The Kryptonite to Creative Evolution

Flicking through my Facebook feed recently a video came up. It was the commencement address made by the actress Octavia Spencer at Ohio’s Kent State University earlier this year, and whilst I’m not too familiar with her work, her words spoke to me.

One point she made, as a young female person of colour , was that if when she’d been an up and coming actress she’d taken notice of the ‘lists’ – you know 25 actresses who made it by 25, or 30 richest lists – she would have stayed in bed, and not become as successful as she is. She referred to the ‘trap of comparison’ and told the graduates not to get caught in it, because they would continue to evolve in ways people had never thought of yet.

And this is what really struck me: comparison is the Kryptonite to creative evolution. And I’m not just talking blogging because it hits home to me, or in this situation acting, I’m talking all creative walks of life.

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Imagine the world if we’d had no David Bowie, for example. He came from the same places we did, but the creativity he brought to his field were totally unique – if he’d compared himself to his peers, and allowed that to bog him down, we would have never ended up with the Bowie we loved.

Think of any outstanding creative in any creative field and you can say the same. The ones who are most revered are usually the most unique. And let’s talk diversity – you don’t have to think back that long ago, and in some cases it’s still the same today, where these lists I mentioned earlier wouldn’t mention a single person of colour, or certain race or even feature a woman.

And I’m not trying to make this about diversity – I’m trying to make this about you. Just you sitting there. We all sit and compare ourselves. We flick through social media, and read gossip magazines online. We look at the success of those around us in our field and think “Well, if they’ve been successful and I haven’t, I need to be more like them” But then we end up with a world of clones. How boring.

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It’s the harder route, to be yourself and graft until you’re successful. And not everyone will make it to the ‘big time’ in their field. But if you readjust what success means to you – it’s not all about being top of the pile, the most famous or having the most money – then you might just find, with that mindset, you might rise higher than you’d thought.

Towards the end of Octavia’s speech, the underlined message she conveyed was

“The journey you take now, will be lead by you alone.” 

It’s a scary and powerful concept, but it’s true. Only you can carve out your path for the future, and only you are going to take it. So why would you want to carve out a path someone else has taken or is meant for a different person. Your path will have failures and disappointments, but that’s all part of learning. Because of this, you don’t backtrack on this path, you simply learn and move on.

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Life isn’t simple or easy – it’s hard graft, but if you really do work hard at it, you can earn your best life possible.

Are You On a Quest for Positivity?

I follow a YouTuber called Justin Scarred. Justin is from California and is primarily a Disneyland Vlogger (well that’s how I found him) but he also does random vlog around his life, the area he lives in and also Knotts Berry Farm, which is local to him. He’s recently travelled the whole length of Route 66 and back, which was very very interesting to watch, and I’d recommend watching it if that’s the kind of thing you like.

Anyhow, the other day Justin vlogged an update on his Quest for Positivity (or Q4P) and it was a really inspiring video. A few years back Justin went through some big life changes and somewhere along the line he made a conscious decision not to be a victim of the unhappiness he was feeling. He felt he was spiralling into a bitter cycle of feeling sorry for himself, which was projecting into the world around him, and he was tired of it.

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Listening to him talk about this Q4P and how he was getting on with it, range true with me. I’d like to think I’m a fairly positive person, but I can feel really negative too, and when I do it definitely spirals. Many years ago, I considered the practice of counting my blessings on a daily basis, and that’s where my Q4P began.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all the way there yet, and I have MANY off days. But I know I’m trying. I’m certain that perspective comes with age. I’m about to hit 34 years old, and though no drama has really affected my life, I’m sure the things I’ve dealt with, seen and helped other people deal with, have given me the unique perspective I have on life. And by unique I don’t mean that I’ve got life all sussed in my mind and you haven’t – I just mean my perspective is different from everyone else’s – as is yours.

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I often see people being victims of their circumstances – they’re so deep into the emotions they’re feeling about something that’s happened to them that they get stuck in a rut. Even if they feel like they’ve dealt with the drama they’ve experienced, they’re now in that negative mindset and so that’s now how they deal with every situation that comes to them. Even positive circumstances will be tarred with a negative or dismissive brush.

I’ve come to realise that in my life, I need to accept negativity, then step back from it, brush it off and look at the bigger picture. I have to reset my mind to the middle ground – nice and calm, neither good nor bad – and then take the next thing I have to deal with as a brand new situation.

I’ve gotta admit, this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of practice and I’m not there yet. But once you accept a crummy situation as just that, it’s easier to deal with. No point in fighting it – just use the same amount of energy as you would feeling bitter, and put it into finding a solution.

