Summary of the Last Ten Years

I’m about to turn thirty. I’ve been saying that, with increasing degrees of panic, since I turned twenty-six, but now it’s just ’round the corner – on Saturday.

That’s right. In a few days, I will have been alive a full three decades and will be starting on my fourth.

I’m still not sure it’s fully sunk in yet, but I’m at least freaking out less.

Part of me knows the angst surrounding getting older is nonsense. Numbers are arbitrary and nothing can be done about them anyway, so what’s the fuss? That’s the logical part of my brain. The illogical part is hiding in a cupboard somewhere weeping. So long as it’s not at the forefront right now, I don’t mind so much.

Socially speaking, I think the pressure put on women, in particular, to stay young (or, at least, stay looking youthful) is fascinating (not to mention entirely unfair and infuriating), but I’m not going to get into that here. It’s a discussion I’ve subjected my husband to several times already, and you clicked on this post to read about the misspent years of my twenties. I wouldn’t want to disappoint, so here’s a bullet-pointed list.

  • Ten years ago, way back in March 2009, I was living in Lincoln and had been for about a year and a half. I was nearing the end of my second year at university and swiftly coming to terms with the fact that I had picked entirely the wrong course. Despite uncertainty over what to do next, however, I was fairly happy. I had a good social life and was living in a decent place. 2009 was the year I met my best friend and was, up until more recently when I found love, one of the happiest years of my life.
  • 2010, by comparison, was hell. Continue reading

Afeared Afresh

Back in February last year, I wrote a blog post aptly titled ‘The Fear‘ in which I talked about how, after several years of trying to finish a novel, I was on the verge of doing just that and was scared sh*tless. Said fear was making me drag that last little bit out longer than it ever needed to be.

Writing the blog post helped.

I finally finished writing the book.

I got even more positive feedback – my writing mentor said it was “good to go.”

It was May by that point. I sent the novel out to an agent that very month and considered the issue resolved. I had got past my hesitation. All was good, right?

Well, I submitted to a second agent in July and then, inexplicably, stopped.

To be completely honest, I had gotten so caught up with other things, I hadn’t even realized I’d stalled again. When I opened my list of agents recently, I was horrified it had been so long since I had contacted any of them. Then, when the horror wore off, I found that old fear hiding underneath.

I hadn’t dealt with it, I’d just put a lid on it and left it on a shelf for a while. Continue reading

PitMad March 2019 Results

Yesterday – Thursday the 7th of March – was the latest round of #PitMad, a Twitter event in which novelists pitch their books to agents and publishers. I had dabbled in the past, deciding last minute to take part without giving it a lot of thought.

This time, I prepared. I pre-wrote my tweets. I scheduled the date in my diary. I double checked the timezone difference. (PitMad being mainly an American thing.)

Do things like this actually work and secure people publishing deals? Sometimes, yes.

Someone – last year I think it was – shared information of what they tweeted and how far they got with it. I find it fascinating to look at this data alongside success stories and crunch the numbers.

Naturally, I put together some stats for my own experience. I wondered if there was any point in sharing it – it’s a fairly niche set of information, of importance really only to me – but, hey, why not? I found that other person’s findings interesting. If no one else connects with this post, no harm, no foul.

But enough preamble. Continue reading

On Letting Go (and Holding On)

My best friend and I used to squabble a fair bit. At the point in my life when we got close, during university, I was socially underdeveloped and incredibly oversensitive. My friend had street smarts but sometimes lacked empathy.

We’d squabble, but we’d always sort it out. It was never long before we’d be sharing jokes again because, despite our differences, we loved each other.

We still love each other, even though she’s living on the other side of the world and we haven’t seen each other in literal years.

She’s still my best friend (outside of my husband). She’d probably hate how soppy this all sounds, but our relationship is actually stronger now than it ever was back when we saw each other every single day.

But that almost wasn’t the case.  Continue reading

My Writing Journey (So Far)

How long have I been writing? It’s a simple question, but the answer is… not. In fact, far from being simple, the answer isn’t singular. There are a number of equally accurate responses, depending on what kind of writing you’re talking about.

In the bio that I share about myself all around the internet, I say I’ve “been writing poetry and short stories since primary school and been blogging for over ten years.”  Which is true and works well as a summary but, by its very nature of being a summary, leaves out some pretty key details.

I mean, everyone writes stories and poems in primary school, right? For class assignments if nothing else. It was just that I never really stopped.

