It’s been a while since I blogged. I’ve got out of the habit, really. The Easter holidays and the two-kids-at-home chaos that that entails meant it was hard to find time to concentrate on writing for fun, what with actual paid work and housework and stuff to get on with. Prior to that, I was immersed in a big writing project that took every ounce of my time and energy. So, I’m grateful to Jacq at mymumdom.com for passing me the baton in the Writing Blog Tour and encouraging me to give my poor, neglected blog a bit of TLC.
What am I working on?
As most freelance writers will probably tell you, this varies enormously from month to month and even day to day. The life of a freelance journo means that there is often little pattern or consistency to the flow of work.
At the moment, I write the Real Life Weddings section for Wedding Ideas magazine, and a monthly feature for Prima Baby, where each issue, I help a frazzled mum to tackle a child-related dilemma with the help of parenting experts. (On that note: if you are desperate for someone to help you get your toddler to stay in his own bed, or eat more than just nuggets and chips, I’m your woman). A new venture for me is handling the social media for The School Run - oh yes, I’m paid to muck about on Facebook and Twitter.
What else is going on alongside that is in a constant state of flux. Just now, it’s a big fat NOTHING, which is actually quite a relief after a few full-on months. But I also do health writing, medical writing and editing, the odd bit of PR… After 12 years in the industry, eight of those freelance, I’m quite happy to turn my hand to anything, really.
How does my work differ from that of others?
This is an interesting question for a journo, as what I write is dictated by my brief, my readership, the tone of the publication in question… Often, it’s not a matter of being different from other writers, but being able to write in the style of whatever magazine or website I’m working on, so my work feels part of a cohesive whole.
So what does mark me out as a ‘good’ writer? Well, I think I have a certain way with words. I enjoy the English language and how it works, whether I’m writing patient support materials aimed at people with an average reading age of 12, or relating the story of someone’s wedding day. I’m an absolute stickler for spelling and grammatical accuracy, and pride myself on delivering top-notch copy, on time and to length. But like I say, being a professional writer means producing what I am told to rather than trying to be too ‘out there’ – at least as far as my line of work is concerned.
Why do I write what I do?
Err… Because I’m paid to? No, seriously, my vague specialisms of health and parenting journalism came about through chance. My first proper job in journalism was as editorial assistant at Pregnancy & birth magazine (now sadly defunct). I had no kids at the time, but obviously seemed sufficiently organised to look after the office mailbox and deal with phone calls from mad readers. Having proved my ability to string a sentence together, I then moved to Mother & Baby, first as staff writer and then features editor.
I left to go freelance when my son was born, and since then, my work has evolved as my contacts have drifted in different directions. It really is true that it’s not what you know in journalism but who you know, and the vast majority of my work these days is a reflection of that.
As for blogging, well, that started because I felt my professional work was becoming increasingly corporate. I was finding myself doing less and less of the real life stuff that I have always loved above all else, and more advertorials, medical writing and editing and PR. I really missed that creative outlet, so I started blogging about family life. Yes, I am yet another mummy blogger, but writing about life as a work-at-home mum of two was a nice, light-hearted contrast to the serious nature of my day job.
Recently, I’ve lost my way with blogging a bit. I’m aware that my words have offended in the past, and I’ve also begun to feel a bit egotistical in assuming that anyone actually wants to read about my little life. That’s why I’ve taken a step back from this blog, although I do keep dipping my toes back into the water. Nowadays, I do most of my ‘for me’ writing privately. I have another blog that I don’t really publicise at all, and that is a real outlet for me, personally and creatively. I think people – especially bloggers – underestimate the value of writing for oneself and become hung up on statistics. It’s quite refreshing to distance myself from that.
How does my writing process work?
When it comes to paid work, I’m pretty methodical – and disciplined. Currently, I only have 12 hours a week in which both of my children are out of the house, so I’ve trained myself to really focus in those periods (unless, you know, there’s something far more important to do – like cleaning out the understairs cupboard, or finishing a good book…). And because the subjects I write about can be so obscure – I’ve recently been writing an extensive project on a rare inherited childhood disease – my first port of call is to find the information I need, whether that’s from suitably qualified experts or decent websites.
As an aside, I trained as a journalist just as the internet was blossoming, but during my post-grad year, we were banned from doing any sort of online research – it was still considered lazy. I remember days in the media lab trawling through local papers and the Yellow Pages trying to find contacts and leads. I am very thankful for the way in which the internet has changed my writing process!
Blogging is a different process altogether. It’s a brain-dump, really, and a welcome contrast to the precise nature of my paid work. That doesn’t mean that it’s (all) nonsense; I still care about producing well-written copy, even if it’s only for my eyes. But it’s here that I let myself go, choosing my own subject matter and the words I feel will best convey it. That, above all else, is what I love about writing.
I’m now passing the blog tour baton to some other bloggers whose work I enjoy reading: Lulastic and Mother’s Always Right. I’m looking forward to reading about what gets their creative juices flowing.