Keeping writers focused

Or, as I call it, keeping unruly geniuses professionals writers focused.

Gosh, writers are such hard work, aren’t they? The constant need for recognition, motivation, and a pat on the back. Does the chip on the shoulder come before or after one’s dedication to their art I wonder? Is that a Dorito stuck to your face? Get out of your pyjamas will you? Nooo – wine-o-clock is after midday. And for the love of humanity stop playing that ridiculous ukulele, I’m trying to work here.

Whines Complaints Comments commonly heard from writers:

Monkey typing

Shakespeare, anyone?

  • I know the rules of grammar – so I can break them
  • Stop stripping the personality out of my articles
  • Don’t oppress me
  • I can write perfectly well when drunk

Writers are self indulgent primadonnas delicate people. They are to be utterly admired for their dedication to their art, and their courage to pursue it as a full time career, but this is precisely why they are insecure, quarrelsome fusspots prone to the temptations of self-doubt. Even the most dedicated professionals need a bit of a kick up the arse motivation occasionally. So what kind of support does a writer need?

  • Constructive criticism
  • Encouragement to set goals
  • Recognition for a job well done

But how to recognise when a writer needs encouragement? Deviation from the artistic path often manifests in pyjamas being worn to the supermarket, a sparkling clean home/car, and facial tics, not to mention early-onset agoraphobia. Firmness is necessary to help the writer retain focus. Help them to set goals, and cheer them on as they achieve them. For example – ‘Yes Andy fellow writer, you may set a trap for the pigeon after these articles are finished.’

Sometimes writers are terribly prolific. Sometimes fifty words are used where one would have sufficed, and sometimes it may have been a better idea to use just the one. Sort through the 990 page ‘novella’ for the real gems of the piece, give these the recognition deserved, and be stern with the next Tolstoy about trimming the fat. Editing is not about destroying style but about helping authors strengthen the creative elements of their writing. Don’t oppress you? Pahleese – stop choking your own messages with verbosity.

For the blocked writer try associative or free writing. Even write a shopping list for starters. Give up on the idea that the piece has to be good/entertaining/informative. All this can come in the re-write.

For the renegade writer to whom rules don’t apply, simply ask what Hunter S. Thompson would do.

What would Hunter S. Thompson do?

hunter s thompson shooting

'It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.'

Apart from imbibing a plethora of chemical cocktails, Hunter was a dedicated professional. Take the following quote – ‘It would not do to be seen under these circumstances: firing wildly into the cactus from a car full of drugs.’ The use of grammar is correct, conservative even; it is the use of language that shocks.

A favourite reminder of the correct use of punctuation is as follows:

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours?

Dear John

John is at the mercy of proper punctuation

Dear John,
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?
Yours, Gloria

Next time you feel like breaking a rule or using sloppy prose, just think to yourself – what would Hunter do? Of course – you may substitute your favourite talented author – Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Conrad – and you can be assured that although they may not fire wildly into the cactus through a drug-induced haze, they were equally committed to upholding the use of good language.

So, I hear you sniffle indignantly – do all writers become pyjama-wearing, obsessive compulsive alcoholics, starved of company and attacked by evil pigeons?! Yes. But eccentricity has its perks. No! The rest of he world is simply envious that you are unemployed living your life’s purpose. Just remember your editor is not your enemy and to take a shower every couple of days.

evil pigeon of deadly death

Evil pigeon of deadly death that haunts Andy's nightmares (and courtyard)

Until next time,


Lexicon Press

* Disclaimer – no writer or evil pigeon was harmed in the making of this blog. I am also a writer and thus felt qualified to heap derision on my kind.


Perils of running a home business

With the first year of working from home safely under my belt, I like to think I’m becoming well acquainted with the traps and pitfalls of the home office.

It’s fairly important to be showered and dressed by 9am, ready for a day at work, even when enduring a monster case of writer’s block. I’ve heard it said that pyjamas can be worn until midday and beyond, but this is akin to holding a death adder up to your face and poking it in the eye with a stick. Unwary victims have ended up watching Breaking Bad episodes and shoving their greedy, slimy faces full of Doritos until 4pm like a huge putrid slug. At least if showered and dressed, the said writer can maintain the tentative illusion of dignity and professionalism.

It is also important to banish all access to gaming consoles, mobile phones and internet connections whilst in your work zone. Finding all the hidden packages on Grand Theft Auto is all very well and good, but doesn’t help pay the bills.

However, here are the largest dangers I have encountered whilst working from home. Beware, readers.


Generally, I can work with all kinds of noise. 90% of the time I can listen to heavy metal, have the washing machine whirring away and sit there writing happily without a worry in the world.

However, there are times when the words just don’t flow. When that tap that feeds them stops running, and all you get is a trickle of non-related verbs that end up sounding like George W Bush. The industrious tapping on the keyboard slows, the washing machine enters the spin cycle, and cabin fever threatens. Through this haze of frustration two sounds are likely to intrude that push me over the edge.

evil pigeon

pure, undiluted EVIL

That stupid pigeon

I hate this pigeon with all of my might. This fiendish rat with wings can pinpoint the exact moment when the words turn off in my head, and invades my back courtyard with coo-cooing and ridiculously loud wing flapping. It never desires a stand-up fight though, always flying off whenever I run out to do battle, red faced and swearing. This is because it is a filthy coward.

