Skip to content

Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Freelancer’s Clock

I shouldn’t admit to this, but there are a worrying amount of my out-mails that start something like “Given current time commitments, It may take a couple of days to get back to you…” It is an eternal bugbear, and one of the many rocks which I throw myself against. The urge to apologise for not being digitally available 24/7 is always there, possibly not helped by a writer’s sense of shame at ever having the audacity to grub words onto the page at all.

I know I must be terrible at time management. It’s a thing. I am working on it. Apparently I am not the only one however, as my sister-in-law once complained about “the [INSERT FAMILY NAME HERE] time” – which, I am informed is always approximately ten minutes on either side of late or early.

I wonder if time management is a biological trait. I wonder if, way back when, us [INSERT FAMILY TIME] were always the ones to turn up to the mammoth hunt halfway through, or else the day previously. Mea culpa, mea culpa.

Daily notebooking helps. Project guides help. Caffeine definitely helps.

But then, I also have to wonder if it’s a part of the digital landscape that we occupy now. If the precarity of the Freelancer’s position is one that we have to make ourselves far more available than we would have 10yrs ago? My projects extend across the globe, and can be measured in GMT, PDT, CDT, CET, PHT and of course that ever-helpful UTC (Universal Temporal Chaos). I wonder about creating a sort of Freelancer’s Clock like the very sobering Doomsday Clock that I could display at the top of every email; the guage set to either Dangerous, Critical, Nervous Collapse, or SEND HALLP.

But then I realize that I still have work to do, and the coffee won’t drink itself.

Sometimes ~

Sometimes ~ writing is poetry. You’re sitting in a car with the window down and the breeze in your hair. You’re moving forwards faster than you do back, and still the future looks full of possibilities.

Sometimes ~ writing feels like a load of lumpen, haphazard shit waiting together; standing in line with a bunch of strangers for a bus as the rain pours down, and no one knows if or when it will ever arrive.

Between these two, my work flows.

According to Keith Houston, the “germ” of the quotation mark is to be found in the “diple (>)” placed by first-century scribes in the margin to indicate a line which contained “some noteworthy text”. Christian scholars used the diple to reveal the presence of that most noteworthy of texts, the Bible, but as their theological disputes became more and more involved they started using it to distinguish their own words from those of their opponents. With the invention of the printing press, compositors began reaching for a pair of commas (“,,”) to indicate quotations, hanging doubled commas in the margin of passages containing quoted text. But in the 18th century, Houston explains, the impetus to standardise the use of quotation marks came from the “drive for realism” shown by authors such as Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding and Samuel Richardson as they experimented with the newest form of literature, the novel.

Eschewing paraphrased, reported speech filtered through a narrator, these new novelists presented readers with their characters’ unvarnished words, and with this new directness came a need to separate speech from narration.

The 1748 edition of Clarissa separated speakers with “dashes or new lines”, but sometimes placed an opening quotation mark “at the exact point at which a quotation began, with a new ‘mark of silence’, or closing quotation mark (“), accompanying it where the quotation ended”. The 1765 edition of Moll Flanders showed changes in speaker with paragraph breaks, “though marginal inverted commas were retained for the occasional sententious quotation”. But by the end of the 18th century, Houston continues, “the growing pains of the double comma were largely past”.


Don’t Be Scared: Dialogue Without Quotation Marks, Richard Lee @ the Guardian.

—Grammar: Quotes


Get the latest posts delivered to your email: