Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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How to be a bad blog owner

I’ve been doing research for this post for the past ten days or so: how to be a bad blog owner. Okay, maybe I’m lying and I’ve just been ignoring my duties as said blog owner. Luckily this isn’t a plant, otherwise it would probably be past the point of saving.

So that my awful lack of an appearance in the wordpress world does not go to waste, I have decided to impart the wisdom I have only just discovered on how to be a bad blog owner. Obviously follow this advice at your peril. It’s a how to in reverse so I’m not promising better things as a result.

So without further ado, here are my four top tips on how to be a bad blog owner/put people off visiting your blog

You could also put this as the welcome image on your blog. If you wanted to make the point painfully obvious.

You could also put this as the welcome image on your blog. If you wanted to make the point painfully obvious.

Stop posting

This is probably the easiest way to be a bad blog owner. By not posting anything new and keeping your site up you are luring the random internet adventurer in only to be disappointed that the last thing you wrote about happened in a slow period of 2006. They’ll promise never to visit your blog again and probably won’t read whatever you wrote on that slow period of 2006. It’s the best poison for a blog.

Write really offensive things that are offensive for offensive’s sake

You may get the odd reproachful or defensive comment back at best. It should just cause most people to switch off your blog straight away especially if you’re offensive things have no sort of actual thought process behind them and are just mean for mean’s sake.

Write about things you’re not interested in

This is the dullest way to be a bad blog owner because basically you suffer to by writing about something you hate. If you write about things you’re not interested in, readers tend to be able to tell and the post won’t get a good response. Writing about something you find boring and stupid and which you’re actually bored by means that your readers will be bored by it too. So basically: if it’s making you yawn and want to switch off, it’ll make potential readers do that same. Perfect way to be a bad blog owner.

Never update your About page

People are nosey and curious creatures. They will usually click on your About page nine times out of ten* Not keeping an About page can be a great way of saying: thanks for visiting, but I don’t want you to know anything about me so buh bye. Obviously good writing will still keep people coming but having an About page just adds to the good blog status which you don’t want to have. Obviously. An About page is like the comfort blanket of your blog. It doesn’t need to even say much but it’s basically the foundation of your blog. I judge a lot of blogs by two or three posts and their About page. Not because I’m judgemental but because that’s how everyone decides who they follow, right?

*Statistics are entirely made up and have just come out of my brain with no research behind it.


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The writers’ block

I had tried writing eight different posts on various subjects. I have tried re-writing four previously unfinished posts. I have also tried to create a few picture based posts. I have rewritten and redesigned all of these posts at least two times. I have spent way too long trying to write something that is at least slightly worth reading, entertaining or interesting.

All I got was this.

Yep. That. That’s it. That’s all I got. A damn brick wall. This was after slamming my head into it six times. No epiphany has happened, no amazing black out induced idea. Just a brick wall.

I hate writer’s block.

Writer’s Block is like trying to run a race and someone steals your shoes and tells you that you have to run the race with your legs tied together. You try, you panic, you keep trying, you kid yourself you can do it, you try some more, then you realise trying is futile. You fall flat on your face and wait for something to happen.

It is like being told you have to write a 25 page essay on women’s rights in Chad during the 60s without the use of a library, computer or ability to travel. You don’t even try with this one. Frankly, you realise that this is a fail waiting so you only try for a little while before you realise that you could be doing something else and be feeling productive.

My writer’s block likes to tease me. It gives me a thread and then breaks it as I think: “Holy crap, I think I may be able to knit myself something here” (If I could knit of course or had sewing needles or whatever it is you need to sew – is sewing the same as knitting? I don’t think it is but I digress).

My writer’s block flashes me an image quickly like some stupid game and then tells me to work out the rest. Doesn’t even give me a clue. Just shrugs its shoulders and stares at me. It watches me struggle, the sweat dripping from my brow (not really, that would imply it was hot, which it definitely is not, but it’s dramatic so go with me), my frustration and random grunts that not only scare the boy working next to me but also make me resemble a swine. And it just continues to stare.

