Mildly Good Things That Are Happening in the World 2

The time is ripe for another of these.

  • Remember when the main source of conversation was ‘Poor Caroline Flack. We should all take steps to be kinder, right?’ Now it seems to be ‘Fuck you I want 8,000 toilet rolls.’ BUT. Hairdressers have stopped stocking those bullshit gossip magazines. Ironically, we could probably use them for toilet paper in a pinch.
  • Electronic planes are on the cusp of becoming a reality. Fast, convenient travel without polluting the planet? Sign me up mate. Okay so perhaps it’s not quite on the cusp of reality… more like the cusp of the cusp. But I am confident that with funding (anyone know a billionaire? Someone who invested in loo roll stocks and shares? Or just invested in loo roll?) it will happen.
  • A white, statistically straight millionaire took a pay cut in order to give his employees a raise. The employees were happier. He was happier.
  • Right, I’m mentioning the C word for a minute. There’s a website called Covid Mutual Aid, which helps you find a local groups of people volunteering to help others during these batshit mad times. The groups organise shopping runs for those in isolation and help link people up with goods and resources if they need them (been stockpiling loo roll since 1982? It’s your time to shine, my friend). I’ve joined my local one because if you can’t volunteer to get someone’s shopping when they’re in isolation, then a) you’re a dick and b) seriously what do you do with your life.
  • Following on from that, a lady named Becky has made coronavirus postcards. Pop them through your neighbours’ front doors and let them know you’re there if they need you!

postcard with information for people to fill in in order to offer help during coronavirus outbreak

I may use some of this distancing time to finish up some blog posts I’ve been sitting on. I’ve been thinking of a post about working from home, since I am a seasoned pro at spending the day indoors? Let me know if you’d like my accumulated wisdom. In the mean time, look after yourselves and make sure your grandparents stay at home!

The Poor Person’s Guide to Helping Creators Make Money (without spending any of your own money)

I’m a writer and have a mini-but-growing stationery business. I also work in marketing. Thus, most of my day and quite a bit of my evenings are spent trying to get consumers (you) to buy into brands (my batshit stories and smartarse pencils, or my clients’ very sensible businesses). There are a billion ways to entice people to part with their cash, and there are a billion resources that will teach you the ins and outs of those ways. Something I’m more interested in is how people with no money can help small businesses and creators grow.

This is partly because I don’t have much disposable income to spend on indie creators or new businesses, and partly because most of my friends don’t, either. I feel like we’re still consumers, though – we’re just consuming with our eyeballs instead of with money. (Although as anyone who’s seen me at a merch stand at a show can attest, when I spend my money on a creator, I spend… all of it.)

Here are several ways you can help boost your favourite creator’s reputation and bring them more income without actually parting with your own money. For ease of writing I’m going to call your favourite creator Jiminy Snicket, because I think we’ve all met a Jiminy Snicket. Jiminy probably draws slightly off the wall comics, straightens their hair à la 2007 and lives with their mam in the Midlands.

Share and reblog social media posts (don’t just click like)

…unless the channel’s entire currency is in likes (hi, Instagram). This is the single best thing you can do to support Jiminy Snicket – in some ways it’s better than spending money on their comic or joining their Patreon. Sharing posts to your feed and followers puts Jiminy’s work in front of a new audience. Let’s face it: if you aren’t coughing up your cash for them, you can at least put their stuff in front of people who might.

Send work to friends who aren’t on the same channel as the creator

I have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (two, actually), Tumblr, LinkedIn, Patreon… Jiminy Snicket is probably also on Discord, Twitch, Snap, Ko-fi and other ridiculously-named channels, because they’re really keen. Most people are regular users of three of those channels, tops. If you’ve seen something cool on Instagram that your friend might like and your friend isn’t on Instagram, email it to them. Text them. Carrier pigeon. Maybe your friend uses Twitter? Jiminy uses Twitter! Your friend can find them on there if she likes their stuff.

