Announcements · Chat

Chat: About my second blog and why I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Love literature? Love stationery and bullet journaling? Check out my new blog.

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The secret is out. 

As secrets go, it wasn’t very well kept. I hinted several times during Twitter chats that I was involved in a project with a literary heritage group. I shared pictures with two of my very closest blogging friends. 

The blog was up in the webosphere from June 2018.

Nevertheless, it was my project but now it is out in the big wide word. I’m so pleased to finally share Grasmere Bullet Journal with you. This is my new blog which I am going to run along with BookMurmuration.

Grasmere Bullet Journal began, as all good projects do, with a conversation. I was having a cup of tea with a friend, and pouring over her books when I told her something which had been on my mind.

If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, she would make a killer blogger. 

Dorothy Wordsworth was a journaler, pioneering walker and sister of the Romantic poet William. She kept journals throughout her life, most famously the Grasmere Journal which she kept during her time at Dove Cottage from 1800 – 1803. 

Her journal wasn’t a private diary. It was a place where she recorded her observations as well as tracking her daily activities. As I wrote here, this is very much the same thing people do in their bullet journals today. If Dorothy Wordsworth was alive today, I said during that conversation in March 2018, she would be a bullet journaler. 

An idea was born. An idea which I’d had all along without recognising it until I said it out loud. 

One bullet journal and a set of brush pens later and I set to work. 

GrasmereBulletJournal is two things. Firstly, and at its heart, it showcases my creative project – to present information from the Grasmere Journal in bullet journal form. 

Secondly, it is a blog which covers stationary, bullet journaling, and literature. Inspired by the exhibition as Dorothy Wordsworth as a walker, and proud of my own muddy walking boots, I would like to branch out and include posts about walking and nature. 

I would *love* to hear from you over on Grasmere Bullet Journal, as well as right here on BookMurmuration. There are people who comment regularly on my blog who talked to me when I had ten views per post. I value your feedback as much as I did then. As much as always. 

Here’s to our creative pursuits, to blogging adventures and to online friends. 

 

Do you keep a bullet journal? Are you currently working on any creative projects? Let me know in the comments below.

Chat · Reflection

Four Things I’ve Learned This September

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Fresh fruit and nature – September 2018

August ranks as the third most disappointing month of the year after February and January respectively. Which used to seem strange, given how much I love September. Then I figured it out.

September is supposed to be autumnal.

Nobody expects sunshine and beaches and ice-lollies. If I have to get a raincoat out in September, I’ll go with the flow. In August, that’s a disappointing summer. These days I’ve learned to embrace the cycle of nature a little more but I still notice the darkness creeping in every August.

My month has been about editing. Editing a 42,000 word (give or take) manuscript. It’s a strange old time – a triumph because I am putting in so much hard work and learning heaps about chapter and scene. In reality, many authors write three or four manuscripts before they are published (I’ve heard everything between 2 and 9). This perspective is important – too many people think novel-writing is a one-shot game – but it is also daunting. I will have to face the blank page many times over if I want to make this a reality.

What have you been up to this month? Is August your favourite time of year? Chat to me in the comments below and I promise to reply. Here are some of the things I’ve learned this August.

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Old proofs are THERE to cut up

One of the highlights of book-blogging is getting to read books ahead of publication. Sometimes this happens in the form of a digital file. Sometimes a finished copy is sent weeks ahead of publication. Sometimes bloggers are set proof-copies.

A proof is essentially an unfinished copy of the text. That’s not to say the story isn’t finished, but details are allowed to change between the proof and the final version. Selling proof copies is blogger-sin No1 (Don’t. Just don’t.)

What do you do with a proof copy you don’t want to keep? Throwing away or burning them goes against everything I have ever been taught about respecting people’s hard work.

This month I found a solution – use them for craft.

Hang on a second – I won’t burn them but I’ll cut them up?

Craft is about creation over destruction. I think this act of creation means I’m treating the used proof with respect. The publishers don’t want those texts in circulation so using them for craft seems like a great answer. I’m partway through a Christmas decoration and can’t wait to share pictures online.

 

Collaborations = creativity.

This month I wrote a post in collaboration with the wonderful HelloBexa.

