That was 2014… all of it

And it’s already weird typing ‘2014’, it feels so long ago. Not that it feels like 2015 to me yet. Not sure when it is, then. Not sure when I am. But as part of an annual tradition that I’ve just revived, this week’s Self Distract personal blog is an expanded version of my That Was… entries that I do here.

Each month I write out for you what I’ve done. As I keep saying, you don’t need to read it but I clearly and visibly need to write it because it is one huge element of making me do things. If I don’t do anything, I’ve got nothing to tell you and how dare I tell you to be more productive.

The full year’s review is over on Self Distract in quite arse-tinglingly long detail but because I do the monthly version here, let me summarise my 2014 for you:

Writing: approximately 620,000 words
Books: 2 written, 1 editing
Speaking engagements: 88
Produced Events: 9
Scripts: 1 Doctor Who radio drama, 1 stage short, 1 education script
Fiction: 7 short stories, 2 poems, 2 revised novels and 10,000 words of 1 new novel
Blogs: 1, 294
Attended: 79 shows, launches, workshops or other events
Journalism: 45 written pieces and 3 magazine issues edited


That was December 2014

It still is, as I write this. But I’ve been doing this accountability/atonement thing monthly for the year – after having accidentally done it for someone else the year before, as you do – and there’s that word year. I’ve used it three times now. It’s on my mind. Every month I wince and tell you what I’ve managed to do (though you’ll notice I never tell you in advance what I’m planning)(I’m not that stupid). So it feels beholden to do the year’s one.

Fortunately, I can’t do that until I’ve worked out December’s doings.

Unfortunately, December’s doings were a bit light. But here goes:

Writing: approximately 31,100 words
21 articles for (circa 11,000 words)
4x Radio Times reviews (400 words)
1x editorial for Write On! magazine (500 words)
Soundscapes script (2,000 words)
1x poem ‘Heart’ (100 words)
3x Self Distract blogs (1,200 words)
55x The Blank Screen news articles (15,600 words)

Ran Burton Young Writers’ Session
Ran Birmingham Young Writers’ Session
Ran Reaside Clinic writing session
Edited Write On! magazine issue 5
Wrote Writers’ Guild press release re Library of Birmingham cuts
Interviewed on Russia Today
Guest at British Film Institute’s Blake’s 7 evening

That was November 2014

It’s taking me longer and longer to do these, even though the fact that I tell you I’ll do them is a big driver to making me, well, do things. So thank you for that. Your work here is done and you needn’t read on nor nip back to That Was October 2014.

But committing to telling you this really helps me. Give it a go yourself, okay?

Writing approximately 60,310 words:
The Blank Screen Guide: Blogging book (approximately 15,000 words)
Writers’ Guild West Midlands email newsletter 821 words
4 x The Blank Screen email newsletter (6,776 words)
2x Ava and Soundscapes draft script (approx 6,000 words total)
97x The Blank Screen news articles (25,265 words)
4x Self Distract blog posts (6,415 words)
3x Radio Times reviews (approximately 300 words)

Seven Minute Stories – performed The Book Groups to 80 people
Lead Burton Young Writers’ group
Lead Rugby Young Writers’ group
Guest at Polesworth Young Writers’ group
The Blank Screen workshop for Room 204
The Writers’ Toolkit: produced one panel, spoke on a second, chaired a third
3x coaching and mentoring sessions
4x Ormiston Academy scriptwriting workshops
Speaking engagement at Fircroft College

Pitches and bookings:
Got Arts Council England funding for project
Workshop one-off proposal (pending)
Workshop series proposal (successful)
College workshop proposal (abandoned)
University talk commission
Scripts: The Lift and Mags pitched to director
Theatre series proposal (to meeting stage)
The Writers’ Bursary application

(First time I’ve hired people)
2x workshop leaders
1x actor

Royal Television Society committee meeting
Dangerous Corner at the Birmingham Rep
Soundscapes meeting
Next Generation Poets
Writers’ Guild Executive Council meeting
Roz Goddard coffee

Coached by Rivka Fine
Arranged Beiderbecke meeting work

That was October 2014…

Previously… I write this list of what I’ve done in the month. I do it because I used to write a monthly report and had to do things in order to have anything to say. This helped me greatly. So I report to you. Here’s last month’s but here’s the a-little-better October 2014. Not as much writing as I’d have liked but I’m surprised how many events I ran.

