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

year of gratitude mental health blogger UK

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?

What it’s like to be a 30+ blogger

blogging over 30

People are going to say I’m a liar, so let’s get that out of the way first of all.

Technically, I’m not actually 30 years old yet; but I feel like I’ve been mentally preparing myself for the big three-oh so much that it’s like I’m there. In my head I’ve already blown out the candles on the cake. I’m no longer a twenty-something, so as blogging categories go I’ve bumped myself up to a higher grade. With that said, I consider myself to be a writer of the ’30 plus’ variety. A rare breed of online influencers who are grossly underestimated, but steadily growing in numbers.

I started blogging when I was about 26. Zoella, Anna and Fleur were all rising stars at the time and I was certainly interested in what they had to say about budget beauty, hair and fashion – for a while. After a year or so of trying to emulate their success with a few basic ’empties’ posts and ‘make-up favourites’ I realised I was too old for that stuff. Obviously I still wear make up, buy clothes and drag a brush through my hair now and again (I’m not an animal) but the subject matter doesn’t thrill me from a writer’s perspective. I have no authority on the subject for a start so I knew there was no longevity in it for me. I was flogging a dead horse when there were plenty of other perfectly preened – and very much alive – horses on the market. There are plenty of 30 plus bloggers who have found their niche in the fashion/beauty world (e.g. Mikhila, Emma and Becky) but I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to say that its not my forte. These ladies are doing a fabulous job on their own.

It seemed to me that young women were idolising the likes of The Kardashians and Beyonce. They wanted to know how obtain the perfect make up, hair, interiors and style that clearly takes a small army to create but appears totally effortless from the outside.  When I stared to blog I was unemployed due to ill health so I couldn’t afford to live that lifestyle, never mind advise others on how to do it too. I had spent most of my adult life focused on my career, enjoying a long term relationship and was looking forward to getting married and buying a house. I was approaching 30 and my priorities were so incredibly different to the ‘popular’ bloggers out there, that I wasn’t sure if I should even try to make my mark in the blogging community. I assumed my words would be lost in the ocean of lovely ladies who were punting the latest PR samples whilst I babbled on about nothing important.

I started writing about food and fitness because I was basically obsessed with being thin. I also love exercise, so am glad I’ve used the internet to spread that message to people who think working out has to be boring and torturous in equal measure. Now that I’m less meticulous about my diet and exercise regime I talk more about mental health and body positivity. I believe blogging should be flexible, we shouldn’t feel forced to find a ‘niche’. It’s our notepad where we can scribble down ideas and then hold it up to the world.

The great thing about blogging at my age is that I’ve been on this earth for a little longer than my teenage counterparts. I can’t share their excitement for the new Kylie lip kits, but I can offer some insight into being married, losing weight, gaining weight, anxiety, depression and important life decisions like having babies. My content isn’t aspirational but it’s wholly relatable, and I think that’s what gives us 30 plus girls the edge. I’m more confident now in my own opinions than I was 10 years ago. I’ve spent a lot of time self-reflecting to the point where I know myself better now than I ever have. I procrastinate less. I really don’t worry what anyone else thinks. This is my time!

Do I feel under-represented in the blogging community? Absolutely.

Although I’ve already mentioned a few of my favourite 30+ bloggers, I wouldn’t say I’m overwhelmed with choice. I’m not sure if this is because these women aren’t promoting themselves enough, or if they aren’t being celebrated because of their age. All I know is that their voices are important to me. What they have to say is still relevant and I hope to find more bloggers through simply sharing this blog post. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, or you already have one and you feel like what you have to say is boring, I beg you to reconsider.

If you’re looking for content that resonates with you and you can’t find it – create it yourself. Be it beauty, fashion, crafts, knitting or whatever the hell tickles your fancy; together we can show the world that our seemingly boring lives have meaning and we can start a worthwhile conversation online with like-minded women.

Are you a 30+ blogger? Share your blog in the comments below!

 

 

Blogging for introverts: heaven or hell? 

blogging for introverts mental health UK

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 

writing blogging mental health creative therapy
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?

blogging positive authentic happy truthful writers

 

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.