Promises and Wishes: 2017 Edition

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(Me in January and December of this year)

Once again, we find ourselves at the time of year where nostalgia and reflection overcome us! Every year on Christmas Eve, I round-up my yearly achievements and set some goals for the new year. To say I made a tonne of progress is an understatement!

Here’s my list from last year:

  • Learn to drive.
  • Go abroad again.
  • Visit Stonehenge.
  • Write another book.
  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

Let’s see how much I achieved:

Learn to drive.

Erm… the less said about that the better.

Go abroad again.

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(Dan, Brendan and Me)

Does going to Scotland count as going abroad? Some might agree, some may not. I didn’t use my passport, let’s just say that. But going to Scotland has definitely satisfied some of my wanderlust and has also given me the travel bug. In fact, Dan, Brendan and I are planning to go away in 2018 as well. We got to see a lot of Harry Potter and Outlander sites as well as some historical ones, particularly to do with Mary, Queen of Scots. (More on that later!)

Visit Stonehenge.

Nope. Didn’t happen.

Write another book.

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Yes. NEARLY. I did CampNaNoWriMo this April and managed to write fifty thousand words of a first draft for a book titled The Elementals. I also re-wrote another draft of my mystery novel Losing Lola. A 100k word count for 2017 ain’t bad!

Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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Well, yes, Part Two anyway. I had a ticket for Part One but I couldn’t get the time off work, so I could only go and see Part Two, which I loved. Good job I knew what happened in Part One!

So, three out of five! Not too bad in my opinion.

Now, here’s my list for 2018:

  • LEARN TO DRIVE.

I really, really need to get around to doing that. Really, really.

  • USE MY PASSPORT.

As I said, Brendan, Dan and I are thinking about going on holiday again together in 2018, and there are a few European cities on the list so who knows!

  • Get into full-time work.

I’m already working part-time in schools which I’m absolutely loving. Ideally, I’d be looking to move into a full-time teaching assistant position. Let’s keep those fingers crossed.

  • Write another book.

If I could write a book a year. I’d be happy with that. I’m aiming to do NaNoWriMo 2018 and have an idea still developing in my mind, so I’m sure this would be an achievable goal for me.

  • Read 100 books. 

I’ve read 100 books the last two years and I really want to keep this number up, even if I’m going to be trying to get into full-time work. Reading is my greatest passion, and I want to keep my favourite hobby going at all costs!

So, let’s see what 2018 brings! What’s on your bucket list for this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Promises and Wishes: 2016 Edition

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(Me towards the beginning of the year.)

So, it’s that time of year again where I round up my yearly bucket list and see how much I have achieved. Looking at it, I would say a HELL of a lot. I’ll give you the run down.

Firstly, here was the list I made this time last year on what I wanted to achieve in 2016.

  • Learn to drive.
  • Get better at French.
  • Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.
  • Finish structuring/plotting the next big idea.
  • Begin volunteering somewhere, even if it’s just an hour a week.
  • Come down on my medication dosage.
  • Write more blogs.

And now let’s see just how much I’ve achieved this year.

Learn to drive.

Okay, still not gotten around to that yet, BUT I’m working on it.

Get better at French.

I am officially 30% fluent on Duolingo, and that’s certainly better than where I was this time last year.

Start sending The Last Four Years out to literary agents.

I sent my first novel The Last Four Years out to around twenty five literary agents, and I heard back from almost all of them (if not all of them), and they politely declined. I wasn’t too phased by this, as I knew that it would take a lot of hard work and grafting to get my work out there, but I’m just pleased I started the process and got my name in people’s inboxes.

Finish structuring/plotting the next big idea.

2016 has been a good year for creativity. In April I took part in CampNaNoWriMo and wrote 50k words of a first draft for a story titled Losing Lola which is a mystery/thriller set in my home town. Then, in November, I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote another 50k words of a first draft for a story titled Beatrice, Queen of Karelia, which involved a lot of world building. This means I will have written about 100k words this year alone, which is mind-blowing.

Begin volunteering somewhere.

