Will write for electricity!

On your marks, get set, WRITE!…or not…

So I’m trying to make a living as a freelance writer. Well ‘make a living’ is probably stretching it a bit. Well actually it’s totally stretching it. Think Loom Band type stretching. I’m trying to pay my electricity bill by doing some freelance writing.

As a relative newbie, it really doesn’t seem to pay that much. Being a freelance writer seems to be the one contradiction of the supply and demand rule. Yes there are endless freelancers. But there is equally an endless supply of jobs. Many of which go unanswered.

It gets frustrating when people want an intermediate or expert level of writing and have set their budget at less than $20 for 1000 words of well researched content.

Sometimes I just want to send those clients with $5 budgets a message just to tell them how ultimately shit their attitude to freelance writers is. I mean, come on. Meanwhile they have ‘expert required’ selected as their required writer level. If you offered to pay your cleaner $5 for the visit, how much help do you think you would get? I face palm every time I see it. My eyeballs are actually getting sore from all the rolling.

I know they can get cheap writers in Asia – let’s name no specific countries here – but mostly those are not native English speakers. You only end up paying someone else to proofread and edit it.

On top of that the platform I use takes a juicy 20% off most of my earnings…thanks lads.  Then I pay fees to get the actual money to me. So yeah, financially rewarding it is NOT.

I don’t write just for money. It’s my way of keeping my brain active, my way of asserting some mental and financial independence. It is draining though;  my perfectionist self won’t let me churn out crap and yet I spend far too long doing research, reading and rereading. So the money earned is negligible against the time invested. /Sigh/

Nonetheless I think – no I feel – that I must continue. I need it. I open up my content articles and I read them and I feel proud, because the quality is great. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have so many repeat clients across so many different industries.

I’ve edited novels. I’m working with startups. I’ve done content for web design companies, asset management companies, florists, service app creators, social media management companies, tech product reviews, parenting blogs and more.

I think it might be time to invest in myself though. I have to raise the rates and put a price and a value on my own time.

Even if that means I never get another job again (which is quite likely because everyone seems so damn cheap).

What’s that? … oh the electricity company is calling me again…

 

 

 

 

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Color – By – Numbers

Remember those color-by-numbers books we used to play with as children? I used to spend a lot of time with those and the dot-to-dot picture books.  I’ve always been a ‘love clear instructions’ kind of person. Receiving  and especially giving. Just ask my hubsy 😉

The thing with the color-by-numbers is that the picture is already formed and visible. You don’t actually need to color it in to see the picture. Sure you have to focus a little longer to separate the important bits from the background but it’s so easy a child can do it. And yet it’s only when its colored that we class it as complete. We happily follow a set of provided instructions on what color to add into each pre-made section based on a number/color combination.

This is exactly what I see people doing to each other every day. It’s what I myself do every day. But it’s wrong.

How old is your child?

How much does he weigh?

How long does he sleep?

What size does he wear?

How old are you?

How much do you(or your husband) earn?

How long have you been married?

How long are you in your job?

What did you pay for your house?

How much weight have you lost?

How much did those jeans cost?

You think you know me because of my set of numbers? You think you know my child? We slot those answers into an overall pre-made picture, based on our initial impression.

How about  – what hobbies do you like? Does your child like art or music? What are your dreams? What keeps you awake at night? What are your beliefs?

We don’t need the numbers to get the picture, we just need to focus a bit harder on what’s staring us straight in the face.

That’s what makes color-by-numbers different and more enjoyable than a standard coloring book. There’s a set of instructions, and how we love to follow them. Conversations are the social color-by-numbers.

The art of conversation seems to have gone out the window. Conversations have become shallow trading of number-based-facts like those kids’ card trading games where each character’s number represents a power.

Sometimes I see a lonely looking stranger and I want to ask ‘what is your story?’. People find it cathartic to get things off their chest. These days we’re all afraid to ask the right questions as it’s uncomfortable. There’s no map for that conversation.  So we leave the person be, we leave them in their loneliness. It’s too uncomfortable because it strays from the narrative we’re used to telling and reading.  Social media has trained us against sharing anything deeply meaningful as we try to limit ourselves to 140 characters. Brevity is, depth is self-indulgent; make the long story short will you?

There have been times in my life when I was young where I felt like the loneliest person in the world despite living in a capital city. I suffered a lot from depression.

If anyone had asked me ‘Are you ok?’ while sitting on a park bench I would have answered ‘Yeah thanks, fine’ as I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to feel burdened. I would have thought – and still do react this way today – that it’s too uncomfortable for the other person if I say ‘No I’m not ok’. It’s not shame; it’s simply not wanting to push someone else into that uncomfortable tangent off the standard narrative we are all so used to.

