Discussion | Stagnation & Slumps

WordPress reliably informs me that my last review (The Alloy of Law as it happens) was published a whole 51 days ago. That’s practically two whole months. Since that point I’ve published 12 posts which isn’t terrible, but it isn’t brilliant by any stretch of the imagination. As I look back, however, I realise that very few of these posts have actually been a sustained discussion of anything I’ve read. There are bits and pieces of reviews and comments on things I’m in the midst of reading, but nothing sustained.

The truth is I cannot accurately say I’m in a reading slump because I have read a good deal more books since that last review (10 books to be precise), I just haven’t particularly had the enthusiasm to review said books. I don’t have the excuse of being busy because I only work part-time and, as it happens, I have slow periods at work in which I can (and do) blog. Now, given the amount of time and books I’ve consumed, I ought to have more frequent reviews? The lack of them suggests a problem… it’s not a stretch that one might think perhaps these books weren’t very good. But the truth is quite the contrary; I’ve read some amazing things lately (some more literary than others) but, for some reason, I just haven’t been able to formulate my thoughts into reviews or discussion posts.

You may have noticed lately the majority of posts I’ve published have been weekly memes and to be honest relying on these for posts feels like a little bit of a cop-out to me. I hasten to add that weekly memes are by no means lesser than reviews or discussion posts, it’s just that I know that I personally complete weekly memes with less care and attention than I would pay to other posts. There’s an element of the autopilot or mechanical posting to it. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone and I’m really not trying to suggest everyone is quite as lazy as me when it comes to filling out such weekly themes! It’s just that weekly memes appeal to the lazy side of me because they provide an existing jumping-off point, so I don’t have to think about that initial reason to write a post. It makes posting a lot quicker and a lot more mechanical. When it comes down to it, I personally feel like I’m not really contributing much with my own answers to these weekly themes, even if I do adore doing them. Because of this, I feel like the quality of these posts isn’t quite where I’d like it to be… and I’m not quite happy with my blog as it is, or indeed as it has been for a while now.

(This entire thing also feeds into my incessant anxiety about my own personal lack of originality or voice in my writing – an ongoing running sore that we won’t probe any more right now!)

The long and short of all this self-indulgent reflection is that I’ve come to a conclusion: it’s about time I stopped stagnating and actually did something about the fact I’m not happy with my blog as it is at the moment…

I am going to stop obsessing over participating in weekly memes, for one. I’m still going to participate, of course, because the themes of Top 5 Wednesday, Top Ten Tuesdays, Book Travelling Thursdays etc. are always wonderful, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it if I miss a week, which is actually what I do now even though you might not realise that through the relative silence on this blog.

I am going to focus more on the quality of what I publish rather than the quantity. Of course I would like to be more regular with my posts on this blog, but I would much rather be happy about what I put out there than post every other day out of necessity. Which leads me to the next (and main) point of this rambling post…

I am going to try to be more thoughtful in my posts. Part of my problem when it comes to writing a post is always my innate lack of confidence that makes me think ‘well what more am I actually saying that others before haven’t said? Am I actually contributing anything by throwing this post into the ether that is the internet?’. As far as I can see it, the only thing I do have, really, is a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in English Literature… for what that’s worth (little in the wider world but, personally, quite a lot!). So I’d like to approach my blog more like I used to approach my seminar preparation and essays – with thought and attention and care. I want to be able to immediately identity a point, a purpose, to any given post, rather than just what was clearly me thinking ‘oh balls, I haven’t updated in three days, what day is it? Friday? Perfect, I’ll just quickly shove a Friday Reads onto my blog’. (And yes, that has been my thought process at times!)

If you’ve been reading this blog with any regularity you may have witnessed similar grand pledges or posts in the past. Every so often I have a sudden crisis of confidence where I vow to be better, to write better, to create content etc. etc. It’s all rather tiring to hear, I know, but here’s to me saying it again. Hopefully this will be the last time I need to make such a pledge because this time I’m going to actually schedule/plan out posts for the future. Jesus, whilst we’re making grand plans let’s kid ourselves that I might even dig out that abandoned bullet journal to help with scheduling my life into more productive days!

Hopefully this time something will stick.


September Update: Guess who’s back? Back again…

What happened? Well, university happened. It turns out when you slightly maybe procrastinate your dissertation research and it gets to August you panic and spend most of the time you’re awake thinking about it, or feeling guilty for not doing more on it. But now, as of yesterday’s hand-in, I am done. Officially done. I no longer need to think about it. In fact, it would be great if my brain would get this memo and stop thinking about all the stuff I didn’t have time/free words to put into it.

