This is a curious time – one of great potential with a couple of new projects, but also one in which I have to try to rationalise what I do. 

Yes, it is a lovely Apple iMac. When it works.

That sounds rather pretentious put like that – but it really isn’t. You see one of the projects, which I have mentioned before, is that I have been asked to organise the Crime Writers’ Association Annual General Meeting next year. It’s so far been fun, rather than purely terrifying, but that will change over the next ten months, I am sure. And it is going to eat into my time.

Added to that, I have too many books to redraft: the new book I’m working on, the next book in the Templar Series, a follow up to Act of Vengeance, a police procedural based in Devon, a couple of ideas for a new crime series, and two thrillers. Oh, and I have to write a new Jack Blackjack/Bloody Mary before the end of the year. 

Now, writing is no problem. So long as the author can focus. And that is where I have a problem. Focus, the time to sit and concentrate without interruption, is really difficult when I’m spread over so many social media sites. Before you shout that the answer is easy, and I should just get off them all, it’s not that easy. When I first went to Simon and Schuster, I was told I needed to get on to Facebook, and they were very glad that I was active on Twitter. I heard some years ago of an agent, talking about a young client, saying that her novel had been rejected because she didn’t have 2,000 followers on Twitter. Nothing to do with the writing, only her social media following. So nowadays, publishers push for ever stronger involvement with such sites, even if it’s to the detriment of good writing. 

I have many accounts. For example, I have to maintain a presence on Facebook, as the publishers tell me. I can understand why: it’s a huge site that dwarfs, say, Twitter. But the size of it makes it next to impossible to get any interest. How does one person stand out compared with all the other billions of people? I question how valuable it is to me personally. But I do like to be able to keep in touch with readers and interested people, so I want to maintain something there. Then I have this blog here at Writerly Witterings, and a YouTube channel which has a growing audience of over 3,000 people. There are also Flickr where I put photos, and Instagram, and I have to keep in touch on Goodreads, too. And I am on LinkedIn and …

You see the problem? With all these channels and sites, trying to maintain regular contact with people is a mess. “Organised” people are great at allocating time and giving brief amounts to each medium. But I’m an author. My mind is constantly filled with (currently) Roy Chapple, Bert Shaw and Alfie Peters. I am trying to work out who they are, how they will react to events, who will make them stumble, whether they’re about to die … that is what occupies me. If I spend all my time thinking up different material for WordPress, YouTube, Facebook etc, that is time that is not being spent making my books better, or writing new ones. 

So I am going to rationalise things. 

There is a different site, which I have been trying for a couple of weeks, but which I have been watching for quite some time. It is called Patreon. This place offers me the opportunity of keeping in touch with far less hassle. I can put up videos, blogs, photos and anything else with minimal fuss. It also allows me to provide more exclusive material for those who are interested, so that I can save for new equipment – mainly so that I can update my video recording and editing systems. I have the problem that my computer is now falling into the “Legacy” category – which means Apple won’t be supporting the hardware much longer. With the way it keeps falling over (for example, I was working on the thing for three hours last night with Apple Support, until past one in the morning because it went dead on me), I will need a new computer before long. 

I will still be on all the various social media for some time, but gradually I will be migrating more and more to Patreon. I expect to end up with a Facebook page for the books, Patreon for almost all comments about my work and my reviews, so taking over the blog and video channel, while keeping Twitter for day-to-day comments. By leaving the majority on the one platform I will have to do less work thinking making sure each platform has links to that day’s comments and so on. It will leave me more time to concentrate on the main thing: writing my books. 

So why has this suddenly grown to be a pain? 

Well, in the past, I had a series of special pieces of software that would help me. There was one which would allow me to tweet what music I was listening to. All I had to do was hit one button, and a tweet was sent. Another would allow me to tweet from any page on my web browser, another would send a picture to social media, or link a site to Facebook. But Apple’s latest operating system has taken away all these time saving hacks. None of them seem to work any more. 

At the same time, I have been having inordinate problems with the computer. It was not only the matter of last night’s fiasco (although that was frustrating enough to force me to rethink how I interact with people), things have been coming to a head for a while now. For instance, I cannot open the video editor on my iMac without first deleting all of the old videos I have made from the iMovie library. I cannot load iMovie without first closing iTunes and Photos – if I don’t, my computer will hang. Not sometimes: every time without fail. This was never a problem before my last OS update but now they seem to have some form of contention when any two are open.

