Half A Decade

Up until a couple of days ago, I had completely forgotten that August 12, 2017 marks five years of blogging on The Life of a Thinker. Whilst I remember being shocked and annoyed at myself when I realised that there was an upcoming milestone, now I’m unsure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. Good because it is such a big achievement, bad because you should never be so obsessed with statistics and numbers as a blogger.

Gone are the days of my blog logo being a weird rock. The Life of a Thinker has become more professional and I’ve never been happier with the direction in which it’s headed. Photo: Frances Batchelar.

As I write this, I’m inclined to think it’s the former. To say I’ve come a long way since August 2012 would be both blatantly obvious as well as horrendously cliché. Yet, when you consider the fact that a piece on ‘funny pub signs’ was my first proper blog post on this site, you can understand why I’m glad I’m no longer an incompetent and pretentious 15 year old.

I don’t know the exact date I made this decision, but there came a point when I decided to abandon the lifestyle aspects of my blog in favour of a journalistic style of writing. Cue opinion pieces and more reviews and the abandonment of guest blogs. However selfish it may sound, I decided that I wanted all content on my ‘online portfolio’ to be written by me. I took time to change The Life of a Thinker‘s style, which saw me leave the blogging community for a little while. Whether I’m now back as an active member of the community again is a different story for another day.

I’ll be honest: casting my mind back over what has happened blog-wise since August 2016 is hard. It’s only when I quickly search through my archives that I notice that I was Highly Commended in the Midlands Student Media Awards in October 2016 (which doesn’t feel like a year ago – it feels longer). The entry was my blog post on the first series of Channel 4’s Humans – a 1,000 word article which demonstrated the more formal writing style I mentioned previously. It was certainly a benchmark for what followed.

I was still getting advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) of unpublished books from publishers, my Friday Article opinion pieces grew from strength to strength, and I received my first review copy of an upcoming album (that being Frances’ Things I’ve Never Said). More recently, my feature on the Italian singer Ginny Vee saw me adopt a more professional interview style when compared to the Liam Interviews series I had on the blog post many years ago.

It’s these types of improvements which I’ve certainly noticed over the past few months. My music reviews are no longer focussing on the technical aspects of songs, more on the emotional, lyrical elements in a more informal tone. I’m continuing to develop my own voice in my opinion pieces and as for features, I’m looking forward to doing more of them on The Life of a Thinker when I can.

Looking ahead to the future of this blog, I’ve certainly got a strong sense of pride in it. Amazing PR opportunities have come my way through what I share here and occasionally, the odd blog post does really well on social media. After researching and hearing talks about ‘the exposure debate’ and paid freelance work, I’m now more inclined to ask for payment for PR posts on here now, as opposed to a younger version of me who would probably take it just because of the exposure. Now, it depends.

Nevertheless, it’s been half a decade since an excitable teenager created The Life of a Thinker on a beach in Cornwall and I remain thankful to anyone who has stopped by this little corner of the internet during this time. Here’s to the next milestone!

Thoughts on a column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I write regular opinion pieces on Friday called The Friday Article. What started off as a way to talk about myself in the third person became a platform for me to comment on politics, current affairs, deafness and other social issues which interested me. It’s finally become something of which I’m proud, and fits perfectly into this blog’s theme of it being ‘online journalism portfolio’.

Owen Jones is a writer and columnist at The Guardian. Photo: Marc Lozano on Flickr.

However, ideas at the moment have been running low, and as a student journalist, pitching comment and opinion pieces to editors to be published and commissioned is something I haven’t yet considered in depth. A recent talk by columnist Mary Dejevsky at university first got me interested, and so this brings me on the column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones at The Guardian.

With a stuffed rucksack on my back and folder paper ticket in my hand, I approached the newspaper’s headquarters with excitement. I had entered the building on two previous occasions and so the cosy interior – complete with eccentric armchairs – felt all too familiar.

