Reading & Reviewing

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I love reading – I always have done! I’ve mentioned it many times before, I’m sure! When I was younger, I’d sit in the playground, upon the wall with my nose stuck in a book. Usually it was a Harry Potter book, however I would also occasionally venture out into the realms of Enid Blyton, Roald  Dahl and  Jill Murphy.

After I finished my A-Levels, I took a gap year during which I spent my time to volunteering at a Holiday Center in Sheffield. It was amazing – really, the best year of my life! However, my time was taken. I read a few books here and there, I covered a couple of songs for YouTube, I did a small amount of knitting  – but in the grand scheme of things, most of my hobbies dwindled away. The terrible thing was, I didn’t even realise that it was happening!

At the beginning of this year (yes, more than a year after my gap year ended!) I resolved to read more, and more importantly – to actually critique what I was reading. And that’s exactly what I have been doing!

I plan to start writing book reviews on this blog. I haven’t written many reviews in my lifetime – a few obligatory ones for my year 8 English class – so forgive me if I am a little rusty!

So for now, I shall bid you goodnight – but hopefully I will return sooner (rather than later) with some posts about books!

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Turn on the tap…

blog, nanowrimo, writing

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I have made it to the half way point. I have managed – somehow – to write a blog post every day for two weeks. Whoa. I am impressed with myself! I know that I’m only half way there but I am so glad that I’ve managed that make it this far! However, some days I feel like I’ve hit a wall. A dry spot. I want what I write to be something interesting, something that people actually want to read but it can be so difficult to know whether it is or not. I haven’t really got anyone to share my writing with before I ‘publish’ it on here, no one to tell me, “Um, Leah…that’s actually kind of boring.”

I set myself the task of writing something every day of this month for a reason. I want to create a habit – a creative habit! I don’t want writing to become a chore for me, I want writing to be something that I go out to do by impulse, “just because”. When I hit a ‘creative dry spell’ I want to automatically make the decision to just sit down at my computer, or with a notebook – and just write. What comes out of the tips of my fingers might not be the best of compositions, but I know that it will eventually ‘turn on the tap’, so to speak.

I don’t want to get home from work every night to just flick through Facebook and Twitter, maybe play a video game or two and then to fall asleep. I want to wake up an hour earlier than I need to in the morning, and write! I want to take notice of everything around me and describe it. Imagine stories and then put them down on paper. I want to make the most of my time here.

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L’Amour

Sometimes I have the opposite issue. I have so many thoughts and ideas in my mind, and I can’t physically write it all down! I get overwhelmed. I will start to write one thing, and then suddenly move on to another – it’s like a creative ADHD. (You might have noticed that in my previous posts…sorry about that! I’m a bit like that in real life too. One moment we will be talking about a movie we’ve just seen, and then all of a sudden I’ll be talking about something completely irrelevant. Of course I’ll expect everyone to know what I’m going on about.) The vast amount of stories in my head immobilises me.

Today I was knitting (see what I mean about the ADHD? There is a point to this, seriously..!) and I decided to pick up a work in progress that I put down months ago. I have so many unfinished projects up in my room and it often feels like I can’t start another one until I have finished the rest! I’m feel like this when I am writing. I’ll push stories and characters to the back of my mind, hoping to extract them at a later date…I never do. I try to force myself to finish something that I’m not feeling inspired to complete. Perhaps I’m just not ready to end that tale just yet…

I guess what I’m trying to say is, write regardless. Write when you haven’t got anything to write about – because you will find something. Write when you have too much to write about – otherwise you might forget it. Start new projects before you finish others, write little biographies for characters from a different land, write descriptive writings of uninhabited cities! And use them at a later date. Who knows, maybe writing something fresh will inspire you to finish something old.

A Blog About Blogging!

blog, blogging, nanowrimo

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Today I am going to, at the request of David, write a blog about blogging. (I didn’t know what to write about!) Okay, okay I’ll come clean. This WordPress blog isn’t the first blog that I’ve attempted to write. Over the years I have tried starting a blog on Blogspot, one on Tumblr, and I’ve even tried video blogging (or vlogging) on YouTube! They’ve never really worked out. In this post, I’m going to explore what may have prevented me from sticking with my previous blogs, and perhaps I’ll be able to avoid abandoning this one!

