Tuesday, 28 January 2014

How Do We Measure Success?

To be able to answer that question, you first need to know what that is.

According to dictionaries, (while the wording may be a bit different) it is generally defined as:
"The accomplishment of an aim or purpose."
But what does that mean, really? What most people fail to understand is that everyone has their own version- their own idea of what it means to be successful. There isn't one set definition that we can all fit under. What may mean success for one person may be inconsequential to another.

Image from Google
A lot of people, when they think of success, think of having a big career with lots of money and being happy all of the time. Yet, how many times have you heard of people who are at the top of a company or have won the lottery and wish that things could be different? That wish they had families or that things could go back to the way they were?

We spend so long working towards something- to what we consider will make us successful- that we forget what we have already achieved or what's already right in front of our face.

This reminds me of a favourite quote of mine from John Lennon:

"When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life."

Success is what you make of it.

For some people this is reaching or accomplishing a goal they've strived towards for years. For others, it is receiving high praise for something they've worked hard on.

To me, success is happiness. Success is when you are surrounded by those you love and you feel safe and secure because that feeling of contentment is priceless. There is no greater gift- no greater prize than that.

What does success mean to you? How do you consider yourself to be successful? Share your thoughts below!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Why Being Impulsive Isn't Always A Bad Thing

When I was at work the other day, I decided that I needed to get out and do something different. I didn't know what I was going to do, I didn't know when I was going to go but I knew that I needed to break away from routine and just get out there.

On Thursday, I decided that I was going to go to the city centre, on my own, and see where the day took me. I printed off a few maps- just so that I didn't get completely lost- but I didn't have any major plans for the day apart from popping into the library to have a quick look around.

I did it this morning. I looked up when the next couple of buses were, got ready and got on one. The rest of the day, I just played it by ear. I wandered about a bit, ended up getting a little lost and wet admittedly, but overall it was a decent day.

Courtesy of Google
You may be wondering why I am telling you about this. Often we hear how impulsive behaviour can have bad consequences- how our recklessness can cause problems for us further down the line but what about the good consequences? What about the benefits of taking a chance and doing something out of the ordinary?

Today proved to me how far I had come in regards to building my confidence as well as show me how I was capable of doing pretty much anything if I set my mind to it.

There was no pressure- no limitations as to how long I could be out for. I didn't have to check with anyone where I could go or if they wanted to do anything; today was about me having a mini adventure all by myself and you know what? It was rather refreshing.

We could all do with being a bit more impulsive sometimes. We can hold ourselves back by confining ourselves to our routines, our little day by day actions and schedules where there is so much more out there we could be experiencing.

Of course I'm not saying that we should be compulsive all of the time, we do all have our own commitments and comfort zones of course, but to fully appreciate them and to make the most of life we sometimes have to venture outside and take in the world around us.

What's the most impulsive thing that you've ever done? Let me know below.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Things I Wished I Had Known When I Started Writing

I've been thinking a lot about the past lately, or more specifically, the way my perspective and knowledge of writing and the world around me has evolved in the years.

As I thought about the lessons I had learnt along the way, I started to thing over all of the things I had learnt and began to list them in my head.

Courtesy of sodahead.com

  1. There is no such thing as a brilliant first draft. They're renowned for being bad! Just give yourself a pat on the back for getting it all down and sticking with it then take a deep breath and prepare to edit.
  2. Whether it be in writing or in life, you will make mistakes. To err is human, after all. Mistakes are important and necessary as they help us to grow and to become a better person. Don't beat yourself up if you go wrong just think on where it did and how you can remedy it- you will be better for it in the end.
  3. Learn to scrap an idea. You've come up with an idea- fantastic! But sometimes you have to recognise when you need to let them go. The trick is to take the time to brainstorm ideas or write them all down and them route for the gems you can really run with.
  4. Write, write, write! It may be a given, but when you start off it's new and exciting and you can't ever imagine not loving the time you have with your laptop. Yet, reality does get in the way and we can push it back or procrastinate when it comes to writing bits that don't particularly excite us. (see more on procrastination here)
  5. Always carry a notepad with you. Ideas are a bit like dodge balls- they can hit you at any moment! No, seriously, I got an idea over a bus ticket the other morning!
What would you tell your younger, writing, self? Can you think of anything I've missed and want to add? Feel free to share your ideas below!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Why Kids Have Got It All Figured Out

The idea that we should all get in touch with our inner child is a rather popular philosophy. You tend to hear it quite a lot whether it be through the internet, literature or television but you very rarely hear some decent reasons as to why.

