Why I stopped being a freelancer

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The idea of freelancing as a writer is good in theory. You can do writing work and write your novel but the reality for me was quite different.

To make the money required for living, I had to do good quality jobs with clients who were prepared to pay good amounts of money and it seems since anyone can call themselves a writer, there was no lack of those who were willing to be paid 2 cents a word for a piece of writing.

While I specialise in business writing, I always had work but as someone who doesn’t embrace mindfulness very well and who has two children both requiring university and school fees to be paid monthly, the anxiety of monthly scrabbling around for some work began to wear me down and it crushed my time supposedly put aside for writing the book.

Why would I write the book when I have paid work to finish, so I can bill it, so I can get it in before the school fees are due, so I can get it in before the rent is due. It was cycle of pain and worry, and to be honest, I didn’t always think people were getting my best work.

And there is the holidays. Below is an actual image of freelancers trying to hang on through the holidays.

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Finding work takes time as a freelancer. I was very good at it but it was exhausting and relentless. Because I specialised, I was recommended to others by clients but it was sometimes dire and sometimes it was too much and so the anxiety forced me to stop writing my book and then I would become too busy to write my book.

And then there was the “brief creep”. The client starts out asking for a small thing and it ends up being bigger and bigger and you have to make sure you’re reminding them this will cost and keep it all documented in emails and then they balk at the costs.

What about competition? So many people are writing now and it means the quality isn’t always amazing and the costs to clients are lower.

For me, the idea of freelancing was only ever a means to an end but then kept going. Then I realised I wanted my job to support me as a writer not to impact my writing. I can’t do ten jobs in a week and then still expect to write 14,000 words a week for my book.

The freelancing was stressful and hurt my work as an author.

So I found a full time role that met my needs as a person, parent, partner and gave me the peace of mind to be able to devote my writing time to only my own creative work.

It is an odd feeling going from jumping from project to project and now being able to full immerse myself in the companies work and then when I go home, I have a single book to write.

I managed to write 20,000 words last month. I am hoping to write 62,000 words this month and finish my book, which my publisher is patiently waiting for.

I know myself and I know don’t do well with anxiety about the future. Dave reckons I am never happier when the food shopping is done and I have a few meals cooked in the freezer in case the ice age comes and we can’t get to Aldi.

To write I need block of time and for the first time I have this. And it is a godsend. I don’t have to keep going back to what I wrote three weeks ago to see how the story is progressing as I write.

I don’t have to get my head back into that space and I don’t feel guilty when I think I should be writing for paid work. Writing is a pleasure again and that is a true gift.

You have to do what’s right for you, but as my writer friend Jacquie calls them “A set and forget job,’ can be the greatest thing you will ever do for your writing.

When the boat sank - Sanya's story

Today we hear from Sanya who is a young girl who escaped Sri Lanka with her family. Sanya’s boat crashed off the coast of Indonesia, where people died, including three young siblings. Sanya and her mother had swum for between two and three hours in high seas to reach shore. This is her story with a little added fictional embellishment at the end, because we all need a happy ending, especially Sanya.

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Stories From Young Refugees in Melbourne

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Last year I judged a Youth Literacy Competition for schooled aged refugee children in Dandenong, Melbourne, Victoria as a part of the STAR Club (Students Taking on Active Role) at the Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre. The STAR club provides support to students with literacy, numeracy and study skills, help build confidence, self-esteem and feelings of connection to school and the wider community and they provide a safe place to study. They can also assist families to gain greater knowledge of the education system and provide opportunities for families to explore practical strategies to support their children’s learning at home.

The City of Greater Dandenong has the largest numbers of people seeking asylum in the country. The area has a population of approximately 152,000 people, more than 60% of whom were born overseas, with 64.% of households speaking a language other than English. 

The students are from Afghanistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Sudan.

I would like to share with you some stories that myself and author Fleur Ferris judged from these wonderful children, and who, despite the intention and behaviour of others, will prevail and become the voices of the next generation.

Today is a story about what it is like to be a refugee from a young girl called Nazdana. Thank you for reading. and if you would like to donate to the STAR Club and the Refugee Program in Dandenong, please click here.

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Deep Thoughts About Deep Work

I have been thinking about giving up writing because I have no self-control. I was also thinking of getting checked for late on-set ADD. I had to force myself to finish my personal writing work. I would find distractions and excuses everywhere. I would clean the microwave, lose hours on social media, anything to run away from my writing. Time to bring out the big guns and get a self-help book.

I like self-help books, particularly the ones that are prescriptive and with formulas, you can apply to you every day. I didn't want to unpack why I was avoiding my writing, instead, I wanted to know how to stop the bullshit.The bullshit antidote came in the form of a book called Deep Work. It's by a huge dork called Cal Newport, who is a computer scientist and seems like a bit of a tool in his TEDx talk and I hate TEDx because they don't pay their speakers, but Cal's book isn't tool-ish, which is great news for everyone.

If you are struggling with committing to your work and living in the shallows of life, and need help, then this is the book for you. 

