The Self-Publishing Struggle

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Writers are always told to write what they know so for my first blog post back after a little hiatus I wanted to write about my experience of self-publishing. All the articles I have come across promising to shed light on how to manoeuvre through the self-publishing process only seem to concentrate on the professional rather than the personal.

1- It is the loneliest form of writing. There is no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to turn to for advice or to remind you of deadlines and push you to meet them. Agents and publishers don’t care how much housework you have, whether your child is sick or you are moving house or you have visitors.

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2- It is very easy to ‘miss the boat’ and so easy to push the importance of writing/publishing to the back burner in favour of family life and demands. It only takes one event to break the creative flow. Writing like many practices is only improved through practice. I so often feel I am taking one step forward and two steps back and for various reasons I have been struggling to catch up since June and feel I have missed a number of advertising/marketing opportunities for my current workload.

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3- If you don’t consider writing as important and part of your job, no one else will. So many times I have been persuaded to shut my laptop in favour of watching a film, a sitcom or political satire and due to my desire to please, my goals are again pushed back, it has happened so often that it is inadvertently expected of me. My husband often works from home and when he does often shuts himself away upstairs until his work for the day is completed.  On the other hand, I sit in the family room with a million and one things happening all at once and seem to forget that I am working from home as a stay at home mother and as a writer and should act accordingly.

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4- In the self-publishing process, time is often of short supply and it is so easy to take short-cuts in the hope you can get one step ahead. Take it from me, sometimes long cuts are needed to save both time and money. We are so often told time and time again that it is better to take your time and complete a job well rather than rush it and make mistakes and then have to repeat it over and over again. Oh the painful truths of hindsight.

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5-  The advice I hear from writers time and time again is to simply keep going. I am currently writing this from the glow of a lion nightlight in my daughter’s bedroom as she lays sleeping beside me recovering from a stomach bug and subsequent Meningitis vaccination. (The wonderful joys of her ‘big girl bedroom’ and a trundle-bed is that we can have ‘sleepovers’ whenever we want).   Even if it means you end up editing/proofreading subsequent drafts by torch-light, keep going. I wish I had from the beginning.

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Opening image: Areadingwritr.wordpress.com
Second image: Meganolearyfiction.com
Third image: Thewritepractice.com
Fourth image: Annecharnock.com
Fifth image: Quotesgram.com
Closing image: Helpdeskja.com

The Penultimate Career

motherhoodjobI am not stupid. I have a postgraduate level education. I am not lazy, my working day begins the moment I open my eyes to the moment I close them at the end of the day, which is often in the early hours of the following day.  I have dreams and I have aspirations. I have only ever wanted to be two things: a mother and a writer. I am the happiest I have been for years. After dressing for the corporate world it is so refreshing to leave the house in jeans and trainers, it makes me feel so liberated.

I work hard and in the past two years have worked harder than I ever have. I have exerted myself to the point my health is now affected.  My only source of news is on my mobile phone usually through my Facebook or Twitter feed usually at past midnight because to refute the common assumption of stay at home mothers (or SAHMs), I do not sit and watch television all day. Neither am I on my phone during the day, except to make phone calls. I do not go out and spend my husband’s money, in fact for at least two months now I have walked around with holes in my jeans.

David Cameron’s new childcare manifesto is designed to ‘help hard working families who want to get on’ and who aspire. How does one define hard working? I am attempting to carve a future in writing and working on several projects simultaneously, I have enrolled in a home study Creative Writing course. I am taking care of my 2 1/2 year old daughter, ferrying her to her many classes and groups. Each day she has at least one event to attend. I am also educator and playmate. I am the cleaner and chef. My husband has dinner on the table when he comes home and his clothes are always washed and ironed. Even when my daughter goes to sleep at the end of the day, there is housework and of course my writing projects, my aspirations.

