Prepare Perfect Pictures for Pinterest

How to make your blog post images work better on Pinterest. Simple tips. | jessiecostin.com

I’m no social media or web market expert. Frankly, I hate it. If social media stops being fun, I stop using it, no matter how many people tell me what I should be doing.

But if there are things I can do that are simple, I will (usually). But seriously, if part of what you do involves sharing things on the web, then forming a few good habits when it comes to your images makes sense.

Pinterest is something I use all the time – it’s like falling down the rabbit hole, for me. See you in a few hours/days…

And during my Adventures in Pinterest-land, I have found countless wonderful blog posts. For certain things, I use Pinterest more than Google! So making my own blog images pin-able is something I do (mostly) make an effort to optimise. It’s something I appreciate when I’m pinning, myself. And to do it for my own blog is pretty simple – the effort-reward ratio is worth it.

So I’m sharing a few basic tips for making your blog post images work harder on Pinterest. And most of it includes things you do already – like creating the photo, saving it & uploading it. Just paying attention to a few extra details in these steps goes a long way.

Bonus: these steps will also improve your image’s effectiveness for being found on Google etc as well.

So, first things first:

Creating Your Image

Make it something pretty of course. But other than that, a few other things to know:

1. Size

Apparently, the ideal Pinterest image has a 2:3 or 4:5 aspect ratio.

The reason it’s talked about in ratios, is that Pinterest resizes images to a specic pixel width, and then the length depends on the original dimensions.

In basic terms, this means images that are a bit longer than they are wide work best. Think the shape of a portrait photograph. If you do want to use a landscape image, don’t make it too skinny.

Bonus points: keep in mind the cover photo crop areas (see image below). In short, keep the prettiest and most important info in the centre of the image for the best look. But at the end of the day, don’t stress too much about size.

Image Dimensions for Pinterest | jessiecostin.com

Have a look here for more detailed info on image dimensions for Pinterest.

2. Add your WEBSITE

I see so many images on Pinterest that are un-watermarked, and it’s a lost opportunity.

The one thing you can control on Pinterest, once your image has been shared around countless times, is the image itself. The original description and even the attached link can get lost or broken in the shuffle. But if you put your website on the image – just a simple address in the corner, it doesn’t need to be obtrusive – then no matter what, people will still be directed to your website.

It also stops people taking your image and using it as their own.

Including your website should be standard practice for every single image you upload to the web.

Bonus Points: Add other text – the title of your blog post, a quote, instructions – some detail about the image.

You don’t have to do this on every image. It depends what it is – some are just meant to look pretty or be purely visual. But if you want people to click through to your website from the pin, then text gives them a reason to do so.

A pretty picture of a bookshelf is pin-able, but a pretty bookshelf with the text “How to Style Your Bookshelf Like a Pro” is pin-able AND clickable.

I use Pixlr a lot for editing and adding text to images. I do have InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, and there are a million other options available – but for a free, easy, fast way to edit & save basic images, I keep going back to it. I’m not affiliated, I just love it!

Saving your Image

1. Save for Web

Smaller photos mean less file space and faster web page loading times. So controlling the file size should be standard practice for all your blog images.

Most editing, photo management programs (e.g. Picasa), or image previewing programs (e.g. Preview) have some sort of export function that lets you choose the file size, often by means of adjusting the ‘Quality’.

resizing jpegs for blogs and pinterest |http://www.jessiecostin.com

Adjusting jpeg quality, and file size, using Export in Preview on Mac.

If you were saving images to print, then quality would be an issue, but for websites and sharing, even the lowest quality is usually plenty big enough.

2. Choose a File Name

image_02393.jpg tells us nothing about what the image is. This matters because it tells search engines nothing as well. This is not specific to Pinterest – you should always use keywords in your image filenames. Something as simple as how-to-style-shelves.jpg is simple but way more effective.

(If you forget to name your file something descriptive, you might be able to change the title in your blogging platform (such as WordPress) when you upload it. See next step…)

Uploading your Images

1. Alt Text

This is a super important one. If you only take away two bits of advice, make it watermarking with your website, and this.

