Making Connections: A Thursday Thought

For a reason I can’t explain I’ve been thinking a lot about connections.

It’s strange to think just how many connections we make in everyday life, be them professional or personal, big or small. The word itself has connotations of business, the old adage of “It’s who you know, not what you know”, and from there there’s a pressure around the need to network; the need to find people who can provide a helpful step up the proverbial ladder, a proverbial foot in the proverbial door.

In fact, connections can be something completely different; it doesn’t have to all be red tape and white collars. My blog was born over 5 years ago, a mere journal for me to jot down some thoughts at the time, but it was only ever something I looked at once a year, if that, and never really took seriously. Fast forward to last year, one of my best friend’s, Andy, convinced me to join a creative writing course, where we were introduced (and then ‘connected’) with Shelley. She convinced me it was worthwhile taking my blog seriously and really putting myself out there. From that connection, I’ve found many different people from all around the world; I’ve joined writing prompts, I’ve joined challenges, and I’ve joined Facebook groups. Connections leading to connections.

It can be easy to think a connection is something more tangible, it’s someone you can point to, someone who’s number you have, someone who ‘knows a guy’; really a connection can be something as small as a shared smile. By writing, by creating art, by simply giving form to our internal thought processes, we create potential connections that can span further and longer than mortal life. We are still connected now by works of art, by literature, by film or by photograph. We are connected to people we will never meet, or who’s names we’ll never know. To share our art is to create a connection en mass. To me, that’s beautiful. To me, that’s worthwhile.

Connections give us a power. They can give us support, they can give us guidance, and through them we can share our passion and our philosophy. We were born a social species, our evolution was encouraged by our communication, and through it we continue to better ourselves. By sharing our thoughts we are able to better each other; simply by increasing understanding and by portraying different perspectives. We live in a time now when our communication has transcended physical movement and speak; we exist in a world where we can learn from people across the globe. Right now there has been no better time to forge ‘connections’.

When I sat down to write this Thursday Thought, I wasn’t expecting to write so passionately, but now, writing this final paragraph, I feel genuinely moved. A connection is something more than a mere contact in a faceless industry, it is an ability to create understanding between us. When I write my blog posts, I first and foremost write them for me, but within them I try to include a positive angle; I try to promote my belief that we can all be good, that we can all be inspirational, and that we can all benefit from sharing. Nothing warms my heart more dearly than when I see us helping each other. Regardless of how we do it, be it charity work, random acts of kindness, or something as ‘trivial’ as writing a blog, we put aside differences and judgements to make the world a better place. If that isn’t making connections, I don’t know what is.

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In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

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So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!

3 Steps to Help Combat your Anxieties!

Problems are causes of anxiety, of unhappiness, of stress and we need to combat them effectively as soon as we can; most importantly we need to make sure we combat the source and not the symptom.

For me here on the Clouds, the running theme of January, and 2017 in general, has been about self-improvement. There are a few ways we can improve, we can find areas where we have room to grow, areas that aren’t necessarily problematic, or we can find the areas where our bigger issues lie. I’ve written before about expanding my horizons, about taking risks, and about stepping out of my comfort-zone, and whilst these are areas I want to improve, they’re ‘nice to have’; they’re not active problems in my lifestyle. If I don’t read more books, and if I don’t get out more, I’m not necessarily going to negatively impact my life so much as I’m just not going to excel. It’s a negative to an extent, but it isn’t a source of stress. Instead, today I want to talk about finding the root cause of your problems, the aspects of life that have a negative impact, that bring you down, that stack up over the course of a day, a week, a month, and gradually tug you down with them.

Step 1: Seeing the Smoke

To start, we need to make sure we notice the ‘Smoke’, the symptoms and the warning signs, that can lead us to the ‘Fire’, the cause. To do this, I make a mental note of all the things that bother me throughout my daily life. The same result could be achieved with a diary, or with a journal. Whilst I’d normally recommend keeping a Happiness Journal (or Jar!), that can serve as a reminder for all the good in your life, for the purpose of self-improvement it is useful to make note of areas, and times, that you feel anxiety or stress coming on.

Example 1: I feel stressed and anxious when I sit in traffic, well aware I’m about to be late. I do this almost every morning. The amount I feel fluctuates, depending on my mood, depending on how late I will be, and depending on what I have on that day.

