My Problogger epiphany

lightbulbIt’s been a couple of months since I’ve posted here. And that solitary post was at the end of a sixth-month drought.

But I’m sitting here now, ready to write again. And you know what? It feels good. It feels… comfortable. Like relaxing in your favourite chair at the end of a long day.

The fact I’ve only written one post in eight months means I’ve got plenty to talk about—how my son’s going in school, my first contract job, how my freelancing career is going, and so on.

But I don’t want to. Not today. Not now.

 

How it all started

I’ve just come back from the Problogger Training Event at the Gold Coast. More than 400 bloggers from around the country (as well as few from overseas) getting together to share ideas, stories and information.

It was an amazing couple of days, and I could spend an entire post talking about it as well—the amazing things I learned, the fantastic people I met, and how I managed to come home with one of those long tubes of sherbet I used to enjoy as a kid.

But I don’t want to talk about any of that either. Well, maybe a few bits and pieces from it.

Instead I want to talk about my nine-kilometre stroll along the beach, and the epiphany I had along the way.

 

The epiphany

Whenever I’m at the Gold Coast I’ll head down to the beach, kick my shoes off and walk/paddle my way between Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach. I don’t know if it’s the sound of the waves or the feel of the sand under my feet, but it’s the perfect environment for me to relax and think about things.

And after two amazing days at the conference, there were plenty of things to think about.

During the keynote at the end of day one, the amazing Clare Bowditch asked, “What did you want to be when you were a kid?” (Or something like that.) She was trying to help us find our true calling, what we should be doing.

At the time it didn’t really help me. When I was a kid I wanted to be a singer. Unfortunately when my voice broke during puberty, it broke completely. I’m happy to sing to myself, but singing for other people would probably be classed as cruel and unusual punishment.

But while I was walking along the beach, the water lapping at my ankles, I asked myself another question. What did I enjoy doing when I was a kid?

And that’s when I had my epiphany.

 

Make ‘em laugh

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to make people laugh. It started with my family. We were never well off—my father worked long hours as a labourer, and my mother often worked Saturdays to make some extra money. But the house was always filled with laughter, and that’s where I learned how good it felt to not only laugh, but to make others laugh.

At school I devoured pretty much every riddle and joke book I could find, both in the school and public libraries. In grade five we were allowed to tell after Show and Tell, and I was there every time.

I also learned it was a great way to make friends, and diffuse conflict. I’m pretty sure it’s one of the main reasons I got through high school unscathed.

Then I discovered Douglas Adams, and how to make people laugh through writing. I devoured his books, to the point where I could almost recite them from memory. Even today I can remember the first page or so of The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

And I started trying to do the same in my own stories. Of course, they were all about people in spaceships because that’s the only setting I’d seen it done. But I wasn’t very good at it—I probably spent more time crowbaring other people’s jokes into what I’d written than coming up with anything original.

I also found I was trying to bring humour into everything I wrote, which made my high school essays interesting to say the least.

But it was the start of something amazing.

 

A columnist was born

In 1988 I went to university and met a woman named Pat McDermott. Okay, I didn’t exactly meet her. I found her column while flicking through the Australian Women’s Weekly in the staff room at the university’s computer centre.

Hey! I was bored, okay?

(Yes, I have a degree in computer science. I even worked in IT in the public service for 20 years. “Bill Harper: More than just a word nerd. He’s a computer nerd as well.”)

It’s probably the first time I’d ever read a humour column, and I was hooked. Over the next few months I read more of her columns in the staff room, and even bought a few copies myself when I wasn’t allowed in there any more.

And in the course of reading all those columns I learned three things:

  • You can create fantastic humour out of very ordinary situations. No more spaceships! (I’m sure the science fiction fans are still rejoicing.)
  • You get some really funny looks from the newsagent when you’re a guy buying a women’s’ magazine.
  • I really wanted to be a humour writer.

And it wasn’t long before I got my chance. In my final year of university I got my own column in the university magazine, and managed to get a few pieces published in other magazines as well. (No pay, but I really didn’t care.)

When I moved to Canberra for work I became a columnist for a single’s magazine that quickly folded. (I still refuse to believe it was because of me.) Still no pay, but again I didn’t care. I was a columnist, dammit!

