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How to Write More and Enjoy It

For those that don’t know, November is NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month). Thousands of people will be picking up their pens to write that book they have been planning for years. Maybe you are thinking about starting that first novel or perhaps just want to write more words, more often for your blog or university/school work. This post will breakdown a few tips and tricks that I have learnt whilst doing my PhD.

For the past two years, I have been writing about 10,000 words every six to eight weeks for my PhD supervisions. It can be pretty intense and when I had just started the PhD, I was often rushing to get things done, staying up late, and getting up far too early to meet deadlines. Over time, I have got better at writing by simply learning what makes my writing sessions more productive and less stressful. For more on productivity, check out this post.

Academic Year and You

1. Know what you want to write

I’m sure everyone’s English teacher at school advised you to plan your essay before you start. It might be boring advice, but it is excellent advice. If you don’t know what you want to talk about or the angle that you plan to take with your blog post/essay/whatever, it is going to be much much harder to write. Personally, I find that my ideas develop as I write – it is part of my process – so I’m not suggesting that you should have every sentence thought out. Just take some time to think ahead and you’ll save yourself hours in the long run.

2. Just write something, anything!

When you are trying to write, few things are more terrifying than the blank page. Although I think planning can really help, at some point you have to start writing so just go for it. Don’t overthink things and just get some words out! We are all guilty of trying to craft the perfect sentence or paragraph, of agonising over every word, of deleting and rewriting over and over again. I try not to re-read whilst I’m writing; instead, I just get as many words out as I can and then edit later. For the first draft, any words are better than no words.

3. Set (sensible) goals

When I have a deadline approaching, everything (even cleaning the bathroom or taking out the bins) seems more appealing than writing. I have to persuade myself to write, and I do this by setting myself a goal for the day. It is important to make the goal acheivable but not super easy: I tend to go for 500 words as I can usually manage it even when inspiration isn’t flowing. Then tell someone your goal, like a friend, colleague, or partner. You’ll then have someone to hold you accountable and to celebrate with! The prospect of writing seems so much less daunting when you know exactly what you want to acheive that day.

For some people writing comes naturally but for others (myself included!), it can take time to learn what makes you a more productive and happier writer. These three tips have improved how I work and made writing a much more pleasent process.

Happy writing!

Library shot PhD

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Unpopular Book Opinions

I just logged back onto my Lisabeth Westwood Twitter account for the first time in a year! I had a few notifications from people who might not have realised that my blog was on a hiatus. Back in January, I was tagged for this post by Lydia Wilkins and actually wanted to do the tag – even if it was 10 months late!!

What is a popular book or series that you didn’t like? 

The Harry Potter series. I’m 27 so was the perfect age for the Harry Potter series when it came out in 1997 and I did read – and enjoy – the first four books. My favourite was the Prisoner of Azkaban. But the fifth one was just so BORING. I got the book for my 13th birthday and couldn’t get past the first 100 pages. I had completely stopped caring about Harry – honestly, I found him pretty irritating. I just didn’t really get the hype.

A book or series that you love but everyone seems to hate?

I wouldn’t say people hate her work but people make fun of me for reading Penny Vincenzi novels. She writes these huge novels following the lives of different women. They are my perfect holiday read – especially Forbidden Places, which is set in World War II and I must have read it over ten times. Such a guilty pleasure.

A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did not want them to end up with, or an OTP you didn’t like?

Hmmmmm. The one that came straight to mind was Bella and Edward from the Twilight series. I was talking about this last night actually! Maybe it was just that the character development wasn’t particularly strong but the fascination with Edward never made sense to me.

A popular genre you hardly reach for?

Crime? I did like the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo triology as I though Lisbeth Salander was a really interesting character (great name too!). Other than that, I have zero interest in reading about murders and dectectives.

A popular or beloved character that you did not like?

The Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes.

A popular book trope that you are tired of seeing?

The whole girl meets bad boy and falls in love but gets hurt. Then she realises that her one true love is her sweet, shy best guy friend (who has – of course – been secretly in love with her since they met).

A popular series that you have no interest in reading?

Game of Thrones. I tried and failed to read the first one. I feel the same about the TV series too – there’s too much drama. It also gives out the wrong impression about the Middle Ages: it wasn’t an inherently violent period.

