5 Things You Can Do To Help Theatres Survive The Pandemic

I love the theatre, and if you’re reading this, I know you do too.

Well, as you are already aware, theatres throughout the country are struggling to survive. But yet, the government does not seem interested in saving this beautiful art form. What with the release of the ‘Fatima’ job ad and Rishi Sunak’s comments made during an interview with ITV, it appears that the government considers theatre as nothing more than a prestigious hobby.

Of course, it’s not all negative. Last week, following a stunning theatre medley performed on BGT, it was announced that the concert version of Les Miserables will be returning to the stage. Meanwhile, it’s been revealed that many theatres, museums, and venues will receive part of the Cultural Recovery fund. But it’s still hard to let go of the treatment given to performers from our very own government.

I’m not in the theatre. I can’t sing, or dance, or act. I know that the anger I feel is nothing compared to those who have worked in theatre and spent their lives training for it. And so I feel that it’s imperative to show this talented industry that the UK does care.

With that in mind, here are five ways we can help protect our theatres.

1. Donate

This is the most obvious way to help protect the performing arts. Some theatres take donations directly, as well as charities and organisations that help those involved with the industry. Do your research and see what you can do – here’s a list to help you get started. 

2. Spread the word

Social media is a powerful tool and has already proved itself in supporting the theatre industry. The recent protest hosted by artists and performers manipulated social media platforms’ algorithms to expose their work and current struggles, using the hashtags #notlowskilled and #morethanviable. Thanks to this movement, we heard the voices of those who have been disrespected by our government. And we can do the same.

By declaring our support and admiration for the cultural industry, we will continue to bring awareness to the issues at hand, fighting to keep theatres out of the dark.

3. Buy from your local theatre

Theatres may be shut, but their websites are still running, which means their gift shops are, too. Take a look at the merchandise they have available and, if you can afford it, why not treat yourself to a musical-based item? Or purchase a Christmas gift for a fellow theatre-lover? There are some fantastic products out there that will not only make you or a loved one extremely happy, but it’ll also help protect your local theatre.

4. Follow and subscribe

It’s been seven months since theatres closed down, which has undoubtedly impacted those who worked there in one way or another. Our favourite performers, writers, musicians, costume designers, choreographers, and more have all had to deal with not only uncertainty and financial loss, but total disrespect from the government. Show them your support by following them on social media, subscribing to their newsletters – or those sent out by local venues – and let them know that you’re thinking of them. Remind them of how they’ve inspired you.

It might even be nice to send them a letter or leave notes outside of your closest theatre. Showing these artists that we do care and are rooting for them to get back to doing what they love will surely make someone’s day.

5. Keep up to date

These are unprecedented times for the theatre industry, but knowing that tickets will be bought once things are normal again will provide a little more security. Show that you are ready to return to your favourite shows by signing up for newsletters to express interest in supporting your favourite companies. Start planning your theatre trips and booking tickets (once you can afford them), and make sure to let the venue and actors know!

By staying positive and readying ourselves for theatre’s return, we can be sure that our beloved stories will return to the stage very soon.

How I’m Preparing For Camp NaNoWriMo

If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ll know that I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo next month!

For those who don’t know, NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is a challenge where you need to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. The main event takes place throughout November, but two camps (smaller versions of this challenge) occur in April and July. The difference is that you get to choose what you write and how much – a short story collection, poetry, whichever you prefer.

For my Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to set 40,000 words as my target. The reason for this is because I’m using this event to finish my novel, of which I’m already over halfway through, so I don’t think I need 50,000 words to finish it (fingers crossed).

Obviously, completing NaNoWriMo is going to be tough if you don’t prepare. So I’m prepping as much as I can, based on the advice I’ve been given from other NaNoWriMo’ers and what I’ve read online. I thought I’d share what I’ve learnt so far to help anyone else starting out on their journey.

Set a realistic target

As aforementioned, Camp NaNoWriMo allows you to set your own writing target.

It’s tempting to set a small goal that you know you’ll reach. For some, it can also be tempting to set yourself a larger target that’s more challenging, as it seems more impressive and the reward will be greater.

The issue with doing either of these is that they’re not realistic goals. Smaller targets that you find easy do not push you enough, but challenges that are too far-fetched are going to make you feel worse about your work; you’ll feel that they’re unattainable, so you’re more likely to give up.

Set a target that you know you can reach, as long as you put in the effort. You’ll achieve more and meet your word count in no time!

Schedule your time

To complete NaNoWriMo, you need to prioritise writing above pretty much everything else (aside from socialising, and general self-care, of course). It’s recommended that you create a schedule for the month so you can assign individual word counts for each day, based around how much time you’ll have.

I’ve made a calendar using Google Sheets, on which I’ve noted my writing targets, as well as space to fill in my total daily word count. It’s a quick and easy way to track my progress, and it saves automatically so I can access it at any time.

Research as much as you can beforehand

Picture this: you’re typing frantically, your fingers struggling to keep up with the speed of your brain, but then you need to stop. You’ve reached a point in the chapter where more research is required; you can’t continue until you’ve double-checked transport methods from the 1300s, or there’s some war going on but you can’t remember the date of one of the battles.

Research can be incredibly time-consuming, depending on the topic. As I’m writing historical fiction, I’ve made it my goal this month to research as many topics as needed. Earlier this month, I plotted my remaining chapters in more detail. Then, I added another tab in my Google sheet for crucial facts I’ll need when writing next month. This way, I won’t get caught up in finding the info I need to keep writing.

This is especially handy if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands – there’ll be nothing holding you back from getting those words down.

