Isolation: day 62

Image: Pixabay via StockSnap

It’s hard to believe the last time I wrote one of these, we were only a couple of weeks into lockdown. We are now two months in and things are very different, but also the same.

On that routine I always wanted to get into – well guess what, I never did. And I stopped beating myself up over it because the allure of productivity and the pressures to be busy all the time is so mentally draining, that whilst being swept up by it you can lose the reason why you wanted to be productive in the first place. I’m done with the concept and discourse surrounding it, especially during these times, when to just get through it should be seen as productive enough.

So what have I been doing? I’ve still been reading and writing, albeit not doing the kind of writing I want to do as I’m struggling to find the motivation to write about anything more ‘serious’ than book reviews – but that’s okay. I have been able to use this time to focus on my blog and regularly posting – I hit 60 followers yesterday which is somewhat of a milestone for me, as I started off with about twelve at the start of the year! Thank you to everyone who has followed me and given me kind words of advice and encouragement 🙂

I’ve lost the will to exercise. I seem to go through weeks where I am really motivated – for example, one week I went running twice and did other workouts too, but the past couple of weeks I haven’t been doing much apart from long walks. We are going through a hot spell in the UK and it really doesn’t make me want to go out and exercise, and it gets so stuffy in the flat that I don’t feel like doing it inside either. These may sounds like excuses (lets face it they probably are) but hopefully I’ll be able to get back into it soon.

Photo by Elina Sazonova on Pexels.com

I’ve been trying to be more mindful of what I am eating – I was previously just eating the amount I would usually eat, but then I realised I wasn’t nearly doing the amount of daily exercise I used to. As a Barista I tend to spend eight hours of the day on my feet but now I tend to spend them on the sofa… I’ve been doing intermittent fasting a couple of times a week just to become more conscious about what I’m eating and I think it has helped. I don’t weigh myself or anything because I find that mentally exhausting. But I’ve come to be more accepting that gaining weight over this period is completely normal and I’m not going to beat myself up over it (and neither should you!)

The government guidelines have gotten even more confusing. We have now been advised to, “stay alert” rather than, “stay at home” however, I am finding myself staying at home more than ever because there are so many people out that still don’t take social distancing seriously. I get anxious even at the thought of going to my local park so that’s a write off. As we are now allowed to drive out of where we live to exercise, we have been going on long walks in the countryside – which I have loved as there’s very little people and when we do bump into them, they are kind and move out of the way.

There’s still no real clarity about when retail and hospitality will go back to “normal” – the government have proposed June or July as a guideline but that’s subject to changes in the data. As I use public transport for work I’m pretty sure I’ll be one of the last people to go back but who knows what will happen.

I still find it crazy how we are seeing 300-500 deaths a day, nearly two months on and people are still not taking the virus seriously. I get that we have to learn to live with the virus but at the same time, it’s so easy to just be respectful of others and simply step out of the way when you’re out and about – it seems to have become a thing of the past where I live.

I’ve been thinking more about what I want to do with my life, I haven’t had any “revelations” as such but I think more than ever I do want to pursue my MA in Journalism. I’ve been listening to podcasts about freelancing and writing in general and it has made me realise just how many aspects of journalism there are out there. I’ve deferred my place for a year, partly because I don’t know what’s going to happen with the course this year – as so many UK university’s have decided to teach online until 2021 already. I’ve decided to use this year to try and get as much writing experience as I can and read about the industry more generally.

I guess that’s my little update on still being in isolation in the UK. Expect some more reviews soon, I now have a speedy new laptop so it doesn’t take half the time to do something on my blog now!

Anyway, if you’re reading this I hope this chatty post finds you safe and well, wherever you are, Violet xxx

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Midnight Sun and reminiscing over Twilight

It honestly seems like a lifetime ago that I had my head and heart buried deep in the Twilight franchise. All those ‘twi-hard’ feelings have since come back to me since the announcement of Midnight Sun.

I can remember walking to school whilst reading the book, tripping over stones and bumps in the pavement whilst my head was implanted in a different world, wishing I never had to put it down and go to lessons. I was just obsessed with it – and I also attended my then best friends Twilight themed birthday party as Rosaline. No kidding, the love and commitment was real.

