I think I just rambled, Life

snail mail and pen pals – letter writing for beginners

When I was a mere youngling, I wrote letters. My spelling was frequently off and my efforts could be optimistically termed as ‘mildly dismal’ but I knew all my pen-pals’ favourite colours and I enjoyed receiving the responses and writing mine after a long interval. (Procrastination has ever been a companion of mine.) (Unfortunately.)

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I am now older, with grey hair and a back. (The grey hair was an expensive choice and the back is seeming to still function. I just wanted to mention that I had one. You probably have one too.) And in late-ish 2020, thanks to a friend who also thought it was a Good Idea, I plunged back into the world of letter writing.

My efforts could still improve, my spelling is as off as milk left in the Sahara desert for three months, and my handwriting takes inspiration from a beheaded and drunken chicken’s fevered scratchings.

(Sometimes it looks nice. Sometimes.)

And yet there’s nothing quite like receiving a letter in the mail – something that isn’t an advertisement, a bill, something from the bank, or a parcel that you paid for. No – this is for you. A piece of tangible snug cosiness formed of ink and paper, waiting for you to sit down with a cup of tea so that it can share its contents with you.

Photo by John-Mark Smith on Pexels.com

Here are some things that I’ve learned along the way:

MAKE A HABIT OF IT

My friend and I determined that for the month of December, we would write a letter a week to each other. And I really must say – making it a discipline to write regularly helped.

And it didn’t quite stop there. I realised that not only did I want to write to my friend, but I also wanted to write letters to other friends and family members. They have now been inflicted gifted with many, many letters. (I haven’t sent one to the Queen just yet but I can feel one coming.) (I should clarify that I’m not related to her.) (That I know of.) (The chances are sub-zero.) (Yes, that is a thing.)

BE CREATIVE

Writing letters is as little or as much as you make of it. The heart is always the actual letter. However, you can also do some lovely window dressing. I looked at Pinterest and my word! There’s an entire world of letter writing. There are YouTube channels dedicated to the art of the PenPal. They layer up paper and stickers and stamps and drawings like an English person does clothes in a Canadian winter.

I love it. It’s insane and I am bewildered by it all but I love it.

I’m not touching calligraphy (see aforementioned description of my handwriting) but I can buy stickers! I can buy washi tape (or as I incorrectly called it: wasabi tape. The two are not the same, fyi)! It’s been a slow descent into madness but I have a basket of supplies. It’s enormous fun and quite relaxing to let my dubious creativity loose on paper and envelope. And then I seal it with a wax seal and oh my gosh in that moment I’m either a) Roman emperor completing a death warrant or b) an Austen heroine there is no in-between.

WRITE

Writing letters is a way to time travel (a letter! sent last week! A voice from the past!) – in our world of instant instantness (just bear with me here) it’s delightful to send and receive something that isn’t saved on a cloud somewhere, but something that you can take out, hold and reread. (Or, for those receiving a letter from me: squint at my handwriting and ask ‘is that an ‘a’ or an ‘e’, why is that ‘i’ there and what on earth is she saying?) It’s a lovely way of connection – especially now, when it’s so difficult and many of us cannot meet with the ones we love.

It might be difficult, when faced with a blank page, to work out what to write. But have no fear! You can fill it with so many things:

  • interesting questions (contingency plans if zombies should attack … ohhh I haven’t used that one yet!)
  • descriptions of books you’re reading/media you’ve enjoyed
  • adventures you have had/would like to have
  • what you ate for breakfast
  • opinions on the weather (… it’s practically a law, I think)
  • mutual interests/memories
  • rants/ravings
  • quotes/interesting snatchings of poetry
  • music suggestions
  • etc etc etc

So, if you are pondering letter writing – enjoy it! Go for it! Take the plunge! Find someone to exchange letters with. (And be bitter with me about the way that there isn’t spellcheck for writing letters by hand.) (And lament when the Royal Mail somehow mislays a letter EVEN WHEN IT’S ONLY GOING TO A CITY FORTY-FIVE MINUES.) (I love them really. Also: what a shame, I’ll just have to write another letter.)

By the by, what is your favourite colour? And have I overused brackets in this post? (No.) (If anything I underused them.)

I think I just rambled, Life

disappointing marcus aurelius

The stack of books by my bed is as tall as my bed itself. I’ve recharged my kindle and read it most every night. This year, I’ve managed to read 182 books. I’m not sure what I should do with that number. There were so many good ones, and some infamous ones which weren’t quite my cup of tea.

