Writing What Your Readers Want…

This is my end goal...

This is my end goal…

Oh my goodness – Sunday was an exciting day for me. I blogged about my decision to leave work and attempt to carve out a writing career for me and I seemed to strike a chord with fellow bloggers.

In blogging land, I am a teeny-weeny person with a small group of followers (I love you all and am at this very moment blowing you virtual kisses, promise) and therefore when my wordpress app kept bleeping away with new likes, I practically leapt out of my seat in fever-pitched joy. Oh you lovely, lovely likers…*

I recently read a post by igamesmom and she talked about what she has learned from blogging – a most useful piece which urges people to read the blogs they follow and tailor their own writing accordingly. Good point madam!

I initially set out to write a blog about my forthcoming nuptials** and managed to bore myself. I also drifted off topic on a regular basis. A crime surely, if one is trying to establish a loyal fan base with a niche interest?

“Emma,” I said sternly to myself, “loyal follower number 1 and number 2 are cake fans and here you are boring them to tears ranting on about your predilection for expensive skincare. And what about poor loyal follower number two? She’s an excellent exerciser, and she surely does not give two finicky figs that you drink far too much diet coke***?”

From the many wonderful blogs I read, I note that life-changing is often a theme – people giving up jobs, taking up baking, starting their own businesses or charting weight loss/getting fit journeys – which is maybe why the Sunday blog received the number of likes it did? So, I thinks to myself, folks want to read about life changing and how that works out.

On the plus side, getting married is life-changing so I can continue the odd post about that, but my dears I think I shall continue my blog on the theme of how chucking in your office job and giving up financial security and a pension can be, ahem, very good for you…

 

*I think I am tearing up. Losing. It.

**Nuptials – I love that word. Along with splendid, gracious and eloquence – words which deserve much wider usage, surely?

***Crap. Despite the NLP session and regular nagging by concerned fiancé I am a coke addict once more. Bah.

 

Plastic fantastic? Far From It…

You just don’t want to be adding to this mess, hmm?

Oh woe… back to blogging about diet coke.

I gave it up in August and went cold turkey for 19 days (yup, counted every single day) and then  thought to myself ‘oh well, one can’t hurt…’ So I added a little ‘I’ve got through the working day and here is my reward’ treat to my evenings in the form of a bottle of fizzy, brown chemical bubbles.

Oops. And then I added in 7up free, two bottles of, and justified that as it’s caffeine and colour-free. Amazing how you manage to find reasons for your bad habits, hmm? [Do feel free to share your own spurious reasons for habits, btw.]

I’ve previously revealed the monetary costs of my little aspartame addiction (embarrassing, embarrassing, embarrassing…) and what it could usefully be spent on for my wedding instead. As that little (not little actually, HUGE) disincentive doesn’t seem to be working, let’s talk plastic waste…

Facts about plastic:

A group of courageous Edinburgh folks are trying the no plastic challenge and they’ve got some top tips to help you make the move to plastic-less. It involves changing habits, being organised (taking bags to the shops for example) and buying LESS PACKAGING. All of which are transferable skills; i.e. you do this and you beat your fizzy drinks habit, you forward plan and you think creatively for ways round the plastic problem.

So long bottles and bye-bye diet coke for ever?

 

 

The Accidental Abstainer

Have you ever given up something by accident?

I ask because when we set a date for getting married, fired up with joys of planning and list-writing, I included a note of everything I was going to give up to save money for the aforementioned nuptials.

They included (it was pretty ambitious, given my penchant for the frivolous): diet coke, women’s magazines, beauty treatments in salons, taxi journeys, new make-up or skincare before existing stuff ran out, clothes, shoes etc.

Needless to say, several weeks after the list was drawn up diet coke, new make-up, beauty treatments et al were still making their way into my shopping basket. The incentive just didn’t seem to be there.

However, about a month ago I discovered a new author I really like; a woman who has written a series of epic stories scanning continents and including fabulous characters, themes and wit. For a month or so I haven’t looked at women’s magazines and, when this registered consciously, it became a point of pride not to buy them any more. (The odd free edition of Stylist or buying Good Food magazine does not count).