The Alt Text on an image you upload to a blog or website is what displays if for some reason the image doesn’t load. It is also what shows up as the default text in the description box under the pinned image on Pinterest.

Alt Text appears as the description on Pinterest | jessiecostin.com

Often people will pin without changing this description, especially if it contains useful information they want to remember. So write some descriptive Alt Text and include your website here.

Make it personable, not just a bunch of keywords for the sake of keywords. If it sounds a bit more like it was written by a real human being for other real human beings, people will be happier to leave it as is.

E.g: Great tips for magazine-worthy bookshelves | awesomewebsite.com

Below is a screenshot of what the image detail section looks like when I upload images to this blog on WordPress. You can see the Title field for editing the filename, and the Alt Text field.

Screenshot 2015-05-07 14.11.45

Bonus points: include a hashtag in the Alt Text. This is not essential, but you may want to consider it. It comes into use if anyone shares the image via Twitter.

So that’s it, in a nutshell. You can find a lot more advice, and more technical instructions, all over the web, but these are the basics that will make your images more user friendly and sharable.

In A Even Smaller Nutshell:

  1. Make images a little longer than they are wide
  2. Watermark with your website
  3. Save for web with small file size
  4. Save with a relevant filename
  5. Add descriptive Alt Text incl. website

Now, if I was making this really Pinterest-worthy , I would have made this into an infographic. But the baby is up from her nap… Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Any questions? More tips?

5 (or six) Tips for Uncorking the Writing Bottle

5 writing tips

I don’t mean the actual bottle. Or, hang on, do I? Maybe I should add wine to my list…

But first I’ll stick to the non-alcoholic solutions for getting those words flowing.

There a million reasons why you can’t seem to write today/this week/the last three years. Writer’s Block is the catch-all diagnosis for what is actually resistance with a myriad of causes. Fear of failure, fear of success, confusion, lack of planning, over-planning, burnout, a bottlneck of ideas…. And sometimes we aren’t exactly sure what is causing it. We just feel paralysed in front of the page.

And as a writer, getting words on the page is kinda important.

So how do we unstop that cork and get things flowing again? Well, it’s probably trial and error. Every writer has a different procecss, a different brain, a different fear that is holding them back. You need to find out what yours is and short-circuit it. Good luck….

Jk. Jk. 🙂

My title promised tips, I suppose, so here are some things you can try:

1. Just write.

Uh, but I can’t write. That’s the problem…. geez.

Okay, but hear me out. Sometimes when you’re stuck on a current project, it can be that you are afraid of the drivel that is going to spill onto the page if you keep going. You don’t want to ruin your precious baby like that, so you write nothing at all.

The thing is, that’s probably not true, for one. And even if it is, you can always fix it. A computer full of beautiful words in unfinished manuscripts does not an author make. At some point you’ve just got to get it done and worry about making it work beautifully later.

But it’s probably going to be easier to get the words flowing on something else first, something that isn’t your pride and joy. Something that you don’t even care if it’s total word vomit. The point here is to just start writing something.

So I tend to have another project on the go, one that can be as trivial or fanciful or nonsensical as I like. Just something I feel like writing about. It never has to see the light of day – it just helps me warm up brain and fingers, and then often I find it easier to switch over to what I really want to get done and use the momentum to keep going.

You could just open up a document and write whatever comes into your head. But I like it to be an ongoing side project, rather than just a random bunch of words each time I need to do this. This way I am still in ‘story mode’, I’m warming up to think about characters and structure and plot, but it just circumvents the fear block. Because it is a project specifically to contain whatever I feel in the moment, I’m not worried about what actually comes out, because I never plan to show anyone anyway.

There something freeing about the sheer joy of writing a totally idulgent little tale where you break every rule, and do you even give a shit? Not one. And if it does turn into a story you actually like, then so be it. Brilliant. Just file it as WIP 537 and create a new word-vomit tale when you need it.

That said, sometimes it is more the total randomness of a stream-of-consciouness expulsion of words that we need…

2. Just write, version 2.

Just open up a blank page and start writing. Even if it’s I’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got nothing to say, I’ve got nothing to say, not a thing to bloody say… over and over for ten pages. I bet at some point in there you’ll think of other things to say, even if it’s just because that’s annoying to type and you’re bored.