I was always Team Edward, but most of my friends were Team Jacob. My rationale was yeah, Jacob was good looking and all but Edward had far more personality and history about him. Looking back, this seemed to be the dividing line in high school friendships for quite some years.

Image: Seventeen Magazine

I remember the anticipation waiting for the new films to come out and I even attended a midnight screening of Eclipse, the third book in the series. I remember the room being full of screaming, excited girls and their Mums. Those were the days! Arguably though, I’ve always thought Eclipse was the best book and Twilight the best film – those misty, rainy shots of high up tree tops were all the range weren’t they?

But I’m not fourteen anymore, actually going on twenty three, but I am thoroughly excited for the newly announced Midnight Sun. I figure it will be a chance to relive some of those nostalgic teenage years…

Rumors about a new Twilight book have been thick and fast since the series ended with the last film, Breaking Dawn Part 2. Additionally, in 2008, a manuscript of Midnight Sun was leaked on the internet, it seems it has been on Meyer’s pipeline for quite some time. At the beginning of May, Stephenie Meyer finally let us all in on the truth we had been waiting for, with her exciting lockdown announcement that Midnight Sun would be released on August 4 – this year!

Importantly, Midnight Sun isn’t just a continuation of the series, but a re-telling of events through Edward Cullen’s perspective. Now, there’s been a lot of criticism about this from now ultra feminist fans who claim that Edward Cullen was manipulative, obsessive and created a lot of red flags in their relationship. Admittedly, there are some dodgy elements but I think it will actually be fascinating to see things from his perspective. I found Bella as a protagonist a bit pathetic if I’m honest, so I am excited to see the story through Edward’s telling.

I was always fascinated by Edward’s past and the amount of lives he had lived and hope this book will go into more detail about this. Then perhaps we will be able to understand more about how he approached his relationship with Bella, and his rationale for the way he is. Or will it just be a gimmicky addition to a series which was wrapped up years ago? I hope not, but somehow I think it will be more than another money spinner, after all, it has been in the works for a long time.

I’ve seen lots of people who have been shamed for being excited about a new Twilight book, as if liking the series is some kind of step backwards in their literary habits. I wish this wasn’t a thing but it is. I am unashamedly admitting that I am excited about the book and will definitely be reading it when it comes out. Although I might have to trace my mind back to the story again so I can compare the perspectives.

Is anyone else excited, slash rolling their eyes at this announcement? Let me know!

Bring on the vamps 🙂

Productivity pressures during COVID-19

If you’d have told me 2 months ago that I was going to get 8 weeks and possibly more of free time to write and do whatever I want, I would have jumped at the challenge to bash out the next King Lear. I’m only talking about King Lear above all the other plays because everyone keeps banging on about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear during quarantine…

But now, 7 weeks in, I find myself feeling disappointed. Not because I haven’t written, but because I haven’t pushed myself to write about other subjects I care about. This whole COVID-19 crisis has made me so angry, mainly due to the government’s poor response here in the UK. Everyday I think about writing something about it – my drafts folder on my blog is full of unpublished things I’ve written in the heat of the moment. But for some reason I’ve found that writing about politics and COVID-19 is so hard, I lack clarity when I write, and the ability to form a coherent argument. This is something I did over and over again whilst studying history at university, and because of this – I feel I should be able to do it with more ease.

I’ve been loving writing book reviews – but anything beyond this has been impossible. And I’m annoyed as I could have used this time more wisely – but the words just won’t flow. There are so many things I feel I want to say about COVID-19 but don’t know how to say them. With pushing back my MA for another year, I feel I ought to be ceasing every moment to write and expand my horizons but I lack the confidence to pitch to other media organisations and websites. Why would they want to hear from me? Why is my opinion or outlook any different? But at the same time, I know I could be using this time to work on it. And I know what I have to say does matter too. Self doubt is a real thing, isn’t it?

