My Top 5 Books of 2020

What a year 2020 has been! This is the first year in my entire life where I’ve pretty much picked up reading as a full-time hobby. I’ve always been an avid reader but this is the first year I’ve read this many books (just hit 40 and I’m still going strong – lockdown definitely helped…).

I know 2020 isn’t quite up yet and hopefully I will squeeze in a handful more books between now and then. If any of them beat this list then I will update it!

With that in mind, here are my top 5 books of 2020:

5. The Diary of Anne Frank

Obviously I’ve heard a great deal about this book, but I cannot believe I only just read it this year.

Anne Frank is a true inspiration to us all. Something so simple about the book is how she starts each entry with “My Dearest Kitty” or “My darling Kitty” (her imaginary friend.) She was such a character and there are some truly Laugh Out Loud moments (and so many lows) that make you want to hug her and comfort her and tell her how amazing she is.

Throughout the book she talks about how much she wants to inspire the world and become a famous writer or journalist after the war. Well, with 30 million copies sold worldwide in more than 65 languages, she has achieved just that!

Anne Frank has become the most famous young author of all time, and gave a rare glimpse into the day-to-day life of a Jewish person in hiding during WWII. Anne was an extremely intelligent and insightful young woman – and is definitely someone who I would invite to my dream dinner party!

4. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Earlier, this year, I helped to organise my friend’s virtual baby shower, and as a Thank You gift, she sent me a bundle of books in the post. It was such a sweet and thoughtful gesture and I was truly touched by her generosity.

Within the bundle was Where the Crawdads Sing, an absolute gem of a book that tells the story of Kya Clark, a young girl described by locals as ‘The Marsh Girl.’

At a young age her battered and bruised mother leaves her abusive father (and consequently, Kya), and from the offset it is clear that Kya lives an isolated and reclusive life where she is forced to fend for herself. There are so many poignant moments where your heart bleeds for Kya, but there are also so many beautiful moments where we learn about the importance of courage, resilience and determination. The initial chapters of the book also have so many exquisite descriptions of nature, which I really enjoyed.

This is honestly an outstanding read and has a shocking ending that I couldn’t stop thinking about for weeks after finishing it. I am so grateful to my friend for sending this book to me (thank you, Jess!)

3. The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

With so much going on in the world right now, it can be easy to get caught up in the never-ending stream of thoughts going on in our heads (especially mine!)

Don’t get me wrong: just because I’ve read this book (and bookmarked about a gazzilion pages) doesn’t mean I’m suddenly the most Zen person in the village (quite the opposite actually; more like the nuttiest person in the village!) BUT what I did take from this book is that no matter how cloudy our thoughts get, the blue sky is always there. We are not our thoughts, and the storms always pass.

If we can just centre ourselves in the present moment, even just for twenty seconds, that’s something very powerful indeed. As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, Silence: “One nerve impulse, one action potential, needs only a millisecond. Giving yourself twenty seconds is giving yourself twenty thousand milliseconds to stop the runaway train of thought.”

I’ve read a lot of books on mindfulness but The Power of Now, which I purchased on Kindle, is one book I plan on buying in physical format so I can have it on hand and just flip open a random page for some quick inspiration (Hi George! It’s Christmas soon!)

2. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

I have to admit when my sister first pitched this to me as a ‘must-read book about the Second World War’ I wasn’t exactly jumping with enthusiasm about reading it, but boy was she right in recommending it. It took me a single weekend to get through this book (and at 450 pages, it’s a long book!)

This is an incredible story about two sisters in France and their battle to survive during the Second World War.

There’s so much depth to this story and it is so shocking and truly horrifying what went on in France (and across the globe) during WWII, and I had no idea about most of it. This is such an inspiring and gripping read and reminds you what true hardship really means, and how much people endured during the war. It also reminds you about the power of resilience, love and freedom.

The Nightingale stays with you long after you’ve finished it. It is such an eye-opener and so beautifully written; I cannot recommend this book enough.

1. Can’t Hurt Me, by David Goggins

This list would not be complete without this exceptional book and if there is one book you need to read at some point in your life, it’s Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins.

It begins with his (terrible) childhood, then goes on to describe the ups and downs he went through throughout his life.

Goggins is someone who simply never gives up and perseveres where most of us would give up or quit or think negatively, very early on. On the contrary, he just keeps pushing himself beyond his mental and physical limits. He thinks so differently to most people and is massively inspiring to us all.

His theory is that we only use 40% of our brains and I totally agree. We just cop out so quickly or convince ourselves that we can’t be bothered or it’s too difficult or we’re not capable etc., when in actual fact, anything is possible. It’s all about mind over matter and shutting up that voice in your head that’s constantly trying to convince you otherwise.

