The Liebster Award 2.0

This week’s rambling’s are brought to you by lele loves and my ridiculous mind.

So, this may be cheating but what the funk. I’ve been nommed for a Liebster Award by the fabulous Lele, and even though I have won one of these before I decided to do it again for three reasons.1) I’m self-centred. 2) I get to compare my answers to my old ones and have a good old retrospection about how I’ve changed. 3) I get to nominate some awesome writers. So call this, the Liebster Award 2.0. Now, with twice as much Liebster!
Here are the RULES.

1. Provide a link back to the blogger who nominated you

2. Post 11 random facts about you

3. Answer 11 random questions set by the blogger who nominated you

4. Nominate 11 bloggers (or try) with under 200 followers for the award (excluding who nominated you)

5. Let the nominees know you have nominated them

11 oh-so-interesting facts about me (uhhhhhhh……)

  1. I am a journalism intern for swiish by Sally Obermeder. I get to stare at lovely pictures all day and write pretty words about them. My bosses are wonderful and my portfolio is already chockers with so many fashion and lifestyle articles (is this where I’m heading?)
  2. Last time I accepted a Liebster Award I admitted to wearing faux glasses to help me get into the writing mood (lol). Now I think I may have cursed myself because I need prescription glasses now and it’s a pain in the ass. I miss being able to see. I blame long-term use of computers and phones because my eyes were fine before I went to university. Now I can’t read road signs so I pretty much have to wear glasses all the time. Woo.
  3. LMAO the answers from my last Liebster Award were so cringe. I am glad to say that I have since grown as a person and as a writer. I still have major confidence issues with my writing but getting paid (and unpaid) work has helped me realise that I can’t be all bad… right?
  4. I should really read more. It just seems so indulgent to sit down with a book for hours. I consider films and actors my great muses instead (apart from some books that mean the world to me – more on that later). I love films with really strong concepts and conflicted characters. Actors cast light on human behaviours in a really immediate way. My faves include Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, David Tennant, Joel Edgerton, Chiwotel Ejiofor, Ryan Gosling, Burn Gorman, Eve Myles, Peter Capaldi, Billie Biper… and there are so many more. Okay, so let’s just say I appreciate good acting.
  5. My favourite novel ever is The Great Gatsby. I wonder how many people have said that. Personally, I think it is so beautifully written, the prose flows like silk, and it speaks to the insecurities behind our actions so well. While it is a little bleak, I think Gatsby’s obsession over becoming an unreachable ideal is something we can all reflect on. None of the characters in this book are perfect, but they are products of their time and every one of them resonates in us.
  6. I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which probably sounds worse than it is. Basically, my immune systems attacks my thyroid so it stops working properly. Luckily, it’s one of the more manageable autoimmune diseases, and while I sometimes suffer rough patches, I’ve found that with a gluten free, anti-inflammatory diet and medication I am mostly alright. Except right now because it’s freaking cold and I’m wearing three layers of socks.
  7. I want to write a novel. I want to write a good one with characters with real conflicts and real motives. I’ve started writing one but it’s hard because the writing never lives up to the vision in my head. I’m hoping I can complete NaNoWriMo this year and get over myself a little bit.
  8. I’ve never watched Game of Thrones. So can’t be bothered.
  9. My favourite TV show is Torchwood. It was probably the first proper adult show I ever watched on my own. The sic-fi element wasn’t just there for cool costumes and special effects, but really challenged the strengths and darknesses of human nature. None of the characters were angels and neither were they caricature bad guys. They were just people, pushed to their limits in extreme circumstances. The 16-year-old me thought that was very cool.
  10. I’m so squeamish it’s pathetic. Like I will start to panic and feel woozy over injuries, diseases, operations, rotting food, basically any bodily fluid. Once I was home alone and my cat brought in a headless rat. I spent literally hours sobbing and retching and running in and out of the room until I could work up the courage to pick up the corpse with a shovel. When I went to dispose of it outside I found another dismembered rat. Such is my life.
  11. I also hate spiders so much that I won’t go into it detail just in case I work myself up. But if I ever live alone and there is a spider, I won’t have another choice. I will have to burn that house down. Here is micro poem I wrote about spiders:

 Doom has eight beady eyes

And murder in its jaws

Moves swiftly as a shadow

And lurks patiently in yours

Questions for Me

1. What is your favourite scary movie? I am terrible when it comes to scary movies. I hate anything that makes me jump, especially if it involves demons and spirits. However, Cabin in the Woods was pretty scary for my standards but because it was so fun and subverted film conventions, I ended up quite enjoying it.

