Friday, 29 July 2011

General Chaos et al

General Chaos and his troops have invaded our house. Major Mess has taken up headquarters in our spare bedroom while Private Breakdown was allegedly crying in the downstairs toilet, although there is no hard evidence to substantiate this rumour.

Yes, renovations are on the go, despite our plumber failing to show up yesterday as agreed and our tile-remover dude being three hours late today. Still, at least the process has begun. Now we just need to find another plumber and somehow stick to deadline and budget. And I must learn to be able to think in a house filled with noise and dust.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Blogging as reward

I can't believe it's only been a little over a year since I've been fully self-employed. I can believe, however, that my blogging has been way less regular since then.

Blogging used to be part of my morning ritual... Go to work. Check emails. Blog. Work. Have coffee with boss and discuss any urgent jobs for the day, etc.

But working as a freelancer means there's not much of a routine. Sometimes it's slow, sometimes it's frenetic. There are times when I work on the same project for weeks and times where I tackle six different jobs in a day.

The way I try to work now is to lay out a schedule of what needs to be done and then blog as a reward for finishing something. It's a healthier incentive than chocolate ;-) But it's also frustrating because for the past few months I've been so busy that I never get to the end of my to-do list and there's always something more urgent to do than write a blog post.

There are so many things I've wanted to blog about - movies I've seen, funny things my clients have done, personal news, restaurants I've discovered and the bloody cold weather.

I've missed catching up on everyone else's blogs regularly and I've missed writing daily here. But it is what it is, and it's unlikely to change until things slow down. If things slow down.

So I will continue to reward myself for work completed by blogging and blog-reading, but occasionally (like now) I will also bend my rules and stop by to post something quickly even though there are so many urgent jobs needing to be tackled, just because I need to blog.

And I will try to stop apologising for the less frequent posts because a) it's annoying to read and b) it's the way it has to be for now.

K. Now I really do need to go and do some of those urgent jobs. Thanks for reading.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Assorted updates: count down and cat warfare

I'm so glad last week is over. What an insane few days! Presentations, deadlines, power plays and boundary laying... Not so much fun.

That said, there are things to smile about this week:

Renovations! Commencing in T minus 2 days (or 3, depending how quickly we get our upstairs packed up). It's going to be hell, for sure, but I am SO looking forward to the end result. Note to self: Must remember to take BEFORE pics this evening.

Thus far, we've moved most of the furniture out of our bedroom and into the spare bedroom (except the bed and my gas heater) and most of the clothes have been moved out of the cupboard too. Thankfully the spare bedroom is ridiculously big, so we've managed to fit its furniture and our room's furniture in there, albeit in wobbly vertical towers.

Tonight we'll do the last moving and sorting and try to get the study (which is tiny) kitted out to use as the laundry room and mini-spareroom (with a single bed in it) for the time being.

It's strange though because our room looks so empty. And messy. I was shocked when I pulled my small drawer unit off of the table where I do my make-up to discover that it's left dirty marks against the wall. I'm very much looking forward to painting over the white walls with a shade that won't show the dirt so much!

Things are obviously chaos at present. I woke up wondering where I was this morning. The cats are loving it though. They feel like they have a brand new obstacle course that's been set up just for them. Little brats. Much as I love them, they do test my patience at times.

This morning, while I was trying to work, they decided to interrupt my concentration by doing repeated time trials around the obstacle course, making as much noise as possible as they went. The pitter-patter of little cat paws is surprisingly loud at high speed. Especially when accompanied by the sound of their bells and the taunting meows they throw out to each other as they race (worse than cricket sledging, I tell you).

They were having a grand time trying to outpace each other and drive me insane.

Until I joined in.

They were not expecting me to jump up from my computer and hare after them through the boxes and piles, challenging them at the top of my lungs with my own meow.

They stopped for a split second to give me a look of absolute terror and then fled in opposite directions.

Marble ended up under the spare bed (wedged between my shoes and other newly stored items), watching me suspiciously with wide eyes and trying not to show just how unsettled he was.

Sapphire, on the other hand, quickly scaled the mattresses piled against the wall (she mistakenly thinks there's safety in height). As I rounded my final corner, however, and let out a whooping victory cry - the bloodcurdling sound of an unhinged writer driven to the edge, which could unsettle even the bravest army veteran (or so I imagine) - she got such a fright that she backed right off the side of the mattress and made an undignified and rapid descent, noisily hitting each and every metal strip of the Ventian blind on her way down.

