Settling into a normal routine

Melbourne from the river

Melbourne from the river

Since I got back to Melbourne in June, my whole focus has been on getting a job and recovering the funds I’ve spent since February. I had an amazing five months of travelling and doing some awesome things but it depleted me to pretty much zero.

Now, I don’t regret my choices at all. There are some things I may do differently if I could go back, and definitely things to keep in mind for the future but, in the end, things have worked out.

I was able to pick up work during the winter, which is harder to do than you might think, and get some stability. Then, back in October (a few days before my birthday, in fact) I finally got the job I was looking for. All good, right?

Getting the job I wanted

One thing I wanted to do when I came to Australia was work in digital marketing. This is my career back in the UK and I’m good at what I do, thankfully. I had a fair few interviews while working at the hostel but couldn’t get across that final hurdle, for whatever reason. It was frustrating, to say the least, but I knew it would come.

I was looking at short contracts that fit in with my visa. I felt that was likely going to give me a better chance. This job, as a content writer, fits my specialism perfectly but is actually a full six-month contract, with the option of a second six months to follow in my second year.

There are further opportunities open to me in the future as a result of this, but I’ll come back to those shortly.

Working life in a hostel

While I did move out of hostels for a grand total of six weeks, I moved back in November. Those six weeks were great for me, to have some space of my own and more peace and quiet to get back on track with things.

Hostels have rooms of various sizes, and with a different number of beds. I’m a bit older than most backpackers I meet, so I opt for a 6-bed dorm with its own bathroom. This is a bit more expensive but the room tends to be quieter and that’s an advantage when you work five or six days a week.

For the most part, everyone I’ve met or shared a room with has been decent. I’ve heard stories from other people in the hostel about roommates who aren’t as nice to live with, so I count myself lucky. That being said, sharing a room with five other people means you don’t get the best sleep. It’s a trade off but one I’ve adapted to now.

Trying not to plan too far ahead (and failing)

This job does have the potential to lead to sponsorship. Now, that’s a nice idea – and before I even came to Australia, I had convinced myself that if such an opportunity came up, I’d do all I could to take it.

Now, I’m less sure. Am I ready to stay in one place for a longer period of time? Do I want to settle into that mundane, day-to-day life again?

These and other questions are things I think about every day and I still don’t have the answers, yet. In the short term, I’m working and saving for the future, whether that’s for trips or activities or something else remains to be seen. While I try to just focus on this, it’s hard to not to wonder about two months down the line, six months later or three years beyond. It makes things a bit more complicated but I’m still going.

A much-needed reunion

One thing has been playing on my mind over recent weeks. It’s brought into question everything I’m doing and honestly, I’m feeling a little lost as a result. I miss the people from back home but I don’t miss the mundanity of daily life – and that’s what I’m in now. I switched one country for another but I cam travelling to escape this, and I did for so long. So, I keep asking myself; is this really what I should be doing right now?

Honestly, I have no answer yet. I’m looking at ways to keep myself focused or engaged, and I’ve got some plans to do so. I hope it works and I can come to the right answer later.

Something did stand out, though. I got to see my best friend when she stopped by Melbourne. The first time for just a day and then again for a couple before she flew home. It was great to catch up – it’ had been a good 10 months or so since we’d last seen each other!

I needed that. I know it’s not something to get used to but of all the people to find on the other side of the world, it had to be her. Those were good days, and I miss them already.

Advertisements

The end of the honeymoon period

Vineyards at a Hunter Valley Winery

Vineyards at a Hunter Valley Winery

Since getting back to Melbourne, I’ve not been doing much except job hunting and working. I’m in a better place now than before, but not quite where I’d like to be in an ideal situation. Still, the whole thing is proving to be an eye opener and proved that coming back here was the right move.

What I have learned is that the honeymoon period is over. It’s lasted longer than it probably should have and to go the best part of five months not working is a surprise but, while it’s been stressful at times and brought a couple of dips, I wouldn’t change it.

There’s so much more to see but there’s plenty of time left!

Getting back into work…sort of

So, I have two jobs right now. I started working at my hostel for free accommodation shortly after I got here. It’s not glamorous – just cleaning up, changing beds and such – but it does the job. That’s definitely helped. Since then, I’ve been put on the books so while I still do some of that, I also get paid for doing night shifts in reception a couple nights a week, as well as adhoc work when it comes up. This last week has been my “training” shifts but tonight I start my first full shift, alone.

Interestingly, a lot of the backpackers think I’m too soft for this. Boy, are they in for a surprise. There’s no reason I can’t be nice but strict when they go too far when I’m working. Night times are generally quiet but issues do arise and since I’ll be on alone, managing that and them (when they’re usually drunk) could be interesting.