Well, I say I ran them. Really everybody else did the work and I just got the best seat in the house, so.

Writing: approximately 58,049 words
Four guest blogs for Inkspill plus scripting and shooting an intro video with writing exercise (2,700 words)
Approximately 10,000 words on new book
Radio Times radio preview of the Free Thinking Festival (100 words)
Wrote poem “My Curse” (100 words or so)
Wrote 128 posts on The Blank Screen (40,610 words)
Wrote 5 posts on Self Distract (4,539)

Produced and chaired Steven Knight event at the BBC Drama Village for the Writers’ Guild and the Royal Television Society
Produced and ran The Blank Screen all-day workshop in Birmingham for the Federation of Entertainment Unions
Attended the Royal Television Society Midlands Awards gala dinner as a drama judge
Ran Burton Young Writers’ group session
Ran a radio writing workshop for South & City College
Performed my short story, The Book Groups, to the Combrook Reading Group
Depped for Polly Wright leading a reader/writer group (second of two)
Met with BBC to discuss general projects plus liaising with RTS and Writers’ Guild
Attended countless events at Birmingham Literature Festival
Attended Ajax, directed by Polly Tisdall in Oxford
Appeared on Poetry Please by way of the Birmingham Literature Festival
Attended Write On Young Writers’ group meeting
Attended Solomon and Marion at the Birmingham Rep (for which I wrote programme notes)
Attended Of Mice and Men at the Birmingham Rep (for which I wrote programme notes)
Attended Cucumber Theater: Sorry to See You Go at the Birmingham Rep (for which I wrote a sentence of the notes)
Interviewed Jo Bell for book
Attended BBC launch of Children’s Chaplains

11 (3 successful)

Officially made Regional Representative of the Writers’ Guild in the West Midlands
Arts Council funding discussions and meetings
Submitted my first Arts Council England funding application
Created MailChimp account for Cucumber Theater Group and sent their first mailshot
Briefed Cucumber Theatre folk on using Mailchimp and handed over the keys
Was handed the keys to the Royal Television Society Midlands Centre’s social media: have tweeted news for them daily since
Was handed the keys to the Writers’ Guild West Midlands social media; have Facebooked news for them daily since
Devised a new business in a morning, publicised it in the afternoon and got first clients by the evening (The Blank Screen mentoring/coaching)
Worked with Room 204’s Rivka Fine
Graphics work for Cucumber Theatre
Moved The Blank Screen to using Drafts 4 for writing text and Pixelmator for image editing

That was September 2014…

Excuse me? That was September? Are we not halfway or more through October? We are and if you feel this is a bit late for my confession and atonement for what I did or didn’t do in September, you are right. If you are suspecting that this delay has been an avoiding tactic because I didn’t want to admit to you that September was poor, well, I don’t want to admit it to you.

I just looked up August’s entry and it warns that September is dire. Warnings are true.

Writing (total approximately 53,880)
Wrote 8,500 words in Droitwich. Blogging book.
500 words short story Time Gentlemen Please
Time and the Conway Twitty Appreciation Society pitch (400 words) Wrote, illustrated and delivered guest blog to Coffee Birmingham (500 words)
Theatre programme copywriting for the Birmingham Rep (2 pieces, total 2,000 words) 4 The Blank Screen newsletters (3,800 words)
132 The Blank Screen blog posts (35,580 words)
4 Self Distract blog posts (2,600 words)

Room 204 Buddying
Took over the running of this and doubled the number of writers in it Produced buddying list and teased it out releasing news in episodes Organised a social event for Room 204 Buddies (7 people)
Facebook chats, emails and meetings