Justin was right when he pointed out that if you keep hold of that negativity or anger, you’ll spit it out into the world, and eventually you’ll be one of those bitter and twisted old people you saw when you were a kid, but never wanted to be. That’s no way to live!

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So, you want to begin your own Quest for Positivity? A simple place to start by consciously counting your blessings every day. It can be as simple as;

  • Someone asked me how my day was
  • I heard a great joke today
  • That was a lovely cup of tea
  • I have a roof over my head
  • I’m feeling better in my self, than I was last week

There are so many things we can be grateful for, each and every day. And counting your blessings is a fantastic place to start.

We can gain perspective for ourselves, by considering the perspective of others’ in a non-judgemental way. Why did that person act this way? If I was in that person’s shoes, what would have been the catalyst for that behaviour?

As part of considering others, I’ve found it naturally leads to a change in my behaviour, because I won’t do things that might cause anger or hurt to others. I have more insight into how my actions might affect the emotions of others, and in turn I become a better person for it.

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I’m a crazy emotional person, and I find it very easy to jump to anger in many situations, but my quest for positivity has definitely helped me to gain perspective and stay calm in situations where I might not have in the past.

I’d be really interested to hear about your Q4P, if you’re on one. You might not call it that, but if anything you’ve read today rings a bell to you, I’d love to hear what practices you take to better yourself and help you along to a happier and more positive life.

Adulting & Growing Old: What Adults Never Told You When You Were Young

I’m coming up to 34 years old next month, and I have to be honest, I still feel 19 in my head. I think I always will.

I’ve been blessed with a young-looking face, and people always think I’m about 6 years younger than I actually am. I used to hate this but now I like it, and I hope it doesn’t change.

Me and my husband used to look at photos of when we had first met and compare them with current ones, then comment on how we hadn’t changed. But now we look at those same pictures and notice a massive difference. I’m getting old! Not really, but I’m definitely looking older.

Last week I found my first white hair – not grey, white – and I was so happy. I love the idea of getting older, and I feel like I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve been looking for greys for a while now, but since I dye my hair (and have done since I was 16) I rarely see my natural colour. For some reason this time around, my mousey-roots making an appearance hasn’t bothered me so I’m holding out dying my hair until I snap back into hating it again. My plan is that if my hair goes white I won’t have to dye or highlight it any more. I’m aware that won’t work, but let me dream for a while.

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When I was a kid, I knew that as soon as I hit 18 I’d be an adult and have it all sussed out. But along with no one telling you how much aftercare having a tattoo takes and what REALLY goes on when you give birth, it’s one of those things that people don’t tell you when you’re a kid and leave you to work out yourself;

You’ll never really feel like an adult. (Shh don’t tell the kids).

I often see a term banded around on twitter – ‘Adulting’, and I think it’s perfect. For example “I had pizza for breakfast #adulting” or “Spent the afternoon doing my accounts, and now I’m off to a wine bar #adulting” It’s used perfectly to illustrate the psyche of an ‘adult’ who has the brain of a teenager doing things they feel that can or should do but not quite feeling like an adult.

I’ve always said that I never want to feel like an adult. If I start feeling that way, things will be dull and boring and I will have lost the fun. I also say you’re never truly old until you hit about 80, so I’ve got some time to go.

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You spend your young life learning how to be when you’re thrust out into the big wild world, but you never really stop learning. You can continue to educate yourself both academically and by learning from experience and the experience of others. Everyone you meet teaches you something about people and about yourself. You never stop making mistakes, learning from them and choosing which path to take.

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I find growing older to be the biggest adventure. It’s exciting. I want to be a sponge taking it all in, adapting myself to it and moving on to the next thing. I know a lot of people who went through a funk when they hit 30, but I was the most excited. This year I turn 34 and whilst I’m not so keen with my skin changing, my ability to go out in the evening on a ‘school night’ diminishing and my life responsibilities going up, I still know there’s so much ahead of me. There’s time to learn, change, experience and move forward. There are people I haven’t met, places I haven’t seen and so many things I need to learn about myself.

Who wouldn’t want to move forward and experience all of that?

Anxiety: What It Took Me A Long Time To Learn

I’ve suffered with GAD for as long as I can remember. I remember realising I had something odd going on with my mind when I was in about year 5 or 6. I was having OCD tendencies, which I knew I wanted to stop and made a mental note to do the opposite of what my mind was telling me to do.

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Members of my family suffer from OCD so I knew it was something I’d been exposed to, but it still surprises me to this day that as a child I knew this was an issue and something that needed stopping.

It wasn’t until many many years later I was diagnosed with GAD and found out that this was something another member of my family suffered with. And it wasn’t until a few years after that, that I read a blog post online that really helped to change the way I dealt with anxiety.

I honestly don’t remember where I read the article. I was doing research for a blog post in my job and happened across the post, with relation to something else. But the post struck a chord with me.

