Books in bags, bags in books

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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Having completed a few individual writing projects as a freelancer, I’ve gained a new regular client. I feel much more justified calling myself a professional writer now that it’s not just selling my own stuff. But I do sell myself, baggage included: Baggage full of books.

The pay is poor in a very competitive marketplace but as a freelancer, I can choose the projects which most interest me, and it all goes to building my writer profile on the out-sourcing agency sites.

I’ve found my feet quite naturally as an active freelance writer because it really just boils down to simple business acumen. I’ve run businesses, I hated them and I fucked them up with my drinking. Now that I’m effectively able to run myself as a sole trader, I can think of that as a separate entity. With a brain as fragmented as mine, it’s easiest to just separate the parts.

So in the last few weeks, when I’ve been a little unsure of where my life was, I’ve cracked it. I’ve won battles, mainly with myself, or the various parts of me in conflict. Whereas with previous ventures I had partners, this one I’ve had to do alone, as a team. I’ve achieved my current position by dividing myself up: The pseudonym who writes the work I publish under my own name, and the freelance work I do for clients, where I’m just a ghost.

Then there’s the third person: The one who manages it all. And I’ve found that to be the real me. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve written profiles of the writer; I’ve made changes to my website, my social media pages and how it all links up; I’ve arranged everything on my laptop in the same way I would a small business.

I’ve produced an entity, which is what a business is. I’m marketing and selling that writer, gaining work, referrals and all the things I hated when I had a limited company. But this is just me (as a team).

Of course, all of this doesn’t necessarily fit with the professional profile which I try to convey with my writer entity in other media. But that entity is me, however fragmented. I firmly believe that people buy from people and if clients wish to hire me, they get all the luggage. This game is about personal relationships anyway. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so it’s a job which suits me. And this is my blog after all; My personal diary; My sounding board, when I have no-one but myself and my readers around. If my frankness motivates anyone, that’s a bonus.

Right now, I have some articles to write for freelance clients. One is about learning Spanish through Spanish music. Another is a blog entry for a romance author: I love the variety. And it pays.

Later, my pseudonym will continue to write the next short story to be published under my name, provisionally entitled “The box we made”:

Life had been very much a game of give and take: If George had taken something, then he was indebted to someone else. If he received something and it wasn’t in recognition of anything he’d done, he was in somebody’s debt. When he gave something, he expected nothing back…

The third person in the strange trinity which makes up me, is me. I won my benefits appeal today. A Pyrrhic victory perhaps but recognition of my brand of depression as a disability, after a long battle. The tribunal panel were aware of me being a writer because I’d have a pretty tough time keeping it a secret with the online presence I’ve built. I have permitted levels of earnings whilst in receipt of benefits and my writing is recognised for the therapy which it provides.

Writing is in my heart. It has been said by a sub-editor of a publishing company that I write from the heart; That I have an incredible authorial voice. And that’s what’s made me what I am. Whether I’m any good is subjective but the proof of what I’ve done is the public image.

All in all, I’m back in charge of my life because I know where it’s going: I’m a writer getting paid, partly through state finance to manage my mental illness in the most cost-effective way: Self-therapy.

I’m a writer, a copywriter and a ghostwriter. My work is being praised by private clients and I’m only able to write in the way I do because I’m me; baggage and all.

Books full of baggage; Writing which carries weight.

Triangle beget pyramid

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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Humansarefree.com

This time of year is probably the best to be doing my job at the moment. This point in my life is probably the best chapter so far. I see the sun rise and set in my waking life, just as I’ve seen my life end in the past, then found a new dawn.

Most of the freelance work I’ve found myself bidding for has come from other countries. Native English writers seem to be in demand within the gig economy. As such, my working day has evolved even more into something which just fits around my odd waking hours, which have become stranger still.

