Jack Of All Trades

IMG_0893I was thinking, the other day, about all the different jobs I’ve had. Apart from four months off after having a baby and a couple of months after university when I moved cross-country, I’ve worked pretty much continuously since I was fifteen.

So here, in no particular order, are all the different paying jobs I’ve had:

McDonald’s server

Strawberry Picker (a low point)

Retail Sales: Clothing, high-end shoes, leather goods

Visual Merchandiser – Full time and freelance

Fashion/Promotions Model

Admin Manager

Design Studio Manager

Golf Course Social Club Manager

Accounts Receivable

Signage Designer

Banquet Server/Bartender

Barista

Martial Arts Instructor

Hair Salon Assistant Manager

Print Production Manager

Talent booker

Art Buyer for an Ad Agency

Photography Producer

Gallery Assistant

Receptionist

Freelance Artist

Hmmm. That’s quite a long list. I am *ahem* a bit older than fifteen now, and I have moved around a bit, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve tried my fair share of different jobs. However, none of them ever ‘took’.

Until now.

For the past ten years or so I have had the same job: writer. And I love it. I love the challenge of working with words, of finding the correct tone for each piece, wrestling the pieces into place so that I speak with my own voice, or that of my client. I love writing stories and sharing them, and consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to do so. Sometimes it pays quite well, and at other times I can work weeks for a pittance – but I enjoy all of it.

I don’t know that there’s much of a point to this post, other than the fact that I tried lots of different things until I found what it was that I really wanted to do. And, the thing is, I was doing it all along. One of my best friends from university, when I told her I was writing a book, said, ‘but you’ve always been a writer.’ Funny that she could see what I could not. So I look back on each of my different roles as learning experiences. Sometimes the only thing I learned was that I never wanted to do that job/work with that person again, but it was a lesson, nonetheless.

Perhaps we only come to things when we are ready for them. I know all the jobs I’ve had gave me different skills and made me the person I am now. They also gave me life experience to draw upon when writing stories, and taught me what I didn’t want from my life. It was one of my former employers who first took a chance on me, asking me to write something for them. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.

So how about you? What unusual, awful or wonderful jobs have you had?

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You can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ, plus check our my Facebook Page, Instagram and Pinterest Page for book info, photos, blogs and more…

 

 

Summer Daze, Part II

IMG_0305Hello everyone! Summer is flying past and the gorgeous girl is back at school next week, which I cannot believe – where have the days gone?

I know I’ve been quiet on the blog front (again) this past week, though I haven’t been completely absent. The lovely Suzie, over at SuzieSpeaks, reblogged one of my posts this past weekend, which was a welcome boost – thanks, Suzie! And Lucy over at BlondeWriteMore included my in her list of What Writers Wear When Writing, taken from her excellent author interviews. Apparently when asked, I said I wore something ‘cool and glamorous.’ Well, I wish I could tell you that black track pants and a red Miffy t-shirt are cool and glamorous, but I think I must have been joking, or unusually well-groomed, when she asked me 😀

IMG_3144And so what have I been up to? I spent part of the weekend helping out with our dojo refurbishment. This is a fairly traditional part of martial arts – our dojo is a timber framed building in a private garden and, once a year, the adult students contribute their time and effort to sprucing it up for the coming winter. I was on measuring, then painting duties, and it was nice to see my fellow students again after our summer break.

IMG_3157I’ve also been hanging out with the gorgeous girl, taking her out for the day yesterday, having lunch and visiting shops, plus enjoying some art, craft and history at St Albans Cathedral. Today was more of a mundane at-home day, making sure we have everything ready for school next week, then a last-minute trip out to make the most of the glorious summer weather we’re having at the moment.