Events and meetings
Write On! Young Writers session in Burton (10 kids
The Blank Screen day-long workshop in Newcastle (13 people)
Depped for Polly Wright leading a reader/writer group (first of two) (7 people)
Produced Erica Whyman event at the Courtyard Theatre for Writers’ Guild (16 people) Chaired my last Screenwriters’ Forum meeting
Chaired my first Writers’ Guild meeting
Royal Television Society committee meeting
Ran one official mental health writing session and one unofficial (7 people) Ava/Soundscapes day meeting
Discussing Arts Council Funding application process with James Urquhart Discussing Arts Council Funding application with Jonathan Davidson Jeff Phelps River Passage and Room 204 Buddying system planning meeting Author visit to Bewdley school: (100 kids)
Met with Nick Fogg of Room 204

Kate Bush concert (called it a delicate shotgun)
Na Kingsley’s e x p a n d i n g
Birmingham Literature Festival Creative Launch preview
Peaky Blinders launch

2 (2 successful)

Took over Mailchimp duties for Writers’ Guild
Set up Mailchimp and sent promos for Screenwriters’ Forum
Wrote Young Writers’ exercises for other groups
Paperback edition of Filling the Blank Screen published
One copy of The Blank Screen book on sale secondhand for over £4,000

That was August 2014…

Previously… each month I account for what I’ve done in order to make me think of how you’ll look if I haven’t done anything. Especially, especially, as I keep telling you to do things.

It spurs me on and thank you for that but it does sometimes backfire a little. I went into August expecting that I wouldn’t get much done at all: I lost a good ten days, maybe two weeks to a holiday. It was a special one: my 20th wedding anniversary.

I know you look at this list and think that there is something here, I did something. It is solely because I do a little every day. So losing all that time was going to make a big dent in the month. Yet I think I may have over-compensated because I ended up doing about 20,000 more words than in July.

So August wasn’t as rubbish I feared, I’ll give myself that. September’s dire, though.

Writing: approximately 86,440 words
Book: “Filling the Blank Screen” (70,000 words with 50,000 taken from The Blank Screen website)
Book: “The Blank Screen Writers’ Guide: Blogging” wrote approximately 13,600 words
The Flare, a GISHWHES short story (140 words)
Guest blog for Marianne Cantwell’s Free Range Humans (approximately 500 words)
124 The Blank Screen news site entries totalling approximately 42,300 words
6 Self Distract news site entries totalling approximately 9,900 words

Press and publicity:
Bio to Roz Goddard for West Midlands Readers’ Network book

4 (1 successful)

Approaches to me, like reverse-pitching:
3 (3 successful)

Events and copywriting:
Producing Steven Knight event for BBC, Writers’ Guild and RTS
Producing Erica Whyman event for Writers’ Guild
Asked by Birmingham Rep to contribute to programmes

Delivered drama, acting and diversity votes for Royal Television Society Awards
Joined Reddit productivity subsite and began posting
Meeting re ongoing audio project

Chateau Impney tour
Doctor Who: Deep Breath in cinema
Shed Heaven II
Polly Tisdall’s leaving do


That was June 2014

Last month – see That was May 2014 – I had entirely forgotten to make any notes about what I’d been doing as I was doing it. That was a big jolt for me because I’d been reasonably diligent about it during the whole year before. And it helps. It helps me feel I’m not standing still. Plus, as I near the end of the month and see there’s bugger-all in the list, it helps me go do something.

So the first thing I did in June after realising this was that I wrote a wee thing for Drafts and Evernote that means I can quickly make a note and know that it will automatically be appended to a list. Then today I spent about twenty times longer writing you a note about how I did this.

That is great for letting me extremely rapidly jot down something I’ve done or am doing, but it’s less brilliant at the end of the month. I’ve got this pleasingly long list of things but it needs some sorting for me to get an idea of the type of work I’ve done. To understand the quality rather than the quantity.

But having sorted through it and obscured the usual confidential details and totted up the various word counts, I can tell you and myself that June 2014 for me meant:

Writing totalling approximately 77,485 words
2 ecourses on productivity issues (9129 words)
2 presentations (971 words)
1 Radio Times reviews (100 words)
1 Lifehacker UK article (500 words)
Edited novel opening and pre-circulated to new group
156 news stories for The Blank Screen (approximately 43,000 words)
4 Self Distract entries (5,211 words)
4 The Blank Screen email newsletters (5,195 words)
Four iPad software tutorials (11,029 words)
Outlined Resistance stage play
Wrote first five pages of Resistance – but all five rubbish and thrown away
850 words of new non-fiction book but also rubbish, also thrown away
1,500 words of new short story, fate to be determined