As much as I love my blog, there are times when I worry it gets a bit same-old. Those are the times to reach out to other people.  When I suggested the collaboration, I wanted something which would suit both our blogs. By looking at Bexa’s niches, I brought something new to my blog.

The Scrapbook Memory Jar may be one of my favourite blog posts this year. I would love to collaborate with other bloggers, especially bloggers outside the bookish-sphere.

 

Heritage open days are my new hobby

Late in August, I was asked by a member of my poetry group to help with the heritage open day at the local church. I was happy to help … but little did I know how much I would LOVE it.

Seriously. Next year I am signing up for every single slot.

What’s so great about leading people up and down a church tower?

Firstly, I met people from all over. A group of cyclists from Amsterdam on their way to the Irish Sea. People from the local area who I’ve never met before. People from other parts of the country with interesting jobs and life-experience. As an aspiring author, the best thing I can do is get out and *listen*. Heritage open day offered people to listen to in abundance.

Secondly, I learned so much history. Our guides were incredibly knowledgeable about the local area as well as the church and one of our visitors talked about local sites of interest from different time-periods.

Dare you to sign up for something different. Netflix is fun but talking to people is better.

 

Fruit tastes better when it is fresh from the trees

I learn this every autumn and relearn it with every mouthful. There’s no denying it. Food is supposed to be fresh.

We picked apples and plums from the trees on the village green and were sent apples and pears by different neighbours. Now everybody has taken their first crop there are buckets of apples all around the village looking for good homes.

As well as eating some fresh, we freeze lots of apples to keep a stock for apple-pie.

 

What have you learned this September? Do you love autumn? Let me know in the comments below.

 

blogging advice

Chat: Scroll-Free September

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Scroll-Free September: Are you downing your devices this September? 

The Royal Public Health Society is targeting users of social media, asking them to put their devices down this September. And I’m backing them.

Wait a second. A blogger telling people to switch off? Isn’t that kinda like a writer standing up in the middle of a conference and suggesting everyone puts their pens down?

Yes and no.

I’m not suggesting all bloggers will suddenly pick up their guitars and skip around the Alps like Maria Von Trapp to live a happier and more wholesome life. The question isn’t whether you support Scroll-Free September. The question is to what extent will you apply the principle.

Hear me out.

I use Twitter in two different ways. Sometimes there is a purpose – to attend a chat, to advertise a blog-post or to actively engage with the blogging community. I might make a window of 20 minutes to respond to other people’s tweets. During that time, although I am on Social Media, there is some purpose. Interaction is part of being a blogger. I not only need to engage with my audience. I love talking to people online. 

Links between social media and stress. 

Then there are the times I’m just … scrolling through. You know. Liking random stuff. Adding my voice to conversations when in reality I don’t have much to say. Those times when I look at the clock and realise precious life, precious writing and editing time has been spent doing nothing much at all.

On Friday evenings I make dedicated blog time. Most weeks, this is when I get the bulk of my blog-writing done. This system works well. It would work even better if I didn’t flick on to Twitter and Instagram every six minutes. Have you been there? Have you turned the computer on to do a job and found yourself mid-conversation talking about cat pictures or who your wingman would be during a zombie apocalypse, or whether custard-creams are better than bourbons? (The answer, folks, is no. No, they are not.) Cutting down social media makes our work more efficient. I see the difference in my writing. I know when my mind was wholly engaged in the blog post and when it was 80% taken-up with the Twittersphere.

There is another reason to cut down on social media usage. A better reason.

Social media is essentially a stream of opinions, adverts, causes, and information. Imagine six-hundred people shouting their opinions and feelings at you, all at the same time. It’s a lot of information to take in a short space. 

Is this an anti-social media thread? Not at all. I have formed friendships online and learned things I didn’t know and empathised with people from all over the world. There is a lot of good in social media. That’s why I won’t be going Scroll-Free this September. However, I am thinking about the principle.

This September I will: 

  • Not use social media when I am doing other jobs. This includes blogging.
  • Only scroll for set periods of time, and use that time to engage with people in my network.
  • Mute conversations when I need some head-space. We need to listen to other voices, but in real life we have the option to enter or leave a conversation. It is OK to use the mute-button to manage anxiety.
  • Turn off my social media for one day every weekend.