And you might even find that somewhere in there, in the midst of all that writing whatever the hell you want just because you can, the blockage has been flushed out and you’re thinking about your actual project with a longing that borders on obsession. Quick, now open up that project and keep writing before the words start coagulating again.

But maybe you don’t need to write at all. Maybe you need to consciously not write for a little while….

3. Don’t write.

Perhaps you’re burnt out from pushing yourself too hard, or perhaps the words haven’t percolated long enough in your brain. That coffee machine is not ready to flow, yet. And like a coffee machine or a pot of water on the stove, if you just sit there and stare at it, it will never, ever, ever be ready. We all know that rule. I think there’s even some saying about it. A watched brain never produces. Or something like that.

So get up and do something. Take charge and decide to not write. Take a walk. Paint the kitchen. Learn a new skill. You might just find that story pressure building up in your brain, so that by the time you allow yourself to come back to your project, the coffee is piping hot and the pot is boiling over. You can’t help but write or you’ll explode.

But perhaps you need to direct the explosion…

4. Make a plan.

And do it by hand. Sometimes the blockage is just that we don’t know where the story is going. Or there was a problem a few chapters back that we tried to write through, but has now backed us into a corner built of our own words.

A good way to sort through the mess is to write out a full outline of your story, and do it by hand. Putting pen to paper instead of fingers to keyboard helps your brain connect in a different way, plus it slows you down and forces you to think of it all clearly and in a logical order.

I usually draw two columns on my page – two thirds of the page for the dot point outline of the story, and one-third for scribbling notes, questions, ideas and plot holes that come up. You might just find that while you are doing this, the story seems to fix itself as you go. Or at least you’ll have a much clearer idea of where your story is going, and hopefully new ideas of where to go next.

Or maybe you need to throw out the plan…

5. Don’t plan.

Maybe you have been too organised this time, and you have got your story in a chokehold with no place to go. Perhaps the block is because the story you are trying to write isn’t the one that actually wants to be written. Time to get rid of what you thought was going to happen, and throw some bombs around. Kill someone, send that embarassing email to the wrong person, start a fight, throw in some ill-advised sex… all in the fictional sense, of course.

Save an alternate copy of your WIP first, and then rip into that thing. Go somewhere totally opposite to where you’d planned and see what happens. Because this is your creation – you don’t need to play it safe in the world of make-believe. Even if it’s a total mess, you’ve got your original – right? You saved that thing right? – and you can go back.

At worst you’ve had a chance to expel some crazy ideas and get them out of your system, and can now see some more viable solutions. At best, you’ve had a stroke of brilliance and the story is off and racing again in an unexpected but totally perfect direction.

 

And number six is wine. I decided to put it here, because, well, loosen up a little, sunshine, because it’s all going to be okay. You’re a writer, baby. You can do anything!

 

Any of these work for you?

Lessons we can all learn from a Paleo lifestyle

lessons paleo lifestyle

I’m not here to convert you to Paleo. My life is ‘Paleofied’, I guess you could say. But I don’t like labels, I don’t like bandwagons… I tend to shy away from subscribing to any one thing whole heartedly. Because I think in everything there’s a bit of truth, and probably a lot that isn’t.

Some things just have these things in a different balance. And I tend to lean towards Paleo because it has a larger balance of things that I agree with.

Paleo is a convenient catch-all for me to help me narrow down all the information available to something more managable. And then I can start there, filtering further for myself.

But there is something to be said for this movement. I have no doubt there are people taking it to faddish lengths, but for people who have researched and lived it for all the right reasons, it is no fad.

It truly encompasses nutrition and lifestyle principles that I think everyone can benefit from.

I’m not saying we should live like cavemen. I’m not saying we should eschew all modern conveniences. I’m not even saying you should be Paleo. (This post is not even about the food, specifically.)

What I am a fan of is balance in life. And I think modern lives are out of balance.

