Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Part-time pity party


Any half-sane person would anticipate that, upon quitting their perfectly good day job in order to pursue a career as a freelance anything, life would get a little more difficult. I did. But it turns out it's near impossible to fully anticipate just how mentally taxing the whole process can be. Especially if you're not, like, immediately just selling tons of work and getting mad advances for your totally genius book idea, et cetera.

Never knowing exactly when your next paycheck will come, or even how much it will be for; scrambling to pay bills on time, canceling various services to save money, being in near-constant hustle mode--that alone is exhausting.

Throw "no one will hire me for a crappy part-time job so I can at least make ends meet" into the mix and it's enough to turn even the most optimistic soul a little sour.

A friend of mine once told me that he thought there were two types of people in the word: those that just shut down in the face of adversity, small or large, and those who immediately say to themselves, "OK, how do I make this work?" and then just do. He said he thought I was the latter, and generally, perhaps somewhat egotistically, I agree.

And maybe that's why I have such a hard time coming to terms with those instances when I do let myself shut down. They don't happen often, and they don't usually announce themselves with any great fanfare. It's just, suddenly I'm missing appointments and having a hard time getting off the couch and am deeply, deeply mired down in an internal pity party that I can't seem to shake.

I've applied at something like 15 different places around town and, lo and behold the recession, no one yet is hiring--or if they are, they're getting a million applications and mine failed to rise to the top of the heap. It's rough on the ol' ego.

Fact of the matter is I've made it three months into this grand experiment and am now officially broke. It's not exactly how I planned it, and that threw me for a loop. But I woke up at the beginning of this week and simply said, "Emily, it's time to get this thing done." No more laying around feeling sorry for myself, no matter how rough things get. Because what does that accomplish? (other than a chance to catch up on episodes of The Wire)

So a word to the wise: If you're thinking of doing something similar with your life, be prepared. Make a schedule and a list of goals, large and small, and stick to it. And know that, unless you're just wildly successful from the get-go, it's likely you'll be dealing with some very low moments. Don't let them get the best of you. Frankly, it could always be worse - and the promise of something better should be enough to keep you rolling.


M Big Mistake said...

I lost my job in January 2007 and seriously considered going freelance. Writing articles. Writing books (fiction and non). Playing music. Teaching bike classes. Providing bicycle planning services. The three months that I was unemployed actually were filled with all kinds of free lance work. I probably could have made it work long term, but the thought of all the uncertainty, lack of insurance, and having to constantly sell myself sent me running to the mundane, underpaid (yup, underpaid), current state job "with great benefits" that I currently hold. So I feel for you and root for you in your adventure. If you ever want to bitch about it, we should go get a beer together.

Nadine said...

The most difficult lesson I had to learn about freelance writing is that it's 90% marketing and 10% writing. Definitely not what I expected.

The best cure for a "part-time pity party" funk is exercise. Grab your camera and go for a walk; take photos, talk to people you meet along the way because networking is not just about people in suits exchanging business cards. Enjoy the abundant sunlight we have this time of year. It's usually much harder to emerge from a funk during the cold, gray months of winter.

Finally, continue to believe in yourself and your talent: You know you've got it (and so do I, or I wouldn't have written a recommendation for you).

Sharon Kilfoy said...

Your post makes me remember how lucky I am. I also remember, though, how tough it was when I was in my 20's - felt like I was always banging my head on the wall - my ideas were great, and nobody was listening. I'm not sure what changed - it just got easier - maybe having a dependable social-service type job that afforded me an honorable way to put food on the table - it has really made a difference. Hang in there - let me take you out for lunch sometime!

George H. said...

As a former night watchman at a telephone company, truck driver, peanut brittle salesperson, bartender, sign painter,cemetery grave digger, cheesemaker, stage hand, and a few other non-permanent positions, all I can do is read to you what is embossed on a pencil at my desk: Illegitmatum molere non sinis.

The Lost Albatross