It wasn’t long before we were signed in and offered refreshments ahead of the main event. After the first session, I had the opportunity to meet Owen himself. After introducing myself, he was happy to sign my copies of his books, chat further about his tips for pitching columns, and wish me a belated happy birthday. Thanks, Owen!

After the final two sessions, both my notepad and brain were filled with ideas for comment pieces and pitches. As I write this two days on, I’m working on one particular article to submit to editors in the near future. I went to the event looking for inspiration, thoughts and a greater understanding of this particular writing form, and that’s certainly what I got from the masterclass as I left the building three hours later. Thank you both to The Guardian and Owen for a great event.

It’s also worth mentioning that after an amazing evening at The Guardian, I hopped on the tube to meet-up with my blogger friend Emily, from Emily Underworld. Within Five Guys, we chatted away – albeit briefly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I had to dash to make the long train home. It was wonderful to meet Emily, and I hope to meet her again soon for a proper chat.

In terms of future comment pieces, though, I left the event with some re-energised enthusiasm. As always, whenever I surround myself with fellow writers, the creativity and imagination spreads around. I left York Way with a smile on my face, determined to publish more Friday Articles on this blog, and pitch some ideas to national newspapers, too.

Exciting times lie ahead, I’m sure.

Special Features

On Monday, I published my first feature on my blog. It was about the Italian singer Ginny Vee, and it flexed a different writing muscle I haven’t used on this site before: feature writing.

In the past, the only journalistic pieces I have published on The Life of a Thinker are music reviews and opinion posts. For a long time now, this blog has enabled me to improve my writing when it comes to these two particular types of articles. There’s no denying that running a platform to convey your opinions to the world helps you both personally and professionally.

My blog’s progression into an online journalism portfolio is going slowly, but there’s clear signs of it moving in the right direction. Incredible PR opportunities have come my way, I’ve written for a variety of other blogs and my daily stats have grown since when I first started (20-30 views a day are now 40+ views a day). Abandoning the typical lifestyle topics have clearly done my blog some favours, but this is at the expense of Wednesday and Sunday posts still lacking a particular theme.

This brings me back to features, and an idea I’ve been considering for a while. For me, the best features are ones which shine a light on an individual – one aspect of their personality shining through and being the centrepiece for the article. I’d love to do more of them, but finding the time to arrange interviews and write the feature would probably mean that they won’t be a regular theme on my blog.

Cue an idea I’ve had, which I’d love your thoughts on. The blogging community is large, and there’s no doubt that there’s a long list of potential bloggers to interview for a feature. Therefore, I thought it might be interesting to attempt to write an article on a different blogger every week. The piece will enable us to find out a little bit more about a blogger, they get to introduce their blog to my audience and I get to practice my feature writing.

At the moment, this idea remains unconfirmed, but is something which I am putting out there. If you are interested in possibly doing this, or if you’d like to see these features on my blog, then let me know by leaving a comment below.

A Fictional Reality: Thankful

Channel 4’s Humans left me with a sense of euphoria. Excitement combined with robotic thought processes forced me to sit down by my laptop and convert my opinions into computer code. Ideas were released without restraint and I ended up with three pages of commentary.

It was a chain reaction. A nuclear fission of engagement occurred on my computer screen. An idea on a blog was shared across social media. A thought-provoking programme led to new opinions on a blog post, and now these thoughts travelled all over the country into the minds of others. Then came a new wave of excitement in the form of success. People had enjoyed what I had written. My excitement and enthusiasm were contagious.

An opportunity presents itself. A chance for my work to be recognised at an awards ceremony and read by more people. I fill in the entry form, and click submit…

*

I shuffled uncomfortably at the back of an auditorium, a small programme resting on my lap but keen to fall to the floor at regular intervals. I am underdressed, sporting a smart-casual look when fellow students don suits and dresses. It’s clear that I’m not used to awards ceremonies just yet; it’s my first event in a while, and after browsing the other nominees, I was surprised to have even been on the shortlist.

