Author Archives: Writerlygem

How to reduce sugar intake right now

how to reduce sugar intake
how to reduce sugar intake

Knowing how to reduce sugar intake is a handy skill to have when  battling an addiction to sweet treats, and aren’t we all? On September 12th 2021 I decided to drastically reduce my sugar intake in my diet and here’s how it went.

There are very few benefits if any, to consuming large amounts of Sugar. It is a known fact that it leads to weight gain and can contribute to tooth decay on the lower end of the scale and heart disease and diabetes on the higher end. Nonetheless, consuming a surplus of sugary treats is socially acceptable and even expected. At seminars, training days and  work meetings we find platters laced with sweet treats in the form of cakes, chocolates and biscuits, ready to give us our next sugar rush. In addition to this, if we aren’t offered sugary food on a platter in real life, people’s social media feeds are embellished with food porn of the sweet variety.

I realised that I was consuming too much sugar when I found myself having a monthly Haribo binge at a specific time of the month. I would buy a large pack of the Supermix variety and found myself eating more incrementally each time. I went from two large handfuls to half the pack in one go- to eventually devouring the whole pack. As it goes, these monthly sugary cravings weren’t even the tip of the iceberg. I was habitually eating handfuls of sweet biscuits and dipping them into my tea in the evenings, as well the odd mini cake or chocolate bar. I was also addicted to fizzy drinks. It was apparent that like so many of us, I was addicted to sugar. The body has an amazing way of communicating with us and we often know when we are abusing it. That feeling of guilt after eating too many sweets or fatty foods? Yes, that’s our intuition along with our bodies telling us that perhaps we ought to be a bit more mindful in our self-care. For me it came in the form of tiredness after consuming sugary snacks or carbonated drinks- the obvious symptom of an energy crash after having spiked my insulin levels so rapidly.

I took to the internet trying to learn how I could even begin to curb my sugar addiction- yes, addiction. Previously I wouldn’t have accepted this to be a thing, however I was finally able to admit it to myself and wanted to do something about it. Below I will  outline how to reduce sugar intake in  simple steps.

The first thing I did was to educate myself. Yes most of us have a basic idea of what is good for our bodies and what isn’t. In fact, when we make poor choices we often know this and that we are over indulging. I knew perfectly well that drinking excessive amounts of sugary carbonated drinks, sweets and biscuits were not conducive to a healthy diet, however I really had to sit down and inform myself on what could be at risk if I were to continue with my habits. Upon learning what the specific disease risks were, I set about finding more practical information on how I could make informed choices on what I chose to snack on, sugar wise. The British Heart Foundation Website really outlined the importance of understanding that sugar had MANY different names. I began to learn the lesser known ones and made a note to also avoid them within reason.

 Aside from educating myself on how to reduce sugar intake, I learned that my huge sugar consumption also came down to a range of different factors which were:

Mainly allowing for huge gaps between meals without snacks, not even slow release ones. As a result, by the time I returned home in the evenings I would be ravenous and reach for something gratuitously sweet and readily available.

A lack of meal preparation then fed into this, also increasing the chances of reaching for a sugary snack.

Forming poor habits in the form of allowing myself to consume harmful amounts of sugary substances without allowing myself to dwell on the consequences they might have.

I started to religiously read the backs of food packets in the supermarket. I would spend ages, pouring over the nutritional information. To my dismay, I found that so many so called ‘savoury’ foods had sugar contained in them. Things as simple as a jar of pasta sauce or a tin of baked beans or soup, even savoury cheesy biscuits! You name it, sugar was everywhere. I did it though. I made a point to find no added sugar alternatives and went with them. I felt a growing sense of achievement that I had successfully removed sugar from my life. Admittedly I became one of those annoyingly smug people who  gleefully told people that I didn’t eat sugar when they offered me treats. Of course, they were impressed every time because sugar addiction is absolutely no joke and most of us, who can consume sugar (non-diabetic) absolutely will.

At this stage, the hardest thing was letting go of chocolate as I knew it- large creamy bars of regular milk or dark chocolate. I found something called ‘black chocolate’ in a brand called Montezuma. It was 100% cocoa solids and contained no sugar. I was slightly nervous when I took it home and anticipated the taste. After all, this was going to be all I would be able to have from now on, I thought glumly. When I tasted it, it had a strong bitter kick but tasted rich and surprisingly moreish. I allowed myself to eat three squares at a time, adjusting myself to it and happy in the knowledge that it was at least, as an antioxidant,  good for me. I was in fact being very good, but if I were to instruct someone on how to reduce sugar intake, I would not advise this stringent, punishing method of going cold turkey on sweetness. Still, I continued with it.

At this first stage of my sugar free/ low sugar journey, I refrained from eating absolutely anything with sugar in it.

I cut out:

  • All sweets, cakes, biscuits and chocolate apart from ‘black chocolate.’
  • Processed breads containing sugar
  • Processed tinned foods such as beans and soups containing sugar
  • All sweet drinks including fresh fruit juices

I managed this for two straight months. However after this something began to happen. I started to  physically struggle with the absence of sweetness. You would think it would have gotten better, however I was run down and exhausted battling winter illnesses on top of being a human being who simply wanted something sweet sometimes. Still I refused to fold. I actually produced alternatives for these times which I will speak about in another post- they really helped to keep me on track.

