Reasons why I’m grateful for the best gift I’ve ever been given

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This week in the Year of Gratitude challenge the task is to talk about something someone gave me. I tried to find something heartfelt and sentimental that’s been in my possession since I was a child, Perhaps a handmade blanket or a worn out old teddy bear?

I couldn’t think of anything quite as beautiful as that because my most coveted gift is something incredibly materialistic and expensive. Don’t judge me. My MacBook Air is by far the best gift I’ve ever received.

My husband treated me to this just before Christmas after I started to become a bit obsessed with blogging everyday. It means I can do freelance work as the drop of a hat and also do my own writing, photo editing and blog images on the go wherever I am.

It comes with me everywhere

I long for the extended train journey back to Scotland where I can take out my laptop and get stuck into some writing. I often take it to work with me so that I can stop off at a cafe on the way home and do some work. It also means I can do work when I’m visiting in Scotland and really utilise any spare time I have.

It’s so fast

I’ve never had a laptop – or any device really – that turns on with the push of a button. Like, INSTANTLY. It means I can do those little five-minute blog related admin tasks like scheduling tweets, updating links or correcting spelling mistakes without needing an additional ten minutes to load up the computer.

It makes blogging easier

The portability and speed of my laptop are two of the main reasons that blogging has become so easy for me. I can also access all the photos on my phone, use the free software – like Pages – without having to purchase Microsoft Word and use iMovie to edit when I start creating video content. I’ve not always been an Apple fangirl but I must say, I’m absolutely obsessed!

Would it be exaggerating to say that this one gift has changed my life?

10 awesome ways to improve your social media

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If you follow me on Snapchat you’ll already know about this exciting blog post I’ve been working on! I spent the whole day on Monday at Social Day where I was treated to a wonderful array of speakers who all specialise in social media. As you can imagine there was a lot of Twitter talk, marketing mantras and Facebook philosophies. There was a hell of a lot of information on offer too. There were 12 speakers in total so it was really good value for money and would highly recommend catching an event in your area. But now for the good stuff; I’ve skimmed through my notes and I’m going to share some of the best tips I learned from the day

1. Create video

This was the most prevalent but also the most daunting tip from the day. I love watching girls on You Tube who chat away to the camera whilst doing their make up, but the thought of doing something similar just seems terrifying. What if no one watches? What if I have nothing to say? The indisputable truth is that video is our preferred way to receive information online so if you haven’t considered dabbling then you need to think about it. It’s what people want. Chances are if you have a following on Twitter and Instagram then people are generally interested in what you have to say, so just go for it. The experts recommended Periscope, but I’ve been using Snapchat to begin with as it’s broken into short chunks which seems more

2. Be kind

This might seem like a strange tip if you’re aim is to grow your business and make more money, but being ruthless on social media is a big mistake. One speaker gave a great example about how she went out of her way to help a client, and months later was offered to use her holiday home as a way of saying thank you. Although this was obviously a friendly gesture, you never know when a person online with specific skills might come in handy and save your bacon when it comes to your business.

3. People like recognition

Online it’s really exciting when you start to get new followers and comments online, but be sure to remember to personally thank those who go out of their way to follow you or share your content with others. It’s a quick and easy way to show your appreciation to all of the people who are helping you grow your presence online.

4. Creating helpful content is essential

You can write the funniest blog post about your trip to Blackpool, but if it doesn’t help anyone then it’s probably not going to get noticed. Simply changing a title from “A windy weekend in Blackpool” to “How to entertain young children when the weather is bad in Blackpool” will change your content from OK to totally shareable.

5. Use your own voice

One key piece of knowledge I took away from the day was the importance of speaking in a personal voice on social media. This means being sympathetic to others, using colloquial terms, offering support and using your own personality when you Tweet or create a status update. Even as part of a large company, signing off with your own name creates a more intimate relationship with the customer and gives your brand the human touch.

