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Journal

Maybe social media isn’t for me

When there’s bad news, I’m always in the same place. I’ve just woken up, I’m in bed and I’m on Twitter.

It’s where I was when my heart broke upon learning the Conservatives had won the 2019 General Election. When the January 6th Capitol Riots happened, I had watched a dozen videos before my first cup of coffee. And I was still under my warm duvet when I learnt of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and panicked over fears of nuclear annihilation.

I average anywhere between 12 and 16 hours of social media usage per week, of which most of that is scrolling through Twitter. When you take out 8 hours of sleep, 16 hours is a full waking day. That’s a whole lot of wasted time. On Monday alone, I spent over three hours on social media — 2 hours 17 minutes on Twitter.

Bear in mind, I’m a lurker, not a poster. Every morning I start the day by microwaving my brain with the hottest takes, and I don’t even engage in any cathartic dunking with a quippy quote tweet to maintain an equilibrium.

What’s hard about admitting this is a problem for me is that I needed social media to find who I am today. The combination of a university education, working in an academic library and creating a Twitter account were all necessary to realise that my secondary school education and upbringing had enclosed me in a conservative bubble. And whilst going to university and working in a library had pivotal roles in bursting that bubble, Twitter (embarrassingly?) did much of the heavy lifting.

One of the biggest pros of social media is that it grants us all access to a wide array of perspectives. Not all perspectives are equal, of course. Disinformation is rife and spreads like wildfire, for example. But we can find trustworthy and intelligent voices on these platforms.

However, the bubble has long since burst and it’s time to re-evaluate my relationship with social media. I must be responsible for my own education beyond what the social media algorithms push in front of me. Especially now that I’m growing more aware of the negative effect it is having on my mental health.

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Journal

15 things I could blog about but currently don’t

During the catch-up call I had with my friend Ellie the other night, she described her week as having been filled with thoughts rather than events. This has really stuck with me as it perfectly describes my week almost every week. Whilst my life is rarely eventful, my brain never takes a day off.

This also made me think about my writing — or lack thereof. I must create the impression I spend little time with my writing considering I share little of it. What doesn’t come across is all the ideas and plans I scrap or put on hold. Only a fraction of what pops into my brain makes it to the page, and an even smaller fraction of what does get written is shared on the Internet.

So I decided to make a long list of ideas I’ve had for this blog, which may or may not turn into future content. I understand it’s arguably tedious to write content about content, let alone content about content that doesn’t exist. But I thought it might be fun to illustrate how I come up with ideas and say a bit more about myself.

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Journal

Drawing badly and loving it

A page from Lynda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor asking: “What is a bad drawing?”

I’ve never considered myself to have any talent when it comes to drawing. Copying an image in front of me has often been too challenging, let alone translating images from my head to the page.

So despite a consistent compulsion to draw, my misgivings over the pictures I failed to create prevented me from ever building any kind of drawing habit.

I was also hesitant to share what I drew. On the occasions I did share, I was rarely met with encouragement. So I told myself drawing wasn’t for me.

But more recently, I’ve tried to embrace the practice of making bad art. Not only do you need to suck at something to get good at it, but we should resist the idea that we must be competent at something to enjoy it.

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Journal

How I set up my Bullet Journal in 2022

Double-page spread of creativity trackers, tracking four habits: poems, drafting fiction, blog posts and journal entries.

Starting a Bullet Journal in 2021 changed my life. It helped me to be more organised and keep track of what I was doing each day. I better understood where my time was going, and I could recognise my habits.

My BuJo brought a lot of structure to my disorganised life, and it was also relaxing and fun. How I’ve used the journal has also evolved over the past 12 months, and I thought it would be useful to share my setup.

Covered in this post: initial first pages, trackers I’ve created and my monthly setups for daily logging.

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Journal

My favourite playwriting notes from Mark Ravenhill

Final tweet from Mark Ravenhill in his 101 notes series, which reads: "To finish,Toni Morrison ‘if there’s a book you want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, you have to write it’. Resonates -that’s how I started l-the sense that a play ought to exist,it would be easier if someone else wrote it but they haven’t so YOU MUST"

Mark Ravenhill is a playwright I studied for my MA dissertation, which focused on plays attributed to the heavily criticised label: “In-yer-face theatre.”  His play Shopping and Fucking, first performed in 1996, was one of several key texts referenced in my final thesis.

