Royal Wedding Retrospective

So I was watching the Royal Wedding earlier and thinking about how much has changed since William and Kate got married (please come back, Obama) and I was sure I wrote a blog post that day. It turns out I did, but I’m not link it to you because my writing style back then made absolutely no sense. None. I think I was going for some sort of teen-narrated family sitcom or something. I was rude about Eugenie’s hat. I mean, I was rude about her hat today as well, but I was such a dick back then! If someone from the Internet had looked up ‘entitled white girl with a strong sense of her own opinions’, this site would have come up.

At least part of that sentence has changed.

So I suppose if I’m ever famous, someone will probably trawl this blog to find all 15-year-old me’s badly-phrased skeletons and then drag me on Twitter. It’s tempting to go back over all those posts and dissect them. I mean, it’s good to go back over old posts for SEO purposes but I feel like there’s a discussion to be had on the Internet generally about personal growth. So many minor celebrities have their homophobic jokes from 2009 dusted off and are suddenly ‘cancelled’, but it’s not as though the people doing the cancelling were born making civil rights speeches. We’re supposed to grow as people.

Gerard Way shrug gif
from sunshinethekatt.tumblr.com

Anyway. I liked the Royal Wedding. It’s always nice to see a ginger marry well. I’m knackered and got distracted by at least two Facebook posts between the last full stop and ‘I’m’ so I should probably go to bed. I’m procrastinating because tomorrow the news will be back to being five headlines of horror with a quick mention that summer’s on the way. But I finished my Open University course last week, so I can concentrate on finishing dragonnovel before Prince George gets married. Have I mentioned you can have a character in dragonnovel named after you? I really enjoyed my course, but it will be nice to focus on something else for a bit. Speaking of royal weddings, actually, there might be a hint of royalty in the story somewhere. Maybe. You’ll have to help fund it to seeeee….

I Took a 2 Week Break from Instagram. Here’s What Happened.

Spoiler alert: I got loads done.

Soooo a couple of weeks ago I wrote about how fed up I’ve become with Instagram and why I wanted to take a little break. I turned it into a mini protest against Insta’s crappy algorithm, because why not, and I took a solid 2 weeks off from the app. I thought I’d end up on there via work, posting for a client or something, but that didn’t happen in the end, so it’s been a full two weeks with zero Instas. I’ve never kept a note of how long I actually spend on social media, because some of it is for work and all that, but in the first week I think I probably had a good half an hour every evening where I found myself looking for something to do. It also snowed awfully that first week, and usually being stuck inside is Prime Internet Browsing Time, but after a few days I stopped reaching for Instagram and started reaching for Twitter instead. Then a few days after that, I stopped reaching for Twitter. I think that during the last week or so, I have hardly even been using my phone. More on that in a minute.

Here is a brief list of the things I got done that in retrospect I might not have had the discipline to do if I hadn’t had one less app to look at when my concentration wavered:

  • 2 separate pieces of art that I’d been thinking about for ages and hadn’t got around to doing properly
  • Posted a bunch of stories online to sites I hadn’t got around to joining
  • Made about 3 spreadsheets for work and actually used formulas and got my financial shit together which is probably the highlight of my year
  • Researched some events and markets and stuff, which I hate doing because selling at events means acknowledging my business requires people to survive ugh
  • Ran a survey about Patreon and did some proper market research
  • Researched potential wholesale partners for my shop, which I have avoided for 2.5 years because it requires talking to people
  • Reorganised my dressing table which is something I have steadily put off since last summer, and if I hadn’t been stuck for things to do I think I would have kept putting it off until I drowned beneath an avalanche of spare hair pins

I also started editing the first draft of the Giant Writing Project (you know, I’m just going to start calling it a book because at this point it is long enough, damn it), made macaroni cheese, had lunch with my dad, did some Pilates and listed some stuff on Etsy. I probably would have done those things anyway, but the weirdest thing about coming off Instagram was that I realised how much time I spend online generally. At first I replaced Insta time with Twitter time, but gradually I kind of just stopped looking at my phone. I think I messaged a few friends a bit more, because WhatsApp and Messenger were the only apps on my phone that didn’t require m i n d l e s s scrolling, and I think I’ve been more disciplined with work in general. I have the natural attention span of a gnat, but taking away one major distraction definitely helped me get away from other distractions, if that makes sense?

