How went April?

So how did I do in April?

  • 1 week’s holiday 
  • write 1,000 words every day
  • update price list 
  • author and proof-reader edits on historical fiction #1 
  • weekly walks’ reports for 6 local newspapers
  • daily dog walk
  • edit 145,000-word auto-biography
  • update gig list weekly
  • weekly banking
  • proof-read non-fiction #1 – c/f
  • proof-read new client novel – c/f
  • write sample chapter for own non-fiction – c/f
  • weekly diary work
  • 2 x dental appointments (shudder)
  • GP appointment 
  • hair appointment
  • weekly invoices/book-keeping
  • author and proof-reader edits on historical fiction #2
  • 1 x trip to Birmingham
  • ad-hoc work as it comes in from new contract

Extras

  • final author edits on historical fiction #1 
  • additional trip to Birmingham 
  • quote on 3 invited jobs 
  • take car for new exhaust 

And finally, 30k in 30 days …

30k in 30 days

Historically, although I’ve always been über-busy, even when I was a prolific and constant freelance writer, writing for my own pleasure has always taken a back seat. If I have paid or contracted work to do, that work always gets done first.

For years I’ve been trying to carve out regular time for my own writing pleasure, but always the paid gigs come along and take priority.

These days the “day job” is the editing and proof-reading I do for other people. This pays the bills, it covers the mortgage, it enables me to have a car, and it means we eat – or most of the time at least. I don’t drink or smoke, it’s not a fast car, I don’t even dye my hair any more, and I don’t have package – or any kind of – holidays. I really do work to live and, most of the time, I make ends meet.

I lost the last day job in May 2011, and the first year was spent doing jobs around the house and gradually kick-starting the freelance career again, building up work and contracts. On 6 April 2012, I officially became self-employed again, after a 6-year break, and it’s taken the whole year to get the balance right between working and getting that work in. And in April 2013, I decided it was time to prioritise my pleasure writing again, particularly as some of it will be paid writing eventually.

I set myself a challenge to write 30,000 words over 30 days in April – 30k in 30 days – thinking that, once again, my own writing would get pushed aside to make way for the paid gigs. But do you know, I seem to have done it. There’s still one day left, but a quick look at the word meter in the side bar reveals just how well I’ve done it, considering my previous output had been zero.

So, aside from the word count accomplishment, in April only I’ve also completed eight separate items (short stories, articles, fillers) and with one day to go have written a perfectly respectable 28,922 words.

I’ll definitely do it again in May (1k a Day in May) and may even raise the bar, but we shall see about that. April got particularly busy and I’m still catching up on both lost time and a job taking much, much longer than I thought it would.

Do Diddle Day
As it turned out, and in case you didn’t notice, I did take my Do Diddle Day off last Friday after all. I finished the long job at around midnight on Thursday, and then burned out, quite simply. I didn’t have a diddle in me, let alone anything else. So I took the day off and spent it doing whatever I felt like.

That started with a lie-in until midday. I was shattered and I slept despite next door having a new hot water system fitted. The dog barked a bit, and there were drilling and cutting noises, but I was zonked out.

When I surfaced, I took the dog to Pugney’s Water Park near Wakefield for a good run, but when I got home I thought my car exhaust might be blowing a bit. I dropped the dog off and did some shopping – and treated myself for all of my hard work – but by the time I came home from the supermarket there was no “thought” about it. My exhaust was definitely blowing.

There was nothing I could do about it then, though. So I chilled in front of the telly for the next 5 or 6 hours, pigging chocolate and swilling cider. I needed the time out.

The weekend
I’d promised one of my editors that I’d catch up with a job on Saturday, but I ended up taking my car in to the garage to be looked at. I was supposed to be going out to Leeds on Saturday night, and to Birmingham on Sunday, but I didn’t want to risk it if the exhaust pipe might drop off at any moment.

While they looked at the car, I nipped up to have a chat and a cuppa with the gig buddy, who has a shop nearby, and when I went back, the mechanic confirmed my fears. I need a new exhaust. Or the front and middle sections at least.

This is not good. And it meant I had to cancel my trips to Leeds and to Birmingham.

The car’s going in tomorrow morning and I’m going to take some work to do in the library. Then I’ll collect the car, collect the dog, and head down to Birmingham anyway for the rest of the day. They said if I can get my car in for 8:30am (har har – and there was me thinking I’d given up early mornings), then it will be ready by 12 noon. That still gives me time to have a couple of hours with my mom and dad.