With Christmas on the horizon I began to think about what I would have for dessert on Christmas day/Boxing day. I decided that I would bake a cake and in this instance, break my rule of not consuming fresh fruit juice. Yes! I would make a cake and sweeten it with pineapple juice, I thought to myself. Ingenious, I thought, mentally patting myself on the back. In the end, I was too busy with Christmas preparations to make this cake and ended up having a sugar free whipped dessert from the supermarket. It wasn’t the greatest to be honest but I survived it!

Remarkably I somehow managed to avoid every sweet treat that was in my cupboards this Christmas season and there were and still are too many: multiples boxes of chocolates, a pack of chocolate rolls, two packs of chocolate brownie treats, a tin of Roses, a special pack of shortbreads presented in a mini- lighted house, the list goes on and yet I somehow managed to let not one pass my lips. I am genuinely not being boastful here and I do believe that a part of this mental resolve comes down to the fact that I felt a great sense of achievement from knowing how to reduce my sugar intake and somehow, eating a sweet treat, would ruin all the progress I’ve made so far and possibly have a negative effect on me. Besides this, high sugar foods do make me crash badly and I have genuinely benefitted from ridding myself of that unpleasant feeling.

The main two pieces of advice I would give someone on how to reduce sugar intake would be:

  • Educate yourself on what sugar in excessive amounts does to the body so that you know why you are making this choice and to help keep you motivated (this was major for me).
  • Only cut down your sugar intake to an extent that you are comfortable with. In hindsight I believe that I was excessively harsh on myself at the beginning of this lifestyle change and have since reintroduced moderate amounts of (mostly diluted) fruit juice into my diet for nutritional purposes. I am considering taking Manuka honey for its benefits if I get a cold or flu as I currently don’t eat honey as it is still technically sugar but a naturally occurring one.

I hope this has been of some help to someone. Have you ever reduced your sugar intake? How did it go and what did you cut down on or substitute the sugar with?

Let me know in the comments below!

How to Improve Essay Writing Instantly

how to improve essay writing
How to improve essay writing instantly.

Knowing how to improve essay writing isn’t easy but it’s one task that most of us will face at some point in our lives. How to write a college essay is a widely asked question and here, we will attempt to tackle that answer in simple, easy-to-follow steps.

What is an essay?

Nearly all of us will have been required to write an essay at some time in our lives, so what exactly is an essay?

An essay is a relatively short piece of writing on a specific subject with an aim of expressing an opinion or to propose or explore an argument. The writer usually presents their ideas using different techniques, for example in critique or commentary form. An essay may contain authoritative, researched pieces of information alongside the writer’s own opinions. Furthermore, quite often, an essay is less formal than a dissertation.

How to improve essay writing?

So where do you start? The two major components of essay writing are planning and structure. To know how to improve essay writing is to know that you must think ahead. So always start with your planning first. For some basic writing organisation tips, click here.

The most basic form of planning is creating a brainstorm. A brainstorm is a visual collection of ideas stemming from a labelled topic in the centre of your page like this.

This is where you can loosen your inhibitions and let your ideas run wild. You might use phrases, singular words, concepts, names, perspectives and other ideas to get the ball rolling on potential subject matter and perspectives to use later on. Another idea here would be to find synonyms of some of the words you have come up with as they could generate further ideas for you. Of course, knowing how to write a college essay isn’t dependent on you creating a brainstorm to plan, you can also plan using bullet points, paragraphs and venn diagrams.

After you have completed your initial plan, you will want to start working on trimming off the fat- meaning deciding which points you widely want to cover in your essay and others that might make minor points or that you might miss out on altogether. Once this is done and you are sure that you have included all of the points and perspectives that you want to cover, you will be ready to form the main body of your essay. If you want to know how to improve essay writing, in terms of structure read on:

Your essay structure should contain an:

1. Opening statement

write an opening statement
Write an opening statement.

This usually acts as the introduction of your essay where you will make a summative statement addressing the topic you are going to speak about. Here you will provide a brief piece of context. This informs your audience whilst anchoring your point.

For example: ‘Of Mice and Men is a fictional story which covers a number of characters who co-exist on a ranch during the Great Depression in America.’

2. Thesis statement for essay writing

Your thesis statement is your assertion, which is what you believe and the primary overarching point that you are trying to make in your essay throughout.

For example- ‘In this essay I will be discussing how the writer Steinbeck presents Crooks as a social outcast who has a secret desire to make friends with others on the ranch.’

Everything that comes after this statement will be you using a variety of points, persuasive techniques and evidence to try and argue this point to the reader.

We don’t actually know for sure that the writer wants to present the character as having this ‘secret desire’ as I have worded, however the technique I have used here is, opinion as fact and the rest of my essay will be using evidence from the text in the form of quotes, character analyses and the social backdrop of the text to persuade the reader of my argument.

Write an opening statement.

This usually acts as the introduction of your essay where you will make a summative statement addressing the topic you are going to speak about. Here you will provide a brief piece of context. This informs your audience whilst anchoring your point.

For example: ‘Of Mice and Men is a fictional story which covers a number of characters who co-exist on a ranch during the Great Depression in America.’

2. Thesis statement for essay writing

Your thesis statement is your assertion, which is what you believe and the primary overarching point that you are trying to make in your essay throughout. For the purpose of this article, I will use Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck as a model text.

For example- ‘In this essay I will be discussing how the writer Steinbeck presents Crooks as a social outcast who has a secret desire to make friends with others on the ranch.’

Everything that comes after this statement will be you using a variety of points, persuasive techniques and evidence to try and argue this point to the reader.