Later in I moved to Brisbane, and finally got paid for a humour piece I wrote, this time for Single Life magazine. I actually have it framed, along with the letter I got back saying how gave her “quite a chuckle”. Funnily enough that magazine also folded, but I’m still in denial.

And then in 2000 I made two important discoveries:

  • I could set up my own website through my ISP (this was way before WordPress)
  • Dave Barry, who took my humour writing to a whole new level.

So I started writing my own columns and posting them on the web. And then I got my own domain and humourwriter.com was born.

(Yes, Problogger attendees. An actual website I didn’t plug the hell out of whenever I got near a microphone.)

At one point I was writing one every week. And I loved it. Some people relax by cooking, but for me it was that chance to make people laugh. (Okay, maybe not with my early ones. But they got better as time went on.)

I got to know Jenna Glatzer, a freelance writer in the US. She wanted someone to “funny up” her book manuscript, and when I showed her by columns I got the job. Despite adding things like “What’s a seven-letter word for constipation beginning and ending in ‘N’? NNNNNNN.”), Outwitting Writer’s Block was published in 2003.

But then life started getting rough, and I started skipping weeks. Weeks turned into months, and soon there were gaps of a year or more. I tried getting back into it, but my efforts never lasted more than a week or two. I stopped writing the column, and pretty much gave up writing humour completely.

And I’ve been regretting it ever since.

 

Born to be funny?

On the second day of the Problogger conference, Trey Ratcliff talked about how his brain rewired itself to deal with seeing a 3D world in 2D. (Trey was born blind in one eye.)

And I’m wondering if my brain has done the same thing at some stage.

Imagine you’re watching a bunch of friends chatting over drinks. If you’re a writer, it may give you a great scene you can use in your next story. If you’re a photographer, you may grab your camera because it will make such a great photo.

But whenever I look at something, I immediately think of a way to make it funny. It may not always be appropriate, but it will still be funny. And while there’s obviously some thought process going on, it all seems to happen subconsciously, like breathing.

(For anyone unfortunate enough to be stuck in a conversation with me at the Problogger conference, I’m sorry.)

Unfortunately for a while there I almost lost that ability. It’s hard to see the funny side of things when you’re dealing with divorce, depression and struggling to keep a roof over your head. But I’m pretty sure I’m past all that now, and I’m definitely starting to see the humour in everyday things again.

 

My true calling

For me, Problogger was all about finding your passion, your true calling, and finding ways to make a living out of it.

I think I’ve just rediscovered mine.

If any of my clients are reading this, don’t worry. Sharper Copy isn’t going anywhere, and I won’t be giving up on the copywriting and editing. I really do enjoy it, and being able to do it for a living is the most amazing feeling.

But now I want to get back into writing humour, and trying to make a career out of it as well.

Can it be done? I honestly have no idea. At the moment I’m getting paid to write a few humour blogs. (They probably weren’t meant to be, but no-one objected when I wrote them that way.) Whether I can monetise it and create a business model out of it is another thing. But I’m certainly going to try.

I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing with the site. But thanks to Tsh Oxenreider’s presentation on reinventing yourself, I’m looking forward to getting my hands dirty, so to speak. It definitely needs a redesign (okay, it needs a design), and so I’ll have to figure out what to do about that. As for the content, maybe I could grab a bunch of columns and sell them as an ebook (“The least worst of Bill Harper”).

But you know what? If I can’t, I really don’t think I care. This is my my true calling, another chance to do what I love, and to bring a smile to people’s faces. (Much like the loud shirts I wear, but without the permanent retina damage.)

To everyone involved with the Problogger conference, thank you. I probably wouldn’t have reached this point without you.

And to everyone who’s read my humour in the past, and encouraged me to keep going with it, a special thanks to you too. Just remember: God punishes us mildly by ignoring our prayers, and severely by answering them.

On the drive back to Brisbane I listened to Sidewalk, which I still think is one of Icehouse’s best albums. And as I listened, I heard these words* in the chorus:

This time
It feels so right, yes I know it
This time
I can be so very sure
Oh yes
It’s something sure to last forever
This time
No trace of doubt in my mind, oh
This time

Perfect.

 

* I’ve since learned these aren’t the exact lyrics. But hey, it’s what I heard.

 

 

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Happy anniversary!

Champagne Glass

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my “leap of faith”.

No, I wasn’t leaping off the roof of a building. I was walking out through the glass doors like everyone else.

