The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015: A Busy Year

2015 has been a busy year. I’ve been working flat-out for most of the year on back-to-back writing projects and as the year draws to an end, I’m mostly just completely exhausted!

It’s actually been quite an exciting year with lots of really interesting work. Several projects have been in areas that I love working in and I’ll be very excited to see them published (later next year). The schedules though have been distinctly over-optimistic and the expectations of my input very high. I’ve found myself working long hours and a lot of weekends, with only 2 weeks off all year; so much for work-life balance!

I wouldn’t have got through it all without the support of a couple of fabulous editors; Duncan Hamilton (in-house at OUP) and Alison Macaulay (a freelance editor). I’ve been really lucky to have great working relationships with both of them that saw us working closely together to get the best out the material. Perhaps even more importantly, they supported me with humour and encouragement; an invaluable ingredient when you’re a freelancer ploughing on solo at your desk.

I haven’t been chained to my desk all year though. I had a busy conference season back in the spring, with 3 presentations in just over a week! I really enjoyed presenting at the MaWSIG PCE at IATEFL and I had a fun workshop at the BALEAP conference in Leicester. 

I had a couple of foreign trips talking to teachers about the new edition of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary in Poland in March and in France in June; both lots of fun with great co-presenters and travelling companions in Rachael Roberts and Julie Norton. That was followed by a week surrounded by lovely teachers from around the world as part of the ELT Summer Seminar series at Exeter College in Oxford.

2015 also saw a temporary move to a rented office to escape noise at home, several meetings with fellow Bristol-based freelancers for coffee and chat, and a bit of a revamp for my website.
So what does 2016 hold? Well, my diary’s already getting quite full with events; an ELT Freelancers’ awayday in Oxford at the end of January, a MaWSIG event in London, then an EAP conference in St Andrews in February, IATEFL in Birmingham in April and my first plenary at the MATSDA conference in Liverpool in June.

I’m also looking forward to some much-needed holiday! I’ve already got a week away booked in January and there are more trips in the planning. I’d like to do some more teaching this summer on an EAP pre-sessional somewhere outside of Bristol; nothing against Bristol, but I’d just like to experience how things are done somewhere else (suggestions welcome!). And I’m mulling over a few other projects that might come to fruition if I can find the time.

Most of all though, I’m looking forward to meeting and working with lots more interesting people!

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Monday, December 14, 2015

Out of office

Over the weekend, I cleared out the office I’ve been renting for the last 6 months and handed back the keys. Although it was a lovely space, the experience made me realize how much working from home suits me.

I was prompted to rent office space back in June when noisy construction work started in our street. In the first few weeks, the noise made it almost impossible to work and with the work due to go on for over a year, I realized I needed an alternative workspace. 

The massive crane, just 100m from my front door!

I was lucky to find a lovely office to rent just a 10-minute walk away. It was a huge, light-filled room above a shop in a really nice area. I decided to see the move as a positive and enjoyed the novelty of fitting the place out and getting settled in.

It took a while to get into a routine. At first I seemed to waste loads of time getting ready to go out each morning. I wasn’t used to thinking about what I needed for the day; milk for tea, lunch etc. and also what I needed for work. I usually work on a desktop at home, so I had to think about transferring work across to my laptop to work on at the office, and then there were notes and paperwork to ferry to and fro. I soon got myself organized though.

What I found more difficult was working in such a restricted space. Although the office itself was huge, there wasn’t anything to do except sit at my desk. As someone who suffers from chronic pain, I have to manage how I work and especially how much time I spend at my desk. When I’m working from home, I do short stints at my desk punctuated by regular breaks. As well as the usual going to the loo and making cups of tea, in my breaks I do stuff around the house; I empty the dishwasher or put the washing on, or in the summer, I potter up the garden for 10 mins pulling up a few weeds. It gives me that all-important physical break.

In the office, I struggled to find alternatives. I’d try to stand up regularly, but with nothing much to do and nowhere to go, I’d invariably find myself sitting back down again. All of which soon started to take its toll physically.

Thankfully though, after the initial noisy patch, the construction work has settled down and although it’s still going on, it’s now remarkably quiet. I gradually found myself staying at home to work more and venturing to the office less and less. In fact, I’ve hardly used it at all over the past couple of months, so when the initial lease period was up, I decided to give it up. I’m kind of sad to see it go (and the loft is a bit more full with the excess furniture!), but it has made me appreciate the ability to work from home even more.

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