Novel Extract: untitled horror story

I’ve been working on this novel for so long now that going back to it feels stale – I still love the idea, and I love reading what I’ve done, but the motivation is lacking considering how many other creative things I do. So I’ve been wondering about turning the story into a series on Youtube instead, perhaps?

Below is a 3,000 word excerpt from the beginning. I’d love to know your thoughts!

This was the place. An old house, supposedly one time residence to a family struggling with a demonic presence, which tore them apart and possessed their young daughter. A vivid and colourful history for a building that was today the scene of a triple murder-suicide: a husband shot and killed by an armed intruder, and then the gun turned on the wife and oldest son before taking his own life. The tragedy had shaken – and enthralled – the city to its core but the saddest part of it was that the two remaining children of the Peterson family were to be put into the system and due to the nature of their trauma, would probably stay there until they were old enough to leave of their own accord.

Sebastian knew the system, and he knew how little help would be offered to them; Emma and Mikey Peterson would have to find their own ways to cope with what they’d been through. The chance of those coping mechanisms being healthy was slim to none.

“Seb, are you ready for the first shots?”

He grumbled at the nickname. “Don’t call me that.”

Lifting his camera rig to his shoulder, he took his time adjusting a few settings before he got into position.

Miles ignored his protest entirely. Pacing in front of the house, he held his microphone proudly and muttered his introduction speech to himself over and over. The mud squelched beneath his feet, churning under the sole of his utility boots and trampling the bare lawn even further into the earth. It was a shame, for the place looked as though it was once a nice plot of land.

Sebastian rolled the camera for a while, aiming first at the overgrown and sadly forgotten yard, focusing on the swing and sandbox that would never be played in by the Peterson children again. The September wind blew a gust through the willow tree, rocking the swing ever so slightly.

Tired of that tragic scene, he moved his focus onto the house. The house didn’t scream ‘demonic’ – it was whitewashed cobble over two storeys, with sweet country shutters on every window and a climbing plant framing one edge all the way from the porch to the roof, sporting tiny white flowers at brief intervals. It looked like the sort of house you’d settle down in forever, raise a family and grow old in. The paint was chipped in places on the outside but the front door seemed freshly finished, and Sebastian pictured Mark Peterson outside with a paintbrush fixing it up on a Sunday afternoon whilst the kids played in the yard. Georgia Peterson could be outside too, perhaps tending to the window boxes that were now sad and wilting from lack of love, or maybe just inside baking something sweet for lunch, the smell wafting through the open windows…

“Seb, come on.”

Miles sounded more frustrated now. Sebastian didn’t flinch, camera still trained on the window as he waved Miles off with his free hand.

“Just a sec, I’m getting good cutaway footage here.”

“You can do that when we’re prepping for the next scene. I need to do my opening.”

Turning his head away from the camera, Sebastian glared at Miles. He looked every bit the smarmy, TV asshole he was in his tight jeans, self-advertising t-shirt and suit jacket with his brown hair fluffed up into a perfect bedheaded coif that probably took hours of tweaking.

“You’ve got mud on your pants,” Sebastian said, immediately turning back to the camera with a playful smirk on his face, which grew as he heard Miles’ disgusted realisation behind him.

More feet approached, squelching through the recently rained upon ground. Sebastian moved to the next window across, concentrating on the paint flakes and cobwebs for aesthetic cutaway clips. He could see the shadow of someone further inside, hoping they’d stay put and not ruin his shot. They seemed to be lingering just outside the room he could see into, unmoving. What were they doing?

Using the camera’s automatic zoom, he tried to get a closer look through the viewfinder but they were shadowed and wouldn’t come into focus no matter how much he tried. They simply stood there like a pillar, body turned out into the hall.

The figure was too tall to be Olivia or Sara, yet too slim to be Nico. He would have said Miles had he not known the prick was out here with him, which only left –

“Sebastian, are you ready to shoot? I hate to say it, but we’re on a time schedule here. The cops don’t want us hanging around any longer than absolutely necessary.”

He whipped his head around again, heart thudding a heavy rhythm against his chest. He hadn’t realised he was holding his breath until he caught it, looking manic with his camera clutched in both hands, panting for breath.

Their production manager Spencer Chambers stood behind him, towering over Sebastian with his hands on his hips, one clutching a clipboard.

“Sorry, I was just- were you-” Sebastian fumbled. “Were you just inside?”

“No?” Spencer’s face twisted in confusion. “No one’s been inside yet. We’re not doing that until we’re rolling.”

“There was-” Sebastian didn’t bother finishing his sentence, turning back to the window. He checked first through the glass and then through his viewfinder. No one was stood in the doorway. A cold shiver ran up his neck, like a spider crawling unseen across his skin. “There’s someone in there.”

“What are you talking about?” Sara joined them, clapping a hand on Spencer’s arm. It looked almost possessive and Sebastian wondered, not for the first time, if there was something going on between them.

“Inside,” He repeated, gaze drifting up to her pretty face and dark eyes. “I saw someone through the window.”

Sara laughed, and his statement even earned a chuckle out of Spencer. He wished he could do that when he was being intentionally funny.

“Good one, Seb. Trying to scare us already?” she said, nudging him in the shoulder. “Every time we come to a supposedly haunted location, I swear… You’re worse than Miles.”

“Ouch, that hurts.”

“Come on, roll the shot for him before the poor guy implodes, would you?”

The chill ran down his neck as he stepped away from the window and back down off the porch, risking one last glance inside. Still no one there. Gross. He didn’t want to think about it.


Miles stood at the front of the weathered lawn, microphone raised like he was ready to break into song.

“1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. Oil soils doilies. Oil soils doilies. Maimed animals become mean. Sheep shears should be sharp. Are we ready?”

“Rolling,” Sebastian said, training the camera up at the house. “Action in 3, 2… And we’re on.”

He panned down past the Peterson’s home, avoiding looking in any window through the viewfinder, until he landed on Miles who launched straight into his introductory speech.

“Welcome back to another episode of Paranormal Evidence. Today’s mystery takes us the home of Mark and Georgia Peterson and their three children, Benjamin, Michael and Emma. You may know the house from national news as the location of three grisly murders and a subsequent suicide back in August, but we’re here to investigate what the authorities never will… About the house’s dark, demonic past and how an evil entity that once terrorised the house’s original owners may just be responsible for this tragic crime. Welcome to… the Hell House.”

“Are we going with Hell House?” Sara interrupted, leaving a few beats for the take to finish. “I thought we’d all agreed that sounded awful.”

“I thought we’d agreed not to name it until the end of the investigation?” Olivia said, standing behind Miles with her folder of paperwork. “In case a better name came to mind.”

Olivia was their researcher, site assistant and public liaison. She’d secured the shoot for them. She was also Miles’ other half, for reasons Sebastian would never understand – the initial distaste on his face at being interrupted soon dissipated at her reasoning.

Nico, their lighting technician, lowered his handheld lights and pitched in with his heavy accent. “I like Hell House. Sounds tacky.”

“Let’s just roll it again,” Miles said, waving off the debate. “I’ll do it without and we’ll have both.”

They were inside the house twenty minutes later after three more takes. Sebastian lingered outside to collect more pickup shots of the door creaking open and the wind shaking leaves from the trees as the others debated their next scenes. Mostly he didn’t want to head immediately inside; his heart had stopped hammering but his mind was still racing over the shape he’d seen through the window. He was so sure it was a person – especially as it had gone on second glance. But perhaps… perhaps it was just some strange shadow. The light could play tricks like that sometimes. An intruder in a house where they’d arranged to film a story about a home intruder was just too unlikely to think about.

It wasn’t the first time he’d seen something he couldn’t explain. Sebastian had what his parents had called a ‘creative mind’, but he knew it to mean an overactive imagination. Since he was young he’d played pretend with imaginary friends, described impossible situations and sworn upon his mother’s life that he’d seen things there was no way he could have seen. Since he’d gotten older – since he’d left home – there had been less of it as he’d suppressed it more, become immune to his mind’s little tricks.

Not today, apparently.

With a deep breath, he stepped over the threshold into the Peterson House.

The camera’s weight was heavy on his shoulder. He was more than used to carrying it, sometimes for days at a time on shoots longer than this one, but today it felt like a burden. He was tired too. Sharing a motel room with Nico the night before hadn’t helped, seeing as the technician suffered some sort of sleep apnea that had Sebastian on edge for hours. He’d been caught between frustration at the constant noise and concern that the man might stop breathing all together and suffocate, and had lay awake in the dark, staring at the tiny green light on the emergency exit sign, running through everything he knew about giving CPR, which wasn’t a lot.