I think I also benefited from not seeing, or posting, the highlight reel photos we all post to Insta. I don’t really know any other writers and the people I follow who are also freelancers or on Etsy aren’t of the bragging variety, so I wasn’t missing anything that would directly make me feel inferior – but taking time away from all the likes and the popular page and the constant struggle to get a post noticed helped me to focus. I didn’t have myself down as someone who lets other people’s posts, highlight reel or otherwise, make me feel bad. But I must feel bad on some level, because in the last couple of weeks I’ve felt oddly at peace. That’s the best way I can think of to describe the feeling: I’m focused on what I need to do in the next few months, and I feel confident about how I’m doing it.

That being said, there are a few things I’ve missed. A handful of accounts I follow are by people who aren’t online anywhere else, and I’ve found myself missing their posts. When I go back to Insta this evening I’m going to catch up with Gerard Way’s photos, because I heard he’s got new music on the way, and @lgbt_history, which is possibly the most informative account on the whole of Instagram.

I might trim down who I follow, so I’m not seeing the same photos on Twitter and Instagram, for example, and I might set some sort of timer so I can only spend a certain amount of time on Insta per day. The good stuff on there is great, but I am ready to keep my distance from it, partly for my mental health but partly because god I’m getting so much done! This book might actually be ready to be pitched to agents by the end of the year, for one thing, and for another I can actually find I need on my dressing table which probably hasn’t happened since 2007.

Has anyone else taken time off from Insta or social media? How have you found it? I’m tempted to avoid Twitter for a few weeks next. THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.

Brownout 2.0: the To-Do List from Hell

Morning! I don’t usually write blogs before lunchtime because mornings are for Serious Work but a) I have to leave the house soon and can’t get my teeth into anything in case I forget to leave and b) I’m feeling a bit pffft. I would like to blame the weather, but I think I’m getting a bit of brownout. Again. And this time it’s a peak first world problem, because I know exactly what’s causing it. I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start, and then I end up doing none of it! I probably should have learnt how to get over this during my GCSEs (how did I cope with TWELVE SUBJECTS?) but I didn’t, so this is what my internal monologue was like at 9am:

Do I start off today working on an Etsy plan for 2018/19? Do I do some ads for my freelancing services? Do I go back to my Giant Writing Project for a stage of edits and the next draft? I’m really excited to get back to that! Or do I rework my Patreon plans? Do I write another blog post? Is a blog post going to translate to cold hard cash? Probably not. Maybe that’s why I should focus on freelancing or Patreon. Except, I want to use Patreon to support my writing and blogging, and no one will support me if there are no new stories and blogs! Wait, what about Etsy. Oh and the printer needs rebooting and the car needs petrol. Go and buy petrol you idiot you literally can’t get to work otherwise. You have an appointment today. The end of the tax year is coming up. That feels momentous.  Hang on that means you were in Asia a year ago. A year?! God that went quickly. Have you finished that blog post about Laos yet? No, because blogging about Laos won’t make any money and you’re trying to focus on money stuff, remember? Go and work on your Patreon! By the way you’re behind on your uni course.

[continue for half an hour, break for coffee, start again]

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head
from Twiter

So I’m here. Definitely not making any money, but not tearing my hair out either. What do you guys do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Usually I am a big fan of the list, because it helps me prioritise, but I don’t know what to prioritise! I want to work on my Giant Writing Project but if I’m going to spend time on that, I need to have more traction on my Patreon because otherwise I can’t really afford to write. I also need to keep up with my uni course because it’s good for my brain development and future prospects, but I have to finally work out what’s up with my printer because I can’t keep putting it off and I want to write that Laos blog but I can’t keep justifying all the time I spend on blogging when I have the Giant Writing Project to finish. Ughhhh.

