Tag Archives: writing

Counting Your Blessings

It’s important every now and then to stop, think, reflect and take stock. In these moments of reflection it’s equally important to count your blessings.

A quote I came across recently inspired such a reaction in myself. You may or may not be familiar with the Netflix series Marco Polo. But one of my favourite characters 100 Eyes, a blind monk, stated (and I’m paraphrasing)

“An unhappy man will always find reason to continue his cause”

This wildly profound sentence, in one fell stroke, encapsulated a very specific period in my life as well as its aftershocks, the rippling effects that, at times, I still find myself grappling with.

What is often missed is that your blessings are often more abundant that perhaps you care to see or admit, as most reside in the realms of expectations and comfort. They’ve always been there, they will likely always reside there and thus we are often blind to them.

The problem is that they may not seem to be enough, seem to be important enough. Not at least until they are challenged or removed from our lives entirely, often unto the gates of eternity, never to return to us again. In this solemn abyss lies regret and sadness, spectres of self-reflected guilt and loss.

Taking stock can help remind you and shed light on how truly fortunate you are, how small your problems really are, remind you that the light will always follow the dark and that your blessings can be as universal to the world as they are personal to you.

So, what are my blessings?

  • Family – Past and Present, there will likely never be anyone or anything more important than your family.
  • Friends – Coming a close second to your family, so much so that at times the lines become blurred, these are people you cannot live without.
  • Health –  Rich or poor, your health is paramount to your quality of life and is fundamental to your very existence.
  • My Mind – I’d be lost without it. The double-edged sword that is both one of my greatest assest whilst simultanesously being my greatest challenge and adversary.
  • A Roof – I’ve been fortunate enough, and continue to be so, to have a roof over my head. Protection from the elements and somewhere safe to rest my head.
  • Food & Water – Access in abundance if I so required, a privallege not afforded to everyone.
  • My Senses – My gateway to the world, all as of yet intact, allowing me to experience everything this beautiful planet has to offer.
  • My Imagination – A source of great comfort and adventure, as much as it is, at times, a scary place to wonder alone,
  • The Ability to Think & Question Freely – One of my greatest joys is thinking, something so remarkably simple, yet almost unrivalled in its intrigue.
  • Emotion & Expression – Imagine your life without emotion and the ability to express or read them, how empty the experience would be.
  • My Memories & Experiences – A library of lessons, an ever growing training manual and a show reel of every utterly great moment.
  • The Promise, that Good or Bad, There is Yet More to Come – It’s not over yet. There is still so much to see, learn, experience and do, and it’s all out there, waiting for you.

Take heart …….

I challenge you to stop  and pause, to think and reflect, to see what you’ll discover.

(Image(s) Via WallQuotes)

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How to Write Your Next Best Post?

No doubt it’s a question that sits on everyone’s minds when they open up whatever medium it is they have chosen to write with. A question pounding in their mind as they stare wearily at that blank page. Whether it be with pen in hand or the constant blinding of the cursor daring you to start typing.

I know it’s something that keeps me up at night, like a perpetually looming spectre. How do you create an article worth reading, an article that will draw in the reader and leave them wanting more? So much more that they’ll return again and again to see what you’ll throw together next.

How do you know what kind of style to write in? Is there a preferred one or should you try and mash different forms of writing all into one article and watch them clamber over on another fighting for the readers attention?

Questions, questions questions, always more questions and very few answers. Of course the two best ways to find those answers are through two almost seemingly obvious methods: experience and research. Simply just writing and trawling the internet, reading the work of more experience successful writer as well as their hints, tips and how to articles.

But despite the overwhelming abundance of resources available on the great wide web, I always still find myself questioning.

How can you write about something you don’t know a great deal about? You don’t have the time to become an expert in everything. How do you format an article or piece, how do you lay out, order and present your information and what you want to say? At times the answers appear easy, like riding a bike. Whereas at other times the exact opposite can be true.