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Why should my daughter and my family be penalised because I chose to stay at home and do all these roles, every single day for free? David Cameron and his government in their discrimination are preventing me and other SAHMs from achieving our aspirations. As a family we are already penalised because my husband and I are still together and my husband is working, now we are penalised because I choose to raise my own children? What is our society turning into?  A society that is more worried about taxes and money rather than the welfare of its children? I aspire to raise happy, confident children myself and not pay someone else to do it for me. Does that make me lazy? I used to think that made me a good mother. Maybe I’m wrong. According to our prime minister I am lazy.  I am wasting my education and do not aspire. On the one hand he is supporting young couples in starting a family and then on the other hand encouraging them to abandon them and return to work when they either do not have to or do not want to.

Every day I wake up with a smile and every night I fall asleep with a smile. How many people can say that? I am raising a child with good morals, with politeness. A good work ethic. I am educating her in the hope she will reach high educational achievements and subsequently will give back to her country. Why is that not commendable in the eyes of our Prime Minister and indeed the rest of society? I am sick and tired of being looked down upon by everyone and I mean everyone. I am criticised for what and how I feed my child. Yes she is a difficult eater. She only really eats the food I cook for her. but if that is her only vice, I am eternally grateful. I am proud of my daughter and I am proud of being a stay at home mother. Mr. Cameron, I am not lazy, I am not stupid. I work harder than many people I know. I do aspire, I aspire to be a good mother. I think that is more than enough.

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Further links:

Wannabe Stay-at-Home Mothers Are Being Slowly Screwed by Cameron

David Cameron’s ‘Slur’ on Stay-at-home Mother’s 

Stay-at-home Mothers Deserve Some Respect From David Cameron

Opening image: Carpe Diem Mom
Second image: Alpha Parent
Closing image: Some ecards

Listening To The Voices

As I sit here typing these words to you, a beautiful cot bed has taken residence in my bedroom and a room has been painted with farm animals. A little Christmas stocking is being packed and a ‘going home’ outfit has been brought and cooed over. This time next month, should I have not had my baby, I will be nearly a week overdue. Alternatively my life may already have changed irrevocably. Selfishly not only have I got the excitement of Christmas but also the birth of my first baby to enjoy. Being pregnant at this time I think has made it easier to push aside my fears for labour and concentrate on preparing for Christmas. On the other hand, it has not been easy juggling the different demands on my time. Whichever way I look at it though, for me having a baby at Christmas time is a blessing and I foresee no disadvantages for my child of having a birthday so near Christmas. In fact one of my school friends has a birthday on my baby’s due date and in no way felt disadvantaged growing up.

It is funny that as soon as the pregnancy test confirmed a positive result, as a new parent my mind quickly became flooded with ideas and wants for my child. It is only until recently that I have thought about what I want out of motherhood. My pregnancy has not been easy and despite the fact that my job was far from ideal, I have not relished in being signed of sick for the past four months. I am not one to relax easily and actually enjoy working. For this reason, I have spent the past months working more solidly on my writing and have enjoyed working 9-5 in my office (a.k.a the spare bedroom) on my various writing projects.

Becoming pregnant has not been a private experience, many people have felt it their place to give advice on how to do things, how I should feel, what I should be doing, how I will cope (and in some cases not cope) with the impending birth and life afterwards. It has often been hard for me to find my voice among all the others and this is one of the things that has frightened me the most. I have for a several days sat in front of my laptop willing inspiration to come but my mind seemed to be clouded with the echoes of all the advice that I have been given either in person or via pages of a magazine. I know parenthood will not be easy and I know there will be times when I may want to turn the clock back but what I will find the most difficult to cope with is if I lose my voice. Becoming a mother was all I ever wanted to be since I was a little girl. Having said that, being a mother is not the only thing I want to be known for.

