>Mid year assessment?

>This is a long post, so I’ve used subheadings to help break it up. Grab yourself a drink and pull up a chair.

Technology
I was quite busy at work on Wednesday and didn’t get time to write anything, but I hoped to put that right yesterday. However, first thing I noticed was the keyboard wasn’t working again. So I rebooted without the wireless and tried to use the inbuilt. Nothing. Nada – well, that’s not strictly true. Instead of “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs” I was getting “th5 q76ck br8wn f8x j7mp5d 8v5r th5 l2zy d8gs”. Hands up everyone that sees a problem with this.

And so I fired off a text to the virtual office buddy (“help”), and headed out to get a new wired keyboard. As the wireless keyboard came with a wireless mouse, I had to also get a wired mouse. And because my rechargeable batteries were coming out of the charger red hot – and I mean RED HOT – I thought there might be something wrong with that too.

Finances
For those that haven’t noticed, I’m currently on a Very Tight Budget. This is because I’m working with cash rather than relying on plastic. It really is a culture shock, but it’s essential if I’m to have any hope of getting on top of my finances. I’ve changed bank accounts and a lot of my money is now tied up in a suspended overdraft. So not only am I living on cash, I’m also living on my wages. Oh, and the money I’d put aside for a weekend at the Edinburgh Book Festival? Gone on something unexpected … :o(

Some of my direct debits will come out for June and July after July’s pay day, and that’s given me some breathing space. So I allowed myself £50 for the keyboard, mouse and battery charger + batteries, and I spent £45.

I also had clothes to buy as I have Nothing To Wear for work – nothing summery at any rate, and we really have been having a heatwave. I have several lovely patterned hippy-type skirts but I didn’t have many plain coloured tops to wear with them. So I allowed myself a further £50 to get some co-ordinating separates, and I spent £40.

Dice with death
When I got home – despite some idiot trying to kill me on the road on the way – the clothes were great. However, I’d not thought to check the connection on the keyboard because I thought they were all usb these days … and it’s a parallel. So I couldn’t connect that and try it, although the mouse worked wonderfully. After my brush with death I didn’t feel up to heading out again, so I’m going to drop in on the way home today to get the keyboard changed for a usb one – if they have any.

It’s such a nuisance not having a keyboard. We really do take these things for granted. The virtual office buddy is going to take a look at my inbuilt keyboard, and hopefully a usb wired one will work. But I’m also going to take my office laptop home so I can at least type on that over the weekend and save everything to memory stick.

Back to the beginning
Some of us were saying a few days ago that we were much more prolific when we were starting out, yet now we make our living from writing (or part of it), we’re too busy getting distracted by the internet and games and emails and other such delights. So on Wednesday evening, when it was too hot to sleep, I worked until 1am decluttering my desk area and sorting out some sort of workable plan.

I have several books “on the go”, started and abandoned, pushed to one side for whatever reason, but they’re all there, where I can see them, in their various boxes and files, taunting me, poking their tongues out, telling me I’m rubbish. So I decided to prioritise.

I have a contract for a book. I also have a contract to produce 4 bi-lingual magazines a year + up to 2 brochures + a website to keep updated. These have to be my number 2 and number 1 priorities as they pay the bills – one pays the bills now, the other will help pay bills in 2 years time. Everything else (all the books) went into one box, in a tidy fashion, for me to choose just one project from. I have yet to choose that project, but it may be The Beast Within.

I don’t want to write articles for magazines any more, it’s bloomin’ hard work and soul destroying at times. I’d love to write short stories for magazines, but the market is shrinking and publications that once paid on acceptance are now paying on publication … if you’re lucky. But the ideas for articles come so naturally to me, complete with various slants and picture opportunities, and I do still want to write short fiction. If I discipline myself, I can go back to the beginning, enjoy what I’m doing, and selling it will be a bonus.

The new work plan
And so I’ve set up a sort of “study” schedule, because when I was “learning” I was prolific and successful. When I was treating it like a college course, I was doing it.

The day job and the book I’m contracted to write will go in the diary first. Life and relaxation will go in next. Then I’ll know how much time I have to devote to everything else. I have several text books that will give me ideas and suggestions on how to get going and what to write, if I’m ever stuck for subject ideas (rare). And I’m going to try to learn shorthand. I have a Teeline text book and an audio CD. I’m also learning about the chakkras.

As far as short non-fiction is concerned I’m going to carry on with fillers for now as these are so much less time consuming and much more profitable in the long run, on a pro-rata basis. I have 4 books to work to with non-fiction. And I’m going to work my way through the books on writing short stories, do the exercises, and send them out. The Lynne Hackles is the NF “workbook” I have with me today; the Della Galton is the fiction “workbook”. I’ll graduate to the media handbooks (2) and the creative writing handbooks (2), one at a time.

And I need to get fit and healthy – physically and financially.

Large purchases
At some point it’s obvious to me that the laptop is going to need replacing. It’s 3 years old now and has been playing up for about the past 6 months. I’ll keep it going for as long as I can, and at least I do have the work laptop to fall back on if I need it, and the pocket pc. I can also do a few things from the mobile phone. But some time soon, I’m going to need a new computer.

Looking in the clothes shop yesterday I realised the reason I don’t wear skirts very often is because I don’t like many of them. The skirts I do have are many, many years old. I used to make some of my own clothes for the same reason, so I’m going to have a look at some of the dress pattern sites and if there are enough that I like, I might have to get another sewing machine. Then I could also make my own soft furnishings again and other little nick-nacks.

The laptop is a priority. I did give a sewing machine away, but it wasn’t suitable for my purposes. Something else to ponder.

The end
June was horrible. July is the start of the rest of the year. Here endeth my “mid year assessment”.