Since around May of this year I’ve been volunteering with an community based activity centre, whereby we aim to help underprivileged adults, children and families get out, get educated, get healthy and get socialising. I also help in a particular department that aims to help young children and families dealing with loss.

Come down on my medication dosage.

Yes in abundance. I started off this year on:

  •  200mg sertraline
  • 45mg mirtazaphine
  • 2mg valium as and when I needed it.

Now I take:

  • 150mg sertraline

I’ve tried really hard and pushed myself mentally and physically to achieve this and I am so proud of myself! I’d ideally like to be down to 100mg by January.

Write more blogs.

Yes, yes, yes. I have tried to write a blog post a week, which is much more regular than what I was doing before, and apart from 2 weeks where I was on holiday, I managed it! Once again, I’m so proud of myself for kicking myself and getting motivated (pretty hard to do when you have depression) and even though blogging isn’t my strongest point, I gave it a go!

Okay, so that pretty much sums it up. The only thing I didn’t complete on my list was learning to drive, but that’s okay, it’ll just go to the top of my list for next year! Which reminds me:

2017 Goals

  • Learn to drive.

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Yeah, I need to get on this. (Not learning to become a taxi driver – this was the only relevant photo I had!)

  • Go abroad again.

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Even if it’s just to France. I don’t care. I need to get my wunderlust hat back on.

  • Visit Stonehenge.

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(c) English Heritage

It’s always been somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit, so hopefully I will.

  • Write another book.

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Let’s face it, I’ve got all year to do it which I think is pretty doable. I certainly have an idea and hopefully by next November, I’ll be ready to participate and write another 50k.

  • Go and see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child again.

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After a year of waiting, I finally got to go and see the Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre in London and it was brilliant! I so enjoyed seeing it come to life on stage and would love to see it again (and again, and again, and again!).

So that’s my plan for the next year. Let me know down in the comments what you’ve got coming up in 2017.

Feeling Craft-y: Journaling Ideas

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I never realised until recently, but I’ve been journaling my whole life. Even before I knew what journaling was, or before I could write, my mum has been keeping chronicles of pictures I’ve drawn and notes I’ve written throughout my years.

I then kept diaries when I was an angst-y teenager, which I eventually ended up throwing away or ripping up because I was too embarrassed about my feelings and thoughts. But now I’m older, and have developed a love of writing, and have gained confidence in owning my own feelings and thoughts, I have found a beloved hobby in journaling.

I love nothing more than putting on some music, or a film, sitting back with a pen or pencil, and letting my hand roam freely across the page. Sometimes when I’m on a train, I’ll put my headphones in and write down my thoughts and ideas, or how I’m feeling today. It’s great to look back on, especially when the pages are linked to significant life events, or strong memories.

So what do you journal about? I agree that there is nothing more daunting than a blank page, but that shouldn’t be what restricts you, it should be what frees you. You can put anything you want to on that page. But just in case you get a bit stuck, here are some ideas for pages in your journal to get you started.

About Me

What’s your name? When is your birthday? Where were you born? Are you left handed or right handed? What colour are your eyes? What colour is your hair?

Journaling is all about YOU and everything connected to your identity, what you think, what you feel, how you see the world and more. Don’t be afraid to be selfish with your journal.

Bucket List

Before you die, what do you want to have achieved? Do you want to donate blood? Sky dive? Milk a cow? Learn a language? Ride an elephant?

Journals are a great way of keeping focused on an idea or thought. You can dedicate a whole page to the idea that someday you want volunteer or own your own house. You could even fill your page with wallpaper samples!

Wish List

If you had all the money in the world, what would you buy?

Journaling is also about escaping reality and letting your imagination roam free. If you wanted, you could buy a quad bike to ride around your mansion. The possibilities are endless and your responsibilities don’t exist inside your journal.

Things to Learn

Knitting? Photography? The Off-Side Rule? Perhaps you just want to write down the definition of a difficult word that you keep forgetting.

Things to Buy

The latest season of your favourite TV show, or the dress you’ve had your eye on the past few weeks? Even if you can’t afford it, money knows no boundaries in your journal.

Road Trips to Make and Countries to Visit

Do you fancy trailing along Route 66, or driving across Europe and back again? Where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere?