Okay, maybe I was skipping a bit. I certainly had a spring in my step. Because while they were all leaving the office for a couple of days, I was leaving it forever.

Two years ago today I left the organisation I’d worked at for 20 years to become a freelancer.

It’s something I’d always planned on doing. I just wasn’t expecting to do it quite so soon. Or so suddenly.

I’d read enough books and talked to enough people to know this isn’t something you do on a whim. You needed a lot of money saved up, and a large enough list of regular clients to make at least something resembling an income.

I had neither. But I had a dream, and I wasn’t about to give up on it now.

I cashed in some of my superannuation as a way to keep myself afloat while I was starting out. But while the work slowly trickled in, the money flowed out, and pretty soon I was relying on a NewStart allowance from the government to keep a roof over my head.

But as time went on I started picking up clients, mostly by recommendations and word of mouth. (Despite having my website brilliant designed by the team at Men With Pens, it took me a while to get it up and running.) I read some amazing stories, and got to know the amazing people behind them. It’s one of the best things about being an editor–every book, ebook, article or whatever you get to work on is an opportunity to learn something new. And it’s a privilege to think you’re one of the first people to hear what these writers have to say.

At this point I didn’t consider myself a copywriter. Sure I could write, but copywriting is a lot more than that. No, I was quite happy to let someone else come up with the words, and then let me fine-time them a bit.

Then one day a friend and fellow copywriter spend the best part of an afternoon on the phone with me (it may have been Skype) going through a piece I’d written and pointing out how I could make it better. It was a hell of a lesson, and for the first time I felt confident enough to try it myself. Later on I was lucky enough to enrol in one of the best writing courses around and improve even more.

I’ll always consider myself an editor first and a copywriter second. But thanks to Glenn and James the gap between them is a lot narrower than it was. (And if either of you are reading this, thank you.)

These days I get to “hang out” with a whole bunch of great copywriters (thank you, Google+) pretty much every day. Thanks to them I’m always learning something new—even if it is just another example of what people shouldn’t be writing.

I’ve come a long way in two years (although you may not think so looking at my bank balance). I took the leap of faith, and survived. And while it’s certainly been rough at times, it’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

And I think that’s definitely something worth celebrating.

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Fun times ahead

Read and unread

Remember when I said I have about 40 books I haven’t read yet? Well, it seems I slightly underestimated.

Tonight I rearranged my reading collection, putting the books I’ve read in the left bookcase and the ones I haven’t read in the right.

And as you can see, I have a lot more than 40 books to get through.

Not that I’m saying I’ll read them all. Once I’ve culled the books I have read, I might do the same to my unread collection.

Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have a few more books in that bookcase on the left.

I posted this picture in Twitter to show everyone how far behind I am in my reading.

One person replied, “No, not behind. It means you have hours of fun ahead”.

And you know what? I think she’s right.

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Setting my sights on 2013

1396134_new_year_13

The year is almost over, and while a lot happened in 2012 I’m happy to let it go and focus on 2013. (Unlike 2010, which I kicked severely on the way out.)

It’s been a few since I last set myself goals (at least publicly), and I while I didn’t achieve them all it was still nice to have something to aim at. So I’m doing it again.

But this time I’m giving myself plenty to aim for. I doubt I’ll achieve them all, but even if I only manage to cross a few off the list I’ll still be happy.

So here, in no particular order, are my goals for 2013… and beyond.

 

Learn more

The year after I finished my course in creative writing I was miserable. (This was before the whole depression thing.) Eventually I realised it was because I wasn’t at university any more. I wasn’t learning.

The following year I enrolled in a journalism course.

I probably won’t be going back to university any time soon. But I still want to learn, and I have a heap of books, e-books and bookmarked websites that can teach me everything from Photoshop to freelancing.

That being said, I’m still eyeing off the online travel writing course at the Australian Writers’ Centre. If it’s anything like their online magazine writing course, it will be fantastic.

 

Build up my business

I was going to say ‘expand the business’, but I’m quite happy with what I’m doing now at Sharper Copy. I just want to do more of it.

That means adding a heap of content, getting the SEO stuff done right (and I have a heap of learning resources to teach me), and promoting the hell out of it.

It also means lots of networking, marketing and all the other stuff businesses need to do.

