Plans: Life After University

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Plans: Life After University

I was really hoping that today was going to be a nice, easy day off. I was feeling a touch ill yesterday, but I pushed through thinking that I’d have today to recover. However, I woke up with random lower back pain, swiftly followed by an email from my supervisor which suggests I’ve got significantly more work to do on my dissertation than expected.

This has led to a crumby day, during which I’ve indulged in watching the show I turn to whenever I just want to wallow…12 Monkeys (TV series, not film). Seriously, I’ve never watched anything more depressing than James Cole running laps around himself through time. Mainly because I hate 90% of the characters, and the 10% I do like are crazy/ sociopathic.

But anyway, I still wanted to put a post together. After all, I’ve got a nice streak going, and I’d hate to break it. I also wanted to think positive thoughts for a little while, before I inhale a tub of ice cream. So, I thought I’d talk a little about some of the things I’d like to do after I finish my master’s degree, specifically in the first year.

1. Travel in the USA:

I’ve always wanted to travel, but my life pretty much went school, university, job…university. With this next year, I want to take some time to visit the places I’ve always wanted to see in person, and hopefully have some adventures along the way. I’m planning on doing a trip to New York and this little place in Ohio that I found by chance on Google Maps. Travel is going to be interesting, but I’m up for a challenge.

2. Self-Publish Moon-sitting:

Moon-Sitting is the working title for a novella that I’m playing around with. It’s much heavier on the science fiction than I usually go, but it’s an idea that was just going to keep rolling around in my head if I didn’t write it down. I hoped it would be a short story…it was not. So now, I want to use it as a trial story, which I’ll probably put up on Amazon for cheap, along with a sample here so folks can try before they buy. At the moment I’m about 3/4 of my way through the first draft, so I’m hoping to get it out before 2019.

3. Kickstarter a Lit Mag:

I really love reading other people’s work and helping them make it the best it can be, so I think I’d really enjoy putting together a Lit Mag. It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing since the beginning of last year, but it’s been so chaotic with work and then university that I just haven’t had the time to really sit down and think about how to get it started. However, I do know that I’d want to pay folks for their written work, and possibly commission some accompanying art work too. If you’re interested, I recommend following me here, or on Twitter (@EM_Writing) as I’ll likely put updates there, when there are any ūüėČ

4.  Finish The End Of Atlas:

I’ve been working on¬†Atlas¬†since 2013, so the end has been a long time coming. My intention after my first round of university had been to take a gap year, but I let myself be talked out of that. Now, though, I’m going to bite the bullet and push to do what I want to do. Finish a novel and try to get it published. At least then, when I’m 80, I won’t be able to say I didn’t try.

5. Figure out if I still want to do a PhD, and what I want to do it on:

I went into my master’s thinking I’d come straight out the other end into a PhD. But at the moment, I’d love a break. And some thinking time. I’ve learnt a lot about linguistics this year – everything from discourse analysis, to psycholinguistics – and it’s opened up a lot of possible avenues for me to head down. I’ve really enjoyed analysing comic books, but I also liked playing with more numerical data, and even fiddling around in online forums. I know now, as well, that I could certainly turn my current dissertation into a book length project on the linguistic elements that make up fanfiction. But right now, this second, I couldn’t think of anything I want to do less than analyse more fanfiction (that’s a comment on my current mood, not a comment on fanfiction.) Thus, I’m going to take a year before I go thinking about putting in an application.

 

So yes, I have a big year ahead planned. Just have to make it through this dissertation, and I can get going O_O I’ll get there. I will.

If you’re interested in any of the projects I’ve mentioned above, do feel free to follow me over on Twitter for the latest bits and pieces (again @EM_Writing). I also post micro-stories daily using the #vss365 prompt. So go have a look see ūüėČ

All the best for this week!

EM.

 

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Staying Sane Through Essay Pain

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Staying Sane Through Essay Pain

This week’s blog post comes to you from the small town of Irony (The Town of Irony¬†is an excellent name for a book by the way. I called it, it’s mine.) Since late February I have been in a place of constant stress, as I attempted to write one essay where I felt entirely clueless, one where my essay question hadn’t even been confirmed, and another that involved copious amounts of maths…MATHS (I’m a linguistics student for those who don’t know.)

