Create Journal Thrive

The Downside of Unplugging

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 26 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about the downside of unplugging. There is one, but it’s probably not the first thing that comes to mind.


It’s not being out of the loop, or not having contact with friends. Unplugged doesn’t mean you can’t still be in touch with people, it just means you’re not accessible 24/7. Which in pre-internet days was the norm. It would be weird if people were calling your house or showing up at your door before a certain hour of the morning, or after a certain time at night. There are no such boundaries with email, text messages, and social media.

No, the issue is becoming sort of unstuck in time. I already work from home, which people in COVID lockdown now understand a lot better. While I stick to a schedule, there are no “external markers”. I don’t have to commute, or punch a clock, so time starts to become abstract. Weekends aren’t that different from weekdays. With the pandemic, there aren’t any extracurriculars going on. So one day is essentially the same as the next.

It has been years since I’ve watched anything on television in real time. Okay, I’m not counting the Castle Ball on Finnish Independence Day or the live New Year’s Eve concert. Those are exceptions. I don’t watch television. Everything is on-demand streaming content. There’s no senese that if I’m watching such-and-such show it must be Thursday.


Then there’s the fact that it’s summer in Finland. The sun never sets. As I’m writing this it’s around midnight, and the sky is blue. There are stilll people down on the beach. It’s a little dim because the sun is all the way in the north, but it’s still above the horizon. Until you get used to it, the eternal daylight can mess with you just as badly as the Long Dark in the winter.

You’d think the bullet journal would help, but since I switched to a weekly dashboard I’m more concerned with what need to be done next than with what day it is. Which feels like the right focus for me at the moment, because I’m getting a lot done without a lot of distractions.

So what kept me anchored? Blogging. When I was doing two or three posts per day on the regular, it gave me a sense of what day it was. I was writing proof-of-life posts in the morning when I got up. Since I started batching them (and this post was begun 10 days ago, before midnight on 17 June 2020) there’s no direct connection between what I’m writing and the day it’s posted. I will write four or five of these things in a stretch, schedule them.

Then I can be off the internet for days. The downside of unplugging is that I’m not getting news the moment it happens. I’m not connecting with people in real time. There is a real sense of being in control of communications.


It’s peaceful, absolutely. But I honestly had to look at the calendar to figure out what the date was, and what day of the week it is. There’s something weird an unnatural about it, until I realized that it honestly isn’t all that important.

All of us have spent a good deal of 2020 sorting our priorities. We’ve had to sort out what’s essential and what isn’t. All of us have learned to do without things, realizing that much of what were were used to never truly needed. Free from artifice and expectation, it’s really not all that important whether today is Wednesday or Sunday. I get to put all of that aside and focus on just living.

The Downside of Unplugging

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Create Journal Thrive

Channels and Playlists for Writing Projects

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 24 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about channels and playlists for writing projects. There are reasons that I prefer one over the other, and I’d like to discuss how I use music as part of my process.

At one point in my writing career I would carefully curate playlists for each writing project. It was fun. It was also terribly time consuming. Listening to hours upon hours of music to select perfect tracks basically amounted to procrastination.

The other problem was that even a perfect soundtrack would become repetitive. Say I crafted a playlist that was 2 hours long. I write for at least 4 hours a day. That means I hear the playlist twice a day. Multiply that for however many days. It gets tedious.

There are also the contradictory issues of distraction and diminishing returns. Obviously I picked songs that I like. So when certain tracks come up, I want to listen. Maybe sing along. Maybe play that track again. After hearing the soundtrack for the twelfth time, though, I start to tune it out. I’m ignoring it because I’m starting to get sick of it. At that point it’s not serving any purpose.

My current method is to choose channels. I basically pick a genre and a time period to be the general soundtrack for each project. Then I go to AccuRadio or YouTube and search. I let those sites select the music. For active projects, I try to select things that are dissimilar. Synthwave and 1950s jazz, for example, or classical piano and Brazilian bossa nova.

(For the record, I don’t use Spotify because it won’t let me use it in English. Because I live in Finland, it forces me to see the site in Finnish. Which would be fine if I weren’t trying to do things on the fly, or if my language skills were better.)

I mark the name of the channel on the project page in my bullet journal. When I work on that project, I only put on that music. It creates a special mood for each piece of writing, and helps me to transition between different works in progress within a single day. By picking music that I enjoy, it also helps to build my enthusiasm. When I work on X, I get to listen to Y.

Channels and Playlists

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Create Journal Thrive

Switching to a Bullet Journal Weekly Dashboard

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 22 2020 daily proof of life post. Today I want to talk about switching to a bullet journal weekly dashboard. Last week I gave up on making daily entries, at least temporarily. I’m now on my second week of using a weekly spread. It’s concise, it’s keeping me focused, and it meets my needs right now.

Because I work from home, have very few appointments, and most of the tasks I perform are repetitive, daily entries are kind of a waste. I don’t need a lot of space for notes, and most things can be reduced to trackers. So that’s what I did.

Left Page

Left-hand side, top of the page, “Week of 22-29 June 2020” (for example). The rest of the page is divided into 7 horizontal sections of 5 lines each, one for each day. I run Monday through Sunday, so Monday is at the top. The page is then set up in 3 columns.

