4 Online Resources to Help You Study in 2019

Happy New Year, everybody!

I wish you the best of luck in 2019, and I hope you are able to succeed in every aspect of life that you want to. Or at least get a little better.

In that spirit, I'm guessing that at least some of you want to learn stuff this year. Maybe you have exams coming up, or want to put more time into getting better grades, or even just like the idea of learning a new language. If so, you'll have to put some time into creating a study system that works for you, but some of these apps might just help with that. You definitely won't lose anything by giving them a try.


Screenshot from: https://quizlet.com/315453881/famille-5-flash-cards/
Quizlet is the absolute juggernaut of study apps and websites. It has 50 million individual users per month, including English teachers who help refugees integrate into their new societies and several previous winners of the Scripps spelling bee. Because everyone needs flashcards, and physical flashcards are really annoying.

They take forever to make. They're easy to get in the wrong order or lose. And there's a limited amount of times you can cycle through a set of square cards and flip them over before losing the will to live. Quizlet lets you write down a list of terms and definitions (or even import them from a Word Document / Excel spreadsheet etc.) and click a button, then it will make them into virtual flashcards for you. If you enter a term or question it's seen before, it will even suggest a definition. Not only this, but once you have a list (a 'set', as Quizlet calls it), it can quiz you and keep track of the words you usually get wrong, to help you go over them specifically.

The greatest thing about Quizlet is that it pretty much literally grants you the gift of time. The app is beautifully designed and you can download your most-used sets to practice without internet access. Anywhere. Those car journeys and waiting room moments that used to be wasted are now study time.

Oh, and did I mention that you can use other people's sets, too?


Screenshot from: https://www.forestapp.cc/en/
If you have a procrastination problem, (AKA, if you are human) downloading Forest can and probably will help you at some point. The premise is quite cute: you set the amount of time you want to spend away from your phone, and a tree grows in that time ... but if you try to open another app before the timer is up, the tree dies, and instead of being beautiful and nourished your 'forest' for that day is full of dead trees that stand as a reminder of your failure.

It's a more positive experience than it sounds, I promise.

When I first heard about Forest I honestly thought it wouldn't work for me. Most of my procrastination stems from opening a new tab on my computer or following unnecessary dead ends while researching because they look interesting - my phone doesn't really factor into that. But something about having set a timer and working towards a full tree makes me feel like I have to focus, even if there isn't technically anything stopping me from wasting my time.

Just picture my excitement when I was doing the research for this post and discovered they have a chrome extension that extends the magic to your computer by allowing you to block your own access to certain websites.

Forest 1 - Procrastination 0


Screenshot from: https://app.senecalearning.com/dashboard
(Seneca probably won't be useful to a fair number of you because it tends to be very specific, but I'm including it because it will be such an absolute lifesaver to those of you who can use it. Sorry, non-British folks.)

Imagine a sort of online revision guide written for every GCSE subject (some with a variety of exam boards) and a fair few A levels as well. Imagine if it could run from mobile devices, was completely free to access at all levels, and included the odd funny GIF.

It exists. Seneca is that thing. It was designed by a group of teachers and psychologists to allow people to learn material twice as fast as they would from books. I don't know if that's quite true, because I'm more than a little bit paranoid and only use Seneca alongside my books (it does miss out a fact or two every now and again), but it is really great in that it tests you as you go and is actually pretty good at getting facts to go in without feeling too much like hard work. Plus, being able to reach all your study resources with nothing but an internet connection and a device is an unbelievable secret weapon if you're disorganised and/ or living out of two houses like me.


Screenshot from: https://evernote.com/
I switched to Evernote at the beginning of this school year after a Windows / external hard-drive related disaster that caused me to lose a whole half-term's worth of work. It's nothing special, really: a simple word processor with easy-to-use search features and the ability to import screenshots and documents. But what I love about it - and what makes it so necessary for exam preparation - is that it is literally available everywhere. If you can take your notes in Evernote, you'll be able to access them from pretty much any device that can access the internet or download an app. I've tidied up notes on my phone on the way home, I've finished off an assignment at the last minute from a school computer ... at one point, I even revised using Evernote on one of the PCs at the public library, and those things are so ancient they can't even run Google Chrome.

If you only take one piece of advice from me in this entire post, remember that 99% of successful studying is using the time you have, wherever you are and whatever resources you have available. Get yourself a note-taking and revision system that allows you to take advantage of those spare moments - for me, Evernote fits the bill.