We don’t actually know for sure that the writer wants to present the character as having this ‘secret desire’ as I have worded, however the technique I have used here is, opinion as fact and the rest of my essay will be using evidence from the text in the form of quotes, character analyses and the social backdrop of the text to persuade the reader of my argument.

In essence, this is what an essay is: a persuasive piece backed by evidence from a number of sources. Of course how to write a college essay based on a piece of fictional literature often includes taking most, if not all evidence from the book itself rather than other sources that you might use when discussion non-fictional topics.

3. Body/Main part of essay writing

main body of essay
The main body of an essay consists of a series of paragraphs.

This is self-explanatory and where the fun begins. This part forms the meat of your discussion and where you really get to drive your points to the audience, whilst using evidence from the text. This section of your essay will consist of a series of paragraphs. Part of knowing how to perfect essay writing is understanding how the structure should work.

You will have a series of paragraphs:

Example-

Paragraph 1

Paragraph 2

Paragraph 3

Each paragraph should include:

Point: The statement you want to make.

Evidence: in the form of a quote or piece of solid evidence from the text e.g. the plot, a characters’ actions or a symbol which illustrates or highlights your point.

Analysis: This is where you explain and justify how the evidence validates your point.

Link: Here you link back to the original point to sum up the paragraph.

Below I have demonstrated how to write a college essay by structuring your paragraphs accordingly.

Example

Paragraph 1

Point: Crooks’ longing for companionship can be seen when he points out where the other men play cards. A place that he is forbidden from entering because of the colour of his skin.

Evidence: He states, ‘They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black.’

Analysis: This quote shows that Crooks’ is aware that the colour of his skin is used as a barrier to social interaction with the other men on the ranch. However the fact that he points out the location of their social activity, a place from which he is excluded, shows his longing desire for companionship.

Link: Here it can be seen that the location where the other men play cards serves as a reminder and symbol of Crook’s marginalisation. He is physically on the outside looking in and the very fact that he is aware of their social activity and his exclusion from it on the basis of his skin colour adds to his sense of isolation and a secret desire for friendship with others.

Example

Paragraph 2

Point: Crooks has a number of books which are described as ‘a tattered dictionary and a mauled copy of the California civil code for 1905,’  as well as ‘battered magazines and a few dirty books on a special shelf over his bunk.’

Evidence: The fact that Crooks is in possession of multiple books would suggest that he has some time on his hands on account of being isolated for most of the time. Furthermore, the fact that the condition of those books are described as being ‘mauled,’ ‘battered’ and ‘tattered’ suggests that he spends much of his time alone with his books.

Analysis: The fact that Crooks has read his books over and over to the extent that they are in a deteriorated condition shows us that he has no outlet for social interaction with others. In this way, his fixation with his books serves to ease his natural longing for companionship.

Link: Crooks’ possessions are a source of pride to him as well as entertainment which makes up for his lack of friendship. Escaping between the pages of books allows him to pass the time that he would have spent playing card games with the other men thus highlighting an unspoken want to be socially included.

You will continue to illustrate your points using this method for each paragraph perhaps going into even more intricate depth and the use of more quotes for your analysis segments.

4. Conclusion

Here you gather the points you made in the body of your essay and state how you believe you have successfully proven your original thesis statement at the beginning of the essay to be true through your chosen evidence.

Example

In conclusion, throughout this essay I have illustrated how glimpses of Crooks’ desire for friendship has presented itself in numerous ways in the text, Of Mice and Men. This being through the way in which he pointed out a location where the others played games signalling a painful awareness of his exclusion as well as the ‘battered’ books which kept him company in his little shed.

I have only provided a sample of a conclusion above however yours should briefly touch on each main point you made in the essay to prove your argument.

So now you know how to write a college essay and how to improve essay writing in general. Will you be using these techniques in the future? Or do you already employ some of these techniques? Let me know in the comments below!

How to Get Motivated in 5 Steps Now

how to get motivated
how to get motivated.

If you’re wondering how to get motivated, why not start here and read through these five tips to help you get back on track.

We all have goals, tasks and necessary errands that need to get done. It doesn’t matter what they are, we all need help from time to time, conjuring up the motivation needed to achieve them. Your goal could be as simple as getting round to making that application or as large as writing a book. If you do happen to be writing a book, check out my previous article on this.

Think of motivation as something that you need to ignite within yourself at set times instead of something you should always have. There is a time for everything, including having relaxation time, so If you hold the belief that being motivated is a state that you should always be in, then not being motivated can be, well, demotivating and it becomes and endless cycle. I hope that wasn’t too much word salad for you!

Instead, it’s important to know that we all go through different stages which require different levels of motivation. For those times when you find it difficult to pick yourself up to complete the important tasks, try these six tips.

Tip One: Who will you be if you keep this up?

How to get motivated, visualisation method.

How to stay motivated you ask? Use this visualisation method. Look at yourself as you are now. This could be in a literal sense by looking in a mirror if your goal is a physical one such as personal grooming or fitness related or in a more figurative sense by taking time to think about where you are in life right now and the distance between yourself and your goal or task. If you don’t take action where will you be a year from now? I know when I do this, it kickstarts me towards taking the steps needed to get started. The last place you want to be this time next year is even further away from your goal. Use your currently untapped potential to warn yourself of the not so pleasant results to come (an unrealised you) in the future if you don’t act soon.

Tip Two: Write it down

The simplest way to get motivated is to get organised with a good old pen and piece of paper. I have previously mentioned in this article how beneficial it can be to make lists. However, how many of us are actually listing our goals and then listing the actions needed in order to make them happen? This simple, no thrills method, makes all the difference- let me be a testament to that fact!  In fact any written form, outlining your goals and plans are a valuable way mapping out a clear way to achieve them. Check out my previous article, detailing how to use different methods to do this, here.

