When you’re working, but you don’t really think you’re working

(subtitled: When CPD eats into the wee small hours)

It’s all too easy these days to work the work, without actually realising you are working.

Work isn’t just about working for clients (although that’s the main aim, obviously), it’s about working for yourself if you are freelance, and one thing I have found is that sometimes it’s easy to discount work that doesn’t feel like work.

Does that make sense?

Ok, let me start again.

Caution - work in progress

I’m an Independent Word Wizard (well, Witch just didn’t sound right), in reality I work freelance although I’m still not sure what I think of that word. I work with clients who decide that they would like to work with me, and I work with clients that I decide I would like to work with. It’s mutually beneficial and I love it. Work also involves all the usual paperwork… you know the boring stuff, accounts and the like.

But, then there is also Professional Development… this invariably involves courses, training, reading, observing and networking. And this is where things can fall down.

Something struck me the other day, and it may seem obvious to others, but it came as a bit of a revelation to me.

I had a day off…

I’d finished a couple of pieces of work, and had some free time. So instead of doing the normal “day off” things – you know, housework, that pile of washing that was starting to morph into a laundry monster, emptying the dishwasher – I sat in front of the computer and read a blog… then read another, and another, did a bit of social networking, then read another blog or two. All industry blogs, not a grumpy cat in sight. Plus then I sat down to a lovely book written by Louise Harnby.

Before I knew it, the day had gone. I’d read some interesting stuff but at the end of the day I thought I may just have wasted my time off.

Thinking about it, this is a regular occurrence. I can get attached to the laptop. On an evening, the laptop is on… I’ll be reading as I’m watching some equally interesting telly programme… watching a documentary on Egyptology while reading a publishing blog is nothing new. I am woman, I multi-task.


But, it dawned on me that what I’m doing is valuable.

This doesn’t affect my work, as I don’t feel like I’m “working” just surfing. In fact I didn’t think I was working… until I read a blog that told me, yes I was working.

So, should it actually be thought of work if you enjoy what you are doing? … erm, actually, yes. If you are lucky, you spend your time enjoying your work but I’ve come to the conclusion that we do ourselves a disservice if we don’t realise that any time spent “with the trade” is actually work.

It won’t make any difference, I will still be reading a blog, or a piece of coursework, or a news story at some ungodly hour. But from now on, when people ask me what I’ve been doing, I won’t dismiss it as playing on the internet, or whiling away my time avoiding “stuff that must be done around the house”… I will remind myself that I have been networking, or reading up on the industry, or researching, or listening to what my peers are saying.


My time is valuable to my clients.

But it is also valuable to me, so I should accept that doing what I love is still work. I’m just lucky that I love my work, and perhaps I should remember to take some time off every now and then. No, honestly, really take time off. Turn the laptop off and switch off the email.

Come on now, own up… how many of you fellow freelancers recognise this situation?

As a final note, just as I’d finished writing the blog this came up in the Freshly Pressed list. It’s a very interesting read. There’s a fine line between loving your work, working hard and burn out. We all should remember, even the freelancers, that time off is important… even if work is interesting sometimes you have to remember to step back, after all the CPD will still be there tomorrow and weekends should be fun.

Have wonderful and unproductive weekend everyone!

Poisoned Island … Antidote to boredom

The Poisoned Island

by Lloyd Shepherd

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Poisoned Island - Lloyd Shepher

A mysterious island in the Pacific, its inhabitants fighting for survival amidst the arrival of European travellers; the emerging wonders of the gardens at Kew; the ship Solander back from a mission; a Magistrate and his constable … oh, and a few gruesome deaths to add to the fun. All linked within a story that will want you to read through the night.

The Poisoned Island is the second offering from Lloyd Shepherd which allows us back into the world of Magistrate Harriott and his faithful constable Horton. His first book, The English Monster, was so good that to be honest I wondered just how this follow-up would cope. That all too difficult second novel can make you or break you. And luckily I think this may just be the former.

