Then and Now

I didn’t realise that Monday’s post was my 100th. Have I really done that much burbling? Have I really frittered away my time grinding out the words that hopefully someone will read and
appreciate? Did I keep an anxious vigil watching over the statistics pages? Did I agonise about when I’d be DISCOVERED? Nah, not really or at least only at the very beginning.

When I started off in January it was all deadly serious stuff about the writing process and my book Time for Your Life . Now it’s just random burblings interspersed with snippets from one of the two books I’m currently completing – both of which I’m sad to say have run aground on a sandbank and are sitting there waiting for me to rescue them.

I had no idea what to expect when I started blogging – certainly not to gain a respectable number of followers which I have – although most of them I suspect were just “fishing and farming” and have never been heard of again. I did think at first that they’d just got bored and “unfollowed” but wouldn’t someone have told me…who knows?

Those who have stuck with me I’ve come to regard as virtual and possibly virtuous friends and if I don’t hear from them I worry about them wondering if all is OK or whether I’ve just pissed them off too. I’m humbled (OK not obviously so) by their talent and facility with words.I try to give feedback and comment but I’m not as forthcoming as I should be. I have to be ruthless in allocating time to deal with social media otherwise I’d be lollygagging about all day, still in my PJs and curlers.

In these eight months of blogging so much more has changed than tying myself to my PC to write a blog. I’ve the one book under my belt – not a runaway success but then it was never meant to be. It’s done what I wanted; through licensing it to clients, it’s paved the way for me to spend a lot less time running after the day job and much more time writing. Any sales now are a bonus.

I’ve got back into the swing of writing short articles and features for magazines and I’ve even delved into the world of short stories and competitions although I don’t know the results of that yet. This week I received my first commission (as opposed to sending in a pitch) for an article as a result of someone reading this blog; I’ve broken into the national magazine market for the first time and most exciting of all I’m in discussions about ghost writing an autobiography for…mum’s the word.

I haven’t missed the day job; in fact the few days I do work at it I enjoy much more than I was doing twelve months ago. Its not just work; it’s an opportunity to socialise as well. That is one aspect that I need to add more off to the mix – there are times when I go a whole week without having a conversation with anyone except myself, the birds, the plants in the garden and my characters. It may seem odd for someone who is the author of a book about work-life balance, but then anyone who has read it will know that I put a lot of emphasis on making conscious choices about where and when to put time and effort rather than acting by default. But I do worry sometimes about becoming that batty old bag who waddles around the village muttering to herself so I just phone a friend.

What comes next? You’ll just have to wait and read the next exciting episode of Sheila in Blogoland.

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Why is it that when I’m away during the week doing the day job, when I get to the weekend there’s a more than usual number of “must-do” jobs around the house and garden? These “must-dos” are not tasks that I’ve let slip (well not many really) but are things that have cropped up during the days I am away such as a delivery that I’ve planned. I explained to the courier when and where to bring it only to find that he washed up three days too early and seemed to have left my precious parcel with everyone and his dog in the village. By the time I finally tracked it down it was, shall we say, well handled!

And another thing…have you noticed that the whinge factor of my posts is on the rise? No? Well it’s just not fair. Pay attention please. I’ve been blogging since January this year and over the weekend I took a trip down blogging lane to revisit some of them. Over the weeks I noticed how they’re beginning to sound whiney. Too hard, too difficult, too much work, not fair, no-one will buy my wares blah blah blah. It’s a dangerous thing this increasing whinge factor – for one thing it exacerbates my rheumatism – have whinge will twinge sort of thing – but more seriously whinging raises the victim spectre. Poor me; all I ever wanted to do was write but “they” won’t let me. They insist I pay my mortgage; they insist I write something worth publishing; they say that unless…Oh get over yourself woman.

So there’s going to be a few changes around here. This blog is going to be less about writing, the writing process, Kindle and all the other writing/publishing nibbly-pibblies (bring back “Blackadder” please). Instead it will be more as I originally intended – notes from the coast and will probably not even mention the W word, the K word et al.

If this is not to your liking and you follow this blog (what wonderful refined taste you have) I’ll quite understand if my future musings are not your thing and you decide to “unfollow”. However it’s only fair to warn you that I am the neighbourhood witch and I know where you live.

Bonus Day

Today is a bonus day. I was supposed to be running a personal effectiveness workshop for a client but they have postponed it. So what shall I do with my bonus day… decisions, decisions? If I were to follow the advice in my book I’d ask the question: what’s the best use of my time today?

