Writing Work Is Like Buses…

There is none for ages, then the work comes in threes.

Last week, there was none. It may not seem big or clever to admit this, but that’s the reality of life as a freelance writer. So I did when I always do during those blank weeks; plant seeds and tend my garden. Planting seeds means reinforcing my connections in social media, pursuing leads and browsing through job opportunities for freelancers. Tending my garden means doing useful research and going over all the notes for my creative writing classes to make sure they say what I want to say.

Then this week, I got three jobs.

It started with an email asking me to take on a book editing project. A seed I had planted some time ago was bearing fruit. It’s for Escape from Eire, a memoir charting the adventures of a Caribbean woman, Jennylynd James, in Ireland. I was delighted to have the chance to work on such a fascinating story.

I begin by wielding a big pair of secateurs, hacking away at the dead wood which clogs up the story. Then I’ll be pruning, making sure that what’s left fits together and has a chance to bloom. Along the way, I’ll be pulling out weeds: typos and clunky clauses. When I’m finished, there will be nothing left to get in the way of the

Editng is like gardening
Editng is like gardening





Just in case you’re interested, the other two jobs were a transcription assignment for a company called Ubiqus and a CV to flesh out, from a career consultancy called Sli Nua.  Thank God for my regular writing sources. They keep me in bread and butter.

6 Ways to Make Your Small Business Look Bigger

Some people say “fake it ‘til you make it,” but I think that cliché has an unnecessary air of falseness about it. Still, if you are starting up or running a small business, making your company look bigger and more established to the outside world can have dramatic results.

Whilst we’re not suggesting you misrepresent yourself or your company, or you behave like a big, impersonal corporation. What we are saying is that image does matter, and you should cast your business in the best possible light.

Dressing up your small business sends a message of seriousness and credibility to customers, suppliers, and anyone else who interacts with your business. It also affects your own attitude; much like wearing nice clothes makes you stand a little taller. With so many cheap and easy tools available for the purpose, there’s no excuse for not making your business look like a business, even if the company is just you and a laptop. Start here:

1.  If you work from home, lose the bunny slippers. If you’ve chosen to work out of your house, then create an impenetrable “work bubble.” That means a dedicated, quiet, professional, well-equipped and wired space that you, and anyone else in the house, treat no differently than an office across town. No exceptions. Get dressed up for work in the morning, even though you don’t have to. It affects your behaviour, not to mention it avoids embarrassing surprise Skype Calls!

2. Your phone sets a tone. I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me, representing a business, and I’ve heard kids or pets or TV in the background. Or I’ve called a “business” number and listened to an answering message saying “you’ve reached the Smith family and Smith Industries, Incorporated…” Get a good phone on a dedicated line, and clear, professional voice mail, and record a professional-sounding message. If it starts with “hi there!” it’s wrong.

3. Look good on paper. There is no excuse for inkjet-printed business cards or Microsoft WordArt logos. Proper cards and other printed materials are cheap and easy to get in small quantities from Printers.  Hire a proper designer and printer to do your stationery for you.

4. Be the master of your domain. A good starter website is inexpensive and easy to build. It may not be the sophisticated enterprise-level site you will inevitably want or need, but a beautifully-designed company info or “brochure” site is better than cheap, shoddy looking anything else. It is probably the first point of entry for people doing business with you, and the best way to convey the image you want.

5. Don’t be a Yahoo. Few things stand out as credibility question marks more than a generic/free email account. Business people are always sceptical when they get a business email ending in yahoo.com, gmail.com, or hotmail.com. As part of your website project, set up proper mailboxes with the same domain name and don’t just use your first name, if your business is not well known. Use first name/last initial or first initial/last name. It immediately sounds more substantial.

6. Outsource to a company that can provide a professional image.   Some businesses are ideally suited to be run from home, and lets face it, in this economic climate it certainly helps with cutting costs, however, there does come a time when your business will need to have an extra pair of hands to help get the work done, but what happens when your home office isn’t designed to accommodate more then you?

If you can’t move into an office or if you can’t justify the cost just yet, consider using a virtual office.  These remote offices can help companies to look quite substantial to the outside world and building the most impressive image you can from the start is a key step in getting business visibility, being taken seriously, and getting people to want to do business with you.

A Writer Cooks Dinner

Right, so it’s my turn to cook dinner. Not a problem. Except that one of my stories is also at boiling point. And if I don’t work on it right now, it may go off the boil. I need to work on it while it’s hot.

I’ve got a time-honoured recipe for creative crises like these. I perch my notebook on the book stand by the cooker,  where normal people put their cookbooks, so I can cook and create at the same time. How hard can it be, to cook a meal and a masterpiece at the same time? It’s only stir fry. What can go wrong?

A writer’s cooking crisis

Preparation is the key. If I can pin down the details of this character before I start, the whole story will become clear. I consider chopping the vegetables one-handed, but I decide that I don’t want to lose valuable writing fingers. Better concentrate on the job in hand. I mutter as I chop. His name is Maurice Murgatroyd. Chop. He makes statues out of his own earwax. Chop.

Next it’s on to the stir bit. That should be easier to manage with one hand. I throw the veg, meat and noodles into the pan and run a desultory spoon through them, then write a couple of sentence. I get into the groove, scribble, stir, scribble, stir…oh no, it’s boiling over. I knew it was too good to be true.

Husband comes home. Dinner is ruined. But the masterpiece is intact, apart from a few splodges of oil. I’m happy to do my penance, scrubbing hardened noodles off the hob. Scrub, scribble, scrub, scribble.

Disclaimer: I don’t have a book stand by the cooker. I’d never be that organised.

I Write Because…

I’m nuts.

I’d have to be, wouldn’t I? Writing does not save lives. It doesn’t save your soul. If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon a truth and manage to express it in a way that resonates. Even then, you have to gamble on the fact that readers will be listening. And that’s a big gamble.

Writing harms your bank balance. If your writing’s going badly, you’re a bear to your friends and family. Writing won’t get your house clean. And to clumsily paraphrase Gil Scott Heron, it won’t give your mouth sex appeal.

Why write?

Because I can’t not. And because I love it. I simply wouldn’t feel human if I didn’t. Writing helps me to live with myself.

Writing is a compulsion

I write to make sense of the world. I write to savour the delight of words bouncing around my  head, on my tongue and onto the page. When I write, I get to play God, creating characters and worlds. I write because I have things I want to say.

And I can’t lie to you. I write to be read. If I’m going to put so much labour into my pieces, I’m not going to let them moulder on a hard drive. And even if only about five people read them, I’ll remain deeply satisfied that I produced the best work I could.

A highly unscientific study on social media yielded similar findings among my fellow writers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s comforting to know I’m not the only nut out there. Thanks to all who contributed for the opinions.

3 Ways to Recover from a Blunder!

Eventually, every leader will need to apologize for a mistake.

Here are three steps to take when it’s your turn:



Admit the mistake.

Fessing up expedites the recovery process. While it’s tempting to shirk responsibility or slink away, it only makes matters worse.

Try to laugh at yourself.

If it’s appropriate, go ahead. Joking around gives others permission to do the same. After all, nobody wants leaders who take themselves
too seriously.

Reframe the discussion.

People will want to talk about the mistake forever. Give the blunder its due, but refocus the conversation on what matters most: moving forward.