Holidays, books and decluttering (What I’m into – August 2018)

August is the Month of Flop for me.

In July I’m all motivated for how this summer will actually be heaps more productive than last year’s – but then August comes and goes, and basically we’ve had a lot of fun, broken up a lot of family arguments, found we’ve rarely had a moment to sit down (yet feel strangely refreshed), and are very very glad that the new term is just around the corner.

So forgive me if I don’t fill all the usual categories this month – we’ve been too busy just doing August.

Books

I really enjoyed The Gardener’s Daughter – a brilliant YA mystery by K.A. Hitchins. You can read my review here, so I won’t say any more about it. But congrats to Jenni who won the giveaway!

I’m half-way through The Father’s Kiss (Tracy Williamson), which comes out this Friday, but I’ve been fortunate to get an advance copy as part of Tracy’s launch group, so I’ll be sharing my honest thoughts with you once I’m finished.

So far, though, I’m really enjoying the mix of theology, personal testimony, and prophetic insights. Much food for thought, and I’m excited about the many people who could start to be healed from past wounds as they read and absorb this book’s truths.

Have I intrigued you?! Look out for the giveaway, later this month!

My articles

Image credit: Pixabay

Curious to discover more about my first Hello Fresh experience? Thought you would be. Take a nosey at my comments on Eating, Cooking and Writing for the More than Writers blog.

Home for Good published the first of two articles I’d written on Suffering and Adoption – this one, Looking Suffering in the Eye. Part two to follow soon!

And, as already mentioned, I reviewed The Gardener’s Daughter right here on the blog!

IRL (In Real Life, for the uninitiated. Yeah, I know I’m cool.)

The Horniman Museum
  • Two lovely holidays – one to London (where we didn’t actually step foot in central London once but still had an amazing time!) – and one to the South Coast. Great weather we’ve been having, eh? Even when it’s cooled down, it’s still been about 59 times as good as most British summers.
  • One week of sick bug – Monkey and Meerkat both struck down ūüė¶ Fortunately, this was the last week of the hols, when we were all due a bit of down time anyway!
  • Two lots of family and one lot of friends to stay – the joy of becoming other people’s Holidays!
  • Week 1 of a decluttering plan complete – I hope to blog about this in the future, because I absolutely love it! I received it as part of the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle back in April, and it’s an absolute godsend! A very easy to follow 20-week plan for decluttering your whole house – and it ACTUALLY SEEMS TO WORK.

The Future

August may not have held much in the way of trying new books, food, music or plays – but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, partly about this blog and my writing in general. Since this ‘What I’m Into’ has been shorter than most, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on what I’ve come up with for the next few months:

  • Rather than attempting two blog posts a week, I’m aiming for one blog post, plus one email (sent on a Friday evening). I’d like to stay in touch with you better!
  • If you don’t receive these emails, please sign up here! It’s not the same as following the blog (where you get an email whenever I publish something new.) These emails are personally written by me, and contain links to other things I’ve written, not just on this blog. When the time comes, it will also be one of the ways I publicise my books, and offer freebies/giveaways/competitions – so please sign up!
  • I’m going to continue to work on my Pinterest account, so please connect with me there if you’re on Pinterest too! If you’re able to share the odd article of mine, I’d be so grateful.
  • Now’s the time for me to investigate ‘proper’ websites for this blog – don’t worry, you won’t be losing Desertmum, but at some point we’ll be moving to a more professional looking site, so that I’m all set up for professional writing.
  • I have two books (one for adults, one for children) in the pipeline, and really hope to be able to share the details with you before too long. Both are finished, but one in particular needs a bit of a push with the publisher, and this term I intend to give it just that!
  • There’ll be a lot of book giveaways this term! I’m just reading SOOOO many good books right now, and excited to be working with a variety of publishers who are keen to offer me books to give to you lovely lot ūüôā The best way of catching them all is to sign up for my mailing list – so what are you waiting for?!

Affiliate disclaimer: affiliate links are used in this post. Click through, like what you see, make a purchase – and I receive a few pence at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s marvellous What I’m Into series! Give her blog a whirl…last month I discovered that GBBO is being shown in the States, and that Leigh is a huge fan!