But… what now? Well, your guess is as good as mine. I made a concious decision to avoid thinking about anything past the dissertation until I had completed it. Maybe that’s narrow-minded but I probably needed it. But this month sees me take a couple of holidays to Menorca and Edinburgh with my parents and my friends respectively and I am looking forward to these so unbelievably much. But after that? Well, I suppose I’ll be frantically trying to persuade someone anyone that they should hire me. If they happen to have some vague connection to the arts or publishing sectors, or the job involves Content Writing, all the better. If not… well, at least I’ll be earning money so that I can try to be able to afford to do unpaid internships – if I even manage to con any publishing companies into letting me do work experience. There’s a vague plan there but convincing my parents that this plan is thought out and researched is actually providing difficult. I don’t know what else they expected of someone doing an English Literature Masters who has a distinct distaste for “grad schemes” in most forms. I understand that they think that doing an extra year at university and (hopefully) graduating with an MA should open doors but, from what I can see, you have to push those doors open yourself because having a BA is definitely not a huge advantage over competition any more – in fact, it’s the base-line. Is an MA any different? Well, we’ll find out in the months to come I’m sure!

Aside from this I’ll primarily be working on keeping up with blogging – I find I do enjoy writing on here and it might be self-indulgent at times (like this post) but it actually really helps to clarify thinking. On this vein I’ve also taken up journalling, nothing fancy or complicated, it’s mostly pen-on-paper stuff, but Whitney over at WhittyNovels’ video made me see the benefits. But, back to this blog, I have a stack of books just waiting to be read now that I’m done with university, so I anticipate a lot more reading in my future and, hopefully, me improving my written reviews. I really want to be better at that and with engaging with the book blogging community and I think I’ll have more time to do that now without feeling guilty about all the university reading I’m neglecting!

Right now I’m reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, the third book in the Raven Quartet (Cycle?) and I thoroughly enjoy this series, I can’t begin to explain just how much but here’s my reviews for book one and book two. They’re such… peculiar books, but that’s their brilliance. Because if I said it included a magical forest in West Virginia, the ancient Welsh king Owain Glyndŵr, ley lines, a house of psychic women, an orange Camaro, and a fancy boy’s school called Aglionby, it’d sound like an odd mix of elements. It is, but it’s so engaging. I’d highly recommend the series. Someone made this book trailer which is stunning and completely captures the tone of the series so if you like it, you’ll definitely like the books. Also the audiobook of the first book, The Raven Boys, may or  may not have been uploaded to YouTube, I’m just saying.

So, to sum up, I finished university (and I could say more on that but I worry I’ll become ridiculously emotional about leaving academia if I do), hopefully my dissertation will pass (fingers crossed everyone), I’m looking for a job (any job), holidays to look forward to, I’ll be making more regular posts here, I want to read all the books, you should go read The Raven Boys… I think that’s just about everything covered.

Anything else? Well, I feel out of the loop – talk to me, tell me what you’ve been doing this summer, what you’re looking forward to for the rest of the year, what you’re currently reading, anything!

Project Watch More Things

That is not a catchy project title, even if it does what it says on the tin. As far as intriguing and engaging initials go, Project WMT isn’t particularly inspiring either, I really need to take a leaf out of the books of the creators of the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. But for now, it will do (story of my life).

Let me explain where the desire for Project WMT (it’s terrible, don’t repeat it any more) comes from. I am the serial re-watcher, re-reader here, yet again, to complain about this fact and state my intentions to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. I might have accidentally (not at all) clicked Renew on my subscription to Amazon Student which comes with Amazon Prime Video so… that happened. And now, between Netflix and Prime, I have access to quite a few TV shows that I’ve been meaning to watch. However, although I do love me a marathon, I have recently realised that I flop onto the metaphorical ground, wheezing and begging for water, and never get to the finish line. (Not kidding – I still haven’t finished Firefly for god’s sake!) So something needs to be done about that.

Something also needs to be done to kick my film re-watching habits. Now, that’s not to say I’m going to stop re-watching films because a world in which I am not allowed to obsessively re-watch Avengers Assemble, Thor, Shaun of the Dead, Leap Year, and The Proposal is, frankly, not a world I want to live in. What I mean to say is that I hope to add some recent (and absolutely no so recent) releases to that list and actually watch some of the unwatched DVDs that sit on my ever-groaning bookshelf. My plan is small but manageable I think – I shall watch 1 film a week, a new-to-me film, that I will then review, either soon afterwards, or I will jot down comments in order to include it in a monthly wrap-up which should have, obviously, 4 films to discuss. It should be good.