Get reading

As Stephen King said:

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

The more we read, the better writers we become. Therefore, reading is one of the best ways you can prepare yourself for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Personally, my writing is 100x better when I’ve been reading a lot. The right words come to mind more swiftly and I spend less time imagining how long I need to bang my head against a wall to get my brain working.

Try and read a book that’s related to your writing project; it could be from the same genre, the same author, or it could have similar plot elements. Anything that will keep inspiring you throughout the month will be a huge help.

Check out NaNoWriMo’s site

The NaNoWriMo website is a web of resources for anyone participating at any point during the year. You’ll undoubtedly find something you need from the prepping ideas on their blog, and the forums and local groups.

NaNoWriMo is a community, something you’ll sense as soon as you start exploring their webpages. I personally love the various writing groups hosted by your local area rep. Obviously, we can’t all meet in person at the moment, but your rep will share resources to help you prepare, motivate you as you tackle your writing project, and keep you updated if need be.

You feel like you’re apart of something incredible when you join, meeting new people up and down the country, coming together to write.

Be kind to yourself

Last one, but certainly not the least.

Writing is hard; we all know that. No one will write a perfect chapter every single day next month – it’s impossible. What will happen is that some days we’ll write something we’re happy with, and then on other days, we’ll maybe write five words max, or 1000 words that we’ll want to delete.

I started writing in notebooks over my laptop when I realised that I spent more time editing on my computer than actually putting words down. It would take me half hour to write a paragraph because I kept deleting sentences, hoping I could come up with something better.

But NaNoWriMo isn’t like that. In fact, it doesn’t allow that to happen. This challenge is all about building a writing habit and getting as much down as possible, whether it’s perfect or not. And it won’t be, especially if, like me, you’re writing a first draft.

So don’t beat yourself up if you’re unimpressed with your work so far. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to come up with beautifully-crafted descriptions; just jot down some sentences, and you can work on them later. Nor does it matter if 10 words are all you can conjure one day. It happens.

Just relax, breathe, and remember why you’re doing this. I’ve made several motivational notes to stop me from criticising myself and take a break if I need to, which hopefully will help!

Remember, it doesn’t matter how many words you write in a day. You just need to hit your target by the end of the month.

We got this.

The Thoughts Of A Bookstagrammer

When I started my bookstagram account, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. It’s simultaneously exciting, motivating, stressful and intimidating – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve scrolled through my feed and thought ‘Why can’t I take photos like that?’ or ‘Wow, this person just reached 5643789 followers. My account is moving so slooowly.’ And I know from conversations and many Insta captions that I’m not alone here.

So, I’ve compiled a list of things I, a bookstagrammer, typically think in a day in the hopes of finding more people that share the same thoughts. And I’ve only included 10, but I’m pretty sure I could write about a lot more

That book sounds incredible…

*adds to the many other books in my online shopping book*

It also looks stunning. Perfect for my feed.

We are all guilty of simply ordering a book for the ‘gram.

I have an idea for a photo but it’s going to take so.much.time.

#bedofooks photos anyone?

WHY CAN I NOT TAKE GOOD PHOTOS?

Fairy lights won’t twist the way I want. The colours don’t match. The arrangement looks off. My cup of tea is an awful colour. *574833 shots later* Great. It’s been hours, still not great and now the lighting is gone.

Finally! The perfect shot. Do I reaaaly need to put all of these books away now?

And the lights, leaves, bedding, teddies, and whatever else I’ve brought from downstairs.

Why does it always rain when I need to take an outdoor photo?

My theme is suffering for it.

This setting is not the setting that I need.

It’s Autumn – where are all the brightly coloured leaves?

People are coming. Be cool. It’s only a photo.

But they don’t stop staring!

THEY WON’T LEAVE.

How dare they use a public space and interrupt my photo session?

You know what, just do it. You’ll never see them again.

Could be worse – I could be doing drugs right now.

Right, done. GO GO GO

Never do I pack anything as quickly as my books and props.

Now, let’s check the photos…

I’ve done it again. My finger is covering the title.

ffs.

Not even worth it. My photos are terrible.

WHY CAN’T I TAKE GOOD PHOTOS

Wonder if editing will make a difference…

This needs to be darker, this bit needs to be lighter, this needs to be straighter, and my entire face needs improvements.

Omg. It actually looks good!

Maybe I’m better at this than I thought.

HOW DO I WRITE GOOD CAPTIONS???

Seriously, how do people do this?

Ok all done. Now let’s see what everyone else is posting….

Like…like…like…like….WHY CAN’T I TAKE GOOD PHOTOS LIKE THAT???

*450 hours later* Time for some reading now I think.

I think I’ll read that book that everyone is talking about on Instagram.

So the last five books have been featured on my grid, and I’ve read two of them.

I have a LONG TBR. It’s cool though, I’ll read them eventually.

Wow. This book is insane. I can see the hype.

Thank you to the person who recommended this to me.

Oh.My.God. I can’t believe he’s been killed off.

I wonder what *insert bookstagrammer’s name* thought of this?

Finished. Wow. Insane.

And so begins the stage where I mourn every character in the book.

I should totally review this for my blog.

Because everyone needs to know about every book I ever read.

I also need to take a photo of it for the ‘gram…

Way too dark now. I’ll do it tomorrow.

*wakes up* *takes photos*

WHY CAN’T I TAKE GOOD PHOTOS?!??!

A 5-Day Trip To Rome 2019

In September, I travelled to Rome with my boyfriend for the first time, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful and eye-opening experiences that I’ve had so far.

Rome is a city that has always stood out to me for many reasons. For one, it’s always looked so so beautiful (turns out, it’s even more so in real life!), and secondly, it’s a city that is full of culture and history, and I knew that I would come away feeling breathless and enlightened.

