Tag Archives: blogging

New year, new something.

sunset-2016It’s 2017! Happy New year!

I like to start each year with a reflective blog post looking back at the year that was, and thinking about the promise that the new year holds. I spent hours yesterday writing such a post. It was hard to write because it was really honest – a kind of ‘I can’t gloss over 2016′ type exploration. Last year brought us some harsh realties and taught us some difficult lessons and I think it’s important to address that in order to find a way forward. I really don’t think there’s a scenic route – we have to go into difficult territory to really move on with hope.

Then I was all ‘oh no, that’s too intense, I need to write about the good stuff that happened in 2016!’ Because there really was some good stuff, most of which, for me, revolved around creativity and around the people I love… of which there were substantially more at the end of the year than at the start – how lovely is that? :) That post took a while to write too.

So then it was really late at night and I had these two posts, neither of which were even finished, and I realised that all the time I’d meant to spend on my illustration course that day had been used up on blog posts that weren’t even ready to be published. And I thought of all the stuff I needed to do the next day and I felt this jolt of anxiety that I didn’t have time for that either (and some of it is really flipping important too). And I realised that right there was my new year message to myself. Something has to give… and it has to be my blog.

I blogged less in the latter part of last year – cut back massively in fact – but running my linky meant I still wrote two posts a week and did a fair bit of reading and commenting. I’m fond of my blog and I love, love, love my writing community but I do not have enough time to dedicate to blogging and hosting a weekly linky any more.

One message that really came through to me loud and clear amidst all the horrible stuff last year was the importance of art, in all its forms. I wrote here about its ability to build understanding and unite us, to lift the spirit and to help fight the demons. I truly believe it’s more important than we might ever imagine so, in trying to figure out a way forward for myself this year, it’s become obvious to me that art, alongside friends and family are where it’s at. That means my priority is going to be my illustration course and setting up an artistic project with a friend. Hopefully some creative writing too. I don’t want to stop blogging altogether but I can’t keep up the pace I have been.

I haven’t figured out what to do about my linky yet. I’m hoping to find a co-host to remove the weekly pressure, but, quite honestly, I’m not even sure a fortnightly post isn’t too much. Part of the problem is I’m a really slow writer but it’s the headspace that blogging takes up as much as anything. I need to not be thinking about what I might blog about and how many blogs I need to read and how much commenting I have to do. Time is so tight!

So that’s about it. The boys are back at school today and I have a to do list reaching over the hills and far away. Enough blogging for now.

Happy 2017 everyone.

blogger’s block

bloggers-blockA question for my fellow bloggers – do you ever find, when blogging, that you get paralysed by your own thought processes? Like you can’t post anything because everything you write is way too introspective and not interesting enough and who on earth wants to read that, and anyway shouldn’t you be writing about that other stuff that’s way more compelling and means much more to you?.. only you don’t feel comfortable sharing that stuff so ‘argh’ and ‘bleurgh’ and ‘what should I do?!’

Do you get like that?

I’m there at the moment – what’s in my head is not translating to words on the screen. Or not words I have confidence in, anyway. There is so much more I could share on my blog than I do, and so much of it is the interesting stuff, the different stuff, the more controversial or opinionated stuff. Or just simply the real stuff. But I don’t feel comfortable sharing it and I struggle with that feeling because it would make for a much more interesting conversation with my readers. It’s just that it’s a conversation I’m not sure I’m up to having in the wide open space of the world wide web.

At times I’ve thrown caution to the wind and written something very honest or personal, and have been rewarded with a surge in my blog stats and many lovely comments and stimulating conversations. But I struggle to keep it up. Putting myself out there like that puts me on edge. I can do it from time to time (usually when the emotion explodes and the words come bursting out,) but not on a weekly basis. Not even on a monthly basis.

And it’s ended up making me doubt the point of this little blog. It takes me a ridiculous length of time to write a post so if I’m not going to share anything of great depth, how can I justify the time it takes away from my other creative pursuits? I could have spent this evening cracking on with the next section of my illustration course but instead I’m writing this, then I’ll write the linky post for #WhatImWriting tomorrow. The evening will vanish, as will tomorrow evening on commenting.

As I’ve been mulling this over today, bubbling away simultaneously has been the question ‘What if Trump wins the election?! WHAT IF THAT NARCISSIST BECOMES PRESIDENT?!! ‘ Actually my brain is kind of freaking out over that one! Did anyone see the debate last night? Just horrifying. Part of me thinks that’s what I should be writing about. Another part of me thinks ‘what can I say that hasn’t already been said much better by someone else?’ and ‘that rant isn’t for here’… and then the words die before they reach the tips of my fingers.