Right, I have to get ready for my appointment, and I’ll get petrol on the way. I can tick writing this week’s blog off the list, ha, and Google the shit out of fixing my printer. I’m actually doing a bit of market research about Patreon and crowdfunding in general because there’s no point having a Patreon if I’m not using it properly, so if you have three minutes to spare I’d really appreciate if you’d let me know your thoughts. I’ll go from there. And Etsy… I’ll spend half an hour today on a plan for that. After I’ve done some course work.

Hang on. Did I just make a list? HAHAAAAA HELL YES. THANK YOU BLOG. Maybe I’ll keep you around after all. Spiritual nourishment and all that. That being said, I’d love to be able to work this blog into my Patreon plans as well (two or three or ten birds, one crowdfunding stone) so if you have any ideas about how to incorporate blog posts into reward tiers, leave a comment! And/or do that survey. Please and thank you.

Help Me Decide My Next Story!

IT’S A NEW MONTH. WE HAVE SURVIVED JANUARY! SPRING IS ALMOST NEARLY HERE. I’m feeling dangerously new years resolution-y, mostly because the sun is out and I am about to re-dye my hair. New beginnings are upon us! Or upon my washed out highlights, anyway.

Followers of my fiction work may have noticed a new story popping up on my stories blog. The Elastic Band Theory is brilliantly strange and inspired partly by a drunken conversation on New Year’s Eve about Pablo Escobar and partly by people’s suggestions of posh town names when I asked for ideas online, so I should probably thank a) my friends, b) the power of Facebook and c) gin. I’m working on a big old project at the moment have I mentioned that so I’m rooting around for ideas for my next short story that aren’t too long or convoluted. Since The Elastic Band Theory felt a bit like a group effort, I thought I’d expand the group and ask you guys. Yes, you, reading this on your mobile while you wait for a bus. You.

Continuing with the new-month-new-start theme, my current ideas are:

  • Something about rebirth
  • Springtime?
  • Easter/Mardi Gras/Lent/resurrection (which is kind of like rebirth if you stand on your head and squint?)
  • The commercial evils of Valentine’s Day
  • Okay Valentine’s is not very spring-like
  • But I have mixed feelings about it which can come in useful when writing characters
  • I mean, I’ve made an entire print collection taking the piss out of Valentine’s Day, but people buy those prints thus earning me money what does that say about my relationship with commercial evils?
  • I mean it might snow here before March so possibly I should just do something about the weather

What do you think? I’m leaning toward something that explores my complex relationship with V Day, but I’m aware that in a week or so, no one on the planet will want to hear the words ‘Valentine’s Day’ again for another year. Let me know and I might, I dunno, get writing.

Kermit the frog typing manically from Giphy
from giphy

PS The next instalment of The Elastic Band Theory will be available tomorrow for those of you signed up to my Patreon, and on the story blog on 6th February. Shit gets real. I’m excited.

Introducing the Nominees for the Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2017! Your Input, If You Could

I have my first ever work Christmas lunch this afternoon, which means 2017 is fast ending and I am gearing up for my annual hibernation. Before I do, though, I have to finish the Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2017. This year’s awards are trickier than I thought they would be, because there is almost too much material to choose from! I have my personal favourites when it comes to books, films and all that… but when it comes to the main awards: the Homophobic Dick Award, the Ignorant Fuck Award, Greatest Social Media Moment, etc., I am stuck. I blame the Trump administration and Brexit. And the Internet, because I would be way less informed about those things if I didn’t have broadband. I’d probably also be happier.