Unblinking writer’s blocks are the worst because you know they’re not going away. It’s those that settle with you and like to make you suffer. A lack of inspiration is one thing but writer’s block is like a dementor. It takes everything you have that could have been moulded into something and sits on it. It gives you a wisp of something, gets your hopes up, and then gives you nothing more so that your desperation builds.

The writer’s block loves desperation and there’s not much you can do. It likes to make you squirm and struggle like a mouse caught by a cat. You can’t push through it, you can’t reason with it, you can’t ignore it and you can’t feed it until it submits. The only thing you can do is go: “fine, you win. I wanted a rest anyway.”

I would normally never support giving up. I am all about trying your very hardest until you can’t try no more. But different rules apply to the writer’s block.

So that is exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to walk away. Bury myself in Law and Public Affairs books, watch the X Factor and eat lots of food to make me feel better about myself.

Writer’s block may have won the battle but I will win the war.

Although score’s currently stand at: Writer’s Block – 1498. Me – 2.

 


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How to be an awesome student

In the past I have been classed by friends and fellow students as a ‘geek.’ I don’t know if I agree or not, mainly because I’m pretty sure if I was as geeky as I should be then I wouldn’t stress as much about my work and it would be at least a little easier. Or maybe that’s part of what a geek is? – Caring too much about their academic studies and always aiming to do well so it’s never easy.

A diagram of some parts of geek culture. Awesome right?
Found on piccsy.com and uploaded by James Bourner.

I digress, being a geek isn’t important. Well it is, if the rumours are to be believed of geeks inheriting the Earth but still. A geek however, is always a good student. Always.

It’s September and a lot of the population will either be going back to school, college or university. So in the midst of all the butterflies, the checklists to make sure you have everything ready and all the new stationary and other things that make September exciting; here’s my top five how to guide on how to be an awesome student.

Get organised

As dull as this is about to sound, it will be the key to you getting the best marks with the least stress. As soon as you have your timetable, get some ring binders and if you’re at university or college and have access to your class notes in advance. Access them, print them off, stick them in a folder for that module and read over them before class.

At the end of every day, read over your notes from whatever lessons at least once. It’s a form of subtle revision that you begin as soon as you start. This will mean when you come towards serious revision time (always a fun period of any student’s life), it won’t be more appealing to throw yourself down a cliff.

Do your work as soon as you get it

My advice is completely new stuff right? It’s obvious but it’s true. The earlier you do your work, the better. As soon as you get it, do some research, and depending on the type of assignment, create a POA (plan of action – it sounds exciting when you use the abbreviation). The POA should have ways you’ll be researching, books that you need and an essay plan (if you’re writing an essay, otherwise just a plan of what you’ll write in each section of your work). Also, go to your teacher and ask for advice: what would make your piece of work outstanding?

If it is possible always try to finish your work four days before the deadline. Once you’ve finished, spend a day away from it doing something entirely different that you enjoy doing, or doing another assignment because you have that many deadlines. Either way don’t look at it, read it or think about it for 24 hours.

After these 24 hours, read over it and highlight any errors and make any notes if something isn’t explained properly. Then correct this and give it to someone else to read if you can (this isn’t always essential but I found it really helped me). After that, if they are experts in whatever you’re writing about then make the necessary changes (if you agree with them). The read over it one more time to make sure there’s nothing you missed. I usually spread that across two days so that my brain has a chance to refresh itself and come back to it anew. This should mean you finish the assignment a day early.

Ask lots of questions

By asking lots of questions to yourself, other students and your teachers; you’ll be better prepared for your classes, assignments and exams. Questions can often lead to more questions that you wouldn’t even have thought to ask before. Again, this should make you better equipped to handle certain lessons that are more confusing than understanding why people would colour themselves orange in the bid for a ‘natural glow?’

