Be Yourself, Be Proud

Every teenager at some point feels embarrassed by who they are. It’s unfortunately common, given the impending pressure of adulthood and examinations where we’re expected to grow up quicker than we should. We start to lose sight of who we really are.

As a 19 year old reflecting on my past, I’m ashamed to say I was one of those teens.

I went through a brief phase of being embarrassed by my love for the Harry Potter series. I was always mocked for being too obsessed with it, even to the point where I didn’t pick up one of the books for a long time in fear of being made the centre of a nerd joke. I started to avoid everything that made me happy, including reading and music, simply because I cared too much about the opinions of others.

I was insecure. I felt like the outcast at school. I didn’t want to be hated because of who I was, so I changed myself to impress other people – especially those who I believed were above me on the popularity scale. I was desperate for validation. I was self-conscious about what other people thought and said about me when I wasn’t around.

But most importantly, I was lying to myself and I was refusing to embrace my individuality.

If I could go back, I would honestly slap some sense into myself.

There is nothing wrong with being a nerd. To this day, I unashamedly obsess over Harry Potter and other books. I enjoy sitting down with a nice cup of coffee, watching the latest episode of one of my favourite TV shows on Netflix, and writing. I love blaring my music out loud from my headphones and singing out loud to all of my favourite songs. I love going to gigs and being pushed around in the crowd, and losing myself whilst seeing my favourite bands live. I love being weird with my friends and coming up with lame puns.

And I love it. I love being myself, even if no one else approves. I slowly realised that I wasn’t born to impress anyone else but myself.

One lesson I gained from this was never be afraid to be you, because there is no greater feeling than living the life you want to lead.

And I say it loud and clear: be yourself and be proud. 

 

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Confessions of a Music Lover

Music is something I’ve loved since forever.

Is there a day I can go without it? Of course not.

There is nothing better than sitting down after a long day, with a steaming cup of tea in one hand, blasting your favourite songs, and just forgetting about the problems in your life.

I come from a family where music is everything. My late great-granddad used to play the saxophone, my dad and granddad play the drums, and my brother and I are learning to play the guitar (even though I’m still an amateur). It’s constantly playing in my house, and even though it irritates my mum, she never tells us to turn it off unless she wants to watch her TV shows.

I have always relied on music as a means of letting my bottled-up feelings out. There are songs that make me laugh, cry, think, or just simply want to dance to, and that’s the beauty of it.

Continue reading “Confessions of a Music Lover”

Once Upon A Time – Review

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  • Original air date: 2011 – present
  • No of seasons: 5
  • Episode runtime: 43 minutes
  • Writer/producers: Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis
  • Country: USA
  • Network (UK): Netflix
  • Starring: Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Ginnifer Goodwin, Emilie de Ravin, Sean Maguire, Rebecca Mader, Robert Carlyle, Colin O’Donoghue

And so, they all lived happily ever after…or did they? 

For Emma Swan, life has been anything but a fairytale. Abandoned by her parents when she was just a baby, she has endured every kind of heartache and disappointment. But on her twenty eighth birthday, when the boy she gave up for adoption arrives on her doorstep, she begins an incredible and life-changing journey. Returning with him to the curious seaside town of Storybrooke, where the residents are cursed fairytale characters, Emma must find the strength and learn to believe if she is ever to restore their memories and be reunited with her family.

Once Upon A Time’s authenticity as a fantasy series is truly unlike anything I’ve seen before. Horowitz and Kitsis deliver a promising tale where the characters we’ve grown to love interact with each other, with a major twist in every episode, rendering us speechless. Every episode is split into two segments; a flashback of a character’s past, and the other set in present-day Storybrooke, which works really well. This unique spin on a world where reality and fantasy collide is enough to make any TV fanatic turn on their screen. The diversity of the cast shouldn’t go without applause; many beloved and well-known characters of different ethnicities, as well as strong, independent female protagonists. The series displays unfamiliar, but distinctive fantastical elements which you will never see in any other fantasy series.

Continue reading “Once Upon A Time – Review”

Finding Your Voice

As a creative writing student, I think finding the “perfect voice” in your work can be exhausting. Obviously I can’t speak for every writer out there. Sometimes, voice just comes naturally to oneself and they specifically use it for their desired medium. However, that isn’t the case for most writers.

