Dear Poet, Welcome to the 21st Century…

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A few months ago, I was pondering the idea of posting my poetry online. For me, poetry has always been a solitary activity. I would scribble rhymes and metaphors onto paper, close my notebook and I would never read it again, never mind letting other people read and comment on it. Then, I decided that if I ever wanted to publish a poetry book (which has always been a dream of mine), then people would ACTUALLY have to read my poetry, right? Now, social media has its advantages and disadvantages. When you post something online, it is there forever, you lose control of where it can be shared or saved. This scared me a little, when I thought about my vulnerable musings being there for the whole world to read.

I lost my way as a writer for a long time. I have spent the last seven years of my twenties living my life, experiencing the good and the bad, I would write from time to time but never took it seriously enough. I do believe I am finally in a place not only to write again, but I actually have something to write about. Poetry has been the way I have expressed myself from the age of five. I’m not exaggerating here. From the moment I started school, even if I couldn’t articulate and write my thoughts down yet, it was there. I would make up stories in my mind and I had a lot of imaginary friends. Once I knew what rhyming was, I quickly started making little poems up and I loved it. I actually remember my first poem I wrote down on paper, I was seven years old.

In March this year, I created a poetry account on Instagram @EmmaJanePoetry, I wrote a poem on paper, typed it up, placed it on a colourful background and clicked upload. I could feel my heart thudding in my chest as I waited. What have I done? What if people don’t like my poetry? What if people are mean and say hurtful things? What if I’m never taken seriously as a poet or a writer because I have posted these words on an Instagram page? My stream of worries disappeared when I saw what happened next. Slowly but surely, people not only started following me and reading my poetry, they commented on my writing ability, told me that my words spoke to them, made them feel something. I had personal messages from people commending my poetry and asking when I was releasing a collection. I’m no Rupi Kaur, I have 387 followers. But I don’t want to be an Instagram influencer, I don’t want fame and fortune. I just want to write poetry and have someone to share it with. I want people to read my work and Instagram is a good place to start.

I’ve just watched a poetry documentary on YouTube about the ongoing debate between academics and young people who disagree on whether the Instagram effect on poetry is a positive or a negative one. It’s what inspired this blog post. I believe that there is space for everyone in the writing world. Commenting on whether poetry is “good” or “bad” is completely subjective. Poetry is personal for the reader. Yes, there are people on Instagram posting two or three line quote-type musings and calling it poetry. Let them. Poetry has never fit into one box. I have read some classical poetry that academics rave about and I thought it was useless drivel. But hey, that’s my opinion.

I think the real problem here is not about the definition of what a poem is, it’s about technique. As a Creative Writing graduate myself, I had to study poetry, learn about technique, different styles, how to create imagery in a poem. I took the time to learn about my craft. I think some writers are angry that young people, with no writing skills, are stringing a few generic phrases together, posting them online and calling themselves “a poet.” I get it, I really do. But like I said, there is space in the writing world for everyone. Spending time ranting about it just makes you an insufferable snob in my opinion. Compare this idea to art. You have your Mona Lisa portrait, that is considered to be one of the greatest portraits in the world alongside a modern piece of art, a few crisp packets hanging on a piece of string. One person may love classical art, so they deem the crisp packet art as rubbish, unworthy and unoriginal. However, some modern artists may respectfully admire the Mona Lisa but prefer unique and unconventional representations of art such as the crisp packets. Poetry is no different. We all like different things.

What I have noticed since I became a part of the Instagram poetry community is there are some extremely talented poetic voices out there, that would have never had their work read without social media. They may not have the confidence to go marching up to a publishing house and say, “publish my poetry please.” By sharing their work, they are receiving a positive response from their readers and this increases their confidence in their writing ability, what’s so wrong with that? Artists and writers want the same thing, to get their work “seen.” We live in a world with social media at the centre, we can choose to embrace it or ignore it, the choice is ours.

Poetry is changing. I know that by posting my poetry online, I am accepting that this is the 21st century and culture is adapting to be part of the digital world. We now have many platforms to share our words with millions of people. Why not utilise and use it to share our art, whatever that may be? We live in a society that likes to put labels on things. It makes us uncomfortable if we don’t categorise or explain something. If someone ever branded me as an InstagramPoet or an InstaPoet, I would politely correct them. Not because I would be ashamed of that label. I would tell them that yes I publish my poetry on Instagram, a social media platform. I also post it on Facebook, my blog and Twitter. But I think of that little girl, with her notebook and pen, writing poems about her imaginary friends and I smile. I always have been and always will be, no matter where I share my poems, simply… a poet.