I feel most free when… (Happy National Writing Day)

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I feel most free when I’m lying on a beach, in the sun (not too warm), with a book, and a bottle of iced water, turning page after page after page, with no thought for what might be happening around me, because the world I’m in is contained within the font on the paper, and I’m oblivious to all else.

I feel most free when I have no responsibilities, no-one shouting “Mum!”, no-one needing my attention or height or motor skills to do that which they can’t yet do themselves. I feel free when I can be alone with my thoughts, follow a line of argument, question myself “Why?” and “Is that true?” and “But what if…”

I feel most free at a keyboard, typing away, vaguely aware of what must come out, and then being surprised when a better thought types its way onto the screen. I feel most free when I’m using the gifts God’s given me, doing things which flow easily and bring life to me, things which fill my tank. “His cup overfloweth…” and I feel this when I’m in the place I’m meant to be, feeling right, feeling free.

I feel most free when I’m singing and playing and not caring who’s listening or watching, but just wanting to enjoy a beautiful song in its fullness, in a way that’s impossible just by listening or through a YouTube video.

I feel most free when I’m playing with my kids and there’s no agenda, no list of other Stuff to be done (or at least I’ve trained myself to ignore it). I feel most free when I’m listening to their day, their joys, their frustrations, and really feeling like¬†this might be it, this might be what closeness feels like.

I feel most free when I’m lying in a hammock, eyes closed, no cares, no worries, no responsibilities. But then again – would I feel free with no responsibilities? Or would I feel trapped by inertia, inaction, less-than-brilliant situations around me, with no ability or desire to affect change.

I feel most free when I am me. No one else. Me. The me I was made to be. The me I am becoming.

***

Some reflections:

Wow! What a fun challenge. I’ve never done anything like this before, but think I may try and seek out a few more exercises like this. There’s nothing like seven minutes to focus the mind! And who knew I could produce 366 words in that time?! I’ve surprised myself! I did think about the topic briefly earlier on today, but what you’ve just read is largely what came out spontaneously when I timed myself.

I like the line ‘no-one needing my attention or height or motor skills to do that which they can’t yet do themselves’ because there’s a certain wit to it that I usually mull over for longer than I had on this occasion. It’s given me confidence that maybe I can be more spontaneous when I write.

I’m annoyed that I misquoted the Bible! Of course it’s ‘MY cup overfloweth…’ not HIS! But I guess my gut instinct was to communicate that God is filling my cup when I do the things that I was designed to do.

One interpretation of freedom is that it is whatever you don’t have. Note how many of my sentences seem to be about being away from the kids! Some days this seems enviable, and I wish I wasn’t so bogged down with responsibility.

But – and this wasn’t forced – I seem to come to the conclusion that, actually, freedom is doing those things that you were designed to do. There is a certain freedom in living life as you feel you were meant to live it. I like that.

Over to you! When do you feel most free?

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5 valuable work lessons from a nine-year maternity leave

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Last month I shared with you¬†‘5 valuable work lessons from maternity leave’ from the Jasiri blog (a wonderfully thought-provoking new blog, if you were looking for one to get your teeth into!).

I was nodding along with every single one of Naomi’s points. Yep, that had absolutely been my experience too.

But I was also inspired to respond. I guess you could say I’ve had a rather long ‘maternity leave’ (nearly nine years and counting). If you asked me, of course, I’d say it’s just been a career of a different sort, but if you frame it in the context of ‘leave’ from paid work, then there are definite lessons I’ve learnt which are helping me now I’m starting to return to work.¬†

The five which I’m about to share don’t discount those that Naomi wrote about – I agree with all of them! – but simply add the perspective of one who’s been out of paid work for quite some time…

1. Use every minute

There are no two ways about it: I am simply more productive now than before I had kids. Nine years of cramming in cooking, laundry, tidying and cleaning to the tiny corners of life left free after four kids have been entertained, fed, bathed, read to, taxi-ed around and fed again have taught me to make the most of every scrap of time I get.

I won’t say I never faff about. I’ve been as guilty of spending 20 minutes scrolling through Harry and Megan pictures as the next person.

But mainly I can’t rely on having time ‘later on’ – whether that’s this evening, tomorrow or next week – because my kids might get ill, or there may be another crisis. So I have to do things¬†now –¬†there’s no putting them off, and the faffing is greatly reduced.