The promised job was worked on on Sunday, with me not going gallivanting about after all, and delivered late last night. I’ve had enough of these late nights for now. They don’t make Diane a very happy bunny; in fact, I get quite grumpy when I don’t get enough sleep.

Looking ahead
My April achievements will be up tomorrow, it being the last day of the month, and my May to-do list will be up on Wednesday, it being the first day of the new month. Some of my April jobs have moved along to May, and that 1k a Day in May will have started too.

So, hopefully, I’ll see you Friday.

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Spring flowers

P1020189I wish I had some lovely cheerful flowers in my lounge right now, but these from 2 years ago will do. Aren’t they lovely? The flowers are late this year. The daffodils are only just showing along the roadsides, but there’s a better show this year than I’ve ever seen since moving here 9 years ago.

There’s a bypass in Solihull that breaks out into full daffodil bloom every single spring, but Barnsley has always been about 2 weeks behind. This year, after such a long winter, it’s even further behind – although as I haven’t been down the bypass in Solihull yet this year, maybe it isn’t. It’s never been a patch on Solihull before, but it’s getting there this year.

Is it every 3rd year the daffodils flourish?

Everything is late. It’s almost the end of April and lots of garden birds are still only just collecting nest material. I empty out all of my hairbrushes, and the pet brushes, so they have soft hair to line their nests too. The pigeons are funniest, the size of the twigs and sticks they fly back with. I often wonder if their partners tell them to go back and try again.

My apple tree is only just starting to sprout. The other one is well and truly D E double D dedd and I need to get another. They’re self-fertilising, but the surviving apple tree hasn’t borne fruit for 2 years, so I think they need a helping push. The apple blossom has been lovely, but that’s late too. My grapevine also looks dead, but when I scratched the stem with a thumbnail, I spotted green, so it may just be late too.

The hydrangea, which is always late, seems to be the first one coming into leaf. The whole garden is out of kilter and I daren’t even try sowing seeds yet, even with my mini-greenhouse. It’s still far too cold out there at night.

My Do Diddle Day is probably going to be late too. I’ve been working late for several nights and the never ending editing job still never ends. I feel as though I’m working at a cliff face instead of a type face. I’ve sent the first half of the book off to the client to keep him busy for a day or so, but when a job drags it certainly does it with style.

So I may have to postpone my Do Diddle Day this month. I will have one, just maybe not on Friday. I’ll also be staying home to work tomorrow instead of going to the local council meeting.

It’s not that I have a lot to do, more that this one job is taking three times longer than I thought it would – and therein lies the problem. It’s a set price job so I still get the same if it takes me 1 week or 3 weeks, so I’m going to have to do some financial juggling again – I’m getting good at juggling fresh air. And everything else has to get in the queue, which is the other part of the problem, although I have snuck in a couple of copywriting jobs this week and the gig list.

I’ll also probably cancel the Leeds write-in too, and I was toying with a gig in Leeds Saturday night as well that may also get shelved. The gig buddies won’t come as far as Leeds with me, so I would have been going on my own anyway, and I’m not sure I’m up to that either.

I think I’m in need of a pamper. Or maybe just flowers. Offers in the usual place … 😉

Oh, what a glorious thing to be …

I don’t usually work weekends. No, really, I don’t. And I bang on about it often enough. But when I have deadlines looming, when I’m a bit behind, or when I’ve taken on a bit more work than I can handle, then I break the rule. That’s one of the reasons rules are there in the first place.

This time, it’s a combination of two things – 1. losing time due to injury and holiday; and 2. a job turning out to be quite a bit bigger than I thought it would be.

I didn’t work on Saturday. I have things that still need doing, like walking the dog, shopping, washing, housework, etc. There’s no-one to delegate to, and the animals just aren’t learning fast enough. I also need time off to recharge.

On Thursday evening, I burned out. I ground to a halt. I wound down so quickly it was like a kick in the face. But Friday morning I was up and at ’em again, all bushy-tailed and raring to go.

But I had Saturday off.

Yesterday, Sunday, I worked. Solidly. All Day. I finished at 1am this morning. Then at 9am, I was back at my desk.

Last night I finished all the manual edits on a big book I’ve been working on. This morning I fired off an update email to the client, and I started the electronic updates. Somewhere in between I snuck a copywriting quickie in for a new client. I needed the respite more than anything. Then I was back at the type face.

