Does a good morning routine make you a better blogger?

And does it contribute to being successful?

Woman writing in her journal
Photo by Trent Szmolnik on Unsplash

I’ve just read an article written by a successful blogger interviewing other successful bloggers about their morning routine and how it contributes to their productivity during the day.

In every single one of the six interviews I read, no matter when they woke up, no matter what time of the morning, be it 5 a.m. or 9, their first task was writing. Journaling was the most popular thing, setting out goals for the day, reflecting and thinking.

Clearly none of these bloggers have children, bar one, who said she had a 5 year old. She writes before the child wakes. I have to say, in my experience of 5 year olds, she must have to get up pretty early.

I’m not criticising, I’m just astonished and slightly envious. When I was younger and, thank goodness, healthy I was married and bringing up 5 children. The mornings were absolute mayhem, getting them up, ready for school, making sure they had breakfast, games kit, packed lunches etc etc. Every mum will know the drill. Certainly no room to put a word on a page!

The only thing I got up early for was to feed the baby, or in later years, to grab a quick coffee before the chaos began!Too exhausted to write anything except note in child’s homework book or something.

Once the last one went to school, I started and ran my own business (with my friend and business partner) for the next eight years. Then, going to the gym early in the morning was more important to my wellbeing.

My husband worked long hours, I tried to fit my work into school hours, so I was able to pick the kids up. I also worked weekends.

During this time, I did keep a journal of sorts, when I had time, or remembered to write in it. When my youngest child was about 12, I started a degree course with The Open University, when obviously writing was intrinsic to the course.

My morning routine was no less chaotic, I still had four children at home, my eldest having gone to Uni by this time.

Sometimes, as the kids got older and were sleeping in a bit longer, on a Sunday morning I would get up and take coffee and the papers back to bed where my husband and I would read them and the kids wandered in and out.

Once they all grew up and one by one left home, I could finally have a morning routine that suited me. But it didn’t involve writing or journaling in any way. It just meant coffee and reading my book. I hadn’t properly read a book in years. Now was my chance!

(Just notice how often coffee pops up in this story!)

Then I got MS. I had managed to keep a journal going when my symptoms started, because I needed to get things on paper (yes paper!) for my mental health.

Since I’ve been a tetraplegic (10 years now) I have a morning routine that is not of my choosing. Now I couldn’t write in the morning even if I wanted to. My mornings are strictly controlled to be ready for carers every morning when they come at 9.30 a.m.

Twice a week community nurses come in at 10 and the carers at 11. Since I am put to bed at 6 in the evening, most days are short. I have to fit all my writing and other things like seeing my friends and family into this short day.

I suppose these very productive bloggers must have become successful so they treat it as a business. I have been learning to blog for six months now and it’s changed and enriched my life in so many ways. But my morning routine is as it is!

I just hope I’m as successful as they are one day even without the enviable morning routine!

Photo by Austen Distel on Unsplash

Why good notes are a must for writers

Organise your notes to avoid scraps of paper!

Photo by Tai Jyun Chang on Unsplash

I listened to an interview with the fiction writer Louise Penny recently. She said that she had suffered from writers block, and had seen a therapist.  She learned that the biggest obstacle to writing is fear. Fear stops thoughts, ideas and characters entering one’s mind freely and then being transferred onto paper. Recently, I heard the quote ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’ (F D Roosevelt). The next day, I opened an e mail from the British Library focused on writing, Then, quite coincidentally, I read an article about President Roosevelt in which the same quote appeared.

This seemed to be telling me something. That I should overcome my fear of the blank page and just start!

It all depends how I feel; if I’m having a bad MS day, if I haven’t slept well. If I need more coffee! Most importantly, whether I can remember an idea that may have floated through my brain and out again three weeks before!

I’m sure it is a common problem for a lot of writers, especially if, like me, they are fairly new to the process. There is also the fact that writing is never a matter of just the idea or the content, but the spelling, the grammar, the constant re-reading, editing, the list goes on. Even if you are mostly housebound and sitting in a wheelchair all day, when you think there would be limitless time, it never quite works out like that.

