My blogging birthday and the writing road ahead

Photo by Clarinta Subrata on Unsplash

My other blog, The Everyday Radical, turned one this week. I wrote a little Happy Birthday to me post earlier on to mark the occasion – six days late, as is often the case when I try to write a post to mark a specific occasion. Better late than never, I guess.

Since I can write about whatever I like over here and it doesn’t have to be even vaguely related to saving the planet, I’m doing a self-indulgent brain dump of my current thoughts about writing, attempting to establish a freelance presence, not having enough time, feeling increasingly pissed off about lockdown, and other chirpy things. Hope it fills your hearts with joy, readers!

I started writing The Everyday Radical blog when my husband and I chickened out of getting involved on the front line of the Extinction Rebellion protests on Waterloo Bridge this time last year. To be fair, it was more me chickening out than him – he would’ve stuck it out, but I got all panicky about the police and my future CRB check status (important for the NHS career which I’ve since terminally (?) ditched). So we went and got sloshed in a pub in London Bridge instead. I was cross with myself and feeling like I should do something, within whatever limits it is possible for an individual to do something about the climate crisis, so I started writing. The idea was to document the various switches we made at home to live a more sustainable life.

The other driver for starting to blog was a conversation I had with a friend while on a long walk on the island of Paros, as part of a singing holiday that I’ve been involved with for a few years (info here if you want to join us in 2021, please GOD that we can travel normally again by then). We were just chatting about our lives really, and I was telling him some of the juicier highlights of mine, and he was finding it entertaining, and he said, “you know, you should write this down!”

I always wanted to be a writer, from when I was a nerdy seven year old teaching myself to touch type (from an old school Mavis Beacon typing program that my long-suffering Dad must have bought for me). I wrote most of a novel about my Grandma’s bad-tempered cat, Kitty – originally entitled Grandma’s Cat. Original dot matrix manuscript exists in a box in my loft somewhere, it’s going to be worth MILLIONS one day. I’ve got fragments of stories and poems that I’ve written over the years, but never had the BIG IDEA. And the touch typing was useful when I became a medical secretary, then I got the NHS bug and clawed my way up the management ladder, had a baby, burnt out a bit and ended up at rather a loss as to what to do next.

So I thought, hey, let’s just try a blog about something that matters, to flex the writing muscles, and go from there.

I started out pretty well, posting two or three times a week, but life (and a small person) gets in the way, and I’ve felt like it’s been fizzling out and I’m not doing it justice. I’ve read enough articles about blogging to realise that posting regular content and promoting the hell out of it on social media is the only way to build your following, and I’ve been sporadic at best with this. Monetising is tricky and not guaranteed to even generate enough income to cover the set-up costs. Trying to get sponsors to pay you to write product-placement posts is one option, but I don’t really want to do that – mainly because part of the sustainable living mission is about buying less, not persuading people to buy stuff they don’t need (even if it is Instagrammable bamboo accessories that no self-respecting eco-warrior can do without).

Meanwhile, I’ve got irons in a bunch of other fires too and I feel like I’m scatter-gunning my energy and not maximising the limited time I’ve got. I don’t want to go back to my previous day job, so I do need to work out a way of earning some money from writing, to justify “staying at home” after the boy starts school; hopefully next September he’s going to be at preschool five days a week. So do I focus on creative writing, and hope that someone publishes my novel? (Excerpt here – due to be finished in about 2025 at current rate of writing.) That feels risky, given the success rate of debut novels is pretty hit and miss, even if they do get published. Do I focus on short stories and try to win some competitions to gain some exposure, then pitch a novel to agents? Do I try to claw my way into the saturated freelance copy writing scene? This seems to involve pitching 824 article ideas, getting hardly any response and haggling about money. Time in vs. money out ratio – not great. Yet I do know people making a living out of this kind of writing, but it takes perseverance. Or do I throw myself at the proofreading and editing market and try to earn a reliable income that way?

This is not to even mention all the stuff I want to read and study and absorb and pontificate over. And the fact that my house is covered in a layer of toddler scuzz and cat fur and the freezer is nearly empty. And there’s a loft full of baby clothes to sell before our building work starts next spring.

Honestly, I don’t know how to unlock it. I’ve sat down and written a vague plan of how to get the most out of each spare chunk of day I can (this involves getting up at 5am and not spending much time with my husband). And I’ve written down a bunch of goals and aspirations relating to each strand of writing, to focus my attention. So it’s all there in my head – and my notebook.

But man alive it’s HARD. I’m so fed up of lockdown. And the government. And the media. And, somewhat perversely, all the humans. Especially the newbie cyclists on the FUCKING pavement. This is my biggest lockdown pet hate. You’re a grown up, if you’re not safe to cycle on the road, don’t cycle. The end. (And oh my god those silent but deadly bloody electric scooters, don’t get me started on those).