2. BBM, Whatsapp or Snapchat, which do you use the most/least? I occasionally use Snapchat to send ugly selfies to my friends. I have no idea what the other apps are.

3. What is your favourite high street /online store? My heart belongs to ASOS. I think there’s such a great variety and it’s affordable enough. For quality, I definitely love Oasis, and Mollie King’s collection with them is very stylish. If only I had money. If only I was Mollie King.

4. Favourite Season (as in food flavouring)? SALT. I even like my chocolate salted.

5. Do you collect anything (usual or otherwise)? I have a lot of shoes. I can’t say I get around to wearing all of them.

6. How would you describe your style? It’s hard to say because I’m still experimenting with my style a lot. Working for a fashion blog, I totally get swept up in the beautiful pictures and photographed that well looks amazing (my attempts, however, not so much). I grew up watching Sex and the City so I love anything whimsical and fun. I’m working on being more minimal, too – it takes a lot of restraint to say no to glitter and frills and patterns. But it always looks so effortless. Like, I don’t even know what the trends are, I’m just classy to the bone.

7. If you could be any animal, where would you go? I’d definitely be a bird, just for the ability to fly anywhere and everywhere and not fear falling.

8. Do you have any pets? Yeah! A Bichon Frise / King Charles Cavalier called Bonnie, and two miscellanous cats called Sunny and Lucky.

9. What’s your favourite colour? I like anything really dark and anything really pastel. Some people look good in brights but I am not one of them.

10. How often do you post on your blog? The aim is once a week. I know I have left it for much longer than that at times, but I feel like I am gaining momentum now.

11. What is the best blogging tip you know? It doesn’t matter if you post daily or fortnightly – the key is consistency. Your blog will be more visible and your readers will see you as reliable.

Questions for You

1. If you were Prime Minister/President what laws would you make or abolish?

2. Do you have a cool but utterly useless talent (i.e. folding origami, dislocating your jaw at will, mastering Klingon, etc)?

3. What’s the most interesting thing you’ve ever written? You can link it here if you like.

4. If you were on Big Brother, what “character” would you play? Would you have a strategy?

5. What’s the worst injury you’ve ever sustained?

6. When was the last time a film/TV show/book made you cry? What was it and why?

7. If you had to pick an alias, what would it be? (I call Anastasia Beaverhausen – infinite points to whoever gets the reference.)

8. What’s the most pretentious thing you’ve ever said/done?

9. If you could ask ONE celebrity ONE question, who would it be and what would be the question?

10. If your writing is a perfect summation of who you are, what would people think about you?

11. Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?

My 11 Nominees

http://melhealy.wordpress.com

http://djamesfortescue.wordpress.com

http://bethwangler.wordpress.com

http://pablosangel.wordpress.com

http://mrscwrites.wordpress.com

http://thewordsandmadnessofchloestowe.wordpress.com

http://mywritingwoes.wordpress.com

http://awriterspirit.wordpress.com

http://astorienne.wordpress.com

http://absurditys.wordpress.com

http://filmreviewsbyjhamlet.wordpress.com

HAVE FUN.

Friday Phrases: It’s a party for writers… and you’re invited!

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Writing and party aren’t two words that easily go together.

I mean, writing isn’t a naturally festive experience. You spend long hours locked in a room by yourself, staring and straining at this screen, and cursing anyone or anything that dares interrupt your thought process. Not exactly fun times, is it?

That’s why I find ideas like Friday Phrases so exciting – despite being totally incongruous, they work. If you haven’t heard yet, Friday Phrases is “microfiction party held on Fridays”. Using the #FP hashtag, players tweet out their best fiction in 140 characters or less.

It can be anything from super short stories, poetry, story prompts, chain stories, whatever, the limit is your imagination! Obviously, the only tweets not allowed are promo spam, trolling and porn.

So why should you join the #FP party? I know lots of traditional writers aren’t on board with Twitter as a legitimate platform, but as I’ve already written before, a 140 character limit opens up a world of challenges! If you find your writing is too bloated, Twitter will help you cut down because you’ll have no other choice.

There’s also weekly prompts, which you don’t have to follow, but will stimulate the creative juices if you’re blocked. This Friday’s theme is “delicious morsels”!

But most importantly, you can interact with other writers and get out of that lonely writer funk. It’s just uplifting to read other people’s tweets, have yours retweeted and faved and know IT’S NOT ALL LONELY OUT THERE. THERE ARE OTHERS JUST LIKE YOU… AND THEY ROCK!

