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GUESTFRESH: Turtle’s Pace
six packs of sanity, developing habits with soul, Random Sabbaths, reflections on positive creative feedback and more
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welcome back to the FRESH Friday edition, it’s time for another GUESTFRESH!
if you’re interested in writing your own GUESTFRESH, drop us an email at email@example.com, or a message on Instagram.
this GUESTFRESH, we have Justin Andersun in the driver’s seat for a personal and reflective edition, both written and illustrated by himself. take it away, Justin!
Justin writes and draws about creativity and slow productivity in his newsletter, Turtle’s Pace. When he’s not working, he’s rock climbing, skiing, or wandering through the Cascades. You can occasionally find him on Twitter and Instagram.
I once read that “rituals are habits with a soul.” This subtle vocabulary change implies that when we choose to do something each day, we engage in an almost ethereal practice, which was alluring to me. It’s funny how a Thesaurus exchange can be so profound.
Less eloquently, I’ve come to think of my habits—err, rituals—as a “Six-Pack of Sanity.” Ever since the lockdown of 2020, I’ve been practicing six daily rituals that have helped me feel calm, collected, and—dare I say—sane. These six things have evolved to align with my values and unlock long-term objectives, but they are tractable enough to complete almost daily.
Let’s crack open this six-pack.
Each day, I handwrite one page in my journal. Although I’m not overly aesthetic, I care a lot about the specifics of this ritual because the quality surrounding it seems to influence the energy with which I approach the practice. I have a leather cover that fits around a 3.5” x 5.5” cahier notebook and a 0.5mm Japanese gel pen. The thin, dark ink lets me write small and neatly on the ruled pages. I can write anything I want, but I must fill a whole page and only one page. I’m an external processor, so this ten-minute practice forces me to externalize my thoughts and quiet a naturally ruminating mind.
Each day, I complete one Duolingo lesson in a non-English language. For most of my 600-day streak, I’ve focused on Spanish, but I’ve also had stints of (trying) to learn Hungarian to better relate to my coworkers in Budapest. Although app-based language learning is nowhere near as effective as in-person conversation, this daily ritual reminds me that most of the world speaks a different tongue than me and that their worldview is valid and interesting. It’s a daily exercise in forcing me to think beyond what is natural and be open to learning from others.
Each day, I get at least thirty minutes of physical activity. While this might often be more—an hour-long bike ride or half-day hike—setting an achievable bar for each day ensures that physical fitness remains a cornerstone of my life. A simple bodyweight workout between meetings or a night walk can reinvigorate me.
Each day, I aim to spend thirty minutes reading a book. While I sometimes struggle with this, setting a timed reading habit can get me away from a screen and focus my mind on something with quiet stimulation. The slowness of reading words on paper (or an e-reader) is calming and plants ideas in my head when doom-scrolling-induced anxiety would otherwise overrun it.
Each day, I write 500 words. Somedays, it’s more, but it’s usually possible to write 500 words in a half hour. Since many of my endeavors—fiction, newsletters, product strategy—involve writing, carving out time can help me commit to daily practice. Even on busy days, I can usually squeeze out 500 words.
Each day, I have one meaningful interaction with a friend—a thoughtful text, email, phone call, or in-person time. These friends may be family, long-time pals, or new acquaintances. While I can have a good time with coworkers or other business contacts, this doesn’t count as “friend time” because the foundation for the relationship is founded on motives other than friendship. It’s too easy to lose ourselves in work and romantic relationships at the cost of our friends and family.
I love these six rituals because they scratch my innate, completionist desire. Each day can feel like a success, even if I accomplish nothing other than these six things. While I can complete this Six-Pack almost every day, I give myself a little slack with a concept I call the “Random Sabbath.” Like the religious tradition of reserving one day for “rest,” I adopted this practice for my rituals to have one “slip” per week. For instance, if I am behind on sleep on Thursday, I can forgo my reading and writing rituals and go to bed early.
This six-by-six framework might not seem like much, but I’ve been impressed by the significant progress it can yield over time. For instance, I’m more self-aware each year from journaling, have more quality relationships from daily friend efforts, can converse with locals in Mexico in Spanish, and have published dozens of articles each year from daily writing.
What’s in your Six-Pack of Sanity?
I started attending this writing workshop on Saturday mornings, which has been a lovely way to meet other writers. A generous woman opens her home to 15 strangers on rainy Saturday mornings in West Seattle, and we all bring a dish to pass as we contemplate a prompt to kickstart our writing. We then scatter to various corners of the woman’s home—her basement, breakfast nook, office, even a spare bedroom—and write for forty minutes to two hours. Then we came back as small groups to read what we wrote.
This is where things get interesting. I’ve attended my fair share of writing workshops over the years in all corners of the country, and most of them have followed a tried-and-true formula: The writer shuts up and takes the punches of criticism on her work. But this workshop follows the “Amherst Style” critique method. After someone reads, you can only share positive feedback on their work. I was skeptical of this method at first because it felt too fluffy on the surface—how could we improve if we’re not getting critical feedback?
I was delighted at the outcome when I put aside my skepticism and leaned into the process. Genuinely creative stories emerged from my head when I wasn’t afraid of judgment. I returned to ideas I had long ago suppressed due to fear of rejection or a belief that I couldn’t “make them work.” But here, in this supportive and positive community, I was writing more exciting work.
We’re all our own worst critics—we don’t need the world to validate those negative thoughts. Positive feedback is more productive for writing (and creative work in general) because it gets us to do the job without fear. We don’t feel the need to “improve,” only to express what we’re trying to convey. Art frees our minds and allows us to create what wants to emerge—if we give it a chance.
thank you so much Justin for sharing your thoughts with us! seeing your rituals outlined so clearly makes me reflect on what mine are, and how i could work on fine-tuning them - my journaling and exercising could be more consistent for sure, and i share the desire for meaningful interactions with friends everyday. it’s also wonderful to see creativity be able to flourish in safe spaces, where left-field ideas are embraced instead of met with criticism and rejection.
if you’d like to read more from Justin and myself, here’s another collaboration piece we wrote earlier on Justin’s publication, in case you missed it!
more GUESTFRESHes are in the pipeline so stay tuned, and drop us a line if you’d like to see your writing featured here too, the more the merrier!
rituals of love,
alright, over to you now - hit up the comments section, or reply to this email with your thoughts! if you enjoy a little prompting:
what’s in your Six-Pack of Sanity?
what existing habits are you interested in turning into rituals?
what recent experiences or interactions have given you positive feedback or affirmation?