How To Read More (Even When You're Super Busy)

We get it, you’re busy. Not just busy – you’re superhuman, not even time to breathe, let alone enjoy a leisurely read busy.

Well, tough.

If it’s something you enjoy, there is a way to make more time for it. The same goes for writing – or painting or line dancing – so feel free to swap ‘read’ for whatever your other hobbies are.

I adore reading. It helps me relax, but more than that – it inspires me and helps me to become a better writer. So when my To Be Read list started getting out of control (and when I got jealous of seeing everyone else read about twenty books a month on Instagram) I decided to do something about it. Here’s how:

Find your ten minutes
I refuse to believe that you don’t have ten minutes spare. At the end of each day, think about any spare or unproductive time you had. Could you have watched ten minutes less of Netflix? Could you have gone up to bed ten minutes earlier?

For me, it’s before I start work. I usually get to work early so I can get a parking space close-by, so instead of dawdling (or checking BuzzFeed) I now set a ten minute timer and read a couple of pages before my day starts. It’s now a ritual. Yes, it’s difficult putting the book down and trudging off to work – but it clears my head and helps me to feel motivated for the day ahead.

Keep books close-by
For the above reason I always keep a book in my car. I also keep a book in the living room and in my bag – so there is literally no excuse. But rather than spreading them about like breadcrumbs, you could just save space and keep an e-book reader close-by instead.

Be accountable
I used to be part of a book club where we had to read two books a month. Many of us struggled to fit that into our lives, but we managed it. The thought of being the only one to have not read the book motivated us to get it done. So even if a book club isn’t your thing, start reading at the same time as your friend, or see what people are reading on social media. It’ll give you more incentive to keep turning the page – plus you get to fangirl/boy over it together too.

Have a lunch break
This could fall under the ‘find your ten minutes rule’, but I just need to take a minute to get serious about lunchtime. Say it with me: eating at your desk sucks. I know sometimes it’s not possible to take a break – but if it is, use it wisely. Rather than eating whilst glued to your screen, take ten minutes to pick up a book and let your food go down. You could go and eat lunch with your colleagues, but that means having to communicate with others…

Swap screen-time for story time
I admit it, no matter what time I go to bed, I always find time to spend a good ten minutes hour reading BuzzFeed, fanatically like my friends’ statuses and staring at micro pigs on Instagram. Swapping this for story-time is helping me to get more reading done and feel more tired when I do manage to tear myself away. Only downside: my dreams have slightly less pigs in them.

Yes, graphic novels and short stories do count
It doesn’t have to be an epic to count as reading. Graphic novels, poems and even the shortest of stories can still inspire – plus they have the bonus of often being bite-sized (not counting Watchmen in that bracket).

If you can’t read, listen
I spend a good hour a day in the car, usually enraged about the traffic and angrily singing along to the radio. If you have to commute, why not listen to your favourite book on the way?

Create a ‘To Be Read’ List
It’s important to have a goal, so if your shelves are bursting, handpick a selection of books you want to read that month and set them aside. Also make sure you tick off every book you read to give you a sense of fulfilment.

Colourful Bookstagram Accounts You Should Follow

Need a bit more colour in your Instagram feed? Here are some of my absolute favourite book accounts who inspire me and pretty much give me #bookstagram goals on a daily basis. Marvel at them, follow them, and let me who else I should be fangirling over.

Oh, and not to miss the opportunity for a shameless plug… take a look at my ol’ Instagram book feed too, which has its fair share of colour, quirkiness and book recs. I’m posting over at @carlyreadsalot. Come and be book buddies with me.

 It me! @carlyreadsalot

It me! @carlyreadsalot

 

 

 

 

 

 

And onto some of my faves. In no particular order, here are some technicolour accounts I think you’ll fall for:

1) @booksandpops

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Follow for: A fun colourful feed crammed with books and a seriously impressive collection of Funko Pops.

2) @trustytomes

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Follow for: A gorgeous minimalist feed with pops of pastels and brights.

3) @booksugar

 

 

 

 

 

Follow for: Some of the best book hauls and intricately put-together shelves that’ll make you want to re-organise everything.

4) @sweetbookobsession

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Follow for: My favourite rainbow shelves and a multicoloured feed of general gorgeousness.

5) @theartfulelle

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Follow for: Next level colour coordination and an envious Penguin Drop-Cap collection.