Firstly, I was too afraid to share my blog with my friends. I would type posts up on my laptop, upload them to the blog and then immediately delete any documents that I’d made, for fear that one of my siblings would find them. Sometimes I’d go as far as to delete my internet history! I treated my blogs like some dirty little secret, afraid that people would laugh at my opinions, my poetry, passions… Looking back I realise that it was all a bit silly really…

Secondly, I felt like my blog had to have one particular theme. Even when I started this blog, I did so having chosen one topic, with the intention of writing blogs solely about it. I felt like my blog had to be just about social justice, or just about fashion, or just about food. I felt like having a too varied blog would put people off and they wouldn’t want to read it. In hindsight, I realise how daft that was – I mean, who wants to read about the same thing every day? Who wants to write about the same thing every day? Variety is definitely a good thing; it’s what keeps people interested.

Thirdly, I often lost the ‘will’ to carry on. Like I said before, I never used to share this on my Facebook or Twitter. No one knew about it, and so no one cared. Alongside writing, I also love singing and I have a Youtube channel which I post song covers on. Whenever I upload a video I share it straight to my Facebook profile where my friends can give me feedback. If I don’t post a video for a couple of months, someone asks me why – it keeps me motivated. Although I don’t share this blog directly onto my Facebook page, I link it to my Twitter and other social networks that I use. Knowing that there’s a chance that my blog is being read by my friends and family (even if it is just my Dad!) makes me want to stick to this. I think that some people have a certain opinion of me, the opinion that I don’t see things through to the end, that I quit too early on. This time, it will be different! (Don’t they all say that..?)

Finally, I didn’t think that I was a good enough writer. One of the many reasons that I didn’t like to show my writing to my friends was because I thought that they would think that it was rubbish! It wasn’t just that I thought that they’d disagree with me or that they’d laugh at me for having a blog – how uncool! – I just had so much self-doubt in my writing ability. Regardless of the fact that I have an A-Level in English Literature and that I excelled in the more creative projects in class, I just didn’t have enough faith in my writing. It has only been more recently that I have realised that you don’t need to have a degree in English Literature or whatever to be able to write well, or to write something that other people are interested in.

I have spent too long caring about how other people would judge me, how my friends would react to me writing my daily thoughts and publishing them on the internet. A simple blog. Now that I’m slightly older and, dare-I-say wiser, I know that I just need to do what makes me happy, and writing is among that very long list of things that make me happy! If you enjoy writing but are afraid of what other people will think of you, I really do urge you to go ahead and write any way! Share it with a close friend or someone that you know who enjoys writing too. Ask for advice on how to improve and try to take any criticism that comes your way constructively – really try not to take it to heart. Good luck!

“L” is for the way you look at me…

blog, dating advice, looking for love, love, nanowrimo, relationships

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Starting a month long project can be daunting. It is day 7, and I feel like I could already be faltering – I’m only a week in! Thankfully my job is pretty mindless and I’m left with my thoughts so I can spend my days thinking about what I want to write about next. (My coworkers manage to give me daily ammunition with the disgustingly sexist and crude comments that they make! I have a feeling that there will be some anti-sexual harassment posts coming your way in the near future..!) Alongside the mind numbingly simple job I have, I have also had a good couple of hours after work/before my nightly Skype session with the boyfriend in which I can sit and write. Its very nice and I’m sure that once this month is up I will spend some of those hours reading instead of writing…what bliss it will be!

Today, my boyfriend is coming over. He lives in Leeds, so I can only see him at the weekends. The train journey can take up to two and a half hours, which probably isn’t the first thing anyone would want to do after a long day at work! Last week it was my mother’s Birthday, and so we decided that he should have a weekend to himself and I could spend a bit more time with my family…so he didn’t visit last weekend. *Sad face*. Therefore I am very excited to see him!

Whilst I’m on the topic of relationships, I would like to address an issue that a friend of mine has had. She recently asked me for some “relationship advice” (apparently having had one boyfriend in my life means I know what I’m on about..!) Basically, all of her friends are in relationships. Some are moving in together, others are getting engaged and some are even having children! She just feels that she is falling behind in the “dating game” or something. She feels like her friends have all deserted her; that they didn’t have time for her anymore. She thinks that they’re all so focussed on their significant others, that it is as if she doesn’t even exist any more! She hasn’t had a boyfriend before, but she’s never really met anyone that she likes enough to date.

I know that it’s easy for me to say this now, but for anyone feeling this way, “the one” will arrive, whether you’ve known them since your childhood, or whether you’ll meet them at the age of forty! Before I met David I really felt like I would never meet a man that I liked enough, and who liked me enough. I honestly believed that I was going to live out the rest of my life single, either living alone with an army of cats, or in a Convent. One of the two. I thought that no man would ever look at me twice, that I was too plain, that my sisters were just far more interesting. I was too shy to go out and meet people on my own, but when I went with others, it was if I didn’t exist – they over shadowed me.

