How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 9

Girl and paddling poolAlmost every freelance writer experiences the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott shares some of her favourite tips for surviving those quiet times, and even find some inspiration in them.

Survival tip 6: Allow yourself to have a lovely time 

When you don’t have any work, the theory goes that if you do not spend every waking hour seeking work you are the worst kind of lay-about waster. The truth of the matter is, as a workless flancer, given the opportunity of a nice day out (as opposed to weeping gently over your bank statements) you are torn between gleefully skipping out of the house (away from those nasty bank statements) and the broodingly intense guilt born of illicitly enjoying yourself when you should be coming up with better ways of generating cash than rooting around in the washing machine door seal.

On some level, perhaps the more superstitious flancer feels that this devil-may-care frivolity will anger the Employment Gods further, resulting in another month of cleaning the bathroom walls with a toothbrush just for SOMETHING to do (before realising that was your only toothbrush and you can’t afford a new one).

Others feel that in having ‘fun’ they will lose the motivational terror that results in every feature editor’s in-box haemorrhaging under the influx of 347 of their desperate ideas at least twice a week.

Perhaps being in a situation that results in the thought: “I really shouldn’t be outside enjoying the sunshine mid-morning on a Tuesday…” is just plain depressing.

Put those negative thoughts firmly to one side and justify yourself with the fact that anything you do that’s even remotely entertaining may in fact be considered research for a future feature or work of fiction. So in fact, having fun is part of your job!

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: :Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately  

 

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 8

Tiara etc cr Judy DarleyAs the summer months stretch on, freelance writers find themselves at one of two extremes – either inundated with work as holiday cover for understaffed magazines, or lost in a barren desert as commissioning editors apparently slip into a sun-induced lethargy. Freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers her tips for surviving the lean times of being a freelance writer.

Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately 

Barely any flancers ever dress themselves properly. Today for example, I am wearing pyjama bottoms two-sizes too big, some pink ballet pumps over chunky walking socks, an assortment of denim and a sequinned tiara left over from a hen party.

For most flancers, the daily ‘commute’ consists of: bed to coffee machine to desk. Therefore, dressing like you’ve covered yourself in glue and sprinted though a charity shop’s ‘To Be Sorted’ pile is commonplace. I regularly scare postmen requiring a signature, unexpected visitors and myself if I happen to stumble near a mirror.

The other day, a friend called me up for coffee. So eager was I to go outside where other human beings are, I turned off my laptop, put on a coat and unthinkingly left the house. Halfway through coffee I looked down at myself. I realised I had simply gone through the morning’s non-dressing ritual as per, which is fine for my living room/work space but very not-fine for a vaguely respectable – and more importantly, public – area.

As it happened, I was wearing (a) no bra, (b) my pyjama top and a cardi which I had slept in (c) no socks and (d) jeans that had been on the floor of my room longer than the rug.

On the plus side, looking this bad means people regularly offer to pay for your coffee. On the minus side, people pull their children away in horror (actually, this could turn out to be a plus) and intimate relationships rapidly degenerate when for the third time that month your partner sees you in your ‘work clothes’ and assume you have a drink problem.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 7

Rhubarb fool cr Judy DarleyAs publishing houses tighten their belts yet again, the time between writing commissions can sometimes seem to stretch to the horizon and back. Freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers her tips for surviving the lean times of being a freelance writer.

Survival tip 7: Cook Something Complicated

When flancers are busy with writing work, everything else in their lives goes downhill – particularly their diet. They don’t eat anything between paragraphs, other than food items pre-prepared so that the only effort necessary is ripping off the packaging.

However, when the work dries up, flancers spend their day at the other end of the comestible scale and fill their day with culinary complexity. Think making choux pastry (from scratch), venison souffles, pasta stuffed with soaked truffles, battered tongue, soda bread and their own cheeses.

Curries are massively popular with bored flancers because some of the more epic recipes take DAYS to prepare, and come furnished with the added bonus that in order to collect every single obscure spice required, one must either (a) visit the Indian supermarket (doubtless situated on an industrial estate halfway to the moon, affording yet more delicious time-wasting), or (b) visit India itself, to which the flight alone will gloriously waste an average of 22 hours.

Alternatively make something simply that requires ingredients you’ve grown yourself, such as a rhubarb fool, as that introduces a whole new realm of time-consuming.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: : Accept the commission from hell

Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately  

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 6

ReceiptsAs magazine and newspaper publishing houses tighten their belts yet again, the time between writing commissions can sometimes seem to stretch to the horizon and back. Freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers her tips for surviving the lean times of being a freelance writer.

Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts

Occasionally, after a head-blow or some seriously A-Grade boredom, the flancer thinks: “Ooh, I might just give next year’s accounts a preliminary tickle…”

A gallon of stomach-chewing coffee will be brewed and some Kendal Mint Cake eaten in order to fortify the flancer.

A Facebook status of “Am starting my accounts!” will be posted in order to crow to other flancers that you are indeed a paragon of organisation. Continue reading

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 5

FunwithfontsEver noticed how those time between writing commissions sometimes seem so much longer than the sum of their days? Freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers her tips for surviving the lean times of being a freelance writer.

Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font

Experimenting with font is a great way for a flancer to inject disappointing content and uninspiring raw material with excitement. The same old thing, jazzed up with new packaging.

But – and this is key – one must never, ever submit any work to an external body written in a ‘fun’ font in the hope that the excitement will rub off on the feature editor, who will then suddenly think that another piece on ‘recessionistas who cut coupons’ would be an INSPIRED idea and commission you forthwith.