Simply put, the author noted that she’d been trying to suppress her anxious feelings. They’d been weighing her down to the point where she was saying no to meetings, new business and opportunities. She’d been allowing her anxiety to define her and it was preventing her from moving forward in a business sense. Until one day she had a breakthrough. She decided she would greet her anxiety – acknowledge it. She moved forward knowing that she would have this reaction and instead of causing herself more stress trying to fight it, she described herself moving forward with the anxiety walking alongside her.

She soon found that it wasn’t there as much. Because she’d decided not to pay attention to it so much, not use up her energy analysing it or fighting it, that it wasn’t getting the attention it wanted and so it didn’t seem as important as it once had.

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This idea was really powerful to me. I hope it is to you, too.

Anxiety is a big snowball of horrid. You have it, you analyse it, you feel guilty for it, and then you have more of it. It’s a cycle that seems so unnecessary and is very tiring. It can debilitate, numb, paralyse. It’s in no way fun.

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It’s different for everyone, but I hope, if you suffer, that by reading this you might find some sense of relief. It won’t work every time, it doesn’t cure, but it might offer a little respite on occasion.

 

20 Ways at 20 Years; Buffy The Vampire Slayer Changed My Life

Something you might not know about me is that when I was a teenager I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or BtVS). And you might know that Buffy celebrated 20 years since it first aired, last month, so I thought I might share with you the many ways it improved my life.

Back when Buffy was first being shown, I was probably the targeted viewing age. A group of friends and I would watch the show religiously – those were the days when it was considered majorly geeky to show an interest in a tv show, binge watch or even just buy merchandise.

My first experience with the show was when a friend who had a Blockbuster membership found that you could rent Buffy on double episode VHS tapes. Buffy hadn’t started being shown in the UK at that point, so we rented the videos – I think they were Welcome to The Hellmouth, Surprise and Innocent and Becoming pts 1 & 2. They were obviously out of context but it didn’t seem to bother us. Then when Sky started showing it, I was able to borrow tapes of the show from friends (I didn’t have cable or satellite TV) and then eventually we found you could pay people to tape the episodes and post them over on VHS from America – and eventually onto disc via ripping from the internet.

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There are so many positive attributes to Buffy and if you’re a fan you’ll know all about them, but I thought I’d share how the show changed my life personally!

  1. Buffy gave me a shared interest which drew me to a fantastic bunch of friends. Since I was going through a massively hard time with anxiety and depression during my time at school, having a group of people to spend time with was so important. Without this shared interest I don’t know whether I would have survived school!
  2. I discovered some great alternative music – granted a lot of it isn’t that wonderful now but the style and feel of the music certainly gave me focus and was the catalyst to a lot of the music I listen to today. I still can’t hear Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan without wanting to sob!
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  3. The fashion in the show isn’t always a hit, but I definitely emulated a lot of the looks from the show in my day-to-day wardrobe. Nowhere else would jack ups look cool – but they seemed to work on Buffy!
  4. My internet social life started with a love of The X-Files but I met a wonderful group of people on a BtVS message board, who I still speak to and sometimes see, today. I also made friends with some people across the pond and I still stay in touch with them now.
  5. BtVS could be the reason I started blogging. I had a fansite, made graphics, socialised with other webmasters and shared articles about the show. It was my first outing into making a mark on the internet and I loved it! I wish I had some screenshots of my site, but here’s one of the banners I made for the site. (My skills were awesome, right…… :D)
  6. gateWatching a tv show with strong female lead, and a bunch of other awesome females definitely wasn’t lost on me. It also didn’t hurt that Angel was a honey….
  7. And on that note, the vocab in the show was new, exciting and totally awesome. No one heard anyone speak California slang in Milton Keynes…. well at least until they met me!
  8. Even though Buffy was set in a world where Vampires were real, it also covered some really important subjects  – unrequited love, first sexual encounters, bullying, homosexuality, school shootings, rape, death of a family member, cheating, the complexities of friendship, fitting in, not fitting in….. I could go on….
  9. I mentioned music earlier, but I’ll mention it again, this time in the guise of score. The original BtVS score, composed by Christophe Beck, was the first time I really paid attention to incidental music in TV. I’d been a fan of The X-Files and knew about Mark Snow’s score (which isn’t to my taste) but in Buffy I discovered for the first time, the idea of theming. The concept that the same phrase of music could be used time and time again in multiple episodes of the show when a particular character or characters are on screen, was wonderful. The Buffy and Angel theme still gives me chills.
  10. Watching Becoming pt 2 was the first time I ever saw something on screen that made me feel deeply sad – and it was fiction. I didn’t get it – it was both beautiful and sad and I didn’t know what to do with the emotions I was feeling. Being a teenager is HARD!tumblr_n7q5z15MH71qiizz2o3_250
  11. Something that even the people I used to watch the show with, don’t know, was that until I began watching the show I was deeply terrified of Vampires and the idea of vampires. But watching BtVS cured me of that – thanks Joss!
  12. Also, to this day WWJD doesn’t stand for What Would Jesus Do, but instead stands for What Would Joss Do. And also Thank Joss It’s Friday, is something that often pops into my head. Joss is a genius…. Nuff said.
  13. I more often than once took this photo to the hair dressers (and sometimes I would come out with something similar….)Willow-Smith-550x440
  14. When I met Gary, Buffy was still being shown on TV – he knew how important the show was to me that he borrowed my dvd sets (it must have been love!) and binge watched them to catch up so we could watch the new episodes together!
  15. I wrote a letter to Joss Whedon and got a (print) signed cast photo back all the way from LA! I was so excited at the idea that it had come from America.
  16. My obsession with Buffy was apparently so strong, that one day my Mum took me aside and said to me ‘You do know you’re not Buffy don’t you?’…. And obviously I knew…. if anyone I would have been Willow, of course!
  17. Quotable Buffy changed my life, because not only did I find I was able to come up with a quote for every situation, but I found I was able to start coming up with quick quips of my own for every situation. You know those conversations where you think of something witty to say hours after the fact? Not me, I seem to have honed the skill of coming out with it at the right time. I have BtVS’ fast dialogue to thank for that!
  18. BtVS taught me that if the boy you like suddenly starts wearing leather trousers, he’s probably turned evil so it might be worth staying away.
  19. BtVS taught me the importance of friendship both via the show, and also the community that surrounded it.
  20. Out of all of the above, I have to say the most important thing BtVS taught me is that it’s okay to be you. Be you and be kind. Whether you’re the geek, the outcast, gay, straight, feel detached from the world, estranged from friends or family, feel uncomfortable in your own skin or even if you have a big secret you feel no one would understand – be you. And be kind – because no matter how hard you feel your life is, the stranger next to you is feeling the same. We’re all trying to muddle through this world – some of us are panicking about school, others are dealing with trouble at home, and who knows the girl next to you on the train might be dealing with coming to terms with being a Vampire Slayer.

