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I was still getting advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) of unpublished books from publishers, my Friday Article opinion pieces grew from strength to strength, and I received my first review copy of an upcoming album (that being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!

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…

Where have you been?

I’ve always liked structure in my life, and whilst that’s not to say I don’t like spontaneity, breaking a pattern which I have been maintaining for the past few years does feel a little disheartening. In the middle of April, my blog schedule fell apart and the ‘post every other day’ theme crumbled. So, what happened?

The simple and short answer is university. As the course geared up for the May deadline, every module had at least one final essay or piece of coursework to complete before the academic year was over. As a result, The Life of a Thinker had to be put on the back burner until now, when the final exam for second year is done and I have the long summer months to look forward to.

After a decline in posts, I’ll be back to my normal routine – at least until September (for I am yet to know how much time I’ll have to blog in third year). Whilst I’ve been away, I have realised is that surpassing last year’s 16.1K views this year is unlikely. At present, the blog has reached 5K views, which could mean that I end the year with 12K – a disappointing drop when The Life of a Thinker has been on the rise year after year. Now is the time to get back to writing.

As you may have seen over the past few days, since Friday I have been posting every day and for the next week, that shall continue. Each post next week – except possibly for The Friday Article – will be a music review, as there’s been a lot of good music which has come out whilst I’ve been away.

Normal scheduling will resume soon – including music reviews and more political posts.

Stay tuned…

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.

Vote for The Life of a Thinker in the UK Blog Awards 2016

I still remember attending my first awards ceremony, when I felt somewhat underdressed amongst other student journalists at Austin Court in Birmingham and was Highly Commended in my category. The Midlands Student Media Awards marked a significant turning point for my blogging; a few months before the event I decided my blog was to move away from boring babbling lifestyle posts and it was going to be an online portfolio of sorts, where I could practice my journalism. After I was Highly Commended for a journalistic essay (over 1,000 words long, might I add), I felt like my decision to take The Life of a Thinker in this new direction was the right decision to take.

Ever since then, I’ve pushed out more journalistic content. My Musical Discovery reviews have become more analytical, my Friday Article opinion pieces have explored new political topics, and my Sunday posts, A Fictional Reality, are allowing me to rediscover my love for creative writing – which has returned after a lengthy absence.

Since the Midlands Student Media Awards, I have been searching for other blog awards to enter. Previous attempts to find anything which I was eligible to enter or were relevant to my blogging style had failed, but one time, I found the UK Blog Awards – an awards ceremony I feel bad for only just discovering. This year, I decided to enter.

Photo: UK Blog Awards

If the Midlands Student Media Awards told me that I was right to pursue a more journalistic style, then being successful at the UK Blog Awards will mean so much more. It will show that there is such a strong community around The Life of a Thinker, that my blog is improving and it would enable me to meet and network with so many new people. It’s the biggest awards ceremony for UK bloggers, and to even be in a position where people can vote for me to win is amazing.

You can find my entry in the Individual Entrants section, under the PR, Media, Marketing and Communications category, on the UK Blog Awards website, and you can vote for me – if you like.

If you’ve already voted, then thank you so much. I really appreciate every vote I receive. Do feel free to share the above link with friends and family members who may also like to vote.

Thank you all as always for reading my posts on this little corner of the Internet. My next blog post should be up on Friday.

Goodbye to Sundays

It’s a problem I’ve been trying to sort out for a while: posts on Sundays. When The Life of a Thinker was in its infancy, I’d upload my Weekly Updates, but it wasn’t long before I had weeks where I didn’t get up to much, or couldn’t think of a catchy title for the post. In the end, I said goodbye to Weekly Updates.

In its place came a style of post which doesn’t fit on my blog that well. Over the past few months, Sunday posts have become more personal – they’re articles about the blog and how it’s changing, and that gets repetitive after a while.

For example, I continue to talk about how my blog will become more professional and journalistic in tone and how I want to change my schedule, but that’s not actually happened yet.

I want to get rid of Sunday posts completely, yet at the same time, weekends are the best time to post something.

I’ve also talked about how, with music coming out on Fridays, that moving my Musical Discovery posts to that day of the week would be more appropriate. But then The Friday Article would have to move (thus making its name redundant), so I’m really not sure.

To stop me from repeating myself further, I’ll say this: I’ve decided that soon – in the future – I’ll do a ‘trial week’ where things are moved around a bit. It may stay that way, or the schedule may revert to how it was originally. It’s down to how I feel at the end of the week, and what happens to the stats.

But that doesn’t address what will happen to these Sunday posts. With music reviews, book reviews and political opinion pieces all taking place on my blog, I’m looking for a new writing form to use for another hobby.

As I write this, I already have one idea, but I shall keep you posted.

Liam