In hindsight, I am really glad that no one was interested and that I waited for David to come along. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with having more than one relationship in your life, I’m just glad that I waited until now to have my first (and hopefully last!) It makes our relationship seem so much more meaningful to me. Neither of us are comparing the other to an old flame.

I guess I have one question. Why do we as a society base our self-worth and success so much upon our relationship status? So many people allow their relationships, or lack thereof to define them. I know that I did before I met David! Looking back I realise that it wasn’t until I was content and comfortable with the single life, that he came along. I wasn’t looking for anyone, and then he was there. I wasn’t flirting with every guy I met, hoping that perhaps they would return the action. I was myself. And when I met David, he met the real me. I had felt like I was falling behind in the dating game too, but in reality the right guy just hadn’t come along yet!

He/she will be worth the wait!

(I would also like to say, if you’re not interested in a relationship, then that is great too! My post is really more geared towards those who are looking for love, but I am aware that, that won’t be everyone who is reading this.)

Time, please slow down!

blog, nablopomo, nanopomo, nanowrimo, writing

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This morning it hit me. It is November. It is the fourth day of the eleventh month! I can hardly believe how fast the time has flown, how quickly this year has tiptoed past me, without even catching my notice. It’s kind of scary, really. It feels like only yesterday that fifteen year old me was sat in a classroom, bored out of my mind and just wanting to grow up! To finish my GCSE’s, leave school, get a job – to get away from the bore of classes that weren’t art or music or drama. I thought that my maths homework was the hardest thing in the world and that school would never end. But it did.

I took a Gap Year which flew by – too fast. It was probably the best year of my life. I worked at the Oakes in Sheffield; we ran activity camps for 8-18 year olds and it was wonderful! I met some of the best people that I know that year, and even though I’m personally particularly terrible at staying in touch, I know that whenever I go to talk to any of them, it is as if no time has passed at all. Last week Jemma, my old roommate posted a photo of us with two other girls, commenting that it was a two year old photo! I just don’t know where the time has gone. I guess something good came out of my gap year ending – I met my boyfriend!

I went to University for three months after my gap year to study music. I soon realised that University was not for me; I mean I was bad enough at school, I don’t know why I thought that going back was going to be of any use! I’m glad I went. I know that if I hadn’t, I would have spent the rest of my life wondering. It was an experience if nothing else – it gave me a taste of independence, leaving a good flavour in my mouth (much to the despair of my parents…) Whilst I was there, David practically lived with me. He travelled down on a Tuesday evening after college, and then travelled back again on a Sunday night – I’d go to the station with him, and then drop in at church on the way back. It was wonderful. I was with the man I love.

I also got a job at the bar that was located right below my lectures. When I was working I’d be able to hear the concert band practicing, students learning their recitals and impromtu choir practices. Every face was friendly and familiar, I got to know third year music students, one even asking me to sing with her in her end of year recital! It was such a great job and I loved it. It might sound crazy, but working is one thing I’ve always enjoyed. Earning my own money and saving up for a nice ukulele or microphone, being able to buy my own sheet music, books and stationary! It’s something I excelled in. So I left.

Now, life is whizzing by and I can’t stop it. I know that I’m only 20 and I’ve got my whole life ahead of me – I get told that all the time. I just can’t help but feel that if I relax, if I start getting complacent about my life, I will just miss it. I won’t even realise it, and it’ll be gone. I want to write a sucessful book, find my dream job, perform in a professional musical performance, travel, get married, have children and then bring them up right…I guess I just want to make something of my life, and after realising how fast these past eleven months and four days have passed, I’m afraid. I’m afraid that my life will have been for nothing. That when it inevitably ends, all memory of me will die too. I’ll just be another soul that had the great privelage of walking the Earth.

Time, please slow down! You don’t need to fly so fast. Just float…

Where Can I Find The Time??

blog, nanowrimo, National Novel Writing Month, reading

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I am ashamed of myself. Last Christmas my wonderful boyfriend bought me six books. They were “Bridget Jones’ Diary” by Helen Fielding, “The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul” by Deborah Rodriguez, “Grimm Tales” by Philip Pullman, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker and “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien. I have read the grand total of one. One book. “Bridget Jones’ Diary” is the only book that I have managed to complete, and that took ten months! If you read my previous post, you’ll know that when I was younger I read an awful lot of books! Every spare minute was spent reading, but for some reason I just haven’t found the time over the past year to sit down and read. I’ve started books, but just not finished them – and not for lack of interest, either!