So I’m not sure I’m 100% qualified to be writing this. In fact, I’m definitely not, as I’m not a psychologist/psychiatrist or any kind of certified counsellor. I’m just a girl, standing in front of a mountain of work, asking it not to give me a stress induced heart attack at the age of 25.

However, now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel (I have 1700 words left to write, and then 4 re-drafts to do) I can also see the things I’ve been doing that have really helped me push through this mess. And I thought they might come in handy for folks that I know are still working like me…and for the dissertation hurdle yet to come. Thus, I depart my widsom:

1. Snacks
Find snacks that bring you joy and, if you can manage it, that have few calories. I have become and in this particular area over the last 2 months. My cupboard and freezer are now stocked with Wotsits, Bacon Frazzles, frozen Froobs and Mars Bar Ice Creams. All of which remind me of being a kid, running round the playground and genuinely wanting to learn about everything, while not putting me into a food coma. These are foods that aren’t just about stress eating, but are about bringing a bit of glee to life. Go forth, find your favourites, and make sure you have a variety to choose from.

2. Meditation 
I hate meditation. Or at least I did. Up until 9 days ago, I really didn’t get it. I’d tried the¬†Calm app…where the woman is positively condescending. I’d tried the odd practice from Youtube, which often go off on a weird spiritual ramble that jars with me greatly. I’d even tried, you know, sitting in silence…but that wasn’t exactly effective given that I need a visual (imagined image), verbal (music/podcast) and physical (hand on chest breathing) stimulus to concentrate on, just to switch off properly and sleep. However, 9 days ago I gave the Headspace app a try. The bloke’s voice is very down to earth, and the guidelines are simple, but really work for me. I use it as a gentle way to ease myself in to the day, and I’d recommend giving it a go, even if you’ve struggled with meditation before.

3. Vent, But Don’t Volcano
In times of stress, we need to vent. Whether it’s rambling to a parent on the phone, putting all caps messages into the group chat, or going downstairs to “make coffee” and spending an hour talking to your housemate about how much you hate everything, venting is a necessity. But, at a certain point, talking and talking and talking means that you’re not getting anything done. You’re just making yourself and everyone around you miserable. There’s letting off steam, and then there’s releasing lava, destroying the villages on the island, and generally making a mess of everything. It’s fine to talk about how stressed you are, just make sure you’re working on making yourself not stressed at some point in the future. Write the essay, don’t just complain about it, because it will only make things worse in the long run.

4. Routine
Around March time, I finally managed to get back into a routine and it’s done wonders. Sometimes I don’t want to wake up at 7:30, sometimes I sleep in until 8:30, but usually by 9/9:30 I’m up, dressed, fed and ready to start doing things. I start with any practical life stuff: laundry, washing-up, shopping. Then make a drink, sit down and work on my essay. I normally stop for lunch at around 12/12:30, depending on how engrossed I am, and how hungry I am, and give myself an hour to eat something tasty and watch something that doesn’t require a lot of brain power (thank you Netflix and Great British Bake Off). After that, another drink is made and more work is done, until 17:30, when I start making tea and switch off my laptop for the evening. Having scheduled time for me has been a real mood changer (and I finally reached the end of Borderlands 2, after almost a year).

5. Do Before You Think
A long time ago I encountered a Tedx Talk called “How to stop screwing yourself over” by Mel Robbins. During this talk, she states a simple fact, that we are never going to feel like doing the things we need to do, to be everything we’re capable of being. Harsh truth, but true truth. She also brings up the concept of activation energy, the energy required to get us to do something that veers away from autopilot. For example, stop eating pizza in bed and get up and write your essay. Robbins suggests it takes about 3 seconds to talk yourself out of doing something. In those three seconds, you have to force yourself, to apply that activation energy and do the thing.

Personally, I find it easier to get to work from an upright position. So, say I’m in bed, I think, “Let’s go get a drink.” I go downstairs, I make the drink, and when I get back upstairs, I don’t get back in the bed, I sit down at my desk. Lure myself out of my nest with warm beverages, and suddenly I’m in front of an essay. May as well write while I’m there, yeah?