Inside the house was quiet. Too quiet considering his production team were supposed to be in here discussing scenes and they were generally incapable of discussing anything without arguing about it. Spencer called it banter and said it was good for team morale. Sharing ideas and all that. Sebastian just found it agitating.


He hated how his voice seemed to carry through the empty corridor, thick with dust particles floating in the air; not an echo, but instead simply drifting between the walls into the rooms beyond. To his immediate left was a doorway into the front room, the doorway he’d seen the figure standing in earlier. His skin prickled at the thought of passing it. To his right was the staircase and a coat stand still host to some of the Peterson’s belongings. A long black coat hung over it and a man’s hat sat on top giving the stand a human silhouette. He was too alert for it to scare him in the moment but he still felt a punch to his chest at the sight of it. Maybe that was what he’d seen through the window – it wasn’t at the right angle to have seen it directly, but perhaps some sort of shadow, some light refraction. It made sense. Probably. At the bottom of the coat rack sat two tiny pink wellington boots adorned with simple white flowers, squeaky clean, with a pair of socks tucked in the ankles.

Sebastian’s heart ached a little at the sight of them. Emma Peterson would probably never wear them again. Emma and her surviving brother were three years apart in age, the same as Sebastian and his sister Chloe. The acknowledgment of the fact was more upsetting than anything. He hoped they never watched this show his crew was making. He hoped they didn’t hate him for it, either, or take anything seriously. They were angling the episode to suggest demons already residing in the house were behind the Peterson’s murder-suicide but the truth of it was far more tragic, the work of a very ill individual, and it was horrible.

The coat stand stood where Sebastian had imagined the door to the kitchen on the opposite side of the house would be, at the bottom of the staircase but there was no door, just a section of faded wallpaper and two picture frames of the family in happier times. The next scene they were shooting was supposed to be in the kitchen, so he passed the door frame where he’d seen the shadow and continued down the corridor. At the end was three more doors; a sun room directly opposite the front door of the house which the Peterson’s used as a dining room, a door directly into the back of the staircase, presumably to a broom closet or basement, and a door to the right, to the kitchen. Only the sun room door was open so he poked his head in quickly but found it empty, besides the dusty belongings of the family, waiting in melancholic stillness for their owners to return them to life.

He next tried the doorknob to the kitchen. It was loose in the setting and turned all the way around when he twisted it, but the door didn’t budge. Sebastian stared down at it in disappointment. This was a joke – the team were probably in there, holding it shut and laughing at him, even though they knew how much he hated practical jokes. He lowered the camera to his side and tried nudging it with his shoulder to loosen it, but it wouldn’t give at all. It was as if the door was completely nailed shut on the inside.

“Is someone in there?” He called through the door. “This isn’t funny.”

Perhaps they were upstairs instead.

Backing away from the kitchen door, he ignored the nausea and lump in his throat trying to tell him he was nervous about this situation. Overactive imagination. There was nothing wrong with the kitchen. Just because two of the three murders had happened in there – just because their script had suggested the kitchen was the hub of demonic activity in this evil house – Christ, this was all so stupid.

The dusty staircase creaked under his weight, groaning like an old man stretching after a long rest. On the third step, he thought he heard something and froze, straining to listen. No voices came from upstairs; the silence was uncomfortable, as though the house was holding its breath in anticipation. Grumbling, he took another step but as the floor creaked once more he could swear he’d heard someone.

His eyesight blurred a little. He didn’t like this place at all.


There it was again, only this time it was as clear as the sound of his own voice. It beckoned him, a sing-song call from back down the corridor.

“Oh, fuck you,” he muttered, closing his eyes for a moment to steel himself. That had to be Sara, or maybe Olivia. He knew they were messing with him – it wouldn’t be the first time they’d pulled a stunt like this on set. He stomped back down to the ground floor and around to the end of the corridor, expecting to see the kitchen door open for him.

It wasn’t.

But the door beneath the stairs was open, just a crack.

His heart leapt into his throat. Clutching the camera at his side, his hands clammy, Sebastian reached for the handle to open the door further and was immediately met with a clunking sound. It churned and slammed and stopped, then repeated after a few moments. Like a washing machine, or maybe a boiler.

The house hadn’t been occupied for months.

“Come on guys, you’ve had your fun.” He said, hoping his voice would come out more demanding and less anxious than it did. “You got me.”

Silence once again, except for the slamming. He was staring down into pitch black and he thought he was going to vomit. They certainly had got him, got him good. His tongue felt thick in his mouth as his sweaty fingers clamoured for the chain dangling inside the basement entrance to turn the light on. Wrapping it around his hand, he pulled hard and the chain made a triumphant click but nothing happened.

Muttering encouragement to himself, eyes transfixed in the darkness below, he tried it again. Still nothing.

Like hell was he going down there with no visibility. His ears were ringing so loud, he thought for a moment the sound was coming from somewhere around him but it was still as quiet as it had ever been, the slamming of machinery cutting the thick atmosphere like an executioner’s axe. He could abandon this all together, walk away from their stupid prank and wait outside until someone came to get him, but he knew the teasing for doing so back at the office would be unbearable.

Instead, he hoisted the heavy camera back onto his shoulder, sweeping his dark curls out of his face to look through the viewfinder again. His forehead was sticky with sweat. Fumbling with the settings, Sebastian switched on the night vision feature and looked once again into the darkness. Even with the setting on, he couldn’t see far – the camera was dated and the feature low quality – but at least he could see a few feet ahead of him. He might even catch a glimpse of his teammates before they got the jump on him. He could turn this whole prank around and scare them instead.

He kept the camera pointed down, enough to see his sneakers landing firmly on each step. They creaked much like the stairs above him, but quieter, as though they’d seen less footfall over the many years the house had been occupied. The stairs seemed to go on and on, the camera wobbling with his shaky breathing as his chest heaved.

Clunk. Slam. Silence. Clunk, Slam, Silence. The creaking stairs. The ringing in his ears. He felt nauseous.

Then, he caught a glimpse of something. Sebastian froze on the spot, one foot down on the next step, as he raised the camera. Someone was sat on the bottom step, facing out into the basement. Their head was bowed, but from the dark hair and small frame, it had to be Sara.

He could get the drop on her, and scare her.

Clunk. Slam. Silence.

That would make him just as bad as they were, but he was dying to get his own back for their creepy pranks. It wasn’t as if this was the first time they’d messed with him. But Sara was as much of a wimp as he was and he knew he’d feel terrible about it.

Clunk, Slam, Silence. Sob.

Sebastian felt his heart crawling up his throat as he realised the sobbing was coming from the woman. He took one step closer, the bowing stairs crying out under his weight.

“Sara?” His voice was barely a whisper as it left his lips. He tried to wet them but his mouth was sticky and dry as well, his saliva souring on his tongue as he failed to encourage his voice louder. “Sara, it’s Sebastian. Are you okay?”

The woman’s head snapped around and stared at him. His heart thundered; it wasn’t Sara, not at all. Twisted and obscured by dark locks, the pale, gaunt face belonged to someone else, someone who shouldn’t have been there, couldn’t be there.


Let me know your thoughts on it – specifically, should I give up on the long prose format and convert this story into a video series script? Or should I keep writing prose? What stood out to you? What didn’t you like?

Copyright L. Bowman 2017-2018.

The Only Way Forward: Self Improvement Goals

There will come times in your life when you have to take a step back from everything that you thought you knew and reevaluate. Whether it is because of your own actions and expectations or because of your expectations of others, on a personal, widespread or even global scale… it’s unavoidable that we get let down sometimes, that things we thought we knew to be true turn out to be less than simple.

Recently I’ve been through one of these moments in my life. It’s still a raw wound but I’m healing and in the meantime, I’m learning. Learning about myself; who I am, who I am capable of being and more than anything, who I want to be.

We’re all capable of change. It’s the honest truth. We all have the potential to be the people we imagine ourselves being in an ideal world; it’s just not always that simple or easy to get there. But when everything in the world seems out of your control, yourself and your attitude are the two things that remain in your personal jurisdiction no matter what.

I’ve recently done a video on self improvement (it’ll post on Monday 19th February) and with it created the Self Improvement Challenge. The first step is setting your self improvement goals; here are mine.

