Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pity Party: Table of One


Last night, my friend JK got on a plane, passport and visa in hand, and flew to London. After spending a few days there, she’ll be on her way to Wales, then Scotland, and finally Ireland, where she’ll be living for the next two years. After living in London for two years (November 2014-November 2016) on a UK visa, she always knew that, visa permitting, she’d be going to Ireland next.

If you know me well, you’ll likely know Ireland is my #1 dream destination. I’ve always wanted to go, and have even attempted to plan several trips, but something always happens and they fall through. When JK asked me last year to go with her to Ireland, I was determined to make it happen. I could stay there legally for three months without a visa, and since I can work from anywhere, it would have been ideal. I started saving immediately and planning out the things I wanted to see and do. I imagined the sweet little cottage we would stay in, my dream accommodation ever since reading Nora Robert’s Jewels of the Sun and fell in love with Jude’s house in Ardmore, Ireland. But as time went on, I had to accept the ugly truth: I wouldn’t be going to Ireland with JK.

Why? Simply put (although there’s actually nothing simple about it), the last year and a half has been hell for my family. Without getting into too many details, I’ve had a lot to deal with, a lot of responsibilities that shouldn’t be mine, and because of that, every time I’d get ahead with my savings, I’d need to use the money for something else. Not only that, but there’s no way I could leave right now; I’d feel like I was abandoning my family in their time of need. Even if I was the type of person to say ‘It’s my life, and I can’t let anyone or anything hold me back’, I know I wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy myself because I’d be worried about what was going on here.

Throw in the fact my career feels like it’s circling the drain, plus I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked most of the time, and here I am throwing a fairly epic pity party. And I hate it. There’s no cake or balloons or entertainment, it’s just me inside my own head, alternately worrying and feeling sorry for myself. And feeling envious - there’s a lot of envy. I’m jealous of JK for getting to live my dream. I’m jealous she doesn’t have the responsibilities and commitments I have. I’m jealous her money is her own and she was able to save enough to go. I’m jealous of the countries she’ll see and the people she’ll meet and the experiences she’ll have while I’m stuck here, feeling like things will never change and having a hard time seeing any light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.


There are other factors, too, known mostly as ‘the online comparison game’. Being online, we’re surrounded by people living fabulous lives (or at least seemingly fabulous - what you see online isn’t necessarily the whole story) and it’s hard not to be envious sometimes. I follow a lot of travel accounts on Instagram; at times I realize I’m a masochist, because seeing all those beautiful places I long to travel to makes me wistful and sometimes downright sad, depending on my mood. And yet I love looking at pictures of pretty places and getting ideas of places to go and things to do someday. Can you say 'bear for punishment'?

Another issue (there’s more?! you say) is seeing people gain massive amounts of followers, or sell thousands of books, or get sponsorships and other great opportunities while I feel stagnant in so many areas. I’ve read so many blog posts with flashy titles like ‘the must-do trick to quadrupling your Instagram following’ or ‘how I hit the bestseller list and made enough money to quit my job’ or ‘how I got eleventy billion page views in six months’ (okay, I made that one up, but you get the idea). I’ve tried many of the things people have suggested, always hopeful the newest idea will be THE ONE, and I sit and watch my numbers...do nothing. Hardly anyone reads my blog, my Instagram follower number is stuck, and don’t even get me started on my book sales. It’s hard not to get frustrated and that frustration often leads to feeling sorry for myself.

Here’s the thing about all of this: I know I’m being ridiculous. I know this is small peanuts in the grand scheme of things. I also know I have so many things to be grateful for and a lot of people have it far worse than I do. But that’s the thing about self-pity: it’s not exactly a discerning emotion. It doesn’t care that you’re smart of self-aware or have better things to do with your time than wallow over things you can’t change. But then that’s part of it too - not being able to change things and feeling powerless and hopeless. It’s a vicious cycle.

So what do I do with all these overwhelming emotions? I guess the only thing to do is just keep on keeping on. Continue to work as hard as I can, save money, hope the situation with my family improves, and believe that someday I’ll get to Ireland and that everything else will sort itself out. I saw this quote yesterday while I was working on this blog post, and it really spoke to me:

“If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”

I’ve always been someone who believes everything happens for a reason. I have to believe this isn’t my time to go, for whatever reason. But I refuse to give up on my dream of going to Ireland. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to work hard, focus on the areas of my life I can change (like writing and publishing more books, which will likely lead to more book sales), remember I have plenty to be thankful for, and hope that when I finally do get to travel again, it’ll be amazing.

