Thursday, 5 September 2013

New broom


A new direction: I am going to try and write something every day for a little while. It may be very short, but I am sick of never getting time to come and complain about my feelings, etc. I haven't done this kind of thing for a while, because I got all self-conscious and uncomfortable about it and worried it was bad for me professionally and whatever. It is certainly not very edifying, and I have almost nothing of interest to relate, but I reason that quite like reading about other people's crap days, not because I take pleasure in people having a shit time (I hope), but for that answering echo that is such a big part of why I started reading blogs in the first place. So, if that is your bag too, do hang around.

DOWN:

1. For the last week or so, every morning when I walk the dog, I cry. They're pathetic little strangled, vomity, hairball, self-pitying sobs. I am not sure where it is all coming from. On Tuesday I kicked a tree too. Kicked a tree! What kind of 38 year-old kicks a tree? This was at least so stupid it made me laugh. Also, on one of my pathetic cry-walks, a man (possibly insane street person, unclear) told me he liked my trainers, and another man (outside the particularly scaly bar down the road) told me all about his Doberman and on a separate walk another heavily tattooed Hells Angel man told me at length about his dead dog, even taking out his wallet to show me its vast tooth which he had kept to turn into a necklace. The hardmen of Uccle do not want you to be unhappy for long.

2. My gross earnings this year to date are €19,000. Leaving aside the pressing practical questions this raises, I am sort of interested how I can do a job that I was plainly terrible at in a lackadaisical way and earn mega-dollars, then do a job I genuinely believe I am quite decent at with total commitment and earn fuck all. Obviously this is partly The State of the World, but I am conscious it is also to do with my auxiliary shitness. I am ok at the writing bit, but I do not have any of the necessary personal qualities (courage, resilience, self-belief) to survive on it. I sort of keep hoping the iron will enter my soul and the iron keeps not entering my soul, so basically I am incompetent and need to find a plan B, sharpish. Point 1 may be related to this.

3. I feel so stupid and so scared at the moment. Spending hours on something for which I get paid €50. Being too embarrassed/scared/whatever the fuck to submit my legitimate expenses. Living in a headachy fog of seventeen open Chrome windows with the attention span of a juvenile weasel, trying to think of ideas and not having any. Agonising for hours over a phone call. Also, a man from the electricity company came to the door and needed to see a bill and after five minutes of embarrassing faffing with piles of unopened envelopes I had to send him away. When he came back (I found a bill from 2010 at the bottom of a pile on the top of an unused filing cabinet), he asked if he could use a corner of the table to fill in his forms, and the corner I found had a half-eaten bagel and a plate with two used teabags on. I am nearly forty (I tell myself this a lot, so it won't come as a shock when I actually am). I do not think this is how nearly forty year olds should behave.

UP:

1. It has been a genuinely, surprisingly, beautiful summer and these first days of September have been glorious too, still properly warm but with that suspicion of a morning chill that tells you it's winding down. The dog pads outside and lies down in the small patch of sunlight (the garden is very shady) until his nose goes pink. No one needs a coat (which is good as they appear to have lost them). The evening dog walk (strangled weeping-free) in the pink streaked dusk - is balmy. Usually we (it is 'we' at the moment, unusually, because since his return from the indoctrinating forces of Hippy Science Camp, F eschews Nintendo and telly and is always up for a wholesome walk. There is also vegetarianism and Brazilian bracelets of which the less said the better) go around the streets, look at the lovely Instagram friendly neons of the ice cream parlour, skirt around the furious tiny yapping dogs the hard men in the dodgy bar have presumably told their wives they are 'walking', marvel at the queue in the chip shop. Last night, though, we went into the woods just as night was starting to fall in earnest and it was eery and adventurous. The dog disappeared, blending into the gathering grey then reappeared, panting and glad to see us. There were furtive groups of teenagers smoking joints, crows fussing as they prepared to roost and possibly a fox. We could barely see our feet. This is, briefly, one of my favourite bits of the day, before it gets cold and wet and becomes a chore again.

