What is ‘Basic Income’?

Over the past few years we’ve been hearing more and more about “basic income”, “unconditional universal basic income”, or “universal basic income”. Everybody from healthcare specialists to anti-poverty advocates have been chiming in about it and making the case for basic income being a necessity as jobs become automated and times change. What is it? Let’s find out.

Basic Income 101

A basic income, or ‘UBI’, is a no-strings-attached monthly payment from the government that everyone would get. It would become everybody’s base salary amount, which would get added to if they had a job. The idea is that it would reduce or eliminate poverty by providing everybody with the minimum needed to put them at or above the poverty line. Basically, it’s the one thing that would have saved me and people like me a hell of a lot of heartache when the economic downturn first punched us in the face.

The Dauphin, Manitoba basic income experiment

From 1974 to 1979, the Trudeau’s federal Liberals and Schreyer’s Manitoba NDP ran an experiment on guaranteed annual income (nicknamed ‘mincome’, for minimum income) in Winnipeg and the boonies of the province. Dauphin was the only site where people could opt in to receive a minimum income and get a specific, set amount; the other locations’ recipients were randomly assigned.

Joe Clark’s Conservatives shut the whole thing down in 1979 and had the data shelved, with Canadians not even knowing this project existed for decades. Some of the information was analyzed in the 1980s and provided surprising results.

The people of Dauphin didn’t just stop working. There was very little impact on the overall workforce, with the most notable exceptions being that teenagers were less likely to work and instead concentrated on school. Those years marked higher rates of high school graduation than before. Mothers with newborn infants were able to take more time off to spend time with the baby, too.

Another unintended effect was the lack of social stigma of receiving UBI versus welfare, which I’m sure every single one of you is familiar with. The public views welfare recipients in a negative light instead of as people that are having a rough time and need help.

Hospital visits also dropped by just under 10% during the course of Dauphin’s experiment, as fewer people were having to go in for work-related health issues.

Can you imagine that now?

Alaska’s partial basic income

When the Permanent Fund was started up in Alaska in 1976, the state had earned over $900 billion in leases for oil drilling — and promptly pissed it away. Soon after that, Alaskans added an amendment to their constitution which states that:

“at least 25 percent of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sales proceeds, federal mineral revenue-sharing payments and bonuses received by the state be placed in a permanent fund, the principal of which may only be used for income-producing investments.”

‘The Only State Where Everyone Gets Free Money’, Motherboard.Vice.Com

What did this mean for Alaskans? Every year since 1982, a portion of the money that goes into the state from companies that extract its resources gets paid out to all living Alaskan citizens. The only requirement? That they’ve been living there for at least one year.

This fluctuates between $1500-$2000 per year, depending upon how much money the state pulls in from its resources and investments.

The impact has been positive. Although it’s not enough to live on, it does provide a boost to families, especially in counties where there just isn’t much wage-based work available. It allows families to make one guaranteed large purchase per year, and/or put money away for the future when times are tough.

Oh, and one of the best parts? Alaska is only second to Utah for the lowest amount of income inequality in any of the states, and it’s the only one where the lowest-earning 20% of the population have their incomes grow faster than the highest-earning 20%.

Why push for UBI?

Automation is ramping up.

We’ve seen the manufacturing sector replace millions of jobs with robots at an average cost of $8/hour compared to $25/hour for a human worker. Let’s take General Motors in Canada, which went from 40,000 workers across the country in the 1990s to about 8000 around 2012. Self-driving cars and trucks are currently in testing phases and could replace human-driven vehicles in as little as ten years. Whether people want to admit it or not, the manufacturing sector is not going to return to an all-human workforce; machines are far too efficient to give them up.

Even service-oriented jobs are starting to see more automation. You don’t have to talk to a cashier at McDonald’s anymore. There are several other fast-food-restaurant robots being used in China and Japan, too, including ones that interact with customers.

We’re in a position now where getting a job that pays someone well above the poverty line requires specialized training. If you had a job and then lost it anytime over the past ten years, it means having to go back to school, or go for the first time in your life. Even then, with training for a niche position, you aren’t guaranteed to get a job.

A woman in computer sciences? Good luck. Over fifty? I’m sorry. A woman that’s assumed to be of childbearing age (regardless of whether or not they want a family)? You’re seen as a liability, too.

