Sunday, 29 September 2019

Autumn, My Heart

   It's remarkable how much calmer I've gotten since autumn set in. It's cooler now, the days are shortening, evenings drawing in, there's spice in damn near everything, and Hotel Chocolat have brought their autumn selection back - easily one of my favourites.


   I've learned a lot about myself this year, and there are two things in particular that have been crucial.
   First, I realised that, while I love Christmas, it's not Christmas Day I really care for anymore. It's December 1st to the 24th. It's the atmosphere, the food, the decorations, the music, the yoga under the tree lights on dark mornings. The reason that's important is because it quite suddenly takes the strain off of a single day to be 'perfect' - even though my idea of a 'perfect' Christmas has come to just mean 'tolerable', which in turn really just means my oldest nephew behaves for the hour he comes to visit (not easy for a 10 year old).
   By realising it's the 1st to the 24th that matter, it means that, if one day in those 3 weeks isn't particularly good, it's okay, because there are 23 more, and I have that much time to bring the year to a good and enjoyable end. It also makes Christmas as a whole so much less stressful.

   The second is understanding the awful misery I get in the summer - and why I feel so freaking good right now.
   Come June, I always begin to experience feelings of being trapped, that I live my life - my days, my weeks - by the same routine I have done for 10 years and that I have nothing at all to look forward to except more of the same. And it makes me angry on top of miserable because I know that it's not something I can change by adjusting my lifestyle. My mum isn't going to suddenly get better, which means that I must remain living at home and stuck indoors at all times until we're in a position to get help.
   The funny thing is, staying in has never actually bothered me - I was always an indoor teenager - and I never really notice it until the heat moves in. You might think "that's normal - it's because the weather's nice! You just want to get outside." Erm, no. I hate the heat. My ideal days are cold and rainy.
   It was actually my honeymoon that threw the whole matter into perspective.
   We had an unseasonal heatwave in England in late April/early May this year, and I remember feeling suddenly depressed, lazy, angry, and that I had nothing to look forward to and life was a dreary hole. Until I realised that, actually, I had my honeymoon coming up in two weeks in an amazing cabin by a lake, something I'd been excited about it since we booked it a year and a half before. Bang. What was I really feeling trapped by? What was really inescapable, day after day? Heat. When it's uncomfortably warm every single day and there's nothing you can do but sit in front of a fan in your underwear with no skin contact and 0 concentration or ability to get anything done.
   We went on our honeymoon and it was, genuinely, the best holiday I've ever had in my life, both for the company and location. And the heatwave had passed just beforehand, too, and I was feeling much happier until it set back in in July. And then I was miserable again until this month, when it began at last to cool down.

   I've found myself sighing in contentment even though my days have gone the same way they have all year - in fact, I've had additional stress these past couple of months in particular. And yet, I find it so easy to smile. I spontaneously tell my husband I love him every hour rather than every four. I'm sleeping better, I'm less rigid in bed, my neck doesn't tighten up. The world is a brighter place.
   Because it's below 18 degrees.

   I've always said I'm a winter girl, but I don't think that's necessarily true. I am just absolutely not a summer girl. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) is usually associated with the onset of winter, but it turns out that I genuinely suffer it during the summer. Fortunately (?) Etsy tends to slow down in the summer, so I have less work to do and subsequently less to focus on, and while it's not easy to sit and write in the heat (thinking, urgh), it's easier than a lot of other kinds of work.
   Now autumn has set in, my productivity is up, both on my writing, on Etsy and in my workouts. I'm also generally keen to do stuff now, and went out to Westonbirt Arboretum for the equinox with my parents (wheelchair accessible, yaaaay). There were leaves, cake and dogs. Good times.

   What's your favourite thing about autumn? Aside from pumpkin spice, Halloween or changing leaves.



Monday, 9 September 2019

Custom Miniature Dogs & Cats; Etsy Shop Revival

   These past few months, I forced myself to set aside some time to work on Etsy. I only plan on keeping Myth of the Wild open for 2.5 more years, and this weekend I gave myself a goal culminating in a very nice Christmas in 2021. Yes, I'm thinking far, far ahead. But it's given me what I need to find some enthusiasm again, which is why I'm also doing more to promote custom pieces.
   I made a batch of dogs and cats - things that should sell a little easier than obscure wild animals like takin or ezo momonga - and while the dogs have been painted and are ready to list, I've already put together a listing for custom miniature dogs. Like the custom made korok listing, customers can choose between a necklace, hanging ornament or standing ornament, and then either tell me what breed/colour they'd like, or send me a series of pictures of their own dog and I'll sculpt and paint that instead. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's only going to be available until mid-November because, even with my shop in decline, it's too much to take on any custom orders once Christmas orders kick off.
   And yes, the cats are now at the top of my list, and once they're done, they'll get the same custom colour/'my cat' treatment that the dogs have.
   Either way, they should make unique Christmas gifts for dog lovers! (SEO is a thing)

https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/721379720/custom-dog-miniature-pet-lover-gift-dog?ref=shop_home_active_1 
Shown: Border Collie, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, German Shepherd, Labrador, Cocker Spaniel

    I have more wild animals to come, and I'm working on restocking Pepes and even a few more baby murlocs for WoW fans, as well as the usual tiny foxes, kodama, koroks (including a new shape & colour) and Totoros, since those four are my most solid sellers.
   I'm going to try to really do my best this Christmas, and then keep up momentum. I've found ways I can squeeze Etsy work into my week without stepping on writing time, and it would be great for my eyes and my mind to do something that is neither book- nor screen-related more often, too. Custom orders certainly help with that.