6. Remember that people buy people

Following on from the last point, you should focus on creating a likeable brand online before you start flooding your followers with links to your website. Get to know them, talk to them, offer tips, share helpful information and then when they need your service, they’ll already trust you and want to connect with you.

7. Create an Ebook

If you really want to win over your followers before you sell them anything, you should be offering them helpful content completely free of charge. Creating an Ebook is actually incredibly simple; the most basic ones are made in Microsoft Word and can be put together in less than a day if you have most of the information collated already. Simply offering a free document that contains valuable information is enough to obtain your potential customer’s email address which is helpful later when you need to target people interested in your product.

8. Use LinkedIn

I’m still working on this one. I’ve never used the website but apparently it’s a great tool especially for building good business to business relationships.

9. Create a call to action

This is actually quite a common tip, especially for bloggers. I always sign off my blogs with a question, inviting readers to share their opinions or experiences on whatever I happen to be talking about. But I’ve never really considered doing the same on other forms of social media. Once you decide what your aim is, it’s pretty simple. For example, my aim is normally to get people to visit my blog so in my Snapchat videos I’ve started giving sneak previews about my topics to get people to check it out, or I’ll ask them to go follow me on Twitter for regular updates.

10. Own a hashtag

I’m not sure exactly how I would go about this myself, but it’s a great idea for local businesses who want to connect with customers or other small businesses. Essentially, you just create your own hashtag and encourage other people on Twitter to use it as away to find information and users. The example Samantha Kelly used was a solicitors firm in Belfast who created the hashtag #BelfastHour. They now host their own Twitter chat every week and bring together a community of potential customers and other businesses in a way that is helpful, friendly and they don’t have to openly “sell” their services, the hashtag has pretty much done that for them.

So there it is; my top 10 tips to get you started on improving your social media. Which ones will you be

Add me on Snapchat for more info!

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging for introverts: heaven or hell? 

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I was going to name this Tips for introvert bloggers! But then I realised I don’t actually have any tips, and I haven’t yet figured out if the whole world of blogging is actually a good thing or a bad thing for introverts. Is it heaven or hell?

Well first of all, no one ever thought to tell me that I was an introvert. Annoying really, because since I figured it out myself a few months ago it’s made me so much more aware of my behaviour, and has offered a somewhat reasonable explanation for why I act so weirdly unsociable at times. I’m one of those people that can’t do too much in one day. My idea of hell is going on holiday with someone who uses an itinerary. Get out. I need down time, and lots of it thank you very much. I’m more than happy to climb up the Eiffel Tower with you but don’t expect a conversation all the way to the top, and at least reward me with a pain au chocolat break at the bottom. I need pit stops even in Paris.

In my day to day life, this means time to recharge between working and socialising with friends. It means leaving all the washing to pile up for a few days whilst I focus on sleeping more. It means going to the gym when I really should be making dinner. I need designated me time and a lot more than the average person.

When it comes to blogging, this need to be alone and reflect is actually a great thing. One of the things that helps me recharge is letting all my thoughts and feelings out in a blog post which I then share on the Internet! A little unorthodox but strangely therapeutic, you should try it. I’ve started writing everyday and I find it really helps me get things off my chest, allows me to relax without being lazy and gives me a sense of accomplishment without needing to be overactive or (heaven forbid) talk to others.

On the other hand, what comes along with blogging is the social aspect. Yes, the social aspect is mostly online; responding to comments, talking on Twitter, reading and complimenting other blogs – easy peasy. But realistically, I want to grow my audience and improve my content so there are a few instances that require, dare I say it, human interaction. I don’t have to go out and meet fellow bloggers, and the nature of my work means I can talk to them all online, but I’m scared that if I stop meeting new people I’ll somehow forget how to do it completely. I’ve written about how blogging has improved my mental health but I don’t think it’s a substitute for talking face to face with people, and improving on my social skills for when they’re required. There’s no shortage of bloggers and You Tubers who are plagued with anxiety and depression; in fact you’d be forgiven for thinking it was included in the job description. Many of us claim blogging has given us a rewarding creative outlet and a way to talk to like-minded people, but the truth is it also gives us an excuse to hide behind a laptop, to tap away on our phones and avoid going out for the most part.

