Happy New Year!

We didn’t do too badly. The only things I didn’t manage on the list were: make a yule log; ice the Christmas cake; Santa run to Leicester; trip to that thar London. Everything else we did. I’m very happy with that.

I’ve been having a think of what I’d like from 2014 but, once again, I’ve decided not to do a massive great list for the whole year, but to do just a smaller one each month, as things change. I don’t really feel as though I achieved much, work-wise, in 2013, and this has to change.

So, for January, my main target is to write at least 1,000 words every working day. I know I can do that because I did it in April, 30k in 30 days. At the end of the month that gives me a target of 24,000 words, which means just 24 working days. (There are fewer in February.) I’ll still have my monthly Do Diddle Day.

Other targets for January include (on every working day):

  • write 1,000 words a day
  • surf job boards
  • daily competitions
  • at least 4 hours on paid bread and butter jobs (editing and proofreading)

Weekly:

  • blog (3 times)
  • walks report
  • diary work
  • invoices
  • weekly gig list update

Monthly:

  • monthly gig list update
  • Do Diddle Day

Personally, there are daily, weekly and monthly targets too, such as:

  • walk dog
  • yoga
  • go walking
  • days/trips out
  • loads of gigs

And that’s it. That’s my list for 2014. Sorry for any disappointment, but with work coming in all the time, it’s difficult to plan too far ahead. And when work does come in, I can be booked for several weeks.

Here’s to a very happy, successful, healthy and prosperous new year.

Heather on Langsett

Heather on Langsett. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)
Heather on Langsett. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The weekend was all about quiet, thinking and work. I was fairly occupied and wasn’t going to go out Saturday night, but when my friends asked me again to go with them, I decided I needed a break. It was nice to see them, and nice to get out.

On Monday I was very busy editing a book. I finished the manual edits and started the electronic edits, but by about 7pm I was ready to call it a day. I didn’t do much else as I wanted to crack on with this book.

Tuesday was spent down in Birmingham doing legal stuff with my family. However, when I got back there was a new job waiting for me from lovely already boss and I addressed a couple of work issues. But again I was done by about 7:30pm.

Today I have the electronic edits of that book to complete, some revisions to apply to a previous edit, that second edit to get into the post, the gig list to update and a dog to walk. I also bid for 13 jobs this morning, including one invitation to submit, and had been shortlisted for one, down to 2 from about 93 (first it was 9, then it was 5 …). Unfortunately I lost it to someone charging half as much as me. Lovely already boss has also asked me today how I’m fixed for more work.

I have plenty of work in now for at least the next 3 weeks with more promised. I need to get the invoices into the system, though, so that the money is coming in on a regular basis and I’m not swinging between feast and famine again. Time management is getting a lot of attention at the moment to ensure I keep a realistic diary and then stick to it. I’m turning work around a lot quicker and my time estimates are improving.

For the rest of this week I have another edit to start, preferably tomorrow morning. That will take me to Monday.

It’s nice being busy, it’s nice knowing I’m really earning a fair wage, and it’s nice to have a full diary. It’s horrible being broke, though, and I need to eradicate that word entirely from my vocabulary.

A few weeks before we went on holiday we went to Langsett Reservoir walking. This is one of the poet’s favourite shots of his own, if not his actual favourite. Enjoy.

UK call centres (mini rant alert)

So, after spending the best part of a week arguing the toss with a government department and finally getting a result on Wednesday, Thursday saw me hurtling into a similar ding dong with my telephone and internet provider. I really am at the end of my patience, though – what little of it there is – and once I realised I was speaking to another ignoramus  I hung up.

Today I received my customer satisfaction questionnaire … oh, did I enjoy filling that one in this week. Every reply was 1 (totally dissatisfied) and my reason was the script-reading buffoon at the other end.

And so I have made a momentous decision. When my telecom contract comes to an end (end of January), I’m moving to a company that employs British staff on British soil for British customers.

Really, I’m all for helping employment in other countries, but not when they’re total rubbish and less when we have such huge unemployment in our own country. We should get our own house in order before aiding other countries, and, despite being quite the socialist, this is the way I’ll be leaning in future.

I’m sick to death of dealing with incompetents.

My patience is also worn thin because I’ve been struggling with the formatting of a novel I’ve been editing. I’ve already done it once, but it wasn’t translating well to the FTP server thingy, so I’ve had to look at it again and I can’t see what the author has done. I should have saved a version in .rtf, but then I would have had to do a lot more basic formatting too, and they don’t pay me enough for that as well.

