Although I haven’t got an easy timescale indicator to hand, I’d guess that it’s the last four months which I’d describe as ‘not the best in crosswordland for me’.
Making the decision to have crosswords as my main source of income wasn’t easy, but there was a stage a couple of years ago when new contracts – while not exactly arriving in swathes – were arriving with enough regularity to make me confident enough to take the plunge. It was a risk, because for it to work I had to turn some of those occasional contracts into something more frequent. But that presented a dilemma; to satisfy (potential) weekly spots I’d have to give the setting process my full-time attention and you can’t do that if your brain is knackered thanks to a long day in some office.
By now I should be setting for at least four quality dailies with a weekly spot on one and fortnightly in the others, supplemented by a modest number of weekly non-cryptic puzzles.
It hasn’t happened. The Independent is my most frequent spot – generally fortnightly – but the FT is once every couple of months, the Times even rarer, and despite the often impassioned pleas of solvers who insist (via the various blogs) that I should have regular spots on the Telegraph and Guardian I just can’t get onto those setting teams, and not for want of trying. Some time ago the Telegraph looked like a realistic prospect but somehow it just died, and I’ve yet to receive any sort of response from the Guardian.
The four ‘not the best’ months are so described because over that period there were three solid-looking offers that should have filled me with confidence and been a real financial fillip. All were weekly newspaper opportunities; a Saturday magazine’s general knowledge puzzle (offered exclusively to me by its existing setter; the editor went for someone else), the weekly prize puzzle in ‘i’ (Independent – offered to me but the newspaper editor decided to use crosswords from old stock) and a Codeword puzzle to replace something else in a Sunday newspaper (originally offered to me but it finally went to someone else). These three would have boosted the income by over £200 a week; not a huge amount, but very significant when it’s added to ‘not enough’.
So it’s decision time. Am I going to jack it all in and resign myself to just getting a 9-to-5 somewhere? There have been mornings when I’ve felt like doing exactly that, and my attempts at setting over the past three or four weeks have been really, really poor – although I’m not absolutely sure whether this is cause or symptom. Whatever, I’m in the middle of not finding much enthusiasm and perhaps the best thing is to do is just wait and see if it passes.