April : Some Things That Inspired Me

April was…a month. Shit and stupendous in not so equal measures. Your guess as to which overrode the other. My mood was predominately manic, though the days of depression were dark and bleak and so difficult I wanted to wall myself up and sleep for the rest of my life.

Also, Is it me or is this year playing on fast-forward? I’m just the slightest bit terrified about how quickly time is being eaten up…and how many teeth little Saga has now. Every time I look at her a new one is emerging, huge and white and incredibly sharp. Part wolf she is, I’m sure of it.

Even though April was hard I need to give thanks for books, predominately, without which I would be in a much worse place than I am in now. I also need to give thanks to music, the internet and – even though I only really watch Game Of Thrones and the news – the TV.

Books

I’ve set myself a goal of reading 100 books this year in memory of my friend and fellow bookworm Lucy, who was taken from us last year. To date I’ve read 27 books, 5 of those being in April. I’m not overly impressed with myself, seen as though my aim was to power through 10 at least (I’ve set a goal of 100 books for this year, but obviously I’d like to surpass that in Lucy’s honour…)

Still, considering that I spent many a day staggering through, I shouldn’t beat myself up for too long. The books I did finish all made for compulsive reading. (One of my self-imposed rules for this 100 Books In A Year Challenge is that if a book hasn’t grabbed me within an hour, I put it down and I move onto the next.)

The books were:

If you want more on books, I write about everything I read over at my book club @sliceofthemoonbookclub


Internet

One of the reasons I think I might not have read more than 5 books in April was because of the fact I grabbed my phone and scrolled Instagram at moments when I should have been grabbing a book. However, some good did come from grabbing my phone and I found myself cleaning up who I follow on Instagram. I only want to follow accounts that spark joy in me, who fuel my creativity and thirst to live a better life.

Some of the accounts that I started to follow:

Oonagh Moon (Her blog post April Playlist actually inspired this post.)

Luna Luna Magazine

The Good Death

Byn Collection

Oooh Books

Being Is Beautiful

Other good stuff I found on the internet:

Orion Magazine : Nature, Culture And Place

How To be Creative : How An Artist Turns Pro

8 Cheap Prisms For Creative Photography

A Feeling Of Awakening : Jonna Jinton (I have been following Jonna’s work for years. Her videos and blogs give me so much light and hope.

Music

My consumption of music since I’ve had Saga has been dire. Proper dire. (I have, on the other hand, been making music which you can investigate here and here if you so wish…) If I compare my consumption to what it used to be I…actually, I don’t want to do that. It’s too sad. I’ll just share with you the stuff I listened to this month that gave me all the goosebumps.

Gaahl’s WYRD – Carving The Voices

Heilung – Othan

Drudkh – Autumn In Sepia

Brutus – War

TV

I don’t watch TV per se. I can’t veg out on the couch and flick through the channels. I’d rather read a book. I will, however, watch select programs on occasion, programs that really interest me. One of those is, of course Game Of Thrones.

I think we can all agree that Episode 3 of Season 8 pretty much blew everything fantastical that’s ever been made out of the water completely. I never thought I’d say it, but Lord Of The Rings even… The atmosphere that accompanied the episode was harrowing and addictive. The moment when the Dothraki stormed, flaming swords held high…the moment went the swords went dark… There will never be a moment like that, so heavy and sobering and brilliant, for as long as we all shall live. Hold me to that, I speak truth!

Other programs I tuned into:

Climate Change : The Facts

The Office : US Version (Re-watching this ABSOLUTE GEM because I’ve needed to laugh. I’ve really needed to laugh.)

World From Above




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For Years My Dad Has Been Telling Me To Write Songs

For years and years and years, my Dad has been saying to me, ‘Katie, why don’t you try writing song lyrics?’ And for years and years and years, I’ve listened to him, replied every time with an ‘mhm, we’ll see,’ and gone on my merry (merry is debatable, actually…) way. I’ve wanted to try and do it, believe me. I’ve wanted to try and write song lyrics so bad, but the worry that I would be fucking terrible at it has kept me walled away from that particular creative path.

But something happened the other month. I was in a really bad, really dark, really miserable place and no light could get in. And it was while I was in this really bad, really dark, really miserable place that my first song emerged. It happened accidentally – I think it needed to happen accidentally – while I was trying to get little Saga to sleep.

I was almost at the end of my tether with the little one, when Cave Mouth more or less fully formed itself in my head, and crept out through my lips in place of ‘Blinka lilla stjärna där.’ (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Swedish.) I felt something magical stir in my heart and it was as if my soul actually shook itself awake. I’d finally given myself permission to vault the wall and explore the path I’d been forbidding myself to take.