What is a voice

When I say ‘voice’, I don’t mean writing dialogue. I mean using your own words and styles to convey the plot to your readers. It’s no good writing in a bland, uninteresting manner if it doesn’t have a touch of your personality within the words. When I write, I usually tend to find my voice isn’t powerful enough to provoke a reader’s emotions or to keep their interest in my work stronger. It’s similar to painting a picture and not using giving enough detail or colour into your piece.

Do you like using short, simple sentences? Use them. Do you like using complex sentences? Again, use them. Your voice is yours. Utilise it in whichever way you want. In my experience, I’ve been afraid of my readers not liking my writing because it’s too ‘fancy’ or too ‘complicated’. Does it matter? Of course not. Unless the words are completely undecipherable or have never been taught in English class, then I would advise you avoid using ‘big’ words that no average reader on earth would understand.

An uncertain voice can also impact the genre in which you’re writing. If it’s fiction, don’t be afraid to include modern vocabulary. Your characters are your mouthpiece; if they’re narrating the story, use them to your advantage. Use slang words and inappropriate words (but, don’t overdo them!) The same applies to poetry, screenwriting, playwriting etc. There are no limitations when it comes to the voice.

Using your voice in character dialogue

Utilising your voice in dialogue is just as important. Do you want your characters to sound like how you speak in real life? Do whatever you wish. Make them as informal and colloquial as you possibly can! It makes them more believable and human.

If it’s possible, inject dialect and accents into your character’s speech. However, I would NOT advise doing this if you lack knowledge of how a certain accent sounds. This can lead to major complications, such as stereotypes and clichés. It’s optional. Your readers will imagine the characters in their preferred accents.

Voice IS relevant to the plot

The voice relates to the plot of your novel. Without it, the plot would be devoid of feeling or action. Your voice is what drives the story forward, as well as character and setting. The language you use influences your characters’ decisions and thoughts.

If you use a typical sentence, unfortunately seen within fiction, such as: “The sky was blue and the trees were green. I looked up and stared at the clouds,” you’re not going to get a lot of positive feedback on your work. People will get bored, and this will have a negative influence on your target audience. Ask yourself 3 questions:

  • What language would I use when describing events, people, or places? 
  • How do I want to describe my characters and settings without making them seem dull? 
  • How can I make the language more engaging for my readers?

When in doubt, I’ve asked myself these, and it’s usually worked out. Would you say “said” all the time? Would you use simple language to describe amazing experiences? These are all questions that will make a difference to your voice and your writing in general. Here’s some advice I will openly offer if you’re struggling to find your voice:

  1. Use detail and imagery to create atmosphere.
  2. Write from all three tenses, and decide which one suits you best.
  3. Include plot twists and cliffhangers – nothing screams interest more than leaving a reader dumbfounded or desperately wanting to know what happens next.
  4. Ask other people if the words flow well.
  5. Accept criticism, and utilise it during your editing to help find your voice.
  6. Revise the word choices you make and ask yourself if they’re necessary/relevant to the story.
  7. Create five characters and write short pieces from their perspectives.
  8. If you like how you’ve written a scene, continue writing like it.

Finding your voice when you’re writing can be difficult and it hits even the best of us, even if we’ve already written something. Voices change, and that’s okay. If you’re struggling, just keep searching and you’ll find it. Become original and write in a way that’s comfortable for you, and one that won’t drive your readers away. Be clear in your writing, and you will find your voice just like that.

 

 

 

Happy New Year!

635845200979031950-1693487873_2016yayHi, everyone!

Tonight’s post is a rather short one, I’m afraid. All I wanted to say was:

Happy New Year! 

So, 2016 has arrived upon us. At midnight, I held up my glass of champagne to toast the new year, and spent my time laughing and talking with those I love dearly whilst I listened to the fireworks outside. It’s definitely one of my favourite nights of the year, because the entire world unites to celebrate the passing of another orbit around the sun.

2015 was one hell of a year. I passed my first year of university, got my second tattoo done, saw two of my favourite bands live for the first time, met new people and became more confident and honest with myself. It was a year of experiences. I’m hoping 2016 will be the same, if not, better.

This year, I turn 20 years old and I already have many experiences lined up spread throughout the year – including two more concerts, and I’m hoping going out with friends will be on the agenda, too.