All this pondering and introspection means this is the third post I’ve written today. I don’t like any of them and I don’t want to publish any of them (and, incidentally, none of them are the Trump rant). Maybe it’s bloggers block, characterised by self-doubt, squirming embarrassment at my own words and an inability to hit the publish button.

So I guess I just tackle it head on like I would writer’s block, don’t I? Force the words, squash the doubt and publish the post?

Right?

Right.

Writing Bubble

on sticking to decisions (mostly, kind of)

Last week I made some big decisions to do with blogging (and writing, drawing, parenting and life in general, really), one of which was to only blog once a week. My plan for my post this week was to finally get round to summarising what I learned from the London Book Fair back in April. But now I’m tired and my notes from the day are in disarray (and if I’m honest I can’t really be arsed) so that’s going to have to wait a week or two. I think, instead, I’ll just write about what sort of week I’ve had trying to stick to last week’s decisions. So grab some tea/chocolate/beer/toast (depending on time and taste) and I’ll treat (!) you to another mind splurge. Ready?

flying pig

Sticking to my decisions – pigs might fly?

Right, one thing I can say is that my ‘one post a week’ plan, along with the ‘no linkies’ move, has made a huge difference. I only spent one evening last week on blog commenting (with a few other comments here and there) rather than four, leaving me with SO MUCH extra time for doing other stuff – what a relief!

Also, knowing I’m only going to write one post has removed all the superfluous, ‘oh I could write about this… and that and, ooh THIS’ thoughts from my mind so I’ve felt less overloaded. I do feel slightly removed from the blogging community without the linkies but all my blogging friends have been so lovely and supportive (you guys totally rock) and I know it’s the right move so I can’t really regret it.

I’m also pleased with my decision to not pressure myself to write for a while. Funnily enough, having more breathing space has given me more thinking space and thus new ideas, and I’m brewing a new idea for a novel… so maybe I’ll write something this month after all. But, in general, not constantly thinking ‘I SHOULD be writing! What am I doing?!’ is another relief.

Instead of blogging and writing, my aim this month was to focus on my illustration course, and I made a plan to draw every day – and I have! I set myself a new creative challenge (another one!) called #GuessTheFilm where I’m working my way through the alphabet, drawing a picture a day to represent a different film starting with that letter. I’m really loving doing it. I’ve been posting the results on Twitter and Instagram which, as I’ve said before, I find a really useful way of defeating the self-doubt. Here are my first few drawings:

#GuesstheFilms

I have to admit, I’ve not got much further forward with my actual illustration coursework (I’m trying to do an assignment at the moment) but I figure all and any drawing is taking me in the right direction so I’m not sweating over that particular detail at the moment.

The other intended use for my free time was reading – I decided I would read one book a fortnight for the rest of the year (which shouldn’t be a stretch really). This week I’ve read most of the soon-to-be-published Baby X by Rebecca Ann Smith, which I’m thoroughly enjoying and will be reviewing shortly. I’m also champing at the bit to read Claire North’s latest book (I had ALL the love for her first novel, and enjoyed her second too), and Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’ (about introverts) so things are chugging along nicely there.

And I’ve been pretty sociable this last week! That’s another excellent side effect of feeling less pressured to blog – extra time for the lovely people in my life. My friends are really important to me so they’re always a big priority anyway, but today I had a bit of child-free time and spent it on a huge ramble through the fields with a friend rather than hunched over my computer banging out a blog post as I would have done previously. Much better for the soul.

drawing in a pub

Another bit of friend time – drawing in the pub with my best mate while putting the world to rights.

So that’s all good.

Where I am utterly failing though is with my social media goal. Half an hour a day in the evening, I said. Hahahahhahahhahaha. I mean, just hahahhahahahha! Spectacular fail there. One problem is that I’ve rediscovered my social media apps on my phone. “Oh, but I thought you said you deleted them” I hear you say. Well yes, so did I, but apparently I didn’t (think it’s some kind of app witchery – they don’t want to be deleted) and now I’ve found them. They’re not quite so easy to access but still, with a few simple swipes I can check FB and Twitter again. Bollocks. Actually, it’s not really FB that’s got my attention it’s Twitter and Instagram because I’ve been putting my #GuessTheFilm pics there so it’s totally justified…

Oh, except it’s not because I keep catching myself looking at my flipping phone when I should be interacting with my kids. Since that was the first and most important decision I made last week I’m going to have to give myself a hearty telling off for that one.

But I’m not losing faith in myself yet – I’m just going to have to try again, and not post any drawings (or photos) till the evening this week. It must be doable. I mean it’s only social media – what’s so great about that?! I don’t really need the constant input and affirmation. *twitches and dribbles at thought of life without constant input and affirmation*. I can but try.

