The art of procrastination

If there’s one thing I’m brilliant at, it’s procrastinating. I can spend hours mooching around doing precious little (whilst convincing myself that the precious little I am doing is of the utmost importance) as the things I really should be doing languish at the bottom of my to do list, gathering metaphorical dust.

But now that I’ve decided Monday is, for the short term at least, to be my day of creative writing rather than commissioned freelance work, it’s more vital than ever that I rein in the part of me that is so very proficient in the art of procrastination and make every minute count. Because a day can pass incredibly quickly when you’re drifting through it, only half aware of what you’re doing.

Today I feel I have been conscious of all that I’ve been doing, though it’s only now as I sit down in my local café at half past midday I’m able to focus on my writing. I decided to start the day with a run around Clapham Common, to try and kick the sore throat that’s been plaguing me on and off for the past week into touch. On the way home I did my weekly shop and by 10.30am I was at my desk having showered and breakfasted, ready to tie up the loose ends on my last commissioned freelance job.

Now that’s done all that stands between now and 5pm is an afternoon of story and character plotting, and I can’t wait to get started on deciphering all the notes I’ve made in recent days as ideas have begun to take shape. So without further ado I must bid you adieu, for there’ll be no procrastination this afternoon, thank you! (It’s a good job I’m writing fiction and not poetry).

When I think of procrastination, I think of Koh Tao, for it was here I spent two weeks in blissful procrastination wondering whether to stay longer or continue further on my travels. Anyone who’s been there will know why I found it so hard to leave. Happy memories indeed.

Advertisements

Clarity

Today was my second ‘Freelance Monday,’ a description I’m already considering revising in favour of ‘Writing Monday’ as I’m rapidly coming to realise that freelancing comes at a cost; the cost being, well, writing (or at least writing what I actually want to write). For obvious reasons this is far from ideal.

To explain a little more eloquently, the purpose of my taking one day a week to write was twofold; one, to hone my writing skills, and two, to try and make money from my passion (try being the operative word, as I’m all too aware how hard it is to get regular paid writing work).

Thus far I’ve achieved neither, because whilst the freelance work I’m currently doing does involve writing and is paid, it’s not the kind of writing that I want to be doing and is paying far less than it should be given how much of my time it’s taking up.

I suppose I should try to look at the positive side of my current situation. In two short weeks I’ve already come to realise that writing anything for money just won’t do – I have to be emotionally invested in it, otherwise I may as well still be working five days a week for someone else.

Furthermore, I now know that when quoting for freelance work I need to be sure I can achieve the work in the time specified (and therefore within the agreed budget) – because otherwise I’m not only working for someone else, I’m also working for free. And that’s ridiculous in anyone’s book.

I love this picture that my friend took when we were in Agra in India. We were trying to make the shadows look like steps, and if the very slight shadow that I’m casting wasn’t there we would almost have achieved it. It makes me think of the importance of being creative and not letting that creativity be stifled – by anything or anyone.

Doing less better (starting with cuddles)

It was a novel feeling waking without Monday blues today; the knowledge that from now on Mondays are my own time to pursue various writing interests and freelance commissions has certainly put a spring in my step. But that’s not to say it’s going to be easy – I’m already feeling the pressure to cram more into my solitary freelance day than is feasible, and I know if I want to be “a success” (whatever that means) I’m going to have to be selective with what I take on. Tempting as it is to commit to lots of small commissions, I fear in doing that I’ll lose the essence of what I want to achieve. Whilst money is of course a consideration, ultimately I’d just like to get to a point where I’m writing for enjoyment and getting paid a reasonable sum in return. Is that too much to ask? I think not.

But in the short term I know I must be realistic. A good friend who I went to visit this afternoon (for cuddles with her gorgeous son – see pic. I have been working today – honest!) wisely told me not to expect to earn anything from freelancing for at least the first few months, because it would take that long to get set up and work out what I want to specialise in. And I know she’s right. I need to play the long game and not get distracted by the shiny nuggets of £20 commissions to write blogs for people too lazy to do it themselves. What reward is there in that, after all? To establish oneself as a professional in any field one must first learn to value themselves, and never is this more important than when becoming a freelancer. If you don’t back yourself who else will? It’s vital to stay strong and confident in the knowledge that your talent will shine through and it will do exactly that – leave those who value themselves less highly than you to take on the menial commissions and keep your eye on the prize.