These Instagram beauts are only a tiny fraction of all the loveliness that’s out there. Anyone else a bookstagram addict? Let me know about your account and your recs for who else I should follow!

Books To Make You Smile

For even the brightest of optimists, 2016 has been a struggle. I won’t go over some of the things that have made it less than rosy because you all know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, this year has been pretty difficult on a personal level too. There’s been some fantastic moments, some real ups of course, but also some major downs. I’ve had to rely on people more than ever, and when they couldn’t be there, I relied on my old faithful: books.

These past couple of years have been the ones where more than ever, I’ve needed the joy and escape of fiction. It’s helped to cheer me up, to comfort me, and to help remind me that I do still have a lot to be grateful for.

And let’s be honest, as much as we’d all like to hope, 2017 might not be a picnic either. In fact, I know that it might end up being one of the hardest years for me so far. But I’m ready (kinda). And I have this arsenal of happy, comfort-reading books to help me through. Let me know your recommendations and we’ll all huddle around our reading lists and get through it together!

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Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

My love for Brosh is not a secret. If you haven’t read her webcomic Hyperbole and a Half, schedule a few days out of your life and click on that. (You’re welcome.) This is just the paper version of her well-loved stories, with some new comics thrown in.

Her writing and the accompanying drawings have me literally howling with laughter no matter how many times I read them. And alongside the stories about dinosaur costumes and cake, there’s one about coping with depression, which includes one of the most honest and unique descriptions of the illness that I’ve ever heard. So it’s got everything you need to make you laugh, cry, then laugh again.

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Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding

It’s scientifically impossible not to laugh (and cringe) at the story of everyone’s favourite thirtysomething singleton. And for you young’uns, it’s a little nostalgic window into the past for when you could smoke in pubs, afford a flat in London and go through the night without drunk texting your ex.

I love this series so much that I can pick it up from any chapter and instantly have a giggle. If you’ve only seen the films, do yourself a favour and get to know the real Bridget. Plus, there are pages worth of Mr Darcy you’re missing out on.

The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

I’m incapable of leaving this one out, not just because it’s my favourite series and literally magic, but because it’s perfect for when you need to hide out in the pages of a book for a few hours. You’ve got everything waiting for you: hope, friendship, the fight between good and evil, and petty teenage problems.

And you can pick a book depending on how you’re feeling. Philosopher’s Stone for some old-fashioned Hogwarts fun with only a mild slice of danger. Order of the Phoenix if you want a mood-swinging, angsty Potter. Or the Deathly Hallows for when you’re ready to burn everything to the ground and cry a lot.

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The Princess Bride by William Goldman
There are so many books I could choose for this spot, but none quite like The Princess Bride. It has everything you could want in a fairy tale: true love, romance, an evil prince, fencing, fighting and revenge.

And when I say fairy tale, I mean it in the tongue-in-cheek, not what you’d expect kind of way. This is a book that doesn’t take itself seriously, written by an author who delights in witty dialogue and putting his silly characters into immediate peril at every turn. This is something that I wish I’d read when I was much younger and is perfect when you want a page-turner that’ll make you laugh and help you escape a little.

 

And that's just me, what are your comfort-reading books?

 

 

Quick Ways To Shake Writer's Block

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There’s a blank screen in front of you. The clock is ticking. And yet the words just won’t come.

You know the perfect words are in there somewhere, but that evil, ill-timed little scamp called writer’s block has you in a headlock. And it’s not letting go.

Do you?
A. Keep hitting your head against the wall and hope it’ll go away. Or,
B. Shake (shake, shake) it off T-Swift style.

Oh you clever thing, of course you’re going for B. So to help, here are some simple and silly ideas to help beat your writer’s block and get your writing mojo back where it belongs.

Because you know what’s definitely not happening in 2016? Letting writer’s block grind you down.

