Writers’ HQ: Seven Ideas In Seven Days

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Remember my novel? I was working on it loads last summer and then I did (most of) NaNoWriMo in November, before the world decided it really wanted to bring me down with its ridiculous ideas. I also got bogged down in family stuff, D’s operation, Christmas and then the hell that is working in a school when a new curriculum is trying to be introduced. I lost my way and I lost my mojo. My characters were still in my brain, my story was still asking to be written, but I just struggled to get it down or find time to write.

This is where Writers’ HQ comes in; its founders Sarah and Jo are time-poor, cash-poor, sliiiiightly sweary writers (both Sarah and Jo are novelists) who also happen to be mothers and needed a way to find time to do their work. They offer a range of ways for others to write too- monthly writers’ retreats in Brighton and Worthing, as well as online courses which are reasonably priced (there are also free exercises for a lot of the courses, if you want to check them out before committing to buy one) and take into account the pressures of daily life. Now, disclosure time: Jo is a friend of mine and has been trying to get me to go to the Brighton retreat for AGES, but I either never have money/time/anything to work on. Instead, she offered me the chance to have a go at February’s Seven Ideas In Seven Days course. I jumped on it.

Seven Ideas In Seven Days costs £20 and you are given a lesson everyday that takes around an hour to complete. I loved the variety of different tasks and the ideas I came up with were often completely new to me and very intriguing- I have at least three new ideas for different stories in completely new-to-my-writing genres (including one about the popularity of succulent plants being part  of an alien invasion plot, which I may just write for the LOLZ), as well as two new perspectives on the novels that have lived in  my brain for a long time.

I also liked the forum- although I’m not sure everyone signed up for this month’s course was using it. However, I found two supportive course members and Sarah who were all brilliant for bouncing ideas off, discussing what we’d written and where our work could go next. It felt less scary than a class and more like a friendly chat in a coffee shop (except that I was drinking tea. And in my own house. You understand the imagery though.)

Would I recommend the course? Yes. It was a lot of fun and I’d like to do another course if I get enough money together- there are all sorts of things on offer, from how to plot your novel right through to actually writing/editing the beast and eventually sending it off to a publisher. It was more personal than just using a book or an anonymous blogpost to write and I think the structure and the range of tasks meant that I sat down every night to work. It also made me realise that I CAN carve some time out of the day to write, even if it’s not much. It’s better to write a bit than not at all. I look forward to reacquainting myself with my characters. And the Mutant Succulents From Space With Mind Bending Powers Of Persuasion, obv.

 

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Signing up for NaNoWriMo 2016

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Advert for Marquet Ink by Eugene Grasset (1892)

You know how I’m often COMPLETELY NOT BUSY? What with a teaching job, a 4-year-old and other things in my life (before even considering my hobbies and whatnot)? Well, I’ve signed up to do NaNoWriMo this year, too.

I’ve been sort of fruitlessly working on a novel idea since the summer; a mystery set in 1930’s Hollywood in which the most famous woman in the world goes missing, leaving only a trail of evidence that damns her unfaithful husband. I’ve been writing in longhand in notebooks, using my faithful Lamy Al-Star pen and hiding in cafes. But I kind of.. ran out of steam and then real life, a busy job and a ton of marking stopped me from getting on. I needed a kick up the bum, so I signed up for NaNoWriMo.

Now, I signed up a few years ago but ended up flaking out about two weeks in. However, this time I’m trying to be better. Firstly, I’m announcing it on my blog and Twitter. Feel free to nag me/ask for updates if you want. I might even blog my progress, who knows? Secondly, I’m going to give my desk a huge clear-out and maybe put some inspirational things on it (don’t laugh. I’m a visual person.) Finally, I’m going to forego my current Murder, She Wrote habit- I’m setting aside every night between 7.15-8pm to write during the week. D will be in bed (he never wants me to put him to bed, I’m ABSOLUTELY not insulted by this. Any more.) and I will have space to think. Weekends will be slightly different due to Strictly etc. I’m hoping that the discipline will become a habit that sticks with me. We’ll see.