Don’t let yourself sit there and think about how hard your essay is going to be to write, how it’s never going to be good enough anyway, how it’s going to take so much time and you want to go see your friends (although, please do schedule time for friends. Don’t be an essay hermit. That’s not good). Instead, get up, get dressed, sit down, write essay. Do it, before you have time to think about it.

6. Do the Freaking Do
I wanted to have a nice neat 5 tip blog post, but honestly, I can’t emphasise the importance of doing enough. And the most important thing is, IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT. The first draft of your essay should be a mess. It should have citation errors, and poor paragraphing, and a section of method that you forgot to wedge in. Don’t focus on getting it perfect the first time. Focus on getting something on paper. There’s nothing quite so relieving as having this abstract “essay” become a physical concrete thing. It becomes more manageable and less stressful, because okay, it’s not fantastic, but the words and ideas are there. All you need to do is carve away the bits that don’t matter, and polish up the features that do. So get the thing down on paper/computer screen. It’ll make you feel at least 70% happier with life.

And that’s your lot. At least for now. I may revisit stress management when I’m knee deep in dissertation and need to discuss further ways of keeping my sanity. If any of y’all have tried and tested suggestions I’d be interested (more than interested) to hear them.

As an advanced warning, next week’s blog post will be full of cat pictures, so bring tissues if you have allergies.

Best,

Em.

Fiction: Moth Child

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Fiction: Moth Child

The moth rain falls when the moon is at its fullest. We shut our windows, lay thick coats along the outer doors. We fill the house with enough food to last a week, just in case.

They used to call it moth snow, but the name was too appealing to children. They didn’t understand. Snow was the fun, white fluff that melted on their tongues in winter. It formed sculptures, playful weapons, cosy hideouts. It was a source of entertainment and joy. Moth snow was a sinister, grey flake that arrived in summer. It broke down into an invisible toxin, which lingered in the air. Children ran out to play, and their bodies came home three days later, after the ploughs had removed the worst of the fall. It took a year for the government to implement a total rebrand.

It’s a full moon tonight, so Mum shakes out Dad’s old coat. The smell of naphthalene fills the air. I cover my mouth and nose. The chemical we use to protect ourselves is almost as poisonous as the rain itself. It stores up in your fat cells, and waits to take you when food is short. Mum places the coat over the extractor fan in the kitchen. Dad used to cook a lot. He died when I was seven, when the rain first started, but I can just about remember him standing over the hob.

“Have you taken your pill?” Mum asks.

“Not yet.”

“Can you get me one too?”

I retrieve the bottle from the cabinet upstairs, then together we knock back a dose of activated charcoal with a single of whiskey. The combination is hot and wet like dog’s breath. Mum winces and lets out a hiss as the burn works down her throat. She hates it. I mimic her as I have for thirteen years now. I try to capture distaste; the flare of the nostrils, the slight kick of the head. She watches my performance, then knocks back another. I think I have missed something. She once told me that practice makes perfect, but I’m not entirely sure what perfection is. I cannot judge, because I cannot feel.

***

Uncle Pete is late bringing my brother home from football. Mum is angry. Her anger looks much like her distaste, but it takes over her whole body. When I was younger I thought anger was a being that could inhabit multiple bodies at a time. I thought that fear was an appropriate response to this. When Mum realised what I was trying to display she broke down in tears. She explained to me that anger was just another emotion, and one that I should be glad not to have. I told her I could not be glad. She said that was okay.

It is half-past seven when my brother and uncle arrive home. Mum drags Uncle Pete into the kitchen. My brother slinks into the living room. His name is Daniel, but Mum says I must call him Danny because it sounds more affectionate. I follow him into the living room, where he is already sprawled across the sofa, watching TV.

“Alright, moth girl?” he snipes.

“Shut up, Danny.”

I pull his legs off the sofa and sit down. He shuffles right to the end of the furniture. I make him uncomfortable. I was already five when he was born. By the time he was old enough to have memories, I was quite a good actor. If it weren’t for his friends, and their parents, he would not know the difference. People talk about me – the moth child – the girl who survived standing outside in the moth rain. It is generally thought that only part of me survived, and that that part is not enough. It is Uncle Pete who told me this. As far as I could tell he was not being malicious. He spoke as someone reading the news, “You are not considered human. You are considered a simulation of a human. You must be careful.”