Don’t get me wrong: I love this computer. It is stunning in looks, it is fabulous in terms of speed generally, and it runs my favourite word processor: Scrivener. I adore the 27 inch monitor, too. I can move documents around the screen from left to right, or up and down, and ease the strain on my back and neck – sounds daft, I know, but I used to love the old anglepoise iMac, which I could move up and down and even sideways just to have a different sitting position. It worked marvellously. I wish they still had a similar model.

However, a computer which doesn’t keep working reliably is not an effective tool. This one has been written down for tax purposes, I think, so perhaps it’s time to think about replacing it. That will take some time, and saving a lot of money, though. Apples aren’t cheap.

Talking about comfort and ergonomics, I should briefly talk about chairs. Last night while staring at a black screen and swearing, Bradley Hodge from Texas put a comment on my YouTube channel asking about the best types of chairs. 

It’s a good point. Chairs are essential tools nowadays. More and more people sit at desks idly tapping at keyboards. The potential for wear and tear on the body is high, ridiculously enough.

When I started writing, it was in the worst possible environment: on a kitchen chair at the kitchen table, using a laptop. I was younger then, and I survived. Later I started using a Captain’s swivel and tilt chair, which was just glorious. It was comfortable, had a height adjuster, and a – shall we say – generous seat. I was more generously proportioned in those days!

However times have changed, and as I have grown older, I have needed a different chair. Some years ago I found that I was suffering from back problems, and I quickly realised it was my current chair, because it was too low for my desk. And the height adjustment mechanism had broken. 

After a lot of research, I found the Freedom Chair by Humanscale. You can see the type here: https://www.humanscale.com/products/product.cfm?group=FreedomTaskChairWithHeadrest

Now, this is not a cheap chair. However, if you are going to sit in a chair and type, write, edit or code, you will need something that will protect your back. This, I can state, is a brilliant design. I regularly change the back, the squab, the arms and the headrest. All are flexible. Oh, and the height. In the mornings I tend to sit higher, and as the day goes on, I bring the chair down a little. I have no idea why, but it suits me! 

Now, these chairs are, as I say, very expensive. I don’t have that sort of money. However, there are a couple of points to note. One is, that if you are spending some two thousand pounds on a computer, surely you owe it to yourself to buy a chair that will protect you from strains and pains? Ergonomics are important with something that you will be sitting on for hours every day. That was my rationale, anyway. And there was the other deciding factor for me – I found a company that was closing down, and they had a couple of these chairs for only about one tenth of their new price! So keep looking, and maybe you will find one too! 

And now, I had better sit on it and get on with the day job!

Many thanks, and have a great week!

7 Responses to “Rationalising!”
  1. So glad you are rationalising your net presence.. I have to admit that I was concerned that you would be dragooned into to much time on marketing etc, and your writing would suffer. As much as I like your posts and videos, its for your books that you are so popular, and frankly how you earn your living. I’m relieved that you are organising your online presence to suit yourself.


  2. I am happy you are working on ” it is truly my favourite “The Templar”


  3. I am so happy you are working on another book in “THe Templar Series”.My very favorite will be looking forward to a good read.


  4. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from Michael ;)


  5. Lindsey Russell says:

    You need an assistant – but if you could afford an assistant you wouldn’t need to do so much work to make ends meet. But if you did less work you could neither afford an assistant nor make a decent living. See where this is is going? Being a writer seems such a dream job, doing what we love day in day out. Unless you are one of the lucky ones to make it big time the reality is far removed from the dream and all the more frustrating when the quality of many mid-lister’s writing is often equal to the big names.


  6. Matt says:

    So, let me get this straight:
    Apple changed something and now all your little tools don’t work. I’m assuming they were not apple tools, so we might (at a stretch) be able to justify apple here by saying these tools were written “badly”, or not in a way apple wants to keep supporting.
    Changes in the same update also broke their own softwares to the point i-various-stuff no longer work at the same time.

    And you wish to give them more money because their update broke your computer? Doesn’t sound like a good idea to me.

    I’m no fanboy/hater of *any* hardware/software vendor, but it really sounds like apple don’t deserve your money. Scrivener is available on other systems.


    • You are of course quite right, Matt. The problem I have is the investment I’ve already made, of course – with the iMac, the software and time spent learning – I’m rather old now to relearn Windows!


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