I also do bar work in between this in a RSL/concert hall. It’s very quiet in the members lounge but the concert hall can be busy. They’re all really cool guys and I enjoy the shifts I do get, so it’s nice to see more people who aren’t backpackers.

I’m still hunting for something more stable but I can get by like this. I’m considering expanding my freelance client list, too.

Winter isn’t that bad

Apparently, it’s REALLY cold in Melbourne, but coming from a UK winter, it’s not bad at all. The mornings and nights can be chilly but that’s mostly the wind. The days are quite nice, usually hitting around 15 degrees. I remember summers in the UK colder than that!

That said, due to not knowing my money and work situation, I haven’t done much. I haven’t been writing much but setting time aside for this in the future – more on that in a bit – and there are a lot of exhibitions and such I want to see. Hopefully soon I’ll have more fun stories for you. Picture spam is also incoming on Facebook, just an FYI.

Using my free time better

Vineyards at a Hunter Valley Winery

Vineyards at a Hunter Valley Winery

In my low moments, saving money is everything – not that it always worked well! I found myself watching Netflix for hours simply because I could, even though there are plenty of free things to do here.

I had a plan to have written the first draft of my next book before this month even started, but that didn’t happen (I’m about a third of the way through). So, after a lot of thinking, and realising I haven’t been swimming in months, I thought about how I used my time.

The answer was not encouraging. Downtime is great and all but I still have things I want to do. So, I cancelled Netflix and looked at my shifts to set aside some time each day to do some writing, to read a book, take a walk and generally go to things that I’ve been putting off.

I actually took a short trip to Sydney at the beginning of the month to see a friend and go on a wine tasting day around Hunter Valley. Too expensive but it was a nice way to refresh and see exactly what I was here to do; work hard, earn money, go see/do something new. I’m not the biggest wine drinker but I did find more than a few I enjoyed and it was all local to the area. Shame I only had hand luggage to fly back to Melbourne with! More of this to come.

I’ll let you know how this works out. Until then, ciao!

And now we wait

Here we are again. As I mentioned last time, I was making the final changes to my book – the ones that actually needed to be made. Those are now done (for the moment) and I spent the weekend searching for agents, creating a spreadsheet and finalising a synopsis.

Again, I could have spent weeks and months tinkering with these but that beats the point. I sent enquiries to five agents on Monday and now I’m playing the waiting game. It’s my least favourite game. Ever.

It needs to be done, though, so until then I better find ways to pass the hours (and boredom).

Catching up on, well, everything

I’ve spent a lot of my free time over the last two years working on the book. I’ve balanced it with work and seeing friends and family at various places and events.

What I’ve missed out on are games, books and TV shows. So, while I’m waiting for responses and getting myself ready to start the next project, I’ll be playing catch up (and not feeling guilty about doing so).

I’m up to date on Game of Thrones, at least!

There are games I started and never finished – and others I never even started – and there is a mahoosive pile of books to read that glare at me whenever I don’t pick one up. Seriously, it’s a little creepy at times.

I don’t have a job yet, although I’ll start looking for one shortly, and I’m enjoying the downtime right now. My batteries are getting close to full for the first time in ages! Until I get back into a normal routine again, I’m going to enjoy this.

Oh, and…

A writing challenge!

After discussions with other writers, I’ve decided on something to do over the next month or so. Starting next Monday, I’m going to write some short stories, one each day (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc). I’d better get those random thoughts and ideas together this week!

However, that’s not going to keep me going long…only one week!

The following three weeks, I’m going to edit those stories on the same day I wrote them – so the following three Mondays I’ll edit the story I wrote on the first Monday. The same for Tuesday, Wednesday etc.

By the end of four weeks, I should have seven stories which are looking pretty sharp. If I get a job by then, it’ll be harder but I’ve missed the shorts and think this will be a good way to get back to them.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes over the next few weeks!

Making Progress

I knew this would happen. After spending the last week working on my book, and just working on my book, I’ve made more progress with it than in the last three months combined. It’s great to have that opportunity but it’s not always possible. I’m glad I took the voluntary redundancy from my last job to do this. Even if it doesn’t work out, I was able to give it my all, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

I have realised some things along the way, however.

Editing isn’t actually that bad

I enjoy writing. Always have done – even the boring stuff like essays and articles on tyres (ugh). Stories are my passion and I’m quite happy writing away when I can.

What I’ve always said to people is that the editing sucks. It’s boring. It takes forever. It can be soul destroying when you find a section that you love and worked so hard on but have to cut it because it doesn’t fit, isn’t believable, doesn’t flow…ie it just doesn’t work.