Anyway, I’m writing to you all today and asking for you to submit your suggestions for the following categories:

  • The ‘I Can’t Believe I’m Living Through This Shit, Although it Will Probably Kill Me So At Least There’s That’ Story of the Year I’m considering the Muslim ban, when Trump retweeted Britain First and the entire UK general election
  • The ‘I Witnessed this Shit Live and Wish It Had Killed Me’ News Story of the Year Trump’s inauguration, the general election and possibly Weinstein?
  • Outstanding Achievement for Distracting Me from the Horror of the Year for Five Minutes The Women’s March, my trip to Asia, Blue Planet II and books by Adam Silvera are all strong contenders here
  • Outstanding Social Media Moment Frank Iero posted some gems on the Internet this year, but so did everyone I follow. Twitter might be the world’s largest example of confirmation bias, but when it’s funny that’s a joy to behold
  • Indifferent Ignorance Homophobic Dick Award I’ve never given an award to an entire government before, what do you reckon?
  • Indifferent Ignorance Ignorant Fuck Award Contenders are Trump, Trump and… Trump. I feel like this award was created for people like him, but in the spirit of competition I feel like there should be more contenders. SUGGESTIONS PLEASE.

For inspiration, here are last year’s awards.

Indifferent Ignorance Awards 2017 Vote Now

I’m going to call it a vote, but in reality if you all could hit me up in a comment, I’ll make an Executive Decision about the ultimate winner some time between now and new year.

A Crowdfunding Question: Patreon or PayPal? (Answers in the comments, please)

This is going to be a quick little blog because there is a potato baking in the oven with my name on it, and potatoes come before all things but I would like to ask you guys for your opinion, please. Today I published the final part of The Sea Witch’s Revenge (magic! Cursed sea life! Seagulls?) and also discovered how to add a PayPal button to WordPress, which I have now done to both my stories blog and here. I didn’t realise it, but you can either do one-off donations via PayPal or make a monthly donation.

So my question is: if you were going to donate to my work, would you rather use Patreon or PayPal? And if you were going to donate, would you rather do a one-off donation or a ‘subscription’ donation, if you had the choice? I ask because it occurred to me that in the 18 months that I’ve been on Patreon, I’ve never actually put that question to you. I’ve also only had one dollar in pledges, so clearly the site is not working out for me. Plus, the site might not work for anyone soon: Patreon is changing the way it collects processing charges, so although creators get a little more per transaction, patrons are being charged the processing fees on top of what they already pledge, which makes it more expensive to make lots of little pledges (this article explains the maths better than I can). I can’t in good faith ask you guys to pledge more than I would consider reasonable, and I don’t find the new system reasonable.

Patreon pledge changes graph explanation
from Patreon

Basically, you guys would be charged 2.9% and $0.35 per pledge, which makes a pledge of $1 cost more like $1.50. If you pledge $1 to 10 creators, you’re suddenly paying $15, not $10. Just read the article I can’t explain maths.

I wrote last week about how I need to find ways of making my writing work for me or stop doing it, and that includes this blog, so if you have any thoughts on whether you would/wouldn’t consider supporting me, let me know so I can make a decision going into the new year about where I focus my efforts.

Okay that potato is possibly burning.

Update: the potato didn’t burn! It was nice and crispy. Also, Patreon has announced it’s not rolling out those changes. I would still like to hear what you think about donating/pledging in general!

The Three Types of New Year’s Resolution

I got a pitch email earlier from an SEO company saying ‘your Instagram is great and deserves to be seen by more than 186 people!’ I nearly replied with ‘actually that’s 185 people, get with the programme – some new bookstagram account followed me yesterday and has since disappeared back to the Instasphere. Thanks for the encouragement though!’

It’s funny that should happen today though, as I was already going to talk about goals and growth. 2017 is drawing to a close, thank god, and although 2018 will probably be another tyre fire of bullshit, I would like to start it off with good intentions. Case in point: new year’s resolutions. I didn’t have any last year, because I had already resolved to get the hell out of England and did so in the first week of January, but twelve months on I have the itch to resolve… something. I also know that I’m more likely to keep to the resolution if I talk about it publicly, so I thought I would talk about different types of resolutions and the things I’d like to do in 2018.