The Danger Of High Expectations.

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We spend a lot of time waiting for things from other people.We’re told from a very young age that we should treat others in the same way that we expect to be treated but sometimes, despite your best efforts with someone, you get nothing in return. In this situation, some people walk away and never look back. Then there are the people that don’t give up, that carry on trying with people because they want to believe that everyone has the same heart as them, I fall into this category.

I know that I’m a nice person, I’m kind, caring and thoughtful. I’m empathetic towards everyone around me and unfortunately, this leaves me open to getting hurt. The biggest problem with being a highly sensitive person is sometimes you give so much to others, that you neglect to take care of yourself. However, I’m learning that even my heart has a limit and I have reached a point where I have to let go.

The image in my mind of how I think certain relationships in my life should be and how my family should look was leaving me emotionally empty. I was going down a path that had no end, searching for a picture-perfect life that wasn’t there. Now, I feel like I am finally at a pinnacle of acceptance. I’m moving on from the childlike family portrait idea that clouded my judgement for so long. Sometimes families fall apart, sometimes it’s people that are in no relation to you that become your family and they show you that blood is not thicker than water after all. Relationships can change over time and not always for the better.

I now know that having high expectations of other people only leads to disappointment. The only expectations I should really have in my life are those of myself. I am the creator of my own life and I should work on improving myself as a person, instead of hoping that those around me fit into a mould of unrealistic expectations. I can’t change another person, no matter how hard I try. We are who we are. We can only change ourselves. Some of us learn from our mistakes but many of us never do.

I’ve learned to accept that I will never have the relationship I wish to have with some members of my family. I’ve realised that I should focus on the good relationships I already have. My life may look a little different to what I originally imagined but there is no reason why I can’t embrace this and be happy.

 

 

Why I Had A Facebook Detox And Why You Should Too

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So after deliberating about it for a while, I decided to go cold turkey and delete my Facebook app on my phone. I was tired of the EU referendum related statuses and I knew it was definitely time to take a break from social media. I logged out on my computer and removed Facebook from my bookmarks, I deleted the app on my phone, excluding messenger and decided that I wouldn’t go on it for a week. I also didn’t go on Twitter or Instagram but I rarely use those on a day to day basis.

It wasn’t easy. On the second day of my detox, I decided to log in on my phone to take a quick look at the oh so familiar blue news feed of pictures and statuses. It took me a moment to realise what I was doing and I quickly logged out, feeling rather stupid. I never truly knew how addicted I was to Facebook until this detox week. It feels like a compulsive need, I must see what everyone is up to and it’s an unhealthy habit that has to stop.

Sometimes we have to take a step back to realise the mistakes we are making. My mistake was letting social media have a certain amount of control on my life. I had many moments when I was out with friends or having a nice meal when my first thought was ‘I have to make a status about this…’ I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks like this and it just proves how much space social media fills up in our lives.

I’m not saying I’m going to delete Facebook any time soon because I rely on it for my magazine Zest For Life and I use it to chat to my friends that I don’t see every day. Facebook has many great qualities but there is also a dark side to it and I definitely entered it on many occasions. I was scrolling down my news feed when I got up in the morning, and it didn’t take long for me to feel bitter or jealous about the people who were always going on holiday, buying houses, having families and getting their dream jobs when I was sat at home, unemployed, broke and feeling hopeless about my future.

There have already been many studies linking Facebook and other social media sites to depression and it definitely doesn’t surprise me. Looking down at our phones constantly is unhealthy and dangerous for our overall happiness and wellbeing. I always knew that but often ignored it because I assured myself that it’s just the way of life now and everyone does it.

Maybe I’ve finally reached a place in my mind where I don’t want to be like everyone else? I will use social media for its advantages but now I know I can actually log out and unplug for a while, it has definitely changed my attitude towards it and if you ever want to feel refreshed, I recommend that you also unplug and just be in the present moment for a while. Sometimes you have to disconnect to reconnect with yourself and those around you. I’ll definitely be doing a social media detox again at some point and maybe next time, I will log out for longer.

 

 

Colour Me Calm: The Adult Colouring Book Craze

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We all remember the joy that colouring books brought to us when we were small, our parents would give us a colouring book and some crayons and we would stay quiet for hours, focusing on staying in the lines, with our tongues sticking out and wrinkles on our forehead.