Photo by Caroline Feelgood on Pexels.com

I’m knitting a scarf – it is hideously ugly and terribly done and I am enjoying it immensely. It’s quite refreshing to just do and not be anxious about getting it perfect or doing it well.

(I hadn’t put my finger on my striving to always do things correctly and the ludicrous amount of stress that entails, until I picked up the knitting needles.)

A Suffragist Abroad is still being editing – the final stretch, before it goes to a beta reader. I’m going through it as though I’m the reader instead of the author and it’s quite lovely. (Bonkers, weird, slightly mad – those words apply too). Let me tell you, I cant wait for you to meet Vi and Mr. Sorrow.

you will definitely read it just like this / Photo by Life of Wu on Pexels.com

The UK is still in the clutch of Tier system and Christmas won’t be the same for many, many people. The stars are still shining though. I checked for you, last night. In spite of the clouds (‘the Milky Way is moving quickly’ was quipped with great humour) and the drizzle, the heavens peered down and two shooting stars streaked across the sky.

Work has been hectically busy. As the dad from Calvin & Hobbes would say ‘character building’. It’s gut-wrenchingly disappointing to discover that you can’t do everything and that you will, eventually, have a mild breakdown in your dressing gown one evening because there aren’t enough hours in the day and work has built up and up and your ability to cope has plunged like a heavy anchor in a turbulent sea.

(YOU WILL PRY PURPLE-PROSE METAPHORS FROM THE CLUTCHING FINGERS OF MY COLD DEAD HANDS.)

It’s because of that, the fact that you can’t really nip off to Mongolia and discover Genghis Khan’s tomb, and my brother having my sister-in-law dye his hair grey that … well, I’ve dyed my own hair. It’s now a slate blue-grey. Ta-da.

Granted, this is somewhat of an extreme reaction, but what can you do? (Dye your hair grey. Apparently. That’s what.) Sometimes, you react reasonably to things, you sit down, you contemplate life, and you sip tea. Other times, you simply don’t. You book a visit to the hairdresser’s and you agree for your hair to be more blue than you anticipated. Marcus Aurelius would probably be excessively disappointed.

I haven’t been a good Stoic. If I was a Stoic. Which I’m not. But if I was, I’d be a bad one. Life is full of disappointments and unmatched gloves.

The point of it all, I think, is just to keep going. To keep looking for the good. (And there is good. There’s so much of it.) To keep plodding on. To reach out if you do need help. (It’s not a weakness, you know. It’s wisdom.)

If you’re reading this (still?!) – I wish you a lovely Christmas. Even if it isn’t quite the usual sort.

I think I just rambled, Life

very exciting and likely goals for march

Well, it’s a new month. Instead of reviewing what I did in February (… I saw EMMA. three times. That’s it.) I’m going to put my goals/wishlist for March right here. Feel free to let me know what your goals are for March. Or don’t. That’s okay too.

EDIT ANOTHER 40 PAGES OF PROJECT IF

The editing of Project If is going so slowly that it makes a glacier like it’s breaking the sound barrier. However, I will take whatever victories I can and so therefore, I wish to edit another 40 pages and update the word document for the last 40 pages.

Patches of the novel still boggle me – I’m not sure how I got the plot into such a state, but I did. And so, I must mend it.

I don’t see problems … I see solutions.

EDIT/PROOFREAD OUR INTREPID HEROINE THE FIRST

Our Intrepid Heroine was taken down because it needed de-typoing and updating and just a major overhaul. It’s getting a new cover – exciting, I know – I’ve got Monkey and Whale Designs lined up to do it for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I’m going to have a whole step-by-step front cover design post at the end of it too. (I always find those really fascinating to view. AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM NOSY. I am interested in the creative process. So there.)

I knocked this one up myself – but it is time for someone else to have a go …

SURVIVE WORK

It’s that life to work to sleep balance that I’ve been lacking recently. I slipped out of my writing routine and didn’t get enough sleep and so everything went to pot. I don’t know about you, but if I’m sleep-deprived, I turn into an emotional wreck riddled with paranoia and bouts of Certainty That Everything Is Dreadful.

NO MORE! This is going to change. I – a twenty-five year old adult – am going to have a bedtime.

Yeah, I know.

SUCH A BLOOMIN’ ADULT. MUCH SHOCK!!