But if someone had followed up with ‘it’s ok to share if you want to, I’m happy to listen if you want to talk’ then maybe I would have swallowed hard and taken a few courageous steps to talk.

It’s my belief that mental health problems are so huge around the world today because we are all unused to sharing more than we should. Which is a paradox since social media has us sharing more than ever. Let’s stop yapping on social media and start talking to the person on your street that looks sad. Or just have an actual meaningful conversation with your neighbor.

What’s the worst that can happen?

If you misjudged the situation and I’m fine, I’m going to respect you for asking. Maybe that’s just me.

 

 

 

Strong or Cowardly ?

In my religion is a strong tenet, that “the strong man is the one who holds his temper”. This is attributed to the Prophet Muhammad himself.

When I was in my early twenties (and before I had converted to Islam), I had a partner who was eleven years older than me. He used to say (in explanation of why we had a rocky relationship) ‘Your blood boils from youth, it will be calmer when you’re older‘. We finished not long after. I’m now the age he was then. Sometimes I ask myself if his prediction has indeed come true.

Converting to Islam caused me to reassess my own ego. I began to see that while I as an individual, as a daughter, sister, friend, office colleague and later as a wife and mother have an importance, it would be an over-inflated ego and pride that would cause me to take offence to the point of anger at a throwaway comment, a condescending tone, or a patronizing look. People decide to get angry. Anger is a decision made in a billionth of a second. It’s a reaction that has been refined and improved over our lifetimes so that we no longer need to think about it, hence why it feels instinctual when someone is pressing your buttons.

I spent a lot of my youth being angry. I ruined  opportunities, relationships and wasted a lot of time that could have been spent happily if only I had chosen to NOT be angry. (I’ll admit  that sometimes  I got angry because I judged the other person’s feelings for me by how they reacted when I got angry. It made me feel good to see that they didn’t want to lose me. I still feel a lot of shame over that.) I’m not talking about hiding my anger – that is different – but to actually choose not to be offended, not to raise my voice, not to verbally attack others, not to react. You think I’m an idiot? Well that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it. Good luck to you.

Some people might call me cowardly. They might say I’ve let myself become a doormat. They might be angry at me for refusing to get into a confrontation.

The truth is that I can still seethe. And I am quite capable of letting the animal out of the cage if I feel hurt badly enough. But anger is such a trivial waste of energy and time. Even when I feel that familiar hot burn rising in my stomach I remind myself that I only feel this way because I’m letting it happen and I can resolve this without the anger. So someone patronized me? So what?? In my mind I play through the scenario that would ensue if I got angry – I might say something angry back, we would inflame each other with smart ass remarks, before regretting it all and apologizing. It would hardly change their opinion of me or my action, most likely it would validate it. So why bother? I will only regret the words I spoke and can not take back. I don’t need the burden of that.

Paradoxically, when you start to do this, your self esteem starts to solidify and the comments, perceived disrespect or triggers  that previously nudged your self esteem to react in such a negative way, now no longer impact this solid core of yourself. Very little that others do can upset you. You get strong. You get happy as you realize that the influence of others over your emotional stability is totally diminished. Having a stronger but more humble self esteem has enabled me to talk issues out with people before they become sensitivities.Being able to  admit I did something wrong goes hand in hand here.

The anger I feel nowadays is related to social justice. I try not to waste time on anger in my personal relationship (I’m not always successful). Hypocrisy is unavoidable in life; at times we all espouse one thing and then do another. I get angry when people die in wars, famine, disease etc as a result of social hypocrisy and a lack of social justice. And this is a healthy anger. I control where it starts and ends. I don’t let the weight of my own pride-based anger burden me anymore. I feel a whole lot better for it.

So am I calmer now I’m older?  Yes, I suppose he was right. But he couldn’t have known the process of growth and transformation I went through to get here.

 

 

Our SMART TV is making me stupid

I fall into these bad habits from time to time. One of them is watching too much TV. I have to cut it out. It was my hubsy’s birthday recently and I struggled to decide what to get him since after nearly a decade together he has all the clothes, cologne, watches etc etc a man could want. I remembered him giving out about our old-fashioned (but perfectly good) LCD TV so a Sony Bravia Smart TV came to live with us after I handed over a shed load of money. We downloaded Kodi through the Google Play store so now we have literally everything at our fingertips for free – no NetFlix required.