Comment on posts

Social media channels (and social media marketers) love talking about engagement. ARE YOU ENGAGING ENOUGH, shouts every marketing website in the universe. NO, YOU ARE NOT, GIVE US YOUR MONEY AND WE’LL TEACH YOU OUR SECRETTTSSSSSS….

All that shit means is, is Jiminy Snicket commenting on other people’s posts? Are they hanging out in their chosen online cesspit community? Spoiler alert: Jiminy does little else. They’re following hashtags and leaving comments and ENGAGING DAMNIT, INSTAGRAM, SHOW JIMINY’S PHOTO TO THEIR FOLLOWERS. Engage right back at Jiminy by commenting on their posts, tagging friends who might like to see their content, doing those shares. Then Instagram or Facebook or wherever will show you Jiminy’s posts more often, and show Jiminy’s posts to other Instagram or Facebook users more often. Those other users might have money to spend on a comic artist from the Midlands!

Click on their website

Most websites cost money to make. Trust me, it’s part of my day job to build and maintain them. They don’t just magically appear on the top of Google either; that takes a mixture of organic searching, clicks from other websites and clicks from things like social media and newsletters. So if Jiminy shares a fancy new website on their Twitter page, click on it! Then go to Google and search things like ‘Jiminy Snicket portfolio site’ or ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’.

It takes a bit of time, but JiminySnicket.com will start to make its money back and show up for ‘indie alternative comic book artist in the midlands’ or even more vague searches like ‘comic artist in the midlands’. (This also relies a little on Jiminy having a properly optimised website… give me a call, Jiminy, I can help with that.)

RSVP to events even if you’re not going

Looking at you, Facebook Events! When you click ‘interested’ on a Facebook event, it’ll show up in friends’ feeds and sometimes their notifications, therefore telling them that your mate Jiminy Snicket has got a new experimental art show at the local comic store.

Covert ops support

There are ways of boosting Jiminy’s ~general standing in the universe~ without telling lots of people (or Jiminy) about it. Are there competitions or awards you think Jiminy could win? Nominate them. Have a friend who might like their stuff? Pass on their business card (while we’re at it, tell Jiminy to invest in business cards. They’re invaluable).

owl hopping
from Giphy

There are some content-specific things you can do, too. Supporting a writer? Request their books are added to your local library (authors get paid when library books are taken out). Add or review a book on GoodReads (The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes is on GoodReads and it’s not even out yet – you can add it to your to-read shelf in about three seconds and help drum up some noise about it, for example).

Something else I think can work – or is quite fun, at least – is hiding Jiminy’s work in real life places. I gave a handful of Princess and the Dragon samplers to friends who popped them into the bookshelves of coffee shops. Or if they haven’t, they’ve kept schtum about it. The odds of people picking up the samplers and then pledging to my Patreon? Slim; has not happened yet. The sense of smugness when I’ve looked at bookshelves were I personally have left samplers and the sampler is no longer there? Immense, although there’s always the chance that it got chucked away or used as a napkin. It’s a gamble, but so is life.

Not so covert ops support

If you’re both on a site like Wattpad, Archive of Our Own or DeviantART, go on a liking or commenting/reviewing spree on Jiminy’s pages to boost their stats – and their confidence. Are loads of people going to see your heart emoji on a DeviantART post or your rambling review on AO3? No, but you’re doing your bit to make some noise and you’ll give Jiminy the warm fuzzies. While we’re at it, follow Jiminy on every channel you’re both on. Sign up to their newsletter. You don’t have to read and respond to everything, but a boost in numbers will remind Jiminy that there are people out there who are paying attention. Jiminy’s an artist, so will appreciate the stoking of their ego/increase in follow numbers.

Jerry and a Canary from Tom & Jerry GIF
from Twitter

Appoint yourself brand ambassador

You know, like Instagrammers do with those diet tea products. Except Jiminy’s not going to pay you for this. Do you have a moderate following on Twitter? Have you got tonnes of Facebook friends? Consider writing a recommendation post and linking back to Jiminy’s web page and their online handle. Something as simple as ‘My friend @JiminyS has a new comic out and it’s brilliant! You can find it on Patreon at patreon.com/jiminysnicket and see previews on their Facebook page: facebook.com/JiminyS.’