The goal for this year is to earn more than I did last year. But the long-term goal is to earn enough that I can not only support myself but also build up my savings and have a little bit left over to have some fun.

 

Get on top of my finances

I’ll admit it: I haven’t exactly been frugal with my money over the past couple of years, and this year it came back to haunt me. Fortunately things are starting to turn around, and if I keep doing what I’m doing I’ll be okay.

But I really need to work on managing my finances, and that’s definitely something else I’ll be learning about this year.

I also want to…

 

Learn to live with less

Call it what you will–minimising, de-cluttering, de-owning. The aim is to not only stop buying stuff because I think I need it, but to also get rid of the stuff I don’t need any more. I’ve managed to sell quite a bit on eBay this year, and I’ll be selling more next year.

And if it doesn’t sell then I’ll either give it away or just dump it.

(Those of you who follow me on Twitter will probably see a lot of eBay announcements over the next few months.)

 

Stop collecting and start consuming

Picture of reference library

My reference library

Picture of reading library

My reading library

Here’s what my bookcases look like at the moment.

At one point I was pretty much up-to-date with my reading. I could honestly say I’d read all but a dozen or so books up there.

But now there’s about 40 books I haven’t read–even more if I include the ebooks I’ve downloaded.

I’ve gone from being a consumer to being a collector. (Booko is both my best friend and my worst enemy.)

And it’s not just books. I’m the same with computer programs, games, apps, websites, and just about everything digital. If I see something remotely interesting I’ll download it.

And then it gets lost on my hard drive somewhere and forgotten.

I want to stop collecting stuff (unless it’s absolutely necessary), and start working through the stuff I already have. If it’s useful, it stays. If not it goes (sold/given away/deleted/whatever).

The good thing is another one of my goals is to…

 

Read more

I’m not sure why I’m not reading as much as I used to. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time online, afraid I’ll miss out on something if I don’t keep up-to-date with Twitter, Facebook and the like.

Or maybe it’s because I no longer take the train to and from work (when I used to get a lot of reading done).

But when I do manage to put the laptop/iPhone down and pick up a book instead, I really enjoy it.

So my goal is to get back into reading big-time, and to start making a dent in those bookshelves.

 

Travel more

I’ve never really had the urge to travel, probably because I hated flying so much.

But my trip to the UK was an amazing experience, and not just because of who I was with. I loved being in a place that felt completely foreign, and I’d love to do it again soon. (Mind you, I’ll probably stick to countries that speak English, at least for now.)

Mind you, I’d be just as happy to travel interstate, or even to places in Queensland that I’ve never visited before. And who knows? If I get around to doing that travel writing course I might even make some money from it.

It will also give me a chance to…

 

Meet new people

One of the downsides of working from home is it’s turned me into a bit of a social recluse. Sure, I have Twitter and Facebook friends to keep me company. But it’s not the same as talking to someone over a cup of coffee.

Thanks to Meetup I’m getting to meet people with similar interests, and I want to do more of that. (And Brisbane freelance writers out there who feel like getting together every so often for coffee? Let me know.)

I also want to catch up with some of the people I’ve known on Twitter for years but have never actually met. It’s strange to think a lot of them live in the same city, and yet we’ve never caught up with each other.

Even if I don’t meet up with people, I still want to…

 

Get out more

I’ve always boasted how being freelancer means my days are pretty flexible. I work whenever I want, from wherever I want. And so if I want to head down to the beach for the morning, and then work from a nearby cafe in the afternoon there’s nothing stopping me.

But lately I haven’t even been getting to Starbucks, let along the Gold Coast. It seems easier to just stay home. But I don’t think it’s doing me much good, and I really want to get out more and feel more connected with the outside world.

I won’t be able to do it all the time. (Sometimes you need familiar surroundings and lots of peace and quiet.) But I need to do it as much as I can.

I also want to…

 

Walk more

Just as I’ve almost stopped reading, I’ve pretty much stopped walking as well.

Back when I was working in the city I used to walk for 40 minutes every weekday just getting to and from the office. And as much as I grumbled about it (especially in the heat and the rain), I quite enjoyed it.

These days I only seem to go for a walk if I’m really angry/upset about something, which takes all the fun out of it.

I want to get back into doing it regularly. Probably in the evenings to start with, because it’s pretty damn hot during the day. Just me, my iPhone and my music. (Okay, so I may also fire up RunKeeper.)