This is without taking stock of the fact that college and university are expensive. Not even skilled trades are safe — a robot can complete welding work on the auto assembly line for about $5/hour.

What other benefits does UBI have?

Universal basic income would reduce the need for welfare, employment insurance, and other similar programs — or remove them entirely. Healthcare costs to the provinces would be reduced because of fewer people receiving workplace injuries, lower stress levels, and fewer work-related mental health problems. Not having money coming in and trying to find a job as quickly as possible are both very, very hard on one’s mental health. I developed severe anxiety and worsening depression because of this, y’know. A basic income would take a lot of weight off my shoulders and those of so many others.

Imagine a world where working part-time isn’t seen as a horrible thing, where people can afford to get as much education as they want without working themselves to death, and a single mom can put food on the table without sacrificing time with her kids.

In general, the different services that are used to help the poor get by can be eliminated or rolled together. Recommendations for Ontario’s basic income experiment stated a monthly UBI of about $1300, with an extra $500 for those who have a disability (making UBI worth a hell of a lot more to disabled Ontarians than ODSP). You can learn more about Ontario’s pilot program here.

It would be ridiculous to keep putting off basic income. It needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Think of it this way: people not having to prove they’re in need means fewer hours wasted with bureaucracy and paperwork and all the nonsense in-between. Streamlining government? We can have that.

Not convinced? Here’s more information:

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5 Common Blogging Mistakes I Made So You Don’t Have To

I’ve been blogging off and on for several years. In that time, I’ve learned several bad habits as well as all the stuff I should be doing, both from experience and from listening to other professional bloggers. I’ve also had a lot of time to think about all those things I didn’t do when I started! I’d like to save you all the trouble that I’ve gone through and just get it all out of the way: what didn’t I do that you should?

I didn’t have any posts prepared ahead of time

Back when I was guaranteed to be writing every day or every other day (because I was in front of a computer, by myself, all the time), this wasn’t an issue. I was active in World of Warcraft’s blogging community and spent a lot of time learning about what was going on in the game, so I had lots to write about all the time. When I started writing here, however, I didn’t quite have that sort of time.

Living at home and not having any time to yourself can really take a bite out of your writing time.

If I were to start from scratch (kind of like what I’m doing now), I’d write and have at least 3 months’ worth of posts scheduled. If you want your blog to update every day, you’re looking at about 90 posts — don’t do that to yourself! That’s an awful lot, and you’re bound to burn out before you get everything together.

Instead, assume you’re going to be posting once per week. You can always fill in as you go, but you’ll at least have four posts per month ready to drive traffic to your site. A regular posting schedule tells Google that your site is active, and an active site shows up in search results.

I didn’t set a regular posting schedule.

Troll Bouquet was an odd beast when I started it back in 2009. I posted at odd hours, once — sometimes twice — per day, whenever I had something I wanted to share or an idea bit me. Other blogs I’ve started since have either been super busy (like my private Tumblr blogs) or had spotty postings. By agreeing with yourself to have a set schedule, and sticking to it, your readers will know exactly when to expect to find something new on your site.

Anything else is just a pleasant surprise!

As mentioned above, Google really likes it when a site updates on a regular basis, which benefits you by guiding more people to your site. Set a regular posting schedule!

I didn’t show examples of the other work I can do.

I’m not just a blogger. I’m able to whip up WordPress sites and build graphics, and I can also code XHTML and CSS by hand. I may not do these things very often, but they’re still part of my toolkit, and they should be given attention. If you have a bunch of skills and examples of them it can be a good idea to showcase that stuff. You might not consider your various skills to really be related, but they can be in some pretty surprising ways.

Potential clients see that you’re capable of more than what they originally went to you for, which benefits you in the long run. It also gives people the opportunity to say, “Hey, one of your clients told me that you also do x, can we talk?”

Don’t forget to show off you other skills!

I wasn’t active on the right social media sites.

We all know how important social media is.

At this moment in time, Pinterest is a huge driving force in getting content out to the people that might be interested. It’s been that way since its inception — look at how many Google search results have Pinterest content attached, especially in the DIY niche. When I first started out, though, the site didn’t exist and it was all Facebook, Twitter, and some Instagram.

