Brownout 2.0: the To-Do List from Hell

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.

The Three Types of New Year’s Resolution

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…

How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life) | Part One of Many, Probably

Embarrassing story time, people. Almost too embarrassing for the Internet, actually, but I don’t have anything else as remotely entertaining to talk about, so make a cup of tea and bask in my idiocy…

A bit of back story: I’ve been working on my Etsy every day for the last few weeks, including evenings and weekends, because I’ve had some headaches with bugs on the site and I’ve been ordering stock in for people and planning for an Etsy Made Local Christmas market in Chelmsford in a couple of weeks. Oh, and I’m planning for that Black Friday-Cyber Monday migraine-inducing online shopping behemoth. I also went down to Brighton last week to see my brother and I knew I had to place an order for a variety of Christmas cards (a totally new item for me, from a new supplier) before I went, so I ended up placing the order on the Saturday before I travelled down. I got the invoice while I was in Brighton and paid straight away – very entrepreneurial, ten points to Francesca for remembering her iPad and bank info – and voila they arrived today!

Today’s quality was already hanging in the balance because I was taking endless Christmas product photos, on not a lot of sleep, and had one of those to-do list that doesn’t end, like one of those snakes that eats its own tail. I had also had absolutely no contact from the supplier, except for a delivery time, since I placed the order – despite phoning them up and leaving a message like it’s 2003 – so there was an element of ‘did I pay this invoice or have I wired my money into thin air?’ Anyway. The cards arrived. The delivery man was nice.

Back story to the back story: I’ve had really bad luck with suppliers in the past. Items have arrived damaged or not at all, usually when I’ve needed them for an event. So before I opened the parcel I ran through the worst case scenario: that my designs had come out badly and the cards themselves were damaged.

I opened the parcel.

The cards were fine. Correct quality, correct quantity. Except the Saturnalia design was wrong. I’d ordered the design in landscape, not portrait. My sample was in landscape. I photographed and listed it as landscape. These cards were… definitely portrait.

Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Landscape.
The sample
Saturnalia/Roman mythology-inspired Christmas card, green and grey on white card. Portrait design.
The reality

That phrase ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ should really be ‘the minor inconvenience that gave the sole trader a nervous breakdown’ because I was bitterly disappointed. There’s no time to return them before Etsy Made Local! People are waiting on these cards! Okay technically no one had pre-ordered them, but what if they had? Am I doomed to select awkward suppliers until I bankrupt myself? Luckily I am obstinate determined so I took new photos and updated my listings, had a hot chocolate and waited until I’d calmed down to compose an email to the supplier expressing my disappointment in their service. Before I wrote it I did a quick check to confirm I hadn’t sent the design in portrait by accident.

I could not find the landscape version of the design on my computer.

I decided the pre-Black Friday stress was getting to me. I definitely designed a landscape version of the card. I had the identical design as a postcard last year. The sample I ordered was landscape. I designed it landscape.

Didn’t I?

It turns out, dear reader, that I did make a landscape version for the card company. It’s tucked away in my Etsy folder, no where near my other mythology design files. I also made a portrait version, ages ago, when I first played around with folded card designs.

I sent the wrong file. I spent at least fifteen minutes of my life mentally writing a strongly-worded complaint to a company that, lack of communication notwithstanding, has done its job. I was so exhausted and fed up that I ran through the scenario of retiring stationery lines entirely, and wondered what would happen if I didn’t do anything for Black Friday at all. I contemplated taking a holiday that weekend to somewhere with no computers.

Oops.

I’ve recovered from the ignominy of it all enough to tell you guys, because clearly I have potential to run a side blog called How Not To Run An Etsy Shop (Or Your Life), and I’m going to have a bath and chill out with my dogs and assume that the entire world will keep turning regardless of the orientation of some atheist Christmas cards. Oh and I’m going to remind you all to go to the Mythology Mayhem and Grumpy Greetings sections of my shop, where you will find several listings for quality, 100%-recycled-cardstock Christmas cards at very reasonable prices. UK postage is free, by the way, and orders over £10 internationally will ship free until 30th November.

And yeah, I’ve left the original landscape photos on the listing thumbnails for now. I like the added use of stamps and it was too dark to play around with the portrait ones this afternoon. I updated the listing info and called the mishap a ‘printing error’. ‘Human error’ is more accurate, but I’m going to cut myself some slack and stop working Saturdays as soon as Christmas is over. Only 41 sleeps til Santa you guys!

