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The Saturday prior to my flight to Portugal was not a good day, mainly because I spent a grand total of three hours searching the entire house for two books, Big Little Lies and Me Before You. I'd saved them for my holiday because I knew that in my post-dissertation bewilderment I'd want something easy to read. As it turns out, my plans had been sabotaged by my mother, who cheerfully confessed: 'Oh, those? I think I took them to the charity shop. They were really good, you'd have liked them.' After embarking upon a naive and rather desperate rescue mission to rescue them, I eventually picked up John Green and David Leuithan's Will Grayson, Will Grayson instead.

Now, I've said it before and I'll say it again: I do not like John Green. I hate his super soppy, quasi-deep narratives which scream 'I'm so intellectual.' (In this case, he actually manages to align a budding teenage romance with the philosophy of Schrodinger's cat - will someone please make him stop?) That said, Will Grayson, Will Grayson was a really, really good book. In it's tale of two teenage boys, both named - you guessed it - Will Grayson, the book manages to break away from YA tropes and present something that looks, dare I say it, a little more like teenage reality than anything I've ever read. Here's what I loved about it:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is written in equal parts by Green and Leuithan, who take on alternate chapters written from the perspective of each Will Grayson. For the first few chapters, there are two narratives playing out simultaneously, in different locations, in remarkably different circumstances. It seems unlikely that these two parallel narratives will ever meet, but they do, and the orchestration of this collision was enough to make me pause, put down the book and recall the complex web of the story to my slightly disinterested mother. I will say nothing more about it, but if you've read the book, please tweet me so we can discuss.

Following their accidental collision, the boys' lives become entwined by their simultaneous orbit of Tiny Cooper, who is, as we learn, 'not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large.' He's also a bit of an asshole, as are both Will Graysons, which is what makes this book so great. These are YA characters that I can totally get on board with, characters that are flawed, and not in an 'I've got issues but that makes me interesting' kind of way. These characters are as annoying as every teenager you've ever met, including yourself.

This isn't a book about straight love but it's not just about queer love either. It's about all kinds of love; first love, puppy love, familial love, parental love, passions, hobbies, and most of all, friendship.
Remember that scene in Mean Girls, where she-doesn't-even-go-here-girl stands up and declares: 'I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.' Well, this book is about that. There's even a musical. You're gonna love it.

Overall, this book was really enjoyable and it totally restored my faith in YA lit. (Although perhaps I haven't read enough to make a fair judgement.) With that in mind, I'd appreciate some recommendations if you've got any?

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It's been four months. My MA dissertation has officially taken up a third of my year and I have barely any recollection of it. I can't remember any of my initial ideas or any moments of epiphany and frustration. Time has erased everything aside from my final submission. I should have kept a journal, I realise that now, which is why - in one last bid to preserve something, anything, of the experience other than a stack of A4 pages - I've chronicled the day of hand-in. 

5:27 - Bed
It's back. I can hear it through the open window, c-oo-OO-oo-oh. Again and again and again. I throw the covers off, reach for the curtains and slam the window shut before climbing back into bed. I hate that pigeon so much. 

7:00 - Bed
My alarm clock bleeps. It's a horrible high-pitched sound that gives me palpitations, but I'm sticking with it because I don't like my phone to be the first thing I touch in the morning; it's actually the second thing I touch. Baby steps, right? I get up after allowing my eyes to adjust to the light. 

7:16 - Desk
I take a few sips of my tea and eat half the bowl of porridge I've just made, quickly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram on my phone before responding to a couple of messages. As soon as my laptop has fired up, I open the browser and check Facebook; then I check Twitter again. I spend the next hour fixing the half-assed conclusion I wrote last night. It's still not great but it'll work. 

8:45 - Kitchen
There's a new oven in the middle of the kitchen floor, all wrapped up in polystyrene foam. The dog is circling it, sniffing every corner. As I wait for the kettle to boil, I think to myself: 'That's the kind of protective casing I'll need of I'm going to get through this day.'  

10:23 - Desk
I've finished editing, at last. I want to catch the 11 o'clock train into London so I have approximately 10 minutes to check page numbers and compile 5 different pdf files into a final document. I'm thoroughly panicked.

