Tips for Living With a Chronic Skin Condition

I talk to my friends quite openly about the fact that I have a skin condition, but every time I mention it online, I get a little… embarrassed. I don’t know why. It’s not contagious, and nobody seems to find it as off-putting as I do, but I think because it’s something so personal, I’ve got into my own head about it. I’m writing that post to try to break myself out of that.

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I was born with eczema. Eczema is super common. Chances are that you or someone you know suffers from it, and it most commonly affects the insides of the elbows and backs of the knees, though it can affect any part of the body. I am one of those lucky people in whom it affects the entire body… yep – every inch of skin. Until recently I had never had it affect my face, and then my last flare up (the worst I’ve ever had) had my face swollen to twice its size.

So yes, born with eczema and suffered horrifically throughout my childhood with it. Then, as I got into my late teens, it concentrated on my hands. I rarely had it on any other part of my body, but it was excruciating when it would flare up on my hands and would leave me pretty much unable to use them. And then, all of a sudden, it started flaring up all over my body again, including my hands. So basically, no skin is safe.

I’ve found that people tend to think of skin conditions as cosmetic issues rather than medical, but that’s simply not the case. When I’m in the midst of a flare up, it can get so bad and painful that I struggle to move, can’t leave the house, can’t sleep through the night and am constantly having to change my clothes because my skin has begun to bleed. It’s exhausting to constantly have to cover your body in ointments and creams and even then to know they might not even work.

Here are my tips for coping with life when you have a chronic skin condition:

DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor, and this is all entirely based on my own personal experience. You should ALWAYS consult a doctor. This is NOT a substitute for medical treatment.

  1. Don’t be afraid of your doctor

I hate going to the doctor, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet – things won’t always clear up on their own. Your doctor will do their best to help you, and it’s always good to keep your flare ups documented. Your doctor might refer you to a dermatologist, who can help you not only to understand your skin problems but the best course of action for medicating it long-term.

I’ve tried all kinds of home remedies for my skin condition, but nothing has cleared it up as well as prescribed medications have. Sure, they won’t be for everyone – but don’t be afraid of them if nothing else seems to be easing your symptoms.

  1. Avoid anything fragranced

I’ve always avoided any products that include fragrances. I don’t use perfumes, I only use certain soaps and moisturisers and when I find a product that doesn’t irritate my skin (shower creams, shampoos, etc) I stick with it. Fragranced products can trigger a reaction in your skin and it can be needlessly painful. I promise you, you won’t miss them.

  1. This will sound stupid, but… stay clean

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that any of you are unclean. What I mean is, the shelf in your bedroom, is it dusty? Maybe that’s making your skin worse. When my skin is beginning to feel like it’s going to flare up, I like to change my bedsheets immediately. If you are cleaning, you will probably want to wear some gloves. Do whatever you have to do keep your skin safe and happy.

  1. Bad skin can affect your mental health. Take yourself seriously.

I have cried over my skin a lot. I have cried in public over my skin. When I’m having a flare up, it can trigger my depression really badly, and it’s hard to feel comfortable in your skin when you’re, well, uncomfortable in your skin. You’re valid. It is a valid way to feel. Don’t feel like you have to bottle it up and don’t feel like it’s “just stupid”. It’s not. Talk to someone. Talk to a doctor if you need to.

I’m currently on a course of steroids which clear up my skin amazingly, but when I stop taking them my skin is extremely vulnerable and the flare ups can come back worse than ever if I don’t have another treatment lined up (this is why we think my last flare up was so bad – a delay between the end of my course of steroids and the date I was due to start my next new treatment). Aside from prescribed steroids, I make sure to apply an ointment to my entire body as soon as I get out of the bath or shower to seal in moisture, and then I use topical creams where the flare ups remain the worse. I wash my face with a solution of oilatum and water every morning, pat dry and immediately apply moisturiser, and I take antihistamines daily. For me, this routine works right now. For you, it might not.

I’d love to hear any of your experiences with eczema or any other skin condition, and anything you’ve found that helps your skin or just makes you feel better! I know for a lot of people dietary changes help their skin, but I’ve never found that changing my diet had any effect on my eczema. What about you?

Until next time, stay… not… itchy?

-K

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A Mid-October Catch-Up

Hey!

I’ve been super busy for the first half of this month. I had all of my blog posts planned before October even began, but a lot of them depended on me completing tasks/finishing books/etc before I could post them, and I definitely overestimated the amount of time I would have free. Today I am travelling back to Liverpool from London, and hopefully that means I’ll have a bit more time for the second half of the month to dedicate to my blog. For now, I decided to once again shuffle around my blog schedule and slide in a sort of “catch up” post, to let you all know what’s been going on with me.

