5 Simple Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done

Tell me if any of this sounds familiar:

You have this important piece of work to get done. Or maybe six. There's a big deadline looming, you've got the whole day ahead of you to work as hard as you can - and do you know what? It isn't even that difficult. You've done stuff like it before, and you'll probably have to do it again at some point.

But as you stare at your blank computer screen, you can just feel yourself twitching. Your hand moves, almost of its own accord, and suddenly there's a new tab on the horizon. That new tab, within seconds, has wandered over to Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and goodness knows what else.

The situation is so dire that after about half an hour, you find yourself reading some random post about how to get work done. Because reading about it is practically doing it, right?

Wrong. But if you're here, I might as well give you some tips:

#1 ~ Use ambient noise

Yes, I can see the weird look you're giving me right now. It's pretty obvious even through the screen. But however weird it sounds when I tell you that silence can be distracting, I'm going to need you to try listening to some computer generated sounds in the background next time you work - and no, I don't mean your favourite YouTube channel or the latest episode of Sherlock.

Not that I can remember a time when there was a latest episode of Sherlock to watch, but you get what I mean.

I tend to use RainyMood.com, which I love mostly because of its simplicity. All you have to do is enter the URL, wait a few seconds for it to load, and hit play - there's no need to go anywhere near YouTube, which frankly I don't have the willpower to do -  and it's also on a handy half-hour loop, so when the sounds stop for a few seconds, it's a great time to get up, stretch and take a break from whatever it is you've been doing.

If rain isn't your thing, then you could also go for white noise, bird calls, or even whale song. Classical music is also great provided you aren't the kind of person who's going to spend hours finding the exact right piece to fit your mood.

Having a variety of sounds is also really useful because, after a few months of using the same one, I've found that my brain gets kind of used to the noise and it doesn't work as well. I resorted to some Mozart for a few days when that happened last time, and now I'm back on my lovely rain noises.


#2 ~ Get out of the house

You may not be surprised to learn that I am currently typing this post from the World and Family History section of my local library. It's nice for a lot of reasons, but I think the main motivator for me right now is that I've made the effort. I got up early, dragged my Dad out of bed in order to drive me here, and now I'm actually taking up a valuable study table - I find it very difficult to justify doing all that only to get sucked into YouTube, if I'm honest.

Another thing I love about libraries in particular is the air of concentration. Being surrounded by other people working just as hard always spurs me on to work; I don't know quite why I've decided that everyone else would somehow know if I was procrastinating and judge me for it, but the feeling does tend to make me type quickly.

Don't forget - libraries are by no means the only place you can go to work! If they make you uncomfortable or are too far away or you're just looking for a more casual vibe, then school study centres or even local cafes can be of great assistance.

#3 ~ Shut that computer!

This, not-so-shockingly, is the one tip I haven't managed to put into practice while blogging today - which goes to show that it's not always possible. That said, you should always find a way to try, because it can be really, really effective provided that you manage to resist the waves of temptation coming off your lovely shiny laptop for an hour or two. I'm that bad at self-control that I've been known to convince a friend to hide it from me, and only reveal its location once I can provide them with evidence of finished homework or whatever.

They take far too much joy in frustrating me, if I'm honest. It's a tad worrying.

The thing to remember about this tip is that you can use it a lot more often than you think. I do most of my schoolwork / blog stuff / world domination online these days too, but I can always find odd bits of a task that can be done by hand, be that planning, writing out a rough draft, or even (shock horror) doing research with actual books! Spend some time figuring out exactly what you can do, and ... do it.

Basically, anything that allows you to get started while avoiding even the possibility of procrastination online is always worth it in the end.

#4 ~ Use Fighter's Block

Fighter's Block is a free, in-browser piece of writing software which turns your word processor into a video game. You enter a word goal, choose a character and monster, then - FIGHT!

For every word you take out of the goal, your monster's health bar drops further - and for every moment you're not typing, it takes a little bit of health out of your character. There are so many tiny things I love about this software, from the animation (which is simple enough not to distract you from what you're writing, but cute enough to spur you on) to the ability to choose different characters (so I can keep my blogging separate from my school work and my school work separate from my writing) to the fact that you can actually change the monster's speed and attack strength based on how quickly you're able to type.
This particular feature was really helpful for me because my disability makes my fine motor skills kind of funky, so I struggle to type as quickly as a lot of people. But the custom difficulty really does make it possible to defeat as many monsters as I please.

