Thursday, October 30, 2014

Consume Less, Create More

Thursday, October 30, 2014
Consume Less, Create More

I have been reading fewer blogs lately; I purged by blogroll and I frequently hit 'mark all read.' It's not because I don't like blogging anymore (although there are some issues) or that I can't find any blogs worth reading (quite the opposite) but because, for a while, I was consuming too much. I was reading and reading and reading.. and then came the side effects.

First of all, there is comparison, which we all know if the thief of joy and then there were the idea thieves, which irritate and upset but there is little you can do about them. Lastly, there is the competition and popularity contest that I refuse to be a part of. I found myself in a vicious circle of getting angry at little things that really don't matter.

Then I realised we have ourselves to blame, on the most part, for feeling like this. We can choose to ignore the negative and focus on the positive, if only we consume less and create more. If only we stop comparing ourselves and second guessing everyone's motives, or getting upset about things that really don't matter.

So I have been working hard on producing content I am excited about and ignoring everybody else. I'm not here to compete against anyone. I want to read blogs and engage with their writers but I also want to avoid negativity, it's all about balance and not taking things so seriously. So long as no one directly copies my words or steals my photographs, I can ignore the irritants and nuisances. Ignorance is bliss, right? I certainly feel happier for it. Originality trumps all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

If You Read One Book This Halloween, It Should Be This One

Wednesday, October 29, 2014
House of Leaves
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

House of Leaves focuses on a young family that moves into a new home where they discover the house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside; a house that is shrouded in darkness with an ever-growing abyss growing in its depths.

Will Navidson, husband, father, and photojournalist, moves into the house with his wife Karen and their two children hoping to repair their marriage. He sets up cameras in each of the rooms to record, as a keepsake, family life in the new house. One day Will discovers the building is three quarters of an inch longer on the inside than on the outside and a dark and icy 10-foot hallway is found within. The Navidson Record becomes a documentary in which Will and his friends explore the inexplicable space, which starts shifting and rearranging itself, roaring as it expands into a terrifying vast expanse of darkness. The house becomes home to a maze of obscurity, confusion, and fear.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves is unconventional in its structure with a peculiar writing format, page layout, and text that changes and shifts as much as the story. The novel provides distinct differences between each of its multiple narrators who cross paths and elaborate on the story in incredibly disorientating ways. But most disorientating of all is how multi-layered the narrative is, playing with the reality of not only the characters but the reader. Some pages contain a few words or a couple of lines; the writing mirrors the events of the story, requiring the reader to turn not only the pages but the actual book to read its contents; the footnotes refer to books, films, and articles implying they are - rather convincingly - fact rather than fiction, and the ultimate effect is one of claustrophobia, disorientation, fear and anxiety.

House of Leaves

House of Leaves fully immerses you into its pages, it's exhausting to read, and extremely clever. It's a horrifyingly creepy story that convinces you it could be true; it's a love story; it's full of puzzles and codes and ciphers, and it's a unique reading experience that only a physical book can provide. But you have to commit, let it creep into your mind, let it live in you for a while, and, even though you'll be scared and frightened, trust that you'll reach the end of that hallway and everything will be OK.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Managing Your Business and Blog When You Go On Holiday

Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Managing Your Business and Blog When You Go On Holiday

Preempt any problems that might arise and how you can solve them while you're away. Don't underestimate how much time it takes prepare your business for a vacation or overestimate how quickly you can jump back into work after you return; give yourself a day either side and assume you won't be able to respond to business inquiries as quickly or at all.

This is especially important the longer your vacation is. If you're going away for a week you can mostly likely get away with postponing orders and leaving the business to run on autopilot but if you're taking more than a couple of weeks off it's wise to leave someone else in charge.

Make sure the people who need to know are made aware of the situation and put up a discreet announcement informing website visitors. Think about wording and don't dwell on the negatives; add a copy of this information to any automatic customer order emails. Avoid putting your shop in "vacation mode" though or making your products unavailable to view.

Depending on how many orders you average per day along with how time consuming each order is to complete, you might be worried about the knock-on effect that has on the workload. It's important to keep the business running as close to usual as possible but if you're reluctant (or can't find someone) to run the business while you're gone, you might have no option but to shut up shop. If not, pre-plan how to deal with an increased workload and make sure you have a solid plan on how to tackle the backlog of orders and emails when you return.

Make certain to set up automatic "out of office" response for your emails to let anyone trying to contact you know you're away. Keep the message brief, don't linger on negatives ("I won't be answering emails"), and provide all the information the person might need. Don't make these annoying automatic response mistakes; don't mention you're "on holiday" just say you're out of office, state when you'll be back, keep it friendly but professional, provide alternative "for urgent inquiries only" contact details, and remember to turn it off when you get back.