Anyway- wish me luck!

#PaperHaul Featured: Jodie Goolding

Ah, #PaperHaul, I love you. I love how, after a month where I’ve been a bit unsure about a box, the following month you produce a box that is so me it’s like you read my mind. March’s box really did pull a rabbit out of a, er, box sufficiently sized to fit through a standard UK letterbox.

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If you read my #PaperHaul reviews regularly, you’ll know I’m a sucker for the animal boxes more than any other (but I’d like to put in my semi-regular request for a dinosaur themed box…) This month’s didn’t disappoint. What I like about it is that it’s on the right side of cute to not be too twee. Plus, the positive message is one I can really get behind. The notecards above are a perfect encapsulation of the overall feel of the box.

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The postcards remind me of adult colouring books- and actually, it might be nice if you sent them to a friend who could colour them in. But that’s up to you- I’m not your boss or anything.

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I am a worrier of the highest order. I am currently worrying about something that hasn’t even happened yet and is only a possible problem. It’s definitely a skill. Wouldn’t it be nice if you sent this card to your worrisome friend?

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The washi tape is another strong one this month. Most recently utilised on a child’s birthday present. (My hairdresser was amazed when she saw my washi tape bowl and couldn’t get over how many rolls I had. I like to think she was impressed.)

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I love these larger-than-usual stickers! I’ve stuck them onto my writing case. I’d definitely like bigger stickers to be a thing sometimes, although I do also like the smaller stickers for decorating letters etc.

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Finally, the notebook. It’s cute and I already have someone in mind for it.

Overall, a good box this month! I understand that every box won’t be to my taste, but I must say that I’ve found stashing the cards etc has been quite useful, as I always have something on hand, stationery-wise. I’d definitely say that #PaperHaul has made me seem 68% more organised when it comes to birthdays and other occasions.

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.

 

Let’s ‘foster a conversation’

Recently, I’ve been told (twice) that a company wanted me to write a sponsored post on my blog, not for pay- or even, gasp, for the exposure!- but to ‘foster a conversation’.

Now, I want you to imagine a pipe burst in my house and I called my usual plumber. If I told him I wanted him to work for free, in order to ‘foster a conversation’, he would laugh at me and rightly so. Because I’d be paying him for his skills and his time. Even if he did accept to work for ‘the conversation’, because he’d heard somewhere that I was not actually socially awkward and was in fact a secretly brilliant raconteur, he’d still get tea and biscuits out of me. Which is more than I’m being offered here. Most galling was the very, very well-known, very famously profitable company that wanted me to write about how to earn extra money- by not paying me any.

My time outside of work is precious. I don’t have a lot of it, to be honest, and I want to use it well. A few years ago, I did do some work for free. I had a sleepy baby and was trying to get my writing up as a possible sideline. I made a bit of money, but then I had to go back to work in a job that is apparently one of the most stressful to do. I also have a three year old and they are hard. work. I want to do stuff in my downtime that’s fun and not pressured. If you want me to work to a deadline, you pay me for my time. It can be monetary, or it can be in the form of a product/book/event. (I’d also like to point out that I’ve turned down stuff in the past that, even though it was paid with money, didn’t fit well with me or my blog.) I do make exceptions for charities, which is only right.

The thing is, if you want me to spend my scarce free time on something for you, you’re getting my attention and my skills. If you offer me nothing in return, you’re telling me that these things are worth nothing. I’ve spent a lot of time doing stuff for nothing (I used to do a lot of stuff on the blog, a few years back), I thought about it and realised I’ve sort of outgrown it, to be honest. I want to work to earn money for me and my family and I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all. I’m envious of those who can earn a living writing; to me it’s been very, very hard to get anywhere with that.

