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.

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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.

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.

Alternative Universes.

So as we get into January, the daily grind starts again. Although for us joyous people in retail, it never ended. Anyway, everyone’s trudging back to work and school after the season of indulgence and it always feels a little bleak. Why is it no longer acceptable to crack the prosecco out for breakfast and have a decorated tree in your living room?

Our days become a little less excitable and a lot more ordinary after the festive season. We all have a bit of a reboot. Some decide to detox and hit the gym, even if it is only for a month while most hit the reset on their jolly emotions. The festive period made everything seem a little brighter and happier and it reflected through everyone, take notice because people smile a hell of a less throughout their year. When we get back to this stilted ordinariness, I refer to one of my favourite concepts:

Alternative universes.

It’s the idea that right now there are hundreds, thousands, well an unfathomable number of other universes. Some dramatically different to ours where say the dinosaurs still roam but others only a little different where I might happen to have brown eyes instead of blue. It’s an insane idea to get your head around that there’s possibly tons of different versions of yourself out there but at times it can oddly give me comfort.

Say I’m having a bad day, I’m running late to work, I’ve got a long shift and I’m full of the cold. All you want to do in that situation is curl up and feel sorry for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, I obviously do that too. However, I think about the universe where I’m on time to work, feeling great and I’m only in 4 hours. At least somewhere out there, I’m on the right path. There’s also the me out there who’s already writing her 3rd bestselling novel and I’m happy for her but I know I’m not ready for that yet. You can easily use it in reverse, as the only saying goes ‘things could always be worse’. For instance while dealing with tricky customers is a pain, I could be in a world where the Hunger Games is actually real or the mass majority of the population has turned into cannibals.

Now a lot of you could be saying I’m just running away with my imagination or I spend way too much time day dreaming. To be fair both of those assumptions are pretty accurate. However, I urge you to creative your own alternative universes. Some only a little different, where you’re studying photography instead of art but others that are completely over the top with monsters and aliens.

Some days we all feel like we’ve hit rock bottom. I’ve been there. I’ve been stuck in the emotional fog and it’s horrible. My alternative universes help me realise that while things could be better, they could also be worse. It hurts to lose someone but it’s even better to have had them in your life at all. Life is a middle ground. Sometimes you need a little bit of the ridiculous to appreciate it.

 

Warning: clichés ahead.

So I’ve sat down with a green tea to reflect, like a gazillion blog posts before me. I don’t think I’ve ever really appreciated the whole celebration of New Year until this year.

I was sensible this year, I stayed in for most of the night with my best friend and her dog. We watched films, treated ourselves to pizzas and chocolate and stayed sober the entire night. As midnight approached we went to a firework display the town over. At the stroke of midnight we gave each other that huge cheesy grin that Hogmanay qualifies for and hugged. We were surrounded by tons of people doing the same. Greeting each other with hugs and kisses and all the well wishes in the world. It was a pretty adorable sight to see.

While I’ve usually found making New Year’s plans stressful, only finding that it was another excuse for a party and while I’ve had fun at those parties, the next day comes with an inevitable hangover and a bit of let-down. Was all that fuss worth it? I think New Year is about coming to the end of a year and appreciating what you’ve got in your life. All the alcohol and party dresses aren’t necessary to appreciate your wonderful friends and family.

I have a feeling my reflections on New Year, have something to do with the kind of year I’ve had. 2015 has been full of ups and downs. I lost two family members early in the year and I’m still getting through that now. That, the stress of finishing university and my general lack of routine for the second half of the year have made me really ill. Unfortunately it’s not something I can really help, having a rare headache condition sucks. With all the negativity though, I can truly adore the positive in my life. I graduated with an honours degree in English and Creative Writing, seen some of my favourite bands live, had an amazing holiday to Amsterdam with my Mum, spent my 22nd birthday playing childish party games, visited my Dad’s for a lovely chilled break, I’ve dressed up in fun costumes for birthdays and Halloween, spent plenty of nights out with friends and I’m ending the year in a job which has its challenges but I enjoy it.

I’m very much ready for a new start, 2016 brings a nice clean slate. I’m not usually one for resolutions but I want this year to be all about writing. I’m determined I’ll finish my first novel, I started it as part of my final project for university so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch. It’s an achievable goal and I know how satisfying it will be. So with this post, I’m starting the year as I mean to go on, writing.

Happy new year everyone, I hope 2016 is good to you all.

A Rant on PCOS.

My end to 2013 and start to 2014 hasn’t been the smoothest. Just after Christmas, I had a bit of a meningitis scare. Spent a day in hospital getting all sorts of tests, I was well and truly poked and prodded. Luckily it wasn’t meningitis, I wouldn’t have been too happy with Santa Claus leaving me that late gift. However, the main symptom which set off my scare, a bizarre headache in the right side of my head, has led to a back and forth between my doctor’s surgery as we try and diagnose my problem. After a week of new medication, we might have found out what it is but alas I’ll have to wait until my next appointment.

Since my mind has been pretty focussed on health just now, I wanted to discuss another condition I happen to have and today seemed appropriate to do so. I was diagnosed with Polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS years ago. Today it feels appropriate since I got my second laser treatment treating one of my PCOS symptoms.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the condition, which quite frankly wouldn’t surprise me, PCOS is a condition which affects women and how our ovaries work. To put it simply, our hormones can go rather wonky and we can develop cysts in our ovaries. I don’t want to bore you with details, but by just mentioning it I’m getting the word out. Obviously because of some of the symptoms it causes and the area of the body it concerns it’s not the easiest thing to talk about. For example, one of my worst symptoms was dark hair growing where it wasn’t wanted. That’s why today I’ve been having laser hair removal. And why would I share this information with the internet? Because not enough people do!

PCOS affects an estimated 1 in 5 women in the UK but when I’ve spoke about it with friends rarely any of them have ever heard of it. I understand that it’s rather embarrassing but the internet has managed to banish that block elsewhere. We can speak anonymously on blogs and forums and we can speak publicly in the form of video blogs and social networks about all kinds of topics. Yet despite how common PCOS is in a doctor’s surgery, it’s very uncommon online. Now I’m very aware if you search for it, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Google is a wonderful thing, I will not deny that.  The jump that needs to be made though is for it to be spoken about in real life.

I’m a very open person, I pride myself of essentially being an open book. However, when it came to PCOS, I’d get a little bit quieter. If someone asked why I had to go to Edinburgh (I have to go to a specialist there for laser treatment) I’d never specify, just dance around an answer. I’ve now had a few treatments though and quite frankly, I’m feeling happy about it! It is early days but the results are great and I already feel better about myself. When I share something on my facebook, twitter and various other social networks (yes, I’m a bit of an internet addict) I want it to be something that has made me happy.

I’m not saying that we all have to come forward but just be aware of it, this goes for any conditions not just PCOS. Don’t suffer in silence, you’d be surprised how good it feels to let it out. You never know you could help someone figure out what’s going on in their own body or make someone feel like they’re not alone.

More information on PCOS – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Polycystic-ovarian-syndrome/Pages/Introduction.aspx