Anyway. There’s a silver lining of an additional morning of nursery school from the beginning of July, and an increasingly desperate hope that there’ll be a change in the rules to allow my mum to come and stay soon. Until then, it’s a day at a time, a blog post at a time, a session of proofreading training at a time (from these guys – it’s not glamorous but it could be the thing that enables it to be me that picks my boy up from school every day, rather than someone else).

And I’ve made £117 on eBay this week, which is extremely exciting.

If anyone is still reading, thanks for your patience with this very dull post. I will try to write a nice poem tomorrow to cheer us all up.

Love and kisses

SSL

Journal #5 – beans and bogroll – anxiety in the age of Coronavirus

Photo by Kien Cuong Bui on Unsplash

How’s everyone doing? Got enough beans and bog roll? Feeling dismayed at the panic buying? Feeling worried about the Government’s “strategy” and the number of ventilators we may or may not have?

I’ve been struggling, I must admit. And I am writing this mainly just to get my thoughts out, but if it helps anyone else then that’s great. I want to put a big sign up somewhere, maybe a banner along the top of the BBC News channel, which says, “it’s ok to feel anxious in anxiety-provoking situations!” It’s normal. It’s ok to want to buy all the nappies and formula so that you’re sure your kid will have some. (It’s not ok to actually buy them all, then sell them on eBay at a hugely inflated price. Obviously. These people are despicable. It’s also not ok to use this as an opportunity to tell people they should have breastfed or used cloth nappies instead. FUCK OFF). It’s really hard to only buy one pack though, if there are more there and you can afford more.

Which brings me to this horrible, gut-wrenching thing that I’m realising. We are SO privileged. We have a reasonable stash of food in the house. My husband will get sick pay if he gets ill. He has a knowledge job, so he can work from home and still get paid (I might kill him, though). I feel queasy when I see empty shelves, but I can’t imagine how queasy I would feel if I was a single parent on a zero hours contract, with school-aged kids and child care challenges, living week-to-week. You can’t get a supermarket delivery slot for weeks, even if you can afford to buy supplies. So what the fuck do you do if you haven’t got any food in and you need to self-isolate? How do you pay your rent if you can’t work, either because you’re ill or you have to look after your kids?

It’s hard not to think about this stuff – but what can I do to fix it, really? I can’t change who the PM is, I can’t change government policy, I can’t eradicate poverty. I can do what I can in my community (which isn’t much, with a toddler in tow). I can make plans to keep us all safe and sane in the event of lock-down… (serious question – in the event of lock down, does wine count as essential supplies?)

I’m setting small self-care goals to try and improve my own health and fitness and give myself something positive to focus on. I took my vitamins every day last week! Yay me! I am trying to drink more water, get my 5 a day, get more sleep. All of these things make the anxiety easier to manage. I actually feel quite positive today – but the week is young, my husband is working from home indefinitely and I am expecting nursery school to close any day now. So watch this space.

Meanwhile, I had a heart-rending email from one of my favourite musicians, Emily Mae Winters, cancelling her spring tour due to continuing uncertainty. Self employed folks, particularly performers, are REALLY going to struggle when all their work dries up. If you can, buy some music online (via Bandcamp, maybe), or if your data plan allows it, stream the fuck out of your favourite artists on Spotify or Apple Music so they get some revenue coming in. I am trying not to think about what’s going to happen if this goes on for months, and how many of my favourite humans are going to struggle, how many of my favourite local businesses are at risk. So – while you can still shop, shop local too. Just only buy one pack of pasta, please.

An exciting thing!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is artsy-vibes-n2rnmaznag4-unsplash.jpg

I mentioned an exciting thing which has happened yesterday… and here it is!

I have been working on crafting my skills as a writer in various different formats recently, and I submitted a piece of flash fiction – which may possibly be an excerpt from a forthcoming novel, in about ten years’ time – to the very excellent collaborative writers’ blog, The Finest Example (the guys who also published my article about “zero waste” as a troublesome concept, under my other writing guise as The Everyday Radical).

And here it is, A King in Darkness. I’m very proud of it and super stoked that someone else thinks it’s worthy of publishing (yes, imposter syndrome having a field day here!) So if you like it, please flatter me and say nice things and share it far and wide!

Photo by Artsy Vibes on Unsplash

Journal #2 – sandpits, eyeballs, Friday night parenting

I’m supposed to be napping, after a classic 0445 start this morning. Instead, #amwriting, while sitting upstairs listening to my husband doing bath time with the toddle-monster.

He is a deeply precocious child when it comes to music – I first felt him kick when we were driving through Tynemouth listening to a particularly jolly movement of a Mozart horn concerto (no. 4 I think, but I would have to check), and now he likes Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. He calls the first movement “the mem song” and he sings along to “mem” rather than “la”. He used to say “mem mem mem” a lot when he was tiny, before real words, so we developed “to mem” as a verb, meaning to babble away cutely, and also to bimble about aimlessly. As in, “have a mem about at the park”. (Oooh, spell check doesn’t like bimble either, maybe that’s not a real word…? I mean amble, potter, that sort of thing).

