10 Questions to Ask Before you House Sit

  1. How much time do the home owners spend at home? Are they home all day?  If they are out all day, then this will effect their idea of bills, heating and cooking during the day.  It will also effect how the animals will interact with you and how much attention they will expect or require.
  2. What sort of temperament does the animal have?  How to they interact with small children and other animals.  Particularly for dogs but in case guest or strangers come to the home you need to know how to react to them.
  3. What would they like done with the mail?
  4. Where are the smoke alarms in the house?
  5. Where are the mains switches for the house – Also torches and candles in case of a black out or short circit.
  6. Would they like pictures of the animals while they are away?  Or flowering plants that will blossom while they are gone.  This one is from my mother who has been waiting 7 years for a orchid she got from her mother to bloom.  It blossomed for the first time while she was away and always regretted missing it.
  7. Ask about phone reception.  We are in a big country where sometimes you can’t get TV reception when it’s raining ( I have heard, I actually don’t own a TV) so it is not a crazy question to ask if you get phone reception in the house.  Or in what parts of the house.
  8. How would you like us to deliver phone messages to you – Record them all together, or email/text you when they come through.
  9. What would be the plan if something where to happen to the animal, Death or Injury.  Obviously this is very unlikely as you will take as much care as possible with the animal.  But things happen, ticks bit and spiders are under the house.
  10. Would they like you to leave anything in the house for when they get back.  Emergency supplies?

 

IMG_0493Meghan Brewster is a Blogger, Freelance writer and general spinner of Fiction. She is the founder and editor of The Emerging Writers Diary, as well as Itp & Me, a website dedicated to managing the rare platelet disorder, ITP. To learn more about Meghan Brewster follow this link. By making purchases through links on this website you are helping to support a young emerging writer. Thank you.

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A Weekend of Writing

Writing Group, Emerging Writers, Writing18th August 2013 – As you all know, I recently moved to the Far South Coast with my partner, where I am writing full time.  I have been working from an office in our home, sitting by my self day in and day out.  So you can imagine what a thrill it was for me to spend the day with an amazing group of writers, all coming together to really work on their skills.  It was great.

The Writers of the Far South coast  get together once a month to read each others work, talk about issues in the writing community, hear from speakers, meet interesting people and talk about words.

I left there reminded of how much I love the simple act of writing, inspired to hurry home and work all weekend.

I might even find a writers group here! Hopefully.

Getting to Know my Strengths and Weaknesses

REALISING WHERE I AM NOW – TO HELP PLAN THE FUTURE 

It is coming up to the end of my first year as a writer.  I am starting to make new plans for the next year.  I am collecting all the memories of this past year together and seeing for the first time just how far I have come.  Stopping and reflecting like this, is such a great opportunity to stand back and see your work for the great achievement that it is.  I am now starting to make plans for my next year ahead; more reasonable, more realistic plans.  I am looking at where I am now to help plan where I want to be heading.  I am looking at where I am failing behind, to better see the areas of my practice that need attention.  I am realising the skills I have learnt, so that I may give myself a moment of recognition and congratulations before plunging in, head first, to a second uncharted year of writing.  Here is what happened and why I really should not have posted it.

STRENGTHS AS A WRITER

1 – Optimistic & Hopeful

I am very good a remaining optimistic that things will eventually go my way.  Perhaps this because, if I stick with something for long enough, it does.   I am young enough to not yet be able to quantify how far ahead of a future I have.  Perhaps on my thirtieth birthday all of this optimism and hope with fall away and leave me as bone.  But for now, this might be my most promising strength.

2 – Willing to Learn & Change

My willingness to learn is really important.  There is so much I have no idea about.  The more I study and read about writing and it’s history, the smaller and more naive I feel.  The best way for me to learn to try and read as much as I write.  There are free courses online that I have looked at, blogs about writing – following your favourite authors online is a good one.  I follow all my favourite authors, because they have so much to offer me.

Willing to change how I have been working and try different practices.  Willing to read outside my genre, willing to try writing early in the morning, and then compare it to late at night.  I was willing to move to a cheaper town, willing to work and save money to write, willing to give up the things I wanted for the things I needed.  Willing to become what I needed to become in order to make this work.  And I still am.

3 – Creativity and Alternate thinking

I don’t know where this comes from.  I wish I did.  If I knew where to source creativity I think I would be a very rich person.  I just know that somewhere inside me there is a notion of difference, of turning things inside out and around.  Perhaps I have an infection in my middle ear that means I have never quite learnt the meaning of flatness, or balance.

The most common question people ask me, after

‘Is it Meeg-Anne or Meg-Hunn?’ is this

How did you think to do it like that?’  The answer every time is…

‘I don’t know, I just did.’