The first column is for meal planning, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I can make sure perishables get eaten, work out what I need to get at the grocery store, and so on. The second column is for media consumption. What podcasts drop that day, what TV shows I want to watch, articles I need to read, and so on. The final column is for day-specific tasks like accounting functions, laundry day, and grocery shopping. There’s the week at a glance.

Right Page

In the upper right of the facing right-hand page, I do a two-line calendar:

22 23 24 25 26 27 28

Go one space over, and I draw a vertical line creating a column 8 blocks wide. That’s where I jot down tasks as they come up. I need to email someone, or the trash needs to be taken out. Those get checked off as completed. I will also jot things down in pencil if they belong somewhere else. For instance, if I realize I need to add something to the grocery list (which I keep in Google Keep), I’ll pencil it. When I have time I’ll open Keep, add it, then erase it from the bujo.

Projects and Trackers

The wider column to the left gets divided into thirds. The top third is the primary writing project for the week. It’s a list of tasks I think I can get through that week. I have a projects journal, so things get copied over from there as if it were a future log.

The middle third is for the secondary writing project. These are usually just ideas that come to me about the thing I’m going to be working on next. Most of this will get copied onto that project’s page in the projects journal at the end of the week.

The bottom third is for trackers. A simple format, a header for the day, a line for each repetitive tasks. As it’s done, I check it off. If the task doesn’t apply that day (some things I don’t do on weekend, or only do every-other day), I put a dash. When it doesn’t get done (and it isn’t something I can > forward, I put an X. The goal is to have no X’s.

Daily Tasks M T W T F S S
read X
you get the point >
Daily Journal Entries

I still write daily journal entries. Those go on the following pages. There is time set aside each day for that. It’s nice to have my thoughts and feelings in the same book, but it’s a pain to flip back through several pages trying to confirm if I did a thing three days ago. A single spread, two facing pages, let’s me see what’s done and what still needs to be done at a glance. It’s certainly helped when my stress level is high and my executive dysfunction is hitting hard.

Switching to a Bullet Journal Weekly Dashboard

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Create Journal Thrive

June 9 2020 Daily Proof of Life Post

7:00 am EEST (GMT+3). This is the June 9 2020 daily proof of life post. Good morning, or whatever time of day it is where you are.

I’ve got my coffee to help me wake up and focus. My bullet journal is open so I can capture and organize the tasks I need to do today. This post is here to capture other random thoughts, and to say hello. It’s quiet. I haven’t looked at news or social media yet. I need this ritual, so I can ground and center myself before the world comes at me full-force.

What I need to do is heed Mister Rogers’ advice and look for the helpers. The crowds of people coming together to stand up for themselves, and each other, is an overwhelmingly positive thing. Black Lives Matter. All of the rhetoric and lies and willful misunderstanding and spin being spewed forth by the opposition is infuriating, but we need to look past that. We need to deny them the power of that, and stay the course.

A Dumpster Full of Hubris

I’m trying to recommit to positivity. Even though I feel that there’s very little that I can do, I can do something. That’s why I’ve become dedicated to daily blogging, and staying on social media, and finding the whatever to speak out. Using a dumpster in the graphic for HUBRIS was meant to be self effacing; I somehow think this garbage is worth reading. It was also meant to reflect the idea that world is basically trash right now, what with the racists, science deniers, and all-around selfish and bigoted people running around and shitting on everything. We can’t have nice things.

There’s another reason for it, that is meant to be positive. You need to look at the problem before you can address it. An overflowing dumpster means there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It needs to be cleaned up, yes, but why is there so much trash being generated in the first place? Why is it being neglected, allowing the trash to overflow? Ignoring it won’t make it go away.

That’s the hard truth we all need to face, collectively and individually. It’s hubris that allows us to dismiss these things as unimportant, and as not having anything to do with us. And these are the happy thoughts I’m starting the day with.

June 9 2020 Daily Proof of Life Post
Journal Thrive

You Make the Best of What’s Still Around

When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around. My name is Berin, and in the middle of a global pandemic and social upheaval I string words together for a living.Which sometimes feels an awful lot like fiddling while Rome burns.

As of this month I’m entering my  as a 5th year as a full-time writer. I’m also a spoonie, a minimalist, and a bullet journal devotee. An American by accident of birth, since 2014 I have lived in Central Finland with my wife, the artist and educator Katie Kinsman.

My primary work is operating Dancing Lights Press, publishing tabletop roleplaying material and zines. We create tools for creators, as well as our own game systems and settings. You can find our titles on DriveThruRPG, Gumroad, and if you search hard enough, Amazon.

I’m currently working on the second draft of a novel. It’s a contemporary story in the vein of Gothic literature, about a woman encountering love and death among dead malls and an imploding social order. Surprisingly, it isn’t as bleak at that sounds; sometimes it’s good when things fall apart and make room for better things.

As of June 2020 you can find me mainly at my website,, where I post several times per day about writing, living in Finland, and of late, sheltering in place. I have a Twitter account, but it’s mainly to syndicate these blog posts and that’s my entire threshold of tolerance for social media.

The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.