To start off with, and I’m going to be fickle here, the cover is fabulous. I know, you can’t judge a book and all that, but I love the way that the cover, like its predecessor, incorporates a map of the area of London involved in the story. We are to be taken back to 1812, and by seeing the streets open up before you, you can almost step into the picture and be taken down into the narrative. It may be irrational, but to me a book has to be attractive to the eye as well as the mind. Or perhaps that’s just the historian in me.

I won’t go into detail about the story… that would be silly, but I have to say that I love the old Magistrate and his side-kick. It’s like Morse and Lewis have been transported back to Regency London, but that’s just a comparison, these are characters that stand up in their own right, they are men you want to read more of, and I truly hope that I do get to follow them along on more of their adventures. And Horton’s wife should have her own side-kick status, there is definitely more to her than meets the eye.

Custom Office London Dock.jpg
The front of the Custom Office, London Dock, designed by Daniel Asher Alexander and in use 1811-43.

Unlike some authors who seem to have either carried out a cursory wiki-trawl of their chosen era, or worst, done no research at all, Shepherd has obviously immersed himself in the Regency period. He knows his era without shouting about it, and has researched well. While you are not being preached at, you know that he knows what he is writing about. If this were a film there would be no wrist-watches on view during the tavern scene.

What isn’t immediately obvious, and what had me fascinated with his last novel, is that the people and places are real. While the story is fictitious, the characters existed. And I’m sure at least one of them would have been tickled pink by his new adventures.

So, as a review what can I say about The Poisoned Island? I won’t tell you the story, but would urge you to read it for yourself. Lloyd Shepherd is a wordsmith who knows when to draw the reader in; he paints the scene beautifully and allows the characters to speak to you. And when the story is ended, go and learn more about his characters…to get you ready for book three.

William Parry's painting Sir Joseph Banks with...
William Parry’s painting Sir Joseph Banks with Omai and Dr. Daniel Solander, circa 1775-76 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, pop along to you local bookshop, or retailer of choice and bag yourself a copy of this excellent book. I cant wait to see what Harriott and Horton get up to next!

So, how come I see errors by editors and proofreaders?

Typo3Ok, so we all know that you go to an editor to work magic with your words, tighten you tables and add pzazz to your paragraphs. But you pop along to a blog, twitter or another piece of writing …and what’s that? A typo!

Yup. It’s there, shouting at you. “HellooooOOoooo! Got this one wrong didn’t you?” Cue flashing neon lights and dancing girls skipping across the screen.

Well, it’s not surprising really, after all we are only human.

Only Human

When you hire an editor, or a proofreader, we spend our time lovingly wandering through your copy. Armed with lovely coloured pens and a pencil or two, or sitting in front of the screen (probably still clutching the coloured pen as a comfort blanket), we switch on our “editing brain” and the magic happens. Words are evaluated, sentences tweaked, typos blitzed…piece by piece the copy starts to sparkle.

Until of course we come to our own writing. We try to avoid errors, but like every good editor knows, writers need editors…and once we cross the line, the writer part of the brain takes over. It’s a well known fact that the longer you work on a piece of your own writing, the closer you get to it, the less you see. You become used to the words on the page, you gloss over the odd error and the brain sees what it wants to see. Eventually, you will have re-read the piece so often that you miss the, sometimes glaring, errors. Heck, we’ve all seen those sentences doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook –  misplaced strings of words saying something along the lines of “if you can read all this jumbled up nonsense you are either hyper-intelligent or a superhero”.

It’s probably a little known fact (the non-scientific fact acquired by talking to people) that writing can bring editors out in cold sweats at times. You prepare a little article, read it…read it again…then re-read it. There’s a typo in there, there’s bound to be. In our profession we know that the spell checker doesn’t pick everything up, (and we know that it’s our reputation on the line)…so we read it again. It’s fine, we’re fine…we will not show ourselves up. Then BINGO! as soon as you thrust your writing out into the world there is it, quietly winking at you from the page or the screen.

old typewriter

So, next time you read something written by an editor, or a proofreader, and there’s an error, or a typo or a mis-aligned paragraph…smile your secret smile, lean back in your chair and heave a sigh of relief…yes…editors and proofreaders are human too!

*disclaimer* There’s bound to be a typo in here…there is just BOUND to be!

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