Resolution 1: The Vague Gesture

My resolution: learn to do my hair? A bit?

I think I may have mentioned my hair is sometimes-often-frequently partially purple. It’s also getting really long, because I enjoy the illusion that I’m a princess in a kingdom with favourable tax laws, but I do nothing to it. Literally nothing. I wash it twice a week, comb out the knots with a tangle teezer and tie it in a bun or ponytail if I’m working. Then I ignore it until it needs another wash. I read somewhere that the longer your hair is, the less you do with it and I want to call bullshit on that. I also want to channel Daenerys Targaryen wherever possible, so in 2018 I resolve to learn how to, like, braid my hair or something. That’s not a huge commitment, and if someone says ‘hey Francesca nice fishtail plait’ I’m going to know it’s working. It’s also not the end of the world if life gets in the way and I don’t learn a fishtail plait, because my hair looks great they way I wear it already (there’s a reason I never brush it dry and that reason is frizz).

So in theory, the Vague Gesture is a good resolution to have. There’s no pressure and I won’t feel bad if I get to June and realise I’ve forgotten it. I suppose a similar one would be something like ‘eat less processed sugar’, because instead of saying ‘eat no processed sugar’, there’s no line to cross, no crushing disappointment of one’s self esteem. It’s  something that would be nice to do in the long run but no one cares if you don’t do it, including you.

BELOW AVERAGE from The Perks of Being a Wallflower from taylorbtw.tumblr.com
from taylorbtw.tumblr.com (if I don’t use this gif once a year assume I’ve died)

Resolution 2: The SMART Goal

My resolution: Look after myself  better? Look after myself more? Practise self care a day a week until I achieve nirvana?

I looked at a bad website today – not bad as in broken links but bad as in the two thirds of the page was bright pink and white diagonal stripes. My eyes hurt. I’m not even going to link it, it was so hard to look at. Good for marketing, bad for retinas. Especially bad for retinas that already require glasses. And since I am heading into my 23rd year of life and already have to run a bath to get my bones to stop aching when it rains, it’s about time I sopped complaining about my ailments and found a form of exercise that wasn’t physiotherapy. It’s about time I got some sort of blue light blocker on my computer. It’s about time I stopped overriding the Freedom app to check Twitter at 10pm. My 185 followers clearly do not care if I am tweeting at 10pm, so I probably shouldn’t either.

The problem with the resolution to ‘look after myself better’ is that there’s no qualifier. How do I know if I’m looking after myself? I will never not need glasses and I’ll never not ache when it rains. Realistically I will need stronger glasses and more baths year on year. So maybe I should take a leaf out of every business blog’s book and set specific goals I can measure in an achievable, realistic time frame. Something like ‘I will download a blue light blocker to my PC by January and I will sign up to a running club that requires payment in advance because the only thing I hate more than running is wasting money.’ (I actually don’t hate running. I hate that feeling that I’m about to puke up my lungs while I run. Aren’t lungs supposed to keep calm and carry on in those situations?)

I’m going to sleep on the running club, but this type of resolution sounds like one of those you should set if you want to get to December and think ‘fuck yeah I want to high five myself for SMASHING IT’. I kind of think everyone deserves that ‘fuck yeah’ thought.

Gerard Way fist pump I'm Not Okay I Promise video by My Chemical Romance
look this came from Google all credit to G Way and Warner Bros

Resolution 3: The This Has to Work and I’m Going to Make it Work Come Hell or High Water

My resolution: earn more money from my work? Earn increased amounts of money? Don’t sell a kidney to support a hobby?

