What It Takes From Me

[A brief interlude piece written among all the other angst in Morocco. We’re nearly there, two to go!]

This has been my most productive day of writing and I feel drained the world has thrown words at me and sucked life from me.
My blood was richer with imagery but it was all made to rust to dust and blow away and take my soul with it. I have written what the world told me and I am done.

Upwork Update

How I made $400 in my spare time in just 7 weeks!

^ This is the sort of stuff people will pay you good money to write, it turns out: attention-grabbing copy. Poems less so. But still a bit…

Hi all!

Welcome to the next edition of my posts on upwork, the freelancing platform I’ve been trying for the past couple of months. In it, I’ll be talking you through…

Sorry, doing it again. Marketing voice.

Anyway, what have I been up to? I’ve come a long way since my first job on green tea…these were my next few gigs:

  • I’ve written a couple of poems that have since been released for sale on Amazon. The lovely Erica collates pieces for anthologies from poets all over the world. I wrote one on the death of a loved one, and t’other on giving up on a relationship – cheery hey? I also recommended a friend of mine to Erica, and he joined upwork and got hired as well! The pay was pretty basic ($12.50 for the two) but luckily I can bash out angsty poetry in record time (I’m well-practised), so that was fine.
  • I’ve written content for a card game, soon to be printed, for a charming American called Wade. I’m even appearing as a character in the game! I actually have no idea when it’s getting made… This was a really interesting job, but it took ages! I think we both underestimated the scale of the task, which just meant I didn’t have as much time for other things. It was a fixed price, $100 job but I put in so much that my hourly rate ended up tanking. Just doing this for experience though so it’s all dandy!
  • I wrote a couple posts about ketosis diets. They’re ghostwritten so I obviously won’t link you to them but they were remarkably similar to this article. I felt a bit conflicted about this as some of my research suggested that they weren’t altogether safe… in the end, I figured the best thing I could do was write a really good article that would explicitly state the risks and advise checking everything with a physician.
  • That early job I applied for, with a startup online mag, got back to me weeks after I’d forgotten about them, offering me $25 for a previously-published short story – I didn’t feel I had the time right then to write a $50 original. It only took a few minutes to send them Auto-neuroticism, previously published here of course! So that was easy money. Win.

And more! I’ll save the next ones for another post – there are cats, and construction shows, and my actual dream come true.

What it’s been like? I’ve been writing in my spare time most evenings and over the weekend as well… It’s addictive, especially browsing and applying for jobs! There are tons of crazy success stories as well about guys who’ve made $100k in 9 months and will share their secrets in this course they’ve crafted… I’ve taken everything I can out of their free emails and blog posts and ignored the signup links.

In my experience so far, it’s a great way for anyone to earn a bit of cash. You have to play it smart – for example, you can’t undercut the masses of third-world workers on price – but for talented people I think the work’s there.

Anyone else tried it? Let me know!


Happy Birthday to Blog!

We are one year old today! [Cue confetti]

Some reflections:

This blog started out (EXACTLY one year ago – I’ve matched the time and everything) as a place to let out Skylance – the ‘wild, imaginative creative part of me’ – and for the most part that’s just what it’s been. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to let out, but it turned out to be a lot of flash fiction and poetry (I would link to them but they have their own categories anyway) alongside little pieces of songs, ultimate, and the straight up, ripped-from-my-younger-self’s-head fantasy I had in mind when I first began. One-off pieces like that proved a lot easier to write than any part of something more substantial, hence the glacial progress of my two flash fiction series and the only-once-ventured tie-in to my in-progress novel (way too many hyphens there!).

A big shock for me was the reception given to some of my posts about real life. I didn’t think anyone would be interested to hear about my own trials and tribulations, though admittedly, when a lot of them were about Tinder, maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Another thing that’s really struck me is the community here on WordPress. I’ve met (well, virtually met) a ton of great people with so much interesting stuff to say, and I’m genuinely touched when, after a long absence from posting, I rejoin the WordPress world and am welcomed back so warmly. I couldn’t possibly list all my brilliant friends here, but Jane Basil needs mentioning for almost always being my first like, comment and welcome whenever I’ve returned. Big and warm shout-outs as well to Nurse Kelly and Lotte Lubach who have been my other most prolific commenters and readers. To all the rest, I love you all as well! I really enjoy it when I get a chance to sit and scroll through all the blogs I follow on my Reader, including many of my talented friends.

And where am I going next? Hopefully continuing to build a readership here and share my work as widely as possible, alongside my recent steps into starting as a freelance writer. Exciting times indeed!

That’s all, really. I’m on the last day of my holiday at the moment, so I’m going to go enjoy My Name is Skylance’s first birthday – have a great day!

Skylance: Professional Writer

It’s official. Sort of.

Remember my previous post about my first foray into Upwork? Well there’s been an early and surprising development: green tea and Korea.