What film did you prefer to the book?

Trainspotting! I read the book when I was seventeen and travelling to a university interview. Irvine Welsh is a great writer and I’ve got a lot of his books but the Danny Boyle film is so so good. Ewen McGregor plays Renton perfectly and the soundtrack is excellent.

I’m back…sort of

When I started this blog over  eighteen months ago I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I tried it for about six months before deciding to put the blog on a semi-permanent hiatus. Honestly, I wasn’t really enjoying it.

There were many reasons why I wasn’t loving the process. The main one was that I wasn’t creating the content that I really wanted to put out. There was a good argument for this – no one else would probably be interested. I am a PhD student studying medieval literature but I’m also mildly into make-up, skincare, and watch more YouTube videos than is probably sensible. My interests are varied and my lifestyle is very different from most. I’m not quite a student and not quite a researcher. I have very little money, lots of flexibility, and almost no future job stability. My concerns about the academic job market, the demands of academia and research, and the day-to-day nonsense of trying to write a thesis don’t make for a very fun blog.

So when I was putting out my first 30 blog posts – I felt like I had to conform to an existing standard. There were so many other bloggers talking about how to run a sucessful blog, how to get and maintain followers and readers, how to do the perfect flatlay. I didn’t feel like I, my interests, and asethetics fit in. I still have no desire to own anything with marble effect or  a blush pink fluffy cushion. Because of all this, I decided to stop – but now I’m back.

I’m not expecting my blog posts to get many views and I’m not planning on pushing my blog on social media. Rather I’m going to use this platform for me. To write about things that interest and are important to me. For the most part, I just want to practice my writing. I’m in the third year of my PhD now and, over the next eighteen months, I’m going to be writing 100,000 words. I need to get used to sitting down and writing.

I’m not going to committ to a certain number of posts per week – that seems like setting myself up for failure – but I’m going to try put something up fairly regularly. Let’s see how this goes….

Academic Year and You

Hiatus

I have not been at all active on here or on Twitter for the past month and I think it is likely to stay this way. I have decided to have a semi-permanent hiatus on blogging. I enjoyed elements of blogging but I have to concentrate on my PhD. I’m leaving the door open to start blogging again in the future but this looks unlikely to happen any time soon.

Thanks to everyone who has supported my blog, spoke to me on Twitter, and met me in real life!

What I think about blogging

It is a Sunday evening. I’ve had my dinner, I’ve got a glass of red, and I’m thinking about blogging.

I started blogging in May as I was looking for a hobby that didn’t require any money and that I could do from the comfort of my living room. But, to be honest, I haven’t enjoyed it as much as I thought I would.

It goes through peaks and troughs: sometimes I am at every Twitter chat in existence and I read lots of other blogs but I’m currently in a bit of a slump. I’m feeling similar with YouTube – I subscribe to a lot of channels and I used to really love catching up with videos but, more and more, I’m finding myself to be frustrated or bored with the content. This is partly because I have a very strict budget so can’t buy many clothes or new beauty items so huge hauls aren’t interesting to me and I end up thinking ‘Who needs this much stuff?!‘.

With my own blog, well I don’t think I have much to say. I never found ‘my niche’. I’d really like to write more about my PhD and life as a researcher but I know that isn’t interesting to everyone. Plus readers who are within the academy tend to want to put a blog to a name and I use a pseudonym. So I feel a bit lost and it is making me not want to write.

Going to the Bloggers Blog Awards was such a good experience. I loved meeting other bloggers and everyone was so friendly, yet it didn’t leave me inspired, more frustrated with my lack of committment to my blog.

What does this mean for the Lisabeth Westwood blog? I’m not sure yet but I’m not ready to quit. I guess just watch this space.

My Lazy Saturday Photo Diary

I have been a busy bee over the past few weeks! The academic year is well under way and I’m teaching (!) so I’ve been a bit lax on the blogging front. So rather than not posting, I thought I’d do a bit of a photo diary of my Saturday.

9amLisabeth Westwood coffee

My day began, as all my Saturdays do, with a cup of black filter coffee in bed. I like to chill out with a coffee and a book to ease my way into the day.