My old boss’s motto was “do fewer things better,” and it’s stayed with me over the years because it’s great advice. Whenever things get on top of me and I feel I’m juggling too many balls in my life, I remember the mantra and try to strip it back until it feels more manageable. Because there are always things you can cut back on to make time for what’s important – if what’s important is really as important as you say it is.

Image

Remember way back in January when I started this blog and I posted a pic of my pregnant friend at her baby shower? Well this little treasure is the result – and I love the bones of him 🙂

If at first you don’t succeed…

Tomorrow’s my first official day as a freelancer and I’m excited. I’ve set up a morning meeting with an agency contact who might need to outsource some PR, and will be spending the rest of the day working on a commission for a man whose garden shed product I’m managing the PR launch for. In between those jobs I’m also planning to start working through the exercises in my book on how to pitch feature ideas to publications, and am also keen to start planning out characters and a plot for a new story that’s starting to take shape in my mind. Then on Tuesday I’ll be kicking off week two of the new job by planning a PR strategy. In short, I’m going to be a busy bee!

The past few months have been frustrating career wise but I’ve learned some valuable lessons that I’ll put into practice going forward. It’s scary but exciting to go from being one of many communications professionals to the only one; there’s no one to hide behind and if I don’t deliver it’s my head on the block and nobody else’s. But I’ve always thrived on pressure and now have the autonomy I’ve been craving for a long time-both in my main employment and my fledgling freelance career. I’m determined to succeed – because failure just isn’t an option.

Image

I love the quotes the station staff put up at Clapham North station. This one was taken a while back but is particularly appropriate for today’s post.

Confession

I’ve been a busy bee setting things in motion for my impending part-time freelance career, and already the fear is being outweighed three to one by excitement. Today I had my first freelance proposal accepted – admittedly it’s only for a book review that will earn me the paltry sum of thirteen Great British pounds, but nonetheless it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve also set up a meeting with a PR agency contact on my first ‘official’ day as a freelance in April. So it’s full steam ahead with all writing-related plans and I couldn’t be feeling more positive.

Now, as it’s been a while since I posted any fiction I thought today was the day to redress the balance. This post was inspired by the current situation in Rome…

Confession

It was raining hard when Ellie arrived at the church, yet she was barely aware of being soaked to the skin. She pushed open the ancient metal-studded wooden door and, after a moment’s hesitation, pushed aside the heavy damask drapes and stepped into the darkness within.

Ever since she was a little girl she’d found being inside churches comforting. They had, she thought, a womb-like quality, providing an invisible yet protective barrier between those inside and the real world outside. Whenever she’d had problems in her life she had come here, to this very church; to pray, to repent, to seek forgiveness. Not that she’d ever been given a choice.

Today the church was silent but for the distant flapping of avian wings in the eaves. Motes of dust floated in the musty air. Ellie tread softly across the faded flagstone flooring, worn down from thousands of worshippers’ feet that had trodden this path before her own. She kept her eyes down as she passed row upon row of mahogany pews, each cradling hymn books and orders of service for that evening’s mass.

She approached the altar, too ashamed to look heavenward and meet the non-judgemental eyes of Jesus. Her knees sank into the crocheted cushion, her elbows settled on the hard wood railing. She bowed her head still further, clasped her hands together and closed her eyes, offering her thoughts to a higher being.

No priest was privy to her confession; it was witnessed only by the God she had served for all of her eighteen years. Once finished she allowed herself the briefest of glances towards her Saviour, who was but a silhouette against the wall of multi-coloured light that now streamed through the window behind.

As she rose from her knees she briefly wondered what the Pope would say about her predicament, what advice he would give from his seat in the Vatican. Would he offer her forgiveness? Would anyone?

Feeling suddenly claustrophobic, she turned and walked back down the aisle, her pace quickening with each step. She passed the parapet, pausing for a moment to remember sermons of days and years past. At the font she hesitated again before dipping her finger in the cold water and hurriedly making the sign of the cross. Then, with a final nod to Jesus, she walked to the door, pulled the damask drapes aside and stepped out into the light.

The heavy door shuddered to a close behind her with a bang that made her jump. She turned and traced the warping of the wood lightly with her finger, then laid her palm flat against its surface. A single tear escaped her eye and trailed across her cheek.

Today, she knew, there would be no forgiveness.

This would be her last confession.

581797_10152574917000057_818741150_n

I took this photo on Charles Bridge in snowy Prague a few weeks ago.