In the comments: Do you have any study goals for 2019? Or is your resolution something else entirely? Please stop to have a chat, and if you have any other online tools to share, please do. I'm always looking for recommendations!

Hoverboards, World Peace and the Curb Cut Effect

In English the other day, our teacher posed an interesting question: if you had unlimited time and money and a team of the best minds in the world, what would you get them to build? What would be valuable enough to humanity that you could justify using all those resources to create it?

I didn't even have to think. My table group turned to me, and without thinking I blurted out the words "hoverboard wheelchair".

They laughed. Obviously. But I honestly hadn't been expecting them to: I mean, imagine the possibilities! A hoverboard wheelchair could traverse rough surfaces at speed, it could get you up and down random ledges smoothly, and if the hover-technology was strong enough, it might even be able to make it up a flight of stairs. And yet the people around me didn't really seem to see it as massively important.

The teacher called an end to the conversation, and people started to give their answers. Food that could be grown in famine-ridden countries. A way of ending global warming. Negotiating world peace. And the more I heard other people's points of view, the more I felt kind of selfish.

These other suggestions would quite possibly save the entire world. And there I was, aiming my invention towards a fairly small percentage of the world, and, if I was perfectly honest, mostly trying to help myself.

When I got home, I thought about this some more. Making it easier for disabled people to access the world doesn't seem like a terrible idea, so what was it that made the hoverboard wheelchair funny, rather than a brilliant idea?

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I was just trying to go about it the wrong way. And ... that's where the curb cut effect comes in.

A pavement on a London street
Curb cuts are called dropped kerbs in the UK, and depending on where you live you might also know them as curb ramps or kerb ramps. A dropped kerb is a sloping section of pavement which allows a person to cross the road without having to take a big step down; without them, most wheelchair users wouldn't be able to move around independently, so they're a massively important part of making the world accessible to as many people as possible. But, believe it or not, they haven't existed as long as pavements have.

The first curb cuts can be traced back to the 1960s, to a group of disabled civil rights campaigners from UC Berkeley in California, who are some of the most badass people I've ever come across in my research on disability history. Their de facto leader, Ed Roberts, had polio, and he's basically the embodiment of my personal motto, "with great skill and not much responsibility". They fought bitterly with university authorities and local governments to have kerb cuts put in reliably around campus and local roads. They quite literally went out under cover of darkness with spades and concrete to make their own. If you want to know the whole history of the thing, 99% Invisible did a brilliant podcast, but the point is that curb cuts were only ever intended to help the small but significant minority of disabled people in the area, and as time went on the world.

Nowadays, they are typically referred to in Australia as pram ramps.

An artsy shot of a pram
Reports on their usefulness incredulously listed dozens of other groups that they'd helped. Older people. Cyclists. Deliverymen (and yes, it did say men, because it was the 1960s). Nowadays, if you ask the majority of people to guess why curb cuts exist, they probably won't come up with wheelchair users straight away, if at all. This is the curb cut effect. And it isn't necessarily a bad thing.

When an accommodation intended for a particular group in society (be that disabled people, specific races, or religions or whatever) becomes useful for the population as a whole, this is often a really good thing because it is available without any kind of policing. Yes, you do need to qualify for some adaptations, because some resources are scarce, but for things like curb cuts universality is a massive advantage. In the case of disability adaptations, it can let people who haven't been diagnosed - or don't even know they have a disability, as is common for certain processing issues - navigate the world without fighting a ton of bureaucracy or feeling like something is intrinsically wrong with them. Universality can also be a lifesaver for people with temporary injuries, since it reduces the amount of hoops they have to jump through to a level which is manageable in the short amount of time they need help for.

And that brings me back to my hoverboard wheelchair, because once my crack team of geniuses had developed the technology, it'd probably be really expensive, a lack of supply chains would make it difficult to roll out worldwide, and a bunch of other factors would mean that a very small proportion of the people it could possibly help in the world would actually get their hands on one. As the inventor, I'd have it made, but very few other people would, and that's what made the idea seem selfish.

Instead, I'd take my team of geniuses and I'd spend decades going around the world. I'd resurface uneven pavements and give cash to every local authority just for keeping them smooth for as long as possible. I'd go into every listed building and work with historical conservationists to create a lift that would make every floor accessible without upsetting the old architecture. I'd work with the disability community in various towns and cities to install large disabled toilets with hoists and changing beds.

I'd change the environment, not the equipment the disabled person has to carry around with them. Just imagine the amount of people who I  - we, the world - could help with that approach.