As for online stuff, despite my masochistic tendencies when it comes to following people living the high life, I do have some advice for others who get jealous of people online: It’s important to curate your Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feed. It’s one thing to feel occasionally wistful at something someone else has, but it’s a completely different story if someone else’s life makes you feel like shit about your own. If someone’s feed makes you feel like you’re not good enough or you find yourself making constant comparisons, hit the unfollow button. It’s there for a reason. People should inspire you, not bring you down.

There are times in everyone’s life where they want what they can’t have. Everyone occasionally wants more or wishes things were different. The trick is to focus more on what you do have. What you can accomplish. I talked recently about self-care and giving yourself permission to feel your feelings. You're allowed to feel down and you're also allowed to take some time for yourself (social media breaks are especially good if online stuff is a source of your issues). Work through your feelings, find the root of the problem, and figure out what you can do to make things better. And if you want to sit at my table of one and make it a table of two, maybe we can turn this pity party into a real party. My comments and email are always open, or feel free to tweet me if you need support or encouragement.


Do you ever get in funks where you feel sorry for yourself? What do you do to get over them?









 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Why I Love Romance

contemporary romance romantic comedy romancelandia

I am addicted to romance, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Contemporary romance. Romantic comedies. Historical romance. Paranormal romance. Give me a good love story, and I’m a happy girl.

Something I see way too often, both online and off, is people crapping on romance. It’s unbelievable to me the number of people who look down on romance readers and writers, as if we’re somehow less, deprived or depraved, uneducated, or undiscerning. It’s come to the point where many people are embarrassed to admit they read or write romance. I’ve heard stories from fellow authors who have said people automatically assume their books are ‘similar to 50 Shades of Grey’ or that they ‘write porn’. And this is if they aren’t immediately dismissed and treated like writing romance means they’re somehow not a ‘real writer’. Well, screw that. Romance readers - and writers - are some of the most intelligent, open-minded people I know.

So why do I, personally, love romance? One of the main reasons is that reality often sucks. Whether in your own life or in the greater scheme of things (like, y’know, the whole possibility of nuclear war that the world is currently dealing with), life can be difficult, stressful, sad, boring, or a million other things, and sometimes you just need an escape. Romance provides something you can count on this a topsy-turvy world: a happy ending.

Is romance full of cliches? Can be. Is it predictable? Sure. But those aren’t necessarily negative things. There can be comfort in the formula, the predictability. Besides, it’s the journey that matters. You can read a dozen second-chance or friends-to-lovers or celebrity-falls-for-normal-person romances and while they have similarities, they’re not the same (or at least they shouldn’t be). The destination may be the same, but the journey is different every time. The characters, the tone, the themes, the subplots all vary. You’ll connect with some stories and characters more than others, but each one has its merits. Each one has the potential to touch someone, heal a part of them, give them hope, or simply entertain them.

As for people who say characters are one-dimensional in romances, that probably makes me laugh most of all. Some of the greatest character growth and depth I’ve ever seen have been in romance novels. Since romances are usually character driven, it’s necessary for the characters to be complex. I love characters who are realistically flawed, characters who have obstacles and setbacks, characters who have to work for their happily ever after. There’s such a wonderful variety in romance - books that break your heart, make you laugh, make you swoon, turn you on, make you think, tug at your heartstrings. The best romance novels are capable of evoking every emotion imaginable, which is part of why I love them so much.

Here’s the thing: I refuse to be embarrassed about liking romance. No, loving romance. I love it. I pretty much require romance in the books I read, even if it’s not the main focus of the story. I love seeing people happy. I love seeing people learning and growing and thriving. I even like seeing characters struggle, because it reminds me I’m not alone. I love immersing myself in someone else’s world, especially during the times when my own world feels nearly unbearable to live in. And, I’ll be perfectly honest: As someone who’s 33 and still single, I love that hopeful feeling I get watching someone else fall in love. I need that hope; I need to believe true love is possible and that I’ll get my own happily ever after someday.   
 
