approaching New Year | diary 10

lifestyle, writing, 2019

Hello!

Doing these little diary posts once a month really reminds me what blogging is all about and where it all began – a web log, a recount of goings-on and a log of activities. The priority on my little corner of the internet will always be having something that I can look back on and 1) be proud of and 2) serve as a little reminder of who I was when I posted, even if that’s not who I am now.

And writing rambly blog posts that all come out in one go are my favourite and I think they’re the nicest ones to look back on!

So today I wanted to talk about how the end of the year is fast approaching – it feels like my entire Instagram and Twitter feeds are either full of Christmas or ‘it’s the end of the decade, have you achieved anything, get off your ass and do something‘ and personally I feel attacked (note the sarcasm).

But for real, it’s very intense and makes me think I haven’t achieved anything but at the turn of the last decade I was 13 – I’m a completely different person to who I was at 13 and that’s definitely for the better. I’ve finished my GCSEs, finished my A Levels, finished my undergraduate degree, finished a post-graduate certificate and I’m now studying a masters that I’ll finish in September next year – I’m starting the next decade as a masters student and hopefully that’ll be the beginning of a much more exciting decade full of learning but not in an institution that racks up my debt any further than it already is.

Outside of academic achievements, I’ve been on two charity expeditions to Tanzania and Ecuador, each for a month for the most amazing, terrifying and life-changing experiences. I’ve moved across country and met people that are going to be friends for the rest of my life. I lost friends that I thought I’d have for the rest of my life (but that’s just how the world works).

I met the love of my life. I’m a proper renting adult with proper bills and a car to pay for. I learnt to drive! As soon as the list begins you realise that 10 years is a long ass time and so much can happen in that time.

With that in mind I shunned the pressures of the internet and thought about the here and now – how do I feel going into the New Year?

Generally, the signposts of the passing of time scare me – I like routine, I like consistency and whilst I consider myself someone who adapts to change quite well, I’m definitely working on being someone who embraces and enjoys change. There were several New Year’s Eve’s as a teenager where I’d silently cry in my room as Big Ben rung over to the New Year and I couldn’t stop thinking that ‘this year’s going to be worse than last year’ and ‘I won’t be any happier next New Year’ so I’m grateful that I’m no longer trapped feeling that sad and lonely. But the New Year still scares me a little bit.

So I try to focus on the things that I enjoy – as I detailed in my last post, I love organisation, goals and planning so January is going to be almost exclusively resolutions, yearly goals, goals reviews and the likes! I’m actually really excited about that because 2019 started in a very different frame of mind and my goals reflected that so I feel more prepared to make my goals for the next year.

In a typical ‘I’m a student mindset’ I can’t really focus too much on the New Year or Christmas because I have about a million deadlines (five) to hand in before that and they’re big and stressful, but after that I’ve got a few shifts at work, Christmas, New Year with my family, then three weeks of working at much as possible before it all begins again with semester 2.

Generally, the New Year is a good time for me – it’s another chance at a fresh start and new goals and resetting. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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November Goals ’19

2019, goals, lifestyle, organisation, writing

Hello!

How is it nearly the end of the year? My favourite month September went by in a FLASH and now it’s November and I feel like time is going by quicker than I can keep track of it! Not that I’m complaining – I’m getting better at handling the passing of time and I’m getting excited about the prospect of the future and a career again.

Rambles aside, it’s time for a new set of monthly goals – if nothing springs to mind I always refer back to my goals for the year that I set in January which helps me focus and make progress on my mid-term goals. Little top tip for you there! If you’d like a post about how I set goals then please do let me know, this is something I’d love to pursue but I feel like I haven’t achieved enough to warrant making this an aspect of my career.

I’m rambling again! Onto the goals…

One – be more productive with uni work
I don’t mean in the ‘getting more done’ sense, I mean working more consistently and achieving more in the long run if that makes sense. At the moment, I’m slowly trucking away and then I have to work just that little bit harder in the two or three days before an assignment is due to finish off. Even if I spread that work out over a week, I can work in shorter periods and get more done and work on more assignments at a time.