I realise by this point you’ve come to the conclusion that there is very little useful information about writing your next great post. So lets look at a few things that may in fact aid you in your valiant quest. (In no particular order.)

Do a Little Research

It helps! You don’t need to spend hours reading wordy research papers detailing the ongoing patterns and emerging schools of though surrounding everything you wish to write about. But if its a more technical topic or a matter of some significance like a world event, it’s best your understand the context and the facts. Not only will you produce a more relevant and accurate body of text, but you may avoid potential embarrassing claims or statements. Aside from that a little research may even open a few more avenues or ideas you hadn’t yet considered.

Read and the …. Read it Again

Seeking out the work of your favourite writers and authors is an fantastic way to grow as a writer. So go out there and get reading. By all means enjoy their work, how it flows and reads, their witticisms, their character development and story telling whatever it may be. Then read the article or story etc. again. This time read it through a more analytical lens. Read it slower, take notes and pay attention to how the information is delivered as well as the information itself. Think a particular chapter, paragraph or sentence was particularly smooth for instance. Read it and re-read it, how would you have written it, what are the differences between how you’d approach the information? What can you learn from these differences and apply to your own work?

Read greedily, read expansively but also read carefully. The best advice will always come from those at the top of their field, those who have already made it.

Practice

Shed those demons of insecurity by practising your craft relentlessly. Write about anything and everything that interests you. When you start writing about things that interest you, your passions and things you love ideas, articles topics and all that goodness will come to you in floods. (Disclaimer: I can’t promise you anything though, but, I mean it should.) Practice techniques and styles you’ve read about, seen, heard about or maybe even developed yourself. Practice until it all becomes second nature. Practice until you can apply all these methods and stylistic traits together in some beautiful amalgamation of beautiful prose.

So how do you write your next best post, article, poem or whatever? You just write it!

[Image(s) from Pexels]

 

Hypnotist Steven NanaWusu Wows The Pearl

All that could be heard along Zhapu Lu, Shanghai on March 26 2016 was the roaring laughter consuming the quaint and cosy Pearl Theatre.

The Hypno Comedy Show, produced and hosted by Steven NanaWusu proved once again to be a phenomenal success, captivating the crowd with feats of … you guessed it, hypnosis.

I’ll hold my hands up here and say I was a tad sceptical heading in. I’ve never much believed in the notion of hypnosis. Instead preferring to believe hypnosis was subtle mind tricks designed to lead susceptible people astray, causing them to do all kinds of outlandish things based on the whims of the hypnotist.

But having seen a group of 15 whittled down to around 9 or 10 through a series of increasingly hilarious tests, my interest really began to peak. It was clearly evident to see some of the brave volunteers slipping into a completely relaxed state of ‘trance’ faster than others, leaving heaps of bodies strewn across each other, some in what could only be described as slightly awkward positions, much to the giggling delight of the audience. Luckily the show avoided Hollywood style clichés, there were no stopwatches dangling in the face of those being hypnotised and no one at any point was told they were feeling exceptionally sleepy.

Having set about the stage providing his instructions to the willing participants, Steven let them loose, once or twice on the unsuspecting audience. The antics I beheld, along with the wailing crowd, included but weren’t limited to: a woman seeking out Viagra users through an innate sixth sense, blowing a whistle whenever  she detected one (with sublime results), dance offs, cat-walk competitions, belt snakes and a man who, no matter how thirsty he became, was rendered unable to drink his water, owing to the fact he couldn’t find his own mouth.

hypnosis-drinking-water-Hypno-Comedy-Show

It was a remarkable spectacle continually enhanced by Steven’s own sense of showmanship. Intuitively he assigned different members of his tranced-up performers varying and imaginative attributes, feelings or for lack of a better word states. He suggested that every time he touched one woman, for example, she would find him utterly repulsive, whilst simultaneously telling another there wasn’t a man alive more beautiful him. What we then privy was one woman shuddering and fleeing from him, completely and utterly unsure why as she continually apologised for her repulsion, as another foolishly giggled and smiled uncontrollably as she made subtle sexual passes. The continued combination of mystifying manoeuvres constantly sent ripples of intense laughter throughout a thoroughly entertained gathering of sceptics and believers alike. In fact it was later found that one of the night’s volunteers had, until they had succumb to hypnotism on stage, been a disbeliever of the practice.

