Mid-year recap and plans for the rest

July is very much here and I spent the weekend at Castle Combe race circuit for the RSOC track day with my dad and our friends. It’s been my first proper car day of the year and it was great fun. I passengered all but one session with Dad in the Subaru and had an ace time.

Dad’s new trailer, but hang on a minute – that’s not a GTR inside!

Half of the year is gone already! I’m still enjoying my little job and it’s keeping me out of trouble, though I’ve not had nearly as much time to do my writing or even my blog as I’d have liked. I manage to get up early enough to do maybe an hour before work – or I get up earnestly intending to do an hour before work, but I usually mess around on social media and news sites for about half an hour. As for my blog, it looks like I manage my book review and that’s it!

Things I’ve achieved so far

I’ve finished my third draft of my book! This is the big one, so now it should just be a brutal edit and then I’m hoping to send it out to agents. I’ve started editing the first part and so far have cut a chapter out, which bodes very well as in total I wanted to cut 6 – 8 chapters. Considering once upon a time the story had about seventy chapters and 350,000 words I’m not doing too bad condensing it down.

We’ve got on a bit with the other house. I’ve cleared most moveable stuff away into storage (or the wheelie bin) and so now we’re looking at the big things. Dad pulled a load of the kitchen units out and I had pulled up all the carpet tiles in there so now it’s on to picking out cookers and worktops! The kitchen and bathroom are the two big jobs so once they’re done and the new flooring is down we should be on it. I spent ages weeding the garden and pulling out monstrous dandelions. Like a bad blogger I didn’t take any before or after pictures of the garden. I’m really excited to live in a bigger house and especially one that has such strong family connections.

I’ve kept up with my reading challenge! I’ve managed to read each of my books for the month and some months I’ve read quite a few extra. It’s a great thing to do as I purposefully diversified the books on my list, and this month I’m reading a non-fiction book about the British navy. I’m trying to read all the books I have on my bookshelves before buying any more, as part of both my decluttering and money-saving goals for the year.

I managed to get my hanging baskets done and they look so pretty now that they’re filling out. I really like being out in the garden and really enjoyed making these. I did nurture a dream of making a little business out of it, but the time is passed (as with all such ideas I have). I’m trying in earnest to keep on top of my wild little garden but every time I turn around there are weeds everywhere, and I have terrible problems with bindweed coming from the wilderness next door, strangling my Viburnum, which makes me so mad. I keep nagging my dad to come and cut my hedge because it’s almost as bad as the one next door. Some lovely flowers are coming out though which is lovely to see.

Things to do for the next half of the year

Edit my book – aggressively, but not to the point where I lose sight of what I’m trying to say. Having a little break since finishing the draft has helped, as I’ve managed to – so far – approach the chapters with a slightly more objective view. I struggled with chapter one as I knew that everything my writing group had said about it was right and I was scared to try and remake it in a more effective way, but after a couple of false starts I think we’re there! I want to get on with it a bit quicker. I’m trying to get up at the same time every morning (earlyish) to spend a little bit of time on it each day. It’s silage time too so while Scott is busy on the farm (and I can’t help) I can sit and write, which I will do, without the telly on or anything.

I really want to get back into making things. I’ve not done much baking since I bake a lot at work, but I’ve not done any crafting at all. I have lots of kits – needle felting and cross stitch, including something I’ve been making for my mum for a birthday for yonks now – and I just haven’t got on with them at all. I also wanted to design a series of Christmas cards starring Bilbo (as he looks so very Christmassy) and did a trial run in March/April for Mum’s birthday, making this picture.

So I want to crack on a bit more with that – design my cards, maybe make a picture or two, and try to do some more cross stitch.

Obviously the house is still a big priority. We want to move in while I’m still pulling a decent wage (though I still want to get a job for over winter) so I can build my savings back up, and also so I can afford to buy nice things for the house – not that I feel much like shopping at the moment. I can walk round a shop and see loads of pretty things and yet not feel compelled to buy one! There are bits to do to the garden in the new house and I just need to finish the little bits inside that I can do before we have to get in workmen.

I have loads of clothes I want to sell on eBay too, nice things that I’ve worn once or twice and never got round to again. I also want to go through my CD and DVD collection and take a load to Cex and/or list on eBay. I’m getting fed up of living in a world of clutter, and while a lot of that comes from having too much stuff in too small a place, I still don’t want to just fill the new house up with stuff (which is very easy to do).