Until recently, I was obeying a body clock which saw me rise in the early afternoon and retire in the small hours: My waking hours were typically noon to 2am. My unholy trinity of alcoholism, depression and insomnia was such that the latter was mainly driving. The alcohol has been under control for a while, abstinence just a life-long reminder. Depression is an ongoing battle, a life sentence of guilt for my particular sins. An inability to sleep was the one I could never get my head around, despite the sedative element of my prescription drugs.

It could be a passing phase: It may be because I have a lot on my mind at the moment, with my upcoming benefits tribunal. A couple of other things as well but things which I can’t speak of here. As with everything else of that nature, those troubling issues will be addressed in my fiction.

Writing has been my therapy for some time now, as I deal with life post-alcohol and with the fallout of mental illness. By facing my issues in fiction, I make them public but in such a way that only those closest to me might know which aspects of me are in those stories. My work allows me to exorcise or embrace things as I feel necessary. The people involved are protected by anonymity, pseudonym and metaphor, and everyone else gets to read what I hope are good stories. I’ve been told that my writing seems to come from something deep inside me: I’ve been rumbled.

I’ve been writing ever since I picked up a pen and paper when I had nothing else. During that time, I’ve made friends and more recently, business contacts. When I was contemplating what to do with my last short story, “Echo Beach”, I had a choice: It was good enough to sell but I sold out in the end: I gave it to my friend. He’s the editor of Schlock! web zine and he does it for the love, not the money; like me. It’s a symbiotic relationship, where I bring him readers and he gives me exposure. So Echo Beach will be published this weekend.

While I deal with other things and keep myself out there in the freelance market, I’ll always fill my time with my own writing; Addressing personal and worldwide issues, and coming up with new stories. The next one has a working title of “Necessary phantoms” and it starts like this:

The circumstances surrounding me becoming a temporary ghost were surprisingly ordinary. Because if a ghost writes the story, then they control it. If a ghost tells this story, it doesn’t hurt as much…

And so back to the working and living day: Becoming a freelancer has worked better than I could ever have hoped. It has helped me with my writing and with simply managing my life. My life is now full with writing.

With clients posting work from around the globe and the time differences involved, my day has migrated, quite naturally and by fortunate circumstance. I still get up at around noon but it’s not uncommon now for me to go to bed at 6am. I was restless between two and six in the morning when I was trying to sleep anyway.

So at this time of year, I get to watch the sun set as I sit at my desk and write. Then I do at night what most people do during the day. Before I go to bed, I see the dawn of a new day: That wonderful ephemeral first light, which sings of so many things ahead. For me, it’s as though the sun has gone around the world and it rises with new stories gathered on its journey.

A “normal” day isn’t for me. Personally, I find the hours which most people call “morning” completely dull: Like mornings at work in a Dolly Parton job (nine to five), wishing I wasn’t there and longing for lunchtime. The perfect hours in which to sleep.

I may be damaged goods but I realise I’m lucky. My unholy trinity and me seem to be working things out together.

It’s like an atheist epiphany.

A narrative sample of blood

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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Fineartamerica

My illness is a repulsive condition, in that people move away, scared. It’s both a personal and public thing, like my writing. Depression and alcoholism are hard to understand, respectively for the sufferer and those around them. It’s difficult to articulate for many and even though I have the means, I find it tough. Yet I write a blog, about writing, depression and the hangover from alcoholism.

I still drink. I smoke weed. But the drug which keeps life at bay, is writing: Like words from a syringe.

When writers write a story, they inhabit it: We have to be there, imagining everything around us, so that we know where everything and everyone is. I have read manuscripts which are brilliant, but for one thing. For example, if a character stands up in the narrative, it sort of jars the reader when that character was already standing.

Dialogue can be a minefield: Sometimes a character will need to speak for a long time, so they do so in paragraphs. For the writer, it’s a simple matter of opening each new paragraph with quote marks and only closing them at the end of the speech. Unless the character does anything besides speaking, in which case the quote needs to end, the character acts through narrative, then continues to speak. There are many pitfalls.

