Tag Archives: work

Are holidays worth all the bother?

SuitcasePhil: Meeting up a week or so ago, team NolanParker didn’t get down to discussing our writing, instead we caught up on each others holiday stories. Both of us had been away and were keen to fill the other in on the details of our time away.

Holidays are one of those areas where we have completely opposite views. Candice loves them and usually has the next trip booked up the moment her plane lands.

Me, I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong – I had a great time away in Canada. I saw loads of fantastic things, took lots of photos, met many interesting people.

It’s just that the run-up involved loads of pressure to make sure all my work was done. On my return, there was lots of catching up to do. My plans to write the trip up (it was part work, part holiday) on the Bank Holiday Monday fell apart through a combination of jet-lag and a full inbox. Tuesday dawned and the guys in the office returned, and the phone calls started. Work on the article actually started at Wednesday lunchtime.

Since then, I’ve been chasing my tail and only now, a fortnight later, feel I’m where I’d like to be. I was only away for 10 days!

And that means I’ve done no book writing for nearly a month. Arghhh!

Holidays are best, for me, in retrospect. I seem to need a few days for my brain to process what I’ve done, filing things away in my memory. When I’m back in the “real world” is when I can enjoy where I’ve been. That’s not to say I’m not happy wherever I am, I just seem to be happier to be back to normal.

As I write this, I know it sounds crazy. Or maybe not. Does anyone else sometimes wonder why we rush to go away and then come back saying “I need a holiday to get over the holiday”?

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A change is as good as a rest

Phil: I mentioned last week that I have a new job. My flight away from being  “The Man from IT” is pretty much complete with a landing into “Jobs that will make Candice roll her eyes.” territory.

In addition to my existing writing work, I’m now editor of two magazines. No, not Vogue (ther loss) but Engineering in Miniature and Garden Rail.

Officially, I started just over a week ago with the first issues under my control appearing in August. My life now revolves around flatplans and other people’s words. To me, the subjects are fascinating and the people who take part in these hobbies, generally, interesting individuals and groups. Some of the later can even be relied on to supply good cake when I pay a visit!

All of this would seem a million miles away from the world of humorous fiction with a hint of chick-lit.

I can’t argue with that – there won’t be a huge amount of cross-over between the two audiences. That’s what makes it all so much fun.

Sitting with the Nolan discussing plots fires up a very different part of my brain. Our ideas aren’t constrained in any way, other than a desire for a little realism so the reader doesn’t have to suspend disbelief too much. An hour of plotting and I come away refreshed in a way that others have to get massaged with ungents to achieve. I’d certainly recommend stepping out of the real world occasionally either read or better still write, a book.

Anyway, I’ve managed to become even nerdier than when we first met. Unbelievable I know, but true.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, I have to cover a model bus event during the weekend, that’s the anorak quotient turned up a long way even for me! On the train there though, I’ll be pondering the lives of Kate, Dave, Gareth, Kelvin and Tracey. Well, we are already having serious ideas for our third book…

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Work where you want to

 

Phil: We are hard at work writing Kate vs the Navy and are grabbing any chance we get to put a few words onto the page.

Last weekend I was on a stand at a model boat show and knowing it would be reasonably quiet on the Sunday, took my laptop along. Fitting on the corner of our stand, appropriately enough, I was working while surrounded by miniature waterborne military craft. It helped too as Candice had left me some ship describing to do and from where I sat, I could see a model of the very vessel I was writing about. Very handy indeed!

 

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Oh for the time to be so prolific

novellist

Phil: Being in need of something to read on a train journey recently, my original choice having turned out to be desperately dull, I dropped into a charity shop and picked up “Poirot’s Early Cases” to keep my little grey cells amused.

Inside the front cover is a shocking list of Agatha Christie’s other novels. It fills a page.

A quick check of Wikipedia reveals she wrote 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections and 6 romances. 86 books in around 60 years.

Oh to have the time to be so productive.

As Candice has mentioned, we’re both really busy with work at the moment and this has seriously dented any plans at getting our second book knocked into shape. I’d love to get back to it but at the moment it’s not paying any bills and so must sit on the back burner for a while.

I wonder if being free to write all day is such a good thing though?

Famously, for Christie, it wasn’t. She suffered from overwork churning out her massively popular novels. Her fans wanted more and she did her best to keep them happy.

Perhaps it takes a little “real” work to keep the writing ideas flowing?

Our books are set in a world that I hope is recognisable to our readers. If we could spend all day lounging around writing, would we churn out the literary equivalent of those albums produced by bands about being rich and famous once they are able to divorce themselves from the reality that first inspired their music?

Mind you, I wouldn’t mind the chance to find out.

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Getting some work done

8th AprilPhil: After last weeks blog post, when I was being admonished for not having written much book recently, Candice and I met up for lunchtime cake. I was a little worried that she was going to go all Clarkson on my ass, but no.

Instead, we sat down and talked about some of the plot points that needed to be resolved. Thanks to the excellent cake in front of us, I didn’t get shouted at at all.