  1. Work on my creative process: as a creator, every day is a triumph or a failure. Either I’ve created something I’m proud of or I haven’t. My creative process is all over the place; I’m full of good ideas but my execution is prone to being poor because I’m lazy, as is my development process. In 2018, I want to work through the bugs in my process and streamline it until I know I can rely on myself to get things done.
  2. Work on my cosplay confidence: I’ve been a cosplayer for a decade as of this October (and a huge fan of dress-up since I was a toddler) so it’s about time I treated myself with the respect I deserve. No more body shaming myself, shying away from opportunities to be in the spotlight, or brushing off compliments. I want to work the cosplay catwalk with pride and have loads of pictures taken of my costumes, which is something I have never done in ten years of the hobby.
  3. Get along better with other people: I’m a really proactive person, and I consider that a strength. However (and dually noted) a few people have pointed out to me that my dedication and determination often means I let relationships fall to the wayside and this can cause a lot of stress and tension in my life and with my friends. It’s time to make time for the people I care about.
  4. Start eating a healthy diet every day: Sugar is my go-to comfort food. Sugar also makes me miserable after I’ve eaten it. It’s a no-brainer really, but it’s not that easy (as nothing ever is) when it comes down to it. Well, screw easy. Time to make it happen. That, and all the other little nutritional niggles I have are history.
  5. Work on my Willpower: after all, all of these other goals are worth nothing if I can’t stick at them! I’m prone to taking the lazy route, but I’m going to have to put a stop to that this year. Willpower will carry me when nothing else does – as long as I can muster enough of it.

As promised in my video, I thought I’d list the areas of improvement other people might want to look at to help inspire them to work on themselves too. If something jumps to mind, make note of it, otherwise here are some great things to work on no matter who you are. Listed beneath them are smaller tasks you can do towards making them happen.


Your relationships, romantic, familial or platonic are a fantastic area of your life to work on. For most of us, making other people happy makes us happy. Becoming the type of person who is always making others happy is going to benefit you in so many ways. Here are some examples of things you could work on.

  • Increase Empathy – to help you comprehend different perspectives other than just your own
    Get this done: trust others, put yourself in their shoes, read about the plights of
             others and lend an ear or shoulder when needed
  • Active Listening – learn to listen to understand, not just to reply
    Get this done: focus on everything someone says to you, take it in, make eye
    contact as you talk, give them your full attention, don’t look at your phone
             whilst they talk to you, ask questions, ask them to explain further
  • Body Language – non-verbal communication that can tell the world all about you, and change the way other people think of you
    Get this done: watch or read up on body language, observe those around you,
             observe what you’re doing, consciously try out new body language
  • Rapport with Others – treat others better and create a reputation of kindness, trustworthiness and reliability
    Get this done: make time to listen to your friends, to help them with their
    problems, to rally for what’s important to them. Lend a hand when it’s
             convenient, adjust your plans sometimes to do what they want, jump to
    their aid whenever the opportunity arises
  • Open Communication – learn to talk about your feelings to those who care about you, no matter how hard that might be
    Get this done: take a deep breath and approach someone with something they
             don’t know about you; ask advice, tell them how important it is to you
  • Undemanding Forgiveness – forgiving others without expecting anything in return, letting go of grudges and learning holding on to them only hurts you
    Get this done: write down everything someone has done that you haven’t
    forgiven, and weigh up how important it is. Burn the page, let it go. Apologize
             for the conflict even if you were right. Tell them you’ve moved on, then do it.
  • Selflessness and Generosity – frequently give your time, attention or gifts of affection to remind others they are cared about
    Get this done: give, give, give. Make things for others – meals, crafts, time. Be
             physically affectionate to the level they enjoy. Hug your friends. Tell them you
    love them. Give them your last fry. Even the little things help.
  • Take more trips with friends – spend quality time with those you care for most
    Get this done: plan events and outings for the future. Go to the theatre, to a
              different country or just take a walk in the park. Get coffee. No matter your
    budget, there will be something you can do together out of the house.


Physical improvement goals are things you will tangibly be able to see. They can be with your body, with the things you create, or with the pile of unread books on your shelf.

  • Read more Books – even set a goal per month. Reading will make you more interesting with a better vocabulary, more intelligent and more creative.
    Get this done: make a list of books you want to read, read every time you’ve got             dead time (travelling, using the bathroom, waiting for something to cook), read
    every night before you sleep, use the library or listen to audiobooks online
  • Create a Morning Routine – start every day with aspirations, writing, a good meal or whatever suits you
    Get this done: Write out your routine and stick to it for 30 days. Keep it simple at
    first then add to it as you master it. Add aspirations or tasks, nutritional goals,
    exercise, yoga, meditation, cleaning (your space or your body) or whatever else
    suits you
  • Start (or continue) Working Out – get to your perfect body, or just better your health for the future
    Get this done: Choose a new exercise class, sign up for the gym, go swimming,
              go running in the morning, join an amateur sports team, take long walks, or
    work out on your bedroom floor for five – ten minutes each morning and add
    more time the better you get (10 sit ups, go!)
  • Wake up Early – start the day at a time you once believed unreasonable and see how much more you can achieve in that time
    Get this done: Set your alarms a little earlier each week until you wake up at
              your desired time easily. Do not snooze the alarm. Get to bed earlier. Set
    morning goals to get your sleepy self moving first thing.
  • Creative Routine – no matter what you create, art, music, writing or anything else, building a creative routine will help you produce your work faster and learn more
    Get this done: Do what you do every day. Allot a time every day for practice, try
    creative prompts or challenges to get you motivated, join a community group 
    or share your creations with a friend for feedback, set creative goals
  • Learn a New Hobby – or increase your talent at a current one
    Get this done: Pick something, anything. Something you’ve always wanted to
    do. Google the best way to start, try an amateur class or watch Youtube videos.
    Give it your best shot and remember, everything takes practice.
  • Change your Appearance – learn new makeup skills, change your hair, anything
    Get this done: use pinterest for inspiration, watch Youtube videos, ask
    professionals in shops for advice, go to a salon for a consultation, mimic your
    favourite celebrity’s or characters style
  • Create an Inspiration Board – believe it and it will come true; create a physical motivation board of all the things you want in your future
    Get this done: Get a pin board or frame. Print or write out your favourite
    quotes, aspirations, bucket list items, goals for the future; draw or photoshop
    things you want actually coming true like number of social media followers,
    Youtube subscribers, tickets to some event or travel plans, gather images of
    the things you want the most and look at it every day for inspiration
  • Improve your Environment – change your bedroom or house, bring in plants or whatever else is going to improve your space… or find somewhere new entirely
    Get this done: start small – clean, hang a picture, change your bedsheets, place
    a rug, buy new curtains, stick up posters, rearrange furniture, hang fairy lights,
    create a pinterest inspiration board, look up new rental listings, buy plants
  • Be more Charitable – whether just to the people around you or strangers in need, give more in your life
    Get this done: donate time or money to charity shops, go through your things
    and start a pool of items to donate, raise money with bake sales or triathlons,
    lend to friends, give change to charity pots and buskers on the streets
  • Get Better Sleep – sleep better to make every waking moment better
    Get this done: allow 7 – 8 hours each night, stop looking at your phone an hour
               before bed, avoid blue light, sleep in a cool place with lots of blankets, sleep with
    white noise, take magnesium supplements, use an SAD lamp in the day, keep a
    dream diary, shower or bathe before bed, drink a sleep inducing tea


Anything that affects your lifestyle day to day falls into this category.

  • Better your career – or get a new job entirely
    Get this done: rework your CV, apply everywhere, speak to your superiors about
    what you could do to move up the ladder or just what new responsibilities you
    could take (perhaps in exchange for ones you don’t like!) and be nice to your
    colleagues and managers
  • Earn more money – however that will work for you, whether a pay rise or a side hustle!
    Get this done: start an etsy, sell your artwork, design t-shirts, have a bake sale,
             go to a car boot sale, sell e-books on Amazon, ask your boss how to work up
    to a pay increase and do it, offer your services on Fiverr or People Per Hour
  • Study something new – teach yourself something you’ve always been interested in learning
    Get this done: go to a local class, take an online course, use Open University,
    learn a language, read educational blogs and books, watch documentaries
  • Study better – if you’re still learning now, work on improving the way you study and retain information, or pass an upcoming exam with great grades
    Get this done: use study cards, look up studying techniques and try them until
             something works for you. Study with friends, ask teachers and parents for aid.
  • Find a Fashion Sense – your style needs to work for you, so work on a wardrobe you’re proud of
    Get this done: use magazines, celebrities, pinterest – cultivate ideas for a style
             and work it into your wardrobe slowly. Customise current clothes.
  • Take up a New Diet – such as vegetarianism, veganism, gluten free, paleo, or just cut out something you wish you didn’t eat like fries or soda
    Get this done: cut out sugar, learn about nutrition, cook from scratch, offer to
             cook once a week if you don’t at home, cut out meat, dairy, gluten, read recipes
    online, get cookbooks from the library
  • Look after yourself nutritionally – learn what your body needs and give it to yourself
    Get this done: drink 8 glasses of water, eat more vegetables, take vitamin
    supplements, look up nutrition that could help relieve stress or anxiety
  • Quit a Bad Habit – smoking, biting your nails, anything you dislike that you do
    Get this done: google how to break a habit and try each method until success
  • Spend less time online – or on the computer, or in front of the TV. Do what’s necessary, then steal your time back by cutting the procrastination
    Get this done: make a list of what is necessary to do online, and once it is done,
             limit your recreational time. Put your phone in a drawer, sit away from your
    computer, turn it off (it probably needs it) and do something else for an hour
  • Get out of your comfort zone – go do something you’ve always been scared to do, or something you’ve never even dreamed of before
    Get this done: talk to shop tellers or strangers, go sky diving, go dancing –
    anything that you’d like to try or be better at goes
  • Make a plan for the future – plan ahead to set goals for one year, five or ten years time so you know where you’re going
    Get this done: get a notebook and make a plan. List things you want for yourself,
             make notes on what you’d need to get them done. Write a bucket list. Think
    physical, mental, lifestyle, financial, spiritual and environmental aspirations!
  • Read or listen to positive material – choose something inspirational and start reading or listening to it religiously
    Get this done: find a blog or podcast to listen to, watch TEDtalks, find
    recommended inspirational book lists online
  • Learn a Language – not only is it fun, it looks great on your CV and it can actually make you more intelligent
    Get this done: use online audio courses (free on Youtube!) and google language
    learning. Use Michel Thomas courses (best in the world!) or find a local class.
             Speak with a native speaker of that language frequently, teach them yours!