So that’s me at the moment. I think I’m going to grab a beer and draw a picture now. :)

Writing Bubble

where I stop procrastinating and make some decisions

in a fieldI’ve been delaying writing this post for weeks – delaying writing it because in order to do so, I needed to make some decisions about my blog and, despite endless pondering, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do that.

How do I find more time to write? Where do I find more time to do my illustration course? How much of the energy that I pour into blogging could be better used elsewhere? What do I want from blogging anyway? How do I handle social media? How can I be a more present parent? Is this pondering really getting me anywhere at all? Where did I hide my stash of popcorn? All these questions and more have been whirring round in my head for weeks and I need to come to some conclusions!

As I type these words I STILL haven’t finalised my decisions but one thing I have decided is that enough is enough – the longer I delay, the longer the limbo continues. So I’m going to write some thoughts down here and now, and as I do, they will become decisions that I have to honour. I’m going to back myself into a corner, here. Let’s hope it works.

So *clears throat, cracks knuckles, does a few warm up squats*

*decides a walk around the neighbourhood would be a really good idea right about now*

*realises, NO that’s just another procrastination tactic*

*makes a cup of tea, honestly, honestly it helps me think. Honestly*

Right, I’m ready.

Decision one – I want to make the next three months with my youngest son, count.

My three-year-old starts nursery five mornings a week from September and from that point everything changes. I mean, FIVE MORNINGS A WEEK WITH NO KIDS! Imagine that! Ok, some of them will be taken up with work but still… it’s a biggie. And I was all, ‘Oh, I’ll have more time in September, maybe I should just keep truckin’ (and not make any changes) till then’, but then I got a text from a friend this morning (the very lovely Alice from The Filling Glass) and something she wrote reminded me that, sod the changes coming in September, this time is precious. This time right now. So why truck right on through it like some… truck? So I’ve put the brakes on. I need to make decisions that leave me the time, space and energy for him (not to mention the other two!) and that means less blogging and social media. It means:

Decision two – I’m only blogging once a week from now on. 

Well, one blog post plus my What I’m writing linky post (which is largely just copy and paste with a few links to last week’s posts). I’ve been doing this for the last few weeks actually, but having not ‘properly decided’ to do it I’ve kept feeling like I should be blogging more. That’s the thing with blogging actually – I always feel like I should be doing more. There are always more blog posts to write – my head is perpetually thronging with ideas them. Enough of that. One post a week with no obligation or expectation to do more, is fine. Mind you, it’s not just writing blog posts that’s time-consuming, it’s sharing and commenting and linking up. Which leads me to:

Decision three – I’m only going to link up to #WhatImWriting. 

Yes, just one linky – my own. But, but, I love linkies! My fingers are already trembling with alarm! What about The Prompt, my source of inspiration? Or Prose for Thought, where I share creative work? Or From the Mouths of Babes, Or The Truth About, Or Read With Me? Argh! I’ll miss them all! My readership will plummet! it will all end in doom, I tell you. DOOOOOM!

Oh, FFS. I can always reassess things come September if I want and right now, linkies take up too much time. I often lose three or four evenings a week to commenting. And let’s not talk about the time my youngest spends playing on his own while I’m jumping around from post to post. I mean, he’s an awesome little dude with imagination that makes such a situation possible but I take advantage of that far too much. I also take advantage of his love of Curious George and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Enough of that too. Just one linky. Hopefully I can keep commenting down to just one or two evenings and have more time for reading actual books. Ooh, that makes me think of something else:

Decision four – I’m setting myself a book reading target. One book a fortnight for the rest of the year.

A few years ago I would have said, ‘One a book a fortnight? Ha! Easy!’ Even last year I managed more than that, and comfortably, but this year apart from Runaway Girl, The Pursuit of Happiness and The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2, I’ve barely read a thing. I’ve fallen off the reading horse and it makes me sad. Writers should read – it stirs the imagination. I need to make reading a priority. And that’s not the only creative endeavour I need to prioritise:

Decision five – I’m going to draw every day.

I don’t care what it is – I need to just draw. Even if it’s a five minute crap scribble it’s better than nothing. I drew every day for months at the start of the year and it helped my confidence and artistic abilities no end. I need to do that again.

Decision six – regarding social media… *pauses with fingers hovering above the keys*… half an hour a day in the evening. Max. Mostly for blogging and Facebook groups (i.e not just faffing about)

I deleted the FB and Twitter apps from my phone weeks ago. Life is better because of it. You know what though? Having previously not paid it much attention,  I now check Instagram all the flippin’ time because it is the only social media app left! So I think I might put that in a folder somewhere so I can’t reflexively check it in an addicted way.

