I may have broken my ‘on sabbatical until GJ graduates or I get some free time’ rule. That is my response to most invites to pitch/contribute to things: I have very limited time, and priorities that mean I’ve decided writing is a luxury for a while yet. Then I got asked to contribute to two things:
a non-fiction Doctor Who collection
a Victoriana short story collection
My work on them is now done, pending last minute notes from the editors, but my name hasn’t been announced for either yet. When it is, you can be sure I’ll be providing some background and pimping here.
What I did discover, with the fiction piece, was the Pomodoro technique. My word count per day isn’t the best. I’m not entirely convinced word counts per day are the best indicator of progress anyway, given half of them might be dreadful. Or all of them. But…faced with a 5000 word story and a week off the day job to write it in, I needed to work fast. The husband finds the pomodoro works for him* so I gave it a go.
My typical nightly word count on History 101 and Warring States was 700-800 words, dripped out over several hours. On this short story, I was producing 500 words in each 25 minute session. I did between 1 and 3 sessions a day, so got the first draft down in that week. A couple more sessions dealt with revisions.
Would it work if I was crazy enough to be writing a novel in my spare time? Maybe, but that time is still a long way off. Will I use it if any more short commissions come in that I can’t refuse? Probably. I’ve tried it at work too, but there’s not enough control in my work environs for it to be truly applied.
All the same, my new top tip to anyone wanting to write? Buy a timer.
*our timer is actually a pear, so it’s the Pyrus technique.
Are you self-employed? Are you about to tweet a complaint about working on a Bank Holiday when “everyone else” on your timeline is enjoying a 3 day weekend? Hold off pressing that send button for a moment, and let me explain something to you.
You are not the only person working on a Bank Holiday Monday.
We took a trip to That London over the long June Bank Holiday, and spent the Monday drifting around the city. Here is a list of all the people we met that day who were working:
3 hotel receptionists
3 hotel catering/cleaning staff
1 TfL bus driver
1 British Museum security guard (I think he was on a ciggie break but he helped us anyway)
That’s 22 people who were all working on the Bank Holiday. More importantly, they are 22 employed people who will have had to have a discussion with their manager over whether they have the day off, or if they come into work. And if the manager is short of staff for a rota, some of them may not have had much choice. And they may not have got extra money or time off in lieu for giving up that Holiday.
You don’t have an automatic right to paid leave on bank and public holidays, though many people receive the day off work. Any right to time off or extra pay for working on a bank holiday depends on the terms of your contract of employment.
So if you are self-employed and are going to work the Bank Holiday Monday, either:
Get on with it, and accept your decision to work,
Have a word with your boss self about whether you need to be working the day.
You have the power here. You can give yourself the day off. Or you can make yourself work.
But don’t act the martyr if you do decide to work. You are not, in fact, the only person working on a Bank Holiday Monday. Millions of others are. But maybe you’re not aware of them because they’re in the hospitality trade, or retail, or transport, or any of the many other service industry jobs where fannying around on social media is not possible in the workplace?
When shopping on Sunday I foolishly asked Georgina what she wanted on her cake. I’d been planning a Stuffy cake but no. Her response was immediately “Spider-man.” I foolishly agreed and then had several days of being reminded by her about the “Spider-man cake”. So I made a simple vanilla sponge cake, based on a hummingbird cafe cupcake recipe and iced it.
Clearly borrowing How to Draw the Marvel Way from the library as a teenager paid off. Although my lettering sucks.
After having a portion last night, she demanded “tiny bit more” but didn’t get it. The cake recipe has 10oz of sugar in it for making 12-18 cupcakes – no way does she get more than one portion of cake a day. This morning, one of her first requests on waking was for the Spider-man cake.
I am aware you can buy professionally produced cakes in the supermarket but that’s not the point. Until she gets to an age where she is horrified by wonky homemade things, she’s getting a cake made by me. I’m just hoping she asks for something easy to do…
Two years ago I had the Tour de France on in the background in a delivery room at the local hospital. This year, Georgina has got her own wheels.
The trike is a handmedown from my neighbours, and has been locked in the bike shed for about 18 months. I don’t think she’s be rivaling Bradley Wiggins or Victoria Pembleton just yet.
Continuing the “make do and mend” theme of the day, her other big present was a handmade toy. She loves Show Me Show Me on Cbeebies. It’s an unusual show in that it doesn’t have mountains of tatty tie-in merch. So, in the footsteps of my mother’s bold attempt to make me a Bagpuss in the 70s, I made her a Stuffy.
This is partially because she loves him, and partially because even 25 years after my last sewing class I can still make a cube. Tracking down all the fabrics took longer than the actual sewing. She’s already taken to putting things in his back pocket.
The last part of the day will be a Spider-man iced cake. I baked it last night and haven’t had a chance to ice it yet. I asked her last night what birthdays meant and she has told me it involves hats. So expect a photo she will be embarrassed about tomorrow.
She’s learnt her numbers (although is prone to starting to count at 4) and colours. She can also load the DVD player, with favourites such as Singin’ in the Rain, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Bagpuss. I moved them to a lower shelf after asking her to “put it back on the table” only to find her standing on tiptoe on a chair trying to reach the shelf where they were then kept. Her current bedtime books include The Tiger Who Came to Tea and the Tony Robinson version of Odysseus. She helps water the garden, and weed it.
More tomorrow…I have to go and ice a cake the Marvel way.
Project Elton is a medium term bit of work in the garden. You might remember that two years ago, I had the garden pared back to the bone. Those bones included some lovely old paving flags – uneven, with strange grooves and not what anyone would call child-friendly. Naturally, I love them. I planted some sedum and some other things to try to soften the edges. The sedum is good on low traffic areas but just didn’t do the trick elsewhere.
This spring I noticed that no only was there grass in some of the cracks, but grass seedlings kept sprouting in one of the beds. This, then, is Project Elton. I let the grass grow. I transplant it into the cracks. I keep the grass trimmed to prevent too much of it running to seed. I don’t fret about stubbed toes.
For example, these triangular gaps were bare earth a month ago:
A quick note on this for any new blog readers: Haruhi Suzimiya is a Japanese schoolgirl unaware of her ability to alter reality. She runs a school club, the SOS Brigade, whose members are secretly dedicated to preventing her unconscious desires rewriting the world.
The next volume of Haruhi Suzimiya short stories is a mixed bag.
The first story, Endless Eight, made me groan. Anyone who has watched season 2 of the anime will understand the fear at “Summer’s almost over…”. Thankfully, the short story doesn’t have the same structure and was a lot more enjoyable than I expected. The big problem was with my own over-awareness of the plot. Suzimiya wants to have a fun-filled summer holiday, and the rest of the SOS brigade have to make it happen.
The next story, Day of Sagittarius 3, was my least favourite. I struggle to engage with stories that involve descriptions of battles – either actual ones or cyberfights – and this was no different. There’s too little emotional content, and too much dry description.
The final story, Snowy Mountain Syndrome, is exactly what I want in Haruhi. Mirroring their summer expedition to a Remote Island, the Brigade go to a ski lodge and get caught in a blizzard. This story delighted for several reasons, one of which is that it was the only one not yet adapted into anime. It was the most playful, and saucy, and made me remember why I started reading Haruhi to start with.