Yay for Education & Fan Fiction!

It’s taken two years but your gal is finally a student again. I’m finally getting on with my career goals. Next week my Masters course finally begins and I can stop saying finally.

I’m in a place where I know I’m ready to take this step. Health wise, I’m on new meds and finally feel more in control. I’m not having to worry about my headaches getting in the way as much, if I do have a flare up its only lasting a few days and not a few weeks. While I’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to changing medication, I’m in a much more stable place. I know I’m likely to never not have to take medication or not be a bit more cautious at times so I don’t make myself ill but I’m getting to a point where it’s not taking over all my priorities. I’ve gained some focus back which I can use for my course.

More importantly I have my writing mojo back. The last two years I’ve had ideas here and there but nothing that has really excited me. When I finished university, I was dealing with so many issues that I didn’t have the energy for writing. When you tell someone you want to be a writer, guaranteed you’ll get the response ‘Just write then’, as if it can be done just like that. But as with anything creative, the idea, inspiration and material is coming from you. If you’re mentally drained, you prioritise getting through your day over creating a whole new person or world. In order to come up with any idea, you first need to live in your own shoes before stepping to another’s. I think at times over the last couple of years, I’ve been struggling to do this & therefore writing has taken a back seat. That is until around April this year when I began writing fan fiction.

I’ll admit I used to belittle fan fiction but it’s safe to say my opinion has changed. From the beginning of this year, I began reading fan fiction after seeing a piece come up on my Tumblr feed. It was incredibly well written and it got me hooked, I started to look for more. While I found more great work, I also found work that was lacking in punctuation and grammar or real originality. Fan fiction needs a balance of the familiar and the original, I found myself critiquing work and saying how much better I could do. So one night in April I decided I would do better, created a Tumblr account for my creative writing and posted my very first fan fiction. I opened myself up for requests, which started to come in slowly. Fast forward to now where I write fan fictions for four different television shows, I’ve written 50 pieces and that includes a 9 part series, I’m currently working on about 9 requests and I have over 500 followers. It’s not just fan fiction I’m posting either, I post original poetry and prose and it gains a fair bit of attention too. I get messages from readers telling me they loved a certain piece or really enjoy my writing. The other day after commenting on someone’s work, I received a message from this writer to say how excited that one of their favourites commented on their work and that they’d read all my work. All this positivity has got me writing again, I’m working on something, whether it be my own original work or fan fiction, every day and I prioritise it.

Fan fiction has reminded me how fun writing can be, it leaves out the stress of creating from scratch but still gives you the opportunity to creative with plot and setting and so on. It shouldn’t be belittled, consider that 50 Shades of Grey began as Twilight fan fiction. While it is not a literary masterpiece, it is clearly doing well and people obviously enjoy it. Enjoyment is the essence of writing from both sides, I read and write because I enjoy it. It’s why I’ve stuck with it for so long, it’s why I know want to do it for the rest of my life. It’s why I’ve chosen to continue my education in creative writing because one day I’ll maybe be able to teach that to someone else, writing should be fun!

I’ve already began perusing the materials for my Masters and I couldn’t be more excited to start. Life hasn’t treated me great in this month and I’m in much need of a step forward rather backwards. Instead of saying ‘I’m applying for a masters’ when people ask me what I’m up to, I can finally say ‘Oh I’m studying for my masters’ and you can make your own mind up on what sounds better.

This is the calm before the storm, it’s likely in a few posts time a bit more of a stressed out Taylor will be writing. Present Taylor actually envies her a little.

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One Year Of Bullet Journalling.

Hi, I’m Taylor and I’m addicted to organisation.

Being organised is not a bad thing but I’m one of these people who organises their spare time. If I’m travelling somewhere, I’ll have exact train times and even extra options if the train is cancelled or delayed. If I’m going on a night out at the weekend, I can tell you the exact days I’m prepping my skin and painting my nails. Making to do lists is my idea of fun. So when I discovered the bullet journal, my organisation monster shrieked with happiness.

If you haven’t heard of the bullet journal trend, it is essentially a diary, your to do lists & journal all in one. The best thing about it is how it’s all up to you how you use it, whether you make it simple or complex, plain or colourful, you’re in control. It takes an hour (at most) to set up initially and then it’s 10 minutes a night to plan for the next day. To start out all you need is a notebook and pen, I used this guide (http://bulletjournal.com/get-started/) along with searching #bulletjournal on Instagram for inspiration.