I just read an article by Brian Ye published in The Writers Cooperative, a Medium Publication.  In it, he describes how note-taking is invaluable in the process of writing.  Whether you use a notebook and pen (as he did for a long time) or electronic note taking (as he does now), being able to jot down ideas when you think of them can help to build a comprehensive list of ideas which should help to overcome the fear of the blank piece of paper or screen.

I do make notes rather sporadically and in a haphazard sort of way. I use the Notes app on my iPad. The problem is that a random idea can be lost amongst my very disorganised pages, which contain telephone numbers, appointments, names, lists – trying to find some idea in that lot is almost impossible. Even if I do find it, it’s usually so vague that I’ve forgotten what it was in the first place!

So, inspired by Mr Ye, I have decided to download a note-taking app and use it properly. Thank you Sir.

Photo by Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash

How to Keep a Notebook of Ideas Close (and Why) Brian Ye https://writingcooperative.com

Can reading a blog tell you how to change your life?

And does it really help?
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

If I had a pound for every title or tagline that absolutely swears this thing or that will change my life, I wouldn’t need to do anything for money in my life ever again. I could change, transform and make everything better overnight. It has become a sort of epidemic in writing. You are promised every sort of panacea to whatever you think is wrong with your life.

Surely if it was as easy as these articles, blogs, you tubers, podcasters claim, we would all have done it by now and we wouldn’t need them. We would all have transformed ourselves wondrously from whatever we think we are to whatever we think we want to be.

I’m as guilty as everyone else of being caught by these attention grabbing headlines, mostly, in my case, on blogs about improving my writing and transforming my blog into a multi million pound business and achieve my dreams. This is about as unlikely as me getting up out of my wheelchair and walking! And yet every day, despite me being determined not to, I read them. Then I follow links within them and read those too, until I suddenly realise that two hours have gone from my morning.

My days are short and those two hours are precious. Instead of reading about blogging I should be blogging! I have found some of it really useful, especially the Facebook groups I’ve joined. To me it’s more valuable to share a blog post on a group and let other bloggers comment (if they want to!) or to ask a question and let others answer with their experiences.

Maybe reading these articles takes our minds off a particular problem or worry. Maybe we look to them in the hope of having a ‘Eureka’ moment, suddenly showing us what we’ve been missing, how we can find the one thing we need, the ability to change our life forever. It rarely happens. It’s not that simple.

I’ve read blogs written by people who truly have changed their lives. The guy working in Silicone Valley who left his job, set up his own website and then travelled the world whilst working, a ‘digital nomad’. Or the couple whose lifestyle website was so successful they gave up their day jobs and cycled round the world, whilst maintaining their blog!

I read blog advice in the hope that I can finally produce the post that goes viral! Maybe this post will (not likely). But I live in hope. Some of these articles strengthens my resolve.

I have gained nuggets of info which have inspired me to try to improve my blog, and I think that’s really the point, Reading them and gaining small bits of information or picking up tips can be really inspirational or just helpful in solving a problem, or moving forwards. That seems more realistic than changing your whole life overnight!

There is, of course, the possibility that I have got this all wrong, that this is all we’re meant to take away, the odd tip or trick.

One blog I read actually set out a checklist to help you achieve your dream life, nothing wrong with that, you may think, but just have a look:

  1. Work only contract jobs – check
  2. Travel as much as possible – check
  3. Start a travel blog, build following
  4. Start an event planning business on line – check
  5. Build client list
  6. Train as a travel agent – check
  7. Get TICO certified – check
  8. Find a travel agency to work with as outside sales rep –Check

(From https://ohwhatajourney.com)

I’m not saying this is in anyway wrong, just a tad unrealistic! I’ve no doubt that this is meant to be a long-term plan, but I think most people who read these advice blogs are looking for something that moves a bit quicker!

To be fair, this is only one blog I found among many I’m sure, but it caught my eye when I looked into the idea of a ‘freedom lifestyle’ (see https://bellesdays.com/can-we-live-a-freedom-lifestyle) because it did seem rather far-fetched.

So, whilst people want to read things writers will want to write these things. But I have realised through my unconstructed reading, that you can get so lost in how many ways there are to achieve what you want, that you forget that the only way is to just bite the bullet and do it!