To implement this (another goal setting time – don’t just make goals, plan how to achieve them!) I think I need to start breaking my time down into more scheduled chunks. I’ve always been against this because I’ve taken the mindset that a task will take however long it takes but if I’m spending hours dragging my feet through one task, I’d probably be better off going and doing something else and coming back to it. SO if I set myself an hour of working on one assignment and then I’m going to spend an hour doing some reading for another unit and then an hour writing blog posts then I’ve at least made some progress in all three elements rather than taking all day to reach the point I wanted on a certain assignment.

Two – settle into my new job and the new routine
Getting a job has taken longer than I anticipated because I spent so long looking for jobs in the place where we were going to move and then we ended up moving somewhere else and then there was complications with my applications in the place we actually move to then there were complications with start dates but I’m finally due to start my new retail job next week.

I’ve made this one of my goals because my original intention was not to work in retail – I wanted an office job where I could refine my admin skills, but I just don’t really know where to look and the job I now have actually fits really well with where we live and where my boyfriend works so I just need to give myself permission to potentially enjoy it. I think I might be working in the homeware department so that’s always exciting!

Three – eat a bit more healthily and track my weight again
Now that we’ve moved and I’ve got a bit more control about what I’m eating (and I’ve rediscovered how much I love vegetables) I feel ready to start making small life changes to get back to the healthier lifestyle I had this time last year.

Being brutally hones, I’ve put on about seven pounds since my lowest weight of this year but you know what? That’s really not a massive setback and I can see lots of really obvious habits in my life that I can adapt so I’m looking forward to the challenge in a way.

Four – finish two books!
I made a good dent in catching up on my reading goal of 12 books for the year in September/October but fell off the wagon a bit with moving stress but I’d really like to be back on track by the beginning of December.

I’m currently reading ‘Our Stop’ by Laura Jane Williams and next I’ll be reading ‘The Black Book of Secrets’ by F. E. Higgins.

Five – NaNoWriMo/write every day
And last but not least – another writing challenge! This is what I’ve been training for all year and I actually don’t feel prepared at all but as with the first week of any writing challenge I do, I’m excited – the key now it’s to maintain that momentum.

Although the goal is to hit 50,000 words, I’m not too fussed about the word count because I haven’t had the time to plan the novel redraft that I wanted to write, I’ve got a masters to get and a life to deal with but my focus is making writing a habit. I will be writing a combination of my original novel, a bit of fanfiction and some creative writing exercises just to get words on paper. I did consider including blog posts and any uni writing I have to do but I feel like that’s taking the mick a little bit!

My wrimo profile is sophiecountsclouds, if anyone wants to add me!

So those are my focuses for November! Writing these posts always motivates me – I love a new start and a new month just gives me a little boost and after how hectic October was, I needed that.

Bonus question – I started drafting a blog post during the week of a ‘day in the life of a masters student’ and I started feeling very insecure about whether this would actually be interesting to anyone? So let me know if you have any thoughts on that!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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remember when I blogged every day for a year?

2019, lifestyle, writing

Hello!

My blogging journey has just passed it’s FIVE YEAR anniversary – in that time I’ve written literally hundreds of blog posts, spent hours at my keyboard and learnt a lot about my writing style and myself in the process.

Blogging is something I literally recommend to anyone – got a niche skill? Blog about it! Want to document your life to look back on with your family in the future? Start a private blog! Just got lots of opinions that you’d like to share with a community? A blog is for you! I genuinely think blogging is for everyone.

And I love blogging – knowing that I can allot maybe an hour twice a week to just spill my heart out through the tips of my fingers and then curate those words and make sure there’s at least one decent picture to go with it all and promote it over my social media channels, I find it so therapeutic. Especially in the last few months where I’ve really solidified what purpose I have my blog for and what I want from it (and that not being a career or audience growth, particularly – though that would be lovely!), my blog is my little safe space of the internet to share my thoughts and feelings and pictures and I really do love it.