Example 2: I feel stressed and anxious when Kirsty and I argue. The amount I feel fluctuates depending on the size of the argument, but it can leave me feeling shaken for the rest of the day or even impact a whole week.

In both my examples, I can see the ‘smoke’; I can see the building of anxiety. Whether it’s the stress of sitting in unmoving traffic, or the upset of a disappointed love one, these are two situations that really impact my life. Maybe, on a good day, I shake off the fact I’m late; I get into work, I laugh and joke, and I get on with my day. It’s fine really, I don’t notice it, I don’t think about it again… but it’s safe to say it does build up, it’s safe to say it does have an impact, albeit a small one. By combating the small impacts, we lessen the bigger ones by default.  

Step 2: Dousing the Flames.

The ‘Flames’ here are the causes for my anxiety; in example 1 it was because I was late. This daily stressor, which impacted me almost every day, was causing a knock on effect to the overall anxiety in my life. So, how do we combat this? How do we douse the flames? Well clearly it’s simple! I just stop being late. There, done. Bish, bash, and boom. Now watch as my anxiety and stress fade away…

Ok, my sarcasm aside, maybe Example 1, being late, is an easier fix than most. Where do we stand on Example 2 then? Example 2 was that I argue with Kirsty, my girlfriend, so the solution by this logic is just to stop arguing. As much as I’d like it to be that easy, it’s not. Suddenly we realise the flaw in this plan, we realise how ineffective it is to say “just fix things”.

I left Step 2 in to make a point; it’s not easy to just keep firefighting. I could take steps to ensure I’m no longer tardy, or to minimise the arguments Kirsty and I might have, and it might be effective in the moment, but this really requires Step 3, the magic step.

Step 3: The Source of the Fire

Like a fire department, we want to combat the flames before they spread and do irreparable damage. Also much like a fire department, we can try to work out where a fire started and avoid it. I firmly believe that many people stop before Step 3, that they go through life ‘firefighting’, which in this case I’m using to mean sorting problems when they arise rather than working to avoid them all together.

This is where things get really interesting, and this is where it would benefit from having a list of all of your stressors as, and when, they come about. The thing is, when you spell out all the things that are bothering you in life, no matter how long the list might look, many of these factors may stem from a common source; a gas leak or a lit candle (I’m determined to keep this analogy).

Whilst I only gave you two examples from my longer list, I can tell you now that many of my daily stressors stem from the same place. In Example 1, and numerous others, it’s a lack of organisation. This means I don’t get my stuff ready the night before, this means I don’t have a routine to stick to every morning, this means I don’t make enough time to get to work in the morning. It also means I don’t have my finances in order, and I haven’t paid that bill I’ve been putting off, it means I haven’t written a blog in advance, and I have to panic and stress to get one ready for my self-set deadline. By realising that much of my anxiety stems from the same key factor, disorganisation, I can start to work on that as a whole and hopefully avoid the stressors in future, rather than just trying to fight them when they arrive. There’s also the potential there that I’m stopping a problem I haven’t even noticed I’m having, something that’s stressing me out but I simply haven’t realised yet.

I believe it’s far more important that we combat these sources, because it’s here we can make the biggest improvements to our lives; it’s here we can minimise future stress and save ourselves from bouts of anxiety. That said, everyone is different, different tactics work for different people, and my method is certainly not a (fire)blanket intended to coat absolutely everyone’s lives. I just hope it helps in some way!

How do you combat your anxieties? Do you have some helpful tactics to share? Or maybe even just a story to tell? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Small Steps Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Variety is the spice of life, they say. Yet, I find myself so secure in my comfort zone… Did I say secure? or did I mean stagnant?

The thing about comfort zones is they’re comfortable and, therefore, I’m never all that eager to leave mine. It’s something I’ve been focusing on a lot, recently and it’ll probably be a recurrent theme of my blog posts in the coming year. I mean, I’ve written before, not even long ago, about stepping out of comfort zones by taking risks. I want to talk about something a bit more fun; some ‘risks’ that aren’t even risks. I want to talk about how I’m planning to bring some more variety into my life for 2017.

2017’s Resolution was simply (see: broadly) to improve myself. One of the ways I want to do this, is by getting more variety in my life.

