Tag: Advice

The Blogger Recognition Award

(I’m certainly a blogger; not sure about being recognised though)

You know those boss battles where you’re down two party members, have run out of PP on your designated healer and your jack-of-all-trades protagonist is suddenly left isolated, their weaknesses exposed and their lack of specialisation hamstringing, as your HP dwindles yet you guard and physically attack for a desperate last few turns; and then you get three critical hits in a row out of nowhere, find a perfect recovery item in the lining of your knapsack to revive your heavy-hitting mage, and suddenly you’re launching fireballs like a pyromaniac on speed as the battle music picks up at an eerily appropriate time? Well, I had the blogging equivalent today; I couldn’t think of an idea for a post, only to stumble into the welcoming awarding arms of this cleverly-named blogger.

With that in mind, let’s get on with the award, shall we?

Select fifteen other people or blogs to give the award to

Fifteen!? Alright then.

  1. Dan Marino
  2. Littlekuriboh
  3. Joseph Stalin
  4. Noodle from Gorrilaz
  5. Egil Skallagrimsson
  6. NicePeter
  7. Gandhi
  8. God, as portrayed in Milton’s Paradise Lost
  9. Amen from Lordi
  10. Rick Astley
  11. Anton LaVey
  12. Nona from the awesome Bowling For Soup song
  13. King K. Rool
  14. Duck Dodgers
  15. Your mum

Write a post to show off your award

Nah, I’ll get to it next week.

Give a brief story of how your blog started

I’d been interested in writing since I was literate – seriously, my shed at home is 90% full of old exercise books I scrawled worlds and little stories into – and wanted to pursue writing as a career from when I was about fifteen or so. When I was seventeen, having written nothing but school essays, I decided to broaden my range of writing, and start writing things regularly that I liked. On the 5th of October 2013, I set up a WordPress account, on the two conditions that I’d write whatever I felt like, and would post every day, exams, hospitalisations and fatigue providing. I’m still here two years later, and while this blog isn’t my most important creative outlet any more, it’s been the springboard for almost all of my larger projects, and remains one of the closest projects to my heart.

Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers

Write for your ideal audience. Obviously, hearing people disagree with and suggest improvements to your work is a vital part of writing – and being creative in general – but it can’t all be criticism, criticism, criticism. Most of the ‘writing’ process consists of being bogged down on a miserable afternoon in February bashing your head against a laptop as rain clangs with a discordant crackle outside your window, and you feel like shit. Having a perfect reader, one who gets your references, likes your style of writing, and finds you the greatest of god’s creative gifts, really helps get over that hump.

Also, share your crap all over social media. You’ll feel like The Person Who’s Whoring Their Inane Shite Over Facebook for a bit, and this is certainly a part of your identity you’ll have to get used to, but presenting things for people to read, and broadening your pool of potential readers, is never a bad thing. Don’t headhunt people, asking them specifically if they’ve read your stuff, but remind people that you’re still artistically relevant, which is a big challenge for even ‘successful’ creators; look at Game of Thrones, which is struggling to still be entertaining and shocking five years into its run. This year, around 1/5 of all my views have come from my mates clicking on the links I post on Facebook every day.

Thank whoever nominated you and put a link to their blog

Thx m8 (y)

Attach the award to the post

‘Attach’? What is this, an email?

Night-Walking Pro Tips!

(the not-very-long awaited!)

As someone who bumbles around London well after the sun has pissed off to the safety of its flat, presumably up near the Waitrose on Holloway Road because the sun can’t really afford a more central property but hails from the sort of family where shopping at Waitrose is considered the norm, I’m quite good at not being murdered while doing it. So I’d like to give you some advice on walking in cities at night, advice that is to be taken with a pinch of salt, but may actually be useful. Blimey, I’m doing proper advice now.