Just like I refuse to be embarrassed about loving romance, I also refuse to think of romance as a guilty pleasure (in fact, can we just completely do away with the concept of 'guilty pleasures'? Like what you like and don’t feel guilty or ashamed of it). Don’t let anyone make you feel embarrassed about your reading choices. If you tell someone you read or write romance and they react with disdain or surprise or anything less than ‘Oh cool, I love romance too!’ just remember that’s a reflection on them and not you.

So come on, say it with me now: I love romance, and I don't care who knows it!

 
Why do you love romance? Have you ever felt judged for your reading choices? What are some of your favourite romances?


Friday, August 11, 2017

RomCom Friday: Bridget Jones's Diary

RomCom Friday is a brand new feature here at Ramblings of a Daydreamer. I’ve always been a romantic comedy addict, and since I’m currently writing a romcom, I thought it would be fun to feature a favourite romantic comedy every week and talk about why I love it. Please note, there will be spoilers for each movie.

I’m kicking off this new feature with what is arguably my favourite romantic comedy  (I have so many and change my mind constantly, but this is usually the first one that
comes to mind): Bridget Jones’s Diary.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” ~ Bridget Jones

Love her or hate her, I think there’s a little bit of Bridget in all of us. She tries so hard to succeed in her own life while keeping other people happy. No matter what obstacles appear, she continues to stumble along, often saying and doing the wrong thing, and sometimes making a complete and utter fool of herself, but at least she tries. She decides to take control of her life and learns that despite her flaws, she’s worth love and respect, plus she ultimately refuses to settle for anything, whether it’s her career or her love life. Her resilience makes her easy to root for.

“You seem to go out of your way to try to make me feel like a complete idiot every time I see you, and you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway.” ~ Bridget Jones

The characters really make this movie. Besides Bridget, I love her wonderfully eccentric group of friends, and of course Mark Darcy and even Daniel Cleaver. Daniel is one of those characters you love to hate. He’s an arrogant prick (or an ‘emotional fuckwit’ as Bridget calls him) who says and does inappropriate things, treats Bridget pretty terribly, and thinks he can use his charm to get whatever he wants, and yet...I don’t know, there’s just something about him. He’s not a bad person, he just makes bad decisions, and he’s definitely wrong for Bridget. I do love the conflict he adds, though, and I love the fight scene between him and Mark. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times, and that part never ceases to amuse me. There are hundreds of perfectly-choreographed fight scenes in movies and on TV, but I have a feeling this one was far more realistic in its awkwardness.

“I'm sorry? Outside? Should I bring my dueling pistols or my sword?” ~ Daniel Cleaver

Then there’s Mark Darcy. Colin Firth was meant to play the Darcy character, whether in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, or Helen Fielding’s modern-day retelling. He does aloof and disinterested very well (and sexy, but that’s just effortless). While Mark Darcy has a habit similar to Bridget’s - saying the wrong thing at the wrong time - there’s something so utterly charming and swoonworthy about him. While he and Bridget seem like opposites, they balance each other out and work well together.

“I don't think you're an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother's pretty interesting. And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever's in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences...But the thing is, um, what I'm trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much....Just as you are.” ~ Mark Darcy

Bridget’s friends, parents, and assorted extended family members round things out nicely and add humour, levity, and a few interesting plot points. Finally, the city of London itself is almost a character in a way. I love the scenes of Bridget walking through the streets, the shots of Picadilly Circus and the different bridges. I also absolutely love her flat and would give just about anything to live there.

I was seventeen when Bridget Jones’s Diary came out, and even then I related to the hapless heroine. She has an element of the ridiculous about her, but I think that’s what makes her so easy to relate to. Between Bridget Jones’s Diary, the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (which was just okay for me), and the third movie Bridget Jones’s Baby (which I adored, and which made me fall in love with the characters all over again), I’ve spent the last sixteen years relating to Bridget and seeing more and more of myself in her with each passing year. Now at 33 - single, childless, and still trying to figure out life, but doing it all on my own terms - I’ve come to realize I am Bridget. And I’m okay with that. Now I just need my own Mr. Darcy.

Bridget: “Nice boys don’t kiss like that.”
Mark: “Oh, yes, they fucking do.”
romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary featuring Renee Zellweger Colin Firth Hugh Grant
Do you like Bridget Jones's Diary? Can you relate to Bridget? Who's your favourite character? Do you have a favourite quote? Have you seen all three movies?