With all these decisions though, I’m still not sure I’m going to free up enough time to write and draw so, here’s a radical idea:

Decision seven – I do not expect or intend to do any creative writing at all for the rest of June.

What? Am I mad? Don’t I want to write? Yes, of course! but I’ve been feeling so snowed under recently that I haven’t found time and then I’ve stressed about that. Let this be the month to focus on drawing. It’s just a month and experience suggests to me that if I focus on one creative outlet the other might well follow. I’m not saying I’m not allowed to write – if the words flow, they flow – I’m just saying I don’t expect to write a single thing and that’s fine.

Right, so where does that leave me? Oh yes, there’s one big decision I made before writing this post and it’s about time I shared it:

Decision eight – I’m not going to go to BritMums live

This is sad because I was looking forward to it! I’ve got my (free) ‘editor delegate’ pass and everything and I have been looking at hotels and planning meet ups with friends. *sob*

But it’s the right decision. Being a big-time blogger just isn’t the direction I really want to go in. I’ve sensed that for a while. I reached a point a few months back when things were going well with my blog and I kept being approached by PR’s and I started seriously considering monetising it. Then the viral post happened and the #THISislearning campaign and spreading myself all over social media… and then the week off it all and I realised something. Blogging is not where my heart is. Not really.

It has some of my heart for sure – it’s how I’ve found (and created) my writing community. It’s where I continue to find (and, I hope, spread) support and friendship. It’s the place I’ve discovered motivation to write, and the confidence to share my work. Those are the parts of being a blogger I want to keep, But those parts don’t need me to spread myself so thinly. And those parts don’t need me to go three hundred miles to spend time in a room full of (albeit lovely) people I’ve never met before, learning all about how to grow my audience. Even the thought of having to tackle Pinterest and Instagram in a full on blogger way makes me want to scream and cover my ears. That’s not going to get me where I want to go (though I continue to be impressed by those of you who do).

Get me – I made some decisions! Eight whole ones! There are still a few other things I’m considering but I think these will do for now.

Let’s see what the next few months bring. :)

Writing Bubble

something’s gotta give – #WhatImWriting

barbed wire view

Recent events on my blog and in my life are making me have a huge re-think at the moment. My widely-shared blog post on education had a big impact on me (I should really write a ‘five things I learned when my blog went viral’ post about, it like a proper blogger would), as did my experience of the kids strike and of running a campaign. Then my week off social media and blogging kind of hammered a few points home. Oh, and that book I read about happiness came along at exactly the right moment to make me pause and reflect too.

So, right now I’m certain I need to make some changes. Blogging, with it’s associated social media, linkies (including my own!) reading and commenting is taking up so much of my time and focus. I want to be an author but I haven’t written anything other than blog posts in weeks. I want to get published but I STILL haven’t got round to sending my manuscripts to the next batch of agents on my list, or got any further with my self-publishing plan for my limericks. I want to learn to illustrate but I’m not giving my course nearly enough attention. And, oh yeah, I want to be a good parent but I often feel I’m juggling so much I can’t focus.

I need more time – more hours in the day, but since ‘becoming ruler of the universe and changing the laws of physics or the way that the world is run’ isn’t really an achievable aim, I’m going to have to settle for cutting something out of my schedule. Or at least hacking my commitments back so I feel less like I’m wading through undergrowth and more like I’m wandering a rugged trail.

Blogging is clearly going to have to take some sort of hit – but how much of one? What do I need to lose? How much can I keep? At the moment I’m holding my scythe and wondering where to swing it…

Writing Bubble

My week without social media or blogging

riverI’ve just logged back onto social media and my blog after an entire week off. It’s been a good week. Here are some profound insights thoughts that occurred to me as the week went by:

Sharing aspects of your life is addictive.

Sharing the way bloggers or avid social media users do has a compulsive aspect to it, I think. At the start of my week off, I found it really odd not to share things I’d read, or photos of what I’d seen or done, or thoughts I’d had, or funny things the kids had said, or insights into my life or… just, you know, ALL the stuff so many of us share so often. I sometimes wonder whether our generation feels that something has only really happened if it’s been shared online – that an experience isn’t really valid unless we plaster various versions of it over our social media feeds and get ‘likes’. I’ve certainly found that in many of life’s lovely moments I’ve felt that urge to capture and share. This week was like having an itch I couldn’t really scratch. There were a couple of times I sent my husband and friends texts just because “This happened!” (whatever ‘this’ was) and the urge to share was too strong, but as the days went by I started to get used to it. The itch got less itchy. Now I feel a bit weird about sharing again. Writing this feels a bit odd, actually.

