A Thousand Words: Visiting Southampton

Being able to explore different parts of the UK as part of a job is always an exciting and rewarding thing to do. My final week working for the UK disability charity Scope as an Online Community Intern saw me head down to Southampton to tell people at the city’s football club about the Scope’s wonderful online forum for disabled people to get involved with.

The outside of Southampton Football Club – featuring a statue of a person whom I don’t know, I’m sorry.

Even when I’m not the biggest football fan in the world (I do support the England team and watch a few of their games from time to time, but that’s only out of patriotism), one has to commend the sense of community that surrounds the game. Everyone that came over to my little stall was friendly, and when it comes to fellow stall holders, I was positioned next to some nice people from Autism Hampshire on my left, and on my right were a trio of magicians performing tricks for intrigued individuals.

It made me realise that magic is a wonderful thing. Seeing children gasp and stare wide-eyed at the tricks these three magicians were performing brought a smile to my face throughout the afternoon. I even had my mind blown myself thanks to one particular magician.

On top of this, I was approached from a viewer of my YouTube channel, which made my day. It was completely unexpected and so lovely to chat to them. Thanks so much again for coming over, Sophie!

Four hours later and I was making my way back to Southampton Central to get the train back home. Though, it’s only as I write this that I’m fully struck by the sense of community inside the stadium. A common sight everywhere around the country, the way in which football clubs can bring people together is fascinating – even to someone who isn’t sporty like myself.

P.S. Once again, a huge thank you to everyone at Scope for being such wonderful people to work with over the past few months and for giving me the opportunity to visit Southampton. I’ve had a blast and shall miss the role very much.

 

 

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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.

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…

In Development…

This week has been one of progression. It started earlier this week with me making a return to public speaking. The last time I had to give a presentation to someone, it was in May last year, when I went to Leeds to give a presentation about myself and my time as a member of the National Deaf Children’s Society’s Youth Advisory Board. Although reading a book by TED’s Chris Anderson provided me with some reassurance, I was still fairly new to the experience.

The presentation still went really well and it was great talking to the young people there, but I had certainly improved when I gave a talk to Central Bedfordshire Council’s Youth Voice on Tuesday this week.

It was a talk on social media, fake news and campaigning, and I was quite flattered that I was asked to chat about the subject (after all, I hardly see myself as an expert on these). Despite that, as I worked my way through the presentation slides, I could sense my own confidence and was able to talk at great length about the three issues. I suppose on this occasion, I was able to chat more about Twitter than I was about myself – but I think that came down to preparing the presentation in advance.

Overall, it was a great experience, the conference itself was great fun, and I even walked away with a greater idea about what my dissertation for next year, too.

It was also on that day that I was offered the role of Editor at the University of Lincoln’s student newspaper, The Linc. After spending the past year as News Editor at the paper, it’s an honour to take the next step up and accept the offer. I look forward to working with a great team next year.

Speaking of third year, it’s as my second year comes to a close that once again, I reflect on what my university experience so far has given me. Already, I have done amazing things with the community radio station in Lincoln and the student newspaper. I’ve applied the skills I’ve learned (such as shorthand, learning about politics and making FOI requests) outside of university and they have given me new opportunities as well.

As my final year approaches, there’s no doubt at all that it was the right decision, but I continue to be amazed at just how quickly time flies.

Future Thoughts

A birthday always allows for retrospect and a consideration of the future. On Friday, I became a year older and left the teenage years behind me. Now, adulthood awaits.

I’ve always been a structured person, and all the way up to 18, there’s been a path for me to follow in terms of education. Granted, I now have university to keep me busy for another year or so, but as I now take a three-week break after another semester has finished, I don’t have much time left in Lincoln before the next adventure.

I should also digress for a moment to explain why there have been no posts up this week. As mentioned above, the last week of this semester was this week, and so I was rather busy with the final assignments and work experience with the local newspaper – The Lincolnshire Echo. You can even read an article I worked on during the week here.

However, the great thing about this short break is that it gives me time. I can now work through my backlog without any new tasks being added to the to-do list.

Unfortunately, a quiet few weeks for my blog have not helped with statistics at all. My views for the year currently stand at 3,666. In 2016, I reached 16K views which was over 1,000 views a month. Sadly, I don’t think I’ve averaged enough readers per month to achieve my 20K goal, but I’m hoping a normal schedule can resume shortly.

Much like last year, when the lengthy summer holidays are just around the corner, I have a lot to look forward to. There’s work experience opportunities, concerts, festivals and much more to come. What’s even more exciting is something which is happening tomorrow – a post-birthday treat to myself which I hope will improve my Friday Articles in the future.

I’m sure I shall reveal all in due course.

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