Some of my goals for this year are all writing-related, but not all. Here they are:

  • Stop procrastinating.
  • Complete one of my projects.
  • Publish something!
  • Get a part-time job.
  • Pass my second year of university.
  • Grab every opportunity.
  • Attend more than two concerts (I already have 2 lined up!)
  • Finish learning Italian.
  • Go to another city other than London.
  • Live my life the way I want to.

Do you have any goals set for 2016? Share yours in the comments!

I hope you all had an amazing night and I wish you all a safe and happy 2016! Make this year count!

Writer’s Block – The Worst Enemy of All

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At some point during the writing process, a writer is bound to face the frustrations of writer’s block.

What is it? It’s easy: it’s the enemy of every writer on the planet. It’s when you are unable to think of what to write, or having little to no motivation to continue writing.

When I’ve been struck by it, I feel extremely stressed and mentally exhausted. Sometimes, it causes me to procrastinate (which we all know is never a good thing!) It’s an aggravating situation to be placed in, especially when there’s a set deadline for your work to be completed by.

Is there any way to prevent it? It depends on the writer. However, every writer can overcome it. It takes a lot, and I mean a LOT, of determination.

While I’m talking about it, I’ll list a few handy tips which have helped me a lot when I’m faced with the devil’s work that is writer’s block:

 

  • Listening to music is quite relieving when trying to generate ideas for a new story. Just the simple line in a song could do the trick!
  • Go out for a walk. It’s ironic as writers are stereotypically seen as being introverts, but it’s great to view the world from your own perspective. It could also work wonders for your brainstorming later in the day.
  • Read more books. I can’t stress it enough, READ! It could help with coming up with new plot ideas and characterisation if you ever find yourself struggling to come up with a new idea for a character or story.
  • People watch. I know, it sounds creepy, but if you’re ever struggling to come up with character development, it can help a tonne!
  • Drink coffee. Unless you have an intense dislike for caffeinated drinks, drink a coffee or latte at your local Costa store or in your own home. It’s been proven caffeine increases a person’s creativity. Think I’m lying? Coffee has been a life saver when I’ve been stuck on what to write for my creative assignments!
  • Write in a ‘stream of consciousness’ style. I’ve only been introduced to this exercise recently by my tutors. Write whatever comes to mind, and see where it takes you. Alternatively, write to a specific sound or look at a photograph of a place, person, or object, and use it to your advantage.
  • Socialise with other people and learn from your conversations. You might be thinking “yeah, right!” Honestly, talking to other people and learning about them can help so much with new ideas! I’m not the most talkative person in the world, but I always find myself overwhelmed with new ideas when I’ve had a lengthy conversation with someone else.
  • And importantly, don’t doubt yourself too much. Lately, I’ve noticed one of the leading causes of writer’s block could be your own critique and worrying about what other people will think about your work. We’re all protective about our writing, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about being a creative writing student, it is to embrace criticism and to not compare yourself to other writers.

So, how can you beat writer’s block? WRITE. WRITE. WRITE! Let your imagination run wild and write to your heart’s desire! I can’t stress it enough.

Writer’s block is temporary, after all, and it will eventually go away once a new idea is eager to claw its way into your mind. If you ever find your brain at 3%, recharge it to 100% and let your mind do the work for you (poor reference, I know).

Inspiration is everywhere. It’s limitless, but we all face the times when we struggle to put our thoughts into words, and that’s okay. It’s like wanting to paint a picture but not knowing where to start, or what colours to use. It’s like wanting to make music but not knowing the correct chords or notes. It’s like spending half an hour trying to solve a mathematical formula. It’s inevitable, but it’s not impossible to tackle.

Writing is a fun process, but it can be a pain in the backside at times. If you ever find yourself suffering from writer’s block, just think of it as your imagination being full and needing fresh ideas to replace the old, unwanted ones. Trust me, it works.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get your creative juices flowing! You’ve got some writing to do!

A Quick Writing Quote

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything… It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it’s a cactus. – Enid Bagnold

(Quote courtesy: http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/72-of-the-best-quotes-about-writing)

A Writer’s World

“Why do writers create worlds?” is a question I’ve been asked regularly during my time at school. I had no definite answer because, why do we create worlds that are completely different from our own, and what do we gain from it?

