I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman for the first time in years. It's good to be back in the habit of reflecting on what I've been learning lately.
I've been slicing bread all wrong.
This is a big deal. I've been making our family's sandwich bread once a week for more than three years, and I've been slicing the bread wrong the whole time! For shame.
If you're like me, you probably think you set the bread down on the flat part (you know, like a normal loaf), then slice through from the top to the bottom. Wrong! That creates uneven slices and unnecessary crumbs, something I've noticed but chalked up to my subpar knife-wielding skills.
Here's how the pros do it: Turn the bread loaf on its side to slice it. Fewer crumbs and more uniform slices, every time. Try it; it's magic.
Trader Joe's European Sipping Chocolate is the secret to a perfect homemade mocha.
I'm a big fan of iced mochas, a fact that I mention in my writer bio for every publication I've ever written for. My Starbucks addiction got out of hand after I had Reagan in 2016 (two kids means I need twice the caffeination, right?). So last year for Christmas, but husband got me the espresso machine of my dreams.
As a former barista, I didn't expect making my own iced mochas to be too complicated . . . but I was wrong. I couldn't find a chocolate mixture that worked well with cold coffee, weren't too sweet, and weren't packed full of weird-sounding chemicals. I made my own chocolate mixture by combining cocoa powder and sugar, but it still wasn't great.
And then, there was Trader Joe's European Sipping Chocolate. It's the perfect blend of sweet sugar and bitter dark chocolate, and it mixes beautifully with my hot espresso shots before I add milk and ice. I've never actually drank it alone as it's intended, but I can only imagine that it's a magical beverage for dark chocolate lovers.
I can't write a book in a month . . . right now.
I attempted NaNoWriMo this year for the first time in a decade. I wrote exactly 0 words. But participating wasn't a waste: I plotted an entire novel during the month of November, including in-depth character sketches and plot descriptions for every single chapter.
It turns out that writing a novel in a month when you've got two young kids and a freelance business isn't realistic. But the challenge of it gave me the bones of my story and enough momentum to keep this novel moving forward. It might take more than 30 days, but I'm confident that my NaNo novel will be written eventually.
You can hear more about my experience with NaNoWriMo and other creatives challenges in this episode of Chasing Creative.
Wearing a watch can keep you away from your smartphone.
In a recent Chasing Creative episode, Abbie and I went in-depth about how we waste our time. Needless smartphone use was top of the list. Which made me realize something: I most often reach for my phone because I want to know what time it is . . . which leads to checking email, Facebook, etc. and so on.
This makes sense. I'm not a super timely person (I'm usually the one running in at exactly the time an event starts), but it really bothers me if I don't know what time it is. Last month, I bought myself this adorable watch from Olivia Burton and haven't looked back. Not only do I now have a cute everyday accessory in a neutral color, I regularly leave my phone in my purse all day long without being tempted to check it for anything.
The Internet doesn't have to run my life.
The online world has a way of making itself feel vital to our lives, doesn't it? You start thinking about what you'll be missing out on if you don't keep up with the latest social media. You become convinced that your blog followers will leave if you don't do XYZ every week. You think taking a break will mean losing money, losing followers, losing influence.
That's how it feels, but that's not reality.
For the past five years, I've spent most of my spare time ingesting everything I can about digital marketing and running an online business. I've put much of my learning into action, building up a successful career as a freelance writer and editor.
But then I quit. (Kind of.)
I didn't quit my business, but I did quit bowing down to the gods of digital marketing. I stopped creating content that added to the noise rather than the larger conversation. I took a giant step away from social media as a marketing tool. As a result, I was able to cut my business expenses by nearly 70% and regain huge amounts of time that used to be lost to the rush of the online space.
I haven't lost any clients. My income has stayed on course. I've used that extra time to journal more often, start this blog, make headway on some creative essays, outline my NaNoWriMo novel, and hang out with my kids.
Life is good, even better, sans Internet.
What have you been learning lately?