I could demolish the ironing pile; put up some shelves that have been waiting for weeks; prepare for the next round of the builders? Nah, it feels like a kick over the traces day.

There’s just the merest whisper of a waft of spring in the air. Last night two lovesick owls sat in the trees outside my bedroom window twitting and twooing to each other. Just a few minutes ago one of them flew past the office window on it’s way to bed…dirty little stop-out. So I think nature and a walk on the beach beckon; then a catch-up with e-mails; possibly a cholesterol-busting fry-up for breakfast and then, just for fun, back to a short story I started last evening. It’s a new departure for me – not quite horror more spooky. I have the beginning and the end but how the heck I get from one to t’other I’ve not the faintest idea. That’s where the beach walk helps – it blows away the rubbish in my head and allows new ideas to germinate. That’ll probably take care of things ’til mid afternoon when my brain starts hurting at which point…well I don’t know, that’s the luxury of a bonus day, I get to choose to do what I want rather than what I must.

We do seem to be leading more and more complicated lives these days, taking on multiple roles and becoming increasingly stressed. That’s why stepping off the merry-go-round of our lives is important, no essential. So today, my bonus day, I’ll be out and about taking time to smell the roses. Actually it won’t be roses I’m smelling because the pig farmer in the village has clearly decided it’s time to clean out his sheds.

Clothes peg anyone?

Reflections on Kindle

I spent most of the weekend working on my marketing platform for The Book – mainly bullying the friends and family category. However, I also invested a little time in thinking about this Kindling experience. Here are four early learning points.

1. Don’t assume that everyone has a Kindle or similar. I lost count of the times I was asked to “show” the book because the f&f member didn’t possess a Kindle. This was also the case when I spoke to a couple of local newspapers and a radio station. So, buy a copy of your book and hawk it around on your own Kindle and you can give people a bit of a taster.

2. I had planned to publish The Book in other digital formats however, if you publish in KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) you are tied in to an exclusivity clause for 90 days. Check the terms and conditions thoroughly (if you are doing your own “Kindling”) and don’t make commitments that you won’t be able to keep.

3. You can have up to 5 “free” days in any 90 day period so you need to think about how you’re going to use them (if at all). I’ve decided to save mine for around the end of the 90 days when they can help me put a bit of a sales boost on.

4. Was it worth going through a Kindle publisher? For me yes, yes and yes again. I’m not tech-savvy; learning how to Kindle is not a priority for me nor a good use of my time. I think it better to stick to my knitting. The publisher I used (www.kindlepublishmybook.co.uk) had loads of experience and inside knowledge; managed the whole process once I gave him the mss and was affordable. I’m sure you can d.i.y. it but for me it wasn’t worth the potential hassle.

Finally, be prepared for someone (at least one) to say to you: “Oooh! You are a clever thing aren’t you, but it’s not like it’s a proper book, is it?”

AAAGH!!!

Happy Monday.

Big rocks, pebbles and sand

I’m guessing that most of us lead busy, complicated lives, trying hard to keep all the plates spinning in the air. I run my own coaching business whilst trying to renovate a 150 year old cottage where the recurrent theme is dust, dust and mummified mice whilst starting a third career as a writer and taming a quarter acre wilderness if I’m not to get lost or “see something naaarsty” on the way to the woodshed – (big fan of Stella Gibbons). Can I draw breath now? Yet I know I have it easy compared with those who have family and children to take care of as well as their own lives. So with all this stuff going on how does anyone find the time to do not only the things they must do, but also the things they want to do with their lives…like write?

I suppose the answer is to be clear about priorities – what are the important things to achieve – today, tomorrow, next month? These are what the late Stephen Covey called the “big rocks”. He used the imagery of each day being a bucket into which we have to put a number of big rocks, (important tasks) some smaller rocks (less important), pebbles and sand (fairly trivial or even pointless tasks). If we put the big rocks in first the lesser stuff can fit around them. However, if we put the pebbles, sand and small rocks in first, there’ll be no room for the big rocks – the important things in our lives. In effect we become, as Robert Heinlein put it “enslaved by trivia”.

Maybe five or ten years down the road we’ll be regretting the things we haven’t achieved because where we are then depends on what we do or don’t do now.

I think it’s time for me to start getting savage with my To-do list.