At about 3pm I broke off again to walk the dog, nip to the shop, post a couple of things, and while there I bumped into the keep fat buddy. I’ve not seen her properly for, ooh, about a year. So we nattered for a good while at the end of her front path, and then she walked back with us to the top of our snicket, and then we nattered some more. It was great to catch up, but it was gone 5pm by the time I got back in.

I did another hour of work, broke off to cook tea, feed the pets, wash up, watch a bit of telly while I ate my tea, write a few words, set the DVD to record a couple of programmes on telly, and watch a third programme that clashed for just an hour.

It’s 10:30pm now and I just washed my hair. I’m writing this while I run a bath. The next job will be the walks reports for the 6 local newspapers. And if my hair isn’t dry yet, I’ll do a few more electronic edits.

This week I have an appointment in town on Tuesday afternoon, there’s a full council meeting on Thursday I wanted to attend, I have a Do Diddle Day on Friday, I’m meeting up with another friend for a writing session (yes, I have another friend!), I’ve promised the Leeds write-in lot that I’ll try and be there Saturday, and I’m in Birmingham on Sunday.

I have this current book to finish editing (this week), author and proof-reader feedback to apply to a historical novel, another historical novel we’re having layout issues with, a new client’s novel to read and provide feedback for, a non-fiction to proof-read, and a magazine client nagging me for a couple of stories. Plus my own writing work. And life. And all that other stuff in between.

It’s also the start of bill-paying time.

I think I need an extra day this week. Or maybe two. Or something may need to give. Thank goodness we have another 2 days in April next week …

And people think I’m making it up when I say that I’m busy.

Happy days. 🙂

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Friday 19 April 2013

I’ve certainly had a full and busy week. I’ve managed my 1,000 words a day, and am slightly ahead of myself now. I’ve ticked everything in my diary, apart from 2 short yoga sessions. I’ve been plodding steadily through a heavy edit. The dog’s had his walks. I’ve had R&R time. And I’ve lost a little weight.

The weather has been very mixed. We’ve had gale force winds, glorious sunshine, heavy showers. I think March (winds) and April (showers) may be catching up now. The bird table has blown over and the kennel has blown off its bricks. But no damage so far (touch wood).

I have no plans for the weekend. I want to try and catch up with some more backlog of work. I might do some shopping. But that’s it. No gigs lined up, no major walks planned. All very boring, in fact. I may do some baking and, if I do the shopping, I may do some batch cooking.

And that’s it. Y’all have a good one! 😉

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Three days a week

I’ll be regularly updating the blog again, but only for 3 days a week, on the 1st day of the month for the month’s to-do list, on the last day of the month for the how-I-did, and on Do Diddle Days to remind folk it’s a Do Diddle Day. Watch out for updates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and – where they don’t fall on those days – the other 3 days too (1st, last, 26th).

This fits in much better with me not necessarily being on the pc every day when I’m busy. I’ll come on every Monday to do the walks reports and file those, I’m on every Wednesday to update the gig list, and every Friday to do invoices. As everything else can pretty much be done on the phone, and as I have weekends off (in case anyone has forgotten), it’s unlikely I’ll be here outside of those times – unless I’m submitting work by email or typing up, but I won’t necessarily be online whilst typing up.

Posts on the 1st, last and 26th can be scheduled in advance.

So, happy bunnies; job jobbed.

I’m working on a heavy edit at the moment. It’s a 146,000-word auto-biography and I’m probably cutting it down, as I go along, by about 26,000 words. When it comes to wielding an axe, I’m right up there with the best of them. It’s long and hard work, but it’s a really interesting story and I’ve suggested it to already-lovely-boss and already-lovely-boss’s-also-lovely-boss, and they seem keen too.

I’m still a little behind, and catching up on backlog caused by holiday and injury. A nice, easy job would have been good, but this one was next in the queue, so it’s the next one I’m working on. I also had another set of author edits on a previous book for already-lovely-boss’s-other-colleague, and that was so quick to sort out, I did it in between. We’re still having layout issues with that one, but I need to crack on a bit more with this one before allowing myself to be distracted again.

Hopefully I’ll get there soon and everyone will be happy again.

The 30k in 30 days in April challenge is going really well, and the eagle-eyed will see that not only am I on track, but I’m also over half-way. This is such a big thing for me as, usually, my own work takes a back seat. Closer to the end of the challenge I will do an update on this, along with a list of accomplishments (me and my lists … 😉 ).