I keep telling myself it is ultimately fine, as I am still writing and thinking about what I want to write, even if I’m not always getting pen to paper. Or fingertips to keys, however you want to look at it. Being unproductive, and lacking the will to write is ultimately okay – the pressure we put on ourselves can outweigh the energy and creativity that we initially have. The pressure can manifest itself in self doubt, anxiety and lack of motivation – and that’s definitely what I’ve been feeling at the moment. I know I need to be less hard on myself, but it is easier said than done. And I know I don’t need to write the next King Lear(it’s not even the best Shakespeare, lets be honest…)

Image: Pixabay

COVID is here to stay, I don’t think we’ll be only living with it for the remainder of the year, but far beyond. It will become the, “new normal” as they keep saying, thus, I’ve got to get over this writing barrier. Maybe it’s my distance spent from the mental challenge that academia used to bring. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because we are in the middle of a global pandemic not seen on the same scale since 1918, and it is really really hard to motivate yourself to do anything meaningful.

There’s so much pressure in the media and online to make something of yourself during this time, to lose weight, to get fit, to write a book, to bake – and it’s hard when your outcomes do not live up to these false expectations. Because it is not just “free time” it’s a hard time – where everything we have been used to have been taken away from us. Where we cannot access those small comforts we once had, and where our days lack the routine that working life usually brings.

On a serious note – the pressure to make something of this time is real and felt by many. It’s something that I need to shift to the back of my mind and not let cloud my passion for writing. But at times like these, which are very unique and surreal, it is hard to do, and this should be spoken about more. If anyone says to me, “what did you do whilst in quarantine?” and scoffs at my lack of achievements, then they must be the biggest superhero in the world, as this is one of the hardest times – and we shouldn’t treat it as a pathway to guaranteed productivity. And guess what? It’s actually okay to not be doing anything. Especially if that means we take that pressure off ourselves.

What we do with out time isn’t some kind of productivity competition over who can achieve the most – and it is easy to see it as this, when we are all spending more time on social media, which portrays life through a golden haze. But it is a time where we should banish the ideas and pressures behind “productivity” all together. It’s a word that is constantly bashed around in media and academic discourse, but once we free ourselves from its reigns, we may actually find ourselves better off.

An Introduction to Reedsy Discovery

Image: Reedsy Discovery

I was recently contacted by Reedsy Discovery, I had vaguely heard of the company before getting involved, as I had seen them floating about online. They approached me after seeing this blog, and asked if I wanted to become a reviewer – I did of course! But don’t worry, I won’t be abandoning this blog any time soon! 🙂

Please note – I am not being paid to write this, or promote them as a company, I simply think it is a really good platform for readers and writers and would like to share it with you.

What is Reedsy Discovery?

Think of it as Goodreads – but more aesthetically pleasing and easier to operate. Unlike traditional book platforms and media outlets, Reedsy specifically features ‘indie’ books and up and coming writers. Traditional publishing outlets typically ignore over 1 million self published titles a year, therefore, I really think this is an important platform.

Authors can pay $50 for Reedsy to self publish their work which involves having a reviewer read the book and write an accompanying review. As a reader or subscriber to the Reedsy feed, you can receive tailored recommendations for what books to read, based on genres you select and have enjoyed reading in the past. As a reviewer, you can be verified from the company after completing an application and samples of your work, and go onto select as many books to review as you like.

Upon becoming a reviewer, I have already been able to select a book I want to read and have now downloaded it onto my Kindle – it’s that simple. I think it’s a great thing to do, not only because you are directly supporting and helping up and coming authors, but it is also a great opportunity to develop your own writing and reviewing portfolio. And there is the free books element too…

Do we need another book platform?

It is so easy to be exposed to the latest works of successful authors, but it also can be overwhelming when you are trying to find something new to read.

What is great about Reedsy, as a reader, is that you can select genres you enjoy and it will give you a daily curated feed of books as recommendations. Goodreads doesn’t do this to the same extent – and anyway, it doesn’t feature ‘indie’ titles or lesser known authors, but focuses on the bestsellers. (Which aren’t always the best anyway, lets face it…)

The interesting thing about this platform is that readers can also participate and shape the author’s output by reading sample chapters before books are officially published. Every Reedsy user can therefore, have an involvement in shaping new books.