We as writers don’t need to go into minute detail but a few words of direction are needed here and there. We inhabit our worlds as directors on set with characters. Like life, it’s a balancing act.

As writing and life have become one and the same for me, so they meld more and help me understand what’s going on in my head. All of the examples above of how a writer directs all around them is how my particular mental illness deals with the world around me.

Writing is what makes my life tolerable. I don’t think of my studio as a flat where I live, or an office where I work. It’s an office where I live. As a flat, it’s a bit shit: A small living room and an even smaller kitchen, with a toilet and shower room in the communal hallway. As an office, it’s the best ever: Comfy furniture, big TV, DVDs, music, en-suite kitchen. There’s an off-suite toilet, like in any place of work and this one comes with a shower room. It’s a matter of perception.

The only thing lacking in this office is somewhere to sleep. I sleep on the floor and that’s why it’s called The Studio: where I work and live, which are both the same. It’s a coping mechanism; It tells me that what I’m doing with my life is worthwhile, because for as long as I’m writing, I’m in control and I’m creating things for others to enjoy, or be repulsed by (depending on the genre I’m working in).

The gig economy is keeping me busy and amused, at least with bids. Current projects in discussion are writing a biography for a fictional romance author; travelogues for a website in the vein of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so effectively tourist guides to fictional planets; and an open letter to alcohol for a blog. It’s competitive out there but I don’t want to undersell myself. I may bid low on the odd job which looks like fun, but it’s another balancing act. In the case of the letter to alcohol, I’ve bid as low as I’m allowed. It’s something I can add value to. I may get beaten on price but it should be pretty clear to the vendor that I have the credentials and the experience.

I really don’t know what to do with my latest story, “Echo Beach”: I’m my own harshest critic but even I’m finding it difficult to find fault with this one. So now I need to decide whether to just publish it for the exposure, or sell it. It’s a nice problem to have.

Now that I’m able to live the life of the writer, by inhabiting it, life is easier to deal with. But it’s because I’m one step removed.

Like an addiction, it’s a life sentence.

The ties which bind and gag

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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The Human Puppet: Katespenceliveart.com

Life imitates art: It’s an overused phrase and one which becomes devalued when you have genuine cause to use it. Life definitely feeds writing, whether it be the author inhabiting a character, or a story on the fringe of experience. The freelance world makes the “life imitates art” saying especially applicable to me. I’m a blindfolded puppet but I’m also the puppeteer.

There is much that I can’t write about here, because it concerns others and theirs is not my business to air. But I want to write of the things which fuel my depression: Past events.

Much of what landed me on the streets three years ago was alcohol abuse: I’m constantly reminded of that, by the people closest to me. They’re not vocal about it, because since I dried out, we all talk about my breakdown. It’s because I got better that I’m able to still see those people and I feel guilty about the past, because I see them. It’s been enough to drive others to lapse and even end their lives. I have no such plans because my family would be the ones to suffer from such a selfish act. I just wish people would understand – including those at the DWP – why my depression can be so crippling, when I have to live with the guilt all the time. And that alcohol was an addiction. I wish more people were like an old friend of mine, who observed that I have been an utter cunt in the past. Because I was ill.

Every single story ever written has a piece of the writer in it, just as every living thing contains matter from the Big Bang. Writing is therapy in any case but it’s especially helpful to me, because it provides me with a means to get things out of my head in a fictional sense. What I’m actually saying is buried deep in the words of my stories. There’s no code to decipher; it just means that the words I choose carry weight in the context of the work.

So I have to be grateful to the demons I now have under control, but which are still very much about me, in all senses; just as I have to accept the “gift” of intelligence which sometimes seems like a poisoned chalice. Even though I have an ability to express myself to an extent, others aren’t so fortunate. I’m not one that goes in for sharing posts about mental illness on social media but I am a writer. Half of my job now is as a freelancer; a ghostwriter and as such, I write for others who suffer depression. And alcoholism. Both are an illness and I’d really like it if something I wrote would go viral one day, so that more people can read and become educated; Whether or not it’s mental health awareness week.