And I am a fan of not just doing things the way they’ve been done without at least looking for ourselves at the reasons why. ‘Cavemen’ times were not necessarily some Utopia, but neither is the modern world we live in. I think this bears looking at.

And I think that, beyond just the food, there are a lot of principles in a Paleo lifestyle that could restore some positive things to our lives.

 

1. Work for It
Once-upon-a-time, we had to expend some effort for our food. If we hunted & gathered it, we had to actually, you know, wander around to find it & run after it.

Or if we grew & raised our food ourselves, there was plenty of activity going on to farm and tend and prepare.

Our love of making things easier, while not always a bad thing, means that fast-forward a (scarily) little way, and now we can get all our food without even leaving the couch. Punch your order into an app and your groceries & takeaway will come straight to your door. Open a package and apply heat for 2 minutes, and you can have a meal. (A “meal”.)

No more waiting. No more effort. (Except working longer hours so we can pay for it…)

That seems a little screwy to me. And that’s even if we ignore the nutrition implications, and the question of whether this ‘food’ we are consuming can even be classed as such…

We have lost connection with our food. We have lost the deep sense of personal investment.

And the implications of this overflow into our health, our environment, our community, our bank accounts, our attitude towards waste and economy… the list goes on.

So we have all the suggestions on how to change this – avoid packaged food, make things from scratch, grow our own vegetables… This is not new information. Not many people would disagree with these being positive things.

But this is not the lesson I’m wanting to point out from this Paleo principle. It’s not just a matter of expending more effort. Because, lets face it, you are probably at the limit of your effort expenditure already.

And that’s the point. In the process of removing the effort required to have food on the table, we have filled the space with a lot of other things.

The balance has tipped too far the other way. It’s not just that we spend less time personally involved in our food, but all the other things that go with that. The more time working, the less time at the table with friends and family, the less time moving and being active, the less time outdoors with our hands in the dirt, the less understanding about the natural processes of food and nature, and the increased acceptance of chemicals & refined substances as substitutes for real food.

This is the balance that a Paleo lifestyle seeks to restore. And it is pretty much impossible – unless we address the balance of lifestyle and how to live in community. We aren’t meant to expend all the effort by ourselves. Food is mean to be a shared connection, with it and with each other.

 

2. Whole Food, Whole Life

Another by-product of having to work for your food is that you place a greater value on it. (And by work, I mean physically and directly, not just earning money to pay for it or for someone else to make it.)

Economy goes beyond just the money. When you’ve worked hard for your resources, you want to make the most of them. You appreciate their intrinsic value.

And so you use the whole animal. Make things out of the skin and fur and wool, eat the organs and the meat, use the bones in stock. Eat the whole vegetable, use the off-cuts in stocks, use the scraps in compost to enrich the rest of the vegetable patch, or to feed the chickens who then give us eggs. Almost nothing has just one purpose or use.

This way of living is not just the fate of people who can’t afford to just buy the fancy stuff. It’s actually healthier – for us and the world – because it’s balanced. The nutrition you get from eating all parts of the whole animal is much more complete. And there is far less waste compared to just taking a few parts and throwing the rest away. And as a result, each resource goes further. And it encourages us to be creative.

This “whole” principle is something everyone can benefit from. For our health and for our entire approach to life. (Look into Permaculture as a whole life principle for similar ideas.)

 

3. Tune In

One of the main reasons a lot of people start on Paleo or some derivative of it, is because they feel like something isn’t right in their bodies. Perhaps it’s specific diseases that set them on the path, or perhaps it’s certain intolerances, or maybe it’s just a general feeling that the way they are eating and living just isn’t letting them be their best selves.

Whatever starts it, the common thread is that people are listening to their bodies. They are tuning in. And that continues, even more so, after starting on the Paleo path.

The whole lifestyle encourages you to tune in. To listen to your body. To understand what is going on inside for yourself, and address it yourself. You start listening to how you feel when you eat or do certain things. And then you respond. You adjust.

And this might continue forever. You experience might change over time, as you respond to bodily feedback.

That might seem like hard work. And it is – at first. Because it’s not really something we are used to. The irony of the surfeit of information available to us these days, is that we tend to rely on other people to understand it for us. We rely on ‘officials’ to tell us what to eat, doctors to tell us when we are sick and what to do about it, governments to control what is even available to us…

We have turned off the feedback system.