Oh, and writing? What’s that? Just kidding. I’ve now completed my edit on A Thousand Rooms, and am working up a launch strategy for the next month or two. ATR is quite a different read from my Ambeth books, aimed at an adult audience rather than YA, though with my usual twist of fantasy. Silver and Black is also calling to me, the manuscript rattling around in its digital drawer, so I know I need to look at that soon. There’s been a song in my mind this past little while, to the point where I ended up downloading it to Itunes – it’s an older song, but there is a vampire connection (no, it’s not by Muse), and it seems to me that the song will feature in Silver and Black.

I’m hoping to get a few more posts up this week, as well as make the rounds to see what everyone else has been up to. I’d also like to welcome some more new blog followers – thanks so much for choosing to come on the journey with me! And finally, I’ve been having fun with Instagram – I’ve been on there for a while and never done anything with it, now all at once I’m hooked. So if you want to find me on there, I’m helenejones33 – hope to see you!

And that’s about all for today. The sun is setting, last golden glow in a turquoise and purple sky outside my window. I think it might be time for a cuppa, and maybe a bit of reading, before bed. Hope you’re all having a wonderful summer – let me know in the comments what you’ve been up to!

Three Days Three Quote Challenge – Day Three

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And so I come to the final day of my Three Quote Challenge (courtesy of Meredith at Mezzalilly’s Teen Book Reviews – thanks, Meredith!).

For my final quote I’m going back to Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, and this quote speaks of friendship:

‘When you part from your friend you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.’

The first time I saw this quote was when it was presented to me as a piece of embroidery, done by a parent of one of my young martial arts students. I had been at the school for six years, achieving my black belt and becoming an instructor, so when I had to leave to move cross country, it was a difficult choice to make. The choice of this quote was quite profound, and I treasured the gift both for its thoughtful nature and the lesson it taught.

For many years my things were in storage and I moved yet again, to Australia. When I finally saved up enough to ship my items across I found the piece of embroidery, along with other memorabilia and cards from my time at the club. I cried quite a lot that day, as I sorted through items I hadn’t seen for years. But they were tears of joy as much as anything else, as I reclaimed a part of myself I hadn’t realised had been forgotten.

That concludes my Three Days, Three Quotes Challenge. As before, I won’t be nominating anyone specific to take it on – however, if you’d like to participate, please do.

Breaking Blocks

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Writer’s block.

I get a tremor just writing the words, as though I need to cross my fingers or turn around three times to ward off bad fortune.

I’ve been fortunate in this regard but then, when you’re getting paid to write for other people and have a deadline, writer’s block is an affliction you can’t afford to have. I’ve posted previously about how I’ve had to write about things that lie outside  my sphere of interest, and how I’ve had to work out the angle – I also have a little trick I employ to get myself going. I set a timer, either 15, 30 or 45 minutes and, once it starts, all I’m allowed to do in that time is write. I can’t check Facebook or emails, make a cup of tea or do any of the other things I might faff around doing to avoid writing. If something unavoidable happens like the phone ringing or a knock at the door, I pause the timer and then come back to it. I’ve found this remarkably effective and on several occasions find myself still writing once the timer is finished, the words in full flow.

So I wonder if the same would work if I had *whispers* writer’s block. Sure, I’ve had times when ideas are at a lull, where I’m not sure what my next blog topic will be or when certain scenes need a few days to gestate before I can get them on paper. But it hasn’t stopped me from writing. I try to write something every single day. There are loads of excellent writing prompts and challenges out there in blogland – if I’m stuck, I find one of those and give it a go. Or you could write about something that interests you, a hobby, something you saw on TV, or even about how you’re feeling at that exact moment – the important thing is to set the little timer and focus on writing and writing alone.

I’ve trained in martial arts for many years, and in my youth did try breaking blocks of wood with my hands and feet. I say try – I actually did break the blocks, except for one kick that went astray and led to me running outside to stick my bare foot in the snow, the sting from my flesh hitting wood intense like fire. Because the key to breaking blocks, you see, is to think yourself past them. To visualise your foot or fist on the other side of the board and hold that image in your mind – your body takes care of the rest.