Two things are working very well for me at the moment, now that I’m running my life as a sole trader: The greater variety of writing I can look at in the gig markets, and my personal writing pseudonym. My young female writing partner is detached from me and because I’m resolutely single, there’s no chance of art imitating life on that front. It really has worked though, writing under a different name, even though the stories my personal – invented – ghostwriter produces are published as my own. I wrote them, but she did.

In the freelance arena, I’m writing but I’m anonymous. In both scenarios, I can write well because the personal experience means that every word is loaded. It’s like reading an entire biography of a historical figure, just to form a part of one fictional character (as I have done): What the reader sees on the page represents about 20% of the thought behind those very words. Writing is like the universe: We can’t see the majority because most of it is dark energy.

Just as I can’t write about most of the causes of my mental illness, neither can I publish that which I write for others. But it’s for precisely that reason that I’m able to write so easily. I’m the kind of person who wants to tell everyone everything at once: Obviously, I can’t. Being bound and gagged by restrictive contracts means that I can focus on the words which matter.

My pseudonym is still writing Echo Beach; a long short story which we’re deliberately taking our time over to ensure that it’s perfect. It’s changed a lot during the writing process and it has no definite market, because that’s the way I (and she) have always worked: If a story occurs to you, write it; then sell it if you can. We’re just less prolific now because the short stories are longer and deeper than my stock Schlock pulp fiction.

The freelance ghostwriter side of things is now sufficiently researched for me to be able to concentrate on just a couple of the gig sites. If any other freelancer were to ask which out-source site I’d recommend, it would be Upwork without a doubt. They’ll take a cut of earnings of course, but their platform doesn’t require the equivalent of in-app purchases to make your bids more visible.

I’m in negotiation on two contracts with vendors as I write: One is ghostwriting contemporary romance short stories (yes, really) and the other is a philanthropic website venture. Both interest me personally. I’m choosy about what I bid for and I sell myself: It seems to work.

A rather handy upshot of the freelance market is that a lot of the vendors are US companies, so they’re 5-9 hours behind GMT / BST. I’m often working into the small hours because that’s when my internet connection is best, so the time difference works well.

Life imitates art / Art imitates life: Writing melds it all into one, which makes my life easier to deal with.

Reflections of a ghost

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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“The haunted typewriter”, by JW Donley

I recently tried to separate writing from the rest of my life, now that the former has joined the latter in being a full-time rarely-paid job. Even though I love writing and it is my life, bidding for poorly-paid gigs had to be separated from the less pressured stuff. I’ll never stop enjoying all kinds of writing but as it’s so fulfilling, I wanted the “me” stuff to be separate from the work I might do for others. The solution was quite unexpected.

Most “normal” people will do a job during the day, then do something relaxing when they’re not working. For me, writing is both. My particular brand of depression means that I find it difficult to relax my mind, which is great for a writer. Even though I’m not diagnosed schizophrenic, I needed to split my personality between the two kinds of writing and create a work / life balance.

I’ve worked from home before, when I ran businesses. Perhaps it was my depression, or maybe just eccentricity but what I used to do then, was this:

I’d wake in the morning and get dressed for work (trousers, shirt and jacket). I’d have a cup of tea, then I’d leave home for the office. But I worked from home? Simple: I’d leave my flat and walk clockwise around a loop of residential roads in Bexley. Twenty minutes later, I’d arrive at the office. Of course, I was at home again but I was in work mode. Then I’d work for a few hours. Once I’d finished work, I’d leave the flat and walk anti-clockwise back home. I’d have a shower, get changed and I was back in home mode. Unfortunately, writing isn’t that kind of job.