It’s a universal question that has many different answers from various writers. It’s incredibly hard to pinpoint, hence why I’m only going to give my opinion on what a writer’s world is like and why I create my own.

The most popular novels, written for both adults and children, have featured a fictional world with magic, idealism and the ‘perfection’ of a society. Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire and Lord of the Rings are all excellent examples.

I’m a massive fan of Harry Potter. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that. As a child, I longed to be in Harry’s world. It was something entirely magical and different to me that I just fell in love with it. Hogwarts, riding broomsticks and casting spells left me awestruck and I kept wondering to myself,

“Why am I in such a boring world? Why can’t I be a wizard?” 

As a writer, I create my own worlds to escape from this dark and gloomy one. It feels good to be the “God” of your own world; created entirely from your mind. There are no limitations to it; it’s yours and yours only. No one can take the magic away from you when you’re the one who created it in the first place.

Also, I use it to make a point about the world we’re living in today. I use this technique to deliver my views on our world to readers through ambiguous story-telling, and nevertheless, it works all the time. Readers react to it, opening their minds about the problems we face regarding society and the environment today. It’s much easier than writing a memoir or diary entry, ranting about it in such a mediocre way, it becomes whiny.

Why not use your imagination to express your views? It’s more enjoyable, I’m sure.

It’s increasingly popular for writers because it’s seen as a challenge and it’s something we can all escape to, reader or writer. It doesn’t matter. World-creating is a great way to open the mind further beyond your boundaries and it gives a unique, personal touch to a piece of writing, whether it be a poem or a novel.

Have a go at it and tell me how you feel about being the creator of your very own world. It’s a liberating feeling for writers and I’m sure no one can deny it’s fun and a legendary means of getting a story across to the reader.

 

 

Battle for Creativity – Saving the Creative Writing A-Level

A qualification in creative writing is something a lot of teenagers would’ve killed for. Young writers who were preparing for their A-Levels before or during 2012 never received this option, until a year later when the subject was introduced into the curriculum for A-Levels. The course proved to be a success as more students going into sixth form/college were encouraged to take it as a ‘creative alternative’ to English Language and Literature.

However, a ‘reform’ that’s been decided by the government under the Conservative Party has deemed the qualification as being unfit for resubmission into schools and colleges, therefore scrapping the subject from the A-Level curriculum across the country from summer 2018.

Personally, I don’t agree with this decision.

I suspect this change hasn’t been made for academic purposes. In my opinion, the British government decided to scrap MOST creative subjects because they are skills-based and not knowledge-based, and therefore, cannot be fit for examination. Isn’t this an unjust reason to remove such an enjoyable and popular qualification?

Creative Writing is a subject that many young people feel lies behind the boundaries of being just a hobby, and it’s a great thing that children want to explore their own creative routes through education. So, why are we taking away that opportunity for young adults to become more open-minded about the world we live in?

I’m currently studying for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Creative and Professional Writing at university, and I know many school leavers are choosing the exact same route as I have – wanting to develop their writing skills to ensure they make a living from it. The whole purpose of the course is to understand how our writing can shape the world, and spark a reaction from the general public with just one document full of words. It also helps us to take criticism and apply the opinion of others’ to our own work to improve it, therefore allowing the individual to be able to communicate well within a team and working with others. Key skills that we’ve been told are ‘essential’ in life and employment.

These are the reasons why I disapprove of this idea, and what it’ll mean for aspiring young writers:

  • It improves an individual’s English skills, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar. Although spelling, punctuation and grammar (also known as SPAG) is taught throughout secondary school, it can also improve one’s range of vocabulary, and expanding their knowledge of language and communication – no matter whether it’s written or verbal.
  • It allows young people to embrace creativity and imagination, as well as teaching them about the world and why we use fiction to address issues in today’ society. One of the most important aspects of a teenager’s life is having the ability to create. It can also mean learning more about life through the eyes of characters from different age ranges and personal experiences.
  • It’s unique. Need I say more?
  • It’s more subjective than English Language and Literature. In English lessons, you have to analyse and write 4-page essays on what a piece of literature means. However, in Creative Writing, you are only required to let your imagination run wild through the voices of people from all backgrounds, although this could be a difficult decision for a writer to make due to avoiding stereotypes and clichés in their work.
  • Most importantly, it’s enjoyable and can relieve the stress of academic subjects such as Maths and Science. ‘Logical’ subjects such as Maths and Science can overwhelm a student, and cause them to feel stressed about passing their exams and making sure they’ve got their facts right. With Creative Writing, this is not the case. All you need to worry about is making your writing clear and sophisticated.

