The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 - a tricky balancing act

It's nearly the end of the year, so time for a bit of a look back over the past 12 months. Back in January, my only resolution was to smooth out my workflow and to end the cycle of patches of overwork that made my RSI flare up, followed by enforced time off to recover. In some ways, I've been successful, but I certainly haven't cracked it completely.

I've made a conscious decision this year to only take on one project at a time, to avoid things piling up and getting too much. I've turned down anything that might overlap and lead to my schedule getting clogged up. And to the extent that it's been an almost pain-free year, it's worked - hooray!! I've always known that my RSI was very directly linked to the amount of time I spent at my desk, but this year's really proved that less work quite simply equals less pain. In some ways, it's a lovely simple solution to the problem, but ...

Like most freelancers, I've always kept a constant flow of work by taking on several projects and juggling my time. So switching to one thing at a time was a bit of a risk. It leaves you particularly vulnerable to the delays which seem to be inevitable in any publishing project. Whereas you'd usually fill in by doing something else while you're waiting, I've found myself with lots of gaps during which I'm twiddling my thumbs, getting bored and restless. Whilst I've had work "on the go" through most of the year, there's been a huge amount of down time while I've been waiting for stuff to come through that's always later than promised. I've become particularly sensitive to delays to start dates, waiting for feedback or the next part of something to be sent through, and in one especially disastrous case, a whole project being put on hold altogether halfway through!

Ignoring weekends and planned holidays, I've had a total of 40 work-free days in 2011 - that's 8 working weeks!! And it's no fun - I spent those days bored and restless, constantly checking my email and worrying that the next payment was going to get pushed on another month, leaving me with nothing in the bank to pay the rent. Totting it up, I've actually only earned about a thousand pounds less in 2011 than I did in 2010, but taking into account that working limited hours, I don't earn much in the best of years, that's still a drop I could do without.

I'm hoping that for 2012 I can try and nudge things back a bit the other way, taking on a bit more and allowing a bit of overlap, but without overdoing it. That is, of course, easier said than done when what comes along and when is out of your hands!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 01, 2011


Working in publishing, I've come across lots of discussion about ebooks in recent years. They tend to range from hand-wringing about the death of the book, to excitement about the opportunities thrown up by new media. I don't really have a strong feeling either way. Personally, I love books - the feel of the them, the smell of them and seeing them lined up colourfully on my shelves, but at the same time, I've got nothing against the principle of ebooks and other electronic media - I'm happy to use online journals, for example, for research.

As I've seen Kindles (and their like) cropping up more and more, I've wondered whether I should give one a try, especially for when I'm away. Because of a dodgy shoulder, when I travel, I always aim for the lightest possible hand luggage. I didn't use to have too much trouble fitting a paperback in my bag, but as I've got into photography lately, my lovely new SLR camera has taken up more of my precious carrying space and on my last trip away, I found myself opting for a particularly slim book that I'd finished well before the flight home. Could a Kindle be the answer?

I'm a bit wary of electronic gadgets because they're not generally very kind to my hands - which are often quite painful because of RSI. Anything that's awkward to hold and involves fiddly finger movements is a no-no. I chose my mobile specifically because it has nice big buttons and even then, on a bad day, texting is quite uncomfortable. So rather than rush in and add a Kindle to my Christmas list, I borrowed one from a friend to test drive first. The funky matt screen was easy to look at and once I'd found the best font size, I found it quite nice to read from. Sadly though, even at a time when my hands are quite settled and pain-free, after about 20 minutes, I was starting to find it quite uncomfortable to hold. However much I fidgeted about and tried different positions, it seemed to involve an awkward thumb position, mainly because it has such a narrow border around the screen to get hold of. It was just a bit too much of a stretch to grasp across the width as you would a mobile:

And trying to hold it around the edges without putting fingers or thumbs across the screen, I just couldn't find a relaxed position in which my thumb wasn't tensed and uncomfortable:

I did wonder if you could perhaps put it in a case that would provide something chunkier (and softer) to get hold of, but I couldn't see a way of doing it without covering the buttons on the side that you use to turn the page (which I also found a bit unnervingly like nasty mouse clicks!). So it looks like I'm not going to be dumping my paperbacks just yet. Can someone please come up with a nice ergonomic ebook reader that's easy to hold for folks with dodgy hands? Hmm, perhaps that's a new business opportunity ...

Labels: , , ,