However, it’s working so well that my own writing is now becoming a priority, even if it is only lots of short works getting completed finally. And because of this I’m looking ahead to May and wondering how to raise the bar. So, here are today’s questions:

  1. Do I just carry on with the 1,000 words a day until I’ve run out of ideas for short works?
  2. Do I switch from short works to longer works (bearing in mind I have a non-fiction book as well as several novels to work on still)?
  3. Do I keep with the 1,000 words a day on short works and add 1,000 words of longer works to it?
  4. Do I switch to 1,000 words a day on longer projects and carry on with short works if I haven’t run out of steam?

What would you do? Suggestions in the usual place – thank you!

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A diary I can work with

Whilst I may have been AWOL recently, I was settling into a system I can work with, having given up on trying to get up 2 hours earlier or working into the evening.

My optimum start to the working day is 9am, and my optimum finish is 5pm. I have a coffee break in the morning, a dinner break midday, and a tea break in the afternoon. His Lordship’s dog walk is the last job of the day at 5pm. If I need to get something to the post office, however, I’ll swap the dog walk and the afternoon tea break around. If I have a brief meeting in town, or an appointment, the dog comes with me and I walk him on the way home.

This is working really well. I’m filling the time between with writing work, daily yoga practice, whichever project I’m currently working on, and one regular job every day – walk report, weekly banking, gig list, weekly diary work, invoices/book-keeping. My Friday “project time” is my own non-fiction book. When I can see gaps ahead in the diary, I’ll also slot in a surf of the job boards.

If I sleep in, for whatever reason, I don’t beat myself up. I just start the working day an hour later and carry on until every job for that day has been ticked. Likewise, if I get up earlier (for whatever reason), I’ll start earlier and, therefore, either finish earlier or give myself longer for my own writing.

If I’m up against it, deadline-wise, then I put in the extra graft. But I like having evenings and weekends in which to do other stuff, either around the house, on other hobbies or out and about.

The 30k in 30 days in April challenge is working really well for shifting my own short works. When I’ve run out of short works (to make sure I have plenty of material doing the rounds), I’ll transfer over to novel work – I have plenty to choose from, after all. I’m hoping that by then I’ll be in the habit of regularly writing 1,000 words a day, or so, and the novel writing will come more easily. Crossing off another draft of an article, story, filler or reader’s letter is really good motivation, and by the end of the month there should be a fair few winging their ways around the markets. I’ll dedicate a whole blog post to the 30k in 30 days challenge.

I recently re-activated my Sky subscription and am currently catching up on a few series I had to do without whilst tightening the belt. Once I’ve caught up, evenings will once again be novel writing time. I need to do some planning for the current novel and the book Nail Your Novel by Roz Morris is still helping with that. But my Sky time is also my fun time at the moment, and I don’t see the point in working for yourself if you don’t get to enjoy any time to yourself as well.

Due to the recent fracture, which is finally healing – and to prove it we did the 200+ mile round trip and went to visit my parents on Sunday when I wan’t planning on going until next weekend – I’m about a fortnight behind with my work and frantically trying to catch up. But with this first long-distance drive under my belt, I can now think about going to the seaside again, or up to the Yorkshire Dales or the North York Moors or over to the Peak District again.

BUT … the diary is currently working, I’m hardly changing anything (and it’s always in pencil so that things can be moved around if/when necessary), there are lots of ticks, and I’m getting stuff done. Lots of stuff. Today I’ve been steadily editing an auto-biography and I’ve done the walks report. I’ve also done my daily yoga and I’ve walked the dog.

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To-do list for April …

I know we’re pretty much into April by now, but as this is my first week “back”, so to speak, I thought I’d start (ish) with April’s to-do list so far. The faint-hearted may sit this one out:

  • 1 week’s holiday 
  • write 1,000 words every day
  • update price list 
  • author and proof-reader edits on historical fiction #1 
  • weekly walks’ reports for 6 local newspapers
  • daily dog walk
  • edit 145,000-word auto-biography
  • update gig list weekly
  • weekly banking
  • proof-read non-fiction #1
  • proof-read new client novel
  • write sample chapter for own non-fiction
  • weekly diary work
  • 2 x dental appointments (shudder)
  • GP appointment 
  • hair appointment
  • weekly invoices/book-keeping
  • author and proof-reader edits on historical fiction #2
  • 1 x trip to Birmingham
  • ad-hoc work as it comes in from new contract

Wish me luck. 🙂

This is April's picture on the calendars.
This is April’s picture on the calendars.