Unfortunately, as we turn into adults we close the doors on our childhood, we forget everything we used to enjoy and focus on making a living, worrying about money and what we think we should be doing with our lives. We tell ourselves that everything we did when we were children should be left in the past and we should just be adults, responsible adults who have lots of important decisions to make.

I’ve always loved colouring, as a child I would entertain myself for hours, scribbling and drawing and using felt tips to colour in blank silhouettes of cartoon characters and princesses. This is why I stopped. There were no colouring books suitable for adults, until now. It might be the latest craze that will fade into obscurity in a few months time but I think it’s an excellent idea to get adults in touch with their inner child. Instead of getting caught up in the anxieties of modern life, why not sit down, switch off your brain for a little while and colour? Brilliant.

Studies have shown that colouring is a great way to relax and turn off the world. We’re so animated all of the time, whether it is scrolling down our Facebook news feeds to see what our friends are up to, working in a busy office nine hours a day or travelling on trains and buses, we find it difficult to just stop and focus on one thing. Psychologists say that colouring stimulates areas of the brain that are related to motor skills, the senses and creativity and when we enter that creative state of mind, naturally our worries melt away, it’s the perfect relaxation technique.

Some adults will shake their heads in dismay at grown-ups sitting down with a box of crayons and a book of patterns to colour in on a Friday night but if it transports them to a place where they feel calmer, happier, even nostalgic then what’s the harm? I have always found colouring to be therapeutic and since buying my ‘adult’ colouring book, I have found a new hobby that enhances my creativity, makes me feel calmer and keeps me entertained when boredom hits. The first day I opened my new colouring book, I left my laptop screen and coloured for nearly three hours. I think that’s the longest I have been away from a screen for a while.

If you feel like you need an escape from your every day life and want to reconnect with your childhood innocence then pick up an adult colouring book from your local book shop, try it, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Waiting & Wishing

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I’m always wishing for something or thinking about something I want. I know that I should appreciate what I already have but sometimes, I find myself stuck in an endless cycle of negativity and hopelessness. I’m tired of struggling. I just want everything to happen. Right now. I don’t want to wait any longer. I’m still waiting for the day that changes everything.

Why is it so difficult to see what is right in front of me? What is this selfish need that all humans have to always want more? I feel like I have fallen into the same trap that everybody else falls into. I have it imprinted in my mind that the only way I am ever going to live a happy life is to get everything I want. But I know deep down that none of it really matters.

I have a long mental list of things that I want to complete, I want to have lots of money and own expensive possessions, get my a dream job, be able to travel the world and possibly have a family of my own one day. But do I really want all of that? More importantly, do I really need all of that? Or is society’s influence so strong that I don’t know the difference between what I really want and who I want to be and what society expects of me?

Dreaming is an important part of living. There’s nothing wrong with hoping for a better life and wishing for good things to happen but when they start to control your overall happiness, it becomes a big problem. And it’s starting to become a big problem for me. I’m only twenty one years old, why do I feel this pressure to achieve everything and have everything I want right now? I blame society. I blame social media. I blame the high expectations that are set by others. I also blame myself for succumbing to this toxic way of thinking. I don’t need to follow any guidelines, my life is not going to be the same as anyone else’s, I need to start believing this.

I try and switch off and embrace the day, live my life and stop worrying about the future but it’s hard. None of us know how much time we have and I think that urgency causes this need to want everything right now. I want so many things. Maybe I should start focusing on what I need? I already have everything I need. I have amazing friends, a family, a loving partner and a home. I am more privileged than most but I fail to see how lucky I am on a daily basis. I am surrounded by love, I experience happiness every day but I don’t realise it because it is clouded by the pressures of the future and everything I have yet to achieve and material possessions I have yet to own.

I need to stop thinking of happiness as a goal. Life is a journey and finding happiness is part of that journey. I’m not always going to be happy. I’m going to have days that I feel so bad about my life that I won’t want to get out of bed in the morning and that’s okay because there are plenty of days ahead of me that I will experience joy and contentment. I might not be where I want to be right now but I need to start enjoying the present and stop fretting about the future. I’m not perfect, I’m going to make lots of mistakes, I’m still young and I still have so much I need to learn about this crazy and perplexing thing we call life.

Like My Status, Like My Life

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Facebook is part of our daily lives, it’s a mechanical process to scroll down our newsfeed every morning and see what our friends have been up to, but do we realise the truth behind the façade? Do we have the ability to step away from the virtual world and live entirely in the real one?

