Day 31: The Final Day

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THE CHALLENGE IS OFFICIALLY OVER.

It was going to be thirty days, but if you recall, on day three I just waffled, and said nothing. Therefore, chums, I have decided that this is the final day. Here are five things I’ve learnt during these Thirty (One) days:

1) It’s a bittersweet affair.

Have I enjoyed it?

Yes.

No. 

At times it was torturous and frustrating. Getting home late after a busy day, having dinner and then wanting nothing more than to sleep, but realising that I have to create interesting sentences with words and then publish it to the blogosphere. Eurgh.

Other days, I really enjoyed it, especially when the words would flow, or I had something in particular on my heart to share. I do feel I’ve grown as a writer by completing this challenge, especially in terms of discipline. Sometimes you can’t wait to be in the mood to write, sometimes you’ve gotta just make yourself write.

2) Forcing yourself to write can help you clarify what it is you want to write.

I really like poetry. I already knew this. But since the majority of my posts from this challenge have been poems, it just clarified, and reaffirmed that It’s probably my easiest/ go to writing form. Or maybe it’s because I really like making things rhyme…

I did find it a challenge to do reviews, and it’s only through doing this challenge that I could identify that. (Practise reviewing = added to To Do List)

3) Blogging frequently takes a lot of willpower, creativity and time.

It is possible, and I’m pleased that I’ve completed this challenge, however churning your work out without rest can limit the quality of what you produce. Writing interesting, unique and engaging posts can be hard to do on a daily basis. So, I’ve decided that I will blog weekly, on Thursdays. I may or may not blog more frequently than this, but I will blog at least once a week. That way I can really think about what I’m going to post, and hopefully say something of interest, value and merit.

4) Proof-reading is essential.

We all know this, but it only becomes an “I told you so” when you’ve posted something, all chuffed with yourself, and then find out a few days later that you made a completely fundamental error thanks to autocorrect, and lack of proof reading. Linking to my previous point, because I haven’t had a lot of time to proof read my work before posting it, I made so many mistakes – some of which I spotted early on, others of which I didn’t spot – other bloggers pointed them out to me. Oops.

5) You don’t always have to follow (or stick to) a plan.

After the failure of day three, when I couldn’t think of any topic to write about, I wrote out a plan for each day’s post. This however became a source of stress, as after the first couple of days, I would look at the plan and think

‘No, I don’t want to write that.’

or

‘That’ll take too long, and I’m too tired to make it interesting.’

or

‘I’m not in the right frame of mind to cover that topic.’

or

‘I haven’t the time to research.’

or

‘It’s 11:30pm. I need something short and sweet!’

After continually rearranging my plan (so that I kept pushing back the things I didn’t want to cover), I finally decided to scrap the plan. Mostly, I ‘winged it’, went with whatever had happened that day, drew inspiration from present/past experiences/observations and/or feelings.

Plans are great when it comes to writing, but they aren’t fundamental. They can keep you on track and inspire you, but other times they can hinder your creativity. There are also times when we can be too lazy to follow the original plan. I didn’t delete the plan, so I still have it as a reference point of some interesting things to blog about. I may decide to use some of the ideas. We’ll see.

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In honour of this special day

Here’s a little note to say
Thanks for reading my ramblings,
I’ll try to post more interesting things.

It’s been fun at times and tearful at others,
But it’s part of growth, break free from the covers,
And don’t let yourself be hindered by fear.
Write whatever you want to, my dear.
The keyboard and pen await.

🙂

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Day 29: The Importance of the Comma

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Grammar Lessons (Part One)

Punctuation is important – but use with caution – a comma placed in the wrong place can create, shall we say, confusion.

Take this scenario for example. It’s dinner time on Christmas Day. Your Mum has told you to gather your family members to the table. This is what you say:

A) “Let’s eat grandpa.”

B) “Let’s eat, grandpa.”

C) “Lets, eat grandpa.”

NB: this is basically the same sentence, but where you place the comma completely determines and alters the meaning.

A) This doesn’t send a good message to children. They’ll grow up believing it’s okay to eat their grandparents. Guys, this is never okay.

B) This is the real message. You want to tell your Pops that it’s time to eat. This is a good use of the comma. This is what we want.

C) Okay, so this is unusable but just imagine that there is someone you know called Lets (it’s possible). By placing the comma here, you have invariable commanded your associate to eat grandpa. What kind of friend are you? Where are your morals? You’re setting a really bad example here.

Guys, let’s ensure that our words can’t be misinterpreted. Use the comma, with caution.

Day 22: Social Media Problems

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There’s a few particularly pathetic problems I’ve been having. They’re in the category of petty, pointless, and superficial, but nonetheless they are problems.

1) Why is it so hard to delete ‘friends’?

Why do we pretend that our friendship is real, when we never talk?! And no, snapchat is not a form of communication. There are many people I’d like to delete, from Facebook for example, simply because we don’t ever speak. But there’s a part of me that is concerned it might be awkward if I delete them and then bump into them in the local shopping centre. It’s very popular to like each other’s statuses, say happy birthday and all that, so the world thinks we’re friends. Really, who are we fooling, if not ourselves?