I can confirm that I did leave the country feeling both of those things and more. I was undoubtedly tired – if you ever go to Rome, be prepared for a lot of walking! But I would happily suffer from aching feet all my life is it means I get to explore the beautiful cobbled streets and small neighbourhoods again.

So here’s what we saw on our trip to Rome.

Our First Evening

So we landed in Rome Fiumicino airport – also known as the Leonardo Da Vinci airport – and it took us just under an hour to get to our Airbnb, located in Roma Nomentana, which was pretty good going. We selected our BnB because it was in a local area away from the bustle of the city centre so that we could experience true Rome without so much of the tourist traps. The first thing that captivated us was the clusters of pastel-coloured flats, each window accompanied by a pair of dark green shutters, some with small balconies, a few of which shelving potted plants, some buildings even had ivy twisting up the walls. It looked quaint, and the streets were quiet as it was a Thursday evening.

Admittedly, we did get lost. But when we finally found our BnB – a basement apartment tucked away on a small street – we dumped our bags and listened to our host Luigi’s restaurant recommendations as we were both starving (we almost missed our flight so did a runner and missed our chance to grab some food!).

He suggested The Trap, a small restaurant that was cheap yet so so good. As it was not a tourist place, there were no English translations, so the waitress had to help us work out what some of the dishes were, but she was lovely and willing to answer all of our questions. However, I misheard her at some point, because I ended up ordering a pizza that had streaks of ham adorning it – and I hate red meat! Whoops. I tried it anyway as I felt bad but still wasn’t a fan. So my boyfriend picked the ham, while I ate the rest, which was one of the best I had on our holiday. My boyfriend thought the same about his pizza too.

Once we were stuffed, we headed back to our BnB for the night.

The Colosseum, Palatine Hill & The Forum

We woke early the next day and got the metro into the centre of Rome. Our first stop was Castel Saint’ Angelo as we needed to collect our Roma Passes from the tourist info point just outside (highly recommend getting one of these if you’re going to Rome). This was easy to find, and the Castel itself looked so intriguing that we visited a few days later.

So, once we collected our passes, we were off to the Colosseum.

The only thing is, it takes 40 mins approx to get from Castel Sant’Angelo to the Colosseum, which usually is fine for my boyfriend and I as we don’t mind walking long distances. But, Rome’s streets are quite uneven, we weren’t 100% sure of the route, and it was 27 degrees. So it actually took us longer to get there than we anticipated.

However, this walk also presented us with its advantages, as we got to see more of Rome than we would have if we got a bus or taxi. It was so beautiful, diverse, and the architecture was breathtaking. You could see snippets of Rome’s history on every street, the remains of the buildings and constructions that showcase the city, spanning across centuries.

We spotted the Colosseum a few miles out, the top of the curved infrastructure peered out to us over the central courtyard and the herds of huge tourist groups wearing walkie talkies attached by a green cotton string, all blocking the way. After a long walk, it sure was a delight to see the Colosseum at last.

The Colosseum

After an hour’s wait in the skip the line queue and navigating through security, we were finally walking inside the Colosseum. And I’m struggling to find the words that explain how incredible and insightful it was, so I’m just going to leave you with some photos.

Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill was a refreshing place to visit, as, other than the remains of Ancient Roman palaces and houses, there were old vineyards, gardens, and fields stretching around the marble and stone buildings, a nice break after the bustle of the Colosseum. It also gives you the chance to take in some of the most beautiful views of Rome itself.

The Forum

The Forum was high on my list of places to visit, but I can safely say that we spent more time there than I imagines as it is bloody massive. It’s one of the few sites where you can feel history coming alive as you walk through the ancient remains of temples and palaces, including Nero’s. Our feet were screaming by this point, but it was so extraordinary that we had to explore every corner here.

After an incredibly long day (35,000 steps on a scorching day!), my boyfriend and I got a train back to our BnB for a quick nap before getting dinner at a local restaurant nearby.

The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel

Seeing how busy the queues were for the Colosseum, we knew we had to get to the Vatican early. We had booked tickets for 11.30, so we initially set our alarms for 7 (shower, food, train into town, queues) but didn’t get up until eight something whoops. Where our BnB was a basement flat, the lights were dim, and it was dark and cosy inside, making getting up early quite a challenge throughout this holiday!

When we were back into the Roman centre, the first thing we did was hunt for a coffee shop (we lived off coffee during our time there). We found a small one on a little cobbled street slightly out of the central piazzas that were quiet that morning. After conversing with the charismatic host, we sat down outside with a cappuccino and pastry each.

This is one of my favourite memories of Rome, as the warming sun was still fresh and slightly crisp, and sitting there observing the daily life of Italy was just so charming. In a way, I didn’t want to leave for the Vatican!

But I’m so glad that we did, though. The Vatican Museums are breathtaking, full of a wide variety of art collected from around the world across centuries. My favourite was the tapestry room, where intricate religious scenes were sewn and hung from one end of the dark room to the other.

And let’s not forget about the Sistine Chapel. Standing underneath Michaelangelo’s infamous ceiling was undoubtedly an unforgettable experience.

The only negative thing I have to say is that the Vatican is so overcrowded – we were all huddling along like eccentric penguins, stretching their necks to see the architecture and artwork. I will admit that it did take away from the experience for me as it made the tour more tiring, and, as a very impatient person, I did get frustrated at the tour groups who kept stopping in the middle of the walkways!

Castel Saint’ Angelo

After the Vatican, we were both starving, so gave in and stopped at a tourist trap restaurant (we promised ourselves we’d try and avoid as many of these as possible!) located around the corner which the worst moment of the holiday in all honesty. The coffee wasn’t right, and our sandwich fillings only covered half the bread.