At the start of this piece, I asked whether turning off social media was any different to asking other people to down their hobbies. I think the difference is the constant stream of information we are subjected to online. Imagine trying to write a novel with 600 voices vying for your attention. That’s the difference.

Since I started blogging, social media has had a special place in my life and I don’t think it is going anywhere. However, the Scroll-Free September campaign has raised some valid points and I want to apply the principle to benefit my mental health and get the most out of my social media time.

 

Will you change the way you use social media? What do you find hardest about life online? What are the high points? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Chat

Five Things I Learned In July

July is an odd month. Summer has barely started and yet it isn’t so long until autumn. At home, we are coming to the end of a three-week heatwave. I have been working in the summer house with the windows wide open and the birds singing in the trees. 

The format of this post was inspired by Anne from the wonderful Modern Mrs Darcy. Anyone who hasn’t found this blog needs to get on board ASAP. It is the epitome of all things bookish and it is one of my major blog-crushes. Anne proves that bookish posts can sit alongside lifestyle content. 

I want to bring more chatty content to my blog. To tell you what I’ve been up to and to hear from my readers. We learn so much over the course of a month – we learn about ourselves. We learn big, life-changing philosophies. We also learn small things like our latest favourite dessert and book-gossip from the publishing world. What have you learned this month? Let me know in the comments below. I love hearing from you. 

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Still here reading 

Posing is a misleading word

 

Regular followers might have noticed there are very few pictures of me on either my blog or my social media. While I believe in maintaining a level of privacy, I would love to include more photographs of myself. There is only one problem: I have never found it easy to pose for a photograph. With ambitions to grow my blog, I decided this was something I wanted to overcome.

Several hundred awkward selfies later and I have realised that posing is a misleading word. Tell me to pose and that’s exactly what I’ll do – pull my face into an overdramatic expression. A parody of a smile. Instead of posing for the camera we need to simply be. Be as if the camera isn’t there. How would you smile for your friend? How would you look at a book?

This journey is going to be long-haul but I’ve figured out what’s putting me off.

 

Kids need reading role models

For the first time in a thousand years, I watched football. 

 My interest in football is limited to major tournaments, on the occasions when England reach a stage worth talking about. And that’s fine. I have my hobbies, you have yours and we can all get along together. 

What’s not fine is sporting personalities bashing readers. Not when the audience includes millions of children. Sporting figures seem happy to put their names to ghost-written fiction. Perhaps they could tell children about the place reading has in their lives.  It doesn’t seem too much to ask. 

During the World Cup quarter-finals, Martin Keown, former Arsenal defender and BBC co-commentator, told anyone reading a book to ‘get a life’. It’s a sad precedent and the exact opposite of what children need to hear. No, I’m not suggesting we interrupt the football with book trailers, but casual comments like that affirm negative beliefs children hold about literacy. Kids need role models to promote the joys of reading.

 

Finishing a draft is only the start

I am about to write the immortal words the end under a 40,000-word draft. More than that, this one is worth editing. I already have a list of changes I want to make and I am looking forward to developing the characters. At the moment they are more like sock-puppets. They need fleshing out with characteristics. 

The rough draft is finished. Now the hard work begins. 

 

In with the old 

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Time to catch up 

New releases are a delight. The biggest change my blog has brought to my reading habits is my reading calendar. I often promote books several months ahead of their release. By the time their release date falls I have heard a lot about the title in question. It’s amazing … but it sometimes comes at the expense of other books on my shelves.

No longer. I have vowed to work in other books even if my blog schedule falls a little behind. This month I have been catching up on Robin Stevens’s Murder Most Unladylike series and I have a mental list of books which I have been staring at for the past eighteen months. It’s time to catch up on my unread novels. My blog will be better for it.

 

Evanesco money

Evanesco is the vanishing spell in Harry Potter. The Lego Company are, once again, about to perform a vanishing spell upon my life savings. Aside from the new Harry Potter sets, a new series of minifigures is set to focus on characters from the Harry Potter universe. The lineup includes figures never before seen in Lego such as Cedric Diggory and Cho Chang. There are also six figures from the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which, as you will find out later this year, rules my world. 

My skills as a blind-bag feeler will once again be put to the test. 

Chat

Chat: Introverts Make Great Bloggers

 

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You don’t have to be a social butterfly to blog. 