This month, I have been…

Doing:

Finishing my Volume 4 RWBY Blake Belladonna cosplay. Unfortunately, my thigh-high boots didn’t arrive in time for the con, but I’m proud of how the rest of it turned out. I made the jacket entirely from scratch and for the crop top I took a regular T-shirt and modified it (added the collar, straps, cropped it). My sewing has definitely improved a lot over the past few months and I’m excited to begin even more challenging projects now!

Learning:

To crochet. My nana taught me to knit when I was a child, but I never learnt to crochet. I bought a pack of 12 aluminium crochet hooks on eBay for £2.99 and have already begun learning! I’m picking it up and I’m enjoying practicing it, and I’m excited about all of the blankets and soft toys I’ll be able to make if I stick at this!

Listening to:

I finally hopped on the bandwagon and have been listening to the podcast Criminal while I walk my dog in the morning. I’m about half way through the backlog and I am loving it. Initially I downloaded a bunch of different podcasts and intended on listening to the first episode of a lot of them and then picking one to stick with, but after just one episode of Criminal I was hooked. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I’m all caught up and have to wait.

Watching:

Boku No Hero Academia/My Hero Academia. That is, I was, until the season ended a couple of weeks ago. It’s quickly become my favourite series and when the season ended I couldn’t wait so I started reading the manga. It’s about a bunch of kids training to become heroes and I love it. I would definitely recommend it – even if you’re not one for animation, if you like superheroes and/or things set in schools, you will love it.

Reading:

I’m still partaking in Victober even if I haven’t had much time to read. I’m currently reading and enjoying The Old Curiosity Shop. I’ve never really read much Dickens so I was looking forward to finally getting around to him and so far I haven’t been disappointed.

So that’s what I’ve been doing over the first half of this month. I’m sorry that my blog ended up being kind of all over the place – hopefully now I’ll have the time to dedicate to it!

How is October going for you so far? Have you picked up anything you’re excited about? Books, music, a hobby? Let me know.

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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Tips for Writing Essays

All of the “back to university” blog posts seem to have fizzled away by now, but mid-October means that coursework deadlines are creeping up and essay due dates are probably much closer than you’ve realised. At least, that’s what it was like for me at university. This is my first year as a graduate, but over the three years of my English degree I like to think I got pretty good at writing essays. Now, I sort of don’t have a use for that, so I decided I’d share a few of my tips with the next generation of students!

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DO YOUR SECONDARY READING ALONGSIDE YOUR PRIMARY

There’s nothing worse than coming to write your essay, finding 20+ journal articles, chapters and books to read as secondary criticism/evidence/etc and then being so overwhelmed that you can’t bring yourself to read it at all. When you initially tackle your primary reading, try to read a couple of journal articles on the text or subject, too. Not only will this help you to get more from your seminars as you might find topics you’d like to bring up and discuss, and not only will it mean you’ll have a better understanding of your primary texts, but it means that when you come to writing your essay you’ve already tackled a big portion of the work.

Obviously, you might want to read over them again, but having already read them once this will be a much speedier and more fruitful endeavour, and you will likely understand it more clearly and much quicker.

Honestly, doing a little bit of wider reading around the same time as you read your core texts is not only useful, but enjoyable. It’s interesting. You’re studying this degree because you like it – people have interesting things to say! I promise!

DIFFERENT TUTORS LIKE DIFFERENT THINGS…

Okay, these next two tips can be flipped either way, but I’ve written them out this way first so we’ll stick with this. It’s just the luck of the draw – different tutors like different things in your essays. By third year, every time an essay was due my university group chats would become a constant stream of, “James*likes essays that do this”, and “I had Sarah* last semester for [module], and she always told us to do this” or “she seemed to like when we…”

I can’t tell you what kind of thing your professors will like, so maybe this is something you can’t know beforehand. You’ll pick it up, and your essays will get stronger, and if you attend your seminars you’ll definitely get an inkling of the kind of thing your tutors want from you. Make the most of it. You are going to learn to tailor your essays. It seems almost dirty to say that now, like some kind of cheating, but it’s a skill you will develop and utilise.

*Names changed for anonymity

…BUT THERE ARE FEATURES THAT YOU NEED TO ALWAYS INCLUDE

But, all that being said, there are most likely marking descriptors that all of your tutors will be using. You should ASK if you can have a copy of this if it isn’t provided for you. Some of my tutors would physically hand us a copy of this at the start of the module, others would include it online in our web resources folders, and others would mention it in passing, but it was available to us from first year. It was basically a massive grid: along the top was each grade from a fail right through to a first, and along the side was a list of categories including things like “focus on question”, “use of scholarly material”, “technicalities of writing” etc.