DSC_0716

I’ve now been using my bullet journal for a year and I couldn’t recommend it enough! Here are some reasons why I love it and some tips and tricks I’ve learned;

Organisation all in one place – Rather than carrying around a notebook, diary & journal around, a bullet journal provides a place for everything. I have a future log which shows me what events and appointments I have in the next 6 months, a monthly log to show me what I need to do in that month specifically as well a calendar for the month and then I have dailies which are my day to day to do lists. As well as these essentials, you can add trackers for things like exercise or medication, plus sections to help you with holiday details for example. If I am going on a trip I’ll usually add a packing list, a list of places I want to visit and also all the times for my flights or trains – having all the details in one place is so handy when you’re at the airport or station. There’s no having to rely on your phone, going through emails frantically.

 

Tip – Don’t pressure yourself to make it look perfect – The first couple of months of your journal are likely to look a bit messy but don’t worry. Don’t look on Instagram and freak out because yours isn’t looking perfect like most of the photos on there. You should use your first months to experiment. I tried lots of different styles before I settled into the setup I have now. Struggling to keep up with a task? Try out a tracker. More of a visual person? Try out a calendar so you can see how the rest of the month will pan out. It’s all about what you want to use it for so somethings will work for others but maybe not you.

 

A chance to be creative – As well as getting you organised, a bullet journal also gives you an outlet to express yourself. This could be as simple as using a different colour scheme monthly or as elaborate as a monthly theme. Maybe you don’t consider yourself an artist but like to doodle, have a whole page just for that. Adding inspirational quotes throughout can help you practice fonts and if you put them on random pages throughout it will be a nice surprise when you get to it. While I wouldn’t say I’m the best when it comes to drawing, I’ve really enjoyed doing the odd sketch in my journal. I’m actually quite proud how some of them have come out! Having the chance to be creative might actually entice you more to get organised too, instead of looking at a boring to do list, you’ll come to a colourful page that you want to get through.

 

Tip – Work out your tools – Picking the right journal is important, you’re going to be using it for a long time. For example, I’ve been using my notebook of choice for a year and still have a fair bit to go. I’d recommend using a dotted grid notebook if you can find one, next best would be square grid but lined works as well. That’s what I’m currently using and it works for me but I have this one to use next. It’s what I’ve seen recommended the most to use as a bullet journal.
– If you’re keeping things simple, you want to find a good pen that you find comfortable using a lot and a ruler too to keep things neat.
– If you’re wanting to go more colourful, I’d also recommend a set of fineliners. I currently have a set of Staedtler 0.3mm fineliners but I understand they’re a more expensive option. Supermarkets usually have their own cheap brand that work just as well. Washi tape will become your new best friend. It’s useful for borders, covering up mistake and just adding a little something special to your journal.
-Finally if you want to go for something more elaborate such as title pages, I’d buy a set of colourful pencils and pens. If you have one close by I’d recommend going to Flying Tiger. They’re really cheap and have a great selection of stationery and craft supplies. A perfect place to grab bullet journal supplies when you’re just starting out and you don’t want to break the bank.

 

It’s made me more productive – Having everything in one place means I know where to find anything I need done. Doing a daily list means I’m making sure all the little jobs are done such as filling out the dishwasher or putting away laundry. The satisfaction of seeing a list completely ticked off for the day is really encouraging. I’m noticing how much I actually get done because I’m not having to remember day to day what needs done. On a side note, I deal with chronic pain and on days where I don’t have the energy to do everything, having a daily list there already helps me prioritise so I can at least get a few of the easier things done.

 

Tip – Mistakes are chances to be creative – This is something really useful to learn early on, especially when you’re still experimenting and haven’t quite found your setup yet. A mistake can be covered up in tip-ex but it’s also an opportunity to add something a bit more creative. This can be a pattern made from washi tape, a drawing that illustrates your day or something else that fits in with the month’s theme. For example I messed up a list in the corner of my page last month. So I placed paper over it with a bigger version of my border on it, using washi tape. It looked intentional and broke up the page a bit.