We have come all this way as a nation to provide our students with a wide range of subjects to choose from, whether it is creative or logical, it doesn’t matter. There is only so much you could do if you take English, but with Creative Writing, the possibilities are endless. Are we really going to take that away from future generations and leave them having to take subjects where memory is prioritised more than imagination itself?

Remember, writing has the ability to change the way a person thinks. It’s everywhere; newspapers, novels, blog entries, diaries etc., writing is all around us, yet we fail to acknowledge it. Science is a factual subject. Creative Writing is an art.

How To Better Yourself As A Writer

It takes time to perfect your writing, but if I’m honest, there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ writer. As with every other form of art, writing is subjective, and how it’s judged completely depends on who is reading your work. It might be a ‘masterpiece’ or a ‘piece of trash’, but there is always room for improvement.

So, I’ve come up with some handy tips that you could apply to ‘better’ yourself as a writer. Feel free to use them as they’ve personally helped me develop as a writer when I was in doubt!

  1. Read and write as much as you can. Okay, I’m stating the obvious here…but there is nothing that’ll help more than reading and writing as much as you can. Even reading the local newspaper can prove to be a lifesaver!
  2. Expand your vocabulary. I’m not saying read a dictionary or thesaurus from back to front, but soak in as many words and synonyms as possible! Replace dull words such as ‘cold’ with interesting synonyms such as ‘wintry.’ Not only does it make your work more detailed, but it also helps your audience to engage with what’s going on too!
  3. Write to your heart’s content. If sketching out a rough first draft, don’t worry about what people will think until its completion. Nothing makes your work feel more unique than your own personal touch with your real feelings. A piece of writing only comes alive when it’s given colour.
  4. Always revise your work. Revise and edit your work until you’re satisfied with it. Check for spelling and grammar errors, add and cut sentences, and just make your piece the best thing you’ve ever written.
  5. Prevent procrastinating. Procrastination and ‘Writer’s Block’ are a writer’s #1 enemies; nothing is more dangerous than losing an idea because of the latest TV show that’s been added to Netflix. Don’t try to get into the habit of procrastinating to the point where you get nothing done. Believe me, I have personal experience in this far too much!
  6. Keep a notebook or a writing journal on you at all times. If you have a poor memory like me, you’ll find your ideas for your next or current project will disappear. So, it’s important to keep a notebook or a writing journal on you everywhere you go so your ideas can be recorded.
  7.  If need be, listen to music to get inspiration. Sometimes, I find listening to music really helps when generating ideas, even if it’s just the audio in the song. If struggling, try listening to music and I guarantee you’ll find endless scenarios in your head!
  8. Show, don’t tell. This is one of the most generic and obvious rules in writing, but it’s so important to show what’s happening in your story rather than tell your readers, otherwise they will switch off and lose interest in your writing.
  9. Ask a person you trust to read your work and provide feedback. If there’s one thing that’s helped develop my writing skills, it’s asking people to read through your piece and give you honest but constructive feedback. It helps you know where you went wrong in your writing and if anything should be changed/improved.
  10. Always know your genre and your audience. Imagine you’re writing a horror novel for young adults. You go through the writing process only to find out you have no knowledge of the genre or audience you’re writing for. It’s a pain, isn’t it? This is why it’s important to research your specific genre and know what your audience want.  
  11. WRITE, WRITE, AND WRITE. As Dory in Finding Nemo says, “Just keep swimming.” Instead of swimming, replace it with ‘writing’ and your motivation to do what you’re supposed to be doing is right there in front of you. Write until your hands bleed with the essence of imagination, and let the story you’re telling unfold.

I hope these tips will help you in your development as a writer. If you consider any of these, please let me know! Nothing will make me happy more than knowing my words have helped someone. Everyone has the ability to become a writer, but it takes hard work to become a great writer.

I wish you the best of luck!