My advice? Enjoy the benefits. Enjoy the alone time that comes with blogging, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone because on the other side of fear lives success. To prove I’m not a total hypocrite I’ve even booked a place on my first bout of social media training, the Social Day in Birmingham, and I’ve joined all my local blogging chats to stay in the loop about the next meet up I can attend. I’ll keep you all updated and report back, I know I’ll survive and the positive outcomes will be worth every struggle.

How writing has improved my mental health 

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I’ve not realised until recently how important writing is to me. I’ve started doing it everyday, it’s definitely become a habit but an enjoyable and healthy one at that. I still have ongoing mental health issues and probably always will, but finding a hobby I enjoy has been really helpful for me, here’s why…

It gives me structure 

I currently work part time at my day job and use the rest of my time to do some paid freelance work as well as my own blog. The need to write everyday has given me a more structured day which is really important for keeping me on a somewhat even keel. I don’t cope with change well, so establishing a healthy routine everyday is cruical to helping me feel in control of my life. I know I can’t really blog in the evenings because I want to spend time with my husband, so this forces me to set loose working hours during the day that fit around my day job. I normally write in the afternoons when I finish work, edit pictures and share posts on social media. The next morning I will do a final read through of that day’s post or project and publish it or send it off via email. Then I spend the rest of the day replying to comments, talking on Twitter and planning my next post to write that afternoon. This helps me keep busy in between meals, stopping me from fixating on food and also stops me from taking naps at random times in the day. Since I started writing everyday I also don’t watch any TV until after dinner, so that’s a good thing!

I can organise & communicate my thoughts

As an introvert I naturally shy away from too many social engagements and this is only agravated by my anxiety around people. Holding a conversation with someone is quite taxing for me, and I find polite chit chat incredibly hard to mainain for extended periods of time. It’s like I can feel the life draining from me as I try to stay alert and focused. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, more that I just can’t find the confidence to say it. With writing I can grab a pen and my journal and just take note of whatever I’m thinking at that moment, without fear of having it come out wrong, offend someone or be made fun of for it. I can get my feelings out of my head and onto paper where I can read them again, analyse what’s going on and then form it into a blog post if I think it’s of any interest. Although this might seem completely anti-social, for me it’s like having a practise conservation with myself before releasing it to the world for comment. The blogging community has led me to use Twitter a lot more which is a great way for me to meet like minded people, especially as I’ve just moved to a new city where I don’t know many people. Once my blog post goes live I can share it, talk to other people about it online and read other posts on similar topics.

It’s a creative outlet 

I have always been mildly creative in my life. I say mildly because I don’t ever recall feeling compelled to draw. I just did it because I was bored. I wasn’t obsessed with writing music but I did it now and again, and went through phases of being in a band and playing a few instruments. I didn’t wake up and write poems everyday but I really enjoyed penning creative stories when the teacher asked for them. I studied Music for three years at university and after realising it wasn’t for me I just naturally stopped being creative.

The problem with depression and anxiety is that often you are bombarded with people asking “How do you feel?” and “What are you thinking? The truth is that sometimes it’s impossible to describe. It’s a sense of being that’s so overwhelming it’s hard I even spend time delving in for a closer look. It’s too much. Then once in a while I’ll hear a lyric or even just a melody, maybe one single note played on the piano that effortlessly sums up every thought in my head and every fibre of my being. I personally feel a great benefit from having a creative outlet, not just in the form of writing but in coming up with my blog images, layout and even my Instagram. There is nothing groundbreaking about my content. But the feeling of creating something that only exists because I chose to make it, is a wonderful feeling and a form of expression that should be celebrated.

Have you found a hobby that helps improve your mental health?