But rather than just walk the streets near my house I’ll  try to find some nice walking tracks within driving distance and try those. I may even walk alone some of the routes in Words to Walk By.

 

Get back into feature writing

Feature writing was my favourite unit at university, and I loved the course I did on magazine writing. So why haven’t I done more of it?

Beats me.

Oh, I could give you plenty of excuses–no time, not good enough, markets not buying, etc. But I think I just mentally “wandered off” and started doing other things instead.

But I definitely want to get back into it, and next year seems like a damn good time to start.

And while I’m at it, I also want to…

 

Re-launch my humour website

At one stage I just wanted to get back into writing my weekly humour column. But now that I’m getting paid to write funny blog posts for Brizzy Rubbish Removals and Home Appliance Rentals, I want to write humour for other people too.

So as well as writing my own stuff I’ll be trying to convince other people to let me write for them as well. I have no idea if it will work or not, but I’m certainly going to give it a try.

As for what’s up there at the moment, I’ll probably take it all down, put the best (okay, least worst) columns in an ebook and try to make a bit of money from it.

 

Learn to cook

For my birthday I was given a copy of  Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals. I also have Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals, Cook with Jamie, and a whole bunch of other non-Jamie cookbooks I’ve inherited over the years.

I think it’s about time I made use of them and learned how to cook.

And let’s face it: there’s no better time for me to learn. I live on my own, so I won’t be poisoning anyone else. And the smoke detectors in this place work like a charm.

Hopefully by the end of the year I’ll have more than a handful of dishes in my repertoire.

 

Ignore what I can’t control

Nothing like saving the hardest one till last, is there?

For a while now I’ve been putting my happiness (sometimes even my fate) in other people’s hands. Relying on someone else’s decision. Reacting to someone else’s opinion.

And it’s got to stop.

This is probably the most ambitious goal of the lot, and one I’ll to have to work really hard at achieving.

But it’s something I need to do if I want to achieve my overall goal for this year…

 

Be happy

If I only achieve one goal this year, this is the one I want it to be.

It seems like such a simple thing. Unfortunately for me it’s anything but a lot of the time. I’m not saying every day has to be sunshine, lollipops and rainbows. But I’d like the dark days to be the exception, and not the rule.

 

Will I achieve all these goals? Probably not. But as I said, it gives me something to aim for (okay, a lot of things). And even if I only achieve a few, I’ll still be better off than if I hadn’t set myself any.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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The year in review

calendar

The year is almost over (obviously I’m behind in tearing off the days), and like most people I’ve been thinking about the past 12 months.

It’s been a pretty eventful year for me. It wasn’t all good–not by a long shot–but it was certainly eventful. And while Facebook recorded some of those events, it certainly didn’t get them all.

So here’s what I remember most about 2012.

 

We sold the house

I’d actually forgotten about this until Facebook reminded me.

It took 18 months and two real estate agents, but we finally got a buyer. And while we didn’t get the price we wanted (does anyone?), we still came out on top, both financially and mentally.

Of course, that meant I quickly had to find a place to rent, which is always fun at the beginning of the year.

The sad thing is, I’m thinking of doing it all again pretty soon. (Finding a place to rent, that is. Sheesh. What kind of masochist do you think I am?)

 

I got on top of my depression

It’s amazing how such a small tablet can make such a big difference.

I can still remember that night: chopping up onions and slicing mushrooms to make beef stroganoff, the flick of the mental switch, the wave euphoria sweeping over me, the smile that took hours to wear off.

Of course I’m still a long way from being “cured”. That may take years, if it happens at all. But changing medication has certainly made me the happiest I’ve been in quite a while. And I’m more than happy to keep taking it if this is what I get in return.

(And for those of you know me personally, I’m just having a bit of a rough patch at the moment. I’m sure I’ll bounce back soon.)

But I can also remember that terrible week where the two different medications made me go a bit crazy and I practically destroyed one of my closest friendships.

 

I officially became divorced

This is definitely one of the weirdest experiences I had all year.

We both knew it was happening. We’d signed the papers, sent them to the courts, and were now waiting for our divorce to become official.

And while we obviously weren’t happy with how things turned out, we both knew it was the right thing to do.

But when the envelope with the divorce papers finally came through, it still hit me for six.

 

I screwed up another relationship

It definitely wasn’t a good year for relationships.