But then I think back to 2015 and one of the most… interesting snap decisions I ever made.

On New Years Day 2015 one of my cousins posted a picture on instagram that said ‘page 1 of 365’ and I immediately thought that would be a fantastic series for a blog that I had just launched because every university open day I went to said I should have one… and then I was writing and I was committed to writing 365 blog posts.

This is the year where I was trying to recover my A Level grades from the disaster that was my AS results, I was fundraising to spend a month in Ecuador with Camps International, I moved almost 200 miles away to go to uni, started uni, also happened to meet my now long term boyfriend all whilst writing a blog post pretty much every single day. The more I think about it the more impressed I am with 18/19 year old me – I pre-wrote over 30 blog posts for whilst I was in South Africa and I bossed my A Levels (considering what they were), I suffered some of my lowest lows and lost some important friends whilst meeting the people that were a huge part of my transition to university.

2015 was a huge year for me which is part of the reason I decided to do the blogging series, but the fact that I managed to maintain and successfully write three hundred and sixty five blog posts is just another achievement in itself!

Looking back, a lot of the things I wrote about are things I wouldn’t write about now. I think my style is a lot less formal and more chatty, I have much more confidence in what I want to write about and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about life – not just from blogging but I was 18 when I started my blog and next week I turn 23, a lot changes in five years and I have grown up a lot.

I couldn’t do another year of daily blogging I know that for sure – I don’t think anyone’s creativity really let’s them make good, original content every single day and the quality would have to suffer to make that much content. Even if blogging was your full time job there’s still days with meetings and interviews and business stuff and social stuff that takes whole days and unless you were incredibly organised all the time I think it would be a real challenge for anyone. Now I definitely prioritise my own sanity and the quality of my writing over posting more frequently.

And to be honest? I don’t think I’d want to – having that much time to spend on my blog would be amazing but I’d rather spend all that time making really good content once or twice a week. I’m busy to be honest – I’m going back to uni, I’m going to be working part time, I have a social life and friends to catch up with, I like spending time with my family and I’ve worked so hard on my personal development this year and I’m so proud of myself. My time management and productivity has come on in leaps and bounds – I regularly get all the things on my daily to do lists done because I’ve really refined what works for me and throwing ‘publishing a blog post every single day’ into the mix isn’t something I want to commit myself to.

So what’s the purpose of this blog post? A little bit of self reflection and a delayed pat on the back – I achieved so much in 2015 and it stands as one of the best (and worst) years of my life and I’m really glad I documented it. Daily blogging definitely has it’s place, but I’ve done my time I think!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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training to write a book

2019, books, goals, writing

Hello!

For four of the seven months of this year so far, I’ve set myself ‘writing challengers’ of writing a certain amount of words in so many days. It started at 20k, then 25k, 30k, 35k and in August I’m aiming to write 40,000 words.

All of this is my way of training myself to write an increasing amount of words per day to work up to the 50,000 words in 30 days that is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – an online community aiming to write a novel in a month!).

My history with creative writing started all the way back in October 2008 when I was on a family holiday and I found a loose tile at the bottom of the swimming pool and I was inspired to write my own story inspired by the characters in BBC’s Merlin (what a throwback) so my journey with fanfiction began.

From there, I was writing every single night sat in front of the TV with my family – whether it be a notebook, my laptop or my iPad I was always writing from 2008 all the way through to 2015 really when I left for uni. In 2011 I gave my first attempt at NaNoWriMo but only made it to the 15/16k mark – in 2012 I won NaNoWriMo and wrote the first draft of my novel that one day I’ve vowed to publish and I’ve told my best friend Katy she can play the lead female character when it gets made into a film too so I’ve got to keep that promise.

Then I went to uni. And I spent evenings with friends rather than alone watching TV and writing fanfiction and developing my own novel – at various points over my degree I tried to get back into it but I just didn’t have the time or the motivation to properly invest myself in writing again.