Films

Kirsty and I do love a good film; snuggled up all cozy in the couch, lights off, candles on, just us and the TV (and Toby, if he shows his furry, whiskered face). What we don’t tend to do, however, is branch out with what we watch. We watch a lot of films that are fairly “safe”, ones we know we’ll like or have seen before. What we’re starting to do this year, is compile a list of films from the last couples of years into a spreadsheet, and randomly pick an entry whenever we sit down to watch a film. What this does, is not only force us to watch films we might not have usually ‘been in the mood’ for that night, but also takes away the hours prior where we scroll down Netflix trying to work out what it actually is we’re in the mood for. This should help us see more films that didn’t necessarily jump out at us to begin with, that weren’t necessarily in genres we had favourite’d across our various streaming services.

If you find yourself stuck in a rut, watching the same old reruns on the TV, or scrolling down Netflix to no productive end, why not watch a film you wouldn’t normally go for? Take a look at a “Best of 2016” list and watch a film you completely missed.

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The Oscar for “Most Variety in Film Choices” goes to…

Cinema

In a similar vein, Kirsty and I have also signed up for Cineworld cards, meaning we pay our monthly subscription of £18, and can see as many films as we like. This takes away the question of whether a film is worth the money or not, and opens us to seeing more films than we usually would. Hopefully it’s not just a novelty, because right now we’ve had at least one film booked a week, sometimes two. It also gives us a large discount on seeing live performances that are streamed to the various Cinemas, meaning we can start to see plays or musicals at a cheaper cost. It’s also a great excuse to get out the house at least once a week.

Whilst I wouldn’t advise everyone goes out and immediately subscribes to a Cinema, maybe check what’s on in your local and pick a film/production you wouldn’t normally have gone out to watch!

Books

2016 saw me reading a lot more; something I’m very proud of. As a self-proclaimed writer I was always a bit ashamed of how little I actually read. Now, armed with my brand new Kindle Paperwhite from Christmas (Thanks, Kirsty!) I plan to top my achievements once more. It’s not quite the 52 books other people are aiming for, but I’ll be reading more than I ever used to. That said, the books I chose always come as recommendations from friends, and they’re almost always Fantasy/Sci Fi. We like what we like, once again. To combat this, I’m setting up a Monthly Book Group with my friends. Once a month we’ll have a book assigned that we all have a month to read. This takes the decision of what to read out of my hands and means that at least 12 of the books I read this year might be ones I never thought of choosing to begin with.

Why not join or start a book club, either in person or online? Or, if you don’t fancy that, why not take part in one of the challenges online that actively encourage you to think about your book choice before making it? 

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Games

This is something I don’t actually struggle with so much. Years ago I played all the AAA titles, I lapped up all the hype, these days I’m far more skeptical; I’ve realised just how much value you can find in the smaller indie titles. Some of my favourite games of recent years have been these kinds of titles; Life is Strange, Stardew Valley, Bastion, to name a few. For this goal, I just continue doing what I’m doing; pick up these indie titles that appeal to me and supporting the smaller developers. I don’t really need targets with this section, I’m covered!

In the physical world, I’m also hoping to play more variety of Board Games. To do this, I’ve simply bought extra games I found interesting, or that were met with good reviews, and I’m arranging nights to play them with friends. I want to write a more indepth piece later on about board games, as I think they of all things can appeal across generations and families, but I think people are stuck in the ways of Monopoly, Scrabble, Etc.

Now, I understand that not all my readers are ‘gamers’; I’m not about to tell you to tell you to invest in the latest Xbox. If I was to set you a goal to increase variety here, it could easily just be ‘try playing a game with friends/family’. However, I’m going to go a step further. Why not avoid the traps of Monopolgy, Risk, or Scrabble, and play a board game that you haven’t heard of? I highly recommend Catan, Codenames, or Dixit to start.

Saying Yes More.

Last but not least, I’m planning to say Yes more. Too many times I get invited to something and my instant, gut reaction is to say “No“. Sometimes it’s well founded, but often it’s that I can’t be bothered, doubt I’ll enjoy something, or imagine I’d prefer that evening to do nothing but relax. Don’t get me wrong, relaxation is great, and I certainly wont be doing this to the crazy length of saying “Yes” to simply everything. I will, however, just be generally more open to suggestions. I might go on a night out I wouldn’t usually, or go see a band I don’t really know. I’m also going to put myself into a position to say “Yes” to myself; I’m going to book more things for Kirsty and I to do, I’m going to book events we wouldn’t usually have ever done.