1) Use headphones to your advantage

If you’re nervous about walking around, don’t wear over-ear headphones, the big clunky ones that cover your whole ears and can’t be worn under a hood. This flags up to potential murderers that you’re likely to be deprived of a sense (sound, which is critical for locating and assessing threats outside of your field of vision), and also affluent enough to afford a stupidly overpriced set of Beats. Conversely, you could use them as a kind of creepy bastard-radar, muting your music to give the impression of idiocy and vulnerability, whereas in reality you’re primed to leg it if that guy who looks like he’s been tailing you for a block makes a move. Although the latter use is generally for ballsy motherfrakkers, so I’d not encourage it.

2) Stick to main roads

This sounds obvious, but light tends to be safer than darkness, and main roads are generally more secure than even cute little residential areas that look harmless during the day. There’s a secondary point here too, that you ought to be confident wherever you walk: attackers tend to lurk in shadows, and so you sticking to them may make yourself vulnerable and make it difficult for a friendly passerby to see you’re in trouble, as opposed to unseen and safe; if you’re stomping up Camden Road in Doc Martens, people are more likely to think you know what you’re doing with yourself, and may avoid you.

3) Dress like a peasant

This may sound like a bit of a contradiction at first – how can I be confident and self-assured if I’m not wearing my favourite jacket?! – but it makes sense; your favourite jacket, while empowering, is encrusted with gold and woven with unicorn pubes, and is a beacon of foolish wealth much like an expensive set of headphones. Generally, dark, baggy attire will help create an aura of ‘I’m angry, young and poor, don’t piss me off’-edness and can disguise your frame if you’re not a particularly well-built individual. Also, this isn’t to moronically de-gender your outfits – everyone knows that wearing a dress doesn’t actually make a person more likely to encounter trouble – as the emphasis is on appearing nondescript and independent, rather than masculine or feminine.

4) Know where you’re going

Getting lost and going for a wander can be marvellous, especially in a fun place and/or with fun people. Just don’t do it at night. I like to march up a main road, then straight back down it again, ensuring I make note or tell others of where I’m heading.

5) Bring a friend

This is the biggest one, and rather covers all the other tips by itself: if you’re with someone, headphones are a non-factor as you’re chatting; you don’t need to make an effort to appear confident as two people have inherently more presence than one; a bodyguard or police-caller is infinitely more effective as a deterrent than a loose hoodie; and you can make even the most tedious of one-way walks amusing with a buddy. Plus, you get to do the whole socialising thing, which is nice, and it’s a decent form of exercise.

Or, you can stay in 24/7 and slowly grow into a lethargic Mario Kart-playing blob. I can attest to the crapness of this latter idea.

How To Not Be Accidentally Homophobic

(I was gonna make this a Pro Tips post, but couldn’t think of five things to put in separate headings…)

As someone living in not-Uganda, I experience the privilege of being able to coexist with queer people on a daily basis, without fear of having their, or indeed my, head kicked in at a moment’s notice. And with this privilege, I’ve seen a lot of well-meaning straight people make rather rude and insensitive remarks about queer people and their sexuality, through a combination of not appreciating the importance of subtle differences in vocabulary, and unintentional ignorance. Obviously, I can’t fix all the accidental homophobia in the world with this blog post, because it’s a problem way broader than this blog will ever reach and there’s no way a 700-word post can cover the sexualities of seven billion people, but I’m going to outline some ways of conducting yourself so as to minimise the chances of you being a bit of an arse.

Sexuality is complicated. Homosexuality and heterosexuality are not binary options, propped up by the elusive ‘bisexuality’ that only exists for indecisive losers and that one female friend you have that conveniently allows you to ask her for a three-way with you and your girlfriend! A more accurate means of categorising sexuality is the Kinsey Scale, that assigns numbers from nought to six to various sexual preferences, and caters for people who are predominantly attracted to one gender, but can still find a few people of the other gender attractive. But even this is incomplete; the scale reinforces the idea of gender being binary, and doesn’t even touch upon transgender sexuality. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore sexuality altogether, because it’s full of difficult language that’s a bitch to learn, but that we should engage with people complexly, and see them as people with a sexuality, rather than a person with that sexuality.