Start revising before it is natural for a student

This is the one bit of advice that I couldn’t stress more for a student. The earlier you begin revising, the better. I have stages of revision: reading my notes, highlighting my notes, researching any points I want more information on, rewriting my notes, rewriting and abbreviating my notes, rewriting abbreviated notes again, keywords from abbreviated notes.

If your brain is anything like mine, the word revision makes it go into self destruct mode. This begins with crying, a prolonged screaming ‘no’ and then a complete blank that makes you only a little smarter than the average, old style village idiot. Revising in advance (I’m talking months here) is like the safety button, the ABS in a car, the seatbelt and all those lovely things that save our lives.

When you’re in class, be in class

This was one of the hardest habits to break. A habit I didn’t even know I had. Let me explain, I love to doodle. A few of my university notebooks were filled with cartoons, doodles and scribbles and I realised when I read back over the notes that I’d made in between doodling and compared it to the class notes – I had missed a lot. A scary amount in fact.

I made a conscious decision to stop doodling. I focused hard in class and made a conscious effort to not only jot down notes but if I wasn’t writing to seriously listen. It was more exhausting than you’d think and it’s something that you assume you’re doing. But, until you actually do it, you haven’t done it. It’s one of those things.

Eat something before class to make sure you’re glucose levels are high. Brain activity consumes a lot of glucose and if those levels are low so will your concentration and your ability to retain information (a little science from the boy for you dear readers). This will help you actually be in class when you’re in class. Rather than experiencing a cool, out of body experience that you’d probably much rather be having.

And finally to be an awesome student, you have to really want to be an awesome student. The amount of time and effort you put in will be reflected in your grades.

Be smart about how you study. Use your time wisely and take at least one full day off a week to do whatever you want: jump out of a plane, eat enough chocolate to make a factory profitable for the rest of the year or just slob in your underwear on the sofa watching bad TV: whatever. It’s up to you, but that day of complete and utter nothingness will help keep you rejuvenated and ensure that you can dig yourself out of those books when you need to.

So here’s to September and being an awesome student. I’d love to hear any top tips that you all have. I will steal them (no point in denying it) to help me get along with this intensive six month journalism course. An intensive course which I am really excited about starting on Monday! Geeky or what?!


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Niche, niche, niche

I’ve spoken to a few journalists, editors etc and they have all told me the same advice: get a niche, a speciality. Apparently Jack of all Trades isn’t the most popular guy in the room any longer. Luckily I never fitted into this whole ‘all trades’ category so I don’t have to cry too long about any time nurturing a unneeded talent to better my professional future unnecessarily. Niches and specialities are where it’s at at the moment. This little bit advice, although given by journalists to someone wanting to be a journalist, does not only fall into the journalistic and media career path. It’s all the rage now, to be able to have a speciality: something you’re an expert on.

To be honest, I’m not sure what to say. I write on this blog what would be deemed as comment pieces. They are opinion. In terms of journalism, when working as Deputy Editor for my student paper I wrote for all sections: film, comment, news and lifestyle to name but a few. I know what type of journalism I want to go into but how can I class myself as a specific subject writer when I haven’t had enough experience to truly be honest in this bragging right?

It’s the vicious circle of work experience again. If I don’t have the experience I can’t find the niche that’s screaming for me. If I’m not carrying said niche on my shoulder while it whispers me expert facts and makes me sound clever then I’m less likely to get the experience. Oh, how I loathe it.

I’m also not a fan of niches, mainly because I have a fear of not keeping my options open. It’s strange however that I know by choosing a niche, a section of this big old world and becoming an expert in it, I could give myself more options, more cards than I have now. Right now, I’m holding an ace, a couple of low numbers and a joker. I can risk it for a better hand. If it doesn’t work out then I just need to keep adapting until it does.

Niches are scary though. There are niches in niches in niches. It’s like the biggest maze ever taken from some crazy children’s book. Obviously the trick with the advice given to me is to become a specialist (so to speak) but not so niche that I can only write about blonde haired women featured on TV during prime time that wear green. Maybe not that drastic but you get the idea.