 

If you’re lacking a bit of organisation in your life or need a new project, this is it. After using a bullet journal for a year now, I can safely say it will definitely get you organised. It’s completely customisable so what’s stopping you? Happy organising!

 

 

 

 

 

50 Reminders that the World isn’t all bad.

Dear Taylor,

So it’s safe to say 2016 hasn’t been great. The world is currently in a messy limbo and it’s easy to feel a bit lost. I know headache attacks don’t make it any better, one minute you’re getting ready for a girls night and the next minute you’re on the brink of fainting and can’t move. When it feels like it’s all gone to (excuse my French) shit, I think you need a little pick me up and I’ve made it in the form of this list. Here’s 50 things to cheer you up.

  1. Brownies fresh out the oven.
  2. Skins.
  3. Every Christmas advert this year, they’re all so cute!
  4. Getting pjs warm out the tumble dryer.
  5. My new addiction to Gilmore Girls (Yes, I’m late to the party…)
  6. Remembering a cup of tea when it’s at the perfect temperature.
  7. A train ride through the countryside.
  8. Discovering you like foods you didn’t before because your taste buds have changed.
  9. Iced coffee (This is due to the above phenomenon)
  10. When your nail polish doesn’t smudge.
  11. Flamingos. (If you haven’t seen them parade, watch this now).
  12. Good selfie lighting.
  13. When you predict a plot line in a TV show episodes before it happens.
  14. Cats.
  15. Our kitty Blue in particular.
  16. Travelling to new places.
  17. Hastings.
  18. The fact that David Attenborough exists.
  19. Getting your eyeliner right first time.
  20. Dogs.
  21. Making a party best friend.
  22. A Lush bath.
  23. Autumn.
  24. Bears.
  25. Burg Eltz in Germany (It’s in the middle of the forest and it’s straight out of Disney movie. If you can go, it’s worth it.)
  26. Shakespeare.
  27. Peacocks.
  28. The fact that Pokémon made an epic return.
  29. Days watching trashy tv like Say Yes to The Dress.
  30. The take off part of a flight.
  31. Walking in clean snow.
  32. Koblenz.
  33. Puns, accidental ones are particularly good.
  34. Finding everything on your shopping list in one trip.
  35. A face mask.
  36. Fresh bed sheets.
  37. You have a Momma as cool as Regina George’s.
  38. Purple lipstick.
  39. The fact that you can get pretty much any character in pop culture as a Pop Vinyl figure.
  40. A Harry Potter marathon with my favourite girls.
  41. Mint oreos.
  42. Your friends who you can talk to about literally anything and they won’t judge.
  43. Your Christmas Eve traditions (New pjs, Chinese food and Miracle on 34th Street [1994 version]).
  44. Your bullet journal and how it nice it feels to be organised.
  45. When your hair dries and comes out naturally nice.
  46. RuPaul’s Drag Race.
  47. Your Totoro onesie.
  48. Getting a haircut and actually being happy with it.
  49. Fancy dress.
  50. That days without pain do exist.

See, the world isn’t so bad after all. Just remember that it isn’t all doom and gloom, come back to this list anytime.

Love from,

Taylor.

Bi the way.

If you’re looking for someone to talk all things sexuality, I’m your gal. I find it oddly fascinating, it’s something that affects everyone and everyone has their own way of experiencing it.
In my case, I identify as bisexual as I am attracted to more than one gender. When it comes to coming out stories, I think I’m one of the lucky ones. When I was 16, first I came out unofficially when I was drunk at a party and secondly a few days later when I’d got my thoughts together, I came out officially. My friends supported me completely, not making a fuss over it. Some of them had even guessed years before that I wasn’t 100% straight. I came out to my parents over texts whilst I was at a party. My best friend holding my hand while I freaked out on whether I’d made the right decision. Luckily both were accepting of it. After reading nightmarish stories online, I was dreading the coming out process. Instead I was supported completely.
However, if you identify as anything other than straight you’ll know the coming out process does not end there. For the rest of my life, I have to come out to new friends, work colleagues and possible romantic partners. It’s a never-ending cycle. It’s been 7 years since I first came out so now I’m well versed in the situation. While I’m quite open about my sexuality, you do get fed up of the same replies over and over again. It’s what I like to call bisexual bingo:
1. So is it 50/50?
2. Have you slept with a girl?
3. Aren’t you just being greedy?
4. You’re just confused.
5. Have you had/do you want a threesome?