The leafblower Nazis

I live in a complex of apartments and town houses, and as such there are gardeners who visit once per week to blow away leaves FOR 10 HOURS at a time. I am not sure what qualifications you need to possess to operate a leaf blower, but I am sure some rudimentary aiming skills and the ability to blow away said leaves would be right at the top of the list. Blowing them around and around in an infinite loop can’t be helpful for anyone. I am also unsure whether a leaf blower needs to have the volume of a small passenger jet? Has it been turbo-charged?


When you find yourself scrubbing the oven or mopping the roof, you may just be on a cleaning bender. When you are delighted to see a Jehovah’s witness or two, and invite them in for a cup of tea and biscuits, you definitely have a procrastination problem. It only gets worse the more you procrastinate, though, so suck it up princess and get cracking.

Cabin fever

Leave the house once per day. And I’m not just talking about hanging out the washing. Go for a walk, grab a coffee, chase a duck down the street. Otherwise, you’ll be living vicariously through family members and flatmates, greeting them with a desperate look in your eye as they arrive home, begging for news about the big bad world outside. If you’re not careful a Vitamin D deficiency will kick in, you’ll get the shakes and all of a sudden you’ll be hallucinating about the roof mopping itself. Take my advice. Get OUT.

Deadly tree frog of death

Deadly tree frog of death

So, I hear you asking, “what are your solutions for these fiendish issues?” Well, I’m sure you’ll all be pleased to hear that I am taking some drastic steps to improve my home office situation. (Valium . . . just kidding!)

As we speak, I am constructing a series of cunning Home-Alone style traps for both the filthy pigeon and the relentless leaf blowers of doom. They may very well involve tripwires, bear-traps and the venom of the deadly tree frog of death, but I’m also all ears (eyes?) when it comes to your suggestions.

As for the procrastination, I’m still working on that… just gimme a sec.

Stay well,

Tips for surviving the first year out on your own

That’s right folks . . . Lexicon Press is well over the first year milestone, which (due to the catastrophic failure rates of small businesses) puts us somewhere in comparative age between Clint Eastwood and that weird guy from Beetlejuice. Hopefully we’re over some of the teething hurdles that can jump out of the gloom like a drunken footballer attempting to hail a taxi.

Considering I am somewhat oblivious to danger and stupidly walk face first into pitfalls of all kinds, I have learnt a couple of things by trial and error. I have now compiled a small list of dos and don’ts when it comes to the first year of a small business.

Double projected costs, halve projected revenue

That’s right. You heard me. I don’t care if you’ve got Donald Trump flying in on a diamante-encrusted elephant for the launch of your new business, throwing wads of hundred dollar bills at your sophisticated urban crowd (all turtleneck skivvies and flashing teeth) whilst a flamboyant yet tasteful mariachi band plays in the background.

Somewhere, at some point, you are going to have a “for the love of humanity will someone please bloody pay me” moment. This will generally be at the time when petrol prices have hit the roof, your electricity bill is due and the bum is falling out of your last half-decent pair of pants. Your options may look somewhat limited at this time, but there are a few things you can do.


  • Flog your entire CD collection down at Cash Converters.
  • Start supplementing your breakfast cereal with sawdust to string it out.
  • Donate various bodily organs to scientific research.
  • Get all sulky and listen to Enya whilst crying in the bathtub.


  • Change your billing terms to 7 days instead of 30.
  • Charge in stages where possible (i.e. 30% upfront, 30% at half way point) to minimise bad debt.

Double time frames, be realistic about projects

So, you’ve got a project on the boil that you’ve been nurturing for some time like a precious lotus blossom. It looks like it’s going to come to – oh no, no it hasn’t. False alarm. It’s still just sitting there, not blooming, like a useless pile of stupid withered compost.


Milton in the basement

Maybe the corporate giant that is green-lighting your project has decided to retrench everyone you’ve built a relationship with, including the janitor, the Spanish lady who empties the vending machines and even the weird Milton-like guy who lives in the basement.

Maybe unavoidable personnel issues (i.e. staff absences, wrong skillsets, long liquid lunches) have caused delay after delay after delay, pushing the estimated completion date of your project out past the next return of Halley’s comet.

Maybe the large aforementioned corporate has decided to review the terms of contract for a record eleventh time, giving a healthy boost to the legal profession in the region whilst delivering a hefty kick to your backside through your wallet.

Whatever the reason, there’s a couple of things you can do to try and salvage the situation.


  • Stalk the project heads by hiding behind their bins at night and making strange howling noises. This is not constructive.
  • Try to hurry things up by agreeing to any new revised contract terms without reviewing them first. You could quite easily end up working for 20 cents a day, or as a guarantor for a West-African golf course.


  • Salvage what you can. Sometimes lowering the scope, or introducing stages, can help gather some momentum on a complex project.
  • Be realistic about your corporate partners. Sometimes it takes a while to turn a large ship around.
  • Never neglect smaller projects or jobs in favour of larger opportunities. Small stuff is your bread and butter until you get settled. Large projects and ideas are great and always have a couple on the go, but be realistic about timeframes and implementation chances.

Above all, don’t be proud. Take the small jobs, contract out for one day a week, work nightshift at a bar or restaurant. Every cent that you keep inside your business and don’t use on living costs can be used for growth, and that’s the name of the game in the first year.

If you’ve got any further tips feel free to leave them in the comments section.

Stay well