In work terms, it is this heightened productivity that has made me utilise my writing times more effectively. I drop off the kids, open my laptop and crack on, knowing that those five precious hours ahead of me will soon be gone for another week.

2. Plan, plan, plan

In order to use every minute productively, especially when you’re fitting in ‘lifemin’ around caring for your kids, you need to have a really good idea of what needs doing and when. When are you going to collect that prescription, buy that present, send off that form?

I’ve learnt to work everything like this into my diary. As ridiculous as it sounds to write ‘pay for school dinners’ or ‘count hot dog rolls for BBQ’ alongside ‘Swimming lesson’ or ‘Toddler group’, if I don’t plan my days and my week like this, I simply forget the things that keep our household running smoothly.

Getting better at planning has been SO useful on my writing days. Each Monday is scheduled with assignments well before I get to it, meaning that I can start work straight away, rather than having to spend half an hour wondering what I should do today.

3. Be audacious

If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Yet in my pre-kids working life, I often lacked the confidence to realise my dreams. The fact that what you’re asking for often benefits the other party is something I’ve learned through my voluntary work since having kids.

I remember the first time I negotiated with a photographer to run a reasonably-priced photo-shoot for families at our toddler group – I felt wonderful! Yet all I’d done was given him a rather lucrative opportunity to make a fair bit of money over a two-hour period – so it worked well for both of us!

This attitude has developed through the other voluntary work I’ve done, not least in my current role as PTA Chair. We’re always asking shops and businesses for things – and we’re not scared to put ourselves out there!

As I’ve recently turned my focus to writing, I’m not scared to approach professionals – writers, bloggers, editors and publishers, to ask for what I need, or offer my work to them. Sure, it’s always going to be nerve-wracking to show your work to another who might be critical, but audaciousness makes you do 100 things in the hope that one of them will pay off.

4. Build good foundations

I am the Queen of Impatience – I like to fit a lot of different things into my life, and I hate it when one of them seems to take forever, robbing me of something else I could be doing.

But parenting has taught me patience, the importance of a long-term view, and how it’s worth taking time over things to get them right.

For want of making my children sound like my ‘projects’ (they aren’t, but they are also kind of my job, so it’s a bit of a blurred boundary), I’ve seen that the hours you spend reading to them, even when they’re crawling away from you, pay off when they’re older and learning to read, and suddenly you realise – WAHEY! They have a vocabulary! They can put letters together because they know what word is expected in that context!

I’ve learnt that biting my tongue and intentionally practising patience when my kids and I cook together (THIS TAKES A LOT OF PRAYER) results in some pretty amazing chef skills eventually. (My 3yo twins can crack eggs like pros!)

This has helped me as I’ve started a new career, particularly when considering my aims. Instead of having a monetary target, I’ve realised I need to spend time building a good foundation: writing to the best of my ability, using social media well, building my audience, connecting with like-minded others. I don’t know where my writing will go in the future, but I do know that it will only go somewhere if the foundations are good and strong.

5. Focus

I’m an ideas person, and always have been. Looking back at my teaching career pre-kids, I was trying to do everything.

On reflection, I should have chosen one thing and done it well. Three years as Head of Music could have made a real difference to one aspect of the school’s musical life. Instead, my legacy was confused and haphazard.

Nowadays, I’m not making the same mistake. My kids have taught me how to focus on them while juggling a lot of other balls – and I’m determined to put this into practice for my work-life too.

As I write, there are many projects I could be getting on with – writing for businesses, charities, magazines, blogs…not to mention The Book. Yes, I’m frustrated that a couple of these opportunities have had to be shelved for the moment, while I concentrate on finishing the book and other urgent projects, but it’s more important to focus on these jobs, rather than to become distracted by all the opportunities, and end up missing them all.

***

A footnote:

I’ve written a few times about being a SAHM – how it doesn’t need to mean intellectual suicide, how it is a valid feminist option, and how we women work just as hard in the home as out of it!

I don’t believe that being a SAHM is always the best option for families, but my words come from a place of frustration towards what I see communicated in the media: that educated women are wasted if they don’t earn money, that SAHMs spend their days watching trashy TV, or that raising kids is not a worthwhile endeavour for someone with brains.