Mental or Personal

Internal goals that mainly affect you personally.

  • Become more confident – own yourself, your looks and your actions
    Get this done: plan outfits ahead, put your thoughts in their place, be prepared
             in advance for whatever you’re doing, write a journal to understand yourself,
    fake it until you make it!
  • Overcome fears – expose yourself to your fears and learn they aren’t as large as you think
    Get this done: face your fears head on – do things that scare you, expose yourself
             to the thing you are frightened off until it no longer scares you anymore
  • Be less reliant on others – become more independent so you can control your life and your emotions better
    Get this done: be responsible for yourself, plan how to do things without help,
             stop expecting things off others, be more proactive by making steps alone, stop
    waiting for your parents or friends to do things for you
  • Learn to be mindful – be aware of the world around you and live in the present, pay attention to the little things
    Get this done: sit and pay attention to your surroundings. Use each of your
              senses to feel what’s going on. Meditate, do yoga, do breathing exercises. Pay
    attention to the news, look for good news, look after the planet
  • Accept your limitations – everyone has their limits and whilst it’s good to push them, it’s better not to let failures hurt you
    Get this done: push yourself, but when you do not succeed, write down what you
             have learned and use that next time, do not beat yourself up for failure – instead
    treat it as a learning curve
  • Learn to love yourself – self care is so important, so learn how to love number one
    Get this done: try a Self Care challenge! Take time for yourself, look after your
             body and your mind, learn to compliment yourself, do not treat yourself how you
    wouldn’t treat others and speak kindly to yourself
  • Stop procrastination – teach yourself how to get things done on time so you have free time afterwards
    Get this done: make to-do lists, break tasks down into tiny chunks and take it
             all one step at a time, reward yourself for successful completion, rinse and repeat
  • Manage stress effectively – create a stress free lifestyle where you deal with whatever life throws at you
    Get this done: avoid alcohol and caffeine after 3pm, get better sleep, write lists,
             keep a journal, exercise, speak daily affirmations, meditate, learn breathing
    techniques, share your stress with someone else, manage your time
  • Learn to cope with depression and anxiety – learn coping mechanisms that will make life easier to enjoy in the long run
    Get this done: create routines that prevent or reduce episodes, eat and sleep well,
             concentrate on what you know makes you feel better, lean on others
  • Share what you’re proud of  – show your achievements to the world, or just share parts of yourself that you usually keep secret
    Get this done: show others what you’ve been doing, share yourself often, post
             online and do not be afraid of feedback – the thoughts of others can’t hurt you.
  • Change your attitude to life – stop looking at everything with a negative or defeated attitude and start seeing the good things in the world
    Get this done: make conscious steps to having a more positive outlook on life,
             look for the good things in everything, believe in yourself and your ability to
    change your life
  • Become more productive – get more done in the time you have
    Get this done: download a productivity app, make lists, dedicate time in the day
    to tasks (say: at 1pm I will do… at 2pm I will do…) and stick to it, delegate tasks
    to others where possible, stop aiming for perfection, stop working overtime and
    work harder to get things done in your lessened time, learn to say no to others,
    stop working at some point and have you-time to recuperate each day

Of course, all of this is just my ideas – most of these can apply to anyone, so if you’re looking to set some self-improvement goals, feel free to use any from this list. Don’t be afraid to make them more specific to you, however. Perhaps one of your goals is ‘do the laundry for mum more often’ or ‘be nice to Sheila at work’, or ‘post a chapter of my fanfic every week’ – whatever works for you.

If you’d like to kickstart it by joining the self improvement challenge, here it is!

self improvement challenge

Interested in more self help advice? See my video playlist here!

Things That Don’t Define You

If you’re anything like me, you’ve made a lot of mistakes throughout your life. Some of them are significant, others not so much, although they may have felt world-ending at the time all the same. There’s a myth that no one really understands and yet everyone seems to talk about it; people say they’re ‘running out of time’.

That is, they’re running out of time to do what they want to do with their lives. They’re ‘past it’, or close to it and they’re starting to feel like they’ve wasted their years. Or perhaps if you’re still young, you’re worried about making the wrong choices now that will narrow your options later in life and prevent you from doing what you want to do when you finally ‘figure it all out’. Have you ever heard someone say ‘I wanted to be an XYZ when I was younger but then life got in the way’? It’s not uncommon and there’s no doubt about it; not finding the right path when you’re young can leave you in crisis and make you feel like you’ll never get there.

But it’s not true, not in the slightest – not even just a little. This is probably the most important thing I’ve learned in the last decade of my life – especially since muddling and failing my way through education, bad relationships and many, many jobs in many industries. I’ve always felt as though I’m drifting through life, waiting to snag on something that is right for me. Whenever I’ve felt something calling me, I’ve made the mistake of waiting for it to come to me, expecting it will. Regret soon follows when I see it rushing by and I’ve let it slip through my fingers, when I should have been actively pursuing it. Life is more of a hunt than anything else. You’ve got to chase down the things you want; you can’t expect them to come to you.

There is always another chance. There is always more time for you to take action towards your dreams. No matter who you’ve been, where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Finally I’m on the right track. I wouldn’t say I’m well-balanced, but I’m heading in the right direction no matter how rocky the road is going to be. My youtube channel is really taking off, with a following of 20,000 people, and I’m at the crux of running my own business – I’ve overcome many obstacles and I want to share my story with hope that it’ll help you overcome some of your own.

With that in mind, here’s a list of things that haven’t defined me throughout my life:


  • Bad grades
  • Relationships
  • Friendships
  • Addictions
  • Mental Health
  • Family
  • Career
  • Not knowing what you want to do
  • Starting late on your dreams


I maintained high grades for most of my life, took 12 GCSEs whilst most people take 10 at most, was top of my Maths class for a while… and then everything took a turn for the worst. My mental health went seriously downhill whilst my underage drinking got worse by the day – and my education took the brunt of it. I was always of this belief – I think they hammer it home to you when you’re in school – that doing badly at GCSE or college level would ruin your life forever. The crux of it came when I was 17, two weeks from my exams, weeping to my mother about how I planned to drop out of school entirely. I’m glad I didn’t, but that’s not the point – a decade later, my school grades mean nothing to my life. I did too poorly to get into any university I wanted to go to but then, three years later than my school friends I managed to scrape into a bottom-feeder ex-polytech where I smashed through my joint degree in Film & Writing and came out with the highest 1st Class grade the course had ever seen. School is a rite of passage into adulthood, but it doesn’t define you. Once you’re out of those gates for good, you can start on the real path of your life.


Especially bad ones. Mostly, I consider all my past relationships bad. I got into my first relationship when I was thirteen, with a boy too old for me. He put a lot of pressure on me to act older than I was and whilst I didn’t give in to it, it shook me up quite a lot. I’ve been cheated on, had my heart broken, been confused about sexuality and at my very lowest point, severely mistreated in a long-term relationship that left several mental scars I’ve still not recovered from. But this still doesn’t define me – I refuse to let it. If there’s one thing it’s all taught me, it’s that you can’t control other people’s actions, and you shouldn’t let yourself be defined by anything out of your control.