If you want to join the Friday Phrases party, be sure to tweet me! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Here’s my twitter: https://twitter.com/_sally_sparrow

And, of course, the twitter for Friday Phrases: https://twitter.com/FridayPhrases

Love to see you there!

Rachel xx

11 tips for scoring that first job on Elance

 

Last week, I was griping about the lack of money in freelancing for newbie writers. I had just joined Elance and the idea of competing against more experienced writers for badly paid jobs was daunting. It didn’t seem like I would ever get my feet off the ground.

This week, I have just completed my first Elance job and have another one in progress. I’ll admit the pay isn’t great, but hey, it’s the experience that counts. That’s just one of the things I wizened to while browsing that never-ending job board. So, while it may seem cocky offering advice two weeks in, I have to say it’s been a steep learning curve already. Leaping in without a single rope to hold onto…

So, with my bounteous knowledge, I present: My 11 tips on getting your first Elance Job.

  1.  Have a complete profile. One that is compelling and demonstrates WHY anyone would want to hire you.
  2. Have a great opening line. The first sentence or two from your overview shows up under the job listing whenever you apply for one. Make sure it grabs the attention right away.
  3. Upload writing samples. Any potential employer can view your profile, and with an excellent range of writing samples, you can show them what you can do. It also helps you revise what kind of a writer you are, what you’re best at and what work you should be concentrating on finding.
  4. Take tests. Possibly the easiest way to prove your skills to an employer. The tests are multiple choice and don’t take long to do, and if you score well that will show on your profile. It also help you understand what kind of skill level you’re at, and challenge what you thought you knew about your expertise.
  5. Start small. If you have zero freelance experience and no client ratings, there is no way an employer will pay you plum rates. While qualifications and a great portfolio help, getting experience should be your first priority if you want to move up in the freelancing game. Bid low, work hard, and get those five-star ratings.
  6. Don’t sell yourself short. There are freelancers out there that charge $3 an hour, or even less. Serious employers won’t hire you if you don’t take yourself seriously. Decide on a minimum price for your work and don’t accept anything below that.
  7. Choose wisely. There are employers on Elance who genuinely want a quality product and will pay fairly for it. Then there are the ones who just want it as quickly and cheaply as possible. Consider the nature of the listing – is it well written and clear in its objective? Is the client willing to pay decent money? Being selective will also help you stop wasting Connects (you only get 40 a month to apply for jobs).
  8. Tailor your proposals. I honestly can’t stress this enough. An employer knows if you are just copying and pasting a stock-standard proposal into every listing. Read the job description carefully and respond sensitively. Take a personal approach and alter your tone to every client. Recast your qualifications, experience and interests in a light that engages the employer. Let them know that you’re diligent and imaginative and attentive to detail.
  9. Respond quickly. If a client contacts you, reply to them as soon as you get their message. If you keep them hanging for long, they will simply move on to another freelancer.
  10. Stalk your competition. Didn’t get the job? Trust me, I’ve been knocked back too many times over the past week, too. Whenever my bid is rejected, I look at the awarded freelancer’s profile and rates and see what they might have done right. It may be qualifications, experience, ratings or price – check them out and take notes.
  11. Chin up. I know it can be disheartening, applying for low level jobs and getting nowhere. But how does that Drake song go again? Every freelancer started from the bottom, with no experience, ratings or money. There are enough success stories on the site to motivate you to keep it up, no matter how slow your progress is initially.

    You will learn, you will win and you will write.

Writing for money: It’s a jungle out there.

When I was in Year 12 weighing up my options for the future, I chose writing because it seemed easy. Well, maybe not easy but certainly easier than any other career I thought was available. I wasn’t any good at maths or science, and my art didn’t have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. But I could churn out an essay with a few hours’ preparation. Today, I realise that was more luck than anything else.

When you’re 18, looking forwards, all you see is the money and the glamour and the prestige that comes from a career. You don’t focus on the unpaid hours, the hand cramps from typing, the mind-numbing shifts at the store/takeaway because, no, you’re not a famous writer yet and you can barely pay your phone bill.

I realise this may sound cynical. Truly, I find it quite funny how quickly I had to come to terms with the reality of the writing world. If only someone had told me sooner… or if only I’d listened.

On the first day of my journalism course, the lecturer stood up and said, “Journalism is dead”. He then expounded on just how difficult it was to get into the industry, how much unpaid work was ahead, that the newspapers were going under because of sheer amount of cheap content online. He was unblinkling-ly, finger-waggling-ly serious.