Make blogging enjoyable again with these simple tips

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Lost your love of blogging? Don’t give up just yet, I’ve got you covered with these easy pointers on rekindling your passion…

Forget about your niche

If you have niche then that’s great, and you probably get alot of followers that way because people know exactly what to expect from you content wise. They want information on a certain topic and you consistently deliver; well done! But maybe that’s part of why you get bored easily. Boxing yourself in with a specific niche can feel a little monotonous and doesn’t always do much for those creative juices. You can start to feel like a production line firing out tailor-made content and forgetting to add in your personality like you did when you first started. Take 10 minutes to brainstorm ideas for blog posts that don’t fit your regular niche, allowing anything that comes to mind to be considered. Have you  always wanted to write about your childhood? Your first love? Maybe you want to talk about careers, money, going to university or getting married. You could write about your biggest fears, your favourite designers or the contents of your fridge; whatever makes you feel inspired. I urge you to pick one topic and write a post without thinking about where it’s destined to end up online. Maybe it won’t ever be published on your own blog, you could even pitch it to a website or another blogger who has a niche fitting to display your new masterpiece! 

Stop reading other blogs

It might feel wrong to turn your back on the blogging community that you love so dearly, but it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for inspiration once in a while. Have you ever looked at the amazing array of online magazines available today? My current favourites are Thirty on Tap, The Pool, Unsorry Magazine, The Everygirl and The Reductress and I’m constantly adding more to my list. Sites like these are normally created by a group of freelance contributors some if whom volunteer to write for free because they just love it. These are the kind of writers I love because they have no agenda, no editor to please and no readers to impress. They remind me of why I love writing and how therapeutic it can be to write about something you’re passionate about. Immersing yourself in a large mixing bowl of people like this is a fantastic way to explore new topics and ways of thinking that you can take away and reinterpret on your own blog. 

Put away your laptop

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you sit down at the same desk at the same time every morning, and set yourself up to write about the same topic again and again. Eventually you’ll find yourself staring at a blank screen thinking What the hell do I write about? It’s common to feel like you’ve lost your voice after you’ve been blogging for a while. We get too focused on prouducing the right amount of content with the right keywords, editing images and sharing it all on the right social media outlets and forget about what we really want to say. When I get writer’s block I like to put away my laptop and go out for a walk, keeping my notepad and pen on hand for when I’m ready to write. I let my mind wander into subjects other than the one I’m writing about, and normally after about 40 minutes I stop in a coffee shop and jot down any ideas I have. More often than not I will end up writing the best part of an entire blog post and typing it up later once I’m home. It’s a great way to get a new perspective on what’s going on in my head, and a the coffee always helps too! 

Have you got any tips on enjoying blogging?

Why does blogging need to be positive?

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I’ve been blogging solidly without a break for about a month now. That’s a drop in the ocean compared to the celebrity bloggers out there who – after years of hard work – have found internet fame, book deals and personal assistants to do all their flat lay photography for them. There’s a huge community of us small-time or start up bloggers now and the topic of discussion at the moment seems to be ‘positivity’. To me, this seems to be the get out clause for not actually giving an opinion on anything. It’s the broad brushstroke that will cover up bad experiences, feeling marginalised, scrutinised and anything else that could possibly be taken out of context and held against someone to question their character, which in blogging apparently must be squeaky clean. In a world where our internet presence has become our ‘brand’, and the number of followers we have is what gives that brand ‘value’ it’s understandable why people shy away from talking truthfully about seemingly uncomfortable topics.

I recently read a post by Vix Medrew called Bloggers – Online vs. Real life which is written completely honestly, by a girl who attended an event and was surprised by how some well-known bloggers and You Tube stars acted in real life. She certainly let it all out in this post, and seemed quite angry and disappointed at how the day went down in her eyes. When this post started doing the rounds on Twitter it really split people into two camps. There were a few famous bloggers retweeting the post, horrified that someone should have a bad word to say about the people who are deemed to so ‘perfect’ by most people. Then there were other people saying well done and thanks, thanks for writing about an experience that they too had encountered, but hadn’t wanted to put out there in fear of judgement.