I hope my words offer encouragement to anyone who’s walking this path, or thinking about walking it in the future. It can be a totally awesome thing for you and your family – and, as I’ve shown, develop some amazing skills for the workplace too!

Want to read more like this? Sign up for my emails and I’ll send you a copy of ‘Ten Survival Tips for Newly Adoptive Parents’ absolutely free!

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A blog about money (in which I attempt to justify to myself why it’s okay to earn money from something I love)

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They say that the three topics best avoided in polite company are sex, religion and money. I’m not planning to talk about the first one any time soon, but feel that as I frequently bare my soul on the second topic, I should probably ‘fess up my recent thoughts about money – namely, the idea of earning it in return for writing.

I’m hoping that, at some stage in the future, I’ll be able to make money from writing – but I’m also having a hard time justifying this to myself. After all, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly six years with no income – and none desired. The idea of people paying me for something I love seems wrong, somehow.

For those of you who are new to this blog, in January this year I decided to push my writing up a notch. I’d been offered a little paid freelance work, so I vowed to push a few other writing doors to see whether they opened too.

I’ve been wondering why I feel I need to earn a living from this. After all, if I’d chosen to remain at home as a full-time housewife, or commit my week to my church as a volunteer, wouldn’t these be valid uses of my time? What is it about writing that I feel the need to validate it with an income?

I think that, firstly, it’s a tangible sign of whether writing is worth pursuing in the long term. The hubs and I have agreed to give this initial ‘testing’ period two years. My aim, eventually, is to earn a part-time salary from writing – and, while I’m not expecting this to happen by the end of 2019, I think we’ll have a good idea at that point as to whether it’s going in that direction or not.

Secondly, I wasn’t ever really considering significant voluntary work at this stage of life. Whilst I love volunteering for school and church, my intention was always to try and do this alongside a part-time teaching job – and this, obviously, would have been paid. Why not writing?

Thirdly, I feel that to pursue my passion without bringing anything financial into the household would be irresponsible. My husband would love to have more time to write, but as things stand at the moment, he can’t do that because his paid job (i.e. the one which supports us and the kids) takes up too many hours. So why should I have this opportunity any more than him? (And – who knows – maybe one day my income will allow him to reduce his work commitments and have some more time to write!)

I have to keep reminding myself that writing is my business. Just like any of my friends who’ve started their own businesses, I need to work hard to improve what I do, build my brand, grow my audience and learn how to market myself. And I deserve to be paid for providing a service, every bit as much as my friends are paid for their photography or cooking skills.

The other week, with my husband out at a meeting, I got down to ‘business’, forming an email to send out to my subscriber list (click here if you’re not getting the emails!). When I finally sent it, someone my husband was with got the ping on her phone, saw it was me and said to my husband, “Wow…Lucy’s very audacious!”

But, the thing is, if I’m not audacious about my business – who will be? I’ve only ever been in jobs where others provide work for me to do. Now I’m self-employed, no one is going to throw work (or payment) at me – I need to seek it out myself.

You must understand, though, that none of this feels very comfortable right now. I’ve been writing this blog unpaid for so long, that to now start to use it as a platform towards an income seems wrong – even though my logical side tells me it’s not.

I genuinely want to keep this blog as it always has been: full of adoption/parenting/family/discipleship stuff, and anything else that floats my boat. Please would you tell me if it starts to become sales-y and annoying? I really don’t want that!

So, given my commitment to retaining Desertmum’s integrity, how am I hoping to build up my salary?

Affiliate links – you’ll be familiar with these from other websites. You see a link, click on it, make a purchase, and the author of the original website makes a small commission, at no extra cost to the customer. I’ve now become an affiliate of several companies, because recommending resources is something I’ve been doing since this blog began, and many of you have told me you’ve bought things you heard about here. Promoting new or unknown authors, bringing unusual or unexpected products to your attention – that kind of thing I’ve always loved to do, and will continue doing.

Books – I have two books in the pipeline – one hopefully coming out next year, the other to be confirmed. Obviously I hope to earn royalties from sales of these books – although unless you’re Julia Donaldson or Michael Rosen, this is hardly big bucks, particularly when you take into account the many hours spent travelling the country to promote your book, petrol costs, props/food/venue hire needed for book launches and signings. But having a book or two under your belt does help to build your brand, and bring in more work (hopefully).