Now, my view is different. Maybe because I’m in the latter stages of editing so I’ve done the REALLY hard parts already. Or maybe it’s because I don’t have to juggle my time as much as in the past. I can spend more than an hour a day without cutting into sleep and feeling sluggish at work. My targets, while always challenging, are met more often than not and that helps.

The circumstances around me are different and as such, I’m enjoying editing and redrafting (but it’s still not as fun as the actual writing part, just saying).

Junk food becomes a staple

Over the last fifteen months or so, I’ve been eating better and exercising more. The latter fell apart over the last couple of months with work and the move and now the book. While my eating has remained fairly consistent, this last week has seen one major change.

Junk food.

Yup, I’m eating a hell of a lot of crap right now. Crisps, cake, snack bars, chocolate, fizzy drinks have all become regular picks throughout the day. It’s partly for ease, as they’re right there, and because of the energy boost. I’m not as physically active as I’ve been previously but this editing malarkey is exhausting. I need those boosts.

This is going to be a pain when I have to cut it all out again and start exercising but I’m trying not to think about it right now. One thing at a time, eh? In the future, I need to find a different vice.

Don’t worry, I’m eating fruit too.

When is enough enough?

This is a question I’ve been grappling with for years. How do you know when to stop editing? When the changes you make aren’t improving the story at all, and you’re making them just because you can or feel like you should, you could actually be making it worse.

This last week, I realised this clearly. Maybe it’s because I’ve had no distractions; no job, no social life, no games etc to get in the way. I read the book from start to finish and early on, I noticed some of the changes I was noting didn’t make anything better. I was doing it purely because I wanted something to show for my efforts.

When I understood that, the number of edits dropped. Significantly.

I’m not sure the book is done. I don’t think I’ll consider it done until it gets published (and even then, I might not) but if I’m at the stage where I’m making changes for no other reason than because I can, it’s a good time to move on to the next stage.

If it isn’t taken, then I’ll return to it again in six months or so and take another look. In the meantime, the real hard part starts.

After a quick recharge

My dog 'helping' me work

My dog ‘helping’ me work

The last couple of months have been busy! I finished the three-month notice period at work and as soon as it was done, I packed up and moved to Newcastle. I’m currently living with my parents to make the money last. I miss the freedom but it’s nice to have people around.

Also, dog. Although, she tends to hinder more than help when it comes to editing my book!

I’ve spent most of the last two weeks relaxing. I made a flying visit to Edinburgh, spent some time exploring Newcastle city centre, playing some games and finishing the fourth draft of my book. Today I’m starting the fifth draft. With no distractions, I hope to have it done in a week to ten days. We’ll see how that goes!

Newcastle-upon-Tyne

First impressions of Newcastle as a resident (I’ve been here before to visit the family) are that it’s a nice place. I’ve got plenty more exploring to do but I know only one person here so that makes it a bit harder. I’ve met a few more in my adventures but it does make it harder to socialise when people don’t know you that well.

The weather’s been nice mostly, too. That’s helped. There seems to be plenty of bars to try, museums and parks and such. How good the live music scene is will take more time to figure out but there are good connections to other places so I’m not limited, really.

The people I’ve met are friendly too. That makes a big difference. Once my book is done, I’ll feel better about spending time doing things other than working on it.

The book

The fourth draft of my book

The fourth draft of my book

So, I wanted to have the current draft done before I left Manchester. That, ultimately, didn’t happen.

During my ‘two-week vacation’ I was able to transfer all my edits from the fourth version of my book to the master file. I printed it in Newcastle and, now my parents are on holiday for two weeks, I have an empty house (excluding the dog) to do what I’ve wanted for over a year; sit down solidly and work on it.

I’ve set what I feel is an achievable target for each day and, while I could do more, I don’t want to get frustrated if I can’t focus some days. Taken time in to transfer notes from the printed version to the master copy, two weeks is plenty of time.

Honestly, I’m feeling really good about this. Even if it ultimately flops and sits on my hard drive forever, I can say that this has been one of the best writing experiences I’ve had, despite the ups and downs and interruptions. It’ll hopefully set me up for future projects. More on that in a few months.

Future plans

Well, once I finish this next draft I’ll decide whether it needs another or if it’s time to start sending out. I’m feeling better with each version done and making fewer changes each time, and my test readings are coming back positive, usually pointing out things I know or have planned for. In fact, recent changes have mostly been cosmetic or consistency based.

The hard part will be submitting and waiting. Not looking forward to that. At all. Nope.

Gotta be done, though. Right?

With that, I’ll be looking for work in Newcastle. Most likely digital marketing related but I am also weighing up a bar job or retail too, just so I have some money coming in to do things while I make further plans. There’s a lot of decisions to be made in the next few weeks or month.

Still, it’s good to have a goal…and be busy. That’s what I’m telling myself!