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I was still getting advanced readers’ copies (ARCs) of unpublished books from publishers, my Friday Article opinion pieces grew from strength to strength, and I received my first review copy of an upcoming album (that being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

A Thousand Words: Is it bad to live a structured life?

It’s a question I thought about in the early hours of this morning: is it bad to live a structured life? I pondered it whilst reminding myself of the many tasks on my to-do list (see the picture below), and how much of my life is typed, written or stored in to-do lists, calendars and email folders like the one below.

As I’ve mentioned previously, this is not to say that I can’t handle spontaneity – the career I hope to enter is not always predictable. However, whilst I like to consider myself a very organised person, it seems as though confining myself to daily or weekly tasks only speeds up the passage of time. It’s as I write this that I ask myself if I need to be more spontaneous. How are we in August already?

After reading this, one could argue that I’m stuck in the present. Yet, that isn’t really the case. At the moment, I’m looking forward to attending Summer in the City this time next week and seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child the week after that. I also know that come the end of August, I need to start planning for university and that I’ll be going to the NUS Student Media Summit in London. It’s almost as if I’m going through the year, with little checklists along the way.

Now, I know I’ve most likely written about this before (albeit in a different way) but now begins the process of getting the final tasks done before it’s back to university in September.

There’s always something to look forward to.

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…

Exploring the Lincoln Knights Trail 2017

Whilst I’ve said about turning The Life of a Thinker into an online portfolio for my journalism, Sunday blog posts have always been an opportunity for me to update you all on what I’ve been up to recently, and I don’t think that will ever change.

Despite finishing university already, I was back in Lincoln this weekend for the School of English Journalism Ball (where, surprisingly, I won the ‘Photo of the Year’ award, which was nice). However, prior to all the exciting celebrations, I had a day to myself, and decided to embark on the Knights Trail which has descended on the city for the summer.

It’s because I hadn’t enrolled at university yet that I just missed 2015’s event – the Barons Trail. Now, it’s sculptures of knights to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the Battle of Lincoln. It was a beautiful day, and with more free time on my hands, I thought I would also film the experience too.

Although I am keen on this post being light-hearted and informal, the rise in ‘tourism trails’ (Paddington Bear, Gromit and Shaun the Sheep have all had their own trails in other areas of the UK) has interested me lately. After all, it promotes a sense of adventure and experience which taps into the current souvenir culture in society.

Gone are the days where just an autograph or anything materialistic would suffice, it’s now about having the evidence to show that such an occurrence, meeting or activity took place. Whether that’s a photo of the celebrity whose autograph you asked for, or something else to trophy, tourists want a sense of satisfaction and gratification – and the Lincoln Knight’s Trail certainly does that.

As I took a photo of the final sculpture outside the Museum of Lincolnshire Life, I felt a great sense of accomplishment, as I browsed at the collection of photos on my phone of all 36 sculptures. Tourism is all about a sense of adventure, and even when I’ve been living in Lincoln for two years, I felt that this weekend.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a gallery of all of the sculptures:

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The Lincoln Knights Trail runs from May 20 to September 3, 2017. More information can be found here.

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…

The Return of Commitments and Opportunities

After a break away from my journalism degree, I always look forward to going back to university. Aside from seeing friends again and being back in Lincoln (my ‘second home’), I love the fact that it means I’ll have new commitments and opportunities coming my way. In 2016, the Christmas and New Year holidays gave me the time to finish any outstanding tasks from the past semester and indeed from the past 12 months. Some of these commitments have rolled over into 2017, but most of the new opportunities came from me starting university again two weeks ago.

It seems as though January is the month for competitions, as the past fortnight has seen me work through the many entries I needed to submit. After the fun of the Midlands Student Media Awards last year, I’d love to return to the exciting atmosphere of an awards ceremony.

As well as this, last Saturday saw me return to Siren FM to continue presenting my Brunchtime show. After hosting the programme for around a year now, only recently have I started to notice how much I’ve developed as a radio presenter. My energetic nature on air, for a while, went uncontrolled, leading to me stumbling over my words and poorly constructed cues. Now, I’ve slowed my speech down and well, everything just flows.

