Are You Addicted to Training?

Do you always have a course on the go?

Do you regularly have more than one on the go at the same time?

Are you always searching FutureLearn or Coursera for your next fix?

You may be addicted to training.


oooh a new course!


Now, this is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it’s something I’ve wondered for a while. Can you be addicted to training?

Since I left Uni waaaaaay back when, I think that for only about three of those years, when my daughter was little, I haven’t been undertaking some form of training. I’ve taken courses for work and courses for fun, but they’ve all helped my work because I actually find it fun. I work on projects and subjects that interest me, and even those courses that weren’t for work have ended up having some use.

I took genealogy, palaeography and archaeology courses through distance learning and classroom-based learning when I worked in the University, and they helped me forge a freelance career when I left, even though I originally took them because they interested me.


table of books


I’ve taken feltmaking, book making, basket weaving, glassmaking, digital fractal artwork and drystone walling classes, to name a few. All hands-on, fun and informative.

My sign language classes were great, and one of the reasons I took them was to be able to talk to a student at the Uni … I passed, but she left, I had no one to talk to so that was a bit of a loss. I really need to re-do that one as I’ve forgotten everything.

But it’s not just fun. I’ve taken numerous work-based courses, all with the intention of helping me either learn new stuff or enhance my knowledge. I’ve been known to have three on the go at once, fit in alongside my work (when I haven’t had a theatre production to work on). In fact I have three on the go right now, or I will have once I start on the new one I’ve just signed up to.

Does this sound like you, or am I alone in my addiction to learning?

thoughtful cartoon

I think this learning addiction has been helped along massively by the growth of MOOCs and online distance learning.

When I first moved to the far north of Scotland, distance learning was of the kind you signed up to and had papers sent through the post. You would read the bumf, do the coursework, then send it back in the mail. It was wieldy, slow and expensive. But now, your learning addiction can be satisfied quickly, for instant gratification. You just hit the subscribe button, pay your price and access a world of learning through the interwebs.

It’s interesting, informative, useful and a total drain on your time, despite being wonderful.

How do you spend your time?

I signed up to FutureLearn when it started and so far have completed these courses: Start Writing Fiction, Forensic Psychology, Shakespeare and his World, Digital Marketing, How to Read a Mind, Introduction to Forensic Science, Physical Theatre, Exploring Filmmaking, Much Ado About Nothing, Forensic Science and Criminal Justice, How To Write your First Song, Identifying the Dead, The Business of Film, Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales, Introduction to Screenwriting, Explore Animation, Japanese Culture Through Rare Books, Stereoscopy, Forensic Facial Reconstruction, Competitive Advantage, Becoming Career Smart, Exploring Copyright, Creative Coding, How to Read a Novel, First Aid for Adults, Understanding GDPR, Bookkeeping for Personal and Business Accounting, and Early Modern Scottish Palaeography.

There are only two I didn’t like, and didn’t finish: The Power of Colour, and England in the Time of King Richard III.

Now if you read through that whole list, well done. It’s a whopper. Thirty courses in about three years, on FutureLearn alone.

The first one led to my OU Creative Writing courses, and my new-found love for the OU.

Addicted? Moi?

addiction2 (4)

Search online and you probably won’t find much about being addicted to learning. It’s a compulsion and is probably brought about, in part, by feelings of inadequacy – those thoughts that you really don’t know enough, that you need to learn more, THAT YOU WILL NEVER KNOW ENOUGH!

Say hello to the good old monster called Imposter Syndrome.

Now, I’m not saying that compulsive learning IS caused by Imposter Syndrome – personally, I just love to learn new things and enhance my knowledge in areas in which I have an interest – but when you learn for business, and can’t seem to stop, that’s when you have to take a long hard look at why you’re training all the time.

If you are constantly training for work, rather than just getting on with your work, it may be detrimental to your feelings of self-worth. Rather than enhancing your knowledge, you may actually be convincing yourself that you are no good. Training should be a force for good.

click here to sign up

So, if this sounds like you, ask yourself these questions:

Who are you doing the training for?

What am I getting out of the training?

Why am I training?

When is the best time for me to train? Do I need to do it right now?