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Afternoon With an Old Friend and Some Thoughts on Self-Care

This past Monday, my mum and I spent the afternoon with my best friend from college (who I hadn’t seen in almost ten years), plus her mum and three children.

Melissa was my first ‘adult’ friend - the first friend I chose. You know when you’re in elementary and high school, your friends are classmates and maybe neighbours? They’re friends of convenience and proximity. You may have absolutely nothing in common except for the fact you go to the same school or live near each other. That’s not to say those friendships aren’t important; many of my early friends shaped who I am, were there for me through countless ups and downs, and meant the world to me. But those friendships are different from the ones you form as an adult. The friendships you form based on common interests, values, beliefs, etc. The friendships you can choose to walk away from if they become toxic, whereas you don’t usually have that option as a child because you’re stuck.

Anyway, Melissa was the first friend I chose as an adult (or adult-type person, all of eighteen years old and just starting college). Our relationship was completely different from any other friendship I’ve had before or since. We went through so much together. I’m not sure how I would have survived college without her. The year after we graduated, she went with my mum and me out of town when my mum had surgery. I was scared out of my mind, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. We slowly grew apart after that (mostly because of distance; she lived an hour away, then moved four hours away and now lives about 2.5 hours away), but I was at her bachelorette party and wedding, and I attended a baby shower for her second child. In the last nine or so years, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of her and missed her. The two years we spent together in college and the time we had together before she moved away had a huge impact on me.

The other day, Melissa messaged me to say she and her kids were visiting her mother, and she wondered if my mum and I would be available to meet for a day at the park. Her mum picked us up, and from the moment we drove into the parking lot of the park and I saw Melissa, I started getting choked up. I scrambled out of the car and wrapped my arms around her and started to sob. I was horrified and embarrassed, but I couldn’t stop. It took me a few minutes to get myself under control. I guess between all the things that have been going on in my life lately and the fact part of me thought I might never see her again made me weepy. It was amazing to meet her kids (I’d previously only met her daughter, and that was when she was a year old) and to see her mum again. We talked non-stop for hours, and I cried a few more times, but I also laughed harder than I have in ages. It was like being back in college, as if nothing had changed, even though a million things have changed. I needed that. I needed to reconnect with an old friend, talk about serious things and nonsense, vent, reminisce, and catch up on what’s been happening in our lives for the last decade.

Yes, we look alike. No, we're not related. Yes, we got asked that a lot in college. No, we didn't mind. ;-)
You may be wondering why I’m writing an entire post about this. Well, like I said, there’s been a lot going on lately. I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed by life, circumstances, work. I’m exhausted mentally and physically, but have just kept plugging away, thinking if I could check a few more things off my never-ending to-do list I could take a break. Take a day or maybe even a couple days off. But I never do.

My mini emotional breakdown with Melissa showed me I need to take some time for myself. We all need to take time off sometimes, no matter how busy we are or how overwhelmed we’re feeling. Especially then. You need to feel your feelings. I’ve been alternately burying mine and pushing them aside, not wanting to take the time to acknowledge and address them, deal with them in healthy ways. As someone who’s dealt with depression and anxiety for nearly half her life, I should know better.

It’s important not only to take care of yourself, but also to take time for yourself. The world isn’t going to end if you take an afternoon off, or better yet, a whole day. Monday was a reminder of that for me. In the morning before I left, all I could think about was the things I needed to do and how I’d probably work all the rest of the day once I got home. I was worried it would prevent me from being fully present. But from the moment I wrapped my arms around Melissa, I forgot about work. I forgot about how tired I am, how stressed. I was able to talk about all the crap that’s been bothering me, all the things in my life that are weighing me down. And I felt lighter afterward. When I got home, instead of working the rest of the evening like I’d planned, I hung out with my mum, read, and went to bed early (something I rarely do, but man those 9 hours were much needed). I'm going to try to do more of that from now on.

The absolutely stunning sunset on Monday night ♥

Do you ever get so overwhelmed or bottle up your emotions so much and for so long that it all just explodes? Are you as bad as I am at taking time for yourself? What are some things you do to take care of yourself and de-stress?
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Monday, August 7, 2017

The Impact and Importance of Bookish Photography

helping authors with bookstagram and pictures of books on social media


A few weeks ago, author Paula Stokes tweeted this:


People often ask for ways they can support books/authors. A free and easy way is to snap a pic of a book or swag and post it on your social.”