I have several hobbies. You might already know that I am a bit of a knitting obsessive; if I am watching the telly, or a film, or if I’m skyping David I’ll have a pair of needles in hand and I will probably be working on my most recent project. So long as the pattern isn’t too complicated, I don’t even need to look at my knitting and so multi-tasking is easy!

I also love art; for Valentine’s Day, David bought me a scrapbook which is something I like to work on when I get a bit of time. I’m filling it with photos, and movie tickets, and campsite reciepts – memories of our life together. I have so far filled the scrapbook up to…Valentine’s Day! I have a bit of a way to go..!

Music is life. I love to record covers for my YouTube channel, and I will occasionally make a bit more of an effort with editing – it can sometimes take up a whole afternoon! Sometimes I’ll create simple audio recordings and upload them to my Soundcloud instead.

And now I am working on my novel – I don’t really have any control when it comes to picking a time or a place with my writing. If I feel inspired or have an idea, I just have to write it down! The other night, I was drifting off to sleep and *BAM* – I had a thought! I had to search for my glasses, and then my notebook and with the aid of my phone’s light, scribble a couple of sentences down. Then came the task of falling asleep, ideas whizzing around my brain yet knowing that I had to be up at 6 the next morning!

So where does reading fit in? My working hours are 7.30-4.00 plus overtime, and I occasionally take a book into work with me to read, but that doesn’t always work out. Do I wake up earlier and have an early morning read? Or sleep later and run the risk of being tired at work? Do I cut my Skype calls short, or spend less time knitting? I really want to complete a couple more of my Christmas books before the next batch arrive next month! I know I’ll have to make small sacrifices somewhere in my life and I’ll have to make them soon.

Do any of you have this issue? How do you counter it? I’d really love to know!

I Love Writing

blog, nanowrimo, reading, writing

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I love writing. Ever since I could read I have wanted to write a book of my own. I would take a book in to school every day when I was younger – whether it was one of my own books, or one I was reading in class you couldn’t tear me away from it. During my break times, when everyone else was playing “Kiss Chase” or “British Bulldog”, I was sat on the wall with my nose buried in a book. The dinner ladies were my best friends, and they’d (have to) listen as I told them all about the world I was reading about at the time. I was a sensitive child and I thought that I was being bullied for a lot of my life – I’ll be honest, looking back, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it seemed. Although that didn’t make it any easier. Reading did. It would transport me to a magical world somewhere, a place where no one could hurt me.

I remember when I was about 8 years old, I started writing a short story about a servant girl who was born, lived, and worked in a Lord’s castle. The Lord was a good man, but his son was tyrannical, evil. He had this vendetta against the servant girl and did everything he could to make her life a misery. I think my eventual aim was that the son would start to fall in love with the servant. They would fall into this forbidden love, possibly get caught and banished from the land – but love would prevail! I illustrated the story and everything – I wish I could find it now, but I’d probably be too embarrassed to share it with you all anyway.

Back then, I wanted to be a published author, and that passion has never really waned. I read as much as I could, and I wrote as much as I could. I think the problem I had back then, the thing that held me back was that whenever I expressed a desire to be an author (or an actress, or a singer…) I was told that it was just unrealistic. “Authors rarely make the big time,” and “unless you plan on being JK Rowling, you’ll never be able to pay the rent!” Writing is really in my family. My sister, Hannah won a Creative Writing competition when she was (I think) 16, at Keele University; I believe that my younger sister and I have poems in an actual published book of selected poetry – full of poems written by school children; my oldest sister writes for a blog, who she also proof-reads essays for, freelance; my Grandad writes short little poems. Writing is really part of my DNA and I still have this desire to write and write!

Now, I am 20 and I have all of these ideas in my head that I just have to get down on paper! Short stories, poems and even novels come to my mind. I know that I was only told that writing is a difficult field to get into because it is true, and the people who told me only did so because they were concerned. However I honestly believe that with a little bit of persistance, anything is possible. Currently it is the National Novel Writing Month, otherwise known as NaNoWriMo. The basic aim is to write (and complete) the first draft of a novel. I plan on writing every day, whether it be a blog post, a poem, a book review or a bit more of my current writing project. It is supposed to take 21 days to form a habit, so writing a little bit every day for 30 days should really get me into the cycle of writing! Wish me luck, and if you are also wanting to write a little bit a day, good luck to you too!