We wandered around the city, which was becoming insanely busy as it was a Saturday. The sky started to turn burnt orange, and the buildings lit up. We noticed more tourists emerging and being targeted by the salespeople on the streets and felt excited by how busy it was. After discovering a few small areas that we hadn’t seen before, we found ourselves by Castel Saint’ Angelo and decided to use our Roma passes and explore.

This is by far one of my favourite moments of our holiday. After walking through the labyrinth of winding staircases, stately rooms, and ancient structures, we reached the top of the building. We discovered that there was a small cocktail bar – ten tables at most – that provided views overlooking the city. The river curved underneath the bridges, places that we hadn’t seen illuminated by the setting sun, and St Peter’s Basicillia towered over it all. It was breathtaking. We ended up staying there for hours (it was European Heritage Day, so sites remained open until 9/10 pm), drinking an Aperol Spritz while watching the sun fade into the river while the moon slowly took its place. It was beautiful, and it allowed us to see Rome in its full vibrancy – many shops were still open, the toys that salespeople were selling flashed neon lights, the sounds of conversations merging into the air. I teared up at the sight!

After finally tearing ourselves away from the view, we headed down to the ground on the hunt for food.

The Pantheon & The Trevi Fountain

Sunday had a bit of a lazy feel, as we hadn’t planned anything for this day – we were going to explore the things we’ve noticed but hadn’t had a chance to look at yet. We had our first lie-in, drank our 34738th cups of coffee for our time here, then headed out to grab lunch (pizzaaaa) and see the Pantheon.

The Pantheon

If you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan, I’m sure you can remember climbing this temple and purchasing it in the game – I did, and I didn’t know much about the Pantheon other than the game, so I was looking forward to learning more about it. We had attempted to visit this monument the night before as it was open later for European Heritage Day, but we got there just as it closed, so it became our priority this morning.

Now, if you go to ever go to Rome, make sure the Pantheon is at the top of your to-do list. Because wow.

When we turned the corner, the ancient temple loomed over Piazza Della Rotonda, so the square was a hub of activity as touristy restaurants lined the square and an incredibly long queue made its way around, all waiting for to see the Pantheon. The building itself is an architectural marvel – constructed in 120AD after the original burnt down, it’s survived wars and earthquakes, and so the unique structure stands.

The Trevi Fountain

After wandering around, buying gifts for family, and stopping in the Lindt cafe, we headed off to the Trevi Fountain.

Like the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain made my boyfriend, and I gasp as we turned the corner. Its fantastic marble depictions of sea horses, mermen, and the water crashing into the base of the fountain come together to personify the sea itself. I thought we’d only spend a few minutes there, but we ended up staying for around half-hour as there were so many intricate details to marvel at.

Our BnB Date

When planning out this trip, my boyfriend and I decided that one night we wanted to stay in and cook our own food using fresh Italian ingredients – we cook pasta a lot, so we wanted to do so but in the most authentic way possible. So we purchased fresh pasta, parmesan, ingredients for a tomato sauce, and even a loaf of bread to make garlic bread (I also popped into a bookshop!). I just wanted to share a few photos of this because it tasted so good, a vast difference compared to what we make at home. We even styled up the table with a rose we’d purchased the day before and prosecco (Italian prosecco tastes 1000x better than the stuff we get back in the UK, FYI).

An Italian Picnic In Villa Borghese

My boyfriend’s friend’s girlfriend is Italian, so we arranged to meet her in Rome (there were a lot of ‘friends’ in that sentence :L ). She took us to Villa Borghese, armed with a suitcase of food (not exaggerating), we laid out a picnic mat and tucked into the food and drink that she and her family had prepared for us – Italians certainly love to please!

We had cannelloni, tiramisu (the best out of our holiday), small almond parcels (never found out what they were!), and wine. It tasted amazing, some of the best food we had during our entire trip. She explained some of the things that we had noticed throughout our stay, such as a few cultural differences that took us by surprise, the constant harassment of salespeople, public transport, and just caught up with what was going on with our lives.

Afterward, we walked around the park – a refreshing break from the bustle of the city – and my boyfriend and I rented a boat on the enchanting artificial lake.

A bookstall we passed on the way to Villa Borghese

Once we said goodbye, we wandered around the surrounding high streets and then headed back to our BnB to get ready for dinner.

Our Final Night In Rome

Again, I wanted to take a moment to share our meal this night as it was our final night in Rome, and we went all out with our food.

We dressed up – as in he wore a suit and I wore a dress – and went to a more expensive restaurant in the city. We originally wanted a three-course meal, but as it was a Monday evening, everything closed earlier (10 pm), so we had a bottle of prosecco, calamari and pasta course each. One of our best meals out of our holiday. Then, after the restaurant closed, we wandered the uneven back streets, taking in the quietness of it all, and bought gelato at one of the 478394732 gelato places in Rome. I had tiramisu and Nutella! We ate in front of the Pantheon, then got a bus back to our BnB.

The morning after, we packed and stopped at a coffee shop near where we stayed, our wheelie cases announcing our entrance. It was nice to end in Nomantana as we got to savour calm, quaint Italy with its sunset-coloured flats, motorcyclists weaving their way through the school traffic while drinking cappuccinos that tasted better than what we had in the centre. Feeling tired and slightly blue about leaving, we got on the train to the airport and started our journey home.

23 Things That I’m Grateful For

I’m the type of person who is just not willing to settle. I have a sort-of plan for my future, and everything I do contributes towards that. When I start something, I’ll keep going until I’ve mastered it, become confident in it, then move on to the next challenge and utilise my newly-found skills. So, I try really hard to remind myself to be grateful for the things that I already have.