If you can attain a copy of something like this it will benefit you immensely. I blocked out all of the information on the grades I would be unhappy to receive (for me, this was a 2:2 and below – because I was aiming for a 2:1 at the lowest, not because there was anything wrong with a 2:2), so the only information I could physically read were descriptors for grades I wanted. Then, when writing an essay I would constantly refer to this grid and make sure I was ticking every single box. For every single paragraph. It will make a massive difference to your grades, so I would definitely encourage you to ask your tutors if there is any form of marking descriptor reference sheet available to you.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO INCLUDE WIDER RESEARCH

To clarify: you should definitely include it. For every point you make in every single essay, you should try to include at least one piece of wider research relating in some way to the point you have made, but that alone isn’t enough. You need to engage. You need to respond. You might get away with just slapping a quote at the end of a paragraph that seems to support your point, but by third year that most certainly will not fly. Engaging with the research will show that you not only understand it, but are capable of more than just regurgitating quotes. Your originality is crucial and your tutors want to hear what you have to say on this, not what the first six results of typing “Shakespeare” and “feminism” into JSTOR have to say on it.

YOUR BEST PIECES OF WORK WILL BE PIECES YOU WANTED TO WRITE

Uh, duh.

Basically: whenever I wrote an essay because I thought it would be easy, yeah, I would pass, but it would be a pretty standard piece and nothing I was amazingly proud of. Whenever I wrote an essay that I was passionate about, my feedback would always seem to be about how interesting the tutor found the essay, how strong it was, how original, etc. I was always so proud of these pieces, and I would talk about them to friends who weren’t even in my university. You’re studying this degree because you enjoy it, right? I hope you are, and if that’s so, then try to remember that you like this when it comes to actually doing the work. Your passion will be one of your most useful tools. Try to hold on to it.

These tips weren’t very technical, but I think they’re useful things to bear in mind when it comes to your coursework. I hope they can be of some help to some of you.

Do you have any tips for essay writing? Honestly, now that I’m not in university, I kind of miss it! Do any of you feel that way? Let me know.

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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#Victober: ‘The Familiar’ by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

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‘No, no, no,’ interrupted he, with irritability – ‘no, sir, I am not a credulous – far from superstitious man. I have been, perhaps, too much the reverse – too sceptical, too slow of belief; but unless I were one whom no amount of evidence could convince, unless I were to contemn the repeated, the perpetual evidence of my own senses, I am now – now at last constrained to believe – I have no escape from the conviction – the overwhelming certainty – that I am haunted and dogged, go where I may, by – by a DEMON!’

-‘The Familiar’, J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin in 1814 as the son of a clergyman. During the early years of the Tithe Wars, his family lived in Limerick, where Le Fanu was exposed to the folk superstitions that would likely influence his later writing. He studied law at Trinity college but went on to become a journalist and, later, a writer of fiction.

‘The Familiar’ is the second story from his collection In A Glass Darkly. It was originally published as ‘The Watcher’ in his Ghost Stories and Tales of Mystery in 1851. It follows Captain Barton as he is stalked by a seemingly supernatural creature that resembles a miniaturised version of a man from his past – a man that Barton insists it could not possibly be.

As are all the stories in In A Glass Darkly, ‘The Familiar’ is draped in layers of narration. The story itself

  1. centres on the experiences of Captain Barton
  2. is retold by an acquaintance of his
  3. whose writings are found in the possessions of the recently deceased Dr Hesselius along with his own notes on the case
  4. all of which are being shared with us by his assistant.

This, obviously, leads to some doubt to the legitimacy of the story. I know, I know – it’s fiction, of course it isn’t real – but you know what I mean. Personally, that’s one of the things I like about this story. I’m a fan of the unreliable narrator. I like that we’re left to wonder. When you read the story, it’s presented as fact: Barton is being stalked. The first time he experiences The Watcher (which is how the creature refers to itself) is merely the sound of footsteps following him on his way home, but when he turns he finds the street deserted behind him. As we read it, this did happen, but if you take a second to think about it – can you be sure it did? Was it just the fancies of a man alone in the night? Is it being exaggerated? By whom? For me, this adds mystery – more mystery – to the story, and I love that.

In my initial Victober TBR post, I mentioned that I was already a fan of Le Fanu. I was actually quite interested to see if I enjoyed his writing as much as I remembered or if, in the absence of it, I’d grown fonder. It was the first. I knew vaguely what ‘The Familiar’ was about before I read it, having discussed it briefly when we studied ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Carmilla’, but it was the first time I had actually read it and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s only about 40 pages long, so it was easy to read in one sitting, but it wasn’t the length that had me read it in one – I just didn’t want to put it down. Not only is it easy to read, but it’s easy to picture in your mind.

