Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Lessons Learnt

As we find ourselves looking up at the clock waiting for it to strike twelve, we end up reflecting on the year that has passed by and wondering what the next one has in store for us.


For many, we use this time to think about the friends we've made or the ones that we have lost. We think of the progress and the setbacks that we have been faced with and how we behaved at these times. But most importantly we think about what we want to change or what we want to improve for the future.

What many people fail to grasp is that to make a better future, we need to learn from our mistakes.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for welcoming in the new year- especially with those that you care about! But I think we forget sometimes that the only way to change our bad habits or negative outlook is to think over our previous actions of the year and see how we can change them for a happier future. So often you hear of people vowing to make change only to fall into the old routine that they were trying to get out of in the first place. (To find out how to stick with new years resolutions click here)


Image courtesy of Google

With a new year comes new opportunities- it comes with the chance to make a fresh start, to put into action the things that we having been dreaming about but have been to scared to actually GO for- yet if we don't take the time to actually sit back and think over all that we have been through in the year or the lessons that we have learnt, we can't progress and move on with our lives. If we don't make peace with what has happened it holds us back and rather than be able to fully look forward with what's to come, we distract ourselves with pointless 'what ifs'

So while you find yourself welcoming in new beginnings don't forget to also say a proper goodbye to the year gone by as, whether it be good or bad, it's all a part of the journey of you becoming who you truly want to be.

Friday, 27 December 2013

The Trick To Tackling The New Years Resolution

Yes- I know, I know! This post is still pretty early, seeing as though Christmas has only just passed, but it is usually at this time-as we tuck into yet another chocolate- that we start to ask ourselves that oh-so-popular question: what is my new years resolution going to be?
 
Now some people, arguably the wiser of us, decide not to take part in this tradition. That's perfectly fine. I am writing this post for us suckers that are determined to try!

As many of us know, the biggest issue we face is to stick with what we have set out to do. Obviously this also has a lot to do with each individuals willpower and how desperately they want to achieve their goals but there are certain things we can do to help ourselves to make that impossible aim look just a little bit less impossible. Here are my top tips on helping yourself achieve success.
  1. Slow and steady wins the race. It may sound obvious but we've all been guilty of setting ourselves goals that are completely unrealistic. Let's face it, if you set yourself the task of running the London Marathon with only two weeks training then your prospects aren't going to look good. However, if you set yourself the target of running a certain REASONABLE distance in two weeks, you've got more of a chance of reaching your overall goal as well as enjoy yourself along the way!
Image courtesy of Google
2. Choose something that you really want to do. If you choose to do something that you are not overly bothered about then you are less likely to do it. Say for example that you wanted to give up biscuits because you eat too many; the chances are that you will eat alternatives for a bit before you find yourself in front of that biscuit tin because you really like them and 'surely one won't hurt'. If you're going to do it and commit yourself to doing it, aim high!

3. Give yourself a break. We all mess up, it is human to make mistakes- the trick is not to let it stop you. Say that you're on a diet and you were doing well up until that point where you found yourself eating that bar of chocolate that you'd been eyeing up all week. OK, you messed up but think of it this way- if you give up entirely because of that one blip than you'll be making an even bigger mistake by not doing what you set out to. Don't beat yourself up over it, rather focus on how well you were doing and getting back on track.

4. If you're really struggling, focus on why you're doing it. It's all well and good knowing that we really want to do something but sometimes we need to focus on the why. Do you want to grow in confidence? Feel more self-assured? Do you want to do something special that will give you memories for a lifetime? Or have you just reached your limit and want a change? Or alternatively...

5. Focus on how you'll feel when you accomplish your goal. That huge feeling of achievement you'll get when you complete what you've been working on for so long. That feeling you'll get crossing the finish line with all of those other runners. That excitement you'll feel when you fit into that top you were itching to wear ever since you first saw it. That amazing buzz you get of 'I did it!' When you reach that point you were aiming for all along. If you're struggling think back on a time you have that adrenaline rush and savour it or, if not, look forward to the chance to experience it.

Don't forget to reward yourself for each achievement along the way and I hope that everyone has had a lovely Christmas!

Know what you're aiming for next year and willing to share? Leave a comment below!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Dreams

We all have dreams- things we hope for in the future. These many not always be show-stopping, not everyone dreams of being a big Hollywood actress or the next world famous entrepreneur, but everyone has goals in life. For most people this is the dream of having a family one day or perhaps owning their own house. For others it is the dream of starting up a small business with hopes for possible expansion.

I think we can forget sometimes that we are all trying to achieve these goals- that we're all in the same boat. (click here for more on not being alone)

Yesterday, I happened to be trying to make conversation with a rather quiet co-worker when the subject of hobbies came up. She admitted that she was really into tapestry and was currently focussing on making rugs. She'd recently applied for a grant from a business in London and had yet to receive a reply but she was determined to start her own small business.

To see her face light up when she was talking in clear enthusiasm was rather inspiring. It really touched me to see her talking about her passion with such pride.

The point is: don't forget that everyone is aiming for the future and you know what? People do make it.

Image from Google
I'm sorry for the short post but I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Comments? Thought? Let me know below!

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Search For Christmas Spirit

Last year I wasn't in the Christmas spirit at all! I'm not a Scrooge- I swear! In fact I love seeing people's happy faces on Christmas morning or that big grin that takes over when they see what you've gotten for them- of the clear thought that has gone into their gift.

I think that the reason that I wasn't feeling the Christmas spirit was because- for me at least- it felt... tainted. It may have been because of the pressure of what to get people or maybe even the bombardment of adverts of what we should want but Christmas didn't feel the same. Christmas day arrived and it just felt empty. It had no special significance to me and you know what? It was sad.