I tried online dating once again, but never even got to an actual date. (You’ll be please to know I’ve given up on the idea completely now.)

Later on in the year I met Taliah at a party, and it seemed like my luck had finally changed.

Unfortunately I had to break it off because something was wrong. And that something was me.

I won’t go into the details here, but the bottom line is for now I’m giving up on relationships.

 

I filed my first tax return as a full-time freelancer

(Note: this is probably the only time I’ll think of filing my tax return as a ‘highlight’.)

Okay, so I didn’t exactly make my first million. (Take off a couple of zeros and you’d be closer to the truth.) But it was still nice to know I’d earned the money doing what I enjoyed.

And now that I’ve pretty much established the business, I should be able to improve on what I made this year.

Speaking of establishing the business…

 

SharperCopy.com finally became a reality

It took a while to get up and running, but Sharper Copy finally made its debut. (Thank again to James and the team at Men With Pens for coming up with such a fantastic design.)

I still have a lot of work to do. I need to write loads of content, tweak the copy that’s already there, and promote the hell out of it. But at least now I can point people to it and say, “That’s my website”.

Now if I could just finish designing my business card so I can start handing them out as well.

 

I started getting more regular work

One thing I’m still getting used to is the feast-and-famine aspect of freelancing. A big job comes through and the bank balance starts looking pretty healthy. But then I don’t get any work for a while, and the money soon gets spent on luxuries such as rent and food.

Fortunately I now have some regular blogging gigs that give me the freelancing equivalent of a regular income. (A big thanks to Alicia Laing at Creative Mode for getting the gigs for me.) It’s nothing like I was earning at the day job, but it’s something I can rely on coming in every month. And the work is far more enjoyable.

 

So there you have it: the major events for me in 2012. They’re certainly not all highlights, but they definitely played a major part in my life. (If you think I’ve forgotten to mention something, feel free to tell me.)

And now comes the fun part: planning what will happen in 2013.

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A surreal Christmas

1409165_christmas_balls
It’s a little after 9pm on Boxing Day here in Brisbane, so I’m pretty sure Christmas has at least started everywhere in the world. (I’m still pretty clueless when it comes to world time zones.) I hope you all had a great day with family and friends, got everything you asked Santa for, and didn’t suffer too much from all the food and drink on offer.

But this year Christmas felt very surreal, as if it was happening everywhere else but my home.

Apart from one year when my father had to work, Christmas morning has always been about exchanging gifts. When I was young my sister and I would make our parents cups of tea in bed (very noisily if they were sleeping in). Then we’d bring all the presents from under the tree onto their bed and start handing them out.

These days I’m happy to have a bit of a sleep in myself. But I still get a thrill out of seeing everyone’s reaction as they frantically rip off the wrapping paper to see what’s inside.

But this year was different. A lot different.

Despite not going to bed until after midnight I still woke up a little after seven. But I was alone (I wasn’t seeing my son until ten), and so I spend the morning finding out about everyone else’s Christmas morning on Twitter and Facebook. And I felt sad that I couldn’t talk about what my family was doing, or what everyone was getting from Santa. For me it was just another morning.

(I did get a phone call from both my sister and my father, which I really appreciated.)

Even when I visited my son it didn’t feel normal. They’d already unwrapped all their presents, and because I was saving his for the afternoon when he was coming to stay with me I felt like an intruder.

Fifteen minutes later I was home again.

I was picking up a friend in the afternoon to spend Christmas night with my son and me. So I filled in the time doing what I’d normally do. I did the dishes. I folded clothes.

Just another day.

At around five we finally got to exchange gifts (I got Ben Elton’s latest book), and later we had dinner at McDonald’s. Then we watched a bit of TV before heading off to bed.

And that was Christmas.

 

Mind you, my birthday three days before felt pretty weird as well. My son woke me up that morning, which was nice. But there was no present, or even a “Happy birthday”. I’m not even sure he knew it was my birthday.

We went to his family day care Christmas party, where I got my traditional sugar hit. (In past years I’ve gone to Tom’s Confectionery Warehouse.) And then I went home to an empty house.

Fortunately I didn’t have to spend the rest of the day alone. I visited a friend, who shouted me dinner and then took me to see “Skyfall” at the movies. (She also got me a present–”Jamie’s 15-Minute Meals“.)