Oh, and did I mention that achieving your word goal adds XP to your character? The more words you've written in the past, the more points you get - and points = levels, so ...

If I'm being completely honest, the only thing that convinced me to start writing this post today was the possibility of another thousand points.

#5 ~ Just. Get. Started.

In the end, it literally makes no difference how much time you've spent looking up the perfect combination of classical music and pattering raindrops, or how many miles you've travelled to find your ideal studying location, if all you're going to do is sit there, listening, and stare into space. Or surf Twitter.

Please trust me here when I say that I absolutely get how hard it is (I'm speaking from literally hours of personal experience) and I'm not judging you for it in any way whatsoever. But if you want to get finished, then you're going to have to get started.

Write a word. Now write another word. Now, try a sentence! Good. You're on a roll. Don't stop until you've done what you wanted to, and if you really have to get up to use the toilet or something, stop slap-bang in the middle of a sentence. Then you'll at least have something to pick up from when you get back.

Now what are you still doing on the internet? Bookmark my blog and get out of here!

***
In the comments: Do you have any preferred techniques for avoiding procrastination? Or have you tried any of these? Please - I think I have a problem, and I'm desperately in need of techniques!
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Why I (A Voracious Reader) Hate English Lit.

I'm probably making myself a bit of a black sheep within the community here, but I feel like it's time to come clean:

I really, really hate English Lit.

It's terrible, I know, because English Lit is, quite LITerally (hardy hardy ha ... I like my puns, okay?) reading made into a qualification. In theory, I should love it. It should be my favourite thing. I should run into that lesson - which, joy of joys, I get to have FOUR TIMES A WEEK - with my face split in a grin and my notes at the ready.

But ... meh.

I can practically hear the English Lit students about to stone my windows, so I guess I'm going to have to justify myself. Here goes:

#1 ~The reading style is super, super awkward.

I genuinely can't think of another aspect of life in which we read like an organised literature class, and this is probably for good reason. Where else would you carry a book to read only in a certain setting with certain other people, read in tiny short bursts, and then get wrenched from the page to discuss constantly, at the whim of somebody else? Where else would we be expected to form a critic's-level opinion immediately after finishing, and be able to present it to others?

It has to be this way, of course - English Lit requires you to get a lot more information out of a book than you would reading for pleasure, and having to come up with opinions on the fly does help in high-pressure exam situations. But I'm not built for reading a book over a series of weeks or even months: I find myself forgetting details, not to mention the fact that it makes getting immersed in a setting or burrowing into a character's head incredibly difficult. And trying to keep it all in my head long enough to get a handle on over-reaching themes?

Forget it.

#2 ~ The pressure makes relaxation pretty much impossible

If you ask a reader why they enjoy reading, most of us will say something along the lines of 'it's relaxing'. I mean, I don't know how true this is - sobbing over character death is the very definition of stressful - but opening a book does tend to give me a feeling of calm.

Apparently, when I'm being marked on my efforts, that feeling pretty much flies out the window.

I was working on one of my set texts today, and quite frankly even reaching for it gave me a sense of dread. I try to keep the stress out of my mind as much as possible, but I often catch myself worrying that I haven't interpreted something the best way, that my notes aren't detailed enough to be helpful during revision, and then I remember that these quotes I'm analysing are all going to have to be memorised by exam time.

*shudders*

Granted, this pressure isn't an absolutely necessary part of the studying process, but I am one of the worst people I know when it comes to self-expectation and stress. And, no matter what I do, it's always worst in English Lit.

#3 ~ I don't get to choose what I read

What do you mean I can't DNF this book? Not even if I throw it at my teacher's head?

*throws hands up in derision*

#4 ~ I worry about disappointing my teachers

I want to be clear that my feelings about English Lit are not down to bad teaching of any description. My teachers are awesome.

The thing is that when an amazing teacher is presenting something to a class, they are doing it in an absolutely amazing manner. Their arms are moving around everywhere, they know exactly how to explain a complicated concept so that it makes sense to a bunch of hormonal teenagers, and I know that if I went up there and tried it, I'd be falling flat on my face.