They might have been awful people (or just people, doing awful things) but that’s their problem, not mine. It took time and healing and sometimes I realise I’m still not who I was, but it’s allowed me some serious self-reflection and I’ve realised the only person who’s allowed that power over me is myself. I control who I am, what I do, how I feel, and who gets to spend time with me.

It applies to being single too. Having a relationship isn’t the most important thing in the world. Looking for one should never be your top priority. Become the person you WANT to be, and love will come to you because people will fall in love with your truest and best self.


ESPECIALLY bad ones. Toxic people can’t be saved and they can’t be stopped. If you’re in a friendship where the other party doesn’t treat you as well as you treat them, it’s not a friendship. I wasn’t good with friends when I was younger – I was frequently having to make new ones because I wasn’t a very likeable person in my teenage years, and this led to me clinging to a lot of toxic people because they were more willing to spend time with me. They could get something from me (most frequently, a place to go off the walls without adult supervision – my parents were often away and our house was like that Project X movie – but other times it was just advice, a shoulder to cry on) and I took that as friendship. Until they weren’t there for me in return when I needed them. That is not friendship.

For a long time I thought I was the issue. There must be something wrong with me. But there isn’t. The world is just full of people out to use other people. It hurts, but they’re not worth your time – not whilst you know them, and not after you’ve parted ways. People who upset you aren’t worth the energy. Cut them loose. Don’t feel any guilt.

If you’re worried about not having many friends, the same thing I said for relationships applies here: work on being your BEST and truest self and real friends will come to you. True friends love and respect you. They support you no matter WHAT you do and you should give them that in return.


Or bad habits of any sort. Now there’s something to be said for overcoming addictions. I allow it to define me a little, I suppose, because I’m proud of myself. It’s an accomplishment I’m happy to make part of me. What I mean here is more that whilst you might feel that addictions and bad habits – whatever your poison, be it drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, self-harming or anything else you might be addicted to – put a blemish in your past you can’t get away from, it’s actually a positive. You’ve won. You’ve defeated the beast.

Just because you were once at the mercy of it, it doesn’t make you any less capable now. In fact, I’d probably say it proves just how capable you are. Wear it with pride. Or just pretend it never happened. It doesn’t define you, so that choice is yours. I’ve been addicted to plenty of things in my life. I’m not proud of what they were, but I’m proud of where I am today. I don’t wear overcoming addiction on my sleeve, but internally I know it’s made me stronger. I know I can defeat whatever life throws at me.

This is a huge one. I still struggle with poor and fluctuating mental health to date. As recently as this past weekend I’ve come so close to a relapse it frightened me and I spent years searching for an answer – ‘why am I like this?’ – to no avail. I wanted a definition to what was wrong with me, so I could be ‘cured’ or at least have a label for what was going on in my head… until I didn’t want one any more. I don’t want to be defined and labelled because it gives me an excuse for who I am.

Unlike many physical ailments that can be cured with a short course of medicine, mental health is an on-going issue and you can choose to let it define you, or you can choose to treat it like a negative aspect of your personality. Perhaps you’re also overly sensitive, short-tempered or extremely messy. Do you let it ruin your life? Probably not. You might not be proud of it, you might have to work constantly on keeping it under control, but your mental health only defines you if you let it become an excuse for the way you act.

Now I know you might say ‘but my mental health issue makes me act out’ and I understand, because it’s the same for me. But there’s a difference between admitting you need help sometimes, that you need to take time out for an hour, or that you’re having a really bad mental health day and using your diagnosis as an excuse for your bad behaviour. I used to use depression and impulsiveness as an excuse for my shitty behaviour towards others until I realised that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I don’t want to be someone who hides behind their mental illness. I used to be upfront about it with people – ‘well I have depression and anxiety, so expect me to be awful’ but now I don’t tell people unless it’s really necessary they know. I’d rather NOT label it. I’d rather NOT let it control how other people perceive me. And now – whilst I still struggle with it daily – it doesn’t have any sway over who I am as a person.


Me and my family enjoy a great relationship. So I can’t speak from personal experience on what it’s like to have an awful family who don’t support you in anything. But I can say from advising friends and loved ones, your family are not allowed to control you. Especially not once you’re an adult. Another ingrained belief in us as humans is that you have a responsibility to be loyal to your family forever just because you’re related by blood. But if they are awful, they are just as toxic as bad friends or relationships and should be treated as such. If it has to come to it, cut ties.

Don’t let your experiences with family define you. Don’t let yourself become your parents – I know it’s easy to be moulded by your parents fears and wants and they probably have the strongest influence over you of anyone in your life, but it is still only an influence and not a finite definition of who you are. You can change anything you dislike about yourself if you want it enough.

My family are personally extremely supportive of me which is absolutely wonderful and I couldn’t be luckier. We didn’t always see eye to eye and there was a handful of years associated with some of my previous points where our relationship was strained and almost destroyed, but I saw sense and saw it was worth salvaging because I loved them. I made that decision and now I’m so incredibly close to them and so thankful for their support. Family is a tough point, but I can’t stress enough what I stressed before: you are the only person who gets to decide what you do and who you are. If you want to maintain family relationships, by all means do it. But if your family are hurting or upsetting you, you don’t have to tolerate it. Ever.


Because you’re never too young or too old. Again, like it’s spoon fed to us how important our grades are, it’s spoon fed to us how important a career path is. This information comes from a generation where it was true (we can’t knock ’em for not knowing better, I suppose) but the world is a very different place now.

Here are some false beliefs I held for a very long time:

  • that certain career paths weren’t good enough for someone as smart as me
  • that earning the most money was the most important thing
  • that when I started in a career path I had to stick to it
  • that bad grades would result in never getting a decent career
  • that a degree is the only way into a good career

I mean, a degree helps you get your foot in the door, I won’t deny that. But a degree is just a piece of paper that proves you’re willing to stick something out for 3+ years and work hard at it – I’ve not once used my degree to get a job relevant to the subject I studied. Anything you can put on your CV that proves you can put your head down and work hard on one thing for a long stint of time will have the same effect.

  • that once you’re in one industry, you have to stick to it
  • that just because I had talent for one particular thing I should pursue it as a career
  • that working was more important than chasing your dreams
  • that I was too young to try and run a business myself

You are never too young or too old to do anything. If you take anything away from this post, please let it be that. You can change your career path at any moment. You can retrain. You can go back to college. You can quit your well paying job in corporate finance and go backpacking in New Zealand then come back home and start over doing something completely different with no experience (that’s my personal experience, by the way!) and still make it work.

  • that finding a job you love means you’ll never work a day in your life

Also so false. I mean, it’s much better to enjoy your job and it feels a lot less like work than doing something you don’t want to do. But if you think the end result of that is not working you’re making a terrible mistake. The difference is that finding a job you love means you don’t hate every moment you have to work, and that’s the true goal. It still gets tough. It still feels like work. But damn, do you enjoy it.

And finally, the one that almost held me back from everything I’ve achieved in the last two years:

  • that quitting your job isn’t fair on the company because they need you

Whoa, slow down there. It’s good to feel like your role is important, that the company loves you and appreciates you – you’re already rocking it if that’s the case. But you’re not irreplaceable. If you’d rather do something else, DO IT. The company will carry on without you. Someone else will take over your role and you’re not responsible for whether or not that person is as good at your job as you are. Once you’re out of those doors, you’ll realise you just don’t care any more, no matter how much you thought you cared at the time.


Aka procrastinating on your future, by choice or by design. How many times have you heard in your life that you should know what you want to do by now? Or that ‘surely, you’ve got some idea?’ Like with my career path, I’ve held so many false beliefs over this in my lifetime. The main one is that everyone else knows what they’re doing around me. I’ve always looked at others and thought they had their lives so together, and wondered why I couldn’t be like that.

But you know what? No one has their lives together. Not your parents, not your friends, not the people in charge of our countries. Everyone in the world is drifting and hoping they’re making the right choices.

In my A-Level tech class, there was one boy who was taking 5 A-Level classes including Further Mathematics and Art because he wanted to be an architect. He was planning on going to Oxford to study it. It seemed like he had everything in his life under control age 17 and I was not only jealous, but extremely worried about not being in the same situation. Where was my perfect life? Why hadn’t it been laid out in front of me just like his? I took classes, dropped classes, wanted to be an actress, a bartender, a cop, a marine biologist – you name it, I’d thought about pursuing it as a career. And at 17, I was floundering around trying to decide what to apply to study at University because I felt like I had to know exactly where my life was headed.

It turned out the reason he was aiming to study architecture is because he believed he was relatively good at architectural drawing and it was a half-decent career path so he figured he might as well pursue it seeing as he had no other ideas about what he wanted to do with his life. And it turns out my mother, who made her fortune in recruitment consulting, wanted to be a doctor when she was 17, and my father only knew that he didn’t want to be a banker. Their futures took them very far away from those things and they’ve both had wonderful lives.

