Brownout 2.0: the To-Do List from Hell

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head

Morning! I don’t usually write blogs before lunchtime because mornings are for Serious Work but a) I have to leave the house soon and can’t get my teeth into anything in case I forget to leave and b) I’m feeling a bit pffft. I would like to blame the weather, but I think I’m getting a bit of brownout. Again. And this time it’s a peak first world problem, because I know exactly what’s causing it. I have so much to do that I don’t know where to start, and then I end up doing none of it! I probably should have learnt how to get over this during my GCSEs (how did I cope with TWELVE SUBJECTS?) but I didn’t, so this is what my internal monologue was like at 9am:

Do I start off today working on an Etsy plan for 2018/19? Do I do some ads for my freelancing services? Do I go back to my Giant Writing Project for a stage of edits and the next draft? I’m really excited to get back to that! Or do I rework my Patreon plans? Do I write another blog post? Is a blog post going to translate to cold hard cash? Probably not. Maybe that’s why I should focus on freelancing or Patreon. Except, I want to use Patreon to support my writing and blogging, and no one will support me if there are no new stories and blogs! Wait, what about Etsy. Oh and the printer needs rebooting and the car needs petrol. Go and buy petrol you idiot you literally can’t get to work otherwise. You have an appointment today. The end of the tax year is coming up. That feels momentous.  Hang on that means you were in Asia a year ago. A year?! God that went quickly. Have you finished that blog post about Laos yet? No, because blogging about Laos won’t make any money and you’re trying to focus on money stuff, remember? Go and work on your Patreon! By the way you’re behind on your uni course.

[continue for half an hour, break for coffee, start again]

Tom and Jerry goldfish bowl head
from Twiter

So I’m here. Definitely not making any money, but not tearing my hair out either. What do you guys do when you’re feeling overwhelmed? Usually I am a big fan of the list, because it helps me prioritise, but I don’t know what to prioritise! I want to work on my Giant Writing Project but if I’m going to spend time on that, I need to have more traction on my Patreon because otherwise I can’t really afford to write. I also need to keep up with my uni course because it’s good for my brain development and future prospects, but I have to finally work out what’s up with my printer because I can’t keep putting it off and I want to write that Laos blog but I can’t keep justifying all the time I spend on blogging when I have the Giant Writing Project to finish. Ughhhh.

Right, I have to get ready for my appointment, and I’ll get petrol on the way. I can tick writing this week’s blog off the list, ha, and Google the shit out of fixing my printer. I’m actually doing a bit of market research about Patreon and crowdfunding in general because there’s no point having a Patreon if I’m not using it properly, so if you have three minutes to spare I’d really appreciate if you’d let me know your thoughts. I’ll go from there. And Etsy… I’ll spend half an hour today on a plan for that. After I’ve done some course work.

Hang on. Did I just make a list? HAHAAAAA HELL YES. THANK YOU BLOG. Maybe I’ll keep you around after all. Spiritual nourishment and all that. That being said, I’d love to be able to work this blog into my Patreon plans as well (two or three or ten birds, one crowdfunding stone) so if you have any ideas about how to incorporate blog posts into reward tiers, leave a comment! And/or do that survey. Please and thank you.

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The Three Types of New Year’s Resolution

Gerard Way fist pump I'm Not Okay I Promise video by My Chemical Romance

I got a pitch email earlier from an SEO company saying ‘your Instagram is great and deserves to be seen by more than 186 people!’ I nearly replied with ‘actually that’s 185 people, get with the programme – some new bookstagram account followed me yesterday and has since disappeared back to the Instasphere. Thanks for the encouragement though!’

It’s funny that should happen today though, as I was already going to talk about goals and growth. 2017 is drawing to a close, thank god, and although 2018 will probably be another tyre fire of bullshit, I would like to start it off with good intentions. Case in point: new year’s resolutions. I didn’t have any last year, because I had already resolved to get the hell out of England and did so in the first week of January, but twelve months on I have the itch to resolve… something. I also know that I’m more likely to keep to the resolution if I talk about it publicly, so I thought I would talk about different types of resolutions and the things I’d like to do in 2018.

Resolution 1: The Vague Gesture

My resolution: learn to do my hair? A bit?

I think I may have mentioned my hair is sometimes-often-frequently partially purple. It’s also getting really long, because I enjoy the illusion that I’m a princess in a kingdom with favourable tax laws, but I do nothing to it. Literally nothing. I wash it twice a week, comb out the knots with a tangle teezer and tie it in a bun or ponytail if I’m working. Then I ignore it until it needs another wash. I read somewhere that the longer your hair is, the less you do with it and I want to call bullshit on that. I also want to channel Daenerys Targaryen wherever possible, so in 2018 I resolve to learn how to, like, braid my hair or something. That’s not a huge commitment, and if someone says ‘hey Francesca nice fishtail plait’ I’m going to know it’s working. It’s also not the end of the world if life gets in the way and I don’t learn a fishtail plait, because my hair looks great they way I wear it already (there’s a reason I never brush it dry and that reason is frizz).