(She's fine, by the way. Just embarrassed)

Satisfied, I returned to my PC. Silence reigned once more.

It goes to show... that old adage is true: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Works for me :-)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Minor journo rant

When I write a magzine story, it generally requires a couple of interviews. I quite enjoy interviews. I always learn something new. Unless the interviewee is completely useless, which thankfully doesn't happen very often.

I need to explain something though: If my story is 2000 words long and I'm interviewing four people, it means that I have at most 500 words per interview. That's one typed page in MS Word. Given that I need to actually write an introduction and conclusion to the article, it's usually closer to 400 words.

Currently, I'm writing a 2000-word story and interviewing six people. So that's around 330 words (maximum) per person. That's the equivalent of three paragraphs. I have learnt that it's pointless sending an interviewee a list of 15 probing questions if I only have three paragraphs to write about their answers. So I will send a list of five questions, the first one being full name and designation. And when I interviewee the person, it will generally take me about 20 minutes to go through those questions. Even then, I will have to distill the most important facts from the surplus information into three paragraphs, which is enormously challenging, especially when the person has lots of useful and interesting info to convey.

But some interviewees... *sigh* They still want me to drive to Pretoria (50km away) for a face-to-face interviewee and spend two hours at their offices chatting to them.

I don't have the time, the petrol or the patience.

Really - it's three paragraphs! When you win the Nobel Peace Prize and I am writing an in-depth profile for Time magazine and being paid mega-bucks for it (in other words, not in the near future), then we can discuss setting aside a whole day for me to record your every word and stroke your ego.

Until then, I really do think a telephonic interview will suffice.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Help urgently requested!

Right, last week was absolutely mental, which is why I'm only getting to this rather late... I need some blogger / Twitterer advice. Before tomorrow.

I have a lovely client who wants to get some of the people he works with to take up social media. He's asked me to come in and teach them how to use Twitter and how to write good blog posts.


I have explained to him that I am not the best person for this job and that I know lots of social media experts that I can recommend, but he is adamant that because I understand good writing, I should be the person to undertake this little exercise. I've reluctantly agreed to come in to their offices tomorrow and have an informal chat about what to do and what not to do. And now I'm freaking out.

Obviously, seeing this social media will be related to the business, they have to be careful what they say. I can explain that the internet is forever, that Twitter / the blogosphere is not a good place to have a heated argument etc... But what else?

I'm drawing up a basic copy checklist for what makes a good blog post (from a writer's perspective, so it's things like 'include a strong headline' and all that jazz) and explaining the basics of how Twitter works (seeing most of them haven't ever Tweeted before), but I would really appreciate any pointers you can give from your own experience.

I would be most grateful for any advice at all.

Monday, 4 July 2011

2011 - not a fan

I can't believe it's July already. 2011 is just rushing by. I'm hoping for a less frenetic second half. I did not enjoy the first part of the year. Work stuff, family stuff, life stuff, church stuff...

It's not all been bad, as TSC reminded me the other day. He found a job, which has been a major worry lifted off our shoulders. He graduated from his diploma and has now passed all his exams (found out this morning) for his first semester of the B. Tech.

We made some good friends; we've become closer to other friends and family through the rough times we've all endured. We've seen people grow up. We've stopped trying to impress some people. We've come to understand the value of down time.

I've learned some good business lessons through sticky situations. I've renewed old friendships, let go of some unhealthy ones and watched others grow into a new season. I've been spoiled by my generous husband and been surprised by how God fits puzzle pieces together when I can't see a way they can work.

All in all, it's been a character-building year.

Character building is not fun. Maybe my character-building for 2011 is done?

Pahahaha... I somehow doubt it. But here's to the good stuff... The simple stuff... The patch of sun filtering into the room as I type; the cats that have cuddled me through two weeks of nasty flu.

Here's to the TV shows that make me smile and forget; the one awesome client who eclipses two not-so-nice ones. Here's to fabulous brunches with my folks; to good coffee, electric blankets, home-grown spinach, exciting projects, unexpected catch-ups and positive conversations. Here's to daily hugs and kisses from TSC, to red wine, good pillows, BBMs, business opportunities and bathroom renovations.

This is the stuff that 2011 has been made of. Here's to the second half of 2011.