As a business owner and blogger you most likely have a ton of notifications set up to tell you when you have made a sale or received an email: switch these off. If you're going on holiday, make the most of it. If you really feel you have to look at emails or check in on the business, set specific times for doing this and limit the time you spend doing it. Don't get sucked into working while you're away.

Everyone has the one method of contact that is the most effective; pick the contact method you're most responsive to and remind customers of how to get a hold of you if their request is urgent. Choose a method that allows you to be responsive and polite without getting into a full blown conversation. Be aware: people will be tempted to use this as a way of contacting you for less than urgent requests. If they do, be polite and inform them of when you'll be responding to messages.

Don't simply fall silent online while you go on vacation; plan your "marketing-while-away" strategy to stay active and present online. Use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, and If This Then That to your advantage and schedule content to publish automatically while you're away. Share photographs of the places and sites you're visiting with your audience online and encourage them to "come with you" on holiday by asking them to follow you via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

If you're a consistent blogger it's best to stick to your regular routine by planning ahead and scheduling content for while you're away. If you're struggling for ideas or time to produce them, host a "blog take over" and invite other bloggers to guest post. Alternatively you could take a blogging break or take your blogging equipment with you and blog while you're on holiday.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pack Light, Travel Smart

Monday, October 27, 2014
Pack Light, Travel Smart

When some flights charge extra for suitcases it's useful knowing how to squeeze everything into a single carry-on bag. While this time around I'm not attempting to fit a week's worth of contents into hand luggage only, I am always trying my best to pack light and travel smarter by ditching unnecessary items. My new packing motto has become: "pack casual, simple, and light."

Lay everything you're considering taking with you onto the floor and pick each item up to consider them individually. Think about what you can do without; think in terms of "best case scenario."

- Don't take items that will be handy to have "just in case"
- Don't take multiples of unnecessary clothing and shoes
- Don't take items you can buy for cheap if you need them

Remember: pack casual, simple, and light.
Bring lighter items for layering rather than heavy/bulky coats and jumpers and pack your clothes tightly in a well organised manner. Use packing cubes, airless baggies, mesh bags, or a clothes compressor, and use folding boards for minimal wrinkling and tight packing.

Tops & Bottoms | you really don't need multiple outfits; read The Art of Packing for more specific advice
Underwear & Socks | don't scrimp; bring enough for every day you're away
Shoes | one sturdy pair and one extra pair of flats; make sure they're comfortable and well broken in
Jumpers/Cardigans | one or two max (per week you're away) and make sure you can layer them
Coat | bring one sturdy, waterproof coat with a hood (if possible)
Jacket | one jacket that works well with everything and can be dressed up or down
Scarf | if you have one, take a giant scarf that will double as a mini blanket
Accessories | don't bring specific "formal wear," use accessories to change outfits
Swimwear | always, always, always bring your swimsuit
Sleepwear/Loungewear | something comfortable to throw on as pajamas, for lounging in, and/or as a modest cover-up

Backpack | take a backpack not a handbag, they are far more useful
Toiletries | buy them there if you can, if not only bring the bare essentials
Skin Care | keep your skin care routine the same as much as possible to avoid break-outs
Make-Up | bare essentials, no multiple colours - stick to a palette that works well together
First-Aid Kit | plasters and a healing balm are essential, otherwise consider buying what you need if you need it
Towels | most hotels have them but with AirBnB you might need to bring one; pack a quick drying microfibre towel
Hairdryer | if you must take one, buy a cheap, compact hairdryer that is travel-friendly

Phone and charger, digital camera + extra battery and charger, eReader, headphones, plug adapters.
Try to bring only what you really need and share chargers, etc. if you can, to avoid doubling up.

Water Bottle | paying for water sucks, if you have a reusable bottle bring it
Canvas Tote Bag | these are always useful to have and don't take up much space so always pack one
eReader | avoid bringing physical books, an eReader is far more efficient
Guidebook/Map | store documents and save maps on your phone and write the most important info in a notebook
Notebook & Pen | always useful; bring a small one that can be tucked away and kept in hand luggage

This is based on a one-two week city break holiday in mild weather. I'm not someone who finds the idea of roughing it or trekking around rough terrain very appealing. The most strenuous time I experience on holiday is rushing from one side of the city to the other so I can squeeze in another visit to a museum before it closes; I have no clue how to pack for rough holiday adventures.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

New York

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I've kept this one pretty quiet: we're going to New York next week!

For my 30th birthday in July, Jack bought us a trip to New York. We always talked about going on holiday to NYC for Halloween, so what better excuse is there than turning 30? I've visited several places in the US but never New York, so I am incredibly excited. I have been dreaming of visiting the Natural History Museum, dressing up as a spook, eating all the delicious food, and getting lost in Sephora.

I've scheduled daily posts while I am away but I'd love it if you came along for the ride by joining us both on Instagram where we will be sharing our adventure (my Instagram and Jack's Instagram).

© 2014 Sophie Davies. All rights reserved.