Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Statistically I don't exist by Sheila Claydon
I received a letter from the Office for National Statistics. It said I had been selected from the UK's Royal Mail's list of addresses to form part of a sample that represents the entire country. What it really means is that it's a mini census about a specific issue and the information given helps government departments, local authorities and charities make decisions about how they will spend their money.The European Union also uses the results as do schools and universities.
I know it works because a number of years ago a much needed local traffic system was approved as a result of a similar survey. This one, however, was not about transport and roads, it was about employment.
A man wearing a identification card on a cord around his neck duly arrived and, once he'd got his computer to work, started asking the questions. The first ones were easy. Name, age, household, health, da-di-da-di-da. So were the next ones about qualifications, past employment, retirement, tax benefits etc. Things started to get tricky when we started talking about the present though.
It didn't seem like a difficult question. Are you still in any form of paid employment? But it was.
Yes, I'm a self-employed writer.
A fair bit of hemming and hawing and then 'There isn't a writer category on the list."
Ah yes there is one for author. I can slot you in there. Do you work full time or part time?
Would that be mornings or afternoons, or part of a week?
All of those...sometimes.
Could you be more specific?
No because there's no pattern. I work flexibly. I might write almost full time for a week and then, because of other commitments, not work at all for two weeks.
By full time do you mean Monday to Friday?
No. It could be Monday to Sunday or, in another week, just the Wednesday.
Do you work in the evenings?
How many evenings do you work?
It's impossible to quantify because it depends on what else is going on in my life.
Do you work at night?
If you mean right through the night then no but I sometimes work really late.
Would you say you write every day?
No. As I said it's flexible but I do look at my work related emails every day.
So would you say that's two hours a day or is it more than that?
Far less than that usually but occasionally I have to follow something up immediately and that might take a bit longer.
So can I put two hours a day?
I was feeling sorry for the guy by then so I almost nodded because I really, really wanted him to be able to tick a box. I didn't though because it wouldn't have been true.
So fellow writers (or authors if you prefer) how would you fare if the very nice man from the Office of National Statistics visited you? Would you fit into his nice orderly boxes or are you like me, an 'if and when' writer who has to take her chances when she can?
I'm not sure what the government and all those other worthy bodies are going to make of my answers. I guess they won't even see them, they'll just see a minor blip in the employment statistics that will eventually be published. In the meantime maybe I should try to work in a more orderly fashion. After all it would be nice to be able to tick one of those boxes.
One of my heroines had to tick boxes. That was Claire in my book Reluctant Date. She was ticking boxes on an Internet Dating site though, and that's a whole other story.
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