The sound of silence : why noise is bad for you

effectsofnoiseI have a confession.

I struggle to cope with noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the whole nightclub/pub thing and even played musical instruments in orchestras but, over recent years, I have found it increasingly difficult to cope with ‘prolonged’ noise. I also find places where there is a cacophony of noise difficult too.

When I am in a noisy environment I can literally feel my blood pressure rising – it’s like a kind of panic almost – and the need to escape the noise is overwhelming. I often dream of being on an isolated island with just the cat for company (!) which until I read this article I figured it was all a part of me getting old – apparently not – yet I am not sure if the article has made me feel better or worse about my situation.

The article (How noise can make you fat, stressed and more likely to have a stroke…) featured in the Daily Mail online (31/10/16) quotes from the World Health Organisation:

“…noise pollution is one of the most pressing threats to public health, second only to air pollution, and responsible for a range of conditions from stress and sleep problems to heart disease and strokes — it can even make us fat.”

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Evidently our bodies respond to noise by triggering the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Our body will begin to produce several stress hormones and, if the noise is prolonged, eventually our bodies will start to produce cortisol which is a stress hormone that can negatively affect health. The article states several risks from this such as increased blood pressure, risk of stroke, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and sleep problems.

I must admit that although I knew I was stressed by noise, I had no idea that it could pose a risk to my health but I guess it follows that if I am stressed then my blood pressure will rise and I know that’s not a good thing.

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Image courtesy of digital art via freedigitalphotos.net

In my personal circumstances it is impossible to live without noise. My youngest son is severely autistic (amongst other conditions) and to him, noise is a stimuli. He makes as much noise as is humanly possible for as long as possible, which I know has not helped my situation.

Clearly there is little that I can do to stop the noise created by my son, however, the article does suggest simple changes such as achieving a period of ‘quiet time’ each day – even ten minutes can be beneficial, it says. There was one other basic piece of advice which I have followed too, one which again I had given absolutely no thought to. I have changed the notification tone on my phone and tablet. I had a rather adorable old-fashioned ‘choo choo’ noise selected for email notifications, however, it was quite loud. Now I have changed this to a small ‘tweet’ sound, a bit like that of a bird, which, given my desire to be out in the wilds, is actually much more preferable.

For me it was an interesting read, not least because it means that I do genuinely have a reason for struggling with my tolerance to noise which has nothing to do with getting old. I know of some writers who cannot write unless they are accompanied by the radio or their favourite music but I am not one of those. I have realised that I really need my ‘quiet time’ and my ‘tweet tweet’ noise to keep my stress levels lowered and, if I can do this then I won’t be stifling my creativity – another potential side effect of too much exposure to noise.

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My only regret is that it is no longer the 1980’s because if it was, I could get away with wearing pink, fluffy ear muffs… sigh…

What about you? Can any of you relate to my struggle with noise?

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Authors : Website, blog or both?

3d human with a red question markI have a dilemma. My website run by GoDaddy (www.annmariewyncoll.com) is due to expire and I thus have the option to renew it for another year – at a fee.

I initially set up this website as a way to generate freelance custom, however, apart from setting it up I have done very little else and so it has just kind of ‘sat there’ for a year. This being the case, I had decided not to renew it but I figured I ought to see what had been happening to it before I deleted it. Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I discovered that my website actually generates more traffic than my blog which I do spend time on and, even though its presence has not led to any business, it does mean that via my website, I am visible. This, from a marketing perspective, is huge.

With my new book due out early next year, it is important for me to be as pro-active and visible as I can be so I decided to add my blog link to my website in an effort to combine the two and kind of cross refer them. When my book is published I could use the website as a sales platform – should I decide to renew it.

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Having just finished a digital marketing diploma via Shaw Academy (who I cannot recommend highly enough) I know that I need to be able to interact on a number of digital platforms but as we all know when we are doing this ourselves time is at a premium – so I thought I would ask all of you authors out there: what do you do?

Do you have a blog and website and if so, how do you manage them both?

Or do you just have one or the other? Have you found one to be more beneficial than the other?

Any thoughts and advice here would be much appreciated. Thank you!

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My 5k journey : is complete!!

This time a week ago (Saturday), I completed my 5k run in the beautiful seafront setting of Southsea, Portsmouth, UK. The sun was shining and the scenery couldn’t have been more perfect.

I achieved my goal – which was to run the entire distance – and I finished in a reasonably respectable time of 39mins 52 secs. I would have liked to have been closer to 35mins but considering the hit and miss nature of my training over the last month, I was thrilled just to have finished.

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Having a laugh pre-race

Having completed the race I thought that would be me done, but oddly, it’s not. I like the feeling of being fitter – even if I have not lost any weight as yet – and so I have decided to continue running with an aim of getting a faster 5k time in the future. I am also going to try to increase my distance and am looking at getting a 10k plan which I would like to try to run in Spring next year.

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The all important ‘finishers’ medal

I wouldn’t say that I have enjoyed this journey – the training has been challenging and the race was much harder than I thought it would be – but I do feel proud of myself for sticking with it and knowing that I can achieve something like this has pushed me onwards. I am never going to be the most natural or fastest runner in the world, but if I can keep going and benefit from the fitness then I reckon that can only be good not just physically but, perhaps more importantly, mentally.

Thanks for following the journey with me!