Finally, this blog! It needs a good lot of work. I need a new header, loads of photos, and a few more posts. My blog is meant to support my writing, and be the backing for my eventual website. Someday I would like to make a Facebook page plus host a Twitter chat for my writing. I’m really inspired by the Canadian musician Leah, who is one of my favourite artists of all time (and I’m totally not saying that just because she followed me on Insta, such love!!), who doesn’t tour to support her music while she raises her children, and yet is super active on social media and has amassed a great following. I think nowadays it’s so much easier to connect with fans and potential followers, and it’s something I need to be making use of more.

So tell me about your achievements so far, and your mid-year goals!


Two weeks into #my500words, and a missed day

One of my big aims for the year is to nail Draft Three of #MFB and be in a position to maybe tentatively send it off to people who read and make dreams come true. I started #my500words this January, aiming to write 500 words a day for 31 days, and it went really, really well until yesterday, when I wrote nothing. I should have known I was doomed when I tweeted about how well my progress was going! It had snowed a little bit yesterday morning and instead of getting up early and writing my 500 words before breakfast, I was still laid in bed, watching it snow. And I didn’t go up to the farm, but I did a load of washing, swept and mopped the downstairs floors, did a load of ironing and baked some chocolate cupcakes. All non-essential when it comes to being a writer, though when it comes to being a “housewife”, which I think most people view me to be, all required tasks. I am fairly houseproud and every day it horrifies me that my house is such a mess, with muddy floors and a kitchen table with no space to dine off. But it also horrifies me and fills me with that feeling of waste when I don’t do any writing whatsoever.

There’s no excuse for why it didn’t happen. We went to my parents’ in the afternoon to mend the tractor and there was nothing for me to do except sit and get more frustrated. Then after taking the tractor up to the farm we came home, I cooked tea, and after we’d eaten I was tired and we just sat and watched rubbish on TV. Now I wake up this morning feeling like yesterday was a waste of a day! Sure, people say it’s good to have time off, but when my writing is constantly playing out in my head, there’s never time off. I’ll never get anywhere if I keep taking time off.

So it was one day. A blip. Since starting #my500words, I’ve actually completed 5 chapters for #MFB. I’ve written more than two weeks’ worth of 500 words all in all, so that’s a good accomplishment. I’ve cut out a lot of chaff, including a whole chapter’s worth. I’ve streamlined the plot a little, and turned characters and incidents around. Finally, I’m getting excited about it again.

So yeah, I missed one day! Big deal. Get over yourself, self. Today is a new day. I have my writing group today, and then the rest of the day to write, write, write. If I can do 5 chapters every two weeks, in four months I’ll be romping home.

How do you get back on the writing train after a hiccup? I’d love to hear your tips on motivation and how you keep at it!


Celebrating 26 years of my little life

Can you believe I’ll be 26 this weekend? I can’t! It feels like two minutes ago I turned 25. I still feel like I’m a wee little teenager, and judging by the amount of times I get ID’d, I must look it, too! I don’t know whether to be insulted or overjoyed when the cashiers in Morrisons question as to whether I am old enough to purchase a bottle of rose. It seems to be happening less and less, though, which is a little worrying. Either that, or they know me as a regular – still, the worry remains. Continue reading “Celebrating 26 years of my little life”

A New Adventure

This time last year, I had everything all sorted out. I was studying for my MA, which I loved; I had a great job, working in recruitment, for a company I really believed in, which I like to believe I was good at; and I had just been confirmed on a PGCE English course, which had been for the past few years my main goal and the focus of all my energies. I just had to survive the summer, which when you have eight summer schools and two hundred staff, most of whom are at opposite ends of the country, was going to be no mean feat.

This might be a bit of a whingy post, for which I apologise… I also had a massive technological issue last night, and my laptop almost got thrown out of the window. But the gods of the internet were looking nicely upon me, so yay!

I left work in mid-August, leaving me two weeks to write a 20,000 word dissertation for my MA, and I started my PGCE on September 1st. This was the big plan! Everything kicked into high gear, I was dead excited to be studying, even though absolutely everyone else had more experience than me in schools, knew more about curriculum changes, and seemed to be enjoying themselves that little bit more.

I was placed in a decent school, though it lacked a couple of my main stipulations, and was about an hour’s drive away. I didn’t think that was too big a problem: I did use to drive an hour and a half to Hull every day, after all. I had taught EFL in one of our summer schools, and was trained as an English as a Foreign Language teacher. I thought I should be a dead cert with all this – as did everybody else in apparently the whole world (or my little world, anyway). I just had to get through the mountain of assignments and wade through all the politics, and above all, try to keep my head afloat of all the negativity and pessimism that seems to underpin everything in education.