This is a blogging job I was invited to apply for within a few hours of joining the site, and on a whim I did just that, admitting my limited knowledge of the area but stating also my passion for writing and willingness to research as much as necessary. And also offering to take less payment. Who knows what swung it…

AND I GOT THE JOB!  Chris Grant from Wooree Tea, a New Zealand based company selling Korean green tea, got in touch with my first assignment, a piece about pairing green tea with dark chocolate, and its two week deadline. Milestones were created through Upwork, and funded (such that when they’re completed, the money is released) and I started work!

This being my dream and all, I got a bit excited and wrote the piece that day, after several hours of research (I’ll be honest, in my euphoria, I had started reading up on green tea and the company before I even got the offer). Chris approved, and on Monday my piece was published on Wooree Tea’s website. You can see the article (it has my name on it and everything!) here: Green Tea and Dark Chocolate.

I’m hoping this is the start of a longer-term working relationship with Wooree Tea, but regardless of whether things go further, I’m very grateful to them for giving me my first break! As such, if you might like to try the finest green tea that Korea (via New Zealand) has to offer, or want to read some of the interesting articles they have on Korean culture, and tea, please check out their website.

I have a couple more irons in the Upwork fire as well, so I’ll be sure to update you again soon (probably after my imminent holiday!). Muchos love to all my readers (I get very affectionate when I’m happy and I’M HAPPY BECAUSE I’M A WRITER)!

P.S. The image for this article is my Upwork profile pic, with resizing frame and all!

Finding my dream writing job on Upwork

Upwork – My Latest Venture

Evening folks! I’m excited to tell you about a step I’ve taken towards the dream of actually legitimately being a real-life paid-up writer person: I’ve signed up as a freelancer.

It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out for me, and hopefully I’ll be able to share some tips and pitfalls along the way that might help anyone else out there wanting to do something similar. So a quick breakdown:

I want to be a writer. I’m currently an engineer. It pays well, it can be pretty interesting, but it is not what I love. I love writing. I’ve been looking at writing jobs and, unsurprisingly, employers want professional experience, so I’m going to get some.

Upwork is a site that connects freelancers to projects all over the world. There are fields for programming and web design and blah blah but more importantly writing! From editing and technical copy to poetry and blogging, there are people everywhere who are willing to pay me to write. Oh my.

Signup is simple, and free, and pretty quick. I set up my profile – picture, short bio, list of skills – last night and have started looking at jobs today. When you find something interesting, you message the project/owner/employer/tasker and if they like you, you get the job! You agree a rate, do the work, get paid. Apparently.

So what have I done so far?
Wrote a bio.
Added my skills  – for me that means fiction, blog writing, poetry, editing etc
Chose a nice cheerful photo.
Added some work details (about my irrelevant engineering job, and how that has helped me communicate with barely-literate, scientifically-minded people) and about the student magazine I edited at uni. Gotta start somewhere!
Set my hourly rate
^^ What?? This really threw me – I’d just signed up and was expected to state how much my time was worth. I had no idea and agonised for a while, but in the end just went cheap (I’m not doing it for the money after all) for now and for each job you agree on a rate anyway.
Took a creative writing test! Upwork has a ton of tests to cover all the skills you can list on the site. The prospect terrified me a bit but it looks good to verify your skills so I went for it. This test was 40 questions, multiple choice, about publishing, plot, characters etc. I did pretty well thankfully (in the top 10%) so that will look good.

and lastly…

Applied for some jobs! Within a few hours of joining the site I was invited to apply for a job writing short stories about green tea and Korea… neither are areas I know much about, but I explained that in my application (why not, hey?) as well as my passion for writing, my low rates and my willingness to research green tea and Korea and make a decent hash of it! We’ll see where that goes. I’ve applied to three others as well (applying costs credits called Connects of which you have a limited number each month) to which I wasn’t invited (being invited means a free application!) which are proofreading, a rewriting of a novel into natural English (from a non-native author) and short story writing for an online magazine startup. Not heard back yet, but I’ll be sure to check in here when I do, and I’d love to hear from any of you who have tried similar endeavours!

Post To Be

[Deadpool post coming soon (I’m excited to convince you to watch it!), but in the meantime, here’s a song…]

Some posts just flow from me
Others I gotta work so they grow from me
Work’s what I got to show for me
Work’s what I got to show for me

And haters got this role for me
Tryna say this job’s all over me
But there’s so much more to me
Writing’s how I settle the score for me

Cos that’s what I got to show for me
That’s what I got to show for me
Trust when I say there’s more to me
And everything’s good like it post to be

[For an idea of the rhythm, the rhyme scheme, inspiration for the title, explanation of the final line and some of the material, see Omarion, CBreezy and Jhené Aiko’s Post To Be. Great song, y’all.]