Tip Three: Start a small exercise routine

Want to know how to get motivated within a matter of days? Start up a small achievable exercise routine. Don’t overwhelm yourself as it’s always good to start small for two simple reasons. The first being that a small simple routine will help you stick to it. The second being that if you can stick to it, you have then kickstarted motivational energy, that energy can then be used to fuel other goals. Work on one goal at a time until that goal no longer feels like a goal and instead becomes a habit, then work on the next one and so forth. This is a process that can take months but if you remain consistent, you will see your motivation levels increase.

Remember: Motivation can be contagious so when you have achieved it, you can then turn to other goals and start transferring that energy and discipline towards them.

Some ideas for simple work outs are:

A light dumbbell routine

A low impact YouTube video

A ten-minute stretch routine

Breathing and posture exercises

Tip Four: Create a Vision Board

Vison board enthusiasts know just how to get you motivated. Yes, ten people have probably suggested this before me but vision boards really do work. According to Psychology Today, pursuing goals that keep you motivated will increase the likelihood of you achieving them, hence the major tip I’ve outlined  above about the benefits of starting out small.

Tip Five: Visualise your end product

This visualisation technique is similar to Tip One, except it is in the reverse. This time imagine your end product. How will you feel once you have achieved your goal? Imagine how you will look physically after achieving it. What positive lasting impact will it have on you and your perception of what you can achieve?

Remember, it takes one small, sustained action to motivate yourself towards one particular goal. Take the faith of a mustard seed approach and pick a time to start that small habit. Then take small actions to water it like a plant each day. Go easy on yourself and slowly but surely you will start to see growing results!

Do you have any tips that keep you motivated to share goals? Let me know in the comments below!

How To Calm Your Anxiety down

how to calm anxiety down
How to calm anxiety down

The question of how to calm anxiety down became one of the biggest of 2020. In fact the overarching events of the difficult year cast an umbrella of uncertainty over people from all walks of life. Nobody went untouched in some way, shape or form and anxiety became a collective experience shared by many.

Anxiety is a feeling of uneasiness usually marked by an emotion of worry or fear. According to the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS) average mental distress levels were 8.1% higher in April 2020 ‘than it was between 2017 and 2019.’

I am no stranger to anxiety myself, however, this didn’t stop global events from heightening my experience of the dreaded emotion. Here’s how I manage anxiety when it rears its ugly head.

Slow Down to Calm Down

Take the time to be still and take stock of how you are feeling. Try to pinpoint which exact thoughts are making you feel this way. You won’t be able to find a solution if you can’t pinpoint the problem in the first place.

Put Pen to Paper to Calm Anxiety

Write to help calm your anxiety.

Next write your worries down. Writing bullet points or even creating a spider diagram can act as a tool used to assist you in how to calm anxiety down. Making the issues tangible can allow you to address them and make plans to tackle them in a more practical manner in due course. Writing can be a very therapeutic exercise. Check out my previous article on Writing Project Ideas for Adults.

Do Some Exercise

Take up exercise to increase endorphins and calm your anxiety down.

Doing exercise increases your endorphins which are the hormones responsible for our happiness. For a more in-depth explanation on how endorphins actually work, check out this article.

This is where getting your body moving comes in. Why not calm your anxiety with a quick burst of physical activity? You can go for a brisk walk locally, schedule in a gym session, go for a run or do a YouTube Workout video such as this one, completely free of charge.

Listen to Some Music

Create a special playlist to help calm down your anxiety.

Wondering how to calm anxiety down instantly? Use music as therapy and pop on your favourite tune. Music is powerful and it can connect us to both positive and negative emotions. Identify the music that uplifts you. Why not create a Spotify playlist to help calm your anxiety.

You might want to find music which:

Energises you

Makes you feel optimistic

Makes you feel nostalgic

Makes you feel completely relaxed

Overall, you want to craft music lists that take your mind off of your anxiety and lift your mood to a different state, even if temporarily.

You might want to craft several lists that have you feeling different positive emotions.

Just Do It!

Sometimes, we feel anxious because something is looming over us. We know we have a chore or task to do that might fill us with dread. There’s a document to sign or a phone call to make. When we leave these tasks undone, it leaves more room for our minds to wonder and for us to maximise the actual significance of them over our lives. I am very guilty of doing this. I can procrastinate over things until I start to worry about them. When this happens, I will usually make a quick list, either mentally or on paper and commit to ticking off those boxes at some point, even if it takes me weeks or months.

None of the suggestions I have given provide permanent solutions on how to calm your anxiety down, however, through personal experience, I can attest that they can definitely help. What methods do you use to calm your anxiety?

Let me know in the comments below!

Best Tips for Writing a Book Now

tips for writing a book
Tips for writing a book.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and you need tips for writing a book. One thing is for sure, this process will not be a walk in a park, but it can be a very insightful and enjoyable journey if you take the right steps to make it happen.

Years ago, I wrote a short story as part of a Creative Writing module on my degree course. About three years later, I decided that I wanted to turn my short story into a novel. It was a long process of trial and error but below here are my tips for writing a book.

Are you ready for the journey of writing a book?

Tips for writing a book: are you ready to write a book?