Because of that, and the fact that my Nana will be spending Christmas with us for the first time this year after my Grandad died in June, I was determined to get into the Christmas spirit- not just for myself but for her so that she could try and have the best Christmas possible considering the consequences.

So how was I going to go about getting into the spirit of things? I tried everything: listening to Christmas songs, helping my Mum put up the Christmas tree, even making the effort to sing songs in the office but nothing was working.



Image courtesy of Google

Then, suddenly, just when I was about to give up it hit me: family. Family was what it was all about. That feeling you get when you are snuggled under a blanket with those that you love, laughing and sharing stories or reminiscing about happy times. That warm feeling that you get when you are around people that you care about and know care about you too- that is what Christmas is about.

Sadly, I think that many of us have lost sight of this. We forget just how lucky we are when we lose sight of what matters and are overridden with advertising and the idea of Christmas. (to read more about this click here)

Let's stop focussing so much on the little things like the party food and the presents and the decorations- let's just stop! Why don't we focus on our partners, our parents, our siblings, our friends? The things and the people that really matter! The things that won't be forgotten by the end of the season.

What do you remember more? Where you put the decorations or that time where you laughed with those that you care about?

If I have learnt anything this year, it's that the other things fade, the materialistic things are forgotten- it is the precious memories that stay with you and make the day really special.

It is the memories we create that make Christmas. It is the happiness that we feel around others that make it special.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Coping With Stress

We all have tough days where we feel like we're never going to get through it. It's like the day will never end and the clock is dragging its hands to the point that you're sure there's something wrong with it. We all have them- there's no escaping that. But if you mind ways to cope with them- to make your day a little easier- then it can really help. Here are some quick tips...

Image Courtesy of Google
1) Take deep breaths- It's obvious I know! But it's amazing how we can forget such a simple thing when we feel like banging our head against the wall.

2) Take a minute to sit down and rest- This means just sitting still and not working... at all. Now, I'm not daft. I know this isn't always easy when it feels like you're being pulled left, right and centre but even if it's just taking a proper dinner break. Give your mind a rest. Trust me, it'll thank you for it!

3) Take it a day at a time- or if you're really stuck- an hour- Don't overload yourself with weeks in advance, even if it's for a project, focus on what you need to do for it now, the rest can be done another day.

4) Write down a 'To Do List'- Sometimes, the mind can build things up to such a degree that the tiny little problem that you're having becomes the next world crisis. Jot it down so that you can see how the situation really is. It is on a page in front of you and you know what? Nine times out of ten, it isn't as bad as you think it is.

5) Listen to some calming music- It's amazing how it can help to release the tension from your shoulders and improve your breathing.

6) If you get the chance on your break, go for a walk- The fresh air and exercise will do you good. Besides, if it gets you away from the source of the stress- even for just a little bit- it will remind you that there is a world out there waiting and that you're not as isolated as you think. You can read more about that here.

7) Think of what is waiting for you once you're done- It might be a partner, kids or maybe even a pet. Just think of how you'll be able to kick your shoes off, take some time to enjoy something whether it be a good book or a programme and get a good night's sleep.

I hope this helps- especially in this hectic season! If you've got any thoughts or comments please feel free to share them below!

Oh and Merry Christmas!!

Friday, 13 December 2013

The Secret Of Writing

A lot of people often look for a secret trick or method that magically makes them better writers. They look for a quick fix that, like a light switch, will turn on the incredible writer within that will produce an award winning piece and great recognition.

Writing is a long and emotional process. You never stop learning.

If I could give any advice, any advice at all when it came to writing, it would be to savour every second of being alive.




Image Courtesy of marcandangel.com


If we do not fully embrace life how can we write about it? How can we capture it with our words and expression to share it with the world if we do not treasure it?

How can we write about feeling revitalised and feeling free when we do not feel the rain against our skin or the sunlight on our face?

How can we write of sorrow if we do not allow our hearts to be put on the line and take risks whether it be with relationships or our hopes?

How can we write of the kaleidoscope of feelings and colours when we don't experience and see it for ourselves?

In my personal experience, when I am happy or feel particularly moved I write better. Now this isn't to say that I don't write at all when I am miserable or apathetic- not at all- to do so would be foolish. However, when I am at peace or have a big smile on my face it helps the words to flow from my mind and my fingertips and onto the page.

You are what you write. When you are confident and comfortable in yourself, your writing is more self-assured. When you learn and grow as a human, you capture humanity in all of its beauty and brutality.

So look, listen and take it all in.

Thoughts, comments? Let me know below!


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Self Esteem Vs Society

I had a bit of a wobble last night. I was stood in front of the bathroom mirror, washing my face when suddenly my teeth caught my attention. Now, my teeth are straight and healthy- admittedly not pearly white but healthy none the less- but that's not what caught my attention. What got at me was the small gap between my front teeth and the various chips they have. Usually this doesn't bother me but last night- wow, did it get at me...

Me!


Why? You might ask. In all honesty, I don't know. I don't know why suddenly I found myself conscious of my smile but I did not like it one bit. I felt ugly.

And then I started thinking about why I was suddenly so aware of them, so paranoid about them and it came to me. How often do we see commercials where the model is perfect? Perfect teeth, perfect figure, perfect complexion? We see it all the time on the TV, on billboards, on websites.

So here I was, scouring Google for information about having a gap in your front teeth and guess what came up: cosmetic dentistry. The first three or four links offered were all about 'fixing' your teeth. The next few were people asking for answers on whether it was alright for them to have this gap. The responses suggested... wait for it... cosmetic dentistry.