It just never occurs to me that there is a ‘way’ to do anything, and if so, where I would have found out about it.  I sometimes wonder how everyone else learnt to do things the same way.  Like, was there a class at school I was not admitted to that taught everyone not to make a pizza base out of risotto or froze yoghurt muffins?  I want to know when everyone else learnt that Grated potato was not a good chicken stuffing??

My partner and I have recieved at lot of feedback from a dish we invented a long time ago, when we first moved in together.  He is Chinese and I am non de script white.  Our ideas of flavour in the kitchen usually vary, coming to the ultimate head, when we decided to make wonton soup, sort of mixed with a borscht recipe.  Needless to say the beetroot dyed the stock and the floating fleshy wontons made it easy to name the new dish – Pearl Harbour.  It just happened!

4 – Willing to Ask for Help

There is so much support out there if you are willing to look for it.  But it is hard, and takes practice.

5 – Aware of My Weaknesses

I am very honest about my skills.  I understand that there are things I am good at and things that I’m not.  Take this article for example.  I know I am really good at poaching eggs – and packing a suitcase.  I am good at braiding other peoples’ hair and identifying different smells.

I cannot make muffins or laksa or a really good fried rice.  I cannot tune a guitar or add numbers together, in fact I would go so far as to say I cannot count at all.  I cannot visualize value numerically and I cannot attribute them with a value or weight.  I am not very empathetic and do not find other peoples work politics interesting to hear about.  My weakness for looking bored when someone is talking about their ‘health’  is certainly something I need to work on.  But my understanding of the following Five weaknesses pertaining to my writing, is something of a strength of mine.

WEAKNESSES AS A WRITER

1 – Spelling & Grammar 

Everything I write looks American.  I rely completely on the spell check of Word press and My Office software.  If it wants to replace an S with a Z, I let it.  I know that I am bad at spelling, but I also know why.  Because I genuinely believe that spelling doesn’t matter.  This is why I have never bothered to get very good at it.  I just don’t care.  And I know a lot of writing purists will scream at reading this, but I think there is so much to focus on when writing, and more importantly when writing well, that I put spelling right at the bottom.  Get a life! I say to those people who think spelling is a lost sacred art.  That being said, spelling is a weakness of mine …  I should try to improve.  A little.

2 – Story & Plotting

Story and Plotting are huge challenges to writers.  I have read Robert McKee’s Story, and I nodded along when he said that story talent is rarer than literary talent.  I was also delighted when he informed me that both of these skills could be improved with practice and dedication to learn.  I am very interested in working on my Story and Plotting.  I don’t want to be  too bored to eve read over my own first draft.  Unlike my deficiency in the spelling category, I am incredibly interested in getting better at story and plotting.  Anyone know any other great books?

3 – Organisation & Time Management

Over the last year, I have developed highly elaborate and embarrassing schemes to help me be more organised.  The problem is I am too embarrassed to ever let anyone see them and offer help or advice.  Mostly they involve unsealed envelopes, hand written lists, a secret code of boxes and stars and ruled lines in purple pen.  I still struggle to remain in control of my daily and monthly tasks, to manage my savings, my exercise routines, my work, my drafts and small projects, my social obligations and my forward planner.  But I want to get better at this too, so I will find a way to learn.

4 – Routine & Regular Practice

Habits are made and broken by the way we spend our time.  They do not arrive by accident into our lives without our consent.  It is us, and us alone who choose to create habits, either negative or positive by choosing to do something over something else…again and again and again until it is automatic.  I have decided that this is going to be the best way to over come all my other weaknesses – if I can get better at building strong, positive habits.  Oh yes.  I am going to give it a go.  this weakness might just be the one I hope to change first.

5 – Finishing Projects

I am very good at getting distracted by the next exciting thing.  I am not very good at getting things finish.  I am happy for things to take a thousand years to get done.  I have no sense of urgency about my work, it just plods along.  I find it very easy to excuse away a failed deadline or an incomplete project.  This is a habit of mind.  A negative habit.  (See above

     Instagram

 If you are having a particularly bad day, why not try and do the following exericise, but only write down your five strengths.  It might just open your eye to how well you are going, as you work to become a full time, emerged writer.

The Book Pages

The Emerging Writer, Writing, My first Novel, The Book Pages3rd August 2013 – Don’t you just love it when you pick up the Arts & Culture lift out from the Saturday paper, only to see an Author has escaped the typical Book Pages interview and is being featured on the very front page.  What a Thrill.  Its been a long day writing, long but worth while, and now I sit back and relax and enjoy a little review indulgence.  Thanks SMH.

Finding a Designer for the jacket

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Self Publishing2nd August 2013 – I am lucky that she is a friend of mine who’s work I have always admired.  I don’t have to pretend.  I think she is fantastic.  I worked with her for a while and have had the pleasure of calling her a friend before she even became a designer and got too cool for me.  She has said that she is interested so I am totally thrilled.

