If you've been following my posts on Patreon or Kickstarter recently, then this blog post will come as no surprise to you at all! You see, February, for want of a better word, has been the crappest of crap months. Not nice at all, and I'm already willing it to be March. First of all my dog of fifteen years, Isla, died, and secondly my laptop of eleven years died. I got lots of lovely comments from folks and most folks got it and understood, but some of the messages only made me feel worse. The helpful advice from folks telling me that they haven't had a laptop in years and they've managed just fine. The thing is, this was a huge deal to me, because the laptop is my bread and butter. I work from home, and no laptop was akin to losing my job and losing my salary and ability to pay rent and bills, and suddenly credit card companies and loans were chasing me for missed payments and calling me every five minutes. But worse still, I lost the freedom to make choices for my dying dog. I had vet bills to pay, and I was worried about whether I could afford the crematorium payment since I don't have a garden and it is illegal to bury pets in rental properties. This wasn't just an inconvenience of not having a laptop to check Facebook, and worse still, I missed several publishing deadlines and ended up locked out of Amazon for pre-orders for a year. I could have lost my entire business, which is not great when you are just a few months in to a new career.
Anyway, you get the picture. February was nasty. But there was a silver lining. I had a Kickstarter running, and only because of that and the amazing backers, I was able to pick up a secondhand laptop from the local pawn shop, once the funds paid out and cleared into my account. I actually dread to think what would have happened otherwise, because no way could I replace it or have survived without the support from my readers and patrons. Food banks are one thing, but getting things like internet disconnected is stressful.
The Silver Lining
There is nothing like a crisis to get you rethinking the meaning of life. I had been on the edge of a cliff for a very long time, wanting to go full time with my writing, but too scared to stop working with my clients even though I spent all day everyday, even Christmas Day and holidays wondering whether they would send me work that day, and often it would come in at 4 am so I'd have to wake up and start work to get it done in time. I lived that way for a few years, constantly checking emails and fretting about whether work would come in each day and then whether or not I won't get paid. The laptop dying gave me no option, I lost that client work but I gained control and freedom of my time once more. I got to snuggle with Isla and to nurse her through her final weeks and I got to reflect on where I am and where I want to be a year from now. I was ready for change, and I found excitement and energy in the midst of what was otherwise a very bleak time.
So now, I have a laptop and time to get into the creative flow, and to plan out my own day, and to sleep for a full night without client interruptions. That feels amazing, let me tell you! And since I have a bit of extra time, I decided that I would start a new blog thread called The Cozy Guide to Life.
The Cozy Guide to Life - Goal Setting
At the end of the day, what I would like in my perfect future life, is to be able to ice swim in Lake Windermere whenever I want, and to have my friends come and swim with me, and to have my pets sat on the bank watching and playing.
Knowing that, actually makes things very simple for me, expensive, but simple to figure out. I want to buy a jetty on Lake Windermere, and in my perfect world I would like to design and build my own house, so I can sit and write my books and have my pets curled up besides me, or friends over to visit. From there I calculated how much I would need to make that dream a reality, and then I set about planning how I could reach that financial goal - how many books would I need to write and sell, and what could I do to reduce my spending and to invest more?
Around the same time that I was feeling glum and processing all of these things, I ended up watching Anne with an E on Netflix whilst Isla was in her last days, and I sobbed a lot during that time, so watching an angsty teenager was quite cathartic as it turned out. The point is, the family end up losing their savings and having to sell everything they own to avoid losing their home and livelihood to the bank, and they also spend much of their time growing their own food and baking bread and jams. Cooking and baking and growing my own things has always felt like a bot of a luxury to me, the kinds of things I would love to do, when I'm financially secure and in my forever home - which is crazy when you think about it. How has buying rather than making and growing your own produce become the norm and why does something that people have done since cavemen times seem like something only rich or retired people get to do? Especially for someone like me who tries to be environmentally and health conscious and lives on a financially knife edge for much of the time. I get excited when I have £10 to spend at the supermarket, and I am not joking. That buys me ten items if I am lucky - bread, milk, butter and a few other things and I stress before reaching the till in case I've added up the costs wrong and have to put something back at the till.
And for some bizarre reason, I decided to re-watch a documentary on Amazon called 'Playing with Fire' which I'd forgotten about for a long time.
But this was all the kick up the bum that I needed to make some big changes in my life, and I figured I would share my own journey with you through this blog, so that you can create your own cozy life too should you want to. Essentially I'll be focusing on three things:
I'll be looking for ways to replace my spending with things that are free or low cost, like growing my own tomatoes instead of buying them, and investing in index tracker funds and book covers and my business so that I can bring in more passive income.
Everything is centred around me wanting to increase my happiness, health, energy, time, and financial stability. Whilst minimising my environmental footprint where possible. I want to spend less money on the things I don't care about like clothes, so that I can spend more on the things I want to spend more on, like that place by the lake so I can get back to ice swimming and start to compete internationally and at the Winter Olympics. I also want to get a new puppy once I move house at the end of the year, but I don't want to ever be beholden to my finances again, I want to have freedom to make decisions that aren't factoring in the cost when it really matters the most.
I hope that all makes a little bit of sense, but basically I'm going to post on here most days about little things I've done, that will ultimately add up to something significant that will enable me to be financially independent and to have the freedom to make choices based on what I want to do rather than what I have to do to survive. I hope that this will interest you guys too, and I can't wait to share my experiments with yoghurt making, and learning to make bread, along with any recipes for things I've made with what I've grown in my yard. And most of all, I can't wait to begin writing my next cozy mystery and to start being able to write without the fear of being chased for missed bill payments or worrying about how I'm going to pay for my next meal. I know a lot of you folks are in a similar position to me, which is why you love the Free Book Friday books, so I hope that what I learn along the way will help you to feel more cozy in your own life too. Let the adventure begin!