It's a fact of life in a wheelchair (and life as an incredibly conscientious if seething student) that I end up in the front row pretty much all of the time - in most classrooms, that's almost directly under the teacher's nose. And I don't know about you, but if I was one of these incredible teachers, I'd be pretty downtrodden by someone right in front of me looking like they wanted to jump out of the window. Especially if they were the kind of person for which jumping is an interesting exercise to begin with.

So I have to look engaged, which I absolutely, desperately want to be. It's just that swallowing stress about whether or not I'm going to remember any of a lesson is an involved enough process without having to plaster a smile on my face as well.

#5 ~ Listening to other students' opinions can suck

This is, unfortunately, one of my incredibly anti-social "ugh, people" moments. I'm sorry. And if you're in my Lit class, you probably know what I mean.

It's not that I dislike listening to other people's opinions in general. Class discussions are, if nothing else, an excellent way to steal great interpretations of text. But - and this is true of every lesson I have, not just English Lit - any classroom will always be filled with its fair share of Those People.

And Those People, in my considerable experience, really really don't like being told how to interpret anything. In order to get out their deep and intense frustration, they use class discussions to do what it is they do best: disagree with everything everyone else says.

If you are one of Those People, then fine. I completely understand that English Lit is as much about coming up with your own theories as it is learning the more established ones, but teachers tell us the most common interpretations of a book to HELP us. From a purely theoretical viewpoint, if you're going to take a poem written from the point of view of a controlling (and eventually murderous) husband and argue that the wife's death is her own fault because you think it's been taught in a biased way, I'm gonna be cross. Particularly if you use the phrase "she deserved it".

What do you mean, that was an oddly specific theoretical example? Just don't look at it too closely! I've got to go now, anyway.

***
In the comments: How do you guys feel about English Lit.? Do you feel similarly, or am I going to have to deal with an angry literature fan? Why do you think you feel the way you do?
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Whodunnit? 4 Mysterious Books to Spice Up Your Summer

Now, I don't know about you, but I am in general a pretty big fan of murder.

Sorry, sorry. Murder mystery books. That was what I meant. Please don't call the police. I'm not exactly cut out for jail and they probably wouldn't let me blog from in there anyway, so I guess it's in your interest to keep quiet.

NOT THAT I'M A MURDERER, THOUGH.

I am, however, a morbid enough person that I very much enjoy murder mysteries, and ... I guess if your worldview is skewed enough to be spending your time here, then I'm assuming you are too? I like to read a nice chilling thriller to cool me down in the middle of a hot summer, but if you're in the southern hemisphere, then don't despair. My British summer is always so full of rain that I'm sure your winter can't be much colder.

Anyway - if I can drag my stereotypical British self away from complaining about the weather for two seconds - let's get down to the books.

#1 ~ S.T.A.G.S. by M.A. Bennett
I might be slightly obsessed (as the ridiculously large stack of Harrow: A Very British School recordings on our TV will demonstrate) with any type of media that gives me a glimpse of how the other half lives. I'm genuinely enthralled by the whole stately-home, deer-hunting, reputation-obsessed aesthetic, and when you give me some along with a side dish of murder?

You have the recipe for one of my favourite books of this year.

It isn't a traditional murder mystery, because a) the death is at the end, not the beginning, and b) you know straight away who the murderer is. The victim's fairly obvious too. But everything else? Yeah, you won't have a clue. This is one of those books that just grips you from start to finish (with twists! such twists!), and the cliffhangers are blooming ridiculous.

Honestly, I would have loved it just for the discourse on social media and whether it's good for humankind or not. But the murder helps too.

#2 ~ One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
Do you want to know how the author came up with this book?

She watched The Breakfast Club, loved it, and then thought to herself "what a great movie, but it really could do with some more murder". If that isn't one of the best premises for a book ever, then I honestly don't know what is.

Basically, a kid dies in detention. And he's the kind of kid that, if they were going to be honest, everyone would have a motive to murder. But which of the four POV characters did it? And why? And, as a reader, how are you going to cope with the fact that you can't trust the people you're starting to empathise with?

What made the whole thing so engrossing was the way it effortlessly mingled high-school gossip, teenagerhood, and the emotional mess that was a police investigation without making the former seem trivial or the latter seem overdramatic. The characters were absolutely flawless - that's including all the secondary characters and parents, which in YA in particular is amazing (the parents! meant! something!) - and I think it says something about how well this book is crafted that despite sniffing out the murderer almost immediately, I was then completely convinced that my first instinct was wrong by all the red herrings, turned upside down, and sucked in by the story. The whole thing is just properly brilliant.

