I have changed my mind about voluntary work in the last few years. The term used to conjure up images of motherly women in charity shops or retired men driving minibuses- good people doing things because that’s what good people do.
Until I updated my CV, I didn’t realise I’d done so much of it myself. I may have joined teams because they needed someone, but I stayed because I was having fun.
I’ve picked up skills without noticing. I would never have understood the point of my own blog if I hadn’t written so many run reports for the parkrun website. Or how social media works if I hadn’t needed it to rabble rouse athletes.
It gave me too much joy to count as ‘voluntary work’. I had to check other people’s blog posts conformed with house style (‘parkrun’ is spelt with a small ‘p’ even at the beginning of a sentence; hundreds of people turn up on a Saturday morning for a ‘run’ and not a ‘race’, and no one wins it, although they might finish first.) For a word junkie, there’s nothing ‘voluntary’ about correcting other people’s mistakes. It’s an involuntary reflex.
And that was before I was allowed to process results. Or free reign of the microphone at the briefings.
This is not saying much, but I have never been as organised as I am now. Not since A level revision anyway.
The obvious reason is the children are now all at school. I have time, not just to go through files and washing but to think what I need to do and how best to do it. I’ve also space for trial and error.
I thought I was keeping records for the tax man. I do have a spreadsheet detailing articles, when and to whom they were pitched, when they were accepted, the fee agreed, when they were published and if I’ve sent an invoice. But not when they were banked- one of the few things HMRC actually want to know. I can look at my statements, but it’s another case of learning as I go along. I dreaded my first tax return as my own boss, but I now have a workable system. I’ve gone retro and have a paper cash book and a pencil case for work receipts inside my handbag.
Perhaps reasonably, given my medical background, I’ve been terrified of making mistakes or courting criticism before. Now, I find that’s how you learn. And as you learn, you gain confidence to try new things and make other errors.
It’s raining heavily outside. I was thinking about going for a run, but…
I hope it’s the thought that counts, because I’ve had so many ideas for blog posts since I last actually wrote one.
I had my first experience with a fact checker this week. My article was drawn from several conflicting sources, so I wasn’t surprised by the historical queries, but I thought I was good at grammar.At least, I am offended by other people’s errors. Shouldn’t that mean something? I comfort myself with the fact I knew it was ‘guerilla’ and not ‘gorilla’ warfare.
Before that, I went to my first writer’s retreat. It wasn’t what I expected; I didn’t write, and it was stimulating rather than restful, but I loved it. Could become addicted. It would be cheaper and less unhealthy than either plastic surgery or drugs.
Looking ahead to this weekend, I think I’m heading for a personal worst in the Bournemouth half marathon. Allow me to put my excuses in now: when I’ve got to sleep on time, I’ve been woken early by my husband getting the train; my days have been filled with one sort of writing or another; I’ve not had the childcare to get out as often as I’d like and the picture below is all the washing I’ve done since Monday.
I’m writing an article on the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, which involves a few interviews. My husband says I’m just drinking coffee for a living, but he’s forgetting the nosy questions I get to ask.
My first interview was on Thursday, with the festival’s founder. Everyone likes Martin, but still, I was nervous about covering ground, asking the right things in the time we had, and not losing my place.
In the end, it turned out to be far more organic than I was expecting, a conversation rather than a verbal questionnaire. I had time to organise myself beforehand- sort of. He’s given other interviews and written many articles himself, so he knew the kind of information I wanted. As a participant and part of the race crew all three years, I’d thought of myself as a bit of a BMF expert, but many things he said surprised me. For instance, I knew it had a Bronze IAAF award. I didn’t realise only three other UK marathons (including London) share this honour.
And then today, after parkrun, I spoke to friends Steve and Carole, for whom the festival has been a family affair. With one interview down, I was slightly more sure of what I was doing. They too told me most things unprompted and were far too interesting for my word count. Their personal experience as runners and fundraisers, will really add to the piece, but I had to scribble fast. My writing, never easy to read, has becoming increasingly illegible over the last couple of days. I typed the notes out immediately I arrived home, before I lost the ability to guess what they said.