Sexuality is fluid. I only used to wear football shirts. Now, I wear football shirts alongside t-shirts with band names and internet references on them. This is an example of a thing that changes, much like sexuality. (I’m not going to answer the ‘is homosexuality a choice’ thing here, because it’s stupidly complicated and its existence reinforces a heteronormative culture in which alternative sexualities must be justified and scientifically codified, instead of celebrated for the diversity of identity that they are) Just because I like men now doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll like them next year; just because I have a girlfriend doesn’t mean I’m necessarily straight. Just as you can’t assume that gay people like x, you can’t assume that one’s sexual preferences are fixed. So don’t make a big deal of my sexuality if I dump a girlfriend for a boyfriend; just focus on the fact that I’m probably a whore.

Sexuality is individual. This is maybe the biggest one, and deals with the idea of a ‘homosexual identity’. Just as some people choose to engage with gender or ethnic identities (a woman may choose to wear makeup because of society’s association between it, and a feminine identity), others may not (a woman, equally comfortable in her gender, may not wear makeup because its expensive and is a faff to put on). Equally, some queer people will dance on the podiums of G-A-Y late waving a rainbow flag, and others will facepalm in the corner in a dignified manner, dreading the drunken, stumbling, sing-a-long that will inevitably take the place of the walk home. One isn’t ‘more gay’ than the other, and one isn’t more comfortable in their sexuality than the other; they are just choosing to publicise those sexual identities to different extents.

Obviously this isn’t a universal guide, but keeping in mind those three traits of sexuality – its complexity, fluidity and individuality – will probably help you avoid a lot of awkward conversations with people on a topic you’re hopelessly and self-consciously ignorant about. Their sexuality is their business; don’t assume you can gauge their interests from it, don’t impose a single sexual identity onto each individual you meet, and don’t make everything worse by putting people into neat, rainbow-ribboned boxes, because you, as a straight person, are in no position to do so.

PS I’d still consider myself upsetting ignorant on this whole topic, because I’m about as sexually active as a vasectomised giant panda; feel free to call me out on any ignorance, wrong approaches, or, ironically, accidental bouts of homophobia.

*offers sympathy pointlessly*

(I think that’s the first title to open without a capital letter, and the first to include an asterisk – yup, this blog has degenerated into me rewarding myself for quirks of grammar and punctuation)

There are many things I can’t do: I can’t tell you the difference between the ventricles of the heart beyond that there are two of them, I can’t saw a plank of wood in half and refashion it into something else, and I can’t for the life of me 100% the 2010 racing game Split/Second: Velocity – there’s always that one time trial I can never get better than second place on. But these are rather specific skills, that I don’t hone on a daily basis, so I’m not too upset at my inability to do woodwork; conversely, I interact with other human beings on a daily basis, so expect myself to be pretty competent, even comfortable, at the whole ‘being sociable’ thing. It’s then a bit of a shitter when I can’t offer meaningful support or advice to people.

If friends are bogged down by their degree, James ‘I have seven contact hours a week and my first year counts for frak-all’ Casey can’t do much beyond make unhelpful remarks that ‘it’ll be over soon’, or patronising ‘I’m sure that’s hard for you’ pieces of garbage; even reposting fantastic pop music-Mario mashups like this one on Facebook isn’t particularly helpful, because when you’re spending 34 hours a day at uni, there’s not much time to listen to such brilliant things.

I’m also aware of the danger of bitching too much about this, because this turns the problems suffered by someone else – too much work, a quarter-life crisis, etc. – into problems that I have to deal with, namely feelings of social helplessness and personal redundancy. And this kinda discredits the original sufferers and their problems, in favour of what is ultimately the very First World Problemy ‘my life is so hard I can’t find the right Moonpig card to cheer my mate up’.

So do I make a big deal of this, and show or tell people that I are about them even if I can’t help, which emphasises my voyeuristic suffering instead of their actual suffering, or do I just ignore it and be the stoic prick I’ve usually resembled for the last eighteen and a half years? And should I be having this discussion at all, when these aren’t my problems, and I’m kinda sticking my nose where it oughtn’t be stuck in the first place, attempting to make a problem that doesn’t concern me squarely and primarily about me?

I don’t know, dude – life’d be simple if it weren’t so full of people. But even if I don’t know how to treat those people, life would totally suck without them.