Have you joined Jiminy’s Patreon? Nope. Have you even read the comic? Probably not, because you aren’t the sort to request to read for free something Jiminy is trying to make money from via Patreon. But you’re adding to the noise around Jiminy’s Patreon page, you’re informing the world that Jiminy means business and is in business. Worst case scenario: no one clicks on Jiminy’s stuff but Jiminy gets the warm fuzzies. Best case: people click both links, they like the Facebook page, they become a patron. Jiminy gets both the warm fuzzies and some cash.

This works especially well if Jiminy’s doing something niche and you’re a member of a community (online or offline) that fits the niche. Has Jiminy done a new comic for Pride week? Did it make your howl your eyes out and consider joining a local activism group? There are hundreds of LGBT groups, online and in real life spaces in your town. They’re not all serious and activism-y, some are just places for hanging out. Share the comic to those spaces and Jiminy will notice a lot more engagement. Or maybe they won’t – maybe you printed the comic out and pinned it up in your local friendly queer-run coffee shop. Maybe in six months’ time, a customer sees the comic, howls their eyes out, whips out their phone and types in the Patreon link that Jiminy cleverly included on the comic. This person is in a higher socio-economic bracket than you or me and immediately pledges to Jiminy’s highest Patreon tier. Jiminy thinks it was down to the gods. It wasn’t. It was down to you.

Tom and Jerry gif
from Twitter

Ask after them

I nearly didn’t include this, since it’s not all that practical. Texting Jiminy occasionally and asking about how the new comic’s coming along, or if the Patreon page is growing at the desired rate, or if they want to meet one Saturday to complain about social media algorithms, won’t bring them income. It might do the opposite if you meet for overpriced coffee in an overpriced chain store.

But I’ve been thinking a lot about what genuinely helps creators day-to-day. All these suggestions help more than you’d think, by confirming to Jiminy that they aren’t shouting into the void, that the hours they’ve put into social media schedules and web pages aren’t wasted. The thing about making things for other people to consume is that the process is twofold. First you have to get people to take what you make seriously. Then you have to make them want to pay for it. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been asked for free work, or told I don’t have a real job, or had family members glaze over when they ask how work’s going and instead of telling them about marketing work or a retail job, I talk about how my book is going. Books cost £1.99 on Amazon, so there’s no way I’m justified in asking people to pay more than that on a regular basis just to get the thing onto Amazon!

Creating ~stuff~ is the best fun. Jiminy will make their peace with realistically never owning property and being the cousin/friend/child who can’t afford to join in with events that cost more than £30. But they’ll get lonely sometimes, when they’re the only person in the room without a salaried job or meetings with mortgage brokers or the money to spend on a night out. So, if you know a Jiminy, drop in and ask how things are going. A message from a friend about a specific bit of a project or asking whether they finally worked out that issue with that file reminds Jiminy that they have a life and people outside the all-consuming mindset of making stuff. If you’re of the creative mindset too, Jiminy will appreciate hearing from someone else who’s in the When Will You Get a Real Job trenches.

Rachel and Phoebe from Friends hugginh
from Giphy

This post has been my favourite for a while. I think I quite like Jiminy. Thank you to Tatchiana for the suggestions, let me know in the comments if I’ve missed any useful tips and, in the spirit of what the post is about, here’s my Patreon and my quite expensive portfolio site.

An early new year’s resolution ft. mental health and mobile phones

I feel a bit dumb even writing this post, but it’s about something that we should probably talk about more: I have hair on my toes. Kidding, although I do (hoping it might thin out as I age, though). What I want to talk about today is the fact that yesterday evening, I switched off my phone before I went to sleep.