I could employ the walk-to-and-from-work method but this life never stops and I’d be forever wandering around in the village. Social anxiety wouldn’t permit that in any case. This job doesn’t recognise hours of the day or days of the week. Hours can become days sometimes. Sometimes, I just don’t want to stop. And there’s no reason to, but for that separation between the two types of writing I do. The answer wasn’t so much staring me in the face, as waiting to pop out of the pages of a newspaper.

As a writer, I read a lot: books, magazines, newspapers, Wikipedia… It’s research, learning and thinking. The office part of my studio (so, the whole studio) isn’t wanting for books, including volumes on writing. Writers, no matter how far separated by success, are kindred spirits: They want people to enjoy what they do. But it’s mainly a game of solitaire, so writers talk to each other, a lot. We are all lonely together.

We talk in online fora (the grammatical pedant in me will not simply pluralise the singular “forum”, when “fora” is the plural), by email and sometimes, even in person. The latter is rare for me, as social anxiety is one of the more crippling aspects of my depression. Many writers have written books, on writing. I write a blog.

One of my most treasured volumes is “I’d Rather be Writing”, by Marcia Golub, which deals with writers procrastinating; By allowing writers to procrastinate by reading about how not to: It is a good book but I treasure it because I get the gag, even if it wasn’t intended. In any case, it’s a writer’s help volume, written by a kindred spirit. That’s why I love writing, besides the writing itself: We’re a community and although there are hierarchies, even those at the top of their game remember what it was like before they got there.

The unexpected solution (for me, personally) came from Toby Litt, in an excellent feature in The Guardian: Experiment, play, throw away. The Guardian is the writers’ newspaper (for me, personally) and in this article, some very respected and well-known authors gave some personal tips to others who might be trying to improve themselves, their work, and their chances of success.

When I write for other people on freelance work, I’m not writing for myself; In some cases, I am actually a ghostwriter. With my own work, I’m me and my own boss. My depression dictates that I am my own harshest critic, and although that’s good when writing for someone else, it doesn’t help the words flow when all that matters is getting thoughts down on paper (or screen). So change the person. But I’ve tried that? So adopt a pseudonym.

And there it was, staring at me from the pages of The Guardian. Of course, when I ghostwrite, I’m an invisible pseudonym for the client. When I’m my own boss, I need to separate client and writer, even with my novels and short stories. This isn’t to say I’ll use a pseudonym to publish my work: I need the exposure. What it does mean, is that I’ve created another person. Writers inhabit their characters anyway. I’m now a character of my own making, whom I have control over, when my pseudonym is writing for me. She’s an invisible pseudonym.

I know my fictional characters well: A writer has to know their creations intimately; The characters are the writer after all, with bits bolted on. The bolt-ons are what the writer has explored to really bring the character to life. It just so happened that the one character of my making whom I could relate to the most, was a female.

I’m resolutely single for many reasons. I am very much in touch with my internal female anyway, so to have a female writing partner and soulmate… Well, it’s just perfect.

A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie (Review)

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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About two years ago, I wrote a very important story. I was crashing on the sofa of a family of friends and during my stay, a little cloud disappeared: He was a dog. He was part of their family and he was my friend. I decamped to the local pub for a couple of hours and I wrote something which I thought might help. It was the tale of a young girl and a talking dog, who imparted some wisdom for his human friends.

The story has touched the hearts of everyone who’s read it. My nine-year-old daughter was so taken by it that she offered to illustrate it. It won first prize in a national writing competition and it’s available as an ebook in my Kindle store.

It’s always nice to get feedback from readers and peers, especially from those in respected positions; And even more so when I’m compared to “…Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, the Brontes, Enid Blyton…many others…”.

I am a tart, a whore and a slag; and I will unashamedly share such feedback:

Hi Steve…

I don’t usually email people who’s stories I read, but I felt I had to write to say how much I enjoyed your winning story in Writing Magazine: “A Girl, Frank Burnside and Haile Selassie.”  