And just think. When humanity had that option - the right minds, the necessary resources - in the 1940s, they built the first atomic bomb.

In the comments: What do you guys think of this more article-style form of post? Would you like to see more of them in the future? And what do YOU think curb cuts can tell us about how to treat minority or discriminated against groups in the future?

4 Things to Look For on Netflix When You've Seen Everything Else

Now, I've had a lot of time on my hands this summer, and I've had a lot of post-exam stress to work through. I'm an expert at Netflix binges.

I've seen pretty much all the mainstream stuff. To All The Boys I've Loved Before was really, really sweet. I loved Suits before Meghan Markle was a royal. And if anyone tries to tell me Brooklyn 99 is anything but noice, I'm going to get really, really cross. But we all know the 'Popular' tab just isn't enough sometimes.

Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately? who knows) I have a few favourites that either no-one knows about, or no-one knows are on Netflix. And I figured I'd be doing a public service if I told you guys about them and then sprinkled my explanations with copious GIFs.

What? That's what you said when I asked on Twitter.


I probably only have to say about five words to get you hooked on this one.

Lady detective.
With a gun that matches her outfit.
"Because I'm carrying a gun."
Okay, maybe that was slightly more than five words, but I'm genuinely fuming more people don't know about the phenomenon that is Miss Fisher. It has a unique setting, characters that are far too easy to get attached to, and lots of thrilling experiences with various murderers. It's also hilarious, which is a must for any series in my opinion.

And the SHIPS? Oh, man. There's a wild ride involving a very dashing police detective, as well as the cutest, awkwardest thing going on between Miss Fisher's maid, Dot, and a clumsy constable. There are three series, only two of which were on Netflix last time I checked, but there are twenty episodes in each. Binging potential = excellent.

What I love about this show in particular is that, despite it being incredibly cheesy, it is cheesy in an amazing, terrible, addictive way. It's about a team of oddball geniuses who work with Homeland Security to save the world from various imminent disasters. There's a lot of hacking, some crawling around in abandoned buildings, and - my personal favourite - a gambling-addict behaviourist who spends a lot of time identifying the perp by the way they wear their hat or their answers to certain questions.

"Can you repeat that, please?"
This series has a real ensemble cast, and the characters make it, honestly. There's a healthy dose of romantic tension (the show is excellent at finding the flimsiest of excuses to place characters who are crushing on each other in various compromising situations), but also a lot of familial conflict and stuff about friendship. It makes me laugh, it (sometimes) makes me cry, and I just love it to pieces. Even when I have to suspend disbelief because it's got slightly sensational.

Oh, did I not tell you that I was really into murdery stuff?

Don't worry, I've not done anything other than watch it so far. You don't have to call the police. But I am a huge detective nut. Stick on anything that vaguely resembles crime, or a thriller, or has vaguely high stakes due to some sort of dark villain, and I'm there on the sofa with a very large bowl of popcorn.
Jonathan Creek stares quizzically at the camera while holding a spoon
Jonathan Creek is an absolute British institution. Unfortunately, internationally / on the internet, it seems to be chronically unknown. It features Alan Davies (of QI fame) as a wonderfully quirky guy who invents tricks for magicians and lives in a windmill ... then meets an investigative journalist and accidentally ends up solving crimes with her.

I mean, DID YOU HEAR ME SAY WINDMILL? He makes models when he gets stuck on a puzzle! It's the most amazingly kooky show and you just can't miss it.

#4 - RENT

We're not gonna payyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy ... Last year's rent! This year's RENT! NEXT YEAR'S REEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNT!

Ahem ... sorry. Got slightly carried away there, but I was ... singing. Not actually having a breakdown using repeated letters and caps lock. It'll all make slightly more sense if you listen to this video.

No? Okay.
Main character from Rent shrugging
Rent is possibly my favourite movie adaptation of any musical, ever. Chicago comes a very, very close second, but it doesn't have Idina Menzel (best known as Elphaba from Wicked or Elsa from Frozen) in what some say are the best years of her career, or the world's most amazing stupid high notes. Again, I'm a very character-driven person, so I love the cast to pieces, but it also contains some really clever cinematography - the main character is an aspiring filmmaker, so it's very meta and that requires creativity to come across on screen - and is both super emotional and super gritty. I spend at least half that film crying no matter how many times I watch it, and I love it. Plus, it's about a ragtag bunch of bohemians struggling to find a place to live, so that's pretty #relateable.

FYI, Chicago is also on Netflix, so if you want to hear the story of a morally corrupt murderess and her lawyer in song, you may as well make it a double feature.