How can I get the most from my training schedule?

Answer these honestly, and you may realise that you’re training just to convince yourself that you know what you are doing. I’ve been there and done that. Now I have a valid reason for all the training I do – it could be valid CPD (we all need to keep up-to-date) or it could be (and quite often is) because I love the subject. If you look at my list of courses above you’ll see a love for forensics, literature, film and theatre.

forensic filming in theatre

So, what do you think? Is there a valid reason for all that learning you are doing, or would you be better off spending your time doing something you love away from the screen? People, there’s a whole world of fun out there. Go and enjoy it.

Why I’m proud to be a member of the SfEP


It’s that time of year again.

My annual membership of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is due.

I have to admit it’s a time I dread. Being an independent consultant means that I have to account for every penny and no matter how diligent I am, I never manage to put money aside for my memberships. There are always other bills to pay, and memberships always get forgotten.

Last year, when I attended the annual conference and AGM, I was one of those who voted for an increase in membership fees, and I will admit to having to think long and hard about it. No one likes increasing their fees, and that includes societies, but every now and then you have to take stock and see what everyone is getting for their money. This is one of the reasons I increase my fees, and this year will be no exception. I increase my fees because the cost of living is rising, but so is my experience and value to my clients. I undertake regular training, keep up to date, hone my abilities and work hard for my clients – to undervalue myself would be wrong.

And the SfEP are no different. The costs are rising, but so is the value of being a member of the society. I’m proud to be a Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.


Here’s why:

  • The SfEP has a wonderful online forum. This, to me, is invaluable. Being in a remote part of the country, it can be difficult to find the time and money to get to networking opportunities outside of the Highlands, and the forum is a fantastic resource. Most other societies I’ve joined in the past relied on email lists, and still do. These, while being a good resource, mean that conversations are stilted (especially with daily digests of posts), quite often cliques build up and there are snarky comments and bitching. This, to my knowledge, has never happened on the SfEP forum. Instead, it’s a safe place where newbies and seasoned professionals come together for mutual support, to get questions answered, and just to talk. If you have a query you can be damn sure that there’s someone there to help – the members come from all subject specialisms and if no one can help, they usually know where to go outside of the Society. The forums allow us all to talk without boundaries – including our overseas members.
  • The local meetings are great for networking. Although I can’t make it to my ‘local’ meetings very often (due to them being 5 hours away – the joys of remote living!) I know from the ones I have attended that they are friendly, informative and a great way to network and talk face-to-face. Newbies shouldn’t be scared about attending as they’re the same friendly faces that often appear at conference.
  • The conference is second to none. I was extremely apprehensive before my first conference, but as it was ‘local’ to me I felt it was a great way to break myself in (ok, it was in York, which meant I could go home for a week on either side of going to conference). It turned out to be the best conference I’d ever been to (and I’d been to a few), and is now a regular feature of my autumn. Mixing workshops and seminars with extremely friendly editorial types over a weekend is something I now look forward to. This in itself is worth the membership fee.
  • Being a member proves that I’m serious about my job. I’m a Professional Member, which means that I’ve had to prove that I’m good at what I do. I have trained to a high standard. Clients can be secure that they are hiring a trained professional, not someone who was good at English at school and can ‘edit’ your document as a hobby.
  • I’m in the directory. Another great benefit for me is that I am in the SfEP directory. This is a great place for clients to find the editor or proofreader who will best fit their job specifications. If you need a professional, bookmark the site – there’s no need to trawl the internet, this should be your ‘go to’ place when you need editorial help in the UK.
  • The society has great training courses. Their classroom-based workshops are great, but I’m happy that there are more courses delivered online, allowing me to learn at home. I’m about to apply to do another one, just as a way of brushing up and refreshing my skills. I think training is an important part of my professional development, which is why I am constantly learning.
  • The society has member benefits. Whether you use them or not, there are member benefits that range from discounts on books and stationery to discounts off courses and legal advice.
  • The society is a comfort blanket. It’s good to know as a freelancer that I’m not alone. There is always someone there to talk to, whether it’s the lovely office staff, the directors or the members on the forum. When you are a member of the SfEP you are never alone.
  • I’ve made some wonderful friends. Despite how brilliant all the other points are, the best thing about the SfEP is that I’ve made some real friends. My favourite part of the year is finding my way around the conference and seeking out my editorial pals. There’s nothing quite like spotting a friendly face and heading off to the bar for a catch up. Without the Society I would never have met all the wonderful people I’m proud to call friends. Ok it’s cheesy, but it’s true. That first conference in York, I thought I’d sit in a corner as usual, watch what was going on, eventually figure out where the cliques were and see who was approachable. Instead I slotted in, was welcomed with open arms and ended up feeling like I’d found the best group of people in the world.