The truth of the matter is, we could learn a lot from them.

Courtesy of Google/ oddstuffmagazine.com
One phrase that seems to really define childhood is the line, "When I grow up, I'm going to be..."

While the answer may vary from child to child the conviction is always the same.

"When I grow up, I'm going to be..."

There is no hesitation at all. There is no doubt in their minds whatsoever as to the fact that they're going to become a doctor or astronaut or ballerina. They just know that they're going to do it.

Why? Because in their minds, there's no reason not to. Why shouldn't they get what they want?

Adults, however, are completely different. Many of us end up doing things or having a career in something that we don't particularly want to do. Why? Because logic and reasoning tells us that we should and those dreams that we had as a child are unrealistic and unattainable.

And when we do hold onto those dreams we put them on pause. We say that we will chase them later, we will strive for it after we've done A, B and C.

Adults become completely focused on the future- just look at the typical, 'where do you see yourself in five years time?' interview question!
Image courtesy of Google


The point is, as adults we worry- a lot. We worry about the future, about how we are seen by society and how we are going to deal with different problems that come our way.

We can learn a lot from kids: we can learn to embrace the future, to not allow others to make us feel as though we have to behave a certain way- we could learn to be a lot freer.

We just need to be willing to go for things and believe that we can achieve anything that we want to.

Disagree? Or have you got any theories on a philosophy? What's the most bizarre thing that you've ever heard a child say about the future? 

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Let's Talk About Self- Motivation And Procrastination... Later...

We're all guilty of it. We find ourselves sitting down on a comfy seat knowing that we should be doing something else but we can't seem to bring ourselves to do it. The TV, book, magazine and pretty much everything around us looks so much more appealing then what we are meant to be doing...

I confess I've been pretty bad with procrastinating lately- especially at the weekends. I find myself so tired that I don't really feel like doing much and nothing sounds more appealing then lying about for the two days that I have off.

The problem is you can't finish something if you don't even start it.

Whenever you find yourself procrastinating, imagine a room that you are trying to redecorate. When you started off, you had good intentions- you started stripping the paper and thought about what design you would use but then, after realising how daunting the job was, you started putting it off. Whenever you are trying to put off doing something that needs to be done, think of that undecorated room in that house. Think of the scruffy walls and the paper that is half hanging off. Think on how dreary that room is and depressing.

Your project is that room. It is waiting for you to work on it and it's not going to sort itself out! Whenever you are putting something major off, think of that room then get to it!

Image courtesy of Google

It doesn't make you a bad person to put things off- we all do it- but sometimes we just need to find the motivation to actually do things.

Here are a few ways to get yourself into gear!

  1. Give yourself a deadline- this works well for some people and for some people this seems to put them off more! Jot down what you want to have done by a particular date in a diary, on a computer or on a calendar. Make sure that it can be seen so that it's a constant reminder!
  2. Make someone hold you accountable for your project- this kind of links in with the first one but if you tell someone, whether it be friend, family member or even a neighbour what you're doing and when for. Doing this leaves you with two choices: do what you said you were going to do or struggle to think of excuses on why you haven't done it every time they ask.
  3. Set yourself some form of daily or weekly count- doing this forces you to run a certain amount of miles, write a certain number of words or stitch a certain number of stitches. The only problem with this one is that it is fairly easy to cheat with weekly ones! I hold my hands up: I've done it a few times- I guess this one just depends on how strict you are on yourself.
What are your ways of getting motivated? Do you have any suggestions to share? Have you already tried any of these and did they work? Feel free to share your ideas below!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Looking Back To See Forwards

On Thursday night, I found myself sat in my room thinking about how much things had changed in the last few years. It really surprised me to see how much my perspective had changed in such a short amount of time. Where I had once thought of a time of my life with nothing but anger and sadness, I now found myself thinking back on happier times with the person involved, I wasn't completely focussed on the hurt they caused but could instead think of the times when they put a smile on my face.

Sometimes we become so focussed on where we're headed- on what we're aiming for in the future- that we forget to think back on how far we've come.

As we continue on with out lives we forget all that we have achieved- how we have found solutions for all of those problems that we thought we had no chance of ever moving past, of how we learnt to move past heartbreak to make happier memories.