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Mental Health: A New Trend?

Trying to explain an anxiety disorder to someone who doesn’t have one is nearly impossible. It’s kind of like trying to describe a migraine to someone who’s only ever had a headache.

And it’s not the person to whom you’re talking’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just really hard. In fact it’s even hard to explain your kind of disorder to someone else who suffers.

Personally my anxiety disorder presents itself in lots of ways. It can be triggered by many things, and it’s so inflicting that it can make all my muscles seize so I can’t even move. My brain can switch off, everything goes slow motion and I sometimes won’t even know until after it’s happened.

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But this blog isn’t about that. We now live in a time where it’s more common to speak out about mental health. And as much as there’s still a HUGE way to go and reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues, people are still going for it, and trying to make others aware of it.

But I have a few concerns. There are so many people who will just fling terms around. “I’m so OCD I have to keep all my shoes in pairs” or “That ugly sweater gives me anxiety”. No one can tell whether these people really suffer, and who am I to say that they don’t. But it is starting to appear that a select few are wearing mental health issues as if it will make them more interesting. Something to add a little drama into their life.

Even Jennifer Lawrence, whilst being interviewed on The Tonight Show alongside Jessie Eisenberg recently, flippantly said ‘You’re the most interesting person’ and ‘I want weird quirks’ just minutes after he had opened up about his severe OCD. No one who has OCD *wants* OCD.

And in an episode of Veronica Mars (if you don’t know what that is, you seriously need to Google it and watch!) students were claiming GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) to get out of exams. It was so normalised that it penalised any students that really did have it.

My fear is just that, that people who really suffer from it are being washed away by those seeking attention. I hope I’m wrong.

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My second concern is one that I have zero basis to believe will happen – it’s merely a fear (heck, it’s an anxiety). I love how much anxiety and mental health disorders are being talked about. It’s fantastic that people are trying to end the stigma surround them. I myself don’t openly talk about it to my colleagues or even really bring it up to friends unless it’s relevant. I know, not with friends or family, but in the work place mainly it can alter how people treat you. I’ve seen it happen, not so much in my current job, but in past places, where I feel like your capabilities are questioned. Luckily if ever I’ve had to mention it at work to my direct boss I’ve been met with support and understanding. But I do have a concern that if having a mental health problem is normalised too much, it won’t be taken seriously.