One main reservation for many is the issue of safety, one that Steven candidly addressed. Each and every person who had slipped into a state of ‘trance’ could only do so willingly. This state is somewhat akin to a dream, meaning no one could give themselves over to this frame of mind and never wake up, as a lot of people generally fear. As the hypnotist explained, no one can ever trap themselves inside one of their own dreams, the mind simply won’t allow it. Equally at the end of the show, it was obvious everyone who had jumped at the opportunity to be hypnotised had emerged completely unscathed, except perhaps for when the memory of what they had done in front of a room of complete strangers came flooding back to them all at once. Their facial expressions alone were priceless.

But being a comedy show, it’s easy to imagine any thoughts of danger or safety soon escaped the minds of the audience as their eyes eager devoured the participants misadventures unfolding before them up on that stage.

Having witnessed my first Comedy Hypnosis Show I can and do whole-heartedly endorse it. Although my verdict is still out on whether I believe or not. What’s more I suggest you open a new tab right now and start hunting for your nearest show, it’s certainly an experience worth living.

As for those residing in Shanghai, stay tuned. As soon as I know when and where this man’s next show is, so will you! I might even see you there.

To find out more about Steven and his hypno skills, check out his Facebook page or his website.

[Image(s) from lilaclace & Hypnosis Steve NanaWusu]

First Time Freelancing

I’ve officially made it … sort of. This is my first outing as a freelance writer, but with a slight twist.

There was no contract negotiation or quarrels over pay. There was no impending deadline (although the turn around was professional) and no clients chasing me for the finished project.

In a sense this was a soft opening, the article I wrote was for someone I know pretty well, which took the pressure off a little. But it’s never totally gone, what I wrote will ultimately reflect my ability and the image of that company.

Without any further introduction you can find the article here! Let me know what you think in the comments below, any constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated.

[Image(s) from Careermetis]

Five Things I Miss About Home/England

They say home is where the heart is, but as my heart (thankfully) remains squarely in my chest I think it’s more appropriate to say home is wherever you choose it to be.

Having said that, in a couple of months, all of which is seemingly flying past in the blink of an eye, I will have lived abroad here in China for a year. This will be the longest time I have ever been away from England. Of course there are bound to be things a person misses when they uproot their life and carry it with them to the other side of the world in two 25kg bags and a carry on. In this regard I am no different, I’m only human after all.

With that in mind I thought I’d spend a little time reflecting on five or so things that I have and do miss, in no particular order.

Cooking/Food

Before you let your imagination run away with you, let me assure you there is most certainly food in China. In fact a lot of the food here is delicious. People also cook out here, that’s not particularly unique to any part of the world. What I mean is that I miss being able to cook meals I know how to make. As of yet I haven’t learnt much in the way of the cooking style out here. The way in which meals are prepared is quite different. The most noticeable factor is the lack of an oven, which is were all my difficulties lay. Back in England the majority of the meals I know and love are generally based in oven cooking, something I never really gave a second thought to when I ovens were readily available. There are times when I really miss whipping up a lasagne or even just throwing a few pies in the oven. I know, hardly master chef material, but its always the little things. Living in a metropolis like Shanghai all these things are available, and with a little digging around I have no doubt I’d be able to find an English speaking cooking class/course. But at the same time I think at the heart of it, I just miss the convenience of it all.