I can hear Uncle Pete now. His voice is loud, but I cannot make out the words over the sound of the TV. Danny picks up the remote and turns up the volume, drowning Uncle Pete out completely.

“Why were you late?” I ask.

“What’s it to you?”

“I was just wondering.”

“You’re not capable of wondering.”

“Answer the question, Danny,” I snarl.

That does it. Fear sparks his eyes wide. For some reason, anger is the one emotion everyone thinks I’m capable of.

“Sam’s mum’s car packed in, and we had to give them a lift home. We couldn’t leave them there.”

“Sensible. Recovery vehicles don’t come out past five on rain day, and public transport stops at four. You would be sad if they died.”

I squeeze his shoulder. It is meant to be reassuring, to suggest he did the right thing. He stiffens as if I have punched him.

“Sorry,” I say.

“No, you’re not.”

I sigh and roll my eyes. He has not believed in my expressions since he turned thirteen, but I have to keep them up. It is a matter of stretching my stamina, training my mind to make continuous decisions about how to look, and sound, and what to say. For most people this is an involuntary function. For me it is exhausting. Danny is watching a cartoon. I decide to leave because cartoons are not useful. The emotions are all over the place, the reactions are not accurate; there is nothing I can learn from them. I once tried to get my eyes to pop out in order to indicate that I thought my mother must be aesthetically pleasing.

I wander into the hall. Mum is shouting now. I stand outside the kitchen door and listen.

“I couldn’t care less what might have happened to them! Do you understand? I will not lose another member of my family to that bloody rain!”

“Kate, I couldn’t just leave them there. Be reasonable!”

“Reasonable? Reasonable! I tell you what, Pete, next time I’m sheltered at your house, we’ll throw dearest Eleanor and one of my sweet nephews out in it. Then we’ll see how reasonable you can be.”

“Kate-”

“Don’t ‘Kate’ me. You have no idea what it’s like. I’ve lost a husband and a daughter. I will not lose a son.” She pauses. “Or my brother.”

I know I should be hurt. I push my eyebrows up and together, open my mouth a little. I breathe like someone has booted me in the chest. If they were to open the door now, they would be taken aback by how accurate my portrayal is. They would feel the pain reflected in my features.

“She’s not dead, Kate.”

“No, but she’s not alive either. It’s like living with a ghost.”

I think perhaps this may be true. I remember vaguely what I was like before; laughing as Dad swung me round and round by the arms; howling in pain, tears burning my nose and throat, as my right arm clunked out of the socket. Now, I would be able to pop it back in myself without much fuss. I still feel the pain, but I don’t react. For Mum, it must be as if I am dead, but my image still lingers around the house and eats her food.

“It’ll be dark soon. You should stay here. Go and call Ellie,” Mum says.

The door opens and I step to one side. Uncle Pete stalls in the doorway for what is a fraction of a second, then walks past me. He knows I have been listening. He gives me a shy smile. I think that if I could like anyone, I would certainly like Uncle Pete. He is the only person who has never appeared scared of me and who has always answered every question with a straight answer.

He picks up the phone in the hall and dials.

“Hello, Ellie? – Yes, don’t worry I’m safe – I’m at Kate’s – I’m sorry, Hon’ – Danny’s friend needed a lift – I didn’t mean to worry you – We’re all set -Yeah, give my love to the boys – I’ll see you in a few days – Make sure to duct tape the letterbox – I love you – Bye.”

He turns and sees that I am still standing in the same spot. “Do you have a question?”

I think for a moment. “Yes. Can you say ‘I love you’ again, and pretend that you are saying it to someone you love, like Aunt Eleanor?”

He smiles. “I love you, and I don’t need to pretend, kiddo.”

He gives me enough time to assess and memorise his facial expression and tone, before he puts an arm around my neck, and ruffles my hair with his hand. I do my best to look disgruntled, which makes him laugh.

“You really are magnificent, Nessie.”

“Thank you.”

***

At eight o’clock we eat a balanced dinner that is well-cooked and non-toxic. Danny doesn’t like it. He pokes at it until it is too cold to eat, argues with Mum about wasting food, and then storms upstairs to his room. We finish in silence.

I help Uncle Pete make up the guest bed. I am good at this. It is a mechanical kind of team work that does not involve debate or opinion. Uncle Pete is a poor partner, though. He ends up inside the duvet cover, pushing the duvet up into the corners.