I’ll go back to my headache analogy. If someone tells you they have a headache you expect them to take a pill and carry on, but you have no idea how it’s affecting that person. Their head might be splitting, it might have gotten so bad they need a dark room or a sleep. It might even be a migraine. You have no idea how it’s affecting that person. But headaches are normal, they affect so many people and they’re so common. Anxiety is common, affects so many people but you have no idea how it’s affecting someone at that time. My fear is that I tell someone I have really bad anxiety and because it’s so normalised they tell me to sit quietly or take a pill and expect me to carry on as normal. They just brush is off, and don’t realise how seriously it’s affecting me at that time, because it’s ‘just anxiety’. Sometimes with a migraine you need to take days away from normal life to recover. Sometimes with anxiety you need to remove yourself for weeks.

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It’s selfish and hopefully wrong, but for that reason I almost don’t want GAD to be normalised too much. I guess I just want it understood. I don’t want to feel brushed under the carpet, because my struggle is real, so so real. And I really don’t want it to become the next fad, like veganism or yoga.

I think for now, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t really want to go into my own experiences in too much detail. I still find talking about it, and even reading other people’s experiences, a bit of a trigger. I just wanted to put words to ‘paper’ and put them out there. I also don’t want to offend with anything I’ve written, so hopefully this hasn’t. I can’t control my fears and in this instance, this is just how current events have made me feel.

I wonder if anyone else feels the same as me?

2016: My Year in Blogging

I think this year has to have been one of my most consistent blogging years, the last one being during my year of half marathon training.

And I know exactly what changed it; the blogging community on social media and actually being actively social.

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Blogging has changed a huge amount since I started. I’ve been writing a blog for around 15 years and this particular blog for 7 and a half now. I’m so proud that Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug is the way that it is and that people seem to like it!

I started the year with around 300 email subscribers and ended it with over 600. After having started dabbling with makeup I started to see my reader stats increasing and people seemed to be interested in that kind of content. I’m not going to lie, as much as my blog posts are written for me, no one will deny the draw to being popular. Especially in such a competitive environment. And it’s SO competitive.

When I started blogging it wasn’t popular. It was something emo kids and poets did. For the record, and though there’s nothing wrong with being either of those things, I’m neither. I was just putting thoughts to ‘paper’ and then releasing them into the great ocean of the internet. I think that’s why I get on with twitter so much. You have a thought, you release it, and then it’s gone (for the most part!).

When I began putting in that extra 10% effort this year, I could see it made all the difference. But I also saw that the world of blogging, this expansive Blogosphere, was totally different from how it was when I started. EVERYONE has a blog. The content is rarely original, but when it is, it’s so good. And people can really make money from blogging. People are jacking in their 9-5 jobs to work for themselves and become influencers full-time.

And not only that, the popularity contest is so fierce that people actually pay for followers. Things I didn’t know even existed were brought to the forefront – people spend hours scheduling tweets to go out on a weekly basis. They will plan posts months ahead, spending hours perfecting their Media Kit and profile pages to be PR friendly. I have, for the time being, decided that a media kit and PR related type stuff is not for me. The other day someone had to explain to me what an Insta Pod was – I’m still not 100% sure…

A few years ago I dabbled, and worked with companies reviewing their stuff. I worked with Vita Coco, Chobani and a few tea companies. I had chocolate and yogurt coming out of my ears and finding the time to review everything was hard. I found my content was becoming watered down this ad content and I decided to let it go.

I also found it’s so hard to get noticed in the seas of ‘young’ ‘hip’ bloggers who understand social media and branding way more than I can at my mid 30’s. It’s frustrating to think that the 40th review someone has read about the latest Zoella perfume can get so much more engagement than a post I write about travel or a favourite charity….. But still.

So since I considered myself pretty good at twitter I set up a second twitter account dedicated to Musings and let it loose on the world. I got a few followers but they were mainly people who I already knew. And nothing seemed to happen….. Then I realised that I was being totally dumb and in order for people to engage with me I needed to engage with them. It’s been to the detriment of my personal twitter account, I must admit, but even so, I have really enjoyed it.

Things really started to fly when I discovered The Bloggers Hub (or I think they might have found me!), a network of like-minded bloggers who chat, help each other and are really fun. The guys who run the network are great, welcoming, and really help to boost your exposure all at the same time. They seem like the kind of people I’d really get on with IRL and there’s zero bitchiness from anyone, which is the one thing that had put me off being involved in any other twitter blogger network. Their twitter chat was also the first one I ever participated in (and since I’ve never felt the urge to join in with any others, if I’m honest). Through them I’ve found some amazing, friendly and really down to earth bloggers. I’ve also had my eyes opened to some of the pitfalls of blogging, some of the drama and plenty of the scams.