It was considerably past midnight when Mr Barton took his leave, and set out upon his solitary walk homeward. He had now reached the lonely road, with its unfinished dwarf walls tracing the foundations of the projected row of houses on either side – the moon was shining mistily, and its imperfect light made the road he trod but additionally dreary – that utter silence which has in it something indefinably exciting, reigned there, and made the sound of his steps, which alone broke it, unnaturally loud and distinct.”

It’s basically a scary story staple: a deserted street, misty moonlight and the feeling that, despite all evidence, you are not alone. The desire to run home like a frightened child is almost overwhelming, and as you read it you want nothing more than for Barton to finish his walk. We’re like children playing tag and home is ‘den’. There is, logically, no reason to believe we would be any safer at home – if something wishes us harm, why would they be stopped by a closed door? But we believe we’ll be safe, and that alone is enough for us.

[[[SPOILERS AHEAD]]]

Perhaps that is why the ending of the story is so disturbing. That Barton, shut up in his bedroom of the apartment he fled to in fear, is still pursued – that the creature sits on his bed. It’s frightening. It violates the spaces we feel safest. It harks back to Freud’s ‘The Uncanny’ and the idea of the unheimlich – the unhomely. If you know me, you know I am not a fan of Freud. I actively dislike Freud – but, when analysing Gothic, ‘the Uncanny’ is very useful. These supernatural creatures invade the spaces we feel safest – they take the familiar and make it unfamiliar. Where do we flee to when our bedrooms are invaded? The threat comes inside the places we feel safest – it crosses that boundary. We are not safe. Perhaps that is why the ending disturbed me the way it did – and I loved it.

[[[END OF SPOILERS]]]

So, for my first Victober recap post, I give you Le Fanu’s ‘The Familiar’. It’s a gripping, simple tale. It probably won’t terrify you, but it’s delightfully spooky, and perfect for October. Being followed is scary – being unrelentlessly followed and stalked to the point of madness is scarier. If you have an hour or two to read 40 pages (depending on the speed you read), I’d highly recommend it. I’d recommend any of the stories from In A Glass Darkly – give Le Fanu a chance if you’re looking to get into Victorian literature. IAGD is perfect – the stories are short, they’re easy to read and I, personally, thoroughly enjoy them.

[This completes challenges 1 and 3 of Victober]

What have you been reading this month?

-K

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Celebrating Halloween as a Halloweenie

So we’re five days into October now, and I’m pretty sure you’re all already sick of all of the Halloween-themed blog posts. Initially, I had intended to post my first #Victober recap post today, but I’m a little behind schedule with my reading because I’ve had a busy few days, so I’m shuffling around my schedule! For those of you who are already sick of Halloween blog posts, I’m sorry. Feel free to leave. This is one of them.

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I have a phobia. It is bad. I don’t use that word lightly – I’ve studied phobias, and I know the difference between having a phobia and a fear. My phobia is somewhat popular around Halloween, this year more than ever. I’m a massive fan of the holiday because I love (almost) all things spooky and scary, but every year I have to make the adult decision to stay inside, no matter how much I’d love to go out. It’s not fair for me to put the responsibility of caring for me on my friends when I inevitably see the object of this phobia – it’s a pretty bad reaction involving panic attacks and crying, and it would undoubtedly spoil everyone’s night.

So – what can you do on Halloween if you can’t go out and party? If you’re like me, and it’s not worth the risk? Or maybe you just don’t fancy going out but still want to get into the holiday spirit? Here are some of my favourite ways to spend it…

HALLOWEEN BAKING

I’ve mentioned before that I want to bake more this season, and Halloween is a great excuse to try my hand at it. I’m not a terrible baker – I took food tech in school and I did well at it, and I bake occasionally, but I never tend to branch out with flavours or foods, instead opting for the same muffins and cakes time and time again.

I’ve been perusing the Halloween collection on BBC Good Food for inspiration, and am hoping to try my hand at making this pumpkin cake this month. I realised recently that I actually have no idea if I like the taste of pumpkin, but since we’ll likely be carving a few anyway, it seems like the perfect time to figure it out! However, if you’re not a fan of pumpkin flavour but still want to make some spooky snacks, you can always make something you do like and decorate it with a spooky pattern or face! These spider web muffins are adorable, as are these little ghost biscuits!