Facebook has been around for a while now and it’s no surprise that it’s the most popular social media site, it is a great way to connect with friends and family that you can’t see every day, it enables us to like pages, photographs and statuses and it can keep us entertained for hours. Conversely, there is a negative side to social media and Facebook can be psychologically damaging for many reasons, entertainment can quickly turn into and addiction.

Facebook is also a false elucidation, a prism that only shows the sides of our life that we wish to share with the rest of the world. Unconsciously, we build a fictional wall, on Facebook we show the person we so badly want to be but behind the wall, a flawed person stands with many insecurities about how imperfect their life actually is.

It’s human nature to want attention, we crave it and not everyone will admit it out loud but we all want to be liked. Facebook is a platform for this. People, wait for their friends, family members and even strangers to like the events that have happened in their lives. When somebody likes our photograph or status, we get instant satisfaction. Liking a status means that somebody else, whoever that may be likes you and in that moment, that is all that matters.

Delusion is a side effect of being on Facebook. There is an unhealthy gap between reality and the online persona that we create online. We might share our engagements, the birth of our children and our new jobs on Facebook but we don’t share our deepest thoughts and feelings, we keep all the important thoughts to ourselves. There is nothing genuine about our online selves, seeing picture perfect profiles doesn’t only create bad self-esteem but can bring other negative emotions to the surface, such as jealousy, resentment and general unhappiness with our own lives.

It’s almost too easy to manipulate others and pretend to be someone that we’re not. Facebook has many advantages but its biggest disadvantage is its ability to blur the lines between fantasy and reality. Social media sites are slowly killing society, the current generation and the ones that follow will no longer know how to communicate and this is worrying to say the least. Facebook and other social media sites have substituted our need for real conversation. I’ve seen it happen, people looking down at their screens at a party because they have no social skills and no awareness of those around them.

How many Facebook friends do you have? Two hundred, three hundred maybe? The important question to ask yourself is how much do you really know about them? You might know their job status and that they have been in an on and off relationship for four years but does it go deeper than that? Do you know their biggest fears? Do you know that they bite their nails when they’re nervous or that they are unhappy with their lives? Facebook creates an illusion that you know lots of people but do you know the real person behind the online façade?

The only way to free ourselves from the grasp that Facebook has is to realise that it isn’t real and it is okay to not be liked by everyone. Facebook can be a great way to connect but don’t forget to connect with real people and live in the present moment. I too am guilty of letting Facebook turn into my whole world when really it should only be a fraction of it.

I know that Facebook is just an illusion and if people want to get to know the real me, then they should look away from my Facebook profile as it only illustrates the highlights that I choose to reveal. Facebook is a great way to document snapshots of your life but as long as you step away from the screen and see the rest of the world around you, well, I guess it won’t do you any harm in small doses. Just remember that life is happening right now, so look up from your smartphone and enjoy it.

Lost At Sea

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I feel like I’m lost at sea and I am barely keeping my head above the water. I kick my legs to stay alive and I can see the sun on the horizon but no matter how hard I try to swim towards it, the waves take me in a different direction. Some days, I feel the warm sun on my face and I believe that I will make it, to where I want to be and other days I feel like I can no longer stay afloat.

Clear blue water, I can see everything around me, the past, the present and the future and the images blur in my mind. I try to look forward, to stay in the moment and forget the past. Why does it feel so difficult to think of it all? My legs are tired and my heart is beating quickly in my chest. What’s the point of all of this? I try and nothing happens. I want to swim straight. I know where I am going but I don’t know how to get there. The waves are taking me away from the control I thought I had. The sun is disappearing and soon it will be just me and the night sky.

When the sky is dark, my feelings are too. Everywhere I turn I see nothing but black water, it swallows me up and I feel so small and insignificant. The moon is high in the sky, it seems so far away. I know that there are people in the world struggling to survive and I should feel happy that there is breath in my body and life in my eyes but sometimes I lose that spark, I lose my light and I give into the temptation of negativity. Wouldn’t it just be easier to not care? To bob along in the waves of life and see where the wind takes me? Why can’t I be free from restrictions? Why can’t I close my eyes, picture a place and be there? The answer is simple. Life is unpredictable like the sea, the waves can pull me in various directions but as long as I keep looking at the horizon, I will be okay.

The waves carry me into morning and the light from the sun gives me hope again, I smile, all I can do is hope that the day will bring me some happiness.