Well, it's a bit different today.

What? We've just finished launch week - did you not expect a special surprise? I'm giving away a £10 digital Netflix giftcard to one of you lucky people, which is enough for a month's HD subscription in the UK. (If you're international, then you can still enter, I'll just give you an equivalent amount in the currency you would pay a Netflix bill in so it's usable for you.)

It's a perfect way of trying the amazing service that is Netflix if you've never had an opportunity before (#notspon, FYI, but if you happen to work for them and want to work together sometime, consider this a shameless plug), or you can always use it to go towards next month's payment.

Just enter using the Rafflecopter below - the giveaway closes at midnight UK time on the 19th of December. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In the comments: Have you got any Netflix recs I won’t have heard of? I just finished Scorpion and I honestly don’t know what I’m doing with my life now. I need help.

6 Things Not to Do in a Disabled Toilet

If you're an able-bodied person, you probably haven't ever used a disabled toilet.

It's very similar to using a regular public toilet, to be honest - there's a loo, and a sink, and some toilet roll, if you're lucky. But an accessible loo is more than just a place to do your business. It's a vital stepping stone to independence for people with disabilities - because how could we go out in public if we didn't know there was going to be somewhere to pee?

It's an important tool which needs to be respected, at least a little bit. So here are some things you might not want to do.


Picture of urinals in a public toilet
In my mind, there are three basic reasons you might use an accessible toilet. a) because using the regular toilets is impossible or uncomfortable for you (in my book, this can be because of injury, disability, or not feeling welcome in gendered toilets), b) because you need to change a baby (if it's the kind with a changing table), and c) because the regular men's or women's is unusable for some reason and it's the only option.

There's a huge debate to be had about whether you should use the disabled toilet if all the others are engaged. I'm not going to pretend I am the font of all knowledge on this (as always, I can't speak for all disabled people, only myself), but I always think that if it's very close to the others, e.g. inside the same door, and it's the only one free, you're okay. Just be willing to let a disabled person go first if they come up to you while you're queuing, since some of us don't have the best bladder control.

It sounds like a lot of rules, and I don't want to frighten you. You're not going to offend the entire disability community if you use the wide stall unnecessarily by accident once - just do your best, and if you aren't a person who needs the resources in an accessible loo, treat it as a last resort.


GIF: A small boy drums his fingers on a table
Forgive me for stating the obvious, but sometimes it takes disabled people longer to do things. Going to the toilet is one of those things. So next time you wait longer than you'd expected because, say, the ladies in Cafe Nero is out of order and everyone's using the accessible one, you might not want to spend the whole five minutes loudly murmuring to your kids about how "she's taking ages". Especially if, when the person you were referring to turns out to be in a wheelchair and apologises for the wait, you're going to say it was "no trouble at all", even though your kids are still giving said person evils and walk into the toilet with the parting shot "but you said she took ages, Mummy!"

Sorry. Small personal story edging in there - I try not to get overly annoyed in these advice posts, but that particular experience illustrates perfectly that most people regret their disability faux pas as soon as they think about them Just take the time to think, I guess. 


Picture of a knotted red rope
If you've never been inside an accessible loo, allow me to give a brief tour. There will probably be a changing table on the wall immediately as you come in (more on that later). The toilet itself is usually in a corner, surrounded by grab bars and a fold down handrail. And next to that toilet, there will be a red alarm cord.

Whatever you do, do not touch that alarm cord. Obviously, pull it if you're in difficulty, but whatever you do, let it hang freely down to the floor. I don't care if it's irritating. I don't care if it's dangling in water. Because if you tie it up or tangle it in the fold down bar or anything else - however neat and helpful you think you're being - you are preventing a disabled person who's fallen on the floor from reaching that alarm cord and getting help.

Which is never good.

If the cord's already been tied up and you're capable of standing up / doing fiddly things, feel free to undo it! Just ... make sure you know where the reset button is before you start. I can tell you from prior experience that it's very easy to set off the alarm while fiddling around with a knot. 


Picture of a baby lying on a bed to be changed
If you're a person in charge of changing a baby, I'm going to hasten a guess that your life is a bit frantic. You've got a lot on, and I get it. But I reckon you've probably got twenty seconds (tops) to shut and properly secure the changing table after you're finished with it.

Why? Well. Remember when I said the changing table was usually right by the door? That means that if it's left or falls open, it's going to be really difficult to get past in a wheelchair. It might even block a person from entering the room entirely - or open and crush them as they do. And yes, they can go and ask someone for help ... but that's going to take time they might not have if they're desperate for the toilet.