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

How My Life Changed Almost Overnight

And what I’ve learned

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

In 2004 fear took over my life. This is when the first symptoms of MS began, and I had no idea what was happening to me. I went from a fit, active person to someone who could only walk a short distance, had difficulty driving, could no longer type with both hands and so many other things. Almost overnight.

The fear was intense, I suffered panic attacks, I cried a lot, lashed out at my husband and he at me. This was completely alien to me, we had been married for a long time and for the most part happily. Neither of us could understand why I kept falling over and had to rest for half an hour after my morning shower before I could get dressed!

I went to my GP. It took six months to get an appointment with a spinal surgeon, who sent me to a Neurologist. He told me I’d had a stroke!

After a hospital stay and every test known to man, waiting another four months to see the Neurologist again, I was then a ‘puzzle’.

Another stay in hospital, a visit to Queens Hospital in London, where some random doctor bashed me on the head several times with what looked like a tennis racket, still no answers!

After another four months waiting to see the neuro again, by which time he’d forgotten who I was. We told him we were going to live in France (see https://bellesdays.com/20/11/2019). He more or less said ‘have a nice life’ or words to that effect!

Whilst in France, I had two further MRI scans and, finally, after six years I was told that I had Primary Progressive MS. It came as a huge relief that I now knew what I was dealing with, and huge sadness because I knew that I would always have it.

I was in a wheelchair by this time anyway and I was getting used to the fact that I could no longer stand up.

Despite everything that has happened in the last 10 years since my diagnosis, here I am. I’m not saying that I’m not anxious, I am a lot of the time. You never come to terms with having everything taken away, but you learn to live with it, and to enjoy the new life you find yourself living.

I maintain my interests, reading, politics, food, I have taken online courses and learned (am still learning) to blog. Having MS in whatever form does not mean not having a meaningful life, just a different one.

We came home from France in 2016. It was quite a difficult decision but the right one. Life is too short to miss being around family and friends and watching your grandchildren grow up.

This is my story. It’s taken me 16 years to reach this point. Life is never simple. Everybody’s MS is different. I won’t say the fear has completely gone, I don’t think it ever will. People ask me why I’m always smiling. I say that I have two choices – I either do or I don’t. For me it’s not a difficult choice to make.

Read more

https://www.ms-uk.org

https://ms.newlifeoutlook.com.

https://www.sueryder.org

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

Why should disability exclude us from travel

The simple answer is it shouldn’t

Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

I have been thinking a lot about accessible travel (again) over the last week. In April I want to travel to France for a family wedding. I’m a full time wheelchair user, and I fly only once a year now. That’s because it is a horrible experience. And that’s if it runs smoothly.

If it goes wrong it can quickly become an absolutely horrific situation. I have had so many of these that I’m wondering whether to bother any more. It is so stressful.

Then I think how unfair it is that a whole section of society can potentially be excluded from travel, when, with some , it could be straightforward (as much as anything is straightforward when you’re disabled!). Why should it be so difficult?

I also think that the more we travel the more we make the point that the right exists for us as much as it does for other people.

It was so good to hear that the government plans to give £30 million to Heathrow Airport to improve accessibility for disabled people. But, I need to know exactly what it means and where the money is going to go.

And, from what I see, it’s not only flying, the problem exists across the whole spectrum of travel, trains, buses, taxis, boats, you name it, it’s a nightmare.

There is so much evidence out there of people’s experiences, none of it good. Yesterday I watched a video of a disabled man being taken off a train forward down a ramp. He was tipped out and landed on his head. It actually made me cry out. The feeling of being tipped forward in your wheelchair is really frightening.

People who are there to provide assistance must first have proper training, but also, must learn to speak, yes speak, to the disabled person to ask which way is the best way to go down a ramp, or a slope, or a step. That person will know best which is best for the particular situation. And if they do actually ask, to listen to the answer. I was once asked if I could stand. I said no. They stood me up anyway. I fell down! it was very painful.

I’ve been too scared in ten years of being in a wheelchair to travel by train. Watching that video did nothing to make me feel better! I use disabled taxis, sometimes the drivers are brilliant, kind and go out of their way to make sure I’m comfortable, others not so much!