2. We have totally won at the rentrée. My craven need to be good at sending my children back with all necessary (and completely unnecessary) equipment, bits of paper and arbitrarily precise sums of money in envelopes does not bear close examination, but nevertheless, we smashed it, stupid plastic film for covering books and all. I do not need a medal, the warm glow of approval from authority figures is quite sufficient for me, thank you. I also have an impressive hoard of spare supplies in a drawer that I have recovered from last year's abandoned bags or found down the sides of chairs, which I go and gloat over like Golum from time to time. A lost set square holds no fear for me. This gives me a surprisingly high degree of comfort.

3. Really enjoying Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Such a great, beady study of a group of friends.

A PICTURE:


Bonus trip to casualty yesterday with L, who fell all the way downstairs. No broken bones, and after a day of custard doughnuts and Top Gear, recovery seems on course.  

Enough. I am going to kick a tree.

19 comments:

hairyfarmerfamily said...

Oh, my dear. I could have written a great deal of the above. With the exception: I have not been spectacularly together and determined enough to earn 19k euros. I am now absolutely looking up to you as A Person Of Achievement to aspire to. And a photo of my kitchen yesterday would have cheered you up no end, I feel. Bagel, smagel.

momosyllabic said...

I'm looking forward to daily posts, about hair-ball sobs and tree kicking! I can so totally relate.

Isabel Rogers said...

Without totally caving in to the 'can listen to you read the phone book' kind of comment, I can read you talking about anything and daily is good. Though I'm sorry for the crying and tree-kicking and money and hospital visit. We live in your computer and cannot really help. But know that we'd like to and virtual support is unbounded.

Linda said...

I am a bit older than you are and I routinely tell myself that proper grownups do not live like this/do this/think like this/whatever. I can relate to what you've written.

I was once paid ridiculous amounts of money to write and it wasn't all it's cracked up to be. (Except the money part.) I thought of it as the Word Factory.

I'm sorry you're feeling so upset, but please know how much I enjoy your writing.

nappy valley girl said...

All I can tell you is that quality in journalism isn't necessarily rewarded by quantity of money. Why else would the Mail pay people a fortune to write drivel? (Plus the fact that I've never earned a decent salary in 18 years in the profession). Chin up, you're a brilliant writer. And do claim expenses, it's one of the few perks available!

Stacy said...

Would love to see you get paid for your writing here as yours is one of my very favorite blogs. I'm with the commenter who says to put in for your expenses. What's the worst they could say? No? I find playing the worst case scenario game helps me calm down, but that's just me. Keep your chin up, as my dear mother always used to say.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I love what you said about the answering echo, and I agree with Nappy Valley Girl, that shit writers seem to get a lot of attention and make a lot of money. Just look at some of the blogs that earn lots of money--some of those bloggers can barely write a single coherent sentence.

Helen said...

Yesssssss to daily waffling! I am adding my voice to those above who very much enjoy your excellent writing.

I had a little hairball cry myself yesterday when I turned up for my appointment at the bank A DAY EARLY and could see the lady thinking 'stupid English'. Today I emerged victorious - and with an official occupation of 'housewife' on my bank forms. The Dutchman thinks this is hilarious. I think the bank man took pity on me, not putting 'unemployed'. Anyway. All this means that I look up to you with your 19,000 Euros. Such riches! Could you augment these earnings with hiring L out to medical students for study?

Anonymous said...

Where to start. Pecker up. If you have survived biglawco, you can handle pretty much anything else. Yes, you can.

Anonymous said...

are all your followers from the US of A? just wondered

Laurel said...

My guess is it was easier to feel confident about the law because you had the Credentials, but there are no official credentials for writing. But I think your lack of security about the writing life is not merited because a) you are a great writer and I look forward to your posts more than just about anyone's and b) 19K euros is really not bad at all for making your own way in the world, especially when a lot of that making your own way is done via writing, not traditionally a highly remunerative occupation.