 

I realise it sounds like I’m most concerned about the presents. But I think what actually hit me the most was how alone I felt. It’s not a good feeling at the best of times, but around this time year I find it especially tough.

As much as I’d like to, I can’t predict how things will be for me this time next year. But if it looks like I’ll be spending my birthday and Christmas alone again then I’d like it to be for a good reason. So I might travel somewhere overseas, and spend my Christmas there. I may even live out my fantasy of having a white Christmas.

But that’s almost a year away, and a lot can change in a year.

Or at least I hope it can.

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The year according to Facebook

year in review

Well, it looks like we’ve survived yet another doomsday prediction. (Okay, technically it’s the 21st for another two hours, but I’m not holding my breath.)

Still, I’m sure it got a lot people thinking about the meaning of life, and whether their time on this planet has been a fulfilling one.

Fortunately for us, Facebook is there to let us all know just how mundane our lives really are.

In case you don’t know, Facebook now gives everyone their own personal Year in Review, which brings up “your 20 biggest moments from the year”. And while it’s a pretty cool idea, it can paint a pretty grim picture of how you’ve spent the past 12 months.

I’m not sure what everyone else’s is like, but according to Facebook here are my highlights for 2012:

  • sold the house (actually, this was pretty awesome considering it had been on the market for 18 months)
  • changed my profile picture
  • took some photos
  • was tagged in other photos
  • found some old photos on my computer
  • became happy (another huge event in my life that I’m very… well, happy about)
  • took a video of a nearby park
  • went to a party
  • shared photos of a Dalek-shaped pot and a security chain with a maze-like path to follow
  • took a decent photo of my son (still pretty proud of this one)
  • shared some words of wisdom about depression (important considering how long I suffered it myself)
  • got a great Father’s Day present that my son made at day care
  • made some ridiculous poses that were subsequently shared on Facebook
  • took more photos–some funny, some serious, a lot blurry
  • updated my cover photo
  • made some friends
  • liked some pages

Now I admit my life isn’t exactly an action thriller, but a lot more has happened that I’d like to remember. And so I’ll probably write another post later on to fill in the gaps that Facebook missed.

So… how well did Facebook do at capturing your biggest moments of the year?

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Room without a view

View from my office window (March 2012)

My view back in March…

Back in March I did a post on six things I didn’t miss about the day job.

One of those things was working in a cubicle, and I included the view from my office window to show how much better it was.

Unfortunately the view has changed a bit since then.

As you can see from the latest photo, most of the trees have been replaced by rather ugly units. I don’t remember when the destruction… sorry, construction started (obviously it was after March), but it seems like it’s been going on for ever.

Oh, and sorry for the “screen door” effect in the photo. My windows are covered in dust from the construction, so I had to take it through the flywire screen.

View from my office (December 2012)

… and now in December.

And if the dust is bad, the noise is even worse.

I used to wake up to the sound or birds in the trees. Now I wake up to sounds of hammering, sawing and the incessant beeping or trucks reversing. They’re usually working at seven, but sometimes they start even earlier.

And just as they’re finishing up the people next door usually do a few dozen laps around the grassy knoll on their motorbike.

Needless to say the office isn’t quite as relaxing as it used to be.

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Hope springs eternal

hearts

A year ago today I was a very happy man.

Angie and her son had just arrived from the UK, and we spent two magical weeks together.

We all had an amazing time–cruising the river on a CityCat, playing “Is that edible?” at a Sushi Train, and getting dumped (by waves) at the beach. Even just walking around the streets of Brisbane seemed like an incredible experience.

In short, life seemed pretty much perfect.

Of course, a lot has happened since then. Living on opposite sides of the world became a problem, and so we decided to end the relationship.

I’m hoping Angie and I can get together again. Not now, and probably not here. But I hope it happens one day, and we get to share some more incredible moments together.

And until then, I’m more than happy to wait.

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I need your advice…

Wow, it’s certainly been a while since I posted here. Lots to tell you, but right now I need to ask you a favour.

I’ve launched my new freelance writing and editing site, and I’m trying to come up with designs for my business cards.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. (Ignore the white strip at the top. That will be removed when the cards are printed.)

The front…

… and the back.

 

I’ve tried to match it up with the website design, but I’m not sure it works. I know I’m graphically challenged, so any suggestions or advice you have will be much appreciated.

Until next time…

 

Bill.

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