I guess having a niche or a speciality shows that you have the commitment and dedication to actually learn more than the average person on a subject. It shows that you can keep a focus on something for longer than five minutes (a common feature of today’s society). It’s not just what the specialist subject is about, although that’s important I guess (saying that a world renowned newspaper editor began her career on a tractor magazine). It’s about the traits it shows in you as a person.

Right, I’ve convinced myself (as if the advice wasn’t enough!). I need a niche. I’m off looking for mine, the one thing I can begin training myself to be an expert on, wish me luck. Not sure what will qualify me to one day announce that I have a niche but when that moment comes, I will make myself a badge.

Me looking for my niche. I’ll obviously be wearing clothes and carrying a bigger magnifying glass.


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CV Writing

Exciting title for this blog post right? Well I was inspired by, as you may have already guessed, writing my own CV. My CV isn’t even what you may consider a boring CV, I mean there is stuff to read on there in terms of work experience etc. It’s not a CV in desperate need of pumping out. It is readable. Yet, I find it dull. It’s because I’ve read a lot of other CVs; from exemplar ones to my friend’s ones to CVs that belong to people that have been in a career for quite a while. They all read the same. My question is simple: how can you tell which one is special?

Obviously here I’m classing my CV and my skills as special. They’re not, but if I have no confidence in my ability and in my knowledge of being able to do something and do it well then I’m doomed.

The trick to writing a CV is to make it as easy as possible for you reader/ prospective employer. It’s not like writing a novel where you keep building tension to the climax of your story. It’s more similar to writing an article for a daily newspaper where you need to keep your audience reading until the end, inform them of everything that they need to know without filling their brains with useless information. A CV is even faster though. You basically hand over your bones whilst telling your prospective employer: “Look at these! They’re good, strong bones; they can handle anything you throw at them, they are there for your moulding if you so wish but they can do it alone too.”

What an employer needs is someone who understands. I think when people are applying for jobs, they miss this very important thing. If you can show an understanding for a job, then you’re not only showing that you’ve read the job description. You’re also showing that you have taken the time to read it, understand it and tailor everything including a CV to said job. You’re showing that you can do it on your own and fit the mould of a perfect employee for the employer. You’re showing that this application for this job matters because it is tailored for the job. You want it.

That makes a good CV and a good application. Add a little colour, some easy to spot and read titles and you’re showing your employer how easy you can make their life. You’re more likely to get a callback and an interview for a job if your CV is neat, organised, informative without having too much information. Think of a CV as an instruction manual to your ability working in a certain company.

Thinking about it, a CV isn’t necessarily where you’re going to shine brightest. The CV, like much in life, is a stepping stone to getting you an interview. Once you’ve cinched that then you can go all out in the interview: then you can shine.

Many companies now are still using CVs and an additional cover letter and application form so this advice still stands and it is still important to keep a CV updated as often as you can. Many companies, however, do insist on online applications and nothing else: advice still stands as far as I’m concerned. When writing a CV or filling out an application, your goal is to get an interview. That’s the focus. From there you could get the job, and who knows where that could lead you?


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Top tips for getting back to calm

I am a relatively calm person; surprisingly enough people probably wouldn’t describe me as calm because they  only notice my extreme emotions which, by the time they occur a normal person would have jumped out of a window. But in actuality I pride myself on my ability to stay calm and to not hold grudges. Many people always seem to become stressed and then take a long while to let go off it, at least from the people I’ve met at university (but maybe it’s an age thing?) so here are my top tips for getting back to calm and letting go.

The popularity of this quote is actually good, and obvious, advice. Just carry on.