Next time you’re invited to something, either by a family or friend, and your initial reaction is to just say ‘No’… Stop. Consider why you’re actually saying “No”. I find I say “No” because I think I’d prefer staying in, doing nothing, and wasting my evening and not because I think I wont actually enjoy the event.

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There are some extremes I won’t go to…

These are small, tiny steps to getting out of a comfort zone. They’re not exactly moving abroad, they’re not exactly jumping out of a plane, but they’re hopefully small productive steps in the right direction; they hopefully promote an openness to new experiences, whilst making sure not to miss out on things going by. Hopefully with all this in place, I should have some variety! Hopefully with these suggestions you’ll have some variety too!

And I mean it, I hope you found this helpful in some way! If you have any extra tips, any goals I could set myself, why not share them in the comments below? I’d love to hear more ways I could tackle this!

Determination: A Friday Feeling

Today’s Friday Feeling is determination.

I’m feeling good about this year already, and I think it is almost 100% to do with my mindset. Nothing else has really changed in my life, if anything we’re in that post-Christmas fatigue when there’s naff all left to look forward to. What I’ve been doing instead, though, has been being determined. The best thing is I didn’t even really realise it!

You see, last week I made posts about the direction of 2017, improving myself, and about looking back at 2016, and showing gratitude/remembering the good times. I strongly feel that just writing these posts, and keeping these things in mind, has really changed the way I’ve been thinking already this year.

I strongly believe that 2017 is going to be a good year; I already feel as though I’m doing more towards it. I’ve been keeping up on my blog posts, writing them in advance and getting them scheduled, and I’ve been actively commenting and searching the blogosphere for more people to follow and learn from; so far I’ve already found a ton of interesting posts!

Outside my blog, I’ve been making other plans in life; I’ve been booking Cinema trips and family events. I’ve started back at Yoga with my Mom, I’m just back from seeing an amazing theatre performance I almost thought was too much hassle to go to, and I even forced myself back to the Gym (though I’m not boasting too much, not this early on). The thing that’s been highly prevalent through all these activities is determination; I’m not just living in a land of maybes. “I might go to Yoga”, “I could see my friends”. I’m not dwelling; I’m doing. It actually feels good, it feels good to not doubt myself, to not muse over my actions and to just put them to the test. It also feels a damn-site more productive as well.

How is 2017 feeling for you so far? You feeling determined in the year? Are you a dweller or a doer? Let me know in the comments below!

2016: A Thursday Thought

As we usher out 2016 in a hurry, and lovingly embrace 2017 as a welcome change, I wanted to use todays Thursday Thought to reflect back on what 2016 did right. All years have their ups and downs, but it’s the ups I want to remember and celebrate.

Arranged in a somewhat-but-not-really chronological order (which is actually just a giant mess of memories):

Derren Brown: My first memory of this year. I’ve mentioned “Theatre Trips” further down here, but this was deserving of a mention all of its own. Kirsty bought me tickets to see Derren Brown, which is perhaps one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

Madam Tussauds: Going down to see Derren also gave Kirsty and I an excuse to check out Madam Tussauds down in London. I was particularly excited for the Marvel experience, I have to say.

Boardgame Expo: I love boardgames, I love introducing people to boardgames, I love kickstarting boardgames… There’s so many out there, you just have to look past the infinite number of monopolys and risks. It was great to go to a convention that celebrated them, whilst allowing us to have some hands on time with games we hadn’t played yet. It also led into us having a…

Boardgame Nights: In 2016 we had many a boardgame night and each was as good as the other. We played: Codenames, Betrayal at the House on the Hill (For Halloween and I have an especially good memory of Woodys character being blown off a balcony one round into the Haunt phase), Catan, The Game of Thrones Boardgame, Deerlord (With Woody doing 3 different personalities in one), Munchkins, Poor Choices, etc.

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The first of 2016’s many boardgame nights!

D&D: On a similar note, we had many a good D&D session in 2016. Though we took a break in the latter half of the year, I’m looking forward to getting this back off the ground again.

DMing at D&D: Another similar note, 2016 actually saw me DM (Dungeon Master) a two part campaign in front of 5 (6 if you count Kirsty, watching from the side-lines) of my friends! I was a mess of nerves before it started but was possibly up there as one of the best experiences of 2016. The fact it was something I’d put on for Woodys 30th Birthday just sweetened it even further.