My excuse was simple – I was busy. Now normally this would get the grumpy, “Well, I’m juggling the management of a baby, husband, cat and I’m training for a half marathon” response, but this time I used the cunning trick of finding similarities in the way we work to defuse this.

My work isn’t governed by time taken as much as projects knocked off. On a whiteboard beside my computer is a list of deadlines. Below each of these is a list of projects to be completed by then. The thing is, we both work better with deadlines, so I knew I’d receive a sympathetic hearing.

My next deadline was April 8th and I’d worked out that if I pulled my finger out that week, I could clear the jobs nearly two weeks early. That’s a goal worth working for. There was a little time spare for the gym or a cakey lunch each day but basically, I was on a mission.

And I did it.

Which meant that last Saturday morning I was waiting outside the local library with my laptop, drinks, Smarties and thanks to a farmers market, a small piece of chocolate brownie. A few hours later, 3,500 words were added to the story and the results e-mailed over to La Nolan for her consideration.

Best of all, while writing, I’d worked out the final shape of a plot feature we’d talked about over cake. It’s one of our set piece funny moments and this one is shaping up to be very funny indeed.

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My Dopamine addiction

Phil: Last week I mentioned that I need a combination of Smarties and an iPod to kick-start my creativity. Despite having the second of these over the weekend, my progress towards hitting a couple of deadlines was laughable. I sat at the computer but seemed to be in full-on procrastination mode.

It seems that this isn’t entirely my fault. Biology is working against me.

Awaiting the arrival of a man to service my car yesterday, I was listening to something on Radio 4 and there was a man who had written a book about brain science talking about dopamine.

Now, perhaps sitting outside a shuttered garage in Leamington’s Car Quarter isn’t the best place to learn science, but my understanding of his theory is as follows:

Every time we find out something new, our brains get a little shot of dopamine. This is a pleasure chemical and makes us feel good.

The web is full of new things – e-mails, posts on Facebook, Tweets and pictures of cats. Each time we see a new one, the old dopamine shot kicks in.

Once we have a shot, we want more and the easiest way to get more is to spend time refreshing the e-mail, looking at Facebook and Twitter or digging out more pictures of cats. Doing proper work doesn’t give the same kick so even with serious self control, you find it hard not to do the things that provide the “high”.

The effects are reduced when the subject is in a stimulating environment.

All this explains why, when I’m really engaged in a project, I’ll work all hour on it. Give me some mundane stuff to do and I’ll hammer FaceTwitter every 10 minutes. It’s not my fault – evolution forced me to do it by rewarding learning.

Sadly, the garage opened up before I found out what I should do to solve this problem, so if anyone has any suggestions, I still have some deadlines looming…

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The loneliness of the long distance writer

BeerPhil: OK, so the Nolan has outed me. I do have a newish job that has been eating up my time. It’s not exactly “fancy” but at it pays the bills and I’m chuffed to have it.

Some of you will know that I have moved from being the nerdy guy in IT when I met Candice, to being a really nerdy writer for British Railway Modelling Magazine as well as editing an on-line mag 3 times a week in the same field. Quite frankly, I’m such an anorak I’m amazed she still talks to me…

Anyway, that’s my excuse for being a bit rubbish on the book front. No new house, apart from a miniature one, and any bump I have is all doughnuts and not baby.

The problem with all this is that I work from home. No office for me. Colleagues are on the end of a phone or e-mail. I drive 70 miles to the office once a month for an editorial meeting. Apart from that, unless we meet up at an exhibition, then I’m on my own.

Which is why, despite crazy deadlines hanging over me, an editor champing at the bit to push files in the direction of the designer, and the Christmas break driving everyone nuts as everything has to be at the press a week earlier, by the time some of you are reading this, I hope to be in London. Drinking beer.

Us home workers don’t get a Christmas “do”. I’m not complaining, as I’ve explained in the past, I’m not a great fan of enforced office jollity. I’m not the one wearing flashing reindeer and throwing shapes on the photocopiers. I can deal with meeting colleagues from my own and even rival publications for a drink while enjoying the capitals festive ambiance. It’s a small world I work in and the chance to catch up with the gossip isn’t to be missed.

More to the point, while working from home allows the worker to choose their own hours – as long as my copy goes in on time no one worries when I wrote it – sometimes those hours are well outside the normal office ones. I need a day off and I need it badly. Even writing about a hobby can be hard work and there’s a lot more keyboard hammering to do yet! The hours I’ll be chosing to work will include this weekend.

Which brings me back to The Book.

You might think that The Book would be the last thing on my mind. Far from it; I am really looking forward to getting back in to a world populated by the characters who are in our heads. It might still be typing on a screen but it’s a very different beast. OK, there’s no publisher (yet) sitting waiting for copy but that might come. Self-publishing actually sounds exciting, a whole new world to experience. Yes, there will be setbacks but I can’t let this thing go now, so as soon as Madam puts down the roller we’ll be back at it I hope.

Something to look forward to in the new year.

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