Also, it kind of smells.

#5 - DON'T BOTHER TO ...

Cartoon of two people in business suits shrugging
You can insert most general toilet etiquette in that ellipses and assume that it's more difficult for disabled people than the able-bodied. Changing empty loo rolls. Wiping toilet seats. Flushing. Actually, I desperately hope you're doing that anyway, but you get the picture. In an accessible toilet, something super-simple for you to do might be really difficult for the next person, and because they are used less frequently than the regular men's and women's, they aren't examined as often, either. This means a member of staff is also less likely to clean up after you - so it's extra important to be polite and do the right thing.

Sorry if I'm starting to sound like your Mum, but it had to be said.


Picture of a judge's gavel
I am probably going to end up sounding like a broken record on the internet over the next ... millennia, but here goes. NOT ALL DISABILITIES ARE VISIBLE.

Yes, some people do abuse resources for disabled people. Some people use disabled toilets without thinking about whether they need it (apparently not everyone reads what I say on the internet ... what?). But those people are almost indistinguishable from people who need the accessible toilet due to an invisible disability. And ... would you want to be accosted every time you went to the loo?


So, the overall message is: leave things as you found them, do things to help the next person if you can, and be nice.

Sounds like a pretty good set of rules for life, to be honest.


You remember when I said earlier that disabled toilets are an important stepping stone to independence? Well, as great as they are, they aren't enough to support everyone. Some people need a hoist, and a full-sized changing bed, and a lot of toilets that are currently thought of as accessible just don't cut it for those with complex disabilities. That's why the Changing Places initiative is so important. The toilets they are opening are effectively the next stepping stone on the road to independence, and it is incredibly important that the entire community (disabled and non-disabled) supports them, whether we need them or not.

Now, I must confess, this is not entirely relevant to the post I've just written, but there's a reason for that. I did start designing a sign to hang on red cords reminding people to let them hang all the way to the floor, but Euan's Guide already has its amazing Red Cord Cards, so if you own or work at a building with an accessible toilet and you want to remind people to treat it properly (which would be amazing), please fill in their forms to request one. Anything I tried to make would never be as good.

Instead, I've made a few funny posters for people with disabilities and their friends and families. If that doesn't apply to you, then I'm very sorry, but at least you can laugh at the PDFs, even if you don't end up printing them to display.

(If you use a screen reader and the PDFs aren't readable for you, there are three posters. They say:

  • Yes, I have a disability. No, I don't know your disabled friend.
  • Yes, my friend is disabled. No, I don't know if they take sugar. Ask them.
  • Yes, my wheelchair is empty. No, you can't sit in it.
In the comments: Do you use accessible toilets? If so, what is your biggest pet peeve? If not, have you ever wondered what it's like in there? Because honestly I don't really understand how cubicles and communal sinks work.

4 Ways to Reduce School Stress

Statistically, today's teenagers are more stressed about school than any other generation ... ever. I'm sure we've all seen that Tumblr post about American high school students today having higher anxiety levels than mental asylum patients in the 50s.

Why exactly is probably a question for another day. But the fact remains that, if you as a student want to keep yourself from imploding within your own head, you probably need some tactics. Here are the ones that worked for me.


Picture of an open planner, phone and pens
Yes, yes, I know. The most unoriginal, thrown-around pieces of advice to ever be given. You've probably been hearing it since you were old enough to hold a highlighter and apply it to any kind of planner.

But that's because it works.

I mean, I'm not judgemental. We've all been in the situation where we're doing homework the night (or morning) before it's due. But when that situation is constantly repeating itself, it becomes a mutant shadow that hangs over you at all times. You become isolated because you can't make any plans to meet your friends - or you constantly have to cancel them to do some project you'd forgotten about. Pretty much every adult in your life is cross with you pretty much all the time - and you're always stressed.

Thankfully, this is avoidable with a little bit of organisation. And I seriously mean a tiny bit of the easy kind - just WRITE THE HOMEWORK DOWN, FRIENDS. Literally just having a list that you can cross off really helps. (If you want to break out a fancy planner and cover it in colour-coded notes, then great, if it helps you. It's just not mandatory.)

Yes, there will be times when you do homework the night before, but the general aim is to make those times less frequent. That way, the stress is compartmentalised to individual nights and bus journeys, rather than becoming a constant presence that affects your entire life.