This is because there is nothing more guaranteed to make someone hate you than inflicting your adventures-into-exuberant-font upon them. Continue reading

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 4

Toothpaste and forkAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times.

Survival tip 4: Seek food

Despite having hours of free time in which to go to the supermarket, flancers never have any food in the house. After your email inbox, the fridge is the second most depressing thing a flancer can open due to lack of exciting content.

It is difficult to describe the depression that descends when, after deciding to console yourself over another work-free morning with a coffee and a nice piece of cheese on toast you discover that you don’t have any bread, cheese, milk or coffee, and have to make do with a steaming mug of boiled water.

For the majority, all the cupboard has to offer is powdered milk, a jar of sweetener (which you momentarily consider adding to boiling water), a tin of flageolet beans and a Christmas Pudding that’s been there since 1990.

At this point, your blood sugar has hit rock bottom, all you have to eat is toothpaste and so you call a parent/guardian/older sibling, sobbing about how your only prospects for dinner are a bowl of pasta with an oxo cube dissolved in it.

Hopefully they will make reassuring noises and put some money in your bank account/invite you over for a hot meal, and mid-way through the conversation you will remember that there is *definitely* a packet of Malteasers in your handbag which you had forgotten about.

Crisis averted!

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: : Accept the commission from hell

Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 3

Google symptomsAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times. Who knows, some of them may even lead to feature/fiction ideas!

Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses

Irrational fear over new and unusual lumps/rashes/coughs/tongue patterning is a common affliction for the work-from-home flancer. And what a stroke of luck it is that the World Wide Web is sitting there in front of us, 24/7 so that we may enjoy full, unlimited access to the sort of information that can turn gentle puzzlement into paranoia and terror of epic proportions within seconds.

Online doctoring loves a bit of worst-case-scenario. Google ‘Headache’ and you will find out everything you need to know about brain stem tumours. Google ‘Rash’ and ringworm will haunt your dreams. Google ‘Dizziness’ and The Brain and Spine Organisation of Hull will present you with a questionnaire to discover the likelihood of you losing the use of your limbs within the next 48 hours (Answer: probably).

And so if you happen to stumble across a flancer gazing in dread at a laptop screen you can make an educated guess that they have just Googled ‘Mole’ and are now looking at a page full of words like: ’spread’, ‘malignant’ and ‘nodular’ and other unpronounceable horrors.

Either that or they’ve just Facebooked an old boy/girlfriend and are looking at their wedding photos.

But at least it stops you worrying about your overdraft for a bit.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 2: Accept the commission from hell
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately 

 

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 2

Commission from HellAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times.

Survival technique 2: Accept the commission from Hell

You type ‘yes’, click ’send’ and in seconds your soul belongs to somebody on a Weekly desk for the next four months. You have accepted The Commission From Hell.

It will require ‘case studies’. Lots of them. Photogenic ones (read: ‘real’ people who look like catwalk models). Aged between 26 and 27. It requires said CS to talk ‘candidly’ (ie with lots of grot and embarrassing detail) about their sex life (usually) whilst being photographed smiling next to their (equally breathtakingly photogenic) partner they have just ‘candidly’ revealed is “shit in bed.”

You also generally have about 24 hours to find these people and convince them they really want to do this for absolutely no incentive at all – apart from maybe ‘a day out in London’ and possibly a bottle of £3.99 Merlot (bought by you out of your earnings for this nightmare).

By deadline day you will have run up an immense phone bill, at least one of the case studies will have got angry/cried/dropped out, and the words “You didn’t say we’d have to be photographed” will have been uttered. But finally, you’ll be done and your cheque for £125 (minus Merlot and phone bill costs) will be in the mail…

…After you’ve finished eight complete re-writes.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’
Survival tip 3: Google your illnesses
Survival tip 4: Seek food
Survival tip 5: Experiment with a new computer font
Survival tip 6:  Consider organising your accounts
Survival tip 7: Cook something complicated
Survival tip 8: Dress inappropriately 

 

 


 

How to survive the quiet times: A guide for writers, part 1

Curtain twitchingAlmost every freelance writer experience the occasional lull. In this series of guest posts, freelance journalist Deborah Willimott offers some favourite tips for surviving those quiet times.

There are times in the life of every flancer (ed: this appears to be Willimott-ese for Freelancer) when the Journo-world appears to have neatly stored all your ideas under B1N in the filing cabinet of doom. In attempt to help you to get your brain up and working, this is part one of my three-part guide to surviving the long, dark, “between commissions” times.

Survival tip 1: Become a ‘Curtain Twitcher’

Other people’s business is always interesting. But when you’re a flancer at home alone, it doesn’t even have to be a turgid affair-based argument or actual, front garden homicide to have your nose welded to the double-glazing.

When all you have for company is the postman and Radio 4, hearing anything go on outside your window becomes your body’s equivalent to being smacked with that small rubber hammer the doctor uses on your knee.

But beware: The feel of curtain between fingertips becomes so deliciously addictive, you may feel you wish to move your desk closer to the window.

This is borderline nuts and can quickly escalate into you turning the lights off on purpose when dusk falls and sitting like a member of the KGB in a straight-backed chair with a note-book in one hand and a shot-gun across your lap until sunrise.

But anything is more interesting than not having any work – even the landscape gardeners discussing Kelly Brook within earshot at 7.30am.