Articles – I’m already doing some paid work for one of my favourite charities, and I would hope that this kind of work increases. One-off articles result in one-off fees (as opposed to continuous royalties from books) but, again, it helps to get your name known as a writer and builds your audience.

Freelance writing and proof-reading – I’m hoping that, eventually, I might have time to seek out this kind of work – again, it’ll be one-offs, but hopefully fairly regular and varied.

What I’ve learnt is that being a writer usually involves a certain amount of piecing together of a lot of different types of work, all of which feed off each other in terms of getting a name out there and building an audience.

It’ll be hard work, but hopefully one day all of these things might add up to an income which justifies the amount of time I spend writing!

Stay in touch! Click here to join my email list – and I’ll send you ‘Ten Survival Tips for New Adoptive Parents’ as a thank you.

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Log-fired pizzas, hands-free parenting and incredible acrobatics (watching, not doing) – What I’m into – April 2018

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Books

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The adjective for me reading Ian McEwan’s Solar would, I think, be ‘ploughing through’. In many ways it was an enjoyable read ‚Äď he has an amazing ability to articulate such fine details in precise but creative ways, teaching me so much about working with words ‚Äď but, with lots of talk about physics, plus a lead character whose infidelity and general self-centredness didn’t endear me to him, it felt a bit of a slog.

It was the book chosen for my fab Book Club this month, and I’m glad I got to read it, as I’d never have picked up this sort of novel otherwise. But I’m also glad I’m through it!

I was also disappointed by the ending…I somehow felt that if there was a spectacular showdown in the last few pages (which I really did feel the story was building up to) then I would have forgiven the slog. But the end was an anti-climax – almost as if McEwan had got distracted by something – a wasp flying into the room, maybe? – and had finished the book in a rush.

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This month I (and my housegroup) finished Kevin de Young’s The Hole in our Holiness. There were many great themes in this book of which I needed reminding ‚Äď but the writing lacked nuance and sensitivity to those who might read the Bible slightly differently on issues, and the whole book seemed to sit in a frustrating no-man’s-land betweeen academic rigour and accessible discipleship. He used unnecessarily long or complicated language for the layman to understand ‚Äď but also didn’t quite back up his points well enough, or make coherent enough arguments in places, for the book to be considered ‘academic’.

downloadI am still, however, really enjoying Hands-Free Mama. Its author, Rachel Macy Stafford, recommends reading one chapter per month for a year, which is what I’m doing, except that, with the length of time passing between each chapter, I was finding myself losing the train of thought.

I’ve now got a better solution: keeping the book in the loo and reading a page or two regularly! I usually hate reading books on the loo, as I can’t get into them before my bottom goes numb. But this book is written in short sections and anecdotes which add up to the same idea, so it’s really easy to dip into for short bursts.

Food

Well obviously I ate Too Much Chocolate. It was inevitable, really, after my Lenten fast. Since I have Zero Shame on this blog, you may as well know that I had the chocs lined up on my bedside table, ready to indulge first thing on Easter Sunday morning.

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Photo credit: Joy Photography

Besides that, my favourite York bistro launched its Pizza and Beer weekends, and I visited twice. If you’re a local, make sure you don’t miss out on these absolutely phenomenal log-fired pizzas, with crazy-awesome toppings. Fridays and Saturdays from 6pm, all through the summer.

Music

We got out our old Karine Polwart CD and have been enjoying her fresh, light, folksy sound – even 6-year-old Missy’s been converted to Karine’s beautiful voice and lyrical melodies. If you don’t know her, all I can say is that she’s PERFECT for summer drives. (Karine, not Missy. Missy will spend the entire journey moaning that she’s too warm, complaining about her head-rest and requesting snacks – not nearly as relaxing as Karine.)

Stage and screen

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Image credit: http://www.mettatheatre.co.uk

The older kids and I went to a stage production of The Little Mermaid. It was breath-takingly beautiful: essentially a piece of musical theatre, with live ensemble integrated into the cast. But the most stunning and different aspect to it was the acrobatics Рincredible circus-like feats which gave the impression of swimming through water. We were spellbound.