WWE Live: Also on the subject of Woodys 30th Birthday, as a gift we both went to see WWE Live when they came to our local Birmingham venue. It was a real laugh and, whilst the show itself wasn’t exactly amazing, the memories me and Woody will have of us chanting, drinking, and laughing will remain.

Gigs: I also went to numerous venues for numerous other reasons too; I saw The 1975 with Sid, Minus the Bear with Woody, Skindred with Kirsty, a Comedy show with the lads and even saw a live screening of some TED Talks.

Theatre Trips: 2016 continued me trying to visit the theatre more and more. I saw plays with my Mom and plays with Kirsty. My fondest memory is perhaps seeing The Alchemist at the RSC: Neither Kirsty or I had any idea what we were about to watch and I ended up absolutely loving it.

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Taking in a show!

College: Andy and I went back to college in 2016, where we studied Creative Writing! It helped to give us both a kick up the ass, it helped me to invest in my blog again, and it’s helped me put my dreams into perspective.

Geocaching: Speaking of walking, I have a fond memory of Geocaching at the start of the year with Common and Luke. It might have only been a few hours of one day, but it was great fun. It’s something I’d love to do more of in the New Year going forward.

Escape the Room: Something else I want to do more of going forward, is Escape the Room. I can’t describe the incredible fun this was; such a different experience unlike anything else! Andy, Jess, Kirsty and myself all tasked with solving a mystery. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re already booked in for February so 2017 will definitely have more Escape the Room antics.

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The Room from which we Escaped!

Alton Towers: My birthday this year involved a trip to Alton Towers. Though it was preceded by a dodgy McDonalds breakfast (never again) it was still a great day out and a ton of fun.

Cakes: 2016 held lots, and lots, and lots of cakes. My mom started baking more and more, and Kirsty even rediscovered her love for it. In fact, for my Birthday they both ended up making me the same cake! (It was pure coincidence)

Clockwork Clouds: June/July saw the resurrection of Clockwork Clouds and the increase in my writing overall. Thanks to going back to college, and thanks to taking part in some challenges, I’ve upped my blog, I’ve upped my followers, and I’ve got a semi-regular posting here on the Clouds. We got a little disorganised by the end of 2016, but with everything else I think it’s allowable. We’re back with a vengeance in 2017 and there’s plenty more to come!

Aladdin: So for Christmas 2015 I bought Kirsty tickets to see Aladdin – The Musical down in London. Something she didn’t shut up about for 8, yes 8, months until we went. Was an absolutely amazing night though, with a brilliant show and a lovely little weekend stay.

Lunchtime Walks: So work isn’t exactly top of my list, though I’m thankful I have a secure job that isn’t terrible. Work days wouldn’t be complete though without my lunchtime walks with Simon, where we played Pokémon go, vented off steam, and sometimes spent a lifetime in Greggs. These walks kept me going on my Monday – Friday.

New House: Need I say more? I’ve written about this so much recently. This was possibly the highlight of 2016 that overshadows everything else.

Toby: When Kirsty moved in she brought with her an extra member to our household. It’s been so long since I’ve lived with a pet, but now I can’t imagine my home without this big ball of fluff.

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Toby and I; just chilling!

Cozy Nights In: Some of my favourite nights this year have just been composed of lying on the couch, or in bed, with Kirsty on one arm and a good TV show or film in front of us. We’ve watched some great films and some fantastic television.

Cinema Times: Speaking of great films, there’s been some fantastic cinema outings in 2016. Civil War, Dr Strange, Arrival, Rogue One. I love going to the cinema, and seeing how on Jan 1st Kirsty and I signed up for Cineworld Unlimited, I think 2017 will have plenty more films in store.

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A Pre-Cinema, Date-Night Snack… (Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham)

Date Nights: A great excuse to pig out and go to the cinema! Kirsty and I had a lot of date nights in 2016; we think it’s vital to make time for each other, even when you live together! I will always love going out for food and drinks with her.

Weddings (as a photographer!): So 2016 saw more work for Greg and I over at Level Up Photography. We shot more weddings in 2016 than 2015, and we booked more for 2017 too. 2016 was the year we really took ourselves seriously!