Introverts. The dictionary definition of ‘introvert’ is a shy and reticent person. In my opinion, this is a narrow definition. Anybody who enjoys their own company and unwinds by being alone is an introvert.

When I figured there were other introverts, I realised being one wasn’t a bad thing. 

Blogs – especially lifestyle blogs – can give the impression that everybody in the blogosphere is confident and sociable. From blogging squads to pictures of beautiful people at parties, it can be easy for introverts to think that blogging is not something they would be successful at.

This impression is misleading. Blogging has plenty to offer introverts, and introverts have plenty to bring to blogging. 

Blogging starts with a computer. That makes a difference. To be successful at blogging, you need to network.  With online networking, there is less instant judgment, and we are screened from people’s reactions. Although I am an awkward conversationalist, I find online conversations easier. Networks are built on shared interest. This makes it easier for introspective people to share their thoughts. 

The second thing which helps is the chance to edit. Before I post this, I will read this over and think about what I have said. I have a chance to change my thoughts. Even in a fast-paced Twitter chat, I take a moment to scan over what I have said before I press ‘send’.  Every picture I take goes through my quality-control before it reaches my audience. Unlike in face-to-face situations, blogging and social-media allow us to edit our thoughts before we share. 

Blogging helped me to find like-minded people. Bookish people. Kidlitters. Aspiring writers. It is not that I dislike company, but I am so happy in the company of a book that I sometimes forget to seek out other people. It turns out we can be bookish together. Literary festivals have become popular on this principle, that we can make a party of reading, and book-buying and talking about our favourite books. My blogging friends have added value to my life, and their conversation has added value to my reading. 

Reading blogs might give you the impression that bloggers are outgoing party-people, but creating one teaches you that blogging is about hard work and editing. Introverts can thrive in a world where self-motivation and reflective feedback are key.

 

Louise Nettleton

Would you describe yourself as an introvert? Do you think introverts make great bloggers? Let me know in the comments below. 

Chat · Lifestyle

What’s affecting your productivity?

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I saw this idea over at The Everygirl and wanted to write my own thoughts about productivity. Which habits make us less productive? Let me stress – this is not a lecture. The most difficult thing about Social Media is seeing other people’s apparently impossible standards. Comparing yourself to a curated image will never make you feel better.  This post is designed for people who would like to get more out of their creative sessions but who don’t know how to turn their procrastination into work time.

Lots of posts exist about procrastination. Most of them will tell you that horrible truth. The golden rule: only you can put that work in. Some advice posts leave you there. You’ve had the lecture, you know the score and the rest is up to you. OK … but I think we all encounter these difficulties and we learn along the way. One person’s solution will be different from another. The key is to identify which behaviour is currently detrimental to your work ethic. 

Which habits stop you from getting the most out of your work time? Here is my list of ideas: birdPetty distractions:

  • Set a time or a work-goal for tea breaks and stick to it. If this is a regular time it will become habit, and you will find it easier to stick to.
  • Limit what you eat and drink during working time. Which foods distract you? Is it choosing a sugary snack or munching your way through the nut selection? Cut it from your working time or limit it to one portion a day. I will eat chocolate to procrastinate, but only eat healthy stuff if I am hungry.
  • Set social media times. Keep your phone out of reach and work with the internet off if you possibly can.
  • Get real – is it a job or another distraction? It is easy to convince yourself you need to type that email, respond to that comment and do your online shopping but if you are serious about your goals you need to give them time.
  • Don’t panic if you get distracted! Don’t berate yourself. Again, please let me stress these are not rules. Nobody can be perfect all the time. The worst thing you could do is go back to work in a negative frame of mind.

 

Vague goals and unrealistic objectives:

My rule of thumb: if I am flicking on to social media on a regular basis, my writing goal is probably too vague. Every writer – published and unpublished, fiction writer, blogger or journalist – learns that there is only one way to fill the blank screen. That doesn’t mean you should sit staring aimlessly at it for hours. If you aren’t typing, ask yourself why. Is it because you need a clearer plan for the next paragraphs? Because you haven’t made enough notes? If so take it back to the drawing board.

Make your plans realistic within the time available. The desperation to be better and achieve more has killed many creatives before they have started. If you have an hour you will not be producing half a novel. Or a beautiful new blog. You might write a draft a decent blog post or write 1000 words. Know from experience how much you are likely to achieve.