Anyway, I'm sorry you're crying and kicking trees. And I would like to think this blog is not a career dampener. I find it such a refreshing change from the vast majority of blogs, twatters, FBing, etc. which seem to exist purely to impress upon us the perfect life the writer leads and to construct some version of life that exists for no one. I prefer so much the messy, peculiar, sometimes sad and confused, but also poignant and rich experiences you write about. It's so much more... real and true. And funny in part because it is, and in part because you're a great writer. So there! And claim your expenses! You deserve it!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to read that you've been feeling down, be sure to look after yourself in the small, seemingly insignificant ways that actually make a difference to mood after a while (getting enough sleep, doing some exercise, right food, bla bla bla). Going through similar scenario, so I empathise.
Your writing is excellent, don't ever doubt that. Keep on keeping on, you're brilliant.
As for increasing earnings and reducing financial angst, have you ever considered doing freelance translation work to complement your writing work? With your specialised legal background and experience (not to mention contacts ;)), excellent writing skills and knowledge of French, I'm sure it would be quite a profitable option. Pros: you can work for agencies/ firms all over the world (hint: the US ones pay more), pick and choose what projects interest you and arrange your schedule so it doesn't take up too much of your time (maybe set yourself a wordcount limit per month so that it doesn't encroach too much on your writing time). Cons: Of course, most texts are boring as hell, but it helps if you keep your eyes on the wordcount (= money). Anyway, it's just an idea, feel free to ignore it if it doesn't appeal to you :)

Anonymous said...

Edited to add:

While translating can be stressful as you rack your brain for the right word or turn of phrase - especially if a deadline is looming - in a way I think it's probably less dependent on inspiration than writing something entirely new, because the text is already there on the screen, except in the wrong language. Not as daunting as staring at a blank page hoping to come up with an idea.
OK, I'll shut up now ;)

Anonymous said...

I've always been astonished and disgusted that dreck like "Eat, Pray, Love" earns a hack author piles of money. Then I'm insulted when same is made into a film, with Julia Roberts, no less. The only thing worse would have been Gwenny.

I guess brilliance and wit toil in obscurity until a good opportunity comes around. Don't give up, your work is very good and very funny. And I know you will never let Julia Roberts play Emma in a film.

Ruthie Saylor said...

Oh I feel for you. I used to do that sort of cry every day on the way to work. If I'd had your description of it at the time it would have been the source of much, much comfort.

I know you have the weighty responsibility of those beautiful boys which might make you doubt it but is it possible that you underestimate the achievement that was breaking out of Law Jail? I think that must have taken precisely the sense of self and iron will you think you lack.

I wish I had some wise advice but all I have to offer is some footage of David Bowie kicking a bush: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48d4irOHhLY. I find it therapeutic...

Waffle said...

Oh, you're all lovely. You'd be well entitled to tell me to shut the fuck up and stop moaning. It's what I mainly tell myself.

Anon - I do do translation now and then and I actually really enjoy. However my main client is a critically acclaimed but impecunious rapper, so it's not a great money spinner. I need to get into the big money corporate gigs somehow..

Ruthie - David Bowie kicking a bush! AMAZING.

Anonymous said...

To break into corporate translation: start off by googling translation agencies where you live, joining their translator databases/ sending them your cv. Be sure to mention your degree and legal background.
Then expand to other locations (lots of big ones in London and elsewhere in the UK).
However, I imagine there must be lots of work in Brussels in the translation field.
Start off with easy, short projects.
Once you have some experience and know roughly how long it takes you to translate, say, 1000 words, you'll be able to commit to a certain number of words per month. Proz and Translators Café are also useful websites. You could also set up your own website to market your services and pitch them to direct clients (legal and other areas).
Best of luck!

cruella said...

Excellent advice on translating business from Anon. Fiction and articles don't pay, go into corporate legal stuff and the like.

Word verifiation agrees: oderlit

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