“You should laugh now,” he tells me, so I do.

Mum looks in and sees what’s happening. She laughs too, calls Uncle Pete a fool, and kisses me goodnight. Uncle Pete waves through the cover. I take this as a cue to laugh again. Mum squeezes me tightly.

***

It starts at nine o’clock, roughly twenty-seven minutes after sunset. It is soundless. Tattered bodies fall from the sky and all I can hear is the air filtering in and out of my own lungs. I sit in the window seat of my room, and watch the moth rain fall.

***

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† They told me it would kill me if I breathed it in, so I held my breath. That’s the only reason I survived. I filled my lungs as much as I could and pressed my lips together tight. Stepping out into it was like pressing your face into a feather duster. The wings fluttered against your skin, tickling every hair to the point that I almost exploded with laughter.

¬†Don’t breathe, don’t breathe, don’t breathe, I told myself.

I closed the patio door, and took a couple of steps forward. I was only a metre in, but I could barely see the glass. The initial fall is incredibly dense. I began to twirl, feeling the wings flutter past my arms and through my hair. I tilted my head right back. My nose began to itch.

A desperate roar came from somewhere in the grey. I looked around, but could not get my bearings. I believe I began to panic. My lungs were suddenly aching for air.

All at once, I sneezed, gasped, and was swept off my feet. A large dark coat, reeking of mothballs fell over my head. I passed out just as I heard the door close again.

***

The fall lasts just fifteen minutes today. After that, only a few lazy flakes are left to fall to the ground. The sky clears, and the moon shines brightly. This is Pompeii after the eruption of Vesuvius. This is London after the Great Fire. I sit and I watch the stillness settle in.

***

I am tired, and begin to think about sleeping. I believe everyone else in the house went to sleep a while ago, but as I creep across the landing I hear muttering coming from Danny’s room. I stand perfectly still, straining to hear the words.

“No! No! No! – Don’t say that! -No, you know what it’s like for me – Please – I can’t tell her – I can’t! – She already has one freak child, I can’t tell her that I’m- No I’m not saying that you’re a freak – You know what I meant – Sam, I love you, you know that I love you – Please, don’t make me tell her – Sam!”

There is a long silence, and he begins sobbing. There is an occasional sniff, a croak of air being sucked back into lungs too quickly, a moan muted by a pillow. I push open his door, and sink onto the edge of his bed. He flicks on his bedside lamp, and the moment he sees that it is me, he shrinks into the corner, pressing himself into the wall like a trapped animal.

“Oh stop it,” I hiss, but he doesn’t.

“What do you want?”

“I would say to comfort you, but you wouldn’t believe me.”

He braves a smirk.

“I just thought that I would tell you, Mum doesn’t see me as a freak. She believes I died, age seven. I heard her say as much to Uncle Pete, during their argument. She also said that she couldn’t cope with losing another member of her family, and I believe there was a particular emphasis on not losing you.”

“So?”

“I don’t think she’d give a flying fuck if you turned out to be gay.”

He snorts, actual genuine laughter. He covers his mouth in surprise. I squeeze his shoulder again, and this time he places his hand over mine.

“Would you care if I was gay?” he asks.

“I’m a moth child, Danny. I could catch you in the front garden, mid-coitus, waving a pride flag in the air, and the only thing I’d be thinking about is how to replicate your facial expression in the unlikely event that I should ever have sex.”

He laughs again and, for the first time since he reached adolescence, he hugs me. When he is finished, I leave and go to the bathroom. I relieve myself, wash my hands and face, then brush my teeth. I arrive back in my room, prepared for sleep, but Uncle Pete is sitting in my window.

“That was a nice thing you said to your brother,” he remarks.

“Was it?”

“Yes.” He nods. “Nessie, are you sure you don’t feel anything?”

“I have not felt an emotion since I went out into the moth rain.”

“Then why did you help your brother?”

I think for a moment. “His information was wrong. He needed correct information in order to make his decision.”

“But he didn’t have to ask for it?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Someone who feels would tell him without being asked. I acted as if I felt, as I always do.”

Uncle Pete sighs. He stands up and walks toward me. “You remind me so much of my gramps, your great-grandfather.”