Picture of various picture frames in different colours
For most hardworking Gen Zers, their worst critic is their own inner voice. The snippy thing in the back of their heads that they rely on to push them to higher grades and higher standards - "you're not good enough", "you're a lazy idiot", and "come on, stop being so pathetic" are the favourite phrases of mine. And I understand that this isn't true for everyone, but even when your stress is coming from outside sources - parents, teachers, friends - it often helps to change the way you think about studying, because you are better able to process and dismiss the pressure.

(With that said, don't feel bad if re-wiring your thought patterns doesn't help. It's not for everyone. Personally, I just found that this brings me out of my own head a little.)

Sit yourself down and write out a list of motivations for study. They don't all have to be perfect and it doesn't even have to be that long. But every single one of them has to be positive. No "because everyone expects it of me". No "because I'll fail if I don't". Think about the hard work your past self put in - don't you owe it to them? Think about the sense of accomplishment you'll have when you finish. Even imagining the beautiful notes page you'll end up with or the TV show your Mum will let you watch afterwards can help. 
GIF: Spongebob eats popcorn while watching TV
Then, keep the list with you. Maybe stick it in the front of your planner or copy it onto the notes app on your phone. Every time your inner voice starts getting snarky, you can argue with it. Use as many as your new motivations as it takes and add more as they come to you. This might seem stupid at first, but eventually your brain will start to spit them out automatically.

The thing to remember is that you don't need to beat yourself up in order to study. It's actually possible to stay motivated and be nice to yourself now and again.


Picture of a little girl pulling a face on a city street
Great, I hear you cry. She's starting to sound like a self-help book again.

But I don't mean this in the wishy-washy, perfection-doesn't-exist sort of way. I mean, it's true, but I've always found it near impossible to apply to my everyday life, so I come at it another way.

When I'm studying for a test (or revising, as we say in the UK) the first thing I do is tell myself that I probably won't remember every single word of the content perfectly. Don't get me wrong, I'll give it my best shot, but my main aim is to raise my own confidence about being able to do well. I tend to spend way more time on past paper questions when I'm thinking like this (when they don't exist, I write my own questions and use the ones in revision guides ... if you did the new 9-1 GCSEs too, then you know the struggle) and that's great because statistically more exam style questions = better grades.

Your focus when revising should be to raise your confidence in knowing the material, so that you walk into that exam room feeling like you can deal with whatever happens, even if you get a little bit blindsided. For me, it works better than the "must memorise material" mentality, and it's a hell of a lot less stressful.


Picture of two friends talking on swings
It's not usually that difficult to realise you're struggling at school. But having the guts to tell someone who can help? It took me years to build that skill, but without it I honestly don't think I'd survive exams nowadays.

For some people in some situations, telling your parents or someone else who cares about you is enough - and if that's you, great! But don't be afraid to approach a teacher. You might perceive some to be more friendly than others, but not only are they the best people to help you since they know the day-to-day workings of the school, they are all humans who actively chose a job looking after the best interests of their students. You're unlikely to be dismissed, and if you are it's their fault and not yours.

So take a deep breath. You don't have to choose a designated pastoral teacher - a head of year, a tutor or whatever - if you don't feel comfortable. You don't even have to ask for any help, if you don't think you need it: just admit that you're struggling and ask if they wouldn't mind checking in with you now and again. It helps so much, I promise.

And failing that, you can always just burst into tears in your favourite teacher's lesson. Worked for me!


I made a list of positive motivations for you guys! Or ... two. The first one is a prettified graphic of my personal list. The second one is a blank version which you can fill in with your own motivations.

Good luck! I hope this technique is as helpful to you as it has been for me over the years.

5 Ways to Write a Blog Post People Will Actually Read

Sup? It's Lara again.

Now, I understand that with a three-day-old blog, I don't appear to be the best person to give blogging advice. But, back in another lifetime, I spent two and half years of my life book blogging - and when it came to starting No, Mum, I was a little freaked. I knew that the biggest challenge for every blog was to keep the attention of those that clicked. To encourage comment engagement and avoid the dreaded skim-read. Frankly? I wasn't 100% sure my old techniques were still applicable.

Turns out at least five of them were.


GIF: American football player rotates his finger in a "go again" motion
It would be hypocritical for me to go on about this too much, but in short:

  • Get to the point of the post. It's an unfortunate side effect of our modern short attention spans that lengthy introductions will likely be skimmed.
  • It's okay if you have a wordy style with lots of long sentences (I mean, look at me), or want to write a super detailed post, you just need to make sure every single one of the sentences that ends up in the final draft a) needs to be there, and b) is communicating efficiently.
  • This includes jokes. Jokes need to be told efficiently.