#3 ~ These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
Because who doesn't love the idea of a 20s high-society New York girl solving the murder of her father, all the while trying to convince her journalist sidekick that she has what it takes to work at his newspaper?

As you might predict, it's a wild ride from start to finish. The characters are gorgeously hilarious, and I absolutely adored getting a view into the crime-solving methods of a hundred years ago - there's basically one forensic officer in the whole of the city, who is the best kind of nerd, and everyone looks at him like a bit of an oddity. Which he is, but not because of his fascination with forensics.

Also! Such! Feminism! GREAT DISCUSSIONS! TACKLING THE PATRIARCHY! PROVING SEXISTS WRONG! (Sorry, I guess I got a little overexcited there.) The main character, Jo, was incredibly independent but also slightly naive due to her sheltered upbringing, which of course gives you some very funny moments when they get to the wrong side of town involving horny men and pimps and poor Jo having absolutely no idea what's happening.

In summary: if you're looking for your murder fix wrapped up in a gorgeous 1920s setting, then this is the book for you.

#4 ~ The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Not only is this book an absolutely nail-biting, heart-stopping, twisty-turny wonder of a murder mystery, but it also has a kickass team of main characters, an absolutely hilarious case of British-American culture shock, and ghosts. That's before you even get to the spree of Jack-the-Ripper style killings.

Never let it be said that I don't treat you, okay?

What I love (and hope you'll love) about this particular style of murder mystery is that it's not entirely plot-driven. Don't get me wrong, the plot is excellent, but it's spurred on by a group of characters that you genuinely care about - which only makes the whole thing more thrilling because you're constantly worried that they might die.

One book isn't enough tension for you? No worries! This is the first in a series of three, just to make sure that your nerves are completely shot by the end.

***
In the comments: Are you guys as into murder ... mystery books as I am? Can you give me some more recommendations? Or did you love any of these?
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How to Make Aesthetic Collages and Prettify the Internet

I'm not sure if you guys are aware, but I'm fast becoming majorly, majorly obsessed with picture collages. I basically put them anywhere I can ... tags, lists, some of the oldest posts on my Tumblr.

Oh, you were aware? Because you've noticed how heavily they feature in this post and this post and almost every conversation I've ever had online? I was worried that might be the case. Anyway, huge thanks to Dina for asking for kind-of-sorta-asking-for this, because I don't think I'd have thought to write it otherwise.

Are you guys ready to spend surprising amounts of time tearing your hair out in the name of aesthetic? Don't worry - the first ones are the hardest. You'll get a knack for it eventually.

Step 1 ~ Pick your aesthetic

You can probably predict that, since it is quite literally the name of the game, identifying and sticking with your aesthetic is pretty darn important - and honestly, most of the time it picks itself based on what you're trying to do. If you're making a collage for your favourite ship from a YA Contemporary, then you know you're looking for something cute and a little bit sugary; if it's a Ravenclaw theme, you want something more classic, with an air of learning and seriousness.
You then need to choose your colours based on those aesthetics. Again, it's really simple, but having a basic palette in mind really helps when it comes to combing through photos and trying to figure out what's going to work with what. That contemporary one would probably suit pastels and paleness, your Ravenclaw aesthetic would need some cool tones (specifically blues and coppers, obviously) and something more romantic would require warmer colours, maybe with some smoke or fire.

Step 2 ~ Find some images

I'm only going to say this once, so I'd better say it very loudly: IF YOU PLAN TO USE YOUR COLLAGE IN ANY PUBLIC CAPACITY WHATSOEVER, THE IMAGES YOU USE NEED TO BE PROPERLY LICENCED FOR DESIGN. This goes for if you're using it online, in print, on some missing cat posters ... you're probably okay if all you want to do is stick it up on your bedroom wall, but if there's even the slightest chance the photographer might see it, then you'll need to do things properly.

Luckily, it transpires this is relatively easy, provided you know where to look.

