Look, a Goat

Afternoon. I’m going out in a minute but my intrinsic need to post something every single month and/or week to stop my life losing meaning is flaring up, so HERE I AM. I put a dress on earlier but it’s cooler than I thought so I’m also wearing a hoodie and trouser-sized leggings. You scoff but the Kardashians will have a line of dress leggings sooner or later, guarantee it.

I don’t actually have much else to say, which is why my ridiculous desire to post to a schedule needs to fuck off. I’m busy writing dragonnovel to a deadline so I’m probably not going to be online much until it’s finished. I’m trying to motivate myself by sharing little bits and pieces about it on Instagram, so head there for stained glass windows, goats and the occasional actual snippet. My Patreon is here if you want a free copy when it’s finished and/or a character named after your good self, blah etc.

Yeah, wasn’t kidding about the goats. There are also twin characters named Molly and Clarissa, like the Mindless Self Indugence songs, so I’m really hoping someone pledges soon so I can save the names for a novella about two women who bootleg gin and steal cars.

Gotta go and change my leggings now!

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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.

Help Me Decide My Next Story!

Kermit the frog typing manically from Giphy

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.

‘Romeo, Romeo, where are you Romeo?’

I read the other day that the average deposit for a home in the UK is currently £80,000 and as my reactions were limited to either throwing myself into work or jumping off the QEII bridge, I’ve been writing a lot. I don’t want to show it to any of you yet (for a staunch non-spiritualist I am ridiculously superstitious about sharing work before it’s done) but I’m quite quietly pleased with myself for having picked up a pen.

It got me thinking about that other great writer great pieces of literature, and I wondered if any of you have been watching Upstart Crow? It’s on BBC2 on Monday nights should probably be required viewing for every student studying Shakespeare. It was written by the same guy who co-wrote Blackadder, so maybe we should just appoint him head of schools and be done with it.

Imagine the exam papers.

 

Looking Forward

I’ve got this really strange sensation of wanting to write a blog while not having a clue what to write about. There’s that feeling in my stomach saying ‘take a break from regular work and write a blog saying hey’, which is not a feeling to be ignored, but I’m genuinely stuck for a topic. I’ve considered National Writer’s Month but I don’t actually like the concept and I don’t want to spend 500 words bitching, and I’ve considered freelancing (I do like the concept, but I think I’d be bitching about that too), and a retrospective about how this time last year I was out in Greece. But do I want to look back at something in the past, or look forward? Tonight is Once Upon a Time night, so I want to look forward, to something I’m looking forward to.

I just noticed how tautological that phrase is, which makes me want to use it more. Anyway, maybe I’ll settle for saying hey, how are you? The weather here is grey, which matches my jumper, and I’m in two minds about walking into town to collect a book and craft fair supplies. On the one hand: fresh air, a new book and more supplies. On the other: it will probably rain, I have more pressing things to do and I’m going into town tomorrow anyway. Maybe I’ll meet myself halfway and walk to the post box… my office is feeling claustrophobic this afternoon but if I try to work from any other room I’ll probably just end up watching Once Upon a Time and forgetting I have a job.

Tempting. I realised something a moment ago: this post feels a lot like I imagine my Patreon letters to be. I’ve not had any takers on there yet (and this isn’t a hint, although you can feel free to take it as one) and the thing I’m looking forward to most is – hopefully – getting patrons who choose the letter tier, so I can write to them saying hello. To be honest I will probably discuss the weather in some capacity in every one, but I am looking forward to one day writing to people. I like to think that if I’m ever a novelist who gets sent fan art and letters, I’ll reply to those too. So I guess I am looking forward, and to something I’m looking forward to!

The English language, holy shit. No wonder most of us use emojis.

A Poem About Leaving School

I have graced the hallways of my school for seven entire years, roughly the equivalent of the time it takes to get to the front of a queue in the post office. Typically students bring in notebooks into which other students write farewell messages of good luck and sappy happiness. I forgot to get a notebook so I’m writing this instead, which is way more impressive because it’s in the public domain forever.

So, what was happening seven years ago?

  • Gordon Brown was prime minister and students could attend university without first selling their organs
  • Jimmy Saville was an okay dude
  • North Africa was full of peaceful, dictatorial regimes
  • Benedict Cumberbatch could go out in public
  • People used MySpace
  • Leonardo DiCaprio was waiting to win an Oscar

Well, I never said the world had changed beyond all recognition.

But still. Seven years. Part of me thinks about leaving school and is like this:

from lisce.tumblr.com
from lisce.tumblr.com

Part of me feels like this:

Found... somewhere on Tumblr
Found… somewhere on Tumblr

Since I’m a writer, blah blah blah, I thought I’d write a poem about my time in school.

  • A is for ageing, which we have all done
  • B is for bonkers, which we have all become
  • C stands for lots of coffee… enough said!
  • D is Sunday night and that sudden feeling of dread
  • E stands for examinations, which make us want to cry
  • F are the fuckin’ idiots we’ve all had to put up with in class at least once who make us want to die
  • G is General Studies, ironically my best subject
  • H stands for homework, which you shouldn’t try in public
  • “I is not in ‘team’!” which we learnt in PE
  • J are the in-jokes that make strangers want to flee
  • K finishes ‘okay’ which some days you are not
  • L is in ‘lower school’ when you thought sixth formers were hot
  • M is Monday assemblies, the only thing the entire year thinks is shit
  • N are the notices which make the assemblies such a hit
  • O is organisation which… wait, I’ve lost my notes
  • P is for school pond, where there really should be boats
  • Q is in ‘quiet’ which the quiet study room never has been
  • R is in ‘year seven’ when we were really keen
  • S starts off ‘sleep’ which we very rarely do
  • T are the teachers who are actually humans too
  • U are the uniform rules that have haunted us for years
  • V is the vast amount of bullshit we’ve sometimes put up with from peers
  • W is for websites used to hastily gather information
  • X is in the phrase “surely that doesn’t need another explanation?”
  • Y is for “WHY ME, GOD?” a frequently-asked school-based question
  • Z is for zoo, the place to which we might actually return with begrudging joy when it’s time for a reunion.

And by zoo I mean secondary school. Please never accuse me of lacking in appreciation for the poetic arts, ladies and gentlemen. It rhymed.

Anyway, happy end-of-school! (Unless it isn’t the end of school for you, in which case happy Thursday.)

I Have a Piece of Work Published! On An Site That I Don’t Run!

The overly obnoxious title wasn’t kidding (although I did want to attract as many of you social media fairies as possible).

Ta-dah!

Nail Varnish, written by me, illustrated by Sherri Oliver, published on The Story Shack.

You’ll never make it, they said. Writing is a difficult career to catch a break in, they said.

Lots of thank-yous to the excellent Sherri for the artwork, and for putting a Starbucks in the piece (this is relevant to nobody except me, as I had been to Starbucks the day I received the art and was feeling pleasantly pro-tax avoiding corporations after their nice service), and to The Story Shack itself, for not telling me my work is crap or ignoring me completely. Please let us know what you think of the collaboration, and give it lots of nice +1s and Twitter/Facey shares. Check out the other work on the site too while you’re there – Nail Varnish sits next to a piece about a gay goat herder in Jerusalem, which can only be a good omen.

It’s time to update my CV, methinks… How many UCAS points will I get for this?!