Posted in Goals, Musings, Writing

Summer Blues

This is the first year in a long time that I’ve started the summer without much of a change in routine – because I’m no longer in full-time education. At school and uni there is the stress of the impending exams and the hibernation period building up to it, but studying part-time and working part-time means submitting the final assessment and back to work. Perhaps it feels anti-climactic because I wasn’t under so much stress that I didn’t get the wave of relief when it was lifted.

Regardless, with me being me, I’d already set up a plan of Summer Study in order to catch up/get ahead of the second year of work after they released the assessment requirements for next year. It’s what I do, and it’s exciting that I am able to plan ahead and buy myself more time to work on the assignments, but I had to admit that I was burnt out. In academia, it’s too easy to keep pushing through tiredness, bad-moods, and pain, and often we commend ourselves for the all-nighters and the lack of decent meals in place of study snacks – but it’s neither healthy or sustainable! So we need to have a break. For me, that happily meant taking on extra shifts at work and throwing myself into my new responsibilities in my role – admitting and being aware that I am capable of doing the job, and wouldn’t have been given the chance if I hadn’t had the potential to do well.

I’ve been tired, but a good tired. An earned tiredness. To fall into a dreamless sleep and get up the next morning to do it all over again – and it’s this practice that builds experience. Thanks to that, and living at home, I’ve been eating less but better food – actual meals – and being on my feet and often walking home from work means that I’ve been losing weight and building muscle. I may not have time to always go to the gym, but even when I had all the time in the world I often didn’t have the motivation to go – now it’s part of what I do.

In my downtime the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to finish Assassin’s Creed Origins. I got it upon its release last October as an early birthday present, but then fell away from it for a few months as I juggled working and studying. However, at E3 it was announced that the next AC game would be released this October (AC Odyssey) and set in Ancient Greece, as a chance to see the era from the Greek point-of-view to contrast Origins Egyptian POV. Well what can I say? It’s pulling all my nerdy interests together in one package, my inner classics and archaeology nerds are glomping my video gaming nerd in thanks as I hover over the pre-order button on PSN! I’m excited, in case you can’t tell. Plus, finally you are able to play as a female assassin from start to finish without affecting the gameplay. I’ve loved all the characters since the beginning of the franchise but I’m glad they’ve finally given up on the ‘female characters are too difficult to render’ thing.

I usually get a bit blue around the holidays, probably had too much chill time and I’m in desperate need of structure and projects! Speaking of which, I’ve been blocking and plotting out a revamp of an old book I started when I was 15. It’s YA, topical, set in Glasgow but set in a high school which I haven’t attended for 12 years and most of my original draft featured things about livejournal, msn messenger, and people buying CDs from shops.

I’m late to the Camp Nano game this month but I’m hoping to draft some of the first book for this new series over July but I’ll probably need to update my high school knowledge, anyone willing to help me with this? (Must have attended high school within the last 3 years).

This should be fun.

e x

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Posted in Goals, Writing

15 Minute Everything!

I’ve had this one in my drafts for about a month. Mostly because I started it then lost momentum – but it works!

Trying to get myself back into it again, as I seriously got so much different work done. I lasted about a week and a bit… just breaking everything I needed to/wanted to do into 15 minute blocks. I had my list of important things and after I’d done a 15 minute block, I’d colour in the box. Yes I included nap time…

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I also used the Forest app to time myself, plus upon completing 15 minutes without looking at my phone, I grew a wee tree!

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It is a great method, like many available (the pomodoro method is 25 minutes) it’s really about finding out what works best for yourself. I sometimes found 25 minutes to be too much and the 15 minutes was often plenty, but I’ll probably go back to experimenting, maybe do 20 minute sessions instead.

The point is to make you more productive. Regardless of the set time, it gives you the chance to do all the things we convince ourselves we don’t have time for… even 15 minutes a day at something can bring vast changes. That’s why sites like duolingo and memrise are so popular, a ten minute session everyday can help increase your vocabulary or knowledge of a language quicker than dusting off the grammar books once a week. (I’m not hating on grammar books, I promise!)

