Friday, 9 March 2018

How I'm Getting My Blogging Mojo Back*

I can't be the only one whose start to 2018 has been less than stellar? What with illness abound, post-Christmas blues and bloody Snowmageddon, it's been hard to find the motivation to just sit with my blog and write. Over the last few weeks I've been trying to take steps to rectify this and fall back in love with blogging again. I've come to realise that there are a few essential components to getting back on track with anything, be it blogging, work or any other creative pursuits, so I thought I'd share those with you today, along with a few gadgets that have been helping me out.

This post is a paid collaboration with Venom Communications. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own

Get Into a Routine

This sounds super obvious, but I bet I'm not the only one who just wakes up sometimes feeling a bit lost and not knowing where to start. Balancing a job, freelance projects and blogging along with regular life stuff like cleaning the kitchen (thrilling) can be pretty tricky. So I find that having a routine makes finding those rare free hours just a little bit easier. No matter what day it is or what your plans (or lack of) are: get up, get fed, get dressed. At the weekends I sometimes have to force myself into this routine a bit but once I've done it I feel like anything is a possibility and it feels like there's so much more time in the day. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will come.

Get Organised

If you find that you have even an hour to work on your blog, make sure that you have everything you need for a productive session. I like to keep everything I could possibly need for blogging in one place, my desk holds all my essentials, so I'm ready to just sit down and get on with it if I have a little bit of spare time. I'm a bit old-fashioned and like to go to my notebook first to draft a post, create a schedule or just get some ideas on paper (I planned out this post in my go-to notebook, my bullet journal.)

Although I take pretty much all of my blog photos with my DSLR, I actually really like editing photos on my phone. I use Snapseed and A Color Story, they're super easy to use and I always love how my photos end up looking. Make sure you have plenty of spare cables (preferably with neat little cable tidies like these) nearby to transfer the photos easily back to your computer, there's nothing worse than scrambling around looking for a charging cable.

I make sure that everything I do for my blog (photos, drafts, pitches, invoices) is saved in more than one place. You can use the cloud, or hard drives, but my personal favourite is the good old USB. They're the easiest thing to store and I like knowing that my hard work is stored in a physical thing I can lay my hands on at a moment's notice. Have a stash of these bad boys and you'll never lose your work again. How cute and bright is this Happy Jackson one?

Get Inspired

Last year, I started a job with almost an hours commute each way. For me this means walking. At first, I was unsure what to do with this time - I was terrified of wasting two hours of my already limited blogging time. Then I discovered that these hours can be so useful in so many different ways. Occasionally I go techless and have a quiet commute, it can be great to just walk and let my thoughts wander - you never know when inspiration will hit! But I usually like to have my phone on me (if you're anywhere near as clumsy as me, keep it protected in a cute case), sometimes I use it to take note of any ideas that pop up, but mostly I listen to podcasts. I *always* carry earphones with me, I genuinely panic if I've forgotten them, but since having these ones that come with a carry case (and they're PINK), I've never misplaced them again. Some of my favourite podcasts for blogging inspiration are The Creative Leap, Crtl Alt Delete, Magic Lessons and At Home With.

To make sure I'm ready to make the most of that return commute, whether it's replying to tweets, preparing an instagram or listening to more podcasts I always keep a power bank on me to keep my phone charged. My phone battery is shocking so power banks are a total life saver, this 'girl power' one (which also doubles as a mirror, whaaat?!) holds three charges and I honestly love it so much. I've tried quite a few power banks and I can genuinely say that these are my favourite.


Those are just some little ways I've been falling back in love with blogging again. The routine, organisation and inspiration all fall into place after a little while and have freed up my mind to start writing and creating again. I hope some of these ideas help you too.

If you fancy picking up some of the handy, and frankly gorgeous, little blogging essentials from Happy Jackson then I've got fantastic news. You can get 15% off any of these bad boys, plus the rest of the new 2018 line of goodies by entering code HAPPYSARAH at checkout. Yaaaassss.