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Through twitter I got the balls to start my YouTube channel too, which is still very much in its infant stage. But it’s great to know there’s an outlet I can push my videos through, when I really want people to know what I’ve been creating.

Something I’ve always had an issue getting over, so not just this year, is the fear of putting what I really think onto the screen. And by that I mean, I sometimes have the strong urge to write a response to something that might be going on in the press or something in my life, but I’m afraid of the responses I might get. Sometimes it’s a social or political issue that I don’t feel like I know everything about but I still have a strong opinion on. I might know enough to write a post about it, but someone who knows more about it than me might comment and I won’t be able to stand my ground. This is something I hope, in time, I’ll get over. But the more exposure my blog gets, the higher the chance that someone might respond negatively to what I’ve written. I mean let’s face it, beauty bloggers get flack for using too much product in their swatches so what hope do I have if I start to comment on politics?

I also had the chance, towards the end of the year, to attend a couple of Blogger events. One was too far from home, but one was right where I live, and I chickened out. Apart from it being too much money for what you got, I didn’t feel ready to take that scary leap and be social with people I’d never met. The fear was too great. But maybe this year I’ll take the leap. There’s one blogger I’ve been friendly with for the past year, who I would consider a friend even though we’ve never met. Maybe meeting her this year will be the first step to conquering this fear. I think I need my hand held!

So what does 2017 and blogging hold for me? This year I upgraded my Peanuts Moleskine notebook, where I usually write in long hand, a full blog, if I have the idea in my head and I need to get it out. I bought a Dot Creates Blogger Planner. Inside it’s got loads of space for planning upcoming blogs. Up until now I’d either use my Peanuts Moleskine or more often just open a new page on my iPhone Notes app. This can be a little clumsy and when it comes to things like this, I appreciate putting pencil to paper more. This blog planner will also be great for planning YouTube video ideas and it makes my brain feel a little more organised!

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So planning will be important in 2017, though I don’t feel like I’ll ever be the kind of person who can sit, plan and write out posts months in advance. I’m far too much of a spur of the moment, type out whatever’s in my brain right now, kind of blogger.

I know I’ll continue with twitter because it’s been so much fun, socialising with everyone and learning too. I considered dabbling with scheduling tweets, but I enjoy actually engaging in real-time too much. Even scheduling blog posts too far ahead of time makes me feel distant from my content, so for the time being I won’t be scheduling tweets.

I’m going to work on my brand, but I want to keep it real. I don’t want to find myself moving back to where I was when I was doing PR and collaborations. That’s not me – if I talk about a product it’s because I love it and I’m just doing the same as if I told my friends about something amazing that I’d tried. And I want my readers to know that too. If I’m telling you about it, it’s because it’s worth talking about!

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I can honestly say that 2016 was my most enjoyable year in blogging, and I hope 2017 follows suit. I now know that putting that little bit of extra effort in, finding your tribe and being social makes a whole heap of difference. There’s a reason it’s called social media but for someone who isn’t incredibly outgoing or social I was just a little slow on the uptake.

But it’s okay now, because I got there eventually. And I love it!

My Itchy Feet; A Blog About Possibility

This time of year, when we’ve all had some quality time off, we’ve woken up when we wanted, chosen what we were going to that day, been adequately lazy and then probably a little more lazy than that, and been completely our own bosses, it’s very hard to go back to work.

Yet, tomorrow we all get up at stupid o’clock and once again join the rat race.

This year seems a little harder for me since it’s the first year out of many that I haven’t had a holiday or big event to look forward to. And last year was a biggie as I had one of my best friend’s wedding and my 10 year anniversary to Disney World to look forward to.

Reading everyone’s 2017 blogs has got me yearning in the same way as I do most years.

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So this year I’m putting fingers to keys (because pen to paper seems so 2008) and I’m going to type out some things I really want, just so that I can be accountable for them. These aren’t necessarily things I want for next 12 months, but for years to come and who knows when I can start putting the wheels in motion. But here’s a start:

I want to properly learn a new language

Let’s face it, it’ll probably be French. I already have a basis in French and I find it the easiest to get to grips with. But I want to be able to confidently hold a conversation with someone in another language without getting flustered and confused.

I want to learn a new skill

For a while I thought maybe calligraphy, but I’m not artistic enough for that. Today I thought I might want to learn shorthand – so maybe I’ll look into that.

I want to get a degree

This is a big one. I’m aware of the work load – and that’s partly why I haven’t taken the leap yet. I really really want to learn Law. For years now I’ve loved the idea of going back to school and learning basic law and then doing a degree in criminal law. I know it’s a huge one, and I am aware it would be hard. Especially since there’s no way I can do without working full-time. Sometimes I feel like it might be too late, but then is it ever too late? I love the idea of using that part of my brain again and being good at something – at least I hope I’d be good at it. But it takes time, money and a LOT of energy so I know it’s not something I can just jump into.