You either read that and thought ‘isn’t that an obvious thing to do?’ or you thought ‘YOU SWITCHED OFF YOUR PHONE?’ I’m talking to both groups here, because it’s important to bridge gaps between communities. A couple of things prompted the Great Phone Switch Off. First of all, I used to switch off my phone before bed and recall, somewhat fondly, that my mild insomnia was less irritating when I did. Secondly, I’ve been getting brain fog and numb, tingly fingers recently, and because I’ve been thinking about the NHS lately, I want to do everything I can to improve my mental and physical health before I see my GP. I’d need a double appointment, too, because ten minutes is not long enough to talk about two issues, and a double appointment would cost the taxpayer, like, eighty million pounds.

So, the insomnia: it’s probably never going away because my brain has 567 tabs open at all times. Cool, whatever, it makes me a good writer. The worse it gets, though, the longer I spend looking at memes on Instagram after I’ve gone to bed, trapped somewhere between being awake enough to scroll but too tired to do anything else. The brain fog: happens this time of year, every year. Once I’ve actually fallen asleep I sleep like the dead, I wake up three hours later than I do in the summer and can’t organise my 567 tabs even a little bit. Because pre-Christmas is my busiest time for my stationery business, the first thing I do once I’m out of bed is check my email and the Sell on Etsy app to see how many pencils I have to ship to northern Illinois. It’s also the last thing I do before bed and the Instagram scrolling. The finger tingling and numbness: I first noticed it when I was doing my GCSEs and assumed it’s part of the repetitive-strain-injury-carpool-tunnel-tennis-elbow-bad-posture thing I’ve had since my GCSEs. My wrists and hands have been infinitely better since I left school and can set my own timetable but everything plays up when I’ve had a long week or been on my phone too much.

You see a pattern emerging, huh. Last night the finger tingling made me panic because I’m only 24 and there isn’t actually such a thing as a Luke Skywalker arm unless you’ve been in the military and lost a limb and they give you a high-end prosthetic, and actually I’m quite attached to my current arms and would like them to last my whole life and isn’t it bullshit and entitled to just assume I should be given a replacement limb and also I’m a writer and also and also and also

Once I stopped panicking, several other things occurred to me. I’ve been getting ridiculously dry skin on my face and scalp, to the extent that I’m going to stop dying my hair for a bit because there’s no point when I just wash it with Head & Shoulders every five minutes. My fingernails are really brittle, I keep seeing things out of the corner of my eye that aren’t there and I turned my car around just after I’d left the driveway the other day because I was so tired I didn’t trust myself to drive.

FRANCESCA, my body is saying, CHILL THE FUCK OUT.

Something else I’ve been thinking about lately is that I don’t really eat meat any more but I’ve been to foggy to cook properly, so it’s safe to assume I’ve been eating way too much selection box confectionery and way too little vitamin B. Is it vitamin B you have to be careful of when you’re a vegetarian? Iron? I’m scared to Google it in case I come across a good case for abandoning peanut butter on ethical grounds. Anyway, on the off chance my body is also saying, FRANCESCA, LEARN TO COOK MORE NUTRITIOUS MEALS, the other day I bought spinach.

Alice curtsying

I’m digressing.

I can’t be alone in feeling like I’m in a mental washing machine; everyone I know is run down, irritated and overworked. I’ve seen, heard and had so many conversations recently about mental health and social media and about burning out. It feels like so many of us switched on all the time, but the wiring is starting to wear out. Eventually we’re all going to become fire hazards.

What a metaphor.

I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t want to wait until new year to ‘resolve’ to do something about the brain fog and the tingling and the dandruff. New year is the absolute worst time to decide to do anything (except The Princess and the Dragon and Other Stories About Unlikely Heroes, the second draft of which I began on new year’s day 2018 but does that even count when I was clearly always going to write weird YA novels as a hobby). Also, new year is ages away. I am foggy now. I want to start forming better habits now. I don’t want my morning routine to be up-loo-contraceptive-pill-70-emails-check-Instagram-feel-bad-about-my-life-compared-to-other-people-on-Instagram until my right thumb stops moving. I don’t want my evening routine to be shower-bed-read-a-book-scroll-feel-bad-mild-crisis-scroll-try-sleeping-radio-on-radio-off-scrollololol until I have a nervous breakdown. Typing all that nearly induced a nervous breakdown.