The Internet

First world problems right? Again, its not as if the internet doesn’t exist over here. But what I really miss is the freedom of the internet and the speed. Compared with the broadband I was more accustomed too, China is very much the turtle racing the hare. But every cloud, and I’m hoping, much like that age old tale the turtle will eventually win outright. China talks about becoming a world leader in innovation, robotics and all things advanced. In this day and age it is the internet that is the core foundation and infrastructure of these developments, along with the rapid sharing of information. Surely then China will need to boost its internet capacity to meet the demands of ground-breaking research? I also miss being able to sit back and watch useful (and entirely useless) YouTube videos without having to worry about VPNs or check Facebook every now and again to see what friends and family overseas are up to unimpeded. Whether this will come to pass, only time will tell.

Gaming

I can hear the bells and the sirens ringing … Nerd ALERT! But each to their own. In China the gaming community is predominately based on mobile gaming, the industry is worth all kinds of large numbers. Unfortunately mobile gaming has never really appealed to be, but perhaps I don’t know which games I should be playing. In terms of the more ‘traditional’ platforms shall we say, I am happy as equally happy sitting in front of a monitor and keyboard, mouse in hand as I am sitting with a controller and a reasonably sized TV. My laptop, before leaving England wasn’t anything crazy in terms of high performance, but it was definitely keeping up at least. Where as now I have a simple plain old laptop cable of running word processors and anything not at all graphically challenging. The console ban is something that has only recently been lifted, however I’m not in the position to go out and get one, which leaves me in the dark a little. I don’t have any plans to bury myself in my room, just me and my machine like I once used to. But I can’t help but notice the single tear rolling down my cheek when I think of all the titles I’m missing out on.

Family and Friends

This one is a bit of a given. When I moved to China I was fortunate enough to be moving a country where I did in fact have family. My uncle moved to this part of the world over a decade ago, so that certainly helped placate some of the usual angst people feel when separated from those they care about. My friends on the other hand (I generally keep a pretty small circle) are off gallivanting around the world themselves on their own adventures, I wouldn’t get to see them altogether that much anyway,but I am terribly proud of all of them. Strangely I don’t feel I’ve ever suffered a great deal from homesickness (except during my short stint in the R.A.F after which I was medically discharged). But I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t miss their faces from time to time. Thankfully, however, due to the wonders of this modern world we live in, they aren’t completely out of reach.

Familiarity

The final sub-heading of the day may be a little trickier to explain or communicate. I miss the familiarity being ‘home’ brings. I’ve certainly grown more familiar with Shanghai, Chinese culture and the language to a more acute degree and I’m bound to grow more familiar as time marches on. But it won’t replace the familiarity of meandering around your home town, the place you were born and the place you grew up in. I don’t think anything will ever replace that. It’s not a particularly large problem, it’s just a sign that I’ve taken myself out of my comfort zone, which can only be good for me in the long run. Stepping out of this comfort zone of mine is definitely something I need to push further in the future, if reading this list has taught me one thing, it’s that I rely too much on that which makes me comfortable.

[Image(s) from Unsplash]

A Matter of Discipline

It seems a natural progression, having mulled over the perpetual problem that is time, to ponder the notion of discipline, something that’ll be more than necessary if I am to maintain my target.

The dictionary defines discipline as follows:

Noun
  1. Training to act in accordance with rules; drill:military discipline.
  2. Activity, exercise, or a regimen that develops or improves a skill;training:
    A daily stint at the typewriter is excellent discipline for a writer.
  3. Punishment inflicted by way of correction and training.
  4. The rigour or training effect of experience, adversity, etc.:the harsh discipline of poverty.
  5. Behaviour in accord with rules of conduct; behaviour and order maintained by training and control:good discipline in an army.
  6. set or system of rules and regulations.
  7. Ecclesiastical. the system of government regulating the practice of church as distinguished from its doctrine.

Verb

  1. To train by instruction and exercise; drill.
  2. To bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.
  3. To punish or penalize in order to train and control; correct; chastise.