Talks, appearances and performances
Page Talk panel discussion at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Directed “Murder at Burton Library” for the Burton Young Writers’ group
Represented the Writers’ Guild and the Screenwriters’ Forum in the House of Commons for Parliament’s Birmingham Day
Visited two schools as guest of Royal Television Society
Promoted the Writers’ Guild at two RTS Mini-Summits including one at BBC Nottingham
Guest at Winterbourne Young Writers’ Group
Spoke at Combrook Readers’ Group for short story I’m writing for them

Pitches &c:
22 phone calls
7 specific pitches with 1 rejection but an open door and only 1 non-response

Writing Begets Writing – three two-hour briefing/training on mental health work
1x wedding
Curzon Street Station exhibition
Women in Mind at the Birmingham Rep
Frequently Asked Questions at the Birmingham Rep
Writers’ Networking drink (if only for 17 seconds, very rude of me)
Bold Text at the Birmingham Rep

Produced video for Parliament Day and the Writers’ Guild
Promoted the move to get Alan Plater a blue plaque
Formally invited to join the Royal Television Society’s committee; going through nomination process now
Phone meeting with author re book I’m publishing
Reading/editing her latest two chapters

That was April 2014

Previously… I used to have someone I would account to for what I’d done in the month and it helped me enormously. Now I’ve got you. As I always said to them, you don’t need to read this but I need to write it. Knowing that I am going to tell you these things means that I do more things. So thanks.

Writing/editing: 56,00 words
Magazine tutorial feature: circa 800 words
Approximately 12,000 words novel
Thirty-minute stage play “Murder at Burton Library”
The Blank Screen: 79 news posts totalling approximately 33,000 words
Self Distract: 4 posts totalling approximately 5,000 words


Successful: 3 (1 accidental, 1 face to face, 1 ongoing)

Press and Publicity:
Stonking review in Doctor Who Monthly: “Seductively gripping”
From Croydon to Gallifrey podcast interview aired
Newspaper coffee shop meeting

17 (target was 30)

Royal Television Society committee meeting
On The High Road by Chekhov, Rada Theatre
Open Door: Bold Text at the Birmingham Rep
Had my first publisher’s stand at the Birmingham Independent Book Fair
Meet the Agents Writers’ Guild event
Writing West Midlands meeting re Young Writers

That was March 2014

So last year I earned a place on the Writing West Midlands programme Room 204 and by accident began writing monthly reports for them about what I’d done. It helped me enormously. Now I’m very glad to say that though I’ve finished the official year on Room 204, I am still a part of that programme and continuing to work with them. I’m not just glad, I’m touched.

But the official bits have come to an end and I considered the monthly report to be official. It wasn’t. It was entirely a misunderstanding on my part. But because it proved so useful to me, I’ve been showing it to you. The act of showing it helps me get more done. So as ever – most recently with That was February 2014 – you don’t need to read this but I need to write it.

This was my March:

Writing/editing: approximately 22,585 words
Edited Write On! magazine issue 3
Self Distract: 6 blog posts (including the 300th ever) totalling 7,385 words
Invited on to The Blogging Tour
The Blank Screen: 33 blog posts totalling 14,300 words
Commissioned for a short story project
8 pages copywriting for PR firm

Doctor Who: Scavenger (Big Finish) released to some gorgeous reviews

30 phone calls
Approximately 12 successes
4 rejections

Presentations/workshops: 10

Photoshoot for Writing West Midlands
Interviewed for From Croydon to Gallifrey podcast
Interviewed in Doctor Who Monthly

Attended: Cucumber Theatre Night
Attended: Veronica Mars
Attended: Fiddler on the Roof
Attended: Theatre Cuppa
Attended: TEDxManchester
Attended: The Mother
Attended: Royal Television Society Film & TV Summit representing the Writers’ Guild
Attended RTS summit post-mortem
Attended Guild committee meeting

Lunch drinks meeting at Comic Con with two Bond girls (why is that a thing? I don’t get it): Catherine Schell and Jenny Hanley

Beta testing software: 2 apps
Asked to judge RTS awards

Joined Creative England crew site