The truth of it all is, no one knows what they’re going to do, who they’re going to be or whether they’re making the right decisions. All any of us can do is be true to ourselves and do the things that feel right. The most important thing to know is that whilst school > college > career > get married > have kids > retire is what we all believe to be expected of us, it rarely happens like that for anyone.

If you’re procrastinating on what you want to be, it may well be because you’ve never even heard of the thing you’re going to do in the future yet. Hell, in this modern world we live in the thing you’re going to do with your life might not even EXIST yet. When I was 17, Youtube was 2 years old, had just been bought by Google and no one really used it yet. How could I have possibly have known I’d be pursuing a career in it?

Which leads me to my final point…


I’ve probably made it clear by now that I have a Youtube account (called NyxRising Industries). It’s been a big dream of mine for about 8 years (since I was 19) to make videos and share them with my community (we, the freaks and geeks) and I first attempted it back in 2009 but I shied away from it very quickly because I wasn’t confident in front of the camera.

Since then I’ve tried on multiple occasions to get started on a channel only to give up very quickly because I never had much faith in myself. I would listen to those intrusive thoughts saying no one cares and who would even want to watch you anyway? The more time went by, the more I felt like I’d left it too late to even try. I made excuses for myself – it’s too hard to make it on Youtube nowadays, you should have started five years ago, there’s no point even giving it a go – and stomped on my desire to do it every time it arose again.

Finally I’d had enough of telling myself no. With my dreams, and with everything in my life. I was sick of putting myself down, of trying to force myself into this ‘normal life’ box that I thought I needed to live in – ‘gender appropriate’ role in a huge corporate office (I was an administrator, doing the work of an office manager for the pay of an intern) and a three bedroom house in the suburbs with a cat and a flashy TV that kept me entertained from 6pm until 11pm every night after work. Paying bills for my car, my home, my TV license. Hoping one of the handsome sales guys in my office might notice me, watching my colleagues having kids and wondering whether that would end up being me in a couple of years.

Thank god I escaped. I quit my job, bought a flight to the other side of the world and flew out to meet an old friend I’d lost touch with for over half a decade (who is now my long-term partner, which is the moment I knew I’d made the right choice) and then came back to England with no plans and no responsibilities and no idea what to do next.

At this crux of a moment in my life when I was throwing caution to the wind and with the help of my best friend, in August 2015 I managed to put up a video we’d made that I was proud of and four months later we managed a second one. It took until May 2016 for us to find our groove, but by then a small handful of people were watching, and then by August we’d hit 1,000 viewers, and we’ve just surpassed 20,000 this week. We post at least twice every single week, and our channel has nearly 1.5 million total hits. We sell merchandise, receive support from our incredible viewers on Patreon and have been invited as guests to public events. Would this have happened if we’d started 8 years ago, or if we started tomorrow? Who knows. No one could possibly know that. As far as I’m concerned, we started the channel at the exact right moment because it’s working.

We’re still growing, but we say the same thing every time we hit a landmark figure: we never thought we’d get 10 viewers and here we are celebrating a huge milestone with the support of thousands and thousands of fans. We’ve got big plans for the future. Every single week, something new takes us by surprise and we couldn’t be happier with NyxRising Industries. So I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: it is never too late to start chasing your dreams. If you have the passion to do it, the willingness to learn the skills you need and the dedication to continue when it gets tough, you WILL succeed. Start today. Start next week. Just make sure you DO start. I promise it’ll be worth it.

I think I’ve stressed it plenty in this post, but the most important thing I want you to take away from this post is that you are in control of your own life and you can change anything you don’t like about it at any time. Nothing in your past is allowed to define your future unless you let it.

Be proud of who you are today, of what you’ve overcome. Don’t hide behind your failures, use them as stepping stones for the future. Learn from your mistakes and reflect on your experiences – one day you’ll look back on everything that’s happened to you and know that whilst it felt like the end of the world, it wasn’t. You’re still standing. You’re still fighting. And tomorrow is another day – one where you can do and be anything you want.

What am I going to do tomorrow? Who am I going to be? I can’t say for sure, but I cannot wait to find out.

Can You Beat Sleep? How to Sleep Better in 8 Simple Ways

I love to sleep as much as the next person but I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in longer than I can remember and I’ve developed all sorts of sleeping problems. Sleeping is like a curse for me: Insomnia, early waking, sleep anxiety, nightmares. On average I sleep just 5 hours of the recommended 8, and that’s if I’m lucky – it can be just 1 or 2 some nights. It’s as if the universe doesn’t want me to sleep!

Unfortunately the human body needs rest to function properly, otherwise I’d probably just forgo sleep altogether and keep working 24 hours a day. I’m not alone either: Sleep problems affect a massive number of people and reports suggest that over 30% of adults in the UK are severely sleep deprived and an estimated 50-70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder.

So what happens if you don’t sleep enough? Unfortunately it’s bad news:

  • Lack of alertness: Research suggests missing even as little as 1.5 hours of your recommended can have a serious impact on your concentration and cognition. You’ll be walking around in a daze, unable to offer your full attention to conversations, work, your hobbies or even driving.
  • Unwillingness to exercise (or do anything): Exhaustion makes you sluggish, and in turn that means you’ll experience a lack of motivation and energy, feeling like you want to sit down all day when you should be making the most of the daylight hours.
  • Relationship stress: As well losing motivation for socialising with friends, you get moody when you’re tired. You might get snappy (like I do) or perhaps just blow others off, and you’ll probably get lazy with romance; It’s hard to explain to people that you’re ‘just tired’ when it happens, because that makes you sound like an ass.
  • Memory loss: One of the primary reasons for sleep is memory processing. When we sleep at night, our brains sort through the days events and knowledge and convert short term memories into long term ones. That’s the real reason babies need to sleep so much; they’re learning constantly and they need time to process and store it all. You’ll find you have a harder time remembering anything and your ability to think is severely impaired when you’re exhausted.

There’s endless debate over whether 8 hours is right for everyone, whether more than that is bad for you and whether some people need significantly less sleep but even without the research to back it up, we all know sleep deprivation is a bad thing. We can feel it in our bodies.

Luckily, the internet is overspilling with advice on how to sleep better. Great news! If they work, we should all be sleeping better within a week. Unfortunately loads of the things that I’ve read, I’ve already tried. Here’s a quick breakdown of what I’m already doing, that you should be too:

Sleep environment – temperature, light, noise

Research shows that we are still responsive to external stimuli during sleep. The best, most peaceful environment for sleep is:

  • Pitch black
  • Cool temperatures
  • Weight on your body (from blankets)
  • Silence or white noise (for those of us with negative associations with silence)

I sleep with all lights off including any blue lights – aka TV, phones, computers – and I have no streetlights outside my window. I keep the window open for air, a fan going for white noise and temperature regulation, and a heavy quilt.

Comfort – the right mattress and pillow

It’s not surprising if you sleep better in nice hotels; your mattress and pillow have a big impact on comfort. Everyone’s needs are unique: My other half sleeps with one firm pillow and I sleep with two soft ones, and we have a hard mattress with a soft topper to compromise because we both have back problems. You’ve got to work out what’s most comfortable for you and if needs be, speak to an osteopath about what bedding you should be using.

Sleep routine – sleeping and waking at regular times

This breaks down to no daytime naps (10 minutes if you’re desperate, but never longer), waking at the same time on your days off as you do on work days, and sleeping around the same time each night. When you’ve got insomnia, trying to keep a routine like this blows. However I’m always awake by 7.30am even on the days I manage to sleep past 4, and I try to be in bed by 11.30pm every night (with no promise of sleep before 3, haha.)

Don’t drink alcohol

Alcohol consumption has all kinds of nasty effects on the body, not just on sleep. It disrupts melatonin production, growth hormones and symptoms of sleep apnea. As a teenager, I used to drink heavily but not anymore – I do from time to time drink alcohol, but since I had major surgery last year, it’s very rarely. I find wine the most disruptive drink – it can have me reeling for hours. Whiskey or cider tends to go down a little better if I do want to have a drink but most of the time I just avoid it.


If you’re not working those four things into your sleep routine yet, give them a go for sure because I hate to think how poorly I’d sleep if I didn’t. But obviously those tricks alone aren’t working for me so here’s 8 of the best and most common tips I’ve found around the web – I’m going to be trying them all out to see if they can do anything for me in the next two weeks, and hopefully in turn, you:

1. Reserve the bed solely for sleep and sex

Reading in bed is relaxing right? Not if you’re suffering sleep deprivation five ways from Sunday. I work from home and when I’m tired it’s very easy to drag my laptop into my lap and spend the day working in bed rather than in my office, but all work should be banished from the bedroom for the sake of all our sanities. The same goes for watching movies and TV, playing video games, writing essays, or anything else that mentally stimulates you and blurs the definition of your bed being the place where you rest.