2017 has already rewarded me with some exciting opportunities for my blog, too. When I first started blogging, I became obsessed with the numbers and stats. Four years later, they have a different meaning to me. The fact I have over 1,020 followers on WordPress alone is something which has only hit me recently, after I started to become detached from the numbers. Of course, this does not mean that I don’t appreciate everyone who reads and follows this blog, more that I’ve become less obsessive over the numbers – it’s the people not the numbers which really amazes me. Thank you.

After all, I’ve had an increase in PR emails recently and for me, that’s what I’ve wanted this blog to become. For a long time, I was a blogger who didn’t dabble in publicity for musicians or authors, but ever since I’ve decided to review new music and read ARCs of books, I’ve loved it.

It’s now February and now that the November/December/January exams period is out of the way, I should start to make a return to my normal schedule. This includes more Friday Articles, which I know I haven’t done lately. Those will return soon, I promise.

Thanks as always for reading,

Liam

2016: A Reflection

I feel as though I have to apologise for the rather bland title of this post, but with 2016 being an eventful year – both in terms of current affairs and on a personal level – it’s hard for me to summarise the past 12 months in a small number of words. For me, it’s been another incredible year. Of course, it’s had its hiccups but that’s just a small part of the bigger picture. 2016 was a year of opportunity.

Photo: Jorgen Kesseler on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.
Photo: Jorgen Kesseler on Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

I met so many people, whether it was fellow bloggers VickyMaeve or Dee, YouTubers at Summer in the City, a famous musician at the top of The Shard or through something else. Interacting and communicating with new and exciting people – be it online and offline – is always brilliant and I have no doubt that will continue in 2017.

Other than that, it’s a year which can be described as being a constant chain of exciting opportunities. Work experience at so many different and interesting organisations helped me secure the next placement and so on. Presenting a show on Siren FM enabled me to meet and interview so many people. Then, simply seeing and responding to a tweet on social media allowed me to do even more amazing things. I was able to explore new places and have interesting conversations with everybody I came across. Both of these things happen when working in the world of journalism too – it’s one of the main reasons for why I want to enter the profession.

Speaking of which, 2016 also saw me end my first year and begin my second year as a journalism student at the University of Lincoln. It’s a transition which prompts comparison. The second semester of first year in 2016 saw me make new friends and gave me so many new opportunities. As I entered my second year in September, I had even more amazing experiences to look forward to – from being the News Editor at the student newspaper, to being a part of Siren FM’s new Breakfast Show team.

There’s no doubt that I met new people this year, which is a good thing since it was one of my new year’s resolutions for 2016. However, as for ‘finishing writing a book’, with university demanding so much of my time, that has had to be put on hold. I’m hoping that the summer break of 2017 will provide me with some time to write something, but it seems as though I won’t be flexing my creative writing muscles anytime soon, sadly.

As for my new year’s resolutions for 2017, I’ve realised that I need to stop setting myself goals which are too ambiguous and easy to accomplish. Whilst ‘take more photos’ may be another resolution which is easy for me to achieve, it’s certainly something I need to do more of. A year which saw me work on YouTube videos and rediscover my love of photography has reminded me just how much fun it is to capture moments in photographic or video form. Other than that, I can’t think of any other resolutions for the moment. However, I imagine that I will have some more ideas as 2017 develops.

With regards to my blog, turning The Life of a Thinker into a more professional website was the right decision to take this year. My Friday Articles were no longer embarrassing, self-centred posts but were instead thoughtful and analytical commentaries on current affairs. I wanted this blog to allow me to practice my journalism, and writing about politics every week certainly helped with that. On top of this, some exciting PR emails, having one of my posts ‘highly commended’ at an awards ceremony and reaching 16k views in 2016 alone (up by 5k from last year) made 2016 a fantastic year for my blog. Thank you for stopping by and reading my posts this year. I wish you a Happy New Year and a great 2017.