The dictionary also states the origin of the word can be found in the Latin word disciplina – meaning instruction or tuition.

Discipline, and especially self-discipline is all about applying a code of conduct or behaviour upon yourself in accordance with a goal. Monks, for example, display serious discipline in meditating for prolonged periods of time, a martial artist exerts great self-discipline through hours of meticulous training, as does a painter or a musician. They are all goal oriented towards improving their mastery over their craft and/or themselves. At it’s core, that is what I believe discipline is.

Establishing a Goal

Discipline is something attainable and achievable by anyone who truly wishes it. But it may just be that little bit easier to come by and maintain if you’re developing it for a purpose, for a reason. Discipline can be attached to the smallest and the biggest of things, from someone looking to lose a few pounds (or maybe even gain a few) all the way up to the ambitions of a global leader of literally any kind.

The two go hand in hand it seems. Without discipline it becomes difficult to be consistent, to stick to your plans your goals, but without a goal it becomes difficult to remain focused, to remain disciplined.

So first establish a goal, the next step is to consider what you need to achieve that goal and how you’ll stick to it, how’ll you’ll maintain that determination, that drive, focus and discipline.

The How, the When and then the Why

The next step, how are you going to build and reinforce you’re drive to stick with it, whatever it may be? Will you frequently reward yourself or will you power on through sheer will power and perseverance?

The power of rewarding yourself is exceptional, everyone enjoys the feeling of gratification. Everyone has heard of swear jars, the very same principle can be applied to motivating yourself and nurturing your sense of self-discipline. Each and every time you go to the gym, put an self-prescribed amount of money in a jar, box or what have you, the same amount each time. Then use it to treat yourself, to a Starbucks, a new book or some new clothes to go along with the fabulous new you.

When? This seems a slightly odd question, when should I be disciplined. I guess it varies, taking nutrition for all you gym goers as an example again, a lot of people take full advantage of giving themselves a cheat day. As a reward for their discipline and commitment to their goals they just eat and eat in a unrestricted orgy of sugary fat filled goodness. It should be all the time right? Discipline by its very nature doesn’t allow for breaks or pauses, the fact that the cheat day comes around the same time every week in itself is a manner of control and discipline.

Why? Perhaps one of the most important aspects in maintaining any sort of self-imposed regime is the reason behind it, the stronger the reason the easier it will be to stay composed and not give in to your own temptations. In this regard I believe a more personal reason will always trump something more … artificial. What do I mean? You have to want to do something for you, or perhaps your spouse, dear friend, family etc. You’re more likely to stick to your gym habits if you want to get healthy for you, not for a girl or boy you think will suddenly fall for you if there were a few more inches around your arms or off your belly. If after a few months they still remain uninterested it’ll destroy your motivation altogether.

In my own quest, my goal is to become a better writer, not for anyone else but for my own satisfaction, its okay to be a little selfish once and a while. Sure if along the way it allows me to make money or get some form of recognition, it’s not something that I’ll shy away from, but it isn’t the root cause of my motivation and therefore won’t dictate how disciplined I remain (or not). The additional benefits that come from your consistency should be seen as that, welcome additions, benefits and results, not as the cause itself.

Rounding it All Up

As a way of drawing to a close I’ll look towards myself. What will I do to maintain my discipline? Well I probably won’t look to reward myself every time I write 1000 words, I don’t feel as though I need to. The feeling of having accomplished what I have set out to do, and watching that word count steadily rise is gratifying enough (so is the potential run-off of a larger and more consistent readership if ever that so happens). I also know the reason behind what I am doing will sustain me. I still have no idea what I want to do with my life, but I still enjoy writing and am entirely keen on become much more proficient at it.

So what does discipline mean to you? How do you maintain it? What’s your secret?

[Image(s) from Shareyouressays]

The Time to Write

As you may or may not be aware, I have thrown down the gauntlet and challenged myself to write 1000 words a day in the pursuit of becoming a better writer.