Being the youngest by ten years, I have often been expected to ‘do as I was told’ and have done so on many occasions even though my inner voice has had an opinion of its own. Since my sick leave has begun, I have allowed myself to be immersed in writing sometimes at the cost of housework and to the surprise of some, the nesting instinct of many pregnant women. Ultimately, I want to be taken seriously as a writer and although I know it will be a struggle to juggle motherhood with writing, I will enjoy and am already enjoying the challenge.

In my mind, what is more important than anything is not what you are doing to prepare for parenthood but how you are preparing. I’ve learnt to listen more to my inner voice and although I should have succumbed to the nesting instinct more readily or earlier than I have done, I needed to have those months to myself beforehand. I needed to find my inner voice before it was completely overwhelmed by well-meaning advice, nappies, bottles and sleepless nights.

One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is that in order to look after baby, I need to look after myself. The only voice I truly need to listen to is my own. I may have taken on too much in the lead up to such a life changing event but in listening to me, I have written a children’s book and am in the middle of illustrating it in preparation for self publication; I am reviewing books more regularly now, writing research reports on chosen topics and even examining the possibility of starting my own business. I appreciate that I have been lucky to be given this spare time, however I also appreciate now the age-old expression that your future does not simply fall in your lap, you have to work for it and in some cases burn the candle at both ends.

I am now beginning to think like a writer. Now when people ask me what I do for a living, that is exactly what I will tell them. When I look at my child in a few months time, I will know that I have laid the foundations for a new career and fundamentally their future. What more could I ask for?

Opening Image:  Parchment Place
Second Image: NonStopQuotes.Com
Final Image: Mixedmarriages.wordpress.com

The Fear Of Motherhood

We are all in exile from something in our lives, particularly from the past and we especially feel this when we are preparing for a dramatic change in our lives.

I am now 30 weeks pregnant and although I am so very excited to finally meet my baby after what feels like so long, I also feel a little bereft. I have enjoyed the time that I have had on my own while being signed off work and have thoroughly enjoyed using that time to work more on my writing. Already I know I will miss this time and I have tried my best to not take a single moment for granted.

What is more intimidating now is that my life is completely changing and permanently changing. When I got married, it was not such a re-adjustment in my life as I never really led the traditional single life. However, soon I will no longer have my own life. As a mother my life will be forever intertwined with someone else’s. I have enjoyed caring for my niece and nephews. However during the midnight feeds and the incessant crying, the rocking to sleep I always knew it was for a short period and in effect I can hand the child over and return to my life. Soon I will be unable to do that.  For me that is extremely daunting. Will I be good enough? Will I know instinctively when my baby needs me? Not only that, but my body has and is still changing so much, even though I was never particularly ‘body proud’ prior to my pregnancy. I’m proud of my pregnancy bump but the thought of my body no longer belonging to me alone is not something I have been able to easily comprehend.

I have never been ambitious in terms of a career and always felt my career would develop once I had children. This belief became increasingly prevalent as I embarked on a number of jobs that were primarily to assist me to reach my goal of a family life and not any vocational advancements. On top of becoming a mother for the first time, I am now thinking of where I want my career to take me. I know I want to progress more with my writing and of course to be published would be my ultimate goal. However, I have a family to take care of, there are never-ending bills to pay so I will need a day job while I continue to pursue my dream.

How many dreams can one person chase? Motherhood vs a career. My dream is to be a mother and I believe being a parent is the most important, demanding, frightening and exciting job there is. The most unnerving aspect is there is no job description or person specification to follow. It is very much learning on the job.

I have absolutely loved being pregnant, I can genuinely say I have loved every single moment. Despite the effects of Thalassemia  I know that it is all worthwhile. I can not understand why people have felt sorry for me due to the complications; even though I am scared to venture out on my own and scared of even driving in case I faint or become too dizzy. As I sit here now, the room is spinning and although I have had to learn a different breathing technique to help me become less breathless, I have enjoyed every kick from the baby; every ache; every pain. Motherhood is most definitely a labour of love. I understand that now.