Despite how often I usually check my phone for ‘likes’… I don’t really need the affirmation.

I thought I would miss the affirmation aspect of social media – the likes, comments and RT’s, the little hearts and thumbs up – don’t they make me feel better? Isn’t it good to feel that approval? Wouldn’t I miss all those little pats on the back?

Er… no. Turns out, when I wasn’t putting anything out there that people might ‘like’ or otherwise, I didn’t need it at all. In fact it was a relief because I wasn’t looking for affirmation and didn’t need to keep checking my phone for it. Not that when I normally post a photo or whatever I’m consciously thinking ‘affirm my life please, people!’ but I guess that’s basically what it amounts to isn’t it? So, take away the ‘look what I’m doing!’ element of social media and I felt free. Much more secure in myself. And that’s because…

Real life is wonderfully affirming regardless of the lack of a ‘thumbs up’ button.

The best, warmest, cuddliest affirmation comes from the people in your life who you are genuinely connected to. That’s a no-brainer, really. It certainly doesn’t preclude online friends but, leave social media for long enough and I’m betting that those people with whom you have a genuine connection will find ways of communicating with you in the real world anyway. I was really touched by the number of texts I got from people asking how my social-media-free week was going. Of course, texts did then kind of fill the gap a bit – I sent and received an awful (wonderful) lot of texts last week, but meh, I never claimed this was a total ‘no typing’ week.

Having just totted it up, I’ve also realised I had more proper, face-to-face social engagements last week that there were days in the week. And some of them were with more than one friend! Little Miss Introvert here had a rip-roaringly sociable time of it. Heavens.

Social media is a barrier between me and real life.

Ok it’s not an impermeable barrier and in fact it’s also a bridge. A sort of bridgey-barrier (look , I’ve had a week off blogging, I’ve forgotten how to express myself here clearly!) It allows me to connect to people but it also means, in the moment, I’m less present. This week both my husband and eldest son have said it’s wonderful that I’m not on social media; that I’m not always distracted by my phone. And I’m not surprised they expressed that, because I’ve felt more engaged and just, well, THERE with people. It’s been lovely.

I’m a better parent when I’m offline.

Given the time I spend on my phone normally… ouch. But it’s true. See above – I have more time for my kids. I am more present.

When I’m not blogging, I have more time (full stop).

Without having to think about blogging this week I had time for other things. I finished the book I was reading (The Pursuit Of Happiness And Why It’s Making Us Anxious – review to follow – interesting stuff!). I did some of my illustration course and started work on the first assignment. This made me very happy. I also had time to spend with my husband in the evenings – we had conversations! We even watched a Rom Com together – neither of us particularly like Rom Coms but we couldn’t find a suitable Sci Fi. Anyway it starred Ryan Reynolds (have loved him since Deadpool) and Isla Fisher (have loved her since Home and Away 20 years ago!) so it wasn’t a bad way to pass an evening.

Oh, and I cleaned the car. I. CLEANED. THE. CAR! Yep, no more melted Chewits in the glove compartment. Get in.

Phone calls are lovely

Do you remember those hours spent chatting on the phone with friends in years gone by? These days, apart from to a few family members, I don’t spend much time on the phone at all so when the phone rang earlier in the week and one of my friend’s names appeared on the screen, it felt quite unusual. He was phoning me with a question –normally he would have FB messaged me but since I was off social media, he called instead. And it was lovely to talk to him. Actually hearing people’s voices is so different to seeing their words on your screen. I could hear his wife (one of my close friends) in the background and they were kind of teasing each other and saying things to me and I it felt like a snippet of real life. There they were, my friends, just being themselves in a house not too far away – it was oddly reassuring and affirming. And if that sounds a bit soppy it’s because…

Without distraction, I’ve felt life more intensely.

I’ve very much been feeling ‘all the feels’ this week. Admittedly, this is what I’m like anyway – I’ve said before that I sometimes feel like my heart isn’t so much on my sleeve as hanging around my neck on some kind of loose chain that bounces around and catches on things as I go through life. It also has wings and has a tendency to try to fly off – it’s all a bit dicey. Well, this week it’s been that feeling times ten. And its been almost entirely positive too. I keep thinking how amazing people are. All that socialising and those lovely texts helped. It’s been a week of warm fuzzy feelings. Maybe if you put the warm fuzzys out there they get a chance to grow (fuzzier?!)?