So, thanks Diana Gabaldon – you may have inadvertently contributed to my wedding funds!

As I am a marketeer’s dream, being without women’s magazines has also affected my make-up and skincare buying habits. Without the constant bombardment of new product advertising and promotions through beauty pages, I’m no longer tempted by the latest snake oil trick promising all kinds of wrinkle reduction, complexion brightening and skin plumping.

In addition, reading novels tends not to leave you feeling as inadequate as magazines do (‘why oh why don’t I have that great job, those gorgeous clothes, that particular new form of exercise guaranteed to tone me up in half an hour’). And, er, why do I care so much for these things?!

Now, I just need to stumble on a few more accidental giving up tricks and watch those money-wasting habits disappear…

Bramble vodka and crumble – could we get more mellow fruitfulness…?

Favours update: this week we went brambling (see the pictures above). For those of you outside Scotland, this means gathering up free fruit courtesy of your nearby hedgerows, and specifically refers to blackberries. We’ve collected roughly 1.8kg in total, which have been mixed with 700g sugar and four bottles (4x75cl) of vodka – cheap and cheerful, no point wasting Grey Goose on this. I’ve sealed it up in Kilner jars and it’s now a waiting game; the end result (hopefully) a pretty potent fruit liquer to be divided up among small bottles and labelled for the wedding.

The Toast of the Town

I couldn’t have said it better myself…

The working week brought a tale of two different public speaking experiences. Firstly, I ran a training workshop. My audience was small and select – I felt confident, articulate and knowledgeable.

The following day, I attended a meeting. I didn’t agree with what one of the speakers was saying and raised my hand to clarify – at which point he invited me to come up to the mike. Argh, disagreeing with someone in public and then being asked to explain in front of roughly 100 people. Soothing it was not.

I’m talking about public speaking as I’d rather like to make a speech at my wedding. I plan light-hearted and hopefully witty words no longer than five minutes and possibly a multi-media presentation (!). I’ve been planning this speech for a while now and I’ve got a KILLER last line.

But should one voluntarily add the stress of public speaking to one’s wedding day, when there is a get out clause – I could follow tradition where the bride is supposedly the centre of attention, but remains oddly silent. Standing up to speak in front of a lot of people is a bit of a scary prospect. What if I muck up the jokes or I get heckled?!

If an approaching wedding adds incentive to all sorts of self-improvement plans (I will be thinner, more toned, clearer of skin, tighter of triceps, free of diet coke), then public speaking practice and confidence is possibly the most worthy of those goals. Not to mention the enhancement it gives my future career prospects…

And finally – I’ve been enjoying Nigella’s latest TV offering and today made her super-easy coffee ice-cream. I permitted myself a tiny lick of the bowl pre freezing and it’s FAB. I don’t even like coffee either.

 

For Want of Witty Wedding Words

Och, where’s the muse when you want her? She’s sadly not been at my beck and call the last week or so.

I kept trying to think up wedding-related topics and the wise, witty words that might accompany them. I came up with… a big, fat nothing. Woe! I also got caught up in a great book* and the priority of my free time was reading. The minutes left after that I felt I should devote to my fiancé to maintain harmonious domestic relations and ensure there WILL indeed be a wedding in May of next year.

The muse still isn’t in the nearby vicinity so I thought I’d post a rather prosaic progress update.

Venue: booked and non-refundable** deposit paid (New Lanark Mill Hotel).

Registrar: booked and non-refundable deposit paid.

Photographer: booked and non-refundable deposit paid (James Solly Photography).

Dress: no. Do I need to panic about this? I just tend to change my mind a lot and thought if I bought something too early, I’d see at least 10 better options after that.

Guest list: drawn up with my fiancé after we’d had a glass or two of wine (we were filled with bonhomie). Still needs finalised and er… possibly edited. Other names keep drifting in and out of my consciousness, accompanied by an internal shriek of alarm.

Invites: my talented brother-in-law (he created the lovely header above) is kindly doing these for me. I’m emailing them out to save money.