I say that like it’s a hard thing to do, but that’s because it is. I’m always looking for the next best thing (I sound so horrible when I say that!). So this blog is my reminder of every amazing thing in my life.

  1. I can read

There are so many adults and children – particularly women – who cannot read and do not have access to books. I’d hate to live in a world like that, as reading is an essential skill and books are one of the best things in life.

2. I can write

For same reasons as above.

3. I work for myself and make my own money

My first job, I was in the last year of secondary school and it was a paper round. I made hardly any money from it (£10 a week at most) and I absolutely hated the job but loved the fact that I had my own money to spend on whatever I wanted. I’m now even more grateful to be working on creative projects and making progress with my career goal, and, even though right now is not what I plan on doing forever, I’m happy to actually have a job that I enjoy.

4. I have ambition

As I said earlier, I know what I want to achieve in life and I have a rough idea of how I’m going to do it. Without a goal in life, I’d feel lost and like everything is pointless. I’ve known people who don’t have any particular aims or goals and are content working in a job that doesn’t mean much to them, who’ll then go home, watch TV and go to bed ready to live the same day over and over. Ambition is what pushes people to break out of that cycle and do something that they love, and I’m so so grateful to have it.

5. Creativity

Because I would not have achieved half the things I’ve achieved without it, nor would I be able to push myself further.

6. My ever-growing pile of books

Books inspire me to write, try new things, stand up for what I believe in, and pull me up from the ground whenever I feel like I’ve fallen.

7. The forest

Or any nature in general. While I love cities, it is the forest that inspires my writing, my book photos, and helps clear my headspace when needed.

8. The internet

Without it, my job wouldn’t exist neither my bookstagram account, and I wouldn’t be able to have my work published on different sites for people to see. Without the internet, I’m not sure where I’d be!

9. My confidence

Ok, so I’m not 100% confident yet. But I’m so so much better than what I used to be. I never had many friends and I had strict parents so I never went out until quite later than everyone else did – guess I just never learnt to socialise properly. There are still times when I’m barely speaking as I have no idea what to say, or I’d rather just hang back and listen, but I’m definitely speaking out more than I used to.

I remember putting off starting this blog and my bookstagram because I didn’t want people to read my writing or hear my opinions. And when I started my Insta, I refused to upload any pictures that showed my face. I didn’t introduce myself until about six months after starting my account as I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me.

Now, I still stutter and panic while my face turns into the colour of a tomato whenever I have to stand in front of people and speak, and I still don’t know what to say to people who I haven’t long met, but I now ask for help when I need it, can book appointments on the phone, and confidently tell people what I like to do without apologising for it. So yeah, I’m quite proud of myself.

10. I had the chance to go to university

I say this because it was during uni that my confidence really grew. It had to, else I wouldn’t have made any friends!

But it’s not just that. University is disgustingly expensive, and I know that there are so many young people who would love to go but can’t afford to. So I’m incredibly thankful for the amount of crippling debt I now have (which I probably will never pay off), as it meant that I got to further my education and expand my skills.

It is also because of university that I got to experience many new things. I lived without my parents, rented two houses, went on so many day and nights out (I held owls for the first time ever!) I joined societies and tried out new activities, learned to balance my work without my parents there to help (even though many of my deadlines were completed in the early hours of the morning they were due, whoops), realised exactly how much drink I can handle (a very important skill in my opinion, even if I ignored it most of the time), took up work experience with a magazine company, and I tried a long distance relationship for the first time (and we’re still going strong insert sunglasses emoji)

Without university, I would not have done even half of those things.

11. My mind

Ok, so this one is going to sound so stuck up, but I’m grateful for my mind’s ability to wander away and take me places with my thoughts, then come back again to this world with new ideas. To me, our minds are weapons, and I love that it keeps me thinking, dreaming, and helps me overcome any obstacles that I encounter.

12. Our generation

Our generation are currently fighting for so much. Equality, our planet, better working lives, mental health awareness. We’re working to for the houses, we want despite the rising prices, the kids that we’ll have once we’ve found a steady job and a suitable living space, we’re starting our own businesses, we’re working to make a difference in our world.

I love that I’ve witnessed movements such as #metoo and Black Lives Matter, the climate change protests. I love seeing us all take a stand, especially now that Trump and Johnson are in power, abortions have been taken away in America and there seems to be violent acts committed everyday. I am therefore thankful for the progressive thinkers who emerge from the hate and controversy and encourages us to do the same.

13. Water

For when you’re tired, hot, on the move, too drunk/hungover, sick, having a bad skin day…water fits every situation. And there are many out there in the world without a clean water source which affects their health.

Plus, that moment when you wake up in the night parched and neck a whole glass like it’s come from the Garden Of Eden itself is one of the best moments ever.

14. Cheese

Put this in because I’m writing while I’m hungry. And cheese really is the best food there is, especially when it’s on a pizza.

15. The fact that I’m not as self-conscious as I used to be

I used to shave my legs as soon as I saw one hair. I would never leave the house without make up. I wouldn’t even take my make up off before I went to bed because I hated the way my eyes looked without it.

At school, I received a few comments about my looks. I have tight tendons in my legs, so I walk funny, and I once heard two girls standing behind me trying to work out why I ‘walk funny’. A few years later in secondary, the same two girls were sat behind me in class laughing at how hairy my neck was. There was another time when we had to do an activity with cameras in class, and a boy took a photo then took the mick out of my smile. Girls would find it strange that I did my make up in the toilets and take it off at the end of the day, because I wasn’t allowed make up at home. I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was 18. All of these things made me so so self conscious, and I’d constantly be worrying about what I looked like.