So, in the next few days I’m going to scrape together my membership dues (and the money for my next online course) and I’ll be happy to do so. I’ll be secure in the knowledge that for another year I’ll be part of a community that takes itself seriously, and promotes professionalism, but is welcoming, knowledgeable and approachable. It’s a society that I’m proud to be a member of.


Technology Hates Me



I’ve been working with technology since I left school. That’s a LONG time ago.

I can turn my hand to pretty much anything.

Over the years I’ve learnt new computer systems, tested new computer systems and helped design computer systems. All in a very small way, but I still did it.

I taught myself to code (just the basics because the real stuff is still on my to-do list).

I’ve used a couple of pretty complicated fractal systems and a Processing system and learnt the theory behind the practice, just so I knew what was happening when I used my intuition to create art. You can see some of my fractal artwork here.

I can use InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator and love playing with new software.

I can pretty much pick up a piece of software and learn it. It may take a little while, but I can set my hand to most anything.

I’m not so good with the hardware, but software is usually ok.

As long as it isn’t bloody email!

rage, anger, frustration

I do swear that the email gods are out to get me.

Lately dear old AOL (I know, I really should change) has been less than satisfactory. Being blocked by other ISPs is a pain when you don’t even know it’s happening.

I first realised something was amiss when the old Tiscali account I use was not getting through to some people on my theatre group list. Some important emails weren’t getting through – I found out by accident at a committee meeting.

Then the AOL account I use for work was sending emails out into the ether. Luckily they weren’t important ones, but hell … work emails are important. I was receiving, but some sent emails were flying free and not hitting their target. Thank goodness for follow up emails from a different account.

So … yesterday I bit the bullet and decided to buy myself a nice, shiny, professional email account to go with my website.

And it didn’t bloody work. Aaaargh!

alien scream

This time the email gods were laughing at me – I could send emails from the account, but couldn’t receive. It was something to do with the fact that my domain has been bought through one company and linked up with WordPress, and I bought the email through that company rather than good old WordPress, whom I adore. OK, my domain provider had a sale on. I’d had wine. It was an impulse purchase.

On screen everything seemed correct … but it just wasn’t working. And I went to the support site TWO MINUTES after it had shut its live chat help thing (I sent an email instead … from my Tiscali account, dear gods it’s getting worse).

I know I now have it sorted, thanks to help from the lovely George, but hours faffing about with DNS, TMP, SMTP and all that jazz really wasn’t how I intended to spend my evening.


I spent a few hours on Tuesday night changing over emails on accounts that use Tiscali, which included some website accounts I’d totally forgotten used that email address.

It made me realise that we spend our lives tied to stupid bits of software that allow us to talk to people, connect, spend money and do all kinds of online things. We get tied in and it becomes increasingly difficult the longer you stay loyal to one company.

caught, handcuffed, tied in

Why is it so damned difficult to manage our online lives?

I know I figured out my business email, but why are things so user unfriendly in these days of UX (that’s User Experience to you and me). One ‘help’ video was actually just telling you to figure out if it was the webmail or your third party email client that was at fault and redirected you to a useless page after that. It took me twenty minutes just to find the relevant help pages. And when I did get help from the lovely George after contacting support, it took me fifteen minutes on WordPress to find the relevant pages that explained what I needed to do.

happy email people

I’ll eventually migrate my ‘normal’ emails from Tiscali and AOL to … something else. But it may well suck the life out of me. In the meantime,  you can use my swanky new email address (which is also on my contact page) if you need to get in touch with me.

Give me a new piece of software over email any day – it’s so much easier to deal with.