Saturday, 23 December 2017

How to Create a Vision Board for 2018

Vision boards can be a great way of streamlining your goals and giving them a physical presence outside of your mind. I have used images and motivational phrases around my desk for years, but this is the first year I decided to put together targeted visualisation boards. I felt like I needed something I could walk into the room and look at and know whether what I was doing that day was working towards my goals. For people like me, who love to be busy, it's a great way of cutting the chaff out of what you get done each day and not spending time on tasks that don't contribute to your future success.

I've completed two, one for my author life and another for overall balance and success. I wanted to make them on a budget but you can put as much or as little money into them as you like. If you don't want to spend more than paper, ink and glue you can, or go all out with a fancy board, magazine or photo-quality images and other accessories.

The boards cost £6 each, I bought 300 push pins for £1, and the paper and ink for the printer I already had. I wasn't particularly bothered by photo quality (as long as they didn't come out as total crap).

Step 1: Assemble Images 

I spent hours finding images that spoke to what I want to achieve in 2018 and beyond. I used Google, motivational images I already had saved on my computer and Pinterest boards. I copied them all into a word document, scaled them to the sizes I thought would work best and printed them out. I divided the images into piles for the separate boards and a third that would work for either. You can skip dividing them entirely, or divide them into categories by type or size.

Step 2: Arrange them on the Board

Next, I arranged the largest images on the board and placed small images around them. I pinned where I thought I wouldn't need to move, or half-pinned to keep the image from moving. When you're happy with your arrangement, move on to step 3.

Step 3: Secure Your Design

Once you are happy with the design of your board, pin or glue the images in place. I cut up large images to fill in awkward gaps.

Step 4: Place the Board
Put the board somewhere you can see it when you most need it. Mine are going on the wall beside my desk, but I think if you live alone or in a small space on a bedroom wall could be a place to draw inspiration each morning and night. I like the idea of having it somewhere just out of your normal line of sight. That way you aren't desensitised to it, but your eyes can wander to it while you're thinking.

If you have made/make your own visualisation board I'd love to see it! Tag me on Instagram @thehmwarren, or post a pic or link in the comments.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Top Books & More of 2017

I track everything. I love to see statistics of my productivity, whether that's my workout, meals, books I've read, films I've watched, or how many minutes I've spent listening to Spotify (it's over 42,500 if you're wondering). So, naturally, as the year comes to a close I'm thinking over the content I've consumed and loved this year. So, here's my list of top books, films, TV, YouTube and Podcasts from 2017.

It would be silly to start with anything else. Now, I'm going to be honest, this year has been my worst in many for reading. At this point (18/12/17), I'm on target to read 40. That's 15-25 less than I have in recent years. In 2016 I read 66, so obviously I'm a little disappointed with this year's number, but honestly, my focus has been elsewhere.

I had a lot of "life" happening at the beginning of the year and couldn't focus on reading. After that came spring and summer, and for the first time my horses live in a place that has beautiful, safe riding, and I spent a lot of leisure time with them. I've also developed a healthy gym habit, and unfortunately, I'm too energetic to listen to audiobooks while I workout. After that, there's really not a lot of excuses, but I'm not going to punish myself. I have experienced so much personal growth this year with ups and downs, that the fact that I have read 40 as well as written and edited my own work, is honestly something to be proud of. I do intend to do better next year, though.

TOP FICTION: The Smell of Other People's Houses - Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock 
This book blew me away. It was so beautiful. It is so simple in concept and so careful in execution that I couldn't put it down. I really encourage everyone to read it.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Waking Gods - Sylvian Neuvel 
This is the second book in (what I expect is) a Sci-Fi trilogy, centred around the concept of what influence and effect interaction with aliens could have on our world. I read each book in a day. I made sure with this one to find a day where I was going to be able to wear my headphones or be near a speaker for the required number of hours and settled in. It is utterly gripping, and the voice actors are great on the audiobooks. The concept feels unique, though definitely has its roots in popular culture.

TOP NON-FICTION: How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie 
I do not believe it would be an overstatement to say this book changed my life, or at least, it certainly helped.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Talking as Fast as I Can - Lauren Graham 
Listen to the audiobook--if you're a Gilmore Girls fan you'll really enjoy this quick read.

This might not be to everyone's taste, but it does what it sets out to do so well and Sailor Moon herself is one of the only fourteen-year-old girls I've ever read who feels real.

No need to explain this one. The volumes themselves are beautiful, and I love the depth of the story and world-building.