What I tend to do is make sure that all of my images are licenced under Creative Commons Zero - which means that the photographer is happy for you to use that particular work in any context, edit / remix it, and even make money out of it without giving credit, provided you don't pass the work off as your own. And, of course, credit is always appreciated. My favourite search engine to use is Unsplash, because the sheer artistry involved in its photos is stunning, but their selection isn't huge - if you're struggling to find something specific you definitely want, then Pixabay is a good backup. I also found Pexels when I was doing the research for this post, and their library is seriously impressive.
When it comes to actually finding photos that fit, it might be a good idea to brainstorm yourself a few search terms related to your theme- colours, keywords, even specific items from the plot of a book, like the mini eggs that I included in my Upside of Unrequited collage. Don't go nuts like I have above, because you only need a maximum of about six images and sometimes you find everything you need on the first try, but be willing to cast your net as wide as you need it. Once you find a good image, save it to your computer.

I like to at least attempt to get some different-shaped photos - some portrait, some landscape, some square - since they make for a more interesting collage. This can be tricky though, particularly if you're struggling to find what you want, so don't worry too much about it if it's becoming a headache.

Step 3 ~ Open a blank collage

I use PicMonkey to do this because it has a specific collage function and you can use it straight out of your browser pretty much hassle-free. (Absolutely #NotSpon, just to be clear.) If you're a diehard Canva or BeFunky or insert-other-photo-editor-here addict, then I guess you probably could use whatever you're more comfortable with, but I only know PicMonkey, so you'd have to be pretty confident that you can make it work by yourself or with some other tutorial.

If you are using PicMonkey, you'll want to hover over the "Collage" icon in the top menu and select "Computer". Select your required photos from whatever folder it is you have them in (check Downloads or Pictures if they've disappeared entirely) and you should be taken into an editing screen that looks something like this:

Step 4 ~ Choose your layout

This can be as simple or as complicated a step as you need it to be: to insert a photo into a collage, just drag it from the photos menu on the left of the screen into one of the hatched grey areas (or cells) on the picture itself. I tend to just start sticking photos into cells to see if they work, messing with the shape (which you can do pretty easily by dragging the dotted lines) and adding in more if I need to (to add a cell, just drag a picture into a space between two existing ones, and it should just appear). The interface might take you a few experiments to figure out, but it isn't that tricky once you've had a little practice.

If you're unsure about finding a way to fit pictures together, then you can use one of PicMonkey's pre-made layouts - switch from "Photos" to "Layouts" (the second icon down) on the left hand menu - and just start sticking your photos into that. Don't feel locked in by the proportions, either - you can click the little padlock at the bottom of the screen and drag at the edges of the collage to change the size around as required to ensure your photos aren't squished.

Step 5 ~ Make It Pop!

If you've followed all the steps above, then you should technically have yourself a finished collage. But is it a little meh? Don't worry! Here are some things which I think make a big difference to the appearance of a nearly-finished collage.
  • Colour the borders between the pictures
    • See that little paintbrush icon? The very last one in the left hand menu? If you click on it, you can change the thickness of those borders (or make them disappear), round the corners, or change their colour. If you find a colour that matches the palette of your pictures, it makes them look a lot more coherent, and anyway you should avoid white when publishing to a blog with a white background because the edges kind of disappear and it looks funny. I like to use the little eye-dropper to pick a colour directly out of one of the pictures, because otherwise the exact tone is ridiculously difficult to replicate.
  • Focus in on certain parts of each image
    • If you hover your cursor over an image in a cell, you should see a sort of pencil in a circle. Clicking on it will give you the option to change the zoom, and dragging the picture around within the cell allows you to move it so that different sections are in the frame. This effect is perfect if there are certain parts of an image that don't fit your aesthetic, because it allows you to focus in on only the colours that match.
  • Add in swatches and colours
    • Have a space to fill on your layout, but no image to fit it? No worries. By clicking on the "Swatches" tab, which is the third icon down on that left hand menu, you can find loads of cute patterns to add (they're organised by theme, so make sure you click on the drop down menu and look at each one in turn to get the full selection). They're especially great for really cutesy aesthetics, but if you can't find one to fit, you can always just choose a block colour by clicking back on that paintbrush and selecting "Cell" instead of "Background". Click on the specific cell to fill it.

***
In the comments: Did you find this useful? Send me links to your aesthetics! Is there anything else you need to know?
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5 Real-World Advantages to Being a Blogger

I'm assuming I don't have to convince you guys that being a blogger is amazing.

