Hunting for ideas?

I did an odd thing today: I started a part time job.

It’s not really part time, because it involves quite a lot of input, and consumes a sizeable chunk of my week. But I call it part time because they let me get off early so I can beat the school bus home. Plus, I get one day off in a week, which is pretty cool.

I feel like a bit of a sell-out, because I quit my job to start a business, and now I’ve ended up in another job, albeit for fewer hours and much lower pay. But I’ve learnt to see the pros, not just the cons.

For one thing, working part time takes me out of myself. I’ve always been an introvert, and I’m told that as a child, I’d hide in my room with books and headphones. My brothers would go for days without seeing me, yet we lived in the same four-bedroomed house. I mostly write from imagination, and I live my whole life inside my head. But sometimes this means my plots aren’t authentic, and my characters are alien and idealistic. Being forced to go out and meet real people brings more … life … into my writing, more grounding.

Plus, my new job is in a human art gallery. No, we don’t have orgies of body painting or anything like that, but every person that I deal with is an artist, a poet, some kind of creative. The firm I work for is a writers’ forum, a kind of offline aggregator, so  my day job feeds my business. I get to build my network, and sometimes, in doing my job, I link with actual clients.

Mingling offline also gives me new ideas. I do an average of eight articles a week, and for one particular client, I write about a thousand words every day. Today I was wondering what to write when I saw three police officers get into a catfight in broad daylight; and only one of them was a cat. Those ten seconds have given me enough fodder for quite a while. And it’s good exercise too. Sometimes all you need to get your mental engines running is to try something a little different.

In my professional life, I handle lots of different things – poetry, screenplays, management, logistics, editing – and that means my mind is kept alert through practise and variety. Take a look around and see if there’s anything I can do for you; I’m always up for a little exercise…

Shoppaholics h[e]aven

I had a date at Java Adams tonight that didn’t quite work out, and my little black book failed me too. Since I had a free evening and a ‘paid’ babysitter, I didn’t want to waste my night out. So I decided to go shopping.

There’s a market behind Java that’s called Toi. It’s an open-air market where you can find anything from tangerines to Timbaland boots, all at affordable prices. I call it the ‘real people’s mall’ because in regular malls, all I can do is window-shop.

I got myself some nice tops, and a pair of sparkly jeans for my daughter, as well as some grapes and four apples. I also got a keen lesson in business – and realised that I’m not very patient.

Toi has two kinds of stalls. There are the ‘high’ stalls, where items are hung on display, so you can instantly see what appeals to you. Then there are the ‘ground’ stalls where stuff is splayed on the floor in amorphous piles, and you have to sort through them to see what you like.

The ground stalls are way cheaper.

I noticed that while the high stalls are pricey, they’re easier to use. They save you time and effort, but you spend more money. The ground stalls are very often goldmines, and you can find dirt-cheap treasures, if you have the patience to sift through the stacks.

But I found that I preferred the high stalls. They were just so much more … convenient! And as my brother eloquently put it, when you find items at a throwaway price [i.e. ground stalls], you have to work for it.

In my business, I take the high stall approach. I’ve laid out all I have to offer in a nice, clean, easy-to-use way. You can find a summary on the About Page, and detailed explanations in each little space. The template itself speaks volumes, since the lady’s violin and the light purple rose is all quite me.

So do look around and take in the scenery; I’m sure you’ll find something that goes great with your shoes … or your hair.

Talk about a block!

I don’t get writer’s block very often. And I hardly ever get blogger’s block. But if there’s one thing that gets my creative juices freezing, it’s money.

Which is not to say I wish to work for free – that’s just silly. They say your passion is something you would do even if no one is paying you – but that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to.

For most people, the prospect of getting paid is the ultimate muse. All they have to do when they get stuck is count the zeroes on their cheques and they’re good to go. But me, I find that distracting.

This is the problem.

Living my dream means writing for money – which translates into blocking from the pressure.

I’m still working on a system to get me out of this. I suppose I could go metaphoric and fix an actual block; stick my gloved hands down the drain and pull out some cloggy muck. That will likely clear up the plugs in my head. Unfortunately, my drains are pretty clean right now.

The good thing about my block is that I have something else to keep me occupied – editing. I currently have three assignments due, all stuff that someone else wrote. It’s so much easier to mark others’ work than try to start your own, so I focus on that as I dredge up writing ideas.

But I have to be careful. Editing can kill writing in more ways than one. Some writers lose their focus after their work is trashed corrected by critics. But many more writers get so busy helping others improve that they forget to write themselves!

Back to the blocking.

I’m not generally a good multi-tasker, but the first rule of successful hustle is … well … hustle! Have your hands in as many pies as possible. That way, if one is raw, or worse – rotten, you can still get your taste buds sated.

Only, be sure not to take on more than you can do. It’s very hard to turn down ready money, but you’ll lose a lot more if you do fifty shoddy jobs instead of five good ones.

I suppose the only way to turn down ‘free’ work is the buddy system. Just like having a gym-buddy keeps you hitting the treadmill, having a trade-buddy provides not only someone you can rant to about work, but also someone who can bail you out when you’re stuck.

Just be sure to choose your partners wisely. You want someone who’s good enough to deliver, so they have to be as good as you are, if not better. But you also want someone who is fair enough to return the favour. Think about it.

Baby steps

When I decided I wanted to freelance, I had no idea where to start. I left a well-paying job with a few months worth of savings, sold all my stuff, grabbed my baby girl and came home. I splurged on furniture, crockery, a TV, a microwave, and a sizeable modem.

Then I broke down. I mean, what next?

Enter Kelvin who I bumped into on twitter. We had been talking for a while, and I figured he’d be a good start. He was. With his help, we figured the first step was to set up a website.

I didn’t think I’d ever have a website, because it seemed, you know, vain. But then again, in some senses, so is a name. People call me Crystal, because that’s who I am. In some ways, website is just  a different name, a form of identity. It helps people know who you are.

The next step was to find someone to set up the site for me. These guys not only got me started, they did – and still are – taking me through the process step by step.  Which is good when you’re the queen of technobofia and can’t tell your pixels from your bits and bytes.

And I still think TB is a silly abbreviation and terrabytes should really be called tetrabytes. It just sounds better.

So anyway, now that I am toddling along, I need to find a good pair of shoes. Preferably colour-coded khaki sneaks.

Let the games begin.

Coming home

An ideal title for this post would be ‘new beginnings’. But I think that’s one of those redundant phrases like ‘repeat again’ or ‘latest innovation’ or even return back’. After all, one can’t have an old beginning, can they?

This is a beginning for me, a long endless field trip. I just got home after a stint ‘abroad’ [read Tanzania] and I am building a career doing what I love. It’s like a journey for me, but more than that, it’s an exploring of self. I’m looking inside me, beside me, around me, and I’m playfully noting the scenes. I’m making memories … and making money, which you admit, is a pretty fun way to spend the day.

This isn’t a solo trip. I have my daughter with me, and the man I love; my family, my business partners, my friends. I even have a tour bus complete with bunk beds and surround sound. It’s called the Internet, and it’s a pretty big bus. I have license to drive and lots of seat belts. You’re welcome to tag along. Who’s game?