Image courtesy of Google/The Guardian
It serves as a good reminder, when we are faced with a particularly tough time, that we have come through what we once thought of as the 'impossible'.

Whenever you feel as though you can't carry on or the challenge that you face it just to great, think of what you have already done. It doesn't even have to be something news worthy! If it was important to you that's all that mattered.

Let me give an example. Last year my confidence had a huge knockback. I'd finished sixth form and after a verbal lashing by various teachers for not going to university, I was looking for some form of employment. As the months went by and several failed starts, I was really starting to feel it- I took it personally and my confidence was really beginning to wane. I was at a really low point and it was decided that I was to have one last interview and that if it didn't go well then I would have to phone to make an appointment to apply for benefits the next day. It felt like it was all or nothing and I felt emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I went for the interview and was incredibly nervous but I actually rather enjoyed myself. We had to do team building exercises, one of which was build the highest tower we could uses dried spaghetti and marshmallows, and it was really nice to be able to relax and enjoy myself after months of stress and worry. And, you know what? I got a call later that day: they were offering me the apprenticeship.

Now I find that my confidence is returning and all those months of anguish and frustration are just another part of my journey to get where I was meant to be all along.

The point of what I'm trying to say here is this: the problems you are facing, the anxiety of what is to come will soon be in the past along with all the others that you have conquered. Whether it be writing a novel or poem or screenplay or maybe even how you are going to cope with a problem with work, you will move past it.

The solution is inevitable- it is just a case of looking at the light at the end of the tunnel and knowing that good things are sure to come.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014


To describe anxiety to someone who does not suffer from it, in a way that they can truly understand, is nearly impossible.

Some of you who read this may automatically know what I am talking about. You may be able to understand what I'm referring to when I describe that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach and the trembling that takes over at the thought of the simplest things.

To those of you who don't, think back on a time where you have been incredibly nervous. This may have been with an exam or maybe if you had to speak publically. How about your wedding day?
Think back on those jitters that you felt, on that dry mouth and clammy hands. It's a horrible feeling isn't it?

Now imagine feeling like that in the morning before going to work or going out to meet some friends.

With my anxiety, I know that it's completely irrational. I know that the worst that could happen is a panic attack (which isn't a nice experience in itself and is not to be taken lightly) but the fear escalates to such a scale that it becomes hard to think straight.

Image courtesy of Google

You may be wondering why I've chosen to write about this. The truth of the matter is that I felt it was important to be honest. To confess my weakness.

We all have them but in our society it's as though we have to mask them- to deny that we each have our own issues we struggle with.
What's more, as writers, it is important that we are open about who we are- not only to write about a message or give people an escape with our creations but to set an example for others that it's OK to be vulnerable- that it's alright to be yourself warts and all in a time where we feel as though we can't be.

Writing this post hasn't been easy- it has made me think a lot about how I see myself and the problems I have to face.

My name is Mary Lou Fletcher and my weakness is that I struggle with anxiety.

What's yours?

Friday, 3 January 2014

Writing For The Right Reasons

One trap that many writers fall into (myself included) is that, after a while, they become conformists. They become people pleasers.
Often this isn't even consciously done. We find ourselves happily tapping or penning away when all of a sudden we hesitate. Doubt creeps in. The next thing you know, that piece that you'd been working on for the last half an hour- maybe even longer seems a bit... iffy.

Now, I don't mean in the sense that you're at risk of being banished by the literary world for crimes against writing but you find yourself uncertain of concepts or scenes that you were eagerly planning before. Parts begin to sound completely ridiculous and the wording that you once thought made you sound witty and charming instead comes across as narcissistic.

We begin to alter things- we make them safer and before you know it you're writing about that little old woman who lives around the corner with a hostile cat and deranged budgie.

When you find yourself going down this path it is important to remember this:
No one achieved anything new by not taking risks and striving for something different.

(Feel free to share that)

Image courtesy of Google
The way around this? Go back to the beginning. Remind yourself of why you started writing in the first place.

Each person has their own perspective- each person has different ideas and opinions. We should celebrate this! (More about this can be read here)

In this new year, remember to write for you. After all you're the one who's dedicating yourself to the process day in, day out.

So go on- take risks, be daring! After all, if you're not true to yourself and don't write what you love, you ruin your love of writing and that's the last thing you want!

Thought? Comments? Leave them below!