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A spooky premonition – and it’s not even Halloween…

night_owlMy husband works early shifts which means that he leaves the house when I am still in bed. Most mornings I wake up and mumble something that sounds a bit like ‘bye’ at him and then fall back to sleep again.

A few days ago the same thing happened as it does every morning and I woke up to mumble at him then watch his departing form. As he left the room on that particular day though, I had a sudden urge to tell him to remember to take his phones with him (he has two for work, don’t ask why) yet I was not awake enough to form the words. Knowing that he always takes his phones anyway I said nothing and went back to sleep.

Some time later it became apparent that he had indeed forgotten to take both of his phones and they were chirping away in the kitchen. As I went downstairs to retrieve them I was reminded of my premonition earlier and it kind of spooked me out. Never before or since that day have I had the urge to tell him something when he leaves for work, so why that day?

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This is not the first time that something like this has happened to me. A friend once told me that these happenings are God reminding you that he is with you, but I am not a firm believer in faith so I just don’t know. Maybe it’s a coincidence, one of those things that you just can’t explain, but maybe not. Maybe premonitions do really happen.

What do you think? Has anyone else had a similar experience?

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How do you manage your self-publishing budget?

thIt is not a cheap business to self-publish a book and there are certain things – in my opinion – which are essential to invest money in before you even consider putting your book out there; a professional edit and a quality cover design are just two of them.

As with everything you can shop around for editing prices and cover designers but at the end of the day, if you don’t invest money into these two crucial elements, then I believe you are only cheating yourself.

When I decided to self-publish I allocated myself a budget and out of that I have paid for both an edit and a cover design and have purchased a block of ISBN numbers for this and future books. In addition my budget will cover the cost of title set up with Ingram Spark (print on demand and catalogue provider to bookshops worldwide) but that is about it. After that, the budget is pretty much done.

In order to tackle marketing I am currently enrolled on a Digital Marketing course with Shaw Academy and plan to take the Social Media Marketing course with them too. I was extremely fortunate to get both of these courses at a vastly reduced cost and there is no doubt that they are hugely beneficial, however, beyond that there is not much in the coffers for marketing itself.

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As I pondered this today it occurred to me that in order to get money to market my book I need to sell it, yet I need to market it to sell it – so it’s a catch 22 situation. There are, of course, several free ways to market my book, but I know that I need to put a solid marketing strategy in place to have any chance of success. This may or may not involve additional cost.

Yesterday I was offered a way to obtain all the marketing support and advice I could ever want – yet it is sadly cost prohibitive and so I wondered what all of you self-publishing authors out there are doing? How do you manage your budget? Do you pay for marketing or do you stick to free marketing options?

Any and all thoughts and advice, gratefully received.

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Here’s a lesson for you all

This is a really important lesson for us all. I learned the hard way too!

Brian Anthony

Having finished the draft of the first part of the novel last week, I’ve started from the beginning again, doing a readability and sense check. On Sunday night, having completed chapter 4, I saved my work and closed up my laptop, pretty much as normal.

Yesterday morning when I opened my lap top, instead of resuming Windows as it normally does, it informed me the previous run hadn’t been shut down normally. I selected the normal start option. This happens occasionally.

I think you know what’s coming here.

Usually, Open Office flags up documents which were open, and goes into recovery mode, On this occasion it didn’t. So I went into the folder and clicked on the document. It presented me with a panel headed ‘ASCII Filter Options’. Strange. I’d never seen this before. It contained a number of options which seemed to suggest it was importing from an ASCII file…

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Need inspiration? Go for a walk..

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debspoons via freedigitalphotos.net

Imagine the scene…you’re staring at your computer and you know what you want to say but will those words come?

No, of course they won’t.

You try harder, you type a few lines but still it doesn’t feel right.

You get frustrated. Yesterday the words flowed from your finger tips but today those fingers feel like lead.

Ever been there? I’m sure we all have.

One great tip that I was given for such a moment is to go for a walk. It doesn’t have to be far and it doesn’t have to be anywhere exciting, it just gives everything a break for a while and allows the endorphins to do their thing which, incidentally, they are great at doing.

On one such occasion I went for a walk down the main road which is a short distance from my house. A ladder was leaning up against the wall of one of the small two-up, two-down terraced dwellings along this road and the pavement on which the foot of the ladder was resting was narrow. This left anyone walking along the pavement with two choices: to walk around the ladder and onto the main road or to walk underneath the ladder and remain on the pavement. I watched for a moment and was unsurprised to see every single person step into the main road rather than walk underneath the ladder – clearly the most dangerous option. So, why did they all do that?

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In the UK there is a superstition that says you will bring bad luck upon yourself if you walk underneath a ladder. There is also a superstition that says you should never stroke a black cat with green eyes, nor should you open an umbrella indoors. It is also considered bad luck to have a bird relieve itself upon your head and if you break a mirror – well, you’re in the mire for seven years. I think I was out walking for less than half an hour but by the time I returned home my brain fog had cleared and I had the bones of an idea for an article about superstitions, purely from a ladder leaning against a wall.

I know it feels like all our time is precious and that we should take advantage of every possible writing moment that we have, yet it really is amazing how taking just a few moments out to observe our surroundings can kick start the creative flow. Try it next time you’re stuck.

Oh, and I guess it’s not bad for our health, either.

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