My challenge was inspired in part by Forest, mentioned above, the vast number of interests I have (without the time to dedicate to them) and this book:

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She has effectively lifted the bullshit layer off what we all believe writing to be about: hours of slaving over a computer/notepad; isolating oneself from the world; doing absolutely nothing else in life but struggling over the next chapter/line/paragraph. None of this works in today’s world. We don’t have time to forgo work just to keep writing, or give up social time or family time to write – it’s better to find a quick bubble of time and write SOMETHING done, because something is better than nothing.

It’s exactly what I’m doing right now, I have a little time before I need to go out and I checked my list of blogs to do and decided to crack on with this one!

The more time spent talking about doing something, the less time you are actually doing it. In the last couple of days alone, I have managed to fit in a couple of workouts (at home), schedule several blog posts ahead, start my assessment/revision of my novel, and set up my author account on KDP! I may not have been tracking it or growing trees each time, but it all counts so long as I just keep swimming!

e x

 

Posted in Education, Goals, Late Nights, life, Musings, rant, University

Smart and Imperfect

There are many misconceptions about what being smart is. The idea that the grades you earn in school or even university; that they can somehow define your potential, your essence is absurd. You may not have paid attention in school, uninspired and left behind. You may have scraped by and gone on to a University or College into whichever course seemed like a good idea to 17 year old you and you may have graduated/passed with average grades from an average, uninspired performance. You might only have discovered your true passions from a chance encounter well into your 20s or by a passing comment from a teacher on graduation day when it was ‘too late’ to do anything about it.

But what will you be judged by by future employers and puppet masters? Those grades that merely state what you obtained from one day’s exam performance. How well you understood/didn’t understand the course work in a twelve week semester, with a shitty essay that you tried hard on but the teacher was never going to be gentle with her marking.

And doesn’t it seem ridiculous in the end?

I didn’t manage too well in high school. I performed fairly well for most subjects in standard grade and intermediates for fifth year, but in sixth year I was suffocated, desperate to escape the petty associations of high school while my life was falling apart outside of school. Did it matter to the teachers? Nope. It bothered them more that I wasn’t walking around with a smile plastered to my face. They saw my average grades for the prelims and accused me of sabotaging my future by not working ‘to my potential’. They blanked me when and if I tried to explain how I felt. They shamed me for wanting to go to a Further Education College after school instead of University. I was told I would never achieve anything in my life if I didn’t go straight to uni.

Ahem.

So I’ve attended a lot of colleges, I’ve been to Uni in several capacities, including abroad, and while I am not a perfect student or have ever had PERFECT GRADES. I’m still smart.

I’m smart because I’m passionate. Most people have things that interest them, and we’ve all had to study and learn things that bored or frustrated us, but I can talk endlessly for hours, days even, on the things that truly spark me. Is that stuff quantifiable? No. Sure, you can give me an Italian grammar test, or tell me that my ability to speak Spanish is shite, but does that take away my abilities to manage or enjoy these languages? NOPE. If my Spanish is so awful, how then did I manage to survive living in Spain for a year in a town that refused to speak English? I still got my coffee and tomato toast every morning and managed to argue with the cashiers in Mercadona that my Post Office Travel Money card is mine and linked to my passport but doesn’t have my name printed on it because it just bloody doesn’t.

I did the PLIDA exam at B2 in Granada, and I passed 3 of the 4 elements with flying colours to the surprise of my lecturer, but then because of a random, sudden change in the format of the speaking exam I was TWO points shy of passing the oral segment and thus failed the whole exam. Inside it destroyed me. I had worked relentlessly for weeks, to the point I was sick with the stress… and for a part of an exam that lasted about twenty minutes, they basically told me I wasn’t good enough. My Italian wasn’t good enough. My effort wasn’t good enough. Had they heard the whole half an hour I spent speaking in Italian to my speaking partner before the exam? No. Did they know that I had made friends with an Italian in Granada and I asked the others in my Italian class to speak with me in Italian and not Spanish because it was suddenly like someone had turned down the static on a fuzzy radio. It took me a long time to get over the pain of the set back, but then I finished my year abroad with 88% in the C1 Italian language class which took into account my whole ability, for the whole term… and my passion.