I've watched a total of 18 films this year so far. I have no data to compare that to since this is my first year using Letterboxd. 6 of these were new releases. My top film was a hard pick, and I'll explain why: it would be, hands-down, Baby Driver. I LOVED that film. It had absolutely everything I like in a film. It was sexy, fast-paced, violent, romantic, and all focused around music. But then Kevin Spacey turned out to be a piece of-- sexual predator and ruined the film for me. I haven't bought it or rewatched it, and I'm not sure when or if I will.

TOP FILM: Spider-Man: Homecoming
This was such good fun, so well executed, and it is great to see Spider-Man portrayed the way he should be.

She's been my phone background from before the film released until about four days ago when Oscar Isaac usurped her. I didn't think the film was flawless, but it was glorious.

I'll be honest: I don't watch a lot of TV. We only have Netflix and Amazon, and if I'm home alone I've usually got YouTube on instead. I've watched a lot of my staple shows this year (Archer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Office) as well as some new releases, so...

Glow is a Netflix original starring Alison Brie about women's wrestling in the 80s. It is super 80s. It has an amazing soundtrack. It also has a full cast of kickass women and explores stereotypes, sexism, and relationships among other things. It's great. You should watch it.

Also a Netflix original show--created by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg. It's definitely for grown-ups, and as a sucker for adult animated shows, this one hit the spot. I love the way it portrays puberty and all the trials that come with it with real puberty-monsters.

I might spend too much time on YouTube. I love the variety of content, I love that I can learn or be entertained, watch something that's taken weeks of research or the weirdest shit you've ever seen. So, instead of doing a top YT video or channel, I'll highlight this years' favourite channels. I encourage you to go and watch a video by some of these guys if they're unfamiliar.

The Carpetbagger
I'm not sure when I first subscribed to Jacob, but his videos have been a staple of my week this year. He travels around the south (US) stopping at roadside attractions and other tourist traps and historical sites and vlogs them. If I ever have the time and the money, travelling around the US exploring all these weird folk-art places is something I'd love to do, but until then I'll live vicariously through his videos. He's currently the only content creator I patronize on Patreon, though I have a list of other creators I'd like to support in the future.

Jordan the Lion
A super recent find. Jordan makes a similar style of video to The Carpetbagger. He lives in LA and daily vlogs historical sites. You need to watch to fully appreciate.

Kristen Martin
An indie author who vlogs, is more type A than me, and someone I could be best friends with. She vlogs her days, gives indie publishing advice and writing craft. All of her content is valuable and if you're looking for a writer to give you the motivation to get on with your work, even around a full-time job, she's your gal.

Taylor R
Vlogger and model who has been living in Tokyo for the past three years but recently moved back to Hong Kong. She's Canadian. She's a fun goofball who loves making herself the butt of the joke.

King of DIY
This will be of no interest to 99% of you, but Joey is a very popular aquarium-guy. He's very energetic, excited, and has spent most of 2017 building an aquarium gallery. He's super accessible to those who don't know anything about fish keeping. He's also very Canadian so I just said aboot in my head.

Rachel O'leary
She's an extremely knowledgeable aquarist. If you are serious about your freshwater/tropical hobby I strongly recommend.

Aquarium Coop
My mum says their fish unboxings should be prescribed by the NHS as a relaxation and anti-anxiety method. They create a LOT of content, so there's nearly always something to be watching.

Meg Squats
Meg is the only female fitness YouTuber I can stick with. Her mission is to get barbells in the hands of women, and I think she'd be proud to know how often I have one in mine.

Okay, so this is new and honestly, it is just here because of Buzzfeed Unsolved. Goddamn, I love that show.

I have spent hours and hours and hours and hours listening to podcasts this year. I use them for entertainment, for companionship when I'm at my current day-job alone and bored, and for learning. There is so much you can learn from podcasts, if you aren't utilizing them you really must. Here are my favourites from this year:

Expanded Perspectives
I have literally binged every free episode of theirs this year. That's three years of weekly hour-long episodes. You do the math. It's a paranormal podcast.

Monsters Among Us
Also on the paranormal, this is a podcast where callers tell their stories and the host, Derek Hayes, talks over phenomenon and usually tries to give a rational explanation for what people have seen, without belittling them.

Bizarre States
A Nerdist podcast hosted by Jessica Chobot and Andrew Bowser. I've been a fan of Jess since she hosted the Daily Fix on IGN and totally have a girl-crush on her. I could listen to Bowser and his stories all day long.

Page 7
I think to really get the most out of this podcast you already need to be a listener of the Last Podcast Network, but if you like celebrity gossip and fangirling you may enjoy this. I usually have very little interest in this topic but I love geeking out with these guys.

Pub(lishing) Crawl
If you're a writer and you've yet to find this GO, GO NOW! (Probably not relevant for those only considering indie publishing but there are gems in there for everyone.)