As soon as Saga had taken flight to the land of nod, I was huddled over my laptop, quietly recording Cave Mouth. I was all pride and smiles as I listened back to it, and thought to myself, ‘I need to do something with this before I decide that actually it’s shit and I should never attempt song writing or singing ever again.’ So, the following day I recorded Cave Mouth again and sent it to probably the most talented person I know, Meghan Wood of the stupendously brilliant Crown of Asteria.

Meghan, may the gods bless her soul, liked what I had going on with the lyrics and the signing, and we worked together to turn what I’d sent her into a demo. Once that was in the public realm, I felt like nothing could stop me. I started writing and singing full pelt. Even if someone were to say I sounded fucking awful, I felt strong enough to be able to deal with it and more forward.

A few weeks after the song Cave Mouth made it’s debut, Meghan and I came up with an idea to start a project together…now Cave Mouth isn’t just a demo song, it’s the name of our transatlantic dark folk/dark ambient/cinematic experiment!

At the time of writing, we’ve created several songs together and are working on a full-length album. Had I deleted Cave Mouth with the belief I was shit and it wasn’t worth the time, I wouldn’t be nourishing this project which brings more shards of light into my life with every day that passes.

Three Online Tools I Use Everyday

You know those days when you stumble across a free tool online that almost immediately starts helping you to become more proficient, productive and passionate? I bloody love those days, and I hope you’ll be having one today.

The three sites below are my daily ‘go to’ tools and to be honest with you, my writing life would be a sadder, more boring and considerably more difficult one without them.

Canva

Free (Premium Monthly Subscription $12.95)

Graphic design tool Canva came into my life two years ago when I was frantically searching for free programmes so I could make an attempt at doing my own designing.

I wanted to take control of the graphic design side of my writing business after years of relying on other people for things like book covers, blog logos and promotional material. I wanted to become my ‘go to’ person, and Canva made that transition extremely easy.

After logging in (no downloading software here, folks!) you arrive at a home page (see above) where a myriad of design options are waiting for you to explore them. The range of templates is colossal, and no matter what you need, I can guarantee you’re going to find it here, from blog banners to Pinterest graphics, eBook covers to logos, Etsy shop icons to Instagram post templates. Canva also provides access to over a million photographs, graphics and fonts and the editing options you have are limitless.

I was on Canva for a week or so before I realised that upgrading would be one of the best investments I could make for myself. It was. I’ve never regretted it. The site is impeccable. The service is impeccable. The solutions it offers are, yeah, you guessed it, im-fucking-peccable. I’ve never had anything to complain about.

One of my favourite features is the ability to be able to upload 25 of my own fonts. (I generally find my fonts on Da Font. If you’d like me to write a separate post on how to best utilise Da Font, let me know in the comments and I’ll make it happen!)

Another excellent feature is the re-size option. You can re-size using your own custom dimensions or one of the dozens of choices that Canva offers, meaning your design is always going to be on point.

I also love the fact that when I’m creating a design, I have 30 pages to experiment with, oh, and all of my designs are saved in an easy to access library which stores my work indefinitely, should I ever need to return to those designs of yore.

Before Canva I was anxious about graphic design. I mean full on terrified because I’ve never been good at arting. But Canva has turned that anxiety on its head. Over the two or so years, my confidence with designing has boomed. I might not be able to draw a circle on a piece of paper, but hell, I can design a darn good looking book cover on Canva.

Small PDF

Free, though there’s a limited number of times you can download your converted/edited files.  (Premium Monthly Subscription $6)

Small PDF. Has been. A life saver.

I had to rub my eyes and rub them again when I found this most superb of online tools. It was just too good to be true. Capable of performing no less than 17 PDF tools and functions, small PDF makes it ridiculously easy to convert and edit PDF files.

And, as with Canva, there’s no need to waste precious time downloading and installing programmes that clog up your desktop. The functions I’m finding myself using the  most are the converting PDF and merging PDF files.

For a long time, PDF files were the bane of my existence. Small PDF has ensured I’ve never had to sweat over them again.

Text Fixer

Free

While my poems are as wide ranging as you could probably imagine (I go from writing about slugs to sex) nearly all of them have one thing in common – they started life at Text Fixer.

Text Fixer is a completely free online brainstorming tool that generates random words. The randomizer is set to generate a list of six random words, but you can change it to generate anything from two to ten. I like it at six though. It’s a comfortable, round number, that’s neither too over nor underwhelming.