These days, so many winning stories in writing competitions are miserable reads — so many being about lingering death, Alzheimer’s Disease, child-abuse — either that or they’re written in such a way that they’ve no heart in them because the writer has tried too hard to display his/her cleverness to the judges. All of this is understandable, of course, when writing for competitions, but for me, they are very boring to read. Half the time I don’t even finish them — just skim to the end to see what the outcome of the tale is — if I’m curious enough that is. 

But your story was different. Yes it was a bit sad, but in a good way. It actually moved me to tears, which is difficult to do at my age (70 years old) and after having read what must be thousands of books in my time. There was a bubbly quality to it, as picked up by the judge, but there was also a readability to it, which is rare in short stories today, and it’s readability that is the sign of a good author. You made me remember all the dogs I’ve had in my life and how I loved them, and how… I know… they loved me, so I cried, but it wasn’t a sad cry, it was a sweet, happy memories cry and that hasn’t happened to me in years.

The best thing,  I thought, was the Voice. I don’t mean the voice of your character (Ellie), although that was brilliantly well done. No, I mean your Authorial Voice. Of all the books I’ve read over the years, whether they were classics or popular fiction, the stories that have stayed in my mind have all been written by authors who had a distinct, individual style …Jane Austen … Charles Dickens… Agatha Christie…the Brontes… Enid Blyton… many others…  and there was a heart in their writing  that captivated the reader. Well, I found that your story captivated me in much the same way as theirs. I think you have, at least the beginnings of, a great Voice and a very readable Style that is all your own and — and yes —  heart! 

So,well done and do  carry on with your writing.  And I wish you all the luck in the world. 

Amanda Carlisle, Writing Magazine (Warner Publishing)

I must admit, I was temporarily taken aback. As I’ve said before, writing is a lonely game and it will only make a living wage for a rare few, but I do it because I love it. Like most other writers, I’m used to submitting a manuscript and not even receiving an acknowledgement: That is standard. Better than nothing at all is a rejection slip: At least then you know that someone’s read your work and you might get some constructive criticism. To receive a comment like this, from a busy sub-editor is pretty amazing: Ask any writer.

Should any talent scouts be reading this, you might be aware of the person who sent me this praise, so feel free to check up. I also have the original email as proof.

(In memory of Jake, 2000 – 2015)

Effectively a message for campers? (2,3,7)

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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Assembled from old typewriters, sewing machines, cameras etc. (assemblique.com)

Among the many things I do to keep my brain in my skull is compile crosswords. Mine are cryptic puzzles, using a 15×15 grid and symmetrical on at least one diagonal axis. I employ the same methods as other compilers, so anyone familiar with the rules won’t be too troubled by the above clue. And it’s to that end that I attempt to write something which may resonate with others of a similar mindset: It’s in my head and it sounds like a college for large herbivores (11). This could equally be the story of what happened when an antique typewriter and a sewing machine got together (“Brother Singer”?):

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned, I learned from writing: Defy conventions and where there are two choices, find a third; Keep people on their toes. Because it’s all been done before and people know what to expect. You are the writer of your story and you want it to be different.

It applies equally to life: If it seems like there’s a choice between A and B, choose C. In my case, I was apparently some way through the alphabet when I finally decided what I wanted to do with my life, aged 42 and a bit. I’m 46 and I’ve been doing this long enough now that I no longer feel like a fraud when I tell people I’m a writer.

Recently I realised that I needed a little more order in my days; Some structure to make me concentrate on what really could make me a modest living if I run it more like a business. Given my life, that’s like erecting scaffold around a snowman. But I needed to put invisible dividers between working for myself and one day hoping to make money from it, and working for others, with a similar aspiration. It is difficult and it’s a life which doesn’t take kindly to barriers but the fuzzy ones I have in place are working.