Today will mostly be that editing/formatting job. I’ve pitched for another 10 jobs since Wednesday and I’ve done my diary for next week. I still need to get 2 writing pitches out, so I’ll be working for some of this weekend.

I’m off to Harrogate tomorrow with a couple of friends for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. We had a corking day last year, and the weather looks set to be hot, hot, hot again.

Tomorrow evening I take friends to a gig so they can talk to the band about something.

It might be too warm to drive the dog down to Birmingham (no air-conditioning in the car), so Sunday will probably be a writing day instead. I need to shift some work.

I have lots of writing work to do. I have the novel to be cracking on with, I have those 2 new pitches I need to get out, and I need to get the freelance writing WiP moving again. I have a daily allocation for freelance writing in my diary now and I really should use it. I also have interviews to transcribe for the non-fiction book.

I have a new editing job to start too with, hopefully, another on the way – we thrashed out the details yesterday evening and now I’m just awaiting confirmation.

And I have my tax return to schedule in and an additional application form to complete.

Looks like we’re set for another nice weekend. The rain-dance isn’t working. I’ll have to switch to just talking to the Universe. But y’all enjoy it. 🙂

Clipped wings

Maybe the Universe couldn’t manage the nice weather I ordered for my research trip. Maybe that’s why my car broke down and I couldn’t go. It’s horrible being grounded, though, and nowhere near any rail stations. I feel as though my wings have been clipped. The weather anyway, for the midsummer weekend and super moon, was atrocious. Blustery showers and grey skies the whole time.

The diary that I ordered on Thursday was here on Friday. That’s quite good going considering they only charged me £1.50 for 3 – 5 days delivery (apx $2.30). Next day delivery would have cost me a lot more, and I got it anyway. Friday evening I had a lovely time acquainting myself with the new diary.

When the post came in on Friday and on Saturday, I touched it once, and shredded or binned it straight away. I had some money-off vouchers come from Tesco, more than £5-worth (apx $7.75), and those went straight into my purse.

When I went through the pile of post last Monday, I had to throw 3 lots of money-off vouchers away – 2 from Tesco and 1 from Boots – because they’d expired, and some only the day before. Those were probably worth about £15 (apx $23), and all for things that I buy anyway. This was one of my motivations for touching it once in future. (Although I did manage to save some coupons, £3-worth for the Co-op – apx $4.60 – and 60p-worth plus extra points for Boots.)

On Saturday I did some baking. I made a Quiche Lorraine and a plum crumble – yes, I’m hard enough to make a plum crumble … Sorry. Ahem … I walked the dog up to the Co-op to get some odds and ends, I took a rucksack so I could carry it home and still have my hands free for the dog. And I took the rest of the day off. I faffed, played games, caught up on old NCIS episodes and generally dossed, and baked.

I’ve started to do a big shop at Tesco just once sometimes twice a month, getting all the tinned, bottled and other heavy stuff, and then filling-in in between on a weekly basis, usually locally. It’s working out quite a bit cheaper, approximately £40 – £45 a month (apx $75), and I’m throwing even less food away.

On Sunday I had an idle lie-in and faffed some more. Then I knuckled down to some more baking (choc chip muffins), housework and then some writing work. I picked up 5 books on Kindle for just over £6 (apx $9.30) to read up on a potential new genre. When I wasn’t reading I was watching telly, but just for an hour. I would have liked to have gone out, but my wings had been clipped … I do miss my car.

When I get the car back I’ve discovered I can get to Leeds for the Saturday afternoon write-ins a bit quicker and a bit cheaper just by going to a different railway station. It’s not in a nice area, so I’d need to look at the car park security, etc. But if it saves me nearly £3 (apx $4.60) and about 20 minutes each way, it might be worth considering. It means the dog won’t be left so long on his own too.

This week, then, I have a new historical novel to edit, the walks report to write and submit, the daily comps to enter, job boards to surf daily, a well-woman clinic to attend, the gig list to upload for July (July already, sheesh!), a do diddle day, a book to write, diary work, invoices to raise, a trip to Birmingham, and – hopefully – a research trip to Derbyshire (weather and car permitting). Then I change to my new diary.

What are your plans for the week?

blog thumbnail

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.

blog thumbnail