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Blogging Pause for Thought

Feel the fear and do it anyway – but how?

19/04/2017

Space for the Butterflies

In the last week both the Blogtacular Twitter chat and the Act on this Periscope asked “what is fear holding you back from doing?”.  It hit a mark with me both times, and no doubt I could come up with some answers without too much effort, but it also got me thinking.  From “what is fear stopping you doing?” the logical question is “why am I so afraid in the first place, and how do I stop?”

I’ve been blogging for 11 years now, and yet the silliest things still worry me, even when I know the fear is utterly irrational and ill founded.  Last week I wrote about my favourite podcasts and when I tweeted out a link to the post I mentioned all of the wonderful and talented people who create them.  It sounds obvious and simple and yet I had to force myself to do it, to make actual twitter mentions and not just use the names of the podcasts and hope to slip my little post in under the radar.

But why? Why didn’t I want them to know that I liked their podcasts? If someone likes my posts here or my pictures on Instagram and lets me know I’m absolutely thrilled.  A comment that shows that something I have written has resonated with a reader absolutely makes my day, and I treasure each and every one. It’s a lack of confidence in myself that is at best, daft.

What exactly did I think would happen? Well fire and brimstone naturally, accompanied by a flurry of tweets all telling me that I’m never to listen to their podcasts again.  In the event I got a couple of lovely messages saying they were glad I enjoyed it and that was that.  So why did that take courage? And how do I fight a fear that has gone off on a frolic of its own?

The truth is that sending one tweet is not, from an objective point of view, the scariest thing I did last week.  Looking from the outside in, the ‘scariest’ thing I did was negotiate the settlement of a claim at work.  If I’d got it wrong then my client would have been unhappy, and that has an obvious impact on not only that relationship but my career as a whole.  But I’ve been in practice coming on 13 years and while there are still things that fill me with nervous excitement, there’s little occasion for true fear to come into the equation (though for the record, as an NQ, much of what I do now on a daily basis was the scariest part of my day).

So what’s the difference? Why is social media, and to an even larger degree, trying to actually get somewhere as a writer, riddled with a contagious imposter syndrome, when my day job provokes it so much less?

Rather flippantly, my first reaction was “well I have a certificate to say I’m a lawyer!”.  It’s true.  In fact, I get a new certificate every year, even if the glory days of elaborate crests and gothic fonts when they were issued by the Law Society are long gone in favour of something from the SRA that either certifies me as a solicitor or says I’ve got food hygiene to work in my local chippy; the design of the two are near identical.

I’m not suggesting that external validation is the key to all our dreams.  If anything I think that’s a scarier prospect than being a little over controlled by your fear and imposter syndrome.  If your entire self worth and belief in what you do depends on how many likes your last Instagram picture got (100= best photographer in the world, 50= why are you even bothering to hold a camera you unworthy fool) then life would be a horrible lurching rollercoaster of self doubt and despair.  Don’t do it.

We have to believe in ourselves, and the core motivation to follow our dreams has to be intrinsic for anything we produce to have integrity.  It’s that soul in a photo or a piece of writing, or even a teeny tiny knitted baby cardigan that people respond to.

But I think there’s a trick we can borrow from my chippy food hygiene certificate. It’s been 15 years since I last sat an exam, and almost 13 years since the last time that someone submitted a formal report of my capabilities to the Law Society, and yet every year they keep issuing me a certificate assuming that my skills have only improved year on year.

Clearly to be a blogger or a writer or a whatever your dream might be you don’t need a degree, blog school, a training contract, and annual certificates, but I think that we could borrow the cumulative aspect of it.  If we don’t allow our work to compete against itself by getting mired down in comparing why one post did so much better than another, but add them together as an ever increasing record, couldn’t that be that ‘certificate of competence’ to hold onto with white knuckles as you do whatever it is that scares you?

When I submitted a story to a writing competition a few weeks ago, the ‘certificate’ was every comment ever posted here; when I put something on Twitter it’s every time someone has liked or retweeted me.  It’s never going to stop the silly worries or the butterflies in my tummy, but it doesn’t need to; it only needs to be just enough to take that step off the cliff edge.