I want to travel

For a long time Gary and I have wanted to take a month off, travel, even just go to New York, rent a place for a while and live there. I’d love to be creative in a place like that. One thing I mention a lot is travelling the UK and taking photos of the kind of places no one takes pictures of. Then making a living selling those photos. It’s a big dream, but again it means taking time off work or leaving work and then how do you fund it. I’m seeing a lottery win in my future…..

So there’s a little insight to my itchy feet. Who knows what the future holds – but for now all bets are off and nothing’s off the table. It’s frustrating but at least I’m happy in the knowledge that any or all of these thing are possible eventually. I just need to work hard to get there!

To Blog & Vlog

Hi guys! Firstly, I made a boo boo with my last post. I wrote and then accidentally published it without scheduling first, so had to un-publish it. But that meant all you lovely subscribers got an email with a broken link in it to the post. Oh no! And then when it finally did go live, no one got notified. Dang! So if you missed it, it was a blog about the past bank holiday and all the fun stuff we got up to, so you can find it here! (Go ahead and click the link – it’ll open in a new window so you can read it right after you’ve read this!)

For my next update, I’ll let you know I’m not planning an August or September Favourites post. Mainly because I don’t have much content for August, and also because September is jam packed full of fun stuff and I just won’t have time! But October’s Favourites will no doubt be mahoosive, so stay tuned for that!

So now for my real post.

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There’s been a lot of chat this past few weeks about the legitimacy of bloggers and vloggers. If you don’t blog or vlog yourself, you’ll not likely be aware of the pressures people put upon themselves when putting out content. Readers and viewers have too much say in other people’s content, in my opinion. It wasn’t until I recently started my dedicated blog twitter (@Shutterbug_Blog) that I realised how salesy it all is. People are OBSESSED with follower counts, stats, click rates and schedules.

They schedule tweets, brand themselves up the wazoo, and really don’t think too much about their actual content. It seems so important to have collaborations with brands, get the perfect flat lay and start polls asking what content their followers want them to put up.

I find it all really strange. I flick through most tweets because I’ve seen the same post come up over and over again. I long to see posts of substance. And don’t get me wrong, they do exist, it’s just you have to really search for them!

I’m not saying I don’t get it. I do, I really do. It’s so hard not to get swept up in the hype. I have geared a lot of my posts this year towards beauty, because it’s something I’ve started getting into this year. And I noticed my post likes, follows and comments go up dramatically when I post beauty reviews. It’s always nice for a post to be popular! And I enjoy reading reviews about products I’m interested in, so I’ll continue to put out that kind of content because I like reading it. But I do find I miss writing these chatty posts, and putting out blogs about what I’ve been up to and what’s coming up. I like to use my brain a little!

I understand going all in when it comes to blogs and vlogs, if it’s your full time job or if you have all the spare time in the world. But when you’re doing it alongside working a full time job, I think you have to take it less seriously. You don’t need a planner for scheduling in your next ‘chatty’ post. You don’t need to film YouTube videos a year ahead just so you know you’re putting something out. If your followers don’t like your content, let them drop off. And above all, don’t apologise for not posting regularly. What’s better – forced, bland posts every other day, or well thought-out and meaningful posts as and when? I know what I prefer to read!

Anyway, I’m blabbering on about this because it’s becoming more a more frustrating to exist in a blogging world where you feel like you’re having to compete with so many other bloggers. People who are putting out bland, repetitive content but might be good at branding themselves, or at least bombarding enough people with tweets that they get additional followers (or even buy followers!)

I’m so blessed to have you guys as followers, and I hope you enjoy the variety of the content I bring. I hope I haven’t alienated too many of you with the beauty posts, and in turn I hope that if you follow me for the beauty content you aren’t bored by the wordy posts I put out.

That being said, this is where I’d like to announce that I’ve started my own YouTube channel! This year I’ve been enjoying watching YouTube channels so much, both beauty based and also Disney Vloggers, that I loved the idea of having somewhere that my friends and family could follow my trips and travels, and also bring another dimension to Shutterbug.

Having just bought my new Sony a5000 and tested out the video quality, I was beyond happy with the results, so as of writing this my channel has 3 videos on it, and I’d love it if you’d have a look and even subscribe.

I’m taking my new camera away when we go to Florida, and I hope to film during the holiday and then upload some videos when we get back. It’s going to be amazing to have another way to share this trip with you guys, instead of just blogging about it.

Don’t get me wrong, this blog is my baby and it won’t be neglected – it’ll just be a little bolt on to the Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug package!