Now, I wear dresses even if I haven’t shaved my legs. I can leave the house without make up and my curly hair on show. I don’t care that I walk funny and I’m not afraid to smile. I don’t cover up my spots.

I’m not perfect. I hate when my stomach is bloating or I worry if I feel too hot and get sweat patches. I worry that my hair looks greasy when I know it isn’t. But I’m nowhere near as bad as I once was, and I know that I’ll get over the remaining insecurities that I have. Because they’re normal – everyone has them.

16. The people who didn’t believe in me

As mentioned earlier, in school I was surrounded by comments and remarks about my appearance. Well I was also judged for what I wanted to do in life.

I remember the first time I told someone I wanted to be an author. Her exact words were ‘Have you ever written a book?” and when I said that I had, she snorted and said “Right,” and didn’t want to speak anything of it.

After that, I stayed quiet about my dream career. When I told another girl that I loved English, she said that it’s a pointless thing to be good at because ‘we can all read, what else do you need?”

One of my English teachers gave me a target grade lower than the rest of the class because she wasn’t sure if I’d improve by the end of the year (guess what – I did).

There have been many other comments in between and after that. And there have been many that weren’t just about writing and reading. The first memory that comes to mind is when I was in a group for a Science project (one of my worst subjects) and I had an idea, and the response was ‘Shut up Chloe’ and that I was being annoying. That was the first time I had spoken up, as I didn’t really understand anything else about what we were doing.

But these comments made me determined to prove people wrong. All these comments just add fuel to the fire, as I’m too competitive and stubborn to let them get to me. So to all those people, thank you.

17. The people who did believe in me

While I was motivated by the ones who didn’t believe in me, there were still moments when their words did get to me and I broke down. Without the people who helped put me back on track, my boyfriend, my friends, family, etc, I think I’d spend at least a week hiding away too afraid to do anything as I’m scared it won’t be good enough. I need those people around me to keep me going.

18. Coffee

Because I wouldn’t have got through uni without it, nor would I be able to get a train at 7 everyday.

19. Summer

I write this because it’s just started pouring down with rain, accompanied by thunder and flashes of writing. I hate the cold with a passion. Autumn is my least favourite season – it’s pretty, but cold, rainy, I don’t like wearing 5054789 layers and I most certainly do not like pumpkin lattes.

Sunny weather, longer days, summer dresses, beer gardens, picnics and writing outdoors. Now that’s what I get excited for.

20. The things I got to do before technology took over

Being a 90’s baby, my childhood consisted of days out in the woods, Haven holidays in the UK, Disney films, books and cheesy pop legends like Backstreet Boys. My youngest sister listens to songs about getting high, doesn’t really have any hobbies, and won’t let us sing happy birthday to her until she has had a photo taken. And she hasn’t watched every Disney film that exists.

That’s not a childhood to me.

21. A cup of tea

Especially in my favourite mug, brewed to perfection.

22. Sleep

Because 90% of adult life is spending the day thinking about your bed.

23. The little things that can really make my day

Someone’s reaction when they receive the perfect present. Making the train just before it leaves. Lazy Sunday mornings. Feeling proud of something I’ve done. Comfort meals and chocolate when I’m having a bad day. When I realise my period has finished. The times when my friends make me laugh so much I can’t breathe. Seeing my boyfriend. Shoes that don’t give me blisters. Catching the scent of my favourite candle. Baths. Having something to look forward to. And so much more.

So that’s me. Tell me about you – what are you grateful for?

Six months on

It’s crazy to think that I started this blog six months ago. I haven’t posted on here half as regularly as what I intended, so I think that’s why I feel a bit strange writing this, as if it’s my baby and I haven’t been looking after it the way I should be. But I’m still happy with it so far, and I love writing for it.

I never really wanted to post so much personal stuff on my blog, simply because I’m not that soppy and just get on with things instead of reflecting on them. But recently, my lack of writing has become so frustrating that I’ve settled for writing whatever comes to my head, and my post Finding the time to write was born. Turns out, I loved writing it, and since then I’ve been more open to posting random thoughts that come to mind.

It’s weird to think that my bookstagram started as a portfolio, a way to show my skills in social media. But it’s turned into something that I love doing, that I love looking at again and again. My blog started as a follow of this, when I realised how annoying it was to have so many thoughts that wouldn’t fit in an Instagram caption. It took me a month to create it, as I was too picky with the designs, and wanted each post to be perfect.

While I still have that picky mindset about the website itself (especially since starting my job for an SEO agency), when it comes to the blogs however, I don’t really care about making sure they’re perfect. I just do what I want to do and if a lot of people read it, then that’s incredible. But, I’ve stopped living with the fear of my latest post not reaching high standards and a large number of traffic, because this blog is only six months old.

I’ve always had a plan about my life, where I want to be and how I’m going to get there. I set myself high standards, and beat myself up when I don’t achieve them. I think that’s why my novel has been taking so long; I’d write three sentences then spend a good fifteen minutes at least trying to think of better wording and check I’ve properly built up whatever it is that I’m writing about.

But now, I write in my notebook before my laptop, so I can just scribble words down and edit them later. I’ve got so much more done in the past couple months than I did last year, and that was when it was my dissertation. I’ve still set myself a deadline, but I’m not worrying too much about it being perfect. And that’s also how I feel about my blog.

So, who knows what it’s going to look like six months from now? It might be the same, or I might have changed it all completely. That’s what I find exciting about all this – watching my blog grow and grow.

“Don’t worry about it”

How many times in your life have you heard the phrase ‘Don’t worry about it,’’ or been told ‘not to worry’? I’ve heard it a countless number of times.