10amLisabeth Westwood coffee tshirt

I then got up, ready, and dressed. I love this t-shirt, my friend David bought it for me years ago but it does mean that lots of people stare at your chest trying to read it!

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I went for pretty minimal make up. Look at the state of the blusher – I think I’ll have to invest in some new stuff soon!

10.30am

I had decided that I wanted to have a cooking marathon so I settled down with my cookbooks to find some recipes to try. This beef dish looked so great and pretty easy but I ended up being boring and making spaghetti and meatballs instead!

11am

Having seen the state of my make up earlier I decided to treat myself. I headed to Superdrug picking up the MicroEyeliner and a lipstick in 05 from Rimmel – it is a lovely dark pink shade with a hint of shimmer. And I got a translucent powder for £1. Being a PhD student I don’t often get to buy make-up so I got over excited and swatched pretty much every lipstick they had on my hand.

12pm

The recipe I had chosen for lunch came from the Meatless Mondays cookbook which has LOADS of recipe ideas. They tend to be more indulgent side than the Madeline Shaw but I found a recipe for Tuscan bean soup. Doesn’t look very good but it tasted delicious!

1.30pm

Lisabeth Westwood

Then it was Bake Off time. I love it when they do the historical episodes so I chilled out with some cookies and a cuppa. That show is proper comfort watching, it just makes me happy.

2.30pm

Lisabeth Westwood

I got given loads of books when one of my friends left Leeds and they are all easy-going, romance-y type novels. So I picked one of those up and huddled down on my sofa for a good couple of hours reading.

4pm

Lisabeth Westwood work

But then…I had to work 😦

6pm

After I did a couple of hours work , I called the boyfriend and watched 10 Things I Hate About You. The soundtrack to that film is pure 90s perfection and I have a bit of an obsession with Julia Stiles’ films like Save the Last Dance.

My day was not exciting but that is honestly what I do on a weekend by myself. I usually save up all the fun stuff for when my boyfriend is visiting but I do enjoy staying at home reading and making lots of food.

 

My Day at the Bloggers Blog Awards

So my first blogger event was the Bloggers Blog Award on Saturday 1st October!

I was very nervous as I wasn’t going with anybody and I had never met a blogger in real life before but it was SUCH a good day. The awards were organised by Hayley at Tea Party Beauty and she did an amazing job! Everything ran so well and was a lot of fun so props to Hayley!

The day started off in a very relaxed way. I read a book and had a coffee in bed until it was time to get ready. I wore a Zara tartan dress and my favourite black leather boots from Office: it was nice to get dressed up for a change! My weekends tend to be more of stay at home, make loads of food, and watch TV kind of days so I was so excited to be out and about.

The awards took place in Canal Mills in Leeds so it was super convenient for me. I felt a little bit guilty because some people had come from hundreds of miles away and I had just popped in a taxi. The venue was really cool and there was tons of space, and they seem to do lots of different events there so I’ll definitely check it out again.

Lisabeth Westwood bloggers blog awards

When I got there, we had a couple of hours to grab some drinks and mingle. That was the bit I was the most nervous about as I had to just go up and chat to strangers but everyone was so nice! I met loads of amazing bloggers who were so interesting, wrote really cool blogs, and lots of them were there by themselves too so we ended up making little groups. As I write under a pseudonym, it was quite weird to have to introduce myself by my blog and real name! I met lots of really friendly and welcoming people but big thanks to Arash, Amy, and Becky for chatting to me when I was all alone!

The awards themselves were great: well done to all the people who were nominated and those who won! I took the opportunity to shove a cupcake in my face without anyone seeing me – it was lemony and delicious. I managed to not get buttercream on my nose or cake in my hair: winning at life.cupcake-wine

After the awards were over, it was time to do some more chatting and then draw the raffle. I didn’t win anything and there were so many good prizes 😦 I’m so envious of the person that won the Urban Decay lipstick case, I would have never had to buy a lipstick again!

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Not my lucky numbers

The event came to an end and a bunch of us went to the Belgrave Music Hall for burgers and a beer. I had such a great day and evening – it was totally non-scary and I will definitely be heading to some more bloggers events in the future and next year’s awards!