So this rambling post does have a point, honest – I’m frustrated about the current state of the blogosphere, but I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now, Shutterbug for 7, and I’m not about to give it up based on low numbers or click rates. I’m so blessed that even a handful of you guys read this blog, and I always love to read your comments and see you hitting the ‘Like’ button.

You can follow me over on YouTube by visiting my channel here. I’d love it if you were to click the subscribe button, hit like on my videos once you’ve watched them, and don’t forget to comment – I love hearing from you guys!

So this is where I’ll sign off, but if you blog, vlog or just exist in this world, remember: It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice 😀

Love you guys!

 

Dear Bloggers and Aspiring Bloggers….

Dear bloggers and aspiring bloggers,

You are unique. Just as IRL you are the only one of your kind. I want to see you shine and prosper. When I click on your link I want to see something unique, individual and I want to see your opinion. If you don’t agree with me, I respect you. I want to hear why you feel the way you do. I want to hear your passion and conviction. I love seeing your individuality shine – I praise you for that.

It’s just so sad I don’t see you very often. I click on so many links and see the same old stuff. I see the same products reviewed, I see the same blogs retweeted. It makes me sad that you’re so concerned about getting your flatlay perfect that the content isn’t there. I want to hear about what that expensive skin cream did for your skin after a month of using it, and whether you’d re-buy it. I want to read about what movie you saw and what you thought about it, at the trendy roof-top cinema club in London, and not just see photos and hear about how you managed to make the list. Give me substance, give me depth and make me feel something for you.

When I started blogging around 15 years ago, I was in a minority. People thought it was weird if I told them I wrote a blog, but to me it’s simply keeping a diary. I wrote, and still write, my blog for me. I write what I did, what I saw, and what I think. I don’t have thousands of followers, I don’t need them. (Of course it would be flattering though) I don’t seek acceptance, but I appreciate every follow, every comment and every share. If one person enjoys what I write, then I’m happy. (And usually that one person is me!)

I recently set up a dedicated twitter account for this blog (@Shutterbug_Blog if you fancy following! – I’m still okay with a shameless plug!) and it allowed me to follow blog sharing accounts and bloggers in a closed environment that didn’t flood my personal twitter account. It totally opened a new world to me. It’s a world where people will fight for followers, suck up, and retweet the same blog over and over again ad nauseam (this makes me not want to follow you btw). I’ve found out you can schedule tweets, which seems like a massive waste of time to me. And I’ve discovered a community of Regina Georges. People who will act so cosy with you but secretly it’s a case of sucking up to gain momentum for yourself.

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Obviously this isn’t exclusively the case, as I’ve also met some really amazing bloggers too. These are bloggers who don’t take themselves too seriously, they speak from the heart and tell the truth, and you can just tell they’re genuine. Fake-bloggers (or floggers as I coined them a while back)- I can see through you, and so can others.

The obsession for followers makes people act obsessively. It makes people call out others when they’re unfollowed (seriously, you can find out who unfollowed you and call them out on it….) If I get unfollowed it’s okay – seriously I don’t mind. If you don’t want my content in your feed, then I don’t want it there – no biggy. I actually had someone comment on a post the other day and mention they were actually afraid to attempt a flatlay. That seems crazy to me, but I understand it. The pressure to get EVERYTHING perfect on a blog is so high. But when all you see is the same thing from everyone, how do you stand out? You stand out by showing your personality in your photos. You have an opinion, and if other people don’t agree then you either listen to their counter argument (if they articulate it clearly) or if they’re just darn abusive you let their venom shine out for all to see.

London Beauty Queen wrote a really interesting series of tweets a few weeks back about how it’s not normal for a 20-something to own a new designer bag every week, and followed it this week with a really interesting blog you need to read. What she wrote is so true – what professional and successful bloggers and Vloggers are portraying is often unattainable. When we see celebrities acting the same way we know to take it with a pinch of salt, but when we see people we view as being on the same level as us acting the same way, we suddenly feel bad about ourselves. And eventually we stop being able to relate to them and turn away. I want to read about the pretty, hard-working blogger tripping on the tube. I want to see a photo at their posh burger lunch where they’ve accidentally dribbled sauce down their front. I want to read a tweet where they’re feeling irritated by life, but still plodding on. I want REAL people. Give me REAL people!

So, dear blogger and aspiring blogger, my advice to you today is to remember to write from the heart, write for yourself and remember to be kind. You’re writing a blog for one of three reasons:

  • For you
  • For money
  • For celebrity

My recommendation is to write your blog for you. If the other two come as a result of this, then I’ll give you a high five. Money and/or popularity are shoddy foundations to build your blog on and you’ll end up stressed and obsessive like so many bloggers I see. Happiness cannot be attained from this – you’ll just get a stomach ulcer.

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