 

Blogging Inspiration

Five Podcasts to inspire your morning

12/04/2017

Space for the Butterflies - Five Podcasts for a Wednesday

My school run day is Wednesday; I work from home and so I do both school runs with the girls, sometimes with Pip too but often leaving him at home to have one day a week when he’s not spending a large chunk of it in the car.  It’s 35 minutes each way, and as there’s only so much breakfast radio you can take I’ve found myself getting back into listening to lots and lots of podcasts again.  Years ago I used to listen and knit on the morning commute but then the 4G signal got a bit better along the train line and I spent more time blogging and playing on Instagram instead, and I’ve been rapidly remembering what I’ve been missing.

So here are my (and the girls’) current favourite five:

Blogtacular

I’m certain I’ve told you all about the Blogtacular podcast back when it first started and it’s gone from strength to strength.  Kat has interviewed some amazing creative people, and as well as having career envy multiple times over, I love that it shows how there are as many approaches to a creative work and life as there are people wanting to do it.  If nothing else it’s inspiration to never give up.  It’s also my girls’ favourite of my choice of podcasts; so far in the last few weeks of term Kitty has decided that she wants to be a potter/t-shirt designer/maker of pretty things and she wants to come to Blogtacular (maybe when she’s older!). We listen to half on the way to school and half on the way back and by the time we’re home, both girls have usually come up with a crafty masterplan for the afternoon off the back of it.

Hashtag Authentic

Sara, of both Me and Orla and Me and Mark Hamill fame started her podcast at the end of January planning to do one episode a month.  Well we’re at episode 10 now and I’ll happily admit that of all my current podcasts, this is the one I go to first for a new episode. They are a mixture of interviews with creative people and thoughts about photography and social media from the queen of Instagram. If you have ever suffered from imposter syndrome and self doubt (which is every single one of us), her most recent interview with Sas Petherick is a must listen.

So you want to be a writer

This is a one of those podcasts where I have absolutly no idea how I found it.  Valerie Khoo and Allison Tait are both Australian writers and every week they get together through the internet to host a podcast.  They talk about what they’re working on, pick out some interesting things that have been going on in the world of writing or that apply to writers and discuss their word of the week.  Their interviews are with people that to be honest I’ve not usually heard of, but actually that makes it all the more interesting because I don’t have any preconceptions about what they write about, or how successful they are, and I usually end up trying to track down a fair few on Amazon so at the very least it’s introducing me to some new to me authors. They’re at episode 164 right now which is a wealth of tips and information to dip into.  I haven’t listened to no 164 yet, but as it’s headed “write an award winning screen play on your commute”, it really need to be next on the list, and it ties in quite nicely to my next choice.

Act On This TV

OK, bear with me for a second.  It’s true that I reprised a stoic role as ‘non speaking townsperson’ in every single nativity of my junior school career, and I loved being in the plays I did in senior school, but my drive and ambition is not directed at breaking into acting.  So why I am I listening to an acting podcast?  Each episode is a replay of Ross Grant’s Monday and Wednesday periscopes and are all part of the Act on This network, and while some of the podcasts focus on things that are very acting-focussed, most are applicable to anyone with a dream and the passion to follow it, and they are all about not giving up, stopping procrastinating and getting going.

Monday’s periscope was about the five excuses you make for giving up, disected and discarded over the course of an hour. It left me feeling a little bit as though someone had taken my shell off, but in a good way.

John likes this one too, but as a storm warning it’s definitely not one for when the kids are in the car too, both for language and the style of delivery. They’re also on YouTube, which is where I came across them; I’ve no idea what I watched to make YouTube recommend it, but I’m glad it did.

Sparkle Stories

And last but by no means least, this is one for the kids, as recommended by all three of my children.  Every week the Sparkle Stories podcast reads a story from their vast catalogue of tales for the under 10s (available by subscription to the main site).  If you’re British then they are read in an American accent, but it’s a very gentle accent adn the stories themselves are simple without being boring and very peaceful to listen to.  We have them in the car after a hard day or if one of the girls is really struggling to get to sleep we’ll dig through the list for a Sparkle Sleepytime to see if that helps.

So there are my five current favourite podcasts; what are yours?

