N.B. See Reason No.1

Recently (so I’m told) there’s been a lot of discussion on the web amongst writers about the difficulty of making a living as a writer.

I’ve not been a part of this, for at least two reasons:

1. I think I’d be better off writing (the WIBBOW test); and

2. I’m a long, long way from making a living as a (part-time) writer.

This, currently, does not trouble me.


I have a day job which provides just enough impetus to force me back to the writing desk when the working day is over (see Reason #1 above).

I have a long-term plan for my writing, which focuses on improving my craft with every novel I write (see Reason #1 above).

And I have a supportive partner who encourages me to focus on the dream of being a novelist, while reminding me how I can work towards achieving that goal (see Reason #1 above).

Maybe I’ll never be hungry enough to write with the prolific speed of the pulp masters.

Maybe I’ll never be good enough to write a masterpiece that endures.

Maybe I’ll never learn how to make characters people like, instead of ones whom readers hate.

Who can tell?

But one thing I do know: having finished SHADOWBOX this summer, I’m one step closer to that body of work.

Published in: on November 19, 2014 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on N.B. See Reason No.1  
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Love Leads The Pilgrim

Edits proceed apace on the current novel. I’m up to 40K words now: just over halfway.

One of the reasons I was able to write three novels last year was the ability to schedule writing time in my lunch break at work. I’d find an empty table, unpack my headphones and spend some time getting my characters into trouble.

Not so this year.

Some time in early Spring – probably just after I exhausted myself with work-related training – I noticed an increase in the number of my colleagues. The canteen seemed to fill up and spill over into the rest of the building, and an empty table became harder to find when I went looking.

Noise levels rose. I took to the secluded areas where there were no tables or chairs. I went outdoors in the bright summer sun and sat on the grass with a paperback in one hand and a sandwich in the other.

And I quit writing during my lunch break.

One of these days I’ll write about my corporate Day Job, and the changes I’ve seen in the last twenty years of bleak, open-plan office spaces. But not today.

Sometimes you have to build your own cubicle. It helps hide the tunnel you’re digging…

Love leading the Pilgrim (1909) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Love leading the Pilgrim (1909) by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, © Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery

Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on Love Leads The Pilgrim  
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There was a wee bit of chaos

Ladies & Gentlemen, an allegory from the Day Job…

When I took up my first job in the corporate world, I was involved in a disastrous recruitment campaign that lasted nearly a year. At the end of the process, the whole team agreed on a number of things:

1. The campaign had not gone professionally.Spot the cow! Joseph Ritson (1752–1803), antiquary Engraving by James Sayers, published in 1803 Gallery: National Portrait Gallery, London

2. It happened, but it wasn’t managed.

3. Only through hard work and overtime had we grabbed back the initiative and completed the campaign, loose ends and all.

4. There was a wee bit of chaos.

Not what one expects from a major high-street company with billions of spondulicks on its balance sheet and a household name recognised across the nation.

So my boss and I, we sat down and analysed the whole process:

  • Volume of work.
  • Time to do it.
  • An IT system before Windows.
  • Only me, too, while everyone else was on the road.

We sat down and I typed a completed application form into the non-Windows system, stopwatch ticking. Worked out how many I could do in an hour before I had to take a break. Worked out how many hours I’d need at that pace to enter 2,000 applications.

Even worked out how long it would take me to print off, sign and fold 1,800 rejection letters and stuff them into envelopes. (I wore a groove in my thumbnail folding the flippin’ things.)

We worked out when we needed to start each phase of the process, and how long it would take.

Where we could start early, to free up contingency time for those things most likely to overrun, because they would, and leave room in the timetable for catching up. Space for dealing with circumstances beyond anyone’s control.Letter opener and hand

When we needed to have 2,000 envelopes on order for those rejection letters, and how many we might lose to someone else “borrowing” a few dozen. A couple of boxes of paper, too, with the embossed header and the HR Director’s name and the company logo because these things matter.

And how we would cope if things went horribly wrong, maybe with the pre-Windows IT system or something beyond our control.

Did I mention this campaign’s deadline was 31 December?

That’s right, just when the rest of the world was painting the town red at the office Xmas party, me and my boss were frantically typing application forms into an ancient computer system before the holiday season shut down the building.

But we did it, and had a few days off, and then the application forms were sifted and the rejection letters sent out and the interviews scheduled.An ice-skating scene, as seen in a print titled

In late January.

I ended up fielding phone calls from Senior Managers stranded in snowbound airports, needing a hotel and a cancelled flight and a whole host of rescheduled interviews. Usually at five o’clock, just as I was going home.

Did I panic?


Not me in the snowbound airport, was it? And I had contingencies built into the process from start to end.

(Did I mention we won an award for this?)

Because we’d done the process analysis, and had productivity data from the Campaign Gone Wrong, I could forecast – anticipate – how long I needed to catch up, how many people I needed to help me, and what I could delay doing until I’d dealt with the emergency.

Estimate, with accuracy, the best use of my time and resources.

Do you have to muck up to learn that?

No, you can do it while working successfully.

It’s the best way, BTW. Less panic at snowbound airports.

Fewer sackings, too.

But you have to do the process at least once before you understand – really, deeply understand – everything involved.

A bit like writing a novel.

Published in: on July 9, 2014 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on There was a wee bit of chaos  
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Office Worker – or, The Wicker Man

Another poem. This one is in response to all those creative types who give presentations to corporate employees on How To Unleash Your Creativity At Work…

Thru me the wild wind blows

(Click on the picture to see it full size.)

Published in: on July 3, 2013 at 12:00 am  Comments (3)  
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Link: Fictorian Era Dreams etc.

Occasionally someone else blogs a subject about which I’ve been musing, and this is one of them. To save myself the hassle of writing my own, pop on over to the Fictorian Era for their take on Dreams vs. Day Jobs.

“I am a writer with a day job. I am able to both pay my bills and follow my dreams. One need not be sacrificed to the other.”


Published in: on October 18, 2012 at 10:31 am  Comments Off on Link: Fictorian Era Dreams etc.  
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