The jacket is really important and I want to do a little research to see what I like and what is going to work best for the book.  I am going to self publish.  I have decided finally that self publishing is the best option for me, so it is important that I learn what I am doing.  I will look for a bit more information on the whole thing over the next little while.  Want to have a jacket before Christmas.  #pipedream.

7 Responses you might need as an Emerging Writer

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Defences

The Emerging Writer, Writing, Defenses Starting out as a writer can be really hard.  As you start to tell people what you are up to all day, there can be a number of different responses; not all of them good.

I have starting being a lot more open about my work as a writer.  I am now proud to say ‘work’ even though it is not my main ‘income’.  I used to get those two things confused but they are very different.  Career and Job and Work and Income and Lifestyle and Finances are so complicated and intricuate, that I no longer try and extract them from the other, as I once did.

I do ‘work’ as a writer and I defend my position.

Here are some common responses I have received after telling people I am working as a writer – accompanied with a suggested reply.  I hope they are helpful.

1.  …But you have never studied writing !  

The Emerging Writer, Writing, DefencesWell, you never went to the University of Arseholes and got your undergraduate degree in being a useless, sceptic, sad old looser but you seem to still be quite qualified!’

I kindly reply that I have not ruled out any further study, I am just establishing wether it is right for me before I commit to another four year degree, then I bring up my long list of university study and the years that both my bachelor degrees too me to complete and how they both lead me to nothing.

2.  You must have a lot of time on your hands if you can manage to write a book!

This response is often said in a self sacrificing martyrdom tone, as they tilt their head to one side and pretend to dream of a time when they too might have as much leisure time as you.  Don’t by into it.  It is a trick to make you feel guilty when you absolutely should not.  Kindly tell your assailant that you have just the same amount of time in your day as everyone else, you just choose to spend your time writing a novel.  It’s that simple.

3.  You will be around in the day time tomorrow, could you just…?

The Emerging Writer, Defences, WritingThis is not just an attitude people have towards writers but all people who work from home.  This ‘errand running’ assumption is based on a common belief that working from home is not a real profession.

There is an implied lack of social responsibility towards the writer, making you feel as thought you are in some way in debuted to those who are less organised or who have made poor life choices.

The post office is a common one… house chores, going up the street, a few groceries, or my favourite – registering their car.  Waiting for a bed to be delivered and getting keys cut for someone else’s house guest are a few of the odd jobs I have run for people.  I fell into the ‘help everyone out‘ trap for a little while before I realised that I hated doing shit for other people.  If you want to, that’s fine, but it’s not for me.

4.  Why are you going home so early, you’re not even working tomorrow?

How many times have I been at a dinner party in the last few months and had people question me when I tried to go home…(Well only once, but it seemed really inappropriate).  ‘But you don’t have to get up for anything tomorrow’ they said.  I was really hurt by this.  I guess what she meant was that I could start writing whenever I felt like it, but what it showed to me was a lack of understanding for how hard this work is.  There is nothing helpful to say at times like this, cause mostly you are too hurt to be funny.  Just remember that I know how hard it is for you – and so does every other writer out there.  And go home!  You need to sleep.

5.  But you can’t even spell.

This comment was both hurtful and informative.  I have since convinced myself that spelling is for editors and I am doing my best as an Australian to keep them employed and valid.

6. Don’t you have to hand write everything before it is any good?

After hearing from a friend about a writing lecturer who refused any work that was not first written as a long hand draft, I started to wonder about practice.  She was laughing as she mentioned it, saying that there was a lot of writing essays first and then faking a hand written draft later.  What a waste of time? I say.

Weather people like to romanticise their own practice or waste their own time or insist on doing things the ‘right way’, this folk lore of writing is another rule invented to exclude people who want to be writers.  The truth is that you just need to do what works best for you and be willing to say it, even to your writing friends.

7.  You still writing that little book of yours?

The key word in this question is little – like a hobby.  This is not even meant as an insult.  It is just a projection of themselves onto you.  That is how they view their own hobbies, dreams, or lifetime goals – as something small, insignificant and easily dismissed.

Don’t take it personally, it is just how they approach their own creativity.

8.  How do you expect to make any money from this?

The Emerging Writer, Writing, DefencesI am very honest when people ask me this question and sometimes it annoys them.  I simply answer that I don’t expect to make money from it.  I expect to end up with my well deserved $2000 a year and a successful career in hospitality.

But I also expect to be the envy of every person I meet who doesn’t have the guts to do what I did.  I expect to wake up every day loving my life and my career, satisfied that I am not wasting my time.  I expect to spend time with the incredible characters I create, in worlds far beyond my own existence.  I expect to find and connect with the most incredible colleagues around the country.  I expect to be respected in my own home.  I expect to not have to defend my choices.

I expect that one day I will look back on a diverse body of work with pride.