2) Do they really care, or are they just keeping tabs?

Its discomforting to think that I could be sharing my business with a bunch of strangers, or to people who have ulterior motives. It’s frustrating when it feels like certain people are keeping tabs on you. Especially when those people should be the ones to love and respect you, but instead they put on this facade to find out details, and then gossip about you. It’s as if they don’t care about you at all, and they just want to snoop, judge you and keep you in a labelled box.

3) What will they think of me?

Sometimes we can hesitate when we’re about to share something godly, or when we’re sharing something new that’s happening in our lives. We shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are. If we’re ashamed of Jesus, then He’ll be ashamed of us. Ouch. I think that’s motivation enough to spread the word! Don’t hide your light, just because ‘so and so’ is following you. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what they think. We’re living for an audience of One. Don’t be a sell out.

And actually, if they have nothing better to do than to keep tabs on what you are doing, judging you for moving forward or changing for the better, then don’t hide away. We might as well just keep living life to the full, so they have something to keep tabs on!! We can’t keep trying to please others, otherwise we’re the ones who lose. We can only please God, and He’s the only One we should be seeking to please. People will talk, whatever you’re doing. Maybe it’s time we stop trying to control what they say, and prevent them from talking, but maybe we should keep walking right, and give them something good to talk about.

Sow into what you want to produce. Don’t be concerned about all these people and situations that don’t matter. Ultimately, we have one heart, and we’ve been commanded to guard our hearts, for they are the wellspring of life. Let’s not subject them to unnecessary aches.

Sometimes I don’t want to go through the trouble of typing happy birthday to all those people that I never actually talk to. But then I’m reminded that we should owe no man anything but love. So I have to remember that even if they don’t respond, it’s really not a big deal. Do it out of love, not pressure.

I guess what I’m trying to say it that although it’s almost impossible to get away from social media, if we understand that the different platforms, apps and sites are tools for different purposes, we can use them in a meaningful and fruitful way.

It’s been said that Facebook is for people that you used to know, Twitter is for people that you want to know, and Instagram is for people that you want to be…. Do you agree? And have you faced any seemingly pathetic social media problems?

Day 15: “Character Development”

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I’ve been wanting to write, but i don’t really know what.
I’ve started, but It’s hard to stick with the plot.
Should this character do that, is that really what he’d say?
Is it morning or night? A cold or rainy day?
Will they meet at the beach or the shops or while dog walking?
Will this relationship move past the one-sided talking?

When will my characters take flight,
where’s that point that I won’t have to write any longer
’cause the words just pour out and the passion’s getting stronger?
Why am I thinking of eye colours
when really I should be writing more chapters?

I’m bored now, it’s starting to feel like a chore.
But to get better I know that I must write more,
Or perhaps I’ll do some research and then I’ll finally know
If he would dress in black, or if his name suits his persona.

Attempting to write has made me sleepy. So many ideas, but how do I get them down on the Word doc? How do I get those beautifully strung sentences carving a poetic stream of consciousness? It’s time to face facts and see that I’ve been “writing” for hours, but the words are barely on the page. Grrrrrr.

Any other writers having similar experiences?

Day 11: Attempting to Write Poetry when I’m Tired

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The sky is blue
And I am thinking
Of things to share
With you.

Spent all day writing
For someone else.
Need inspiration
Anew.

Please take this poem
Until once more
My motivation’s
Restored.

I like to write
I really do,
But this tired mind
Implores

To get some rest
And close my eyes
Until the morning
Comes.

So bye for now
My online friends.
We’ll talk tomorrow,
Chums.

Day 10: I thoroughly dislike custom charges… And ‘closing down’ sales

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It isn’t fair. Just because I live in England and I want clothes from America, that doesn’t mean I should be charged an obscene amount above the price of the clothes AND the international shipping. Where is the justice??

A few months back I’d been looking for some Christian inspired clothing – hoodies, jumpers, tops – that sort of thing. Then Instagram introduced me to 8tnapparel in February, and I immediately ‘fell in like’ with the store.

There was this one top that said ‘faith’ across it, and it was just the perfect shade of blue, so beautiful, and I just thought, “Yes. This is it. This is the one.” At the time it was something like £20 + £11 postage. I gulped, but was prepared to buy it, this would be my ‘treat to self’ for a while. But then I found out that on top of those costs, my dear friends at Royal Mail were going to charge custom fees. I was expected to pay something like £46 for this top that, if I lived in America, would have cost me much, much less.

Despite this injustice I still was going to buy the top, but alas, other costs made themselves known and so fashion had to take a little snooze.

June came, my birthmonth, and I eagerly searched the store, only to find out that the top was sold out in my size. I laughed (read: cried). But hey, it was bound to come back soon, right?

I found out a few weeks ago that 8tnapparel are closing down.

The top sold out completely.