And so turning it on again is a learning curve. First we have to learn how to listen. Then we have to learn to interpret what we are hearing. And then we have to re-learn what we can do about it. All while recalibrating to understand what health and balance actually feels like.

And this is a principle that we could all benefit from. Not just in food, but in all areas of life. In taking care of the earth, our families, our careers and passions…

We have forgotten how to trust ourselves. We have forgotten that everything is connected & can work together if we let it.

 

4. Fire

This might seem like a bit of an abstract principle, and not one that I’ve necessarily seen espoused in the Paleo world. But it something that just felt right to add here.

There is something about fire that I think we are missing in our lives. Something that I think has been instinctively known, historically or culturally, and naturally incorporated.

So am I going literally caveman on you, here?

Sort of. I’m not going to say you should start cooking everything on a open fire – though I’m not not saying that either.

But there is more to it…

Fire is cleansing, purifying. It clears out rubbish. It is a catalyst for new growth. It provides warmth, light, energy, comfort, entertainment – who hasn’t been mesmerised by a campfire? There is something magical about it that can absorb you for hours.

Something changes about a space when physical flames are present.

I’m not going pretend to back this up with scientific research. But there is something elemental about fire that I think we need in fundamental ways, just like we need water and air.

It challenges our desire to control everything, to have instant everything. It’s raw and natural – and, honestly, beyond most people’s understanding. What exactly is fire anyway? Why is fire?

And it draws people. Brings people to sit side-by-side or across the fire from each other. It slows us down and draws out conversation, reflection, celebration, ceremony. We all connect to this source-of-life feeling it provides.

So light some candles. Light your open fire. Gathering around a brazier on your patio. Build a fire pit. Go camping and watch the flames.

Connect, value, tune in. And tie it all together with fire. Those are the principles of life that we can all benefit from.

Why a year without Buying Clothes had nothing to do with The Clothes

A Year Without Buying Clothes Experiment | jessiecostin.com

When I decided to try going a full year without buying clothes – not even second hand or op-shopping – it was motivated by a discovery. I came across a small cupboard in my house. It was in the living room. At the time, it was serving as a makeshift TV stand. Even though my husband and I had been teachers for a few years at this point, we still hadn’t graduated out of impoverished student mode, where your furniture is mismatched and make-do, and not infrequently claimed off the side of the road during hard rubbish season. (Which I still do, anyway…)

So I’d like to point out, that even at this stage, I was living within my means. I didn’t consider myself a materialistic person.

But then, in the process of packing up the house to move, I came across this small cupboard. And apparently I hadn’t opened this cupboard in a while, because I had completely forgotten what might have been inside it. I think that’s why it shocked me. I wasn’t mentally prepared for the discovery of this cupboard’s contents. I wasn’t even aware I could forget my own possessions so entirely.

And before your imagination completely runs away with you, the cupboard contained… shoes. Perhaps ten pairs of shoes.

**crickets**

I know. Not a big deal?

Firstly, I already had a cupboard of shoes I didn’t wear. That on it’s own was a conscience prick – how much do I really need these things if I could forget them for months and not miss them? But it’s not just that I’d forgotten the number of shoes I owned.

And by many standards, it was not an excessive number. I’m certainly no Carrie Bradshaw.

What really made me pause was a story I’d just read.

There was a man who owned only two pairs of shoes. And then a friend, in trouble and needing help, came to him with none. No shoes. His feet were bare. So this first man gave away one of his two pairs of shoes. And the second man, the recipient of the shoes was a criminal. And one who was in trouble with other criminals and on the run.

And then I open my cupboard and see my shoes. My (in comparison) excessive collection of shoes.

And that was it. I couldn’t get this story out of my head. And I started looking at my whole wardrobe full of clothes and wondering.

Wondering, what is all this stuff compensating for?

Because clothes are never just clothes. Excess is never just about the stuff.

Why did I think I needed all this?
How could I still go to my wardrobe and declare I’ve got nothing at all to wear?
If someone in need came to me without shoes or a coat, would I give them mine?