Wedding cake: I’m making this myself. The logistics of this exercise are beginning to bother me, though. How will I transport it, how will I decorate it, if I make it too far in advance will it go mouldy and give my guests food poisoning, when will I make it so that I’m not decorating the b*****y thing the night before I get married? Perhaps best to stick to the cheese cake idea (literally, a ‘cake’ made from rounds of cheese; the Atkins solution to wedding cake).

There is progress of sorts on other things – diet coke desertion. I used to drink two litres of the stuff every day. I stopped drinking it for just over two weeks, then caved and am now drinking one bottle a day. Oh, it’s such a lovely, lovely treat…

Reducing resting heart beat rate to 60 per minute (bid to do lots of cardio and be slimline bride). I just counted it; 72Bpm – after many spin classes and many circuit classes (and a few tears). A wee bit of work still needed on this then!

 

*Diana Gabaldon: The Voyager. I love it when you discover a writer you love and then find out that they are prolific.

**Something very, very scary about the words ‘non-refundable deposit’.

Fortune Favours the Spendthrift

Favours – again, what’s with weddings and daft names..? Wedding breakfast when you probably don’t mean bacon and eggs eaten at 9am and favours when you mean small gifts dished out to guests.

Should the budget bride splash out on such extravagances? You can pay a small fortune for customised miniatures, bottle stoppers*, chocolates et al. Again though, the pink, frothy tidal wave that is wedding planning may well sweep me off my feet and I’ll feel as if my wedding just isn’t right without some wee piece of kitsch to give out at the end of proceedings.

Sweet, sweeter, sweetest? On sale at Lakeland. Diabetics, look away now

So, I could make my own… I visited Lakeland at Windermere recently. Any bakers out there? If so, you’ll know what a huge deal Lakeland Windermere is; the mothership of baking. Here, all kinds of wonderful things are available to buy – moulds, tins, chocolate melts, sugar paste, sugar craft. If baking and all things creatively culinary is your thing, best leave the credit card safely at home.

I picked up a handmade chocolate mould at said store, so I’m wondering about venturing down the home-made chocolates road. This could get really serious! I could temper the chocolate for a smooth, glossy finish. Then there could be a variety of fillings:

Alas, my concentration span isn’t the longest**. I fear I would embark on this fine endeavour and get really, really bored half-way through, quality control would dip rapidly and the guests would end up with half a chocolate each. This probably needs a re-think…

LATE NEWS

Flash update! I’ve been diet coke free for two weeks. So, my teeth feel better (less sensitive), my stomach feels flatter and I feel as if my energy levels are more evenly spaced throughout the day.

There is an awful lot of miraculous things written about deserting the D-word, including the weight loss one. Y’know, you stop drinking something rammed packed full of nasty chemicals and suddenly you lose three or four pounds. Sadly, not true in my case…

 

 

*I love these bottle stoppers, but they would cost in excess of £300 for all of my guests…

**Personally, I blame the iPhone. Instant access to all those apps has ruined me forever.

Day 2 and Big Brother Summons Emma to the Diary Room

So, no diet coke in bid to improve health and skin pre wedding and, more importantly, save money.

It’s too early to notice anything (apart from more change in my purse at the end of today), but to stiffen my resolve I’ve been reading Patrick Holford’s Low GL Bible. Low GL – glucose load – is a way of eating where you combine high quality protein, such as plain yoghurt, fish, chicken, eggs, lentils or beans with slow-release carbs. Oh, and you eat tonnes of veg and some fruit too.

(Adding in a link to lovely fruit and veg here…)

Anyway, Mr Holford is very scathing on the subject of caffeinated drinks and fizzy caffeinated drinks in particular. I always knew I was drinking a crap product, but it’s useful to have that belief reinforced. Aspartame, phosphoric acid, caramel and caffeine… yum yum. According to the low GL guru, diet coke acts as a stimulant which means it plays havoc with your body and blood sugar levels which makes it a no-no for those seeking good health.

I’ve treated myself to some supplements as recommended by Mr H – 5HTP, chromium and a Vitamin C 1,000mg (and er… I think my no diet coke money instead for shoes fund was seriously compromised) so here’s hoping for a pain-free and long-lasting diet coke free existence!