So yeah, I was getting fed up. I was getting ready to, figuratively, dig out the old tub of ben and jerry's and sob into it when- finally- there was good news. Take a look at this entry from Wikipedia:
In the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote of the "gap-toothed wife of Bath". As early as this time period, the gap between the front teeth, especially in women, had been associated with lustful characteristics. Thus, the implication in describing "the gap-toothed wife of Bath" is that she is a middle-aged woman with insatiable lust. This has no scientific basis, but it has been a popular assumption in folklore since the Middle Ages.
In Ghana, Namibia and Nigeria, diastema is regarded as being attractive and a sign of fertility, and some people have even had them created through cosmetic dentistry. In France, they are called "dents du bonheur" ("lucky teeth"), and in Australia, gapped front teeth in children are said to be a predictor of future wealth.

Wait a minute! So in Ghana I would be seen as attractive and fertile?

Society is odd. This is what I discovered at stupid o'clock last night. It is ever changing and yet we, as members of it, are expected to look a certain way or aspire to a certain image- whether that be having an hour glass figure or perfect hair. The make-up industry makes millions in trying to make women feel as though they need to better themselves, to look a certain way and for what? To have a bunch of women who are covering any marks and masking anything that makes them different.

Now, don't get me wrong here! I am all for helping women to feel more confident and comfortable in themselves! I think that's great! My issue is when they  feel the need to bombard us with what we should look like. Yep, I'm sorry, but I'm not going to look like Kate Moss anytime soon...

Image Courtesy of Google

According to 'beautifulwithbrains.com', in Victorian times:
A white and translucent complexion was so desired that some women would even paint some very fine blue lines on their skin to make it look more translucent, as the veins underneath were showing.
Yet how many women now aspire for the perfect tan?

Why can't we live in a society where being yourself is celebrated? Where despite every imperfection each woman- and man- is celebrated?

After thinking all of this, I felt a lot... free-r in a way. I realised that I was fine just as I am. Yeah I have scars and stretch marks, my teeth aren't perfect and I have to wear glasses but I am perfectly comfortable with who I am, thank you very much and society? You can just deal with it.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!

Friday, 6 December 2013

'Tis The Time To Be Thankful

I've been meaning to write a post about this issue for a while. I don't mean to preach about it or to make anyone feel bad but I think that it is an issue that can be so easily overlooked- especially at this time of year where we are bombarded with commercials and the modern pressures of what to get for Christmas.

The issue I want to talk about is to be grateful of what you already have now.

In my experience, I often come across people who seem dissatisfied with what they have. They seem to want to constantly improve what they have, whether that be personally or professionally. How often do we hear the saying, "I need..."? I need a new pair of boots. I need a new mobile.

People don't need these things. They want them. As I said, this is not meant to be a lecture- not at all- we are all guilty of not fully appreciating what we have. I think we just need to be reminded sometimes- all of us.

My Mum has recently been helping out the Salvation Army (a charity that helps the homeless) by sowing blankets into sleeping bags to help keep people living on the streets warm. She told me the other day how, when she was helping to prepare food with the charity so that people who came into the centre could have a hot meal, a man walked in telling her that he had gotten her a Christmas present. He rummaged in his pockets to pull out... a polo. He'd gotten this mint and had saved it for weeks (judging by its appearance) to give it to my Mum. Even though this man had barely anything, he was still thinking of others.

Image courtesy of Google
(The picture above is a picture I always look at when I feel as though I am struggling. It reminds me of just how lucky I am.)

Earlier, I was stood at the bus stop when a man came over. He was unsteady on his feet and his eyes were slightly blood-shot. He started speaking to me, clearly just wanting the company, and began to tell me about how he's had two drinks of vodka and how the 'demon drink' had got him again. He'd missed an appointment at a training provider as he'd been drinking and he was vowing how he'd 'try again on the 8th January' as it was late in the year and it was near Christmas.

This season, I ask just one thing. Enjoy the season by all means: spend time with your family, have a day full of joy and laughter- hold those you love close. But please, please remember how lucky you are.

Think of those people out there who are not as fortunate- who can only dream of worrying over what to get people for Christmas and not where they're going to sleep tonight or when they'll get another meal. Think of the people who will be battling their own demons as they try to keep on track this season when they're surrounded by all this temptation.

I don't mean for this post to depress anyone- that is far from my intention- but it is something I hold very close to my heart and that I wanted to share.

Thoughts? Comments? Please share them below.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Playing The Blame Game

I was angry earlier. Really angry. I had been late leaving the office after being stuck on the phone and had missed my bus. I was livid and, naturally, as many of us do: I began to play the blame game.

It was my co-workers fault for not answering the phone.

It was the car drivers fault for not letting me cross the road.

It was the bus driver's fault for not waiting a bit longer for me to get on.

Image Courtesy of Google

So there I was, sat on the bench by the bus stop, near tears from the frustration of the day when I forced myself (after, admittedly, swearing loudly) to calm down and think about it logically.

It wasn't my co-workers fault that I had answered the phone, I could have left it for the answer machine to get and have picked up the message the next day.

It wasn't the drivers fault, they didn't know that I was desperate to cross- they were just trying to get home themselves.

It wasn't the bus driver's fault- they weren't to know that I was trying to get onto the bus.

It was a bitter pill to swallow and I didn't like admitting it to myself but at the end of the day it was my fault.

It struck me then, how often do we point the finger at something or someone else when we don't like how things have gone or when things don't go how we want them to?

Be honest with yourself: how often in a week do you blame someone else for something that's happened? From being late to not getting something that you were after? Twice a week? Three times? More?

Nine times out of ten, if we sit down and actually think about what happened, if we look at it from an objective viewpoint, we can see that it was in fact our fault in one way or another: whether this be by leaving late or just being unorganised.

Blaming other people doesn't get you anywhere- it doesn't solve anything. All it causes is resentment and anger towards other people who then, after receiving all of that negative attention, will pass that on to someone else. It's the start of a vicious circle.