SCARY READING

I love ghost stories. I’m a massive fan of Tom Slemen’s Haunted Liverpool series and have been reading them since I was… well, too young. There’s nothing I love more than walking past somewhere and saying, “Oh, there’s a ghost here, you know!” to whomever I’m with. There’s something about it being here, in my home, that makes it that much more exciting and spine-chilling, and I love that.

If you’re not one for real ghost stories, though, there are plenty of scary books you can check out. One of my favourite scary books that I’ve read in recent years has been Juno Dawson’s Say Her Name, and if you’re a YA fan and you haven’t read it yet I implore you to do so. However, if YA isn’t your thing, then there are plenty of other books out there. You could try something classic, like Frankenstein or Dracula, or you could even go with something like Northanger Abbey. I studied that in my Gothic module at university (definitely one of my favourite modules of my entire degree), and it was extremely interesting to discuss/debate whether we agreed that it was a Gothic novel, what makes something a Gothic novel and the problems of genre definition, especially in terms of Gothic, in general.

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Spooky Cthulhu photo box by Jon Turner*

SPOOKY MOVIES

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a true “Halloween recommendations” post if I didn’t tell you to watch some films. You’ve undoubtedly already got your own list of favourite films for this time of year, so I won’t waste too much time with recommendations. My favourite scary film is Scream (1996), but if you’re looking for something spooky that won’t give you nightmares, then my go-to is The Addams Family (1991). There’s no shortage of film-recommendation blog posts for Halloween, so I’m sure if you do a little searching you’ll find something to your taste.

So, go on ahead, get your snacks and sweets, light some seasonal candles and curl up with a warm blanket and make this holiday your own. You can also, obviously, decorate your home with Halloween decorations whether you’re throwing a party or not! I’m a big fan of the Halloween stock in shops like Poundland – it’s fun, it’s cute, and it’s all £1. You can’t really go wrong at prices like that.

What are your favourite traditions for Halloween? What would you recommend for someone like me who is too much of a Halloweenie to go outside? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time, stay spooky.

-K

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*I got this wonderful artwork at MCM Liverpool 2017 back in March. It’s by Jon Turner, and he has tons of gorgeous artwork, from robots and monsters to Pokémon! You can find him on Instagram HERE, and can shop his artwork at his Etsy store HERE.

Are We Interesting?

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I think I’m pretty boring. When I try to think of interesting facts about myself, I draw a blank. I know I’m not alone in that – I don’t think it’s a matter of modesty for me, and it’s not something I spend a lot of time worrying about, it’s just something that is. I think I’m really boring, and it baffles me whenever people are interested in what I have to say. Every single time I receive a comment on a blog post my mind is absolutely blown by the fact that anyone would care enough about what I wrote that they would want to respond.

I’ve discussed the matter of finding oneself interesting with a handful of friends frequently as of late, and we all seemed to think of ourselves as boring. The thing is, when they said they didn’t think they were interesting, I couldn’t believe it – they’re some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t believe they could be blind to their own extraordinariness. After discussing it a little and all assuring one another that we find each other very interesting, we came to the conclusion that perhaps nobody thinks they’re interesting simply because of their own familiarity with their story. I only know my own experiences, but living them day in and day out has dulled all of the shine from them. On top of that, anything that somebody might find interesting seems so average to me because I surround myself with people who share my interests and hobbies. It’s hard to find something interesting when it’s your norm. That isn’t necessarily a problem.

When this becomes a problem is when we stop believing that anyone could possibly ever find us interesting. Sure, I think I’m boring, but that doesn’t mean everyone will. We can get down on ourselves for this kind of thing – overwhelmed with feelings that we should be doing more, experiencing more, and comparing ourselves to people who are doing different things to us. When people do want to listen to us, we assume they’re just trying to be polite and brush them off. Then it becomes a problem.

I’m trying much harder lately to believe the kind words people say to me, whether I agree with them or not. There is nothing in this world that I am more exposed to than myself, but if I’m going to chase new experiences it should be for me and not because I want to have an interesting story. I’m okay with the idea of chasing experiences, but I don’t think we should chase stories. I don’t think I’ll ever find my story interesting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t.

One of my friends was discussing a scrapbook she keeps, and another friend pointed out that this meant she obviously thought these things were worth remembering even if she doesn’t agree that they make her interesting. I don’t know why exactly, but that comment has stuck with me. Perhaps it’s because despite not thinking I have had many interesting experiences, I have a lot of memories I love to think about. We don’t have to be interested in our stories to cherish them, and without even realising I had equated them I hadn’t considered until that point that the two (interest and cherishment) could exist separately. Good memories don’t have to be interesting memories.