I lost a lot of my interest in Spanish because of uni. Because every piece of Spanish work came back covered in red pen and bad marks. Because my oral work was criticised because of nerves or a lack of confidence… and in the end a lack of fucks given. But I got through it, I have that damn degree, and slowly over the last year I’ve allowed myself to remember the good points about it. Every extra Hispanohablante is one more person pissing off Trump. I enjoy Spanish music, I love my Italian singers who also perform and release their stuff in Spanish. I love my original passion for languages, once I realised I could… I couldn’t stop at just one or two, it’s still my goal to dabble in as many languages as possible. I’ve even told a few people that the Netflix show One Day at a Time is helping me enjoy Spanish again… because it’s about the thrill, the education for enjoyment’s sake and not about using the fucking subjunctive perfectly! (I seriously don’t think anyone can!) Plus, Despacito šŸ˜‰

Another whole pathetic example is my undergraduate dissertation. Now to point out, I was trying to hard to stillĀ careĀ about Hispanic Studies at all and so I started researching things I was already interested (Ancient History/Italy) in to see if I could tie it all together. Thus it became about the Roman Conquest of Hispania which by the way took 200 years to happen. Who knew?! It’s a thrilling part of history that not many are fully aware of. Sure, most people have heard about Hannibal crossing the Alps, but do they know why? Or that it was during the second of three Punic Wars between the Roman Republic and the Carthaginian Empire??? I’ve probably lost you now but this thrills me. Gives me actual goosebumps. I daydream about what would have happened if Carthage had won.

The whole project was about 11 months of work, research, planning, and writing because it could only be a measly 10,000 words. So I had to be as economical as possible. Ultimately I handed in something I was immensely proud of, worked ridiculously hard at, missed shifts at work, turned my day into night, didn’t see my flatmates properly for weeks, and despite all the passion and inspiration, what happened? I got a shit mark. Not a D but still, after everything… And the feedback? Well the first paragraph could go on my gravestone and make you think I was a saint, but then the negativity came. Nothing about my actual work was faulted. It was all about what the tutor thought should have been put in (but I’d filled the whole word count), a few stupid comments about using ‘this’ alone, and other daft things that would have taken the research in a whole other direction. Pathetic. Considering two factors; the tutor had NO knowledge of Ancient Roman History, nor the narrative I was following; and had no idea that Carthage had a base in Hispania which was one of the precipitating factors of the damn Punic Wars and the whole freaking conquest! -_- Also while describing Scipio’s week-long surround-and-starve tactics on northern natives, my writing was apparently ‘too dramatic’.

But!

I’m still passionate about all my interests and hope to expand on my dissertation (because I can) and without the fear of some lecturer and their red pen trying to tell me I’m not good enough.

And please, dear readers, don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t measure up. That your smarts and abilities aren’t good enough because you don’t have a degree certificate or some other numbered sticker that is meant to tell the world which box you fit into for the rest of your life. Before I started uni, I had people who were astounded (and told me to my face) that I could form an intelligent opinion about something I literally can’t remember now… the difference was that we were the same age but she was attending uni and I was only a lowly college student. HA!

If anything, attending FE colleges helped me develop myself and my life skills more than university ever did. I had more fun nights out at college, had more fun mucking about the photography studio, and spent more time learning about languages, again, than I did at uni. Uni is like a treadmill set on a ridiculously fast pace, and the goal is just to hang on, eventually you stop trying to run at that speed and you find your own way of clinging on for dear life, until someone calls the race to an end and you graduate with whichever number they’ve deigned to put on that yellow piece of paper.

Remember you are more than that bit of paper.

You can do anything you set your mind to.

Bring passion, bring willpower, and forget the fuck about ever being perfect.

e x

Posted in Education, Goals, Writing

Amazon Academy

Amazon have announced that they will be holding another Amazon Academy/ Kindle Direct Publishing event, this year in Glasgow.

Last year’s event in Edinburgh was a raging success, and left me so inspired and buzzing for days… in fact I’m still a bit buzzed from last year. I feel like I finally found a focus, and the hurdles I saw in my way from traditional publishing suddenly fell away when I realised how truly easy and sensible it is to publish through Amazon. Through their platform, writers maintain control and copyright of their works and earn upto 70% royalties, unlike the negligible amount through publishing houses. It can mean more work for the author, to build their own brand, and in terms of exposure, it’s how you manage it yourself – but with social media and blogging sites like wordpress here, it’s never been easier or more natural to do so.