So here's my challenge for this week. Take a deep breath and instead of getting annoyed and holding a grudge, think about it logically. Take the time to do this at the end of each day and see if you find yourself feeling any better for it.

It's OK to get angry every now and then (we're not saints!) but it's important not to dwell on it, it's not good- for both your health and your happiness.

Thoughts? Comments? Let me know below!

 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Be Fearless- Be Free

I don't hear this topic brought up very often but I think that it's important all the same. Sometimes, in society as well as with writing, we feel as though we have to act  in a certain way around others or portray ourselves in a certain manner. We can spend so much energy on trying to have others see us in a certain way that we lose focus of what we're really aiming for. We lose focus of who we really are.

Image Courtesy of Google

We become afraid. We shy away from our personality. Our quirkiness, our idiosyncrasies become embarrassing and we feel as though we should mask them. It is an unspoken notion in society that we should all act 'normal': that we should all have the same pattern of behaviour and ideals as each other.


Image Courtesy of Google (And a picture I'm particularly fond of)
We are not the same and, you know what? That's what makes this world so incredible. Each of us are unique and we should be celebrating that. If we were all the same then we would discover nothing new- nobody would be thinking outside of the box to come up with anything different. There would be no art, no music, no fiction- we would be left with nothing but a blank canvas instead of the vibrancy and boldness that we have today.
Without individuality there would be no inventions- without unique thinking we wouldn't have half of the knowledge  that we have in the world today. Look at Galileo who was placed under house arrest for his forward thinking- if he had allowed himself to act the same as everyone else and not expressed himself, we would still believe the Earth was flat.

As the famous saying goes:
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind.”

You may be wondering why I have chosen this topic to discuss today.
The reason I chose to talk about this is because if we aren't careful we can hold ourselves back- we can stop ourselves from reaching our full potential and what's more, we are stopping the world from seeing a new perspective and getting new ideas. We owe it to ourselves and the world to be true to ourselves.

We write who we are. We express ourselves through our words- in a way we literally put ourselves in our writing- and if we don't fully embrace who we are then how can we get our message across in our writing?

If you are free to be who you really are then you are fearless and if you are fearless then you can do anything.

Whether that be writing what you want to write (whether it be from a steamy romance to an intense thriller) or just being happy with who you are.

If my blog just helps one person to learn this valuable lesson than I will consider the entire thing worthwhile.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Looking Towards The Future

I've just found myself sat on the floor in my room in front of an open drawer, pulling out different pieces of paper and notepads, taken over by complete and utter nostalgia. I'd found a bunch of sheets from when I was in primary school (junior school) including a bright red folder called 'My Life'.

Flicking through it, I'd found three pages coloured in bright blue crayon, each with a different heading underneath a wobbly picture of a clock. The headings were 'Past', 'Present' and 'Future'.

The 'Past' was pretty basic- mentions of my time as a baby etc. It was the 'Present' and 'Future' that really caught my attention.

In 'Present' I spoke of my friends at the time- people who I haven't seen in years and who, in a few years time, would go into different friendship groups (as would I.) Obviously, writing this as a nine or ten year old, I would have had no idea that this would be the case. Which brings me onto the next section of my little wannabe autobiography...

'Future'. I'd flipped over the page, heavily amused and eager to see what was in store for me next when there was... nothing.

Now, this may be because I ran out of time or the book was forgotten about, but it kind of felt like a message. We cannot predict what's to come.

When I wrote the 'Present', I clearly expected to be friends with these girls for years to come- I had no idea how in one or two years time we would all go our separate ways and only occasionally (if rarely) speak to them again.

Now, in this very moment, we have yet to experience things that we may look back on in fondness or sadness in years to come. We cannot plan for these things- to even try would be ridiculous, not to mention impossible. At the end of the day, we are currently in our own past.

Image Courtesy of Google
 


The point is wherever you are going in life, whichever direction or whatever you decide to do- even if you cannot see the path you are on or where you are going, just remember: You've been here before. This is your past and just like all of those difficult times in your life before, you've moved on past them.

No matter how lost you feel, you're on the road to the future- it just may not be the one you were expecting.

I hope that you enjoyed the article 'Looking Towards The Future'!
Please leave me a comment below!

Friday, 22 November 2013

Mix It Up A Bit!

Sometimes, when it comes to writing, one of the problems we can have is to keep the process interesting. Now, this isn't because we don't love what we do- not at all, but think of it in terms of having the same meal everyday for every lunch and dinner; it would get boring!

Some of these tips may work for you, others may not. However, you don't know unless you try!

Image courtesy of Google

  1. Change your surrounding. Now while it is important to have your own space, who says that it has to be a study? Why not try going to the park on a sunny day and nabbing yourself a bench or a patch of grass? Or maybe a nearby café? You could even just relocate to another room in the house if you fancied a change of scenery- why not stick a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door?
  2. Swap your equipment. Use a laptop everyday at the same time? Why not get out the trusty notepad and pen and do a bit of writing that way?
  3. Treat yourself while you write. Whether it be a piece of cake or a snack- just make sure you don't overdo it!
  4. Try different times to write. If you tend to write in the afternoon, why not try in the morning instead?
  5. Take a bath or listen to some calming music beforehand to get yourself in the right mind set. Sometimes being able to look at something with a clear mind can help you to write more or think about what you're going to talk about.
Any other suggestions or tips? Let me know!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

You're Not Alone

I'll be honest, I really didn't know what I was going to blog about today. Usually, I have some kind of rough idea of what I want to talk about but today... nadah.

I was sat on the bus thinking about it, wondering what the blazes I was going to write about when the bus stopped and I happened to glance out of the window. I didn't see anything particularly amazing- I didn't see a meteor hit the earth or anything earth shattering to report on but I saw something that's just really stuck with me: I saw a guy laughing.