 

 

Blogging Inspiration

A little bit of planner love

20/01/2017

I have blank page syndrome when it comes to diaries and organisers.  Every time I buy one it sits in front of me, beautiful and empty and ready to be filled with my perfectly organised plans for a perfect year, or month, or even a week, all filled in with perfect handwriting, none of my usual scrawl.  It’s unobtainable overachievement at it’s best isn’t it.  It means in the past I’ve bought diaries and only kept it going a few weeks because all the humdrum of life just seemed too normal to be the story of me smashing through all of my life dreams.  There’s only so many times you can write “be a good mother” for your daily goal before it starts to bore even the writer.

But at the same time I do want to be a little bit more organised when it comes to blogging.  At work I am organised to the point of OCD; our calendars are all online and unless I know I’m going to be spending the whole week on just one case, I have a printed to-do list with all my cases on it that I fill in every Monday and mark up what I need to do on each day.

I probably don’t need to be quite that level of colour co-ordinated crazy and while I’d love to have all the time in the world to put into the blog, at some point something has to give, no matter how many time management books you read, but my intention for the year is to at least have an idea about what I’m aiming to blog in the week before I’m supposed to be writing it to give my subconscious a chance to start thinking about it, rather than sitting down of an evening, having poured all of my brain power into the day job, and wondering if I can really remember how to put one word in front of the other.

Taken back to basics, I wanted something that would fit in my handbag so I always have it with me, where I could plan out some blog posts each month, write a few notes and give myself a bit of a storm warning when I need to take photos, especially during the winter when photos are a weekends only deal.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And after much blissful searching of the internet between Christmas and New Year (and yes I know I probably should have been a bit more organised about being organised) I landed on the Kikki K site, decided I loved it all and after much, much deliberation, settled on the Small Inspire Diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

It is gorgeous.  At the front is a month at a glance which I’m trying to use as a blog editorial calendar and then the majority is a week at a glance with space for the days of the week down one side and notes on the other.  So far I’m using it to track where I’m working each day, when I’m aiming on publishing a post (aiming being the operative word because I’ve already crashed and burned on keeping to that intention) and little reminders throughout the week.  But that’s just the diary.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

I ever so slightly fell down the rabbit hole of Kikki K’s own YouTube channel, and then all the other YouTube posts playing with their stickers and washi tape and all the diary decorating loveliness and it pushed me past my blank-page-itis into organising and decorating each week as I like.  The quote cards and stickers will always be my favourite, a little dash of motivation and drive whenever I open the page.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

And yes, we’re only a couple of weeks into January so perhaps we should come back in July and see if I’ve stuck with it, but so far I’m really enjoying getting my random thoughts and inspiration out of my brain and onto paper, being able to see what I’ve got planned really easily, and I’d be lying through my teeth if I said I wasn’t having a lot of fun decorating each week’s pages.

Space for the Butterflies - Kikki K Small Inspire Weekly Diary

As I said, I spent a lot of time watching diary and planner walk throughs on the internet between Christmas and the New Year, and ended up buying the one diary I couldn’t find a video for.  And while I know it’s a little on the late side, and if you haven’t bought a diary before now you probably don’t want one, but just in case, I’ve also made a little walk through video. With occasional help from a certain tiny someone.

So, tell me that I’m not alone in the newfound love of planning and stickers, or tell me what you’re doing this year to be more organised.

 

Blogging Uncategorized {the ordinary moments}

The MAD Blog Awards 2016

18/09/2016

Six months or so ago I asked, and you nominated. You answered my emploring requests in such numbers in fact that four months ago I just about fell off my chair when I learnt that I was to be a MADs finalist, and then you put up with me asking for votes all over again.  Thank you so very very much.

Several months of waiting later, it was finally time, and in a day about as different to an ordinary Friday as I could possibly get, I took the day off work and headed to London.

In everyday life I rarely wear makeup and my idea of a hairstyle is brushing it, tying it up, and forgetting about it so to sit and be prinked and curled to within an inch of my life was luxury beyond my dreams.  Actually the sitting still in a chair for half an hour without anyone saying “Mummeeeeee!” or “Carie, can I have a minute …” was bliss by itself; I was so relaxed I think I almost fell asleep having my makeup done.  The Powderpuff Girls are amazing and I came from their ministrations feeling effortlessly glamorous, beautifully tall (6’4″ in those heels) and yet still very recognisably me.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

And then the fun began; time to catch up with friends and make new ones, to sip champagne and play fake money roulette, to take photos together and to celebrate this funny little thing called blogging.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

I didn’t win Best Craft Blog, that honour went to the wonderfully named The Imagination Tree, but I am truly honoured to have been one of those six finalists.  There is so much creativity and ingenuity within that group and to see my Space for the Butterflies header up on the screen still makes me want to sit back and pinch myself that it really truly happened.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

Did I want to win? Of course I did, even a healthy does of realistic expectations can’t entirely extinguish a tiny flame of hope, and who wouldn’t want that kind of recognition from their peers (and a rather lovely piece of glass for the mantlepiece to boot)?