You get to meet tons and tons of likeminded people, you have your own personal little corner of the internet that you are overly proud of ... and your social media stats, no matter how paltry in blog-world, are super-impressive to your real-world buddies.

(I know, I'm transparent, competitive and vain. Shh.)

But these are all internet-based advantages. What's the point of all this when we inevitably have to log out, close the laptop and step into the big, scary wide world? Well, I have some suggestions:

#1 ~ The CV boost is insane

Okay, my friends, story time.

A little over six months ago, I was hardcore freaking out trying to find myself some work experience. I applied everywhere I could think of that would be mildly interesting, be that publishing houses, libraries, bookshops ...

I'll be honest, I wasn't casting the widest net in the world. But when I was offered to come in and interview at a local bookshop (which, thanks to fiddly insurance stuff and already having said yes somewhere else, I didn't actually do), I discovered that the girl who sat next to me in science had also gone for one there.

The first thing her interviewer said to her was "oh, are you the one that has a blog?" And she is absolutely, definitely not a blogger.
The "blog" part of my CV had stood out so far in the mind of whoever was reading it that it sounds like they were attempting to apply it to anyone from my school who happened to walk through the door. It might not be this dramatic every time - and I'm keen to emphasise that she had not been asked to interview thanks to any of my skills: they were jumping at the chance to have her even without the blogging thing - but it illustrates just how much potential bosses love bloggers, particularly if their blog is vaguely related to the industry they're applying to.

If you're writing a CV and trying to come up with some skills you could demonstrate through your blog, I would go with:
  • commitment
  • social media skills! (seriously, they love this, particularly if you have expertise with stats)
  • photo editing? video editing? HTML manipulation? GIF selection? Whatever it is that you've had to somehow figure out between headdesks in order to make your blog look pretty.
  • you can write things
Hang on, no. I have to expand on that last point.

#2 ~ You get some great writing practice

I've low-key dreamed of being an author / writer / story-making person for a very long time. Imagining things is one of my favourite things to do, I love reading and everyone I know has always encouraged me to write ... but I find the idea of sitting down with a blank word processor not just terrifying, but lonely. I'm getting better now (thanks to the amazing practice that is blogging) but it turns out that I will only sit down and actually write something if I have a deadline and immediate feedback available.

BLOGGING, MY FRIEND.

And this doesn't just apply to people who might want to write books in the indeterminate future. Blogging gives us a very specific skill: an ability to write for an audience who have limited time and a lot of possible content out there to read. This skill can be applied everywhere, because you have both adaptability and your own style. Texts. School assignments. Emails (especially ones that are asking for something). You can use it for networking, getting your point across ... missing cat posters ...
In a way, it's not even writing practice. It's communication practice. And if you've figured out a way to live your life in the world without communicating in any way whatsoever, then please let me know.

#3 ~ I don't think there's a better way to learn about your subject

My absolutely encyclopedic knowledge of many, many random things is almost entirely thanks to blogging. Obviously, I can tell you about the current YA market and what's about to release, but also how the publishing industry works, the politics of diversity in media, what it takes to be an author in an ever-changing world ... and a lot of other, much weirder things besides. 

What I think blogging does is two-fold. It exposes you to people and channels chock-full of incredibly specific knowledge and news - stuff that there is no way you just stumble upon - but it also gives you an obsessive enthusiasm for the whole topic. You get introduced to all these people who care about it just as much as you do, and it creates a sort of frenzy in which you all get more and more excited about the whole thing.

We become slightly dangerous, quite honestly.
I was always obsessed with books, otherwise I guess I would never have started this blog in the first place, but what I've been experiencing in the last few years is next level. I never walk into a bookstore without at least three recommendations to sniff out. I always know when my favourite author has a book out. I drag my parents to conventions maybe twice a year.

All this is very book-centric, of course, but it applies everywhere. It's tech bloggers who can tell you exactly what PC to get and why. Fashion bloggers are the ones who know which boutiques to check out. And if you need a great recipe, you'll find something a lot more original by talking to a food blogger rather than a cookbook.

Basically, blogging gives you superpowers. So obviously that's an advantage wherever in the universe you end up.

#4 ~ It gives you an excuse to buy stuff

This actually could be a disadvantage, since having an excuse to buy stuff also means that you buy a lot of stuff. Money-wise, it's probably a bad idea.