2. Turn off all tech at least an hour before sleep

I am a serial culprit of using my phone in bed or using my laptop when I can’t sleep. Bright and blue light is one of the biggest triggers to our brains to be awake and alert, so it takes some time for our bodies to ‘power down’ after we’ve powered down the tech. Not using your laptop, tablet, computer or TV for 1 to 2 hours before bed should be long enough to switch off before you sleep.

3. Create a bedtime ritual

Setting yourself a ritual of tasks to complete before bed helps suggest to your body it’s time to sleep. This can include skincare rituals, yoga, meditation, reading, deep breathing, taking a warm bath or shower, listening to soothing music, progressive muscle relaxation or anything you want.

4. Exercise in the morning (but not at night)

Exercise improves every area of your health – but exercising before bed has a negative impact on your sleep pattern because it increases alertness and hormones like epinephrine and adrenaline, which will keep you awake. Sleep deprivation can drop your motivation to exercise to zero but try starting with 10-15 minutes in the morning to boost your energy levels through the day and increasing it from there.

5. Limit caffeine consumption – none after 2pm

It’s hard to keep track of whether people say caffeine is good or bad for you these days, but I like to lean on the evidence that says it’s got huge health benefits because I don’t think I could survive a day without drinking coffee. However, that caffeine jolt from an afternoon coffee stays with you longer than you’d expect, so it’s best to cut off drinking it 7 or 8 hours before you sleep for the best chances at rest. Be wary of caffeine in other foods and drinks too, including tea.

6. Eat light and early in the evening

Western society has become infatuated with the idea that breakfast should be a light meal and dinner should be a heavy one when it should be the other way around. My father was forever phrasing it as:

Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and sup like a pauper.

Eating your big meal in the morning gives your body time to work off that energy during the day whereas eating it at night means you’re digesting it whilst you sleep. Eat light at night and take your supper as early as you can so you’re not sleeping on a full stomach.

Don’t go to bed hungry though. If your stomach is rumbling after supper, try a Snooze Food – foods that reduce alertness and boost seratonin and melatonin levels, such as bananas, honey, turkey, warm milk, marmite, almonds, oatcakes and camomile tea.

7. Keep a Thought Journal

If you find yourself lying awake at night, your mind racing with stress, anxieties or even creativity, keeping a thought journal to write it all down in is key. I am an advocate of journaling for mental health because writing it all out on paper gets it out of your head and alleviates the pressure on your mind that comes hand in hand with stress. There are arguments for and against keeping this journal at your bedside but it’s probably better to have easy access to it when you’re tossing in the sheets at night. If you’re not sure what to write, writing to-do lists for the next day is a great starting point.

8. Let go of the rope

Sleeplessness is a tug-of-war and can cause unwanted stress. Relying too heavily on rules and routine can make your obsessive and dependent, which in turn can make it harder to sleep – especially when you’re out of your usual environment. Concentrate on relaxing rather than sleeping. Living a mindful life and focusing on calming your non-sleep related stresses can bring you to peace and in turn, naturally-induced sleep.


That’s it – those are the top 8 tips that I’ve found. When I put this list together I was mildly disappointed to find it all sounded so easy – could I really have been sleeping better this whole time? Let the investigation commence – I’m going to spend a couple of weeks working these tricks into my sleep routine. If I can sleep better after a lifetime of struggling with it then so can you. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss the results!

Do you have any tricks for sleeping I may have missed off the list? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on your social channels – you can tag me on Twitter @paperstorms 🙂

10 Tips & Tricks To Beat Writer’s Block

WRITING IS AT THE HEART OF EVERYTHING I DO. I am a writer, pure and simple. I’ve got three years of hard grinding, a piece of paper and a photograph of myself in a graduation cap to attest to that, not to mention a few years experience dipping my fingers in various ink pots. Now, if I’d listened to my university tutor and his ‘holier-than-thou’ spiel on how you can’t call yourself a writer until you’ve got a novel published (in hindsight this was probably an echo of regret that he’d never personally succeeded as a writer – after all, those who can’t, teach) then I wouldn’t be calling myself one at all, nor would I be here offering my best advice… But as it is, I know in my heart that I’m a writer and I’m not ashamed to say it.

(If you’ve got these quirks, you probably are too.)

For me it’s an urge, as natural as eating, sleeping and breathing. I’ve been writing since I was seven years old: stories, scripts, articles, poetry. More recently I’ve been working professionally in the world of non-fiction writing and marketing; that’s nearly 20 years of writing under my belt. Whilst I may still be working on my first novel, I’d call that enough experience to have learned a few things along the way. You guys have asked me to write about writing, so here’s the most important thing I’ve picked up in the last few years:

Writer’s Block isn’t real.

And if it isn’t real, you can beat it. Writer’s Block is history.

How can I say it isn’t real when writers face Writer’s Block every day? Simple, really. It’s not called Writer’s Block. It’s not even called Creator’s Block, because it isn’t something unique to creative people at all – everyone in the whole world experiences productivity blocks from time to time, whether they’ve got an important sales pitch to make, a mile of wooden floors to buff or 10,000 words to write. By sticking a label on it and pretending writer’s block is something unique to writers, we’re making it special. We’re making it an excuse that we can use as writers to avoid being put on the spot for not getting our work done.

Just like everyone else, I experience heavy periods of productivity block whether it’s for my writing, filmmaking or even just picking up after myself at home. There is nothing I hate more than staring at a blank page with good intentions; the way inspiration always comes at times when I can’t write and as soon as I sit down to do so, it’s gone. There’s nothing worse than feeling sapped of creativity, unable to get a word down even when you’ve got a great idea or worse still, when you need to write for work, your blog or anything else; it can make you feel flaky, like you’re a fraud for calling yourself a writer at all. The good news is, you’re not.

Like with any other hobby or profession, writing is a skill and it takes practice. You’ve just got to put your back into it. And with a strategy and this arsenal of tricks, you’ll find yourself tapping away at the keys in no time. All of these tips are about prose writing, but they are easily applied to poetry, essays, blogs – you name it.

1. Start in the middle. If you find yourself sat down at a blank page with an idea but no idea how to begin, then don’t begin at all.

Start mid-conversation or halfway through the plot; whatever is in your head right now. You may even find this a more interesting opening anyway and you can always move back to ‘what happened earlier’ for your next chapter. This helps you to understand the story you’re writing and the voice of the characters you’re controlling so you can better introduce them to your audience. Anyone would be hard-pressed to describe the reactions and attitude of a stranger they’d never spoken to, so take them for a test run and get to know them first. Which takes me to my second tactic.

2. Develop your story. If you can’t write prose or paragraphs right now then it’s better to make extensive notes rather than write nothing at all.

Expand the world your story takes place in, come up with new characters all together or just make bullet points for your plot – once you’ve put a few ideas down, you should find inspiration taking you. If you’ve got no ideas but you’re desperate to write, pick a vague concept and get note-taking on all the ways you could expand on it to make it into different stories. And if you really can’t think, google a prompt then try to brainstorm a protagonist for it. You might not like your idea off the bat, but I promise you there are no bad ideas. Which takes us to the third battle manoeuvre!

3. Force yourself to write terribly. If you can’t seem to get anything good down on paper, stop trying to be good. 

Whilst this one might seem more counter-productive than productive, in my personal experience it is very helpful. Jotting down a couple of hundred words you’re not proud of gets rid of that blank page problem and it’s a starting point you can build on. Remember, no one gets to see your writing unless you permit them and I’m pretty sure everything anyone writes is always at least twice as good as they think it is. It’s a plague creative people all share in suffering – not feeling talented. And if it really is terrible, you’ve at least written more than you would have if you hadn’t written anything at all.

4 .Create your perfect writing space. If you’ve got a whole room, use a whole room. If you’ve just got a desk or a corner that’ll do too.

Procrastination and distraction are the death of creativity and writing requires a whole deal of concentration to get into. Make a dedicated space where you can get into the groove of it, somewhere peaceful, filled with books and decorated with things that inspire you. Some writers say it’s better to have a blank canvas around you, but I always feel comfortable writing in a space that naturally incites creativity. I find the look and feel of my writing space influences my thoughts and in turn, my writing and I’ve often changed it up based on what I need to be writing at that time. Anything that gets your mind racing is a huge positive when it comes to getting over a period of creative stubbornness.