Goggins is an incredible human (superhuman?) who is solid as a rock, both mentally and physically. He has been described as the toughest man alive and if I could just steal 1% of his thought-process, I’d be a really happy human (superhuman?)

So there you have it, my top 5 reads. What books have you read this year that have inspired you? Leave a comment below!

Coronavirus Survival Kit: Evenings

Photo by Designecologist from Pexels

This is a trying time for all of us.

No one really knows the full impact that this virus is likely to cause (though we can look to China for some ideas). In the meantime, for those of us who are stuck at home, I have come up with this little guide on how to weather the storm.

As a mother of two, I’ve found the more mental health preparation I do the evening before, the better I manage the following day.

While school is out, we’re adhering to our usual routine, so once the kids are asleep I begin to unwind from the day just passed. My first step is to either take a shower, or if I’m feeling indulgent, I’ll have a bath, light some candles and relax, away from my mobile phone and the endless spiral of news stories, articles and opinion pieces about this disgusting virus.

I then do a 10 – 30 minute meditation, depending on how I feel. I typically use Headspace and they have just introduced an amazing collection of meditations designed to support us during this crisis, which, as far as I’ve understood, are completely free of charge.

I highly recommend doing some of these meditations; some of them are just one minute long and you’ll be surprised at how impactful just a short meditation can be! I can’t recommend meditation enough!

Following this, I then read for a bit before switching off my mobile phone and fullying absorbing myself in a TV show or movie for the next hour or so.

Before going to bed, I write in my journal and this is something I have strictly adhered to for about a year now! I make a habit of writing only the positive things that have happened that day, and this is honestly the best thing to do just before I close my eyes.

While all of this might seem fairly dull and straightforward to some, these are my essential tools for supporting and maintaining a positive mindset and avoiding any sort of mental health spiral – particularly in the midst of a crisis!

Valentine’s Day Isn’t Only for Lovers

Valentine’s Day is here and I haven’t posted in months, so I thought I would take this opportunity to create a quick post about… you guessed it: Love!

This post hasn’t got an awful lot to do with content writing. In fact, it’s got nothing to do with content writing at all. But words are my thing and writing is one of the many ways in which I process my thoughts and manage my life.

I understand that life can get difficult, stressful and downright depressing – I am absolutely no stranger to that. But I am so blessed to know that there are a handful of people in my life that I can reach out to during difficult times. They know who they are and I am utterly indebted to each and every one of those people for everything they do for me, no matter how small it may seem.

Come to think of it, this post IS about content writing because if I wasn’t able to get through the bad times, my writing would suffer as a result. When I’m functioning at my peak, I can feel it in my writing; the inspiration flows from within me, and I feel compelled to write and write and write to my heart’s content.

But when I’m struggling with a difficult emotion or having a hard time, it can be so hard to focus on my writing. Everything seems fuzzy and confused; my thoughts don’t connect like usual and I really have to focus just to string a sentence together (to my clients, don’t worry, this doesn’t happen often ;)).

Which is why I am so grateful to the handful of people in my life, who are always there for me through thick and thin (they know who they are!) They never judge me or put me down, and always fill me with encouragement.

So this Valentine’s Day (and beyond!), spread some love not just to your lover, but to your loved ones too!

I Doubt I’ll Make Millions from Freelancing, and that’s Okay

Since making the transition from full time employee to freelancer, a lot of changes have gone on in the world.

When I first started freelancing, it was less common and less heard of to work from home. Particularly in Cyprus, it was hardly heard of to work part time let alone to work from home, and the vast majority of jobs advertised were only offered on a full time basis.

While freelancing probably is not without its disadvantages, for me, particularly at this stage in my life, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Since I started freelancing in 2013, it’s certainly been a bumpy ride. I was lucky enough to land a major client fairly early on, but when that fell through in 2017, I felt shaken up, and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to get back on my feet.

Since then, I’ve managed to build up a relatively steady stream of clients (and have had another child), so although the work sometimes feels like it’s not enough, I also feel like I’m able to strike a really good balance between working and parenting/managing all the other stuff that comes with being a working parent.

But with the rise of social media, I’m frequently bombarded with articles, emails, videos and social media posts on subjects like ‘How I Made my Millions from Freelancing’ and ‘Yes you CAN Charge $2,000 per post!’

While I don’t doubt that these posts aren’t true, I do think that this sort of success is difficult to come by. And while I believe in the law of attraction and the power of positivity, I also believe that if you do attain this level of success, it will come at a cost.

At this stage in my life, I’m happy to make a little bit of extra cash each month to support my family and put less financial pressure on my husband.

While I used to be obsessed with calculating my earnings each month from freelancing, some months I know have been much quieter than others, and if I’ve made close to nothing, I have learnt to accept that that’s okay.