How I generally use it for my poetry is that I’ll start with an idea I’ve had for a piece. Then I’ll use the randomizer to fill up my two or three pages with words that I feel resonate with what I’m trying to write.

When I feel like I have enough words to make some interesting combinations, I turn off my laptop and focus on what I can find in the ink forest I’ve just grown in my notebook. If I’m dead of ideas, I’ll collect together words that fire something in me and see if I go anywhere. Most of the time it works. I’ve used dozens of random word generators, but I’ve found Text Fixer to be the tool with the most.

Which online tools do you use and recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

Today I Am Grateful For Library Books, Cheap Soya Milk & Crashing Waves

I’m not in a great head space at the moment. My mood is erratic to the point I can hardly cope. It’s up with the stars one moment, plummeting to hell the next.

At times like this, it’s all too easy to drop the torch and get lost in the dark. It’s all too easy to, in a split second, forget about the good things that are happening all around me. It’s all too easy to feel like everything is just really, really shit.

Today I was supposed to be writing a blog post about my first year of being a writing mum. But I felt that writing this post and getting it out there was a bit more important.

I realised I have plenty of really, really good stuff to be grateful for, so I thought I should write about that stuff, share it with you, and maybe promote some thinking about gratefulness and the little things that can help keep our torches lit.

My Library’s Online Catalogue

I go to the library three or four times a week. Sometimes I go and I’m able to talk to staff. Sometimes I go and I’m not even able to make eye contact. Today was one of those days and I returned home without knowing if the book I wanted (Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker, in case you’re wondering) was going to be ordered in or not.

I arrived home in such a crap mood I could have probably turned milk sour just by looking at it. But after wolfing down some beans on toast and slugging down a cuppa, the thought dawned on me that I could check up about the book on the online library catalogue…if the library had one. Which, to my delighted astonishment, it did. (Am I the last person to in the modern world to find out that you can search your library’s catalogue online? I feel like I am.)

When I found myself with the capability to search the bookshelves from my corner on the sofa, the crap mood finally found the door and left. Even though I wasn’t able to find any sign of Hashtag Authentic, I did do a search for three other books that have been on my ‘to read list’ for eons:

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty

Kith by Jay Griffiths

Tristimania by Jay Griffiths

I discovered all three were available and had them ordered to be sent from the library they were in, to the library ten minutes walk from where I was sitting.

I also found that I could also TRACK them as they make their journey to my local library. If that’s not something to be grateful about, I honestly don’t know what is. Now I just need to make sure that I’ve had words with my anxiety before I go to the library to collect my haul.

*If you’re like me, and have only just discovered that your library has an online catalogue, make the most out of it. If you’re feeling like everything is just fucking terrible, think about some books you want to read, log into the catalogue (you just need your card number and pin code) and see if they’re available for you to pick them up.

Soya Milk In The Clearance Section

There isn’t much in my wallet right now, and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. So saving money where I can is something I’m always thinking about. I’m the sort of person who will walk a mile or two to another supermarket if I know I can save 50p or £1 on something.

When I’m shopping, I always scan the clearance sections of the supermarkets and when there’s something to be had, my heart does a little victory dance and I feel really grateful that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Today it was a carton of Alpro Soya Milk for 77p instead of £1.20 because of a short sell-by date. In case you were thinking it, yes, I would totally dumpster dive if the opportunity ever presented itself.

Crashing Waves

Today my mum suggested we take Saga out for her first trip to the beach. I reluctantly agreed and hauled me, baby Saga and my camera (which I’ve been rarely touching of late) into the car for the fifteen minute drive to the shore.

When we arrived my mood was still stormy. I pushed Saga (who had conked out in the car and remained fast asleep for the duration of the trip) in her pushchair and staring longingly past the disused steelworks towards the far off cliffs fifteen miles or so down the coast. My thoughts were that I needed to be there instead, where there were less people and more ‘wild’ nature. (Reflecting on these thoughts later, I realised they were disrespectful thoughts. The sea was just as wild where I was standing as it was fifteen miles away.)

Then I heard the smashing of the tide against a wall of rocks. The was all it took for my mood to shift, for me to realise everything I needed in that moment was right there. I somehow got mum behind the pushchair and I scurried with my camera to the promenade railings where I found myself ensnared by the waves below.

Like a child who’d never seen the sea before, I watched them come in, and go back out, come in, and go back out. I found myself reaching for my camera and waiting, with my breath caught in my cheeks, for the next wave to break across the rocks.

Mum and Saga were a dot on the horizon the next time I looked up. An old woman pointed out a seal in the water a way off. I grinned and thanked her. And I quietly thanked the sea for its gift of healing.