  • Breathe: sounds stupid and in fairness is common sense. You stop breathing; you die. But it does work, a little. In my experience though breathing is good at taking down your heart rate which calms you to an extent. However, it isn’t as effective as some of the other things on this list. Strange, considering it’s popularity.
  • Punch something. I should be clear you should punch something soft like a cushion for two reasons: one because it doesn’t hurt so you can punch for longer, two it’s tiring and due to being able to punch for longer you’ll be exhausted by the end of it. Too tired to be angry at least.
  • Yell, rant and scream. Hopefully to someone that will listen without judgement as this is really effective. You can say everything you want and once those words have become silent you’ll feel like it’s out there. The anger has been formed, conveyed and released. It’s a sort of catharsis.
  • Write. This helps immensely; you can write about what’s made you go stir crazy, random words, scribbles, whatever. Then fold it up and put it away or rip it up, burn it or just keep writing. You may be surprised what you can produce from what started off as anger. Extreme emotions can become a starting off point for inspiration (many a post was created in this way).
  • Shower: this has two benefits, firstly you can be clean and that’s always a good feeling. Secondly a shower is slightly symbolic, by cleaning your body, you do feel like your cleaning your mind as a result of this bad feelings should wash away too, even if it is just sort-term. (I know I sound like a weird self-help guru which makes me want to cry but sadly this they are right on).
  • Exercise is apparently beneficial. I am not a fan of exercise as some of you more regular readers may or may not be aware and therefore can only go on what I have heard from peers, work colleagues, friends and what I have read. It feels good to exercise they say, which I should admit when I did go running I found this to be true. The sense of pride alone that I managed to run for twenty minutes without having a heart attack meant good feeling was in abundance frankly.
  • Be thankful for what you have. This is a hit and miss with me depending on why I am trying to keep calm. I tend to be pretty grateful for the things I have (although nowhere near enough as I should be) but it’s always good to remind myself of the luck that has been bestowed upon me. It instantly makes you feel calmer and puts a smile on your face. Perfect.

Those are the best techniques I have discovered in my mere twenty years on this planet. I’m sure there are more; but I have found that these are most effective for me. The more you use them, the more effective they become.

Have a happy day, stay calm and enjoy it!


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Do it Now!

“I have a million things to do, there aren’t enough hours in the day. There’s so much to do, I’m not going to have time to sleep! I can’t stay, I have to run. I’m so busy! We’ll catch up sometime when we’re both not so busy. Bye” You rush off home or back to work, take off your coat, sit at your desk and procrastinate. Then you decide you need to eat, so you go and have lunch and chill, if you’re at home, you sit on the sofa and watch some rubbish television. Before you know it, it’s time for bed and you’re too tired from thinking about work that you’d done nothing. Then when crunch time comes you realise that you should have just done everything you had to do when you had time to do it. After all the work is done, with no time to spare, you decide to give yourself a break for ‘all your hard work’ and you ignore the growing pile of other things you must do. So the cycle begins again.

Nobody wants to be like this

Should I tell you something? Something that you already know but for some reason (laziness and de-motivation springs to mind) you choose to ignore this golden nugget of information. You have time to do something? Especially something that only takes five minutes? Then do it now. You have something that’s going to take LOADS of time, then start it today. Plan, and do a little bit each day; before you know it you’re done. There’s no time like the present and the faster you get things done, the more organised you are with work then the more time you have for yourself. The less stress you’ll feel when it comes to deadline times. The better you’ll do at the work you’re doing because you have time, because you’re relaxed and most importantly because you’re focus is not on just getting it done but can be on getting it done well. This is the crucial point, this is what takes you from good to great.

Doing something early on and getting a head start may seem like a tiresome thing but the cliche of the early bird catches the worm does stand true.  If you start early, you have more time in case things go wrong, more research is needed or help is required. It’s like when builders begin a project, they start early and leave contingency time just in case. Life is a very wonderful, random thing and so starting early means you can be ready for whatever it throws at you. You can be ready to catch it and throw it back or to enjoy it as all you’re work is done. You’re on top of things. You can focus on doing things you love, or improving what you’ve already done.

Do it now. Start taking all those buzzing things you need to do from your brain and actually doing them. You’ll become more motivated when you realise you can get things done weeks, days or hours (for the things sprung at you last minute) in advance. Living for now means working for now too. You’ll be a happier, more productive, more inspirational person as a result.