The thing is, I am a worrier. I always have been. I worry about the work I have; I worry that people don’t like me. I worry that my novel will be turned down by every publisher on this earth. I’m always wondering what would happen if I don’t finish that guest blog from last week, or if I forget to keep in contact with the people I freelance for? Or what if we don’t save the planet in time, or what if one day my boyfriend wakes up and suddenly decides that he doesn’t like me anymore?

I think I was told not to worry by pretty much everyone when I was applying for grad jobs near the end of uni. Whenever I mentioned that I had applied for 478783 jobs so far, but no one had got in contact, “don’t worry about it” was the go-to response. And I hated it. I never really knew what to say, as it was frankly a stupid thing to say to someone in that type of situation. We all worry about not having a job. Our lives depend on one; we literally cannot live without working at some point in our lives. When you’re searching for a job, you have every reason to worry, and we all know that. So what’s the point in telling us not to?

I feel that way with any situation. We all worry when something we’ve been working on for years doesn’t amount to anything. Imagine how stressed Tolkien would have been (presumably) sending Lord of the Rings to a publisher after spending an entire ten years (!!) on it? There’s always a slither of doubt creeping into the back of our minds, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Even if we push it away, it’s still there.

Yes, some things don’t require as much worrying as others – there’s a difference between panicking over losing money and whether your hair looks good, but that’s up to use to be brave and just accept that that horrible little voice is right. Because sometimes, your hair doesn’t look good. No offence to anyone, but we’ve all been there.

The super cool product that you’ve spent aaaages making might actually be nothing but crap. You might not be as good at drawing as you think you are. Your novel might get rejected. That’s life.

We all consider these sorts of things, and that’s OK because that encourages us to work even harder. It’s your motivation, proving that dark voice wrong. And if you didn’t, that’s OK too, because you would have learned from that and got on with your next project – and it will always be even better than the last one.

So next time you’re about to tell someone not to worry, don’t. Yes, comfort them, make them feel better, let them know that they are doing an excellent job, but don’t tell them not to worry. Because if they stay super chill all of their lives, they are left with this false sense of security as nothing is going ever going to go drastically wrong. And when it does, they’re in for a shock.

8 things that made me happy this month

March was a pretty good month – it usually is anyway because the weather is slightly warmer and sunnier and we’re even closer to summer, but this time it was really really good.

New books

I bought myself two new books this month which always makes me happy. The first one was The Bear and the Nightingale, which I have heard so many good things about, and Enchante, one that I had never heard of before but sounded interesting, and the cover is beautiful! It’s set during the French Revolution and I’ve never read a book that’s set in that time period, so I’m excited to start reading it.

 

 

I met Katherine Arden

The advantage of working in Cheltenham is that I am close to a Waterstones five days a week, and I can easily fit their events into my day. I spent my work break last week queuing amongst the bookshelves, clutching The Bear and the Nightingale, praying that I would have time to meet Katherine Arden. I did, even if it was for only five minutes, but she was lovely, and I wish I had more time to speak to her properly. She took the time with everyone she talked to, making an effort to get to know her fans, which I thought was so lovely of her. Many authors tend to take a sign-and-go approach to book signings, so it was lovely to see someone who chilled out a bit more.

I had an awesome review at work

I had my three-month review on Friday, and I felt proud of myself. I’m doing really well, and I know my targets for the next three months – I’m looking forward to improving myself and coming out with even better results.

Tried a Costa-Kinder Bueno Concoction

Hot chocolate is one of my go-to drinks at Costa, and now that they’ve released the white hot chocolate, it’s all I seem to be drinking. One of the girls who works in one of the Cheltenham branches suggested I add a hazelnut shot to it because it tastes like Kinder Bueno, and she wasn’t wrong. It’s not sickly, not too sweet, yet still satisfies my chocolate cravings. I order a medium size and it’s gone in about three seconds every. time. I highly recommend.

My Instagram is taking off

I wrote in a recent post that I hadn’t loved my bookstagram really, which is a shame as it’s what led me to create this blog and I have such fun with it. However, I’ve been going out quite a bit and taking lots of photos, plus with new books to take pictures off, and I think I’m back on track.

Just a quick note to say, thank you to those who are following me, I’ve made so many friends across different countries, and if it weren’t for you guys, I wouldn’t have started this blog.

I’ve read the most books this month compared to the beginning of the year

January and February were quite slow in terms of reading. Jan was about reading His Dark Materials series (reviews here and here – I did read all three, just haven’t written up my thoughts on the third installment whoops) and in February I got hardly any reading done.

However, this month, I’ve read books such as The Familiars, The Silence of the Girls, The Librarian and right now, The Bear and the Nightingale. Reading these types of books as well have provided me with so much inspiration for my writing, both novel and blog, and I love it. March has been a productive month for me.

 

 

I’m going to Rome!!!

My boyfriend and I booked a holiday to Rome in September, and I’m already so excited I think I might explode.

I took my place as ruler of the Seven Kingdoms

HBO revealed that six replicas of the Iron Throne have been placed in different locations across the world – turns out the first, the Throne of the Forest, was in Puzzlewood in Forest of Dean. On Saturday we went for a hunt through the forest, and after TWO AND A HALF HOURS of waiting, I was crowned Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. An epic way to end the month.

An ode to the creative person

Want to know something awesome?

You can lift yourself into a whole new world, just by putting words down on a piece of paper. Write one word, then another, and then another, and soon you will find yourself transported into a different world that is built entirely by your imagination.

Creative people are the best kind of people, not that I’m biased or anything ha. Creatives are curious, excited, passionate, always noticing the little things about their world and channeling their discoveries and ideas into their work, no matter what form it takes.

