When you think of graduate jobs in London, a paper round doesn’t exactly leap to mind. It’s traditionally a teenager’s first job: extra pocket money for records, sweeties, and maybe even taking that nice girl from your Geography class to the cinema.
But now, as we begin to feel the shockwaves of the lockdown, more and more of us are thrust into the maelstrom of the gig economy. I find myself, at age twenty-five, thanking my lucky stars for a morning a week delivering your Camden New Journal. And this experience is definitely making me a better writer.
The Satisfaction of a Job Well Done
The nature of a paper round suits me much better than shift work. There’s something which strikes me as unnatural about selling your graft in hourly chunks. In the olden days, you’d stop when the cows were fed or when all the seeds were planted. In other words, once you’d achieved tangible results.
Contrast this with stacking supermarket shelves all day, knowing the task won’t be completed when you have to clock out. Or the office role where the day’s jobs are all wrapped up by half past three, leaving you with nothing to do but doss about on the internet before you can leave.
This isn’t the case with delivering papers. You feel the bag getting lighter as you near the end of your route, and when the papers are all gone, you’re done. I find something immensely satisfying about being paid to complete a task with instantly measurable results: whether that’s a finished article or an empty bag and people thanking me for their paper.
And on a paper round I don’t even need to worry about breaking my back bending over in a field, or cow muck.
It’s a Nice Introduction to Freelancing
If, like me, you’ve faced redundancy as a result of the crisis, you may be thinking of moving to freelancing. Even in the Before Times, many writers embraced this approach. A paper round is a nice introduction to working as a freelancer.
I’m lucky insofar as writing and leading tours of the capital have already given me some experience of freelance work. But in delivering papers, you don’t need to worry about a client overhauling the brief minutes before an article’s deadline or tour guests turning up late because they found a ‘genuine British pub’ (which turns out to be a Greene King tourist trap).
You just rock up, grab your papers, and set off on your route. My gaffer is even decent enough to give me a two-hour window in which I can start. And he doesn’t need to know how often I stop for a coffee or to flick through this week’s issue. This relaxed atmosphere makes it an ideal place to dip your toes into freelancing if you’ve been used to fixed office hours.
It Helps with Goal-Setting
‘Relaxed’ is the word I’d use to define my paper round. I’m incredibly fortunate to have one of the nicest routes in London: a mosey around a Highgate estate. It’s great to see this community waking up. The artisan butchers and bakers setting up for the day, nannies wheeling children past manicured gardens, and dog walkers attending to spaniels who boast better pedigrees than most royal houses. All that’s missing is Mary Poppins flying over the chimneys.
Talk about goal setting: here’s what I hope to earn from writing right in front of me. I’m sticking a paper through its letterbox. I feel incredibly motivated after just a few short hours walking around this delightful neighbourhood.
It’s Being Paid to Walk: the Writer’s Secret Weapon
It goes without saying that most of London is not like my tranquil Highgate route. Even at this early stage of lockdown easing, I’m feeling the noise and the competitive miasma of the rat race returning. My paper round forces me to take a break from it all and simply enjoy a walk.
This is an invaluable opportunity for a writer. There’s something about the rhythm of boots on the pavement which clears my head and focuses my thoughts like nothing else. Walking my paper round, I find the perfect way to phrase a complicated idea, I figure out how to prioritise my workload, and I draft pitch letters to my clients in my head. Delivering your Camden New Journal lets me block out a couple of hours a week just for this, and I’m getting paid for the privilege.
So why not see if the paper has a route for you? It might be just the thing you need to get your writing in their pages. Or some extra money to take that nice girl from your Geography class out.
Ryan Callander is a Distributor for the Camden New Journal and a writer.
This article was published in Issue 1987 of the Camden New Journal on 13/08/2020. Many thanks to Howard Hannah and Don Ryan for their help with getting it in the paper, and to Stephanie Moore for the photograph which accompanied the article in print.