The problem is this – TV in general is just such a waste of time. For every one educational programme, there are a thousand brainless ones. I love brainless TV;  I’m an Alibi channel addict – any and all detective/mystery shows are what I want to be watching. Sometimes when I’m watching a bit of telly, I pick an actor and wonder what he or she is doing now. Probably they are laughing at how their pockets are lined by people like me watching them pretend to be a detective, drug dealer or serial rapist. Yes, they are out there actually having a life while I waste my time watching them in their pretend life. Ughhh 

Here’s the real kicker though: after a couple of hours watching TV I start to feel depressed. I’m not sure why this is. I think it’s because my subconscious knows that I’ve just wasted a few precious hours of life on total trash. Even if I’ve enjoyed the programmes themselves, they haven’t enhanced my life, I haven’t refined any talent (other than how to dip a biscuit in a cup of tea just enough so it doesn’t fall into a soggy mess)  or engaged my reasoning abilities. I haven’t had an ‘experience’. I realise that this sounds weird but let me try to explain a bit.

IMG_5672

I bought this box a while back, you can get them in lots of stores. The idea is to put little pieces of paper into it recording happy times, kindnesses done and received and at the end of the year empty them all out and enjoy the flurry of good memories. When myself and hubsy are having coffee on a winter afternoon we love to trawl through our mental log of good times, not chat about what TV programmes were enjoyable. I suppose I could go off on a big tangent here about what constitutes happiness but I’ll resist. This is about our stupid SMART TV.

To be fair I suppose the problem would exist no matter whether it was a SMART TV or not. I love telly, I give in to it too much, but I always regret it. That’s why it’s making me stupid. I’m well educated, I had a career in IT up until recently, I’m a spiritual person. Instead of spending time in some productive, creative, reflective, educational  or happiness-inducing activity – I give in, and the SMART TV makes a fool of me. 

Maintaining your sense of Self

I’m full of anticipation at the moment. I feel like I’ve walked into an open soft meadow, the promise of a lush fertile space where the mind is free to wander and create, a new beginning.

This is for two reasons: firstly, I’ve been made redundant from my job this week and secondly, I’ve started this blog. I was recruited straight after university, and stayed with a global telecommunications company for more than 11 years. Before that I worked part-time throughout uni and also in the last few years of school. I never quit for exams or finals.

So it’s a little bit scary in so far as I’m not used to seeing no money coming in every month as it has been for the last 18 years. Wow.. I had a little shudder there when I wrote ’18 years’…it’s been so long! I started work in my mid teens. I went from waitress to sales assistant to call centre staff to project co-ordinator to business analyst to solution and technical IT architect with a bit of project management along the way.That’s the sum total of my working life. Sounds ridiculously simple when totalled in one sentence but I spent many hard years working my way up, with long hours and sleepless nights from stress.

And now my job is going to be full time stay at home Mammy. Scary! I’m a bit afraid my brain will shrivel up like a prune. So to keep me mentally challenged and to keep a sense of myself I decided to open a blog and write my thoughts and ideas  here. At the same time it’s very liberating to be “out-of- work”. (Motherhood doesn’t seem to qualify to a lot of people!) My family was crumbling at the edges under the stress of both parents working before my maternity leave. We were up at 6 am, to go to the child minder by 7 to be in work by 9am (my job was 70 kilometres and two major motorways away). Not returning until 6 in the evening for me and 7 for hubsy. Coming home to a cold untidy house, cooking awful food that was just quick and convenient, getting my daughter to bed by 8 latest (she needed to be there by 7.30 but we wanted a little more time with her) and spending weekends doing the never ending cycle of cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and having very little time or energy for anything else was just sucking the soul out of us.

I’m finishing up my second maternity leave now after the birth of my son and I was dreading re-entering that cycle. Babies are exhausting but bring a lot of inner joy and this is a welcome exhaustion –  ‘this too shall pass’ is constantly repeated in whispers in the depth of night when it feels criminal to be awake. It is the driftwood we are clinging to as we drown in a sea of nappies, teething, toddler tantrums and colicky baby cries. But honestly I love parenthood! 🙂

Anyway, here I am, newly redundant, and I love that we can now afford for me to be a stay-at-home mother for a while longer at least. I want to make use of this time as best I can, expand my horizons a little. And those of my children. Writing a blog makes you very self-conscious of every word you write, every thought you have so I hope that doesn’t become overwhelming. I hope I don’t lose my ‘self’ in the blog by adjusting everything out of worry how I’ll be perceived. That would make the whole exercise pointless. This blog is going to be my own little studio since I don’t have much time to go to the gym or go to classes. It’s so easy to get lost in the cycle of life around the children. I’d love to hear any comments from other stay at home Mams or Dads on how you keep your sense of ‘self’ ?