So a few annoying things have happened over the last few days. I’ve been having trouble with my eyes, through over-wearing of contact lenses and general exhaustion I think. But I’m vain and I hate my glasses so I’ve been disobeying orders and not abstaining sufficiently from contact lens use. I am scarred by the truth of my past here – I started wearing contact lenses when I was 15, and up to that point no boy (or man!) had ever looked at me with any interest whatsoever (in my awareness, anyway). Then suddenly, wham! Boys everywhere paying me attention. This was on holiday in Italy and I think that might have had something to do with it, but anyway, in my teenage mind, contacts made me tolerable to look at, and it’s stuck as an intractable belief.

So I hate leaving the house in my glasses. And I hate that I hate it. I hate that I care about appearances and that I’ve got such a thing about it. But my eyeballs can’t stand it, so I need a mindset shift soon. It’s thought-provoking. And deeply annoying.

Meanwhile, we went to the sandpit today and also to the zero waste shop, to buy some shampoo and conditioner refills. My other blog is about eco stuff, so during nap time I wrote about that and some other switches I’ve made. There was a bit of standard toddler drama at the sandpit over digger sharing, and some helpful tutting from other parents when I moved the small one from one sandpit to another. I was essentially moving him out of the way of some sand-flinging older kids, who were on a holiday play scheme and not being supervised terribly diligently, but he likes watching older kids so wasn’t hugely impressed at being dragged away. Pom Bears bribery occurred. I gradually give fewer and fewer fucks about the opinions of these sorts of judgey mothers, which is just as well, really.

On a more positive note, there is very dramatic leaf fall going on round here at the moment. I do like trees. A lot more than people, sometimes.

So. Friday night now. Fakeaway fish and chips (also knows as oven crap or yellow food) and starting a new box set is on the cards.

I haven’t really got a clue what this blog is going to be. At the moment it seems to be all about parenting and my rambling stream of consciousness. I have plenty of other writing ideas, but not much time to write them, so if you’re reading this, bear with me and I will try to keep it interesting. There will definitely be some more poetry soon.

And hi to my new followers today!

Mummy blogs that talk about wine o’ clock are generally fucking annoying, aren’t they? But it is in fact now wine o’ clock, sorry and all that.

(This is a photo of some daytime wine that I consumed some time ago, not actual live blogging of tonight’s wine. Just so we’re clear on that. I’d hate to mislead anyone).

Journal post… first of many?

Part of the purpose of this blog is for me to be able to write freely about all the stuff I can’t write in my main blog, because it’s not pertinent to the theme or because it’s too personal. I have a feeling these journal-type posts are going to be SUPER dull to read, but it seems to be part of learning to be a writer too, this journal malarkey.

I have actually just written some prose – I had this MAD dream the other night where the whole of the opening scene of a novel came to me, complete with the full name of one of the characters. So I have just written 250 words – not the most productive session, I know. But it’s the most I’ve written in a very long time, so may possibly qualify for celebratory chocolate.

Otherwise, I’m feeling bored, frustrated, grumpy this week. Lots of boring stuff to sort out domestically, an extremely fractious toddler, some frustrating HR-related issues for the freelance work that I’m doing. NHS bureaucracy at its best. I sort of hate the word “bureaucracy”, sounds like the sort of thing idiot Brexiteers go on about, but in this case it’s definitely appropriate and there’s been a clear sense of “computer says no” in the whole interaction.

ANYWAY. We went out this morning to a Christian playgroup, essentially toddler church. Not my usual Thursday morning activity of choice, but it’s free and runs in half term so seemed like a good idea. And wow it makes me sad. I used to believe in all things Christian, very passionately, and I just don’t anymore, for various reasons. Maybe this is something to write about another time. But I kind of miss it. I definitely miss believing in life after death and a greater good. There was a moment during the prayers when the lady leading the session told us, “it’s ok to pray for things for yourself. God doesn’t always give you what you want though, but he will give you what you need”. Tell that the the 39 Chinese people dead in a lorry this morning in Essex. Tell that the the food bank users and the people having their benefits cut. It’s that sort of infantalising of life that made me turn away from organised religion, among other things.

Anyone still with me? Who knows. Plan for the rest of the day is to go and feed some cats (my other life as a cat sitter). I’m a bit concerned about them as they’ve been AWOL all week, except for coming in to eat their food, and I haven’t actually seen them. So hopefully they will make an appearance.

Then this evening the husband is out, so I can eat food he doesn’t like and do some more writing, probably. And drink a moderate amount of wine, and feel moderately guilty about it. The story of me and wine is definitely a post for another time.

If you read this and have anything to share about the experience of reading my journal ramblings, I will be most interested!