Winter survival for the freelance writer

Frozen, demoralised and contemplating ‘leaving the house’? Try these instead.

coffee2Achieve hot drink harmony

Carefully weigh up the cosy-finger benefits of a cup of coffee or tea against the frigidity of your bathroom. Constant, cold pee breaks will quickly undermine the warming factor of frequent hot drinks. What coffee giveth with one hand, it taketh away with the other.

Waste no available sources

Got an old laptop that struggles to stay cool under pressure? Watch a few videos and wait for the base to heat up. Be sure to lie down and place laptop on trunk for maximum efficiency. If printing large documents on an ink jet printer, hold the collated pages to chest for residual warmth.

Buy a cape/blanket/poncho

Normal clothes are not enough for workers as stationary and sedentary as you. Layers are your friend. Also useful for concealing pyjamas, three day old stains etc. Running around pretending that you are Dracula is optional, but useful for generating body heat which can then be trapped be aforementioned layers.

Have a shower

When core temperature drops significantly and the mouse-clicking fingers start to feel like bunch of frozen baby carrots taped to a stone, have a hot shower. Also useful for avoiding emails and providing a legitimate excuse for not writing. Should be used sparingly due to high electricity costs.

Burn your failures

Bills, rejected copy, that novel you’ve been writing for most of your adult life – all can be valuable resources when the winter chill hits. An open fireplace or wood burning stove is preferable. Not only can you enjoy sitting in front of a cracking flame, the burning of failures provides that all important inner glow.

Confessions of a freelancing café hopper

coffee2I’ve toyed with hiring desk space and to be honest if there was a viable option in walking distance from my house, I would. But there isn’t. Luckily, there are a large number of largely welcoming cafés for me to camp out in while I do my work. Sorry guys.

1. I basically want the exact same order every day

I know you’ve been sprucing up your menu and you slave over your specials, but I like things plain and reliable. I basically want one of the same two or three things every time I visit. This is not the time for experimenting.

2. I think you’re ace but I don’t want to chat
It’s nice to be nice but the last thing I want to do is turn all these two minute polite exchanges into a chat about the ins and outs of our personal lives. If that what I was looking for, I’d have stayed somewhere with colleagues.

3. I do feel bad about nursing this coffee

I’ve worked in a few cafés and small businesses, I know that it’s important that you make enough money to scrape by and that’s why I try to make sure I order enough drinks and snacks to justify my table. Leave me to it and guilt will make me spend or free the space.

4. Sometimes, I am spying on you all
When I’m stuck for inspiration or working on a particularly dull project, my mind does tend to wander and if you’re talking about something interesting, well, the notes I’m making might just include a few of your juicy details.

5. You aren’t the only place I’m visiting

Variety is one of the things that makes the freelance life so much fun, so even though you may have the best drinks and the freshest baking, I’ll be three or fourtiming you on a weekly basis. This is also necessary for maintaining points two and three. It’s not you, it’s me.

6. Without you, I’d be crazy
Bearing all of that in mind, it’s thanks to you guys that I get dressed and escape the house – you keep me sane as I work and for that, I thank you.

Rolling with the punches freelance style

By nature, I’m a routine driven kind of girl. I’m not saying I can’t deviate from the plans every now and then, but overall I find it easier when I have some idea of what’s coming ahead. I don’t know about you, but if it’s a workday, I want time to get into the mindset, and if it’s a day off, I want to be able to savour the thought of it beforehand. I do not hate a little forward planning now and then (although the big stuff, the life planning stuff, that can take a running jump).

Routine desk style

So the thing about the kind of life I’m leading at the moment, is that it’s not a very forward planning kind of life. Predicting when I’ll need to work and when I won’t is tough, because it’s not controlled by a pay check but is instead at the behest of clients, and we all know the fits of whimsy they are susceptible to.

Then there’s the real reason I gave up a full time job, because I wanted to be available to take chances on and enjoy things I wouldn’t when I was tied to someone else’s hours. While this freedom is wonderful, it goes against my natural inclinations pretty strongly. Sometimes I find myself tussling over how great and experience will be and how much it’s going to disturb my made up routine.

When the sense of adventure wins, it’s more than worth it. The other week, Fin and I went to see two shows on relatively short notice – The Bone Yard and 2401 Narratives which were both grand in very different ways. Then there was an already planned visit to Literary Death Match, a last minute decision to travel through for the always excellent Words Per Minute – all shows well worth re-jigging plans for.

But the thing that got me musing on his topic is really the way my plans have shifted in the last 24 hours – in which I agreed to help set up a short story event, fill in a last minute slot reading at Nights at the Circus tomorrow and attend a fabulous looking scientific creative writing workshop run by the delightful Tania Hershman on Friday morning. All of which I wouldn’t have been able to do this time last year, what a lucky SOB I feel at the moment.

Rolling with the punches might not always be the easiest, but damn does it help you get the best out of freelance life. If you see my whinging about my plans being upset, please do feel free to kick me in the shins.

What was I meant to be doing again?

Oh yeah, I was meant to be, like, you know, writing stuff. Except I haven’t been, even though I did my desk up all nice and everything.

Well, that’s not true, I have, it’s just been of the copy variety. That’s the thing about freelance isn’t it, you always want to say yes to every job, just in case it’s the last one that’s ever offered. Never fear though, I have lovely friend who already tuts and tells me off when I accept too many briefs and, get this, the other week I turned down a job for what was, I think, the first time ever.

So I’ve not been getting as much done as I wanted, but I did do some successful Christmas shopping today. Spying a million things I never realised I wanted along the way, of course – the dangers of going to the shops, something I don’t normally do.

And last week was grand, because we had the launch of the latest issue of the Edinburgh Review, with its lovely cover image from Fin, and the fabulous Gwendoline Riley and Ewan Morrison treated us to some top quality readings. Happy times. I also enjoyed the wine, maybe a little too much.

Overall, I’m pretty good and people even keep telling me I look refreshed. I think working from home (and sleeping for more than six hours a night) totally suits me.

One month in, freelancing funtimes

It’s officially been a month since I quit my full time job in favour of a freelance existence. So far, so good. I’m still in one piece, people have been paying my invoices in a timely fashion and I haven’t become addicted to day time TV (to be fair, we don’t have a TV aerial, so this is less to do with willpower than I would like to think).

I haven’t quite managed to write loads of stories, which to be honest was kind of the whole point, but I have really enjoyed the chance to pet a really cute dog, play with my bookshelves and do a lot more reading. There’ve been quite few train journeys in the last few weeks, so I’ve been making the most of my new wee Kindle.

That said, I was feeling quite discouraged for a while, because I think I read three novels on the trot which I’d heard were good but turned out to be kind of unsatisfying. I won’t say what they were, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night for the thought of author’s Googling their own names and making lists of every slightly negative thing anyone has said about them ever.

Luckily, this disappointing run was broken with A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I loved and which reminded me what it feels like to be in the hands of a capable author. More books like that please. How much time can I reasonably spend reading and pass it off as research?