I knew things weren’t right before Christmas: I was ill, and I was tired all the time, and I just didn’t seem to be enjoying it as much as I had thought. Everyone was stressed, but for me, the stress and the pressure was massively outweighing the pros: there seemed to be no pros for me, in fact. The evenings seemed to zoom by and were spent up to my elbows in paperwork, making lesson plans I couldn’t really make much sense of, preparing work that in the end the kids would find any excuse to not do, marking books that the kids wouldn’t even look at. I would wake up in the morning as if I’d not slept a wink. Christmas couldn’t come fast enough.

A general mindset that seems to (disappointingly) cling to every single rung of the education system is this idea of ‘the holidays can’t come fast enough’. It shouldn’t be the case, yet I’m sorry to say that it’s clear that many teachers either come to the profession in the first place or else continue in their work because of these holidays. When I graduated from the University of York, way back when in 2011, the Vice-Chancellor told us that we (as graduates) should go after something we truly believe in, and that if we don’t enjoy it, we shouldn’t do it. I could look around a staff room and see the faces of people who didn’t believe in what they were doing, and unfortunately, I was one of them.

After Christmas I went back to school, and I had no confidence, and no self-belief, but also I had lost the motivation and the passion for the job. And at the end of the day, it is a job: it is something you do for the majority of your waking hours, to earn a wage, in order to live, and to enjoy life. None of this ‘it’s a calling’: for those to whom it is a calling, well good on you, you can enjoy that nice warm fuzzy feeling inside, every time a child stares at you with blank or disinterested eyes, and be glad it’s just the one child, and not a whole classroom. I had left a job I loved, that I was good at, in a lovely environment, and with truly wonderful people, to come and do something that was taking up all my time, fighting against an impossible mountain of not just assignments and paperwork and admin, but also a sickening paralysis that seemed to wash over me the second I turned and faced a classroom of faces. And instead of rousing choruses of “it’ll get better”, instead every teacher I spoke to, either at school or one of my university tutors, would say that it took until their third, fourth, fifth year or more to be comfortable and good at teaching. For me, that just wasn’t good enough.

The second I decided that it wasn’t for me, and it wasn’t just a matter of time before it changed, I felt like a great weight had been lifted. I was never a particularly brave person before, and have always found it easier to avoid problems, as if they might go away. But I also believe very strongly that feeling something is ‘right’ for you is the most important thing in the world.

I left my course in mid-January. I had various meetings and talked at length with everyone around me – my parents, my coursemates, my friends and my tutors – but I had already made my mind up. It was like my dad said: I had to draw a line under it, and I think I had done that, when I was driving to school one morning and could barely see for the tears in my eyes.

It’s been a long time since I’ve not had a period of study to throw myself into. I graduated from York and worked in lots of temporary jobs before finding something that I was good at, by which point I had decided to pursue teaching – for what reason? I can’t even remember why I decided it – I just woke up one morning and thought, you know what? I’ll be a teacher. I don’t think that was really the best mindset to go into such a demanding career.

Now I have time to do the things I really want to do. I can spend a whole Saturday in my greenhouse, without feeling guilty or rushed; I can, as I did this weekend, spend the whole weekend sorting out my blogs, and going through all my photos, without the dread of Monday hanging over me; I can go to the Nurburgring in term time! I feel so much freer for making this decision, and am much happier.

There is a big trend on Facebook and Instagram for these inspirational phrases, and cheesy as they are, I do think they are true. You never know until you try. I don’t regret attempting a PGCE at all: if I hadn’t done it now, I would probably spend the rest of my adult life thinking, “what if?” At least now I know it’s not for me. I don’t think it is ever a bad or cowardly thing to say, “you know what: I don’t like this, and I’m going to get out of this.” I never really imagined myself as a brave person, but this is one decision I am proud I had the courage to take.

I have the utmost respect and awe for my now-ex-coursemates and for those training or already in the profession. Teaching is important, but it is a big, demanding career that you have to be 100% dedicated to. For those of you still in it, I salute you!

I was trying to find a cheesy Pinspirational quote to end this really long post with, but there is cheese, and there’s big stinky Stilton! Never mind, eh.

Go for what you want! 

If that’s stepping off one ladder, don’t worry:

You can take the next step on the right one!

There, that was cheesy!