I’ve found a solution to travelling to London now, I have two wonderful drivers who charge less than the train fare, take me from door to door, and make sure I’m ok. Then, when it’s time to travel home there they are. They also do the Heathrow trip. The insurance for them to drive our adapted car was worth every penny.

I feel as if I’m repeating myself. I’ve written before about my travel experiences and about the need for travel providers to take disabled people seriously and to try to do better.

The thing is, that accessibility issues don’t just refer to travel, but to other problems like non-accessible toilets, restaurants and other public places with no ramped access, even my doctors’ surgery is not nearly as accessible as I think it should be.

But until there is real change I think it bears repetition. Perhaps someone will finally take notice.

Photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

Read more:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/feb/09/red-tape-and-bad-attitudes-block-the-way-for-disabled-travellers

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/feb/12/hull-university-not-accessible-to-wheelchair-users

How a hard decision could improve my life

Sometimes it just has to be done

I’ve made a big decision. I’m going to do something fairly drastic. I’m hoping it’s going to change a part of myself I am very unhappy with.

I’m going to have a ‘buzz’ cut. I’m going to cut my hair to within an inch of it’s life! What on earth is a buzz cut I hear you ask. Here’s an example. I might end up looking like this, or could go even shorter.

https://www.besthairstyletrends.com on Pinterest

Needless to say that’s not me, it’s a very stylish pin from https://www.besthairstyletrends.com

Now imagine this. I am 65. I have naturally white hair which all my friends say they love it and they wish they had it. Worst of all I have my Father’s face (triple-chinned and jowly!). God bless you Dad.

Add to that the bloated and blotchy effect from the meds I take and there you go. Keep looking at the image above and pretend it’s me!

I hate my hair. Worse than that I hate my scalp. Like many people with neurological disorders, I have a dermatological condition which is difficult to manage.

It causes my scalp to itch constantly. If I scratch it it gets worse and sometimes it will bleed because I’ve scratched it too much in one spot. Don’t think that I’m covered in scabs. I’m not. But I am being driven slowly insane.

So this is why I need to shave as much of my head as I dare. I need to be able to treat it with product that hopefully will help.

My disability means I am unable to shower and washing my hair relies on my husband or my daughters. Sometimes it just isn’t possible. It’s also a bit of a palaver! Either I get soaked or the floor does. So managing my hair generally is not easy. Managing it with a scalp condition is almost impossible.

So I have decided. Tomorrow is the big day!

Photo by Pascal Bernadon on Unsplash
Older woman covering her head in purple!

Can we live a ‘Freedom Lifestyle?

What even is a freedom lifestyle? I’m going to try and find the answer.

Original photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

Trawling through the Internet I saw loads of different definitions. I would say that most of them were about starting a business to achieve financial freedom. Some were about living a freedom lifestyle through travel, such as trekking or bike-riding across different countries or continents. But the core definition seemed to go something like this:

A freedom lifestyle means living a life that is self-designed. Saying yes to things you love and no to things you don’t. The freedom to choose what is going to be part of every minute of every day of the rest of your life”. (Marie Hernandez)

https://ohwhatajourney.com/freedom-lifestyle-mindset

The blog ohwhatajourney.com has a post talking about having a ‘freedom lifestyle mindset’. They use the quote above and Set out their ‘Freedom Lifestyle Plan’:

  1. Work only contract jobs – check
  2. Travel as much as possible – check
  3. Start a travel blog, build following
  4. Start an event planning business on line – check
  5. Build client list
  6. Train as a travel agent – check
  7. Get TICO certified – check
  8. Find a travel agency to work with as outside sales rep – Check

Fairly easy then! This is a plan that may take some time. But if you are in a place in your life where it resonates with you go for it.

Of course we all want a life that is self-designed, and most of us have it up to a point. We choose where we live, where we take holidays, what we do in our spare time etc. But most of us have to work to have these choices.

Everybody’s daily routines are different. For most people life is a morning commute to get to work and the same routine in the evening just to get home again. Traffic jams, a crowded bus journey, the school run. All the things that make up people’s everyday. Not much room for doing things you love unless you love doing all this stuff!