I’m presuming to hear much of what I did at last year’s event, but perhaps with different speakers, and updates in the system (like the physical proofs and the Print On Demand feature rolled out more extensively). Also, lunch was provided free… not to mention that the whole event is free!

Even if you have only the tiniest inkling of ever wanting to publish something, or are just curious and are free on April 17th then book your place and come along!

*N.B. I am not affiliated nor sponsored by Amazon or KDP, I just genuinely want to share it!

e x

Posted in Books, Education, Goals, Health, life, Musings, rant, Shonda Rhimes, University, work, Writing

Confession: I’m a terrible decision maker

I really am. I am either two ways about something: I love making plans to do something then fret and spend time wondering how I can get out of it; or, I loathe making plans and end up making a stupid choice in the end because I was too indecisive and shouldn’t be allowed to make rash decisions.

Story of my life.

I hate to admit it, but I will. I loved starting uni, and the beginning of each term when I could go full on Rory Gilmore and have a ‘legitimate’ excuse for spending Ā£40 on stationary (not that I don’t already have a house teeming with unused pens and notepads). However, as the term progressed and either my insomnia or hypersomnia got the better of me, I found it harder and harder to stick to my class schedule. In my final year I was between 6-8 hours of classes a week AND I STILL MANAGED TO SKIP TWO OF EACH over a 12 week semester of course. Now I know looking back I wonder why I couldn’t just have forced myself to go, I probably did lose some marks here and there for non-attendance but the thrill I got from turning over in bed and going back to sleep was ridiculous. Then I remember the tiredness. It’s not an excuse, but the overwhelming, mind-numbing, soul-draining tiredness that made me fall asleep sitting up at various desks and start to dream while believing that I was still awake, is still such a problem for me that it’s now hard to imagine taking full time classes, constant homework, a part time job, and tutoring as well. I’m actually quite proud then of how I did survive it.

It does bother me, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing about it now, and it’s why I amĀ theĀ Coffee Queen. And when I go into super sleep mode at night and have wild and fantastical dreams it soothes the creative side of me and gives me such a boost that no caffeinated product on earth has yet managed to achieve. As such, it is mostly an issue on my days off from work, I’ve not been working a lot of hours the last few weeks so realistically I should be managing to get plenty of work done given that I’ve had plenty of off time. NOPE.

I set my alarm early, so I can get up andĀ carpe diem but when it goes off, I have no idea what planet I’m on and flip my phone onto snooze and this routine can last for a couple of hours…. YES, A COUPLE OF HOURS! So that when I do finally remember I had a reason for getting up early, I’m groggy, my eyes are stinging with broken sleep, my head hurts and I feel blah. Plus it’s hours past the time I wanted to get up and I shuffle about like a zombie, caffeine having no effect on me at all.

It becomes a vicious circle, tired and sleepy –> lethargic –> the desire to crawl back into bed –> no creative energy to write or work/no urge to start –> feeling guilty that another day has passed with nothing done when this is my DREAM, DAMMIT!

I know this was something I mentioned in my goals list that I wanted to work on for this year but I’m trying to create a kind of Cheat Sheet of inspiration, things that no matter how tired or blah I am I’ll be sparked into action by reading them. Something that definitely helped recently was reading Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes, that I spoke briefly about in the last post, I just finished it last night and it has had such a profound effect on me. I know I need to start living more YES and hiding away less. Blogging has helped a lot as well. I’ve had blogs before but then really lacked the focus of what I was trying to do with them or I was too nervous about certain people reading certain things, whereas now, I cleaned up my facebook so everyone still there can read or not read my posts but I have nothing to hide. I changed how I approach blog posts, not just travel, languages, writing, but everything all of me, all that is me. I can’t split myself off the way others can, no one interest really takes the lead over the others, they are all important to me and in different ways, at different times.

Anyway, as much as I’d like to say this blogging exercise has got my creative juices flowing again, I think it’s more the venti caramel coffee soya frappuccino next to me that’s done the trick. I’ll implore you once again to read Shonda Rhimes book (99p on kindle) and I’ll get back to writing my script that I’ve been procrastinating on for too long.

Luego

e x