So although my life will never be the same again that is not necessarily a bad thing. My purpose in life will soon be tangible and soon enough I will be most likely sitting here writing another blog post wishing for these days back again. If motherhood is really learning on the job, the first lesson I’ve learnt is to appreciate the time I have because it will be over before I know it.

It’s important to not miss where we have been but to look forward to where we are going.

Title image from: Creating Opportunities
Second image from: Yummy Mummy Club 
Third image from: Comerecommended.com
Final image from: Jesslively.com
 

The Two Faces of Reality

There has been a lot written on the events of London 2012: the amazing opening ceremony, the excitement of the events, the race to Gold. What has not been written yet and which I can not help but feel envious of is the tourists on holiday, far away from their reality. My husband and I braved the London crowds on Friday (although they were not as dense as I feared) and dined out prior to walking along the South Bank. All the tourists had smiles on their faces, excitedly pointing their cameras towards London landmarks, far away from any sense of reality in their homeland.

I on the other hand had come from work, still carrying my utter disappointment and memories of the tears shed during the day. I rarely stand up against such people, not because of fear but because I believe myself too good for that. I would not want to reduce myself to their level, I want to be the one to keep the peace in a highly volatile environment. Unfortunately, not only does it often fail to work, it leaves an effect on me that lasts for days. The problem is even though I know it will be easier on me, I never change. I don’t think I want to. I am assertive and can fight my corner when the time is right. I just know I’m never going to change opinions, they will think what they want about me either way. I’d rather maintain an air of calm and not create an extra storm.

Most things I do now often leads me to questioning my actions. Wondering whether I would encourage my own children to act in the same way. To be honest. I genuinely don’t know. I would want them to stand their ground but also not to lose their integrity. I would tell them that sometimes it takes a stronger person to stand down in a fight (perceived or not) than it does for someone to raise their fists or their voice.

Last weekend however, I received lovely, unexpected texts and e-mails which made me realise that my reality was not all that bad and which literally propelled me to stronger, more positive ground. My reality may not always be perfect – but then again whose is? I only have to go through the emotional turmoil for a few months longer until I embark on my maternity leave after which I may or may not return to work. In four months time, my whole world will change. I have a wonderful, exciting future ahead of me. It is just sometimes the darker shade of reality over shadows the good side and it takes longer to see the sun between the clouds.

We are naturally programmed to always see the grass as greener on the other side and we are so busy doing so that we fail to see what we have on offer on our own side and most importantly we fail to enjoy it. So, I have made a promise to myself that each time I think negatively or concentrate on the ‘darker’ side of my reality, I will dwell longer on the ‘lighter’ and more positive side. As a friend commented to me over the weekend, I will not look back on my life and be grateful that I let myself suffer or be unhappy unnecessarily. At the risk of using a cliché, my life is really good, if only I let it be.

 

Pictures from Unknown and Realneo

Learning To Take The Good With The Bad

Friday was a particularly tough day, deadlines loomed and continued to grow and I have to say any of my other colleagues would have crumbled under the pressure. I am proud to say that I have my father’s endurance in such matters. Most of the time I am proud to stand strong and not rise up in answering back to others and yesterday was one of those occasions. I was even taken aback when my colleagues actually said goodbye to me as opposed to simply walking past and ignoring me. As I collapsed on the train home with all my deadlines met single handedly I was desperate to drown in the world created by Susan Lewis.

Alas, I happened to choose the noisiest of carriages, even listening to my iPod louder than normal could not drown the “what to have for dinner tonight” discussions. As I more or less crawled home from the station I found myself stopping to take in the divine smell of freshly cut grass, one of the first signs of spring. I opened the door to my husband running down the stairs to me, and a thick envelope addressed to me in my brother’s handwriting. Having previously discussed music, I expected the new discs he promised to send me. It was not only that but wrapped around them was a lovely card. I don’t often see him as life always seems to get in the way but it was so heart-warming for me to read the easy way in which he wrote. Listening to the mixes reminded me of how he and I would sit together and listen to music. As always, he pins down exactly what I need musically and finds an eclectic sound that moves me to my core.