The F Word

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Future. It’s a word that has been circling around my mind a little bit too much recently. My future seemed so far away a couple of months ago, as I sat behind a desk at university, I had it all figured out in my head. I felt optimistic that everything would work out and somebody would give me a job. Well it hasn’t happened yet. I just sit at home all day fantasizing about the life that I will have once someone takes a chance on me and I am earning some real money. It’s frustrating and I’m not the only one who feels this way.

A few weeks ago I applied for a job that I really wanted and I knew that I would be perfect for it. I aced all parts of the job application and interview and I had my fingers and toes crossed tightly for an email telling me that I had the job. Of course life never works out the way you want it to. I didn’t receive an email, a few days later after I contacted them, I found out why I didn’t get it. It wasn’t me they said. It’s another person. They had more experience than me. What?!

It was a junior position that I was applying for. Surely that meant you didn’t need any experience, it was a position to put you on the career ladder. An entry level position made for graduates such as me. I was angry at first because I knew that I was so close to getting the dream job and I knew that I would have to go back to job hunting and sitting at home bored. I am grateful for the many casual writing jobs I have done over the past two years, they have given me great experience and they look wonderful in my ever-growing portfolio but I need a full time position.

I have just graduated university and I should be feeling happy and I do, but this is the first time in my life that I feel really stuck. I’m waiting around for life to happen to me and I have no control over what happens next. I know people tell you that there is more to life than money or a career and you should enjoy the present moment but let’s be realistic here. I need money to pay for things, go out and enjoy myself and I can’t do any of that if no one gives me a job. I’ve applied for dozens of jobs since I finished my classes in April and the one job that I wanted I didn’t get. I honestly feel like giving up some days. Why is it so hard to get going?

I fear the future because I have high expectations on what I want my life to be. I’m not the sort of person who will settle for something because I have no other choice. Although I feel frustrated and fed up about the career part of my life, I know that I will find something. Maybe life has a different plan for me? I might want to be a copywriter but the universe might be telling me otherwise. I have to try and put a positive spin on my position because if I don’t, I will only feel sadness and life is too short to feel that way.

The future feels daunting sometimes and although the uncertainty of it takes me outside my comfort zone, I know that the future will be bright, no matter what happens. Sometimes you have to give yourself a little pep talk. Try to be positive and keep your chin up. I’m trying my best to appreciate the present moments instead of worrying about the future. To do that though I may have to switch my brain off, wish me luck!

Shoot For The Moon. Even If You Miss, You’ll Land Among The Stars

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Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss… you will land among the stars – Les Brown

I have always had a love-hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions. I dislike resolutions of the generic kind, such as – I will lose x amount of weight, I will stop eating unhealthily and I will quit smoking. These are the types of resolutions that are most likely to fail. I have to admit that I have made similar resolutions in the past and they have always failed. This year I have decided to make a different kind of resolution, call it a different way of thinking if you will. I no longer want to waste my time. I need to start saying yes to more things that I want to do. I make far too many excuses and I am tiring of these ‘phases’ that I seem to be accustomed to recently. So my goal for 2014 is to change my way of thinking. No more laziness, if I want something I need to work hard to achieve it.

I have always been too ambitious with my goals and this year will be no different.  I am going to achieve my goals. Some of them are unrealistic but quite a few of them are possible to achieve. I would love to say at the end of 2o14 that I am a published writer. I doubt my young adult novel will be ready for publication in one year’s time but if I can publish a short story in a magazine or self-publish one of my poetry collections, I will be a very happy writer. 2014 is the year of writing, the year that I will finish my university course, the year that I will find a job and start my career in the writing industry.

2013 has been a hard year. But everything I have been through has made me a stronger person. I have an amazing group of friends at university, I am in a loving relationship with my best friend, my family may never be the same again, now that my parents are no longer together, but a sense of normality will develop as time progresses. I am very lucky and every day I try to remind myself of this. I think it is important to take a few moments, maybe at the end of the day before you go to sleep, to just reflect on everything that you are grateful for.

I no longer want to write empty words. I want to believe that I can achieve my goals in 2014. Life is so incredible short and I don’t want to wait around for my life to start. I will get a job, save my money, get an apartment with my long-term boyfriend, go on holidays together, buy a pug, publish my novel. The list is endless but I am determined to make the most of not just next year but all of the years that follow. I want to carry on with this positive state of mind, this determination, to make my way through the list that I carry close to my heart. The long list of dreams and goals that I hope to achieve in my life.  

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. – T.S. Eliot