I focused on poetry in high school. In the five years I was there (2000-2005), I think I wrote about 100 poems total. Some might consider that not many, some might count it as a lot. I guess it doesn’t matter either way because most of them have been lost (some intentionally and some inadvertently) in the years since.

In college (2005-2007 | ages 16-18), I don’t think I wrote anything other than a metric shit-ton of coursework.

My very first ever blog was made in February 2007, but I only got a couple of hundred words on there before I swiftly forgot about it. It was 2015 that I found it again, during a random Google search.

My time at university (2007-2010) was when I really got into blogging regularly (if not all in the same place).

2009 was the year I first attempted National Novel Writing Month, for which I completed a grand total of 216 words.

In 2011 I started writing posts for other blogs for free. (I mean – ahem – exposure.) And had my first ever poem published in an anthology – which turned out to be by a vanity publisher (not that I knew what that was).

I also signed up for a workshop with Nicola Morgan. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a real turning point for me.

Continue reading

Letter to my Body

Dear Body,

We have a lot to talk about, you and I. I barely know where to begin, but I think it’s fair to say that this won’t be the last letter I write you. Call this an introduction then, if you will.

I suppose we should address the elephant in the room: I didn’t like you for the longest time. It would have actually been fair to say that I hated you.

I’m sorry about that.

The thing is, I simply didn’t understand you and had been told a lot of lies about what you were like without taking the time to find out for myself. Growing up wasn’t easy on either of us – I don’t rightly think it’s easy on anyone – but it seems we’ve had more difficulties than most.

I know now that I’m not lazy and ugly, but I believed that for the longest time. I’d been so convinced I was grossly overweight to the point that I thought trying to do anything about it was pointless, and that led me to developing habits that led to weight gain! Self-fulfilling prophecy much?!

For a lot of years, I’ve felt broken and wrong. Maybe the broken part is true, but – KEY THING HERE – it’s not our fault!

Body, you are disabled. Literally, you have syndromes and disorders that stop you being able to do certain things. That’s annoying, but it’s not a personal failing.

Like I said, there’s a lot to unpack here. This is only me scratching the surface. Just know that I’m going to listen to you more, and I’m going to be nicer to you.

– Love, Ellie

Checking In – February 2019

I’ve said here before that I need a certain headspace to write and that, by extension, when I’m sharing a lot of blog posts it’s a very good indication that I have said headspace and am doing well.

Well, for the past few days I have wanted to blog but haven’t quite summoned the will to put fingers to keys. I have ideas for posts sitting in draft form, but no motivation to finish them.

Instead, there is this: a blog post about how I want to blog but am too tired.

Thrilling content, I know, but it’s what my life is at the minute.

I’m mentally and physically exhausted right now but –– and this is a very important but –– I am not burned out. So far this year, I’ve managed to avoid that. I mean, sure, we’re not too far into the year and it could very easily go downhill that way, but I’m looking at the positive here.

I’m working hard.

I am proud of the things I’m getting done.

Feer-er days are on the horizon.

End of January Update

I’m sure this will come to a total shock to everyone, but breaking the habits of a lifetime is a process that, apparently, takes a little while.

If you’ve read my earlier blog posts this month, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to be more organized and get myself into a routine. Well, results have been… mixed.

On the whole, good progress has been made and I’m happy about that, but I am by no means the entire way there yet.

With regards to my reading goal for the year, I’m sitting at two books ahead of schedule with a total of six books completed so far.

I am, for the most part, on top of the housework and am not being overwhelmed by a mountain of socks (or anything else).

I have re-joined Slimming World and lost a further four-and-a-half pounds this month.

I caught up on all my accounts and submitted my tax return which was quite a big task that had been weighing on me.

I haven’t been too bad about getting out for walks most days, even if it’s only to the local shop.

I have been sticking to a steady upload schedule for the Women Aloud NI YouTube channel and am on track to have the backlog of footage all online by our events in March. I have started planning the Women Aloud NI event I’m coordinating in March. Both these things remain to be finished.

I’ve been semi-successful in sticking to the general day-to-day routine I set for myself in that I am getting myself behind a desk and using the office for it’s intended purpose, but doing so ‘before noon’ each day as I had planned turned out to be a bit too much of a stretch. I still can’t really do mornings. I can barely do afternoons.

Being at my desk helps me to focus, but not always. The other day, I sat watching videos on my iPad as one I had edited exported on my laptop. That was fine but, when the time came for me to put the iPad down, I didn’t. I fell down a rabbit hole of the internet instead. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about that, because some level of procrastination happens to everyone, but it is something I need to be careful doesn’t become a common occurrence.