It’s currently on in Malvern till Saturday, then Windsor, then three weeks in London. I highly recommend getting some tickets if you’re within a stone’s throw of any of these places. The recommended age is 8+, but I took my 8yo and 6yo and they both loved it. The performance lasts just over an hour, so any child who can sit for that length of time would enjoy it I reckon. (Needless to say, you’d also enjoy it as an adult with no kids in tow!)

Films-wise, I enjoyed Kramer v. Kramer – an oldie I’d never got round to seeing. So much of the public gender debate covers discrimination against women, that it was refreshing – although painful – to watch an example of discrimination against a man. The story is fictional, but could have been real, very much reflecting the feeling at the time (and even now for some) that a man wasn’t as equipped as a women to raise a child. Needless to say, Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep are incredible, as is Justin Henry, who plays their child – much of the film is pure dialogue, and requires these veritable talents to pull it off. Recommended if you haven’t seen!

About Time is the kind of film you’re still thinking about (and smiling at the memory of) the day after you watch it. Such an interesting premise, the idea that you can repeat moments over and over again, to get them ‘right’ – but, as with all time travel stories, there are complications and limitations. Learning how to balance this all out results in some heartwarming lessons – and, as you would expect from a Richard Curtis film, there are some stonkingly good lines throughout. I was laughing out loud one moment, and crying the next.

Finally – I enjoyed¬†The Notebook, a touching drama about an ill-fated love affair between two teenagers in the 1940s. It avoids cliche by taking the perspective of the lady many years later, now suffering from dementia in a nursing home – and I love the way we’re left till soooooo near the end before discovering how the love story turned out.

Articles

Love is not a Feeling is so beautifully written, so wise and thought-provoking Рand deserves to be read by everyone!

On the blog

child-817369_640I asked Why adopt when you can have birth children? and explained Why my son tore up his Mothers’ Day card. I also shared the highs and lows of my writing journey¬†so far.

Elsewhere

I launched my career as a HuffPost blogger with¬†a plea to stop talking about ‘working mums’ as if some of us laze around all day with nothing but Loose Women and a big bag of Haribo for company.

woman-1733881_640.jpgThe Association of Christian Writers (ACW) has a fabulous blog – most days of the month are covered, and all the contributors are writers (doh!) so the quality is really high. I recommend you take a look! I’ve recently bagged the 2nd-of-the-month slot, and April was my maiden voyage.

On the Home for Good website, you can catch my article¬†What the Church needs to know about Trauma (actually, it’s what we¬†all need to know about trauma, church-goers or not), and read the incredibly powerful story of Fran, who spent her childhood in a disfunctional family and her adolescence in foster care.¬†It was a privilege to be able to interview Fran, understand her story and glean her wisdom.

And I was delighted to share some ideas for when you and your partner disagree on parenting issues over at the fabulous To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.

In other news…

* thank you to what is lovingly referred to as ‘Beauty Twitter’ for advising me that coconut oil removes make up. It really does! And is cheap as chips!

* I spent an inordinate amount of time this month sorting out GDPR for my mailing list, learning how to blog properly (after six years…who knew there was actually some skill to this blogging lark?), designing a few exciting graphics for forthcoming blog posts, and signing up for affiliate programs (see below).

*¬†Did I mention my mailing list?! If you’re not on it – get on it! The form won’t even take you a minute to fill in, and I’ll send you ‘Ten Tried-and-Tested Tips for Kids’ Parties’ as a thank you. (Or, rather, Mailchimp will. Because I worked out the automation feature. Yay me.)

* And, of course, I’d love to connect with you via Facebook or Twitter!

Linking up with Leigh Kramer’s ‘What I’m Into’ series.

This post contains affiliate links. Should you click on a link and make a purchase, I will earn a small amount of commission, at no extra cost to yourself. I seriously only recommend stuff I like – I never lie just to earn commission!

editors, rejections, and becoming blog-savvy: the first four months of freelance writing

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Here’s a Q&A to update on how my writing plunge is going. (I prefer the word ‘plunge’ to ‘career’, because that’s how it feels. And I feel ‘career’ really needs to have stuff backing it up, like…oh, I don’t know…a salary perhaps?)