But having an excuse to read books also means that I can spend way more time in bookshops than is strictly necessary, pre-order the latest books at extortionate shipping prices in the name of ensuring I am 100% up-to-date, and feel no guilt! I guess strictly I don't need to feel guilt anyway, since it's my money and I can do what I want with it, but it's nice to have justification when the parentals are rolling their eyes at being dragged into yet another room full of shelves.

"Yes, Mum, I do have to go in despite having been in another branch of the exact same shop less than half an hour ago. It's research."

#5 ~ It's ... fun?

Yeah, sounds kind of obvious. But think about this. Having fun doesn't just have short term effects (you know, excessive smiling, the odd peal of laughter, generally being a happy lil' sushi roll) - it also means you're looking after your mental health by making time to do the things you love. In fact, it's kind of impossible not to make time for the bloggersphere - because, never forget, it is EVERYWHERE - and I really love that. It's so easy for a lot of other hobbies to slip away, no matter how much you love them, just because you feel like you can't justify the time required in your already-busy life.

Please don't do that with blogging. Obviously, if it's too much for whatever reason, you can take a break. Don't feel forced to keep going if you aren't enjoying yourself, because that's not beneficial to you, your brain or the people around you. But if you do love it, make time.

There are so many real-world advantages to benefit from!

***
In the comments: What day-to-day advantages have you discovered being a blogger has given you? Where have you gone that you never would have been able to reach otherwise? And which of these advantages do you think is the most beneficial?
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The Cake-Flavoured Books Tag

I would like to open by admitting that I am stealing the blog version of this tag from Cait @ Paper Fury, a) because nobody tells me what to do when it comes to cake or blog tags, and b) because she told me I could.

Please. I'm badass, but I'm no thief.

Originally, this was a #Bookstagram tag, so don't forget to go check out all the pretty pictures! Unfortunately very few of them actually feature cake - although, let's be honest, even if they all did it still wouldn't be enough cake - but maybe you could look at them ... then look at some cake?

Oh, I see. You've already eaten it.

#1 ~ CHOCOLATE CAKE

a dark book that you absolutely love
Not only is Deidre Sullivan's Needlework one of the most unapologetically fearless books I've read in my entire life, but it's properly dark. Beautifully dark. There are so many gritty YA books that seem like they're being gritty for the sake of it. They feel like some poor misguided person has decided all they need to do for the teens to like them is be "edgy". But this was dark because it needed to make a statement. And I adored it.

On a slight side note, I GOT TO MEET THE AUTHOR AT YALC TODAY, and she is genuinely one of the nicest people ever. I will treasure that signed copy for ever.

#2 ~ VANILLA CAKE

a light read
Oh gosh I think The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli might have caused me to lose an eye thanks to excessive squeeing. It was cute and fresh and cute and self-discovering and cute and diverse and cute and did I mention how cute it was yet?

There's also an awful lot of lovely food descriptions going on, so I'm pretty sure its characters would be very happy to be in a vanilla cake category. Preferably one with mini eggs on the top? And lots of super-special cookie dough that's made specifically to be eaten raw? (Actually, I'm now imagining Molly baking a cake like that for Reid and now I'm dying of the feels AGAIN.)

#3 ~ RED VELVET

a book that gives you mixed emotions
This would absolutely have to be Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

The full review I was planning to write on the blog at the time never materialised, but you can get an idea just how torn up I was feeling after reading this book by reading my Goodreads review. On the one hand, I guess I was kind of glad that disability was being represented to the masses? And, unlike an awful lot of people, I felt that the ending was at least in character, despite it being a little bit problematic.

But I'm also of the opinion that any portrayal of pretty much anything that ends up being this patronising has not been researched or thought out properly. Lou's absolute inability to think anything through when it came to what might be difficult for Will was properly frustrating (it's possible to do an awful lot of things in an electric wheelchair, but not through sheer optimism. You need a PLAN. And almost everyone else in the book would have told her that, if she'd bothered to ask.); the author's constant assumptions that a disabled person definitely wouldn't be reading the book left me furious, and the general feeling that lives with physical disabilities are inherently tragic was just utterly heartbreaking.

Is that mixed enough for you?