There will always be a lot going on in my head

I have a noisy mind – a stream of constant chatter. I’m always thinking something or working something out or getting a new idea. And into this fits social media with its endless stream of other people’s lives and thoughts and ideas that send my thoughts off in seven (thousand) directions at once. I thought that without social media it would be quieter – I thought that without that input my own chatter might die down. Not a bit of it, I could just hear myself more clearly. So I’ve had to accept this is how I am. What it does make me think though, is that given how much there is going on in my head – do I really the social media input? Do I need more stimulation? Answer: big fat no. Which brings me on to…

I feel happier without social media.

I was intending to log back into the hive mind – or ‘dive back into the swamp’ as a friend (lovingly, I’m sure… ) put it – this morning but I couldn’t really bring myself to. I went onto Instagram and hurriedly shut it down. Skimmed though Facebook scattering likes then quickly thought ‘enough now’. I didn’t get as far as Twitter till after six and even then I only responded to one tweet. It’s just too full-on. Despite the constant chatter in my head, it is definitely more peaceful without social media. The nasty demon of comparison hasn’t been able to needle me and I feel better for it. I’ve just been reading a book all about happiness and the damaging effects of social media on it and this makes total sense to me now. It’s been a happy week. Why would I want to risk all that and return to my newsfeeds and timelines? Why? Well…

It has its lovely side… and I’ve missed that

A friend from my ‘What I’m Writing’ group said to me that it was noticeable that I wasn’t around because she’s used to me flitting around the group being supportive and tweeting people’s posts and writing nice comments (Thanks T!). She also said that she and others were stepping up to fill the gap though. And I thought, ‘that’s my gang – all there for each other!’. There is something wonderful about our What I’m Writing group and beyond them the other lovely people in the blogosphere too. Yes, I missed you!

And that means:

Social media and blogging play a role in my happiness.

This part is crucial. I just said I’m a better parent when I’m offline – that’s a pretty damning indictment really isn’t it? If it makes me a worse parent then I should ditch it, run away from it, leave it in the dust… surely?

Well, no (here comes the justification bit… ). The thing is, over the past few years blogging has become a part of who I am. I love the connections I’ve made (my online friends mean loads to me), and the whole experience has been vital to my writing ‘journey’ (inverted commas because I can’t take the word ‘journey’ seriously I but I also can’t think of a better word). I don’t want to just cut and run. Social media is part and parcel of blogging. Twitter also brings me #ShapeChallenge and other creative kicks up the bum which I know are good for me. Facebook can be a great place to keep in touch with real life friends, and both can be a source of intellectual stimulation.

All of that is important to me, and I want to keep it in my life. Giving it up would make me a worse parent for a whole different set of reasons.

But:

Something has to change.

That much is crystal clear to me now. I haven’t yet worked out quite what all the changes will be but, for starters, I’m not reinstalling Facebook or Twitter on my phone (Instagram is basically unusable otherwise so I’ll put that back). I’m going to have to work out a better balance for blogging too. I need to blog less. I want more time for creativity and friendship and being a decent parent. There’s no going back now.

And there’s one final thing I’ve learned:

No matter how much extra time I have in my life, I still won’t do the ironing.

I just won’t.

Writing Bubble

 

And then the fun began...
mumturnedmom

taking a break

Last week was exhausting – for various reasons, not all of which I’ve shared here. It was mostly about the kids strike though and the culmination of six-weeks of build up to it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m well and truly in need of a break.

My favourite place in the whole world.

My favourite place in the whole world.

As much as I would love to announce that I’m about to skip off to the Swiss Alps for a week spent sipping wine, hiking through flowering pastures and eating my body weight in melted cheese, that’s just not gonna happen right now. I am however, taking a week off the blog and off social media. Yes, tonight I’m deleting all the pesky, pinging apps, logging off and taking some time away from the chatter.

Instead I’m planning to spend more time reading, writing, drawing and seeing family and friends. I may also get some ironing done but don’t hold your breath. I’m kind of hoping it helps me to break my smart phone addiction too – of course, I’ll still be able to get texts and emails and even phone calls (if anyone still makes those) but without the constant humming presence of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I’ll be less drawn to my little glowing drug. And that can only be a good thing.

On the blog front, I’m putting my weekly ‘What I’m Writing’ linky into the capable hands of Nicola at Nikki Young Writes while I step completely away from the lure of stats and the pressure of posting. Please do link up over there – I’ll look forward to catching up with your posts when I’m back online!

See you soon, my friends.

pressure

This time last week I wrote a post about my crazy-busy week going to London, launching a campaign, blogging, working, writing, solo-parenting and the rest. I was exhausted by Sunday night and hoped this week would be quieter.
busy blogging imageWell it was… and it wasn’t. There were no exciting London trips this time, but my head is, if anything, even more full-to-bursting than it was a week ago. There’s been a lot to consider in the different parts of my life and blogging, in particular, is kind of taking over at the moment. That’s mostly due to the #THISislearning campaign but I’ve also been aware that I REALLY need to get round to reading and reviewing some books I’ve been sent, so have been frantically trying to read for that in every available gap too.