I wanted to win, but I’m not disappointed that I didn’t.

To misquote one of my favourite films:

“A MAD Blog Award is a wonderful thing, but if you’re not enough without the Award, you’ll never be enough with it.”

And it’s true, it’s true about everything in life in which there can only be one winner, or so many finalists, no matter whether that’s blog awards or olympic bobsleigh gold medals.  If I could, I would have given an award to every finalist in that room on Friday night; there was no one there who would not have made a worthy winner, but that’s not how it works.

Space for the Butterflies - the MAD Blog Awards 2016

Maybe one day it will be my day, I hope so, and I know I’ll keep asking for your help (apologies in advance for early next year on that one!), but I also know that if I never go to another blog awards final in my life, I will always be proud to have been a finalist and incredibly thankful to every one of you who made that happen.

In being a Craft Blog finalist I hope I showed that being creative while also being a mother doesn’t always mean making something out of pipecleaners, sticky backed plastic and a leftover washing up bottle (though if you do happen to have some pipe cleaners lying around, I have two words for you: Christmas Trees!). I was there for those of us that create beautiful things because it brings us joy (and in my case acts as a fairly efficient form of stress relief – and you get a jumper at the end of it!), as well as having fun getting covered in glitter glue with our kids.

But the very best bit, as always, was the people.  To chat to Amber and Caro and Julia and Lucy and Kirsty in person and whoop with joy when Katie and Jenny won made me day, and I met so many new faces, and heard about so many wonderful blogs that I’ve come home with a list a mile long to add to my feed reader, including Clare, who I met in the queue to makeup, asked the usual “how far have you come today?” conversation opener only to discover that the answer was about three miles from my house.  It’s a small and wonderful world!

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Blogging

ttfn, or what I’ve been up to lately

26/07/2016

The short version is, as Elma would say, “an idiot made our car crash”.

The slightly longer version is that as we came home the Sunday before last an [insert your favourite Anglo-Saxon here] driver shot out of a Give Way junction in front of us, suddenly braked and pulled into the side of the road  (all without indicating or using hazard warning lights), and then, as we moved to the right hand side of the carriageway to make sure we didn’t hit them and to be ready to overtake if necessary, they pulled a U-turn.  Across a 60mph road. Across cross hatching. Across us. All without warning lights or indicating again.  H had been braking since they’d jumped the junction but there was nothing we could do, and nowhere left for us to go.  We slammed into their driver’s side doors and their car rolled slowly away from us with sickening crunches, eventually coming to rest on the driver’s side doors in the far verge.

It’s a miracle that they, and their two children, walked away. Actually, it’s not a miracle, it’s because H is a good driver and was doing everything he could to loose speed from the moment their revealed their idiocy and so we hit nearer to 20 than 60. Even then our car is looking mighty scrunched up and the jury is still out as to whether it’s repairable.

And as for us, well the children are shaken up but thanks to the power of car seats, only Kitty had even any bruising, and the littlest two were fine.  H and I have whiplash and I have some pretty spectacular bruising, and most annoyingly I must have jarred my left arm in the impact because as well as a rather nice burn mark down the outside of my elbow, I’ve got soft tissue injuries to wrist and elbow, which basically gives me horrible carpal tunnel-esque symptoms and a feeling a bit like I’m a baby bird with a broken left wing.  I’m strapped up from knuckles to upper arm and been told not to use it.

I’m a mother of three, my job is pretty much entirely computer based, and my hobbies are writing, knitting and sewing – the enforced slow down is calling on every last shred of patience I have available.

And so I’m really just checking in one-handedly to say I don’t know when I’ll be back for more than the odd picture post.  I have a million things I want to write about, and occasions to remember and I know they’ll be a veritable avalanche of posts when I do get the all clear (and I’m going to knit EVERYTHING) but for now I have to be good.

I’m making no promises as to whether or not I’m grumpy about it though!