This might seem intimidating, but don't fret. Read your post through once quite quickly after you finish. Every time you feel your eye slowing down to understand something, change it.

Write long, edit short.


Hairspray GIF reads: "I'm a pretty girl, Mama!"
Why do you think books use double-spaced text and large margins? People find it difficult to read long, unbroken blocks of text, and they often won't push through that - not when other things are easier. There's another debate to be had about whether instant gratification is damaging to society, but as bloggers, we kind of have to pander to that with as many GIFs as humanly possible.

(It helps that they're kind of fun, I guess.)

When it comes to title graphics, which I absolutely, heartily recommend (and actually wrote a tutorial about on my old blog, if you need help) you need still images. If you're not a photographer, Creative Commons Zero (a form of licence that allows photos to be used online, by anyone, for free) is about to become your best friend.

While we're at this, by the way, it helps to make your blog easy on the eye, partly for the sake of people reading it without effort and partly for the sake of visually impaired folks. Use a light background with black or very dark grey text of a reasonable size, and save the decorative fonts for your header.


GIF: David Mitchell does finger-guns
The internet is a crowded place. This can be a great thing, since it means thousands and thousands of potential friends, but it also makes it difficult to get noticed sometimes. However hard you work to come up with original content, there will usually be other posts that are similar - other posts that your possible readers could choose. So you need to use the one thing that makes your blog unique ...

... you.

To borrow a phrase from journalism - what's your angle? What is it about your interests and life experience that makes your take on this topic different to what anyone else could come up with?

As Oscar Wilde once said: "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."


GIF: Chandler from Friends turns the pages of a book aggressively
Completely apart from how relevant you become by knowing what's going on in your sphere of the blog community (be that books, fashion or activism), and the increased likelihood someone will find your blog link and click on it if you've commented on a post, I like to think of this sort of like karma. You're spending your life begging for other people - other bloggers, usually - to take time out of their valuable day to read something you wrote. Why would you deserve that if you aren't doing the same thing?

Also, I tend to find that when I read other people's blogs, I become inspired. Not to copy anything they've written (because that is a bad idea BAD IDEA ABORT ABORT ABORT) but to look at an issue from a different angle. To come up with a new way of writing introductions or tweets or ending paragraphs. Again, this style barely resembles what they've done once I've finished developing it (else I wouldn't use it) but it is something I wouldn't have come up with alone.


GIF reads: "Just be true to yourself and don't care what other people think, you're individual, you're unique, because, you're just you, and you're different."
The bottom line, as with so many of these blogging advice posts, is that I am only one person with one set of (limited) experiences. I know what works for me. But if anything I've said in this post isn't going to work for you, for whatever reason, cool. There's no point in changing anything you do well just for the sake of some weirdo's advice - even if that weirdo is me.

If you don't believe in what you are doing, it will be lackluster. And nobody wants to read lackluster. They want to read passion.


Just in case you need help following my second piece of advice, I've linked above to a Google Doc which I have stuffed full of links to various websites which host images licensed under Creative Commons Zero. I hope it's helpful!

In the comments: What's your favourite trick for encouraging people to read your blog posts? Have you found anything that doesn't work? Or do you think your techniques just are super-specific to what you do?

Lara, Why Aren't You A Millennial?

Hey, internet! It's been a long time, huh?

If we haven't met before, then hi. I'm Lara. You might have seen me around before on the book blog Another Teen Reader, where I think I carved out a small, vaguely identifiable corner of the internet using strong opinions about books, made-up words and unreasonably long, impassioned run-on sentences.

As you can see, the sentences themselves are still alive and kicking, and I doubt I'm going to get very long into this post without referring to awesomeness, but since I've been gone for so long I had an opportunity for a new start. Frankly, I wanted to air some strong opinions about life in general, so I thought moving away from the bookish brand a little bit might be a good idea.

In the relatively unlikely but absolutely lovely case you liked my old stuff and are upset by this, Another Teen Reader is still live for you to scroll through. And I'll definitely be talking about books now and again here.
GIF reads: "It is so hard to stop."
Today, I thought I'd write a post that vaguely explains my kooky blog title. Why, exactly, am I not a millennial? And why would my Mum think I was?