These days, I’m a bit of a blogging bumbler. My life is very, very different to when I was doing my journalism degree, or even when I was flirting with being a bit of a beauty/parenting blogger. I couldn’t bear the pressure and I just wanted to write about things I did or books I read. I don’t make any money from either blog and that’s fine. I’m happy to work with companies I like and have a mutually beneficial relationship with- and I enjoy that work. Would I turn down something if it was interesting? No. But I don’t feel like I have to chase anything either- especially ‘exposure’.

The Happiness Project #5: Making mistakes

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I am my own worst critic and I always have been. But I also use that nagging little voice as an excuse- the reason I haven’t written anything on my long-neglected novel for ages; the reason I haven’t properly taught myself to sew, despite the fact I’ve expressed, time and time again (and often on this blog) the desire to learn to do so. It’s exhausting being so negative.

Last week, I went to the Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A. Looking at McQueen’s beautiful designs, being in touching distance of some incredibly beautiful clothing and realising that McQueen had to start somewhere made me realise- I can do something if I put my mind to it. Sure, it’ll never be couture, but I can have a go.

One of the worst things, I think, is a fear of failure and making mistakes. So I’m embracing new things with a positive outlook. What’s the worst thing that can happen? No one will die if I write a duff sentence or produce a wonky hem and no one needs know if I made a mistake. I’ll just move on and learn from it.

So the tl;dr to take away from this: challenge yourself this weekend. Have a good opinion of what you could achieve (don’t start from a negative place!), but don’t go to pieces if it’s not perfect.

Keep me posted- what did you do to quiet your nagging self doubt?

#PaperHaul: Under the sea…

Summer’s here and so is this month’s #PaperHaul box, which has a pleasingly nautical theme. Let’s take a look through what arrived this month!

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As you can see, there’s a definite blue theme happening this month…

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This month, there’s only one card- but I rather think it’s handsome! The mini cards are the same print as one side of one of the craft papers.

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After quite a few months, I’ve finally decided that the craft papers will be used to make seed envelopes. Yes, it’s slightly frivolous, but also: pretty. Plus the paper is good quality and strong- just what you need for seeds.

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The postcards are cool this month- I’ve already sent the mermaid one to a friend.. I added some glittery details (using nail polish!) and it looked really quite cool.

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The stickers are fun- the big ones are already on the cover of my planner for next year. After all, nothing says ‘professional’ like ‘cute and comical pufferfish’, right?! Whatever, they’ll cheer me up in boring meetings…

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The washi tape reminds me of the Japanese painting of the waves. I love the badges, which are a new addition this month and the tags are cute too. Overall, a really good (and PACKED) box this month! Well done, #PaperHaul!

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.

#PaperHaul: Ice cream and hazy summer days

My #PaperHaul arrived on one of the hottest days of the year- and the theme this month, ice cream and cooling down, was just the ticket!

20150628_155453I’m currently slightly obsessed by Magnums (especially those new pink ones), so these gift tags are PERFECT! I like the simplicity of them. You can also see two of the postcards- aren’t they just so cheery? A friend of mine just relocated to the States and I might send her one to remind her of Brighton.

The washi tape is ice cream perfection too.

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On the left, we have the two large stickers. I’ve already stuck these on my recipe notebook, as it’s full of sweet treats!

On the right are the cute little notecards. These can be a bit hit or miss for me, but I do like these a lot. I think the watercolour style is really pretty.

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The cards from this month are sweet- I especially like the one with all the ice creams on!

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The vintage ice cream stickers (top left) are my favourite part of the box this month! I think they have a proper 50s, malt bar feel. Ace. Next to that is the final postcard- again, it’s all about the Magnums!

Underneath are the craft papers, which as always are super fun. The alternative view is below:

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Overall, a super sweet box of stationery! (I’m still hoping for a dino-box though…)

You can register for #PaperHaul here.

Disclaimer: I get my box at a discounted rate, but my reviews are honest and reflect my own opinions.