If you’ve landed on this site without knowing me, and couldn’t give tuppence about what I’m up to – well, you’re every bit as welcome. I hope you find something interesting or encouraging here.

When and how do you write?

Writing mainly happens when my youngest boys are in preschool РMonday all-day and Wednesday afternoons. (They also go Tuesday mornings, when I co-teach Suzuki early years classes.) I write some evenings as well.

Typically, I curl up on the sofa with my laptop, and type away. I’d write all day if I could, but realistically there are usually a few jobs which can’t be postponed till the evening. I might write for a couple of hours, then take a break from the screen to do something else, then write again for the afternoon.

I absolutely LOVE writing! I didn’t realise quite how much until I started spending a whole day doing it. Last Monday it was 2.50pm before I looked up and thought about lunch – given that my older kids need collecting at 3 o’clock, this didn’t give me a lot of time, and was a good lesson in self-care!

What are you actually doing?

There’s the stuff you can read, the ‘visible’ part of my work.

For example, I’ve been updating this blog more regularly (check out my post on¬†being a feminist SAHM, or this on blending adopted and birth kids), writing for Home for Good (e.g. what the church needs to know about¬†trauma and the inspiring story of a foster care leaver), promoting my friend’s wonderful bistro, starting a HuffPost blog, and gaining a monthly slot on the Association of Christian Writers (ACW) blog.

I also wrote a guest post for one of my favourite blogs (the largest Christian marriage blog in the world, no less!) on what to do when you and your partner disagree about how to parent your kids!

That’s quite a bit, put like that.

But there’s also lots of stuff you¬†don’t see. Articles I write, edit and re-edit for hours – only to have them rejected. Emails back and forth between editors, publishers and illustrators. Online networking with other writers. Working on book projects which you won’t see until next year.

For the blog, I’ve been learning how to create better graphics. Joining affiliate programs to earn commission when readers buy books I recommend. Setting up a mailing list to communicate more reliably with readers. (I’d love you to sign up if you haven’t already!)

What are the challenges?

Until very recently, I found it extremely difficult to organise my different writing projects. At one point, I counted nine different places I was writing for – that’s quite a lot!

I didn’t know whether to prioritise the paid work, the book proposal (knowing that a response might take three months) or the guest post (knowing I might pick up new readers). Working for myself means I have no line manager to guide my workload.

Now, four months in, there are some very clear openings, and it’s these which are the recipients of my energy. The doors which have closed are projects I’m laying aside for the moment – not forever, as some of them may open in the future, but for now. It’s been painful, as some of it I would dearly love to do right away, but I need to trust God’s timing.

Anything else that’s been hard?

January’s optimism gave way to February’s despair. I received some rejections, was overawed at the writing ability of those around me, and started to doubt whether I could offer anything at all.

The quote at the top of this blog post sums it up perfectly, though – yes, I’m scared to death, but am clinging to a very strong sense from God that this is what I should be doing right now. That makes it a lot easier, and gives me peace when I start to doubt.

It has been refreshing to discover that even Jen Hatmaker, one of my favourite Christian writers, has had periods of self-doubt, looking around her at the work of other writers, and despairing of her own ability. I think Jen is one of the funniest, quirkiest, most passionate and radical writers around!

God’s been teaching me that I’m not supposed to be the next Jen Hatmaker or Michele Guinness. He has a role just for me, and I’m enjoying the journey of discovering what that is.

And what do you think it is?

At this stage, the doors which are opening are:

  • Home for Good – I’ve had seven pieces published here now, and feel like I’m really getting into the swing of it.
  • Books – I have a small publisher ready and willing to work with me on my children’s book (more later!), but I’m also exploring working with a larger publisher, which would give a larger budget for illustration.
  • I also have a different publisher keen to publish last year’s Random Advent devotional as a real-life book – hooray! It won’t be out till 2019, but the re-writing and editing needs doing this year.
  • Blog – I’m so grateful to you all for reading, and as long as you’re still enjoying it, I’ll keep writing! I’m looking into how I can build my subscriber list, monetise where possible (e.g. earning commission – at no cost to you of course, lovely readers!), and offer online courses or e-books, while maintaining the integrity of Desertmum and not becoming sales-y or annoying.