The point is that no one gets to tell you what your truth is, and if it’s not positive then it still needs to be talked about. If Vix says that’s how it went down, then respect to her for getting it off her chest. She probably knew she was going to lose a few followers or upset the odd reader but she wrote it anyway. It’s her opinion on her blog, and she’s entitled to that whether people deem it as unnecessarily negative or otherwise. It opened up a discussion about something that’s vaguely interesting in a world full of Kylie Jenner make up tutorials and bullet journal photographs.

Blogging doesn’t need more positivity, it needs more honesty. If you’re digging that new handbag you bought then blog about it. If it turned out to be crap then write that instead. If you’re shitting yourself about starting university then blog about it. Don’t write posts about how you have your capsule wardrobe sorted and your carefully selected pineapple stationary to hand. Tell the world how you’re scared you’ll be alone, that you won’t fit in and might get lost on your first day. Because the chances are there’s plenty of people feeling exactly the same and they’re dying to connect with you. Even if no one comments on your blog, the act of self-expression is important enough for you continue writing truthfully. When you finally let go and share honestly with the world online you will feel so free and more creatively fulfilled than ever before because you’ve shared something that is unique to you, and that’s what will stick.

How I find time to write every single day

blogger tips how to write every day

Writing about writing; maybe this is cheating slightly when it comes to creating a blog post but writing everyday is a habit that I genuinely have managed to incorporate into my daily life over the past few weeks so I feel qualified to chat about the damn thing. Full disclaimer though – I have been unemployed for the past few months so truthfully time has been on my side. I recently found part-time work and a regular writing gig but I’m confident I’ll still sit down at my laptop at least once a day and not just to check Facebook.

Create a topic list

When I set aside time to write I don’t want to waste the first 30 minutes deciding exactly what I want to talk about. Over the years I’ve created a lengthy list of topics that I refer to as soon as I’m ready to write, meaning there’s little time wasted. I add to this list at least once a day, normally in the form of an actual headline e.g. ‘Real women who inspire me’. Even if I don’t know what I would discuss in the post,  I take note of any catchy titles straight away – no matter what time of the day or night – because otherwise I WILL forget. For this reason I keep the notes on my phone, meaning I can add to this ever-growing treasure trove whenever creativity strikes. Some of the titles might not come to fruition for months or even years, but when I’m ready I have those ideas in the bank.

Use a mobile device

Once I’ve got a few ideas I know I want to work on, I set up a draft post from my laptop and pop in a few bullet points to get me started. Then I will write a brief introduction and to be honest that’s all I do at first. The next time I’m sitting on a bus, waiting for a prescription or on a coffee break at work I’ll open up the WordPress app on my phone and just start typing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about blogging it’s that the ‘little and often’ approach works for me. A few hundred words over lunch, a few more whilst I’m waiting on the oven preheating and before you know it I have the raw materials of a blog post written just waiting to be edited. I wouldn’t recommend writing an entire post on your phone because it’s tricky to upload photos and check for grammatical errors, but it’s great for stream of consciousness style writing on the go.

Set a timer

I’m so easily distracted by social media that I can have a whole day at my disposal to type up a blog post and get absolutely nowhere with it. However it’s amazing how much I can get done when the clock is ticking. I like to set a timer – normally for around 20 minutes – put my phone waaaay on the other side of the room and close all tabs on my laptop. I promise myself that all I’m going to do during that time is write. Normally I end up totally engrossed, on a roll for another 10 or 20 minutes and finishing an entire piece of work very efficiently.