Weddings (as a guest!): The biggest event of October ’16 was a trip across to Wales. It started with a fun, laugh filled car journey shared between Luke, Common, Kirsty and Myself, we picked up Pete along the way and all crammed into a car. That weekend we all stayed at the same hotel, we all got drunk together, we all got suited and booted, we all met up with old friends we hadn’t seen for years, and, more importantly, we all got to see Bronwen get married. It was such a happy occasion filled with an immense amount of love. Definitely one of the best memories of 2016.

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Having a great, if somewhat drunken, party for Bronwen’s Wedding!

Dr Who Experience: The trip to the Wedding gave us a good excuse to detour into Cardiff and visit the Dr Who Experience! Kirsty is a mega-super-duper Dr Who nerd, so it was a great time for the both of us (along with a confused looking Woody and Amy!).

Decorating: So stressful and time-consuming, but so rewarding! It was great to be productive with Kirsty and my family, whilst also making a big difference to our home. Now we can’t imagine it any other way.

Pokémon Day: When the decorating was all done, and Kirsty and I had chance to relax, I surprised her by buying us both the new Pokemon games, along with Pokemon onesies, and a copy of the Pokemon movie on BluRay! Needless to say, this was a really fun afternoon and a perfect memory for us to share in our cozy new home.

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Pokemon Day!

Nieces & Nephews: I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I’ve never really experienced looking after kids or entertaining them; even as a kid myself I used to prefer the company of adults. Kirsty, on the other hand, has a niece and a nephew with another niece on the way. We looked after them for an afternoon at ours and it was pretty crazy, but I loved every minute of it, and not just because it served as a good reminder of what an amazing mom Kirsty will be one day.

Christmas: 2016 was our first Christmas in our new home. I was in love with how Christmassy and cozy our house looked, the tree, the decorations, the lights and the candles. It was magic.

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Our Magical Christmas Lounge

Secret Santa x2: So 2016 I finally got around to planning Secret Santa between myself and my friends; I’ve wanted to do it since I moved back to Solihull in 2013. This lead to me being in charge of Secret Santa at work as well, and then doing two Secret Santas in the space of one day (each time dressed as Santa! though that was my own choice). I was especially pleased with the thought and effort everyone put into it.

Pop Vinyls: Too many Pop Vinyls came into our lives this year; we don’t need any more for a while! Plus 2016 will forever be known as the year of the Three Illidan Stormrages.

Reading: One of my favourite achievements of 2016 was increasing my reading. Despite being a writer, despite having the goal of a published book one day in the, hopefully near, future, I had forgotten to actually invest some time in reading. Well, in 2016 I read more books than I have in perhaps the last 5 years combined. It was a good productive year for reading and, to top it all off, Kirsty bought me a Kindle Paper White for Christmas! Lots more reading to come.

All in all some great memories! How was 2016 for you? I’d love you to share some of your happy memories in the comments below!

Building upon the Clouds

 

With NaNoWriMo over and December flying past quicker than I’d like, I’ve made a decision to get more organised. When NaNo was happening all around me, and with me not finding enough time to write for it, I found myself feeling guilty if my pen hit the paper for anything other than my Work in Progress; Remembrance in Blood. This, prefixed with me taking some time off from my blog in October to sort my house move, meant we’ve stumbled on the path a little. Not to worry though! I’m taking a more active approach to further build on the foundation that is Clockwork Clouds.

You see, I really want to make my blog ‘work’. It’s important that I don’t mean in a cash-creating, fan-favouriting, kind of way. Just in a, “well that looks professional and well maintained” kind of way. One reoccurring theme of my 2016 has been about taking my future, and with it my writing, seriously and a step in that direction is making my blog a serious factor too. So, for starters, I’m going to try and increase my pictures on here; it seems my posts would do well to feature a bit of eye candy as, most times, they’re painfully monochrome. Secondly, I’m going to start keeping to a schedule like I used to.

Admittedly, December is probably the worst month to do this update; my social plans have practically tripled just because we’re in the run up to Christmas, whilst January looks decidedly empty. Still, they say if you need something doing ask someone who’s busy, and if I can prove to myself I can get organised in December then I have no excuse for carrying it over into the new year.

I’ve decided the best way for me to be organised it so to have goals and targets, deadlines and accountability. If I could employ someone to just push me for deadlines I’d get so much more done; sadly I rely on myself and, as a boss, I’m fairly lenient. This is where you come in – The Readers. By telling you my *NEW* Blog Schedule I’m making myself accountable.

