2016 has been… worthy of many different adjectives, I’d say.
It’s been a humdinger of a year for the world between political upheaval, celebrity deaths and various other plot twists. Personally, it’s been a challenging year, but one that’s yielded many lessons and opportunities nonetheless.
As I prepare to leave for a holiday to celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary with my long-suffering husband, I’m quite ready to say cheers to 2016, but I guess I do have to say thank you too.
So, to 2016, thanks for:
Wishing you and your loved ones a beautiful, blessed Christmas if you celebrate it, and a wonderful holiday period making memories with the people who are important to you. May 2017 be good to you.
Please note that Word Chef will be closed from 15 December 2016 to 9 January 2017.
One of the things I love about freelancing is the variety it affords. I’ve written feature articles on everything from musician profiles to start-up marketing advice, whisky collecting, the state of gender equity in local business and even perfume bottle design. I feel like I get to learn something new every day!
Sometimes, however, I get the chance to work on something that really is completely outside my comfort zone. It’s been one of those seasons for the last few months. I’ve had to chance to:
I’m looking forward to sharing news of these projects over the next few months, but for now I wanted to take the time to reflect on the benefits of taking on new work that scares you a bit. This season has reminded me of how important it is to be a little terrified once in awhile.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
What have you learned from taking on work that terrifies you a little?
It’s been an incredibly busy season for me this last while. Whenever people ask me how I’m doing and I tell them that, they inevitably say, “Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
As a freelancer, yes – it is, generally. But there’s a difference between a good level of humming along with lots on the go and working until 2.30 in the morning because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. And my busy has been tilted towards the not-so-good kind this last while.
After a decade of working to article deadlines and six years as a full-time freelancer, I have become much better at managing my time, learning how much I can take on, and saying “no” to unreasonable projects / clients (or even wonderful projects that I just don’t have capacity to do at the time). I mostly stick to my limits. This protects me from burnout and ensures I am able to deliver on time and meet the client brief.
Sometimes, however, life doesn’t play along with my planned production schedule. There are so many reasons that this can happen – many out of my control. There have been a few of these sorts of mini-dramas during this latest busy season:
None of these things was a big deal on its own. But, Murphy being a jerk, they all happened together, along with a slew of rush jobs and personal challenges. And it was not fun. There were lots of 16-hour days and working weekends. In fact, I have injured the tendon in my right hand from spending so many hours typing. I must be the only person I know who has contracting a typing injury. It’s a little bit ridiculous.
Check out my keyboard in the pic and you’ll see it is
being worked to death well used! I put keyboard decals on the keys three weeks ago because the letters had worn off. As you can see, the stickers haven’t lasted too well either.
Now that things have slowed down to a less frenzied level of madness, I’m looking back at this crazy time to see what I can learn from it. There are a few things I could have done better, and there are also the good things that got me through this period, which I want to reflect on and try to do more of when life gets overwhelming again.
Here they are, to remind me, and in the hopes that they might help you too:
I’d love to hear what gets you through tough work times, or if any of these notes above helps you during a mad period. Leave me a comment or drop me a mail.
April’s been an interesting month for me, with a number of different projects on the go. I’m splitting my time between developing a custom business writing workshop for a client, finishing up some textbook chapters and researching a non-fiction book I will be ghost-writing. This is in between writing website copy for two new clients and doing the usual magazine and content creation for my regulars.
Most of the work I’m busy with at the moment has a business focus, so I’ve found myself looking at the common mistakes people make when it comes to their business copy and content, and thinking about what makes great writing stand out.
If you and I were sitting down together with a cup of coffee and discussing these things, here are the seven steps I would likely give you if you wanted to improve your business content:
These are just a few thoughts from my business writing and editing experience. I’d be interested to hear what business owners and other writers say. Feel free to drop me a comment or to get in touch.
I have always wanted to take good photos. I nagged my parents for a camera from when I was about five or six years old. I still remember the first one I owned – it was a kiddie friendly point-and-shoot film jobbie that was shaped like a clown’s face. It’s the only clown I can ever remember having an affinity with (I don’t quite suffer from full-blown coulrophobia – a phobia of clowns – but let’s just say I am not a fan).