#1 - AGE

The first, and possibly most confusing, thing that you discover about generations when you start researching Googling it is that they are by no way definite. Practically every site you see will have a different date for where one generation becomes another, but according to the internet's general consensus, the youngest millennials were born somewhere around 1995, and that absolutely means that if you do not remember having your own worldviews and philosophies at the turn of the millennium, you are categorically Generation Z and have to accept this.
Miss Piggy GIF reads: "I am who I am. Why can't you accept that about me?"
Which I guess makes sense. But based on the internet's overall opinion on millennial life (which is both sizeable and shockingly divided) I'd always assumed - along with my parents - that they were kids. I'd always shouldered the generally anxious and misunderstood millennial identity. One particularly succinct Urban Dictionary entry describes 'millennial' as

"a term used by insecure idiots to dismiss somebody aged 10-35"

but that, dear questionable friend from Urban Dictionary, is wrong. 23 to 40 would be more like it. And there are many, many debates to be had about why exactly public opinion is so skewed to reality, but my personal theory is a combination of older people not wanting to feel old and wanting to dismiss the technological culture of millennials as a 'kid thing'.

Where that culture comes from is another question.


One of the more existential questions I've asked myself about this whole thing is why generations even exist as a concept. It's not as if between the 31st of December 1995 and the 1st of January 1996 someone flicked a huge comical breaker switch and created a huge, definable divide between millennials and Gen Z. Both me and my cousin Will (hello, Will) are technically Gen Zers, but we've had many long, overly animated conversations about how the differences in our early childhood memories have shaped us as people. And those differences are sometimes incredibly wide - particularly when it comes to technology, politics, and Harry Potter.
GIF: *Hermione startles*
Maybe this just shows that generational borders are just symptoms of the human obsession with putting things in neat, labelled little boxes, but to me it also demonstrates just how much childhood experiences - even the tiny, tiny ones - shape how we view the world. And that might explain why we find generations so important.

When Googling 'milennial childhood experiences', I found Tamagotchi (which I'd only heard of in nostalgic sitcoms), some really really questionable fashion choices ...
GIF: Boy in unfashionable jumper rolls his eyes
... and 9/11.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that 9/11 was an excellent example for how huge historical events have made millennials so different to Gen Zers. Ask anybody born before 1996 and they will almost definitely be able to tell you where they were when the Twin Towers fell. It was a momentous event in people's lives that changed the way they view a whole religion, not to mention immigration and border security.

And I wasn't even born yet.

Milennials see modern-day terrorism as a recent threat, but for Generation Z ... it's kind of a part of life. I'm not saying that's good or bad, but it is a notable life difference which will likely have an impact on how we see the world around us in the future.


Millennials are often described as the world's first digital natives - the first generation to have grown up with computers and other modern-day technology. But it can be argued that Generation Z are the world's first social media natives. With Facebook being launched in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, we have grown up waiting for the day we'd be thirteen and legally allowed to sign up to them (or just lying about our date of birth and hoping we wouldn't get caught later on).
GIF: Stephen Colbert crosses his fingers
What really interests me, though, is the difference between growing up in chat rooms and growing up on Twitter. People often link increased internet activity with the skyrocketing levels of anxiety and depression among young people, which is definitely logical considering the microscope it puts us under, but seeing that as the only consequence of social media normality on human behaviour is naive. Will it change the way we work? The way we raise our children?

That's the thing about being such a young generation. Only time will tell.


One of my favourite summaries of the differences between the two generations comes from the global recession that occurred around 2008. The theory is that milennials grew up before this, so they spent their childhood surrounded by the 'American Dream', the belief that they deserved a stable job and would be able to earn their own home as long as they worked hard. Despite the name, this was true pretty much globally, or at least in the west. Generation Z's earliest memories are of stock market crashes, cuts to public services and banks being propped up by the government.
South Park trading GIF reads: "Agh! Oh, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell, sell!"
We've lived our entire lives with 'getting on the housing ladder' feeling like some sort of acrobatic trick. Knowing that we were probably going to spend time unemployed. Milennials were blindsided by it. We never knew anything different.

And that explains the sheer morbidity of Generation Z humour. The amount of our communications that revolve around death, or just going to sleep and never waking up. It sounds horrifying out of context, and maybe it is, but for some reason our generation collectively sees it as casual. 

Where milennials might see "my life is a disaster" as a desperate cry for help, Generation Z would probably just think of it as another rainy Tuesday.


Well, you're in luck. I made you these cute little emoji-generational bookmarks. Click the link to download!

In the comments: What generation are you? Do you think your generation has changed who you are as a person? Or do you think you were born in the wrong era?
© No, Mum, I'm Not A Millennial
Blogger Templates made by pipdig