Now alright, I know some of you may be looking for that little back button and wondering what's gotten into me but stay with me a sec.

The thing that really made me take notice was the fact that he had his hand on the door, clearly about to leave, but was looking back into the office- laughing at something or someone that was unseen. It made me think of when I'd left the office about ten or fifteen minutes before and done something pretty similar.

Seeing that, the familiar pattern of behaviour started to make me think of what other things everyone else had in common- of the little routines or habits that we all share that we think nothing of such as getting up in the morning and going downstairs or how we all have moments where we get angry or frustrated.

With that moment, of seeing that guy laughing as he was leaving, it hit me. We're not alone.

Now I don't mean in the ET sense, here! But I think sometimes when we're feeling particularly sad and alone, we can forget that there are others out there who have or are feeling the same way.

You know those times in school where you may have felt particularly goofy or self-conscious? I guarantee most people have been there. Or maybe those nerves on the first week of work or when you've been given a project or task to do? Yep, that's normal.

The point I'm trying to make is that matter how alone we may feel sometimes or how utterly helpless we may feel, we're not.

There are other people out there who are walking the same path, who are making the same decisions and hard choices. There are other people out there who are sitting down to work or racing out the front door in the mornings along with everybody else, who are wondering how they're going to do this or what they're going to do about that- of what they're going to have for dinner.

It's important not to get lost in the rat race but, at the same time, it's important to know that everyone is doing it together.

Image Courtesy of Google

You don't believe me? Look at Google Plus! How many writers are on here or artists or musicians? There are tonnes of people who are going through the same thought processes and looking for other people who they can connect with and relate to. Or how about concerts? A place where a load of people from different backgrounds get together to listen to a singer or a band that they have stumbled across somewhere or other and have gone through the same conscious thought of booking tickets.

All you need to do is think about rush hour traffic to see where I'm coming from here! A bunch of people all aiming for work or to drop their kids of at school all have the same pattern of behaviour, all have the same routine and whether they realise it or not, they're all doing it together.

Next time you're out and about, have a look around and think about it. You'll soon see what I mean ;)

Friday, 15 November 2013

The Confessions Of A Serial Scrapper

OK, I hold my hands up- I admit it. I am a serial scrapper.

Now, many of you may be confused. "What's a scrapper?"

A 'scrapper' is what I call someone who continuously 'scraps' stories that they're working on because they are bored with them or they think they are not working. Don't get me wrong! It's alright to get rid of an idea if it's not working and there is no way of fixing it or the whole thing has just gone completely pear shaped. The problem emerges when you are constantly 'scrapping' ideas that you are working on to the point where you can not stick with any poem, screenplay or story right to the end. You think that it's not good enough or you just can't get into the flow of it. Parts don't start adding up and you soon find your mind wandering and doubts kick in.

It's when you get to this point that the 'magpie effect' can kick in and we chase after new shiny ideas and neglect the ones we already have.

So go on, now is the time to admit it. Answer the question honestly. Are you a serial scrapper?

Image Courtesy of Google


If you are, it's alright- this is a safe space after all! It's how you deal with it that counts.

Myself, personally? I found a way to get excited about what I was writing again. Say I was writing a story that focused around a couple of friends- I'd look at what could happen with that friendship. Maybe one will betray the other or one will be seriously hurt. On the flip side, one may fall in love with the other or one may save the others life.

Or say the issue is with the actual events of the story. Maybe you have a great idea but can't quite get there yet. Well I put this to you: why not write it first?

If you have an idea in your mind about how you want a scene to go write it. Simple. In fact, in my experience, this can be useful as it helps in writing the build-up to the scene. I even find that writing that particular scene first can bring up more ideas or go in a direction I hadn't even thought of.


Or maybe you should plan out where you are going with your idea by doing a time line so you can see where your story is going or a mind-map (spider diagram) of the events per chapter or act. Part of the problem that come with being a 'serial scrapper' is the lack of vision of where you are going with your idea.

Thankfully, using these methods, I am getting a lot better. Yeah, I still have moments where I think I've reached the end of the road but then I think about what I'm aiming for and it makes the road easier and so much more satisfying.

What are your ways of keeping with an idea, through thick and thin? Or are you also a serial scrapper? Let me know below!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Give Yourself A Pat On The Back

Sometimes in life were so busy or get so preoccupied we forget to give ourselves credit where it's due. Instead, we can have the tendency to criticise ourselves for things that we don't do right or that should have been done differently.

But it is important to take some time to remember everything we have accomplished.

If you've done something well- be proud of it! Have a little celebratory dance, fist pump the air- do whatever you want but just enjoy it.

I mention how important it is to keep balance in our lives in one of my other posts here, but I think that it is really important to reinforce this- especially for writers who may not always receive instant gratification for the hard work they do.

If you've written three hundred words of a new story, poem, screenplay etc. but don't think it's brilliant- pat yourself on the back! You've done three hundred words! Yeah it may need a lot of editing but you sat down and did it where so many others didn't.

If you've managed to get a newspaper to give you an article to do but are really struggling with writing it- pat yourself on the back! Congrats, you've proven that you're a good writer otherwise they wouldn't have given it to you in the first place! They clearly think you can do it or else they'd have given it to someone else!

Even if you have a rejection from publishers or an agent- pat yourself on the back! You've written the thing in the first place- you've got there where so many people have given in! You've stuck with it through thick and thin where many others have walked away.