My networking was a flop. I wasn’t active enough, I wasn’t engaging, sure, I was sharing my links occasionally — but I wasn’t reaching out, and that’s what you need to do. Whether you’re on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, or some other site, you have to leave your little bubble and interact.

On Pinterest that can mean something as simple as joining group boards and pinning relevant content (including your own, as you ought to be joining boards that are related to things you blog about). On Twitter that can mean following a hashtag, seeking out other people that use it regularly, and posting there. On Facebook, you might post as your Facebook Page on other Facebook Pages, like other content, and contribute to discussions.

You don’t have to be active everywhere. You just need to be active somewhere.

I didn’t have a product.

If you’re a freelancer, then the product is usually you. You produce stuff, though. You know things.

So it makes sense to have something to sell or give away.

There are all sorts of things that you can do: eBooks, worksheets, graphics, spreadsheets, DIYs, courses, etc. There are multiple vehicles for delivering them, too. If you’re a guitar blogger and you happen to be really good at playing, you can offer a video-based guitar course. If you’re a home decor blogger, you can offer your services as a consultant for people like me who just can’t figure out home decor to save our lives. If you run a recipe blog, you can sell an eBook with your most popular recipes in it.

Freelance writer? Offer the worksheets you use to plan your blogging, your stories, even your daily schedule. This stuff can be put together fairly simply — tools like Canva start off free and allow you to save PDFs. Google Docs lets you provide public access to documents that you create.

What mistakes did you make as a newbie blogger? How would you avoid them if you started over?

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Here’s Why BLM is Right About Toronto Pride

June is Pride Month. Pride isn’t just about celebrating LGBTQ+ culture, survival, and resilience — it’s a time of protest, with roots in a history of false arrests and facing down bigotry. Even with this known we’re still hearing more about how the Toronto PD isn’t allowed to march this year, they have to leave their uniforms at home and aren’t able to set up info booths. A simple request — come as you are, but not as a cop — has turned into a battle cry.

This shift in concentration is missing the point.

In July 2016, Black Lives Matter protesters blocked the Pride parade’s route until several demands were met — demands that, considering queer history and Pride’s tendency to be very, very white, were reasonable. One of those demands was that police would not participate in Pride: no info booths, no floats, no uniforms.

A brief refresher on the Black Lives Matter Movement

For those that are somehow not familiar, Black Lives Matter is a movement that started in response to the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, after his killer was acquitted of his crime and the teenager was dragged through the coals for his own death. It spread, bringing awareness to the plight of black men, women, children, and our black trans siblings, who are more likely to be killed by police on a simple traffic stop than anybody else. They’re also more likely to die in prison under mysterious circumstances — and being brought in on charges that are either bullshit or unclear, or both.

Yes, I included children. Tamir Rice was 12 years old.

Where does the connection between BLM and Pride come in? Between 2013 and 2015, 87% of the 53 trans people that were murdered in the United States — that were reported — were people of colour.  The average age of those killed was 31.

Black Lives Matter has even stated in their various descriptions that they stand for the trans folk in their midst — people who the faces of the LGBTQ+ community, of Pride, don’t tend to talk about or acknowledge. That’s what inter-sectional activism looks like, by the way: representing all the people in your movement.

Back to the present: not BLM’s only request

Pride and BLM, but especially BLM, were immediately accused of bigotry and turning back the clock on “progress”. These accusations were made as if police are part of a minority group that needs protection and are not a paramilitary-style organization with guns and the power to kill.

This was also treated as if it was BLM’s only demand. It wasn’t. In fact, it was number 8 of a total of 9 very reasonable requests that rightfully did not cause anyone to bat an eyelash. The movement’s request was even posted on their Twitter account, which everyone can access, and is plain as day to anybody that looks.

Nah, let’s ignore all that. I mean, it’s just providing more support to the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, the people that tend to get ignored when folks talk about queerness. No big deal, right?

Nothing has changed, we just assume

In 1981, Toronto police raided four bathhouses, arresting over 250 gay men for being in a “bawdy house”, among other charges that were later dropped. Pride sprung from the protests that occurred at the time over that event, a pretty obvious attack against the queer community. Another, similar raid occurred in 2000 at a women’s bathhouse, where attendees of a party were strip-searched by male police officers. Charges against the women were dropped because the police should not have been there.