Review of my experience

I hope this doesn’t sound like a sponsored post, because importantly, it isn’t, I really think this is a wonderful website for readers and writers alike. You don’t get paid as a reviewer, but there is an opportunity for readers and authors to tip you – which is an easy process to set up. Moreover, I think the real reward comes in the experience it gives, and the exposure to new authors.

Reedsy gives you a selection of books from new authors which go beyond the overly exposed bestselling titles that we see and hear about everyday. As a reviewer, I feel a certain amount of responsibility in being given the task of reading the writer’s book and then writing one of its first reviews. But I am so glad for the opportunity to get involved in this process.

I have just been verified as a reviewer after previously submitting an application with examples of my writing, and am due to write my first review in the next month. The application process was smooth and I have found the website easy to use. Selecting a title to review was a very uncomplicated process – as a reviewer, you can select up to three books to review at one time and the range of genres to choose from is impressive.

Readers of Reedsy and authors can follow your profile and reviews and there is plenty of space to start a conversation about books. I haven’t used it much yet, but it already feels like a tight knit reader and writer community. The opportunity to talk to authors is something no other platform does yet and I really like this element.

I also opted in to have a Skype call with the Editorial Manager before I started, who explained the website and whole process, as well as answered my questions – it was a very informative chat!

You can follow my Reedsy page here. You can use the site as a reader or apply to become a reviewer!

A very useful article by The Bookseller written about Reedsy Discovery: https://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/inside-story-behind-reedsys-new-discovery-platform-968531

Happy reading (and discovering…) 🙂

Isolation: day 17

Taken during an isolation evening walk

In the UK, we are over two weeks into isolation. The weather has been nicer than ever and the temptation to go outside even greater.

I have found myself feeling increasingly anxious at the prospect of even going outside for my daily exercise as the virus takes more and more lives. Every time I come back from my daily walk, or run, I get paranoid and find myself washing my hands more than once and detol spraying my watch, phone and glasses. It’s strange, as I’ve only just started to feel like this and I think it is because of the sheer volume of deaths in the UK, and the fact there’s no routine testing for ordinary people.

I thought by now I would be in some kind of routine, but I’m not. I thought I would be filling the hours with all the things I usually don’t have time to do. I rarely find the motivation to do much in a day, but sometimes I have extremely productive days where I do so much. I have been reading a lot and have recently become accepted as a Reedsy reviewer – you can follow my page here.

I am suffering from what I think is hay-fever or the end of a sinus infection (which I am still on antibiotics for) and every sneeze or slight cough and I worry I’ve got the dreaded COVID-19…

I took a whole day off my phone this week and enjoyed it. I now feel even more pressure to be on my phone, replying to messages and reaching out to people and I just find it too much sometimes. It made me feel more relaxed and calm when I didn’t have my phone buzzing in my pocket. I found the lack of Instagram scrolling invigorating and generally just felt refreshed. I have very much been sucked into my phone during isolation and it can’t become a habit.

I’ve been enjoying long and ridiculous baths, where I lay in the warm water for over half an hour reading my book. I’ve been making myself proper coffee in the mornings using the blend we have at work – I took a whole bag of beans home when we closed to save the waste. Enjoying that first coffee in the morning is my favourite thing. If isolation has taught me one thing, it is to slow down and be more mindful of myself and activities that I am doing.

There’s some more stressful things going on in my personal life which I can’t get into. But it’s all very complicated and I feel very out of my depth with what I am dealing with but I keep having to remind myself that it doesn’t need to all be done immediately…

I’ve been writing in my journal nearly every day, usually in the morning but sometimes at the end of the day. I write about how I feel, the news and anything that comes to mind. I love the physicality of actually writing and putting pen to paper, but also like the slow release of mental tension it brings when I write down my thoughts. I even did a sketch the other day!

So, just a round up of things I have been enjoying during this isolation period (that you might too) :

  • Long baths with lots of bubbles and a book
  • Reading (anything and everything) BUT reading the news once a day, if that
  • Proper coffee and slow mornings
  • Writing in my journal
  • Social media breaks
  • Herbal tea in the evening (pukka vanilla chai is my favoutite at the moment)

I hope you are all okay and maintaining a positive outlook, and are also physically well. Stay safe!

My next book review will be, Machines Like Me.

Violet xxx