With these things in life, it is always important to remember- even when we think we are struggling or are never going to get there that:

This fabulous image right here is courtesy of Google!
Not sure how to congratulate yourself? Here's some ideas:
  1. Have a long soak in the bath- relax and have some 'you time'!
  2. Treat yourself to something sweet! Even if it's just a biscuit, do something to mark your achievement!
  3. Shout about it! To your friends, to your family- to your partner! Obviously don't rub it in people's faces but if it means a lot to you, it'll mean a lot to those that care for you!
  4. Listen to a favourite song and dance along! Have a serious boogie- bum wiggle and all! Sing along at the top of your lungs or air guitar some power chords!
The possibilities are endless but just remember to, wait for it... Pat yourself on the back!

Any other suggestions on how to celebrate? Leave your ideas below!

Friday, 8 November 2013

The Tortoise And The Hare

I randomly found myself thinking of the fable this morning. I hadn't heard the story in years but as I was having a moment to reflect on my life so far this morning I just found myself thinking of that race.

(For anyone who needs a quick reminder of how the story goes, you can read it here)

See, what a lot of people seem to focus on in the story is the arrogance of the hare. Yeah, his ego caused him to lose and was symbolism for his downfall but a lot of people seem to forget about the tortoise.

Image courtesy of Google

You see while both of the animals had their goal in mind (to win the race), only one of them had the determination and focus to go ahead and do it.

The hare got distracted, he lost focus and just assumed that he would get what he wanted with little effort. The hare was wrong.

The tortoise however, knew that if he stuck with it, that if he kept his focus and ploughed on he would get there eventually. He knew that it would take time and that it would be hard work but he got there.

Now, some of you may be wondering what the blazes I'm going on about here so I'll quickly get to the point.

While the story teaches us not to be lazy and take things for granted, it also teaches us that with enough determination and hard work- not to mention patience and the willingness to push ourselves- we can achieve anything. Even if it is just a race against a hare. ;)


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Using Habits

People fascinate me, they really do. I catch the bus home from work every day and it always amazes me the different ways that different people act. One of my particular favourite kinds of people to watch is smokers- why? Because it is always interesting to see how they act when they are craving a cigarette which they can't have yet. They are agitated all the time like there's an itch under their skin that just won't go away. It's intriguing to watch.

Yeah, I'm weird I know.

Another thing that I like to observe is how people act when they are trying to stop themselves from having an argument or when you see a couple of people sat next to each other who are acting very differently. You know when you're in a situation and you can just tell from their body language that one person is attracted to the other or when one person wants the other to just shut up?


Image courtesy of Google


So, let me get to the point.

One way to make your characters more realistic is to add in these little habits. Maybe a woman who is in a stressful job taps her foot or a man who is struck between an argument with his partner and mother may run his hands through his hair a lot or pinch the bridge of his nose.

It doesn't even have to be physical, maybe they repeat a phrase all of the time such as, "Like" or "Apparently".

Here's a great way to pick up some interesting habits people have:
  1. People watch. This is probably the most effective way to pick up on people's habits. Whether
    you're in a café or using public transport, watch what other people are doing and take note of it.
  2. Pay attention to what you do yourself. Do you often have people pick up on something that you do or say? With me, I often have people tell me I say 'basically' a lot when starting a sentence or wringing my hands when I'm nervous or excited. If you're not sure, ask the people around you- you may be surprised by their answer!
  3. See what other authors do. Can you think of any characters from books you've read with a famous habit? One that immediately springs to mind is Ron Weasley from Harry Potter always saying "Bloody Hell."
  4. Don't forget to use BAD habits too! Not all habits are good and if one gets on your nerves- use it! It could be a negative trait of a character or maybe a way to connect with the audience on a emotional level- maybe they hate the habit too and can sympathise with your protagonist!

And most of all, don't forget to have fun with it!

Lou x
 


Friday, 1 November 2013

Finding A Balance

I visited a friend I hadn't seen in a few months the other day. It was so good to see her to the point that just pulling up outside of her house made me feel as though I was being pulled into a hug and that was before I'd even knocked on the door and seen her face yet! We'd had a brilliant catch-up and I ended up feeling... lighter somehow than I had before. It had taught me a valuable lesson.

It's important to keep a balance in life.

This may be in regards to keeping in touch with friends and family against working on your writing or your career in general. Or it may be looking after someone and looking after yourself at the same time.

I hold my hands up: I am rubbish at going out and seeing my friends, not because I don't want to see them but rather because I struggle to juggle my full time apprenticeship with my writing. I have three ends of a scale and unfortunately my social life does not bode well.

The way I'm working on improving this is by making the effort to speak to my friends, to see them and to make sure they're alright.


Image courtesy of Google

It's important to remember not to neglect different things as they sometimes can creep up on you and then you have to put everything on hold to deal with it.

So this blog is kind of about writing but mostly this is just a focus on looking after yourself- especially as we approach the busier (dare I say it) Christmas period. If I could say anything in this post it would be this:

Look after yourself, look after those you love and most of all just try to be happy.

I hope you all have a good a weekend and let me know below what it is that you find the most difficult thing to balance. :)

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Just an update: I will now be updating on Tuesdays and Fridays. The reason for this is so I can plan my posts more and hopefully provide more useful tips and interesting topics to think about in the future.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Going Back To The Start

Going back and starting something after you've really got stuck in can be... daunting but, unfortunately, it can be necessary.

For example, last night I was writing when suddenly I realised, rather irritatingly, that the setting just wasn't working for the story and the image I wanted to get across to the reader. I wasn't impressed to say the least. I spent a good ten minutes annoyed out of mind that the characters and plot which I had been working so hard on was at risk of not fitting together- of not working- because of the setting being badly written, badly thought out and just plain unbelievable.

I was just about ready to throw in the towel, to go and look at a whole new idea when I took a deep breath and, reluctantly, went back to the drawing board.