 

Not taking time for yourself:

We have six books to review. We want that novel drafted. We want to improve our photography or our web-design skills. We need to respond to our social media. Sometimes this thing called real life gets in the way too. Guys … there will never be enough time in the day, but if you work work work you will burn out.

  • Set a finish time. Excepting Fridays, my internet is supposed to go off at 8pm. I need some hours in the day where I am not in contact with the giant web of information.
  • Allow you-time. Blogging and writing are hobbies, but if you aspire to turn them into a career, odds are you’re working hard at them. Make sure you factor in down-time.
  • You-time is not for planning. I’ve spoken to lots of bloggers who are like me. INFJ-types. Over-thinkers. You have to allow yourself head space. If you find this difficult try some meditation techniques or ‘active rest’ (engage your brain in something repetitive like cross-stitch or Sudoku.)
  • Get enough sleep. I can’t stress this enough. You need sleep to function. You need sleep to think. Sleep is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

 

Which are your worst habits? How do you overcome them? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Stationery

Stationery – Why I have a Pencil Case

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Last week I said my love of stationery began with a writing course. This is true … but I loved stationery once before. September. What does the word September mean to you? Once upon a time, it meant the start of the new school term, but more importantly it meant a new pencil case. Do you remember the choices? Themed stationery or plain? Pencils or felt-tips? Should the pencil sharpener match the pencil-case or contrast?

By the time I was twelve I had a room full of pencil-cases. My friends once counted around the bedroom. It added up to more than one a year. There were pencil tins – the best ones had special trays, which turned them into multi-layer tins. These looked really smart until they burst open in the school corridor. There were those fantastic zippered sets which came ready-packed with their own notebooks and pens. Do those still exist? Disney used to make them for every major film release. My favourite childhood pencil case had three sections, which meant grotty pencils could be kept separate from writing pens.

It is fair to say that until I was a teenager, my pencil case was like my second home. It was also a statement. One year I had a bright red pencil case with a cartoon spider. A couple of years later, I wouldn’t have been seen with such a thing. It was matching pink equipment or nothing.

I have grown back into stationery, and am pleased the digital age has not seen away pencil cases. I have draws full of pens, but my pencil case is reliably there when I am working. My current pencil case is dark purple, and nature-themed. I bought it the day after that writing course. The one which made me take my writing seriously. It reminds me that writing is a pleasure, and that the implements which allow me to record my thoughts are precious. Children have it right. Our pencil cases reflect who we are.

Louise Nettleton

What was your favourite childhood pencil case like? Do you think pencil cases are important, or just a necessity?

Stationery

Stationery – Notebook Round-up

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Stationery is a big love. I converted to stationery love eighteen months ago, after a writing course. The author running the course has a routine. It involves taking items out of his pencil-case one at a time and sharing them with the group. The ink pen. The chunky pencil. I became mesmerised. All these years I had used a refill pad and a Biro. The next day I went out and stocked up on notebooks. This was a big change for the girl who believed there was no point ruining paper with her left-handed scrawl. 

Nice stationery makes the first seconds of a task pleasurable. It is an investment in yourself. It says you believe your thoughts have worth. A year and a half on and I have a notebook draw. Yep. A draw filled with unused notebooks. Decadent, but I promise you it has motivates me to create. his Christmas I received four notebooks, and I would love to share them with you. 

birdLinton Tweed

img_4811Linton Tweed is best known for its connections with Coco Channel. It is the fabric she used for her skirts. The business is in my region, and there is an outlet shop which sells everything from cushions to clothes, notebooks to off-cuts of material. 

Everything about this notebook feels luxurious, from the tweed cover to the ribbon bookmark. I might have stroked the cover a couple of times. It is irresistible. If I wasn’t so chronically left-handed I would learn calligraphy and pair this with an ink-pen. 

 

Peter Pan Moleskine (picture from Moleskine – mine is wrapped!) peter-pan-cleverness-5_grande

This was on my Christmas wishlist. I saw it in the Moleskine shop, but chose a sensible set of three A4 books for the same price. You can imagine how much I love the person who bought this for me. 