WRITE MORE + SPEND LESS

Once I’d finished Project If and Unicorn Poop Part One I fell into a creative hole. Well, much like Ben Solo, I’m going to crawl out of the pit, save someone’s life and then die and OH MY GOSH THE RISE OF SKYWALKER WHY WOULD YOU HURT HIM LIKE THAT????

Ah-hem.

Well, I’ll be hammering out Unicorn Poop Part Two and possibly starting back up on Our Intrepid Heroine The Third.

Also, I’m going to be budgeting – or if not that, at the very least be more aware of how much I spend. I need to save up for a cottage with room enough for a library, you see. PRIORITIES.

WEATHER THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

I don’t usually – or ever, really – talk about world news on this blog, but let’s break with tradition for a wee moment …

No one truly knows what is going to happen though it is very easy to think of worse case scenarios. I keep on thinking of FEED by Mira Grant which is rather inappropriate because that was about zombies and bloggers. (There’s a difference.)

I just hope that we can weather this with the least amount of cases as possible. Perhaps this is too much optimism but there’s always a chance that it won’t be as bad as some people predict.

Oliver Cromwell apparently once told his soldiers to: put your faith in God, but keep your powder dry.

I think we can change this to:

Put your faith in God, but also please wash your hands.

I think I just rambled

grave deskisions

I’ve been thinking about desks for a while. Flirting with an idea but never thinking about it seriously. (Ness, I can hear you ask. Are you really going to kick off the new year with a post about a DESK. The answer is yes. Yes, I am.)

HOW TO COPE WITH THE DAWN OF A NEW DESK by A Dedicated Writer and Bookworm

STEP ONE: PLANNED IMPULSIVENESS

If the impulse to google ‘desks’ seizes you one day, and your thumb hovers over the tempting ‘buy now’ button, it is important to stop – think about what you are doing. Make sure that the measurements are correct.

Grab a tape that is older than you (vital!) and measure your current desk, which is not actually a desk but a table. A winged table. (That you should decide to give up such a wonder says something about you. Perhaps it is unflattering, perhaps it is not. Either way, you don’t give it a thought. You are measuring.)

Once you’ve measured (and thought ‘huh that’s a bit taller than my current desk-winged-creature but what could possibly go wrong?’*) hit purchase and enter your details in.

You receive a confirmation email. Life is glorious.

*this will not have a pay off and the sense of foreboding will lead to nowhere. Life is cruel like that.

STEP TWO: IMPATIENTLY WAIT

Have a late night crisis about time and how while you want to have a new desk (and have told all your colleagues multiple times about how very excited you are) and wish for it’s arrival date to hasten! … it will eventually happen. Time is a stream and then will inevitably become now.

This is deep.

You are impressed with yourself.

STEP THREE: THE BLESSED MOMENT HAS DAWNED!

IT IS HEAVING WITH POTENTIAL.

Your desk has arrived. You hurry home. You take selfies with your desk. You get your Mum to take pictures of you and your desk (which is flat packed and is in an unassuming cardboard box. Never mind that, you see potential.)

You clear your room, ready to start. It shouldn’t be too hard.

… it is.

All visions of you being a strong and capable and mature adult wither in front of THE MANUAL. It looks like Russian. You can’t read Russian. (But you can say ‘vodka’ and ‘nyet’ which is, in the grand scale of things, not your greatest accomplishment.)

DEAD DREAMS. THE DEADEST.

You get everything out of the box. You put sticky notes on different boards and pieces of wood. Some fall off, like dead dreams and autumn leaves. You stare at them very hard. You look back at THE MANUAL.

You summon help.

STEP FOUR: SIT AND YOUR DESK AND MARVEL

The cavalry are glorious and also members of your family which is wonderful (there are heavy hints about purchasing coffee as a thank you. You should do this.)

And then it is done. The job is complete. The room is tidied and your Desk Of Dreams Where Worlds Will Be Birthed sits there neatly … waiting for you to fill the drawers and tap out words.

It was worth it, you decide. And then you sit down and write about desks – those new worlds can wait to be birthed another day.

before …
… after
Books, I think I just rambled, Life

2019 – it happened. also, still no grey hair

2019 wasn’t the easiest year I’ve ever lived, but it also was one full of richness and joy and growth. (Clearly, I should write greeting cards.)

Let’s do a little recap, shall we?