Image courtesy of Google

The reason? I reminded myself of why I was writing the story, of the loyalty I felt towards my characters and my need to get them back on the page and out there in the world. I went back to the drawing board because I knew if I gave in, I would spend the rest of the month (at least) kicking myself or wishing that I carried on.

It can be tough when we have to go back and re-write a scene or a conversation or even (heaven forbid) a chapter but if what you're writing is truly worth it and you're committed to it than you'll stick with it- no matter how tempting it may be to give up.

Things To Remember When You Want To Quit
  1. Why you are writing this? Maybe you feel compelled to, maybe you feel as though you have a message you want to share with the world. It may even be as simple as you being unable to get the story out of your head and you need to get it out of your system.
  2. How will you feel if you quit? Will you be kicking yourself? Will you find yourself wishing that you could just pick up where you left off? Or will you be relieved that the pressure is gone?
  3. How difficult is it to change what's needed? If it's a scene, plan out how you want it to go. With my change of setting, I've thought about what I need to be there for scenes to work yet what will help set the tone of the story.
  4. Take a deep breath and step away, see if you feel the same. Sometimes the pressure can get to us and we need to go and take a breather before we can make a clear judgement. Don't make a rash decision- think it through.

Have any tips of your own? Share them below!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Writers Block

Now we've all suffered from it at some point or other. That moment of panic and then gradual frustration as you stare at the blank page in front of you, the cursor flashing almost tauntingly as you struggle to find a single word to put down.
Sound familiar?

You're not alone. We all get it at some point, it's how you handle it that counts.
Image courtesy of Google
Here's some exercises to try to get you writing again:
  1. Open up a blank document and just type (or write on a plain piece of paper) ANYTHING. I mean anything! Admittedly this works better on a computer as you can type random letters quicker than you can write them and after a while of typing pure gibberish eventually words begin to form... and then phrases... and then sentences...
  2. Go out and well... exercise! Go for a walk, a run or take the dog out for a stroll. Sometimes it can help to clear your head and it gets your blood pumping as well!
  3. Write something else for a while. If the problem is that you're stuck on what you're writing at the minute, try a poem. Or, if you're a poet, try a small bit of prose. Sometimes if you focus on something too hard you miss what is right in front of your face.
  4. Listen to your favourite song. Step away from what you were doing- leave the room if you have to- and blast your favourite bit of music. Dance to it, sing along at the top of your lungs. Go crazy with it! Get it out of your system then get back to it!
Everyone is different, some of these things may work for you and some may not but you don't know unless you give it a go!

What do you do to get rid of pesky writers block? Let me know below! :)

Friday, 25 October 2013

Beware The 2D Character!

Ah, Characters. Sometimes we love them, sometimes we love to hate them but either way they certainly move us to write some pretty crazy stuff with them involved.

The major issue I tend to find with writing characters is how best to make them seem like real, breathing people rather than just figures on a page. The best way to make people feel as though they are a part of the story or are witnessing something happening right in front of them, is to make the characters so realistic that your reader isn't hung up on trying to imagine how they act or their personalities.

The way to do this? Start to believe in the characters yourself.

Characters, just like people, have more than one aspect of their personality. No person is solely bad just as no person is solely good but rather each person has elements of both: just like yin and yang.
Take for example the famous literary character of Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. He is, overall, considered the 'good guy' of the story. He saves Lydia from ruining her reputation with Mr. Wickham by going after the pair and ends up together with Elizabeth at the end of the story.

However, he is not without his faults.

He is renowned for his pride and cold demeanour towards strangers as well as his lack of willingness to participate in social events. But it is these imperfections which, in their own way, make the character so prominent in the book.

TASK
  • Think of a person, male or female and a job that they may have. This can be absolutely anything! From a female chef to a male accountant...
  • What age are they roughly? Twenties to thirties? Middle aged? Just retired?
  • What are their good qualities? Are they patient? Kind? A great parent? A good friend?
  • Now, what are their bad qualities? Do they smoke? Do they have a secret addiction? Are they abusive to their partners? Do they have a dark secret? And if so, what?
  • How do their lives balance out with these qualities? Are they internally conflicted? Are they in denial? Have they made peace with themselves?
  • Finally, would you say that overall they are a 'good 'or a 'bad' character?
Can't decide? Not a problem! Literature is filled with Anti-heros and antagonists you can sympathise with- like Winston from George Orwell's '1984' or Amir from 'The Kite Runner'.

Go on, give it a go! Let me know how it turned out in the comments sections below!

Lou x

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Had A Bad Day? Use It!

We've all had one of those days where something has happened or nothing will go right and we're just about ready to tear our hair out! Well you know what? Take a deep breath and store it for later. Nothing makes a story more realistic than examples of real life events.
Now, for the sake of continued employment, I'm not saying quote it word for word! But if you have a boss from hell or a job that just generally grates on your nerves just grit your teeth, smile sweetly and note it all down for later.
Image courtesy of Google
 
Here's a quick example. I wasn't having the worst day but I'll admit I had a very irritating phone call and look what came from it:
'I rubbed at the space between my brows as I felt a headache approaching over the horizon. Loud, raucous laughter emitted from the small kitchen to the side, forcing me to cover the ear that wasn't pressed against the off-white receiver as I struggled to make out the garbled words coming from the other side of the line.