#4 ~ CHEESECAKE

a book you'd recommend to anyone
Oh WOW so so many. I hate to be prescriptive about what people read, because of course there's no book that everyone's going to love equally. (The original draft of this post contained a very elaborate metaphor attempting to explain how stupid it would be to expect everyone to love one book, but ... it was a fashion metaphor and I know exactly nothing about fashion.)

My point is, there's no book that everyone's going to love. But there are books that have subject matters so important that I think everyone should at least try to read them.

What springs to mind right this instant is The Hate U Give by Angie Stanton, because, to quote the slightly all-over-the-place notes I wrote immediately after reading: "As a white person, I'm sure I probably won't ever fully understand how important this book is, but I will spend my entire life trying."

You heard me. Go read it!

#5 ~ COFFEE CAKE

a book you started but never finished
I really wish that this wasn't the case, but I never got to the end of The Handmaid's Tale by Margret Atwood. I KNOW. I'm TERRIBLE. It really makes me sad - I absolutely definitely wanted to finish it before the TV show started so I could watch it and be well informed.

But then it was long and there were other books on my TBR that just seemed more interesting and apparently I'm terrible at making excuses.

#6 ~ CARROT CAKE

a book with great writing
Since the astronomically late Wrap-Up that I posted on Wednesday, I have actually finished The List by Sioban Vivian, and while it wasn't one of my favourite books of the year (mostly because it ended about four chapters before I think it should have - much growling), I can't deny that I have absolutely no clue how the author managed to keep all the different characters and their viewpoints separate, to the point where I could tell who was narrating each chapter within sentences, without reading their name headings and despite long breaks between readings.

I thought it was very well written, anyway. But it appears that Goodreads disagrees with me.

#7 ~ TIRAMISU

book that left you wanting more
First of all, I have a serious problem with this prompt. Tiramisu does not leave me wanting more, it leaves me wanting something very sweet to wash it down with and preferably a time machine to prevent my past self from naively biting into what I can only describe as a bitter, coffee flavoured hell.

Anyway.

I have been waiting for Obsidio, the final book in Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's Illuminae Files, for almost six months now and there are still another nine to go. I am absolutely dying. So I guess you could say that the amazing Gemina left me wanting more.

*quietly explodes* 

#8 ~ CUPCAKES

a series with 4+ books
Uhhhhh ... brain coming up completely blank ... somebody please help.

Harry Potter?

*cowers under weight of own unoriginality*

#9 ~ FRUIT CAKE

book that wasn't what you expected
Oh, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, absolutely without a doubt. I decided to join my Mum's proper-grown-ups book club last year, which was possibly a mistake since the books they read are, like, intellectual and that. Me with my immature nature and my stack of teen books didn't know what I was getting into. But when I heard that this book was a satirical look at racism within America and its judicial system, I was interested. I like challenging racism. I'm interested in law within America.

But what I got was a horrible confusing mess that SOUNDED LIKE it might have been trying to condone slavery. I know it's satire, so clearly that wasn't what it was actually doing, but the sarcasm was just too advanced for poor safe-minded me.

I expected interesting. I got confusing.

How sad.

#10 ~ LAMINGTON

favourite Australian books
I was going to change this one into Victoria Sponge, because being British I actually haven't read that many Australian books. (Utterly heartbreaking, I know, but if you're Australian please don't hate on me. Just ... send me recs to help rectify the situation?)

Luckily, I then remembered about the existence of The First Third by Will Kostakis, which is possibly my favourite book portraying Cerebral Palsy (which is my disability, in case anyone wasn't paying attention) of, well - ever.

There's a full review and interview with the author over on the Disability Diaries section of the blog, but in short: disabled person existing in a book. Disabled person being ridiculously realistic in a book. Disabled person having thoughts and feelings independent of their disability in a book.

Disabled person (!) who is also gay (!!) having romance (!!!) IN A BOOK (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
I was going to tag every blogger I knew who liked cake, but then I realised that if I did that I'd literally be tagging everyone. Feel free to steal it if you fancy!

Kate @ The Magic Violinist - because those cupcakes she made for her Tony's party were absolutely extraordinary.

Ely @ Tea & Titles - because she obviously needs tea with her cake.

Marie @ Lots of Livres - because we have a newbie to the community! HUZZAH!

***
In the comments: (Because we all know this is the only question that matters) - WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE KIND OF CAKE?
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