The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, May 21, 2020

My coronacoaster

Up until now I've been grateful that my work's been relatively unaffected by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and aside from the odd wobble, I've been able to plod on much as usual. It's increasingly looking like there's been a bit of a coronalag though with things set to change from here on in ...

Early uncertainty: Back in mid-March I wrote about the initial effects the developing pandemic was having on my working life. Starting with a trip to Prague that was cancelled due to the virus at the beginning of March, a whole series of conferences and other events were called off over the following weeks leading to uncertainty about what was going ahead and whether or not to prepare or book things, then the mounting lost income. When everything shook out, it turned out that I lost just over £3K altogether (in lost fees and non-refundable expenses), which wasn't quite as much as I'd first feared.

A new normal: After that, things settled down and while everyone else was coming to terms with lockdown and new ways of working (or no work at all), I settled into what felt like a fairly steady-busy patch of work at my desk. I had a couple of on-going writing projects that just carried on much as before. No Zoom meetings here! I whizzed through one project in April and struck up a really nice working relationship with the in-house editor who was working from home. The other project became a little more disjointed and drawn out than it should have been, mostly because it had lots of interdependent strands and some of the contributors were more affected/distracted by the crisis.

Mostly, I was thankful to be busy and to carry on with my work routine much as normal. I had a few wobbles in the early days of lockdown just because of the general uncertainty about how things were going to work, how we'd get shopping and how my parents (both in at-risk groups but not nearby) would cope. But gradually things settled down into a 'new normal' and with some fabulous weather, I felt very grateful to have a lovely garden to retreat to for tea breaks and at weekends. I realized that I didn't miss going out and seeing people very much at all ... and in fact, found myself probably communicating with friends and colleagues a bit more than usual via email, social media and the odd Skype call. The lockdown rules in the UK allowed for 'daily exercise', but for a whole host of reasons, I didn't feel comfortable with going out every day, so initially I stayed at home most of the time, only venturing out for a walk or to the shop about once every 5 days. I was quite happy just pottering in the garden and didn't much feel like I needed to go out.

Change in the air: Then towards the end of April, news started filtering through that ELT publishers were cancelling or freezing writing projects and freelance contracts were being cancelled. Thankfully, I was able to finish off a project for one publisher just before their cut-off point and the other project, for a different publisher, carried on. However, that's now come to an end, so as of today, I have no work and, apart from one short job later in the summer (fingers crossed), little prospect of anything new coming along from my usual clients in the foreseeable future. 

Physical effects: When things started looking iffy, there was another patch of uncertainty about whether what I was already working on would get cancelled and, with my partner currently unemployed, how we were going to cope financially. That set off another bit of a wobble. My chronic pain which had flared up at the start of the crisis along with the tension floating around then got quite bad again and I really started missing my regular walks.  For me, walking is in part about just getting away from my desk and clearing my head but also from a physical point of view, it's a chance to release the tension that builds up around my neck and shoulders. When I walk, I stride along quite fast and allow my arms to dangle and swing by my sides literally shaking out the tension. Walking recently though has become a very different and altogether less relaxing affair. Because I live in the city centre, anywhere I walk involves an initial stretch along some fairly narrow and often busy pavements. Trying to social distance means lots of coronadodging - trying to anticipate where other people are going and step aside to let them through or move out their way. And then there's the annoyance about people who stroll two or three abreast down the middle of the path making no effort at all. I tried going out early in the morning to avoid the crowds, but I'm just not a morning person, so it was a struggle and left me feeling out of kilter for the rest of the day. I sought out less crowded routes, but they turned out to be mostly along slightly dull residential streets - it was a novelty at first being able to wander up the middle of traffic-free roads, but ultimately they weren't terribly inspiring. By the beginning of May, I decided I really need to get out again, so resolved to be more chilled about the 'busyness' and over the past couple of weeks, I've started walking a bit more regularly again. Some walks have been more relaxed and successful than others, but I'm getting better at enjoying it again.

The next phase: So sitting down at my desk this morning with no work to get on with, I'll do what I usually do during lulls in work:
  • I'll put out feelers to all my usual contacts, even though I don't expect positive replies, you never know ...
  • I'll update my website, LinkedIn, etc.
  • I'll catch up on some admin and do my accounts
  • I've also slightly unexpectedly got quite a few ideas buzzing round my head. Initially, I have a few blog posts to write - which are good for keeping my work-brain ticking over and also do no harm in keeping up my 'profile'. But there also a few potential self-publishing ideas bubbling under that may or may not come to fruition.
From a financial perspective, I have a little bit of breathing space - as a freelancer, you get paid in arrears anyway, so the income from the work over the past couple of months will come through over the next month, then I've applied for the UK government's self-employed scheme, which will see me through for a couple more months. After that, who knows. It remains to be seen what will happen with ELT publishing both in terms of how the big publishers react and also what new opportunities may arise. At least as a freelancer, I'm used to uncertainty and rarely have my work schedule planned out for more than a few months ahead, so provided I have enough in the bank to pay the bills for the next couple of months, I guess I'll just have to wait and see what comes up.

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Blogger Ken Paterson said...

Difficult times, Julie, as you say. I wish you the very best with your new ideas. Ken

11:51 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Thanks, Ken. I hover between being concerned and excited ... as I think most of us probably do. Hope all's well with you. Julie.

11:54 am  

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