Originally, I had intended the point of this post to be that you shouldn’t worry if you don’t think you’re interesting – somebody will, and somebody probably already does. However, now I think the point I’m drawing to is this:

It doesn’t matter if you’re interesting as long as you’re happy. Maybe you have a fond memory that isn’t full of excitement and twists and shocks and punch-lines, but if it makes you smile when you think about it, does it matter? Maybe our stories don’t have to be interesting. Maybe, sometimes, it’s okay to just be. We should worry less about what other people think of us and concern ourselves less with entertaining the masses. I know I’m happy right now to just exist with a small handful of supportive friends – I don’t need to impress them. Some of the best weekends of my life were spent sitting around a friend’s house watching television we’d already seen and eating crappy, 10-minute meals. Not every memory needs to be a story.

I want to know about the rest of you: do you find it easy to consider yourself interesting? Does it matter to you that you are? Or are you happy to just be and believe that the people around you are there because they want to be? Let me know in the comments. I want to hear from you guys!

Until next time, stay cool.

-K

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Victober TBR

October is within striking distance, and I’ve been a terrible reader lately.

Okay – there doesn’t seem to be any connection between those two clauses. Let me explain. Recently, I haven’t read many books. I have a couple of books on the go – a non-fiction history book and a fantasy novel – but I haven’t really been finding time to sit and just read for a little while, and considering I’ve just spent the last three years getting an English degree with a heavy focus on literature, that seems a bit of a shame. I love reading, but after uni… I sort of took a break. Sometimes, you just need to let your brain rest and know that it’s okay to do that, but I’m ready to get stuck back in and I’ve decided that Victober is the perfect way to do that.

Victober, for those of you who don’t know, is basically “reading Victorian literature in October”. This year it’s being hosted by Katie of Books and Things, Kate Howe, Ange of Beyond the Pages, and Lucy of LucyTheReader. You can check out their announcement and recommendation videos on their respective YouTube channels if you’re interested in following along, learning more or joining in. They’re all linked there.

Despite never taking a module exclusively on Victorian literature, I did read my fair share across my degree. Some of the material I’ll be reading throughout October I’m familiar with, but I’ve mainly tried to selected literature I haven’t experienced before, and I’m looking forward to discussing it on here – you’ll get to see me actually put my degree to some kind of use. Don’t worry – I won’t make you read any full blown essays!

There are five challenges participants of Victober are encouraged to complete. These are:

  1. To read a Victorian book by a Scottish, Irish or Welsh author.
  2. To read a lesser-known Victorian book (less than 12k GoodReads ratings)
  3. To read a supernatural Victorian book
  4. To read a Victorian book recommended by someone else
  5. To read a Victorian book written by a female author

While I’ve selected five books (hey, I’m easing myself back in!), most of the books combine multiple challenges in some way. Here are the books I’ve chosen, along with a little bit about why I selected them!

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In A Glass Darkly by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

I am a big fan of Le Fanu. I first encountered him in my first year of my English degree when I took a minor in Irish literature (Irish literature is super interesting), and we studied ‘Green Tea’ and ‘Carmilla’ (both included in In A Glass Darkly). Then, in third year, I took a module on Gothic literature and film and ‘Carmilla’ was once again one of the texts we studied. I really like Le Fanu, but despite having owned this book for years, I haven’t read any more of it! I am really looking forward to seeing if I enjoy the other stories included in here as much as I enjoyed both of the ones I’ve already read.

This book will complete challenges 1 and 3!

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The Old Curiosity Shop, by Charles Dickens

Despite what I said earlier about having read my fair share of Victorian literature, I haven’t actually read much Dickens. I feel like I sort of had to put some Dickens on here, purely because of that. I asked some of my friends from university what works they would recommend, and it was a toss-up between this and A Christmas Carol. I decided to save ACC for December, so The Old Curiosity Shop it is!

This book will complete challenge 4!

East Lynne, by Ellen Wood

I knew I would be taking a novel straight from Ange’s announcement video for her challenge, and this one piqued my interest the most. I don’t think I’ve really ever heard about it before – not enough to remember, anyway, and after having a quick look around, I decided to stick with East Lynne. I really have no idea what to expect going into this one, but I’m looking forward to it nonetheless.

This will complete challenges 2 and 5!

Now, you might have noticed that we’ve completed all the challenges, so maybe you’re expecting me to stop here. We’re not stopping here.

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The Lifted Veil, by George Eliot

Deciding that I wanted more spooky entries to my TBR, I went back and added a couple more. I know I’ve wanted to read this in the past and never gotten to it, so onto the list it went! October is my favourite month for all things supernatural and spooky, and I also wanted to add more female authors to this TBR, so I am very much looking forward to reading this one. It will probably end up being read much earlier than you would think by its placement in this blog post.

