Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

Standing desk, how I love you.

Standing desk, how I love you.

So long, crippling pain. Hello, productivity. A month or more on from setting up a standing desk, I’m seeing huge benefits.

Where I Was At

Working at home, I no longer have a facilities department and HR taking care of my desk and posture, and a few months ago I was really feeling the effects. Bad posture was causing huge pain in my neck and shoulders, which then turned into tension headaches. Despite various experiments with my desk setup, within a week of seeing the physiotherapist I’d be back in pain.

Is It A Desk? Is It A Shelf? No, It’s Superdesk!

I’d long wanted to try working at a standing desk, but couldn’t afford to buy one, both in terms of space and finances. Inspired by my wife Laura, I instead turned a set of Ikea bookshelves into a standing desk, adjusting the upper shelves to put my laptop and a monitor at good working heights.

At first the standing desk was exhausting to work at. I was wiped out after the first day and had to pace myself at using it. The real test was always going to be where I was at a month or two on.

So Very Good

As I’m writing this it’s been over six weeks, and I’m amazed at the difference the desk has made. Despite not seeing my physio in nearly four weeks, I’m feeling almost no pain in my neck and shoulders. I haven’t had a headache in weeks. Having got used to standing a lot, and alternating that with sitting on a tall stool by the desk, it’s improving my fitness rather than exhausting me. I’m the most productive I’ve been in goodness knows how long.

The last few years have been a health rollercoaster for me. Between clinical depression and muscle problems, it’s been hard to get to the place I want to be – working full time at writing. The standing desk has made a huge difference, and I can’t sing its praises enough. After trying it for a decent amount of time I can confidently say that if you work at a computer and suffer from muscle pain you should give it a go.

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A Whole Lot of Words

Posted: February 11, 2015 in updates
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My excited face!

Look, over there, it’s huge pile of writing, and I did it!

A couple of weeks ago, I finished writing the fourth in a series of novels I’d been contracted to ghost write. I’m now starting another series for the same people, and getting paid to do what I love is cause to rejoice. But this also seems a good time to pause and give my ego free rein. Because I’ve written a book a month since October, and that’s pretty bloody productive.

OK, so I didn’t plan these novels, and the editing on the last one still isn’t complete. But I wrote each one while responding to the edits on the one before, and while contributing to plans for the next series. Alongside those, I was also working on my own fiction, as well as writing articles and blog posts.

If I ever had any doubts about whether I could make a living through writing, I’m ready to kiss them goodbye now. Not only did I write all those books, but they’re selling, and they’re getting good reviews. Once I find the time to market my own fiction properly, I can make this work.

To think two years ago I was improving administrative procedures. Stuff that, this is the life!

Working for myself, at home, is great for having a balanced lifestyle. I can go to the gym while it’s half empty in mid-morning, then make up the working time in the evening. If I have a bad day I can give myself a rest and catch up later. Household chores get done in the breaks between work instead of piling up for the evening.

What do you mean, an origami fezz isn't real work?

What do you mean, an origami fezz isn’t real work?

But that also means I don’t have those clear, distinct periods of rest many people have – evenings and weekends. This weekend is going to be the first one in ages when I’ve completely set aside work, as the Raptor comes to visit. We’ll drink and talk and generally set the world to rights. It’ll probably lead to some great ideas for this blog. But for a couple of days I won’t be working (not even my Saturday blog post – I’m writing and scheduling this on Friday).

This integrated life, without the clear distinction between work and other, feels healthier to me, but it’s also taking some getting used to. Learning how and when to switch off, when it’s OK to take a break, when I need to stay motivated regardless. It leaves me tired or uncertain at times, as my body and subconscious rebel at the loss of old routines, ones learned over many years. But I’m getting used to it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sense of purpose is important in fiction writing. As a writer you need a strong sense of purpose to keep you going through the challenges and down patches. Your characters also need a sense of purpose to give them drive, agency and that most critical of story elements, conflict.

Fortunately, and surprisingly, a management book has helped me with this one.

Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’

As I’ve mentioned here before, my freelance work often involves dabbling in the pool of management thinking. I’ve read quite a few books on this, and particularly on marketing in recent months. One of them was Simon Sinek’s Start With Why.

The central message of Sinek’s book is simple. Organisations that understand why they do what they do, what value they bring to the world, become more focused and more effective. It helps create consistency and effective decision making, as when in doubt employees can turn to that ‘why’ and find solutions that fit the organisation’s purpose. It also motivates people. Lets face it, it’s easier to get passionate about ‘keeping patients safe’ than ‘answering phones’, to take the example of a medical call centre.

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As many businesses are discovering in their efforts to tackle poor morale, people don’t just want to be cogs in a machine. They want purpose. They want to know why they do what they do.

Asking why as a writer

As a writer, I think this applies in two obvious ways to my work choices.

One is that I need to understand why I’m a writer. What do I think I bring to the world and to my own life through this choice, that makes it a better choice than some other job? Because nine times out of ten, if I’m getting demotivated then it’s because I’ve lost track of that purpose and am trying to do something that misses the point of being a writer. Maybe I’m accepting jobs I’m not interested in, or writing stories that don’t interest me. If they don’t fit with my ‘why’ then it’s probably time to stop.

Same with stories. I need to know why I’m writing a particular story, and why I think it will be worth people’s time to read. Does it do something new with the genre? Does it represent different perspectives? Does it ask a question no-one else has? If there isn’t a good purpose behind the story, something making it worthwhile for me and for readers then it’s unlikely to ever see the light of day, and I should put my effort into something else instead.

Life’s too short to be writing this year’s seventeenth Tolkien knock-off.

Asking why of characters

And of course asking why is great for finding purpose in characters too. Why does Johnny rob banks? Why does Helena care what happens to the kingdom? Why is Iqbal on the side of the righteous rebels?

Knowing why gives your characters purpose and helps keep them on track. It’s something you can turn to for sources of conflict and for guidance on how to push a scene forwards. And signs of the why will make the character more compelling to readers.

Starting with purpose

So go forth, find your purpose, find the mission behind your characters! And then tell me about it – why do you write? why are you writing the story you’re writing now? what is the driving purpose behind your favourite character?

Show us all that you know your ‘why’.

 

 

Photo by Bilal Kamoon via Flickr creative commons

Today I have discovered a downside of the freelance writing life – feeling ill doesn’t excuse me from working. Even if, like today, I’m lying in bed half the day drinking lemsip and blowing my nose, I can still get work done on my laptop. No day of Diagnosis Murder re-runs for me.

But I have also discovered another upside to this writing life – I don’t want to stop working. Previously a heavy cold was a good excuse to have a day of rest. Now it’s an inconvenience because I actually want to be doing my work and dammit this stupid cold is getting in the way. Realising that has made me feel good about life, even as the lemsip has started to clear my airways and the huge pots of coffee have started to give me some energy.

We readily accept jobs that are all burden and very little pleasure. It’s nice to realise that I don’t have that any more.

So hooray for this writing life! Now back to bed – I have work to do.

Living the dream (gulp)

Posted: April 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
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For years, I’ve said that if I wanted to write full time. And now, I’m going to live that dream.

Up until now, the plan has been to earn enough money off writing to pay some of the bills, and then quit the day job. But just as my writing’s starting to take off, I’ve found myself without the emotional energy to do this. So, thanks to the support of Mrs K, I’ve put the cart before the horse and handed in my notice at work. From the beginning of May, writing will be my job.

I’m not just going to write fiction. I’m investigating other options that are likely to pay better and sooner. For example, I’ve got lots of experience of business writing, so will be looking for freelance work in that area. But the overall aim is to give me the time and mental space to make fiction pay.

This is both terrifying and incredibly liberating. I’ve needed a change of jobs for a while, and to move from my office job to my dream job, instead of just something else bearable, is amazing. But I have no clue if I can make this work. I believe I can, but that’s different from knowing.

So, wish me luck, and keep reading, because there’ll be plenty more to come.

And of course, if you’re looking for a freelance writer, let me know!