Anyway, this weekend I finally managed to write a review of Runaway Girl by Emily Organ (recommended!) and have now started reading ‘The Pursuit of Happiness And Why It’s Making us Anxious’ by Ruth Whippman which is next on my list. So that’s progress! Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get on to ‘The Forgotten and the Fantastical 2′ anthology from Mother’s Milk Books – I’ve read one story from it and loved it, but I’ve been sidetracked since then.

In other (semi) good news, I’ve reached (actually, exceeded) my Campnanowrimo target. However, I only set myself a 5000 word goal because I meant this to be made up of blog posts and picture books, the latter of which tend to be very low on word count. Guess how many words of blog posts I’ve written (not including this one)? 7118.

Aaaand guess how many words of picture books I’ve written? Not. One Single. One. Which is not ideal. In fact, it’s so far from ideal that I’ve decided not to ‘validate’ my word count (which means you get a prize and a winners badge to put on your blog!) unless I write at least SOME of a picture book by the end of this month.

I’ve also set myself a new drawing challenge (because I thrive on pressure, see. (I really don’t, actually)) because all this blogging (and other life stuff) had totally dragged my away from my daily drawing practice, resulting in a total loss of confidence. So I’m now attempting to draw a picture for #THISislearning every day. So far, I’ve done two teeny cartoons. Here they are. As I say, I’ve totally lost confidence so I’m posting them here as a middle finger up to the self doubt demon who is biting my ear lobe (and not in a good way) as I write.

gardening
headstand cartoon

 

Anyway, it’s now late Monday night and I have a heap of commenting to catch up on so I’d best finish this off.

What are the chances that this coming week will be quieter? Well, I’m gearing up for #THISislearning and the Kids Strike on Tuesday so I’d say, not much chance at all.

I tell you what though, after May 3rd I’m taking a blog (and social-media) break of at LEAST a monthfortnight, week, day.

We’ll see.

 

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And then the fun began...

what a week!

wave in the sunYou know when you’re paddling in the sea with your trousers rolled up to your knees and then you see a huge wave approaching so you turn and run the other way but it starts to catch you up and slaps your legs with a huge wet spray that’s kind of exhilarating except you don’t really want to get any wetter so you keep running and kind of jumping and laughing and probably going ”argh!” a bit and the wave keeps chasing you so you just keep going till it runs out of energy and you land on a heap in the sand?

Phew!

That was me last week. It was a really busy, exciting, exhausting week that I saw coming but still didn’t really prepare myself for – I just ran and jumped went with it. I landed on Sunday evening very soggy and with a definite sense of ‘phew’ mixed with ‘yay!’

Why? Well Monday was the first day after the Easter holidays so I was in full-on ‘catch up with everything I’ve let slip for the past two weeks!’ mode which included housework and blogging and trying to write something for CampNaNo. There were also emails flying back and forth between Sophie and me as we were planning our #THISislearning campaign. At one point I was drying my hair and designing a blog badge on my laptop while simultaneously pretending to be a ‘mummy lion’ to my three-year-old. It was that sort of day. I also had to pack for…

Tuesday when I set off to my parents’ house in Yorkshire with my three-year-old (leaving his big brothers at home with my husband). I visited my grandparents and did more campaign planning while also trying to organise everything for…

Wednesday when I set off for London leaving my three-year-old with my parents. Unfortunately, at the station (and with no time to turn round) I realised I’d left my phone at my parent’s house. TWO DAYS IN LONDON WITH NO PHONE! But it was ok because I’d brought my laptop… although OH NO – I’D FORGOTTEN THE CHARGER! An inauspicious start but it was ok, I got there (campaign planning all the way on the train) and found my way to the business conference I was going to. Thank goodness my mum had given me her London street map despite my saying ‘oh it’s fine, I can just use google maps’ … not without your smart phone you can’t you fool! It was a really good event and very networky which was great in many ways but networking completely exhausts me!

alice filling glassLuckily, a tonic was on the way in the form of the very lovely Alice from The Filling Glass who I went out for a meal with in the evening. Alice and I have never met before although we’ve been following each other’s blogs since last summer. I had a hunch we would get on well, and we really did. We had lots in common, even our matching blue ‘mummy coats’! I’m hoping we manage another meet up – maybe a whole #WhatImWriting meet up – later in the year.