Never compare yourself to others. It’s a mantra we hear all the time and are told to adopt, but it brewed and fizzled in my mind as I waited for the Blogger/Vlogger category to come next. My mind was an essay. One thousand words flooded the blog post on my website and filled my head as I waited, before it dwindled down to two.

Highly Commended.

*

Now, as the second series of Humans airs on Channel 4 tonight, I always look back on this post with fondness. I remember the Colin Morgan fan accounts who retweeted my post and left kind comments. I was fearful that the fact it spanned three pages and was around 1,000 pages in length had me worried that no one would read all of it. Yet, the post was Highly Commended at the Midlands Student Media Awards, it’s the tenth most popular post on my blog of all-time, and over 360 people have read some or all of the article.

It’s inspired me to not hold back on my enthusiasm and talking about big topics. I like to think it’s influenced my writing when it comes my Friday Articles too.

You can read the post in question here, and you can expect me to write a follow-up post or review once the series has finished.

I decided to try something different for this post and write a story from my life in a fictional narrative style. I’m not too sure if I’m a fan of this just yet, but if you liked it, let me know in the comments below.

Liam

I made a mistake…

A while ago, I said that I wanted to change my schedule around a little bit. I wanted to move my Musical Discovery reviews to Fridays (as this is the day most new music is released) and push back The Friday Article to Sunday. I gave this new schedule idea a trial run last week, and it’s safe to say that I made a mistake.

As you may have seen, I missed a post last Sunday. It was meant to be a political post and a ‘pilot’ of The Sunday Article. In the end, I just didn’t have time, and the confusion that came with mixing around my schedule meant my creativity took a hit.

Granted, whilst there’s a few Sunday politics shows on TV which discuss the latest news over the past week whilst keeping it relevant, I don’t have access to these MPs to continue the conversation further. So, when I considered writing an opinion piece on scrapped A-Levels for last Sunday, it soon felt outdated without a fresh new angle. That being said, I probably will still end up publishing this post on Friday this week.

As for Musical Discovery posts on a Friday, it’s great that it fits with the day that most new music is released, it’s a bit of a rush to formulate an opinion in the morning before the post goes up at 12pm. The Monday slot gives me a weekend for a song to grow on me and for me to gather my thoughts. I like to think that I end up with a better review as a result.

Whilst the new schedule won’t be going ahead, the trial run did give me some ideas as to what I could write about on Wednesday or Sunday.

Since I’m quite protective over my poetry and works of fiction, I’m still not too sure about this, but I’d like to go back to writing regular poems on this blog, along with the occasional short story. In particular, I was thinking of doing posts where I would describe my week in a narrative style you’d hear in a book. I’m thinking about calling the series A Fictional Reality, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen yet. If I do try it out, it should add to the range of writing styles which I showcase on The Life of a Thinker.

What do you think? Should I write more poetry and fiction on this blog? Comment below!

Liam

A Change of Community

I’m an outsider in the blogging community. Aside from being one of the few male bloggers, I made the mistake of deciding to talk about politics (amongst other things) on this site, which many people know as a topic which you shouldn’t really talk about. If that isn’t the reason why my blog isn’t doing too great at the moment, then it’s because we’re all fed up of hearing the aftermath of Brexit, Donald Trump’s controversial rallies, or the ridiculous in-fighting within the Labour Party.

Thankfully, my music posts offer light relief from heavy politics, where I recommend a new song every Monday. However, for a long time I’ve noticed that whilst I enjoy sharing music I love on The Life of a Thinker, I rarely get any comments on these posts. It’s easier to prompt a discussion about Instagram Stories than it is about Sigala’s new single.