Here are my top takeaways from the book:

1) Social Media is a networking tool and nothing more. People who see it as something more in their life clearly need to get a life. Take a 30-day break and see which ones you miss and which ones you're missed on. This will tell you which ones matter in your life. BUT remember they are products, owned by companies, designed to sell to you and sell your information to other companies with products.

Also, I realised I'm a tool on social media.  So I unfriended myself with Facebook and keep it now only for my gorgeous and private writing group which I run and love. Twitter was taking up too much of my time, as I tried to be clever and pithy, endlessly scrolling, but really avoiding writing pithy and clever dialogue for my book characters. 

Keep social media for networking purposes only and don't log in unless you have to, and I mean really have to! I promise, you're not missing anything in the general feed. 

2) Put more thought into your leisure time. God, how often did I sit and scroll looking at shit on my phone? Don't answer that, because it will hurt me like a punch to my colon. Finding ways to get the most out of your leisure time is personal. Some people might like to garden, or do craft. I like to read, and if I want to be a craftsperson in my writing, I need to read more. In a week, I have read three books, because I'm not scrolling in a vacuum of echoed, irrelevant content, wishing I was doing something better with my time.

3) Respect your time. This isn't just about social media, it is about using your time properly. This week I have written a huge tender, taken on a new paid job, edited a 50k manuscript, and written a treatment for TV show, because I showed up and respected the time I had allocated to work. And I did work in this time, without any distraction. No phone calls, texts, messages, no internet besides for research reasons if needed, and I set myself up for success. Coffee made, water bottle on the desk, some snacks, and a quiet space. It is kind of embarrassing how easy it was and how long it's taken me to commit to this style of work but my output is the evidence that it works.

4) The work you do at night is shit. I would often work at night, and it was usually always shit. Tired thoughts, distracted ideas, messy structure. No wonder I wasn't inspired to keep working. By deciding to not work at night means I am giving myself permission to read or I am allowing myself to take a break and watch Killing Eve and become obsessed with Villanelle. I am refilling my well.

5) The less information I am exposed to, the more I am learning and mastering my craft. The other day I was getting petrol, and I could hear someone was talking about the weather. I looked up and there was a TV, attached to the pump. I knew it was cold. I was outside getting petrol. Why do I have to be informed about everything all the time? Turn it all down. The radio, the news, the internet, social media. You have so many wonderful thoughts and idea everyday, but how can you hear them over the din of information clamouring for your attention.

I do think that social media has damaged my attention span but this week has also shown me that I am able to repair it if I set my rituals and routines up to do the deep work. I actually found myself wanting to go back to my work for the first time in two years. It was exciting and that felt like a freaking miracle!

I recommend this book if you want a solution to your concentration issues but like anything, it only works if you work it.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

When A Blog Dies

What happens when someone stops feeding their blog and it dies, much like a Tamagotchi from the 1980's?

Perhaps it's ghost stays online forever, particularly if it's on the old Blogger or Blogspot platform. Or some are eaten by another blog, new ideas and new ventures, and some, those whose parent no longer want to pay the cost of hosting their baby, euthanize it quickly and painlessly, except for those who miss it.

Below is the list of blogs I have bookmarked over the years.

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Many of these are now ghosts. Some are dead. The death of some make me sad, such as You Can't Call It It.  This blog had best collection of baby names I have ever read. In fact, I used it to name many of my characters. The loss of this blog cuts deeply. I wish I had saved it somehow. Is that even possible?

Othe blogs I still read, such as Meet Me at Mikes and Penelope Trunk. I have been reading Sixth in Line by Elisabeth Hanscombe for years and was thrilled when she recently joined the writer's group I have formed. Others I dip in and out of but knowing they're there is comforting. Reading Down to Earth, with its incredibly daggy format and casual chatty tone is like going to my Nana's for lunch. Many others I have left behind. Their content isn't relevant to my stage of life, or they went crazy because some people do when they share too much personal stuff on the web.

I have been blogging in some form since 2006. It's not always easy to think of things to write about but its a lesson in commitment and a form of practise for my writing. I have no idea who reads this blog, as I have never monetised it, nor had any statistic software added to it, other than what is offered and even then I don't understand it.When I read that blogging is dead, I shrug. Blogging is as alive as you wish it to be. Medium is blogging. Longer Facebook posts is a form of blogging. Threads on Twitter is blogging. Morning pages online is blogging. 

The term blog came from Web Log, which turned into Weblog, which became Blog. 

Logging the web. Logging the day. Logging your life.

Software developers log their day. The run a “Programmer Log”, which is the dates and time of what you had done that day, and you begin to see what takes time, what doesn't, what is hijacking your time and how much output you achieved. It's a great snapshot of your day. How can you improve?

I consider my blog as logging my thoughts, my life in some form, and logging my evolution. I can be a petty, shithead, and sometimes when I go back and read my posts, I see that I don't care anymore about whatever I was bitching about. I can also see great humour and love and loss and joy. In some ways, my blog is my diary, my confession and my explanation.

Read it or not, it will still be here tomorrow.

Happy Monday.

xx