Do what you love at weekends and say no to things you don’t love? Hmmmm…. weekends can be just as busy as weekdays particularly if you have kids or even if you don’t. If you work all week then the weekends can be taken up with shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and all that.

I sound a bit down on the whole thing. I’m not but I just wonder whether any aspect of the freedom lifestyle is doable in busy lives.

For me, as a disabled person, obviously not. If I was to say ‘no’ to the things I don’t like I’d never get out of bed! I don’t like not being able to look after myself without help (great as that help is), and I don’t like the strict routine I have but I wouldn’t be able to live without it.

I’m not complaining. Other disabled people are in the same position as me, some with many more problems than I have. Able-bodied people have lots of things in their daily lives that they don’t like.

Back in the day my husband loved his weekends, he was a hockey Dad, taking one of our daughters to field hockey every Saturday. That was something he loved. That was his day of freedom. Sunday mornings he would read the papers. That was it for him, Sunday afternoon he would work at home preparing for Monday (he is a retired lawyer).

My freedom at weekends was Sunday afternoon reading, something I love.

Now we are both retired. We should have lots of time. We wanted to travel, for us that was the ultimate freedom lifestyle. But – bang! I developed MS and it was not possible.

We do things that we love. I love writing, he loves doing crosswords. We take a trip to France once a year. He cooks nice things and I eat them!

What exactly is a Freedom Lifestyle?

I’m going to see if I can somehow get to the root of it, and see how practical it is.

One blogger (George Maszaros successharbor.com) suggested ditching the:

  • job you hate
  • boss you dislike
  • commute you hate
  • things you don’t need (de-cluttering)
  • addiction to being busy
  • relationships that are negative In your life

Not an option for most people I would imagine! Most of the research I did on the Internet focused on starting your own business to gain the financial freedom to live however you want, using words like ‘laptop lifestyle’ or ‘digital nomad lifestyle’ or ‘living your dream life’ One blog I read defines a freedom lifestyle as this:

1. an intentional and adventurous way of life. 2. the ability to do what you want, when you want, how you want. 3. a lifelong commitment to crafting and sharing your unique genius (yes, you’re a genius).

http://www.armanassadi.com/introduction-to-freedom-lifestyle

This blogger had just left a job with Google in Silicon Valley, so was clearly in a position to be able to start up his own business. He then goes on to describe how he travels the world because he can take his business with him. A digital nomad!

I even read an article in which the author suggested that perhaps, to gain the financial means to live your freedom lifestyle, you should start a business on the side in addition to your day job! (medium.com/rasheedhooda)

Not practical for most of us. Just keep buying your lottery ticket!

A Freedom Lifestyle for disabled people?

When it came to researching what a freedom lifestyle means for disabled people this focused on independent living. I soon realised that this is a completely different thing.

One disabled person said this:

It is the ability to live independently and productively in the community and to live with the same freedom of choice as a non-disabled person. So it’s not that you are living on your own but that you control where you live and have the same range of choices as a non-disabled person.

Jill Weiss

So, if my idea of freedom living is to sit alone in a cave on a Tibetan mountain meditating then it’s a no-go. Right?

Photo by Yomo Owo on Unsplash

I have to admit that it’s a good definition of how disabled people would want to live. There are many younger people who go travelling with their wheelchair and a carer, living the best freedom lifestyle they can.

So, is a ‘Freedom Lifestylepossible?

I’ve only looked at a tiny bit of what’s out there on the web and in blogs about this idea. To ‘self-design’ our own lives depends on so many things, our circumstances and commitments, money, kids, elderly parents to take care of, whatever.

For most people the ability to have a life of freedom from pressures of time, money, work would be a dream, for some people that dream can become a reality. But it surely, unless you are already financially secure, it takes a leap in the dark with no idea where you’ll land and that is truly scary. Not a risk that anybody would take lightly.

The best that most of us can do is live the best life we can through creating a balanced life of work and leisure and make it count. Self-designing our life in whatever way suits us, and creating choices for ourselves whenever we can.

I refuse to use the term ‘work-life balance’ – it’s been worn out. Maybe a ‘freedom lifestyle’ is better!

Photo by Collins Lasulie on Unsplash