While I’ll answer some of these questions, some of the answers are exceedingly personal. If a person announced they’re straight, would they be asked in depth questions about their sex life? Hell no, they wouldn’t. Just because a person happens to be attracted to more than one gender, that doesn’t give you permission to probe them about the intimate details of their life. If a person tells you they’re bisexual, be like ‘yeah, that’s cool’. The person has decided to share something that is personal enough, feel privileged that they’ve felt safe enough to come out to you. Coming out gets easier the more good experiences you have. Be kind and don’t start a game of bisexual bingo.

I figured out my sexuality early on, I think I must have been a kid when I started crushing on girls as well as boys. I’ve always felt very confident in my sexuality. However it’s only as I’ve hit my twenties that I discovered there’s so much more to learn. The more I learn, the more I find out about myself. For example, I’ve learnt that there’s a difference between sexual and romantic attraction and that there’s an asexual/romantic scale. There’s so many labels out there, I love how no matter how you identify there’s probably a name for it. I have found that while I’m bisexual, I’m also bi-romantic and demi-romantic. My identifiers give me some comfort in that I’m not alone in how I feel.

 

Good days & bad days.

This post is for all those out there looking for answers, for those who are confused and for those looking for comfort after getting a diagnosis that brings little comfort.

I have a condition called paroxysmal hemicrania. As well as a fantastic tongue twister, this rare condition is where you get a particularly nasty headache which comes in shots of short pain in one side of your head. Headache seems like an insignificant word when describing the condition, when I’m ill, I usually call them headache attacks because that’s what it feels like. It feels like your brain is being attacked from all sides with very little way of defence.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It’s December 2013, a few days before Christmas. I start noticing a very occasional pain in the right side of my head. It’s not like any headache I’ve had before, it’s short but extremely painful. I take ibuprofen in the hopes of warding it off. I make it through my shifts at work and head home for Christmas without much fuss. I tell my mum of the pain and we both dismiss it as just a particularly painful headache. Come December 27th, I have my first full blown attack. I’m up early, getting ready to head back to Sunderland for my last shift at my Christmas job. I’m in the shower when the pain hits me like a ton of bricks. It was too much and next thing I know I’ve blacked out in the shower. I manage to get out with help from my mum and try and blurt out that the pain’s back. It’s not just going away however. Due to the other symptoms I was showing; stiff neck, severe rash and temperature, I was sent to hospital with a meningitis scare. After a lot of tests including one which meant I got a needle in my spine, meningitis was ruled out. However, a week later I’m still getting these pains. It’s coming in waves, I have real trouble dealing with any kind of light and my heat rashes are coating the entire right side of my face and neck. I go back to the doctors in hope of some sort of relief. The doctor I see is as baffled as those at the hospital but takes a guess. He gives me a new painkiller and tells me if this works, you have paroxysmal hemicrania. The painkillers worked thankfully and that gave us a diagnosis.

I do feel incredibly lucky to have a diagnosis so quickly. Due its rarity, it can take people years to be diagnosed. Looking back now though, I also wish I’d had meningitis. Unfortunately this is no one off.

One of my favourite things to distract myself is coming up with metaphors and similes for the pain. It’s also handy when describing what you have to other people. My current favourites are:

My brain is be grated on either side.

It feels like my head’s being boiled alive.

My brain’s turned into overcooked scrambled egg.

It’s like someone’s punched you in the face and your head’s on fire.

Over the last few years, I’ve had attacks at varying levels of pain and varying lengths of time. Sometimes I’ve just needed to sleep it off for the day with minimal painkillers. Other times I’ve been living in my pyjamas for weeks on end, taking a pharmacy’s worth of pills and barely being able to wash myself without help. Curling up in a ball is a small luxury in these moments. I’ve ended up in hospital waiting rooms leaving every health professional completely baffled when I tell them what I’ve got. Usually you can take comfort in a doctor knowing what they’re talking about, in my case not so much.