This will complete challenges 3 and 5!

Gothic Tales, by Elizabeth Gaskell

This one is another collection, but I couldn’t narrow down the stories I wanted to read. I might not read them all, but this is definitely one I’m interested in picking up. Again, I wanted both more spooky entries and more female entries, so that’s why this one is here. I’m looking forward to it.

This will also complete challenges 3 and 5!

So, there you go. That’s my TBR for Victober, and I’m pretty excited. I’ll be sure to write up blog posts on each book I read (as per my desire to review the content I consume), so keep an eye out for those. I might even go into a little bit of history and analysis, but I won’t make any promises there because I’m not sure exactly how busy I’ll be throughout October.

Are you taking part in Victober? If so, what are you planning on reading? If not, have you read any Victorian literature before? Do you prefer other time periods? Contemporary? Let me know in the comments!

-K

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Reflecting On September

Recently, I read Sincerely, Sinéad’s post, ‘Harry Potter & Fall Feels’, and since I read it I’ve been thinking about my own relationship with September. This is my first September in as long as I can remember that I haven’t been heading back to school, and it’s been a little bittersweet. I’ve always marked my years by the half-term periods that begin in September and take me through to July, and September has always been a time of new uniforms and empty notebooks; of school shoes that are still a little stiff and not yet scuffed; of the smell of early morning frost and the sound of a new packet of pens being ripped open. It’s weird to know that this is it – I won’t have that again.

It also means I won’t have the anxiety in the pit of my stomach while I wait to leave for school, but it’s more than just ‘no more bad stuff’. It means I’m ready for the next chapter of my life – whatever that happens to be. The reason I decided to forego studying for a master’s degree after graduation is that I really thought I was just ready to step away from education. I didn’t think there was any more I could gain from studying right now, and it was feeling more like I was just trying to delay the inevitable. Now, don’t get me wrong here: I absolutely loved my degree, but I was undoubtedly ready to take a step away from academia.

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September was definitely a little bit scary this year. It was full of unknowns, and none of my plans seemed to have fallen into place yet. I was certain that now was when my writing was going to become my main focus, but all of my ideas had gotten fuzzy and I wasn’t sure if I remembered how to be creative. Nothing seemed to be worth writing, and, honestly, I was terrified. And then I breathed, and I stopped worrying, and it clicked.

September is a time of new beginnings for me. I’ve picked up blogging again, which I am absolutely loving, and all of those fuzzy story ideas have become a little clearer. There are new characters setting up shops and homes and business in the avenues and alleyways of my mind, and there are old ones stepping out of the shadows and offering a hand. My brain has had time to rest and now it’s hungry again, but this time I get to pick and choose for myself. I’m reading what I want to read, and I’m pushing myself out of my reader comfort zone instead of a list of required reading doing it for me.

So, September this year is a bit of a weird one. It’s new, and it’s kind of the same. As it’s drawing to a close I’ve come to see that until now I never realised it was such an important moment in my year, but I’ve got a newfound appreciation for it and I’m greeting like an old friend I’ve passed in the street. I can remember all of the good times, and I’ll smile and mention that I saw them when I get home, but we don’t need to force it to be anything it’s not. This time, it’s okay to just let it pass.

What does September mean to you?

-K

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Habit Wish-List

Recently, I seem to have developed a lot of good habits. I have a daily skin care routine, I make my bed and straighten my room every day, I keep a spread of all of my expenses and I find time for writing multiple days a week. This last one is a habit I’m hoping to increase to every day, and it was in thinking about this change that I decided to write this blog post. So, without further ado, here are some habits I’m hoping to force myself to develop: 

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1. Morning dog walks 

As previously mentioned, I enjoy walking my dog. I usually try to walk him between midday and 3pm because there are less people around (my dog is mostly blind and can get quite startled when people suddenly approach him!). However, I’ve noticed lately that I’ll wake up early and spend too much time sitting around before I become productive. My hope is that walking my dog first thing in the morning will help me to kick-start my day earlier, as well as helping me to find inspiration that I might miss inside my house and get my creative juices flowing! 

2. Better hair care 

My skin care right now is pretty great, but my hair care is lacking. A little over a year ago I shaved my head, and to begin with I was doing a really good job at making sure it was growing back healthier and stronger. I’m still not entirely happy with my hair, so this is something I’m going to devote more attention to, starting with regular hair masks! I rarely use any heat on my hair as it is, so for me hair masks seems like a good starting point, but if you use a lot of heat then letting your hair air-dry (if possible) or going a few days without straightening or curling your hair might be a good place for you to begin if hair care is also something you’re concerned with. 