And then came the year after I graduated where I couldn’t get a job to start my career and I’m back in my childhood bedroom but I’m 22 and my long term boyfriend is with me.

Either way, I had much more time to dedicate to writing! I tried NaNoWriMo again in 2018 but it really is a challenge, however it gave me the drive to rediscover what I loved about creative writing and get back into it – thus the monthly challenges training for WriMo begin!

The challenges have been a mixed bag so far – the first one went really well, the other one was a complete failure, the third one started well but I fell behind a little a caught up in the early days of the following month. The most recent challenge I didn’t really start writing until about a week in and somehow I pulled it back and finished a whopping 35,000 words in July ready to jump straight into 40,000 words in August!

What I’ve found in the last three months works really well is using fanfiction and writing prompts just to get myself writing anything – having 30 prompts to write short little excerpts with characters I’m already familiar with and haven’t had to design has really got me in the right mindset and excited about delving into my own characters again in November where I’m hoping to finish draft 2 of my original winning novel seven years down the line!

In June I used Carrie Hope Fletcher’s May, Myself and I words as prompts, in July I used Hannah Witton’s Dear June and for August my darling, hilarious boyfriend has written 31 prompts for me to follow. I’m genuinely surprised that they were so thoughtful – I’ve got a good boy that will endorse my little writing challenges and I don’t know about you, but I think I have the best boyfriend (he’s my favourite team mate).

That’s a little summary of how I’ve been training for NaNoWriMo this year – creative writing has been my biggest outlet since I was 12 years old. In my worst moments, I take my feelings and vent them out in fiction and it just make everything feel much less isolating – especially back in the days where I shared my fanfiction and I got so much positive feedback from pieces that were written from the heart and that’s always been how I write. For my blog, for my creative writing – I want everything I write to sound genuine and conversational and I think I’ve done that fairly successfully.

There’s still three months until NaNoWriMo begins but I’m already excited!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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700 blog posts later!

2019, creativity, writing

Hello!

When looking for inspiration for my blog this month, I noticed that I’m really close to having published 700 blog posts – this one makes 699 and Saturday’s post will be my 700th blog post! Isn’t that mental?

Especially when I think that in 2015 I published 365 blog posts, so almost half of my blog posts were published in 2015 and let’s just say my style has changed a lot since then!

If you’re feeling nosy – here’s a link to my first post! It’s not formatted very well because I started my blog on blogger and moved to WordPress about 3 years ago. It’s so formal and pretentious and I thought I was being really unique by having a tagline at the end instead of saying goodbye like a normal person.

It’s so strange to look back on that post and know that it was almost 5 years ago – in 5 years I’ve finished sixth form, got a degree, done a whole host of things and still love blogging. Being able to sit down and watch a blinking cursor is somehow liberating, I can just write whatever I’m thinking about and having this platform to share my thoughts, feelings and advice on has been such an incredible creative outlet for me.

I would genuinely recommend for everyone to start blogging – if you want to refine your writing and really figure out your style, if you have a message you want to put out in the world if you want to blog just for yourself and the memories like an online diary I genuinely think it’s a great skill and a wonderful outlet.

And to be able to look back on five years of my life is so special – I’ve documented the day I got my first tattoo, my variety of hair colours, advice on starting university, fashion, beauty, bullet journalling, post-grad life, a bit of travel, my relationship – so much to look back on and I love it so much.

Writing isn’t for everyone – I know that it’s a skill that a lot of people just don’t want to invest their time in. It’s easier to scroll through Instagram or watch videos on YouTube but I really don’t think there’s anything more therapeutic than getting everything out in words, whether it’s in a journal or a blog post there’s such a relief in writing something out. It’s the longest version of writing out a text and not sending it!

I mean, granted there’s a difference between sending an emotion filled text and writing a blog post on the internet for anyone to read.

Nearly 700 blog posts and nearly 5 years really have flown by – I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 5 years and 700 blog posts bring! I wonder what style I’ll be writing in then?