And so perhaps the same holds true for *shh* writer’s block. If you think yourself past the block, rather than focusing on the block, you’ll break through it to a place where you can write again. And, instead of using your foot or fist, use your words. Start writing about anything, just pick a topic and write, focusing through to the other side.

So what do you think, fellow writers? Have you any experience with *crosses fingers* writer’s block you’d like to share?

Three Quote Challenge – Day 2

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‘Do or do not, there is no try.’ Yoda

Oh yeah, it’s a Star Wars quote. After yesterday’s quote, I suppose this could be seen as being moving from the sublime to the the ridiculous. But there are layers to my choice, reasons that go beyond my love of the films, and so that is why it’s my second choice for the Three Quote Challenge.

I’ve already documented my love for the Star Wars films, and it was definitely a factor in making this choice. However, it’s also what the original films represent to me – my memories of being a kid in the 1970’s and living in the UK, before we moved to Canada and my life changed dramatically in just about every way. I remember my brother and I playing with his Star Wars toys and how cool we thought the whole thing was. Our united quest to each get a full set of Return of the Jedi bubblegum cards, spending our pocket money and trading cards with each other, the whole thing bringing us together at a time when we were very different in terms of our interests.

Then there is the martial arts aspect, another big part of my life. I have heard Yoda described as ‘the ultimate sensei.’ I’ve been fortunate enough to train with some pretty amazing sensei on my own martial arts journey. Though none of them were eight hundred years old or wielded a light sabre, they were all great teachers and I learned something different from each of them. So this is the second layer of my choice – the idea of passing on knowledge, of the master speaking to the initiate.

And finally, I chose this quote because I believe it to be true. Saying ‘I’ll try’ is to entertain the idea of failing. Choosing to do or do not is to commit to the moment, the idea, the possibility. Life is full of opportunities for us to make change every day, but choosing to do or do not is the catalyst to things actually happening. Everything else is just marking time. 🙂

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I was nominated by the lovely Eilis Niamh to take this challenge, the rules of which are as follows:

First, you thank the person who’s nominated you.
Then, you post a quote you love.
Finally, on each of the three days you post a different quote, you choose another blogger to carry on. (ooh, not sure about that last one – however, we shall see)

Thank you Eilis! Two quotes down and one to go. I don’t have a nominee today, but if you’re reading this and would like to take up the challenge, please do 🙂

 

Be Like Water

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I was reminded of this phrase the other day. It is from a quote by the late great Bruce Lee and, like so much of his philosophy, is an idea that can be applied to life outside martial arts. The fuller version of the quote is as follows:

‘Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own and let it grow, be like water. You must be shapeless, formless, like water. Now you put water in the cup, it becomes the cup.’

Personally, I find this idea a great help as I navigate the waters (completely intended metaphor) of being an independent author. The marketplace is so very vast, the voices so many, that we must each find our own pathway through, just as water finds its way through, around, over and under obstacles in its path. Water is soft, yet can wear away the hardest stone. It can join with others to become a torrent, or stay alone as a trickle, yet still it keeps flowing.

As we promote our work and seek connections, so too should we be clear and transparent, just like water. Share honestly of ourselves and be flexible. Keep flowing and moving forward. Don’t stay in one place or become attached to one idea – to do that is to risk becoming stagnant or drying up completely.

There are many water metaphors – a flow of ideas, a torrent of information, drowning in kisses (I like that one). When creating, words like flow or stream are used to describe how it feels when ideas move through us to emerge as words or images or sounds. This is also a flow we aim for when practicing martial arts – that movements come naturally, without effort or conscious thought. Fighting the flow, or trying to make it something it is not, can cause it to stop, as can consciously aiming for the flow. Instead we must become the cup, letting the idea take shape.

It can be difficult at times to do this, because it requires a certain amount of letting go. It requires trust, openness to new ideas, taking the path less travelled. But when it works, and flow becomes effortless, it is worth it.

Be like water.