"I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that..."
"Uttoxeter!"
Pulling a face at the woman's sharp tone, I jotted down the next line of the address. "And your postcode, please?"
As she continued a rant about the incompetence of youth now-a-days, the sight of my co-worker sneaking her bag out of her drawer and creeping out of her chair caused me to press the phone against my chest and glare at her. "Oh no, no no no! Not again Gemma!"
She glanced quickly towards the small room filled with our colleagues before slipping on her jacket and zipping it up. "It's not a big deal, I'm just slipping out for a bit."
"No- I'm not covering for you again! I'm sick of you doing this and landing me in it!"
"Oh come on- please? Just say that the school's called and I've got to pick up Will to take him to the child-minder's."
"You used the same excuse last week!"
She pouted as she tucked her chair back under her desk. "Just, please? I'm sure you'll come up with something!" As the others began to trickle out of the kitchen, she gave a quick wave. "See you later, yeah? I'll be half an hours, tops..."
"Gemma!" As she hurried off, I craned my head around the corner to see the door shut behind her. "Gemma!"
Clenching my fist tightly in frustration, I swore under my breath. The rising pitch coming from the receiver brought me back into focus and, after sighing, I reluctantly brought it back to my ear. "Sorry, ma'am. Can you repeat that please?"'

So give it a go! You may just come up with something brilliant. Besides, it's a great way to get rid of your frustration...

Leave a comment or let me know about your worst day of work!

Lou x

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Read, Read, Read!

One way to get better as a writer? Read.
How can you know how to word something or how to describe something if you've never seen it done before? Simple- you can't!
You can't write an adventure without learning how to build suspense.
You can't write a sci-fi without learning how to make it believable.
You can't write a poem without learning how to structure it.
For a writer, reading is incredibly important. How can you improve your vocabulary without coming across new words? How can you come up with new ideas for your own writing if you don't look at what's already out there?

So sit down, put your feet up and grab a good book or poem. After all, hopefully someone will be doing the same with one of yours one day.

Thinking Outside The Box

When I was walking back from work, I was listening to my iPod when a song I hadn't listened to for a while came on. It was 'Nothing' by 'The Script'.
It reminded me of a time a while ago where my Mum and I we listening to it while in the car and I randomly asked her what she thought the story was behind the song.
"I think it's about a man who goes to see his ex-girlfriend or ex-wife and she turns him away."
To be honest I was surprised. I hadn't thought of it like that at all, in fact I had thought that the song was about a man who had died and the reason that his ex-partner didn't acknowledge him was because he was a ghost that she couldn't see.
It just goes to show that sometimes, you have to step away from your own ideas and take in other people's thoughts and feelings about things to see the bigger picture.

Image courtesy of Google
 
 
Tips
  1. Step outside and get some air- sometimes a new environment can help to clear your mind.
  2. Talk to people and see how they feel about things- having a discussion about things can open your eyes to new arguments and viewpoints.
  3. Try to put yourself in someone else's shoes- imagine how you might feel or act and try to transfer that into your writing.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Practice Makes Perfect

One golden rule I always follow is write every day. Seriously. No excuses!
I'm not saying that you have to write a story that would put Stephen King to shame everyday but if you get yourself in the routine of sitting down everyday and thinking. "Right, I'm going to write now." then, soon enough, it will just come naturally.

Imagine that you're learning to play an instrument. You would make sure that you practiced the same piece of music or the same technique over and over again until you got it.

Now, I'm not naïve- not am I a saint. I know that there are days when you just can't be bothered to get the laptop or the notepad down and slog on whilst thinking of the nap you could be having, or the film you could be watching- trust me I know! But just think if you were to do the same with learning an instrument. You'd be less confident in what you were playing, you would make more mistakes and you'd get so frustrated over it all you'd begin to ask yourself what was the point?
Image courtesy of Google
So, here are my top tips to help you get into the habit of writing everyday:
  1. Don't be too harsh on yourself!Life can be hectic and often the things we try to plan for tend to get pushed back for later or forgotten all together. So, if you are really struggling to find the time to sit down and write than look at your daily routine and see if you can fit it in somewhere. Do you perhaps have some time while you're waiting for someone that you're giving a lift to? Or maybe when you're waiting for something to cook? Personally, if I want to jot something down I wait for my dinner break at work.
  2. CompromiseOK, so we all have bad days- we all have days where we don't particularly feel like writing. It doesn't make us terrible people or terrible writers, it just makes us human. When this happens, take a deep breath and be honest with yourself. Say for example you aim to write 1000 words a day (every one is different so don't panic if this sounds a lot!) but you really really can't bring yourself to do it, than say that you will only do 300 that day. You're still getting some writing done yet your not behaving like you must do it as some form of punishment.
    Obviously you can't do this every day, as it loses its purpose, but it is a helpful way to keep up the habit.
  3. Try different times of the dayEveryone has different ways of functioning and writing is no different. Some people find that they are most productive writing first thing in the morning while others find that it suits them to write before they go to sleep. The only way you can know which works best for you is to try and find which works best for you.
The main thing to remember is that you are writing for you. Yes, you have to consider whether an audience would understand what you are trying to say and yes, you have to consider whether your story makes sense but at the end of the day it is you that is taking the time to write and it is you who is sticking with it through thick and thin so enjoy it! Treat yourself to a biscuit as you type, have a comfy pair of slippers on as you write just don't forget who you're doing this for: You.

What Makes A Writer?

A lot of people seem to ask this question, whether they have just started writing or have been writing for years. Some people seem to think that there is a rite of passage that people need to pass before they can call themselves 'writers'.
The truth is you're already there. Do you take the time to sit down and grab a pen and paper? Do you take the time to turn on your laptop/ computer/ tablet and go onto a blank document before taking the first tentative taps on the keys? Then you're a writer. Plain and simple.


If someone were to walk over to a canvas and paint a picture- and if they did this often- we would call them a 'painter'. Yes, they may not do it for a career- yes, they may not get any financial gain from it but they paint.
Image courtesy of Google


The same example can be given with someone who runs. If someone takes the time to go out every morning or every evening to jog- even if it's only for half a mile- they are still a 'runner'.


Image courtesy of Google







So the next time someone asks you what you do, don't be embarrassed to hold your head up high and say, "I'm a writer." because at the end of the day you are.