Disconnected

This little corner of the Internet has been gathering dust over the past few months. Sure, there’s been theatre and music reviews which have kept things moving forward, but the previous schedule I used to have on The Life of a Thinker is pretty much non-existent.

As I write this, I wonder if my lack of posting falls under the wider creative block I’ve experienced since leaving university. I’ve been able to produce more journalistic articles now that I’ve finished (today saw me hand in my keys to my flat – I am now completely finished bar my graduation in September), but returning to blog posts and structures which existed prior to my third year of university feels weird and alien to me now. Uni life has led to a break and sense of disconnect that means any chance of me picking up where I left off is minimal and slim – my memory of a regular blog schedule buried underneath all the recollections of my dissertation work, exams and more.

I think I probably need some time to think about how regularly I blog and what type of content I write about. Life updates and music reviews are the two main types of content on The Life of a Thinker and for the longest time I have considered just turning this into a music blog, but to do that would require saying goodbye to the more journalistic articles that appear on my blog from time to time.

At the moment, with music reviews and life updates taking up Fridays and Sundays on my schedule, that still leaves Mondays and Wednesdays free. One could probably be filled with more opinion pieces (which I need to get back to doing) but the other is still blank. I’ve considered more TV reviews on this blog – would that be of interest to you? Let me know.

I apologise that this probably isn’t the most substantial blog post or explanation as to where I’ve been or what comes next, but I hope that with time, my ideas for what happens next to my corner of the internet will become clearer.

Thanks for sticking around.

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A Matter of Time…

It’s been nearly two months, and staring at a blank page feels… weird.

It shouldn’t be. The fear of the blank page has kind of faded away as I write essay after essay after essay and then a 10,000 word dissertation on top. Yet, I imagine that the feeling of disconnect has come around as a result of my rather lengthy absence from blogging, with the last post being published on 13 April. Sorry about that.

Photo: Pixabay.

Although, on the topic of dissertations, I now face a particular dilemma when it comes to my writing. Three years of academic coursework has programmed my brain somewhat into writing – and reading – non-fiction. It’s either factual journalism, or a detailed essay. The former (if it’s broadcast journalism), allows for some creativity, but for the most part, it’s quotations, analysis and formulaic structures. Big academic subjects have drawn me to books on post-truth, politics and media law. Whilst they have all been fascinating, I fear that getting back into reading and writing fiction will take a very long time indeed.

Yesterday night saw me meet up with fellow writers (both of fiction and non-fiction) and I remember explaining to them that the creative spark – the one where a random character or story idea just pops into your head – has just… gone.

At the end of the evening, I reached this conclusion that this balance between being able to write both journalistic articles and works of fiction would be struck at some point in the future. It would just be a matter of time – and time is something I have a lot of at the moment.

After all, I’ve pretty much finished university now. I mean, I have one shorthand exam towards the end of June (which is external and not to do with coursework) followed by some work experience and then that it me finished at Lincoln until September, when I graduate in a cathedral, which is pretty cool.

Until then (and indeed afterwards), I have a period of time on my hands – ‘free time’, you could say. With no more assignments to complete or any additional commitments to honour, I’m faced with the same freedom I faced at the end of previous academic years, except this feeling is more permanent.

Now comes the job search and an empty diary to be filled with opportunities, job interviews and networking events.

I started writing this questioning whether ‘A Matter of Time’ was the right title for this piece, but now I realise that the phrase is one which I have heard a lot of recently, and it is the perfect way to describe the position in which I find myself.

At the start of my degree in Lincoln, I was told it would only be ‘a matter of time’ before I find myself at the end of my three years, ready to graduate. It’ll hopefully only be ‘a matter of time’ before my love and inspiration for writing fiction returns. It’s only ‘a matter of time’ before I get my first job after graduating…

If the next steps of my life post-education all come down to ‘a matter of time’, then I’m not waiting around.

A change long overdue…

The start of a new year often prompts people to seek change, but in my case – and the case for this blog, The Life of a Thinker – these are improvements I’ve considered for many months now, and finally want to put in place.

Since the early days of this site, music reviews (under the Music Monday or Musical Discovery title) have, as the former name suggests, come out on a Monday. However, with ‘New Music Friday’ becoming a thing and most artists and band releasing music in time for the weekend, my review a few days later felt a bit late. Whilst I don’t obsess over numbers, it would make much more sense if such things were timely, and so, for a while now, I’ve considered moving these posts to Friday.

Yet, such a move would affect my Friday Article pieces – my weekly opinion pieces often on politics or disability issues. Naturally, such a series with a name based on the day of the week on which they’re published can face some problems with the change. Although, upon having a look at other opinion pieces, most headlines tend to adopt the approach of ‘HeadlineAuthor Name‘ (The Guardian is a good example of this), and if I want to get my name out, then following a similar style may help with that. From now on, such pieces, complete with a new feel, will be published on Sundays – tying in with a lot with those end-of-the-week political shows you see on television.

So with music reviews on Fridays, and opinion pieces on Sunday, what about the spaces on Monday and Wednesday? At the moment, nothing particular is set in stone, but then again, Wednesdays have often been a day for me to publish something different (most often a book or theatre review) so if reviews become a regular thing for me, that may just be Wednesday’s ‘thing’. I’m still keen to have a slightly personal theme for one day of my schedule (something which was taken up by my A Thousand Words series last year), but I’m looking to try something a little more different and creative for that. We shall see what happens.

Other than that, thanks for reading the occasional blog post in 2017, and apologies for content being a bit infrequent. Whilst the start of a new university semester does offer a moment to get other tasks done, it isn’t long before the work builds up again in the run-up to the final sprint. Hopefully this will still allow me to blog nonetheless.

Either way, here’s to another busy year…

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.