3. Reviewing the content I consume 

I love reading, but I don’t often take the time to share my opinions on the books I read any more. That’s not really fair considering how heavily I rely on reviews when I’m looking for a new book to read. I can’t afford to buy every book I’d like to and if I can’t get it from the library then book buying is actually a pretty big commitment! I need to minimise the chance I’ll be disappointed with my choice and I rely on reviews for that, and more reviews means less chance my decision will be skewed in the wrong direction. I think it’s only fair that I add my voice to these conversations, because I’m sure there are a lot of people in the same position as me who would really appreciate that. 

 4. Keeping a daily journal 

I have more empty notebooks than I know what to do with, and I’d really like to get into the habit of noting down my thoughts in it every morning or evening. Not only is it always good to spend more time writing, but I’m certain it will help me clear my head and organise my thoughts. Getting things down on paper will allow me to return to it later and look at it objectively, and I’m sure this can only be a positive change for me. 

4 seems like kind of an awkward number to me. I sat for a while trying to think it’s fifth habit just because 5 is a much nicer, rounder number in my opinion, and then I realised that was kind of a dumb thing to do. I don’t want to tack things on just for the sake of it, knowing full well I don’t have any real intentions of sticking by it. I don’t want to lie to you – I know myself and I know that the guilt I’d feel for failing at a goal I publicly announced would be enough to send me into hiding, so I won’t do that. We’ll leave it at 4. 

All in all, I think these are pretty achievable habits to desire. Maybe in a couple of months I’ll check back in and we’ll see how well I did – or have a good laugh and how I stuck at it for a week or two and then my enthusiasm fizzled out. Either way, it’ll be more content! We’ll just have to wait and see. 

What about you? Are there any habits you wish you had? Or the opposite – what are some habits you want to lose? Remember, we don’t have to wait for New Year to make these changes! 

-K 

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Why I’m Back To Blogging

Since graduating from university in July, I haven’t written much. I promised myself that I would start focusing on my creative writing, and that all of the projects that had been festering in my mind would finally have their time to shine. As of today, they have not. A few days to relax became a couple of weeks, and now it’s September and I only have a handful of rough, half finished drabbles and scraps to show for it. Still, it’s better than nothing.

I decided to take up blogging again for a few reasons:

1. To teach myself discipline with my writing.
2. To give myself structure in my week.
3. To improve my writing.
4. To have fun.

I’ve decided that every Monday and Thursday, as long as circumstances permit, I’m going to post a blog. That means that I will have to learn to let go of my writing. I have a terrible habit that I know most writers are guilty of, which is the inability to stop editing. At university I could work an essay to death, but when the due date arrived I had to let go of it no matter what. Without that finality, I might never see a piece leave the labyrinthine folders of my computer, so I’m setting my own deadlines. I can keep improving the same piece, but if I let it go and work on more things, I know that overall that will make my writing better in the long run.

Every time I have decided to blog before, my downfall has been concerning myself too much with being popular. What type of things should I write about? People won’t like me if I’m not sticking to a genre or theme. I’m not good at taking photographs, and a lot of my hobbies aren’t the things many people read blogs about. I always ended up just feeling embarrassed that I wasn’t producing the “right” content, of my blog didn’t have the “right” look. It put me off truly engaging in the community, and it was all in my own head. This time, I’ve decided to only blog for myself. I’ll write whatever I want to write because how else can I enjoy what I’m doing? And if only seven people read it, then it’s still seven more readers than if I never posted it in the first place. I’m not going to be embarrassed if I want to write about cosplay and nobody wants to read it because cosplay is something I enjoy. Just because I write about books one week doesn’t mean I can’t write about makeup or music the week after. Sure, I might have less readers this way, but at least I’ll be writing about things I care about.

I definitely feel like without this fear of embarrassing myself, I’m already engaging in the community in a way I never have before. I’m making more of an effort to share with a larger audience and to leave comments on all of the blog posts I read because I’m not worrying about what people will think when/if they visit my page in return. Already, the blogging community seems a little less daunting and scary. It’s actually pretty damn welcoming, believe it or not!

I’m writing this blog on the train back to Liverpool from Birmingham. I’ve just spent a wonderful weekend with my best friends and a gorgeous puppy, and I’m feeling all kinds of happy, positive and hopeful, so I wanted to write about something I hope will become a bigger and more loved part of my life. Now I’ve done that, so I’m going to close my eyes, listen to some music and try to get some rest for the rest of this journey.

What are your reasons for blogging (or not blogging)? Have you seen blogging make a positive difference in your life the way I hope to see it make in mine? Leave a comment and let me know.

-K

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