I know I say this all the time, but I am SO GRATEFUL to you all for reading, liking and sharing my blog. Your comments buoy me up when I’m feeling incapable of doing any of this – thank you!

being a writer: one month in

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Image credit: Pixabay

Last month, I shared with you my exciting but rather daunting sense of needing to pursue freelance writing during 2018. Since many of you seem to believe this is my calling more than I actually do, I thought you might be interested in an update.

I began the year with a day-and-a-half per week of child-free time. Not much, if you include all the other jobs which mount up with a large family, not to mention commitments at church and school. I determined to ‘protect’ my half-day for writing – but who was I kidding? That would never be enough. That half day has quickly become the full day-and-a-half, and housework and other stuff just gets fitted in whenever. (Or left entirely.)

Even in the first month, I’ve been busy. Of course most of this work isn’t earning me anything, but it’s giving me valuable writing practice in a variety of contexts, an insight into how different publications operate, helping me to find appropriate writing networks and avenues for future writing, and (much as I hate to say it) getting my name out there.

I’ve had to be disciplined. I’m working for myself. No one is going to call me in for a disciplinary if I don’t show up or meet deadlines. If I want to do this, I have to¬†actually do this. I have to write even when I’m not ‘in the mood’, I have to utilise the time when my boys are at preschool, and I have to set myself deadlines in order to get anything done. The collaborative blog or writers’ magazine won’t notice if I don’t submit anything in time for them to consider it for publication – but I will.

That said, I enjoy the freedom. It’s great being able to justify working in coffee shops (no distractions like being at home!) and be there to collect my kids from school. How many jobs are like that? And of course I do sometimes use the child-free time to meet up with friends, catching up with writing in the evening, so all this is good.

I’ve been reminded, in various ways from various sources, that money or fame are not my goals. I’m writing because I’m called to write. In fact, at this stage, I wouldn’t even call it a ‘calling’ – I’m writing to¬†test out what God might be calling me to do. It’s hard not to dream of writing bestselling books, or becoming a well-respected Christian social commentator – but I feel that this season of my life is about God shaping me and working in me as I draw close to Him (and write).

But I’ve also enjoyed writing my first paid piece! It was such a joy to write, although I can’t yet share much about it here. When it’s published, you’ll be the first to know! It’s wonderful to be paid for something you love to do.

And I’ve realised how I need to do some self-promotion. Which is hard. I mean – who¬†actually enjoys selling themselves? Approximately no one. (Except maybe Donald Trump.) It feels so unnatural to be pushing myself forward – especially when I’m often plagued with feelings of self-doubt or inadequacy. But, for all the advantages of working for yourself, this one disadvantage is necessary and worth it. Perhaps one day I’ll even get good at it.

I also submitted my first book proposal! I’m really not sure I’ve sent it to the right person – although I love this publisher, I don’t think that what I’ve written is up their street. But I had to try! And I’m totally convinced by the idea, so if they say ‘no’ then I’ll be knocking on other publishers’ doors until I find someone who agrees with me!

I’m getting more confident about talking of myself being ‘at work’. It’s hard when I’m not dressed in heels or a suit, or dropping my kids at breakfast club, or going¬†out to work – or even getting paid for most of what I’m currently doing. It’s just not a very obvious kind of work. But it is still work, and I’m becoming braver at dropping it into conversation when necessary. (“Sorry – I’m working then.”)

How can you help?

It feels wrong to ask, because you – as my faithful blog readers – are the foundation for everything I’m doing now, and the reason why opportunities are starting to come about. I am so grateful to you all for every encouragement you’ve ever sent. But there are three very quick ways you could help me to build my online platform, helping to raise the profile of my writing and gain opportunities with other publications:

  • Please follow me by email if you don’t already! There should be a place you can do this in the right-hand column of this blog. The advantage for you is that you don’t have to keep checking back on the blog or social media for new posts – they will automatically be pinged into your Inbox when they’re published. (Of course you don’t need to read them all!)
  • Please like me on Facebook if you don’t already!
  • Please follow me on Twitter if you don’t already!

Thank you so, SO much! And, as always, your feedback on this blog is so much appreciated.¬†(Also don’t forget to enter the giveaway before 11pm tomorrow!)