Upping my photography game

Until now, I’ve been thanking my lucky stars that Flickr’s Creative Commons and fair use laws exist. Whenever I have an album to review or political opinion piece to write, I browse the site for photos to accompany my lines of text. It brightens the page and makes it livelier. However, upon looking at other bloggers and their websites, it’s clear that I need to include more original photos on this blog.

I remember a friend telling me a short while ago that they missed my lifestyle posts on this blog. During the changeover, where my blog became an online portfolio for my journalism, out went my Weekly Update posts in exchange for more professional articles. Except now, where I think I’ve finally found the middle ground.

During my second year at university, the Digital Photography module reignited my passion for photography. Keen not to let new passions die, I’ve been considering taking a photo a week to encapsulate my seven days. I’d be able to complete my – at present, failing – New Year’s Resolution to take more, whilst also going back to the blogging days where I talked about my everyday life.

For the past few weeks, blog posts have been pretty infrequent (which doesn’t help when it comes to competition entries), but I believe this should finally solve the issue about what I talk about on Sundays. Wednesdays are still problematic, but most of the time, these have been an extra music review, which is fine.

All being well, a new blog series – A Thousand Words – shall be starting very soon indeed…

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.

Meeting vvnightingale

It was fortunate that I had the chance to go to in London yesterday, as it meant I could finally meet a good blogger friend of mine, Victoria from vvnightingale, in real life.


Victoria wasn’t the first blogger I’ve met up with. Earlier this year, I said hello to Maeve from Thrift O’Clock when she visited Cambridge. Whilst I certainly wasn’t new to the experience of meeting someone who – for a long time – has been just text on a screen, first impressions still matter to me when it comes to saying hello to bloggers face-to-face.

Well, when it came to meeting Victoria in Waterloo station, my first impression certainly could have been better. After minutes of wandering around the station trying to find each other, we finally said hello outside the main entrance.

One of the things we had already planned to do was pop to a nearby Wagamamas for lunch. Whilst I like to think that many opportunities I’ve been involved with in London have allowed me to see many parts of the city, Victoria still became what was essentially my tour guide.


We arrived at Wagamamas a little while later and we ordered ourselves lunch. As a fan of noodles, I had the chicken ramen with homemade lemonade, which was delicious and reminded me that I need to go to Wagamas more often – especially when there’s one near my university in Lincoln.

For me, there’s always something weird about starting conversation with other bloggers. When you’ve followed their blog for months – even years – and you ask them a question about their pets, or a recent holiday, you have to remind them that they blogged about these things in the past. If not, the conversation becomes awkward – understandably.

But as I spoke to Victoria over lunch, this was completely different. Conversation flowed, and we talked about everything ranging from our shared love of languages to politics. It’s always great when you can have lengthy conversations not just online, but offline too.

Whenever I see friends in London, I always panic about what we can get up to. Not many attractions in the capital city are cheap and even if they are – or free, even – they may require bookings and it’s never quite straightforward.

Again, Victoria was my tour guide and suggested that we visit the Hoise of MinaLima – a little exhibition/museum in Soho which showcases the work of the designers behind the Harry Potter movies.


The exhibition was based inside a small house (much like the Sherlock Holmes museum, which I would also recommend) and was decorated from head-to-toe in drawings and letters taken from the films. Dotted on the walls were covers of The Daily Prophet along with handwritten letters to Harry Potter.


For any Potter fan, the exhibition is definitely somewhere to visit – especially when admission is free. But aside from all the Harry Potter designs, Victoria and I were interested in one floor, dedicated to collective nouns in art form.

For example, a group of starfish are called ‘a galacy of starfish’. How cool is that?

As I looked round the house, I was in awe at the amount of effort that the two designed put into the films. Every prop was intricately designed in MinaLima’s quirky and eccentric art style. It really is remarkable and the efforts of the duo is reflected in the exhibition. Much like how the Warner Bros. Studio Tour reveals the cinematic magic behind the Harry Potter films, the House of MinaLima perfectly captures the wonderful art in the movies which can be so easily overlooked.


Finally, we both decided to pop into the National Gallery before we had to go our separate ways. In the end it became nothing more than a search for my favourite painting in the gallery, and us getting lost plenty of times.

After walking back to Waterloo Station, we said goodbye and I went back into the Underground.

I would just like to thank Victoria for agreeing to meet me and for putting up with my craziness for the day. It was absolutely wonderful meeting you, and for those reading this, why not go and say hello to Victoria on her blog? Also, if you haven’t met up with fellow bloggers before, then I would definitely recommend it.

Have you met any other bloggers in real life? What did you get up to? Comment below!

Liam

Thoughts on Change: No More Guest Bloggers and Tags

I’ve said a while back about how I want this blog to go in a new direction. Ever since I set up The Life of a Thinker in August 2012 I wanted to use it to develop my writing, and for a long time, the content I was creating didn’t really challenge me or reflect my personality that well (at this point I should ask everyone not to look at my first blog post on here – it is truly awful).

So for a while now I’ve been trying to find a balance between personality and professionalism. Of course, I want these posts to be fun, entertaining and thought-provoking, but for a while this involved me jumping on every possible bandwagon. I’ve finally grown out of it, but for a long time, I was obsessed with ‘blog awards’ and tags, ignorant of the fact that they’re basically blogger chain mail.

It’s because of this, and the simple reason that I’m struggling to think of seven more ‘random facts about me’, that I’ll no longer be accepting blog award nominations. However, this doesn’t mean that I’m not grateful for any future mentions I receive – I really appreciate them, thank you.