The first thing you need to realise is that this is a large commitment. Ask yourself are you passionate enough about your book to truly commit to the time needed to complete it? The first of my tips for writing a book would be to establish your commitment to writing your book. You need to immerse yourself into your storyline or subject matter depending on whether it is fiction or non-fiction. I write both and I personally find it easier to create a world with fiction and get lost in it while I write. Of course, running into issues such as writers block and writers burnout is inevitable but I have some highly effective tips for dealing with this.

Create a schedule for writing a book and stick it

Writing a book: create a schedule.

This is probably the queen of all tips for writing a book. You must write regularly and to some type of pattern or schedule or you will lose momentum completely. Writing a book is like starting a car, you need to get the ignition started and keep the engine moving with fuel. How you fuel yourself in the writing process is dependent on the positive habits you take up surrounding your writing. Sticking to a regular schedule will help you get into a motivational rhythm which will make it more likely to achieve writing a book. You can be as strict or liberal with your schedule as you like depending on what is realistic for you; it could be three evenings a week OR 6pm to 8pm from Monday to Thursday each week. It is entirely up to you, though I would encourage that you create a writing schedule which will form a habit which will enable you to eventually achieve your goal of writing a book.

The great Maya Angelou had a little known routine that she stuck by for most of her writing life. Here’s what she said of her writing routine, which is illustrated in this Business Insider article:

‘I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses.’

Now it’s time to figure out what routine might be conducive to help you achieve your dream of writing a book.

Makes notes like crazy

make notes
Writing a book: make notes.

Another of my tips to writing a book is to make notes. Lots of them! Knee deep writers will understand this all too well- one of the most effective tips for writing a book is making notes. Notes bridge gaps between scenes and chapters. Chapters bridge gaps between a work in progress and a whole book. Books don’t write themselves, you need constant material to write to and the most progressive way to do this is to make notes. I have previously discussed the importance of making notes in this article. In a Guardian article, writer PD James speaks of his tips for writing a book:

‘By the time I begin writing, the plot is there and there’s a chart which shows in which order the things come so that the structure is right. But that will change, as new ideas occur during the writing, which makes the writing very exciting.’

In writing fiction notes can be used to:

Create descriptions of characters

Write scene ideas

Convey the emotions of characters

Plot the next few events in a novel

Describe the scenery of a setting

Write about spontaneous plot twists

In non-fiction writing notes can be used to:

Create chapter content ideas

Write anecdotal pieces

Write case study ideas

Sketch graphical ways to present information through mind maps, charts etc.

Organise ideas with bullet points

Believe in Your Story

Do you believe in your story enough to see it through to the finish line? If your answer is yes, then you already possess a vital component to your potential success in writing a book. If you have the conviction and belief in your own work then you have already overcome a large part of the hurdle to writing a book. I achieve this by only embarking on writing projects that I am genuinely interested in and passionate about. This is what creates the buzz and fun which spurs me to keep writing until I have finished a project.

Take Your Time

An important thing to remember when writing a book is to pace yourself. Depending on what you are writing and word count, how you schedule your writing and other external factors a book can be completed in as little as a few months to years to complete. It took me many years to write my first book because not only did I keep putting it down for a few years at a time but also I was slowly learning the process of how to become a prolific writer and actually create the volume and quality of work that was needed to complete my story.

If you want tips for writing books used by some of the world’s most acclaimed authors, check out this Goodreads list.

Have you ever considered writing a book and which tips would you use to help you? Let me know in the comments below!

good writing habits

6 Good Writing habits to Develop Now

Good writing habits during uncertain times

I made a good writing habits article during the Covid-19 Pandemic a few months back. However as the UK enters another Lockdown period and ongoing restrictions in many countries across the world remain, the subject unfortunately remains a relevant one. I would be lying if I said this hasn’t affected me. My writing style is largely based on immersing myself deep into my writing craft, however who can ignore a worldwide pandemic? As a result I have continued to formulate tips which enable me to write strategically and incrementally, giving myself time to be human and to not pressure myself. I have formulated good writing habits during the Covid-19 pandemic in order maintain my craft. The first UK Lockdown that began in March 2020 was unlike anything we have ever seen or experienced in our lifetime. Restricted to our homes and only permitted to leave for one hour of exercise per day, it was one of my biggest challenges. I have an immense gratitude for having gotten through it but it has been very trying. There have been times where I have had to stop watching the news in order to steady my anxiety about the uncertainties of what they are now calling the new normal. I have to be really honest and state that as a writer it takes a lot of resilience to keep going during these times when there is the ever-looming possibility that this really is the new normal. Read on for my six tips.

Keep Getting your Exercise

good writing habit
A good writing habit can be getting out for exercise and fresh air.

Take the time out to get fresh air and exercise. It doesn’t have to be major cardiovascular exercise. A simple walk will do. You just need to get your endorphins going to stimulate your productivity. Believe it or not while this isn’t directly related to your writing it will put you in a good headspace to start facilitating good writing habits.

Write lighter

A looming project can feel pretty heavy when we have other worries on our minds. Take up a writing project like one of those I’ve suggested here in this earlier post. A light-hearted writing project that you can use as a hobby can be relaxing and ease some of the anxieties that come from pressurising ourselves to perform in our main writing projects.

Don’t focus on what others are doing

When England went into its first lockdown period in March 2020, I was completely inspired to see people on Social Media pushing themselves to be the best version of themselves. I saw people consistently releasing top quality content, achieving health and fitness goals, finding endless ways to entertain themselves and others in the process during a very restrictive time. While I exercised regularly, I did not achieve any major feats and that was okay. My focus was on trying to mentally navigate what was happening and the shift of society as a response to Covid-19 in what is now known as ‘the new normal.’ We are all trying to cope with things the best way we can and when we compare our goals and achievements with others it can blur what is actually important, which is the fact that you are trying your very best (even if it doesn’t feel like it) given the circumstances.