That Smart Hustle
Kristen Martin's podcast. As I said in my YouTube pick we're very similar so the fact that I devoured all the episodes in a few days shouldn't surprise anyone.

The Trail Went Cold
A true crime podcast I absolutely love.

Work On Your Game
If you play sports, are in a high-pressure industry or just enjoy motivation, give this one a try. I don't think it will hit everyone's sweet spot but I definitely find a lot of value in the episodes.

Writing Excuses
If you write you should already know this podcast and are already a long time listener. If you're not, you better go find out what you're missing.

And that's it! It'll be interesting to come back and look at this list at the end of 2018 to see what I think of my picks then and if my current favourite YouTubers and Podcasts are still with me. I hope you find something new to watch/read/listen to in this list. I'd love to know your top picks, so leave a comment or send me a link!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017

It's that time of year again, folks. National Novel Writing Month. It comes around faster and faster each year, and normally I am in an editing stage of a novel when it rolls around. This year has been less structured in terms of my draft production, so though there is a book I have been thinking about almost all year, I spent a solid six months redrafting a previous book that I have decided to shelve, and the rest of the time I have either been working on my current WIP or distracted with the summer or other life stuff.

This year I actually have something to work on. It's been quite a few years since I've had something to start from 0 on the first of November, but at least this year I have a manuscript with just over 22k words that can do with all the extra word count I can give it. This book is the best thing I've ever written, and I'm not rushing it, but equally, I can't baby it forever. It has to become a draft that can be read by others. I have to see if it can keep its head above the water without my holding it up.

I won't be doing NaNo traditionally (trying for that 1667 daily word count) but instead just trying to write daily with a daily goal that increases in steps of 50 or so. I am in the process of trying to find a new day job and if that takes precedence over writing one day, then it will. If I can pump out 1600+ words in a day, all the better too.

Are you doing NaNo? Do you find November a good month to try it or do you prefer the Camps in the spring and summer? They've always worked better for me in my yearly timeline.

You can add me as a buddy on NaNo - my user is blissfulnightsecret.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Email Heads Up

Just a quick heads up that my email was offline for a few hours last night, so if you tried to send me an email and it bounced, it is now back to normal.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

You Can't Do Everything

Over the past two months, I've had a full roster of To-Dos, both in everyday life, work and my writing life. Last week I got sick (my partner loves to bring home colds for me) and what should have been a simple cold ended up as a day of throwing up and missing work. I think it was my body's way of telling me enough was enough. You cannot do everything.

I have continually added to self-given responsibilities. As soon as one project is finished or one event is over I give myself no time to say "well done", but instead immediately move onto the next problem, all while finding more and more to add to my plate that I can't possibly eat. 

It's important to give yourself a break. At the beginning of this year, I gave myself a goal of having two days a week where I could "clock out" mentally. So though I would go to work and the gym and do the physical things, I would use those days to listen to audiobooks, play games and watch films. As soon as my schedule was slightly off this slipped by the wayside. I was back in the cycle of mentally punishing myself for not having enough ticked off of an impossible list. 

Last week has shown me I need to simplify. I need to stop putting pressure on myself to find more and more work: my writing has to come first. Yes, it's hard when I'm in the middle of a fifth or sixth edit, and I can't see the forest for the trees to find the motivation to look at that manuscript again (when I know how many times I'll have to go over it again if it is bought) and want to swallow hot coals instead, but if I keep my nose to the grindstone I'll soon look up, and it will be finished. 

My beautiful, shiny new project will be waiting, ushering me into its open arms ready for an adventure. 

I've just got to work hard and keep it simple. 

Friday, 3 March 2017

Writing Goals for 2017

Okay, so I know the 3rd of March is not exactly the right time to be writing about your goals for the year, but I'm going to go ahead and do it anyway. To do so is/was the first Wordbound prompt, so regardless of the date and the fact that I should be on prompt #8, here are my writing goals:

  1.  Finish another novel - this will likely be the adult sci-fi I am currently brainstorming.
  2. Write consistently - as I stated in the post on my homepage, I tend to only write for the 3-6+ months of the year that a first draft takes. The rest of the year is spent editing or having fun out in the sun in the summer, not getting enough done. This year I really want to commit to writing each week, not just on my current project.
  3. Completely finish my current WIP - it's a complete story, I just need to finish edits and give it to alpha readers.
  4. Cut the word count from Dreamcrafter by about 30,000 words (or some equally scary number).
  5. Query Dreamcrafter and current WIP.
That being said, I try not to get too hung up on goals and keep them loose. If something happens in life or a project takes more time than originally planned, that's okay. I am great at punishing myself for not finding more hours in the day. I always finish projects so flitting from one WIP to another is not something I need to worry about. 

I think these five goals are achievable. 

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