The cover is perfect for writers and content creators. Everything we make comes from our own minds, and we should start every session certain that we have the ability to think and produce. The notebook comes with the signature Moleskine elastic band, and has ruled pages. 

 

img_4812Moomin Notepad

As regular readers know, I love everything Moomin. img_4815The Moomin shop in Convent Garden is one of my favourite London haunts. Moomins are my little bit of hygge. Just looking at them makes me feel safe and warm. 

 The pad comes with its own little pencil. I love the contrasting pink of the pencil to the notebook’s blue cover. The bottom of the pages shows a row of Moomin characters off on an adventure, and the inside covers are decorated with Moomin characters. This is the perfect notepad for lists and day-to-day notes. I might use it for to-do lists. How could I say no to a boring job with a Moomin to comfort me?

*sent by Riot Comms. Opinions my own. 

 

 

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Some people buy sweets. I go to Paperchase. Kid in a candy store doesn’t cover it. Paperchase falls perfectly between affordable and luxury. It is the White Stuff of stationery. 

I’m #teamcat, but I love dogs too. The art captures the personalities of the different dogs in Hairy Mclairy fashion, and I love the contrast between the line drawings and the splashes of bold colour. I can see myself carrying this in my bag in case I need to jot something down, or taking it to events to keep notes. 

 

Louise Nettleton

Do you hoard stationery? Tell me about your favourite notebooks below!

Chat

Anti-Resolutions

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This is not another post knocking resolutions. I have made my blogging goals. Whether or not you make them ahead of the new year, setting goals can help us move towards our ambitions. However, I did start a series of anti-resolutions about my blog. It was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. Should I keep my GoodReads up to date, or is life too short? Do I really want to sit through every Twitter chat? Do you know what? By thinking about what I didn’t want, I started to get a clearer picture of what was important to me. bird

  • Goodreads: I do not want to spend hours copying and pasting into GoodReads

Actually, I remain unresolved on this one. What I don’t want to do is copy and paste every review into every site for hours on end. People who go to GoodReads look for short, snappy round-ups of books and a couple of reasons to read them. I might review a smaller number of books separately on GoodReads, or resume the copy and paste with a small number reviewed separately. The New Year might be a good point to log back on – I can let myself off the catch-up session which is putting me off, and start afresh with 2018 releases.

 

  • Twitter chats: I do not want to go to every Twitter Chat

Humbug? Not necessarily. There is a Twitter Chat on almost every night of the week, between blogging communities, writing communities and the bookish network (yes there is overlap between these!). As a new blogger, and one who was a hermit in a previous life, I thought you ‘did’ these or ‘didn’t’. Maybe new bloggers are just overenthusiastic. The result was I went to chat after chat, until I had nothing left to say. I joined in on nights when I was exhausted, nights when I wasn’t mad-keen on the book in discussion and nights when the topic wasn’t relevant to me. (This was a writing chat. I learned SO MUCH from these chats, and spoke to so many great people, but I joined in a couple of chats about issues so far past the publication point they were just not something an unpublished writer could talk about.) My point? I want to share the best of myself, look after my mental health and enjoy time offline too.

 

  • Social Media: I won’t make every comment sparkle

Sorry. Sometimes all I can say is ‘that looks amazing’. We’ve all been there, haven’t we? There are two or three bloggers who I admire very much. They have great blogs, and whenever I say this about a new release, they share information about the book. You know what? With more information and another enthusiastic reader to talk to, I often find more to say. 

 

  • I won’t write 7 pieces a week

Two reviews, Top Ten Tuesday, Waiting On Wednesday and a Chat. What if I have three things to say? Or could share one short anecdote? I don’t have a formula yet, but this year I would like to work on original content. I want to learn from bloggers in different spheres, and most of all I would like to hear from my readers. What do you like to read most? 

 

2018 will be the year I move away from having a blog to running one. 2018 will be the year I work on original content. 2018 will be the year where I socialise to move my blog into new networks. That doesn’t mean there won’t be books, book talk or time for the wonderful bookish chat I enjoyed through 2017. Far from it. The point is I have dipped my toes into the blogging waters. Now it is time to take the plunge. Happy New Year to you all, and remember – resolutions are elastic. They are made, stretched, and restretched when your efforts do not bring the desired results. 

 

Have you made any resolutions? What do you think about starting in reverse? Let me know in the comments below.