Even before the recent reorganisation of my time, the studio was the main game-changer: Before I lived here, I was homeless. After roughly a year each of living on the streets, sofa surfing and living in an overcrowded pub flat, it’s nice to have a place of my own. Here, the door locks. As such, I don’t have to worry about people coming in uninvited; or a fucking delinquent landlady throwing a lit tampon into the room (another story); or a landlord whose accent was as broad as my contempt for him. Just as I travel with my own portable atmosphere, that guy would do well to carry subtitles. Then I’d spend as much time reading them as I did listening to him. But that’s yet another story. Now I have time to write them.

A door with a lock is obviously a good thing and the metaphorical doors in my life have locks for good reasons; They just lack hinges. Now though, it’s all a bit more under control.

The gig economy hasn’t produced anything much for the freelance writer, which is pretty much what I expected. It’s like pecking around on the ground for the last crumbs of bread and competing with all the other scavengers. Some of the work which is advertised is frankly ridiculous (someone’s idea made into a novel for an up-front fee of $250 anyone?), so amongst the pigeons, it’s easy to feel like a giraffe. But once the freelance work sites are exhausted, I can move on to other things, knowing that I haven’t missed out. There are a couple of freelance projects I’ve bid on and I’ve embellished my tenders with details which many jobbing bidders may have omitted: I’m a salesman and a pimp /whore.

More life lines have become blurred as I’ve felt ready and qualified to join writing groups and engage more with my peers. Writing is a lonely occupation, so peers are important. Depression and alcoholism are also isolating, and it’s been nice to discover some kindred spirits in the writing and blogging worlds.

With hindsight, it’s not been an exercise in separation but one of unification. Writing is my life now but I wasn’t able to embrace such a thing: It all seemed too good to be true, after all that’s gone before. Now I know better. “Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.” (Paul Auster).

So even when I’ve gone through the emails from the freelance websites and I’m writing my own stuff, it’s not just my life but my job; And that reversal has been the eureka thing: The figurative light bulb above my head. Or maybe I’m the snowman who didn’t think that the sun might come out.

Because whatever I’m doing, I’m my own boss. This is my life, my story and my business. I have clients but I’m the freelance writer. As such, I have targets and deadlines which I’ll be measured on and it’s only me who’ll suffer if I take on too much. My clients aren’t bosses though: I’m still my own boss in a freelance contract, in which I will have set certain terms.

If anyone were to tell me to sit at my desk and write 1000 words in an afternoon, I’d probably go to the park and draw something whilst standing up. With only myself to answer to ultimately, and with a reputation to uphold, I’ll write what’s needed to fulfil a symbiotic contract.

The writer’s life is such that it never stops and part of my mental health problem is simply shutting my brain down so that I might sleep. So am I not antagonising that part of my depression? I spent too long fighting and now I’ve managed to embrace my misfiring mind; My one-time adversary is now my friend. Everything I watch, listen to or read; it feeds the sponge in my head. It was a simple mind trick which allowed me to embrace this. It was challenging: After all, this was my illness but also the life I wanted to make. Before this mental exercise, I had to have a notebook to hand when watching TV, listening to the radio or reading a newspaper. That’s what writers do. I wanted to be a writer but I wanted to be able to concentrate on working and relaxing equally but separately. Now, I can effectively divide or dissect my brain: I can touch-type, so I don’t need to look at the screen. Even if I do, I can cancel the part of my brain which was watching TV and concentrate instead on the sounds. The words then type themselves out in my head and I remember them for later. I don’t know if this is unusual: I know I am. Perhaps I need to be grateful to the poisoned chalice which is my IQ of 147 for something. In any case, the premise was to embrace rather than repel; To enjoy the two being the same: Writing is my life and my life is writing. I just needed to change the way I was thinking.