  1. Get to the good bit. Forget starting at the beginning. Write the part that excites you most and work backwards from there.
  2. Do the most boring thing you can – there’s nothing like a mundane round of washing dishes to help get your creative juices flowing. Bonus: your house will be all shiny and clean.
  3. Have a 10-minute dance party. Enough said.
  4. Get inspired by the greats. Read a page of your favourite book, spend some time on your favourite inspiring blog, or just read something completely different. Don’t copy – just let yourself get inspired with a bit of  word porn.
  5. Write something completely different. Trying to write an editorial piece? Writing a key scene in your book? Try turning your favourite fairy tale into a news article. Then go back to your original work feeling like a badass.
  6. Tick off the rest of your to-do list. Get away from your desk and take ten minutes to blitz through some of the easier tasks.
  7. Change your scenery. Oldest trick in the book, but it works a treat. Go for a quick walk (even just round the office), make a drink or write at a coffee shop, whatever you can to change things up.
  8. Put pen to paper. If you’re used to typing on a laptop, try an old fashioned brainstorm with a notebook. Brownie points if you use some ridiculously pretty stationery.
  9. Pretend you’ve already finished. Imagine you’ve already written your article, book or blog post, and visualise everyone loving it. How would they describe? And then just write it without any of the fear. There’s nothing stopping you.
  10. Know what to say but can’t find the words? Tell a friend (or an imaginary one). Explain what you’re trying to write and then write that bit down – exactly as you describe it. It’ll be more natural and they might even help you brainstorm.

Any others? Let’s hear ‘em.

Life Doesn't Need To Be Instagram-Worthy

“There are people who are happy standing still, and then there are the adventurers, those with wanderlust running through their veins. There are those who are afraid to take the leap, and those who ache for new experiences, who jump right in.” – Said one too many writers.

I’m sorry, but I need to call bullshit.

I’m all for living your best life, chasing your dreams, being happier, kinder, more creative etc etc. What I’m not about is shaming people who don’t have the means or the desire to live a shiny Instagram-worthy life.

Those inspiring Instaquotes are fine and dandy. Sharing your exciting, globetrotting, world-conquering life is your right and you know we love to follow along with it. But telling people to have more courage to break free of their humdrum lives? Saying that your way is the only way? That others can only truly be Next Level Happy when they’ve got enough stamps on their passport? Nope, not okay.

This isn’t a new trend. And when I see that sort of shaming going on, I can usually chalk it up to that particular person not being for me. It’s harder to ignore and much more upsetting when it’s coming from a brilliant writer/blogger/badass who I admire and usually agree with. The writer will go nameless, but the post itself was all about how some people are too afraid to go out and explore the world. How the people who haven’t left their city just don’t understand. How she can’t stand still and wouldn’t want to if she could. How she needs to constantly roam in order to feel alive. How life in one place will never compare to the open road. And, here’s the kicker, how people who choose to stay in one place aren’t really living.

I felt betrayed, as ridiculous as that sounds. It made me question my own decisions. Why had I just bought a house and committed to one tiny, often dull little corner of the world, when there was so much to explore? Was I a fool for settling down in my twenties? Was I giving up my rights to live the type of exciting life that I’m constantly drooling over online?

No. A million times no. I recovered, and realised that her constant wandering might be right for others, but it’s not for me. And I resent being accused of being wrong for feeling otherwise.

I’m sick of being told that people with a normal, stable life aren’t really living. Or that working a 9 to 5 corporate job with *whisper it* a pension of all things, is something to be ashamed of.

Because being settled in one place doesn’t mean that you have to give up your rights to explore the world. You just have to do it in your own way.

I've felt the awe in my stomach at seeing Sleeping Beauty's castle for the first time. I've danced under the stars in Copenhagen, watched waterfalls rampage in Iceland, and got lost in Berlin. I've discovered secluded, mountain-hugging beaches, gasped at Mayan ruins, and raced through Vatican City whilst a mad taxi driver played prog metal at top volume. 

Sure, I might have done that over years, for a handful of days at a time. I didn’t backpack and I sure as hell took advantage of the free wi-fi in the package holiday coach on my way to the Exciting Thing, but does that lessen my experience? Does it make it any less valid that I felt comfort and relief when I arrived home?

For those who are of the wandering persuasion: wander away. Enjoy yourselves. But respect that not everyone can or wants to have your lifestyle. For the rest of us, a little reminder:

Not everything in your life has to be a series of CAPITAL LETTER. DRAMATIC. LIFE-CHANGING. SHAREABLE. MOMENTS.

Laughing so hard your stomach hurts, cuddling in bed whilst the rain scratches the windows, dancing to pop songs with your niece in the living room; these moments are just as valuable and valid as feeling sand between your toes. They just might not get as many likes.