Pour me a gin and tonic.

Are You There, Internet? It’s Me Again.

I came back from a walk this afternoon and did some admin, then thought ‘I would like to write a blog.’ I didn’t get much further than that (topic? Title? Relevance to target audience?) but I’ll take what I can get, so I made a hot chocolate and sat down to say hello. So far I’m really into the hot chocolate.

Right, so, hello. It’s been a while. Well it hasn’t really, but a lot has happened since I last wrote, and in my head I had to post. You see that monthly archives list in the sidebar? That lists every single month from November 2009, because I have posted here every single month since November 2009. In the back of my mind I’ve always been convinced that if I miss a month, I’ve failed. I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned this before now – I think probably because it’s slightly vain but also quite depressing. Look, kids, that girl ties her self worth to a blog archive that she can choose to remove from her website! Part of my mini break was to reclaim some headspace, and I think that writing honestly will help with that, so there you go. I nurse fragile self worth and high standards no one else cares about! Well, that felt… suitably awkward to write. Now I think about it, I’ve probably written a lot of blogs with dubious levels of honesty, but I think that might be something to explore in another post. For now, let me catch you up on everything that’s been going on since my last blog. Now I sit and think about it, I’ve been busy in a good way:

Operation Instagrammable Bedroom is going well! I have a desk now, and I’m in the midst of spray painting shelves. The actual bedroom part is a bit doubtful, because my lack of shelving until this point has allowed me to give into my messier inclinations and leave stuff on the floor. I added some art to the wall as soon as the desk was in, and I can’t wait to decorate it more:

Office Decration
Seen here: correspondence from friends (and Cuba), two fandoms worth of art, my old designs and a postcard from Chantal Claret.

I’ve been hard at work on Francesca’s Words and I’m going to tell you all about it. Another weird thing in my head was that I couldn’t blog too much about running my Etsy, because it would be self serving and sound as though I were begging for business. The back of my head is an idiot: this entire blog is self serving and so is my shop. My name is literally on the door. God. So, in the last few weeks I’ve made a couple of big changes. The first is that I now offer free UK postage on everything in the entire shop. There’s no messing about with coupons or links either. At the moment it’s just a trial, but so far people seem to be pretty into it. I’ve also been designing new products and re-designing old ones, and I recently swapped banks. I know how boring that sounds (okay, I know how adult and therefore unpalatable that sounds) but the fresh start has spurred me on to take another look at my business practices, my running costs and my goals. Other than ‘make enough money to take regular overseas trips’, I want Francesca’s Words to be a stopping place for anyone who’s fed up with shit stationery and patronising greetings and gifts. No one likes giving crap birthday cards, and no one should have to spend a fortune on a nice notebook. Enter, me. You’re welcome.

I actually downloaded that social media blocking app. It really works, too. I’m on the wrong side of broke at the moment because I didn’t have my publishing internship for most of July, so I might have to stop paying for it for a bit, but I can already feel my bad habits edging away. I’m still doing Headspace with relative frequency too, and I’m trying to work my physiotherapy back into my daily routine. I’ve found it helps to pretend I’m in physio because I’m a medal-winning Olympian and not a Millennial who spent too long texting as a teenager. I spend an hour or so each evening writing and it’s going well, although I keep oversleeping the next day. Oh how one suffers for one’s art.

Oh, I also rang up my car insurance firm yesterday, mere hours after receiving an email detailing my ridiculous bill for the next ten months, and instead of ignoring it I put the bill onto a direct debit in my designated ‘car shit’ bank account. Look at me, finding solutions to problems!

I’m going to take a small break from my desk now – I have a stool instead of a chair for the moment and comfy it is not. I’m not sure when I’ll next blog, or what it will be about. I’d like to keep posting my Asia blogs, and I’d like to talk more about running Francesca’s Words alongside everything else I’ve got going on, and I’d like to reach 2012 levels of participation from my readers. Fun fact: Indifferent Ignorance peaked, audience wise, five years ago. Do you have any idea what it feels like knowing that your 16 year old self was better crowd draw than you are? Hint: it’s a bit like watching Usain Bolt lose a race to an athlete with questionable morals. You can’t do anything about the situation but seriously?

Look at me, getting all current events-y. This has been fun. See you soon.