Daily Blogging Pro Tips!

(disclaimer – quality of blogging may vary)

This is my 354th post on this blog, in the 430 days since I started it (and average of 0.82 posts per day, for those of you keeping score) so I think I’m fairly proficient in not only writing every day by this point, but by writing every day for a prolonged period of time, not just powerblogging through individual weeks at a time. So for those of you looking to write more regularly, here are some tips from a bloke with no real expertise on the subject, but an overexaggerated idea of the significance of his 250-odd followers.

1) Have a reason

You need a reason to do anything, big or small, but being generically ‘creative’ every day is bloody hard work – there’s a reason we only get an essay every other week here at UCL – so you need a defined, important reason to stick at it when you’re 84 days into a streak and your last five posts have all been on the surprisingly (and depressingly) intricate details of the socks you decided to put on that morning.

For me, it’s purely artistic, the idea that if I write in a particular style (cynical and comedic) for a particular audience (literally anyone) I’ll be able to write in those ways without too much thought behind it, so I can focus on the content of individual pieces, rather than faffing about with word choices and paragraph structure, because that stuff’s already in the back of my mind. For you it might be monetary, that your blog is a key source of income, and more posts mean more cash, which is in no way a superficial thing if you’re still enjoying the writing; for others it may be competitive, that you just want to rack up more posts than me in a year, in which case I will gladly accept your challenge of pumping out 365 URLs of drivel in as many days. And I will win.

2) Don’t ‘make time’

A piece of advice for anything creative that I see floated around on the vast, well-meaning but ultimately bullshit-filled oceans of the Internet, is that you simply need to set aside 30 minutes a day to be creative, and your ideas will flow. Yeah, no.

That model suggests that ‘being creative’ is in some way intrinsically different to the rest of your life, that you can go through 99% of your day without being a writer, then snap into it for half an hour at a time, a model that is divisive in its ideas and problematic in its realisation – if you’re not motivated during that specific half-hour, looks like you’re back to being an illiterate shit again today. My egocentric blog theme – I write about me basically all the time – isn’t an ego trip, therefore, but helps unite my blogging life with the rest of it; I write about events I go to, people I meet, and most of the opinionated pieces stem from real-life events that I make a note of on my phone as they’re happening, for me to go home and type up into prose later. So don’t set time aside to make art, live life as if it’d all make a great painting or poem or whatever.

3) Tell everyone

In the last year alone, I’ve told my teachers, friends, family members, potential employers, local newspapers, arch enemies and Cambridge University about this blog, through a combination of word of mouth, gratitude for reading my blog of their own accord, extra-curricular activities chucked onto CVs, and indignant closing statements in debates I lose that ‘I’ll be blogging about this later!’

Again, this isn’t an ego thing, nor is it an attempt to get more views (okay the posting every piece to Facebook on a daily basis might just be for views, but that’s a big part of my audience for which I’m very grateful for!), but I’ve found that telling people you do a thing is a great motivator for doing that thing; it’s hard to put ‘I write 700 words on a blog every day’ on a Cambridge admissions piece and then not write the best streak of 700-word posts you’ve ever written in the following week.

4) You’ll suck, but that’s the point

This point is an extension of the ‘quality versus quantity’ argument that every less-than-overly-supportive friend lobs at me when I tell them the ridiculousness of the whole daily blogging thing: essentially, your daily creations, be they a series of blog posts, paintings, short films if you’re really on the ball, are not and will never be your best work. I don’t intend to publish all 350-whatever of these posts in an anthology one day and wait for book agents and/or whores to throw their bodies at me and demand I give them more until they’re totally full of what I have to offer; when I’m writing for a purpose, like an essay, or an article to be published, I spend whole days on the damn pieces – I’ve put over a week into all bar one of my essays this term and my latest submission to Savage, UCL’s arts magazine, has involved two rewrites. Two!

If you want to be bullshitty about it, imagine your creative life like a watch; your daily-updating side project is the nuts and bolts behind the face whose existence helps the face operate smoothly and elegantly, while the face itself is the polished cover you put on the rambling mass of gears beneath it, one with a defined purpose, a specific agenda to get across, a target audience to attract or whatever. And the more gears you have, the greater variety of faces you can easily slot on top of them to vary those goals and audiences I mentioned, which is precisely why I started posting poetry on this blog. So don’t worry that the gears are unpolished or a bit misshapen, that’s not their point.

5) Make friends doing it!

This last one applies to anything creative, but especially the daily creative scene. I’ve met people I consider to be friends here on WordPress; they live in Canada, Australia, Colombia (for some reason) and the south coast of England among other places, so we’ll probably never meet unless I make a crap-ton of money to pay for travel or decide to paddle to different continents in a canoe, but I enjoy talking to them at length, both about specific posts and other things in our lives, to the point where the comments section resembles a Facebook chat more than anything else.

And it’s a big motivation for me to write for their sake; I know they don’t read all my posts, and by no means do I expect them to, but I find that ‘being creative’ is often a cold and distant business, where you can feel like you’re pumping novels and drawings out into the ether of the Internet, never to be appreciated by anyone, and rendering the whole exercise pointless. But I have a gaggle of people on this site who have humanised the whole experience for me, making any failures on my part seem more real, as actual people are involved – so if I claim to write daily, I feel like I’ve lied to or let down actual friends when I don’t, and making yourself work while on the brink of social depression like that is a great way to be creative every day.

If it weren’t for the rigidity of this format I like so much, I’d make the social depression idea into its own point.

Left-Handed Living Pro Tips!

(or ‘right-handed living’ if you happen to be, y’know, already left-handed)

Having buggered my right wrist through some awful event (probably masturbating too furiously or something else classy like that), I’ve had to use my left hand for the majority of my tasks over the last few days, and Jaime Lannister’s sentiment – that all one’s instincts are wrong with the other hand – have never been more painfully true; so here are some bits of advice if you need to use your weaker hand for a few days.

1) Don’t write in sentences

I’m referring to writing by hand here – typing should be unaffected at best, or slower with one hand at worst – which is a rather unavoidable thing we’ve all got to deal with in our lives, whether it’s lecture notes or making an improv shopping list on the back of your hand. The key thing to remember about writing with your other hand is not the inaccuracy and messiness of this hand, but the slowness – it’ll take like ten times as long to write words as it does with your stronger hand.

So you need to be economical with your words – use shorthand and symbols in place of full words, and if you’re a student, try to obtain copies of texts or handouts in advance of lectures and seminars, so that you can highlight and annotate quotes rather than writing them out on a separate sheet of paper whenever you want to reference them, saving you from having to write unnecessary words.

2) Don’t just swap hands

This is a big one, that I found myself failing to adhere to today; I was grating some cheese (as you do), which usually requires a stationary left hand to hold the grater, and a moving right hand to hold the cheese. I reversed this, keeping my left, cheese-bearing hand still, but moving the right which now held the heavy grater, meaning I had increased the load on my right hand in an effort to reduce it. You must swap actions as well as hands, so it was my left hand that moved, as well as holding the cheese, while the right was stationary.

3) Fist-bumps for the win!

Obviously handshakes are out of the question if you’re right-handed, because it’s your right hand that’s been buggered; but this gives you a great excuse to experiment with alternative hand-based greetings (because they’re a thing)!

Look for hi-fives, fist-bumps, even unorthodox ones like headbutts if you’re feeling particularly dramatic. You might find a style of greeting that you prefer to the humble handshake, and if you’re meeting someone for the first time you’re more likely to leave an impression on them if you offer them a fist instead of a hand.

4) Try not to go shopping

You’ll either buy enough things that require multiple bags, forcing you to carry some in your injured hand and hurt it further, or carry them all in the good hand which will probably frak that one up too; and even if you only buy one bag’s worth of stuff, you’ll still have to faff about with your keys once you get home, which requires more usage of the bad hand.

5) Make a big deal of it to everyone

Let’s face it, unless your hand has been separated from your arm, you’re really not doing too badly; you could probably write with that ‘bad’ hand if you needed to. So if you tell everyone about your injured hand, and wear a cool-looking bandage around your wrist for five consecutive days, long after any placebo effects have worn off, you’ll be more motivated to actually use your weaker hand, which is good practice for if you do ever actually lose the stronger one.