In the past, attacks could cause an interruption in my life that lasted a month at most. I was diagnosed with the episodic version of my condition, so I’d have periods of remission. Right now, I’m coming to the realisation that my condition is no longer episodic but chronic. I’m also in the midst of being diagnosed with another condition which is set off by PH, but rather than in my head I get pains in my jaw, neck and ear. I started a new job in April and after two weeks of training I got an attack. This lasted around three weeks but it hasn’t really ended. Since my return I’ve still had bad days where the pain is too much and I can’t physically handle it so all I can do is sleep. I’m having to come to the realisation that there isn’t much I can do but hope my painkillers work for the day and I can make it through my work. Those are the good days and it’s so important to enjoy them.

Today was a good day. Today the pain was manageable. Today I got to bake muffins and see my best friend and write this blog. Even in the midst of a full blown attack I might get a couple of hours where I don’t need feel like screaming in pain. I’ll try and tidy or watch my favourite film which requires concentration.

If you get diagnosed with this condition, I know this blog might be a depressing read but I think the best approach is to keep positive. That’s always going to be easier said than done. With me, I try best to keep a sense of humour. Coming up with silly names for symptoms or making stupid jokes with a brain of putty is sometimes enough to encourage a hint of happiness in a heap of pain. Make sure you have support around you, I don’t know what I’d do without my mum or my friends. I’ve also found chatting to people online with the same condition weirdly comforting, rare conditions can be isolating so it’s good to know you’re not the only one. If you’re looking for someone to talk to, I’m here to answer any questions. This post might be a lot to take it, if anything I just needed to vent. It’s important to have a release, I’m lucky in that I’ve found mine. Anyone out there in this situation, find your release.

Don’t let the pain win and appreciate the good days.

YouTube ain’t just for cat videos.

It’s safe to say I’m a long time YouTube viewer. I’ve been watching since before the word ‘youtuber’ was really coined and I’ve even dabbled in a little vlogging myself. What appeals to me about YouTube is how accessible it is. You’ll find everything from short fantasy films to LGBT education, comedy sketches to political rants and of course cat videos. I’ve lost count of how many channels I’m subscribed to but here’s some of my current favourites:

Hannah Wittonhttps://www.youtube.com/hannahwitton

hannah witton

Hannah is a British 20-something who vlogs about sex, relationships and feminism amongst other things. What I love about her videos is that it’s like chatting to a friend, no matter what the topic, it could be your favourite book that month or periods. Hannah’s open approach is educational but never patronising and you can see the passion she puts into her videos.
Highlights: Her ‘Drunk Advice‘ series is fabulous, Hannah and a friend get drunk and answer Twitter questions with hilarious results. Never fails to crack me up.

KickThePjhttps://www.youtube.com/user/KickThePj

kick the pj

PJ is first and foremost a storyteller. I’m not entirely sure he’s from this planet because his content is awesome, in the true sense of the word. PJ’s short films transport you to whole other worlds filled with mind bending characters. In between short films, we get a fresh approach to vlogs, with occasional looks behind the scenes and some DIY tutorials. I love watching PJ’s videos because there’s always something new and you can tell he’s doing what he loves.
Highlights: Office Space is a super endearing film and while you can tell where the influences for this one have come from, it’s still very much PJ’s film. It is 3 years old but it’s a good place to start and still one of my favourite videos PJ’s ever made.

Daniel J. Laytonhttps://www.youtube.com/user/DanielJLayton

Daniel J Layton

Daniel J. Layton is a severely underrated YouTube treasure. When his videos pop up in my subscription feed, I always watch straight away because I know I’m in for a treat. Dan vlogs about what’s going on in his life, nice and simple. But he knows how to subtly work up to a punchline to perfection so an everyday anecdote turns into something really amusing. Dan’s videos are completely relatable but not in a cliché way, he’s just very honest and lovely. Just go subscribe!
Highlights: His ‘Baking with Layton‘ series is like the YouTuber version of The Great British Bake Off. Dan and a YouTube friend bake something, it’s a strong format that always gives me the giggles.