   While on the subject of reviving Myth of the Wild, I should also mention something about Etsy and why my own work with it has declined.

   First of all, it's not that I don't enjoy making things - I do. But I loathe what Etsy has become. It doesn't care anymore about smaller sellers - if you're not one of the big sellers that pull in loads of money (for them), they don't care. They continue to advertise the sellers who don't need the help and ignore the rest of us. I've been there for 8 years now and I've seen its decline. Not only that, but they recently increased the fees - it used to be 3.5% taken from the sale of a product, and that was it. Now it's risen to 5%, and they now take 5% from your shipping fees too. Fees we're not supposed to be making a profit off of anyway, which leads many to have to charge more for shipping than they'd like to. Yes, 5% isn't much, but it adds up, and lots of people can be put off by shipping fees as they were before the rise. They also prioritise US sellers and leave the rest of us to muddle through with changes until 6 months have passed and they're rolled out to the rest of them.
   The trouble is, if I try to go elsewhere, I have to start from the ground-up. I already tried on Folksy and it came to nothing. I admit my heart may not have been in it, but aside from spamming my social media, I'm not really sure what I could have done - and I do that enough with my books.

   Secondly, yes, it's true, I would rather be writing, and when I saw my sales begin to decline a few years ago, I threw myself deeper into books rather than trying to keep it afloat. Writing is what I want to do for life. I never planned to open an Etsy shop, that just happened, but writing has been the plan since I was 12. And so, rather than fight to keep my shop alive, I moved deeper into what I really loved doing and began flourishing with that instead. I'm proud of my books, I'm proud of my growth and progress. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay. It doesn't come close to matching Etsy. I'd have to sell 12 copies of The Zi'veyn to make what I would from selling just one necklace, and it's a difficult thing to convince people to part with money for a book by an unknown author they may not enjoy, compared to purchasing a one-off item that they can see they already love by sight alone. And so, with plans for the future - even frivolous Christmas ones - I want to do better.



Friday, 6 September 2019

What it Takes to Successfully Work From Home

   By now, you all know I work from home. I've run a jewellery business for 8 years (8 years?!) that I built myself and have run by myself ever since. And once I started publishing my books, well, that's a business, too. Just like Myth of the Wild, my books require marketing, budgeting and time management - especially when I'm trying to juggle them both.
   Working from home is no easy thing - it sounds it, what with zero commute, comfort, toilet breaks whenever you want them and no one breathing directly down your neck - but that's exactly why it isn't. It's too comfortable, there are so many more distractions, like the washing that could be folded up (even though it'll be fine where it is for a few more hours) or trimming the garden hedge (which could also wait for a few more weeks), and no one around to keep you on task. It's also easy to start late or finish early because there's no clocking in.
   But there are other reasons, too - ones you've probably not considered. So if you're planning to work from home, or have just started, take a look at this guide for how to work from home efficiently.



Planning and Preparation
Planning and preparation are two of the most vital aspects of working from home. You need to be on track and aware of what the day ahead is going to hold and how you’re going to push through with the stack of work that needs to be done. When you’re alone and working from home, there’s not going to be someone else there to do that stuff for you.

Avoid Work Creep
Work creep is the name given to the experience of having your work creep into your regular life. It’s a problem that many people experience when they work from home. It’s better for your work and certainly better for your personal and social lives if you keep a clear division between your work life and your personal life. Don’t let that work creep get the better of you. 




The Right Tech
You need to have all the right technology in place if you’re going to work from home. That means a good computer, a keyboard you love and a wireless mouse for Mac, as well as anything else that your job requires. The last thing you want is to be sidetracked and set back by poor or inadequate technology in your home office.

A Solid and Consistent Routine
   Having a good routine in place for your work is really important. You don’t want to get distracted by your phone or that book you’ve been reading. These things are all around you when you’re working from home and there will be no manager breathing down your neck telling you to get back to work. You have to be able to manage your own workload without any outside input. Set yourself work times, and don't forget to factor in your breaks. You might think that you're getting more down without them, but you're not. There's a reason for mandatory breaks in the workplace, and it's not an employer's good will. Productivity and efficiency drop after a while, and workers, whatever they're doing, need a break to breathe and recharge. You'll get just as much work done with a couple of breaks in your day as without, but you'll be a lot happier, too.

Comfortable Furniture
   Finally, you need to think about comfort. It’s important to feel comfortable and at ease in your home office. If you don’t have comfortable furniture that you enjoy using day after day, you’ll eventually start to feel those aches and pains and then you’ll be distracted from your work. That’s exactly what you don’t need, so be sure to pick out comfortable furniture for the home office. Find something with lumbar support. But also remember that too much comfort can drain energy levels and dull your work. An office chair, not a cheeky arm chair!

Working from is certainly no walk in the park, so you shouldn’t underestimate just how tough it can be. If you’re unsure of what it’ll be like for you, give it a trial run for a short period of time before committing to it on a full-time basis. This will give you a better idea of what you should expect and how it’ll be for you.