Then there are guest bloggers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful idea – collaboration is good, right? I’ve had a lot of guest posts on this blog before and I really do think that both parties benefit.

However, in keeping with the theme that I want to move my blog towards a more professional and portfolio-like style, I will no longer be accepting requests to write a guest blog for The Life of a Thinker. Since I now mention this blog during job interviews and applications, it feels bad to have guest written articles on my blog when potential employers etc. are here to read my work.

I know that guest blogs are usually a two-way thing, but I’m still happy to write a post for your blog. I appreciate this all might sound rather selfish – and I’m sorry if it does – but as I look ahead, I want to make some big changes in my writing and the content I produce. For example, I’ve absolutely loved writing my opinion pieces/political articles as they’ve probably had the biggest reactions online.

Some changes are happening to The Life of a Thinker, and I hope you stick around to see them.

Liam

Weekly Update: My First Blogger Meet-Up (ish)

This week has been a great one. For most of this week, I’ve had time to myself to get a few jobs done before I am off to university again on the 18th. So I’ve been working on articles, going to meetings and generally completing tasks I’ve been meaning to do for a while. But what was even more exciting, was that I went to Cambridge on Tuesday to meet Maeve from Thrift O’Clock!
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For a long time, I’ve seen bloggers talk on Twitter about meeting up in real-life. I would often give it a look, but I was always deterred from getting involved. If it wasn’t the money or travelling side of things, then it was the fear of judgement. This blog is all about the written word, content which is edited to present the best version of ourselves (very much like vloggers on YouTube use editing to show themselves in the best light). Therefore, meeting someone in real life who only knows my online self was always a terrifying concept for me – they’ll see the unedited version of me, as it were. Also, since we’re bloggers who share almost all of our lives online, it’s a meeting where you know a lot about the other person. The funny thing is that they may not know that you know that information – if that makes sense?

However, last year was definitely a turning point in my life, where this anxiety faded. One aspect in my life which caused this was my journalism course at the University of Lincoln. Since I started studying there in September last year, the opportunities I have been presented with required me to try new things and go outside of my comfort zone (for example, a common activity was to actually go out on the high street and interview shoppers about local issues). The whole idea of a journalist being able to approach anyone and start a conversation is a key skill – so I shouldn’t really be shying from going to a blogger meet-up, surely?

The other thing in my life which encouraged me to meet new people (which is actually one of my new year’s resolutions) was being more actively involved in the blogging community. I was involved in more and more Twitter chats and interacted with more of my ‘blogger friends’. Over the course of 2015, I met Maeve and when she said that she was coming over from Ireland to Cambridge for a couple of days, and asked if we wanted to meet-up, I of course said yes – it was an amazing opportunity to meet a good friend who I’d been talking to online for almost a year.

We agreed to meet on the Tuesday in a Costa Coffee in town. After I, rather embarrassingly, went to the wrong Costa Coffee in Cambridge (great first impression, Liam), I met Maeve in a Costa and spent a few hours talking about different things: blogging, and our usual go-to topic of cake. Whilst talking, I had moments where I realised that someone who I had only previously interacted with through a screen, was talking to me in real life. It was very much like when I met my university flatmates for the first time, where I thought: ‘No, you belong on Facebook and Twitter. You’re just icons on my phone’s screens. Wait, what?

But nevertheless, it was wonderful to meet Maeve. I was super excited (sorry about that) and I know going to more blogger meet-ups is definitely something I want to continue to do (of course I want to meet more of you guys!). So, after meeting for lunch, we went our separate ways. Since I still had some spare time, I had some time to explore the city. So, if you want to see more of my time at Cambridge, I made a quick vlog with some footage I took on the day. I talk about finding beauty in everything and some new exciting plans for my channel. I also went to the local Waterstones (of course) and bought a few of Oliver Sacks’ books – which I will no doubt review in the near future.

So that was my week! Thanks must go again to Maeve for agreeing to meet-up with me and for a wonderful afternoon chat. Please do check out her blog and YouTube channel as they really are brilliant.

Have you been to a blogger meet-up? Have you been to Cambridge before? Comment below!

Liam

The Online Audience: Individuals or Communities? | The Wednesday Article

Naturally, British culture expands and grows every year. Within that, we create our own subcultures, groups and communities. Whilst we may not like being labelled, we can’t complain when we enjoy the benefits that come with belonging to a specific, restricted subculture. But when an audience is grouped together, do we value group privileges over our own individuality?

In terms of this debate, the answer lies in two of the most popular social media platforms. On YouTube, numerous ‘YouTubers’ or vloggers have often spoken out about the dangers of fandoms on the video-sharing site. In particular, some have talked about the risk of an aggressive fandom if an audience is grouped together. Another example is this video by Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell, entitled No Fandom.

However, micro-blogging site Tumblr presents the other side of the equation. For users of the site, the fandom aspect is one thing which makes Tumblr what it is. It is the site for sharing in-jokes, references and reactions to TV shows, films and books. But when everyone has the same thoughts on the show, is it possible for a member of the community to express an individual opinion and feel involved in the subculture at the same time?

So whilst users in YouTube comments may turn nasty if grouped into a community, fandoms on Tumblr thrive for an individual connection with the show, book etc. they love.

With that in mind, is there any way to satisfy an online audience?

What do you think? If you’re a blogger, do you refer to your audience as an individual, or a collective? Vote in the poll above and comment below!

Liam