to go with Phoebe again. Well, Phoebe might be a bit absent-minded, but she is not completely stupid. One morning when Rachel sneaks out for a jog, Phoebe unveils the lie and confronts her.
The two roommates don’t talk for a while... until Rachel goes for a run in Central Park and, out of curiosity, tries running à la Phoebe.
And guess what? She loves it!
She then bumps into Phoebe and they continue the run like two happy elephants on the endless plains of the savannah.
This made me think:
Rachel must have felt the same way I did when I reached out to businesses offering my samples in Project 1. First, it was extremely uncomfortable. I kept agonising over how these people would judge me and what they would think about me and my writing. Then once I started doing it, it felt liberating.
The good and the bad news is:
Most of the time, people don't think anything about you. (No offence.) People are too preoccupied with their own business to think about a stranger they will never ever see or speak to again.
It’s all in your mind.
And if you still can't get this thought out of your head, just imagine you're a baby elephant. After all, how could anyone possibly judge a baby elephant?
Now go on, Dumbo, reach for the stars!
The story of a clumsy girl and her big trade-off
I’m clumsy AF. Anybody who’s ever seen me for just two minutes can justify that. I break the bulletproof glass, spill water from a closed bottle and I bet I could drop something glued to my hand, too. It’s some superhuman gift I have.
I once missed my stop on the bus because I was so absorbed in reading about some psychopath serial killer (my favourite topic ever, always soothes my nerves).
I ended up getting off in the middle of fckn Narnia. It was dark already. No streetlights, no pavements, only pouring rain. And rocks. I tripped over the rocks, straight into the mud. To top it off, my phone’s battery was also dying. And I was convinced I’d die out there, too.
(Spoiler: I didn’t)
Another time I was running late for my hair appointment. It was my first time going to that place. My sense of direction competes with that of a headless chicken so, obviously, I got lost. As the salon didn’t accept cards, I also had to stop at an ATM on the way to get some cash.
While I was waiting for the machine to give out the cash, I was trying to put my talents into practice on Google Maps to figure out the way to the salon. But the machine interrupted. It gave out my card, then I quickly put it back in my wallet and left in a rush.
Without taking the cash.
I could go on and on and on... but you get the point.
This used to frustrate the hell out of me. I mean, seriously, how difficult is it to withdraw cash from an ATM?
What’s even worse is that it’s rarely appreciated by employers. You must stay super-focused all the time... you must be well organised... you must be efficient...
All of which, as the examples show above, I am not very good at by nature.
Don’t get me wrong, I can do it all if I have to. It'll just look something like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop.
And yet, I’ve recently come to realise that I wouldn’t trade my unwanted talents for any amount of content on psychopaths (and that’s a big trade-off, in case that didn’t come across).
Firstly, by adding a little self-irony, these unfortunate events in my life make funny stories. Unless I end up getting hurt. Then, it’s less amusing.
Secondly, I learned the reason behind my clumsiness. And that’s because I spend a lot of time wandering around in my head, not paying much attention to the world outside. That’s the default setting of my brain.
Yes, when I stare blankly into space, sometimes I’m just daydreaming. But more often than not, I am thinking about groundbreaking ideas. Such as how my friends’ personality is reflected in their ironing habits.
Okay, I know, it still doesn’t sound like I hit the jackpot, but hear me out.
Apparently, this kind of thinking can come in handy in writing. At least, that’s what they say, and I'd like to believe so. And even if not, it's still a lot of fun.
Either way, the bottom line is:
If it takes clumsiness to have random ideas pop into my head, then so be it! As long as I manage to keep myself alive.
A ship I need to catch
I recently had a chat with a friend about my plans to become a copywriter. She asked me: “How determined are you?”
Intriguing question, but before I answer, here’s my background story:
Like most tourism & hospitality workers during the corona pandemic in the UK, I was furloughed. Long story short, for 2 months I was in the privileged situation of keeping my job, not having to work and still getting paid.
I took advantage of my situation and started looking into copywriting. Initially just to keep my sanity, later to potentially develop a skill that will allow me to leave the heavens of tourism & hospitality.
So how determined am I? Let me try to explain.
Picture yourself on a desert island. You have been stranded for four years. Lucky that you started tallying the days in the beginning, otherwise you’d have no idea. Throughout the years, you learned how to survive. You know how to deal with the dangers of the wilderness, you can get food and you have built yourself a shelter.
But it’s not ideal, the island is not where you belong. You want to go home. And your only real chance is if a ship or boat floats by and picks you up.
You have seen a few in the past years:
One time, there was this huge cargo ship, but it was quite far off the coast. You set fire to catch their attention, but no luck. They were too far, plus usually there aren’t many people on those ships.
You have one of those flare guns you saved from your boat four years ago. But you want to be careful, it only has a few shots left and you don’t want to waste your precious resources. You estimated your chances too low with the cargo ship, so you decided not to use it.
Another time a sail came pretty close to the coast. It must have been drifted there by the thunderstorm the previous night, because you'd never seen any of those around. You decided to try both the fire and the gun, but you went unnoticed. “Never mind” you thought to yourself, “it wouldn’t have been safe anyway”.
But this time, it’s different. You see a huge cruise ship. There are plenty of people on it, it’s close enough to the coast and it looks safe. It must be a mistake, because in your four years on this island, you haven’t seen any cruise ships passing by.
Anyhow, you think that this is your big chance to break free. You set the entire coast on fire. You grab your gun and start shooting like crazy. You give it your all. You know that if you miss this one, you will probably never have another chance like this.
So here I am, burning down the coast, using up all my shots, waving my hands around, jumping up & down and shouting like Mel Gibson in Braveheart: "Freedoooooom!"
I hope this answers the question.