Time your writing

If you think it feels too overwhelming to develop good writing habits, start off with short stints of writing. Anything from ten minutes of straight writing to see what you come up with is a great start that could lead to more. It’s about finding something that you are passionate enough about to want to continue.

Make a checklist to motivate yourself

In a former blogpost I listed some of the benefits associated with making lists, including a sense of achievement. Sometimes, even making a simple list and completing a number of tasks within your project can make you feel better about yourself.

Take it one day at a time

Writer’s guilt is a real thing but now is the time to be kind to yourself. Employ tips to help yourself to create but stop putting pressure on yourself to write if you feel uninspired. You can always pick up a fun writing project or even put your bookworm hat on for the evening. Remember writers need to read!

Have you developed any habits during the lockdown period to help you with your creativity? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Creative Writing Projects For Adults

Creative writing projects, creative writing ideas, self care, writers,
Creative writing projects can help adults to unwind and destress.

Creative writing projects are a great way to unwind and destress. Quite often, thinking of creative writing exercises might bring back middle school memories. However there are plenty of writing projects for adults which are designed for the purpose of good wellbeing and self-care.

The Covid-19 epidemic has affected people globally. Never before on such a massive scale, have people needed to collectively start prioritising self-care in order nurture their mental health. Understandably as the Lockdown eases in some areas, many of us are still cautious about going out and feeling restless and anxious at home

Below I have listed 5 creative writing project ideas for adults to help foster mental well-being. The benefits of embarking on what need not be more than 10-minute writing exercises, are endless.

These benefits include but are not limited to:

Easing stress

Allowing you to be productive

Improving your writing skills

Contributing to improved mood

Fostering a sense of achievement

Allowing for escapism

Below are some writing prompts to get your project underway.

1. Diary Writing

how to write a diary, diary writing examples.
How to write a diary.

You could kickstart this project off by thinking about a really good memory or time in your life. The objective here is to give you a boost and build on your positive feelings. Dig deep to find a memory of a self-affirming or euphoric moment in your life which boosted your self-esteem and overwhelmed you with feelings of wellbeing. Once you have immersed yourself in that memory you will find yourself present in it. You might even laugh or smile.

Alternatively you could start a themed diary writing project which zooms in on one particular time in your life. It could be when you went to school or college. It could be around a time when you were socialising around a particular group of people. Think of that lived experienced through sounds, smell, sight and your feelings at the time. Now write about it!

2.Short Story Writing in a Genre you Enjoy

How to write a short story, short story writing examples, short story ideas

Ever wanted to write a short story solely for your own enjoyment? Now would be a great time to start to write on a pet project for the sole purpose of your own entertainment. Why not start now? As you’d be writing for yourself, you wouldn’t have to worry about reader expectations. Therefore the story can go wherever you want it to! Have fun.

If you are unsure how to start, check out these detailed tips here.

3.Write a Monologue

Think about a topic you are passionate about. Really passionate. Then write a monologue on it. Let loose- remember this is for you only, NOT an audience. Nobody has to ever see it. Be as cynical or dry as you want to. Take the time to express yourself. To take it a step further you could film yourself reading it.

Some topic ideas to consider…

Social inequality

Relationships

Sexuality

Finance

A memorable experience you had

A cultural reference

Music

4.Set aside your free time to write some affirmations regarding your writing.

writing affirmations, writing affirmations examples
Writing affirmations examples.

Examples for writers might be:

I am proactive

I am productive

I am prolific

I engage my readers

And so on…

5.Write a blog article for yourself. The more random the better!

Here you get to let loose on the most obscure or mundane (to others) topic. It could be something as silly as why you don’t find ice-cream refreshing on a hot summer’s day or an unpopular opinion such as why you wish people would just leave the Friends sitcom in the 90’s.

Why not give yourself some reflective self-care that also sharpens your writing pen by embarking on one of the projects above.

Have you ever embarked on a personal writing project for yourself? Would you consider doing it? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Compelling Female Character Traits

A compelling female character isn’t hard to find. She is probably overrepresented across a plethora of genres, particularly in commercial fiction. Her character traits are irresistible to readers who want to find her in different books again and again. So how do you create your own compelling female protagonist? In this article I am going to highlight five key character traits a writer needs to develop in order to create a gripping female protagonist.

I once read a commercial fiction book centred around what I thought was a compelling female character. In the story her best friend and boyfriend had slept together and by the end, she eventually found it in herself to forgive her friend and rekindle her romantic relationship with her man. As a reader I was bewildered. I felt unsatisfied with that conclusion, one which in my eyes didn’t point to the strength or growth of the character. I was new to writing at the time and thought, is that how it really goes? What I had wanted was one of two conclusions: the first being my female protagonist having kicked both of their butts before saying good riddance, having realised her self-worth. The second of my preferable conclusions would have been that she made peace with those who had hurt her but refused to take back the cheater, (perhaps) wishing him well instead.

You see, we tend to enjoy the learning curves of characters. A large part of fiction writing is conveying the growth of the protagonist. Even a perpetual doormat needs to stand up for themselves, lest the readers eventually abandon them. As a writer, I can’t think of anything juicier than concocting how my potentially compelling female character might gear up to collect their self-esteem off the floor and take their power back. Of course, in Literary fiction, this doesn’t always need to be the case as happy endings aren’t guaranteed. However generally speaking, female protagonists must be compelling. I have outlined the five traits of the most captivating types of women in fiction.