I barely had time to sit down before I had to leave to have dinner with a friend. Over a deliciously homemade dinner, we moaned about our jobs, bills and shared holiday plans. Working in the same field, it was refreshing to share my misgivings with her and while our better halves discussed the latest IT developments we bonded over tea and chocolates. Tearing ourselves apart at near midnight, me heavy laden with gifts and promising to cat-sit and a repayment of the favour I drove home with no recollection of the days events, of the one man show of meeting deadlines, the exhaustion…

Now, as I write this on Saturday evening still full from the divine Iranian kebab I consumed at lunch and excited for the Iranian New Year in two weeks time, I feel so lucky to be me. To be Iranian despite all the negative rhetoric that currently surrounds us. My life isn’t perfect, my job isn’t perfect but I tell you – the people I surround myself with are certainly perfect for me.

If You Have To Cry Go Outside by Kelly Cutrone: Book Review

For those of you familiar with American reality series The Hills and The City you will be familiar with the phenomenon that is Kelly Cutrone. I liked Kelly from the outset, particularly with her ‘taking no prisoners’ method and admired her for her integrity in the largely dishonest world of fashion. I would highly recommend you buy this book and would defy you not to finish it without learning one thing and without feeling empowered. Never mind the Spice Girls, Kelly Cutrone is the queen of ‘Girl Power’!

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What it says on the back:

Kelly Cutrone has long been mentoring women on how to make it in one of the most competitive industries in the world. In her trademark, no-[nonsense] style, she combines personal and professional stories to share her secrets for success without selling out. Raw, hilarious, shocking, but always the honest truth, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside calls upon you to gather up your courage like an armful of clothes at a McQueen sample sale and follow your soul where it takes you. Whether you’re just starting out in the world or looking to reinvent yourself, this book will be the spark you need to figure out what you have to say to the world – and how you’re going to say it.

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I must admit I was slightly hesitant to buy this book, thinking it was about how to succeed in the fashion world. However even before finishing the introduction, I knew I made the best decision. Kelly Cutrone deletes the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.  I was charmed by her lack of arrogance or self-righteousness. The entire book is unlike any of the other self-help books out there and I have read a few! Cutrone teaches her readers life lessons through sharing her own mistakes and I have to say a lot of what she wrote struck a chord with me:

‘…This is an important lesson to remember when you’re having a bad day, a bad month… Things will change: you won’t feel this way forever. And anyway, sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the ones your soul needs most. I believe you can’t find real joy unless you’ve felt heartache… [I have been] forced …to learn to trust and love myself and really know that I’m not what I do for a living.’ (Pg 57)

Kelly Cutrone show a genuinely deep side for someone so successful in what the perceived shallow world of fashion. She credits a certain degree of success on her spiritual beliefs and delves deep into the religion of materialism, encouraging her readers to embrace all religions and find their own form of spiritualism, as she has done. There is so much I could expand on but I fear in sharing more Cutrone pearls of wisdom, I will be depriving you of the joy and excitement of discovering that you really are a ‘Babe In Total Control of Herself’ – you just don’t realise it yet.

Reading ‘If You Want To Cry’, I felt that Kelly was talking directly to me and all the examples and lessons she bought to the fore seemed so relevant to my own life. It really was as if she knew me personally. In my opinion Kelly Cutrone’s integrity is highly admirable, she has opened the doors to the fashion world and has destroyed its shallow stereotype. She gives hope to those struggling to reach the top in their own field:

‘…the roads to your dreams are not paved with yellow brick; in fact, they may be paved with rejection letters. The people who succeed are often not just the people with the best-articulated brands; they’re the people who respond to rejection by brushing themselves off and moving on, again and again’ (pg 123)

Now what better advice than that could an aspiring writer wish for?

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