Yes, we have monthly bills to pay and unanticipated payments always arise, but we always manage to work it out.

Because freelancing means that some months you’ll have made a decent amount, and others you’ll have made nothing! By being as organised as possible with our finances, we somehow seem to figure it out even during the most difficult months.

The flexibility afforded from freelancing has also meant that I’ve got more time to do other things, like meditate, work on my own website, focus on the kids and spend longer on my current workload, without feeling the pressure to get it done as quickly as possible in order to move on to the next task.

And as I said before, while each month definitely differs in terms of workload (and ultimately, income) for the time being, that’s okay.

As a working mum, there have been plenty of occasions where I’ve had to drop what I’m doing to go pick up one of the kids at a moment’s notice, and having the ability to do that means the world to me.

While I’d never say no to extra work, when it doesn’t come through as I’d initially hoped, I have learnt to accept that and move on.

For those of you out there who are making a fortune from freelancing, I salute you!

And while I may not be making millions from freelancing (far from it!), for now, I’m completely okay with that.

What are your thoughts on freelancing? Leave a comment in the box below!

My review of Headspace (& How it helps my Writing)

Image by Snapwire from Pexels.

I’m naturally a very busy ‘thinker,’ which isn’t necessarily a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing, but I wouldn’t mind having the ability to switch my brain off every now and then – or at least the sound!

I’ve wanted to get into meditation for years now but I took the wrong approach and never seemed to find the right time. I began with the book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn, which is an incredible book but too deep/heavy for a beginner. Then I switched to various meditations on YouTube, chopping and changing depending on my mood.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Headspace but I haven’t looked back since. After giving their Beginner’s Level 1 course a go (which is free of charge), I then did session 1 of Managing Anxiety, which is a 30-day course (the first audio is also free of charge). After that, I was in two minds about whether to invest in Headspace. First of all, you can get meditations for free on YouTube, and the app is quite expensive, especially when you compare it to services like Netflix for instance.

As I continued to commit to one 10-minute session a day, a ‘40%-off’ offer came by. I took the plunge and bought a 1-year subscription, vowing to try to commit to one 10-minute session a day.

In the first weeks, during those daily 10 minute meditations, not a lot changed for me, especially outside of the sessions. I still had lots of thoughts coming and going, and my brain rarely stopped ticking. As the weeks developed, I began to notice a small difference as I was meditating, and I occasionally managed to hold on to that calm, focused feeling for a short while after.

But then, without even realising it, the daily meditations began to impact my daily life, from how mindful I was during something as mundane as housework, to my level of concentration within a conversation. I have naturally become more mindful as I am driving (always a bonus), during a conversation with someone, or when writing an article. I now feel much more focused and ‘in the zone’ as I move from one activity to the other, finding more pleasure and enjoyment in whatever it is I am doing.

Image by pixel2013 from Pixabay

Image by pixel2013 by Pixabay.

As a writer, I’m often forced to be analytical and sometimes sceptical about things, and I wasn’t without my doubts when it came to meditation. But this app is definitely up there on my list of top investments!

Don’t get me wrong, like everyone else, I have terrible days where I feel like everything is falling down on top of me. Days where I worry ceaselessly, feel anxious or down in the dumps. Some days, meditation is much harder than others, and sometimes it feels as if my mind has been elsewhere for most of the session and that I’ve actually wasted my time bothering with a session.

But the truth is, I can’t imagine my life without meditation – and the Headspace app – and everything it has taught me so far.

I’m also truly grateful for the impact it’s had on my work. I have fewer ‘fuzzy’ days and my ability to concentrate while writing has definitely been heightened.

I can’t wait to continue with my meditation journey and see how my practice develops and evolves.

Has anyone else tried meditation? What have your experiences been like?

The Benefits of Content Writing

Content is everywhere, from a leaflet that lands on your doorstep to an email that you just received from your favourite clothing brand. Everywhere we turn we are presented with content, and without even realising it, we are massively influenced by the content that surrounds us.

In today’s multifaceted world where we are presented with so many different options when it comes to communication, the world of content marketing has never been more diverse or exciting.

Just a few of the many examples include email and social media as well as text messaging, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype and much more. As you can see, the means of communicating are almost infinite.

As a result of this, content writing is not some sort of passing fad soon to be replaced with something more exciting, but is a meaningful, powerful and important means of communication. It enables us to get our message across not only as individuals but also as businesses, and is a fantastic tool when it comes to promoting a brand, product or service.

As a business, it is vital that you take full advantage of content writing and its many capabilities.

Since beginning my career as a freelance content writer, I have helped countless businesses to get their messages across in an articulate, meaningful and clear way. I have helped businesses to resonate with their audiences, to communicate with them in a clearer brand voice and to successfully sell their products and services to audiences from across the globe.

