Archive | October 2013

# 110 (2013) The C Word

A hotly debated topic of discussion in the office last week was Christmas. Not least because the powers that be have circulated details of the works Christmas party (or meal) that noone wants to attend. And mostly because the last thing we actually want to talk about in October is Christmas. But there are less than 3 months until the festivities so I don’t think it’s going to be avoidable for much longer. Mince pies are already in the shops. It’s all downhill from here on.

I hate Christmas. It’s a fact. I hate the commercialism that comes with it, that it has nothing to do with its true meaning (which means nothing to an atheist like me anyway). That it’s all geared around companies making money by emotionally bribing you into buying products you don’t need, to over eat, over drink and buy unnecessary gifts for and receive unnecessary gifts from various people. Even in the office you are rarely spared the Secret Santa.

I dislike it mostly because I don’t have the budget for Christmas. I don’t have the budget for birthdays either but Christmas can really destroy your bank balance because it comes along all at once like a Tsunami. And when you have nothing to spend in the first place it’s a hard cross to bear. And of course you feel pushed into getting things for people because they will buy things for you. And if you don’t woe betide the emotional blackmail that goes with it. I am an unmaterialistic person. I just don’t see the point.

I haven’t decorated a house for Christmas for at least 12 years. It’s a waste of money. And trees just take up space and are also a waste of money. Like buying bin bags. Why would you buy something that goes straight into the rubbish. Silly.

If I could get away with it I, like some of the people around me in the office, would just not bother with Christmas. We’d stay at home, eat normal food and probably watch the usual selection of Christmas reruns, depressing carnage in Albert Square and deliberately forget to watch the Queen speech. And then it would be New Year. Another celebration and a chance to make resolutions that’ll be broken before the week is out. Nuff said.



Craft Blog UK: Why do Craft Bloggers Fail?

I have often lamented an inspiring blog I have found. Here’s a guide for you budding craft writers. I think it could apply to many blogs.

# 109 (2013) How Do You Measure Success?

How do you measure success? Is it your own personal goals or do you measure against your peers, the competition or your critics. And if someone doesn’t think you are being as successful as they think you should be, do you rise to the challenge? What if you reach your goals, do you push yourself further or do you sit back and bathe in the glory of your achievements content in the knowledge that you reached your milestone and are still enjoying what you set out to do?

I have two passions in life. One, to have a book published, will have reached fruition next year and at the moment I cannot see past that because it was an end goal. That being said, its offshoots – magazine articles and online blogs – have ensured a continual drip feed of similar work and I’m now investigating freelancing on a more regular basis.

The other big thing in my life, my work as a fashion designer and stylist, whilst always being a passion never made me that competitive. I always wanted to run my own business and I am now doing that but I don’t think I am looking for the kind of success enjoyed by top designers.

There are two reasons for this. Firstly that I have always been very much aware of part time work without pressure becoming a chore. And whilst I enjoy my work and the results I get from it I’m not sure I want to treat it as a 9 – 5. Maybe if that becomes a reality I will feel differently about it, but for the moment I am happy with the variety of work projects I am getting and dipping between several disciplines.

Additionally, being at the top in fashion has its own problems and I know the fashion industry and all its little gripes and niggles are probably not the way I want to live my life. If you’ve ever watched ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ you’ll know what I mean. I am too easy going, laid back and see everything is black and white. I have no time for gossip or running people down and I’m no drama queen. I am also freakishly non-materialistic.

The point of this rambling is that no matter how I see things there are others who have a very different perspective and I am constantly being reminded that I don’t meet expectations of what success is. And this kind of takes some of the fun out of it. It’s a hard cross to bear when you’re happy with the way things are but those around you expect more and question why you’re not doing better.

I’ve never wanted to be a millionaire (that’s a lie of course) but I can do without it. I’m not extravagant so my financial needs aren’t that demanding. Maybe that takes some of my drive away but the older I get the less I want that fame accolade and the more I just want to be happy in what I’m doing.