At present I can foresee one of the major challenges is going to be finding the time, and the right time to write.

When is the ‘best time to write’?

Whilst some people jump up, all energised and fresh faced out of bed, at all kinds of seemingly absurd hours in the morning, others prefer to burn the midnight oil, pondering life’s great mysteries by the fire with their pipe and slippers.

Until recently, I believed myself to be camped firmly in the latter group, unable to let my thoughts run loose during the day. However, since embarking on this intership I have been almost forced to adapt as the majority of what I write is now produced during the day. Throwing the question of when is the best time for me to write completely on its head.

There are two ways to examine this conundrum, either this means I’ll wander, lost, through the corridors of my own mind at nondescript times, unable to produce anything of note or worth without that golden window in which genius is bound to hit me … right? Or it means that really, there isn’t a specific time of the day that is ‘the best time to write’, that in fact the best time to write is when the mood takes you, when you’re struck by that moment of inspiration or idea that you can barely contain within the confounds of your own head. It means that the process of writing is something all together more organic, and whilst you can produce a timetable for your posts and all those good things (mine is now pretty simple – post 1000 words a day, whether that is in one post or seven) that more stringent method may not actually work for you.

Now, if you go read the tips and techniques offered by more experienced and more established bloggers, with astronomical levels of followers, you’ll likely find advice like creating a timetable for publishing, knowing what to write and when you want to publish it will really take the pressure off and let you concentrate more on what you’re going to say. By all means do that, I know that there’s a good chance it’s a method I’ll be adopting in the near future, writing 1000 words a day means I’m going to need a topic or two lined up, which will require me to get more organised and think ahead. But I do think it’s possible to run a successful blog without a greater level of micro-management, so to speak. (Or perhaps, maybe it’s not, if you want to reach the lofty heights of blogging fame, and I just want it to be the case)

Finding the time to write.

There is not doubt we are all busy people, we have other commitments: work, school, studies, friends, family and a whole host of other things to get in the way and tire you out, because we all know one thing, it can really feel like a mountain to climb getting just a few words on paper, especially if your mind, body an soul are all a little too tired at the end of a long day. What’s more, on a slightly more personal note, in one aspect of my life I am writing all day, at my internship that I my main responsibility, sometimes it takes all my energy and the last thing I want to do once I get home is write, sometimes it even feels like I can’t. Aside from that I have my teaching job which can also, at times, be more physically and mentally demanding than you might expect. Working seven days a week can really drag you down at times.

But I am determined, there are enough hours in the day, and I will find the time, whether that means I get to post those words on the day they are written or not, or that they are scribbled in a notepad rather than being furiously typed onto a computer screen, or indeed whether you get to see them at all (not an excuse not to fulfil my quota – although I will just likely post it the next day). It must be done, whether what I have written is complete drivel or a life changing post that would set me apart from the thousands of other bloggers, even if it  was for just a second or two.

So when will I write? After work, before work, on my commute, on my lunch break, I’ll squeeze it in at any and every possible moment, some days I’ll have ample time to meander across a page, lazily plucking out a word here and there, whilst others will be a hurried dash just to stay on the righteous path of my self-imposed personal development.

The Next Step

As you may have noticed, at the moment here I’m all about taking the next step. So what does the neat future have in store? I will need to develop a publishing timetable full to the brim with topics ranging from anything to everything, literally anything I can think of to keep up with demand. This may see me expanding into different areas and expanding my discussions, trying to develop new weekly features, reading wider to become more informed about the topics I engage with. It may see me writing more about my experiences as a teacher, writing short stories, poetry or other forms of media. It may mean I’ll begin writing about things I enjoy, like gaming or taking a look into the art world, something I have always wanted to do. Finally it may mean I start to seek out people to interview, to bring people’s thoughts, feelings and insights right here on my very own little slice of the internet.

We’ll all just have to wait and see!

[Image(s) from Wonderful Engineering]