Imperfection

The imperfections of characters add to a reader’s intrigue.

Nobody likes a perfect character. After all, what would be the point of a story if it was driven by somebody’s total perfection? Stories where everything goes right for the main character aren’t the ones we tend to read. On the contrary, the most compelling stories see our heroines fighting through the issues they face. Imperfection is a virtue. Considering that none of us are perfect in real life, imperfection is a relatable trait. Whether it’s a physical flaw that might bring on self-consciousness and a need for gradual self-acceptance or a poor habit like persistent lateness, readers tend to become attached to characters they see themselves in. Habits such as clumsiness, paranoia, laziness, overtalking and overthinking are traits which humanise characters and bring them to life.

Humour

One of the 5 compelling female character traits.

What is life without humour? Dull, that’s what. A character who can look at the bright side of life, offers dimension to a story. They have the ability to make light of their disappointments, even if momentarily. Additionally, humour is seen as a character strength in our society; a bit like intelligence or athleticism, it’s yet another item to add to the bag of tricks that we carry with us through life. Furthermore an easy-going character who doesn’t take everything so seriously makes it that bit easier to carry a storyline.

Check out this article which links laughter with likeability.

Integrity

Integrity is a character trait worthy of applause. Particularly for female characters who choose to project their voices.

Integrity is a trait that has earned many a character the respect of their audience. A protagonist who has unwavering morals is a memorable one. Standing up for what they believe in: Piping up at the racist joke in the office, refusing to be somebody’s booty call when they want a boyfriend or not taking back a cheating partner are all examples. Of course, they don’t have to start out so strong and ballsy, we are all human with weaknesses. Integrity is often borne out of challenges and adversity and it is always rewarding to see a character learning to have more integrity. This leads me to my next trait…

Vulnerability

Vulnerability is a relatible trait in fictional characters.

We all have weaknesses and some of us are more vocal about this than others. I love the fact that so many public figures are open about their insecurities. Especially after years of the media having made them feed us the narrative that they were perfect. This is no different to characters in a storyline. Vulnerability is an emotion that we can all relate to and it often resonates with us when we see others experiencing the same.  

Inquisitiveness

Inquisitiveness is a trait that many compelling female characters possess.

Female protagonists who are naturally inquisitive about the environments they encounter make us want to go on a journey with them. Imagine a story where nothing piqued the character’s interest: not a job advertisement, nor that handsome stranger or the opportunity to travel: things would get boring pretty quickly.  Inquisitiveness can act as a catalyst for a character’s journey, thus the overall plot, making for a more intriguing read.       

Check out some of my reads here.

What character traits do you like to see in fictional female characters?                                                                                       

How to be a Proactive Writer During Covid-19 Lockdown

Trying to be a proactive writer has never been as challenging as during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Navigating my writing life during Covid-19 has been a minefield. Trying to be a proactive writer has never been so challenging. I have to be honest, this pandemic has turned everyone’s lives upside down overnight and I am not unique. Life has become about keeping safe, checking in on loved ones via technology, home schooling (if you have children), adjusting to new routines and ensuring you have enough groceries at home. For some of us, writing has fallen to the bottom of the list of priorities at this time. Alternatively, for others it has birthed inspiration and a window of opportunity for extra writing time. We’re all different and as a result of these new conditions being imposed on our lives, our motivations to write may have changed or been affected for better or worse.

If you’re a writer, you may fall into one of three categories:

The inspired writer

Though you may be prone to low mood at times, given the circumstances, your writing life remains healthy.

You have taken this time to immerse yourself in your projects and remain inspired despite the challenges facing you. You have cultivated a writing space and routine whereby you can flourish and write prolifically. Though you may be prone to low mood at times, given the circumstances, your writing life remains healthy, possibly even healthier than before lockdown. The extra time has afforded you the opportunity to be proactive with your writing and pursue it aggressively.

The demotivated writer

you are trying to piece day to day life together much less focus on being a proactive writer.

This new way of life is so alienating that it is hard to know what to do right now. You haven’t necessarily fallen into a routine and you are trying to piece day to day life together much less focus on writing. You may have thought about it but haven’t had time amid your new host of duties, to actually pursue it. Alternatively you may be thinking about the fact that you are not currently writing and guilt tripping yourself over it.

The stuck writer

You may be experiencing writer’s block or writer’s burnout due to stress.

There is too much angst and worry in your mind for the ideas to be flowing right now. You might have begun to sit down to writing sessions but found that you have writer’s block or writer’s burnout. After all, there is a lot that might be on your mind during these strange, surreal times.

I myself have fallen into all three categories at one point or the other during this Covid-19 pandemic. What is occurring globally with this pandemic presents like a trauma in our lives, even if we don’t realise it. We are all having to withstand the dramatic overnight change of being in a state of lockdown. Subsequently we are all reacting in different ways to this new dimension of stress. Please know that it is okay if you’re not writing now like you used to, there is good reason. You will pick up that pen, laptop or notepad again and write up a storm. And for those of you who are writing up a storm, great! Stay inspired and active.

If you need a spruce to get your writing back in gear and become more of a proactive writer, consider some of the exercises below instead of immersing yourself into projects that you may currently find stressful. The excellent thing about exercises is that they don’t ask much of you, it’s all practice, idea generating and sometimes relaxation.