Would anyone even come to me? Did I even know anyone in need?

And so it began…

The year-without-buying-clothes-experiment was born of a pricked conscience and a desire to explore so much more than just an overstuffed wardrobe – but the clothes was a practical place to start. The only place I knew to start.

Everything else was just murmured whisperings at the back of my brain at this stage, unarticulated but unrelenting.

The actual experiment itself ended up being entirely unscientific and life had it’s own plans – as life tends to have.

When I decided to do this, it was near the end of 2011, so I planned to start in January, 2012 just for the cleanliness of the deal. But once I’d decided to do it, I couldn’t just ‘stock up’ in advance. That would defeat the purpose, if I just did 12 months of shopping in one weekend. So it really ended up being about 15 months in total.

But, also, pregnancy happened. So I broke my rule for a few stretchy skirts and maternity pants. But then add into that: horrible morning sickness, exhaustion and the fact that I couldn’t buy normal clothes anyway, and shopping was really the last thing on my mind.

And all the grand experiments and additional projects – or even blog posts – I’d envisioned went out the window.

So I don’t even know if what I did qualified as an experiment. It was just, kind of, life.

And it affected everything…

In the way that nothing is ever just one thing, this was the start of rippling change through every part of my life.

It turns out I’m not the life-experiment type. Not in the way that some bloggers are, starting projects and following them through, with actual rules and accountability and all that jazz.

Set plans and me, well, we don’t jive.

But my whole life is a social experiment. Isn’t everyone’s? And even the failed, fizzled projects that don’t seem to go anywhere have profound effects on our future. Even if it takes years to see it.

From here, from this vantage point of the future I couldn’t even imagine back then, I can see how it was my mind and not my wardrobe that was going through the biggest changes.

Since that time, we (the Mr and I) have have shed our skins – metaphorically, emotionally (and, well, literally but don’t think about that…) – in so many ways, so many times over.

Downsizing, unpacking, lightening the loads. We have moved from a four bedroom, two-storey house to a two bedroom flat. We have donated, sold or thrown out trailer loads and trailer loads of our stuff.

And still we look around and wonder why we have so much that we really don’t need.

We are still in process.

And then, we are going to be moving back to the bigger house we still own… but with a lot less stuff and a completely different lifestyle.

And the real issues appear…

Because in the middle of this process we are realising, it isn’t even the stuff that’s the issue. Stuff is just an outward symptom of what’s going on beneath our skins. The emotional baggage we are shucking is a whole ’nother thing.

And at the same time, exactly the same thing. Everything in life is intertwined, inextricably. Too many shoes, too much fat, too much negative thinking, too much unprocessed trauma. It’s all the same thing.

Cause and effect isn’t as simple as we think it is.

Life is the big experiment. We don’t know half of what we think we do. But at the same time, we are in tune with far more than we think. And in every moment we are doing our best, even when our best looks like someone else’s worst.

So, you want to try and stop buying clothes? Be prepared to feel like your whole life doesn’t even make sense any more.

Want to deal with that emotional pain? Be prepared for that shopping addiction you didn’t know you had to rear it’s glitzy head.

If you’re actually doing somethng right, everything might just feel like it’s all falling apart for a little while.

Just let it be. The destruction has to come before the reconstruction. The demolition before the rebuild. Sometimes you have to take something apart to put it back together the right way.

And your life is a complex construction. It’s never a simple process. Every thread, every cog, every coil of experience, personality and belief is wound and tangled with every other. If you start picking at one thing, get ready for everything to feel a little raw.

But don’t go digging. That’s the best part. You don’t really even have to do anything most of the time. You don’t have to have a hundred-point, colour-coded, five-year plan with sub headings.

You just have to be willing to live one moment to the next.

And be open. Just be open. Be open to the little promptings and signpost in your life, one step at a time. The things that need to come to the surface, will – in their own time. In their own way.

When I responded to the prick of conscience over my forgotten shoes, I thought I was just assessing my spending habits. Maybe my generosity – or lack of it – if I dug a little deeper. Maybe my social awareness underpinning that.