We all nodded and laughed ruefully. Perhaps on the surface, we knew what he was saying was right. But deep down, in that sacred place where we had dreamed and designed futures for ourselves, we all wanted to be the exception. The writerly wunderkind who got an undergrad position first-off, out of sheer performance and talent. Or created a prize-winning, money-attracting blog with thousands of followers – the other type of celebrity in the media faculty.

We all had our media pin-ups – George Negus, Mia Freedman, Wendy Harmer, etc. But I wanted to be someone fictional – Carrie Bradshaw. Growing up, I was fascinating she could babble on narcissistically (kind of like me know) and still get paid enough to buy her Manolo Blahniks. Of course, Carrie is a fairytale – but there have been those to follow her business model very successfully.

Three years on from starting my degree and I am no Carrie. Sure, I own a lot of shoes but that’s where the similarities end. I get to write about the things I love for my internship and I am so grateful for that experience. But I am so broke. I don’t even have a takeaway job to pay my phone bill. So much for the independent, career-savvy city girl.

This week I signed on to eLance in a bid to make some money. Immediately, I was stunned by the amount of jobs asking for $1 per 500 words, or $20 to write an eBook. This was not the glamorous life I imagined. However, I’ve come to accept the reality – if you really want to be writer you need to put in the hard yards first. You need to do the unpaid work you love, the terribly paid work you hate, and build a career from there. There is no guarantee you will get a job when you graduate, so you need to create jobs for yourself. Even if it starts with a narcissistic blog post.

Writers – do you make money from your writing? How? (Really, tell me all your secrets). Or are you coming to terms with an unrealistic dream of your own?

Why I write better when I’m tired

It’s scientifically proven that your brain works better on a good night’s sleep. So obviously as writers we should all be trying to get good rest. That’s not something I ever want to dispute. Sleep, everybody, is good. I wish I had more of it.

But when you’re running out of time, pulling an all-nighter or simply tired all the time, how does your writing measure up? Not too badly, as I found out this week.

First of all, I had an awful night’s sleep. A toxic combo of stress, hormones and bad routine meant I got less than two hours – and I was paying for it, badly. You know that slightly achey, very delirious feeling when you pull an all-nighter? Facing nine hours of office work with this sickly feeling, I was doubting I would get through the day. Rushing out the door, my eyelids felt weighted with lead.

On the bus ride to work I was very concerned I would fall asleep and miss my stop. So I used my smartphone to stimulate my brain. The neon brights of Candy Crush were too harsh at this time of day, so I thought I would write instead. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write some of the novel I haven’t touched in months, especially in this state.

Unbelievably, the words started to flow out of me – lyrical, honest prose that I haven’t been able to achieve in months. The section I wrote was about my protagonist’s obsession with another girl’s beauty and her frustration that she couldn’t envision it in all its glory when they were apart.

Reading over it now, I realise it’s not perfect but I was able to get a few lovely phrases – “the sadness in her eyes when she smiled, the ballet of her white fingers across the table” – that I’m really happy with.

When I arrived at work, I completed my work more quickly and they packed a certain punch word-wise that I have been struggling to achieve in my fashion/lifestyle journalism internship.

And thinking back, haven’t my best-marked works at uni been completed last-minute, when my brain is so overworked and over-caffeinated from various assignments that I’ve forgotten how to spell?

So what’s the story, then? How I can be a better writer when my brain is sluggish, my body feels like a dead weight and my emotions are haywire?

The answer: carelessness. Yes, carelessness – in my case – is the key to good writing. I have always been the girl to obsess over grammar and syntax and how others will read my writing. In moderation, those are good qualities in writers. In surplus, they make you neurotic to the point that writing is too intimidating to even continue.

The lack of sleep made me not think so much about writing, and just do it. I was so deliriously exhausted and mad at the world that I came to possess an IDGAF attitude. Being dog-tired also makes you emotionally brittle and overcharged. It brings all those deep, blazing feelings up to the surface so you can access them easier.

I think this was a major breakthrough for me. While I’m not going to forgo sleep in the name of art – and I strongly discourage anyone doing so – I will try to channel the immediacy and the authenticity sleeplessness gave me in my writing.

To just breathe in, breathe out, and write. For nobody but myself. And not caring what anyone thinks about it. Because I’m tired and right now the perfect phrasing is like a shot of Red Bull straight into my veins. And if this story’s anything to go by, I’m capable of doing it. I just have to let go.