So in theory, the Vague Gesture is a good resolution to have. There’s no pressure and I won’t feel bad if I get to June and realise I’ve forgotten it. I suppose a similar one would be something like ‘eat less processed sugar’, because instead of saying ‘eat no processed sugar’, there’s no line to cross, no crushing disappointment of one’s self esteem. It’s  something that would be nice to do in the long run but no one cares if you don’t do it, including you.

BELOW AVERAGE from The Perks of Being a Wallflower from taylorbtw.tumblr.com
from taylorbtw.tumblr.com (if I don’t use this gif once a year assume I’ve died)

Resolution 2: The SMART Goal

My resolution: Look after myself  better? Look after myself more? Practise self care a day a week until I achieve nirvana?

I looked at a bad website today – not bad as in broken links but bad as in the two thirds of the page was bright pink and white diagonal stripes. My eyes hurt. I’m not even going to link it, it was so hard to look at. Good for marketing, bad for retinas. Especially bad for retinas that already require glasses. And since I am heading into my 23rd year of life and already have to run a bath to get my bones to stop aching when it rains, it’s about time I sopped complaining about my ailments and found a form of exercise that wasn’t physiotherapy. It’s about time I got some sort of blue light blocker on my computer. It’s about time I stopped overriding the Freedom app to check Twitter at 10pm. My 185 followers clearly do not care if I am tweeting at 10pm, so I probably shouldn’t either.

The problem with the resolution to ‘look after myself better’ is that there’s no qualifier. How do I know if I’m looking after myself? I will never not need glasses and I’ll never not ache when it rains. Realistically I will need stronger glasses and more baths year on year. So maybe I should take a leaf out of every business blog’s book and set specific goals I can measure in an achievable, realistic time frame. Something like ‘I will download a blue light blocker to my PC by January and I will sign up to a running club that requires payment in advance because the only thing I hate more than running is wasting money.’ (I actually don’t hate running. I hate that feeling that I’m about to puke up my lungs while I run. Aren’t lungs supposed to keep calm and carry on in those situations?)

I’m going to sleep on the running club, but this type of resolution sounds like one of those you should set if you want to get to December and think ‘fuck yeah I want to high five myself for SMASHING IT’. I kind of think everyone deserves that ‘fuck yeah’ thought.

Gerard Way fist pump I'm Not Okay I Promise video by My Chemical Romance
look this came from Google all credit to G Way and Warner Bros

Resolution 3: The This Has to Work and I’m Going to Make it Work Come Hell or High Water

My resolution: earn more money from my work? Earn increased amounts of money? Don’t sell a kidney to support a hobby?

This is the hardest type of resolution, because it’s a mix of the other two. Saying ‘I want to earn more money’ could just be another way of saying ‘I earned some money this year and would like to continue earning next year’. Realistically I will; my stationery and accessories will still be for sale and I will still crowdfund my writing. There will be money! But I don’t just want to continue, I want to expand. I need to expand if I’m going to continue to justify putting time into both those things. I know the numbers I have to hit if I’m to continue publishing writing with no upfront fees (about $10 a month would cover my website expenses, and $30+ would cover some writing time contribute to my bills). I know I need to double my stationery sales – and grow those follower counts, damn it – to justify using prime space in my bedroom to store stock and to justify spending my evenings and weekends thinking up jokes about Greek gods.

I also can’t ask people for anything other than moral support, because most of the people I know – in real life and online – are as broke as I am. A short story or a funny print is a luxury and if people won’t buy or pledge, there’s nothing I can really do about it except plug away until they go up a wage packet or change their priorities. So going into 2018 I know that, if I don’t get more sales or pledges, I will be shutting up shop eventually – and that’s shutting my Etsy shop, my stories blog and possibly even this place because my spare time will only ever decrease and my bills will only ever increase. I’m not 14 anymore and I have to be pragmatic about where I put my energy – especially if I want to look after my health, because running a shop is eighty per cent adrenaline and twenty per cent pure relief when something goes right. There’s a reason most successful entrepreneurs retire early. They want to spend as much time as they can with their remaining nerves… There’s also reason most novelists have day jobs and eke out books on the weekend – statistically I am not playing a winning game.

So although my resolution is to make my work fucking work, I also know that ‘hell or high water’ will come in the form of a bill I can’t pay in my current status as an intern/freelancer/stationery designer/storyteller. Or in a final argument with one of my parents. Or when I finally decide to trade following what teenage me wanted for adult me and start following what other adults want for adult me.

That took a dark turn there, I didn’t actually mean for it to. I want to know about your resolutions! Tell me the ones you’ve succeeded in keeping, the ones you stopped caring about, the ones that didn’t make it past 1st January. Tell me what you want for 2018, what you don’t want for 2018. Tell me what you did in 2017. Other than swear at the news and drink a lot, presumably…

In Which You Can Drink at School and Not Get Kicked Out

Is it raining where you are right now? Unless you are in Australia I think you are completely justified in saying ‘f u weather bye’.