Moshing Pro Tips!

(I can’t feel my legs today. AND THAT’S A GOOD THING)

Yesterday I saw Rise Against at the Brixton Academy, exactly three years and a day since I last saw them at the Brixton Academy, and now having filled both the roles of petrified scrawny fifteen year old in over their head, and enthusiastic eighteen year old in over their head but now with moshing, I feel in a position to give you folks advice on how to enjoy what actually amounts to little more than an eardrum-splitting clothed orgy, and how to not be hospitalised in the process.

1) Everyone is fair game

And by ‘everyone’ I mean ‘everyone around the mosh pit’. Generally, individual circles will develop in the crowd, within which the moshing occurs, and outside of these circles there are various concentric circles of people, starting with those about to mosh closest to the pits, and finishing with the significant others / parents dragged along to the gig at the very back. So don’t worry about bumping into people that might not want to be bumped into, anyone within five metres of a mosh pit, even if they’re not themselves flailing their arms around that that precise second, is probably up for it.

2) Be aggressive

Obviously, verbal communication is impossible when authority-smashing punk is being played right next to you, so you’ll have to shove people around to interact with them: if someone’s standing on your foot, give them a nudge; if you want to be crowd-surfed to the front to take a break, elbow someone and point upwards. Remember that they’ve chosen to be in a writhing mass of angry young bodies, so your elbowing and prodding won’t offend them; the usual conventions of society kinda go out the window in mosh pits.

3) Be up for things

Leading on from that, mosh pits provide a rather unique set of social rules and norms that are wonderfully liberating if you get over the first awkward step of jumping into a pit for the first time. Last night, a woman I didn’t know came up to me, gave me a hug, put me in a headlock, said something unintelligible and buggered off, and I never saw her again; and I was totally fine with all this because mosh pits are weird and unrestrained and fun like that, and I’d encourage you to be similarly relaxed.

Obviously don’t start making out with people you don’t know or anything too familiar, but I’d say putting your arm around a stranger for an acoustic song or leaning on them for a breather between songs is perfectly alright. But like all social situations, it’s as much about responding to the situation as it is learning the rules of it in advance, so it make take a gig or two for you to understand what’s cool.

4) Keep your arms up

Now we get into the technical aspects of moshing, which can be scary if you’re small or puny (and if you’re reading a post about how to mosh you’re probably at least one of those things – but it’s cool, I’m both). A good starting point is to keep your arms up, with your hands at head-height, so anyone crashing into you hits your arms, and not your chest, and so you won’t get winded, which can be dangerous in a mosh pit where there’s not a lot of space to go and have a sit down and catch your breath for five minutes.

Similarly, when jumping into other people, lead with your arms but not your elbows, so that your soft, fleshy upper arms and thudding painlessly into their soft, fleshy upper arms, and you’re not digging into them with pointy elbows, or exposing your ribs unnecessarily. This will get tiring, and your chest muscles will ache like a bitch the next day, but it’s worth it – chest and back injuries are much worse.

5) You’re going to lose a shoe, so get over it

I lost my right shoe in the second song last night, so spent the next hour and a half dancing with one socked foot. Honestly, it wasn’t so bad; keep an eye out for glass bottles if the lights are bright enough to see the floor, and try not to jump off one shoe-wearing foot for the rest of the show, because you’ll tire that leg out, and your, inevitably raised, knee on your other leg is both exposed to other people’s dancing, and is likely to be at the perfect height to catch someone square in the chest by accident.

If you lose a shoe, forget it, it’s gone; it’s not worth missing out on the band you’re paying to see by scrabbling around on the floor looking for it, and you’ll probably be trampled a bit. Any good venue will have a lost property section, which is where I found my missing shoe, and any good band will have awesome enough fans to hold up any wayward shoes they find, so if you lose yours, keep an eye above the pits to see if its being paraded in a helpful fashion; just don’t get your hopes up too much, because everyone loses shoes – I had about five false shoe alarms last night, and it was very sad.