The Write Everyday in May Challenge

pexels-photo-316465.jpegToday I will tell you how a tiny bit of success ruined my life (or just derailed my blog). If you check out the archives, you’ll see that this blog was started in 2016. I didn’t start writing regularly, however, until October. Starting in the middle of October of 2017, I tried to write everyday. I didn’t quite make it, but I created enough of a habit that I posted more in November than any month before or after. It felt good building the habit.

Then in late November, I got featured in Rockstar Finance. I can tell you honestly that was not the goal because I didn’t know regular sites got featured on Rockstar Finance. But with that feature, my middling viewership skyrocketed, even if only for a few days. But the surge had a profound effect on me. I changed from thinking, I’m just writing for myself, to, I COULD BE POPULAR. And for a hot second, I chased popularity. I read up on SEO and (ugh) Pinterest. I tried social media, which was great because 1) I finally could claim some Millennial cred and 2) I met some cool people and 3) had very cool experiences like attending CampFi on a last minute ticket. I’ve even set up some interviews with people I met on Facebook that will soon become posts. All in all, I don’t regret social media the way most people do.

But I found that the social media and other activities were distracting me from what I really wanted – which was writing. Yes, the number of people visiting my blog went up a lot, but I only made 6 posts in April, the lowest number I’ve done in 6 months. I’ve heard that successful bloggers focus more on marketing than writing and I’m sure that’s true but that’s not my vision of success.

I think some people may be misled to think that I’m trying to make my blog popular and then monetize like every other personal finance blogger. I mean, I wouldn’t hate it (the monetization anyway, though I’m terrified of popularity) but the overarching reason I write is because writing benefits me.

I have a lot of stories I want to tell. I have 165 drafts in my inbox that represent posts that I’m trying to write. When I started writing my blog, I had 150 drafts. Rather than diminishing, the number of drafts has increased because I haven’t finished them and I keep adding more. My blog wasn’t accomplishing its mission of inbox zero.

I have to remember (sorry readers) that this blog is for me. I mean, I hope it’s helpful to you too, if only in that I encourage you to write more. For instance, here are some ways that writing has helped me:

  1. It helps me store memories and experiences away like Dumbledore.  It’s just a relief that I don’t have to remember everything in this tiny little mind I have. Without my journal and my blog, my life would just pass me by and I wouldn’t spend the time to reflect on my experiences or learn from them.
  2. It helps me synthesize thoughts and ideas and organize my thoughts.
  3. It has helped me to connect with others. It’s been lovely reading comments.
  4. Writing helps me remember the things I read in the tons of books I read per year. Otherwise it’s all in one ear out the other.
  5. It helps me chart my progress. It’s amazing when people take pictures of themselves every day for years – you can see the changes as they happen.
     Writing down your thoughts is like seeing your mind change. It doesn’t always seem like we are changing but we are, often subtly. If we don’t make a record of who we were before, we might fail to see the progress and think we aren’t getting anywhere. It’s very difficult to take a picture of your mind though – but writing can help take a snapshot of who you were at this period of time.
  6. It helps exercise the creativity and self-expression muscles.
So I’m going back to my original purpose. I pledge to write every day in May. Why don’t you join me? My challenge to you – whether you’re a blogger or not – is to spend some time writing every day this month. It doesn’t all have to be perfect or even intelligible. I will try to make my posts as intelligible as possible, readers, but mostly I just want to make a dent in my pile of ideas and take some weight off my brain. I hope you do the same.

Will you join me in my writing spree? Why do you write?

The Three Cheap Products and 1 Free Action that Saved My Hair

I’m a little obsessed with hair. I have naturally thick black hair, which I have dyed, at times, red, brown, purple, green, and blonde. Needless to say, my hair has been through the ringer.

My hair has been really dry and broken ever since bleaching it. I have read tons of blogs and magazine articles that advocated keratin treatments but no matter how many treatments I tried, my hair was brittle and dry. But after much trial and error, four things (3 products and 1 action) helped me fix my hair and they were, surprisingly, not the most expensive ones I tried.