“Why?”

“He was mechanical and apathetic about everything, just like you. My mother told me he was a soldier. One of the many who lost their spirit in the last great war.”

“Did he breathe in a toxin too?”

“No, but the things he saw were poisonous. They ate away at who he was.”

“Did he recover?”

“A little. I once saw him shed a tear at a memorial service.”

“How do you know it was not fake?”

“Because not even you’re that good, Ness.”

True. The only reason I have to cry is when there is something in my eye, or when I am in physical pain. Tears are impossible to summon without emotion.¬† A thought occurs. “Is my great-grandfather why you have never treated me as the others have?”

“I suppose so. Your mother’s too young to remember him, but I always liked him. He used to give me Murray Mints from a tin under the stairs.”

“Murray Mints?”

He laughs quietly. “I’ll get you some when the fall’s lifted.”

***

I am sitting at the window again. I am tired, but I cannot sleep. It has been two hours since I prepared for bed. No flakes fall now. The sky is empty, except for the moon and the stars.

I like the stars. They are like me. We are both ghosts of a light that once burned bright.

As I sit there, my eyes begin to swim with salt-water. I am thinking of spinning in the moth rain. I am thinking of the large coat thrown over me. I am remembering that I was not allowed into my parents’ bedroom until the day after the fall was lifted. On that day some men came and took a long and heavy object from their room. I didn’t know what it was because it was covered with a sheet. I asked Mum, but she wouldn’t tell me. Then I told her I would ask Dad. She wept uncontrollably for an hour, then drove me to the hospital.

Now I am crying. I am holding a cushion to my chest and I am rocking gently back and forth. My heart is aching. My stomach is clenched so tightly I think I might be sick. I cry, until the pain is so enormous that it no longer feels like a part of me. It is an angry god that swamps the room.

The moth rain comes when I need it most. I put the cushion down, and reach for the window. The handle is well oiled and makes no noise. I crack open the seal a couple of millimetres, press my lips to the gap, and breathe.

Why I am a Terrible Student

Why I am a terrible student
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Why I am a Terrible Student

I thought we’d take a break from Emma ends up in a bush stories (#1) (#2) this week, and talk a little about how university is going.

This will come as a shock to many, but I am a terrible student. I know, I know. That doesn’t sound right. I get good grades and participate in class, and I’ve always done the reading. But I promise you, it’s bad:

I have just spent 1 and a half days re-watching the first 2 seasons of¬†How to Get Away how-to-get-away-with-murder-1with Murder because I’ve been locked in a semi-comfortable bubble of procrastination. The only reason I’ve climbed out of bed to write this is that I lured myself out of with coffee and the promise of meatballs and pasta for tea.

I’m a procrastinator. There I said it.

This isn’t a new thing. I remember as far back as A Levels, working out how long it would take me to memorise a textbook of research, and then waiting until the last minute to revise. I could normally cram everything I needed for a Psychology exam into my brain over 3 or 4 days, sit the exam, and then rinse it all out with 10 hours of video games.

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Me…during my BA. Procrastinating.

When it came to my bachelor’s, I discovered that I could also turn essay writing into a fine art. I could knock out a 2-3000 word essay in 3 days, and then spend a few more editing until I hated the sight of the thing. And I always submitted a day or two early, so I didn’t have to stand in the queue coming out of the English office.

For some reason, in the world of work, procrastination was never an issue. There were a few parts of my job that weren’t particularly thrilling, but I would always schedule time for them and make sure they got done. Honestly, after 3 and a half years outside of education, I thought I’d kicked the habit. That I had rid myself of the procrastination bug. I thought that when I went back to being a full time student, I would be able to work 9-5 (or let’s be realistic, 10-5:30) Monday to Friday, and I would be super productive all the time.

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Essay notes from last semester.

Yet, here I am, having spent a good portion of the morning going “one more episode”, “after this one finishes”, tucked up warm in bed, with that curl of anxiety sitting in the pit of my stomach.