More specific to Pride itself, police were still carding people of colour at previous events. But, no, they don’t target these communities at all (sarcasm).

We neglect the fact that when police violence occurs against people of colour, trans people of colour, trans people, the mentally ill, and women, that violence occurs against the LGBTQ+ community, too. There are people of colour, women, mentally ill people, and trans people, because they’re part of the acronym within our community.

And these incidents of violence haven’t stopped in 35 years. They were going on before the bathhouse raids, they’re going on after. Nothing has changed.

TOPD does not need representation

Those fighting on behalf of the TOPD are on the wrong side of the battle.

There is absolutely no need for the police service to be represented at Pride. The community should not be expected to walk with the uniforms that continue to oppress them, and telling queer police officers to leave the uniform at home is not asking too much. If anything, this is the perfect opportunity for those officers to address the homophobia, transphobia, and racism of the police service and work toward fixing that through community outreach.

Instead of whining about how it’s not fair and that Pride shouldn’t listen to BLM, it’s time those protesting the move actually take a step back and look at what’s gone on over the years — and what continues to happen. The LGBTQ+ community still faces incredible discrimination from police, whether they want to admit it or not, with people of colour, trans people, and trans people of colour getting the brunt of it. There’s little concern for people of colour within the LGBTQ+ community, either — something that needs to be corrected. Listening to what BLM is saying is a step in the right direction.

BLM was founded by queer black women: Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors. BLM’s fight includes us, so why doesn’t our fight include them? It needs to.

Protestation of Pride’s police ban is concentrating on the wrong issue. It ignores the rest of BLM’s demands, which I’ll show you again as a reminder:

 It’s not about you, it’s not even about the police. It’s about making sure the most vulnerable members of our community get the representation, funding, and care they need. Removing the police presence is just one of the things that has to be done.

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The New ‘Mel Writes’

 The most common piece of advice we freelance writers get is “pick a niche”. The idea is to go with something you’re an expert at, that way you become recognized among clients and potential clients as someone that’s the go-to for that particular subject. It’s good advice, and it’s worked well for a lot of people. If it didn’t work well, we wouldn’t have people like Gina Horkey who not only has a successful niche website, but also has many people that have followed her advice and can boast earnings in the five-or-six figures.

What about those that don’t exactly have a specialty, or simply cannot get their head around one particular niche?

We’re going against the grain!

I come from a Multimedia Design background with a lot of Office Admin, miscellaneous retail, and specialty experience. I have roots in Fire Service issues, experience with the post-secondary school textbook field, and I’ve worked in a casino environment. When I say “Multimedia Design”, that’s a fancy term for “I know a bit of everything from coding to audio/video”.

I am literally a Jane of all trades, but not a master in one particular thing. I have tons of knowledge bouncing around in my head, and to share that, I’d have to have my hands in multiple niches. It’s generally not recommended to have a bunch of sites going at the same time simply because it’s a pain in the ass to keep up with too many at once, and the likelihood of keeping them all going is depressingly low.

I recently decided “screw this” and have gone against the “one niche” thing to dedicate my blog to things near and dear to my heart — and having a blog just for some of this stuff will save people around me a lot of time listening to rants. I’m passionate about a bunch of stuff. The folks around me? Not exactly passionate about the same things, and find my interests bizarre.

What does all this mean?

‘Mel Writes’ will be where I write about politics, social justice, paganism, and my adventures dealing with mental illness, while still poking at the subject of freelancing. Posts will go up once per week unless something major happens that needs a post immediately, like time-sensitive issues and current events.

GrumpyBearDruid.com will be getting a slight facelift as well. All things gaming and roleplay related will be posted there, so if that’s your jam, check it out.

The Facebook page will get some slow updates, too, though you’ll be better off seeking me out on Pinterest or following me on Twitter.

Welcome to the new Mel Writes!

Freelancing While Depressed

 

Note: This post is written from the point of view of someone with depression and anxiety. If you have written a similar post related to other mental illnesses and/or visible and invisible disabilities and illnesses, please comment and let me know so I can link to you. This post can apply to anybody that does contract work, whether you call yourself a freelancer or not (I stopped referring to myself as a freelancer at the beginning of 2016).