Why Cynicism is Important

Why Cynicism is Important
I mean, it’s not really, is it. Let’s be honest, as much as a ‘healthy dose’ of it is lauded for its magical properties, the truth of the matter is that being cynical about the reality of the cold, cruel world still doesn’t help you survive its inevitable dreariness. And then you die anyway.

Why Optimism is Important 🙂
People have plenty of different outlooks on life (which is great because diversity is super important) but natural selection will eventually ensure that the best way to think about life – optimistically – proliferates. Studies will surely soon prove beyond doubt that believing things will turn out well has a positive impact on the actors concerned, such that it is more likely – if not certain (I reckon it’s certain, and that you’ll agree!) – to lead to a better outcome.

Why Humour is Important

The benefits of humour have been studied and proven ‘scientifically’, through the art of ‘experimentation’. Some of these findings are shown in Table 1 below:

Ingredient                                        Quantity
onions, peeled and chopped           2 medium
olive oil                                               1tbsp
garlic, peeled and crushed               1 clove
lean minced beef                               500g
mushrooms, sliced                             90g
dried oregano or mixed herbs         1tsp
tomatoes or chopped tomatoes      400g
hot beef stock                                     300ml
Table 1: Humour Benefits Findings

This study fails to mention another key purpose of humour: exercise. Laughing works core muscles in the abdomen and keeps people fit and/or healthy. It should therefore come as no surprise that many famous comedians are overweight. Persistent exposure to comedy leaves these ‘professionals’ desensitised to jokes, such that they engage in laughter or laughterous activities less often. In addition, the sellout crowds they draw to stadia across the globe provide ample dolla with which to stuff their greedy faces.

Why Writing is Important
What do you think?
Let me know!

The Life Plan

Hi readers, I just fancied putting a few thoughts down – I’m sure you know the feeling! It’s a dilemma, the roots of which go at least as far back as my school careers fair in 2006.

Back then, I wasn’t sure where my varied interests would take me. I enjoyed aspects of a lot of my subjects – the vibrant recall of History, the cold logic of Maths and Physics, the human understanding of Physical Education and Biology (admittedly, the former also included the chance to play football on a regular basis)… Perhaps most of all, I loved the creative writing we did in English Language, a subject my school didn’t offer beyond GCSE. This was understandable as we were expected to fight our way into top universities, the likes of which didn’t value Language at all compared to its Literature counterpart. But I didn’t want it for university; I wanted it for me. A charismatic chemical engineer at the careers fair had sold me on his job’s combination of scientific knowledge and practical application. Maths, Physics and Chemistry were the requisite A level subjects, ones I was good at, and that seemed to be my future direction settled. But the chance to write more stories by taking an unrelated AS level? Yes please! Did I move schools to have that chance? No…

I took general engineering at uni in the end – a course that had its moments, and the near-guarantee of a job was certainly a perk, but I had lost something amongst the dry numbers and clinical calculations that comprised so much of my daily work. Where was the freedom, the ambiguity, the madness? Where had that creative spark gone? It was fairly early on in my degree that my Life Plan took shape. My heart and head warred so, as the sensible security of the engineering sector drew me from the wild creator I considered myself. The plan was thus: I would embrace a ‘normal life’ for a while, taking the prestige and payroll of engineering, while keeping my writing as a well-practised hobby. Then, when my mid-thirties rolled around, I promised myself a real shot at becoming an author – a sabbatical long enough to give getting published a go. If I didn’t work out, a hobby it would remain and my life’s purpose would be derived from outside the 9 to 5 construct. Succeed, and…

A lot of my friends have graduated into the real world now, and among them lies a particular inspiration to me: William Sirl.

Long story short, but Will is an old friend, one of the first I made at secondary school and who’s stuck by me since. We’ve a long history of creativity together – from holding an informal after-school poetry club (admittedly partially to impress girls) to planning a sketch show and most prominently, constantly creating and embodying characters in improvised comedic scenes. Hilarity and invention are constant companions of ours. For me, this activity is part of the fun that defines our friendship; for him, improv is the dream he’s actively pursuing. Will lives in London, spends half his time unemployed, hops between hostels and sofas and edges closer to his dream every evening, step by step, gig by workshop. The contrast between our lives, it seems to me, could not be greater. And I am so jealous. What of? His talent for his craft, his carefree lifestyle? No. I’m jealous of his courage. I am paralysed by fear: fear of giving up my comfortable, easy, middle-of-the-road existence to dare, to dream and to value what I love over the realistic, responsible rewards I feel I should be hoarding in its place.

Will I stick to my Life Plan? Do it sooner, later, not at all? Who knows. Its presence keeps me going for now.

[Thanks to Jodie Louise and her thoughts on writing for inspiring me to publish this well after it was written – the aforementioned fear had kept it hidden until now!]