My fiction writing has benefited from the new, permeable, semi-opaque regime: I’m doing more of it. Well, of course I am; It’s my fucking life. The barrier was accepting something so wonderful as fact, when I spent my life dreaming; mainly nightmares. I’m sure that other writers, depressives or alcoholics will get some or all of what was an unholy trinity for me. Perhaps others will too. A, B, or even C: I got off around Q and realised it’s okay to be different but that there are others like me, however rare.

Although not as prolific on the free-to-view stuff now, I’m busier than ever as a writer and that’s a good thing for a writer to be. Besides the gig work and my ongoing novel, I’m writing some library stories: Fewer but longer and deeper. The next to appear in a ‘zine, then on here will be Echo Beach: a deep and unpleasant slow burner of a psychological horror.

I have sedatives to help me sleep now but I keep a notebook by the bed.

Postscript:

Effectively a message to campers? (2,3,7): To all intents

It’s in my head and it sounds like a college for large herbivores (11): Hippocampus

As Douglas Adams observed, the answer only makes sense if you understand the question you’re asking.

A whore and a slave to the pimp

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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I am an unholy trinity of pimp, whore and slave; to myself. People who owe me money have defaulted on their debts, but that’s just an aside. It’s like when a customer didn’t pay an invoice when I ran a business. In fact, it was a good way to pay people to no longer exist. But that’s another story.

Lately I’ve had to adopt a much more business-like approach to writing, because of what it’s become for me (my life) and because I need to keep the various aspects of it separated. When your job is your life and you’ve been a slave to both in the past, that’s difficult.

It’s the way I live: This studio is not much more than a glorified office, albeit one with a leather sofa, a sound system and a TV; and a huge collection of CDs and DVDs. Like most offices, the toilet is off-suite and there’s nowhere to sleep, so I bed down on the floor. It’s a studio.

I was keen to find some sort of work / life balance but that’s difficult when I enjoy what I do so much. So having written various things for other people in the past, I thought I’d explore the gig economy. Obviously it’s poorly paid and very competitive but I don’t need to make a lot of money, I’m my own boss and I enjoy what I do. Pimping myself as a writing whore is proving to be just what I needed: Now I can enjoy writing for other people and getting paid, and still write purely for the enjoyment. I can place a divider somewhere in my already wonky day, so that it’s part paid, part not, but all satisfying.

Some freelance sites are better than others. Many are just a means for the operators to make money from desperate writers, with promises of great rewards for financial investment. Others require the writer to earn bidding rights, which can be done by writing more assignments for clients; or by “enhancing” one’s listing: basically, in-app purchases in the publishing world. Although I accept that writing has become democratised – mainly for the good – and that writers need to have credentials, I don’t believe that should come at a cost.

A few sites will only accept writers upon completion of a timed on-line assignment and with my trusty copy of The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook always to hand, I did some research. As it happens, I’ve signed up with three freelance sites: Upwork, Freelancer and Copify. The latter is the one which required learned qualification but I’m a whore and a pimp. They only accept writers on merit and I completed a random piece on “The Legacy of the London 2012 Olympics”: 200 words in 20 minutes, including proof-reading and editing. Some of the freelance work placed by clients demands that kind of skill and speed and I was accepted as a writer. I can’t share the article here because it was written for someone else and therefore I forfeit copyright: It’s the way the industry works and I’m a whore.

I’ve run businesses before and they failed because I was drunk. I’m sober now but I know how a business works. By effectively going back to running my own business, I’m making a separation in my mind, so that it doesn’t get all mixed up again. It’s a coping mechanism; it’s a continuation of the life-long recovery process; and it’s got my life back.

It’s dividing the writer’s life into work and personal. The difference is, I enjoy both now because of what I do.

As my intellectual stock has risen and I’ve become more marketable, I wondered if my website ought to be more professional; at least, minus the alcoholism and mental health issues. But people buy from people and if people are going to work with me, it’s the real me they get.

I can’t delete the past when my life is my business now but I get to choose who’s in it.