Here’s how Clockwork Clouds is going to work!

Monday – Monday Blog (#MondayBlog)

Every Monday I’m going to have a Monday Blog; the nature of which is just a standard blog post. It’s whatever’s on my mind when I’m writing, it’s something that’s appropriate to me, to my blog, and hopefully something you find interesting. Often it will be about writing, or about something else that is important to my life. Monday Blogs are the posts I advertise the most. Armed with pre-made hashtags, I share them on twitter and I get the most retweets for them (thanks to the wonderful twitter-people who follow the #MondayBlogs – without them I’d be nowhere). I also have the most time to work on them, I have ALL Saturday and ALL Sunday… plenty of time to come up with something good, right? So Monday is for more serious posts, like todays where you’re getting an update on the state of Clockwork Clouds!

Tuesday – Free

Tuesday is a free slot I’m giving myself, partly because I need a day to take part in writing prompts around the blogsphere, partly because I don’t have some alliteration or hashtag to use on a Tuesday. You can expect to either see some short stories, some flash fiction, or nothing at all. Wont that be a nice surprise? You’ll have to tune in and find out!

Wednesday – Work in Progress Wednesdays (#WiPW)

You may already be aware but I try to promote Work in Progress Wednesdays (#WiPW); it’s a slot on my blog each Wednesday where I aim to update you on the progress of some Work in Progress in my life, and where I invite you to take part (either by tagging a post with WiPW or by actually having a guest post here on Clockwork Clouds!). The way I see it, there are plenty of blogs you can visit to see reviews or interviews surrounding finished products. That’s not what I’m here for. I’m helping you to tell the world about something you’re currently doing. It’s about sharing inspiration, powering through a writer’s block, or even just venting off frustration. It’s a means of support, basically, for anyone and everyone that wants it. Every other Wednesday I also take part in Wordless Wednesdays over at Level Up Photography; so that’s always worth checking out!

Thursday – Thursday Thoughts (#ThursdayThoughts)

Introspection. Thursday will be a day that I share something I’ve been pondering; be it about lifeabout writing, or about both! I first started blogging to get these thoughts out on paper, I never intended them to be read but was open to sharing them. Since then, I’ve taken my blog more seriously, but this practice remains the same. Writing my inner thoughts helps me, it’s a conversation I have with myself and it’s often how I gain clarity or voice my concerns. Thursday posts, a bit like Tuesdays, aren’t a guarantee (I simply might not have any pressing issues on my mind!) but if I do, I’ll schedule them for here. Hopefully my ramblings can help someone else make sense of their minds!

Friday – Friday Feelings (#FridayFeelings)

Not too dissimilar from Thursday, I want to discuss Feelings on Friday; namely the positive ones. To finish off the week it seems important to reflect back… so, I’d like to take Fridays to share with your something good that’s happened during my week. In everything I’ve read around positivity and happiness, gratitude plays a huge and important role. When I wrote my 5 Things to Be Thankful For, it really did fill me with positivity for the rest of the day. I originally thought to do this on a Thursday as Thursday Thanks (and I still might!) but I think Friday is a nice day to round of the week by sharing something that’s given me a warm fuzzy feeling. With the run up to Christmas, I should hopefully have tons of content vying for this slot.

Sat & Sun – None Blogging Days

Saturday and Sunday are going to partly be from taking a break from posting, though I’ll hopefully still be around the blogosphere reading and commenting! What else will I do in this time? Well, I’ll relax, see friends/family, and hopefully create some new content to talk about in the week to come!

So there we have it, a schedule of sorts and something to hold myself to! Mondays and Fridays posts are practically gaurenteed. I always want a Monday Blog up, and I always want to reflect back and be grateful for the week I’ve had. WIPW is also pretty much a given, it’s a practice I’m promoting and that’s keeping me on the path to my book. The other two I’ll be a little more lenient with; Tuesday being an optional day and Thursday being reliant on where my mind is that week.

This is a trial run and if it works, it works! If not, then we’ll just have to mix it up again wont we?

What do you think? Will you be tuning in to see more content from Clockwork Clouds? Do you have a schedule you follow for your blog? I’d love to hear about the things you’re all up to!