The ‘lifestyle blog’ genre is incredibly broad – more than the beauty and fashion blog genres, in fact. With these two categories, whilst the types of posts would be relatively similar (reviews of make-up products, OOTDs and so forth), it’s the writing style of the blogger or their fashion sense which really makes them stand out. Beauty and fashion bloggers stand out through their personalities, but lifestyle bloggers have to have an interesting personality alongside talking about topics which would interest people. What do we mean by a ‘lifestyle blog’? There are no typical blog posts to expect within this blogging genre – it still remains undefined.

It wasn’t long after I started my blog that I was made aware of these Twitter chats for bloggers, and I slowly introduced myself to the community. Since then, I’ve made new blogger friends, met some of them in real life, and have witnessed my fair share of drama.

The drama isn’t why I’m taking a step back, though. Part of my reason is summed up in an old blog post entitled How Twitter both separates and unites the blogging community, but in short, I feel as though the type of community I want to involve myself in is one which revolves around my blog, rather than the wider ‘blogosphere’.

Over the past few weeks, my follow count has been increasing at a steady pace, which is exciting. As I near 1,000 combined WordPress followers and e-mail subscribers, I’ve realised that just letting people stumble upon my blog – alongside scheduling tweets – is the best way for it to grow at the moment. Of course, many Twitter chats are a great way to boost your readership and to avoid that may seem rather surprising. However, I suppose it’s a mixture of not having the time to join in as much at the moment, combined with a dislike towards where the community is at the moment.

For now, I’m going to be focussing on the community which surrounds my blog, in the hope that this will lead to a small group of readers interacting with my posts on a regular basis and sharing the content with their friends. It’s a slow method of growing your blog, however at the moment, I’m not a fan of the alternative.

I may be leaving the blogging community for a while, but you know where to find me.

Liam

Meeting PromptsbyDee

It started on Twitter, where I saw a post from Dee over at PromptsByDee about a Harry Potter-themed day out in London on the Thursday of this week. I love meeting blogger friends in real life and Dee is someone who I’ve wanted to meet for a while now, so I said I would tag along.


We agreed to meet at Platform 9 3/4 (of course) on a day when wizards and witches get the 11am train to Hogwarts. Therefore, the queue to have your photo taken in front of the Platform 9 3/4 wall was understandably long.


What was also interesting was the giant cards of the Hogwarts logo, the Hogwarts Express etc. that had been put up in Kings Cross for people to colour in. It was a promotion for the new Harry Potter colouring in book. I had to have a go and include a shameless bit of self-promotion too.

After a brief look around the Harry Potter shop, we took the tube to go and see the Palace Theatre (where The Cursed Child is showing) and visit Forbidden Planet.

I’m not a fan of comic books, yet I was wrong to assume that was all that was inside the Forbidden Planet megastore. There was a section dedicated to Sherlock products (mostly the odd poster, Pop Vinyls and figurines, which aren’t really my thing) and downstairs there was a whole section dedicated to books based on TV programmes. It was great to see TomSka’s Art is Dead on sale along with comic books about Watchmen, Batman and Deadpool. Whilst I’ll probably never read a comic or graphic novel, a lot of TV programmes or films I watch are based upon one of the two. For example, I love The Walking Dead (based on Robert Kirkman’s comics), Batman and Deadpool (which are of course based on the characters from DC Comics and Marvel respectively).

After that, we then went back to the train station and made our separate ways. I just want to say another big thank you to Dee for letting me wander around London with her for the day. It was great to finally meet you. As you could probably tell by what we got up to, Dee runs a fandom blog dedicated to Harry Potter, Sherlock and more. If that sounds like your cup of tea, why not say hello? Tell Dee that Liam sent you!

Aside from what happened on Thursday, I should also mention briefly that work on my novel has resumed. Although the progress is slow, I’m definitely excited about getting back into writing and I can’t wait to tell the story I’ve been wanting to tell for a long time. As always, I shall keep you posted.

How was your week? Have you ever visited Forbidden Planet or Platform 9 3/4? Have you met a fellow blogger in real life before? Comment below!

Liam