Then Thursday was a big day – my first experience of the London Book Fair! This is an amazing event where loads of publishers, book sellers, authors, distributors, wholesalers, agents and, well, anyone who’s interested in books in any way, all gathers under one roof. There was so much to take in! You’ll have to forgive the poor quality of the photo below – remember how I said I’d forgotten my phone? I spent much of my London trip really missing the ability to take photos (Alice took the one above) then shortly before I left the Book Fair I thought, ‘ooh hang on, my laptop has a camera… I mean, it doesn’t have a viewing window or anything, but I could use ‘photo booth’ in selfie mode…’ so I stood on the balcony, placed my laptop on a rail, pointed it away from me (looked a like a weirdo) and TA DA!

london book fair photoProof I was there! I have to admit, after talking non-stop on Wednesday I spent Thursday just absorbing information and not networking at all. This was possibly a missed opportunity but there was only so much I could do. I went to lots of writing seminars and wandered round looking at lots of books and feeling a mixture of contentment and overwhelm. I’ll write more about what I learned in a separate post soon.

I also continued the campaign planning with Sophie in the gaps between seminars, although by this time my laptop battery was seriously depleted. I took the train back to my parents’ house on Thursday night and on the way, with 1% of battery remaining (and surrounded by business men, laptops and sandwiches on a hugely crowded train), I finally finished and hit ‘publish’ on my #THISislearning launch post. Another ‘phew’ moment.

On Friday morning I was happily reunited with my son (who’d had an awesome time with my parents) and we made our way back up north and home just in time to pick my older boys up from school. I then solo-parented my way through the weekend as my husband had gone away shortly before I got back! By yesterday night I was ready to collapse in a heap, so spent the evening with a glass of wine and my laptop catching up with blog commenting.

So that was my wave-dodging week – my feet are soggy and sandy but I’m drying them and dusting them off for the week ahead. I can see more waves coming my way!

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where I’m at – #WhatImWriting

It’s Monday, the boys are back at school and it’s time for a proper ‘What I’m Writing’ post! I haven’t written about writing-y stuff for a while so there are a few things to catch up on.

trees

My ideal writer’s retreat – a forest glade in the sunshine. I haven’t retreated here to write yet (this was taken yesterday and I had two small boys with me) but I’m determined to at some point!

CampNaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) happens in November and is an online community of writers all aiming to write a novel in a month. A NOVEL IN A MONTH! Obviously I’m not crazy/talented/dedicated enough to attempt such a thing but I have signed up to the camp version which is this month. This is much more laid-back as you get to pick your own word count and your project can be anything word-related. I did it two years ago and wrote 15,000 words – it really helped with my motivation.

This time round I’ve set myself a target of 5,000 words because I want to focus on my picture books which aren’t really about word count at all. I’ve also decided to include blog posts in the target. Within this, there is also a hidden reading challenge as three of the blog posts I want to write are book reviews and I need to read the books first! So far, I’ve written 2194 words (although that doesn’t include this post!) but that’s all blogging and NO picture books! I WILL write some soon, I WILL!

London Book Fair

I’m going! I’m not quite sure what to expect but there are lots of interesting seminars to attend and people to network with, all in the area of writing and publishing and all under one roof, so it sounds fab to me! It’s this week and I’m combining it with a business conference and a meet up with some blogging friends, and also bookending it with nights at my parents house (I’m leaving my youngest with them) so it’s going to be a busy week. I fully expect to reach Friday exhausted with my head in a spin but I know it will be worth it.

Agent Submissions

I wrote a while back about having submitted some of my picture book manuscripts to agents. Thankfully at The Festival of Writing back in September we were all told how tricky it is to find an agent and how incredibly common rejection is, so the responses I’ve had (or rather, the three no responses, one rejection and a ‘we didn’t get your MS can you resend?’ followed by silence) haven’t really got to me. I just need to try again. The issue is finding the time to do so, as agent research and meeting the submission requirements is not a swift process. I know I’m procrastinating though and I just need to prioritise it. Basically, in my juggly life, unless I prioritise things, they don’t get done!

Blogging

Oh man, blogging is time-consuming, it really is. Not just the writing of posts (although I don’t seem to have a gift for speed, it has to be said) but the promotional activity (which I keep deciding I need to focus more on, then failing) and the social side (which is lovely but takes time and energy). When you’re a blogger who wants to write other things – novels, short stories or whatever – you do find yourself wondering if you’ve got the balance right. I do, anyway. Blogging is taking a lot of my focus at the moment. The blog post I wrote about education got so much attention (by my standards) that I’ve not felt able to concentrate on other types of writing because there’s been so much going in in my head. And there are more blog posts brewing too. I’m hoping CampNano helps me put some energy elsewhere.

I’d better leave it at that, I as I have planning, organising and packing to do for the week ahead!

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