I’ve been on Tumblr too much. But seriously if this is summer then I want to be a theist just so I know where to lodge a complaint.

Yesterday some friends and I went back to our old school to collect our certificates of 13 years of unpaid slave labour education and it was pretty weird because a) I left a year ago but it felt like 15 years and five minutes, and b) they let us drink wine which was disconcerting to say the least, not to mention you could speak to teachers almost like they were real people

I just skim-read the post I did last year about going to school when you don’t really want to, and it reminds me of how bitter I was about my school experience. In retrospect I should have seized the day and all that shit, and appreciated how lucky I was to have free education until I was 18, but at the time all I wanted to do was leave, become a writer and set my own hours.

Now I have in fact done that for a year, and to be perfectly honest I don’t feel like I’ve magically got everything together. ‘Becoming a writer’ was a great plan, but that was all I had. I didn’t really know about personal finance or budgeting or product research or good rates for copywriting or the importance of self discipline, and all those other little things that you learn as you go but wish someone had warned you about. I didn’t appreciate that consistent income is something you only miss when you don’t have it any more, or that building a portfolio career means sticking with projects for months on end even if they pay absolutely nothing… and it’s only been a year. In another year, if I’m still doing this, I’ll have (hopefully) learnt a lot more. Maybe I’ll even have a consistent, national-average income, although I looked up the living wage versus the minimum wage yesterday and nearly fell over, so I’m not holding out too much hope.

screw jackets sunshinethekatt.tumblr

I do hope I’m still doing this in a year, though, and not just because a lot of people I saw yesterday for the first time in a year thought my job was cool. (These are people who are studying mechanical engineering and foreign languages and medicine full time for a £40k debt holy shit they are the ones with steely determination.) As hard as it is to make sure I’m doing copy and freelancing and trying to improve my Etsy sales – hint: you can help with that one – and blogging and not ready to pack it in and move to Tibet, I know in my gut that I made the right choice between this, a ‘regular’ job and uni.

Or I think I did. Let’s see in another year.

Singing for My Supper – New Patreon Page!

You know how I said on Monday that I’ve been working loads and I’m all blurry eyed? Still true, except now I have something to show for it… a god-awful video I shot in my garden this afternoon and had to mute because otherwise you could hear my neighbours discussing their gardening.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many YouTube videos where people have linked their Patron pages, maybe I’m a raging narcissist, maybe I’m fed up with choosing between researching new products and giving myself a wage… either way this seemed like a good way to earn some consistent money – if you guys are up for it, anyway.

Here is how Patreon works, and what I’m doing with it (lifted from my new page there because I’m amazed I learnt how to work it in five days).

The sob story
I’ve started a Patreon because although my freelancing work, blogging and general writing is going really well, it’s not the most stable profession. Getting part time ‘other work’ is kind of difficult when I can only work certain days or times on account of the freelancing – so this is here to alleviate the, er, issues that come with living a dream that doesn’t pay consistently.

I’m not comfortable with asking you guys to send me money each month – or ever – so I’ve come up with a system where I read books, then you donate, and I send you cool things in return.

Here’s how this works
  • I read a book and review it on my blog. [That’s here.] Then I create a post on here [Patreon] announcing my success
  • If you signed up to pledge $1, you’re charged $1 and get to suggest a new book. If you pledged $35, you’re charged $35 and you get to choose a blog topic (plus everything else for every lower tier).
  • If I don’t read and review, you aren’t charged – and you can opt out at any time. I’m aiming to upload a review every four to six weeks and I’ll keep you updated with progress on my Patron page.
Why I’m reading books in return for money
  • Well, if you guys are going to give your hard cash to a writer, the first step to earning your trust is proving I can read
  • I don’t read enough
  • It’s less weird for me than asking you to send me money each month. No one likes monthly expenses.
Where your money goes
  • Under my mattress I’ll set a few goals to work toward, like funding for my blog domain or researching new products for my Etsy shop.
  • Other than goals, the general aim is to help keep the proverbial lights on, afford to take Sundays off and maybe retire before the age of 95. Don’t worry, I won’t spend your money on duck houses or apartments in Trump Tower for my cats. (I have dogs, silly.)

So yeah. My first book is going to be The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, because it’s been on my shelf for a while – I’m going to start with books I’ve got and not read, then branch out, hopefully with your help.

… and I think that’s it. Except to link you to the page again. Oh and I suppose you guys will be seeing a lot of book reviews from me from now on!

Commissions Open for Business!

Snowflakes!

Commissions Price Sheet 1 copy

So it’s time to get back in the saddle, as the saying goes, and do some w r i t i n g again! As I mentioned in last week’s stupendous audioblog, I’ve done a some commissions already so now it’s time to expand and do stuff through PayPal (it’s legit, I checked). All the information you need should be here but if you have any questions please let me know ASAP so I can update everything!