 

Of course, in days gone by, I used to sit on that feeling until it burnt up my insides and I literally couldn’t rationalise not doing the work for a moment longer. You would have been lucky if you’d seen this blog post by 11 pm this evening (GMT). These days, however, I like to think I’ve found ways to work with myself, that make life easier:

 

  1. I’ve learnt how to tell when I actually need time off – Thursday was a good day, but a long day, which ended with myself and a friend stuck in a car park for 2 hours, due to traffic in the centre of Birmingham. I didn’t get to bed until 1am. So Friday, I was not in the mood to move.

2. I’ve learnt how to time manage – because I took Friday to recover, everything had been pushed back to today. So I got up early, knowing how long it was going to take me to get motivated on a Saturday.

3. I’ve learnt how to nudge myself along – this usually involves step 1) get laptop, step 2) get back into bed. My house can get cold during the day, so I sometimes catch myself in a procrastination loop because I don’t want to get out of the warm place. Once the laptop is in the bed, I have little excuse not to work. If I do little things that make working easier, I get more done.

4. I keep an eye on how I’m feeling – that anxious curl in the pit of my stomach, is both why I procrastinate, and why I need to do things. So if I find myself getting antsy, I use that energy to push myself forward rather than sitting on it. Even if it’s just sending and e-mail or making an essay plan, it’s all progress that counts.

5. I’ve learnt how to forgive myself – there was a time when I would get really irritated with my procrastination. I would sit for hours beating myself up about it, but now I sort of role my eyes and think okay, friend, time to get going. This is normally followed by me standing up with a groan like an old man and making myself a cup of coffee before I’ll do anything more (I may be on decaff, but coffee is life.)

So yes, I’m a terrible student, but luckily enough I’m a fantastic procrastinator. Adjusting to my MA has been something of a whirlwind, but I’m getting there. I hope.

I’d be interested to know how you folks deal with procrastination? How do you get motivated? I’ve noticed I’m getting readers from all over the place, so I sort of want to know if procrastination tips differ from country to country.

 

 

 

Review: The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook
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The Silver Linings Playbook

Warning: Small spoilers in some of the gifs.

If you were following my tweets on The Silver Linings Playbook, you may have noticed how much I struggled to keep up a witty commentary for this one (see poor attempt at humour above). In part, it was because the book was good; so good that I kept forgetting to come up for air, and would have quite happily drowned in it if it weren’t for you people (I joke, I joke). However, largely I struggled because I couldn’t bring myself to make light of what is a serious topic, and one that hit quite close to home.

That’s not to say that the novel itself isn’t amusing, but it certainly slips into the “black comedy” genre like the proverbial hand into a glove. Every laugh is accompanied by a wince, a pain,the silver linings playbook a “Honey, NO!” I became incredibly attached to Pat, with his child-like voice bringing out the mother-hen in me. It was jarring, to have someone talk about such adult topics as marital separation, with such childish vocabulary as “apart time”. On the other hand, that tone was part of what made Pat feel so well-rounded; as if losing a significant chunk of his adult memory, had somehow given him back the innocent optimism that makes children so resilient. It was a necessary part of him, and a necessary part of the book.

Silver Linings rang true in many ways. I recognised many of the secondary characters; the loving and over-protective, the The Silver Lingings Playbookuntrusting, the awkward and speechless. The novel shines a light on how we treat mental health patients and shouts, “Don’t be that guy!” Obviously, having a loved one with poor mental health, can be a difficult world to navigate, but it starts with talking. It starts with truth. It starts with providing help in whatever form necessary.

I was also struck by Pat’s concept of life as a series of movies. It was something that I had been thinking about on the day of my the silver linings playbookgraduation way back in July. It felt like the end of a movie, where I had run out of plot, and had nothing left to do but watch the credits role. Quick, however, has convinced me of the danger in this concept. If we live by a some secret self-made plot, then life becomes one long series of the same day; getting up, having breakfast, exercising, etc. etc., waiting for our story to start. It is only when Pat realises that life rarely works like this, that he can begin putting himself back together.

Ultimately, The Silver Linings Playbook is one of the few books I’ve read recently that actually kept me guessing, which means it automatically gets five stars from me. It is a heart-warming narrative of healing and acceptance. I would recommend this to anyone, but in particular, those suffering with mental illness, or those looking to find a better understanding of a friend, or family member with a mental illness. It may not give you 100% clarity, but The Silver Linings Playbook is a novel that knows scars don’t always fade completely, and that’s okay.