Identify your wasted time

My ‘little and often’ approach to writing means I look at my day and try and find the times where I’m sitting doing nothing, I’m bored or just have some time to kill. For me it’s normally the 15 minute break I get at work. I sit down with my coffee, grab my phone and before I know it I’ve rambled for a new hundred words on WordPress. Other key times for me are when I’m on exercise bike at the gym, when I’m waiting for my coffee to brew or in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Once I identified theses times and started utilising them it just became a habit, and now I couldn’t rack up a decent word count without them.

Do you write everyday? What are your tips?

Career goals of a nine year old

Career goals of a nine year old

“Becoming a pop star will be difficult Fi” my Mum said.

I was about nine years old at the time, and one year deep into my obsession with the Spice Girls. “I know Mum, but I’m willing to put in the hard work” I said quite confidently, not having ever experienced a day’s work in my puff, never mind a day’s hard work. I wasted away my hours learning the dance routine to “Who do you think you are?” and planning my next outfit based on Geri Halliwell’s fashion history but I’d be damned if people weren’t going to take me seriously as a future pop star.

The months went by and I honed my craft; performing a solo at the school assembly and submitting an application to Stars in Their Eyes were among the highlights. I struck power poses in the mirror and practised harmonizing with my Spice Girls CDs, not forgetting to extend my repertoire to other genres by including tracks by other 90’s favourites such as Eternal, Blur and Chumbawumba.

When I wasn’t singing or practising walking in platforms I often wrote a diary. I can only hope that they are lying in a landfill somewhere with their tiny little padlocks still attached, never to be opened. I also remember being shown how to use a typewriter, and later my Dad’s word processor which he kept in his home office. Although writing a diary had been enjoyable, it was a hobby at best. Sitting here in front of a computer screen, tapping keys and looking pensively into the distance in between typing seemed more official somehow. It seemed like a job I could do.

I wrote a lot of nonsense. The kind of stories that started with a kid unlocking door and ended with him jetting off in a flying inflatable swimming pool. I would start writing and I wouldn’t stop until I had exhausted my imagination, swept out every nook and cranny of my mind and dumped it onto the page. Looking back now it was probably a great exercise for anyone with ‘writer’s block’ and it’s kind of how I tackle blogging now, especially when it comes to personal topics. The key factor is knowing what to cut out of the nonsense you’ve just created. At nine years old I had not yet learned how to edit my work.

A few years later I was asked what I wanted to do with my life. It was our leaving assembly for primary school, and we were to speak in front of the audience and explain my future plans. We had to draw a life-sized picture of the uniform we would wear, and hold this up whilst we gave our speech, giving the illusion that we were wearing the outfit. I’m pretty sure this is the exact moment in my life when pressure began to weigh down on my conscience, and the voices in my head began to ask “What are you doing with your life?”. Anyway, I couldn’t decide. I loved writing; it was therapeutic,creative and deemed a ‘real’ job in my mind. I’m sure it would go down well with my parents. Being a pop star on the other hand, would be a long hard struggle which would inevitably end in disappointment, drug addiction or maybe both. But surely my years of performing (in my bedroom, but still performing) hadn’t been in vain? All for nothing?

I must have expressed my dilemma to my teacher at the time, because what resulted was definitely not something I would have concocted all by myself. I drew a figure that was an author on one half, and a pop star on the other. I remember thinking this was a great idea, but then realising at the assembly I was the only one who couldn’t decide. I was the only person there with a career choice, a future – split down the middle. My only comfort was that my speech evoked a few laughs – which I took to be a good thing – and sparked a fleeting idea that I could become a comedian – although I don’t think I was really committed to that plan.

You may have already guessed, I did not fulfil my childhood dream of becoming a pop star author hybrid. I spent many years singing publicly and was in a band for a while. I was known at school as “that girl who could sing”, and ended up studying music at university although I realised the industry wasn’t for me. I still get asked why I don’t sing any more; I guess with adulthood I lost my confidence and performing is just not something I enjoy. Writing however, has been a thread that has weaved its way quietly and consistently through my life. Even if it never becomes my career, I know I can rely on it as I always have, as a way to clear out my mind and share my experiences with the world.