From then on, I snapped away, handing my poor mother one roll of film after another for processing. I think the clown camera conveniently broke at some point, but I then started buying those throwaway cameras with my pocket money instead.
In high school, I asked for a decent camera of my own for my birthday and was gifted a beautiful little Olympus compact camera. I took it with me when I did an exchange programme in Australia, and despite dropping the thing in Sydney and damaging its auto focus, I just kept snapping. This resulted in a full album of blurry images and an ensuing game of “guess who’s in this picture”.
For my 21st birthday, my uncle, Dave Esmonde-White, who was then an amateur photographer (he’s recently turned pro), granted my wish and paid for me to do a basic photography course at the Cape Town School of Photography. He also gave me his old Ricoh SLR film camera. I remain grateful for both of these things.
It was my first SLR (single lens reflex) camera and it opened up a new world to me. I finally started to learn how to control the camera to get the image I wanted from my head on to the film. I remember the magical feeling of picking up my processed images and flipping through them and occasionally finding that almost perfect shot. It’s something I will always miss about film.
Then I finished my degree, got married the week after I graduated and started working as a junior copy writer. Like many newlyweds, my husband and I were living mainly on love and Salticrax, so getting photos developed was a luxury I couldn’t really afford at that point. I got a little Canon digital compact camera and mainly took weekend snapshots that stayed on my computer and never got printed.
In 2010, again for a birthday, my wonderful parents gifted me my first digital SLR – a Nikon D3000. Since then, I’ve done a few courses at the College of Digital Photography here in Johannesburg, and tried to improve my photography skills. I’ve bought a proper tripod, a second lens and a bit of other camera equipment, and I’ve learned to occasionally get up early (I am SO not a morning person) to chase the best light.
The more I learn, however, the more I realise how little I know. I am still such a beginner! And for some reason I find it very difficult to “put my photos out there”. It feels like sharing a bit of my soul and opening it to judgment. I’m used to sharing my writing because that’s what I do every day and I have some confidence that if I wasn’t an adequate writer I wouldn’t still be eking out a living from writing. But photography is another matter entirely!
This year, when setting some goals and re-looking my dreams, I was forced to admit that I am being a bit of a wuss.
So I have taken a brave and bold step (or so I keep telling myself – it fells more like mad sometimes). I have joined Snapwire – a stock photography site that aims to “make photography human again”.
It’s been enlightening:
That’s my photo journey so far. I hope it keeps progressing. I’d like to be able to sell my feature articles with photos to boot one day. Shew… I can’t believe I am going to publish that statement. It kind of makes it real if it’s “out there”.
Well, so be it! Here’s to new adventures in painting with light!
Travel is one of my great passions in life. I have been fortunate to visit some interesting places, from a ghost town in Namibia where the sand dunes have swept into the old homes, to the largest firefly colony in the world near Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Travel writing is tricky, however. Unfortunately, cliches abound in this genre – possibly more so than in any other (well, excepting maybe sport). But I have recently begun to explore the possibility of channeling some of my love of travel into short features, and I am grateful to Caroline Hurry at Travel Write for providing me with a platform. Here are some of the blog posts I have shared:
For many years, I have been searching for a business name that “fits right”. I wanted to choose something that would show I’m serious about the craft of writing and that I really love words, without resorting to cliches (or stealing someone else’s name, seeing a lot of very cool names have already been nabbed).
One morning, at about 3am, my brain was stumbling from idea to idea when the name Word Chef came to me. A chef is someone who is able to take a group of ingredients and turn them into something delicious through skillfully balancing flavours and making use of various techniques.
It struck me that as someone who loves to write and to cook, that’s what I want to do for my clients, but with words. I want to take a group of words and ideas and turn them into something that whets the brains’ appetite. I want to turn my passion for all things wordy into creative, tasty copy that keeps clients coming back for more.
And so, out of my desire to bring seasoning to great stories that need telling, Word Chef was born.