If I want to do anything in 2020, it’s do more of what I want on my own terms. I’d like to  reduce the finger numbness without compromising the quality of my work; I want to keep my customers happy without putting them before my sanity. It’s on me to decide how to proceed. Switching off my phone before bed won’t by itself improve my skin/sleeping/fingers. Deleting the Sell on Etsy app won’t. Installing a battery-intensive phone usage tracker won’t. But they might all help a little bit, so I’m willing to try them. Telling you all this might help too, because now I’m accountable to a tiny corner of the internet which now knows to look out for my flaky face. I’ll know I’m being judged if I post to Insta stories at 11pm.

So, my non-new-year’s-resolution is to try to be more mindful about my tech use, and to make the tech I do use work for me. At the moment I feel like I’m just a pair of eyeballs that belong to Mark Zuckerberg. What I suppose that boils down to is being more mindful: of my diet seriously need to Google vitamin B, of my time management, of what I actually want to spend my time doing.

This is the longest post I’ve written for ages. Let me know in the comments if you, too, feel like you’re in a washing machine. I’ll keep you updated on the mindfulness thing. Ironically, I thought I’d be done with this post two hours ago and planned to spend the evening washing my hair. C’est la whatever. Happy Wednesday!

The Beginner’s Guide to Working from Home

Benedict Cumberbatch in LA gif

Try as I might, I can’t seem to stop being a freelancer. Sometimes I go to an office, but usually I don’t, especially now I’m getting into the final stages of my Open Uni course and working on dragonnovel. I’ve learnt a lot during my time of commuting down a set of stairs or across my bedroom to my desk, and I thought it high time I share some tricks of the trade.

Your wardrobe should be work-appropriate

For example, your trousers should be elasticated to account for all the caffeine you’re drinking and all the angry snacking that takes place after a less than fruitful Skype call. Matching socks can help one focus on the day’s tasks, but as long as they’re clean you’ll be able to sit at your desk with pride. Just kidding – if you’ve cleaned your teeth today, you’re already 99% set for work!

Sometimes working from home does require you to leave the house – perhaps in search of your sanity, which you fear you may have lost underneath paperwork. In these situations, I recommend you consult WikiHow to re-learn what deodorant is. For those days when you’ve got people over, or have an emergency video chat, I recommend you keep a couple of unstained outfits at the back of your wardrobe. Remember, only the parts of you that are visible need to look like you’ve got a self care routine.

 

I wish I could tell you where I found these gifs, but my computer has eaten that information. It was in 2015?

Your workstation should be organised

Even the most organised work from home-er has a tendancy to multitask, especially if you’ve accidentally overbooked yourself, so you need to ensure that your paperwork, computer and faintly stained coffee mugs are well-organised. I find that keeping stationery in odd places, like the key tray by the front door, or in my dressing gown pocket, helps make home feel more like an office, and there’s always the old trick of piling all your papers onto one tiny allocated space so you look far more official than you actually are.

You need several planners

One or two, at least. Probably a wall calendar. They contain nothing but deadlines because you last saw your friends on Halloween 2016, but they’re a nice reminder that the end of the tax year is coming up and you’re not as rich as you thought you would be by now.

Invest in quality headphones

Not to block out your neighbours! Not to listen to interesting podcasts while you work! Your headphones are there for when your family members come home and you’ve accidentally read Atlas Obscura all day so you have to catch up during the evening and need to look focused.

Disconnect your wifi

So you can get lots done with no distractions! Wait, you need the internet to work from home in the first place? Hm. Well. If I ever work out a happy medium, I’ll let you know, but I spent a full thirty seconds this afternoon watching a Facebook video of someone’s pet fox zoom around their living room. You should probably just go and work in a coffee shop or something. Or a library.