We’re already on the 8th so a week has passed of March and no film to speak of was watched. I think I will allow myself that deviation since, you know, I only just thought about actually putting this general desire to watch more films into some kind of action plan. I haven’t yet decided how the TV show portion of this will work because it has horrible potential to interfere with my academic life even more than it already does. I’ll get back to you on that one, along with a better project title. (Side note: if you have any ideas for creative names for this ‘project’ then please leave them below!)

Disclaimer: I will undoubtedly fail but hey… the best laid schemes of mice and men…

Discussion: The Future

Scary blog title, huh? Scary topic to be honest though so it fits perfectly.

I don’t know what I want to do with my life.

That felt good to admit. I have zero clue what I want to do with my life. I know what in an ideal, ideal world what I would want to do with my life but as we all know that dream of becoming a renowned Shakespeare professor and then moving into a career in theatre in London and then meeting Tom Hiddleston, him falling instantly in love with me and then getting married in a beautiful wedding which my friends and their equally famous significant others enjoys is, well it’s, not even my dream, but Liz’s dream (yeah that still kind of creeps me out a little bit, I don’t need to delusionally dream these things she does it for me).

No, but seriously now, in an ideal world I would have a specific research interest locked down and I would have applied, and been awarded, AHRC funding to finance a pHD at my beloved Lancaster University. But this is the real world and in the real world it is a Monday night, I spent the weekend doing bog all, spent this morning binge-watching Community on Netflix until I went to work for 6 hours and felt like a vaguely useful member of a team (that last bit was nice), then I did laundry and made food and now here I am. If I were passionate about a future pHD would I not be living, breathing, hell also dreaming about, my research interests? I’m not sure, and this uncertainty is what makes me suspect that I actually don’t want to continue in education. Which is ridiculous. It sounds ridiculous to anyone who knows me but it’s beginning to slowly dawn on me that maybe I don’t have what it takes to get to the next step, so to speak. And with the scarcity of teaching positions available at my university (yes I know there are other places but there’s a really lovely Shakespeare programme here okay?), it not only makes it an unlikely next step, it makes it seem nigh on impossible unless you are at the very, very top of your game. And I don’t think I am.

So what does that leave? Well. Teaching. But “those that can’t do teach” hahahaha no, I’ve never believed that, and frankly anyone who does should go take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. I respect teachers, I applaud teachers, I used to want to be one of them. But now I’m not so sure. You see the thing is, you don’t get to pick and choose your classes. You can’t say ‘oh yes I’ll teach English in secondary school, providing my students actually want to pass and give a damn about Macbeth‘, you can’t say that, in an ideal world, yes, in the real world, no. So teaching is out, for the most part.

How about publishing? Publishing is what I want to do, I can feel it. But where are all the publishing jobs? London. There are smaller pockets elsewhere but, primarily, it’s London-based. So that means you need to be able to commute in or afford to live there which um not to both. Internships appear to be pretty much the only way to try shove your foot in that rapidly closing door in the hope of squeezing in, but how do you even get an internship? Who do I have to sacrifice to get one? Seriously, tell me, let me know. And if you could also advise on how on earth I could ever justify, let alone afford to do, unpaid internships in one of the most expensive cities in the world, that would be great. I don’t have contacts. No one I know knows people. (This is the point where my grandma turns round and tells me she knows the head of editorial at Penguin? Ha, I wish.)

Let’s go a bit lower on the ladder of the publishing world – bookselling. I think I’d like to work in a bookshop, I honestly do. After all I love talking books to people, reading books, recommending books, touching books (not in a creepy way I swear), shelving books (I wish I were kidding), so I think I’d be good at it. I think I’m getting better at customer service because to be honest I feel like after having someone burst into tears in front of me and advising them calmly, I could deal with angry or irritated customers. Or, similarly, libraries… I could be a librarian, I would love that, I’m sure.

Yes, I’m floundering a bit now. And I’m whining, needlessly and self-indulgently, but this is how I’m feeling right now. I know most Arts and Social Sciences graduates go through this – especially English students, or so I’m lead to believe – but I’m feeling it particularly tonight and I thought I would take the time to vent via this blog because it helps, weirdly, and maybe venting is one way to then get over it/myself and move onto the part where I try to do something about it. I think the first logical step would be to do everything in my power to get the best grade and final dissertation possible, in which case I should probably (read: definitely) crack a book open. The future can come later, and hopefully it won’t be quite so ominous and suffocating as it feels right now.