This is the hardest type of resolution, because it’s a mix of the other two. Saying ‘I want to earn more money’ could just be another way of saying ‘I earned some money this year and would like to continue earning next year’. Realistically I will; my stationery and accessories will still be for sale and I will still crowdfund my writing. There will be money! But I don’t just want to continue, I want to expand. I need to expand if I’m going to continue to justify putting time into both those things. I know the numbers I have to hit if I’m to continue publishing writing with no upfront fees (about $10 a month would cover my website expenses, and $30+ would cover some writing time contribute to my bills). I know I need to double my stationery sales – and grow those follower counts, damn it – to justify using prime space in my bedroom to store stock and to justify spending my evenings and weekends thinking up jokes about Greek gods.

I also can’t ask people for anything other than moral support, because most of the people I know – in real life and online – are as broke as I am. A short story or a funny print is a luxury and if people won’t buy or pledge, there’s nothing I can really do about it except plug away until they go up a wage packet or change their priorities. So going into 2018 I know that, if I don’t get more sales or pledges, I will be shutting up shop eventually – and that’s shutting my Etsy shop, my stories blog and possibly even this place because my spare time will only ever decrease and my bills will only ever increase. I’m not 14 anymore and I have to be pragmatic about where I put my energy – especially if I want to look after my health, because running a shop is eighty per cent adrenaline and twenty per cent pure relief when something goes right. There’s a reason most successful entrepreneurs retire early. They want to spend as much time as they can with their remaining nerves… There’s also reason most novelists have day jobs and eke out books on the weekend – statistically I am not playing a winning game.

So although my resolution is to make my work fucking work, I also know that ‘hell or high water’ will come in the form of a bill I can’t pay in my current status as an intern/freelancer/stationery designer/storyteller. Or in a final argument with one of my parents. Or when I finally decide to trade following what teenage me wanted for adult me and start following what other adults want for adult me.

That took a dark turn there, I didn’t actually mean for it to. I want to know about your resolutions! Tell me the ones you’ve succeeded in keeping, the ones you stopped caring about, the ones that didn’t make it past 1st January. Tell me what you want for 2018, what you don’t want for 2018. Tell me what you did in 2017. Other than swear at the news and drink a lot, presumably…

Changing Things Up?

Afternoon. If you came in via the front page, you will have noticed I’ve tidied up a bit. I’ve been feeling off colour and came home from work early yesterday to curl up and sleep for a few days, because I either have a bad cold that makes me tired or I’m badly tired and have caught a cold. I wasn’t reckoning on my inability to sit still for more than a couple of hours, though, so I thought I’d play about on here. Technically I’m less than a foot away from my bed, so I’m going to count it as convalescence.

I’ve fancied a change for a while, but I’ve been getting general change vibes, which is not that helpful. Do I want to cut my hair? Should I spray paint my car? Would I benefit from a different type of pillow? My subconscious isn’t telling me, so my conscious (hi) has decided to try changing a bit of everything to see what sticks. So far I’ve just done this site, but I’m thinking of revamping the Francesca’s Words branding – the world is so bleak that black and white seems less chic and more depressing these days – and committing to a regular Pilates class. Something to get my insides balancing with my outsides and all that… I’ve also, finally, published the first of a three part story on my story blog that is slightly different from anything else I’ve ever done, but also completely in line with everything I’ve ever tried to do. The next part will be online next week as I want them all to go online this side of Christmas, which is ridiculously soon.

The Sea Witch's Revenge Part I
Look I even did a little header pic GO READ IT’S A GOOD ONE

I’m not sure what else to change up without committing hugely to something I might regret – I like the idea of spray painting the Mini, but its current shade of red is actually very nice to look at, you know – so I’m taking ideas. Go and read my story (here is the link again cough cough) then tell me: what do you do when you need a change? Do you book a holiday and get a new hair colour or just ride it out? Have you ever done anything ridiculous just to make life a bit more interesting? You can guarantee I’ll read and reply to comments, because I’m not feeling up to much else.