Freelance work presents its own challenges that you might not see while working for an employer. Instead of your hours being decided by your boss or a department head, you tend to select your own. Instead of answering to your boss, you answer to yourself and your clients. Instead of getting a salary or being paid by the hour, you’re paid based upon the projects you complete – and if you don’t have projects coming in, you don’t get paid at all.

I was diagnosed with depression in December 2009, and was jobless six months later. Unemployment contributes to depression, and that’s also added anxiety to the mix.

Think of the combination as being kinda like not having the energy to do anything, while inwardly being in a massive panic over all of the things you know you have to do, and the things you might have to do, and the things you should be doing – but you still can’t give a damn. It’s constant worry and not having the ability to do anything about it.

Freelance work helped to ease the burden.

I found that freelancing gave me a sort of freedom I didn’t have when I was working, even part-time. I could set my own hours, pick and choose my projects, and since I was a bit of a night owl, I could work overnight instead of during the day. I knew what my duties were. I didn’t have to guess at what I could or couldn’t do, based upon what the store allowed, and I wasn’t guessing on my availability for appointments because that was something I decided.

This didn’t mean that freelancing was easy.

A pug wrapped in a blanket.

There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. There were days when I didn’t want to work, when that project that was waiting for me just seemed like too much. There were days when applying to gigs just felt like a huge drag that I wanted nothing to do with, and checking in on clients was not something I felt I could do.

I did those things, though. I knew I needed to work, and I knew that the extra money coming in would mean that I could feed myself and help pay bills. My cat needed to eat. My clients depended on me. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt my clients.

Not everyone can do it.

This isn’t to say that I’m not sick anymore – I am. As low as I was at that time – and I’m still struggling – I had been a lot worse, and known people who weren’t nearly as lucky as I was. My doctor was great, my housemates understood and were encouraging, and I had a cat that was really good at head-sitting.

For some, trying to balance a freelance career while dealing with their mental illness is not something they can do – and they certainly shouldn’t. It just makes things worse, hurts them, and hurts their fledgling business. Those folks need to take care of themselves first.

How do you freelance while facing an illness?

  1. Only take on what you can. No more. If you can only work with one client at a time, then do that. It’ll help you feel like you’re accomplishing something, and it’ll give you something to focus on.
  2. Write down everything. Lists can help you focus. When I have a step-by-step “this is what I have to take care of for this person” list, then I know I’m not going to miss anything, and that may work for you, too.
  3. Set specific working hours. Even if you’re only going to be “active” for a couple of hours per day, that’s fine, as long as you settle on it.
  4. Take breaks. Go outside, get up and stretch, get a glass of water. Breaks are important.
  5. Take it one day at a time.

Are you a freelancer with a mental illness? What challenges do you face and how do you do it?

This hasn’t been in-depth by any means. I want to hear what you have to say.

Write Your Way

I’ve always been bothered by articles that tell writers how to write. I don’t mean helpful articles that tell us the differences between different comma types, I mean the really snotty types that take common writing styles and tell you “don’t do that”. Articles that look down on modern English conventions and act like there isn’t any reason that they exist, and that they should never be used.

English has changed a lot over the past 20 years. Vernacular has changed. Communication itself has changed. In 20 short years, we’ve seen the internet grow at breakneck speeds and focus change from print media to clunky web pages to short, snappy social media messages. In that time, younger generations than even my own (I’ll be 30 at the end of the month) have developed completely new ways of communicating with each other.

Some sticklers would have you thinking that this is a linguist’s nightmare.

There are articles all over the place where linguists themselves say no, no, this isn’t a nightmare, this is freaking fascinating, we’re all seeing something happening in real time that most people only study in the past tense. We’re seeing shorthand terms developing (“because money” to explain why big businesses do some of the things they do, for example) right in front of us.

English is a language that trips other languages and steals their lunch money. Since English became a thing (look, more modern vernacular), it’s always “borrowed” (well, stolen) from other languages. It’s always been changing, too.

At one time, phonetic spelling was the way of things – everybody spelled words depending on how they pronounced them. There are turns of phrase that were common a century ago that are no longer used. There are other turns of phrase whose meanings have become lost to time.