Here’s a list to help you flex those writing muscles again, no pressure!

Set goals

Think about what you want to achieve with your writing within a particular frame of time. It can be in the coming weeks, the next few months, even the next year. Come up with a list of realistic bullet points, things that you can actually achieve and feel immensely proud of once you have ticked them off.

Mind map

Create a mind map focusing on a set aspect of your writing such as a blog idea, a character profile, the events of a chapter or an idea for a new poem.

Revisit

Go back to some of your older work or an earlier draft of what you are working on to see how far you have already come. Sometimes it is an art in itself to stop and look at what you have achieved and give yourself credit for it. Also, learn to appreciate and use your own writing as a form of entertainment.

Read!

Many of us writers are also bookworms so I don’t have to tell many of you out there twice to just sit down and read once in a while. It’s a blissful part of life that is as inspiring as it is entertaining. Need I say more?

Note-taking

Observe life around you. What do you mean, I hear you say! I Am talking about observing the journey you make from the bedroom to the bathroom or the way the water bubbles in your kettle as you wait to make that morning cup of tea? Well, actually yes. Now might be the time to micro-analyse your environment, something might come out it inspiration-wise, honestly, challenge yourself and give it a go. Stare at a plant, look out of your window, play a piece of breath-taking music and see where your mind goes. Then take notes.

Check out this article for 30 more tips to get you motivated to write.

It has become an art to balance all of the things that we are suddenly responsible for. Previously our lives were cut into neat portions, (even if we didn’t think they were) of work, home, the school run, relationships etc. Now these things have blended into one mass and landed in our living rooms and we have been left to turn them into a productive, efficient schedules. Except we are not all perfect and we will all achieve this to varying degrees and that is okay. This is a skill that I am still learning to acquire but with some of the tips I have outlined above, I am beginning to return to my writer’s life.

How has your writing life been affected by these strange times? Are you as proactive as ever or have you found that you have slowed down somewhat? Let me know in the comments below!

Edit Your Novel in 4 Steps

Edit your novel in four drafts.

Pulling your hair out wondering how to self edit your novel? Then look no further. Read on to learn about my four step editing process. Here is how I do it in three stages.

First Draft

Unleash your untethered creativity in your first edit.

Think of your first draft as a bush being allowed to grow as it wants: with wild flowers, thorns and overgrown vines. At the first draft stage, you can unleash all of your untethered creativity without worrying. At this point, it is a blank canvas that you can fill with anything that you want to and no matter what, it should be a fun process. Its impulsive like scratching an itch! I enjoy letting my stories carry me where they want to at this point and also seeing where conversations between characters go. Now is the time to say what you want, create the characters you want and make them behave how you want- or how they want for that matter!

The only rule to heed in order to edit your novel at this point is a rough plot line. You need a protagonist dilemma or yearning for something which pushes the story forward. This also gives momentum to the relationships that your protagonist has with others.

 you also need to build towards something significant. Anything before this is a steady climb up a roller coster but with your first draft, its a journey that you can build organically without worrying about narrative rules.

You can plan your writing or write spontaneously. My own writing process consists of a bit of both and I find that the combination of these two techniques keeps my writing sessions fresh and varied:

Second draft

Make scenes more dynamic in your second edit.

Here is where you do your pruning. At this point that overgrown, beautifully untethered bush (your first draft) will need some TLC. With your second draft edit, you will need to begin to tame and shape it. Check out my previous article, editing tips to keep you motivated to drive you forward at this stage.

Although the second edit should be fun, this is where you will need to employ the most mental muscle to edit your novel during the second draft process. I liken it to spring cleaning- you get to move things around and still be creative at this point. Not only are you weeding out the extra fluff, but you actually get to make scenes more dynamic or intriguing by reconstructing character conversations and enhancing the descriptions of settings. Now is the time to do your narrative justice!

Top tips

  • Look out for inauthentic dialogue. Would someone really say this? Do I really need to add those slang words which might age my work down the line?
  • Think about the overall shape and pace of the story. Does it take too long to get to the action? Are the peripheral characters given enough or too much screen time in the story?
  • Are you creating empathy for the right characters? Or do you want to leave this up to your readers to decide who they are rooting for?
  • Do you have chunks of text that need to be scrapped altogether and left on the cutting room floor?
  • Do you have scenes that would be better featured at a different stage in the narrative?

Once you have taken all of these editing factors into consideration and applied them where necessary, you are onto your third edit.

Third Draft

Success at fixing major structural issues on the third edit.

Hopefully, if you have followed all of the points above to edit your novel, you will have achieved considerable success at fixing any major structural issues. Look at your third draft as a polishing exercise. By now, anything that needs to be adjusted should hopefully stand out clearly as you edit your novel.

The third edit will require you to make executive judgements about things like dialogue and tone. It’s time to sweep up or tweak any unfitting or inauthentic dialogue and see what needs adjusting in places. Your third edit will enable you to cement the overall feel and direction of your story and it is pretty exciting to see your work really come together.

Fourth Draft

Your fourth and final draft will be of a much less creative nature. Think of this as the polishing and dusting phase. Now is the time to employ your proofreading skills: look out for grammatical and spelling errors. Check for any jarring repetition of certain adjectives and adverbs. Once this final sweeping process is over you can go back over and read your work and hopefully enjoy doing so!

If you want to see the end result of this four step editing process, you can ready my short story Filling the Void here.

How do you find the editing process? Is it something you don’t mind doing or do you dread it everytime? Let me know in the comments below.