Little did I know I was follow a thread that would lead to the unravelling and reworking of my entire philosophy of life and existence. (Several times over.)

But that was the way it was meant to be. I wasn’t ready then to think about everything I’m navigating now. I was ready to not buy clothes for a while. And the next step and the next, and the next, followed naturally at the right time. Like peeling an onion layer by layer. (With just as many tears.)

So take your next step. Even if that means donating one piece of clothing this week. Or clearing out one cluttered cupboard. Or learning one cake recipe without sugar. Or meditating for one minute tomorrow morning. Or reading one book on that topic that’s been playing on your mind but you’ve been too afriad to think about it.

Just do that one thing, and let it be. Don’t pre-empt where you’ll go next. Don’t beat yourself up for what you should be doing, or compare your life to someone elses.

A short exercise:

Don’t censor yourself. Don’t think too hard. You can change your mind later and it doesn’t have to be noble, lofty or world changing – no-one’s assessing you. Ready?

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Pick up a pen and a piece of paper. (Or the digital equivalent.)
  3. Now I want you to write down the first thing that you skim off the surface of your mind in answer to the following question:

What’s pricking your conscience right now?

Just let that sit for a while. I want you to think about how you are feeling about that thing you wrote down. Are you feeling guilty? Tired? Annoyed? Agitated? Afraid? Like you need to do something?

I want to tell you right now, you don’t have to do anything more with this. You don’t have to act on it. You don’t have to start a project. You are not supposed to feel guilty. You are not obligated to care about it at all.

If you do act, if you do care, let it come from a place of freedom and choice.

If you’re not ready to make any changes yet:

Let it be. Let it percolate or simmer. Let it come into your life or fade away as it needs to. Just wait. Just live.

If you are ready:

You can. You have permission. You are allowed to have this passion, this desire, this energy to act. You are allowed to fail. You are allowed to succeed. You are allowed to enjoy it. You are allowed to take a step then change your mind. You are allowed to make big plans. You are allowed to experiment, make mistakes, learn the hard way and start without knowing what the hell you are doing.

And you are allowed to be great.
In fact, you already are. You just might not know it yet. And that’s okay.

Life is a great experiment. We hope, we dream, we imagine, we create – but we never quite know. And so we trust our gut, we read the stars, we make lists, we weigh the options, we play the odds. But it’s all an experiment.

And big or small, whatever is in your focus right now in life, it’s yours to play with. It’s yours to discover. It doesn’t have to make sense or seem sensible to anyone. Not even yourself, sometimes. Because not even you know where this next little step might take you. Not even you know the extent of the intertwining parts of your life.

But trust yourself. Trust your instincts. Trust that little whisper that tells you this is something you need right now.

Be open. Let it be. Live.

How to Organise your Computer Desktop (+ free wallpaper)

Being a ‘creative type’ like I am, chaos tends to follow me around. So one of my goals for this year is to get more organised – life, house… and computer. The length of time it takes to me find where I’ve saved things and remember what I’ve filed them under is ridiculous. My mission is to streamline things, to have a strategy so when it comes time to save files and categorise them I’ve got a plan in place. This stops me making up a creative new failing filing system with every new project and every new document – that seems perfectly obvious at the time, but makes absolutely no sense at all a few weeks later when I’ve forgotten what on earth I was thinking…

My computer desktop is the first step in this new regime. That tends to be my default dumping ground for new files, web clippings, screen shots etc. so it can easily become a mess of overwhelming icons on the screen. Previously, I’d get sick of the clutter  and so just to get it it out of the way, dump every file into one folder labeled “To Sort”. Future Jessie will deal with that. Except I am Future Jessie, and I still wasn’t dealing with it.

I think computer organisation is hard for me, because I can’t just lay everything out in front of me then sort it – that’s what I do with the physical things in my house when I’m organising. So I needed a better system. That’s why I love desktop organiser wallpapers. (Free ones at the end of this post.) Continue reading

Colour Psychology for Your Writing Space

Colour Psychology for Writing Space

Colour can have physical, emotional and psychological effects on us. How you think, feel and behave, your creativity, clarity and motivation. All kinda important things for a writer.

