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. 

bird

 

 

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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 · Young Adult Reviews

Floored blog tour: ‘It’s grim up North’

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Floored is a collaborative novel written between seven young adult authors. The story is told by six characters and a narrator. This post is about wealthy, inconsiderate Hugo. Hugo is one of my favourite characters in the novel because he personifies an issue which has become apparent in recent years – the contempt held by the metropolitan elite for the working class outside of London.

Hugo’s opening line – It’s grim up North – is a snapshot of his character. He believes that people begrudge his privilege because they can’t be bothered to work for it themselves. He has no understanding of opportunity or inequality. Things go downhill as Hugo treats one of the girls as a cheap one-night stand.

 It’s grim up North is where Hugo starts. A cliché which he has never bothered to challenge because it doesn’t affect his life. This is where Hugo starts- but Floored is a story, and stories begin with a promise that our protagonist will not be the same person by the end. All stories, at their heart, are about transformation. Hugo may be entitled and arrogant and cruel but he isn’t content. The way he lives gives him no pleasure.

I hope people reading Floored will take note of Hugo’s disdain and start to see his attitude in other places. In the politicians who take photo-ops in deprived cities at election times then fail to provide the jobs and infrastructure those cities desperately need. In the national newspapers which continually pitch their work to a metropolitan middle-class readership. In the public-school educated television personalities who make jokes at the expense of working-class Northerners.

 

Catch everyone in my Floored group blog tour: 

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Chat

Bath, Book, Bed – why adults need downtime too.

Booktrust came up with this slogan, and I think adults could learn from it. 

When I was a small child, my mum read to me religiously. Every night, my sister and I picked a couple of books each. I credit those evening readathons for my lifelong love of books.

Bath, Book, Bed is a campaign run by Booktrust, which promotes reading as part of a bedtime routine. Parents are encouraged to develop a pre-bedtime routine to help their little ‘uns embrace the world of sleep.

It is a great campaign and a great slogan.

My question is – can we extend bath, book, bed into our adult lives? Having adopted these routines in childhood, many of us lose sight of winding down time as we get older. We live in a 24/7 world where me time can feel like a luxury. Actually, it is a necessity. While we may not need a daily routine to keep us under the covers, downtime and regularity can be our ticket to a better night’s sleep.

Reading is a great way to take quiet, reflective time. 

I would like to hear from bloggers and influencers about their bath, book, bed. I’m going to invite bloggers to talk about their bath, book, bed. As well as supporting Booktrust in their campaign, I hope it will encourage adults to wind down and look after themselves. 

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Bath

Bath bombs and bubble mountains and scented candles. Day-to-day, I’m a shower person. When I have a bath, I’m in it for the experience. 

I like the kind of bath bombs which turn the water multiple colours. Intergalactic and The Experimenter by Lush are brilliant for turning the bath technicolor. 

Soap has to be freshly made. Forget that supermarket stuff. There’s a brilliant shop in Keswick called The Soap Company KeswickThey sell soaps which look practically edible and have uniquely Cumbrian names. (Image from The Soap Company Keswick.

Scented candles are my new favourite thing thanks to Rebecca from Taken Moons. Brave Of Heart smells of coffee and log fire and is named for Gryffindor house. 

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Book 

img_5431Do I read? Do I ever. 

Reading has been part of my bedtime routine since the year dot. I give a good evening over to reading, splitting my time between my nest in the study, and my bedroom. Guilty confession – a good book will keep me up past midnight. Booktrust forgot to mention that after children are fully initiated in bath, book, bed, they discover the joys of one last chapter.

I’ve just finished What Lexie Did, a warm and witty Middle-Grade novel about truth, lies, and family. Lexie is from a huge Greek-Cypriot family. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding from the perspective of a ten-year-old, and throw in some additional drama. 

bird

Bed

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Bedtime is downtime. I leave my phone out of the bedroom otherwise I find myself flicking through Twitter. Nothing comes between me and sleep like social media. 

I adore PJs and recently discovered nightshirts. That sounds like the kind of thing your great-granny wears, but actually, this shirt is exactly like the kind I would wear in the day except it is softer and slouchier. Comfortable nightwear is essential to good sleep. 

My Mummy is a knitter, a crocheter, and general wool-wizard. She swears by pure wool, which means her blankets are the softest, cosiest things around. I always have one on the bed. My favourite is the ice-cream blanket, so named because its colours remind me of a cone with sprinkles. 

 

Want to tell me about your Bath, Book, Bed? Drop a note in the comments below with your Twitter handle. Bath, Book, Bed is a BookTrust slogan. This article was inspired by their campaign. Please check out their work here.

Louise Nettleton

Lifestyle

Five Things I Haven’t Done Since September

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Spring has sprung. Or at least it is springing. The nights are getting shorter, the mornings brighter and Marks And Spencers are selling cute raspberry-flavoured miniature biscuits. However much I like the crispy days of early autumn, by the time spring rolls around I am as ready as the next person to kick off my winter boots and sit back in the sunlight. Lambs! Blossom! Spring is a time of new hope and good feelings.

It feels like a long time since September and sunlight. Here are some of the things I haven’t done since September which I am welcoming back into my life. birdRead a Book Outdoors:

I am the kind of person who will make an office out in the garden. A mug of tea, a couple of pillows and a stack of notebooks. There is nothing like reading and writing outdoors. Birdsong and fresh air and a natural breeze. The second we have three dry days in a row I will pull out my tent and set up camp in the garden. 

 

Worn shoes without socks:

When autumn came in I was pleased to get back into my winter boots. Right now I would be glad to kick them off. Socks no longer feel like a hug for my feet. They are starting to feel more like a prison. Time for a good pedicure and some vitamin-D. I can’t wait to feel the grass between my toes. 

 

Woken up in a good mood: 

Dark. Wet. Really dark. Waking up in the dark plays havoc with my body clock. How am I supposed to get up when my internal alarm-clock thinks it is the middle of the night? More to the point, how am I supposed to keep my eyes open? Never mind those smiley-happy people. In the winter I am not myself until I have had two mugs of caffeine and a kitty cuddle. Roll on dawn chorus at 4am. 

 

Eaten Cold Spreads:

Avocado slices, and homemade hummus and pitta bread chips. Cheeses and quince jelly and pomegranate seeds. Childhood holidays in Greece have given me a lifelong love of rolling feasts. There is nothing better than a table covered in salads and dips and miniature pies. 

 

Fussed over baby animals:

The lambs are back. Skipping on the hillocks and sleeping under the hedges. There are a group of sheep in the field to the side of the village green. Currently there are four lambs, all button-eyed and lively. I defy you to feel miserable when faced with a lamb.