Stuff happens when you leave the house, part two

Well. This was going to be my CPD update to part one, listing all the lovely, smug professional outings I had planned for 2020. Yeah.

It has occurred to me several times that I should write about COVID-19 lockdown. But I couldn’t imagine what I could possibly say that was in any way different to what anyone else has said (or as beautifully observed as some of the things Liz Jones has written).

Then I thought of one thing. It’s neither interesting nor beautiful, but I haven’t heard anyone else say it. Here it is: I did not go anywhere for about three months, and when I finally ventured outside everything was a blur.


With relief, I found out that I was – and had constantly been for several weeks – still wearing my reading specs. Having not needed to look at anything more than two feet away for about three months, I just hadn’t noticed.

Thankfully, I wasn’t driving.

It’s been possible for me to find a lot of positives amongst the difficulties – that’s a luxury some people have not had. For me, the time has been filled effortlessly, but the time has also passed ruthlessly quickly.

I’ve adapted like everyone else has had to, and now that the end is in sight (maybe) I am unsettled and worried about having to adapt yet again to further changes, or, equally, to going back to what was before.

My world became very small for a time. The big world out there is a bit hazy still – even with the right specs on.

Work–work balance: a cautionary tale

A year review of sorts. Though it’s not the end of the year. Or the start. This is one of those “don’t do as I do” tales. The past year I’ve worked on over 60 books (including maps, pamphlets, novellas). This sounds like a lot. It is a lot.

Good stuff first:

I worked on cozy crime, police procedural, thriller, humour, speculative fiction, horror, romance, literary fiction, commercial fiction, self-help, clans and tartans, Scottish history, social history, whisky, Scottish interest, dictionaries, dictionaries, dictionaries, grammar, health and nutrition (ha! the irony), typesetting, all levels of editing, and some writing to boot… oh and a wedding album.

I managed a week’s holiday in Portugal with my good friend. I experienced some compassionate and kind project management. I worked with some hugely talented writers whose niceness, reasonableness and incredible work ethic fills me with admiration and gratitude. I spent some time with my edibuddies at the SfEP Glasgow group, and at the Newcastle mini-conference, in London at Callie and Sarah’s fiction conference, and in Birmingham at the hugely enjoyable annual conference.

I spoke in public.
I wrote a book.
I stayed sane despite challenges.

I met new and lovely people and managed to hang on to old pals despite neglecting them. I saw Anna and Thom before they moved away to LA. I spent time with my folks on their golden wedding anniversary.

The bad stuff:

My personal projects have got pushed back and back and back (sorry Jane and Tom), my capacity to take on exciting unexpected jobs was not possible (sorry Keith and Bob), some friends waited three months for the wedding photographs I took for them (sorry Colin and Claire), my developmental edit of an amazing historical novel was delayed far too much (sorry Lynda), my social life has been non-existent, my exercise life has also been non-existent, my time sitting at my desk far into the night has been strangely abundant. I didn’t have much time off. The house is a mess.

I experienced the worst scope creep on a job, ever. That was hard… and very costly in terms of time, health and money. I suppose you learn from this. I’ll share the experience one day when I can laugh about it. Maybe when I retire (ha ha, whenever that might be).

It feels good to have got through it and see so much stuff ticked off but it still feels very frustrating to see some things still incomplete. Health, fitness and – most scarily recently – eyesight have all suffered adversely from what felt like relentless work. So the goal from now on is seeking balance, block planning, self-care, minimalising (!), weekends off.

Wish me luck!