As a bookstagrammer* this really resonated with me. I’ve been part of the book community on Instagram for about two years now, and bookish photography has become a huge part of my life. It’s not just a fun hobby, it’s an effective way to help authors spread the word about their books, plus help readers find new books. With an abundance of social media posts coming at you at what feels like a million miles per minute, pictures often grab people’s attention first. As a book lover, I can tell you I almost always stop when I see a picture of a book, and I’ve bought, borrowed, and read countless novels because of pictures I’ve seen.


Many people are probably thinking, ‘But I’m not a photographer’. You don’t have to be. If you’ve seen some of the pictures on bookstagram, the idea of bookish photography can seem pretty daunting. The thing is, pictures don’t need to be elaborately staged with props and flowers and perfect lighting. A picture can be as simple as a close-up of the book cover, you holding the book, the book with a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate, or the book outside in front of some flowers or a tree. For many book lovers, all they need is to see a picture of a book and they’ll stop in curiosity. That curiosity often leads to them looking up the book, adding it to their TBR, maybe even buying it or checking it out of the library. That will (hopefully) lead to them reading it and (again hopefully) enjoying it and then spreading the word. Authors depend so much on word of mouth from readers, and bookish pictures can create the ideal situation: someone seeing the book, buying/borrowing it, reading and reviewing it, telling their friends, and then the circle continues.


Something else that’s great about taking bookish pictures, especially for Instagram, is that it’s an alternative to blogging. If you don’t have time/aren’t interested in blogging, you can post a picture of the book and write a mini review right on Instagram. It not only helps other bookish people find books, it’s great exposure for authors.


Since becoming a bookstagrammer, I’ve discovered books I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise, and people have told me they’ve bought or read books because of me, which is always a fantastic feeling. It’s also been a wonderful creative outlet, something I have fun with and take a lot of pride in. While I post my bookish pictures primarily on Instagram, I also try to post pics on Twitter and Facebook, and I share a lot of my bookish pictures here on the blog.

instagram bookstagram bookish pictures collage


Interested in taking bookish pictures to post on Instagram, Twitter, your blog, or elsewhere but need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas to get you started:


*Take a picture of the books you just bought, borrowed from the library, won, got as gifts, etc. Did you win some swag or pick some up at the library or an author event? Take a picture of that, too!

   *Take a picture of a book in your favourite reading spot - on the couch, at the library, by the pool, on your bed, on your balcony/patio.

   *Are you doing something else while you read? Having breakfast or lunch? Taking a break from working on your blog? Having a coffee/tea break? Take a picture!

talking as fast as i can by lauren graham bookstagram

*Wearing a really cute outfit? Have a stylish accessory to show off? Hold the book you’re reading and take a picture.

   *See a favourite book at the library or bookstore? Snap a pic!

   *Is one of your favourite books on sale? Take a picture of it and share the sale on social media.

   *Some books are gorgeous inside and are absolutely begging to be photographed. Reading a book with pretty end papers? Graphics inside? Fancy chapter headings? Snap away!

   *Have a favourite stuffed animal? Knick knack? Candle? Momento? Arrange it with your book and take a photo.

girl against the universe by paula stokes bookstagram swag


These are just some ideas to inspire you and get you started taking bookish photos. If you still think you need to have a beautiful, elaborate picture to be effective and grab attention, here’s a secret: some of my most popular pics on bookstagram have been the simpler ones - just a book and flowers or a book and a cup of coffee.

For those of you who prefer ebooks to paperbacks or hardcovers, I'd like to point out that these ideas work just as well for an ereader as a physical book. I often take pictures using my Kindle or tablet. You can see examples here, here, and here. Looking for more inspiration? Search hashtags like #bookstagram, #bookstagrammer, #bookcommunity, or visit my feed and check out some of the people I follow.

*Someone on Instagram who posts solely bookish pictures. It’s a wonderful, supportive book-loving community, if you’re looking for something like that!

Do you take pictures of the books you're reading? What are some of your favourite ways to take bookish photos? Are you a bookstagrammer or do you take the occasional bookish picture for your Instagram? Leave your handle or a link below so I can check out your account! Have a bookish picture you're particularly proud of? I'd love to see it - leave a link! 
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