Hazel Hayeshttps://www.youtube.com/user/ChewingSand

Hazel hayes

Hazel is an extremely witty, Irish filmmaker. Whether it be sharing 30 minute long vlogs of her month, making thrilling short films or interviewing A-list celebs, Hazel has a complete air of professionalism at all times. Her brilliantly named Time of the Month series is exceedingly well put together, it’s a lot to share but Hazel gets the perfect balance between emotion, theme and aesthetic. When it comes to short films, if you like psychological horror, Hazel’s channel is for you. My particular favourite is Septum which I’d love to see fleshed out as a feature film.
Highlights: Tipsy talk is a series in which Hazel and friends (sometimes famous) get together for a drink and chat. You’ll never sure where it will go and that’s what makes the series so great; its unpredictability.

Connor Manninghttps://www.youtube.com/user/AConMann

connor manning

Connor is a young American vlogger who makes videos about sexuality, mental health, relationships and dating. His videos are sometimes inspired by questions from his views and other times, just by something in his life. I love that his videos are clearly for him, he’ll often say as he gives advice that he’s telling himself as well as advising the viewer. His videos have a pretty casual tone even whilst sometimes dealing with darker subjects. I find his sexuality videos particularly therapeutic, as someone who also identifies as bisexual, it’s nice to hear someone else’s POV.
Highlights: He’s covered so many topics, it’s hard to choose my favourites. I’d recommend No Bae November which is explaining how relationships are nice but they’re also just another way of living your life (he words it much better than me) and Too Gay, Too Straight which really resonated with me as it’s something I’ve gone through myself.

This is a very small selection of my favourite YouTubers, I could go on for hours. I may write another one of these in a few months time, I’ll probably have subscribed to even more channels by then! Got any YouTube recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments.

Why I bloody love Skins.

I will fully admit I am a television addict. I love the joy of finding a new show to immerse myself in, the detective work that comes with working out the plot, the bizarre emotional connection you get to fictional characters and the anticipation of the next episode or season. From fantasy shows set around a family of New Zealanders who also happen to be Norse gods to sitcoms about the parks and recreation department of Pawnee, I’ll watch it all. However, there’s one show I will always come back to; Skins.

If you haven’t heard of Skins, it’s a British drama set in Bristol that follows a group of teenagers in their last two years of school. It first aired in 2007, with the cast changing every two series and ended in 2013 with a one off series bringing back characters from the past generations, showing them in adult life.

gen 1

I was only 13 when the first series started but because I have a mum as cool as Regina George’s, I was allowed to watch it. It opened me up to a world of partying, drugs and sexuality. While I knew some of it was exaggerated, what struck me was that some of the situations and problems they were dealing with were something that could affect me in the near future. The actors are actually age appropriate and not in their twenties for a change, it gives the show a completely realistic feel. It isn’t all about the teenagers though. Parents, teachers and the like are played by some great British actors. While most think of Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, I can only see him as Mark Jenkins, Sid’s foul-mouthed father.

The characters are fully rounded and you can often find yourself picking traits in them that you have yourself. Some appear a tad stereotypical on the surface, a speccy nerd who follows his best friend like a side kick or a metalhead who isn’t the most friendly but with each character getting their own episode, you’ll soon discover that stereotypes aren’t everything. The writing will make you love them, hate them and back again. Online, especially when you get into tumblr territory (find my own Skins tumblr here) you’ll see a lot of debates on favourite characters. While some can sympathise with a character, others are quite ready to bring them down.

Skins-Series-4

Plot wise, it packs a lot in. It deals with mental health from eating disorders to depression, drugs, grief, sexuality and religious beliefs clashing, falling in love, teenage pregnancy, crime, being adopted and how to get that darned history coursework in on time. There is something there for everyone. Plus with the cast changing every two series, you can see different backgrounds and perspectives on British teenage life. If you aren’t feeling one generation, there might be something for you in the next.

The other thing I loved about Skins was the soundtrack. I was and well probably still am a total indie kid. Skins introduced me to loads of bands and artists, with every episode featuring a lot of new talent. As well as new, they picked pop classics (Britney Spears = excellent car chase music) and soundtracked an entire episode with Debussy. The music choices are just as well thought out as the plot, with each moment musically glazed to perfection.

gen 3

I don’t want to say anything more because I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of watching. Even after all these years and multiple rewatches later, I’ll never get sick of Skins. It’s TV at its best. Binge watch it. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll become a teenager all over again.