So, when we have hipster-esque dudes telling people not to use common phrases or writing styles simply because they don’t like them – under the guise that those forms are “unprofessional”, though they tend to just say “stupid” – we have to learn to tell them off. We have to learn to say, “No, let me decide how to write based upon my audience.”

That’s what it comes down to: the way you’re going to write is going to depend on your audience. I’m not going to use a conversational style when dealing with an accounts report for a CEO, and I’m not going to stick to a robotic, formal style when trying to write for the generation that comes after me.

There is no proper way to write a blog, a story, or an eBook. What engages one group of people can utterly confound another. Just look at the audience you’re writing for and go from there, or at the purpose of what you’re writing.

And when you inevitably stumble across yet another writer trying to gain snobbery points by telling younger folks not to write in ways that are familiar for them, no matter what, no, never, not ever? Laugh. That’s where we’ve all started out, after all, and they’ll mature eventually.

Getting Support as a Writer

Succeeding in anything requires having some kind of support system in place. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or a professional landscaper, if you don’t have people that support you, it’s going to be a lot harder to be a success in your chosen field, or at your preferred thing.

It really is amazing how just a little bit of positivity, even from strangers, can really motivate you!

I recently signed up for Gina Horkey’s writing course and, as part of that, joined the private Facebook group that’s made up of likeminded people. It’s this amazing group of writers that shares what they’re doing, how they’re doing, and all the bumps along the way – those that are doing really well are providing all sorts of cheer to those that are just getting started! There isn’t a negative word said to one another! Everybody is cheerful and positive!

It’s amazing.

And that makes me think about what supports one can get outside of immediate family. I mean, your immediate family is supposed to stand with you and cheer you on, but more is better.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of other networks that can help with this sort of thing. I have a ton of friends that I’ve met online, many of which I roleplay with or have roleplayed with (think of it as cooperative writing), who know that I am doing this. They’re happy to support me in my endeavours, and they’re a great source of encouragement.

Eventually, I’ll have a pool of readers whose support will be helpful. There’s my boyfriend, who also occasionally inspires – whether he realizes it or not.

Clients can also be a source of support, though in a less direct way than others, because you’re not actively seeking it out from them. That support comes in the form of the rave reviews and compliments that clients provide. They actually help me get in up the morning, and they encourage me to load up my inbox and see what’s come in.

If you don’t have much support from people in your life, check out groups for writers on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. The blogosphere is full of blogs by writers, for writers, and by participating in the comments section, you direct people to your own site – and maybe, that’ll encourage some people to add themselves to your own little cheering squad. Nobody knows what this is like better than other writers.

You can also reach out to me, too! I mean, I’m there, I know what it feels like to get discouraged, or to be confused, or just plain freaked out.

A special shout-out to Gina Horkey at horkeyhandbook.com, who maintains an incredibly supportive group of people and whose blog is an inspiration.

You Have to Have a Goal

Part of sticking with a change is to develop goals around it – easily-obtained, bite-sized goals – and work toward them.

I’ve always been a ‘big picture’ sort of person, where I’d look at where I want to be and kind of meander my way in that direction. I lost my way over the past several years as what little planning I’d been doing easily came unraveled because I’m easy to distract, and I’m more likely to do what other people want me to do instead of what I want to do.

A lot of people would tell you otherwise. Those people don’t know me as well as they think.

My ultimate goal is to be completely independent. This clashes a bit with my other goal of moving in with my boyfriend and actually having a life with him beyond the computer screen, I guess, but to get THERE I need to actually do the thing HERE. Until I’m independent, I have no way of scraping together the money to get over to even meet him. I’ll never be mentally healthy if I don’t gain my independence. Independence means getting to see change, means making more change and making waves so that I don’t reach old age and go, “Wow, look at all the crap I could have done and didn’t do because I was scared.”

My short-term goal is to bring in enough money to pay my bills by the end of February. I want to be able to say “I made $1,000 in the month of February because I buckled down and did the thing”, and then I want to further that by making $3,000 per month by the end of 2016. That would enable me to pay down my credit card (completely), pay off my car, and possibly pay off what’s left of my OSAP debt.

If I’m pulling this off by July 2016, then I won’t have to go back to school (again) for Medical Office Admin as I was originally planning, and I can concentrate my efforts on my writing career. I’ll be able to afford an apartment somewhere I’ve never actually been before (maybe), and experience a new place.