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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July Goals

2019, fitness, goals, lifestyle, student, writing

Hello!

It’s that time again! We’re officially over halfway through 2019 and I’m not entirely sure how it’s gone that fast actually. It’ll be Christmas before we know it!

But with a new month, it means new goals! My June goals actually went relatively well – I made good progress on lots of things and I’m going to maintain that this month. So here are my achievable personal goals for July!

  1. Practice driving petrol – may sound dumb, but long story short I upgraded my car! I’ve been driving diesel since I started learning last September and this is the first time I’ve ever driven petrol and boy-o it’s different and difficult to get used to. I say ‘difficult’ – it’s only been two days and when it’s flat I’m mostly okay but I want to get lots of practice in so that when I pass my driving test (eventually) I’ll be ready to zip off here there and everywhere in my gorgeous new car! Aptly named H.R.Wheels by my creative boyfriend, plus points to anyone who watches the Flash and gets that reason.
  2. Confirm my place at uni and research where to move – literally yesterday as I was brainstorming what I wanted my goals for this month to be, I got a conditional offer email from Oxford Brookes University to study MSc Digital Media Production and I’m simultaneously nervous and excited. But what goes with that is moving – finding somewhere to live around Oxford (because I definitely can’t afford Oxford) and figuring out the finances of it all! July is a month of figuring out.
  3. Write 35,000 words – I’ve been setting myself lots of monthly writing challenges to train up for 50,000 words NaNoWriMo in November and this month is Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s just to maintain my habit for writing every day and making time for creative hobbies around work and other commitments!
  4. Run 3x a week and stop snacking – a little development on my goals for last months. In this last week is when I fell off my couch to 5k bandwagon and I needed a bit of motivation, so this morning I did the run from week 1 and I’m going to do a condensed version of the first 4 weeks, then build up on week 5 and 6 again because that’s where I started to struggle. It’s going to take me considerably longer than 9 weeks but I’m going to get there! This is the most committed to exercise I’ve been since I was dancing four times a week at school. And I need to get a hold of my eating habits again – it’s getting out of hand so step 1 for me is cutting out snacking. It’ll be tough but I want to feel better again so I’ve got to work for it!
  5. Make sure I can pay all my bills – having bought a car at the very end of June, July is going to be incredibly tight (because I may or may not have spent the majority of my wages before I got paid… haha?). It’s manageable as long as I don’t waste money on things I don’t need and am really careful with what I do spend. I’m not worried about it but I need to focus and having it as part of my monthly goals helps keep me on track!

A couple of days ago, I noticed in myself that I was feeling a bit spaced out – that I was stopping doing things that are good for me and feeling a total lack of motivation for everything but writing this post has really perked me up! If you feel a bit lost I thoroughly recommend setting a short list of achievable goals, it makes it so much easier to be productive!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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I think this is a game plan… (Diary 3)

2018, career, fitness, lifestyle, writing

Hello!

When I planned to write this post (though, side note, should I write a post about how I plan my content?) I was expecting to write about how I was taking a step back from applying for jobs – I’ve been applying basically non-stop since about March and nothing had come from it other than a lot of money spent on three unsuccessful interviews and a whole ton of rejection emails. So I was going to talk about making the most of my time at home, working and saving as much as I could, finish learning to drive and try again next year – when all the graduate schemes are open again and hopefully this time I’ll find something that works for me.

But, if you haven’t guessed already, that’s not what I can write about because it’s not true for me any more.

I found basically the perfect job – part time flexible hours at first, building into something more over next year, being a PA and Admin Assistant and PR Exec and Social Media Assistant all in one, it’s local, I can carry on with my volunteering and work at my dance school, it was just perfect. And after a very informal, chatty interview last week I’ve got the position! Official Freelancer with work coming in, need to figure out invoices and maybe get an accountant kind of work and I still can’t quite believe it (but I’m so excited about it).