My plan to go to America and stay for a few months just so I could visit Disney, buy clothing, and shop at Walmart/Target/Sally’s was suddenly thwarted.

I never got the top.

What’s worse, is that I’m yet to find a great Christian fashion retailer based in the UK, with prices that are friendly to student budgets.

I’m so saddened by the fact that the store has to close down. Especially since I’m still not over Wesley Owen closing down.

Christian merchandise shouldn’t be out of fashion. The retailers shouldn’t have to keep closing down their businesses. Why aren’t we supporting projects and companies like these? It just makes me feel bad that I didn’t get to buy anything.

The store is still closing down, and they’re having a sale. If you’re reading this and you live in America, it behoves you to purchase something from their store!!

Of course you don’t have to, but I really like the word behoves, and it’s for a good cause, so…

Have you had a similar experience of something you admire/are excited about closing down or stopping unexpectedly?

Day 7: Journalism Work Experience (at a local paper)

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Monday is the beginning of my second Journalism work experience placement, so it only seems fitting to recap on my first placement in preparation.

I spent a 5 day week working at my local newspaper. Honestly when I applied for the placement I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even think I’d enjoy it, but I thought I may as well get some experience early on, and although I feel I’m more suited to magazine journalism, all writing experience is good, right?

What I didn’t expect was that each day would be so varied. I’ve learnt that news can be quite interesting. This is coming from an aspiring journalist who isn’t too keen on ‘news’…. (Yes, that is possible.)

I really enjoy writing, and I think learning and exploring as many different styles and forms of writing is extremely helpful in allowing a writer to discover their own voice, their strengths, things they enjoy (that they didn’t know they would), and areas needed to improve in.

One thing that I always agree with is that even if you don’t like fiction writing or storytelling, learning how to do it can help you write journalistic pieces in a slightly more interesting way.

This theory was proved correct, as I believe learning more about news writing is helping me to be more succinct and engaging in my leisure journalistic pieces, my feature articles, and in my fiction writing.

One of the things I really appreciated from the work experience is that from the moment I got there, I was given practical stuff to do. Within the first 10 minutes of being introduced to the team, I was given my own computer and an article to start writing. Just like that. I kinda expected to be coaxed in, but there is certainly value to being thrown in the deep end and expected to produce (in this scenario). After I wrote each piece one of the reporters or editors (whoever had given me the assignment) would talk through the piece with me, suggesting ways to improve my writing. I found this to be a really valuable experience.

I strongly believe that in a placement like this, your input and willingness to participate determines how much you’ll get out of it. If I had just sat there and dawdled, picking at my nail varnish or checking my phone constantly, then I wouldn’t have got anything out of the placement. This isn’t school, or university – they gave me an assignment and left me to get on with it, without checking to see if I was engaged. The team have things to be getting on with, and so I had to be proactive and involve myself by letting them know when I’d finished a task, seeking help if I was confused, and asking for more things to do once I’d finished!

As I said, there is a definite correlation between your engagement/willingness and your output.

I’m particularly glad that the experience gave me a practical understanding of what it’s like to be a news journalist/reporter. As well as writing articles, I shadowed different members of the team, following them to find stories and attend events. I was given the opportunity to interview a writer over the phone; having to do research the day before and decide what questions I would ask her, and then turning the interview into a feature article.

Of course there were embarrassing moments:

As part of work experience I was sent, on my own, to town I’d never been to – to find five interesting things to do. It seemed pretty straight forward, internet research gave me a list of places to visit, and I trotted off with my ipad, notes, and train ticket, feeling like a super cool junior reporter. This should have been easy, taken about an hour, and I should have been back in no time.

I left the office at 11:30. I got back at 4:30pm.

Can I blame this on transport? No. It was pretty much because of a complete incompetence with regards to geographical skills. Simply put. I got lost. In a small place. The trouble is you see, when a town has roads called *** lane, *** park lane, *** road, *** park road, *** church road, *** church lane etc, there is bound to be confusion. I had to go back to go forwards, on every occasion.

There was also the day when I inconveniently wore a thin cardigan, a shirt, heeled sandals and a skirt and ended up following a reporter to wade in some mud, giant puddles and a field covered in horse poo. Of course it was raining and cold as well.

I was thrown in. And yes, it was scary for someone who doesn’t always like to speak to strangers. Or get lost in an unfamiliar place. Despite that, it helped me to realise the demands of the career path, caused me to engage and make the most of the opportunity, and allowed me to understand the importance of not being precious about everything I write. That’s not to say it’s fine to write junk and publish it, but as a writer, there are times when I become a bit too attached to what I’ve written; making editing sometimes upsetting, and often a challenge. It’s important to be able to adapt to the demands of the task at hand, taking all your prior knowledge and applying it in a relevant way.

My placement next week is with an online magazine. It’ll probably be a totally different experience, but I’m really excited, and ready to engage!

Looking back a few weeks after my first placement, one of the most important thing I learnt is that being a journalist can involve doing just about anything.

Always be prepared…