It would be nice to actually be able to move out on my own and feel like I’ve succeeded at becoming an adult.

How to Find Your Passion

You’re not doing what you want to do with your life, and everyone around you knows it because you’re miserable – and misery just radiates off you. What do you do? You know you need to find your passion, to understand what excites you and makes you want to get up in the morning, but how do you do that? Here’s how.

What is Passion?

The dictionary definition of passion is “a powerful emotion or feeling”. Passion is emotion like love or hate, and it doesn’t leave any doubt about what it is you’re feeling. Activists are passionate about their causes, musicians are passionate about their music, and top chefs are passionate about the food they create. Once you truly understand what passion is, then you’ll have an easier time finding it – or it’ll find you.

You can tell when someone is passionate about something by how they talk about it: they’ll light up, babble excitedly, and become highly animated.

Reflect

Let’s take a look at your time on Earth.  What things have you done or experienced that excited you? Do you find the world of fire trucks and emergency response beyond fascinating, or are you one of those folks that just can’t get enough of all things dinosaur? Think about any experiences that made you say, “Wow! This is amazing!” Those are the things you’ll be looking into.

Do Something

Once you have an idea of things that have really interested you, pursue them. You had a lot of fun baking cakes with friends? Take some baking classes and see if that tickles your fancy. Touched by the plight of the homeless? Volunteer for a shelter or an organization that helps.

If your reflections didn’t give you any ideas, it’s time to do some research. Look into your interests, any topics that relate, and follow the leads to whatever catches your eye.

Can’t Quite Feel It?

It’s also possible that there’s something blocking you from finding your passion. Lots of things can do that. Fear of failure is a big one, and it can be hard to work through. It’s important to practice positive self-talk when faced with fear. Every time that little voice in the back of your mind says, “you can’t do it”, treat it like a backseat driver. Tell it, “I can and I will”. Give it a name. Tell it off.

Imagining what your life will be like when you succeed is a great tool toward pushing back fear, too. As hokey as it sounds, positive thinking really is the best bet for eliminating those nagging bad feelings.

Mental illness also leads to being unable to find enjoyment in things you like. If this has been going on for a long time, speak to your doctor – the problem may be more serious than fear or confusion.

Now What?

You’ve figured out your passion, now what do you do? Whatever you want. Whether you turn that into a career or learn to be better at it, it’s up to you how you handle this knowledge.

My Writing “Why”

I’ve been told that I have an active imagination since I was a kid. I remember when my parents brought home our first computer, how I was fascinated by this machine with its orange text on black background, that I could use for typing my stories and schoolwork. It was amazing. Do you remember those old computers with the massive floppy discs and the equally-beastly dot-matrix printers? Beige plastic, command prompts, a single typeface, no spell-check.

We have it so well, with our fancy fonts and our computer programs that can swap out our most common misspellings for the right words. What a time to be alive.

I don’t write fiction as much as I did as a kid. The imagination hasn’t run dry or anything, I guess I’ve just grown more shy – creative writing was where I really managed to shine when I was younger and I had a lot of support from my teachers. I even had a lot of support from one of my high school teachers, someone that many other students claimed to have a hard time with. I started to become afraid that if I wrote a lot of original stuff and put it out there, somebody would copy it and put their name on my work.

That’s silly.

Instead, I’ve written a lot of fiction based upon characters I play in video games – fiction based in worlds with “copyright – somebody else, now and forever times infinity” on them. Characters that, though they’re mine in theory, aren’t TRULY mine.

All of this is changing.

In 2016, I’m taking the plunge. I’m taking my writing seriously again. It’s something I should have done a long, long time ago, but fear has this way of just sitting on you and making you stay where you are. Being told a variety of different reasons why I can’t write for a living certainly didn’t help.

I write because it’s something I was meant to do. Writing is the one place where I’m completely free, unrestrained by things like “money” and “common sense” and “because somebody said I couldn’t do it”. There’s a great big world in my head with all sorts of ideas and stories that are just dying to get out, and it’s about time I released them from the confines of my brain and let them run a little wild.

Everybody goes into this for different reasons. In the end, they’re all doing the same thing: they’re pursuing their calling.

I’m finally doing what I was meant to do.