That’s not to say things won’t change. Who knows when I might be inspired enough to take on that challenge but for now things are ticking along and I don’t yearn for that overwhelming power of success that I wanted when I was 18 or 19. And the only person that should matter to is me.

# 108 (2013) The Off Switch

If you’re quite creative you may find it hard to switch off. Being creative is a very plyable medium because creativity and potential inspiration is around you wherever you go. If, like me, you work across several mediums, you may not have completely switched off in a long time.

It is therefore a weird juxtaposition putting a creative person in a sterile working environment where nothing around them feeds their work. But if, again like me, you find it hard to switch off, you’ll be constantly finding ways to keep busy. Because time doing nothing is wasted time.

These days I work part time as a receptionistbeen though the business is till very much alive and kicking. But because it is part time the agony is only short lived and by the time I’ve completed the tasks allotted it’s almost time to go home again. This last week however I have been covering other people’s shifts and spent 40 gruelling hours answering phones, opening post and being forced to listen to really terrible chart music.

I have tried to stay motivated. I’ve spent the time surreptitiously working from my Nexus on my accounts, reading up on blog posts and industry articles and writing drafts of blog posts of my own. Most internet is banned in the office but I often have BBC News on the desktop and I have 3Gs on my phone. If I do nothing or have to listen to any more office bitching I may go mad.

When I get bored I want to eat and that’s a bad rut to get in to, so I’ve really tried to keep my mind occupied even if it has been Solitaire. But the less you do, the less you want to do. Sometimes it just kills the brain and it’s left me struggling to get motivated in the evenings when all I want to do is get home and console myself with the biggest dinner I can muster up or anything involving biscuits or cake.

I will be glad when this week is over. Next week will bring renewed enthusiasm as I settle back into part time hours and can get back to my studio and stuck into paid commissions that have been stacking up whilst I have been office bound. I like being busy and I actually work better under pressure because I hate falling behind. Even as a creative, pressure is good for me. I don’t like long lead in times.  So in some ways it’s made me appreciate my studio time more and I can’t wait to get back to my sewing machine.

# 107 (2013) The Retirement Timebomb

I was talking to a budding enterpreneur the other day and we were discussing how great the personal allowance is for people like us, in that it allows us to earn up to ‘so much’ before we are asked to pay tax.

Of course, being a non tax payer has its problems, such as non eligibility to buy property etc. Equally those people benefiting from the personal allowance, enterpreneurs and those on part time hours etc, also don’t have to pay National Insurance. I don’t have to pay NI’s through my PAYE job but I do pay them through my business as voluntary contributions even though I am still under the personal allowance.

Those not paying these additional (and sometimes profit crippling) contributions through their earnings think they’re on to a winner, and as a temporary solution it is. But what happens if you are in that position long term? What if you end up never paying any National Insurance?

NI contributions are, amongst other things, essential for the provision of the state pension. And many people – those spending eternity on benefits, part time work or the self employed not volunteering to pay their contributions – are going to have to make some pretty difficult decisions in later life, which will revolve around whether or not they can afford to retire at all. And this is going to become a serious head ache for future Governments as well as taxpayers and hopeful retirees.

The state pension is a very limited income to survive on. And it’s not rising fast enough to meet the cost of living. If you have no alternative the only option for those of retirement age is to keep on working or top up the shortfall.

It’s ironic that this situation is potentially going to resemble the days before anyone had pensions. Those who survived to a retirement age continued to work until they died or were too ill or frail and became reliant on the charity of neighbours, friends and family to support them.

Invariably it was not a comfortable end, and many famiilies already financially at breaking point were put in the position of having to take in an eldery relative.

Retirement may seem a long time away but it can take a whole working life to build up a healthy fund. The full state pension alone requires 30 years of contributions to reap the full benefits of what is, to be honest, an inadequate retirement pay check. I have some savings, a good number of years of work under my belt and a plan if only savings rates would improve. Even so I’m panicking. Are you?