 

Reading the Book Pages

The Emerging Writer, Writers, Reading reviews, Book reviews.27th of July 2013 – Saturday.

I drive to the loval supermarket for coffee, lunch and the papers.  The weekend papers… is there anything else like them on earth?  Reading them on a Saturday, you could start to think you life was about to start.  You make plans and notes, and dream holidays and new clothes and you feel for a second as though you are completely In Touch with everything…Right before you are completely over whelmed and turn the papers aside as there is just too much to read.   Well I only read one section every time, the Book Pages.

The Book Pages are where I find treasure, feel connected, follow the trends and new publishers work, find out which famous author may have passed away leaving a mysteriously unpublished manuscript.  This is like Woman’s Day for the thinking lady.

Every Saturday I make it my mission to read these pages.  It is so important to stay up to date with what is going on – who is publishing what and when – and for how much.

I recommend it – for a bit of routine at least.

A Quick Guide to House Sitting

Emerging Writer, Writing, writers,

House Sitting is a Great Idea!!  House sitting is a writers best friend.  If you know what you are doing.  Living rent free, often in an isolated or rural environment is a great way to get a lot of writing done without it costing you a fortune.  In the beginning of your career as a writer you will need to be clever with your time and money to get the head start you need.

The Emerging Writer

My house sitting experience

I think house sitting is the best idea ever and it has made our life possible.  House sitting website know how great house sitting is for writers and will often angle themselves towards writers with questions such as….  Need to finish that screen play or ever wanted to spend three months traveling and writing a novel?

The only thing you need to realise is that there will probably be pet care.  Yes there will be Pet Care!!  Most house sits also come with pet care, from chickens and dogs, to horses and fish.  Some people may see this as a negative but I actually think it is one of the perks.  As a writer working from home it’s nice to have a few animals around for company.  And they make a great excuse for a break, feeding the dog and locking the chickens up.

Emerging Writer, Writing, writers, Yes it Actually Works!!  I am writing this article from my new office in a house sit house in the National Park in NSW.  So many ideas people have for saving money sound good in theory, but don’t seem to work in real life.  This one does.  My fiancee and I will be house sitting for the next three months here, and have already had interest from people going away after that.  To read more about my personal experience house sitting Click Here

To read more go to  Ten Questions You Must Ask an Owner Before you House Sit.

IMPORTANT NOTES for you –

  1. You have to be organised.  If you are not organised when you start, you soon will be.  What I am talking about it having a diary and a good idea about the next few months of you life.  Sorting out dates and times and seeing potential houses.
  2. Allow yourself to get settled.  When you first move to a new house, don’t make any commitments for those first three days.  You are going to need to find the supermarket, the butcher and late night chocolate.  Petrol stations are a good one to find early as well as chemists and gyms.
  3. Have your own internet.  Most houses will have their own internet at home that you will be able to use when you arrive, but that might not always be the case.  We have had a few problems with the internet while staying in the National Park with no phone reception as well.  It is always a good idea to be independent with those things if you can.
  4. Ask about Phone reception.  See above.
  5. Prepare for High maintenance pets.  The type of people who don’t or can’t put their animals into long term care are normally very protective and connected to their pets.  Most owners we have met have felt their animals to be very important to them, referring to them like their animals are humans, usually with medications, health needs and a strict routine.  It is always up to you weather or not you take on the responsibilities of the pet.  Owners are also worried about leaving their animals alone for a long time but I send a few photos over the first few days and the owners soon relax.
  Here are some great Australian House Sitting Organisations.
I don’t have enough experience with Overseas House Sitting to recommend anyone I know.
  1. The Emerging Writer

    This is an

 

7th of July – Piece by piece…

7th July 2013 – Ok.  So I spent a day panicking!  I apologise, it was wrong of me to loose hope so quickly.  I should have been braver.

In fact it turns out that Lamott my have saved me after all with her talk of short assignments and taking things nice and slow.

I have broken it up the ‘Shitty first draft’ into 80 smaller more manageable sections, or scenes I guess.  The whole huge task feels immediately different.  I can just take it section after section.  Eatting an elephant as they say, bite by bite…

Today I am just going to read over one section.  That is all.  Ok.  I will just look at section one.  That is it.  Piece by piece.  Little by little.  It is ok to freak out.  I freaked out yesterday and it is ok.  I just have to keep going in the face of freaking out…

Later today…. Hahahahaha!!!!! Oh my I am laughing out loud.  As I read over section one, I realise that a character whom is a boy at the end, actually is introduced as a girl.  One of my characters actually changes gender throughout this draft – Ha!    Fuck.  Deep breathing.  Hide the hair scissors away – No more split end cutting – get going.

I am going to need to find somewhere to by roasted whole coffee beans in this tiny little town.  Coffee is so expensive here – I can’t afford to keep going to my beautiful little cafe/bookshop/writing office.