Some writing, editing, and plotting has been done but not nearly as much as I would like. My hope is that I can get a bunch of other tasks out of the way tomorrow and find more time for my novel in February. Allons y!

Where Change Continues?

Giles being my office co-pilot (looking at me like I’m mad because I probably am).

It’s Monday morning, day fourteen of 2019. After an initial wobble on day one, this New Year has been pretty good for me. I don’t mean to say that the past two weeks have been completely plain sailing, because there have been a couple of health-related blips, but I’ve been feeling pretty positive aside from them.

At least until I hit this past weekend.

After ten days of being on top of my game and managing to stay in super-productive-mode, I got up very late on Friday (the eleventh). It was to be date night for my husband and I and we’d pre-booked tickets to go see Collette at Queen’s Film Theatre. We were both pretty tired and, I’ll be honest, the fact that we’d already paid was the only thing that stopped us going back to bed immediately after breakfast.

We went, we saw, we enjoyed. Then we went for dinner at a Chinese buffet restaurant where I overate and ended up in very intense pain on the walk back to the bus. I think I triggered one of my food allergies but, regardless of the cause, I was left feeling pretty rough. I went home and slept. I slept for most of Saturday, and most of Sunday, though not restfully.

Last night, I took a look at my commitments for the rest of the month and freaked out a little. Here I was with so much to do and I’d wasted a whole weekend!

One of the things I’m continually trying to fine tune is how to pace myself; to not do too much and find a balance between home and work. I wanted to make a resolution about it for the year but found that A-I already had more than enough to try and achieve by the time I wrote all my necessary tasks out and B- I couldn’t quite put my need for balance into any better words than that.

‘Do more but not too much’ isn’t a very helpful goal to try and strive toward. It’s not specific. It’s not measurable. It didn’t make it onto the list. And yet here I am, striving for it anyway. Because as much as I’ve resisted following a routine for most of my life, I’ve come to a point where I’m finally willing to admit I might need one.  Continue reading

2019 Goals (Part One)

I’ve come to the conclusion that, too often, the goals I set are unrealistic. I usually make a list of everything I want to do — everything I want to be — and that’s that, goals made. This year, however, I’ve been putting more thought into it. It’s why I’ve held off announcing my resolutions for the year before now, because I hadn’t made any firm decisions before now. I had my updated list of everything I wanted to do, same as always, but I wasn’t making a direct translation of it to my ‘to do’ list because some of what I want to do just isn’t in my power. Prime example: getting a literary agent. It’s something that I’ve been striving towards for a long time but it’s not something I can make happen completely under my own will. It’s in my power to make my novel the best it can be and it’s in my power to submit that novel to agents, but there’s absolutely no guarantee that an agent will take it. Great books get rejected every day. It’s not a failure to be one of them. Not when the odds are against you to begin with.

Alongside my ‘get an agent’ goal for the past few years has been one to join the Society of Authors, and that’s more realistic but still slightly beyond my reach. To clarify, I’m talking about associate membership here, not full membership which would require me to already have an agent and/or publisher in place. What’s holding me back, then? Well, I simply can’t justify the money for it right now. It’s not a lot, in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to pay for bread and milk (which has been the genuine reality for me a couple of times in the past year), of course I’m not going to be signing up for anything.

So, I haven’t achieved those goals. They are still goals but they’re not going on my list for this year and that’s completely okay. Their time will come.

I started 2018 with three other goals: to read 52 books, to get healthier, and to learn to drive. Driving didn’t happen for the same reason as above. It’s just too expensive for me right now. But I do have some good news to report on the other counts.

Part-way through the year I upped my reading goal from 52 books to 55 and I smashed that by completing a total of 61. I also lost a good chunk of the weight my doctors told me to shift, and I’ve been more active.

I have set my 2019 Goodreads reading challenge to 60 books and that’s the only year-long goal I’m assigning myself. What I’m going to do instead is set myself shorter-term goals that take into consideration what I already have on my plate.

The first quarter of this year will see me submitting my tax return in January, celebrating my second wedding anniversary in February, and turning thirty in March. March is also a big month for Women Aloud NI, so that’s going to be fairly busy. Plus I’m helping to put together an anthology for Belfast Writers’ Group.

Three things I want to do between now and the end of April, aside from all that: Lose another stone in weight, finish editing and uploading the backlog of Women Aloud NI videos for their YouTube channel and, the biggy, completing the first draft of my second novel.

That’s definitely enough to be getting on with!