5. Collect visual depictions of your ideas. If you find you really can’t put anything down, not even notes, try moodboards.

In the same way your environment helps inspire you, so can visual cues for your story. Sometimes one image is all it takes to conjure up a whole new story idea or plot point and if you can’t put a sequence into words, it can help to lay it out in images. Where does the scene take place? What does the character look like? What are they wearing? Add anything that stimulates you – landscapes, objects, characters, abstract art, quotes, lyrics. Personally I use Pinterest. Some of my story moodboards have hundreds of images on them, like this one for the novel I’m working on and I can find inspiration just by glancing over them.

6. Read, learn, expand your horizons. Stephen King famously wrote: 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 10.38.28

Which is the honest truth. How can you know what constitutes good writing if you’re not reading? Similarly, writing what you know about (always a good place to start) is going to be a little dull if all you know about is yourself and your life. Reading fiction – both good books and bad books to learn the difference – is vital to knowing how to write fiction, but reading educational material and real life experience pieces can generate ideas out of thin air. Try travel writing, history books, investigative books (like those by comedian Jon Ronson) and news articles to find inspiration.

By that same merit, get out there and see the world. If you can’t travel to far off lands, try hitting your hometown; inspiration can be found anywhere. Maybe it’s watching a young couple picking out dinner at the supermarket, maybe it’s a conversation overheard in line at the gas station… Sometimes it’s just the way light plays through the trees in the morning haze. As a writer you must think of everything that happens to you and around you as a resource so get away from your desk, get out into the world, and find something new to write about. Sit in a coffee shop (like a real writer) and study your surroundings. Oh, and if that’s not working…

7. Steal other people’s ideas. Writers steal existing ideas all the time.

Look at how many times the Cinderella story has been retold, for example. Or how many people have used the character of Dracula in their own work. I’m not saying I plagiarise (I definitely don’t encourage plagiarism) but sometimes, taking a little inspiration from stories that you love and stories that are successful is no bad thing. Without a little idea replication, we wouldn’t even have Harry Potter. Loads has been written on the similarities between Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and it’s easy to see why J. K. Rowling might have pulled inspiration from such an epic tale. Bask in the creativity of other writers, pick and choose themes and situations that appeal to you and completely rewrite them until they are non-comparable to the original source of inspiration. Sometimes you just need to lean on someone else’s genius for once.

8. Reorder your plot with this stupidly simple technique. 

I came up with this one myself whilst I was at university; it helped me write the 27,500 word creative dissertation that earned me a 1st class degree and I’ve never looked back. You’re going to need post-it notes or a stack of scraps of paper – this one needs to be done without the help of technology. If you’ve got plot holes you can’t fill or you’ve just got no idea how a story is going to pan out, this one’s a real killer.

Start by writing down all your plot points and planned scenes, one per post-it note. Once every idea you’ve got is written down, begin laying them out as a timeline of events on the wall, desk, floor – whatever works. The ones you know where to place on your timeline should be placed first, followed by the ones you’re not sure about. Play around with the order of each scene until you’re happy with it and leave gaps where you’ve got nothing. You might find you drum up new ideas quickly to fill those gaps, but more likely you’ll find there aren’t gaps at all – you just didn’t realise it before. Congratulations, you’ve already got your whole story! If nothing else, this exercise is bound to give a new perspective on your work.

9. Overstimulation is a killer. Do something boring! 

Thinking creatively for more than a few hours at a time can overload your brain and you’ll find you’re so mentally exhausted that you completely run out of steam. Do you ever find you have your best ideas whilst driving or in the shower? Doing something that doesn’t demand much mental effort or imagination, something that relaxes or de-stresses your mind you whilst still occupying your body is ideal for recharging your creativity.

If you’re stuck for words, take a break and rearrange your bookshelves. If you’re stuck for ideas, try doing all the washing up. Note, this doesn’t work if you ‘take a break’ by watching television. It has got to be something that isn’t stimulating for the brain. Take a shower. Do all the laundry or my personal favourite – declutter your house. Free yourself from your surroundings and you’ll free up some headspace too. You also might have writer’s block because you’ve been writing too hard and not taking care of yourself – remember to go and eat, drink a lot of water, or have a big old cup of coffee (I’ll take the coffee, black, no sugar.)

10. When you finish writing, finish in the middle of a sentence.

Does that sound hard? This is probably the easiest of all the techniques on here and it’s easily one of the best, too. With most creative block you’ll probably find that some days you can write for hours without stopping and other days you can’t even start. For those days, this is an indispensable trick. When your creative juices are really flowing try to finish before you’re finished by stopping writing in the middle of a sentence you already know how to end. Put down your pen or save your file and step back from your work. If you only ever finish when you’re out of ideas then you’re already creating a problem for yourself next time you try to write. Stepping away from your work whilst you’re on a roll means you can come back to it and finish that sentence, then that paragraph, then that chapter you’ve already made notes on. You’re skipping the part of writing where you sit and contemplate how you’re going to start altogether and getting back into the flow of it without giving yourself time to worry about not knowing how to continue.

Just like that, your writer’s block is history! Of course, I’ve got experience but I am by no means an expert in writing. This isn’t gospel. But the ten techniques above have really helped me when I’ve been stuck, especially when I’ve had deadlines to meet and the stress has almost killed me. Hopefully they can help someone else overcome their creative slump too.

Oh, and a bonus tip! Some people say it’s good to write in silence (others say to play music so loud you can’t think – Stephen King writes to heavy metal) but if you want sound without distraction, try white noise. I love the rain. Really love it. I frequently listen to rain simulators like Rainy Mood when I write. White noise is supposed to be good for your brain, concentration levels, and I really like the melancholy it inspires. Really sets the tone for my stories.

Good luck with your writing and if you have any tricks of your own, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Perhaps you can teach me a thing or two as well? If you liked this article, please consider sharing it on your social channels – you can tag me @paperstorms on Twitter.

The Metamorphosis of a Pariah

When I was a child, I had a dream of writing. I put my pen to paper and the words just flow out of my body like water rushing over stone, as though there is nothing more natural in the universe than the coming together of ink and paper and the endless stretch of my imagination.

I’m older now than I ever thought I’d be when I wrote my first novel. At eight years old, when I wrote the words ‘chapter one’ for the very first time on a word document on my father’s brand new Dell PC, I didn’t care much about the how or the when of writing my book. All that mattered to that version of me was that I strip the story out of my head and get it down and that people be proud of me for doing so. That story was about an infant who was lost in the woods following a car crash, only to be found a decade later, raised in the company of bears. I used excessive clip art to drive my point home. Actually, I’m pretty proud of it as a concept even now.

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-teens that writing my book seemed to have a sell-by date. As a fifteen year old girl suffering from severe manic depression, my only coping mechanism through fantasy and horror stories, it suddenly seemed very important to write my first novel and publish it by the time I was eighteen. I wanted to be one of the youngest successful authors ever, because something in my mind was telling me that was the only way to be happy.

Unfortunately, writers have to write. It didn’t help much that I barely wrote a single creative word between the age of fifteen and twenty (I wrote fanfiction and a poor movie script that sort of resembled Skins, but that was the height of my creativity back then.)

Every year since then the ticking clock has felt more like a time bomb; not least because it feels like someone else is going to write my novel before me, but also because I’m creeping up on thirty now. I’m dreading the turn from twenties to thirties because I fear there’s still so much my heart is set on that I haven’t yet accomplished, that I promised myself I’d do, that I’m starting to feel the pull of settling down into a nice, adult life that would mean throwing half my plans right out the window forever.

(I’m kind of jealous of those people who can live as nomads in a digital age, work and earn on the go and see the world forever and ever. I’ve got the perfect skillset for doing so but as much of an explorer as I am, I forever feel the draw of permanent safe harbour.)

I’ve got to realise that I still have time. I can write a little each day and chip away at that dream until it’s no longer so far away it seems impossible. It only seems impossible because I’ve not managed it in the past but you don’t fail until you quit, and I’m not ready to quit. I still have a few years left to pack in what’s important and figure out what isn’t, too.

This blog is the first step towards self-realisation, I guess. I need a little space where I can dump my thoughts and collect all the little parts of myself I don’t know what to do with. I used to be broken and scattered, but nowadays I’m just holding all the pieces wondering what shape they’ll take when I finally finish piecing them together. More than a decade has passed since I first fell apart and it has taken all this time to begin to understand who I am, but I’m proud of every step I take.

I know one thing for sure. I’m still a writer. And so I’ll write fierce and true about what I feel and perhaps it’ll help me lay a foundation for who I’ll be when I finally do hit thirty, perhaps it won’t be as scary as it seems.