1. Castor Oil
I learned from Reddit that hair needs a balance of moisture and protein. Only using keratin treatments made my hair drier and more brittle. There were a number of oils recommended for optimal moisture content but castor oil was the cheapest and most readily available. Once a week my hair soaked up a ton of castor oil and my hair steadily improved. After a few weeks, my hair didn’t look or feel as parched. It still wasn’t that soft yet though, which led to:

2. Nuance Buriti Oil Hair Mask
I’d been trying to find a product that would impart softness and shine back to my hair without silicones. Silicones coat your hair shaft with their plastic-y shine-y sheen but they don’t actually repair the hair. Further, removing the silicone takes different and harsher products. I wanted something fairly natural but silicones are everywhere, even in the so-called miracle hair products that cost an arm and a leg. After searching far and wide, I found this Nuance Hair Mask. I only used this specific one though because the other masks had silicones. This hair mask made my hair unbelievably soft. It was also incredibly cheap, didn’t require that much product and the texture of the product was pretty fun.

This is currently on clearance at CVS so I would grab it as quickly as possible. I cleaned out my local CVS as they were less than $3/pop.

3. Mielle Organics White Peony Leave-in Conditioner

This product was invaluable for protecting my hair from the change in weather, from the sun and wind when I ride my bike or walk outside and just kept my hair safe and manageable while it was still healing with the castor oil.

4. Wearing my hair down

Even after my hair got much softer. I noticed that it was bent at the ends. I did some research online and discovered it might have to do with my hair elastics. Whenever I take a hair elastic out, it always takes a fair amount of hair with it. So I decided to wear my hair down for a few days and sure enough, the kinks in my hair disappeared.

Now this isn’t necessarily a forever situation – I will probably need to get hair elastics in the future. But for now I’m using more gentle barettes, hair claws or just leaving it down. I even wear it down when I go running – but it stays out of my face with a headband. It also gives my scalp a rest.

What tips and tricks do you have for healthy hair?

Why Everyone Should Learn to Cook

I have such beginner’s luck with cooking and baking. The first time I cook or bake something, it comes out pretty well. So I get cocky and the next time I don’t check the recipe as well and it turns out much worse.

I baked some bread tonight. I used the wrong oven temperature. I put the lid on at the wrong time. I used a different kind of flour and didn’t adjust the recipe. It came out flat and weird.

But I was kinda excited about this bread. I mean it’s a Monday and I failed at something. But I’m safe. I’m in the safety of my own home. No one knows except me (and now all of you). I’ve learned several lessons for the future. And it’s fun and creative. When else do we get to try something new, fail, learn and feel ok about it?

It makes me sad when people don’t try to learn how to cook because they think it’s hard. Learning to cook can be hard. But learning everything can be hard. The difference with cooking as opposed to many other hobbies is that you lose so little when you fail at cooking. I mean, I lost 3 cups of flour, a pinch of yeast and salt and some water. And I got to experiment. I got to try to do something. I got to be creative. And I get to fail and try again. And I get to do it again tomorrow.

Why You Should Live Below Your Means

One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’ traveling through time . . . in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode . . . . That gives you the confidence to take a risk, because you say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’

-Kevin Kelly as told to Tim Ferriss in “Tools of Titans”

 

What I’ve Learned from Eating One Meal a Day

I’ve tried Gen. McChrystal’s one-meal-a-day diet for two weeks. For me, it hasn’t been that difficult a transition. I had already started an intermittent fasting regimen a month or so earlier. I have learned a lot about my eating habits from this little experiment – that, spoiler alert- I think I will continue.
1. I am not in tune with my hunger or my body.
So many diets come up with newfangled ways to keep you from being hungry. This diet also kept me from being hungry – by not giving me any food.

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A Controversial Way To Save Money on Groceries

pexels-photo-970105.jpegBack in the heyday of my student loan paying off blitz, I would sometimes, as people do, forget my lunch at home. Or forget to make one. Now, a periodic $10 is not a big deal when you’re paying off tens of thousands, right? Right. Logical. But the hunger and the deprivation were making me illogical. On many of those days, I skipped lunch. I was cutting back on everything, and I didn’t want stupid mistakes to derail me.

Since that time, I have reversed course into thinking, yeah a $10 lunch here or there is going to delay your loan payoff by a literal minute, if that. Health is more important.

Now I still believe health is more important than money but I may be revisiting the idea that skipping meals is a bad thing.

What I had found when skipping lunch was that it was unbearable for about an hour but after the pangs stopped, I was basically cured. I felt no ill effects. I didn’t eat a giant dinner to compensate. I wasn’t consistently hungry for hours. I wasn’t irritable. But I still felt guilty for skipping a meal and treating my health so flippantly.

After reading about it in a few publications, I decided to take the plunge.  I’m starting a diet whereby I only eat one meal a day, typically dinner. 

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