Or an office.

 

Introducing a BOOK, Sort Of, That I’m Writing, I Think?

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

It occurred to me recently that a) I should start calling the Giant Enormous Writing Project a book, and b) I should probably talk about it more because it’s driving me a bit mad, in a good way, and when it’s done I’m going to brag about it until hell freezes over, and I should set the ground work for that.

So, yeah, I’m writing a book! It hasn’t got a title yet, before you ask, but I’m calling it dragonnovel, because there is at least one dragon in it. It’s a children’s book, probably. I’m not telling anyone anything else yet, because the dragon is one of about three elements that definitely won’t change. Kind of like in an essay when you know that you’ve got to answer a specific question but how you’ll answer it is really anyone’s guess because you’ve deleted about 5,000 words and made 14 separate plans and look please come back later I need emergency snacks and the ability to spot repeated sentences with my eyes closed.

But it’s going well. This week I rewrote an irritating paragraph and I haven’t felt such a sense of satisfaction since I finished my A Levels. I guess the whole not-discussing-the-plot thing is going to keep this post quite short haha, because all I can tell you is that it’s a CRUCIAL PARAGRAPH. There are also many characters. Several conversations pass the Bechdel Test. I think. Ugh, now I’m paranoid that they don’t. I’ll check in a minute. Look, I made a Pinterest board? Enjoy?

I’m going to try to sort-of track my progress with the book by blogging about it sporadically. In theory, the further I get the more I’ll be able to talk about without worrying that whatever I’m telling you won’t make it into the final draft, so hit me up if you have questions you want answering or have strong feelings about dragon mythology or something.

I’m also here because even though I hate talking about works in progress, a condition of finally talking about dragonnovel is to share my Patreon page more often. I’ve reworked it – again! – because I could do with a little bit of financial breathing space while I write, just for tech expenses and website domains and the like, so I can focus on getting as many MCR jokes into dragonnovel as possible and finishing a proper first draft by the end of summer. I want to make this whole thing as fun and off-beat as possible, too, so everyone who pledges from now until I’m finished writing will get their names in the thank yous of the book, and anyone who pledges $3 or more will get a free ebook/PDF of the finished novel. I am hoping to get traditionally published with a proper agent, but I’ve been working on dragonnovel since 2016 and even if I end up printing it on my home computer, there will be an ebook or PDF. All patrons will also get behind the scenes updates and extra content like playlists and previews (spoiler alert: Lorde is on a playlist). I’m still going to write little short stories and things too, as a break, so there is still early-access to those. Oh and I’ll always name a character after patrons, because I enjoy naming characters hugely.

LEO FUCKIN WON AMEN from Villiage Roadshow Pictures
from Villiage Roadshow Pictures

I’ve done some research and did a soft opening of the new page for friends and apparently it all makes a lot more sense than the old one did, so have a read and bask in the glory of my reward tier names. I also got rid of all tiers above $5, because who has more than $5 spare every month, and added some cool rewards. I’m not really ever expecting to hit 10 patrons but if I do, you guys better prepare yourselves for some excellent fan fiction reading.

Have a good weekend!

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

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

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

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head

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.

It’s Not Me, It’s You | Why I’m Taking a Break from Instagram (and kind of staging a protest)

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you

Yesterday I floated an idea with some fellow bloggers and Etsy sellers, and their response didn’t make curl up in embarrassment, so here goes. Last week I posted a photo to Instagram of the Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laos, with a link to the accompanying hilarious blog post. In the space of a few hours, which is the average lifespan for an Insta post, it got three likes. I work in digital marketing so I would have understood if I had tagged the post badly, or done a dodgy caption, or posted a photograph of an actual turd. But the Kuang Si Waterfalls are literally paradise:

My cousin even wrote some comments, so every point on the old ‘how to post a good Insta photo’ check list was ticked: funny caption, relevant tags, engaged audience, LITERAL PARADISE. I gritted my teeth and thought ‘maybe it is time to take a break from Instagram.’ I’ve been cutting down on my social media follows and posts generally lately because I’m busy, and if LITERAL PARADISE can’t reach my other friends and family, let alone potential blog readers, what is even the point? Intagram’s recent algorithm changes are making it harder and harder for people to see recent content, or even just… content. I think I see more ‘sponsored posts’ and ‘recommended posts’ than I do actual posts, and then photos from a week ago show up on my timeline that I completely missed a week ago. I’m not an expert but I did some Googling and here is the science behind why that happens:

  1. When you post a photo, Instagram shows the photo to 10% of your audience
  2. If within the first 10-60 minutes, your post gets high engagement (likes, comments, shares), Insta shows it to the rest of your audience (the exact amount of time seems to be debatable, but it’s definitely no more than an hour or two)
  3. If the post doesn’t perform then Insta, um, doesn’t show the rest of your audience.

TEN MINUTES. Here is a good article with more info, by the way. I dunno about you, but a lot of my followers are in a different timezone and a lot of the rest are spam accounts that don’t care anyway. No one sees anything in 10 minutes! Anyway, that’s not the point. Algorithms used by Insta and Facebook show you posts based on what the algorithm thinks you want to see, based on your history and previous engagement and whatnot, not on what you actually might want to see (again, I am not a computer expert, if anyone has a good explanation for how algorithms actually work, hit me up).

In theory this means all accounts (businesses, personal, robots pretending to be people) have to engage with followers by commenting, posting to Insta Stories, watching Insta Stories, etc. Officially, the new algorithm is a way of rooting out fake accounts that spam everyone. But it is also a sneaky unofficial way to get more people to use the app. To gain followers/readers/customers, we have to give Instagram more of our eyeball time, and thus give Instagram’s advertising partners more of our eyeball time. Small businesses or bloggers are more likely to pay for a sponsored post to reach more people, but how many of us see a sponsored post and immediately engage? I do sometimes, but not when I already follow that account and can’t see their organic posts!

Frank Iero fuck off gif
from Tumblr

Anyway. At first I was annoyed with Instagram as a regular person, then I was annoyed as someone whose job includes posting to Instagram for clients who expect results, and then I was annoyed as someone with a blog, Patreon and Etsy shop that deserve way more coverage than they get. But I don’t like moaning about a problem without trying to fix it, so I’ve had an idea for a little protest project.

As I said before, Instagram is fundamentally concerned about hooking users into spending more time on the app. It needs us to engage, because it’s a for-profit company that relies on advertisers paying lots of money in exchange for exposure to lots of people. And the only thing that really resonates with businesses is money. If users spend less time scrolling and watching Stories, there will be less exposure for advertisers and less revenue for the company. If lots of users spend less time on the app, citing the algorithm, the boss dudes might consider improving it.

So I’m taking a two week break from my personal Insta accounts, effective Monday 26th February. I can’t delete the app because I have clients who will want me to post for them, but I won’t be on my account, or the alternative Etsy account I run. If you’re annoyed too, join in! Of course, you don’t have to take two weeks. If spending an hour less a week on there is all you can manage because you have customers and friends to keep up with, that’s cool too. I am clearly not going to be monitoring you – this is a fun lil project that will stop me gritting my teeth so often, not Black Lives Matter or the gun control protests. I’m not really expecting to get through to a multi-million dollar company. There’s not really a time limit either – I can’t see this going viral and all 800 million Instagram users taking a two week break, somehow. And I’ll definitely be back on the app in a fortnight, because there are people on there I really care about. But best case scenario, Instagram’s bosses remember their audience is a community and worst case, I get a bit of headspace and meet some other disgruntled bloggers and business owners!

So if you’re taking part, hit me up in the comments – I’m also on Twitter and Tumblr, and my blog Facebook is here. You can email me at transmissions@indifferentignorance.com too. I wanted to hashtag #FuckInstagram but I think that might be too combative. I’m thinking maybe #ItsNotMeItsYou?

Bye Instagram, it's not me it's you