Job Titles I Want

Professional bed tester? Professional tea and coffee taster? Professional Netflix watcher? I know these are three jobs I would jump at the chance to do.

Those are just a handful of the pages I have in my journal, along with lots of free writing, strands of poetry, novel ideas, character names, narratives, letters to various people, list of books I want to read, films I want to see, notes, plans, ideas, favourite foods, my favourite types of coffee, celebrities I love, wishes, hopes and dreams, and much more.

Ultimately, journals are all about having fun. Let me know down in the comments if you love to journal, and what is your favourite page?

Writing a Book: My Tips & Tricks

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I have written a book, which is a phrase I never thought I would say, no matter how much I wanted to. It’s always been a headliner on my bucket list, and last November after a grueling attempt at NaNoWriMo, I managed to tick it off.

I have not ever published a book, but I’m working on it, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to tick that off the bucket list too. But after four years of would-be-novel writing, I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to a finished manuscript.

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Make a list of genres/narratives/plot devices/settings you love.

I sat in front of my bookshelf, looked up at all of my well-loved books and asked myself “what is it about these books that I love?” Here were some of the answers I came up with:

The sea, lyrical writing, boarding schools, room mates/flat mates, no parents, freedom and independence, letters, philosophy, candidness of feeling, metaphor, living in sections/houses/districts/factions, snow, road trips, epic romances, being stuck somewhere, elements, magic, mystery, royalty, marriage, death/grief, group dynamics, history and many more.

2

Make a list of names for characters you love.

You can do this by either going on a baby name website, or for something more periodic you could always go and look at the gravestones of people from a certain time period. This may spark some thoughts as to the identity behind the name, or character traits. Some names I love and plan on using are:

George, Corey, Greta, Matthew, Sasha, Kendra, Laurie, Harry, Lisel, Brodie, Annalise, Catelynn, Ida, Lydia, Teddy, Karen, Shay, Daya, Torin, and many more.

3

Make a summary or short synopsis of your story.

Take the plot devices and the names you have just picked out and try to construct a story idea from the elements you’ve chosen. Don’t worry too much about your story sounding like something that’s already been published, some people believe there are only seven basic plots in the world. If we all worried about whether our story was original or not, we wouldn’t have much time for writing! See also: the thirty six dramatic situations.

For example, I could write a story about Laurie, a college freshman and History student, who writes letters to her future self about the lessons she learns from life, whilst slowly falling in love with her room mate.

4

Buy a notebook, small enough to fit in your bag/pocket and big enough for your ideas!

If you are a writer, then there is a large chance you are also a stationary fiend. Writing a book gives you license to go to your local retailer and stock up on pens, post-it notes, highlighters, paper clips and a notebook (or a few). If you carry around your notebook with you at all times, you can write down an idea when the moment strikes, which is handy if you are particularly forgetful.

When I was working on my NaNoWriMo project, I had my notebook with me at all times!

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Write an outline, however vague or detailed.

My outline was similar to a script format. I detailed where the scene was taking place, who was there and important factors worth noting. I also wrote the bare bones of the dialogue between the two characters, or bare description of what a character was doing in the particular scene. After I had done this for the beginning, middle and end of the book, I went back through it and added in description, building the image of my scene from the ground up. The structure I had gave me something to work with, which really, really helped during my writing period.

And lastly, set yourself a goal. Whether you aim to write a hundred words a day or a thousand, it’s important to stay focused and disciplined.

I hope this little article has helped inspire a few of you to get writing. Let me know down in  the comments if any of these tips work for you!

Promises and Wishes.

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In my first semester of university, in Autumn 2011, I made a list of goals I wanted to achieve by the end of my graduation year. I didn’t find this list again until early 2014, so I kept it safely knowing that come December I would have to sit down and have a good look at what I could tick off from my list of promises and wishes.

I’m a third generation Virgo, and we all have lived up to the name. From as early as I can remember my ambition had been to go to university, which I have now reached. So that’s a 100% success rate, right? I’m not sure that’s something I’ll be able to maintain, but I’ll go for over 50. One of the many attributes of a Virgo is list making, and for me it’s the perfect way to clear my head. So let’s have a look at what I promised to have accomplished by the end of 2014.