It’s only sods law that two other jobs that would be pretty brilliant have cropped up too but will see how all of that goes – things are kind of working out for me and after feeling like everything was a bit piggly (just for you Miss Debbie!) and I’d been left with the crap at the bottom of the barrel for months now, I don’t think I couldn’t be happier about it.

So what’s going to be the focus of my ‘diary’ post now? Well I got a job, I’m loving my home life of volunteering at my dance school and going back to tap classes, alongside that I’m really enjoying working out and eating healthy and I’m seeing results (unfitness update coming up in the next few weeks!), I’ve worked on really shortening my to do lists and prioritising the things that really need doing and that’s working really well for my productivity and overall I’ve feeling fulfilled, busy and motivated.

Obviously, not 100% of the time – I don’t want to talk about the bad stuff here (I half have a post planned for that too), I want to talk about the good times right now but for transparency’s sake, I wanted to clarify that I’ve not turned my life around to being a happy, productivity person every single day because no one is, that would just be ridiculous.

But I’m feeling really good right now!

November has also been extra busy because I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo and it’s stressful, but really inspiring to be a part of this community that wants everyone to be a winner, no matter how many words they’ve written! I may be behind on my word count but I’ve written 27,037 words in just 20 days starting from nothing? That’s actually insane! (Just don’t think too hard about the people who wrote 50k in three days because that is just mental)

One of the things I said in my ‘things I’d tell my teenage self‘ video has really stuck with me since I made it – everything is hard work. If you want something to be the best it can be, it’s going to be hard work but once you’ve accepted that, put the work in to whatever you’re passionate about, then it’s so rewarding. I’m throwing myself headfirst into my freelance position and I’m going to make a life for myself – no ifs, buts or maybes, I’m going to do it.

And it’s going to be brilliant.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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NaNoWriMo 2018!

2018, lifestyle, writing

Hello!

I feel like I’ve spent the last three weeks explaining NaNoWriMo in every blog post and YouTube video but it means I’m good at summarising it quickly so here’s that – National Novel Writing Month is an online community website challenge thing where lots of writers try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. Often they write novels, but some people write screenplays and poems and all sorts, it’s just a celebration of writing!

I first tried NaNoWriMo in 2011 but only managed about 15k but I do still really like the story idea and then in 2012 I was much more prepared – this was the novel that I finished and would one day like to get published but to be honest, I haven’t properly had time for NaNo since. Just because of exams and school and uni or whatever – I did give it a go last year just to try and get back into writing because I missed it but I was also drowning under millions of assignments and it was an awful time.

So here we are in 2018 trying again! I didn’t think of a novel idea and I’m not in the right mindset to work on my 2012 novel again (but I will definitely rewrite it at some point) so this year is just for writing whatever I want and getting back into the habit of writing every day.

I love writing – it’s part of the reason I went to study journalism because I couldn’t find any other courses that combined copywriting, video and photography in the same way. And since I started uni I fell out of the habit of creative writing so now that I’m home and I don’t have assignments or uni to worry about I want to get back into the habit of it because I miss having that creative outlet!

On Day 1, I only managed to write about 600 words while we were watching TV but then when I took my computer up to bed I wrote the last 1100 words to hit the target of 1667 words a day and I now know that if I don’t want to be writing till 11 o’clock at night I need to get the bulk of the word count done before I sit down to watch TV in the evening!

But also sometimes that’s just how it’s got to be – I think my goal is to be writing down notes and doing what I can on the go, whether it’s on the bus, while I’m volunteering, jotting down things on paper or whatever, so that it makes writing in the evening a little easier.

For some people, NaNoWriMo is the sole focus – I saw someone in a Facebook group talking about how they were aiming for 10k on the first day, but I think for most people it’s just squeezing it in around the everyday. Whether it’s being a student, being a parent, working full time, NaNoWriMo is an amazing community that just motivates and supports other writers and it’s so much fun!

Good luck if you’re participating! If you had no idea what it was, I hope you’ve learnt a little bit about NaNo!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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