This is the power of content marketing.

Content is definitely here to stay so if you’re seeking a steady, secure and reliable means of improving your SEO, promoting your products or services, communicating with your audience and increasing your client base, then it is definitely wise to invest in content writing.

Waiting for the Gift of Sound and Vision

When I read a piece of my written work, I listen to the way it sounds. Okay, I’m not writing poetry or the lyrics to a song, but that doesn’t matter. Regardless, my writing has to have a flow, a rhythm, and a pleasing sound, in order for me to be satisfied with it.

Just like the waves crashing against the shore, a car’s tyres crunching against a gravelled driveway or Bob Dylan singing “Don’t Think Twice it’s Alright” (some of my many favourite sounds), a piece of writing must sound satisfying.

Sound is just as important in your writing as other elements such as research, flow and quality of writing, so when you’ve finished a piece of work, read it and re-read it to hear how it sounds. Are you satisfied with how it sounds?

Great, then let’s move onto how it looks!

As David Bowie said in his song, Sound and Vision, “I will sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision.”

Just as sound is important to the flow of your content, so too is vision.

It’s vital for your work to be visually appealing.

It’s no longer okay to write heavy, chunky paragraphs laden with opulent, fancy vocabulary.

Your paragraphs need to be short, sweet and to the point.

When your audience sees a piece of text that looks visually appealing, they will be much more likely to dive right in.

Then, when it sounds just as good as it looks, they’ll want to stay with you – right until the end of the piece.

So sit right down, get inspired and wait for the gift of sound and vision to influence your writing and elevate it to the next level!

“Don’t Think Twice it’s All Right”

There’s something about a well-written song that resonates so deeply with me. When one of my favourite songs comes on, I just want to drop what I’m doing, close my eyes and listen to it on full blast, taking in all the elements from the instruments used to the nuances and emotions of the singer’s voice.

There’s something about the way Dylan sings this song, and the lyrics he wrote to accompany it are intelligent and pretty brutal in some aspects! It’s hard to believe he was just 21 when he wrote this song; he is such a smart and eloquent songwriter, and absolutely deserving of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Dylan’s written some incredible songs including Blowin’ in the Wind, The Times They are a Changin and Subterranean Homesick Blues, but Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right is by far my favourite Dylan song of all time.

Writing lyrics isn’t something that comes naturally to me but I have tried songwriting on a number of occasions and I must say it is a very therapeutic and cathartic process that I thoroughly enjoy. But if I was half as good as Dylan, I’d definitely be writing songs for a living.

Have a good read of these and see what you think; hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

(P.S. Can you spot the grammar mistake? We forgive you, Dylan!)

It ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
It don’t matter, anyhow
An’ it ain’t no use to sit and wonder why, babe
If you don’t know by now
When your rooster crows at the break of dawn
Look out your window and I’ll be gone
You’re the reason I’m trav’lin’ on
Don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
That light I never knowed
An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road
Still I wish there was somethin’ you would do or say
To try and make me change my mind and stay
We never did too much talkin’ anyway
So don’t think twice, it’s all right

It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
Like you never did before
It ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal
I can’t hear you anymore
I’m a-thinkin’ and a-wond’rin’ all the way down the road
I once loved a woman, a child I’m told
I give her my heart but she wanted my soul
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

March Musings

Taking a Moment to Reflect on the Past Month 

March was a difficult month for me on a number of levels (for reasons I won’t get into here), but I wholeheartedly believe in the power of positive thinking and the overwhelming effects it has on the mind, body and spirit.

As cliché as it sounds, being positive really is a game changer, not just because it calms the heart rate and brings back that twinkle in your eye, but also because it really has the power to adjust your frame of mind and help you to see the good in a seemingly bad situation.

Life is an odd thing but we’re all here, facing its challenges in our own unique ways. I know for one that I am always trying to be the best version of myself possible, whether in my professional or personal life.

Within my content writing, I’m always aspiring to push myself further and further and produce the best work imaginable. With each piece of content I produce, I scour it with a fine-tooth comb, checking it and re-checking it to see how it can be improved. Only when I’m truly happy with it will I click ‘Publish’ or ‘Send.’

As a mother, I’m always trying to educate myself and do the best thing for my children, which isn’t always easy (we all lose our tempers sometimes ;)) but it is a challenge I am wholeheartedly embracing through all the tears, tantrums, trials and tribulations (that’s enough alliteration for one day), and of course through all the joy, laughter and happiness that resonates through our home on a daily basis.

There are plenty of other versions of ‘me’ including wife, daughter, sister and friend, and I’m always committed to pushing myself beyond any metaphorical boundary and being the best version of myself I can possibly be, no matter which role I am filling at that moment.

With that in mind, I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous month ahead.

Here’s to positivity!