Curious about everything and anything, wanting to play around and explore, experimenting with what you love. It’s all about that moment when a thought hits you hard enough to ignite a spark that’s so strong it consumes you; it’s suddenly all you can think about. If you’re doing something small and mundane like washing up or sat at your desk in the office trying to concentrate on the task at hand, but instead you sit there dreaming about this idea and the impact it could have. Because, in one way or another, every project you take on will have some sort of influence somewhere, even if it is only on yourself.

Creative people never stop working, you see. Even if it’s only thinking about the next stage of their work, preparing themselves for when they can get to their desired workspace and start putting pen to paper (or paintbrush to canvas, or fingers to keyboard or guitar strings, or fingers to camera – that last one was so poorly written, but you get what I mean ha). When you look at successful creatives, there is one common thread between every single one of them: they never gave up. They kept on working for as long as they could on a daily basis. Any moment of time that they suddenly have, they used it for their pursuits. Creative people are some of the most hardworking people you will ever meet. And they are like this for many reasons.

One is that they literally cannot escape their ideas. Ideas loom over you, taking over your life. They can stay with you for days, months, years. They sit with you when you’re drinking your morning coffee, walking alongside you on your morning commute, sleeping next to you every night. Ideas attach themselves to you, and consumes you, the basis of your motivation.

Another reason is the fight. I think what’s amazing about creatives is that they fight against the time they have and their struggles, with no guarantee that it will ever amount to anything. Emily Dickinson wrote against the lack of encouragement she received, the lack of response from those who read her work, continuously scribbling away in isolation and her loneliness. Charles Dickens fought against his lack of education and his poor working conditions by writing fifteen novels and hundreds of short stories, campaigning for social reforms like children’s rights and education. Nothing stops a creative person, because they refuse to let it.

To put it simply, creative people are amazing.

Creativity is a raw expression of oneself – no one creates work from nothing (I hope I got that saying right). Creatives are motivated by what they see, feel, hear, think. They then take all of that and put it on display for everyone to see. I don’t think there’s anything braver.

Just think. That book you read that you can’t stop thinking about? That song that you listen to on repeat without interruption? That film that you keep telling people to watch? That photograph or artwork that was so captivating you almost cried? That musical that had you on the edge of your seat? Creative people did that. They’ve had an impact on your life, by expressing something from their own.

To summarise, I love being a creative person. Also, more importantly, I love writing.

Finding The Time To Write

Notebook

For as long as I can remember, everyone has told me that the key to becoming a great writer is to write something every day. It’s true, and I’ve always known that; my writing is usually better quality when I’m doing it consistently. It’s also easier to come up with ideas for both my book blog and novel after frequent reading sessions.

Recently though, my writing routine has been fading into oblivion. Being hit by a spark of creativity is rare, and it’s been frustrating me for a while.

I’ve been thinking about my writing a lot the past few weeks or so. Last month, I went full time in my marketing job as I began to take on more responsibilities, an exciting step in the right direction for me. Plus, it’s nice to have a job that I actually enjoy (pretty sure that this is the first time ever?)

‘an exciting step in the right direction.’ I’m looking at these words as if they shouldn’t be there like they’re wrong, and I’m telling lies.

This is all that I’ve been doing of late – questioning everything, doubting my decisions. My number one ambition in life is to become an author and a freelance writer alongside, but how can I do that if I’m not writing?

This very post that you’re reading is the most that I’ve written, in one go, in a while. Before, I found it so easy to write, even on a train at 7.30 in the morning that’s filled with bleary-eyed commuters who have taken all the seats. However, for the past few weeks, all I’ve been doing is getting my notebook out, and that’s it. Either no words come to mind and I struggle to put pen to paper, or I force myself to jot down random things that come out as dry, bland and, frankly, crap. I hated it, the thought of a blank page or horrid sentences that meant absolutely nothing.

Every writer I know has gone through either a burnout or writer’s block. A few weeks ago, this is what I thought my problem was; It was a week where I had a lot to do, I was tired every day and had recently finished writing a piece for another site. Once I had written that that was it. I stopped writing, my reading slowed down, and I was falling asleep almost as soon as I got home. Nothing was being done. I kept telling myself that I had done quite a lot recently, and so a few days off wasn’t hurting anyone. But now I fear that this is becoming my routine, and I can’t let that happen.

My lack of reading and writing is reflected clearly through my content on not only this blog but my bookstagram as well. The last time I had a serious photo session was before I went full time, well over a month ago now. That’s pretty obvious if you look at my feed – my recent photos were either taken within five minutes featuring books that have already appeared on my account multiple times, or unused images that were taken months ago.

This weekend I have more time, so I WILL get outside and take better photos.

Even though I have more time right now, I don’t necessarily mean that I have less work to do or anything. My weekends are usually spent with my boyfriend, friends or family, as I don’t really get to see them during the week. But I also have my novel, blog, and freelance work, and that’s a lot to squeeze into a weekend. Maybe that’s why it goes so quickly.

Maybe I need to take a step back and consider different ways to do this. My freelance work has high priority, obviously, but I’m determined to make more time for my novel. This could mean neglecting my blog (not that I post regularly enough on here anyway, whoops) which makes me feel somewhat sad because I like writing on here. But, for now, it might have to become my random, sporadic-moments-of-creativity thing and my novel the essential, instead of the other way round.

I’m not saying I hate my job because I don’t. I enjoy it. It’s the changes in my routine that I’m not so fussed about. I just want to feel motivated again, have a longing to write all day, every day, even when I genuinely can’t at times. I want to get excited when I have an idea, and I want that to happen often. I always used to, and I miss it.

My goal this year was to finish my first draft, and I’m going to stick to that goal. I’m determined to be a writer again.