Now, painting your room orange is not going to magically conjure a story where there is none, or instantly turn a procrastinator into a go-getter. But it does have an influence. Your space is definitely important.

Colour is just one aspect of your space, but it is a relatively easy one to control. And there is psychology behind it – it’s all about how the different wavelengths of light from different colours hits your retinas, converting to electrical impulses that go to the part of your brain affecting your endocrine system (hormones) and much of your activity.

It doesn’t take much to introduce colour. Painting walls is the obvious one, but if you don’t want that much of a commitment, then you can also bring it in through artwork, flowers, furniture, cushions… even the pen your write with.

So what colour should you choose for your writing space?

Continue reading

The Number One Trick to Beat Procrastination

You know that feeling. That creeping resistance that crawls over your shoulder and settles in your gut, convincing you that anything — anything — would be better than doing that thing you know you’re meant to be doing.

When I was in uni, the only time I cleaned my room was when I had an essay due. I’m not a housework person, but I had quite a clean room…

Procrastination. For a long time, I thought the only thing that could actually get me to do things was either sheer will power — and I’m screwed there, because I have none — or panic. You know, that moment that you have five minutes before the project is due, or your super-clean friend is about to walk through your front door.

And that doesn’t help much with things that don’t have due dates or shame attached. (And let’s be honest, those are not things I want to run my life anyway.) What about things like exercise or projects that are totally on you? Which if you are a work-for-yourself, creative type, that can be most things in your life.

I thought I’d just have to spend my life as a procrastinator. Someone who never gets anything done. Someone who always feels overwhelmed by the things I haven’t done.

But there’s the problem. We believe the label, as if it’s just a trait, as permanent as our eye-colour. But it’s not. Procrastination is just a pattern, driven by fear and discouragement. And any pattern can be broken, if you know how to do it.

And there is one way — the only way I have found — that has actually helped me.

And it’s actually pretty simple:

stop procrastinating in five minutes

Continue reading

Peacemakers aren’t pussies

Sometimes I have a lot of passion running around inside me. A lot of things I want to achieve. A lot of ways I want to change the world and leave my mark. It can be a tumultuous place to live, inside my brain.

But some days I don’t have an opinion. I’m just all whatever man, it’s cool.

I think, is this peace? Is this what I should be like – none of the fire and feistiness? Just letting things wash?

And I don’t know if it’s a female thing or just a political correctness thing, but I rarely feel encouraged to express strong opinions. And so something inside me believes it’s wrong. That to have peace is to not ever feel too strongly about things. Continue reading

What’s your word for the year? (And how to pick one.)

In a word header image

I’ve never made new years resolutions. I’ve always known I won’t stick to them – I can’t stick to these kinds of resolutions for one day let alone a whole year. And most of the time you are just setting yourself up to feel like a failure.

I’m not opposed to goal setting in general, but just the flipping over of the calendar from one day to the next is not a good enough reason to me to bully myself into change.

And so when I heard about the idea of choosing just one word for your year, that really sat well with me. It’s about picking a word that sums up the overall focus, theme or ‘feel’ of the year. It can be like an anchor point, something to come back to when things start to get haywire. Unlike resolutions it’s not a box to tick, it’s a statement of intention. It’s like infusing a certain flavour or fragrance into your life. Continue reading

Ghost Stories 4: I Found My Jennifer Love-Hewitt

<<<Three


 

Well, I was murdered all right. But as big as that is, it didn’t come as a surprise. Somewhere in my floating synapses, I knew it. I ‘remembered’ it, even though I still can’t bring any of those memories into view.

How I was murdered was a little more of surprise. But surprise is not really an adequate word. Surprise makes you think of people jumping out from behind sofas to shout “Happy Birthday” as the lights come on — not that that has ever happen to me either. But it’s a mild word. A fun word. A sensation that jolts but quickly passes. This was more of a vibrating shudder into my bones — or my memory of bones — and I’m still humming with it. With the knowledge of my own death, and the frustration at not knowing why. Or who. None of that is any clearer.

But there may be new light shining on that… Continue reading