A 2:1 or First in Creative Writing BA.
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A copy of my dissertation marks that overall gave me 70.
TICK. I achieved a 2:1 overall and a First class mark on my dissertation – which I count as covering both areas. My dissertation was actually an idea that I’d been working on since the end of my first year so to have it be valued at a First class mark was beyond a dream.

To have learnt to drive/be learning.
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This picture was taken on one of my driving lessons.
TICK. I am currently learning to drive and I really enjoy it. I have a great instructor named Paul who is really understanding and helpful. I need to get my arse in gear and do my theory test and then I’ll really be on my way to passing. (Perhaps I will put that on my list for 2015)

To know where I want to take the next stage of my life.
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A book. One of my favourites. Just ’cause.
TICK. Sort of. I know that I want to work in the publishing industry, whether that be literary agency or editorial, I know I want to help other people’s book-dreams come true. As I can’t stop myself from editing a book as I’m reading it, I owe it to myself. In most recent events, my life has been turned (almost) upside down so I have been slightly shaken on the “future” category. Having said this, I still want to maintain my direction, although anything in the creative sector will suit me just fine.

To have visited another country I haven’t visited before.
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The Falls – which are as breathtaking as they are in this photograph.
TICK. I did the Camp America experience in Summer 2013 which was brilliant. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and met some amazing people.

To have written a novel – 50,000 words or more.
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This is a picture of writing a very early draft.
TICK. Ish. THE NOVEL (as there is only one) currently stands at 20,000 and about 1,234 notebook notes. I decided not too long ago that I wanted to try the story as a film script which proved to be really successful. So I’m not sure what way it is going to best present itself… which leads me onto nicely…

To have sent a script premise to the BBC.
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Not so much of a TICK. I’ve always aspired to write a sitcom but sadly other areas of my writing have overtaken that wish. One day I will, but at the moment I’m happy to be focusing on my poetry and my novel/film-confused hybrid baby.

To have the implant reinstated.
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TICK. This form of birth control suits me nicely and had it reinstated before I went to America circa 2013.

To get another piercing
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My clip on piercings.
Sort of TICK? I decided not so long ago to buy clip on piercings that suit me fine. That means I can try out the look before going through the pain and spending the money. At the moment I’m not set on getting snakebites permanently but could be persuaded by a septum ring.

To get another tattoo
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X. Still got lots of ideas that I would like but never got around to them. I will put this on my list for 2015.

Find my style
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My punk style.
TICK. I’ve come to accept that on a day to day basis I really cannot be asked to wear make up, but occasionally when I go out for a smart/casual evening or just a smart one, I do like to accessorize my outfit with something on my face. One thing I have come to accept is that I will always have a grungy style. I just love the punk rock look that I have been inspired by for the last ten years. (All thanks to Hayley Williams. GIRL POWER.) Even if I’m wearing something not so punk-rock-y, I like to jazz it up in my own style that suits me. I will always be a jeans and t-shirt kinda girl at heart.

So I would like to think that my three years at university ended on a pretty strong note, and I’m still living up to my Virgo status. So, to continue onward and upward, here are my promises and wishes for 2015. (Because three years is too long to get your arse ’round to something.)

Learn to manage my depression and anxiety.
Thus, the subject of the world-turning I mentioned earlier. I’m still in the early stages of my recovery but I aim to get myself on track at least enough to start participating in society again. I will be taking steps to do so like..

Buy some trainers and taking up running.
I had an epiphany. Said epiphany occurred when I ran for a train and instantly felt better.

Do something that scares me.
Not sure quite what that THING is yet. I’ll keep you posted on this one.

Learn to knit.
I’ve always wanted to knit, so I endeavor to learn this year. It may help my anxiety too.

Get better at French.
I don’t expect to be fluent and I certainly don’t expect to be better overnight, but I would like to get better at French with the help of Duolingo.

Pass my driving test!
Speaks for itself.

These are the ones I have thought of so far. The list may (and probably will) grow, especially once I start to get my confidence back. Look out for the update this time next year and many more poetry and prose updates throughout the year!