So I was thrilled when last year I saw Ravenhill sharing playwriting tips for free via his Twitter, using #MarkRavenhill101.

Earlier this week, I discovered that all 101 notes have been collected into a single post. I decided to revisit them all and have noted some personal favourites I wish I’d known sooner.

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Journal

21 things that got me through 2021

Saying goodbye to the year in my journal and discovering my bubble writing hasn’t improved since I was a child.

It’s the last day of 2021 and what a long year it has been! Thanks for the memories ’21, but you won’t be missed.

There was a lot of shit this year, on a personal level and a societal level and obviously a global level, but there was a lot of good that got me through it. Originally this post had close to 80 things, but I decided to distil it down to fit inside 21 sections.

So here’s my Top 21 things (in no particular order) that got me through Plague Year Two…

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Journal

7 thoughts on daily journaling

Two journals, side-by-side. The left has a brown cover with the words "Master Plan" written across it. The right is a grey Game of Thrones premium notebook with House Stark direwolf sigil and words "Winter is Coming" on the front.

Many great things have come out of this year and starting a daily journaling habit back in October is one of them.

I’ve mentioned journaling a few times already, primarily in a Sunday Sharing post and in my newsletter. But I wanted to elaborate on my daily practice further. 

Journaling has done wonders for my creativity and my mental health, so I thought I’d list some specific thoughts on how journaling has benefitted me in the hopes it might encourage someone else to give it a try.

So if you’ve ever considered keeping a diary or journal (I use these terms interchangeably), here are seven thoughts on why it’s good to journal every day, which might give you that little nudge to get started…

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Journal

From Zhōngguó and Sierra Leone to the village of Assington: How do places get their name?

Road sign directing drivers towards Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

You may have seen that I’ve been outlining fictional maps for fun. This interest in creating fictional worlds has also got me thinking about how places get their name.

Usually, I’ve named locations based on what sounded good or right at the time. Quite often they have a thematic connection to what I’m working on, a distortion of a placename that already exists or is a joke (or a mix of the three).

But I decided to do some research and learn about how real places acquire their names. I thought it would help make more informed choices about the fictional worlds I’m inventing.

Predominantly I’ve looked at country names. But stick around until the end where I look at the origins of places with funny names, like the village Assington.

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Journal

A letter to Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden, protagonist from the anime of the same name, stands in front of a background of numerous unopened envelopes floating around her.

Dear Violet Evergarden,

You have reawakened my longing to pen letters. So I thought I would write one to you.

I do not know war or the scars combat leaves. Your trauma is not the kind of trauma I know. I do not — and probably never will — burn like you. Only you know the inferno. But I have been touched by fire, although never engulfed by flames. But still, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for demonstrating that none of us is defined by our burns. We do not end where the fire begins.

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Journal

Just the punctuation

Left: Just the punctuation from the opening of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. Right: Just the punctuation from Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner.

I recently read Clive Thompson’s article on what he learnt about his writing by seeing only the punctuation. He also created a website for anyone to paste their writing into and see just the punctuation for their own analysis. You’ll even get a graphic similar to the one above. So that’s exactly what I did.

Seeing just the punctuation of your work — aside from looking pretty — is a useful tool for analysing your writing quirks. Here’s what Thompson realised about his own writing after seeing just his use of punctuation:

I use a lot of parenthetical statements. I also write very long ones. Looking at that graphic, I can see about seven parenthetical statements, one of which contains a hefty fourteen pieces of punctuation, including an internal colon: ( “ ‘ — “ . — . , ‘ , : , , . ). That’s a really long, complex parenthetical.

So what’s going on here? It made me realize I cram my writing with lots of digressions; which is probably related to my thirsty desire to seem so very smart and clever; which itself stems from some intellectual neediness I am able to keep partially — but not entirely — in check; and which also likely explains why I often chain many many phrases together with semicolons, as if I were some Victorian dude peering through his steampunk monocle while cranking out pay-per-word pieces for The Strand. (But I digress.)

To get a graphic as lengthy as the one above, you need to post around 6,000 words. So I took four lengthy pieces I’ve written between 2014 and now to see what I might learn from my own writing. I also wanted to know how much would have changed.