10:42 - Front Door
I'm stuffing my back with books as I run through my checklist out-loud. I give the dog a quick kiss and tell her to wish me luck, then head out of the door. My dad yell's 'you can do it, mate!' as I scramble down the garden path, adjusting my t-shirt and tucking my phone into my pocket.

10:53 - Greggs
I've given myself shin splints from walking so fast, but at least I've got some extra time to stop off in Greggs before I reach the station. I pick up a bottle of water and some kind of caramel filled, sugar covered donut. I Instagram it, what else? 

11:07 - Train
I've bagged a window seat so I'm pretty pleased. After replying to a few messages I plug in my headphones; I'm listening to My Dad Wrote A Porno because it makes me laugh and I'm enormously anxious. A guard checks my ticket after about 20 minutes but other than that my journey is uneventful.

11:50 - London Waterloo
I've missed my connecting train by a few seconds, so I wait for the 12:03. It's really hot. 

12:36 - Library Cafe
I need to take a moment. I'm sitting on a purple sofa drinking tea and eating a cheese and onion sandwich, the same spot I sat in just over 2 years ago, but I was with my housemates then. We'd been surviving on a diet of cheese toasties as we prepared to submit our BA dissertations. It would have been cool to share the MA with them. I'm trying not to get sentimental so I listen to another episode of My Dad Wrote A Porno and write a list of all the things I need to do next.  

14:34 - Student Office
After battling with printers and binders, I hand in my dissertation. Various pieces of paper are stamped and I watch as the past 4 months of my life is dropped into a cardboard box, wrapped in green-coloured plastic. That's it? 

15:06 - Corner Shop
I call my mum from outside the station to tell her I've done it. I feel a bit spaced out, so I nip into the corner shop for an ice cream. There's carpet on the floor which isn't as gross as you'd think. The whole shop smells like pick'n'mix and I feel like I've been transported back to my childhood. I resist the urge to stay there and head to my platform to catch my train.

15:56 - Train
I wake up after falling asleep against the window. I have a few messages from friends congratulating me and asking if I feel relieved. Weirdly, I don't. I feel stressed, tired, and a little sad. These moments are always quieter than expected. No confetti, no heart-pumping soundtrack, but that's ok. For now, I just want to get home and have a lie down. I'll toast to my achievements tonight.



Fifteen thousand, that's how many words I have to write in the next four weeks - by September 15th, to be exact. In theory it's manageable, but, in practice, it's proven to be a bit more difficult than I expected. Because no matter how experienced I might be at this point in my MA, fifteen thousand words is a lot to comprehend; it's a lot to map out, in my head and on paper even. And so, up until last weekend, my pile of notes continued to grow while my word-count remained at zero, the blinking cursor on the blank document taunting me with every flash.

Naturally, Panic and Perfectionism set in. And let me tell you, these are not a friendly pair. While Panic urged me to move forward and just write something, Perfectionism would quietly tap me on the shoulder and whisper: 'yeah but, if it's not right you'll only have to do it again.' I didn't have the mental energy to satisfy either of them; Panic wanted stamina, Perfectionism demanded concentration, and I couldn't face hours spent at my desk. But then I found a solution. In an effort to ensure that my weekend wasn't a total bust, I told myself: 'Work for fifteen minutes, that's all.' So, I did.

With only fifteen minutes on the clock, I was comforted by the knowledge that it would be over pretty fast. What's more, it forced me to focus on the one-inch picture frame; this is a technique I learned from Bird by Bird (a writer's essential, FYI), in which Anne Lamott suggests starting with something small, tiny even, to combat creative paralysis. You can't, after all, write fifteen thousand words in fifteen minutes. And by lowering the stakes, doing little bits in short bursts, I actually managed to draft half my word-count - seven and a half thousand words - in around four days.

So, I thought I'd share this gem of wisdom. I'm sure I'm not the only one who tends to bunker down during big projects and torture myself into working for solid hours/days/weeks. It's easy to believe 'the bigger the project, the bigger the personal sacrifice.' But that's not a great philosophy - it's mine, I should know - mainly because it leads to eternal misery and total burn out. In reality, you don't need to put your life on hold to get stuff done, all you need is fifteen minutes.