Have you got any more tips for getting back into a blogging groove? I'd love to know, tweet me or leave a comment below!


*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Venom Communications. All words and images are 100% honest and entirely my own. 

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Recent Reads #3: I Am Thunder, My Friend Fear, Goodbye Perfect

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan | ☆☆☆
Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest. But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart.

This recent release immediately grabbed my attention so I picked it up when I went to Waterstones Piccadilly before the Costa Book Awards and started reading it on the train home that night. I don't think I've ever read a book with a Muslim main character before, which is pretty strange and sad and because I want to read more diversely this year, I'm on the look out now more than ever for own voices novels. I so, so wanted to love this but I was initially pretty disappointed with the writing. The teenage slang in the dialogue and narrative voice felt a little forced and crowded and the narrative felt quite choppy. This did give it kind of an edge, as if it was a raw teenage voice but I think it could have benefited from some more editing. It just kept throwing me out of the story and made me very aware that this was a novel, about teenagers, written by an adult when I can usually forget that and just get lost in the writing.

However, the writing improved as it went on and the plot really started to gather speed, the last quarter was much better than the first three. I absolutely loved reading about a Muslim main character, especially in a YA novel, this kind of representation is so important. It is a little bit disappointing that a novel about Muslim teenagers has such a focus on extremism, (it's probably not a reality in the lives of a majority of these teenagers, can't we just have a friendship or romance plot like other YA where being Muslim is just part of their character) but I realise that it's topical and honestly I'm just glad for the representation. This is a solid YA about identity, faith and relationships and if you're starting it, don't be put off by the writing because it does get better.

My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel | ☆☆☆
A mix of personal reflections, inspirational quotes, questions for reflection, and breathtaking watercolour visuals, My Friend Fear asserts that having big fear is an opportunity to make big changes, to discover the remarkable potential inside ourselves.

A couple of weeks ago the lovely folks at Particular Books sent me a lovely little package that included this beautiful book - check out my instagram stories for more bookish unboxings if you missed this one! My Friend Fear is an exploration of fear and how we can harness it to become our best selves. Now at first I thought that sounded a little airy fairy for me, but here's the thing, it makes total sense. Meera Lee Patel's writing flows nicely but is also very clear.
She relates things to her own experience as well as the science of emotions. Not to mention that it's an absolutely STUNNING book, filled with gorgeous illustrations and watercolour pages, it would make an amazing gift. This book is perfect for creatives especially but also just for anyone who wants to overcome doubt, imposter syndrome or just those niggling fears that stop you from getting what you want.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard | ☆☆☆
Eden McKinley knows she can't count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it's a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it's the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie's location, and that's the way it has to stay. There's no way she's betraying her best friend. Not even when she's faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

I absolutely adore Sara Barnard's books and I'd been dying to get my hands on this ever since it was announced so when I spotted it in Waterstones a few days before it's release (cheeky), I had to grab a copy. If you're already familiar with Sara Barnard then I suggest you just stop reading this review and go and buy Goodbye, Perfect now because you won't be disappointed. What? You need a little convincing? Oh, go on then.

Sara Barnard can write the hell out of a female friendship; she just *gets* teenage girls. When I read her books it's like travelling back in time to my teenage years, except that would be terrible, so it's much much better. Her protagonists are smart, awesome and incredibly real teenage girls and Eden Mckinley is no exception. Goodbye, Perfect is primarily about female friendship, it's loyalties and it's limits, but it also explores other kinds of relationships brilliantly. The romance is just enough and power dyanmics are explored excellently. I also love how parents are always very present in Sara Barnard's books. The relationships between parents and children aren't always perfect, they can be very strained in fact, but the parents are present and the relationships complex and deep. Goodbye, Perfect didn't completely blow me away like Sara Barnard's previous two books but I still thoroughly enjoyed it and I would definitely recommend it.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

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