TEACHING // BREAST LUMPS // ILLNESS

in a different country, but still lovin’ the same authors

Teaching abroad was an adventure. I believed it was the right place for me, but I missed home and my family and my books. And financial stability.

I earned money by freelance work (read: Fiverr – ONE DAY I WILL TELL YOU ABOUT MY SHORT-LIVED CAREER), and with some support from home and half my rent paid by the school, I was able to live and teach English. I met so many lovely people there who really blessed me. I learned far more than I taught.

I returned home and started working in an office job. And then I discovered that I had a lump in my breast. (The two … are not connected.) It was a pretty dark month, that one. I decided to plan my funeral. I got as far as a room with a coffin and some chairs. (Don’t attend, by the way, it’s going to be completely boring.)

I had an ultrasound and it turns out I have fibre-something-something. I can’t spell or remember it, but apparently – and more importantly – it’s called a ‘breast mouse’. So. Brambly Hedge never had that sort of mice, lemme tell you- Okay. Let’s stop there.

According to the doctor, I’m okay, and my funeral plans were premature. But I can’t help but view my mammary glands as ticking time bombs.

And then there’s been other illness in the family and that’s been difficult and has sucked.

i saw this online and had to recreate it. … months later and it’s still HYSTERICAL

A Hawaiian snail went extinct. Other people and creatures have had a far more rubbish 2019 than I have. Truly. When I compare my life – I mean, I know we shouldn’t – but fried parsnips, it could be so much worse. I don’t have breast cancer. And the fact that I can type that feels like some kind of miracle for which I am so. grateful.

Through the dark times and the good, God has been there. Constant. I haven’t talked a lot about my faith on this blog. I’m worried that it will sound holier-than-thou and God knows I can’t live up to that.

But God can, and so I’ll write it here – 2019 wasn’t easy, but God was good, and greater than every hardship. Under everything, joy has dwelt like a hidden stream.

There will probably be harder years – this is life, after all, we aren’t promised an easy one – but we are promised that He is with us always. And that’s true for 2019.

BOOKS

What – you thought I wouldn’t put anything about books in here? PFFFFT. Of course I would. And will. So let me present you with the books that made the biggest impact on me this year …

*drum roll please*

  • Keep Going by Austin Kleon This changed my life. Truly – it kickstarted a better writing routine and helped me finish writing a book and plunge into other projects. The front cover alone (‘Keep Going’ it proclaims in big letters) I’ve put it on my desk and every time I see it, it reminds me to do just that: keep going. Funny, how two words can mean so much.
  • The Bible – New Living Translation I’ve grown up a strictly KJV kind of girl, but let me tell you this – reading it in modern English, stripped of thees and thous has made it a lot easier to read. You don’t have to think past the older English as much. I’ll always adore and go back to the KJV but man alive, the NLT has really made a difference.
  • The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien I know – I’d never read them before. But I have now and what touched me was the overall backdrop of it – of a world, an age that was fading away and how what was new was uncertain. I ended it in tears. Frodo is so much better in the books than on film. Also, the songs and poems? Dope. They’re dope.
  • Till We Have Faces by C. S Lewis I seldom find books in which I connect so strongly to a character – but I did with this one. I am going to have to read it again, I think. But more slowly this time. I rush when I enjoy a book, you see, gobbling it up instead of savoring it.

There are more, I’m sure. I’ve enjoyed many books this year. I haven’t been keeping my goodreads updated because I’ve lowkey got a conspiracy theory running about Amazon and how they’re probably gathering all the books I’ve read and items I’ve purchased and guessing what kind of a person I am and I don’t need that kind of stress okay?

I’ll give the information to Facebook, instead, via Instagram.

IN SUMMARY

Thank you so much for reading my blog. This is a place where I unload my brain and amuse myself (one of my besetting sins is that I find myself funny – even if the reality, and other people’s groans, point to the contrary.) and the fact that you’ve stuck around and read these posts? Thank you. You’re pretty awesome. Tell me how your year has gone? What’s the best book you’ve picked up? What’s the worst?

Next week brings a new year, and with it, new adventures.

See you there!

adventures and awesome fashion sense await!

*re the title of this post: if my hair goes grey it means that i’m one step closer to the wolf pelt hair i’ve been aiming for ever since i decided it would be awesome to have wolf-pelt hair. i haven’t actually pictured it clearly in my head but i think it would be amazing. Yes, I am a mature adult – why are you asking?