Writing a blog is my grown-up project

And it means a lot to me
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Talent comes from originality which has a special manner of thinking of seeing of understanding and of judging.

Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et Jean

I recently read some blogging tips. The advice was ‘start with a small project’. It made me think.

What is a small project? Does it mean writing a short blog. Or writing a blog and doing some small scale marketing for it. Or maybe something else, like organising all the rubbish that you collect and putting it in some sort of order.

When I was young, I loved projects. We did them at school. I remember doing one on the cocoa bean and how it gets turned into chocolate. I wrote to Cadbury’s and asked for any information they could give me and they sent me loads of interesting stuff.

I collected information about hotels I stayed in with my parents (they were great travellers- we went all over Europe, by car, quite unusual in the 60’s), and when I got home I would write projects on them all. I drew pictures, stuck things in, I was really creative.

I suppose they were small projects. At the time, to me as a child, they seemed like big projects, and I loved them. I enjoyed organising things in a scrapbook or folder. I wrote commentary on all the information I had collected and I wrote about our travels.

When I think back now, as a child I was quite imaginative. I loved reading and at the age of nine, would walk the short distance to our local library. I would browse for ages and would always go home with three or four books.

I would write stories, which my mother would read and would tell me I had a great imagination. When you are a child, it seems you are uninhibited by all the self consciousness that suddenly takes over your life when you become a teenager.

I certainly felt like that. Suddenly, I could no longer write stories, do projects and I had no inclination to do it. My teenage years were not happy ones. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and learned to live inside myself.

I am still fairly introverted. I have never been happy in a crowd. I never really liked parties, preferring one-to-one, or a small group of people I was completely comfortable with. I was probably a bit of a dork!

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Even after I was married I remained uncomfortable in large groups, and preferred the company of my family and close friends. Age has taught me that the number of close friends you have is fairly small. But they are the ones that stay with you through thick and thin.

Becoming disabled has reinforced this. My close friends are still there, supporting me, bringing cake (that’s how well they know me) and humour to my life.

So I’m happy being an introvert.

I started a project – this blog. I suppose it was a small project to begin with, but it now looms large in my life. I don’t claim to have great talent but I always wanted to write, and I always imagined living in a cottage by the sea and writing to my hearts content.

Well, life didn’t quite go that way, but I’m writing. I love it. I couldn’t live without it. It’s given me a purpose in my limited life. I don’t get to publish as often as I would like, life intervenes. But I don’t plan to give up on this anytime soon.

So, please keep reading. This is one project I’m happy to share.

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash

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!

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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

What to Do When Plans Go Wrong and Do We Need Them?

Plans can be important when you have a disability or chronic illness. If they don’t work out does it make you feel anxious? Believe me, it’s not just you.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

As a full time wheelchair user, my life has limitations. In September last year I decided to start a blog. It gave me something to focus on. I love writing and up to then had just kept a journal where I wrote about anything and everything, especially after my MS diagnosis.

I realised over time that plans were an essential part of living with a disability if life was to run smoothly. Any outing has to be an almost military exercise. I have to see the weather forecast the day before so I can plan what to wear, as I suffer badly from the cold.

Time has to be allowed to get me into our adapted vehicle and to get out at the other end, especially if my 5 year old grandson is helping! Going out for a simple lunch is a nightmare if anything goes wrong!

Today, I planned to write…….

I want to write. But suddenly I’m scared. It’s making me anxious and afraid to start. This is because I’ve become obsessed with reading about marketing strategies etc. I have read so much I am confused about what I should be doing, if anything, to grow my blog, when really nothing is going to grow it if I don’t write it!

So this is me trying to overcome the fear I’ve suddenly developed. Still in the back of my mind whilst I’m writing are the thoughts about all the blogging advice I’ve been reading, and how contradictory it all is.

I’ve been sucked in to paying for stuff (not a lot) that doesn’t tell me anything, signing into free courses on every optimising topic imaginable (or not). This has been going on since Christmas. I persuaded myself that 2020 will be the year that I do everything I can to grow my blog.

Not that I haven’t written anything in that time, I have. I just feel that there was a certain amount of trying to incorporate things from the stuff I’ve read.

I can’t really write in a conversational tone, as if I’m having a conversation with someone, it’s just not my style. I can’t write to solve other people’s problems much as I would like to. I don’t write to make money.

When I write on disability I write in the hope that my writing resonates with someone and gives them validation for their thoughts and feelings, or just lets them know they are not alone.

When I write about politics it’s in the hope that readers can gain something from my piece, again perhaps resonating with their thoughts or opinions, or confirming their opposition to it.

I can’t write sitting in a cafe simply because I can’t get out to one. There is no quiet space here at home because our house is small, I cannot go on a retreat (much as I would love to) without taking with me a lot of equipment and two carers! Not exactly a retreat then.

So, I make a plan everyday to set some time aside for writing. If I can’t do this I find myself and more often frustrated than anxious.

So, is making plans a good idea?

The more I’ve thought about this after reading stuff about writing every day or not writing every day, writing a plan or not writing a plan etc etc, the more I’ve realised that for me making plans to write is not the best thing. My life is unpredictable yet routine, my days are short.

My days go like this. My (wonderful) carers arrive at 9.30 a.m. by which time I have had my breakfast. They get me up into my chair in 30 minutes (I did say they are wonderful). So I start my day at 10. But then, two days a week I have nurses so my carers come at 11 and my day starts at 11.30. Every evening they come at 6 p.m. to get me back into bed.

During those hours I can write but then one of my daughters may appear for a coffee, or a friend arrives with a cake. My 5 year old grandson begs his Mummy to bring him round after school to play games with me on my iPad. These are things I love and enjoy and wouldn’t want to change.

This means that trying to plan my day is pointless. And, if I’m honest, I don’t want to do it because the unexpected things are what makes my life more fun, and if I don’t have anything planned, then I don’t get anxious and frustrated.

But. this is my life and the way I’ve chosen to deal with the everyday. This may not be right for everyone, every disability is different. For me, I think that a mix of making plans for some things like outings is necessary, of course it is (although even that doesn’t guarantee smooth running but that’s for a future post!), and not trying to make rigid plans for each day seems to work better. It means much less anxiety and frustration – that has to be better for my mental wellbeing.

If that means I can’t write every day then that’s fine. I always said it would be beyond me!

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