The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, November 06, 2014

The Long Wait

Okay, I admit it, I’m bored. After four weeks with virtually no work, I’ve tidied my desk, cleared out my email, printed new business cards and almost every other little job on my to-do list you can imagine. Now at this point, some of you snowed under and stressing about deadlines will be sighing and wishing you had the same problem, but believe me, the time is really starting to drag now and the worries about my bank balance along the line are starting to mount.

As a freelancer, you always have peaks and troughs, but this particular lull is a bit different. I have work, at least in theory, but it’s just all been delayed. I currently have no fewer than four projects which I’d expected to be working on by now that have all been put off; some by weeks, others months. Delays, of course, are nothing new in publishing, but this year really does seem to have reached new highs, or should I say lows, in terms of shifting schedules. And I should say right up front that this isn’t a dig at anyone in particular, the four currently stalled projects are all very different types of work for completely different publishers. So is this a general trend and what’s causing it?

Delays getting started:
I was interested to read a piece over on ELTjam about the apparent slump in work for ELT writers. One of the reasons they suggested was that “a lot of projects [at ELT publishers] have been cancelled or are on hold while in-house training goes on to bring editors up to speed with new ways of working”. I think I’d add to the projects ‘on hold’, ‘projects taking longer to get off the ground/get approved’. As a writer who’s sometimes involved in the earlier stages of a project, I’m sensing a cautiousness around commissioning new products, which from my end sometimes means a very positive, enthusiastic first meeting is followed by long periods of silence or start dates that keep getting moved on by months.

Slippery schedules:
Other work I do involves coming in later on a project (to write components or teachers notes, etc.) and here I'm being affected by schedules that just keep slipping and slipping. Again, of course, schedules have always slipped, but my impression is that the unwieldiness of some ELT projects nowadays with huge numbers of components having to be produced together by ever-expanding teams of writers, editors and developers is getting to be almost unmanageable. 

From my end, that means that I get an offer from an editor, often along with a schedule full of very specific handover dates and deadlines. I book out the time in my diary, then I hear that the material I need to work on won’t be ready for another 2, no 4, no 6 weeks … All of which leaves me with big gaps in my workflow that can occasionally be filled with something else, but often, like now, can’t. 

I’m just about to order my wall planner for next year. I used to write in work on it so that I could see what was coming up when. This year though, I’ve taken to putting stuff on little post-it notes instead so they can more easily be moved. I’m hoping that 2014 will prove to have been a blip, down to bad luck or the wrong choices and not part of a general trend.  In the meantime, I think maybe I’ll start repainting the kitchen …

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